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Mar. 2nd, 2034

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

Fatherless Daughters and Their Memoirs

My revenue generation has fallen short of my goals but may still be sufficient unto my little gray mouse needs.

Here’s hoping.

It really is not possible to live out in the country without a car.

I’m still thinking brakes don’t suddenly go down to metal without warning, and that therefore the grating sound I heard driving back through the Catskills is somehow connected to the exhaust system, which should still be under labor warranty, but who fucking knows?

I’m still operating under the Big Black Cloud that descended upon me – ulp! – eight years ago when I lost my business, my house, my everything.

It has occurred to me, though, that I’m now past whatever dark stains blotched my credit report since credit reports, like skin cells, magically regenerate every seven years.

If I applied for a credit card, I’d probably get it.

And I probably should. Credit cards were made for putting the costs of car repairs on.


In other news, I watched the Anderson Cooper/Gloria Vanderbilt documentary Nothing Left Unsaid.

I was prepared to hate it. Gloria Fucking Vanderbilt! The name that crammed a million fat asses into overly tight designer jeans back in my salad days!

But, in fact, I liked it a lot.

She quotes Mary Gordon: A fatherless girl thinks all things possible and nothing safe.

[Waving hand wildly] That would be me!

Although wealth beyond the wildest dreams of avarice and life that turns into a mythology practically the moment it's lived is not me.

I really liked the fact that Vanderbilt’s son, Anderson Cooper, was the person who was interviewing her.

My own kids are utterly uninterested in my life. They love me! Of that, I have no doubt, and Max, at least, is very conscientious about staying in contact with me. We have interesting conversations. But they’re never about my life.

Recently, Max was applying for some sort of… something.

You may consider discussing how your background, life or work experiences, culture, and perspectives would contribute to the diversity of the entering class. You may also describe any adversity that you have overcome, including discrimination, linguistic barriers, or a personal or family history of educational or socioeconomic disadvantage.

“So! Should I go for Deep Springs, growing up in a divorced home, or my relationship with Fletcher*** ?” Max asked me.

*** The privileged bosom pal of Max’s youth who fell into oxycontin abuse, deceit, and ruin, despite the many expensive rehabs his parents were able to place him in.

“You should write about none of those things,” I said. “I’m pretty sure Deep Springs these days is viewed as a bastion of male privilege, and lots of kids grow up in divorced homes. And though Fletcher was your close friend for a long time, ultimately, he passed out of your life.

“I think you should write about what you talked about a couple of weeks ago with your therapist – what we talked about on the phone. That there’s a history of undiagnosed mental illness on my side of the family, and the effects it had on me and subsequently on you. Intergenerational PTSD. That this legacy drew you to social work and ultimately into law school when you realized you wanted more agency.”

He liked the idea, so I emailed him about 20 pages from my journal – keyword: Mother.

But I doubt very much that he’s going to read them.

In fact, I doubt very much that either of my kids is ever going to read my journal, even after I’m dead.

Which makes me start wondering what I should do with my journal. For after I’m dead. Whether I should make any plans for it. I have been keeping it for more than 50 years. Maybe it has some kind of value as a historical document.


The Go-Between

My attention span has shrunk to the size of a gnat. Toiling at the Scut Factory will do that. I’m also only up to about half of what I’d set out to earn: There’s a kind of refractory period associated with toiling at the Scut Factory, and try as I might, I can’t do anything about that. I mean, I could – but it would require access to pharmaceuticals.

Three more days in this earning cycle.

I’ll be happy when this week is through.


The BBC did a very bad remake of The Go-Between, which is one of my favorite all-time novels and one of my two absolute favorite all-time films. (The other is Fellini’s La Strada.)

The bad remake did inspire me to revisit the source materials.


One remembers things at different levels, writes L.P. Hartley in The Go-Between. The novel, which is about the unreliability of memory, takes the form of an almost prosaic Bildungsroman. It's a series of Chinese boxes fitted so tightly into one another that only Hartley’s amazing adeptness with subtextual symbolism allows you to unpack them. Think a much-easier-to-read James Joyce or a less self-reflexive Marcel Proust.

Thus, the red cardboard box itself, filled with old trinkets like the two rusty magnets “which had almost lost their magnetism,” in which Leo Colston, now a man of 65, stumbles across the old diary chronicling his 12th year. Thus, the poisonous Atropa belladonna growing in Brandham Hall’s ancient kitchen garden, which is also Marian Maudsley, the rich young beauty who impels Ted Burgess’s suicide. Lord Trimingham, half of whose face has been blown off in the Boer War, is Janus, the two-faced gatekeeper who looks both into the past and future. Mercury is both the winged messenger of the gods – the conduit between the living and the dead – and the rising mercury in the thermometer marking the hottest English summer in memory.

Hartley wrote the novel very quickly; reportedly, in just five months. It begins with what is perhaps the most perfect opening line in all of English literature: The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.

The prose throughout is marvelous. Deceptively simple, but filled with the most marvelous, sensual details: …the heat was a medium which made this change of outlook possible. As a liberating power with its own laws, it was outside my experience. In the heat, the commonest objects changed their nature. Walls, trees, the very ground one trod on, instead of being cool were warm to the touch: and the sense of touch is the most transfiguring of all the senses.


The 1971 film, on the other hand, was not simple at all. It was really difficult to understand. Deliberately so.

The credits roll over a window splashed with rain.

And yet the opening scene is of two boys in a carriage drawn by horses through a sunny and riotously vertiginous English spring. One of the boys, very blond, is wearing the Eton uniform of the upper classes – straw boater, blue jacket and tie – and looks careless; the other boy, who is dressed in a kind of heavy brown worsted with the wrong kind of hat and a bow tie, is trying but not quite succeeding in looking careless. He is Leo Colston who is about to embark upon a summertime adventure that will cripple him emotionally for life.

The rainy windows, we discover in a series of quick, confusing flash forwards, are the windows of the train on which Leo, now a shriveled, unappealing man in his 60s, is traveling on some sort of errand.

The boys are on their way to Brandham Hall, which belongs to the family of the careless boy, Marcus. The time is the summer of 1900. Quick series of Big House place setters – lots and lots and lots of staircases, uniformed housemaids, ancestral portraits, Ming vases in places where they could easily get smashed, a dining room set out with a king’s ransom of solid silver chafers.

Marcus does not like Leo very much but requires amusement over the school holiday. “This is Tritoast,” he announces to Leo, introducing his spaniel.

“Hello, Tritoast,” Leo says uncertainly.

As the boys tussle on one of the many balconies, Leo espies a woman lying in a hammock. And is stopped dead in his tracks.

The woman is being read to. By someone with an insufferably plummy drone. “The rank and fortune of the lady, her pretensions to beauty as well as talent…”

Then the boys run off to the ancient kitchen garden where the belladonna runs rampant.

“My sister is very beautiful,” Marcus announces.

“Yes,” says Leo, convinced.


The scriptwriter here is the remarkable Harold Pinter whose ability to spin ordinary language with its pauses and stutters and repetitions into brilliant dialog is unparalleled and unrivaled even now.

Film was directed by Joseph Losey, an unrepentant Commie who was blacklisted by the House on Un-American Activities.

The very beautiful sister is Julie Christie, whom I personally think was the most appealing of all the celebrated late 20th century screen beauties. A great actress, too.


The brilliance of the film is the way it actualizes Leo’s own ignorance of the implications of his role as Mercury, carrying messages between the beautiful Lady Marian and her low class lover, the farmer Ted Burgess. It’s an immensely difficult feat to pull off because, of course, any viewer brings his or her own level of knowledge to the events and can quickly connect the dots. Leo remains quite innocent, however, up until the very end, and we are so firmly rooted in Leo’s point-of-view that we remain innocent, too.

So that the final revelation – on Leo’s 13th birthday when the mad Mrs. Maudsley forces Leo to “show” her the lovers’ assignation place, the hut in the old kitchen garden (which, of course, she already knows about) – comes as a horrible, horrible shock.

In the novel, Leo describes it thus:

Not a sound came from the forlorn row of huts, only the rain pattering on their battered roofs. I could not bear to aid her in her search and shrank back, crying. “No, you shall come,” she said, and seized my hand, and it was then that we saw them, together on the ground, the Virgin and the Water-Carrier, two bodies moving like one. I think I was more mystified than horrified; it was Mrs. Maudsley’s repeated screams that frightened me, and a shadow on the wall that opened and closed like an umbrella.

We get it all in the film, from the unraveling of Mrs. Maudsley – another brilliant performance, this time from the elegant Margaret Leighton – to the ominous detail of the umbrella-like shadow.

And we’re as traumatized as Leo.


The flash forwards, it turns out, pertain to a summons Leo has received out of the blue from the still-imperious Marian. She's an old woman living in genteel poverty in a few rooms of Branson Hall, most of which, drafty and leaking, has been cordoned off. She wants Leo to intercede on her behalf with her grandson – quite obviously a scion of the dead Ted Burgess and not Lord Trimingham who Marian eventually wedded. It was a beautiful love story, she informs Leo. And you were lucky to be part of it.

More-or-less what the upper classes have been telling the lower classes in the U.K. and elsewhere for several millennia, no?


I would love to write more about The Go-Between, but the Scut Factory is calling my name.
Whoa! Prince turns out to have been a junkie all along. But a covert junkie.

Kind of interesting the way his life parallels that of his arch rival, Michael Jackson.

I was and remain a huge Michael Jackson fan, dating back to his Jackson Five days. I maintain that Jackson’s ode to a killer rat, Ben, is one of the most perfect love songs ever penned and crooned.

(Reader, I married him!)

The kicker – if you believe The Daily Mail (and why wouldn’t you?) – is that despite their celebrated performer magic, both Jackson and Prince suffered from excruciating performance panic and thus, needed to anesthetize themselves thoroughly before they could climb up on a stage and go through the prescribed moves.

Both were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion I know nothing about and tend to confuse with Seventh Day Adventism.

Apparently the Witnesses reject Christmas and birthday celebrations as pagan rituals, and they do not believe in the Trinity, hell, or the soul’s immortality. Death is the endgame for most of us. The soul, like the body, can die. The lucky few will be resurrected to go on living some time after Armageddon in a representative democracy governed by Jehovah. The end times started in 1914, and the big blowup should happen any moment now.

The Witnesses are on a first name basis with the Supreme Deity (unlike, say, the Jews who think God’s true name is powerful mojo and avoid speaking or spelling it.) Think of them as primary candidates trying to get your vote for the Jehovah platform!

I am not quite sure how Jesus fits into their equation. I do know that the Witnesses tend to anthropomorphize Satan more than other post-Restoration Protestant religions.


Anyway, it's becoming quite obvious to me that Prince died so that I wouldn’t have to read about the primaries for four whole days.

It was an act of sacrifice! It was an act of LUV, deep and profound. Unfortunately, its effects are wearing off. Just this morning, an article on byzantine Pennsylvania delegate selection techniques snaked its way into my newsfeed.

It’s time for some other celebrity to step up to the plate.

I'm talking to YOU, Kim Kardashian!


In other news, apparently 90,000 protestors turned out on the streets of Berlin to voice their disgust with Obama’s pet Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Presumably, many, many more Germans are sitting at home, gnashing their teeth over the prospect. Of course, in this country, anti-trade deal rhetoric is a major part of both the Sanders and the Trump platforms. Could it be that people are finally getting wise to the fact that global trade deals are mostly only good for corporations seeking cheap labor and fresh markets for shoddy electronics?

And if I were a Brit, I would so be voting to get out of the EU! Upfront cost savings, freedom from restrictive regulatory burdens, and more intensive security measures at the borders. The Norway model.

Yeah, yeah, there would be five to ten years where the remaining EU members would pout and play vindictive. But it would pass. The bilateral relationships would quickly resume.

Terrorism is the offspring of globalism. I do support immigration, but I also think it’s absolutely ridiculous in this day and age not to vet the immigration process very, very, very carefully. The EU mandate is for “open” borders, and increasingly, I think that’s dangerous.

But, of course, the U.K. won’t vote to leave the EU.

Emily Dickinson with Yellow Wallpaper

I’m relatively lucky, I suppose, that I can hunker down and earn extra money when I need to. Not huge sums of money, but the small sums that are sufficient to my modest needs.

Nonetheless, the whole process is disheartening. I chafe at it; I grow resentful. I think of psychotic Emily Dickinson in her yellow-wallpapered house. I think of Emily, the maddest of the Bronte sisters. I think of millions of human prisoners locked away century after century, a honeycomb of white stone cells. I feel sorry for myself, in other words.

It’s some quirk in my mind. What I’m feeling right now, right at this very millisecond, is what I’ve always been feeling from the very beginning of time. No alteration is possible.

It’s very Zen in a way. Though not quite what Ram Dass was thinking when he said, “Be here now.”


It’s looking as though Prince OD’d on Percocet, which makes me kind of sad. Not entirely clear whether the Percocet was recreational or whether he was using it as an analgesic. Apparently, he ruined his hips prancing around in 6-inch stiletto heels. (Real Housewives be warned!)

I often wonder why anyone pursues fame in the relentless, unwavering way that Prince did. I mean, the pursuit of money I can understand. But fame? They all seem to die miserable and constipated. Fame, it turns out, is never a big enough rush. Eventually, they all turn to opiates.

As an opiate lover myself, I can relate.

But then, why not just eliminate the middleman? Legalize heroin so we can all be Emily Dickinsons with yellow wallpaper, but stoned Emily Dickinsons with yellow wallpaper?

The soundtrack to Patrizia: The Lost Years has a lot of Prince on it.

1999, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, the Cyndi Lauper cover of When You Were Mine but also a relatively obscure tune from the 1982 breakthrough album entitled Automatic:

The backup girls – really Prince in falsetto – croon A-U-T-O-matic, just tell me what to do, ooh, A-U-T-O-matic, I'm so in love with you, while the androgynous, insinuating over-voice wails dissonantly:

I remember how you kissed me, not with your lips but with your soul
With you I'm never bored, talk to me some more
I can hear you, I'm going to have to torture you now...

I had a whole little dance routine I’d worked out to that number. The song didn’t get any play in the clubs I went to in between watching people die on the cancer wards or patching them up in the ER, so I practiced my dance routine at home, prancing around in front of the enormous pair of full-length mirrors that were practically the only furniture in my apartment on Derby Street. Dancing by myself was okay. I did a lot of blow in those days. I liked to buy my own blow, and I didn’t like to share.


I hardly know how to begin enumerating the many things that made Prince such a unique, extraordinary artist. Guitar virtuoso right up there with Jimi Hendrix (whose style was very similar): Check. Evocative, soul-wrenching, cheeky vocalist: Check. Brilliant lyricist: Check. Pyrotechnic performer (I saw him live twice in the 80s): Check. Maestro of Self-Invention: Check.

I imagine there’s a treatise that could be written on Prince’s insistence on living in Minneapolis even after he got rich as Croesus. Resolved: Prince Rogers Nelson was the quintessential Midwesterner!

But I’m not gonna write it.


In other news, one of Max’s pals posted this charming picture of my oldest son on Instagram:


In the caption, he’s saying, "I'd like to think she hates the fact she's doing this...and she'd rather be at home, in sweat pants, watching reruns of 'American Dad'."


Agency in This Human World

So, I had a perfectly fabulous time in Ithaca.

But then as I was catapulting homeward through the Catskills, my left front brake began making a grinding noise whenever I stepped on the pedal. Came on very suddenly, which was odd. Yes, definitely, new brake pads are in my future, but I’m also wondering whether the heat shield got bent somehow and whether it’s still under warranty since I had the exhaust system replaced just last month. Not that I know a damn thing about auto mechanics.

Anyway, this put me in a baaaaaaad mood. Which is a pity: I was in such a good mood leaving Ithaca.

Oh, well. It’s only money, right? And I have a coupon for 10% off!

But it did serve to underscore something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

For a reasonably intelligent human being, I’ve been singularly bad about accumulating money in my lifetime.

I mean, I did have a stretch there when I was earning in the five zeroes.

But I never quite grokked the essential notion that money is what gives one agency in this human world.

Why did I prefer not having agency? Because I don’t think for a second that I was incapable of earning money.

And money lets you travel, eat delicious food in great restaurants, buy art supplies, get your brakes fixed without turning a simple maintenance and upkeep operation into a cause for existential despair!

I can only suppose it was part of a no-less-concerted for being completely unconscious campaign to make sure I stayed an outsider no matter what. Simply put: I like being the stranger at the party.


Ithaca is changing fast. No longer a counterculture Brigadoon, though it still has its fair share of Cornell and Ithaca College graduates with $150,000 degrees working at the local organic food coop.

Svante Myrick, the idealistic young Millennial elected my second year there, turns out to have been a whiz bang at biz dev deals. Four new deluxe hotels under construction downtown! A complete overhaul of the Commons – they took out all the trees! I think the new Ithaca Commons looks hideous, but apparently the remodel was necessary to modernize the underground utilities so that they’d support all those deluxe new hotels plus several hundred new pricey condominium units. Myrick retains his cred with the aging hippie idealist and student radical crowd that elected him by lobbying hard for marijuana legalization and supervised heroin injection sites, refusing to learn how to drive, and describing himself as “biracial” rather than black.

Trumansburg, in marked contrast, remains sleepy and unchanged:


Ben and I got along fabulously. Three days of banter, watching bad television, intricate conversations about the nature of politics, the economy, and the universe. What could possibly be more fun?

It was very odd driving up there. The weather said Spring! but the trees are all bare. That’s the aftermath of all that snowfall and cold weather earlier this month.


Make America Grate Again


I can’t remember the name of the standup comic Donald Trump reminds me of, but you’ve all seen him. He’s brassy. He’s in your face. He’s not particularly funny, but there’s something about him you gotta admire. His indefatigability perhaps? ‘Cause he doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether you think he’s funny. Lots of other people think he’s funny, so get out of the way, or the train’s gonna mow you down. He doesn’t have any time for wishy washy.

Donald Trump is the inevitable result of identity politics. It’s naive to imagine that when every other group in the U.S. is using marginalized identity as a tactical weapon that white people aren’t gonna want in on the fun, too. Institutional racism is too abstract a concept for most people to understand. This is Dutchess County. We’re not dealing with Scarlett O’Hara’s great-great-granddaughters. We’re dealing with third or fourth generation immigrants from Europe who’ve made a fairly decent living for themselves and their children. But it wasn’t necessarily easy, and now, it’s getting a whole lot harder.

I can’t tell whether The Donald is serious about The Wall. It got a big, big round of applause. Mexico’s gonna pay for it! Or maybe Taco Bell. (I think Trump may get those two confused.) Or maybe The Wall is the WPA-style project that Obama was too chickenshit to pursue.

There was a whole lot of tasteless swag being peddled, the most tasteless of which was undoubtedly this:

“You’re a Trump supporter?” I asked this guy, and he assured me: Yes, he was.

I didn’t believe him for a single second. I think he’d say anything to close a sale. The Trump swag was not exactly moving fast.

I wanted to lean over and whisper, “Pssst! I don’t like Trump either! I’m just here ‘cause I always wondered what those Mittelstandspartei were thinking back in ’33 when they voted in der Führer!” But I doubted very much he was interested in my white liberal intellectual curiosity.

Surprise! Minorities were underrepresented at this rally. But the number of people under the age of 25 was way, way more that I expected. There were just as many at this rally as there were at the Bernie Sanders rally on Tuesday.

And I gotta say: The Donald is efficient. I was practically the last one admitted into the auditorium at one minute to three and boom! The Donald started at three! He spoke for exactly 35 minutes and boom! again: The rally was over. This in marked contrast to the Sanders rally, which didn’t start till a full hour and a half after its posted time.

I have this talent. I can always recognize when a political speech is about to end. No doubt, I developed it at UC Berkeley back in the Jurassic when I went to a lot of political rallies. Anyway, when I began hearing that warning rumble in The Donald’s voice that signified climax was at hand (no, not that kind of climax, you feeelthy prevert!), I pried myself loose from the standing room only crowd and ran for the door. And was home by four.

There were some protestors. And because it was 90 degrees out in the blaring sun, I was glad that I’d elected to play Harriet the Spy rather than to join them:


Visual Cues

One imagines that the neighborhood June grew up in looked something like this:


Although this is actually the lower East Side in Manhattan, and June grew up in Brooklyn.

The streets she and Henry walked on would have looked something like this:


Though, again, not exactly. This was 15 years after the fact, post-Depression, post-Volstead Act repeal. A short time before World War II. (At a higher resolution, you can read the headline of the newspaper that man in the foreground is reading: Nazi Army Now 75 Miles From Paris. )

This photo has nothing to do with the action in my novel, but I like it anyway:


That’s a breadline. Back when Els still ran on Sixth Avenue (which had not yet been renamed “Avenue of the Americas.”) I’m guessing it’s in the vicinity of where Rockefeller Plaza is today.

Meanwhile, I’m selecting my outfit for the Make America Grate Again rally this afternoon with great care. Because what if The Donald locks eyes with me across the crowded auditorium and invites me up on to the stage?
My date for Sunday’s Make America Grate Again rally bailed, so I will be facing The Donald’s minions alone. It should be a bracing photo opportunity.

Monday, I’m off to Ithaca for a few days. Road trip! I can use one.

I continue to get very sore after I exercise. I’m wondering what terminal disease I have, what outfit I should plan for my deathbed, and whether I can think of any last words more memorable than Steve Jobs’, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.”

Congressional legislation is underway to lower the minimum wage in Puerto Rico from $7.25 an hour to $4.25 an hour. Right. ‘Cause they speak Spanish there, so who cares?

Got into a fierce argument with Ben over this one.

“The Tompkins Workers Center sez the goal should be a living wage, not a minimum wage,” he told me. “And that could be $4 in some areas and $20 in others.”

“Oh, right,” I snarled. “White liberal Bwana-ism at its best! From the same white liberals that brought you indeterminate sentencing!”

June is feeding pigeons under the elms on a wrought iron bench on one of those malls transversing upper Broadway. There’s still an El train on Amsterdam Avenue, so my sense of geography is very distorted. Shortly, she will rendezvous with Henry Miller to extort money from him for Flossie’s liver operation. Flossie will die anyway. So will June’s father.

There are tons of photos of lower Manhattan in the 1920s on the Internet, but nary a one of upper Manhattan. Which is odd because upper Manhattan in the 1920s was a happening place. All I could find was this famous pic by Berenice Abbott of Columbus Circle:


This is a good two miles south of where June is sitting. Doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but New York City is a city of microenvironments.

And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife...