Thursday, November 26, 2015


So I have been admonished by Joanna, my smartest friend, not to write so much about Brando, her saying he was "Not that interesting."  Of course he was to me, as I was eighteen, he was the biggest star in the world, and I hadn't get met Cary Grant.  I understand now that even Cary Grant is probably not that interesting anymore, but those who are "stars" have already faded only weeks, sometimes days, after their emergence, and they have only emerged because I was looking for someplace to hide out as the world became scarier, and it still seemed okay to go to the movies.  As it turns out, the truly most elegant of all was Gregory Peck, who had his own very tall personal style, a true education, and the most impressive of wives, who probably knew how to kill people, along with her journalistic graces.
      I have a picture now on my desk of the infant son of my friend Olivia who is in charge of many high end things at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, where I will probably never go again, because the world has become so dicey to step out into, or certainly up onto.  It is saddest, I think, because these people have no real reason to live, the only thing they have to look forward to is the afterlife, where they will finally get laid.  Bill Maher, who seems more brilliant with every passing disaster that he examines on air, speaks of how little sense any of it makes, and that we cannot possibly hope to understand because it is so foreign to our sense of values, or our sense of sense. It is the Upside of Being Old, having gone every place I wanted to go with the exception of Barcelona, but Sondheim has already written that song, as I have already writ probably a couple of times, the Downside of Being Old.  But I don't really care that I did, the Upside of Being Old 2.
     As minor as these ramblings are, they are a relief to me as I know how to find and write them on my computer, still a difficulty if I stop to consider how difficult and all-absorbing technology has become, and how unfulfilling, except probably for those who know how to use it. The world has become ever increasingly and ever more presently a scary place to be.  So I am grateful for having gone everywhere I wanted to be, as I have now written for noticeably the third time as is apparent even to me.
    Since everything is so tenuous, I actually watched the Thanksgiving Parade on TV to make sure it was still there, something I didn't bother to do even when I lived on Central Park West which I think I did for one almost winter.  The day looked glorious, and was a gift probably from God if He/She does exist.  There seems to be a great generosity of Spirit behind the parade, even though it is selling a lot of things, mostly Macy's.  I think I am grateful to be in the world while it is still a moderately great place to be, as long as you are not in a plane over someone else's air space.
    There is, certainly, an unmistakeable American glory to Thanksgiving, though as an American and an English major I know how probably little the Pilgrims really had to be grateful for.  But having lived this long and being now in California where it is not quite as nice a day as it looked to be in New York, there is still no anxiety about terrorism, I hope for good reason.
    May you have the happiest and healthiest of holidays, if you celebrate them.  And if not, why not?  Don't you have any idea how lucky you are to be alive?  For a while, anyway.

Friday, November 13, 2015


So it is that day I always looked forward to celebrating, being perverse or possibly aware that the universe is upside down, and the days we are most anxious about are maybe the ones that are best, if there is humor in the planning, or, indeed, any plan at all.  The movie that Marlon Brando made about himself is going to be on television tomorrow, so I have a date for Saturday night, as I still love him and remember him thin, or at least spare, fit for a queen, which I wasn't, though I did feel royal to be in his presence.  Janice Mars, my to-be-beloved friend who wanted to sing my song SEX,  as everybody did and a few stole was a close friend of his and a cast-off bed partner, as everybody was, so introduced me to him knowing that my tongue would be hanging out with stunned gratitude.  "I want you to meet someone," she said, having me show up at the Carnegie Towers building, then arguably the most beautiful one on 57th Street, now dwarfed and uglified by what the Greedy and Tasteless have built around, overshadowing.  Then she pressed the button for whatever floor it was.  And when the automatic door opened, from down the hall came the cry "Eeehh, Janice," unmistakeable.  My heart stopped.
     I have written about this before, but I want to make sure I get it just right.  At one point that was probably what Marlon wanted, but eventually set aside, replacing it with covetousness, I think, and eventually boredom.  It had to be hard for him, bright as he was, to see people so filled with longing to be with him.  He did not have that high an opinion of himself.  But he was so much brighter than most imagine, and it showed right away, intensifying my infatuation with him, more than justified.   I was eighteen, and he was, clearly, wonderful.  Besides being physically past perfect, he was funny.  He flung her across his lap, made by flopping himself into a great leather chair, and saying to me,"Tell me about yourself, kid."
     Tongue sticking to both the roof of my mouth and the bottom of it, I gave my name, and the major fact of my life up till then, "and I go to Bryn Mawr."
     "OOOOooooo," he said, Katharine Hepburn.  "Ba...rynnn Mawhrrr."A long wait.  "Sing me the song, kid." 
     I sang him the song that Janice wanted me to give her for her act.  It was called Sex.  Witty and Cole Porterish... I forgive myself ... if there was anybody you should have wanted to be like if you were writing songs those days, it was Cole Porter.
     Marlon beat out an accompaniment on Janice's chest as I sang. When I finished, he said "Not bad.  Not bad."
     I left without knowing how I had really done, but  I must have passed the test.  I was invited to join them that coming summer at the theater in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  He would be directing and starring in ARMS AND THE MAN.  I went with planets in my eyes-- stars would not have been big enough.  And I was invited!!!!
       He directed and starred.  He was terrible. He never could do comedy.
        I loved him no less.  His best friend, Wally Cox, was there for the presentation onstage the week before of another play, Three Men on a Horse, with Maureen Stapleton, who became my roommate while I was there.  She remained a good friend for the rest of her life, but would probably have been too drunk to remember.  A great lady, though seriously tilted.  And Wally became a true buddy for the last twenty-four hours of his life, when I miraculously re-connected with him.
      But back there in Falmouth, at eighteen, I was fat as Marlon was to become, and seated in the summer camper's dining room having breakfast with him, was unable to eat even that meager portion of fruit and cottage cheese I allotted myself.  "On a diet, kid?" he asked me, and when I sort of choked, added: "It's all right.  I just think most girls are prettier thin."
     Sam, his really good friend who he took with him everywhere, liked me, so I had some genuinely close-up moments and got to see what the young would-be novelist benefitted from, abetted by a friendship with the cast off fiancee, Josette Mariani, who had worked for the Strasbergs, to whom he was tied by the navel.  I went to see her when I was first in Hollywood, and we drove up to his house.  She beat pathetically on the metal-pronged window to his front doors, and closed it when he saw who it was.  Not anyone you wanted to have a love affair ended with. But I got to use the scene in Naked in Babylon, my first novel.  The old Brando tried to option it.

      When last I saw Marlon, he was waiting for a wedding at the Hotel Bel-Air, sitting on a bench.  I was with Don, who was still and always jealous of my ex-romances, no matter how unrealized.  "There's your great love," he said. "He's turned into Sydney Greenstreet."  And he had.  Enormous.
      I still love him and will watch tomorrow night.  I wish I had said Goodbye to Janice.

Monday, November 09, 2015


A day or three later, and I have had adventures I never would have regarded as adventure were I not so easily satisfied just being able to come back home, especially as I never would have regarded it as home, were I not so ready to stop traveling for good.  Or certainly for better.  The downing of the plane in the desert probably by those who had no particular objective other than to wreak havoc is enough to convince me I have been everywhere I needed to go, with the exception of Barcelona.  In the meantime, which there is plenty of in Los Angeles, I seem to have recovered my ear, my tongue, or whatever it is that tunes you in to your inner melody, and I have written my first song in a very long time, or at least part of it.  And it is good enough to convince me my creative life is not over, and that makes it okay that I don't have a baby.  I remember traveling on trains with Don when we were first together and he was always afraid I would get arrested for playing too intensly with other people's babies, I wanted one so badly.  That I was able to have two was a great blessing, if we are still allowed to believe in blessings, that I was not able to keep them babies most likely the downside.  Ah, reality.  My friend Bill McGivern, the fine mystery writer and even finer human being, witty and kind and hospitable and bright, said he wished there was an invention called 'STAY BABY', that you could spray on them.  But he's dead now, so probably he would rather have had an invention called STAY ALIVE.   Or maybe not.  Maybe we are all given the run that best suits us.  Maybe a limited span is the kiss blown our way by a beneficent universe, understanding as it does that everything, in excess, becomes boring. Except love, maybe.  But even that might be yawn-inspiring after a while.  Let's see what happens with Sir Richard Branson's new daughter-in-law, Kate Winslet, on her third try out.  I remember his telling me of his father throwing him into the river, and so his finding out he could swim.  I wonder if it works out that way for romance and sex.  Well, we'll see.  Or maybe she will.       

Sunday, November 01, 2015


I used to know those things.  I used to be tuned in, or think I was, to all things Spiritual.  Or at least some of them.  Now it is a triumph to remember how to work things out on my computer.  
     They promised me at the AT&T store that it is the same for them, but clearly they just told me that to make me feel better.  Not the Spiritual part-- we don't get into that at AT&T.
     I got dressed up last night as Dorothy, and went to find someplace festive, though it doesn't seem to exist in Southern Cal. Two cars did beep me as I crossed the boulevard, smiled, maybe even laughed.  I had a basket and Toto in my left hand and was glad there were still people alive who remembered, had seen the movie, maybe even thought Judy Garland was wonderful. Went to a bar and was so disheartened by one who was sitting there, grieving that he could no longer place in golf tournaments, that I left one sip into an overpriced drink, and moved on to Spaghettini.  Did not stay late enough for the alleged show that was to be put on behind the spider webs woven across the stage and in front of the restrooms, a nice touch.  Had the braids and red shoes and all.  Put it in the closet this morning and will save for next year if I am still alive and in a place where people give a fuck.
     I wonder why it is I so love Halloween.
    Just came across this sentence in an old work I chanced on, never completed or fulfilled, and probably never would have been anything, but it's a fine sentence. 

“Life was the gift that would eventually be taken back, so you had an obligation to pay attention to it while it was still there. “

Mon Dieu!  What might she have not become!

     I am borderline sad but not as much as I was the other evening when I had lost my cell phone, I thought, and was in a state of complete disarray.  Memory, that thing which always characterized what I should feel proudest of, having been able to recite the Gettysburg Address at two years and three months, something that made me a show piece in Pittsburgh that made even my mother proud, she who didn’t  like children even when she was one of them—has beyond “started” to fail.
     My cell fell out of my pocket onto my son’s car floor when the evening was just starting Friday, and by the time he brought me home I had forgotten about hearing it fall,  and later, on foot, had gone back to the hotel where we’d had dinner to search for it.   Spent the whole night borderline suffering, emotions salvaged at daytime when Jenni brought it back after which I re-found e-mail she had sent night before saying she would do that the next morning.  I am not so much scared as distant-saddened by this softly harsh reality.  Memory goes, even when it is not the Gettysburg Address.
            So I am at the Brooklyn Water Bagel Co. wondering if it would be any better in the South of France.  Clearly I have lost it, that I can even ask myself such a question.  Can I look at the striped awning and think it can in any way compare to a boat splashing across the water?
            It is not so much that I have given up a love of places as taken on a dislike for getting to them.  Maybe if I could travel always as I did coming back from Amsterdam on that tiny airline that stopped at some pole, it would be okay.