I realize that this might come as something of a surprise, but I’m not exactly known for my athletic prowess. That lack of prowess, in fact, had much to do with my transferring from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio at the end of my junior year. At Otterbein, I was facing a 5-term PE requirement and had already failed badminton, fencing, folk dance, bowling, skiing, horseback riding — as well as folk dance for a second time. (I had an attendance issue — getting up for an 8 or even 9 am PE course was just not my cup of energy drink.) Not only did OU have no PE requirement, but it also happened to have the top speech team in the country. I’m not really sure which was the bigger draw.
BUT — despite my virtual disdain for all things athletic, I’ve always loved tennis. Not playing it, of course. Watching it. Billie Jean won my heart in the 60s and has been there ever since. Her pioneering efforts helped women get paid their due–as athletes, as professionals, and as partners. Her strength and courage–in tennis and in life–have inspired me and countless women for fifty years.
And at 73, she’s still at it — playing some tennis, coaching some tennis, mentoring tennis players, organizing and administering tennis events, and using her influence to work, wherever possible, for social justice causes — gender equality, social inclusion, “fair play.”
So, on a balmy Saturday in August of 2016, I was happily ensconced, once again, at the Hotel Lucerne on West 79th Street in New York City. This is a favorite located in my old neighborhood. It welcomes me when I need a Broadway fix or the company of old and dear friends and can pretty much always be counted on to provide another round of the perennial NYC pastime known as “star sighting.” My old friend Susan and I had just sat down at Nice Matin located just outside the hotel door. It is one of those good neighborhood restaurants you used to be able to find all over the city. We had met for an early lunch.
I had just been introduced to Susan’s beautiful new granddaughter (whose mother I had taught) when two women walked into the small, uncrowded space. I could feel the adrenalin rushing to every corpuscle as I leaned across the table to tell Susan who had just arrived in the restaurant. And then, I froze. The hostess was leading Billie Jean and her friend to the table next to us. Right next to us. Oh, my God! My heart lurched. She’s coming this way!
And the next thing I knew, Billie Jean King was sitting on the banquette seat. Right next to me. Like, maybe, an arm’s-length away. I had never been so completely starstruck. But, I realized, so was her friend — with the baby. She oohed, aahed, cooed, and asked all the right questions about this sweet little girl. At that point, the waiter arrived.
“Are you ready to order, ladies?” he asked, his gaze sweeping all of us, as if we were a party of four. And, suddenly, we were exactly that: a party of four. Talking, laughing, sighing — as if we had known each other for twenty years and hadn’t seen each other for ten.
I had been one of Billie Jean’s most loyal fans for fifty years. But now, I found myself looking at her in a completely different way. What a warm, gracious, totally accessible woman–who seems to actually enjoy meeting her fans. Well, actually, she seems to just enjoy meeting and talking to people in general–of all stripes. She is genuinely interested in others and what they do, think, and feel. She’s just…well, totally down to earth–real. And a lot of fun.
The time came for me to get myself moving toward the matinee I was to see, but while I didn’t want this time to end, departing gave me the opportunity to say something I’d always wanted to say to my idol who has done so much for so many–just “Thank you.”
“Want a picture?” she asked. Oh, be still my beating heart…
So, when I heard that a new movie was coming out about Billie Jean in her legendary Battle of the Sexes match with that obnoxious little troll, Bobby Riggs, I headed for the internet to figure out when it would be coming to a theatre near me–so I could be first in line for my discounted senior ticket. (Oh, I’m sorry. I guess my comment about Riggs could be considered disrespectful…sorry, trolls.) No movie can possibly do justice to either that event or Billie Jean herself. But I’m applauding–for all that she has done and continues to do for sports, for women, and social justice.
Okay, Billie Jean, if you can say that it was your respect for Riggs that led to your being able to beat him, I guess I can “go high” myself. Sorry, Bobby.
At BOLLI’s recent conference on creative retirement, representatives from the MAZIE Foundation were on hand to talk about their outstanding mentorship program. Our own Bob Keller has been working with MAZIE students for some time and hopes that his experience will inspire other BOLLI members to volunteer–this past term, he says, four students had to be turned away because they just didn’t have enough mentors.
BOB KELLER: VOLUNTEER EXTRAORDINARE
“I have been interested in social justice and community issues for a long time,” says Bob Keller. This was handed down to me by my parents, both of whom gave a lot to their communities. While I was a CFO of a couple of companies from 1977 to 1995, I also did community work. I coached soccer for my kid’s teams, and when the director of the All Newton Music School died suddenly and the program was in a tumultuous period, I stepped on board as Treasurer and tried to help.” His stepping in to help certainly did not stop there.
In 1987, along with two of his close college friends, Bob started a non-profit group, Mobile Diagnostic Services, which worked out of Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick. All three of us did this outside our regular jobs. Mobile Diagnostic Services was the only mobile mammography van in Massachusetts, doing about 4,000 mammography exams per year. “It was a tough business,” he says, “but we provided a critical service and saved lives.” The three volunteers managed the business and interpreted 4,000 mammography exams. Bob raised the funds to keep the program going. In 2003, the group turned their vans over to Dana Farber—no one else has been able to successfully operate mobile mammography in this state.
Bob’s interests have ranged from Mobile Diagnostic Services to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative where he served as fundraising director for this community organizing non-profit in a primarily Cape Verdean Roxbury community from 1997-2000. After retiring in 2004, he was a Board member at the All Newton Music School and as Board President started their capital campaign in 2005 to renovate the building (the renovation finally completed in 2017), and tutored MCAS math prep in Boston’s public high schools for 8 years under the auspices of “Partners in Education.” For the past 15 years, Bob has also been a Board member of the Commonwealth Chorale (formerly the Newton Choral Society). He and his wife Barbara have been singing with the Chorale for the past 41 years. “I’ve also been an SGL at BOLLI a few times, leading an Introduction to Choral Music course.And to top it all off, he is also a member of the Weston Library music committee.
But for Bob, what seems to be the volunteer experience he has found to be the most meaningful is his work with at-risk students at both Framingham and Waltham High Schools through the Mazie Foundation.
Founded in 1998, the mission of the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation is “to enable at-risk high school students to become adults of promise through goals-based mentoring.” The Foundation’s Mazie Mentoring Program, which has been operating at Framingham High since 1998 and at Waltham High School since 2010, helps aspiring students “set and achieve goals, graduate from high school, prepare to apply to college or other post-secondary training, and experience success.”
Each Mazie mentor provides a student with:
* personal, social, emotional, and educational support through high school;
* information, support, and skills for vital success in the workplace;
* advocacy and exposure in the areas of cultural, social, educational, and personal development;
* a role model, friend, and advisor with whom to explore all the riches of life and the world around them.
The mentoring commitment begins about half way through a student’s sophomore year and ends at high school graduation. Mentors are asked to meet with their mentees for an average of eight hours per month.
Over a period of seven years, Bob has mentored three at-risk students from Framingham and Waltham. Bob also became Board President in 2012 and has been leading a “managing Board” since Lowell Mazie, the CEO, founder and creator of the mentoring program, died in January 2016.
Bob describes how the program begins:
“Mentors and mentees are matched up at a Mazie gathering that takes place on a Saturday afternoon in October or March. After your mentee is identified, you play a few get-to-know-you games, and a two and one half year relationship begins. It’s awkward at first. In my case, I was about 60 years older than my first mentee—old enough to be his grandfather. I could feel the thought running through his head—how can I relate to this old white guy from the suburbs?”
That first mentee, Danny, was born in the U.S., but both of his parents came from the Dominican Republic. They spoke little English and understood little about American high school life or the college process. “Danny was captain of the football team and liked to appear macho,” Bob says. “It took a while to find the Danny that I grew to be very fond of—which seems to have started about three months in. When we were driving somewhere, Danny turned on a rap station and cranked up the volume very loud. Now, I don’t like rap or loud music, but I thought for a minute before saying: ‘Danny, you can pick the station, and then I get to adjust the volume.’ He pondered and then agreed. In some way, this broke the ice, and we started to trust each other.”
For the next year and a half, Bob helped Danny with his school work, his federal financial aid forms for college grants and loans, and his college applications. They visited U. Conn. in Storrs and, eventually, Dean College in Franklin where he was accepted and enrolled. It didn’t take him long, though, to learn that an expensive private college can end up limiting options rather than expanding them. So, he got a job waiting tables and working in the kitchen at a Hyatt Hotel and then after 8 years graduated with a BA from Framingham State. “His graduation in 2014 was an emotional day—for both of us,” Bob says. “I was so proud of him.”
Bob says he has sometimes wondered if his second mentee, Brandon, needed the program at all. He received every award that Maisie gives, including a laptop at the end of junior year. “When he graduated, I gave him my old bike which he used to get to Market Basket where he worked during his college years at Mass Bay Community College.”
“My latest mentee, Smaido, arrived in Waltham after the earthquake that killed over 160,000 people in Haiti. He has not seen his father since 2010 when left the island with his mother and younger brother. He spoke no English when he arrived. We met three years later, in February of 2013, when he was a sophomore at Waltham High School. Because Smaido attended church with his mother and brother every Sunday, we always got together on Saturdays.”
The two spent one of their first Saturdays visiting the deCordova Museum in Lincoln. Smaido had never been to a museum before, and he liked the structures in the sculpture garden. He didn’t much care for the modern art inside. They went to a street fair in Waltham Center in late April that year. While Smaido was interested from a distance, he did not get out of the car to participate—his caring mother had told him, after the Marathon bombing just a week or two earlier, to avoid crowds.
During Smaido’s junior year, “I got some orange cones from the local highway department and started teaching him to drive at an empty school parking lot near his apartment in Waltham. It was probably not acceptable as a mentoring activity, and it might even have been illegal,” Bob grins, “but it went a long way to helping him become more confident and outgoing. Parallel parking was the final exam I gave him”
Smaido worked hard in school, was named “Student of the Month” at Waltham High in November of his senior year where he took a very full load of six tough courses—physics, chemistry, pre-calculus, Spanish, English, and accounting. He also worked at an assisted living facility near his apartment. His guidance counselor and I both tried to convince him to reduce his load, but he stuck with it. He is determined to be a civil engineer. Bob arranged for a summer internship at a civil engineering firm in Waltham, between junior and senior high school years.
Eventually, Smaido was accepted at a small private school in New Hampshire and was wait-listed at Merrimac College that has a fine civil engineering program. Of course, we talked about going to a community college for two years and then transferring to a U. Mass campus. The tuition, of course, would be much lower than at Merrimac, a private school. “But once we visited Merrimac together, there was no turning back. He said he’ll pay back his loans when he becomes a civil engineer.”
Smaido is beginning his junior year at Merrimac. “He is far more confident than the shy young man I met in 2013, and I expect to be at his graduation in 2019,” Bob says. “His story is amazing.”
But, then, so is Bob’s.
After working on a merger possibility for over a year, Bob’s board was happy to announce on July 1 2017 that Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest will combine with the Mazie Foundation. BBBSCM Board Chair, Chris Lucas of Upton, comments that: “Both organizations share a fundamental belief in the amazing power that strong, positive mentoring can have in a young person’s life to change the path of possibilities of who and what they can become. Combining the Mazie Foundation with BBBSCM is a force multiplier where one plus one equals ten.”
Speechless and helpless. What to do in our vigil for Florida as Irma roars into the warm turquoise waters that many of us know and love? Pray.
My Florida memories are widespread, going back to 1955 when my parents took us to Hollywood to watch my uncle build a house on a golf course that featured a creek full of snakes and alligators. We returned many times over the next decade. We found comfort and peace there after my father’s death and were distracted by the flamingoes at Hialeah, the Parrot Jungle, the monkeys screeching on a swamp cruise, and the alligator wrestlers in the Seminole Village. Eventually, my uncle passed away, and the cousins moved north.
My first trip to Disney was with my ex-husband and our oldest daughter when she was 18 months old. It was “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and later that evening, on a small, black and white television in Kissimmee, we watched as President Nixon resigned.
My first trip to Key West was in 1982. Wow! What a place–beautiful flowers, snorkeling off Smathers Beach, Hemingway’s cats, and sunsets at Mallory Square. Six years later, I took my daughters to Key West, and it was even more fabulous– our first family vacation since the divorce, and I reveled in my independence and strength as a single mother.
Fifteen years would pass until a trip to visit college friends who took early retirement and settled in Cocoa Beach. Multiple trips there and to Clermont to visit retired co-workers who lived in a gated community. As beautiful as it is was, I could never live in a place where house colors were limited to 5 shades of grey and beige and the stars and stripes could only be flown on national holidays.
In February, a BOLLI classmate shared ten wonderful days at her rental in Saddlebunch Key. Thank you, Betsey, for the laughter, the insight, and the indelible memories; the dolphins, the Turtle Rescue on Marathon Key, glorious sunsets, people watching, walking through shops and galleries downtown, and more than a few Margaritas.
The memories and the photos are now being used now for prayer. Prayers for the residents, especially those who make their living on the ocean–particularly the fishermen and those in the hospitality business. The first responders who will stay on the job for days without sleep, who may risk their own lives to save others, and who may end the weekend with no homes to go to.
Memories and prayers can be one and the same. Please add your prayers and comments.
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to working as a health professional and doing volunteer emergency service. We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!
A new term is The Internet of Things. Many years ago when the internet first appeared. it was a means of connecting computers. What is now changing is that computers are being embedded in everyday objects. Your car has dozens of them, and even your thermostat has them. As computers become less and less expensive, it becomes easier to install them in refrigerators or washer/dryers– maybe even in light bulbs. But the latest in technology isn’t just about computers. It is about sensors gathering data which can be analyzed by a central computer and accessed over the internet.
Let’s take a simple example. Last April, I took advantage of MassSave and had three new replacement thermostats installed. The thermostats were wired to a hub and then connected to my router–that meant they could be found on the internet. I could install an application on my cell phone that let me remotely view and control them. Most thermostats allow one to program them these days, but with these, I can turn up my heat on my way home so that the house is warm when I get there. That is the good news. The bad news is that the thermostats may have inter-connection problems and shut down as they did when we were in Jamaica. That particular problem required that I physically disconnect and reconnect them, so even though I knew there was a problem, I couldn’t resolve it. This never happened with the old thermostats.
But there is a bigger fear, and that is that bad people are increasingly getting into the many systems on the internet. Would you want someone to turn your thermostat off? Of course, there is a password, but we know that passwords have been stolen.
In a few years, expect to see internet controlled door locks or ovens that you can control from a distance. A few years ago on Showtime’s Homeland, a piece of the plot revolved around a pacemaker that was hooked to a computer. The bad guys used this to kill the vice president. Insulin pumps are already connected to computers.
Your car hosts dozens of computers that manage everything from ignition to gas mixture to steering. There were some stories about a year ago about hackers taking over a car. It was overblown and not totally accurate, but in a couple of years, it just might be possible.
Now, let’s look at some really positive things learned from an article in Wired magazine. “When we rebuild bridges, we can use smart cement: cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks, and warpage. This is cement that alerts us to the need to problems before they can cause catastrophes. And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure.
If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him. This is just one of the ways that sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge connect to machines in the car: we turn information into action.”
Amazon Echo is already with us–and more is on the way.
A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide questionsor comments for John onany computer/tech topic .
I was six years old when my family moved to a two-family home on Athelstane Road in Newton Center. A few years later, my Father bought me a blue and white Schwinn two-wheeler. I learned to ride quickly, never fell, and was allowed to ride all over the neighborhood, including all the way into town.
Over the years, Barry and I rode bikes locally as well as on the streets and trails of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. After we built a summer home on the South Shore, we and our children all biked the Cape Cod Canal. By then, I had taken up jogging and spent much of my time running and preparing for running events like the then Bonne Bell 10K for Women now sponsored by Tuft’s Health Care. My bicycle took a back seat.
At 80, I decided to take up biking again. At the bike shop, I insisted that it had to be one that was small enough and with a seat low enough that I could put my feet on the ground when I stopped. We bought a state-of-the-art Trek bike. Helmet and all, I rode up and down the driveway. Then, we drove the bike to Lincoln Sudbury High School where I rode around the parking lot until I thought I was comfortable.
But, since then, my beautiful bike has been sitting in the shed. Why? I’M AFRAID OF FALLING! At age 81, our orders are clear: DON’T FALL.
And yet, on a more serious note, I realized that being afraid to fall doesn’t preclude learning to fall.
Philip Simmons, in his book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, describes how he thought he had to learn the art of dying after he was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 35. What he really ended up learning was the art of living until his death ten years later at 45.
The book is written, in his words, “with the urgency of a man whose days are numbered.”
Simmons writes, in the context of dealing with loss, “Life, after all, is a terminal condition. Each individual soul is, as the poet William Butler Yeats says, “fastened to a dying animal.” We’re all engaged in the business of dying, whether consciously or not, slowly or not.”
Simmons writes that the work of learning to live richly in the face of loss, such as we elders experience every day, whether consciously or not, is the work that he calls “learning to fall.”
He states that his book’s central theme is “born out of a paradox: that we deal most fruitfully with loss by accepting the fact that we will one day lose everything.”
Here are some quotes from his book that move me as I hope they move you.
“Think of falling as a figure of speech. We fall on our faces, we fall for a joke, we fall for someone, we fall in love. We fall from ego, we fall from our carefully constructed identities, our reputations, our precious selves. We fall from ambition, we fall from grasping, we fall, at least temporarily, from reason. And what do we fall into? We fall into passion, into terror, into unreasoning joy. We fall into humility, into compassion, into emptiness, into oneness with forces larger than ourselves, into oneness with others whom we realize are likewise falling. We fall, at last, into the presence of the sacred, into godliness, into mystery, into our better, diviner natures.”
“In the act of letting go of our lives, we return more fully to them.”
“As I see it, we know we’re fully grown up when we stop trying to fix people. All we can really do for people is love them and treat them with kindness.”
“If we can’t laugh, we can’t properly be serious.”
“Life is both more or less than we hoped for, both more comic and tragic than we knew. Comedy ends in happiness, while tragedy yields wisdom.”
“We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls. The fall from youthful ideals, the waning of physical strength, the failure of a cherished hope, the loss of our near and dear, the fall into injury or sickness, and late or soon, the fall to our certain ends. We have no choice but to fall and little say as to the time or the means.”
“In fact, I would have it that in the way of our falling we have the opportunity to express our essential humanity.”
“When we learn to fall we learn to accept the vulnerability that is our human endowment, the cost of walking upright on the earth.”
SWITCHING GEARS AGAIN
In the final chapter of Simmons’ book, he takes us even farther. “We all have within us this capacity for wonder,” he says, “this ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that, though our lives are fleeting and transitory, we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging.”
“You see, we really are all in this together. There are times when the fact that we are in different bodies, or have lived in different centuries, or that some of us have died while others live on or are yet to be born, seems a trivial difference compared to what unites us and abides. Our journey takes us to suffering and sorrow, but there is a way through suffering to something like redemption, something like joy, to that larger version of ourselves that lives outside of time.”
TRAIL’S END: The last paragraph of the last chapter includes this passage…
“Some of us go willingly to the edge, some of us are driven to it, some of us find ourselves there by grace. But all of us get there at some time in our lives, when through the gateway of the present moment we glimpse something beyond. And when we do, may we open ourselves to wonder, may we surrender to the mystery that passes understanding, may we find ourselves at the threshold of this eternal life.”
So, I’ve decided that, at my age, it’s time to let go of trying to ride my bike and risk falling–physically. Instead, paying attention to the words of wisdom that Phillip Simmons has to offer, I’ve committed myself to something much more important: “learning to fall” into the life I have left.
Metta, Elizabeth David
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.”
Share your comments with Liz–and fellow BOLLI members–below.
At our most recent Writers Guild session, we shared our work with a “conspiracy theory” prompt in which we challenged ourselves to stretch our imaginations into the “fantastic” and write with authority. As autumn creeps upon us, this piece of fiction by Quinn Rosefsky took many of us right back to summer camp… We thoroughly enjoyed it and are sure you will too.
Quinn says that: “Walkabout” started as a chapter in a book I call: Camp Arawakee .The manuscript was on a shelf in my closet for over twenty-five years. At one time, the book had enough strength to entice an agent to take interest. However, no publishers ever bothered to take a nibble. That was disheartening. More recently, I summoned the courage to take a fresh look. After all, in the past several years, I have somehow managed to write and re-write many times, what on paper looks like a mere 200,000 words. That changes a person. Let me tell you! So, what we now have in “Walkabout” is the fresh, 2017 version of the sentiments which first came to life so long ago. I’d be interested to know if anyone can come up with an ending to the “story within a story.” Having said that, you should probably read the story before reading this brief essay
By Quinn Rosefsky
Where was Louis? The boys in Turtle Cabin waited in the fading light for their counselor to return from chatting with the pretty dark-haired nurse in the infirmary. Charlie, Teddy and Sean made up a contest. Who could jump the farthest from the edge of the lean-to onto the ground? A few feet away, Pete and Michael began arguing about whose turn it was to sweep the floor the next morning. As the first stars began to appear, Louis strode into view.
“Story!” the boys said, one after another.
The boys and Louis, dangling their legs, huddled on the edge of the lean-to.
“It was as hot as an oven the day I saw my first opal,” Louis said, dumping a bag of strange pebbles into his palm. “I’d been behind the wheel of my truck for hours and the flies were driving me crazy. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. That’s when I drove the truck off the road into a ditch. There was no way I could get the wheels free. I sat down under the only gum tree around to rest.
“Just as I closed my eyes, something flashed at my feet. I bent over. There it was lying on top of the ground, the most fiery opal I’d ever seen.”
Louis paused to adjust the bush hat he always wore, even in the shower.
“What’s an opal?” Charlie said.
“It’s a jewel almost as precious as a diamond but still worth a lot of money.”
“Let him get on with the story,” Pete said, elbowing Charlie.
“Anyhow, just then, an Aborigine, his eyes so bright they looked like they were on fire, walked out of the bush and came straight towards me. He was wearing dusty blue jeans and no shirt.”
“What’s an Aborigine?” Ronnie said.
“They’re our native Australians, the ones who were there when Europeans first began to settle the continent. Same as your American Indians were here first.”
“Are there a lot of them?” Sean asked.
“Not any more. They’ve had a rough time.”
“Are they dangerous?”
“Not at all. They never were and never will be. They’re the ones who protect life in all its forms. That’s why the bush has been unspoiled for thousands of years.
“This particular Aborigine, who said his name was Jack, was on what’s called a walkabout. He’d been living alone in the bush for over a year, learning what he was to do with his life.
“As soon as Jack came to within a few yards, he stood still. He didn’t move for five minutes, not a muscle. It was as if he’d turned into a statue.
“Then Jack moved. First he pointed to my opal and then he took it from my hand and turned it over and over. Then he said: ‘Follow me.’
“We walked along an invisible track in the bush for about an hour. Finally, Jack stopped and pointed to the ground. I was completely mystified. Opals, dozens of them, were everywhere. I ran about like a man possessed. I was rich!
“Then I remembered my car was still stuck in the ditch an hour away from where I was. But what good would it do me to have all those opals if I never got out of the bush? I looked around to thank Jack, but he was gone. I was alone with no truck, no water and the hot sun beating down on me.”
“What happened next?” Charlie asked.
“You’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” Louis said.
“It’s not fair,” Pete said stomping his feet.
“That’s enough, Pete,” Louis said, wagging his finger. “I’ll give you guys fifteen minutes to get ready for bed and then it’s lights out.”
“How can I fall asleep not knowing if you survived?” Sean asked.
Quinn is a familiar face at BOLLI where he takes courses, teaches courses, serves on the Study Group Support Committee, participates in the New Yorker Fiction Group, the Writers Guild, and more!
Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews yielded another gem: Lindsay Davis. As a longtime fan of novels taking place in ancient Greece and Rome, I was, for some time, very much caught up by Davis’ host of mysteries featuring “detective” Marcus Didius Falco (of which there are 20). Davis’ books are well-written, featuring inventive situations, engaging characters, and good, solid suspense. Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she eventually provided Falco and wife Helena Justina with an adoptive daughter who is carrying on in the family tradition–so glad to have a new “old” favorite to follow. She reviewed this one in March of 2014.
THE IDES OF APRIL – by Lindsey Davis
A Review by Marilyn Brooks
“The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome” are the lines that Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1845. There is grandeur in Lindsey Davis’ The Ides of April, and there are also appealing characters, great writing, and a terrific plot.
Flavia Albia, the heroine of the story, is a private informer, what today we would call a private eye. She is the adopted daughter of the well-known Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco. Abandoned as an infant, Flavia knows nothing of her biological family. Marcus and his wife Helena Justina found her wandering the streets of Londinium, Britannia, and brought her to civilization, to Rome. Flavia is now twenty-nine, a full Roman citizen, a widow, and following in her father’s business.
What brings Flavia into the case at the center of the book is the tragic death of a three-year-old boy who was run over by a builder’s cart. Flavia is hired by the owner of the building company to thwart the boy’s mother’s demand for compensatory payment. Although unsympathetic to the owner Salvidia, a female informer can’t be too choosy when it comes to jobs, so Flavia takes the case.
After doing so, she reads a notice asking any witnesses to the accident to come forward. Intrigued, Flavia goes to the Temple of Ceres, the headquarters of Manlius Faustus, the aedile (magistrate) for this area of Rome, to get more information. Not having any luck at the Temple, she goes to his office where she meets Andronicus, the aedile’s clerk, and sexual sparks fly between them. Andronicus tells her the aedile won’t assist her, but he lets her know that he’ll keep his eyes open to try to help.
Not having gained any insight into the case and disliking her client more and more, Flavia returns to the construction company to tell Salvidia that she is quitting. When she gets there, she is told by the woman’s servant that Salvidia is dead, having come home from the market, gone to bed, and then stopped breathing. Looking at the corpse, the only unusual thing the informer can see is a slight scratch on one of her arms, certainly nothing to cause death.
At Salvidia’s funeral the next day, Flavia meets the deceased’s neighbor, an elderly woman who concludes their conversation by saying, “You do what you can for her, dearie,” a statement Flavia interprets as the neighbor thinking that Savlidia died under suspicious circumstances. And the following day, the neighbor is dead.
The writing in The Ides of April is excellent, always told in Flavia’s voice. She can be empathic, as when she meets the family of another possible murder victim. “Lupus the oyster-shucker would not easily be forgotten; I thought never,” she says to herself as she sees the family’s grief. She can also be wry. “…and (the man) could only come if his son was not using the false leg that day. Assume I’m joking, if that comforts you.”
The Ides of April is the first in the Flavia Albia series. The Marcus Falco series by this author is twenty novels long, and I’m hoping for at least that many for Flavia. She’s a delight. Hopefully, she’ll keep poking her nose into Rome’s secrets.
You can read more about Lindsey Davis at this web site.
Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site
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.
In yesterday’s What’s On Your Mind? post, I blithely imported Steve Goldfinger’s “Lost & Found” piece. I included Steve’s name in the title. Used his name in the introduction. Attributed the piece to him by name. All using the misnomer Steve Goldberg. The only place I got it right was with the picture! How embarrassing–for both of us…
My only excuse is that I was thinking about my friend Amanda Goldberg yesterday…and that I have fallen prey to that Lost & Found thing myself!
There are many recipes for stuffed cabbage. This is the Rudy-version. This recipe came from my mother-in-law, Lillian Weil, and probably came from a previous generation. The details of the recipe were never written down and so what is here is “best recollection” plus the result of some experimentation. Since everyone likes it, apparently the experimentation worked! It makes enough for at least 10 servings and I usually split it up into ½ gallon plastic containers and freeze the ones that will not be immediately eaten.
No quantity in this recipe is exact; all should be played with to get the taste that you like. More rice? More meat? More sauce? Go for it!
1 Cabbage (medium size)
1½ lbs 85% Hamburger. Don’t use too lean, it loses taste
1 Large onion, diced
¾ cup Spaghetti sauce (has more flavor than plain tomato sauce)
¾ cup Rice. Not Minute Rice. Measure after cooking.
¾ cup Spaghetti sauce (this is not an error)
24 oz Stewed tomatoes, diced (could use more; like 2 large cans)
2 cans Sauerkraut, large cans or 4 medium cans. DO NOT DRAIN.
1 cup Spaghetti sauce (this is not an error either)
1½ Tbs Brown sugar
1½ Tbs Granulated sugar
Cut the center out of the cabbage and pull off some of the outer leaves if they are not crisp. Boil the cabbage at least 60 minutes (longer if really large) until the leaves pull off fairly easily. But don’t cook so long that it is mushy. Let it cool by soaking in cold water. Note: if it is not cooked enough, the leaves break when you try to wrap the meat.
Cook the rice.
Sauté the onions. Slightly under-cook.
Mix the raw hamburger, rice, onions and ¾ cup of the sauce. This will become the filling of the cabbage
Gently remove the leaves from the cabbage. It will not be easy to do, and some of the leaves are very large. You may have to recut the hole in the cabbage.
Combine the sauerkraut, another ¾ cup of the sauce, sugars, and stewed tomatoes in the bottom of a large pot. Mix together. This will provide the base to the stuffed leaves.
Put the meat mix into the leaves, fold over, and place on top of the sauerkraut mixture, open side down. The amount you use depends on the size of the leaf. As you make them, lay them on top of the sauerkraut base.
Pour the last cup of sauce on top of the filled leaves, along with leftover cabbage.
Here is where you have two options, and my preference is to use the oven. (1) Bring the pot SLOWLY to a boil (be careful; you may have to add some water so that it doesn’t burn), and then let it simmer for 45 minutes. (2) Alternatively, it can be put in the oven, covered, at 350o to 375o for about an hour. The problem with the first option is that it is really easy to burn the bottom of the pan.
This makes a lot. It can be separated and frozen, even in plastic bags.
OPTIONAL: cook up another pound of hamburger and add sauce. This can be added to the top of the cabbage mixture to give it even more protein.
NOTE: everything is cooked before being put in the oven, so the baking period is really for everything to mix together.
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.)
Our Writers’ Guild prompt for this week was this “Keep Calm and Look in Lost & Found” image. As always, some chose to use the prompt while others did not. We all thoroughly enjoyed Steve Goldfinger’s approach, and we felt that many BOLLI members might be able to relate!
LOST & FOUND
By Steve Goldfinger
For a moment, my wandering brain lost the prompt, but now I remember. Ah, yes. “Lost and Found.”
Well, it’s easy to lose things. Car keys, cell phones, shopping lists, hearing aids. Names of people whose faces are imprinted in my skull, faces of people whose names are as secure in my mind as swallows in cliff dwellings.
I cannot find the treasured score card that documented the best round of golf I ever played. I was 21 year old, knew I would never have so low a score again, and promised I would keep it to show my grandchildren. But where is it now? Hiding somewhere in my attic or moldering at the bottom of some forsaken garbage dump?
When I lost my virginity, I knew I had also found something. But when I lost my wallet yesterday, the only thing I found was an empty back pocket. My only consolation was that my credit card was not longer in it. Once again, the piece of plastic was undoubtedly sitting next to the cash register of the last restaurant I ate at. Again, I neglected to retrieve it after I signed the check. Damn it. I want it back. Now, what was the name of that restaurant?
After driving to the MFA to see the new exhibit that so excited me when I read the review in The Globe, I forgot which one it was. When a large sign reminded me and told me where it was, I had to ask a guard to direct me to the stairway I had marched to directly so many times in the past. It was a great exhibit…fine paintings and etchings by…oh, shit!
And what have I found?
Perhaps a new internal tempo that allows me to drive more slowly, aware as I am that, in front of me, the lane seems to have narrowed, and too many dents and scrapes have appeared on my car.
Or the magic of the remote, being able to put a ball game on a 40 minute delay so I can then zip through the commercials to get to the action.
Or the ability to justify my lifestyle–couch potato, bacon and eggs, steaks, morning croissants, and evening ice cream–by “Hey, I’m 82 and just back from Alaska where I survived a strenuous hike. Good genes. Thanks, Mom and Dad.”
Or how easy it has been to depart from the world of medicine. A satisfying six decades, but in the end, too many directives separating me from patients, too many memory lapses, too many teaching moments falling short of my expectations, threatening my pride.
Or my ability to respond to writing prompts in perhaps a better way than I have responded to social ones over the years.
Since joining BOLLI nearly two years ago, Steve has been exploring new ventures. He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre).
Interested in joining either one yourself? During the fall term, the Guild will meet on Wednesday mornings from 9:45-11. And CAST will meet on Fridays from 12:30-2. All are welcome!
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