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