MEET MEMBER MARTY KAFKA (and All That Jazz)

MEET MEMBER MARTY KAFKA (and All That Jazz)

BOLLI Member and contemporary jazz pianist Marty Kafka “at play”

Last spring, Marty Kafka took a five-week “trial membership” course at BOLLI, found it to be very interesting, liked the people in the class, and decided to dive right into a full membership this past September.  “I feel like I’m back in college,” he says, “but without the grades.”

Marty appreciates BOLLI’s community spirit of cooperative learning and says he is benefitting from the broad knowledge base of our members.  “We help each other, and I am developing friendships associated with the courses and activities.”

An amateur digital photographer, Marty soon joined the Photo Club, particularly enjoying the group’s trips to the de Cordova Museum and Walden Pond.  He’s also taken part in as many current events sessions as he’s been able to attend.

Prior to his retirement a year ago, Marty worked as a psychiatrist and still supervises psychiatric residents.  As a clinician-researcher for over thirty years, he developed a specialty interest in sexual behavior disorders.  He was awarded a Distinguished Life Fellowship by the American Psychiatric Association and was selected to collaborate on the revision and publication of the 5th Edition of the APA Diagnostic Manual.

While Marty enjoys a variety of interests, he is passionate about jazz piano and loves playing contemporary jazz.   He says, as he was growing up, there was always music in his family.

“My father played the piano, the trumpet, the violin, and the ukulele. Before and after WWII (and before I was born), he spent summers as a small band leader, playing at various Catskill Mountain resorts.  That, in fact, was how he met my mother.  So, when I was six, Dad encouraged me to try the piano.  I took to it naturally.  He would accompany me on the violin for simple classical pieces and on the trumpet for popular music.  Mom was our appreciative audience.  When my younger brother Ken started playing the accordion and then the guitar, we were a trio—with our own built-in audience.

“I think I gravitated away from classical music toward jazz when I started listening to the music of Ray Charles during my teenage years.  Listening to Charles as well as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, I learned the blues scales and chords and gradually evolved my own style.  My favorite contemporary jazz pianists were all classically trained—Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Stefano Bollani, and Gonzalo Rubalcava.

“For, me, music is meditative.  That is one of the great things about improvisational music—your mind must remain in the moment and cannot wander.  You try to hear something in your mind and then play what you hear.  It’s a lifelong challenge to improve what you create internally and then work to be able to produce it accurately.”

Last summer, Marty played in a quintet that performed at an outdoor festival in Salem, but he says that his favorite place to play is in his living room.  Currently, he enjoys playing at home with a saxophonist and a bass player–and he’d love to hear from BOLLI members who might also be interested in playing contemporary jazz!”

Finally, Marty says that “I have been blessed with my wonderful wife of 32 years, Karen, as well as two loving ‘children’ who are now both accomplished young adults. Although I am not a religious person, I am deeply grateful, every day, for having led such a fortunate life.”

To hear some of Marty’s music, here are audio cuts with the saxophone player.  Just click on the little triangle on the left end of the bar to enjoy the music!

And, PLEASE–be sure to register your “applause” in the box below!

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

There’s nothing I love more than talking to people and finding out about their interests, ideas, backgrounds, families, plans, and more which makes it such a complete pleasure to focus on “Meeting Our Members” here on our BOLLI Matters blog.  Be sure to send your ideas to:  susanlwurster@gmail. com

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCH’S CHEF’S CORNER WITH CHEF RUDY: SPARE RIBS!

MEATY SPARE RIBS

This recipe was developed from a Chinese Cuisine site on the web, though I have made a lot of alterations.  When buying the spareribs try to find those with a meaty back side (unlike what is typically found in a Chinese Restaurant where they remove that part to be used in other dishes).

The keys are to cook slowly, with the oven moist, to keep the meat tender.  Then at the end cook them under the broiler to make them crisp.

6  Spareribs (meaty)                                                                                                         ¼ cup Soy Sauce                                                                                                                  ½ cup red Chinese sauce (Ah So)                                                                          1½ Tbs Catsup                                                                                                                 1½ tsp Mustard (I use powdered)                                                                          1½ Tbs Red Wine Vinegar (or other vinegar)                                                    1 Tbs Brown Sugar                                                                                                            5 Garlic Cloves, well chopped                                                                               1/3 cup Honey (dissolved in some water)

  1. Marinate the spareribs (turning occasionally) in everything but the honey.  Best if marinated for a full day (or even 36 hours).  A 10×14” pan works particularly well.  You will probably have to cut the rack of ribs into 6” sections to fit, but don’t cut individual ribs.
  2. Bake at 335 for about an hour, with the meat side up on a rack over a cookie tray.  Put aluminum foil in the pan to catch the fat drippings.
  3. Place a tray of water a few inches under the cooking tray.  This generates steam and keeps the ribs moist.  (Make sure that it doesn’t evaporate.)
  4. Baste the ribs with honey every 15 minutes
  5. Remove the ribs from the oven, get rid of the foil and the fat.
  6. Put the ribs back in, under the broiler, about 6” from the element.  Baste heavily with the honey and broil for 5-7 minutes to crisp the ribs.  Turn over, baste the back side, and cook the back under the broiler for 5-7 minutes. A lot more fat may come off during the broiling process.
  7. Individually cut apart the ribs.
  8. Serve with Duck Sauce and lots of napkins.
Our “Chef’s Corner” 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 exclusively vegetables in boil-able packages.)

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

RETIRED–BUT NOT FROM LIFE: By Eleanor Jaffe

Dear BOLLI Friends,

I write to you from Florida, the state where a lot of people  have moved when they retire.  Why not? After all, the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay are beautiful, the weather is terrific, and here in Sarasota, cultural pleasures are sophisticated and plentiful. Even life-long learning programs abound. The easy path is for retirees to sit back, read the papers, watch TV news, critique the world from their armchairs, and then share those critiques only with those whose politics agree with their own.  After all, retirement has its rewards, and some might believe that inaction and armchair “jawing” are among them.

A certain caution is discernible here in Florida when people meet one another for the first time.  Is it “safe” to discuss politics?  (And what other subject is so front and center these days?)  We don’t, after all, want to offend and argue.  Who among these strangers voted for Trump and who voted for Hillary?  Who didn’t vote at all?  Who watches with complacency and agreement as liberal institutions in government and in society are attacked and dismantled?  Communication across the great political divide not only grows more limited but is increasingly full of disbelief and rage.  What are we to do with our passionately held beliefs and accompanying angst?

My beliefs and personality dictate action, constructive action.  The question for me is, what kinds of action will be the most constructive?  In other words, what will help to defang our present administration and re-establish a more liberal democracy that reflects our values as a welcoming, fair minded, constructive, and positive force in the world—- a Marshall Plan kind of world.  Of course, some of you who read this will not agree with me, and so, I urge you to respond.  Let’s communicate!

Two events that I attended here were heartening.  The first was the Women’s March in January.  Here in Sarasota, police estimated that 10,000 people marched!  We women and men carried signs, wore pink hats, and shouted slogans as we marched along the beautiful Marina Bay and across the bridge connecting Sarasota to Bird Key.  It was peaceful, and it was wonderful to be among so many like minded demonstrators.  Clearly, they were not “retired” from politics and life.

This past Saturday (3/18), we attended a “town hall” where the local Congressman, Representative Vern Buchanan, held his 75th meeting of constituents since taking office five terms earlier.  The Sarasota Herald Tribune said that this 75th town hall meeting (attended by more than 1,300 who packed Van Wezel Auditorium and an estimated additional 800 who couldn’t fit into the room) was unlike all his previous town hall meetings and would not soon be forgotten. We have seen television news reports of other town meetings with Republican congressional representatives and senators—full of people with strong opinions becoming raucous, erupting in chants, and even booing. That’s what this meeting was like.  Retirees do not want their health benefits messed with, want veterans and people with disabilities cared for, want fair immigration policies, and more.  And this meeting occurred in Florida, a state that voted for Trump.

We have been away from Massachusetts now for three months.  I read The New York Times and watch MSNBC, which, of course, indicates the nature of my own political bent.  I admit that I am not current with politics in Massachusetts where our citizens are overwhelmingly “democratic” and liberal, despite having a Republican Governor,  Perhaps you don’t feel the need to watch your words or wonder who supported whom in the election.  Perhaps you haven’t felt the need to become an activist, armchair or otherwise.  Some of my friends, including BOLLI friends, are becoming active and have been eager to tell me about their involvement in church and immigration groups, grandmothers’ groups, civil liberties groups, and more.

I wonder if it is time to create a BOLLI clearinghouse for organizations and actions in this perilous time for democracy, a place where actions and activism can be discussed, and information shared.  I know that beliefs and actions supported by like-minded others are more likely to be effective and succeed.  Perhaps in my absence from BOLLI, a group has been formed and is already active?  If so, count me in.  If not, let’s do it!

See you soon around our BOLLI “campus.”

Your snow-bird friend,

Eleanor Jaffe

FROM MYSTERY MAVEN MARILYN: MEET FLAVIA DE LUCE

MEET FLAVIA De LUCE

Speaking from Among the Bones

In case you haven’t met her already, allow me to introduce Flavia de Luce.  The third daughter of an impoverished British former army officer, she’s a delightful character who appeared fully formed in the first book of Alan Bradley’s series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  Now she’s back in Speaking from Among the Bones.

The de Luce family traces its roots back hundreds of years in England, but they have fallen on hard times.  The estate of Buckshaw, the ancestral home of Harriet de Luce, the girls’ late mother, is in arrears for back taxes that Colonel de Luce is unable to pay.  Harriet went missing, as the British expression goes, on a trek in the Himalayas shortly after Flavia was born twelve years ago.  Although Buckshaw is no longer the elegant country estate it once was, it’s the only home that Flavia and her two sisters, Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely) have ever known, and the thought of having it taken away by Inland Revenue is casting a dark shadow over the family.

The village of Bishop’s Lacy, home to the de Luces, is preparing for the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of its patron holy man, St. Tancred.  Exactly why this should necessitate digging up his coffin and removing his bones is unclear, unless it is, as Daffy says to Flavia, to see if his body remains uncorrupted, if he has “the odor of sanctity.”  Whatever the reason, the Church of England authorities gave the vicar of St. Tancred permission to remove his coffin, but now they want to revoke that.   The vicar protests that plans have gone too far, but when the crypt is entered (and Flavia, of course, is present) to unearth the casket, the group finds the much more recent remains of the church’s organist, Chrispin Collicutt, who has been missing for several weeks.

Flavia, of course, wants to be in the midst of everything, reflecting that her past successes with local crimes should entitle her to assist the local police whether they want her help or not.  And her vast knowledge of poisons will come in handy, she is sure, in solving any and all crimes in the village, including that of the murder of Mr. Collicutt.  Astride her trusty bike, Gladys, there’s no stopping her.

Bishop’s Lacey is filled with fascinating characters.  There’s  the church’s vicar and his wife; Miss Tanty, a middle-aged member of the choir who suddenly fancies herself as a detective; Adam Sowerby, a friend of the colonel’s with a business card that identifies him as a horticulturist, flora-archaeologist, and investigator (the last under the somewhat misleading wording of “inquiries”); and the two remaining members of the once-grand Buckshaw staff:  Mrs. Mullet, cook and housekeeper; and Dogger, gardener and general handyman, formerly in the service with Colonel de Luce.

Alan Bradley has written the fifth novel in this delightful series with the same wit and verve as he did with the previous four.  You can read more about him at this web site:  alanbradleyauthor.com

BOLLI’s Mystery Maven, Marilyn Brooks

My son Rich told me the world needed a mystery review blog written by me.  Next, my husband Bob suggested that, after writing the reviews, I write to the authors to alert them to these posts.  I was sure none would respond to my emails, but much to my surprise, more than half do, sending short notes of thanks or longer items about themselves and their work.  

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site:  marilynsmysteryreads.com   When there, you can subscribe to Marilyn’s blog so that you are notified whenever she adds a new post.

MARCH SCREENING ROOM: Another Gem

A TIMELY CONFECTION

from Sue Wurster

What better way to spend a snow day than cruising through Netflix for a nice movie?  Today, I found one of those little British gems that is still making me smile.

In Dough, Jonathan Pryce plays Net Dayan of “Dayan & Son,” a struggling Jewish bakery that has been in his family for generations. His days are proscribed.  His routine is intact.  Alas, his own son chose a career as a lawyer over the business, and, now, he’s being pressured to sell out to a grocery chain with a store next door that has actually poached his baking assistant.

The woman who cleans for Dayan is a Muslim woman from Darfur whose son Ayyash has been making some unfortunate choices.  She asks her boss to take the boy on as his assistant, which the baker decides to do “on a trial basis.”

Add to this mix the ever charming Pauline Collins as a lonely widow, and you have the ingredients for a satisfying confection.

Enjoy!

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

 

A confirmed snow day couch potato, Sue has an affinity for the British approach to both film and TV.  

 

 

MARCH SENIOR MOMENT with Liz David: Legacy Letters

LEGACY LETTERS

by Liz David

As we age, we begin to think about legacy.  We write health care proxies which may or may not include ”do not resuscitate” orders. We may designate  a family member or independent person as having our power of attorney.  We write wills as to how we want our financial assets distributed and include lists of those we wish to receive our personal items such as precious jewelry, family heirlooms and special, meaningful, possibly sentimental items.  We may agonize about who should get what and how much, who should receive this or that item, or who even wants anything!

Some of us offer our children and grandchildren these items as we age, before we die.  “Thank you, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa–but we don’t have any room.  It just doesn’t fit.”  Or, worse, “it isn’t our taste.”  Or, even, “You still have a lot of years ahead, and we want you to continue to enjoy the item” of the moment while you still can.

There is another legacy, though, that may be even more meaningful than the above and doesn’t depend on legalities or whether or not anyone wishes to receive the item.  It is a “Legacy Letter,” or, as described in ancient times, an Ethical Will.  A Legacy Letter is a letter we write to our loved ones, either to be opened after death, or shared whenever you decide the time is right.  It is a way to synthesize our thoughts and feelings in a meaningful  and loving way. It is a way to transmit our love, our special stories, anecdotes, and the lessons we have learned over a lifetime.

As older adults, we consciously, or not, are models. Our behavior, attitudes and values are transmitted to those around us.  We teach by our lives, our examples, our deeds, our spoken and unspoken words. It is normal for us to think about what is important for us to transmit to those in our sphere, our family, loved ones, closest friends.

Don’t get me wrong.  Keeping our relationships “current” should be a top priority, either through confronting difficult subjects or, simply, giving a peck on the cheek as we walk out the door, knowing that, given life’s unpredictability, we may never see that person again. It may sound dramatic, but it’s true!

Here are some guidelines that I’ve used  when helping Legacy Letter participants through the process.

  1. Are there specific things you wish to say to specific people?
  2. What are the important teachings, messages, etc. you would like to leave as your legacy?
  3. What qualities in the people you are writing to have given you pride or pleasure? What do you want to affirm about them?
  4. If you have a life partner, would you want to give him or her encouragement to re-couple?
  5. What acts of charity would you like survivors to do in your memory? Do you want money donated? To a specific cause
  6. Discuss funeral plans. Remember funerals are for your survivors.

Do’s and Don’t’s

  1. Do include your favorite jokes and memories of the good times you’ve shared.
  2. Don’t scold, criticize or use this as a guilt trip to punish people.
  3. Inform loved ones where you have stored your Legacy Letter.
  4. Update periodically

Regarding whether to write your Legacy Letter on the computer or handwritten–I suggest you do both. There is nothing so precious as receiving a handwritten letter,  and it will reflect your style and personality in ways that will be appreciated beyond measure.

May you go from strength to strength.

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

When we were in our 40’s, my husband and I bought a sundial with the saying “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”  I then felt a “calling” and, at age 45, earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and became a bereavement counselor.  Later, a friend encouraged me to join BOLLI where I began to offer courses in which we discuss our aging–from the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of our lives.  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.”

A Little Writing Inspiration: Try Creative Nonfiction!

So, what is Creative Nonfiction?  The simplest, clearest, and probably most “apt” answer is this:  true stories, well told.     Recently, Steve Goldfinger shared a piece about Henry and Claire Booth Luce, and now, Lydia Bogar provides her thoughts about her local childhood library and the woman for whom it was renamed.

A FAVORITE HAUNT AND THE OLD LADY IN THE PAINTING

by Lydia Bogar

The Greendale Branch, Worcester Public Library

Even as her vision failed, my maternal grandmother always had her Bible, The Morning Telegram, or The Evening Gazette) in hand.  As she grew older and needed both a magnifying glass and a bright lamp to help her, she continued to read, every day, until her death at the age of 94.  She passed her love of reading on to me, and it wasn’t long before the library became a favorite haunt.

The Greendale Branch of the Worcester Public Library was built in 1913 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie.  The children’s section of the library was on the left, divided from the adult books by an enormous, heavy, oak desk where you showed your card to the librarian and were then able to borrow books to read at home.

I started with the Little Golden books and got hooked.  Years later, I decided to turn a sharp right inside the front door and, over the course of that summer, read everything in the fiction section.  That was when I met Mary, Queen of Scots and Ernest Hemingway.  Eventually, I would drive my mother’s car there to “study” with friends.   In my family, women passed on not only our love of reading but books as well. I have been hooked on mysteries since an elderly aunt left me her collection of Perry Mason paperbacks in 1968.  My mother helped me to grow by passing on The Power of Positive Thinking, Silent Spring, and The Quiet American.

In the library, there was an enormous marble fireplace along the back wall.  A portrait of Frances Perkins, for whom the library was renamed in 1944, rested above it.  When I was a child, I had no idea who Frances Perkins was.  To me, she was just an old lady in an old painting.

Frances Perkins

Eventually, though, I learned just who this remarkable woman was.  Born and educated in Worcester, she started learning Greek from her father as a child, took classes in physics and chemistry at Mount Holyoke College as a young woman, and worked with poor, undereducated women in Illinois as an adult.  After her graduation, Frances devoted herself to mentoring working women, black and white, especially those in factories who were trying to support their families on miniscule paychecks.  She later earned a Masters Degree at Columbia University, writing her thesis on malnutrition among public school children. It is difficult to imagine how many glass ceilings she shattered just in her own educational efforts.

In 1911, when Perkins was in New York, she witnessed dozens of factory workers leap to their deaths in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire—a turning point in her life.  From that point on, she dedicated her life to seeing labor conditions improve for workers.  She worked with a legislative committee after the disaster and became a consultant to Governor Al Smith.  Eventually, her lobbying efforts caught the attention of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who appointed her to serve as his Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a U.S. Government Cabinet position.  Serving in that position for over 12 years, she championed such causes as the Civilian Conservation Corps, Federal Emergency Relief, Fair Labor Standards, and Social Security.

Years before Rosa Parks or Gloria Steinem made their marks on our culture, Frances Perkins said:

                                  “I promise to use what brains I have                                         to meet problems with intelligence and courage.”

Quite a resume for a woman from Worcester whose portrait still inspires young visitors to the Greendale Branch of the Worcester Public Library.

 

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Lydia has become a frequent BOLLI Matters contributor, even creating her own monthly feature, “Lines from Lydia.”

 

 

THE BOLLI JOURNAL: Need Inspiration? An Idea? Some Confidence? Consider This…

HOW ABOUT  HISTORICAL FICTION?

                    An Interview with Larry Schwirian by Sue Wurster                     (and Larry’s short selection, OH, WHAT A PARTY!)

Recently, Journal committee member Larry Schwirian provided the participants in our BOLLI Writers Guild with a piece of historical fiction that he had written in response to the prompt, “The Best Party EVER.”  We thoroughly enjoyed the piece and spent some time talking about this fact that this has been a somewhat under-represented genre in our BOLLI Journal.

SUE:  So, Larry, have you written a lot of historical fiction?

LARRY:  No, but I do read a great deal of historical fiction.  For me, it’s a much more enjoyable way of learning about the past than just reading textbook history.

SUE:  What sparked your imagination and led you to do this particular piece?

LARRY:  Well, the prompt for the week was about a great party, so I googled “Great Parties in History” and discovered that the Great London Beer Flood took place toward the end of the War of 1812.  I thought about what it might be like to be almost drowned in beer and created a character to get swept up in it.  Then, I wanted to related it, somehow, to the war.

SUE:  Has writing always been an interest?  Have you been published or thought about submitting your work for publication?

LARRY:  I have attempted to write poetry, on and off again, over the past 25 years  My first attempt was a poem I wrote for my father’s 80th birthday.  I have also tried, on a couple of occasions, to write children’s stories using alliteration (with a preponderance of “P” words), but I’ve never tried to get anything published because I never thought anything I wrote was worthy of publication.

SUE:  Do you have a favorite form or genre?

LARRY:  I am somewhat of a history buff and have read the biographies of many of the founding fathers.  I also enjoy architectural history and have been involved on a local level with historical preservation.

SUE:  You’ve been active in the Writers Guild and have taken some BOLLI writing courses as well, haven’t you?  How have they helped you with your writing?

LARRY:  The discipline of writing every week is certainly helpful to making improvements.  Also, the critiques from others in the Writers Guild have taught me to be a more vigorous editor of my own writing  I also thought that, as someone who has tried to trace my ancestry,  it would be a great idea to improve my writing skills so that, someday, one of my descendants might know not just my name but also something about how I thought.   Plus, meeting every week with the same small group of people and listening to their stories or their poetry is a great way to get to know people and make new friends.

SUE:  And that led you to joining the Journal committee?

LARRY:  Maxine asked me if I was interested, so I thought about it for a while and then accepted.  I didn’t know I was going to be the only male!

Here’s Larry’s story…

OH WHAT A PARTY

It looked like it was going to be another bright sunny day on the morning of Monday October 17, 1814 on Tottenham Court Road in the parish of St. Giles in London. Alfie Appleton, a young working class laborer, was just starting his trek to the docks for another physically arduous day loading munitions onto warships headed for America; those uppity colonials ought to know better than to start a war with the heralded British Navy. To some extent his sympathies were with the Americans as they were decided underdogs in this war and had legitimate grievances with the arrogance and imperiousness of the British Crown and Parliament. Alfie had his own issues with the British aristocracy and propertied class as those of his social standing had virtually no say in the proceedings of the British government and were generally considered with contempt and loathing by those higher in social class.

It was a time when London’s population was growing rapidly due to the beginnings of the industrial revolution and men-of-means were investing heavily in new business opportunities. Industrial processes had led to a rapid rise in beer production and one new “Beer Baron” by the name of Sir Henry Meux had recently completed a large new brewing vat that was 60 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall. This vat, like smaller ones nearby, was constructed much like large wooden beer barrels with steel hoops to keep it from collapsing.  Upon completion Henry invited 200 guests to dine with him inside the vat and subsequently had it filled with porter liquor.

Except for the sunny skies it was a day much like any other workday. Alfie would labor six days a week from sunup to sundown on the docks with only minimal time for lunch or “loo” breaks. Suddenly, and without warning, he was knocked off his feet by a surging wave of colorful liquid. It caught him completely by surprise as he found himself with many others swept haphazardly toward buildings and other fixed objects. After what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes he was able to right himself in this growing pond of what he now realized was actually “beer.” After the initial shock wore off he decided, with others around him, to take advantage of this wondrous opportunity to partake of “free alcohol.” Soon, other blokes and even women folk were pouring out of adjacent buildings to enjoy this “gift from heaven.” As other nearby parishes learned of this blessed event even more people poured into the area. By the time the liquid had nearly dissipated the entire parish was intoxicated.

In the end the equivalent of over 100,200 kegs of beer (1,470,000 liters) were released with the collapse of the new vat as well as several of the nearby smaller vats. At least seven people were drowned (ah but what better way to go) and many rescue attempts to help the injured were thwarted by the chaos created by thousands of people swarming to the area. When the injured did manage to make it to the hospital “reeking of beer” hospital employees and even patients fled to join the melee. The reason this event wasn’t recorded in the annals of history as a “disaster” is because a British court ruled that the beer flood was an “act of God.” Alfie, however, preferred to believe that the incident was an act of sabotage by an American spy and that the American victory at New Orleans, by Andrew Jackson, in January of 1815 was, at least in part, due to the British fleet being delayed by THE GREAT LONDON BEER FLOOD. 

Larry Schwirian

Note:   While “The Great London Beer Flood” was a real event, it had nothing to do with the delaying of the British Fleet on its way to New Orleans. Alfie is, of course, a fictional character but the rest of the story is true…at least according to Wikopedia. A little more than a century later, in January of 1915, Boston suffered “The Great Molasses Flood” in the North End. This time the vat was 90 feet in diameter and 50 feet high, and twenty-one people died. The incident was declared a “disaster” and in a class-action lawsuit against the subsequent owner of The Purity Distilling Company, more than $600,000 in damages were awarded.  

 

A PATRIOT FOR THE BOOKS: MALCOLM MITCHELL

A PATRIOT FOR THE BOOKS: MALCOLM MITCHELL

by Sue Wurster

I’m sorry.  I’m just not all that into football.  I come from solid, Cleveland area, die-hard Browns fans, and maybe that, in itself, explains my lack of interest.  The Browns just never seemed to me to be a particularly stellar bunch.  And then, of course,  Cleveland was plunged into the depths of a dense, dark, clinically critical depression over what it still rancorously refers to as “The Move”  (complete with shudder) – when Art Modell fired coach Bill Belichick and tried to move the team to Baltimore.  (The Ravens are still considered by said die-hards to be “an extension” team.  Like some sort of sports off-ramp.)

So, when Super Bowl season rolls around, I find it easy to ignore the hype.  This year, though, the weeks of build-up to the whole thing was thrust into my face when coverage of how it was all going to go down was everywhere.  It eventually supplanted one too many Jeopardy airings, and I shifted to PBS, exclusively, for the news.

And yet, this isn’t even what really got me—and continues to get me.  I thought that, after the Patriots won and came home to a big parade and waved that big trophy around and flashed the rings, it would finally be over.   But the whole thing just keeps dragging on.  Last night, on the news, there was an item about people getting Patriots logo and/or Tom Brady (TB12) tattoos to commemorate the whole thing.  (They actually even showed a guy having one done on his bum…) Really?  This is news?

BUT I found a bright spot in the midst of all this hoopla–Malcolm Mitchell.  This young man, in my humble opinion, is one Patriot who deserves even more attention.

Mitchell grew up in Georgia where he played football for Valdosta High School and, early on, caught the eye of a scout from the University of Georgia.  He also caught the attention of VHS principal Gary Boling who helped the young athlete prepare for college by encouraging him to take on a more challenging course load and to explore his options for his college course of study.  Mitchell says that Boling changed his life—but the principal wasn’t the only source of inspiration and help that set him on a unique path.

Malcolm says that, when he arrived in Athens and the University of Georgia campus, he was not a confident reader.  So, he decided to focus on building his strength—by reading as much as he could.   At one point, while in an Athens bookstore, Mitchell apparently asked a fellow customer for a book recommendation.  Kathy Rackley was happy to provide suggestions and indicated that she was picking up a copy of Me Before You, her book club’s choice for their next meeting.  They talked, and, soon, Mitchell left the store with a copy of the book—and an invitation to join the group at their next meeting, which he did.

It didn’t seem to matter to Mitchell that the group consisted of middle-aged women with whom he had little in common.  The women were welcoming, and the books took him to new worlds and pushed him to think about new ideas.  (Besides, in the club, there were no papers or exams.  No wrong answers.)  “The book club helped me grow into a better individual,” he said in a Boston Globe profile in last May, “a person who learns and grows throughout life in general,” he said.

Malcolm with the Silverleaf Book Club.

He has certainly continued to learn and grow ever since.  In fact, his love of reading led him to launching a program to promote youth literacy and book ownership among students in underserved schools.  The program, Read with Malcolm is part of the Share the Magic Foundation and has expanded exponentially over the years.  He has also written a children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, about a boy who discovers the magic of reading.

Georgia school children “Read with Malcolm”

It is exciting to see this young man experiencing success on the field, but seeing him focused on helping kids the way that principal and those women in the Silverleaf book club helped him.  Now, THAT’s just “super.”

To find out more about the Read with Malcolm program, click here. 

For the May 23, 2016 Boston Globe article about Malcolm Mitchell, click here.

BOLL Matters editor, Sue Wurster

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my father brought an old Remington typewriter home from a yard sale or auction and set it atop the desk he had recently refinished for me (which sits in my front hall now).  My very own typewriter. The result?  The laboriously typed (with carbon paper) Maple Street Gazette which informed the neighbors of such riveting events as the Harrisons’ new puppies, the Lanagans’ new patio, who dressed up as what at Halloween, and more.  Every issue was sold out (at a whopping five cents per copy). I guess it’s in the blood…

FEBRUARY BOOK NOOK with Abby Pinard: Two You May Have Missed

This month, Abby reaches back to the relatively recent past for two books you may have missed.  And if you did, both are worth your attention!

 

THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON

by Adam Johnson, 2012

There are many books I’ve loved, many writers I’ve admired, some whose talent has been awe-inspiring. But it’s not often that I read a novel wondering “how the hell did he/she do that?” This is one of those times. How did Adam Johnson imagine his way into the dystopia of Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea and create a world so real to the reader that when Americans show up, they seem oddly alien?

The book is darkly comic and desperately sad, always teetering on the brink of complete absurdity but true in its heartbreaking depiction of people just trying to survive the stories of their lives that the state has determined for them.

“Where we are from . . . stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.”

In the first part of the book, the protagonist, Pak Jun Do, is plucked from the orphanage run by his father and becomes a fighter in the tunnels under the demilitarized zone, then a kidnapper, a spy at sea intercepting radio transmissions, and, when a mission to Texas goes hilariously wrong, a prisoner in a mining camp. In part two, the picaresque gives way to intrigue and romance among the upper echelons and the Dear Leader himself as Jun Do evolves from a tool of the state to a man determined to fashion his own story.

This is a remarkable accomplishment, at once compellingly readable and scarily disorienting. It is every bit as good as its Pulitzer Prize (2012) would suggest.

 

THE GOOD LORD BIRD

by James McBride, 2013

James McBride walks a fine line in the National Book Award-winning (2013) The Good Lord Bird. Treating tragic and painful historical events with humor is risky business. His subject is John Brown and the failed raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1861. Brown was a zealot whose plan to free the slaves bordered on lunacy but McBride succeeds in humanizing him in a rollicking romp of a story that is both irreverent and historically astute.

The narrator is Henry Shackleford, a twelve-year-old slave mistaken for a girl and swept up by “the Captain” to become his good-luck charm in the war against slavery. Henry/Henrietta is a wonderful character who doesn’t understand John Brown’s religious zeal and doesn’t want any part of war but figures out how to survive both.

“I couldn’t make head nor tails of what he was saying, for I was to learn that Old John Brown could work the Lord into just about any aspect of his comings and goings in life, including using the privy. That’s one reason I weren’t a believer, having been raised by my Pa, who was a believer and a lunatic, and them things seemed to run together. But it weren’t my place to argue with a white man, especially one who was my kidnapper, so I kept my lips closed.”

Henry lives for a time in a whorehouse, falls in love twice, escapes the clutches of Frederick Douglass, meets Harriet Tubman, and plays a role in “hiving” (recruiting) Negroes to the cause. He comes to know Brown as a “good, kind lunatic,” a man as unique as the rare bird of the title – a bird “so pretty that when man sees it, he says  ‘Good Lord.’”  The portrayal of John Brown — both hero and fool – is a great accomplishment, as is this brilliantly entertaining amalgam of history and imagination.

“BOOK NOOK” feature writer Abby Pinard

A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

 

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