AMEN ARMEN


          About twenty-five years ago while searching the want ads for a job; an advertisement for an on-site property manager caught my eye.  At the time, I was committed to launching my dance troupe, the Jammers, and like most dance troupes, a non-profit enterprise.   

           I appeared at the interview wearing the only career outfit I had left. A petite woman with sparkling black eyes, dressed in black leggings and a T-Shirt greeted me, her name was Armen. I recall we sat at her dining room table and talked. About halfway through the interview, I realized this woman was not interviewing me for anything except trust. Armen did not study my resume or ask me hypothetical questions, she engaged me in conversation. I ventured to explain, why I ejected out of commercial real estate into the business of a dance troupe. Armen shook her head, “I understand, you don’t have to explain, I come from an artistic family, and my mother was an Opera singer.”

          She asked me to start the following weekend. I packed up my belongings from the Gaslamp apartment on G Street and moved into The Terraces. Armen gave me a spacious two-bedroom apartment over the pool because I told her I loved to swim. I did not have enough furniture to fill the apartment. Armen laughed and said, “ What do you need, a bed and a table, that’s it.”    

She lived in one of the smallest units and loved the simplicity. She did not own a television or a blender. She invested every cent in the project and planned to convert it into condominiums. This could not be accomplished without rental income. My job was to lease the apartments.

          We set up a model office and hired a maintenance man, and a landscaper. We fixed up the apartments, and I rented them. In the evening, I presided over the Jammers Dance Classes in a fitness center downtown. The classes were expanding, and everyone wanted to learn Hip-Hop. My artistic pulse was satisfied, and my financial burden was lifted.

          Every day at noon Armen would call me, 

           “Lily. Come over-I have lunch.”

           “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”

           “You have to eat, just a little.” 

   She did not take no for an answer.  She prepared delicious Turkish and Armenian exotic dishes, and for an hour, we sat at the table and discussed ideas, art, and the American lifestyle. In a short time, it was evident The Terraces was just a backdrop, a setting to an unfolding drama of fictional proportions. The looming danger, disaster, and deterioration came in waves. Just as we recovered from one shipwreck, another was on its way.

          First, there were the tenants; a collection of eighty lifestyles and characters that invariably collide and come running to Armen. I never saw her turn a tenant away. She was so complying and understanding; tenants retreated and left smiling. In spite of utility shutdowns, and cracking staircases from the earthquake. failed security alarms, and slipping balconies, we moved tenants in and they did not move out.

           Armen did not permit defeat to wedge influence over her mission.  Nor did she allow the consumption of things to soften her existence in life. She maintained simplicity without a magazine or a consultant to show her how. At times I came to her with complaints, about the insufficiencies in my life. She always had a philosophy that inoculated me from my narrow view. She broadened my sense of self and helped me to free up petty insecurities.

          The digression began when Armen realized her financial partner had hoodwinked her and was succeeding in acquiring ownership of the property. Then the maintenance man revealed his hidden love for me and went running to Armen every time I had a date. We were afraid to fire him, Bill was big as John Wayne and started admitting how many men he killed in Vietnam. There was more drama, a friend from Junior High school appeared veiled in innocent memories and slowly unwound into a crack addict with a bad temper. He took possession of a vacant apartment and threatened to kill me.  I had to hire a bodyguard, one of the Jamaican Martial Arts experts from the Jammers dance studio. Armen did not ask me to leave. Even when the Addict swindled money out of our tenants, masking himself as a Private Investigator.   

                 We set up a model office and hired a maintenance man, and a landscaper. We fixed up the apartments, and I rented them. In the evening, I presided over the Jammers Dance Classes in a fitness center downtown. The classes were expanding, and everyone wanted to learn Hip-Hop. My artistic pulse was satisfied, and my financial burden was lifted.

          Every day at noon Armen would call me, 

           “Lily. Come over-I have lunch.”

           “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”

           “You have to eat, just a little.” 

   She did not take no for an answer.  She prepared delicious Turkish and Armenian exotic dishes, and for an hour, we sat at the table and discussed ideas, art, and the American lifestyle. In a short time, it was evident The Terraces was just a backdrop, a setting to an unfolding drama of fictional proportions. The looming danger, disaster, and deterioration came in waves. Just as we recovered from one shipwreck, another was on its way.

          First, there were the tenants; a collection of eighty lifestyles and characters that invariably collide and come running to Armen. I never saw her turn a tenant away. She was so complying and understanding; tenants retreated and left smiling. In spite of utility shutdowns, and cracking staircases from the earthquake. failed security alarms, and slipping balconies, we moved tenants in and they did not move out.

           Armen did not permit defeat to wedge influence over her mission.  Nor did she allow the consumption of things to soften her existence in life. She maintained simplicity without a magazine or a consultant to show her how. At times I came to her with complaints, about the insufficiencies in my life. She always had a philosophy that inoculated me from my narrow view. She broadened my sense of self and helped me to free up petty insecurities.

          The digression began when Armen realized her financial partner had hoodwinked her and was succeeding in acquiring ownership of the property. Then the maintenance man revealed his hidden love for me and went running to Armen every time I had a date. We were afraid to fire him, Bill was big as John Wayne and started admitting how many men he killed in Vietnam. There was more drama, a friend from Junior High school appeared veiled in innocent memories and slowly unwound into a crack addict with a bad temper. He took possession of a vacant apartment and threatened to kill me.  I had to hire a bodyguard, one of the Jamaican Martial Arts experts from the Jammers dance studio. Armen did not ask me to leave. Even when the Addict swindled money out of our tenants, masking himself as a Private Investigator.   

          Eight months into the battle, I moved out. Armen stayed on and continued to wage her battle against her con artist partner. It took another year, but one day Armen drove away without a penny from her property. Three years later she acquired three of the condos. She never gives up.

     She returned to Los Angeles and moved in with her parents.  She found another project and started over. When that project failed, she returned to her parent’s home. By this time, she was married with a little girl, and the five of them lived together. Armen had lost her independence, project, and privacy, but she held on to her spirit. Over the years, I struggled in another territory, and we kept in contact by phone. We compared difficulties, and she assured me no matter how difficult the circumstances, not to give up. 

     Now twenty years have passed. Armen has two children. The girl is named Aida, and the little boy is Mathew.  Armen lives in Los Angeles now. She achieved much since the days of the Terraces. She continued to work in real estate and chose to broker buildings. She gained a modest win over The Con and was compensated.  Last week I spoke to Armen over the telephone. 

          “ Oh Lily, I had a good year, you know, I cannot believe it. I am out of the project in San Diego now for good. I got the last of my money.”

          “ Congratulations, at last! Look how many years.”

          “ Do you remember Paul, the contractor?”  He moved to Las Vegas and has had a hard time you know. He is trying to open up a business there. Remember his little girl, she’s a teenager now. Can you believe it?”

          “ So much has happened.”

          “ You know I promised to pay Paul, one percent of the profits. I’m going to Las Vegas next week–I’m going to pay him.”

          “ Does he know?”

          “ Nothing, he doesn’t know anything. I’m going to surprise him.”

          “ How much did you owe him?”

          “ Eighty thousand, he’ll be surprised. ”

          “ Will he ever!”  

That is only one of Armen’s victories; she has many and one day they will be told.

        

That is only one of Armen’s victories; she has many and one day they will be told.

KNPR INTERVIEW


https://knpr.org/knpr/2011-05/luellen-smiley

My first interview on Dad, when I listen now it reminds me how liberating it was to talk about my family history.

Luellen Smiley

KNPR.ORG

Luellen Smiley

Luellen Smiley is the daughter of reputed mobster, Allen Smiley. Smiley’s dad was a close friend and confidant of famous Las Vegas mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and he was sitting on the couch just feet away from Siegel the night he was murdered. While Luellen Smiley hadn’t been born at the time o…

https://knpr.org/knpr/2011-05/luellen-smiley?fbclid=IwAR2YLsL-1RUSFQdjTtbrLmoVZXC29SF9ek8goQH95onmH3h1guo8Q8dv8fw

THANKSGIVING THREE TIMES A YEAR


I’ve adopted a savant to facilitate making decisions. I don’t want to use the word hate, it’s useless, but this time I will, I hate making decisions. Whether to go out for dinner, or go to one of villages’ festivals, parades, or events, they rake up events during the winter to keep us off drugs. This weekend was a  village-wide Friday sale for shopping, the lighted tractor parade, and appetizers at all the shops in town. Sounded pleasurable and I’m proud of the village to induct us into a community of we care about you.  I didn’t go, but I did go out for Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant I’d never been to, festive crowded, and the tempting buffet twinkled like the first time I’d seen decorated food. It’s been five years since I’ve gone out for Thanksgiving so the jubilee of food was a bit musical.  I ordered a glass of wine at the bar, the only customer as everyone had reserved tables for grandparents and children and the roar was melodious. My order to go would wait, the celebratory ambiance shattered my loneliness. The bartender, Jovida was like a lightbulb, she kept coming over to me maybe three times asking me polite questions, have you been here before, you must come on the weekends we have live music, while you’re having your wine can I bring you something from the buffet. I wondered if I’d be charged, she noticed my hesitation and said, No charge. So I choose smoked salmon, capers, onion, and horseradish. On m wish list if I’m allowed to eat in heaven, along with Gruyere cheese, tacos, salad, and croissants.  The bliss, was a sandwich of bustling eager activity, laughter, and the children.  I remember our family Thanksgiving when my parents were divorced and we went to Nana’s home in San Fernando Valley, through that old tunnel. My mother’s mother is full-flecked Irish so the dinner was grand, and she was a dedicated cooking slave.  She made mashed potatoes like I’ve never tasted since, and homemade pies, everything spiced with Nana’s kinship with making the family love her.

      I left the restaurant after an hour later with a jubilant bag of turkey, fixings, and pumpkin pie. I found my seat on the bedroom sofa, and watched, ‘ The Train’ with Burt Lancaster.  My thoughts were rested, abated for the whole evening, and then the next day, turkey revenge. I could not get out of bed, eat, or think. So I said to myself, it’s okay to do nothing and so I watched a romantic comedy, ‘ Cardboard Husband,’ with Norma Sherer and Robert Taylor, removed three-year-old lipstick and liners, shopped online without buying, saved for later my way of shopping. Then I threw the dice and I got seven. That is where my decisions are now made. If I don’t get a seven with seven throws, I don’t go out or make a decision. If I get it once- I’m on! It was a perfect day for thanks. I think we should have a Thanksgiving Holiday three or four times a year.

WINTER WRITING IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


    Still flustering over how to save more money, and which expense she should solve; the dental appointment that’s six months overdue, the servicing of her car overdue since June, or elevated reasons to book a trip to San Diego. The urgency to decide sent her into a minor mid-afternoon tizzy and she decided she needed potato chips to solve her physical edginess. She does not use salt in her cooking, and from experimentation over the years realized that salt could elevate her dizzy thinking and lackluster posture. The momentary outdoor freshness stilted her, to stop moving, and breathe deeply like she was in the doctor’s office and they say, ‘ deep breath.’   The street is absent of walkers, workers, delivery trucks, and residents, it’s almost like a graveyard and this does not irritate Greta, she uses the bliss to engulf her creativity, and so she began to write.

“Young woman sitting on the books and typing, toned image”

PUZZLE OF SOLITUDE  will always be a puzzle because our lives, solo or mated, are puzzled by too much solitude, or not enough.

 I contest what seems endless solitude with my Irish Russian temper; condemning irritants like street noise, absence of friends, short-tempered customer service reps, world news, and mindless tasks. After the first ice rain and snow, the fever dulled, and mindfulness triumphed. I imagined my basement of survival would sink. It did not. There is an inner exploration happening, unfolding like spreading new sheets on my bed, that solitude has befriended me all my life, in the best of times and the tedious. I have to find the frolic and follies in the world I created. I have to laugh alone so I watch screwball comedies, seek humor in my irregularities; wear a sweater inside out, pour coffee into a wine glass for a cocktail and chuckle up and down the staircase, because I keep forgetting where I left my phone. My head is elsewhere-daydreaming.
I’ve learned how to repair house calamities; unscrew windows, seal up cracks, fix clogged drains, replace air vents, read the meters, and rejuvenate every wood board, handle, chair, and table with Old English Oil. As one pal commented on a visit to the house, ‘ It’s a perfect day for Old English! The winter forecast is blizzardy and full of warnings I haven’t experienced here; and how could I complain when half of Upstate New York is buried in SEVENTY INCHES of snow and no way out? At the end of the day, pleasure comes in the kitchen; my heart and spirit melt while stirring my weekly slumguillion stew while listening to Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and swing music.
Winter has in the past been a funnel that leads to writing.

POLITICS, HALLOWEEN, AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION


I made friends with sadness a long time ago. When my senses are faced with tragedy, war, a friend’s hardship, a crying child, or a lost cat, it resonates with emotions I cannot control. I feel that today. The street where I live is lifeless. The residents are not behaving as they have the last three years. Once those leaves turn they all come out in gardening gloves and jackets and place mums on the porch steps. They bring out blowers and try to keep time with a tremendous showering of leaves and begin decorating their homes in flamboyant fashion for Halloween.

Last year, activity flourished as renters and owners placed their hay stacks, witches, pumpkins, and lights in prominence. I think it’s an unofficial traditional contest between neighbors.

Maybe this is our Great Depression and it is more than the economy, inflation, and uncertainty. I think we are all flustered and frustrated with the fall of politics, it feels more like who has the best strategic offense.

Untitled manuscript- Pg 565.


May be an image of outdoors

Excerpt from the new manuscript. No title yet.

Will-powered out of the house on a glory hallelujah day of ballet winds and buttercup sun. I walked along the bike path and observed the cyclists, and joggers, some still masked. Along the way, I smiled at passing strangers, and sometimes even a hello. How reviving to connect with strangers after two years of physical masks. Emotionally optimistic, a rare trajectory of nature and my life within. If nature can survive, why can’t I? What prevents us from launching new growth, mentally emotionally, and financially?

Let me take this day and bless it with hope, miles, and miles of hope and faith that I will land, plant new roots, and bloom.

CRYING OVER CRIME IN THE USA


The safety pin that allows us to walkabout is gone. Lawlessness has landed, an alien from the dominion of hatred, frustration, anger, revenge, mental illness, and loneliness. Depraved directionless menacing strangers leap upon INNOCENTS and are EDITING THEIR PURSUIT OF LIFE.  A mounting civil war that no one really calls out, is like lava spreading throughout our cities, suburbs, monuments, schools, hospitals, daycare centers, stores, and restaurants. Everywhere, even on the freeway drivers shoot at drivers.

My gang has stopped watching the news, I have cut down to news flashes, then mute, then maybe the evening news. Not a conversation that I have or overhear is about the crime crisis. Why is that?

Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

WHY LIE


When do we begin to lie about our life our feelings, our fears, our everything? I ask this because of simple observation, knowing when someone is not telling me their truth and I remain silent, it’s not my way to ask, why do you lie to me? My friends are not lying, it’s more like a social cultural mask. My wise father once told me ‘Tell them your sister or father just died, and they’ll respond, excellent because they do not want to hear your problems.’ But I do, I’ve always wanted to know the truth. Why should we shield our traumas and hardship, more than our triumphs and accomplishments? Do you know who does not lie? ART and SPORTS. That is why we listen to music, read books, go to galleries and museums, films, the theater, and ballet or other dance performances. I cannot comment on sports because I’m not a spectator although I do love basketball.

We, and I mean this in only a visceral sense, do not believe the politicians, news, social media, or advertisements. We want to, but deep in our inner truth, we know it is the manipulation of our individual thoughts. And that my friends is why I trust art to deepen my understanding of the human condition. Thank you to all the artists and athletes who share their pain and glory.

FOUND ON THE INTERNET

THE PHILADELPHIA PHILHARMONIC

MAXFIELD PARRISH

PHILIP TOWNSEND

WHAT IS A LOVE STREAM


TWO EMBANKMENTS WEDGED BETWEEN A STREAM

     THAT RIPPLES THE UK TO THE USA.  

     WHAT FALLS BETWEEN THE MEANDERING

     USHERS GENTLE WAVES, LOVING CARESSES

SMASHES WHEN THE WAVES ARE EVIDENT. 

     SOAR TO BRING THEIR STREAM TO REST

    TO FIND THE BEST

    BELIEVING EXIST AND DESTINY FLOW

THEY DON’T KNOW

    IF THE STREAM WILL ENTWINE

    ENSNARE OR EMBRACE

   EMBANKMENTS MEANT TO SHOULDER   

UNTIL THEY ‘VE FOUND EACH OTHER

   

WHERE WERE YOU ON 9/11 AND HOW DID YOU FEEL ON 9/12 2001 AND 9/12/2022???


Paper deaths mounting in pages written

By authors and reporters

On the day of bloodshed twenty-one years after

The morning news

Around the world

That our Towers fell on innocence; walking, living, twirling the streets of Manhattan.

Tears are shed in buckets of smoke between the sheets of death   

The men and women that died shine through the wicked divide

Of hatred and love

Flames of courage cape first responders, and unknown heroes

Photo by Iarlaith McNamara on Pexels.com

Beaming down every morning

On tables arranged by nations and religions

In the homes of Democrats and Republicans

United tears all of these years.  

Months turn over on calendars

New episodes and reality shows

Graduation and separation

Replaced furnishings and

Sketches of a vacation

Events the rest of us chatter up in coffee houses

While the stories of nine-eleven lay today in the headlines

On newsstands

In the windows of memory

Never forget

THE MIDDLE OF LIFE


 

 I read in one of my books on writing that the middle of the novel is where most writers face the demon. The beginning is a gallop, the end is a relief, but the middle wiggles in and out of your grasp. The middle of our lives reflects this same obscurity.

The middle of a life span reflects all we have accomplished and all we have left incomplete. This is what they call a mid-life crisis. I get it every year.  I’ve finally accepted that my constant relocating, reinventing, and being restless is not going to be solved. At the bottom of the restlessness is the fear of finding rest more enjoyable than movement. This flotation of comedy rotated around me last night while I was standing out on the porch observing the peacefulness. The scenery of  Ballston Spa is a comforting, historical beauty that comes from the harmony of architecture and nature. The flow of villagers downtown is along two main two-lane streets, all the shops, services and restaurants are a patchwork, and all the business owners know each other.  

All I can think of is where I should go next. This is wholly a village of ancestral families, with defensible adaptation to the severe climate, simplicity, and uncomplicated lives. My discomfort comes from trying to assimilate.  

 Many years ago, in the summer of 1987, I was seated in a café in Monaco, truly, and a man that I was traveling with told me, “You have to make a choice.” He embarked on a long discussion about choices we make in life and how everything depends on these choices: how you live and with whom, and what you do. He pointed out to me over my first really authentic Salad Niçoise that I was an oblivious example of a woman refusing to choose. I was more interested in the salad, the yachts, the casino around the corner, and the fact that I didn’t have an evening gown to wear to dinner. I listened without argument or insult, but I was disturbed by what he said. I didn’t understand completely, but he was older and had much experience and conviction. That conversation now fits into the mid-life crisis, the comedy of errors in my life, and maybe in yours, and just how much travesty we can ignore. For my fault, as it WAS, I did not want to sign, commit, or make final decisions. I wanted it all to be a temporary placement that allows me the freedom to change.

I have lost track of my European friend, but if he met me today, he would say, “You have not changed at all.” So that is why I was standing there in the darkness on the porch and laughing like a silly girl because it is true. I have not changed at all.

The choice facing us at mid-life is making a change now, risking losing all we have accomplished, compiled, and attached, or throwing the dice.

Beyond the obvious changes in activity, relationships, and scenery are the internal travels. They are not so easily engaged. You cannot wake up one day and say, “I ‘m off to become more compassionate, or more practical, or more generous.” These journeys are taken when other factors play into our lives, such as when we get sick, demoted, or experience a trauma.

It is a very subtle inconsistency. When I unplug all the voices and listen to the one that understands, that is when I write. The middle of the story and the middle of life is the same. We and our characters have to make a choice.

                                       ***

FREE TO WRITE


I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. 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 an English Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, the mise en scene that shakes its relevance.

EXCERPT FROM MY NEXT BOOK. UNKNOWN TITLE


.

Page 525. Terrified to post this but it is Sunday and I’m brave on Sunday. The book is fiction, first-person, and close third person so you’ll need a jogging suit to read. Based on true events.

Greta let the moment of the village rescue stay with her, like a new pet for as long as she could hold on to its beneficial ointment, away from what she calls her immersion into self. She gives me examples that illustrate her obsession with matching outfits in her closet.

It’s a bedroom she converted into a dressing room. There’s a single bed against one wall, a cabinet where she stores the winter boots, and an eight-drawer French nouveau dresser and mirror. She sits on a chair facing the windows so she can watch the trees live through sun, wind, rain, and snow. Across from the chair is the bed. She diligently arranged her summer pastel skinny jeans on the bed, and next to that row she arranged the T-shirts, camisoles, and shorts.  It’s quite practical considering Greta as she has admitted to me half a dozen times, that she was born without common sense or practicality.  At the base of the bed, she lined up her shoes, the slip-ons, the flats, the pumps stuffed with tissue paper to preserve their shape, and the wedges. After a breach of sanity, she goes into this room and visualizes outfits and color matching like someone might play chess.  ‘ It does have a purpose, this way I visualize without wrangling with hangers and you know it just takes too much time when you’re in a closet.

‘”These days I look at them as if they belonged to someone else, I mean the red suede with gold heels that I wore on a New Year’s Eve of gaiety and not since, the black velvet pumps that always make me feel dainty and light. What care I give to all these garments when in the other part of the house, Dodger was descending into a financial coma.”

  Greta did not acknowledge the few months before his departure that he was riddled with abject unfulfilling tasks, bills, and construction jobs that no longer fed him purpose and accomplishment. She did not notice that his slacking posture on the front porch, head lowered and staring out without any body movement was a sign, she in fact despised it and walked away.  In the last few months, all of this seemed to rise up like a curtain before a play, in a theater and she witnessed his insolence and his silent howl for help.  

The irony of her activity is that she doesn’t go to the events that she plans on going to wear the outfits.

s

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, or 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 the 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.

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)