March, 2011:

ENERGY – The World’s Foundation

California Gray Whale in Monterey Bay


I’ve always been fascinated by physics, even though I am far from understanding much of it. I think I intuit/accept its principles, like the law of the conservation of energy: In an isolated system—our universe, for instance–the total amount of energy remains constant over time. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed.

I sort of “get” Einstein, who said Imagination is more important than Knowledge. Imagination helps, especially if you’re trying to figure out his famous theorem.

Since energy alters/transforms, it’s easier to imagine how human beings change from the non-physical to the physical and back to the non-physical  (birth and death) and can interact in so many ways, even between species. I recently wrote about Jack Nakamura’s ashes (Jack was my brother’s father-in-law) being scattered in the ocean off Monterey Bay in June 2008. In attendance were his family, friends and fishing buddies.  Whales joined in as well, flapping their flukes as if it were Jack’s spirit saying hello or goodbye. I’m posting my brother’s whale photos taken that day to show how Jack’s spiritual energy and the whales physical energy were all part of the same energy system.

In October 2010, Jack’s energy was still a presence in the beach house where he had died the day before Thanksgiving in 2007. A married couple, who were friends of Jack and Una Nakamura, were guests for a few weeks in the beach house and noticed a floating, non-threatening but restless, spirit at night just above the floor, and even heard muffled voices. One night the bathroom shower curtain and rod came crashing down into the tub, making a loud, startling noise that jarred the couple out of a sound sleep. The wife felt all the “hauntings” were Jack and promised his spirit she would tell his wife Una about his visitations.  After she made that promise, the sightings ceased and all was peaceful at night.


I’ve had my own spirit visitors. After my dad died in the late ‘90s, I inherited a few pieces of his furniture. I cherished a vanity table that had originally belonged to my mother, who’d died in 1974. I bought a touch lamp and placed it on the vanity, which was in the bedroom of my new apartment. About 3 a.m. one night, when I’d just gotten back in bed after a visit to the bathroom, the lamp lit up. I hadn’t gone anywhere near the lamp during my little journey. The light continued to come on every few months during my three-year residence in that apartment. Once it brightened to the second level, which would’ve taken two touches.

Even though the vanity had been my mother’s, I knew it had to be my dad who was visiting. He and I had shared some turbulent years in my childhood and the issues had never been addressed or settled. I intuitively felt he had come to tell me to be “enlightened” on the matter, “lighten” up and let go for my own peace. When I moved to my current place, I deliberately placed the lamp on the floor. It turned on several times afterward: at night or early morning, and once on my birthday. I think peace has been made since I haven’t seen it turn on for several years now.

I wonder what new marvels of energy connections I may observe in the future. I feel this energy is a comforting reminder that life persists in the physical and in the non-physical.





The civil war…conflict…no-fly zone battles—whatever we call it—has lasted about 39 days now. No one knows for sure where it’s headed. We can only hope for the best: Ghadaffi and his family gone and Libyans running their own country as democratically as possible.

Reading last week in the LA Times that there were 65 bodies found in what they called Souk Guma made me wonder what areas of this war I could relate to. Souk el Guma is what those of us connected to Wheelus remember; it’s the same place mentioned in the article. The translated name means Friday Market. During the rainy season back in the 1950s, our school buses often had to navigate fairly deep water as we traveled through the tiny town toward the Wheelus Air Force Base main gate. When the water was too deep Wheelus airmen were out with water pumps. Many have recalled that the little town not only had drainage problems but stank from the local tannery. The Wheelus Air Force Base Main Gate is below.


Lots of political action has taken place in Green Square (Ghadaffi pontificating, his supporters holding signs, for instance). Not certain just where that was, I asked Mahmud, my Libyan friend. He told me it has been called Martyr Square and Horse’s Fountain Square. What distinguishes it in my memory is that it borders the Barbary Pirate Fort and the harbor. From all the photos and film I’ve seen, that area of town remains the most identifiable, and I sincerely hope it isn’t destroyed.

I recall driving with my family in our 1954 white Ford convertible through that square and taking Omar Mukhtar Street (No, I didn’t remember that name—Mahmud filled me in) toward the Tripoli Beach Club where we went swimming in the ocean and played tennis. The road also led to Georgimpopoli, where many Americans had villas, and to the nice beach at Kilometer 13.

Kilometer 13 Beach & Tom Henderson, Wheelus High School

Where is Ghadaffi’s famous compound, Bab al-Azizia, that’s been bombed in the recent air strikes and was also struck in 1986 when President Reagan sent bombers over it? It’s in a southern suburb of Tripoli, Mahmud told me.

Tripoli’s Garden City, from checking on Google, looks somewhat the same so far, though I’m not sure what it’s called.  The Egyptian Ambassador’s compound, which was across the street from our home, has become the Maltese Embassy, and in the same block are the Pakistani and Bulgarian Embassies.

Wheelus Air Force Base memories will live on in photos; we wouldn’t recognize much of what became the current Mitiga International Airport. If there hasn’t been bomb damage yet, there probably will be. The old base has quite a history. It was built in 1923 by Italians and named Mellaha Air Base. During World War II, the German Luftwaffe took advantage of it until the U.S. took over after the war and named it Wheelus. When the Americans left in 1970, it was renamed Okba Ben Nafi Air Base and bombed in 1986 by US bombers sent by President Reagan.

As my Libyan friend Mahmud has joked, Libya’s past is complicated, so full of details about conquerors and changes that it’s difficult to learn. I wonder what the historical events will be in the next year.




I Was an Army Gypsy and Proud of It

I’ve been reminded that my adventures as an Army brat applies to other service brats, like Air Force brats—I knew many of them at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. Of course, the Air Force started out as the Army Air Force and didn’t become its own service until 1947.

Our Army or Air Force or Navy or Marines fathers all wore uniforms, which 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 we have now, 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? Or perhaps if you’re part of the British Royal Family!

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: they each had their own clubs. The clubs weren’t always very special, like the photo below shows. 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 group 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 can’t remember if he got comfortable first and took off the uniform.

Army Officers Club - Mannheim, Germany - 1960s


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 home/school/ post. Moving wasn’t ever that easy, but there were Army personnel to pack up your household goods: until the Army got smart eventually and started providing furniture, dishes, bedding and the like at the new military destination, especially in Europe. Personal household items seldom arrived at the new quarters on time or in good shape, but that was to be expected or accepted, even if it ended up on the bottom of the ocean, which did happen, although not to us.  If you were in Army quarters, you were expected to leave them spic and span and they were subject to inspection, and that meant bedsprings, tops of doors, ovens, etc.  Remember the old TV ad for the “White glove test?” Wanting to save money, my dad insisted Mom do the cleaning instead of hiring a cleaning crew.

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 loud. 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 (depending upon which direction you were traveling). 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 dad and mom 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 natural father. My mother left this world and “retired” for good from Brooke Army Hospital at Ft. Sam Houston.

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.



A Gharry Ride in Old Tripoli

It’s the first day of Spring, a time of renewal. Here in Los Angeles, the day began with the LA Marathon, despite the deluge of rain and wind. Hopefully, the downpour will cleanse the air and renew our spirits. The runners persisted and ran the 26.2 miles, and a man and woman from Ethiopia on the African continent won. Which brings me to my real concerns. I wonder what the weather is like in Libya today as the U.S. and European allies began their campaign to oust Ghadaffi (my choice of spelling) and protect the rebels. “ATTACK ON LIBYA” the L.A. Times headline announced this morning.

I remember a Libya of the 20th century, a time when the U.S. Air Force operated Wheelus Air Force Base and we Americans lived peacefully among Libyans, Italians, British and other nationalities. Way back in the 1950s, when I was just a young teenager and my Army Corps of Engineers officer father had brought us there to live for three years.

After a long plane flight from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey, my family was encamped in the Hotel Del Mahari in Tripoli until we could find a home in the city for the five of us. In an expansive mood that first morning, my father announced plans to take us on a “gharry” (an Indian word for buggy) ride to explore our new home.  Gharries in Tripoli were horse-drawn open vehicles with large wheels, like carriages of old. I never questioned how an Indian word was being used in an Arab country once run by Italians.

The Libyan driver, shod in sandals and eager for business, stood on the hotel driveway in front of his gharry.  He was dressed simply in baggy white pants and shirt, a black vest, and a burgundy-colored close-fitting cotton hat with a tab in the middle, which reminded me of a beanie. The small, well-used black gharry was hitched to a lean brown horse.  Though the driver had a limited knowledge of English, he understood my father’s wish that we be driven around both the new and the old city.

Gharry "Taxis" all lined up

As we seated ourselves on bench seats facing each other, the gharry pulled out onto the lightly traveled Lungomare, the harbor boulevard with the musical Italian name, which means along the sea. A bright sun sparkled off the harbor’s blue water, and a gentle sea breeze blew the fronds of the palm trees that lined the curving street on both sides. We passed along the edge of the new city headed for the old Barbary Pirate fort at the west end of the harbor, a distance of only ten long blocks. The new city gleamed: white, modern-looking and flat-roofed, enchanting us with its Arabian touches of mosque, minaret and arabesque decoration.

Within a few blocks we passed the Italian Cathedral, a grand edifice of granite with its own cross-embellished high dome and adjacent tower. It might have been lifted straight out of Italy. The Italians, who had first settled in Libya in 1911, had been an important part of the country’s history.  They ruled the country until World War II changed everything, and the United Nations granted Libya independence after the war.

The horse led the gharry past the Fountain of the Gazelle, a small traffic circle surrounded by tall palms in the middle of the boulevard. The circular fountain contained the statue of a seated nude woman, her right hand caressing the neck of a gazelle, which resembles a small horned deer, as she gazes into its eyes.

The Fountain of the Gazelle along the harbor

A short distance further, we were all impressed with an immense, three-storied white edifice surrounded by the ubiquitous palm. Resembling a princely palace, it had squared towers at all four corners. A taller squared tower, with finials on each of its corners, greeted guests from the center front of the gracious building. All its many windows were arched. Checking his guidebook, my father announced that it was the Grand Hotel, too fancy for his budget.  But not too fancy for Vice President Richard Nixon, who in the mid-fifties was on a worldwide public relations tour for President Eisenhower, or for Sophia Loren and John Wayne, who stayed there while making a desert film, “Legend of the Lost,” a couple of years later.

We were soon approaching the old city boundary, the Barbary Pirate fort.  Also known as the Castle, it contained a hodgepodge of rooms displaying an assortment of old relics from pirate days as well as artifacts from Libyan history. The highest walls of the oddly shaped, but mostly rectangular stone structure projected toward the harbor. Its upper story had several large arched openings; on the harbor side cannons projected through these arches, the same ones that had fired at U.S. Marines in 1801. The Barbary Pirates managed to sink several Navy ships. The five Marine casualties were buried in a local cemetery and celebrated by Americans every July 4th (until all American service personnel left in 1970). Tripoli is the famous city in the Marine Corps song with its words – “from the halls of Monteczuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

The horse and driver led us through an archway of the fort as we passed into the old city. The difference between old and new was apparent right away; here the streets and crumbling buildings were narrow and old. Tiny homes and shops, no longer whitewashed and neat as in the new city, were crowded together. It was alive with people: Arab men and women going about their business. Many of the men were dressed like the gharry driver, but others were in more traditional garb. Besides a shirt, very baggy trousers and sandals, they wore a light cloth wound around the head and over it a roughly textured brown or white covering, called a barracan, which draped around head and shoulders and ended below the knees. I later heard an unverified rumor that their loose trousers, with the crotch hanging almost to the knees, were designed that way to catch the prophet Mohammed, who, when he was reborn, would be born to a man. Women were carefully enclosed in a similar flowing white garment, but it covered them from head to toe, only the right eye and bare feet in sandals peeped out at the world.

Still traveling along the harbor, we could see working fishermen seated along the sand at the water’s edge repairing fishing nets; others were bundling their nets into small fishing boats. The pungent smell of dead fish was pervasive. Some of these same fisherman turned their attention to flying creatures a year or so later when Tripoli was host to an invasion of locusts. They were considered a delicacy, and Libyan men would eagerly gather the bugs that had landed along the sea wall, putting them into bags to take home to eat, perhaps after roasting them over a fire.

I wonder now what changes Tripoli will undergo–politically and architecturally. What will happen to its wonderful people as war settles in? Will they have a democratic system? Will I someday be able to travel there as a tourist to a peaceful and happy country? Let’s hope so.



A Whale of a Farewell

Goodnight sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest…


The line is from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet;” to me it’s fitting for remembering those who’ve passed on from the physical. The older one gets, the more the list grows of those you miss. There are times when great upheavals like war and earthquakes take many of us at a time…in Japan, particularly.


As a believer in life’s continuity, I find it comforting to remember and to relate experiences of the signs that spirits are all around us. Be aware and be uplifted is my advice to myself. Although I didn’t witness this poignant incident, I was touched by it and felt it should be shared with a wider audience.


My brother married into a Japanese-American family, and I have been privileged to meet and occasionally enjoy his expanded family, especially his mother and father-in-law, Una and Jack. Una remains healthy and active in the lives of her three daughters, their husbands, and the grandchildren. Jack passed on the day before Thanksgiving in 2007.


From what I know, Jack was a kind, happy man with a marvelous sense of humor who loved people and fishing, and was dearly loved and appreciated by his family, friends, and dental patients. He and Una had been married for over 50 years.


Because of Jack’s love of the ocean and fishing, his family made plans to honor his request that his ashes be scattered at his favorite fishing hole—Soquel Hole in Monterey Bay. In June 2008, on the seventh month anniversary of his passing, the family and Jack’s fishing buddies took two boats out on a calm ocean in balmy weather, unusual for that time of year in the Santa Cruz area of California.


The boats were not only carrying Jack’s ashes but the ashes of origami paper crane blessings. Following tradition, prayers and thoughts had been written on origami paper and folded into cranes that had been burned at a beach ceremony at the same time Jack’s body was being cremated the previous December.


After Noah bells and Tibetan chimes had been rung on the two boats, someone spotted a California gray whale, then it was two whales. Una told me, “We all watched excitedly as we tried to figure out how many whales we were watching. We turned to watch a shiny smooth black whale head arching above the water line. We cheered as we watched tails break water and then disappear. Scanning the horizon for more whales, it almost felt as if they were circling around us. Did Jack order this display for us?”

A California Gray Whale surveying his territory

Once the ashes were scattered, the boats headed back to the harbor, and the participants saw another whale. “All we could see was a vertical whale body sticking straight up out of the water, head submerged and its tail coming down repeatedly to slap the water,” Una remembered. “We changed course and headed towards the whale. The counting began after watching several tail slaps. None of us had ever seen or heard of this behavior in whales. After some slaps, he disappeared for a minute, then reappeared to begin again. We counted 37 slaps!”


The whale finally rolled over on his side and flapped his side flipper as if he was waving goodbye!


Jack couldn’t have had a more magnificent burial at sea!


A Whale Fluke "Waves"



Cruisin’ the Med

With the current world in the turmoil of wars and violent earthquakes, I’m ready to write of pleasant memories, like the Mediterranean cruise on the U.S. Navy ship, General Maurice Rose, that my mother, sister and I took on our way home from Tripoli the summer of 1958.


There’s an interesting smell aboard a large ship—a pungent combination of the distinctive odor of oil and the saltwater smell of the ocean. I haven’t been on a big ship in recent years, so I don’t know if this smell is universal. I recall detecting it on the Queen Mary, now a floating museum/hotel in Long Beach, California, and that smell brought back great memories.


Not all the service dependents on board would travel all the way to New York. Many had come from New York and would depart at the various ports along the way: Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Naples, Leghorn (Livorno), and Gibralter. There were also Explorer Scouts and Boy Scouts from Tripoli who were getting off at Leghorn.


Right away the teenagers found each other and were privileged to have their own space: the Aft Lounge, appropriately named since it was near the rear of the ship. There was a dance scheduled for the first night onboard and for many nights afterward. The ship had a supply of rock and roll music and other popular tunes to pipe into our private lounge.  I remember hearing the Everly Brothers and Johnny Mathis, for instance. I must have taken notes or had an excellent memory because I’ve got a list of the teenagers’ names, where they embarked and where they would disembark. I noted that I danced that first night with David Crabtree, who’d been a student at Wheelus High with me, and a fellow named Larry Rust, who would had gotten on the Rose in New York and would depart the ship in Istanbul. I was already learning how to be a reporter!

All of this important (to me!) information was carefully printed with white ink on black paper in a photograph album I put together when my family reunited and settled in Alexandria, Virginia. I had saved postcards, candy wrappers, an old menu, a Rose newsletter and part of  paper bag that held a precious pair of Italian wedge heel sandals.

Ruins of the Parthenon in Athens



First stop—Athens, the port of Piraeus, to be exact, only a day’s journey from Tripoli. I managed to find my “sea legs” quickly and never got seasick, even during one particularly daunting storm off the coast of Italy, later in our trip. We docked in Athens about 4 p.m. and wasted no time sitting on the ship. Anyone who wanted to explore Athens got a 3-hour tour, beginning at 5:30 p.m.  I still have the excellent postcards to testify to all the sights we saw on the Acropolis. Touring the city provided my first view of stoplights since I’d left the States in 1955! In Tripoli we had always joked that camels, sheep and donkeys wouldn’t know what to do if they saw a red light.


We “tourists” were taken through the bustling city of Athens on a large bus, sleek and  modern for 1958. After all the years of seeing loose Libyan clothing, I was delighted to see a Greek Army guard in a traditional white Greek skirt with 400 pleats. This fustanella was fairly short and stood out, slightly resembling American teenage girls with their crinoline underskirts that held up our circle skirts in the ‘50s.

When we left port the next day, the Rose headed for the Dardenelles and the exotic port of Istanbul.





A Hubble Image from Outer Space


In the ‘90s, a married couple I knew well got involved in Channeling. David and Diana (I’m using fake names to protect their privacy) were highly intelligent and interested in the esoteric, not unusual in Southern California. David was an archaeologist, Diana was an artist, and they were both fascinated with  real life ghost stories. The ghost stories they researched and wrote about took place in various historical spots and eventually became published books.

If readers doubt there are “things that go bump in the night,” David would have tales to tell you. I was impressed by an experience he shared shortly after it happened. At a construction site in a vacant field in Ventura County, workers had inadvertently dug up an ancient grave filled with several skeletons of different ages and sexes, all of them carefully placed and specifically pointed certain directions. The minute the skeletons were unearthed, dogs from nearby homes, some many blocks away, started to howl. These dogs, however, had not been observing the digging. David had been called in to inspect and report because he was a professional archaeologist. He told me he and those who had assisted him on this accidental “dig” all had a minor traffic accident that following week.

One might say that David was a prime channeling receiver. Along with several others, I was lucky enough to read David’s transmitted messages, which we called the Transmissions, for several years.

Since David was an independent professional, he had a flexible schedule and a home office with computer and printer. He was already starting to channel these transmissions when I first met him and Diana. When he was at home in front of his computer and physically ready to receive, he let himself be turned on, much as radio would be. When the “spirits” had something to share, David’s fingers would begin typing on the keyboard and wouldn’t stop until the message was over, which frequently took over a half hour and took up a dozen pages or more when it was printed.

These spiritual messengers called themselves St. Germain, supposedly after a mystical, mysterious 18th century French Count. I never believed the name was supposed to be literal and was probably meant to entertain for the most part since we humans need specifics to hold onto. The “real” St. Germain was described as an alchemist, a ladies’ man and the son of either a famous Frenchman or Englishman.

Diana told me she never interrupted David when his fingers were flying over the keyboard. He didn’t type as fast when doing his own work. He also never knew what he had typed until the entire transmission was printed out.

What’s especially curious and amazing is the way the transmission appeared once printed: it almost needed to be translated. It was a code of sorts and a new way of seeing that words were not always what they seemed. Words in the transmissions had layers of meaning; they could be read, spelled and understood in several ways. I began to understand that life was truly not what it appeared to be.

Diana always read over the transmissions first and did the translating, which I’ll demonstrate below.

U R the dream airs and the dreamed. U R the mirror calls and the angels of change. U R the power and the connect tie in 2 all things. Beg gain 2 act like that which U R. U can due sow much if U b leave U can. Due not judge and the power will B yours and the spirit will lead U. 4 give and U will C and hear the other angels a round U.

Translation: You are the dreamers and the dreamed. You are the miracles and the angels of change. You are the power and the connection into all things. Begin to act like that which you are. You can do so much if you believe you can. Do not judge and the power will be yours and the spirit will lead you. Forgive and you will see and hear the angels around you.

It is U who place sow much emphasis on time, and there 4 U who must endure and weight. When U R in the moment of the now, then there is no time, no worry, not A sane gill in stance of air gain see. Only when U place an emphasis on these coin strike tie in ideas will there B pain, suffer eon, worry and fear. What U project U R.

It is you who place so much emphasis on time, and therefore you who must endure and wait. When you are in the moment of the now, then there is no time, no worry, not a single instance of urgency. Only when you place an emphasis on these constricting ideas will there be pain, suffering, worry and fear. What you project you are.





I was a draftee in the US Army from the time I was born to an Army lieutenant and his wife. I didn’t enlist as a volunteer; Nature saw to it I was drafted.

My young mother, Garnette, had wanted adventure after graduating from high school in Danville, Virginia in 1940.  She took off for nearby Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, and got herself a job as a clerk-typist. She was a beautiful woman and had no problem finding Victor, an eligible Infantry lieutenant and a West Point graduate. It was 1942 and the US was already at war. I’m sure there were a slew of babies “hatching” in the pouch and military fathers doing the honorable thing by marrying the mothers.

Mama and Me


Although the marriage only lasted through the war, I think my mother loved Victor. Being a Southern lady, she didn’t tell me I was the result of a romantic dalliance until I was 19. She’d already found herself another Army lieutenant as the war ended. After a Reno divorce (she had to live there six weeks: see the old movie The Women), they married and then honeymooned in San Francisco.


My stepdad, Darby, was my new commander-in-chief and he and Mom added two new draftees, Joan Tupper and Darby III, as the years went by. Being Army brats, there were always travel adventures for all of us: Murnau, Mannheim and Frankfurt in Germany; Tripoli, Libya; the Bronx, Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; Ft. Knox, Kentucky; Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and Alexandria, Virginia, essentially. They traveled back to Germany while I was in college, and I joined them when I graduated. Who wanted to miss the opportunity?

Luckily, I loved moving and making new friends, even though I was a little bit shy in my younger years. One learns to be resourceful and comfortable wherever you end up. Orders are orders. Housing can be spacious or cramped. Before we got officer’s housing in Ft. Knox, we were in a cantonment area (temporary quarters)—a one-story converted old wooden hospital with closed-off corridors near the famous Gold Vault.


Regular officers’ quarters were usually more than adequate. You’d never mistake them since they look almost identical in any US fort: solid and respectable-looking two story brick with basements and garages and a decent-sized yard. Some of these leftovers remain in the Army’s Presidio area: the best real estate in San Francisco, now privately owned.

In Germany, right after WWII, as the occupying forces, we lived like rich folks in a two-story 18-room mansion in bucolic Murnau—undamaged by the war. It had  a large separate garage and spacious grounds, and even though my dad was only a captain, he employed a maid and a houseboy. Murnau is now a spa town and remains quite lovely. The skiing area in winter was about a 10-minute walk. If that wasn’t good enough, a longer excursion would have taken us to Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze in Garmisch. Quarters never got that good again, although our Tripoli villa was top notch. The photo below shows the home with the staked tomato plants in front.


I don’t think “socialism” has particularly bothered me politically, or universal health care. Those were Army services. Housing and health care was provided, and you took what they gave you. I’ve never hankered after a specific family doctor. If any of us had a health problem, we’d accompany my mom to the dispensary, have our temperature taken and then wait. If it wasn’t serious, it might be many hours. Getting shots was not a choice; my mother hauled us into the dispensary every year as needed for what we needed, depending on where we were going next. As I often heard it said, however, “The Army takes care of its own.”

From the Shores of Tripoli to Benghazi

Cover of a Tourist Guide before Gadaffi


It seems the US Marines might be making history repeat itself because of the Libyan crisis. According to the news, a US Navy warship with 1,000 Marines is headed toward the Mediterranean off Tripoli: they might be needed for humanitarian aid.

“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli” is the important first line from the Marine hymn, and it refers to the war against the Barbary Pirates, 1801-05, during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. It was memorable because it was the first time the US flag was raised on foreign soil. The area was known as Tripoli but not Libya in those long ago days.  Five of the Marines who died during a battle with the Barbary Pirates were buried in Tripoli. I remember that we honored those long dead Americans at a July 4th celebration on 13 Kilometer Beach west of Tripoli in the mid 1950s.

There’ve been a lot of waves on the beaches of Libya in the two centuries since then. America was a new democratic country in the beginning of the 19th century, and we’ve come a long way since then. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Libya were able to finally take hold of their destiny and obtain freedom in the next few weeks? Then this fascinating country will truly be open to visitors from around the world and free for its ex-patriots to return home.

Apparently, there was a time American women found Gadaffi handsome. As the years have passed since he took over in 1969, his transgressions against his people have made their mark on his features and whatever good looks he once had have disappeared. Khaled Mattawa, a professor of creative writing at the University of Michigan and native of Benghazi, wrote about this subject in the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page today, March 2.

Professor Mattawa wrote of Gadaffi’s pride and flamboyance as he grew increasingly violent: the public hangings of dissidents in 1977 in Benghazi, for instance, assassinations of Libyans opposing him who were living in Europe, and the torture and massacres in Libyan prisons (1,270 prisoners killed in cold blood in 1996).

My friend, Mahmud, a Tripoli native, has been in Los Angeles since 1980 when he left Libya in a a hurry after receiving a Libyan Army draft notice. He knew he no longer belonged in Libya; ; he’d already been forced to leave university because he would not learn Gadaffi’s Green Book propaganda.


A New Flag for Libya


Arabic names have meanings and Mahmud (whose name means grateful) told me that Gadaffi’s name  is—Gaddaf al-Dam. It is broken  down as Gaddaf, which means vomiting and al-Dam, which means blood. How ironic!

Despite the bloody struggle right now, Libyans are hopeful and optimistic. Professor Mattawa ends his article: “Libyans are finally exercising their collective potential…our country may finally become ours at last. A beauty we have never fully seen is turning to face us straight on, giving us a new lease on life.”

Besides attending to his website with the latest news on Libya’s upheaval, Mahmud is planning to celebrate with a party once the bloody dictator is gone for good.












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