AMEN ARMEN


          About twenty-five years ago while searching the want ads for a job; an advertisement for an on-site property manager caught my eye.  At the time, I was committed to launching my dance troupe, the Jammers, and like most dance troupes, a non-profit enterprise.   

           I appeared at the interview wearing the only career outfit I had left. A petite woman with sparkling black eyes, dressed in black leggings and a T-Shirt greeted me, her name was Armen. I recall we sat at her dining room table and talked. About halfway through the interview, I realized this woman was not interviewing me for anything except trust. Armen did not study my resume or ask me hypothetical questions, she engaged me in conversation. I ventured to explain, why I ejected out of commercial real estate into the business of a dance troupe. Armen shook her head, “I understand, you don’t have to explain, I come from an artistic family, and my mother was an Opera singer.”

          She asked me to start the following weekend. I packed up my belongings from the Gaslamp apartment on G Street and moved into The Terraces. Armen gave me a spacious two-bedroom apartment over the pool because I told her I loved to swim. I did not have enough furniture to fill the apartment. Armen laughed and said, “ What do you need, a bed and a table, that’s it.”    

She lived in one of the smallest units and loved the simplicity. She did not own a television or a blender. She invested every cent in the project and planned to convert it into condominiums. This could not be accomplished without rental income. My job was to lease the apartments.

          We set up a model office and hired a maintenance man, and a landscaper. We fixed up the apartments, and I rented them. In the evening, I presided over the Jammers Dance Classes in a fitness center downtown. The classes were expanding, and everyone wanted to learn Hip-Hop. My artistic pulse was satisfied, and my financial burden was lifted.

          Every day at noon Armen would call me, 

           “Lily. Come over-I have lunch.”

           “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”

           “You have to eat, just a little.” 

   She did not take no for an answer.  She prepared delicious Turkish and Armenian exotic dishes, and for an hour, we sat at the table and discussed ideas, art, and the American lifestyle. In a short time, it was evident The Terraces was just a backdrop, a setting to an unfolding drama of fictional proportions. The looming danger, disaster, and deterioration came in waves. Just as we recovered from one shipwreck, another was on its way.

          First, there were the tenants; a collection of eighty lifestyles and characters that invariably collide and come running to Armen. I never saw her turn a tenant away. She was so complying and understanding; tenants retreated and left smiling. In spite of utility shutdowns, and cracking staircases from the earthquake. failed security alarms, and slipping balconies, we moved tenants in and they did not move out.

           Armen did not permit defeat to wedge influence over her mission.  Nor did she allow the consumption of things to soften her existence in life. She maintained simplicity without a magazine or a consultant to show her how. At times I came to her with complaints, about the insufficiencies in my life. She always had a philosophy that inoculated me from my narrow view. She broadened my sense of self and helped me to free up petty insecurities.

          The digression began when Armen realized her financial partner had hoodwinked her and was succeeding in acquiring ownership of the property. Then the maintenance man revealed his hidden love for me and went running to Armen every time I had a date. We were afraid to fire him, Bill was big as John Wayne and started admitting how many men he killed in Vietnam. There was more drama, a friend from Junior High school appeared veiled in innocent memories and slowly unwound into a crack addict with a bad temper. He took possession of a vacant apartment and threatened to kill me.  I had to hire a bodyguard, one of the Jamaican Martial Arts experts from the Jammers dance studio. Armen did not ask me to leave. Even when the Addict swindled money out of our tenants, masking himself as a Private Investigator.   

                 We set up a model office and hired a maintenance man, and a landscaper. We fixed up the apartments, and I rented them. In the evening, I presided over the Jammers Dance Classes in a fitness center downtown. The classes were expanding, and everyone wanted to learn Hip-Hop. My artistic pulse was satisfied, and my financial burden was lifted.

          Every day at noon Armen would call me, 

           “Lily. Come over-I have lunch.”

           “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”

           “You have to eat, just a little.” 

   She did not take no for an answer.  She prepared delicious Turkish and Armenian exotic dishes, and for an hour, we sat at the table and discussed ideas, art, and the American lifestyle. In a short time, it was evident The Terraces was just a backdrop, a setting to an unfolding drama of fictional proportions. The looming danger, disaster, and deterioration came in waves. Just as we recovered from one shipwreck, another was on its way.

          First, there were the tenants; a collection of eighty lifestyles and characters that invariably collide and come running to Armen. I never saw her turn a tenant away. She was so complying and understanding; tenants retreated and left smiling. In spite of utility shutdowns, and cracking staircases from the earthquake. failed security alarms, and slipping balconies, we moved tenants in and they did not move out.

           Armen did not permit defeat to wedge influence over her mission.  Nor did she allow the consumption of things to soften her existence in life. She maintained simplicity without a magazine or a consultant to show her how. At times I came to her with complaints, about the insufficiencies in my life. She always had a philosophy that inoculated me from my narrow view. She broadened my sense of self and helped me to free up petty insecurities.

          The digression began when Armen realized her financial partner had hoodwinked her and was succeeding in acquiring ownership of the property. Then the maintenance man revealed his hidden love for me and went running to Armen every time I had a date. We were afraid to fire him, Bill was big as John Wayne and started admitting how many men he killed in Vietnam. There was more drama, a friend from Junior High school appeared veiled in innocent memories and slowly unwound into a crack addict with a bad temper. He took possession of a vacant apartment and threatened to kill me.  I had to hire a bodyguard, one of the Jamaican Martial Arts experts from the Jammers dance studio. Armen did not ask me to leave. Even when the Addict swindled money out of our tenants, masking himself as a Private Investigator.   

          Eight months into the battle, I moved out. Armen stayed on and continued to wage her battle against her con artist partner. It took another year, but one day Armen drove away without a penny from her property. Three years later she acquired three of the condos. She never gives up.

     She returned to Los Angeles and moved in with her parents.  She found another project and started over. When that project failed, she returned to her parent’s home. By this time, she was married with a little girl, and the five of them lived together. Armen had lost her independence, project, and privacy, but she held on to her spirit. Over the years, I struggled in another territory, and we kept in contact by phone. We compared difficulties, and she assured me no matter how difficult the circumstances, not to give up. 

     Now twenty years have passed. Armen has two children. The girl is named Aida, and the little boy is Mathew.  Armen lives in Los Angeles now. She achieved much since the days of the Terraces. She continued to work in real estate and chose to broker buildings. She gained a modest win over The Con and was compensated.  Last week I spoke to Armen over the telephone. 

          “ Oh Lily, I had a good year, you know, I cannot believe it. I am out of the project in San Diego now for good. I got the last of my money.”

          “ Congratulations, at last! Look how many years.”

          “ Do you remember Paul, the contractor?”  He moved to Las Vegas and has had a hard time you know. He is trying to open up a business there. Remember his little girl, she’s a teenager now. Can you believe it?”

          “ So much has happened.”

          “ You know I promised to pay Paul, one percent of the profits. I’m going to Las Vegas next week–I’m going to pay him.”

          “ Does he know?”

          “ Nothing, he doesn’t know anything. I’m going to surprise him.”

          “ How much did you owe him?”

          “ Eighty thousand, he’ll be surprised. ”

          “ Will he ever!”  

That is only one of Armen’s victories; she has many and one day they will be told.

        

That is only one of Armen’s victories; she has many and one day they will be told.

THANKSGIVING THREE TIMES A YEAR


I’ve adopted a savant to facilitate making decisions. I don’t want to use the word hate, it’s useless, but this time I will, I hate making decisions. Whether to go out for dinner, or go to one of villages’ festivals, parades, or events, they rake up events during the winter to keep us off drugs. This weekend was a  village-wide Friday sale for shopping, the lighted tractor parade, and appetizers at all the shops in town. Sounded pleasurable and I’m proud of the village to induct us into a community of we care about you.  I didn’t go, but I did go out for Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant I’d never been to, festive crowded, and the tempting buffet twinkled like the first time I’d seen decorated food. It’s been five years since I’ve gone out for Thanksgiving so the jubilee of food was a bit musical.  I ordered a glass of wine at the bar, the only customer as everyone had reserved tables for grandparents and children and the roar was melodious. My order to go would wait, the celebratory ambiance shattered my loneliness. The bartender, Jovida was like a lightbulb, she kept coming over to me maybe three times asking me polite questions, have you been here before, you must come on the weekends we have live music, while you’re having your wine can I bring you something from the buffet. I wondered if I’d be charged, she noticed my hesitation and said, No charge. So I choose smoked salmon, capers, onion, and horseradish. On m wish list if I’m allowed to eat in heaven, along with Gruyere cheese, tacos, salad, and croissants.  The bliss, was a sandwich of bustling eager activity, laughter, and the children.  I remember our family Thanksgiving when my parents were divorced and we went to Nana’s home in San Fernando Valley, through that old tunnel. My mother’s mother is full-flecked Irish so the dinner was grand, and she was a dedicated cooking slave.  She made mashed potatoes like I’ve never tasted since, and homemade pies, everything spiced with Nana’s kinship with making the family love her.

      I left the restaurant after an hour later with a jubilant bag of turkey, fixings, and pumpkin pie. I found my seat on the bedroom sofa, and watched, ‘ The Train’ with Burt Lancaster.  My thoughts were rested, abated for the whole evening, and then the next day, turkey revenge. I could not get out of bed, eat, or think. So I said to myself, it’s okay to do nothing and so I watched a romantic comedy, ‘ Cardboard Husband,’ with Norma Sherer and Robert Taylor, removed three-year-old lipstick and liners, shopped online without buying, saved for later my way of shopping. Then I threw the dice and I got seven. That is where my decisions are now made. If I don’t get a seven with seven throws, I don’t go out or make a decision. If I get it once- I’m on! It was a perfect day for thanks. I think we should have a Thanksgiving Holiday three or four times a year.

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.

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.

UKRAINEACOUST – PUTIN=HITLER


We can pay to go into space, text unlimitedly to avoid, a phone call, we can avoid meeting because we have too many social media reply’s waiting. We can upload, download, delete and save in a second. We can install security alarms, and electronic remotes to open and close our appliances, and electricity. We can drive a car without hands-on, we can buy a private plane, an armored car, bodyguards, and we can remain anonymous by creating a false identity… What we are not doing is improving our behavior, our own personal evolution as humans.  Our civility is most recently televised as the Chris Rock, Will Smith slap. I’m sixty-eight and have watched the Oscars, so I remember what they gave the audience- humble sweet, amusing award-winner speeches, not a political coma, or reprisal for a joke. If Chris did not know the sensitivity of Jada for suffering from alopecia, ( and she is gorgeous with or without). After the slap Chris said something like, this will be the most-watched television show. WHAT? Is that all there is to our humanity; attention, vanity, and ratings?

As time grabs our life without us evening knowing it, one day we may wake up and say, I don’t have that much time left, what should I do?  If you are single without children then the options are galactic, unless you live in Ukraine. The war bleeds in my veins, sometimes I feel nausea from the videos, and other times enraged that this was not prevented. The best news of the day is that Russia is expelled from the Human Rights Council. Pause, just today? I am half-Ukrainian. My father, grandfather etc, were Ukrainians. I’ve always thought and said I am half Russian, as noted on Dad’s papers. But I am not Russian, excuse my blind spot.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. Ayn Rand.

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.

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.

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.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER IN TAOS,NM


museum

Millicent Rogers home Taos, NM

The throw of the dice this week falls on the silhouette of a Taos night out in 2006. It begins with the sunset — a bubble-gum pink sash that swirls like taffy just above the distant hillside. The transcending forms and colors in the sky distract me; it silences me, it keeps me from turning on the television or answering the phone. Taos-sangre-de-christo-mountains-sunset

The sunset has settled into my routine. It’s something I watch every night. In the midst of dressing to attend an art auction at the Millicent Rogers Museum the sun has vanished. The sky turns Taos blue; a luminous oil pigment canvas blue that appears like an endless tunnel you can walk through. As I descend the staircase, and cross over the ménage of piles shoved in a corner to allow SC to paint, I think, “This is going to be my home. I’m still here” Adventures in Livingness

In the courtyard where new flagstone has been laid, and the exit is blocked by a mud ditch, Rudy hitches me on his back and carry’s me out the side entrance through Tony Abeyta’s yard. Tony’s yard is piled with sand from our flagstone project, and my high-heeled black suede shoes are not at all practical for crossing New Mexican sand dunes. This is how the evening begins.

Out in the parking lot, we circle around once and stop in Robert’s gallery. He has offered me his turquoise squash seed necklace to wear at the auction. The necklace is from Turkey, and sells for $1,800. Millicent Rogers events always attract women with extravagant jewelry, and Robert knows I have no such possessions. He hands me the necklace, and says, have fun.

At times like this, I am able to forget the faces and routines I lived in Solana Beach, and feel swept into a labyrinth of unfamiliar vignettes. There are two police cars in the rear of the parking lot, the church looms like a fortress of wet mud, and SC is listening to The Band CD we picked up in Santa Fe. I slide into the car making sure my shoes don’t fill with gravel.

RANCHOS PLAZA

Parking for the Plaza where we lived. San Francisco de Asís Mission Church.

Along the desert road, there is very little street light and cars approach you at disarming speeds. For newcomers, the pale yellow line that separates oncoming traffic, roaming animals, hitchhikers, leather clad bikers, and abandoned pets, is of no comfort or value. Boundaries are vague, so are civilities between people, and sometimes conversations elope into poetry.

At the Millicent Rogers Museum the director Jill, who is there to welcome each guest, greets us at the carved wooden doors. This museum was once a home, like most museums in Taos.

Each room is an envelope of Native American jewelry, ceramics, painting, weaving, textiles, and metal work, sealed with an ethereal presence of Millicent Rogers. She set global trends in fashion, art, and living, by coming to Taos and bridging her New York chic with southwestern sensibility.

The museum collection includes some of her own designs that evolved from her residency in the desert. She moved here in 1947 and died here in 1953. She could have chosen anywhere in the world to live, and she settled in the unaltered, surreal lunar beauty of Taos.

I wandered through the tightly packed rooms, alternately viewing the guest’s attire and jewelry. The woven wraps, belts, and hats worn by men and woman form a collage of individual expression. Almost everyone seems to attract attention by the texture and color of his or her attire. It is festive traditional look, southwestern accessories paired with jeans or silk dresses. If you come to Taos, look for a belt buckle, one piece of Native American jewelry and one piece of art.

When the auction was announced, I found myself admiring the same etching as a woman next to me. She remarked that the artist was also the teacher of one of her children. I came to learn that Ellen had six children and 11 grandchildren. She was petite with curly blonde hair, and I liked her instantly. I told her I was a writer.

“So am I,” she answered.

Rather than talk about her work, she began talking about her daughter, also a writer.

“I’m so lucky,–all my children and grandchildren are creative and artistic.”

It was obvious that her life was a garden of earthly delights, and that she had raised many roses. When the auction began, she vanished, and I made a very swift viewing of the art before returning to the two etchings. They were both sold.

As I was walking out, I bumped into Ellen. She was clutching the etchings.

“So, you bought them,” I said.

“Oh, yes, I had to have them.”

She left me with a beaming smile and a closing remark that I hear very often: “Welcome to Taos.”

I love hearing that so much I don’t want to stop saying, I just moved here. After the auction we decided to stop in Marco’s Downtown Bistro, where we joined an improvisational party. It started when Marco introduced us to his friends, Pablo and Joan, visiting from Santa Fe.

PLAZA TAOS

The dim glowing melon adobe walls of the bistro, Marco hugging everyone, Joan’s melodious high-pitched laughter, Pablo telling jokes, Rudy laughing, and then Philip arriving to tell stories crossed over from strangers in a bistro to a fast rolling film. The conversation, and laughter surfed breathlessly from one person to another.

Joan remarked, “My 15 minutes. This is the best for me. The first time you meet someone, your both talking without any effort. It’s so perfect.”

We closed the bistro past midnight. Marco had gone home. Joan decided to stay at a friend’s house. Philip agreed to drive down to Santa Fe the next day, and we took Tylenol before going to bed.

Not every night out in Taos is like Joan’s 15 minutes, but chances are you will have something to write home about. Photos of Gallery LouLou Taos, NM


me on the roof

 

SINGLE IN QUARANTINE


ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS-  Without argument what motivates the locals in Ballston Spa, NY is family. They go to work every day, some in punishing freezing cold weather to earn a living. The snow blowers, plowers, farmers, horse breeders, deliveries, construction workers, postal workers, cable servers, and weather free runners.

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The families then gather on the weekend at any of our a dozen bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars to sit with the family, drink a beer or mimosa and watch the seasonal sports channel. Children are well behaved mostly, the server is probably related in two degrees of separation, so the expansive informality presides. The pretense is nine miles north in Saratoga Springs. Very minor, compared to Los Angeles, and I love that about Saratoga. They have an A-List too, mostly connected to racehorses or real estate. They aspire to win the Kentucky Derby or buy land to develop a dream community. Traditional and progressive. The generations of Saratoga go back to the eighteen hundreds. I’ve met residents who are the fifth generation, and they are proud to tell you. That stands out for a gal from LA that moved to Ballston Spa.

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Back in Ballston Spa on a milky white sky day, that feels too cold indoors. I’m wearing layers; T-shirt, a thick zip-up sweatshirt, and the Irish wool Jumper I bought in Ireland in 1987. The weather channel claims it is forty-seven degrees, so I’m miffed why I’m so cold.
This week was waiting until my brain was ready to take on the challenge of the moment; coronavirus 19. I’m a failed student of statistics, charts, science, physiology, and models. When the task force takes the stage every day, to update us on the number of cases and deaths my brain struggles with the information, as I am awed by the concentration of facts, projections, and federal coordination. It shed light on how microscopic my responsibilities are in comparison.

Living in upstate Saratoga County, New York we were on lockdown early in the game. The sacrifice isn’t as disarming for me because my personal crisis hasn’t fused with social gatherings, for the last fifteen months. In life, we all have our crisis, it is just better if I’m not in a crowd. So I limited myself to the essentials with an occasional visit to a pastry shop or bistro. Adaptation to quarantine if you are living alone is agonizing and so we have to structure our misery or it will structure us.
Bonded in solitude allows us time to reflect on our relationships, our mistakes and what we miss most in this time of quarantine. This may be the only time we will ever have to examine who we are and what we need to change. If you watch the news, you hear the stories of the first responders, and all the essential workers who risk their own lives to bus us, feed us and deliver our Amazon packages. My mirror of reflection brought the reality of singleness into focus, it is time to trust, love, and to socialize. As Joni Mitchel sings, “ You don’t know what you have till it’s gone.”
If we ignore the war in our lives, the war comes after you.


DYLAN’S TOUCH


The irony.  When I first heard “Like A Rolling Stone” as a teenager, the lyrics saddened me every time I played it or it came on the radio. Then this song became my destiny.

“Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People call say ‘beware doll, you’re bound to fall’
You thought they were all kidding you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ahh you’ve gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you’re gonna have to get used to it
You say you never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He’s not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say do you want to make a deal?
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ah you never turned around to see the frowns
On the jugglers and the clowns when they all did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain’t no good
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people
They’re all drinking, thinking that they’ve got it made
Exchanging all precious gifts
But you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal
How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.”
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
© Downtown Music Publishing, AUDIAM, INC
Photograph credit Jim Marshall

A VERY HAPPY, CREATIVE, PROSPEROUS, GRATEFUL AND SURPRISING NEW YEAR TO YOU


      ADVENTURESS IN LIVINGNESS 2020

 2020 SOUNDS SO PROMISING.  TO ALL MY READERS, FOLLOWERS, FRIENDS AND STRANGERS. I DO WISH YOU A SLICE OF SENSATIONAL SURPRISE IN THE NEXT YEAR.

 

MY LIST FOR THE NEW YEAR

TIDY THE HOUSE LESS

SMILE MORE

                             LET LOVE COME AND GO, NOTHING MEANS MORE THAN TO TAKE IT SLOW

CONCENTRATE INSTEAD OF CELEBRATE

WATCH MORE INSPIRING DOCUMENTARIES AND LESS OLD MOVIES

SPEND MORE TIME MAKING FRIENDS

FINISH MY WORK IN PROGRESS

THANK GOD EVERYDAY FOR HIS PROTECTION AND GIFTS

STOP FEELING GUILTY FOR SLEEPING IN

 

 

 

FATHER GANGSTERS


I am thinking about some of Dad’s answers to questions. You learn more by listening than telling. I remember if a friend or associate made some business proposition, Dad would answer, ‘I’ve been thinking along those same lines myself, and have a few ideas.’ Now, sometimes, he didn’t know but that gave him a shot into the game. The opponent would then tell Dad everything. The reason I say this is he said that to me. Not in those words, but the same move. Gangster’s do as much strategizing as politicians, maybe more. Coming out of court LA Times Photo. He loved sunglasses, and so do I.