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This isn’t one of my reflective, daydreaming thinking, observation posts, it’s more like sharing my bank account which none of us do after we start making money, or in my case when you’ve lost it all. Abasing as it is, I’m posting my video, and for the first time you’ll see me live, well, I don’t appear too lively, but I’m an amateur as you will see.
I’d love to hear your comments!! Good, bad, honest.
Thank you for staying with Adventuresinlivingness.
THE LAWN MOWERS.
I READ THAT GRASS GROWS AN INCH A WEEK IN THE NORTHEAST and so the neighbors mow once a week. Then they edge, weed wack, then they blow. Some are more finicky than others, I can see them from my bedroom window. Some wear expressions of an artist, intensely serious and meticulous, others mow in business suits on motorized stand-up mowers, and some mow with a visible resentment, an overly redundant but necessary chore in the Northeast.
I don’t mow, I hired a couple, Matt and Jessica. Matt mows with his legs wide apart, no gloves or sunglasses, no earplugs, and Jessica blows. She wears the blower mechanism on her back, her long tanned naturally sculpted arms maneuvering as if she was vacuuming the living room rug. I wait until they have almost finished to greet them on the porch.
” Life sucks,” Matt calls out to me with the motor still running.
” Yes, it does. What’s happened?”
” My daughter got into a car accident on prom night, seven thousand dollars later. He wipes his forehead of sweat.”
” Is she alright?”
“Another driver crashed into them. How’s it look, nice right?”
I invited them into the house, for a look at the furnishings I’m selling.”
” Wow, you love music and vinyl! I do too. Is that Mick Jagger in the photograph?”
I took that on to ruminate about my former Santa Fe Gallery of the music photography of the sixties, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Beatles, and as soon as my boasting sounded halfway boring, I shut up. I really don’t think my past is important to anyone but me unless they are photographers. I used to sneer at people who only talked about what they used to do. How life revisits you at sixty-something when the bragging projects have ceased.
” You own the house?”
” Half owner?”
” Where’s your other half?”
” Missing in action. It’s all up to me now.”
” That sucks. Listen, if you ever need advice about the Northeast, call me– I know everyone. You lived in Santa Fe right?”
” Yes, eleven years.”
” I hear it’s beautiful.”
” Well, it is, and it was, but I’m here now.”
” You going back? I mean why the hell stay here?”
” Maybe? I just don’t know.” Jessica tilted her head as women do when they see a falling sister.
” Okay, I like you, you’re a nice lady. We’re friends now.”
” Are we good enough friends that I postdate the check for three days?”
” Hell yes! I don’t need the money. Don’t even worry.” I walked into the music room and picked up a double album of Janis, still in the cover.
” You like Janis?”
They both said oh my God I love her. I gave them the album. That’s what friends do, reciprocate.
Matt and Jessica come every two or three weeks because I love grass. The wind blows it, the curve of it when it bends, just like I love long hair. One time I greeted them in my interview outfit, you know, buttons and high heels. Matt said something like, “Lose the scarf and fit in, or they will charge you double.”
If I knew how to manage the Northeast weather, sensibility and had a big family, I’d adopt a cat and get a New York drivers license.
The Blacklist | Netflix
Agent Keen and Reddington are educating me on how to fight evil and how to survive. All of my problems are theirs in some episode: mental torture, financial sabotage, abandonment, physical pain, betrayal, threats, and deceit. The only problem, is I am up till 3am watching it! In my humble movie mania opinion, this is the most outstanding drama-suspense-script perfect series. James Spader blows me away with his finesse in dialogue and authenticity. And how I wish to be more like Agent Keen, played superbly sincere by Megan Boone. There is a part of you in one of the characters, I’ll bet on that.
A metallic sky is blowing the cotton ball clouds with the force of a lawn blower, a collage of sunflower leaves brush beauty in the windows of my home, and the act of observation becomes my pastime, here in the Northeast.
When I used to sit on the stoop in front of my Westwood studio, it was the dogwalkers and gardeners, visitors and residents that my eyes laid on, with a backdrop of high rise two million dollar condominiums, with concrete terraces, usually vacant, that formed the view and from that, thoughts randomly trapped, wish I owned that, wish I had that car, wish I had that man. It is amusing, how one’s view can determine one’s thoughts.
West Los Angeles.
On the street where I live now, homes are two hundred years old, or newly built to imitate the Victorian era. The automobile is sturdy, practical, and unwaxed. The way of this wonderment brings simplicity into my life. No need to dress up and fit in, it’s the opposite here, dress down to fit in, or like me, a combination. You are not watched, observed, questioned or complimented, because, well I don’t know the answer, not yet. This is the day after a storm. Half of a tree collapsed in my front yard.
The Polar Freeze had to arrive with me, and the test was not so much about the snow outdoors, it was how to stay warm indoors without running up my gas bill to five hundred a month. Luckily, I found my Irish wool sweater in the basement, that is so large I can wear three sweaters under it, then the leggings, knee-high woolen socks, hats, and gloves even indoors. My activity was limited to bringing the furniture from the attic, basement and unloading the UBox from Los Angeles. Boxes of books and china, photographs, records, and bric a brack from so much antiquing. Three months later the house was staged. I was left with a fractured elbow, but the scenery indoors plays a critical part in your emotional health, because it is too cold to play outdoors.
Most of my conversations came in Nomads, where I’d have a Cortado and some eggs, and talk with the owners who were also my tenants. I begged myself to interview them properly with a recorder, but I never did. They astounded my fictional idea of a millennial, not being general but based on what I observed in Los Angeles. In LA they don’t talk to adults unless you have a common bond; a tattoo or a protest sign. Nick and Alex have the play stations, all the tech knowledge of a Microsoft department, but, instead, they talked about literature, foreign films, and psychology. These are my subjects so if we began the conversation at eleven am, we finished at noon, minus the interruption of a customer. Many times, I’d ask for an explanation, and they’d answer without snickering or amusement. I recall one time I asked, ” Don’t you get tired of hearing adults say, you’ll understand when you get older (they are both nineteen years old) and Nick answered within a second, ‘No, because I know a lot they don’t. ‘Don’t forget I used the internet when I was five years old.’
The customers, mostly local residents, come solo or in large groups, families with toddlers, mothers and daughters, uncles, and nephews, everyone here that I met has a huge amount of family, which caused me some hesitation when asked, ‘you have family here, don’t you?’ After that question dozens of times, I thought maybe I should make one up. I’m not and never have been a believable liar.
The volume of their voices is another adjustment, not in a bad way, just a curiosity, they do not contain their vocal strength. Maybe it is a part of the heritage, just the New York way of conversing, but it is self-effacing genuine. I never detected a play on pretense or arrogance. Imagine how refreshing, like a gulp of spring water from a waterfall, after the playacting that overrides conversation in Los Angeles. To be continued.
I was writing a lengthy portrayal of Ben Siegel one day and it occurred to me that he had become a major character in my life. He played a role that someone else should have; a noted author, journalist, or poet. Ben Siegel changed my history because I had to learn to love him. Learning to love him, meant erasing everything I had read or heard. It is said he was a ruthless killer, a savage, violent, and he loved to kill. I turned to look at a photograph of my mother in my room. I was told that she loved Ben and I believe that is true from a very credible family member.
Where once I believed my mother was naïve and uninformed about Ben; now I know this wasn’t the case. She knew. I‘ve read the news articles of the day, the FBI files, columns, and I’ve spoken to people who were there. My mother traveled by train to New York with my father, Ben, and Esta, his wife, and the FBI were in the next compartment! The night of the murder Esta gave my father all the jewelry Ben was wearing. Ben and Dad were like brothers. Today marks the seventy-second year since he was murdered. Do you know, at least three times a week, someone writes about Ben. Today it was the reopening of the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood where Dad and Ben parlayed the day’s bets and business. If I could have met one man it would be Benjamin Siegel. Dad in Court.
Remember when you opened the door to your own car and took hold of the steering wheel without any parental supervision.
As a teen, my Chevrolet Impala was a haven away from my father. I rolled all the windows down, turned the volume up on the radio, and smoked. My secret joy was hoping the driver next to me would hear the music and notice me. If he was a suitable face I turned around and bobbed my head. Then, just as he looked over at me, I turned away, and looked in the rearview mirror, or sang my heart out to show off brazen behavior, the kind I couldn’t express at home.
There was a sense of freedom from examination and explanation. When I drove my spinning Impala that leaped over road bumps in three waves, I was going somewhere alone.
It was the only self-contained space my father wasn’t attached to, and he didn’t like driving with me, because he didn’t like me being in control. That is the sensation that life brings to us in volumes as teens; explosions of discovery. Today I don’t experience that sweat of discovery; my life is deodorized.
Remembering the sensations I felt as a teenager, reminds me to intertwine more challenges, sports, mental and academic thought into emotional adventures. If I’m lucky to break through all the percentages of disease, that the late night commercials warn me off, the edge of my rhythm is asking me to make a commitment; to put the Bo’ Jangles back in my steps. I heard the voice yesterday, almost a whisper, asking me why I exclude long term commitments: joining groups, classes, associations, serving on committees, planning ahead, even magazine subscriptions are not worth the trouble because I am always planning on moving.
The answer always comes in the photographs that bring back that moment in time, and the immediate recollection of the internal places I moved from venturing into the unknown.
Many years ago, I was in therapy, and in one discussion, this discourse occurred that I considered an awakening then.
“I think you jump into unknown places, and situations, to test yourself, and you do that because that is what your father did most of his life.”
That is what adolescent behavior is meant for, to learn by experiment, to see how far our strength of character will take us. We each have a different set of alarms and temptations. Why compare what one has to the other? My path is familiar to me, I am a born mistress of unfamiliarity; the quest for discovery keeps me moving.
As a teenager, I remember the most remarkable configuration of images, that passed by while I was driving, the faces of shopping mothers walking the streets of Beverly Hills and Westwood, the prostitutes positioned along one section of Sunset Boulevard, and their counterpart degenerate gin-soaked soul mates inched up against abandoned buildings, the Ocean Park joggers, and walkers, and picnickers, waving to each other, as they slapped together hard boiled egg and tuna sandwiches. Like a playroom without walls for Europeans’ and senior citizens to elope with each other. I didn’t favor one street life over another, they all made sense to me.
Living in the Northeast calls your pragmatic and sensible strings. I’m still learning how to tame my lust for unpreparedness; like going out without an umbrella, leaving delicate brick a brac on the porch, driving with caution for deer, rabbits, and turtles, maintaining a close eye on water in the basement,and dressing down so I don’t look like I’m from Los Angeles. Every day is experimental in some way. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, maybe that is how I like it. With every intention on writing about living in a village of five thousand, surrounded by forests and fields, my pen of expression is a bit too wobbly to publish. I’ve had this post up for editing all week, and it’s not a new one. Most of it was published in 2011. Is that cheating?
Today I am working on my next book, based on a true story, about 423 pages so far. I want it to end, but art imitates life so it goes on.
One excerpt: JUNE 10, 2017. Santa Fe, NM
The sun seemed to say, ” Ok, it’s summer, let’s go outdoors.’ I listened. With my badass worker’s gloves, I lifted that rod iron antique chaise with a broken wheel to my patio. Then I washed the cushion with bleach and soap and let it dry. A few hours later I looked outside, CatRockette is curled up on the chaise, we are listening to Opera. Tiny drops of beauty I am beginning to see again.
Carrying hatred is like wearing a coat of repellent against the world. Its aroma may be masked by Chanel but I am certain the whiff of my malcontent is apparent. All the advice and counseling from lawyers, legal-aid, and foreclosure specialists feels bloated. I’m switching from outside counsel to instinct. I’m learning to be more like Rockette. God must have sent him, he is indifferent to the diesel engines, steel ramps crashing on the pavement, racing cars, construction, and my irascible moods. His cat habitat is to sleep during the day, eat tiny meals every few hours, cry every few hours and wait for me to cry back. Around midnight he goes out hunting, returns at three in the morning, and I have to feed him. Then I’m awake so I’m drinking coffee and watching movies. It’s taken three weeks for me to gracefully and tenderly allow him to cry and wake me up. Without him is unbearable. We all need to take care of someone.
Unprepared, who knows where
The leaves will fall
They don’t plan
Where to land
Undisclosed strangers will walk in our paths
Cross our hearts and
Tread our minds with terror
Evil intercepted; betrayal, envy, abandonment, financial sabotage. It’s for a reason, Evil has not penetrated my life. Why now?
We traverse our hearts discourse
Shooting for dreams of undiscovered lands
More weightless plans
I don’t know if I can see ahead
My steps like pebbles follow the rush in the river
On the edge of blindness
Skipping towards freedom
In summer rays of light.
Like a leaf, I break free from the branch of life to find where I belong.
The summer I dropped out of college I lived with Dad for six months. I’d saved enough to get my own apartment. Calling on a few childhood friends to get together, brought Diane. When I told her I was looking for an apartment, she suggested we roommate a two bedroom. Diane was at USC and my father had complete trust and admiration for her, he loved the idea. When Diane told her Mother, she recalled the story to me on the phone.
She said, “You know her father’s a gangster, you won’t be safe!”
Diane responded, “I’ll be safer with him around!” Her mother conceded.
We found a place on Clark Avenue right off Melrose. Diane brought the living room furniture, a daisy darling sofa and the apartment was transformed. She was in charge of the utilities and made perfect notations on paper of my half. I loved her for that, because she knew I would ignore them! She was teaching me, and cautioned me a few days ahead of the bill date. In my mind, we were opposites that complemented one another. Although, I can’t recall what I taught Diane.
We stayed a year, I moved into Westwood and she got married. Over the last thirty or is it forty years, we find each other. I feel like I’m twenty-five when we’re together. She has a down to earth practical connection to life, where I use abstraction and risk. Those are the ones who make up, our cradle of our friends.
My Cradle of Friends rock my fear,confusion, attitude, confidence, and spirit. Thank you for sharing the storm. I will bring my light back because of you.
- The exhilaration and expectations of stepping out of one grid, of eighty thousand people in Santa Fe, NM to one million people in Los Angeles is something I didn’t really think out, it was more like, I’m going home, to Tara.
Santa Fe slow as a rippling stream manifests when I’m at a yellow light, and I think the driver behind me is going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get through before it turns red. How serious, overly stimulated, exhausted and determined the Angels of Angeles evolved. Either you are so rich you don’t have time to say hello, or you are struggling with loneliness and can’t wait to say hello. When I lived here in the eighties and early nineties, the vibe felt in social arenas; Hollywood, technology, the arts, and real estate were promising ventures of investment. People in the know were opening shops in ungentrified neighborhoods, warehouse space was scraping the horizon downtown, real estate was affordable, and technology wasn’t the flag we saluted, it was more like we’re in real time paradise.
Century City, very close to my front door, is a memory. My father lived on Century Park East in the last few years of his life. He didn’t like it because it was all concrete, newly built, it didn’t have a history. Now when I drive into the satellite of HIGH RISES, mall music, billboards, shops, and cafes, I know what he means. It is changed, rushing executives, employees, shoppers, a pace that makes one slower feel extradited.
Then the parking, you will need a ticket to park, a parking pass, or you will have to circle the block four times before you find a parking space. The line outside the restaurant is too long, or not long enough, the business of dining here is a mouthful of expectation. The business owner of a shop sells me what I did not come in to buy, and the sales pitch is like a Hollywood script, and I’ don’t know the language. The wait for the Doctor is two months, and that’s if he takes your insurance, which I found out in California has very few Medicare physicians. If someone does speak to you, you can’t hear them because there is so much construction noise, pulsating bass music in surround sound, you find yourself shouting.
Flip the coin. The day after I landed a woman walked up to me and said, ” Oh, you just moved in, I’m Barbara, I’m at 1203 welcome to the neighborhood.”
We walked together with her little Boo dog. She asked questions, and I answered because she was that kind of person you want to talk to, she soothes, applauds, and comforts all in tune with your admissions. The next few days as I awaited my furniture, she glided by, and we continued our life stories, some from the past, some of the moment. My first friend materialized, like a new moon in a new city.
IN LA, because of the immeasurable density, people are always close by, not a foot between us. It’s the life here, it’s not the LA I remember, but it is home. So, like family, I am learning to accept and stay individual.
I understand how to harmonize with tragedy. Tomorrow I may be Loulou, but tonight I am all adult. The crashing of my life is cushioned and softened by music. Thank you, Puccini. Photo of my Malibu residency, it just seems to fit the opera. Or it could be Stairway to Heaven? I can’t write any more now, the music has modified my sadness so I’m going to say goodnight and pray for South Carolina and all my fellow Americans in the path of more disaster then me.
RELOCATION isn’t just about the physical exertion of packing, and unpacking, I’m learning this as I swirl onto the 10 Freeway in a cavernous flow of luxury automobiles headed west from downtown LA. Self-doubt is not an option driving the freeway, you have to be a lioness or a cougar, imagine me more like an indoor cat going outside for the first time. On the 4th of July my transport from Santa Fe, NM to the city of Angels, ended in the late afternoon as I pulled up in front of a new place to call home. Fireworks beginning, palm trees rippling, dogs barking, and sirens escalating, all a safe distance from my front door. Noise in Santa Fe is Church Bells, bad-ass guys on motorcycles and an occasional siren. First step to ‘when in LA,’ block out the noise or turn up your head set-by the way everyone is strapped to a headphone. I noticed this phenomena on the few trips I’d made to LA while deciding if I should move back after twenty-five years.
As I entered the 1940s period bungalow for the first time all was very familiar. Thirty five years ago I lived in the same compound. Mine was across the common garden area, but the floor plan is the same with a built-in vanity, windows on every wall but one, fireplace, and a small kitchen. It’s like a doll house, four-hundred square feet. The landlord delivered a newness to it with freshly painted walls, polished wood floors, and a spotless kitchen and bathroom. I set my luggage down, took a shower and bounced.
I headed for Westwood Village, where I spent years eight through thirteen. I remember the Dog House, Mario’s, Fedway, Capezio, Bullocks and Desmonds where I worked one summer in Women’s Apparel. The best of all was Ships. My gang used to go there for breakfast in our pajamas to celebrate one of our birthdays. The Village is so close to my defining history, why I ended up there and why I left. We lived on Hilgard in what was then called the The Hilgard House, a microcosm of modern living in a new hi-rise with a pool. It was like living with a family; unguarded neighbors that knew my name, a Fred McMurray type Building Manager, a few famous actress’s, and me, one of four or five blossoming teenagers.
I drove past the renovated building now condominiums renting for seventeen times what I expect my mother paid in 1962. The neighborhood hasn’t been gentrified! It is still a quaint collection of Mediterranean and Mission style homes and four-flex’s.
I stopped in front of the second Hamburger Hamlet location, now Skylight. It took about five minutes to decide I’m going to love this first experience in Los Angeles. On the 4th the restaurant was empty, the room exposed and free of human camouflage. The brick walls remained, giving off some whiff of history and the rest of the room was finished in youthful coziness. Coming from Santa Fe, a city of minor extravagances, the two mirrored lit up bars, stacked with more choices of liquor than what I know existed is my focal point.
” Hi, how you doing? Do you know what you’d like to drink?”
” Well looking at the selection, what do you suggest?”
” What do you like?”
” Wine, white wine by the glass.”
They don’t have as many wines as they do Bourbons, so I ordered Sonoma Cutrer and a seafood pasta dish.
” I grew up here, right here in the village.”
“No way, that’s cool. I’ve met a few guests who lived here a long time ago and they tell me stories.”
” What happened to Westwood? Last time I was here, around the late nineties, it was really depreciated and unkept. It looks better now, but not completed you know?”
” Yeah, Westwood went through some really hard times. We opened this a few years ago, and now more restaurants are coming in.”
” So you’re busy during the week?”
” Oh yeah, we get a lot of businessmen, and some students, you should come back and check it out”
” I will, it has an openness about it, room to move.”
I was the only customer until the staff’s friends showed up to have a party of their own. The high-kickers in mini shorts, and skimpy tops, they were cute, like cut-outs from a magazine. I’d been on the road all day, and skipped the meals, so when the seafood pasta arrived, not only was the dish plentiful, it was deliciously fresh and spicy.
After dinner, I strolled along Westwood Boulevard, in a cube of surrealism, the homeless man hunched over his life remains in garbage bags, a Security Guard in front of an abandoned storefront, students striding along as their phones lead them, What happened to Westwood? Why are the store displays bland and conventional, street art, vendors and performers absent? The unmistakable sense of abandonment piqued my curiosity so I drove around the neighborhood, simmering in the memories of my gang. What a utopian place to go through puberty; the College boys spilled out after classes and we waited to see them, on Saturdays we’d meet at the UCLA cafeteria and test our flirting finesse. We spread out on skateboards along Weyburn and Westwood Boulevard flexing our budding egos and breasts. They are the flagship years of my life, maybe that’s why I came home, to flex my bruised ego and budding independence.
When I laid my body down on a blanket, with fireworks as my backdrop, it was like a celebratory musical overture to a new beginning. The painfully hard wood floor slapped the idiocy of not bringing foam or a sleeping bag. I’ll buy a bed tomorrow and my furniture will arrive Friday. The first night faraway from my La Posada de Santa Fe Hotel family, friends, my old Discovery SUV, my house, my cat, and my best friend who initiated the change is not in my head! To be continued.
I feel like a butterfly wing, trying to fly without my twin. Hang on, we have to fly solo. The world feels harsher, the obstacles immense, one wing is better than none.
One winged flight with breath of fright, just a step I have to take to the next destination.
In a week of famous iconic people who’ve committed suicide, my heart breaks and my mind asks, why is everyone shocked? Chronic depression, anxiety, and loss of a life view are not particularly inviting topics of conversation. I know, the last two years of my life these disturbing emotions tried to get a noose around my neck… NO WAY. Enemies cannot win, whether they are in your head your heart or at your doorstep.
The answer is to get involved in someone’s mental decay, agony, and hopelessness is a risk most people are not willing to take. I suggest the simplest of remedies; accessibility by way of phone calls and drop-ins.
Suicides have increased thirty-percent since 1999 and according to Suicide Statistics one hundred and twenty-three each day.
Who do you know that needs attention?
I don’t know at what age reasoning and understanding took over daydreaming, was it in my thirties? No, fifties. No sixties, no; this week. The time of change without my someone to guide me, map out the course, and hold my hand when I take the wrong turn is here.
In a few weeks, I’m leaving Santa Fe, heading west, to Los Angeles, my home that hasn’t been home for twenty five years. This leap of change came about after I decided to leave Santa Fe, where to go was easy, back home for a refresher course in metropolitan living. Some time soon I’ll write about Santa Fe, the land of entrapment. I looked it up on google, its not a tin-pan myth, the force of gravity here is like a wave you can’t swim at your own pace. Nature in New Mexico is the ruler, mankind just passes through. To describe it should be left a mystery. If you feel the draw to Santa Fe, do it, there is a reason.
I wonder if I left a mark. If someone years from now will remember Gallery LouLou, or the Wild West Vacation Home, or just where Rudy and Loulou live. It doesn’t matter does it? I remember.
Packing is also unpacking; everything I did, bought, wrote, or wore is in the house, so as I pack up what to take, I leave behind the collapsed friendships, fortunes of moments inked in my head, like letters that play the past. Four years ago I was ready to leave, maybe longer, a force much more powerful than I, said, no, not yet. Just as the dice lined up, the tables turned against me. I thought I’d lose everything. A year and a half later I’m a few days away from the road trip to Westwood, where I was raised.
When I arrived in Santa Fe in 2007, I felt powerful, focused and determined. Now as I close the door, I feel humbled, like a wild animal whose been fed just enough to keep going. That has not been one of my strongest points as I am constantly pulling out new canvases to caress, and forget to say, thank you for the meal.
The door to relocation propelled me to trade in my car for a convertible coup, sell or give away and now I’m taping up the boxes of Santa Fe memories to take with me to the next adventure in livingness. To be continued.
Flushed from frolicking in Taos, with a man I’ve just met. He’s salt of the earth, strapped with degrees, awards, and maverick adventures as a wrestler, a horseman, ski instructor, rafting guide, and something else I can’t recall. An Irish and Scottish face, blue-black hair and unblinking blue eyes that have a life of their own. My smile returned, in response to his teasing, and playful sonnets on sex. We talked breathlessly, responding almost without thinking, the words hopscotched over our private, complicated, infuriating personal lives. His motives unclear, as are mine.
Doused in his manliness, aroused my womanliness until I returned to my bedroom, turned on the news and watched the report on the Texas Chapel massacre My heart descended, it felt like the climax of all the recent massacres exploding in that church. The clues are examined, the crime scene is sealed off, the investigation launched, but what are we really seeking? Some motive to reveal itself; gun control, mental illness, terrorism, political attack, family revenge? Once discovered then the news fades into another catastrophe. What can we do? What is happening to young men who have been expelled from society, taken to violence, and are willing to die.
“YOU NEED A LITTLE MADNESS IN YOUR LIFE.” ZORBA THE GREEK
November 10, 2017
Is it my aging, the world struggling, the politics punishing, the climate destroying, or is it because all of the above feels personal. Every day is a recovery from the disasters, deaths and destruction of the previous day. I can’t decide if my thinking process is changing or the world really is bubbling over the edge of horror. Today the fires in Sonoma hit a personal note; I went to Sonoma State University and lived two years wandering the hills, rivers, towns, farms, and vineyards. I have to remember all the places I lived in: a dorm in Cotati, then Rio Nido along side the Russian River, it was too far to hitch to Sonoma so I moved to Petaluma, then I spent a few months in a hippie house in Glen Ellen and then… I dropped out of college and moved to Mill Valley. Northern California shocked the Beverly Hills plushness off my shoulder and I smothered myself in the outdoors. I used to walk or bike everywhere, I don’t know how I managed without a car. Did you?
My heart and mind turn to the images on the TV news: twenty two fires burning, five hundred unaccounted for and now forty dead.
My family home burnt down in the Bel Air fire on November 5,1961. It rearranged my life as suddenly as it happened, and I discovered growing up wasn’t so bad.
I need a movie to watch that resonates life’s invasive tragedy and triumph; Zorba the Greek. As a young girl that movie moved me in a way so unfamiliar. The writer and Zorba the teacher, the French debutante unzipped, and the widow, whose life was taken because of unreturned passion. Last night, Zorba came to me and said, “You need a little madness in your life.” I listened, and found myself at El Farol on the dance floor. Tuesday Blues Jam used to be a weekly routine. It’s been two years since I went on my own. Dance is always alive in me, moving really fast to great music.
I sat down at the newly restored bar, and looked around, a few familiar faces, and then I looked at the man next to me. He smiled informally, the way someone does when they recognize you. I hadn’t seen Dancing Dennis in years.
” Hi,” he said in a sort of chuckle.
” Do I know you?” I asked.
” Oh Dennis! I didn’t recognize you. You’ve lost weight or something, you look so different.” He chuckled and let me talk.
“How are you? How funny to run into you, I haven’t been here in years.” Dennis and I met on the dance floor at El Farol, and I asked him to marry me! I guess that’s why he just listens to me, he knows I’m a grab bag of surprises. I thanked him for reading my book and writing a beautiful review and then he said,
” I liked your hair short but I like this too. “I don’t recall what I said, but I remember feeling at ease sitting next to him, and trying to recall who he reminded me of, I thought it was Michael Caine, but today I remember, its Oscar Werner, when he played the Captain in Ship of Fools. When the band started I jumped, without even asking Dennis, and darted for the dance floor before it got crowed. I took off like a wild bird and let my Zorba dance. I knew Dennis and I would dance later but I needed to let my madness out.
When I returned to my seat, he looked left out, and so we talked about the past times we danced, and moments later, without any discussion of our personal lives, we danced, and danced and danced. I asked the band to play “Honky Tonk Woman,” and the floor regaled with dancers. Every time I looked at Dennis he was smiling or laughing.
Today I am in a religious mood, not in the sense of Jewish or Catholic, just feeling like I am waiting for God to stop the tragedy.
CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute is a historical memoir that frames my father’s association with the American Jewish Mafia, and more specifically his devotion to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. It has taken twenty years to publish this book. After hundreds of agent rejections, I threw the dice on self-publishing. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I am writing my second book, CRADLE OF FRIENDS.
Facebook offers a donate application. Click on that and key in Texas or Houston. I chose Houston Food Bank. Red Cross and Salvation Army are available.
The multifarious odyssey of learning the language of a gangster’s daughter began in 1966. While completely uninformed of organized crime, my father was active in the Los Angeles rackets; gambling, extortion and horseracing. Though I had been exposed to reports my father had a gangster connection, I denied any truth to these comments. My teenage years were spent in much the same way as my father; hiding my activities, lying, and avoiding truth.
I’ve had bar chats with Sam; many Santa Fe locals claim friendship; he’s our Santa Fe Shepard for independent thinking, accessibility, dust-bowl prolific honesty and still a flush hand of rugged classic looks. The last time I saw him, he was sitting next to me at Geronimo, writing in his little notebook and eating steak. He put his fork down when I said ‘Hi Sam.’ He talked about his novel (Inside Man), his Kentucky ranch, and showed me his new cell phone. When he held it, it was like a man holding a gun for the first time. Nothing about him was robotic, on cue, or predictable. When he gave me his phone number and said ‘Call anytime,’ I resisted throwing myself into his arms; now I wish I had.
When Shepard & Dark opened in town for three days, I was out the door within hours. I figured the movie theater would be packed, so I brought earplugs. I take my films too seriously and refuse to be interrupted with slurping and munching. Into the first scene, my concentration was bulletproof; I would have protested if anyone said a word.
Beginning with the footage; incredible home-made movies and photographs of early Sam. You will see him as a youngster on the ranch where he is raised, and Sam leaving home as he kicked his way through puberty. Then we see that chiseled frame of masculine sensitivity as a young playwright in Greenwich Village where you meet Johnny Dark. The dialog between the two men and the dramatization of their adventures through home movies and collected letters they exchanged over a forty-year period broke my heart. I felt the pain inside of Sam as if we were best friends.
It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that I’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. It is a wrap of cinematography, humor, philosophy and a pool-of-tears-ending.
Yes, there is a dusting of emotions on Jessica Lange.
Several lines I recall, in particular, to paraphrase Sam:
We can change our lives, our work, our wardrobes, our women, but we never really change. Our essence remains constant. I’ve always felt outside the whole thing, sometimes more than others. As a writer, you have to be selfish with your time. I’m always moving, going on the road, I didn’t know that was how my life was going to turn out, but it did.
AWAKENING TO AN UNFAMILIAR REALITY. Ten years and two months I’ve nested in one place. Where once the red white and blue lights twinkled on the house and along the spruce tree, music circulated a crowd of friends and neighbors on the porch, and we danced in the street. It’s all wrapped up in a journal, words that I can read if I wish to remember. I don’t. The past crawls up my spine like a spider trying to weave me into its web.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 2012
Clarity, comfort, security, ambition and love are broken wings. I have to redesign how I think, calculate a direction that will return me to adventures in livingness.
As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner from 1937 until his death in 1947, Dad acclaimed Ben Siegel. “He was the best friend I ever had.”
Dad sat inches from Ben the night he was murdered. Why did he survive? He ducked! After convincing Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello he would not accept immunity from deportation, and five counts of claiming false citizenship, the Mob honored and protected him.
Faced with an identity meltdown ten years after Dad died I implored his friends, associates, historians, the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and the Archives of the Department of Justice, to build the branches of my family tree. Along this irreversible journey I suffered disgrace, rage, and Dad’s ghostly disapproval as I delved into the FBI files and discovered the family secrets. Most startling was not his gambling addiction, criminal activities, or imprisonment. I learned my father’s attempt at reformation was thwarted by the FBI. A vendetta by Hoover for not cooperating as an informant. I expose what I’ve learned because I’ve made the family history mine.
Incorporated within stories of discovery are government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, and criminal activities that defamed his reputation and our family. As the discoveries occur the reader is taken inside the transformation of my identity. Once liberated from Dad’s paranormal disapproval of my investigation, the book was written.
This is a startling, yet inspirational look inside the struggle of a gangster’s daughter to understand her father’s allegiance to the Mob.
All I SEE AT THIS HOUR IS
dinner for most of the USA. Imagine all those people, dining in separate uniqueness. The walls of imagination merge with internal images, from the media, personal experience, and true life stories. What I think of at dinner time is never the same at ten o’ clock in the morning. The labyrinth of safety, family, friends, security ALL colliding with the unknown, seems to be the most innocent of emotions. It is also a time that springs bright-eyed realizations, recognition, and a time when our mirrors move toward us. Who we surround us with is who we are.
The wind is sullen as it has gone from the spruce tree outside my window.
I want to get up and take a long walk, listening to the sound of my own steps on the brick walkway. I walk outdoors onto my steps and sit on a pillow watching the birds flock to a fresh pour of seeds. The silence is like a mirror to me. This un-sound so clear and virgin in Santa Fe, brings me back to my adolescent years in Hollywood. The nights my father went out, allowing me the freedom to explore outside. I would run down Doheny Drive to Santa Monica Boulevard and just keep running. It was on those windy Santa Ana nights that I’d run the longest. I was running because the need to express something was bulging through my soul. This night is like that, only I don’t feel like running, I am listening to the sounds of silence. Watching the shadows that look like ghosts, and the clouds that appear to have messages, and how everything is different when you are alone.
July is expectant there is expectancy everywhere you look. The blossoms on the tree limbs are blooming, the birds have evacuated their nests and begin singing early in the morning, and insects eject themselves from their hidden corners. I don’t know what summer is like for a man, I’ve never asked any man, but I am going to tell you what summer is like for one woman.
The essence is sensuous, and for a woman, it is an overture.
We strip down the layers of clothing; replacing socks with sandals, and sweaters with t-shirts. When I hear birds and watch them in the trees, I think of babies and innocence. There are flowers shooting through the heavy clasp of winter dormancy, and when they do, the colors remind me to replace all the black pants and turtlenecks with pastel shades of coral and blue.
The sunlight radiates through my skin and warms everything. My heart feels like it has has been through a tune-up. My body wants to dose in sea water, eat less, run up Canyon Road, listen to music, dine al fresco, and get pedicures. All of this preparation is to tune up the romantic notes and to get YOUR ATTENTION. It is time to bring you out of the garage, or wherever you go in spring, and to notice that we are blooming.
Surprise us with flowers, a new hat, or a picnic on the banks of the Rio Grande. Our attention is on our surroundings; we will want to buy flowers, and baskets and new cushions for the patio furniture. We change our lipstick color, comb our hair different, and we look for new ways of expressing how good we feel.
If you live in Santa Fe then you understand when I say slow down summer do not leave us.
“Is there any feeling in a woman stronger than curiosity? What would a woman not do for that? Once a woman’s eager curiosity is aroused, she will be guilty of any folly, commit any imprudence, venture upon anything, and recoil from nothing.”
Excerpt from Guy De Maupassant, “An Adventure in Paris.”
GUEST ALERT: Daughter Of Reputed Mobster, Making The Radio Rounds
THE MOUTH, NOVEMBER 8TH, 2011 — Luellen Smiley is the daughter of reputed mobster, Allen Smiley. Smiley’s dad was a close friend and confidant of famous Las Vegas mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and he was sitting on the couch just feet away from Siegel the night he was murdered. While Luellen Smiley hadn’t been born at the time of the shooting, she’s conducted research on her father’s life and the events leading up to the shooting and wants to dispel the common belief that her father might have been involved in the shooting. Luellen Smiley has contributed artifacts to the Las Vegas Mob Experience and she joins us to discuss her family history. She’s out promoting the fact that the gangsters of old were not trigger-happy murderers and that J. Edgar Hoover was someone who was out to get them in a big way. Not letting them go straight, etc. She also believes that J. Edgar Hoover was behind the killing of Bugsy Siegel. (Bugsy’s killing was never solved). This week, she joined KNPR for chat. LISTEN TO AUDIO HERE To set up, contact Scott Segelbaum HERE