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LETTING GO OF THE PAST

Now I know what  “spill your guts” means, literally. I already knew I had to tell my story to really heal my body and inner being in order to move forward. I had made a previous attempt with a fictionalized version of my story, Colonels Don’t Apologize, which is on Amazon. Since I was still struggling, it took some new revelations (as explained in my previous blog) to bring it all to the forefront and to deal with it. As a writer, I felt I needed to do more than write in my diary or disguise what had occurred.

I’ve read many books written by people who’ve had to overcome very difficult traumas in life and always admired their ability to write about it. It’s great therapy. Those books were always enlightening and inspiring—a good reason I’ve also enjoyed biographies and even reading the obituaries! It’s wonderful to read how others conquer their demons.

 

Emerging by Heidi Giraud

Emerging by Heidi Giraud

 

You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.        Mahatma Gandhi

Looking back over the past few days, I’m amazed at the synchronicity. It’s April, a month for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the month for rebirth. I published my blog on the 9th, which, in numerology, means the end of a cycle, a time to take inventory of your life and what works and what doesn’t.  I did not plan this action deliberately; it just happened! On the 10th I spent all day “spilling my guts” from both ends. I have never thrown up so much in my entire life! Must have been a huge burden that needed to erupt and be flushed away (imagine doing this in an outhouse!).

It took me three full days to feel better. Today is a new day, Sunday, the 13th, and I feel so much better. I live in apartment 13 and Sally, one of my best friends, is celebrating a birthday today. It is also Palm Sunday and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday—an auspicious day.  When I looked up its meaning in numerology, the site told me 13 is a powerful number — one of upheaval so that new ground can be taken.  I’m ready to celebrate my moving forward physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I am grateful for all the heartfelt comments I received on Facebook and on my blog site.  We all walk through tough times in life and are usually made stronger and become more understanding because of our challenges.

MEMORIES – THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION Part 2

What was wrong with me? I was discouraged, to say the least. I gave up on doctors and concentrated on exercises, swimming, and a cane or walker if I needed it. I was in my 60s, which was too young for this slowdown in mobility. I began to think back to my childhood. Off and on over the years I had been privately dealing with a trauma that started soon after I met my new stepfather. From the age of 4 to 12 he had molested me. I don’t recall that it was frequent, or remember many details, but I managed to hide it completely from everyone, including my mother, for 20 years. I was perky, friendly, and an optimist—I buried the facts deep in my brain, probably like many abused children. Ignoring something that serious affects your self-esteem and pretending it’s forgotten doesn’t make it go away. It will arise and face you at some point.

Shortly after I admitted to myself at age 39 what had happened, I was divorced, which definitely complicated my emotional life. The next 20 years were a roller coaster ride, but a fascinating one, and I remained a mostly happy optimist.  Besides, I could walk and dance without a problem.

After my stepfather died, I felt I had to deal with what had happened to me. I had become familiar with many self-help books and gone to many a psychic fair. One reader, who was also a therapist, came up with an interesting evaluation several years after my stepfather died. She could see and feel my sadness and told me I had spent my stepfather’s inheritance quickly because I didn’t feel I deserved it. Amazing what abuse does to your self-esteem! During the following years I dealt with my emotional pain by writing about it, typical of a writer! I wrote and published a short book (using fake names) on Amazon that tells some of this story—Colonels Don’t Apologize).

Posing on a roof in Germany with doll and dog Pedro, 5 years old

Age 5, Posing on a roof in Germany with doll and dog Pedro

 

As my legs began to betray me, I was beginning to realize that these physical symptoms had something to do with my childhood emotional pain. My various stages of enlightenment didn’t come all at once—it was a long process. It wasn’t long ago that I figured out why my legs were holding me back: when I was abused I couldn’t escape—I couldn’t walk or run away. What a reminder!

After I began dealing with this emotional trauma and the anger and frustration, I began to feel more in control of it. I also remembered that my stepfather was not a monster. I believed that despite his “perversions” he was genuinely interested in my welfare. He was not evil. But there was one very important step I hadn’t taken in this journey of painful memories and physical pain: I needed to forgive my stepfather and forgive myself at the same time. Those are the steps I have dealt with most recently. I am feeling more and more at peace with all of it as time goes by, especially after discovering that what I suffered physically later in life has happened to many others. Ironically, soldiers who return from war don’t always get PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) right afterward. Like me, sometimes it doesn’t strike until years later.

Victoria Giraud

Victoria Giraud

I know in my heart that I will let go of the resistance in my legs, and I will keep persisting in my desire to walk easily and in balance again. I have recently started a 6-week program with a delightful young physical therapist, who is familiar with the mind-body connection.  I’m already beginning to see improvement.

The article in “Prevention” was an affirmation for me and inspired me, for the first time, to share this particular part of my journey toward wellness.

 

HEALTH & EMOTIONS, THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION

 For a long time I’ve believed that health and emotions are intimately related.   I bought a copy of Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life in 1987. An inspirational author of self-help books and the founder of Hay House, she enlightened many of us about the mind-body connection, the mental causes of physical ailments. When I develop a cold, a cough, bronchitis, etc., I always look up the reasons why I was susceptible. It’s not always easy to discern why these physical conditions have appeared or how best to alleviate them and heal. I have some physical challenges I have been dealing with for about 20 years and decided very recently to share them with my readers. This blog is the first of two parts.

One of the reasons I was impressed with Louise Hay is the success she had healing her own cancer. She healed herself in six months with self-love, affirmations, visualization, nutrition and psychotherapy. Her enthusiastic beliefs drew many to her self-help books, and she established Hay House, which publishes many authors in the field, including the well-known self-help and motivational author Wayne Dyer.

I think all of us face various physical and/or mental challenges. There have been advancements in the drug field (who can miss the ubiquitous ads?), but more heartening, to my way of thinking, in the spiritual and self-help arena. I subscribe to “Prevention” magazine, which gives advice of all kinds about health and fitness. April’s article: “Brain on Fire…a groundbreaking theory puts inflammation at the root of mysterious conditions like chronic pain and depression” by Kate Lowenstein was particularly enlightening. It affirmed what I had thought and concluded about my physical conditions for the past few years.

Lowenstein interviewed Gary Kaplan, an osteopathic physician and owner of Kaplan Center in McLean, Virginia, who has developed theories about chronic pain and inflammation and developed suggestions about treatment. After studying about 1,000 people, he said, “Old wounds left unresolved build up in the body…people with difficult childhoods…stress in early life…have higher rates of chronic inflammation.” For more specific information read the article.

 

Heart - Brain Connection by Heidi Giraud

Heart – Brain Connection
by Heidi Giraud

Briefly, my biggest physical challenge, off and on for a couple of decades, has been mobility. My legs hurt when I walked but never when I swam. The pain was more discomfort and stiffness than painful, but I eventually had to use a cane and even a walker occasionally. I had always been strong and fit and used to love to walk long distances almost daily. My leg pain began when I inherited money from my stepfather, who had married my mother when I was four. He had died from Alzheimer’s disease 20+ years after my mother had passed.

I struggled with walking and eventually gained back most of my usual leg strength. A few years later, during difficult financial times, I fell and injured my kneecap. I managed to battle back but about 4 years ago, it felt as if my legs decided to go on strike. It became difficult to walk and I felt off balance and lacking in strength. What was wrong with me?

Before I went to a neurologist, I had tests on the flexibility and strength of my legs. It wasn’t that serious but they couldn’t figure out what was causing the weakness and discomfort. Over the next year I had three MRIs. Nothing stood out—other than aging and a little arthritis. I was given pain pills (not high strength), which worked no better than occasional ibuprofen. I saw a physical therapist and worked with exercises. In the summer I did a lot of swimming and went to a wonderful chiropractor, but nothing I did gave me back my old physical capabilities.

My story continues on Wednesday, April 9.

GHOSTLY SPIRITS IN FAMOUS PLACES

I’m not a ghost expert, but I know people who have done some research on the subject and had some fascinating spooky experiences. Rob and his wife Anne had so much contact with the spirit world that they decided to write books about ghostly encounters. They published A Guide to the Haunted Queen MaryHaunted Catalina and The Haunted Alamo, among others. I knew them both and did some proofreading for one of the books. If you’re interested, check out the books on Amazon.

I interviewed them some years ago for my Los Angeles Daily News column and the story was too good not to share again. They are very convivial people, and we enjoyed many glasses of champagne and tasty Mexican meals together over the years. Perhaps some of their ghostly friends joined in the laughter without us knowing?!

“I was aware of the spirit realm as a young child,” Rob told me. “When I was 8 or 9, I had a weird experience at our house — a presence that emanated from the closet. It walked toward me and vanished. I knew it wasn’t my imagination.” Rob said the ghost, which was a benign presence, is probably still “residing” in that closet.

Anne told me she grew up in Texas hearing ghost stories, and her grandparents always claimed they had a ghost closet.

Rob and Anne shared a ghostly experience from an archeological dig in Oxnard, CA, some years ago. When a developer’s construction worker hit a skull with his backhoe, Rob was called in as an archeological expert to examine the remains. It turned out to be a 500 year-old Indian gravesite with 21 bodies, which were positioned in certain designated ways.  Chumash Indian officials were also contacted, and they decided to perform a ritual cleansing ceremony when  the bodies were once again buried.

Anne remembered the spooky aftermath and the chills she felt as she and Rob observed the ceremony. “Roosters were crowing, dogs from neighboring homes were howling, and a devil duster wind kicked up out of nowhere.”

There was another after-effect from the incident, Rob related. The workers who had accidentally uncovered the grave all had a minor car accidents the week following.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA

 

After taking a “ghost” tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, Anne was intrigued and went looking for a book in the gift shop about the various ghosts. The owner told her there was no book, but one was needed. The Queen Mary, a Cunard Line ship in service from 1936-1967 became a tourist attraction in Long Beach in 1971.  Shortly after, the couple set to work by calling the Queen Mary’s archivist to establish a correlation between actual deaths that had occurred on the ship and the ghosts haunting it.

They found plenty of ghost stories and several concerned the deaths of John Pedder and William Stark, for instance. Pedder, an 18 year-old crewman, was accidentally crushed to death by watertight door #13. Stark, a ship’s officer, died in his quarters when he accidentally drank poison thinking it was gin. Since their deaths, there have been repeated sightings of ghosts believed to be Pedder and Stark. People have also reported seeing a woman in a 1930s style bathing suit. Apparently there was a woman murdered in the first class changing room and her spirit haunts the first class pool.

Nowadays, the Queen Mary offers its own special ghost tour with special effects.

 

 

 

WEIRD DATES — LA STYLE

Most writers love what they do, it’s the marketing that can be a drag.  But since I write a bi-weekly blog, I can publicize the books and stories I’ve written once in a while–they’re all available on Amazon. All of them are based on my life, even though I’ve changed the character names for the most part. Being single can be daunting when you’re looking for good men.   It’s such a popular topic that the Los Angeles Times is publishing a true story every week in their special Saturday section.

Below are two excerpts from my dating adventures chronicled in a Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

For more details, check out–    http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noticed a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

BUGS IN TRIPOLI’S GRAND HOTEL?

Exotic and temperate Tripoli was certainly appealing, but all places have their drawbacks. Those of us who lived there remember the sandstorms and locust infestations, but I had genuinely forgotten about the roaches, perhaps because my mother patiently got rid of them in our villa.

The Grand Hotel faces Tripoli's harbor

The Grand Hotel faces Tripoli’s harbor

 

I am posting another portion of Terence Sharkey’s entertaining memoir, Love, Life and Moving Pictures. In this part of his saga about making the British film, “The Black Tent,” he describes how his quest for romance with Rosemarie at the Grand Hotel meant he would have to be in charge of pest control. As Terence relates:

We reached the corridor to her room. Rosemarie took my hand and drowned me in her enormous blue eyes. “Will you be my Night?”

“What?” I could hear my heart thumping. Had I misheard?

 Rosemarie said, “Will you be my knight–you know the shining armor bit – with the cockroaches? I put the waste bin out but I can’t bear picking them up, and they run so.”

 Despite its five-star rating, the Grand Hotel, like its equally luxurious competitor the Uaddan, was overrun with cockroaches. The nightly slaughter of the creatures took place in bedroom and bathroom alike, where they would explode like rotten chestnuts when hit with the heel of a shoe. I had devised a way to avoid this messy execution by lining the waste bin with a towel into which the scrambling beasts would be put, to be collected next morning.

 We went into her room. As the lights went on, the creatures scampered for the walls or any shadow that was available. Rosemarie gave a shriek. These were like no local theatre or palace-of-vaudeville beatles back home, with which as an actor I was familiar. The Empire certainly hadn’t set on these gigantiques. The dull brown creatures were all about two inches long, as big as my thumb and when not dashing for cover would climb walls with antennae waving and even fly a short distance. It was a losing battle and having captured a dozen or so we gave up.

 While Rosemarie took a shower, I remained there (on the bed) contemplating a country where the best hotels had cockroaches and whose balconies were home to marauding cats who haunted the verandah of the outdoor dining room.

 (Cut to romance scene…you’ll have to buy the Ebook to read it)

Terence continues:

I understand that a new Grand Hotel, bigger and even more opulent, was built in 1983, inspired by the original building’s façade and owing much of its design to its predecessor’s Moorish arched windows.

I wonder, if I were to return, would there still be cockroaches in the bedroom and would there still be a teenage blonde in the bathroom

 

TRIPOLI’S GRAND HOTEL–PERFECT FOR FILM CREWS

In the 1950s Tripoli was an ideal setting for adventure movies–World War II battles had been fought in the Sahara desert and the U.S. Marines were involved in an 1805 battle with the Barbary Pirates in Tripoli Harbor. John Wayne made two movies in Libya: one with Maureen O’Hara and one with Sophia Loren, and they had stayed in the Grand Hotel. The British thought it was the perfect location for “The Black Tent’  and booked the cast and crew into the Grand Hotel. One of the noted stars of that film was Donald Pleasence, who had a long film, TV, and stage career.

British actor and author Terence Sharkey was only 16 when he flew to Tripoli in 1955 to be a member of the cast of “The Black Tent” and chronicled his adventures in Love, Life & Moving Pictures, which is for sale on Amazon. I’ve already used some of his material in my blog, and asked him to contribute more from his book. He found romance at the Grand Hotel, but I’ll let him tell his own story.

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in "The Black Tent"

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in “The Black Tent”

The Thomas Cook archive in Cambridgeshire is enormous as you would expect of the world’s oldest travel company. Great shelves bulging under travel posters, tickets, hotel labels and brochures from almost 175 years of trading. Enticements to Victorians from London to a week at the Pyramids for thirty dollars, all inclusive.  Or the 1853 World’s Fair at Bryant Park, NYC,  for even less. But the ephemera had beaten the archivist; she shook her head. “There’s not much here. The place you search for was demolished thirty years ago.” Thus I learned of the fate of the palatial Grand Hotel Tripoli, which had been my base in 1955. (It was rebuilt in 1983.) We were an English film company and the Sahara was the location for a war drama, so popular with moviegoers in the decade following WWII.

A few days after my arrival, an aircraft from London had crashed on arrival at Idris, Tripoli’s primitive airport, killing fifteen and injuring many of the forty-nine on board. The Grand Hotel had held a warm place in my memory over many years, not least because of the romance that had developed between myself a young woman survivor. We were both teenagers and anxious to explore the world that had so far lain outside our experience.

A few days after Rosemarie’s arrival, the Underwater Fishermen of Tripoli had organized a function in the hotel ballroom and our star, a young Italian actress playing my mother, would be presenting prizes. There was to be another celebration. Producer Bill MacQuitty and a Libyan policeman had earlier that week scuba-dived in the harbor for a WW2 unexploded shell and had removed it to deeper, safer water.

I had come down early to the ball and the band was still setting up as Rosemarie appeared. At the top of the grand marble staircase she paused and looked around. She spotted me and waved and I waited on the bottom step as she glided down towards me. Her entrance had not escaped the Arab drummer who struck a drum roll as she descended with a great crash of cymbals when she reached the bottom. She blushed delightedly.

Unit-Wardrobe, in the form of Alice, hearing that her luggage had been destroyed, had made clothes for Rosemarie on her arrival and now had worked her generous magic again. A halter neck of gold lame crossed the top of an intense white full length slim-fitting silk gown, scarcely concealing her bosom.  The silken sheen followed her body, over curving hips to where it descended to the floor. Around her slim waist a wide gold lamé belt draped to where a low frontal strategic knot drew the eye as it  fell as a wide glistening tie to her knees. Fastened to the back like butterfly wings, two silk pieces in iridescent blue served to cover her bandaged arm and were clipped to a gold bracelet at each wrist, fluttering and shimmering as she walked. The ensemble needed no traditional gilded Cleopatra headdress. Rosemarie’s golden hair tumbled around her neck and a neat black rope wound into her curls. The gold glinted on her slim wrists and her perfume assailed my nostrils. She was quite simply, stunning.

The evening swept by with Arabic music influenced by the West. The air was full of familiar dance music, but still redolent of the East with tarabaki drums, piccolo and cymbals a constant reminder of Tripoli’s world around us. Robed Arab sheiks in square-cloth chequered headdresses bound with gold rope gyrated beside Rosemarie, giving an odd authenticity to her Queen of the Nile appearance, the whole totally enchanting. The Libyan music was augmented by a hillbilly band from the U.S. base at Wheelus Field and the appearance at one point of a bejewelled Eastern belly-dancer undulating to  ”I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”  was an unforgettable mark of east meeting west.

 

 

 

 

 

INTO THE PAST–AUTOGRAPHS & MEMORIES

I save things from the past; somewhere, deep inside, I must have known they would interest me when I grew older. Or perhaps they helped me make sense of my gypsy life. They were fodder for my writing, if nothing else. I recently ran across my Autographs Book, which was popular in the 1950s. They were small: about 6 inches by 4 inches and filled with small sheets of colored paper. The front of the brown fake leather cover has already come off, but the autographs, many in now faded pencil have lasted.

Autographs

Inside, I wrote that Viki Williams, my name at 11 years old, lived at 1460B 5th Avenue in Ft. Knox, Kentucky from 1954-55 and my 7th grade teacher was Mrs. Wright. Cindy Brackett, who lived a few houses away in this area of typical two-story Army brick houses for officers, was my first signature. She and I had something in common besides our ages: our mothers had both given birth to little boys about the same time. We were still occasionally playing with dolls, but live babies were much more fun. I remember taking my brother, whom I gleefully nicknamed Doodles, in his stroller down to Cindy’s house. We fed “our” little boys together.

My Baby Brother
My Baby Brother

 

Cindy wrote that I was “the sweetest girl” she knew, along with typical poems like, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I know a bulldog that looks just like you!” In those simpler times, it was largely assumed that girls would get married and have babies shortly after high school or college and several autographs had the poem, “When you get married and have twins, don’t come running to me for safety pins.” (no disposable diapers in those days!)

I had a crush on a boy who played baseball, Ward Morton. Our first date was for a movie on the post, and my dad insisted it had to be a double date. Ward brought a friend and I brought a friend, and we all paid our own way, probably no more than 25 cents. In the summer of 1955, things must have heated up—Ward signed my book very simply, “I love you, Viki.” And he listed his Ft. Knox address! He sent me postcards when his family went to the family home in Wisconsin for vacation. Young love doesn’t last long in the Army; a few months later my family flew off to Tripoli, Libya, for a few years.

In 8th through 10th grade at Wheelus Air Force Base, we were so much more sophisticated! My friends wrote longer messages in the book to remind me how we had had fun together or to tease me, like Steve Gaynor, that I pronounced donkey as “dunkey.” William Maguire said I was a “real swell gal,” and Tom Henderson hoped we’d be within shouting distance when our parents were transferred to the Washington, D.C. area. I found autographs from Tanya Thomas, who reminded me of a hayride, Kay Ray, Sue Wisdom (who remembered us taking algebra together), Gail Carlson (who said “yours until Lassie marries Rin Tin Tin”) and Marla Bush among others. Karen Gamel recalled our climbing the wall around our villa one evening to spy on the British general’s party next door.

I had gotten to know a few Italian teenagers in Tripoli and they signed my book in Italian. I couldn’t read it then or now, but Enzo, who was half British, penned, “Ti voglio tanto, tanto, tanto bene…remember me.” Sounds romantic! I wonder how his life’s turned out. Stefano, Enzo’s good friend, wrote a message in German, which I can barely translate– something about being a good friend. As a footnote, Stefano visited my parents when they were stationed in Germany in the 1960s, and Enzo got my address and wrote me a few times when I was in college. The Internet has connected many old friends and classmates, but it’s not quite the same as looking at a friend’s written message and signature.

CREEPY CRAWLERS OF SPRING

Despite the crazy weather all over the world, in the Northern Hemisphere it’s Spring, for the most part. In California we’ve already had a couple of heat waves, and in the heat the crickets hear the alarm to awaken and begin their nightly, and sometimes daily, mating sounds, better known as chirping.

When I think of insects, I consider them pests, even though I know they have a rightful place in the balance of Nature. Last year,  a cricket  made a home under my kitchen sink and behind my dishwasher for weeks. Chirp, chirp, chirp… The “natural” insecticide didn’t work and I refused to spray the poison, so I lived with it until a leak was fixed and the creepy creature expired for lack of water. This year I haven’t seen any yet — maybe they’ll forget where their secret path leads to the second floor. My fairly new carpet is a lovely brownish-pink and last fall I noticed the crickets blended in so well I couldn’t tell I had a cricket until I saw movement.

Locusts, on the other hand, are considered both a plague and a food! According to Jewish Kosher law, certain locusts are an acceptable food; they are considered delicacies and eaten in various countries. Author Jules Verne described them as “shrimps of the air.” Imagine eating roasted locusts or salted and smoked locusts! Crunch, crunch….yum, yum….

I’ve written about the locust invasion in Tripoli while I was there, but I don’t remember the event as vividly as some. I wasn’t outside surrounded by these large “bugs,” for one thing, although I remember Libyan men along the harbor picking them off walls to save for a feast afterward. I think guys in general are much more interested in creepy-crawlers.

Male & Female Locusts Having Fun!

Art Arrowsmith, a member of the Wheelus High School basketball team, was out on the court with the team one day before the locust onslaught. They were practicing for an upcoming league game.

“I went in for a lay-up and as my eyes followed the ball into the basket, my gaze naturally went to the sky, drawn by movement above. Whoa! There were millions of large flies, or so I thought initially, streaming across my vision. A second look and I realized the flies were really locusts! Shortly after, our coach ended the practice. The locusts arrived in clouds that were immeasurable, but one would guess they covered miles. Soon, they were settling and crawling, hopping and clinging to all things available. Crunching through them was unavoidable.”

Art said he didn’t hear them while they were flying, only when they were feeding.

Ron Curtis, an English fellow whose family was stationed in Tripoli in the 50s, related his experience:  “The first time I got caught in a locust storm I was about 100 yards from home. I saw this black cloud in the distance, which was an odd sight for summer.  Within seconds I was being battered by thousands of locusts (trust me, they hit hard and hurt).  They seemed to stick to my hair, my clothes and my skin.  There were so many it was difficult to see, and I got completely disoriented.  Within seconds it was over and the ground was littered with thousands of the insects.  The Libyans came out with baskets and scooped them up.  I learned later that they roasted and ate them.”

Ron Himebaugh, who attended 3rd grade at Wheelus, remembers flies. “The entire outside wall of our house was covered from time to time with FLIES!”  For someone who was so young in Tripoli, Ron has a variety of memories: finding a Roman coin in his yard (he lived off base), “dust so bad I could hardly breathe, and the smell of Suk el Giuma.”

My mother was a diligent, tireless housekeeper who was up to all the challenges of living overseas.  I vaguely remember her fighting roaches in our villa. We had a small yard with a swing set and my little brother Darby, about four at the time, enjoyed playing in the dirt. He ended up with worms!

And that’s the end of my Buggy Tale!

THE WILD PART OF LA

Los Angeles is an amazing area to live in. I’ve been here since 1965, but am always surprised about the natural aspects of Los Angeles. Many of our visitors don’t realize the scope of life here. We have a population of nearly 13 million. Interestingly, our statistics indicate that we only have 7,500 people per square mile, while New York City has 27,500 and Chicago has 11,800 folks per square mile. Of course our land area just in the metropolitan LA area is 4,850 square miles and that doesn’t include some of the outlying areas.

Being surrounded by mountains and lots of open space, Southern California is alive with wild animals (and I don’t mean young “cool cats,” etc., in Hollywood). Black bears come down from the mountains, especially in spring, for visits.  They take a break in pools and hot tubs, break into refrigerators and freezers in garages, and easily discover when trash day is scheduled so they can steal food. If we two-legged animals spot them, chances are they’ll head for a tree when pursued. Animal control agents might use tranquilizer guns before they drive these fuzzy creatures back into the mountains. It doesn’t stop the bears; one of them that was relocated 50 miles away came back again the next year. The neighbors in the area he preferred even had a nickname for him — Meatball — since he preferred Costco frozen meatballs. He finally had to be relocated to the San Diego County Sanctuary. Before that he had become quite the media star.

 

The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away.
The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away. Photo by Heidi Giraud

Mountain lions are prevalent and most parks and hiking trails will have  signs warning people to make themselves look bigger with arms extended, for instance, when encountering one. An unlucky biker was a target and died from a mountain lion attack a few years ago. These critters are very resourceful – one of them negotiated the flood channels (formally known as rivers) near Santa Monica and ended up in a small shopping center one morning; a male mountain lion found his way across five freeways to make his home in the spacious Griffith Park.  He was tagged P-22 and was in the news the past few days. He was videoed strolling along streets in the Hollywood Hills about 5 a.m. Was he looking for food or a mate? Nobody had a chance to interview him!

Coyotes are everywhere. Out in Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mountains, you can expect to see coyotes strolling around and perhaps peering through your glass patio door. Any residential areas near the mountains will enjoy coyote song during the night—their howling choruses remind me of a scary movie or a Stephen King book! Residents keep their cats and little dogs inside if they don’t want them to become a meal. Mule deer wander the hills as do raccoons and rattlesnakes. I had a brief encounter with a raccoon a few blocks from my apartment. He may have come from the nearby flood channel, which is blocked off from humans (who still insist on trying to ride the river when there’s a major rain storm, despite the danger).

The skies are full of hawks of various types and owls. When I do see hawks making lazy circles in the sky, I am reminded of the song from the musical “Oklahoma.” I had no idea wild owls could have such a wide wing span or look so imposing until I saw one on a mountain road devouring a recent kill. Sometimes, we can spot a flock of exotic parrots in the San Fernando Valley. There are 13 species of wild parrots in LA. Apparently they were once pets and were let go for one reason or another. During the 1961 fire in Bel Air (Nixon had a home there, which burned), firemen let pet parrots go because there was no time to save them. Others may have come from the Busch Gardens Park in Van Nuys, which was closed down in the late 1970s as the Anheuser-Busch brewery grew. The bird sanctuary was the last to go, but no one seems to know how so many parrots got away. Perhaps it was too much trouble to find them homes.

Seagulls, which prey on beachgoers for food, also fly in from the nearby ocean to see what tasty morsels can be had inland. While having a nice meal at Gladstone’s off Pacific Coast Highway on the beach, I’ve had a roll snatched out of my hand by a seagull that swooped by.

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