Meditation having finally made it into an editorial in The New York Times, not surprisingly as a very unsatisfactory piece about the benefits of it, the one cited here being that you are more compassionate, my eye made its way down the page to a piece called 'The Joy of Old Age.(No Kidding.)' by Oliver Sacks, a noted professor of neurology and apparently a prolific writer whose works I've never read, but I liked this article. He made me laugh aloud quoting Samuel Beckett, walking through Paris with a friend positing the query:"Doesn't a day like this make you glad to feel alive?" and Beckett saying "I wouldn't go as far as that."Mr. Sacks notes how surprised he is to be the age he is, as he was always the youngest, as I was: youngest in my class, youngest to have the adventures I had-- singing in a night club in Paris at twenty-- a play on Broadway that opened the same time my daughter was born, that, even failed--the play, we have yet to know the final answer on the daughter-- was a kind of triumph, an unthinkable ambition achieved(it OPENED ON BROADWAY!), living all over the world, or at least what seemed the best part of it at the time-- France, the South of Spain before it was touristed, Rome, with George d'Almeida, the world's most poetic and articulate painter as guide, and finally, or at least for that segment, as a loved and productive wife to a darling man who thought I was wonderful, mother to children who were adorable at the time. And then there was the movie that was a hit, and the musical that almost opened, and the one that's still breathing, waiting to come out, gayer than many who have, albeit in a more traditional way.
My quest, at this moment, being to find a swimming pool so I can stay in shape and productive and, ultimately, alive, so all the good stuff can happen, I woke this morning and went to the Peninsula, arguably now the best hotel(I WAS a travel writer for a few years there, you know) in this dreamlandy, utopian spot, (discounting the occasional earthquake) for breakfast. As close friends-- diminishing in numbers, but increasingly smart and select know,-- I never had an actual, salaried job except for the brief stint at NBC with the Comedy Development program when I first came back from Europe sharing office space with Woody Allen who showed up only on the day we got our checks. As a result of that hard fact of history, I get next to nothing from Social Security. Don, my sweet husband did a little better. So I have totaled what we both get and have figured out I can have one meal a day at the Peninsula if I eat carefully, And perhaps I can become their Old Eloise.The staff is gracious and friendly, the flowers are unremittingly dazzling, and the view from the roof, where the terrace restaurant is, is breathtaking, even when you see how full of smog it is, but what the hell. At the far end of the terrace on which I read the article on meditation this morning were two authentic Indians, from the real place, not the one Johnny Depp just portrayed so disappointingly. As I practiced my Jack breathing, I caught a look at them: One was on his cellphone, the other was texting. So the disease of not being present has spread even to the deepest searching places where all this meditation began.There is in that same section of the Times a fairly miffed piece on travel, and how cramped it has become. So I will rejoice in all the time I spent cloaked in the good graces of Sir Richard, about whose airline I wrote a funny screenplay(with suggestions from Himself, Branson being as quick with plot twists as he is innovative a showman) but Sherry Lansing said she couldn't believe anyone could hide out and live in an airport (and then came the Tom Hanks movie, and just lately, a sweet apology from Sherry, who said she had made a mistake) Then there was my clever dog Happy, of Happy at the Bel-Air (when it was TRULY the Bel-air) who was on Oprah and would have lived forever, but she didn't show the book. Still as I perused those newspaper pages, semi-sorrowing over missed opportunities, I thought about the victories I HAD had, the places I HAD been,-- the Outback of Oz, where we got off the little plane and stayed in sandy way stations-- so I have actually been pretty much everywhere I ever wanted to go except for some spots in South America-- twice to Machu Picchu, where I had less of a spiritual connection to what was mysterious and spiritual than I had at Jack's retreat in Toledo, Washington, with a view of the mountaintop since partially blown off, the south of France, on the hilltop near Ramatuelle, to which I can no longer climb.Still, as I remember, I remember moments of magic: a red heart balloon that soared in the sky when I asked a question of the Invisible, and there was the answer: a red heart in the sky that clearly meant Love, pretty much the answer to Everything. There have been Great Souls enhancing my life, who may have seemed at the time incidental, teachers I always knew were there to teach me more than they were actually teaching. The presidents who were truly illuminated-- unfortunately more often of colleges than my country.So as I sit here and rev up for Act Two of SYLVIA WHO? and yet another, unexpected plot twist in my own life-- an embrace of quiet? peace? flowers hanging outside my front window like yellow gold trumpets upside down, their name unknown to me, but described by the handyman from the former Yugoslavia as "fragrant," a word as beautiful as it is unexpected on a not-native-born tongue, I have no choice but to be more grateful than impatient. I can hear Doris Day singing Che sera sera in a corner of my mind, and remember having actually had the unexpected delight of a friendship with her, connecting with her at the Cannes Film Festival, being invited to see her again in London where she was making The Man Who Knew Too Much, a joy balanced by the horror of having to baby-sit her then twelve-year old son, Terry, who was a real pain. "Westminster Abbey?" he said, as I got ready to take him on a tour. "Who needs it! Let's go to Wimpy's and have a Wimpyburger." Still it all becomes part of a story, as everything becomes part of a story, if you get to see it stretched out over enough time.
I saw him again, all grown up, at an evening at Paul Newman's. I knew he had been involved with Manson's girls, promising Charley he would help him with his songwriting career, letting him down, making me wonder if he wasn't the real target that horrific night, when Jay Sebring and Sharon Tate were staying in the sublet house that actually belonged to him. At the time I saw him again, Terry was embroiled in a battle with Jerry Rosenthal, the crazy/brilliant lawyer who had incorporated and ultimately mulcted just about all his high profile clients, including and especially Doris, who'd invited me to his house my first Sunday in Hollywood. It was there I met the great lyricist Yip Harburg, who became my mentor, as Jerry became my lawyer, when I sadly but fortunately had nothing to steal.
Terry, the night of the gathering at Newman's house, was bent on revenge, which he ultimately more than got, Jerry having such a big mouth, considering himself so much smarter than anyone else, he got himself sent up for contempt,back talking to the judge in the trial. He would call my mother collect from jail-- I'd introduced them-- and she was the only one who would take his calls.
Terry wanted to know whatever I knew about Jerry. I was right in the midst of my Washington studies that were to become a part of THE MOTHERLAND, and spoke of my friends, the good Republicans. Newman said "There are no Good Guys in this bunch."
He's gone now. Terry is, too. Nobody lives forever except Dick Cheney.
But every once in a while there's a heart balloon in the sky to let you know it's all going to be all right. And something in The New York Times that makes you laugh out loud. Of course, it's never the news.