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 is, I do not want to sign, commit, or make final decisions. I want 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.

                                       ***

FREE TO WRITE


I think of the comforts of exhibiting my life on paper. 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 an English Castle, but experiences that flake off the skin, the mise en scene that shakes its relevance.

EXCERPT FROM MY NEXT BOOK. UNKNOWN TITLE


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Page 525. Terrified to post this but it is Sunday and I’m brave on Sunday. The book is fiction, first-person, and close third person so you’ll need a jogging suit to read. Based on true events.

Greta let the moment of the village rescue stay with her, like a new pet for as long as she could hold on to its beneficial ointment, away from what she calls her immersion into self. She gives me examples that illustrate her obsession with matching outfits in her closet.

It’s a bedroom she converted into a dressing room. There’s a single bed against one wall, a cabinet where she stores the winter boots, and an eight-drawer French nouveau dresser and mirror. She sits on a chair facing the windows so she can watch the trees live through sun, wind, rain, and snow. Across from the chair is the bed. She diligently arranged her summer pastel skinny jeans on the bed, and next to that row she arranged the T-shirts, camisoles, and shorts.  It’s quite practical considering Greta as she has admitted to me half a dozen times, that she was born without common sense or practicality.  At the base of the bed, she lined up her shoes, the slip-ons, the flats, the pumps stuffed with tissue paper to preserve their shape, and the wedges. After a breach of sanity, she goes into this room and visualizes outfits and color matching like someone might play chess.  ‘ It does have a purpose, this way I visualize without wrangling with hangers and you know it just takes too much time when you’re in a closet.

‘”These days I look at them as if they belonged to someone else, I mean the red suede with gold heels that I wore on a New Year’s Eve of gaiety and not since, the black velvet pumps that always make me feel dainty and light. What care I give to all these garments when in the other part of the house, Dodger was descending into a financial coma.”

  Greta did not acknowledge the few months before his departure that he was riddled with abject unfulfilling tasks, bills, and construction jobs that no longer fed him purpose and accomplishment. She did not notice that his slacking posture on the front porch, head lowered and staring out without any body movement was a sign, she in fact despised it and walked away.  In the last few months, all of this seemed to rise up like a curtain before a play, in a theater and she witnessed his insolence and his silent howl for help.  

The irony of her activity is that she doesn’t go to the events that she plans on going to wear the outfits.

s

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/tiempo-libre-back-in-havana-tiempo-libre-by-luellen-smiley


Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival

Sunday Line Up – TIEMPO LIBRE

SUNDAY June 2611:00 AM

Sometimes an interview with a musician goes deeper than a narrative history of recordings, concert calendar, and early training. That happened when I met Jorge Gómez; founder, keyboardist, and musical director of Tiempo Libre, an all-Cuban-born Timba band. We met in a modest hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he and his six band members were invited to play for the third time at the Lensic Theater. It was steam-bath hot and muggy that Friday afternoon. As I stood in the doorway, Jorge wrapped up a recording session. After introductions, everyone cleared out except Jorge and Raul Rodriguez, the trumpet player. Raul propped up against the headboard of an unmade bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other straight out. He reminded me of Miles; cool in his skin and unflappable.

Jorge and I sat at the kitchenette bar, between us his keyboard on the countertop. Eagerness to begin was dilating from his eyes, so I began with my favorite question to all immigrants; how did it feel when you landed in the United States?

“Oh my God! It was my dream; all through childhood in Havana.” “Do you love America now?”

His arms shot straight up, as he rose from his chair.

“Are you kidding? We love America! How can you not? This is the best country in the world. I’ve been all over: Europe, Asia, Mexico, and the Caribbean. You have all the opportunities; you make your own life here, whatever you want.” He shifts his attention to Raul, agreeably excluded.

“You can’t do this in Cuba—right Raul?” Jorge leans forward and I’m struck by the indisputable untainted smile. Jorge continues to dramatize his arrival in Manhattan, with arms and eyes, “I got out because I had friends in New York. They helped me get gigs in the bars, weddings, and then we got into the clubs.” The room is silent except for Jorge’s satin-smooth transitions from one question to the next. That alone is reason enough to meet Jorge for a conversation. “We were not allowed to listen to Cuban salsa music, or American music; only classical. I trained at the Conservatory all my childhood. I play all of them; Beethoven, Brahms, all of them.” “Where did you learn Salsa?”

“From America! Yes. As teenagers, we climb to the roof and we to wait till state-programmed Cuban music goes off the air at 1:00am. Then we wrap aluminum around the antenna and turn our radio on. We pick up American music; like Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, everyone. We listened all night so we’d take the rhythms’ in our heads you know.” “What’s the difference between Cuban Salsa and Latin Salsa?” “Everyone claims this is their Salsa; it’s Latin, Marange, Colombian… it is a blend of many cultures and musical influences. We take from each other. All the instruments I learn come from listening. They teach me everything, and I teach them.”

“Do Americans play Conga different than Cubans?”

“It depends on the person. See if the person is open to learn everything then he push through. For example we have been playing all these places like Michigan, Minnesota, Minneapolis…all those places that are so.” He pauses to express it precisely. “Cold” he says, laughing out loud.

“And I’ve seen American band playing Cuban salsa so so good, my God, so well. Blue eyes and blond hair.” Jorge breaks to howl out his enthusiasm, surprise, and demonstrate the memory.

“Who do you like to listen to do today?”

“I don’t know the names, but I have a lot of friends, and they call me and say, ‘I have a band, you come and hear me.’ So I go to the club and Wow! This is good music! Everyone is dancing. I love to see them dancing! I want to see them happy. If they want to sit and listen, good, if they want to sing along, good, they want to dance good. Everybody has a different reaction. My job is to transfer the energy to the person; that’s the idea. Not to play the music for me; I want them to be happy.”

“How do you do that?”

“Sometimes you are sick, and no matter how many pills you take you are still sick. Right?”

I nod and watch his facial expressions twitch in thought.

“Then let’s say I come and say, Wow! You look so good man, you are looking good, and he claps’ his hands and pantomimes the joy he’s transferring. ‘You wanna coffee cake and coffee, yea, come with me, (clapping again) you want to sit here? Yea sit here and see the sun.’ Suddenly, you feel good.” He nods his head. “Trust me.”

Jorge is toe-tapping in place, his arms positioned in a warm world embrace.

“You forget all about the pills. Trust me, that is the kind of energy I give.”

“I suppose you don’t get sick?”

“Never. For sure. Never. I don’t know what this head pain is… how you say, headache? Like friends say I have so many problems, so many headaches, I can’t go out. I say, ‘What! Come on we go to the beach, to the sand. Bring your conga. What are you crazy! Come on!’ So he comes and we play on the beach in Miami.”

Jorge drums on the countertop. “Have a beer, have another.’ And everyone on the beach comes to us. The whole idea is to forget your problems. So my friend says to me, ‘I had the best day of my life.’ Yea! Be happy! This is youth; this is how you stay young. Life is so big.”

I shake my head, “Not in America; we concentrate on sickness and misery.”

“Yea! You don’t have sickness yet, but you are going to get it.” He ruptures into laughter and takes a sip of beer. My father tell me one time you have to hear your body; your body going to take you in the right direction. Just listen and you are going to feel so good. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night. All the songs and ideas are in my head and I can’t sleep. I must write it down, and the next morning I feel so good because I didn’t go to sleep. I drink beer because I am too happy-over happy.”

“Where did you learn this happiness?”

“From all the difficult paths I have in my life. Childhood was very difficult; no food, no water, no electricity, and no plumbing. What are you going to do? Party, go outside, dance, play basketball, and baseball. I get my friends and they say my problems are bigger than yours. Bla bla bla.”

I’m laughing now as Jorge continues to articulate his life philosophy. “At the end of the day you are so happy because you see people less fortunate and some more, and you are in the middle, and you want to help those people, you can’t go it alone.”

He chuckles again. His smile is broad as his cheek line. A streak of sunlight crossed the keyboard, and Jorge’s eyes and brows are in motion, as much as his legs arms and hands.

“What you’re going to hear tonight is a lot of crazy crazy energy, good music, a lot of stories. You’re going to see a lot of soul. When Raul plays his trumpet you’re going to turn inside out.”

“What is Timba music?”

“A mixture of jazz, classical, rock, and Cuban music.”

“Sounds like a musical.”

“Yes, Yes! We are in preparing for that.”

Four hours later I was in the Lensic Theater, twelve rows from the stage. Lead singer Xavier Mill, Jorge, Raul, Louis Betran Castillo on flute and sax, Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra on bass, Israel Morales Figueroa on drums and Leandro Gonzales on Congas opened the set, and five minutes into it I was dancing below the stage. Two and half hours later I was still dancing, along with half the audience.!!

That’s entertainment!https://www.allaboutjazz.com/tiempo-libre-back-in-havana-tiempo-libre-by-luellen-smiley

Tiempo Libre

About Tiempo Libre

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.

ADVENTURES IN SINGLENESS


I’D LIKE TO RIDE A CLAIRVOYANT CIRCUIT INTO THE MINDS OF SINGLES OVER THE AGE OF SIXTY.

I’ve often questioned why advertisements; the media, and politicians do not address this segment of society. We don’t hear, the beginning of a statement whether it is legislative, political, social, or cultural, Singles around the country are not traveling, purchasing more products, refusing to get vaccinated are unemployed…etc.  We are a minority class; I found statistics on The UnmarriedAmerican.org website. More searching led me to the American Association for Single People website.

  • There are 106 million unmarried adults in the United States.  Singles constitute more than 44% of the adult population in the nation.
  • About 44% of the nation’s workforce are unmarried employees
  • The Census Bureau estimates that about 10% of adults will never marry.

I’m not going to make a huge leap into this as my thoughts are more about adventures in singleness.

This conversation is from a close friend, married for twenty-some years.

“You are so lucky you have no idea. If I were single, I’d move somewhere where life is simple, maybe Greece.”

“You don’t know about the loneliness, the awkwardness of holidays, the fear when you get sick and have no one to care for you, so many things really.

“I can think better when I’m alone.”

I told her I understood. That is the crucifix of making my pen my mate rather than a three-dimensional man( Temporary singleness). Some of my interactions go like this; going out to dinner, “Are you alone?” She or he leads you to the most obscure table. Then she or he removes the second table setting and suddenly aloneness is visible. An hour later another customer asks if they can use the spare chair. That’s when I ask for the check and leave.

Taking a road trip and feeling vulnerable when I’m pumping the gasoline and a stranger is gawking at me and I’m in the middle of nowhere.  It is usually truck drivers and I immediately think of Thelma and Louise.   More recently, I hired a new snow shoveling company operated by one single man.  On the third plow last winter he texted me, “One night with you and I won’t charge you for the rest of the season.”  A gal pal replied after relating this story,

“You should be flattered and he is twenty years younger! What does he charge?

“Seven hundred for the season.”

“That’s hilarious! Well, be careful and lock your doors, you’re all alone out there.”

I texted him that he should never make that kind of offer to a customer and I will not report you but you could lose your business or be sued. He agreed and I let him finish off the season as it was too late to find another one. I found a new company this year and he’s happily married.

Dressing for an event that I’ve never been to on my own. In my closet, I lay out three different outfits. Then I have a wary of decisions on which shoes, flats or heels. When I’m all dressed and ready to go self-consciousness billows up and I change the outfit. It’s a ridiculously amusing routine.

Living in a house that is a hundred and thirty-five years old speaks to me at night; a loose windowpane thrashes, a branch from a tree falls on one of the rain gutters, the mechanicals in the basement thump for some reason and I tiptoe around the house searching for an intruder.

Taking myself out for a cocktail just to get out of the house has numerous consequences. I end up sitting next to couples who are having a roaring twenties time of it and the only single man at the bar is fixated on his phone. Instead, the woman next to me strikes up a conversation about her boyfriend.

The other side of these dismal forecasts is; I have no arguments at home, (just interior dialogue) I can eat whenever I choose, watch what I elect on television, keep the bedroom light on, adjust the thermostat to my body temperature, and make all the decisions myself, the most infuriating and worthwhile to building courage, and self-reliance.

One of the lines in the Godfather struck me as an authentic gangster testimonial, “Women and children can afford to be careless, we cannot.”   As a teenager one of the repetitive reminders my father said angrily was, “Watch what you’re doing!”  This was the most relevant and truthful observation he made of me. Admittedly I am easily distracted and careless and ignore risk.  Just yesterday I placed a skillet of homemade croutons in the oven and then decided to empty the trash. As it happened my neighbor, Lorraine was in her driveway so I said hello.  The Adirondack Tree Surgeon had recently stopped by her house, as they did mine and marked one of my sidewalk trees for removal.

“Are they going to cut your tree down too?” I asked.

“The city is responsible for the sidewalk trees, but they cannot remove one on your property. They just came by to trim the branches since mine is on my property.” I was absent for ten minutes. When I entered the kitchen, it was smoked out and a small fire was burning in the skillet.

Without someone to look after my carelessness (I’ve been on my own now for five years) I still catch myself in these adventitious circumstances.

Winter Dressing indoors!

ALMOST AUTUMN AWE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


Let this not be a scorched with boredom bla bla piece of writing as all the elements are with me this Sunday. No one is mowing their lawn, the sky is a metal grey shield against sunlight, a light freckly kind of rain falls outside, and Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s sublime mix plays into my pulse.

In upstate New York, an overwhelming enthusiasm erupts for pumpkins, apples, and cider doughnuts. Advertisements appear in my Saratoga news feed of festivals at the local farms, homemade apple cider, witches and hayrides, pick your own pumpkins, and doughnut-eating contests.

Instead of smirking at this unfamiliar custom, I took a ride out to Lakeside Farms Cider Mill to riddle my sensibilities and get into the autumn groove. It’s a short distance away but, after you make the third turn off the main road, the gladiator trees blushing with yellow and gold formed a canopy over my convertible. It reminded me of an amusement park ride. My mood melted with the colors and as I pulled into the driveway of Lakeside, packed as if the Rolling Stones were going to perform my internal stick shift went into submission. I’m guessing the farm sits on several acres, and on one side is a field of grass, with pathways to walk, and then as I moved closer to a small brown barn, I noticed a witch outfitted for the children standing with her pitchfork.

Shoppers with carts passed filled with pumpkins and apples, and as I looked for a shopping cart, a woman noticed my puzzled expression. “You lookin’ for a cart?”

“Yes, where do I find one?”

“There’s an empty one behind you.” I felt dumb as gum and thanked her. Then I had the choice of going into the open farmhouse where a display of a dozen diverse kinds of apples stacked in crates, farm-fresh vegetables, pumpkins of all sizes, and an assortment of Apple Brown Betty mixes neatly placed on shelves next to jars of honey, preserves, syrup, and pancake mixes.

It is now a full-blown bumper car amusement ride as carts are pushed by shoppers unaware of colliding with other carts. Children are jumping up and down, and screeching with sugar craving desire.  I cannot decide which aisle to choose. First, an eggplant that wasn’t the size of a dinner platter, then a few green chilis, and sexy plump tomatoes. I could have chosen a dozen more items. Since I am single, my lesson has been learned not to overbuy only to throw it away.

Apples were tied in bags, a dozen the smallest amount, so I chose one bag of Cortland amongst the other twenty-five kinds of apples! Macintosh, Macoun, Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, etc.

I knew I was in the jive when I bought a two-pound sack of Buttermilk pancake mix, a jar of Vermont Syrup, and a jug of Apple Cider. At the counter, in line with half a dozen others, the clerk whom I’m sure was part of the family greeted me.

“How are you today?” He said this as if he was on stage speaking loud enough for an auditorium of guests.

    “I’m doing very well, and you?” I don’t usually project an openly loving tone but he sort of earned my delight.  With all that I bought, the bill was twenty-eight dollars. I used to spend that at Sprouts in Los Angeles for half the items.

Next, the bakery for those tantalizing apple cider doughnuts. Now I go indoors to a converted barn where they serve food and more grocery items. Another reason for this jaunt was to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the seven firemen who answered my call this week when my basement began to flood. We had so much rain my sump pumps gave up, and the water was just about to fill the hot water heaters in the pit. After they hosed out all the water, we chatted outdoors. Someone mentioned breakfast time. I chimed in,

     “Let me guess, cider doughnut!” A round of laughter and oh yes, they all love them. They would not take any money and so I thought I’d buy them what they love.

The sandwich line was twenty groups long. I squeezed in next to the bakery and was called on right away.

    “What can we get for you today?” Another gleeful greeting from a woman who looked like she grew up next to the oven. I looked at the selection of pastries oozing with sugar, cream, icing the works.

“A dozen cider doughnut in a box please-it’s a gift.”

“What kind? Sugar glazed, cinnamon, plain, chocolate covered…”

“Sugar glazed pleased. And six cinnamons in a bag.”

With a cart loaded up, I suddenly realized I would have to wheel it all the way to my car over puddles, chipped brick, and steps. Instead, I used my less-than sturdy arms. As I walked along leaning slightly to the right (my left arm hasn’t behaved since I fell on the stairs) my LA persona surrendered to old-fashioned, no dieting, family-friendly shopping at Lakeside.

As soon as I entered my kitchen, I dug into the bag of doughnuts, poured a cup of coffee, and dunked.

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.

SARATOGA SPRINGS-HISTORY-HEALTH AND HORSES


APRIL 4, 2021

THIS ERA OF ADAPTATION is how I feel, think, and react. Tumbling through all the transitory advise forces me to examine more closely who to believe.  I’ve never been a leader, nor a follower, I walk in between, trying to pave a pathway to peace of mind. Maybe that is unattainable as we are in a cultural, political, medical, and socially reimagined world. It reminds me of being a teenager when life was questionable, and confusion was like a stinging bee we couldn’t swap away.

This week, my discipline raged and said, ‘Structure your day or go in disarray. As a long-time, rebel of structure, I listened and made a daily plan. Get out of bed by eight, answer correspondence, get dressed, work out on the treadmill, take a shower, eat something, then back to the home office and that’s when the improvisation kicks in. Do I write a column, work on my next book, or look for an attorney for an unsolved tribulation? Mother Nature punctuates my attention as she blooms into spring; the neighbors begin mowing and planting, the adorable little children next door play in their front yard, joggers, walkers, and horse-carrying vans pass in front of my window. The Season in Saratoga is about to open, masked and limited attendance will be at Saratoga Race Track, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Bistros, Bars, outdoor concerts, Theater and Chamber Music, Lakeside sailing and motor boating, fairs, and wine tasting.

A quintet of small-town celebrations that will inaugurate us to each other once again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.