Saturday, May 24, 2014


Struck by a pram in Amsterdam 
Where nobody pays attention
She flew quite high 
Towards an azure sky
Ending up in a new dimension
Where the air was clearer
And God seemed nearer
And there were both nabobs and slobs
There was fairness, parity
Perfect clarity
All of it run by Steve Jobs.

      After the agonies, real and imagined, of my first few days in Amsterdam, plagued by insomnia, a word that seems to me not strong enough for the anguish you go through, plus not knowing where my life was heading from here, if anywhere, I end up in a pocket of peace. Not easily come by, of course, as Peace rarely is. More bouts of uncertainty, in this fascinating city of Amsterdam, where every time you think something will be easy to get to, there is construction in the way.  Like a metaphor for Life itself.
       Roberto, as noted, never showed up, though I called him many times, each of my calls answered by a hospitable recording of his voice mail, moderately unintelligible.  But when I got to the Apple store, my Club, and they called AT&T in the States to unlock my IPhone, I found out that all your calls, whether to or from you, which they don't tell you when you buy your however many minutes, are charged to your account, so even without being able to speak to him, I had used up the dollars I had bought, which were many. 
       Dispirited to say the least, I then went on my quest for sleep.  Knowing it would not come easily if at all, since I was now many days past the expected jet lag and I still couldn't even doze, except for one short interlude given me by my new friends, the young couple I'd taken to dinner the night before to celebrate their engagement.  He'd put an App on my IPhone called Sleep Hypnosis, which worked once, briefly, before I started getting annoyed with the female whose voice it was, because she gave alternatives... i.e.: "You are standing on a mountaintop... or maybe you'd rather be under a tree... or maybe you're by a lake... " and so on, so whatever spell there might have been was broken.
      Had a tea by the canal with my new friend Daniel, who'd been seated next to me on the plane as I flew here, and had me to his home for dinner. By now I was more than desperate for rest, so went to a pharmacy for something to help me sleep.  Available as are recreational drugs in Amsterdam, many of the young and older coming here to get zonked, I dared not even take a toke, not knowing what the effect would be, and there being so many steps and levels I could trip down in my "apartment."  This is the "terrace" that came with it, as advertised online by an agency here that handles B & Bs.  They didn't show this picture, and I was too bleary when I saw the flat to see how bleak it was.  (I hadn't learned yet how to switch my iPhone to color, but trust me, in color, it is no less dreary.) 

Now here is how it works at the Farmacie.  Though outside, not too many feet away you can find a coffee house with someone to deal you grass or hash or maybe even heroin, and that's quite legal, the police have decided they don't want to be troubled with enforcing any penalties so the recently discussed plan to make all this criminal has been abandoned.  In the pharmacy, though, you cannot get a sleeping pill without a prescription.  
     This is how you get one: the pharmacist calls a doctor, you talk to the doctor on the phone, give your birthdate, your problem, your passport number. The doctor, according to his discretion, faxes a prescription to the drugstore.  So you get the pills.  They bill you, besides the cost of the medication, twenty-five euros for the doctor, twenty-five for the pharmacy, and the pills.  I got a packet of 10 low dose Temazipan, a barbiturate, for 66.50 Euros.  At the current exchange rate that works out to about nine dollars a pill.  
    Still, I was so yearning for sleep, I didn't care.  I was on my way back to my apartment "with terrace" when the borderline good news came: an apartment I'd looked at, clean and beautiful, overlooking one of the spiffier canals, that I'd been shown by the real estate agent I'd met with the young couple I'd taken to dinner, was available to me starting June 2nd.  It involved a commitment: leasing it till the beginning of December.  But hey... I hadn't really known, as I said, where my life was going, if anywhere. I'd decided to try and look ahead, instead of back, so came here instead of going to my Big Reunion.  As I wandered these streets, narrowly avoiding being run into by bicyclists,  I'd made a few cries to the sky of "Help me, God!" not knowing, of course, if there was really Anyone there. But I knew for Sure that New York was nowhere I wanted to be this summer.
     It would not be possible for me to stay past next Monday at my studio with terrace, nor did I want to spend any more time there than I had to, with its ominous hallway that made me feel like Anne Frank had she lived to be old.  I had to find someplace for the next seven days.  Then Daniel called to invite me to dinner tonight with his daughter and Peter and Arthur who had a spare room he was almost sure I could rent.  And I can work here! I can write here! It feels... well, as we used to say in Southern Cal, meant to be.
      Today, May 24th, is the day my novel, THE MOTHERLAND, was published, in 19__ with the almost great support of Simon & Schuster.  My famed editor Michael Korda, said: "As far as I am concerned, this is the only book we are publishing this year."  He forgot about a little number called ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN.
Any interest in Fiction was obliterated by the fall of Richard Nixon.  So I figured God had a choice between saving my book, and the country.
     There is a Spiritual Diary I brought with me, bought early in my questing, at the Self-Realization Center in California.  Every day has a message, by one of the Greaties, who really knew how to let go. Today's message from Paramahansa Yogananda:
     "This life is a Master Novel, written by God, and man would go crazy if he understood it all."
       If that doesn't feel like cosmic orchestration, I don't know what would be.  And the best news: I fell asleep last night with no medication.  There is a God.  His name is Morpheus.

Friday, May 23, 2014


    Yesterday I heard a taxi driver tell someone in a foreign language I understood anyway, that he was bringing “a nice old lady,” which is what I guess I am.  As much as I appreciate the “nice,” I was of course offended by the “old lady,” though I made no fuss about it, even inside my own soul, as we must remember that I am here while Bryn Mawr will be having a reunion of my class the number of which I am reluctant to put into e-letters.
    Speaking of which, I have written an e-song, that I hope I can find a singer to record, as it seems to be to be truly of the moment, even though I no longer am. Here you are:



Put that in your Smartphone and smoke it,

The cafes here are terraced with active dope smokers. Yesterday I saw a still-young woman walking down a busy street sucking devotedly on a glass pipe, nothing in her eyes, and I would guess, very little on her horizon.  Much as I have enjoyed the occasional toke, it seems even more hazardous to me than the staircase, as I don’t really know who anyone is, or what their true motives are.
    Let us begin with Roberto, an Italian waiter at the Majestic cafe in Dam Square, who seemed sincere to me even though Italian. I understand everyone here is on the Hustle, but as I also understand Italian, and he actually said he would help me find an apartment, I borderline believed him. The beauteous, overpriced apartment I am thinking of taking in the event I commit myself to long-term here, which I am considering, as I do seem to be able to write well, though not sleeping at ALL, is not available until June 2.  Where I am staying now at a HUGE weeks rental is hazardous, to put it mildly.  Many levels of steps, shabby, endless places you could get hurt, and well, youll see the terrace as soon as I can get back to the Apple Store and learn how to attach the photo from my iPhone.  I went there this morning to wait for Robertos call, which never came (SURPRISE!) 
Paul (see yesterdays REPORT) was great as before, but the SIM card he sold me so I could make calls at less than a fortune, doesn’t work in my iPhone, so we have to call AT&T to unlock it and we can’t do that till 4 o’clock, as we are six hours ahead of the U.S.
   It is now only 1:06.  I would take a nap, but as explained, sleep is completely elusive.  Everything so far that has happened has come with a footnote of great difficulty to get past before I could get on with what I hoped would be a great adventure, the option I took to my college reunion, which seemed, and is, about the past.
 I wanted to be about what was ahead, if anything is.  I thought that might be a new kind of inspirational saga, different from all those offered by these charlatan religiosts who seem to be holding forums at enormous prices everywhere, the God they are offering: SUCCESS!! (The last one I know of before I left “home” was in New York, being held by Ariana Huffington, who scares me, because she is so obvious and people still pay attention) Among others I wanted to inspire was myself, because I hate to think my audacity is over. WITHOUT RISK, it says in the window of the Nike store here in Amsterdam, THERE IS NO VICTORY.  But of course, you have to live through it to win. 
    In Dam Square at the Majestic, yesterday, while I was hoping to get something sincero from Roberto, who was carrying a tray of sandwiches, I connected with a cantor from Israel.  He was a truly lovely gentleman, but he does not believe there was a God in Europe or the Holocaust wouldn't have happened.
    I have a different theory.  Some years ago, In a prior bout of audacity, probably closer to madness, I attended the Aryan Nations Congress, in Hayden Lake, Idaho.  Besides the registered out-and-out Nazi propaganda and committed Nazi storybooks, they were selling paintings by Hitler. I know that Hitler's mother didn't like him, and his stepfather was physically punishing, and possibly he was a Jew.  But besides that, the KunstAcademie, I think you spell it, the art academy in Berlin turned the young Adolf down for admittance.
      His paintings, as displayed at the conference were laughable, a number of them of cows.  But it occurred to me that if his mother hadn't been abusive, and the art school had let him in, six million Jews might be alive.  Rage at being unloved and unappreciated, it seems to me, was what made him crazy.
     One speaker at that Nazi Congress, a supposed minister, intoned "Harbor hatred only for Jews." Many of those attending had shaved heads, including the women, but with long braids hanging down the backs of their necks, a sort of style that seems to be in evidence here in Amsterdam among some of the young, as well as close-clipped on the sides, and spiked up and heavily gelled on top.  
     I had been followed carefully through the conference with regular check-ins via phone, as it used to be in that Age before texting,  by my wonderful friend the late Joe Wershba, a producer at 60 Minutes.  I knew I it was beyond risky to go there, but Don had died, and I was looking for my next novel.  When I had written it, or almost all of it, I went away for a weekend in the desert.  There was a great rainstorm in L.A. and a flaw in the roof over my desk. Water poured in and the manuscript was completely destroyed.  So though there may have been no God in Europe for the Holocaust, I think there was one in Southern California.  A man in Chicago who had been writing a book about the American Nazi party was found hanged outside his office  window, the other end of the rope attached to his desk.
     I had been joined at the conference towards the end by a friend living nearby, Tomi, a holistic masseuse I'd gotten through best pal Jamie Lee Curtis.  Tomi heard one of the hate speeches and asked me how I could stand it, as she wasn't even Jewish and her skin was crawling.  I made it literal and developed eczema.  We got out of there before the final night, when, I'd heard, a microphone fell out of a man's sleeve during the Nazi 'SIEGHEIL!' with which the gatherings always started. They'd discovered he was with the FBI, and killed him, or so the story went.  I had already left so I can't confirm that. 
     But I went directly from the conference to the actual lake, where I parasailed, for the first and last time, as fearful as I am of heights.  There was nothing to be afraid of, comparatively, just breaking your neck.  I made it through that parasail by looking up instead of down, and singing.  I mean, if there is God, maybe He/She likes  audacity.