January, 2012:

SCIATICA? ON A HAWAIIAN VACATION? By Victoria Giraud

A few years back—more than I care to tally—I had the funds to treat my grown kids to a Hawaiian vacation. The three of us would be staying at a hotel in Waikiki Beach across the street from the ocean with great views of Diamond Head and the old pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It was the first trip for Heidi and Hansi. I was feeling adventurous and generous and  couldn’t wait to go.

Since I’d been having some minor pains in my legs and back, I was seeing an acupuncturist and occasionally getting a deep tissue massage. The day before our departure, I got a treatment, which included the massage. I was determined to be in excellent shape to participate in whatever activities inspired us.

“Best laid plans of mice and men…” as the saying goes! When we got to LAX via airport bus, I was starting to have some shooting pains in my leg and hip. Walking to the gate was an exercise of patience and will, and I was either too proud or optimistic to think I might have used an “adult stroller” (wheelchair). Surely this pain would be temporary, I thought.

Each day we were in Hawaii I imagined I’d start feeling better if I stuck to my regimen of exercises, locating ice packs, and for pain control to imbibe some wine or even something stronger. A martini was just the thing for our first night’s dinner. Making the best of the circumstances, I enjoyed it all and was especially grateful I am blessed with tall, strong kids—Hansi’s 6’5” and Heidi is almost 6 feet. They occasionally had to almost literally drag me along! I walked gingerly with their help or sat down.

Still, we managed a trip around Oahu in a rented car, a helicopter tour, a whale watching cruise and lots of entertainment. I found the most relief when I took a long swim in the Pacific. No pain at all!

In my chariot in colorful rainwear

One of the most enjoyable excursions was to the Polynesian Cultural Center. When I could barely walk to the first exhibit without pain, my son strongly suggested that I give up, and he and Heidi would take turns wheeling me around in a wheelchair. It was an excellent solution. Hansi treated me like we were a race car team, whizzing in and out of exhibits and down open pathways as I giggled like mad. He commented that he’d never seen anyone in a wheelchair laugh so much.

When it started to rain, we bought enormous pink plastic ponchos, the perfect fashion accessory for more hilarity. I wonder what other visitors might have imagined as they watched the sizeable young man and woman howling with laughter as they wheeled their giggly, perhaps handicapped,  mother at top speed around this beautiful park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AN ARMY BRAT IN LIBYA — by Victoria Giraud

Read all about the Tripoli memories from the 1950s in one small book.  It’s available on Amazon in Ebook format. Download it onto a Kindle or download the Kindle format to your Mac or PC and read it there. It’s a simple process and the price can’t be beat.

Look up VICTORIA GIRAUD  on AMAZON and also find my other books. In the next few weeks there will be more books available: Weird Dates and Strange Fates, Sam’s Journey and Pink Sunglasses. One of the stories in Weird Dates is unusual, to say the least. I call it: A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing.  Stay tuned.

An Army Brat in Libya

LOCUSTS FOR DINNER, ANYONE? by Victoria Giraud

When I think of insects, I consider them pests, even though I know they have a rightful place in the balance of Nature. I recently applauded the demise of a cricket that made a home under my sink and behind my dishwasher for weeks. Chirp, chirp, chirp… The “natural” insecticide didn’t work and I refused to spray the poison, so I lived with it.

Locusts, on the other hand, are considered both a plague and a food! According to Jewish Kosher law, certain locusts are an acceptable food; they are considered delicacies and eaten in various countries. Author Jules Verne described them as “shrimps of the air.” Imagine eating roasted locusts or salted and smoked locusts! Crunch, crunch….yum, yum….

I’ve written about the locust invasion in Tripoli while I was there, but I don’t remember the event as vividly as some. I wasn’t outside surrounded by these large “bugs,” for one thing, although I remember Libyan men along the harbor picking them off walls to save for a feast afterward. I think guys in general are much more interested in creepy-crawlers.

Male & Female Locusts Having Fun!

Art Arrowsmith, a member of the Wheelus High School basketball team, was out on the court with the team one day before the locust onslaught. They were practicing for an upcoming league game.

“I went in for a lay-up and as my eyes followed the ball into the basket, my gaze naturally went to the sky, drawn by movement above. Whoa! There were millions of large flies, or so I thought initially, streaming across my vision. A second look and I realized the flies were really locusts! Shortly after, our coach ended the practice. The locusts arrived in clouds that were immeasurable, but one would guess they covered miles. Soon, they were settling and crawling, hopping and clinging to all things available. Crunching through them was unavoidable.”

Art said he didn’t hear them while they were flying, only when they were feeding.

Ron Curtis, the English fellow who recently wrote me about his Tripoli adventures, related his experience:  “The first time I got caught in a locust storm I was about 100 yards from home. I saw this black cloud in the distance, which was an odd sight for summer.  Within seconds I was being battered by thousands of locusts (trust me, they hit hard and hurt).  They seemed to stick to my hair, my clothes and my skin.  There were so many it was difficult to see, and I got completely disoriented.  Within seconds it was over and the ground was littered with thousands of the insects.  The Libyans came out with baskets and scooped them up.  I learned later that they roasted and ate them.”

Ron Himebaugh, who attended 3rd grade at Wheelus, remembers flies. “The entire outside wall of our house was covered from time to time with FLIES!”  For someone who was so young in Tripoli, Ron has a variety of memories: finding a Roman coin in his yard (he lived off base), “dust so bad I could hardly breathe, and the smell of Suk el Giuma.”

My mother was a diligent, tireless housekeeper who was up to all the challenges of living overseas.  I vaguely remember her fighting roaches in our villa. We had a small yard with a swing set and my little brother Darby, about four at the time, enjoyed playing in the dirt. He ended up with worms!

And that’s the end of my Bug Tale!

The Libyan Connection Endures — by Victoria Giraud

It always amazes me how important the few years I spent in Libya have been in my life. I’ve been writing a blog, Words on My Mind, for over two years and during that time I’ve reconnected with classmates from Wheelus High School in Tripoli and with others who once lived and/or worked in Tripoli. The Internet connects us all through the cyberspace world.

At the beginning of the year, I received a comment on my blog from Ron Curtis, a Brit from Blackpool, England, who’d been in Tripoli in the 1950s. Ron’s father was in the Royal Air Force and Ron attended the British Military School. Ron even sent me some photos and I’m going to use two of them here. Ron and I have since become Internet friends and I’ve enjoyed reading about his retirement, which turned into a new career as a clown–Granddaddy Trumbell–for children’s parties.

Ron wrote to say, “I lived with my family in Colina Verde, just a short ride outside the town. It was close to the Libyan Army barracks, known as the Azzia barracks-–where Gadhafi later erected the clenched fist holding the broken US plane. I often visited Wheelus with my American friends, Flip Foulds, the Neil family, and more.  Thank you for bringing back some great memories from when I was a hot-blooded 14 year old.”

British kids on a Tripoli Beach

We all remember different things of course. I recall some kind of orange British soft drink; it sounded like squash, perhaps? Ron remembers Pepsi and the prize inside the Pepsi cap: “anything from two piasters to two Libyan pounds.” He loves couscous and still makes it! Since my dad didn’t like lamb, my mother never made it.

My observation of Libyan men drinking tea brought up Ron’s memory of the men pouring the tea from “one tiny enamel pot to another whilst at the same time roasting peanuts.”

Like so many Americans, especially in the military, the British are partygoers. “My recollections are of never-ending parties thrown by both the Brits and the Americans,” Ron wrote. “My parents had an old tin tub in the yard of our villa, which was filled with ice and cans of beer. Most parties had a theme, usually some form of fancy dress. The parties, I recall, went on until everyone fell asleep.”

Ron’s home was in a unique location—right next to a local Libyan brothel. Even though the Curtis villa was surrounded by a high wall, like all the villas in Tripoli as I recall, Ron wrote, “My friends and I would climb atop the wall to watch the antics that went on. The large courtyard was home to a number of old bathing huts, the type used in England during the middle 1800s. There was a little ladder to the door. The idea was: if the door was open, then the lady was available. If the door was closed, she was either busy or absent. We witnessed many of the ladies wandering around the courtyard in their underwear. Most of these ladies were what can only be described as plus-sized women, something the Libyan gentlemen seemed to prefer.”

 

Libyan fisherman

 

 

 

Melaynie’s Masquerade – a sample

In the beginning of this chapter, Melaynie has sailed from England pretending that she is a captain’s boy for Francis Drake.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON  

As the sun rose early the next morning Drake’s ships were maneuvering rapidly over the gray-green waters of the choppy Channel. The early summer weather was unpredictable; flashes of sunlight alternated with blustery, sudden showers.  Strong winds and full sails left England but a memory and drove them into the open sea, its liquid surface waiting for them to carve their story upon it.

Life as a captain’s boy in those first weeks developed into a pattern of early rising, devotional services, meals, a great deal of fetch and carry for Drake and scarcely a minute to herself.  Melaynie found that the moments when she could look out upon the sea’s vastness, the sight of water to all horizons after a life of confinement in a small English town was awe-inspiring.

Only the weather, the shape and variety of clouds determined the look and feel of their lives now. It was frightening and at the same time opened her heart to the excitement of the uncertain future, to being part of and swept along by something that was far bigger than herself.

After the evening meal if she were on deck and Drake was properly satisfied, she loved to listen to the sailors’ music.  Several mariners played a wooden flute, a couple of them had brought a lute, and there was always someone to play an accompanying drum. The others knew how to sing popular ballads of the day.  There were some good strong voices among the crew and a few who loved to sing despite their lack of talent or decent harmony:

The roaring cannons then were plide,

And dub-a-dub went the drumme-a

The braying trumpets lowde they cride

To courage both all and some-a.

 

The sea ballad of John Dory, though not particularly cheerful since it concerned a traitorous Englishman revenged by a Cornishman two centuries before, seemed to suit most of the men. They gleefully sang the many verses ending:

 

The grappling-hooks were brought at length,

The browne bill and the sword-a,

John Dory at length, for all his strength,

Was clapt fast under board-a.

 

Evenings were an excellent time for relaxation except for the men on watch posted at the mainmast’s topcastle, high above the deck.  Besides the musically inclined, there were those who preferred cards and dice, and she had noticed a chess game or two.

Melaynie soon grew used to the motion of the ship as it rode the endless waves, sometimes smoothly, other times pitching and rolling, fighting the wind as the ship came about.  Melaynie’s body adjusted, automatically compensating for the ship’s tilt as she performed her duties on decks that were constantly in motion.

ZANY COMEDIAN GALLAGHER

Before Carrot Top, Gallagher was the primary prop comedian, known for smashing watermelons and other juicy fruits and vegetables with his famous Sledge-a-Matic. His audiences wore ponchos and carried plastic to protect themselves from the objects flying off any stage Gallagher was performing upon.

I saw him perform on TV over the years and, according to his website, he’s still active. In the next couple of months he’ll be in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Wyoming. I think he probably lives now in Florida—he claimed at one point he was the most famous man to come out of Tampa, Florida!

More than a few years ago, I spent a pleasant afternoon interviewing him at his home in the mountains of Agoura, CA, when I was writing a weekly newspaper column. He had two homes and since, as he said, “I got rid of the women in my life and I can do what I want,” he could decorate them as he wished. I visited the home with a view and the unusual décor. He told me the other home was to store his props.

At that time Gallagher had a 7-year-old son and so he’d installed a swing from the high center beam of his living room. What a way to watch TV! Using his creative mind, Gallagher had figured out some unique remodeling when he couldn’t find an appropriate place for his son’s bed. After knocking down the wall between two small bedrooms, he installed a swinging platform from the ceiling so the bed could swing between the two rooms. This was a man who liked motion!

In his garage he had some of his old props: a bicycle with a car door attached, a steamroller made of foam so it could squash kids, a huge couch and some huge chairs. He had also kept the O.J. Simpson imaginary murder weapon—a knife at the end of a golf club. Gallagher writes his own material and creates his own props. He designed a guitar with a hole that falls off, and  also a guitar with a make-believe old man who lived in it. When the guitar got too loud, the old man’s voice could be heard complaining, “Calm it down.”

Although he started off life with a normal job—selling for Allied Chemical—he found a better idea when he was fired and had to go home to think about the next step. An old TV ad for the Veg-a-Matic (a vegetable slicer) inspired the Sledge-a-Matic. “People don’t expect you to smack something when you’re watching a show in a small club.” Before he used watermelons, he used oranges, apples and grapes as he told jokes.

He still likes to entertain in small towns and out-of-the-way places and finds humor specific to them by studying their local newspapers. He told me he likes to stir things up but that all his comedy “is the truth.”

Gallagher’s proud of his staying power and the fact that his comedy appeals to entire families, “My fans are old enough to bring their kids. A third of the audience is over 50. I get more grandmothers with kids than boyfriends and girlfriends.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORIC ADAMSON HOME ON MALIBU BEACH

I love historical stories, as my blog readers know by now. When a Malibu pioneer, Rhoda-May Adamson Dallas died last October at age 94, I read the obituary in the LA Times and remembered my tour of her childhood home, right on the beach in Malibu. It would cost a small fortune to build the same house today in that ideal location.

 

The Adamson House Museum

It’s hard to believe the state of California bought the property for $2 million in 1965 and first planned to turn it into a beach parking lot since it’s adjacent to Malibu Beach, the lagoon and Malibu pier.

Luckily, it was turned into a museum, which also saved the extensive landscaping (13 acres of property) and all the unique and elaborate tile work. Since I wrote a story on the home for a local magazine some years ago, I was shown the more intimate family rooms. There was a closet still full of women’s clothes belonging to a Adamson family member. There were more than a few dresses in the same style but different color in one of the closets. As I recall, the tour guide told me that once this family member liked a certain style, she’d make sure she had several in various colors, and that included shoes. It made sense: Malibu has never been an easy drive from major department stores in Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley.

One of the most distinctive features of the home, which was built in 1929, is the very colorful Spanish style tile, all made at Malibu Potteries, which was a short distance away near the pier and only in operation from 1928 to 1932. In every pattern and color imaginable, the tile was used everywhere: the bathrooms (including the ceilings), on floors, borders for windows, on flower planters, and stairways and for fountains throughout the house and yard. The historic tile can still be found in homes and businesses in Southern California, including Los Angeles City Hall.

A fountain of lovely tile

Once upon a time, in the late 1800s, a large part of Malibu was a Spanish land grant and the Rindges, who were Rhoda-May’s maternal grandparents, owned and operated a 17,000-acre working ranch there. Rhoda-May, whose parents had a dairy business, Adohr Milk Farms (they used their daughter’s name spelled backwards), grew up in that beautiful mansion by the sea.

The Admanson family’s real estate empire was quite beneficial to the Malibu area. They donated 138 acres of undeveloped land to Pepperdine University in 1968 and what a thriving educational facility it’s been ever since.

Driving south on Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu is a vision of contrasts: stony mountains, steep canyons and public beaches, palatial mansions perched high on the hills or on the lowlands, and shopping centers that grow more exclusive every year. It’s not all a display of wealth: along the highway and in the beach parking lots, there are plenty of old cars and hundreds of surfboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle Ebooks by Victoria Giraud

Would you like to read an interesting and absorbing story about a military family? Dysfunctional, like most everybody’s family.

As a military brat, I didn’t have to look far for inspiration and source material for this story. Is it truth or fiction? That’s left up to the reader.  From my observations and reading, I know that soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, returned from World War II and Korea with emotional and mental wounds besides the physical ones. Families–the wives and children–suffered from the resulting abusive behavior of veterans returning from war. This story reveals how one daughter made the best peace she could, considering her own feelings and emotional wounds.

 

Check me out on Amazon. The price can’t be beat:

Victoria Giraud

Colonels Don’t Apologize can be found at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06SQB82E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another good read is my memoir of life in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s. World War II was over and the world could breathe again for a while. Libya was ruled by King Idris, and the US Military held sway at strategic Wheelus Air Force Base. Attending high school amidst sand and palm trees, camels and donkeys, in a small cosmopolitan city along the Mediterranean was about as unique and full of contrasts as an American teen could get in the mild 1950s.

American teenagers sported jeans while Libyan women were covered from head to foot. Americans brought their cars; most Libyans rode bicycles. Despite the differences, East and West cohabited peacefully. It’s a new century but the American military remains in these exotic areas of the world.

It’s on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006/R0RQRM

 

 

MALIBU – WHO KNOWS WHAT CELEB MIGHT SHOW UP?

For years I lived a Santa Monica Mountains’ canyon’s length away from Malibu, about a twenty-minute drive. Mountains and the resulting canyons run along the length of California, which gives us our unusual variety of weather—degrees of warmth and moisture can be vastly different if you’re at the beach, winding through the canyons, or living in the hotter valleys, which are mostly flat. Los Angeles is the only city with a mountain range running through it.

Malibu’s name derives from the Chumash Indian language since they were the original inhabitants of the ocean-side community a few hundred years ago.  The curving canyon roads that lead to the ocean are bordered with expensive homes and typical California greenery, which means anything money can buy and the availability of water. All of the beauty and luxury  is highly susceptible to the wildfires that occur every few years. Beauty comes at a price.

Having lots of disposable money is a requirement for living in Malibu, but those of us on budgets can at least visit for the day. Besides restaurants, shops, beaches and the famed Malibu Colony (a gated residential area that borders the ocean), there are the perks, if you’re not blind or oblivious, of seeing favorite actors or TV personalities.

Crosscreek Shopping Center, my preference for meandering and sometimes shopping, is probably the ideal place for sightings. Ali McGraw once designed the interior of a popular restaurant, which is currently Taverna Tony’s, a Greek spot. Not too long ago Mel Gibson was frequenting the bar there, and the tabloids reported the results.

I’ve been visiting that area since the 1970s when one of the shopping center’s main Spanish-style buildings was opened. My husband at the time was the LA County Engineer for the area, so we were asked to the opening night festivities featuring music, food and dancing. I enjoyed talking to actor Charlie Martin Smith, whose wife was opening a dance studio there. I had seen his recent movies “Never Cry Wolf,” and “Middle Age Crazy.”

Almost every time I went there in the ensuing years to browse bookstores, art galleries and to eat lunch, I spotted someone of movie or television fame. A girlfriend and I talked to Helen Hunt in the 1990s, complimenting her on the TV series, “Mad About You.”

Sitting outside an ice cream shop, I noticed a very welcoming and smiling Dick Van Dyke. I’ve regretted not saying hi ever since, especially since I knew his son Barry, who was active in my community of Agoura Hills.

A popular Italian restaurant attracts many celebrities. One afternoon Geena Davis, in a baseball cap and sweats, and leading her large poodle, sat with some of her friends at an adjacent table. She was a vivacious conversationalist from what I overheard, and the dog was well-behaved.

Geena Davis dressed up

Near that restaurant is a large grassy area with swings for children. I’ve seen TV host and comic Howie Mandell swing his kids, and Director Ron Howard, in his trademark baseball cap, walk by with a child on his shoulders.

My most exciting close encounter was with Shirley MacLaine on a late Sunday afternoon. My friend Carolyn and I were having lunch in an essentially empty restaurant when Shirley walked in with a young stocky blond man and took a table fairly close-by. She had on sunglasses and gave off an air of not wanting to be bothered. I surmised her companion was probably a personal assistant.

Since I was a fan of Shirley’s film work, not to mention all her books, I was yearning to go up and say something like, “I come from Virginia too!” Much more conservative than me, Carolyn strongly discouraged any action, so I had to content myself stealing a few glances. Shirley and the young man left the restaurant before we paid.

As we walked out, we decided to visit a favorite eclectic women’s boutique, Indiana Joan’s, which was right next door. There was Shirley again, this time buying some costume jewelry. I resisted my urges. Some time later, after browsing several more shops, Carolyn and I headed for the car. As we were walking through the small parking lot, here came Shirley and her fellow again. He was carrying her dry cleaning and their car wasn’t far from ours.

Shirley MacLaine

THE GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES

California History on the Great Wall Mural

Reading recently about a neighborhood in New York City, I realized I also live in a neighborhood. It’s not a neighborhood like the ones I inhabited while my kids were growing up out in a suburban valley. I’m in an area in the San Fernando Valley that’s a mixture: a variety of businesses and residential housing from the swanky to apartment buildings.

Coldwater Canyon winds through the hills of Beverly down to Sherman Oaks and all across the Valley. It’s a main artery that  runs perpendicular to the 101 Freeway. Depending on the traffic, I could drive from my apartment to the freeway entrance in five minutes and either head north and west to Ventura and Santa Barbara or south and east to downtown Los Angeles or Pasadena (the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade). Since I’m in a huge valley, I can see mountains, both near and far, surrounding me, depending on the weather. I can even watch a “river” flow, especially if it’s rained in the winter. The river or channel, also called the Tujunga Wash, is encased in concrete: no more floods like the early 1900s.

We Southern Californians live in a desert, but you’d never know it from the millions of trees and blooming plants, courtesy of imported water. Someday we’ll most likely get on the “green” bandwagon of desert plants only. We’ve already got recycled sewage water for irrigation.

The neighborhood is handy for day-to-day life. Grocery stores, a Whole Foods two blocks away and a Ralphs, a five-minute walk, are close. I could buy a car or have my car serviced a half-block up the street. The young man of Armenian culture who owns that business is not only congenial, but quite handsome.

Across the street from the car place is a tiny shopping mall chock full of conveniences: a donut shop, a beauty salon, a dry cleaners, and several restaurants: Chinese, Mexican, Italian pizza, and yogurt. Judo lessons are available and even manicure/pedicure. We’ve got a Walgreens on one corner along with one of those fake trees that are disguised cell phone towers. A chiropractor operates from a small office building a few steps from the Walgreens, and in the Ralphs center across the street there’s a recycling business and a gas station where we can agonize over the rising price of gas, always more expensive in California because of gas taxes.

Public transportation has made great strides: there’s a bus line a half block from me and a Valley-wide bus line a little more than a block up the street, which will connect commuters to our subway system, which wasn’t here when I arrived in LA. Hollywood and downtown are easily accessible.

I don’t want to forget education facilities. Besides an elementary school and middle school within walking distance, there’s a junior college. Los Angeles Valley College with its a large campus and an extensive adult education program, is a few blocks north.

Best of all, Valley College students (about 400 artists over the years) in the 1970s began creating a dramatic and colorful half-mile long mural depicting California history. They had the perfect surface—one side of the concrete Tujunga Wash that borders the college along Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Sections of it depict Spanish history of California, the Japanese internment, civil rights actions, the Red Scare and McCarthyism, the movie industry, the Olympics, Jewish refugees during World War II, etc. It’s been called the Great Wall of LA.

If I’m not in the mood for any of our many art galleries, I just have a short walk to gaze at lively historic interpretations done with passion and enthusiasm.

McCarthyism and the Red Scare

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