PAIN OR PLEASANTRY- SHOVELING SNOW IN SANTA FE


WRITING BY HAND at my tiny Eurasian desk facing the window to the west; framed by time and familiarity into the branches of JD’s pine tree, today ward-robed in bacon colored leaves.   The black silky toned crows are still basking like prowesses on the branches, and waiting for the crumbs that fall out of the garbage cans at the hotel across the street. My bird family has already eaten through a full day’s feeding, and is fleecing each other to first place at the table. The silky drape of the winter sky sometimes adorned with lacy clouds is blue as sea and has shaken the clouds all night. N08041215581.jpgO SNOW. I am selfishly opposed to snow because  I don’t happen to get snow shoveling without gut-wrenching lower back pain.  How do you shovel snow?

I’m wearing one cotton camisole, one shapeless thermo  turtle neck, a down vest, and when I go outside I wear a down jacket. I’m so bundled up it feels like my limbs are bound in masking tape.  My teeth look whiter and my hair is flat instead of frizzy. Snow changes everything.   From my desk, I write, without thoughts predefined, just a drain of emotional threads from my heart, listening to Zap Mama as she takes me to the wild, naked, warm region of Africa.

This year isn’t like last year. The absentee man, fussing with the fireplace, making me afternoon espresso, kissing me when I cook, hugging me when I pull a folly, has excused himself from my adventures in livingess.  It is not at all like last year. Long time friend Rudy is in San Diego and so I am not interpreting the division of attention, between two men laughing at the kitchen table, and eating my blueberry pancakes, as they did last year.

I had the song of Judy Garland’s rainbow in my heart.  It was a time I will never forget, or regret, because I was satisfied for several years. Unabridged ecstasy poured out of body, and spread over my attitude, abundant spirit, mood, facial expressions, and my dreams were filled with amusement instead of nightmares.  I wander into unfamiliar snowy woods unsteady, juxtaposed between, acceptance and self anger for being so so… whatever it is that I pump into myself.  If I was judged by my adventures and not my accomplishments I would be a contender.

Growing up with gangsters teaches you to live with risk, to invite challenge, and  not complain if you loose. It’s wrong but it’s right.   Nothing is worthless; not one moment should be wasted because there is always that window of escape. Our minds are there to take us away. I’m escaping now, Zap Mama Pandora station on the headset, and writing. This is taking the moment out of frustration and into pleasantry.

My steps inward reply with emotional break-troughs, mundane tasks accomplished, solo ventures, match.com dates (another story) and a comedic sideshow as I wrestle with sealed boxes, make repairs, and toggle in my patent leather too stylish boots to actually be called snow shoes.   In these moments, I assure myself that evolving is never ending, and we do not ever know what to expect from ourselves.   If I write down the pleasantries surrounding my life, the blessings rise up and give me a softened comfort.  The sweet peace may vanish the next day, or be intercepted by the news, a wreck in the street, an unexpected phone call. The crossroads of everyday life comes and goes. Between all of these uncontrollable incidents we are writing stories that some day will be told in conversation, or written in journals and books. The essence of our changing lives is universal. Why am I doing this now, why am I feeling this now? Etc.

Remember your pleasantries, and bring them closer.   A few of my snow cold freezing feet remedies:  Kneipps Herbal Lavender Bath: Do not apply to the face!

Ralph Lauren Candles: I paid too much, but the scent is like having a man around the house.

Homeland.  Sunday nights Showtime. Clare Danes has replaced my empty strong female lead on television. I mean, this is one to Watch! ( season ended. Vegas on Tuesday’s is the other one to watch)

My friend Loren visits three times a  week at least: Snow means, silence, and hermitizing, so I  can’t wait to open the door to Luxury Limo Loren, and make him brunch.  We harmonize for hours;  on tones of fretful fear, wicked secrets, sex,  laughter, Santa Fe, immigration, buy American, and the crust of survival that is stale and must be reheated.

Treats: Snicker bars, Vodka and snacks that I can nibble on while indoors more than I’d like to be.

Bar Bells: For those combative moments on hold with Comcast, SWA or Verizon.

Books: Time for Virginia Wolf and Jack London.

Movies- Zorba the Greek, Auntie Mame, U-Turn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Once Upon a Time in America.

I AM PACKED FOR THE BEACH, JUST IN CASE.

COMFORT & GANGSTERS


Comfort….
From writing by hand at my tiny Eurasian desk facing the window to the west; framed by time and familiarity into the branches of JD’s pine tree, the black silky toned crows basking like prowesses on the branches, and waiting for La Posada to empty the day’s leftovers in the garbage cans. The silky drape of the winter sky sometimes adorned with lacy clouds, like today, softening the southwest blue to a faded jeans shade. From my desk, I write, without thoughts predefined, just a drain of emotional threads from my heart…

This year isn’t like last year, the absentee man, fussing with the fireplace, making me afternoon espresso, or drying dishes. It is not at all like last year, with Rudy and John intercepting my division of attention, laughing at the kitchen table, eating my blueberry pancakes.

I had the song of Judy Garland’s rainbow in my heart. It was a time I will never forget, or regret, because I was a very lucky lady for several years. Unabridged ecstasy poured out of body, and spread over my attitude, abundant spirit, mood, facial expressions, and my dreams were filled with amusement instead of nightmares.

That’s why now, is so different. The camp has closed, and I wander into these new woods unsteady, and steadier, juxtaposed between, acceptance and anger.

In the last few months, I’ve written my heart out, read Shepard, Colette, Durrell and my Creative nonfiction magazines. I’ve studied, and prepared for radio programs, and collected a bundle of columns to adapt into short stories. I started buying chocolates and jelly beans, so I treat myself, on breaks, when it’s too cold for my frail body to walk around town or up Palace Avenue to see the new for sale listings.

My steps inward resulted in accomplishments, break-troughs’ and a comedic sideshow trying to open boxes, make repairs, until Rudy shows up again, and rake the leaves, stuff that is mundane. More distant relations, and mafia threaded strangers knocked on my door, bolstering my faith in breaking the silence that ruled me, I let rule me.  Stepping inside the truth I must face isn’t nearly as harmful as pretending.

Mob on television, in the news, (gross sales global figure of $850 billion) websites, and bloggers, movies and books. They’re all coming out of the closet to inform, turn themselves in, give advice, consult on their own films, sign on for pubic speaking at Library’s, documentaries, and advertisements-the world is all mobbed up and it’s time for some horrific homogenization of the gangsters who wouldn’t break the silence.

THE SHOVEL OF TRUTH


AN MGM SHOT OF MOTHER

It seems once a month; I am jarred into this part of my family history. Just last week, a woman emailed me information she pulled off a website that I’d never seen. There in the document, was a story about my mother and father.

I began my research fourteen years ago. It started with what I had, one of my father’s books; “The Mark Hellinger Story.” I leafed through the index and there was my father’s name along with Ben Siegel’s.  According to the biographer, my father visited Mark at his home the night before he died. Mark had stood up in court for my father and Ben at one of their hearings. He was fond of Ben, like so many people were, that aren’t here to tell their story.

After reading the book I rented, The Roaring Twenties, written by Mark,  and from there the connections, relationships, and characters began to leap out from all directions. I submerged myself in history and photocopied pictures of my father’s movie star friends, George Raft, Eddie Cantor, Clark Gable, and his gangsters friends. I found photographs of the nightclubs he frequented, the Copacabana, El Morocco, and Ciro’s  and nightclubs that he referred to in his mysterious conversations.  I made a collage of the pictures and posted them board above my desk. I played Tommy Dorsey records while I wrote.  This microcosm of life that was created, allowed me to listen to the whispers and discover the secrets.

I dug into my father’s history without knowing how deep I had to go, or what shattering evidence would cross my path. In my heart I felt this was crossing a spiritual bridge to my parents.  The flip side was a gripping torment, tied to my prying mind.  I needed to break into the files in order to break my silence, and discover real people, not glamorized stereotypes that fit into the category of Copa dancer and gangster.  No matter what I uncovered, I always knew it would be ambiguous, and controversial. I did not expect to find a record of murder,  dope peddling, and prostitution. I believed that his crimes were around the race track, and in gambling partnerships.  Even so, I could never understand the similarities we shared, unless I knew them as people. Though I have not rebelled against authority as my father did, I‘m not a team player, I resist authority, and I don’t like waiting in lines.

I had to reinvent my mother through the subconscious. I skated over thin ice trying to set her truth apart, from what I had invented, dreamed, or had been told.  I listened to Judy Garland’s recordings, and premonitions surfaced, of how my mother loved Judy, how it felt to be under the spot lights of MGM, and dancing in ginger bread musicals while her own life was draped with film noir drama.

I studied my mother’s face in all her films, rewinding and stopping the tape, as if she might suddenly return my glance.  She had dancing and background shots in the musicals produced by Arthur Freed. I remembered dad talking about Arthur, and how prestigious it was to be in his department.

When I discovered the Museum of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, I went down and filled out a slip of paper with my mother’s name on it and waited for my number to be called. I felt something like a mother discovering her child’s first triumph. They handed me a large perfectly stainless manila envelope, and a pair of latex gloves to handle the file.  I had to look through it in front of a clerk.

“That’s my mother,” I proclaimed. He blinked and returned his attention to a memo pad. Inside the envelope were black and while glossy studio photographs, press releases, and studio biographies of my mother. The woman who pressed my clothes, washed my hair, and made my tuna sandwiches.  There she was in front of the train, for Meet Me in St. Louis, and a promotional photograph in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, dated 1947. That was the year Ben was shot.  I looked further to find more clues. I needed to know where she was the night Ben was murdered. Maybe she was on location when it happened. Maybe she was in New York at the opening of the film. I could not place her on June 20, the day Ben was murdered.  I imagined my father called her and told her the news.  The marriage plans were postponed, their engagement suspended. My father had to get out of town.

I spent everyday picking through the myths I’d heard and read. I heard a clear chord of scorn, for exposing family secrets, “It’s nobody’s business what goes on in our family, don’t discuss our family with anyone, Do You Hear Me!” I must have heard that a thousand times.

I began to dig with an iron shovel.  I asked every question I wasn’t supposed to ask, and preyed into every sector of their  life. I wanted to know about his childhood, where he grew up, and why he left home when he was thirteen years old. Who were my grandparents, and why didn’t he talk about them. How did he meet Ben Siegel and Johnny Roselli, and when did he cross over into the rackets?

I contacted historians, archivists, judges, attorneys,  Police Chiefs, FBI agents, authors and reporters across the United States. He always said, “Reporters can destroy your life overnight.”  And here I was, uncovering what he had sheltered all his life.

I wrote to the INS in WDC and asked for their assistance. Six months later I received a letter from the INS in Los Angeles. They acknowledged his file, it was classified and they could not locate it.  The progress was tediously slow, and the waiting oppressive.

While I waited for the files, I read Damon Runyon, and Raymond Chandler stories and attempted to identify which character personified which gangster. The stories were about the people that came to my birthday parties, Swifty Morgan, Nick the Greek, Frank Costello and  Abner Zwillman,(the Boss of the New Jersey syndicate.) The dialect of Runyon and Winchell mimicked the same anecdotes my father used over and over!  By understanding Runyon’s characters I began to know my father. At night I watched old gangster movies and that opened another door of familiarity.

I read almost every book in print about the Mafia and ordered out of print books from all over the country.  They began to topple on my head from the shelf above the desk. Allen Smiley was in dozens of them. Every author portrayed him differently, he was a Russian Jew, a criminal, Bugsy’s right hand man, a dope peddler, a race track tout, and sometimes the words bled on my arm.  To me, he was a benevolent father, a wise counselor and a man who worshipped me.

The INS claimed my father was one of the most dangerous criminals in the United States.  They said he was Benjamin Siegel’s assistant. They said he was taking over now that Ben was gone.

That day I put the file away, and looked into the window of truth. How much could I bear to hear more?