May, 2012:


Just before the new century dawned, I discovered there’s a system besides astrology to determine personality types. The Chinese nature science of Feng Shui has been around for at least two thousand years, a testament for longevity and proof there’s something to this way of thinking and/or analyzing.

As a weekly columnist for the Daily News, a Los Angeles newspaper, in the 1990s, I was always looking for material (much the same as I do now for my twice-weekly blog). I had gotten a mailing for Creative Options Day, a women’s event at Cal Lutheran University and noticed Pat Sendejas’ name as a speaker on Feng Shui. It was the perfect way to explore something new and get an interview at the same time.

It took a while to connect with this very busy and talented woman, but after we did the interview, our relationship turned into a long friendship and even a business relationship. I have edited several of her books, like: Live Your Life on Purpose.

As Pat succinctly says, “Feng Shui is the Chinese art of living in a harmonious environment in order to receive the greatest benefits in life, health, love and prosperity. It’s based on years of philosophy and mathematical calculation, and interprets the types of energy in a home or a business. It’s based on when a building was constructed and where it is placed, its interior design and environment, and the people who will live or work there. There is no good or bad,” according to Pat. “If you’re aware of what’s happening, you have more choices to make changes.”

In Feng Shui, all humans are a certain natural personality type: Earth, Metal, Wood, Water or Fire, depending on the month and year you were born. Pat determined I was an Earth Yin, which fit me perfectly. Simply put, I am the nurturing “Mother Hen” who worries about others—the type who advises friends to take a jacket when it’s cold outside! Supportive colors for me are red, purple, and burgundy, and I like water (I’ve been a swimmer all my life). I’m also partial to things made of earth, like ceramics. clay, and rocks.

Directions are important to the various Feng Shui types. As an Earth Yin, I should ideally sit in a chair that faces Northeast or West, and for the best sleep, my head should be directed either toward the Southwest or the Northwest. In case I search for a man in my life, my ideal partner would be an Earth Yang, who would be creative and a people person, although stubborn!

How energy flows in a home is important to Feng Shui and Pat’s book describes in detail what to avoid in placement of furniture and how to enhance the energy. However, energy changes every year and every month and learning about the best remedies is very important. It’s all quite fascinating and if you’re interested in exploring, go to the links below.

A thorough description of the philosophy of Feng Shui would involve more than this blog is designed for, so I’ll offer a link to a free Feng Shui info sheet and a link to Pat’s website.


Yin Yang Symbol

Pat Sendejas’ Special Report on Feng Shui, go to:


Pat Sendejas website:



In Remembrance of Memorial Day by Victoria Giraud

Memorial Day reminds me of cemeteries and the fact I’m a proud Army brat. I’ve been to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery and watched as a trained soldier walked his special pace back and forth in front of the memorial. It’s a very moving ceremony and reminds me even more of my connection to the US Military. Because of modern technology, the Vietnam War unknown soldier has been identified using DNA. It seems unlikely now that there will be another unknown soldier.


Tomb of the Unknown - 1943 photo

Interestingly, I discovered this web photo was taken in 1943, the year of my birth!

The following is information from the official website: The Tomb of the Unknowns, near the center of Arlington National Cemetery, is one of Arlington’s most popular tourist sites.

The Tomb contains the remains of unknown American soldiers from World War I and II, the Korean Conflict and (until 1998) Vietnam War. Each was presented with the Medal of Honor at the time of interment and the medals, as well as the flags which covered their caskets, are on display at the Memorial Ampitheater directly to the rear of the Tomb.

The Tomb is guarded 24-hours-per-day and 365-days-per year by specially trained members of the 3rd United States Infantry (The Old Guard).

The Memorial Amphitheater has been the scene of the funerals of some prominent Americans (such as General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing) as well as the site of both Memorial Day and Veterans Days celebrations.

My birth father, Brigadier General V.W. Hobson is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; the stepfather who raised me, Colonel A.D. Williams, is buried in a military cemetery close to Provo, Utah. My mother, who died too young at Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, was first laid to rest in the Ft. Sam Houston cemetery in Texas and over 20 years later buried on top of my dad in Utah. Both fathers had military funerals.

There were no guns for my mother’s funeral but lots of tears and laughter as we remembered her. Fittingly, because of her love of music, the famous jazz musician Duke Ellington died on the day of her Texas funeral. My sister and I had our own private ceremony when we decided her coffin needed to be moved so that her grave would at least be close to family. After all, an Army wife is used to moving without being asked her opinion. I thought it was fitting that she was on top this time. As a matter of fact, she would have had a good laugh. Military wives learn early on to see humor almost everywhere.

Here’s to all those who have died for the good old USA, all those still protecting us, which now includes plenty of women, and to all the wives and families who support our military.



A Swim in December? In Long Island Sound, New York? By Victoria Giraud

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

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

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

The fellows were bright and entertaining and I felt quite comfortable with both of them. Being an Army brat does lend a bit of cachet in life, and lots of experience in zany situations.

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

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

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

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

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

Trying to warm up after a winter swim

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

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


When he continued to look at her with warmth and understanding, she hurried on, grateful she could talk frankly. “I do not fancy the killing and am sometimes fearful of the danger, but Captain Drake is not a cruel or violent man. Though we are not at war with Spain, England must do what she can to stay free from Spanish power. Our actions here in the Indies remind Spain that she does not rule all the world. Of course we will greatly profit from Spanish treasure, but so will our Queen.   Have I said too much? ‘Tis too late to change my words.  I do not feel I am with a Spanish enemy.” She stopped, embarrassed. She had said too much; why did she make such a fool of herself in front of him?

He laughed at her comment, charmed by her candid open manner and intelligent observations. “So you sense I am friend not foe? I could not tell for you would not speak to me these past days,” he teased.

She cleared her throat and gave a nervous giggle. What could she reply?

He said nothing for a few moments, letting his senses determine the mood and reveling in her company. “Will you give me your feminine name?”

She sighed and looked up into his kind handsome face. “Melaynie,” she whispered.

He smiled, gazing lovingly into her eyes. “A lovely name. You may desire a man’s experience, but I can tell you a woman’s role in life is the most valuable. And I can see you are a beautiful loving woman.” He took her hand from the rock, holding it between his hands on his lap.

“And your history?” she managed to stammer as she tried to calm her fluttering heart.

“I was born in Granada, once home to the Moors. My great-grandfather was a proud Moor, forced to convert to the Catholic Church when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered us,” he paused, struggling to contain his sorrows. “I can fathom why the Africans feel such hatred toward the Spanish and their forceful ways. But one must adapt or die.” He took a long breath and continued more brightly. “I have made a career serving King Philip, which brings me here to meet you. How fortunate I am, for I have met no Spanish girl with your daring…or charm.”

She did not know how to answer him, and was grateful the darkness hid her blush, and the fiery sensations traversing her entire body.

Lifting her hand to his lips, he kissed it softly. He placed her hand upon his shoulder and reached around her waist to draw her closer. A sigh escaped her lips, as she leaned toward him, putting her head upon his chest, taking in his intoxicating masculine smell. Moments later she drew back to gaze up at him and to read the love and passion in his eyes.

Their lips met, gently at first, savoring the salty-sweet taste of each other. Their lips parted as hungry desire took over, and the intensity of the kissing grew. Keeping one hand at her waist, his other hand tenderly traveled upwards to those small breasts he had once glimpsed in the candlelight. He pulled back to look at her. Her shirt was partly open, and she watched in anticipation as he delicately traced the hollow of her neck with his fingertips and then slid his hand down to the right breast. She drew in her breath and let out a small gasp as his fingers caressed the nipple to erection and then gently squeezed it.He repeated his erotic move with the other breast and nipple while it seemed to her that her blood was pulsing and vibrating as it traveled from between her legs down to the end of her toes. Throbbing with desire, she would let him have his way with her; a bolt of lightening would fail to stop her now.

There’s more to this scene, but you must buy the book on Amazon. The link is at the top of the blog page on the right.




I enjoy dealing with the news that creates our history by watching Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Not only is he extremely intelligent and funny, but he’s a fellow alumnus of the College of William and Mary. When he recently interviewed author Robert Caro about his latest volume on President Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power, I recalled my own observation of history in the making back in 1959.

I was a high school student in Alexandria, Virginia, when my friend Barbara and I decided we needed a lesson in government. Since she was dating a page in Congress, we could easily get passes for the US Senate. We hopped a bus, crossed the Potomac River and were exploring the Capitol in no time. Seated in the visitors’ gallery, we had an excellent view of the Senate in action. Wayne Morse, the feisty senator from Oregon, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois.


President Lyndon Johnson -- LBJ

The two men who drew our attention the most were already famous but no one had any idea of the tragedies still to come. Lyndon Johnson, an imposing Texas Democrat and Majority Leader, was presiding over the Senate as he lounged at his desk on a dais in the front of the room. He seemed very much aware of his position of power. To Johnson’s left was a large table with several seated senators. Not everyone was paying attention to the debate, especially a very attractive and young-looking man with a head of thick chestnut hair who was reading a newspaper.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying the scene. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him. Though we were serious students, we were still girls interested in the male sex.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

As college students a couple of years later, both Barbara and I had summer jobs working for the government as typists. By that time Kennedy was President and he had initiated a special program to familiarize college students with government, which was to take place several times during the summer. We saw JFK one morning on the lawn of the White House as he kicked off the program by giving us an inspiring speech I no longer remember. We all came in buses from our various jobs around the Washington area and walked across the deep grass and past Carolyn Kennedy’s playhouse in proper working attire, which meant heels for females.

I had seen Robert Kennedy, by that point Attorney General, previously when he was campaigning for his brother. That same summer this Kennedy brother was speaking to the assembled college student workers at Constitution Hall in Washington, and Barbara and I were also there. When it was over, we happened to walk by RFK’s limousine and were treated to a huge smile and a good look at his sparkling blue eyes. The Kennedy brothers certainly had great magnetism.

My last college summer job was at Washington National Airport, another chance to witness a part of history. I hadn’t paid attention to the upcoming March on Washington, but the fellows I worked with in Operations asked if I wanted to see some movie stars. I accepted immediately and invited my friend Harriet. We dressed in heels and hats and were taken to Butler Aviation’s private lounge to mingle with the stars as if we belonged there. I observed Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Dihanne Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Baldwin, and James Garner in action, but never talked to any of them. I stood in-between Sammy Davis, Jr. and author James Baldwin while we looked out at the landing field. I was in high heels, which made both these short fellows only about breast high!

Before we left, there was a plane from California landing, and many of us went downstairs to the field to welcome them. It was noisy before the propellers were shut down and I had put my hands over my ears. A tall handsome man leaned over toward me and commented, “Loud, isn’t it?” I grinned widely: it was actor Charlton Heston! I recognized him right away and remembered seeing him in “Ben Hur” not many years before.



My mama, as she would refer to herself in the Southern way, was a “pistol.” My dad called her “Pistol-packin’ mama;” the phrase is from an old country song. He was right: those were qualities an Army officer’s wife had to learn as she stood up for herself and her children (she raised three of us).

As the seventh of eight children, Mama had practiced being her own person early in life. When it’s Mother’s Day, I remember Mama and all the effort she put into making sure her kids had the best she could give. In retrospect, I can truly appreciate her creative efforts, which came right from her heart. It’s difficult to write this story without tears: Garnette Motley Williams died 38 years ago this month. She wasn’t quite 53. She didn’t go to college, but she knew a great deal about life and how to treat people with love and consideration. She let her heart dictate and then she went for it–whatever she chose to do– with enthusiasm and energy.

Passport photo --Tupper, Victoria, Darby, Garnette

Besides being the best wife, mother, sister, cousin and friend she could manage, her primary talent was sewing.   She tried her hand and/or Singer at almost everything stitchable: slipcovers and drapes, specialized window coverings (swag and jabot, Empire style sheer curtains), men’s shirts and ties, children’s clothing and almost any fashionable garment for women. When I was younger I had a Madame Alexander doll, about six inches tall, and she made tiny outfits for it. Her creations for me assured that I’d be stylish despite my dad’s thrifty habits. She kept the old Singer sewing machine humming; it came along with us to various Army posts, including Tripoli, Libya. During my teenage years in the Middle East, we found material, probably in an Italian shop, and set up our version of an assembly line to sew clothes for the two of us. Mom and I wore the same size and would pick out a pattern that was suitable for both, although we’d use material of different colors and patterns. We didn’t want to look like twins!  I would cut out the pattern and sew the darts, for instance, and Mom would put in the zippers and work on anything difficult. I still remember the cotton 1950s style scoop-neck sundresses: hers had a black background with a lively print; mine was red. Those were the years of puffy crinoline underskirts, which girls had to starch and keep clean to keep their outer skirts sticking out. Mom came up with the unusual idea to use soft plastic chicken wire as an underskirt. It kept its shape longer and was easy to keep clean. As I remember, I didn’t wear it often because it was a little too unique, and I was wary that someone might discover it.

In later years, when I was in college, she made me some elegant party clothes: a spaghetti-strap basic black satin dress with a little short-sleeved jacket that I wore to a college dance, and a sexy, form-fitting black wool sheath with a boat neck and long sleeves I wore to several parties. There were many more creations, but the only garment I still have is my wedding gown. I got married in Germany in the ‘60s while my parents were stationed in Frankfurt. My mother found the ideal satin and lace material, and the perfect net for a veil, and it looked divine. It even had a small train. The gown is stored in a box, without all the fancy acid-free tissue of today. Even though I wonder what shape it’s in, it’s comforting to know I still have it. The only garment Mom didn’t make for my wedding was Dad’s suit. Interestingly enough, the wedding dress design  is somewhat similar to the one worn  last year by the new Princess Catherine of the United Kingdom.

Mama on my Wedding Day--she made her dress.

Years later, Mom made my cousin Penny’s wedding gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses as well. After all the work on Penny’s gown, Mom ironed it, but the iron was too hot and lifted off some of the material on the front of the dress. Mom agonized, but Penny’s sense of humor and practical sense wouldn’t let my mother fret.  “I’m glad it’s you who did it and not me! It doesn’t matter because my flowers will cover it,” Penny declared.  After the ceremony and a few glasses of champagne, Penny cared even less: it was a funny sorry to tell all her guests. I didn’t always appreciate Mom’s talents. Regrettably, especially in college, I envied the girls whose parents gave them money for clothes in a department store. It was only later that I figured out that my mama’s talented fingers created me original attire, and they were sewn with all the love she could give. She created clothes for me that could never be bought.

Oh, my Mama Mia, I miss you so!


I’ve been writing stories or articles since I was 10 years old, more years than I care to count! Everyone’s life is full of stories, and I’m no exception. I just choose to share mine on a blog or in a book of some kind. Over the years I took the time to write an historical fiction novel and a screenplay while I was writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Having always enjoyed short stories, I decided to turn some of my experiences into a few short stories. They are all based on true experiences, most of them mine. To protect the innocent and/or the guilty, I changed the names.

My stories are available on Amazon at an unbeatable price. To intrigue you, my readers, I am sharing excerpts. I hope you enjoy them and are curious enough to buy the Ebooks.



“Do you think he may have gotten Alzheimer’s from all the rotten things he did in his life?” Emily asked.

“I believe we create our own reality and bring on the physical conditions we need for our soul’s growth,” Beth answered. “It’s interesting that Dad has lost his control over all the things he valued most in life – money, intelligence, his family, his own body. Since we’re talking about theories, I’ve got another thought concerning the World War II and Korean War generation of American men. I think those extreme situations seriously affected their views on life. They came home with hardened hearts, devious minds, and plenty of sarcasm. But they also knew how to be charming and get their own way. Their wives and children, who were easy targets, suffered the most. These guys didn’t seem to know how to say, ‘I love you,’ much less, ‘I’m sorry.'”

“I feel sorry for him. He’s been through a lot. Perhaps this disease evens up the score. But I hope none of us suffers the same fate.”

“I don’t believe we will. We were on the receiving end of his brand of child-raising, but none of us have chosen the same approach to life.”

“His suffering kinda makes it easier to forgive him,” Emily said with a mischievous smile. “You know what else is odd? He loves to get hugs and he knows that saying I love you will get a warm response and maybe another hug. He could never say that to any of us when he was well and in possession of all his faculties.”





Carl had advertised himself as someone interested in dance, theatre, travel and sunbathing. He sounded culturally aware and although she wondered about the sunbathing, it probably wasn’t unusual for a Southern Californian. His voice on the phone was soft and polite, and she looked forward to their date. She felt comfortable when she parked in front of his corner home.  The small, square undistinguished house was a few blocks shy of the high-rent district south of Ventura Boulevard, but the fact that it was in Encino at all lent it a great deal of prestige.

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

“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.

“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.

“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”

She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it was all perfectly normal.








I chose the perfect college for myself. Inspired by a magazine story and its historical background, I only wanted to go to William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and I was blessed enough to be accepted those many years ago. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in English and have been using the knowledge I gained ever since.

I am a sentimental and nostalgic woman and lately my beloved alma mater has gained some happy notoriety. “Fake news” TV comedian, Jon Stewart, is an alumnus, and he occasionally brings up his tie to the College of William and Mary. Last week, when he interviewed David Barton, author of The Jefferson Lies, Stewart declared he was a graduate of the same school as Thomas Jefferson.

A couple of nights later, HBO comedian Bill Maher had a William and Mary government professor, Lawrence Wilkerson, as a guest on his show, which discusses the latest political news. Wilkerson has had quite a career; among other positions, he served as chief of staff for General Colin Powell. Not long ago,  Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense for both President George W. Bush and President Obama, became Chancellor of William and Mary. Gates was in the class behind me during our college years, but I didn’t know him. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was an honorary Chancellor of William and Mary from 1993-2000. Not bad for a college with only about 6,000 undergraduates in 2012.

This small college, founded in 1693, is located in an historic town that had figured in the American Revolution. Future US President Thomas Jefferson was a graduate, so were future Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. Academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, was established there: its credentials were and are still amazing.

The Wren Building


When Johnny Carlson, an old friend from Wheelus High School in Tripoli, Libya, who was a couple of years older than me, was accepted, that was the clincher for my choice.  His parents and sister Gail invited me along for a Thanksgiving trip to the college while I was a junior in high school, and I adored the colonial 18th century atmosphere. We ate our holiday feast in a little French restaurant in town: Thiemes.

I love history, and Williamsburg was the perfect setting for my idea of a college: venerable old trees, lots of greenery, and aging brick classroom buildings highlighted by the famous Christopher Wren Building, where I later had most of my English literature classes. The Wren Building, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, famous English architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, was the most notable building on campus.

Williamsburg, which had been the colonial capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780, had been restored to its 18th century glory by the Rockefeller family. Living there was like stepping back into history: shopkeepers, restaurant waiters, etc. dressed in Colonial costume. There was no traffic because cars weren’t allowed on the local streets and college students couldn’t have cars either. Walking was a pleasure and far healthier. From the Wren Building, it was an easy walk from the College Corner intersection of Jamestown and Richmond Roads to the Capitol building down Duke of Gloucester Street (nicknamed DOG Street). I remember strolling past Casey’s Department Store, Corner Greeks and Middle Greeks (both restaurants owned by Greeks, of course), the Magazine (where ammunition was stored in the 18th century), and the elegant Governor’s Palace with its beautiful gardens. On certain days a walker might enjoy the Fife and Drum Corps melodically marching up or down DOG street.

If you were a female student and took a walk around Williamsburg during my 1960s college days, you had to be properly dressed—no long or short pants allowed (unless you were on a bicycle and you had to carry a cover skirt in case you got off the bike). Male students had no dress restrictions or curfews either. Midnight on Saturdays was the latest female dorm residents could stay out. It was more difficult to get in trouble with no cars, no males allowed past dorm lobbies, and with strict laws about alcoholic beverages (Virginia was a dry state then). The most absurd restriction, in my opinion, was the one imposed first semester freshmen year. Girls—we were generally 17 or 18—and hadn’t been through the Sexual Revolution–were  not allowed to speak to boys after 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Ready to graduate




Yesterday was my own private Art Appreciation Day. My friend Barbara and I decided on a visit to the lovely Getty Museum complex, which, in all its white Travertine marble splendor (a million square feet of it), is perched on two hilltop ridges in the Santa Monica Mountains. It overlooks the 405 Freeway, now in the midst of a construction project; Beverly Hills and Wilshire Boulevard to the east and Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Even without the art, it’s an ideal place to visit, especially when you only live about 20 minutes away.

Actor Djimon H. with an octopus by Herb Ritts

Southern California has its own unique weather style: summer comes late. Until then it’s May Gray and June Gloom, known for the humidity, morning clouds, reluctant sun and cool weather as low as the 60s. We learn not to count on good beach days until July and those who live in the beach cities may go for weeks without seeing that warm yellow orb. That was yesterday and so far today: sweaters or jackets are a must.

A tram takes visitors up to the museum complex (3/4 of a mile) so it feels like you’re really going someplace. It’s an excursion and doesn’t even require a visit to any of the art galleries (5 buildings). One could walk around the multi-level patios with pools and fountains, visit the extensive gardens (one has a circular maze), eat in one of the three restaurants or get snacks from the food carts. A few months back I saw actress Diane Keaton talking to a male friend at an outside table near one of the food carts.

It wasn’t crowded on this Tuesday, but there were plenty of visitors, including school groups and tourists from around the world. I overheard a German family and almost tried out some of my rusty German. I like to talk to people and joked with a mother, who had brought her two young toddlers in a stroller, that she was getting her children started on art appreciation early in life.

Neither Barbara or I had checked on the latest exhibitions and were pleasantly surprised by a new show of Los Angeles native Herb Ritts’ photography. He was known around the world for his black and white portraits, magazine covers (Vanity Fair, Vogue, etc.), music videos and commercials. He died at age 50 but accomplished an amazing amount of work, which filled up several exhibition rooms. One room was curtained so they could show some commercials he made for Calvin Klein and Lancome, for instance, and videos: Madonna singing “Cherish,” and Janet Jackson singing on the beach.  His portraits are too numerous to mention but Elton John, Cindy Crawford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson and Magic Johnson are among them. The contrasts of lighting, the statuesque poses, and Ritts’ love for the human body were very evident in all of the work on display.

In Southern California, museums and gardens mix well together. The Getty Center is the perfect place to see Nature displayed along with human works of art.

Madonna photo by Herb Ritts

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