QUE SERA SERA


ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS

is going from my 2500 square foot five-bedroom home with a garage movie theater, private garden and roomy front porch  into a 265 square foot bedroom without a kitchen.  It’s not permanent, but there is no end date either.

The big house we converted into a Vacation Rental as a means of income, and so I had to move out a month and two weeks ago.  My room, I coined the Wild West Room, is brick red. I covered the walls with yellow and red original movie posters, and furnished it with a slot machine, two tables, two lamps, a TV with western saddle draped over it, a double bed, and a four drawer plastic dresser. The closet is tiny; so I only brought my best summer clothes; twenty hangers is all.

Waking up to have coffee on my petite patio laced with roses and a canopy of vines, settles my nerves after the mini coffee maker falls off the edge of the sink, and other accidental maneuvers. Living in a doll house requires tremendous gentleness, one swift wrong move, and things start tumbling.

My refrigerator has inspired a new diet. I call it the mini-frig diet. I can fit one bottle of wine, one 8oz bottled smoothie, one juice, my Aloe Vera, cream, three condiments: green chili, horseradish mayonnaise, Red Chili Jelly,  a small tub of washed lettuce or spinach, two cheeses, tortillas, olives, tomatoes, smoked salmon or chicken strips and that’s it.

The only catch is that it is in arms length of the bed, and within four feet of anywhere in the room.  Snacking is just part of the atmosphere.My own unimportant theory on eating, is I eat less poison if there is a bowl of chocolate covered nuts, gummy bears, and chips in the house.

I prefer to eat on dishes then paper, so I wash them in the bathroom sink, but I wash the delicate wine glass when I’m showering.  All my meals, usually one a day, are outdoors on the patio, under the new Overstock.com umbrella that works perfectly.  I’ve had a great experience with them on a return as well.

My house faces a busy street in Santa Fe, NM. The street connects upper Eastside to the downtown Plaza, and across the street is the La Posada Resort and Spa.  I can walk to the gym, and pool, survey the clientèle, drink wine in the bar, and talk to the staff at the front desk.  I’m there everyday; and as ying goes with a yang, I tolerate their side of the street being the loading zone. There are pick-ups, and drop-offs, and a lot of racket that I bear with my earplugs.

It’s in the high nineties, and we’re in a stable between three burning fires. The heat clings to me, like a saran-wrap;  it’s also sort of Chaplinesque.  I keep changing; to go on the patio.  I can’t go in a slip, so I change a lot. Then there’s the marvelous terrifically considerate and talented guests in my house. They are three principal musicians’, with the Santa Fe Opera this season.  When I water I hear them practicing.   0627131541a

My shrunken life has forced me out more, eliminated hours of cleaning, shaved time off dressing, rearranging furniture, over-achieving unimportant tasks, watching the birds in their nest, and feeling complacent.

That is the most important of all; I realize it is time to bolster up, make sacrifices, and use this little room as the place to write my way out of here.  I see myself in Portugal, or some place I still haven’t discovered.  This miniature living reminds me of the first studio I rented in Los Angeles.  You can’t imagine what progress came from that disappointing address, at the corner of Little Santa Monica and Westwood Boulevard. ‘ Que sera sera.’

UNCERTAINTY LOULOU


Morning comes after two cups of French Press.   I sit here at the desk, peeking out the glass door to  the shady side of the street.  I do not know where I will be living, what I will be doing, or who I will be doing it with next month.  Uncertainly, I move in and out of situations and get swept up in my ideas and fantasies.  I buy and sell, make and remake, move-in, move-out, leave homes, careers, friends and relationships.  I move out of comfort

art nouveau dome of light

art nouveau dome of light (Photo credit: e³°°°)

and into uncertainty because it feels more like home moving than staying in one place.

I have to put the words on the paper and look at it to make it real.

Raising a family, sprouting barriers and responsibilities might have changed me, but I didn’t. I’m unchanged in some ways, still running through the hallways of the hotels, gardens, and neighborhoods. Do you know what I mean?

MY KENNY


Glaspalast München 1900 060

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

The Summer of 1973. Los Angeles.

 

Ken drove a rusty VW hippie van that configured around his restless and unpredictable patterns.  He was known to drive, stop, and stay in the same spot three days. Our adventures began on Pacific Coast Highway driving along without any direction or plan.  Ken would be singing the blues, and I’d be sitting in the back, stretched out, watching him in the rear view mirror. He had cloudy blue eyes that perpetuated the intensity of his tortured soul. The only time they didn’t appear preoccupied was when he was playing the piano. I’d noticed that the first time he took me home to meet his parents, Bernie and Anna Marie.

 

They lived in hillside split level home. The first level belonged to Ken.  As soon as we crossed the threshold he darted into a dimly lit carpeted room and sat down at the piano.

“Hi, I’m here!  I have Louellen with me.”

“What! I can’t hear you Ken,” his father shouted back.  It was apparent they were a family that communicated in various tones of yelling; the kinds of people who never consider finding the person they are talking to, they just yell from one level of the house to the other.

“Bernie, I’ brought Louellen– put on a pair of pants!”

“SuEllen did you say?”

“Come on Lou, you gotta meet Bernie.  I told him about you. But he takes so many pills he can’t remember anything.”

“Okay.”

We climbed the stairs to the living room and Ken shook his head as we reached the last step. “The television is always blasting.He thinks he’s deaf.”

 

As soon as I laid eyes on Bernie I could tell he lived his retirement in front of the television, clutching the remote as one does a cigarette. His form had molded the sofa into an abstraction of his physique.

“Bernie, you look great. Can you at least get up to meet her.” Bernie rose reluctantly, rubbed his lower back, and shook my hand. He smiled as if he was happy about meeting me, but I knew he was irritated because I was standing in front of the television set.

“Anna Marie, Louellen’s here.” Ken yelled.

I stood there feeling like a new chair they were inspecting. Ken sensed my predicament; he read people before they even opened their mouth.  Anna Marie came out with a pot holder in her hand.

“Okay Lou–this is the family. Now everyone back to their places.”  I was the only one that laughed.

“Your cooking smells so good.” I said to Anna.

”It’s nothing, just dinner for us.”

“Mom‘s the best cook in the world. Did you make my potatoes?”

“Yes Ken, I made your potatoes, brisket, coleslaw, blueberry blintzes…
“Mom, there’s four of us—you’re not cooking for the German army.”

 

Anna Marie grew up in Austria during the occupation; the Germans took her family home and everything with it.

Bernie was back on the sofa, and Ken seated next to him in a leather club chair. He was bantering his Dad about watching CNN all day. Bernie talked back to the news reporters, scolded the football players, and grudgingly laughed at the comedies. It appeared Anna Marie wasn’t worth talking to any longer. She masked her sadness poorly; it was written so everyone could read her.

“What college are you going to Louellen?” Bernie asked.     “ Sonoma State.”

“Somoa what? Never heard of it. Ken’s in law school– aren’t you Ken?”
“What? Did someone say something to me?” Ken winked at me.

“You wouldn’t know if someone clubbed you on the head for Christ’s sake. Why don’t you straighten up and start taking things seriously. All you do is drive around in that heap of junk in the driveway, that leaks oil by the way, and you need a bloody haircut!”

“What was the question?”

They went on like that and I recognized the mental match between father and son. I walked through the white carpeted living room feeling it’s history; safe and predictable, like coming home would always be the same. I noticed Anna Marie’s garden;, tiny rows of perfectly nurtured flowers set inside a large freshly mowed yard that looked untouched  since Ken was a teenager.

 

I found Anna Marie in the kitchen stirring and juggling pots.

“Would you like something to drink Louellen?”

“No, I’m fine. What a feast you’ve made.  Do you always cook like this?”

“Well, it never goes to waste. I got used to cooking for all the boys–Ken has three brothers you know.”

Just then Ken came in, kissed his mother on the ear and opened all the lids of the pots.

“Kenny,don’t you dare,” she said. Ken took a bite out of a potato and she yelped as if she was surprised. It was their playful match that had been going on for years.

 

Through out dinner I watched Ken; how he deferred their questions and manipulated the conversation so it remained directionless like his driving. After dinner we went downstairs to the piano room. Ken slammed his hands on the keyboard, and starting playing some Dixieland jazz. He looked over at me and smiled triumphantly.

“ Bernie hates it, he’s always hated it. I do this to drive him nuts. He can’t stand my playing the piano-the poor bastard doesn’t have a creative cell in his body. He used to break into my classical lessons and start yelling his head off. ”

“Kenny! I can’t hear a thing! Shut the door!” Bernie hollered.  Ken let out a thunderous roll of laughter and kept right on playing.  Each time we returned to have dinner with Bernie and Anna Marie, the routine slackened,  and I felt more at home. I grew to like Bernie, and the feeling was mutual. Anna Marie would not allow herself to feel something for me, in case I had any ideas of taking Ken away. I spent the rest of that summer trying to help Ken figure out what to do, while he unknowingly was teaching me about my essence.

One day towards the end of the summer my father called me.   “Ken’s father called asking if I knew where his son was.”

“Ken’s gone?” I answered.

“Apparently that’s the situation. What the hell kind of family is you mixed up in? What a thing to ask me. Ken told his father he was driving you back to Sonoma in September. Is that right?”

“Yes, he offered to.”

“Well, you can forget about that. If the bum does come back, I don’t want you going out any longer. His father isn’t all there.”

“That’s funny.” I said.
“What’s so funny about it?”

“That’s what Ken says about him.”

“Well in any case–forget the bum–he’s not going anywhere. His father went on for half an hour and I heard everything I need to hear. He had the audacity to tell me he read about me in the newspapers.”

“What about?”

“That’s irrelevant. The point is you don’t reveal what you know about someone.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have the upper hand.”

That fall I returned to Sonoma, Ken dropped out of law school, and my father was arrested again.  Bernie and Anna Marie remained together until Bernie passed away. Ken moved to the southern tip of Baja and plays piano in a resort. Every few years he drops me a line, and we talk about Bernie and my dad.

 

Up and Down a Vacation Rental Episode.


After three years, eight months and four days, Rudy (AKA “Risky Torpedo”)my should have been brother, and former lover returned to Santa Fe. He pulled into the driveway in his VW Van with the cracked windshield, and his prehistoric dashboard collection of rattle-snake tails, and plastic toy reptiles, red rocks, and feathers.
“You’re not going to believe what happened.”
“Don’t tell me, the car broke down.”
“No, I fell asleep on the road.”
“Then what?”
“I checked into the Knights Motel for a few hours. I’m fine. He looked emaciated, lean as a cougar, and hungry as a wolf. My maternal instincts raged to nurse him.”
“Wow, the porch really needs paint. I’ll start tomorrow. “
“Don’t you want to take a few days off and hike, or dig for petroglyphs?”
“Hell no! I got a lot of work before our first guests arrive. When do the first guests arrive?”
“June 20.”
“Piece of cake.”
“Wait till you see the list.”
John, the man who has come closest to me since Daddy, barbequed that night, while Risky set his cowboy boots into the New Mexican soil, watched the clouds open like white envelopes, and acclimated himself to the home we used to share-as a perceived couple. I wondered what our neighbors at La Posada would be thinking, as the three of us, the we of me, congregate on the front porch around my mayhem, Rudy’s Hank Williams music, and John’s pacing during a phone conversation with his agent. The discourse and chaos of life is what draws us together, not the complacency.

Reconfiguring a gallery that we never really furnished as a home,into a first-class vacation rental for six to eight people, took up one entire spiral notepad. I saved the notepad, not because I will ever do this again because my passion for struggle, deconstruction, and chaos has passed. I noticed that about two weeks into the reconstruction.
At times I think I mine mayhem because our family home burnt when I was eight years old, and the impression it left was that everything can change between the time you get on the bus to go to school and when you come home.
Ann, my therapist back in the ‘90s suggested that the fire that burned our family home was why I became a transient mover, incessantly rearranged furniture, and loved hotels. I kept a list for years of all my addresses; by the time I was forty, I had moved forty-two times.
What you do if you convert your home into a vacation rental is remove any signs of personal stain, sentiment or residency. The catch-all is that that we are not moving. We are going to hide everything that identifies us.
By the third day of Risky’s arrival the worn paint on the porch went from sulking yellow to stormy grey. Buckets of paint and brushes were scattered like leaves, new light bulbs, tins of gold leaf paint, and tubes of caulking.
“Risky can’t you put your tools in one place?”
“No I cannot. I never have. Why would you even ask? You know this is how I work.
“I ask because you know I have to ask.”
Indoors, John was between rewriting a script, and agreeing to my yelps for help: “Would you help me move all the books to the dining table?” He didn’t just move them, he stacked them by subject. Then I boxed them, and painfully stacked them in the other closet, next to the boxes of albums, personal photos, journals, and Lanie’s dice collection that has grown to casino impressive numbers. A box of photographs marked 2003 was tempting me to peek inside. I lifted the lid, and landed on a photo of Rudy and I in Taos, perched on a boulder in the ski valley. Flashing images, not of where we were, but of who we were, who all of us were back then.
Then came the cartons of FBI and INS files; the beasts that entrap me. These boxes, filled with the answers to my family history, have been attached to me for seventeen years.
“Gee Loulou, why not pack a few dozen more: they’re not heavy enough. Do you know how many times I’ve moved these?”
Risky lugged the boxes down two flights of stairs to the basement, which he had to rearrange because my Vacation Rental advisor told us it wasn’t presentable. All this activity stirred a family of mice who turned up on the garden pathway, and zipped by me as I laid the platter of food on the outdoor dining table.
“The mice are not dead.” I told Risky over and over. Because he loves all creatures, he avoided the traps until the mice turned up in the flower beds while he was planting.
It’s the first time in several years since it’s taken six months to fill one Raika lined journal. And without my journal, I swell up, and then explode. The explosion comes in swift unmanageable bursts that once, during one of the manuscript box moves, the one marked “Rejection Letters,” allowed me to take a great deep breath, and drop the box squarely over the 2nd story landing.
“What happened?” John and Risky took giant steps towards the box, and then looking up at me, to see if more was coming, I replied, “Rejection letters.”
In one of the free tote bags that come with a purchase at Nordstroms, I dropped the books I would need, the ones that nourish my appetite for understanding: Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Joan Didion Lawrence Durrell, and the ones I have not read yet. I was able to pack fifteen books in the bag, which I imagined would go in the front seat of the car if we were driving or in the suitcase if I was flying. Where John and I would escape during the eight days our guests would live here, was still undetermined.
After the books came the wardrobe, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, porcelain pets, fans, masks,
CD’s, DVD’s, and then my desk.
Within hours, my private writing room, and literary sanctuary for the last five years, was ransacked, broken down, like a theater set, and stored in stackable trays that I wheeled into the closet. “This feels very weird. It’s as if I’m stripping from the inside out.”
“What about the filing cabinet? Where does that go?”
Rudy was on the floor, attaching wheels to the cabinet, and I was in the closet, where the space was shrinking around me.
“LouLou, what about Cancun?” John yelled from another room.
“What about it?” I shouted from the closet floor, where I was organizing jewelry.
“I have a time share I can exchange. I’ve never been there.”
“It’s too late. Cancun is South Beach.”
And ten minutes later, it was more of Mexico, and British Columbia, and I was separating half-written essays, with memos to the Mob Experience, and the heat came in waves from the hallway, but I couldn’t get out of the closet.
Later that afternoon, my browsing eye churned Craig’s listings, while John’s continuing efforts to find us an escape lingered in the hallway.
“How about Laguna Niguel?”
My finger landed on a posting, “Writer’s Cabin on 40 acres in San Cristobel, Taos where Aldous Huxley wrote Island.”
“John, I found a place! Let’s go tomorrow to check it out. This will be such an adventure! It’s next to a riding stable, and creeks, and trees… and DH Lawrence lived up the hill.”
As always, John replied: “Sure, why not?”
To be continued….