So it is the last day of a very peculiar year. I have spent it not really wanting to be anywhere else, though Anywhere Else has always been a favorite of mine.
The world has exploded in a very unchartable fashion. My iPad tried to change that to "uncharitable," and that's right, too. I dragged myself through Beverly Hills today trying to find the Amanda Foundation, a charitable place that houses lost or would-be redeemed dogs, in case it was time for a new love in my life. But by the time I found it-- it is curiously central but tough to find-- I understood with my body how young I no longer am, the one dog that almost fulfilled my sort-of-needs, smart, a girl, not too yippy-- (my Ipad tried to change that to 'hippy,') reality set in and I knew I really don't have the energy or the patience anymore. More likely than my loving a new companion is there being an afterlife, where I will be reunited with Mimi or Happy.
But on the way there I met a really nice couple here for the Bowl game where their team, Iowa,(Ray!) is playing Stanford. As some intimates who are left know, I graduate-schooled at Stanford, found it empty of spirit and heart, and certainly low on inspiration, but maybe that was just then, with Wallace Stegner the head of the very sloppy and un-energized program and their not even telling you he was on sabbatical till after you'd paid your tuition which they then wouldn't return. Richard Scowcroft, a sad man, his first lecture a read from his graduate thesis, was the head of it in his absence. And that first evening, there we were with the grown-ups, faculty, he said "I have to talk to you about something," and took me aside. I remember thinking, "Here it comes-- the truth about life and literature." And he said, "Is Cary Grant truly a homosexual?"
So that was it for me and Stanford, except for my friendship with Ken Kesey, (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,) our going to the vigil outside San Quentin for Caryl Chessman where Marlon Brando came to halt it, protest, and, just in case the state failed to be moved, (they weren't,) announcing he intended to make a movie about it (he didn't.) Afterwards, I remember our (Ken and I, not Marlon,) following an ice cream truck that passed us on the twistey road, nearly forcing us off it, Kesey's dropping back, chuckling, saying "I know this road and it's filled with bumps, glorious bumps." Sure enough, a bend or two along the way the tar was polka-dotted with gallons and gallons of ice cream, that we ate. That became a scene in Kingdom Come, the book that should have changed my life by becoming a classic, but sadly disappeared except for one or two people who read it and changed my life anyway.(Diane Brown. Is she still alive? Spiritual? Inspired?)
I watched Cuckoo the other night. A strangely mystical experience. Had the TV on to a movie, and the TV changed itself to the channel that Cuckoo was on, without my knowing it was on. I mean about four hundred odd stations away. I was trying to figure out if it had been Kesey who changed the channel, or Don. Making sure I wouldn't miss it. Really an incredible movie, still, even having to live through all the commercials. Nicholson young, and with hair. More than charismatic. I sat next to him early in his super-stardom, on the bus Jack Haley rented to take all of us to the Renaissance Fair. I remember Nicholson muttered "Women have less mercy than men," his tone a kind of observation of his whole life being a record of his having been exposed to our lack of mercy.
But Kesey's life was truly a tragedy. He was SO talented, but threw it all away, doping, losing the words that might have been. We fought each other in books and through lawyers, and later, decades later ,when I'd matured, which you can also know means grown older, I went to hear him speak at a church on Central Park West. He was lunatic. A silly comic high hat, deliberately ludicrous attire, fine face disappeared, the words that came out of the once interesting mouth borderline unintelligible. I'd gone there with my mother, who, on one of her rare shows of nobility, was willing to stay.
But I couldn't. So sad. He should have been a monument to creativity. Instead he was a joke. And not a witty one.
The moral of the tale: If you're lucky enough to have a gift that has been consecrated, take care of it. HAPPY NEW YEAR.