February, 2015:

MALIBU – STAR-STUDDED VISITS

Watching the recent Academy Awards reminded me of the film and television stars I’ve seen over the years. There’s no place quite like Malibu for star sightings. For years I lived a Santa Monica Mountain canyon’s length away from Malibu, about a twenty-minute drive. Malibu’s name derives from the Chumash Indian language since they were the original inhabitants of the oceanside community a few hundred years ago. The curving canyon roads that lead to the ocean are bordered with expensive homes and typical California greenery, which means anything money can buy and the availability of water. All of the beauty and luxury is highly susceptible to the wildfires that occur every few years. Beauty comes at a price.

Having lots of disposable money is a requirement for living in Malibu, but those of us on budgets can at least visit for the day. Besides restaurants, shops, beaches and the famed Malibu Colony (a gated residential area that borders the ocean), there are the perks, if you’re not blind or oblivious, of seeing favorite actors or TV personalities.

Crosscreek Shopping Center, my preference for meandering and sometimes shopping, is probably the ideal place for sightings. Ali McGraw once designed the interior of a popular restaurant, which is currently Taverna Tony’s, a Greek spot. Not many years ago Mel Gibson was frequenting the bar there, and the tabloids reported the results.

I’ve been visiting that area since the 1970s when one of the shopping center’s main Spanish-style buildings was opened. My husband at the time was the LA County Engineer for the area, so we were asked to the opening night festivities featuring music, food and dancing. I enjoyed talking to actor Charlie Martin Smith, whose wife was opening a dance studio there. I had seen his recent movies, “Never Cry Wolf,” and “Middle Age Crazy.”

Almost every time I went there in the ensuing years to browse bookstores, art galleries and to eat lunch, I spotted someone of movie or television fame. A girlfriend and I talked to Helen Hunt in the 1990s, complimenting her on the TV series, “Mad About You.” I recalled my experience after I watched her in an excellent 2012 movie, “The Sessions.”

Sitting outside an ice cream shop, I noticed a very welcoming and smiling Dick Van Dyke. I’ve regretted not saying hi ever since, especially since I knew his son Barry, who was active in my community of Agoura Hills.

A popular Italian restaurant attracts many celebrities. One afternoon Geena Davis, in a baseball cap and sweats, and leading her large poodle, sat with some of her friends at an adjacent table. She was a vivacious conversationalist from what I overheard, and the dog was well-behaved. I’m a fan of her current role as a neurosurgeon on “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC-TV.

Geena Davis dressed up

Geena Davis dressed up

Near that restaurant is a large grassy area with swings for children. I’ve seen TV host and comic Howie Mandell swing his kids, and Director Ron Howard, in his trademark baseball cap, walk by with a child on his shoulders.

My most exciting close encounter was with Shirley MacLaine on a late Sunday afternoon. My friend Carolyn and I were having lunch in an essentially empty restaurant when Shirley walked in with a young stocky blond man and took a table fairly close-by. She had on sunglasses and gave off an air of not wanting to be bothered. I surmised her companion was probably a personal assistant.

Since I was a fan of Shirley’s film work, not to mention all her books, I was yearning to go up and say something like, “I come from Virginia too!” Much more conservative than me, Carolyn strongly discouraged any action, so I had to content myself stealing a few glances. Shirley and the young man left the restaurant before we paid.

As we walked out, we decided to visit a favorite eclectic women’s boutique, Indiana Joan’s, which was right next door. There was Shirley again, this time buying some costume jewelry. I resisted my urges. Some time later, after browsing several more shops, Carolyn and I headed for the car. As we were walking through the small parking lot, here came Shirley and her companion again. He was carrying her dry cleaning and their car wasn’t far from ours.

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

 

HOLLYWOOD – STARS AND OSCARS

Today, it’s time for Oscar, the golden sexless man given to winners of the Academy Awards. As a perennial movie fan, I can’t resist watching the annual drama, the entertainment, the gorgeous gowns. Over the years I’ve walked around the various locations where they’ve held the celebrations. The current place, the Dolby Theater, is in a fairly new shopping/entertainment complex at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland, about 20 minutes from where I live. It’s an appropriate location–close to the footprints of stars in front of the Chinese Theater and across the street from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. The standout “Hollywood” touch is the elephant sculptures in the primary courtyard of the complex, inspired by the D.W. Griffith’s Babylon scene in his movie “Intolerance.” The modern interpretation is not as busy as this old “still” from the movie, but it’s easy to see where the inspiration came from.

Elephants in Griffith's Intolerance film

Elephants in Griffith’s Intolerance film

Hollywood has changed a great deal since the 1960s when I arrived in Los Angeles and had a job with AT&T as a service rep, a great job in those days. Service Reps were always female then because of the nature of the job. Women are still known as the gender more talented at multi-tasking, although the current reps are also men. It was fast-paced telephone work—taking orders for new telephones, transferring service, handling complaints about bills, and collecting bills. We reps were always tempted to say,“This is the last voice you will hear on your telephone,” when we called to collect overdue bills.

Being located on Gower Street between Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards in Hollywood was one of the best parts of the job. It was a different world, especially to me, the newbie. Although the area was primarily residential with small Spanish style homes and a few apartment buildings, the famous Studio Club, essentially a dormitory where aspiring actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, and Sharon Tate had stayed while looking for movie work, was a couple of blocks away. Up the street was Columbia Studios with its giant warehouse-size buildings. Most of us spotted various stars from time to time. I saw Dean Martin ride coolly down Gower on a motorcycle, and on another day I caught sight of the Monkees singing group coming out of an exclusive boutique.

When we weren’t brown-bagging it, we “girls” went to lunch at places where a star might eat. I liked French food and a few friends introduced me to Le Petit Café on Vine Street. It was a tiny hideaway run by a charming, handsome Frenchman, and the food was scrumptious. One day, Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show), who was seated with his friend Carol Burnett, treated us all to a few operatic bars of a song. Years later, I was introduced to him at the Beverly Hills Country Club where I was the editor of their magazine. Nabors, a very congenial Southerner who’d suffered a bout of poor health at that time, was wearing a bright lemon-colored sports coat. I told him about my first personal “concert.”

At Knight’s, a local coffee shop, I spotted the handsome Latin actor, Fernando Lamas, husband of Esther Williams, surrounded by his entourage. Feeling flush financially, a few of us had lunch once at the famous Brown Derby Hollywood. We were seated in a booth next to Cornel Wilde and the effervescent Mitzi Gaynor.

The phone company business office was on the second floor of a large two-story building–I believe it’s now a film company. We serviced most of the residential and business phone service in Hollywood, including the Sunset Strip, homes in the Hollywood Hills, and renowned restaurants on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row. We never knew who’d be on the phone when we picked up: the son of Peter Lorre (Maltese Falcon) who sounded like his father; Tiny Tim, who called continually; or Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., the dapper detective on TV’s “77 Sunset Strip.”

On the first floor was the public office, and the reps who worked downstairs always had amusing tales. People came in for phone service or to pay delinquent bills dressed in all sorts of outrageous outfits: men or women in trench coats, naked underneath; or women dressed in tight one-piece outfits that laced up the side, revealing bare skin from armpit to ankle. One of my friends came back from lunch one day to report she had seen an entire family (parents and two kids) walking down Hollywood Boulevard totally naked!

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE – On Film or TV?

Mel book cover #1

Because the Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday, my mind is buzzing with thoughts of screenplays and movies. I’ve always thought my historical fiction novel would make an excellent adventure film and create a marvelous role for a spunky female who could play a teenage lead.

Shortly after I published 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 from 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.

Sir Francis Drake, me and Melaynie

Sir Francis Drake, me and Melaynie

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 SECONDS

CAMERA CLOSE-UPS:

BOOK ON DESK – 10 SEC.

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.

INTERNATIONAL AUTHOR—TIM GURUNG

When I began a career in journalism as the Editor for the Acorn, a local weekly newspaper in Southern California, little did I imagine the invention of the global Internet and how my life would expand because of it.

Since then I’ve edited books for writers like: Tim Gurung, who was born in Nepal and now lives in Hong Kong; an English-born writer who grew up in Rhodesia; a writer whose American book was translated and printed in Russia with my name as editor written in Cyrillic; a writer born in Hong Kong and later educated in Hawaii, and writers who have come from Armenia, Germany, England, and from all over the US.

I’ve called myself a Wordsmith, a Forest Guide (when writers can’t see the forest for the trees), and a Midwife (helping writers give birth to books)—fun titles for my passions—writing and editing. I’ve written a screenplay, an historical fiction novel, six short novels, and over 500 blogs. And I’ve been editing newspapers, magazines and books of all kinds for over 30 years. I really enjoy the editing because I feel like a creative partner and cheerleader for a wide variety of writers who create books in all genres—about 150 books over the years.

 

Five Steps Novel

Five Steps Novel

Tim Gurung and I have worked together for several years and during that time, I’ve edited six of his books: Five Steps, Missionary or Mercenary, A Tree Called Tenalpa, Afterlife, The Cursed Nation, and A Nation for Refugees—all now available on Amazon. He wrote them all and I edited them before he went into the publishing process. Since he keeps enthusiastically writing, we’re currently in the process of editing Hong Kong.

What I find the most amazing is that Tim, a man born in Nepal, speaks five languages and chooses to write his books in English, a difficult language for English speakers, much less those who grew up speaking Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language spoken also in India and Bhutan. Gurung has a fascinating background: he became a Gurkha soldier for the British Army at the age of 17, just like his father and uncles, and served for 13 years in Hong Kong. After an early retirement, he went back to Nepal, got married, had children, and soon after found a job in Hong Kong and brought his family there.

He is self-educated and self-motivated. Writing is his passion and once he’d established his business and made his family comfortable, his goal was to retire and spend the rest of his life writing books and plans now to use the proceeds from book sales for his ISSLCARE FOUNDATION charity, which will donate the money to the poor and needy.

Tim believes “Writers should write for global readers, not limiting or restricting themselves within certain boundaries. They should write about global problems.”

Tim Gurung’s first book was Five Steps. The main character is John, who loses his family in a freak accident. When he finds a memory chip at the site of the incident, he decides to investigate the telephone numbers on the chip to see if they had anything to do with the accident. The ensuring whirlwind journey takes him to Okinawa, Lhasa, Kashmir, New York and Portland Island in the UK. The journey changes John and those he meets in positive ways as he learns to see life from different viewpoints.

All of Tim’s books have inspiring stories and I’ve enjoyed working with him on them. It’s been an adventure and an education for me learning different viewpoints, just as he’s written about in Five Steps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITALIAN TRAIN STRIKE PROVIDES COMEDY

Gloomy view of the Adriatic

Gloomy view of the Adriatic

Visiting Italy is not always a guarantee for sunshine and fun, even in April. My newlywed husband and I discovered that on our honeymoon years ago in Milano Marittima.

In our quest for the sun, Hans and I decided on a short trip to San Marino, an ancient separate country within Italy.

As the bus climbed to the top of the little mountain country, instead of sunshine, we had managed to get even more socked in. It might as well have been raining, and it was so foggy we could see almost nothing, much less the so-called spectacular views. We got off at a restaurant before we reached the top; there would be good Italian food and better yet, some wine to soothe us.

San Marino--the way it was supposed to look

San Marino–the way it was supposed to look

When we came back to the hotel, a few hours later, there was still no sunshine and the next day was no better. We decided to call it quits and go back to Germany. Heaters and oysters, even Italian food, didn’t make up for lack of sunshine. We weren’t getting any warmer, not even with sex. By this time it was nearly Easter.

The next day we packed our heavy bags, wondering why we’d brought so many clothes and the tennis rackets. When we got back to the train station in Rimini, we discovered we’d chosen the wrong day to travel. Italian workers apparently love to go on strike and the trains hadn’t been running for three days. That it was almost Easter made it worse; the station was packed with people. First class reservations didn’t mean a thing! To add insult to a gloomy trip, the sun was coming out!

There were no seats to be had—it was standing room only. For the first leg of the journey we were packed in at the back of one of the cars near the W.C. (toilets). There were not enough cars to hold all the passengers wanting to go somewhere, like home for the holiday. We had to stand by our heavy suitcases. Hans was very obliging and good natured: he would lift the young passengers, who needed to go to the toilet, over the suitcases.

We rode standing for an hour or so before we reached another train station. They were going to remove some cars so we had to get off the train and find our new car. Trouble was, the cars hadn’t all stopped near a platform, which meant we had to carry those heavy suitcases through the large rocks surrounding the train tracks until we found the designated car.

For this segment of the journey, we were lucky to find a seat. It was a fold-down seat in the mail car, an interesting location and somewhat entertaining as we watched train workers sorting the mail. Hours later, and another transition from one train to another, we actually found a regular, fairly comfortable train seat in a fully packed car. No scenic ride back to Germany. By the time we got to our Mannheim, Germany, destination, it was near 3 a.m.

At that time of the morning, we didn’t want to spend the money for a hotel and Hans’ room in the BOQ wasn’t available. We made the best of it by having a drink and a light snack. We shared a table, as Europeans do, and watched the interactions of the people sitting around it.

I have a vivid memory of a young blond German woman entertaining her GI companion. She might have been charging! She had apparently bought a new bra and wanted to show him how pretty it was. She thought nothing of pulling her sweater up and modeling it, not only for him, but for everyone else at the table and nearby. We Americans were absolutely clueless in bra design in those days. Hers had colorful flowers on a green background. American women were still wearing white, beige and black.

SCREWY HONEYMOON MEMORIES

My wedding day -- outside military housing in Frankfurt, Germany

My wedding day — outside the family’s military housing in Frankfurt, Germany. Mom, Tupper, me and Dad.

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and even though I’ve been divorced for years, an old memory that comes to mind is my Italian honeymoon. It didn’t turn out perfectly, but if it had I wouldn’t have the funny remembrances.

My ex and I were married in Frankfurt, Germany, in early April. Hans was a Lt. in the Army, I was working as a secretary for the Manager of the Heidelberg Officers Club, and my parents were stationed in Frankfurt. Since it was still chilly in Europe, we thought we should go south for a honeymoon as long as we found reasonable accommodations. I suggested the island of Majorca, but Hans knew a travel agent who could get us a great price in a nice hotel right on the Adriatic in Italy. Milano Marritima was very close to Rimini and could be reached easily by train from Germany. We figured the weather in Italy was bound to be better than Germany, even if it was barely Spring.

The hotel boasted tennis courts, a beach, and plenty of things to do when we needed a break from romance. Believing we should be prepared for all occasions, we packed our largest suitcases, with tennis racquets, of course. I had spent money on new outfits and took them all; I was not a light packer.

We had had a formal wedding at an Episcopal Church that served both Americans and Germans. The reception was at my parents’ military housing on Hansallee. Although the day was overcast, it was warm enough to have a bar set up outside and food in the living/dining area.

My military father drove us all crazy preparing for the wedding and reception, and I wondered if my mother and I would survive to enjoy it. A couple of hours into the lively reception, Dad, who believed in “getting the show on the road,” encouraged us to get down to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof in plenty of time for the train. We had a couple of hours to stroll around and check out an area that was ripe with hookers. Train stations were always full of potential customers.

The trip south on a sleeper coach (we had splurged) took all night and into the next day. We disembarked in Rimini and took a bus to the small beach town of Milano Marittima. The brochure was quite inviting but the weather that first day was just cold and gloomy.

What the hotel was supposed to look like in sunny weather.

What the hotel was supposed to look like in sunny weather.

We were impressed with the modern looking Hotel Aurelia with its artistic marble floors; it was clean and the staff was very helpful. Our room with a balcony was a few floors up and facing the ocean. We were looking forward to a warm sunny week. The next day also dawned gloomy and overcast. Marble floors are not inviting when the weather is cold.

Not a day to take a dip in the ocean, we walked around the small town and had delicious prosciutto and wine. Fortunately, we’d brought sweaters along with all the beach attire. There wasn’t much to do as far as exploring, so we did what honeymooners do. The staff was quite solicitous, encouraging us to eat oysters and eggs, which were supposed to be good for your sex life, and they brought us a portable heater in case our body heat wasn’t enough. We had special service in the dining room. They could practice on us since the hotel was essentially empty except for one other couple. No wonder the price had been ideal!

Where was the sun Italy was famous for? Not here. Perhaps we could find sunshine nearby? We discovered there was a separate country a few miles away. We bought tickets for a bus jaunt to San Marino, an approximate 38-square-mile mountain and one of the smallest states in the world after the Vatican and Monaco. Although the mountain was less than a half-mile high, maybe it would get us out of the moisture and overcast. It was worth a try.

To be continued…

LINKS ACROSS THE ATLANTIC – UK & US

One of my favorite quotes comes from Chief Seattle, a Native American: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

English and American history have created connections since the first English explorers and settlers started sailing to the North American continent. My relatives came from Scotland and Ireland, for instance. And, like many other Americans in modern times, I am a great fan of the British TV series, “Downton Abbey,” which is already in its fifth season.

Follow this thread: I was an English literature major at the College of William and Mary, founded in 1693 in Williamsburg, Virginia, with its primary building designed by England’s famous architect Christopher Wren.

I was born in Danville, Virginia, a medium-size town near the border of North Carolina. Besides once having a prosperous textile factory, Dan River Fabrics, Danville can boast of a famous woman born there in 1879—Nancy Langhorne Astor. The family home where she was born at that time is preserved for history. It’s across the street from Danville’s hospital, where I was born in the 1940s.

 

Nancy Astor Historical Marker

Nancy Astor Historical Marker

After she was divorced from her first husband, Nancy moved to England and married the wealthy aristocrat Waldorf Astor. They settled into a huge palace, Cliveden, high on a hill overlooking the Thames River. My English friend, Terence Sharkey (as a teenage actor he made an English adventure movie in Tripoli, Libya, which he’s written about on my blog) says Nancy’s home is located on perhaps the most beautiful spot along the Thames. When she died in 1964, she left the palace to the UK. As a patriotic Brit during World War I, she built a hospital for wounded soldiers on the grounds. Terence commented, “In the grounds American, English and a few German combatants lie side by side.”

Fascinating facts about Nancy: She was the first woman elected as a Member of Parliament–the House of Commons, and she held office from 1919 to 1945! She represented Plymouth, the English port city on the southern coast, from where Sir Francis Drake sailed forth to the Caribbean and around the world. I wrote about Drake’s adventures in my historical fiction, Melaynie’s Masquerade.

Young Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent

Young Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent

Nancy was very conservative in her viewpoints, but she had a sharp tongue and was known for her biting wit. Southern women have been known for their spunk for years—remember Scarlet O’Hara, and the gals in the movie “Steel Magnolias?” For instance, Nancy commented: “I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance, he laid the blame on a woman.”

Good advice about party behavior: “One reason why I don’t drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time.” Some philosophy: “The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything…or nothing.”

She was an early women’s libber: “Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women.” And: “We women talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half what we know.”

Winston Churchill wasn’t her fan and she wasn’t his. She is reported to have said, “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.” He responded, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

MIDDLE-EASTERN VIEWPOINTS

One of the wonders of the Internet and a plus to the experience of writing a blog, is the pleasure of readers’ responses. During the past few years I’ve heard from several Libyans who have enjoyed my writing. Last year I was interviewed about my experiences in Libya by Hasan Karayam, a Libyan-born college student getting his PhD in history from Middle Tennessee State University. He and his professor wanted to know what life was like in Tripoli at that time–how the mixture of nationalities got along, for instance.

Libyan-born Mosbah Kushad, a professor at the University of Illinois in crop sciences, who lives and works in Champaign, Illinois, wrote me a couple of years ago. When we communicated—after Ghadaffi was deposed—he was on his way to Tripoli for a visit for the first time in years. It would be interesting to know what he thinks about Libya’s current turmoil.

Mosbah wrote: Victoria’s blog brings back pleasant memories of my days as a young boy growing up in Suk El Guma outside Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. When I was in 8th grade, my uncle got me a job as a busboy at the Base for a handsome salary of $21 a month. I was on top of the world with my personal pass to ride the bus to and from the Base. That same gate that everyone remembers very fondly.

I remember watching young American kids neatly dressed walking into the school and some riding the buses from the city. I used to daydream of someday being like one of them. Well, with luck I finished college in Libya, came to the US where I got my Ph.D., and I got a job as a professor in a major university, and thirty-six years later, my kids are living like those kids that I used to dream about. This is my life story as a Libyan American. Like everyone else, I cherish those days but I also cherish the time that I have lived in this great country and the many friends I have made here. The smell of fresh bread from those bakery shops in Suk El Guma is still with me…God bless you all.

Old City Tripoli

Old City Tripoli

When I wrote about a few of the unpleasant habits of some Libyan men, I heard from an Egyptian man, Wael M. El Dessouki, who had lived in Tripoli. He wasn’t too happy with my disparaging remarks.

Dear Ms. Victoria,
 I am an Egyptian who lived in Tripoli for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984. I have read your blog about Tripoli and it’s obvious to me that you are deeply connected to that place. I can understand your feelings. Tripoli is a charming city, not only because of its places but more so because of its people.
 However, in your blog, you have included a few remarks and general statements about Libyans that I believe are inappropriate and offensive. For example, you say, ‘Libyan policemen were not above trying to touch private parts if an American woman or young girl happened to walk too closely to these lusty, over-curious males.’ Maybe you encountered an incident of sexual harassment, however, that does not justify making such a general statement about Libyans.
 Also, the issue of peeing in the streets: maybe you have seen that happening, but I have seen it several times in some US cities. Hence, when you list such thing as a cultural issue, that implies that it is very common and happens in Libya only. 
Some other blogs include similar remarks.

I answered this gentleman and explained I didn’t mean to imply that all Libyan men were rude or ill-mannered and he was happy.

Wael M. El Dessourki answered: Thanks, Victoria, for your positive response. Your writings about your experiences in Libya are wonderful and I sincerely enjoyed them. I am quite sure you did not have any bad intentions when you mentioned those remarks; however, as an Arab, I see those remarks as annoying dents in a very nice picture. I am concerned that such remarks might be a turnoff for other Arab readers.

In this world, we hope to build bridges between cultures that bring people to common understanding and to respect our differences. In my opinion, your blog is similar to a nice bridge but unfortunately it’s got some holes.

I admit I am not perfect, although I did not say that to this concerned Egyptian reader. He wrote before the Egyptian and the Libyan uprisings and continuing unrest. I wonder what his thoughts are now about the upheavals??

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button