Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 1936

Hellooo, my darlings! Oh, it has been so long; I cannot think why it has been thus. Well, I suppose I do fathom it, really. Because, you know, it's the most perverse thing, but it seems that the greater the boredom I am forced to endure, the less imagination I can conjure for even the simplest things. And believe me, pets, for months I've been languishing under the foulest cloud of quotidian ennui. But really, there's been nothing to tell - and never will be, as long as I rester à Portland. And let me tell you, though it is milder today, the weather has been beastly hot all the week past - a freakish variation on the dismal standard of this horrid locale. Oh, but it has been miserable! One can't even take proper nourishment in such weather; the last few days, I've subsisted on nothing but iced cocktails and cigarettes!

Oh, but what was it that I wished to tell you all...? Hmmm.... Oh, yes! I've been asked - begged, really - to perform at a charity function. I expect that they needed a bit of "star-power", as you Americans say. I have no idea what the performance is in support of, but no matter. Noblesse oblige, and all that. Penny is coming up from her silly, beloved Los Angeles to join me. No doubt she will be sunburnt* and brown as an Ethiopian, with savage hair and nails, comme d'habitude. Oh, but I tremble at the thought of her brows; it's always rather like trying to keep the wolves at bay! Haha! I know I shouldn't say it, but it's true!

Poor Penny. She gets this one "cosmetic challenge", shall we say, from her father, you know. My former spouse's antecedents were, at best, suspect. Now, he was handsome enough in his youth - yes, rather the visual allure that so obscured my judgement in matrimonial matters - but I was rather alarmed to encounter some of his oddly-shaped, very much less symmetrical relations. Not a straight line in the lot, and with brows that grew right up their foreheads. Penny gets most of her looks from my side of the family - grâce à Dieu - but one can never be too careful in these matters; one never can tell where one's heritage will pull a naughty joke, eh? So I constantly have to encourage her grooming; if I were to wax metaphorical, I would say that we all must be clever and constant gardeners of our beauty. And continuing down that metaphorical path, I might mention that the attractiveness of Pennys' father was a sadly short-lived bloom. Breeding will out, so they say, and a truer thing was never spoken: The last I saw of the wretched man, he'd gone quite the way of his bloodline, with great hedgerow brows and an aspect distinctly Picasso-esque.

Yes.... Now, what was I speaking of...? Oh, yes, our little concert de charité. Now, I'll tell you a secret, my darlings, if you promise not to tell...? Something that could only be told by someone of my celebrity, someone who travels in the rarefied world that I inhabit. It is this: As long as it is a reasonably respectable cause, we famous people - I suppose there's no more graceful way to phrase that - will agree to appear at almost anything. Isn't that funny? Haha! No, none of us care a fig about what it has been created to raise money for. It matters not if it's for sickly children or people starving in some ghastly corner of some dreary country. No, if we are asked, we generally go. I suppose it is just what we do....

Oh, and now here is Alyssia with the tea. It is quite a bit early, I know, but I have had such a craving for a nice cup of tea now that the temperature has lowered a bit. I couldn't think of it 'til now; I'm not one of those mad dogs and Englishmen that my dear Noël sings about. Oh la!

Ah, now I really must say Good Day!

À bientôt mes enfants!

* I know I've spoken to you all previously on the foolishness of sunbathing. I'll never forgive my darling Patou for concocting his Huile de Chaldée several years hence; I do believe it helped legitimize a craze that might otherwise have sensibly faded away. And now, whenever the sun makes the most timid, little peek from out a bank of clouds, all the silly ladies come frolicking out, wretchedly déshabillée, slathered in oil. Could anything be less dignified?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 22, 1936

Oh, isn't it appalling! Yesterday was the first day of summer - there was a bit of sun, but the weather was mediocre, all told - and then today has dawned an awful, steely gray; the weather here is frightful! Oh, how it sets my nerves on knife-edge. If only I were better rested I might be able to bear it better.... You see, I have beastly neighbors in the flat above * who are always making the most jangling racket at all hours of the night, and disturbing my sleep.

You'll not believe it, but it seems they are Indians! No, not the ones with feathers, the Imperial sort, shall we say. Really, I don't know what they're doing here. I've not seen them, and I've no idea whether they be high Indians of low Indians. I doubt they'd be Maharajas or Maharanis, or what have you, living here in Portland - what a silly thought! Ha-ha! But, at any rate, that very odd caste system they have over there is more than I could ever decipher. Who may speak with whom, what one wears on one's head, where one bathes and all that - it's most perverse and confounding. Which reminds me, I've always wanted to know: do "Untouchables" get to touch each other? Hmmm? Are they even permitted to touch themselves? I do hope it's not that severe. That would be too beastly; as it is, I feel very sorry for the poor wretches. How awful to go about being called "untouchable". How would you like to be called - right to your face - "unwatchable" or "unbearable" or even "unsmellable"? If nothing else, it's simply the worst manners! India is a part of the British empire, after all, so why do we put up with such barbaric rudeness? Something should be done. We're usually so good at ameliorating the unkind impulses of the colonials. Very exasperating...I'm sorry, what was I saying...?

Oh, yes, there are these two who live above. There seems to be one of each sex. I must assume they are a married couple - do Hindoos and such marry the way we do? I'm afraid I don't know that either.... Hmmm? What? Oh...well, ever since they've been living proximately, I can - far more than occasionally - hear their muffled arguments. Such a very vulgar thing to do, shout and carry on so the neighbors will hear you. And far, far worse than that, I often hear their muffled cries of passion. You can imagine my horror. I can think of nothing less attractive, nothing more sick-making, than the sound of other people in the throes of passion, indulging their animalistic desires. I suppose most of humankind will visit that "bestial realm", shall we call it, from time to time - it is necessary, I suppose, to some extent - but it is so very low. And at the very least, one must insure one's absolute discretion and privacy. Well, I'll not speak of it further. I really couldn't say more. I shouldn't have said anything in the first place, of course. So, so distressing....

Now, I'm not the sort to interfere. And I certainly need no petty residential complications. But after this had gone on for some time, I was forced to alert the management of this outrageous intrusion, which was ruining my peace of mind, my sleep, and driving me quite mad with revulsion! They apologized fulsomely, but said there was nothing to be done. Nothing to be done! There are silly laws, if you can believe it, that prevent any sensible intercession. All about "personal freedom" and other such nonsense, no doubt. But what of good manners, what of the simplest courtesy?! It does so boggle the mind. American's fair-mindedness is pitched so high, whilst their standards of behavior are so very low.

Honestly, things have been a bit better of late. Perhaps the management discretely advised them of my complaints after all. And I'm quite certain I've not been the only neighbor to express distress. Now, as I said, I've never come face to face with either of them. But it is certainly possible that, meeting other respectable tenants in the vestibule, they've been cut dead, and have begun to wise-up, as the Americans say.

But then, Saturday evening last, they threw a very noisy party. Quite horrific, the din. They had some sort of squalling Jazz band, with dancing long, long into the night. On and on it went. I had ingested a soporific, and then another, in an agonizing fear of failing to sleep. And I'd put a recording of a Mozart serenade on the gramophone - the duller Mozart can be so very soothing - all to no effect. I always keep a bottle of my dear Veuve chilled - as any sensible, civilized person will, ha-ha! - and, since a few glasses will make me so deliciously droopy, I uncorked and quaffed lavishly. Though I did begin to feel a bit dizzy and existentially vague, still sleep would not come.

I can't imagine who were their guests - awful people, to be sure - but the sound of them! In my deepening delirium I conjured lurid visions of enormous, clumsy acrobats; elephantine, toothy debutantes; and Shetland ponies - yes, ponies - wearing tap-shoes, all flinging themselves about in a great, spasmodic devil-dance. (Actually, I attended a demonstration of Indian ethnic dance once, years ago and, I must say, it did rather have that aspect....)

I was really quite fearsome for the forbearance of the floorbeams. Such ominous creaking. At wits end, I did a rather foolish - but ultimately effective - thing. I've saved one of Mama's walking sticks - Edwardian, you know, quite glamorous, with a pretty Fabergé handle - and have it leant up in a corner of my chambre, as a bit of décor, you could say. Well, in a great fit of pique - blind rage, really - though rather wobbly on my feet, I grabbed Mama's stick and started pounding recklessly upon the ceiling. I thrashed about until everything above went silent. After a few moments I was able to discern a good deal of grumbly muttering, and then a great shuffling headed in the direction of their door. Presently, calm reigned, the moon shone upon the counterpane, and I collapsed upon my divan, there to enjoy the "rest of the dead", comme on dit.

A very common display on my part but, as I say, effective. The foolish part, you ask? Fabergé objets de vertu were never meant to be used in battle or as tools for unplanned apartment renovation - oh, la! Though it gave the ceiling plaster a good bit of a gouging, the cane handle came through it all only slightly depressed. But the large cabochon sapphire at the hilt had been knocked out. Alyssia has been looking for it ever since, so that I may have it repaired, but to no avail. Mama would be quite cross to know of my behavior and the damage inflicted upon her lovely possession. Ah, but she could never imagine the rough world I inhabit. Oh, the coarseness one must endure. C'est triste, très triste....

À bientôt, my darlings!

* Yes, you will ask why should I ever reside anywhere but on the top floor of any given building, the penthouse, even? Well, my darlings this will be instructive to you: When I was looking about for a temporary residence in this dreary city - "temporary"; the heart-wrenching irony of that word! - I was assured that this was the place to put up. Even though there was an available apartment on the top floor, I was assured by the management that the suite of rooms I currently occupy would prove more congenial - quieter, the better view, warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, - and this had proved, for the most part, to be the case. It really is the nicest thing. So, there is a lesson for you, pets. Always strive after, always acquire, the best, not merely the most impressive. Quality trumps allure, you will see. Quality will out. Always remember that!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19, 1936

Oh, la! The sun is shining - bright and glorious - Spring cannot be far behind, can it? Oh, I do say, I'm completely withered and wan, having had to endure this beastly Winter, here in beastly Portland. Cold and damp and grey, cold and damp and grey, with no relief at all. And it isn't even ever a nice, dramatic sort of awful: no blizzards or floods or killer pea-soupers. No it's all a mezza voce sort of awful, so who could ever enjoy that, I ask you?

But perhaps I shan't expire just yet: I visited my lawyer* this fine, sunny morning, as there were ridiculous residency papers and such that needed signing - as if I actually wanted to stay here, mouldering away as I am. Upon returning to my hotel Albert, my driver, opened the door to the automobile and, as I stepped forth onto the carpeted threshold, I spied a thin strip of earth along down beside the sidewalk. And I swear to you, my darlings, there were several happy clutches of daffodils ranged there, fairly tall, their buds fattening. I can't begin to tell you what a great, silly thrill it gave me! Soon they'll all be popping open. Then the bluebells. Then, soon enough, the lilacs. And peonies. A silly American acquaintance of mine swears she's already seen croci sticking up their vulgar heads. But I do so loathe the pushy little crocus, the candy-coloured mushroom of the floral world. Tasteless people always claim them to be the harbinger of Spring, but I think the little show-offs best ignored; truly, I always avert my eyes. Daffodils and narcissi are the true heralds of the earth's rebirth. Why, they even have little trumpet-shaped centres - oh, I'd never thought of that before. Oh...haha!

I shan't have Alyssia lay out my new bathing costume** just yet, of course, but I do expect I'll need my sun shades when I go out to tea. Marvelous!

À bientôt, my darlings!

* I know - I know - you will not begin to fathom why I should have gone to him, when he should have called on me. What sort of a lawyer has a lady come to his office, much less one so elevated, shall we say, as I? Well, the dear fellow fell down a flight of stairs, Wednesday last, and twisted a leg nearly round his neck, poor wretch. So I only thought it kind, just this once, to go to him.

** By Patou. Yes, we have reconciled. And not a moment too soon; the nouveauté of la Schiaparelli was beginning to pall. Only so much trompe-l'œil and only so many unexpected animal bits can be incorporated into any given toilette before one is forced to ponder if one appears just a trifle too...fantastic.