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#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

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IT WAS A TIME OF TANS, BLONDS AND HOT PANTS, WHEN THE ENDLESS SUMMER WAS JUST A SHORT WALK DOWN A HOT SIDEWALK
Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.


Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

If a tree falls in the forest ... should it be used to make the paper for my novel?

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I’ve been working on a novel for the past year and a half, a process which has made doing any kind of creative writing here in this space more and more difficult. I’ve kept up with my book-to-movie blog at Chapter1-Take1.com but that’s a very different kind of writing. When giving out factual information, I don’t require inspiration. 

Now I’ve finished the book and I’ve begun reaching out, searching for an agent. An easy sentence to write, a horrifying, intimidating, paralyzing process to undertake. The first chapter, one I was happy with before, now strikes me as sophomoric, tedious, garbage and any number of cliche criticisms. Is it? Or is that my fear talking? I don’t know. I’m in a place where I can’t imagine my novel is worth the paper it’s written on—about 1/3 of your typical paper-suitable tree. Which is why I still can’t find the energy to get back to memoir pieces. My writing brain needs a break. 

So in lieu of a writerly post, I’m posting photos instead. If you follow me on In…

A + for The A-Word: The most authentic look at Autism on screen.

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I worked for several years with a succession of autistic children—which mostly means boys—kids who were mainstreamed in regular education classrooms, with a classroom aide assigned to shadow them. That was me, the shadow. 

We also lived next door to a family who had an autistic son who became one of our son’s closest playmates, until we moved away at the end of elementary school. Chris, with his funny idiosyncrasies is the source of some very sweet memories, as well as moments of high drama. That’s what you get with autism, children who can be deeply involved when their needs and passions are directed and shared but who can sometimes find it frustrating when those needs are brushed aside. 

It’s typical for an autistic child to want to talk about dinosaurs—or whatever the passion is—and be frustrated while the rest of the kids have moved on to another topic. The autistic child is focused on that stegasaurus and exactly how cool it is, just not quite getting that the others don't shar…

Marching for THEIR Lives in Santa Monica

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So proud to march with my husband & my family in Santa MonicaWow! What an amazing moment in our country’s history. Just got home from the March for Our Lives event in Santa Monica and turned on the TV to see the massive numbers of people who marched in Washington—as many as a million—and millions more who marched around the country and the world. Including my sister in law Susan and her husband Dave, marching in Riverside. Not exactly the liberal bastion Santa Monica is. A question for the politicians: Can you count the votes?

I love Eva’s sign “Arms are for Hugging’’While there was a much larger march planned for downtown Los Angeles we chose to go to the smaller community of Santa Monica because it’s where my brother, sister and I went to high school. No matter where else I live, it’s the city I’ll always consider home. 

Thousands marched in Santa MonicaWe met my brother Russ & my sister in law Eva at their place—they’re lucky enough to still live in Santa Monica, just blocks …

What to do about Harry

An old hippie type, Harry could be someone I dated in high school or college. He’s tall, quite a bit over six feet. Like me, he came of age in the 1960’s, his hair is now a silvery grey, long, pulled back into a ponytail, much like my husband’s. He has wire-rimmed glasses, a mustache, a short beard. A brown plaid shirt, dark jeans, hiking boots, he looks like he could be the owner of a record store, maybe a bookshop. 

We see him sitting on the tree-shaded steps of an apartment building near ours. In summer it’s cool and comfortable, in the California usually mild-wintertime, his spot is sheltered from the wind. He’s usually reading, novels by the same kind of writers my husband likes, John Sandford, Lee Childs, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy. Sometimes he’s listening to the radio, an honest to God transistor radio, a wire leading to his ear. What did they call earbuds before they were earbuds? If it’s fall, it’s football, his favorite. If it’s summertime, a baseball game might be on. Otherwis…

Peter Panned: The Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Park

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Before my husband and I visited London in May of last year (2017) I spent Fridays taking a virtual walk of the city, sharing what I learned via my friend google in a weekly post called Above Ground on the London Underground. That’s when I first visited Peter Pan in Kensington Garden.
At the time Joy, fellow blogger and host of British Isles Friday commented that she found the Peter Pan statue difficult to photograph. After visiting the statue for myself, I can only say, No kidding! I couldn’t get a really good shot either. But I wonder, does the fault rest with the photographer or the subject?


J.M. Barrie commissioned the statue from Sir George Frampton and secretly had it installed in Kensington Park—without permission—in the middle of the night, as if Tinkerbell herself had flown it into place. 

According to the announcement J.M. Barrie himself had published in the Times  ...
“There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine …

Made on Location: Free Willy [memoir]

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On any other Sunday that summer of 1992, on location up in Oregon for the filming of Free Willy, I’d be digging shamelessly into a steaming stack of blueberry hotcakes, purple compote oozing out all over the place. The Pig’n Pancake in Astoria were famous for them, and I usually couldn’t wait to wade in. I didn’t need—and didn’t want—the calorie breakdown to know the pancakes were pound packers, all buttery and crazy delicious, the kind of food I would normally eschew in favor of leaner fare like two eggs scrambled, cottage cheese on the side, one piece of rye toast. 

The rules are different when you’re on location. When you’re on location, stressed to the max working as production coordinator on a big Warner Bros. movie like Free Willy, you (me) reward yourself (myself!) with a guilt-free weekend treat. My fiancĂ© and I had walked the half mile down the road from the Red Lion Inn where the film crew was housed and we planned on walking the half mile back. A full mile. That had to count…

British Isles Friday: Parakeets in the Park

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Parakeets in the ParkOn a beautiful day in May, 2017 my husband and I walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It’s really not that easy to tell where one ends and the other begins. We were looking for the Peter Pan statue (next week’s post) when we came across a small clearing cluttered with people holding their arms in the air, offering perches for surprisingly green birds fluttering in the air. Parakeets, and so prevalent, and with so many people standing about in their midst I stupidly assumed this must be some sort of birder club gathering. Ding dong me! I didn’t know the birds were wild and the people were just regular folks like us trying to get a better look. 


Doing a little post-trip homework I discovered the parakeets are so abundant in the park—and the inner mile they’re actually considered a bit of a nuisance by some people! I wish I’d known before the trip that all I had to do was bring a slice of apple and I could get the birds to land on me too!

I thought this wom…

Throwback Thursday: Another day, another mass shooting

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Throwback Thursday. I sometimes use the day as an excuse to look back, pull up some older piece from the past. I don’t have the energy to do that today, not after the monstrous mass murder of 17 people in Parkland, Florida yesterday. I’m not just heartbroken and heartsick, I’m sick and tired of it. 

If I do look to the past, I know nothing will change. Nothing changed after the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, when twenty—mostly small children—were killed in cold blood. Nothing will change this time. 

Especially not with the current administration in place. Trump actually just rolled back an Obama era law that put those who received Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database. [NBC: Trump signs bill revoking Obama era law]

Trump basically said that even if you have mental health issues, go ahead buy a gun. Better yet. Buy an AR-15. Why kill one person when you can mow down a few? …

Albertopolis: Prince Albert is in the park

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The Albert Memorial in Kensington GardensIF there is a heaven, it’s lovely to think that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are happily reunited for all time. Watching the second season of Victoria, Lord Melbourne finally out of the Queen’s head, we see the young Victoria’s absolute devotion to her handsome prince consort. I’d be swooning over Albert too if he looked like Tom Hughes. The real Queen’s devotion to her man—besides bearing him five children—begins with her commissioning of the Albert Memorial in honor of the prince consort who died in 1861.
We ran into the Albert Memorial last year on our trip to London when we were walking in Kensington Gardens. As you can see in the top picture, the memorial is directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall.

Royal Albert HallVictoria’s love and devotion is further evidenced—remember, Victoria wore black for all the remaining days of her life after his death—by her naming of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences in 1867 when she laid th…

You Can Have Your Snow Day #ThrowbackThursday

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Photo by Adam Kloketka via My Modern MetI love the snow. As long as it’s out and I’m in. Despite the romantic appeal of the sound of the crunch of snow beneath a pair of brand new leather boots on a starlit Christmas night, snow is cold. Too cold for me.

Growing up in Canada, winter days could get so cold that not only did the freezing temps blanket the ground with two feet of white fluff, a severely cold winter could cause the falls to freeze over completely. That's happened this year, the cold snap transforming the falls into something from a sci-fi flick.

Back in my day, along with those snowfalls came some painful cases of popsicle toes. As a child, I’d hobble in from outside and stand next to the radiator, pain stabbing at my feet, tears pricking my eyes while my mother gently unbuckled my snow boots so she could rub my numb feet back to life. 

Living in Southern California my snow days, thankfully, are far behind me. Winter—real winter—has just never been my season. Even when m…

Victoria & Albert: How does it all end?

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The V&A Chandelier by Dale Chihuly at the Victoria & Albert Museum*
Watching the new season of Victoria, the young queen played the beautiful Jenna Coleman and Prince Albert by the equally gorgeous Tom Hughes, I find myself wondering how it all ends. How does this tender young queen, seeking out her own voice, come to spend so much of her life in widow’s black? When does Jenna Coleman’s lovely Queen Victoria turn into Judi Dench’s aging powerhouse?

Albert lives until 1861, at which point he dies at the age of 42, of what was probably stomach cancer. Victoria, who herself said she ‘moved not a finger, didn’t put on a gown or bonnet if he didn’t approve it,’ was devastated. 

According to HistoryInAnHour.com the whole of England went into mourning, sharing the queen’s pain in an outpouring of grief that wouldn’t be seen again until the death of Princess Diana 136 years later.

“The Blue Room in which Prince Albert died remained unaltered for the rest of Victoria’s life, a snapshot of …

That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

That Last Dance

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Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with suggestions on how to identify the man sitting next to my dad inthe photo I shared last week. I've attempted to contact the Libyan embassy—who I have a hunch have bigger fish to fry—but we'll see. I contacted them on their twitter account which seems odd, I know, but the only way to email them is via a form which doesn't enable one to attach photos. If the twitter request doesn't get a response, I'll try snail mail.

Still thinking of my dad, I thought some of you might be interested in a 'thinly veiled' short story based on our father-daughter relationship that appeared in Purdue University's Literary Magazine SKYLARK back in 1992. 

With apologies to Joy for this thinly veiled attempt to piggyback onto British Isles Friday, the only connection being my British blood. 

Last Dance
Shannon squeezed some Lubriderm into her palm and took her father’s foot with its familiar high and bony arch in her other hand. She…

A question on the anniversary of my father's death

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My dad, on the right.
I woke up this morning thinking about my father. He died 26 years ago today, and since it’s British Isles Friday I thought I’d share a few pix of my very British old man. I also have a question about the old family photo above. I believe it was taken sometime in the 1950’s when we lived in Tripoli, Libya. There is another photograph somewhere of the larger group at what appears to be some sort of professional gathering or meeting, a handful of men and one woman sitting on chairs at either side. My father, ex-British Intelligence, fluent in Arabic, was working for the American government at the AFEX, the Army & Air Force exchange store at Wheelus Air Force base in Tripoli at the time. I don’t know the exact nature of his work but while he was investigating some unusually large financial losses he learned that an American he became close friends with turned out to be embezzling funds. That must have been one helluva an awkward friend breakup! 

What I’m really cur…