THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER IS…


 

SEASONAL AND SENSUAL OVERTURE TO REVERIE.

SUMMER is not a memory yet; my skin too sensitive, and my heart still attached to the moments.  I’ve misplaced my journals and so I have to read my to-do list to recall the events.  Let’s go back to June; well my head was bent like a candle wick in this memoir. By then I was into the first rewrite, the worst of the next ten. That first one is deceivingly promising, the chapters line up, the suspense tickled, and it was five-hundred pages.  The first draft was actually two books, as I dared to try and run the 100 meter in two different directions.

I must have had some standout memories, but I don’ recall June being amusing.  Writing about my deceased parents was not summer reading.  A year had already passed since I began, and I was now at the last stretch.  My sense of completion was annoying.  I began to hate the word focus. My body ached for water, in any form, a pool, a river, and the ocean.  June was also the month when rejection letters arrived.  For a moment, I’d forgotten. Whoa! Stay away from LouLou, her nerves are visible! On the flip, it was also acceptance of those letters.  I had to prove to myself that I could take it, and continue writing.

Outside my window, Palace Avenue raised to motorcycles, skateboarders, conversational bicycle riders, and families out for a walk. My concentration was beguiled.  So I turned on the fan, the loud kind that screens the room in a hum.  I tried to imagine as waves just after they have capitulated into bubbles.

Memorial weekend was gemstone sunlit of color and clarity.  I’d decided to break and go to a party at La Posada.  Yes, that was my first grasp of summer, the sudden appearance of flowers, greenness of the landscape, flowers, and light. I think it was warm enough to sit outdoors all night.  We were not yet ready to kick and scream, it was more of a real memorial kind of party.  For our troops who finally are reaching us through the news, the films, and the books.

Most every evening I’d walk across the street to La Posada, have a glass of wine while listening to the chattering guests, age-out themselves by immobilizing a very liberated and young spirit. It’s a beautiful sight. Most people in my experience, come to Santa Fe and strip fullsizerenderdown to vulnerable. They invite conversation and are genuinely interested. I am asked, ‘What’s it like living in Santa Fe?’  To be continued.

IT’S UNLIKE ANY OTHER CITY I’VE EXPERIENCE.D  It’s called the city different, it is also the city difficult.  She ( I see Santa Fe in the feminine gender)  has to be treated gently. Her  weather patterns resemble a menopausal woman,her stature demands respect, and she can be congenial and patient.

You can walk this city as if it were a neighborhood. If you do that consistently you’ll meet people, and get to know them. Unless you’re like me, a standoffish fast walker dazed by the outdoors.

If you’re dazed and illusional you can master this city very well, as the drowsy pace and cordiality allow freakish  freedom.  I ‘ve seen the liberating soul of Santa Fe,  teenagers racing down the middle of a commercial street one foot on the skateboard, bad-ass bikers talking with bad-ass cops, women with parrots on their shoulder, dogs in baby carriages, cats in a bag, and women on horseback galloping up Palace Avenue.

At night you’ll see raging midnight ramblers dancing on the sidewalk, and all of this is appealing to an LA transplant.  I have driven in my robe, danced in the street and broken the heels on most of my shoes because of the pot-holes. They are always working on a street, but never the sidewalks. I ‘ve been bounced out of the locals night-howl El Farol for accidently pushing  a dancer, who knew the manager, who came running after me and took down my license plate.

So many of us are loners, the serious kind, that have to be rigged out of our nests.  Luckily I live on a commercial street and have no choice but to be commercially friendly. After nine years, my seasonal behavior is obvious: sprite in summer, blissful in fall, giddy in spring, and withdrawan in winter. I’ve learned patience, understanding, and adopted a mixture of cultural traditions. I’m close to fifty percent certain I’ll miss Santa Fe terribly when I do leave.

Has living in Santa Fe  given me more than I’ve given back?  Yes, it has and that’s why when I’m asked what’s it like living in Santa Fe, I try to reveal the blessings here and not the bullshit. 025

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PUSHING POETRY


 

I’m reminding myself to write more poetry.

DOUBLE VISION 1996.     I was empty pocketed then. Thinker

Neckties choking thin men with beepers

I want to strip the needles pricking inside their ambition

Stone the waxed smiles spitting false promises

Shatter the pointed arrogance

Wrapped in crisp bills

Inside brand wallets

Strapped on trendy trousers

Driven by rovers and jeeps

Never been on life’s edge

Save the Artist

Who wears his life holy

Waiting for the moments to create

Starved from meat and wine

Sits on a ray of light

Enraptured

 

 

 

 

 

Sojourn in Europe


Intersections between mid-late-life  adults with youth; anyone under the age of forty is an adventure in livingness.   I remember strangers that  counseled; passed on a prized preface to life.

It was my first solo trip to Europe.  Emboldened with the freedoms in every cupboard of life: abandoned career, home, and possessions I lived out of a suitcase for about a year. Three of those months were in Ireland, France, and Italy.

I was dining in Venice, alone, down to coupon crushing finances and no interest in going back to the USA.  The rise to relocate plunged a new view ; find a job in a glass foundry or a museum, and rent a little room in Venice.  The Venetians of my age,  artistic, independent, and humanely trusting enchanted a woman who’d been sharking San Diego  in commercial real estate.  I got eaten alive.  Venice was the shore that I wanted to curl around and become fluent in Italian, learn to cook,  and wrap a scarf.

I was standing next to a bar-bistro melting in the lustrous  conversational elan’  when a couple in their sixties approached me.    The  corner of the bar waxed us in and for the next hour, that  man changed the direction of my life.

” Yea, I knew you were American.  Where you live?

” San Diego.”

” Oh! I’d move there if I could. ” I cannot recall where they lived other than the Midwest.

“What kind of work do you do in  San Diego?” He shouted.

“I was in commercial real estate–leasing and marketing.”

” Good for you! That’s a great career.”

” It was.  I want to live here… in Venice

He set his wine on the counter, I remember that, and pulled at his trousers or tie, and then he said,  “What would you do here?”

” I don’t know yet?”

” You can’t beat what you left.  Are you crazy?”

Before I answered he continued a breathless sermon peddling the virtues of my life;  not jumping into a fantasy, and to forget about moving to Venice.  My references  to challenge, adventure and change met more opposition than I’d expected. He deplored my naiveté.   “You shouldn’t go through with it.  San Diego  has the best climate. It’s coming up in the world, not just a little getaway resort. If I were your father I’d bring you back myself.  ”

They departed when his wife begged him to calm down and I returned to the evening’s allure.  There was a scar left, an abrasion of my plan.  Over the next few days, I met a group of Venetians, younger than me.  After revealing my plan to live in Venice, they drew me into their group.  I haven’t any diary of Venice, so the names and dialogue are absent. The memory is vague, a collage of framed vignettes.  We went to a friend’s apartment, who had a spare room to rent.   This friend, a young man with speedy senses whipped me around the apartment.  He spoke English, with saucy speed, and he had more friends. By the end of the evening,  I was tumbling in a wave of stimulation.  It was too much too soon.  The next week I was in Milan unknowingly colliding with Fashion Week.

After three months, my wardrobe was wasted from hem to neckline.  My shoes:  a pair of lace up boots,  lace-up sandals, and flats.  I landed in Milan at the Train station, and then where did I go? OH I remember. It was my last night with Julius;  my traveling European Chef companion.  We stayed at Relais & Châteaux, selections for three weeks.  We dined and slept in surroundings that dubbed European film sets.  I was dazzled and too overfed.

The last night with Julius was in a very chef gathering restaurant, busy waiters, lots of background noise;   the place to say goodbye and not cry. After dinner, we strolled around the Piazza and window shopped.

” Look at these shoes. I’ve never seen shoes like this-not even in Beverly Hills. ” Julius chuckled at my unworldly impressionable outbursts.  He enjoyed educating me on all things European.

” In Italy shoes are the most important part of the wardrobe.”

” You mean seriously. ” I asked.

” Oh Yes. They will  judge you by your shoes. Not every one of course, but the important types will.”

The next morning I rose to the uncertainty of traveling without  Julius.  That’s when I got on a train  headed for Annecy, France. I have no memory why Annecy, other than the couple I met at Lake Maggoire who might have suggested I visit the Southeastern part of France before going to Paris.

 

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM CRADLE OF CRIME


CHAPTER NINE

1998 WAS ALL RIGHT

AWAKENING ON THE ROADRUNNER SHUTTLE as we chugged up the steep grade highway, the red skin of Taos peeled back the imposing medieval Gorge crack. The cavity unzipped and five thousand feet below was the Rio Grande. I felt the altitude filling my lungs, and my eyes twitching from one scenic masterpiece to another. Everyone in the shuttle was giving me a history lesson about Taos. Before I knew it, the shuttle door opened, and the driver yelled, ‘Smiley.”

At the end of a two-mile dirt road the shuttle dropped me off and I was shouldered on either side by melting banks of snow.  It was April. Unexpected snow storms arrived the same week.

The FBI boxes I’d shipped were in front of my casita.  Darting from room to room, thoroughly satisfied with a two-story loft, floor to ceiling windows, and sunlight in all the right spots. I unpacked in the seductive silence. Was I all alone out here?  A few other casitas were on the property but they looked vacant. A pang of anxiety seized and then I realized, I had a cell phone, a credit card, and cash. I could always call a cab right.  It was winter in April; the first time I’d lived in falling

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DH. LAWRENCE WRITING ROOM. TOAS.

snow.  In the dining room, I unpacked the boxes and arranged them in a circle around the circumference of the table. It was a heavy southwestern oak table, twelve feet along, and to the right was sliding glass doors allowing the light to stream across the black and white print. I was left to unravel two thousand more pages on Dad’s criminal life.

The trip was extended to two months. I read all the files and  left Taos a different woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Santa Fe today

Santa Fe today, Friday the 13th. Listening to soundtrack of Man & a Woman, my lyrics, my movie. The end is what I imagine mine. The day was blowing cottonwood  and white wisteria  in a blow glow of dance.  There is a certainty about my movements, different than yesterday. I declare this day of summer, sandals,pedicure, trying on my bathing suit, making a palette change, and putting on the ritz. The gloss and bronze, and maybe even going outdoors.  Shopping and going to the Lowriders Day in Santa Fe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PITCH FOR PUBLICATION


IN NOVEMBER OF 2005 I reserved a space at the San Francisco Writers Conference. I was nervous and edgy when I boarded the plane. My pitch proposal, pitch suit, and pitch necklace, were tucked inside my suitcase. The pitch convinces an agent or publisher, that you know your subject well enough to feel one hundred percent confident.  It may sound irrational that a writer could work five years on a book and not know what it is about. As an emerging writer I view my work through a kaleidoscope lens. I see multiple themes, subplots, and messages, and they change with each reading. Then there are loose knots of personal misery, lost versions and rejections ringing in my ears. My pitch has to convince an agent, that at least 5,000 people will buy my book. The pitch suit is the outfit you wear for an interview; only for writers, the guidelines are very loose. Some writers wear their narrative. I brought my tailored, looking successful, pants suit. My pitch necklace is a gold Buddha medallion that my father had designed for my mother. I wear it for good luck and because I know the necklace has survived all the family tragedies. The conference is at the St. Francis Hotel at Union Square. From experience, I have learned that choosing a conference because of its alluring location is meaningless; I never pay attention to past experience.

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It was pouring when I arrived. The staff at the front desk greeted me with musical familiarity. Every time I swished by they called out, “Hello, Ms. Smiley.” I imagined them as a chorus singing my name. I arrived one day early to pace the galleries, cafes, museums and Saks. After the first night, I had to switch rooms. I was directly above the street dumpsters, where for hours the chugging of trash kept me awake. I moved frantically, to scoop everything up and not miss a moment of San Francisco. After switching rooms, I dashed over to the Espresso Bar. It faces the corner of Powell and Sutter. Outside, the streetcars clanged by, passengers dangling from the bars like vines on a tree. In between the tracks, workers both blue and white-collar, and some without any collar at all, jammed the sidewalks on foot, bicycle, moped and skateboard. With phones and iPods attached, eyes alert, they buzzed on the vibe of Saturday, moving like musical notes in a symphony.

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In the café an elderly woman wearing a SFWC name tag was seated next to me. I noticed she positioned her book on the corner of her table. She looked overwhelmed and frightened. As I introduced myself she smiled courteously, and said she was a neurotic housewife all her life and didn’t have much to write about, so she wrote about her husband’s war stories. I told her she should write about the neurotic housewife. Just as I was leaving, she stopped me and thanked me for speaking to her. “There’s always a guardian angel around.” Her voice lingered in my thoughts all weekend.
At six o’clock that evening, I was gliding around my room dressing for the gala. I reached for my jewelry bag. It was gone. The weekend was ruined! I would never get published, I’m too wired, too reckless, too distracted. I called the front desk. Heather said she would call me back. Bang, bang, bang, went my shoe against the bed frame. Then the phone rang.
“Hello, Ms. Smiley. I’m sending the bellman up with your jewelry.”
I answered the door recoiling with pained joy. The bellman listened attentively. I rushed upstairs to Harry Denton’s Starlight Room. There I began wine tasting with Maggie, Peg and George; three new comrades in a room of hundreds.
I spent the next day among more comrades, writers with unpublished stories, books, and works-in-progress. I listened to panels of writers; agents and editors discussed the fateful downward spin of publishing and upward battle towards reward.  We sat in our chairs looking overly anxious, taking copious notes, and waiting for answers to our questions. At the end of the panel discussion we all lined up to meet the agents and editors. While we stood in line we met each other.
“What’s your story about?” the woman behind me asked.
“Growing up with gangsters,” I replied.
“ Oh well! That will get you an agent.”
“ I hope so.”

During the conference, I experienced a lucky throw of the dice. I met one of my mentors; Joyce Maynard. Her book, “At Home in the World,” is on my beside table. Joyce was published in the New York Times when she was sixteen years old. JD Salinger read the piece and invited her to live with him. Joyce’s story will send you back to reading Nine Stories.
As I progressed through the circle holding my pitch stick, the fear and apprehension subsided just a tiny bit. Three agents responded; ‘send me your manuscript.’ Naturally when I returned home, my hands were tied to editing. I rushed through, did not employ someone to copy-edit, and then ran about announcing my almost to be signed contract. Three months later I recovered from the rejections and began another rewrite and another until today, when I am on my fifth manuscript. This one feels right because I am not rushing through it expectant of publication; this time I know it will be published.

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LIGHTS ON SANTA FE


 

A NATIVE AMERICAN  LIGHT SHOW.

YOU CAN BECOME WHO YOU DREAMED OF, DO WHAT YOU DREAMED OF IN SANTA FE , because Santa  Feans do not care.

I heard this slogan a lot when I first moved here seven years ago.  My understanding was vague, unrealized, and I didn’t think much about it until  this winter.   I began to  approach strangers,  walk across the street to the spa in a robe,  or  leave my pajama top under my sweater because I like the texture of it.
I’ve  given  up the diving board of scrutiny and plunge into the dreamy, stony,  outdated, simplistic extravagance, and unrealistic vibe of Santa Fe.

I keep dreaming, and preparing,  with a face blotched red by cold, that THE LIGHTS, SHADOWS,  MOON AND CHARACTERS ARE MY BROADWAY FOR NOW.   NOT FOREVER. EVERYTHING CAN BE TEMPORARY IF WE TAKE ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS.