Saturday, December 28, 2013


The Magician’s Pyramid (Temple I) Uxmal 592 AD

The smell of limestone sent his heart thumping like a deer drum as he ascended the steep steps. It was said by the elders that the top of this great structure scraped the sky and sparked the stars.

~Xtoloc as he climbs The Pyramid of the Magician ~The Jaguar Sun

Steep steps indeed, The Pyramid of the Magician in Uxmal, Yucatan rises approximately 115 feet high into the blue. And though, on a recent trip to Mexico, I wasn’t able to travel far enough south to see the pyramid at Uxmal, I did have the good fortune to visit Teotihuacan, just 48 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, and ascend The Pyramid of the Sun which stands nearly 240 feet in height, and is reputedly the largest pyramid in Mesoamerica, and the third largest in the world.

With the assistance of Hilario, our gracious guide, we found ourselves fully immersed in the history of Teotihuacan. At least what is known of this once thriving culture. You see it's still not clear who these people really were that predated the Aztecs by at least nine centuries. This vast civilization which blossomed and peaked by the fifth century, and began its decline in the seventh century, had far reaching influence throughout Mesoamerica, and was known as "the dwelling place of the gods." An integrated metropolis with priests as administrators, architects, artisans, farmers, and military.   

At over 7000 feet above sea level, under a partially clouded azure sky, the air crisp with a breeze whispering over the grounds and weaving through the mystifying structures, this well visited archeological site is nothing short of transcendent. And though our guide would occasionally slip into Spanish while speaking with our son, Hilario’s softly accented English narration kept us spellbound throughout our time at Teotihuacan. 

We began our tour of this ancient urban grid at the southern end, with the Feathered Serpent Pyramid (or the Temple of Quetzalcoatl) most notable for its stone sculpted heads of Quetzalcoatl (otherwise known as the Plumed Serpent) and Tlaloc, the Rain/Storm/Fire god (Chac, in Mayan). At one time, before the temple was partially destroyed and built over, there were seven tiers to this structure, and 365 of those stone heads, which no doubt represented the calendar year. If you look closely you can see the scaled serpents and their coiled tails, as well as fangs, feline eyes, and feathers framing Quetzalcoatl's head. In detailed relief to the right of the sculptures are limestone painted conch shells that (we are told) not only represent marine life and the wind, but the human heart, which served as a sacrificial offering to the mighty gods. In fact, during a 1980s excavation of the pyramid, over a hundred skeletons, with hands tied behind their backs, were found; solidifying evidence of ritual sacrifices.

View of The Citadel from atop of The Feathered Serpent Pyramid (Temple of Quetzalcoatl). The Citadel was believed to be the main gathering area for the population. At it's zenith, around 550 AD, the Teotihuacanans were 150,000 to 200,000 people strong.  

If you look to the right of my husband, you will see The Temple of the Moon rising up in the distance.

After taking several pictures we descended to the base of the temple where a few natives were selling wares to the tourists. I resisted the large obsidian knife, a vendor turned this way and that, telling myself I would return later in the day to buy it. The knife was eerily reminiscent of Chac’s sacrificial knife in The Jaguar Sun. Alas, at the end of the day when I returned to purchase the knife, the man was gone.

Next we meandered down The Avenue of the Dead, originally mis-named because the stone structures on either side of the wide path were thought to be tombs. Later, it was determined that the raised platforms are what is left of residences, most likely that of the richer classes. The lengthy avenue (1.2 miles long) served as a main thoroughfare that divided the east and west residential sprawl, and farther down the avenue a long dry river bed marks where the San Juan River bisected this grand cultural center. 

Along the way Hilario informed us that only a small percentage of the ruins have been excavated to date, and that there is still much to be unearthed to the east and west, but, he added, the country is too poor to finance such an undertaking. Most of the complex relies on outside funding for ongoing restorations, excavations, and further research. 

Avenue of the Dead

The remnant foundations of the bordering residences

Areas are still preserved of the highly polished limestone floors, not unlike today's marble floors

The layout of an apartment, most likely inhabited by a wealthy citizen.

An upper class residence

Puma fresco with residual ochre tint

The Pyramid of the Moon on the horizon

On the left is the Palacio de los Jaguares and adjacent to The Pyramid of the Moon is the Palacio de Quetzal-Mariposa (the Palace of the Quetzal Bird-Butterfly) where the priests were thought to reside.

The restoration project

Plumbed Jaguar, Palacio de los Jaguares

Restored sections

Plaza of the Moon, where large gatherings also took place

Stairs leading up to The Pyramid of the Moon
(138 feet in height)

Ascending The Pyramid of the Sun

Happy New Year

For more information on Teotihuacan and Mesoamerican History ~


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

~Jack Germond was here...

A SMALL STORY for PAGE 3, by Jack Germond

~ “I agree, but one of the things newspapers do best is point out interesting anomalies that people not as jaded as Rudy Myers may have missed.” ~ Harry Fletcher talking with Rudy Myers Chief Council Investigator.

Jack Germond, 1928~2013, told Al Eisele (Editor at Large, The Hill) in a 2008 interview: “not sure I'm going to finish it until I know how it comes out. I want to see if I can do it but I don't want to write a bad book." Jack was referring to his novel of political intrigue which he started over a decade ago while going about the business of reporting politics, and incidentally, becoming one of the most respected legends in the American political reporting arena. 

By most accounts Jack Germond was one of the last of a breed of reporters that didn’t mince words, but called things as he saw them. Many described Jack as a self deprecating, larger than life, colorful character who genuinely liked politicians, and enjoyed the tete tete or dance between politician and reporter. Even, as noted by Jules Witcover (Jack’s long time writing partner) “when they did bad things and behaved badly.”

While I spent the last three nights reading A Small Story for Page 3, it occurred to me Mr. Germond not only succeeded in writing a page turner, but through his engaging characters and precise plotting, he has given us a fascinating glimpse into the world of politics, and an ‘insider’s’ reality of the dogged determination a press reporter must hone in order to unearth ‘the story’. To say it is sad that Jack Germond passed from this ‘train stop’ just short of seeing his book published would be an understatement, but from what I’ve learned about Jack Germond, he wouldn’t have wanted us to dwell overmuch on what can’t be helped, but instead, I imagine he would want us to raise a cold libation in toast to his first published novel of fiction, and perhaps more importantly, to his eighty five years well lived.    

With this in mind, it is my privilege and honor to welcome to RTF, the late Jack W. Germond’s wife, Alice Travis Germond. 

Alice, thank you for taking your valuable time today to visit RTF, and give us some insight into Jack’s professional life, and perhaps a bit into his personal life.

First off I’m going to ask the obvious question which arose when I started reading A Small Story for Page 3 ~

RTF: During his fifty year long career as a political reporter and writer, did Jack ever become embroiled in a ‘real life' story of political corruption and intrigue?

ATG:  Not embroiled, but he certainly covered some intrigue – Gary Hart’s affair, Richard Nixon’s everything, the inner workings of many campaigns including some less than perfect behavior.

RTF:In A Small Story, there is a camaraderie and loyalty in the newsroom, especially between the editors and reporters. Did Jack enjoy the same in his professional career?

ATG:  Absolutely, he really enjoyed his newspaper colleagues and often the TV ones as well.  Lots of long dinners on the road.  And while there was plenty of healthy competition, there were many times when folks helped one another and cared about each other.

RTF: In the novel, Harry Fletcher is a reporter who maintains certain ideals and holds himself to standards some say are obsolete in this twenty first century political climate. Share with us some of Jack’s ideals, and if you like, any stories reflecting those ideals.

ATG:  Jack had very strong ethics about what should and shouldn’t be fair game and about what was a story and what wasn’t.  In this era of gotcha’ journalism he never played that game and thus had the trust of the people he covered.  This often allowed him to get a story first and the reservoir of good will gave him insights that mattered in really getting to know a candidate or President.  Jack was sometimes troubled by folks who went back and forth between covering the news and being flaks for candidates as he felt they may not always cover the news as thoroughly as they might if they were also hoping for their next job.

RTF: Along with the political intrigue of the story, Harry Fletcher meets the cross roads in his personal life with a brisk matter of factness and pragmatism, but despite all, there is never any doubt that Harry is deeply in love with his wife Jeanne. I can’t help but think we saw a little of Jack Germond within this fictional relationship. Simply put, was Jack a romantic at heart? 

ATG:  He was very romantic.  He loved to share the day – and the evening.  He wrote beautiful and funny little notes for gifts. He loved us to travel together.  We ate by candlelight even if it was frozen pizza.  We shared coffee on our deck watching the bluebirds nest in the morning and wine in the early evening looking for the bald eagles who have returned to the Shenandoah River.  We waited up for one another to talk about everything when we had been apart.  He even learned to cook and almost always made me breakfast while I would run with the dog and fetch the newspaper.

RTF: And because I am a romance writer, would you grant me a little latitude and share with us what first attracted you to Jack Germond?

ATG:  His zest for life and his work, his humor and smile, his warmth and knowing what mattered.

RTF: I’ve read that Jack loved Thoroughbred horse racing, just as his character Harry Fletcher does in the novel. How did Jack relate politics to horse racing?

ATG:  I sometimes thought he looked at thoroughbreds the way he looked at candidates – who’s the trainer, is he a closer, can he go the distance, how’d she do on this kind of track, this long a race, what’s the rest of the field like…

RTF: Lastly, the dedication at the beginning of A Small Story for Page 3 says it all:

  ~ For Alice, of course.

ATG:  You know, I didn’t realize he did that, but I am honored.  Initially he was reluctant to write this novel, but I admit I encouraged him a lot.  He had written hard news (without opinion); history – those Presidential Campaign Books; his own memoir – Fat Man in A Middle Seat, which was a change since reporters usually do not write about themselves; and an opinion book – Fat Man Fed Up; so actually creating characters and a story was a new challenge.  It was interesting talking with him about what the characters were doing and the life of their own that grew as he wrote them.  He had fun writing it though now we’ll never know what happens next.  But that’s the exciting thing about his and all our lives I think.

RTF: Alice thank you again for indulging this writer’s questions. It has been a pleasure to talk with you today about Jack’s novel and his life. In my mind I think Jack hit the trifecta in his professional life: 1.Doing what he loved in covering American politics for nearly half a century, 2. Writing several bestselling non-fiction books on politics and old school reporting, and 3. Expertly rendering a novel of political intrigue in A Small Story for Page 3. 

ATG:  Jack wished to be cremated and wanted me to scatter his ashes in the Shenandoah River so no tombstones.  He did live a very full life, burned the candle from both ends for over 85 years – I think he lived about twice that time, and always said he loved his work so much he would have done it for free.  And his personal life, when asked what was the cause of death, perhaps this sums it up, “a life well and completely lived.”

About the Author:

Jack W. Germond

Jack Germond (January 30, 1928 – August 14, 2013) was a retired newspaper man, columnist and TV pundit. But like a Thoroughbred racehorse, a reporter never actually retires—he just writes about other things. The author brings his vast knowledge and understanding of the press and the business of getting the information to public to bear in his breakout novel, A Small Story for Page 3. Mr. Germond was nationally known as a (strike opinionated and insert bemused) liberal and was a regular on The McLaughlin Group as well as appearing on other public affairs TV programs — CNN,  Meet The Press( and The Today Show) among others.(strike to name two.) He covered ten presidential elections, and with Jules Witcover wrote a book covering each presidential election from 1980 to 1992.  Timothy Crouse made Germond a prominent figure in “Boys on the Bus” his acclaimed book on the 1972 presidential election. Mr. Germond has previously published two non-fiction books, (his memoir “Fat Man in A Middle Seat” (Random House 2002) and “Fat Man Fed Up” (Random House 2005) which described his view of the political arena in the United States). Along with Jules Witcover he wrote a syndicated column that ran in 140 papers five days a week from 1977 to 2000. 
Chris Farley once spoofed Germond on Saturday Night Live. Germond was known for his no nonsense approach to reporting and his love of good food, good liquor and good friends. He instituted The Germond Rule which two generations of political reporters adhered to. The rule simply stated that when a group of reporters dined together the tab would be split evenly, no matter who ate or drank more.  This caused his many friends to eat and drink defensively when covering stories and enjoying good company.
Jack Germond was one of a kind and he will be missed. 

                                                  * * * *

Harry Fletcher can’t for the life of him figure out what exactly the ‘nugget’ of information his colleague, Eddie Concannon, uncovered prior to his death is. Picking his way along the threads of information, Harry soon finds himself at odds with government officials and his own newspaper seems to be involved in the collusion.  Join Harry as he deciphers the clues and enjoy a journey into the world of investigative reporting set against a colorful back drop of characters and locations.

Buy Links for A Small Story for Page 3  Jack W. Germond

Barnes and Noble

A little about Alice ~

Alice Germond is the Secretary Emeritus of the Democratic National Committee. She was elected Secretary unopposed three times from 2002 to January 2013. Alice also served on the Executive Committee, the Rules and By-Laws Committee and as Secretary for the Democratic National Convention where she called the role of states that determines the Party's nominee. Alice has participated in every Convention since 1974 when the Party wrote its National Charter.  Alice currently is an elected At-Large member of the DNC and serves on the Resolutions Committee.
Active in the Democratic Party for over 45 years, she has held leadership positions in local, state and national campaigns including Political Director for Clinton/Gore in CA, Deputy National Political Director for Michael Dukakis, and Super Delegate Director for Gary Hart. In 1988 Alice moved to Washington DC, and became Director of Political Operations for Ron Brown's successful election as Chair of the DNC. She was named his Senior Advisor, coordinating DNC Party Programs and was his liaison to the 1992 Convention. From 1993—1996 she was Director of the DNC's Government and Party Affairs Departments.
A strong advocate for issues and party values, Alice led the historic effort to put Geraldine Ferraro on the Democratic Ticket while Chair of the National Women's Political Caucus Democratic Task Force. During her tenure as Executive Vice President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Fortune Magazine ranked NARAL as the most effective women's organization in the nation. Alice also worked for the AFL-CIO's Women's Division and for SEIU. One of Alice's earliest experiences was participating in Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" March on the National Mall. 
Alice has broad experience as a speaker and working with the press. Her op-eds have been published by major newspapers and on the internet, and in 1995 CBS hired Alice for their special Convention Coverage Unit. She has spoken at Party Events in 50+ States and for the campaigns, organizations and issues with which she is identified. Her international work includes lectures at Tsinghua University in Beijing, leader of two delegations to Taiwan, presentations in Madrid, London, Barcelona, Toronto, the Virgin Islands and several NDI exchanges including one for the European Parliament. 
In 2013 President Barack Obama appointed Alice to the prestigious Commission on White House Fellows where she currently serves. Prior commissions include the CA Council on Criminal Justice (Gov. E G Brown, Jr.) and the LA Olympics Government Affairs Committee.  
Alice earned her BA from Bennington College, VT in 1965 where she received a non-resident term scholarship and was Chair of the school legislature.  Her MS Degree in Public Administration/Recreation was awarded in 1977 from CA State Un. LA with a 4.0 average.
Now living on a bend of the Shenandoah River in West Virginia, Alice grows vegetables and fruits, goes running with her dog Freddy, and watches the bald eagles who have returned to the region. Coffee on the deck, warm conversation with many friends and visits from six grandchildren are a constant pleasure.