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SELLING A SCRIPT IN HOLLYWOOD

Before I wrote my novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, I wrote a movie script. My screenplay, simply called Drake, went through many incarnations. Eight rewrites that I can recall. It got so good I had several people in the business (not any recognizable names) compliment me on the writing. But I couldn’t take that to the bank.

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake

My friend and partner in the adventure to get a project on film was Dudley Hood, an Australian musician and writer. We had a wonderful time exploring all the possibilities—it even felt legitimate. For a time we went to monthly parties held at a fancy home in the exclusive hills of Brentwood to meet lots of aspiring actors, directors, etc. We were looked on as potential employers and were offered a buffet and drinks (all contributed by the hopefuls). A few days later I’d get a huge envelope of head shots in the mail. I held onto these photographs for a long time before I tossed them. The attendees didn’t know, but might have guessed, we had no money but plenty of hopes, no different from any of them.

We shopped our project, which we called Caribbean Kaleidoscope (historical tales of the Caribbean made for TV), created brochures—thanks to a very talented artist named Jon Wincek, had countless budgets put together by Fred Culbertson on a program called Movie Magic, if my memory serves me. Fred, luckily, had his own transportation business, Hollywood Studio Vehicles. We attended various industry events like the American Film Market in Santa Monica. Searching for funding can be lively and frustrating—Dudley traveled to the Virgin Islands and New York City—but there’s no guaranteed pot of gold or happy ending. As is frequently said: Life is the journey, not the goal.

The Film Market was fun, however. Located at a couple of well-known hotels on the beach, it was full of aspiring players in the independent film world from everywhere (8,000 or more attended). Hundreds of films, from the expensive to the low-low budget, are shown and shopped from all over the world during this week-long event. What a place for people watching! I saw Roger Corman, king of low budget movies, and various star impersonators, like Michael Jackson (while he was still alive) and John Travolta.

Francis Drake miniature

Francis Drake miniature

 

We met Stan Lazan, a friendly guy who had been a cinematographer for TV’s “Bonanza” years before. He was looking for work and was happy to offer his advice. He had lots of fascinating tales to tell of his years in the industry, not to mention some pointers on industry terminology. I hadn’t learned yet what P&A was, but it was the talk around the hotel bar. Prints and Advertising is a vital part of a movie budget: without prints of the film and advertising to sell the movie, nothing would move forward. I kept up with Stan and enjoyed his company for years afterward. He has since passed on. But “Bonanza” still plays on TV.

Dudley was very tireless and enterprising. He managed to get us a meeting with a CAA (Creative Artists Agency) agent at their posh headquarters in Beverly Hills. The agent and his younger associate listened to our project pitch (I think we were “selling” Drake at that point) and seemed interested but there were too many pieces of the puzzle missing to make any kind of commitments. The two of us, however, were ecstatic and felt like real wheeler-dealers! Ha! CAA has moved from its unique modern building in Beverly Hills, probably to something more spectacular. That was then and this is now!

Not long after CAA, we managed a meeting with the VP of IMax Pictures. Dudley played his guitar to show him we were planning music for our huge production. It’s hilarious and a little bittersweet to think of all the gallivanting and all the hopes. You’ve got to be starry-eyed and innocent to a great extent to make your dreams come true in Tinsel Town. To make it happen, you must never give up. To paraphrase a current ad, we may not have made any money but the experience was priceless.

TRIPOLI – WHERE ALL ROADS LEAD?

In Roman times it was said that all roads led to Rome and a specific monument there, which no longer exists. In my experience during the past decade or more, all roads lead to Tripoli, Libya, which is just a short journey south from Rome.

Tripoli is an exotic place on the edge of North Africa, settled in ancient times by the Phoenicians and the Romans and centuries later by the latter-day Romans, now known as Italians. World War II action attracted the Germans, the Brits, and then the Americans. And that’s just a brief history—I’m sure I left out civilizations, but I’m not writing a history lesson. It’s much more sentimental than that.

 

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

An Army Brat in Libya Ebook cover

The Internet has developed like an enormous spider web connecting cultures and friends, old and new, from all over the world. And Tripoli has been part of that web. The American connection began when President Thomas Jefferson sent the US Marines over in the very early 1800s to fight the Barbary Pirates, and we’ve been connected one way or another since then. This “war” led to the words in the Marine Hymn, “From the halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.” The attraction is mystical, in my view.

My family landed at Wheelus Air Force Base in 1955. We found a home in the Garden City area of Tripoli while my Corps of Engineers father worked  at Wheelus. Tripoli was a much smaller city then but Libyans, Italians, British, Egyptians, and other Middle Easterners mixed and mingled in this strategic city noted for colorful bougainvillea vines, palm trees, donkeys, camels, bicycles, and cars from Europe and the US. What an adventure and privilege  it was to be sent there for three years.

Facebook has become a treasure of groups connected with Tripoli: students who had gone to school at Wheelus Air Base: Wheelus High School Ex-students, for instance; military personnel who had served at Wheelus, and even Italian folks who were born in Libya. And I may have missed some groups. Photos have been passed around, stories remembered, history remembered: the Suez Crisis in late 1956 and the evacuation of US civilians in 1967, for example. All sorts of details have been shared: from Mediterranean beaches to Roman ruins. There have been reunions of former students over the years, way before the Internet when telephones and snail mail was necessary.

What surprises me is the sentiment Tripoli arouses  among so many of us who lived there long ago. Because of the many blogs I’ve posted about Tripoli and Wheelus, I’ve heard from many people who had some kind of connection with the city. Terrence Sharkey, once a young British actor in “The Black Tent” that was filmed in the Sahara near Tripoli got in touch. A British woman who had lived there as a teenager contacted me with lots of memories; her mother had been an extra in “The Black Tent.” Mahmud Abudaber, who had grown up on the outskirts of Tripoli found me—we both live in Los Angeles. When we first met, he brought photos, old coins, and lots of tales of his large family. He had escaped Tripoli in 1980, just before Gaddafi would have drafted him into the Army.

I recently shared memories with Giuseppe Scalora, who started the Facebook group of Italians born there: Club Italiani Nati a Tripoli. They have posted dozens of photos I’d never seen before of scenes and people from all over Libya, from the Sahara to the Mediterranean. Most recently, Julie Yeh, now living in LA, who had been born in Taiwan but moved with her family to Tripoli, got in touch. I can’t wait to hear about her memories.

Camilla, a lovely and very personable Italian lady who now lives in North Carolina and belongs to the group Giuseppe started, was born in Tripoli. She got in touch with me on Facebook and told me something about the horrors of WWII, which forced her and her mother to spend the war in Italy while her father had to remain in Tripoli. When her mother decided to rejoin her husband, she and Camilla faced a perilous sea journey back to Libya and even imprisonment, even though the war was finally over. With some persuasion from her family and my own encouragement, Camilla recently wrote her story of those historical times. I don’t know any authors who have the talent to write versions in Italian, French and English! La Stanza di Camilla de Micheli Consuelos, which includes photos, can be read on: http://www.ernandes.net/demicheli/

 

There must be something in the Mediterranean climate, the sand, the mix of cultures, the magic of Africa that keeps us connected and curious about our fellow travelers.

THE RENAISSANCE PLEASURE FAIRE

“All the world’s a stage,” said Shakespeare. Couldn’t be truer than at a Renaissance Faire! Renaissance Faires are held all over the US these days, but the idea originated in Southern California and was created by an LA schoolteacher, Phyllis Patterson, and her husband Ron in 1963. Phyllis Patterson, alas, departed the Earthly Realm on May 18, 2014, and traveled to the Spirit Faire in another dimension (that’s what I imagine, anyway).

The Faire was first held in her Laurel Canyon backyard as a weekend fundraiser. Because it attracted so many people, the Patterson’s soon found a larger venue and it eventually became a thriving yearly enterprise.

I spent many entertaining Spring Saturdays at the Faire when it was set up in the Santa Monica Mountains on the Paramount Ranch, a popular movie and TV location (lots of Westerns and “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” TV series). Rolling hills, streams and old oak trees provided the perfect country setting; thousands of participants (both hired entertainment and paying customers) in 16th century costume escaped the 20th century for a day or two. Years afterward I would remember the Faire and be inspired to write my historical novel of the 16th century, Melaynie’s Masquerade.

Sir Francis Drake & Faire Guests

Sir Francis Drake & Faire Guests

Eat, drink and be merry was never more evident than at the Faire. We would wander the dirt pathways among the hills; it wasn’t difficult to imagine an English village of long ago. Visitors got in a party mood quickly: tents sold hundreds of paper cups filled with wine and beer, and food stands that resembled English shops offered turkey legs, toad-in-the-hole, corn on the cob, sausage and cheese, and some California treats like artichokes, and strawberry crepes. There were a variety of beautifully made crafts to buy, like pottery, jewelry, leather goods and Renaissance costumes. I held onto my purple cotton Renaissance blouse and long full skirt for years (it had been dyed and hung to dry right at the Faire), and I still have a few pieces of artisan-made pottery.

Entertainers, all appropriately dressed in colorful costumes (lots of cleavage displayed in women’s garb), wandered through the crowd performing skits here and there, and a variety of stages were set up for Shakespearean drama and outrageous comedy. Bales of dry hay provided the seating. I heard many a man say, “There’s plenty of boobs and beer here!” The humor and entertainment was not designed for prudery; it was as bawdy as the Renaissance had been. With easy access to beer and wine, how could anyone stay sober, or polite?

I took the photo above of the actor portraying Sir Francis Drake. It was years before I wrote a screenplay and novel about the real Drake’s historic exploits. My friend Ray, in the middle, isn’t interested in history, it seems, he just wants to know how much longer he has to endure the Faire! Or perhaps he’s wondering where his wife was since he’s holding two cups of wine.

Actors portraying lords and ladies of the era in all their finery would assemble in a special area of the Faire and visitors could listen in on their jokes and clever conversation, all in 16th century jargon. At 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Progress, with musical accompaniment, and the Queen’s lords and ladies, would wind its way through the Faire with the Queen carried in a litter. The actress would wave to her subjects until the entire party would end up in the Royal Court or at the Royal Stage for some kind of appropriate presentation.

I was lucky: for several years I had free admission. I took my camera and covered the Faire for the Acorn, the newspaper for which I was the editor. When Spring comes and the Renaissance Faire ads appear on TV, it always brings back wonderful memories.  I thank thee for reading my epistle and bid thee Farewell!

 

A WRITER/EDITOR’S HISTORY

My writing career has been an adventurous one: lots of fun, great experiences and for years very little money. As I tell my editing clients—you must create through love, not desire for quick fame and fortune. Like most creative endeavors, writing is rewarding for the heart and soul but it takes time for compensation to reach your wallet, much less the bank. Sometimes it never does.

Victoria Giraud

Victoria Giraud

Reporting stories began with the Barracan, the Wheelus Air Force Base High School newspaper in Tripoli, Libya. I was 14, it was the 1950s and our high school had less than 100 students. The school was surrounded by palm trees and the Mediterranean Sea was a short walk away.  Wheelus High was filled with typical American teenagers: jeans, loafers, saddle shoes, and crinolines to poof out our circle skirts were typical attire. We had proms, one radio station that played rock ‘n roll (an audio version of “American Bandstand”—unless you were new to Wheelus, you probably didn’t even know that TV program existed), and a teenage club that had its own student band, Stardust.

Although I wrote a few stories, I only recall one of them—the Junior-Senior prom with Ebb Tide as the theme—held at the Tripoli Beach Club. Ginny Stewart had a coketail party first at her family’s nearby villa. The entertainment as I remember it: a fully dressed Libyan woman in a very modest wrap-around indoor garment  doing a belly dance to a rhythmic drum. She pushed some of the shawl-like elements of her dress down to accentuate her hips. The woman was most likely a servant of the Stewarts and could be less modest within the house. Outside she would have worn barracan, an all-encompassing white wool garment that covered her head to toe, exposing only one eye and her feet.

In college—William & Mary in Virginia—I wrote for the Flat Hat college newspaper. Lots of stories I no longer remember, but I was pleasantly surprised at one class reunion when a displayed scrapbook had three of my stories!

When my kids were in grammar school and didn’t need my full attention, I wrote my first column: Hillrise Highlights, which covered local events and soon turned into a political campaign to get a nearby highway bridge widened in Agoura, California. As a concerned citizen, I participated in gathering signatures to get the County of Los Angeles or the State interested in funding the construction.

I graduated to covering news for the Acorn, a weekly newspaper for a rapidly growing suburb of LA, in the Conejo Valley, on the border of Ventura County. By the early 1980s I was the editor, responsible for a little bit of everything—writing and editing, headlines, photos, attendance at chamber of commerce meetings and mixers. City incorporation attempts, wildfires, water quality, and commercial/residential growth were some of the pressing issues in those days. There were also the unusual stories: my trip in a hot air balloon in a fur coat and attending a nightclub show of sexy male strippers, an early Chippendales-type show.

In the 1990s I got to mingle with a few celebrities on a couple of magazines I helped co-create, write and edit. One of them featured Bob Hope for our initial cover. Alas, Hope was recovering from prostate surgery and the closest I got to him for an interview was visiting his manager’s office in Burbank, a testament to Hope’s many movies with its giant blowups of movie stills going back to the 1930s.

Beverly Hills Country Club, a posh tennis club, decided they needed a magazine featuring their members. My boss was an enterprising Iranian who spoke English but was not fluent in writing English. For our first cover, I interviewed Barbara Eden in her home along Mulholland Drive. Delightful and personable, she wore a cropped top and low riding pants, showing off her still fabulous figure and revealing the belly button blocked out on “I Dream of Jeannie,” her famous TV series. Yes, the cover was “photo-shopped.”

Appropriately for a sports club magazine, I did stories on members, Rafer Johnson, the Olympics decathlon champion from the 1960s, and 1940s tennis champion Jack Kramer, who had remained active in the sports world promoting tennis and then golf. My first tennis racket was a Jack Kramer and I told him so. Both of these athletes were gentlemen and easy to chat with.

The 1990s included a few years of writing a weekly column, People and Places, and local play reviews for the Daily News, a major newspaper that still exists. I must have seen and reviewed about 200 plays, performed by a range of talent of all ages. I was a positive reviewer; it was essentially community theater and equity waiver. I recall a production of “Mr. Roberts,” starring Harry Belafonte’s son-in-law. Belafonte was there and I was thrilled to shake his hand as he told me he loved community theater. No, I did not hum any calypso songs!

One of my weekly columns focused on Jake Lloyd, a seven-year-old starring in his first movie, “Jingle All the Way” with Arnold Swarzenegger (before he became the Governator). Jake was charming; on the sound stage of 20th Century Fox, he led me up to a sort of catwalk on the upper levels of the living room set, where I could have an overview and see where the cameras and lights were positioned. They were filming the last scene of the movie that day. As filming is erratic, the last scene of filming would be the actual first scene of the movie. Jake went on to play Anakin Skywalker in a Star Wars movie, “The Phantom Menace.”

50 YEARS ANNIVERSARY? WE SPLIT at 17 YEARS…

As an English major at William and Mary, I studied poet T.S. Eliot, an American who spent most of his life in England. I especially remember the famous line from “The Waste Land” — “April is the cruelest month…” It rings in my memory despite the fact I’m an optimist and don’t believe it. I’d rather recite Chaucer’s more positive lines from the “Canterbury Tales,” also about April, but I learned it in Olde English, and my theme is not about spring but about how some things aren’t what you were planning or what you expected.  John Lennon aptly said, “Life is what happens to you while your are busy making other plans.”

I was married twice to the same man and the marriage still didn’t work! But that had nothing to do with the two ceremonies. One was a required German civil ceremony in Mannheim, and the Frankfurt church ceremony was for family and friends. It all took place in Germany on April 7 and April 10, 1965. It’s amazing how fast 50 years flies by.

Family Wedding Photo, Frankfurt, Germany

Family Wedding Photo, Frankfurt, Germany

Perhaps I tried to cram too many life-changing events into 1964 and 1965. That momentous year I had met my birth father for the first time since I was a baby, I graduated from college, I played a part in two weddings, and I decided to get a job in Europe: perhaps in Paris. I ended up flying to join my parents stationed in Germany and met Hans, my future husband in Mannheim (he had been one of my stepfather’s lieutenants) three days after I arrived. I got a job in Heidelberg, got engaged in February of 1965, married twice in April and was soon on my way to the U.S.–destination Los Angeles, California to start life with Hans, my new husband.

The weddings were fun. I bought an Italian white knit suit for the civil ceremony in the government office, and while I was at it, a gorgeous pair of fancy white Italian heels. Since I was American, the German officials read me the translation of the wedding certificate. I didn’t need it since I spoke some German and I was marrying a German born man, but it was the law. Afterward, we joined my parents and some personal friends for a brief get-together at a local hotel before my parents whisked me off back to Frankfurt to get ready for the “real thing” on Saturday. The German friends who joined us wondered how I could leave when I was already married!

The second wedding took place at an Episcopal church in Frankfurt. I recall the minister’s last name was Wiseman, perfect but ironic!  The reception was held at my parents’ military housing on Hansa Alle in Frankfurt, which was near the I.G. Fahrben building, where my dad’s Army office was. We kept the occasion fairly simple. My sister was my maid of honor, and Hans invited a delightful American-Italian, a fellow officer, to be his best man. My mother, an excellent seamstress, made my gown, my sister’s special dress, and her own outfit. My dad enlisted the help of an officer in his group who was an excellent photographer for all the photos, and his secretary helped my mom create the appetizers. The cake and flowers came from local German businesses. Although the weather was not sunny, it was warm enough to set up a bar in our huge shared back yard.

The people who attended made the event unique–my new husband, who had been born in Frankfurt, invited his German uncles, aunt and cousin; all lived in Frankfurt or nearby. Onkle Hans, his mother’s brother stands behind Hans in the photo above. And my dad’s secretary when we’d lived in Murnau just after WWII, who had drawn such lovely sketches for them which I’ve posted,  attended with her husband.

We spent our honeymoon in southern Italy on the ocean near Rimini. I wrote about that amusing adventure not long ago. Hans left Germany via the US Navy and I later flew to join him in New York City, in time to see the World’s Fair. The only thing I really remember at the fair was the Disney ride to “It’s a Small World” which later was transferred to Disneyland. We had a terrific time driving across country in our new Mustang convertible. One of the first stops was  Indianapolis, Indiana, to see Hans’ parents; his stepfather was a Warrant Officer in the Army. It was the beginning of almost 17 years together, which included two children.

It was a good ride. Life moves on and we remain friends, a very important factor.

 

 

 

 

EASTER IN CASABLANCA –Venice, CA

California is the home of celluloid and now digital dreams. Since I’m a movie lover, especially of the old classics, I would naturally be attracted to a film theme restaurant. When my daughter Heidi suggested we meet Wayne Edwards and his mother Carolyn for Easter brunch, the small and cozy Casablanca Restaurant in Venice was suggested since we’d eaten there before on Mother’s Day a couple of years before. I’ve been eating Mexican cuisine there since the 1990s, although not frequently enough.

LeaveVenice4Morocco

 

As the name suggests, the restaurant celebrates the 1943 Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman film. A poster of Bogart, dressed in a trench coat, watched over our champagne brunch.

Bogart

 

Owner, Carlos Raphael Haro, Jr. (his father, Carlos Haro, Sr. opened the restaurant in 1980) has added to his large collection of Casablanca memorabilia over the years. We were in a booth with an old movie projector from the film in a wood and glass box on one side. All the walls in this cozy place are covered with framed photos, wall paintings or framed paintings of scenes from the movie. The ladies’ restroom has Ingrid Bergman on the door; the men’s room door says Humphrey Bogart.

As word spread around Los Angeles about the restaurant’s theme, the owner received all kinds of objects having to do with the film. A page of the script, for instance. And Carlos would look around for extra souvenirs to put on display in the restaurant. There’s even a small piano that’s a duplicate of the one used in the movie to play the famous, “As Time Goes By.”

Sam-NY Time

 

The food is also unique: homemade flour tortillas are made on a brick stove in front of customers. The tortillas are probably 12 inches in diameter (although I didn’t measure them) and are accompanied by an unusually tasty green salsa that has little chunks of cheese in it. Since they are known for their calamari steak, I indulged. I opted for the champagne, however, instead of their amazing selection of tequilas.

Since I had decided to write about our dining adventure, I interviewed the amiable owner and he gave us a tour of the restaurant. Turns out he is a writer like me and has written three novels in Spanish, which, according to their website, “incorporate Mexican folklore, cuisine and music.”

Casablanca Outside

 

I remembered the days when the waiters all wore the typical Morrocan red fez hat and asked what had happened to eliminate that fashion statement! I had heard they couldn’t order the hats any more, but Carlos told me the real reason was that busy waiters would sweat too much under the close-fitting chapeau!

The waiters, by the way, were an extra bonus: they were friendly, attentive, and aimed to please. The expression on our waiter’s face expressed humor and reminded me a bit of comedian Bill Dana’s famous character, Jose Jimenez on TV in the 1960s.

LONG ISLAND SOUND – A WINTER SWIM

In the early 1950s while my dad was getting his Master’s Degree at NYU, my family lived in Fordham Hill Apartments in the Bronx. I attended PS 33, just off Fordham Road and next to the elevated subway, where I met and made fast friends with Jackie. We have kept in touch ever since as I moved to Kentucky, Libya, Virginia, Germany and finally to California. Her life has taken her to the Midwest, New England, Hawaii and then she ended up in Northern California. Who could have guessed at 10 years old we’d keep in touch (remember letters by snail mail?) and see each other over the years in various places and eventually live in the same state? Life is a mysterious journey.

Right after Christmas in 1959, when I was just about to turn 17 (January 1), I took a train from Northern Virginia to visit Jackie and enjoy the excitement of New York City from a more grown-up point of view. Jackie made sure I saw the highlights (some of them with dates)— “Destry Rides Again” a Broadway play; a movie at Radio City Music Hall, which included the Rockettes dancing; a drink at a Greenwich Village night spot, and a meal at the Jaegermeister, a special German restaurant. We even saw “Wild Strawberries,” a Swedish Ingmar Bergman movie—now a classic.

My very pretty friend was dating a few fellows, but the primary one at the time was Gerry, an older man of 21 and a Fordham University senior. Gerry fixed me up with Ray, a junior class friend of his. My dates up to this time had been limited to younger guys, so I was thrilled to pretend I was a college sophisticate, not a high school senior!

The fellows were bright and entertaining and I felt quite comfortable with both of them. Being an Army brat does lend a bit of cachet in life, and lots of experience in zany situations. Since I’m posting this blog on April Fool’s Day, zany fits right in.

One night they took us to a casual restaurant/bar called The Barge, which was right on Long Island Sound. Our dates ordered a pitcher of beer and the bartender didn’t bother with ID for Jackie or me. Not quite 17 and I was out having beer! It wasn’t something I’d tell my dad about, but I would certainly share the adventure with my mother.

Me, Gerry and Jackie at The Barge -- Beer and Babes!

Me, Gerry and Jackie at The Barge — Beer and Babes!

After a beer, Gerry, who was quite the comedian and a bit of a showoff, led the three of us outside to the barely lit back patio, which jutted into the water, to show us the view. It was freezing, but I recall we left our coats inside. He instructed us to watch him carefully and then he ran to the other end of the small patio, jumped over the wooden border and disappeared. Since there was water all around, we assumed he’d jumped into the water. Why?

Was this a stunt or some kind of trick? Although he didn’t reappear for a few minutes, Ray assured us Gerry would be fine. Before we got too worried, we saw hands and then a head appear as Gerry slowly pulled himself back over the side, bedraggled, soaking wet, panting and shivering.

“I knew there was a small shelf you couldn’t see and you’d think I was an idiot for jumping in the water,” he told us, trying to chuckle at himself before freezing to death. By this time we were all laughing at his mistake as he blurted out, “It turned out that the shelf wasn’t solid and I went straight into the water.”

Trying to warm up after a winter swim

Trying to warm up after a winter swim

Gerry kept shivering and dripping as we stealthily made our way through the bar and out to the car, trying not to be too loud with our laughter. Ray found a blanket in his trunk, Jackie added a muffler, and we drove to Ray’s nearby home for a change of clothes for Gerry.

Gerry had literally put a damper on the evening in his attempt to steal the spotlight! It was unusual, hilarious and unforgettable. Amazing what a guy will do for a laugh and to impress his girlfriend! Too bad there was no YouTube in those days. At least we had a camera to document it for posterity.

AUTOMOBILES — MY SAGA

College senior me in  a friend's MGB

College senior me in a friend’s MGB

In the US, most of us can trace our histories by the cars we owned, used, or learned to drive in. Not to mention the cars that provided room for early sexual exploration. Whether you “made out” or “went all the way,” who doesn’t remember a few cars that were special? The Mustang has been a favorite of mine, from the 1964 original when I was a young wife to the 1998 model I currently drive.

At age 16, my first driving lessons were in my dad’s 1953 white Ford convertible. My mother was my first instructor, but she was so nervous in the passenger seat she was already slamming on the imaginary brakes a half block from a stop sign in a residential area. The top was down so visibility was great, but my mom was a worrier. My dad didn’t fare much better, although he stayed calm during the lesson. “I need a beer,” he exclaimed to Mom when we got home safely. I got my learner’s permit but no car for me or permission to drive the family Ford. I’ve used a photo of me sitting on that Ford’s hood in Tripoli for previous blogs.

Driving lessons in an old Nash Rambler were the perfect excuse for a boyfriend to get a few kisses and a little “petting,” as we called it then. After a little night driving practice, we found a likely spot for some innocent action. A few kisses later, we were in the sights of a large flashlight brandished by a policeman. It was just a warning that where we had parked was inappropriate–the grounds of an Episcopal seminary. I was embarrassed but I doubt my boyfriend was. When  he took me home that night, he walked me to the door in his socks. Some other local cops pulled up and, suspicious about the socks, questioned him, he told me later. When they got a close-up view of this clean-cut student and interviewed him, they realized he was quite reputable and not a potential burglar.

In college, one of my favorite memories was the white Corvette driven by the charming Army lieutenant from nearby Ft. Eustis who squired me about. He had more money to spend than the typical college underclassman and besides having a sports car was a talented singer and guitar player (folk songs, as in the fairly recent movie “Inside Llewyn Davis”). Making out by a Virginia lake in spring, however, wasn’t a good choice. Although the sounds of bullfrogs were interesting, the next day I was taking semester exams and could barely restrain from scratching the hell out of the 40 mosquito bites on my legs.

In my senior year I was trusted with my graduate student boyfriend’s MGB, pictured above. He let me drive it by myself from time to time. I think he was serious about me, but I wasn’t ready to settle down, despite the nice car.

Years later, at the end of my marriage and the beginning of single life, my most vivid memories concern an aging Oldsmobile ’98, a used Datsun that wouldn’t go in reverse, a nearly decrepit Ford LTD (retread tires and a trunk that didn’t open), a borrowed Porsche 944, a Yugo, a used BMW that was in great shape except for the broken AC, and finally a brand new Mustang! Such is the brief version of my single life with cars.

I remember them all quite fondly, even when these cars were giving me grief. In Los Angeles, where the car is king, the best advice is to find a good and trustworthy mechanic.

POSTWAR GERMANY – US ARMY

Most military brats of my generation probably spent some time living in Germany at one point in their father’s career.

My first vivid memories date back to the time right after WWII. Memory is an odd thing; as you age, you start to wonder if the memory is truly yours or what you were told by a parent or family member. Does it make any difference?

The 1940s were a tumultuous and tragic time during and after World War II. After my Infantry officer father had married Mom and shipped off to Italy to fight, we lived with her parents in southern Virginia. At the end of the war, my family dynamics changed: my father had met an Italian woman he wanted to marry in Trieste, and my mother had met another dashing officer, who had lost his first wife to diabetic shock during the war.

 

Across the Atlantic to Bavaria in 1947

Mom & me cross the Atlantic to Bavaria in 1947. Dad is waiting in Munich. Hand-drawn picture by Dad’s German secretary, Adi.

The shift in couples was accomplished shortly after the war, and my new dad, who was already in Germany, had us literally shipped and then railroaded to southern Germany. I don’t remember the voyage, but I do recall the long train trip from Bremerhaven to Munich because a sliver of coal flew into my eye while I sat at the window. I was only four years old when we got there and six when we left, but I do remember the bombed-out city of Munich. A still-standing single wall from an apartment building might continue to hold a feather bedspread the occupant had hung out the window to air out before the building was destroyed by a bomb.

Since the American Army had been victorious, we took over the best housing in Murnau, which had been and still is a vacation town bordering the Bavarian Alps. Physically undamaged by the war, it was a picturesque village; most homes had window boxes filled with red geraniums in the summer, and there were plenty of places to ski in the winter. We were only 18 miles from Garmisch and the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, once the site for a winter Olympics in the 1930s.

Young and in love, my parents started married life in an idyllic situation. Although my dad was only a captain, we lived in an 18-room house on a large piece of property where my dad planted tomatoes in the spring. We even had a maid and a houseboy, an older couple who were kind and hard working. The American major next door had two children and their “borrowed” home had a swimming pool, which we all used in warm weather! Army people keep in touch and my parents reconnected with them years later when both couples had retired in Texas.

Before my sister was born in the Munich Army hospital, my folks had a terrific time: besides photos as evidence, my dad’s German secretary illustrated a picture book diary for them before they left Germany in 1949. They traveled to postwar Paris and saved a booklet from the somewhat scandalous Folies Bergere. Americans weren’t used to seeing total nudity on stage! Skiing at a local hillside and on the nearby Zugspitze was a regular family activity. There were also plenty of parties–we’d won the war, after all! I remember the Chinese theme party illustrated in the secretary’s book, which I now have. Perhaps it was Chinese New Year.

It seems there wasn’t an Army school for me since my mother taught me first grade from the mail order Calvert School in Baltimore, Maryland. It was so advanced that I skipped second grade when we got back to the States. Another advantage for me was learning German, an easy accomplishment when young and surrounded by Germans. I had made friends with two German youngsters, Seegi and Uti, whose names I remember but not the proper spelling. When my folks needed a translator, it was me they turned to!

 

WILD & CRAZY DATING SCENE

Online dating is alive and well these days. I suppose some couples still meet each other at parties, weddings, grocery stores and social events, but searching the Internet is probably the easiest method and gives searchers the most information. Like advertising, however, the “truth” can be a scam…or as the old saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.” I’ve had some fascinating adventures in the dating world, which brings to mind another saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The previews of the two stories below are absolutely true–I wrote them when the experiences were fresh in my mind. The first one was submitted to Playgirl magazine but rejected. I always thought they may have felt it was too bizarre since the incident happened before the Internet revealed the dating world can be awfully peculiar and eccentric. I met the subjects of these stories through ads in the Singles Register, a now defunct Southern California newspaper.

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1

Here are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she 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.

The Dark Side

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

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