Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Vines Have Sour Grapes

So the time has definitely come to set sail for happier climes. I return to a New York where this week's New York magazine arrives with a cover picture of a beautiful, waif-like blonde who I wondered why she was naked to the waist when she had no breasts, and it turns out she is the Male Model of the year, Time Out New York is a sex issue, with 'Hook-up bars' and different groupsex venues, and I am sad now not just for my country, but what was never really my city. Just wrote a food piece about Bali for Food Arts and even while I was salivating, I wondered what I was still doing here, when the lunch I had at DuCasse's Benoit was notable only for the fact that my wonderful companion, a man of flawless manners and behavior, when confronted with an attitude laden server first queried her with quiet geniality, and then, eliciting no civil reaction, laced into her, in French, no less. She snapped to like a sergeant in the Foreign Legion. Or, if you're old enough to watch re-runs(the most seasoned of us was not here for the original release) Brian Donleavy in Gunga Din. Loved him, loved the not quite outburst, but food was just food. So when I think of Denise's guava juice starting my day in Jalan wherever that is, as opposed to the tasteless orange section I tried to eat pretending it was fruit, I long for my overcrowded, over-motorcycled and probably doomed little island, which still has a pocket of peace in the place I found where I am going to live. In the present, which is the only tense they have, and the only life that makes sense, since, as Jack says, "the past is history, the future is fantasy." I can hardly wait, but I have to, to try and get all my affairs, in the boring sense, in order.
Today I lay out the family silver for the man from Doyle gallery and leave at least that nonsensical part of the material world behind me. My children are not the formal dinner-party type, to put it mildly, and I don't want it just sitting around to tarnish. I put it out yesterday thinking that yesterday was today, which gives you some idea where I am jet-lag wise, and had to put it away so I could go to sleep so hope that today is really today. It is tomorrow in Hong Kong, but everybody is having a national holiday, so I can't find out what October 1st signifies but am confident it is not the Jewish New Year. I want to know the meaning of that date because it is the one I woke up on really clear that the time has come to move. I am sad for my country, hold no hope for its immediate future, hope there is a long-term one, but am frightened by the seemingly comic but clearly insidious presence of people like Sarah Palin, whose documentary as reviewed by Rex Reed is terrifying enough so I don't have to go see the movie. I am also sad for the presence in what used to be movies of Seth Rogen, whose appearance on the Daily Show the other night, with his offensive, mindless, inhaled giggle actually made me turn off Jon Stewart, the only thing I missed about TV, as you can download Rachel Maddow in Bali.
So as I laid out the silver on the bed a day too early, I had a little Proustian experience, where I went to some of the dinner parties we had, graced by the Acorn pattern in Jensen my mother had given me and Don, even though she didn't think he knew everything. There was Robby Lantz, the truly literate literary agent, and Larry Turman, flush from his triumph with 'The Graduate', a bit full of himself, so when the waiter passed the brandy and ignited it and the glass stuck to Larry's lip, Don had to run into the bathroom so he could laugh. Larry's then wife, Suzanne, was to become my best friend, but she left the planet some years ago, much too young. Then there was Mario Puzo, for whom I gave a dinner party, making myself all the dishes he described, writing bout food as I in those days wrote about sex, in The Fortunate Pilgrim, the real book he wrote that preceded the Godfather. At the time he was my best friend, the only one in the literary community who accepted me as a serious writer, saying "You wrote The Pretenders for the same reason I wrote The Godfather---to have a bestseller. But the good writing is undisguisable(sp?) I really loved him, but he got mad at me for writing too many books, so he left the planet without our ever kissing goodbye.
Lawrence Harvey was at that dinner-- the most witty and charming of (almost) leading men. Don brought in a cake for dessert as a surprise for me, in the shape of an open book, with all the titles of books I'd written, and I burst into tears, and Larry said "I wish I had a husband like that." And Pauline Stone, Harvey's mistress said "I wish I had a husband." They married I think, and then Larry got cancer, which Seth Rogen would make into a comedy. I remember Larry's being carried into the Movie Star all-white living room he lived in off Coldwater Canyon, and his smiling at Don and me, and saying so lovingly, "You both look so healthy." I still miss him, and did get to kiss him Goodbye, which I also did to Don not too many years later, another Rogen comedy, I suppose. It was at Larry's funeral that I met and became friends with Elizabeth Taylor when she was still Elizabeth Taylor, handing out sprays of violets to the mourners, to match her eyes.
Those, I guess, were what Erica Jong would probably call her "fabled" dinner parties. Everything else was just family, all of us sitting at the table on Hillcrest at Thanksgiving, when I would make and serve pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell, Teriyaki turkey with Chinese stuffing, and Cranuberry Much, a dish I learned to make when I was in Washington and went to a cooking class during Jimmy Carter's reign, and they taught us turkey and grits. But I came away with Cranuberry Much, (my title) which adds celery and apples so there's an infinite crunch, and I do love that which is infinite. So few things are.
But I will not make this report one of them. I love you all for the sustenance you have given me during the long, dry periods of wondering whether anyone would ever know I was a real writer, and very few would care that I was a real soul. I always felt you were out there, or you wouldn't have been on the list. So I hope I haven't too heavily bombarded you, and that you will come visit me in Bali. And of course, that you have enjoyed these Reports, which I expect will continue, as in spite of how charming the Indonesian language is, and easy, I do so love English. And all of you.
Gwen of (soon-to-be) Bali

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sampah Jumpah lagi

So as the West sinks slowly in the west, we say goodbye to the not-so beautiful island of Manhattan and set sail for the not-any-longer-that-beautiful either island of Bali, unless you stay off the roads, clogged as they are with motorcycles, sided by construction of hotels and villas; but staying off the roads is exactly what I intend to do. The place where I am going to live sides a rice field, so that is what I look out on when I get up in the morning, and that is what Mimi looks out on, from her photo on the rooftop which I have in the bathroom window. There is a simple blue-bottomed gracefully shaped swimming pool(I'm not sure it's a kidney, but if an organ it is, it is a healthier one than one might have in States, where I expect and am afraid medical benefits to those who need them will soon be rescinded. The pool is next to a lovely open restaurant, called Lestari,(meaning exquisite or infinite, I'm not quite sure but I will learn Indonesian,) as are the stables beneath the rooms of the Inn where I will be livin, very clean, so there is no smell, and the day begins with the gentle slip-clop of their hooves on the cement paths to the riding ring, as children come to learn how to ride.
A new, great restaurant just opened up across the street, French, where I had Mahi Mahi I didn't even have to chew, and a glass of rose, (not Bandol, but not bad) a salad and ratatouille for $11, including tip. There are no other buildings around, the rice looks ready to pick or thresh or whatever they do with it, so when I come back the fields will be bare and ready for replanting.
I have a sense of perfect peace unlike any I have ever experienced, except when I go online, --that isn't easy, and is probably a blessing,== and see what is happening in the Weimar Republic, which is what I think we have become. Fear and envy and greed are running what was our wonderful country, and madmen(and women) wait in the wings to take us all the way down. There is a professor of economics here from Koln(umlaut over the o) who says that fear constipates the brain, so it can't really function. I am a little sad, as I spent most of my life being and feeling like an active patriot. There no longer seems any point.
There are of course palm trees everywhere, the trunks of the ones around the pool strumg round with fairy lights in the evening, and one of the palms drips seeds that look like an art director's decoration, a clump of yellow(the yougest one) a bright red, and a darker one. Everywhere there is inestimable beauty. A round marble bowl floats circles of flowers in a design they freshen every evening, magenta bouganvillea on the outer rim, then yellow frangipani half-open, besseching the sky, then pink, then orange, then at the center a spice called daun pandan in Indonesian-- they don't know what it's called in English, but it's dark withered green and has a lovely smell. I have never been aware of so much beauty, and I have struggled for awareness all my life.
So I will miss all of you, but if you can save up the fare, you can stay here cheaply including breakfast, and I will welcome you with open palm trees.
It really is Paradise. I looked up all words for that in my synonym finder, and some of them, of course are very right wing(EVEN THERE!) But Elysian fields works for me, as does Heaven.
Back in NY briefly, Sept 20 so call me to say Goodbye. It's been the best journey of my life. Oh, and yes, by the way, I finished my novel.
Love and xx
Gwen of Indonesia

Change of Venue

The day here(in Bali) begins with four little ladies working the rice fields outside my window, the sound the gentle clip/clop of horses' hooves as the horses in the stable downstairs are taken down the cement path to the ring where children come and ride them. It is a little different from looking out my window in NY and seeing the progress on the orange and black monstrosity on 57th Street that is going to be ninety stories, eventually blocking out the sky, the jackhammering and the noise of renovations in my building. Have finally managed to connect to the Internet which was a mistake, as I see where Obama has led with an opening salvo of more benefits to be given up before the Republicans even begin their assault on Medicare. I am reminded of the Ray Bradbury story I think it was, or a Twilight Zone, where a woman is trying to figure out which one the Martian is and it turns out they are all of them Martians, everybody, and that's how I feel about what was my country. They are all of them Republicans, including Obama.
So I do believe it is time for me to get my ass and what is left of my awareness out of the USA. I am staying in an Inn where there are, as I said, horses, paddocked downstairs, directly beneath me a stallion named Jordan which makes me smile as I have a dear friend with that name. The horses are well kept, and so are the stables, so there is no smell, and I figure if it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me. I was going to lease a villa, but I like this place. There is a great restaurant, a beautiful pool, trees that are lit up with twisting lights at night, and a caring staff, small but on the job. The boy who fixed my TV-- it doesn't work too well but that's probably better as when in New York I have a tendency to surrender to reruns of Law and Order-- strew(ed?) my bed with frangipani that made a heart, and spelled out 'Gwen' so I felt I was in the Bali version of Sex and the City, except there was no city and there is no sex and all that is also probably to the good, so I can concentrate on my writing. The boy, Koman, says when he sees me he thinks of his Grandma, and I will try to feel good about that.
Anyway, all this is my way of telling you I am, if all goes well, making the move here, probably in November. I can no longer invite you to my villa, as I don't think I'm going to take that on(needing security, a staff, a pool cleaner, etc. and if something goes wrong like the AC I have to get it fixed and most of you know how handy I'm not) but the rooms here are inexpensive and maybe you can sleep above Omega, a white horse, and that must have some mystical significance.
I love you all and loved my country but it seems to be disappearing, and, like I said, the rice fields are a better way of beginning my days. The Tarot reader at BIKU says I am going to lose a lot of friends, not through enmity or death but because of the move.
I hope none of them is you.