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Showing posts from January, 2018

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Have Broom Will Travel [memoir]

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Halloween 1995, Batman and me
My history is littered with Halloween fails. Before I became a mother the question of what I was going to be for Halloween terrified me.


1958:  Halloween on a blazing hot afternoon in Tripoli, Libya. Age 5 All the military brats from Wheelus Air Force base were going to a Halloween party in an airplane hangar just outside Tripoli. Lots of civilian kids—mostly Brits and Yanks—whose parents worked on the base in various capacities were invited which meant my brother and I got to go too. Our dad, who spoke Arabic fluently and had been with British Intelligence during the war, had something to do with managing the PX on the base. My brother went dressed as a hobo, his cheeks smeared grey by my mother with a piece of burnt cork, while his friend, the older boy who lived next door, dressed up as a woman—a pillow stuck down his sweater shaped into clownish balloon-sized breasts and big red sticky lips. I went as Minnie Mouse in a cheap, cellophane-thin, store-bough…

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…

Queen Me

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Updated 1/5/2018
With the popularity of The Crown, seasons 1 & 2 streaming on Netflix, I wanted to share my thoughts on Princess Elizabeth.

I haven’t lived in England for years and years. And years. Basically a very long time. The kind of time you cough into your hand over, trying to hide the exact humungous number of years. Long enough ago that any reasonable person could be forgiven for calling me an American. But beware, should you say anything negative about the UK or Queen Elizabeth, my British roots will start showing and my British blood will start boiling. I’ll start flapping my British passport in the air, and put on my best True Brit voice. While I’m very much an American, I’m British by birth, born in 1953, in —as I’m fond of saying and saying—a scene right out of Call the Midwife. I’ve got a thing for the Queen from being born so close to her coronation day that my parents gave me Elizabeth for my middle name. Just a few days shy of being named Elizabeth Simone instead o…