by John Rudy

No.  Cell phones are not safe.

Ever since they were invented, we have heard from supposed “experts” that, because they emit radiation, cell phone use causes cancer, brain damage, or any number of other calamitous conditions.   But that is simply not true.  The FCC has summarized a host of reputable studies which make it clear that there is no conclusive connection between these conditions and mobile phone use.   And when it comes to radiation, what cell phones emit is non-ionizing and low frequency.  Even with the future advent of 5G,  this will still be true.

For those who would like to see material about cell phone emissions, the following two articles are very good. and

No, the safety issues connected with cell phone use have to do with the fact that people continue to use them when walking, crossing the street, biking, driving, sitting in waiting rooms, or even having dinner with friends and family.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide John with questions,  comments, or suggestions for future tech items to cover. (781-861-0402)


The Luncheon Group

by Dennis Greene

I retired four years ago and now appreciate, more and more each day, how lucky I was to have been part of the “luncheon group.” With no specific plan, this group evolved over the course of ten years at a large Boston law firm and resulted in five of us having lunch together two or three times a week for another 35. Though we spoke mostly about local sports, firm gossip, our respective families, and current events, it was, for me, a continuing opportunity to study how very smart and very decent people behave. It was a lifelong lesson in humility. Here is just one illustration of what I mean.

The group naturally took an interest in each other’s kids, attending their plays and sports events and celebrating their successes. So, when Andy’s son Tim, then in his early 20’s, managed to land a spot on “The Apprentice,” I temporarily waived my boycott of the show and watched it.  Donald Trump, the show’s host and resident ego-maniac, was apparently charmed and impressed by Timmy, often referring to him as “our Harvard Phi Bate.” I didn’t know Tim had achieved Phi Beta Kappa status, so I mentioned it at our next lunch.

“Andy, I didn’t know Tim was Phi Bate,” I said. “I knew he was smart, but my daughter Alex, whom I also consider very smart, told me her Phi Bate friends at Yale were so far above her academically, she could only see the bottoms of their feet. Except for Alex’s friend Adam, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a member of that prestigious group.”

There was an awkward pause, and I noticed that Andy was looking at his feet.

“Actually, I was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth,” he said, almost apologetically.

I was astonished and glanced at Tom to see if he was as surprised as I was. But he also looked uncomfortable.

“Uh, I was a member at Trinity,” he admitted.

I turned to Joel, who also seemed to be ill at ease.

“Yup. Penn,” he acknowledged.

Feeling like a complete idiot, I turned at last to Stan, the fifth and youngest member of our little group. He was grinning at my discomfort.

“Dennis, it appears that you and I are not qualified to participate in these lunchtime discussions,” Stan suggested.  “Our place should be to sit quietly, listen, and soak up the surrounding wisdom.”

Thank goodness for Stan.

Now, the fact that my three close friends were members of Phi Beta Kappa didn’t really surprise me. I knew that they had attended prestigious colleges and graduated from ivy law schools.  I also knew that they were brilliantly accomplished lawyers who had, over the years, demonstrated their extraordinary intelligence again and again.

Joel was kind enough to note that I was the only member of our group who had managed (at a less prestigious college) to be placed on both academic and disciplinary probation in the same year.  We are all unique.

During a recent summer, I was on a safari in Botswana, bouncing through the savannah in an off-road vehicle, and spent several days with a lovely English couple named Charles and Elisabeth.  By day, we shared adventures observing magnificent wildlife.  And each evening, as we dined, we casually discussed science fiction literature, travel, the state of the world, and how to avoid snakes while discretely relieving oneself in the bush.

When we returned to Wellesley, I found several nice pictures of the couple and wanted to send them copies, so I looked Charles up on the internet.  He had failed to mention that he was the financial director of the Bank of England and had been knighted in 2014.

But he had never been a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

“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. 













by Donna Johns

As the hot summer days fade away, your BOLLI After Dark reporter emerges from her air-conditioned cave to sniff the air and check out theater offerings for the fall. After yawning through the Broadway in Boston list (all good shows but awfully pricey for touring companies), I cast my net wider and found a local theater with an intriguing 2019-2020 season.

Speakeasy Stage Company, performing at the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End, is presenting five plays and offers subscriptions from $210-$270 for all five.  I often avoid subscriptions, preferring to choose my own shows.  But, this season, I am tempted to subscribe.

First up is Choir Boy, a 2019 Tony nominated play written by the screenwriter of Moonlight. It’s a coming of age story set in a private school for young black men. Pharus Young longs to be the leader of the school’s prestigious choir but his talent may not be enough to achieve his goal. Take a listen to an example of the music which sets the tone for the play:

Admissions, the 2018 winner of the Drama Desk award for best play, tells the story of Sherri and Bill, two educators with a strong commitment to diversity. Their bedrock principles are challenged when their son tries to get into an Ivy League school. How far will they go to help him?

Pass Over, the 2019 Lortel Award winner for outstanding play, is described as a mashup of Waiting for Godot and Exodus as two young men of color look for a way out of poverty, danger, discrimination.

The Children, 2018 Tony Award Nominee for Best Play, is a look at each person’s responsibility to future generations. After a nuclear accident, Hazel and Robin, two retired physicists played by Paula Plum and Karen MacDonald, are living quietly in a cottage in England. A former colleague intrudes with a shocking request.

Bright Star rounds out the season.  Steve Martin, playwright, comedy legend, and bluegrass performer and composer partnered with Edie Brickell to tell the story of literary editor Alice Murphy from her beginnings as a backwoods girl to her maturity as a mentor to a soldier returning from the war. Here’s a sample from the rousing score:

In short, an interesting season with lots of variety. Tickets and more information can be found at Speakeasy’s website:

Looking to spot your BOLLI After Dark reporter?

I’ll be hanging out with the SIX wives of Henry VIII at American Repertory Theater

And then, I’m hopping over to the Huntington to check out an impromptu rap battle in The Purists, directed by Billy Porter.

I’ll wear a carnation so you can spot me…

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.



by Steve Goldfinger

The patient had turned 50 and was in perfect health when she went for her first colonoscopy. There, at the very last segment of bowel to be examined, was a small cancer growing in the region of her appendix. Surgery to remove it was performed the next week. Seventeen months later, she was dead from metastases throughout her body.

At age 55, my father noted constipation. Within weeks, he was unable to have a bowel movement. As a physician who was well aware of his own body, he could recognize each wave of peristalsis curving in his abdomen and then stopping abruptly where his colon met his rectum. He told me these things the night he brought home the films from the barium enema he’d gone through that day. Without doubt, a cancer completely obstructed his bowel. The next day, he signed in to the local community hospital, spared the foreign intern by cavalierly writing his own history into the chart, and called upon his surgical buddy “Chippy” to do the operation. No need for a major medical center or a renowned surgeon to take care of things. And Chippy was pretty good at what he did.

My mother and I sat in the waiting room, she in her thoughts and I in mine.  A third year medical student having just completed a three month exposure to surgery, I expected the worst. When Chippy finally came in, I saw him smile. “No lymph nodes,” he exclaimed, “it all grew in.”  My father lived another 32 years with nary a bowel complaint.

“It all grew in.”

Just what signal from the interior of my father’s bowel had directed those cancer cells inward?  And with such force as to not allow any to escape in the other direction. Was it anything akin to the earth’s magnetic field that directs each salmon to its personal spawning rivulet? Impossible. Swallows travel 6,000 miles to return to Capistrano to resettle in their cliff nests each year. Instinct, memory, wind currents, and who knows what else. Nothing that seems to pertain to a cancer cell.

More likely, my father’s cancer cells didn’t all home inward. Perhaps some escaped from his colon but could not thrive in the outer world. Possibly, they found the soil of whatever tissue they reached inhospitable, not letting them set up shop and multiply. Or perhaps his cancer cells, unlike those of my patient,  were unable to secrete a fertilizing substance that would allow them to dig deep and flourish in foreign lands.

Questions begging for answers.

Who knows?

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!




By Betty  Brudnick and Sue Wurster

BOLLI member and fine artist Betty Brudnick


At BOLLI, our membership includes those from all proverbial walks of life, and yet, we all seem to be very much on the same path—the one leading to personal enrichment.  Betty Brudnick is no exception.  I asked Betty what brought her to BOLLI, and this is what she said.

“My husband Irv and I had been members at HILR (Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement), and at lunch one day, a friend said to us, ‘You know, there’s someone at Brandeis I think you two should meet.  His name is Bernie Reisman.  He is thinking of starting a similar program and would really benefit from any help you could give him.’  So, we met with Bernie, and it wasn’t long before BALI (Brandeis Adult Learning Institute as it was called then) was born.  With the help of other seekers, we built the foundation of BALI, reached out to other retired people, and attracted over 300 to our first informational meeting.  It was an exceedingly hot day, the air conditioning quit, and the power went out—and yet, our overflow audience stayed.  We began courses, twice a week, at the Gosman Athletic Facility taught by friends and other knowledgeable volunteers.  

Discovering that she is truly a BOLLI “original” was pretty exciting–particularly with our 20th anniversary approaching.  But what about your art work? I asked.

In addition to Betty’s career as a social worker, community activist, political junkie, and member of several boards, much of her time and energy has also revolved, of course, around being a wife, a mother, and a daughter to ailing parents.  Art had never really been part of the picture.

“Except for starting to study piano when I was 7 (which continued through my college years,” she says, “I would say that the left side of my brain was dominant.”  She goes on to add that, “My interest in the arts didn’t become apparent until middle age when an accident incapacitated me for several months.  At that point,  I began to examine my life.   And I had an epiphany.”

“I realized that I had spent my life focused on others’ needs, and now, it was time to focus on my own.”  She had always liked creating with her hands—knitting, doing macramé, weaving—but, other than doodling in her notebooks when bored at school, she had never considered drawing or painting.  So, she decided to see if she might have any artistic talent of that sort and enrolled in a drawing class at the MFA.  She loved it, and soon moved on to  a watercolor class, then art lessons in Gloucester, and, finally, working with a watercolor atelier at the Radcliffe Seminars.  “Those were such wonderful years,” she muses.  “Learning, painting, showing work with inspirational artists.”

While she did a good deal of watercolor painting over those years, she continued, of course, to focus on others.  After developing a job bank and doing other projects at the Council on Aging in Malden, Betty says she found herself wanting to explore other forms of creativity as well.

“It seems that nature hates a vacuum,” she indicates, “and so, while I was shopping at the farmers’ market in Sarasota, I stopped at a booth that had some interesting pieces of glass.”  Her conversation with the artist led to an invitation to try her hand at fusing glass herself, and “I found my new avocation.”  Her tutor was a young Greek minister who was also pursuing an advanced degree in theology which, she says, led to  “lots of interesting discussions  while I learned to cut, shape, and fuse glass.”  She soon discovered and joined the Southwest Florida Glass Alliance, a large community of ardent glass collectors in the area, and began to explore both the history of the glass art movement and its artists in this country.  “I was even invited to the homes of many collectors.  How could I resist?”  Ultimately, in addition to doing her own glass work, she began collecting pieces by Italian, Japanese, and American glass artists.

“As far as I know, there were no artists in my family,” Betty says.  “Architects and musicians, yes, but no painters.  My children’s talents lie in other directions—not visual art.  It’s too soon to tell, but one of my granddaughters is an art history major!”

Personally, I can add that, having taught two of those granddaughters, I know that one is a highly accomplished pianist herself.  So, clearly, the piano lessons Betty embarked on when she was 7 tapped into her artistic side–and remain firmly ensconced in the family gene pool.

Overall, Betty indicates, “It’s been rewarding to watch BOLLI’s growth to a year-round community.  Irv would have been so pleased.”  It’s been equally as rewarding to dive into painting and glass work, and she looks forward to whatever avocation comes next.

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

There’s nothing I like more than getting to know the people around me even better!  I hope you’ll leave a comment for Betty in the box below.  It means a lot to each of our profiled members to hear from others.   And I’d love to hear from you about you or other BOLLI members we can all get to know better.






THE BOLLI JOURNAL 2020: Now Accepting Submissions!


Yes, the next volume featuring the creative work of our BOLLI membership is underway, and we’re looking forward to seeing your work!

Submission Process

 BOLLI members may submit up to four pieces of writing and/or visual art/craft work (total) for consideration.  (Nor more than three per member will be published.) 

Writing: Any BOLLI member may submit original unpublished fiction, creative nonfiction (including memoir, topical essay, nature, travel, sports, food writing, etc.) poetry, or playwriting.  Please double space and number each page of your work, but do not write your name on your manuscript/s. Include a word count below the title of each piece being submitted.  (Items not to exceed 1000 words.)

Visual Art/Craft:  Any BOLLI member may submit original, unpublished high resolution photographs. High resolution images of original drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, woodworking, etc. may also be submitted.  Photos must not be compressed, sent in “original” or “actual size,” (at least 300 ppi or pixels per inch), and in the sRGB color space.

Sending Materials:  Work should be submitted via email although hard copy may be left with Lily Gardner for scanning and sending via email.  (No particular computer program is preferred for submission, but all photography should be sent in high resolution.)  Indicate “Journal Submission” in the subject line of your email.  Material should be provided as attachments. Send to the editor at:

Your submission will be acknowledged within a week of its receipt. If you do not receive such acknowledgment, contact editor Sue Wurster at:

Editorial Review:  All material will be reviewed (as “blind” submissions on a “rolling” basis) by The Journal committee:  Managing/Production Editor Sue Wurster and Art Editor Joanne Fortunato; Helen Abrams, Margie Arons-Barron, Lydia Bogar, Betsy Campbell,  Miriam Goldman, Dennis Greene, Donna Johns, Marjorie Roemer, Caroline Schwirian, and Larry Schwirian,  Genre editors will review, make suggestions for improvement, and present items to the full committee for consideration.

The editor will respond to members with suggestions from the committee for improving submitted work.  While we will be reviewing work on a rolling basis, final decisions regarding items to be included in this volume will be made after the September 30 submission deadline when all items will be considered for the volume as a whole.

Deadline for Submission: SEPTEMBER 30, 2019









By Barry David

The ring was oval-shaped, and we stood about midway on one side watching the ponies.  It was a glorious fall day. We were in no rush.

My granddaughter held my hand.  She had not yet decided about having a ride; it’s scary to try something new.  So we waited as she carefully appraised each pony as it passed by with its mounted child.

There were brown ones and black ones, some with mixed colors, and others with patterns.

I wondered what she was thinking.   Was she intimidated by them, simply afraid, or was she considering what color pony she’d like to ride?  What goes through a four-year-old’s head?  Lots!

“Would you like a ride?” I asked her.

“Yes,” was her reply, and there was no question about it.

“But I don’t want to ride on a big pony.”

“Okay,” I assured her.

“But I don’t want a small pony.”

“Oh,” I mumbled.  Where was this outing going?

In silence, we watched a few more go by and then, she said, “Papa, I want to ride on a medium pony.”


A medium pony.  Not too big or too small.  Moderation.  And, given the times we are in as a nation, not too far left or right.

The extremes we deal with each day can make most of us uncomfortable whether in a pony ring or in politics.  Whether we are four or eighty-four, white or black, male or female, conservative or progressive, we are all simply part of the human web that connects us.

When faced with complex choices, compromise most often points the way to a lasting solution.   Sounds pretty basic, and it is.  Not rocket science, if egos are parked at the door.

Too many of our leaders need to get off their donkeys or elephants and mount a ring full of medium ponies.  If they just go on pony ride, they will help us all get “there” faster and “fairer.”  If not, we need to send them home on their donkeys or elephants, never to return.  We can’t allow any leader’s ego and dated ideology to screw up what can be a good pony ride for America.

And, oh, yes!  The pony ride—on a medium, light brown and white pony—was a great success.

BOLLI “Matters” contributor Barry David

Barry says that he and his wife Liz began taking courses at BOLLI “almost from the beginning while winding down my career in the computer field as GM of ADP.  Love taking subjects that I’ve not had exposure to before.  Being snowbirds, we’re delighted that spring semester is build the five-week offerings.  BOLLI has been and remains an important part of our life.”



MEET OUR MEMBERS: Howard Barnstone, Woodworker Extraordinaire


Woodworker Extraordinaire

At five years old, Howard Barnstone was given a toy lathe which he used to make turnings out of balsa wood.  After that, his toys of choice extended to Lincoln Logs, Lego, and “girds and panels” sets.  And so began his lifelong interest in woodworking.  In his high school wood shop course, he made a chess board out of oak and cherry squares and then moved on to creating wooden skateboards—totally ahead of his time.  At U. Mass. Amherst, he enrolled in a woodworking art course in order to finish the wooden clock he had been working on at the end of high school—even the gears were cut out of mahogany.

When he was about 27, Howard took an open night class in woodworking at Brookline High where he was making a cherry coffee table.  He was planning to finish it up during the last class, but he was invited to another event being held on the same evening.   “I was torn about which way to go,” he says.  “I finally decided to go to the event and leave early.  I figured, that way, I could also make the class.”  That ended up being a good decision.  At the event, he met Gayle Ehrlich, his wife (and fellow BOLLI member)—but was also able to finish his project.

Howard chose to follow a path in the business world but says that he can see a connection between business and furniture building and design.  “I used to put together merger and acquisition deals for a financial information company.  Building furniture is similar to complex business deals in that both involve many interlocking pieces that need to not only stand alone but also function within a complicated over-arching concept.”

All along the way, Howard managed to find time for open shop courses at the local high schools.  He built a variety of tables for his family in the process.   Now that his children are grown and he has retired from the business world, Howard says that he is pursuing woodworking and furniture building and design in an even more in-depth way.  “My goal is to refine my abilities and make great furniture for my own pleasure,” he says, “enjoying it for its craft and mastery.”

Howard says he mostly designs and builds tables and cabinets, particularly in the Shaker style which “I like for its clean lines, efficiencies, and practicality.”  He says he also admires the work of both Thomas Moser and Stickley.

Shaker night tables (in progress) and boot benchh

During the spring of 2017, Howard took the three-month full-time intensive furniture course at the North Bennett Street School which he enjoyed immensely.  “We completed two full projects—a Shaker night stand and a cupboard on a stand,” he says.  “We spent extensive time with both hand and machine tools.  We also focused on dove-tail, mortise and tenon, and other aspects of joinery as well as wood choice and properties.”  Since then, he has also completed Peter Thibeault’s course on The Fine Art of Furniture.

At this point, Howard is focused on the next steps in his journey with furniture.  “I look forward to better applying design concepts and principles,” he says, “learning about the evolution of historical furniture design and modern approaches to the manipulation of wood products to achieve certain furniture design aesthetics.”

In terms of future work, Howard says that “Like authors feel they have a certain number of books in them,  I have a certain number of furniture pieces in me–and it is up to me, like the author, to produce, them by putting in the hard work. Time will tell.”

Finally, Howard says that it doesn’t really matter what he is making as long as it is engaging him. “I think of myself as being the furniture version of a gentleman farmer.  I just get extreme joy from the process of working with wood.”


BOLLI Member and Furniture Artist Howard Barnstone

Howard says about his BOLLI experience, “I have been taking classes at BOLLI or the past four years and have enjoyed the quality of the teachers, courses, and the camaraderie  of learning together.”



Is there a BOLLI member you’d like to see profiled in BOLLI Matters? Contact Sue Wurster via email:







from John Rudy

I found this recipe in an old cooking magazine in the ‘70s.  I make plain meatballs (lean hamburger, some salt and one small finely-chopped onion).  I then broil the meatballs until they are medium rare; not more than about 6 minutes turning once.  I usually make them quite small, smaller than a golf ball, maybe 3/4ʺ.  The meatballs can be frozen to be used later.

The sauce recipe is sufficient for about 1½ pounds of meat.

By using lite cream cheese and sour cream, the calories are reduced and the taste seems to be the same.

Stroganoff Sauce

2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (10½ oz can)

1½ cup Milk

6 oz  Cream cheese (softened)  (I use the “lite”)

¼ cup   Catsup

¼ tsp  Garlic Powder

1 pt  Sour cream (I use the “lite”)

Mix together in large saucepan (except for the sour cream);  warm, but do not boil. Stir constantly.

Add the meatballs and cook until thawed (if previously frozen) or hot.

Stir in the sour cream.

Serve over noodles or with toothpicks as an appetizer. (If the latter, there will be too much sauce.)

BOLLI Matters “Chef’s Corner” feature writer John Rud


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.)


Some may question the advisability of airing this confessional remembrance to a broad audience, but Steve says that, for him, it is a story of efficiency gone horribly wrong, an inadequate reaction, and a singular event that can haunt one for a lifetime.  


by Steve Goldfinger

He was in his mid-forties, comatose, febrile, and near the end. His hemophilia had caused uncontrollable bleeding throughout his body, and bacteria had infected his blood-laden tissues. A young attending, I led my team of house staff and students on rounds in our critical care area, stopping at his bedside only briefly. We had come to recognize that a huge number of transfusions had not made a difference; we could not stop the bleeding; and no new antibiotic was going to reverse the course. His vital signs told us he had entered the final stage. There was no family to contact, no friends we knew of. I commented that death was near and that no new measures made any sense. As we moved on to the next patient, our senior resident left us and went back towards the nurse’s station. We didn’t know why; nor did we ask. There were too many patients to be seen.

About 15 minutes later, he returned. “Well, it’s over,” he announced. When I asked what he meant, he told us. He had loaded a syringe with a lethal dose of potassium chloride and injected it into the dying patient’s vein. Instantaneous death occurred when it reached the heart and stopped it from beating.


I was staggered by what he had done, so staggered that I was unable to say a word. We looked at each other. The group looked at me. I could not talk, could not imagine how he could have done such a thing, could not find a way to convert busy patient rounds into an ethics seminar. Could not even reprimand him as much as I felt I needed to.

Why? I continue to ask myself 40 years later.  Was I so intent on getting to all the patients that I failed to take a mandatory time out?  Was I unwilling to chastise him in front of all the others?  Would doing so require an explication of the moral principles he had violated? And was I capable of summoning up those principles and expressing them in an articulate way without time to recall them, reflect on them? Or, perhaps, did a small part of me completely understand what he had done and found it within reasonable, if not ethical, boundaries?

We received his report, and, a moment later, moved on to the next bedside without comment. Nor did I bring up this abhorrent act for discussion the following morning.

To this day, I am ashamed. I wonder how those students and interns regarded my silence.  Did they think this was a routine rite of passing endorsed by me, my colleagues, our profession? I can only hope that, as they moved on in their training, they came to recognize the event as the horrendous anomaly it was.

But in thinking about it now, was that injection of potassium chloride very different from the morphine drip that would some day come to use…ostensibly to reduce suffering…but, so often, in amounts that terminate breathing prematurely?

Who knows?

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!




by Lydia Bogar

“Leaves of three, let it be.”

It loves the sun and is common by the roadside, spiraling up trees and across trellis grids. Poison ivy, the cousin of oak and sumac, targets my skin from across the yard. After several summers of painful blistering and oozing rashes that travel from the webs of two fingers and spread across my arms, the backs of my hands, and once to my neck, I hire people to do my spring cleanup. A rite of passage, smelling mulch and stretching muscles toned by a snow shovel; those first exquisite days of warm breezes and pink sunsets. Packing tools into the wheelbarrow and unloading bags of mulch and lime from the trunk is as far as my solstice ritual goes. I have become an observer, and I really hate that.

I am not old, but I am fragile. I really hate that.

Even with a strict regimen of double gloves and washing, using Lysol wipes on my hands and arms, the little pink bubbles will greet me the next morning. If I have rubbed at it during the night, it has marched across my forehead or onto a knee. Frequently, the rash appears like a straight line, as my arm has brushed against a leaf, or a squirrel has carried the urushiol into the mulch pile. My skin swells and burns. Wearing my old white church gloves to sleep at night doesn’t help. Somehow, I do manage to keep the plague from my mouth and ears, and other unnamed places.

Medical websites preach that the blister fluid doesn’t spread the rash, but I am not a believer. My forearms are battle scars, stopped only in mid-march by a quick visit to my doctor and five days of steroids. The gels and creams provide only minimal relief.

My dermatologist at Dana Farber exams the remains of this plague. In combination with my family propensity for skin cancers, she writes two scripts that will stop or at least mitigate any cancerous growths. Long sleeves and a higher SPF will help; a second battle that I will wage for the remainder of my days.  And I really hate that.

After several summer battles for which I bear discolorations, a landscaper tells me that I am fighting the wrong plant. I have been overrun with Virginia Creeper with five distinctive leaves. My doctor makes the entry in my electronic medical records as I await a deep freeze that will kill the beautiful red vines climbing the hemlock outside my bathroom window.

“Leaves of five, which I must survive.”

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of Writers Guild Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”



by John Rudy

When referring to The Berkshires, we typically point to a group of towns in Western Massachusetts including Great Barrington, Lenox, and Stockbridge and to institutions like Tanglewood, the beautiful summer home of the Boston Symphony where they bring in hundreds of incredible students to learn and perform.  There are many other interesting things to do in the Berkshires, and it is very easy to spend weeks taking in what the region has to offer.  It is mostly a straight run west from Boston on the Mass Pike.  Here are some of the things we did in early August of 2019.

We went to three concerts at Tanglewood. One was the BSO performing in “The Shed” which holds about 5.000.  Another 10,000 or so brought chairs and food, sat outside on the grounds, and listened.  The second was a trio of Emanuel Ax, Yoyo Ma and Leonidas Kavakos playing Beethoven Piano Trios in Ozawa Hall.  This time, we sat on the lawn, but since we arrived early, we were only 20’ from the open doors to the hall, so we saw and heard quite well.  The third time, we heard three Beethoven Piano Sonatas played by Yefim Bronfman in Ozawa Hall.  It rained that evening, and, due to lightning, they shut down the lawn seating.  (Indoor tickets must be bought well in advance for the more popular performances, but lawn tickets can be purchased at the last moment.

We also visited Hyde Park, NY, the site of Springwood, the childhood home of Franklin Roosevelt.  His Presidential Library & Museum is about 80 minutes away.  It is a fascinating place with excellent guides.

Daniel Chester French sculpted the Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial (actually he had 6 Italian brothers, expert stone carvers, do the final carving). Three plaster models of the Lincoln statue are at French’s Chesterwood Studio, a National Historical Trust site in Stockbridge.  They have a wonderful tour.

The Mount was Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox (another National Historical Trust site). There are fascinating inside and garden tours.

There are dozens of good places to eat all over the area.  There are also some wonderful ice cream and gelato stores.  Try The Scoop and Peace Love & Chocolate.

The Berkshire Museum is in Pittsfield. When we went, they had a temporary exhibit of machines built from Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings.  But even without this, it is a beautiful museum.

Jacob’s Pillow (which we did not attend) has dance performances.

The Clark Museum in Williamstown MA is a bit over an hour away. It is a beautiful site with excellent exhibits.  We saw a special Renoir exhibit.

The entire area will be full of color in the coming months–and we are ready to return!

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, who also happens to be an enthusiastic chef, John provides his helpful hints in both areas for BOLLI “Matters.”  Hmm…could there be a travel feature in his future as well?




In response to the Writers Guild prompt, “A Matter of Life and Death,” the opinion expressed in the following bit of rhyme is not necessarily that which is held by all BOLLI members.


By L. Schwirian

Trumpty Dumpty

Sat on his wall.

Trumpty Dumpty

Had a great fall.

All the King’s henchmen

And all the King’s Zen

Couldn’t put Trumpty

Together again.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and Writers Guild co-chair, Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led 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.  



There is a place for you on our BOLLI Matters blog!  No need to feel constrained or obligated to create items for a regular feature (unless, of course, you WANT to)–just send material reflecting your interests, concerns, experiences…whatever and whenever.

No blogging or journalism background is necessary–we will happily do basic editing for you and/or make suggestions for you about whatever you send us.

(We will need a digital image and a brief “bio” statement to accompany your submissions.)

What Can I Write about?

Local restaurant recommendations

Local “Hidden Gem” museums, craft centers, etc.

Local theatre, choral, orchestral, or other groups

Local, reasonably priced “lessons” available in anything and everything from pottery to kodo drumming, table tennis, or boxing…(I’m serious about the drumming and table tennis, by the way…maybe, for that matter, even the boxing.)

Local day trip ideas

Fellow BOLLI members to introduce and feature for all of us

Other interests that BOLLI members might well share

The Benefits!

You’ll find fellow BOLLI members who share your enthusiasm for places and pastimes as well as those who decide to try new ventures as a result of your sharing your experiences.

And, of course, seeing your work in print is totally cool…



BOLLI MATTERS blogmaster Sue Wurster

While I’ve overseen school yearbook and newspaper production, blogging was a new form for me when I joined BOLLI three years ago.  It’s an easy and totally satisfying venture–hope you’ll take part by providing items focused on your interests, concerns, and experiences!








Prompt: Eating an American meal in a foreign country

At the Border in Dreamland

by Steve Goldfinger

I sat in a run-down taqueria, savoring my mac and cheese, trying to give the locals a sense of what really good food could be—when, suddenly, I got hit in the cheek with a viciously thrown enchilada.  It was followed by another that splattered on my elbow. Two hot tamales followed. A chorus of “Yankee go home!” erupted from all four tables. Then, the kitchen door opened, and out stepped Pancho Villa, rifle in hand, chest covered with medals and two crossed belts of shiny bullets.

What to do?  Only the day before, I had tried to get back home to the states, but a huge wall had prevented me from crossing the border. I begged. I pleaded. But the policia federal would not let me cross it.

And now, I was begging Pancho Villa not to kill me.

He let his gun drop and strode to my table. “There are many ways to die,” he said with a toothy grin. Then he reached into his sack and pulled out a huge jar of chili peppers, dumping about half of them onto my mac and cheese. He stirred them in with the barrel of his rifle. “This should do it,” he said.

“Do what?”

“Burn your kishkes out.” A roar of laughter filled the small establishment.

What did I hear?  Kishkes?

“Lansman?” I countered cautiously.

“Yes, yes……Galicia,” he responded. “And you?”


“Mexico isn’t what you think it is, and certainly I am not. Listen, you can call me by my real name…Schmuel.  And I’ll take you to the best restaurant in Guadalajara. Ratner’s.”

“Ratner’s? How can I believe you Panch—I mean Schmuel?”

“Well, those photos on the wall were taken in 1916 when General Pershing was sent here to get rid of me. Actually, we became good friends, and he loved it when I took him to Ratner’s. He adored gefilte fish. Also kugel and kasha varnishkas. When an outbreak of diarrhea nearly decimated his troops, he ordered each of them to eat 10 matzohs a day—a few too many for some who got so bound up they had to be evacuated. The general used the same remedy when dysentery felled hordes of his soldiers in World War I.”

Schmuel “Pancho” Villa continued.

“Pershing didn’t want to leave Mexico—not after I introduced him to Rosalita and she made him her exclusive at the Casa de Delicias.  He called her his little gattito, and she bathed him every day in her special love potion, oil of licorice. If you ever wondered how he got his nickname Black Jack, my lansman, that is how.”

So much history I never knew.

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!

A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)