FRIENDSHIPS – KEEP US SAFE


Photo by Philip Townsend

 I won’t get out of this unless I have faith in myself. If God does make miracles, I’ve used mine up. My wonderous, rewarding, illuminating, creative adventurous life was a row of blessings from people that erupted into my life at the exact right time like we had an appointment.  Strangers one day,  pals a week later, years later our rebar, supporting joists of our underpinning in life.

Loners were postured in film, books, and art as mysterious, untouchable, or approachable, they even became romanticized as people of superior cerebral awareness. I’ve met and gained friendships with several over the last few decades. My first high school boyfriend was a loner, he became popular but his soul craved mind expansion and he needed solitary confinement.

How this relates to the intensification of rancorous physical assaults in as many venues, streets, and shops as you can name is my pestering pursuit today. People are exploding with anger, frustration, and hatred. I understand the anger and frustration, but not the hatred. Are all these perpetrators unloved, or do they live amongst compatible comrades? People are shot because their hamburger wasn’t properly served on time, or they have a different opinion. I was living in Los Angeles in 2018, one day driving down Pico Blvd I noticed a sign, “Walk in Anger Management.” Maybe we need to convert a few drive-thru food diners to Anger Management centers. It sounds amusing, doesn’t it? If I was financially able, I’d open one in every major city.

 What has happened to our culture is unimaginable for a woman who grew up in the Love and Peace generation, or even into the eighties and nineties. We didn’t shoot one another, maybe a fist fight, or a shouting match but not murder in cold blood.

Could this macabre movement be softened by friends who love you more when you are gentle and kind? It cannot be that simple, or could it? When I used to rage about some occurrence that ripped me personally my partner would come to me and say,

‘LouLou put your guns down,’ that always made me laugh, and then we’d talk out what triggered my fury.    

Humankind is in recession, we need a John Lennon to lead us back to where we belong.  TO BE CONTINUED

PHOTO BY DICK SPAS.

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/tiempo-libre-back-in-havana-tiempo-libre-by-luellen-smiley


Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival

Sunday Line Up – TIEMPO LIBRE

SUNDAY June 2611:00 AM

Sometimes an interview with a musician goes deeper than a narrative history of recordings, concert calendar, and early training. That happened when I met Jorge Gómez; founder, keyboardist, and musical director of Tiempo Libre, an all-Cuban-born Timba band. We met in a modest hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he and his six band members were invited to play for the third time at the Lensic Theater. It was steam-bath hot and muggy that Friday afternoon. As I stood in the doorway, Jorge wrapped up a recording session. After introductions, everyone cleared out except Jorge and Raul Rodriguez, the trumpet player. Raul propped up against the headboard of an unmade bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other straight out. He reminded me of Miles; cool in his skin and unflappable.

Jorge and I sat at the kitchenette bar, between us his keyboard on the countertop. Eagerness to begin was dilating from his eyes, so I began with my favorite question to all immigrants; how did it feel when you landed in the United States?

“Oh my God! It was my dream; all through childhood in Havana.” “Do you love America now?”

His arms shot straight up, as he rose from his chair.

“Are you kidding? We love America! How can you not? This is the best country in the world. I’ve been all over: Europe, Asia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. You have all the opportunities; you make your own life here, whatever you want.” He shifts his attention to Raul, agreeably excluded.

“You can’t do this in Cuba—right Raul?” Jorge leans forward and I’m struck by the indisputable untainted smile. Jorge continues to dramatize his arrival in Manhattan, with arms and eyes, “I got out because I had friends in New York. They helped me get gigs in the bars, weddings, and then we got into the clubs.” The room is silent except for Jorge’s satin-smooth transitions from one question to the next. That alone is reason enough to meet Jorge for a conversation. “We were not allowed to listen to Cuban salsa music, or American music; only classical. I trained at the Conservatory all my childhood. I play all of them; Beethoven, Brahms, all of them.” “Where did you learn Salsa?”

“From America! Yes. As teenagers, we climb to the roof and we to wait till state-programmed Cuban music goes off the air at 1:00am. Then we wrap aluminum around the antenna and turn our radio on. We pick up American music; like Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, everyone. We listened all night so we’d take the rhythms’ in our heads you know.” “What’s the difference between Cuban Salsa and Latin Salsa?” “Everyone claims this is their Salsa; it’s Latin, Marange, Colombian… it is a blend of many cultures and musical influences. We take from each other. All the instruments I learn come from listening. They teach me everything, and I teach them.”

“Do Americans play Conga different than Cubans?”

“It depends on the person. See if the person is open to learn everything then he push through. For example we have been playing all these places like Michigan, Minnesota, Minneapolis…all those places that are so.” He pauses to express it precisely. “Cold” he says, laughing out loud.

“And I’ve seen American band playing Cuban salsa so so good, my God, so well. Blue eyes and blond hair.” Jorge breaks to howl out his enthusiasm, surprise, and demonstrate the memory.

“Who do you like to listen to do today?”

“I don’t know the names, but I have a lot of friends, and they call me and say, ‘I have a band, you come and hear me.’ So I go to the club and Wow! This is good music! Everyone is dancing. I love to see them dancing! I want to see them happy. If they want to sit and listen, good, if they want to sing along, good, they want to dance good. Everybody has a different reaction. My job is to transfer the energy to the person; that’s the idea. Not to play the music for me; I want them to be happy.”

“How do you do that?”

“Sometimes you are sick, and no matter how many pills you take you are still sick. Right?”

I nod and watch his facial expressions twitch in thought.

“Then let’s say I come and say, Wow! You look so good man, you are looking good, and he claps’ his hands and pantomimes the joy he’s transferring. ‘You wanna coffee cake and coffee, yea, come with me, (clapping again) you want to sit here? Yea sit here and see the sun.’ Suddenly, you feel good.” He nods his head. “Trust me.”

Jorge is toe-tapping in place, his arms positioned in a warm world embrace.

“You forget all about the pills. Trust me, that is the kind of energy I give.”

“I suppose you don’t get sick?”

“Never. For sure. Never. I don’t know what this head pain is… how you say, headache? Like friends say I have so many problems, so many headaches, I can’t go out. I say, ‘What! Come on we go to the beach, to the sand. Bring your conga. What are you crazy! Come on!’ So he comes and we play on the beach in Miami.”

Jorge drums on the countertop. “Have a beer, have another.’ And everyone on the beach comes to us. The whole idea is to forget your problems. So my friend says to me, ‘I had the best day of my life.’ Yea! Be happy! This is youth; this is how you stay young. Life is so big.”

I shake my head, “Not in America; we concentrate on sickness and misery.”

“Yea! You don’t have sickness yet, but you are going to get it.” He ruptures into laughter and takes a sip of beer. My father tell me one time you have to hear your body; your body going to take you in the right direction. Just listen and you are going to feel so good. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night. All the songs and ideas are in my head and I can’t sleep. I must write it down, and the next morning I feel so good because I didn’t go to sleep. I drink beer because I am too happy-over happy.”

“Where did you learn this happiness?”

“From all the difficult paths I have in my life. Childhood was very difficult; no food, no water, no electricity, and no plumbing. What are you going to do? Party, go outside, dance, play basketball, and baseball. I get my friends and they say my problems are bigger than yours. Bla bla bla.”

I’m laughing now as Jorge continues to articulate his life philosophy. “At the end of the day you are so happy because you see people less fortunate and some more, and you are in the middle, and you want to help those people, you can’t go it alone.”

He chuckles again. His smile is broad as his cheek line. A streak of sunlight crossed the keyboard, and Jorge’s eyes and brows are in motion, as much as his legs arms and hands.

“What you’re going to hear tonight is a lot of crazy crazy energy, good music, a lot of stories. You’re going to see a lot of soul. When Raul plays his trumpet you’re going to turn inside out.”

“What is Timba music?”

“A mixture of jazz, classical, rock, and Cuban music.”

“Sounds like a musical.”

“Yes, Yes! We are in preparing for that.”

Four hours later I was in the Lensic Theater, twelve rows from the stage. Lead singer Xavier Mill, Jorge, Raul, Louis Betran Castillo on flute and sax, Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra on bass, Israel Morales Figueroa on drums and Leandro Gonzales on Congas opened the set, and five minutes into it I was dancing below the stage. Two and half hours later I was still dancing, along with half the audience.!!

That’s entertainment!https://www.allaboutjazz.com/tiempo-libre-back-in-havana-tiempo-libre-by-luellen-smiley

Tiempo Libre

About Tiempo Libre

THE CHIMES IN OUR LIVES


You see a chime, the moment it responds to a breeze, the sound is beautiful, like Chopin’s  Nocturne 1. Sounds that accompany a descending light mist, or setting sun, but the chime improvises its sounds and movements when a vivacious wind girdles its ether. This abstraction reminds me of sensitivity. It can be soft and gentle, nurturing to the souls of those less peaceful, but when the velocity of attack hits, sensitivity is a walloping eruption of rage, drifting on uncontrollable. I’ve been punitively and cordially of being too sensitive.  There are more good reasons to alter my sensitivity than not to, but the one reason that hovers above all else is that everything we do, feel and act in life needs revision. We should never stop evolving into more thoughtful, loving, or wise human beings. Every day, there is an opportunity to leap into saintly hood. It is the same with my writing it can be better.

                    The next adventure is closing in on me as foreclosure is over the June horizon. The dismantling of possessions brings me some sort of twisted alignment to my life. Picking and choosing what to pack, eliminating what Dodger and I bought together, and vacillating over treasures that are now more weight than worth.  If I am ever to rest in one address, I’m sure it will be a headstone and a plot of dirt. I chose a destiny to relocate, and so the highway off-ramp will evolve, I just have to be patient.

           It is the inner self that concerns me, and how I will adjust and adapt to leaving my favorite house. When I was thirty, I was afraid of getting married, and when I was forty, I was afraid of not having children. Now that I am sixty-nine, I have a fear that once was my chant, the idea of moving.

The word coddiwomple is English slang, defined as “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. If you are anything like me you may be coddiwompling your way through life, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

LOVE FOR HISTORIC VICTORIAN HOMES


Looks like an open dragon mouth, in a way it is. Follies House is begging for a brace. The horrors and hahas of owning a 137-year-old home. We’ve had twenty-two years of sustainable wood, but this year is the end of luck. A dear and wise friend once told me this, ” Don’t love what doesn’t love you back.” As a woman of insatiable imagination and impracticability, I do love her. So I spent a few weeks interviewing masonry contractors. The first four said this, ” I wouldn’t park your car under there.”
“What? The carport is going to collapse?”
“It could.”
” And that costs?
” Fifteen thousand at minimum.”
” What about a temporary fix.”
” Too much liability. Sorry, mam.”

Five interviews later talking to a man whose been in the business thirty years, ” I cannot restore the entire job, is there a temporary fix?”
“Well, we could bring in a platform plank to hold it up.”
” How much would that cost?”
“Twenty-five hundred tops. You should really let us remove the foundation above it, that’s rotted and sinking. Is there a room above it?”
“Yes, a bedroom in my unit. How much would that cost?”
” Between ten thousand and fifteen. We have to get in there and see how much water damage.”
” No, I can’t do that, no impossible.”
” I understand. I’ll do the temporary fix, the house is so gorgeous, and I’ve seen them all.”
” Thank you, I have tenants and have to be responsible for their safety.”
” Would you like to see the bedroom?”
” I’m in a rush.” I smiled a lot and walked up the stairs and opened the front door so he could see.
“Wow, this is incredible.” Once he was in the house he was in love and granted me a discount of five hundred dollars. Do you know why? He said he’d love to be a part of her history after he’s gone. Historic homes are leaving our country, replaced by what he called tinderboxes that only last thirty years.

DAY 60 FOR USA-FOR UKRAINE IT IS SURVIVAL.


I looked at the list. The list looks back at me; trivial, trite, redundant, so I turn on the news.  The sky has taken the bail, the air is earnest spring, clouds and impending rain like a suspense novel you just started reading.

The list is still in front of me. Call the bank for the fourth time this week. Their new and highly improved website refuses to give me access. Find the copy of the passport application I just submitted.  Next, pack up winter clothes and replace them with spring-summer.  This obligation irritated me until late afternoon, and then in one swift harmonious leap, I packed up the winter clothes and removed them from my eyesight.  Then, I heard a breeze, a solid applicable one that needed to blow through the winter staleness. I opened all the doors and windows that I can open, and let the house breathe. I’ve been quarantined since a week ago Saturday with Covid.  It was not as agonizing as I’d imagined. Two days of annoying muscle and nerve pain, and flopping over four or five times a day to sleep. Today, I will use my energy to cross off the mindless tasks.

Next on the list, are estimates on the spring cleanup of five hundred or more dead stalks, leaves, bushes, etc to make Follies ready for spring.  Internal conversation goes like this, I should do it myself, save the hundreds they will charge, but where do I empty all the leaves? The village has rules about placing leaves on the street. Too physical, back to the list.

Submissions for publication, are the most tedious and necessary acts if you are a writer. Nope, not in the mood for that. So I took a drive along a country road, with the top down, and listened to Joe Bataan, a waist-twisting Salsa boogaloo disco singer.  I turned around after fifteen minutes, even Joe cannot spring my spirit to life.

My relationship with the world is not dependent on what happens to me. It is with Ukraine.  My heartbeat is in slow motion as I watch the latest news feed from Zelensky. He is holding a press conference this Saturday. It lasted two hours or more. As the camera scanned the packed room of reporters; expressions rooted in awe, admiration, eagerness, and razor-sharp comprehension I thought, they resemble a child’s face the first time a book is read aloud.  Within the hour’s conference, a news blip surfaced. Blinken and Austin will meet with Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday. My suspicion is they were watching.

As I sat down to dinner, I thought of the announcement earlier that day, “One loaf of bread fed forty people in a bomb shelter. How do we live within the torture, death, and starvation? How do we get up and laugh or enjoy an outing? For me, I have not found a way.

UKRAINEACOUST – PUTIN=HITLER


We can pay to go into space, text unlimitedly to avoid, a phone call, we can avoid meeting because we have too many social media reply’s waiting. We can upload, download, delete and save in a second. We can install security alarms, and electronic remotes to open and close our appliances, and electricity. We can drive a car without hands-on, we can buy a private plane, an armored car, bodyguards, and we can remain anonymous by creating a false identity… What we are not doing is improving our behavior, our own personal evolution as humans.  Our civility is most recently televised as the Chris Rock, Will Smith slap. I’m sixty-eight and have watched the Oscars, so I remember what they gave the audience- humble sweet, amusing award-winner speeches, not a political coma, or reprisal for a joke. If Chris did not know the sensitivity of Jada for suffering from alopecia, ( and she is gorgeous with or without). After the slap Chris said something like, this will be the most-watched television show. WHAT? Is that all there is to our humanity; attention, vanity, and ratings?

As time grabs our life without us evening knowing it, one day we may wake up and say, I don’t have that much time left, what should I do?  If you are single without children then the options are galactic, unless you live in Ukraine. The war bleeds in my veins, sometimes I feel nausea from the videos, and other times enraged that this was not prevented. The best news of the day is that Russia is expelled from the Human Rights Council. Pause, just today? I am half-Ukrainian. My father, grandfather etc, were Ukrainians. I’ve always thought and said I am half Russian, as noted on Dad’s papers. But I am not Russian, excuse my blind spot.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. Ayn Rand.

April Fools Putin


April 1, 2022

 The latest poll on our opinion about NUCLEAR WAR revealed that seventy-five percent of us are worried about NUCLEAR WAR.

April 1, 2022 Day 34

Listening to the news on and off today to collate my life with Ukraine. My tasks and routines are dismissed or performed fecklessly. Just now at four-thirty pm, a splash of the sun touched down to give me a moment to sit on the porch and let the warmth saturate through my gloves and coat.

I’m looking at the magnificent great great grandfather spruce tree across the street. A ballet wind fan is blowing the branches as if they are in toe shoes. Nature granulates humanity. We don’t live for thousands of years like rocks, rivers, oceans, mountains, waterfalls, and trees. Then I think of the Ukrainians, they will survive.  I watched three hours of news today. The longevity and persistence of nature emulates the Ukrainian heart and spirit. My dice, cards, everything is on their winning this war.   

ONE MONTH OF UKRAINE’S DEATH & DESTRUCTION


MARCH 24,

December 24, 1943, From the Diary of Ann Frank

“I’ve asked myself again and again whether it wouldn’t have been better if we hadn’t gone into hiding; if we were dead now and didn’t have to go through this misery, especially so that the others could be spared the burden. But we all shrink from this thought. We still love life, we haven’t yet forgotten the voice of nature, and we keep hoping, hoping for…everything.” 

July 6, 1944, From the Diary of Ann Frank

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

I am not comparing the Holocaust to Putin’s genocide, what I am comparing is humanity,. It’s evil and it’s virtue.

A non-profit Humanitarian Relief Aid Van bringing medicine, food, water, and clothing was pulled over by The Russian Army. Fifteen volunteers were removed and brought into custody. The news reported the destination, punishment, and length of stay are unknown. Imagine…. I cannot because I’m fearful when I get on a plane. This is one that was reported. People from all over the world, literally, have abandoned their own lives, families, and work to fill the emptiness, starvation, pain, and fear in Ukraine. One of these valiants is a Doctor, and he left his practice in the Midwest to save patients in Ukraine.  A fairly new organization, SAVEOURALLIES. ORG, was contacted about a journalist who suffered extensive injuries was rescued by this organization and returned to the USA for treatment. He is recovering.  We will hear his story when he is ready to speak.

One-quarter of the forty million that escaped Ukrain are now homeless. Today the government announced we will accept one hundred thousand refugees.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We accept over two hundred thousand refugee immigrants a month from all over the world at the southern border, how does that figure on the side of fair?

Another puzzling decision by the government was in taking Iran off the terrorist list.  I haven’t heard any reporter asking that question at a Press House briefing, I’m waiting for an explanation.   

The Mayor of Kyiv, an ex-pro boxer is on the street of his city, surveying the damage. His face is wide, with dominant features that remind me of a face made in clay, hardened, seriously angry without the visible expression, said “ Act now.” And to paraphrase, as the camera shifts to the burning buildings behind him, and the grounds of rubble, he says this, “You can see on your television what’s happening. We need help.” 

In Russia, over ten thousand peaceful, young protestors were forcibly taken into custody after the soldiers shot rifles within several feet of the crowd as they scattered running in all directions. They know the consequences; jail time, fines, interrogation, but they don’t know the details and I imagine each prisoner is penalized in different ways.

The spokesperson for Putin said this on camera, “ If there is a threat to our country we will use nuclear war.”   Stalin starved four million people, Hitler tortured till death six million Jews and thousands of sympathetic accomplices. 

Today the official statement from the White House declared Putin had committed war crimes, but ” IT’S UNDER INVESTIGATION, IT’S AN ONGOING PROCESS AND, WE ARE COLLECTING THE EVIDENCE.” Okay,  shoot me if I’m wrong. We need more than a thousand innocent people:  children, mothers’ fathers’, grandparents, buried in dirt pits because the funeral homes are completely full, that doesn’t count as evidence? 

The latest poll on the USA population opinion revealed that seventy-five percent of us are worried about  NUCLEAR WAR.  

MARIUPOL

THINKING UKRAINE


MARCH 20,2022

I WANT TO BLAME SOMEONE, to take my anger, rage, and sorrow and give it direction.  Of course, it is Putin, but why wasn’t Ukraine prepared. I read that seventy thousand troops landed on the border in April. If applied to myself, when that red dot on my nose appeared, instead of going then to the Dermatologist, I waited and waited. A year later, they had to dig out cancer and left me with a noticeable scarred nose. Preemptive, proactive measures could have been, should have been installed, and why not? If it’s true that Zelenskyy asked for NATO SUPPORT in April, why didn’t they listen?

I watch the sky tonight on my porch, clustered clouds, and anticipatory rain; no smoke, fires, explosions, or sirens. GOD BLESS OUR PEACE AND PLEASE SAVE UKRAINE.  

UKRAINIAN LIVES MATTER TO POLAND


MONDAY MARCH 12,

Some domestic and global tragedies diminish in our consciousness as weeks go by. Just as the news turns their stories from our southern border crisis, Covid pandemic, inflation, and other unsolved problems. 

Ukraine defending their country against the vicious unprovoked genocidal attack by Putin is not going in this direction. It is more explosive and brutal each day and the response by NATO and the USA seems to be in pandemonium. You hear, “ Everything is on the table.” “Nothing is off the table.”  I understand strategic covert operations are classified, still, this leaves me asking, shouldn’t they be beyond discussion by now? If I continue to vacillate on a decision, it only exacerbates the consequences.  

I’m watching more interviews. So far, I’ve seen about forty. Not one of the Ukrainians on camera shed tears, a blaring recognition of their bravery, courage, and ancestry.

MARCH 13, 2022

I LISTEN TO UKRAINIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC https://www.pandora.com/station/play/123965540132723942 or the blues, it seems unjust to bob around to the Stones or club music. It is day seventeen, and everyone knows now what that implies. You don’t have to explain it, and if you do, then I’d move away from that conversation. Did you hear about the eight-year-old boy who walked five hundred miles to join his parents in Poland? He made it and here is his photo. 

 WHAT ABOUT THE WOMAN hours away from giving birth when the bomb struck the Maternity Hospital and was carried away bleeding on a stretcher? She gave birth to a baby girl and is recovering.

MARCH 14, 2022 Today, I learned that both mother and child died.

STRAIGHT OUT OF A WAR MOVIE is the elderly couple who did not hesitate to face four Russian soldiers who broke thru the gate to their property, rifles aimed at their defiant threatening souls, and ordered them off their property shouting obscenities. The soldiers retreated.

Several weeks ago a Ukrainian soldier blew up a bridge to prevent the convoy from crossing over, knowing he would die.

The interviews and comments from man, woman, and child harmonized  ” I’ll fight them with my last breath.”

FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM. UKRAINIANS SHOW THE WORLD WHAT IT MEANS.


MONDAY MARCH 7, 2022

Some domestic and global tragedies diminish in our consciousness as weeks go by. Just as the news passes on stories from our southern border crisis, covid strains, inflation, and other unsolved problems.

Ukraine defending their country against the vicious unprovoked genocidal attack by Putin is not going in this direction. It is more explosive and brutal each day and the response by NATO and the USA seems to be in pandemonium. You hear, “ Everything is on the table.” Nothing is off the table.” While I understand strategic covert operations are unnamed this leaves me asking, shouldn’t they be beyond discussion by now?  If I continue to vacillate on a decision, it only exacerbates the consequences.

Today, as the sky is like a London fog I’m watching more interviews. So far I’ve seen about forty. Not one of the Ukrainians on camera shed tears, a blaring recognition of their bravery, courage, and ancestry.

Photo by Katie Godowski on Pexels.com

UKANIAN LIVES MATTER.


SUNDAY MARCH 6, 2022

Today is day eleven of the war in Ukraine.  A friend invited me to join her and her mother for brunch. I declined. The Tavern where they are going is always crowded, the acoustics embellish the conversations, and they will order cocktails. I have no appetite for either. By declining, it allows me to concentrate on developments in Ukraine. Today eight cruise missiles bombed a civilian airport in Vinnytsia. Evacuees promised safe passage out of a small village near Kyiv ran as bombs dropped outside while they gathered in a church waiting to escape. Maripol has no heat or water.

I’m cooking fresh vegetables, cheese, sausage, and it looks back at me and I feel spoiled. I don’t mean this self-punishment is for everyone. It is for me because four years ago I was an expectant, selfish, high-maintenance gal. I threw her out the window. I stopped her because circumstances, maybe God, said, Stop.

My father was born in Kyiv in 1907.  His family escaped the pogroms against the Jewish people when he was six years old. Maybe that is why my compassion for these people is limitless.  

THE HISTORY CHANNEL

“ Pogroms (create havoc and massacre) came into frequent use as a term around 1881 after anti-Semitic violence erupted following the assassination of Czar Alexander II.

Anti-Jewish groups claimed the government had approved reprisals against Jews. The first violence broke out in Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine, and then spread to 30 other towns, including Kyiv.”

The world we knew twelve days ago is a memory, a global chapter in every history book.  Again, it is a time to embrace our freedom, our loved ones, our pride. Have you noticed the smash and grab crimes are in a ceasefire, senseless crimes in the streets are either unreported or in recess?

THE FOLLIES HOUSE


 SHE IS ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS OD.                                                            

In December 2018, I relocated to Ballston Spa, New York ( like the Adirondacks) from Los Angeles, for a temporary stay. I checked out of my charming Kleenex box studio in Westwood Village with bougainvillea, assorted flowers, squeaky clean green lawns, and shiny MBZ, Porches, and Maserati’s racing up Beverly Glen Boulevard.  I met eccentric neighbors with prominent film, TV, and Tech careers. The homes sell for 2-8 million. My four-hundred-square-foot studio rented for sixteen hundred-plus utilities, and street parking. Moving y car twice a week for the street cleaner was an annoyance. I didn’t understand why he came twice a week, the street was living room tidy, no trash or cigarette buts, and very few leaves.  

The last time I was driving along these rolling roads past farms, fields, shabby chic barns, horses, and the forest was in 2012 with my co-owner, renovator, best friend Dodger, and my fiancé Jay. Now I am a subterranean single, with a belt-tight debit card.

 As the driver swerved into the driveway, my mouth dropped, frozen for a moment.  Follies was frayed, peeling paint, the cracked driveway got worse, the flower beds were now weeds, and dried fall leaves all around.  Dodger and I spent twenty years maintaining her glory and, provenance until the last six years. She needs a face-lift, a porch lift, a stairway replacement, an entirely new coat of paint (we used seven pastel shades on all the trim) on the five thousand square feet three-unit home. The swell of guilt emerged when I discovered what I’d ignored did not take care of itself.

Until I procure a tenant for the vacant three-bedroom apartment, I’ll move in and attempt to repair and maintain what I can afford. A pang of overwhelming sadness emerged into a sobbing session. Afterward, I felt a lot better! I’ve never understood why so much argument is against emoting-where else can it go? Into hiding, only to pop out at the wrong moment.

 I opened the wooden front door with stained glass inlay and dropped my luggage. Where the fxz$% is all the furniture?’ When I was here in 2012, I had just redesigned the rooms, polished the wood, and shined our antique mid-century furniture collection. The salon captures everyone’s attention, with its cherry wood ceiling and baseboard trim, leather embossed fireplace, and the floor-to-ceiling original windows were stripped of the drapes.    

The last time Dodger was here, I think in 2015, he made repairs and replacements over two months.  He must have sold the furniture or what?  We are not in contact any longer. In the Salon one tattered pink swing 60s sofa, all the tables and chairs the roulette table, stereo, TV, porch bar set, and photography absent. Upstairs, to the bedrooms, I entered the guest bedroom, stripped, except the gorgeous three-panel engraved black and ivory divider.

As I roam further, my lips quiver, I am cursing non-stop, then I step into my bedroom, I call it Heaven. The room is painted the most subtle shade of wisteria, and the floor-to-ceiling windows reveal all the light against the handsome spruce, pine, oak, and evergreen trees. Wow! the room is furnished with a desk, a lamp, bedside tables, and a new comforter and pillow shams to match. It’s as if someone was expecting me. But who? To be continued.

LOVE IS A THROW OF THE DICE


                  

            AS I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW, the stark undressed trees and branches droop with the weight of snow. Footprints form a hopscotch pattern on the snowy driveway and sidewalks. January is the month that reminds me most of Casey. That’s when she wore a mink coat, hat, and gloves. Her appearance was consistently Vogue print material.    

     Casey was a woman that threw the dice all her life. She gambled on her instincts as if they were already tested and approved. She never told me much about herself. Casey lived in the present moment and considered her past a private matter. Once I learned of her struggles as a young woman and the life she’d chosen, she became more real than when I’d known her. During the years we were friends, she handed out selected stories, abbreviated and censored.  Being the inquisitive character I am, the shallowness of her stories bated me.  I had to pry the truth out from other people who had known her.  

            Casey’s first gamble was at sixteen years old. She sent in a photograph of herself for the Redbook Magazine modeling contest. If she’d won, the Powers Modeling Agency in New York City would grant her an audition as a model.  Casey was living in East Orange, New Jersey with her mother and sister. Her father had died suddenly, leaving the family without a financier. Casey’s mother was lost without her husband and unsuited to join the workplace. Casey didn’t tell her mother about the contest until she received the letter of congratulations.

            John Robert Powers met Casey in his office on East 56th Street and signed her on as a Powers Girl. She was stunning to look at, she photographed like a movie star, and she was modest. John Powers did not look for aggressive, pouty-lipped, fearlessness. The Powers Girls were captioned, “Long Stemmed American Beauties” because they were wholesome, beautiful, tasteful, courteous, and virtuous. They were so far from the runway models of today,  it is almost a reversal of the industry.  

The models of the thirties were ordained to set the highest example of classic good breeding and education. John not only schooled them in fashion, and individual taste, he instructed them in moral integrity, independence, and community service. Casey went to school at John Robert Powers and became one of the top ten models in New York.  

            She was a blue-black-haired Irish beauty, with emerald green eyes and perfect teeth. She stood only 5’ 7″  in those days that was fairly standard. When I knew her, she was still thin and beautiful but she did not fuss about herself or spend a lot of time at her vanity. As a Powers model, Casey had a long line of gentlemen callers. Powers Girls were invited to all the nightclub and dinner show openings, sporting events, community galas, and fund-raisers.  Social engagements were part of her job. Casey was not a woman of idle chat, in fact, a lot of people thought of her as restrained and unfriendly, maybe even snobbish. I think it was more secrecy. People were always prying into her life because it looked glamorous. There was another side to that glamour she didn’t want to put in the mirror.  

            One evening Casey had a dancing engagement at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. She was on stage with some other dancers when a certain gentleman noticed her. The next chapter of Casey’s life began that night. At twenty-two years old, she fell in love with a man thirteen years older, of the Jewish faith, who lived in Hollywood. The consequences of her love forced her to change and adapt to a new lifestyle and different people.

            She did not bury or rescind her love after she learned his business. She asked him to reform his criminal activities. He agreed if only she would marry him. We all know at twenty-two a woman believes she can change a man, and a man lets her think she can.  Without that dream, many lovers would not have found their mates.

            Casey did marry her love and spent her life trying to keep her husband and children from pointlessness, and harm. I met her husband just after he tried to reform, and was beaten down by the FBI. I called him Daddy.  

THREADS OF THOUGHT


I’ve often wondered what people think about when they are alone; taking a run or walk, dining alone, in the shower or tub, or just being on their own. Artists in all genres spend more time alone in the process of creating art.   

Waking alone, I step out to open the drape to see if it has snowed. If it has then I’m on landlord duty to wait for the snowblower to arrive, so my tenants can get to their cars. If it hasn’t snowed then I am thankful, not that the snow-white lawns and rooftops aren’t magically transforming, it’s that time of year when the power goes out or some other nuisance like scraping snow off my car and porch.

Then thoughts leap like little squirrels, from musing on my friends, who I need to call, do I feel like writing today, can I stomach thirty minutes of news and a bit of punishment for past mistakes. The one thread that rises in nightmares, and the first moment I wake up is unconquerable, fear is a thread I cannot snip and toss away. Fear is really about the unknown, we cannot supersede circumstances that are in the waiting room of our lives. Either they have already occurred or you know they are on their way to your front door.  

THE FOLLIES HOUSE

Now with the coldness, at six or seven in the morning, I crawl back in bed with coffee and think of the past, then the present, then the future, and then my thoughts drift like snowflakes. You know the saying when you are despondent or troubled you will be told to keep busy. I have not understood that advice until now.  My life prior to the last two years was dizzy bizzy. And yes, it eliminated fear and malaise, so now without all the lists, commitments, and responsibilities absent, I am on time with my thoughts.

NIGHT THOUGHTS


I ROSE AT 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some distant country, and the sky appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he or she ( can’t figure out the right pronouns) must report for work.

The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the wood floors while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpectedly and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.       

Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I finally was in the Dentists office. It’s been a year, and at sixty that was enough. Now Dr. FX’s office calls me every six months because I am over sixty-five. Still can’t really grasp my age. When I was thirty-something sixty-eight seemed very old. Do you remember that?

Dr. FX is the Music Man dressed in a white tunic. When he comes into my cubicle, he sort of prances on his toes and gives me an elbow safe bump.

          “ Hello, oh I see,” as he looks into my mouth that has been open too long and my cheeks start to stiffen. The hygienist takes that white suck-up tube out of my mouth.

          “ She has some tarter that I can’t remove so I suggest she come back because her gums are so sensitive and nonvaccine her for the water treatment .”

Dr. FX nods and bounces out of the room. Now she begins to sort of authoritatively advise me again that I have serious tarter.  I think this is the third time. 

          “ I think I got a little lazy flossing during covid.”

          “Everyone did.”

          “And I also started snacking on those crunchy health bars at night.”

          “That wouldn’t cause that.”

Now I am ready to leave and I’m elated to get out. The receptionist starts talking and advising me about Dental Insurance and she leaves her desk and meets me in the waiting room, and starts stretching.

          “ I have to do this as much as I can, sitting in that chair all day long.”

          “Oh, of course,” I raise my arms and swing my hips beside hers. I walked out into a day of clouds and a peek a boo sun feeling a mood change, a spark of energy from a few moments of improvisational dancing. We all crave an irreplaceable swarming of joy, that comes unexpectedly. I was awakened to my detachment from feeling truly alive.

Writing with a pen is so different from the keyboard, journaling is always with a pen, but columns are on the keyboard. I understand what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains, and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, next to a double pane window (original 1885) forty feet in length. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance.

I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars. The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. Some of the neighbors are friendly, some have no interest, one kind of spies on me when he thinks I’m not looking. There’s a reason for that but it’s too much of a separate story right now.

If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning. I read a quote the other day on some website, to paraphrase: When I’m writing I know I can’t do anything else. The theme of the week is to bring back LouLou, a clownish, spirited, curious, joy seeker.

ADVENTURES IN SINGLENESS


I’D LIKE TO RIDE A CLAIRVOYANT CIRCUIT INTO THE MINDS OF SINGLES OVER THE AGE OF SIXTY.

I’ve often questioned why advertisements; the media, and politicians do not address this segment of society. We don’t hear, the beginning of a statement whether it is legislative, political, social, or cultural, Singles around the country are not traveling, purchasing more products, refusing to get vaccinated are unemployed…etc.  We are a minority class; I found statistics on The UnmarriedAmerican.org website. More searching led me to the American Association for Single People website.

  • There are 106 million unmarried adults in the United States.  Singles constitute more than 44% of the adult population in the nation.
  • About 44% of the nation’s workforce are unmarried employees
  • The Census Bureau estimates that about 10% of adults will never marry.

I’m not going to make a huge leap into this as my thoughts are more about adventures in singleness.

This conversation is from a close friend, married for twenty-some years.

“You are so lucky you have no idea. If I were single, I’d move somewhere where life is simple, maybe Greece.”

“You don’t know about the loneliness, the awkwardness of holidays, the fear when you get sick and have no one to care for you, so many things really.

“I can think better when I’m alone.”

I told her I understood. That is the crucifix of making my pen my mate rather than a three-dimensional man( Temporary singleness). Some of my interactions go like this; going out to dinner, “Are you alone?” She or he leads you to the most obscure table. Then she or he removes the second table setting and suddenly aloneness is visible. An hour later another customer asks if they can use the spare chair. That’s when I ask for the check and leave.

Taking a road trip and feeling vulnerable when I’m pumping the gasoline and a stranger is gawking at me and I’m in the middle of nowhere.  It is usually truck drivers and I immediately think of Thelma and Louise.   More recently, I hired a new snow shoveling company operated by one single man.  On the third plow last winter he texted me, “One night with you and I won’t charge you for the rest of the season.”  A gal pal replied after relating this story,

“You should be flattered and he is twenty years younger! What does he charge?

“Seven hundred for the season.”

“That’s hilarious! Well, be careful and lock your doors, you’re all alone out there.”

I texted him that he should never make that kind of offer to a customer and I will not report you but you could lose your business or be sued. He agreed and I let him finish off the season as it was too late to find another one. I found a new company this year and he’s happily married.

Dressing for an event that I’ve never been to on my own. In my closet, I lay out three different outfits. Then I have a wary of decisions on which shoes, flats or heels. When I’m all dressed and ready to go self-consciousness billows up and I change the outfit. It’s a ridiculously amusing routine.

Living in a house that is a hundred and thirty-five years old speaks to me at night; a loose windowpane thrashes, a branch from a tree falls on one of the rain gutters, the mechanicals in the basement thump for some reason and I tiptoe around the house searching for an intruder.

Taking myself out for a cocktail just to get out of the house has numerous consequences. I end up sitting next to couples who are having a roaring twenties time of it and the only single man at the bar is fixated on his phone. Instead, the woman next to me strikes up a conversation about her boyfriend.

The other side of these dismal forecasts is; I have no arguments at home, (just interior dialogue) I can eat whenever I choose, watch what I elect on television, keep the bedroom light on, adjust the thermostat to my body temperature, and make all the decisions myself, the most infuriating and worthwhile to building courage, and self-reliance.

One of the lines in the Godfather struck me as an authentic gangster testimonial, “Women and children can afford to be careless, we cannot.”   As a teenager one of the repetitive reminders my father said angrily was, “Watch what you’re doing!”  This was the most relevant and truthful observation he made of me. Admittedly I am easily distracted and careless and ignore risk.  Just yesterday I placed a skillet of homemade croutons in the oven and then decided to empty the trash. As it happened my neighbor, Lorraine was in her driveway so I said hello.  The Adirondack Tree Surgeon had recently stopped by her house, as they did mine and marked one of my sidewalk trees for removal.

“Are they going to cut your tree down too?” I asked.

“The city is responsible for the sidewalk trees, but they cannot remove one on your property. They just came by to trim the branches since mine is on my property.” I was absent for ten minutes. When I entered the kitchen, it was smoked out and a small fire was burning in the skillet.

Without someone to look after my carelessness (I’ve been on my own now for five years) I still catch myself in these adventitious circumstances.

Winter Dressing indoors!

ALMOST AUTUMN AWE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


Let this not be a scorched with boredom bla bla piece of writing as all the elements are with me this Sunday. No one is mowing their lawn, the sky is a metal grey shield against sunlight, a light freckly kind of rain falls outside, and Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s sublime mix plays into my pulse.

In upstate New York, an overwhelming enthusiasm erupts for pumpkins, apples, and cider doughnuts. Advertisements appear in my Saratoga news feed of festivals at the local farms, homemade apple cider, witches and hayrides, pick your own pumpkins, and doughnut-eating contests.

Instead of smirking at this unfamiliar custom, I took a ride out to Lakeside Farms Cider Mill to riddle my sensibilities and get into the autumn groove. It’s a short distance away but, after you make the third turn off the main road, the gladiator trees blushing with yellow and gold formed a canopy over my convertible. It reminded me of an amusement park ride. My mood melted with the colors and as I pulled into the driveway of Lakeside, packed as if the Rolling Stones were going to perform my internal stick shift went into submission. I’m guessing the farm sits on several acres, and on one side is a field of grass, with pathways to walk, and then as I moved closer to a small brown barn, I noticed a witch outfitted for the children standing with her pitchfork.

Shoppers with carts passed filled with pumpkins and apples, and as I looked for a shopping cart, a woman noticed my puzzled expression. “You lookin’ for a cart?”

“Yes, where do I find one?”

“There’s an empty one behind you.” I felt dumb as gum and thanked her. Then I had the choice of going into the open farmhouse where a display of a dozen diverse kinds of apples stacked in crates, farm-fresh vegetables, pumpkins of all sizes, and an assortment of Apple Brown Betty mixes neatly placed on shelves next to jars of honey, preserves, syrup, and pancake mixes.

It is now a full-blown bumper car amusement ride as carts are pushed by shoppers unaware of colliding with other carts. Children are jumping up and down, and screeching with sugar craving desire.  I cannot decide which aisle to choose. First, an eggplant that wasn’t the size of a dinner platter, then a few green chilis, and sexy plump tomatoes. I could have chosen a dozen more items. Since I am single, my lesson has been learned not to overbuy only to throw it away.

Apples were tied in bags, a dozen the smallest amount, so I chose one bag of Cortland amongst the other twenty-five kinds of apples! Macintosh, Macoun, Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, etc.

I knew I was in the jive when I bought a two-pound sack of Buttermilk pancake mix, a jar of Vermont Syrup, and a jug of Apple Cider. At the counter, in line with half a dozen others, the clerk whom I’m sure was part of the family greeted me.

“How are you today?” He said this as if he was on stage speaking loud enough for an auditorium of guests.

    “I’m doing very well, and you?” I don’t usually project an openly loving tone but he sort of earned my delight.  With all that I bought, the bill was twenty-eight dollars. I used to spend that at Sprouts in Los Angeles for half the items.

Next, the bakery for those tantalizing apple cider doughnuts. Now I go indoors to a converted barn where they serve food and more grocery items. Another reason for this jaunt was to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the seven firemen who answered my call this week when my basement began to flood. We had so much rain my sump pumps gave up, and the water was just about to fill the hot water heaters in the pit. After they hosed out all the water, we chatted outdoors. Someone mentioned breakfast time. I chimed in,

     “Let me guess, cider doughnut!” A round of laughter and oh yes, they all love them. They would not take any money and so I thought I’d buy them what they love.

The sandwich line was twenty groups long. I squeezed in next to the bakery and was called on right away.

    “What can we get for you today?” Another gleeful greeting from a woman who looked like she grew up next to the oven. I looked at the selection of pastries oozing with sugar, cream, icing the works.

“A dozen cider doughnut in a box please-it’s a gift.”

“What kind? Sugar glazed, cinnamon, plain, chocolate covered…”

“Sugar glazed pleased. And six cinnamons in a bag.”

With a cart loaded up, I suddenly realized I would have to wheel it all the way to my car over puddles, chipped brick, and steps. Instead, I used my less-than sturdy arms. As I walked along leaning slightly to the right (my left arm hasn’t behaved since I fell on the stairs) my LA persona surrendered to old-fashioned, no dieting, family-friendly shopping at Lakeside.

As soon as I entered my kitchen, I dug into the bag of doughnuts, poured a cup of coffee, and dunked.

TRUTH IS WHAT?


Truth is out of style, it rather went the way of 600-page novels, bicycles built for two, print magazines, street theater and many other authenticates we don’t have the will or patience to seek. We take shortcuts and improvise our way through the encrypted labyrinth of electronic modernism. We are in revolution, it’s been coined Cancel Culture, that’s just a tagline. Our Democrats and Republicans, are trafficking disinformation. Not a day goes by that a political analyst or news anchor doesn’t say it. They wand me up.. and I line it down with opera and wine. Be creative, I say is the best booster.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS OR SOLITUDE


IT’S CALLED NON-CONVENTIONAL but on our own personal level, if you fall in that broad culture and it is a unique and historically significant tribe, especially in the arts and the military. Artists skip from creating to counting change, very few make a comfortable living. The Military are more unconventional than any other profession. I’ve tried to imagine choosing to fight our wars knowing I could be shot or tortured.

Do you think that not choosing the basics: family, friends and a comfortable living are enough? They are, now I know that.

How did this become my spotlight, like a bulb that flickered and whispered, you thought you knew more. Well, I didn’t and now I am adapting my fictional life to nonfiction. Beginning with: relinquishing luxuries, vacations, replacing outdated or broken furnishings, buying my favorite designer garments, and most important a monthly budget. Now instead of withdrawing from my savings account, I am depositing. Friends and family pose a more rigorous effort to the depts. I’m a loner. There is nothing glamorous or mystifying about this stain at least not for me, more like solitude for longer periods of time.

Photo by Philip Townsend. London 1964

As I watch and hear the interviews of Veterans, Gold Star Families, Military groups, former Iraq and Afghanistan Marines, Army, The Navy and Airforce, and the ones left behind because their hero was killed have one knot that holds them together, and it is their family, their comrades in arms and friends.

It’s raining, the tiniest little drops, like new bourns. The sky is a saddened muted white gray, like it’s in mourning. Hoagie Carmichael is singing Two Little People, simple lines that rhyme. Without music, and I don’t listen as much as I did a month ago, I’d be in bed today, it is a day for music medics to carry my pen where it sinks.

I was selfish, spoiled, and myopic, now I am awake to eternal gratefulness for being born American.

Trying not to watch the news as my heart needs a reprieve from Afghanistan. I’ve never appreciated, honored, respected, and loved our Military more these past two weeks. Do you know that feeling? What happens next? Eventually this presses to a USA attack.

Buck up guys and dolls and be a civilian soldier.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL?


I FEEL A SENSE OF GUILT to seek pleasure, amusement and escape. This weekend fifty-seven innocent people shot in Chicago; Nyiah Courtney, a beautiful six-year old in W.DC, a violent riot in Los Angeles, a woman and son robbed before falling down a flight of concrete stairs at the Subway station in NYC, and in Tucson: “The gunman parked his silver SUV by the park, got out of the car and opened fire on the two paramedics who were inside the ambulance, Magnus said. The 20-year-old male EMT who was sitting in the driver’s seat was struck in the head and the 21-year-old female EMT who was in the passenger’s seat was shot in the arm and chest.” Bullets’ targeting fans outside the Washington DC Stadium will be what everyone remembers.

That’s all I could handle this morning. So, why aren’t I talking about it with friends? ‘ I don’t watch the news anymore’ is what I hear and so my feelings remain unspoken. Maybe because I do not have a family, or the man I could love, and so my emotions stretch to a world of strangers in pain and agony.

It is not depression that leads my day, it is mild shock, anger, and a halo of sadness for the cloud of hate, crime, corruption, and divisive storm looming over.

My heart is especially raw for the youth, embarking on adulthood, the unsolved immigration crisis, and knee-jerk mask attacks on one another.

The words of condolences: ‘We pray for your family, you are in our hearts’, lasts how long? Do they get a phone call from a Lawmaker or Member of Congress? It seems laws have to be passed. Instead, all I see is a game of power. A solid gesture by the government to rename streets after the victims, a monument, or a wall with their names, so we never forget is my suggestion.

THE GREAT DIVIDE


                                                            

 If you’re a writer, then I imagine you are either writing a screenplay, historical book, commentary, or you are in the other class; how does reimagining the USA come into my writing without offending someone.  For me it is too soon, my thoughts are awry, like blowing leaves dropping from their branch in Autumn. There is shock, fear, and distrust rattling our recent liberation from the directives, warnings, citations, fines, crumbled businesses, life savings, and jobs from COVID-19. I’m still mourning three million lives unexpectedly ending in a hospital without any family. 

My chutzpah does not rise to the occasion of revealing my opinions, because I don’t want to be found, and renounced because I said pregnant instead of birthing mother. I hope someone writes a new dictionary we can keep in a safe place in case we are asked to speak. Those of you in your late sixties, I mean is this welcoming or alarming?

Have you had this conversation, “You’re a Republican! or You’re a Democrat!”

Talking about Politics today is like revealing your net worth. The most pitiful, aggravating, incendiary, and repellant outcome is that today everything is, whose side are you on? This is not my kind of party. Maybe ask the Pillow Man to join in on a hearing or vote in congress, and afterward, have a pillow fight and some cocktails. 

YOUR GRATEFUL OR YOU ARE NOT


  In a Sunday silence, she hopscotches  to a  nuance in 2018 when a handsome man offered a hand of conversation.

He walked with her and stopped in front of a Spanish Colonial residence shrouded in exotic flora and fauna.

“ That’s where I live,” he said keenly.

“ How long have you lived there? she asked

“ Thirteen years. I am so grateful for my home.”

She silenced her thoughts, less thankful of her dome.

She once lived on a street

Of serenity and beauty

Her view was scoured with a sightlessness of New Mexican history  

Unshaken by the homes regal display

 To live without grateful when your basket is complete.

Is like living in blindness from head to foot.

SARATOGA SPRINGS-HISTORY-HEALTH AND HORSES


APRIL 4, 2021

THIS ERA OF ADAPTATION is how I feel, think, and react. Tumbling through all the transitory advise forces me to examine more closely who to believe.  I’ve never been a leader, nor a follower, I walk in between, trying to pave a pathway to peace of mind. Maybe that is unattainable as we are in a cultural, political, medical, and socially reimagined world. It reminds me of being a teenager when life was questionable, and confusion was like a stinging bee we couldn’t swap away.

This week, my discipline raged and said, ‘Structure your day or go in disarray. As a long-time, rebel of structure, I listened and made a daily plan. Get out of bed by eight, answer correspondence, get dressed, work out on the treadmill, take a shower, eat something, then back to the home office and that’s when the improvisation kicks in. Do I write a column, work on my next book, or look for an attorney for an unsolved tribulation? Mother Nature punctuates my attention as she blooms into spring; the neighbors begin mowing and planting, the adorable little children next door play in their front yard, joggers, walkers, and horse-carrying vans pass in front of my window. The Season in Saratoga is about to open, masked and limited attendance will be at Saratoga Race Track, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Bistros, Bars, outdoor concerts, Theater and Chamber Music, Lakeside sailing and motor boating, fairs, and wine tasting.

A quintet of small-town celebrations that will inaugurate us to each other once again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

VALENTINES in SINGLENESS


I’ve never been a woman who dated.  There is too much pretense and preparation. My preference is  to just meet him by circumstance, become friends for at least a few weeks, and then either we are inseparable or separate.  Dates are like the holidays, a whoosh of expectation. Had my attitude been more flexible and my social presence more waggish, I could have met more men. They don’t have to be long-term commitments, or marriage, just friends.

The freedom of traveling solo was the prong of my selfishness in my thirties, not anymore. As the curtain drops  on romanticism of solo adventure, it’s really second place to romancing with a partner. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20191128_191254-copy.jpg

Singleness after several years is feeling the chill , envy of couples embracing in laughter,  staring into a wedding party as if it was a fairytale, dining alone with the TV,  laptop, or music as my audience, but worse of all is wearing the wicked blue robe!  The one that feels like a blanket and looks like it should be thrown out.

The actuality of my detachment from a relationship, is posted everywhere and it is neon bright in my head.  When this singleness sinks my spirit, I take a bath.  Women you know, if you drop down and eliminate, the room that may  not be as you please, or a phone call, text, beep, and  soak out everything, it is bliss.

Freedom is the bait and a  rolling drum beat.  I  can do, go, think, act, without argument or alarm.  I have always been more observer than joiner. Even in High School, in a gang of ten gals and guys I continually turned down invitations, or bowed out at the last-minute.

If you are a dreamer like me;  youth doesn’t end,  people don’t end, ambitions and passions still erupt and the blood in my veins boils to reinvent, and relocate. All of those choices are upon me.  

POSTCARD FROM IRELAND


It was a day like today, just after the rain soaked every blade of grass, and the world looked squeaky clean as if it had been mopped with God’s soap. I was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar berth on a ferryboat that swayed like a rubber raft. I was awakened by a knock at the door. “Ma’am. We’re here.”  I looked at the young man questionably.“Ireland,” he added and shut the door. “We’re here?” I twisted myself round in the blanket and raised my chin to the porthole.Oh my God– It exists. Look at that tiny little village and the little harbor and the colors.

I landed at the Port of Rosshaven from London where I’d spent two nights in a room the size of a cigarette holder. I loved London as much as I could in two short days; carrying thirty-five pounds of clothes. Part of one day I spent packaging up half my wardrobe to ship back. The plan was to spend one month in Ireland. Other than that, my itinerary was unplanned. In those  days, I leveraged myself to the outskirts of foolery.I gathered my Northface garment duffle, shoulder bag, and departed the ferry.  It was Sept. 5, 1987, and I was thirty-something, recently separated from a career in commercial real estate and my pad in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego. Everything went into storage so I would be free to conquer whatever it was I thought I was conquering.

That first day I made my  way to the picturesque village of Kinsale. The tourist office made the reservation for me and suggested that I rent a car. No need, I thought. I’d get around on my own for a while. She slapped a map of Ireland on the desk and pointed to several towns and then counted the miles between each town. “The buses stop running in September because all the tourists have gone home. You be wee on your own.” “ Well, I’ll look into it tomorrow. I’ll just get a cab to the Bed and Breakfast tonight.”

That night ended faster than any in my life. I woke up and decided to stay another. I could not part with the warmth of the Innkeeper’s country kitchen and the canary yellow bedroom, or the county road, the red barn and the miles and miles of rollercoaster hills cushioned in that indescribable Irish green. Her house was a quintessential B & B, blushing with the right bedding, Irish linen, French and English antiques and contemporary restaurant-grade kitchen.

I remember the Innkeeper drove a BMW, and her house sparkled as if it had been photographed earlier. That first day I walked into dreamland, and I did not come out until I left Ireland.  This was my first solo trip to Europe. I began with Ireland because my friend, Kenny, insisted I go find the Casey in me. That’s my mother’s maiden name. Everyone thought I should be institutionalized for taking off like I did; mid-career on the rise and all of that.

That first evening I walked into town and ate at the restaurant the Innkeeper recommended. I wish I could remember the name of the place. It’s written in my journal, but the journal is in Taos, NM. Anyway, that dinner still rates in the top ten of all dinners, including all those four-star French Michelin Chateau feasts I found my way to later on in the trip. I hit a dozen villages between Clare, Kerry and Limerick. I took a seaweed bath at the seashore of Ballybunion, stayed in a folk singers

The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland.
The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

luxury hotel for a week because he wanted me to bring his tape back to America, attended an Irish wedding and the racetrack in Dublin. I watched the Farmers Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna and climbed the hill to the Cliffs of Mohr.  On my hike up to the cliffs, I passed a man gardening in his front yard. He stopped and began to chat. His house was so beautifully Irish, handcrafted in brick and stone with acres of fertile land as his back yard. I told him it was the most beautiful home I had ever seen. He turned around in his rubber boots, leaned against his pitchfork, and said, “America, that’s where I want to go.” He said he would give me his house if I would take him with me. We talked for a long time about what matters, and as we parted I remember what he said, “Send me a postcard from America.”


PART 4. ALL THERE IS TO LOVE


ONE MONTH LATER ON THIS DAY she closed the shutters to his wanting eyes, and alchemized from a butterfly to a cocoon, beneath a circle of friends in tune.  She removed the photos, gifts, and letters, put them in a box to reminisce later. Talking out loud, “She takes just like a woman but” she will not break like a little girl. No more hours fanning the past, on this day my view is spanning.”  Into the night she sat peacefully by the fire and let her broken wing sing as she watched the wood turn to gold.  

By darkness, she ushers in a memory, a solo sojourn in Old San Juan.

Lounging in the dawn by a hotel pool, he appeared at her side, talking as if they met on another day. “ You’re from the  US ..  let me see if I can guess, by the bathing suit I would say, Los Angeles. Am I right? His smile opened wide enough to place an apple inside, and his darkened arms were on his hips, his hair clipped his neck, he dressed in a floral shirt and jeans. He wasn’t fat or thin, a body well-fed, a spirit too combustible to restrain, so she let him continue on his strain.  When she answered Los Angeles, he flung his arms wide open and immersed himself into a storyteller about when he lived in Los Angeles. The commonality swept him into a chair next to her and several hours later, they were paired in Old San Juan.

She finds breaking off pieces of her love life is like a tasting of sugary cupcakes, some better than others. The ones she is sure she will never see again are the sweetest.

Of HUMAN BONDAGE


THE SKY HASN’T DECIDED IF IT WILL LET THE SUN THROUGH.. and I’m deciding which journals to toss out from storage boxes. In reading some of these early entries from 1980-1990 the similarity to the challenges of the moment is the same! Shocking that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for; a permanent home, and a rest of my life partner. I shucked ten journals and felt ten pounds lighter. At the end of the day, I set a glass of… See More

YOUTUBE.COM Of Human Bondage (1934) BETTE DAVISStars: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Frances Dee Director: John CromwellWriter: W. Somerset Maugham (Novel)In this Pre-Code Hollywood melodrama, a young man’s …

Of Human Bondage (1934) BETTE DAVIS

ALL THERE IS TO LOVE


He pushed her on a swing, so high she touched the sky, viewed the world through his eyes, lived for a time without lies, then as mystically he appeared, he let go of the swing, and she fell on her wing, broken but with the will to begin again. A broken heart hasn’t stopped her from loving him.

For ten days she stared unblinking, just thinking of her spoken words, how they made their way to his ears and returned the sounds she so wanted to hear. She wiped the tears as some people find love at the core of their fears. The strain of regaining her former spiraling spirit and beating heart may not come for months. She says to herself out loud, ‘it must, I must.’ As written, sung, painted, and performed for hundreds of years, love is undefinable as it is something supernatural.


FOUR FEET OF SNOW…sheets of ice, and a skyful of clouds. Mix thoroughly and serve hot!


Winter in the northeast is a door to the interior, not just physically living indoors, it’s a mental withdrawal from your outdoor activity. Yes, some have adapted, I’ve seen men in shorts on a snowy day, and women runners passing by my window on icy sidewalks.  For many of us, I believe the winter is time to ski in your head. Take a word puzzle section of all your experiences and ski down your mistakes, your misjudgments, your behavior in all its rights and wrongs.  A sort of sabbatical for the soul.

When I stop into our local Gas station food to go market, I see such suffering; mentally disturbed, physically handicapped, homeless, and the ones that can’t even get to a real grocery store. That reminds me of how fortunate I’ve been in life. Who decides how you will materialize in this world, the unknown unsolvable equation?  Today, another slushy snow and rain downpour pulled me out to shovel the messy combination so my tenants don’t slip and fall. That exercise is not good for the back, and even though I exercise and stretch, that particular position of bending and lifting snow doesn’t feel right.  I do it because I have to, and later a marvelous lavender bath with oils and salts relieves the pain. What I’ve learned living here the last two years is that following the inescapable elements of winter is good for a gal that grew up in Los Angeles.  I have to think that otherwise, I’d be whimpering and whining.

Life seems to remind me every day of my mistakes and my strength.

It’s Not About Me Anymore.


Without a partner, lover, or relative nearby during our feared and festive flights of life, our ribs cave. You just cannot eat cake alone on your birthday, attend a funeral without a shoulder next to you, or celebrate a finished project without your best friend.  During these times of divisiveness, a pandemic, our favorite restaurants and shops out of business, and vigilante violence, it takes courage to be alone. It is you I am thinking of and I know you are out there, isolated. I listen to a lot of music, from Opera to Salsa, shout myself out of bed, attend to mediocre mindless tasks and think about all of us singles, without children, or family and friends out of my reach in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Florida. Each one holds a podium on the telephone, as I listen to their feelings, they are variations of a Chopin or Bach recording. The sadness and fear each one is holding at bay, reveal their authentic character. Isn’t it an extreme tragedy that holds a spotlight on our soul and spirit? One friend reminds me to refrain from judging myself too harshly, another advises how fortunate I am to be in a safe small village, with very few deaths, and another says simply, I’m falling apart.

We are now forced to learn our supreme strength, our survival methods, and how to structure a new lifestyle. When was the last time you were tested? Remember that and you will forge ahead.

Watch The 12th Man | Prime Video (amazon.com)

FRIENDS FOR ALL SEASONS


In the Time of Covid-19

Continued from Friends for All Seasons 1.

THE CLASSMATE THAT wrote is named Andrew. I imagine he’s married; a man with his looks and gregarious personality living in Los Angeles all these years. Maybe he married one of our high school classmates.  We exchanged a few emails in two thousand eight, he’d just returned from a trip to Poland and I was managing the gallery. Then the crash came and I think my correspondence dropped. Why was he thinking of me?  I don’t have any photographs from high school, I suppose I could look him up in the yearbook. I’ll wait till he writes again.

The sky is crystal blue, and the temperature a mild fifty degrees. From my window, the leaves dropping makes me think the trauma and suffering the last four years has dropped from my life.  What the trauma was about is irrelevant and too lengthy to write. We all get sent to the chopping block of heartache and this was mine. This is as liberating as taking off a tight bra after a long day!

Maxfield Parrish

September has traditionally been my month of transition. It’s a sort of pattern that began years ago and so making decisions is as if I’m on a time clock.  What is most essential now is finding a new place to call home. I began looking at Santa Barbara. I loved visiting the city by the sea, those beautiful mountains, and quaint craftsman architecture. So what if I don’t know anyone, I’ll be alone regardless of where I move. Easily accomplished in my fifties, not so improvisational at sixty-seven.

Rapturous Autumn day; this year the transformation of nature, outdoor activities, cider doughnuts, smoking fireplaces, and a crispness that reminds me of breaking open a head of lettuce. What really happens to us in the East is fall descends like a new stage and the props from summer are removed.  The mums come out on the porches, and the bright yellow and gold plants dot every porch. The conventional lifestyle and customary activities placate our sense of belonging. Christmas, wow, it’s only a short time till winter.  In the dressing room unpacking more sweaters, socks, warm-ups, I get an alert, another email.  Andrew added another compliment so my response was crush-worthy. Why not? Maybe fantasy is what is needed. Remerging silhouettes, all of us on the front lawn at lunch time, and boys are pairing up with girls and Andrew is laughing, making clownish faces and gestures, yes he was crush-worthy. He walked in long strides, visible energy and every step seemed to have a purpose. The boy I was in love with graduated, and I did not have a boyfriend. My shyness and restrained conversational skills excluded me from invitations to date.  Maybe that’s why he didn’t take notice of me observing him, a lot of classmates had crushes on him.

The reality of COVID-19 is now the centerfold story because it is affecting everyone; the excruciating financial loss, death, sickness, and loneliness. It’s more like acceptance that this is our job now to tolerate COVID-19. Restrictions, circumstances of failed businesses we all loved, fear, and more fear call for an imaginary friend who I haven’t seen in fifty years.  He replied with a formal note of response that he was on Facebook and could we be friends. I wrote back, yes. I am listening to the soundtrack from the film A Man and A Woman while chopping vegetables for soup.  This music has formed a flame of optimism for the day I’m in love and let go of singleness.

On Facebook Andrew’s feature photos reveal the teenager I remember. He is a photographer, a Neuro Technician, and in his twenties an actor and model … hum, sounds like my resume, professional career changer.  His photos sent a quiver through my veins, a call to read everything on his page, and view videos of his European travels: beautifully crafted images of architecture, monuments, art, culture, and locals. It deepened my understanding of his life just by his photos and posts. The other side, his appearance; the facial features, keen brown eyes, uncensored or rehearsed self-photos, group photos with our high school mates at the reunions, his long wavy hair, and his defined lips and cheekbones tingled curiosity.

The photos of Andrew at the class reunions next to my best friend and other classmates I remembered brought a snowstorm of memories. How I loved my friends back then. About six of us went everywhere together; bought our first bras, learned to drive, went to Westwood Village to look for cute boys, sat in the booths at Mario’s Pizza, Hamburger Hamlet, and The Apple Pan and all of it on ten or twenty dollars a week allowance. I have not been to a reunion since the tenth. Andrew posted photos from several. He stayed connected.  Fifty years have passed, and he’s on my mind. To be continued.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

WHY I LOVE MEN


WHY I LOVE MEN

Once again after lengthy and torrential nourishment of his body and mind, I return to myself, alone.   

The insomnia of separation from a man’s thunder.  When his shoulder hooks my head and tweaks my worries like soft bread, the mind that directs me when I am driving directionless and maps my journey.  To walk beside me, a guardian of my fragility, and the voice that encourages and applauds my success, rather than let it drip from jealously or preoccupation.  How the laughter erupts in a moment of spontaneous passion. My observation of his secret revealed, unknowingly.

The gestures of him shaving, and the modest vanity after I re-wardrobe him. Feeling his eyes in a crowd, undressing or admiring me, for some folly or expression.

The humor he finds in my misguided attempts to open bottles, and packages with a dull spoon, and figure out electronics.

How he will pardon and pamper my unwarranted fears of stalkers, nightmares, misplacing my progressive glasses, and falling down the slippery wooden stairs.

The man whose balance evens my wrinkles.

Let’s the light into my eyes.

Opens my shell with wonder and tenderness.

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.

 

 

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 snow blowers, plowers, farmers, horse breeders, deliveries, construction workers, postal workers, cable servers, and weather free runners.

20191106_155648
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.

20200228_152130

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.

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

  https://taleflick.com/pages/discovery

 

 

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:

Wednesday 03/11/2020 at 10:00am Pacific.   https://taleflick.com/pages/discovery. The contest will accept votes for three consecutive days, starting at the above time, and ending the following Friday at 4pm PT.

Participation is 100% free.

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.