LIVING ON THE EDGE


Fifteen years ago, the summer of 1993, I was having lunch in a restaurant in Los Angeles. Across from me was the only other woman of importance in my father’s life, besides my mother, that I had known. Sandy Crosby, a leggy brunette with bark brown eyes, arched brows, and a showcase smile.

She always had a response that outwitted her opponent, including my father, who relied heavily on, ‘don’t be so smart.’  Half-way through the first course at Jimmy’s, she looked at me and grinned.

“You’re so much like your father.”

“I am?”

“Oh yes.”

“Your father loved living on the edge, he really did.”

I rested on that thought for a long time. I was temporarily living with a friend in Los Angeles. I lived out of a suitcase, with a broken down Cadillac, and a folder of resumes.  My dad  never lived out of a suitcase, or needed a resume to find a job. After he met Benny Siegel, he had multiple offers in organized crime.

What I discovered, is Dad didn’t truly settle down until he had to raise my sister and I. He was 56 years old when Mom died, and we were tossed into his lacquered bachelor pad in Hollywood. The same age I was two years ago.

Living on the edge is a term used to describe infinite lifestyles. The momentum, or ignition that fuels that lifestyle, is uncertainty. We live by impulse and imagination. Our plans are last minute, we never buy in bulk, and we are always dreaming of the voyage. We run from stationary life because at heart, we are gamblers.

This time, the edge is the very place I spent two years creating, the photography gallery and home in Santa Fe. Up until this winter, it operated as a gallery by appointment, while I polished my memoir proposal. After several months, I went to the edge and decided to convert the gallery into a vacation rental. I needed to roam; I longed to gather new material.

The winter climbed back into bed, and then spring ripped through the ground, and the roses and poppies bloomed. The memoir remained unpublished, and the house began to transform from gallery to a real home. The long uneventful winter punctured my prudent habit of writing, remaining secluded, and avoiding everything but the essentials. By May, I made a silent vow under a stream of sunlight, to enlist into the human race.

The reinvention resembled nature, like today. The day began with  a feverish sky of culminating clouds, a long dreary silence, and an absence of light. The street was empty, just the valet from La Posada running to the garage to fetch the cars. They were bundled in winter coats, while the party rental truck loaded the furniture from last evening’s wedding. The storm struck with impetuous force. The valet’s ran with umbrellas, small children yelled for cover, and I took a seat on the back porch. Suddenly, the storm rescinded, and the sun burst through the cloud cover.

My emancipation back into the flow of mixing strangers and friends was alchemy to the house. Now it’s a home; to cook, entertain, and fill with music, laughter and conversation.  I can see the faces of the people I’ve met, imagine the next meeting, and anticipate the next outing. The windows and doors are opened, the people who pass by look in. I was cooking dinner one night this week, and noticed a man peeking in the window. He looked like Harrison Ford, just back from the Lost Arch.

“ Is this a museum?” he asked when I went to the door.

“ No. It’s a gallery, a home. Well come in, and take a look around.”

Opening the door to a stranger returned the affirmation that impulse socializing is still possible in the banal and sterile world of FACEBOO.   You don’t have to be a teenager to recognize a good time, but you need to be an adult to recognize a good fellow.

Some of us lone roamers cannot reverse the inclination to retreat from life; because we find too much confusion, agitation and adversity in the world. Between all of those elements, there are treasures waiting to be discovered: opportunity collaboration, adventure, and most of all companionship.

Even though the comfort of this home has replenished my spirit and temporarily produced a yawn of security, I am preparing to go to the edge. Though I imagine it is another place of endearment, another address, and another gamble, it may be the inner voyage that will transcend.

When I tell people we’re renting the house, they ask me where will you go?

I don’t know yet. Sandy was right; I am like my father. The edge I picked wasn’t a green felt jungle of dice and chips, it’s an artists’ life.

Any dice to throw Email: folliesls@aol.com

 

MORE ON MICE AND MAYHEM


ADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS

The throw of the dice this week lands on Part Two of Mice and Mayhem.

“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.”

Part Two

Highway
64 toTaos…

My anticipation smoked from the back seat where I sat, listening to Rudy and John
in conversation, the kind that ripples like a stream, as Rudy evokes his fervor
for New Mexican history, the battles, and bravery, the legend of Billy the Kid,
and Geronimo. The summer scenery galloped past as we headed up the canyon
through Pilar, as bobbing rafters walloped the Rio Grande, as tourists snapped
photographs, as hitchhikers and wayward hobos staggered on the death trap
shoulder turn-outs… a sort of carnival that makes driving to Taos interrupt the
mundane repetition of asking myself questions I cannot answer: Why do I gamble?

“Turn left here, Rudy.”  We were on the last turn into the Writer’s
Retreat in San Cristobal.
It was virgin land, spindly wild flowers, unpaved roads, no-name streets, and
the three of us, searching for some sign of life.

“This is it,” Rudy climbed out of the car,
while John and I remained seated, unbelieving.

“Rudy, this isn’t it.” I shouted. He turned
around and on the edge of hysterics, and said, “Oh yes, it is.”

“LouLou, you threw the dice off the table
this time.” John’s laughter stunned the silence as we viewed the three attached
leaning log cabins, with barred windows, beat up furniture, and week old trash,
glaring back, as if to say, “Well, whatta you expect for $600.00 a week.”

John and Rudy went off in the direction of
the barn, and that was when I had the feeling we needed to get out fast before
the owners approached us with rifles or crack needles.

The
image of Rudy and John, poking in the field, exploring the barn, two men that
rescued and wrestled with pieces of my persona, were now joined. For most of
life, I went solo, everywhere. There
was in my mind the resolution I would remain unattached, out-of-love because
“love is more painful than lust,” a phrase I took out of this mornings NY book
review of “A Book of Secrets.”

I wandered into the multifarious pasture where
I was greeted with chickens, goats, and manure, and with a sudden rush of
urgency, I shouted: “Let’s get the hell out of here,” and dashed back to the
car. I could hear John and Rudy’s crackling laughter, and that solidified the
momentary disappointment that follows a lousy throw of the dice.

I followed my interior compass, that has been
known to deliver supreme surprises, and we ended up on Kit Carson Road, in a shower of sunshine,
and cotton balls drifting down like snowflakes.

“Turn there. Look Rudy, San Geronimo Lodge.
We made an offer on it, remember?’

“Wow,
I forgot about that one.”

“How
many places have you guys made offers on inTaos?” John asked.

In the course of remembering the different
times we lived in Taos, and the real estate agents, like Linda from Texas who
accused of us being charlatans, until our friend David kicked in and warned
her, “They’re morons, they’re not that smart,” we landed at the cross bridge to San Geronimo.

“Twelve. We forgot about the Martinezplace; the one I wanted to fix up
into polished efficiencies.” I said.

“What were you planning for the Lodge?”

“The Woodstock House, concerts in the field,
performances in the dining room, musician rooms. There was a grand piano in the
main Salon.”

The
Lodge was devotedly remodeled. The slimy green pool had turned Mediterranean blue, the grounds were riddled with pathways,
the mammoth lobby was now comfortably appointed with antiques, and the grand
piano, well, that was shut-down and used as a plant stand.

The owner, a rugged beauty with brimming
passion for her turf, showed us half a dozen rooms to choose from.

“You must have spent a fortune fixing it up.”
“You have no idea! What we were told
going in, wasn’t what we got.”

I left with resumed faith in my compass, and
knowing we made the right decision not buying San Geronimo.

Decisions about traveling, joining, meeting,
and moving, drop me in the path of mental collision. Instead of applying
academic analysis, calculations, or tried and true pragmatic reasoning, I try
to beat the odds, because I am a gambler.

John and I headed up to Taoswhile Rudy took refuge in a friend’s
casita. I suppose most vacation renal owners have alternate accommodations; but
this is a work-in-progress, like a play that doesn’t have an ending yet.

For the next six days, I wandered from the Geronimo
pool, to the terrace, to Taos on foot, and
during those hours, we rewrote the script in the privacy of our steadily silent
working room, or on the second story terrace, overlooking the fields and the Jemez Mountains.

When Rudy
called and said Mike, our renter, invited us to the reception party at the
house, I called Mike to decline. He turned me down.

“Loulou you have to come, everyone wants to
meet you.”  Everyone is a lot of people;
seventy-five guests inside the house when I am not the host stirred up my
imagination.

When we arrived, the reception party was
sprouting on the front porch, in the driveway around bistro tables, on the back
porch at a buffet table, and in the garden movie theater.

Suddenly, this face comes at me, up close: “Loulou,
I’m Mike. Come-in… What are you drinking? We love it! Come meet everyone.”  Mike has a light bulb personality, one
hundred and twenty volts of unplugged warmth and sincerity. I followed him into
the living room, and was immersed with questions and praise, at rapid
fire.  Within the hour I wilted and
tugged on John and Rudy to cross the street for dinner. “Why’d you leave?” Rudy
asked. He was eyeing a pretty blonde in the driveway.

“I don’t feel it’s right; presiding in our
house while it’s their house. I’m afraid I’ll start cleaning.”

I returned to the party when a vintage Galaxy
pulled into our driveway, and I was abandoned because John led Rudy over to see
the automobile.

By now, the party was surging and as I
recommenced my socializing the trepidation vanished. In every direction were
handshakes and hugs, conversations zigzagging from Mike’s family to Erin’s, the
bride and groom, and their friends, who came from Los Angeles.
But these were not just friends; they were neighbors.

“Neighbors inLos Angeles?” I jested.

“Oh yeah, we live in the Hollywood Hills. We
have parties every weekend. Are you THE Loulou?” I nodded. “I am THE Carlos,
and you must visit us inHollywood.”

“What
do you do Carlos?”

“Everything!
I sing, act, cook, and make trouble!” In every party there should be a Carlos.
The evening crescendo curled into a wave of anticipation when Carlos took
center stage and sang arias, from Turnadot and La Boehme. His bravura tenor
voice raised the guests from every cavity of the house. Strangers out strolling
stopped to listen and guests from La Posada spilled out in the streets.  The house was transformed, in some ways to
former visions of the artist salons I imagined and once held at Follies House.

There
were times over the last two years when Rudy and I discussed selling Gallery
LouLou, leasing it long term, and even renting rooms; options that occupied
sleepless nights, and never materialized. Now we know it is a vacation home, a
party house, a reception salon… all the things that I imagined came together
here, even Rudy and John.

Any dice to throw email: folliesls@aol.com

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….