Friday, July 24, 2015

GWENNIE'S WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE, SPECIAL TERRIBLE ADVENTURE


So it would seem I have gotten through it all alive, provided the plane lands.   Having gone through blatant misadventure— that is to say, I went to Amsterdam as a not-really destination, with no real intention of going anywhere, just feeling out of sorts and out of energy, and probably out of luck, the reasonably priced ticket went there, and there was where Daniel was, and Peter, two beautiful friends I have made on my travels.  So I bought a ticket there and from there intended to explore, an intention I abandoned when I got to Bruges as they spell it some places, when I discovered I had been robbed online by someone in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I have never been and certainly have no intention of ever going.  Stuck in a little overpriced hotel on a canal which everything is in Brugge which is how they spell it there, I went on a tour of churches, in the middle of which Amy at Citi bank called me to alert me to my having been pilfered for my entire account, at which juncture a beautiful white-haired Englishman actually came back out of the tour to see if I was alright, at which point I fell in love.  I understand I will never see him again, and would like to make him into my final fantasy love story, but I don’t know that I have any more Fiction in me.
    It would seem I should pull myself together for my Memoir, hate the word.  My wonderful friend Barbara Conaty, the great woman at the Library Journal, she used to be, suggested I call it Recollections, I think, and I suppose I’d better do them while I still have them. Had a very long moment— it might have been almost an hour walking by the market place along the canal in Amsterdam, when I really couldn’t remember where it was I was going, or even where it might have been I belonged, if indeed I belonged anywhere.  Sweet Esmir, the tall. smart, kind and wasted(he is brighter than just someone who should just help you learn to master what Steve Jobs left behind) came to visit me at the tiny sanctuary Miriam found for me near my old hood by the canal, having had a fight with his love, the mother of his little boy, which I hope he resolves by the time I finish this adventure.
     What is evident to me is how angry everybody can get about everything, and how confused and confusable we each of us are, with the possible exception of Jack.  In the course of this totally uncharted adventure, I have come across three lovely young women just graduated from Columbia, one of who actually threw discus I think they are spelled, the handsome, thick haired Englishman who actually dropped out of the tour in Bruges to be concerned about me, Peter and Arthur and most touchingly Daniel who I love with my soul but suffer over because he has no clue how smart he is and says he is going to stop smoking but we’ll see, and my new friend from India who’s actually invited me, but I don’t know if I have the energy to set off on that big a trip.  
    Well, I guess we’ll see.  Meantime, I have to fill out the customs form they’ve just handed me on the plane.  Sadly, it feels like the trip was pointless, an adventure that wasn’t one, really.  The definition of Adventure, I wrote in one of my novels, is you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.  I am too old to be in love, except with Daniel, who glistens with the glow of Don, the nicest man who ever lived, though not long enough.  I would like to think there is still something colorful ahead.  Well, let’s start with the plane landing.  One can only hope.
P.S.  The PLANE LANDED!!!  Well, there's a Beginning.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

DAMNED IN AMSTERDAM

So just as in every bad dream, everything comically dark that could happen did.  Except of course that I am still alive, and not quite as old as I could be, and people are kind.
     It is very much the 21st century.  My computer got a virus and someone pilfered my bank account.  A bright woman at City National in Maryland caught it, so I am not bankrupt, including emotionally.  But it was a black adventure on a cloudless day, when I should have been looking at design and purpose as my little boat (not mine, you can't be too literal here) wiffled through the watery byways.  Everything here is worth looking at, including the prostitute or if I weren't trying to sound intelligent-- whore area, where I was saddened to see tourists actually bringing their children.  Not for action, I'm sure-- they looked to be from the South or places where people don't think.  But still-- what could the kids imagine?  I mean they were little, but not little enough not to wonder what those women were doing in doorways with jewels in their belly buttons. More than sad were the women themselves, albeit beautiful.
    I have to take a break now and go to the Apple store, my haven, to have the virus removed from my belly button.  Later.  God willing, if there is a God.
     Now it is Sunday, and I have spent a happy, carefree lunchtime with my beautiful former almost neighbors, the lovely Brits from across the water when I used to live here, Miriam and Fred and baby Zephyr, going to the museum (I think it is,) where everybody seems to take their children to lunch.  Former (Almost) neighbors because I didn't connect with them until I was about to leave Amsterdam, and was struck with a great sense of loss about losing them.  They are so clearly special, making the world a better place with less than a lot of funding(they are in Academe and charity work) and/or ease.  I had forgotten how riddled with rivalry the academic community is, -- not having been involved with it since I was a graduate student at Stanford, a long, long time ago, when the nightmare level of the competition was darkly dazzling--so it is an edge of the chair existence for Fred, a patently selfless scholar who still has to know or at least presume his future is secure, which none of them ever does until he has tenure.  Her job is dependent on funding, and you will be less than stunned to know that there is even worse competition there as she works with Bangladesh and the places we only hear about with child labor and say "How terrible," and then forget about, unless we are Miriam.  Noble souls, selfless, both of them, and probably Zephyr by the time she is four.
     I am hopeful that some dazzlingly clear reason why I made this trip will become evident by the time I leave here.  I am so used to  being in a community-- such as it is, to even call it a community is borderline satirical-- of the self-absorbed, except for Ellen and Amber, that to come in contact with people like this is probably a cleansing. But it has been less than a dance of a holiday.  Hardly a dance at all.  And you need to remember that Gene Kelly was my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh when I was two.  I mean, if you can remember Gene Kelly.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

THE LOST (PASS)WORD

So I am back in the Apple store in Amsterdam, what has become my security locale. Am bunking in with my beloved Daniel, whose mouse has become my room-mate.  We re-named him Andrew this morning, after my last almost love, the bright, sad comedy writer in New York, sharp as a tack he was, in his tired prime, and still suburban adorable, a word I have come to use too much lately, probably because there is little adorable in my life.  
    As I regard most things in life as a spiritual test, this one is a Biggie.  It is cold, rainy and dark in Amsterdam, but I at least have shelter from a cherished friend.  And that is more, I'm afraid, than I have in the United States, which I don't think we can think of it as at this point.
    Meanwhile, a legal battle is borderline raging, over something I wrote in my long ago youth, a concept that became 'What a Way to Go,' a successful comedy with the young, gifted, and very horny Shirley MacLaine.  She played a woman who wanted to marry for love but all her husbands died funny and soon, making her a richer and richer widow.
     I think I sold that in 1962.  I find it hard to believe how long ago that was. But there is a fight going on over it now, from some people who want to own it and probably make it into a musical, which it should be, as it's funny and lively, or at least it would have been if written by the right people.  Meanwhile a man I thought was a friend, an apparently quite duplicitous man who has never succeeded except in fooling me, has flogged it to a team I consider less than gloriously gifted, and the nice guy who got it from me seems to be getting screwed out of it. 
    And it is raining in Amsterdam, where it is less than welcoming, except in a couple of people I really like, and Andrew the Mouse.
But at least I have come in from the rain, and bumped into the Apple teacher I really like, from Bosnia, yet, with whom I have a date on Friday to meet his 16 month old son who is probably more connected and organized than I am.  The only thing that makes me feel a little better is I could be in Bruges.  Spelled Brugge by the people who live there, who can't seem to find too much that belongs to them, including their own homes.  Only the statue by  Michelangelo-- you remember him-- seems to be easily spotted, and he didn't like it enough to be that happy about it, or Brugge.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

LOW-KEYED IN BRUGGE, they spell it here

So I came here for what I imagined would be a literary adventure, as I thought it would be quaint, serene, incredibly real by virtue of being genuinely local.  Instead, as you know if you read this blog (hate the word, will accept ideas for a better one, that doesn't sound like you are barely able to keep yourself from vomiting) I was robbed online and a sweet newlywed named Amy in Maryland caught it at the bank so I am still afloat, except I cannot use my bank account till I get back to the States and open a new one.  Should be interesting, although I am too old to be a hooker.  Or maybe not.
    Brugge or Bruges as it was in the movie I never saw is dangerously cobbled, the streets bumpy and nigh on impossible for a slightly older woman with cleverly replaced hips that still know themselves not as they were.  The surgeon who replaced one of them had an ex-wife of whom I reminded him, so I know I am probably lucky to be walking at all.  But I was told that I was the first woman he actually talked to, as they are all very busy moving on and replacing, these surgeons.  I hate to write anything that makes me sound my age, but it does seem sort of funny.
    So I am going back to Amsterdam, where I was, after all,  connected to some human beings even if they were in the Apple store, have some adorable little people I can look for on the other side of the canal I used to look out on, and there's Daniel who I love and can try to help stop smoking as he would be a cute old man if he lived.  Interesting to me is how quickly I lost interest in Bruges or Brugge just because I was sort of raped.
    This is a hard town on your feet and your hips if they're irregular, and on your heart if you have faith in people and they have access to the Internet, which I guess almost everybody does now, so be careful.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

LOOKING

Am trying to find insight, brilliance, what I am hoping, praying I might even say, I was sent here for, struggling to believe there is a purpose.  It has come to me only lately that it is actually late in my game, and I may not have a high reason for Being at all.  I capitalize that because once I was a trying-to-be deeply thinking being I imagined, fantasied, insisted that all of this was for a Reason.  That it might actually be random saddens me, and makes me want to give up.  All the same I am hoping.
     Still,  I ate chocolate and cheese.  My body awaits what I have done to it.
     But today I picked up three recent Columbia graduates, and it gave me Hope.  They are all of them bright-eyed.  One is a champion athlete, a discus thrower if you can believe it. One is a do-gooder from India which I guess you'd have to be if you were smart and had a heart and came from India.  She is going back home to enlist her community in making the world a better place.
The third is a patently open-hearted young woman who cares.  
    They are all three of them assets to the world, and I hope the world makes good use of them. I am proud to have met them and am glad I still have the chutzpah to engage strangers.
   But they are gone.   And it seems a form of extreme masochism to be in this land of a horrible sounding language, when there are so many I love and can speak, and so many beautiful ones I would like to learn.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

AN ADVENTURE NOT SOUGHT

So apparently my bank account was invaded, how, I am not at all sure, as I thought I have kept my wallet and bankcards close to my vest, though I don't have a vest.  But apparently there are all kinds of clever villains working the Internet, and somebody in Tuscaloosa, where I have never been and now will certainly never go, tapped into me online for $22,000.  Don't send money, I'm okay.  But it is scary.
   Still, I am happy to be in Bruges, where everything is gloriously old and you can't find your way back to anyplace even though it's small as it's all twisty-curvey and nobody who lives here knows where anything is either.  Recent great events took place here but I can't tell you exactly what they were as that's when the bank called with details and I had to leave the tour and the very handsome white-haired guide who is probably long married, not that I'm really that interested, but it would be nice to get inspiration for a story.
    It isn't easy finding anything here-- not only an idea or the right street.  I was covered with wonder at the streets being so clean, albeit cobbled and hard on the sole-- better than the soul-- with all the horse-drawn carriages that work the place, when I finally saw the leather slings attached to the horse's rears, which accounts for the manure having a place to go that isn't the street.  Going to dinner now where I will have a fine wine to celebrate not having been wiped out financially so will just do it physically.  Met a beautiful white-haired couple from Shropshire on the tour, the husband actually coming back to make sure I was all right when I dropped out to talk to the bank.  Maybe I should move to Shropshire.
     Then at the dinner I met a lovely Aussie couple here celebrating their 50th.  Sweet as they can be, as almost everyone from Australia always seems to be, including my daughter-in-law.   I am still relieved at having been saved from being wiped out, and am genuinely impressed with the bank for having spotted it and flagged me down before the villain flagged me out.
    But I am tired now.  It is borderline exhausting almost being bankrupted.  And it still saddens me for the world that there are villains in it.  Especially from Tuscaloosa.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

FOURTH OF JULY IN AMSTERDAM, and then BRUGES

Liberty it ain't.   Independence, neither. After a confused and fearful day, losing my iPhone, I went back to my old neighborhood, the once Jewish section of this strangely caring city, and re-found Imke, the very bright, twenty-nine year old who started a coffee shop but is very much someone who should do something creative, artist that she is, and innovator.  Less than an innovation is her love-life, or more accurately, sex life, as people here go online as a matter of course, for intercourse.
    Imke was later in the day to break up with her fiancee of six years with whom she'd bought a house, or maybe it was an apartment, but as she was cheating on him with a lover she'd met online as apparently many if not all in Amsterdam do, I don't feel I am revealing anything intimate.  Then I slept (not well) over one more night, and then took the train to Bruges.  
     Why Bruges?  Haven't a clue.  It just struck me that this was the place to come for reasons I hoped would reveal themselves to me, creatively.  For the first time in many a moon I slept through the night-- didn't see the moon but trust it was out there-- then got up and started to explore this beauteous little village, cobblestoned and people-crowded.  There is a convent in the center of it, with tree houses built by some Japanese artist, and one overpriced restaurant I managed to find in between everything reasonable, even cheap.  But as it is delicious, and Grandpa Lew had to die after many a year so I could inherit it eventually via the cruel and heartless Selma, I guess it doesn't matter what the moules cost.  Still, tomorrow I will go to one of the sidewalk places that are everywhere, less than costly and lovely.  This hotel, too, I suspect is overpriced, and I should probably move to someplace reasonable.  But my windows open onto a canal, as probably many if not all windows in Bruges do or could if they wanted to, if windows had wills instead of sills.
     As for the convent, it is the one place in this charming village where groups are not permitted to go, allegedly haunted by a long ago heartbroken heroine.  I am thinking of having a man ghost come here and be in a story, as soon as I get over my lagging jet-lag and my thickness of mind that I hope with all my soul is weariness, and not my finally having lost my quick-think.
     Maybe I will take a nap now that I have learned to sleep again.  It's very hard work being an insomniac.  Especially when the teenage children of a scampish fellow you admire for reasons that are probably teenager-y as well have spent hours watching bad television just to have something on.  It's like being alive only not to be dead.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

IN AMSTERDAM

Strangely, I am in Amsterdam.  Strangely, because of all the places I have been in the course of many non-careers, this is the one where I feel most connected.  Here is where I came mainly by accident, it being the place the plane went when I left Scotland, where I had been visiting Rosie, my friend from Quaker Meeting in Paris, whose life changed when she counseled criminals and ran off with one of them, leaving her husband, the head of a department at the University of Edinboro, I think it was, and several children.  Not a happy finale, though, as she rode on a bus and saw her lover lying dead by the side of the road.  But aside from that, almost a movie.
      Nothing in the world anymore seems to be almost a movie, and I imagine that is because of jet lag, one of the least pretty figures of speech in the English language, but more than a little accurate.  It is now ten days, I think, since I left wherever I was, Los Angeles to the best of my cloudy recollection, and I have failed to catch up with myself or whoever she is.   Handsome Daniel, my acquired scamp from an earlier journey, was waiting for me at the airport in Amsterdam, took me home to his totally unsettled (except by every friend who comes through and a few teenage children and all his daughter’s friends over the weekend) apartment, a ground-floor with a back porch with a roof that is sinking into the cellar below.  I love him very much, (friend only,) but organization is not his suit—he is a mountain climber.  His walls are decked with pictures of slopes, I think they are, and books, mostly mysteries, more than I have read, or probably ever will now, and pictures of his beautiful daughter and son (beautiful as well,) by an angularly gorgeous Dutch woman from whom he is long estranged except over the fates of their children.  I trust he will not be angry with me for revealing this much inside info as he has no wish for fame, notoriety, or fortune, but wants only to keep climbing, earning a living however it makes itself available. 
      I suppose if athleticism were this available instead of compulsory education and the option of non-material goals in America, there might be this much mountain climbing, or even climbing without mountains—they have rocks or just artificial things I don’t remember the right names for, as I am still painfully behind, maybe never to catch up, it feels like.  But I am lucky to have found this little corner of the canal, and the beauteous souls afloat in it, no matter how cluttered their environs—not a criticism, just an observation. 
      And it was gorgeous, and privileged, to have had a little side trip to Copenhagen to visit my beautiful Danes, Kristoffer and Maria, picked up on the streets of New York when they were working for the UN, with one beautiful little year-old girl checking
Herself out in a mirror.  There is another one now, a three-year old, Winston, who tore my heart out as the taxi pulled away from the Tivoli Gardens where we had gone for the evening, as he mouthed, uninstructed, “I love you, Granny Gwen.”  Never before have I taken being older as a gift of Grace.
      I am still hopeful that this sluggishness of mentality might be jet lag, and not what I can expect forever, or what there is to be of forever. 
      The place where I am now is a cafĂ©/restaurant in a building right next to Apple where I will have a lesson in an hour to try and move me up to the next plateau of using this thing, so I will not feel so retarded.  I am hoping it is only the weariness that has made me so slow, and not having lived as long as I have, to my surprise.  Darling Jack Carter, a very fast-talking, fast-thinking and nice(in-between insults) standup comedian, who was a friend has an obit in today’s New York Times, gone at 93—a pretty good run, it seems to me, especially for a comic.  As I remember, we introduced him to an ex-girlfriend, or maybe it was a wife, of Warren Cowan, the publicist, and he married her.  She was not mentioned in his obit, but some of his jokes were.  A really good guy, which it couldn’t have been easy to be, the way that business was.
     And maybe still is, though from what I have scanned, racing through the TV stations, it has become much different from my idea of funny.  As love has probably become different from my idea of love.  Though decency and caring have stayed pretty close to my idea of decency and caring.  At least in Amsterdam.