Saturday, October 07, 2006

Autumn in New York

There are patches of Silence in Central Park, places where you can sit on a bench as though waiting for the leaves to turn or the House to be won by Democrats. I mean, you sort of know it's coming, but there is still no certainty, no evidence, except for a few treetops swaying slightly yellowish in the borderline bluster.I had heard that the weather in New York was the best it had been in many a season, but naturally it was raining when I arrived, had one brilliant day and then it turned cold and windy. That's fine with me, as it was the weather that drove me away, at least on the face of it, so it would be disconcerting to have it be beautiful and seductive and welcoming. As there is little danger of what really chased me out of town turning around and becoming those things.
It is a city that is all about being driven, which is good in only one aspect, and that is when it is literal: my friend Chase has a London taxi lined in Burberry, with a gentle chauffeur named Alex, and that is when it becomes a joy. The rest of the time I see the look on people's faces as they rush to whatever they';re chasing, little pulls of anxiety at the corners of their lips, lest success elude them. That look is almost always often softened when they see Mimi, who is at her best in New York, groomed by Jose at A Cut Above, who knows how to cut Bichons, something they have not perfected in LA, where they know how to cut Paris Hilton. Speaking of which, Mimi, a traffic stopper here except when you try to cross the street when you have to make eye contact with the drivers in cars careening onto Central Park South, as though they were bulls and you the matador, dazzled a woman exiting the Essex House yesterday. She is a jewelry designer from LA, who has a friend who designs jewelry for dogs, and asked if Mimi would be willing to model. I of course said Yes, as I know every dog has its day when they belong to me, and immediately thought of getting Mimi in a sex video released to YouTube, in which case she could become a Superstar, although she has many more gifts than Paris, and is probably more articulate.
There is no question there is much to do in Gotham, all of it seemingly rushed, even if you take your time which I seem to be doing, carrying the ease of California with me, so I lost the whole day yesterday doing nothing-- didn't even read the paper till I went to bed. I was supposed to meet my friend Enid Nemy who is very strict at the Metropolitan Museum at 5:45 for a chamber music concert, when I saw to my horror it was 5:30 and I had still been unable to get a cab. So I frantically hired one of those bicycle rickshaws ridden by those who know when someone is in time trouble, so charged me $40 to get to the Museum. His gears locked and broke down at moments, but I got there by 5:55, and went with her to the Patron's Lounge on the 4th floor, where they have these Friday evening events, courtesy of the Dorothy Strelsin Foundation of which Enid is the administrator. Dorothy was (I understand) in her youth a breathtakingly beautiful blonde showgirl who married The Industrialist(he was always described as) Alfred Strelsin. He left her a fortune and jools that she kept in a box. The rest of her bounty, though, she shared openly and generously, letting friends stay in her Fifth Avenue duplex aerie overlooking the park and a few eagles that perched on her terrace. I stayed with her often when I came to New York, and Franco Zefferelli stayed there with his whole entourage when he would come to do an opera, cooking with her pots which he would then take back with him to Italy, not inviting her to dinner parties in her own home, nor, the last time, even to his opening. A real prince. By the time I met her she was more Dotty than Dorothy, but a good soul to the core, so I miss her and it's nice there are concerts in her name-- Enid noted that Dorothy would enjoy having her name around.
Her name is also on the statue in the park commemorating Lewis Carroll, surrounded by all his Alice creatures in metal. I am feeling oddly akin to him at the moment because I wrote a nonsense poem after reading Harry Potter to my two little grandboys, and having tripped my tongue over Dumbledorfs and Thrumwhistles or whoever they were, realized that a part of Rowling's success was giving children words that sounded funny and so enchanted them. So I awoke the next day and write a nonsense poem called 'Gobbledegook,' in which i included a carload of words that were synonyms for nonsense. I sent it to my friend who handles children's books. She wrote me back the following.

Dear Gwen,

Both Meredith and I read your story, and we both loved it. And so, we took it to our in-house expert, George Nicholson. George was formerly the publisher of Delacorte Press and has now become an agent and is our expert on picture books for children. Here is what he said.
Essentially, he felt that what you’ve created here is a political fable for adults, in which the protagonist – when he appears – is basically an adult. We all agree that children love language, and the language here is indeed incredibly clever and fun. But George informed us that verse of any kind sets up an immediate wall with most editors. He was further concerned that the average child reader would not understand phrases like “some dim politician,” “a fustian bombast” or “an angel has fallen,” nor easily comprehend who the enemy of this story really is. An editor would say that the concept behind the story is simply not something most children could digest.
I know how important it is to let children explore the complexities of existing language and experience the freedom of creating their own. But unfortunately, our expert ultimately felt the context of this book has an adult aim – it’s really an adult, bureaucratic fable. And because the incidents of the story never really involve the protagonist directly, the feeling remains abstract and faraway throughout and not something that children could glom onto or make their own in a way that would make this book saleable in the current children’s book market.
Well, I loved it, but I’m glad that I took it to George because I think I read it without analyzing its content in terms of children in that market.
A POLITICAL FABLE. Holy Shit. I wonder what he would say about Jabberwocky.
I wonder what the world would say about anything I tried to do. I am in a struggle not to feel despondent, when the world is so welcoming of bullshit, and we have this administration. I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho on the plane here, a book that has sold about a billion copies world wide, looking for its secret: it seems to me to be spiritual Gobbledegook, filled with that same kind of nauseating would-be-hidden-currents of WISDOM as The Celestine Prophesy. Coelho's bio says his parents, alarmed by his wish for a life devoted to art, put him in an asylum and gave him electro-shock therapy. Later he lived in Amsterdam where he met a man who came to him in a vision, probably in the same coffee shop you buy hashish. Also he was in the music business in Brazil, which I imagine comes with some really good plants from the Amazon.
Those of you who know my early history or read The Motherland or met my mom, Helen Schwamm, understand I have had the equivalent of electroshock therapy just in my home environment, and as I have followed Jack my Jewru on the path to enlightenment, also spent a bit of time in Amsterdam, and its Hollywood Branch, Abbott Kinney Road, would imagine I could be like-minded, or like-out-of-my-minded, what with how the world is. So my life-changing work should be just around the corner. Oh, if only I knew which corner it was.
At any rate I sat through the concert last night (piano and clarinet and a claque of young operatic male Russians who screamed "Bravo!" at everything and openly fondled each other) trying to be present, and Quakerly. Though I could not perceive That of God in everybody, I did see That of June Allyson in a heavy-lidded but bright-eyed blonde who pressed against a column, and That of Ina Balin in a crook-nosed brunette. I understand that sounds judgmental and shallow, but that seems to be how one becomes in New York. Unless of course everyone is after you, entreating, admiring, all the superficial lathering that one spends a lifetime struggling not to long for, succeeding only on occasion, and then, only if one lives long enough. Towards the end of one interesting cacaphony, I saw That of Andy Warhol in one lively old woman, wearing a cape, and a rapt expression. And I remembered how once, on the best day of Memorial Day weekend, I passed Andy himself on Madison Avenue, alone and vacant-eyed lonely, and realized that not even the Fifteen Minute Icon in the pallid flesh was assured of a weekend invitation, or someone to play with.
So New York, like the rest of life I guess, remains a struggle between Faith, losing Faith, Face and losing Face, and finding Face or Faith in other people, who may or may not have in them That of God. If there is One. We will know better after the election.