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.