Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prosecco per prima collazione

So I think as of breakfast this morning, I have abandoned my search for truth and beauty and decided to go in for pure pleasure. Ever since coming here, albeit for a joyous and festive occasion, I have tried to practice moderation, except for prosciutto which has wormed its way into my soul, I hope without the accompanying trichinosis. When I gave up meat last year, living in Venice, there was still this hunger for prosciutto and as it has been everywhere here in Montecatini, I have buckled under the weight of my own discipline, and said Fuck it. Though I did not partake of the suckling pig, the star of the beach celebration of Marco’s wedding, I prosciuttoed out, and decided, as I took my swim this morning, and saw from my arms I would never grow young again, that I might as well live out my days enjoying them. So it was I added prosecco to my pink grapefruit juice(for health) and gave up my plan to write immortal prose whilst(a little touch of Keats there) I was here in Montecatini, and instead just, as I wrote last year in Venice, albeit still unbought by a publisher, Live the Day.
All the same I had a bowlful of ripe cut tomatoes for my lycopene, a trick I learned from my gifted and crazy friend Emily, who always looks bright-eyed and eats pomidori fresco at the Cipriani where I can never go again because Natale is gone, but I can carry her inherent diet wisdom with me and eat the tomatoes. Beside them, though, I had a touch of the smoked salmon(a fat touch, actually) and the end of the brown bread with seeds and a splatter of scrambled egg. There were very thin women at the next table eating breakfast cakes and putting rolls in their purses so I must not think of the inequities of life, but only how lucky I am to not explode. One of them had Brigitte Bardot’s old upper lip, and a ghastly stripe of white above it that trumpeted collagen recently injected, or maybe it’s Restalyn. It has been a long time since I worried about little wrinkles as my arms started to fall off. I can remember when I returned from the south of France in my late what I still regarded as my youth, and Arnie Klein, the famous dermatologist and alleged possible father of Michael Jackson’s baby but certainly the one who lightened Michael’s skin, including that on his member when the little boy’s parents sued, said of my upper lip “I can fix that,” and did, for a while anyway.
But like literary immortality, smooth skin is never to be mine, and I am resigned to it, especially seeing the ghastly pallor where would more normally, since this is Italy, be a mustache on a woman.
As for the literary life, as Gay Talese that major phony would title it, I have also decided to set it aside, my efforts on the book I am engaged in writing now having been dampened by my favorite reader’s (there’s only one) tepid reaction to the latest chapter, the writing of which required more than focus, as everyone else here has been devoted to having a good time. George, my beloved friend from my true youth (Rome, in the late 50s) had to cancel our proposed lunch in Florence, because as noted his wife is failing and their car did, too, so I had to drink of his wisdom over the phone, which crackles the line. The big question I had to ask him, already indicated in these posts, was how to let go of what you consider your art, since I suffer daily if I don’t write something, a poem, a report to you, a book. Helmut, the Nazi therapist I had in Berkeley right after Don died and I was truly insane, desperate for a man because I hadn’t realized how partnered I was until he was with me no more, my deep strain of masochism pulled me back to Helmut even after I left San Francisco, and I called him and said I wanted to learn to love myself unconditionally and not just because I produce something, and Helmut said “Too late.”
Georgie, though, having set aside his paints to tender to Anne, said the mistake we make is thinking we have to do all our work and then we will be happy, when it should be the reverse. We should be happy first. Easy for him to say. There is, he tells me, no Italian word for ‘workaholic’, but he has seen too many of them, even in Tuscany, hard to believe, and then they die. Well the really bad news is we are all going to die anyway, which they don’t tell you at the get-go, because who could go jaunting merrily on that road thinking about how it would end. He also told me once there was no word in Italian for ‘loneliness.’ There is only ‘solitudine’ which means solitude, and that for them is enough because Italians never leave each other alone so they are never lonely.
I could see that last night at the Maccionis, where Mama Egi made dinner at her really warm home for all the veterans of the wedding, family and friends, still here. Included among the guests were the parents of the woman youngest son Mauro had married who recently dumped him, so I guess there is no Italian word for grudge, either. There were many varieties of meat, filets, chicken, rabbit(again) and sausage, but I stayed with my obsession and ate only the prosciutto and salad and asked her for a tomato from a gleaming bowl of them that was on the island stove. She took it and rakishly polished it on the back of her dress where her butt was, shooting me a mischievous glance, so I could see the fun-loving, darling young girl she must have been, before she was everybody’s Mama, including Sirio’s. The table was long and festive, all the men on the other side so they could watch the World Cup and shout ‘Vai, Vai!’ to the Italians who did not vai quite enough, the excuse being that the field was so wet and the ball was slippery. But I wished I had had a camera so I could fix a memory of all those beautiful dark eyes, including the twins’, the eleven year olds who said Justin Bieber is gay, up and over our heads, fixed on the screen.
This is an exceptionally long report—the wedding itself, for those of you who wish to know details, might or might not be in the Observer this week, or if not, I’ll send you the piece if you ask. But the e-mail here is difficult and I have to log in to write it by putting in a code and I didn’t want to waste my time that I had to buy by writing this so used my Word, which I am as good as. Oh, if only we didn’t judge ourselves. It’s easier not to when you have prosecco for breakfast.


I had some doubts about coming on this trip. I am a victim of the Protestant Ethic, a day’s work well done, compounded by Jewish Guilt—or I feel terrible. So as I have no new achievement under my belt, written books not counting for anything in my mind unless published, and being only a few chapters into the new one, I felt I was not entitled to take a vacation. From what? my Jiminy Cricket would say.
Still, I was happy to be asked to this formidable wedding, details about which it would exhaust me to list, since I have already writ about it as a loving courtesy to my hosts. But once invited, I passed a hat store on Madison Avenue, and seeing the wonderful one in the window, had no choice but to buy it, it was so simply splendid, so splendidly simple, and yet coolly elaborately chic. They wanted a lot more, but I was able to talk them down to $200, promising they would be part of the article I intended to write about the wedding. Then I got cold feet, just like brides do, and started to cancel, but my darling friend Pam said “Buy you got the hat.”
So I made slow haste to come, calling ahead to Delta airlines to make sure I would be able to take the hat on board in its spacious box, and the agent on the phone held while I measured, and it just made the 18” diameter. And then I called Sky Magazine, the Delta in-flight thing to try and get an actual assignment to write about the journey of the hat, figuring it would be much to their advantage since probably the people who know there is a direct flight from JFK to Pisa are fewer than legion. But they called me back and said it wasn’t funny enough, as for that kind of feature, on their back page, they prefer using comedians. Oh, well.
Still I came, and wore the hat to the church part of the wedding, where the bride arrived gorgeously arrayed in white crocheted lace in the black sidecar of a motorcycle driven by her father, and the groom wore Emiliano Zegna gray silk, and I was one of three women out of hundreds who wore a hat. The others were another New Yorker and Georgia, three times Miss Montecatini, but her beauty queen career ended there. Still, she looked cute in her hat.
I, on the other hand, looked very much the matron in a really nice hat. But what the hell. I left the hat in the car for the beach part of the celebration(groaning boards, infinite champagne, suckling pig) giant grapes and prosciutto sliced by two brothers who had taken three years to cure it(I hope of everything.)
Then today, finding that once again I have brought my currency curse on myself—that is to say, the minute I travel the dollar sinks, so even as the euro is in the toilet, my very coming makes it expensive again, and the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) are in better shape than they would have been had I not made the voyage, so decided to go home before it gets even worse.
Still, I did have to make one last swing to the open market for some sunglasses—the woman in the really good store was amazingly rude, very un-Italian, I could have been in Paris—so I saved 170 euros which by tomorrow will probably be worth twice what the dollar is if I stay.
So I went to the open market. And guess what was there. My hat. 7 euros. I was tempted to buy it simply to shove it down the throat of the owner of Mandara on Madison(DON’T EVER GO THERE, or if you do, say I sent you and spit on her.)
Oh well. Read somewhere today(could it have been the New Yorker? Probably not, too direct)the Zen saying Live as though you were dead. So walking back to the hotel I passed a beautiful mirrored and fairy-tale decorated carousel, like the one in Bordeaux that Happy, my little Yorkie, had his first and last merry-go-round ride on on what was to be his final holiday, before he had his heart attack in Paris, where his jeweled collar, the one he wore on Oprah but she didn’t show the book, the bitch, hangs in La Cimitiere Pere LaChaise next to hippy bracelets on the headstone of Jim Morrison, since they both died in the same way, in the same place, although Morrison wasn’t at the Plaza Athenee. Anyway, I took a picture of the carousel, and remembered Happy, and our car trip through the Dordogne with Betsy Hailey, a soft-spoken writer who learned to shout ‘Happy, SIT DOWN!; == he was always standing on his hind legs trying to look out the car window.. Maybe he knew ir was his last view of the world.
Italy is as good. Maybe better. A little girl about 18 months, Maria-Luisa, just perfecting her stagger, came by the carousel and rode a miniature auto, and I took her picture because she was almost as beautiful, eye-wise, as the boys last night looking up at the World Cup.
Then because I know what it is to have been cheated but not by an Italian, I forced myself to have a gelati, three flavors, chocolate, bacio, and something toasted with berries in it. Raging, even as I enjoyed, I ate it all up. Soon I will be in a bed that is JUST THE RIGHT SIZE.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


So Dennis Hopper has left us, one of the first friends I had in Hollywood, the youngest he was of ‘Young Hollywood,’ the clique that ruled at the time, the time being the end of the ‘50s,early 60s. We never thought about death. All we worried about was whether or not we would be successes, love would ever find us, Fame would be elusive. Nobody ever considered we would grow old or, as in my case, older. And death was a dramatic surprise, Jimmy Dean having crashed his car, something that gave Dennis his big brag, his having achieved nothing yet on his own except for small parts and telling Jack Warner to go fuck himself, so his great credential was having been Jimmy’s best friend, with Dean not able to verify or contradict.
We never thought about dying as part of the life process, because we were that young. I’m sorry because I don’t think he had a really happy life, but he must have enjoyed being over-rated. There will be a piece online at Vanity Fair that I wrote about him, so read it if you want to know more and deeper and funnier, and earlier.
These have been strange weeks as I rev up to write a new book, and try to love New York. Have seen a number of disappointing plays, Fences, in which Denzel was a whole lot better as a working man in (I think it was) Pittsburgh than he was as Brutus in last year’s horrific Julius Caesar, played in modern battle costume as if it were in Turkey, with a lot of machine guns. Viola Davis was good but whole evening more a slice of life than a play, even if it was August Wilson.
Also went with my baby cousin Lori to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson that I had heard someone raving about. I must be careful on whom I eavesdrop. It was painfully collegiate, something a wise-ass from Princeton might have gloried in. But the African-American gent next to me loved it, I think probably because it portrayed America as horrible to the Seminoles as we’d been to the other Native Americans, thereby giving a universality to our mean-spiritedness.
The boy who played Jackson, though, was cute with a hint of blue eye shadow, so Lori remarked that if Adam Lambert had been in the role it might have been more
To carry on about.

Went to throw my newspapers away in the recycle bin in my building, and pulled out a magazine called ‘REFORM JUDAISM’ as its cover story is ‘Unmasking Shakespeare,’ “Was the greatest canon of Western literature written by a Jewish woman?” Made me laugh a lot, though the painting of her, Amelia Bassano, is very pretty, all in Elizabethan array, mit pearls, holding a mask of Shakespeare a few inches in front of her face. I hope Erica Jong doesn’t get hold of the magazine, as her Serenisima was, I thought, an embarrassment, though I didn’t tell her that at the time, as we were friend-ish, and at the Cooking School of Umbria, an expedition I had arranged, so I read quietly in between sauces, and tried not to guffaw when the young Shakespeare, there to research The Merchant of Venice, falls in love with a nun who, I think I remember, gets pregnant and dies, and as they carry her upstairs, someone actually says—NO NO I begged aloud before I turned the page—“Good Night Sweet Princess.” God knows what Erica would do with this one. Perhaps use it as an argument for reincarnation, herself being the result of being Bassano in that previous life, and the Master herself. Jews are really funny, but I don’t think they’ll claim Dennis.