TRUST & TRAGEDY


20171105_135055Flushed 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.

 

 

 

MADNESS


 “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.

” Dennis.”

” 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.

November 15,2017

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.

 

 

 

THANK YOU JOE


SOMETIMES I AM COMPELLED TO SHARE.. I recieved this email yesterday.  When you read it visualize the story.

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In 1947 I was just a 15-year-old kid. My dad had a club house box at Santa Anita where we became friends with Fred Astaire who had a box near ours. When Hollywood Park’s season was in progress, my dad didn’t have a box there so he’d sit in Fred’s finish line box.
One day my dad took me to Hollywood Park and found that Fred had only one seat available, so Fred took me back a few boxes to George Raft’s box where there was an empty seat (each box had only 4 seats). Raft introduced me to his other 2 guests as “Ben” and “Al.” I had no idea who they were ! They treated me well, and during the day “Al” bought me a hamburger, hot dogs, and chewing gum, and even let me pick horses in a couple of races for him to bet on ! He couldn’t have been nicer to me !!
I’m now 85, but I’ve never forgotten what a friend “Al” was to me !! I found out who “Al” and “Ben” were only after their pictures appeared in the newspaper after “Ben” was shot !!

I hope you find this info interesting, Luellen, because I really liked your father !! Joe
 
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CRADLE OF CRIME – A Daughter’s Tribute-Revised Edition Now 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.

 

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SAM SHEPARD & THE FILM SHEPARD & DARK.


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.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE A PASS ON THE PAST


 

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.  dsc01740.jpg

 

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.

 

CRADLE OF CRIME- SYNOPSIS


The memoir began as a compass to my father’s secret and disreputable criminal history. It pointed to a young girl whose survival was wedged between shameless love and immobilizing fear of her father.DAD IN WING TIPS

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.


SELF-PUBLISHING A MEMOIR


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. I intend on self-publishing again with CreateSpace.

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