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.

SACRIFICE


Locked up in the imaginary world of writing. It’s not always so accessible, so effortless, and when it is lock yourself in and give it your life.
The fall drapery from the window teases me with specks of sunlight, and leaves dropping like snowflakes. My spirit is drawn outdoors.
to walk, hike, run in its splendor. Sacrifice is how we finish our plays, canvas, book, song, and poem.

WHEN TO WRITE


Now. I don’ feel like writing, and haven’t for a month other than scribbling in the journal and on napkins. When I run from the pen, then it is time to write. I bought the refills yesterday, and three writing pads. What I discovered, going straight to the laptop is constipating; I must first write in long hand allowing the flow of urgency to ink and not having the option of making corrections.

CESAER’S SALAD


I moved in with my Dad when I was thirteen years old.  My mother had just passed away, and I arrived with innocence and untrained cooking skills.  Mom was an Irish Catholic meatloaf and corn-beef cook.  Dad was a Russian Orthodox raised  moderate vegetarian, and decided to hire a chef to teach me how to cook.

I came home from school one day, and found Caesar  in the kitchen. He was a stand-in for Paulie in the Godfather, only he had curly black hair, and apple red cheeks.  Caesar was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and an apron that fell short of fitting him.  Dad instructed Cesar to teach me how to make salads, baked fish, and spaghetti with oil and garlic. Everyday after school, Caesar was in the kitchen preparing dinner for us, and I  stood beside him, observing his chubby knuckled fingers, slice and chop vegetables. We started with what Dad ordered; a meal in a salad, and later coined it Farmer’s Chop Suey. The salad was not just prepared, it was a decorated masterpiece when he finished. During the preparation, I noticed beads of sweat on Caesar’s face, and a jittery nervousness, surfaced just before my father arrived home, “What do you think?  Will Dad approve?”  He asked. I assured him Dad would love the salad.    Cesar and I became pals, and waited anxiously for Dad’s arrival.  He wasn’t all that agreeable. Fastidiousness and perfection are common traits amongst gangsters.  Usually, Dad remarked there wasn’t enough garlic, or there were too many croutons, and Caesar would swiftly correct the complaint.

After Cesar went home,  Dad would talk to me about food, and how everything starts in the stomach, and how the vegetables have to be scrubbed, and the seeds removed.  Three or four times a week Dad dined out, and he didn’t order salads.  He frequented Italian restaurants, and his favorite was Bouillabaisse, with a side of pasta.  I never saw him enjoy any food as much as Borsch with sour cream, and smoked white fish. That was his favorite childhood meal. His  father was a Orthodox  Butcher, a very scared skill that requires a thorough  understanding of Kosher preparation.

About six months had passed, and I came home one day and Cesar wasn’t there.  Instead I found my father in a rage. I asked about Cesar and he told me it was none of my business, and to start preparing dinner.  After my first salad preparation, Dad applauded my presentation, and assured me everything he was teaching me would serve me later on in life. He explained he had to be  harsh and demanding,  because he wanted me to be able to take care of myself properly.

I developed into a moderate vegetarian and have used that salad as a blueprint for most of my meals. Now I create a variety of salads, and a lot more ingredients:  like white beans,  garbanzos, walnuts, tuna, or shrimp,  artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes etc.   My friends call me a free-style cook  because I only use recipes when I’m making soups or stews.

I was very fortunate to grow up with a father who spent hours teaching me what I would need to know in life.  This is something you won’t read or see in a film about growing up with gangsters.