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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 …

Throwback Thursday: The Boy Who Took Out His Eye [memoir]

Last week’s Ben Ghazi hearing put Tripoli, Libya on the tip of my tongue and the forefront of my mind. Today’s #TBT post is a piece about the time I spent there as a small child in the 1950’s. It was first published in 1993 in one of those local freebies, the throwaway newspapers you used to find tossed on your front walkway. And I was thrilled to make it into its pages.

That’s me on the back of the camel, 
cowering behind my big brother Russell 



The Arab Boy Who Took Out His Eye


When I was five years old we lived in Tripoli, Libya just outside Wheelus Air Force Base. We weren't military, we weren't even American but my father, formerly with British Intelligence had been hired to infiltrate the PX as a manager and investigate the cause of the store's outstanding financial losses. My dad was a great manager, in fact he was responsible for bringing the hoola hoop to North Africa, holding a big promotional party with hoola hoop demonstrations, clowns, balloons and lemonade in the parking lot.

And he found the embezzler too, a good friend of his, he was sorry to say. Back then, (it was 1958) the base boasted one of the largest airplane hangars in the world and we went to a giant Halloween party in it. I went as Minnie Mouse; my tin foil tail trailing behind me and eventually tearing free. The older boys next door dressed up as women with huge breasts fashioned from pillows and great big red lips. I think my brother was jealous because he had played it safe and just done himself up as a hobo. He was a fine tramp though with his burnt corked face and sweet blue eyes gleaming.

Read the rest of the story [The Arab Boy who Took Out his Eye]

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