SINGULAR DAYDREAMING


DAYDREAMING
When I watch my wild birds, I daydream of their freedom.

When I listen to Wes Montgomery I dream of Brazil, and riding on a float at Mardi Gras, just once, with a feather hat, and dressed like Rita Hayworth.

When I sit at my desk and look at my mother’s photograph, I dream of the lunch we never had, and the lunch we did have, in  Bullock’s Garden Room, watching the fashion show and discovering tuna salads.

When I lie in bed at night I dream of him, whomever he is, wherever he is, and his strong shoulder cupped around my head, watching an old Cagney movie.

When I shovel snow I dream of California, of old Del Mar and running along the shore barefoot.  When I walk along Palace Avenue in Santa Fe,  I dream of walking in Brooklyn, or 5th Avenue at about 6 pm, when everyone pours into the street, a fountain of limbs and accessories.

Daydreaming unlike night dreaming where we are flying, conquering, or battling some inner masked trauma, illuminates where we want to be, and who we want to be, and if you take it seriously, how to get there. The medicine of daydreaming is unmatched by books, health food, vitamins, yoga, religion, mind altering experiences, it’s the essence of who we are, it defines our reality.

Mostly these days, I daydream6a011168668cad970c0120a94abd12970b-400wim of finishing the longest work-in progress book and as my pal Blair says, finish and move on with your life. For those of you who know me, when the time comes for a diligent writing routine, the act is outwardly selfish. Engagements canceled,  phone is not answered, and my email correspondence drops off.  If a trauma settles in my mind while I’m writing, the rhythm dissipates. Avoidance of the temptations that can draw me away from the work; men, my gal pals problems, Rudy falling off the ladder, and a vacant income.

As I assemble my columns, government transcripts, book excerpts, and emotions into a page of writing what is different this time is I know what belongs and what doesn’t. The worst part of writing for me is vacillating, that mind twist of indecision. It is like the indecision of moving, or breaking up, or taking a different outlook, one you’ve never even considered before.

The world we are living is not familiar; everyday it erupts with an inconceivable corruption, act of violence, and viciousness against humanity. It’s not the Italian roast coffee that wakes me up, it’s world news.  I feel less and less a part of the humanity and more like a wild creature that is fighting for the past. My outlook on social clubs, synagogue and church congregations, group classes, and all that let’s meet up organizing makes a lot of sense now. Especially if you don’t have children, or a life mate the temptation to retreat into your own world of fantasy is irresistible. My next thread will be on the single life, I can claim expertise in that!

Last night a stranger in a sports jacket, silver hair, and polished shoes sat beside me at the Staub House. He struck a conversation and within fifteen minutes he said, ” I’m going to the Chamber Music Concert series tonight  and next week I go to three operas. ” My interior dialogue is assessing him; he’s very presentable, wears glasses well, and loves the arts. Maybe he will invite me. We continue chatting and then suddenly he switches tenses; it is no longer I, now it is we don’t live in Colorado in the winter, we have a house in Tuscon.

After a few travel stories he says,” I have an extra ticket for tonight. Would you like to go? I’m meeting some friends afterward at the Compound.”  A second of hesitation on my part, as this is the temptation I was talking about.

” I’d have to change and you’re running late.”

”  I guess you’re right. Will you be here tomorrow night?”

” Maybe.”

What’s interesting today looking back, is that he didn’t even lie about being married or involved long-term.  Men use to lie about that didn’t they?  I mean what’s so unusual about having a tryst with a married man today? Daydreaming is not indecisive or dishonest. Maybe one of the most genuine of vices.
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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.

SMILEY & SIEGEL


THE SIEGEL SMILEY LEGACYReuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.
BY: Luellen Smiley
When I was eleven years old  our home burnt to the ground in the Bel Air fire, and everything we owned fell to ash. Shortly after my mother moved us to an apartment in Brentwood, a mammoth carton arrived and was placed in the center of the living room. My mother cut it open and urged me to look inside. I sat cross-legged on the avocado green carpeting and discovered bundles of garments; Bermuda shorts, blouses, sweaters, and shirts.
I quickly shed my worn trousers and stepped into a new outfit, dancing about as I zipped myself in. My mother watched, and echoed my childish yelps of elation.
“Mommy, who are these from?”
“They’re from your Aunt Millicent.”
“Who is she? I don’t remember her.”
“You were a little girl. She loves you very much.”
Years later, my father, Allen Smiley, called and told me to come over to his apartment in Hollywood.
“Why Dad?”
“Millicent is coming by; I told you she moved here, didn’t I?”
I’d learned Millicent was Benjamin Siegel’s daughter, and Ben was my father’s best friend. Dad was sitting on the same chintz covered sofa the night Ben was murdered.
“You mean Ben Siegel’s daughter?”
“Don’t refer to her that way ever again; do you hear me? She is Aunt Millicent to you.”
When my father answered the door, I watched as they embraced. Millicent had tears in her eyes. She walked over to me, and took my hand. I looked into her swimming pool blue eyes and felt as if I was drowning. She sat on the edge of the sofa and lit a long brown Sherman cigarette. I studied her frosted white nails, the way she crossed her legs at the ankles, her platinum blonde hair, and the way her bangs draped over one eye. What impressed me most was her voice; like a child’s whisper, her tone was delicate as a rose petal.
I spent the rest of that afternoon memorizing her behavior. She emanated composure and a reserve that distanced her from uninvited intrusion.
Over the next few years, Millicent and I were joined through my father’s arrangements, but I was never alone with her. When he died in 1982, she was one of only three friends at his memorial service.
As the years passed, and my tattered address books were replaced with new ones, I lost Millicent’s phone number. I had been researching my father’s life in organized crime, and had gained an understanding of my father’s bond with Ben Siegel. My discoveries were adapted into a memoir and recently into a film script about growing up with gangsters. During this time, I had reconnected with several of Dad’s inner-circle, but Millicent was underground, and now I understood why.
Last year I received an email from Cynthia Duncan, Meyer Lansky’s step-granddaughter. She told me about Jay Bloom, the man behind the Las Vegas Mob Experience, a state of the art museum that will take visitors into the personal histories of Las Vegas gangsters. Cynthia contributed her significant collection of Meyer Lansky memorabilia, and assured me Jay was paying tribute to the historical narrative of these men by using relatives rather than government and media sources. She wanted me to be involved.
Despite my apprehensions about the debasing and one-sided publicity that characteristically surrounds gangster history, I contacted Jay. In his return note, he invited me to participate, and added, “Millicent would like to contact you.”
A month later I was seated in Jay’s office waiting for Millicent. When she walked in, I stood to embrace her, and this time the tears were in my eyes.
Millicent’s voice was unchanged and so was her regal posture. “Our fathers were best friends, attached at the hip. Your Dad was at the house all the time. I’ll never forget when he and my mother met me at the train station to tell us about my father’s… death. Smiley was very good to us. My mother adored him too.”
Jay took me on a tour of the collection warehouse, and the history I’d read about unfolded before my eyes. The preview room was like a family room to me, because some of the men had been my father’s lifelong friends and protectors. I stopped in front of the Ben Siegel display case and saw an object that was very familiar.
“My father has the identical ivory figurine of an Asian woman. I still have it.” So much of their veiled history was exposed; between these two men was a brotherly bond that transcended their passing and was even evident in their shared taste in furnishings.
Jay showed me a layout of the Mob Experience in progress. I turned to him and asked, “Is it too late to include my father? All the rooms are assigned.”
“Millicent and I already spoke about it. She wants your Dad in Ben’s room.”
After I returned home, Millicent and I talked on the phone.
“Your father belongs in my Dad’s room. They’ll just have to make Mickey Cohen’s room smaller.”
“My father hated Mickey,” I said.
“So did mine! When are you coming back? I’ll kill you if you don’t become part of this.”

Reuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.

Reuniting with Millicent at the Mob Experience.

 

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.

 

when THEY Leave


Cropped screenshot of James Cagney from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of James Cagney from the trailer for the film Love Me or Leave Me (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do remember what they gave me. THE MEN always bring something you didn’t have before. LOVE THEM

OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, OUR LIFE


 

 

As a child I understood in a subliminal fashion that my father was unlike other neighborhood fathers who left each day to go to the office.   My father worked from his home-office in Bel Air, California, and hotels: The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Bel Air Hotel, The old Beverly Glen Terrace, and restaurants:  La Dolca Vita, Matteos, Copa de Ora, Scandia, La Scala, Purinos, Chasens, and building lobby’s,  parking lots, telephone booths, and race tracks.   Sometimes he talked about a really  big deal he was working on, and other times he said he was returning favors.  The exchange of favors between my father and his associate friends was written about way before I came along, by Damon Runyon and Mark Hellinger.

Deals and favors is what I understood as my father’s business. This kind of business made him available to me during the day, while other father’s had left their homes to go to an office. From the outside looking in; we were a stylish Westside family, with colorful friends, members of Sinai Temple, and frequently seen in the company of established Doctor’s, Oilmen, and Attorney’s.  My mother went door to door as a Red Cross Volunteer, and my father’s charity went to the United Jewish Federation Fund.

Our next door neighbors were movie actors:  John Forsythe, Burt Lancaster, James Gardner and Peter Morton, the legendary Hard Rock Café founder.   Peter was a few years older than I, and I loved his  mess of tousled curly brown hair, and his gentle birch brown eyes, slanted into the curve of sadness. I waited for him on some mornings to walk me to the bus stop.  I remember he looked after his little sister, and maybe I needed looking after too.  The memory of his kindness is sealed.   Most of the families in the circle had children, and it was only natural that we played together. At some point, all the kids quit meeting up at my house, and even my friends at Bellagio Elementary quit coming  to our house.

In the foyer of our home, there was a wall mirror and wall mounted table. That is where my father kept his grey fedora and trench coat. I remember the times he dashed out of the house with the coat and hat.

“Daddy why are you wearing your coat and hat today; it’s not raining?”

“I have to be ready for anything little sweetheart.  Daddy never knows what the weather will be like out there.”    The answer was a riddle, like almost everything my father taught me. A  simplistic statement on the surface, and a double down meaning hidden inside.  That is how he communicated with me, and it had a purpose like everything else.

When I was five years old, my father took me out driving in his powder blue the Cadillac, and he made regular stops,  to meet a guy about something, had the car serviced and washed, visit a friend, have the poodle bathed, and a stop at Schwab’s to see if there was any action.   He loved to sing in the car, with all the windows rolled down, and his arm wrapped around the back of the leather seat. He was as relaxed driving his car as he was lounging at home on the sofa. He drove with one hand, while he sang,

“Que sera sera.” When I asked him what it meant, he said,

“Whatever will be will be, the future is not ours to see, Oue sera sera–that’s the song of life sweetheart.”  He didn’t pay attention to stop signs, signals or fellow drivers; he perceived them as second in line.   Once a policeman stopped us as we were driving out of Thurston Circle, and my father opened the car door, got out, and, moaned,  “Oh my God, Oh God I’m having a heart attack!”  I watched him, and yelled out “Daddy Daddy–what’s wrong,” but he kept howling.  The policeman didn’t take notice at all.   “I’m having a heart attack, let me go officer, I can’t breathe you SOB. You’re going to kill me!”  By this time I was crying, and making a lot of noise in the front seat.  The policeman then approached my father, and handed him a ticket, while my father continued to whale, “HEART ATTACK.”  After the policeman drove away, my father got in the car, steely eyed, and swearing. “Stop crying. “Stop that right now!  Can’t you see I’m all right? Daddy just pretended to have an attack.  That stinking cop is always hanging around here. He should be ashamed of himself.  Policemen have better things to do, then give tickets. ”

“ You’re not sick?” I mumbled.

“ No, of course not.  Don’t tell your mother about this sweetheart, she doesn’t understand these things.  Remember now what I told you, when I say something you listen, and don’t question it.  I have reasons for the way I do things. ”

Adults try to deceive children with whispers, false identities, and lies, but a child has a superior emotional vision.  From that day on, I was always watching my father closely to see if he was acting, or playing it straight.

The outings gave me a chance to meet dozens of men and women who exaggerated their feelings for me with overt gestures that sometimes I recognized as an act. Picking out genuine friends developed into a sense I couldn’t necessarily ignore.  It got in the way of my comfort around many of my father’s friends later on in life.  Nothing seemed to please him more than to present me to his friends, and wait for their praise, “You’re lucky to have such a beautiful little girl, and so well behaved.”  I remember this line because it is the same line I heard throughout adolescence.  My behavior was conditional on my father’s mood.  If I misbehaved, spoiled my dress, or broke something, it would ruin everything. My father would blame my mother, she would retreat from the living room, and I would be left alone.  This was the second of the lessons, I learned very young, not to make any mistakes.   One error can ruin your whole life, he told me on all the occasions that I erred.

Today, it’s not too surprising that I am ready to sit in the front seat with a man of choice, while he drives around and shows off his driving and leadership skills.  It’s not that I just don’t get excited about driving myself,  it is one of those childhood activities that evolved into a life long course of pleasure. I escaped working in offices in 1993 after ten years of tolerating the cubicle life, and I work out of my home office much like my father, only I am not involved in illegal activities, even though it seems everything is becoming illegal.

When now, I have finished this personal essay I began two years ago, I went looking for images.   A photo of the house I grew up in at 11508 Thurston Circle popped up.   Our home burned in the Bel Air fire in 1961, and so I peeked through the interior of the house that was built on the lot after Dad sold it.  All post modern, nothing like ours, except this photograph I chose, the swimming pool he built, another childhood activity that evolved into a life pleasure.  The house is listed for sale, $2,075,000.  Dad bought our home for $50,000.

 

DAYDREAMING


When I watch my wild birds, I daydream of their freedom, and how free I was when I was eighteen.

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe (Photo credit: paigeh)

When I listen to Wes Montgomery  I dream of Brazil,  and riding on a float at Mardi Gras, just once, with a feather hat, and dressed like Rita Hayworth.

When I sit at my desk and look at my mother’s photograph, I dream of those few luncheons in the formal  Garden Room on the top floor of Bullocks Westwood, watching the fashion show with her, proud of my model mother, and imitating how she ate the tuna salad.

When I lay in bed at night, I dream of him, and his strong  shoulder cupping my head, watching an old Cagney movie.

When I shovel snow I dream of Southern California, of old Del Mar and sitting on the bench under the crooked tree, in a triangular postcard of the crashing surf, prancing dogs, and the meter maid marking the curb.  When I walk along Palace Avenue in Santa Fe, New Mexico  I dream of walking  5th Avenue at about 6 pm, when everyone pours on to the Avenues, a fountain of limbs and accessories crisscrossing patterns of human tolerance.

Day dreaming unlike night dreaming that takes us on the back of fairy tales and science fiction  battling some inner masked trauma,  illuminates where we want to be, what we need to do,  and intercepts the embroidery of our life.  The medicine of daydreaming surpasses self-help books, health food, vitamins, yoga, religion, or mind altering experiences. It is the essence of our rising emancipation from complacency.

dramatic dream

dramatic dream (Photo credit: unNickrMe)