July, 2015:

SEX — In Books & TV

Emerging by Heidi Giraud, symbolic depiction of emerging from the tangle of the past

Emerging by Heidi Giraud, A woman pondering the confusion of sex!

Sex may make the world go round and the population go up, but how do we approach it in writing? Gingerly or full bore? And yes, you can interpret that as you wish.

Sex affects us all in one way or another, obviously. We spend enough time figuring it out: what sexual preference does our invented character prefer, and can he/she or we be put so easily into the box (label) of heterosexual or homosexual or something in between? Didn’t Kinsey, and Masters & Johnson open the door to open-mindedness and acceptance? Yes and no. Consider Caitlyn Jenner, LGBT, not to mention the Catholic priests’ scandals, etc. I won’t open that Pandora’s Box, but the subject of sex is always an attention getter.

I’m a person of mixed beliefs about sex and about sexually-oriented books, films, and TV, as I’ll wager most of us are. No tidy preferences for many of us; emotions can be jumbled. As a voracious reader, I can enjoy a book that hints at sexual dalliance as well as one with specifics. I’m not a prude but I can also be quite conservative. I speak or write more bravely than I act. I’ve seen a few porn films but prefer soft porn, which excites without being as explicit. That preference extends to books, for the most part. I’ve read the first two Fifty Shades of Grey books and while it was certainly titillating, I got tired of all the specifics. Perhaps I like more mystery to the process. I’ve been watching Masters of Sex about sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson on Showtime. It’s been fascinating to discover how they did their research and with whom for their 1966 book, Human Sexual Response.

I wrote two fairly graphic sex scenes for my book, Melaynie’s Masquerade, and enjoyed the process. It was my first novel and my first attempt at a genuine sex scene. All the newspaper/magazine articles I wrote over the years steered clear of sex.

As a child of the 50s, my sexual education was a definite mix. Don’t get pregnant was the big fear before the 60s ushered in free sex. As we learned in no time, nothing is free! Sexual diseases, the usual STDs and then AIDS, soon took over. I’ve been married and single and not always prudent, but I’ve escaped dire consequences. Experience, however, does provide an edge in writing about sexual subjects. Imagination goes only so far!

It’s fun to debate the issue: to write or not to write the sex scene. Not long ago I edited a highly sexual book and found it to be a pleasurable experience and sometimes stimulating. Despite finding it salacious when I first read a sample, I changed my mind when I discovered it was very humorous. It was written by a young math teacher in his 30s and he didn’t have outdated compunctions about sex. When I’d grown up, sex was a sinful thing to be hidden and whispered about. The majority of us were not so innocent but pretended we were pure. Lots of hypocrisy exists concerning sex and that will probably never change. I went through a time in college when I was asking girlfriends if they were still virgins! Hilarious now, (I wonder who was lying?) but some of us kept our virginity longer in the early 60s.

I admired Dave’s easy way of writing about his adventures; he’d already put them on a blog; in case you’re interested—www.daveglenn.com. His writing is quite explicit; he doesn’t mince words. And he didn’t treat himself as the stud king. He described his mistakes, his rejections, and the hilarious escapades from meeting all sorts of women, both young and older, in bars or online, as well as encountering foreign girls available on travels to Europe, Australia, etc.

Dave told me he thinks casual sex and having sex buddies is fine, if it’s done responsibly so that no one’s feelings are hurt. He’s not averse to masturbating but having the real thing is more fun. And he doesn’t need a commitment or marriage to sanctify his sexual urges.

Editing his book brought me up-to-date. My, my…Sex was treated as a perfectly natural part of life (Kinsey had thought so in the early part of the 20th century: wish I’d read him earlier!) Modern girls are just as anxious as guys to crawl into bed or wherever the assignation might be, despite emotional or sometimes physical risks. One night stands.

Sex may be freer and more open now in the Western World but, being humans, there are usually emotional strings of one sort or another, especially for women. I must conclude I’m still betwixt and between. At least many of us can read about sex these days without having apoplexy.


Old Army truck from MASH

Old Army truck souvenir from MASH TV series in Santa Monica Mountains – Malibu Creek State Park

In Southern California, the entertainment capital of the world, it’s not unusual to see large white trucks parked on local streets—film crews have come for a day or two of filming. It could be for a commercial, a TV show or perhaps even a glamorous exciting movie! On my way to Trader Joe’s to get groceries recently, I saw them lined up about a block long on the street bordering a local park. I get a kick out of seeing the long trucks full of dressing rooms and imagining who will use them. When the rooms are small, it’s not going to be anyone famous.

Not long ago, one of the local car washes looked like it was open for business, but they were using it for some kind of film shoot. Since the car wash didn’t want to lose its regular clientele (it was on the weekend), a man and woman were sitting near the entrance handing out free washes because of the inconvenience. Recently, an Italian restaurant had cameras outside for some kind of production. It’s an older restaurant that was remodeled not long ago, and that factor may have made it more appealing for filming.

The Los Angeles Times prints a map and a list of “permitted shoots” for the week in the Business section. Not long ago NBC was filming in Studio City, and a couple of other productions were being shot in other parts of the San Fernando Valley. And then there are the commercials, like Purina One being made in Encino, and Mazda whose shoot was in Griffith Park.

One of the best, almost perpetual film sets is a natural one: Malibu Creek State Park, 7,000 acres located off Malibu Canyon Road in the Conejo Valley. I was living with my family in that general area when it opened to the public in 1976, and we were eager to hike through it. The State of California combined the old 20th Century Fox movie ranch, extensive property owned by Bob Hope and 250 acres belonging to Ronald Reagan from 1951-1967. The valley and surrounding Santa Monica Mountains were once the territory of the Chumash Indians and later to Spanish settlers.

On one of our first family hikes, there were still some movie sets around—the dome-shaped homes of the apes in “Planet of the Apes,” which starred Charlton Heston, for instance. What looked like a shallow concrete pool was the miniature set for “Tora, Tora, Tora,” a movie about World War II. The lovely home used for Cary Grant’s film, “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” is still there and used for an administrative office for California State Parks.

Some of the many movies made in that scenic area included: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The park was supposed to be South America and one of the characters actors in it, Strother Martin, lived nearby in Malibu Lake. Elvis Presley made “Love Me Tender” there, and in the classic 1941 film, “How Green Was My Valley,” the area posed as Wales.

A more recent film made by Mel Brooks: “Robin Hood, Men in Tights” was filmed there. I met Mel Brooks shortly after his film came out. I was doing an interview in Santa Monica at the Pritikin Institute. He and his wife, Anne Bancroft, were having dinner in the Pritikin banquet hall and I introduced myself. I couldn’t resist telling Mel how much I liked his funny movies, particularly the Robin Hood movie. He had one particular joke in the film that applied to the area’s history: the actors used a real fox as a messenger and as it ran away, the line was, if I remember correctly: “There goes the 20th Century Fox!”

One of the most popular shows on television, “MASH” was filmed in Malibu Creek State Park. The area must have resembled Korea. I missed the opportunity to ask my dad, who had fought in the Korean War, if he had ever watched “MASH.” The TV set is now long gone, but they left behind an old Army truck, which stands as a souvenir in the area that was once the set.


“What if” is a writer’s territory. If we didn’t have an active imagination, there would be no fantasy, no fiction, no Harry Potter, Holden Caulfield, Bridget Jones, or Hamlet.

It’s my mother’s 94th birthday today, July 22, a significant occasion, especially if she had lived. I am reminded of that “what if” as more of that WWII generation dies. My mother’s immediate family has been gone since 2007 when her favorite sister, Rosebud Peace Motley Coleman died at the age of 89. There were originally six sisters and two brothers, starting in 1904 in North Carolina and ending up in Danville, Virginia. I’m thankful I have so many memories of this loving and original family with whom I spent my first few years of life.

Mama with Baby "Viki"

Mama with Baby “Viki”

Luckily, I still have cousins to share memories and they have children, so the family that started with Bertha Jake Motley and Edwin P. Motley in Anson County, N.C. continues to thrive.

My mother stopped at three children and only lived long enough (age 52) to briefly get to know my two children. She missed out on my sister Tupper’s brood of five. Coming from a family of eight and being a friendly Southerner (Is there any other kind?), Mom had always enjoyed people in general, a valuable trait as the wife of an Army colonel. I know she would have embraced the opportunity of nurturing grandchildren. I remember her visit to Los Angeles when I was a young bride. She told me she was checking up to make sure I had children in mind and wanted to breed! Heidi wasn’t even a thought in my mind yet, much less Hansi.

Mom and Dad retired in San Antonio, Texas, built their dream house and then her kidney disease took over. Besides the lack of advanced knowledge of this disease in the 1970s, there were too many complications and my mother passed on within a couple of years.

Rewind…I’m going to indulge my flights of fancy here and create a different life for her. She and Dad (they had a contentious relationship after two decades of marriage) would have gotten amicably divorced after trying the supposed idyllic retired life in Texas, and Mom wouldn’t have developed kidney disease.

In my imagination, since I was married and settled in Southern California, Mom would have packed up and come to live nearby. Only in her early 50s, with lots of creative energy, she might have turned to her seamstress skills to keep herself busy. With her looks, personality and sense of humor, I can picture her meeting a handsome man in costume design for the studios. It would lead to lucrative work on several Oscar-winning movies, independent films, etc. Having spent years as an Army “gypsy,” the crazy life in Hollywood would appeal to her, and she would’ve make plenty of friends while enjoying all the social events. She would never have been too busy for her children and grandchildren, of course. Her life would’ve been so full and blessed that she wouldn’t have been ready to leave the planet until she was 100.

My mom, 1967, at Top of Topanga with a view of San Fernando Valley--what a difference almost 50 years later.

My mom, 1967, at Top of Topanga with a view of San Fernando Valley–what a difference almost 50 years later. She would have fit in with Southern California life.

Although she didn’t get to live the script in my mind, she would have laughed at my ideas. And that’s the best part—it didn’t take much for her to laugh.

As the song goes, “I can dream, can’t I?”


A Uaddan

The proud Libyan Uaddan, a variety of ram

Sidi Misari, on the outskirts of Tripoli, was an experimental farm run by Americans to show the Libyans better ways of farming and raising animals. Since it was close to Garden City, where I lived, I would frequently visit there with friends. A pretty garden area planted liberally with ice plant, a flowering succulent and typical local plant, welcomed visitors. Besides the ordinary chickens, turkeys, pheasants, rabbits and guinea pigs, there were pens with a few Libyan animals – the tiny gazelle as in the famous Fountain of the Gazelle, and the uaddan, a ram with huge horns, so massive that the animal had to sleep leaning on them. They kept Angus cattle, Brahma bulls and lots of horses as well.

The experimental farm gave Americans the unique idea in the mid 1950s of holding a rodeo. Sidi Misari would provide the Brahma bulls and some of the other animals, and it was another way to foster understanding between our two countries. Plenty of U.S. airmen knew something about riding horses and bulls. Everybody wanted to get into the act, and one of my high school classmates, Claudia Sobczak, was appointed Queen of the Rodeo. It was set up on the grounds of the Libyan Riding School, whose members would perform with their Arabian steeds. Besides the usual riding and roping, this rodeo would feature a camel-riding event.

Sheiks on horseback                                                     The riders above are local Libyan sheiks showing off their beautiful Arabian horses at the Rodeo.

All of Tripoli was invited with poorer Libyans treated to special ticket prices. The grandstands were filled with an international audience, most of whom had never seen a rodeo. Libyan Police putting their horses through their paces opened the day, followed by Arab sheiks in traditional headdress proudly parading their Arabian horses. After all the traditional events came the much-touted highlight—riding a camel—which turned into an amusing anticlimax. The camel’s cinch belt was not tight enough to inspire him, for this normally cantankerous beast refused to oblige with enthusiastic bucking, and the rider easily mastered him.

A line-up of Arabian horses for the Tripoli Rodeo

A line-up of Arabian horses for the Tripoli Rodeo



I’m not a ghost expert, but I know people who have done research on the subject and had some fascinating spooky experiences. Rob and his wife Anne had so much contact with the spirit world that they decided to write books about ghostly encounters. They published A Guide to the Haunted Queen Mary, Haunted Catalina and The Haunted Alamo, among others. I knew them both and did some proofreading for one of the books.

I interviewed the couple some years ago for my Daily News column and the story was too good not to share again. They are very convivial people, and we enjoyed many glasses of champagne and tasty Mexican meals together over the years. Perhaps some of their ghostly friends joined in the laughter without us knowing?!

“I was aware of the spirit realm as a young child,” Rob told me. “When I was 8 or 9, I had a weird experience at our house — a presence that emanated from the closet. It walked toward me and vanished. I knew it wasn’t my imagination.” Rob said the ghost, which was a benign presence, is probably still “residing” in that closet.

Anne told me she grew up hearing ghost stories, and her grandparents always claimed they had a ghost closet.

Rob and Anne shared a ghostly experience on an archeological dig in Oxnard, CA, some years ago. When a developer’s construction worker hit a skull with his backhoe, Rob was called in as an archeological expert to examine the remains. It turned out to be a 500 year-old Indian gravesite with 21 bodies, which were positioned in certain designated ways. Chumash Indian officials were also contacted, and they decided to perform a ritual cleansing ceremony when the bodies were once again buried.

Anne remembered the spooky aftermath and the chills she felt as she and Rob observed the ceremony. “Roosters were crowing, dogs from neighboring homes were howling, and a devil duster wind kicked up out of nowhere.”

There was another aftereffect from the incident, Rob related. The workers who had accidentally uncovered the grave all had minor car accidents the week following.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA

After taking a “ghost” tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, Anne was intrigued and went looking for a book in the gift shop about the various ghosts. The owner told her there was no book, but one was needed. The Queen Mary, a Cunard Line ship in service from 1936-1967 became a tourist attraction in Long Beach in 1971. Shortly after, the couple set to work by calling the Queen Mary’s archivist to establish a correlation between actual deaths that had occurred on the ship and the ghosts haunting it.

They found plenty of ghost stories and several concerned the deaths of John Pedder and William Stark, for instance. Pedder, an 18 year-old crewman, was accidentally crushed to death by watertight door #13. Stark, a ship’s officer, died in his quarters when he accidentally drank poison thinking it was gin. Since their deaths, there have been repeated sightings of ghosts believed to be Pedder and Stark. People have also reported seeing a woman in a 1930s style bathing suit. Apparently there was a woman murdered in the first class changing room and her spirit haunts the first class pool.





As an editor, helping an author craft his/her book is very satisfying. One of my latest favorite projects was the spiritual Time’s Illusion, Miracles, Dreams & Finding My True Reality by Carey Jones. His inspiring book was recently published in paperback by Pauli Publishing House (PPH).  In one of the chapters, Carey says, “Native Americans stress the importance of our interconnectedness to everything around us. In the Himalayan mountain regions, in places like India, Nepal and Tibet, a deeper spiritual search for the meaning of existence has been happening for millennia. Buddha lived 2600 years ago! But in the West, we have purposely separated ourselves from a deeper understanding of existence…technology has insulated us and separated us from the greater reality.”

Before I edited Carey Jones’ book, I edited other books on metaphysical topics, ghost stories, and true spiritual adventures. Last year I posted some fascinating advice/wisdom about life that had been received by some good friends back in the 1990s. Because this wonderful information still pertains, I’m going to share some more of it.

My friend Rob invited and received these “transmissions” through the mysteries of the universe (in the same vein: where do inspiring dreams or artistic creations come from?). Rob got them, probably a hundred or more, at various times, when he was at his computer working on his normal business. Similar to channeling a spirit or group of spirits who aren’t present in this physical life, which many psychic types perform, Rob would type these 7-10 page messages out on his keyboard. His normal typing speed couldn’t match his flying fingers, but Rob wasn’t in a normal state of mind. There were no mistakes and he had no idea what he was typing. The messages were formatted into proper paragraphs with correct margins. The first time he would see or read what he’d written was when the spirits had departed, he had come back to himself, and his wife Ann had printed out the philosophical messages.

 My daughter, Heidi Giraud's original painting

My daughter, Heidi Giraud’s original painting

The spirits transmitting the information called themselves St. Germain. The quotes below are just a small part of it all. At one point years ago, the idea was for me to organize and edit them into a book. My blog is the next best thing since the messages remain intriguing. Many of the words are deliberately and frequently misspelled in various areas to convey an unusual layer of meanings. These “double-entendres” are not sexual but spiritual and require a broad mind and imagination. The paragraphs below were all from inspirational sources–I added a few explanations in parentheses.

When you accept your situation, you move forward into endless opportunities and endless levels of real eye ties (realities) and dream escapes. If you choose to worry, to fear, to live as a shame-filled and guilt-ridden judgmental life force, then you go in circles. Your motion in this repetitive energy pattern is not accelerated, but kept in check. You do not grow as quickly, you do not allow other energies to enter your field as easily, you are not as aware of potential opportunities as you could be…you fall into dies ease and ill news (disease and illness) more readily…you are fight ion (fighting) your pure energy.

You must learn to understand that each moment that you have on this planet should be directed toward moving forward without reservations. You do not have to dwell on what was, or what is, but rather, on what you would like to be, to have, to dream, to create and imagine.

Why waste these precious moments on worry? Why mire your energy in the endless circle of deep recession. It is your actions that dictate change. It is change, which dictates your course, and your course that WILL bring you home. What holds you down is fear. What stops a dream is control. What prevents you from having what you want is impatience. You suffer while you are here because you believe that that is what you deserve. You have illness and face death with fear because you believe that this is all there is and that nothing lies beyond what you cannot see. How WRONG you are, how limited your perception, how mired your soul’s energy is.


My starring role as Louise

My starring role as Louise

Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya, had a TV station back in the 1950s-1960s with some imported programs from the US and some local American talent from the base and in town. I was picked for a  few moments of fleeting fame on American military TV long ago. Perhaps a few hundred people actually saw the program broadcast.

Since Hollywood didn’t come knocking on my door with a contract, I chose a writing career instead. No big script or book deals or a big budget movie, yet…alas. Although I did make some attempts to get my screenplay about Sir Francis Drake produced then ended up writing an historical fiction novel about him:  MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE

My “starring” role on TV was to portray the fictional “Louise” while Joe, a talented pianist and airman played the song of that name. Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer is known for singing the song at least 50 years ago. Two of the lines are:

Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise.

Birds in the trees seem to twitter Louise.

Joe (I can no longer remember his last name) had a half-hour TV program, which featured him playing piano. It was broadcast in the evening to every home with a TV set at Wheelus Air Force Base. I don’t remember if I even knew when or how often, but I did save the photos taken for the special occasion. My family had not brought a TV to Libya so Mom and Dad did not catch my debut.

Keeping his program unique was probably a challenge for Joe. One day he came up with the bright idea to play famous songs named for women: “Marie,” “Charmaine” and “Louise,” for instance, and have a girl in the background who represented each particular song.

He would play five songs. He already knew two Italian girls to feature, but he needed three more females to represent all the songs he had in mind. Apparently reasoning that the high school physical education program would provide him with the best choices, he came out to the Wheelus tennis courts one morning. The male mind is always intriguing! Maybe it was our grace hitting a tennis ball during physical education classes, or perhaps what our legs looked like in shorts that influenced his choices?

I had never considered myself a talented tennis player, although I did improve over the years. I was still in the hitting-the-ball-too-high stage, and lucky to make it over the net. My legs, however, were shapely.

Joe picked me, Judy Jones, and Vicki Scola and we all agreed to face the cameras. I was supposed to be a French Louise and had to find a beret and a scarf since my portrayal was a variation of the famous French Apache dance (based on Parisian gang culture and named for the US Native American tribe). I’ve still got the now tattered beret and the orange scarf.

I don’t recall that we did much if any rehearsing since we simply had to sit or stand, as the case may be, and look sexy. When Joe played each song, the camera panned from his playing to the appropriate girl and the painted background scene behind each of us.

No lingering fears of cameras linger; I don’t think I was nervous. One of the young Italian girls apparently did get the jitters; her underarm perspiration shows on her pretty dress.

Was that my “15 minutes of fame?” Fame is so ephemeral.

Between the two Italian girls, I'm in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe's at the piano, the star of the show.

Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Wheelus students, Judy Jones and Vickie Scola, are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.


StripGuyThis past week, the second Magic Mike film featuring male strippers debuted in movie theaters. I wouldn’t doubt that there will be plenty of women buying tickets to see the very fit, six-pack bodies of Channing Tatum, Michael Strahan (of football fame and co-host of the Kelly and Michael morning show on ABC-TV) and others. There’s no real meaningful story behind the film; it’s strictly for fun and viewing pleasure. It reminds me of the 1980s: male strippers began to be all the rage when  Chippendales was established in 1979 as the first all-male stripping troupe in a Los Angeles nightclub.  The very attractive men would strip down to a G-string and allow women to watch. Not long after, women would tip the strippers by walking up to the stage and tucking currency in the guy’s skimpy underwear. This type of entertainment is commonplace now but it was slightly scandalous years ago. Chippendales and similar shows  are now worldwide besides in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

I attended a similar show at that time, and I don’t remember if it was part of the original Chippendale’s or a copy of the show. I had a purpose, although a fun one. I was the editor of the local Acorn newspaper in the Conejo Valley that was distributed in Agoura, Westlake Village, Oak Park and Thousand Oaks. Since I wasn’t taking this assignment I had given myself “seriously,” I decided to write it from the point of view of an innocent “country bumpkin” and be shocked and astounded by all the near-naked bodies. I enjoyed coming up with a few Southern sayings from my dim memory of them.

Even though we female attendees of this event were living in Los Angeles, the home of the entertainment industry, there were many young women there who weren’t familiar with this slightly shocking revelation of the fit and toned male body. I think I’ve lost the original copy of the silly old story, but I do have a photo to share. I took this photo of one of the enthusiastic strippers, who probably had a mix of Native American and Latin heritage, and he loved posing for me.

StripGuy copy

StripGuy copy

StripGuy 1

It was somewhat unique at the time to bring such a show to the “boondocks” of the Conejo Valley. We were the next valley over from the more famous San Fernando Valley, which in more recent years has been home to porno films. Remember Mark Walberg’s fairly salacious “Boogie Nights” with Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore?  It was filmed in the San Fernando Valley.

Whizin’s Center, where my Acorn office was located, was a unique Western style shopping center. In one of the buildings there was a spacious room that was once an old restaurant and was large enough to accommodate a stage and tables for the ladies to imbibe food and drinks while they watched the naughty entertainment. That included me–after all I had to document the experience. Many have seen the original “Magic Mike” or even the older British film, “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, one of the many I took during my journalism career, has always been a favorite. He shows just the right attitude for what he’s doing. Fortunately, he had on enough clothes for his photo to be displayed in a family newspaper.






Celebrating July 4th has always made me feel proud to be an American, no matter where I might have been living at the time. Fireworks are the capper: exciting and a bit ethereal.

Fireworks painting  by Heidi Giraud

Fireworks painting by Heidi Giraud

The fireworks in Washington, D.C. are probably the most spectacular of any I’ve seen. I remember going with friends Ellen and Braxton, in the early ‘60s, to see them at the Washington Monument on the Mall. Since the crowds were dense and the parking sparse, we drove into D.C. early, way before it got dark.

With a blanket (no folding seats like today) and a few snacks, we explored the grassy area around the Monument for a likely spot. We were soon surrounded by hundreds of people. There was probably some entertainment, but I only remember the incredible variety of fireworks—all sorts of colors and types of explosions, including large frames standing on the ground that displayed patriotic graphics like the flag or faces of presidents in exploding fireworks.

Lying on my back watching the pyrotechnics explode above the white spire of the Washington Monument was an amazing experience.

Thanks to public television, PBS, I’ve watched the July 4th entertainment and fireworks from Washington D.C. for years. It’s presented on a stage across from the Capitol. In the summer of my college years, there were always concerts and plays to attend around that area. When I was in high school my church group put on a Christmas play there (I played a large toy rabbit in “The Little Match Girl”). I remember Shakespeare plays in that park and one summer the Beach Boys with their inimitable sound (I recently saw the music biopic on Brian Wilson) were playing. It’s fun to reminisce about my connections to Washington, especially as I get older.

In the 1950s I was living in North Africa. I no longer recall if there were fireworks in Tripoli on the 4th, but it was hard to beat the camel and donkey rides on Thirteen Kilometer Beach, not to mention the hot dogs and other goodies. The more recent Sex and the City movie featured the stars riding camels, which reminded me of my camel ride. The camels we rode on that Tripoli beach weren’t as well groomed or attractive; they looked a bit mangy, and were muzzled since camels tend to bite. I can still imagine the way it felt to be so high up, grasping the horn of the swaying saddle as the camel moved in a sandy circle while the owner held onto a rope.

There’s a German celebration in Heidelberg in the summer that uses fireworks quite effectively. The “Burning of the Castle” commemorates the few times the castle was actually burned, twice, in the 17th century. My family joined my brother’s Cub Scout troop on a boat on the Neckar River and watched while all the lights in Heidelberg were turned off. The impressive fireworks, looking like real fire, came from the Old Bridge across the Neckar and from the ruined Castle on a hill above the famous old city.

Here’s a toast to the Chinese invention of fireworks in the 12th century and to our Declaration of Independence in the 18th century!

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