Showing posts from November, 2015

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

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 …

Flashback Friday: Photographic Memory [memoir]

I usually take an imaginary Walking Tour of London on Fridays but the reality of Thanksgiving stopped me in my tracks. Instead, I’m sharing an earlier post, flashing back to the 1980’s when I worked as a copywriter at Max Factor in Hollywood.  I hope you enjoy it. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go on a real walk to get rid of some of these very real pumpkin pie pounds.

Photographic Memory
When my boss at Max Factor was assigned to the company’s London office for six months we were both thrilled. She got to go to London —LONDON!— and I jumped from in-house copywriter straight into her Creative Director shoes. Suddenly I was in everybody’s rolodex; the girl to call if you were working the freelance beauty market in L.A. in the very early 80’s. Along with other writers who came out of their introverted shells to offer their services—No, I’m still doing the bulk of the in-house copy, thank you very much—graphic  designers, photographers and illustrators all wanted to come in and show me…

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 while the city was undeniably beautiful, we simply couldn’t take the cold. After one short year in Paradise, we’d grown accustomed to beach-kissed legs, fried plantains and coconut ice cream. The no…

Above Ground on the London Underground: Day 8 Dear Mum, Did we like the deer at Richmond Park?

The high street in Richmond
I’m taking a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide and my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. I'm currently following the Piccadilly Line. This is Day Eight.
Last week I found the house where I was born in Richmond, about a dozen miles from London’s city center. While I wanted to see inside, to pinpoint the very spot in my parent’s bedroom where I came into the world, I realized, even in this virtual little tale, that asking the current residents to let me in would be an invasion of privacy.  So I walk away, peering into everyone’s windows as I pass, nosy, curious to see how they live. Do you do that too? I’m terrible as I take my real walks here in Los Angeles, peering sideways through my sunglasses, trying not to obviously crane my neck just to get a look at the books on my neighbor’s shel…

Hello Mum, are you there? It's me Sim. #ThrowbackThursday

I couldn’t let Alzheimer’s Awareness Month pass without sharing something about my mother. I wrote this Throwback Thursday piece in 2010, my mother, once so full of life and fire, passed away in 2012.

“Hi Enid” I say, spotting her sitting by the window, calling my mother by her first name. Sometimes when I call her Mum, she just looks at me, confusion and accusation mixed in her eyes. “Why are you calling me Mum? I’m not sure I even know you,” she seems to say. Some days are better, she may not know who I am exactly but she’s cheerful enough for the company. A change from the caretakers with their pale turquoise uniforms, cheerful little bears or angels dancing across their chests.
Today my softly whispered “Hi Enid” gets nothing but a blank look. I try again. “Hi Mum. It’s me, Sim.” Her expression doesn’t change. Not a blink, not a flicker. Nothing. I notice a book in her lap. Next to Die or something. A mystery. She always loved mysteries; Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell. This …

Above Ground on the London Underground: Day 7... Going home

I’m taking a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide and my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. I'm currently following the Piccadilly Line. This is Day Seven.

There’s nothing to it, but to do it. No more dilly dallying around, I’m heading out from The Swan Inn in Isleworth where I’ve spent the night across the river to Richmond, and the house where I was born. 
First things first—even though I’m dithery with nerves and eager to see the house and area—a quick stop for breakfast before I head out on my 1.8 mile walk. I pick Greedies, a short 3 minute stroll down South Street because they open at 7am for breakfast—and for once I’m actually up at 7—and because they have hanging flowers and outdoor tables. I’m a sucker for ambience.

I looked Greedies up on Trip Advisor where the comments range from ‘best scrambled eggs on ea…

That Thing You Do directed by Tom Hanks: Our One Second of Fame

I’ve been writing about working as an extra on That Thing You Do, Tom Hank’s directorial debut. You can read it from start to finish on the Brushes with Stardom page.

The set was the interior of an appliance store plucked right out of the 1960’s. As usual on a movie set there was a dull whirr of background noise, crew hammering, people yammering. There were a lot of people milling around, associate producers and set assistants who didn’t need to be there. Hair and makeup artists, the prop master, the gaffer, the script supervisor, who did. Oh yeah. And the director, the director of photographer, and the lead actor. 

I was so nervous, they were all a blur to me. I tried not to stare at Tom Hanks conferring quietly with his DP, Tak Fujimoto. I knew Fujimoto was a fairly big deal, he’d worked with Tom on Philadelphia, shot Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs, Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And now, he’d be shooting me and Russell, for o…

Dreaming of France? On a day such as this?

The Little Next Door image via
11/13/2015 I know some of you are landing here, looking for thoughts on today’s act of terror. The following post was written on a better day than today, when violence and madness were far from our minds. But France, while attacked, will always be a beacon for art and culture, great food, and bon homie. Beauty to aspire to. Terrorists can never destroy that.
Los Angeles has been my home for almost fifty years but there are times that find me wistful, wishing I was anywhere but here, megalopolis of smog-saturated streets that it is. And while I live with a chronic homesickness for England, an ever present low grade fever that led me to create a State of Britain page and to watch way too much British telly—that’s what comes of being born in Britain to British parents but moving away before I was old enough to really call it home—the weekends often have me dreaming of France, instead. At the very least wishing that I were more well …

Above Ground on the London Underground: Day 6... About that Fish & Chips Shop ...

I’m taking a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide and my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. Currently following the Piccadilly Line. This is Day 6.
I’ve been sitting on the deck of the pub, transfixed by the Thames for so long, I don’t need my sunglasses anymore. There’s a deepening chill, the river has lost its sunny glow leaving the water as cold and granite grey as a polished stone. I take one last swallow of shandy, it’s gone warmer than the outside air, and I realize I’d better find someplace to stay for the night. The morning will be soon enough to head over the river to Richmond and track down the house where I was born. It’s a flat really, not a house per se, on Salisbury Road. 

Last time out,  I told you I was born at home, over a fish & chips shop but I’ve been having second thoughts ever since. Is it poss…