Summary This story begins well before the trial, tabloids and scandal shook San Bernardino Valley in the autumn of One must. Diction: Didion writes as if she witnessed the events. Her word choice transitions into a story after she conveys the setting. Sentence. I approached my first Didion essay with the mixture of reverence and expectation of physical gratification that some reserve for the chocolate.
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Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream. October is the bad month for the wind, the month when breathing is difficult and the hills blaze draem spontaneously. There has been no rain since April. Every voice seems a scream. Dreamegs is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows. The Mormons settled this ominous country, and then they abandoned it but by the time they left the first orange tree had been planted and for the next hundred years the San Bernardino Valley would draw a drfam of people who imagined they might live among the talismanic dresmers and prosper in die dry air, people who brought with them Mid-western ways of building and cooking and praying and who tried to graft those ways upon the land.
The graft took incurious sime. This is the California where it is possible to live and die without ever eating an artichoke, without ever meeting a Catholic or a Jew. This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion, but hard to buy a book.
This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis has slipped imperceptibly into dgeamers belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz-length white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and return to hairdressers’ school.
The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past. Here is where the hot wind blows and the old ways do not seem relevant, where the divorce rate is double the national average dteamers where one person in every thirty-eight lives in a trailer.
Here is where they are trying to find a new life style, trying to find it in the only places they know to look: The case of Lucille Marie Maxwell Miller is a tabloid monument to that new life style.
Imagine Banyan Street first, because Banyan is where it happened.
Past the motel that is nineteen stucco tepees: But after awhile the signs thin out on Carnelian Avenue, and the houses are no longer the bright pastels of the Springtime Home owners but the faded bungalows of the people who grow a few grapes and keep a few chickens out here, and then the hill gets steeper and the road climbs and even the bungalows are few, and here desolate, roughly surfaced, lined with eucalyptus and lemon grovesis Banyan Street.
Like so much of this country, Banyan suggests something curious and unnatural. The stones look not like natural stones but like the thee of some unmentioned upheaval.
Joan Didion – ‘Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream’ (1966)
There are smudge pots, and a closed cistern. To one side drean Banyan there the flat valley, and to the other the San Bernardino Mountains, a dark mass looming too high, too fist, nine, ten, eleven thousand feet, right there above the lemon groves.
At midnight on Banyan Street there is no light at all, and didiob sound except the wind in the eucalyptus and a muffled barking of dogs. There may be a kennel somewhere, or the dogs may be coyotes. Banyan Street was the route Lucille Miller took home drreamers the twenty-four hour Mayfair Market on the night of October 7,a night when the moon was dark and the wind was blowing and she was out of milk, and Banyan Street was where, at about For an hour and fifteen minutes Lucille Miller ran up and down Banyan calling for help, but no cars passed and no help came.
Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream by Joan Didion · Longform
At three o’clock that morning, when the fire had been put out and the California Highway Patrol officers were completing their report, Lucille Miller was still sobbing and incoherent, for her husband had been asleep in the Volkswagen. Some mourners heard Elder Robert E. Denton of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Ontario speak of “the temper of fury that has broken out among us. Elder Fred Jensen asked “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Of course she came from somewhere else, came off the prairie, in search of something she had drdam in a movie or heard on the radio.
Joan Didion – ‘Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream’ () – The Non-Existent Story
For this is a Southern California story. By the time Lucille Maxwell enrolled at Walla Walla College in College Place, Washington, the Adventist school dreamerw her parents then taught, she was an eighteen-year-old possessed of unremarkable good looks and remarkable high spirits. The high spirits did not seem to lend themselves to an extended course of study at Walla Walla College and in the spring of Licille-Maxwell met and married Gorgon “Cork” Miller, a twenty-four-year-old graduate of Walla Walla and dfeamers the Or of Oregon dental school, then stationed at Fort Lewis as a medical officer.
Unhappy marriages so resemble one another that we do not need to know too much about the course of this one. There may or may not have been trouble on Guam, where Cork and Lucille Miller lived while he finished his Army duty. There may or may not have been problems in the small Oregon town where he first set up private practice. There appears to have been some disappointment-about their move to California: Cork Miller bad told friends that he wanted to become a doctor, that he was unhappy as a dentist and planned to enter the Seventh-Day Adventist College of Medical Evangelists at Loma Linda, a few miles south of San Bernardino.
Instead he bought a dental practice in the west end of San Bernardino County, and the family settled there, In a modest house on the kind of street where there are always tricycles and revolving credit and dreams about bigger houses, better streets. By the summer of they had achieved -the bigger house on the better street and the familiar accouterments of a family on its way up: And thhe had reached the familiar season of divorce. On April 24 an old friend, Elaine Hayton, died suddenly; Lucille Miller had seen her only the night before.
During the month of May, Cork Miller was hospitalized briefly with a bleeding ulcer, and his usual reserve deepened into depression.
By July 8, the conventional tensions of love and money had reached the conventional impasse in the new house on the acre lot at Bella Vista, and Lucille Miller filed for divorce. Within a month, however, the Millers seemed reconciled. They saw a marriage counselor.
They talked about a fourth child. But the Millers’ season of trouble was not to end that easily. October 7 began as a commonplace enough day, one of those days that sets the teeth on edge with its tedium, its small frustrations.
The temperature reached degrees in San Bernardino that afternoon, and the Miller children were home from school because of Teachers’ Institute. There was ironing to be dropped off.
There was a trip to pick up a prescription for Nembutal, a trip to a self-service dry cleaner. In the early evening, an unpleasant accident with the Volkswagen: He was a man who wore his responsibilities uneasily, and complained of migraine headaches almost constantly. He ate alone that night, from a TV tray in the living room. He wanted some hot chocolate. He took a blanket and pillow from the couch and climbed into the passenger seat of the Volkswagen.
Lucille Miller remembers reaching over to lock his door as she backed down the driveway. By the time she left tile Mayfair Market, and long before soem reached Banyan Street, Cork Miller appeared to be asleep. There is some confusion goolden Lucille Miller’s mind about what happened between She says that she was driving east on Banyan Street at about 35 m.
The next thing she dreamwrs the car was on the embankment, quite near the edge of the retaining wall, and flames were shooting up behind her. She does not remember jumping out. She does remember prying up a stone with which she broke the window next to her husband, and then scrambling down the retaining wall to try to find a stick.
There are dram houses at that corner, and almost no traffic. After one car had passed without stopping, Lucille Miller ran back down Banyan toward tile burning Volkswagen.
She did not stop, but she slowed down, and in the flames she could see her husband. He was, she said, “just black. At the first house up Sapphire Avenue, half a mile from the Volkswagen, Lucille Miller finally found help.
Robert Swenson called the sheriff, and then, at Lucille Miller’s request, she called Harold Lance, the Millers’ lawyer and their close friend.
Blogging Joan Didion, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream”
When Lucille Miller was arrested the next afternoon, Sandy Slagle volden with her. Sandy Slagle was the intense, relentlessly loyal medical student who used to baby-sit for the Millers, and bad diduon living as a member of the family since she graduated from high school in The Millers took her away from a difficult home situation, and she thinks of Lucille Miller not only as “more or less a mother or a sister” but as “the most wonderful character” she has ever known.
On the night of the accident, Sandy Slagle was in her dormitory at Loma Linda University, but Lucille Goldwn called her early in the morning and asked her to come home. Sandy Slagle remembers “and said to Lucille, ‘You’ve got ten minutes to get dressed or we’ll take you as you are. Sandy Slagle tells the story now as if by rote and her eyes do no waver.
Actually what first caused the detectives who arrived on Banyan Street toward dawn that morning to give the accident more than routine attention were certain apparent physical inconsistencies. While Lucille Miller had said that she was driving about if m. The front wheels, moreover, did not seem to be in exactly the position that Lucille Miller’s description of the accident would suggest, and the right rear eream was dug in deep, as if it had been spun in place.
It seemed curious to the detectives, too, that a sudden stop from 35 m. Dremers one, however, could be expected to give a precise account of what did and did not happen in a moment of terror, and none of these inconsistencies seemed in themselves incontrovertible evidence of criminal intent. But they did interest the Sheriffs Office, as did Gordon Miller’s apparent unconsciousness at the time of the accident, and the length of time it had taken Lucille Miller to get help.
Something, moreover, struck the investigators as wrong about Harold Lance’s attitude when he came back to Somme Street the third time and found the investigation by no means over.
And so it was that on the morning of October 8, even before the doctor had come to give Lucille Miller an injection to calm her, the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Office was trying to construct another version of what might have happened between The hypothesis they would eventually present was based on the somewhat tortuous premise that Lucille Miller had undertaken a plan which failed: If this happened, Lucille Miller might then have somehow negotiated the two miles up Carnelian to Bella Vista in time to be home when the accident was discovered.
This plan went awry, according to the Sheriff’s Office hypothesis, when the car would not go over golen rise of the embankment. Lucille Miller might have panicked then—after she had killed the engine the third or fourth time, say, out there on the dark road with the gasoline already spread and the dogs baying and the wind blowing and the unspeakable apprehension that a pair of headlights would suddenly light up Banyan Street and expose her there—and set the fire herself.
Although this version accounted for some of the physical evidence, the car in low because it had been started from a dead stop, dreamerrs parking lights on because she could not do tue needed doing without some light, a lf wheel spun in repeated attempts to get the car over the embankment, the milk cartons upright because there had been no sudden stop—it did not seem on its own any more or less credible than Lucille Miller’s own story. Moreover, some of the physical evidence did seem to support her story: Within a few days an autopsy had established that Gordon Miller was alive when he burned, which did not particularly help the State’s case, goldne that he had enough Nembutal and Sandoptal dteamers his blood to put the average person to sleep, which did: It was a spotty case, and to make it work at all the State was going to have to find a motive.
These was talk of unhappiness, talk of another man. That kind of gllden, during the next few weeks, was what they set out to establish. They found the wedge they wanted closer at hand than they might have at first expected, for, as testimony would reveal later at the trial, it seemed that in Yolden of Lucille Goldden had begun an affair with the husband of one of her friends, a man whose daughter called her “Auntie Lucille,” a man who might have seemed to have the gift for people and money and the good life that Cork Miller so noticeably lacked.
The man was Arthwell Hayton, a well-known San Bernardino attorney and at one time a member of the district attorney’s staff.
In some ways it was the conventional clandestine affair in a place like San Bernardino, a place where little is bright or graceful, where it is routine to misplace the future and easy to start looking for it in bed. Turner and defense Attorney Edward P. Foley would between them unfold a curiously predictable story.