Monday, June 30, 2014


So there is this chain of groceries apparently started by a Dutchman who was the Abraham Lincoln of food in the Netherlands, AH, with symbolic little hamsters I started out loathing, as they are big-toothed and grinning on all the plastic bags, but of whom(which?) I have started to feel rather fond.  This is a truly strange country, resolute in its determination to stay independent and important, no matter how much the world has changed and Holland has fallen behind in the discovering-what-the-world-is-about and what-other-countries-are-out-there department.  You cannot get a charge account at Albert Hines unless you have a Dutch bank account, and you cannot get a Dutch bank account, oh no, unless you commit yourself to a Dutch life, and you cannot commit, and so on, unless unless unless.
   I of course cannot commit to anything except possibly an asylum, as my life and my feelings are so uncertain.  I am so disappointed in my own country and what is happening or not happening there, everything dependent on how much money is being spent on what candidate where, our poor befuddled president having to take on the Koch family which is apparently even larger and richer than we imagine, and is of course pronounced Cock and that's all I'll say about that.  
     But I am, of course, a friend of Benjamin Franklin's, as well as Nick Clooney, George's dad, who had a radio show in Cincinnatti that was my favorite to do, because he was so bright and interested and always read the books when you would go on the road and do radio shows to promote your books when people still read them, and there were pages to turn.  Ben's self-writ epitaph, the one he left when he thought he might die even though he believed in reincarnation, was on the wall of the airport in Covington, Kentucky, which was where you had to fly to do the Nick Clooney show.  And it said, as I remember, I hope well

    Here lies B. Franklin, printer, food for worms.  But he will return in a new and better edition, created and edited by
                         THE AUTHOR

by which I assume he meant God, in Whom he devoutly believed, even while probably believing, even as he was shtupping the nuns in France, that that God was best manifested in himself, an egotistic concept that I'll go along with, even as today's young women likely believe it is George Clooney.
     George Clooney, as you may also know, all three of you who may have been following this blog, is also my taxi driver here in Amsterdam, as I have been fortunate enough to connect with a genuinely cute man who is truly a ringer for that filmic sweetheart, and kind of a doll in real life, too, I would suspect, having met George when he was hawking his movie, Good Night and Good Luck in New York, and finding him beyond or perhaps above gracious, actually saying to me "You're lovely," which set me up for a couple of years even beyond when it probably no longer applied. Amber, my adorable friend who worked at the hotel I stayed at when first going back to LA, and has remained a true buddy and I hope will visit me here, dated him when he stayed at the hotel where he was on location, and assured me that the dispiriting rumors about him are NOT true.  So we can relax, those of us no matter how old who want to believe there are some straight men left in the world.
      I am trying to find some sensible reason to be in Amsterdam after being unable to answer intelligently the query of the manager of the Gym downstairs, which I am joining as of tomorrow in hopes of staying alive, "What brought you to Amsterdam?" The wise-ass response, of course, "a plane."  But I would like to think it was something more.  That there is here a REASON, some energy or wisdom floating above these canals that I can benefit greatly from, and give some energy and wisdom back.
    But it is hard not knowing, though the truth is how much do any of us really know about anything, with certainty.  I don't even know where the woman is I thought I made friends with who sent me several e-mails approximating a wish to be connected, and said she was coming to lunch, so I bought all this stuff at Albert Hines, and now here it is, 1:23, and my doorbell hasn't rung, and I have all these cheeses and meats I didn't even know what they were laid out on several parsleyed and graped trays, and nobody has come.  Oh, well.  It could have been worse.  I could have been in a town where George Clooney was on location, and then he left and found somebody else, and now they were at the Villa D'este.  
    I've been there.  I think it's overrated.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Holding myself in, from the Bazaar that somehow fills, for a moment, the emptiness that one feels in a foreign land, no matter how adventurous the spirit or how beautiful the setting one sees from a terrace overlooking a canal with resident birds, I manage not to buy too much, if you don't count the gold-lame fretted oversized shirt.  But I did buy a little (is it brass?) owl, first, because it is the symbol of Bryn Mawr where I just missed my big Reunion to come here(was it a mistake?  I mean, not just the missing, but the coming here?) and second, the badge of Wisdom.
   So I am remembering one of my-- what are they-- messages? aphorisms? sayings? from the Book of Mimi,  a little compendium of thoughts from a higher level, they seemed to be when she had them, that had brilliant pictures of her-- they could not help being brilliant, she was such a photogenic, adorable doggie- with thoughts that were equally as bright, because they came from her-- or was it him--? Happy, the dog that preceded her, who was just as smart?  As my Aunt Rita said, when I sorrowed over my children: "But you've been very lucky with your dogs."  I was going to do a book with that title, but it was around the time when books started to die, so I gave up the idea.  But here's the saying:

      Wisdom is what, by the time you get it, you may not
      remember what it was.

So it is that I gaze on my little brass owl, and wonder.. if?  or Huh?
     It is so hard to keep your bearings when you aren't sure what they are.  Fucking Fedex has failed to leave the packet containing the papers I need to sign for my children's (and mine, I suppose, too, if the provisions aren't too unloving) inheritance, so I will have a sleepless weekend that was kicked off by a half-viewing of Jersey Boys-- I couldn't stand to stay for the whole movie, it was so spiritually lifeless, when the show had been so much fun, and the only heavy hit I had had in later life was from Joe Pesci, whose beady eyes signaled  lust-- and of course I am wracked with insecurities about whether this sojourn was a mistake, or a pellet of ethereal Wisdom tossed at me by a compassionate universe.
      They left no instructions, the soon-to-go-out-of-business- I- wouldn't- be- surprised- in- view- of- the- internet Fedex, except what came to me on my phone a day later in Dutch, like anyone would understand the language who didn't live here or Wasn't.  Even I, past master of many foreign tongues, have difficulty getting my ears around this one, I who actually learned to speak German, especially when beered up.  So for all the challenges I have taken on, why this one?  Well you may ask, and I ask myself.  Answer: Where else am I going to go?
     L.A. my lease, as you know, was cancelled, as a neighbor reported I was singing.  New York I look out on a rooftop cluttered with citified garbage, tattered ladders and buildings going up in the distance obliterating what is left of sky, so high that if the land shifts, as the landlords probably already do, everything will topple, as pieces of them already have.   Except for Jeannie in the basement and Cerene who comes to clean, and Ava down the hall who is 4 and doesn't know you're not supposed to talk to people unless they are in your circle or financial strata, I am alone in New York, and having just opted out of my Bryn Mawr reunion to make this exploratory journey, the chance of reconnecting with my East Coast friends is considerably diminished, as are my hopes of the Republicans easing up and letting it be America.
    I am so sad for my good friend Benjamin Franklin who believed in reincarnation, and hope he did not choose this time to come Back.  I am also sad for myself having just read the review of the revival of 'The King and I' in Paris, where the mere reportage of hearing 'Something Wonderful' brought tears to my eyes.  And I realized what I lost in life, probably never to be recovered, was fulfilling my great ambition,  musical comedy.  Everybody was so sure all those years ago, when I finished Bryn Mawr, that I would have a musical on Broadway, after almost having left college early.  I had passed Miss McBride, our president, in the hallway of the library, and said "Miss McBride, Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me all they can, and the theater needs me.  So I'm leaving Bryn Mawr."  "Well, Gwen," she drawled in her high line Main line manner, "try to be back for exams."
   I mean, think about it: Frank Loesser, that gifted swine, saying "Kid, you're the biggest talent since me."  And Yip Harburg, saying "those are as fine lyrics as any I have ever heard."  Maybe I could stop short of actually believing, but I certainly could hope.
    But the road of Optimism grows shorter and more rutted as you get to this point in it.  So I am scared, and, at this point, having missed Fedex which didn't even leave a note because people don't do that anymore, I am really pissed, a word I don't like to use because it isn't pretty or mellifluous but who even cares about words like that anymore? I am SO from another time, I who was always the youngest in my class.  But my class is now passed, and re-uned, and, apparently over.  Shit.  Another terrible word, but it does express it.
    I am exhorted by a new friend, a doctor in this building but he is currently in Dubai so what good does that do me? to try and be more positive.  I have been positive for the major part of my life, in spite of abusive and/or unloving parents one of whom I adored in spite of how crazy she was, the other who took himself more seriously than even Teddy Roosevelt at the height of his over-eloquence.  But the reality is now that I am in TRULY a foreign land, which includes not only the geography, but age with its weaknesses and uncertainties (how long?)  And even worse, how realistic is it to hope you can get a musical on, when they are only really welcome as grand revivals in Paris of hits from the '50s?  And what if that was actually your Time, and you missed it?  Although, when you think about it, you DID know Marlon Brando when he was still beautiful, and he DID make personal fun of you, and there has to be some satisfaction in that.  And there WAS Cary Grant on your telephone.

Friday, June 27, 2014


So as I wander through the open marketplace in Amsterdam, just a few crowded blocks from where I live, my whole life passes before my eyes, and I don't even have to drown.  Stacks of records that don't even seem that 'ago' to me are on sale for pittance, most tellingly the Lennon-Oko ones, laden with sorrow, not only for the loss, but puzzlement about who gets killed, when, and why.
    As my friends, and especially my son know, since it is the thing about me he admires (or has contempt about) most, I met John Lennon when he was separated from Yoko, playing pool at Jack Haley Junior's house in the Hollywood hills.  He was with Harry Nillson, who was half out of his mind on drugs-- I had met the other half when I spent a night in D.C. at the then Bill and Taffy's-- the duo as they were still that season-- and Harry was there after club hours, singing and being sadly sweet, obviously very stoned. Tommy Smothers, doing a single stand-up at the Cellar Door, and I dropped him off at the airport afterwards.  Tommy said "I really hate to see you like this, Harry," before himself falling unconscious a little while later, backwards off a bed, striking his head on the floor and fortunately not being dead as I don't know how I would have explained it.
    These events seem strangely present to me, so I guess I have to get them all down while they are so, before all fades.  I can still remember, exactly, Tommy's face as he came to, blank and blinking and obviously startled, saying "I owe you one."  There is a God.  He was the only one with whom I ever considered seriously being unfaithful, as he was bright and adorable and very original, and had also had an affair-- most unsatisfactory as she reported to me-- with my then best friend, Jaye P. Morgan, the very witty and angry comedienne, who probably would have had a bigger career except for saying "Fuck you, Mr. Carson," to Johnny, as they walked back to their separate hotel rooms in Vegas.
      Those were semi-magical days, especially when you ease through a crowded marketplace in Amsterdam, where nothing seems to have much sense or purpose, ranging from jackets pieced together in Nepal, where you hope they are getting some of the money back, or beaded metal prayer boxes that seem to have room for nothing more inside than Hope.  Hollywood, and the hills above them, and Washington, D.C. and the house of Bill and Taffy are a lifetime ago.  More, actually, if you consider that most of the lives lived then are over.  I have no idea if Jaye is still alive, she who was my best friend, and know for sure that Johnny is long long gone.
   What is strangest is who is left alive.  Yoko, who seems to have contributed so little beside her own inflated estimate of herself.  I think Tommy is in all likelihood still with us, but it had to be hard to be a boy who never really made the transition into man, clever though he was.  And as for Bill and Taffy, they had the one colossal hit of Afternoon Delight, their own brief TV half hour as the Starland Vocal Band and then vanished.  Hard, as I know and love them and know how gifted they were and probably still would be if challenged.  All these men had children-- Jon Carroll who was one of Starland still plays piano in the DC area, and, sometimes in far-flung places like Australia where I found him once, and less far-flung like New York, accompanying artists who may not be as gifted.  
    So what is strangest about who is left alive also extends to who is left alive career-wise.  I cannot even apply it to those I knew in Hollywood, because those handsome and beautiful faces would be hard-put to be labelled by the young people of today. Even as I say "young people," I am sort of amused.  Never did I consider the possibility that I would be old.  Nor that I would be living in Amsterdam.
     "What brought you here?" somebody asked me yesterday.  The wise-ass answer: a plane.  The truth?  I haven't a clue.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Cary Grant, who remains my favorite name to drop, as fine a gent as he was stylish, told me once: "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."  His own mother, if you can believe it, didn't really prize him, and told him to dye his hair because letting his hair go white made her look older.
   Anyway, to put into motion his words, my stepmother, Selma, just let go at ninety-seven, decades after refusing to give money to my wonderful cousin Ruth-Anne, who had spent a long time in Tucson ministering to my dad, ending her life in agony when Selma refused to help her out.  Selma called me and said in a matter-of-fact voice: "I have bad news. Ruth is dead.  Apparently she took her own life."
    So I have had less than warm feelings all these years, exacerbated by the truth that my father's will left everything to her. Neither my kids nor I got anything till she died, which she was, of course, most unwilling to do,--in full fulfillment of Cary Grant's words, as there was still so much left for her to hate.  
    At any rate, I have just made contact with the administrator of the trust, a man named David MacBeth, (I never have to make anything up), and had quite a warm conversation with him, in which I sang him a song from our Bryn Mawr Junior show, for which I wrote the words and music.  The intro, as I remember, was "Ladies and Gentlemen, you've heard of the Andrews Sisters and the Dinning Sisters: Now here they are, the Weird Sisters."  At that point, as I remember, the three witches came out and danced around a big pot, and sang:
    "Double double double double
     Toil and trouble
     Fire, fire burn and cauldron
     Cauldron bubble
     Gonna fix me a brew
     I don't know what to do
     Here am I in a stew over you."

Well, I am pleased to say Mr. MacBeth chortled heartily, and promised to try and find the film made by Mike Frankovitch, once head of Columbia, called JOE MACBETH, where there may remain a moment of that song.  My mother had come to Paris to take me away from all the bad people with whom I was associating at the Mars Club (Maya Angelou, et al.) and spirited me to the Cannes Film Festival and then to London, where Frankovitch was making his movie, with Paul Douglas as Joe, set in Chicago, and Ruth Roman as Lady M.  The film failed  (I can't imagine why) but in the interim my mother, who was the object of great lust on the part of Leo Jaffe, the VP of Columbia, had arranged for me to meet Mike, to whom I told my first (and only, I think) lie, saying I had written the song explicitly for his movie, omitting the fact of Bryn Mawr Junior Show.  Anyway, he bought it, for a few hundred dollars as I remember, and used maybe three bars in the movie. 
    But it was nice to get a laugh from a bank administrator, and I imagine it will be even nicer for the kids to get the money.  I wonder if she left anything to her son, whom she gave in his adolescence to his alcoholic father, because my father didn't want to marry a woman with two children.  Great lady.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


There are posters all over Amsterdam announcing a theatrical production entitled 'Anne' accompanied by a three-quarter view of a lovely young face, somewhat Semitic in nature, that I assume is a picture of Anne Frank.  Being in Amsterdam has been an education for me in many ways, because I have never really practiced my Judaism, though it is something you can never cast off completely as there will always be people who hate.
     The religions I have practiced have been mostly Buddhism, because of my wonderful teacher Jack, whom I cannot help but admire, he is so clear and kind, and Quakerism, because I always loved Meeting, there is such nourishment in the Silence.  Those who know me will likely find it hilarious, my loving what is Stillness, but it's true, and I have always come away richer once I settled down and drank it in.
       But yesterday I encountered face to face and ear to ear the full force of the hatred that springs from Ignorance.  The Chinese doctor, with whom I had begun what felt like a friendship showed the full ugliness of Hatred, when he actually said to me, shouted actually, "You Jews, you think you are God!"  The man to begin with is not even a Gay-- he is of that sexless, limp-wristed variety that simply spells weakness.  I had taken him to dinner once or twice because I understand I have more money than a lot of the working people here, and it seems a kind thing to do.  
    If we had been in Beverly Hills, I would simply have characterized him as a Twit.  But because we are in Europe, there is an air of the exotic even around the patently empty, which he is. So because I am new here, and have few friends or even acquaintances, I went out of my way to try and be friendish.  But at some point we must have discussed religion, and I always put forth my Judaism, because even though it is nothing I practice, I am aware that when they come to round you up it doesn't matter whether or not you've been going to schule, you're put in the cattle car.
    But such venom, from an expressionless, joyless Asian.  He has been here for twenty-five years, so I must gather his attitude has sprung from this culture as much as what he has brought with him from China.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the reach and grasp of hatred is so extensive that it blots out even supposed education-- he claims to  be schooled in Western medicine as well as Oriental, but says he abandoned Western medicine because it has too many side-effects.  But it seems to me the major side-effect of blind hatred is stupidity.  All of it stemming from Ignorance, no matter how allegedly educated you are.
      "Will you have the courage to go?" it says on the posters announcing the play "ANNE."  Will I have the courage to stay? it says on the front of my brain.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


So I am seriously considering abandoning the serious consideration of what I was going to do here, a Memoir, the very word sounding so arch it antagonizes me.  As most of my friends, the ones who really know me and care a little know, humor has always been my salvation.  And as I started to write this Thing, and made it through my first six or seven years, I saw how very dark were my beginnings, with an abusive mother abused by an abusive husband, which maybe she drove him to, she was so disappointed, bent on revenge and escape and personal fulfillment, something that was not easily achieved by or offered to women of that era.  Reading it after the not-really-difficult struggle to remember in detail, my mind clinging to sharp recollections of their fights, and the shadowed outline of my curly hair on the wall as my Dad spirited me down the metal staircase behind their Pittsburgh apartment-- actually my Grandpa and Grandma's-- he liked nothing so much as not having to pay rent-- it reads more Bronte than Gwen, so filled is it with what I will have to admit is suffering.  That I did not become truly crazy, as my half-sister was later to do, is some kind of loving miracle, attributable, I think, to the truth that I always had great teachers, great principals, great presidents, (college-wise, at least) who got or cared what I was and maybe even what I might be capable of becoming.
       But I can't wait to get to the happy parts, the adventures in Europe when I was just twenty, and the south of Spain was not actually invisible underneath the tourists, there were crags down to the sea, and natives who murmured "Ay, que morena!" as you went by looking sun-glowed and good to them, even if you were chubby.  And your first great(you thought it might be) romance was Richard Lester, later to direct the Beatles first movie, schnoring off the wonderful McGiverns, Bill and Maureen, a duo of writers, he of terrific mysteries, she of tender women's books even though she was not a tender woman.  And as he mounted you, he said: "I'll close my eyes and try to pretend it's someone I like." Great guy.
He never picked up a bill, or bought a gift for them after living with them for many months in Torremolinos, always saying he had nothing.   Then on his way north the car he was riding in was broken into, and he whined "I had four thousand dollars in my bag." Not the nicest guy in the world, or, I would imagine, now, out of it. 
    Then there was singing at the Mars Club in Paris, all the songs I'd written that had been so enjoyed at the Bryn Mawr Junior prom, all the great women I had known in college, not the least of them those who were in charge.  Then there was Charlotte Baum, from Philadelphia, who I met on the Ile de France going over, ran into again in Paris and took in, because she was broke and scared.
And her calling me, decades later, singing a song I had written,  telling me she had been inspired by me and so went back to school and now she was Charlotte Sheedy.  And my saying, "I'm sorry, Charlotte, but I don't know who that is." A sharp intake of astonished breath. "I represent So and So and So and So," rattling off a roster of feminist authors, "and I'm Ally Sheedy's mother."
       Then there were my star-studded relationships, though none of the stars were studs. At least not with me.  But all of them had their own auras: Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Stanley Kubrick, from the imagination up.
    And then, best of all, there was Don, the husband who really got what I was, and what I had to give, but could not stay long enough to really benefit from it.  I still miss him, even though he's been gone longer than we got to be together.
    And then there were my dogs.  How embarrassing for a woman like me, who should, traditionally, have such a cynical, hard edge, to have had the best truths of life and love demonstrated by animals.  I wish I could get one here, but not knowing what the future holds, how long I will stay, what life will actually be like here in the longer run, the shorter one so far looking very encouraging, it might be wiser not to make commitments I may not be able to fulfill, it being hard enough to step up to the plate in a country that doesn't have baseball.  Not that I really cared about that game, but it did have heroes.  One of them my husband, if only in my eyes.

Friday, June 13, 2014


So I have settled, sort of, into my Amsterdam palace, which it really feels like it is, overlooking a canal, with all the light coming in after a closed-in dark winter at the Hampshire House, one of the great buildings in New York except now it looks out on the high-rising horrors of 57th Street, where it is lucky Marlon Brando is dead or he would be depressed.  I remember acutely the day Janice Mars, a strangely darling woman who wanted to sing one of my songs, Sex, (as did everybody) took me up to meet "someone," in that building on 57th St. where he had his studio, and where, as I remember, Elliott Kastner had a place on a higher floor, most likely so he could say he was in the same building as Marlon.   At one point during their volatile relationship I am told Marlon unzipped his fly, and said "Here!" to Elliott.  But that is hearsay-- nothing I ever witnessed.  Am glad about that.  
     It was enough that Marlon actually said "Ooooeeuw, Br-a-yen Mah-whr," when I told him where I went to college.  And "You fin'lly on a diet, kid?" when I had just a few blueberries on my plate visiting his company doing 'Arms and the Man,' in Falmouth, the only summer, I believe, that he did stock.  The fact that I was lucky enough to be there then, to be part of that unique and, in its way, glorious experience, lends credence to my theory/hope that my life has been choreographed by some whimsical and probably adorable angels.  Not all of it, of course, because there have been a plethora, my new favorite word, of disappointments and losses.  But otherwise, it would not be life, and everything would be run by the Bushes and the Kochs, which indeed it may all turn out to be anyway unless we do something.
     Happily all that feels behind me and very far away, besides geographically.  So sorry as I am to have missed my class reunion (Tell me about it, Marilyn, or maybe Alice if you feel industrious) I feel I did absolutely the right thing to leave the US when I did, or I would never have connected with this wondrous apartment, except for a few minor flaws. The minor flaws are probably mine as well as the clever men who designed it, if you don't count the fact that the light switch for the living room lights is in the hall around the corner.
      Just a few doors away on the street, Valkenbergerstraat which means Street of the Falcons-- so it would be nice if I could soar-- is my new best friend, the Chinese doctor, Po.    He has abandoned Western medicine, which he also studied, as he says it has too many side effects.  I have had two acupressure massages from a woman he engages, and each one has made me feel palpably better, loosing what was tight, and easing what was sore, though neither of them appears to have made me any younger.   I would love to write a Fairy Tale about that-- a woman who finds a magic place where she becomes young again, only nobody she loves is there, so what good is youth?  Speaking of which, the streets here are now and then fretted with fine looking feathers, so I still have the feeling, deluded perhaps, but cheering, that the one real love I had in my life is looking out for me, though he probably wonders what I am doing in Amsterdam.
     Mostly what I am doing is clearing my head, not the usual course of action for Americans in Amsterdam.  But then, WITH the tide has rarely been my direction.  
    Meanwhile, my doctor friend Po has sold me some Green Nature eye drops from China, that contain Margarita, so I expect my eyes to be not only Bright, as the label says, but a little drunk with vision.  Anyway, it doesn't hurt to hope so.

Monday, June 09, 2014


So today is the day Christ ascended to Heaven, according to the Christian calendar, very much in play in this city, along with the vice, the whoring and the drugs.  None of those things have, as yet, captured my interest, as I have been too busy being insecure and at the same time enchanted about moving here.  Almost everyone is kind, though there is a problem feeling safe in the financial sense because they don't like Mastercard and American Express, but themselves handle only Maestrocard and you can't get one of those if you aren't Dutch.  It is amazing how self-satisfied the Dutch seem to be from the financial point of view, in spite of how long it has been since they actually captured anything and ran it, especially a country, aside from this one. And as we know, in the days when they took everything over, they did nothing to improve the places, being the one explorer and conqueror who simply pillaged, and that was that.
     Even as I write this I would be sad for the United States if I let myself, as I can feel us becoming less as a nation with every passing day.  I am especially depressed for Obama whom the Republicans have made seem more ineffectual than even the economy has done.
     But I am incredibly uplifted, physically, by the beauty of my apartment with its spare design, its panorama of light from the windows, even on a dark day, which this one already shows signs of becoming, after a sunlit morning.  I am reminded that Amsterdam is really in the middle of the ocean, that the one thing the Dutch did with incredible industry besides invade was pile earth and sand and pilings on waves and make a city in the midst of the sea.  So we have ocean weather.  But some of my happiest and funniest times were when I was on an ocean voyage.  I will consider this simply one more.  The ultimate one, I assume.
     Went to the museum with my new lady friend, Marlies, a lovely Dutch woman just moved back from China, involved on a heart level with my rescuer, Daniel, who was off for the weekend climbing rocks and mountains and somebody fell.  I have never had a wish for physical adventure, having gotten up on waterskis once when Don was alive, and a second, and I think final time, after the American Nazi party conference in Washington State where my skin literally started to crawl, and I escaped to the nearby Lake Something-- I can't remember the name of it, but remember clearly the sense of exhilaration when I got up on the skis, and afterwards hearing what had happened at the conference after I ran away. Reportedly somebody was hanged, and I realized I had escaped with my life, though it did make eczema a part of my medical history.
    Today, though, was easy and pleasant.  Amsterdam is tiny and Marlies is generous of spirit, so we went to a museum that is all about Dutch history, where there are endless portraits of those men with ruffles around their necks.  It is a puzzle to me how they could have been such pacesetters in the 16th century and then packed it all in, except for invading sweet little Bali.  That is the saddest story there is for Bali to tell, how the Balinese ran down to the beaches as the Dutch landed and threw all their jewels and gold at the invaders thinking that would satisfy them and then they would go away.  But they didn't so the Balinese killed themselves, adding their bodies to what they were piling up on the beaches. 
      The history of our planet is not a pretty one, and getting uglier all the time.  What makes it sadder than ever is that there is no more Herald-Tribune to read about it in, and we now have the International New York Times trying to look like it.  It was in the news online today that Time Magazine is virtually disappearing, that once great publication for which my wonderful friend, the great reporter Sandra Burton wrote before she was killed in Bali.  But that is another story. 
     I will be here in Amsterdam-- who woulda thunk it.  Of all the places in the world.  But it's a great apartment.  You're all invited.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A View with a Room

I would apologize to E. M. Forster if I were not sure he would be pleased that someone still thinks of him, in spite of what a good writer he was.  But I am secretly suspicious that if the gods have plans for us, this apartment would easily figure in.
    Almost everything in it is a puzzle, having been planned and flawlessly executed by the more fastidious of two gay lovers, still a very young man and already an elevated executive.  But as a cloddish woman, I have yet to figure out most of it, in spite of being exalted by the layout, lifted every time I come into the living room, from which I can observe the not very high skyline of Amsterdam across the way, behind a row of five-story storybook buildings,  bridges, and, just below, in the canal, a line of anchored boats being patrolled by ducks, I think they are, or very fat pigeons who have mastered the waterways.  I speak of them as 'who' rather than which, since I am missing only my pets.  The people in my life I treasure are all invited here to visit, since I have a flawless guest room, part of the somewhat constipated design.  Not that it is missing anything, but everything has its exact space, much of which I can't figure out in spite of having been shown twice.  "The rich are different from you and me," Fitzgerald said, to which Hemingway replied: "Yes, they have more money."  But the gays are different from you and me: Yes, they have tighter anuses.  Or maybe not.  
      But I have been here two days now and have yet to be able to master the DeLonghi Nespresso machine, or the brilliantly designed stove top that you have but to touch or something like that and it boils the water, turning on that burner only.  So I have been forced to make my coffee instant, using the tap that sends out boiling water, because that much I can do.
     Fano, the brilliant young (younger than my son) owner, no longer partnered with Raoul, who designed it all, including His and Her faucets at the dual wash-up sink, or maybe they're His and His, is very kindly coming over tomorrow night to have me sign the contract for the apartment and, I assume, go over all these things with me again, so I can function.  I have never felt so stupid, but at the same time admire my having found this place, which seems a flash of inspiration all on its own, something that will nurture me as other parts of the world have done in the past, as isolated as I have often felt.  Here I have already connected with a number of unlikely people, besides the great gift of Daniel, the openhearted free spirit I met on the plane here from Glasgow.  There is Paul, the Chinese doctor dispensing holistic herbs and martialing a room with a healing masseuse, having abandoned Western medicine because it has too many side effects, who I took to dinner last night at a restaurant I was trying to make feel effective, the last time I will be that generous, --the food was really terrible and overpriced.
      But it was only food.  Today I go to the home in the country of Prince from Jokja, a recently retired chef of "Cuisine Orientale' who will be moving back to Bali part time but found me "spontaneous," and invited me to lunch.  He was with a recently retired Dutch woman doctor who has been working with afflicted children. All of this feels more soul-enhancing than averting eyes in the elevator, which is what I mostly do in my building in New York.  
      I am looking at the cover of Living to tell the Tale, the Nobel prize-winning book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the only book I have brought with me besides my loved friend Rosie's.  The cover has him as an infant, adorable, eyes very wide.  My own eyes have gotten quite tired and-- surprise! old.  So I am saving them for writing and intend to read only the occasional International New York Times or whatever the hell they're calling it, having fired most of the dedicated journalists left in that arena.  My old (though still comparatively young) editor from the Wall Street Journal Europe, Jim Ruane, having won his lawsuit against Bloomberg, which (again! surprise!) turned out not to love writers, says he will come to visit me, and I hope so.  As I hope any or all of you who have read these posts will come to Amsterdam. 
     Not that I am lonely.  Strangely, having left far behind any hopes or dreams of romance, in this city of rampant erotica, I am curiously peaceful, with no great unsatisfied longings other than the one for writing something really meaningful.  My half-landlord, that is to say, one of the youngish owners, the gym-running proprietor, as opposed to the executive world-traveling Meester who seems to think of everything including an assistant for me, how elegant, was just here putting up a handle on the wall beside the bathtub so I could pull myself up without slipping, and it just fell down.
    Happily, I was not attached to it.  Well, that's the lesson of my loved teacher Jack: from attachment comes suffering.  Especially in a slippery bathtub. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014


So I awake in a room streaming with light, even though it is not that bright a day.  The anguish and cares of the past couple of weeks, though not quite vanished, now seem just more preparation for being all right.  I do not imagine for a moment that there will be no more problems-- I have had moments where I lost speech, lost direction, and I am hopeful now that that was all anxiety, because I didn't know where my life was going, or if.  It is beyond strange to get to my juncture of the road and have nothing settled in my life, least of all my body.  To be adventurous at this turning I understand is unusual to say the least.  But then, little in my history has been traditional, except for my wonderful college.  And my having opted out of Bryn Mawr Reunion to come to Europe sort of spoke to how I felt about looking back.
    Because God was I going to set the world on fire!  Broadway was just waiting for me.  I knew Frank Loesser, and even more base, Frank Loesser knew me.  I had a champion in Yip Harburg, the finest lyricist ever (that stands,) I had Summer Stocked with Marlon Brando, at his most marvelous and thin and terrible at comedy, I had loved up close a movie star, before it was okay and sort of known that he was gay, I had been abused even in college by a young man who would also become a movie star, before he threw it away with drugs, I had traveled the world and lived in the south of Spain before it was overrun with tourists, had a romance with a bullfighter, stopped short of being gored, sung in a night club in Paris, had my palm scratched by Maya Angelou.  Why, there was nothing I wouldn't be able to do.
     And then I'd met Don, and my fear that I wouldn't have children was obliterated.  They were wonderful when they were little. So much for that.
     But the good die young.  And he was very, very good.
     Then I started my life all over again, writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe, the only job I ever had after the one when I was twenty, writing comedy for NBC, sharing office space with Woody Allen, already much smarter than I, coming into the office only on the day we got our checks.  I had a friend then, Selma Diamond, who wrote for Sid Caesar, and when we walked in the park she asked a pigeon: "Any messages?"
    I still think of her when I see a pigeon, and they are everywhere. So in a way, I guess, she is immortal. As long as someone thinks of you, in a way you are immortal.  So I hope this will become a real book, and someone will read it, and think of me.  
     I mean, if people still read books, and it isn't all just the damned internet.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Flat on the floor of the Apple store
Unable to lift a finger
Plumb out of gas and on her ass
She decided, however, to linger
For the locals seemed kinder
The worst was behind her
Or so, she most fervently hoped
And though not a native
It made her creative
And she hadn't even doped.

So it is looking good for the apartment I loved, for which I have applied, and am waiting just for approval to move in June 2nd.  In the meanwhile I am ensconced in the flat of my new friend Daniel, a professional problem solver.  Daniel comes from a Pentacostal papa, a priest who became a teacher, and is certainly a good advertisement for his religion, though he doesn't believe in any.  But he practices kindness, the best of the Virtues, in my opinion, and has taken me in till it is time to take possession of the flat.
    It is lucky I am with a professional problem solver, as this has been as difficult as anything I have been through in my life.  Not knowing where I was going, or if I would make it through to get there has been the least of it.  First there was Fred, the realtor/huckster/should be felon who leased me the studio/slum here, with its many tenement-like levels, who should more aptly be labeled felon.  Daniel says not to let him get to me, that that way he wins.  Still, I would like to expose him.  Amsterdam is full of hustlers, those who have come here looking for the clever kill.  Happily I think I am past all those guys.  At least I hope so.
   In the meantime, I have almost moved into a truly uplifting environment where although the designer/owner neglected to include a medicine cabinet, you feel like you won't get sick.  I skipped my Bryn Mawr class reunion much as I loved those women, and hope they had a great weekend looking back. I opted to try and look ahead.

AND IT IS A NEW DAY.  A kind doctor who lives in the building has been ministering to me, testing my skin to see if it bounces back, or I do.  My body is broken from walking these punishing stones, and I went out on my terrace this morning-- my landlord has let me stay in the apartment in spite of my accountant's not sending the money yet, which puzzles me-- and looked down at probably one of the world's most glorious views.  In the distance, cathedrals and museums, just below motorboats and the occasional renegade houseboat, across the water in front of the dock, picture-book houses, as in a fairy tale.  But just below the water is thick with garbage.  One great plastic bag fully loaded floats in between what appears to be an endless array of torn pieces of paper.  And stubbornly sailing along atop the mess is one fat black pigeon. 
    I suppose that's me.  Insisting on finding beauty in a world that seems not to be looking for it anymore, except maybe in Angela Jolie.   But I am hoping to conclude my business today with the owner of the place, so airy and full of light, I cannot help but have my spirits lifted, even as I cringe.
   You all have to come.