Rom Generosity (excerpt from “The Gypsy’s Song)

“But that night even my breath was fogging into frost, and I did not
dance, but snuggled down all toast-warm into my eiderdown. I called it
‘Puff’, for my quilt seemed to have an actual presence to guard me from any
intrusions of night ghosts, so generously was it stuffed with down.

Generosity is a quality inherent to the Rom; though they possess little,
anything they do own, they endow with abundance. The Gypsy spirit,
unlike that of the gadje, has chosen to emulate the spirit of the universe, and
grandly gives without prejudice to all, rather than to just a chosen few.
Everything we had was vividly embellished with nature’s palette. My
comforter, Puff, was the color of polished emeralds bright with violets and
sunflowers. I have to admit, I never experienced the color beige or taupe
until I lived among the gadje.”

Vardo gold interior




Venice 1920’s description “Lions and Gondolas”

“From that day, I was roaming the streets of Venice in pursuit of myself, or perhaps in search of Abbot Kinney’s goddess, Venus.  Sometimes I got lonely as I rambled around, but never bored.  There was way too much to distract me.  It was the Venice’s Golden Age in an uncomplicated era; it was also the Golden Age of my life, at an uncomplicated age.  Venice and I suited one another exactly.

It is nearly impossible to describe the fantasy that was Venice then, for it no longer exists.  Oh, one might get a nostalgic whiff of it in the patch of canal area still remaining, but not even there.  Venice, in its Golden Era, was enrapturing, a place unlike any other.  There was an air of constant excitement, like static electricity, as if anything could happen and probably would.  I felt special just living there, substantiated by the seventy thousand tourists who jammed into Venice each and every weekend.  But why wouldn’t they?  Venice was the most entertaining playground, with a collection of gorgeous excesses to tickle anyone’s fancy.


It was a noisy place.  Colorful banter from the Ballyhooers blocked crowds as they shyly tried to select from exhibits, girlie shows, and musical performances.  There were sharp cracks of gunfire from shooting galleries, and concessionaire patters promising delicacies for the palate.  Crowds were urged to try their luck at all kinds of game booths.

Midway on Lagoon

Old Bill, a pelican, just strutted about, the renowned king of Venice.  There was an Alligator Farm across from the St. Mark’s Hotel, elephants and wild bears, and of course, my mother’s lions.  Tied camels spit their cud at those adventuresome enough to climb on their humps for a souvenir photo.  You could experience the Old Wild West in Trail Shows; go to exhibits of Egyptian mummies or stare at oddities like actual shrunken heads to contemplate how they could have been made, and by whom.

On the Venice Pier, there was everything you could imagine to do and then more.  The carnival attractions included the Bearded Woman, the ‘Mystic Palace of a Thousand Wonders’, and ‘The Wickedest Show in the World’.  There were plenty of thrill rides.  You could go down the Dragon Slide clinging onto mats; be entertained at ‘Hilarity Hall’, go through the Fun House, or to the lovers’ favorite, the Tunnel of Love.  There was always the old standard, the Ferris wheel, or if you felt more reckless, you could ride the roller coaster, ‘Race Through the Clouds’.  ‘Over the Falls’ was a dramatic swoosh down a four-foot high chute with a glide past a scenic waterfall.  In ‘The Racing Derby’, you rocked forwards and backwards to move your horse to the finish line. If your horse ended up most forward in the slot at the end of the ride, you won a free ride.  Riding in the whirly-whirlies made you dizzy.  Horses dived into tiny pools from platforms way up high and Mr. MacGregor’s ostriches gave children fast-paced rides in surreys.  And at the end of the pier was the famous zoological garden, which encompassed Mother’s lion act.

There was an underground Chinatown exhibit, and a cyclorama show called the Last Days of Pompeii.  Underneath the Aquarium, at the end of the pilings, below the planking, there was a deep trough where you could watch leopard sharks, cod, smelt and herring swim.

All of the adventuring prompted tourists’ appetites, already seduced by all the exotic and delicious smells.  You could buy a treat from small carts called ‘hokey-pokeys’.  The vendors hoarsely listed their wares: candy apples, long twists of pearlescent salt water taffy, clouds of ‘fairly floss’, strawberry phosphates, even cream puffs crammed with custard.  ‘Two for fives’ were perfectly wrapped squares of ice cream that melted quickly in the summer heat.

For a tour of Venice or just to rest one’s aching feet, ‘The Miniature Railroad’ looped 1 1/2 miles on Electric Avenue, around Venice’s residential sections and canals.  The locomotive was jet-black embellished with brass; the twelve passenger cars gleamed royal blue and cherry red.  And these were just some of the amusements.  On top of that, there were the festivals every weekend with parades and bathing suit contests.  Venice even celebrated Japan day with kimonos and lanterns.  It was a mind-boggling experience, Venice in its heyday. ”

Miniature railway at midway


Definition of Destiny’s Consent from “Lions and Gondolas”

“OFTEN AS WE STAND in some uncertainty of what to do next, a great stroke of fortune can occur.  But how trite a way to express the profound and complex occurrence that will often transpire in our lives, without our even lifting a finger.

We call it ‘coincidence’, but in fact, it is the universe’s perfect orchestration of time — aligning many, if not an infinite number of elements, before the seemingly miraculous stroke of fortune, or ‘coincidence’ occurs.  To me now, I see life and its happenstances as a gigantic tapestry into whch the universe weaves an infinite number of threads.

Not until all of the threads are in place, can the great stroke of luck occur. I call it ‘destiny’s consent’ to explain the vast and plentiful miracles manifested by the universe specifically for each one of us.  If we just take the time to notice them.”


Laura Shepard Townsend
Lions and Gondolas: Book II of Destiny’s Consent




The Statue of Liberty

Excerpt from “The Gypsy’s Song” Angelica comes to America with her family:

“Suddenly, there was a very loud shout.  People began pointing and cheering.  We watched America come forth, out to the sea, to greet us.  Joyous crying began on the decks.

‘Look at her, there she is.  There she is.  Look.’  I did look.  Off to the right, very tall buildings seemed to swim on the water, but no one was looking at them.  What had caused the shout was a colossus of a statue of a woman in the middle of the harbor.  I thought she had to be a queen, for she wore a crown; her noble face held welcome and goodness.   In case we had become lost, she held a flaming torch, high, so as to light whatever darkness assailed us.  Next to her body, she held a book.

 Everyone on the ship stood, transfixed, mouths gaping as we stared at her.  She welcomed us all, beckoning us all to come unto America.  The gadje man next to me said she was called the Statue of Liberty, given in friendship to America by the French long ago.  She was meant to be a reassurance to all those who sought shelter that they were now home.

As he said those words, his eyes and mine flooded with tears.  What am I crying for, I wondered.  And then I knew.  Ever since that terrible night when Marianna and all of my friends were slaughtered, I had been searching for safety.  This Statue of Liberty had delved into my deepest desires and revealed them to me.  She appeared powerful enough to protect whoever entered the land over which she vigilantly watched.

Long after the Vadim passed the Statue of Liberty, I could not stop watching her, the generosity in her face.  I very much liked what I had seen of America so far, I decided. “


“Destiny’s Consent: Angel’s Flight”

To those who are eagerly awaiting the next book — I have begun writing my third book, Angel’s Flight. This is chapter 1 in its entirety.

Chapter I

I live in Venice, a world by the sea, visited by wild parrots, where an unknown oracle answers to those inquiries borne of the soul, and where constellations are so genuinely reflected in the stillness of canal waterways, that the world becomes a twirling vortex of possibility.

That is, of course, until I went out into the winds to try to forge a path for myself, as well as a way to support it.

Book cover WITH title and author 300 ppi



Dredging the Venice Canals and Venus (excerpt from “Lions and Gondolas”)

Lions and GondolasIt was only after I began to create Venice that I began to examine all of these issues,”  Abbot said.

“And why was that?”

“This storytelling seems to be one-sided; I seem to be doing all of the talking.  Are you sure you would you like to hear and yet another story?”  I nodded my head, and Abbot began his tale as we continued our vigorous walk.  Actually, I knew much of Abbot Kinney’s story already.  It is that way with celebrities; people like to discuss them all the time, sharing any bits of information they had heard so as to appear to know the individual first hand.

With some partners, Abbot had bought a large parcel of land south of Santa Monica on the Pacific Ocean. Using their combined resources, the partnership extensively developed Ocean Park, the northern area, including the construction of a pier.  But when one of the partners died, his replacements quarreled constantly with Abbot Kinney.  Abbot called for a meeting to dissolve the partnership and to divide the land into equitable holdings.

“At the meeting, my partners appeared, thronged by lawyers.  It was then I knew our battles would continue on indefinitely if I took any portion of the already developed real estate. It was true I had already invested a great amount of capital into Ocean Park, but I have always preferred peace to security.  So, I proposed to take only the salt marshes which lay to the south.

We had left the marshes undeveloped because they had been deemed impossible to develop.

man hunting with dogs

“You can imagine my partners’ euphoria at my proposal.   They thought I had gone mad, and not believing their good fortune, had their attorneys draw up the papers before I had a chance to change my plainly deluded mind.  But I was not going to change my mind.  I had often strolled those marshes and felt something very strong, almost magical there.  Whatever it was, it had gripped my heart and had not let go.  I had no idea how I was going to build a city on marshes, but I also seemed to know that if the city was to be, it would occur.”

From the stories he had already shared with me, obviously Abbot Kinney was a man who had spent his entire life trusting himself, and as such, possessed quite a strong intuition.

“My Grandmother Lena calls that ‘destiny’s consent’, when a person relies upon the universe to supply the doorways for one’s life.”

“What a wonderful terminology for the phenomenon…but I believe it is we who must ultimately turn the doorknob.  It has not been my experience that the doors open all by themselves.  But again, it is often the difficulties in one’s life, which supply their own answers.  If we are open to them.”

“The difficulties being the new investors and their arguments,” I asked.

“Exactly, Anne.  You do learn so quickly or perhaps you already knew.”

“Perhaps.”  We shared a grin.  “So what did you do,” I urged him back to his story.

“I hired an engineering firm, and they proposed that the marshes could be reclaimed by the creation of canals.

steam shovel

I was delighted by the prospect; I had spent some of my most memorable hours in the golden light of the canals of Venice, Italy, and I decided to name my new city St. Marks after the main square in Venice.

“You can imagine my great anticipation on the first day of canal dredging, and with great pride, I accompanied the huffing bulldozers to the site.  The bulldozers set to work at once, pushing the dank black ooze from the marshes up into banks to create basins deep enough to allow the seawater to flow in and out easily.  Piercing whistles and shouted ‘hees and haws’ guided mule teams and wagons to cart away the extra clay and earth.

“Perhaps I began a daydream, but I realized, with a start, that though the bulldozers still roared and coughed as their great blades banked the heavy earth, I could no longer hear their engines.  I shook my head to rouse myself from this odd consciousness, but it did not break the spell.  I actually shouted to ascertain whether I had gone deaf.  Since I heard my voice, I began to chide myself for my foolishness.  But the strange feeling persisted.  Even though everything was as it was before, everything had become somehow very different.  From the bulldozers’ excavations, I could see light escaping from the swamp in a vaporous breath.

“I looked across the canal ditch, and there an apparition stood, so naturally, it was a long time before I realized she was totally naked.  Her golden tresses played on the winds, her large sensuous eyes seeking mine.  I do not know how, but I knew at once she was a goddess emerged from the interred sea-earth, and I could see her as plainly as I could the busy machines.  But seemingly I was alone in this ability, for not one of my workmen was the least bit altered in his actions.  Their mechanistic sensibilities seemed to be incapable of registering the existence of a supernatural being or goddess.  And I saw at once it was not just any goddess; it was Venus, the goddess supreme, thrust from the foaming mud to govern a city being created for her.  For that is what she told me.”


“She spoke to you?”

“No, she did not speak to me directly; it was more like an altered state of melodic harmonies.  But I instantly knew Venus had arrived to ensure her marshes would be transformed into a realm of the extra-ordinary.  And she plied my mind with visions so I could visualize the city of canals she wanted, and that I would create…the Venice you see here.

“Venus further informed me that her new city would be called Venice – a golden city dedicated to rebirth or ‘Renaissance’ in the New World; it was to be a place of learning and enlightenment, a haven for those who were interested in the arts.   The city’s beauty would enchant and intensify sensory impressions.  More importantly, Venice would be a place where the magical processes of transformation would be not only permissible, but encouraged and guided by muses.  From that day forth, I ceased to call the city the name I had given to it: St. Marks, and renamed it Venice after her.

“Do you still see her,” I asked, looking around me.

“Sadly, though I feel her presence, I have never seen Venus since that day.  That’s why I come here often at night when I can’t sleep.  Perhaps it is just superstition, but I believe, no I know, the reason people crowd into Venice is because of her…because of Venus.  The unique aura of Venice is grounded in her goddess energy, the energy released from the primordial swamp the first day the canals were dug.  It became obvious to me that day how much I, and I daresay, the rest of the world, craves this female energy.”  Abbot paused.

“What a long way to express why I am so interested in Woman’s Suffrage.  Attending those lectures today has moved me to a rare chattiness, Anne.  I am careful never to advertise or to associate Venice with Venus; our society is female-phobic and would, in all probability, shun Venice if there were any direct knowledge of all of this.  For unfortunately, the world today is a world designed by men, for men.  Venice was supposedly designed by me, a man, but it was really a goddess who created it.  Anyone who heard me say this would certainly regard me as crazy.”  Abbot looked me directly in the eyes.  “Do you think I’m crazy, Anne?

“Not many people walk the earth loving so entirely that which they have created, as you love Venice.  You are confusing fortunate with crazy.”  My comment made Abbot Kinney chuckle, his eyes twinkling light all over me.

“Venice exists all because of Venus.”

“And you are the mortal to whom Venus has chosen to speak,” I said.  Inside myself, I silently sang, “remarkable man, remarkable man”.

“Well Anne, I am beginning to suspect that you are as crazy as I am.  That is why I believe we shall get along famously.  But Venus is why I built Venice as a mecca for artists, or for any person in pursuit of muses and knowledge.  That is why the lectures at the Venice Assembly are so important to me, though seemingly not to others.”  Abbot Kinney’s face narrowed with his sadness. “For in spite of my best efforts to create a city of culture, people come to Venice for amusement and diversion…to be entertained by bathing suit contests and rides, rather than feeding their intellects, much less their heart and their souls.”

I knew exactly what Abbot meant.  If I were to describe Venice, I would never think of it as ‘a Mecca for those in pursuit of muses and knowledge’.


Venice was a paradise of azure blue sea, white sand beaches, ringed with hazy purple mountains, and a flawless sky.  Regardless of the season, every day was a day saturated with sunshine, and Venice was the destination to which thousands of Angelinos flocked, to escape their worldly cares, a perfect backdrop for amusement and diversion.  It was also a place where one could see almost any oddity.

But I had been among oddities at the Circus of Cairo’s carnival area, so I knew Venice was much more than that.  Venice had an ability to immerse everyone and everything within its golden glow.  I had felt it from the first moment I had first entered the city, and surely my feelings made more sense now knowing about the goddess, Venus.  What better setting could there be for Venus than Abbot’s creation, a place newspapers described as ‘the perfumed gardens of the gods on the temporal plane of fantasy’?  They had just substituted the word, ‘god’ for the word, ‘goddess’.  Abbot’s bitter-saddened eyes forced me to try to convey my thoughts to him.

I wonder how I came to formulate the next sentences that I uttered.  Years later I still wonder about its source.  For all I know, it could have been from a movie poster for a Clara Bow movie that was touting her as the modern day Venus.  Actually though, I attribute it to Venus herself interceding.  I believe she overheard our conversation, knew of Abbot Kinney’s suffering, and supplied the words to help me.  In any case, out of my mouth the thoughts tumbled.

“But Abbot, remember that Venus is also a goddess of sensuousness and amusement.  Maybe it is important to her that Venice is a place where people can escape from their cares and have fun.”  Abbot Kinney regarded me with astonishment.

“You do not know what a rare treat this is for me, Anne.”

“How so,” I asked with some trepidation.

“People do not usually tell me anything, much less things I do not already know.  And they certainly never lecture me,” Abbot replied.

“I did not mean to lecture you,” I said.

“Well, in any case, I am enjoying it.  Please continue.”  And so I did.

“Most people think knowledge only comes to us from words or books.  But it can come in so many other ways.  To learn to fly on the trapeze, I never read one book.  That intelligence lived in my body before my brain could understand it.  Your ‘Venice of America’ rises above normal life, as a supernatural force, which seeks to make each of us better.”  Abbot Kinney was quiet for a moment before responding.

“You are correct, Anne.  I forget in my zealous pursuit to try to enlighten the world, that Venus is also Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love whose son was Eros, the god of passion.  Have you ever been in love?  No?  Well, you’re still very young.  It will happen to you, if you’re lucky.  It is when the soul soars to rhapsodic heights, for it sees and is seen all at once; it is recognized, and grasped by another soul as never before.”  Abbot Kinney chuckled.

“Perhaps Venus is trying to teach me that beyond wisdom is love.  And that pleasure and fun are vital to one’s life as well.”  Abbot was silent for a long moment.  “These thoughts are a great balm for an ache I have carried within my heart for many, many years.  I had thought that all of my endeavors had failed Venus, and that is why she left me.  I do not know how to thank you for your insights and your wisdom, Anne.”

“You already have by taking me to the Assembly with you to see the suffragettes,” I said.  But that was not enough of what I meant to say and so I added, “I shall never forget this day as long as I live”.

“Nor shall I, Anne.  You have helped me more than you know.”  And then suddenly shy, we parted company.

Lions and Gondolas

Lions and Gondolas



Abbot Kinney Introduction (excerpt from “Lions and Gondolas”)

“”Ith Abbot Kinney,” MacGregor announced to us happily, pointing to a group of men in the distance, silhouetted by the darkened sky.

“Which one is Mr. Kinney,” Grandmother Lena asked.

“The one without the thovel,” said MacGregor.  I scrinched my eyes at the designated man.  From afar, he didn’t look like much, certainly he didn’t resemble a wealthy man.  He, in fact, looked quite shabby; his suit was completely dusted with gray powder.

Grandmother Lena clicked her tongue in disgust.  Surely MacGregor was not going to think that she would believe this individual could be Abbot Kinney.  MacGregor had said that Abbot Kinney was so rich, he had built most of the city of Venice with his own money.  Abbot Kinney’s appearance and the word ‘millionaire’ did not jibe with how Grandmother Lena now knew a millionaire should look.  Millionaires had tailored silhouettes like Bo Hughes while this supposed millionaire’s suit looked dirtier than MacGregor’s, who was an ostrich farmer.  Even worse, it was November and Abbot Kinney wore a straw hat.  All of us knew Americans considered a boater to be fashionably unsuitable after September.  And the boater cap was not even new – the hat’s stitching hung loosely around the band.

Abbot with boater
Grandmother Lena thought she knew what she knew, but she had not traveled among enough rich people to know about the special category of the rich eccentrics who were busy creating legacies in the new century.  Abbot Kinney was one of them, too busy ensuring that his dreams for Venice were being translated flawlessly into reality to worry about his appearance.  As we continued to approach him, I watched Grandmother Lena continue her measurement and evaluation of Abbot Kinney.  I knew her so well, I could hear all of her thoughts:  ‘Why is he so skinny?  Why he is skinnier than Angelica is, which he would not be if he were able to eat like we did in Bo’s private Pullman.’

To be fair to Grandmother Lena, she did not often err in her evaluations of people, but she did this day in her impatience to behold the fulfillment of her Tarot reading.  But who could really blame her?  When she saw the ocean, her excitement tried to force the manifestation of the destiny the Tarot had described to her, rather than just allow the elements around us to guide us there.  Grandmother Lena’s haste hardened her essence to be more effectual, but this hardening merely destroyed her fluidity and hence her intuitive sense.  Grandmother Lena had succumbed to thinking not as a shuvani, but as a normal person.  As she regarded Abbot Kinney, she did so prejudiciously, and forgot to pay attention.  As her eyes regarded Abbot Kinney, all she saw was a badly attired, shabby man.

But as I drew near to Abbot Kinney that first time, I saw him quite differently. Perhaps it was because I was already under the spell of his creation, Venice.  But I did know at once that I was in the company of a human being of a sort very rarely seen in those days, and I must add, even more rarely seen today.  His eyes were wild in a way that speaks of madness, but it was not madness, it was the fire of passionate dreaming.  It seemed to me that Abbot Kinney’s eyes not only perceived those things that were very close, but they also comprehended those things not so obvious.  I was quite intrigued by him, and I know I stared.  My interest was not returned; Abbott Kinney seemed to take no particular notice of me that night.  But I later came to know he saw me very perfectly.

Abbot Kinney building

Meanwhile, I could see that Grandmother Lena had decided she was in the midst of some kind of con and was trying to figure out how to play MacGregor.  Earlier that day, as we had chugged along in the rickety Model T toward the sun, MacGregor had bragged it was impossible not to make money in Venice, since the city was always crowded with thousands of people on holiday.  From our time as performers at the Circus of Cairo, Grandmother Lena knew Americans chiefly defined their holidays as the times when they spent all of their money.  But not one of MacGregor’s boasts was being substantiated by our experience in Venice that day.  Not only had she not seen the promised crowds, the only person she had seen, the frightened woman in black, had run away from us.   Being Rom, she knew she could flush out MacGregor’s con in time.  She was sure that next this ‘fake’ Abbot Kinney would demand money, immediately payable to him, to allow our lion-taming act into Venice.  But to her amazement, not only did Abbot Kinney not ask us for money, he turned us down flat.  He informed MacGregor brusquely he was entirely disinterested in having lions on his pier.  There were enough lions to suit his taste in the circus that wintered annually in Venice.  He bid us good luck, and brusquely turned back to address his workmen who were hurrying to complete their project in the little light remaining of the day.

MacGregor thanked Abbot Kinney’s back, and contritely walked away.  In silence, we followed him the same way we had come.  Grandmother Lena commented in Romani that she couldn’t believe how rude the man was.  But I thought the way Abbot Kinney claimed the pier to be ‘his pier’ was marvelous.  It was not unlike how Jesse James thought of ‘his Missouri’.  And I was thrilled that Abbot Kinney had had the audacity to refute Grandmother Lena and the Tarot’s prophecy.  I suspected Kinney thoroughly enjoyed being dusted with the mud of Venice – his creation and his great love. ”

Lions and Gondolas
Lions and Gondolas


An Introduction to Venice in 1918 (excerpt from “Lions and Gondolas”)

“So that is the way I first entered Venice, on foot, much like the pilgrim who enters a holy place, as a seeker, stirred with expectation.

Perhaps this was because of the Tarot cards’ prediction of lions roaring against a backdrop of crashing sea waves.  Or perhaps the restless rustle within me was only due to the desert zephyr, then blowing slightly, so as to be almost imperceptible except as a breath of warmth upon my face.  It could have been the unique fragrance of Venice: a perfume of flower blossoms, rendered mysterious with the scents of sage and anise, with the salt air of the sea as its base.  In any case, the alchemy roused my being; my soul wakened to soar and merge with the sun’s setting.  It was late afternoon, that crack in time when the day is being swallowed by night.  The light of day was surrendering to the encroaching darkness, shooting fire into the sky as its parting gift to the Earth and its creatures, before disappearing into the void.

MacGregor led the way, passing through a row of closely planted young palm trees.  Behind him, the robust, overlapping fronds closed neatly, granting no vision of what lay beyond.  I paused to reflect upon this gate of palms.  Seemingly, the trees were standing as guards or divine sentinels to monitor my entry into Venice.  Could it be that even nature was in a conspiracy to keep the essence of the city a mystery?  I still feel that not until one pushes through barriers, real or imagined, can one enter Venice completely and whole of heart.  Perhaps in this way, Venice would remain a true experience, rather than a postcard.  It was time to stop my musings and catch up to the others.

The Original Lagoon

The sky above was ablaze; the canal below glowed with echoing hues of transformation.  I stood transfixed.  We all did, as men and women have stood since the beginning of time and will probably continue to stand until the cessation of time.   Standing there, in Venice that evening, I knew I was adrift within that awe.  On the canal lagoon, a few gondolas floated.  A soft melody played, but perhaps it was only that capricious zephyr serenading itself by trilling over the strings of an unattended gondolier’s mandolin.

MacGregor was intent on his business and led us on a pathway along a canal.  It seemed deserted, though spacious homes, with tended greenery and flowerbeds, lined the waterway.  Blooms of exotic flowers and roses crept up trellises, apparently completely unaware it was winter; Chinese paper lanterns tossed about in the breezes.

Apparently the magic I was experiencing in Venice had not been sufficient to keep the plague away.  Here too, the deadly Spanish Influenza was holding its sway.

As if reading my mind, MacGregor explained that unlike usual, there were very few people in Venice because the State of California, as a precautionary measure against the flu epidemic, had closed down every one of the city’s entertainments, restaurants and bars.  I will accept that the closing of Venice was the literal explanation as to why so few people were there the day I first entered Venice, but I always make spaces for my own explanations of the coincidences that occur in my life.  For myself, I will always believe there was no one there that day so that I could feel Venice’s soul, purely and without disruption.

MacGregor had guided us to Windward Avenue, Venice’s main thoroughfare.  My waking dream, begun at the threshold of planted palm trees, now continued on without interruption.  Mediterranean buildings of white plaster, flicked with gold, were bejeweled with thousands of tiny white lights.  We walked beneath vaulted arches and colonnades.  From the top of the columns, god and goddess sculptures with luxuriant tresses, bewitched by sea breezes, gazed down upon us as witnesses to our passing.  Besides these plaster deities, there were few people to encourage or discourage our odyssey.

Man walking thru Windward columns


But seemingly not wild animals.  A troop of three elephants, quite loose, raced down the middle of the street, trunks extended eagerly, eyes alit and wide with their adventure.  Behind them, three very excited men, obviously their trainers, also raced, shouting at the elephants, and shouting at us.  They waved their arms to indicate safety inside the buildings.

“The Tarot has brought us to a very strange place,” whispered Grandmother Lena.  “There seem to be no people in Venice, just wild elephants running in its streets.”  Mother giggled happily.  In the Circus of Cairo, elephants had been her charge, and her very favorite of creatures.  As for me, I toppled head over heels in love with the place.”
Lions and Gondolas

Lions and Gondolas


My Father: A Man of Rom and his Horses (excerpt from “The Gypsy’s Song”)

“But Father was  quite known, among all of the Rom, for his ability
to train any horse, even the most difficult. This was tribute indeed, for
the Rom as a people love their grastende, their horses, and are incredible

Our horses, Sun and Moon, were the two prettiest in our caravan
and Father’s greatest pride. “After Angelica,” Father would add, rumpling
my hair, which never failed to gladden my heart. But undeniably, Father did
possess a gift with horses to which the Rom paid tribute, by bringing him
their animals to train with his touch.

I remember the day he bought Sun and Moon from a gadjo for a few
small coins of copper. Because of their deplorable condition, Father did not
even dare to hitch them to the back of a wagon that might go too fast.
Instead, he walked with them himself, on foot, all of the three miles from
town. This was a good opportunity for me to walk with my father, and I, of
course, accompanied him proudly.

Father of Angelica

The whole journey, my heart filled with gladness as I listened to him
talk to his new horses about the new life they would be living under
his care. He described the meadows of clover they would graze in,
and the warmth of sun on their backs and the clean water they would
drink. He told them that all they needed was good oats and rest
and he promised to begin work immediately on special horse brasses he
would attach to their harnesses to protect them from any evil the world

When Father and I arrived back at camp with his new horses, everyone,
including those used to restoring horses the gadje considered to be defective,
didn’t believe even Father’s expertise could bring these horses back to heart
and wholeness. They clicked their tongues at the waste of money Father had
spent upon such bad merchandise. Certainly, the horses would never be
ready to be sold at the annual Rom horse fair scheduled in two months. In
loyalty, I sided with my father, but silently had to agree with the others.
Both horses looked to be almost dead.

Sun was a skeleton of baggy skin, and most of his hair had fallen out in
tufts. Flies plagued a festering sore of yellow and gray pus that covered
almost his entire back. He limped in a stagger as if his back leg was broken.
The other horse, Moon, was in no better condition. He had been abused so
badly, he showed the white of his eyes to anything and everything. If the
wind scattered a few leaves under him, he would nervously rear and scream
as if Ben, the devil himself, were after him. Both horses had a shortness of
breath, and running eyes.

Very early the next morning, so the horses would know their new owner
to be a man true to his word, Father began shaping horse brasses for their
harnesses, right beside them. As he worked, he told each horse, privately
into their ears, the goodness he was forging into the brass so that they would
know the luck the brasses carried. He stood beside them in the hot sun to
shoo away any stinging flies from their eyes and backs. He also removed
their broken horseshoes, assuring them they would never wear such bad iron
ever again, and fussed over the shape of their new shoes.

Sun’s bad limp improved immediately. Father bound up both horses’
poor knees with healing herbs of sweet chamomile and rosemary. He
soothed their eyes with a wash steeped with fennel seed and eyebright. Both
horses were also promptly wormed with purgatives, made from a formula
known only to my father, and forced down their throats. All the while, Sun
and Moon feasted on the heavy grass in the fields, but that wasn’t good
enough for my father. He had promised them clover, and clover they would
have, although our other horses had already eaten all of the clover out of the
near-by fields and meadows. Undaunted, Father converted an open cart
with a tarp to disguise his purpose from the gadje, and went out and
gathered a bountiful load of clover for Sun and Moon. He knew the clover
was sweet, because he told me he had sampled it himself. And most nights,
Father slept beside his horses after he had finished telling them stories of all
the heroic horses he had ever known or heard mentioned.


And never did Father’s efforts slacken as Sun and Moon’s health began
to improve. He fed them salt to augment their hunger and thirst. He bled
Moon to help take away his nervous blood, but it was a long time before
Moon could be harnessed to a wagon without destroying it in a kicking
tantrum. But because Father remained patient and calm in his direction, the
day finally arrived when Moon joined Sun in a team to pull our wagon.
Everyday, rain and shine, Father rubbed Sun and Moon’s hooves with
peppermint oil to make their hooves glisten, and then polished them with a
rag so the hooves reflected like mirrors. Not only did he brush them each
for an hour every day, he finished up with a currycomb, merrily whistling
out his happiness as he worked to coax out the beauty he knew existed in his
two new horses. Sun was not the usual Rom piebald, but a gorgeous golden
palomino, with a lithe body and legs.sun dancing


Moon was a silver-colored horse,
stronger and stockier than Sun, but no less pretty. Together, they really had
become the sun and the moon, their coats not just reflecting light, but
seemingly radiating it.


As a postscript, Father never did trade his two new horses at the annual
Rom horse fair, although he got many offers. Instead, he sold his two
others, so in love with Sun and Moon did he fall. He had had Sun and Moon
for six months, and his love for them had not diminished, but seemingly
increased, day by day.”
                                                      The Gypsy’s Song, Destiny’s Consent:Book I


Rom Dunhas (excerpt from “The Gypsy’s Song”)

“Any meadow blessed with the Rom’s presence, with all of our
eiderdowns spread about, was nocturnally transformed into an ornate
Persian carpet.

The Gypsy's Song just meadow

We called them dunhas, their rich deep tints inspired by the
flowers growing in the leas around us: periwinkle from bluebells and
cornflowers; yellow from mustard, buttercups and goldenrod; amethyst
from violets; scarlet from Indian paintbrush; crimson from Sumac berries which
emerged in autumn’s frost to announce the impending winter.”
The Gypsy’s Song