A WRITER ALONE


The throw of the dice this week lands on the lost dice.  It was an unusual time to be writing the dice, around four  in the afternoon. The sunshine drew me up  to my writing  desk where the rays of light teased me into believing it  wasn’t cold outside.  I decided to write the column.

I knew I shouldn’t write on my laptop because it is deconstructing. The ports and CD player have malfunctioned, the screen  dotted and the audio goes on and off.  I can’t part with this laptop until I finish the book, ( 5 pages to go). The warmth of the sun and the window that enables me to see the sky, drew me to the desk, and so I work around the errors.

I only had a few paragraphs from the afternoon, and  when I returned to the column after dinner, the whole piece took another course, and I was writing not what I intended but it was like sailing on a perfect course.   It was writing without the editor, meaning the inner editor that sometimes swoops down and cuts your nails off. I was writing about many things that happened.    When I finished I went to the save the document and the laptop responded negatively. It vanished.  I thought about trying to recapture the column, trying to reinvent the stream of consciousness that seemed to be marathoning through my soul.

There were so many voices speaking all at once. I had to figure out how to connect the moment the leaves reminded me of Saratoga Springs,  and how we must place our print, on the tablet, on the screen, and dismiss the resentful reader who judges where writing takes us. Sometimes,  a reader knows me from   the halcyon days, when light was brighter than dark. They don’t want to remember the way I feel it, they want to burn me for my  feelings. And such an email buckles my knees and drips from my eyes. I am sorry they never achieved  more  than hatred.

IN THE GARDEN


Two months ago I bought a crate of flowers to plant. After setting the plant to rest, I had a vivid recollection of Nana; my Mother’s mother.
Nana was a petite woman, with long graying hair she pinned into a perfect French twist, a cute Irish nose, and a giggling smile. When I was growing up she lived with her second husband, we called Poppop, in a spacious California ranch house in Sherman Oaks, also known as San Fernando Valley. We visited her weekly, staying over one or two nights. Nana was always waiting for us to arrive. She greeted us at the door, she had something cooking, fresh candy in crystal dishes, and in the morning, she fried bacon and the aroma woke me and got me running downstairs. She scrambled eggs with lots of butter, and served it with Irish soda bread. It never occurred to me that these weekly trips were the cultural mix-up of my Russian Irish heritage. This was Nana’s only opportunity to spoon-feed us our Irish roots. At home with father, bacon and butter were prohibited, and bread came in the form of a bagel. The food was only one part of the adventure. Nana’s home was filled with antiques, family treasures, and her garden was a masterful collection of east and west coast varieties.
After Nana had all her errands and household chores finished, she changed into slacks, flat shoes, and a straw hat and went outside to the garden. I would follow Nana while my Mother remained indoors; most likely talking on the phone with some degree of privacy. In the garden, Nana would trim, cut, and arrange her flowers. I kneeled down beside her and watched, while she talked. Nana had the gift of gab, and her thoughts poured out without my interruption. Between sentences, she would insert a self-effacing joke, regarding her silly hat, or her short legs. Her hands were swollen from arthritis, and she rubbed them from time to time, but she did not complain. As I planted my garden, these visions of Nana remained and grew more studied and complete. I had a memory of being assigned a school project to plant something in the garden. By this time, my Mother had moved us to an apartment and we didn’t have our own garden. I went to Nana’s and she helped me plant some variety of flowers I cannot recall. Each week I’d return to see how my plant was doing. Some time after the assignment ended and we were walking in the yard, I looked to see how my plant was surviving. It had been replaced. I asked Nana what happened.
“Oh honey I hope you won’t be mad at me, but the little flower died, so I planted a new one. It’s my fault; I didn’t look after it properly.”
Nana taught me the things my mother didn’t have the time to teach; like cooking, cutting flowers and arranging them, making coffee, and setting the table. She made all these chores enjoyable, and I loved to follow her around the house and watch her change the beds, and prop up pillows, and fold the guest towels. It never occurred to me until now, that I adopted her domesticity; the sublime gratification of adorning a home for the comfort of family and friends.
The plants did not blossom, the jasmine, roses, and other varieties all wilted and turned brown, but the parties, soirees, dinners and moments of solitude are bloosoming.

LYRICAL JIM MARSHALL


JIM MARSHALL AT THE OPENING OF GALLERY LOULOU TAOS. 2006

“Americas ‘true romantics will be the jazz musicians and jazz writers, living by their lyrical emotions, senses.”

From The Diary of Anais Nin volume Six.”

The throw of the dice this week lands on mysteries of character. We all have our closet of masks that we reach for when we need to camouflage our fear, insecurity, disdain, or judgment.

I wore a mask the day I went to pick up Jim Marshall at the Albuquerque airport. I didn’t want to appear unprepared, inexperienced, or effusive. As soon as I recognized Jim taking his last step off the escalator, my mask cracked. I ran to him, hugged him, and clichés poured out of my mouth: I’m so happy to see you, how was the flight, welcome to New Mexico. He nodded, smiled with closed lips, and asked,

“How long does it take to get to Taos?”

“An hour and a half.” Jim’s lips tightened.

In the car, Rudy and I whisked up conversation, but the results were drippy. Jim stared out at the window. We were in the valley of lunar like scrub rush, broken down sheds, and absentee human life.

“WHERE THE FUCK ARE WE?” Jim growled

“We’re almost there, another half-hour.”

“WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE PEOPLE?”

I tried, unsuccessfully to assure Jim, there were lots of people in Taos.  I read his mind; why did he make the decision to exhibit his iconic rock and roll photography in a gallery in  boon-dust Taos. How much longer before he can unwind with a scotch, and call home for a taste of civility.  Who are these morons driving this car anyway?

Inside the B & B suite we’d rented for Jim, I breezed across to the adobe terrace, and opened the curtains, “You like it?”

“THERE’S NO FUCKING HAIR DRYER?”

“You can borrow mine.”

“Are you hungry Jim?”

“No.”

“I have a bottle of your favorite scotch.” He picked it up, and looked for a glass. I ran to the bathroom and brought him a glass.

“See you tomorrow. “ He growled.

“What time?”

“I’ll call.”

The next day, I waited for Jim’s call. Instead I heard from Dave Brolan, Jim’s operator to the world; friend, translator, mediator and stabilizer.

“Dave, is Jim all right?”

“He’ll be all right. He’s tired and cranky. He’ll be fine tomorrow night.

“What can I do anything?”

“No, just take care of your opening business. I take care of Jim.”

I sighed deeply, and returned to the chaotic events preceding the grand opening of our gallery. Jim agreed to exhibit along with Baron Wolman and Michael Zagaris, because they hadn’t been together in a long time. I was about to ease-drop on history, with three distinguished rock and roll photographers.

My heart raced ahead of me, until 6 o’clock when Jim and Dave walked into the gallery.

“How are you Jim?” I followed behind him as he viewed the exhibition.

“Looks good.” He said. Then he was swallowed up into a crowd of guests. He stood patiently for photographs, greeted strangers with a boyish smile and brotherly handshake. He sat down at my desk and began to sign books for a tickly line of buyers.  I filled his glass with scotch and he said, “Thanks sweetheart.” My heart returned to my chest. The evening transcended into a kinetic overture of rock n roll music, reminiscing of the sixties, and feverish excitement. Around midnight, after being the center of 250 to 300 Taosaneos, Jim said, “Let’s eat.” It was snowing and pitch black outside.

Our party of seven charged in and rearranged the vibe of the banal atmosphere. Once inside the dining room Michael Z, was exhibiting impersonations of Jim, while we all laughed. Marshall didn’t twitch, or sneer; he accepted being the force of raucous laughter.

A young professional looking man approached our table.

“I apologize for interrupting. When I got to the opening, you all were leaving.  I’m really sorry I missed it; I’m a huge fan of your work Jim.

“How did you know we were here? I interrupted.

“I followed you.” He said.

“Join us.”

That night and the next three nights, Jim was host to a crowd of fans that followed him around.  I watched the mystery of his character, revealed, untouched, in focus, on what the photographs brought back to him. He was anointed by their admiration, without becoming inflated.

At the airport, Jim took me into his arms, “You did good LouLou.”

Two Years later.

I am in Santa Fe, and my social life is Camus strange. While I try to sell my photographs and write, my life is stifled by the absence of friends and parties. Jim called one afternoon.

“Loulou, my friends just moved to Santa Fe. Take down their number and call them.”

I called these new friends of Jim’s, and a week later, a man drove up, and leaped out of his car.

“Hi LouLou, I’m Jock.”  He sat down, but his spirit was an unbolted kinetic burst of energy.

“I brought this for you.” He handed me a beautifully hand crafted book of his Cuban Series photographs.

A month or so later, I received a party invitation from Jock and his wife, Annaliese. The evening was lyrical, as friends circulated between the portals, while Jock mixed  molita’s and Annaliese served Cuban food. That night, I was introduced to their friends. Now, a year later, I consider them my friends.

I called Jim after the party.

“I called to thank you.”

“What for baby?”

“For introducing me to Jock and Annaliese. Now I have friends.” Jim chuckled.

Jim passed away March 23, 2010. He was a romantic and lived by lyrical emotions and senses.

THE SUN RISES ON HARDSHIP


 The throw of the dice this week falls on the sunrise of hardship, for all of us.

     In my home there is one staircase window that faces east. Each morning before I descend the stairs I stop at the landing, to watch the day begin. The sun must rise above an assortment of tree limbs and trunks, and up over the mountains. By the time I’ve had my coffee, the sun has risen above these obstructions. I am now jerked awake, like a slight nudge a parent might give you, ‘Come on–wake up! You have school.”  

I begin writing, but that shameless sunlight in my eyes and the dance of the birds are tempting me to step outdoors.  When you live in seasonal climate, summer days and nights lure you out of your wits; why stay inside when there’s moonlight, a sage brush breeze, and merriment across the street.

The gradual awakening unfolds layers of thoughts, beginning with the anxiety of the times. The impending hardship of thousands, my friends, and neighbors, oozes out like a bad smell. Everyone seems to be slanting in new directions; some are going home where they came from, others take on another job, or moving out and leasing their homes.    

 

Some mornings I can’t even look at the newspaper. The headlines read like Sunday’s promotional movie advertisements: BANKRUPT, FORECLOSURE, and SUICIDE. The shocking prick of national disaster is a surgical awakening of a disease untreated.  There’s no time to waste, no money to squander, it is a time of reduction and refusal.

     As minor calamities knock on my door, and creditors calling from India, I turn my head to the sunlight and resume what I have to do, and that is write. If you know me, then you know I’ve vanished. It’s the only way I can work, and I’m standing on my head happy that I have the solitude to do it. 

 Last week while I was upstairs, prone on the sofa figuring out a transition between two scenes, someone knocked at the door. Then they fiercely rang the bell. Oh what it is now I thought.   

     “Yes,” I asked the man standing outside. He stared at me while twirling a toothpick in his mouth.

“Are you all right? I’m from Safeguard Security we haven’t had any signal on your alarm.  We came to check on you.”

I stood there expressionless. I assured him I wasn’t held captive or about to throw myself out the window, but he didn’t seem convinced, he lingered and kept looking over my shoulder.  I hastily sent him on his way, and returned to the desk.  I’d been rude; I didn’t even thank the guy.  This is some kind of message, next time he’ll slam the door in my face.      

Later in the day, if I haven’t ventured outdoors yet, I take a walk around the Plaza, and muse over the herds of tourists. I look for revealing expressions and conversations.  I didn’t see panic and anxiety, I observed relief. Couples shuffled together, maybe holding hands, dragging shopping bags, and aiming directionless for a new snapshot. They stand gaping at the churches and shoot photographs while standing in the middle of the street. Vacation is bliss in the middle of discontent. 

When I return to my desk, it is time to print the days work. This is always a ritual of great expectation, filled with disappointments, surprise, and sometimes a whiff of elation.

 By now the sun has made its journey to the other side of the house. The back porch is like starched light, it burns the eyes and flesh, the immediate effect is callous. Now is the time to slouch in the chair, close my eyes, and rewind a few scenes back.

Hardship is like the sun, unmerciful when it is met face to face, and transforming when we are protected. The sunlight is absorbed into our bodies; the effect is invigorating when taken in increments. The light changes the color of the world, we see things differently, and so it is with hardship, we feel intensely, our senses are sharpened, and we appreciate the treats more so than in times of prosperity.

It all translates into less spending and more creating. 

While I lounge in this old house, one track of time keeps re-appearing. It was when my living space was limited to one tiny room, finances on a string as long as my finger and uncertainty a nightmare that turned into a lullaby. It is that time again; and what we all must do is keep the adventures above the circumstances. Any dice to throw:

Folliesls@aol.com 

ZIGZAGGIN WITH D.H. LAWRENCE


The throw of the dice this week lands on an adventure with D.H. Lawrence. 

Our affair began in the winter of 1970, when the film “Women in Love” was released. 

            “ Let’s go see this movie, Alan Bates is in it.” Lizzie,  and I were madly in love with Alan Bates. Neither one of us had read the book, or had much knowledge of D.H. It was a film that explored sexual relations that interested us, and it was filmed in England.  Back in Junior High Lizzie sang musical songs while I taped her on a recorder.  Now in High School, she was singing Hey Jude, and I was reading the words from the record album.     

I remember sitting in the balcony of the Beverly Wilshire Theater, leaning forward in my seat  as I longed, with adolescent fixation, to be inside the story. I wanted to live in a studio like Gudren’s( the part played by Glenda Jackson) and toast my bread in front of fireplace and paint all day.  Gudren was the artist terrified of being tamed.  Her sister Ursula, who personified Lawrence’s wife Frieda, wished to make her life within a man’s.    

 “Your Gudren, and I’m Ursula,”  Lizzie claimed with clairvoyant assurance.  

 ”  No, I’m not all Gudren.” I protested.

 ” You are– you’ll see.”   Within  a year, Lizzie would be in-love in London, creating a life around a man, and I would be an art student at Sonoma State College.  

  

But on that lazy matinee afternoon,  we gasped, and squeezed each other’s hands, during particular erotic scenes that shocked our sensibility. It was an  awakening, of the abstraction of relationships. We’d discovered that friendships  were not as they seemed, and that love did not always have a happy ending.   It woke me to what possibilities lay ahead, and turned a defining fold in my growth.  Would I end up like Gudren?  At times the thought haunted me.

Over the last thirty years, I’ve  watched the film every time it screened on television.  It was the benchmark of my youth,   just before I wandered off into relationships with artists and bohemian living.  Several years ago I purchased a copy.  I was convinced there  was something I’d missed.   

 

Summer 2006 Taos, NM

 I move to Taos and Rudy gives me “Birds, Beast’s & Flowers” a collection of poems written by D.H. during his stay in Taos.   I journey out to Del Monte Ranch where D.H. and Frieda lived on and off for several years.  The ranch keepers took us on a private tour; oral and on foot.  I yearned to learn more.  Several days later I walked down the portal of Ranchos Plaza to see what new treasure books Robert had in his shop. 

   “What do you have by D.H. Robert?” 

   “Kangaroo, and Lorenzo in Search of The Sun,” it’s a biography about DH.

   “I’ll take them.” 

They were placed on the bookshelf in the bedroom and remained there unread.  By now,  I’d seen the famous stained glass window D.H.  painted in Mabel Dodge’s bathroom in Taos, and the sketchings on display at the La Fonda Hotel.  Still, I had not read any of his novels.  

Winter  2008. Santa Fe.

The down blanket is wrapped tightly around my shoulders on a snowy night.   I take “Lorenzo in Search of the Sun”  off the shelf and begin to read.  The book begins with his adventure in Taormina.     

    “I am so thankful to be back in the South, beyond the Straits of Messina, in the shadow of Etna, and with Ionian Sea in front: the lovely, lovely dawn-sea where the sun does nothing but rise toward Greece.”

 This first excerpt  leads me to chisel the cobwebs of memory to the  summer of 1972.  I left my sister in Barcelona, with a Spanish- lover, and took  a solo journey to Sicily. I don’t recall what precipitated my quest;  but the warnings and discouragement from my sister, and fellow travelers didn’t obstruct my vision. I had to go to Sicily. It turned out to be the bittersweet part of my European summer.  An  Italian hotelier rescued me, and put me up for a few weeks in his Taormina hotel; like he did with all the lost American hippie girls

Every night this winter, I huddled inside and read a few pages of the book, savoring them as I would a chocolate souffle. These descriptions of Italy, Mexico, and Taos infiltrated that clamping cold.   D.H mentions the Model T Lizzie in his chapters on the El Monte Ranch in  Taos.  I am reminded of my trip to the ranch.

This is an excerpt of the column I wrote about my visit to ranch in 2006.        

D.H and his wife Frieda moved to the Ranch in 1924.   Imagine that journey–there was no road to the Ranch, that came much later. They must have hiked up the hill or gone on horseback.  The ranch includes a small barn, and two cabins; they chose the larger Homesteader’s Cabin. It is so organic, as if spun together by weeds and timber chips, but actually is a mixture of pine logs, mud, straw and water.  The Homesteader was a man named John Craig. He claimed this property in the 1880’s, and built the cabins with the surrounding Ponderosa pine.  The pueblo Indians helped D.H restore the cabin and he moved in during the summer of 1924. 

I thought about this man sitting under the majestic beauty of the pines, and writing all day long.  The plateau of silence that envelopes this ranch is every writer’s dream.  Here he wrote some of his Taos poetry, “Birds, Beast’s & Flowers” he finished “St. Mawr,” a short novel, the novel “David,” and parts of  “The Plumed Serpent.”    D.H didn’t know how to type;   he left that task to Dorothy Brett, the artist that accompanied D.H and Frieda.  D.H invited Dorothy and several other friends to join him in Taos after his first visit in early 1924.  He was creating a Utopian society, he named Rananim.  Brett was the only artist to accept the offer.

I took a few photographs and then we trotted back to the entrance. Just as we were getting into the Van, a car pulled up. A woman got out, and called out a hello from across the way.   I yelled back that we were just leaving, and she yelled even louder, “I can’t hear you – I’m almost deaf.”  I got out of the car and went to meet her halfway. Immediately taken with her pioneering eyes, and up at dawn spirit, I yelled to Rudy to get out of the car.  

            “ I’m Mary and that’s Al over there, we’re the caretakers.  Al’s been here 50 years.”   I nodded to Al, standing a few feet behind her, watching us with a tinge of curiosity. I noticed his eyes, the color of faded denim, squirming with stories.  I tried not to ask too many questions too quickly;  Al was tired from a long journey so he took a seat on the porch.   

            “ Open up the cabin for them Mary.” He called out.

            Mary nodded and led us up the path to the D.H. cabin. 

Along the way, she talked about the ranch. There is a society named the Friend’s of D.H. Lawrence in Taos, and they want to build a big commercial visitor center on the ranch. Mary and Al think this is a bad idea, because the pines and silence are so happy, why mess up a beautiful memorial.  If you saw the ranch, you’d agree that a visitor center will look like a spaceship in this territory of natural beauty.  Mary opened the door to the cabin and showed us around. The first thing I noticed was the typewriter. 

            “ Is that where he typed? ” (She gave me printed literature that fills in the information I know now.)

            “ Nope,– but that’s the typewriter Dorothy typed on.”  The cabin is well maintained, simple and authentic.  After we examined everything Mary led us back to Al. We gathered around the porch and Al talked about the road that he cleared to the ranch, the typewriter he dug out of the dump, and the time he drove out from Chicago in his Tin Lizzie.  Rudy turned to the Model T in the parking lot.

      ” You drove that out here?”  He asked. 

      ”  Naw, that’s my brother’s. We‘re going to get it workin’ soon.  Go on in and take a look.”    Rudy jogged over and got inside.  I took photographs of him, and Al watched. 

    ” That’s how D.H. and Frieda got around Taos, they’s was great cars.”  

   

 Mary took me aside and told me that she was throwing a party for Al in a few weeks, and that we’d be welcome. It would be Al’s  90th birthday. I glanced over at him, petting his dog and looking very content.  I didn’t think he heard us, but he did.  “ I’ll be here until I’m 100.”  We exchanged good wishes, and many waves before leaving that afternoon.  

Was Al’s brother Gotzsche, who D.H. writes about and who toured them around in his Lizzie?   Further in my reading,  I discovered that Gudren, personified the author Katherine Mansfield.   I became more keenly acquainted with Katherine  in Saratoga Springs, when I attended a reading of her short stories at Yaddo Arts Colony. 

D.H.  is a puzzle that continues to zigzag around my  “adventures in livingness.”  He is also the author of that slogan.  I found the saying in Anais Nin writings, but in fact I think its origin is with Lawrence. 

Any dice to throw Email: folliesls@aol.com

TUNE TO SPRING


 

At three in the morning the walls of reality merge with dreams, timelessness, restlessness, and an alertness of unspoken needs.

What I think of at three in the morning is never the same at ten o’ clock in the morning.  The labyrinth of safety, colliding with the unknown, seems to be the most innocent of emotions. It is also a time that  springs bright eyed realizations, recognitions, and a time when our mirrors move toward us.  I see my looks fading. All I ever wanted was to see myself as pretty as my mother was.

The wind is sudden as it whips through the spruce tree outside my window.

I get up and wander downstairs, listening to the wood floors crackle at my footstep.  I walk outdoors onto the back porch.  The wind is like a mirror to me. This sound, so clear and unmixed in Santa Fe,  brings me back to the years in Hollywood. The nights my father went out allowing me the freedom to explore outside. I would run down Doheny Drive to Santa Monica Boulevard and just keep running.  It was on those windy Santa Ana nights that I’d run the longest.

I was running because the need to express something was bulging through my body.   Back then I didn’t keep a journal at home. My father had discovered it and then questioned me about everything I’d written.

This night is like that, only I don’t feel like running, I am listening to the sound of the chime and the wind. I am thinking of the music of Charles Lloyd, and the shadows that look like people, and the clouds that appear to have message,  and how everything is different when you are alone.

I dine without pause and usually finish before I’ve even wiped my mouth. I have extended conversations with the cats, Bugsy and Alice,  and moments are elongated.  I sit down at the counter and this wind and chime continues to circulate the house. It is an announcement- it is expectant of spring.  I jotted down some notes and knew what I wished to write about today.

April is expectant- there is expectancy everywhere you look. The buds on the stark tree limbs are about to bloom, the birds have evacuated their nests and begin singing early in the morning, and insects eject themselves from their hidden corners. I don’t know what spring is like for a man, I’ve never asked any man, but I am going to tell you what spring is like for one woman. The essence of spring is sensuous, and for a woman it is an overture.

We strip down the layers of clothing; replacing socks with sandals, and sweaters with t-shirts.  When I hear birds and watch them in the trees, I think of babies, and innocence. There are flowers about to shoot through the heavy clasp of winter dormancy, and when they do, the colors remind me to replace all the black pants and turtlenecks with pastel shades of peach and blue.

English: Spring Daffodlils Roadside Daffodils ...
Image via Wikipedia

The sunlight radiates through my skin and warms every thing. My heart  feels like it has been through a tune up.  My body wants to dowse in sea  water, and to eat less, and to run up canyon road, and listen to music, and dine al fresco, and get pedicures. Men, do notice your woman’s new pedicure, it will make her very happy.  All of this preparation is to tune up the romantic notes,  and to get YOUR ATTENTION. It is time to bring you out of the garage, or wherever you go in spring, and to notice that we are blooming. This is what I felt the night I heard the Charles Lloyd Quartet;  I heard him blooming.

 

Surprise us with flowers, a new hat, or a picnic on the banks of the Rio Grande.  Spring is time to redirect your attention to woman because we are at our best in spring.  Our attention is on our surroundings; we will want to buy flowers, and baskets and new cushions for the patio furniture.   We change our lipstick color, comb our hair different, and we look for new ways of expressing how good we feel.

 

Today I see cherry blossoms in my neighbors’ yard.  They remind me of

a day in April at Golden Gate Park.  Then I feel young again, like I was in the park that day, when I was in love with a man who would prove to be one of the great adventures of my life.

If you live in Santa Fe then you understand when I say-hurry up spring and start undressing.

 

“Is there any feeling in a woman stronger than curiosity? Fancy seeing, knowing, touching what one has dreamed about. What would a woman not do for that? Once a woman’s eager curiosity is aroused, she will be guilty of any folly, commit any imprudence, venture upon anything, and recoil from nothing.”

Guy De Maupassant, “An Adventure in Paris.”

 My responsibility as a writer is to assure people taking a chance in life is the only   way to live, and so … I throw the dice.