February, 2011:

LIBYA – THE DRAMA INTENSIFIES

Let’s pretend the Barbary Pirates avenged the Libyans!

 

On this day of the Academy Awards here in Los Angeles, my mind leaps to the dramas going on around the world, especially in the Middle East. The Oscars will be presented this evening at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, about a 20-minute drive from my home. But my heart is tugged by my connection to that fascinating faraway country where I spent several pivotal years of my youth, Libya.

 

As Libyans fight for their respect as human beings and to rid themselves of a madman, I can’t help but think of Shakespeare’s immortal words that best  explain some of life’s contrasts:

 

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.”

 

Isn’t it time for the main player/villain of the moment to make his exit? I would love to see all Libyans being able to play the parts in life they choose instead of those designated by a dictator who is creating a nightmare, which brings to mind another Shakespearean quote, concerning an idiot (my interpretations, of course):

 

“And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
the way to dusty death…Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
 that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
 and then is heard no more.  It is a tale 
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

 

I found some interesting connections between the Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture and the Libyan tragedy. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Gaddafi’s  self-appointed throne would be destroyed in “127 Hours” or even sooner? If he killed himself (his swan song, so to speak) as in “Black Swan?” I think we will eventually see Gadaffi’s opposition attain the skill and win out as in “The Fighter.”

 

Are Libyans in a multi-layered violent dream as in “Inception?”  Hopefully, all “The [Libyan] Kids are All Right.” Gadaffi is no George VI, as in “The King’s Speech,” but I would wish him to be silent entirely, not to be plagued with a mere stammer.

 

“The Social Network” plays a fascinating part in very recent history. Facebook and Twitter were integral players in the success of the Egyptian uprising in Cairo, and are important to Libya’s struggle as well.  The Gadaffi opposition must continue to hold onto their “True Grit” since this uprising is no “Toy Story.”

 

And the last film, “Winter’s Bone,” lends itself to a slew of comparisons: Gadaffi as a winter’s bone of contention, a bone like a thorn in the side of the Libyan people. Let him become a wintry pile of bones and trouble us no more, etc.

 

Millions of us living all over our lovely Blue Planet are sending positive loving thoughts to those struggling for a better existence in Libya, and in the entire Middle Eastern world. May blessings rain down upon you and give you peace.

 

Heartfelt Wishes for Freedom & Peace for Libya!

There are places in the world that touch our hearts for one reason or another. For me, Tripoli, Libya is one of those places. Libya is going through a tragic upheaval as the people give their lives to rid themselves of a despot.

When my family lived in Tripoli from 1955 to 1958, it was a beautiful ancient city along the shores of the Mediterranean. Tripoli’s history dated to the Phoenicians and the Romans. In that part of the world, layers of history remain, some standing and some buried. In the coming days and weeks, it will be fascinating to see what present-day Libyans will create as they shake off the old and create another new world.

The boulevard along Tripoli Harbor

Life seems to go in circles; that’s been my experience. When I started my blog last spring, I had no idea where it would lead me. I had lots to write about since I grew up an Army brat in various areas of the world, and I’ve had some interesting adventures as a journalist and author.

I was lucky enough to have written a high school term paper about my time in Tripoli and fortunate enough to have kept it all these years to remind me. It offered great material to share with readers. My Tripoli experience has been a gift for me, a gift that keeps on giving. I’m reconnected, thanks to the Internet, to nearly all my classmates from Wheelus Air Force Base high school, and also to many other former American students who lived in Libya who are both older and younger than me. I’ve also heard from airmen who were stationed at Wheelus and they’ve never forgotten their time there.

I hardly imagined I would actually meet a Libyan, but now I’m connected to a former Libyan resident, Mahmud Abudaber, who escaped from Tripoli to avoid Gaddafi’s military draft in 1980. Until recently, Mahmud, who has a huge family in the Tripoli area, had nearly given up on the possibility that Libya would ever push its heartless dictator out of power.

When North Africa erupted with freedom fever in Egypt, Mahmud started to hope that Libya might join in. He wrote a poem, which I am printing here, and established a web site to share the latest Libyan news: www.gaddafiduck.com

Now he’s getting even more serious; he’s going to sew a Libyan flag using the Libyan symbols from the Kingdom era. He’ll fly it over his Los Angeles home in the hills. Mahmud is making plans to fly to Tripoli as soon as Libya completes its transition, and Gaddafi is old news. What will he do there? Set up a film studio (He used to do music videos). Mahmud lives in the Hollywood Hills, of course.

Libya O’ Libya

Angry from losing our peaceful Kingdom

To a bloodthirsty thief of our freedom.

Gaddafi – that filthy name means turmoil.

We watched him steal our democracy and oil,

We said enough & our blood started to boil.

Brave Libyans are rioting, wave after wave,

Lined up, we can’t wait to piss on his grave.

He’ll be cornered & won’t get off our hook,

Burn him over the bonfire of his Green Book.

Libya O’ Libya, to hell with our Dick-tator,

Choke his sons like a dying carburetor,

Poison to him & to his daughter a vibrator.

Fighting evil, whatever will be will be,

Revenge time, we’ll avenge you, Lockerbie.

There are Americans still in Libya. My blog and Mahmud led me to Teri, a Florida native, who lives on a farm near Tripoli with her kids and Libyan husband. She’s been writing a blog for several years: www.khadijateri.blogspot.com

Teri keeps her readers informed about her experiences in Libya and what’s been happening lately in the midst of turmoil.

CHANNELING THE MYSTICAL

The Milky Way

I don’t pretend to understand the Universe or the mysteries of life, although I have my feelings. I also know what Shakespeare said in Hamlet is true: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Most of us have experienced incidents we can’t explain, synchronicity that boggles the imagination, destiny, fate, prescience, strange dreams.

In California, it’s not difficult to find psychics of all kinds. It’s an active and profitable profession and more than a few psychics are quite good, although the definition of good is a personal experience judgment.

One of the unique avenues for spiritual information is called “Channeling.” Messages come through a person who acts as a willing and cooperative medium to receive and pass on the information from the spirit world.

I’ve seen, heard and read about this phenomenon countless times and it has always fascinated me, especially when the messages passed on make sense and many times are inspiring and helpful.  This form of communication is ancient and dates back to ancient Greece (Cassandra predicting the fall of Troy) and Biblical times (various prophets). There’s nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. The New Age section of a bookstore is filled with books of channeled advice.

My direct experience with Channeling came from two sources. The first was a local Southern California man, Thomas Jacobson, who channeled a Dr. James Martin Peebles, a wise Scotsman who had died just shy of 100 years old in 1922. Dr. Peebles had been a medical doctor, a naturopath and a mystic, who had traveled the world healing people. A group of us assembled in a private home for the presentation, and it was fascinating. Jacobson, the medium, was a man probably in his 30s at that time; he introduced himself and then sat down on a chair in front of us. He closed his eyes and immediately went into a relaxed trance state. Within a few minutes, his body moved a bit and a strong Scottish voice emanated easily from his throat. It was as if the medium had vacated his body and let another spirit take over.

Dr. Peebles had a great sense of humor and much spiritual wisdom to impart to the few of us who had paid extra to ask him a question. Afterward, the audience and the questioners seemed to be quite satisfied with their answers. I no longer remember the questions or answers, but I enjoyed the presentation and marveled at its wisdom. When the male medium came back to full consciousness, he was tired and had no idea what had been said.

Jacobson has retired from channeling, but my research indicated that Dr. Peebles still shares his spiritual messages all over the world with a variety of mediums. In the U.S. alone there are as many as 25 mediums channeling the Scottish doctor’s messages.

Next time I’ll tell you about the channeled messages that came to a friend who typed them out without knowing anything they said.

Ever Met a 6-foot Lizard?

An Example of a Monitor Lizard

A few years ago when actress Sharon Stone was married, she treated her husband to a special tour of the Los Angeles Zoo. He was in the reptile enclosure for a Komodo Dragon when this very large creature bit him on the foot; the injury was serious and quite painful. Interestingly enough, they are no longer married.

The incident reminded me of my former neighbor, Jules Sylvester, owner of Reptile Rentals. One of Jules’ favorite creatures about 20 years ago was a 7-foot long reptile he named Brutus. Brutus was a Monitor Lizard, somewhat similar to the Komodo Dragon, and was one of the stars of “The Freshman,” a film featuring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick. Broderick’s character was helping to provide exotic meals of endangered species for a group of wealthy gourmets. Brutus was to end up on a plate!

Jules worked at getting the best performance from Brutus. His primary scene was an escape from the back seat of a fancy car onto the pavement of a gas station, as memory serves. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times and always enjoyed the hilarity of watching this monstrous reptile coolly make his exit and scurry away, being chased by Matthew Broderick. Reptiles may look clumsy but they can move extremely fast, as Sharon Stone’s former husband can testify.

I got to “meet” Brutus when I went out to the Animal Actors of Hollywood Ranch in Thousand Oaks to interview Jules. I was writing my story for the Daily News and our photographer went out with me. She took a photo of me and Brutus, but never sent it to me, alas.

Seeing Jules’ trailer with all the snakes, mice, cockroaches, etc. was entertaining but insects and snakes were never my passion. But, by listening to Jules and absorbing his positive energy, it was hard not to feel enthusiastic about it all.

Brutus must have known in his reptilian brain that his keeper really cared for him. Jules took Brutus to his young sons’ nursery school for photos; I can imagine how those youngsters were amazed over this unusual creature.

One year I got a wonderful Christmas card, which I wish I still had. The setting was professional–a well-lit background showed a grinning Jules, who was over six feet in height, standing with his arms around Brutus. They were head to head, the reptile’s long tail slightly curled on the ground.

TIMELESS EGYPT

With the turmoil in Egypt in recent weeks, it seems the people have spoken and decided to take charge of their destiny. I look forward to good news as they move into their brave new world. While their new story is being created, I can’t help but recall another Egyptian uprising in 1956 when I was living in neighboring Tripoli, Libya.

Americans were not immune from the world’s volatile situations, then or now: Libya was, after all, in the Middle East. At the end of October 1956, we were plunged right into the middle of the Suez Crisis. One morning in Tripoli, the school busses didn’t arrive. After an hour of waiting, we learned the Libyan drivers had gone on strike, and many small riots had started. For us students, it was an ideal way to get out of school!

Nasser, then President of Egypt, had taken control of the Suez Canal. Why should Britain and France run the canal that ran through Egypt, he reasoned? He wanted the tolls to help Egypt build the Aswan High Dam. It marked the spread of Arab nationalism, though Libya was late to that game, and Gaddafi didn’t seize power until 1969. According to some reports, the young Gadddafi took part in the riots. Good practice for his takeover later? I wonder how Egypt’s recent actions will affect him now.

In 1956, riots took place in front of the French and British embassies, and a couple of small bombs a day were set off in various areas of Tripoli. It wasn’t a full-scale insurrection, but with the heat on, the British evacuated their women and children, flying them home to England.

Americans within the city of Tripoli were put on a 6 p.m. nightly curfew and were told to have a bag with the barest necessities packed in case of evacuation. Gates and doors were to be locked and shades pulled down. We were all instructed not to venture into the old city. My mother got caught on the edges of a small demonstration near a friend’s house several blocks away. It scared her, but she was in our car and managed to leave without incident.

When you’re young, political situations don’t seem to matter. It was all just extra excitement and a chance to miss a couple of days of school. The curfew was moved to 9 p.m. within a week, and several weeks later, as things cooled off, life was back to normal. British families, however, did not return for several months.

The U.S. and USSR had put pressure on the UN,  and there was a cease fire by November 6. Egypt had scored a political victory. I had seen a preview of Nasser’s growing power when I’d spied on the party held at the Egyptian Ambassador’s residence across the street from my home. Almost like being at a drive-in movie, I watched Nasser enthusiastically holding forth on a large screen while the sheiks in attendance were a captive audience.

As an American who believes in Democracy, I say: Power to the Egyptian People!

A SAILING WE WILL GO ON A BIG NAVY SHIP

As a frequently sentimental woman, the following description of the Rose, which I found on the Internet, reads like an obituary and brings tears to my eyes. There are many of us former military dependents and military personnel who probably have fond memories of the old ship that gave us not only transportation, but pleasure.

The General Maurice Rose operated out of New York in the Atlantic and Mediterranean from 1950 to 1965. Steaming primarily between New York and Bremerhaven, Germany, she completed more than 150 round-trip voyages. In addition, the Rose was deployed to the Mediterranean 17 times. Between January and March, 1957, the Rose made three trips to Europe in support of transporting Hungarian refugees back to the United States. The Rose departed New York August 14,1957, for transport duty to Southeast Asia and returned to New York October 18. For the first eight months of 1966, she made eight round-trips to Europe and back. She sailed again from New York on September 8 for troop-lift duty to South Vietnam. The ship returned to New York in late January 1967 for overhaul and was placed in Ready Reserve status at the James River Reserve Fleet, Virginia. The General Rose was scrapped in Texas during the year 2000.

On a Thursday at 2 p.m. in June 1958, about 160 passengers boarded the US Navy ship, General Maurice Rose. My mother, my sister Tupper and I were sharing Cabin 0116 on the port side of the boat deck, which were quite nice quarters. We were to have the third seating for meals at Table 18 in the dining hall aboard ship.

Family passport circa 1955 -- Joan Tupper, me, Darby III, and Mama Garnette Williams

The young people who’d lived in Tripoli or on Wheelus Air Force Base, who came with me, according to my “meticulous” records were:

Diana, Merle and Russ Darling; Jon Jorgenson, Charlene and Chuck Montgomery, Judy and Kathy Jones, Diane Penn, Pat Sabo, Wilnetta Edwards, David Crabtree, Mike Branham, Willy Maguire and Ronnie Yarbrough.

I know all these specifics because I kept, for lo these many years, a scrapbook of our Mediterranean Cruise. It’s one of those cardboard photo albums with black pages; I used the old-fashioned corners, in this case pink, to hold photos, postcards and odd bits like tickets, the Rose daily newspaper, a menu for the farewell dinner on July 7, and the wrapping paper from a box of Italian shoes (sexy backless cork wedge heels) my mother bought for me in Naples.

My reduced family had a terrific time, mainly because my strict father had flown home with my little brother. Since my mother was fun and indulgent, I knew I was going to have a fabulous trip and I would document it in detail, in white ink, mind you, so I’d never forget.  I listed every teenager getting onboard with me, every teenager seeing me off (including three Italian boys), and the fact we actually left the harbor at 6 a.m. on a Friday. After sailing to and docking in Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Naples, Leghorn (Livorno), and Gibralter, we would finally arrive at Brooklyn Navy Yard on July 8.

Stay tuned as I share adventures in the coming weeks.

My Vermin Wrangler Neighbor

Jules Sylvester & Sinaloan Milk Snake

Some years ago, I had a fascinating neighbor, Jules Sylvester, who owns and still operates Reptile Rentals. He and his wife Sue lived above me in a very nice apartment complex in Agoura Hills. The complex was built on a hillside, right at the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains, a great location for nature lovers, especially someone like Jules.

If a wandering snake slithered down from the hills during warm weather, many of us might try to avoid it since rattlesnakes don’t make good friends, but not Jules. He’d add it to his creature collection in a temperature-controlled trailer he owned. He probably still has a freezer for what he laughingly called “ratsicles” and “micesicles” –frozen rats and mice to be thawed for snake food.  He also kept four species of cockroaches (movies require all sorts of props) that got fed dog food and lettuce.

Even insects have preferences about what they consume, and apparently don’t like too much sugar. Jules once fed stale Twinkies to his cockroaches. “They stared at it for three weeks before they finally ate it,” he said.

That was years ago, but I imagine he has a similar setup since he’s still in business providing various creatures for movies and TV. Jules grew up on a farm in Kenya where he was exposed to and collected all kinds of animals and insects, 10-inch wood scorpions, spiders and giant lizards, for instance. He remembers his school’s football field was so close to the forest that occasional leopards would run across part of it, even if games were being played.  At 16 he was already working as a student helper at Nairobi Snake Park.

In the mid 1970s, Jules met his mentor, Hubert Wells, the owner of Animal Actors. Wells was training lions for a television series based on Joy Adams book, BORN FREE. Adams was Jules’ Kenyan neighbor, and he was hired to handle lions, despite his lack of experience.

Jules came to the States soon after, lured by the circus, not Hollywood. He spent three years on the circus circuit before he got a job as assistant trainer for the television series, “B.J. and the Bear.” His business has grown ever since. He handled the snakes on the film Snakes on a Plane, for instance, and frequently brings creatures to Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.

My kids and I got to know Jules, a very tall and amiable fellow who loves his work with critters like snakes, alligators, crocodiles, frogs, toads, crabs, lobsters, insects, lizards, mice, rats, scorpions, spiders, tortoises, turtles, etc.

As he told me in one of several interviews I did with him, he was a vermin wrangler, which meant he handled anything most people didn’t want inside their home. “I love it. You couldn’t give me a better lifestyle. This is my consuming passion,” he declared.

More about Jules on future posts.

NOTE TO READERS:  I have a Tweet address  if you’d like to follow my blog post notifications that way.  It’s:     VictoriaGiraud

THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI RECEDE INTO MEMORY

United States Navy Ship General Maurice Rose

My family had lived in Tripoli since the fall of 1955; it was getting time for a change, a constant if one’s family is connected to the US Army.

In the spring of 1958 my father received orders once again. It was time to leave our foreign home and return to the U.S. My mother, sister Joan Tupper and I were getting the special treat of a military-style Mediterranean Cruise on the Rose, a US Navy ship, for our journey home. Since Dad didn’t enjoy sea travel, he would take my young brother, Darby, and visit his parents in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The whole family would rendezvous in New York City in about three weeks.

My father was ordered to the Pentagon in Northern Virginia, where he would be a part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I was looking forward to catching up on what I had missed of the rock and roll revolution – heralded by hearing “Yakety-Yak” on a radio as our ship neared New York harbor in July.

The furniture was packed up, which was almost useless as it turned out: it sat in packing crates on a wharf in Tripoli for almost six months before being shipped.

The day of our departure my mother and I made a last minute trip to the old city for souvenirs and presents to take to relatives. The afternoon we boarded the ship (Thursday, June 19, 1958), many of my friends, both American and foreign, came to the dock to see me off.

I was only fifteen, and although I was very sentimental about leaving lovely Tripoli and all the exciting times I’d had, I was looking forward to a long cruise without my strict father. My loving mother was more lenient and sociable. There would be lots of teenagers aboard, and I would enjoy the prospect of briefly exploring Greece, Turkey, Italy and Gibraltar. Best of all were the exciting thoughts of becoming an American teenager in the good old U.S.A. once again.

****

Although this post marks a sort of ending to my Tripoli adventures, I will continue to share as other memories pop up. And I will rerun some of the earlier Tripoli posts and photos. I will also post stories on the Mediterranean Cruise–I kept postcards and other memorabilia and put together a scrapbook of my adventure when I got back to the States. It’s amazing how much my old photo albums and scrapbooks held together all these years. I even saved an old sock from a “Sock Hop” at the Teenage Club!

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