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Day: November 26, 2012

“Driving the Saudis” by Jayne Amelia Larson

“Driving the Saudis” by Jayne Amelia Larson

c.2012, Free Press
$25.00 / $28.99 Canada
209 pages



Other drivers should know better.

First of all, they should learn to use a turn signal. Then they need to be taught to stop tailgating, hang up the phone, slow down, speed up, or just get out of the way.


Other drivers should learn that they’re not the most important person on the road. Or maybe they are, as you’ll see in the new book “Driving the Saudis” by Jayne Amelia Larson.

Hollywood did not love Jayne Amelia Larson as much as she loved it.

That was the blunt truth. For more than ten years, through many movie-making endeavors with a few small successes, Larson finally had to admit that the time had come for her to find a job to pay the bills.

Chauffeuring, she heard, was fun and interesting, so she applied for a position at “an exclusive high-end limo company” that catered to film stars, rock bands, and elite studio execs.  It was interesting… and then came the Saudis.

The screening process to become a royal driver was odd and the timeline changed often. Several times, Larson thought the job had slipped through her fingers. Eventually, though, she was hired – the only woman in the line-up of drivers for Princess Zaahira (supposedly a favorite wife), her family, and staff, as needed.

It sounded like a glamorous job, but Larson quickly learned the opposite. While male chauffeurs were allowed to wear casual clothing, she was instructed to wear long sleeves and long pants, despite L.A.’s summertime heat. She was on call 24/7 for seven weeks and had to keep her limo fully gassed at all times. She was to follow instructions to the letter, even if broke the law.

Yet, despite the annoyances, Larson found a silver lining in a flock of Muslim servant girls whom she ferried to errands and eventually befriended. Irritated at the Princess’ multi-million-dollar designer-clothing budget, Larson reveled in the servants’ love of the Dollar Store. But despite the appreciation she got from seeing her life through servants eyes, there was big disappointment awaiting Larson at the end of the road…

What would it be like to snag a once-in-a-lifetime job, the kind of which would give you stories to tell for the rest of your life?  Read “Driving the Saudis” and be careful what you wish for.

In a manner that reminded me of under-one’s-breath muttering, author Jayne Amelia Larson does a good amount of grousing. She’s obviously amazed and a little appalled at the behavior she observes, and she tries to share that sense of outrage.

But this is not just a memoir about a great job with a bad spin. Look closer and you’ll see that Larson has also sprinkled in tiny joys: friendship, small gratitudes, new delights, duty, and love.

Yes, there’s opinionating here, but this book also contains a good story. That’s why I couldn’t put it down, and that’s why I think you’ll enjoy it, too. If you’re tired of the same old reading fare, “Driving the Saudis” is something you’ll like better.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

No decision made yet on Area C issue



Of the Keizertimes

After delaying a vote by two weeks on the remand of the Keizer Station Area C master plan, Keizer City Councilors did so once again Monday night.

By a unanimous 6-0 vote, councilors directed city staff to prepare an order calling for the approval of the remand. That order will be voted on at the Dec. 3 council meeting – in theory, at least.

A council decision from April 2011 on the plan submitted by Chuck Sides of E Village, LLC was appealed to the Lane Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). The city was asked to do more review and modification regarding the traffic engineer’s analysis as well as the timing of a condition of approval requiring concurrency.

In September, Sides submitted a revised plan, with the proposed 116,000 square foot store being changed to a 72,000 square foot building with two retail spaces and 83 additional units of multi-family development.

On Nov. 5 councilors held a public hearing and elected to make no decision. The record was left open for written comments and written arguments from the applicant. Those items were discussed Monday evening.

Only seven audience members attended Monday’s meeting, a far cry from the 50 on hand two weeks earlier. The tenor of the documents matched what had been discussed previously. There was also similar confusion about what could be discussed and voted on.

“I don’t like the number of apartments and where they are, so I will vote against it,” councilor Jim Taylor said. “Can I do that?”

Nate Brown, director of Community Development, said the site plan could be evaluated.

“The layout of the site plan has been revised,” Brown said. “It is subject to your review.”

Taylor wanted to make sure he understood.

“Anything that’s a change, we can consider?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Brown responded.

Councilor Mark Cailier asked about the impact on the city’s stormwater system, an appropriate question given the heavy rain Monday that led to some flooding around Keizer.

“Is our stormwater system able to handle the addition?” Cailier asked.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director, noted runoff from the development wouldn’t add to the already maxed system on Lockhaven Avenue.

“Area C goes elsewhere,” Lawyer said.

Brown has said previously the city has 90 days – or until Dec. 10 – to issue an order on the topic, based on the revised request being submitted Sept. 9.

Gubser P.E. teacher earns Crystal Apple


Wally Wing

Of the Keizertimes

Gubser Elementary School students can expect many things when they walk into Wally Wing’s gymnasium, but sitting down isn’t one of them.

“I want to keep them active and moving, we don’t spend much time sitting. We have too many young students that are not involved in the full health/fitness circle of diet, exercise and rest,” Wing said.

Two weeks ago, Wing was honored for his efforts with a Crystal Apple. The award, sponsored by the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, recognizes excellence in education by honoring those making a significant impact in the lives of children. Wing was one of three Keizer teachers to receive the honor.

Wing has been an educator for 27 years, and it was one of his own teachers who inspired him to tackle the job.

“Mr. Watts, a physical education teacher from the Redmond area, was very encouraging to me. For a while I thought I might teach high school, but I love the energy the young students bring to me,” Wing said.

Ideally, he wants all his kids to leave tired, but excited to get active again at the next possible opportunity. He said it’s becoming harder and harder to motivate kids to engage in physical activity outside of school.

In addition to his years teaching in elementary education, Wing maintains peripheral involvement in high school and college athletics.

“There are times when I push those athletes for more and they hit a wall that drains the fun out of the sport,” he said. “That’s when I reflect back and remember that those same athletes were elementary school kids at one time that just loved playing the sport for the pure love and not the outcome of a contest. Connecting that knowledge gives me a different perspective on how to approach both levels of participation.”