Revising from the Inside Out


 

  1. I’m sitting outside in a flowerless garden because no matter how many flowers I plant, they only last one season, if that long. The garden is erupting out of its winter coat, and lime green buds will have to do for now. The sky that seals me in is licked with revisionary hope;  the kind that comes back laundered and fresh after a  recess from disbelieving in the possibility of a life correction.

Behind the garden, a neighbor is drumming a soft tribal beat, and on Palace Avenue, the choir is singing inside the Episcopal Church. Between these distinctive tastes, there are sparrows fluttering from fan to nest to fountain. The chattering sounds like, “here she comes, don’t come over here, get out of my nest, watch out for that fat crow.”

It’s a mind drift, to be caught in such unstructured beauty, away from the manuscripts, remotes, doors, and phones. It’s like being on an island out here. Everything we bring into our experience can be revised; a work of art, a way of speaking, thinking, portraying yourself, your way of loving, or lusting, and we all know about appearance, because our society shoves it down our throat.

Look at the possibilities in revising our patterns of behavior. What we accepted 20 years ago doesn’t mean it’s carved in our organs. We can transmute. The interior life needs lifting and tightening, just as our mind and muscles do. You won’t find any immediate remedy, or advertisements, or books on the subject because we’re consumers of products that change and revise only the visible tangibles. I wonder if I traded in my 11-year-old Land Rover for a new one if I’d be really happy, and for how long?

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ISADORA DUNCAN

My homework for the next few weeks.  Life corrections begin with edits, then revisions, and then you have a new story!

MOTHER’S DIARY


Hollywood Hollywood

Hollywood Hollywood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The diary my mother never wrote is from what I read in the  FBI surveillance reports,  newspaper articles and what my father told me.  My mother’s emotion’s and thoughts erupt from years of research, intuition and imagination.  When I was eleven she gave me a diary. I’ve been writing ever since. I wanted my daughter or son to understand who I was, in case I died young like her. Instead I became dedicated to writing not childbearing.

I think every mother should keep a diary for her children.

Manhattan, December 1944

I am dancing at the Copacabana Night club for the next few weeks. This tiny smoky club is filled with many interesting people. It’s different from any modeling job.

I’m tired after working all day and night, and then taking the train back home to West Orange. Some of the girls are staying at the Barbizon Hotel, so I may also if it’s not too expensive.

Last night, a group of men were seated in the front row. I didn’t know who they were, but this one stared at me all through the show. He sent a bouquet of long-stemmed roses backstage and asked me to meet him for a drink.

When I declined, he was very insistent, and so persuasive I gave in. Later on, I found out he was seated with Frank Costello, the gangster. His name is Allen, and he asked me to dine with him the following night. I hesitated again, and I’m not sure why. He made me laugh and entertained everyone at the table.

January 1944

A talent agent from Hollywood came to the Copa to see all of us dance. Mum is so excited she is already telling everyone in town, I hate when she does this.

Allen called and I agreed to dine with him. We went to El Morocco. He knows so many people. He says he’s in the film business, but there’s talk amongst the girls that he’s a gangster.

March 1944

I’m going to Hollywood for an audition. Swifty Lazar, the one that came to the Copa to see our show, said MGM is signing musical actors. They liked my photos. Allen lives in Hollywood, and is handling all the details. He’s become very interested in my career. It’s all so sudden. There isn’t time to think.

April 1944

I spent a week in Hollywood. Allen drove me all over the city, took me to Santa Monica to see the ocean, to the nightclubs on Sunset Boulevard, and Beverly Hills.

It’s like a dream. I love the city, and MGM has offered me a contract. Again, Allen is helping me make decisions and understand the film business. I don’t know what he does, but he carries a lot of cash. He gets very disturbed when I question him. I met his friend Benjamin Siegel. They are both so handsome and get anything they want.

Summer 1944

We are moving out to California next month. Allen found an apartment in Beverly Hills for us, near where sister Pat can go to High School. She’s so excited. One of the models told me Ben Siegel is a gangster. I wish Allen would open up to me more.

When we moved, our new apartment was on a beautiful street. The apartment is smaller than home, and Mum misses her garden, but she seems happy. She found a Church she likes. She is going to learn to drive.

I have already learned to drive and am saving for a car. Allen knows someone who sells cars, and said he can get me a very good deal. Sometimes, I don’t hear from him for a week, and then he shows up on the studio set with presents.

Allen, Ben and George Raft were arrested for bookmaking. George called and said it wasn’t like the papers wrote, and that Allen would call me when he could.

I’m not to discuss this with anyone. I hid the paper from Mum.

George took me out to dinner. He wants me to be in a movie with him called Nocturne. He’s very fond of Allen and said not to believe what I read in the papers.

Next week we begin filming “Ziegfeld Follies.” Fred Astaire is magnificent to watch. Life is spinning. There is no time to read, or even think. Everyone in Hollywood wants to be a star. I still daydream of going to college one day.

November 1944

I am in love with Allen. There is no turning back. He is Jewish, and his family lives in Winnipeg, Canada. He won’t talk of them, but said he loved his mother.

I wonder so often about his life, but I cannot ask questions. Maybe one day he’ll trust me more. He’s suspicious of everyone. He said he’s going to marry me when his life settles down.

 

EDITS AND REVISIONS IN THE GARDEN


East Palace Avenue Santa Fe

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe (Photo credit: paigeh)

SMILEY’S DICE-ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS

By:Luellen Smiley

 SANTA FE,NM.

I’m sitting outside in a flowerless garden because no matter how many flowers I plant, they only last one season, if that long. The garden is erupting out of its winter coat, and lime green leaves, plants, and stalks will have to do for now. The sky that seals me in is licked with revisionary hope. The kind that comes back laundered and fresh after a chosen recess from believing in the possibility of a preferred life correction.

Behind the garden, a neighbor is drumming a soft tribal beat, and on Palace Avenue the choir is singing inside the Episcopal Church on Palace Avenue. Between these distinctive tastes, there are sparrows fluttering from fan to nest to fountain. The chattering sounds like; ‘here she comes, don’t come over here, get out of my nest, watch out for that fat crow.’

It’s a mind drift, to be caught in  such UN-structured beauty, away from the manuscripts, remotes, doors, and phones. It’s like being on an island out here.  Everything we bring into our experience can be revised; a work of art, a way of speaking, thinking, portraying yourself, your way of loving, or lusting, and we all know about appearance, because our society shoves it down our throat.

Look at the possibilities in revising our patterns of behavior. What we accepted twenty years ago doesn’t mean it’s carved in our organs. We can transmute. The interior life needs lifting and tightening, just as our mind and muscles do. You won’t find any immediate remedy, or advertisements, or books on the subject because we’re consumers of products that change and revise only the visible tangibles. I wonder if I traded in my eleven year old Land Rover for a new one if I’d be really happy, and for how long? Or if I flew to Los Angeles and bought cartons of antiques, hats, and perfume if I would be grinning from ear to ear.

I begin with revising the way I experience Santa Fe. I’ve lived on the outskirts, like a storm that blew in and is waiting to blow out. It seems my storm is here for now, and so I let go of the criticism and intolerances.  Beginning with my favorite activity, dancing, I returned to  El Farol, my chosen dance hall hullabaloo, then to La Posada across the street and mingled with an assorted group of locals, guests, and actors, (who were real as pippin apples)spent a day cruzing the ghostly town of Madrid to experience the cinematic sparseness, and walked up and down Canyon Road one morning before the shops opened, and was greeted half a dozen times by strangers out walking, uniquely different in attire, disposition and stride. I love that about Santa Fe. You don’t conform, it’s a religion here!

My homework for the next few weeks is revising the interior doors of emotion, and the exterior doors of expression. I’ve set aside the memoir, (did I mention I started that again) after a publisher suggested major rewrites and editing.  I mean you have to know when to give up because you’re not going to make the team.  I’m a six page essayist. If you get me into one hundred and fifty pages, I march all over the globe and lose the reader.

You guys are smart. You know all of this; I’m just learning. I am a case of insufferable arrested development. If I felt my age, which most of you know, I’d be looking at retirement brochures. Instead I’m planning on breaking into new territory. Its a joke between my dreamer self and my inner critic, but I’m not listening to the critic.

Today I swiveled in my desk chair trying to write the column I thought I was going to write. In between gazing out the window at sky scenery, I made oatmeal cookies, watched the birds, took care of business, had a hair cut, plucked at paragraphs from Anais Nin, and danced on the treadmill. The column didn’t come out of a conscious thought wave; it just rose up, after I typed the words, the throw of the dice. The odds were I’d find my way from there.

My dad the gambler, who laid a bet on everything from sports, horses, gaming, to the Academy Awards and elections, taught me many valuable lessons. He actually told me once, ‘Take a chance for heavens sake! Go out and get arrested.’ He knew the odds of that, which is why he dared me. Life corrections begin with edits, then revisions, and then you have a new story!

Any dice to throw email:folliesls@aol.com

Movie recommendations:Bread & Tuplips, Angel Face, Head in the Clouds,Late Marriage, Water for Elephant’s, Sarah’s Key,Pierrot Le Fou, No Where in Africa, The Lives of Others, Gangster, A Love Story, The Counterfeiters, Senso, Croupier, El Grido, The Wide Blue Road, Deja Vu, The Whistle Blower, The Young Adult, John Rabe.


The Movie Star

The Movie Star (Photo credit: Cowgirl111)

Our nest, is something we build on our own to give us permission to explore, and then question, and we go back to our little nest, and add a bit more certainty because the dinner was great, and the party lasted longer than we thought, and someone smiled at you in a special way, and then you saw a rainbow.

Some things happened last week; that liquefied into a mirage, of  an opinion I inhabited. I  directed this opinion with outdated information, and second hand narratives by writers in print.  I believed what  I’d  always believed;  that actors aren’t like you and me.  I was wrong! Some actors are like you and me.  They have open hearts, and inquisitive minds, they drink beer, and dress without designer labels, they like to hang out, and not talk about the movie business, they have interests beyond their Imdb  star rating, and they answer questions, if you ask them.  Unless we infiltrate what we criticize, we’re adding to the hypocrisy of the  human condition.

THE DOHENY TOWERS-HOLLYWOOD LIFE


I was thirteen the summer I moved into my father’s apartment in The Doheny Towers. My mother just died, and my father had weird habits. I didn’t understand why suddenly I had to ‘behave like a lady.’   It seemed like yesterday that I was running with a pack of friends up and down the hallways of the Hilgard House in dripping wet swimming suits, while Mommy was barbequing hamburgers on the balcony  for all of us.

My father wasn’t prepared for a teenager; I had to grow up quickly, or pretend I was grown up.  I sat on my bed in my new bedroom looking at the drapes. They matched the lime green and royal blue crushed velvet bedspreads.   The drapes and spreads were so heavy I could barely lift them, and when the drapes were closed, the room was so black I couldn’t see my feet. My father had the room decorated by a friend who owed him a favor.  Friends were always doing us favors.

Every morning I opened the drapes, and wrapped them around my body, pressed myself against the glass, and watched the Hollywood sunrise. Some days there was a coating of thick brown paste that hung over everything.  Other days, after a rainstorm, or in the aftermath of a Santa Ana wind, all the soot dispersed. The colors splashed across the Spanish tiled roofs, palm trees, the big dreamy Sunset Boulevard billboards, and the crystal sharp edges of the San Bernardino Mountains. The East was my favorite view from the 12 th floor; because I didn’t know what was out there.  It got me to thinking a lot about the East.   The farthest I’d been was downtown Los Angeles to the Good Samaritan Hospital.

My father ran back and forth in the apartment barking orders to house maintenance, decorators, and telephone installers. He was adjusting things–furnishings, phone lines, new locks on the door; and he was removing guarded personal items. As I observed all this preparation, he kept telling me, ‘everything’s going to be all right, he has everything in order, new phones, more hangers, food in the refrigerator.’ I had no idea how many adjustments my presence required. Thinking back now, I know he was trying to erase any evidence of  gambling, or mafia activities.

My father’s apartment belonged to him as a bachelor, and we did not fit together comfortably at the dining room table because it was really a card table.  The hifi ensemble was polished mahogany wood with gold leaf trim. My father liked gold; it seemed to frame everything in the house, even the silverware. I ran my fingers along the corners of his record collection to see whom he liked: Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, and Tommy Dorsey.  The records were in perfect condition and I wanted to play them.

“ I spent all my life in night clubs with music–I can’t stand it in my home. You can play the stereo when I’m out.”

“When were you in nightclubs all the time?” I asked.

“What? Don’t be concerned with my life; concentrate on yours.”

From our terrace facing west, the view was organized beauty. Every thing was in squares and straight lines in Beverly Hills 90210.  I liked to sit on the terrace and look out; imagining all the lives going on at once. Every time I sat down, my father asked me to come inside and do something.  He didn’t like me sitting on the terrace, exposed and vulnerable.  When he came in to say goodnight, he reminded me to close the drapes.   The drapes pestered him all his life; ever since the night the bullets shattered the glass of Benjamin Siegel’s undraped window.

I loved my father’s shadow in the door before I went to sleep. He blew me a kiss, and said, “Sweet dreams my little girl.”  He liked me being a little girl at certain times.

I came to live my father in 1966, when he was fifty-nine. He wasn’t active int he oil business, but he received royalty checks every month .  He had tiny gold oil-well paperweights on his desk. When his checks came in, he showed them to me and said, “That’s royalty income from my oil wells in Texas.”  I heard him talk about his friend, Lenoir Josey, who sponsored him in business.  Josey died the same year I was born, but my father wanted me to know the name–Lenoir Josey. I was proud to fill in “Oil Engineer” as my father’s occupation on school applications.  None of my friends had fathers in the oil business. I imagined my father was very rich.

When he left the apartment,  I studied his possessions.  He had a black-and- white photograph of my mother hanging on the wall above the couch.  It was one of those glossy modeling photographs that she had hidden from us.   My father told me it was published in the newspaper, an advertisement for Bullock’s.   After inspecting my own reflection in the mirror, I considered myself adopted.  At thirteen, I was flat-chested,  with thick frizzy brown hair that I continually tried to straighten, long shapeless legs, and braces on my teeth. My lips quivered when I was forced to smile, and my eyes were so light that the sun bothered them.  I despised the way I looked.

There was a swimming pool on the roof garden of the Doheny Towers. On the weekends, a lunch counter opened and served hot dogs and hamburgers.  Every Saturday my father went up to the roof to swim, and kibbitz with the neighbors.  He cheerily demanded that I join him, because he said, “I want to get to know my girl.”  I think he wanted me to watch him as he entertained everyone. He told the best stories. Even tough I didn’t understand most of them–the neighbors laughed like they do on television shows when the applause sign flashes on and off. All of them sat around Allen Smiley and listened. Telling stories was my father’s favorite past time.