ADOLESCENCE OR ADULT


Remember when you opened the door to your own car and took hold of the steering wheel without any parental supervision. As a teen, my Chevrolet Impala was a haven away from my father. I rolled all the windows down, turned the volume up on the radio, and smoked. My secret joy was hoping the driver next to me would hear the music and notice me. If he was a suitable face I turned around and bobbed my head. Then, just as he looked over at me, I turned away, and looked in the rearview mirror, or sang my heart out to show off brazen behavior, the kind I couldn’t express at home. There was a sense of freedom from examination and explanation. When I drove my spinning Impala that leaped over road bumps in three waves, I was going somewhere alone.


 It was the only self-contained space my father wasn’t attached to, and he didn’t like driving with me, because he didn’t like me being in control. That is the sensation that life brings to us in volumes as teens; explosions of discovery. Today I don’t experience that sweat of discovery; my life is deodorized. Remembering the sensations I felt as a teenager, reminds me to intertwine more challenges
. If I’m lucky to break through all the percentages of disease, that the late-night commercials warn me of, the edge of my rhythm is asking me to make a commitment; to put the Bo’ Jangles back in my steps. I heard the voice yesterday, almost a whisper, asking me why I exclude long-term commitments: joining groups, classes, associations, serving on committees, planning ahead, and even magazine subscriptions are not worth the trouble because I am always planning on moving.

The answer always comes in the photographs that bring back that moment in time, and the immediate recollection of the internal places I moved from venturing into the unknown.
Many years ago, I was in therapy, and in one discussion, this discourse occurred that I considered an awakening then.
“I think you jump into unknown places, and situations, to test yourself, and you do that because that is what your father did most of his life.”
That is what adolescent behavior is meant for, to learn by experiment, to see how far our strength of character will take us.  We each have a different set of alarms and temptations. Why compare what one has to the other? My path is familiar to me, I am a born mistress of unfamiliarity; the quest for discovery keeps me moving.

FORMER HOME IN SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO 2015

As a teenager, I remember the most remarkable configuration of images, that passed by while I was driving, the faces of shopping mothers walking the streets of Beverly Hills and Westwood, the prostitutes positioned along one section of Sunset Boulevard, and their counterpart degenerate gin-soaked soul mates inched up against abandoned buildings, the Ocean Park joggers, and walkers, and picnickers, waving to each other, as they slapped together hard-boiled egg and tuna sandwiches. Like a playroom without walls for Europeans and senior citizens to elope with each other. I didn’t favor one street life over another, they all made sense to me.

Living in the Northeast calls for pragmatic and sensible strides. I’m still learning how to tame my lust for unpreparedness; like going out without an umbrella, leaving delicate brick a brac on the porch, driving with caution for deer, rabbits, and turtles, maintaining a close eye on the water in the basement, and dressing down so I don’t look like I’m from Los Angeles.  Every day is experimental in some way.  I don’t know how long I’ll be here, maybe that is how I like it.

WINTER WRITING IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


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

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

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

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

POLITICS, HALLOWEEN, AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION


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

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

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

THE MIDDLE OF LIFE


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                       ***

THE CHIMES IN OUR LIVES


You see a chime, the moment it responds to a breeze, the sound is beautiful, like Chopin’s  Nocturne 1. Sounds that accompany a descending light mist, or setting sun, but the chime improvises its sounds and movements when a vivacious wind girdles its ether. This abstraction reminds me of sensitivity. It can be soft and gentle, nurturing to the souls of those less peaceful, but when the velocity of attack hits, sensitivity is a walloping eruption of rage, drifting on uncontrollable. I’ve been punitively and cordially of being too sensitive.  There are more good reasons to alter my sensitivity than not to, but the one reason that hovers above all else is that everything we do, feel and act in life needs revision. We should never stop evolving into more thoughtful, loving, or wise human beings. Every day, there is an opportunity to leap into saintly hood. It is the same with my writing it can be better.

                    The next adventure is closing in on me as foreclosure is over the June horizon. The dismantling of possessions brings me some sort of twisted alignment to my life. Picking and choosing what to pack, eliminating what Dodger and I bought together, and vacillating over treasures that are now more weight than worth.  If I am ever to rest in one address, I’m sure it will be a headstone and a plot of dirt. I chose a destiny to relocate, and so the highway off-ramp will evolve, I just have to be patient.

           It is the inner self that concerns me, and how I will adjust and adapt to leaving my favorite house. When I was thirty, I was afraid of getting married, and when I was forty, I was afraid of not having children. Now that I am sixty-nine, I have a fear that once was my chant, the idea of moving.

The word coddiwomple is English slang, defined as “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. If you are anything like me you may be coddiwompling your way through life, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

LOVE FOR HISTORIC VICTORIAN HOMES


Looks like an open dragon mouth, in a way it is. Follies House is begging for a brace. The horrors and hahas of owning a 137-year-old home. We’ve had twenty-two years of sustainable wood, but this year is the end of luck. A dear and wise friend once told me this, ” Don’t love what doesn’t love you back.” As a woman of insatiable imagination and impracticability, I do love her. So I spent a few weeks interviewing masonry contractors. The first four said this, ” I wouldn’t park your car under there.”
“What? The carport is going to collapse?”
“It could.”
” And that costs?
” Fifteen thousand at minimum.”
” What about a temporary fix.”
” Too much liability. Sorry, mam.”

Five interviews later talking to a man whose been in the business thirty years, ” I cannot restore the entire job, is there a temporary fix?”
“Well, we could bring in a platform plank to hold it up.”
” How much would that cost?”
“Twenty-five hundred tops. You should really let us remove the foundation above it, that’s rotted and sinking. Is there a room above it?”
“Yes, a bedroom in my unit. How much would that cost?”
” Between ten thousand and fifteen. We have to get in there and see how much water damage.”
” No, I can’t do that, no impossible.”
” I understand. I’ll do the temporary fix, the house is so gorgeous, and I’ve seen them all.”
” Thank you, I have tenants and have to be responsible for their safety.”
” Would you like to see the bedroom?”
” I’m in a rush.” I smiled a lot and walked up the stairs and opened the front door so he could see.
“Wow, this is incredible.” Once he was in the house he was in love and granted me a discount of five hundred dollars. Do you know why? He said he’d love to be a part of her history after he’s gone. Historic homes are leaving our country, replaced by what he called tinderboxes that only last thirty years.

THE FOLLIES HOUSE


 SHE IS ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS OD.                                                            

In December 2018, I relocated to Ballston Spa, New York ( like the Adirondacks) from Los Angeles, for a temporary stay. I checked out of my charming Kleenex box studio in Westwood Village with bougainvillea, assorted flowers, squeaky clean green lawns, and shiny MBZ, Porches, and Maserati’s racing up Beverly Glen Boulevard.  I met eccentric neighbors with prominent film, TV, and Tech careers. The homes sell for 2-8 million. My four-hundred-square-foot studio rented for sixteen hundred-plus utilities, and street parking. Moving y car twice a week for the street cleaner was an annoyance. I didn’t understand why he came twice a week, the street was living room tidy, no trash or cigarette buts, and very few leaves.  

The last time I was driving along these rolling roads past farms, fields, shabby chic barns, horses, and the forest was in 2012 with my co-owner, renovator, best friend Dodger, and my fiancé Jay. Now I am a subterranean single, with a belt-tight debit card.

 As the driver swerved into the driveway, my mouth dropped, frozen for a moment.  Follies was frayed, peeling paint, the cracked driveway got worse, the flower beds were now weeds, and dried fall leaves all around.  Dodger and I spent twenty years maintaining her glory and, provenance until the last six years. She needs a face-lift, a porch lift, a stairway replacement, an entirely new coat of paint (we used seven pastel shades on all the trim) on the five thousand square feet three-unit home. The swell of guilt emerged when I discovered what I’d ignored did not take care of itself.

Until I procure a tenant for the vacant three-bedroom apartment, I’ll move in and attempt to repair and maintain what I can afford. A pang of overwhelming sadness emerged into a sobbing session. Afterward, I felt a lot better! I’ve never understood why so much argument is against emoting-where else can it go? Into hiding, only to pop out at the wrong moment.

 I opened the wooden front door with stained glass inlay and dropped my luggage. Where the fxz$% is all the furniture?’ When I was here in 2012, I had just redesigned the rooms, polished the wood, and shined our antique mid-century furniture collection. The salon captures everyone’s attention, with its cherry wood ceiling and baseboard trim, leather embossed fireplace, and the floor-to-ceiling original windows were stripped of the drapes.    

The last time Dodger was here, I think in 2015, he made repairs and replacements over two months.  He must have sold the furniture or what?  We are not in contact any longer. In the Salon one tattered pink swing 60s sofa, all the tables and chairs the roulette table, stereo, TV, porch bar set, and photography absent. Upstairs, to the bedrooms, I entered the guest bedroom, stripped, except the gorgeous three-panel engraved black and ivory divider.

As I roam further, my lips quiver, I am cursing non-stop, then I step into my bedroom, I call it Heaven. The room is painted the most subtle shade of wisteria, and the floor-to-ceiling windows reveal all the light against the handsome spruce, pine, oak, and evergreen trees. Wow! the room is furnished with a desk, a lamp, bedside tables, and a new comforter and pillow shams to match. It’s as if someone was expecting me. But who? To be continued.

THREADS OF THOUGHT


I’ve often wondered what people think about when they are alone; taking a run or walk, dining alone, in the shower or tub, or just being on their own. Artists in all genres spend more time alone in the process of creating art.   

Waking alone, I step out to open the drape to see if it has snowed. If it has then I’m on landlord duty to wait for the snowblower to arrive, so my tenants can get to their cars. If it hasn’t snowed then I am thankful, not that the snow-white lawns and rooftops aren’t magically transforming, it’s that time of year when the power goes out or some other nuisance like scraping snow off my car and porch.

Then thoughts leap like little squirrels, from musing on my friends, who I need to call, do I feel like writing today, can I stomach thirty minutes of news and a bit of punishment for past mistakes. The one thread that rises in nightmares, and the first moment I wake up is unconquerable, fear is a thread I cannot snip and toss away. Fear is really about the unknown, we cannot supersede circumstances that are in the waiting room of our lives. Either they have already occurred or you know they are on their way to your front door.  

THE FOLLIES HOUSE

Now with the coldness, at six or seven in the morning, I crawl back in bed with coffee and think of the past, then the present, then the future, and then my thoughts drift like snowflakes. You know the saying when you are despondent or troubled you will be told to keep busy. I have not understood that advice until now.  My life prior to the last two years was dizzy bizzy. And yes, it eliminated fear and malaise, so now without all the lists, commitments, and responsibilities absent, I am on time with my thoughts.

NIGHT THOUGHTS


I ROSE AT 3:00 AM to turn the heat on, pick up my writing journal, and discern the week’s theme. I wonder for a moment if I should boil water for tea or coffee, and settle on decaf. The street is hollowed like a tunnel, the light of day is shining in some distant country, and the sky appears tinted with primer. Somewhere someone is dressing for work, breathing by the tick of the clock until he or she ( can’t figure out the right pronouns) must report for work.

The draft of sleep lingers in my eyes, and my feet shuffle on the wood floors while I grind the beans and think through the remains of the week. There are themes to our lives. Sometimes a year, sometimes one single day launches the theme, or it may just tumble into our path unexpectedly and replace whatever we were holding on to dearly, and deliver something unpleasant, like sickness, or separation. The sensations leading up to my theme jilted my creativity, and the pages I wrote were jammed with contradictions, maybe they still are.       

Thoughts begin to form and ruminate, what is important? The theme of my week began when I finally was in the Dentists office. It’s been a year, and at sixty that was enough. Now Dr. FX’s office calls me every six months because I am over sixty-five. Still can’t really grasp my age. When I was thirty-something sixty-eight seemed very old. Do you remember that?

Dr. FX is the Music Man dressed in a white tunic. When he comes into my cubicle, he sort of prances on his toes and gives me an elbow safe bump.

          “ Hello, oh I see,” as he looks into my mouth that has been open too long and my cheeks start to stiffen. The hygienist takes that white suck-up tube out of my mouth.

          “ She has some tarter that I can’t remove so I suggest she come back because her gums are so sensitive and nonvaccine her for the water treatment .”

Dr. FX nods and bounces out of the room. Now she begins to sort of authoritatively advise me again that I have serious tarter.  I think this is the third time. 

          “ I think I got a little lazy flossing during covid.”

          “Everyone did.”

          “And I also started snacking on those crunchy health bars at night.”

          “That wouldn’t cause that.”

Now I am ready to leave and I’m elated to get out. The receptionist starts talking and advising me about Dental Insurance and she leaves her desk and meets me in the waiting room, and starts stretching.

          “ I have to do this as much as I can, sitting in that chair all day long.”

          “Oh, of course,” I raise my arms and swing my hips beside hers. I walked out into a day of clouds and a peek a boo sun feeling a mood change, a spark of energy from a few moments of improvisational dancing. We all crave an irreplaceable swarming of joy, that comes unexpectedly. I was awakened to my detachment from feeling truly alive.

Writing with a pen is so different from the keyboard, journaling is always with a pen, but columns are on the keyboard. I understand what tranquilizes all the peripheral complaints, mental pains, and wounds that lie dormant or at least manageable. Without thinking of the tormented hours, I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. My desk is sealed into a corner of the bedroom, next to a double pane window (original 1885) forty feet in length. It is not the act of writing with pen and paper moving along at a steady rhythm; it’s the activation of the heart and mind, collaborating to unravel the relevant from the irrelevant. To reach this state of matrimony a writer needs not a Tuscan Villa, or a Moorish Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, or recall of the experience that gives it relevance.

I return to the porch for one more gulp of landscape that I share with the stars. The street is unfamiliar, a temporary scene like a bus stop, and I am merely waiting to move on. Some of the neighbors are friendly, some have no interest, one kind of spies on me when he thinks I’m not looking. There’s a reason for that but it’s too much of a separate story right now.

If I continue to roam around the task of writing this story, the intensity of irritation will escalate, my neck and shoulders will not loosen, my walk will be feigned, my smile forced, my heart longing for padding, my ego striving for recognition in the wrong places, and my soul roaming the hallways at 3:00 in the morning. I read a quote the other day on some website, to paraphrase: When I’m writing I know I can’t do anything else. The theme of the week is to bring back LouLou, a clownish, spirited, curious, joy seeker.

TRUTH IS WHAT?


Truth is out of style, it rather went the way of 600-page novels, bicycles built for two, print magazines, street theater and many other authenticates we don’t have the will or patience to seek. We take shortcuts and improvise our way through the encrypted labyrinth of electronic modernism. We are in revolution, it’s been coined Cancel Culture, that’s just a tagline. Our Democrats and Republicans, are trafficking disinformation. Not a day goes by that a political analyst or news anchor doesn’t say it. They wand me up.. and I line it down with opera and wine. Be creative, I say is the best booster.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS OR SOLITUDE


IT’S CALLED NON-CONVENTIONAL but on our own personal level, if you fall in that broad culture and it is a unique and historically significant tribe, especially in the arts and the military. Artists skip from creating to counting change, very few make a comfortable living. The Military are more unconventional than any other profession. I’ve tried to imagine choosing to fight our wars knowing I could be shot or tortured.

Do you think that not choosing the basics: family, friends and a comfortable living are enough? They are, now I know that.

How did this become my spotlight, like a bulb that flickered and whispered, you thought you knew more. Well, I didn’t and now I am adapting my fictional life to nonfiction. Beginning with: relinquishing luxuries, vacations, replacing outdated or broken furnishings, buying my favorite designer garments, and most important a monthly budget. Now instead of withdrawing from my savings account, I am depositing. Friends and family pose a more rigorous effort to the depts. I’m a loner. There is nothing glamorous or mystifying about this stain at least not for me, more like solitude for longer periods of time.

Photo by Philip Townsend. London 1964

As I watch and hear the interviews of Veterans, Gold Star Families, Military groups, former Iraq and Afghanistan Marines, Army, The Navy and Airforce, and the ones left behind because their hero was killed have one knot that holds them together, and it is their family, their comrades in arms and friends.

It’s raining, the tiniest little drops, like new bourns. The sky is a saddened muted white gray, like it’s in mourning. Hoagie Carmichael is singing Two Little People, simple lines that rhyme. Without music, and I don’t listen as much as I did a month ago, I’d be in bed today, it is a day for music medics to carry my pen where it sinks.

I was selfish, spoiled, and myopic, now I am awake to eternal gratefulness for being born American.

Trying not to watch the news as my heart needs a reprieve from Afghanistan. I’ve never appreciated, honored, respected, and loved our Military more these past two weeks. Do you know that feeling? What happens next? Eventually this presses to a USA attack.

Buck up guys and dolls and be a civilian soldier.

A COVID-19 MEMORIAL


I wonder what you all are doing this July 4th. The last year had pressed us closer, and friends from years past have knocked on my FB door. Someone switched the light on our lives and I for one will find pages of material as a memoirist to unleash all that happened within and without. What took me all the way down was seeing the number of deaths. NY lost more than thirty-five thousand people, that would be like all of Saratoga County.

I vote for a Memorial somewhere in the US, maybe a wall, inscribed with the names of those lost to Covid-19. Grateful is the word of the times. I wish you all a big, loud, closely adjoined unmasked party.