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

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

Me,  Diane Friedman and Cindy Frisch.


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




The next morning Chantal was not in her transparently privatized bedroom with a gauzy drape.  From the kitchen I’d poured a cup of black as beans espresso from Chantal’s Turkish coffee maker and dozily slumped into a swinging love seat on the lanai. Still in my pajamas,  listless as a floating cotton willow; the grounding I’d felt the day before had evaporated. Looking and listening to birds, rooster, and distant horses, all within a misty silhouette that filled in the hips of the mountains. Beyond the sea, the imagery of my reclusive life in Santa Fe manifested. The skin I wore in Santa Fe; unreasoningly introverted with a coating of protection flaked off and a news skin surfaced.
Just as the image is crystallizing, I sense Chantal crossing the garden towards me.
“ LouLou—are you okay?”
“ I’m not living right at all, ” I uttered without a smile.
She sat down beside me, placed her cell phone behind her, rested her elbows on her knees and leaned toward me to look in my eyes.
“ Oh why? You are not happy in Santa Fe?”
“ Not anymore-I see things differently now.”
“ Yes, this is what happens when we take vacation. If you’re life is not full then you must change it. It’s not always the place that matters, but how you live. You know some people like to suffer, this is not you. I know– believe me. I meet people from all over the world.  I traveled with Carl everywhere.”
“Well  I’m full now– but I’ve been in a cage.”
“ This is not good! I will tell you that since Carl died I too wanted to live in my bedroom and not even get out of our bed. So I worked day and night to keep his legacy going, and to manage the vacation rentals. I made myself so busy just to get through the pain. I was a mess; many times I didn’t think I’d get through it. But you see–I am okay now. I still think of him everyday and some days are rough; but this is life. We don’t know what will happen. You have to live now. When you die no one remembers you; they go on living. “She opened her mouth and her smile asked me to smile with her.
“ We will have a lot of fun you and I. You know I feel like we’ve known each other. You feel that too?”
“ Yes! I think my choice to come here was to meet you.”
“ Oooh lala-then we begin to enjoy. You hungry? I make some breakfast and then we go to Trader Joes. I make a party tonight. How’s that?”
“ I’d like that.”
“ You want some eggs–how do you like them?”
“ I’m so full of joy I have no appetite.”
She threw her head back, and laughed.
“ What time is it Chantal?”
“ It’s eleven o’clock. You sleep very late.”
“ No.  I never sleep this late.”

I followed Chantal into the kitchen where she was leaning against the stove frying eggs; she was on her cell phone.  ‘Cheri, you come tonight for dinner and meet my new friend LouLou.’  Then another call and another. To observe Chantal is to see the openness of a human being without hesitation, restraint or obsession. I followed her around for the rest of the day just like Kou-Koui; her little Habanese dog. Chantal’s  enthusiasm for the approaching party was seamless. As we shopped at Trader Joes, she chatted with customers, the grocery clerk, and the cell phone that rings continuously.

“ LouLou, is that you?”
I was passing her bedroom as she called me in and patted the bed for me to sit.
“Have you had a shower? I will take one after you. I marinated the chicken and meat, so all we have now is the salad.”

In the kitchen she is dressed in a skirt, neck-less blouse, and a magenta flower behind one ear. As  she demonstrates how to cut the cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado,  she darts from one skillet  to another. The music is ruminating through the house; a French wave of seduction and rhythm that entices us to dance around  the kitchen island.  I feel like a young girl learning to be a woman. She is only a few years older than me; yet  her human connection of livingness  is unbridged and unchained.

I intended to write a travel story about Malibu;  as you see the travel story is Chantal.



Adventures in Livingness

Upper Lanai

Upper Lanai

I was flipping channels one night in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I live. I stopped when the opening scene of Don’t Make Waves with Tony Curtis and Sharon Tate. Her name in the credits;  Introducing Sharon Tate. So I lay back against the warm sweat soaked pillows, turned on the A/C and watched. The first scene was on Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. Tony is in a car crash with Sharon Tate. The appearance of Sharon was that of Bo Derek in the film 10. A vine like body swimming in golden flesh with long honey sand hair draped over her shoulders. The flashback to the Mason Murder was soon replaced with this heart shape faced delivering sinewy gestures that matched her feathery voice. The film came out  in 1963 and the coastline was as pure and unmarked as Sharon; a winding highway empty of cars, cafes and promenades. This is the Malibu I remembered from my adolescent adventures to the beach to watch the surfers.

The scenery unfolded into breathtaking views of the coves and hillsides surrounding Malibu, like organic sculptures  drenched in sea-foam as waves broke. Within a few minutes I bolted up in bed and paused the film.

That’s where I’m going! My journey was given a name. I had a month marked out for a vacation away from Santa Fe while my house was rented to a family of eight. It was a month before the guests would arrive and I still had not penned in my destination.

I went to sleep half way through the movie mumbling to myself; Malibu, Malibu Malibu.
Please God, let me land in Malibu.

The next morning I fished for vacation rentals on the INTERNET and got hooked into
homes, cottages and condos for not less than $1000.00 a night. One estate rented for
thirty thousand a night.

I switched to Craigs list and scrolled down the postings, armored with Russian determination. A posting in bold black came up – MALIBU ISLAND. I clicked through the photographs and prayed. This is how I found my  room  in Malibu;a private room with an outdoor shower  in an estate home perched on the hills above El Matador Beach. In this house the owner, Chantal, also lived.   I booked the month without more than a day of what if’s and what nots could be expected.

To be continued.





This is the beginning of the journey, to write my way home.

“The fall was impulsive. All the misguided messages and warnings tumbled over me. When I finally found the bottom of self-defeat, the shelves of my soul empty, I was 43 years old.   Beyond getting married and having children, career, or stability, there were the untold stories of my gangster father and glamour girl mother. The struggle to break my silence began to erupt.  The problem was, they were both dead, and no one knew their stories.

The journey began one day in 1994. I was standing on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Barrington, in West Los Angeles.  This was the crossroads of my adolescence; a few blocks from my high school, where I learned to survive silently.

I was in the phone booth, the same booth from which I used to call my father, and report where I was going after school. The fellow next to me was talking on the phone to his agent, about a script.  I was dialing UCLA, Emergency Psychiatric Counseling, inquiring about treatment.  Choking on my tears and the lopsided humor of our juxtapose conversations, I screamed silently.  The next week I found myself inside the UCLA center, seated next to a woman with a clipboard ready to document what I said.  I kept looking out the window. The Hilgard House, where I lived with my mother, was visible from where I sat. I remembered the days we would all go swimming and would later walk in the village, eat cheeseburgers and shop at Bullocks.  I remembered my cats, my friends, my records and my joy.

“You have sadness and pain, how would you describe that?” the counselor asked.

“What do you mean?”

“How do you handle your sadness?” she said, leaning forward.

“By myself, I just live with it.”

“Do you feel pitiful?” she asked.

“Yes. I have nothing.

“Are you eating and sleeping properly?” she asked making a note.

“No, I ‘m not hungry and I can’t sleep. Today’s my birthday.” I said.

“You’ve made a conscious decision to change haven’t you?”

“I suppose.”

She put the notebook away, and with appeasing eyes assured me she would find a therapist suited to my problems.  I walked outside into the light of day. Across the street from the building was where the Hasty House used to be. We used to have dinner there with my grandmother.  I didn’t know if my grandmother was even alive. We had lost touch.  I lost touch.

There were two people to call, Rudy, my ex-boyfriend and Florence, my adopted Jewish mother, whom I had known fifteen years.  My choice was guided by instinct.

“Hi Florence, its Luellen.”

“Darling, how are you? Oh for heaven’s sake it’s so good to hear your voice. What are you doing?”  I didn’t have an answer.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, fine. Well, you know since the earthquake, the place is a mess and I don’t have time, I’m so busy. Oh, everyone keeps asking me if I’m all right, the girls think I should go to a therapist… did I tell you I was pinned under my oil painting for three hours before the paramedic arrived.”

“You feel all right though?” I asked.

“Well, to be honest, I’m scared– who wouldn’t be all by herself.”

“What are you doing, you haven’t told me a thing?” she said.

“Florence, I quit my job at the Terraces, and moved out of the condominium.  I was supposed to take over an Art Gallery in Laguna Beach; it’s not working out well.  Do you think I could stay…..?”

“Oh would I love it, come right over. I’ll be home.”
That’s how I ended up at Florence’s home in the summer of 1994. We hadn’t spent much time together since I moved back to San Diego from Los Angeles.  Though 30 years separated us, she was the friend that could be mothering one minute and girlfriend the next.


“Oh darling you look wonderful,” she cooed.

“You do too Florence.”

“You think so… really?” she said glancing down at her waistline.

“Yes, you look gorgeous.”

“You’re so skinny? Have you lost more weight?”

“A little, you can fatten me up.”

We sat in the dining room, drinking coffee and I answered questions.  I told her selected chapters from the last scene in my life.  I left out the part about PJ’s alcoholic binges and his partner Aaron’s daily dosage of marijuana.  There was the twisted, anti semantic charge between PJ and all Jewish people, and why I fell into a hole with all the alarms of dysfunctional behavior ringing at once.   Florence told me how she survived the earthquake, and how her daughter Madeleine had sensed she was in trouble, and sent the paramedics.  We were both afraid; we needed daily encouragement to face the unsteadiness. Florence put me upstairs in Sam’s old room, her husband who had passed away several years prior.  I flopped on the fold out bed. I was as close as I’d ever come to giving up on myself.”





San Diego was still into rage and rock and roll. The people I was calling for gigs didn’t know Hip-Hop yet.   That was too bad, because we were  having the greatest experience of our  life.  When I ran out of money I took a job managing a condominium project, where I lived rent free and had weekends and evenings for Jammers.  After a time of observing their self expression, I asked myself, where is mine?  I still refused to get on stage, Vince used to bawl me out because I made Piper introduce the group. We were good for each other, the three of us. After two years Piper moved to Los Angeles to launch his career, he had showmanship in the way he held his hands.  Vince took over the troupe and added twelve more dancers.  These two young men, they were the sparklers in my life, like that star you think you’ll never hold.  When I left the Jammers I was a different woman. They put the rhythm back in my spirit, and faith into my soul. I mean there are things a business career will never offer, you have to go into the arts for this kind of stuff.