November, 2015:

ITALY, ANCIENT ITALY

The two-day cruise from Turkey to Italy gave ample time to hold a teenage dance in the Aft Lounge of the General Rose and a chance to get to know the nine teenagers who’d embarked in Turkey, plus the thirteen who’d come aboard in Istanbul. I was diligent in putting down first and last names of almost every teenager. My early newspaper experience must have influenced me! It’s unfortunate those skills didn’t extend to using my fairly simple camera. I took plenty of black and white photos but the lighting is off in most of them, or it was too overcast focusing from the ship and the backgrounds look blurry. Coming into Naples, we sailed past the island of Capri, which my photos depict as lumps in the mist.

We would only stay a night and day in Napoli but it was time enough to explore after dinner and then again the next day. A small group of us, including two mothers and three teenage boys, walked from the ship to a nearby downtown area and bought a few items. I was evidently slightly disgusted and wrote in my scrapbook, “Charles (an Explorer Scout) was paying too much attention to me and I ignored him. He’s a slob. He bought an icky gray tie. We went in about every store. The boys were very bored with it all.” So much for my teenage opinions!

The next morning there was a bus to take us to famous Pompeii and a guided tour, although at the time I thought that Leptis Magna, the Roman ruins in Libya, were much better. Apparently, the continuing excavations have since made Pompeii more outstanding.

I was annoyed when our tour guide took us to an almost completely restored house in Pompeii, but as a young female, I wasn’t allowed to enter. It was an ancient whorehouse with explicit graphic paintings and ceramic tile artwork. Some of the younger fellows who’d been able to go in told me the pictures on the walls were obscene, but they were too embarrassed to explain.

A street in ancient Pompeii

A street in ancient Pompeii

One of the Explorer Scouts from Tripoli was my companion for the Pompeii tour. David was a couple of years younger and very entertaining and energetic. When we lagged behind the tour guide by stopping to buy postcards (the photo above is one of those postcards), we had to run to catch up. In my scrapbook I commented, “If we didn’t look a sight running through the streets of Pompeii.” I must have borrowed that phraseology from my Southern mother.

After the tour, our group was taken to a nearby restaurant for lunch. After all the exercise, we enjoyed the spaghetti. Many of us got up to leave right after we’d finished what we thought was lunch. The waiters hurried to usher us back to our tables: the pasta was just the first course, they were already beginning to serve the second course of filet mignon. Unsophisticated military personnel and their dependents, especially in the 1950s, weren’t used to two-course meals, especially ones starting with spaghetti.

MED CRUISE – ATHENS TO ISTANBUL

A Mediterranean Cruise on a luxurious floating city isn’t such a special experience these days when so many people are used to world travel, especially on cruises. Back in 1958, we military brats were excited by the prospect of visiting exotic ports, buying souvenirs, and enjoying the teenage social activities aboard a Navy ship like the General Rose. When we–my mother, sister and I–embarked in Tripoli along with about 100+ dependents, the Rose headed for Athens, as I described on my previous blog, and a couple of days later, the Rose left Greece and headed east across the Aegean Sea to Istanbul. That night there was a teenage farewell dance since the families we had recently met, who had boarded in New York long before we had gotten on, were getting off in Istanbul to travel inland to their new homes in Ankara, Turkey. We sailed through the famous Dardenelles at 10:30 p.m., but since that narrow strait is 38 miles long, I’m sure it took us a while. The ship’s daily report probably informed us that the ancient city of Troy is near the western end of the strait, and we would be sailing along the peninsula of Gallipoli (site of a famous WWI battle) until the ship entered the Sea of Marmara and kept going east to the port of Istanbul.

On Monday morning, we woke up in the harbor of Istanbul. Greece and Turkey weren’t on good terms and my mother was concerned we’d be caught up in it somehow. She’d also heard that Turkish cab drivers were erratic and drove too fast. Rumors about driving talents were rampant in the Middle East. The British, for instance, were considered dangerous in Tripoli. Despite being an enterprising and usually fearless Army wife, Mom did worry, probably more so because she was in charge for this trip, not my absent dad.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul – one of my postcards

Mom, my sister Tupper and I were meeting up with Army friends who lived in Istanbul, and we had to catch a taxi to take us up to the main city from the harbor. Listening to the angry Turkish voices on the cab driver’s radio didn’t assuage Mom’s fears, but we did make it without incident. Our friends made sure we hit the hot spots in that large bustling city: the Sultan’s Palace, the Blue Mosque (we had to remove our shoes), the Topkapi Palace (the home of Ottoman sultans for 400 years), and the exotic Bazaar filled with hundreds of shops. I bought a Turkish towel at one of the Bazaar shops. There was nothing terrycloth about this so-called towel: the material seemed like linen. Through the mists of memory, I can still see the fancy embroidery depicting a frog highlighted with shiny pieces of metal.

Istanbul was very large and beautiful; it was a bustling modern city with all the exotic accents of the Middle East.

The ship left Istanbul that night and by the next morning, we had already sailed back through the Dardenelles and south to dock in Izmir, in ancient times it was called Smyrna. Per usual, military passengers and dependents departed while new ones embarked. Years later I had a next door neighbor, Omar, who had lived in Izmir (another one of those “the world is a small place” examples). Wanting to document everything about this voyage, I kept track of all the teenage passenger names. It’s no wonder I later became a newspaper reporter.

Diana Darling, a friend from Tripoli, and I hung out together during the cruise. I documented my remark that her brief shipboard romance was getting off the ship in Izmir, and that the new kids, who’d gotten on in Istanbul, weren’t very friendly. According to my next scrapbook remark, it didn’t take long for all of us to get acquainted. One of the new fellows, Bill, was the ripe old age of 18, and he and I got very friendly. He didn’t seem to mind that I was only 15.

In Izmir, Diana and I ventured out on our own. We took a tour of the city and saw a Roman fort, a market and Kultur International Park. “We met two cute American sailors who bought us a Coke at the snack bar after the tour,” I wrote in my scrapbook. From the ship, I had taken two blurry photos of the mountains bordering the city and two clearer ones of the harbor area but didn’t take the camera on our excursion. My camera skills in those days were pitiful.

The two of us didn’t understand the Turkish currency, or the language, but managed to figure it out enough to take a gharri ride. The familiar horse-drawn carts had two horses here; in Tripoli they were pulled by a single horse. The ride was quite bumpy over cobblestone streets but we made it back to the ship safe and sound. The ship pulled anchor that night and headed west to Naples, a two-day sail.

1950s MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE, US NAVY STYLE

Wandering back in memory gives a different perspective, a look through rose-colored glasses. In this case, I was on a cruise, with my mother and nine-year-old sister, on the US Navy ship General Maurice Rose, sailing through the Mediterranean on our way to New York City. It was a full ship when our contingent of about 160 passengers got on in Tripoli. Military personnel and military dependents would be embarking and debarking as we sailed to Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Naples, Livorno and Gibralter before docking at Brooklyn Navy Yard a couple of weeks later.

Williams Family Passport - Tupper, Viki, Darby, Garnette

Williams Family Passport – Tupper, Viki, Darby, and Garnette. My little brother flew to Florida with our dad and didn’t join the cruise.

It’s a unique insular world aboard ship. Getting one’s “sea legs” is important in case there are any storms. We had a tumultuous one off the coast of Italy about halfway into our trip, but I managed to stay upright with all systems go. My family was lucky our cabin (narrow bunk beds and a private toilet, as I recall) was on boat deck and not subject to as much rocking and rolling as all the lower decks. The smells aboard ship are definitely distinct: a pungent combination of oil, metal and seawater. There’s also the mysterious aroma, to me, of adventure: new vistas, new people, new places.

All the newness was mixed in with old friends from high school at Wheelus Air Force Base who were also coming back to the States. We teenagers had our own teen club in the Aft Lounge, in the back of the ship, with rock and roll music and all sorts of social activities. The ship had a small theater—a room with a portable screen and folding chairs—and was stocked with movies: Missouri Traveler, Wild is the Wind, and The Careless Years, for instance. The only one I still remember, because I’ve seen it again, was Anna Magnani and Tony Franciosa starring in Wild is the Wind.

There were three seatings for meals in the formal dining room. As a reminder, a seaman would walk the ship’s corridors with a small xylophone, using his mallet to hit three or four notes. We had the third seating and joined three American teachers traveling home.

The Rose passed out old-fashioned mimeographed copies of the Rose Report every day. It listed the movie being shown that day, a few tidbits of world news, something inspirational from the Chaplain, and even a little history. According to the Master’s Morning Report for 28-29 June, 1958, we had traveled 167 miles since the previous evening at an average speed of 12.9 knots. This was Voyage 102 for the Rose.

The first day’s sail brought us from Tripoli to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and that evening we were offered a 3-hour tour on a large bus, modern for its day. After being on the continent of Africa for almost three years, it was a bit of an eye-opener to see people wearing Western clothing and to see stoplights for the first time. We walked around the rocks and the ruins of the Acropolis, but I’m sure the fifty years since have produced many changes, and I know a museum has been opened since then.

The USNS Rose was part of our reserve fleet in 1971 in Virginia but in 1997, she was sold for scrapping at Brownsville, Texas. I bet many military and their dependents have very fond memories of her. I shed a few tears just writing about her. I’ll write more about this adventure in future blogs.

USNS Rose Montage

USNS Rose Montage

 

MESSAGES FROM THE MYSTICAL

Heidi Giraud painting

Heidi Giraud painting

According to Shakespeare, author of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark says to his friend: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” There are many things we can’t explain in life: ghosts, prescient dreams, coincidences, and channeling, to name a few.

In the ‘90s, a married couple I knew well got involved in Channeling. David and Diana (I’m using fake names to protect their privacy) were highly intelligent and interested in the esoteric, not unusual in Southern California. David was an archaeologist, Diana was an artist, and they were both fascinated with real life ghost stories. The ghost stories they researched and wrote about took place in various historical spots and eventually became published books.

If readers doubt there are “things that go bump in the night,” David would have tales to tell you. I was impressed by an experience he shared shortly after it happened. At a construction site in a vacant field in Ventura County, workers had inadvertently dug up an ancient grave filled with several skeletons of different ages and sexes, all of them carefully placed and specifically pointed certain directions. The minute the skeletons were unearthed, dogs from nearby homes, some many blocks away, started to howl. These dogs, however, had not been observing the digging. David had been called in to inspect and report because he was a professional archaeologist. He told me he and those who had assisted him on this accidental “dig” all had a minor traffic accident that following week.

One might say that David was a prime channeling receiver. Along with several others, I was lucky enough to read David’s transmitted messages, which we called the Transmissions, for several years.

Since David was an independent professional, he had a flexible schedule and a home office with computer and printer. He was already starting to channel these transmissions when I first met him and Diana. When he was at home in front of his computer and physically ready to receive, he let himself be turned on, much as radio would be. When the “spirits” had something to share, David’s fingers would begin typing on the keyboard and wouldn’t stop until the message was over, which frequently took over a half hour and took up a dozen pages or more when it was printed.

These spiritual messengers called themselves St. Germain, supposedly after a mystical, mysterious 18th century French Count. I never believed the name was supposed to be literal and was probably meant to entertain for the most part since we humans need specifics to hold onto. The “real” St. Germain was described as an alchemist, a ladies’ man and the son of either a famous Frenchman or Englishman.

Diana told me she never interrupted David when his fingers were flying over the keyboard. He didn’t type as fast when doing his own work. He also never knew what he had typed until the entire transmission was printed out.

What’s especially curious and amazing is the way the transmission appeared once printed: it almost needed to be translated. It was a code of sorts and a new way of seeing that words were not always what they seemed. Words in the transmissions had layers of meaning; they could be read, spelled and understood in several ways. I began to understand that life was truly not what it appeared to be.

Diana always read over the transmissions first and did the translating, which I’ll demonstrate below.

U R the dream airs and the dreamed. U R the mirror calls and the angels of change. U R the power and the connect tie in 2 all things. Beg gain 2 act like that which U R. U can due sow much if U b leave U can. Due not judge and the power will B yours and the spirit will lead U. 4 give and U will C and hear the other angels a round U.

Translation: You are the dreamers and the dreamed. You are the miracles and the angels of change. You are the power and the connection into all things. Begin to act like that which you are. You can do so much if you believe you can. Do not judge and the power will be yours and the spirit will lead you. Forgive and you will see and hear the angels around you.

It is U who place sow much emphasis on time, and there 4 U who must endure and weight. When U R in the moment of the now, then there is no time, no worry, not A sane gill in stance of air gain see. Only when U place an emphasis on these coin strike tie in ideas will there B pain, suffer eon, worry and fear. What U project U R.

Translation: It is you who place so much emphasis on time, and therefore you who must endure and wait. When you are in the moment of the now, then there is no time, no worry, not a single instance of urgency. Only when you place an emphasis on these constricting ideas will there be pain, suffering, worry and fear. What you project you are.

NEW HIPS FOR ME, the Bionic Woman

In 1976-78 there was an entertaining TV adventure series called The Bionic Woman, which starred Lindsay Wagner. It was the female counterpart to The Six Million-Dollar Man. In the plot, she was rescued from a nearly fatal accident and given bionic surgical implants to save her life and turn her into an exciting heroine.

Doctor

I seldom watched this popular series, but the title is quite appropriate for modern medicine with its artificial replacements for deteriorated natural human parts, like hips. I will be getting my own bionic parts early next year when I get new hip joints. Welcome to the senior years when hips and other body parts wear out. My research claimed there were 175,000 hip replacements performed annually in the U.S., some for those as young as their 40s! The new joint, according to my doctor, would be a combination of metals: I think titanium is one of them. The Internet confirmed its popularity.

I won’t join the ranks of heroines with my new flexible and strong joints, but if it will allow me to walk with ease again, I can’t wait for the surgery and the mobility it promises. Kaiser Permanente, which is my medical group, must do quite a few hip replacements, and they intend to prepare you well. Before anything happens, I will attend a 3-hour seminar full of information weeks before the actual operation. In the meantime, my chiropractor gave me some exercises to strengthen my legs and back to help with the recovery.

The Hip

The Internet offered advice about the gentle treatment of the new hip, like using a toilet seat riser so you won’t overstrain the new hip. I’ve got that covered–I saved the device from the time I injured my kneecap ten years ago. Kaiser will supply a basic walker–the kind without wheels that requires tennis  balls to keep it moving easily! I’ve been told my hospital stay will be brief — one or two nights at most and then it’s home for about six weeks of recovery. I’m glad I live in a small apartment with lots of areas and furniture to lean against or hold onto. Being on the second floor means I’ll be confined for a while, but there’s a wrap-around balcony when I can practice walking. Since my hands aren’t affected, I can continue my editing business, writing my blog and keeping up with friends on Facebook.

Why did it take so long to discover what was slowing me down? I’ve experienced over 15 years of slow deterioration in movement. Everybody has a different journey and various challenges along the way. Looking back doesn’t help, for the most part, but I needed to make peace with what had happened. I believe it had been a combination of having and not having health care. I never gave up and learned how to improve my mobility for walkin and succeeded, but then I slammed my knees onto a sidewalk, recovered after medical care, and then realized that I couldn’t walk for long distances as before. When I walked anywhere, I was on a constant search for a place to sit for a few minutes before continuing. Eventually, I bought a walker. I had a couple of MRIs, which indicated spinal stenosis. The neurologist quit before he could advise me what to do next, and I didn’t pursue it. It took a wonderful chiropractor who had also been a physical therapist to tell me he thought I had arthritis in the hips and I needed some extensive X-rays to prove it. I’ve finally reached the “fix it” stage and it all looks very positive, even though it won’t be a fast solution. Recovery is about six weeks for each hip.

My 2016 aspirations, to quote Fats Domino, “I’m walkin’, yes indeed!” and Kenny Loggins, “I gotta cut loose, footloose…”

50 YEARS IN LOS ANGELES

1965 Mustang Year and Me

Me and our 1965 Mustang the year we arrived in Los Angeles

I arrived in Los Angeles in May 1965. I was newly married and my husband and I had driven across country from New York City in our brand new Mustang. We found an apartment in North Hollywood, just a few miles from where I now live! The landlord told us we were neighbors of Bob Hope, just a few miles away in swanky Toluca Lake!

What a difference the last 50 years have made in my chosen hometown. More freeways, more people, more museums, more traffic. Disneyland is bigger, movie and television studios are larger and are located almost everywhere. Warner Bros Studios was only a couple of miles from where this photo was taken. I haven’t missed much adventure in all those years and still find the life here exciting.

In the mid 60s, there weren’t a wide variety of interesting and well-paid jobs for women, even if you did have a college degree. My bachelor’s degree was in English and I loved writing. I didn’t want to be a teacher but I could type. Secretarial jobs, though not always interesting, could lead up the corporate ladder to something better.

I was hired by the Los Angeles Times shortly after moving here.  My husband, who was a civil engineer, worked for the LA County Sanitation Department. It was convenient for me to work at the Times. It was only two blocks from my husband’s job; we could ride to work together and save money by not needing a second car. We didn’t even consider public transportation. Southern California was the land of cars, lots of freeways, and an inefficient bus system. Now we’ve got subways!!

Though I’d been a reporter and editorial assistant for my college newspaper, that didn’t qualify me for the same job, even at entry level, for the LA Times. Educated women could aspire to a career as a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. A popular joke related that women went to college to get their Mrs. degree. I was hired for the secretarial pool to type envelopes or letters from the Dictaphone machine. We were also used as substitute receptionists or secretaries.

Los Angeles wasn’t the city of high-rise buildings it is now. City Hall, at 32 stories, was the tallest building in town. The impressive Music Center was under construction until 1967 and the fabulously modern Disney Hall designed by Frank Gehry wasn’t even a dream in those days. My desk in the secretarial office was on the fifth floor of the LA Times building. I worked there less than six months, but 1965 was a memorable summer.

From the many windows, we could see the smoke and fires from Watts, a few miles south of us, now infamous as the Watts Riots. It was a frightening situation, especially to relatives of mine who lived in the East and just assumed everything was close-by in Los Angeles.

Several reporters for the LA Times were honored with a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the bloody and destructive Watts Riots and its aftermath. One positive highlight of my short stay there was the week I worked as a receptionist in the LA Times executive offices, occupied by the Chandlers, Norman and Buffy, the owners of the newspaper. Dorothy “Buffy” Chandler was enjoying her success as the primary fundraiser for the new Music Center that was being built nearby. A photo of part of the Music Center is below.

Their spacious offices, which included a bathroom and shower, were paneled in oak and the windows overlooked downtown Los Angeles. Although impressive to work there, it was very boring–not many visitors or many phone calls. To look busy, I read all the material on the wealthy and enterprising Chandler family and on all their business ventures. I used the typewriter for personal letters and even had the time to type all the addresses in my new address book. I once noticed the handsome silver-haired Norman Chandler, who was very conscious of his weight, downing the diet drink of the day—Metrecal—for lunch. Dorothy Chandler was in and out of the office. Since she had issued an edict that female employees of the Times must not wear sleeveless clothing and definitely not utter the word “OK” while on the premises, I avoided her.

Funny how the 1960s were both rebellious and repressive at the same time. Life is always full of contradictions.

w/LeroyMusicCnt

 

The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles — new when this photo of me and Leroy Cool, a family friend, was taken. My husband and I were giving him a tour of the sights of LA.

 

 

IMMIGRATION MELTING POT OF LA

Front of My Apartment Home on Coldwater

Front of My Apartment Home on Coldwater

Since I’m single and live alone, I am always grateful for my friendly, well-designed apartment house. The two-story building has a courtyard in the middle, Spanish style, not unusual in Southern California. There’s a large pool, and plenty of room left for a couple of pine trees, roses, shrubs and other lush tropical greenery. On the second story we have a wrap-around balcony, which makes it easy to visit with neighbors or just come outdoors to lean on the green iron railing to take in the sun.

As the race for US President in 2016 heats up, I have been concerned with the important issue of immigration. Simplistic solutions like shipping 11 million illegal immigrants back to their home countries seem ridiculous to me. Especially since I live in Los Angeles, home to an estimated 2.6 million illegal immigrants, according to the Christian Science Monitor in 2013. Their stats indicate 63 percent are Mexican, 22 percent are from Central America and 8 percent from the Philippines, China or Korea. Immigration reform is sorely needed, but consider that the US has been a home for immigrants since the 1600s, I don’t feel the answer lies in sending anyone away unless we’re dealing with serious criminals. Many immigrants, legal or not, are working and contributing to society.

My apartment house is in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, and I get to mingle with a variety of neighbors who’ve come from all over the world.  The gardeners, electricians, plumbers, etc. are mostly international. Growing up as an Army brat, I had the privilege and joy of living in Libya and Germany for a number of years. What an eye-opening adventure it was to experience how people are quite similar, no matter what religion or cultural differences we had.

The apartment managers of my building escaped from Communist Romania and raised their daughter here in California. With the wonderful changes in Europe, they often take vacations in Romania. A Romanian relative of the managers, who runs a celebrity limo service, lives here with his wife and American-born daughter, an enthusiastic young gymnast. Cuba is represented by a retired  senior whose family escaped Cuba when he was a child. He has no Latin accent but speaks fluent Spanish. A musicians’ union lawyer, also Cuban,  lived here for several years with her daughter, who is close to college graduation. Los Angeles seems to attract Cubans. A few doors from me lives a dancer and choreographer who travels the world because of his talents. He recently married a young Russian and they have a baby son, almost a year old.

My hairdresser, who is Armenian, has lived here with her husband and young daughters for about 10 years. She works a half block away. It’s a friendly salon and these beauty experts all speak Armenian. A woman from Central America, who has a daughter and son, has been here as long as I have. She works in health care and tries to remain patient waiting for her husband to be approved to return to LA from Central America. One of our most recent couples to move in is newly married. The husband is Russian and has a construction business; his wife is Chinese. One of my favorite neighbors and friends, an amazing artist and teacher, moved home to Israel to be near his widowed mother. He came back to visit in the Spring–he was scouting apartments because he wants to come back.

There are some neighbors with American backgrounds, including being from Iowa, Atlanta, and Brooklyn, for instance, and a retired US Marine who’s lived in this building over 20 years. There are even folks who’ve lived mostly in Southern California and are in the entertainment business in one form or another.

Our weekly gardener, a Latino who, unfortunately for me because of the noise, loves the leaf blower but keeps the courtyard neat. One of the regular handymen is a very friendly man from Russia. He installed a new air conditioner for me not long ago, and a new dishwasher with the help of two Latino helpers. He told me he had been here about 17 years with his family. Although I wondered why he hadn’t taken the time to learn more English, he is very cordial and a hard worker.

Cheers to the United States of America, the melting pot that was always emphasized when I was a youngster going to school.

 

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