Monday, March 24, 2008

A day at the dog beach

Yesterday was Easter. To celebrate, my best friend Kris and her daughter Sara drove down from Saugus and we exchanged Christmas presents. I kid you not. That's how long it's been since we've seen each other. Actually it's been six months - since September. And Saugus isn't that far away. But life, especially life in L.A., gets in the way.

After we traded presents, we piled into the car -- Sara and the two dogs crammed in the back -- and went to the dog beach which is close to Belmont Shores in Long Beach. I should have taken my camera, but the battery was dead and I couldn't find the recharger. On the other hand, it's not the most camera friendly place - just imagine sand, sea water, wind, and several dozen very happy dogs all going in different directions and occasionally colliding with you in their exuberance. I don't think my camera would have lasted long, and I'm glad I didn't take it. This is a place for a disposable.

But, man, what a treat. It was a scene of what I can only describe as exhilirated chaos. It was perfect weather (at least 80, maybe 85 at the beach, and sunny), and spring fever was in the air.

For the first two years after I moved to San Pedro, I never set foot at the Long Beach dog beach. For one thing, I was loyal to the Knoll Hill dog park (now defunct) in San Pedro. I just couldn't get over the bridge to Long Beach to try anything differently. Plus, when you have two big dogs who get very excited in any new surroundings, crowd control on a leash becomes a problem. I didn't want to go unless I had another "supervising adult" with me, because just getting the dogs to the designated area - they have to stay on leash until you're there - can be quite a trial. To give you an idea, last year Annie, my 'little' dog, literally pulled my sister off of her feet. So I avoided it.

Then one day last summer, just walking along the beach with Kris, we happened to notice that there were a lot of loose dogs cavorting around, and it dawned on me that we had discovered the famous dog beach. (You can't really find it until you're on the beach itself, because it's set apart by orange cones from the rest of the beach. And the cones really aren't visible from the street.)

It's kind of like discovering Middle Earth. One moment, you're walking on a regular beach, with people laying in the sun, kids in the surf, then all of a sudden, you're surrounded by dogs in all stages of play and pandemonium, and then, if you keep walking, the dogs disappear and you're (sadly) back in real life.

I find that the dog beach is a little more dog-friendly than the dog park in San Pedro. Makes you wonder how a dog park could be unfriendly towards dogs, but it can. Maybe it's because it's fenced in and a smaller area, but for some reason, dogs tend to gang up at the park and overwhelm your dogs when you first arrive. It's not necessarily in an aggressive manner, but it's still a little intimidating. I'm grateful that my girls have good manners and seem to take it with aplomb.

But at the dog beach, it seems like the dogs are too busy and too happy to gang up on a particular unfortunate dog. At the beach, they will run up and sniff, but then they're off again to race down the sand. Dogs can go in the water, or not, It's a whatever kind of place. Some dogs love the water, some need a little coaxing, others like to just stick close to their owners.

My dogs seem to switch roles. The first time we were there last summer, Xena, my German Shepherd, absolutely loved the water and wouldn't get out. (Probably because we were in the middle of a ferocious heat wave.) Annie, on the other hand, who is normally fearless, did not want to have anything to do with the waves.

This time around, Xena stuck close to me. Annie at first didn't care for the water, but eventually she figured out that catching the ball in the surf zone was actually kind of interesting and way more gratifying than trying to deal with my lame attempts at frisbee throwing. It got to the point where she wouldn't fetch the ball unless we threw it in the water. Talk about a change in attitude.

Any breed of dog can be had at the park. And, for that matter, any kind of person. We saw all kinds of mutts, gorgeous whippets, several bulldogs, a yorkshire terrier, numerous small dogs who all looked alike, a Rhodesian ridgeback, even what looked like a foxhound. A King Charles spaniel was spending her first day their, her proud mother taking photos. One beautiful red pointer-type, with a grizzled muzzle, has a prounced limp; his owner said he was 14 and had a bone disease. Still, the sport managed to trot into the waves to fetch his ball. We also saw people adorned with various stages of dress, tattoos, and even pinwheels in the hair. Everybody was smiling and laughing, and it was certainly contagious, because there wasn't one dog fight to be had.

For somebody who doesn't normally celebrate Easter, this was a great way to un-celebrate the holiday. As for the dogs, we got them home, soaked, sandy and happy. Funny, though - when I took the dogs out to the back yard and tried to gently hose the sand off, it was like it was the end of the world.

Here's some photos of what they were like last night. Annie's on the left, Xena on the right. These are older photos, but you get the idea.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Leaving Livermore, the first time

1967 began with no hint of the momentus changes that our family would go through that year.

My sisters and I were engrossed in our lives in Livermore, California. Linda and Patty were already married; Linda had married her high school sweetheart Bob about a year after she had graduated from Livermore High, and Patty had married Rick, who couldn't be said to be her high school sweetheart, just someone she had dated for the past several months. She had always dated guys with fresh faces and crew cuts, like her steady boyfriend Dave Grubbs. But Rick was sullen, with a surliness in his face not unlike James Dean.

One day in the beginning of that year, I walked in on Mom and Patty in the kitchen. Mom was altering some pants that Patty was modeling, she was adding a large square of satin as a front panel, as a way to make them larger, expandable. What are you doing, I asked? Patty is going to have a baby, Mom said, pins in her mouth. Patty looked at me, smiling, expectant, waiting to see what kind of reaction her ten year old sister would have to such news. I didn't know what to say, so I turned and left, trying to act as if I heard this kind of news every day.

Becky and I were the two left at home with Hal and Mom. We were still enamored with the Beatles, and spent most of our days when not in school fantasizing about how life would be if Paul and George were our boyfriends. Paul - mine, and George - Becky's. Both Becky and I concocted elaborate scenarios in which for one reason or another, the Fab Four showed up at our door on Olivina Street, needing a place to stay and of course girlfriends.

We bought the albums - Yesterday and Today, Help, Revolver, and my favorite, Rubber Sould - and played them in the few minutes we had after Mom and Hal had left for the day, we put them on Hal's Hi Fi and felt delicious listening to those rich melodies fill the house.

We lived in some semblance of normalcy on Olivina. I still didn't speak to Hal much, and he reciprocated. There was a cloud of tense civility in the house. He tried to get me interested in various activities that he thought might help; he gave me a stamp collection starter kit one birthday. I wanted to like him. I found him interesting, his life exotic. He represented adventure, a life beyond Livermore. Still, my older sisters couldn't stand him for reasons that I still could not understand.

That spring Mom pulled me into the kitchen to give me some news. Hal had left the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory the year before and was now working for Trans International Airlines out the of glamerous new Oakland airport. He was a maintenance director, whatever that was. I didn't understand what he did, it sounded important, at least.

Hal was being transfered to Germany, Mom told us. I looked at her, not quite comprehending what she was telling me.

We're moving to Germany, she said.

Monday, March 17, 2008

And Yet More....

More memoirs of pulp fiction writers have trickled in since the last posting. In addition, many people have added to the list several biographies and histories of various genres. Again, go back to the original post (Two posts ago, "Pulp Memoirs," and go to the comments.) You will see that most of the posts are posted by me, but that's because I cut and pasted from various emails I received from online groups. I have tried to include the name of the contributor.

I thank everyone for all of these. I look forward to reading these myself - don't know if I'll ever get to ALL of them, considering the pile of books on my nightstand already, but I hope to get to a good chunk of them.

As a side note, just for the heck of it, here's a couple of covers for your dining pleasure. My grandfather's first story, "The Whispering Gunman," for Wild West Weekly appeared in this Wild West Weekly issue shown (October 6, 1928).

His first published stories were not Westerns, ironically. They were of the horror type, and were published in Weird Tales. Here's the cover of one of the issues, and we're very proud of this one, because his story is featured on the cover. This is the June 1925 issue of Weird Tales.

All of this talk of pulp memoirs has been a good diversion for me; frankly, I've been too busy to do any more blogs. Between getting a colonoscopy and upper g.i. endoscopy last Friday ("congratulations, Laurie, you're finally an adult," one of my friends said), putting another book proposal together, working, commuting, etc etc. I haven't had much time to do much else. Y'all know the drill. And I haven't even started on my taxes!

One of my online groups has had a really interesting thread going lately about Big Little Books. I'm going to make my next post about my grandfather's stories that got reprinted in Little Big Book form (no, that's not a typo, it was another publishing company)along with some history.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More Pulp Memoirs

I've had incredible response to my earlier post requesting information about other pulp memoirs. Most of them were posted to various chat groups in which I am a member. Rather than post them here in a new post, I have cut and pasted all of them and posted them as comments on the original post ("Pulp Memoirs"). That will keep them all centralized in one post and easier to find.

Thanks, everyone, for your help! Especially Mike Chomko, who gave me a lengthy bibliography AND has many of the books available for sale. His information is in his first post.

I know that others will find the list useful. I can't wait to pick up these books and read them myself!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pulp Memoirs

The other day, a member of one of the yahoo groups I joined commented that he liked the fact that my grandfather's memoir, Pulp Writer, was written right after his career with the pulps had slowed down. Because he had written it in 1943, right when Wild West Weekly was closing up shop, his memory was still fresh and was able to include a lot of good detail about writing for the pulps, as well as events that occurred at the publisher Street & Smith.

The following question was then asked: what about other pulp writers who ended up penning their memoirs? We couldn't think of any that had written theirs so soon after the end of the pulps; as it is, there aren't that many memoirs of pulp writers, period. I guess many of them weren't that interested in that part of their life, were embarrassed that they had written pulp fiction, and/or hadn't gotten to the point where they could appreciate the importance of putting down their thoughts. I (and plenty of other people, especially those on these yahoo groups) wish they had.

Eventually some of them realized that a) they better write it down because there was a dearth of information about the pulps and 2) they weren't ashamed of being a pulp writer anymore. You get to a point in your life when you realize that what other people think isn't as important. Thank God for that, huh?

Here's a list that I'm starting. I know it's incomplete. If any of you out there want to add to the list, add a comment and I'll greatly appreciate it. Maybe we can start something here. Seems a little counterproductive - after all, I want people to buy Pulp Writer, not necessarily other writer's memoirs, but people are going to read what they want to read, regardless of what I say. And hey, we're all in this together, and the written information out there about pulp fiction writers and pulp fiction history is scattered to the four corners of the earth and sometimes very hard to compile. Some of these writers were some of the "big names," and others added to the list may not be as famous. But I and others are grateful that all of these were written.

Many of these were picked out of bibliographies of reputable history books I have in my library.

1. Probably the best known: Frank Gruber, "The Pulp Jungle." 1967.
2. Harold Hersey. "Pulpwood Editor." 1938. Yes, an editor, not a writer. But great information and a requirement for any pulp student.
3. Walt Coburn. "Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler: An Autobiography." 1973.
4. E. Hoffman Price, "Far Lands Other Days." 1975.
5. Clark Ashton Smith. "The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith." 1979.
6. Jack Williamson. "Wonder's Child: My Life in Science Fiction." 1984.

Every single one of these, with the exception of "Pulpwood Editor" was written at least 20 years after the end of the pulps, most of them more. I know that after my grandfather wrote Pulp Writer in 1943, he submitted it to one publisher (that I know of) who returned it, saying they didn't think there was a market for it at that point. That was in 1943.

Funny how times change.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Black Horse Westerns and Some Personal Goulash

Well, I was "tagged" by my sister Linda last week, meaning my number is up. Once you've been "tagged", you have to tell seven things about yourself, and then ping seven more bloggers that you know, so they have to do the same. It kind of ticked me off at first - kind of smacks of chain letters, (or excuse me, chain emails) but then I got excited about it. Don't we all love to talk about ourselves? I'm no different. Anyway, if you've been tagged, here are the rules:
1. When tagged, place the name of the person & URL on your blog.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write 7 things about yourself.
4. Name 7 of your favorite weblogs.
5. Send email letting those bloggers know they have been tagged.

But before I get to that (now that you're all captive readers!) I simply must tell you about this great group I learned about last week: Black Horse Westerns. Matthew Mayo, a Black Horse Western writer, emailed me last week to let me know he was enjoying Pulp Writer, and started to tell me about this amazing group of Western writers, many of which live in England, who write Westerns. Black Horse Westerns imprint are published by Robert Hale Ltd.; they do reprint some of the old classics from writers of the 1950s, but many are written by current Black Horse members. They have a website, and a discussion group full of wonderful people who are very passionate about the Western. They also just published an anthology called Where Legends Ride: New Tales of the Old West, (edited by Matthew Mayo, publisher is Express Westerns, 2007). I just read two of the stories and I am hooked. I also checked out their magazine, the Black Horse Express, and was especially intrigued by Greg Mitchell's column Horse Sense, in which he discusses the many important horse facts a Western writer should know.

Anyway,'s my list. Linda did such a good job on hers, I don't know if I could match her cleverness. Sibling rivalry hard at work...

1. The Brits with Black Horse Westerns will be amused to find out that I am a die-hard Anglophile - I am besotted over anything English. So they're in England, writing and living the life of the Western, and I'm in California, reading English history and counting the days until I can get back there. The last time I was there (and only the second time) was in 2004. I lived in Crawley, Sussex for six months when I was ten years old.
2. And, while living in Crawley, I started to take riding lessons and began a life long habit of riding horses. Wanted to be a jockey when I was a teenager, then, when I realized how easily I could get killed, switched to riding jumpers. Just a little less dangerous. And a lot more expensive. I still ride, but not as often.
3. So if you take Item #1 and add in Item #2 that brings to my most embarrasing indulgence: I subscribe to Horse & Hound! At the tune of $170 a year for an American subscription!(For you Yankees, Horse & Hound is a UK magazine that comes out once a week that ia a newsmagazine of all things horsey in England: all the big horse shows, horseracing, hunting, etc. It really is an amazing publication: I say my excuse for getting it is because it's got the best equine photgraphers working for them) But I give the old issues to a friend of mine in Northern California who is involved with Pony Club, and the kids in the club eat up the magazines. They love to see the horse world outside of California. So I don't feel as guilty for spending so much money for a magazine subscription.
4. I started a new hobby a few years ago: photography. I splurged and bought a Canon Rebel Digital and it changed my life. Although it seems that the vast majority of the photos I've been taking lately have been of my dogs and cat. Here they are, from left to right, Annie, Xena, and Albee:
5. Favorite TV show: the Office (US version). when do the new episodes start, now that the writer's strike is over? second favorite TV show: the Office (UK version). Show I used to watch three nights a week: The Sopranos. thank God that's over now, I needed my life back.
6. Person I'd most like to be: I guess I could say something really meaningful and serious and say Mother Teresa or Hillary Clinton or the woman that finds the cure for cancer. The truth? Person I'd most like to be: George Clooney's girlfriend.

Is this game over yet?

7. Secret dream: to get Pulp Writer made into a movie. But then I guess that's not a secret.

That was fun!
Have a good week!