LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILLS FAMILY THROUGH MARALYS' MEMOIRS: A CIRCUS WITHOUT ELEPHANTS AND A CLOWN IN THE TRUNK

Monday, June 18, 2018

THE OUTRAGEOUS LIES ARE WORKING . . .





Exactly like they worked in prewar Germany. 

I can’t stand this anymore.

By nature, I’m an optimist, always apt to see the glass half full.  By inclination, I invariably tune in to people’s best qualities. 

Yet every morning, on nearly every page of the newspaper, I find our president lying to his fellow Americans. Or effusively praising a foreign dictator (most of whom feel free to murder their own people), while alienating the leaders of decent, Democratic countries. Or abrogating worthwhile treaties, like the Paris Accord and the Iran agreement. Or proposing tariffs that will eventually harm American businesses. 

Or I look at television news. And there he is again, telling the world, “I don’t like seeing children taken from their parents. It’s the fault of Democrats, it’s a Democratic law,” when in truth there IS NO LAW—Democratic or otherwise.  (There’s only bible-quoting Jeff  Sessions). Trump declares, “Manafort only worked for me a short time—maybe 49 days,” when in truth Manafort (now jailed), was the president’s campaign manager for at least four months, maybe five, and was given high praise by Trump on the campaign trail. Or Trump says of outright cheater, Scott Pruitt, “He’s doing a helluva job.” (While Pruitt dismantles every U.S. safeguard against dirty air and water.)    

I go to my computer—and some 25-to-50 messages tell me that half our Congressmen support this guy, (and/or the NRA,), and while none will lift a finger to stop the yearly gun deaths of 36,000 Americans, neither will they permit a Congressional vote which might confront or disturb our Machiavellian leader.  

Sometimes I imagine I must be crazy: Nobody can think Trump is a good president.  But people do. Polls declare that 90% of Republicans think he’s just fine.

I know what family and friends will say:  If Trump is upsetting you so much, stop reading about him. Stop thinking about him. What they really mean is, Stop Living.  

I can’t do this, because Trump is everywhere. We can’t stop talking about him, lest we get so complacent we hand him our country . . . meaning we stop fighting, no longer push back—until, like Hitler, he and his cronies obliterate America’s long-standing laws, traditions, and institutions. Until lying becomes our everyday discourse.    

No matter how few are still listening, I, for one, will never give in to this monster who presumes to be president.  Every so often I’m driven to say what needs to be said.       

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

THE WORLD DIDN'T SEE IT COMING


In the beginning, Hitler was a nobody.

In one of my favorite books, The Past is Myself, by Christabel Bielenberg, I long ago read the account from a British woman married to a German lawyer, of what it was like to live in Berlin as it was overtaken by the Nazis. Though these aren’t her exact words, this is what she said. “At first we didn’t take Hitler seriously. We were educated, and he was out on the streets ranting and yelling. For God’s sake, he was a house painter!”

And then everything changed. Suddenly Bielenberg and her friends saw that the man was gaining power, and now thoroughly frightened, they began sending messages back to Britain, and even to the United States. “Take him seriously. This man is dangerous!”  To her chagrin, she was forced to report, “Sadly, nobody out there listened.”  Within a short time Bielenberg’s life changed radically. “We could no longer talk to anybody, even our trusted neighbors. We simply didn’t know who was now aligned with Hitler and who wasn’t.” 

Bielenberg’s story was so compelling that its British publishers chose to reprint the book no fewer than 25 times!         

Last week, members of my family and I were among a contingent of UCLA alums who took a Celtic Lands cruise, which ended in Normandy with a view of venerable Omaha Beach—a wide swath of brownish sand at low tide, and 5 miles long.

There we witnessed the still-visible signs of destruction that Hitler had wrought.  Among them: the massive cement bunkers from which Nazis machine-gunned incoming Allied troops; never-filled bomb-holes in the nearby weeds; a cemetery filled with 9387 white crosses from  the 40% of American families who chose that their loved-ones be buried in Normandy. Each cross contained the name, rank, and age of the victim. All so sad—and mostly so young.

East of the graves, a stunning, “walls of the missing” memorial structure surrounded a male statue dedicated to American troops. Within this monument and in front of the statue, our shipmate, David Eisenhower (grandson of Dwight), gave a stirring talk. And off to the side, garbed in green, stood his youthful wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

As a side note: both Eisenhowers were so gracious that they welcomed conversations with fellow passengers on the French ship, Le Boreal. On one land tour, we were surprised to find the Eisenhowers on our bus--seated in the row in front of us. For a brief moment, I dared tell Julie about my tenth grade French teacher in Denver who, in May of 1944, was almost speechless in her excitement as she tried not to tell us “the beeg news” she’d gleaned by short wave radio from her friends in France. In class on June 6, 1944, she nearly exploded as she said, “What I couldn’t tell you was D-Day!” She whirled and clapped and laughed and then said, “For weeks I knew all about it!” 

As Rob has reported, our cruise was many-faceted: The Churchill expert, Allen Packwood, reported in his talk, (approximately) “No man has ever studied the face and gestures of his lover harder than I studied Roosevelt.”  Churchill was hoping, of course, to persuade FDR to join the Brits in repelling Hitler. Unfortunately, one of Packwood’s two talks came on the heels of a vigorous morning castle-visit, followed by a lavish luncheon,  then soft seats in an auditorium with lowered lights. On every side, my fellow passengers slowly drifted into sleep.   

Our ship tour included, besides numerous castles and bus tours in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, on the ship itself a lively Irish multi-instrument quartet (which had us clapping on cue), heel-and-toe Irish dancers, six different lecturers, and in late evening (if you were still awake),  French entertainment in the theater.

Of special joy to me were the passengers who became our warm friends—especially the UCLA lecturer, Michael Allen and his wife, Elena, whom I soon felt I’d known a lifetime. And our own family, loudly cracking jokes at meals: Chris and Betty-jo, Ken  and Melanie, and Tracy.

Other moments stand out: All the men in various countries who helped me down escalators, up and down stairs, and through revolving doors—and the funny moment in a long Amsterdam taxi line when I shouted for my daughter at the other end.  After I fruitlessly yelled, “Tracy!” several times to no avail, numerous men in the line between me and her relayed my call, each one yelling “Tracy!” one after the other, until she finally heard us.

Another highlight was visiting our new great-granddaughter, Eva, in the heart of Amsterdam. With her parents, Jamie and Mike, joining us in wonder and laughter, we realized that Eva, at four weeks, had a lovelier head of dark hair than any of us. For hours we sat at their apartment’s enormous picture window, watching the hundreds of cyclists pedaling past the nearby intersection. Only with a combination of patience and daring could an automobile penetrate the non-stop parade of two-wheelers.  

Our visit to Normandy was the predictable high-point of the cruise. As we departed on the bus, I mused about how much one evil man with murder in his heart can change the entire world. In the end, Hitler was responsible, world-wide, for some tens of million deaths!

My second thought as we arrived home: all those newspapers we missed told me that a different kind of danger—loss of integrity and a rabid hostility--is afoot in our government, even here in America. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

HE'S BLACK-MAMBA-MEAN . . .


HE’S AS UNPREDICTABLE AS A BULL DOG, BUT CONSISTENTLY A LIAR.

Worse, he’s supported by a Congressional majority of smooth-talking lawmakers—except,  judging by their proposed laws, they’re greedy and spineless . . . and such sycophants they won’t oppose him.   

For today, this is our government.  Think of the examples:

When school children are murdered with military weapons, they offer only thoughts and prayers.    

When universal health care falters, they maneuver to kill it altogether—but replace it with nothing.

When women are threatened by new laws, or denied control of their own reproductive systems, they tighten the screws. 

When laborers work long hours but can’t afford reasonable living quarters, they give tax breaks to the rich.

When Immigrants are brought to America as innocent children, they threaten—with meaner-than-mean ICE agents--to break up families and deport them all.   

When college graduates are so saddled by loans they can’t buy homes, they do nothing to substantially reduce interest rates. 

For us, the compassionate majority of Americans, there is only one solution:

VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

James Comey's A HIGHER LOYALTY. (The Book that HAD to be Written)




Last night I finished James Comey’s book. 

From the much-ballyhooed public reviews, you’d think this book was all about President Trump.

It isn’t.

Out of 277 pages, the reviews I’ve absorbed from TV, friends, or newspapers, are largely focused on a scant few pages—or even a few paragraphs. Maybe a few short chapters at most, but all from the tail end of the book.  

Thus, like everyone exposed to phony reviews, I thought I’d experienced the whole text, meaning no need to read it.  And anyway, I was kind of Trumped-out. So why exert myself to read one more expose? I hadn’t planned to buy the book—but then Rob bought it for me. 

Mostly out of loyalty to Rob, I began reading. And from chapter to well-written chapter, I kept expecting, here comes the Trump stuff. Yet nothing of the sort appeared. The message I gleaned was about the journey of one conscience-driven man who took on a   number of public service assignments (mostly in the arenas of policing and Justice), and throughout absorbed hard lessons about the world of bad guys . . . about finding ways to “commit justice” . . . and finally about his ever-increasing, personal struggle to “do the right thing.”

Adding to the reader’s involvement, all Comey’s hard-earned lessons had context—specific among them, the actual jobs he was assigned to do, and the reasons they perplexed him. And how often he was saved by great bosses and leaders (we actually “see” these guys), starting with childhood.

But perhaps of greater consequence, came the insights of his wife, Patrice. We learn of the couple’s personal tragedy and how they coped and adjusted. We see Comey taking on a series of assignments, each of escalating importance, but every one containing mis-steps and mistakes, combined with new insights. At last, to his surprise, he is chosen by President Obama (not from his political party),  to head the FBI. 

Four enlightening, lesson-learning years follow.  As always, Comey names names and ponders actual assignments. Among his revelations are his two brief, but amazing encounters with President Obama.  How tellingly these scenes depict both men!

At last, around Page 211, we meet Trump. At first Comey is perplexed, but fair-minded. He sincerely hopes—maybe expects--the man will prove to be a better president than his campaign suggests.  However, for these last few chapters we are led into the Trump/Comey scenes as he experienced them. In the end, we get to know our current president in ways we’ve guessed at but never seen so clearly depicted. 

Because he kept such detailed notes, Comey reveals a blazing truth: our president is even trickier, more self-absorbed, more vacuous, and ultimately a more consistent liar than the media has portrayed him. He is such a non-stop talker that nobody in his presence gets to say a complete sentence. You have to be sitting in Comey’s chair to realize the extent of his emptiness—and yes, vindictiveness.  

As his final maneuver with Comey plays out, we realize our president is even meaner than we imagined; his ultimate, outrageous betrayal of the head of the FBI is almost beyond belief. 

Still, the book ends on a strong note of hope. In the way that a forest fire clears out old growth and allows new saplings to take over, Comey believes our country will rebound from this destructive administration in ways that will accomplish what we’ve all been hoping for—a new generation of leaders who govern with a conscience.  

Friday, April 27, 2018

A BOOK REVIEW TO DIE FOR




If Rob and I didn’t throw a party at least once a year, our house would eventually get so cluttered with “things I don’t know what to do with,” our place would be condemned.

Just now, in the midst of our yearly, frenetic attack on such items, I found this letter. Rob long ago consigned a copy to what he calls “M’s Kudos File,” a notebook filled with various complimentary letters.  But this was an extra copy, and for months it’s been “hanging around,” mostly because I didn’t know where to put it.  Occasionally it would surface and I’d read a sentence or two.  But today I stopped to read it all. Wow, I thought . . . who should see this besides me?    

Herewith, you’ll discover what I decided to do with this very long critique:    


DAMN THE REJECTIONS, FULL SPEED AHEAD: The Bumpy Road to Getting Published.
Stephens Press (2008) :  Lemon Lane Press (2016) ISBN 978-0-996-1675-6-7

Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for READER VIEWS—reviews by readers, for readers


Maralys Wills has written some successful books, but I had never heard of her until I read this fascinating, entertaining, and informative guide to writing and publishing.
Among Wills’ best-known books is “Higher Than Eagles,” about her son, an accomplished hang glider, who unfortunately died pursuing his passion. I admittedly have no interest in reading any of her other books because I am simply not interested in the topics, but I mean that as a compliment because I found “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead” to be full of wonderful information for beginners and accomplished authors, no matter what type of writing they do.

With all respect to Wills, her writing career has spanned a long time. She does not give her age but she remembers the start of World War II.  She has been writing and teaching writing many years, and she has published fourteen (now 17) books. I have read many books about writing, and many autobiographies of writers, but I don’t know anyone who has blended the two together in such a coherent and readable format. Many authors have written wonderful guides about how to write—Ayn Rand and E.M. Forster come to mind—others have written books about how the publication process works--James A. Michener—and others have tried to separate life and writing into two parts of one book—Stephen King’s “On Writing.”  All these books have value as a guide to writers, but none of them have so perfectly blended writing and publishing advice with autobiography.

Maralys Wills has carried us through her entire publishing career, telling us what she learned along the way with relevant examples, allowing us to see her progression as a writer, to feel her rejections, and to cheer her publishing offers. Even her chapter on small writing goofs, a chapter to benefit beginning writers, had many points in it that polished writers will find instructive. And accomplished writers will find her an equal to empathize with, seeing their own experiences in many of hers.  

Wills describes herself as a genre-hopper; she has written a wide range of fiction and non-fiction, from party books to romance novels to a memoir and now a book on writing. She knows her genre-hopping has caused difficulties for her career, but readers of “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead” will only benefit from the variety of useful advice she offers.

“Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead,” was in many ways similar to taking a tour of the history of publishing through the last several decades. Wills remembers the days of preparing manuscripts on typewriters—a frustrating experience I am grateful only to have dealt with for a very short time. She has sold books to traditional larger publishers; then, she moved to smaller presses as the industry changed, and even self-published a book. The only information I felt lacking in her book was a more contemporary discussion on the current state of publishing and the role of self-publishing in today’s marketplace, as well as the importance and increased role of authors marketing their own  books.

While I learned much from reading “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead,” I did not expect to be entertained so much by Wills’ vibrant voice, her enthusiasm, snippets of her dialogue with her husband, and to relate so well to her feelings about being rejected and the joy of finally having a book accepted. May Wills experience “Full Speed Ahead” in many writing and publishing ventures to come and, as would be her wish, so may her readers.


The book can be purchased, autographed, through my “store” at Maralys.com.

Both paperback and Kindle versions are available through Amazon. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A MIXED BAG OF TRICKS--"DOWN UNDER"


It was mixed, all right—at least for me.   

The Sun Princess cruise ship, which Rob and I and Chris and Betty-Jo boarded for a round-trip from and to Sydney--with New Zealand lavished in between—stretched to some 857 feet, with our staterooms beautifully plunked at the far end.  Any farther back, and we’d have been in the water.  The view out our sliding glass doors--past the neatly-furnished deck--highlighted a churning, aqua-blue “wake.” The wake was a continuous flow of white and teal bubbles, reminiscent of blue champagne . . . provoking fleeting thoughts of jumping in.   

That was the good news. 

The not-so-good news was that one of Rob’s and my favorite restaurants, basically a buffet called The Horizon (aptly named), was at the opposite end of the ship, meaning a destination thousands of miles away, clear to the bow and four decks up.  If you stood at one end of the blue-carpeted hall, you couldn’t see to the other end.  I’d stare down that forbidding blue trail and ask myself if I really wanted the food that much.

And then we’d begin the trek.  And I’d be thinking, This is good for us, we need this hike, then, God, how I hate this ! until we finally stumbled into the distant elevator, in what appeared to be a whole different country.  (My view, and mine alone—but then I’ve never embraced pure exercise . . . unless, like tennis and pickleball, it involves points.  Still, I may be the only passenger who came home four pounds lighter.) 

Our elegant Regency Restaurant was somewhat closer, with a significant section (“Club Class”) reserved for passengers in suites. There we met two charming couples from Tasmania—and by the end the men were jumping back and forth between our tables, sharing their favorite jokes. Happily, I’d brought a few of my books, soon given to some of our newfound friends.

A third restaurant, “The Sterling Steakhouse,” cost most passengers $29.00 extra just to dine there, and served each patron such obscene portions, covering the entire plate,  that I swear each of them received close to half a cow.  Even Chris, a steak aficionado, couldn’t finish his Porterhouse. While the others sliced and devoured, I spent the time staring regretfully at my mostly-wasted slab.   

However, the four of us were granted unlimited visits, thanks to unresolved leaks that initially took over Chris’s and Betty-Jo’s suite—wherein a few days of rainstorms sent floods of water pouring into their stateroom in and around the sliding glass doors and even through the light fixtures.  Their emails to the family said, “It’s raining equally, both outside and inside.”  For days they traveled with a plastic aqueduct lining the tops of their drapes, complete with various holes leading to seven buckets spaced out along the floor.  By the end, Luca, the officer in charge of guest-services, granted them so many perks that Chris said, “I’d gladly exchange some rain water for all those goodies.” 

On our third night, I was dutifully flossing over the bathroom sink, when I heard a “clunk,” and looking down saw that one of my crowns had dropped into the bowl. Horrified at first, I soon realized that nobody, including me, would notice a difference.  Eventually I stopped approaching each new town with the thought, I wonder if they have a good dentist.            

My favorite impressions of the trip were three-fold---first, the Sydney harbor, with its perpetual flotillas of every size boat. Two--that every afternoon about 4:15, we’d go to Team Trivia,  where we found various smarties to join for a sixsome, then competed with dozens of other teams playing for small prizes, but mostly for ego.  Once we came within one point of “winning,” but usually we did slightly better than average. The third-- going to sleep each night in what amounted to an especially comfortable queen bed, which quickly became a rocking cradle.  After a while, Rob and I found we’d wake up abruptly if the ship stopped moving.

Since the trip, Rob asks everyone, “What’s not to like about New Zealand?”  Anyone who’s been there mentions the green and serene countryside, the looming mountains, the huge population of sheep, the soaring albatross, the ever-gracious people, the roads you can travel without seeing other cars. Driving or biking through the uncluttered countryside is a trip through paradise.  At nearly every stop, Chris and Betty-Jo disappeared and managed to bike or hike for miles.  

Rob and I, confined mostly to cities, rode coaches, a train, a private car, and eventually (at Chris’ insistence), a V-8 Trike—which is basically a three-seated motorcycle with two side-by-side easy chair seats behind the driver . . . a contraption that makes you a spectacle as you roar through town. Besides that, we hiked a bit, shopped, and managed to “park” frequently on dozens of public benches. But hey, we were once the Chris and Betty-Jos of our travels.

Today our grandkids brag to their friends about us—that at our very senior ages (and I won’t admit to how senior), we’re still traveling the world.  For me, the trip was something of a triumph . . . that I managed to walk my way across most of New Zealand.      

Friday, February 23, 2018

WE VALUE OUR GUNS MORE THAN OUR CHILDREN




These aren’t my words: they come from a letter to the Los Angeles Times. But how perfectly they sum up my attitude.         

Even now, after the Florida school massacre, the gun problem isn’t getting fixed. In spite of current outrage from students, parents, teachers, and the public, few have doubled-down on the one-and-only viable solution to mass killings: make automatic and semi-automatic weapons—like the AR-15—illegal.   

Nothing else can work. It will take time to get weapons-of-war out of gun shops—even longer to retrieve them from ordinary citizens.  But once banned, AR-15s will be used less often. Gun owners can rejoice over less-spectacular killings—down to one-by-one. 

Meanwhile, we’ve heard inane solutions from our president: turn our schools into armed camps; raise the age for buyers of war weapons; “fix” the mentally-ill (he doesn’t say how.)  While listening to families of murdered children, Trump’s remedies come out as though from the lips of NRA’s Wayne LaPierre . . . whose recent speech was infuriating.

Two Times letters are worth re-reading. From Terry Otsuki: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to members of Congress who have sold their souls to the NRA. May they find their humanity again and start taking action to prevent these mass murders.”   

And finally, Kim Eifert Krogstad says: “Other countries have mentally ill people capable of harming others. Other countries have young people who have been bullied or attacked by fellow students and are filled with rage. Other countries have despondent people who have given-up on life and want to go out in a blaze of glory. (Para.) But other countries do not have the kind of school shootings that we have here in the United States. The difference is that in the United States, we value our guns more than our children.”  















Monday, January 22, 2018

WATCHING HER GO





This time it was easy.

I’ve been present at a number of dramatic family moments, many of which entailed a significant loss of sleep.  But not yesterday.

This Sunday, after spending nearly a month in California, our granddaughter, Jamie, was headed back to Amsterdam.  Officially, Rob and I said goodbye to her Saturday night over a turkey dinner at Tracy’s house.  Unofficially,  I wanted to be there when she actually departed. So Sunday morning I showed up at our daughter’s home at ten a.m. 

As expected, in that last half hour some serious packing remained to be done.  But though her room was full of still-open suitcases, neither Tracy nor Jamie seemed the slightest bit rushed. In spite of her six-month pregnancy and rather magnificent girth, Jamie moved around easier than I did.  How nimbly she darted up the stairs, how simply she bent over to stuff more stuff in a suitcase.  (The “stuff” being a plethora of gifts resulting from two baby showers.)

“Ever seen these vacuum-sealed packages?” she asked, handing me a square, see-through plastic container. At first glance it appeared to hold dried fruit. 

“Never,” I said, noting that the small package was seriously heavy. Only with a close examination could I tell the packet actually contained lots of severely-compressed clothes. Moments later she used a pipe from the vacuum cleaner to suck air out of another such container. Whoosh, whoosh, and the package flattened out, mashing the clothes until it became half its size.

Next I witnessed an astonishing moment for a bulging suitcase that defied all odds of ever achieving closure.  Somehow Tracy’s partner, Paul, managed to muscle together the two sides and actually zip the zipper . .. which, on the other continent, would doubtless result in an explosion.  (I almost said to Jamie: “If you want to know what your father was like, watch Paul.” ) 

“Jamie,” I asked, as she continued to push and shove and over pack yet another suitcase, “how will you get the airline to take three cases? With one of them weighing 70 pounds?”   

“They’ll take two because I’m business class.”  She gave me a sweet, knowing smile. “The third one--well, I think they’ll take that, too.”  With such a smile, I thought, they probably will. 

 Which, of course, is what happened.   (If that over-compressed suitcase didn’t actually explode, it must have come close.) 

While my impromptu “showing up” yesterday did not include a loss of sleep, other such events have.  

Years ago, on Maui, after Rob declared “Don’t wake ME for this crazy project,” I nevertheless rose at four a.m. to join Chris’ new wife, Betty-Jo, Chris himself, and brother Bobby . . . so I could be there when the two boys flew their hang gliders from the top of Haleakala.  In awe, Betty-Jo and I watched in the dawn light as the two walked to the edge of a cliff and one-by-one, in silent drama, stepped off the mountain and suddenly disappeared—only to appear again as their wings caught the rising air. Ultimately, Chris and Bobby set a 10,000-foot world altitude-drop record—soon reported in newspapers everywhere.  (That was the year we started a family tradition—joining our kids on their honeymoons.)

On a sadder note:  The phone was on my side of the bed when Tustin Community Hospital called at 3:00 a.m. to advise that a family member needed to come immediately because Art Wills was critical.  Letting Rob sleep, I drove into the night, arriving in time to tell Rob’s Dad, “We love you, Art.”  With that, he lifted his arm to his chest, as though saying goodbye. Seconds later, he was gone.   

A few years later, somebody called after midnight . . . whereupon I jumped out of bed and hurried to a Santa Ana Hospital at one a.m. to see my first grandchild, Brandon, moments after he was born.  It happens I was standing just outside the delivery room when I heard his first cry.

Over the years I’ve learned it pays to be there for your family’s vital moments—even if it means a reluctant departure from a warm bed. Long since I’ve learned that the sleep-deprived night is temporary . . . but the resulting memories are permanent.