December, 2013:

HOW TO ENJOY HAWAII WITH SCIATICA

Since my son Hans and daughter Heidi are enjoying Hawaii this week–a family trip courtesy of their father–it seemed like an ideal time to recall a trip from years ago.  I’m still at home in California this time, but my favorite beach towel made the trip, so, in a way, I am there in “cotton” spirit. My daughter, who borrowed the towel, volunteered to take photos so I could see how happy my towel was.

Hansi waving my towel on the beach.

Hansi waving my towel on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years back I  also treated my kids to a Hawaiian vacation. The three of us would be staying at a hotel in Waikiki Beach across the street from the ocean with great views of Diamond Head and the old pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel. It was the first trip for Heidi and Hansi.

Before we left, I’d gone to an  acupuncturist and  also got a deep tissue massage.  I was determined to be in excellent shape to participate in whatever activities inspired us. Massages aren’t always the best solution for what ails you!

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

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

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

In my chariot attired in colorful rainwear at the Polynesian Cultural Center

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS PAST

As Christmas season and gift giving makes its merry way into the lives of those who celebrate it, I think about years past and what stood out about those days. To me, the holidays are sentimental. It reminds me of my parents, my siblings, my relatives and all the friends I’ve known over the years. As each year passes, there are more friends and relatives who are departing Mother Earth and this special time becomes more bittersweet.

I believe my childhood as an Army brat, traveling around the world, probably inspired me to keep in touch with as many old friends and relatives as I possibly could. I saw that my parents did it (my mother signed the cards and wrote the accompanying notes) and I enjoyed reading all the Christmas mail they got in return. I’ve been doing the same for several decades and continue to enjoy everyone’s news, even though I’ve graduated to modern technology and use Email. Last year’s Christmas Email was the longest one yet because I had to share my son’s wedding photos and my daughter’s artwork. This past year was a busy one of editing and I had to share a little about all the books I’d edited since they were quite a mix of subject matter.

There are a few holiday occasions I remember with a special fondness. My earliest Christmas memory is a postwar celebration in Murnau, Germany, in the 1940s. My mother was newly married. Instead of the train I remember asking for, I received a set of painted wooden doll furniture embellished with colorful Bavarian décor. I still have the foot high chest of drawers; it’s in excellent shape considering the years. It doesn’t contain doll clothes, just a variety of items like spare toothbrushes, spare night lights and a few remembrances.

Garmisch, Germany, with the Giraud in-laws

Garmisch, Germany, with the Giraud in-laws

Germany figures in another Christmas, my last one in college. As an Army dependent, I had a free trip to my parents’ home in Mannheim, but it was space available from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey. A large group of students and military personnel waited about five days for a seat. An older Master Sergeant became my protector and took me to see the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn movie “Charade.”  Once in Germany, I felt like a debutante with all the social activities and attention from eligible Army lieutenants. Winging homeward to the US on New Year’s Eve, a few of us college coeds were invited by flirtatious Air Force pilots into the cockpit to see the Midnight Sun over Northern Canada.

And I’d forgotten about another German Christmas in 1967, shortly after I was married. My husband’s parents, as well as my own, were in the US Army stationed in Germany. My folks were in Frankfurt and his were in Kaiserslautern. The photo above shows me on the left with my fuzzy white hat, and my delightful in-laws (Ella was German and Lyle was from South Dakota) during a visit to picturesque Garmisch in Bavaria, near the Austrian border. I was already a Californian, so I was holding my ears to keep warm!

I recall my daughter Heidi’s second Christmas and the Fisher-Price dollhouse Santa brought. She was old enough to appreciate it, and I can still see it because it’s on film. I was about six months pregnant with her brother at the time.

I can’t forget the memory of the last family Christmas I spent with my parents, sister and brother. My little family—husband and two youngsters–drove  from LA to San Antonio, Texas, in a spacious Plymouth; the backseat was large enough for a crib mattress, an idea I’d gotten from a TV show. I bought a harness for both kids (three years old and eight months old) and strapped them to the seat belts, so they could sleep and also crawl around. It might not be considered safe now, but nothing bad happened.

That Christmas my mother’s kidney disease was just beginning to get worse, my brother was still in college and my sister was going to junior college in Utah. Two years later my mother had left the world for good.

A few years later my sister joined us for a California taste of winter. My mother-in-law rented a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, which gave us a whole new perspective on the holidays. We bought a tree on the way there, a bargain since it was Christmas Eve, and then had to lug everything up countless steps to this aerie on the hill with a view of a small lake below. We did our decorating the old-fashioned way by stringing popcorn. Before we left a few days later, my kids tried out sledding for the first time.

Dealing with my new divorce in the 1980s felt daunting, but my sister’s small family and my still single brother were supportive by joining me and my kids in Los Angeles for Christmas. Four small children and four adults filled my house with laughter, and my sister brought along the ingredients to make a lovely little gingerbread house.

 

A YEAR OF BOOK EDITS

This past year has been a busy one for editing personal stories, advice/guidance books, and even spiritual books. It kept me occupied and entertained. A few synopses and a book cover are below.

Dick Mawson’s memoir, The Gods Who Fell from the Sky, tells of growing up in Rhodesia. At the age of four, he and his family survived a plane crash on their  journey from England to Africa in a small twin-engine plane;  at eleven years old he dealt with the challenge of losing his right leg below the knee in a farm plowing accident. Undeterred, he developed a love for speed and went on to race hydroplane boats and then cars on African and European racing tracks. His story was too full of excitement for one volume and he’s already working on the second book. The book is being published by a Johannesburg publisher this month, Porcupine Press, as indicated in the cover photo. Look for it on the Internet, it’s quite a read.

Book Cover

Book Cover of Dick Mawson’s Memoir

 

 

Tim Gurung, my client in Hong Kong is a fascinating fellow who was born in Nepal, served as a Ghurka in the British Army, and is now a family man with his own business. He writes in English and speaks five languages. I’ve edited five of his books so far and working on The Cursed Nation, number six, which focuses on Nepal. His books contain life lessons about different cultures finding harmony and learning to respect each other. He wants to eventually move back to Nepal, a very poor country, and help his people.

Debra Pauli, a vibrant author/speaker and survivor of an horrendous childhood, is one of my repeat clients. This year she decided to share dating and romantic advice in Once Upon a Man. She followed her own advice and found a loving partner. And I learned a lot.

Patt Sendejas, a good friend who has used my editing services many times for books about Feng Shui, the Chinese art of living in a harmonious environment, just published Feng Shui for Career Women. Each of her books teaches me more. This time I refreshed my knowledge of Feng Shui personality types, which are incredibly accurate and useful for improving personal and business relationships.

Carey Jones, an enthusiastic truth seeker from Minnesota, wrote an amazing spiritual book based on the wisdom from A Course in Miracles. He is shopping for a publisher for his book, Keep Dreaming and the Miracle Will Come. My guess is that Carey will write more on this topic.

Sandy Gluckman, who was raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, now lives in Dallas. (What is it about my African connections??) A psychologist, Ph.D., author and speaker, she wrote Parents, Take Charge, a practical program for healing learning, behavior and mood challenges for children without the use of medication. Though I’m in the grandma stage of life, I was fascinated with her natural approach and how she approached her topic with humor.

Madelyn Roberts, a musician (guitar mostly) based in Phoenix, Arizona, is a woman of many interests. She’s in the midst of writing a biography of famous character actor Strother Martin (“Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” among many others). I’m thoroughly enjoying working on her book in its beginning stages, especially since I knew Strother Martin. I interviewed him for a local SoCal publication shortly before he died and attended his 1980 funeral (my blog about his funeral got Madelyn’s attention and she became my client). Madelyn is calling her book, A Hero’s Journey Fulfilled.

Happy December to all, whether you celebrate Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Festivus, Kwanzaa or other holidays.

 

 

 

CRAZY CAR STORIES IN 1950s LIBYA

I’ve heard news about the recent problems getting gasoline in Libya. Sometimes I wonder if cars cause more trouble than they’re worth, no matter where they are driven. I imagine most people have some kind of weird car story.

Many American and British military brought their cars to Libya in the 1950s. I’d never before seen the variety of British cars zooming around Tripoli streets. My dad was a Ford man and our 1952 white Ford convertible was shipped over. He took it to the Corps of Engineers office at Wheelus Air Force Base and my mother drove it occasionally. As a young teenager then, cars were not my first concern, besides, I was in a foreign country and too young for a license.

One weekend day, my brother, sister and I had a little adventure when Mom had taken us on some kind of errand.  She parked the car on a sloping street that led down to Tripoli’s harbor while she got out to talk to a friend.  My brother, about four at the time, and my nine-year-old sister were sitting in the back seat; I was in the front passenger seat. No one was paying attention when my little brother, typically curious at that age, climbed over the driver’s seat and decided the handbrake looked enticing. He’d probably seen my mother use it so he pulled at it. It released and we started gliding backward, a little faster each second. I’ll never forget seeing my mother frantically running toward us, as if she could somehow grab hold of the car. I’d never paid attention to the mechanics of driving, but some instinct kicked in while my brother sat frozen in the driver’s seat, wondering what was happening.

I reached for the steering wheel and turned it. Voila, the car backed toward the sidewalk and soon stopped. We hadn’t even hit a person or another car, and my mother was spared any further anguish. I wonder what my mother told my father afterwards. Army officers aren’t know for being easygoing!

Ron, a Brit who had been a teenager in Tripoli at the same time I lived there, shared an hilarious story of his own regarding his family’s Morris convertible (or as the Brits call it—a softop).  He told me their family villa had a modern sanitation system: flush toilets, sinks and showers that drained into an underground concrete septic tank situated adjacent to their front door.

“The lid of the tank made an excellent place to park the car as the top was flush to the sand. One morning we awoke to the terrible smell of raw sewage. My parents assumed, as had happened before, that the pipes to the septic tank had backed up and required clearing.” The family went about their morning routines anyway, but when Ron’s father went out the front door to go to work (Royal Air Force) he was flabbergasted by the sight and voiced his anger with a variety of curse words as he called to his wife to come and check it out. Ron recalled: “We all rushed out and saw our beloved Morris 1000 buried nose first in excrement. The concrete lid had collapsed overnight, and the car had dropped into the half-full septic tank.”

A car should never “go to waste” (my pun), and local Libyans were happy to extricate the car and clean it. Ron’s mother had other ideas and vowed “she would never again step foot in the car, so it was driven away by the locals, never to be seen again.”

Practicing a modeling pose on our 1952 Ford convertible on Via de Gaspari

Practicing a modeling pose on our 1952 Ford convertible on Via de Gaspari in Garden City.

 

MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES

 

Awards season has started in Los Angeles; it seems to occur earlier each year. The quality movies are released in the fall when Academy voters will more likely remember the best performances in all categories. The nominations for the Academy Awards are already scheduled for January 16, 2014. The Golden Globes, the awards from the Foreign Press Association, the first hint of future Academy Award winners, will take place on January 12. If Christmas season isn’t your thing, go to the movies! I love movies, especially the more serious and inspiring ones released at the end of the year. If I had a vote, I’d be considering “Nebraska,” directed by Alexander Payne, the director of “Sideways,” one of my favorite movies. But I’ve only just started to catch the top movies!

In Southern California, who can miss the activities of the “industry?” Warner Bros. Studios is about fifteen minutes from my home in the San Fernando Valley.   That area in Burbank is filled with entertainment industry icons:  Disney Animation, and NBC where the Tonight Show is currently filmed (until Jimmy Fallon takes over next year). Adjacent to the various studios is Forest Lawn Hollywood cemetery and the huge Griffith Park. If you’re hungry for a hamburger, there’s the famous Bob’s Big Boy, open in Burbank since 1949.  Not long ago I saw Drew Carey in Bob’s. Over the years, for a variety of reasons, I’ve made several visits to Warner Bros. Studios.  I would venture to guess that a large percentage of Southern Californians know someone who is in, as they call it here, The Industry.  Be it an Accountant on a film set, a Grip, a Best Boy, a First Assistant Director, or a Second Assistant Director, a Unit Production Manager, or even one of the actors in television or movies.

During the years of “Designing Women” on TV, I became friends with Carolisa, one of the assistant producers. I had written a screenplay about English pirate hero Sir Francis Drake (It was titled El Dragon at that time, after Drake’s Spanish nickname). Carolisa gave the script to Meshack Taylor, one of the stars of the popular series, because there was a possible part for him. I attended one of the show’s tapings at Warner Bros. and got to meet Meshack in person. He told me he loved my script and commented enthusiastically: “It is beautiful.”  Who knows, some day that script may find its way to the screen.

Another friend, Max, worked on many films on that lot, like Barbara Streisand’s “Nuts,” which, apparently, drove many of the cast and crew nuts. During one of my low cash flow times, she tried to get me a secretarial type job on one of the many projects there, and I remember working at a typewriter for a day (even though they did have computers that long ago). One of the advantages of being on the lot was observing all the permanent sets, the office of Clint Eastwood, some of the filming action and meeting a few people. She introduced me to producer Paul Monash (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) in the parking garage and William Shatner during a break in his TV series at the time, “T.J. Hooker.” (I’ve written about that episode previously). Leading me around the streets and back lots, Max and I sneaked into the very private set of Steven Speilberg’s “Goonies”—the pirate ship in a cove!

A few years later I went to Warner Bros. to do an interview with TV and stage actor Lane Davies  (soaps such as “Santa Barbara,”  “Days of Our Lives” and various series). He asked me to come to the lot so I could watch him play Tempus, a psychopathic time-traveler, on the Superman series “Lois & Clark.” While they were filming a scene, I sat watching it with star Dean Cain’s stunt double. He was a friendly fellow and curious who I was. He asked if I had been in Arnold Swarzenegger’s “Terminator” films! Since I was not a Terminator fan and hadn’t seen them, I couldn’t even think of a plausible lie!

                                                                                                                                                                   
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BOOKS MAKE GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Dear Blog Readers, now that it’s holiday season, let me remind you that besides writing this blog twice a week and editing all sorts of books, I’m also an author. The link to my Victoria Giraud author page on Amazon is on the top right of this blog page. All six books are available as E-books at amazingly low prices. Nowadays you don’t even need a Kindle or something similar, they are easily downloaded onto a computer after you get the right app. All my books are based on true stories, even Melaynie’s Masquerade. I’m including a synopsis of each book below. You also might enjoy the comments from readers on the Amazon page.  I got a good chuckle from a reader who enjoyed Weird Dates and Strange Mates— “Interesting read because I’m a cross dresser,” he said. I didn’t post the covers of Colonels Don’t Apologize and Angels in Uniform this time but you can check them out on Amazon.

Mel book cover #1

Melaynie’s Masquerade

What’s a girl going to do when she wants adventure in her life, and men have all the fun? Melaynie Morgan is an independent-minded young woman in Plymouth, England, but it’s the 16th century, and women are expected to dress elaborately and attend to womanly duties. Forget about doublets, swords and sailing ships.

Melaynie refuses to let her conventional background deter her. She disguises herself as a captain’s boy and signs on with privateer Francis Drake to plunder Spanish treasure in the exotic Caribbean. In the chess game of Renaissance politics it’s an undeclared war of opposing religions, but Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant England and King Philip’s Catholic Spain are maintaining a guarded peace. Into that mix comes Plymouth’s Drake, waging his own private war with Spain.

Melaynie finds more than she bargained for during her year in the tropics serving Drake – from disease, death and danger to a romance with a Spaniard and a friendship with an ex-slave. She returns to England wiser but secretly pregnant. In volume 2, Melaynie’s daughter Joan grows up unaware of her true parentage until the Spanish Armada brings a bittersweet and surprising reunion.

An Army Brat in Libya  is a memoir chronicling the adventures of living in Tripoli in the 1950s. World War II was over and the world could breathe again for a while. Libya was ruled by King Idris, and the US Military held sway at strategic Wheelus Air Force Base. Attending high school amidst sand and palm trees, camels and donkeys, in a small cosmopolitan city along the Mediterranean was about as unique and full of contrasts as an American teen could get in the mid 1950s. American teenagers sported jeans while Libyan women were covered from head to foot. Americans brought their cars; most Libyans rode bicycles. Despite the differences, East and West cohabited peacefully for the most part. It’s a new century today, but the American military still has a presence in these exotic areas of the world.

AnArmyBratLibya Cover#A1

Weird Dates and Strange Fates features two unusual but true short stories. Sandy’s blind date serves her brunch while wearing a French maid’s costume, a blond wig and 4-inch heels in A Single Girl’s Guide to Cross-Dressing. She’s even more puzzled when he changes to a G-string and a lacy negligee. In The Dark Side, Barbara meets her perfect man, but one day he disappears from his apartment, leaving a downloaded computer and all his business attire behind. She could hardly believe the secret he was hiding.

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1

 

Colonels Don’t Apologize  is the story of an American military family in the mid to late 20th century. As a military brat, Giraud didn’t have to look far for inspiration and source material. Soldiers, both officers and enlisted men, returned from World War II and Korea with emotional and mental wounds besides the physical ones. Families–the wives and children–suffered from the resulting abusive behavior of veterans returning from war. This story reveals how one daughter made the best peace she could with her stepfather, considering her own feelings and emotional wounds.

ANGELS IN UNIFORM  — Samantha’s ambition was to work in Hollywood and meet the rich and famous. She attracted a powerful film producer, but just when her life seemed to be working, she got cancer. She flees Los Angeles, ready to end her life, but her persistent lover and an angel in uniform had other ideas. Was the angel imagined or real? Make your own decision about this true story.

Pink Glasses#2dup

PINK GLASSES – The divorcees in the chic Los Angeles bar/restaurant were attracted to Will’s spirited zaniness, which mixed well with his gentle nature. They had no idea what mental turmoil it masked. He was a Viet Nam vet, a Navy pilot, and far from rich. Will 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?

CHANCE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE FAMOUS

I love “accidental” encounters with interesting people of all types; they don’t have to be famous or notorious. Because I enjoy it so much, I’m sure I probably attract it. Last year I attended a fundraiser luncheon for a local private Catholic high school and sat next to Catherine O’Hara, an actress who had been in several of Christopher Guest’s movies, like “Best in Show,” which I had really enjoyed, as well as in “Home Alone” and “Frankenweenie.” Since we were next to each other for a couple of hours we discovered we had things in common–liberal views, enjoying people, and movies, to name a few. During the past year I’ve seen her in a TV documentary and more recently she was featured on the last page of Vanity Fair magazine, a publication I’ve subscribed to for years. Celebrities are like all of us–friendly or they can’t be bothered.

Airplanes are an ideal place to meet people.  I have had some very entertaining conversations with seatmates. On the flight to Dallas for Thanksgiving not long ago, my seat mate volunteered that he had been raised in Puerto Rico and had worked all over the US. He and I had no trouble bonding over Stephen Sondheim songs from West Side Story—“I Want to Be in America,” for example. Soon he was telling me about his childhood in Puerto Rico, how the females in his family firmly ran the household, and the foods he liked. We laughed a lot.

On the return flight, my neighbor turned out to be an LA sportscaster on the local ABC-TV station. He was returning from a family visit in time to cover the yearly classic USC-UCLA football game (this year won by UCLA for the first time in years). If I’d been a sports fan, I’d have known his name. We talked about how life had changed because of the Internet, and how we could use it to further our careers. It didn’t hurt that he had a great smile and was very attractive.

Ventura Boulevard in the Valley has every type of restaurant. I particularly enjoy the inexpensive Chinese food at Bamboo.  Next door is a ritzy French place, Cafe Bizou. After one lunch, while waiting for the valet (shared by the two restaurants) to get my car, I spotted actress/singer Della Reese a couple of feet away: she had eaten French food. Although I was a fan, she looked like she wanted to be left alone. I decided I wouldn’t bother her until a group of women came over to ask if they could compliment her on her talents. She smiled and enjoyed the attention. When they left, I told her I was also a fan, and as a writer I also appreciated positive reactions. When she asked me about my creations, I gave her a business card. Was she being polite or did she keep it?

Catherine O'Hara, comedian and actress

Catherine O’Hara, comedian and actress

 

Lunchtime can be an ideal time to spot the rich and famous and perhaps spark a conversation. I was with a friend at a place called Gaucho Grill a few years back when she spotted her lawyer. When we looked at the table right behind us, her lawyer was with TV and Broadway star Kelsey Grammar. At that time I was writing a weekly column for the Daily News newspaper and was always looking for new interview possibilities. Besides, Kelsey had met my son at a restaurant not long before and had invited him and a few other young men back to his home. I introduced myself, mentioned my son, and Kelsey couldn’t have been more gracious and down to earth. Before I had a chance to schedule the interview with him, my life changed and I ended my column.

My daughter and I love Hamburger Hamlet, which has been on Van Nuys Boulevard for many years. Last time we had a late lunch there, Heidi spotted “Mr. T,” who had been on TV’s  “The A Team” and also in the famous “Rocky” movie. Our favorite waiter was telling us the most famous person he’d seen in the restaurant over the years was Marlon Brando. Brando was very overweight by then and ate a lot, the waiter said.

One of my favorite places to start a conversation is Trader Joe’s, the unique grocery store that started in Southern California. They hire sociable, highly  individual people who may have tattoos or wear crazy hats; perhaps that’s just part of the SoCal lifestyle. I wonder if they take a friendliness test before they’re hired! The atmosphere must affect the customers because they’re usually quite affable as well.

When I was much younger, I remember being a little embarrassed by my mother, who was a friendly Southerner who loved to talk to everyone. Now I find I have been doing the same thing for years. From mothers or fathers of babies to clerks or fellow customers, I’m not afraid of making a joke or coming up with a witty comment, and these days I can sometimes embarrass my own daughter!

 

LIBYA IN THE 1950s

I wonder how I would react to all the changes in Tripoli if I were to visit now, especially after the Arab Spring and all the changes the fight for freedom has brought throughout the Middle East? Life seemed simpler in the 1950s, but it was far from perfect. Libya had King Idris as a ruler and his younger wife, Queen Fatima, who could wear Western clothes and socialize privately with American women. Libyan women at that time were very much what I would consider second-class citizens; they wore barracans: white wool garments that covered everything but one eye  and their ankles.  They had to follow three steps behind their men.  Out in the streets, I saw few women.

To capture the flavor of those days, from time to time I’ll be sharing a few excellent photos, which were taken by an American fellow who went to high school with me. I was delighted with their quality and uniqueness–they show a love of photography and make me  wish I had taken more photos myself! A mix of cultures  show up in this scene of the shops in the Old City–Libyan, Italian and perhaps American. But no women.

Tripoli Market

Any trip into the old city brought up the contrasts between affluence and typical Libyan life at that time. Streets were dark and narrow, in some places no more than three feet wide, and had no gutters or sewage system. Meat shops (looks like one on the bottom right) advertised their wares by hanging raw meat on a hook outside the door, which attracted flies and added to the already pungent odors of the area. I visited the Old City with a group of American teenager volunteers to help out at the two-story Mission, one of the largest buildings in this part of town. It was styled with rooms situated around a paved courtyard. The director of the place was an English doctor, who had been there for nearly twenty years, and his staff included several older English and American couples. Besides medical aid, the Mission provided a small school for Libyan children.

Before Gadhafi deposed him and became dictator, King Idris sat on the throne, rotating his rule between his co-capitals, Benghazi in the east near Egypt, and Tripoli in the west. His golden-domed palace, which was lit up at night, was less than half a mile from Garden City, where I lived, and was available for tours when he wasn’t in residence. I joined my mother’s ladies club for a tour one day and marveled at the huge gardens: a patchwork of ice plant, pools, fountains and palm trees intersected with pathways. In this garden, grass was a weed. Inside, we were greeted with a mosaic-tiled entryway and treated to a red-carpeted throne room accented with gilt mirrors and chairs. A formal dining room hung with rich tapestries was highlighted with an elaborate chandelier. His countrymen were living simply for the most part (some of them in makeshift homes of cardboard and tin), but the king had radio, television, air-conditioning and several cars, a Cadillac among them.

The King’s Palace serves a different purpose in modern times: the last I heard,  before the revolution, it served as a very large library.

King's Palace in 1950s

King’s Palace in 1950s – contrast in modes of travel!

The scene below, also from the 1950s,  is a Libyan man selling what looks like vegetables and dates but I’m not certain. He has set himself up in a market area in the city of Misurata, east of Tripoli, which was Ghadaffi’s hometown and where he was eventually captured and killed.

The market in Misurata

The market in Misurata – Buy my onions!

 

MEMORIES OF MY SOUTHERN FAMILY

Mama Jake & Daddy Ed with Inez and Louise about 1910

During the holidays, I tend to reminisce about my extended family, especially on my mother’s side. She came from a large family of primarily sisters, and I was blessed that I was born soon enough to have known all of them fairly well. The siblings are all gone now as well as an older cousin.

My grandmother, whom we called Mama Jake, was born in Anson County, North Carolina, as Bertha Jackson Seago in 1882. She came from a family of 7 girls and 4 boys, and after she married my grandfather, Edwin P. Motley (in typical Southern fashion, we called him Daddy Ed), also from Anson County, in 1903, she gave birth to 8 children, most of them born in Danville, Virginia (my hometown as well). There are still a lot of cousins around, and I recently discovered, thanks to my blog, there were cousins on the Seago side of the family I had never heard of!

History has always intrigued me, and when it relates to family, it’s even more interesting. Some years ago my cousin Nancy sent me a list of Mama Jake’s family and the reasons for death for a few of them. For instance, sister Mary had cancer of the heart (very rare–the heart develops tumors!), brother Henry died from poisoned liquor, brother Albert had an accidental fall, and brother John died from being shot. John’s death is quite a story and it appeared in the Danville, Virginia newspaper.

Eric Seago Flashood, a cousin, sent me a link to an ancestor site that told the story of the shooting of Deputy Sheriff John Seago, my grandmother’s brother and Eric’s great-grandfather. There are plenty of sayings about alcohol: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” in a poem by Ogden Nash is my favorite. It’s been called Demon Rum and to the point: “Liquor kills.” Alcohol was responsible for the death of two of the Seagos, probably both as a result of Prohibition.    I had no idea my Great Uncle had worked for  law enforcement during that violent era.

Sheriff John Seago was a brave officer of the law in Brunswick County, Virginia, who had already saved a man from a lynching in 1921. In June, 1924, he and two other officers raided a moonshine operation located at a private home near Brodnax, Virginia. As the police officers went into the home to arrest the bootlegger, they heard a car drive up. Sheriff Seago went out on the porch to warn the men in the car not to interfere, but they ignored the warning, drove around to the back of the house and came in the back door.  The lights were doused and gunfire erupted in a shootout. My Great Uncle Seago was hit in the stomach. When a local drug store could do nothing for the serious wound, the officers drove all the way to a hospital in Richmond (probably a couple of hours away on rough roads). Despite an operation, Sheriff Seago had lost too much blood and died shortly after, leaving behind a wife and three children.

My grandmother went to her brother’s funeral in Lawrenceville, which is a little east of Danville. When she returned, the local paper, The Danville Bee, which still publishesinterviewed her for a story on her brother’s death. In the story, as was protocol in those days, women were called by their married name, so she was referred to as Mrs. E.P. Motley. According to the article, the men in the car, who had taken part in the shootout, were arrested, but the bootlegger was still at large.

I wish I had been more inquisitive when I was younger and my grandmother was still alive. It’s ironic that so many of us think of the questions we want to ask after our relatives have passed away. I’m sure there are several of my relatives that didn’t even know Mama Jake came from such a large family! Thanks to the Internet, we can fill in some of the blanks.

John Seago, US soldier during Spanish-American War, before his days as Deputy Sheriff

 

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