January, 2014:

CARS I HAVE KNOWN

College senior me in a borrowed MGB

In the US, most of us can trace our histories by the cars we owned, used, or learned to drive in. Not to mention the cars that provided room for early sexual  exploration. Whether you “made out” or “went all the way,” who doesn’t remember a few cars that were special? The Mustang has been a favorite, from the 1964 original when I was a young wife to the 1998 model I currently drive.

At age 16, my first driving lessons were in my dad’s  1953 white Ford convertible. My mother was my first instructor, but she was so nervous in the passenger seat she was already slamming on the imaginary brakes a half block from a stop sign in a residential area. The top was down so visibility was great, but my mom was a worrier. My dad didn’t fare much better, although he stayed calm during the lesson. “I need a beer,” he exclaimed to Mom when we got home safely. I got my learner’s permit but no car for me or permission to drive the family Ford.  I’ve used a photo of me sitting on that Ford’s hood in Tripoli for previous blogs.

Driving lessons in an old Nash Rambler were the perfect excuse for a boyfriend to get a few kisses and a little “petting,” as we called it then. After a little night driving practice, we found a likely spot for some innocent action.  A few kisses later, we were in the sights of a large flashlight brandished by a policeman. It was just a warning that where we had parked was inappropriate–the grounds of an Episcopal seminary. I was embarrassed but I doubt my boyfriend was.  When the boyfriend took me home that night, he walked me to the door in his socks. Some other local cops pulled up and, suspicious about the socks, questioned him, he told me later. When they got a close-up view of this clean-cut student and interviewed him, they realized he was quite reputable and not a potential burglar.

In college, one of my favorite memories was the white Corvette driven by the charming Army lieutenant from nearby Ft. Eustis who squired me about. He  had more money to spend than the typical underclassman and besides having a sports car was a talented singer and guitar player (folk songs, as in the recent movie “Inside Llewyn Davis”). Making out by a Virginia lake in spring, however, wasn’t a good choice. Although the sounds of bullfrogs were interesting,  the next day I was taking semester exams and could barely restrain from scratching the hell out of the 40 mosquito bites on my legs. The car pictured here is similar to the lieutenant’s car, but he had the  US version with left-hand drive.

In my senior year I was trusted with my graduate student boyfriend’s MGB. He let me drive it by myself from time to time. I think he was serious about me, but I wasn’t ready to settle down, despite the nice car.

Years later, at the end of my marriage and the beginning of single life, my most vivid memories concern an aging Oldsmobile ’98, a used Datsun that wouldn’t go in reverse, a nearly decrepit Ford LTD (retread tires and a trunk that didn’t open), a borrowed Porsche 944, a Yugo, a used BMW that was in great shape except for the broken AC,  and finally a brand new Mustang! Such is the brief version of my single life with cars.

I remember them all quite fondly, even when these cars were giving me grief. In Los Angeles, where the car is king, the best advice is to find a good and trustworthy mechanic.

 

 

NEWSPAPERS – THE JOY OF REPORTING

I’ve enjoyed writing for newspapers since I was 14 and doing stories for The Barracan at Wheelus Air Force Base High School in Libya in the 1950s. I reported for the Flat Hat at the College of William and Mary and a few years after I got married and moved to California, I went to work at a new weekly newspaper. I’ve loved all my forays into the world of journalism.

In 1978, when I was first hired as a reporter, the Acorn was a little newspaper (8 to 16 pages) and might have had a circulation of about 10,000. It had once been just a “shopper” with ads for local businesses in a hilly valley between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills, northwest of Los Angeles. Besides the venerable and almost ancient oaks, the Reyes Adobe, built in 1796, was the most historic point of interest in an area dotted with ranches, which was developing into a suburbia filled with new housing.

My husband, a civil engineer for Los Angeles County, worked in nearby Malibu, a quirky but famous beach location just a short drive through the mountains. We bought a home in this sylvan area in 1970 because houses in Agoura were new and reasonably priced, and it was an ideal area for raising our two children.

When I answered the ad for Acorn reporter, I was offered $25 a week for a few stories. Although it was only a pittance, I wasn’t desperate and the job required very little time, ideal since my kids were both under ten. My first big assignment was to put together a special issue of stories detailing the new development plans for Agoura and Westlake Village, which were rapidly expanding with shopping centers, restaurants, and quite a few small businesses.

After hours of work calling builders, picking up photos and maps, and typing the stories, I was feeling cheated by my low pay. Gathering my courage, I cornered Bill, our gregarious owner, and demanded more. He agreed and paid me the enormous amount of $40! I didn’t complain; it was too much fun working there.

Bill was just the man to run a paper: he’d been in the armed forces and then gone into sales. He kept a cheap little cabinet in his private office filled with booze, obviously remembering the days when bosses drank at the office and when they went out to lunch. (Anybody seen “Mad Men” on TV?).  For the most part, I’ve found that newspaper people, no matter how influential their paper, are generally congenial and have outrageous senses of humor.

The Acorn was located upstairs in a fairly new at that time, all-wood, rustic-style building, part of Whizin’s shopping center, named for Art Whizin, its founder, who had an office near us.  Designed like an open plaza with a roof, the downstairs featured Koi carp fishing ponds, a few shops and a couple of restaurants. From the center of the high-peaked ceiling of the second floor hung a huge mobile with a wooden Indian and other Western artifacts, created by Whizin’s son, Bruce.

Fairly current view of Whizin’s Center. Canyon Club features bands of all types.

 

The office was small, only three rooms, and messy, like a newspaper office is supposed to be. Way before computers, we had old-fashioned equipment I wasn’t familiar with. One of our printing machines—perhaps the headlines?—produced lots of tiny perforations and these paper circles got embedded in the shag carpeting. Some years later my husband went into his own business and rented this same office. Some of those bits of paper were still in the carpet!

The Acorn is still operating, all these years later, but from a different location. It presents local news from Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Westlake Village and Calabasas.

 

 

 

MORE EARTHQUAKE STORIES FROM 1994

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

Watching and listening to news about disastrous events like the Southern California earthquake of 1994 or the more recent Hurricane Sandy can be quite heartening. When people are challenged by tragedy, they rise to the occasion. 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 almost everyone in the 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 about 60 deaths and 9,000 people injured.

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.

20 YEARS AGO — THE NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE

 
Kaiser Permanente building after the quake

Mother Nature  is a powerful force, even in my beloved California. It may be one of the worst fire seasons on record this year; it’s already the driest since the 1800s.  Last Friday, January 17, many San Fernando Valley residents remembered the most recent and tragic earth shaker in Southern California–20 years ago.  Before this life is over, 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 expanding too much, that’s great. All places on earth have their positive and negative features; California remains my favorite.

I’ve already lived through two strong quakes. 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.

Our electricity remained on, and 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 the death toll was around sixty. The 6.7 trembler occurred on Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration day. Was MLK trying to tell us something?

I was living in Agoura as in 1971, but this time I was 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 (records say the most ground motion of any earthquake recorded!). 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 from 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 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  driven over 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?

I’ve written more on the event and will post that on Wednesday.

LA NEWSPAPER BIZ HUMOR

I find that newspaper people are generally lively and fun to be around. Their senses of humor can be outrageous and sarcastic since they’ve read or seen so much in life. I have my favorites who write for the LA Times. Steve Lopez is a regular columnist and is famous for his  non-fiction book, The Soloist, about a schizophrenic homeless musician. A few years ago it was made into a movie starring Jamie Foxx. Lopez touches on many subjects, much like my approach on this blog. I’ve even Emailed Lopez with compliments and he replied. Today’s column was a funny one about missing some of LA’s crazy news while he was on vacation back East, particularly Justin Bieber’s latest mischief, supposedly throwing eggs at his wealthy next door neighbor’s home in a gated Calabasas, CA community. Apparently, 11 sheriff’s cars responded to the complaint!  I know the area well since I’ve often eaten at a nearby restaurant, and that area was part of the San Fernando Valley territory covered by the weekly newspaper I wrote for years ago.

Reading Lopez’s column reminded me of some of the people I worked with in the newspaper/magazine biz, especially a couple of fellows who were in the production side of the business. Jan was a whiz in semi-professional bridge and always seemed to be laughing, telling jokes or sharing the latest gossip. He knew lots about the newspaper technology of the 1990s but didn’t take any of the so-called “news” seriously.  Roger was quieter, had a French last name and wore slip-on shoes like the Crocs of today.  These two guys, who made sure the stories were properly typed, cut and pasted onto the pages, had a wicked sense of humor. They knew I would laugh at almost anything, and it quickly became a game to see if I’d catch certain deliberate mistakes. I remember there was one item that involved pickles and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, but you’ll have to use your imagination for that one.

The most hilarious incident (not X-rated) that I remember during my years at The Acorn was a brief announcement in the Community Events section. I saw the small headline about an art exhibit featuring a painter who had created several wonderful oils, one in particular titled: “Jesus, Mary and Bill.” A man named Roger something was hosting the event, and my mind made no connections between this exhibit and our production fellow. Since Southern California is filled with zany artists, I figured the item was  legitimate. It wasn’t until the paper was printed that I discovered my mistake. The following week when I was back checking for errors and writing headlines, Jan pointed it out. I had forgotten Roger’s surname, which would have given me the clue. We all had a good laugh, and I learned a lesson about not believing everything I read.

Some stories I wrote were pure entertainment, like the one about the latest craze, a male version of striptease performed for women only. In Los Angeles when the club Chippendale’s was new and unique, it featured sexy young men dancing and stripping. Someone enterprising decided to bring a similar show to the boondocks, which Agoura was sometimes labeled.

Whizin’s Center had a large room that was once an old restaurant. It could accommodate a stage and tables for the ladies to imbibe food and drinks while they watched the salacious entertainment. That included me–after all I had to document the experience. Many have seen the British film or the stage play, “The Full Monty” and can imagine what went on. Our entertainers that night, however, failed to completely disrobe. They wore a G-string to hide their equipment, so we didn’t get to see the “full monty,” just everything but.

This photo of one of the dancing strippers shows just the right attitude. Fortunately, he had on enough clothes for his photo  to be displayed in a family newspaper.

 

 

 

1964 – MY INCREDIBLE YEAR

 Although it’s been 50 years now, 1964 still stands out vividly in my mind. What helps my memory is my habit of keeping detailed diaries most of my life. This year of milestones was an amazing juxtaposition of events that propelled my life forward and sent me to California. And I thought I would be headed to Paris to work as a journalist for the Paris Herald-Tribune with the romantic idea of having affairs until I was 28 and ready for marriage and family.

I enjoy watching “Girls,” the Lena Dunham series on HBO about twenty-something college grads learning about life and love in New York City. The series reminds me a bit of my young adulthood, but my 1960s were tame compared to the explorations of today’s so-called “millennials.”

My debut in the world--1964!

My debut in the world–William & Mary 1964!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new year of 1964 and my 21st birthday came in together, first over Europe and then Labrador, before my plane touched down at Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey at 3 a.m.  I was flying back to the US from a Christmas visit with my folks, who were stationed in Mannheim, Germany.

College graduation from William & Mary was due in June, and I needed to pursue gainful employment. I was taking boring shorthand since a secretarial job was one of the limited choices women had in those years. The shorthand was challenging, and I was also annoyed with an advanced French grammar class taught by a crotchety old professor who proclaimed daily that he’d slap our mental faces awake.

As Williamsburg, Virginia, got closer to its beautifully verdant spring, my interests veered from academics to young men. I had a part-time job at the Law Library and they teased by calling me the “Sex Symbol of the Law School.” Reading over my diaries recently, I wondered how I had found time to study, or to contribute stories for the Flat Hat (our college newspaper), considering all the social activities and the dreams of romance running around my mind.

During college semester break in February, I went to the Washington, D.C. area to do some preliminary job hunting–why not the CIA since I wanted to travel? Ironically, the CIA gave me a good excuse to locate my birth father, Col. Victor Hobson, since I needed some required family information. I surprised him in his Pentagon office and soon after got to know his wonderful family. It must have been a magical year—three days after we connected, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

During that Spring my diary relates many events: a college dance weekend at Davidson College in North Carolina, a couple of weekends with friends at Virginia Beach, a trip to sightsee around Washington, D. C. and a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spring vacation was spent with my newfound second family at Ft. Dix, where my father, Brig. Gen. Hobson was the new Deputy Commander. I still remember the long drive from school in Virginia to New Jersey—the radio was filled with memories of General Douglas McArthur, who had died that day.

In May, since I had no firm job plans yet, I decided I’d use my last free trip as an Army dependent to fly to Germany to join my Williams family (mother and stepfather) after graduation, and find a job working for the military overseas. Before summer was over I visited my newfound second family, and also took part in the weddings of two good friends (even made my bridesmaid’s dress for one of them).

By August I was in Mannheim, Germany, and debating whether I’d work in Heidelberg or Frankfurt. I’d met a tall and dashing Lieutenant, Hans Giraud, from my stepdad’s command, the 521st Engineer Group, at a social function three days after I arrived in Germany. I got a job as the secretary of the manager of the Heidelberg Officers Club and spent about eight months living in the Bachelor Womens Quarters across the street from the club.

Who would have guessed that I’d be married in Germany (one civil ceremony in Mannheim and a church wedding in Frankfurt) to that same lieutenant I mentioned above by the following April, and I’d be living in Los Angeles, California by May 1965? Such was my incredible year that had begun and then ended in Deutschland!

 

 

 

 

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE – CARIBBEAN ROMANCE

Those readers who check my blog regularly will know that I’ve edited over 100 books for authors of all genres, and I’ve also written a book, Melaynie’s Masquerade, and a screenplay, Drake. I like to share preview tidbits to entice you to read my book, and that’s what I’m presenting this time.

I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction and became enchanted with the 16th century some years ago when I enjoyed attending Southern California Renaissance Faires. My fictional character, Melaynie Morgan, lives in Plymouth, England, and when she decides to turn her traditional world upside down, she embarks on a sailing adventure with Francis Drake, a daring Plymouth captain. Drake is sailing to the Caribbean to plunder Spanish treasure; thinking he has met an enthusiastic young boy, he hires Melaynie as his cabin boy. What a masquerade she accomplishes before Drake and his crew sail back to England a year later!

Melaynie's Masquerade - book cover

Melaynie’s Masquerade – book cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite her disguise, Melaynie finds romance. The following is a scene from Chapter 51: “My love, my love,” she murmured, pulling herself from his arms and his bed as she reached for her clothes in the small hours of the morning darkness.

         “Melaynie,” he whispered sleepily and stroked her back. “What can I say or do?”

         “There is nothing to say, Bernardino.” She loved saying his name in all its parts, like the beginning of a poem. She bit her lip to hold back tears or the feelings that might ultimately betray her. “Goodbye, my love.”

         Except for the whizzing sounds of insects and the sounds of waves washing upon the not too distant shore, all was quiet in camp as she stepped quickly outside. Celebrators were long in bed or passed out where they had fallen from over-imbibing.

         Their lovemaking had been so insistent and passionate that her limbs felt heavy. They were both sated, but their hours together would have to last a lifetime. She had spent her coin of emotion and feeling for now and felt numb. She dreaded the rush of desire and ache of love that she knew would return in force when she fully awoke in the morning. Worse yet, she would have to bid him goodbye in a casual fashion. It would be the ultimate test of her masquerade.

         Robert did not wake when she crept in. Even if he had, she knew him to be an accepting, unquestioning man, not eager to pry into anyone’s private business. He had long ago made it clear that he did not wish to share what personal life he had left in England, nor was he interested in hers.

         To find out how the book ends in Part 2, Melaynie’s Masquerade is available on Amazon.

POSTWAR GERMANY – 1947-49

World War II and its aftermath offers a never-ending supply of stories and is especially interesting to those of us old enough to have been affected in some way. Since I was born during that war and spent a few years of my early life in Germany, I’ll always be fascinated with the subject.  The “Monuments Men” movie starring George Clooney, about an Allied effort to save historic buildings and works of art during the war and after, will be released in February and I will be sure to see it.

 My first vivid memories date back to postwar Germany. Memory is an odd thing; as you age, you start to wonder if the memory is truly yours or what you were told by a parent or family member. Does it make any difference?

Mom, new dad and me - Munich train station

Mom, new dad and me – Munich train station

The 1940s was a tumultuous and tragic time.  Before I got to know my US Infantry officer father, he shipped off to Italy to fight. At the end of the war, my family dynamics quickly changed: my father had met an Italian woman he wanted to marry in Trieste, and my mother had met and married a Corps of Engineers officer.

The shift in couples was accomplished shortly after the war, and my mother and I joined her new husband in Murnau, Germany. I don’t remember our voyage, but I do recall the long train trip from Bremerhaven to Munich because a sliver of coal flew into my eye while I sat at the window. I was only four years old but I do remember the bombed-out city of Munich. Several still-standing single walls from apartment buildings continued to hold  feather comforters the occupants had hung out the window to air out before the building was destroyed. Some enterprising Germans were living in makeshift homes put together from destroyed buildings.

The victorious American Army  took over the best German housing. My dad was stationed in Murnau, south of Munich, which had been and still is a vacation town bordering the Bavarian Alps. Physically undamaged by the war, it was a picturesque town; most homes had window boxes filled with red geraniums in the summer, and there were plenty of places to ski in the winter. We were only 18 miles from Garmisch and the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, once the site for a winter Olympics in the 1930s.

Young and in love, my parents started married life in an idyllic situation. Although my dad was only a captain, we lived in an 18-room house on a large piece of property where my dad planted tomatoes in the spring. We even had a maid and a houseboy, an older couple who were kind and hard working. The American major next door had two children and their “borrowed” home had a swimming pool, which we all used in warm weather! Army people keep in touch and my parents reconnected with them years later when both couples had retired in Texas.

Before my sister was born in the Munich Army hospital, my folks had a terrific time: besides photos as evidence, my dad’s German secretary illustrated a picture book diary for them before they left Germany in 1949. They traveled to postwar Paris and saved a booklet from the somewhat scandalous Folies Bergere. Americans weren’t used to seeing total nudity on stage! Skiing at a local hillside and on the nearby Zugspitze was a regular family activity. There were also plenty of parties–we’d won the war, after all!  I remember the Chinese theme party illustrated in the secretary’s book, which I now have. Perhaps it was Chinese New Year.

I don’t think there was an Army school for me since I recall that my mother taught me first grade from the mail order Calvert School in Baltimore, Maryland. It was so advanced that I skipped second grade when we got back to the States. Another advantage for me was learning German, an easy accomplishment when young and surrounded by Germans. I had made friends with two German youngsters, Seeki and Uti, whose names I remember but not the proper spelling. When my folks needed a translator, I was their first choice!

I have photos of myself in ski boots and a ski outfit holding my wooden skis. My mother told me later I was a fairly decent skier but I didn’t know how to stop myself after coming down a hill.  In the photo below, I can see my mother liked to use bows for my hair and I even had a purse! I wonder how typically American my outfit was. I have no idea what this concrete structure is–maybe it’s some kind of bicycle stand. Apparently, I’m standing on a rug but it might be an addition especially for the photo, which was taken by my dad.

Posing in Murnau

Posing in Murnau

 

 

CELEBRATING MY BIRTHDAY – January 1

It’s another New Year’s Day and I’m a year older. I’m watching the Rose Parade as always, one of the standout examples of why I love Southern California. I attended with family and friends one year thanks to a good suggestion of where to park when you don’t want to claim your place on the parade route in the middle of the night. There are no floats in this world that can match this parade, and Pasadena puts them on display for a couple of days afterward for the curious to see up close the work and artistry that went into these amazing creative efforts.  This year 2013 went fast but it was productive with writing and editing. My apartment got snazzier with a new rug and some redecorating, thanks to my kids, who not only suggest but do some of the manual labor. My computer is up-to-date and I’ve got a modern TV (skinny and lightweight, not 80 pounds like the ancient one). The older things in my life—my 1998 Mustang and my 1943 model body—are holding up. The car has less miles than I do, of course.

 

New Year's baby at 6 months old.

New Year’s baby at 6 months old.

I wish I’d asked my mother details about my milestone birthday before she died. Years later a cousin told me Garnette had attended a New Year’s Eve party but had to leave early as I announced my intentions to appear. Her youngest sister, Anne, went to the Danville (Virginia) Memorial Hospital with her and I’ve been Victoria Anne ever since. Entering the world at 2:30 a.m., I was the first baby born in Danville that year.  Before I thought of questioning Anne, who lived in Alaska, she had gone on to her reward. Perhaps their spirits are cheering me on. They were both gutsy gals.

I’ve spent years partying  on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. As I grew older, I decided to celebrate on my actual birthday instead of the night before. I usually hosted my own parties, wherever I was living, until I figured a restaurant would be so much easier. Over the years the parties have blended together in my mind. I remember my 50th because two old friends from high school in Tripoli, Libya—Tom and Scott Henderson—attended: they have both gone on to greener pastures as have plenty of others. There was a good turnout for my 65th and 70th celebration, each one at a cozy Italian restaurant. On the path to 80, I hope I can get Time to slow down a bit.

 

The Army brat in Murnau, Germany 1947

The Army brat in Murnau, Germany 1947

My daughter Heidi has been my constant companion for my birthday for years now and made the celebration so much more meaningful. My son Hans, who lives with his wife Jen in Dallas, made a special attempt to attend my 70th celebration. This year my “kids” are celebrating the Aloha spirit in Honolulu, and I will miss them.

It’s a low-key birthday this time with an early lunch with a couple of friends followed by a movie—“Saving Mr. Banks” with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, a film about the making of “Mary Poppins.” I need the “Wish Upon a Star” spirit of Walt Disney more and more as the years fly by.

 

70th Birthday with Heidi

70th Birthday with Heidi

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