Saturday, October 28, 2006


So I see New York as maybe Francoise Sagan might see it, if she were alive and still greeting Tristesse, having spent one exquisite morning which I luckily wrote about before it started to rain. This is definitely a city of ups and downs, with which I confess to having a love-hate relationship. That is to say, I hate it when it doesn't love me.
We have almost come to the end of our New York sojourn, me and Mimi. She is still not too sure about New York dogs, which is okay. It is a hard city, and the dogs are not all sweet-natured as she is.
We went out yesterday morning walking in Central Park, where the air was crisp and clear and the view around the pond was paintbrush dazzling. Any good artist could have captured the beauty: trees along the far bank, their leaves all changing, reflected in the water. All the colors of Autumn, lined up twice.
That was Then. NOW: IT"S POURING!!! Mimi is at the Groomer's, preparing for her return to LA(they do groom her better here, I like my dermatologist, my dentist, and some friends I cannot do without, but autremente I could just stay West.)
Dazzle to the brain occured at the First Amendment Breakfast, a feature of the Columbia School of Journalism that makes me feel very alive, even though it takes place at eight in the morning. Floyd Abrams, the great 1st Amendment atty(though not as great as Gary in my opinion, which is constitutionally protected) presides, and this time the subject was protecting confidential sources. On the panel besides Jim Kelly from Time was the reporter who broke the Barry Bonds steroid story and now faces a jail sentence because the Balco(made the steroids company) case was before a Grand Jury and someone leaked and he won't/can't say who.
Dazzle to the eye, quiet dazzle, was at the retirement party for Owen Laster, my long-time-while-ago agent, at the Four Seasons restaurant where he was once afraid to go because it cost too much money, Imagine he made some, being at Wm. Morris for lotsof years. Met some nice people, including Dominick Dunne whose full attention I caught several minutes into our conversation when I said, of a mutual friend, gone now, that "her whole life was a struggle to seem superficial." His eyes widened at that, and he said "Great line," so look for it in his next book..
Stayed in the city long enough to find out who the hypocrites are and the ones you can't count on, which is relaxing to the spirit when you stop trying to connect with them. So on balance, which it apparently gets to be if you stay centered against the odds, what with the energy here, all driven and desperate(catching!!) you can accomplish a great deal. Why, simply by staying the course in the course of my stay I have watched the weather-vane catch the wind and move us in a new direction. I devoutly hope.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Will Blog for Jools

Dear Everybody,
Went to the Ellen Barkin auction last night at Christie's, and wrote the following piece, which in case The New Yorker doesn't accept it, I thought you might enjoy.
Local color that isn't emeralds and sapphires: walked Mimi this morning in a darkening Central Park(the bright, warm days appear to be over.) I ran into a homeless woman and having been deeply moved by last night's Boston Legal, a truly great show, I asked her what she would do in winter. "Don't worry about me," she said, through only occasional teeth, "I'm a survivor. I lived in an unheated log cabin in Montana when I was a little girl."
She was very far from being a little girl, and, still touched by that teleplay, I gave her two dollars, which she was reluctant to accept. So she let me choose from a variety of postcards and I picked the one with Times Square blazing, that I will send to some little friends in Paris who, childlike as they are entitled to be, being children, imagine this city to be one continuous treat. Not complaining, you understand, just observing. I can't go too far into the park in the dark as there are rafts of Homeless, and one can't be sure they are all in the benign mode of this woman. James Spader, one of the lead actors in that amazing series asked in the course of his closing argument why we have a million homeless in this country. More importantly, why aren't some of them Congressmen?
Here, the piece on the auction.

A few minutes into the Christie’s Auction of the jewels Ron Perelman had given Ellen Barkin, I heard her voice saying, like Marley’s Ghost, “I wear the chains I forged in marriage.” Several of the chains were of diamonds, long loops of them connected like crystals, hanging low on the model’s spare breast, some ropes of huge pearls, strands of cabochon rubies, that looked to the untrained eye (mine) like beads, but went for small and not so small fortunes to those who knew better. One cord of emeralds the size of immies in a long- ago children’s marble tournament was sold for $480,000. The woman behind me, one of the few visibly chic bidders—I kept looking for the Beautiful People, but if there are still any above ground they were someplace else—told me that most of the prices were “justified.” But there were bidders on the phone connected to Hong Kong who were clearly there for the celebrity value, paying $7000 for a Cartier lipstick holder (was the lipstick radioactive? Did it still have the imprint of her lips?)
The lips themselves were captured in a black and white photo portrait that hung in the front of the room, with Ms. Barkin’s interesting and unsmiling face, the eyes double-lashed, top and bottom, with fake lashes, framed in a neat side-sweep of hair, and dangling diamond earrings, the only item that did not seem to appear in the sale, four rows on either side down to her sharp collarbone and bare right shoulder, over which she peered challengingly. A sweater hugged the top of her arm. There appeared to be jewels edging the sweater, too, but perhaps that was just the glitter attached to such a fascinating not-quite beauty. The portrait captured her unique combination of insolence and vulnerability, which I suppose must have been called heavily into play when Mr. Perelman dumped her.
As with hearing her voice, my imagination leapt to the possibility that perhaps the earrings in the portrait had been kept by Ms. Barkin in an unfettered burst of sentimentality. There were any number of other dangling diamond earrings, the prettiest of them, like chandeliers, bought by the stylish woman behind me, others with huge stones hanging at sort-of discreet intervals all the way down to the throat of the model who sported them. The model’s own comportment was well worth observing, as she began her low-cut, black-gowned, tiny-framed saunter around the stage fairly shyly, but by the evening’s end, apparently fortified by the jewels she had worn, appeared absolutely brazen, casting a self-assured, puckishly arrogant eye into the audience as though searching out Mr. Perelman to give him What For, and show that she, like Miss Barkin herself, was undiminished by his caddishness.
The courtship and marriage of this couple has of course captured much print, though none to match the furor over the divorce. Mr. Perelman, the well-known bald billionaire(I wondered if while wearing one of the many rings she ran her fingers through his scalp) has a penchant for noisy, much publicized divorces, so much so that the poem ‘Ithaca’ is called to mind, in which the poet explains it is not the destination that is important, but the journey to get there. One has the feeling it is not the marriage that so intoxicates him as the prospect of the press explosion when it ends.
In the course of this one, though, one would hope he loved her, sexy woman that she seems from her films, reputedly good mother, talented and clever actress. Certainly there is evidence that he was enchanted, from the mounds of jewelry that he heaped on her, some of it, like diamond wrist cuffs, seeming to have been duplicated, so either he has A.D.D. or didn’t remember he’d already given her a pair of those. But everything was sold for astonishing prices, tallying twenty million by evening’s end, including her Bulgari wedding band, which the auctioneer, tres discreet up to that moment, being French and a master of his game, took Gallic pains to announce was, indeed, “Miss Barkin’s actual wedding ring.” That set off a flurry of phone bids from Hong Kong, where they love movies.

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.