HOME IN SOLANA BEACH

1930’s

Looking west to a smear of dusty crimson sunlight, a young man of twenty stood on the shoulder of Highway 66 waiting to hitch a ride. A powder blue Cadillac pulled up and the lad was caught in a puff of loose gravel. When the dust settled, a woman dressed in a two piece matching suit leaned over from the driver’s seat.
“Say fella, can you drive one of my cars to California? I’ll pay the expenses,” she yelled out the window. Another Cadillac pulled up next to hers with a jerk stop. 
The lad stared into the shine of the car. It looked like wet paint and he was tempted to touch it.
“Sure will, yep I’ll do that. Should I get in now?” The young man answered.
“I need to see your driver’s license.” She added.
The man hastily drew out his license from a dusty plastic cover inside his billfold. She looked it over, and smiled. “All right Maurice, keep in close to us on the road, don’t get lost. We’re going far as Needles.”
Maurice held tight to the steering wheel, ‘Geez, ain’t this great, what a car. I’m going all the way from Nebraska to California in a Cadillac.’ He’d forgotten about the sharp pains of hunger, and bloody sores on his feet. Now he was sitting on warm leather seats, with the cold night air off his back, and ten dollars in his pocket.

Sixty five years later, I’m walking down the street where Maurice lives. We haven’t met yet. I don’t meet my neighbors. I move before I have a chance to care about them. It comes easy to me, being a loner. Then I met Maurice. 

WRITING MY WAY HOME.


This is a previous post (2011) that I am re posting for new readers.

MY FAMILY  history was brought to life in an unpublished memoir.   The stories lived on during a long arduous journey of research and trying to get published.   Sometimes I read pages to get close to my parents.  I squeeze in between them like a ghost, hear their voices, and see their expressions.  If I remove the outside world, the hum of the hotel air-condoning , the delivery trucks, and speeding motorcycles,  I can remember swimming in the pool with my mother.  I see her bathing cap strap pulled down across her chin, her red lipstick, and her one-piece strapless bathing suit. I can see her freckles, and her long slender arms backstroking as she swam.scan0013

Early in 1960 my father decided to build a swimming pool in the backyard of our house on Thurston Circle.  I had just completed swimming lessons and asked my father for a pool. Years later he told the story: “My little girl asked for a pool, and I built her one.”   I think he built the pool for my mother.   He was under investigation with the FBI and Department of Justice, and spent most days in court defending himself against a deportation order to Russia.   Subpoenas, arrests, and trials were routine events that tied my parents together against a world of misunderstanding.  After eleven years of nail biting suspense, my mother just wore out.  The pool was built with the intention of removing my mother’s anxiety and sadness.   My father designed the shape of the pool around the original pool at the Garden of Allah, a highly scandalous Hollywood hotel apartment that attracted starlets and gangsters in the early 30’s.  I know this tiny detail from photographs I’ve seen of the Garden pool.   More obscure details surrounding the building of our pool were found reading his FBI files.

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My father accused the pool contractor of being an informant for the government.  One sunny afternoon he marched him out of the house. I was hiding behind a drape when the confrontation broke out.  I recall the big shouldered contractor running from my father’s threats.  Most likely an FBI agent was parked outside and  followed the man after he scampered out.

The pool was finally completed in mid 1961.   There are photographs of my mother and I in the pool; her smile is radiant and naturally composed.  She and I swam everyday.  My father  loved to swim too, but he was busy with court proceedings and meetings.  Before the year ended my mother filed for divorce, the house burnt down, and I was released from childhood. I don’t regret those events any longer.  They were steps that shaped my character, and what brings me back to the topic of growing up with gangsters.

The best memories of my childhood are in swimming pools and restaurants with gangsters and gamblers.  They were part of the family, and when they were around my father was on very good behavior, and my mother defenseless against their irresistible humor, pranks, and generosity.   She just sort of glided in and out of activities, and helped me ride the vibrations.   She didn’t laugh out of herself like I do, and she rarely yelled.   The older I get, the less I seem to be like her.  Maybe the passage of life experiences determines which parent you will take after. Had I married and had children, maybe I’d be more like her. Since I get into all kinds of tricky situations, and throw the dice, I need my father’s strength more.

Over the years, I have forgotten some of the dead reckoning discoveries I made about our family history.  Still nothing compares to reading about my Aunt Gertie.  She was my father’s sister. Until I read about her in the FBI file, I didn’t know she existed. I haven’t figured out why my father left her out of our life. According to the FBI files she was a remarkably loyal sister. Gertie was the one who confronted the federal agents when they arrived at the family home in Winnipeg, Canada.  She pushed my grandmother out of the interview, and spoke for the family.  The agents showed her a recent photograph of my father.   She told them that her brother left home when he was twelve and they had not seen him since.  She could not verify the identity of the photograph because almost twenty years had passed.  The agents left without any evidence and continued to search for the birthplace of my father. Every time he was arrested, he entered a different birthplace.  He named Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.  His origins were discovered through a letter that his mother had written when he was fifteen and confined to a boys reformatory.  The letter was turned over to the FBI, and that is how they discovered his parents lived in Winnipeg.  The government could not deport my father to Russia without verification from his family. Eventually my father won the battle. He was granted citizenship in 1966, two weeks after my mother died.

Gertie died after my father. I don’t know if they corresponded over the years.  I have learned enough about my father to know he was protecting her from further harassment.  Maybe if my father lived longer they would be coming after me.

THE THINKER & THE PUPPET


After I  published this last story,  I spoke with White Zen, my palgal in Santa Fe.  She said the last paragraph of the story made her cry.  Juxtaposed between writers Zen of exporting such feeling, and the sadness we both shared. White Zen had a Thinker too. I guess there are more of them than I knew.

Having had six true loves in my life, who impregnated me with knowledge generosity, and loyalty is what made me so unprepared for the Thinker.  He does resemble Macedonio;  the first man to peel off  the woman in me. They both have charisma, mystery and good dark looks,  Macedonio is dead now, and the memories of him still glisten;  like the day in Golden Gate park under the cherry blossom tree.

What I miss most, is the giggling, dancing, folly-maker that the Thinker pulled out of me  as If I were a puppet. He called me Puppet because that’s how he saw me.  I’ve got to get my Jojo  by tomorrow. I live Thanksgiving as a day with admissions of selfishness and greed. I need  to be washed away into thanks that I am here with a mouthful full of food, and a napkin.

Thanksgiving with Rudy and Opus I his brother.DSC00512

THE GIFT OF GIVING


A LOT OF I HAVE THIS AND I HAVE THAT. I’M GOING THERE, AND I KNOW THIS.
AND I JUST LISTENED. A CONVERSATION THAT MOVED AT
OLYMPIC SPEED WITHOUT ANY REVERENCE.

IT WASN’T MY GENERATION.  I UNFURNISHED MY LIFE. FIRST I GAVE AWAY THE UNWORN, THE UNUSED, UNWANTED, THE
BROKEN, AND UNREPAIRABLE, ANTIQUES, AND PC PROGRAMS,
STEREOS, TABLES, CHAIRS AND CLOCKS.THEN IT WAS MY  DRESSING ROOM COLLECTION: JEANS AND JACKETS, SUNGLASSES, AND SHOES, PURSES AND GLOVES, BELTS AND HATS. I  DON’T WANT TO SEE WHO I WAS; I WANT TO SEE WHO I AM NOW.
I LOVE TO GIVEAWAY – TO LOSE WEIGHT =ImageI LOVE TO SEE THE SMILES WHEN I OFFER A GIFT.

A LADY LIKE AUDREY


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The throw of the dice this week lands on new adventures in selfless livingness.
There is assurance that most of all, above the tasks, aspirations, dreams and commitments; we are dead beats without love. The feeling has to pass through our veins and arteries, as often as possible, from one suitor or another. You can love a moon in a black sky, as much as a man or woman. I believe the feeling it gives us is medicinal. It gives us something no other prescription can. That is why when sickness comes, all the love pours out from friends and family.
This comes at a time when a beautiful woman who is more saintly and then anyone I’ve met, except my mother, is suffering. You wouldn’t recognize the heaviness she is carrying; she remains light and sprite. Her doe birch brown eyes flatter her high forehead, and her silky mane of brown hair that moves like a Clairol commercial, do not interfere with her life. She devotes much of her time to the Good Samaritan manifesto. She regularly offers her time to the various shelters, serves food, and provides loving comfort to the sick with her registered lap poodle. She told me that the residents of the hospice all wait for her to show up.
“It’s amazing; they are all standing there waiting for me to come in. No one visits them. Can you imagine living like that??”
“No.
“You should come with me sometime; it’ll give you a whole new perspective.”
I agreed; and thought about what she said. We all have our way of disposing of selfish acts. Some pray, some donate money, and what I’ve found that works for me is to spread my kookiness and follies without prejudgment. If someone looks sour and glib; that’s the person who needs me. It is a branch of love that will keep on blooming.

 

ONE DAY AT A TIME


Reader View: Random chats make life sweeter

 

 

 

Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013 10:00 pm

 

 

One day at a time. People with terminal illness, suffering from a shattered romance, a death of a friend, a natural disaster, always say the same thing: One day at a time.

Walking up Palace Avenue on a day spread with sunlight, and a continuum of power walkers, bikers and runners, passing by in whiffs of urgency, I took my time. I didn’t feel like flexing, just evaporating into the shadows and the moving clouds. I walked by a little adobe that once was a dump site for empty bottles, cartons, worn-out furniture and piles of wood. A year later, the yard is almost condominium clean. Just as I was passing the driveway, the little woman whom I’d seen walking up Palace with her bag of groceries, appeared like a gust of history in the driveway of her adobe casita. She wore her heavy, blanket-like coat and a bandanna on her head. Regardless of weather, she’s bundled up in the same woven Indian coat and long wool skirt. I stood next to her, a foot or so taller, and she unraveled history, without my prompting. She told me about the Martinez family, the Montoyas and the Abeytas, all families she knew, all with streets named after them.

Estelle asked me my name, and then took my hand in her weathered unyielding grip, “Oh, I had an Aunt named Lucero, and we called her LouLou.” She didn’t let go of my hand, and then she told me that the families, some names I’ve forgotten, bought homes on Palace in 1988 for $50,000, She shook her finger to demonstrate her point. “You know how many houses they bought? Five! Then they fixed them up and sold them.”

I could have stood there in the gravel driveway listening to Estelle all afternoon. She owns the oral history I love to record; but it is difficult to understand her, she talks with the speed of a Southwest wind. We parted and I thought about the times in my life when the smallest of interactions elevates my spirit. In older people, who are not addicted to gadgets and distant intimacy, I’m reminded of how speed socializing has diminished the opportunity for a sidewalk chat.

Luellen “LouLou” Smiley is a creative nonfiction writer and award-winning newspaper columnist.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVERSE THE SPENDING.


Big spenders, rich or poor, are learning like me, that spending more than you have, like the US Government, follows you until your legs break over the debt line. I used to spend everything, before the check even arrived. Now, I am stimulated by resisting my fav delicacies, the extra beauty clutter, the wrapped $6.00 soaps, luxury bath salts and body creams, and the RLauren sales. I love to walk into a shop and leave with the one essential item. As I’ve moved into a 300 square foot no-kitchen casita and rented out the house, there’s no room for new stuff. I live with art, music, a few books, and a bulky 32″ television. There is a mini frig that suits two bottles, three condiments, pre-washed lettuce, and sliced cold cuts. Love the condensible lifestyle–so far.

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