Building Blocks (‘Shangri-La’ Memories)

We each have magical ‘Shangri-La’ memories; be it from actually visiting, or from dreams enhanced by television and movies.  In time, the ‘Shangri-La’ you remember may become ‘society history’ due to physical changes/destruction, or loss of social awareness.  How well do your readers from different generations understand the significance/impact of a ‘Shangri-La’ associated with a character’s words or actions?

To the generations of my parents and myself, the name Tiffany, and their iconic blue box, defined jewelry elegance.  Thus, it is no wonder why the 1961 movie title Breakfast at Tiffany, instantaneously conveyed sophistication.  I still remember standing in front of the flagship Fifth Avenue store in 1967, and, even though Audrey Hepburn was not standing next to me, I knew I was at a cultural ‘Shangri-La’.  However, thanks to their store locations now around the world and online shopping, while younger generations may still recognize Tiffany quality, the iconic blue box and the Fifth Avenue location appear to be losing their ‘Shangri-La-ness’.  The other day I mentioned the blue box to a 36 year-old, in reference to his six year old daughter’s future eighteenth birthday.  His response was, ‘will she even know the significance of the blue box.’  Thus, do younger readers of Through a Stranger’s Eyes understand the significance of:


“A little something for you; that is, if you want it,” and I pulled out of my   pocket a small Blue Box from Tiffany.  When I opened the box, and Breen saw the channel-set, full circle band of baguette diamonds she covered her mouth with both hands and stopped breathing.


In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.  Back in Baltimore, most kids only dreamed of going there; as this ‘Shangri-La’ was not just too far away, but way too expensive!  When I finally went to Disneyland as an adult fifty years later, I had to disregard far too many comments such as, “why go…Disney World is much nicer”.  To this day, the magic of passing through the gates into the Magic Kingdom is a ‘Shangri-La’ memory.  A small Mickey Mouse paper head cutout souvenir from the Main Street parade is on my refrigerator; and the wonderfulness of that moment lives.

‘Shangri-La’ memories do not have to be of ‘worldly known’ places.  As I wrote in the 2015 Building Block Enchanted Memories:

About five years ago, I was driving on US Route 40 near Ellicott City, Maryland, and I stopped at the Double-T-Dinner to eat.  Looking across the highway I saw a familiar site from my childhood, the castle from the long closed Enchanted Forest…The Park closed in 1989.  In 1992 the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center opened on more than half the land, and the park’s white castle entrance still stands in one corner.

What are the ‘Shangri-La’ memories from your life?

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.

Through a Stranger’s Eyes © Steven S. Walsky, 2005.

Building Blocks (Proper Etiquette)

‘Proper’ etiquette is at the hands of the doer, and judged by the observer.  Let’s think about how we have displayed ‘proper’ etiquette, and, thus, how our characters have.

In 1968, while attending a national college gathering in New York City, a friend and I were ready to order lunch at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  At the time, be it stage, screen, magazines, etc., the Waldorf, was at the height of ‘sophistication’.   As we waited to order our food, I noticed a cockroach crawl out from behind the flower vase and start walking across the table.  I looked at my friend, my friend looked at me…what was the proper etiquette?  I was 21, which is far too old to jump up from the table and yell ‘there’s a cockroach’ to alert the staff.  Thus, I did what a real gentleman would do; not to smash the bug and mess up the tablecloth, I simply used an upside down ashtray to entrap the bug.  For some reason food was now history, and no staff member would stop by our table.  As we left the restaurant without ordering, I quietly mentioned to the maître d’ that an “unwanted visitor” was at our table.

On a hot summer day, twenty-four-year-old Steve was in Rome, at the Vatican City, talking to a small group of international male tourists of my age.  Two 19-20 year old girls approached us, and asked if we could assist them.  Not properly dressed to enter the Vatican, they asked if we would form a barrier; so they could change clothes between us and a wall.  Exercising proper etiquette we said yes; and, facing towards the Vatican, we became a dressing room screen.  When I told my friends back home about this experience, the women laughed, “good manners”; while the guys, “why didn’t you look!”

Proper etiquette also involves when not to laugh 🙂  One afternoon at the family pet specialty supply store, teenage Steve was crouched down behind a glass showcase doing some restocking.  I noticed that an elderly lady customer had approached the showcase, and was looking at me through the glass.  Seeing that she had caught my attention, “Young man, do you have balls?”  My ‘take a second to put the world in perspective’ etiquette thankfully overtook any instantaneous comic response.  However, my Mom, who was a few feet away, had overheard, and politely responded for me, “I hope he does.”  Of course, exercising business etiquette, my Mom quickly turned away to hide her silent laughter.  I took advantage of the break in eye-to-eye contact to regather my ‘composure’, and said “yes ma’am” to the customer; and I stood and pointed to the showcase that displayed dog toys.

How have you displayed ‘proper’ etiquette?

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.