EDITING A LIFE


Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: Sweet Evie)

Many years ago, after my friend, Voice of Reason read my book of poems, he said to me, “ I was a little embarrassed, it was like looking at you naked.”

Truth, it’s almost become an abstraction of the truth. Where did it go? Does it fade with age, or get reshaped by our life experiences?  If everyone is lying, then why not join up?  I was never a convincing liar. Yes I can stumble through incendiary confrontations, like you have to when, you’re attacked for a simple mistake, filling out applications, balancing money, returning items. I am talking about the truth in relationships, your art or business.  It’s tempting to reinvent the truth.  That is why it is one of the  Ten Commandments.

I could write about the last road trip to San Diego, and the little sign that said Jack Ass Acres, or about all the new gangster movies, or what I’ve observed happening in the interior world of people I’ve met.  The truth is, that one of my foremost characteristics is truth, and that is what speeds up the pen when I am writing, and talking, because I like to dig out the top soil and get to the roots.  Here goes.

Since my lover left, in a hurry, practically skidded out the driveway, back in January,  mornings and evenings feel like thunder storms in my heart. These are the moments that keep infringing on my perception. It’s like being crippled emotionally, leaning on the old crutches of what he did wrong, what I did wrong, what the world did wrong.  Answers percolate, but they never satisfy the gap between the truth and my imagination.  So, as any hot blooded Russian Irish woman would do, after five months of reclusive living, I got very angry, cynical, anxious, depressed, offensive, impatient, and talked myself out of the gift of life.

In this precarious state of mind, the tiniest disappointment inflates the size of a monster, and the big disappointments, just send me back to TCM to Robert Mitchum week.  As it happened, the big billboard answer came on a lovely breezy night, sitting on the portal of Geronimo, with White Zen and Rudy. My cynics and sharp-tongued wit drew a lot of laughter, and my company appreciated the humor, but I was reminded of something, that wasn’t funny, it was frightening.

I was imitating those women, whom I met, every Thanksgiving when Dad pulled me into a be dazzling party scene at the home of his attorney. Every year there was this one woman who sat at the bar and mixed life’s lessons with the worst elements of human behavior. She was the queen of cynicism, and at the time, I was keenly observing of her, and sympathetic, painfully attached to understanding what she was so angry about.  I had not been hurt yet.

The final siren of my digression came while Rudy and I were driving out to San Diego. Somewhere along Highway 17, the fields turned into rows of Saguaro Cactus.  They didn’t look like Cactus; I perceived them as hands, flipping me off! I turned to Rudy and said, “You know my head is not working properly.”

Landing in San Diego meant I would meet with my GP at Scripps Clinic for the routine round.   The visit lasted longer, I told her, that my real sickness was mental.  She took a serious interest in my babbling, and emptying out the garbage I’d held back for so long.  No, I have not been on any joy pills, or anxiety pills, or anything, so when she suggested a prescription to add, serotonin to my brain, I accepted her advice.

“Do you see a lot of patients with these symptoms?

“Eighty percent of my clients come in for anxiety and depression. You’re not alone.”

Today is day three of pills, and the roses are waving at me. My motor is running smoother, and    I am not         angry. This is an arguable confession, because I used to sneer at pill poppers for corrective behavior. Psychotherapy was instrumental in my life at one time, and I will use it again when I meet the right therapist.

Truth, about facing what we need to edit and revise cannot be shaded or ignored. If we’re not honest with ourselves, why should we be with others?

It is a day later, and while I was reading the WSJ online, I landed on this article; Why We Lie? Dan Ariely

“We tend to think that people are either honest or dishonest. In the age of Bernie Madoff and Mark McGwire, James Frey and John Edwards, we like to believe that most people are virtuous, but a few bad apples spoil the bunch. If this were true, society might easily remedy its problems with cheating and dishonesty. Human-resources departments could screen for cheaters when hiring. Dishonest financial advisers or building contractors could be flagged quickly and shunned. Cheaters in sports and other arenas would be easy to spot before they rose to the tops of their professions.

But that is not how dishonesty works. Over the past decade or so, my colleagues and I have taken a close look at why people cheat, using a variety of experiments and looking at a panoply of unique data sets—from insurance claims to employment histories to the treatment records of doctors and dentists. What we have found, in a nutshell: Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. Sadly, it is this kind of small-scale mass cheating, not the high-profile cases, that is most corrosive to society. “

WHY DEL MAR


DEL MAR RACE TRACK

I am a diarist. I record life around me so I can understand, as if by understanding I will find peace. Recording the exaggerated emotion and incidents of life began as a young girl when my mother gave me a diary.  A good storyteller has to live life differently than the rest of us; otherwise, the stories will be predictable.

My father had those kinds of stories.

Allen Smiley: Illegal immigrant, Russian Jew, convicted criminal, hoodlum, extortionist, con-man, racketeer, bookmaker, tout, pimp, and high-ranking lieutenant and best friend of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

 “ Luellen, You have to come and get me out of here.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“Just come down here and get me.

“Daddy you’re in the hospital.”

“I know where I am. They’re coming to get me.”

The phone call had woken me up. It was the first of several that night. I sat up in bed and looked at the clock.

It was past midnight. Why was he up so late? I called the hospital and asked to speak to the head nurse. I told her about the phone call. She said he was hallucinating, and that he’d refused medication.  That was the first time I had ever sensed desperation in my father. He was afraid they were coming to get him. Who were they?

Several days later the phone calls stopped. He died as secretly as he had lived. There was an absence of publicity or concern. I knew what to do. He had given me instructions. I  was to go to the bank, draw out what money was in the account, and go on a vacation.

“Clear the hell out of town. Reporters may start calling, don’t talk to any of them. Don’t trust anybody; remember what I’ve been telling you all these years. “

I took his phone book, the photograph of Benjamin Siegel, and one of his baseball caps. I packed up his black El Dorado  Cadillac, and shot out of Los Angeles. It was the final scene of the first half of my life. I drove south on 405 hwy down to Del Mar. There was nothing waiting for me in Del Mar; no friends, or job, or anything to connect to. I only knew that when my feet touched the Del mar beach, I had to move there.

That summer I went to the Del mar Race Track and sat in the bleachers just like anyone else, wearing a hat, drinking Long Island Iced Tea and trying to see with the blinding sun in my eyes. It was strange to sit with the general public. The few times my dad took me to Santa Anita we sat in the Turf Club. I had no idea my father was part of the historical narrative of Del Mar race Track, and of Del Mar history.

After living in San Diego more than ten years, I returned to Los Angeles for a job offer. One afternoon I visited my father’s walking path along Ocean Park in Santa Monica. He walked from one end of path to the other beginning at San Vicente and ending in Venice. Afterwards we’d stop at the Lobster House for a plate of fish and chips, and a cold beer.  While I was walking in his memory, imagining him next to me, I looked up and recognized one of his walking pals, Sonny Barry. He looked like a retired Vegas dealer; dark shades, v necked open shirt, and Beverly Hills signatory gold chain with a Star of David.

‘Hi Sonny, how are you?” I called out.

Sonny turned and looked, raised his tanned arms up in the air, “For crying out loud, Luellen sweetheart.”

“Where have you been—how’s everything, gee you look terrific.”

Sonny called out to another man in the near distance, sitting on a park bench. “ Sandy come look whose here.”

“Luellen, you know Sandy Adler, he was friends with your Dad a long time ago. Sandy Adler, my father had mentioned his name, but I didn’t know how they met or when. He was another man that fit into the mysterious and unspoken years he was partner with Ben.

“Oh well, I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl.”

“You knew my Dad when we lived in Bel Air?”

“ Way before that; I knew your Dad when he was with Benny Siegel—and I knew your mother.”

It was the mention of my mother, who died when I was thirteen that pierced my antenna of interest. Sonny stood back while  Sandy took my hand, and said let’s take a walk. We walked along the bluffs overlooking the pacific ocean. He spoke slowly, and paced himself as if the memories were lodged in books and he had to dig into them.

“ I ran the El Rancho hotel in Vegas, and then the Flamingo. I knew your Dad very well, he was some classy guy.”

“ Oh I remember the Flamingo but not the El Rancho.”

“ Well, anyway-where are you living now?”

“I just moved back to Los Angeles, I was living in Del Mar.”

“ Del Mar?  I owned the old Del Mar Hotel –in fact your mother and father used to come down and stay there.”

“ He never mentioned Del Mar to me.”

“ He had his reasons; yea they came down during the race meet and stayed at the hotel. I remember them coming down, one time, and Allen got upset with your mother. They were having quite an argument. Your father left, and I walked with your mother on the pier, and tried to comfort her.”

I couldn’t utter a word I just listened. The Del Mar Hotel had burnt down before I moved there.  I’d seen photographs of the hotel, and heard stories about the Hollywood stars that stayed there. It was a magical legend in Del Mar, everyone who lived during its glory days talked about it.

It was sometime after that, that I walked in the sand where the hotel had been located.  I understood that one day I would begin plucking away at my family history.

ADVENTURES ON THE ROAD INSIDE AND OUT


I’m watching the double yellow line between coming and going on interstate 25 from Santa Fe past Albuquerque.   In the rear view mirror I see scaffolding, an airless sprayer, paint tubs, tools, a wardrobe box, and suitcases. It is the same VW Van I used to refuse to ride in because it smelled of wet drywall. Now cushioned in the front seat, the wide windshield to the world saturates the bullet holes of a wrong-way love. It mattered before, the van thing, now it doesn’t. I’m grasping for the road, to burn out the memories, on the other side of the double yellow line.

“ Are you glad you came with me?”

“ So far, but we’re still in New Mexico. Try not to drive me over the edge, okay? I mean with the speaker phone talking Taiwanese to B of A, or.. would you hold the steering wheel with two hands please…see, there’s an accident.”

“ Wow, the car flipped over.”

“ Yea, that kind of thing.”

“ I’m a safe driver.”

“ I know, but only about half of you is here.”

“ Whatta you mean?”

“The other half is glaring into the distance, the mountains, the clouds, the crows, imagining yourself a dinosaur.”

“Not no more.”

“Why? Did she make an adult out of you? I hate her for that. John did the same to me.”

Scenery whizzes by; snow capped mountains, speeding patrol cars, highway signs; it’s barely absorbed before it is gone. Make it like this, easy to forget, like the scenery.  I fell asleep, a dreamless nap, the kind that wakes you displaced but without alarm. Rudy was leaning away from the sun-splashed window, one loose hand on the steering wheel.

“Where are we now?”

“Gallup”

“Someone told me it is the drug capital of the United States. Where is everyone? Maybe they hide indoors so as not get shot.”

“Gallup is also the largest Indian center in the Southwest and the ceremonial capital of Native America. There are many American peoples in the Gallup/Four Corners region. By far the most numerous are the Navajo, who are today widely regarded for their achievements in wool, with original Navajo rugs and blankets (both new and antique) sought by private collectors and museums throughout the world. “Wikipedia

  Five hours later we are sitting by the window of Pesto, in Flagstaff and talking alternately, not in conversation, but in spite of, John, Match.com and the billboard irony of our circumstances. Even though we hadn’t checked into the motel yet, or even knew where it was, the adventure of livingness struck, and I climbed out of myself.

“It’s like it never happened, you know?” I said.

“Oh yea, I know.”

In the middle of the night I woke up screaming at John.  Rudy was in the next bed, and didn’t hear me, so I opened the drapes and stared out the window at the brightest star and listened to the voice of reason that visits me sometimes. What love scars bring to the world is poetry, literature, art, music, theater, gospel, and dance! So where will this take me? I thought about the documentary on Nicholas Ray, and his remark,    “ Without content all you have is composition.”

I wish morning would come.

Starting in 1999, every road trip between NM and CA includes a morning at Macy’s Coffee House. I entered this time without the explosion of zest in previous trips, when my heart was in one piece, and found enough distractions to pull me further out of wrong-way love.

A group of middle-aged men, retired cops or civil servants were my first source of entertainment. At a wooden table, conversing microphone loud about city ordinances was the leader. One Fry boot perched on a chair, and the other on the floor, his belly protruded way beyond a few beers here and there. His pals, all looking up to him, waiting for an injection of his wry humor, and dirty jokes. Rudy is talking about how much he loves Flagstaff, but what I hear is a tide of elation rising up, just resurfacing now, after a good nights rest in the Hampton Inn.

Somewhere between Flagstaff and San Diego, we stopped for Snickers and gas, and I walked around a neglected weed field, kicked rocks, and asked myself when was the last time, I just fell into the moment without that incessant poke of reality; unpublished stories, bills, missing folders, clutter, grocery lists, mail, websites, photo sharing, John’s lunch, John’s phone calls, the news of the world.

“I feel better Rudy, I haven’t cried all day.”

“It’s still early, he chuckled.  I have an idea, let’s take the off roads.”

“How off we talking?”

“Check your map, see if Interstate 8 runs into 10?”

I reached for the Droid, and fussed with the tricky touch pad.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“It does.”

“So why bother with maps.”

“I know–we’ll take 78, through the countryside. It will be pretty. Look, see the sheep?”

The pasture was yellow as corn, hay stacked with sheep, hundreds of them.

“Let’s stop.” I said.

“Even sheep make money. LouLou, there has to be a way for you to capitalize on your writing, and not wait for some jackass to hire you. There has to be. Even I know people pay to click on website ads.”

“It’s pennies.”

“You said you had 165 clicks the other day.”

“That was once! Mostly between 10-50 a day.”

“So! It adds up.”

“Look, the sheep are watching us.”

The sheep rose as soon as the car door opened, but they just strolled along, the babies following the mother’s, and one with a limp, dragging himself behind. Every one slightly different, but all part of a community, a gang, with primitive ancestral traditions and routines.

The highway now was split with white lines, and we were sandwiched between limitless textured scenery; Manzanita trees, orchards, big boulders, a dry creek, and then we were driving along one stretch, my legs curled up under me, and I am grazing on unhurried thoughts, just ripples of ideas and dreams.

“Did you see that?” Rudy blurted out.

“See what?”

“That guy! I just saw a guy walking alongside a weary  looking burro dragging a miniature red covered wagon. I gotta turn around.”

“ Hi folks, how you doing?” He extended a hoof like hand, weathered as paws, “I’m Howard West.” Howard was outdoor fit; sunglasses, hat, boots, and evenly tanned skin.

“Hi, I’m Rudy, and that’s LouLou.”

“Hi LouLou,” he shook like a city man with hardened hard-labor hands.

“ Hi. This is some way of traveling. What are you doing?”

“ I’m on a book tour, The Quicksilver Key Book Tour.

I caught my laughter when I noticed his educated aura; that veil of disguise we think fools everyone.

“It’s about the history, the lost history–the West in particular and how the government accrues the investment of the rancher, and the universe. If you read my books you’ll see….”

I was petting the dog, a friendly furry mixed breed, and Howard was now blending Rudy in his claw, with this rockabilly wisdom that I didn’t understand.

“How far are you going today Howard?” Rudy asked.

“I do about 10 or 12 miles a day. Whenever I feel like stopping, I just pull over. You been down to the Dunes yet?”

“ Where’s that?” Rudy was keenly addressing the wagon, it’s wheels, and accessories, but only I knew that.

“ Down the road. Now, those kids have money. They ride doon-buggies-sell for anywhere from five thousand to seventy five thousand dollars! They took me on a ride.”

“ Wow! Hey do you have any power source?”

“ Sure do. See this–jets up the whole works, laptop,

lights, even my stove.  Let me show you.”

I tinkered with the bell around the donkey, I came to find out was named Blue Pegasus, and watched Howard lead Rudy to the watering hold.

“I have books and disks; the books are $12 and a disk is $5, which one will it be?”

“We’ll take a disk Howard.”

“All righty… and the distinct differentiation of

the classes…..

I was about to interrupt when another car passed by, and Howard was distracted by the prospect of a purchase.

“Howard, you’re the coolest! I love what your doing man–I wish I could do it.” Rudy shook his hand.

“Everyone has a book.”

We drove past the sand dunes, and all that bleached rolling sand smooth as pressed sheets, jolted my mind like a wrench.

“ Howard West probably went to Harvard and has a degree in History.”

“You may be right. Why can’t you do that?”

“I would if I was a man.”

“No, not the road part, just get your writing on a disk and sell it. If you sell them for 10 bucks, and you sell…..

“You mean my columns?”

“Whatever! You’ve been writing since I met you for Christ’s sake.”

“Yea I could do a collection of columns, or even a book.  Why didn’t I think of that?”

“You’ve been too preoccupied with other stuff.”’

“Look, they’re having Superbowl Sunday party’s right here in Brawley.” On either side of highway 78 a campfire gathering of trailers were wedged in a circle, boom boxes blaring, American flags blowing, and a dog tied to a post.

“I took out my phone and scrolled through the numbers until I got to John, and then I deleted it. Maybe it was the dead cats in the road, or the poor teenager back in Anza without any future ahead of her but the donuts, or Howard, or the clarity of a cobalt blue evening sky staring down at me, that got me to move over to the other side of the double yellow line, and let John go.

“ I’m starving, why didn’t I bring any snacks? “

“ We’ll stop up here in Anza.”

“ How do you know Anza.”

“ I just do. You don’t want to know.

“Oh I do… please.. Rudy, I really don’t care.”

“ Can I tell you anyway? She knew antiques, once we saw …

“ Oh Gawd.” I threw my head back and laughed without actually any noise.

“ Stop, there’s the store.”

“ You know what else?”

“ What?”

“ She couldn’t understand why I cared about you so much.”

“That’s a good ending.”

My phone rang, an unknown number, never pick those ones up, could be the guy who said his father killed Ben Siegel.

“Rudy, stop!”

“I can’t stop now. We’re on the freeway nutcase.  Who called?”

“The daughter.”

“Whose daughter?”

“My father’s.”

To be continued.

ROAD RHYMES


Just back from a road trip, stops in Flagstaff, Anza, San Diego, stay in Del Mar, visit Jimmy in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, unstructured impulses guiding

me. And now I have to format things, I’m not good at, but I have the content. I’ll draw a double yellow, double yellow line,  between the pages, and try to make them all line up. WROTE A LOT OF DOUBLE YELLOW LINE PAGES.

ADVENTURES IN LIVINGLESS


Lyrical Time Wastr - Stairway to Heaven

Image by jah~ out via Flickr

Adventures in Livingness

 A sunrise of prosperity and a sunset on hardship.

In my home there is one large staircase window that faces east. Each morning before I descend the stairs I stop at the landing, to watch the day begin. The sun must rise past an assortment of tree limbs and trunks, and up over the  hillside of the mountains. By the time I’ve had my coffee, the sun has risen above the obstructions. I am now jerked awake, like a slight nudge a parent might give you, ‘Come on–wake up! You have school.”  The sunlight guides me through the morning, and argues with my disagreement of the days activity.

The moment the café took effect, I want to begin writing, but shameless sunlight in my eyes and the dance of the birds are tempting me to step outdoors.  When you live in seasonal climate, days and nights lure you outside, like old lovers that you must see again. The gradual awakening unfolds layers of thoughts, beginning with the anxiety of the times. The impending hardship  oozes out like a bad smell. Some mornings I cannot look  at the newspaper, the headlines read like promotional movie advertisements, banks bankrupt, homes foreclosing, woman commits suicide, the shocking prick of national disasters is a surgical  awakening.

There is no time to waste, no money to squander, it is a time of reduction and refusal. How can I not spend money today.

This is what brings me to the sunrise of prosperity, I have to keep studying the illumination of light, and I’ll  move forward, and diffuse the  chaos.

As the interruption of minor mishaps knock on my door, my head turns away from it. I’ve learned to erase the panic, and do what I have to do, and that is write.

Last week, while I was upstairs, prone on the sofa, figuring out a transition between two men, whom I love, someone came to the door, knocking, ringing the bell fiercely, oh what is that. I open the door,

“ Yes,”

“ Are you all right? I’m from the security company, your alarm isn’t connected. We came to check on you.”

I stood there with a dumber than dumb expression, and assured him I wasn’t held captive or about to throw myself out the window. When I returned to the desk, I kept seeing his expression, he really didn’t believe me. I turned the alarm off when Rudy left for San Diego.  Real estate agents our showing our house because it’s up for lease. My mind is a closet of mafia memoir notes, and I can’t remember to close the refrigerator door.

Later in the day, if I haven’t ventured outdoors, I take a walk around the plaza, and muse over the herds of  tourists, and search their expressions for interior moods. I don’t see panic and anxiety, I see relief;  couples are rigid from ice and chill,  and they shuffle in boots, directionless,  gaping at the churches and adobe arches, they shoot photographs, standing in the middle of the street. Vacation is bliss in the middle of discontent.

When I return to my desk, it is time to print the days work. This is always a ritual of great expectation, filled with disappointments, surprise, and sometimes a whiff of elation.   The sun has made it’s journey to the other side of the house, the back porch is like starched light, it burns the eyes and flesh, like hardship, the immediate effect is callous.  There I sit and review the pages.  The transition worked; the crawl from uncertainty to confidence broke through.  Now is the time to slouch in the chair, close my eyes, and rewind a few scenes back.

Hardship is like the sun, unmerciful when it is met face to face, and transforming when we are protected. That translates to less spending and more creating.

While I am lounging in this beautifully historic old home, one track of time keeps appearing in my images. It is a time when space was limited, finances on a string as long as my finger, and uncertainty a nightmare that became a lullaby. It is that time again, nothing at all unfamiliar With the same resources I had then, all is well, the sunset can go down, and I can laugh because the adventure has risen above the circumstances.

AFTER MY FATHER DIED.. I DROVE TO DEL MAR, CA


DEL MAR BEACH, CA.

Deutsch: irgendwas ist an diesem Strand immer los
Image via Wikipedia

Dreams we all have; comfort, love, and health, peak through the brown stalked winter trees, through the blinding white cloud cover pushing through icy winds, and snow storms that settle on the lonely sidewalk, and rise to my drape-less window.

On such a Saturday, I am slacking on the downstairs sofa with a tray of coffee, and all that separates me from my dreams is the rustle of fear. The windows reflect snippets of promising outcomes to developing friendships, travel, a script in progress, and properties on the edge of default. Overlapping these is a mirage of life experiences tucked into memory prescriptions you take on a stormy day. A relic of my history rises, and reminds me of the fear I once broke through.

It was 1982, and I was poised on a terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Venice Beach. It was March, the month my father died, and I stared at the horizon at dusk, and imagined my freedom taking flight. Where would I go? Without his presence in Los Angeles, and my sister who had already moved to New York, I was terribly alone. The replacement came in summer flings, with men who had crossed my path; a photographer, a New Jersey computer technician with a brassy voice and Joe Pesci humor, and every few days, Kenny, a former boyfriend, dropped by to smoke his pipe of philosophy and blow long-winded ideas on where I should move.

“I really want to move to Canada.” I said.

“For what? To go ice-skating?” He said between puffs.

“I have family in Vancouver.”

“What family? You’re an orphan now.”

“I am not. I have cousins in Vancouver. My father’s nephews.”

“Oh Yea. When was the last time you saw them?”

“When I was twelve.”

“Terrific! That’s a solid-ass plan. So what will you do in Canada?”

“Get a job in real estate.”

“Lue! Wake-up. You can’t get work in Canada unless you’re a citizen. Forget that idea. You’re better off staying here; look where you are; Santa Monica, the beach at your feet. Are you crazy?”

“I don’t belong here any longer.”

“You don’t belong to anywhere; what you need is to stop trying to be a big-shot like your father.”

“I am not.”

“When was the last time you left the country; when you were eighteen? Go to Rio, you’ll have the time of your life, or Italy, or Greece–it doesn’t matter. Just take the chance and see how you land on your feet. You’re a dreamer, it’s about time you made one of your dreams come true.”

In the next few weeks, I met with Larry, my boss, who was liquidating his real estate portfolio to retire at forty-five years old. Larry wasn’t just an investment visionary; he was passionate about social, political, medical, scientific and human interests. He was a genius.

“You can stay here another year–I’ll find something for you to do, but you’ll be bored.” Larry told me.

“Larry, I don’t know where to go.” I wiped a tear. He ignored it.

“You have to get out of LA. You’ll never meet anyone here. You think you’ll be introduced to someone riding up and down the elevator in Century City.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Del Mar, and Rancho Santa Fe. They’re nice people.  You have a chance there, go down and spend a few days and tell me what you think. I’ll help you. Now, stop crying. “

I drove down in Dad’s black El Dorado, and parked at Del Mar Beach right next to the life guard station at the Poseidon Restaurant.  I opened my suitcase, took out a bathing suit and went into the beach bathroom. The tile was wet and smelled of seaweed and salt. I walked barefoot down to the beach. It was early spring, the sand was unmarked.  A few surfers jogged past me, blonde and bronzed like the Beach Boys. I followed them down to the seashore.  In every direction, there was this untouched canvas of light and color; even the beach houses retained their natural sandy simplicity.

After I swam in the ocean, I went back to the bathroom, changed into dry clothes and walked into town.  A man with a beard rode past me on a horse and waved. I picked up a Reader and read the rental advertisements on the patio of Carlos n Charlie’s, corner café.  A roommate advertisement caught my eye; “Roommate Wanted to Share large two bedroom overlooking Torrey Pines Reserve.” I called and a man who went by the name of Smokey answered the phone. He invited me to come by for a look. His voice was predominantly ranch friendly, so I took a drive over. It did occur to me on the drive that I was taking that chance Ken was blowing in my ear, and I was listening to Larry who told me that people in San Diego were different.

“Hi, I’m Smokey. Come in—would you like something to drink? Too early for cocktails, unless you want one.”

“No thanks. How long have you lived here?”

His eyes were animal alert, his face tanned and his hair cut short but made to look long.  His smile was unfiltered with hidden motives, and he was bull-legged.

”I moved from Pittsburgh; I’ll never go back except to see my folks. This is paradise. Don’t you think? I’ve lived her two years. I rent out one room, because I hate full time work. I’m more entrepreneurial. You don’t have to worry about my motives. I have a girl-friend, and I’m in love with her. She doesn’t stay here. I go to her house. You’ll have your space, and if you need a friend I’m here. Come out on the balcony.”

I followed Smokey and we stood on the terrace overlooking the lagoon and marshlands of the reserve. To the west, the ocean and the stump of Torrey Pines Mountain.

“Wait till sunset; you’ll never want to leave. Come look at your room. I can help you move if you want.”

The room was downstairs, his upstairs, and a stairway of trust in between.

“I’ll take it. When can I move-in?”

“Whenever you wish.”