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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wars

I re-inhabit my apartment on Mott Street, and feel like a child who has grown, trying to put on an old shoe.

New York is the only home possible at this time. So I've applied myself once more to cleaning walls and floor, making them mine even if only for a few months, before my life as wanderer and mercenary tears me away. Thankfully, I can write anywhere. Sometimes even the discomfort, noise, and dirt, of which this place has plenty, helps.

-:-

A changing life accelerates the passage of time - I am nearly thirty! I look at letters friends wrote when I was in Paris working on "Quartet". That seems an age. Now when I revisit Boston, or New York, or Paris, I feel London, or Rome, or Calcutta sandwiched between them, like a pea between sheets.

-:-

Where does time go? I roam the streets and wonder about the fates of the people I knew. Their lives are moving, changing, giving birth to new lives, ceasing, starting over.

MF and I saw Goddard's new film "Passion". We ate gumbo and cornbread at a place on Eighth Ave called "Barking Fish" and on the way home I walked past the old New York City Police Department building and thought of my grandfather's early years there cutting his teeth as a reporter.

-:-

The world crackles with small wars.

Fires ignite in the heat of a crowded planet. Grenada, Lebanon, Pakistan, El Salvador. TOn the outcome of these vicious and bloody conflicts, ride the fates of millions of souls, powerless to affect the outcome. As giant nations, faculties too large, too clumsy to meddle with the destinies of small countries. Yet inevitably we get involved, and where our hand goes to assist, it crushes.

Our capability to sort out ideologies in the third world are paralyzed by our own overwhelming capacity to destroy. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R have turned mechanisms of global politics into a bomb, as if with a desperate threat to end all wars. Ironic because wars haven't ended, ironic if the only way to end all wars is to end the world.

History mythologizes victory as an achievement, as a passage, as progress, a release of surplus energy and a legitimate means of settling disputes between  rival ideologies.

So our collective consciousness excuses war as necessary evil. We are the species that kills itself, consumes what the other has built or made, and destroys everything in a flash of fire. Out of war we forge values that supposedly carry a stronger society into peacetime. Stories by old warriors, valor, bravery, courage, morph into hubris. Every larger piles of ego, to burn and lay waste.

Homo sapiens as a species needs to generate values from within, without testing them on the battlefield of mutual destruction. That's a naive idea to most historiographers. Progress would be a wholesale elevation of the human mind, bringing our species to a time when wars are not be necessary, when myths evolve through processes that are creative, not destructive.

Golden Topaz Dreams

A golden topaz dream. Precious. I was living in the M_____ house. G___ and I fornicate almost every day. For me this is very difficult to live with. I eat his food in the morning, sit at his table at night, sleep beneath his roof. Often, just before I doze off, G___ comes running upstairs in her nightgown. She pulls it up and straddles me lying in bed, and encourages me to go ahead. R____ must be in the shower. The situation is desperate.

Still in the dream, one morning I find him listening attentively to my complaints about money. The next day amongst my things I find a package of new one-hundred dollar bills. There are more than a thousand of them. There is no note, but the message is clear. Let me have my wife back. There is something tragic about this. I sense his love, but also his dependence on her. How had he raised this sum. Recently all his theaters were foreclosed by the banks. The sight of this cash fills me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. It stains the delicate fantasy that G___ and I have created.

I awake, bathed in sweat.

-:-

Another dream, red fighting clocks.

-:-

A dream of a conversation with a sea-captain. Thrown into the oceans after his ship went down, nearly eaten by a butcher whale (I know what a butcher shark is but what is a 'butcher whale'?). H was saved by the butcher whale baby, which tried to swallow him whole, but couldn't, instead he got his wrist caught in the corner of its gaping mouth. He said, "And all the Jaws were there waiting their turn," meaning sharks. I don't remember how he got out of the water that day, but he did.

Solace

Sunday January 15, 1984

Solace.

On Saturday morning, the second weekend of the new year I make a trip up by taxi in the wet squelching snow to the office of Charles Gomez, my accountant. Once a year I do this.

He's moved office a number of times in recent years, now works in a building opposite one of those giant hanger-like structures built by the army, for the National Guard. A year ago Gomez's office was opposite a giant air-inflated tennis court.

Gomez himself is tall, always taller than I remember. He has very black skin, but short curly grey hair. This Saturday, as if noting the snowy conditions outside, he wore a red-checked wool flannel shirt.

It's a ritual we go through. How are you Mark. Fine Charles. Thank-you for your Christmas card. I think you were the only one to send me one this year. Can you hang on a moment, and I'll be right with you.

This is all part of it. I make use of his Xerox machine to copy my tax notes. This year I am organized. Everything Charles will need is typewritten onto one piece of clean white paper. In past years I've had to sit at an empty desk in his office for an hour, adding long lists of numbers.

This year I talk with his secretary about Weight Watchers. She lost twenty pounds, a lifetime member.

Come on in Mark, I'll just get your file.

-:-

Outside, Lexington Avenue is quiet. People walk carefully in the snow. Vehicles move cautiously along. I turn down toward Gramercy Park, and pass by the entrance of the old hotel. Ruth and I were there once. We went up to check the room that her parents had reserved and were going to stay in. We put some flowers and magazines on the bedside table. She took her underwear off and we made love for a little while. Then we locked up the room and took the key back down to the front desk.

Another time I sat in the Park sifting gravel through my hands, lying in the the sun with Sean. She lived at the Woman's Evangelical Residence on Gramercy Park. It was a home for good girls and single women, run by the Salvation Army. A tall building, many floors, it resembled a hotel. Men were excluded. An imposing woman with a white uniform sat at a desk near the front and stopped me and called up. I met Sean's father in the waiting room. We sat and talked, then he went on his way. Her parents were divorced.

One Sunday morning Sean and I went up to an empty lounge in the Residence, and recorded dialogue and sound effects for Jim's film "Jane Austen in Manhattan". I had a Nagra tape recorder and a long boom microphone. When I asked her to do footsteps I kept picking up the sound of her bluejeans rubbing together. So she very nicely took them off. She was naked. I was very nervous the matron would come up and see her and kick her out of the Residence. We were just recording sound.

We went a couple of times to the movies, and almost became good friends. I was madly infatuated with her, though, and she knew it. I must have also been impatient. We stopped seeing each other. I left messages for her but she never returned them.

Slowly down through the snow and puddles of slush to Fourteenth Street. Hey man want some sesamia? What's that? Smoke man, smoke!

No, I don't want any smoke.

Snow. Peace. Time. A yearly event. Gomez's gravelly voice was filled with that ease that comes after a winter's rest. Each year his office is littered with construction equipment, never ending improvements. He stopped bugging me about the projector he wanted me to buy. I wonder if he sold it.

Last night Barney came down to Mott Street, and shouted outside my window. On his way to Paris again. We ate a quick dinner at the Milon Indian Restaurant on 1st Avenue and just made a showing of Hitchcock's "Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt". We were the last ones they sold tickets to. The theater was jammed, but we found a great spot against the wall. The girl who played the part of Charlie, and was almost murdered by her uncle, was beautiful. We wondered who she was.

Red Bar. Got talking with the waitress there. When we came in she said "Rolling Rock or Becks?" I figure she's said it about a million times. "Hey that's an Austrian hat isn't it?" she said to Barney. "How'd ya know?" he asked her. "I've been to Austria once, with my mother." She told us all about her two week trip through Europe. In all she was only three days in Vienna. Her powers of observation must have been tremendous. She told us about her parents, hoarding things. Boxes filled with shoes, floor to ceiling. Her brother's about to become a priest, he's studied in Rome since he was fourteen. In a bus in Rome she said, "Mama, that man's rubbing himself against me, I swear." Italian ladies brought them food when they learned they were a mother and daughter travelling together.

Chris came in. We'd arranged to meet him. Barney and he started making drawings of paintings by Diebenkorn. Our waitress friend supplied them with some index cards to draw on.

Barney and I left to go check out the Pyramid Club. Freezing night, people standing in line to get in. A girl emerges from the club, high standing blonde hair, leather cycle jeans cut away at the back, leather cycle jacket, see-through lace panty hose, nothing else. Image of her luscious ass on that freezing night, with everyone else shivering in the snow.

First Day of Friction




Friday December 30, 1983

First day of friction in the editing room.

Cathy attacked my cut of the first reel, and I responded badly. She was probably right.

Nevertheless, in order for "The Bostonians" to succeed, it is essential that we get along. Two editors, one of lesser experience (myself) working with a woman of greater experience. Quite the reverse of the film and novel which depicts a man of years and accomplishment courting a young woman. I find it interesting, to watch my reactions take a position within the greater scheme of Henry James' project, which all of us, Jim Ivory, Ismail Merchant the whole team, writer,, camera people crew and editors, are finishing.

James's story is split into two competing roles, an Southern gentleman with old fashioned ideas about a woman's place and his alter ego in the form of Vanessa Redgrave who plays the feminist Bostonian firebrand, Olive Chancellor. Together they compete for the affections of young Verena Tarrant, an impressionable idealist, who in my opinion, was badly cast. Christopher Reve, though just off Superman, is a talented actor - he plays the role marvelously. However nature makes him less convincing in scenes where he is required to fake attraction for Verena Tarrant, played by Madeleine Potter (no relation).

"The Bostonians", as an effort to express James, is beginning to flag in it's attempt to illustrate the workings of the male and female principle, and the deterioration of that attraction has acquired a load of hostility. It may have been what James meant all along, but Cathy and I may have been a little too successful at mirroring the story into our cutting room 'relations', especially where the task of editing reflects the male and female in equal parts, virtually at war with each other.

It is disappointing that warmth and affection, of a fatherly sort, which Chris is supposed to feel for Verena, does not succeed as well as his portrayal of rivalry with Olive Chancellor. Instead the male/female violence bred into the novel feels more a sort of repressed attraction for an older woman on the part of Superman, ala Stendhal or Flaubert. That is the aspect of the film we have stressed the most, men and women at odds, rather than in sympathy. The idea for the film as a tiny seed, which  develops at every stage of its growth, to work, must find female and male principles equally matched through to the final cut.

Cathy and I will have to be equally matched. I must get my cutting up to a level where she envies my work.

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