OOPS…

Measure Thrice. Cut Once

Professor Horace Slughorn

by Dennis Greene

I’m very new to this writing business and still experience a thrill upon seeing my own words in print. This past year or so, I have had over a dozen short articles published in the highly regarded BOLLI Journal and in the BOLLI Matters blog. I now sometimes dare to refer to myself half seriously as a “writer” instead of a “story teller,” and I confess that, deep down, I feel smugly pleased with the idea. But “pride often goes before the fall.”

In the interludes between the important activities that occupy my time, like watching tv series, doing BOLLI homework, reading my ever-growing pile of recommended books, and watching the stock market, I occasionally take a beak to reread and admire my published work. Today, I was happily perusing my recent piece on Harry Potter when I came upon a paragraph that didn’t sound correct. I realized I had violated one of the cardinal rules of non-fiction writing. I had relied on my memory (which has lately become less and less reliable) to recall some facts which led me reach an unjustified conclusion. I didn’t check the facts. While fact checking does not seem currently in vogue, I highly recommend it for those with integrity.

Here is what happened.  I had recalled that Professor Slughorn, a character first appearing in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had formed a “club” to which he invited only students who were either from very noteworthy wizarding families or students from less notable wizarding families who themselves possessed extraordinary talents and were likely to become noteworthy. The Professor sought to elevate himself by cultivating contacts with rich and famous wizards. Based on this recollection. I speculated that the Slughorn character might have been based on Professor Harold Bloom, the Yale literary critic.  I suggested the possibility that Professor Slughorn, and by implication, Professor Bloom, was an insufferable snob, a social climber and a bigot.

When I checked the source, I confirmed that Professor Slughorn did select his invitees based on  family prominence or extraordinary talents. Those receiving invitations included Neville (famous Auror parents), Harry (the Chosen one) and Ginny (because of her amazing hexing powers). All three were “purebloods.”  But Professor Slughorn’s favorite student had been Harry’s mother Lily, who was not a pureblood but, rather, a “Muggle.”  Furthermore, when the Professor became aware of Hermione’s extraordinary talents, she was invited to join without regard to her Muggle antecedents.

So I owe Professor Slughorn, and, by implication, Professor Bloom an apology and a retraction. Professor Slughorn is an insufferable snob and a social climber, but he is not a bigot. I should have checked my facts before I rushed to print.  Mea Culpa.

“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.  

                

 

 

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE WITH LARRY: GOTCHA!

Once again, Larry took the Writers Guild prompt, “Gotcha!” to an unusual place.   After all, we never know, do we?

 GOTCHA

by Larry Schwirian

It was only the middle of the month, but it was the third time the man’s flight had been delayed or cancelled. As he sat at the gate, trying not to become too frustrated or aggravated, he looked around the lounge and tried to determine which of his fellow travelers might be worth engaging in conversation. There was the svelte young woman, impeccably dressed with perfect posture who was diligently working on her I-pad; probably a preppie and an MBA graduate from an Ivy League school. Then, there was the grizzled middle-aged businessman, somewhat overweight, who hadn’t shaved this morning and obviously checking her out.  Another younger college-age woman had her headphones on and her eyes closed, clearly immersed in something on her I-phone. Finally, there was an older, seemingly genteel man reading The Sum of All Fears who appeared to be so engrossed in the novel that he was oblivious to everything else.

The man picked up his carry-on bag and moved to the seat next to the older gentleman. As he sat down, he said, “If you don’t mind, I noticed that you seem to be totally absorbed by Clancy’s novel. I am also a big fan and have read all his books. I wondered if you would like to discuss the book with me.” The gentleman introduced himself as William Dingle and indicated that this was only his second Clancy novel but that he was certain he would be reading others. The man introduced himself as Hermes Papadopoulos and asked where Dingle was in the book as he didn’t want to spoil what was to come.

Before beginning a discussion of the novel, William had to ask about his inquisitor’s name. “How did you end up with a name like Hermes?”

“My father was a college professor and a Greek scholar; he named me Hermes because Homer described Hermes as the Greek god who was the chief benefactor of mortals. Hermes was also considered be very cunning and a trickster. My father always said my mother, who loved to play tricks on him, had tricked him into getting her pregnant. Speaking of names, I can see why you don’t use your nickname: Bill-ding-le.”

“You have me there, my name was a topic of much derision in my youth, so I learned to use my proper name. So, why don’t you tell me more about Jack Ryan, as I gather this is not the first Tom Clancy book in which he is the chief protagonist.”

“The Sum of All Fears is actually the sixth in a series of eleven novels featuring Jack Ryan as the protagonist and the fourth of those novels to be turned into a major motion pictures,” Hermes replied. “What is it that you find interesting about Jack Ryan?”

“He just seems to be a larger-than-life action hero who’s always in danger from someone or something; he’s smarter, more prescient, more of a man’s man than his contemporaries and seems to enjoy life to the fullest. I sometimes wonder if there are real people like him out there somewhere.”

Hermes reminded him that all Tom Clancy novels are fiction and that authors generally want their characters to be anything but boring. They continued to discuss the nuances, characters, and sub-plots of the novel for the next hour or so. Then the gate attendant picked up her microphone and requested that Tom Clancy please check in at the gate.  William craned his neck to see who would be stepping to the desk. Could it be the writer himself?

Hermes reached into his pocket, pulled out a business card, picked up William’s book, and signed it.  “Gotcha,” he whispered.  The very plain card was printed simply in large letters: Tom Clancy – Author

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.  

New SIG! Aging with Resilience and Enthusiasm

AGING WITH RESILIENCE AND ENTHUSIASM

by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

 

I am sure I’m not the only one who feels about 40 or so years younger than my birthdate reveals. When I pass a mirror, I wonder why my mother is looking at me before I shockingly acknowledge it’s me in the glass. Where have the years gone? Why do I feel they are flying by?

These are the kinds of questions that made me think about offering a new course at BOLLI. This past fall (2018), I offered a new five-week class, “Aging with Resilience, Cheerfulness, and Enthusiasm.”    Twenty people signed up., and when the class ended, everyone wanted more time.

So, with help and advice from Avi Bernstein, we agreed that a new Special Interest Group on Aging could be a good solution. Three members of the class (Ruth Kandel, Bonnie Seider, and Linda Wolfson) volunteered to help organize the SIG with me. And the new SIG, “Aging with Resilience and Enthusiasm,” was born!

The weather wasn’t great the first time our SIG met on March 6, 2019.  I was quite sure that a meeting at 9:30am, with the temperature at 18 degrees, was not going to be conducive to people showing up.  Imagine my surprise when 23 people filled the Blue Room with positive energy!  Everyone was excited to meet each other and share their ideas about aging. We were impressed by the interesting lives people are living and eager to hear about the issues of aging we each face. We had time to reflect on six quotations gathered by Linda and Sandy, which were hung around the room. People gravitated to discuss the one that resonated the most with them. The conversations were engaging! It was hard to get the group to leave the room to let the second period class enter.

Here’s just one quote from Michael Altshuler you might want to ponder:  “The bad news is that time flies; the good news is that you’re the pilot!”

Come and join us for informative and energizing discussions. Our monthly meetings will be April 3rd, May 8th, and June 5th in the Blue Room at 9:30am.  Our topic for April is “Living a Meaningful Life.”

Questions?  Contact Sandy Miller-Jacobs at  sandymj@gmail.com

 

 

THE WALTHAM MATTERS SIG: Cornelia Warren

Join Waltham Matters SIG for a discussion of Cornelia Warren and the properties she gave to the University of Massachusetts, the Girl Scouts, and the City of Waltham.  Dee Kricker, an active member of the Waltham community, will meet with us at BOLLI on Friday, April 12 from 10:30 AM to 12 Noon to lead the discussion.

Young Cornelia Lyman Warren by artist Alexandre Cabanel

Cornelia Lyman Warren, her Wikipedia entry indicates, was an American farmer and an educational and social service philanthropist, widely known for her investment in social improvement projects.  She was a trustee of Wellesley College, bought the location for Denison House, and ran a large model dairy farm on Cedar Hill in Waltham.

When she died in 1921, Warren’s will divided the farm among several non-profit organizations, but now, the future of the 58-acre    U. Mass Extension Center property on Beaver Street is uncertain.

Dee will explain the situation and tell us about the activities on the site that are now in jeopardy.  She will also focus on Cornelia Warren’s amazing life.

Questions?  Contact Sue Adams at:   scadams43@gmail.com

 

 

 

MEMOIR WRITING FROM MARGIE ARONS-BARRON

FISHING FOR A STORY…

By Margie Arons-Barron

They’re crammed into the glass jar, some gray or pinkish or maybe brown.  Some are inert, and others squirm.  All are slimy.  I force myself to reach into the jar and pull one out, holding it in my ten-year-old hand while, with the other, I force one end onto the hook, into the anus.  Or maybe it was the mouth.  I could never tell which.  I make sure the worm’s body covers the hook so the fish won’t know its dinner comes at a price.

I let the line out into Long Lake, dragging my “worm hand” in the water to wash off the slime.  I shiver with disgust, looking to my father for approval.  He knows everything about what the bass is thinking.  This inlet is rocky; he’ll hide in the vegetation.  A storm is coming; he’s more likely to bite.  Think like a bass, he tells me, and I nod as if I understand.

Sometimes the bass are not biting.  As the sun comes up, it’s pike that we entice.  We take them to our cabin to grill for breakfast.  Those shared times predate catch-and-release.

My father would face the bow, where I sat, his back to the motor, hand on the tiller.  Occasionally, our Johnson/Evinrude outboard would die, and I’d row the boat, stopping in one place or other depending on what my father believed the fish were thinking that day.

“Uh, Dad,” I said on one occasion.  “The motor is on fire.”

Swiveling on his seat, fearing conflagration, he loosened the clamps and dumped the engine into the lake.  “No point in going farther,” he shrugged, so I picked up the oars.  Blisters on my hands were a badge of our bonding.

Cynics dismiss bass fishing as a hobby, not a sport.  Bass fishing is hardly about reeling in a fifty-pound tuna.  It was my father’s sport, though, and I was grateful to share it with him.

Still, father-daughter bonding would go only so far.  Dad and his best fishing buddy were flying into Brown Paper Company property in northern Maine to fish for several days.  I longed to be included.  My hurt was extreme when he returned, sunburned and bearded, and revealed that the friend’s son, three years younger than I, had gone along.

Years later, when he lost his leg to diabetes, he couldn’t handle the instability of a small boat and settled for deep-sea excursions on charters.  The fishing was never the same for either of us.  Yet, on what would have been his hundredth birthday, my husband, sister, and I went deep-sea fishing out of Gloucester.  Post-hurricane, there were fifteen-foot swells.  Hearty men hung over the gunwhales, projectile vomiting.  Protected by pride and Bonine, I stayed the course and fished for six hours.

I owed it to my father.  My reward was fresh haddock for dinner—and a connection reaching well beyond the line cast over the water for some unsuspecting halibut with a big mouth.

BOLLI Matters Writer Margie Arons-Barron

After a long career in broadcast journalism, Margie has turned to writing memoir and fiction at BOLLI.  She has been a member of the Writers’ Guild and serves on the Journal committee.  She is also an avid and successful blogger.  You can read and subscribe to her blog at:  https://marjoriearonsbarron.com/

CREATIVE NONFICTION WITH DONNA JOHNS: THE LAWN MOWER MAN

The Lawn Mower Man

by Donna Johns

It started with a small act of kindness.

Rodney Smith Jr. saw an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He pulled over and offered to finish the job for free. While he was mowing, he thought about all the people who might need this kind of help: the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, veterans. By the time he finished his first lawn, he had committed himself to mowing fifty lawns. He found his clients through Twitter and word of mouth.

Fifty lawns turned into a hundred. Since Rodney didn’t own a mower and some of his clients didn’t have the equipment, he contacted someone on Craigslist who was selling a mower. When Rodney explained his mission, the man gave him the mower. That’s when Rodney realized he could ask for what he needed and people, inspired by his mission, would be happy to help.

Rodney’s next project was more ambitious. He decided to mow lawns in all fifty states. Underwritten by lawn mower companies and private donations, he set out in 2017 to meet his goal. Every family he helped was featured in his Twitter feed. They included veterans suffering from PTSD, moms working three jobs to keep food on the table, elderly widows living alone. He also sampled cuisine from each state; he was not a fan of New England clam chowder.

Returning home to Alabama, Rodney completed his Masters in social work but decided that his true calling was on the road, highlighting the needs present in every community. He grew his one act of kindness by forming a group for young people called the Fifty Lawn Challenge. Hundreds of children have pledged to mow fifty lawns in their communities for free, and the numbers grow with every state he visits.

After a second summer touring the fifty states, Rodney had raised a significant amount of money. He spent part of this past winter reaching out to the homeless in his home state of Alabama. Armed with a trunk full of survival kits (sleeping bags, heavy socks, warm jackets, gloves) and cash cards donated by businesses, he traveled through the state highlighting the plight and the dignity of the homeless. He would approach a homeless person and simply ask them what they really wanted or needed.

Many of them longed for a hot shower and a soft bed for the night. Rodney handed out vouchers for two days at a local hotel. A lot of them wanted cell phones so they could look for work and have a way to have an employer call them. Two brothers in North Carolina just wanted bus tickets so they could go home to see their family. Rodney left each person knowing that someone cared enough to reach out and connect with them.

His newest project? He’s raising money each month for someone in short term financial trouble. Each month he asks his supporters to vote on some candidates submitted to him through his huge social network. Last week he delivered a check to a single mother in Texas whose son has a serious medical problem.

And, of course, he still mows lawns when he sees someone in need.

You can support Rodney’s work at http://weareraisingmen.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

“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. 

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: Firsts

 

by Steve Goldfinger

At age ten, I went to my first opera, Four Saints in Three Acts. Its composer was Vaughan Williams. Its librettist, Gertrude Stein. The line, “Pigeons on the grass alas” was her most memorable absurdity. Some of my classmates who were there with me probably still remember it. They may also recall that, not long afterward, we were taken to see a play performed by the Jean Louis Barrault company. As it was entirely in French, I am certain not a single word of it remains in our minds.

So, why were we fifth graders bused from PS 193 into the big city for these bewildering performances? Well, we were a group of bright kids selected from various elementary schools across Brooklyn who would comprise a so-called “opportunity” class that would last from grades 5 through 8. Our curriculum was intended to maximize what was thought to be our potential.

It wasn’t all artsy stuff. Back in 1946, we had some serious discussions about the world and concluded that communism was probably best for China. That same year, Miss Sullivan taught us about propaganda techniques in advertising. I learned not to be duped by testimonials and glittering generalities.

My mind was challenged.

I witnessed my first death in 1946.  Fred Cornman’s father, a musician, came in to play the piano for the class.  We sat in the auditorium, listening. Suddenly, a clamor of discordant notes erupted from the piano as he slumped onto to the keyboard. And at that moment, for the only time in my life, I heard a loud death rattle.  I knew exactly what was happening. I raced from my seat down an aisle to the back exit to escape. Miss Sullivan was close behind me, running to the principal’s office.

I can still hear that rattle.

I fell in love for the first time in the eighth grade. Her name was Paula. She sat next to me. She was beautiful, clearly the most popular girl in the class. The rare Sadie Hawkins Day (February 29th) was traditionally when girls would ask boys to a dance. I couldn’t bear the thought that she might ask someone else, so I oafishly pre-empted her by inviting her to go with me. She accepted. Over the next months, my thoughts were torrid; our behavior was chaste. I remember the thrill of her allowing me to put my arm around her shoulder at a movie. I remember kissing her at her door. It was the first time we kissed. I mean really kissed.  And it was the last time we dated. We went to separate high schools.  So obsessed was I with Paula that I did not date again until my senior year.

My heart still skips a beat when I think of her seventy years later.

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI a few years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.

MARCH CHEF’S CORNER: WHAT DOES A TEST COOK EAT?

WHAT DOES A TEST COOK EAT?

(Click on picture or on “America’s Test Kitchen” below  to connect to video)

from John Rudy

Here is a 1-week report detailing what a test cook on America’s Test Kitchen (my favorite source of recipes) eats all day, along with a good explanation of why things were done in the way that they were.  Enjoy!

“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.)

 

 

 

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP INVITATION: Hardy Pond Watershed Talk

THE HARDY POND WATERSHED

Are you interested in the ecology of Waltham and neighboring areas?  BOLLI’s Waltham Matters SIG is delighted to pass along an invitation to learn more about the Hardy Pond Watershed.  Hardy Pond is a gem located in the Lakeview neighborhood of North Waltham and extends over 900 acres into Lexington.

On Thursday, March 21, all are welcome to join in a discussion of the Watershed at the Lexington Auditorium at Brookhaven (1010 Waltham Street, Lexington.) Organizers and discussion leaders are members of the Waltham Land Trust, the Hardy Pond Association and Bob Hartzell, a lakes and ponds expert.

Questions, comments, etc. about this venture and/or about the BOLLI Waltham Matters SIG should be directed to Sue Adams at:  scadams43@gmail.com