March, 2012:

ADVENTURES OF FEMALE HEROINES By Victoria Giraud

Many of us, who used to be called the “gentler” sex, are feeling embattled these days. Rather than point out the challenges, I choose to remember some victories in the struggles over female rights, represented by some real gals and even some fictional heroines. On the news there’s Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton… on TV, the gals in  the new TV sitcom about Dallas, “GCB,” and who can miss seeing and hearing about Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) in the new film “The Hunger Games.” Meryl Streep won the Oscar this year for playing Margaret Thatcher, surely a heroine as Britain’s Prime Minister for so many years.

I created my own heroine, Melaynie Morgan, for my historical fiction, MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE. It’s for sale on Amazon in both softcover and e-book format. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting what I hope are intriguing tidbits from my novel. If you, my blog readers, are interested in purchasing a version of my book, go to:  http://www.amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

Melaynie, disguised as a captain’s boy, is sailing to the Caribbean with Captain Francis Drake and his crew.  Her adventure is not without peril. Sent to the Captain’s cabin for Drake’s compendium, here is what follows:

Her inquisitive, intelligent face made him laugh.  What a good natured, willing captain’s boy he was, Drake reflected.

“’Tis yet another instrument to aid in navigation.   Has a sundial. I’m fortunate it was a gift; I personally think it too small and fanciful to be of much use or accuracy, though I’m willing to experiment with it again.”

“Right away, Captain.”

Full of energy she raced down the steps of the companionway.  Just as she was about to open the cabin door, she felt a hand on her buttocks, a far too friendly hand, bent on something other than good fellowship.  The hand squeezed the well-rounded cheek firmly and then there were two hands firmly grasping both buttocks and moving to grasp her missing testicles.  She shuddered, outraged at this unwanted familiarity.   She turned around abruptly to face the dark-haired sailor with the walleye, a fellow she had since found to be named Jerome.  His good eye was fixed lasciviously upon her crotch.  She had no doubts what he was about.  She shuddered again, involuntarily, and grimaced.  He smiled at her distaste, as if he were used to this reaction and expected it.  His teeth were dark, one of the front ones missing and a fetid, noxious odor came from his mouth and body.

His build was slight. He was taller and probably stronger than she was, but he had no idea of her determination.  She would yell if she had to, but she sized him up quickly as a coward who would prefer to intimidate her, using sly ways to force his will upon her.  He might be satisfied with the occasional fondle until he saw the best opportunity to take full advantage.  She counted on her wits and her allies to prevent that from happening, but she must make a firm stand now.

He attempted to put his hands on her arms to pull her to him.  She slapped his hands away, lowered her voice and gave him her most savage look, “Ye’ll get nowhere with me, you gruntle-faced meschant.”

Jerome laughed, “He has spirit, he has.  The perfect cobb for one as randy as me. I’ll have yer bonnie johnnie afore this voyage is over.”

Melaynie had pulled her knife from the pouch around her waist, keeping a firm grip.  She kept it lower than her waist but knew he had seen her movement and could see the knife.

“I can use it well, and I shall if I must,” she spat at him.

He laughed again, menacingly, thinking that he had months to force himself upon this callow boy, turned on his heel and went back up to the deck.  She wasn’t sure if she had bested him or not, but at least he knew she would not be an easy mark.  It would teach her to be more aware, a good lesson considering all the challenges she faced on this voyage.

She shook off her fears, delivered the compendium and watched in wonder as Drake opened up its round brass case.  It had seven layers consisting of spinning rings, and flip-up pointers, each layer inscribed with tables, and its own small sundial.  She wished she could understand it all.

“Christopher, I want you to order Robert to make us a special pottage for dinner using fresh vegetables we have left…potatoes, peas, and let’s see, have him use the venison.”

“Yes, Captain.  Right away,” she answered and scurried off.

WAIT A SEC, I DON’T WANNA BE A SECRETARY! By Victoria Giraud

Los Angeles Times - built in 1935

 

The fascinating TV series “Mad Men” –the Madison Avenue advertising game in New York City in the 1960s—begins its new season tonight. It reminds me of women’s struggles to rise in the world of business.

When I graduated from college in those years, not many doors of opportunity were open for women. A woman’s choice, for the most part, included almost any job where you typed and/or answered the phone. We called it Secretary then, commonly expanded to: Administrative Assistant. Becoming a teacher was a popular choice and a female could always choose medicine—as a nurse or nurse’s assistant.

Evident in this TV show is the lack of female copywriters; at least Peggy breaks the mold. In real life, author Jane Maas was one of a very few copywriters on Madison Avenue and she loved her job. She’s written a book about it: Mad Women. She mentions that women wore gloves (I recall wearing them to church) at the agency and high heels, of course. Oddly, she said that once a woman became a copywriter, she would wear a hat in the office all day. Perhaps that was a modern way of crowning those with the talent and determination to secure such a position.  http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Women-Madison-Avenue-Beyond/dp/0312640234   If you follow this link, keep going and look up Victoria Giraud to find my books.

The first job I had in Los Angeles was with the Los Angeles Times in 1965. I had a degree in English and I’d worked on my college newspaper for four years. The LA Times was not about to offer me a job as a reporter; they stuck me into the typing pool, a large room full of typewriters and underused barely challenged women. The best promotion was to become a Private Secretary for some white male bigwig.

I was easily bored in the secretarial pool, even though we were utilized as substitute receptionists and secretaries and got to escape typing pool bondage for short periods of time. The highlight that summer, although it was a tragedy, was the Watts Riots, occurring just miles away. Our 5th floor office was full of windows and we could see the smoke from the Watts’ fires.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a woman who was breaking newsroom barriers during those days. Her name was Dorothy Townsend; her obituary was in a recent  LA Times. Dorothy started in the so-called “women’s pages” in 1954, but in 1964 her persistence won her a position of first female staff writer to cover local news.

A former senior editor at the Times, Noel Greenwood, commented in the article that Dorothy was promoted in an “era when women were thought to be such delicate creatures that they were not fit for the challenges of hard news reporting and were consigned to the features section. I always remembered Dorothy as a heroine.”

Dorothy proved her mettle when she insisted she be sent as part of the team of reporters covering the Watts riots. Her stories became part of the award-winning coverage, which netted the Times the 1966 Pulitzer Prize.

As women have worked their way up the ladder of business and professional success, the world is becoming more balanced. Don’t you guys need some of that indefatigable female energy in your work force as well as in your personal lives? Vive la femme!

 

 

 

 

CRISIS, 1950s STYLE – THE SUEZ CANAL By Victoria Giraud

Crisis is an old word but it may never wear out its usefulness considering how often TV, the Internet, newspapers still around, radio, etc. use it. For a short word, it seems to get the appropriate emotion out there for a fearful reaction.

My first knowledge of the word probably came in Tripoli during the Suez Crisis of 1956. Although it affected Egypt more than Libya, it was a point of honor for a measure of self-rule for the Arab world.

Nasser, then President of Egypt, had taken control of the Suez Canal. Why should Britain and France control 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 Gadaffi didn’t seize power until 1969. According to some reports, the young Gadaffi took part in the riots in Libya. Good practice for his takeover later?

I’m going to share the comments from others who lived through the Crisis in Tripoli during those days. It was certainly nothing compared to Libya’s recent upheaval getting rid of Gadaffi’s government. Becky Rizek said: “I remember our house boy, Calipha, coming to work with bandages on his head and forehead. He said he was beaten because he was loyal to his American employers. He wanted to come to the States with us, which was impossible because he had at least one wife and three children. But for us, it was a day off from school. The kids on the base got to go to the Officers Club and wait on tables since the Arab waiters could not come in to work. I remember the MATS transports lined up on the runway at the base airport, ready to evacuate the American dependents should we have to go. I was all of thirteen and never forgot it.”

Elaine Frank recalled, “My dad’s car was stoned when he would come home from the base. We lived out on Homs Road and we lived in a duplex with a British family next door. They were shipped back (to the UK) and left in the middle of the night. We didn’t know what happened to them, but they eventually did return several months later. Like you said, this was just the way of life living in the military. We had to leave Morocco because of the French and Arab conflict in 1954/55, and we were in Japan during the Korean War. Kids just took it all with a grain of salt. People back in the States were scared for us but we were fine; it was just that the British and Americans looked alike, and that is why they would throw rocks at his car.”

“I recall the Suez Crisis, with machine guns on British and French embassies and King Idris’ guards beating heads with truncheons,” Mike Harris commented.

The Palace of King Idris long ago

 

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 the city. 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 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.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS REALITY, ANYWAY? By Victoria Giraud

Sounds like a fairly simple question, doesn’t it? Is there anything that’s less transparent? Scientists and humans have been pondering it for millions of years, ask Werner Herzog who explored and filmed the ancient Chauvet Caves of France.

I had a comment from a blog reader about my version of reality. He claimed, “You write about your life as if it were beyond special. You take small things and blow them out of proportion to make some things seem more than they were. I would suggest a little reality.”

How wonderful to receive this comment as a reminder of how great my life really is and how happy it is for we humans who recognize the joys and happiness. There are countless sayings that illustrate the point, one of them: “We’re about as happy as we want to be.” And I think it was Hemingway who said, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Then there are the smaller ones, “Let a smile be your umbrella,” and part of an old song, “Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.”

I could write thousands of words on this topic, but I already have been writing about the amazing events that have occurred in my life so far. I am an optimist, and optimists, if true to themselves, create happy, optimistic lives. In a great deal of philosophical reading over the past 30 years or more, I have read over and over again that: WE CREATE OUR OWN REALITY.

Since I am not writing a religious blog and my ideas tend to be more universally spiritual in nature, I will not bring “God” into this discussion. I do believe in a higher power, but I think there is far more mystery and magnificence in that concept that we can ever fathom on our small blue planet. Will Steven Hawking find the answers? In the meantime, what an amazing pursuit it is.

Also, to my contributor, I must admit I certainly do exaggerate the small things in my life. Isn’t life made up of millions of small things—from particles and light and atoms to gestures of love and millions of incredible thoughts? And all of it changes and mutates within a blink of an eye. The grandiose events are not the “real” stuff of life. All the hoopla of the Academy Awards is over quickly and who remembers the winners a week later?

The touching experiences that stay with us during our lives include: crying with joy at the birth of a baby, or with bittersweet tears at the death of a beloved parent who is leaving pain behind, the sun rising or setting, a pod of happy dolphins following a boat, a first romantic kiss, a dog’s wagging tail or loving lick, a friend who cracks a silly, completely hilarious joke…just a very small idea of what makes up my reality.

Postscript: I have taken some of the more challenging parts of my life and turned them into books and they are available on Amazon. If you own a Kindle device with Amazon Prime, you can borrow my books at no cost. Learn about it on Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. If you decide to buy them, THE PRICE IS definitely RIGHT.

Books below (plus more) available on Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

Melaynie’s Masquerade, Part 1 and Part 2

An Army Brat in Libya

Angels in Uniform

Colonels Don’t Apologize

Pink Glasses

Weird Dates and Strange Fates

 

 

IN SO CAL, FILM SETS ARE EVERYWHERE By Victoria Giraud

In Southern California, the entertainment capital of the world,  it’s not unusual to see large white trucks parked on local streets—film crews have come for a day or two of filming. It could be for a commercial, a TV show or perhaps even a glamorous exciting movie! On my way to Trader Joe’s to get groceries recently, I saw them lined up about a block long on the street bordering a local park. I get a kick out of seeing the long trucks full of dressing rooms and imagining who will use them. When the rooms are small,  it’s not going to be anyone famous.

Not long ago, one of the local car washes looked like it was open for business, but they were using it for some kind of film shoot. Since Fashion Square car wash didn’t want to lose its regular clientele (it was on the weekend), a man and woman were sitting near the entrance handing out free washes because of the inconvenience.

The Los Angeles Times prints a map and a list of “permitted shoots” for the week in the Business section. “Harry’s Law” TV show with Kathy Bates was going to be in Santa Clarita on Monday; “Luck” the new HBO series about horse racing was shooting in Beverly Hills on Sunday. In Van Nuys, which is only minutes away from me, I could check out the TV filming for “Rizzoli and Isles.”  If I wanted to see a commercial for Capital One (I have one of their credit cards), I could drive over to Tujunga Canyon anytime this week.

One of the best, almost perpetual film sets is a natural one: Malibu Creek State Park, 7,000 acres located off Malibu Canyon Road in the Conejo Valley. I was living with my family in that general area when it opened to the public in 1976, and we were eager to hike through it. The State of California combined the old 20th Century Fox movie ranch, extensive property owned by Bob Hope and 250 acres belonging to Ronald Reagan from 1951-1967. The valley and surrounding Santa Monica Mountains were once the territory of the Chumash Indians.

On one of our first hikes, there were still some movie sets around—the dome-shaped homes of the apes in “Planet of the Apes,” which starred Charlton Heston, for instance. What looked like a shallow concrete pool was the miniature set for “Tora, Tora, Tora,” a movie about World War II. The lovely home used for Cary Grant’s film, “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” is still there and used for an administrative office for California State Parks.

Some of the many movies made in that scenic area included: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The park was supposed to be South America and one of the characters actors in it, Strother Martin, lived nearby in Malibu Lake. Elvis Presley made “Love Me Tender” there, and in the classic 1941 film, “How Green Was My Valley,” the area posed as Wales.

A more recent film made by Mel Brooks: “Robin Hood, Men in Tights”  was filmed there.  I met Mel Brooks shortly after his film came out. I was doing an interview in Santa Monica at the Pritikin Institute. He and his wife, Anne Bancroft, were having dinner in the Pritikin banquet hall and I introduced myself. I couldn’t resist telling Mel how much I liked his funny movies, particularly the Robin Hood movie. He had one particular joke in the film that applied to the area’s history: the actors used a real fox as a messenger and as it ran away, the line was, if I remember correctly: “There goes the 20th Century Fox!”

One of the most popular shows on television, “MASH” was filmed in Malibu Creek State Park. The area must have resembled Korea. I missed the opportunity to ask my dad, who had fought in the Korean War, if he had ever watched “MASH.” The TV set is now long gone, but they left behind an old Army truck, which stands as a souvenir in the area that was once the set.

Old Army truck from MASH

 

CAVE DRAWINGS to LIBYAN WALLS — GRAFFITI By Victoria Giraud

I’ve generally enjoyed graffiti–there’s plenty of it in Los Angeles– despite the campaigns and rhetoric against it. Much of it is is imaginative and colorful and I like the expressiveness of it. It’s painted over again and again, but it will always reappear. In Los Angeles, one of our museums had a recent exhibit and charged a fee to see it. Unfortunately, I missed out but there’s always the Internet, where I discovered some artists had used hundreds of lively multicolor graffiti drawings, including initials, to decorate the walls of a bedroom.

It wasn’t long ago that I discovered that graffiti, an Italian word which is defined as writing or drawing in a public place,  has been around since ancient times. Since I love history, I obviously wasn’t paying attention to this fascinating aspect of human behavior.  The wonderful series on Rome shown on HBO a few years back was so realistic the scenes included graffiti on various walls. In doing a little Internet research, I found out the Mayans used graffiti, the Crusaders used it in a Jerusalem church, and it’s still there in the ruins of Pompeii. It was even in the catacombs of Rome. On a Pompeii wall, there was a drawing of a penis with the message underneath, “Handle with care!” That’s humorous no matter what century we’re in.

During the uprising against Ghadaffi’s regime in Libya, graffiti artists took to the streets in Tripoli and Benghazi and voiced their rage on many walls in those cities. These messages served as an excellent means for the people to make their opinions known.

Ghadaffi sucking Libyan oil

 

Last summer I saw Werner Herzog’s documentary, “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” about the Chauvet Cave in southern France that is full of over 30,000 year-old prehistoric drawings and bones of animals: lions, horses, rhinoceros, cave bears and wooly mammoths, among others. Protected by an ancient landslide, the cave was hidden until 1994 and is in pristine shape. Herzog was given special permission by the French minister of culture to film there. I would recommend this thoughtful and fascinating film to anyone.

Ancient cave drawings in Southern France

Other than the incredibly beautiful and realistic drawings and the realization that humanity was capable of so much more than we’ve thought, I was intrigued by the observations voiced by Herzog and the French experts he interviewed. A French interviewee claimed ancient man felt differently about his/her world. As I interpreted, the mind was not of primary importance, emotion was. Mankind felt more connected to the world around him: to the animals, the earth and its features, birth and death. They were more naturally spiritual.

Herzog said he and his crew, plus many of the scientists who study the cave, sense other presences when they visit the site. They feel as if they are being watched.  I can easily imagine this cave is a sacred place of spirits.

Perhaps archaeologists from some future century will discover some of our present day graffiti and they will ponder its meanings: whether they are initials or a kind of political commentary. Or, perhaps someone’s reaction to Rush Limbaugh’s rantings…

 

 

 

COMMENTS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST by Victoria Giraud

One of the wonders of the Internet and a plus to the experience of writing a blog, is the pleasure of  readers’ responses.  Libyan-born Mosbah Kushad, a professor who now lives and works in Champaign, Illinois, wrote. He didn’t say specifically, but I am guessing he teaches at the University of Illinois. When we communicated months ago—after Ghadaffi was deposed—he was on his way to Tripoli for a visit for the first time in years.

Mosbah wrote: Victoria’s blog brings back pleasant memories of my days as a young boy growing up in Suk El Guma outside Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. When I was in 8th grade, my uncle got me a job as a busboy at the Base for a handsome salary of $21 month. I was on top of the world with my personal pass to ride the bus to and from the Base. That same gate that everyone remembers very fondly.

I remember watching young American kids neatly dressed walking into the school and some riding the buses from the city. I used to daydream of someday being like one of them. Well, with luck I finished college in Libya, came to the US where I got my Ph.D., and I got a job as a professor in a major university, and thirty-six years later, my kids are living like those kids that I used to dream about. This is my life story as a Libyan American. Like everyone else, I cherish those days but I also cherish the time that I have lived in this great country and the many friends I have made here. The smell of fresh bread from those bakery shops in Suk El Guma is still with me…God bless you all.

Narrow Street in Old Town Tripoli

 

When I wrote about a few of the unpleasant habits of some Libyan men, I heard from an Egyptian man, Wael M. El Dessouki, who had lived in Tripoli. He wasn’t too happy with my disparaging remarks.

Dear Ms. Victoria,
 I am an Egyptian who lived in Tripoli for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984. I have read your blog about Tripoli and it’s obvious to me that you are deeply connected to that place. I can understand your feelings. Tripoli is a charming city, not only because of its places but more so because of its people.
 However, in your blog, you have included a few remarks and general statements about Libyans that I believe are inappropriate and offensive. For example, you say, “Libyan policemen were not above trying to touch private parts if an American woman or young girl happened to walk too closely to these lusty, over-curious males.”  Maybe you encountered an incident of sexual harassment, however, that does not justify making such a general statement about Libyans.
 Also, the issue of peeing in the streets: maybe you have seen that happening, but I have seen it several times in some US cities. Hence, when you list such thing as a cultural issue, that implies that it is very common and happens in Libya only. 
Some other blogs include similar remarks.

I answered this gentleman and explained I didn’t mean to imply that all Libyan men were rude or ill-mannered and he was happy.

Wael M. El Dessourki answered: Thanks, Victoria, for your positive response. Your writings about your experiences in Libya are wonderful and I sincerely enjoyed them. I am quite sure you did not have any bad intentions when you mentioned those remarks; however, as an Arab, I see those remarks as annoying dents in a very nice picture. I am concerned that such remarks might be a turnoff for other Arab readers.

In this world, we hope to build bridges between cultures that bring people to common understanding and to respect our differences. In my opinion, your blog is similar to a nice bridge but unfortunately it’s got some holes. 

I admit I am not perfect although I did not say that to this concerned Egyptian reader. Besides, don’t we all have holes? He wrote before the Egyptian and the Libyan uprising. I wonder what his thoughts were about these upheavals.

LIKE THE AMAZON, LIFE IS A RIVER OF STORIES

We all like stories or you wouldn’t be reading my blog to see what the Words on My Mind are today! If I didn’t like stories, fiction and non-fiction, I wouldn’t be a voracious reader or an active writer. I’ve been writing mostly about my own adventures in this blog, and for the past ten years plus, I’ve helped create, edit and rewrite books about the personal lives of others. In my years as a journalist, I interviewed and wrote about at least 500 people. What a journey it’s been! As I’ve said before and will say again, on this beautiful planet we all have more in common than not.

My adventures have inspired me to write; a few of the most intriguing ones  have become short stories. On Amazon’s Kindle site, they call these short stories “Singles” and I’ve taken the opportunity to publish a few that I believe my readers will enjoy. They are all based on true stories; like most writers, I’ve taken a few liberties with the cast of characters. Although most of them are my own experiences, Angels in Uniform happened to a good friend.

If you follow the link,  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud   you’ll end up on my author site at Amazon and you can download the books onto a Kindle device. If you don’t have a Kindle and are still interested in reading them, you can download the Kindle software to a PC or a Mac and then download the stories.

Weird Dates and Strange Fates features two stories.

The world of dating and personal ads can be an odd one. Sandy, in A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing, wonders what’s up when her mild-mannered date answers his front door in a leopard print caftan. He had told her he liked costume parties, but the caftan was just a preview. Before he served her his homemade brunch, he changed into a French maid’s costume and put on a blond wig and four-inch heels. For dessert, it was a lacy negligee and a G-string.

The Dark Side is a financial story, or is it? Derek was considerate, imaginative, gregarious and highly intelligent.  Barbara thought she had met the perfect man. Then one day he disappeared from his apartment, leaving most of his clothes and a downloaded empty computer behind. Barbara could hardly believe the secret he was hiding.

Angels in Uniform tells Samantha’s story of Divine intervention. Ohio-born, Samantha’s ambition was to work in Hollywood and meet the rich and famous. She attracted a powerful film producer, but just when her life seemed to be working, she got cancer. She fled Los Angeles, ready to end it all but her persistent lover and an angel in a uniform had other ideas. Was the angel real?  Make your own decision about this true story.

The divorcees in the chic Los Angeles bar/restaurant were attracted to Will’s spirited zaniness mixed with a gentle nature. He was wearing Pink Glasses and they had no idea what mental turmoil the glasses masked. Far from rich, Will, a former Navy pilot and Viet Nam vet, had to rent a room from one of his new friends, yet he bought a brand new Porsche and held onto his old Porsche.  What was he concealing?

I hope my readers enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them. It’s wonderful to finally share them. I want to thank my son, Hans Giraud, who designed the unique book covers. My daughter, Heidi Giraud, has always given me excellent feedback. Fortunately, she’s my greatest fan!

 

 

 

 

 

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button