East Palace Avenue Santa Fe

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe (Photo credit: paigeh)


By:Luellen Smiley


I’m sitting outside in a flowerless garden because no matter how many flowers I plant, they only last one season, if that long. The garden is erupting out of its winter coat, and lime green leaves, plants, and stalks will have to do for now. The sky that seals me in is licked with revisionary hope. The kind that comes back laundered and fresh after a chosen recess from believing in the possibility of a preferred life correction.

Behind the garden, a neighbor is drumming a soft tribal beat, and on Palace Avenue the choir is singing inside the Episcopal Church on Palace Avenue. Between these distinctive tastes, there are sparrows fluttering from fan to nest to fountain. The chattering sounds like; ‘here she comes, don’t come over here, get out of my nest, watch out for that fat crow.’

It’s a mind drift, to be caught in  such UN-structured beauty, away from the manuscripts, remotes, doors, and phones. It’s like being on an island out here.  Everything we bring into our experience can be revised; a work of art, a way of speaking, thinking, portraying yourself, your way of loving, or lusting, and we all know about appearance, because our society shoves it down our throat.

Look at the possibilities in revising our patterns of behavior. What we accepted twenty years ago doesn’t mean it’s carved in our organs. We can transmute. The interior life needs lifting and tightening, just as our mind and muscles do. You won’t find any immediate remedy, or advertisements, or books on the subject because we’re consumers of products that change and revise only the visible tangibles. I wonder if I traded in my eleven year old Land Rover for a new one if I’d be really happy, and for how long? Or if I flew to Los Angeles and bought cartons of antiques, hats, and perfume if I would be grinning from ear to ear.

I begin with revising the way I experience Santa Fe. I’ve lived on the outskirts, like a storm that blew in and is waiting to blow out. It seems my storm is here for now, and so I let go of the criticism and intolerances.  Beginning with my favorite activity, dancing, I returned to  El Farol, my chosen dance hall hullabaloo, then to La Posada across the street and mingled with an assorted group of locals, guests, and actors, (who were real as pippin apples)spent a day cruzing the ghostly town of Madrid to experience the cinematic sparseness, and walked up and down Canyon Road one morning before the shops opened, and was greeted half a dozen times by strangers out walking, uniquely different in attire, disposition and stride. I love that about Santa Fe. You don’t conform, it’s a religion here!

My homework for the next few weeks is revising the interior doors of emotion, and the exterior doors of expression. I’ve set aside the memoir, (did I mention I started that again) after a publisher suggested major rewrites and editing.  I mean you have to know when to give up because you’re not going to make the team.  I’m a six page essayist. If you get me into one hundred and fifty pages, I march all over the globe and lose the reader.

You guys are smart. You know all of this; I’m just learning. I am a case of insufferable arrested development. If I felt my age, which most of you know, I’d be looking at retirement brochures. Instead I’m planning on breaking into new territory. Its a joke between my dreamer self and my inner critic, but I’m not listening to the critic.

Today I swiveled in my desk chair trying to write the column I thought I was going to write. In between gazing out the window at sky scenery, I made oatmeal cookies, watched the birds, took care of business, had a hair cut, plucked at paragraphs from Anais Nin, and danced on the treadmill. The column didn’t come out of a conscious thought wave; it just rose up, after I typed the words, the throw of the dice. The odds were I’d find my way from there.

My dad the gambler, who laid a bet on everything from sports, horses, gaming, to the Academy Awards and elections, taught me many valuable lessons. He actually told me once, ‘Take a chance for heavens sake! Go out and get arrested.’ He knew the odds of that, which is why he dared me. Life corrections begin with edits, then revisions, and then you have a new story!

Any dice to throw email:folliesls@aol.com

Movie recommendations:Bread & Tuplips, Angel Face, Head in the Clouds,Late Marriage, Water for Elephant’s, Sarah’s Key,Pierrot Le Fou, No Where in Africa, The Lives of Others, Gangster, A Love Story, The Counterfeiters, Senso, Croupier, El Grido, The Wide Blue Road, Deja Vu, The Whistle Blower, The Young Adult, John Rabe.

The Movie Star

The Movie Star (Photo credit: Cowgirl111)

Our nest, is something we build on our own to give us permission to explore, and then question, and we go back to our little nest, and add a bit more certainty because the dinner was great, and the party lasted longer than we thought, and someone smiled at you in a special way, and then you saw a rainbow.

Some things happened last week; that liquefied into a mirage, of  an opinion I inhabited. I  directed this opinion with outdated information, and second hand narratives by writers in print.  I believed what  I’d  always believed;  that actors aren’t like you and me.  I was wrong! Some actors are like you and me.  They have open hearts, and inquisitive minds, they drink beer, and dress without designer labels, they like to hang out, and not talk about the movie business, they have interests beyond their Imdb  star rating, and they answer questions, if you ask them.  Unless we infiltrate what we criticize, we’re adding to the hypocrisy of the  human condition.



                                                                           MY HOODLUM SAINT


My last year with Dad was 1981. Naive, and unconcerned with where I was headed, or how I’d get there if I figured it out,  I was spinning around in an executive chair; waiting for the big hand on the black and white office clock to set me free.  Time didn’t pass; I hauled it over my head, in my bland windowless office, under florescent glare. I was trouble shooting for an ambitious group of USC guys as they gobbled up all of Los Angeles real estate. Without any real sense of survival or independence, my life was in the hands of my father.

“Meyer’s coming to see me; haven’t seen the little guy in twenty-five years.”   Dad said during a commercial break.

“Meyer Lansky?” I asked as casually as he’d spoken.

“Who else?”

“Why did you two wait so long?”

“It’s no concern of yours; he’s my friend, not yours.” I was twenty-nine years old and still verbally handcuffed.

The three of us went out to dinner, and while the two of them spoke in clipped short wave syndicate code, I

noticed that neither one of them looked at all happy.  It was rare to catch my father in public with a friend, without raucous laughter, and storytelling.  My attempt to revive the dinner conversation with my own humor,returned two sets of silent eyeball commands to resist speaking.

Several months later I received a call from Dad asking me to come over to his apartment, he had collapsed on the bathroom floor.  When I arrived, he pleaded for me to stay close by.   “I’ll be all right in a few minutes; I just need to catch my breath. ”  I sat outside the bathroom door biting my nails, and waited, like our dog Spice, for my orders. For the first time in my life, he was weaker than I, and my turmoil centered on that unfamiliar reversal of roles.



The banner in front of Trader Joes read, Menopause Revival, and White Zen recognized Johnny Depp in Whole Foods, ” because they were skinny Hollywood types, and the cashier at Sunflower Market, piles up a dozen items, and then asks, if I want a bag? The DJ on Santa Fe Blue recites the weekly line-up, but he doesn’t know who the guest musicians are. It’s part of the quirky, puzzling, undefined tonality of Santa Fe.


If undeniable love only happens once, and then it’s gone, what do you do? Shop, count your money, travel, remodel your kitchen, volunteer, protest, have babies, read, or disappear into your illusions, and your art. Be enlightened, shine in your art, in what you loved always, in the froth of life.


Joe Bataan - Ordinary Guy (1975)

Joe Bataan - Ordinary Guy (1975) (Photo credit: Soul Portrait)

I WISH I’D TAKEN A PHOTO THAT DAY,  on a gravely, twisted uphill hike to Mt Atalaya  a hike that I’ve hungered for because it looms in the rear view, jettisoned above the city, swooping hills, three of them, you have to criss-cross before you reach the 8,800 foot marker in the sky. The temperature was 70 degrees, the wind was napping. Easter Sunday, sprinkles of holiness on Santa Fe, church bells ringing all day long, restaurants hosts pushing metal carts of glossy preparations down the aisles, and the little children, in Easter bonnets, and patent leather shoes, if they still make them, are squirming at the table.

I had a hunger for universal meaninglessness and to end the chatter in my head. Hikes do that. They just erase all the sirens and alarms, the what if’s and what knots in my head.

Afterwards, we sat on the porch listening to Joe Bataan. You probably haven’t heard of him unless you dig into Salsa, as Rudy does.  Joe is half Filipino and half African. His music touches cords you cannot even imagine-it’s like Afro-Cuban-Filipino fusion rap.  Everyone is hopeful on Easter; motor bikers, wanderers,  the wait staff and valet that trot down the street, talking into their ear phones at one another, and guests, pushing baby strollers, swinging shopping bags, taking photographs of our house, and gazing at the sky. When they hear the music from our porch, they wave at us, and might think, we  have the life, sitting on the porch,  sipping a glass of wine. What they cannot even imagine, is that the entire scene is roman a clef, a fictional imitation! What we are actually doing is avoiding the avalanche. I always have.  Like a gambler, I never grasped the concept of tomorrow is more important than today.