February 23, 2009

Letter from Venice

Another trip with Branko, this time very sedate. After leaving the West Coast, the weather turned nasty. Clouds hung like shrouds and snowflakes drifted by. The route into Scotland and England did not improve the picture. On the ground, the mood is just as frosty.

I met Felix in Vaduz. He looked exhausted.
So much for the joy of international banking

On to Venice, which was in full Carnival swing.

American expats are not cheerful; with portfolios shrinking at an alarming rate, everybody is worried.

Clive is settling comfortably into his European stay. He now towers over everybody. When do boys stop growing?

Met up with old friends, and bumped into people from L.A. Small world!

How is old Dame Venice? Pensive. Our moods are becoming alarmingly synchronized. The native population of the inner city is dwindling at a rapid pace. The exodus to the mainland has uprooted the old men from their lines on the street benches and its blowing away the new generations.

The usual grumblings accompany Carnival. Once Venetians donned their masks to hide their identities as they indulged in revelry, now the citizens are searching for their identity. You flock to the Piazza San Marco and feel the crush of expectant sightseers lit up by the flash bulbs of cameras. Extroverts parade around in truly splendid costumes.

Alas, there are no flights of the angels, nor balls and banquets, or orgies (much to Clive’s disappointment).

This revival of the ancient Carnival has not struck a chord in the hearts of the citizens, but it has touched a new button on the cash register. The old rites and customs have died out, and new once have taken their place. They have claimed their pound of flesh and the flesh has been cut up, divided into miniscule portions, and offered for sale at arbitrarily high prices. So, each year Venice makes up her face like an ancient beauty aware of her fine bones but worried about her wrinkles.

Carnival will be swept away tomorrow and soon forgotten. Once it’s over, serious business can be resumed. The city will be waking up to feelings more genuine than anything paraded in the Carnival.

As I plough through the Grand Canal,
I amuse myself by thinking that the palazzos gaze across the water at each other, critically observing their respective splendors.

I’m moving, and things around me, shadowy as they may be, are moving in their diverse, crisscrossed, self-regulated ways. Circles of movement transmitted through water.

I am pensive as I observe life to which I am addicted with the same intensity as I’m to that vanishing reminder of something else.

Meanwhile, with relentless, undying love and enthusiasm

I come,


and I’m admitted ,

to marvel at the inside of the oyster shell.

Time to leave –

Joyously, Doris

February 11, 2009


I am thinking of my mother.
We never ‘connected’.
So, wisely I think, we kept apart.
She appeared unexpectedly and stayed with me during my bad time.
Then, politely, she left.
In her 70th year, on Valentine’s Day, she rang to say-

“There is something I wanted to say to you when I am old.
I will say it now,
for I may not grow much older.
You have been more important to me
than any work I ever did or anything I’d ever been.
And just in case you ever think, nobody does,
I love you.”

She died two years later and left me her journals.
They revealed an exceptional human being.

on Valentine’s Day if you are with someone you love, tell them.

February 02, 2009

Monplaisir –

-high atop a mountain slope overlooking the Rhine.

My pleasure, yes, and our ancestors’, a Bishop (worldly Princes they were), who built it so many years ago for his pleasure. The world must have been a more delightful place, then.

Miraculously it escaped the bombings. The place where I was born, in the attic. Then, occupied by the American forces. The good Colonel fell in love with it. Lucky me, the only baby in 1946 who was well fed. Mother had something of the wisdom of Madame de Maintenon, who faced with the prospect of an untenable situation said: ‘Messieurs, since we are fated to be together, let it be as pleasant as possible?’

A little magical world in a world that was anything but. Small, this only added to its charm, and neglected. The fruit trees and large vegetable garden proved to be life saving during the war years. Then, also, teaming with refugees from Eastern Europe. Grandfather adopted Rittmeister Kasimirov’s family, which presented me with my first lifelong friend, Larissa. Her sensibilities, like my grandfathers, tuned to the arts. Here, she trained her eye to see and grow to become an art restorer of exceptional talent. Nothing was contrived or collected with the intent to impress. No museum like order or display. You just lived there. The beauty of Monplaisir was used every day.

I could sit for hours on the terrace and dream. Contemplating the lovely curve of the well used shallow stairs that led to the park. You never noticed that you climbed these stairs. The view of the hills planted with vines. Deep below the Rhine. The smell of old fashioned blooming flowers with names long forgotten.

Live in Monplaisir was the ‘bearable lightness of being’. Free of the ambition to play a role, no strenuous seeking of power. Just the release of self, an ending. The liquidation of a position in the world, which was no longer feasible. We knew it, and did not protest. You enjoyed the days and their many pleasures without bitterness and resentment. Life lived alongside the New Live.

Monplaisir was part of that Germany I loved in spite of its darkest hour, which made it almost impossible to do so. This is why I return from time to time. You cannot buy it, conquer it or least of all, earn it. Like all beautiful things in life, it is a gift, a favor, a chance that fell into my lab something I was born into, and its final greatest gift to me; it was my last impression of Germany before I embarked on my life’s journey.

for Clive