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MY YUGO ADVENTURE

Tiny Yugo - Mine was Blue

Tiny Yugo – Mine was Blue

Remember Yugos, the cheap little car phenomenon from Serbia? It was an 80s hit with an initial price of $3990 and modeled after a Fiat. Almost 142,000 cars were sold between 1985 and 1991. Because of its unreliability, Car Talk named it the worst car of the millennium!

Jason Vuic, a professor at Bridgewater College in Virginia wrote a book about the Yugo craze and mentions a few hilarious jokes. “What’s included in every Yugo owner’s manual? A bus schedule.” And, “What do you call a Yugo with brakes? Customized.” Like my Datsun a few years before, Yugos were small enough to walk them when needed!

In 1997, a Manhattan School of Visual Arts professor, Kevin O’Callaghan, put an ad in the paper asking for Yugos that were either dead or alive. He ended up buying 39 Yugos for $3,600 and had his students make functional art from them. The exhibit toured the country.

In an amusing synchronicity, my Aunt Rosie and cousin Ray Scott, who’d taken a Northern California trip with me in my Olds (I wrote about it on this blog)  got to experience riding in the Yugo. My kids and I drove to Ray Scott’s Navy training graduation in San Diego. To celebrate afterwards, I piled five people in that tiny car to drive to an oceanside restaurant. (Note: Ray Scott decided the Navy wasn’t for him and became a country western singer: look him up! His latest hit: Drinkin’ Beer).

Aunt Rosie, Hansi, Ms. X, & cousins Ray & Jackie - Anchors Aweigh!

Aunt Rosie, my son Hansi, Ms. X, & cousins Ray & Jackie – Anchors Aweigh!

Not long after that adventure, I had my Yugo’s oil changed before a long trip in afternoon traffic from the San Fernando Valley south to Orange County on the 405, one of the busiest freeways in So Cal. Within a week, little Yugo decided to break down at the top of a freeway off-ramp. I was thankful I was close to home, and it wasn’t on the freeway at rush hour. As I’d done before, I pushed her out of the way and called AAA.

Her prognosis was grim: there was no oil in the engine and it was entirely “kaput” as they say in German. I couldn’t fathom what had happened but concluded a local quick lube place had had a malfunction in oil replacement. I went to small claims court and took along a friend of my daughter Heidi’s, who had had his own gas station at one time. He made an excellent witness.

I won $1,000 but the lube place owner wasn’t happy with the decision and called me to say he wanted to appeal it. I didn’t have to pretend my anguish and told him right away that I was single and financially strapped. Graciously, he conceded and sent the check immediately.

Getting a new engine was not the ideal solution I had hoped for. My Yugo’s aging pains got worse and she had an early demise. Little did I know she might have ended up as a piece of metal sculpture. My luck was changing by that time. My brother had a used BMW (he had bought it new and she was well pampered) and he gave her to me when he got a new car. Nothing quite like German engineering. She lived with me until she’d clocked over 220,000 miles; she was still very driveable.

When I inherited some money, my fortunes turned very positive. I could actually buy a new car for the first time. I sold Ms BMW to my friend, Pat, who loves to provide good homes for used cars. My best car friend now is my Bondi Beach blue Mustang, and I bought her brand new. With low mileage for her age, she’s still running strong despite the scratches from parking (Heidi says she looks like she’s participated in a demolition derby). I continue to like the good old American Ford. My Mustang was “born” in 1998 and is still rolling in 2015 with about 66,000 miles on her!

My birthday falls in the Chinese Year of the Horse, and I felt a Mustang would bring me luck. She proved it when she was younger and parked on the street. A distracted fellow on his cell phone plowed into her rear end, and my wonderful blue steed was pretty squashed. Since she had very few miles on her, she got revamped completely and has run without a hitch ever since. I wish I could say the same about myself!

AN EDITOR’S PASSIONS

A few of the 150 books I've edited.

A few of the 150 books I’ve edited.

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

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

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

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

I’ve edited over 150 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

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

A few recent books include: Once Upon a Man by Debra Pauli (dating tips for the single woman), Time’s Illusion by Carey Jones (simplifying some of the ideas in A Course in Miracles), The Gods Who Fell From the Sky by Dick Mawson (memoir of growing up and living in Rhodesia and South Africa), Parents Take Charge by Dr. Sandy Gluckman (alternative solutions for children with ADHD and the like), and A Nation of Refugees by Tim Gurung (fictional story of a couple passionate about finding solutions for the worldwide problem of refugees).  I’m currently editing another Tim Gurung book: Old Men Don’t Cry, and a biography by Madelyn Roberts about character actor Strother Martin.

MY TWO MILITARY FATHERS

In honor of Father’s Day, I am celebrating my two military fathers and my mother, who fell in love with both of them during the years of World War II, the event that inspired my birth, right on the cusp of the Baby Boomer generation. The energy surrounding a war is fertile ground for creating and destroying . During that time there was plenty of anger, a thirst for revenge and retribution, along with a strong surge of sexuality that resulted in marriages and births, not necessarily in that order.

The war brought two career military men into my mother’s life; within five years she had married, divorced and remarried. The first, Capt. Victor Hobson, a graduate of West Point, was my father. He was shipped off with the infantry to the war in Italy before I got to know him. The second, Capt. Darby Williams, who graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina, appeared on the scene right after the war. He had spent the war training troops at Ft. Belvoir.

Mama with Baby "Viki"

Mama with Baby “Viki”

When my mother, Garnette Motley, graduated from high school in 1940, she was ready to leave small town life in Danville, Virginia, to head south to Ft. Bragg, near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Even though the US wasn’t involved in the war yet, many people felt it was inevitable, including President Roosevelt. Mom had family in Fayetteville, which made it easier to get a job as a clerk-typist at the Army post, a typical low-paying position for women in those days.

Mom, a true Southerner, was naturally friendly and flirtatious and would have been considered a “dish” (an old compliment). What could be more fun than being among lots of available young attractive men in uniform? I could see from old photos that Victor was a handsome man—he was tall, had dark curly-hair, and was very intelligent. Those were passionate days after war was declared and sex was a natural result. Apparently, they didn’t use protection, so little Victoria was conceived without the benefit of marriage vows. Mom was so embarrassed about that fact she didn’t tell me until I was 19. Being a “modern” girl by that time and in a time of “Free Love,” I thought the circumstances made my creation much more exciting, besides, Victor did the honorable thing and they got married before I made my entrance.

Victor Hobson

Capt. Victor Hobson

Capt. Hobson wasn’t in my life for long; I wasn’t even a toddler when he went to war. I believe my mother was in love with him but I’m not sure it was fully reciprocated. War may bring passion but it also brings separation, and the marriage was essentially over when Victor left. Mom and I went home to Danville and lived with her parents until fate, and Mom’s brother Penn, stepped in a couple of years later with an introduction to another Army officer, Darby Williams. Captain Williams was stationed at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, and met my aunt and uncle at a church they both attended in Northern Virginia.

Love struck again for Mom, and it turned out that my birth father, Victor, who was stationed in Trieste after the war, had met a lovely and vivacious Italian woman he wanted to marry. Mom obliged and took the train to Reno, Nevada, the best way to get a quick 6-week divorce in those days. Capt. Williams joined her when she was free; they got married in Reno right after the divorce was final and celebrated at the Top of the Mark hotel in San Francisco. Dad went on to Bavaria, Germany, as part of the US occupying troops, and my mother and I sailed to Europe to join him. And so began the second chapter of my life as an Army brat.

Lt. A. Darby Williams                                                                                                               Lt. A. Darby Williams
I’ve wondered occasionally what life might have been like if Mom had stayed with Father #1 since Father #2 was more than challenging. I did meet Victor and his family when I was 21 (I’ve written an Amazon Ebook about him and written about both fathers on my blog), and discovered he, too, had  been a difficult father. Victor and I bonded nicely when we reconnected, however, and I got to know him and his wonderful family.

My conclusion: my mother followed her heart, had some good years and some very trying ones, but that’s life. My sister, brother and I wished she had lived longer, of course. Military men, especially of the WWII generation were not easy to live with on the whole. I think they kept their anguish and frustrations bottled up or took it out on their families; thankfully, marriages seem to be more open and communicative these days.

CALIFORNIA’S WILD CRITTERS

I’ve had a few pets in my life: rabbits, cats, fish and dogs. And my son raised a few hamsters. Animals play a fascinating part in our lives.

When I moved to California as a young bride, I never imagined the critters that would show up in my life. Agoura, for instance, was in the Conejo Valley between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills and there were varmints in those hills! Coyotes, especially.

Mountain Lion in California hills--not an animal to tangle with

Mountain Lion in California hills–not an animal to tangle with

Before I saw a coyote, however, we had a mountain lion alert! The Agoura-Westlake Village area in the 1970s was just starting to develop and nobody had alerted the wild animals they were being encroached upon. We had lots of open space in our Hillrise housing development and our home backed onto a grass and oak tree dotted hill. Since the hill was not surrounded completely by homes at that time, the mountain lion assumed it was part of his territory until a sheriff’s helicopter, after using a megaphone to warn residents below, shooed him off. I later learned mountain lions had huge territories.

Coyotes thrilled us with their yips and howling at night, sometimes having a gathering close by. It reminded me, over the years, of a scary movie or a Stephen King novel. Residents in the California hills have to watch out so their pets don’t become a snack or a meal and that’s still true, despite the population growth. I’ve seen a coyote come into an unfenced or fenced back yard and come right up to a glass patio door. “What’s for dinner,” those fearless eyes seem to say.

Behind a fence, a Coyote checks things out

Behind a fence, a Coyote checks things out

In the early 80s when I was editing/writing the Acorn weekly newspaper, there was a great deal of housing construction. The coyotes must have wondered what was happening—perhaps a new source of food? One resourceful critter spied a juicy toddler wandering without any supervision (brand new homes seldom had a fenced-in backyard) and decided to check her out. He had the baby in his mouth when the distraught mother came screaming after him and managed to rescue her child. It was a great story, especially since it ended well. My headline for that week—COYOTE BITES BABY.

There were wild mule deer in various areas where the hills bordered growing development. And snakes, especially rattlers, were common to see when the warmth of spring caused them to explore and enjoy the sunshine.

Big hairy tarantulas came down off the hills occasionally. I caught a couple in our pool and one time one of them came inside. My daughter Heidi was about two when a tarantula sauntered into the family room. I was spraying insecticide like crazy, afraid to clobber him, when little Heidi grabbed the fly swatter to solve the problem! He expired from poison before she could interfere.

A MILITARY BRAT’S LIFESTYLE

My brother Darby was born in Ft. Knox and later did his basic officer training there.

My brother Darby was born in Ft. Knox and later did his basic officer training there.

Because the U.S. has been in so many wars lately, we’re always looking at stories on TV or  reading about the troops. The Los Angeles Times did a story yesterday about life for Marines and their families on Camp Pendleton in Southern California.  It doesn’t take much to remind me of my upbringing as an Army gypsy and what military wives had to put up with to keep their husbands pleased and their families together. Army (or Air Force or Navy or Marines) fathers all wore uniforms and these had to be starched, ironed, and kept in excellent shape. My mother was expected to keep my dad’s things in perfect order, and she advised me ruefully never to let a man take me for granted. In other words, don’t volunteer to iron or you’ll be stuck behind an ironing board forever. Thank God, Permanent Press was available when I got married, and my husband had elected to stay only in the Reserve Army (two weeks of uniforms in the summer).

Way before the cheap giant stores, the Army provided the PX (post exchange) a version of department store with mostly quality things at lower prices and the Commissary (nicknamed the Co-misery by some) for reasonably priced food. Prices needed to be low since joining the service, whichever one was chosen, was not designed to make your parents rich. I still have some record albums (remember those?) from the PX in the early ‘60s that only cost $2.35! And a china cabinet full of nice silver and crystal from the PX I got for wedding presents. I could entertain like my parents, but who uses silver trays and bowls, fancy silverware and crystal except for very special occasions?

Entertainment was always a priority in the service; officers and their wives had calling cards and went through all the proper protocol. Officers and enlisted men did not socialize together: they each had their own clubs. The Class VI store, on the other hand, was available to those, no matter what rank, who were old enough to imbibe alcohol in its various forms. Cocktail parties, dinner parties, special dinners/parties given by a certain command or military groups were typical to celebrate holidays, promotions, farewells, etc. Each weeknight, if they didn’t have other social plans, my mother would put on a nice dress and heels and greet my dad with Martinis or Manhattans and sliced raw vegetables (pioneers for eating if not drinking healthy) for cocktail hour, from 5-7 p.m., wherever they were stationed. I don’t remember if he got comfortable first and took off the uniform.

Army posts offered tennis courts, bowling alleys, shooting ranges, gyms: you name it. There were always movie theaters and movies were very cheap. Because of my thrifty dad, however, I remember my mother making us kids popcorn and putting it into small paper bags to take to the 35-cent or cheaper films. In the summer, there were usually several huge pools to choose from, an easy bike ride away. And when you became a teenager, there was a teenage club with lots of activities.

Rules and regulations were to be obeyed without protest; everything had certain hours, and in military time. My dad wrote me letters military style while I was away at college: paragraphs were numbered, and if he was scheduling a pickup or a visit, it would be written as 0800 hours or perhaps 1600 hours, for instance.

If your dad got orders, it was time to leave, no matter how well you liked your present home and school. Moving wasn’t ever that easy, but there were Army personnel to pack up your household goods: until the Army got smart eventually and starting providing furniture, dishes, bedding and the like at the new military destination, especially Europe. Personal household items didn’t always arrive at the new quarters, or arrive on time or in good shape, but that was to be accepted, even if it ended up on the bottom of the ocean, which did happen, although not to us.

Army fathers (as I imagine all service fathers) were used to a regimented schedule. When we went on a vacation in the States, we got up at 4 a.m. (0400 hours) and hit the road. I got a laugh from the scene in the movie “The Great Santini” when the family got in their car to leave in the wee hours. In the 50s we traveled to Tripoli in what some joked was a putt-putt airplane, propeller-driven and very noisy. It involved several refueling stops and seats were not all facing the front, which made it easy for my sister to throw up on my brother. Military airplanes in the 50s and 60s made stops in places like the Azores, Morocco, England, Scotland, Newfoundland and Labrador (and that was when you were traveling east). Once off an airplane, you didn’t get your land legs back for at least a day. Until then your ears buzzed and everything seemed to move, even if you were sitting down.

Traveling by ship was more common in the 40s and 50s. I got my “sea legs” when I was four years old: from New York to Hamburg, Germany, and then by train to Munich.

When an Army father retired, he usually picked someplace near a post or base since he could still use the PX, Commissary, medical facilities and space-available air travel. Many times the retirement choice would be the area of his last post or base. When he’d had enough, my mom and dad chose Texas for the warm climate and the close proximity of Ft. Sam Houston, where, ironically, my mother and I had been briefly during WWII when she’d been married to my birth father. My mother left this world from Ft. Sam Houston.

My brother Darby is sworn into Army service by my dad, right after college graduation.

My brother Darby is sworn into Army service by my dad right after college graduation from the University of Virginia

Military life as a dependent involved a great deal more than I could fit into this story, but it gives a general idea.

Being an Army brat was a great adventure, despite the challenges. Living in exotic places was exciting but best of all were the friends you made and kept, if you chose to. My parents kept up with Army couples all over the world until they died, and I always looked forward to reading all the Christmas cards from everywhere. It’s a tradition I chose to cherish and carry on.

TRIPOLI VISIT– 1999

I am presenting the last portion of Hazel Dobson’s travel saga of visiting Libya in 1999 on a British tour of the archaeological sites. She has a very keen memory of what it had been like in the 1950s, and she compares her memories with all the changes since Ghadaffi had taken over in 1970.

Reality hit hard as we approached the city (Tripoli). We were booked into the very hotel where my sister had learned to swim and my parents regularly dined. The Del Mehari was a stone’s throw from my family’s former home, and as I stood on the balcony of my hotel room I could see into our former garden. The hotel was situated on the original Corniche (the coast road), known in those days as Schiara Adrian Pelt or previously, when I first arrived all those years ago, as the Lungomare. Sadly, because the port was very shallow and modern tankers needed to get close to the shore, the bay has been filled with concrete, which pushed the old road back. There is now a new road leading along to what was the Karamanli Mole. The magnificent Corniche still retains some of the lollypop-shaped trees and the old lamplights, but pristine, it isn’t. The road has become a racetrack for local commuters and very bad drivers and it was difficult to cross the road.

Albergo Del Mahari

Albergo Del Mahari probably in the 1960s

The Del Mahari was in the throes of being modernized and had grown from the rather squat Italianate design one saw all over Libya to a building of about five stories. The lobby area was full of security checks. I didn’t know whether that was normal practice, but whilst I was staying there, a very official contingent of Kuwaitis and Qataris arrived, resplendent in their robes and dressed to the nines with scimitars. They filled the place to capacity, so I think that the security was laid on especially for them.

That evening I discovered that I had left my passport in my room, and as it was essential to carry it at all times, I had to return to my room on the second floor to collect it. The lift was completely frozen, and the only route I could use was the staircase at the back of the lobby. Imagine how I felt when I arrived on the landing to find the whole place filled with praying men, all fortunately prostrate with faces to the floor. What does a girl do in a situation like this? I decided to continue as though nothing was happening and crept through the center of this great mass of males. Not one looked up, thank goodness!! 

I mentioned to some members of the group that I would like to go for an early morning stroll down the road to look at the old Casino building, known as the Uaddan. This had been quite a hot spot for dinner, dancing and gambling, and I can remember on several occasions when it was too hot to sleep, my parents would disappear in the middle of the night to play the tables and enjoy the warm breeze from the sea coming across the terrace. A small combo played on some evenings, and I even had my 15th birthday party there. It was the center of luxury in those days. There is now a flyover for trucks going to the port, and they thunder past the old building.

On this short walk I managed to locate a friend’s house and the Bath Club on the Corniche, which was a small officers’ club with a swimming pool. I remember the small piano in the corner and a young officer, Tony Jebb, continually playing “See you later, Alligator.” The Italian Club was a little further down the road and I regularly attended tea dances chaperoned by my Italian music teacher, Franca Guardi. Our expedition was swiftly curtailed by the Ghadaffi policeman assigned to our group, and although I didn’t exactly hurry on the way back, he looked distinctly worried.

The Lungomare or Corniche

The Lungomare or Corniche in the 1950s

The group then went to the Museum in the old fort and we explored the souk. Down the winding narrow streets of the Medina, we passed the old shops, many of which were closed and the small airy courtyards with little fountains, none of which seemed to be working. It was a sorry sight when in times past it was teeming with people, handicrafts and workshops. The Arch of Marcus Aurelius was still intact and some preservation work had been done on the pillars and carved areas. We stopped for lunch at a Souk Restaurant and had a very passable meal. Unfortunately, the drains seemed to be malfunctioning, and the owner continually squirted incense around the place to combat the smell.

The following day we visited the museum and the bookshop at the bottom of what used to be Via Roma, then Schiara 24th December, and now I think it is Independence Street. The bookshop seems to have been there for ages. The proprietor was very welcoming, and I told him why I had come back. He had worked as a clerk in the Naafi shop as a young man and wanted to talk and talk, however, but it was time to move on. He pressed some postcards in my hand and a book, and was almost weeping when I left and he whispered about the ”good” days.   I knew what he meant: they were good

After a half day at Sabratha, we went to a restaurant, which was by all intents and purposes in Georgimpopili, but it was built up and beyond recognition. We had a great fish meal in the Sherherazade Restaurant and our guide, Ala, was attired in full Libyan dress. It was a very memorable last evening culminating in a drive through the city, which was completely off-schedule and a commendable risk taken by our driver, who was being shouted at by the Ghadaffi man throughout. I was told afterwards that I had mentioned so many streets and sites like the Palace, the old Cathedral, Schiara Istikal, the Grand Hotel, etc., that they thought it worthy to drive at breakneck speed to see as many of them as possible in the course of about 15 minutes. I was shouting out the various places as we passed them, much to the amusement of Ala. It was marvelous. Although I would have wished to see them at leisure, it was not encouraged by the Libyans to go off the beaten track, so I thank the driver for that madcap journey!

The next day we drove back to the Libya-Tunisis border where we were hassled by border guards, mainly because we had two Americans on board. Both were asked to leave the bus and go to the office. The nutritionist became agitated immediately, pretending not to understand, so before it became nasty, I agreed to go with her. The border guard started shouting, and I told him that he should respect her as he would respect his mother, and that seemed to quiet him down. He wanted to know why I was travelling alone without a man, and I pointed out that method of travel is quite normal where I came from, and that my husband was in England working so I could have the money to go on holiday. He thought that was very amusing. When we left, a half hour later, we were all friends. The journey after that was uneventful. After a quick stopover in Djerba, where we said goodbye to our guide, we arrived in Tunis for the flight home.

 

 

SEXUAL PREFERENCE? GENDER IDENTITY?

Sex is complicated and probably always has been. Currently, thanks to Caitlin Jenner, once known as Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner, we might wonder who we really are and whether we’re happy with the physical gender we were born with. The conversation is out in the open and I’m sure we’ll discover all sorts of fascinating facts as the years roll on.

What was it that inspired me to write Melaynie’s Masquerade, my historical fiction about a young woman who masquerades as a captain’s boy to sail to the Caribbean with Captain Francis Drake in the 16th century? Women have pretended to be men and vice versa through the ages.

I had my own unique experience in the dating world when I met a man who enjoyed dressing up as a woman. Though his ad in the Singles Register newspaper hadn’t mentioned he liked costume parties, I didn’t know his preferences, initially. He had sounded very congenial on the phone, and I decided to meet him at his home. When he changed into his gear—a French maid’s outfit, high heels, and a blond wig, the show was on. Eventually he was attired in a white negligee while we played Trivial Pursuit and watched the Lakers game, and he wanted me to give him makeup tips!

I wrote about my experience and submitted it to Playgirl magazine years ago. It was refused so I turned that story and another experience into a small Ebook that is for sale on Amazon:  Weird Dates and Strange Fates

My book on Amazon.

My book on Amazon.

 Here’s a sample from one of the stories:

 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 noted a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it, four-inch 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.

 

 

LEPTIS MAGNA & SABRATHA -HAZEL DOBSON’S 1999 TOUR

I’ve been sharing Hazel Dobson’s story of visiting Libya on a special archaeological sites tour in 1999. Hazel is  British and  lived in Tripoli years ago–back when I was there. We even knew some of the same people. I’ve already posted a couple of blogs on her trip. The following portion concerns the Roman cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, both along the Libyan coast.

After another early start, we arrived at Leptis Magna, which for me was very emotional. Nothing I have seen in all my travels can compare with the magnificence of that site. I had visited this ancient city along with the smaller site of Sabratha so many times with my mother and father that even after 40 years I could have led the tour myself as all the memories came flooding back as we wandered through the ruins still being excavated by Italians, Libyans and members of the British School in Rome.

640px-Leptis_Magna_Arch_of_Septimus_Severus

I enjoyed the forum of Septimus Severus (the arch above), the basilica with magnificent wall carvings and the medusa heads. As during that time in the past, the silence was evocative. A handful of Libyan visitors with children were told by our guide to be quiet as they were spoiling the atmosphere and must respect such an amazing place. The huge hippodrome where the chariot and horse racing took place with the race circuit counters in the form of dolphins was still almost completely intact. I could also see the gullies leading from the sea where the water was allowed to flood the arena so that mock sea battles could take place on high days and holidays. The beautiful mosaics of the Hunting Baths, and the Marketplace with the stone stalls for the fish sellers with carvings of mermaids and fish were all intact. As was the row of shops, the solarium, the temples, the monumental arches dedicated to Roman generals, and the long straight road through the ancient city, wide enough for chariots to pass. It would be possible to wander this site for days as there is so much to discover even now. After an exhausting four hours we lunched at the restaurant by the museum and after visiting the old port area, amphitheater, and circus, we left for Tripoli.

 

(I am skipping Hazel’s story about Tripoli in this blog for now, and adding her experience in Sabratha instead.)

Sabratha

Sabratha

We travelled to Sabratha, which was along the coast road, to visit what my late father always described as the prettiest of the two great sites. From then on I have always referred to Leptis Magna as the King, big, bold and powerful, and Sabratha as the Queen, smaller and more elegant with the wonderful backdrop of the sea through the arches of the theatre. It seemed strange to me to sit in the same spot on the raised terracing overlooking the stage as I did with my father all those years ago. In fact I have the two photos recording that moment, one in 1953 and one in 1999, both taken at a weekend when we used to picnic there. It was sad to say goodbye to these lovely ruins, knowing that I probably would never see them again except occasionally in television shows like The Black Tent, a film starring Anthony Steele, Brian Forbes and Terrence Sharkey, who played the young son of the Bedouin princess and a young army officer. The making of this film caused great excitement and local residents joined up as extras including my mother, who can be seen coming off the boat in the opening sequence. Having such famous film stars in town was the highlight of the year, and I was thrilled to receive an invitation to attend the opening night, sitting directly behind Anthony Steele in the audience.

 

MARCH ON WASHINGTON–1963

Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando -- in D.C. March

Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando — in D.C. March

Fifty years goes by in a flash. When you’re young, you don’t think that far ahead, or at least I didn’t. I lived my life day by day and was usually up for adventure. I’ve lived in California since 1965, and 50 years ago this state was only an exciting possibility because Disneyland was here. I had no idea when I was in the midst of very famous movie stars and other notables during the March on Washington that I would end up in California within two years. In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve realized how fortunate I was to be in the midst of this remarkable time in history.

The March was scheduled for Saturday, August 28, 1963, and several of my bosses from Washington National Airport’s Operations department would be on duty. Many celebrities involved in the March would be landing at Butler Aviation, the private terminal of the airport (which is now Reagan Airport). The fellows I worked for asked if I wanted to see movie stars, and I jumped at the chance to blend in with the celebrities, and I invited my good friend Harriet. In the early 60s, especially around Washington, women got dressed up for events and even shopping; it was a more formal time and T-shirts and jeans were not appropriate attire. Harriet and I knew exactly what to wear—high heels, stockings, and a dress. I don’t know if we wore hats; usually hats were for church.

California, where most of the famous folks were coming from, had been declared the home of “fruits and nuts.” As an Easterner, I was ignorant about almost everything but the term “Hollywood” and knowing somewhere out there was the magical Disneyland. Harriet and I probably took along our white gloves, which were the ultimate extra touch when dressed up. I recall my three-inch-high beige heels, but I don’t remember the dress I wore. It was probably a sheath of some kind that looked business-like.

Harriet and I were very excited about the day, but had no idea what to expect as we climbed the stairs to the second floor lounge at the Butler Aviation terminal. It was full of people milling around, most of them casually dressed. I gawked as I saw a fully bearded Paul Newman, fresh from filming the comedy, What a Way to Go; he played an obsessed painter married to Shirley MacLaine. In the middle of the room was the handsome Sidney Poitier talking to Dianne Carroll.

One wall of the lounge was almost entirely glass and looked out upon the airfield. I walked toward the window to see if any planes with more stars would be landing. As I stood there in my heels, I felt tall and imposing—about 5’10” in my “spikes.” Two diminutive black men walked over and stood on either side of me, neither of them taller than my breasts. On one side was the multi-talented actor-singer Sammy Davis, Jr.; on the other was renowned author James Baldwin. I tried to act nonchalant as they talked. I was probably too nervous to eavesdrop.

Not long afterward, someone announced a private plane from Southern California was landing and would soon be taxiing to the Butler Aviation gate. All of us were encouraged to go downstairs and outside to greet them. Harriet and I followed along and wondered who the new arrivals would be. While we were waiting, I overheard some cynic say, “Here come more of the fruits and nuts of Hollywood.”

Within minutes a small passenger plane taxied toward us, engine still roaring. I put my hands over my ears and looked up into the smiling face of Moses himself—Charlton Heston. “Loud, isn’t it?” he intoned with that unmistakable, powerful voice. I beamed at him and nodded my head.

As he turned away, Harriet leaned in. “Can you believe that was Charlton Heston?” She was grinning with excitement.

The plane’s engines quit and the door opened. Men and women began to descend the stairs and I noticed how differently they were dressed—tanned women were wearing loose clothing with flashy jewelry; men were in white shoes and colorful shirts. Out the airplane door sauntered someone I knew from television: handsome James Garner. Photographers and reporters were there to cover the story and the dark-haired Garner didn’t disappoint. Right away he waved and played to the crowd, starting some fascinating repartee I no longer remember. But I couldn’t forget his charming easy smile.

A few years later when I moved to California and became part of that laid-back lifestyle and sunny climate, I would remember my historical hint of things to come, courtesy of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I saw an older James Garner in person at a shopping center: he was asleep in an overstuffed chair, probably waiting for his wife.

WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT – 1963

“How’d you like to see some movie stars?” a retired Navy pilot asked me on a summer day in 1963, shortly before Martin Luther King’s March on Washington event. It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I was working for Operations at what was then Washington National Airport on the Potomac River in the District of Columbia.

I was the only female among six retired Navy and Air Force officers, all former pilots, and our offices were on the field level of the airport. Even though the men had done their twenty years in the service and were drawing their retirement pay, they were only in their forties. They had opted to keep working by getting a government job, which kept them in the same place for a change.

The fellows in Operations, who were all cocky and full of charm and humor, would make sure takeoffs and landings were going smoothly. They were in charge of monitoring aborted flight departures or problems with arrivals because of engine trouble or whatever else might go wrong and did. Potential mishaps, depending upon the severity, were labeled either “Standby at the station” if it was mild—as with a plane coming in with less than all engines operating—or “Standby on the field” if it looked more serious—faulty landing gear, for instance. These competent but seemingly relaxed men were privy to what was going on around the airport in general.

As a lowly clerk-typist, GS-3, I was responsible for answering phones and typing whatever documents needed typing—monthly reports of the flights in and out of the airport, for instance. Our oak-paneled offices were nicely appointed and were historic, having been used by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his long presidency, and on our wall there was a photo of him sitting in this office. I enjoyed the job because my flirtatious but well-mannered bosses were fun to work for; there was never a dull moment if they were around. I was their built-in audience and they let me in on their little jokes. One of the them, who resembled old-time movie actor Robert Taylor, would request that I bring him his coffee just like his women—“hot, dark and sweet.” A former Navy pilot, whose crewcut was getting sparse on top, claimed his hair was guilty of mutiny—they were all deserting the ship.

I was only dimly aware of the growing civil rights movement, which was beginning to heat up at that time. I attended William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and we had no African-American students. Although integration within Virginia schools was mandatory, it had yet to become widespread. In 1963 Viet Nam action consisted of American military “advisors” and was very much an unknown factor; it was August 1964 before the US began a substantial military build-up, which escalated into a war.

Washington National Airport was a hub of activity in those casual days before extensive security checks and terrorism. Getting on and off planes was easy; no one cared what a traveler had in his luggage. If my bosses, who seldom stayed around the office except to have coffee or tell me a joke, spotted anyone famous in the airport, they’d tell me, especially if there was time for me to go sneak a peek. Renowned Spanish painter, Salvador Dali, with his distinctive long curling mustache, was once spotted in time for me to look him over. One of my bosses was very excited when he caught sight of NBC television news anchor Chet Huntley, who had probably flown on the Eastern Airlines Shuttle—their gate was close to our office. I enjoyed my peek at the handsome, bushy brown-haired Huntley, who was based in New York City; his co-anchor, David Brinkley reported from Washington. Their famous Huntley-Brinkley Report was a highly popular news program of that day and broadcast from 1956 to 1970, when Huntley retired.

None of these celebrities compared to the mix of stars who were coming for the March on Washington, a massive protest for jobs and civil rights headed by Dr. Martin Luther King and his supporters. Since then I’ve learned much about that milestone and about King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At that time, all I knew was that King’s celebrity supporters would all be gathering at the private aviation terminal, not far from the main terminal. My bosses didn’t know who would be there, but they’d be delighted to drive me and a friend to the Butler Aviation Terminal. We just had to act like we belonged there.

Me-WNA-'63Summer clerk-typist – Washington National Airport (now Reagan) Operations Office. Check out all the old office equipment–no computers!