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.