THE TUNNEL OF LOVE


It came to me in the middle of the night. I woke to an alarm, the inner one that goes off  and sends us trance like from a warm and secure bed, out into the dark, cold living room. I rescinded my step halfway to listen to the howl of the wind, and see tree branches bending like modern dancers.

After making coffee, I sat down at the table, lit the candles and let the darkness open my mind. Imagine love is a tunnel without any closure rising from your soul, branching out in every direction you move and think and feel. After you’ve been in the tunnel and it surrounds you, there is nothing that can compare to loving first. You begin the day by loving something, a smile on your lover’s face, a cat’s purr, a sunrise over the mountain, a cup of coffee, it doesn’t matter.

Coffee cup icon

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WHY IS THE SKY BLUE


Photograph of blue sky

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Why is the sky blue?
It splits the world in two
the womb of nature
where Mother’s hold their babies
And the soil is plucked by crows.
Soaring into the blue
Sculptures in the sky garden
Why is the sky blue?
Is it God’s eyes?

Truth is blue
clouds are puffs of conversation
Sky is language

Answer my question.
Why does my heart embrace the twigs?
The racing fawn wrapped behind a tree.
A couple of strangers crossing the way
The butterfly kisses of sun-rays
A chilling wind opens the door,
to papers, walls, appliances, rules, guidelines, and instructions, newspapers, and advertisements, tapes, and phones, connecting me to all the tears and laughter, headaches, and sprains, all the twisted lives tangled between democratic lines, hate spilling everywhere. All the answers are in the ratings.
But why is the sky blue?

WHY DEL MAR


DEL MAR RACE TRACK

I am a diarist. I record life around me so I can understand, as if by understanding I will find peace. Recording the exaggerated emotion and incidents of life began as a young girl when my mother gave me a diary.  A good storyteller has to live life differently than the rest of us; otherwise, the stories will be predictable.

My father had those kinds of stories.

Allen Smiley: Illegal immigrant, Russian Jew, convicted criminal, hoodlum, extortionist, con-man, racketeer, bookmaker, tout, pimp, and high-ranking lieutenant and best friend of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

 “ Luellen, You have to come and get me out of here.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“Just come down here and get me.

“Daddy you’re in the hospital.”

“I know where I am. They’re coming to get me.”

The phone call had woken me up. It was the first of several that night. I sat up in bed and looked at the clock.

It was past midnight. Why was he up so late? I called the hospital and asked to speak to the head nurse. I told her about the phone call. She said he was hallucinating, and that he’d refused medication.  That was the first time I had ever sensed desperation in my father. He was afraid they were coming to get him. Who were they?

Several days later the phone calls stopped. He died as secretly as he had lived. There was an absence of publicity or concern. I knew what to do. He had given me instructions. I  was to go to the bank, draw out what money was in the account, and go on a vacation.

“Clear the hell out of town. Reporters may start calling, don’t talk to any of them. Don’t trust anybody; remember what I’ve been telling you all these years. “

I took his phone book, the photograph of Benjamin Siegel, and one of his baseball caps. I packed up his black El Dorado  Cadillac, and shot out of Los Angeles. It was the final scene of the first half of my life. I drove south on 405 hwy down to Del Mar. There was nothing waiting for me in Del Mar; no friends, or job, or anything to connect to. I only knew that when my feet touched the Del mar beach, I had to move there.

That summer I went to the Del mar Race Track and sat in the bleachers just like anyone else, wearing a hat, drinking Long Island Iced Tea and trying to see with the blinding sun in my eyes. It was strange to sit with the general public. The few times my dad took me to Santa Anita we sat in the Turf Club. I had no idea my father was part of the historical narrative of Del Mar race Track, and of Del Mar history.

After living in San Diego more than ten years, I returned to Los Angeles for a job offer. One afternoon I visited my father’s walking path along Ocean Park in Santa Monica. He walked from one end of path to the other beginning at San Vicente and ending in Venice. Afterwards we’d stop at the Lobster House for a plate of fish and chips, and a cold beer.  While I was walking in his memory, imagining him next to me, I looked up and recognized one of his walking pals, Sonny Barry. He looked like a retired Vegas dealer; dark shades, v necked open shirt, and Beverly Hills signatory gold chain with a Star of David.

‘Hi Sonny, how are you?” I called out.

Sonny turned and looked, raised his tanned arms up in the air, “For crying out loud, Luellen sweetheart.”

“Where have you been—how’s everything, gee you look terrific.”

Sonny called out to another man in the near distance, sitting on a park bench. “ Sandy come look whose here.”

“Luellen, you know Sandy Adler, he was friends with your Dad a long time ago. Sandy Adler, my father had mentioned his name, but I didn’t know how they met or when. He was another man that fit into the mysterious and unspoken years he was partner with Ben.

“Oh well, I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl.”

“You knew my Dad when we lived in Bel Air?”

“ Way before that; I knew your Dad when he was with Benny Siegel—and I knew your mother.”

It was the mention of my mother, who died when I was thirteen that pierced my antenna of interest. Sonny stood back while  Sandy took my hand, and said let’s take a walk. We walked along the bluffs overlooking the pacific ocean. He spoke slowly, and paced himself as if the memories were lodged in books and he had to dig into them.

“ I ran the El Rancho hotel in Vegas, and then the Flamingo. I knew your Dad very well, he was some classy guy.”

“ Oh I remember the Flamingo but not the El Rancho.”

“ Well, anyway-where are you living now?”

“I just moved back to Los Angeles, I was living in Del Mar.”

“ Del Mar?  I owned the old Del Mar Hotel –in fact your mother and father used to come down and stay there.”

“ He never mentioned Del Mar to me.”

“ He had his reasons; yea they came down during the race meet and stayed at the hotel. I remember them coming down, one time, and Allen got upset with your mother. They were having quite an argument. Your father left, and I walked with your mother on the pier, and tried to comfort her.”

I couldn’t utter a word I just listened. The Del Mar Hotel had burnt down before I moved there.  I’d seen photographs of the hotel, and heard stories about the Hollywood stars that stayed there. It was a magical legend in Del Mar, everyone who lived during its glory days talked about it.

It was sometime after that, that I walked in the sand where the hotel had been located.  I understood that one day I would begin plucking away at my family history.

COOKIE MIX WITH EXPANDED OUTLINE.


mini oatmeal cookie and coconut macaroon

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I have the outline, but now I need to mix in the dough, the sweetener, and the yeast.
It worked! I figured out how to weave two historical characters in my memoir. Oatmeal, Cranberry, Walnut, Cocoanut, and a tip of Captain Morgan Cookies.

INFUSING THE ANXIETY OF WRITING WITH SENSES OF SMELL, TASTE AND SCENARY

ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD INSIDE AND OUT


I’m watching the double yellow line between coming and going on interstate 25 from Santa Fe past Albuquerque.   In the rear view mirror I see scaffolding, an airless sprayer, paint tubs, tools, a wardrobe box, and suitcases. It is the same VW Van I used to refuse to ride in because it smelled of wet drywall. Now cushioned in the front seat, the wide windshield to the world saturates the bullet holes of a wrong-way love. It mattered before, the van thing, now it doesn’t. I’m grasping for the road, to burn out the memories, on the other side of the double yellow line.

“ Are you glad you came with me?”

“ So far, but we’re still in New Mexico. Try not to drive me over the edge, okay? I mean with the speaker phone talking Taiwanese to B of A, or.. would you hold the steering wheel with two hands please…see, there’s an accident.”

“ Wow, the car flipped over.”

“ Yea, that kind of thing.”

“ I’m a safe driver.”

“ I know, but only about half of you is here.”

“ Whatta you mean?”

“The other half is glaring into the distance, the mountains, the clouds, the crows, imagining yourself a dinosaur.”

“Not no more.”

“Why? Did she make an adult out of you? I hate her for that. John did the same to me.”

Scenery whizzes by; snow capped mountains, speeding patrol cars, highway signs; it’s barely absorbed before it is gone. Make it like this, easy to forget, like the scenery.  I fell asleep, a dreamless nap, the kind that wakes you displaced but without alarm. Rudy was leaning away from the sun-splashed window, one loose hand on the steering wheel.

“Where are we now?”

“Gallup”

“Someone told me it is the drug capital of the United States. Where is everyone? Maybe they hide indoors so as not get shot.”

“Gallup is also the largest Indian center in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America. There are many American peoples in the Gallup/Four Corners region. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. “Wikipedia

  Five hours later we are sitting by the window of Pesto, in Flagstaff and talking alternately, not in conversation, but in spite of, John, Match.com and the billboard irony of our circumstances. Even though we hadn’t checked into the motel yet, or even knew where it was, the adventure of livingness struck, and I climbed out of myself.

“It’s like it never happened, you know?” I said.

“Oh yea, I know.”

In the middle of the night I woke up screaming at John.  Rudy was in the next bed, and didn’t hear me, so I opened the drapes and stared out the window at the brightest star and listened to the voice of reason that visits me sometimes. What love scars bring to the world is poetry, literature, art, music, theater, gospel, and dance! So where will this take me? I thought about the documentary on Nicholas Ray, and his remark,    “ Without content all you have is composition.”

I wish morning would come.

Starting in 1999, every road trip between NM and CA includes a morning at Macy’s Coffee House. I entered this time without the explosion of zest in previous trips, when my heart was in one piece, and found enough distractions to pull me further out of wrong-way love.

A group of middle-aged men, retired cops or civil servants were my first source of entertainment. At a wooden table, conversing microphone loud about city ordinances was the leader. One Fry boot perched on a chair, and the other on the floor, his belly protruded way beyond a few beers here and there. His pals, all looking up to him, waiting for an injection of his wry humor, and dirty jokes. Rudy is talking about how much he loves Flagstaff, but what I hear is a tide of elation rising up, just resurfacing now, after a good nights rest in the Hampton Inn.

Somewhere between Flagstaff and San Diego, we stopped for Snickers and gas, and I walked around a neglected weed field, kicked rocks, and asked myself when was the last time, I just fell into the moment without that incessant poke of reality; unpublished stories, bills, missing folders, clutter, grocery lists, mail, websites, photo sharing, John’s lunch, John’s phone calls, the news of the world.

“I feel better Rudy, I haven’t cried all day.”

“It’s still early, he chuckled.  I have an idea, let’s take the off roads.”

“How off we talking?”

“Check your map, see if Interstate 8 runs into 10?”

I reached for the Droid, and fussed with the tricky touch pad.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“It does.”

“So why bother with maps.”

“I know–we’ll take 78, through the countryside. It will be pretty. Look, see the sheep?”

The pasture was yellow as corn, hay stacked with sheep, hundreds of them.

“Let’s stop.” I said.

“Even sheep make money. LouLou, there has to be a way for you to capitalize on your writing, and not wait for some jackass to hire you. There has to be. Even I know people pay to click on website ads.”

“It’s pennies.”

“You said you had 165 clicks the other day.”

“That was once! Mostly between 10-50 a day.”

“So! It adds up.”

“Look, the sheep are watching us.”

The sheep rose as soon as the car door opened, but they just strolled along, the babies following the mother’s, and one with a limp, dragging himself behind. Every one slightly different, but all part of a community, a gang, with primitive ancestral traditions and routines.

The highway now was split with white lines, and we were sandwiched between limitless textured scenery; Manzanita trees, orchards, big boulders, a dry creek, and then we were driving along one stretch, my legs curled up under me, and I am grazing on unhurried thoughts, just ripples of ideas and dreams.

“Did you see that?” Rudy blurted out.

“See what?”

“That guy! I just saw a guy walking alongside a weary  looking burro dragging a miniature red covered wagon. I gotta turn around.”

“ Hi folks, how you doing?” He extended a hoof like hand, weathered as paws, “I’m Howard West.” Howard was outdoor fit; sunglasses, hat, boots, and evenly tanned skin.

“Hi, I’m Rudy, and that’s LouLou.”

“Hi LouLou,” he shook like a city man with hardened hard-labor hands.

“ Hi. This is some way of traveling. What are you doing?”

“ I’m on a book tour, The Quicksilver Key Book Tour.

I caught my laughter when I noticed his educated aura; that veil of disguise we think fools everyone.

“It’s about the history, the lost history–the West in particular and how the government accrues the investment of the rancher, and the universe. If you read my books you’ll see….”

I was petting the dog, a friendly furry mixed breed, and Howard was now blending Rudy in his claw, with this rockabilly wisdom that I didn’t understand.

“How far are you going today Howard?” Rudy asked.

“I do about 10 or 12 miles a day. Whenever I feel like stopping, I just pull over. You been down to the Dunes yet?”

“ Where’s that?” Rudy was keenly addressing the wagon, it’s wheels, and accessories, but only I knew that.

“ Down the road. Now, those kids have money. They ride doon-buggies-sell for anywhere from five thousand to seventy five thousand dollars! They took me on a ride.”

“ Wow! Hey do you have any power source?”

“ Sure do. See this–jets up the whole works, laptop,

lights, even my stove.  Let me show you.”

I tinkered with the bell around the donkey, I came to find out was named Blue Pegasus, and watched Howard lead Rudy to the watering hold.

“I have books and disks; the books are $12 and a disk is $5, which one will it be?”

“We’ll take a disk Howard.”

“All righty… and the distinct differentiation of

the classes…..

I was about to interrupt when another car passed by, and Howard was distracted by the prospect of a purchase.

“Howard, you’re the coolest! I love what your doing man–I wish I could do it.” Rudy shook his hand.

“Everyone has a book.”

We drove past the sand dunes, and all that bleached rolling sand smooth as pressed sheets, jolted my mind like a wrench.

“ Howard West probably went to Harvard and has a degree in History.”

“You may be right. Why can’t you do that?”

“I would if I was a man.”

“No, not the road part, just get your writing on a disk and sell it. If you sell them for 10 bucks, and you sell…..

“You mean my columns?”

“Whatever! You’ve been writing since I met you for Christ’s sake.”

“Yea I could do a collection of columns, or even a book.  Why didn’t I think of that?”

“You’ve been too preoccupied with other stuff.”’

“Look, they’re having Superbowl Sunday party’s right here in Brawley.” On either side of highway 78 a campfire gathering of trailers were wedged in a circle, boom boxes blaring, American flags blowing, and a dog tied to a post.

“I took out my phone and scrolled through the numbers until I got to John, and then I deleted it. Maybe it was the dead cats in the road, or the poor teenager back in Anza without any future ahead of her but the donuts, or Howard, or the clarity of a cobalt blue evening sky staring down at me, that got me to move over to the other side of the double yellow line, and let John go.

“ I’m starving, why didn’t I bring any snacks? “

“ We’ll stop up here in Anza.”

“ How do you know Anza.”

“ I just do. You don’t want to know.

“Oh I do… please.. Rudy, I really don’t care.”

“ Can I tell you anyway? She knew antiques, once we saw …

“ Oh Gawd.” I threw my head back and laughed without actually any noise.

“ Stop, there’s the store.”

“ You know what else?”

“ What?”

“ She couldn’t understand why I cared about you so much.”

“That’s a good ending.”

My phone rang, an unknown number, never pick those ones up, could be the guy who said his father killed Ben Siegel.

“Rudy, stop!”

“I can’t stop now. We’re on the freeway nutcase.  Who called?”

“The daughter.”

“Whose daughter?”

“My father’s.”

To be continued.