POP CULTURE WITH DENNIS GREENE: AN ADULT FANTASY TO COMBAT MALAISE

AN ADULT FANTASY TO COMBAT MALAISE by Dennis Greene

            I am a semi-grownup who admittedly escapes to imaginary worlds when confronted with the unpleasantries of life. When faced with Joe McCarthy and his “Red Scare,” the 1950’s polio epidemic, the fear of nuclear war, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, and finally the military draft and the devastating years of the Vietnam conflict, I sought refuge in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Herbert’s Arrakis,  the futuristic universes of Asimov, Bradbury, Bester, Niven, et al,  and the hopeful visions of TV’s Tom Corbet Space Cadets and Star Trek. All these fantasies helped me handle the passing of the 50’s during which I was fortunate to witness the birth of Rock and Roll, the transformative effect of television, the explosion of this country as a world leader in everything, and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.   I felt, back then, that I shared  an unshakable optimism about my country with all my fellow Americans.  I now know that my view of the 50’s was not shared by many women, blacks, ethnic minorities, gay men and lesbian women, and others who are still victims of poverty, discrimination, and indifference. But I was a lucky (and “privileged”) 16-year old white boy in New Bedford.  What did I know?

Lately, the problems of America, and the world, seem so insurmountable that fleeing to my imaginary worlds no longer affords relief. Not that I don’t spend lots of time there anyway. Recently, I have been escaping the insipid and never-ending stream of depressing news by binge watching the many popular TV series that I had somehow missed. These included Star Trek Enterprise, Good Omens, Stranger Things, Endeavour, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, West World, Witcher, Schittz Creek, Northern Exposure, Bosch, The Umbrella Academy, Altered Carbon, and even Tiger Joe. But none of them cut through my present case of the blues. Then one of my daughters mentioned West Wing. I had somehow missed all seven seasons from 1999 through 2006. It was a political drama which, at the time didn’t especially tickle my fancy. But, desperate for any distraction, I watched the first few episodes. Wow! I was hooked. I am now just beginning the sixth year of the seven-year run, and it keeps getting better.

When it originally aired, this idealized White House—populated with brilliant, dedicated, compassionate and quirky people working for the benefit of the country—was juxtaposed against the Bush administration and offered some fine theatre. But the contrast between the West Wing and the circus of moronic sycophants and their reigning imbecile who now occupy the White house is so vivid as to be almost blinding. If Sorkin had had the current administration as his starting point, who can imagine what he would have created?  As is, West Wing is a wonderful fantasy in which to seek refuge.

There remains a little voice in my head which whispers, “Why can’t we actually find some people like President Bartlett, C. J. Cregg, and the rest to save the admirable but imperfect union that our founding fathers created?”

I am now going to watch Season 6, Episode 3.

Frequent BOLLI Matters contributor Dennis Greene.

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE WITH LARRY: CHECK, PLEASE

In response to the Writers Guild prompt, “Check, Please,” Larry took what we have come to think of as a Schwirian Turn.

Check, Please

  by Larry Schwirian

Three young eastern European men, educated in England, decided to take a holiday together in Germany before returning to their respective home countries. None of the three spoke the native language of the others; nor did they speak German; but they all spoke English. They wanted to see the Black Forest in southwest Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle (also known as Mad Ludwig’s Castle) in Hohenschwangau, the well preserved medieval old town of Rothenberg, the Rathaus-Glockenspeil in Munich, and they wanted to experience the dynamic economy of Germany to see how it compared to those of England and their home countries. They also hoped  to meet and party with some local Fraüleins before returning home.

All three of the young men could be considered attractive in that they were all physically fit and well-groomed, but there were distinct differences in their mannerisms and personalities. Andrei, from Russia, was taller and more muscular than the others and had a more outgoing personality. Mudrac, from Serbia, was somewhat smaller and thinner but was a keen observer and appeared to be the most introspective and learned of the three. Oldrich, from Prague, was the handsomest, was perfectly proportioned, carried himself like an aristocrat, and appeared to be from a family of some wealth.

One day, in Munich, the young men decided to stop in a restaurant for lunch. As it was the middle of the afternoon, there were not many patrons present, so there were plenty of open tables and an abundance of wait staff.  Three young waitresses—Uda, Hilda, and Darissa—saw the young men come in and began to discuss which of them would wait on them. As all three wanted the opportunity to serve these young “hunks,” a somewhat heated discussion followed. Finally, they decided that, since there were three of them and there were three young men, each of them would serve one of the young patrons. They drew straws to see who would have the first pick.  Uda, whose name means “prosperous or rich,” drew the long straw.  She calmly looked at the other two, smiled, and exclaimed, “I’ll take the Czech, please.”

Frequent “BOLLI Matters” contributor and co-leader of the Writers Guild Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, lead BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in  and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

ANOTHER SIG UPDATE: BOLLI PHOTOGRAPHY GROUP

On Friday, November 15th,  the BOLLI Photography Group had our final meeting of the term.  We viewed and discussed the photographs members had submitted for review on a large screen in the Green Room.   Some of the submissions were from our fall field trip to Mt. Auburn Cemetery led by Helen Abrams while others were of sporting events, autumn scenes, travel shots, and family events.

On December 13, the group went on another field trip, this time to the MFA where Joanne Fortunato says “we had the privilege of having Karen Haas, a curator at the museum who is responsible for researching and putting exhibits together.  She gave us a tour of the Howard Greenberg Collection of photography.  It was a wonderful exhibit, and Karen was fabulous!”

According to the museum’s website, the Howard Greenberg Collection of 447 photographs by 191 artists “includes iconic European masterpieces from the 1920s and 1930s as well as a wide range of socially conscious works—powerful visual testimonies of Depression-era America, politically engaged street photography, exceptional examples of wartime photojournalism, and poignant depictions of African American life from the 1930s through the Civil Rights movement. Integrating these photographs into the MFA’s collection allows the Museum to explore fresh narratives, bring new insights and perspectives to current issues, and celebrate photography as an art form as well as a social, cultural and political force.”

Organizers: Helen Abrams, Karen Haas, Joanne Fortunato and Jennifer Coplon.

The group’s meetings are a fun way for members to gather and demonstrate their skills as well as subjects they enjoy photographing.  And, of course, the field trips are always memorable!

The BPG is opened to all who enjoy photography.  Our next meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 17th, 12:30 – 2 pm in the Green Room.

 

A SENIOR MOMENT FROM DONNA: GIVE US A BREAK

GIVE US A BREAK

by Donna Johns

Stuck in the house waiting for a repair, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.  He was, as I expected, clear and to the point and very “lawyer-y.”  He kept flipping through that 400 page report to verify his answers.  And he looked a tiny bit annoyed. I’m sure he would have preferred to be fishing, or reading, or just about anything that did not involve being thanked for his service and attacked for his findings. They mercifully gave him (and me) a break after 90 minutes.

Returning to the television, the talking heads were analyzing his performance:

“He seems confused.”

“He keeps shuffling papers.”

“Is he ill?”

As I am wont to do when confronted with idiot talking heads, I began to yell at them. “Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he’s hard of hearing! He’s not sick. He’s just 75. Give him a break!” I watched the second morning session, paying closer attention to the man. Sure enough, when asked a question, Mueller tilted his head to hear better. He probably has one good ear and one that is trashed. We see it at BOLLI all the time.

Shuffling papers?  He was very precise when he found the relevant portions of his report.  He just took his sweet time finding them. At his age, many of us can’t find our keys, eyeglasses, or the shopping list we wrote last night. I thought it was admirable that he actually found anything in those two massive binders.

That got me thinking of all the criticisms we face as we age. Our children are chronic offenders but it comes from just about everyone. Rather than shrugging off our little idiosyncrasies, there is a tendency to try to fix us, as if we were broken.  Nope, not broken…just different. Raise your hand if any of these ring a bell.

  • “I got stuck behind a Q-Tip driving 20 miles per hour. Why are they still on the road?”  Answer: How much damage can I do going 20 miles per hour? Also…need groceries.  Also, what’s your hurry?
  • ” Can’t you hear me? Why don’t you pay attention?” Answer: You mumble. And frankly, if you can’t speak up, why do I have to pay             attention?
  • ”Why are you taking so long to (fill in the blank)?” Answer:  After a lifetime of hurrying, I’m enjoying a more leisurely pace. Also, how            important is (fill in the blank) anyway?

Aging is a daily challenge, and most of us do it with dignity. Perhaps the young-uns need to appreciate our uniqueness and quit diagnosing our “shortcomings.” Move on…nothing to fix here!

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

MEMOIR FROM DENNIS: TWO SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS

Two Special Friendships

 by Dennis Greene

My life is richer because of two women whose paths I was lucky enough to have crossed. They are both smart, strong and beautiful, and, like a lot of us, are currently dealing with the undeserved curveballs life throws our way.

Recently,  my friend Hunter lost the sight in one eye due to a sudden arterial occlusion or “eye stroke.”  She notified her legions of friends of the loss, informed us that the doctors said the damage was probably total and irreversible, and reminded us gamely that she still had one eye that was working fine.  Hunter is tough, well-grounded,  indominable.  Though we have never met and have only spoken on the phone once, I consider her one of my best friends.  I met Hunter through Judy.

Judy was my first girlfriend.  She was tall, pretty, smart, and a very nice person.  I met her in high school in 1960 when she was scooping ice cream at Gulf Hill Dairy.  We dated pretty regularly during my senior year,  but I am not sure how to characterize the relationship. At the time, I had nothing to compare it with, but it probably fell into the “semi-serious” category.  I do know that, when I went away to college, I expected to see her at Thanksgiving, but, shortly before the holiday, I received a “Dear John” letter.  Judy told me she had started dating Dave and we wouldn’t be seeing one another anymore.

Dave was one of the most popular guys in my class, one of the best all-around athletes in the school, my teammate on the basketball team, and a good guy. He was also tall, movie star handsome, and destined to become a Marine officer.  I was glad for Judy but a little sad for me. But, because of her, I had much more experience with the opposite sex than I had had a year earlier. And I was strangely proud to have received my first “Dear John” letter. It proved I was in the game.

Judy and Dave have been married more than half a century.

Twenty years later, my wife and I attended my 20th high school reunion.  As we stood in line to get our name tags, Judy and Dave walked in.  Eileen had heard me tell high school stories and was interested in meeting them.  As I made the introductions,  I realized, from Judy’s expression, that she had no idea who I was.  It was an awkward moment that Eileen seems to take some joy in mentioning, while noting that most women remember their prom dates.

Over the years following that reunion, I kept in touch with Dave and Judy, and when we discovered Facebook, Judy and I began playing Lexulous (a scrabble type game) on line.  At some point, she suggested that I might also like to play with her friend Hunter, a woman she had met through their mutual love of rescued Border collies. For a number of years, the three of us played lots of games.

Then, sadly, Dave began suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, and Judy stopped playing, devoting all of her time to caring for him.  She was a talented artist, but she gave up all her woodcarving and most of her photography activities. It made me think about how much caregivers have to forgo in order to care for a loved one. Such caregivers deserve much more appreciation than they often receive.

Hunter and I have continued to play online games for over eight years now.  According to the Lexulous site, we have played over 3,000 games. The site makes it easy for players to chat, and ,through that online interaction,  I have come to know quite a bit about Hunter.  She loves dogs and horses and always has several.  She has told me stories about her parents and her children, and she is outspoken about her political beliefs. In fact, she is outspoken and effusive about most everything.

Hunter was not as open and forthcoming at first, but, at some point, she expressed a very liberal opinion and mentioned that I probably would disagree with her.  As an educated, Jewish Democrat with atheist leanings, born in Newark, N. J.,  I wasn’t used to having anyone assume I was politically conservative. When I asked her why she thought I would disagree, she told me that she just assumed I was a conservative, religious Republican who belonged to a yacht club because I had been friends with Judy and Dave.  I told her she had me pegged wrong, and, since then, Hunter has been much more free-wheeling when it comes to expressing her opinions. Her recent Trump posts have been especially entertaining.  I never noted that these two friends were at such different ends of the political spectrum.

Hunter called me once for legal advice when a used truck she had purchased in Texas broke down about 150 miles from the dealer, but all of our other contact has been through Facebook. Recently, I told her that I had added her to my bucket list and planned to visit her in Florida. I am going to do that sometime soon.

When we look back on our lives, the things that shine are the friendships we have been lucky enough to share.  For me, Hunter and Judy are two that shine the brightest.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  He has engaged in memoir writing since joining BOLLI.

WRITING IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC by Marjorie Roemer

Writing in the Time of the Pandemic

In that time . . .

By Marjorie Roemer

I noticed things.  Specifically, the little leaves coming out on my Christmas cactuses.  They emerge, one at a time, first the tiniest speck at the end of an established leaf.  Week by week, that speck creeps out until it is a pale, reddish quarter inch.  I think, with less time on my hands, I wouldn’t see these at all.  Now, I pore over the plants and I see, cheering on these tiny bits of growth.

What else can I see now?  Certainly the signs of spring, my emerging bleeding hearts and forget-me-knots.  Sad names for such pretty things.

The taste of food, the changes in the weather, the news from outside . . . all have an enhanced importance as other diversions are no longer available.  And I rejoice at all Zooming possibilities: our BOLLI meetings, the choruses and orchestras that somehow manage to create affirming, triumphant sounds.  With diminished horizons, everything looms larger, and I think we all cling to signs of life and vitality, celebrating the way that people can unite to overcome distance and isolation.

The majesty and unconquerable nature of the human spirit is something to affirm, something to cling to.  I am so grateful to all those musicians and dancers who continue to bring us delight, who articulate artistry and commitment in these trying times.  Ballet dancers with their adagios around a kitchen counter, others in fields and on roof tops, dancing their joy.

I look forward to meals and the occasional long phone call.  I read plague literature, first Camus then Defoe. I watch the news and hear about what new blunder our government has made and watch Blue Bloods on Amazon when it all gets to be too much.  I rejoice at my own ability to survive with the help of Instacart and Wegmans’ deliveries.  I check out how the virus is faring in the places where my family members live.  I didn’t know what county Cary, North Carolina was in, but now I do, and I check to see how relatively safe my grandson might be.

Vigilance, anxiety, concern (and rage) are balanced by some new set of appreciations, some new awareness, or permeability.  I check again my tiny new slow-starting leaves, and I see another tiny dot of expectation.  Hooray for you, I say.  I’m on your side.

BOLLI member and Memoir Writing SGL Marjorie Roemer

Marjorie has been at BOLLI for nine years, taking classes, teaching classes, serving on committees. Writing has, all the while, helped to frame and deepen experience for her.  (Be sure to dip into the 2020 BOLLI Journal to read two of her lovely poems.)

A MOVING EXPERIENCE by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

A Moving Experience

By Sandy Miller-Jacobs

It happened quite simply. Our older daughter, her husband, and their three children moved to Massachusetts around 7 years ago. They had lived in Washington DC while she was in graduate school and her then soon-to-be husband was attending medical school. There, for several happy years, they received their degrees and became parents of their first child, our first granddaughter. They moved to the Philadelphia area and bought a sweet home in a wonderful neighborhood. She got a job, he completed his residency, and they became the parents of another daughter. We were quite sure they’d never move to the Boston area. Then he applied for a fellowship in mammography at Mass General Hospital.

Our hopes were high, but realistically, his chances were low, but we hoped for the impossible.   We were thrilled when he was selected! They rented a two-bedroom apartment on the T line in Brookline. They liked living here and were glad to have grandparents as well as a great-grandmother all nearby.

Eventually, they bought a house in Newton and had a third daughter.  Their lovely house sits on a quiet street where they have  fabulous neighbors who have become close friends. It is within walking distance to the T and the center of town, the library, and, most importantly, PJ Licks Ice Cream.  When they first looked at the house, they said that, some day, they would like to expand the kitchen and the dining room, and they especially wanted to change the chandelier. They were staying for the long haul, and we were delighted.

After six years, 2019 became the year for the renovation. They selected a contractor who had done jobs for friends and only worked on one job at a time. They were confident in their choice and shared the architect’s drawings.  It looked like a bigger job than we had expected, but it surely looked good. They rented a home close by so they could take the kids to school, get themselves to work, and keep an eye on the construction. Their lease was for September to January. The contractor said that should be perfect timing. They put their furniture in storage and looked forward to 2020 being the year of their home being redone.

When our daughter was young and we had another on the way ourselves, we went through a much smaller renovation. It was rather stressful, but at least we weren’t out of our house for four months as they were to be. We suggested that, since we were going to spend February in Israel, they would be welcome to use our home if the job wasn’t finished on time.  When that did become necessary, that move worked very well, especially because the family knew the house–its layout, the beds, the bathrooms, the toys, the couches, and, of course,  the kitchen.  They were already comfortable in it.

We arrived home on March 1st to find the house filled with smiles and laughter, and for two weeks, we all lived together. The kids went to school, their parents to work, and we were thrilled to have the time together. Then the Corona Virus overtook our world. Our son-in-law was sure that, as a doctor at Boston Medical Center, he’d be exposed, and he didn’t want to impact us since we are in the elder risk category.  Both my daughters insisted that we take our friends up on their offer for us to go to their condo.

So, we packed up for our next adventure.  Our friends are in Tucson, we’re in their condo, and our kids are in our home.  Some day, our kids will move out, we’ll move back into our house and complain that it’s too quiet and run over to visit them.  Our friends will return, and we’ll join them for dinner.  Keep calm and carry on!

BOLLI Matters contributor and “Aging with Resilience” SIG leader Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Sandy finally retired after nearly 50 years in Special Education.  Along the way, she married, completed her doctorate, raised two daughters, married them off, and became a grandmother.  She says that BOLLI is the key to maintaining brain function through teaching and learning while meeting new friends. Her hobbies now include photography, memoir writing, and aging.  Sometimes she takes the risk and shares her hobbies and ideas with BOLLI members!

 

THE PROPOSAL by Quinn Rosefsky

THE PROPOSAL

By Quinn Rosefsky

            When he asked her why, she thought for a moment and said that there really was no one else in the whole world with whom she could be so open. She spoke with an accent, most likely Eastern European. In her thirties, attractive, with hazel eyes, and fine features, she wore rumpled blue jeans, a man’s partially buttoned shirt, not tucked in, and had carelessly tied her dark hair in a bun. A faint lilac fragrance moved with her as she paced from one washer to the next, peering briefly into the glass front of each one as if expecting to find a forgotten treasure, a hidden message. Kanyeshna, she said–more than once. She looked at him again, straightened the loose hairs in her bun, then sighed, and continued pacing.

A few minutes earlier, unshaven, his light brown hair unkempt, he had put on loafers, khaki shorts, and a Red Sox T-shirt, determined finally, after so many excuses he’d made to himself, to get his laundry done. His old girlfriend had done it for him before she left for good, and now, she had been gone for a month.  Hugging the large bundle, he had walked the two blocks from his studio apartment, past the pharmacy, the ice cream parlor, the barber shop, and the pawn shop until he reached the 24-hour laundromat. Except for the laundromat, the shops were closed, empty, the streets jammed with cars belonging to locals. Not a single jogger. No one walking a dog. He hadn’t really expected to meet anyone, not this early, not on a Sunday.

The two were the only ones doing their laundry. He checked his change. He needed a few more quarters to put in the washing machine and asked the woman if she had change for a dollar. She looked at him as if not quite understanding what he wanted, then asked him to marry her.  Perhaps “Why” wasn’t the right question to have asked.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Shto za vapros!” she replied. “What question is that?”

“Well, we’ve never met. I asked if you could make change for a dollar, and you asked me to marry you.”

“Oh, did I? I get words mixed up. I am telling you I travel a lot ,and I pick up many words. I look in book for phrases to explain. I am having used one of those phrases with you. There are so many. I am being so confused. I am wishing to ask you if you can help me. I am having difficulty with these washing machines. I worry I am not used to the way these machines work.”

She smiled broadly, tilted her head, and looked at him as if she were inspecting a used car.

“You mean you’re not from around here?”

“Of course not, you silly man.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“How you mean by that?”

 

 

QUARANTINE TALES: FOOD SHOPPING BY KATHY WANGH

FOOD SHOPPING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

By Katherine Wangh

I am waiting to pick up some boxes of food at Russo’s. It is raining.  I have been in my car for over an hour, so I have had time to get in touch with my feelings.

I think about not being able to pick out the avocadoes or the bouquet of flowers I like. I think about not being able to debate which vegetables to buy depending on what looks good this week. I think about not being able to look at, touch, and smell all these beautiful fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers.

I have placed my order.  Not only are spontaneous choices not possible, but it is also not possible to have spontaneous encounters with other shoppers who come from all parts of the world to buy the fruits and vegetables from their native countries.  Conversations between customers usually start with “What is this? How do you eat it or cook it?” No more indulging my curiosity about foods and people in those narrow aisles filled with produce. Instead, I wait patiently in my car for a woman younger than me, wearing a face mask and rubber gloves, to wheel my boxes out in the rain.

Before she reaches my car, I see her throw a huge planter of purple and white pansies onto the cart. I figure this is not my order as I did not order pansies. I am feeling a bit downcast with all the waiting. Then she taps on my window! It is my order! I open the back with the automatic door opener, and she places the boxes inside saying, “I threw in some pansies for you! I hope you like flowers!”  Overcome, I say, “Thank you! Thank you so much! Yes, I love flowers!”

Once home, I put on a mask and rubber gloves and unpack the boxes on the deck, washing everything in soapy water. In the background, I seem to hear the soundtrack of anxiety and the fear of death which seems to be playing all day and all night. Admittedly, I have found some ways to distract myself from this music, but I could never have imagined that the best interruption would come today, from a complete stranger, in the form of a spontaneous and cheerful gift of purple and white pansies!

BOLLI Member and Writers Guild writer Kathy Wangh

My interests?  Music. Art, language, psychology, nature, science, travel.  My professions?  Teaching preschool and working with children/young adults as a psycho-analytically trained therapist. Married to scientist Larry for over 50 years and now enjoying grandchildren, singing in the Concord Women’s Chorus, curating my father’s artistic legacy, writing, and gardening!

 

 

GIVING IT AWAY

GIVING IT AWAY

by John Rudy

Until this March, it was easy to give things away.  You could take them to Goodwill, use Freecycle, or take advantage of lots of other venues.  It was also easy to donate food to food kitchens, clothing to clothing drives, etc.  Then everything stopped, and two results have occurred.  Things started piling up at home, and those in need lost an important source of goods.  Remember the food box at Turner Street and the fall coat drive?

Now that things are beginning to open up, I’d like to make some recommendations:

  1. Now that we are spending time at home, it is a good time to de-clutter.  In Lexington, we have REUSEIT,  a program which provides a mechanism for giving things away to other locals.  I’ve given everything from furniture to lumber to jewelry.
  2. Many organizations are now beginning to collect items, usually involving a process in which it sits for a number of days to ensure that there is no contamination.
  3. Market Basket (and some other supermarkets) have large containers to accept food which they then donate.
  4. Stop and Shop is now back to collecting bottles and cans but not yet accepting plastic bags.

Have additional recommendations to augment this short report for fellow BOLLI members looking to help?

Send your ideas to susanlwurster@gmail.com for placement in BOLLI Matters.

 

COVID-19: JUST ANOTHER DISRUPTION?

Covid-19: Just Another Disruption?

by Kate Seidman

“Have you visited China in the last two weeks?”

I was in line at the departure gate at Gatwick Airport for my flight back to Boston. It was late January, and news of a virus in China had led many international airports to start some basic screening. There had been news of someone in Boston getting sick after returning from Wuhan, so I was a little nervous getting on the plane.

At the entrance to the departure lounge, each passenger was asked about recent travel to China.  If someone from China wanted to get to Boston, I thought, they could just lie,  but the person in front of me said that, yes, he had been in China three weeks ago. He got on the plane.

Now, in early June, so much has changed. How quaint were those early days when the only check was a verbal one and many thought the virus wouldn’t spread beyond its origins in China. Could we have imagined that, by now, there would be over 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19 and the economy would be in shambles? Or that our lives would revolve around working from home, Zoom, grocery shopping exclusively online, social distancing, and face masks? We have been forced to “shelter in place” not for a day or two, as some of us did during the Boston Massacre, or weeks, as we did during a blizzard, but for months–and with no clear end in sight.

As we start to dip our toes back into the world, I find myself wondering how to make sense of what has changed and what may be laying ahead. Will we be able to return to normal, or will our lives never be the same? What can we learn from other disruptive events?

Are we like the survivors of a war trying to rebuild shattered lives and homes? Yes, we have lost too many lives. And we have lost our sense of feeling safe and secure in the world. But now, the danger comes not from bombs or artillery but from each other. Who might have the virus and not know it? How close can I come to that stranger or even my friend or relative? Who can I trust?

But the buildings are still standing. The communication, transportation, and other infrastructures have remained functional as have most businesses and institutions. Retail businesses are only waiting for people to emerge so they can start up again. Going forward, it is not the physical structures that need to be rebuilt but the personal, social, and political structures that hold our world together in invisible ways that make us feel safe and secure.

After every disaster, there is a period of cleanup which can last months. Now the cleanup drags on, exhausting the doctors, nurses, and others who are on the front lines. If the virus lingers, how do we build continuity and resilience to prevent breakdowns for those tasked with caring for the sick, the poor, the homeless? How do we reduce the demands and stress on teachers, parents, and others who are responsible for educating our children and grandchildren? We need more than just cleanup. We need long-term planning to train and rotate multiple waves of educators and front line workers as the first group rests. We need to protect those who heal, educate, and support us. We need to show them our appreciation and gratitude.

After wars and other major disruptions, the world did not return to the way it was. Some losses never healed. Some organizations never came back. Some people never recovered. And some suffered long-term physical and mental problems. We have already witnessed social, political, and economic fallout that could last for years. As we contemplate our lives going forward, we have to consider that we won’t ever go back to the way things were.

If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that we are responsible not just for ourselves but for those around us. We limit grocery shopping to protect not only us but the people working in the stores. We wear masks and practice social distancing not only for our own safety but so that we don’t spread the disease to others. These actions are part of living in a community where we have mutual responsibility for each other. When we trust and respect others by demonstrating kindness and compassion, we start to build the social structures from which strength, determination, and resiliency can grow.

We are fortunate, at BOLLI, to be part of a thriving learning community, even though  remote.  It’s a good start.

BOLLI Member Kate Seidman

When Kate joined BOLLI 5 years ago, she put aside a lifetime of research into people and technology to take classes in History, Music, Art, and Writing. She also knits. After 40 years as a foreigner, she still doesn’t understand America.

IT’S HERE! THE 2020 BOLLI JOURNAL

THE BOLLI JOURNAL, Volume Ten

The BOLLI Journal staff is proud and pleased to present this year’s volume of visual art and writing by members of our BOLLI community.

Enjoy “virtually” thumbing through this collection of written and visual art work.  Writing includes works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and memoir.   Drawing, painting, printmaking, mosaics, glass, and even furniture are featured.  In addition, this volume’s array of photography includes nature/wildlife images and portraits  as well as  travel and street scenes.   It definitely showcases this community’s remarkable talent!

Unfortunately, at this point, because of BOLLI’s current “online only” status, we really cannot say when print copies of the volume may become available for order and distribution.

We thank all of our BOLLI writers and artists for their marvelous contributions and look forward to you, the members of this community, sharing your reactions with that remarkable creative group.

Click here to access this year’s BOLLI Journal (or on either cover image).

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: THE TWO OF US

THE TWO OF US

By Steve Goldfinger

 She is a lot older than me (and I am old enough), yet our love endures and even grows stronger from year to year. She is full of soft charm, gentle shadows, and her commitment to my needs is unswerving.  Above all, her tenacious hold on beauty defies the new wrinkles that appear as inevitably as the seasons.

When I met 33 Birch Hill Road in 1966, she was 84 years old. She faced out on a gentle circle, comfortable with the two other venerable homes that bordered it. She embraced my wife and four sons as we moved in, and she did not shudder when we put her through some minor surgery, both cosmetic and reconstructive, at the start.

With pride, I took in her many graceful rooms. I loved the huge, multi-paned window with its arched top above her central staircase. The third floor, all one room, posed a challenge for one’s imagination when it came to livening it with furnishings.

Over the years, my infatuation with 33 Birch Hill transformed into love, exactly paralleling the ever-deepening love within the family she nurtured. I look back on the nooks and bindings that are shared between a home and those who call it such, and a bounty of remembrances springs forth.

Ed building the substantial back deck the summer after graduating from college. It remains sturdy and well used to this day, the one and only construction effort of his life.

The tee-off spot for the nine hole frisbee golf course Michael created, the “holes” being tree trunks, rocks, and assorted  landmarks around our circle.

The ghost piano sonata that startled my wife and me as we ate breakfast one morning, alone in the house. Well, not entirely alone. There was that squirrel who descended the open chimney, found the living room, and took a liking to the piano’s keyboard.

Peter tossing out carrots from his second floor window, his act in plain view of those of us sitting on the deck. He hated the carrots that Barbara always gave him to keep him healthy.

David’s room, its walls covered with large posters of dead rock stars. Also, music from his clarinet and later, his guitar. And the songs he wrote.

33 Birch Hill and I have aged noticeably in recent years. She has just undergone the replacement of three wood gutters at exorbitant expense while my left hip was replaced at virtually no cost, thanks to Medicare. She has needed an entire re-do of her front portico and new granite steps to finally replace her ever-rotting wooden ones.  She needs paint, inside and out. I need eye injections for macular degeneration. I need omeprazole for reflux and Eliquis for a heart that occasionally beats irregularly.

Love in later years does not change much—only in the intimacies and frailties that emerge.

BOLLI MATTERS feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

THE CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: BAKED APRICOT CHICKEN

BAKED APRICOT CHICKEN

For this recipe, I use large thighs, but they can be replaced with thick pieces of breast meat.  Also, although I prefer thigh meat as it does not dry out and usually cook it with bone and skin, you can also use boneless.  Serve with rice.  I first made this in 1970.

4                            Chicken thighs with bone and skin

½ cup                  Apricot preserves

1/2 cup              Wish Bone Russian or French Dressing

½ package          Lipton Dried Onion Soup Mix

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a medium bowl combine the jam, dressing and soup mix. Mix together.
  3. Place chicken pieces in an 8” x 8” baking dish. Pour apricot mixture over chicken and bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.  The time will vary depending on bone or no bone, and with thigh or breast.  So it is best to start checking at 30 minutes.
  4. Broil (skin up) for a couple of minutes if you used pieces with skin
BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

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