Editing, Ghostwriter, Editor, Journalist, Memoir, Biography, Autobiography, Life story, Newsletter, Proofread, Line Edit, Blogger, Copy editing, Self-publishing, Synopsis, publications, screenwriting fiction, non-fiction, Writing a book Creative writing Press releases Freelance writing Advertising copy Short stories Book Editor Novel Editing a book Ghostwriting a book Writing advice Book Formatting advice Ebook E-book publishing Content development Web content Freelance writing Magazine writing

COMMENTS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST

One of the wonders of the Internet and a plus to the experience of writing a blog, is the pleasure of readers’ responses. Libyan-born Mosbah Kushad, a professor who now lives and works in Champaign, Illinois, wrote. He didn’t say specifically, but I am guessing he teaches at the University of Illinois. When we communicated a couple of years ago—after Ghadaffi was deposed—he was on his way to Tripoli for a visit for the first time in years.

Mosbah wrote: Victoria’s blog brings back pleasant memories of my days as a young boy growing up in Suk El Guma outside Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. When I was in 8th grade, my uncle got me a job as a busboy at the Base for a handsome salary of $21 a month. I was on top of the world with my personal pass to ride the bus to and from the Base. That same gate that everyone remembers very fondly.

I remember watching young American kids neatly dressed walking into the school and some riding the buses from the city. I used to daydream of someday being like one of them. Well, with luck I finished college in Libya, came to the US where I got my Ph.D., and I got a job as a professor in a major university, and thirty-six years later, my kids are living like those kids that I used to dream about. This is my life story as a Libyan American. Like everyone else, I cherish those days but I also cherish the time that I have lived in this great country and the many friends I have made here. The smell of fresh bread from those bakery shops in Suk El Guma is still with me…God bless you all.

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover. http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

 

When I wrote about a few of the unpleasant habits of some Libyan men, I heard from an Egyptian man, Wael M. El Dessouki, who had lived in Tripoli. He wasn’t too happy with my disparaging remarks.

Dear Ms. Victoria,
 I am an Egyptian who lived in Tripoli for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984. I have read your blog about Tripoli and it’s obvious to me that you are deeply connected to that place. I can understand your feelings. Tripoli is a charming city, not only because of its places but more so because of its people.
 However, in your blog, you have included a few remarks and general statements about Libyans that I believe are inappropriate and offensive. For example, you say, “Libyan policemen were not above trying to touch private parts if an American woman or young girl happened to walk too closely to these lusty, over-curious males.” Maybe you encountered an incident of sexual harassment, however, that does not justify making such a general statement about Libyans.
 Also, the issue of peeing in the streets: maybe you have seen that happening, but I have seen it several times in some US cities. Hence, when you list such thing as a cultural issue, that implies that it is very common and happens in Libya only. 
Some other blogs include similar remarks.

I answered this gentleman and explained I didn’t mean to imply that all Libyan men were rude or ill-mannered and he was happy.

Wael M. El Dessourki answered: Thanks, Victoria, for your positive response. Your writings about your experiences in Libya are wonderful and I sincerely enjoyed them. I am quite sure you did not have any bad intentions when you mentioned those remarks; however, as an Arab, I see those remarks as annoying dents in a very nice picture. I am concerned that such remarks might be a turnoff for other Arab readers.

In this world, we hope to build bridges between cultures that bring people to common understanding and to respect our differences. In my opinion, your blog is similar to a nice bridge but unfortunately it’s got some holes.

I admit I am not perfect although I did not say that to this concerned Egyptian reader. Besides, don’t we all have holes? He wrote before the Egyptian and the Libyan uprising. I wonder what his thoughts were about these upheavals.

PREMONITIONS OF MOVIE STARDOM

During the holiday season there are plenty of Christmas movies; we’re bombarded with the ads on TV and in newspapers. I noticed that Jingle All the Way, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1996, before he became Governor of California, now has a sequel which stars Larry the Cable Guy. I have fond memories of the first version because I was invited to visit the 20th Century Fox set for this movie. I was writing a weekly column for the Los Angeles Daily News called “People and Places,” and I’d been asked to the set to interview Jake Lloyd, the then seven-year-old actor who was playing Swarzenegger’s son in the movie. He’s the kid in the photo below.

Original movie poster

Jake Lloyd’s story is a mystical one of premonitions, believe it or not. He knew he wanted to make a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was two years old and living in Colorado. Here’s what the precocious youngster told me about seeing a drive-in movie: “When I was two my parents went to see Terminator. I was asleep in the back seat so they decided to stay for Terminator II. All of a sudden they look back, and my eyes were an inch wide.”

From then on, his mother Lisa related, Jake was entranced with Schwarzenegger. Although he couldn’t properly pronounce the superstar’s formidable surname, Jake would walk around their Colorado home declaring he would be in a movie with his hero. He would make up stories and try to imitate Schwarzenegger.

When the Lloyds planned to move to California so that Lisa could finish her college education, Jake asked his mother, “Isn’t Hollywood in California?”

Despite their skepticism, the Lloyds decided to give in to young Jake’s ambitions regarding moviemaking. They had photos taken and sent them to agents. An agent with her own talent agency near the Lloyd’s new home liked what she saw and took Jake on. In no time she’d booked him for three commercials.

It didn’t take long to acquire experience. Jake appeared in a Ford and a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial and starred in Unhook The Stars, a movie with Marisa Tomei and Gena Rowlands; he also got a reoccurring role in TV’s E.R.

Jake Lloyd grown up

Jake Lloyd grown up

Jake’s dream became a reality in 1996 when he auditioned and won the part of Schwarzenegger’s son. Jake said that he was speechless when he first met his hero. He remembered Schwarzenegger asking, “How you doing, Jake?” After working with the star for three months, Jake said, “Now we’re really good friends.”

It’s been years since I did that interview but little Jake was hard to forget. He was an unspoiled kid interested in everything about the movie business. While I was there, he took me into the living room set and up some stairs to the catwalk to look down on the set. It was the last day of filming. Since movies are seldom put together sequentially, they were just then filming the very first scene.

After his first film, Jake went on to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas’ famous film, The Phantom Menace. Apparently, Jake became discouraged with his film career (he’s now twenty-five), and he’s since moved to the Midwest. I wonder if he had any visions about what career he would pursue when he got older.

TEENAGE ROMANCE IN TRIPOLI

Living on the economy, as the term went, had exciting advantages over living among only Americans. During my second summer in Tripoli, I expanded my social horizons by meeting some British teenagers. The British Army also had a post in Tripoli. A few of my girlfriends and I were invited to a private party given by a young English boy. We were the hit of the party in our Bermuda shorts, a fashion that had yet to hit England. These young Brits listened to American rock and roll but many of them hadn’t quite mastered the steps for fast dancing, which at that time was something we called jitterbugging.

A young man named Chris, an American wannabe (or so I assessed him), who sported a crew cut, talked to me at the party and asked me to dance. Dancing to slow songs was an invitation to bodily contact. I think we were both about 14 at the time. I didn’t know what his experience in romance had been; mine had been limited to a few kisses with a boy at my dad’s last post in Kentucky. What a wonderful awakening to the highly enjoyable sport of making out. Better yet, he had mastered the art of kissing, in my humble and inexperienced opinion. As I remember, we had great fun testing out new feelings through several slow songs. I did quite well at reciprocating, and it was thrilling.

That summer I spent many hours in his company comparing notes on the differences in American and English lifestyles. Like most English students in Tripoli, he would visit his parents on his several vacations during the year and would return to England where he went to a private boys’ school. He invited my mother and I (my father must have been on one of his business trips to Saudi Arabia or Ethiopia) to join him and his parents on a sailing excursion in Tripoli harbor. They were members of a Dolphin Club, which meant sailing an impossibly tiny sailboat with room for three at the most. My mother joined his father. I was onboard with Chris and his mother, and she relaxed while I helped with one of the important ropes. The trick was to move from side to side with the wind, making sure the boom didn’t hit you in the head. I got calluses for my efforts; my mother narrowly missed the boom, but enjoyed relating her adventure afterward.

Steve, Enzo, DarbAbove:  Stefano and Enzo with my baby brother Darby
An enthusiastic tennis player, my father joined the Tripoli Beach Club, a European private club of Italian, English, Russian and American families that featured tennis courts, a private beach on a small cove and a clubhouse. The club was outside town, a short drive away. Being a member didn’t help my tennis game, but it added to my boy-watching skills and provided a way for me to meet more international teenagers. One of them was Stefano, or Steve, as he liked to be called, a young man who had gone to school in the U.S. and whose father worked for the Italian Embassy. He introduced me to his young Italian friends.

It wasn’t long before I had developed a crush on the handsome young Vicenzo, or Enzo for short. I later recalled that I had been sitting two seats away and admiring Enzo at a concert at the Piccolo Scala the year before. His father was a wealthy Italian businessman, his mother was English, and they lived on an estate about a mile away from our villa. He was entranced enough with me to begin waiting for me at the school bus stop in the afternoons and walking me the half block home. What made him especially dashing was the motorbike he rode. To this day when I hear the soft whir of a motorbike engine, I think of that old excitement. No leather jacket for this dapper Italian; on school days he was always in proper trousers and the sport coat he wore to school.

Enzo invited me and a couple of my girlfriends to his sixteenth birthday party scheduled from 4 to 10 p.m. on a Sunday, which I remember thinking was an odd time for a party. The lush estate was impressive. His parents had converted a stable into a party house, adding furniture in the latest style, a corner fireplace, huge picture windows and a wall mural depicting a hunting scene.

The guests consisted of Italian teenagers with a sprinkling of Americans. Charades in English and Italian provided a challenge and much hilarity. After a tasty Italian pastry cake, we all danced. The Diaconos were quite modern: they had a small collection of Elvis Presley records! I received a kiss from my Romeo when one of the Italian girls suggested that the birthday boy had to kiss all the girls. He blushed but kissed us all politely on the cheek. It seemed that in the romance department my friend Chris definitely had the kissing advantage. Never underestimate the British!

ANGELS IN UNIFORM – A True Story

The Christmas season always reminds me of angels, however they appear to us. Angels do exist! Besides, I’ve had too many friends tell me their own stories. I’m offering a short preview of my book; for the entire story, this short book is available on Amazon.

When Samantha arrived in Los Angeles, she got an immediate job as a feature film extra. Although she sometimes tired of standing around waiting for filming to begin or end, she found the business fascinating and took the time to ask questions and get to know the players both in front of and behind the camera. Her striking looks, with her added knowledge and flair for the right clothes that attracted attention while emphasizing her curvaceous figure, encouraged many a director or producer to talk with her. On a hot and crowded set one day while filming a crowd scene in a busy parking lot, Peter sauntered up to her during the lunch break.

Angels inUniform#1

Six-feet tall with a tanned, muscular body, a Germanic face and thinning blond hair going gray, his studied informal air and casual but expensive clothes gave him away as a producer. Sam perceived all this in an instant; to protect herself she had always been observant and perceptive. He stood in front of her, removing his sunglasses to reveal startlingly azure blue eyes. He gazed frankly into her eyes, assessing her looks and manner with no apology; he had been in this business too long to waste time on courtesies. Her height, in small heels, was equal to his; her forward gaze did not flinch or look away modestly. She took a few lazy moments to give him a slight smile, her nose flaring as she smelled his expensive cologne. She was at ease and ready for any banter he might direct her way.

“Miss?” he opened casually.

“Hunter. Samantha Hunter.”

“I’m Peter Hood, the producer for this epic.” He laughed.

She gave him a cool smile. “I know.”

“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new at this game?”

“Fairly.”

“I imagine you get impatient on days like this, when it’s hot and crowded.”

“Actually, no. I thoroughly enjoy this business, even though I am at the bottom…for now.” She could tell her reactions were intriguing him. He was probably so used to the star-struck, over-impressed, naive routine. The chase, she thought to herself, how they love the chase.

“Would you care to learn more about the business?” He paused for emphasis, testing her self-contained manner. “From a producer’s point of view?”

“What did you have in mind?” She could just imagine, but she gave no hint of sexual interest, it was too early in the game.

“Dinner this evening… perhaps by the ocean.”

She deliberately took her time answering as she slowly smiled at him, her dark eyes were pools of mystery. “Yes…I’d be honored,” she answered with just a hint of sarcasm.

He laughed, genuinely delighted at her comment, and knew he might not be the master of this game. Here was a dark-skinned woman who looked like she would lead him around if he were not careful, a challenge to an attractive, powerful man used to getting his own way. He was heartily tired of having women gush and succumb over him so easily because of his money and position.

They had dinner in Malibu, sitting by the expanse of window at one of the trendier, wood and glass dining palaces perched along the coast. Each crash of the incoming waves seemed to meld these two passionate natures together. Sam was sassy and direct enough for him; Peter was more mellow, but opinionated and strong enough to fight for control. Sexually, the chemistry blazed, and they lit the fire that first night.

He took her to his home, and she’d been with him ever since—until she left this morning, before the sun was even up. Thinking of how their romance began, Sam’s tears began to flow again. They became sobs that racked her body, so powerful they sent pains through her chest and back. She nearly lost control of the car, and was forced to drive more slowly.

As she gained control of herself and the car, she began to analyze. Why couldn’t he accept her as she was, slightly damaged? He knew she had inner strength, had survived much for her young years. Hadn’t she told him some of her darkest secrets? Maybe she should never have opened up to him; he wasn’t the father figure she never had. Was that what she expected? When would she stop looking for the strong, caring male? They did not exist. This thought brought tears again, but she willed them away.

She needed some music and grabbed for a CD in a holder on the console. She put one in without even looking. As she started to listen she recognized Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. How appropriate, she thought ruefully—star-crossed lovers, only happy in death. What a beautifully sad piece of music, certainly in keeping with her mood. Why didn’t she drive off the highway now, and end it in a flash? But what if it didn’t work, and she became more maimed that she was already? She wanted something certain, at least in death. Available in Ebook format on Amazon. http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE – A PREVIEW

Since it’s holiday season once again, it’s time to advertise my own books, available on Amazon (http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud). I’ve included an excerpt below, a bit of a love scene from my  historical fiction novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade. There are six short books for sale as well, including An Army Brat in Libya.

I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction and became enchanted with the 16th century some years ago when I attended Southern California Renaissance Faires. My fictional character, Melaynie Morgan, lives in Plymouth, England, and when she decides to turn her traditional world upside down, she embarks on a sailing adventure with Francis Drake, a daring Plymouth captain. Drake is sailing to the Caribbean to plunder Spanish treasure; thinking he has met an enthusiastic young boy, he hires Melaynie as his cabin boy. What a masquerade she accomplishes before Drake and his crew sail back to England a year later!

Mel book cover #1

The following is a preview of one of the love scenes between Melaynie and Bernardino from the book. She is guiding him to his tent on the Caribbean island beach:

Bernardino leaned upon her once more in case someone spotted them, and they walked quickly but stealthily the short distance to the tent.

“No need for a candle or lantern, sweeting, there’s a bit of moonlight through the opening. I have memorized your face and I know where all your important parts are,” Bernardino said, desire heating up his words, making them expand and surround her.

“Mmm…you have all the perfect words for me, my heart,” Melaynie answered as she lovingly touched the dimples of his smile and pulled his head down to meet her eager lips. She could feel his excitement now, heightened by her forward moves. She liked the feeling of taking charge that pretending to be a male gave her; it would enhance her lovemaking. She was not as innocent as the first time, and the power of knowledge created a white heat that coursed through her body.

Through open lips, her tongue explored his mouth. When she withdrew it, she kissed his cheeks as she ran her fingers through his thick dark hair. Her fingers caressed his neck and the short beard on his strong chin before finding their way to his chest and the nipples through the open neck of the loose shirt. She remembered the extreme pleasure he had given her and excited herself by being the aggressor. Tugging at his shirt, she pulled it out from his breeches. Sensing her mood, he opened his arms to allow her to remove the shirt.

She stepped back, appraising him. “Hmm…a fine specimen of manhood we have here.” A step forward and she was unfastening his breeches and undergarment and running her hands slowly down his hips. The hands moved softly and tenderly toward his engorged member.

To find out what happens next, you will have to read the book, which can be ordered from Amazon.

CAVE DRAWINGS — MESSAGES FROM OUR ANCIENT PAST

Always interested in history, a few years ago I saw Werner Herzog’s documentary, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” about the Chauvet Cave in southern France. This remarkable cave is full of 30,000 year-old prehistoric drawings and bones of animals: lions, horses, rhinoceros, cave bears and wooly mammoths, among others. Protected by an ancient landslide, the cave was hidden until 1994 and is in pristine shape. Herzog was given special permission by the French minister of culture to film there. Ancient cave drawings in Southern France below:

220px-Chauvethorses
Other than the incredibly beautiful and realistic drawings and the realization that humanity was capable of so much more than we’ve thought, I was intrigued by the observations voiced by Herzog and the French experts Herzog interviewed. A French interviewee said ancient man felt differently about his/her world. As I interpreted, the mind was not of primary importance, emotion was. Mankind felt more connected to the world around him: to the animals, the earth and its features, birth and death. They were more naturally spiritual.

Herzog said he and his crew, plus many of the scientists who study the cave, sense other presences when they visit the site. They feel as if they are being watched. I can easily imagine this cave is a sacred place of spirits.

Some of us are more spiritually aware than others. Perhaps some were born that way or have had experiences that have opened up their sensibilities. Perhaps certain cultures can make easier use of the third eye, as it is called in Hindu philosophy, which leads to the inner realms of higher consciousness. Millions of us have had inexplicable encounters, and I am always intrigued by them.

My friend Sally remembers when she was driving home to Los Angeles from San Diego late at night and she began to get very tired. Instead of pulling over, she kept trying to keep herself alert. All of a sudden, she was frightened by a loud noise and flashing colorful lights. It jolted her wide awake. When she couldn’t figure out what had happened, she pulled over to check everything on her van. By the time she determined the van was fine, she was totally alert and got back in the car to finish the drive. She never forgot, and later concluded she had received spiritual help in keeping her safe.

My cousin Jackie’s husband Ray is a Vietnam vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has battled his demons over the years. For help in this world, he sees a psychiatrist every three months and takes pills for depression every day. Despite the negatives, Ray’s life has been blessed with some unusual spiritual positives.

Ever since Ray almost died from an overdose of pain pills and alcohol in the 1980s and had an encounter with a deceased friend from his Vietnam days, he’s felt and seen spirits in his peripheral vision. When he walked into a bathroom in his home not long ago, he heard large wings flapping and felt wind in his face, despite the fact that the windows were all closed and there was no air conditioning running. “I suddenly had a very warm feeling of love in my chest,” Ray told me.

Ray feels spirits of people beside him, but if he turns to look, they disappear. “I hear voices but I can’t understand what they are saying. I hear a woman calling me at times, but I don’t recognize the voice.” He’s grown used to these unusual experiences over the years and appreciates them for the comfort they bring.

TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE UNIVERSE

There are more things in your life than are dreamt of in your philosophy is a line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” It was written over 400 years ago, but it may as well have been written a million years ago. Life is mysterious and the more we know, the more we know we don’t know. How is it all possible, what is the Source, and why is the Universe expanding? Nothing is ever created or destroyed, according to Physics… There are no easy answers, no matter what religion or spiritual thought is the most appealing to you.

I’ve explored many teachings in many books: Seth, Paramahansa Yogananda, Abraham, Buddhism, Christianity, Mormonism…there’s a great deal of thought available to attempt to explain what life and death are or aren’t.

Hubble shows visions of our amazing universe

Hubble shows visions of our amazing universe

Channeling—information that comes through a human from another source—is quite intriguing. One of my first experiences was listening to a fairly young man (Thomas) channel a Dr. Peebles, who was a Scottish medical doctor and naturopath who actually lived from 1822 to 1922. I didn’t take notes but remember that the messages for the audience, who had paid to see him, were encouraging. I was told I was a medium (a vehicle for ideas or a communicator of ideas from the dead says the dictionary), which is an apt description for someone writing a blog!

About 20 years ago I became good friends with Ann and Rob, a couple who were as intrigued with the metaphysical as I was. Rob offered himself to the “Universe” to convey general wisdom and to receive spiritual help for himself and his wife. Rob would sit at his computer when he chose to let the messages come through him to type onto to his computer screen. He wasn’t aware of the specifics; he sat there in something of a trance while his fingers raced over the keyboard, faster than he typed when he was totally conscious. His wife Ann came into his office afterward and printed out the long messages—usually from 3-10 pages. Since the messages would split up many of the words to show how words have layers of meaning, Ann would “translate” the most difficult parts. For instance: animate tie in is “animation.” The communication he received for a few years applied to all, and I was privileged to receive copies of the transmissions. I have saved many of them and their wisdom still applies, in my opinion.

I will share a small portion of a transmission on this blog and will offer more of it in a later blog.

On June 21, 1991, what might be best explained as a group of non-physical souls who called themselves “Saint Germaine” communicated:

Everything you are about in this moment, as well as every thing you have been about concerns your S piece eye all E facts. You are now coming of age in this regard. You are now learning that you have unlimited control when it comes to reshaping your level of real eye tie in this physical moment. You can begin to see with this unlimited vision, what this illusion is truly about. You can do anything you want.

Because they are discussing special effects in movies and in “real” life, they split up that word and played with reality as well. Make of it what you will.

 

LOS ANGELES — TAME OR WILD?

Los Angeles is full of wild critters: coyotes, mountain lions, black bears, skunks, raccoons, and mule deer, for instance. 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, for instance. 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 from a freezer he broke into. He finally had to be relocated to the San Diego County Sanctuary. Before that he had become quite the media star.

Malibu Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains  is full of wildlife.

Malibu Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains is full of wildlife. 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 spacious Griffith Park. He was tagged P-22 and was in the news. 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!

Behind a fence, a Coyote checks things out

Behind a fence, a Coyote checks things out

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.

FLIRTING IN 1950s TRIPOLI

When my family lived in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s, I was barely a teenager, and in those long ago days, many of us had little inkling of what sex was all about. Movies we saw were innocent and only hinted at sex: a kiss, a little groping, a closed bedroom door. Television in those days wasn’t even a consideration—my family hadn’t even brought a TV set over with us, and we didn’t miss it. Listening to Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio at night was entertainment enough. A good actor could read a powerful tale and your mind supplied the details.

An all British effort cartoon by British Servicemen

An all British effort cartoon by British Servicemen

A popular music show on Saturday morning radio accepted requests, in case you wanted to dedicate a song to a potential crush at Wheelus High School. I remember requesting, “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” or maybe it was “A Rose and a Baby Ruth.”  I don’t recall to whom the song was dedicated. The high school sponsored dances and there was a teenage club where a talented student, Jon Jorgensen, led a band called Stardust. Close slow dancing provided its own stimulation.

In the city of Tripoli, American teenage girls were advised not to wear suggestive “form-fitting” jeans since Libyan women were dressed in barracans,  similar to burkas except one eye could be shown. Libyan men, as the majority of men throughout the world, were interested in females. As I recall the directive about jeans didn’t mention why not, and the advice was probably never considered by independent American girls.

The Egyptian Ambassador lived across the street from me, and he was served by a few Libyan policemen who patrolled the walled perimeter of his compound. If my girlfriends and I walked the unpaved path outside the compound, and if a policeman were nearby, he’d try to walk beside us and brush against us with his body. We learned to avoid them.

One day, a girlfriend and I had an unpleasant encounter while walking to her house, a few blocks away from mine. We were in jeans, of course, and sauntering along in the middle of the street since there was very little traffic. We weren’t paying attention to a young male bicyclist trailing us. Most male Libyans had bicycles; they were relatively cheap and reliable. We were prime bait and he saw his opportunity as he swooped in front of us and made a grab for my crotch. He succeeded and then rode on a little ways. I started to tell my friend when he came back and managed to do the same to her. He was quite the adept cyclist, which made us even more incensed. He rode on as if nothing had happened and we followed him, thinking we’d get revenge by attacking him. We couldn’t catch him and had to swallow our anger. Being street-smart from then on, we learned to be more aware.

My neighbor and good friend Gail, who lived around the corner, and I loved to play tennis on her street, which was seldom used by cars. We weren’t very skilled at the game and the ball often landed in the walled compound on one side of the street that was said to belong to a former Queen of Libya. The Queen’s lush gardens swallowed our balls. Sometimes our ball went into the smaller gated compound next door to the queen, which belonged to a British general. A few attractive British enlisted men served him daily. They didn’t seem to have much to do and always enjoyed our athletic efforts.

They kept one of the tennis balls and the next time we played, they tossed it over the compound wall to us. They’d slit it and spent some time making an artistic rendering of us on a small piece of lined paper to insert into the slit. Gail was supposed to be Gail Storm, who had a TV show and I was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe. Between us was a “hound dog” named Elvis! We were flattered since both actresses were good looking in person. I saved the little cartoon, never knowing I would eventually put it on a blog! There was always a wall or fencing between us but it was fun to flirt and we did it when they were around. Probably a good reason to play tennis in the street!

A crude little poem, misspellings and all, was printed on the back of the cartoon to impress us:

Hi! Jirks

You squeeke and groan

And make queer noises

But o’er yon wall

We know ‘tis you

So if this ball you do trow back

Don’t be shy, come round the back

And have a chat.

E.P.

One day, in a break from our game, we were flirting with these congenial servicemen, as usual. We were standing on the sidewalk and they were behind a metal gate composed of bars.  Suddenly, I noticed a Libyan man in paint-splattered overalls sitting on a bike nearby, leering at us. Then I noticed another detail. He had removed his penis from his pants and was waving it at us enthusiastically. To me at that time, no expert on penis size or shape, I thought his penis was menacingly huge and seemed to be dotted with paint. Or was that my vivid imagination?

Disgusted and a little frightened, I tapped Gail’s shoulder gently to get her attention. She looked around without being obvious and saw him right away. We both struggled to maintain composure as we stepped closer to the gate and hung on. We didn’t know what to say to the young British soldiers, who probably couldn’t see the pervert, so we said nothing and hoped the crazed cyclist would eventually pedal away, which he did.

We felt confident that we had kept our cool! Weren’t we the savvy ones discovering that sex can be exciting and disgusting at the same time!

Southern California’s Conejo Valley

Los Angeles is the only US city with a mountain range, the Santa Monica Mountains, running through it, which gives the city a wide variety of topography and scenery, perfect for filming. Since the mountains and valleys that comprised the Conejo Valley could be transformed into anything from Texas to Switzerland, the original “Planet of the Apes,” “Tora, Tora, Tora,” “Gunsmoke,” “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “MASH,” to name a few, were filmed there.

The 101 Freeway, which was once known primarily as the Ventura Freeway (or in the  song as Ventura Highway) essentially bisects this scenic area and leads a traveler from Calabasas (squash in Spanish), through Agoura Hills and Westlake Village to Thousand Oaks. Conejo means rabbit in Spanish and there were plenty of those cottontails around, probably great food for all the coyotes.

 

Open space before Thousand Oaks Bl.

Open space before Thousand Oaks Boulevard built.

And there were various canyon roads that led to celebrated Malibu: Kanan Road, windy and narrow Decker Canyon, and Malibu Canyon, which I consider the loveliest. Malibu Canyon Road takes the explorer past Malibu Creek State Park. When it first opened to the public, there were remains of the apes’ homes from “Planet of the Apes.”

In the 1970s, the 101 Freeway was the main artery through the little communities of Agoura and Westake. Thousand Oaks, a bit further west, was already an incorporated city with a movie theatre, some grocery stores and a small shopping center. The Conejo Valley was just over a steep hill from the vast San Fernando Valley, but it seemed like a different world. When we first moved in, the freeway was only two lanes each direction.

Westlake Village was a beautifully planned community with a man-made lake and island, and a small but nice shopping center, which included a large grocery. Agoura was inhabited by many old-timers with ranches and old houses; it was a funky place with too many billboards along the freeway and no big chain grocery store. Art Whizin, the creator of an original chain of LA restaurants called Chili Bowl in the late 1940s, had moved to outlying Agoura and soon built another restaurant along the freeway. He called it Whizin’s, of course! I remember I’d heard that the eatery was haunted and joked that it was probably someone who’d died of food poisoning.

Although it was exciting to discover we’d soon have more amenities and easier shopping without driving into the San Fernando Valley, it was disheartening to know that developers were planning just about every fast-food outlet available. McDonald’s, however, was an exception. My kids couldn’t wait–it was walking distance from home, requiring some patience and parental supervision.

Kanan Road new housing developments late 1970s

Kanan Road new housing developments late 1970s

Hillrise, our housing development was nestled among several hills and overlooked the Morrison Ranch, which still had cattle and sheep until it was bought by a developer and turned into a posh high-end residential development, but still called Morrison Ranch. West of Hillrise, the land was essentially empty except for a couple of small rundown ranches. There was no road connecting the freeway exits—Kanan Road and Lindero Canyon Road. In spring the whole area was covered with tall wild yellow mustard plants that grew prolifically, and little pockets of blue-purple lupins.

When Thousand Oaks Boulevard was built (location photo at the top), it was a huge event. I covered the opening for the Acorn newspaper with a story and a front-page photo of local politicians and developers. I also joined the honchos for a fire engine ride to celebrate the new road.

Kanan Road, the main artery from the 101 Freeway, led north to the Oak Park housing development, which later grew by thousands of new homes. Driving south on Kanan led through the Santa Monica Mountains to end up in Malibu—before Barbra Streisand moved there.

Things were changing rapidly by the end of the 1970s. Empty acres with a billboard announcing the imminent construction of a Vons grocery store stood lonely for years before its grassy surface supported three shopping centers and two grocery stores.

During those early years, I never would have imagined that I would do public relations and advertising for the Morrison Ranch development and for two of the new shopping centers.

There were quite a few stars who enjoyed the Conejo Valley and adjoining mountain areas: Robert Young, Joel McCrae, Mickey Rooney, Gallagher, Tom Selleck, Kelsey Grammar, Kurt Russell, Sophia Loren, along with various rock stars and sports stars.