MEMORIAL DAY AND OUR TROOPS


 

 

6/1998-Solana Beach, CA. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           “ Where did they send you after that?”

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

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

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

          “ Did you think you were going to die?”

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

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

          “  Yes, I have.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

            “What were the natives like?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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FATHER GANGSTERS


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

STORIES TO SCREEN-AUTHORS AND PRODUCERS CONNECT


Pitch Page by TaleFlick  http://www.taleflick.com

MOVING STORIES TO SCREEN The world’s finest library of original storiescropped-54795916_high-resolution-front-cover_6490467-11-19-1.jpg

CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute
Luellen Smiley

GENRE
MEMOIR CRIME DRAMA BIOGRAPHICAL FAMILY
Drama

Mature Audience

Politics

Suspense

Romance

Core Theme
A MAFIA STORY THROUGH THE EYES OF A DAUGHTER.
TIME PERIOD
1960s & ’70s
COMPARABLE TITLES
THE SOPRANOS, THE GODFATHER, CASINO, GOODFELLAS
CHARACTER LIST
• LUELLEN “LILY” SMILEY: TEENAGER/50S. NEEDY, LOOKING FOR LOVE/ADMIRATION FROM HER FATHER; DILIGENT, STRONG MORAL CODE, CAN READ A ROOM.
• ALLEN SMILEY: 65. LILLY’S FATHER, (IN)FAMOUS GANGSTER. CRIMINAL, AGGRESSIVE, CHARMING, BADASS, ENGAGING.
Register for Full Story
Pitch Page by TaleFlick Info by Author

Brief
Luellen “Lilly” Smiley is the daughter of Allen Smiley, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend, and
business partner. She rips herself from innocence and confronts her father’s nefarious criminal life, as
she breaks the mafia code of silence ten years after her father’s death.
What We Liked
– True story;
– A period piece inside a period piece (‘40s and ‘70s);
– 1940’s Hollywood, with actual “appearances” by stars of that era;
– The mafia and its members through another perspective;
– The father/daughter relationship;
– Episodic narrative, making it perfect for series;
– Possibility of both a fiction piece and a very rich documentary.
Synopsis

940s Hollywood may seem like the Golden Era of Cinema; Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall
graced the screen, but behind the camera, there was a seedy underbelly ran by Bugsy Siegel and Allen
Smiley.
In the 1970s, Allen’s daughter Lilly Smiley gets a job at her uncle Jack’s book store. There, she is
constantly reminded and asked about her father from customers and other “uncles” who would come
in. After answering with pleasantries, she realizes that people have a completely different view and
opinion of her father than she does. Through research and help from her therapist, Lilly decides to
unearth the real Allen Smiley.
Each story is an episode; a look into the relationship Allen had with Lilly, Lilly had with Allen, Allen had
with the Mafia, and Lilly had with the Mafia. All three of these dynamics weave a tapestry of an
unstable, yet loving relationship. Some of the stories consist of:
● The day her dad died of Hepatitis C was an apparent hit on the Mafia;
● Meeting celebrities of the day and how they respected her father;
● The day her loving Uncle Bugsy died from a drive-by that sent her dad into hiding;
● One incident where her father wouldn’t let her into the apartment because she forgot the safe
word. He forced her to go to another home to get the key, and wouldn’t let her in;
● The day her parents got a divorce, yet her father came home for dinner every night;
● The relationship between Uncle Bugsy and her dad;
● The time her mother was diagnosed with cancer and spent the rest of her life in the Hospital.
How her dad, even though divorced, never left her side;
● Dad coming from an immigrant family, and how that shaped how he approaches problems;
● Allen, disappearing for weeks or months at a time, and how hard it was on her and her
mother. Once her mother died, it was even tougher on her.
● All the different “Uncles” that would stop by and look after the family.
By the end of the series she has a journey of denial, curiosity, and disbelief. She eventually manages
to find people who understand her history and accept her.
About The Author
Luellen’s “Smiley’s Dice-Growing Up with Gangsters columns appeared in San Diego newspapers and earned a Blue Ribbon award from the CA Newspaper Association. Her research led to TV, radio, and print interviews about her father and Bugsy Siegel.

WINTER, WAYS, AND CHANGE


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

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

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Bob and Baez-JIM MARSHALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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