Friday, March 27, 2015


So as my close friends know, and often those who aren't really interested, my brain has rarely stopped working.  But today I had to have it tested, to make sure everything is still in place, and I haven't been invaded by any uninvited visitors.  It was painless and quite colorful, the offices of the doctors being actually peacefulizing, still and featuring a travelogue about monuments narrated by a handsome white-haired Brit, I think he was, (the sound wasn't on) taking me through ancient tombs and places I've never been and some I have but nowhere I really want to go to anymore as the world has become too angry and unpredictable a place.
    I had lunch afterwards at what used to be Lawry's, where I went in my long ago youth when Don was working on Carol Burnett's show.  It is now something with Garlic in the title, most pleasant especially as I was with Shan Cretin, whose official title I forget as I forget a number of things these days, but she is high up in the Society of Friends, the Quakers I have loved since high school and 
join from time to time when I covet peace.  She is what you hope to find when you are looking for an inspirational human being, and assures me the violence that is going on now is actually less than when we were in caves, though today's weapons make it easier to make it fatal.  Shan, as peaceful a person as has walked on the planet, I would be happy to wager, has been to jail for protesting war, arrested as Quakers are from time to time because this is a crazy world, as most of you know.  Hopefully most of you have not been in trouble for your convictions, though I don't know many in this town who have them about a lot things besides success. 
      I do not leave myself out of that dispiriting number, but I  almost believe I am getting better and hope I have shucked it off by the time I leave the planet.  The other day I almost tracked Mel Brooks, once a very close friend, when I realized mid-search that I was no longer a teenager when I used to do such things, almost always with positive results, so quit.  I still hope to catch up with him before one or the other of us exits, and I will never forget his and Annie (Bancroft, his wife,) driving me and Don back to the hospital (I had just given birth to Madeleine) opening night of my comedy on Broadway, The Best Laid Plans, an ill-chosen title if ever there was one, and Mel's saying "Well, you had two things happen this week.  If one of them had to be less than perfect, if your daughter had been born with six toes or two noses, that would have been okay.  What mattered was the show."  I do believe he saved my life with that laugh.
      This has been an uplifting period for me, possible brain problem notwithstanding, as I have entered more new realms than I realized existed, including becoming a comic strip.  Now what I'd like to do is become a song.  I have new baby friends, one of whom has a birthday this weekend so I am looking forward to being younger.  So if I make it okay through all this, anything is possible, which I have always insisted anything is.  But then, what do I know?  Maybe they'll see in my brain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cary Grant, whom I don't think anyone who is a true friend of mine doesn't know was a true friend of mine-- how could you not want people to know?-- told me "Hate will keep you alive longer than love will."  As I may have written, his own mother didn't love him. How is it possible?  She wanted him to dye his hair because his going gray made her look old.
     Anyway, he told me that about hate as I waited-- not idly,-- I contributed to my own living, and my children's, and kept it all afloat-- but hopefully, for what would come to me when my inheritance from my father, the Mayor of Tucson, (a Republican no less) came through.  But for that, my stepmother, Selma, the hardest thing since cement, had to go.
      It finally happened this autumn.  She was 98. My mother met Selma when Mom, Helen, was having her career as a social director, and Selma and her first husband were staying in the hotel where Helen worked.  At one point in her marriage Selma had cut all her husband's ties into hundreds of pieces, and Helen knew about that. So she was sure Selma would kill Lew, my father, whom  Helen was divorcing, and introduced them.  Instead, when they married, which they did, Selma took this fairly failed man to Arizona to deal with her allergies.  There, Lew found a new career as a realtor, subdivided the desert and made it bloom, became a Republican, and then Mayor.
     Mel Brooks, whom I had the joy of calling friend, said "A man goes to Tucson in the desert, and says "Who's the Mayor?" They tell him:"Nobody."  He says: "I'm the Mayor."
     I don't hold Selma in non-eseteem for no reason.  My cousin Ruth-Anne, a Gandhi among women, a music teacher who gave scholarship lessons to all the gifted blacks in Pittsburgh, was ill and destitute at the end of her life and called on the Davises, by now of Tucson, for help, which they did not give.  Selma called me and said, in clipped Brooklynese: "I have bad news. Ruth died. I believe she took her own life." End.
    So I less than grieved when Selma left, at very long last.  But writing of this in what is likely the ass end of my days is a waste of mental energy. Still, as Cary was likely wise about many things, it is probably good I hold some bad feelings.


As anyone knows who's known me long, a girls best friend may not always be her mother.  But mine was certainly the source of some of my best material (See:THE MOTHERLAND) unfortunately  published just at the moment Watergate happened, so no one had time for fiction.  She lives forever in Liz Smith's THE MOTHER BOOK, where, when Liz, New York's most popular and literate columnist wrote her congratulating her on my then new novel, responded that the book upset her so much she regretted "not committing infanticide."  That's who she was, crazy, original, funny, beautiful, with great legs, and no idea that a woman might be able to make it on her own at a time when that probably wouldn't have been possible anyway.  So she pretended to be less for a number of men, one of whom, Puggy,(so called because of his jaw) was smarter than anybody but she still beat him down.
     When they divorced she moved into a spacious apartment on E. 60th St., and when she panicked, being a child of the Depression (why do they capitalize it?) she sold everything for spit and moved into a one room on Central Park South, the wrong side-- the one without the view, in which she woke from a coma saying to me, eyes still closed: "You're not getting the apartment," but left it to me anyway.  I still celebrate her, and woke being glad it is her birthday, and sorry she isn't here.  
     I am particularly juiced because on this day at this late turn in my road I begin a new career.  A brilliant young artist and scholar of things I would never have known about, Tana Oshima, is making me a cartoon.  She is taking some of my tales, and moving them into a medium embraced by the young, who don't really read. A shame, probably, but how thrilling that I will be making my way into their eyes and possibly their brains, via such clever, contemporary fingers. 
    So Happy Birthday Mama.  May you live forever in some form or another as the original you were. Ballsy in the bargain.
     HERE IS THE STORY, carried into 2015, Mother's Birthday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FAITH AND BEGORRAH, I think it's spelled

Today is the day I met my husband. 
 I was a dazzlingly overweight not-that-young woman, and my career as a writer, scarcely begun, was over, I was sure, since I had already been threatened with a lawsuit from Ken Kesey, my once best friend and very naughty boy: ("If you publish this book you will have a liable(sic) suit in fact several liable(sic.) suits, We are the wife-swappers, and it will jeopardize(sic.)our position in the community," he'd written to my publisher.  Doubleday had pulled away from any support, and several stories below deflated,  I had started working, in a haphazard way, for my stepfather, a renegade financier on Wall Street.  I didn't know where the numbers were on any of the machines in his office, or the subway trains, which I was terrified of.  Deeply depressed, since I was probably already older than several of my favorite poets when they had died, I could hardly pull myself together, to go to "work," which I hated and even worse, didn't understand, since it contained numbers, my worst suit.
    Puggy, my stepfather, came into the office, looked at me, and said: "You're starting to look like my Aunt Jenny.  You better go out on a date. " So I called Don's boss for whom I was writing a script(unpaid.) Don answered the phone(he wasn't being paid, either, show biz you know, where you live on the excitement and bullshit, especially when you are young which I wasn't that anymore) and asked me to meet him for a drink.  I didn't even remember what he looked like. (He had been the kind one at the meeting so of course hadn't made an impression, since I was       captivated by scoundrels. At that first meeting I had had a cold and making me even more appealing, besides fat and depressed, my nose was running.  Feeling a tap on my elbow, looking down, I'd found a Kleenex; looking up, there was Don. )  
    So that early evening, as I stood in the doorway of whatever club it was, this very tall, startlingly handsome young man I didn't even remember showed up.  And he was carrying Vick's Vaporub, nose drops, cough medicine, a Benedrex inhaler,  a box of 1000 Kleenex.   And a green carnation.  Funny right away, and touching.  If you are lucky in life, something will be funny right away.  And ultimately deeply, completely touching.  In the truest sense.  Meaning your entire being is touched.  And moved.  And in the luckiest cases, moved forward.  Big time.
     I wasn't smart enough to fall in love immediately, but it didn't take that long. I thought, "If I could get him, if I lost weight, I could get Cary Grant."  So I went on a diet.  It took more than a year, and when I finally got thin, I only wanted Don.  Besides which, I hadn't met Cary Grant.  (Ultimately I did, and to my joy we became great friends.  But even then, I still wanted Don.  He turned out to be the great romance of my life.  So even though he didn't live long, it lasted for what I have had of forever.  
      So here I am now back in Beverly Hills where few celebrate anything besides themselves.  I honor the date, the memory, the Irish(some of my best friends are...) and the joy of the truth that the best person I have met here, and maybe even anywhere, the most selfless woman in the Capital of Self, has her birthday today, and it can't be a coincidence.  Happy Birthday, Ellen.  Don't give your presents away just because you worry maybe somebody else didn't get any.
     In addition to this being by definition a special day it is also the one where I began, at this somewhat belated bend in my road, a new career, as a provider of text for an incredibly gifted artist who has a website, the way people do these days, that is both witty in its art and original it out.  It is truly remarkable and has brought me into this puzzling, and often offensive era, delighted. 
       So Happy St. Patrick's Day, all, and Happy 21st Century which it clearly, inarguably is, especially when you check out her work.  May we all achieve some degree of illumination without being on fire, in the bad sense.   A smile has made its way all the way to my heart.  What a relief.

Monday, March 02, 2015


Got up early as I should have lo these many Sundays, and went to what I thought would be a gathering of Jack-style meditators, but had the wrong address and so ended up going to my old Quaker meeting.  At least I knew whether or not God would be there, the Friends would be.  Anyone who is skeptical about Divine Mercy should have been with me.
     Joy in the Silence, and afterwards a ride from a teacher, one of the attenders, to the beach.   Walking along it long and empty enough that I filled up, went onto the pier and into Bubba Gump, arguably the worst name in the West, but a strangely comforting setting.  Had a window table as the sky filled, emptied, and tables of happy people ate shrimp and played Trivia questions from Forrest Gump.  
   Made a few friends, and then went walking along the shorefront trying to find the little hotel I stayed in once.  It was disappointing, so started walking back towards the pier and was caught in a much needed rain-- not by me, but the land-- found-- well, here it is, in a poem.
   I walked by the beach
   Stepped by the sea
   Found a stoop to sit on
   That protected me
   Had the bounce of a frog
   The will of a lion
   Played with a dog
   Made a little girl stop cryin'.

Not the best poem in the world, but it made me happy to be both cool in the traditional sense, and creative.  Then as it became a downpour, I picked up a young couple of lovers, actors of course.  We became friendish, and they took me home.  Not a bad day.  
    I really should be living at the beach; we'll see what happens.  Jamie came by this morning before leaving for New Orleans to do a TV series, and she will send me a list of places, being the organized and thorough woman she is in addition to generous and gifted. 
    It had been my hope to write something wonderful before I left the planet, and Betty Srere, my loved friend from Bryn Mawr who comes here in winter, says I will,-- she is very smart, so we'll hope do.  But this has been less than pleasant and productive as well as expensive, so we'll see if the Graces have a plan.