October, 2012:

CALIFORNIA EARTHQUAKE 1994 … Continued By Victoria Giraud

Above: Northridge apartment building that pancaked onto the bottom floor.

Watching and listening to the news about Hurricane Sandy brings to mind other disastrous events like the Southern California earthquake of 1994. When people are challenged by tragedy, they rise to the occasion and it’s heartening to all of us. To feel inspired by the indomitable human spirit, read the accounts of everyday heroes who became saviors when it was necessary. We all need these reminders of what is truly important in life–family and friends and the strangers who help us.

After my children knew I was safe after the 1994 California earthquake, they went home to Moorpark to pick up their own mess. I listened to more news about our devastating shake-up. I heard the Newhall Pass Interchange had collapsed again, just as in 1971, and as it turned out, the epicenter of the quake was almost in the same area it had been in ’71. One poignant tragedy concerned an apartment building in Northridge that had collapsed, killing all those in their bottom floor apartments. Sometime later I read about a family who had lived on the bottom floor. The whole family, for some inexplicable reason, had left their apartment that morning to say goodbye to their father before he drove to work sometime after 4 a.m. They were all chatting in the parking lot, safe from harm, when the quake struck and their home and everything in it was totally smashed.

In the days following the quake, I discovered my friends were all particularly lucky. Quite amazing news since the quake had damaged property ($20 billion worth) as far away as 85 miles, and there had been 72 deaths and 9,000 people injured. I wonder what the final totals will be for Hurricane Sandy.

Because of freeway damage, Susan (who owned the house where I was living) was stuck in Santa Clarita with her boyfriend. His apartment hadn’t collapsed but was in complete disarray. The entire kitchen floor was a mess of food (the fridge and all the cabinets had emptied), utensils, plates, glasses, and miscellaneous items, and there was no water or electricity. Unsure whether his building was safe enough, the two of them drove east to Palmdale until Susan could get home, which turned out to be several days later. In the meantime I was a sort of command center to let her sons and father know what was happening. Her father, because he’d suffered a great deal of damage to his place in Sherman Oaks, soon came to live with her for a while.

Pam’s son was stocking shelves in a grocery store when the earth started moving. He made it to the end of an aisle before the lights went out and cans and bottles flew like missiles, all over the place. It was two days before they opened again.

Karen Woods, another friend, was home alone. When her condo started moving, she sprang from bed, ran to the bedroom door and hit her head. She headed to the bathroom to patch herself up and, alas, slipped on the talcum powder, which had spilled all over the floor. Her kitchen floor was full of broken champagne glasses, and a small grandfather clock had hurled itself across her living room.

Dave was living almost at the epicenter and had been asleep on a waterbed. Even though these beds are immensely heavy (mine had stayed steady, for instance), the whole thing lifted up. Later in the day, when he was inspecting a 12-story building for his property management boss, there was a 5.5 aftershock. He was on the top floor and was sure his life was over!

I discovered instincts or gut feelings were important in dire situations. Some sprang out of bed when the quake hit, and others didn’t. My friend Sally stayed safely in bed while a bookshelf toppled and threw books all around the room. When it was light enough and she was able to get up and sort out the books, the book on top of the pile was Where Angels Walk.

One friend revealed later he’d gotten out of bed just in time as a huge TV landed on his bed. Dudley, who was living in Hollywood, told me all the car alarms for blocks around went off and kept blasting for a long time.


Kaiser Permanente building after the quake

If you want to avoid Mother Nature and all disasters, I’m afraid there’s no help for you! Listening to the warnings about Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it’s already caused, and news of a recent earthquake in the Pacific near Canada, reminds me of the earthquakes I’ve experienced. Before I leave the planet, I imagine I’ll experience more of them and who knows what else! I’d definitely pick an earthquake over other disasters, but do we have a choice? If earthquake fear keeps the California population from growing too much, that’s great. Since all places on earth have their positive and negative features, I’d still choose California as the best place to live.

In February 1971, my husband, toddler daughter, Heidi, and I were living on the outskirts of Los Angeles when the Sylmar earthquake, measured at 6.6 magnitude and centered about 15 miles away from us, occurred. It was 6:55 a.m. in the morning and the quake woke us up as our second-floor bedroom swayed and the windows rattled. It took years for my daughter to forget her fears stimulated by rattling windows.

I remember listening to the radio next to the bed as a frightened announcer reported from Parker Center, the old LAPD building, the details of what had happened in downtown Los Angeles. Though exciting and nerve-racking, we suffered no damage. Others were not as lucky. The Newhall Pass freeway interchange was heavily damaged as was Olive View Hospital in the San Fernando Valley. Sixty-five people died as a result of the earthquake.

Twenty-three years later, the 1994 earthquake on January 17 was far more destructive and “exciting.” The 6.7 trembler occurred on Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration day. Was he trying to tell us something?

I was living in Agoura as in 1971, but this time sharing a girlfriend’s  home in the hills. As I learned later, her house had been built on cut, not fill, and that was the important factor in damage control. Susan was away for the weekend with her boyfriend, I was home in my waterbed, and Callahan, her Siberian Husky dog, was sleeping outside. I had stayed up late reading a book, You Don’t Die, the fascinating account of a man who communicated with spirits that had messages for the living. Curious choice of reading material considering what happened later!

At 4:31 a.m. I began my “ride” on the waves of my waterbed as the ground seemed to roll and move up and down. I didn’t panic but noted that the wind chimes outside my window were melodiously announcing nature’s fury. I could hear the books slip off my nearby bookcase and fling themselves on the floor; I was thankful I had removed the bookshelves over the head of my bed when I moved in! It was still dark and I wondered if this quake was “the big one” newscasters were always predicting.

When it stopped, I got up and turned on the light. The TV and the VCR had moved forward on their glass shelf but had not fallen. Before I could do anything, the lights went off completely, and I got on the floor to feel around for a flashlight I had put there the night before when the bathroom night light had burned out. I couldn’t find the flashlight but I found my glasses (I wore contacts during the day) among the books and papers on the floor and desk. It’s amazing how disorienting it can be in the complete darkness.

I was consciously keeping a cool head, but my stomach was churning from fears of what might happen next. First things first, however: I had to pee!  I put on my robe, even though no one was home, and felt my way to the hallway bathroom around the corner. I missed it, despite feeling along the wall (or thinking I had) and ended up in the family room. I backtracked and finally found the open door. For once, I didn’t think about flushing!

Back in my room, I found the flashlight but it was inadequate and I remembered I had a candle and matches handy, which would be enough to find clothes to wear and determine what to do next. I inspected for damage and found that nothing had broken, even my cherished Monarch butterfly under the little glass dome was intact.

My watch said 4:45 a.m. when I left my room to check the rest of the house. I discovered an adequate flashlight as I explored with my candle. A few glasses from the bar in the family room had fallen to the floor and broken. The bottle of Ancient Age bourbon “bit the dust” – no alcoholic solace there.   Unlike in so many other homes, as I found out later, the cabinet doors and the refrigerator in the kitchen had stayed closed, but a framed picture had fallen, and I cut my fingers a little from picking up the glass.

I opened the patio doors and let in a worried dog that was delighted to see me. In Susan’s bedroom the drawers on her dresser and TV cabinet had come open but nothing was seriously damaged. I remembered I had a portable radio and retrieved it to listed to KFWB. They announced the quake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale and was centered in the San Fernando Valley somewhere. The phone seemed to work but no one answered when I called my children, who at that time were already grown and rooming together in an apartment probably 20 miles away.

Since I hadn’t been living at Susan’s that long, I didn’t know her neighbors and didn’t think about going outside to see what had happened. I sat in the family room and listened to radio reports of the earthquake horrors.

At 5:45 a.m. I heard a knock at the front door—it was my kids. They had hopped in a car and driven to check on me. It was spooky, they said, to drive the freeway in complete darkness—no streetlights, traffic signals, house lights, etc. Hansi said his aquarium and fish were fine but he’d lost his entire bottle collection.

I’d remembered to buy bread the evening before and we sat down to bread and jelly, which was delicious! Why is it we appreciate the most simple things when the situation is dangerous?

To be continued…

Angels in Uniform — short story sample by Victoria Giraud

When Samantha arrived in Los Angeles, she got an immediate job as a feature film extra. Although she sometimes tired of standing around waiting for filming to begin or end, she found the business fascinating and took the time to ask questions and get to know the players both in front of and behind the camera. Her striking looks, with her added knowledge and flair for the right clothes that attracted attention while emphasizing her curvaceous figure, encouraged many a director or producer to talk with her.

On a hot and crowded set one day while filming a crowd scene in a busy parking lot, Peter sauntered up to her during the lunch break. Six-feet tall with a tanned, muscular body, a Germanic face and thinning blond hair going gray, his studied informal air and casual but expensive clothes gave him away as a producer.  Sam perceived all this in an instant; to protect herself she had always been observant and perceptive.  He stood in front of her, removing his sunglasses to reveal startlingly azure blue eyes. He gazed frankly into her eyes, assessing her looks and manner with no apology; he had been in this business too long to waste time on courtesies. Her height, in small heels, was equal to his; her forward gaze did not flinch or look away modestly. She took a few lazy moments to give him a slight smile, her nose flaring as she smelled his expensive cologne. She was at ease and ready for any banter he might direct her way.

“Miss?” he opened casually.

“Hunter. Samantha Hunter.”

“I’m Peter Hood, the producer for this epic.” He laughed.

She gave him a cool smile. “I know.”

“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new at this game?”


“I imagine you get impatient on days like this, when it’s hot and crowded.”

“Actually, no. I thoroughly enjoy this business, even though I am at the bottom…for now.”

She could tell her reactions were intriguing him. He was probably so used to the star-struck, over-impressed, naive routine. The chase, she thought to herself, how they love the chase.

“Would you care to learn more about the business?” He paused for emphasis, testing her self-contained manner. “From a producer’s point of view?”

“What did you have in mind?” She could just imagine, but she gave no hint of sexual interest, it was too early in the game.

“Dinner this evening… perhaps by the ocean.”

She deliberately took her time answering as she slowly smiled at him, her dark eyes were pools of mystery. “Yes…I’d be honored,” she answered with just a hint of sarcasm.

He laughed, genuinely delighted at her comment, and knew he might not be the master of this game. Here was a dark-skinned woman who looked like she would lead him around if he were not careful, a challenge to an attractive, powerful man used to getting his own way. He was heartily tired of having women gush and succumb over him so easily because of his money and position.

They had dinner in Malibu, sitting by the expanse of window at one of the trendier, wood and glass dining palaces perched along the coast.  Each crash of the incoming waves seemed to meld these two passionate natures together. Sam was sassy and direct enough for him; Peter was more mellow, but opinionated and strong enough to fight for control. Sexually, the chemistry blazed, and they lit the fire that first night. He took her to his home, and she’d been with him ever since—until she left this morning, before the sun was even up.

Thinking of how their romance began,  Sam’s tears began to flow again. They became sobs that racked her body, so powerful they sent pains through her chest and back. She nearly lost control of the car, and was forced to drive more slowly.  As she gained control of herself and the car, she began to analyze.

Why couldn’t he accept her as she was, slightly damaged? He knew she had inner strength, had survived much for her young years. Hadn’t she told him some of her darkest secrets? Maybe she should never have opened up to him; he wasn’t the father figure she never had. Was that what she expected? When would she stop looking for the strong, caring male? They did not exist. This thought brought tears again, but she willed them away.  She needed some music and grabbed for a CD in a holder on the console. She put one in without even looking. As she started to listen she recognized Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. How appropriate, she thought ruefully—star-crossed lovers, only happy in death. What a beautifully sad piece of music, certainly in keeping with her mood. Why didn’t she drive off the highway now, and end it in a flash? But what if it didn’t work, and she became more maimed that she was already? She wanted something certain, at least in death.

Available in Ebook format on Amazon.  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud



I recently watched the excellent HBO documentary “Ethel” about Ethel Kennedy’s life, most of it centered on her years with Robert Kennedy, a person I admired and then mourned when he was so tragically assassinated right after he’d won the California election primary. The film, by Ethel and RFK’s youngest child, Rory Kennedy, who was born just six months after her father died,  is being presented right before our upcoming elections. What an appropriate time!

When the charismatic Robert Kennedy was killed, I was living in the San Fernando Valley. It was devastating news and especially sad that he was killed in Los Angeles, my new hometown. I couldn’t help but remember the times I had seen him years before in Virginia and Washington, D.C. in the  early 1960s. This Life magazine cover of June 14, 1968, makes me tear up even now. RFK was running along an Oregon beach followed by his dog Freckles. I was once an enthusiastic subscriber to Life and saved several of them, including this one.

Robert F. Kennedy and his dog Freckles

I had first seen Robert Kennedy speak when I was a freshman at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and he was campaign manager for his brother John Kennedy’s campaign for president of the U.S.  My real thrill came a couple of years later, in 1962, when President John Kennedy created an educational summer program for college students working for the government in offices in the Washington D.C. area. To initiate the program JFK himself met with student workers on the lawn of the White House. Although I don’t recall a word the President said, it was probably an inspiring but short speech on how we were going to learn something about the inner workings of government, which was to take place several times during the summer at Constitution Hall, an auditorium near the Washington Mall that sat 4,000 people.

Student workers were bussed from various offices to spend a couple of hours listening to important members of government. I was picked up where I was working at Washington National Airport. I met my friend Barbara, also working for the government, at Constitution Hall one afternoon. We  listened to some long-forgotten government officials and Robert Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General at that time. What wisdom they imparted to us students, I no longer remember.

When the speeches were over, Barbara and I walked back to our buses. Barbara  and I had been friends in high school and we’d visited the U.S. Senate a few years before when we’d seen John Kennedy in action when he was just a senator. I’ve written a blog post about that excursion.

We were ambling along on the grass lawn behind Constitution Hall  when we passed a ramp leading to a building entrance. A limousine was parked there, angled downward, ready to leave with its passenger. We both glanced over and saw Robert Kennedy in the back seat, his blue eyes flashing. He had spotted us and gave us a huge genuine grin and we smiled back, delighted that we’d seen him.

I lost touch with Barbara years ago, but I bet she also has a vivid memory of seeing Robert Kennedy, whose inner being seemed to pour out of his eyes. I wonder sometimes what might have happened if he’d lived and become president. Seeing the documentary “Ethel,” it’s evident that Ethel Kennedy  was one of RFK’s greatest supporters; she would have made an amazing first lady.

Rory Kennedy’s film shows various clips of Robert Kennedy’s speeches. One that  deserves repeating, especially now in advance of November voting: “What we need in the United States is not division…not hatred…not violence or unlawfulness, but love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country…Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to take the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world…”


Robert Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and John Kennedy, Jr. at JFK Funeral

To continue my diary entries from 49 years ago, this section adds some details of the funeral. It was a groundbreaking event for television, the first time a major news story was carried live in real time. Television sets were scarcer in 1963, not ubiquitous as they are now. College students didn’t have a TV in their room, or even a telephone, much less a cell phone! We probably bonded together more…

25 November

It’s over now—the funeral and procession. Thank God! What a miserable time it has been for all of us. I feel sorriest for Jackie—she gave her husband to the country and then it took him from her forever.

Since 10:30 a.m. today I have been nearly rooted to the TV. I watched it at the Student Center until 12 and then went over to Mr. and Mrs. Reeves (family friend from Army days). I saw the procession of the body from the Capitol to the White House and then to the Cathedral. I saw the tail end of the mass where one of the priests read some of Kennedy’s most well-known speeches and some of his favorite quotations. After the service there was the long march to Arlington Cemetery and the short service there. Many military units and bands marched. A frequent piece was Chopin’s “Funeral March.” The graveside ceremony was very stirring—jets flew overhead, 21-gun salute and taps.

I was lucky to have some family friends in Williamsburg.  My dormitory had one small TV in the downstairs lounge for whoever wanted to watch; the same applied to the Student Center. As I recall there was only one TV in a large facility. Watching in the comfort of a private home was a luxury. I remember we watched in silence for the most part. I was too busy crying to notice much of anything except what was on the TV screen. I particularly remember the funeral procession with the riderless horse with riding boots in the stirrups facing backward, I believe.

Then Jackie, Ted and Bobby Kennedy lit the flame that would burn for sometime beside the grave (how long, I don’t know then).

Death has certainly pervaded the whole atmosphere of this campus (William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA). There were no classes today even—but who can study. The weekend wasn’t bad—my friend Karin Nelson came to see me and we were able to forget it after the memorial service on campus at noon Saturday. But today all depression returned. At one point I didn’t know what to do with myself. I found myself nearly breaking down so many times as I watched the television. Tears constantly kept welling up. No doubt that’s how most felt.

But now I want to forget—at least to a great extent. I’m tired of this weight.

That Christmas I traveled via military space available via airplane to Mannheim, Germany, to see my folks for the holidays. Military bases, like Maguire Air Force Base where I waited for a plane, were in mourning and there was no live music for 30 days. Of course the bars didn’t close down!



KENNEDY ASSASSINATION from my diary By Victoria Giraud

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. I started remembering my own experience of that tragedy when I heard about Bill O’Reilly’s new book Killing Kennedy. I was in my last year of college at William and Mary in Virginia when the President died.

As a diary keeper, I had to write down my thoughts about that  heart-breaking time. I have kept most of my diaries and here is what I wrote:

22 November. At 1:50 p.m. today the greatest political as well as human tragedy I have known in my 20 years occurred when President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas, by an assassin’s bullet. This was such a momentous and horrible tragedy that I must set it down.

It affects me as a human and as an American. One can hardly believe it happened—in fact I can still scarcely take it in, nor for that matter can anyone else on this campus or in these United States or, I doubt, in the world.

The tragedy occurred in Dallas (central time) at 12:30. Twenty minutes later the news came over the radio as I was calmly addressing a letter to Steve [my love interest at the time]. When the radio said a perhaps fatal wound, I couldn’t help hoping that he might live. But little chance with a gunshot wound through the right temple. It was utterly unbelievable.

I went to work this afternoon [I had a part-time job in the Law Library] but could only bear it for a half hour. At this time it wasn’t sure that he would die but then he did while I was there.

Horror & disbelief were the first reactions. About my first words were, “Oh, My God.” On my way to work I had passed Sandy’s room and told her. Her first words, “Oh, My God.” Peter Lawford’s comment: “Oh, My God,” and perhaps countless others said the same.

No one could do anything. No one could think of studying. What could one do? Little groups of students, stricken faces, people saying hi extremely somberly. It was as if the world had fallen on our shoulders and we didn’t know quite what to do with it—rail against it, scream, cry, be disgusted. What the hell was this world coming to when some lunatic shoots the President? What did this damn lunatic expect to accomplish? Kennedy was cut off in the prime of life—he was only 46. Younger even than any other President before him—and two young children.

All we could do was sit around and listen to the radio and discuss the ironies of it all. What would it do to the country, to the whole world? Condolences poured in; important men from everywhere spoke their two words about their grief. The WORLD was shocked—everyone feels a loss. The UN had a minute’s silence; Broadway closed all theaters; parties were canceled.

Coming back to the dorm from the Law Library, it was as if someone had slapped me in the face again. It wasn’t like Towney’s death [a friend who had died earlier that year]—it was more abstract, but I started crying a little. A great hero had died. It was a man I had seen in the Senate chamber during my high school junior year then later during one of my working summers, both in Constitution Hall and on the lawn of the White House. Thus he meant a great deal personally to me. I liked him as a President despite all the criticism everyone else handed me about him. He stood up for what he believed and now he is a martyr.

Now we have President Lyndon Johnson, ironic throwback to Lincoln’s assassination.

Johnson being sworn in as President, Jackie Kennedy by his side.

I wonder what my father thinks and my family. It is interesting to hear various views on his death. The consensus of opinion is much the same however—shock, grief, tragedy for the world, etc.

Dallas, Texas, thou will go down in ignominious history [I must have remembered my Shakespeare – I was an English major, after all].


                                                                                                                                     Pink Glasses

The divorcees in the chic Los Angeles bar/restaurant were attracted to Will’s spirited zaniness mixed with a gentle nature. They had no idea what mental turmoil it 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 kept his old one.  What was he concealing?

Betty excused herself and slowly pushed her way toward the bathrooms, about ten excuse-me’s away. When she hadn’t returned twenty minutes later, the others began to look around.

“I see her,” Joyce said. “She’s deep in conversation with some fellow in pink sunglasses.  Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, except for Halloween!”

Celia and Liz strained to see where Joyce was staring.

“He’s very attractive, and looks interesting,” Liz offered.

“She’s bringing him over, girls,” Celia said excitedly, looking forward to some male interaction.

They watched as Betty and the tall lean man in the pink-frames with darkened pink lenses pushed their way through the tightly meshed crowd toward the table of women. Wavy dark hair was cut close around the man’s small head; it resembled a military cut and was much shorter than the current style. As he got closer they could see his dark brown, somewhat unruly eyebrows sat over kind brown eyes. At ease with himself, he was smiling as if he’d known all of them as friends for a long time. They noted he was handsome and dressed casually in a navy blue-plaid shirt and tan pants. He wore loafers without socks.

A chair at the next table was empty, and Celia pulled it over.  “We’ve got a chair for you,” she said as she looked up at him hopefully, waiting for an introduction.

“This is Will,” Betty said and then introduced each of the friends.

The empty chair was between Celia and Joyce, and Will sat there leaning into the table as if eagerly waiting to hear whatever the women had to share with him. The friends looked at each other with surprise, they were taken aback by his open friendly manner. Nearly all of the men they had encountered here hid their feelings and kept their thoughts to themselves.

Most men would be a bit put off and act mysterious confronted by four intelligent women, Joyce thought to herself as she scrutinized their guest. She wasn’t currently involved with a man; maybe she’d explore this one.

“You girls come here often?” Will asked.

“Once in a while,” Joyce offered and added, “I haven’t seen you here before.”

“How do you know if you don’t come often?” Will answered, smiling.  The others laughed, a bit self-consciously, caught in their attempt to be cool.

“Will told me he was a Navy pilot, girls.  Remember Top Gun?” Betty asked.

“A Navy guy who favors pink sunglasses!” Celia remarked, a bit too pointedly. She looked slightly embarrassed after her remark and made a note to herself to stop treating all men as if they were Malcolm, her live-in for so many years.

Liz, the tender-hearted, interjected, “Men need a little softness in their lives. What’s wrong with pink? It used to be the rage in the ‘50s, with charcoal gray.”

“And, of course, we all remember the 50s!” Betty couldn’t resist and laughed at her willingness to reveal her true age.

Joyce, who had recovered from her earlier faux pas, asked, “So what do you do?”

“You women,” Will answered, laughing lightly, “you don’t waste any time. Or is it just this place? Everyone wants to know how much money you make. Or what sign you are.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Joyce said petulantly as she ran her hand through her shoulder-length blond hair.

“Girls, girls,” Betty interrupted. “Give him some breathing room. Will, are you sure you can handle all of us?”

“I’m between jobs,” Will said quickly. He leaned back in his chair looking softly from behind the pink lenses; a small smile played upon his attractive, yet childlike and vulnerable face.


To find out what happens, check out:  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

WEDDING HOOPLA By Victoria Giraud

My son Hans is getting married to Jennifer on November 2 in Las Vegas. Wow! Although I’ve attended and been in many weddings in my lifetime, this event will be a unique experience. It’s my first  kid “tying the knot” and I don’t think the facts have completely sunk in yet as I ponder what to wear.

If there were resumes for weddings, I would do fairly well: I’ve been a flower girl (age 4), I’ve been a maid of honor and a bridesmaid (age 21), and I’ve been a bride (age 22). I participated in my brother’s first wedding, which was held in a large San Francisco area church, by standing up to read part of 1st Corinthians 13 from the Bible. The last sentence is quite eloquent: So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My Flower Girl Debut

Apparently, my best performance was my brief role as flower girl. My oldest cousin Amy Lee was marrying her hometown sweetheart in Danville, Virginia, and I was the perfect age for flower girl. I don’t remember my actions, but Amy Lee related the tale with some amusement  years later. According to her, I enjoyed tossing flower petals every which way, waving at all those I knew in the congregation, and shouting their names. “Hello, Eva” was one she remembered. The ivory satin ankle-length dress with a scalloped hemline has held up over 60 years—Amy Lee gave it to me a decade ago and it hangs in my closet to this day.

I was the most emotional as a maid of honor at friend Harriet’s wedding the summer after we graduated from college. During the ceremony at the altar, I struggled to control my tears and the resulting snot coming from my nose as I sobbed! Luckily, in those days, we wore gloves for special occasions and mine were definitely handy for a makeshift tissue! Harriet, who could be expected to be jittery or overwhelmed, was quite calm and happy.

As I recall, I was quite composed during my performance as a bride getting married in an American/German church in Germany. It was my sister Tupper, the nervous maid of honor, who dropped my elaborate bouquet after I handed it to her at the altar. I hadn’t noticed; Tupper told me about her clumsiness later.

The photo above of my brother’s wedding reception party years ago shows my daughter Heidi in an irritated mood. I think she looks a little like actress Molly Ringwald here. My sister Tupper is calm (with five kids you learn to be calm). Hans, this year’s future groom had a lively time, as did my ebullient Aunt Rosie, who had taken over the role of Grandma after my mother, her sister, died. Rosie has since passed on to greener pastures, but I know she would love being at this wedding. My mother’s siblings were all friendly and quite social.

I’m looking forward to all the upcoming Vegas festivities. Invitees are an enthusiastic mixture of family and friends, some I’ve known for 30-40 years. My oldest friend, Jackie, now a Marin County, CA resident is a 5th grade friend from the Bronx over half a century ago.




A TALE OF MANY INSECTS…yuck 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. Last year,  a cricket  made a home under my kitchen 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 until a leak was fixed and the creepy creature expired for lack of water. This year I have seen a couple in the kitchen or bathroom but they are literally on their “last legs” and easy to squash or choose to hide and die in the darkness. This week I saw one in the doctor’s exam room on the third floor! I kicked at a chair and it scampered under the examining bed. Enterprising little crawlers they are!

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, an English fellow whose family was stationed in Tripoli in the 50s, 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 Buggy Tale!

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