All posts by swurster

FEBRUARY SENIOR MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: NARROW BRIDGE

NARROW BRIDGE

by Liz David

In 1988, I wrote a thesis entitled “A Narrow Bridge” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for my Masters Degree in Expressive Therapies from Lesley College. The major purpose of the thesis was to explore fears and how they get in the way of healing and then to conceptualize ways to deal with fear.

“Life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end, and the main thing, the main thing, is not to be afraid,”  said Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav.

The following is a piece I discovered as I was researching the thesis. I offer it as an inspiration and a challenge.

                                                TRANSFORMATION

The old woman who was wicked in her honesty asked questions of her mirror.  When she was small she asked, “Why am I afraid of the dark? Why do I feel I will be devoured?” And her mirror answered, “Because you have reason to fear. You are small, and you might be devoured.  Because you are nothing but a shadow, a wisp, a seed, and you might be lost in the dark.”

And so she became large. Too large for devouring.  From that tiny seed of a self, a mighty form grew, and now it was she who cast shadows. But after a while, she came to the mirror again and asked, “Why am I afraid of my bigness?” And the mirror answered, “Because you are big.  There is no disputing who you are.  And it is not easy for you to hide.”

And so she began to stop hiding. She announced her presence.  She even took joy in it. But still, when she looked in her mirror she saw herself and was frightened, and she asked the mirror why.  “Because,” the mirror said, “no one else sees what you see, no one else can tell you if what you see is true.”  So, after that, she decided to believe her own eyes.

Once, when she felt herself growing older, she said to the mirror, “Why am I afraid of birthdays?”  “Because,” the mirror said, “there is something you have always wanted to do, and you know time is running out.”  And she ran from the mirror as quickly as she could because she knew, in that moment, that she was not afraid, and she wanted to seize the time.

Over time, she and her mirror became friends, and the mirror would weep for her in compassion when her fears were real.  Finally, her reflection asked her, “ What do you still fear?” And the old woman answered, “I still fear death.  I still fear change.”  And her mirror agreed.  “Yes, they are frightening. Death is a closed door,” the mirror flourished, “and change is a door hanging open.”

“Yes, but fear is a key,” laughed the wicked old woman, “and we still have our fears, “ she smiled.

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So, “life is but a narrow bridge with no beginning and no end and the main thing, the main thing is not to be afraid.”

If we can teach ourselves to approach life as a bridge with no beginning and no end, as if life were an endless bridge onto which we are placed on a section labeled “present,” then we have the potential for healing our wounds rather than remaining stuck in our pining for past desires or future hopes, both of which are fantasies that do not serve us because they remove us from the present.

There are no magic formulas for overcoming fear but developing the skills it takes “not to be afraid” is possible.

It takes courage!

  1. Develop understanding and knowledge of our fears
  2. Develop awareness and sensitivity to the times when we are afraid, in the moments of fear itself.
  3. You may think it is not possible, but try making a decision not to be afraid, or, at least, to put fear on the back burner.
  4. Imagine making a choice whether or not to be fearful, scared, or worried about the future.
  5. Imagine making a choice not to be afraid of change, loss, death
  6. Imagine, as the old woman in the piece above did, choosing to make fear the key to moving beyond fear into living a fearless life!
  7. It takes courage!

Courage may not be the absence of fear but, rather, courage enables us to move ahead in spite of fear.

Rollo May once said that “To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”

Courage seems to be connected with knowing that there are choices and the ability to make them in the face of fear. Returning to the metaphor of life as a bridge, imagine this life-bridge as filled with choices. We do not choose to be born.  Most of us do not choose to die. We choose on the life-bridge between.  Rabbi Nachman’s life-bridge is the dwelling place of the things we have the most control over–our choices.

May also said that  “A man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day.  These decisions require courage.”

Courage gives us the ability to make choices knowing that mistakes are possible and making them anyway.  Our  choices further our quest to live life without being afraid. This requires knowledge of the self,  being self-centered  in a way that has nothing to do with being selfish but has a lot to do with authenticity.

May talks about courage as well.  “Courage is not a personal virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity,” he says.  “It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values.  He  also points out that courage comes from the same stem as the French word Coeur, meaning heart.

LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF

My name is Courage

I live in the place of the heart

My door is always open to friends

And strangers alike—welcoming all

I can be very helpful when danger or fear develop

But like it most when I can just hang out

My favorite color is white, which allows me to be quite visible

But not alarming

What is puzzling is that people seem to forget about me living in their hearts

They behave as if they don’t know I exist

Or, worse yet, they know I am there and are afraid to make friends with me

Sometimes I feel crowded in my residence

Because the owner of the heart sublets to fear

And fear thinks it owns the owner

But I am honest, confident and valiant

And the main thing, the main thing is…

I am not afraid

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“Senior Moment” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right)

My passion is to help others to gain deeper understanding of themselves and the changes, losses, gains, and glories of aging. So, “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”

 

 

 

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERIES: APPRECIATING POE

“Our Ms. Brooks,” mystery novel afficionado and SGL, writes a weekly blog focusing on titles and authors both new and “seasoned.”  As I explored her “Masters and Mistresses” collection, I happened on this tribute to Poe and thought you might enjoy it.  Thank you, Marilyn!

(Clicking on Marilyn’s title below will take you to her website and a deep well of material!)

EDGAR ALLAN POE: An Appreciation

Well, a bit of an apology is in order.

Last December 28th I wrote an appreciation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In it I said that “To me, he is the father of the modern mystery story (apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, but that’s my opinion).”

One of my readers wrote last month to suggest that I write an appreciation of Poe.  He said that writing a post wouldn’t necessarily mean that I liked Poe, only that Poe shouldn’t be excluded.  And Mr. W. R. B., you are right; Poe certainly is a worthy Master.

Of course I had read many of Poe’s stories, as I imagine most people have, either in high school or in college.  In my mind Poe was quite old-fashioned, and his stories were not up to the caliber of Doyle’s.

I have just re-read two of Poe’s stories, “The Murder in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.”  While I still think that Poe’s stories are harder for the modern reader to find engrossing than Doyle’s, I was struck by something unexpected.  I had not realized how much Sherlock Holmes owed to Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin.  The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental; I believe that Doyle read Poe’s works (Doyle was fifty years younger than Poe and was born ten years after Poe’s death) and took several of his devices and plots and made them his own.

First there is the obvious pairing of a brilliant, eccentric detective with a not-as-astute narrator (Auguste Dupin/the unnamed narrator vs. Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson).  Of course, this device came to be used by many other authors, including Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot/Captain Arthur Hastings) and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin).  In fact, avid mystery readers are familiar with the fact that the vowels in Sherlock Holmes are repeated in their exact order in Nero Wolfe.  A very clever homage, in my opinion.

Second is the way each author shows the brilliant reasoning power of his detective.  In “Rue Morgue,” Dupin and the narrator are taking a stroll.  There has been no conversation between them when Dupin says, “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Theatre des Varietes.”  After a moment, the narrator realizes that Dupin has exactly followed his thought process since, in fact, he had been thinking that the particular actor was better suited to comedy than tragedy because of his extremely small stature.  The narrator insists that the detective explain, which Dupin does, showing how seven steps have enabled him to follow his friend’s thoughts perfectly.

In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” Holmes and Watson have been seated in silence for several hours when Holmes remarks, “So, Watson, you do not propose to invest in South African securities?”  Admitting his total astonishment at Holmes’ statement, Watson asks how Holmes came to that conclusion.  The detective tells him, showing how in six steps he went from seeing chalk between Watson’s fingers to deducing that Watson had decided against the investment.

And third is the “coincidence” of plot.  In “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin visits a man suspected of having an incriminating letter he plans to use for blackmail hidden in his apartment.  When a shot is heard outside, the shot having been arranged by Dupin as a diversion, the man rushes to the window and Dupin is able to substitute an identical-looking letter and leave with the original.

In the plot of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes tricks his way into Irene Adler’s home to find out where she keeps the photograph of herself and her former lover, the photograph the lover has hired Holmes to find.  The detective has arranged for a fake call of “fire” from outside to force Irene to reveal where she has hidden the picture, her most valuable possession.

Even granting that some of Doyle’s writing owes a great deal to Poe, I believe that Doyle comes out ahead.  His style is much more natural, his characters more realistic.  So, although both men were gifted writers, my vote still goes to Doyle.  In my opinion, it’s a case of the student surpassing the teacher.

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

My blog, published every Saturday, can be found at:   www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

 

 

 

FROM SUE’S “SMALL SCREEN”-ING ROOM: SOME GOOD SOAP…

SOME GOOD SOAP

by Sue Wurster

It’s that time of year again–when many of us retreat into our cocoons and pull out the remote.  And for me, when that time comes round, there is nothing more satisfying than a good, solid dose of Masterpiece Theatre style soap.   Ever since the debut of Upstairs, Downstairs  in this country,  I’ve been hooked on British television.

Last year, my binge of choice was Doc Martin followed by Call the Midwife.   I recently discovered Land Girls, which helped to ease my pain over the cancellation of Home Fires after only two seasons that ended on quite the cliffhanger…I guess we’ll never know why the show was cancelled or who ended up falling over the cliff’s edge…

Land Girls was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 70th year since the outbreak of World War II.  The three-season series  (15 episodes in all) follows four volunteer members of the Women’s Land Army who are working in the fields at the Hoxley family estate during the war.

Another gem set in a small rural community in England during the war is Home Fires.  The focus, in this case, is on the women who comprise the local Women’s Institute who devote their energies to various and sundry home front causes during the war.   The cast is led by the marvelous Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, and the only disappointment in the two series is that there has not been a third…

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At the moment, I am completely addicted to the acclaimed Australian series,  A Place to Call Home.   Often referred to as “Downton Down Under,” the series is set in post WWII Australia and focuses on the central character of Sarah Adams who, after twenty years absence, has recently returned to the country to start a new life.  The wonderfully enigmatic Marta Dusseldorp fully embodies the role of the mysterious Sarah in this highly satisfying soap.

Interestingly, A Place to Call Home was originally slated to run for two seasons, and the last episode of the second wraps up the various plot lines quite nicely.  But when given the unexpected go-ahead for an additional season, that ending was revamped.  There’s something quite engaging about being able to see both.  Luckily, it went on to enjoy not only a third but fourth and fifth seasons as well (and they all consist of 10 or more episodes), so, as I’m currently in the middle of season three,  I’m in good shape for a while.

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Of course, I’ve often wondered just why it is that I so prefer British television to American, and I’ve decided that it has to do with focus.  To me, BBC storytelling seems to be driven by character rather than by situation–and for me, that seems to provide more “heart” to the mix.

These items are available on DVD.  Land Girls is available on Netflix, and Home Fires is on Amazon Prime Video.   A Place to Call Home is streaming on Acorn TV and Britbox.  (If you’re a BBC junkie like me, the latter two are well worth the price.)

BOLL Matters co-editor Sue Wurster

So, if you’ve got suggestions for me and my fellow BBC addicts, please share in the box below!

WHAT’S ON MY MIND? Ursula K. Le Guin…

                                    URSULA K. LE GUIN:                                         WHO PROVIDED DIRECTION…

Science Fiction Writer Ursula K. Le Guin

from Sue Wurster

This week, we lost one of the brightest lights in our science fiction cosmos:  Ursula K. Le Guin.  Over the course of her 90 years, this prolific writer added more than 100 short stories, 4 collections of essays, 7 volumes of poetry, and 19 novels to our collective shelves.

While I devoured much of all that she provided us, it was two of those short stories and one speech that taught me how to see…and, thus, think.  The two stories are Direction of the Road and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.  Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons? she asks in a speech delivered in Clarion, Pennsylvania in 1974.

Direction of the Road  is a short, dramatic monologue about Progress beginning  with the line, “They didn’t used to be so demanding.”  The speaker is an oak tree who talks, essentially, about the relativity of motion–growing and diminishing for the drivers/passengers who travel her road.  As humans begin to travel that road at higher and higher speeds, her abilities are severely tested until, at one point, a driver “completely violates the direction of the road” and hits her.  It is in hat moment that the tree loses her immortality–the driver saw her in her fullest being and saw nothing else ever again.    It is this loss that the tree protests.  (to read the full story, click here:  Direction of the Road)

The story was apparently inspired by one particular tree that was situated along the side of a country road Le Guin often traveled in the Portland, Oregon area where she lived.  The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas was also inspired by her Oregon drives–specifically, the sign she saw, backward, in her rearview mirror:  “You are now leaving Salem, O.”  In this compelling short story/utilitarian philosophic exploration, Omelas and its inhabitants live serenely, happily, and without guilt…on a foundation constructed of cruelty.  (to read the full story, click here:  The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas).

Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons? was delivered at 1974’s Clarion writers’ workshop at Clarion State College.  In that address, Le Guin talked about the place (or non-place) of fantasy in our society.   I was totally able to relate to her opening story about going to the children’s room of her local library to find a copy of The Hobbit only to be told that “Oh, we don’t keep that in the children’s room.  We don’t believe that kind of fantasy is good for children.”  So, she went to the adult room only to be told that “Oh, we don’t keep children’s books here.”   For quite a long time in this country, we had this sort of “logjam mindset” when it came to fantasy.   (to read the full speech, click here:  Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?)

Le Guin, born Ursula Kroeber, was raised in Berkeley, California.  Her father was the noted anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber, and her mother was the writer Theodora Kroeber.  Clearly, intellectualism and scholarship were valued when it came to her upbringing.  And she reveled in it.  She graduated from Radcliffe and studied at Columbia University before settling in Portland, Oregon to write.

Several of her novels–including The Left Hand of Darkness, her first major work of science fiction–have been heralded for her ground-breaking and radical utilitarianism.  Other strikingly effective pieces include the powerful novella, The Word for the World is Forest as well as The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven, and the children’s fantasy series, The Wizard of Earthsea.

Le Guin  received the National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, SFWA’s Grand Master, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Howard Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award.  She was a  finalist for the American Book Award (three times) as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

What did I learn from Ursula Le Guin that has stuck with me all these years?  To paraphrase a line from Direction of the Road, “if human beings will not understand Relativity, they must come to understand Relatedness.”

Thank you, Ms. Le Guin, for providing so many truly unique standpoints from which to view our world!

BOLLI Matters Co-Editor Sue Wurster

Speculative and science fiction give  me a chance to stand on my head in a way I was never able to do in P.E.  Other favorite writers include Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, and, of course, that wonderful word man Ray Bradbury.

 

JANUARY’S “CHEF’S CORNER” WITH JOHN RUDY: EGG-LEMON LAMB WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS

EGG-LEMON LAMB WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS

from John Rudy

In Greek, it’s: αρνί με αγκινάρες, pronounced ar-NEE meh ahg-kee-NAH-res

A Greek classic but made differently by every family.  Be sure to include bones since they are a traditional part of this dish. The tangy egg-lemon sauce (AVGOLEMONO) is the crowning touch,  added just before serving.

Many years ago, we went to a restaurant in Cambridge called The Acropolis and had this dish, or something like it, maybe 3-4 times a year for 25 years.  Then they went out of business.  Years later, the chef resurfaced in a restaurant in Arlington, and I tried to get the recipe from him.  He kept putting me off, and then, that restaurant went out of business too.  I scoured the cookbooks, and then we went to Greece.  We ordered this dish a few times but it wasn’t right, but eventually, we found it, and the chef gave me a “sketch” of the recipe.  After a lot of tuning,  this is the result.

It is hard to find decent artichoke hearts.  I get them from the salad bar at Whole Foods.  Lamb shanks are really best but not easy to find.

Yield: serves 6

Ingredients

2¼  lbs      artichoke hearts

4 Tbs         lemon juice (2 lemons)

2 tsp          salt

⅔ cup        olive oil

2 small       spring onions, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

4½  lbs      leg and shank of lamb, bone in, chopped into large chunks OR 3 pounds of lamb, cut into large chunks and 1 pound of lamb bones

3½ cups     water

 

Egg-lemon sauce

2                eggs, separated

6 tbs       lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

 Instructions

  1. Rinse artichoke hearts with cold water, put in a bowl, and cover with juice of 2 lemons.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
  2. Put the oil, chopped onion, and meat (and bones, if separate) in a pressure cooker over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover (don’t seal) and brown for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil.  Seal, bring to full pressure, reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.

Use fast-release of pressure and open the pressure cooker. Drain the artichokes and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, seal, and bring back to full pressure. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, use fast-release of pressure, and unseal the cover, leaving it on top of the pot.

  1. Make avgolemono sauce:In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Still using the high setting, beat in the egg yolks until frothy, then beat in the juice of 3 lemons, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure it’s well melded after each addition.  The mixture will be rich and foamy.  Reduce mixer speed to medium and add 5 soup ladles of the meat broth, one at a time, making sure each mixes in well before adding the next.  Slowly pour the egg-lemon mixture into the pot, and shake to distribute evenly (do not stir).
“Chef’s Corner” 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.)

MEMOIR WRITING FROM STEVE GOLDFINGER: TWINKLE TOES

The Writers Guild prompt was “Show us your fancy footwork!”  which took Steve back in time.

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

TWINKLE TOES

by Steve Goldfinger

They don’t call me “Twinkle Toes” without reason.  No, they do it for laughs.  In fact, they call it”Danse Macabre” when I get on the floor.

It all began–or, in truth–didn’t begin when my mother insisted that I take dance lessons from an adolescent neighbor.  The girl was 2 years older and  7 inches taller than me as we partnered in her parents’ living room.  As her Victrola played out scratchy tunes, I looked up at her slightly sweaty, acne-laden face.  I watched her nod as she counted out the rhythm.  My feet would plunk down on the spots on the floor that she pointed to with her eyes.

I told my mother not to worry because I would never fall for a girl who liked to dance, so there was no need for me to acquire that particular skill.

And please, Mom, I do not want to take elocution lessons.

*

When I married Barbara, she had just graduated from Brooklyn College where she had been president of the modern dance company.  It was a culmination of years of classes, practice, and performances.  I loved watching her dance.  I loved everything about her.  I foresaw a marriage challenged only at bar mitzvah and marriage celebrations when hired bands would blast out their dance invitations.  She was really pretty good at leading me around the floor, smiling as though enjoying herself and not wincing when one of my feet would squash one of hers.  Thanks to a lot of at-home practice, the one dance we could do passably well was the cha-cha.  I somehow thought of it as a Jewish dance, probably because it was so popular at all those celebrations.

My friend Sam knew only one dance step, which I saw him perform in ludicrous manner many years ago.  It was at El Bodegon, a very good Spanish restaurant in Washington that had a small stage facing the tables.  Once each evening, the music would boom out from speakers, and two beautiful girls in frilly costumes would come out and perform wild flamenco dances.  Then, invariably, they would try to get one of the diners to get up on the stage with them.  The Latin music blared when Sam was cajoled into joining them.  Then, he launched into the one step he knew…the Charleston.  It almost worked if you had drunk enough Valencia.

My most ridiculous dance experience occurred during my internship year at the Massachusetts General Hospital.  On a weekend when Barbara was visiting her folks in Brooklyn, my resident–a charming and very persuasive guy–asked…no, virtually commanded…that I “double date” with him.  He was going to a square dance with his girlfriend, and her housemate was to be my partner.

And so, she was.  Guilt shrouded every second of my time with her.  Betrayal, thy name is Stephen!  Abandon, ye, all hope of reparation!

I wonder if Myrna is still telling the story about the deaf mute who once took her to a square dance.

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Share your memories with the BOLLI community by submitting memoir writing (of approximately 500 words) to BOLLI Matters co-editor Sue Wurster at susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

MEMOIR WRITING FROM DENNIS GREENE: ESCAPING TO IMAGINARY WORLDS

ESCAPING TO IMAGINARY WORLDS

by Dennis Greene

In 1952, when I was an undersized, under-aged, socially inept eight -year–old, my family relocated from a working class neighborhood in Queens, New York, to one of the most disadvantaged school districts in New Bedford, Massachusetts. For the next seven years I tried to find my place in this unwelcoming new world, and when the struggle got me down, I escaped to the amazing worlds created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne,  H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, E.E.”Doc” Smith and all the other extraordinary science fiction and fantasy writers of the early and mid-twentieth century. Many of these books were out of print in the 1950s, but I searched the glass-floored stacks of the New Bedford Free Public Library to obtain transport to these imaginary worlds. These flights of fantasy turned a potentially lonely and unhappy period of my childhood into a time I look back on with fond nostalgia.

I recall a time in tenth grade when it seemed the arc of my adolescence was finally on the upswing. I had a bunch of new basketball playing friends, and I was one of the better players. We played every afternoon in Buttonwood Park or in the Dartmouth High gym. I had finally experienced a growth spurt, and my jump shot had improved to the point where I was confident I would be selected to play on the JV team. All the other guys striving for places told me I was a sure bet to make it. On the Friday when the team roster was posted, the whole bunch of us crowded in front of the bulletin board to see the list. I ran my eyes over the list several times quickly, then a few more times very slowly; then I just stared at it with a sick, empty feeling in my gut. I didn’t make the team. The names of several much weaker players were on the list, but no matter how long I stared, mine was not.

I was devastated. After staring at the list for an eternity, I fled for home without saying a word to anyone. I made myself a ham, Swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on seeded light rye with mayo and retreated to my room. There, I spent the weekend re-reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Princess of Mars and doing lots of sleeping. I emerged on Sunday evening, still pissed off and disappointed but ready to again face the world. That quick trip to Barsoom to be with John Carter, Tars Tarkas and the incomparable Deija Thoris helped me get through a tough few days.

Like many disappointments, failing to make the team turned out to be a good thing. After moping around the house for a week or two, my mom and dad had had enough. One way or another, they convinced me to fill my time doing other stuff while all my Dartmouth friends practiced basketball. I grudgingly took their advice, and during that tenth-grade basketball season, I tried out and got a role in a high school play, joined a co-ed bowling team at the Jewish Community Center, and there met a group of guys who invited me to play on their church league basketball team. We won the New England Championship, and I acquired a new group of wonderful friends, including several girls. If I had made the JV team, I would have missed all that.

The following year, I did make the JV team, and my senior year I was a starter on the worst varsity basketball team in Dartmouth High’s history. The coach was not impressed with the basketball ability of our collection of short, slow, honor society members, as we compiled a losing 6 and 9 record, but in later years, he referred to us as the “smartest” group he ever coached. So everything did turn out fine.

Fifty-seven years later, on Nov. 9, 2016, I woke up and tuned in to the election results to learn that Donald Trump was our President-elect. I stared at the television with the same blank stare I had used in 1959 to peruse that JV basketball roster, but again, the result did not change. Again, I made myself a ham, Swiss cheese and tomato sandwich on light rye with mayo and retreated to my bedroom.  This time I re-read a collection of  Poul Anderson’s Polytechnic League stories about the heroic intergalactic traders Nicholas van Rijn and David Fayaden. I emerged a few days later, ready to face the world we live in.  I still believe that speculative literature can be a remedy for depression and despair if the right works are selected and the reader is able to escape to that other world and let his or her imagination embrace the epic scope and optimistic outlook of these heroic adventures. So if you are ever feeling down, just pick up a copy of Dune or Game of Thrones and go on an adventure.

Dennis Greene joined BOLLI a year ago and for the past two semesters has begun to acquire a liberal education. He spent his early years in and around New Bedford, Massachusetts as a reclusive bookworm, avid Boy Scout, high school basketball player and thespian. After graduating Dartmouth High School, Dennis obtained a vocational education studying engineering, business administration and law. He then spent over four decades as an engineer, lawyer, husband, father of two daughters, and pop culture devotee. He now lives in Wellesley where he is writing a coming of age memoir, trying to improve his golf game, attending courses at BOLLI and taking frequent naps.

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Share your memories with the BOLLI community by submitting memoir writing (of approximately 500 words) to BOLLI Matters co-editor Sue Wurster at susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: A LITTLE TECH HUMOR

There is only so much technical advice that I can give and that you will accept.  So, for a change of pace, I’m providing material in part provided by Ron Levy and Mike Segal.  But who knows where jokes come from?  Even those which show attribution might well be taken from elsewhere.  So my apologies in advance.  And if anyone is easily insulted, this is a good place to stop.

A LITTLE TECH HUMOR

We had a power cut at our house this morning, and my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad & my new-surround sound music system were all shut down.

Then I discovered that my mobile phone battery was dead, and to top it off, it was raining outside, so I couldn’t play golf.

I went into the kitchen to make coffee, and then I remembered that this also needs power, so I sat and talked with my wife for a couple of hours.

She seems like a nice person.

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Many computer problems are rather easily resolved.  Have you ever done something and got a Microsoft error message like this?

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An email arrives one morning:

Hi, Chris, this is Alan from next door.  I have a confession to make.I’ve been riddled with guilt these past few months and have been trying to pluck up the courage to tell you to your face, but I am at least now telling you in text as I can’t live with myself a moment longer without you knowing.

The truth is – I’ve been sharing your wife, day and night, a lot lately. In fact, probably more than you. I haven’t been getting it at home recently, but that’s no excuse, I know. The temptation was just too much. I can no longer live with the guilt, and I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and forgive me. It won’t happen again.
Please suggest a fee for usage and I’ll pay you.

Regards, Alan


Chris, feeling insulted and betrayed, grabs his gun and shoots his neighbor dead.  He returns home, pours himself a stiff drink, and sits down on the sofa.  Taking out his phone, he sees a subsequent message from his neighbor:

Hi, Chris, this is Alan again from next door.  Sorry about that typo on my last text. But I expect you figured it out anyway and that you noticed that the darned Auto Correct changed “WiFi” to “Wife.”

Regards, Alan

*

And then, there’s the doctor…

A man walks into an optician’s office.

“Doctor,” he says, “I’m having real trouble using my computer.  Unless I’m looking right at my keyboard, mouse, or printer, I just can’t see any of them.”

“Ah”, said the optician, “I know what’s wrong. You’ve got a problem with your peripheral vision.”

*

Need a password?

I needed a password eight characters long so I picked “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”

*

And now for the final one…

Three engineers were riding in a car: a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer, and a Microsoft software engineer. The car stalled, and they rolled it to the side of the road.

The mechanical engineer popped the hood, looked in, and said, “Look. The drive belt is loose. All we have to do is tighten it up, and the car will work just fine.”

The chemical engineer replied, “No, that’s all wrong. The problem is fuel contamination. We have to drain the fuel, filter it, and then everything will be A-OK.”

The Microsoft software engineer told the other two, “No, I’ve seen this problem before. We have to get back in the car, close all the windows, shut down the car, get out, get back in, start up the car, open all the windows, and then it will run.”

Back to important stuff next month.

BOLLI Matters “Tech Talk” writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

MEMOIR WRITING FROM SAM ANSELL: THE RIGHT NUMBER

The Memoir Writing Course prompt was “The biggest risk you ever took.”  Sam was inspired to share a very special memory.

Memoir Writer Sam Ansell

THE RIGHT NUMBER

by Sam Ansell

At the time, I was living in a third-floor walk-up in Manhattan and earning a precarious living writing promotional material for a company that made tollbooths–no, not “Phantom Tollbooths.”  Real ones.  Hardly a chance to be creative.  I had no relationship whatsoever with with my fellow employees, nor, for that matter, with anyone else in New York.  So, every evening, I remained in my cramped little flat, either reading or listening to the radio, this being the pre-TV era.  Yes, I was very lonely, and my awful cooking only made things worse.

Then, early one evening, the phone rang.  An unknown young woman said, “Hi!  It’s me!  I’m visiting relatives in New York, so how about taking me out for dinner and a show?”

I was about to tell her that she had called the wrong number but thought better of it.  Why not take her out?  She might even be pretty–with any luck, a real cute number.  So, an hour later, I was pushing the doorbell of a Manhattan apartment.

The door opened, and there was one of the loveliest numbers I had ever encountered.  And one of the most indignant as well.

“Who are YOU?” she demanded.

“You called ME up,” I said.

Well, after about twenty minutes, we got it all straightened out.  And we did go out that evening.  And the next.  And the one after that.  And we’ve been inseparable ever since.

So, I’ve never been lonely again.  Or had to eat my own–ugh–cooking.  And she’s still a lovely number.

All of which goes to show you that, if you’re very lucky, a wrong number can get you the right number.

*

Share your memoirs with the BOLLI community–just send pieces (of approximately 500 words in length) to BOLLI Matters co-editor Sue Wurster at susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

LINES FROM LYDIA: WANT AD

JOBS IN EDUCATION

WANTED: Teacher with a Funny Bone

Cartoonist Roz Chast

Qualifications:

  • A deep personal commitment to the nexus of knowledge and laughter.
  • Experience reading and accepting the wit and wisdom of Roz Chast, born and raised in Brooklyn, who has been drawing since childhood.
  • Understanding and appreciation of the value of chintz covered chairs and Baroque picture frames, and, generally speaking, everything related to middle class America in the 1950’s.
  • Finely tuned communication skills, including but not limited to Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast 1978-2006, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
  • Advance a curriculum that would include discussions such as:

The artist’s reflections of everyday life and the power of black and white (she started with single panel black and white drawings) graphics.

Why Roz hand-lettered the title pages of her books, why her books feature a cartoon of herself rather than the typical author photograph, and other mysteries.

How the artist’s perspective on a family translates for you.  

During the summer, I started to assemble ideas and research for a five-week BOLLI course under the working title “Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned from Roz Chast.”

During the past few months as I immersed myself in four new BOLLI courses, I realized that I just don’t have the skills necessary to deliver this course myself.   Is there anybody out there who might like to do so?  If you’d be interested and  would like to see a potential bibliography for such a course before you decide, please let me know. Thanks for your time and interest!

Lydia Bogar (Toehead8@verizon.net)

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

 

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

 

 

 

 

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