I’m Just a Regular Guy. Part Two.


          “Did you want to be like the people in Rancho Santa Fe?”

          He laughed out loud and said, “I don’t want to be what I’m not. I am the happiest man alive.”

          “Tell me again why you are so happy?”

          “I told you about when I was stuck in Buna– I made a vow to God that if I got out of there alive, I’d never complain about life again

          “You kept your promise.”

          “ Yes, and I have the most wonderful friends in the world—and you’re one of them.”  I gave him a hug and a kiss and asked him to tell me more about his life in Solana Beach.

          “ Was your wife happy too?”

          “ Oh yes.”

          “ How long were you married?”  I asked.

          “ My wife and I were married fifty years, nineteen forty-one until she passed away.

 She was so good to me when I come back from the war. I used to get up in the middle of the night and wander around, didn’t know where I was and she always got up with me. I had bad dreams and got lost, didn’t know where I was, and would hide in the closet. She was so careful with me. I just didn’t know what I was doing like spilling things at the table, and not remembering things she told me. It went on for a long while, but she never got angry or lost her temper. She was so good, and after I got better, we started having fun again, and we were doing good. I was at the dairy and they bought me the house on  Barbara Street.”

          “ The dairy bought it for you?”  I interrupted.

          “Yeah, 208  Barbara, that was it. We lived in that little house while I worked at the dairy– I worked seven days a week, from midnight until noon, then I’d have my lunch and rest awhile. Then we might go out and we’d party. “

          “ Before you went to work?”

          “ Oh yeah, it was the only time we had together.” 

          “ I feel like a wimp,”  I mumbled.  

          “ Well, you work hard, and I don’t know it just seems people need more sleep today or something, I don’t know what it is.”

We haven’t been in a war.”           

         ” Maybe so.  I think people seem to marry for different reasons these days.  Janet and I had the same background, we both knew what hard work was about. She didn’t complain, she was very good with money, she wrote down everything we spent. I guess we were lucky.”

          “ I think it’s more than luck, you appreciate life every day,” I said.

          “ I do, like you too, I am so glad you are my friends, and we can sit here and talk and have such good times.”

 Then Rudy took my hand, and apologized for shouting at me earlier about not turning the hose off all the way. He said he wanted to take me out for dinner because he felt so bad. Maurice grinned, and I gave him a hug and a kiss.  He went into the back and came back with a little bouquet of sweet peas for me.

          “ These are for you,”  he said. 

          “ Oh Maurice, you’re making me feel terrible,” Rudy said in jest.

          “ I don’t mean to, it’s just that I love women so much. I told my wife every day, every morning she woke up I told her I loved her. We never went to bed angry.” 

 The house Maurice lives in and has lived in since 1950, is a tidy two-bedroom farmhouse. The house is painted white, with black shutters framing the front windows.  MAURICE AND I

 Tucked in the front entrance on one side are a twisted juniper and the other side a bush of poinsettia.  He planted roses and hollyhocks and a few more varieties that were always postcard perfect. The porch out front changes with the season. The first year we met Maurice placed a sofa on the porch and two chairs. When Rudy and I stopped at the end of the day, Maurice would be outside sitting in the rocking chair, his hair still wet from his shower, and in his hand a jigger of Jack Daniel’s. In the front room, Maurice covered the walls with mementos and pictures of his friends. He didn’t hang any paintings of any kind, so when you sat on the couch and looked around you were looking at his life. He has a television and watches the news, old westerns, and the country music station. He especially likes the rodeo shows. He has remarked on occasion that he thinks television is very bad for you. His old sofa so worn from visitors when I sit down next to Maurice I sort of fall into his lap. We sit so close,  unlike we do now in these large stiff hi-tech furnishings. In front of the sofa is a long glass coffee table, one of Rudy’s favorite stops as he walks in the door. He dives for the peanuts and the chocolates.  There are always treats on the table, and you will not wait long before Maurice goes into the kitchen and brings back a plate of home-made pickles.  

The first time Rudy ate his pickles, he yelled out, “ Damn Maurice, these are incredible I could eat a whole jar!” So Maurice went in the back and brought out a jar of his homegrown pickles.  The kitchen is small and in the corner is a antique table where he keeps his baking utensils and one chair. He has a collection of antique jars and cooking tools on a shelf that whines around the kitchen ceiling. His refrigerator is an adventure in itself, shelves are packed with wrapped leftovers, sauces, meats, cheeses, and vegetables, so packed that on several occasions when I tried to put something back in I couldn’t find an empty place for it.  Naturally, he uses a gas stove but growing up in Iowa all they had was a wood-burning stove. In the hallway, the walls are framed with more friends and family. There is one beautiful girl, that seems to be in every room.  When I asked who she was Maurice replied, “ That’s Linda. She’s my sweetheart.”  

From the photographs we learned all about Maurice’s life; his mother and father, brother and sister, his wife, Janet, his grandpa and grandma, and the hundreds of people in between.  His home is a storybook, all you need to know about Maurice is revealed unaltered.

His bedroom is at the end of the hallway by the back door. His bed is covered with a handmade quilt and about twenty decorative pillows. The bathroom is very colorful with green and red towels, and more photographs of Linda. Then he opens the screen door to the backyard.

” This is my garden,” he said smiling ear to ear.

It reminded me of Fantasia. To be continued    

 

    

 

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER IN TAOS,NM


museum

Millicent Rogers home Taos, NM

The throw of the dice this week falls on the silhouette of a Taos night out in 2006. It begins with the sunset — a bubble-gum pink sash that swirls like taffy just above the distant hillside. The transcending forms and colors in the sky distract me; it silences me, it keeps me from turning on the television or answering the phone. Taos-sangre-de-christo-mountains-sunset

The sunset has settled into my routine. It’s something I watch every night. In the midst of dressing to attend an art auction at the Millicent Rogers Museum the sun has vanished. The sky turns Taos blue; a luminous oil pigment canvas blue that appears like an endless tunnel you can walk through. As I descend the staircase, and cross over the ménage of piles shoved in a corner to allow SC to paint, I think, “This is going to be my home. I’m still here” Adventures in Livingness

In the courtyard where new flagstone has been laid, and the exit is blocked by a mud ditch, Rudy hitches me on his back and carry’s me out the side entrance through Tony Abeyta’s yard. Tony’s yard is piled with sand from our flagstone project, and my high-heeled black suede shoes are not at all practical for crossing New Mexican sand dunes. This is how the evening begins.

Out in the parking lot, we circle around once and stop in Robert’s gallery. He has offered me his turquoise squash seed necklace to wear at the auction. The necklace is from Turkey, and sells for $1,800. Millicent Rogers events always attract women with extravagant jewelry, and Robert knows I have no such possessions. He hands me the necklace, and says, have fun.

At times like this, I am able to forget the faces and routines I lived in Solana Beach, and feel swept into a labyrinth of unfamiliar vignettes. There are two police cars in the rear of the parking lot, the church looms like a fortress of wet mud, and SC is listening to The Band CD we picked up in Santa Fe. I slide into the car making sure my shoes don’t fill with gravel.

RANCHOS PLAZA

Parking for the Plaza where we lived. San Francisco de Asís Mission Church.

Along the desert road, there is very little street light and cars approach you at disarming speeds. For newcomers, the pale yellow line that separates oncoming traffic, roaming animals, hitchhikers, leather clad bikers, and abandoned pets, is of no comfort or value. Boundaries are vague, so are civilities between people, and sometimes conversations elope into poetry.

At the Millicent Rogers Museum the director Jill, who is there to welcome each guest, greets us at the carved wooden doors. This museum was once a home, like most museums in Taos.

Each room is an envelope of Native American jewelry, ceramics, painting, weaving, textiles, and metal work, sealed with an ethereal presence of Millicent Rogers. She set global trends in fashion, art, and living, by coming to Taos and bridging her New York chic with southwestern sensibility.

The museum collection includes some of her own designs that evolved from her residency in the desert. She moved here in 1947 and died here in 1953. She could have chosen anywhere in the world to live, and she settled in the unaltered, surreal lunar beauty of Taos.

I wandered through the tightly packed rooms, alternately viewing the guest’s attire and jewelry. The woven wraps, belts, and hats worn by men and woman form a collage of individual expression. Almost everyone seems to attract attention by the texture and color of his or her attire. It is festive traditional look, southwestern accessories paired with jeans or silk dresses. If you come to Taos, look for a belt buckle, one piece of Native American jewelry and one piece of art.

When the auction was announced, I found myself admiring the same etching as a woman next to me. She remarked that the artist was also the teacher of one of her children. I came to learn that Ellen had six children and 11 grandchildren. She was petite with curly blonde hair, and I liked her instantly. I told her I was a writer.

“So am I,” she answered.

Rather than talk about her work, she began talking about her daughter, also a writer.

“I’m so lucky,–all my children and grandchildren are creative and artistic.”

It was obvious that her life was a garden of earthly delights, and that she had raised many roses. When the auction began, she vanished, and I made a very swift viewing of the art before returning to the two etchings. They were both sold.

As I was walking out, I bumped into Ellen. She was clutching the etchings.

“So, you bought them,” I said.

“Oh, yes, I had to have them.”

She left me with a beaming smile and a closing remark that I hear very often: “Welcome to Taos.”

I love hearing that so much I don’t want to stop saying, I just moved here. After the auction we decided to stop in Marco’s Downtown Bistro, where we joined an improvisational party. It started when Marco introduced us to his friends, Pablo and Joan, visiting from Santa Fe.

PLAZA TAOS

The dim glowing melon adobe walls of the bistro, Marco hugging everyone, Joan’s melodious high-pitched laughter, Pablo telling jokes, Rudy laughing, and then Philip arriving to tell stories crossed over from strangers in a bistro to a fast rolling film. The conversation, and laughter surfed breathlessly from one person to another.

Joan remarked, “My 15 minutes. This is the best for me. The first time you meet someone, your both talking without any effort. It’s so perfect.”

We closed the bistro past midnight. Marco had gone home. Joan decided to stay at a friend’s house. Philip agreed to drive down to Santa Fe the next day, and we took Tylenol before going to bed.

Not every night out in Taos is like Joan’s 15 minutes, but chances are you will have something to write home about. Photos of Gallery LouLou Taos, NM


me on the roof

 

I’M JUST A REGULAR GUY


          Maurice did things for us that no one had. It started with small gestures, like inviting us inside every time we passed by his house. Even if he was on his way to deliver furniture he’d scuttle to the kitchen and give us homegrown tomatoes, and oranges, or hand me a bouquet from his flower garden.  These were the early years of my story submission rejections.  I was so consumed with rejection that the only person in the world that made me feel human was Maurice. He didn’t understand what my torment was about, but he knew how to make it go away.  Sometimes all it took was a big hug and a kiss. Maurice always met me with a hug and kiss, though I didn’t realize at the time how much he knew what I needed.

           That Christmas I felt the spirit because of Maurice. I went to Sav-On and collected a basket of decorations, and though we had no room for a tree, I did what I could. Instead of wishing I could dash into Nordstroms and shop like a madwoman, I dug a little deeper and searched for appreciation gifts for friends.

          By the time the season had ended, I was fixated on Maurice. It is strange to write about him now.  The story I wanted to write was about Del Mar, and Solana Beach, California during the thirties and forties.  I searched the indexes of the Del Mar Library and the local bookstores and shared the antiquities with Maurice.

          We were sitting on his cushy pillowed sofa one evening in 1994, sipping chilled southern comfort, and snacking on saltine crackers and cheese. There is always a subject of interest with Maurice. He is seventy-five years old, lean and tough as a stalk of corn, with blue eyes that twinkle even if he’s not in the light. His wealth came from the uniqueness of how he lived.

          “Tell me what you remember about Del Mar.”

PhotoSanDiego006Old Del Mar.

          “Oh so many good times, not like it is today. I knew just about everybody, we were like a family.”  Sometimes Maurice shared memories while driving around Del Mar and Solana Beach.  Suddenly he would start talking,  and I’d would listen with childlike curiosity. I recall one evening at the old Cilantro Restaurant while having dinner with Maurice.  We sat at a table facing the Rancho Santa Fe Polo field.  Maurice began to tell me how it used to be.  Rancho_Santa_FeRancho Santa Fe

          “I used to plow those fields there, all the way up to where the hills begin.  I worked out there all day, and I loved it. That land belonged to the Conleys’. I remember that the whole field was underwater for one year. Hard to believe–but it was.” 

          “You plowed?”

          “Sure I did! I was a farmer, a dairy farmer, and I delivered milk to Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee.  I remember  Christmas she comes out and gives me some extra money.–I always loved going there at Christmas. They was always so nice to me, you know. The Conley’s had a hog ranch, they were the ones I worked for. The year it flooded from El Camino Real to the racetrack we lost a bunch of pigs and a cow under the bridge.  It only happened twice that I know of.”   

          “ What was Rancho Santa Fe like back then, when you were a farmer?”  

         “Well, it was different than today, then it was rich people, I mean really rich.  I don’t know where they got their money but they had everything–you know expensive cars, cooks, and maids.” Maurice chuckled, “ I couldn’t understand what the cook did all day. The man my wife worked for, Ronald McDonald, he had a butler, maid, cook, and a big house, a really nice house. But today, anyone can live there, people who just inherited a lot of money.  There was just a few families back then– everyone knew who they was. One time a young girl who lived up there was stuck on the road–her car broke down, so I drove her home. You did things like that. There were two really well-known families there, the Clotfelters were one, they had a son, Tom. He stopped by my house at Christmas and brought me a fish, he liked to fish.   The other big family was Avery, he had everything. He used to get jobs for the Mexicans in the Ranch. Everyone knew him, he kind of ran the whole town, was really active in the community.  Another fellow, Joe White, went around to the homes and put in the meters for the water district. We used to play cards with him and his wife, Marilyn– have a few drinks and have a such a good time. ”  Maurice stopped and shaking his head remarked that there were so many wonderful people in his life, and how lucky he was to live in Solana Beach.

RSF VILLAGE

Downtown Rancho Santa Fe. 

          The Rancho Santa Fe I knew began when I  moved there in nineteen-eighty-three. It was a place you heard of right away, and so I drove up to take a look around. Like thousands of others before me, I dreamt of living in the Ranch under a canopy of Eucalyptus trees with a horse stable and a grove of oranges. It was a blissful place to drive on a Sunday afternoon, very few cars on the road and the homes bathed in sunlight. But when I walked down Paseo Delicias, the main road in the village,  I felt like an outsider. I did not feel that detachment in Del Mar, or Solana Beach, or even La Jolla. But the Ranch has eyes, it seemed to single you out and therefore no one on the inside made contact with you. You could dine at the charming Mille Fleurs and drop a few hundred dollars but you would not be invited to mingle. I asked Maurice if he wanted to live in the Ranch. His expression was curious as if I was pulling his leg.

 “No, I never wanted to live there.”

“Why not?” 

” I’m just a regular guy.”  To be continued.

MEMORIAL DAY AND OUR TROOPS


 

 

6/1998-Solana Beach, CA. 

                ONE EVENING, Rudy and I were sitting on the porch, it was in summer and we would sit out till after eight o’clock at night talking about different parts of Maurice’s life.  He is really busy in the summer, he works one day a week gardening for a man in Fairbanks ranch, and he spends a lot of time delivering furniture for the shops in Cedros Design District, and helping his friends with their gardens. He never seems tired; he likes to sit on the porch at dusk, watch the sunset, have a jigger and tell stories.  I had not met a man that could tell me things like Maurice.  There didn’t seem to be anything he couldn’t talk about. I will tell you in the next series how I met, ‘the happiest man in the world.’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

          “ Maurice, how old were you when you were drafted?” I asked.

          “ Well,  I was thirty-one years old, that was in 1941, you know when the war broke out. I had to leave my wife, and that bothered me, but I wanted to go overseas, there were so many nice real young boys, there were two boys from Chicago that were only eighteen years old, they lied to get in, and they were the best soldiers you ever saw, they weren’t afraid of anything.”

          “ Where did they send you, I mean after you left San Diego?”

          “ Well first I went to Camp Roberts for training, thirteen weeks, but I got out in nine weeks, then they send me to Fort Ord to get my gear and rifles and clothes to go to New Guinea to fight the Japanese. We left San Francisco on April 21, 1942, I remember going under the Golden Gate Bridge, cause we hit a bad storm there. We was on a luxury liner and then we were sideswiped by another ship.  I was in the bed at the time, and water started coming in through the porthole so I run for the door, to get on deck but I couldn’t get it open. I thought we were hit by a torpedo, then I got sick, I was real sick. Well anyway, then we finally settled down, and I think we hit coral sea  without any escort or anything and finally got into Adelaide, Australia after twenty-one days at sea.”  Maurice paused like he had to catch a breath. I watched his face, thinking he may want to stop.

          “ You remember so much, do you mind talking about it?” I asked.

          “ No, I don’t mind, it changed my life, everything about it.”

           “ Where did they send you after that?”

          “ Well we trained for awhile in Adelaide, the people in Australia were so happy to see us.  I remember they met us at the beach with tea and cookies cause the enemy were getting real close. Then we went up the coast to New Guinea to Port Moresby, we got there on Thanksgiving day 1942. As soon as we got off the ship the bombs hit us, it was the hundredth raid that night. Then the next morning we were supposed to get to Stanley Range, but we were in such a hurry because the enemy had built cement pillboxes. So we got in this plane, a hull, and they flew us, twenty-one at a time. When I got to the island of Buna, there were dead soldiers all over and so much jungle. At night the tide came in, so I found a mound to lay my head on, but my whole body was underwater. We were losing men so fast, so on Christmas 1942 General McArthur ordered us to advance, regardless of the cost of lives.  My division was one of the first divisions to stop the them, the Thirty-Second division. After we were immobilized, and a lot of our men were killed, they sent in the Forty-First division to take over. I got pictures, you want to see them?”

          “YES, RUDY,” SHOUTED. Maurice went inside and Rudy and I sat there just talking about how soft our lives had been, never having been in a war.  Maurice came back with a Life Magazine, from 1942, the headlines were Attack at Buna.  We sat next to Maurice on the couch and he sifted through the magazine showing us the photographs of his division. He picked out one photo in another stack in his lap and told us his wife kept this one, she was sure it was Maurice. It looked like him to.  The soldiers were young, but they didn’t look young, they looked like men. The things he told us that night were hard to believe. They didn’t get supplies at first, they had to wait till everything was shipped to Europe, and then they got what was leftover which wasn’t much.

       “I ate cocoanut bark for two weeks and had to drink my own piss to stay alive, there was no water. I can remember so well the first enemy I saw, sneaking through the jungle, he was only thirty feet off, and I don’t know if I shot him, but he dropped, and I don’t like to think I killed anyone, and it bothers me to this day that I had to kill, but that’s what we did.  The Japanese were good soldiers, they had better ammunition than us, their guns were always real shiny. We fought all day, and we always ran out of ammunition before they did. Christmas day of forty-two we went into a trench to get ahead, the fellow ahead of me was cut wide open, and the guy behind was shot, and I just laid there on the ground. If you moved you’d be shot. It was so bad, I laid there all day and night. “

          “ Did you think you were going to die?”

          “ I didn’t let myself think that,  I made a promise to God, that if I ever got out alive I’d never complain about anything in my life again because nothing could be worse than that day.” 

          “ You kept the promise didn’t you,” I asked. 

          “  Yes, I have.”

          “ And that’s why the war changed your life?”  

          “ That’s right, every day is a beautiful day after you’ve lived through a war, at least for me.”  

         BUNA  came into our conversations many times over the years. The things they did to survive is what he remembered; like brushing his teeth with black charcoal because it polished the teeth even though they made them black. They bathed in dirty streams, or in the puddles in the street made by the tires of the trucks. They had to relieve themselves in their pants because moving was dangerous.  They didn’t have modern medical supplies. When Maurice had cavities he was sent to the infirmary and the dentist told him to just grit his teeth, there was no Novocain. He got gum disease, leg rot, malaria, and he lost his sense of smell. 

      “But it was much worse for some of the men, so bad you can’t imagine.” He talked about the kinship amongst the troops, it was unlike anything he’d ever seen or experienced, all the guys looking out for each other. Buna was a strange place to be, I’d never heard of it before Maurice told us. After they took over Buna, one of the beaches, was named Maggot Beach, because so many dead  Japanese and American soldiers laid there, in the hundred-degree heat, and the flies got to them, and it was a terrible sight, it smelled so bad he remembered.  Maurice was sent to the hospital for two weeks, then he started working in the kitchen and got to be the first cook.

          2001. OUR CONTRY IS AT WAR AGAINST TERRORISM. Rudy and I wanted to know Maurice’s thoughts on the way it is now, and how he felt.  We sat in his living room watching the news and talking in those first few weeks after the attack on America. It seemed like Maurice couldn’t believe what had happened, I’d never seen him speechless. He didn’t know what to say for a long time.    

          “The ground troops are the only way to get this enemy. Now with these terrorists– we have a different war. I don’t know what our government will do but  they should give our troops overseas that die big funerals, news on the television and newspaper, that’s the right thing to do.  In WW11 they didn’t do that for any of us, they just wrapped the dead in a tarp, and dug a little hole in the ground. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of boys, all they got was a stick where you was. I think they got some of the dog tags mixed up, you didn’t know who was who. When you think about what we went through, and how close you were to each other, everybody was so close, and if someone was shot, you couldn’t stop and help them, you had to keep going.  The natives were so nice to us, so good to us, they picked up the wounded guys and carried them to the hospital, they wouldn’t do that for the Japanese. Now everything is on the television so you’re part of it.”  Maurice began to weep silently. I hugged him. Rudy interjected. 

            “What were the natives like?”

          ” Back then we called them headhunters. They didn’t wear any clothes at all, but after we got there some of them started wearing our clothes. They lived in bamboo huts, pretty neat to live in, Rudy, you would have liked those tents. Anyway, they had these powwows, they’d catch a monkey, and hang him up, build a fire under him, and cinch the hair, then sit down and eat the monkey raw, I saw a lot of that. You didn’t dare look at the women, they’d shoot you with an arrow, they had poisonous arrows, the women were so terribly dirty, but they seemed to be happy.  After we took Buna, they liked to shoot up the trees and show us how they got the coconuts, they were so fast. I guess some of them are still alive today, the jungle was so thick and full of mosquitos, a lot of them had malaria, they had no medicine, they ate herbs and things, to make them better. I’ll never forget them, they were so good to us, when they took me to the hospital they put me on a  stretcher one time, they were so careful, didn’t move me at all.

          “ You couldn’t speak at all to them?”

          “ No, they had their own language, I couldn’t understand it, no one did.”     

 Maurice went into the house and came back with a photograph of a female headhunter. It was strange to think of this person as a woman, she was so primitive. Rudy loved the photograph. Maurice gave it to him. t.  Rudy knew he would never see anything like it with his own eyes, so he cherished that picture and the story Maurice told us as if it was his own experience.    

           THEN THE LIGHT OF DAY TURNED FOGGY.  Maurice said it was time to go in because it was getting cold.  He told us how much he loved us that night, and what good friends we were. When Maurice talked of his experience in the war, it was like a chiropractic adjustment on my struggle, and I had renewed strength to just keep writing.

          It was the first time for Rudy to hear first hand about WW11 because his father had been stationed here making torpedoes. My father enlisted but they wouldn’t take him because he didn’t have citizenship. It bothered him too, he was the kind of man that would die for this country in a heartbeat.

           A year or so later, some woman came to know Maurice and asked about his experience in the war. She said she would write a book about it, and so he gave her the photographs and Life Magazine and waited to hear from her. She never came back, and Maurice was really shocked because she had seemed so sincere.

         I wanted to know more about his life after the war, but the time didn’t come until one night when Rudy and I got into a nasty fight. To be continued.

 

 

COVID-CHANGED US


IN THESE TIMES OF DISTANCE, DEATH, DISCOURSE, AND ISOLATION what can I write of value? All month this puzzle chased my thoughts; nudged me like a pesky fly. At different intervals during the solemnness, my journal returned parched sketchy paragraphs, and books did not deliver the inspiration I craved. Listening to Beethoven as I gaze out the window at the blowing branches on a spring gray and white day, I feel a singleness I’ve never known. Maybe you feel the same, and it is you I am writing to because I know you are there. Singleness in quarantine is more incarcerating than it is for married, partnered, family people. Though they have to acclimatize to spacial hardship as everyone at home is at the same intersection without privacy, and that slogan I remember from college, ‘I need my space man,” resonates. One friend said to me on the phone, “I yelled at my kids today, I’ve never done that before. We’re bumping into each other. I think I’m losing my mind.”

US SINGLES  are accustomed to solitude, especially if you are an artist. How we howl for isolation to create, and now we have it. The time is here, to skip down the most bizarre roads and create COVID-Art. A few weeks ago, Governor Cuomo delivered his press conference and said, “I have something to show you.” A sliding door opened and a collage that appeared twelve feet in height displayged a tapestry of masks. He told us they came from all over the world. He was so touched by the gesture. Imagine a new solo dance performing an abstraction of the virus, or a poem, a song, and for sure a dozen or more writers and screenwriters are tapping at the speed of light to capture the pandemic in art form.

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/analysis/art-pandemic

I’M GOING DOWNTOWN now to pick up a cobb salad from Sunset Grill, my stable for drinks and great food. The sky is in turmoil, as the clouds interchange across the sun, and she appears to be breaking through at one moment and the next she has revealed her radiance. I dress for the weather with a hat and coat and begin my three-block walk to downtown. When it begins to rain, I am smiling as I’ve always loved walking in the rain. As masked villagers pass, I’m struck by the absence of smiles, or good afternoon which you get a lot in a village of five-thousand. Some younger couples cross the street when they see me, and heads are mostly lowered to the ground. A new silence emerges as cell phones are tucked into pockets and passing voices are inaudible.
I HAVEN’T HAD FACE TO FACE  conversation for several days and I feel a sprinting joy in anticipation of a conversation with Eric or Brian who own the café. They’ve installed a take out window, and as I approach I see Brian, and he ducks down to greet me.
Hey Loulou, how are you?
“ At this moment I am so happy to see you!
He swings down a bit lower to pop his head through the window
“ So am I. We miss you.”
“ I feel the same. How are you doing with all this.” He is smiling, and he’s always a bit jumpy like he needs to go for a jog or a bike ride.
“We had to let the staff go,” now his smile turns to a gripping inner pain. My kid is washing dishes and we’re still here, but you’re the first customer today.”
“Will you reopen when we’re off the pause button?
“ With twenty-five percent capacity, I don’t know. The numbers don’t work out so well. I mean we’ll still do curbside.”
Suddenly he turns about-face and joins me on the sidewalk touting my cobb salad. Brian must need a conversation as much I do. We chatted about the virus, our change of behavior, and this pent-up craving for closeness.
“ I can’t even go on a date anymore with someone! How can you meet anyone today?” He gestures with his arms to emphasize his frustration.
“Yeah, you’ll have to take their temperature before you sit six feet away.” We laughed, maybe for the first time in days.

AS I WALK BACK HOME  my thoughts are traveling along the pathway of restaurants, I frequented in San Diego, Los Angeles, Taos, Santa Fe, and now here. I see the owners and waiters’ faces, remember the food and a visual kaleidoscope of the festive times we shared. You know that saying, the good ol’ days, now I am on the other side of that at least for the foreseeable future.
For me the adaptation is more than frustration. Last year I did not take advantage of the racetrack, or the concerts at SPAC, or the exhilarating nightlife along Broadway on a Saturday night in Saratoga Springs. I trembled in silence abashed by the consequences of my mistakes. If we un-pause this summer I promise you I will not be clasping the remote waiting for the next film.

AS I APPROACH  my house, I notice the neighbor in her driveway. We clashed in the most vicious ways the summer Rudy and I moved into the house. One time I think the police were brought in to settle the argument. It was because she placed a close circuit camera on her roof to track our renovation. She was retired and her husband was always fiddling in the shed. We gave her a purpose. She looked my way timidly. I smiled at her. This is the first time we’ve been this close since I moved here two years ago. She smiled back.
“Are you happy to be back?” she said in a quiet sort of empathetic tone.
“It’s taking time to adjust. I haven’t lived here in so long.”
“I know. Well, not much has changed except for a few new restaurants. Do you plan on staying?”
“I don’t know the answer yet. We had the house up for sale…”
“ I noticed the sign.” She said expectant of more information
“ I can’t maintain a hundred and twenty-seven-year-old house on my own. You know, Rudy’s gone.” She nodded her head.
“Well, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here either. I’m eighty years old now.” She dropped her head to the ground.
“Lorraine you don’t look like it at all.”
We continued on about my new tenants, her dog, and how much work it takes to maintain a painted lady historic home. I couldn’t believe how sweet her voice was, I’d actually never heard her speak except one time shouting at me. Give up grievances and trivia because the person you once disliked may be very different now.

 

SELF PORTRAIT

SINGLE IN QUARANTINE


ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS-  Without argument what motivates the locals in Ballston Spa, NY is family. They go to work every day, some in punishing freezing cold weather to earn a living. The snowblowers, plowers, farmers, horse breeders, deliveries, construction workers, postal workers, cable servers, and weather free runners.

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The families then gather on the weekend at any of our a dozen bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars to sit with the family, drink a beer or mimosa and watch the seasonal sports channel. Children are well behaved mostly, the server is probably related in two degrees of separation, so the expansive informality presides. The pretense is nine miles north in Saratoga Springs. Very minor, compared to Los Angeles, and I love that about Saratoga. They have an A-List too, mostly connected to racehorses or real estate. They aspire to win the Kentucky Derby or buy land to develop a dream community. Traditional and progressive. The generations of Saratoga go back to the eighteen hundreds. I’ve met residents who are the fifth generation, and they are proud to tell you. That stands out for a gal from LA that moved to Ballston Spa.

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Back in Ballston Spa on a milky white sky day, that feels too cold indoors. I’m wearing layers; T-shirt, a thick zip-up sweatshirt, and the Irish wool Jumper I bought in Ireland in 1987. The weather channel claims it is forty-seven degrees, so I’m miffed why I’m so cold.
This week was waiting until my brain was ready to take on the challenge of the moment; coronavirus 19. I’m a failed student of statistics, charts, science, physiology, and models. When the task force takes the stage every day, to update us on the number of cases and deaths my brain struggles with the information, as I am awed by the concentration of facts, projections, and federal coordination. It shed light on how microscopic my responsibilities are in comparison. Governor Cuomo is now the heartthrob of New York and beyond, labeled CoronaCuomo. His press conferences are so inspiring, emotional and empowering that I too have fallen in love.   untitled
I’ve learned More about New Yorkers listening to him rally us all to be tough, smart, patient, loving and united.  Living in upstate Saratoga County, New York we were on lockdown early in the game. The sacrifice isn’t as disarming for me because my personal crisis hasn’t fused with social gatherings, for the last fifteen months. In life, we all have our crisis, it is just better if I’m not in a crowd. So I limited myself to the essentials with an occasional visit to a pastry shop or bistro. Adaptation to quarantine if you are living alone is agonizing and so we have to structure our misery or it will structure us.
Bonded in solitude allows us time to reflect on our relationships, our mistakes and what we miss most in this time of quarantine. This may be the only time we will ever have to examine who we are and what we need to change. If you watch the news, you hear the stories of the first responders, and all the essential workers who risk their own lives to bus us, feed us and deliver our Amazon packages. My mirror of reflection brought the reality of singleness into focus, it is time to trust, love, and to socialize. As Joni Mitchel sings, “ You don’t know what you have till it’s gone.”
If we ignore the war in our lives, the war comes after you.


VOTING HAS BEGUN ON TALEFLICK.


 

IT’S HERE. “CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute” is LIVE in the TaleFlick Discovery contest.

 

Hi Readers:

Voting has begun on Taleflick for this week’s winner. It ends on Friday at 4:pm. CRADLE OF CRIME- A Daughter’s Tribute is on

Page 8. There you will see a voting button. Let’s win!

Head over to the TaleFlick Discovery page, where https://taleflick.com/pages/discovery all visitors to the site will be allowed to vote (once) ON CRADLE OF CRIME- A Daughter’s Tribute

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LOOKING FOR VOTES


 

 

 

Dear Luellen,

Thank you very much for allowing “CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute” to participate in a TaleFlick Discovery contest. Your date has been set!

It will be a special week on TaleFlick Discovery: an all-women’s week, to commemorate International Women’s Day.

“CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute” will be part of next week’s contest that starts:

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Participation is 100% free.

DYLAN’S TOUCH


The irony.  When I first heard “Like A Rolling Stone” as a teenager, the lyrics saddened me every time I played it or it came on the radio. Then this song became my destiny.

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People call say ‘beware doll, you’re bound to fall’
You thought they were all kidding you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ahh you’ve gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you’re gonna have to get used to it
You say you never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ah you never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinking, thinking that they’ve got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal
How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
© Downtown Music Publishing, AUDIAM, INC
Photograph credit Jim Marshall

FATHER GANGSTERS


I am thinking about some of Dad’s answers to questions. You learn more by listening than telling. I remember if a friend or associate made some business proposition, Dad would answer, ‘I’ve been thinking along those same lines myself, and have a few ideas.’ Now, sometimes, he didn’t know but that gave him a shot into the game. The opponent would then tell Dad everything. The reason I say this is he said that to me. Not in those words, but the same move. Gangster’s do as much strategizing as politicians, maybe more. Coming out of court LA Times Photo. He loved sunglasses, and so do I.

WINTER, WAYS, AND CHANGE


Thirty degrees doesn’t feel like it did last year. Adventures in livingness in the village, where I am walking, eating, going to the Post Office, stopping into to chat rap with Blossom, and withholding the urge to step into an antique shop. The thing is, I hadn’t planned on living here a year, so when plans are hijacked, we have to adapt. It feels like maturity has surfaced.
Thinking slips into different chambers; health reminders that I am not forty, finances have been a struggle since I left home, appearance, brown spots on my legs and these cancer sprouts, comfort, to be adaptable to any circumstances that manifest. Once you adapt to the unpleasantries, I think it becomes easier. Then it is possible to empty the closet of youthful memories and replace them with whatever gives you peace of mind.

Jim Marshall- credit. I didn’t sell this one, one of five favorites.

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Bob and Baez-JIM MARSHALL

How to describe the sense of protection and security that frees the mind to create and celebrate new challenges, so different now. How short-sided to not know when I had it. Sometimes it feels like my brain is rattling, under siege by these opposing forces, one wants to dance and be in a crowded club, the other wants to make chicken soup, write, recheck my immediate business and watch Butterfield 8. I wish these two characters would merge into one!

This stranger to me, trying to be practical, prudent, safe, and boring is my opposite. We all have some duality. Subtle flips in habitat, the way I would wake early and feel eager to meet the new vacation renters or gallery clients. Sleeping past seven wasn’t of interest to me, I was an early riser because I had so much to accomplish.  I do not expose myself verbally or physically in public (LOL) do not forget to turn off the burners, candles, or lock the doors. Do talk to strangers because they may know something I need to hear. Do not sneer at what advantages others have, in envy.  I could go on but it’s time to prepare dinner. Sunday dinner, even alone is my time to cook as if it’s for two. What is more crucial to our happiness, than the turntable of our moods…we control the needle.

People here seem to be a bit suspicious, or maybe just curious why I never married and had children, everyone my age has grandchildren. When I was forty, I said I’m not ready, at fifty, they didn’t ask much, then in the sixties, they ask. Not always verbally, I see it the expression, a slightly raised brow, a lip twitch. How I answer now is,’ its a long story.’ Then, if I’m asked to tell the story I start talking as if I’d known them years. I lose them after the last few year’s misadventures. It doesn’t disturb me because I completely understand. I used to be judgmental about people who lost their track, who ended up broke, who had severe misfortune. Shamefully, I didn’t think it could happen to me. Lying seems to be very hip and acceptable these days. Maybe I’ll fictionize the whole last three years.

Now for the first time, this last year, I’ve noticed the bed crushed in pillows and wooly throws feel way to peaceful to leave. As soon as I am dressed the work begins, and just this week I’ve completed the list I’d made when I was in Los Angeles a year and a half ago, honest. The last entry is crossed off.
The new list, all transformative channels; I’m selling my grand Victorian here in Ballston Spa. I’ve owned her for twenty years. I haven’t lived here since 2004, and my last visit was in 2012. She needs a facelift and botox. Once she sells, my suitcases and boxes will need a new address. This channel is snow, like on the television when its blinked out. Where that address will be is unknown. A troubling disturbance that nudges me all day and night. I search the internet, best cities to retire, best beaches, then I end up in Dublin one night reading an expatriate’s travel log online. Without a lover, best friend, husband, male, I am pandemonium, distracted, and insanely unnerving with my sense of direction. When he says ‘everything will be all right’ I calm down from whatever adventure lopsided.
The sale of Follies House will mean more than selling, it will force me to carve out a new vocation because my rentals were my income. Browsing job websites is an alarming epiphany. I don’t understand the qualifications, unknown coded programs, and applications. Even art galleries use social media formats to sell online. How can you buy a photograph or painting in virtual reality? Being self-employed for so many years doesn’t qualify.

Writing is not like running water anymore. I’m second-guessing, straining for clarity and topics that matter to my followers and new readers. Peace of mind squelches insecurity and self-doubt, at least in my adventures in livingness.

Today, the street view of stark-naked trees and branches seemed to happen overnight. Buckets of fallen autumn leaves paint the lawns and while all the neighbors are fastidiously blowing, raking and wrapping up for the city to pick up. The day I set out to rake and sweep the sun was tucked into a ravishing blue sky, almost like Santa Fe. Ten minutes into my amateur leaf raking skills the wind picked up and blew the leaves air-borne. Preparing for the unexpected is the staple that glues sanity here.

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Finer details are the urns and pots of mums on every porch. If feels almost obligatory, so I joined in and placed mums in my planters.  Now, a week later, snow is smothering the lawns, neighbors’ chimneys spew smoke, and the village is sparsely populated. It’s redundant to even talk about the temperature when you’re in a conversation, it is relevant to talk about the snow, and how many inches are forecast. I refrain from checking the weather so the first morning I woke to powdered sugar-coated trees and streets, it was a cinematic surprise.

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This year, I am adjusted to the weather, how to dress, and to create an indoor sanctuary so there is enough art, books, food, and music to accessorize the glim grey skies.  Adventures in livingness in a northeastern village in upstate New York reckons with my city upbring in LA.  I live amongst blue-collar workers, resilient, tolerant, unpretentious. No movie stars here. Hard cored tough New Yorkers. No BS in Ballston Spa.20190930_185032

 

 

HOPSCOTCHING THE TRUTH


 

WHEN YOU TOUCH THE TRUTH: by thought, word of mouth, friend, or by a dream, however, it comes, and completely unexpectedly it is, the blessing is it came.  hopscotch-bristol-1050x700   When it is closure, to events and persons in those events, and if you examine your part, what you played, was it original or falsified, was it genuine, and was it worth it. Asking myself these questions, as the door, locked sealed and intendable,  must be the abstraction of goodbye, delete, it’s over. My double vision, the child must behave for now, and let the adult lead me. I tell myself over and over, to keep that door closed, and look to now, the moments, they may starve me of imaginations and dreams, and that’s just what happens when a change has arrived at your doorstep. I do hate goodbyes, never have been an example of someone who moves on, like an octopus, my arms hang on to the best people, places, and homes in my life.    

Three days later:  The door is locked now, it will pop open now and then, in my interior rearview mirror. My secret can only be revealed after mounds of trust have been sifted and sealed. The former LouLou trusted, effortlessly, so the truth is I cannot behave that way anymore. Or can I? 

It is the most destabilizing force of emotion to accept I trusted someone who betrayed our thirty-five year Huckleberry Friend trust.  I don’t know how anyone else adapts to this.  I’m kinda staring out the window, like a cat staring at an unreachable mouse.  When I’m in this mood I listen to Bobby Darin and Tony Bennett, I’m a bleeding nostalgic.

AN EMOTIONAL ATTITUDE


 

Earlier today, I stopped into bring Blossom a gift, recently renamed from Christine as she reminds me of a flower. Her curly braided brown hair, pink lipstick, birch brown eyes, and flowing printed dress, just formed that image of a bouquet. She was leaning on the glass display of her boutique, (Amazing Finds, in the village of Ballston Spa) eyes wide and bonded to the glass
window.

 

( Downtown Ballston Spa, settled in 1771)
An instant greeting of, “How’d it go? You look happy. Was it painful?’
My bandaged nose, from surgery last week to remove cancer concerned her, as her flowery eyes turned into studied binoculars. Our conversation drifted into a dialogue about attitude. In the eight months, I’ve lived here and stopped to chat, like four times a week, Blossom has not once displayed melancholy or agitation. Instead, she draws me out of my moody anxiousness (I’m that way. Too emotional) and into laughter and joviality.
” You’re always so positive. How do you do it?” I asked.
” Here’s what I do, I will tell you. Every morning I wake up and write down whatever comes to mind– don’t even think about it, just listen to your thoughts. Write down five thoughts, then go back and cross off the negative ones.”
” Interesting. I journal.”
” That’s different– this works. I wake up grateful, no matter what shit is going on in my life.”
” I’m not that way. I’m too emotional about what happens in my life.”
” Why?”
” Wish I knew, I guess I’m a reactionary. I wish you knew me when I was really happy, content with my life.”
” Forget the past, you gotta let that go. You have it inside you now. I see it, even though you have a lot of obstacles, I know you’re a good person, and you got legs!
” Wish I had your breasts!
“Hah-hah! Listen I want you to do what I said, wake up with what you have and not what you don’t have. Love the purse too by the way.” We hugged and I trotted off, a bit of a dance to my step and a smile on my face. She touched my emotional gear, gave it a push, and into the night. Instead of arguing with myself that I should go out and meet people, mingle, laugh, my evening was music and film, emotions like floating musical notes until midnight.
Three days later, Dorian strikes and my head turned outward, the images on television seemed staged, the aerial footage presented an island of trash floating in dump water. How do they rebuild those miles of destruction? The emotions we have monitored from the comfort of our homes or wherever you happen to be are as one. News anchors drop bashing in the tidepool of politics, and sordid revolting details about Jeffrey Epstein, or the latest protest. I imagine every one of you is horrified, maybe slightly in shock to grasp the velocity of Mother Nature. Floridians are locked up like school children. My friends in Miami cling to one another, as the warnings are now so intensified, the fear detonated functioning life. I’ve never lived through a hurricane; a few tornadoes and my nerves were wiggling from those events. Life, when we come together in emotions is the hope that we can do it when we are not threatened.
Sitting on the porch of Follies House in the wooded hillsides of Saratoga County, NY sealed in verdant shades, tickled by a tap of breeze, only enough to cause the slightest of tones, much like what I am listening to Little Girl Blue by Oscar Petersen. Anais wrote extensively about jazz writing when she lived in New York and frequented all the jazz clubs. So, with my emotions, the music, the serenity of East High Street on a Saturday, white butterflies and cotton ball clouds granulate into daydreaming, and neutrality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I tried Blossom’s idea and surprised to find that the negatives are not life-threatening, painful, or disastrous in any way. The positives are it is September in New York, my windows are newly cleaned, so I can see the leaves sprout into golden shades, nothing broke in the house this week, and my refrigerator is full. The essentials of livingness, a partner to warn me from misadventures, a working laptop and printer,  friends phone call and texts, oh, and money for perfume and lipstick.

Yesterday I stopped in to see Blossom.  ” Pick something out, I love your present.  … here try this shawl. It looks like you.”

 

WEST TO EAST-PART TWO


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?”

” Excellent.”

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.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2003 The Village Adopted my Slogan.

 

 

 

 

 

BLACKLIST- NETFLIX


The Blacklist | Netflix
netflix.com
NETFLIX- BLACKLIST-
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.
https://www.netflix.com/title/70281312BLACKLIST .png

 

WEST LOS ANGELES TO EAST SARATOGA SPRINGS NY


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.


The Village of Ballston Spa.

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.

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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.

Saratoga Spa Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DAY BENJAMIN SIEGEL DIED.


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.  

AN ADOLESCENT ADULT


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?     

   

THE FOLLIES HOUSE

A CAT CAREGIVER


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.

HOME INSIDE


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?

Uncertainty
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.

 

PART TWO: DIVINE DIANE


PART TWO

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.

ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS- LA.


  • 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. 20180914_130708.jpg

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.    20180704_140814(1).jpg

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. 20180805_183912.jpg

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.

 

OPERA OF THE NIGHT.


https://www.pandora.com/station/play/1486524031572378132.

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.

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BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME.


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.   20180704_140814(1)

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. 

 

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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.”

“That’s easy.”

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS- SUICIDE


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.    e4ef93000387449b61736ab73c004536

 

One winged flight with breath of fright, just a step I have to take to the next destination.

330px-WLANL_-_MicheleLovesArt_-_Museum_Boijmans_Van_Beuningen_-_Eva_na_de_zondeval,_RodinIn 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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING OF AGE AT SIXTY-SOMETHING


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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

RELOCATION


 

When I look beyond the quarry of my chains and rowing towards a redefined life my soul is nourished.

Santa Fe has star power and can shower your life with photographic moments on the half-hour. You are accepted and expected to be liberal, intelligent, and artistic.  Like any city, village, or town you have some culture to conform to, or else you won’t be taken seriously.  In Los Angeles, I learned you have to be able to put on cinematic charisma to get a conversation going with a stranger.  Here in Ballston Spa, invitations arrive with New York common sense, and some realistic hesitancy. It’s about pre-screening, they need to know you won’t mess up their life.

 My direction is following Lawrence Durrell, “Spirit of the Place,” and living where I would never expect to live.  I wish I could control my impractical, impulsive, and annoying spirit of adventure. I think about architecture, Jewish deli’s, Italian restaurants, at least five movie theaters built in the 1930s, and neighborhoods of unfamiliar lighting, expressions, and conversations. Gambling on yourself is how much you can adapt, change, influence, and accept the days of your life.

In my syndicate, there must be a dozen pals with the same unsolved equation. Is it age that blocks me and maybe you from relocation, or is it the trauma and stress? What liberation to just pack a suitcase and board a plane like in the movies. Separation from the familiar. Ask any soldier what it’s like to come home.

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.


SUMMER IN SANTA FE


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.

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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 POEM BY SOARING CROW


“Message in a Bottle”

 
Floating forever, on the tides of a thousand seas…..
 
With the lives of the oceans, and all that dwell unseen…..
 
Deep in the abyss, a multitude of eyes see unheard…..
 
yet from the fingers of a writer, there echos forth some words……………
 
Words of expression, artistic and true…..
 
Deep in her mind, she writes who is who…..
 
With an internal calling, writing creative and free…..
 
That enlightens the Worlds, of both you and me…..
 
Her thoughts they are written, of magic and spells…..
 
Just open that bottle, she has a story to tell……
 
 
from an admirer of your works

RADIO INTERVIEW


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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

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A VERY HAPPY, CREATIVE, PROSPEROUS, GRATEFUL AND SURPRISING NEW YEAR TO YOU


      ADVENTURESS IN LIVINGNESS 2020

 2020 SOUNDS SO PROMISING.  TO ALL MY READERS, FOLLOWERS, FRIENDS AND STRANGERS. I DO WISH YOU A SLICE OF SENSATIONAL SURPRISE IN THE NEXT YEAR.

 

MY LIST FOR THE NEW YEAR

TIDY THE HOUSE LESS

SMILE MORE

                             LET LOVE COME AND GO, NOTHING MEANS MORE THAN TO TAKE IT SLOW

CONCENTRATE INSTEAD OF CELEBRATE

WATCH MORE INSPIRING DOCUMENTARIES AND LESS OLD MOVIES

SPEND MORE TIME MAKING FRIENDS

FINISH MY WORK IN PROGRESS

THANK GOD EVERYDAY FOR HIS PROTECTION AND GIFTS

STOP FEELING GUILTY FOR SLEEPING IN