October, 2013:

PARENTS, TAKE CHARGE, says Dr. Sandy Gluckman

The Internet has been my doorway to the Universe in so many ways.  Dr. Sandy Gluckman, a native of South Africa and current resident of Dallas, Texas, found me a few years back and we worked together on the initial steps of her book Who’s in the Driver’s Seat? Her latest book that I edited is Parents, Take Charge, which offers practical advice on the current epidemic of learning, behavior, and mood problems in children. She believes those challenges can be healed without medication! I was excited to edit a book with ideas that really appealed to me.

If you haven’t noticed already, there’s an epidemic of learning behavior and mood challenges in children and teens. The list keeps growing: ADHD, ADD, depression, Autism, Aspergers, and Tourettes, to name a few. Traditional medicine treats the symptoms with medication but not the causes and when these kids grow up, many are still stuck and don’t reach their true potential as a functional human being.

Dr. Sandy Gluckman

Dr. Sandy Gluckman

Sandy, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, believes children with learning, behavior and mood problems should be healed – not medicated. Medication does not heal the problem.  It simply suppresses it.  It is simply a band-aid.   She also believes that real healing can only happen when the whole child is treated: the spirit, body and brain.

Sandy has developed a 3-step program called Parents, Take Charge.  In her book she teaches parents how to heal children without drugs using this 3-step program.

What I loved about the book are the stories, case studies, graphics and cartoons which all help to make the information so easy to understand.

There is a strong move towards parents wanting to avoid using medication and looking for a healthier option.  This book offers this option – an option that is grounded in scientific research and is proven to help kids and adults overcome learning, behavior and mood problems.

As Sandy says in her book:  Behind all the problems there is a healthy, happy, talented child.  Let’s free this wonderful child.

Dr. Gluckman’s Parents Take Charge program teaches parents how to free that child.  Her program  is unique because the goal is to find and fix the root causes – thereby healing the problem and eradicating the symptoms permanently.

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this entertaining and educational self-help book with Sandy. It’s full of suggestions, parent-friendly, very thorough and easy to understand. You can find it on Amazon. For more information, check out her website: www.parentstakecharge.com.

TEENAGE FLIRTING–TRIPOLI STYLE

An all British effort cartoon by British Servicemen

When my family lived in Tripoli, Libya, in the 1950s, I was barely a teenager and in those long ago days, many of us had little inkling of sex or sexual practices. Movies we saw were innocent and only hinted at sex: a kiss, a little groping, a closed bedroom door. Television in the mid ’50s wasn’t even a consideration—my family hadn’t brought a TV set over with us and we didn’t miss it. Listening to Armed Forces Network radio at night was entertainment enough. A good actor could read a powerful tale and your mind supplied the details. I still remember the haunting story of an 18th century sailor who jumped ship and ended up swimming out to sea instead of toward land.

There was a popular music show on Saturday morning radio that accepted requests, in case you wanted to dedicate a song to a potential crush in high school. I remember requesting, “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” or maybe it was “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” if memory serves. I don’t recall to whom the song was dedicated.

Wheelus High School, on the Air Force base, sponsored dances and there was a teenage club where a talented student, Jon Jorgensen, led a band called Stardust, which made that song my favorite ever since. Close slow dancing provided its own stimulation.

In the city of Tripoli, American teenage girls were advised not to wear jeans because Libyan women were dressed in barracans (a idea similar to burkas except one eye only could be shown. See painting in my first Tripoli story). I don’t remember that we were told why specifically, but I found out.

Libyan men, as the majority of men throughout the world, were interested in females and especially the female body. Females that weren’t completely hidden from view were especially intriguing, and jeans are form-fitting attire.

The Egyptian Ambassador lived across the street from me, and he was served by a few Libyan policemen who patrolled the walled perimeter of his compound. If my girlfriends and I walked the unpaved path outside the compound for some reason, and if a policeman were nearby, he’d try to walk beside us and brush against us with his body. We learned to avoid them.

One day, a girlfriend and I had an unpleasant encounter while walking to her house, a few blocks away from mine. We were in jeans, of course, and sauntering along in the middle of the street since there was very little traffic. We weren’t paying attention to a young male bicyclist trailing us. Most male Libyans had bicycles; they were relatively cheap and reliable. We were prime bait and he saw his opportunity as he swooped in front of us and made a grab for my crotch. He succeeded and then rode on a little ways. I started to tell my friend when he came back and managed to do the same to her. He was quite the adept cyclist but we were incensed. He rode on as if nothing had happened and we followed him, thinking we’d get revenge by attacking him. We couldn’t catch him and had to swallow our anger. Being street-smart from then on, we learned to be more aware.

My neighbor and good friend Gail, who lived around the corner, and I loved to play tennis on her street, which was seldom used by cars. We weren’t very skilled at the game and the ball often landed in the walled compound on one side of the street that was said to belong to a former Queen of Libya. The Queen’s lush gardens swallowed our balls. Sometimes our ball went into the smaller gated compound next door to me, which belonged to a British general. He had a few cute British enlisted men on duty. They didn’t seem to have much to do and always enjoyed watching our athletic efforts.

They kept one of the tennis balls and the next time we played, they tossed it over the fencing to us. They’d slit it and spent some time making an artistic rendering of us on a small piece of lined paper to insert into the slit. Gail was supposed to be Gail Storm, who had a TV show and I was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe. Between us was a “hound dog” named Elvis! We were flattered since both actresses were good looking in person. I saved the little cartoon, never knowing I would eventually put it on a blog! There was always a wall or fencing between us but it was fun to flirt and we did it when they were around. Probably a good reason to play tennis in the street!

A crude little poem, misspellings and all, was printed on the back of the cartoon to impress us:

Hi! Jirks

You squeeke and groan

And make queer noises

But o’er yon wall

We know ‘tis you

So if this ball you do trow back

Don’t be shy, come round the back

And have a chat.

E.P.

One day, in a break from our game, we were flirting with these congenial attractive servicemen, as usual. We were standing on the sidewalk and they were behind a gate whose bars were far apart. Suddenly, I noticed a Libyan man in paint-splattered overalls sitting on a bike nearby, leering at us.  Then I noticed another detail. He had removed his penis from his pants and was waving it at us enthusiastically. To me at that time, no expert on penis size or shape, I thought his penis was menacingly huge and seemed to be dotted with paint. Or was that my vivid imagination?

Disgusted and a little frightened, I tapped Gail’s shoulder gently to get her attention. She looked around without being obvious and saw him right away. We both struggled to maintain composure as we stepped closer to the gate and hung on. We didn’t know what to say to the young British soldiers, who probably couldn’t see the pervert, so we said nothing and hoped the crazed cyclist would eventually pedal away, which he did.

We felt confident that we had kept our cool! Weren’t we the savvy ones! Sex can be exciting and disgusting at the same time!

GARDEN CITY HOME – TRIPOLI, LIBYA

The view from our balcony

Just before Christmas in 1955, the five members of the Williams family left the Hotel Del Mahari when my dad found a home in Garden City, an upscale location for Europeans, Americans and wealthier Libyans.  Consisting of streets like spokes that branched off Garden City Circle, the area was a neighborhood of one and two-story, flat-roofed, square and rectangular-shaped villas surrounded by stucco walls as high as ten feet. The walls were as much for privacy as protection, and many of them had decorative, fret-worked sections. Flowering vines such as bougainvillea, lantana hedges, and palm trees were ubiquitous; Garden City was an appropriate name.  It was some time before I discovered that the vibrantly-colored pink and purple bougainvillea vines that seemed to cascade from countless rooftops were in actuality growing up from the ground to the roof and not vice-versa.

Our spacious home was on the second floor of a two-family villa on a street that maintained its Italian name, Via de Gaspari; a Libyan family lived downstairs. A balcony, on both stories, ran the full length of the villa’s frontage. Small square sections, supported by columns, jutted out at either end of the balcony, giving the villa a slight “U” shape. The slatted, green-iron gate led from the street to a small side yard, large enough for the swing set my father ordered, which flaunted our American ways in this faraway land.

A heavy wooden front door, which could be opened by key or from a buzzer upstairs, welcomed us to our new home; a two-tiered marble staircase led upstairs to a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment. There was no central heating, but since doors closed off the entrance hall, separate dining room and separate living room, we could keep the back bedrooms and kitchen warm in winter with portable Aladdin propane gas heaters. To add to the coziness and keep out pesky sand from ghiblis, the desert sandstorms that would blow into town on occasion, there were green wooden shutters that could be rolled down over the outside of all the windows.

The family home, above the Bougainvillea

Garden City was multi-cultural. Our side of a very short block boasted a British general and his wife on the corner next to us; another British family occupied the home on the other side of us. Across the street lived a French family and an Italian family, and a large corner compound surrounded by a decorative wall contained the home of the Egyptian ambassador to Libya.

The popular Gamel Abdul Nasser was in power in Egypt, and while we were there the ambassador held a party for Libyan dignitaries and politicians (only male, of course). I spied on the interesting event from our balcony and watched as his male visitors mingled. Robed Arab sheiks, with their distinctive square cloth headdress bound with gold rope, seemed to be the dominant guests. Seated at outside tables set up in the sizeable yard, they smoked as they watched films of Nasser on a giant movie screen.

Facing an adjacent street but bordering on the back of our villa was the home of a former Arab queen, perhaps a relative of King Idris, then King of Libya. My girlfriend, Gail, who lived around the corner, and I were very curious about the mysterious queen but never had a glimpse, despite the fact that we would climb my back garden wall and peer through the trees into the lushly landscaped acres surrounding the queen’s home. We played tennis in the street in front of the queen’s mansion, but were such poor players that we lobbed and lost balls in her gardens.  When we hit them into the General’s yard, we had an opportunity to flirt with the soldiers who attended him. These young men took to drawing cartoons of us, which they enclosed in an old tennis ball they had slit and then tossed in our direction. Walls were ideal obstacle courses for inquisitive girls. My girlfriend Karen and I scooted along the General’s back wall one night to spy on a big party he was giving.

My mother faced most of the household problems alone. She managed to eliminate most of the roaches, but ample hot water was usually a challenge. Tiny wall water heaters in kitchen and bathroom couldn’t keep up with our spoiled American demands. Always enterprising, she’d put large pots of water on top of the Aladdin heaters to get extra hot water. I was in charge of dishwashing, and it was my job to monitor this water when my parents entertained. We had brought our American washing machine with us, but it soon burned out, perhaps from the difference in electrical currents. Mom took to washing in the large bathroom tub, a normal size and shape. Fortunately for her, my thrifty father relented and decided he could afford an occasional maid since it would be difficult to procure another washer.

Me, Darby, Joan Tupper in the side yard

The maid situation was comical but instructive. Dad hired an Arab girl, Fatma, who was attractive and cheerful, and tattooed on her ankles, forehead and hands, traditional markings applied when she was an infant. She wore her street barracan when she arrived and would remove it to do her work. I can still picture her sitting at the kitchen table, her blue striped house garment wound around her body and over her shoulders, dark hair partially hidden beneath her hair covering. She spoke very few words of English and didn’t attempt to learn any more, content to sit warbling her singsong Arab tunes as she languidly dried the dishes and silverware.

A sprightly Italian girl remedied the problem. Fatma was let go and pretty, dark-haired Chezeri joined us. Not only was she fluent in English, but she was efficient and friendly, teaching us bits of Italian, which I got to practice when her boyfriend Douilio, who spoke no English at all, came to pick her up. We invented Italian nicknames for the appealing British soldiers who served the general next door. A tall blond fellow, who walked the general’s German Shepherd among his other duties, was called Biondo. She taught me a little Italian ditty about a poppy.

Even now my sister and I remember it. I drag it out upon occasion to show off my facility in languages! At a wedding a couple of years ago I met an Italian woman who knew the song. Most likely our spirited chorus annoyed many of the guests!

EXPLORING THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI – 1955

The Barbary Pirate Fort was the entrance to the Old City
A Libyan woman in her barracan

After about 24 hours of travel from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya, my family and I spent our first night in Tripoli in the Hotel Del Mahari, which faced Tripoli Harbor. The long journey by airplane where the only rest was in an airplane seat on a noisy prop plane required some serious rejuvenation. Sunshine and new places to explore revived my spirits. We ate breakfast in the hotel dining room, a sizeable oval room that jutted out into Tripoli harbor and offered a view of ships and sailboats with the ocean in the near distance. Best of all, there was a tunnel under the street leading to the restaurant. My sister and I skipped through the tunnel, admiring the paintings and an aquarium filled with vividly colored fish, all of it relieving the white monotony of the tunnel’s well-lit walls. As I was approaching my thirteenth birthday, I was soon to admire the restaurant more for its attractive young Italian waiters than the view or the charm of the tunnel.

In an expansive mood that first morning, my father announced plans to take his family on a “gharry” (an Indian word for buggy) ride to explore our new home.  Gharries in Tripoli were horse-drawn open vehicles with large wheels, like carriages of old. I never questioned how an Indian word was being used in an Arab country once run by Italians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Libyan woman painting is courtesy of a fellow student at Wheelus High School, perhaps Chad Langdon. Pardon my lack of proper acknowledgment.

US CONGRESS — LOVE ‘EM OR OUST ‘EM

US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

Congress…how exasperating! And infuriating…but that’s the government we’ve chosen so we must live with it and eventually vote out those we don’t want. Democracy isn’t all sweetness and perfection, but somehow it keeps working, one way or another. I had my first experience of actually seeing them in action back in 1959. My visit is something to remember, especially now.

When my family left Tripoli, Libya, my Army Corps of Engineers father  had orders for the Pentagon. He went on to work for the powerful Joint Chiefs of Staff, an honor for his career and a promotion to full Colonel. We lived in a small but homey stone house in Alexandria, Virginia, and I attended the last two years of high school at Francis C. Hammond, now a middle school.

My classmate, Barbara, and I enjoyed exploring the museums and other highlights in our nation’s capitol. We’d take the bus to the Washington Mall area and walk all over the place. On one of these excursions, in 1959, we decided to discover how government worked and visit the Senate.

Barbara had a boyfriend who was working as a US Senate Page. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. He had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

Neither one of us had ever seen Congress in action, and we were excited about it. I still have the Senate pass, which was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. Far too busy to do these menial tasks, the senator’s signature was a stamp.

We made our way to the visitor’s gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate. He was lounging comfortably in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I wasn’t listening to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there.

We took it all in and both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, younger looking man with a great head of hair  at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion going on. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying all if it. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him.

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

When he ran for president the next year, we all sat up and took notice.

John F. Kennedy

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE — A TEASER

Adventures on the sea are always popular. Two new films–“Captain Philips” with Tom Hanks and “All is Lost” with Robert Redford are bound to capture lots of interest. I’ve always enjoyed that genre in movies and books, just as I enjoyed my own adventures on a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic Ocean back in the 1950s.

Writing a novel, especially in the historical fiction genre, is a daunting task. A few years ago I took on the challenge. I had always loved history and for many years had attended Renaissance Pleasure Faires in Southern California. I knew something about Shakespeare since I was an English major in college and had seen many Shakespeare plays and films. It seemed liked a natural thing to do. Besides, I’d already written a screenplay about Francis Drake, the English sea captain who was known for his pirate activities against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 16th century. Since it was damn difficult to finance a movie, especially a sea epic, I had the brilliant idea of taking the elements of the script, add a fictional heroine and, presto, I’d have a book. A lot of effort went into more historical research and almost five years later I had a book. After all that time and no luck finding an agent right away, I was impatient to have it published. I chose the self-publishing route when the idea was fairly new and easy. Since then I’ve also published it on Amazon as an Ebook. The link to Amazon is in the upper right of this page or follow the link: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

My book is full of true adventure (Essentially, only my heroine and her family are fictional) and romance. I’ve even written a couple of sex scenes. After all the 50 Shades books are all the rage!  See below for a teaser about the romance that develops:

 

With Drake’s humorous admonition to be careful with their guest, Melaynie carried a lantern to show Bernardino to his private tent at evening’s end.

In the light of a bright moon, whose rays poured through the wide opening of the small quarters, Bernardino found and immediately sat down on the portable cot. Tired from the day’s excitement and mellowed to the point of sleepiness by the wine, he languidly watched as the young captain’s boy placed the lantern on an empty cask, thinking as he watched of his young sister.  Why was he thinking of his sister; was it the way this young boy moved, or simply the beauty of youth?

He leaned back and began to remove his doublet, welcoming the cooler night air on his skin.  Remembering the music and the caress of the night breeze, he felt relaxed and sensual. Melaynie’s body and face were profiled in the moonlight.  What a lovely young boy, Bernardino reflected  as he studied the fine facial features and golden hair. He lazily watched the lantern’s flickering light, his feelings of arousal fanned by its glow. How agreeable it would have been to have a woman to love, an appropriate climax to a congenial evening.

Framed by the moonlight, the boy continued to stand, leaning toward the lantern, like a moth to the flame, his eyes mesmerized by the flame. From his angle lounging on the cot, Bernardino noticed the boy’s cream-colored shirt had flared outward as he stood there. The material was diaphanous enough that the lantern’s light revealed his naked chest. Bernardino smiled at the pretty picture it made, and then narrowed his eyes, looking again closely, as he sat up slowly, uncertain that what he saw was true.

The lantern had highlighted a pair of delicate breasts, whose outline was clear enough through the linen shirt. This was no boy; he saw the evidence. The breasts were small, but they were present. Had no one else in this English company noticed?  Men could be dense; he had seen how she had been treated as her costume defined her.  A turmoil of feelings assaulted him at this revelation, the excitement of the mystery of her only heightening his stimulated senses. He struggled to compose himself, to dampen his growing ardor, to quiet his racing mind.

Had he been intrigued because some instinct told him of her true gender?  Whatever the mystical reasons, she must not guess he had seen her secret. Searching his mind for clues, he quickly surmised her subterfuge had been well hidden until now and that she was probably older than he had supposed. What had caused this young woman to carry off this masquerade; was she possessed by some unusual traits, a woman who felt herself truly a man? Or was it simply an adventure she sought, a desire to break from the traditional female role in her society?  Did she feel he was a threat; was that why she had spilled the wine earlier? These turbulent thoughts raced through his mind in mere seconds.

Mel book cover 0

 

EDITING AFRICAN ADVENTURE STORIES

I’m a big believer in the connections of life. The oddest connections happen and they don’t always make sense.

Newspaper reporting/editing, writing an historical fiction novel, the continent of Africa, and a divorce led me to spread my wings and edit books to make a better living. Interestingly enough, Africa has played several pivotal roles in my life. I lived in the North African country of Libya as a teenager and was always intrigued with the history of this ancient continent.

Once single, I was out “among ‘em” and I met an older gentleman, L. Dickson Griffith, in a local Southern California watering hole. He had been in NYC advertising (like a Don Draper on the AMC-TV show “Mad Men”) and went on to work as a technical advisor for Roone Arledge of ABC-TV in organizing and coordinating a TV show, “American Sportsman” that featured American celebrities who hunted big game. The “reality show” (although not known by that designation in those days) would feature  actual hunting expeditions, and they’d begin the series in Africa. They were starting the first episode in a camp about 150 miles from Nairobi, Kenya, with actor Robert Stack and General Joe Foss, a WWII Medal of Honor winner and former Governor of South Dakota.

Dick Griffith knew many larger-than-life characters through his own interest and skills in big game hunting. He gathered his interviews and recollections of various hunting trips into a colorful book complete with photos and even fine art paintings of a few wild animals; the leopard on the books cover is by artist Gary Swanson. Dick called the collection of stories In the Hearts of Famous Hunters. Some of the other hunters featured in the book included Roy Rogers, Chuck Yeager, the flyer who broke the sound barrier; and Astronaut Wally Schirra.

DICK GRIFFITH'S BOOK
DICK GRIFFITH’S BOOK

 

What a privilege it was for me to be associated with this project, and my name is in the acknowledgements. Later, I helped Dick by editing his fiction novel, Adam’s Horn, which was also set in Africa—Uganda during Idi Amin’s cruel reign.

When we finished the writing and had the hunters’ book published in 1992, Dick Griffith had a book signing party in Westlake Village, and Robert Stack came to celebrate. I still have the beautiful book but not the photo taken with Dick and Robert Stack.

Most books appear on the Internet, and I found Dick’s two books, but they seemed like lonely sentinels. Open Library had some basic information on In the Hearts of Famous Hunters but no way to purchase it, and Amazon had one copy of Adam’s Horn.

Dick has passed on, but I’m sure he must be hanging out with the souls of the many hunters he interviewed, wrote about, and counted as friends. I will always appreciate the opportunity he gave me to edit his books.

Since Dick Griffith’s book, I connected with another man named Dick, in this case Dick Mawson, who wrote his life story of growing up and living  in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa: The Gods Who Fell from the African Sky. He has had such a fascinating life that we finished the first volume this past summer, but there’s a second volume to come. Mawson overcame losing his right foot and ankle at age eleven to eventually become a daring competitor in racing hydroplane boats and  later built and raced saloon cars. And that’s just a brief account of his exciting life.

EDITING—BEING A MIDWIFE IN THE BIRTH OF A BOOK

For a time I called myself a Forest Guide, it was a way of explaining editing to new, usually first-time authors. I would guide them through their forest of words, especially when they had gotten to that place where they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. Lately, I’m conceiving of myself as a midwife, who helps in the sometimes torturous process of giving birth. The birthing pains involved in creating a book and then sending it out into the world is a lot like having and raising a child. You’ll always feel attached, much like the author does. But you inevitably must let go of your book (child) to make its way in the world.

Before I started editing books, I spent years editing newspapers and magazines. Working with words—twisting them around, rearranging, deleting, finding a more concise, more understandable way of saying something was a wonderful challenge. I’ve always loved editing and the more I’ve done it, the faster and more accurate I’ve gotten. I was an early and avid reader, from Nancy Drew stories to fairy tales and then on to the gods and goddesses of ancient Athens and Rome. I remember accompanying my mother to libraries wherever our military family was stationed. I became an early enthusiast of historical fiction.

In high school and college, English (an outdated word for the subject) was my favorite subject. I majored in English in college but managed to take a variety of history courses, a never-ending passion that would lead me to writing Melaynie’s Masquerade when I got older. I became serious about writing as a high school freshman when I wrote for the school newspaper. In college I continued my reporting and was delighted at one of the school reunions years later when I saw a couple of my articles in a scrapbook on display.

Journalism has been a great teacher. It requires precise, truthful writing, easily understood, to explain: who, what, when, where, how and why to a reader. And the information is provided in a descending order—the most important information is given in the beginning. Books are usually not written that way, but a foundation in journalism has stood me in good stead for many years.

A few of the 100 books I've edited.
A few of the 100 books I’ve edited.

 

I’ve edited about 100 books in the past 15 years and each one has been a special journey. No matter how much I’d read of each book in advance, there were always surprises. A book develops a life of its own, which proves the baby analogy I mentioned in the beginning. Because many of my clients were “newbies” to the world of writing, I became a co-writer in many instances.

I have edited almost every genre of book from how to save for retirement to what a young man on the singles scene learns about sexual success and failure. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal in the process since my clients have experienced amazing things in all areas of the world.

Some of the books I’ve edited/co-written in my next blog.

 

THE WILD CITY OF LOS ANGELES

Continuing in my written exploration of the area I’ve chosen as my home since 1965, I must say I’m always surprised about the natural aspects of Los Angeles. We have a population of nearly 13 million. Interestingly, our statistics indicate that we only have 7,500 people per square mile, while New York City has 27,500 and Chicago has 11,800 folks per square mile. Of course our land area just in the metropolitan LA area is 4,850 square miles and that doesn’t include some of the outlying areas.

Being surrounded by mountains and lots of open space, Southern California is alive with wild animals (and I don’t mean young “cool cats,” etc., in Hollywood). Black bears come down from the mountains, especially in spring, for visits.  They take a break in pools and hot tubs, break into refrigerators and freezers in garages, and easily discover when trash day is scheduled so they can steal food. If we two-legged animals spot them, chances are they’ll head for a tree when pursued. Animal control agents get used to using tranquilizer guns before they drive these fuzzy creatures back into the mountains. It doesn’t stop the bears; one of them that was relocated 50 miles away came back again the next year. The neighbors in the area he preferred even had a nickname for him — Meatball — since he preferred Costco frozen meatballs.

 

The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away.

The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away. Photo by Heidi Giraud

Mountain lions are prevalent and most parks and hiking trails will have  signs warning people to make themselves look bigger with arms extended, for instance, when encountering one. An unlucky biker was a target and died from a mountain lion attack a couple of years ago. These critters are very resourceful – one of them negotiated the flood channels (formally known as rivers) near Santa Monica and ended up in a small shopping center one morning; another found his way across five freeways to make his home in the spacious Griffith Park.

Coyotes are everywhere. Out in Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mountains, you can expect to see coyotes strolling around and perhaps peering through your glass patio door. Any residential areas near the mountains will enjoy coyote song during the night—their howling choruses remind me of a scary movie or a Stephen King book! Residents keep their cats and little dogs inside if they don’t want them to become a meal. Mule deer wander the hills as do raccoons and rattlesnakes. I had a brief encounter with a raccoon a few blocks from my apartment. He may have come from the nearby flood channel, which is blocked off from humans (who still insist on trying to ride the river when there’s a major rain storm, despite the danger).

The skies are full of hawks of various types and owls. When I do see hawks making lazy circles in the sky, I am reminded of the song from the musical “Oklahoma.” I had no idea wild owls could have such a wide wing span or look so imposing until I saw one on a mountain road devouring a recent kill. Sometimes, we can spot a flock of exotic parrots in the San Fernando Valley. There are 13 species of wild parrots in LA. Apparently they were once pets and were let go for one reason or another. During the 1961 fire in Bel Air (Nixon had a home there, which burned), firemen let pet parrots go because there was no time to save them. Others may have come from the Busch Gardens Park in Van Nuys, which was closed down in the late 1970s as the Anheuser-Busch brewery grew. The bird sanctuary was the last to go, but no one seems to know how so many parrots got away. Perhaps it was too much trouble to find them homes.

Seagulls, which prey on beachgoers for food, also fly in from the nearby ocean to see what tasty morsels can be had inland. While having a nice meal at Gladstone’s off Pacific Coast Highway on the beach, I’ve had a roll snatched out of my hand by a seagull that swooped by.

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