Saturday, January 07, 2006

Appointment in Samarra

So being geared up, nearly, to become absorbed in my shallowest, least profound work, a friend having advised me that he was tired of my not being a hit, as I had to admit I was, too, I left the chill of New York winter to return to Hollywood, as it will always be known no matter how many interestingly provincial names they try to give various parts(Beverly Hills, Westwood, and for the arch set, San Marino.) My plan: a program of swimming each morning at dawn as I had done in Bali, then to absorb myself in a day's work well done no matter how commercially shoddy the outcome. But as with the ancient story and John O'Hara, aft ganging aglee, I was felled with a terrible cold I might never have caught in NY, the pool is unheated, and I am, for the first time in recent memory, creatively paralyzed.
My wheezing is exacerbated by the realization that one cannot go on forever beginning. Ah but the aforesaid was writ yesterday, before the miracle inhalant that costs about $20 a pop so I have no choice but to get my breath and innocence back.
Said medication was bought at my home away from home the Beverly Glen Pharmacy, atop the center near the place I once had my abode, next to the Delicatessen where, this being star-studded even when stars fade or are dark, Mort Sahl was lunching with Bobby Blake. Mort is an old pal, and we have the same birthday. All the same I did not go inside to say hello as I was saddened to note that Blake looks better than Mort does, proof that being a murderer sits easier on the spirit in this town than having a career go awry.
I am staying at the apartment of a friend just across from Beverly Hills High School,so all yesterday I could hear band practice, a lot of drums, and last night they had a soccer game. Waiting at the curb in the darkness was a little van, not a third the size of the ones that sell coffee and burritos to constrcution workers on the constantly being redone mansions in Bel-Air in the early mornings. Mimi and I,on our peregrinations, went over to explore, and inside was a little man named Abbi, who said he was from New York and before that Persia, emphasizing that that had never been Iraq. His mere presence in his van was something of a charming miracle, as I am surprised that the current crop at the high school play that kind of night game as they are in large part of Iranian descent, the fall of the Shah having resulted in a real estate boom to Beverly Hills, as his entire entourage seemed to have relocated in the flats. The graffitti on the outside wall of the gym still reads 'Beverly Hills Normans,' the team's moniker,though I doubt those were the original invaders of Persia. But the rather tall and well-built boys all came to the truck afterwards to buy ice cream-- they don't care about low calorie, Abbi says. Abbi also works the temple on Friday nights, where they like what he has in the truck because it is kosher, which he defines as 'no pork in the Good Humours'. Abbie owns two high rises in Westwood but as he has no children and is divorced he enjoys the company, so has the truck.
I am still sort of waiting for my mental ship to come in, as I had been well so long i'd forgotten how debilitating it is to be sick. But I am ever more conscious of time. Rona Jaffe died, more or less a contemporary. She had the first big hit of the New York women of whom I was never really one but my mother wanted me to be. My mother, whom those of you who knew her or knew her story, was a party crasher, had a sense of cosmic mischief, and was somewhat light-fingered. She went to the Harwyn, I think it was,in the days when people still danced, and retrieved a charm bracelet with a flat round disc that had fallen to the dance floor off the wrist of Rona Jaffe's mother. She had it inscribed 'Ladies-in-Waiting', my novel that was coming out at the time, and gave it to me as a publication gift, imagining it had the properties of some kind of naughty magic amulet, that would give the book the success of 'The Best of Everything,' and make her a bigger mother than Rona's. Many years later when I moved back to New York the first time in my quest for camaraderie I met and became part of a group organized by Karen Sperling of bright(we still were) career women who continued to believe there was the hope of connecting with a man, and among them was Rona. Some of these women had altars in their apartments, but the more industrious among us met regularly in smart little boites in untapped locales, a sort of early, Hamisch version of Sex and the City. Coming back in a cab from one of those forays with Rona, whom I now considered a pal,I told her the story about my mother, who, like hers, had died. Two days later it appeared in The New York Observer. I never spoke to her again and was pleased to see,on a later occasion, that her hair was thinning. But I am sorry she died.
Bob Gottlieb, who is usually described as the best editor around though I think it was Bob Gutwillig said, in her obituary, that her best book was 'Mr.Right is Dead.' Well, maybe now she'll find him.

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