I READ THAT GRASS GROWS AN INCH A WEEK IN THE NORTHEAST  and so the neighbors mow once a week. Then they edge, weed wack, then they blow. Some are more finicky than others,  I can see them from my bedroom window.  Some wear expressions of an artist, intensely serious and meticulous, others mow in business suits on motorized stand-up mowers, and some mow with a visible resentment, an overly redundant but necessary chore in the Northeast.

I don’t mow, I hired a couple, Matt and Jessica.  Matt mows with his legs wide apart, no gloves or sunglasses, no earplugs, and Jessica blows. She wears the blower mechanism on her back, her long tanned naturally sculpted arms maneuvering as if she was vacuuming the living room rug. I wait until they have almost finished to greet them on the porch.

” Life sucks,” Matt calls out to me with the motor still running.

” Yes, it does. What’s happened?”

” My daughter got into a car accident on prom night, seven thousand dollars later. He wipes his forehead of sweat.”

” Is she alright?”

“Another driver crashed into them. How’s it look, nice right?”

” Excellent.”

I invited them into the house, for a look at the furnishings I’m selling.”

” Wow, you love music and vinyl!  I do too. Is that Mick Jagger in the photograph?”

I took that on to ruminate about my former Santa Fe Gallery of the music photography of the sixties, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Beatles, and as soon as my boasting sounded halfway boring, I shut up. I really don’t think my past is important to anyone but me unless they are photographers. I used to sneer at people who only talked about what they used to do. How life revisits you at sixty-something when the bragging projects have ceased.

” You own the house?”

” Half owner?”

” Where’s your other half?”

” Missing in action. It’s all up to me now.”

” That sucks. Listen, if you ever need advice about the Northeast, call me– I know everyone.  You lived in Santa Fe right?”

” Yes, eleven years.”

” I hear it’s beautiful.”

” Well, it is, and it was, but I’m here now.”

” You going back? I mean why the hell stay here?”

” Maybe? I just don’t know.”  Jessica tilted her head as women do when they see a falling sister.

” Okay, I like you, you’re a nice lady. We’re friends now.”

” Are we good enough friends that I postdate the check for three days?”

” Hell yes! I don’t need the money. Don’t even worry.”  I walked into the music room and picked up a double album of Janis, still in the cover.

” You like Janis?”

They both said oh my God I love her.  I gave them the album.  That’s what friends do, reciprocate.

Matt and Jessica come every two or three weeks because I love grass. The wind blows it, the curve of it when it bends, just like I love long hair.  One time I greeted them in my interview outfit, you know, buttons and high heels. Matt said something like, “Lose the scarf and fit in, or they will charge you double.”

If I knew how to manage the Northeast weather, sensibility and had a big family, I’d adopt a cat and get a New York drivers license.



2003 The Village Adopted my Slogan.








Growing Up with Gangsters
By: Luellen Smiley

The memoir is written in the Creative Nonfiction genre and is ninety-two thousand words.
Writing my way home began as a compass to my secretive and dishonorable family history. This is the story of a woman whose survival was wedged between shameless love and immobilizing fear of her father.
After my almost perfect mother, Lucille Casey, an MGM musical actress died, Dad gained custody of me. I was thirteen years old. What followed was a nail-biting tumultuous father daughter relationship between Allen Smiley, a Hollywood gangster, and his teenage daughter, that I’ve named Lily.
As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner from 1937 until his death in 1947, Dad acclaimed Ben Siegel. He was seated next to him the night Ben was murdered. The fatal outcome was speculation of his involvement fed by the FBI to the media, death threats from Mob associates, and vicious harassment from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I’ve learned by this time Dad had amassed a weighty criminal record, was under indictment for false claim of citizenship, perjury, and an order of deportation. After demonstrating to the Mob he wasn’t going to seek immunity offered by the government; they honored and protected his life. Their methods are described in transcripts from the FBI files; amusing, violent,and illegal. Dad served the organization until his death in 1982.
Faced with an identity meltdown ten years after Dad died I implored his friends, associates, attorney, historians, FOIPA, Immigration and Naturalization Agency, and Archives of the Department of Justice, to build the branches of my family tree. Along this irreversible journey I suffered disgrace, rage, and Dad’s ghostly disapproval as I delved into the files and discovered the family secrets.
Simultaneous with the reading is a dissection of my reactions to his criminal activities, gambling addiction, attempt at reformation, and hatred for the government. The vendetta the government placed on him for not informing earned my mother’s silent devotion. In the end they won. She divorced him.
I could be mute about the subject, or expose what I know because I’ve made the family history mine.
Incorporated within stories of discovery are government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, and criminal activities that defamed his reputation and our family.

As the discoveries occur the reader is taken inside the transformation of my identity. Once liberated from Dad’s paranormal disapproval of my investigation, I break my silence and begin writing columns about growing up with gangsters. This opened the doors to unknown relatives, mob friends, and an identity that suits me well.
A startling yet an inspirational look inside the struggle of a gangster’s daughter to understand her father’s allegiance to the Mob.

Excerpt from Smiley’s Dice.
I don’t know how much more of this I can process. I don’t feel Dad’s disapproval as strongly; this expository involving my mother is deepening my resentment for the government. This is just one binder of two-hundred pages, and I have fifty binders. I’ll rearrange my dresser drawers or hand-wash sweaters for awhile. It’s too early to have a glass of wine! Two days have passed, as my resistance to more reading of these FBI files was due to a suspended state of melancholia.
April 13th- FBI file

“Smiley received a call from —— and told Smiley that he was thinking of going into business with —–who is making twelve thousand a month putting on stag shows. Smiley told him not to get into the business. —told Smiley that he had attended a ball game and noticed that George Raft was there. Raft is now sporting a mustache and his cheeks are all sunken in, making him look like a drowned rat. Smiley did not like this comment.”
“____ asked Smiley how his case was coming along, and Smiley replied,” They are going to ship me to Singapore”
After the forgoing call was made, the conversation continued concerning _______ between Smiley, paramour of Jack Dragna, and Lucille Casey. While Casey was getting ready to go out to dinner, this unidentified woman, became very cozy with Smiley, according to the informant, and stated,
“ Take my advice and don’t talk on the telephone. You can sit right here and they can listen to you from over that hill. I know this because we have been on the other side all the time.” Smiley replied he had an idea of that and she remarked that Smiley was a good guy, and she thought she should warn him.”
Signed R.B. Hood
Special Agent in Charge.


Excerpt from soon to be finished book, Smiley’s Dice

THE SNOW SEDATED the choppy feeling in my stomach, the conjecture of  discovering why my father was wired with anxiety. His whole life was a chase scene: arrest him, convict him, send him to Russia, and never pull the tap from his apartment, or the FBI guys from his tail.

Me,  Diane Friedman and Cindy Frisch.


Now there is a wash over my interpretation of his obsessive, protective, paranoia, distrust, and interrogation of my friends. I wonder if those gals I grew up with knew about Dad from their parents’. I relied heavily on the open arms of my friend’s families. They’re remembered more than my teachers: The Blair’s, Bourne’s, Both Friedman’s, Frisch’s, Hoffman’s, Pindler’s, Saunders, Schwadel’s,  Taubman’s, and the Tefkin’s.  Hope I didn’t leave anyone out.  I left out the Berman’s and the Crosby’s.





I heard this slogan a lot when I first moved here seven years ago.  My understanding was vague, unrealized, and I didn’t think much about it until  this winter.   I began to  approach strangers,  walk across the street to the spa in a robe,  or  leave my pajama top under my sweater because I like the texture of it.
I’ve  given  up the diving board of scrutiny and plunge into the dreamy, stony,  outdated, simplistic extravagance, and unrealistic vibe of Santa Fe.



A full transcendental moon dipped into the black-out mountain evening, has cured me of interior turmoil for the time being. This is part of adventures in livingness what locals call the bu. TO BE CONTINUED
I WALKED ALONG THE BLUFF OF DECKER CANYON  overlooking the Santa Monica mountains and listened to the breeze stream through palm and eucalyptus trees.  Medication from nature loosened the wires in my guarded nervous system.   A new current of suspicion, tension and distrust entered the zone between Madam C. 20150407_133844_resized As a woman who beholds her best gal pals, and runs into the arms of women who send out invitations for friendship, I’m susceptible and gullible to hidden motivations.

After the rain walk, doused in mist and droplets I scurried up the hill to my shack. The room I rented from Madam C smelled musty after the rain.  It is linked to her boudoir by an open patio where we shower.   During the day, our paths cross a dozen times in the kitchen, in the hallway, and in my room.
“ LouLou, are you there? LouLou, let me see what you are wearing, I love those earrings, where did you get them? LouLou we are going to Westlake tonight. There are a lot of very rich men there. Is my hair color okay? Yes you look beautiful. Loulou did you lock the door? Did you close the gate? You left your clothes in the dryer. Where is Lily, (the cat) Will you watch Koui, (her furry partner) for me tonight?   Yes, yes yes.
As I entered my room, rain water was dripping in bold droplets on the rock floor. Madam  stuck her head in to speak.
“Oh my god, what is this? Oh I can’t believe it. Her hands massaged her forehead, and her face twisted into a vaccination of anguish.
“ It’s not that bad, ” I assuredly replied. I meant it too.
“ Oh the money I will have to spend! Juan, (her runaround helper) is called and ordered to come at once.”
“ Look Juan! What are we going to do?”
Juan  mumbled something I can’t recall and we all stared at the rain coming down.
“ You will have to move, you can’t stay there. I will put you in the Artists Studio. It’s more money. That’s all I can do”
“ How much more?”
“ Two hundred.”
“ Eck.”
“Or you can leave?”
I turned away to hide my alarm.
That night I watched over Koui in C’s living room and played with the remote mostly because the screen wasn’t taking effect on my disposition. I felt a bit unwelcome, as if I pulled the rain from the sky.
In the morning, she greeted me courteously, “ Are you ready to move.. Juan  and I moved my suitcases, bedding, photos and twelve pairs  of shoes to the studio. It was lovely, a high-pitched ceiling, aquamarine walls, and private patio with shower, bathroom and kitchen.
“ Well, you like it?”
“ I love it!”
“ Well then show it. You should be happy all the time. Life is not easy, I know my dear.  Adjustments are necessary. You don’t have a mama and papa to look after you. It’s up to you.
“ But C I am happy?”
Later on she sent me a text. She invited her neighbor Andrew to dine with us, “ I am doing this for you. He is a producer, Maybe he can help you.”
I prepared dinner in my new studio, listening to Ray Charles, dancing in a celebratory mood.
“ LouLou, Andrew is here, C breezed into the patio, draped in scarf, and a exotic maxi dress. I waved them in.

Andrew handed me a lemon frosted cake and a bottle of red wine.” We all chatted at once. then C blurted out,  “Why didn’t you use my kitchen?”
I am making dinner and cleaning up. You just sit and enjoy.

Dinner rocked along with intensity;  C and Andrew discussing water rights, neighbors, and her vacation rentals. After dinner Andrew stood up, 6’3” and whispered , ‘ can we go into your area?’ C must have heard, because she spun away.

We drank wine and Andrew unbuttoned his witty humor, on-set  stories, and compliments. I immediately caressed his presence and we ended up at his quarters;  an unruly wedge of land so blackened we could not see anything but the stars.  Behind us was his lodge; a spit and glue log cabin covered in palm frowns.  I found his eccentricity appealing as his smile. He really didn’t give any thought to conventionality.

“ What kind of movies do you make?” I asked.
“ Rotten ones, I mean really bad. The last one I didn’t even see. B sci-fi flicks, reality shows, that I can’t stand to watch, and documentaries.”
“ Documentaries have turned into dramas, I love them.”
“Yea, they’re good. I filmed Sundance and Cannes.  Listen, I’m not a devotee of the business, I don’t kiss ass, and I don’t go to star parties, or read about them. I got fired off a film because I addressed Reese Witherspoon without knowing who she was.”
“ Yea, there’s a hierarchy to the business you have to deal with. Are you cold? You’re shivering. Here put my jacket on. “
Andrew walked me down the uneven dirt road with a flashlight and a steady arm. His size in height and bulk denotes power, but it is his effortless mannerisms, laughter and shuffling footsteps that remind me of a comfortable sitting chair.
‘ Do you like museums?”
“You want to go tomorrow? You been to LCMCA?”
I wasn’t even sure which one he meant but I said yes!
We took off the next morning in my Rover, so I would adjust to driving in Los Angeles again. We stopped at Duke’s for breakfast, sat on the patio under a canopy of bougainvillaea.
“ I  am having a panic attack.”
“ Why?”
“ I’m so happy!” Life was so spectacular at that moment; to lean back and set my heart into the sea, sky, and eat a fish sandwich.
Andrew threw his head back and laughed.
“ Could we make one stop first at Saks. I have some jewelry they have to send out?”
“ Do you know how to get there?” He asked.  Andrew moved from Manhattan four years ago.  “ “Are you kidding? Saks Beverly Hills is my Tiffany’s.”
To be continued



The embryo of  thought. Sometimes it is negligible,  as is life.  I am the puzzle maker  and every time I try to carve the right size square, I fall off the board and have more material to write about!  The  puzzle is so vast that it covers our life time and the pieces are the choices, and non-choices that fit into themes.  We are a theme,

My life, is like a melody, a Gershwin tune. As  a dancer and prancer  at heart,  my feet are my hands,  and my hands are my heart. Yes , Christmas is in the shop isles, and cafes, the windows displays and string lights mated to children’s eyes, in blissful delight.  a doll size tree left on my patio, with a note that made me grin, and the Direct TV technician who who solved the signal loss,   that his job, but when I asked him why the CD/DVD trays  didn’t work in the Movie Theater he pulled out cables, jogged to his truck and brought new ones, installed and un-installed the cables until, ” There is your trouble; someone unplugged this one.”  A moment that matters when you are given more than you ask for , and it is a big deal for a vacation rental to be  wired, and entertaining. Last week it was the tub faucet,  the previous tenant yanked the knob out instead of turning  it and pulled out the whole shaft.  Outside is  the spillage stain  on the concrete driveway, the week before that, the circuits in my bedroom went out randomly…. the house functions as an older lady,  she was built in 1907. We call it Gallery LouLou, but truly it is Elliott Barker’s home..

I am to blame for these follies, and I exercise my poise and power when I have paying guests. I love hosting 80 percent of the time because strangers from all over the world (this summer from Moscow) walk up the driveway grinning.    20141211_164203