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GETTING REACQUAINTED WITH MY FATHER IN THE PENTAGON

For those who haven’t read my past two installments regarding my birth father: when I was 21, I came unannounced and with no prior warning to his office in the Pentagon. I needed family information for job applications, and I was curious about this man I no longer remembered.

After a few minutes of conversation, Col. Victor Hobson asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” After a pause he added, “I know that’s a silly thing to ask.” When I didn’t speak up, he said, “There’s an aunt of mine who’s asked about you. And my father. You’re a pretty girl; I hope you’re cagey with the boys!” He chuckled at his remark.

I laughed. “I don’t know how cagey I am, but I’m not planning to get married soon. I’m going to be in two weddings this summer, but I’d like to get a job that lets me travel.”

From his manner and despite the occasional nervous tremor and the loss of eye contact as he glanced down at his desk, I could see he was enjoying our interview. There was an essential charm and ease of manner about him as well as an obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness in his comments. He was making it easy for me to like him, and I could tell he was impressed with me. To make himself a bit more at ease, he took out a cigar and lit it. I positively hated cigars, but kept my mouth shut and was relieved the odor wasn’t overpowering.

Victor Hobson & family: Migia, Marlena and Susanna

Victor Hobson & family: Migia, Marlena and Susanna

Amazed at my own composure, I sat fairly still as we talked, able to answer sweetly and without much hesitation. The pencil I had brought with me suffered from all my tensions; I mauled its eraser with my fingers.

He asked about my accomplishments in college, and inquired after some of my mother’s relatives he had known and enjoyed years before. Not long ago I discovered he’d sent an older cousin of mine WWII German Army souvenirs from the battles in Italy, where my father had fought. I still have a tiny helmet with a blue clover insignia—he was part of the Blue Devils, the 88th Infantry Division, the first American unit into Rome in June 1944.

He then told me a bit about his Italian wife, Maria Luisa, nicknamed Migia, and how he’d met her in Trieste, Italy, where he had been stationed right after the war. He and Migia had a fifteen-year-old daughter Susanna and a thirteen-year-old daughter Marlena. He related he’d been in the Army twenty-three years but had never run into my stepfather.

“I have to admit something,” he confessed after a while. “The office had a party at Blackie’s in Washington for lunch, and I had a few martinis. It’s a good thing I had them before you walked in!”

I laughed, and he joined in. “I knew this meeting would surprise you,” I said, “and I was sure nervous, but I figured this was the best way to do it.”

“How long are you going to be here?”

“I don’t have to be back at William and Mary until next Wednesday.”

“Would you like to meet my family if I came by to pick you up? I know my wife would love to meet you.”

“I’d like to very much,” I answered sincerely. The meeting was working out better than I expected.

“Are you sure?” he asked again, apparently still uncertain about my walking into his life, and his guilty feelings probably nagging at him.

“Of course,” I replied as I wrote down my friend’s telephone number.

That night at the Reiners, where I was staying in Alexandria, I got a call from Migia. With her charming effusiveness, it was as if we had known each other for years. Although Italian, her low mellow voice and speech bore scarcely a trace of accent. She knew just what to say to put me at ease and make me feel wanted. She couldn’t wait to meet me on Sunday, but in the meantime Vic, as she called him, wanted to take me to lunch on Friday. Could I meet him at the Pentagon? It was all going faster than I had imagined, but I was excited and enthusiastically told her I was looking forward to all of it.

Last installment next week.

FINDING COL. VICTOR HOBSON IN THE PENTAGON

In 1964 I went hunting for my birth father. I had no memories or photos of him since my mother had remarried and wanted to forget her divorce. I was curious and since I was starting my search for a career, possibly with the CIA, I needed family information only he had. I knew he was stationed in the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.

When I found the proper office among the rings and corridors of the enigmatic Pentagon, I walked into a long narrow room to the secretary’s desk near a window. I told her I needed to speak with Colonel Hobson, and she directed me to a metal chair to wait until he was free. I took several deep breaths to keep myself calm. I couldn’t have been seated more than about three minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before she instructed me to go into the adjacent office.

Dressed in my collegiate straight skirt and sweater and carrying my winter coat (it was February), I resolutely walked into the spacious windowed office. There were two desks: Victor occupied the larger one by the window; his adjutant had a smaller desk off to the side. I wondered how I would manage this interview with someone else listening in, but pulled myself together and smiled as self-confidently as I could. After all, I was now a twenty-one year old adult and had mustered the courage to find him and meet him in person.

Gen. Victor W Hobson

Was this white-haired slender man truly my father? Did I even resemble him? Wasn’t he too old? My stepdad was scarcely gray. But this man’s hair was thick and wavy, similar to mine, and his slightly pug nose looked like mine. He looked at me inquisitively as I walked up to his desk, my heart racing in my chest.

“Col. Hobson, I’m Viki Williams!” I introduced myself as he stood up with a smile. I noted he was taller than my dad. He maintained his outward composure, though I could detect the astonishment in his eyes. He knew who I was immediately. Calmly and politely, he told the adjutant to leave and close the door behind him. He then directed me to sit in the chair in front of his desk.

“Now what can I do for you?” he asked hesitantly, smiling at me, the bomb who had dropped into his life.

What thoughts were rushing through his mind? I wondered as I kept my cool, though I was quaking underneath. Tension and unease hung in the air. I quickly told him I was in my senior year of college and looking for careers, and I needed information for my CIA personnel form, such as where exactly was he born. As he gave me the information about his Alabama birth, we both relaxed a bit.

“I guess you think I’m about the worst man alive,” he offered with a hint of regret in his voice after we had finished the required questions.

“No, I don’t,” I replied evenly, too shy and uncertain to explain feelings I wasn’t even sure of. Even though Army officers weren’t known as “Disney” fathers, I had harbored no resentments through the years. I was simply curious and reaching out for clues to my origins.

“I’ve thought about you a great deal all these years,” he added softly. “You look very much like your mother, except taller.”

“Thank you,” I answered, watching his head twitch nervously as he cocked it to the side.

“Where’s your family now?”

“My dad’s stationed in Germany,” I replied, thinking how odd to say that since this was my real father. “I’ve got a fifteen-year-old sister and a ten-year-old brother.”

“I have two girls; that’s all I seem to have.” He gave me a friendly smile. “Let’s see, it’s been eighteen years now.” He paused; it was the amount of time he had been married. “My girls don’t know about you. It’s so complicated, you know.”

Unsaid was my conviction that divorces were indeed complicated. I wondered just what his complications had been, and discovered later that his wife was Catholic, and the church was strongly critical of divorce. Circumstances required that they be married outside the church, and they had never told their children, who were being raised in the Catholic faith.

(Even after all these years, this conversation is accurate for the most part. I came back to my friend’s house where I was staying and typed up my story for posterity, and I still have the typewritten copy. Besides, I knew my mother would want to know all the details.)

To be continued…

MEETING MY BIRTH FATHER — VICTOR HOBSON

Victor Hobson, US Army

Victor Hobson, US Army, would have been 96 last month had he lived past 2000.

Victor & Victoria

Victor & Victoria

I was nine years old before I knew the man I loved and thought of as my father was not even a blood relation. These facts were startlingly revealed to me one summer day because the man I called Dad wanted to legally adopt me. He was a career Army officer preparing to serve in the Korean War, and this legal action would serve to set things right in case he encountered extremely bad luck. I was told that my birth father, Victor, was also an Army officer.

Dad sat me down at the kitchen table in the tiny pastel-colored Jacksonville Beach, Florida tract home we would occupy while he went to Korea for a year as an Army Engineer, fighting the war by building bridges and roads. He explained patiently that he wasn’t my natural father, but wanted to be. This was the first year I was truly cognizant of the fact my legal surname was different than my parents. When I was registered for elementary school in the fall, it would have to be under my legal birth name, a fact that made me very uncomfortable and embarrassed. With approval of the adoption papers, in a short time I would have my dad’s name, which was wonderful news for me. With my unquestioning consent, the adoption papers were sent to Victor for his approval at the Army War College in Pennsylvania, where he was stationed at the time. He signed and returned them without comment

When I was nineteen and in college, I began thinking about Victor and wondering what he was really like. I hadn’t seen him since I was a toddler and had no memory of him. I don’t remember my mother showing me any photos of him. It was a missing part of my life, no matter how much I loved my dad. I dreamed of meeting Victor and pictured various scenarios of his life. Was he still married? Did he have children? My dad had never encountered him in person during their mutually long military careers. I learned later Dad had kept track of the places Victor had been stationed through the years, but had never shared that information with me. Perhaps secrets are a built-in part of military life, even when you’re the dependent, not the military man.

During the semester break of my senior year of college I was staying with a girlfriend’s parents in Northern Virginia to investigate future job possibilities. I wanted to travel and was considering work with federal agencies that would send me overseas. I was even imagining the skullduggery of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose personnel offices were located in an anonymous-looking, unsigned building in Washington, D.C. A complete background check was required, and the forms had questions about my birth father that I couldn’t answer. My parents were stationed in Germany, but my mother, who did not have the answers for the CIA form, informed me Victor was working at the Pentagon. It was the perfect excuse to meet him.

I planned the excursion on my own, not discussing or mentioning it to friends or relatives. Only the closest of my friends even knew that Dad was my stepfather. Divorce and broken families were not as openly discussed in the early sixties.

A long bus ride from Alexandria deposited me at that five-sided military bastion known as The Pentagon, undoubtedly one of the largest buildings in the world, at that time. My stepfather had been stationed there, as had so many other military types at one time or another. Delaying my meeting and gathering my courage, I decided to visit the Army Employment Office first to check on possible jobs after I graduated.

Afterward, since I had made sure I had Victor’s office number, I checked with the information desk, and they gave me a small map to show his office location – which ring, which corridor in this confusingly immense building. It took me a few extra minutes to get there because one of the corridors was wrongly lettered. I couldn’t have imagined how things would change in the future, especially after 9-11, when civilians would no longer be able to just walk into the Pentagon.

To be continued…

FLYING HIGH – A BALLOON RIDE IN SO CAL

Life is enhanced when there are risks involved. A little fear is good for the soul—like going up in the sky ensconced in a very small basket attached to a huge hot air balloon. I didn’t go around the world in 80 days, just into the Southern California sky early in the morning. The experience was thrilling and great fun, and I didn’t have to pay for it.

Penny, an adventurous single friend who owned a beauty salon, had had a momentous birthday the previous summer. I’ll guess she turned 40. I attended her party, and one of her most exciting gifts was a balloon ride for two. Since she didn’t have a significant other in her life at that point, and she was promotion oriented, she decided I would be the ideal companion for this unique venture. I would write about it in the Acorn, the local paper I edited.

Champagne before takeoff

Champagne before takeoff

Up in the Air We Go!

Up in the Air We Go!

We planned to make it a special event by drinking a champagne toast before we took off, even though it was only 7 a.m. To further enhance the experience, we found a local businessman who sold fur coats; he agreed to lend two of them in exchange for some free publicity. Fur was the ideal covering for two babes on an adventure, after all!

Witnesses and a photographer were needed, so we enlisted the aid of our kids, dragging them out of bed on a Saturday morning, long before they were ready. Sunrize Balloons used an empty field for their launching site in Moorpark, which was an area of rolling hills and low mountains. Aware of weather patterns, the experienced balloonists scheduled flights early since mornings usually had mild winds.

We arrived at our outdoor rendezvous ready for anything, and it didn’t disappoint. We were going up with a male pilot, and two other passengers, captains in the local fire department, who were hilarious, we soon discovered. Except for the pilot, we were all novices.

There were five of us in the balloon basket as it gently lifted up. Right away, the jokes began between us. The subjects of going up, hot air, and balloons offer plenty of material, naughty and silly. Humor also helps to ease any anxiety as you realize you’re in a small basket and could fall out! No parachutes available.

It was overcast as we lifted up, but we soon saw the sun in a very blue sky dotted with clouds. The view below us encompassed the burgeoning cities of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Westlake Village surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills. Except for the occasional joke and the sounds of gas blowing hot air into the balloon as we rose higher, all was serene and mystical. I felt fragile and powerful at the same time.

When we descended, the pilot decided to show us a few balloon tricks. I believe he called it “bunny hopping” as he guided the basket up and down again in a brushy area surrounded by hills. The fun was short-lived; a prickly bush caught the basket. Rather than risk his passengers, even though we were only about ten feet off the ground, the cautious pilot radioed for help. His team drove a pickup truck over the small hill, anchored the basket and helped us disembark—ladies first, of course! We’d had a fantastic ride and being “rescued” at the end made it even more memorable.

 

 

 

AN ARMY BRAT IN LIBYA – The Ebook

Americans living in foreign countries, especially those in the military or other government service, tend to keep or renew their ties over the years. At least that’s been my experience with the “kids” I went to high school with at Wheelus Air Force Base just outside Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s. And since I’ve included experiences of living in Libya in my blog, students from many classes, anywhere from the early 1950s to 1970 have gotten in touch to share their memories. We’ve all aged but the spirit of those long-ago days holds on and there have been many reunions of these students over the years. The most recent was last May in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the middle 1950s, Tripoli was a bustling, cosmopolitan city inhabited by Libyans, Italians, British, Americans and an assortment of other European and Middle Eastern nationalities. Both the British and the Americans had military bases, and international oil companies were drilling for the oil that would eventually make the country rich beginning in 1959. Libya, for the first half of the twentieth century under Italian rule, had only gained its independence in 1951, and that auspicious occasion had been marked by the renaming of a main thoroughfare, to be forever after known as 24 December Street.

Like many major events in the life of an Army brat, I wasn’t sure I wanted to uproot from the States and travel to such a strange land. I was shocked when my father received orders in 1955 to report to North Africa. We were stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, at the time, and Africa couldn’t have been more distant from civilization as far as my twelve-year-old mind was concerned. Morocco was our first assigned destination, specifically the peculiarly named Nouasseur. Orders were changed when Morocco had violent political problems and a few Americans were killed. My dad was reassigned to Wheelus Air Force Base just outside Tripoli.

My Army Corps of Engineers father, a lieutenant colonel, would command a military group that had something to do with maintaining the strategic airfield, the closest large American location to Russia, an important fact in those Cold War years. He would also be traveling to mysterious places such as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia. I still have the mink stole he bought my mother in Athens on one of his trips.

AnArmyBratLibya Cover#A1

 

To check on or download this Kindle book featured on my Amazon Author page, go to: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

 

What seemed like days after leaving the Azores, but was more than likely some thirty hours later, we reached our new home. It was 9 p.m. in Tripoli, but after so many hours and so many time zones, who could tell? No snow on the ground here: the weather was temperate and probably no colder than 55 degrees. Only after a good night’s sleep would we regain our land legs and clarity of hearing – the noise and vibration of prop planes had a habit of disorienting the body, which included sight and hearing, for hours.

We lived in the Garden City area of Tripoli, not far from the King’s Palace, from 1955 until 1958. I loved all the contrasts that life in an ancient Arab city brought–camels and sheep, British Morris Minor cars mixing with American Fords, sandstorms called Ghiblis, the museum in the old Barbary Pirate fort, the lovely beaches at Georgimpopuli and Piccolo Capri, the vegetable man shouting out his fresh food, and the braying of donkeys and camels growling at night.

For more stories about life in Libya, order my book on Amazon. While you’re on the site, check out my other books.

MOONLIGHT MADNESS PART 2

Guts and imagination can go a long way and probably keeps us from dire consequences, just ask Art Arrowsmith and Eric Norby. 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 depicts some fellow Wheelus High students at a beach party I gave.

Nevertheless, they 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 ON THE MED

Art Arrowsmith was a fellow student who attended Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Tripoli, Libya. 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 and he shared a true story of his, which goes along quite well with my recent theme of ocean escapades. The story is too long to present in full, so I will use my editing skills to cut it down while preserving the humor. I am also going to divide it in two parts for some extra excitement and suspense.

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: 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 Wednesday, August 27.

1959 Wheelus Beach

Wheelus Beach in summer

FISHING IN THE PACIFIC CHANNEL ISLANDS

So far, summer in Southern California this year has been relatively mild. We’re blessed with a very chilly Pacific Ocean for the most part, and the water doesn’t get into the 70’s until September. In contrast, the Atlantic Ocean off Florida is like swimming in a bathtub; sweatshirts are not needed for a visit to the beach but towels are necessary for the sweat. Hooray for contrasts, but I’ll take the Left Coast over the Right Coast any day. And that goes for my politics as well!

Thinking of the ocean brings to mind my fishing adventure off Santa Cruz Island a few years ago. This island (20 miles off the coast from Ventura) was once home to ancient Indians like the Chumash, and archeologists are currently trying to save as many artifacts as possible before ocean waves carry them away forever.  This fishing adventure was long before I’d decided to write a seafaring yarn about Francis Drake in the Caribbean. I was one of three women and nineteen men on the brief trip. I’d never handled a fishing pole or even had a desire to catch a fish, but I’d always loved the ocean. I’ve spent most of my life near the ocean: Jacksonville Beach, Florida; Tripoli, Libya; and Los Angeles. The fishing trip was being hosted by Pelican’s Retreat, a seafood restaurant in Calabasas, that had hired me for advertising and public relations. Owners Bruce and Gert were part of the fishing gang, a gregarious and rowdy bunch of restaurant patrons. After our sporting efforts, we were taking our fish back to the restaurant for a fish fry/grill with all the fixings.

PeliFishTripOne of the fishermen just as the sun was coming up off Santa Cruz Island.

The large group gathered about 1:30 a.m. in the Oxnard Harbor area, ready to head out at 2 a.m. on the Pacific Dawn for Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. By leaving at this hour, we’d get a few hours to snooze before we anchored and the sun rose. Sleeping accommodations were below and consisted of very basic wooden rectangular compartments with a plastic covered mattress pad: room for one or two squeezed together. Since I was a novice and was curious about the ocean views, I didn’t hit the bunk right away and stayed up to see the oil platforms lit up like huge Christmas trees. When I was married, we’d taken our two kids to explore Anacapa, one of the smallest of these islands, and I remembered the weather along the California coast can change quickly and a calm sea can turn into a roller coaster ride. Being confined to a constantly moving boat for 15 hours made me very thankful for my “sailor’s stomach,” which has enabled me to enjoy ocean ventures. No time for sleeping late on a fishing excursion, a loud and disgustingly cheery voice called us to breakfast in the galley about 6 a.m. It was chilly and overcast and the anchored boat was rocking, but many enthusiasts in the group had already eaten their bacon and eggs and were fishing.

The fish I caught!

The fish I caught!

 

When the sun came out, so did the beer. Thanks to beer and the stronger stuff, there was as much laughter as fishing. With many capable fishermen around, I had plenty of help with a borrowed fishing pole and the slimy bait. I didn’t participate in the jackpot for largest fish, but as luck and persistence would have it, I caught the second biggest fish on the boat. They told me it was a whitefish, but it looked pink to me. The highlight that day was consuming the freshest sushi I’d ever had. Several just-caught fish were filleted and handed out with a slice of fresh lemon to those who weren’t afraid of chowing down on uncooked denizens of the deep. It was delicious and tender.

Warm sun and a calm sea blessed the day and after making an excellent haul of over 300 fish, we headed back to land in the afternoon. We’d carpooled to get there and on the drive home, which was less than an hour, one of the show-offs in the camper in front of the car I was in decided to make his inimitable statement on the crazy day by mooning us. I still have the photo of the fisherman we all dubbed “Dr. Moon.”

ART – MADE IN L.A. 2014

Daughter Heidi (who was conceived/made in Los Angeles) and I went to the Hammer Museum UCLA for the “Made in L.A. 2014” exhibit yesterday to discover the latest artistic expressions from the Los Angeles art world. Over thirty artists exhibited and what a variety it was. There was a sign on one of the gallery doors that some of the artwork wasn’t suitable for children, and we soon found which ones.

I’ve never seen such a diversity of art forms at one exhibit—from short videos of all sorts to paintings and sculptural pieces in all kinds of mediums. Most of the art was made specifically for this exhibit. Fortunately, viewers could read general background information on each artist as well as specifics on the various pieces. Before we wandered the galleries, we ate lunch in their outdoor café and enjoyed a modern dance performance by a young man in a free-flowing garment (similar to a dress).

 

Untitled by Lecia Dole-Recio at Hammer Museum UCLA exhibit

Untitled by Lecia Dole-Recio at Hammer Museum UCLA exhibit

There’s not space to describe but a few of the highlights of this unusual mix of artistic expression. I’ll share a few impressions that stuck with me, like a video on a medium-size TV screen of the face and head of a young pretty Asian woman in red lipstick continually smiling without changing expression. It kept drawing my attention even while looking at another video, full of movement and dialogue in the same room.

Modern artists aren’t generally obsessed with beauty or conservative subject matter; they’d rather get to their truth. Artist Max Maslansky’s erotic paintings of sexual fantasies painted in pinks and reds took up most of a room. The artist achieved a soft blurry look by using old bedsheets instead of canvas, but the viewer wouldn’t have guessed unless you searched for the information. A documentary video in a small room nearby focused on the dangers of being a stunt man in the entertainment industry. The pay is lucrative but injuries are common, and the work is truly death-defying.

One of the more delicate and intriguing sculptors was Ricky Swallow, who crafts small objects in wood or cardboard and may cast them in bronze. Their forms were delightful—one looked like a tiny modern chair, one resembled a small ladder-back chair, which could have been just a decorative display.

The work of Marcia Hafif, who explores and experiments with types of paint, filled an entire room with square paintings, each a different color, and all evenly spaced and at the same height. I didn’t take the time to check on the subtle differences between the paintings.

I enjoyed the very vibrant work by Lecia Dole-Recio, and used the museum’s postcard of one of my favorites for this blog. She doesn’t title her work, which is what she calls “painted constructions” of paper, cardboard and tape, not quite paintings and not quite collages.

I was moved by a very personal, charming and amusing video by Judy Fiskin—“I’ll Remember Mama.” Her title was inspired by the film “I Remember Mama” made by George Stevens in 1948. Coincidentally, I became friends long ago with Peggy McIntyre, who starred as the daughter Christine in the old film. Peggy worked at AT&T in Hollywood as a fellow service rep in the 1960s.

Fiskin’s film focused on her own mother, who she filmed a few years ago at age 89.  Fiskin decided to make a video when her mother was still alive instead of making it a memorial piece. Although affectionately done, Fiskin focused on the difference in age and personal preferences between mother and daughter, and the personal objects (furniture, etc.) her mother will leave behind. Her mother, like many other wealthy LA widows, lives by herself in one of the high-rise apartment buildings on Wilshire Boulevard. Narrating the film, Fiskin points out that at night, the lights of cars traveling down Wilshire reflect on the apartment windows and look like tears traveling down the face of the buildings.

ANGELS IN UNIFORM – a True Story

Robin Williams recent tragic death reminded me of a friend’s story that had a happier but not romantic ending. Angels do exist! 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