Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New York Kindness(as opposed to a NY Minute)

I remember that the literary idol of my youth, Aldous Huxley, who started out as a smart mouth/hand, writing witty, sneeringly searing novels of social sabotage, had had a change of heart and mind as his life lengthened, doing LSD and espousing Vedanta, moving deeper and deeper into mysticism, and making a final pronunciamento that “in the end, what matters is to be kind.” Having arrived in NY in time to start my new life, whatever it will be, in the place where it is to be whatever it will be, I decided to spend my first full day here applying his dictum. Strangely it is easier to be kind in New York because you can talk to everyone, and run into a great many people, which it is difficult to do in LA except with a car.
I began the day—late of course, we are still on California time—walking Mimi in the park, where two young, pretty women leaned against the stone wall at the edge of a slightly frozen pond that I thought was freckled with snow balls, that they assured me was garbage. They were both from Pittsburgh, as are a great many people worth knowing, including all my relatives, Vicky King and me, so I asked them what their dreams were and why the prettiest of them was already disappointed and she said it was a long story but as I am a writer I told her I could hear it. It was of course about a man, but as she has just graduated from college she’ll get over it, and I promised to try and connect her with the career she wants when she moves to New York. The best thing about coming from Pittsburgh is the gumption to move someplace else.
Then I met a strikingly beautiful and lively blonde in the lobby of my building, which has no one strikingly beautiful unless they can no longer move their mouths or comfortably blink their eyes, and lively is not an operative word, and told her she should be in St. Moritz. As it turns out, she was on her way there. I suspect she will be my new best friend. Happily I have two old best friends, one of whom saw me out of LA and cleared out my apartment after my departure, the other one who prepared for my arrival here by making everything orderly in my apartment, plus the building housekeeper which she isn’t really, but kind of an organized marching band, who had plugged in all my Christmas lights that I keep up all year long, so the place would look fairy tale-ish and welcome me.
Then I went for a night stroll with Mimi and saw five little children in Tibetan wooly hats, the kind that has a point at the top with flaps down over their ears making them look even more vulnerable than children already are. They were half Dominican, half Puerto Rican according to their very young aunt and mother of one, who also had that kind of hat on, and peered out with liquid brown child’s eyes and a shinily innocent face looking much like my loved friend Betsy. The children were gazing with longing into the ice cream and candy store on Sixth, so I invited them all in for an ice cream. The auntie/mom said they couldn’t possibly, but I insisted. It reminded me of when I was living in Weinheim, in the Bergstrasse writing my German novel, and a class came through the Marktplatz of eight-year olds, and I picked them all up and took them, with their astonished teacher, to the ice cream parlor, and he all but wept and said in perfect English “Thank you for being kind to children.” I thought at the time his English was imperfect, and what he meant was “Thank you for being kind to these children.” But as it turned out, as he explained to me when we became friends and corresponded, that he had been exact: Germans in general, he said, don’t really enjoy children, and tolerate them until they grow up. They are unpredictable, you see, and Germans best like order, swaddling them in infancy in their carriages so they won’t touch their genitals. I understand this is a generalization and Peter Mandelson in Ireland told me I mustn’t generalize, but I think in this instance I can since a teacher told me, and there were signs in the railway stations in Weinheim saying “Be kind to children,” so I had to gather that might not be the rule. Anyway my little Tibetan-Hispanics were very happy, although the five year old who was her son was sorry he had taken the mint, so I threw it away and got him the chocolate, to match his eyes, though it was actually Rocky Road which I imagine is the one he will be on.
Late in the evening I went to the market, again with Mimi, and put a lot of groceries in the cart in which she sat in the child’s seat. The delivery boy had gone home, and there was too much to carry so I said I would come back in the morning. But a woman said “I’ll help you,” and she did, walking me home, carrying a few bags, telling me her story. She is a dental assistant and gave up her job to come to New York to help her sister, one of eleven siblings, children of farmers from Florida, who has a little girl, 3, she doesn’t like to have hired help for. She is very happy now, as she loves her little niece, and never had children of her own, but still misses the dentist.
I had a dentist in LA who follows a philosophy called ‘RAK’ which stands for Random Acts of Kindness. Apparently there are, and apparently whatever you give comes back to you. I mean, a stranger helping you with packages. In New York. All things are possible.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shakespeare does it Again!

“There is a Destiny that shapes our ends,” the best of the poets said, and of course he was and is Right On. What has happened to our country, even though it looks just now like a disaster, I believe will be its salvation. Had the economy not caved, there was a good chance the election might have gone the other way, and the deep inhalation and release, the breath of fresh air that has come as the result, even with the bad times, might well restore us all. Or, at least, get us back to our starting principles, which were almost as good as if Shakespeare had written them.
The downside of course is the way it appears on the immediate surface: the men lined up in shifting disarray outside the 7-11 on Sawtelle and Santa Monica look like the shape-up in ‘On The Waterfront.’ But the sadness is strung with hope, like Christmas lights, and it is doubtless for the best that we’ve cut back on the tinsel.
The direct effect (or is it affect?) on me is that I am moving back full time to New York, to inhabit the studio apartment left me by my mother, that rescue effected(I’m sure there, anyway) by the smarts of my cousin Rodney who got her money back from Bernie Madoff. I am also looking forward to resurrecting my musical comedy, which the times have made completely believable, about my mother (raised to mythic proportion,) who, towards the end of her life, rather than grow old, crashed parties, looking for love and free hors d’oeuvres. I am sanctifying that bravado(see also chutzpah) by making the character a widow whose husband left her a co=op on Park Avenue, and just enough money to pay the maintenance, so crashing is not optional, but the only way she gets to eat. She will have given her portfolio to Bernie Madoff, so everybody will understand. To cut back on costs, since theater, too, is in the loo, it will take place on an empty stage with one chandelier dangling crookedly into what was once an elegant room, as she’s had to sell her furniture. But why not the theater? I mean, since it’s going to be uphill for everyone, why not take on a mountain. So I return to my first and most favorite career, that of songwriter(there’s a very uplifting score, and as ‘White Christmas,’ the saccharine adaptation of the sugary Bing Crosby movie of long ago,also starring Rosemary Clooney) had just outmoneyed ‘Wicked,’ which can only be explained by the fact that people want to hear real songs. And that I think is what I have, as sung on a demo by Rosemary Clooney, who, as you may know, liked the score so much she recorded it for me in exchange for sandwiches for the musicians. So though I may not be loaded for bear, I have, in my heart, ammunition to stave off creatively the wolf at the door.
Speaking of ‘Wicked,’ I took my grandboys to see the LA production so they would have a memory of their first musical theater with Granny. We were late and so had to watch the first twenty minutes on a monitor, but I decided that was probably a good things because they are TV addicts(mostly football,) so it was something they understood. Then, when the usher showed us in in the middle of the act—we had seats 2nd row center—it must have seemed to them as it seemed to us as children, when in The Wizard of Oz it suddenly turned into color. What had been for Lukas and Silas another TV experience, blazed into Stage (More-than) Presence. So it ended up being an okay thing, that we were late.
But I will try to be on time for my next act, hoping the plane lands all right next Monday night when I return to take New York on. There is a line in one of my novels, probably one of those not published in a world that suddenly closed its doors and a few fell off their hinges, where a funny, feisty heroine looks out at the lights beneath her windows, and shouts; “I’ll get you yet!” I don’t know that I can make that come to pass, but the truth is, you just never know. The original story I wrote when little more than a tot, that became the movie ‘What a Way to Go’ has been optioned (amazingly I kept the theater rights in my deal with Fox) and the man who has it, a clever music maker and producer, is making sounds like it’s really going to happen. So I might just have two musicals going at the same time.
Why not? There is a not only a Destiny that shapes our ends, but one that also shapes our Continuings.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Goodnight.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mimi's Personality Disorder

Almost everyone having tired of the election, wishing it were over already yet, I have allowed more petty things to capture my attention. Since if the economy doesn’t improve, I will have to give up things along with everyone else, and may have to surrender my bi-coastal status and headquarter in New York. That means this studio must be eminently livable, so, symbolically I will need a new toilet, as that is the thing most in need of replacing, fitting since it is also what we are in.
So I hied me with Mimi to E. 62nd Street, and Kraft Hardware that features a most reasonable line of toidies, called TOTO, not after Dorothy’s dog, though it could be, but the brand of a Japanese firm (out-thought even about that, Gott.) Mimi immediately attracted the attention of a genial salesman, who said he had considered getting a Bichon Frisee(she has a website, BICOASTAL BICHON which I suppose we will also have to give up) and so had researched it completely. Apparently the breed goes back to Roman times, though the temps most publicized is the French Revolution, when it was the chien of Marie Antoinette, who got her wig’s hairstyle from her dog. Once they offed with her head, the people did not like to be reminded, so killed all the Bichons. A few were saved, and emigrated to Italy, where the Italians recognized at once how clever they were and taught them to dance and be circus dogs. Once the French saw they were gifted, they of course took them back and marked them French. But back to the genial salesman.
He told me that this breed had a gene that made it impossible for them to be alone—that they had to be with people, that if left by them(dog)selves they went crazy. They were the first lap dogs, and even now, are desperate in their affection and need to cuddle. The days grow chilly here, and since, along with everything else, one has to watch grooming fees($81 for a cut) I have let her grow long, so she now truly resembles a sheep. I never had a teddy bear when I was a little girl, (Aawwwwwwwwwww) so I have enjoyed her warmth and what turns out now, according to the salesman, to be a personality disorder. She needs me. She is a co-dependent.
Speaking of which I have had my first stalker, a pleasant(I thought she was) Norwegian, who, as I already wrote you, had unexpectedly inherited a fortune from her aunt, a dentist who invented fluoride(or maybe discovered it, science is not my frield.) I had had dinner with her and her sister and counseled her to get rid of her traveling companion, an alcoholic who finished up everything in the minibar—not the same one as Eliot Spitzer’s—and then threw up all over the room. She sent me many e-mails telling me how I had saved her life, but apparently decided I was to replace him, so barraged me and finally called me day before yesterday at 4:30 AM, so I have had to tell her in no uncertain terms to leave me alone. My dermatologist said the woman is a co-dependent and crazy, the reason why she, my dermatologist, has an unlisted home number, as apparently when you fill in someone’s wrinkles they think they belong to you, and she has to hide from recently upholstered patients. Anyway, it’s all back to just me and Mimi, with her lovely long hair, which is like having a fur throw on the bed at night.
I look into her highly intelligent black eyes, sing to her “My fuzzy Valentine,” and no longer grieve that there is no man in my life. I mean, no matter how much they love you, they do not crawl on top of you and leave it at that, and too hirsute are less than appealing. So I am sort of at peace, though I, too, wish the election were over.

Bringing in the Sheaves

Unaccustomed as I am to public service, yesterday was a lift to the heart, a jolt to the spirit, and an illuminating journey. Went with two other women, a New York Good Person—very involved in selfless deeds for the betterment of her community, and a teacher of theatre at Hofstra, the first at the wheel, the second sitting behind me chatting amiably on our journey to Bristol, Pa., to canvass for Barack. We were the first to arrive at the meeting place, at ten o’clock as prescribed, but were sent to the hall of the Boilermaker’s Union, across from which was a flower stall, hanging baskets and Halloween ornaments, where we went while waiting for others to arrive before we were sent on our assigned rounds and squares. The seeming diversion was the first in what felt like the stations of the cross, the pockets of ignorance that less than grace this once great nation. The young woman, a mother of three who was its proprietor, doesn’t trust Obama because of “his background,” didn’t want to discuss it at length(we have been forewarned not to try and argue too forcibly at this late stage of the game) but said they were carrying signs for him in Pakistan. “Why would they want him to win in Pakistan?” she asked me. Back in the shelter of the Boilermaker’s Union, Local 13, I suggested that if it were true, it might be because they wanted to live, and were hoping he had the savvy to keep India from making it all go BOOM! But by this time the rest of the out-of-town cast had assembled, and as we were richer by several hanging baskets, a witch, and a calico turkey for Thanksgiving, we did not dwell, but moved on, as Kevin, the African-American who was gently in charge, advised us to do.
The trio of women was joined by a tall young man from Guiana, who had come to this country so disapproving of the political mayhem and injustice of his land that he immediately involved himself in the politics of ours. He paired up with the tiny Hofstra person, while the doer of good and I worked our streets, courtyards, low-lying apartment complexes, only knocking on the doors that had been pre-checked by the Bristol Obama people, so we were just to encourage, reassure, ask those we knew to be friendly to make sure they voted. More people were absent than present, and those who were present were often watching football, but as Kevin was to tell me the people in charge had already decided we were so close to the election that we couldn’t be put off by the fact that we were probably intruding, and just forge on, not getting into protracted conversations or certainly not trying to convert, and just leave the print-out of how flawed McCain was from the pen of a Philadelphia Inquirer writer who had been a Republican. Alissa, my cohort, and I encountered one probable serial killer who looked like Raymond Burr in ‘Rear Window,’ had all the same nervous mannerisms and several pots on his front porch that we ventured likely contained the chopped-up remains of the gay couple who had been living there, who were our committed Democrats. Another man rolled his eyes, was obviously mad in the sanity sense, not just angry at our intrustion, would not give his name, didn’t want to know ours, and ignored our extended hand and obvious fine humor. On the whole it felt more frustrating than fulfilling, but we had done our job and seen many red-leafed trees, which cannot help but fill the heart as they warm the eyes.
There had been few doors that were locked in that working-class neighborhood, the exception being one of an African-American who seemed very anxious and uncomfortable at our knocking, but was going to vote for Barack, and one other black family who also seemed unsettled. One black sailor, on his way back to Virginia said he would vote absentee for Obama but did not talk politics with his fellows. I understand why.
What I didn’t understand was how unsettled the black locals seemed, though Cindy, our cohort who was with Jerry, the Guianan(?) did better, having actually managed a few genuine interchanges. When I got back to base I talked to Kevin, and here’s where it all becomes a sad, dark poem. He told me the reason for the dis- ease (not the sickness, the anxiety) could be traced back to the 60s, when JFK, Dr. King were assassinated, and finally Bobby. He said when the train went through carrying Bobby’s body, the blacks stood on one side of the track, the whites on the other, and all put their hands over their hearts and saluted as that carriage rolled by., And when it was gone, the blacks turned around one way, the whites another, and all went home. Since that time there has been a total disconnect in the Civil Rights movement, the reason why this is such a seminal moment in our history.
But all I could think of was that train rolling through, and the train that rolled through the country after Lincoln’s murder. And I wonder why the hatred goes so deep, and the people are so empty. Anyway, I hope he wins, and we get back what’s left of the country. Still, it felt really good to be doing something that mattered.

Monday, October 13, 2008

In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue

I had forgotten it was Columbus Day. Such has been the emotional, financial and political see-sawing of the past few weeks that the struggle has been to stay in some kind of balance. The trees in Central Park remember their assignment, and turn yellowish, the most audacious of them flaring out bottom branches of orange. A friend newly returned from Massachusetts says the leaves at the topmost of those trees are pink, and I wish I could see that, but understand we are always where we are supposed to be, so I must be grateful that I am here with not just the leaves changing, but the world as we knew it. There is a piece in the Times today about a woman in LA cutting back by drinking espresso instead of Latte, and the writer’s amazement at her then not bursting into laughter. So in a strange way I miss what has seemingly become my home, though one I probably will not be able to keep, where the view is so narcissistic you can’t see the foraging for the trees.
Sitting in the park this morning I was startled to hear a drumroll, and trumpets, and remembered the court-clad(Isabella, la Reina) young man I saw walking there last week, medals and plumes and silk-ribboned cloak flaring, asking him what that was about. He said he was from Spain, and was one of a group of musicians that would be in “the celebration.” So I made my way to Fifth Avenue, though wary of the crowds, and watched from where the carriages are stationed, as a corps of drummers went by, such elation in their drumming. And I realized this was the great event in their year, probably all that had consumed them in these surreal weeks, making sure they were in step, and in tempo.
Then a giant stage, with wine-red curtains, with tapestried ceiling and huge gilded heads at its corners was carried by, and in it graceful young women in harem clothes danced, while beside it umbrella-carrying ladies in long white dresses paraded. None of it made much sense, at least not to me, but so thoroughly were they engaged in what they had doubtless been practicing and living for, that it was genuinely enchanting.
So I realized that between the leaves, which my friend who’d seen the pink ones, explained to me was because of the dying of the chlorophyll with the loss of the heat of summer, doing what they are meant to do, changing colors, and the drum corps and the dancing harem girls, and the proud young man in his courtier clothes, that the most and best we can do is our job, that which we have been rehearsing and sometimes getting a chance to perform. That, and working for the good, and hoping for it.
Made phone calls for Barack over the weekend, and went to dinner with some Norwegian sisters who stopped me on the street because I “looked so happy.” They had both of them been disappointed in love, but left a fortune by an aunt, a dentist who discovered Fluoride, from studying the teeth of porcupines. That would have been, to a dentist, what Don called ‘The Mother Lode’ when speaking of what The Godfather was to Mario Puzo. And it was probably that for Columbus, too, finding us, though he doubtless didn’t know that then. And hey—it really worked for a good, long time. And maybe it will again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Paul Newman has left us. Larry Gelbart, one of our great writer-wits said recently that we were getting out just in time, which might be the truth about Newman, great gentleman, true American, and caring, alive activist that he was, doubtless wracked not just by his illness, but what was happening to this country. I spoke to Hotch, A.E. Hotchner to put it formally, his great friend and partner in Newman’s Own, the organic foods that benefit children with cancer, and my first semi-weighty literary friend when I was embarking on my writing career. Hotch said that it had been coming for a long time which was known, and also that he had left his mark, which he certainly did. “While you’re here, do something,” Hotch quoted his saying. Mimi needed a treat yesterday and I bought her a packet of Newman’s Own for dogs, and even as I did felt some kind of shadow, so am glad I got to make a small contribution to one of his beneficences, while he was still on the planet, though about to leave it.
I’d met Hotch the first time I spoke as an author, at an event in Richmond, when he had just published Papa Hemingway, attached as he’d been to old Ernest, and we became friends enough so when there was a party for Newman on Coldwater Canyon during the time of Nixon’s decline, Don and I were invited. I was in the throes of my Watergate spying—that is to say I had friends who were Republicans that I cherished in spite of all that was going on, so I was in their houses during the fall of that president, spending most of my time in Washington. I stayed first with a loved friend from Bryn Mawr, then through her became a friend and guest of the wife of the Chairman of the City Council, then eventually ended up staying regularly with the Gerald Warrens. He, at the time, was the assistant press secretary to Ron Ziegler, so every morning when the phone would ring at 4 AM with yet another revelation from the Washingon Post, I was right there to observe.
When I went to that party in LA, I remember clearly Newman’s standing behind the bar as I told him about the friends I had who were good guys, and his saying grimly “There are no good guys in that bunch.” My friend Hal Dresner had written on ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and he had told me how every time Newman drove by a billboard for one of his movies, he would say belittlingly, “There he is: old blue eyes.” But the blue eyes served him well, as besides giving women something to sigh over, they also perceived.
The main wit in that screenplay of Luke I would have to guess came from Hal, the most memorable line “What we have here is a failure of communication.” I’m afraid that that has become what could be the anthem for the world the way it is today, for all the blogging and Internet and Youtube and Iphones and now today I learned there are something called Kendalls, where you can download books onto a hand-held instrument from Amazon, God Help us. Nobody is really communicating clearly or we wouldn’t be in the trouble we are. Where I learned about Kendalls was at a brunch at the Waldorf-Astoria—I went because I believe in Serendipity and last weekend I walked to the Book Fair in Central Park with Mimi, and was saddened to see that of all the booths, and for all the writers living and dead, the only two old ones that seemed to have made their mark, as opposed to Paul Newman, were L. Ron Hubbard, who gave us Dianetics and thus Scientology, and Ayn Rand, egoist, both of whom have spawned cults, and businesses. Or maybe you don’t need the ‘and.’ Cults are businesses.
The real writers from previous eras have more or less vanished, a sadly neglected pile, unexamined, being an unfinished novel by Lionel Trilling whom I remember from my long ago college education as one of the great critics, so it gave me a sense of sorrow that no one cared or was moved to examine this work he had doubtless suffered through writing, as it’s easier to shoot other people down than plumb your own soul,now discovered at Columbia and nobody gives a shit. Who discovered it was Geraldine Murphy and I half-hoped she might be the spawn of Gerald and Sara Murphy, the colorful duo who played the Riviera with Scott and Zelda, and wrote ‘Living Well is the Best Revenge’ but their children would probably be dead. Anyway, I dropped my card into a cup that said there would be a raffle to go to this brunch today, and I won, but apparently so did everyone who dropped their card in, because it was the book version of a theater’s being ‘papered,’ with non-paying customers rather than having an empty house. Several hundred people, good eats, and a couple of genuinely witty writers on the dais, Larry Block and Harlan Coben, in addition to the celeb writers, Dionne Warwick(who now lives in Brazil, which my old editor Jim says will be one of the power countries along with Russia and China) and Marlo Thomas who still looks good and is still married to Phil Donahue. A number of librarians were there who had obviously dropped their cards in the cup, and of course the news is the libraries are hanging on by a very slender thread which I guess will be there till Sarah Palin cuts it.
I am in a state of genuine dread over this election, as my worst case scenario, which is of course the one I always have, is that McCain drops dead election night from the shock of winning, and leaves us with her as our ‘president.’ This would be good news only because it would give Tina Fey something to do every Saturday night as she did again last night at the beginning of Saturday Night Live, where she was brilliant, but Oh God, if You’re there, please help us. I remember when Bush won, Jamie Lee Curtis, trying to find the bright side, comforted me or tried to with the fact that “Saturday Night Live will be funny again.” I don’t think it’s a fair exchange. I am going with a bunch of concerned women to Bristol, Pa. next Sunday to electioneer, and this Thursday there’s a Bryn Mawr group getting together at my classmate Evie’s, the first black student to have been accepted to the college and when she showed up they sent her to the maid’s quarters. Supposedly we’ve come a long way since then, but Evie still thinks the country, or at least white working men are not ready to vote for a black man, so she’s working on Seniors.
There was a white haired woman sitting in the corner where the concerned women were meeting the other night, and she will be in charge of the ‘Boobys’, the old Florida ladies the group is trying to pull over the line in this terrible tug-of-war, their reward being a big party that the white-haired Booby will throw. There is some sweetness in this campaign for all the bitterness and rancor, and I am hoping that the Jewish New Year, which I never really celebrate, will bring blessings to the Boobys, -- certainly the one who sat in the corner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


As I don’t have to tell you, there is great darkness in the world, and as you already know, I have been remonstrated against by a former reader who asked to be dropped from this beloved list, for reasons that remain obvious but puzzling, as all he had to do was delete me if my passion was too passionate. At the same time, I have been heartened and chastised by one of my favorite writer-readers who yelled at me on the e-mail for caving at this time when what we have to do is rage rage against the dying of the light and this country in particular. Anyway I hope it will all be all right, but then I have always been an optimist except when I have been Cassandra as I was a year and a half ago when I told my broker the market was on its way downhill and he didn’t listen to me when if he had I would have been rich. But that is only the material world, and as we know in some of our loftier moments, that is but an illusion, convincing though it seems, especially now.
So trying to take my counsel from the wise who tell you to present-moment it, I took Mimi to the groomer Monday—she is much more beautiful in New York where her groomer is as gifted as the man who cuts my hair in LA, and just as expensive, so these moves eastward are very much to her benefit, as she becomes a cloud of white, admired by all, at fifty-one bucks a pop, so I may never cut her which would be 80 something. But while she was being washed only, I went around the corner to a food shop where I was lifted by the lunchtime sight of the sophomores from Dwight, a private school in the neighborhood, I would venture, who have a dress code(button down collar shirts for the boys, any tie they want, same kind of shirt for the girls or polos or sweaters and any pants but jeans, and any shoes but sneakers,) and they all looked very clean and upbeat and one was a gorgeously fresh-faced girl who had no idea how beautiful she is and would have been signed by Fox when they still were looking for the next Tuesday Weld. Then I went to the baby shop to buy a gift for my longtime great pal and editor who remains the smartest man I know and just became a grandfather, which made me want to go back and put the fresh-faced girl on alert to live her life fully and as smartly as she is beautiful. The night before I had run into Sirio Maccioni the great restaurateur, and he was sad about the country, and sad about being old, as he said you never appreciate what life is until it is almost time to leave it. I would title my new book Seize the Day but Saul Bellow already did, so I am hereby opening a contest(all are invited to join and the rewards will be Infinite) to title my new novel something like that. Active. Upbeat. The titles so far discarded are The Age of Experience, but few remain alive and certainly none in the publishing business who think or read Edith Wharton, and it does sound a bit over-weighty, which it ain’t, and then LIFE FORCE which my agent says sounds like a Self-Help book. Come one come all. I have mileage that will take you to Bali.
Then I met a bright-faced, bright-eyed young woman who has been playing Phantom on the road, so sweet and bright that it overcame my loathing for Andrew Lloyd Webber, and two of her friends, young men who had started booking musicals on the road and have made it a success which is always an up thing to hear at these times. Then I made the mistake of watching the news, so I turned out the light and asked for sweet dreams, and got one. A new baby was born and I was asked to write it a lullaby, and so liberal was my license in the dream that I was allowed to be joined in the writing by my mentor when I was a young songwriter, really what I wanted and intended to be, Yip Harburg, the gentle genius who gave us the lyrics from Wizard of Oz, Finian’s Rainbow, songs full of heart. So Yip, though long gone from the real world, as it is called, was available in my dream, and here is what we wrote.
There will be summer and there will be wintertime
There will be many a bright, sunny day
But when clouds over take you
And thunderclaps shake you
I wish you a Unicorn to carry you away.

There will be some who say there are no unicorns
There will be many who tell you ‘Don’t dream’
But life’s great consolation
Is imagination
To show you that things are not just as they seem.

For the wonder of life is the Great Unexpected
The light that disperses the dark
The sound, like a song
When your love comes along
Or sometimes a walk in the park

There will be heartaches and there will be Valentines

And that’s as far as we got in the dream, so I will take Mimi for a walk in the park and see if Yipper is there, hiding behind a tree.
My friend Ann just got back from a cruise she took her dad on to Alaska, and tells me she researched Sarah and it isn’t as bad as it seems. That she’s just a complete pol who wanted to win, so she’s taken on all these protective colorations to get the Republicans. Yeah, sure. But we agree that McCain may not even make it through the election. Which leaves us where? NO NO. Don’t go there. A walk in the park. A walk in the park.

Friday, September 05, 2008


So, as the West sinks slowly in the West, we bid farewell to the still surprisingly appealing Southern California, and make our way (we hope, what with Hurricane Hanna) to New York. This has been a very unsettling time in which a great many personal things were settled, but I have great fears for the future of our country.
Anyway, I love you all, but find my brain pan empty of thought, so angered and saddened am I by the level of venality of the Republican convention. I am also saddened by the truth that I am not as evolved as I thought, as I really would have been happy to have a bomb fall on it.
I have to pack up the computer now, as I fly out early in the morning, so I will bid you all a fond Au Revoir(I hope.) But the new novel is finished and good, I have a funny idea for a movie, have made peace with my children, joy with my two little grand-boys(I actually made Lukas(8) laugh, and Silas(almost 5) told me today I was funny,) so all’s right with the world except for the world. And up the street, around the corner, is Napoleon, 15 months, with whom I have fallen very much in love, and he with me, so there is much to come back to, if it’s still here.
God Bless You all, as they said constantly, and God Bless America(ditto.) Oh, God. Help us.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I am having great and little second thoughts about leaving LA permanently, although my funny friend Sandy said: "Say aloud: Central Park South; Montana Avenue." There is no question New York is livelier and will probably offer me more diversions, but I wonder what I am diverting from. Here, besides a few good buddies, all I do is write, and then wait for someone to read which is the true challenge, as there isn't a lot of that going around in today's publishing world.
But I read in today's New Yorker yet another tale of Emily Dickinson, this one an almost romance, and am reminded that her seclusion left a lot of good poems, not to mention a house that they are trying to raise money to keep going, the same real estate fate that is befalling Edith Wharton's abode, and Mark Twain's, and there is no question, if, as my lawyer suggested yesterday, my "body of work,"which he was kind enough to call it, were to catch on 'posthumously' nobody would have to try and raise money to keep up this condo. But I confess being attached to painting on my little terrace, and being able to walk Mimi in little more than pajamas, and the lack of sleet and humidity that flesh is heir to in New York, except for the best seasons(Spring and Fall.) So I am ambivalent about giving up this apartment, as I imagine I would suffer about giving up my place in the South of France if I had ever managed to get one.
Pondering this yesterday, of course, I was slightly helped by a little earthquake, which does seem to urge one to flight, but I have been through two Biggies, San Francisco in'89 and LA whenever that was, so have learned to rock on. That I have no real life here, other than my love affair with Silas, to whom I do not have easy access, friends at lunch, and the boys at the Sushi bar, is something I think I can live with if the great work emerges.
Still, I am reminded of a terrible camp I went to the year I first struck out as an independent, forswearing the usual West End Avenue kiddies' summer in the Poconos, for a work camp in the Black Hills of Massachussetts which perhaps exist only in the distortion of memory, but I do believe they were there, and the work camp certainly was, run by one Nathan Arnold, a name that would do service to Stephen Vincent Benet. He whipped us with a leather belt if we got twelve demerits in a week(two for being on the wrong floor at bedtime, five for failing to do chicken duty-- almost literally-- you had to wade through pullet droppings to get to the birds and reach underneath them for the eggs, at which point lice would run up your arm.) I think I was twelve. I had enlisted my friend Emanuela Fine to go there with me, and as she was a bit more upmarket than I, as I remember she freaked out fairly early. When my mother came to visit, reluctantly, as there were no potential estranged fathers waiting in the wings(not chicken's) I told her everyone was committing mutual rape, since I understood little of sex at the time, and had not yet learned to say or even think 'fucking.' But there had been many shocking incidents, threatening letters found,(UNLESS YOU MEET ME TONIGHT) tales of guns, all in all the reason why I remember it as The Black Hills, which I really think they were.
Anyway, my mother sprung me, and even as I left, freed at last, I suffered separation anxiety, pangs of wanting to stay. I imagine I would have felt bad about leaving Auschwitz.
Anyway, you're all free to offer comments and suggestions. Maybe we could be like Entertainment Tonight and you could text your opinion: Should Gwen give up her LA apartment where she could hold fabulous salons except that there's no parking? Should Gwen return full time to New York? Will anyone ever read her work? Does it matter?
I would tell you where to text it, except I don't really understand or use or like or condone texting, and anyway, you probably don't give a mutual rape.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I am having great and little second thoughts about leaving LA permanently, although my funny friend Sandy said: "Say aloud: Central Park South; Montana Avenue." There is no question New York is livelier and will probably offer me more diversions, but I wonder what I am diverting from. Here, besides a few good buddies, all I do is write, and then wait for someone to read which is the true challenge, as there isn't a lot of that going around in today's publishing world.
But I read in today's New Yorker yet another tale of Emily Dickinson, this one an almost romance, and am reminded that her seclusion left a lot of good poems, not to mention a house that they are trying to raise money to keep going, the same real estate fate that is befalling Edith Wharton's abode, and Mark Twain's, and there is no question, if, as my lawyer suggested yesterday, my "body of work,"which he was kind enough to call it, were to catch on 'posthumously' nobody would have to try and raise money to keep up this condo. But I confess being attached to painting on my little terrace, and being able to walk Mimi in little more than pajamas, and the lack of sleet and humidity that flesh is heir to in New York, except for the best seasons(Spring and Fall.) So I am ambivalent about giving up this apartment, as I imagine I would suffer about giving up my place in the South of France if I had ever managed to get one.
Pondering this yesterday, of course, I was slightly helped by a little earthquake, which does seem to urge one to flight, but I have been through two Biggies, San Francisco in'89 and LA whenever that was, so have learned to rock on. That I have no real life here, other than my love affair with Silas, to whom I do not have easy access, friends at lunch, and the boys at the Sushi bar, is something I think I can live with if the great work emerges.
Still, I am reminded of a terrible camp I went to the year I first struck out as an independent, forswearing the usual West End Avenue kiddies' summer in the Poconos, for a work camp in the Black Hills of Massachussetts which perhaps exist only in the distortion of memory, but I do believe they were there, and the work camp certainly was, run by one Nathan Arnold, a name that would do service to Stephen Vincent Benet. He whipped us with a leather belt if we got twelve demerits in a week(two for being on the wrong floor at bedtime, five for failing to do chicken duty-- almost literally-- you had to wade through pullet droppings to get to the birds and reach underneath them for the eggs, at which point lice would run up your arm.) I think I was twelve. I had enlisted my friend Emanuela Fine to go there with me, and as she was a bit more upmarket than I, as I remember she freaked out fairly early. When my mother came to visit, reluctantly, as there were no potential estranged fathers waiting in the wings(not chicken's) I told her everyone was committing mutual rape, since I understood little of sex at the time, and had not yet learned to say or even think 'fucking.' But there had been many shocking incidents, threatening letters found,(UNLESS YOU MEET ME TONIGHT) tales of guns, all in all the reason why I remember it as The Black Hills, which I really think they were.
Anyway, my mother sprung me, and even as I left, freed at last, I suffered separation anxiety, pangs of wanting to stay. I imagine I would have felt bad about leaving Auschwitz.
Anyway, you're all free to offer comments and suggestions. Maybe we could be like Entertainment Tonight and you could text your opinion: Should Gwen give up her LA apartment where she could hold fabulous salons except that there's no parking? Should Gwen return full time to New York? Will anyone ever read her work? Does it matter?
I would tell you where to text it, except I don't really understand or use or like or condone texting, and anyway, you probably don't give a mutual rape.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hollywood Cemetery Forever

So as the sun sinks slowly on the West, I make my plans to leave L.A. st summer's end, regretting even as I do that I have not made full use of its mythology(though God knows, along with a number of publishers and agents) that I tried. Thus it was that, with a heavy heart, as dentists write their patients on retiring, that I heard from one of the few people in this condo to whom I have ever spoken-- you don't bump into many people here-- that she was going to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the Saturday night screening they have on those unhallowed grounds, which last night was Easy Rider.
I have been to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery only once, for the funerral of my girlfriend Cass Elliot, who, unkind gossip had it, died in London of a ham sandwich. She was 33, and grossly overweight, the measure of her loneliness, which I had tried to assuage with a heart full of love and assurances that her voice(which she characterized as one of "the three great set of pipes in the business: Barbra, Edye(Gorme) and me") still mattered, ("I am not indrependently wealthy" she had bleated out to me, unsolicited, at the outset of our friendship. "Joni Mitchell just shipped Gold and I can't get a record contract.") She'd had her leg set when she broke it falling on herself, and I told her that was a blessing, a warning, so she'd stop eating which she never could. When a writer (Bob Klane, a cute comedy writer,) refused to sleep with her, she'd pulled her big Cadillac over to the side of the road on the way to Palm Springs and bought several max-sized Hershey Bars.
But I really loved her, and grieved, and found some metaphysical pleasure in believing that her sentence was less severe than that of John Dean who'd gone to jail the same day she was buried, and always take pleasure from her voice on the radio, where she California Dreams quite often or says that it never rains in, etc. So it was with some sense of having missed the Saturday night boat that I listened to my neighbor, Betsy, a bright-eyed blonde who makes and wears clever T-shirts (Today's: There's No Place Like OM) tell me how it was at the cemetery screening. Karen Black, who was in the movie, was in attendance, and told everybody at the outset to "light up," as I informed young Betsy that most of the cast (including or perhaps especially the producers) were stoned the whole time they made the Film, which apparently it is categorized as now. We then spoke of Dennis Hopper, who was a buddy when we both were babies and started in this burg ("I crashed this party," he said, coming out of the bushes at Elaine Aiken's house at seventeen, his first entrance into my life, mortalized in my debut novel Naked in Babylon, "Fuck Everyone." Nobody spoke like that then, at least not yet, and I found him funny and would-be Hemingwayesque and supremely untalented, which perception has never been altered by his performances, his voice mechanical and metallic. His success as an actor makes me believe that there may be a God, at least for him. I have seen him at various jump-cut intervals in our lives, and he has, as far as I can tell, never softened or deepened except for a remorseless sense of self-pity when he wasn't working.
Anyway, Betsy had a really good time but was not impressed with the movie and couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. I did, perhaps, though, enhance her understanding of how monumental its success was in terms of Jack Nicholson's career which up until then had been no more than B-movie horror starrers for Roger Corman. But he was cute, though not as cute as Betsy, whose first perceived T-shirt was 'SHIFT HAPPENS," which, when I asked her what it meant, she said "After the shit, there can be a shift. Things can change."
Oh God, I hope so. I am so dispirited by Obama's apparent caving(see today's Frank Rich column in the NY Times) and the earthquakey truth that the people of this country I so loved are not really very bright, and the worst, whatever that is, could in fact happen. He offers 'Wall-E' as a signpost of hope. If we could all only view the world like children If only a little child could lead them. Does anyone have a little child they could run?

Oh, well, a tad more trivia-- where I was Saturday night, a bit livelier than the cemetery,or maybe not, was a penthouse in Borderline Beverly Hills, filled with beautiful women of all nationalities who were probably illegal immigrants, all of them quietly hustling something: a clothing line, a nutrition program, maybe themselves though there didn't look to be any straight buyers- a less than handsome couple had been the first men to marry in West Hollywood when the new law went into effect, an Iranian chiropractor who promises he will change my whole life with the right adjustment, and Jose Eber. the hairstylist, who was there with his CFO( that's Chief Financial Officer.) Only in Hollywood, this side of the cemetery. The CFO had previously handled a hedge fund for Michael Milken.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


To cheer myself, as an antidote to the news, I find on my computer every morning a little spirit lifter from Dr. Dictionary, who daily sends me a word; as if I did not already have too many of them. But as there is so little left to believe in, I have decided to worship words. I look to them for Guidance. Today's word is apprise.
Apprise. Look around you. For all the shadows in the world, you are alive. And life is light.
So I am apprising. Because I am trying to ascribe to the philosophy I think I have expressed in my new novel:if you will reach out to help somebody, to interact, you can forget about yourself, and so lose the pain. I have enlisted in GAB, an association called Grandparents and Books, where retirees and even sometimes young vital people, go through a training so they will be fit to read to children in libraries. Really.
There were about twenty in my training group, It started off, in a library in Baldwin Hills, just as elegantly and generously--more so, as it turns out-- than those breakfast meetings at the high end condos of socially ambitious women in Century Woods;. Same menu. Bagels and nutbreads and coffee and grapes and Danish. Sweetly lavish.
The women (no men) were of different shapes, sizes, colors, tongues-- one in my sub-group when we went in to practice reading aloud was a Hispanic, English still a little hard for her, making the woman who trained us say how inspirational that would be to the children, with so many of them being Latinos in this region. We will wear aprons so they know it's safe to talk to us, so many of them being latchkey kids told not to talk to strangers. Big job: to pull them away from the computers so they will love books.
I put my first day's training into practice with Silas, 4, whom I had for the afternoon yesterday, and took to the Santa Monica Library which is pretty paradisical(sp?) Lots of light, spiffy, newly redone, loaded with books and a computer games section which I pulled him past, though he wanted to go there because he said the games go on forever. I told him what also goes on foreveer is the imagination, especially his, so he can think more things while we're reading, and he'll have a whole lifetime of thought to play with. Then I tried to read him The Elephant's Child, the story of how the elephant got his trunk, Kipling, from his Jungle Book which was actually the first children's book-- but the 'O Best Beloved' diction threw him and lost his interest so I seized on the Judith Viorst book about Alexander having a horrible terrible very bad no good day that gives the kids a chance to join in and repeat her magically downtrodden phrase, and also brings up Australia, where Silas has a Grandma and goes to visit as he will in August. It was better than fun. So my own spirits are lifted, and I look forward to being fingerprinted which I will be in the second training session, I assume so they can check I'm not a child molester.
But in spite of all this spiritual enhancement and upliftment, I did read the papers today and see that all the Taliban have escaped from a prison in Afghanistan which seems more than a little sloppy and unfortunate. Then, reading that the Irish were opposed to joining the European Union, I called my good friend the foremer Lord Mayor of Belfast, who disagrees with their refusal to sign the Lisbon treaty. The the Irish believe they've worked too hard to become independent to throw it all away by joining the European Union, and I must admit I rather like that, find it very Irish stubborn and twee. Maybe that will affect the Euro and one day we can go to Europe again. Then I spoke to my daughter the nail technician whose best customer, now on tour, used to be Cindy McCain. Madeleine told me Cindy not only was in Rehab for Oxycodin but actually stole it from a clinic she served on the board of. Oh, I do hope someone is on that for when they attack Michelle Obama.
What a world what a world as the witch said in The Wizard of Oz, though the evil dealt with in those days seems by today's standards, a mere bagatelle, the word from Dr. Dictionary last Tuesday.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Suicide by Sushi

When I went back to my beloved college to write a play after Don died, I got to know one of the professors I had had as an undergraduate. He asked me, non-judgmentally, how it was to wrote 'soft-core' porn.' As his subject had been Romanticism, and the Romanic poets, of which I had once fancied myself one,I did not take offense, but simply listened, as he rambled on softly, and spoke of what we were eating at faculty lunch in Wyndham as 'comfort food.' It was mostly pasta and cheese, the last of which we know is terrible for you. I had been to an acupuncturist shortly after Don's death,when I suffered, understandably, from migraines, and he stuck a needle in between my brows releasing not only what energies he might have been after but also a torrent of sobs. He asked me what was wrong, I said "My husband died," and, Asian that he was, said "Such is life." Then he stuck me again and said 'No more cheese," and that made me really cry because I still had a friend in San Francisco, Enrico, who restaurateured and made great Italian, so I said to the acupuncturist, :"First my husband dies and then you tell me 'No more cheese.'"
Don's legacy to me was Sushi, one of the few things, as he was less than adventurous, a man most comfortable at home, that he had discovered on his own, and ushered me into, stunned as I was that he expected me to sit -- where? At the bar? But I came to love it, and Kaji, the friend he had made who was a Sushi master, one of the few friends who actually came to the hospital, bringing Sushi, everyone was so shocked that a man of Don's youth and size and obvious heartiness should have cancer. Kaji brought a tray the size of a table to the house after the funeral, and Robert, our son, went into his bedroom and ate it all, in an act of cannibalistic grief. I stayed friends with Kaji and followed him wherever he went, until he disappeared from the Marina, and I was on my own. Then, I found Hide Sushi on Sawtelle, where I was redeemed. As I wrote my new novel, if it went well, I rewarded myself with Sushi. If it went badly, I consoled myself with it.
But alas, as the phonies in publishing say, anything that feels too good is bad for you. So it is that tuna, the most comforting of non-cheesy comfort foods, is riddled with mercury, and when I asked Helmut, a shrink of few words, the other day what it could do to you, he said "Kill you."
So for the last few days, which have been hard ones, I went only occasionally and ordered salmon skin handrolls. But they do not make you feel better. Yesterday, more than any other day, as I went to a beautidul shower for a beautiful new young friend, and sat at the grown-ups table, when the event was over I didn't want to stand in line with the ladies on walkers, so was the last to get my car, as everyone else went off to their lives, husbands, boyfriends, charity auctions, I felt like 'The Cheese Stands Alone.'
Today the mood lingered and deepened, exacerbated by not having anything to turn to, including the Daily Word, a pamphlet of spiritual uplift which has on its cover for June a woman lying in a field of clover sending a text message,a fucking text message, so what is there left to believe in? Obama? Oh, okay. I spoke to a friend who works on his campaign last night who said he should have the nomination by Tuesday night and as soon as it is secured he will announce his vice-president, and who it will be, according to him, is Chuck Hegel, which I think would be a very good thing. A Republican. Really reaching across the aisle, to a man who opposes the bad stuff. Still that didn't comfort me enough, as it all still feels up in the air, as does most of life, so I went for Sushi.
I tried to branch out and enjoy, but it just isn't the same. So I broke down and ordered my signature tuna roll. Well, just a tsate. How could that hurt?
But ehre's how my life works: the sushi masters have become genuinely fond of me. So there was in that roll six times the normal amount of blue fin,
It is a slow death. But then, so is the Democratic party. That selfsame source said that whenver America has been in great crisis, the great man has come, then citing Roosevelt, Lincoln, and .. not to mention.. "the Founder."
Really? Is this a man of Washington's stature? The general, not the city. We shall see. I mean, provided mercury doesn't make you blind. .

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last Train to Muguet

I remember in what were carefree days that I didn't recognize as such, when I would meditate in May in St. Tropez, they would celebrate Spring with a little bouquet, a sprig of Muguet, which I didn't know at the time, either, was Lilies of the Valley. It would be given to all present in the charming village, which it still seemed to be in May,the tourists not having yet invaded, with a ribbon tied to a tiny card saying 'Profitez de la vie', meaning 'Enjoy Life.' I had first heard that expression in French when I was visiting there-- it was still possible to do that for centimes, and I used to go and do silences and swim among the calming Maritime Pine, shading my anxieties like leafy umbrellas-- and Grace Kelly drove off her cliff, and the assistant concierge at the little hotel I stayed at in Ramatuelle, as the whole Cote d'Azur grieved, said "Il faut profitez de la vie." In other words, you better.
Well, today is the last day I will be the age I am, so I am summing up, as Mr. Maugham would put it--does anyone read Mr. Maugham anymore?--remembering all the wonderful friends I have made in these interesting years. When I first started studying spiritual things-- you don't have to gag, I have been less than faithful-- Jack, my Jewru(new book out: The Wise Heart) in his always moving talks quoted a lot of Castenada, so I think it was Castenada he cited as dissing the idea of things being blessings or curses, but just seeing everything as what it is, meaning life, with all its challenges and changes. In spite of this wisdom, I do consider my life has been studded with blessings, meaning the places I have been able to go when they were still go-able, and the friends I have made in the course of my travels, both in the world and in inner space. There was Diane who introduced me to metaphysics, and Pippa who introduced me to Orient Express, and Gerrie Pitt who showed me through the less-than hallowed halls of the Mandarin in Hong Kong, and several fine locales to follow, Sandy whom I loved best of all who was murdered in Bali, so she won't get this e-mail,unless of course there is an Afterlife and it's electronically connected. The rest of you have been on my computer and in my heart for a number of years now,so I will not cite you one by one, but you have all and each given me moments or days or years of warmth and connection, and I thank you.
Yesterday was a good friend's birthday, so to celebrate her I went through the driving and blowing rain, torrential it was, a leftover either from Myanmar or our own tornados, tearing my umbrella apart, to see Iron Man as she told me I should do, and I was happy to sit there soaked watching Robert Downey, Jr. make a new life for himself, since I knew his grandparents(Good God!) the Dorsos, when Dick ruled showbiz and Betty ruled fashion, and I am relieved he took himself by the back of the collar and worked it out. I would wish the same for my own children with whom I am not celebrating Mother's Day/my birthday, but that is another story, actually probably a novel, but one I don't think I will write, as I am weary of children that disappoint and parents who are surprised by that. I have in the past year become entranced with the simple miracle of speech, how it comes into the brain of little people and grows into thought, and eventually words that can lift your soul, and keep you floaty for days. So that takes care of Silas, who is four, and as fine a spirit as I have ever encountered, a personal gift to me, I think, from the mischievous angels who can't wait to see how we recover from the slings and arrows of outrageous spawn.
I have also, I think, come at last to enjoy New York, expecting nothing from it, finally, hoping for nothing from it in the way of acceptance, validation or good weather. It is enough to have watched the park burgeon with Spring, first the daffs, yellow and white dazzling, now withered, which is what happens to all things Spring, then the greens, bursting, growing daily from their shoots, then the great sweeps of white and salmon azaleas, and always and lingering, the little white flowers that I didn't know what they were till I walked with an actress friend and she started singing 'White Coral Bells upon a slender stalk, lilies of the valley deck my garden walls,' a song we used to step-sing at Bryn Mawr, the delicate blossom I finally recognized as Muguet.
So il faut profitez de la vie. I certainly feel that I have. Having all but completed the novel that caused me suffering in L.A. where, if I do not write I have little to make me happy but sushi and Silas(and of course you) stunned at New York's making me more charged up and creative, so you never know, I rest my case.
Thanks to all of you for all you have given me, and all I have been lucky enough, I hope, to receive with some degree of grace when I listened, and was able to give back when I could. We are all part of each other's story. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The flowers that etc, Tra La, out at last, little miniature daffs raising their bright yellow heads like in children's books: one half expects them to have faces that start to smile, mouths that sing. One gorgeous day where I lunched outside, so Mimi could come too, with an old friend who told me I shouldn't write these things as it will interfere with my novel, but as my novel is interfered with anyway, what the hell.
That day blossomed into high adventure, the New York variety, where I went to the Italian Cultural Society, and met up with new friends, a brilliantly funny PR person, Morty, and his quietly intense associate, and we went to dinner at Swifty's, where we were sat down next to a couple who looked TV familiar. A little into the appetizer I connected: it was Joe Wilson who blew the whistle on yellow cake nuclear bullshit in NIger from the administration and his wife Valerie Plame, the outed CIA-ette. So our dinner was even more stimulating than if it were just us being festive and interesting, and when they asked for their check, I leaned over slightly-- we were elbow to elbow on a banquette, and thanked him. "For what?" he asked. "For what you did for our country." He looked benign but somewhat puzzled, and asked who I thought he was, and I told him. He said that wasn't who he was at all, and a few minutes later showed me his driver's license to prove it, but Morty is convinced that's who he was anyway, and if he was Joe Wilson is very good-natured in addition to sharp, to be so pleasant while keeping up his charade.
Yesterday was dark and cold again but today dawns softly bright so Mimi and I strolled around the pond to check the progress of the tulips I came to town to visit-- they are not blooming yet, but the shoots are higher, so I hope the color will come out soon so I can see them and go back home, which I really feel LA is now, since it's where I'm writing this novel which is, alas, the center of my universe except for Silas, and Mimi who follows me everywhere, something Silas is not permitted to do. I spoke to my old friend George d'Almeida who lives in Tuscany on a vineyard he was smart enough to buy for a pittance in the 60s, and he has stopped painting as he says there are enough d'Almeidas in the world, most of them in his studio, and he wants to spend as much time as he can with his wife, the usual excuse of politicians here. But they are a special couple, and I envy them their companionship, as I envied the young people across the way from my tiny balcony in a glassed in room where they were eating breakfast, she in a nightie, picking up whatever she was eating with dainty fingers, he in a dark jacket, slicing with knife and fork, forking it into his mouth with his left hand so I took them to be Europeans. I remembered as I watched them that 'companion' comes from the Latin which I never studied, 'to break bread with," and I miss breaking bread with, especially French bread, that I never broke with anyone, that whole epoch of my life being mostly solitary. My Scottish buddy Rosemary is living in Paris now, and I would envy her that, too, except I came across a poem I wrote that goes

It is the function of envy
To shorten the breath
And the vision
And blur the senses
So that all one can feel
With perfect clarity
Is rage.

So envy is out. But I did tell George, as I told my good friend and editor, that I would rather leave a truly good book than have lived a happy life, and that does seem to me to be foolish.
Back to the moment, which is really all we have, and should live to the full if we learned anything at all as apparently I haven't: the park this morning was radiant, not only with the aforementioned about-to-sing daffodils, but bluebells and a little purple flower that barely peeks out above the grass but the color is vivid and soothing and would serve for mindful meditation if i were wise enough to be doing it. I wiped down a bench on which a vanished lover had left a message inscribed in metal "Think of me when day turns to night and believe it will be all right." a good thing to have fixed my eyes on before I saw the headline in the Times about how hard it would be for anyone to pay for college, and thought of a new motto for W, "No grad left behind, except how are they going to get there, heh heh," and the adjacent column about GE having a bleak projection(did you know Vonnegut worked for them, and much admired the company even after having become disgusted with everything else ?) and that being a bellweather for our tragically blighted country thanks to U Know Who, or perhaps we should change it to W know Who.
But in the distance I heard the lovingly mournful bleat of the saxaphone player who seems always to be in the park in the morning, and he was playing "I Concentrate on You." I tried to follow the counsel of the song, "whenever skies look gray to me and people declare we're through,:" combining it with the lost loving advice inscribed on the bench and concentrate on who? My You is long gone, as is Cole Porter, who wrote that song, and I wonder if he would have rather have left a slew of great music and lyrics rather than live a happy life, and knew of course the answer would have been yes, as he had no choice.

Monday, March 31, 2008

For I Have Measured out my Life in Dubble-Bubble

The true extent of the economic downturn, as it is politely called but really translates as the end of our world as we knew it, is not the $4.00 gallon of gas but the 50 cent piece of bubble gum. I got through most of my intellectual(such as it was) growth by balancing all my esoteric studies and learning and yearning and striving by reading Love Comics at Bryn Mawr while chewing Bazooka bubble gum or Fleer's Dubble Bubble.
Although this clearly, as I was to discover later in life, played havoc with my teeth and gums, it did handle the fact that I was always in love with the wrong narcissist(George Segal in college, Tony Perkins in my early days in H'wood, before they or I knew what gay was and it might not have mattered anyway, I so adored how smart and gifted he was, and was grateful for his pride and admiration for my creativity.) Chewing feverishly eased my frustration and thwarted lust.
As I wandered the world which I did even as a young striver I went to a-- I cannot quite call them a bevy, as they were none of them particulalry comely with the exception of Pattie in her youth, --fortune tellers, none of whom had the answer to my destiny, as the answer is usually in yourself or destiny, which is very mysterious.-
. Nonetheless wherever I wandered I had my fortune told, which is more exotic in Hong Kong than most places where you toss sticks in a temple. But it is none of it as satisfying even though incorrect as it is when you open the fortune cookie that says 'Your luck has been completely changed today' on the Fleer's Dubble Bubble Fortune in 4 different languages which it used to be if you you traveled far enough or wide.
Once I took a ship from Italy to San Francisco hoping to find out what my fortune was or if, indeed, I had one, and when I got to the last night of the voyage on which everyone on the ship except me was violently seasick-- I think it was the President Wilson on which I was traveling coolie class- I went to the Banquet that was to be the finale, -- with everything roped, chairs, tables, food, as the seas were so violent everything was sliding, including the people who were all in their cabins throwing up, except me-- and there before me were several hundred tables with roped crystal and roped china and nobody eating the Oriental feast, but all the tables laid with piles of fortune cookies. At last! I cried inside myself, enough fortunes! and nobody to go through them, but me. So I went to every table and opened all the cookies, and they were all homilies and bullshit except for the very last one that I opened with shaking fingers: 'You will go on a long voyage," it read.,'to no advantage.'
SInce that time I have resorted to colorogy, my own form of numerology, where you put the money in the machine and the gumball rolls down, and whatever the color is is what you can expect. Red is passion,(not very likely) yellow is luck(one can always hope) Green is money(ditto) orange is lust( still?) white is purity(what choice does one have?) and blue is spiritual growth. Today, on the heels and toes and instep of our latest disastrous figures, I went next door to my sushi restaurant,-- where the Dubble Bubble gumballs are. What was, when last I gumballed,, a quarter a ball, is now 50cents. Not to be deterred(I have no plans to go to France what with the euro and how stupid and ruined we are) I thought I could at least get a piece of gum. The pinlk one(love) rolled directly onto the street, and the man who owns the market felt compassionate, so he put 50 cents in for me. It was yellow, but that one, too, fell directly onto the sidewalk. He indulged me in one more, and I caught it in my hand. Blue. Spiritual growth. Well, I guess that's the only option we have. All the same it caught in my teeth and I have to go to the dentist.
It doesn't really matter that T.S. Eliot was an anti-Semite. He wrote really good poems that Jews can read.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


So as I strolled through the streets this early afternoon, having read the financial section of the NY Times, with all the bad news and the worse/amusing notice that the dollar is about to be bailed out by Japan, I heard in my ears the strains of the burning boys of Sherman's army singing 'Marching Through Georgia." It is beyond fiction, which I may have to give up writing, that the combined destructive talents of Attila the Hun, Charlemagne(to whom my friend Nancy is related), General Patton at the height of his messianic metaphysical warriroring, and Douglas MacArthur when he didn't want to stop, could not have accomplished the cumulative damage done to our country by our vacant-headed Prez. Those of us who believe in Karma wonder what past evil could have been done, including slavery, that could have earned such a sad and idiotic payback and fall. The greatest country in the world it was, for all the years of growing up, war, anguish, but always (almost) steadfastly principled and smart. That this great nation should be brought to its spiritual and monetary knees by a moron defies belief and understanding, except that we must have waterboarded God.
I have been accused by Harris Wofford, an old president of my college, Bryn Mawr, of having an apocalyptic mentality. But he is on board Obama's team, and I do believe that the minister's curse on the US will have undone Obama, and it is my fear, deep and strong in my apocaplyptic heart, that Hillary heading the ticket will elect John McCain. Oh, fearful New World, that has such creatures in it.
What the hell are we going to do? Answers welcome.

The Forty-Three Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding

I don't know how many of you are as old as I am, but I remember a novel that made a sensation in my still-youth, about a black(it was all right to call them then) hooker and a kind of hoosier, straw-chewing john who didn't realize there was a price to pay. In my less-than-youth but-still-naivete-except-for-my-prose, I wrote a novel with its central character a dominatrix based on Vicki Morgan, Alfred Bloomingdale's mistress, except I loved the character and through mine own compassion made her deep and complex and very touching, so I hated it when she got killed and even more when Dominick Dunne wrote a book on the same subject and made her cliche and superficial but that was his problem, as well as mine, probably, because not only did I feel he had killed my character but also his was a huge bestseller and mine had a struggle, as most everything I have written does except The Pretenders because it was so dirty. Oddly, Silk Lady, the one about Miranda as I called her, was not that dirty at all, even with its subject matter, but I did have to research dominatrixes, which led me into some adventures. I answered an ad in the LA Free Press("want a little discipline? call Mistress Victoria") so I did and told her I was writing a book and she said "Yeah, sure," but invited me to come anyway. Her 'dungeon' was in a little house behind the LA County Museum where I am going tomorrow(the museum, not the dungeon) its windows draped with red velvet so nobody could see in. She took me in to see all her gizmos, which included an Iron Maiden and a leather swing, told me how she had gotten into the business and how proud her parents were of her. Then she invited me for Easter Brunch, which my darling friend George-Anne, nursing her baby Nick at the time told me I had to go to, if only to see what they were serving, if they had bagels and cream cheese, fruit, etc.(as it turned out I think they had Hot Cross Buns, but it is possible I made that up as a pun.) Anyway, I figured unsound counsel would not come to me through a nursing mother, especially George-Anne, so on Palm Sunday, after going to Quaker Meeting and getting people to sign a No-First-Strike petition and taking my children to the airport to go visit their grandfather, I went to the Brunch. The details can be found, much prettified, especially the people who were in real life gross and pathetic, in Silk Lady, which except for that chapter is a fairly literate read. But I did learn from Mistress Victoria what it was that drove her clientele, mostly, according to her, high-powered executives under a lot of pressure so they needed women in spike heels to step on their genitals or paint them with mercurochrome, etc. as a release from having so much control. I was to go back to observe a private session with my lawyer, a woman of some caution and a most unsatisfactory sex life who insisted on accompanying me for my own protection(Ha!) but Mistress Victoria called me just before we set out to tell me the meeting was postponed as "two of her slaves had board meetings." When I called to re-schedule, she had disappeared, and I suppose the rest of her adventure can be found through CS!.
All of this brings me to Eliot Spitzer, for whom I cannot help but feel compassion, because compassion is my thing now more than it ever was, and I think I understand why he did it, if I can believe Mistress Victoria. So much pressure. And yet, such a lovely wife and such a smart law professor(Dershowitz) and so many hookers in DC. WHy did he have to bring anybody in? And why the Mayflower Hotel? It is all very Bill Clinton whom many people say always wanted to get caught but I think he was just a hubristic pig.
So to me it is not so much puzzling as suicidal and spendthrift. Surely he could have gotten someone for a hundred dollars, or, as things go nowadays, a few gallons of gas. I am brought in mind of Hugh Grant whom as we all may remember got a blow job from a street hooker around the corner from Grauman's Chinese, and when caught was asked by Jay Leno on TV, "What were you thinking?" Especially as there must have been multiple thousands of women who would have done him for nothing.
Well, "Men," as Sadie Thompson said. "They're all pigs." Of course I don't mean you or yours.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Charming Child Stories

A friend of mine from Bryn Mawr, so knows how far Memory can go back, fears that Memory might not go forward, so thinks I should write down what Silas (Age 4) says or I will forget. Had lunch with a very bright pal, which always gives the lie to what they say about LA, and told her the least endearing thing he said, and she found it most endearing. So I shall unpack what loveliness has happened so far, to make room in my mental luggage for anything tk, as we say in the journalistic profession, which I seem to have abandoned, but means: to come.
Also I am tussling with my novel, so praps its a good idea to leave sentimental baggage behind, and harden my heart, like Pharoah.
Silas at three: "Read me a story from your mind."(My favorite)
"Are you going to get a house?" "No." The apartment's big enough for me."
Silas: "Don't you want kids?"
When I explained that I'd had kids, that his dad was my son, he said "But he was never little."
When asked where his mother was one Saturday ; "In schule."
"What's it like in schule?"
"Boring." A beat. "So boring I weed my pants."

Now he's turned four, so there began a series of outings where I also introduced new words. I wrote a little children's book for him that he wasn't much interested in, because he wanted pictures. One of the words in it was "Indeed." "I don't know what indeed means," he said. Payoff tk.

"We're going to have an adventure," I said. "What's an adventure?"
"It's something you don't know how it's going to turn out, and it involves taking a little bit of a chance, but it almost always ends up fun."
So far we have had a number of adventures. They have involved collecting maple leaves, buying flowers, which I have counseled him he should do for girls "When I get married?" he asks. "Yes," I said, "and even before."
"I'm going to remember this adventure forever," he said.. "Even if you're dead. Even if I'm dead."
Then there was yesterday. In between park and bumper cars on the Santa Monica pier, and corn on the cob and a taxi back to the car as it was far to walk, and he was tired, I told him that 'indeed' meant Yes, that's really true.
Afterwards there were crepes on Main Street. "This is the best adventure we've had," he said, when it was almost over. "I'm serious."
"Really?" I said.
"Indeed," said Silas. "Indeed."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Literary Life

It is the kind of weather today that traps people into moving to California. The air is clear, swept by Santa Ana winds, and the sun is warm, but not too hot,and there are no shadows, since nobody walks. On such a day, were I in Paris, everybody would be casting off their scarves, coming out of their caocoons(sp?) and crossing those fabulous, often gilded bridges, and Mimi and I would walk from one end of that gloriously walkable city to the other, as we did in our September adventure. But as I am here, and have to stay alert and awake this evening, I cannot walk to anyplace where I might have a meal, and Mimi has had two breakfasts(one from me at 7, another from Carmen who comes to clean once every three Sundays, who didn't know she had already had a comida.) So instead we walked to Dutton's bookstore, not a great distance but at least one that stretches the legs and seems to serve a bit of a purpose.
I think I could live in a bookstore, but even Lasiked, would have to have my reading glasses, as though I can see the words, naked(the words AND my eyes) I have to struggle a little so the words cannot dance, they lumber along. I had meant to buy the Letters of Noel Coward, as he has always lifted me-- Tony Perkins gave me his memoir at a down time in my creativity, to reinforce the point that you should never give up. I opened that huge new book, as I do metaphysically from time to time to see what word or thought is seized upon, to a letter to or from Marlene-- it was not clear,-- about a dinner party where Yul Brynner, with whom she was in love, was there and also Susan Strassburg(sic.) whose name was misspelled, which spoke to the fleeting nature of fame even when you're having it. Susie (Strasberg) was a dear friend and the end of her life still makes me mad, as the evil second Mrs. Lee did not even give her the money from the sale of Marilyn Monroe's white piano which was her gift to Susie, who considered her a sister since she'd been essentially adopted by Lee and Paula, or even anything for insurance, so Susie died alone and untended in somebody else's apartment where she went into the bedroom because she was cold and wanted to lie down, which our mutual friend the psychic Pattie McLaine said would have preferred to the hospital that wouldn't admit her, but one should have options.
So my interest moved to the book below it, a biography of Edith Wharton, which I bought instead to get over my sorrow at never having lived the literary life. As previously noted, the poet HD, from Bryn Mawr, my college, ran off with Ezra Pound and later became a lesbian, neither of which experiences are mine, although I did have an almost close relationship with a German named Wolfgang who claimed not to be a Nazi but when living in Singapore said they should line up and shoot all the rebels in East Timor, so so much for that assertion. Nor have I ever been embraced by the community that Gay Talese whines constantly about having to spend so much time with. So I figured reading of the life of the estimable Edith would get me over my envy, as she was tight in the circle of Henry James, who I'm almost sure would have been as boring as his novels.
Even as I start to write" I am reading the life of Edith Wharton," I can hear the voice of Oscar Levant around whose brain I had the privilege of waltzing for one night, one night only, saying "The night June stabbed me, I was reading the life of Berlioz." Gone now from the planet almost all memory of Oscar Levant, along with the immediacy of having witty friends in LA except for one, a gay dope dealer. It is too sunny a day to be overcast with any feelings that one has not been in the right place at the right time, but it would have been fun to know Hemingway when he was vital and in shorts as he was in today's New York Times with a recently discovered letter, or Saint-Exupery, or Yeats, or D.H.Lawrence, whose poetry was reviewed in a poetry magazine they had at Dutton's, by Joyce Carol Oates, whom I do not grieve over not knowing, as she scares me.
The phone just rang, and it is a recorded message from Michael Winship, president of the Writer's Guild East to which I belong as I always loved Herbie Sargent who was its president and infinitely smarter than the one from West, telling me I can cast a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 12th, as to whether or not to end the strike or wait till all negotiations are formalized which will take several weeks. I will of course say yes, as I am especially aware that that is Lincoln's actual birthday, and as he freed the slaves it will be good to free the writers. Still, selfishly, I will hate giving up all the muses who had noplace else to go but my house.
The day ended with the great sickness of the country being celebrated, Celebrity Worship. A good friend who works at the Beverly Hills, where the Grammy parties were, invited me to come, and as I walked up the (mandatory) red carpet, I saw the lineup of the victims, the our-lives-depend-on-intrusion Paparazzi. They are of course a sorry lot, but there might be a real story in there somewhere. The first time I saw them I was going to an event where Michael Douglas was a heavy name, and as he entered, they screamed 'Zeta! Zeta!' at his wife, who might have been the best shot of the evening. It was terrifying, but not yet, as it has become, the national disease. A cult of personality, mostly about those who don't have one.
Still, once inside the hotel, with the bar set up with a giant screen and standing speakers, so eatching and hearing the Rhapsody in Blue, played by two great musicians, Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang, conducted by John Mauceri, was like having the best seat at a concert that reminded you there were great composers in this country, before there was dope.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Mimi's Eating Disorder

Happy New Year.
As those of you know who followed her adventures in the year now gone, Praise Be, Mimi, in order to continue her European education, had to weigh twelve kilos, including carrier, to be allowed to fly Air France. So I put her on the strictest of diets, worked her out, had to take a car to JFK to get her health stamp several days before we actually flew as that office was closed on Sunday, spent a small tesor on various certificates, and then no one ever weighed her or checked. She was livid, which shows in a white dog, no matter how fluffy. Nor could she have the many treats one is offered as an irresistible femme in France, Switzerland or Italy, as there was the chance they would weigh her on the way back(they didn't.)
So safely home, in a fury of revenge, or perhaps a secret longing to be on Access Hollywood, she has developed an eating disorder. The first business day of the New Year, January 2nd, I spent on the phone trying to reach the vet, to find out if there is bulimia or anorexia in dogs-- if I don't feed her right on time, and much, she spits up, very delicately of course, as she is always Mimi, and looks for a place on the wood (not cushions or rugs) where it will be easy for me to clean up, The vet, however, according to the receptionist, was dealing with a dog that was 'crashing,' which translates 'dying,' and was in surgery. Mimi is nothing if not compassionate so was momentarily distracted from her obsession with food by worrying about a fellow(girl) creature, something nobody has yet recommended as a solution in diet magazines, or by Oprah, but perhaps should be.
If we could all go out and do something for a fellow(or girl) perhaps we could cut back on the frantic excursions for sushi, the longing for pasta, the bolted hamburger. Good deeds in place of bagels! I can hear the cry of street-hawkers in Baghdad, the fairy tale version, not the ugly today reality which has fallen out of public interest as a key issue in the election, I can hear him crying 'New lamps for Old!' giving rise to Aladdin and a thousand fantasies. Good deeds for Bagels! What a positive substitute.
At any rate, the patient (a black lab) lived, so it was a good first day of the working year for Nicole Overby, D.V.M. Mimi is still hungry and dissatisfied with the amounts the vet prescribed, taking little solace from the snack bone she is allowed in place of a heavy lunch. I have decided to give her as much as she wants and that I will love her more the more of her there is, as a journalist who was hitting on me once when I still worried about gaining weight said to me as part of his pitch.
Happy New Year. Enjoy life, it is fleeting as kibble.