Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just Call me Lucy

Funny how every day tasks can trigger huge flash backs into our past!

Just recently I was whipping up a truck load of noodles and meat balls for our grandson, Hugh's, school pot-luck dinner. It made me think back on another time when I was cooking huge amounts of something. Back then, it was spaghetti, and we were living in Dallas. Our daughter Lisa was on the swim team. The team was having their end of the season dinner and the coach asked me to make spaghetti. I was given the recipe. I bought the stuff. I don't know what I was thinking, but clearly I was not thinking . . . . clearly. I opened all the boxes of spaghetti noodles and dumped them in a big pot of water. As they cooked, they grew. Imagine that! Soon I was putting some of them into another pot. Then another. And then another, again. Soon every pot in the kitchen was piled high with spaghetti noodles. I was panting and sweating from the stress of running around the kitchen, searching for more containers to hold all the hot growing things. It was total chaos and I was all by myself. HELP! I wanted someone to help me.

Then, I had to stop and laugh. I even looked around my kitchen to see if this was a "you're on candid camera" moment. I felt just like Lucy Ricardo on "I love Lucy."

Now this blog won't surprise my friend, Claire Scott Alcindore, one tiny bit. She always laughed and said I reminded her of Lucille Ball, and she never even saw my cooking piles of spaghetti act. Hey, my middle name is LUCILLE!

Busy Mom's need help. During those days of juggling the kids schedules, homework, shopping, driving, cooking and the endless laundry that I used to be convinced the neighbors brought in when I wasn't looking. There is NEVER enough hours in the day to get it all done. I sure could have used the help of my Mom with that spaghetti project. She would have laughed too. We would have had fun!

It makes me happy to help Lisa with projects like the meat balls and noodle dish. I see it as a fun and rewarding part of finally being a grandma.

And . . . news flash! Our Mighty Might, football playing grandson, Jake, scored his first touchdown on Saturday. He is eight. I asked Ron if he remembers scoring his first touchdown, but he said NO. I hope Jake remembers his. When he was asked how he felt afterward, he said that he felt "really good. It was awesome. Now we are going to be in the playoffs. Then next it will be Pee Wee, and then high school and college, baby."

Yeah, it sure will be here before we know it, Jakie, baby. You go, Mr. Touchdown!

Ron and I have been singing, "You Gotta be a Football Hero" to Jake, but The Crew Cuts we're not!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weird But True

Do you ever have cramps in your feet at night? Or Charlie Horses? Wouldn't you love to find out how to not have them any more? (Drum Roll) I've got the answer. It is Weird but true. Just tuck a bar of unwrapped Ivory Soap at the foot of your bed, under your fitted sheet. Huh?

My friend Marty read about the cure in her newspaper. She assured us it worked. Ron scoffed. Said it was "stupid". I hurried to the store and bought the magic little bars. At first I just put them at our feet, but Ron took his out and said the the little brick bothered him. So I re-arranged them under the sheet at the end of our mattress, the end that faces the foot board. Magic happened. We haven't had any foot cramps, or the dreaded charlies, since. I don't know what is in Ivory Soap, but I remember that their slogan used to assure us that they were 99.9% pure. And "It Floats." Now, the slogan on their bar says, "IVORY, Joy is in the sharing."

What a great thing to share with all our friends, an end to the excruciating foot cramps and charlie horses that strike in the middle of the night and make us want to scream with the pain.

I called this blog "Wierd but True" after the segment that is in THE DAILY every day. If you have an I-Pad and are not getting THE DAILY, you don't know what you are missing. It is an amazing combination of high quality, articles, pictures and videos. I turn it on every morning while the coffee is brewing. I love it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wild, Wonderful, Welcoming Wyoming

We are getting settled in our cowboy cabin. A summer tradition for us that was interrupted when himself flunked retirement. This is an amazing little piece of heaven that can be wild and peaceful at the same time. The Grand Tetons jut straight up out of the land, always surprising because they have no foothills. The clouds roll down the Grand, heading for Yellowstone, and spreading the ever-changing dancing lights and shadows. They never look the same and one never gets bored with the looking.

The first morning we were here, I had coffee with a large herd of elk, as they enjoyed their breakfast across the street on the Bar-B-Bar. The beautiful mountain blue birds fly in and out of their home on our fence rail. The magpies squawk their welcome that reminds us to get out the bird feeders. Maggies must be perpetual two year olds because they spend most of their time throwing temper tantrums over one thing or another. They, also, are just about the only birds that hang around the Hole all winter, a sure sign of their toughness and ability to survive. They are beautiful as well as brutal. I saw one grab a shrieking bird right out of the air and gobble it up. When I screamed, "shame on you, maggie," she wasn't the least bit ashamed. It is interesting to note that Lewis and Clark were so amazed by the magpie that they built a cage and took one back to President Thomas Jefferson. I can just imagine what that bird probably had to say to that President.

Ron has always said that this little place, dubbed "The Director's Cabin" by our girls, gives you a hug when you come through the door. How nice!

The Nixon connection for this blog is that we enjoyed a delightful visit with David and Suzy Young. I always thought that David was responsible for naming the White House Plumbers, but Suzy told me the originator of the name was actually David's grandmother. When she found out that David had been asked to head the effort to stop the leaks in the Nixon White House, a very important goal in light of the damaging Pentagon Papers release, she wrote to David. "Your grandfather would be so proud today to know you have followed in his footsteps. He was the plumber that worked on the Waldorf-Astoria, and now you are a plumber,too."

Isn't it too bad that the term has been forced to take on a sinister meaning, rather than the very vital and important National Security role that it had in the beginning?

The Youngs live in England. They did before and after his White House years. All of their children were born in the UK. On this trip, they toured many National Parks with their friends, Keith and Carol Leaman. It was fun to show them around the fabulous Grand Teton National Park Vistor Center and then enjoy a delicious buffalo burger at Dornan's in Moose. Buffalo is probably not found on too many pub menus in the UK.

As I have said many times, one of the biggest benefits of Ron's flunking retirement and serving as President of the Richard Nixon Foundation, was the opportunity to reconnect with so many wonderful former colleagues and friends. Ron encouraged David and Suzy to join us in November when Geoff Shepard's Domestic Council joins the February Group, under the new name of "White House Reunion". We are looking forward to it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Most of you know that the RN Library Docent newsletter is called the "Blue Heart." I wondered about the origin of the name and asked a few folks, but no one I asked knew too much about it. While working on an upcoming blog, "The World in the Time of Watergate," I re- read RN's Memoirs. (A really good read if you haven't opened it recently.)

RN writes in the chapter about 1970:
I knew that those days in April and May were as hard for my staff as they were for me. Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Kissinger, in particular had borne the brunt of the Cambodian crisis. I wanted to do something to show how much I appreciated their strength and support. While we were were in Key Biscayne over the weekend of May 15, I asked Bebe if his girl friend, Jane Lucke, would mind doing a little sewing for me.

On the plane back to Washington I asked Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger to come to my cabin. When they arrived, I thanked them for all that they had done. "In fact," I said, "you deserve something like the Purple Heart for all the wounds you have sustained in the line of duty over the past week."

They all laughed and said that they had only done their jobs.

"No," I continued, "you have done more than your jobs, and I have devised a new award - a Blue Heart, for those who are true blue."

I gave them each a small heart made from blue cloth. "This will be our secret," I said, "but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate what you have done."

You can imagine my surprise when I found this tucked in the back of our autographed copy of the book.

Most of the readers of this blog undoubtedly consider themselves "Blue Hearts." If you have something to add to this snippet of the legacy of President Nixon, please add a comment.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The New Watergate

Where I stand depends on where I sit . . . . or in this case . . . . where I used to sit. It is so true.

Those of us who lived through the days of what came to be known as "Watergate", the days of reading about our pals in the Washington Post every day, seeing them accused and vilified, hauled in front of a grand jury for countless hours while their legal bills sky rocketed, go to trial, and be convicted of perjury, not wrongdoing, and end up in prison. Those were tough times. I think anyone would eventually perjure themselves after countless grand jury sessions, under oath, that were spread out over several days. How much you paid for a ham sandwich on a specific lunch hour could eventually land you in the pokey if your answers failed to line up.

It was so unfair. It really hurt.

I used to have a pretty complete opinion of it all, but as I seem to deal with most things unpleasant, I pulled a shade. Now I don't remember too many details of that terrible time. I wish I could call on my old brain and have a visit with it today.

Because today the Richard Nixon Library has a brand new Watergate Exhibit. The old one had been called a white wash among other things. When the National Archives joined the Nixon Library and Birthplace in 2007, almost the very first thing that the new Director, Dr. Tim Naftali, did was rip out the old Watergate Exhibit and put up a sign that said, "COMING SOON: New Watergate Exhibit". The sign sat on a temporary easel for three long years. The worst thing about the sign was that Dr. Naftali chose to use a picture of the Watergate Apartment/Hotel complex that looked like Armageddon. It featured a scary red sky, that made one think the whole place was on fire, perhaps the results of being bombed. I did not like the image at all, but it is used on everything! The coming soon post cards, the press passes, and there is probably many other places people can see it.

I am sure that Dr. Naftali really believes that President Nixon did every single bad thing that has ever been suggested. In his opening remarks for the new exhibit, I don't think he missed using one accusatory buzz word; abuse of power, dirty tricks, whitewash, cover up, etc. Several of these same buzz words now scream at the visitors to the Library the President's friends built. The letters are huge, the colors are bright. No one can miss seeing them.

I happened to be present when Dr. Naftali was asked point blank, if he really believed President Nixon was anti-Semitic. He didn't give us a direct answer to the question, but later I told Ron that I could just picture all the researchers directed to search for ANYTHING that the President had ever said that could be considered in that light. Sure enough, a very few days later, several news stories contained newly released quotes on that very subject. Coincidence? I don't think so. Let me take readers of my blog back to the days of daily Watergate revelations.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had a story every day in the Washington Post. We dreaded looking at the paper every morning, and yet we had to see what and who would be next. An amazing parallel form of harassment was happening at the Walker front door every day, too.

The morning edition of the Post was always sitting on top of a fresh pile of warm dog poop. Honest, I could not make up such a thing. Not only was the story icky, so was the actual paper. We really thought someone was harassing us. Ron took to laying in wait and watching. He had his trusty Red Ryder BB gun at the ready. One day, a little white dog, came jaunting up to OUR front door and left a fresh, warm pile on OUR welcome mat.

Ron let fly with a hail of BB's that sent the pup yelping back the way he came and soon the paper boy let fly with the POST, and his aim was as spot-on as the little white dog. Mystery solved, but the whole scenario sure had added to our anxiety during this very stressful time. I did, however, feel relieved to learn that it was not a dirty-tricking human who was behind the whole thing.

In our Walker family folk-lore this time as come to be known as "the days of the phantom shitter."

Eight years later we read SILENT COUP by Len Colodony and Robert Gettlin. We desperately hoped that the premise was true. We were shocked to learn that a military spy ring, opposed to the President's foreign policy goals had penetrated the White House and an attempt to cover up a call girl ring at the Democratic National Committee was the real reason behind the break-in. John Dean was described as a pathological liar who duped everyone. These are just a small sampling of the shocking revelations in the book, but they gave us hope. Alas, only staunch Nixon supporters embraced it. Most others didn't want to see the super-scooping young reporters criticised.

The book was dismissed as not credible at all. John Mitchell said it best when he wrote to the authors in 1988, "It's just the way you put it. It was his (Nixon's) personality and his mode of operation that did him in." Sad, huh? Now, all the visitors to the Richard Nixon Library will just have to make up their own minds about the "Watergate" aspect of the Nixon Presidency.

The Foundation fought to have the exhibit be fair and balanced, and be consistent with the approach taken on other controversial subjects at the other presidential libraries. It did not come out that way. As Bob Bostock, who authored the Library's original Watergate exhibit and headed the review team of the new exhibit said, "It is as much designed to demonize Richard Nixon as the previous exhibit was designed to advocate for Richard Nixon. At least the old exhibit never claimed to be "objective," as the curator of the new exhibit claims his exhibit is."

I hope visitors will take to heart what President Clinton said at RN's funeral and judge the 37th President on the whole of his remarkable life and career. And I am still holding on to the hope that another cover up will be revealed. Proof of the silent coup that Silent Coup uncovered.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nixon in China, the Opera

"Nixon in China", the Opera? HUH? When it opened in 1987, I thought the idea was laughably silly. Susie Chapin and I went to see it at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and still thought it was pretty far fetched and silly. Guess we weren't very sophisticated, because now it is back and opening at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. They, (the sophisticated, artsy folks) are calling it the most important new opera of the last thirty years.

Because President Nixon asked Ron to be his "responsible person" in China to make the final preparations for his historic visit, the trip was a game changer for us, his family. China was so far away and so much about it was mysterious and unknown. Ron's first advance trip to China in January was a chance to learn some important lessons for the long stay required to prepare for the President's visit. He had found it almost impossible to read anything by the light of the thirty watt light bulbs furnished in all Chinese hotel rooms, but every room, every day, at every moment, had a thermos of steaming hot water. Since he was never much of a Chinese food fan to begin with, we knew that an extended stay dining on the local fare was problematic. So we had to do something to make his upcoming trip more comfortable. We decided to pack him a "survival suitcase." The girls and I went to the local grocery store a couple of days before his departure to stock his survival suitcase. We had talked a great deal about what should go in it, and our girls did not want to miss the adventure of putting the assortment together. We waited until the last minute to make sure things like snickers and fritos would be really fresh. It seemed logical for him to take along some tasty instant packages that only needed hot water: instant coffee, oatmeal, tea (he preferred Lipton to Jasmine) and hot chocolate. Since ice cubes didn't come with room service, and since they were going to be in-country in the middle of winter, he decided to take along a couple of ice trays so he could make his own ice cubes on his hotel window sill. (To see how well that plan worked, I refer you to CHINA CALLS, Paving the Way for Nixon's Historic Journey to China, by yours truly. We also bought fritos bean dip, chips, peanut butter, crackers, toothpaste, kleenex, pepto-bismol, Kaopectate, and Marlboro cigarettes, (he preferred them to Chunghwas).

The check out clerk appeared appalled at the junk food the woman with the three little girls was buying. The $264.59 grocery bill did not include anything fresh or perishable, but it did include six GE 150-watt light bulbs and six four-packs of squeezably soft toilet paper.

We probably should have tried explaining it to the check-out clerk, but I really didn't know what to say. Looking back, the whole advance for the advance was pretty overwhelming for all of us. And that must be why the thought of turning it into an opera was and still is surprising.

Ron and I were among those invited to the dress rehearsal of the re-opening of "Nixon in China" at the Met in late February. We were joined by our pals Dwight Chapin and Jerry Warren. Ray Zook from the White House travel office. Ambassadors Richard Solomon and Winston Lord from the National Security Council. Bette Bao Lord joined us for lunch. Ambassadors J. Stapleton Roy and Nicholas Platt represented the State Department. Most of the others were from the press corps, including Dan Rather and Helen Thomas. At the luncheon, folks were asked to share a memory from the trip and Helen, clearly forgetting where she was and why, told an LBJ anecdote.

When the opera first opened in 1987, television critic Marvin Kitman has been quoted as saying that it would take 50 years to sort out what happened when President Nixon went to China and the same was true of the opera, Nixon in China. He said "There are only three things wrong with 'Nixon in China,' One, the libretto, two the music, and three the direction. Outside of that, it's perfect." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Peter Sellers came up with the idea of the opera and John Adams composed the music. The production was lavish. The cast was huge. My favorite part, as I told set designer Adrianne Lobel, were the stage sets. I found the music to be quite boring and laborious. I longed for just one hummable tune. And just one memorable one would have been good, too. Alas, both were missing from the interminable long, double intermission marathon.

But some positive aspects are certainly worth mentioning, Baritone James Maddalena, who was also the original Nixon, was amazing as the President. He captured his walk and other mannerisms perfectly. Janice Kelly portrayed a kind and gracious Pat Nixon. Thank heavens for that. And what can I say about the portrayal of Henry Kissinger? He was a horny, lecherous and cruel villain. Why, one has to wonder. What was the point of THAT? Dwight Chapin had a chance to ask that question and the response was that while doing research, he (I won't mention his name because I don't know if he told Dwight in confidence) read Kissinger's book. He found Henry to be arrogant and self serving so he decided to do something to get even. (Do you suppose that was Oliver Stone's motivation in NIXON, or the the reason the folks who brought us Nixon/Frost did what they did? They just didn't like RN?) That's a fine way to document history, and I think it is wrong. I have read that "Nixon in China", the opera, will be around for years to come. So future audiences will think that's what Henry Kissinger was really like? That seems unfair.

Now lets talk about the portrayal of Chairman Mao. His was another interesting on-stage character. His interpreters, three women, were ready willing and able to offer ANY assistance he wanted. Some reviewers have referred to it as "servicing Mao." It was embarrassing. I actually didn't want to look. Perhaps that was what he actually required of his handlers. Shocking behavior! If true, he, Mao should be ashamed of himself.

I should mention that there were other good parts, too. Air Force One landing from the sky, the famous hand shake between the President and Chou En-lai, and Mrs. Nixon, dressed in red. She was the perfect bright spot in a drab landscape with the Chinese people all dressed monotonously the same.

A supposed re-enactment of the Chinese State Dinner followed the dress rehearsal at the Shun Lee West restaurant. It was an elaborate presentation of many, many dishes. I kept hoping to be pleased with every one that I tasted. I never was. A red wine was served and the traditional Mao Tai. Evidently Mao Tai is very rare these days and quite expensive. You may remember that Dan Rather called it "liquid razor blades." Ron returned from his trip with several bottles and it was always quite a moment as our pals sampled a sip. Poured into a saucer, and touched with a match, it burns. It always presented quite a display of good lamp or heater fuel.

President Nixon's trip to China in 1972 was truly a week that changed the world. Scholars and students will study it, probably forever. It was important. It was significant. It should never be trivialized.