Thursday, July 31, 2014


There is something quite literally uplifting about having a bird that would normally be winging past you at sea, sail by your front terrace.  As I have learned, the Dutch, being mainly a seafaring lot,  not intimidated by this vast expanse of water, drove down pylons or whatever they're called, stuck them in the sand and built Amsterdam.
     Having spent a delightful day this past weekend looking at windmills in the place where they have become both a commemoration of the land this once was, and a tourist attraction, especially for Asians, the prettiest of them, or certainly the would-be chicest, not that I mean to be judgmental, in long dresses with sparkles.  All of this is a learning experience for me, which everything is supposed to be, really.  But it is especially exciting since I am learning to take joy from what isn't.  That is to say, the mantel of calm I always hoped would descend on me seems to have.  So except for the occasional panic attack, I feel really content to be here.
    This assumed serenity is gently exacerbated, one of my favorite aggressive words, by the clipping I received from my brilliant friend Joanna Rose, the obituary of Eileen Ford, the head of the famous modeling agency, in which I am mentioned, having tangled with her on the Dick Cavett show.  It is the second time I have been in an obituary in The New York Times without having to die, and I think there is some kind of distinction in that.  The first time was with the death of a gently heartbroken, as I remember, psychoanalyst or at least psychologist, though I am not sure, who was one of the teachers or mentors of Jeffrey Masson, the psychologist who sued Janet Malcolm for libel, which trial I covered for The Nation-- thank you, Victor-- and they quoted what I wrote about him in his obituary.  I would like to say, very much off the record, that though I am glad she won, as her lawyer, Gary Bostwick, is one of the radiantly smart and funny people I have met in my life, and went on to become my friend, or, rather, I chased him down until he did, I found her afterwards to be as cold a piece of humanity, and I am being generous, as I have ever encountered,  Chilling, actually.  Never have I rooted so strongly, in principle, for someone, although I believe I was quite evenhanded in the article, and then been so disappointed in who they actually were.  But that's enough of that, lest she sue me.
    So here I am in my loft, having been twice in a NY Times obituary, with still some life ahead of me, five stories or maybe four depending how they count it, above my canal.  Tied to the dock below are several small boats, and tethered to the building next door a big one, on which parties are held with some regularity, as they seem to be across the canal as well.  There are three picnic tables on three separate terraces and there were three separate parties where people didn't seem to interact, so it would be hard to crash, especially as I don't know how to get to the front of the buildings.  But it all seems quite friendly.  
    Now all I have to do is learn to speak Dutch.  It is not the prettiest language in the world, to put it mildly, as if you were clearing your throat and getting ready to spit.  But they are really lovely people.  Lekker.  That will give you some idea.  That's how you say good, or tasty, or delicious.  Talk about a turn-off.  But not everything can be Mooi.  I think that's how you spell it. And that means beautiful.  Pronounced Muu-eee.  Can you believe it?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Is it a wonder I am reluctant to try and learn their language.  Still, as these are the nicest people in the world -- and I have been there-- I am making an actual effort, no matter how awful it sounds, or, even worse, feels, where you actually have to clear your throat on a great many of the words, and I imagine they think that's pretty.
   But Sunday, the good Daniel and his troop, the lovely Marlies, her adorable Zoe, the on-her-way-to-stardom, India, and the resident tourist, me, all went to this citadel of windmills and wooden shoes, where along with the ancient sails(they are actually called, and I am fearful to ask what they're called in Dutch) still turn in the wind and you can get a guided tour if you want to, through the ancient fields or marshes or whatever they are, along with elegant Japanese ladies in full formal dress, to the ground, or the floor, or the pebbles, whatever it is.  I have, by the way, begun to completely forgive the cobblestones of Amsterdam, having discovered on this excursion that it is because the whole city is placed on turf so uncertain, that they have frequent need to pull up portions of what would anyplace else be considered a sidewalk, and the way it is, they have only to pull up a few of the stones at a time instead of breaking up what would otherwise be a great expanse.  All of this could have been avoided of course if they hadn't decided to build a place in the middle of what would usually be considered an ocean.  But then, I might not be having such an interesting time.
      So we had a beautiful touristic day in this unpronounceable remnant of what was once, I guess, the power system of an entire nation.  Everybody had pancakes, which the legitimate residents actually had with ham and cheese on them UNDER the floods of syrup. whereas I, being a woman of what is seen here as odd taste, elected to have them simply with apples.  I understand that all of this is less than room-rocking information, but if I live to be much older I imagine I will one day want to look back at what has made this unlikely adventure so interesting, so I had best make note. Then we came back in time for the torrential rains of Sunday, unusual even for watery Amsterdam, so even though Daniel is the offspring of clergy, and espouses being a non-believer, I can't help thinking we were blessed to have gone when we did, or, at the hard-headed outside, really lucky.
     Now it is late Sunday afternoon, and I, once again, consider myself blessed, as the rains wiped out the open market that would have been there yesterday, when I was determined to buy what I had remembered as an irresistible wooden statue of a clown.  I had spent all night trying to place it in my head in my New York apartment where there is no room for anything, hardly even me.  But I am happy to say that when I went back today it wasn't as I remembered, and I didn't want it at all.  Saved by the rains.
     I understand that all of this sounds trivial and ridiculous, but that is the wonder of it.  I am having a really good time with what is trivial, and so maybe not so ridiculous.  Maybe it is Life that is meant to be the true celebration, not just having your books published or your children turning out interesting or your musical opening on Broadway.  Although none of those would be so terrible, really.  Do you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2014


So I have come to unexpected rest in Holland, a place I never imagined being curious about, much less making my home.  Even writing the word, 'home,' if this electronic shit can be considered writing surprises me. 
     I have always dreamed of my center being high on a hill, maybe the one in the south of France I would climb to from Les Bergerettes, in the days when it was still easy to climb. Or Broadway, if it ever opened its arms to me, as Yip Harburg, my mentor, and beloved friend did when I was young.  Or Frank Loesser, the soul-less genius who seduced me, though that word seems to imply, connote, or even say flat out that I was reluctant, which I can't remember if I was, but don't remember the authenticity of, I was so excited to be in his Presence.  I capitalize it because he really did seem Holy to me, he was so gifted.  Unless of course he was using other people's brilliance, which might have been the case, at least some of the time, as conscience was not one of his leading characteristics. 
    But really, what did it matter when measured up against what he had to give the world, whether or not it was all his or, maybe sometimes, somebody else's.  I remember his calling me in LA, and saying, "Kid..." which he did call me. "Moss and I are doing this show and we're using some of your material."  And I, being twenty, or maybe twenty-one by then, said "What about money?"  And Frank, being who he was, said "Call your family." 
    Not a very nice man.  But an incredibly gifted one.  I remember clearly, I can still see him seated at my rented piano on Havenhurst, naked, the crack of his ass on the bench, as he played, and sang... imagine! "Warm all Over," from what was to be 'Most Happy Fella.'  What privilege there was in my being so violated, which, I suppose, but what difference does it make? I was.
   So here I am now, in Amsterdam, a lifetime later.  There was a magnificent piece about the just departed Elaine Stritch online, where everything seems to be now, print having likely outlived itself.  I used to sit in a booth at Downey's listening to Ben Gazzara, with his voice, which I described in NAKED IN BABYLON, as going "between a woman's legs" trying to seduce her, which I don't think he was successful at for a very long time.  He tried for me too, for a while in decades to come after Don was gone, and by the time he succeeded, couldn't.
     Life.  It's really funny.  As long as you're still living it.  How it gets to be afterwards, if there is any afterwards, might be even more interesting.  We'll see. Unless, of course, we don't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


At least I think it was my youth: the Mars Club in Paris.  Everything I wrote here was lost, as I was warned it would be by my computer.  But that was in Paris, where everything is difficult, except for eating and drinking and spending money.
But this, as writ, used to be the Mars Club. I went to Paris for the weekend and found my old neighbors, the Kellers, now moved to the nearby countryside, as our old building is over. And after a lovely dinner at their new home, located only after a couple of forays to the wrong places, they were kind enough to drive me to the cul de sac where it was.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


  Am back in Paris, a place where I have never been particularly happy which makes you feel twice as sad because it is mythically one of the happy places on the planet.  When I actually lived here full time, which I did twice, once when I was first out of college and was singing at the Mars Club,-- I believe it is now a laundromat-- and the second time when I was traveling for the Wall Street Journal Europe so everyone was afraid of me, expecting a Republican in a suit, I never really connected with the city which it really is, as you realize most especially when living in Amsterdam, basically a village.  Full of small town hearts and roads you can find your way along and be someplace you didn't realize was that close.  And then there are the trams, so cheap and connected and folksy.  
   I find myself curiously touched by being in that "village," feeling strangely a part of it even though I am still so disconnected.  Away from it I wonder why I have not made better use of the peace and genuine quietude, the privilege of living sufficiently high above the streams that meander through to the sea, and strangely, miraculously it seems to me, are fresh-water rather than salt.  I have to imagine/guess/formulate that the reason for that is I haven't yet committed to what is my next project, and that, my work, has always been the post to which I attached myself.
    Now I am in the Apple Store, not as busy as the one in Amsterdam, but not as helpful either, and all around me are bouncing words in French, a language prettier and easier than Dutch but coming out of people who are less genuine.  I find that I am more or less loving being in Amsterdam, though resistant to learning the language, because it is basically so horrible.  Even ordering a dinner in the great restaurant I discovered wandering the back alleys, Helmsele Mudder or something like that, (a chef who wrote a cookbook I bought that drove my true friend Daniel into contained spasms of laughter: "You bought a cookbook in DUTCH!" he marveled,)  did not inspire me to learn what I was saying, it sounded so awful.  But tasted really fine, I have to say.
     Anyway, I am up to 66% on my charge on my cellphone, having forgotten my cable in Amsterdam, and understanding that when you aren't connected these days, you are as good as dead, so I had to come to the Apple store to link up.   I think I am about ready to begin my next work, which I think may be my last work, the Sandy book, redone with a more truthful head.  Sandy was my great, in the true sense of the word, friend, the journalist who covered my Oscar party for Time Magazine, a moment I considered greatness because I was so publicity hungry, and it came in the midst of my success with The Pretenders.  But Sandy and I became genuine.. what?  what is the word for buddies who are not exactly buddies, because that is too carefree a word when both women are aiming for something.  I was aiming for recognition, and she was arcing her way towards absolute truth, being a clear-seeing, clear-writing woman, the first of her sex to be a bureau chief for Time, a magazine that has, like everything else major in print, become more or less extinct.  She was on the plane with Aquino when he returned to the Phillipines to challenge Marco and was assassinated, recorded his murder, and was the key witness in the trial of General Ver, who I believe ordered and managed his murder.  She later became the heroine in raising Corey Aquino to a greatness she could not maintain.
     Sandy herself was later assassinated in Bali. I was there, trying to nail the low level rat who did it and of course got away with it, because there is nothing that cannot be paid off in Bali.  He is still running around loose, probably living off money she might have left him, because that was the only thing I saw more clearly than she did: how unworthy of her he was.  
     But that's the thing about the world, isn't it?  There just don't seem to be enough great partners for those who deserve them. 
   Well, I'm 84% charged up.  There's a motif for 2014.  Have my ticket for the Louvre upstairs, so I guess it's time to move on.  Or up.  If only I had brought my charger with me.  If only we were all basically connected to the energy that keeps us going. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014


So it is cold here, gloomy, after a very bright day where I felt good, correct to be here, having an adventure in an old hotel I visited when I was writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe, a paper I am not even sure is still in business.  
   Actually went to a museum, a furnished house the garden of which I had peered at from the outside, through a gate, met a lovely woman and, so emboldened, visited my old haunt, the Grand Hotel de L'Europe, heard a fine pianist/composer in the lounge, felt a bolt of my old chutzpah and planned to go back today and swim in the very small pool that I dipped into when Swimming Through Europe for my old friend Jim, who is no longer with the paper as I'm not sure the paper is, either.  Am suddenly a little scared, wondering what exactly I am doing here, here this peaceful place I thought would be a fine setting for writing my memoir,-- but now realize I hate the word, find it pretentious.  Not even sure I want to write it, as stimulating and interesting and... lucky, I think, I add it all up to be.  After all... Don, Cary Grant, John Dean in the house next door, my country still surviving, even though I am appalled and bored by the constant solicitation for money from the Democrats. Surprised to be so affected by the weather, after I found it so challenging, as they say in New York, to be so uplifted though made slightly uncomfortable by the heat and brightness of the day.
   Saddened by a series of e-mails from my daughter in the course of which she drove herself Mad, so expect no good ending from that quarter.  My son continues to be bright and borderline witty on occasion, so that is heartening, as living this high above a canal gives you a glimpse of the Eternal, which you realize you won't have forever, so it isn't Really.  
     Am also somewhat lifted by a review in The New Yorker, which happily I found at Filter, the coffee shop next door, where you never find anything to read besides Dutch, of the new act by Chrissie Hines, so I feel a small part of my life (The Pretenders, she told me once when I stood by her in a club, was named after my novel) has survived even though I have lost my husband, my dogs, and a fraction of my children.   Am also heartened at the prospect of a visit to Copenhagen to see the wonderful couple and children I picked up in New York and thought would brighten that city and lift it for a long time to come, but am selfishly glad for myself that they will be over here, and I am invited to visit.  It is strange how lonely you become even after a determination to not allow yourself to feel lonely, and a conviction after almost a lifetime of travel that it is second nature to you.  Especially when you seem to have lost touch with the first one.  


So having received a few e-mails from friends, I am SURE they were, who thought from the tone of my last few Reports that I was sad, depressed, or dispirited, all of which missiles served to make me sad, depressed, though not dispirited because the truth is I think I am okay, though a wee bit isolated, and a Certain Age.  Like those of you who actually read these things, I, too, find myself puzzled at my being here, since it is nowhere I was actually headed, but just ended up.  Very like the Apple store, my headquarters when actually on my way somewhere or at least hoping I seem so as it is in the center of town-- I think,  -- and a good place to work out of since I have no idea where I am going, if anywhere.  
     This is what I would venture to call marking time, something it seems less than wise to be marking at this turn of my road.  I had a beautiful dinner last night with my new friend Sam, a lovely neighbor who took pity on me after I rang her bell, and seemed and WAS somewhat lost.  We had a bicycle-cart tour of the neighborhood before going to one of her mothers' home to dine, with a very talkative driver who found himself and his opinions more interesting than the neighborhood, which appraisal I didn't share.
       One of her mothers is not a grammatical error, or, I don't think, a humanistic one.  This is a curious civilization, where people seem to fall in and out of love and not worry about the rules as we observe them or pretend to in the US, and few are those who seem to marry their partners, even after having children with them, at that point moving on but going back for Sunday night dinners if they have stayed friend-ish, and splitting custody unless of course there is hostility or they have told the judge something sad while weeping, which I have advised one of the fathers to do if he wants to spend some time with his little girls, because that's what his ex-patner did.  As it was, he had to sit in the balcony of a movie theatre peering over the railing for a glimpse of his daughters, which I found sad and discomfiting and they weren't even mine.
     I know three fathers like that, and I haven't even been here long. There's Daniel, my big hero, the Englishman I sat next to on the plane from Glasgow, who has so far befriended and guided me while remaining funny and seemingly inspired, Arthur, the burly black from Africa, who has skills I do not begin to understand, and Peter, the sweet Dutch guy who was leaning over the balcony railing, whose partner left him for another man, which seems to be a local virus. But I do not suffer too much for him because he loved her because of her ass, and not having one, I cannot relate to that form of attachment. My darling Don, who, strangely, I still miss with a present presence, told me once if I only had an ass I would be Sophia Loren, but then he was, in his Bronx way, a poet as well as a movie-goer.  
    So here I am in the Apple store, at the table marked 'Open Training,' as much or more my home as my apartment, which is genuinely beautiful where I hope you all will come.  As several times noted, I have no real idea what brought me to Amsterdam, but as I believe in Divine Guidance, I would like to think there is Good to come from it, hopefully in the way of some writing that will be higher/clearer/more lustrous than any I might have done elsewhere, wherever elsewhere was.  I do know it could not have been New York, because the darkness that has covered that city and what used to be my country is palpable, if you can actually FEEL darkness, and what I see out of my window there makes me sad, it is so lifeless and dirty.   I used to feel so grateful that my view there was actually of and over a rooftop.  But now it is cluttered in an ugly, disinterested way, ropes and ladders and tossed-off pieces of things that didn't matter, nothing serving any purpose, and in the near distance the towering, dopey building from which the crane fell, and from which other things will doubtless fall in days to come.
   I, though, will try and stay somewhat secured in days to come, by attaching myself to my new environs, and the people I find therein.