Friday, June 21, 2013

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES (oft times come gems)

"I seem to spend every waking hour thinking, hearing, comparing, figuring, solving, wondering, asking.  For what?  God, I'm so curious and I want so much---and I'm very impatient.  Sure, the rational me knows --sit tight!--it'll come, it'll come in time.  But when?  Ah, the agonies of waiting."

---from the journal of twenty year old  Bunny Jill, 1963

On the top shelf of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, in a dark corner of my bedroom, is a collection of my "subway journals" from the early 1960’s.  For years, those journals have functioned simply as shelf fillers-- part of this accidental archivist's accumulation of books and things that look like books.  If my memory serves, the writings in those old diaries are nothing more than hasty notes scribbled down during daily travels on the BMT, to and from my job as a Bunny at the New York Playboy Club.
I had not looked at them in decades.
I knew---or thought I knew---what they contained:  the youthful, superficial ramblings of an unformed, narcissistic,  young woman—a confused girl, cast adrift in the world of theater, dreams, and Greenwich Village.   Surely, the contents would be boring.  Perhaps I should  destroy the half shelf of yellowing journals so that no embarrassing revelations could ever fall into the hands and onto the eyes of those who might be shocked by the sophomoric writing of Bunny Jill, the precursor of me?  Would I, a seventy year old self-proclaimed woman of the world, be shocked by (or more likely, disappointed with) the notes of my very young self?  

I wondered. 
On Tuesday, I moved a big chair away from the wall of books, stood on a small foot stool and took down five grey,  faux-leather-bound books.  I was looking for ephemera to send to my college professor daughter, who is re-writing an old "Bunny" manuscript of mine---taking a contemporary,  intellectual and historical perspective; a perspective that (perhaps) could uncover and re-contextualize the Geisha-like innocence of the formative years of the 1960's Playboy phenomenon; a phenomenon that masqueraded as sophistication. 

I sat on the floor, next to my sleeping dog.  I began to read.  Memories flooded back to me.  I felt dizzy re-experiencing some of my youthful actions, reactions, and thoughts from those early years.  I read slowly, deciphering my youthful, impatient scrawl.  I smiled, recalling the wildly mercurial moods of that just-married nineteen  year old as she made initialforays into the seductive territory of self-discovery.

Surprisingly, there is quite a bit of useable material for the book project my daughter is tackling:   colorful descriptions of people and events from those early days at the New York Playboy Club;  good anecdotes.  Sketchy notes sparked my memory.  Long forgotten incidents appeared, unraveled.  I found myself smiling, recalling wonderful scenes--scenes unexplored since they originally unfolded.  What a free-spirited young woman I was!   

Reading those long ago writings and musings---as if from some perfect future---I wistfully reconnected with that searching and wondering young self.   I recognized and embraced her tender soul—all these decades later.   For years I have ignored her; relegated her to a remote place in my life.   Yet through it all, she has been here, willing to talk, to share with me our personal coming of age saga. 
The raw and honest emotions of that me languished in those journals--and in certain infrequently visited, dark corners of this mind of mine--for years and years and years...Imagine! 

She struggles to explain herself; to make sense of her emotions, her dreams: 

“It’s getting so every time I get on a subway, I take out this little book and commence writing.  Often I don’t know exactly what to write.  Here I am, on page 33 already, and I’ve hardly begun to say anything---mainly because I haven’t a direction to follow.  Shall I tell you how I came to be riding this subway?  From the beginning?  Growing up?  Going to school?  Shall I tell you my fears, hopes, anxieties?  Would you be interested in what happened to me today?  Shall I expound on the abstracts?  Shall I tell you about people I see and know?  Events that occur?  Frankly, I can’t decide.  But I shall continue to scribble and scrawl and fill this book with me.  I’m certainly not going to make an outline and follow it along page after page.  I mean, who am I writing for anyway?  No one.  This is just a pleasant way to relax---it does relax me---writing down whatever it is that’s exciting me.  So, let’s clear up one thing.  I’m writing for me!  So I can spell wrong, be repetitious if I choose, be redundant, repeat myself---what the hell---“

More than the people and events, a foot and afloat in Manhattan, Bunny Jill's journal chronicles the lonely, searching of this adventurous young woman who touches me deeply; who reminds me that I am made of her longings and short-comings.  I grew out of her loneliness, fears, and desires, as I grew into the realities that define me today.  I am the lonely continuation of that  girl, that young woman who wanted to be seen, appreciated, loved and who hardly knew how or where to begin…

“I am anxious to get out of the rut I’m in---working, I want a vacation---living, I want to move---playing, I want new games---“

The quasi-mystic part of me knows or pretends to know that Then is Now---or something like that.   I am that girl and she was always preparing to be me…In page after page, she writes of love and looking for love, connection, validation.   She had the tools---she just didn’t know it.  I have the tools---I just don’t always use them…

“I am Playboy bound this a.m.  Another day of new people—more people.  I am only beginning to realize how gregarious an individual I am.  I thrive on conversations, exhibitions, crowds, faces, new and different personalities—Everyone---everyone gives me something by their very presence---a look, a smile, a frown---and I return to some, the same and to a few others a great deal more. I consider myself a character."

I read on…I re-live some painful moments about relationships and personal and financial failings…And then I read:

It’s so pleasant being at peace with myself.  I am happy.  I feel terribly well-adjusted.  The World is okay.  There’s just so much---so very much---I can only know a small fraction of its worth---I love the World."

TRUE!  Out of the mouth of a babe…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013



All Words Lead To The End…at least, in the beginning…

I have already imagined the book signings, interviews, and lecture dates.  I have imagined people telling me how my story changed something in their life---for the better, I muse and assume.  In my mind, I have started on my next book, my next project. 

This is so wrong!!  And it’s wrong because it is not helping me finish the first draft of this stagnant Still Moving manuscript.  At night, I talk to the various drafts of the book---or rather to the image in my mind of all the disparate pieces of writing that fill those dozens of journals, shelves and boxes of words, sentences, chapters, in my house.   There is the two-thirds completed manuscript about my three years as a Playboy Bunny during the amazing Sixties in Manhattan…and there is the gentle novel based on the question , Who might I have become if, at a special turning point in my Life, I had turned left instead of right, or had gone east instead of west or had said no instead of yes…When I was working on that hidden, wishful-thinking, self-realizing, self-aggrandizing  gem, I was a Gallery Owner in Santa Fe, imagining (!) what it would have been like to have chosen a music career—to have become Lola,  a sexy, blues singer in some exotic place like maybe New Orleans…Or, suppose I had just settled for a smaller private Life---like Shirley,  my invented character who worked at a big Truck Stop at the edge of Amarillo?  And then there was Barbara, the wife of a career Army Officer…and Clara a lonely successful Physicist…I have let those wonderful women languish in the vortexes of incomplete adventures and truncated conversations with other invented human characters who may or may not have ever existed…Having abandoned them, I let their secrets die---and some of my own as well.  However, I am a believer in immortality for everyone and everything and these tales can be resurrected (or not) at any time---or to be more precise, whenever I get my shit together.  Now, wait!  That’s not fair.  It’s not shit.  And even if it were, it’s together.  Just not finished!


It’s all there:   the writings on The Alphabet Institute;  the counting the days backwards to my death journal;  the compilation of favorite words of a wide variety of people;  the erotica;  the pursuit of places I built during vision questing;  the reports and revelations gleaned from travels to Fiji; Egypt; Scotland; Uzbekistan; Patagonia…Everywhere!

So what!?  So what if I have lived all these years intending to share my joy at having lived all these years without having shared much of anything.

Until Now!
Now, I am ready, directed, capable, and excited to begin to start over after many beginnings have ended.
Photo:  Tanya Taylor Rubinstein