IN THE FLESH OF SPRING


Unless you’ve lived in a four seasons city, you just can’t understand how transformational and redivivus the vernal expectation of spring. My mind feels like someone has loosened the screws, and a willowy feeling fills the body so when I walk my steps waver, without any alcohol. This spring is like a substance prescription after one of the gloomiest winters of my life.

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.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

A FRIEND FOR ALL SEASONS


What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety and comfort, colliding with the unknown darkness, seems to be the most revealing of emotions. It is also a time that spirals into visual realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  Tonight, is about friends.

Friends are bookends that bind our stories; some novellas, some poems, some cinematic, each friend s serves as a bookend to our personal history.  When I’ve lost my way and need direction my friends motorize me like a little engine, and when I fly without wings, they ring the bell to come down to earth. At times, arguments arise and my friendships stray, but true-life friends never leave you behind. Sometimes years may pass, and then one day you get a call or an email or send one yourself, and the flushing of that particular squabble in history vanishes. You can start anew; at the same time, it is not.

The essence of friendship never burns out, it is our galaxy, a kind of celestial agility.

Are you experiencing a startling outpouring from friends who’ve left your life only to suddenly show up on your social media or a personal email? Are your friends calling and writing more often than pre-Covid?  I’m always examining some unfamiliar events in life, a new trend, a cultural change. We have that now, and conversation, as it has leaped from let’s just talk to all the, don’t go there subjects of 2020. Seems like every topic can be mixed with politics, sometimes the mixture is explosive. I’ve halted the political discussions and so have my friends as they are more important to my livingness than politics.

These new threads of friendship began with a young man I dated when we were in our mid-twenties. He was developing into a businessman, the world was not far from his scope, I on the other hand was cradled by my father’s demands, my freedom limited. Our short story ended; the bookends shelved until one day he sent a message on Facebook with his phone number. The last time I’d seen him was around nineteen-seventy-three. I paddled through the well of memories; his image materialized, he was smiling, joking, driving me around, going places.  I could be passive with him; he was a trailblazer.  I was content to be in the company of a man who was fearless, exploratory, and a gentleman. Our first phone call lasted a long while because youthful history is crystallized and reigns over the years missed.  I find it problematic especially during this pandemic to form new friendships, so the friendship of the past rises like warm muffins in the oven.

In May as the spring yearned to rise from the winter, I received an email that flowered my childhood. Bonny, my playmate, throughout elementary school, as Brownies and Girl Scouts, as synagogue attending students and mischievous little girls who wanted to be dancers, me in Jazz and Bonny in Ballet.  She lived just across the street from Bellagio Road school and our escapades often took place in her home.  I remember the black and white tile floor, streams of sunlight over the grand piano where her father played and Bonny practiced ballet technique. Even at the age, her discipline and dedication were remarkably striking.

Bonny Bourne Singer

After exchanging emails we had a phone call. The last time I’d seen Bonny was in the 7th grade, bookends that yielded to fifty-four years.  Our conversation began in yelps of laughter, astonishment, excitement and the pages of our story flipped from her career with the New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet, to her marriage and children, and then to her Mother.

“Luellen, hold on my mother is nudging me to give her the phone.”

As soon as I heard her say, “Sweetheart,” her name came back to me.

“Rose!  oh my, this is unbelievable. I am so happy Bonny contacted me after reading my book.

“I just finished it. I loved it.”

“Thank you, Rose, I have a question–do you remember much about my Mother?” You’re the only one still alive that knew her.

“Darling, a day didn’t go by that we didn’t talk on the phone. She was such a beautiful person.”

Tears blurred my sight as we walked through some memories. The fifty-four-year absence seemed like five.   Since that first conversation, we now speak every few weeks, send emails, photos and our friendship is as sustainable as if we were ten years old.

Sometimes friends get into disputes, not verbal arguments, just an interruption caused by events or circumstances that override the friendship. My closest friend in Santa Fe, I’ve coined Pandora and I relinquished our friendship because of our raucousness when we were serenading downtown Santa Fe.  Pandora and I recently liberated from dower circumstances clicked our heels, held hands and skipped through town endowed with our personal feminist characteristics.  Then, at some point, we divided as our playtime interred with our work time and five years passed.  As it happens during Covid- we recall the best times of our lives. Pandora heard the calling and left me a voice message.  Oh, how I rehearsed what I would say, and how much I missed her, in between visual images of us, at the La Fonda Hotel, La Posada, and Santa Café. For one of my birthdays, she arrived with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a bag of presents, that reminded me of my childhood indulgences.  I called her back within the hour.  Our bookends opened to our shared memories and we both admitted we regretted we let responsibilities divide us.  Now, Pandora is within my life and mine in hers. I told her, “I don’t care what happens between us, I’m not going anywhere. “

Photo Pandora with her therapy poodle, Pumpkin visiting patients a at a Santa Fe Hospital. Her blazing compassion for anyone suffering. 

When September arrived, the leaves dropped like tears from the trees. I watched from my window, this shedding of a season, and began packing up the summer clothes. As I pulled out the sweater’s boots, hats, gloves, and warm-ups with regret and stubbornness, I am not prepared for a third winter alone. Maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life.  These invective fears permeate throughout my days and nights.  What I asked for as a writer was time alone, now I have it.

Hours passed like waiting in line in my own mind, how to shift from this sentiment to something promising.  I switched from news to emails to social media and then I noticed a comment from a student on Classmates. Com. I am a member as a graduate of University High School in Los Angeles.

We were the graduating class of 1971, one thousand students from the Westside. Some classmates lived so close I walked there after school, some from wealthy influential parents, some in the film business, and some from blue-collar families, We did not judge by color, income, or politics, we just accepted one another. I don’t recall any arguments, attacks, insults, or violence, high school was our second home. I remember the beautiful botanical gardens, the dance studio, the football field, and the front lawn where my gang hung out during lunch or after school.

The comments were touching and so I responded back. I remembered this secret admirer from Junior High and High School. He had a distinctive style, part trendy part individual, he wore hats and paisley shirts, his stride was fast-paced, his hair brown, long and thick that framed a beautiful masculine jawline. He laughed with gusto, his voice was theatrical in tone as it was at one moment pensive and the next comical.  He was not part of one particular gang of friends but moved like a party host between many of the circles.  To be continued.

I’m Just a Regular Guy. Part Two.


          “Did you want to be like the people in Rancho Santa Fe?”

          He laughed out loud and said, “I don’t want to be what I’m not. I am the happiest man alive.”

          “Tell me again why you are so happy?”

          “I told you about when I was stuck in Buna– I made a vow to God that if I got out of there alive, I’d never complain about life again

          “You kept your promise.”

          “ Yes, and I have the most wonderful friends in the world—and you’re one of them.”  I gave him a hug and a kiss and asked him to tell me more about his life in Solana Beach.

          “ Was your wife happy too?”

          “ Oh yes.”

          “ How long were you married?”  I asked.

          “ My wife and I were married fifty years, nineteen forty-one until she passed away.

 She was so good to me when I come back from the war. I used to get up in the middle of the night and wander around, didn’t know where I was and she always got up with me. I had bad dreams and got lost, didn’t know where I was, and would hide in the closet. She was so careful with me. I just didn’t know what I was doing like spilling things at the table, and not remembering things she told me. It went on for a long while, but she never got angry or lost her temper. She was so good, and after I got better, we started having fun again, and we were doing good. I was at the dairy and they bought me the house on  Barbara Street.”

          “ The dairy bought it for you?”  I interrupted.

          “Yeah, 208  Barbara, that was it. We lived in that little house while I worked at the dairy– I worked seven days a week, from midnight until noon, then I’d have my lunch and rest awhile. Then we might go out and we’d party. “

          “ Before you went to work?”

          “ Oh yeah, it was the only time we had together.” 

          “ I feel like a wimp,”  I mumbled.  

          “ Well, you work hard, and I don’t know it just seems people need more sleep today or something, I don’t know what it is.”

We haven’t been in a war.”           

         ” Maybe so.  I think people seem to marry for different reasons these days.  Janet and I had the same background, we both knew what hard work was about. She didn’t complain, she was very good with money, she wrote down everything we spent. I guess we were lucky.”

          “ I think it’s more than luck, you appreciate life every day,” I said.

          “ I do, like you too, I am so glad you are my friends, and we can sit here and talk and have such good times.”

 Then Rudy took my hand, and apologized for shouting at me earlier about not turning the hose off all the way. He said he wanted to take me out for dinner because he felt so bad. Maurice grinned, and I gave him a hug and a kiss.  He went into the back and came back with a little bouquet of sweet peas for me.

          “ These are for you,”  he said. 

          “ Oh Maurice, you’re making me feel terrible,” Rudy said in jest.

          “ I don’t mean to, it’s just that I love women so much. I told my wife every day, every morning she woke up I told her I loved her. We never went to bed angry.” 

 The house Maurice lives in and has lived in since 1950, is a tidy two-bedroom farmhouse. The house is painted white, with black shutters framing the front windows.  MAURICE AND I

 Tucked in the front entrance on one side are a twisted juniper and the other side a bush of poinsettia.  He planted roses and hollyhocks and a few more varieties that were always postcard perfect. The porch out front changes with the season. The first year we met Maurice placed a sofa on the porch and two chairs. When Rudy and I stopped at the end of the day, Maurice would be outside sitting in the rocking chair, his hair still wet from his shower, and in his hand a jigger of Jack Daniel’s. In the front room, Maurice covered the walls with mementos and pictures of his friends. He didn’t hang any paintings of any kind, so when you sat on the couch and looked around you were looking at his life. He has a television and watches the news, old westerns, and the country music station. He especially likes the rodeo shows. He has remarked on occasion that he thinks television is very bad for you. His old sofa so worn from visitors when I sit down next to Maurice I sort of fall into his lap. We sit so close,  unlike we do now in these large stiff hi-tech furnishings. In front of the sofa is a long glass coffee table, one of Rudy’s favorite stops as he walks in the door. He dives for the peanuts and the chocolates.  There are always treats on the table, and you will not wait long before Maurice goes into the kitchen and brings back a plate of home-made pickles.  

The first time Rudy ate his pickles, he yelled out, “ Damn Maurice, these are incredible I could eat a whole jar!” So Maurice went in the back and brought out a jar of his homegrown pickles.  The kitchen is small and in the corner is a antique table where he keeps his baking utensils and one chair. He has a collection of antique jars and cooking tools on a shelf that whines around the kitchen ceiling. His refrigerator is an adventure in itself, shelves are packed with wrapped leftovers, sauces, meats, cheeses, and vegetables, so packed that on several occasions when I tried to put something back in I couldn’t find an empty place for it.  Naturally, he uses a gas stove but growing up in Iowa all they had was a wood-burning stove. In the hallway, the walls are framed with more friends and family. There is one beautiful girl, that seems to be in every room.  When I asked who she was Maurice replied, “ That’s Linda. She’s my sweetheart.”  

From the photographs we learned all about Maurice’s life; his mother and father, brother and sister, his wife, Janet, his grandpa and grandma, and the hundreds of people in between.  His home is a storybook, all you need to know about Maurice is revealed unaltered.

His bedroom is at the end of the hallway by the back door. His bed is covered with a handmade quilt and about twenty decorative pillows. The bathroom is very colorful with green and red towels, and more photographs of Linda. Then he opens the screen door to the backyard.

” This is my garden,” he said smiling ear to ear.

It reminded me of Fantasia. To be continued    

 

    

 

I’M JUST A REGULAR GUY


          Maurice did things for us that no one had. It started with small gestures, like inviting us inside every time we passed by his house. Even if he was on his way to deliver furniture he’d scuttle to the kitchen and give us homegrown tomatoes, and oranges, or hand me a bouquet from his flower garden.  These were the early years of my story submission rejections.  I was so consumed with rejection that the only person in the world that made me feel human was Maurice. He didn’t understand what my torment was about, but he knew how to make it go away.  Sometimes all it took was a big hug and a kiss. Maurice always met me with a hug and kiss, though I didn’t realize at the time how much he knew what I needed.

           That Christmas I felt the spirit because of Maurice. I went to Sav-On and collected a basket of decorations, and though we had no room for a tree, I did what I could. Instead of wishing I could dash into Nordstroms and shop like a madwoman, I dug a little deeper and searched for appreciation gifts for friends.

          By the time the season had ended, I was fixated on Maurice. It is strange to write about him now.  The story I wanted to write was about Del Mar, and Solana Beach, California during the thirties and forties.  I searched the indexes of the Del Mar Library and the local bookstores and shared the antiquities with Maurice.

          We were sitting on his cushy pillowed sofa one evening in 1994, sipping chilled southern comfort, and snacking on saltine crackers and cheese. There is always a subject of interest with Maurice. He is seventy-five years old, lean and tough as a stalk of corn, with blue eyes that twinkle even if he’s not in the light. His wealth came from the uniqueness of how he lived.

          “Tell me what you remember about Del Mar.”

PhotoSanDiego006Old Del Mar.

          “Oh so many good times, not like it is today. I knew just about everybody, we were like a family.”  Sometimes Maurice shared memories while driving around Del Mar and Solana Beach.  Suddenly he would start talking,  and I’d would listen with childlike curiosity. I recall one evening at the old Cilantro Restaurant while having dinner with Maurice.  We sat at a table facing the Rancho Santa Fe Polo field.  Maurice began to tell me how it used to be.  Rancho_Santa_FeRancho Santa Fe

          “I used to plow those fields there, all the way up to where the hills begin.  I worked out there all day, and I loved it. That land belonged to the Conleys’. I remember that the whole field was underwater for one year. Hard to believe–but it was.” 

          “You plowed?”

          “Sure I did! I was a farmer, a dairy farmer, and I delivered milk to Bing Crosby and Dixie Lee.  I remember  Christmas she comes out and gives me some extra money.–I always loved going there at Christmas. They was always so nice to me, you know. The Conley’s had a hog ranch, they were the ones I worked for. The year it flooded from El Camino Real to the racetrack we lost a bunch of pigs and a cow under the bridge.  It only happened twice that I know of.”   

          “ What was Rancho Santa Fe like back then, when you were a farmer?”  

         “Well, it was different than today, then it was rich people, I mean really rich.  I don’t know where they got their money but they had everything–you know expensive cars, cooks, and maids.” Maurice chuckled, “ I couldn’t understand what the cook did all day. The man my wife worked for, Ronald McDonald, he had a butler, maid, cook, and a big house, a really nice house. But today, anyone can live there, people who just inherited a lot of money.  There was just a few families back then– everyone knew who they was. One time a young girl who lived up there was stuck on the road–her car broke down, so I drove her home. You did things like that. There were two really well-known families there, the Clotfelters were one, they had a son, Tom. He stopped by my house at Christmas and brought me a fish, he liked to fish.   The other big family was Avery, he had everything. He used to get jobs for the Mexicans in the Ranch. Everyone knew him, he kind of ran the whole town, was really active in the community.  Another fellow, Joe White, went around to the homes and put in the meters for the water district. We used to play cards with him and his wife, Marilyn– have a few drinks and have a such a good time. ”  Maurice stopped and shaking his head remarked that there were so many wonderful people in his life, and how lucky he was to live in Solana Beach.

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Downtown Rancho Santa Fe. 

          The Rancho Santa Fe I knew began when I  moved there in nineteen-eighty-three. It was a place you heard of right away, and so I drove up to take a look around. Like thousands of others before me, I dreamt of living in the Ranch under a canopy of Eucalyptus trees with a horse stable and a grove of oranges. It was a blissful place to drive on a Sunday afternoon, very few cars on the road and the homes bathed in sunlight. But when I walked down Paseo Delicias, the main road in the village,  I felt like an outsider. I did not feel that detachment in Del Mar, or Solana Beach, or even La Jolla. But the Ranch has eyes, it seemed to single you out and therefore no one on the inside made contact with you. You could dine at the charming Mille Fleurs and drop a few hundred dollars but you would not be invited to mingle. I asked Maurice if he wanted to live in the Ranch. His expression was curious as if I was pulling his leg.

 “No, I never wanted to live there.”

“Why not?” 

” I’m just a regular guy.”  To be continued.

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.

 

 

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

 

 

WEST TO EAST-PART TWO


THE LAWN MOWERS.

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.

 

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2003 The Village Adopted my Slogan.