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EDITING BOOKS — MY PASSION

Edited books of recent years

Edited books of recent years

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide; it was a way of explaining my passion for editing to new, usually first-time, authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.

Before I started editing books, I spent years editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. As a high school freshman, I became serious about writing and I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting for William and Mary’s Flat Hat newspaper and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, easily understood truthful writing to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important facts are given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

I’ve edited over 100 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man experiencing the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man by Debra Pauli (dating tips for the single woman), Beyond Time by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell from African Skies by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like), and eight books so far for Tim Gurung (a Nepalese native who lives in Hong Kong), which includes Dignity and A Nation of Refugees (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees). I’m currently editing a biography about character actor Strother Martin by Madelyn Roberts and another book by Tim Gurung.

If you need an editor or co-writer, check out my website: www.victoria4edit.com.

 

MEDITERRANEAN MOONLIGHT MADNESS – PART 2

A Mediterranean boat trip takes guts and imagination, especially on a winter night in a makeshift boat never tested before: just ask Art Arrowsmith and Eric Norby, who tried this escapade in the 1950s. These students of Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya, were determined to complete their proposed 15-mile boating adventure from Wheelus to Georgimpopoli—despite the cold February night, the howling wind and icy water, their lack of experience, and Eric’s very limited swimming skills.

A Libyan Dhow would have been a reasonable choice.

A Libyan Dhow would have been a reasonable choice.

This photo above depicts some fellow Wheelus High students on a Libyan Dhow at a beach party I gave about 1957.
Nevertheless, Art and Eric had managed to push their makeshift catamaran, crafted partially from an F-86 airplane fuel tank by Air Force airmen, into the ocean. They were headed toward a reef and then planned to sail west. Here’s the rest of the story in Art’s words:

As we approached the reef we came out of the shelter provided by the cove we were in. The wind increased, screaming in our ears and whipping up the crashing white water. Stinging foam sprayed our faces, burning our eyes. Crosscurrents caused by the swirling waters hurled from the breakers as they crashed over the reef and made it nearly impossible to steer. The closer we got to the reef, the higher the waves grew. Soon they were high enough to breach the gunwale of the boat. We were desperate to keep the craft pointed into the frothing waves, which worked for a few minutes with both of us paddling, but when we began taking on water, with no bailing tools, our fate was sealed. We had to turn back.

As the bow of the boat turned away from the breakers and we became broadside to their foaming fury, icy water streamed into the boat, rapidly filling it. We had barely completed our turn and headed to the beach, 70 yards away, when the boat sank. Eric clung to one of the 50 gallon barrels. As soon as the boat sank, my dad’s flight jacket filled with very cold water. My arms moved like I was swimming in a vat of syrup as I treaded water and worked on taking off my jacket.

I shouted over the wind to Eric that I would come to get him and felt confident that I could get us back to the beach. Over the years my dad had insisted all the children in our family take swimming lessons at the YMCA or at the base pool. Life-saving lessons were always a part of these courses. My real concern, however, was whether I had the stamina to rescue us both. Fortunately, I was very familiar with the cove we were in, and was able to estimate the depth of the water. I yelled at Eric to hold his breath and dog paddle, which he knew how to do, while I tried to touch the bottom. My plan was to drop feet first to the sandy bottom and push off in the direction of the beach, snagging Eric as I went. I trusted the moon would give enough light under water for me to see his form above me. Meanwhile, he would be dog paddling. And it worked!

It was past midnight when the shivering teens snuck into Art’s house. Luckily for the adventurers, Art’s mother had a good sense of humor when she discovered what they’d done the next morning. She was grateful the boys were safe, and Art’s father, who was on a trip at the time, never asked what had happened to his flight jacket. Art concluded that he and Eric had learned some serious lessons about the fragility of life, the weight of responsibility and the strength of teamwork.

MOONLIGHT MADNESS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

Boys will be boys is an old saying, but it holds true with teenagers like Art Arrowsmith, a fellow student who also attended Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya in the 1950s. Art sent me this true humorous adventure of his a few years ago. Since it’s a long story for my blog, I’m going to present it in two segments.

Art A
Art Arrowsmith
Art and good friend and classmate Eric Norby, also Class of ’57, had discovered a pontoon boat on the beach near Art’s house at Wheelus Air Force Base. As Art writes, “It was constructed from a modified F-86 fuel drop tank. The top half of the tank had been cut away, leaving a boat that resembled a bathtub with pointy ends. Attached to the boat by several rope-lashed two by four’s were two 50-gallon drums that provided an outrigger arrangement to balance the catamaran-type craft. Our plan was to wait until dark, launch the boat and paddle it parallel to the shore all the way from Wheelus to Giorgimpopoli, a distance of some 15 miles.”

Their respective parents had been told the teenagers would be spending Friday night together since Eric lived in Tripoli and Art lived on the base. The parents didn’t ask for specifics: Eric’s folks thought he’d be at Art’s home; Art’s parents thought he’d be at Eric’s.

Eric Norby

Eric Norby

February in Tripoli isn’t toasty. The Mediterranean water is no longer warm and the evening breezes can be very cold. Had we considered such things as wind and tides, water temperature and coastal currents, reefs and time of day, perhaps we…

Eric was wearing his ever-present light tan leather jacket, imported from Germany: his trademark in those days. I wore my dad’s flight jacket that he’d had for many years, the only warm jacket in our house. It goes without saying that we both wore jeans; that’s all we ever wore. We were wise enough to have a couple of bottles of water for the long voyage, a loaf of bread along with peanut butter and jelly: all stashed in the boat over the last couple of days.

Launching the boat proved to be an incredibly arduous task. We tugged and pulled and lifted and rearranged and sweated and struggled and stumbled our way to the edge of the water. The fuel-tank hull of the boat was smooth and slid easily along the sand and over the seaweed. The 50-gallon drums dug into the seaweed, even though it was like walking over wet noodles. Our feet slid over the slippery sea weed but the drums parted the wet strands and clawed their way into the underlying sand. Eric proved to be the heavyweight lifter as we inched our way to the roaring waves. He lifted the forward drum and side-stepped toward the water, pivoting around the boat hull, as I pushed the hull forward from the opposite side, attempting to match his progress. After a couple of these maneuvers we would trade places and repeat the process. Eventually, we reached the water. We rested about 15 minutes, caught our breath and discussed our next move. We looked at each other with doubt etched across our faces, but wouldn’t admit to the doubt. Neither wanted to be the one to call it off. It was then I found out Eric couldn’t swim!

Art and Eric brazened it out and pushed the homemade craft into the cold water, despite incoming tide and a strong wind. The moon was nearly full, which equates to high tide they discovered much later, but they weren’t trained seamen. They had to clear the offshore reef and then head west to their destination. The moon gave them light to see and there were lights along the shore. How difficult could it be?

Look for the ending of this sea adventure on Sunday, November 20.

1959 Wheelus Beach

Summer 1959 Wheelus Beach – definitely not the weather the teens experienced.

THE GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

Since we’re on the verge of making political history on Tuesday as we vote to complete this year’s very divisive political process, I decided to write about how we remember some local and national history in Southern California. Less than a mile from my San Fernando Valley apartment is a unique historical mural along the southeastern border of Valley College. Not long ago, the paint was refreshed by the school. I drive by the mural fairly often and took the time not too long ago to walk slowly and admire its details.

Valley College students (about 400 artists over the years) in the 1970s began creating a dramatic and colorful half-mile long mural depicting California history. They had the perfect surface—one side of the concrete Tujunga Wash that borders the college along Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Sections of it depict the Spanish history of California, the Japanese internment, civil rights actions, the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the movie industry, the Olympics, Jewish refugees during World War II, etc. It’s been called the Great Wall of LA.

I’m in a Sherman Oaks neighborhood that’s a mixture of businesses and residential housing from the swanky to apartment buildings. Coldwater Canyon, my street, winds through the hills of Beverly in the west down to Sherman Oaks and all across the Valley. The Little Brown Church, on Coldwater, is about a mile south of me and has the distinction of being the location of future President Ronald Reagan’s marriage to Nancy.  My street is a main artery that runs perpendicular to the 101 Freeway. Depending on the traffic, I could drive from my apartment to the freeway entrance in five minutes and either head north and west to Ventura and Santa Barbara or south and east to downtown Los Angeles or Pasadena (the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade). Since I’m in a huge valley, I can see mountains, both near and far, surrounding me, depending on the weather. I can even watch a “river” flow, especially if it’s rained in the winter. The river or channel,  called the Tujunga Wash, is encased in concrete: no more floods like the early 1900s.

We Southern Californians live in a desert, but you’d never know it from the millions of trees and blooming plants, courtesy of imported water. Someday soon we’ll most likely get on the “green” bandwagon of desert plants only. We’ve already got recycled sewage water for irrigation and have experienced a drought in the past few years.

My neighborhood is handy for day-to-day life. Grocery stores, a Whole Foods two blocks away and a Ralphs, a five-minute walk, are close. I could buy a car or have my car serviced a half-block up the street. The young man of Armenian culture who owns that business is not only congenial, but quite handsome.

Across the street from the car place is a tiny shopping mall chock full of conveniences: a donut shop, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners, and several restaurants: Chinese, Mexican, Italian pizza, and yogurt. Judo lessons are available and even a manicure/pedicure business. We’ve got a Walgreens on one corner along with one of those fake trees that are disguised cell phone towers. A chiropractor operates from a small office building a few steps from the Walgreens, and in the Ralphs center across the street there’s a recycling business and a gas station where we can agonize over gas prices, always more expensive in California because of gas taxes.

Public transportation has made great strides: there’s a bus line a half block from me and a Valley-wide bus line a little more than a block up the street, which will connect commuters to our subway system, which wasn’t here when I arrived in LA. Now Hollywood and downtown are easily accessible.

I don’t want to forget education facilities. Besides an elementary school and middle school within walking distance, there’s the junior college with the colorful mural. Los Angeles Valley College with its a large campus and an extensive adult education program, is a few blocks north.

If I’m not in the mood to drive to any of our many art galleries, I just have a short walk to gaze at lively historic interpretations done with passion and enthusiasm.

California History on the Great Wall Mural

California History on the Great Wall Mural. Water is flowing in the Tujunga Wash.

REALITY – WHAT IS IT?

Hubble shows visions of our amazing universe

Hubble shows visions of our amazing universe

What is reality? Does the view from the  Hubble telescope define the reality of our universe? It looks quite unfathomable to me. On the subject of the mystical, did a psychic predict I’d write my book, MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE? And then there’s Bob Dylan, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. He doesn’t know where his ideas for his popular folk songs came from. He was quoted as saying they were “almost magically written.”
I believe the creative process is a mystical/magical one. Many times I wonder where the ideas come from, both for myself and other writers. Common advice for writers: Write about what you know. But you don’t always know what you know until you sit in front of a computer or a pad of paper. Or take a walk, go for a swim or perhaps even clean your home.

I’ve noticed that when I’m the process of editing books, I’m open to connections/coincidences/synchronicity, call it what you want. I was editing a book, The Religion of Money—a light-hearted history of economics by Frederick—and was reading over the story of the De Medici family of Florence, Italy. The book mentioned Giovanni De Medici, and not two seconds later my favorite classical music station was announcing the opera “Don Giovanni” was scheduled in L.A.

I could be watching TV in the background and have a magazine I’m browsing. I’ll read about a certain subject and have it verbalized in some manner on a TV show immediately after, or vice versa. My daughter and I are very close and keep in touch by phone and Email. I might be thinking about her and the phone rings. From what I’ve heard, that’s quite ordinary for many of us. We have had several occasions when we meet on a Saturday that we are wearing the same color shirt.

My mother passed on 42 years ago. That morning I was reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson (coincidentally an alum of my college: William & Mary), and had just read about the death of Jefferson’s wife Martha, Sally Hemings older half-sister. I was absorbing that sad history when my dad called to say my mother had died during a kidney dialysis treatment. I’ve always felt the reading helped me deal with her death just a little better. Jefferson, my mother and I are all Virginia natives.

Books dealing with metaphysical subjects are a definite attraction for me, and I’m lucky to have edited several of them. High Holy Adventure by R. Alan Fuller is a true story about his mystical experiences with shamans, spirits and mediums, especially in the Andes. Euphoria Zone by Alan Lee Breslow weaves innovative healing techniques into his spiritual adventure. Patt Sendejas wrote Letting Go to Create a Magical Life, which discusses life’s synchronicities and invisible messages. Working with all three authors was enlightening and exciting.

In the mid ’80s I had a psychic reading with a woman named Terry, who was supposed to be quite knowledgeable in her field. I wanted to know if I was going to write a book. I figured it might be a story about my divorce, which had recently happened. Terry said her spiritual “guides” had told her I would write something about voyages. She didn’t know what that meant, she told me; perhaps it had to do with my “voyage” through life.

I forgot about the reading until the late ’90s when I was finishing up my novel. It was, indeed, about a voyage. My heroine, Melaynie, masquerading as a captain’s boy, was sailing with Drake to the Caribbean in the 16th century!

And then there’s Karen, my intuitively psychic friend with lots of talents. But that’s another story.

ORIGINAL ART BY HEIDI GIRAUD

My daughter, Heidi, tapped into her hidden art talents just a few years ago. I’ve been continually amazed at the variety of styles and subject matter she’s produced; each of her artworks are imaginative and colorful. She keeps producing and I’m sharing a few. I love them all and want more of them on my walls…I must admit, I’m prejudiced! I’ve got five paintings so far and joked that I now have the Heidi Giraud Art Gallery Annex. The watercolor below was her most recent creation. It’s a new challenge for her — working with acrylic is much easier. I love this one – it has such a delicate touch and the colors are magnificent.

Pensive Woman, a watercolor

PENSIVE WOMAN, a watercolor

Wanting to spread the word about her talents, I asked her to write something about herself and she did: “The past few years I’ve felt that I needed/wanted to do something creative. I don’t recall having a desire to paint when I was a child, but believe it must have been there in my soul. When I was kicked out of high school, I was sent to continuation high school. I decided to take an art class and the first painting I did was a watercolor, all freehand, no tracing. I fell in love with it, but wasn’t settled enough in my life to do more than one more watercolor.”

  1. blu-2                                                                               BLU
    “My artistic yearnings inspired me to use a lot of color when I decorated various apartments of mine over the years. Then I took another art class for a few months, and that planted the seed that grew into a satisfying habit of painting. I have always been attracted to the shapes you can create, not to mention the colors you can use in abstract. My favorite colors are bright blues, reds, oranges and greens. There are no rules in abstract painting, you can create whatever you want, probably why I enjoy it so much. Abstract painting opens your mind to all sorts of interpretations. I feel it’s a perfect expression of life. Just when you think you know what is is, you look deeper into the painting with your mind and soul and see something totally different. (Note from Victoria: Heidi and I went to the Getty Museum a few years ago to see Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”–painted in 1943 and said to be an iconic abstract painting of the 20th century. It was huge and full of images that both of us imagined: from horses and ducks to faces. I’m delighted we saw it with our own eyes; a photo of this painting does it no justice.)

roaring                                                                           ROARING
Heidi says,” My inspirations can come from anything. I can walk down a street in downtown Los Angeles, or see the sun’s rays flicker upon the Pacific Ocean and get my ideas from that. My emotions also play a part in my creations.”

WHEELUS AFB, LIBYA – A SOURCE OF CREATIVITY

Art Arrowsmith is a fellow student who attended Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya at the same time I did. He was Class of 1957 and I was due to graduate in 1960; we knew each other but weren’t friends. I got to know Art just a few years ago when he began reading my blogs about our time in Libya. An adventurous creative fellow, Art has done some writing, watercolor art and drawing. He’s a multi-talented fellow and a very adventurous one, having lived in countless places over the years. He shared a true story of his from his time living at Wheelus, MOONLIGHT MADNESS,  a while back and I  published it on my blog in August 2014. Check it out. I split it into two parts.

His latest reflections, called OLD AGE THOUGHTS, fit right in with my recent thoughts. All my longtime friends and I are growing older, but what’s the alternative? I am waiting today on my first grandchild’s arrival — Ella Julie Ann Giraud, in Dallas Texas. I’m a bit late in having the grandmother experience, but I know I’m going to cherish it and have some memories like those Art writes about below.

OLD AGE THOUGHTS

Days dissolve and weeks blur. Months are short lived milestones, while years bump up against one another and disappear before they can be savored, as we travel life’s ever shortening road. Time has essentially become irrelevant. Children have disappeared into adults and rivers are slowly changing their courses. Familiar landscapes, buildings and downtown venues are reshaped, somehow different, populated by strangers with strange customs and costumes. Friends are gone, lost or forgotten and missed. Loneliness is no longer just another word: it’s here.

If one catches an aged soul unawares in the autumn of their life, a long ago memory will be seen drifting through their eyes.

My hands are weaker but my faith is stronger. Reflection on past seasons and places cements certainty that many blessings were bestowed on myself and my family. Some were obvious but most not discovered until much later when their fruit blossomed. Even today I’m still realizing how protected we’ve been.

Camp fires blazing and hot dogs simmering. Checkered tablecloths on picnic tables and barbecues cooking. Children exploring their world wearing personalized helmets, peddling through the park on designer bikes, giggling and laughing, sharing their minor and major discoveries with one another and equally with strangers. We’re camping in these gloriously colorful early crisp autumn days, as the work-a-day world is left ever farther behind and we slowly adapt to and savor the long-looked-forward-to-retirement years. Our family has grown; both daughters and their families are out on their own. Now our grandchildren and great grandchildren are an integral and blessed part of our twilight years.

Art Arrowsmith’s class photo from Wheelus High; a recent watercolor of his, and a detailed drawing he did of a Porsche.

Art A

artswtrcolr

artporsche

EDITING BOOKS IS FUN

editedbooks

Some of My EditedBooks

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide, it was a way of explaining editing to new, usually first-time, authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.m

Before I started editing books, I spent years writing and editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. As a high school freshman, I became serious about writing and I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting for William and Mary’s “Flat Hat” newspaper and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, easily understood truthful writing to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important facts are given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

I’ve edited over 200 books in the past 17 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man experiencing the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man (dating tips for the single woman) and a spiritual book Where is God by Deborah Pauli, Beyond Time by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell from African Skies by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like),  A Nation of Refugees  (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees) and Afterlife (spiritual-what happens when the body dies) by Tim Gurung, and Feng Shui for Career Women by Patt Sendejas. Most recently, I was editing a book about Hitler and Eva Braun, and I’m currently editing a biography about character actor Strother Martin.

For more information about my editing and writing check my website. www.victoria4edit.com

 

US BASEBALL CARDS IN 1950s LIBYA

The world grows smaller every day with the Internet, satellites and other means of communication. After World War II, the US and other countries realized, like it or not, the world was connected, as English author John Donne said way back in a 1624 sermon: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

Wars, ironically, have brought people together, and as the US became more powerful, we sent our military with many of their families all over the world. It was surprising when we discovered people in these various foreign countries knew something about America from our movies and even from our sports teams.

Pete Remmert, who lived in Tripoli from 1958-1962, told me a fascinating story about his encounter and a friendship with a Libyan boy while his family lived in a nice area near the beach, a bit west of the center of town. It’s nice to relate a positive story about the Middle East these days.

“I was eight years old in 1958. Before we acquired (Wheelus) base housing, we lived in Giorgimpopoli and occasionally when I walked alone in the streets of the neighborhood, I would run into a group of Libyan boys (a few years older than Pete was) who sometimes liked to play a little rough. One of these boys didn’t like the way his companions were giving me a hard time, and he pulled me aside and offered me, in very good English, a deal I couldn’t refuse. He told me that he collected American baseball cards, the rectangular ones that came in packs of bubblegum.”

Tripoli Street- a mix of old and new

Tripoli Street- a mix of old and new

For those old enough to remember, I looked up some of the stars of that era on baseball cards. Though I’m not a typical baseball fan, I still remember a few of them. Stars like Don Drysdale (I saw him play as a Los Angeles Dodger), Mickey Mantle (a Yankee great), Whitey Ford, John Roseboro, and Carl Yastrzemski, are a few examples.

Although he didn’t remember the boy’s name, Pete commented, “He was a couple of years older than me, of slender build and bald as an eagle. He wore typical Libyan clothing: white robes with a multicolored shawl-type wrap during the colder months. He usually wore a ‘beanie’ type maroon-colored cap but on occasion he would wear a fez. I was always impressed with his command of the English language and his knowledge of contemporary American baseball players was vastly superior to any of the American kids I knew. He also introduced me to those yummy dates that we pulled off the date palms and ate like candy.”

Pete continued, “I told him that I was only interested in the gum and that he was welcome to have the cards. From that moment on, he swore that he would be my personal bodyguard. Well, one afternoon he made good on his promise. A group of older kids decided to rough me up a bit, and my young friend immediately took off his cap, bent over at a ninety-degree angle and, like a battering ram, plowed into one of the kids. The boys scattered and never gave me any trouble again.”

A street in Old Town

A street in Old Town

WORLD TRADE CENTER – 9-11 – 15th ANNIVERSARY

September 11, 2001, as other world-shaking events, still seems like only yesterday. Perhaps because the media makes sure we don’t forget our 21st century Pearl Harbor. Today marks the 15th anniversary. Being suddenly attacked, as an individual or as a country, is a difficult trauma to face and overcome in life, and some never do adjust. “Where were you on 9/11?” is a more current version of, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” We all share the tragedy, whether it’s about one person or nearly 3,000. It’s inspiring and heartbreaking to read and hear the real stories and experiences from that fateful day. Today’s Los Angeles Times featured several touching stories, like how the children of those who died that fateful day are coping as they grow up. And an editorial about how our worries about future horrors didn’t materialize as we thought. A new World Trade Center opened with a museum and life in New York City is thriving.  Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security said, “We are a remarkably resilient country in ways that we don’t always appreciate.”

My daughter, Heidi, and I were sharing an apartment in Sherman Oaks, California, that September Tuesday morning, which began in a typical fashion. Heidi was out for an invigorating walk before going to work for a downtown Los Angeles attorney service. At 7:30 a.m., I had spread my exercise mat in front of the TV and turned it on to watch Good Morning America before I had breakfast and started work editing a book. I was sitting on the floor, barely into the exercises, when I saw the footage on the planes striking both the north and south tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It was so shocking I couldn’t absorb it; I was impatient to share the news with Heidi before I broke down completely. Human instinct propels us to turn to others.

World Trade Center before the disaster

World Trade Center before the disaster

A couple of days later, I wrote in my diary, “It was unfathomable to most of us—resembling an especially bad special effect from an action movie, but played hundreds of times over and over.”

That morning I was mesmerized and horrified as I listened and watched the news, which eventually grew to include the Pentagon disaster and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Heidi returned from her walk totally ignorant; it was still early and many neighbors were getting ready for work and school. As I filled her in, we watched the continuous replays and news. A good friend of hers soon called and advised her to stay home from work. At that time one of the hijacked planes was supposedly headed for LA—the one that crash landed in the field in Shanksville, thanks to passengers who fought back.

Because of all the uncertainties, downtown Los Angeles was literally shut down. The terrorists had hijacked planes flying to LA because they would have the highest amount of volatile jet fuel to act as a bomb. Airports around the country were soon shut down because of potential danger.

Suzi, a friend of Heidi’s who worked in the travel industry, had driven to work in Culver City and wondered why the 405 freeway was so empty until she heard the news on her car radio.

It was a strange quiet day of little traffic and no sounds of planes: very unusual because we lived fairly close to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Many of us felt lost, at loose ends. It was a time of getting in touch with friends and family and watching TV for more news and the scenes of horror over and over again. Shopping centers and businesses closed down all over LA. The scene, the mood, resembled a California earthquake disaster without the physical damage. In this case the damage was emotional.

In our immediate neighborhood of single-family homes, apartment buildings, a strip mall and a supermarket, most of the businesses stayed open. It was comforting for Heidi and I to walk the short distance to the little pizza parlor in the strip mall. People shared stories and observations with each other as we ordered Italian food and watched the small TV, playing nothing but World Trade Center news. It was a day full of tears and tissues.

Soon-to-open 9/11 Memorial

World Trade Center Memorial shortly before it opened to the public.

A year after the disaster, Una, a friend from Northern California, visited Manhattan and walked down to the site. “I was overwhelmed with grief at seeing the gaping hole, this open wound on the heart of America, still raw, so vulnerable. Walking by the small church next door, posters and photos of missing loved ones were still attached to the fence. It was a heart-wrenching sight to read each plea for help in finding a loved one. The wind whipped up, creating a dusty whirlwind of the ashes and dust in the hole. I wondered whose ashes were being resifted.”

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