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We’ve Lost One of the Great Writers

Dorothea Benton Frank

TS.  By now fans around the world have heard about Dorothea Benton Frank’s passing earlier this month. A rare blood cancer swiftly took her life at age 67. When I interviewed Dorothy Benton Frank back in 2015 it was a large feather in my cap as I had been a fan for decades. I found her warm and friendly, much like her stories. As a tribute to this wonderful story teller, I have resurrected that interview so that we might once again enjoy her humor and inspiration. You and your stories will be sorely missed, Dorothea.

The interview

dottie.lowcountry.5

in her office

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

A. I write in my office in my home in NJ or in my office in my home in SC. My dream work space would be to occupy my little office in SC full time. This cruelty of this past winter’s plummeting temps, deep snow and black ice has cured me of any desire I may have had to remain in NJ. It’s not that I have anything against NJ. I have had many wonderful years here. It’s that I’m trapped indoors for months. But check back with me in a few years when I finally do reside in SC and hurricanes have me screaming for higher ground. Is anyone ever completely happy?

Q. Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

New Release 2019

A. Water. Solitude. My work space is neat and tidy in chapter one. By the end of a book it looks like someone dropped a bomb on my desk. Usually I dress for work the same way you would if you reported for work in a very casual corporate environment.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

A. The nuns who taught me in high school told my parents I wasn’t “college material.” Nice, right? In 1970, parents believed teachers, especially clergy, as though their words were spoken Ex Cathedra.

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative? 

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The book that started it all….stories about the low country>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

 

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A little Philosophy, a little Humor, a little Politic Reflection

“A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the audience (public); they thought it was a joke and applauded.

He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that ‘s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.”  Soren Kierkegaard, Philosopher, (1800’s)

 

I think we’re almost there. Just waiting for the clown with the codes.

We don’t have to agree. We can agree to disagree. BUT, everyone should be very afraid. 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Our Veterans on Their Day, 2019!

          Members of the military impacted my life in many ways. My life  was certainly changed by members of my family serving in the armed forces.  So what better time than on this Memorial Day to honor them….those who keep us SAFE and FREE!  And to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and their country.

                                                    ****

Gerald Guyer (cousin)   US Marines**WWI – gave his life in Normandy, France ** Son of Gladys; nephew of Violet, about whom I have written many stories.

W. Jay Woods

William Jay Woods (father)  US Navy ** WWII –   South Pacific – PTSD.  He met my mother in San Francisco, where she owned a bar and grill.  He returned from war  an alcoholic, experienced rages and had a parrot named Butch.

John Cable, ‘Dad’

Johnny Cable (step-father)  US Army/Infantry ** WWII Southern Pacific. Lost an eye, suffered from jungle rot and PTSD.  At five years of age I remember not being able to run in and jump on the bed in the mornings to wake up Daddy.  He would wake up ready to fight the ‘Japs’ and in those first few seconds he was back in the jungle.   He was a wonderful father but the horrors of the South Pacific battles were never far from the surface.
He later served on a ship in the Korean War as a meat cutter.  He was instrumental in serving the troops a HOT Thanksgiving dinner on the beach that year.

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers

my mother, Violet

Violet Guyer (mother) US Armed Forces ** Wife, sister, and mother of members in the military.
My mother, who I write about, was auntie to Gerald.  She married Jay (active Navy) and Johnny (active Army) and was a military wife for two decades. She was mother to Jack (US Air Force) and Doris, (US Marines).

Brother Jack

Jack Borden (brother)  US Air Force ** Loaded B52 bombers – hot spots around the world – 20+ years of service.  My brother would come home from far away places like Germany, Iceland, Africa, Panama and because he  didn’t have a hometown girl, he would take me, his teenage sister, ballroom dancing.

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific and

Robert.Berry

Robert Berry, Navy Seal

witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  

Robert Berry (second husband)   US Navy Seals, US Coast Guard ** 20+ years of service.  Robert was a Navy Seal, underwater demolition during the Viet Nam years.  He later served as a warrant officer aboard an icebreaker and was certified to scuba dive under the Arctic ice.

 

john.Viet.Nam

John Sugarek, Viet Nam

John Sugarek (husband)  US Marines ** Viet Nam –   John was my husband for 30 years. He was kind-hearted and funny and everyone loved him.  I witnessed two of his  flashbacks from battle in Viet Nam (twenty years later)  and he suffered, untreated, from PTSD. Partially due to the PTSD (I believe) he died at his own hand in 2006.  His fellow wounded warriors celebrate at the Whiskey Battery Reunion, once a year.marines

 

We are all grateful to our military for their unswerving bravery, service, and loyalty and we honor those who have come home, battered but alive.

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Tai-Pan, Shogun and James Clavell ~~ Nostalgia

James Clavell & one of his manuscripts

Summer of 1971. My then husband and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of ….. our custom built 26ft sailboat. We had settled on the name “joss” for the boat, as its loose meaning is good and bad luck. Given how fickle a sailboat can be, it seemed highly appropriate. I was currently reading everything James Clavell was publishing and I came across the word in his novels. 

So being the gutsy girl (for the time) that I was, I wrote Mr. Clavell for more info about the word, especially how it was used in the Orient . And he ANSWERED me!  See below. He wrote with his personal address in Vancouver, B.C. and invited us to sail up and anchor at his house on Vancouver Island, offering a cup of tea!

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 Clavell wasn’t just a writer.  Both he and his wife were Chopper pilots. Clavell was also a dedicated sailor of sailboats.  It was one of the highlights of my life to receive a personal letter from him and be invited to ‘drop anchor’ at his home on the sea.  No, we never did make the perilous trip, under sail, to his home port. A deep regret, but we were new to sailing and anyone who knows those waters between Puget Sound and Horseshoe Bay (B.C.) will understand how we were so not capable or experienced enough to attempt it. 
But! we were crazy enough to take our 420 (International Dingy Sailing class) sails with us to Portugal and sail the Tagus River, not knowing the waters, currents, language or people! 

We were young and adventuresome! 1971

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Honoring All Veterans, Fallen and Still Fighting!

Our politicians could take a page from the young men and women who are, TODAY, fighting for our country or defending smaller, weaker spots around the globe. Brave, honorable, honest, with integrity, they are making the world a better place.  Giving selflessly of their time, dedication to country, and sometimes their lives. 

I would like to honor and name the people in my family who have served.

Gerald Guyer  (WW1 Normandy)
William J. Woods (WW2, South Pacific)
John W. Cable (WW2, South Pacific)
Jack D. Borden (B52 Bombers/23 years USAF)
Doris B. Gill (US Marines) 
Jack Henderson (USAF Enowitach Bomb testing)
Robert Berry (Navy Seal. Korea, Vietnam)
  John W. Sugarek (US Marines, Vietnam)

 

 

 

 

 

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Nostalgia… (#12)

Martin Short, (famous actor on SNL, career included dozens of movies) was recently interviewed where he told a charming story. He, Gilda Radner, Paul Shaffer were born (as actors) at ‘Second City’, Toronto.  In the early days, Martin was in a community theatre production of Fortune & Men’s Eyes. The director told the actors that, as the audience came in and took their seats, the actors would be pacing on stage, in a prison setting. In character, wearing only their underwear.

Paul Shaffer, most famous for years with Letterman

 

Fortune & Men’s Eyes

 

Gilda (whom Martin was dating at the time 1972), Paul and some other pals all planned to go see Martin one night. But, as the story goes, the thing Paul Shaffer was really excited about was they would all go for dinner after at the Shakespeare Steakhouse.

So on the night of the performance, Martin’s friends arrived and Paul, upon seeing Martin pacing, moved up the lip the of the stage and whispered, “Martin, Shakespeare  Steakhouse is closed, wink once if Bavarian Seafood makes sense.” 

John Sugarek, actor

 

 

 

This type of crazy thing happens all the time in live theatre. Short’s story brought to mind the time that my husband played Dr. Miranda, (a murderous ex-Nazi) in Death and the Maiden (a part that Ben Kingsley is famous for). Our theatre was so small that it didn’t have a curtain.  Since Dr. Miranda is held hostage and tied up for most of the play, it meant that my husband, John, remained on stage, in character and tied up during intermission. With audience members coming and going.  Actually, he volunteered as there was no logical way to get him untied and offstage. 

During intermission, a trio of white-haired senior ladies came tripping down the aisle and neared the edge of the stage. John (said later) prayed that they were not

Death and the Maiden

Ben Kingsley & Sigourney Weaver

going to speak to him.  They moved as close to him as they could and one of the dear old things winked and said to him, in a stage-whisper, “Psst! Psst! Mister! Do you want us to untie you?” Giggling and twittering they turned and found their seats again. John stayed in character but it was hard not to burst out laughing.

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Black Orphans…What Did Savannah Do With Them? (Nostalgia-part 7)

   In honor of Black History Month I am reposting this  story about orphans and an old man.  The other day I was out on errands and spied a ‘For Sale/Waterfront’sign .  In my neck of the woods that usually means river front and/or marsh land.  So I turned around and followed the  signs.  At the end of the road I found a beautiful home on some acreage.   I always like to look at real estate and I am always curious about what ‘water front’ costs.  Driving slowly onto the property I began to look for a flyer. Failing that, I slowly rounded their circular driveway heading back out.

I paused at the street as a man, riding a John Deere mower, chased me down and asked if he could show me the house.  What luck!   I was going to be able to see the beautifully restored plantation house. I never could have imagined the story that awaited me!

It sits on three acres with a six car garage, a guest house, a barn and a doll house.  The lawns spill down to a large deck overlooking a tidal creek which feeds out to the Vernon River. The live oak trees are hundreds of years old, Spanish moss dripping from every branch.  The deck has been built around an oak even to the point of interrupting the hand railing to accommodate an oak branch eighteen inches thick.  (it’s a southern thing; we love our live oaks.)

But it was the owners’ story that I wanted to share.

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Dick and Sue bought the working farm and farm house in 1975.  Back then, common in those days, the kitchen was outside on a porch so that it wouldn’t add to the summer heat within the house.  The house was approximately 1,000 sq. feet compared to its 5,000 sq. ft. now.

Part of the sale was that the new owners must care for a middle-aged black man; the grandson of slaves, for the remainder of his life.  That in itself was remarkable but they agreed.
Parker Bell was illiterate, didn’t know how old he was, didn’t know his mother or father’s name.  As a child he was blackmanraised on the ‘Brown farm‘. At first I found little history referring to a ‘brown farm’ but had heard that this is where young African-American children (orphans) were housed after the civil war and into the early 1900’s.  I wondered if the name was an acronym in reference to John Brown, the abolitionist?

But thanks to a friend, who loves this kind of research as much as I do….we found the ‘Brown Farm’ in Savannah, GA., and a census map.

Young black children who were orphaned in Savannah from the latter part of the 19th century to 1943 had – for a number of reasons – nowhere to live except Savannah’s penal farm. There the young children were surrounded by such sights as men in shackles laboring in the fields, windows with bars and chain gangs. The kids were not being punished, but it was common practice for them to be taken there.

Savannah Penal Farm

Savannah Penal Farm 

Because there was no orphanage for black children, Chatham County black youth were often placed at the old  Brown Farm, a 400 acre county penal farm for convicts (located on Montgomery Crossroad near where Lake Meyer is now) where they remained until they reached legal age. The girls were sent to the Chatham County Protective Home, operated by the Savannah Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. This practice went on for years, until Greenbriar Children’s Center was established.’   (Courtesy Greenbrier Children’s Center)

Lori’s mother-in-law, Mamie (now 94 years of age) remembers the Brown Farm.  She told us, When I was a young’un, me and a girl was in a fight, and both of us was sent to the Brown Farm for thirty days.   The people in charge there,  had us to wash clothes for the boys that were living there.  I believe that old brown farm is where Memorial Hospital is now, just off Waters.”

the old Brown farm

Census map of the Brown Farm in Savannah

 

 

 

Back to the old man. Parker Bell lived in the guest house and had the run of the property until his death a few years back.  The family treated him like a favorite cousin.  He didn’t have a social security number and because of his learning disabilities couldn’t work an outside job.  But he kept busy cleaning up leaves, mowing grass and helping the children with their horses.  Dick and Sue kept their promise and supported Parker Bell, until his death. Dick told me the fascinating story of the night they had a dinner party for twelve.  In the middle of the meal, Parker walked into the house and into the candle-lit dining room, proudly holding up a stringer of fish, saying, “Mr. Dickie, I caught us a mess of bass outta that creek.”  

My whole adult life I have had my best adventures when I’ve been ‘lost’….and today was no exception.  To other writers out there? Our stories are all interwoven as human beings.  Your new story could be around the next bend in the road.
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Auld Lang Syne ~~ Happy Holidays!

It’s that time of year….Auld Lang Syne and as the poet, Robbie Burns wrote,  “old long since”.  And I’m in the mood to tell a story.     

Wild Violets, a novel

Mother, Violet, on right

In a very ‘Auld Lang Syne’ kind of mood, I  remembered things from my long ago youth at  holiday time.  Especially my mother’s traditions in the kitchen.  Christmas dinner was a big stuffed turkey with all, and I do mean all, the trimmings.  Dinner began with a ‘shrimp cocktail’.  If there was fresh shrimp (there had to have been; we lived in the Pacific Northwest for goodness sakes); my mother had never heard of them.  Canned shrimp filled two third’s of a martini glass, topped with her homemade cocktail sauce.  A sprig of parsley  on top and the glass was then placed on a paper doily covered saucer.  On the saucer was ONE, (never two or three) Ritz cracker.

The sage, giblet stuffing, made from scratch and that means my mother saved the heels of bread loaves for weeks. I’ve never tasted dressing as good since.  She would make the usual trimmings, gravy from the turkey drippings, green beans (out of a can, of course) flavored with bits of boiled bacon, baked sweet potatoes, and jellied cranberry sauce.  She considered whole berry cranberry sauce savage.  Home made biscuits and mashed potatoes.  And then the pièce de résistance………..her oyster dressing.  Heaven in a bite!

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers

Mom & me

Not being a particularly religious family the blessing was be short.  If my Dad could get away with it, he would add: “Pass the spuds, pass the meat, for

Godssakes, let’s eat.” We would toast each other with Manischewitz  wine. A wine connoisseur Mom was not!  And I never knew why a Kosher red wine was part of her tradition.  

As dishes were passed around the table,  someone would always mention my mother’s off colored joke about a “boarding house reach“.  A stickler for good manners, she would instruct us that a ‘boarding house reach’ was when you could ‘reach’ for something on the table and at least one butt cheek remained on your chair.  That was an acceptable ‘reach’ and not bad manners. Otherwise, you must ask politely for someone to pass down what you wanted.

roaring 20's, flappers, new fiction, Wild Violets

the flapper days

I was never certain whether she had run a boarding house or had just lived in one sometime during her 1920’s flapper*bar owner*professional bowler* speckled younger days.  If she had run a bordello it would not have surprised me!    Miss you, Mom!

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Footnote:  “Auld Lang Syne”  is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well-known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.

The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”.
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Argentina Students Gift Me with an Original Poem

    

Argentina Adult English Class

Periodically I have talked about my friends in Argentina.  In 2009 I traveled there and was hosted by the most beautiful people whom I’d only met via email. So warm and generous with their time and attention. Highlights were: getting stuck (for a short time) in a nation-wide airline strike and being on the only plane to leave Bueno Aries for Villa Maria. A sister of one of my hosts, who had never met me in her life, vacating her apartment and handing it over to me for my stay. A beautiful university campus where I was honored to be a guest speaker for 10 days. A music department whose ‘final’ exam was to compose and perform their own music. (Amazing!) A high school putting on a play which I was able to attend and teach an impromptu, master-class in acting. And visiting a dairy farm where ‘frozen’ sperm was the subject of the day (lol) and how it was purchased, stored and implemented.  

Since that time I have been in close contact with one of the professors, Mariana Falco, and I consider her the dearest of friends. 

Mariana in center. Fulbrigh teaching assistant at St. Mary´s College

She also teaches English as a second language to adult students. She is a lovely, giving person and a wonderful teacher.

  Mariana and her class Skype with me and we have a hilarious time!  There is no language barrier when there is love! 

So, yesterday, the class surprised me by sending me a poem that they had written….(I blush)…about me! 

 

  TRISHA SUGAREK     (by O.Lopez  and Classmates)

Cierro mis ojos, en letargo                                     Close my eyes, lethargy overtakes me

Creo ver en mi sueño                                               I think I see in my dream

Su diminuta pero firme mano                               her tiny, but, firm hand

Un mágico movimiento                                         a magical movement

Esta se deslizaba sobre el papel                           this slides on the paper

Sosteniendo el lápiz entre sus dedos                    holding the pencil between her fingers

Las palabras que habitan en su mente                the words that inhabit in her mind,

Sabias ellas……….van cayendo                              wise them, begin to drop

Toda la sabiduría en la hoja                                  all the wisdom on the paper

Testigo fiel de lo que ella quiere decir                 the faithful witness of what she wants

                                                                                    to say

                 _____________                                                 __________________

De repente se detiene                                             Suddenly, she stops

Lee atentamente …… y vueve a leer                    reads attentively and reads again

Entrecierra sus ojos                                                squints her eyes

Y una bonachona sonrisa                                      and a good-nature smile

Ilumina su rostro                                                    lights up her face

Sus pupilas se agrandan e iluminan                   her pupils get enlarged and illuminate

Detrás de los lentes se ilumina y…piensa        Behind her glasses, she lights up and

                                                                             Thinks,

Y se dice a si misma                                              and she says to herself

Si es un buen trabajo,sencillo y correcto          it is a good work, simple, and precise  

Su nombre es Trisha, una gran escritora          her name is Trisha, a great writer

Y es…………¡nuestra amiga!!                              And she’s ………our friend!!!

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Nostalgia…remember when… (part 11)

NostalgiaA Greek word meaning to Grieve, to Ache

Modern Dictionary a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

I guess I’m the last person, on the planet,  to watch the series, MAD MEN.  I was so surprised; it’s my life as a (very) young  married housewife. I was treated (as seen in MadMen) like that as a woman. It’s hard to believe now and of course when it was happening, I didn’t know any better…..and the men in my life CERTAINLY DIDN’T!!!  That was my husband; me always asking for permission. Him handling the money, etc. Cheating on me. Demeaning my worth with tiny arrows and jabs. And the employers I had at the time….just like the ‘ad men’ in Mad Men.  Talking down to the female employees and always reminding us of our place. Where did men, at that time, learn this behavior? Their fathers…and their fathers before them?

me – circa 1978

  I swear I even had some of those skirts that Peggy wore.  And one of the dresses that Joan wore was in my closet.

I am  amused and shocked that I had that life and then to watch it back in such precise and accurate detail!  Given where I (and most women) are today,  it seems like a life time ago. Oh! It was.

And here’s the really wonderful thing…..the music of that time. As the show opens and closes the sound tracks are from that era. And, fifty+ years later,  I can sing along REMEMBERING EVERY LYRIC OF EVERY SONG.  (The brain is truly a wonder.)

 

 

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