September, 2014:

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE TELEPLAY

Shortly after I published my historical fiction novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, I was exploring ways of promoting the book. One of my most unique ideas was to create a teleplay and film it at a local TV channel in Westlake Village, near my home at that time.  I was no expert in filming but luckily I had plenty of help with a volunteer camera crew. My best ally was John Kilpatrick, Director of Theater at Agoura High School who became Francis Drake. He had no problem with costumes since he had been a part of a vocal ensemble for the annual Renaissance Faire. He even wrote a song about the book and accompanied himself on his mandolin. I found my Melaynie through the Young Artists group in Thousand Oaks.  Pardon the inconsistencies in the formatting. The dialog is in 16th century style.

John Kilpatrick, Me, and

John Kilpatrick as Drake, Me, the Author, and Genna Allen as Christopher/Melaynie

 

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE TELEPLAY 

Camera focuses on blown-up copy of book artwork to the sound of John Kilpatrick as Francis Drake playing and singing Renaissance song on mandolin as title sequence rolls – 10-15 SEC..

CAMERA CLOSE-UPS:

BOOK ON DESK – 10 SEC,   Mel book cover 2

SHIP ON DESK – 10 SEC.,

AUTHOR’S HAND ON DESK AS SHE TAKES PEN AND STARTS WRITING – 10 SEC.

YOUNG CHRISTOPHER SITTING AT EDGE OF STAGE – 10 SEC.

The author starts to read and camera focuses on AUTHOR for 10-15 Sec. Camera then focuses back on CHRISTOPHER at edge of stage.

AUTHOR reads:

“She awoke abruptly, her heart pounding, her upper body drenched in sweat. It was the same dream, one that she had had since childhood. Strangely though, it was repeating this spring every few nights. She sat up and shook her head to dispel the vision as she lifted the heavy blond tresses off her sweating shoulders. A bare hint of daylight filtered through the bed curtains. She looked down at the curls that cascaded over the pale, cambric night-raile that hid her small breasts. The sight of her thick and wavy hair brought back a flash of the dream…..”

Hmm, I do like the way I started this. What an adventure she had….

Camera focuses on:   Francis Drake as he walks onto the set and looks around, puzzled.

DRAKE

Start what? Are you talking of my adventure?

Camera focuses on Author .

I’m talking about the beginning of the novel I wrote, which is an adventure, that’s what. But who are you?

Camera focuses on Drake

DRAKE

Francis Drake, at your service.

(He bows down with a flourish, then he looks around again with a quizzical look)

Where am I?

(He walks to the desk and picks up the author’s book)

Is this one of the latest books from the printing press? I haven’t seen anything like it before, but the ship appeals to me.

(He looks around again as he puts the book back).

What the devil is keeping my captain’s boy? I sent him for the compendium, and he hasn’t returned. This doesn’t look like my cabin.

Camera on Author

AUTHOR

Slow down, Sir Francis. I can’t believe it’s you. I must be dreaming. It isn’t even time for you to appear in my book yet.

Camera on Drake

DRAKE

Sir Francis? Would that I were. Are you a witch, prophesying my future? Is that why you’ve called me here?

(He keeps looking around,  shaking his head to clear up his vision)

AUTHOR

Well, you could say I’m a witch. I must have conjured you up. Or did you wander over from some Renaissance Faire?

DRAKE

A faire? Be you daft, Madame? I’m aboard my ship, the Pasco, and ye may be assured there are no women there! So you must be a witch.

AUTHOR

No women… well, none that you’d know of. You do play a prominent part in my book, MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE. 

DRAKE

God’s Faith! Now you’ve got me all a-puzzle. Who is Melaynie, pray tell? And where is Christopher, my captain’s boy?

I sent him on an errand, before you so rudely called me here.

 AUTHOR

(with mischievious smile)   Christopher, you say… hmm. Now Christopher has an important relationship to Melaynie.

But that’s my secret, and hers.

 DRAKE

(loudly in exasperation)

God’s Eyeballs! The minds of women! What has one to do with another? Christopher lad, where is my compendium?

I must check our course. We may be nearer the Caribbean than I thought.

Camera on CHRISTOPHER as she rushes in, out of breath.

CHRISTOPHER

Captain, Captain. Here tis.

(She hands him a compass).

DRAKE

This is no compendium! I’ve never seen such a thing. (He looks hard at the Author). Is this another of your trickeries?

AUTHOR

It’s only a modern-day compass. It should get you to the Caribbean.

Camera on Christopher and Drake

CHRISTOPHER
(She catches sight of the Author, smiles as if she knows the secret of why she’s here, easily accepting the Author’s presence. She turns back to Drake)          Aye Captain. I’ve never seen such as that, not even in the print shop.

DRAKE

The print shop? Tis a strange dream I’m having. Books, print shops. I’m trying to sail a ship and keep my men alive and healthy.

CHRISTOPHER         

(She looks dreamy, remembering).

Captain Drake, ‘tis my father’s print shop I was speaking of. The Odyssey, ‘twas the book I was reading that must have inspired this masquerade. ‘Tis the male sex that have all the adventures. What’s a poor girl to do but dream? Of course I did do something about it.

DRAKE

Child, what are you prattling on about?

AUTHOR

Melaynie… Oops, I mean Christopher, just because I’m here, don’t get carried away. Your captain never finds out your secret.

CHRISTOPHER

(saucily, betraying girlish ways)

Of course not. Men can be dull creatures! Not Francis Drake, mind you, but he had too much affection for me to see past my disguise.

(She does a little dance).

DRAKE

(He turns to Author and in a  very self-assured manner proclaims…)

If ‘tis you, Good Lady, bedeviling me with this dream. reverse it back, I implore ye, afore I lose my mind and bearings. Let me awaken from this business. The Carib Sea awaits, where I am determined upon taking Spanish treasure. Twill be full of danger, but the rewards will be great. I mean to make my fortune, with aplenty for my men as well. (He gently taps Christopher on the shoulder)   Even for young Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER

(she looks at him with imploring look)

Prithee, Good Captain, am I to be part of these perilous sports?

DRAKE

Young Christopher, upon that I shall ponder. Beguile us no longer Good Witch. My duty calls.

Camera on Author

AUTHOR

Farewell, I bid thee be gone.

(she waves her hands and the two disappear).

What an incredible imagination I must have. Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes,

She turns back to her pen and paper.

Her hair wasn’t blond in her dream; it was very definitely red. Cherry red.. And plenty of it. It was her hair, she was positive of that. But there was a full and equally red mustache and beard. On her chin. She touched the soft flesh of her full cheeks and slightly pointed chin. Her stubborn chin, as her beloved brother David called it. Why was she continually dreaming that she was a man? And such a man! In her horned metal helmet she towered over her companions.”

Camera focuses on Drake playing mandolin and singing and then credits roll

MELAYNIE’S LAMENT

A fair young maid in a house of men

Three brothers and a father dear

On whom she waited both hand and foot

All seasons of the year.

 

Yet none could know that in her dreams

Another life did call

Where lives were sold for Spanish gold

And a boy ain’t what he seems

 

The fair young lass had had enough

And signed on with a crew

With ringlets shorn, on a cold gray morn

She bid her world adieu

 

As cabin boy to Capt. Drake

For adventure she set sail

Her comfort sold for Spanish gold

And therein hangs a tale.

 

 

 

 

 

MY PERSONAL VERSION OF ESTHER WILLIAMS

Senior year, College of William & Mary…it was time to achieve something new besides studying and writing news stories. I’d always loved swimming and Esther Williams’ water epic movies. The college had a small synchronized swimming club that put on a show in the spring. My good friend Diana and I tried out for Mermettes and were both accepted.

All the practice sessions in the Olympic pool over a period of several months were the perfect way to get in shape. I don’t think either one of us realized the work involved in learning how to do the special styles required for this form of water ballet.

One of the tricks of synchronized swimming is learning to scull, which is a unique way to move your entire body by using just hand motion. Keeping your arms straight by your side, we learned to slightly cup our hands and turn them into small propellers. The cupped hands can go in circles or can sweep the water in all directions. It’s essentially a hidden motion and a unique way to float and propel your body feet first, for instance. I can still scull and love to show it to kids.

The Spring show at the new Adair gym was a success with the bleachers full. The first presentation, performed by the entire group, was swimming to the beautifully orchestrated song “Bali Hai” from the musical “South Pacific.” We all had flutter boards, a fairly small flotation device also called a kickboard, to hold. We stole large magnolia leaves from campus trees to pin onto the boards and added magnolia blossoms (It was Spring and the blossoms were in full bloom. Coincidentally, I live a half block from Magnolia Avenue here in LA and when the blossoms come out, it always reminds me of my Esther Williams’ days!). The lighting was atmospheric and the entire group swam in a circle to the music. Holding the decorated boards with one hand, we swam a version of the sidestroke, raising one hand in a ballet movement. We must have done something more than swim in a circle but darned if I can remember what!

MermettesShow#1                                          In the changing room dressed as an African with a bit of makeup and ready to “kill” a wet lion.

 

I was also in the African number, which had its own special difficulties. We portrayed African hunters chasing a lion and wore plastic grass skirts, a colorful bib of sorts and carried spears, as my photo shows. Since plastic floats, we had to wet the skirts before we wore them or they would all float on top of the water and ruin the effect. The wet plastic was heavy and made it difficult to swim, but the show must go on. I wish I remembered the jungle music we used but recall being pleased with the show, as was our audience.

The Mermettes at William & Mary are much more professional these days and have sent me, as a former member, brochures about their progress. These modern gals compete with other colleges as a synchronized swimming team. They are also very hardy—one of the photos showed them in swimsuits lined up outside in the winter snow!

HOW THE HOBSON STORY ENDED

As a reader, I am always curious about what happened then, etc. I am sharing below a few of the experiences that happened in the next 30+ years.

By Easter 1964, the new Brigadier General Victor Hobson and his family had moved to Ft. Dix, New Jersey, and settled into their spacious new quarters, an over 100 year-old, 3-story white wood frame house, in a fairly private area of the fort. Before the Civil War and perhaps during it, a hidden closet on the second floor had been used to help slaves escape from the South during the time of the so-called Underground Railroad. Outside was a multi-car garage, a huge yard and a pond with a rowboat. The kitchen was huge, which made it easy to entertain, a requirement for Army officers of higher ranks.

I came to visit during Easter vacation and had my own room on the top floor. In the summer after my college graduation from the College of William and Mary, I came back to enjoy several weeks with the family before I flew to Germany to be with my mother and stepfather, sister and brother. I was planning on working in Europe.

Susanna, Marlena and me at the Jersey Shore

Susanna, Marlena and me at the Jersey Shore

One of the funny highlights of the summer at Ft. Dix was the destruction of one wall of the garage. I had my driver’s license but was a newbie. One afternoon, I volunteered to take Marlena and Susanna to the Ft. Dix swimming pool. I wasn’t an expert at backing out of a garage, and as I reversed the car, I took out part of the wooden sidewall. I was embarrassed, and the girls were worried about what their father would say. Fortunately, he saw the humor in it and I relaxed. After all, he was the deputy commander. When the military construction crew came out to repair it the next day, there was great hilarity at the fairly extensive damage done by me, the General’s 21-year-old daughter, with a fairly compact car.

Marlena & Susanna by the infamous car and garage

Marlena & Susanna by the infamous car and garage before the accident.

Over the next thirty-six years I would visit with the Hobsons several times, both in Virginia and California. In May 1974, there was a tragic coincidence. Migia Hobson, my father’s wife, died of a stroke and 11 days later my mother, Garnette Williams, died of kidney disease. They were both barely in their fifties. Susanna, the oldest stepsister who was married and had a young son, died in 1990 of multiple sclerosis.

Victor Hobson suffered from diabetes in his late 40s and a couple of years before he died, he lost most of his left leg to the disease. I was visiting Virginia shortly after his operation, and got to see him one last time in 1997. My father, Victor, died on December 31, 2000, at 2:30 p.m. My birthday is on New Year’s Day at 2:30 a.m. I don’t believe the timing was an accident.

As I’ve said before, the coincidences and connections of life will always amaze me.

My Ebook on Amazon

My Ebook on Amazon

LUNCH IN GEORGETOWN WITH MY FATHER

After meeting Col. Victor Hobson at the Pentagon, I had to tell someone. It was  a momentous event and no one knew what I’d been up to. When I got back   to the Reiner’s Alexandria home where I had been staying for a few days while I went job hunting and father hunting, I debated on what to do. I couldn’t afford to call my mother in Germany; my frugal stepfather would never accept a collect call. First, I opened up my portable typewriter and wrote a letter to Mom, a letter I’ve kept all these years.

Since I still needed some human feedback, I went in search of Mrs. Klara Reiner; her daughter, Rita, was my friend from high school. I had lived with the welcoming and hospitable Reiners the previous summer when my parents and siblings left for Mannheim, Germany, where my dad was assigned. I knew Klara Reiner would be the ideal substitute mother for me; she exuded kindness, warmth and understanding. Since her own family had immigrated from Eastern Europe when she was a young girl, Mrs. Reiner was familiar with family upheavals. She was delighted with my news and encouraged me to do all I could to get to know this side of my life.

When I met Victor at the Pentagon a couple of days later, he drove us in a small, well-used Studebaker into historic Georgetown in the District of Columbia. We ate lunch at a posh place called the Four George’s – white tablecloths, small, quiet and elegant rooms served by obsequious waiters. I was charmed and felt like a cherished new daughter while we caught up on each other’s lives. He shared some of the highlights of his Army career and told me something of his personal life with his wife and daughters; I related my life so far and where my family had traveled. He seemed to be pleased that I was not involved seriously with a young man. He did not explain his concerns, but I was sure he was thinking back upon his own life and my creation.

Since we were enjoying each other’s company so much, he suggested that I come and meet his family that evening instead of waiting until Sunday. I agreed, and after he had called his wife to tell her, he drove us to his home, a two-story suburban brick house in Northern Virginia.

I was embraced with open arms by the gracious and stylish Migia, who treated me as a long-lost daughter. Her Italian simpatico reached out to welcome me into her family. My two new sisters acted as if I were a newfound and important relative. A quiet intelligent Susanna, at fifteen almost as tall as Victor and resembling him as well, was large-boned and blond. Marlena, thirteen but still a tomboy, was small and olive-skinned like her mother, and possessed Migia’s lively, spontaneous personality.

We spent the evening together at a local restaurant, which included some hillbilly fiddle music that reminded Victor of his Alabama roots, and made plans to get together again that Sunday. Sunday’s event turned into a wonderful three-day visit; I stayed until I was ready to return to college.

 

Getting his Star

Getting his Star from a 2-Star General

An unusual coincidence occurred the day before I returned to William and Mary. Victor received the happy news that he had been promoted from full colonel to brigadier general, a coup for his career. My new sisters and I had a great time discussing all the privileges they would enjoy as the family of a general when Victor was assigned the post of Deputy Commander of Ft. Dix, New Jersey. And I was invited to join them during my college spring break.

Victor gave me the highest compliment of all when he told me his high honor and promotion had come about because of me. I had been his lucky charm.

Marlena, who is a college art professor in Virginia, remembers the night her father came home with the news that he had another daughter. “I was thrilled we had a half sister,” Marlena said and added, “Susanna was perplexed. I’ll never forget what she said: ‘I feel like we are in Hollywood!’”

 

I I I

GETTING REACQUAINTED WITH MY FATHER IN THE PENTAGON

For those who haven’t read my past two installments regarding my birth father: when I was 21, I came unannounced and with no prior warning to his office in the Pentagon. I needed family information for job applications, and I was curious about this man I no longer remembered.

After a few minutes of conversation, Col. Victor Hobson asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” After a pause he added, “I know that’s a silly thing to ask.” When I didn’t speak up, he said, “There’s an aunt of mine who’s asked about you. And my father. You’re a pretty girl; I hope you’re cagey with the boys!” He chuckled at his remark.

I laughed. “I don’t know how cagey I am, but I’m not planning to get married soon. I’m going to be in two weddings this summer, but I’d like to get a job that lets me travel.”

From his manner and despite the occasional nervous tremor and the loss of eye contact as he glanced down at his desk, I could see he was enjoying our interview. There was an essential charm and ease of manner about him as well as an obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness in his comments. He was making it easy for me to like him, and I could tell he was impressed with me. To make himself a bit more at ease, he took out a cigar and lit it. I positively hated cigars, but kept my mouth shut and was relieved the odor wasn’t overpowering.

Victor Hobson & family: Migia, Marlena and Susanna

Victor Hobson & family: Migia, Marlena and Susanna

Amazed at my own composure, I sat fairly still as we talked, able to answer sweetly and without much hesitation. The pencil I had brought with me suffered from all my tensions; I mauled its eraser with my fingers.

He asked about my accomplishments in college, and inquired after some of my mother’s relatives he had known and enjoyed years before. Not long ago I discovered he’d sent an older cousin of mine WWII German Army souvenirs from the battles in Italy, where my father had fought. I still have a tiny helmet with a blue clover insignia—he was part of the Blue Devils, the 88th Infantry Division, the first American unit into Rome in June 1944.

He then told me a bit about his Italian wife, Maria Luisa, nicknamed Migia, and how he’d met her in Trieste, Italy, where he had been stationed right after the war. He and Migia had a fifteen-year-old daughter Susanna and a thirteen-year-old daughter Marlena. He related he’d been in the Army twenty-three years but had never run into my stepfather.

“I have to admit something,” he confessed after a while. “The office had a party at Blackie’s in Washington for lunch, and I had a few martinis. It’s a good thing I had them before you walked in!”

I laughed, and he joined in. “I knew this meeting would surprise you,” I said, “and I was sure nervous, but I figured this was the best way to do it.”

“How long are you going to be here?”

“I don’t have to be back at William and Mary until next Wednesday.”

“Would you like to meet my family if I came by to pick you up? I know my wife would love to meet you.”

“I’d like to very much,” I answered sincerely. The meeting was working out better than I expected.

“Are you sure?” he asked again, apparently still uncertain about my walking into his life, and his guilty feelings probably nagging at him.

“Of course,” I replied as I wrote down my friend’s telephone number.

That night at the Reiners, where I was staying in Alexandria, I got a call from Migia. With her charming effusiveness, it was as if we had known each other for years. Although Italian, her low mellow voice and speech bore scarcely a trace of accent. She knew just what to say to put me at ease and make me feel wanted. She couldn’t wait to meet me on Sunday, but in the meantime Vic, as she called him, wanted to take me to lunch on Friday. Could I meet him at the Pentagon? It was all going faster than I had imagined, but I was excited and enthusiastically told her I was looking forward to all of it.

Last installment next week.

FINDING COL. VICTOR HOBSON IN THE PENTAGON

In 1964 I went hunting for my birth father. I had no memories or photos of him since my mother had remarried and wanted to forget her divorce. I was curious and since I was starting my search for a career, possibly with the CIA, I needed family information only he had. I knew he was stationed in the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.

When I found the proper office among the rings and corridors of the enigmatic Pentagon, I walked into a long narrow room to the secretary’s desk near a window. I told her I needed to speak with Colonel Hobson, and she directed me to a metal chair to wait until he was free. I took several deep breaths to keep myself calm. I couldn’t have been seated more than about three minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before she instructed me to go into the adjacent office.

Dressed in my collegiate straight skirt and sweater and carrying my winter coat (it was February), I resolutely walked into the spacious windowed office. There were two desks: Victor occupied the larger one by the window; his adjutant had a smaller desk off to the side. I wondered how I would manage this interview with someone else listening in, but pulled myself together and smiled as self-confidently as I could. After all, I was now a twenty-one year old adult and had mustered the courage to find him and meet him in person.

Gen. Victor W Hobson

Was this white-haired slender man truly my father? Did I even resemble him? Wasn’t he too old? My stepdad was scarcely gray. But this man’s hair was thick and wavy, similar to mine, and his slightly pug nose looked like mine. He looked at me inquisitively as I walked up to his desk, my heart racing in my chest.

“Col. Hobson, I’m Viki Williams!” I introduced myself as he stood up with a smile. I noted he was taller than my dad. He maintained his outward composure, though I could detect the astonishment in his eyes. He knew who I was immediately. Calmly and politely, he told the adjutant to leave and close the door behind him. He then directed me to sit in the chair in front of his desk.

“Now what can I do for you?” he asked hesitantly, smiling at me, the bomb who had dropped into his life.

What thoughts were rushing through his mind? I wondered as I kept my cool, though I was quaking underneath. Tension and unease hung in the air. I quickly told him I was in my senior year of college and looking for careers, and I needed information for my CIA personnel form, such as where exactly was he born. As he gave me the information about his Alabama birth, we both relaxed a bit.

“I guess you think I’m about the worst man alive,” he offered with a hint of regret in his voice after we had finished the required questions.

“No, I don’t,” I replied evenly, too shy and uncertain to explain feelings I wasn’t even sure of. Even though Army officers weren’t known as “Disney” fathers, I had harbored no resentments through the years. I was simply curious and reaching out for clues to my origins.

“I’ve thought about you a great deal all these years,” he added softly. “You look very much like your mother, except taller.”

“Thank you,” I answered, watching his head twitch nervously as he cocked it to the side.

“Where’s your family now?”

“My dad’s stationed in Germany,” I replied, thinking how odd to say that since this was my real father. “I’ve got a fifteen-year-old sister and a ten-year-old brother.”

“I have two girls; that’s all I seem to have.” He gave me a friendly smile. “Let’s see, it’s been eighteen years now.” He paused; it was the amount of time he had been married. “My girls don’t know about you. It’s so complicated, you know.”

Unsaid was my conviction that divorces were indeed complicated. I wondered just what his complications had been, and discovered later that his wife was Catholic, and the church was strongly critical of divorce. Circumstances required that they be married outside the church, and they had never told their children, who were being raised in the Catholic faith.

(Even after all these years, this conversation is accurate for the most part. I came back to my friend’s house where I was staying and typed up my story for posterity, and I still have the typewritten copy. Besides, I knew my mother would want to know all the details.)

To be continued…

MEETING MY BIRTH FATHER — VICTOR HOBSON

Victor Hobson, US Army

Victor Hobson, US Army, would have been 96 last month had he lived past 2000.

Victor & Victoria

Victor & Victoria

I was nine years old before I knew the man I loved and thought of as my father was not even a blood relation. These facts were startlingly revealed to me one summer day because the man I called Dad wanted to legally adopt me. He was a career Army officer preparing to serve in the Korean War, and this legal action would serve to set things right in case he encountered extremely bad luck. I was told that my birth father, Victor, was also an Army officer.

Dad sat me down at the kitchen table in the tiny pastel-colored Jacksonville Beach, Florida tract home we would occupy while he went to Korea for a year as an Army Engineer, fighting the war by building bridges and roads. He explained patiently that he wasn’t my natural father, but wanted to be. This was the first year I was truly cognizant of the fact my legal surname was different than my parents. When I was registered for elementary school in the fall, it would have to be under my legal birth name, a fact that made me very uncomfortable and embarrassed. With approval of the adoption papers, in a short time I would have my dad’s name, which was wonderful news for me. With my unquestioning consent, the adoption papers were sent to Victor for his approval at the Army War College in Pennsylvania, where he was stationed at the time. He signed and returned them without comment

When I was nineteen and in college, I began thinking about Victor and wondering what he was really like. I hadn’t seen him since I was a toddler and had no memory of him. I don’t remember my mother showing me any photos of him. It was a missing part of my life, no matter how much I loved my dad. I dreamed of meeting Victor and pictured various scenarios of his life. Was he still married? Did he have children? My dad had never encountered him in person during their mutually long military careers. I learned later Dad had kept track of the places Victor had been stationed through the years, but had never shared that information with me. Perhaps secrets are a built-in part of military life, even when you’re the dependent, not the military man.

During the semester break of my senior year of college I was staying with a girlfriend’s parents in Northern Virginia to investigate future job possibilities. I wanted to travel and was considering work with federal agencies that would send me overseas. I was even imagining the skullduggery of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose personnel offices were located in an anonymous-looking, unsigned building in Washington, D.C. A complete background check was required, and the forms had questions about my birth father that I couldn’t answer. My parents were stationed in Germany, but my mother, who did not have the answers for the CIA form, informed me Victor was working at the Pentagon. It was the perfect excuse to meet him.

I planned the excursion on my own, not discussing or mentioning it to friends or relatives. Only the closest of my friends even knew that Dad was my stepfather. Divorce and broken families were not as openly discussed in the early sixties.

A long bus ride from Alexandria deposited me at that five-sided military bastion known as The Pentagon, undoubtedly one of the largest buildings in the world, at that time. My stepfather had been stationed there, as had so many other military types at one time or another. Delaying my meeting and gathering my courage, I decided to visit the Army Employment Office first to check on possible jobs after I graduated.

Afterward, since I had made sure I had Victor’s office number, I checked with the information desk, and they gave me a small map to show his office location – which ring, which corridor in this confusingly immense building. It took me a few extra minutes to get there because one of the corridors was wrongly lettered. I couldn’t have imagined how things would change in the future, especially after 9-11, when civilians would no longer be able to just walk into the Pentagon.

To be continued…

FLYING HIGH – A BALLOON RIDE IN SO CAL

Life is enhanced when there are risks involved. A little fear is good for the soul—like going up in the sky ensconced in a very small basket attached to a huge hot air balloon. I didn’t go around the world in 80 days, just into the Southern California sky early in the morning. The experience was thrilling and great fun, and I didn’t have to pay for it.

Penny, an adventurous single friend who owned a beauty salon, had had a momentous birthday the previous summer. I’ll guess she turned 40. I attended her party, and one of her most exciting gifts was a balloon ride for two. Since she didn’t have a significant other in her life at that point, and she was promotion oriented, she decided I would be the ideal companion for this unique venture. I would write about it in the Acorn, the local paper I edited.

Champagne before takeoff

Champagne before takeoff

Up in the Air We Go!

Up in the Air We Go!

We planned to make it a special event by drinking a champagne toast before we took off, even though it was only 7 a.m. To further enhance the experience, we found a local businessman who sold fur coats; he agreed to lend two of them in exchange for some free publicity. Fur was the ideal covering for two babes on an adventure, after all!

Witnesses and a photographer were needed, so we enlisted the aid of our kids, dragging them out of bed on a Saturday morning, long before they were ready. Sunrize Balloons used an empty field for their launching site in Moorpark, which was an area of rolling hills and low mountains. Aware of weather patterns, the experienced balloonists scheduled flights early since mornings usually had mild winds.

We arrived at our outdoor rendezvous ready for anything, and it didn’t disappoint. We were going up with a male pilot, and two other passengers, captains in the local fire department, who were hilarious, we soon discovered. Except for the pilot, we were all novices.

There were five of us in the balloon basket as it gently lifted up. Right away, the jokes began between us. The subjects of going up, hot air, and balloons offer plenty of material, naughty and silly. Humor also helps to ease any anxiety as you realize you’re in a small basket and could fall out! No parachutes available.

It was overcast as we lifted up, but we soon saw the sun in a very blue sky dotted with clouds. The view below us encompassed the burgeoning cities of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Westlake Village surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills. Except for the occasional joke and the sounds of gas blowing hot air into the balloon as we rose higher, all was serene and mystical. I felt fragile and powerful at the same time.

When we descended, the pilot decided to show us a few balloon tricks. I believe he called it “bunny hopping” as he guided the basket up and down again in a brushy area surrounded by hills. The fun was short-lived; a prickly bush caught the basket. Rather than risk his passengers, even though we were only about ten feet off the ground, the cautious pilot radioed for help. His team drove a pickup truck over the small hill, anchored the basket and helped us disembark—ladies first, of course! We’d had a fantastic ride and being “rescued” at the end made it even more memorable.

 

 

 

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