Tuesday, July 20, 2021

MEMORY LANE

Yesterday, Larry, his brother Casey, and I took a walk down memory lane.

When my brother died, Casey suggested saving a small amount of his ashes and leaving them at Granada Park, where we all had spent much of our childhood.

The bulk were spread off a boat in the ocean in May. The next day, we took some to my father’s grave. (Some of my mother's were spread there when she died in 2011.) Ron’s friend, Chris, was willed his Schwinn chrome-plated Paramount bike with the promise he’d take some of Ron’s ashes to Newport Beach.

So, we only had the final tablespoon left to dispose of.

We drove up in the morning. My, how everything has changed! Without our GPS confirming our location, we’d have thought we were in a different town.

But the park remains beautiful—perhaps even more so than when we were kids. The charming entrances are still there as is the big hill. The trees are large, providing lots of shade.

Larry and I wrote about the park in the book based on Ron’s original idea, Dominic Drive. Because the book was set in the 1950s and ’60s, we had to include it in the story.

The playground has changed completely since our youth.

Gone is the big double metal slide where we burned the backs of our legs in the summertime. The merry-go-round, which we used to spin as fast as we could, is no more. The equipment there today looks much safer, and I’m sure the current batch of kids enjoy playing on it as much as we did.

We hiked to the top of the hill. The gym looks bigger (and maybe it is). They have sprinkled covered eating areas throughout the park. They looked cool and inviting. Definitely an improvement.

Casey suggested we use the area above the new pool, still in the same position as the old one had been, but much newer and nicer.

Swimming lessons were in progress. Somehow, this felt perfect since Ron learned to swim in the old pool here. We liked the idea of having a separate kiddie pool instead of the big Olympic-sized one.

Once we picked the spot, Casey took the small container and spread half in the grass.

Then I sprinkled the rest.

We had brought some blue daisies like the ones we had dropped into the ocean with his ashes. For a day or two, they will mark the spot.


After we strolled around the park, we took a drive around the Midwick Tract, where we lived as children. Most of the houses look well-kept, and most have been added on to. A few are gone, and some new ones have taken their place.

Larry and Casey lived on Hitchcock Drive. The southern end is now blocked off. We used to be able to drive directly onto Garvey Avenue, but people began to use the drive through the tract as a shortcut. They went far too fast and endangered others on the streets. Closing it made sense.

The old Gully, mentioned in the book, has been filled in, and new buildings are being constructed there.

The parkway trees in front of my old house and the two on either side are gone. They were lovely liquid ambers. From our kitchen window, we watched them change colors each year. I was sad they were missing.

Since it was lunchtime, we capped our visit to the past at Twohey’s in its new location in South Pasadena. This building appears smaller than the old one, and all the hard surfaces make it a bit noisier. They do have quite a bit of outdoor seating, however. Casey ordered the original “Stink-O” burger. He said it tasted exactly the same as he remembered.

We enjoyed our visit to the past. Contrary to the popular notion, you can go home again as long as you are prepared for changes and surprises.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

ASHES TO ASHES

 In his will, my brother, Ron Lund, had insisted on no memorial service. He wanted to be cremated, and he wanted his ashes to be spread off Newport Beach. Because he died at the end of August of 2020, it really wasn’t possible to do much at that time.

Of course, we had his body cremated as he had requested. We brought the ashes home, and they resided here for months.

Even though he was quite specific about having no service, I felt he might like the idea of a get-together for family members and friends to share their favorite stories about him. (Most of them had a few.)

Early on, I looked toward his birthday on May 29 for a luncheon at our house. Fortunately, restrictions were being lifted by the end of April, so an outdoor get-together seemed possible.

Our daughter came from Texas for the first time in a year and a half. The day after she arrived, we took Ron’s ashes out on a boat, along with a few of his closest friends.



Once we cleared the harbor, the weather wasn’t cooperative, and the surf was rough. The captain said we could only go out only a short way beyond the harbor entrance. So Larry read a poem from his book, Lakeview Park:

Bury me not near the old oak tree,

In a prison tomb, dirt over me.

But leave my spirit to swim free,

And cast my ashes out to sea.

To rise like mist in the morning sun

And ride the swells till the day is done.

Somehow, this seemed appropriate for Ron. Then he sprinkled the ashes, and we tossed blue daisies on the water.

Afterward, we all went to the Harbor Grill for dinner.



L-R: Bernie & Bob Schwenck, Casey Collins, Jim Cocores, Bud Legg, Robert Legg, Larry & Lorna Collins,
Kimberly Romero, Maribeth Seale

Then on the 29th, as planned, we had the luncheon at our house. We certainly enjoyed seeing everyone, and they shared some wonderful memories. We laughed and cried a little and talked about Ron. We also had copies of Dominic Drive for everyone.



Kim, me, and Lucy Collins



Childhood friends: Sherry Van Clief Cowell, me, Jim Welsh, John Anderson.



Stephany Sherlock and me

Some of Ron’s friends couldn’t make it, but several came from a long distance just to share their reminiscences. I appreciated their effort.

I had felt badly that we couldn’t spread his ashes off Newport Beach as he had requested, but his best friend, Bud Legg, sent me this note:

I think Ron would have been pleased. Whenever Ron and I would be over that way, we always drove over by Doheny. It was a favorite spot where we would sit and lie to each other about the "perfect" ride we caught there. We had a million true stories about the fun we had. He is happy about where you placed him. I'm happy because he will always be there, it will always be 1965, and we will always have our stories. Will, I'm off to work on the ‘46 woodie. I think I'll take him with me and listen to him bitch about the work you're doing.

I loved this. It made me laugh, and I felt good about where Ron had ended up.
We also reserved some of his ashes.

One part went with his friend, Chris. Ron left his chrome-plated Schwinn Paramount bike to Chris with the agreement that he would ride it down the beach at Newport and spread a few ashes in the sand.

Another part went with us to Forest Lawn. We had spread some of my mother’s ashes over my dad’s grave with Ron. So, we added some of his. Now he is there together with our parents.

Finally, my brother-in-love suggested we take some up to Granada Park in Alhambra and spread them there. We have yet to do this, so one small container awaits disposition.


I decided years ago that I loved the idea of cremation. It brought back the image of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” When our time comes, we have requested the same disposition.

What is your preference?

Monday, June 28, 2021

ABOUT THE BANANA

In completing the book, Dominic Drive, the one my brother, Rockin’ Ron Lund, started, we include a story about a surfboard. We called it the Banana. It was based on a real surfboard called the Jolly Green Giant.

As described in the book, “It’s a big, ugly yellow [green] board. Most of the guys in the neighborhood learned to surf on it.” This was true. We don’t remember who owned it before Larry or who he sold it to. (Maybe Tom Closser?) Unfortunately, Ron would probably know. He might also know if it was still around and who had it and who the succession of owners were! But he isn’t here to ask.

The one thing we do know is that everyone who bought or sold it paid (or got) twenty-five dollars for the transaction. Every time. No exceptions.

The board had a yellow fin, so when Larry owned it, he cut out pictures of the character from a couple of can labels and epoxied one on each side—just so there would be no confusion about the board’s moniker.


Rockin’ Ron Lund and the Jolly Green Giant

I don’t know if Ron ever actually owned it. This photo might have been taken when Larry owned the board. My brother-in-love, Casey, said he remembers only once when Ron went to Doheny with them. He said he saw Ron start to paddle out, but he doesn’t remember him ever riding a wave in.

Like the character of Dan in the book, he may have tried it a couple of times, but he wasn’t interested in learning how to do it. He’d much preferred to ride his bicycle or drive around in an old car.

He did own a couple of longboards, though. When he got his first classic station wagon, he said he wanted a longboard or two to stick out through the back window.

Larry had an old Gordie his friend, Randy Kiefer, left with us when he moved to Las Vegas. A few years later, we saw him when he came back to California to visit his mother. Larry suggested he take his board back with him.

“Heck, no. You keep it. I’ll never use it again.”

So, it languished in our garage for years. When Ron said he wanted a longboard, Larry offered him Randy’s. He also let him have his own old blue Hobie. Ron put them on his cars for special occasions.


Ron with his VW at his 50th high school class reunion

In telling the story of Dominic Drive, the tale of the Joly Green Giant (the Banana) was just too good not to include.


Do any of you remember it? Did anyone own it? Do you know what happened to it? Learn more about it in the book


 

Monday, June 21, 2021

COUNTDOWN TO JAPAN

The world is counting down to the Olympic Games to be held in Japan next month. Because of the pandemic, the games were delayed for a year. But now, it seems, they are really happening.

We were supposed to go back to Osaka this year, too. March 31 marked the twentieth anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios Japan. We spent from August of 1998 through the spring of 2001 there helping to build it.



During our time there, I sent home email messages every couple of weeks about places we’d visited, things we’d seen, and all our adventures living as expats. (Today, it would be called a blog.) These ended up being sent to about 150 people. When we returned, I discovered they had been forwarded to even more.

Friends insisted they had to be published as a book. Sounded easy. It wasn’t.

The individual subjects were timely when they were written, but they didn’t fit together well for a book. So, I started over.

After a few chapters, I discovered I needed—and wanted—Larry’s input. What he came up with was a totally different book than the one I intended.

We remained at an impasse until our friend, Julie, suggested we join her writing group and ask them for advice. At the first meeting, one of the members suggested a solution, and we began the book again with each of us writing our own chapters, identified by our names.

When we finished, we looked for an agent. Two of them liked the book, but they both had the same issue: it didn’t fit neatly into any category. It was about Japan, but it wasn’t a travel book. It was about building USJ, but it wasn’t exclusively a theme park book. It was about doing business in Japan, but it wasn’t specifically a business book. It was a memoir, but we were told memoirs wouldn’t sell unless you were famous. We weren’t.

Time passed, and interest in the building of the park was waning. So, we decided to use subsidy publishing. This is where you pay something for the publication, but not nearly what it costs the publisher.



After three grueling edits, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park was finally published in the spring of 2005 in hardback, paperback, and ebook. In 2018, we added the audiobook with a great narrator. It went on to be one of two finalists for best ebook memoir of the year in 2006, was named one of Rebeccas Reads best nonfiction books of 2005, and was listed on the Forbes recommended reading list as well as several theme park websites.

If you would like to learn a bit about Japan in preparation for the Olympics, this is the book for you! If you plan to visit Japan, this book contains many tips to make your trip easier. If you want to learn about the trials and tribulations of building a world-class theme park, this is the only book ever written about the building of a Universal Studios theme park. (There is one other about a specific ride: Revenge of the Mummy.) And if you plan to relocate to Japan, be sure to check this one out.

If you have any questions about what it was like to live and work there, please feel free to ask.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

About Ghosts

Summer (along with the heat) has arrived, and it's time for a fun beach read. I have one: Ghost Writer.  It is a virtual trip to Laguna Beach, California--complete with a charming and annoying ghost. Here's a little bit about it--and ghosts.

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~ Old Cornish Prayer ~

“I don’t believe in ghosts.” This is how Ghost Writer begins. My character, Nan Burton, adamantly insists she doesn’t believe. That is, until she's confronted with the noisy one living in her house.


I, on the other hand, do believe in ghosts. We had one living in our first house. Not a person, however. Ours was a cat.

Shortly after we moved in, I woke up on occasion with the sense of something walking across the foot of our bed. It felt like a small animal. I’d never owned a cat, but this didn’t feel like a dog, so I suspected a beastie of the feline persuasion.

After a couple of months, Larry and I both woke at the same time.

“It’s the strangest thing,” I started. “It felt like a cat has been walking across the bed during the night.”

“I’ve felt it, too,” was his matter-of-fact reply.

“Thank God! I thought I was going crazy.”

We speculated for some time about the cat, but he (or she) continued the nightly rounds.

Several months later, the woman who had grown up in the house stopped by. We showed her what we’d done to the house. She was very complimentary and told us stories about growing up there.

Just before she left, she asked, “Have you seen a cat around?” She went on to describe the cat, including what he like to do and where he liked to hide in the house. She mentioned that he’d patrol the house at night, his route taking him across each of their beds. Unfortunately we had to tell her that we hadn’t seen any animals resembling hers in the neighborhood.

“He disappeared the day my folks were moving. We came back and left food and left our contact information with all the neighbors, but we never found him.”

Her parents were the original owners and had lived there for seventeen years. The house had been on the market nearly a year before we bought it. So, any chance of locating the cat seemed pretty remote by that time.

We assured her that we’d keep an eye out, and she left.

A few weeks later, we realized that we no longer felt the cat walking across the bed.

“I wonder if it was the former owners’ pet. Maybe he was just waiting for them to come back before he could move on,” I told Larry.

“Hmm, maybe.”

A couple of years later, we adopted a stray kitten who appeared on our front porch. Like our ghost, our cat was nocturnal and roamed the house at night. We always kept our bedroom door closed, but in the morning when our daughter opened it, he’d take a stroll across the bed. And it felt just like the ghost cat.

How about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Have you seen any? Felt any? Sensed their presence? I’d like to hear your experiences.

Monday, June 7, 2021

ABOUT A DOG

 

I recently shared about Luanna Rugh’s book, Up in Flames, in which a scarlet macaw plays a major role. She has another with a dog in a central role in Love From the Sea.

Two strangers find a near-drowned puppy buried in seaweed on the beach. They rescue him together and name him Sandy. Amber Winslow wants to keep him. However, pets are not allowed in her apartment. Wyatt Andrews has a home with a kennel, but his hours are not conducive to meeting the injured pup’s schedule requirements for recovery. They decide to compromise. Both will care for Sandy together. Over the weeks and months of Sandy’s recovery, will Amber and Wyatt find love along with their love of the puppy?

In this book, Sandy, the dog, contributes to the narrative from a personal standpoint.

We spent a delightful day at the beach with Luanna’s dog, Gina, shooting photos for the cover.



Not long afterward, Gina passed away. Luanna was delighted that Gina will be forever honored as the cover model for this book.

If you enjoy sweet romance with humor, you will love this book.



LUANNA RUGH was born and raised on a dairy in Central California. She always loved animals, cats and dogs, cows and horses, not to mention the many wild animals living in the area. At ten, she decided she wanted to become a high school biology teacher.

Her family moved to Southern California the year she entered high school. Luanna followed her path in college until the summer of 1966. She worked at a local restaurant where she met the love of her life, Len Rugh. They were married in February of 1967. A year and a half later, Len was drafted and sent to Vietnam where he was critically wounded, but that’s another story.

When Len returned to California, she finished school and earned two teaching credentials in 1984.

At age fifty-seven, she discovered she could write when she co-authored the first of the six books in the Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies. She contributed to all six of them.

After she and Len published their award-winning memoir, Promises Kept: How One Couple’s Love Survived Vietnam, she decided to stretch her wings, and write on her own. She loves writing animals as supporting characters. In Love From the Sea, a dog plays a major role. In Up in Flames, another dog and a scarlet macaw are lead characters.

Her books are available in paperback and Kindle editions. Most are also available as audiobooks.

She hopes you enjoy reading them as much as she loved writing them.







Monday, May 31, 2021

Why I Observe Memorial Day

This is a repeat post from several years ago.it is still relevant. 

Today, we observe Memorial Day. The holiday began three years after the Civil War in 1868 as Decoration Day, a time set aside to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. The date of May 30 probably was selected because flowers would be in bloom across the country in the late spring.


The first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremonies began on the veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, attended. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic strewed flowers on both Union and Confederate graves as they recited prayers and sang hymns.

By the turn of the twentieth century, ceremonies were held on May 30 throughout the country. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday. The date was also changed to the last Monday in May.

So, what does this mean for us?

Some communities hold parades. Local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts place flags on the graves of veterans in cemeteries. Many cities and communities sponsor concerts and fireworks displays. And some families visit the graves of their relatives and friends.

Both my my father and father-in love served in WWII. Fortunately, neither of them was killed, but they gave years of their lives to the service of their country.

One family member, my grandfather’s brother, Charles Methven, died on October 20, 1917 in Ieper, Belgium during WWI. The family then lived in Canada, and Charles served for Great Britain. He was buried in West Flanders, Belgium near where he fell. He was twenty-three years old.
When I hear Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem and see the poppies on Memorial Day, I think of Uncle Charles. The poem was written in the same place where Charles died.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



This year, I will once again remember those, including Charles, who went to war when their country called and who never came home.

This holiday will continue to focus our attention on those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we sometimes take for granted. They deserve our eternal gratitude and respect.

Monday, May 24, 2021

ABOUT A BIRD

Luanna Rugh is a close friend. I have edited several of her books. In addition, she participated in all six of the Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies.

Luanna’s stories nearly always include animals—usually dogs. Quite a while ago, she began a story with a scarlet macaw as a principal character. Other projects prevented her from finishing it, but I always loved it—especially the opening.

Up in Flames is a romance with lots of complications.

“Nine—one—one. What is the nature of your emergency?” “Our bird’s stuck in a tall tree.” “Young man, this number is for human emergencies only.” “It is. Honest, lady. My mom was trying to get our macaw down. Now her foot is caught and she’s stuck in the tree, too. I didn’t know what else to do.”

A young widow with a son in a new town, a bird stuck in a tree, an unsympathetic fire captain—how can this lead to romance? Lyanna Thomas and her son, Davey, have moved to Aspen Grove Colorado following her husband’s death. When their macaw, Scarlet, decides to go adventuring, a whole new world opens up for the family.

When our writing group had to stop meeting due to the pandemic, I encouraged Luanna to finish the book, and I did the final edit and formatting.

Larry designed the cover. 



Luanna knows all about macaws and parrots because she has one herself. She totally conveys their behavior. Scarlet is definitely a pivotal character in the book.

If you enjoy romance with a sense of humor, you will love this book.



LUANNA RUGH was born and raised on a dairy in Central California. She always loved animals, cats and dogs, cows and horses, not to mention the many wild animals living in the area. At ten, she decided she wanted to become a high school biology teacher.

Her family moved to Southern California the year she entered high school. Luanna followed her path in college until the summer of 1966. She worked at a local restaurant where she met the love of her life, Len Rugh. They were married in February of 1967. A year and a half later, Len was drafted and sent to Vietnam where he was critically wounded, but that’s another story.

When Len returned to California, she finished school and earned two teaching credentials in 1984.

At age fifty-seven, she discovered she could write when she co-authored the first of the six books in the Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies. She contributed to all six of them.

After she and Len published their award-winning memoir, Promises Kept: How One Couple’s Love Survived Vietnam, she decided to stretch her wings, and write on her own. She loves writing animals as supporting characters. In Love From the Sea, a dog plays a major role. In Up in Flames, another dog and a scarlet macaw are lead characters.

Her books are available in paperback and Kindle editions. Most are also available as audiobooks.

She hopes you enjoy reading them as much as she loved writing them.





Monday, May 17, 2021

A TALE OF TWO CULTURES

I met Carol Van Kirk at church. When she discovered we were authors, she said she had been working on a book for years. I invited her to join Lagunita Writers, our critique group.

She brought chapters of her book, and everyone looked forward to learning more of her story each week. Her writing was outstanding, and she had a compelling story to tell.

Then came the pandemic…

The group stopped meeting, and the majority did not want to continue via Zoom.

I knew Carol was anxious to get her book finished and published. I called her, and we worked on the edit together. When it was ready, she published it.

Her husband, Nick, a graphic artist, produced an amazing cover.



The Yellow Lizard: A Tale of Two Cultures is Carol’s memoir. Written with contributions from her daughter, Allison Langbridge, Carol tells the bittersweet, and often funny, story of sharing the raising of her children between Southern California and Tahiti.

As a recently divorced mom of two teenagers, Carol agreed to paternal visitation rights of every other weekend and a month in the summer for her children. Soon after the marital dust settled, however, Dad moved to the remote island of Moorea in French Polynesia, aka Tahiti.

Thus began summers in Tahiti for these two over-indulged kids. Eventually, Allison graduated from school and settled into a conventional job and lifestyle in California. Her brother Alec, however, fell in love with and married a local vahine, Anne. This bicultural couple launched a vagabond lifestyle between an Island Paradise in the South Pacific and staid Orange County, California, filled with adventures, mostly comical and implausible. When two children arrived, however, they settled into a house in Opunohu Bay on Moorea. Subsequently, Grandma Carol became a regular visitor on this island that many people, including James Michener, have referred to as the most beautiful island in the South Pacific. Over the years, she became familiar with the Tahitian traditions and superstitions, some she embraced, others she found amusing, absurd, and sometimes downright scary.

But when tragedy struck, it was the Tahitians, not her American friends, who brought peace and comfort with their close spiritual connections to nature. Who then, she wonders, are the unsophisticated primitives?

The book includes many photos. I created a video trailer for it (something I rarely do for books I edit).

The book is available on Amazon in print and Kindle versions. I’m sure you will enjoy reading about her adventures in Paradise.

CAROL VAN KIRK is a technical writer and editor, who has written for various publications including alternative healthcare periodicals, trade journals and technical manuals, training manuals and online computer Help systems. She was copy editor three years for the magazine Yerevan, which was circulated internationally.

The Yellow Lizard was written as a project to share her family’s unusual background and history with the younger generation, but it soon grew into a full-fledged memoir. She is currently at work on a book of myths and legends of the Maohi Tahitians. Carol currently lives in southern California with her daughter and great-grandson.



Sunday, May 9, 2021

A MOTHER’S HEART

Another book I loved working on was It’s Amazing – She Looks Just Like You: The Story of Sophia and Me, by Dawn Mauro with Carol Ann Mauro.

Dawn always wanted to be a mother, but the husband/partner in the equation never appeared. She tried all the options here in America to become a single parent, but for one reason or another, they did not work out.

By what can only be described as divine intervention, she was led to All God’s Children International (AGCI) in Nepal. She recounts the arduous journey of application, multiple forms, and other requirements—and lots of waiting, expense, and red tape—before she was finally approved for adoption.

So, she and her mother, Carol, set off for Kathmandu, and the adventure of a lifetime. Her determination was tried many times, but she felt God had led her to this place and this orphanage—and this child.

Carol contributes her memories to the book, adding a special dimension. The love of these two women, provided the foundation for the love of this precious child.

In editing the book, I got to know both Carol and Dawn. Their deep love of the orphans of Nepal transcends Sophia’s adoption. Carol; has become a major supporter of the orphanage and is now known as the “godmother” of the children there.

I so loved all the beautiful photos Dawn included in the book that I prepared a video trailer for it. (This is something I rarely do for the books I edit.) 


Their story is a triumph of hope and love. It is inspiring and will leave you with tears of joy. It’s a feel-good read you will truly enjoy.

Sophia just became a teenager, but she continues to inspire. She recently shaved off her long hair in order to make wigs for kids with cancer. You will not regret getting to know this inspiring family.