itinerant rant

Both these Odysseys, the of my youth and the current march, were catapulted out of smithereens. There never was a “where” to be going to and certainly nowhere to return.

Something like home just blew me out and onto the road, again.

The first time, I was drawn;  not  driven.  And, that was the tenderest of beginnings; as violent as a birth.   Then, I  screamed out of my mother’s door anxious to escape the hardest  loss and caught the whiff of the road.  That first breath did hollow out my chest and the same intake gutted all familiarity and contempt.

Two score and five years later, limp after a thumping by marriage, asunder after 9/11 , keening and aware of  my obsolescence, I saw myself as no more yielding than drenched ashes.  Did I grow only to be more mortal than tender?   Certainly, my biological drives waiver around chilled and my future’s utterly friable.   Some terminal looms even though I  once linked arms with my generation.

Both these Odysseys, the of my youth and the current march, were catapulted out of  smithereens.  There never was a  “where” to be going to and certainly nowhere to return.   I was all thumbs out, above sullen blacktop, readied for a free ride and hollering songs to stay myself .  Then, I waited more bored than scared.  How did age flip that algorithm?

Somehow. I advance,  itinerant as a dust bowler,  inching my way towards some golden state allegedly over the next rise of forbidding mountains.   I stand still here  fear smacked and absolutely more anxious than bored.  After all. a glowing cozy flared and left me nothing but my heavy old feet treading a growling path.  I move along, alone.

Extra Girl – June 4, 1968 PART 1

It must have been dead obvious to everyone looking on, that it was Myra that the Kingpin’s daughter wanted to recruit for this evening. When my graceful friend predictably declined, for some reason, Joanna turned to me. I was still adrift in my misery so I was all the more surprised to hear myself accept.

Later, Myra would laugh about Joanna’s real intentions, speculating on why she had passed over the fancier women and settled for me. Myra expressed some astonishment at the generous sartorial expenditures Joanna made to transform me into acceptable.

On this fragrant spring night, I would cruise out of Hollywood with my beneficent hostess, Joanna Bonnano. Only days before, she had shucked her forbiddingly sophisticated aura and accidentally invited me to be the “extra girl” at Peter Lawford’s. Forgetting that I was, extra, second or even last choice, I moved to ingratiate myself by insisting that I was practically part of her boyfriend’s family.

You see, I grew up watching the Thin Man on the TV next door… with my neighbors, the  Kennedy’s.  Having boned up on how to chat with anybody I really looked forward to this sharing this tid bit and especially with the “cute guys,” the gangster’s daughter promised. We would ride out to Palm Springs in a limo for the gala.

Becoming the “extra girl” brought me instant goodies. Not only would I get to talk with  the Thin Man, himself, and become a member of Joanna’s posse but this this twenty year old was moving into the most desirable territory: Clubbing..

Since I first moved into the classy Sunset Villas, I had been puzzling about these New Yorkers, who, in their mid-twenties were cool and wise-ass…more strange, they seemed older than our local adults. When this playful pack was not sleeping it off, they effused urbane good humor. The group was more than just interesting. They were exotic; almost a species apart from the Los Angeles kids I knew.

Like any other beach bunny, the women carefully displayed themselves in slinky bikinis but these babes wore full face makeup… all day. Compared to the sunny surfers, the  guys were inordinately swarthy. But, their extreme animation made up for that. And, unlike the locals, rumpled, flannel clad boys, these stylish fellows donned snazzy sunglasses and pushed tiny gangster hats way back on their skulls. This was one sexy herd of insiders goofing on something very intimate and heavily accented.

Their jokes and flashy innuendos were way beyond me even though I basked just a few feet away from them. I was too intimidated and drowning in my own malignant pathos to dare to engage this pantheon.

Being disinherited and perennially plump made me self conscious. I had turned dark and  inward, becoming an outsider, everywhere. My steep of isolation was both claustrophobic and, somehow, comforting. I had retreated into a thick glass egg for several years by the time Myra came looking for me.

Wow, had she changed — out-growing her pigtails and maturing into an utterly gorgeous and cool, Nordic beauty. Her kindness in seeking me out was my first touch of home since my father died.  She found me at this ratty single room occupancy that I shared with impoverished veterans. But, without my knowing it, she had smoothed the way for me to rent a couch in the swanky apartment that she shared with Jane, another North Shore kid.

The move to Harrat Park had the unintended benefit of airlifting me from this narrow and dire existence.  I was living by drawing down my savings. That did not matter to her;  Myra had always been the studious one and I the spoiled brat.  She wanted to work and easily found a job nearby and we resumed our “quest for adventure.”  Nights, we would dine on green apples and walk along the Strip. On the weekends, she would join me in the chaise lounge idyll. And, whenever she did the New York males spoke up. They urged her to put down her book and sit just a little nearer to them. She was absolutely not interested. She rejected them the same way that she had declined the lead in Mod Squad. She was only here until her fiancée got out of the Army in September.

It must have been dead obvious to everyone looking on, that it was Myra that the Kingpin’s daughter wanted to recruit for this evening. When my graceful friend  predictably declined, for some reason, Joanna turned to me. I was still adrift in my misery so I was all the more surprised to hear myself accept.

Later, Myra would laugh about Joanna’s real intentions, speculating on why she had passed over the fancier women and settled for me. Myra expressed some astonishment at the generous sartorial expenditures Joanna made  to transform me into acceptable.

Joanna was a hysterical Pygmalion fluffing up this dumpy, forlorn hippy chick and she reported on the details, poolside. So, it was after all my self-conscious days that I got incidentally included in their banter. I could never have insinuated myself without this opening. It had been plenty for me to anonymously eavesdrop on last night’s poker game or listen to who had an audition with whom. But, now that Joanna sort of championed me and they batted around tales of our shopping sprees, I did more than speculated about the night to come. I loved these people.

At last the big night arrived and we stood on the curb  readied for our ride. Joanna studied me and seemed to smile—cold comfort.  There I was all dressed like righteous trust fund stuff and coifed beyond recognition. I endured tiny spikes of nerves telling Myra and Jane goodbye and was almost impaled by the time the chauffeur ceremoniously swung open the limousine door revealing our companions –two old guys. (Saggy , even)  That brace of antiques pair sat still as mummies unflattering awash in the pale mustard dome light. From the dove grey upholstery, they radiated nothing more than waxy and cadaverous. Right then, it looked like the outfit and my hair-do were the only good things coming to me on this night.

Joanna deftly vaulted over some hand luggage snagging a tight but solo seat opposite them. She, then, tucked her limbs into the foot-well. I could do nothing except dumbly duck into the Lincoln behind her. Her choice of position meant that I would have to stuff myself in between the living dead.  In the wretched moments after the chauffer smoothed the stretch onto Sunset Boulevard, I realized that I could not stay fetal for the whole trip. I kept my feet together squeezed on the hump because there was no way to just casually spread out. Eventually, I slid one freshly Gucci–ed foot off the drive shaft in search of vacant floor space next to Ron.  He was fixated on Joanna’ but turned to address my surreptitious scrunching.

“Hi, I’m Ron,”

he hollered to be heard over his “miracle ear.” He yelled again over a rising blast from Dodger stadium while arching his arm towards the  older man with yellow-grey teeth and matching hair.

“…and, this handsome lad is ‘Goulie.’”

“Robert Gould Morris, Esq.,” the older one intoned sort of bowing.   A bump pitched him a bit forward and unhinged a sullen plank of hair. His smile suddenly broadened belying the chill of his handshake.  Oh, The Dodgers had scored.  His beam was about that…. and not associated with any welcome.  So, with the Homerun, his preoccupied grip melted away.

He had looked right at me but bellowed, “Naing NaingNaing .”

“Naing.Naing.Naing, Goooo-lee!” cheered Ron. “I guess that you’ll be shitin’ in tall cotton if this is ‘nother no-hitter for Drysdale, huh?”
“ Naing.Naing.Naing!,” the desiccated lawyer echoed affirmatively.

Neither my fresh Jay Sebring’s haircut, nor the crushed velvet wrap-around coat trimmed with coffee colored ostrich put me at my ease …but, oddly, the game did.  At least, the fans resounding through the back speakers muffled any necessity for further small talk. We might as well have been in the bleachers instead of motoring away from sundown, heading across the cooling desert towards that star studded gala at Peter Lawford’s. My thrill was moderate and I remained profoundly uneasy with these strangeold men.

Maybe these two old coots were not friends of Mr. Lawford?  Or, a worse maybe, Joanna wasn’t really Peter’s girlfriend but some kind of hooker. Was that what ”extra girl” really meant? Did Joanna get me dolled up to do some kind of forensic blowjob?  Where was my shell when I needed it?

Samuel R. Rosenthal Chair at Harvard Law

My uncle Sam Rosenthal  could  never have scratched together as many honors as he bought with my grandfather’s money.   The lawyer was certainly celebrated for his inventive Trusts and Estate management and he was very able to amass plenty for self agrandiasment.  Somehow, he always appeared obscenely charitable – Even while he wrangled enough cash from Widows and Orphans (myself included) to buy a chair at Harvard and continue Grandfather Dreyfus’ legacy under this pseudonym Rosenthal-Glasser .

Uncle made a strategic marriage to my blood aunt that gained him eternal access to the Inland Steel fortune. That’s how he financed undue respect in perpetuum.  Rosenthal crafted  “irrevocable trusts” for his rich in-laws and their connections. Just crafting an array of Wills for the Dreyfus’ familyalone eventually earned him partnership status at Sonnenschein, Lautman Carlin & Nath.

It must have looked like sunshine and lollipops until  my mother came along prickling him with her own brand of West Coast greed.  Their individual ambitions and mutually exclusive needs made them perfect enemies.  But, she must have seemed easy enough to dispose of … She wasn’t Jewish and she failed to bear a male.  Those grounds were more than the Family Attorney needed to eject this annoying interloper and to capture the remainder of the Dreyfus’ millions — in one swift hit.

In a style common before no-fault divorces, my mother would be removed from the family on a charge of adultery.  On such shameful grounds, no alimony would be granted.   The custody would take months and become abusive.  The children of this marriage were subjected to retaliatory kidnappings — another artifact of the age .

Sam’s reach was costing her status and cash and she did not take any loss well. Sam’s brutal efficiencies ensured their very personal hate story. The game of  “family” was  played out by two mismatched contenders.  The two of them would slug away at each other for decades.

Unlike Sam with his fancy Harvard education,  my mother had only a few courses in Law.  Still, she was gifted with nothing to lose and cursed by an inconvenient idea of justice.  She believed that her minor daughters could not be excluded from an irrevocable trust because they were born after the testator had expressed the intent to support his unborn grandchildren.  She was technically “right” but, alas, she had no favors to call in and no cash to pass along to the right judges like he did.

The case was finally decided by a group of judges from the Seventh Circuit.  These men were seated in the  remotest possible venue, downstate, at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.  Justice John Paul Stevens and the later disgraced Otto Kerner were part of the group of judges, who were empaneled to hear two cases at the University every year –one criminal and one civil case.  While the city papers dispatched reporters to cover the Richard Speck (criminal) case in the morning, by the afternoon session, the press had gone back to Chicago.

For this final big round, my mother had managed to contest on the grounds that my father’s Will had been distributed before probate.  So, the last standing Defendant was the First National Bank of Chicago.  Along the way, she had delivered evidence that the first page of Philip S. Dreyfus’  Will – the one giving the money to Michael Reese Hospital – had been substituted.  Earlier, her contention that a hospital charted for “charitable purposes” should not accept a bequest for “research” was mooted when Mrs. Samuel Rosenthal simply endowed a research facility allowing the money to flow into that shell.)

Unrelenting  plaintiff  that she was,  my mother must have appeared to the Sonnenschein battleship like some pesky pirate.  To me, that hideous persistence meant that she would never settle, even when my grandmother’s Will included a codicil that offered a bequest on the condition.

Mother scoured those papers every night looking for the way to win.  And,  in the end, her personal victory of keeping the battleship occupied cost us everything.  She would never give up trying to get grandfather’s money to support us through high school, her way.  Fighting her own battle for a “matter of principal” blinded her to compromise in the face of long odds.

She was right but there was no Erin Brocavich moment — It was hardly “cold comfort,” that  long after my sister and I spent the $1,000 we each got — from that $31 million dollar estate — several Judges from the downstate tribunal were removed.  Oh, yes, that was   for accepting bribes.

And, my Uncle? Of course, he got a seat on the Board of the Hospital. And, he continued to manage a secret “D&R Fund.” He would only have to endure the death of my cousin, Marty in a fatal crash not far from where my father died instantly. Samuel R. Rosenthal was considered a “Very Charitable Man.” That is if you overlook his maltreatment of widows and female orphans in his own family.
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Forward fates 29OCT09

It’s considered unprofessional to be swayed when the world swings wildly or to react to every tick.. But, me, I’m still bursting with ups and crying on downs because the whole farm is bet everyday.

It’s considered unprofessional to be swayed when the world swings wildly or to react to every tick.. But, me, I’m still bursting with ups and crying on downs because the whole  farm is bet everyday.

Hunks of dollar-sod go on the scales at dawn only to get sifted off at the close.  This is one enervating  job-hobby posing a built-in interruption in any other stream.  Even as the Beatles sing my youth,  the big board’s muttering about forward fates.

Out this window, desert winds are inviting me to dash along  the sands — But until 4PM est I am sort of paralyzed by this on-going fickle flickering.   My lips bleed, my throat aches, claw hands just won’t unclench until the Close.

It has been this way since May, when I wrested my pittance from a money manager hell bent on bonds… Those dull securities that verge on mirror writing.   Can all prudence.  There is something  uber-boring about the pensioner’s favorite.  Safe securities never move like the crushing, cruising speeder’s wheel of  stocks.

Even as this is being written as a skylark, my white knuckles pale and blush at the positions screen.  It has taken me 5 months to recoup what a certified money manager lost in a year.. And yesterday I almost went back to zero.

And, today is the day that all market watchers recall as a dark anniversary on the “Street of Dreams.”   Not that this day is ever far from anyone’s mind.  In the mid 1970’s, when I worked on Wall Street i saw this date chillingly memorialized on a specialist firm’s wall.  They framed a murky Edward Steichen photo showing the  depth of night on Wall Street.  Matted below this print in a perfect window, was a yellow shred of ticker tape wishing everyone: “Goodnight..October 29, 1929.”

Venice Beach 1965 or something

“I’m hip to this,” he insisted, knuckling at the screen door.

The sound roused Big Lori enough to grunt and heave her pink bulk away from a spike of daylight.  Lolling in his floral chair, Sandy flicked away sweat. This couple had just barely sunk into the wooly shadows and independent dreams.

Still, the flimsy door quaked under the stranger’s fists that drummed away behind Sandy’s eyeballs.  The girl dove herself deeper down into the orange rug clapping dusty cushions over her ears.   She was tickled by hunks of fetid shag grazing her dimpled thighs.   At each knock, Lori futilely stuffed herself under the couch.  Only the French curve of thick arm and a disembodied frond of matted pony tail sprouted above the table-scape.

The fury of her scratching made a pea green rosette of mold cringe in its coffee cup lake and the chipped wine glasses trembled, too, setting off a cigarette butt tsunami.   Surrealistic Pillow wobbled ominously, shifting its payload.  Meanwhile among spent matches and a singed teaspoon the eyedropper rolled off and that propelled two needles and wads of spent cotton onto the floor.

Even if Sandy could not make out what was being said, he fumbled for his belt somewhere on the messy table’s surface.  It seemed the distant voice had alarmed Sandy although Lori dreamt on. He  hissed urgently at her to hide the “works.”

Lori could hardly see but vainly slapped after the singed teaspoon.  Detritus flew off of the Airplane. The belt slithered out of Sandy’s limp hand as he snuck a peek through the blinds.

Outside the flower covered bungalow, ”hip” guy appeared to be half passed perky in his seersucker suit and straw hat.  Paranoia flared and beat at Sandy’s sweaty temples and cleared his dull eyes.   The stranger looked too much like Bert Parks and to be cool.

“Shit.” he summised, “Narcs.”

“What’s the noise about, Sandy?” asked Roxanne nervously.  She had emerged from the ”counting room” when the pounding rattled the board and batten house.

“Dunno.   Maybe trouble…”  Sandy responded in his officious way.  But, now he was snatching up the “works” and stuffing them in the dead plant.

Sandy had somehow made himself important to Roxanne because she had misread his déclassé Bronx accent as “Eastern establishment.”  Despite his utterly grubby appearance and his being  “over 30” he had spoken about a New York she had never seen.  She fancied him a Yalie instead of the junkie he, was.   Roxanne was proud to have him around as he added a kind of gravitas to the otherwise very young house that she supported.

She stepped over to the door and listened for the knock to come again.

“I’m hip to this.”  The stranger pleaded.

“Hide the rest of your paraphernalia.”  Roxanne ordered, motioning to the “evidence” strewn on the floor near Lori.

“Lori? You okay?” she shook the plump, drowsy girl by the shoulders.

“Yeah. Yeah.”  Lori replied, hoisting herself on to the couch.  “What’s this is the ‘master bring-down.’ ”  she asked.

Roxanne opened the inside door leaving only the hooked screen door between herself and everyone else’s fate.

“What are you selling?” she inquired as straight as she could make herself sound

Bert Parks guy replied, “I am your neighbor and a hypnotist.  Can I come in?”

Rosanne appraised Bert and at once judged him both harmless and a possible client for her pot business.

“Sure, come on in.” she said cordially even though on second look he appeared to be way way too old.   But,  she knew too little about hypnosis to refuse such an opportunity to find out.

The seersuckered guest removed his skimmer and adjusted his eyes from the glare to the barely ambient light.

Outside, the Pacific shimmered less than a block away.  But while the ocean was waving in the California sun, inside of 39 Washington Blvd. was a floral draped eclipse.

Sandy had skittered away–probably out the back and, then, across the canals; leaving Lori and Roxanne to deal with the “bring-down” / “Narc.”

Roxanne had instinctive manners and so, she offered him Sandy’s vacated chair.

Lori had fluffed some grubby cushions on the couch and flopped out on it to resume nodding.  This guy was harmless; the danger had passed, again.

Roxanne was not seeking to make any “impression.”  So, she really took no notice of any chaos, filth nor was she particularly mindful  of the “evidence.”  She settled into the chair next to “Bert” and reached under it for the rolling tray.

“You want a joint?” she offered, scratching at the leaves and seeds hospitably.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you want to smoke some pot?” she clarified.  It was the early 1960’s and she understood that not everybody knew the language as it was spoken in the Albert S. Hoffman living-room.

“You want some Mar-a –wanna?” she inquired carefully enunciating every syllable.

“I’m a hypnotist.” he answered.

“Okay.  Do you want to hypnotize me?” she offered, playing along.

“I charge for that.”  He countered, lightly touching his bland bowtie.

“Do you want to trade?”  She countered, she was losing interest and fast.

“What do you mean?”,  he asked.

Roxanne was getting annoyed.  She was speaking California English for krisakes.

“What do you want?” she asked as politely as she could when triggered.

“Do you have wild sex over here?”

“What do you mean?”  Roxanne asked Bert in a sharp voice.

“I heard that hippies have wild sex.” He enthused.

“I gib jews a  blow job por cinquenta, Senor.”  Lori offered this service in all earnestness and in her faked Spanish accent.  She wasn’t kidding.

Letting the Cat Die.

Letting the Cat Die,

Once upon a time, when turns on the swing were precious and contentious you could have your airy moment of kicking and flying before demanding mates declared your time up.

Even so, the end a turn hardly dried-up like dew at noon.  No, there was one way to prolong a turn that even worked when Mom was calling you home.

To be fair, you would have to stop pumping skyward and use the gathered momentum to “let the cat die.”   So, it was acceptable to hang on to the swing until the arcing seat settled plumb.