Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat, sometimes it brings confidence. I asked my British friend, ‘is it common for people to lose their curiosity, passion, and desires as they age?’ He responded, LOL, yes. That’s where we are different, he has certainty, whereas I don’t. Being single and living alone affords you freedom of thought, and so it was this weekend, while enveloped indoors to avoid the chilling grip of winter, my thoughts were in a heated argument.
Go to Saratoga and visit the Casino Museum, have a croissant or lobster roll, roam the gallery district, window shop, and get out of this house now.
It’s too cold to walk, I’ve been to the museum, I don’t feel like dining alone again, and the galleries I’ve been to are arts and crafts.
That’s not the reason, is it?
No, I’m not curious.
Just four years ago, I’d pop out of my Santa Fe home and walk up to Canyon Road Friday Night. All the galleries are open and serve appetizers, some live music, some street vendors, and some costumed characters and it was a party. I didn’t mind eating alone because I knew the restaurant owners, bartenders,and regular guests. Sedation of spirit came in the last six months. The first year coming back to my home after a six-year absence was invigorating and new, and unexpectedly in need of serious maintenance and lease management.
In front of El Farol, Canyon Road on a stranger’s beauty mobile. Twice a week for live rockin music and dancing. One of my favorite dance floors because the stage is three feet away.
The second year was getting about town and exploring and then Covid so it was an incomplete year. The third year was a wicked winter and when spring came, the ebullient appreciation of the sun and flowers renewed, and my curiosity temperature was down but not dormant. Circumstances too complicated and gruesome to write, force me to stay here. I’m one of the millions, that live where they don’t choose to live anymore. When the day comes, the freedom to relocate is my curiosity. My next nest is undetermined. My friends, ask me, ‘where are you going to move to?’ This comes up in every third or fourth conversation. And the answer is the same, ‘when I know I’ll tell you.’
Upstate on a clear day.
Poetic justice for a life-long wanderer. Curiosity I call on you to visit my spirit and paddle me out to waters and roads unknown. Give me the confidence to keep my oars afloat; confident, curious, and passionate.
On the road from New Mexico to somewhere… I can’t remember.
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 bustlingeager 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 decisionsare 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.
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.
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.!!
Looking west to a smear of dusty crimson sunlight, a young man of twenty stood on the shoulder of Highway 66 waiting to hitch a ride. A powder blue Cadillac pulled up and the lad was caught in a puff of loose gravel. When the dust settled, a woman dressed in a two piece matching suit leaned over from the driver’s seat. “Say fella, can you drive one of my cars to California? I’ll pay the expenses,” she yelled out the window. Another Cadillac pulled up next to hers with a jerk stop. The lad stared into the shine of the car. It looked like wet paint and he was tempted to touch it. “Sure will, yep I’ll do that. Should I get in now?” The young man answered. “I need to see your driver’s license.” She added. The man hastily drew out his license from a dusty plastic cover inside his billfold. She looked it over, and smiled. “All right Maurice, keep in close to us on the road, don’t get lost. We’re going far as Needles.” Maurice held tight to the steering wheel, ‘Geez, ain’t this great, what a car. I’m going all the way from Nebraska to California in a Cadillac.’ He’d forgotten about the sharp pains of hunger, and bloody sores on his feet. Now he was sitting on warm leather seats, with the cold night air off his back, and ten dollars in his pocket.
Sixty five years later, I’m walking down the street where Maurice lives. We haven’t met yet. I don’t meet my neighbors. I move before I have a chance to care about them. It comes easy to me, being a loner. Then I met Maurice.
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.
Thank you very much for allowing “CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute” to participate in a TaleFlick Discovery contest. Your date has been set!
It will be a special week on TaleFlick Discovery: an all-women’s week, to commemorate International Women’s Day.
“CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute” will be part of next week’s contest that starts:
Wednesday 03/11/2020 at 10:00am Pacific. https://taleflick.com/pages/discovery. The contest will accept votes for three consecutive days, starting at the above time, and ending the following Friday at 4pm PT.
CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute
MEMOIR CRIME DRAMA BIOGRAPHICAL FAMILY
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
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
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.
The Blacklist | Netflix
Agent Keen and Reddington are educating me on how to fight evil and how to survive. All of my problems are theirs in some episode: mental torture, financial sabotage, abandonment, physical pain, betrayal, threats, and deceit. The only problem, is I am up till 3am watching it! In my humble movie mania opinion, this is the most outstanding drama-suspense-script perfect series. James Spader blows me away with his finesse in dialogue and authenticity. And how I wish to be more like Agent Keen, played superbly sincere by Megan Boone. There is a part of you in one of the characters, I’ll bet on that. https://www.netflix.com/title/70281312