After four years and eighteen courses at BOLLI , I continue to be an eager and voracious learner. I’ve enjoyed classes in history, philosophy, literature, poetry, music and more. Thanks to three writing courses, I am now assembling my memoirs. Best of all, I discovered my very first “creative” hobby –photography!
For BOLLI’s spring term 2015, I signed up for Joe Cohen’s Photography course. When Joe described the term project, I was intrigued. We were to present an essay of twenty photos on a single theme. He distributed a sheet with dozens of theme possibilities. I scanned the list and the word “WINDOWS” jumped off the page. Joe suggested we keep our topics a secret from the class.
During the last three weeks of April, I was married to my camera, visiting many sites and taking hundreds of photos of windows. I wanted to capture the reflections both inside and outside of the glass. The early ones were just awful, but slowly they improved. At the last class, we were called on to present our slide shows with commentary. I was very proud that “Windows” was well received by Joe and the group.
Immediately following my presentation, Linda Dietrich was called upon to present her project. Linda is a charming woman I had sat beside and chatted with throughout the term. I often thought that I would like to continue our relationship outside of BOLLI. Much to my utter surprise and delight, Linda’s topic was “DOORS”! She had assembled photos from her New England travels that captured doors or entryways in the most beautiful and unique way.
That did it! Linda Doors and Linda Windows laughed heartily, and so began a dear friendship outside of BOLLI. We decided to put our favorite doors and windows into a 2016 calendar. It was modestly published and distributed to family members as gifts. We are presently working on another joint project—a calendar for 2017.
With the busy life at BOLLI, it’s always a challenge to make new friends, but definitely possible!
Here is a photo of “Linda Doors” and “Linda Windows.” If you see us at BOLLI, say hello. We’d love to chat.
Well, if you eliminate political cartoons a la Pat Oliphant, and funny papers, and illustrations, and graphic novels, you are left with the spot cartoon–a single drawing or sequence of drawings that have no particular meaning beyond a simple comment on either something going on in the Zeitgeist or in common amusing experiences. For example, a great Peter Arno cartoon shows a lonely spot next to a street lamp. It is night, and a young couple is talking to a police officer. The guy is carrying the back seat of an auto, and he says to the cop, “We wish to report a stolen car.” No social message. No moral. Like any good cartoon, it is self-referential, and its only purpose is to garner a laugh. Like this one–
How are cartoons conceived? Well, in my case I may be thinking of something or observing something, and a switch occurs to me–something that relates to the original notion but turns it around or reveals an unexpected consequence.
Let me trace one idea I had for a cartoon. For some reason, I was watching some ants. What do ants do? They bite people. What if one bit an ant expert? How would the ant feel about that? How would he behave afterwards? And the cartoon flashes in my head. One ant is prancing about in a very conceited manner, and another ant says to his companions, “He’s been impossible ever since he bit E.O. Wilson.”
Of course, it all loses its punch when I explain how it came about, which is why I should never tell anyone where my ideas come from.
How did I get interested in cartooning? I suppose it was because when I was very little, my father would read me the funnies after I was tucked up in bed at night. My heroes were not sports figures or soldiers: they were Moon Mullins, Mutt and Jeff, and Ignatz Mouse. So I guess that’s when I started scribbling down little sketches. At Harvard, I had a lot of cartoons and stories printed in the Harvard Lampoon, and later, when I got a Master’s Degree in Journalism at Columbia, I contributed cartoons and a cover to the Columbia Jester.
In New York, I worked for various advertising agencies as a copy writer, finding time to submit cartoons to national magazines. I even placed a couple of drawings in Collier’s and Argosy; alas, they both went out of business, killed by television.
Of course, every cartoonist’s dream is to place a drawing in The New Yorker, and though I sent in hundreds of “roughs,” none were ever accepted. Frankly, I think the cartoons they do print just plain stink, but that may be sour grapes.
While working in New York, I met Na’ama, married her, and became the father of Gideon, Seth, and Aliza. Then our family returned to Boston where I took over the family business – we were wholesalers of glass and plastic bottles. After I retired, we divided our time between the USA and a home in Italy. Returning to America, we felt a need for intellectual stimulation, so when we heard about BOLLI, we enrolled and have been taking classes ever since. And every once in a while, an idea strikes me, and I draw it up.
Editor’s Note:Sam also provides cartoons for BOLLI’s newsletter, The Banner. This month’s volume, now available online and in hard copy, features yet another gem. Be sure to check it out!
I was an elementary school teacher for over thirty years, Judy Blatt says, first in New York City and then in Sudbury. I retired in the year 2000. I always liked to write. While I was teaching, I wrote plays for the children in my classes.When I retired, I joined BOLLI and began to write both memoir and fiction. I swim laps early in the morning four days a week. There are no distractions in the pool, so it’s a perfect place to think and come up with ideas for stories.
Judy has been a “regular” participant in Betsy Campbell’s fiction writing classes, and her work is always applauded by her classmates and SGL. She is currently taking Betsy’s “Five Stories in Five Weeks” course, and the pieces she wrote for two of Betsy’s assignments are included here. For the first, “Waiting,” the task was to write a short piece about three people who are all waiting in line at the same place. And for the second, “How to Be the Life of the Party,” the challenge was to do an instructional piece using the second person point of view. As you will see, Judy’s point of view tends to take unexpected turns.
The line moved slowly past the open casket. The widow, hysterical just a few hours earlier, remained upright and subdued thanks to the family doctor’s injection and pills. As each mourner stopped to pay respects and murmur, “Sorry for your loss,” the grieving widow quietly thanked them. But as soon as they walked away, she turned to her daughter and whispered, “What will I do without him?” or “He was the perfect husband,” or “he was such a good man.”
Before long, every eye in the funeral home was on Lani–model, actress, drama queen and long-time mistress of the deceased. Dressed in a long black raincoat, sunglasses, and an ill-fitting black wig, she stood, sobbing loudly, in front of the open casket. Lani had announced beforehand that she would slip into the wake quietly and mingle with the crowd in order to go unnoticed by the widow. It was often said by those who knew Lani that she was dumb as a doorknob, but was she?
Benny Scorboni bent over the coffin and scrutinized the corpse carefully to make sure it was actually Gabe Hammer and that this wasn’t another one of his tricks. Satisfied that it was the man who owed him fifty thousand dollars, Benny longed to reach in, grab the dead guy, and kill him all over again. Now he would never get his money back. “I’m the only one here with a real reason to cry,” he thought.
HOW TO BE THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
Dear Problem Solver,
My husband works with a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. He won’t listen when I tell him that I’d rather put my head in a plastic bag than be forced to spend another evening with his boring colleagues and their wives. What should I do?
Miserable and Depressed
Dear Miserable and Depressed,
If you want to enjoy yourself at the party, then you will have to be the one to provide the fun. But first, you must be prepared. This is a list of what you will need:
A bright red dress with a low bodice and a matching jacket
A pair of long gloves (elbow length)
A deck of cards
A pair of flat shoes
You will also need to learn to play a few danceable ditties on the harmonica and study a movie starring Marilyn Monroe
It is common knowledge that nothing brings a party to life more than music. It’s difficult to carry a piano or a harp, but a harmonica will slip easily into your purse. As soon as the men head toward the library and the women begin chatting about their grandchildren, whip out your harmonica and begin playing one of the tunes you practiced. The beauty of the harmonica is that you will be able to play and dance at the same time. As soon as the others hear the catchy rhythm and see you dancing, they will join in.
But if that doesn’t work:
The purpose of the jacket worn over your dress was to keep your spouse from having a fit before you left the house. He will be too embarrassed to say a word in front of other people, so you can now remove it and reveal whatever you have to reveal. When all eyes are on you, that’s the time to think like Marilyn Monroe. What would she do in this situation? Sit on the boss’ lap? Sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”? You’ll think of something. Flirting definitely livens things up and gives everyone something to talk about, not only for the evening but for the following days or weeks.
But if that doesn’t work:
Pull out the cards, suggest a game of poker, and start slowly peeling off those long gloves. When your husband stands up and looks as if he is about to murder you, it will be time to run. You’ll be so glad you wore those flat shoes.
Now your problem is solved because you can be sure he’ll never want to take you to one of those boring parties again.
Fred Kobrick refers to himself as “a highly experienced amateur hobbyist” who loves the challenges that taking pictures provides. “Here is a recent photo of me,” he says, “out in Wyoming, one of my two favorite places in nature to photograph, the other being Africa.”
Fred describes his passion for nature photography in this way: I love being close to nature. Attempting to get superior results pulls me into the scenes, takes my mind to wonderful, calming places, and even takes over my mind at times. I love the open-ended challenges and creative endeavors. Sitting and flying birds, for example, are geometrically more difficult than fast-action sports shots, and I love improving at that.
He talks, too, about some of his most memorable moments “in the wild.”
The moment on the Snake River, after endless practice and attempts, when I got the perfect “fish catch” photo of an osprey taking a big fish from the river–capturing both eyes of the bird and the eye of the fish…
Two lion cubs playing over their dinner remains, after eating their fill…
A perfect sunset in the Okavango Delta taken from the Fish Eagle, the world’s best outdoor bar…
Walking the streets of Hanoi and seeing a young boy’s changing facial expressions as he read a Vietnamese Conan Comic Book, photographing it as he turned the pages…
Another Snake River moment–this time, getting the almost impossible picture of a red winged blackbird with his wings fully stretched out, including his full and perfect reflection in the water…
And the perfect candid of a mother and baby moose looking at each other in the water, as I hid, unseen, in the bushes.
Among other favorite shots are…
Recently, at the urging of his kids, Fred entered several of his nature photos in Smithsonian Magazine’s annual nature photography contest. As a result, he now has a Smithsonian gallery online. To see this stunning work, go to:
Fred says that he came to BOLLI after he heard great things about the program from friends several years ago.
I tried a short one-week program, loved it, took a course or two, and was told by some people that they thought I would enjoy teaching BOLLI students and do that well (I had been a popular teacher in two graduate programs at Boston University). I’m looking forward to more interesting and new subjects to explore as both a student and a teacher and am thinking about possibly creating a sequel to my China course, which many students have requested. My friends were right. I’ve loved BOLLI.
During my 40 year career as an academic gynecologist, the only writing I did was technical, for journals, teaching, or medical-legal opinions. I expressed my creativity in the operating room, performing innovative and original reconstructive procedures. I have been a closeted humanities lover all along, however, taking courses in Shakespeare and classical music while majoring in Physics in college. Now that I’ve retired and discovered BOLLI, writing memoir and short stories has come to the fore.
FOREVER IN CONTROL
by David Chapin
The organist played Gershwin tunes as the mourners filed in. Almost everyone chatted with his or her neighbors. Self-appointed “ushers” moved up and down the aisles attempting to keep the seating orderly. A mood of almost inappropriate levity prevailed. The synagogue, the largest in town, filled to capacity a full half-hour before the scheduled start and then overflowed into the foyer and the community hall on the other side. Family, former co-workers, mentees, and friends. Brilliant rays of sun sliced through the panes of the floor-to-ceiling window, illuminating the bimah from behind.
A brilliant attorney, a celebrated raconteur, and an inveterate jokester, Eli had dominated virtually every personal encounter he had ever faced. His bright blue eyes sparkled when he smiled, and he captivated every audience, the life of every party. Those eyes could cut right through you like a spear when he was angry. Fun-loving on one hand, a rigid disciplinarian on the other, you either hated him or loved him. Especially if you were one of his children. I was glad I wasn’t. He wanted nothing but the best for them, but he rode them relentlessly to do well in school, to perform their household chores, to take responsibility for their actions. If you lost your gloves, “you could ski barehanded,” he said. At his law firm, he was known for firing incompetent associates on the spot and riding and disciplining the good ones as if they were his children. You either hated him or loved him.
Eulogizers, one after another, told Eli’s favorite jokes or recounted hilarious, intense, or scary incidents. No one except his wife and children had seen Eli for at least five years, as he had descended the downward spiral of Alzheimer’s. The piercing blue eyes had turned blank; the smile had become a droopy frown; the jokes and stories had faded away. The firm managed to carry on without him. Nonetheless, his everlasting humor, his no-nonsense approach to business, and his overpowering personality persisted in everyone’s memory. So they came.
Eli’s friend Billy spoke from the pulpit. “A recent arrival at a Florida retirement community meets a more seasoned resident at breakfast,” he begins. “I am unhappy, the man says to his new friend. There is nothing for me to do here. How come you are always happy and smiling? The other man says, ‘it is easy to be happy here; you just need a hobby.’ You got a hobby? ‘Yeah, I got a hobby. I catch bees.’ How do you do that? asks the unhappy fellow. ‘I go out with a jar and a net. I catch the bees in the net, and then I dump them in the jar and close the top.’ You got holes drilled in the top, right? ‘No. I just screw it on tight.’ But don’t they die? ‘Sure. So what? It’s only a hobby.’”
Everyone knew Eli’s favorite joke, but it was still funny. After the laughter died down, Billy descended from the pulpit and shook hands all the way up the aisle as if he had just read from the Torah on Shabbat. Eli’s former junior law partner Lenny then ascended to the lectern.
“In my first year with the firm, we were handling the bankruptcy of a dairy farm. Eli sent me to the farm to inventory the cows. I arrived to find three men loading the cows into a truck. I went to the payphone on the corner and called Eli. ‘Under no circumstances are you to allow them to take the cows away,’ he bellowed into the phone, ‘keep them there; I am calling the police.’ I went back to the farm. The men had just finished loading the last cow into the truck. Faced with the prospect of having to return to the office and tell Eli that the cows had been carried away, I laid down in the driveway in front of the truck until the police arrived.”
Again uproarious laughter and nodding of heads as most of us recognized this oft-told tale. Eli’s body may have been in the coffin, but he was still controlling the room. He would have loved the laughter.
As I savored my memories of Eli and enjoyed the jokes and stories, my mind wandered to the time of my father’s funeral several years earlier.
My father, a businessman, came home from work at 6:30. Dinner would be on the table. Meat and potatoes. His sense of humor was subtler than Eli’s. You had to know him to know when he was joking. With his children, he relied more on setting high expectations and showing quiet disapproval when they went unmet. At his office, younger executives learned by following his example, not by reprimand. He quietly maintained control with his calm demeanor and deep understanding of the business. When angry, he said a menacing, “Now look!” accompanied by a glare that made you snap to.
My father played golf with Mort Etkin almost every Saturday and Sunday throughout the short Buffalo summers. Neither one of them ever broke 100. Mort, appropriately named, was the undertaker; also appropriately, had no sense of humor. Knowing Mort so well socially, my father had worked with him on all the funeral details of various uncles, aunts, grandparents, and even some friends. He knew which coffin to order, which vault was best, and all the Talmudic rules of the Shiva observance.
Dad died after a four-year battle with cancer. Stoicism, grit, and determination had exuded from him as he went through chemo, radiation, and still more chemo. With great effort, he dragged himself to work every day until two weeks before he died. Immediately upon returning to the house from the hospital where he died, my mother brought out a piece of paper in his oh-so recognizable scrawly handwriting, with a list of answers to Mort’s expected questions. “Call Etkin,” she said.
“I was expecting that,” Mort replied. “Will you come down to pick out the coffin?”
“American Casket Company catalog number 1050B.” I read answer number one from the list.
“And a vault.”
“Vault number 8350.” Number two on the list.
“How about flowers for the casket?”
“No flowers.” Third item on the list
“Folding chairs for the Shiva house?”
“No folding chairs.” Right in order.
“Coat rack for the Shiva house?”
“No coat rack.” Just as I expected, right on cue.
A smile came across my mother’s face. She recognized the order. I looked quizzically at her hoping for an explanation.
“Your father felt that if there were extra chairs and a place to hang their coats, Shiva visitors would not know when to leave and would end up staying too long. However, if all the chairs were full, the people who had been there the longest would get up to leave as newcomers arrived. That is what he wanted,” she said. “As for flowers, he thought they were a waste of money.” His body may have been lying in Mort’s mortuary, but he was still telling Mort what to do. Controlling the event.
As Eli’s funeral service continued, he and my father were watching from above. “How come you let them put flowers on your casket?” my father asked. “It’s so unnecessary.”
Eight years ago, I retired from 33 years of teaching art in the Boston Public Schools, and, soon after, my sister took a class in monotype printmaking. When I saw the variety of techniques used in the process, I was greatly intrigued and took a class myself. I’ve been printing ever since!
Monotype printmaking involves planning, spontaneity, and unexpected outcomes. Although the basic technique consists of painting on a plate and then running it, with paper on it, through a press, the print does not end up being an exact copy of the plate because of what happens as it’s put through the press. Monotype has been called “the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques” and is often called “the painterly print” or the “printer’s painting.”
I particularly enjoy monotype because the process offers infinite potential for variation– including working on prints after they’ve been through the press. I use watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, acrylic paints, and collaging. I’ve also worked with styrofoam and linotype and created several collages out of cut up, rearranged, and recombined monoprints.
Although I’ve been aware of BOLLI for about 10 years and encouraged my husband David to join, I didn’t join myself until one and a half years ago. I’m so glad I finally did. I have really enjoyed the classes and meeting so many vibrant people through it. I like taking a variety of courses and being exposed to so many new ideas. In addition to BOLLI, I really enjoy time at our condo in Williamstown. There’s so much to do out there– theater, museums, and the beautiful outdoors!
“A visit to the Robert S. Peabody Archaeological Museum in Andover on the occasion of my fiftieth reunion at Phillips Academy sparked an interest I never knew existed. The museum has a select number of exhibits dealing with North American Indigenous Cultures, but its primary purpose is the education of students from the Academy. It didn’t take long before my wife, Susan, and I began commuting once a week to act as volunteers. Over the 6 ½ years we have been going to the museum, the scope of what I do has varied widely. A sample of the tasks I have performed includes: sorting out the correspondence of the museum’s benefactor; cataloguing large numbers of photographs of archaeological sites; bagging 10,000 year old artifacts (arrowheads, gouges, scrapers, etc.); inventorying one percent of the entire collection of 500,000 artifacts; hunting for missing books in a library of over 10,000 volumes; and assisting with online searches. I have also been asked to contribute to the museum’s newsletter.” Quinn contributed this item to the museum’s blog in February of this year.
A WESTERWALD CHAMBER POT
by Quinn Rosefsky
As a Peabody Museum volunteer for the past 6 1⁄2 years, I have had the rare opportunity to help staff members with a variety of unique and exciting tasks. Today, I was introduced to a bit of our Colonial history. The object in question is a rather attractive example of its kind, a chamber pot that survived intact from early Colonial days, preserved in a drawer in the Peabody’s basement storage. See the full catalog record online at http://bit.ly/1XVnQd3. Aside from the intrigue of its nearly pristine condition, there is the question of date of manufacture. The Boston City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley, points out that the chamber pot may be from a 1630s well on Boston’s Congress Street. Several avenues of inquiry are open, including details of the well’s exploration and if the well was ultimately used as a privy and refuse dump, a common trajectory for such a feature. But in order to take a stand on the dating issue we need to have an appreciation of the phases of use and manufacture of such pots.
The earliest chamber pots date from at least the sixth century B.C. in Greece. In the past four to five hundred years chamber pots were found in nearly every household, usually stored under beds but sometimes in dining rooms. English and Colonial lead-glazed earthenware chamber pots came in a variety of colors: brown, green, red, orange, tortoiseshell, gray, and black. There were also stoneware pots, and some of the more striking ones are known as Westerwald or Rhenish Gray (1575-1725), followed by Debased Westerwald (1725-1775), and then American Westerwald (1730s). In the eighteenth century, these pots were mass-produced.
Not to be ignored were chamber pots made of metal, the earliest example being from 1545. It was possible to assess a person’s wealth by whether or not they had silver or pewter chamber pots. But the English Civil War of the 1640s temporarily spoiled this method because the Royalists conscripted silver and pewter to make silver coinage to fund their war efforts, a practical, if unhygienic way to pay off debt using dirty money without resorting to taxes.
A chamber pot might have a tame inscription, “Break Me Not I Pray in Your Hast for I to Non will Give Destast.” Some showed less decorum, “Oh Dear Me What Do I See.”
The chamber pot at the Peabody is gray, salt-glazed stoneware with cobalt blue cordons beneath the rim and above the base. In remarkable condition, the pot measures 6 3⁄4” wide at the opening and 6” high. There are no pithy inscriptions, but two cobalt blue bellicose lions, each one crowned, and three stamped rosettes, each filled with four spades and a central diamond, are eye- catching. These lions and rosettes have been “sprigged on,” meaning attached with separately molded designs. The rim tapers upward to a narrow “seat.” For dating purposes, it appears that mid-eighteenth century pots had wider rims. Extending out from the rim is a ribbed handle attached in a manner so that the pot won’t tip. There are no “makers” marks or dates. But comparing the chamber pot under examination with a very similar Westerwald example dated 1632 found in Ivor Noël Hume’s 2001 book, If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2,000 Years of British Household Pottery, we see many similarities, including the tapering of the opening, rosettes, and the sprig-applied crowned lions. A valid case can be made for a 1630s date given the similarities with Noël Hume’s text and its preservation in the Congress Street well. But there are other dating possibilities that need to be considered.
With the accession to the throne of England of William and Mary, whose reign spanned the years 1689 to 1702, they brought with them a passion for what was called the Rhenish or Westerwald chamber pot, originating in the Rhineland district of Germany. The style and patterns were very close to what we have at the Peabody, examples of what were called “grès-de-flandres.” By 1710, large supplies of these gray stoneware chamber pots with their sprig-mounted lions and rosettes were being shipped to England. Over the next fifty years, this style of chamber pot was found in most British and Colonial homes. Eventually variations were produced on both sides of the Atlantic, satisfying a combination of hygienic, commercial, and political needs. Later versions of Colonial chamber pots had variations in the rosettes, including a profile relief of George III sprigged onto the side. What better way to pay daily homage to the monarch?
So which date do we choose? In order to settle the debate, I would be happy to fly to Amsterdam with the Peabody’s Westerwald chamber pot tucked under my arm (in bubble wrap) to compare it with the one from Noël Hume’s book. As there is no inflammatory profile of George III, I doubt I would have any difficulties in case the plane had to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport. But budget constraints are likely to apply to such a trip and less costly research methods would pertain, such as having a debate amongst archaeological scholars. Whatever the outcome, we have the satisfaction of knowing that this chamber pot, however humble and utilitarian, played a role in the origins of Congress Street prior to its transformation into a thriving financial district.
Quinn says that “Membership at BOLLI since the fall of 2012 has been a wonderful opportunity to study and make new friends and acquaintances. The courses I have taken have all been fascinating. It’s fun to try new things and be part of groups interested in exploring and discussing a variety of topics. I have especially enjoyed The New Yorker Fiction Salon, which, for me, served as a springboard for developing and teaching two courses and acted as a strong incentive to get me to write fiction. It has also been highly rewarding to serve as a liaison from the SGSC to SGLs. And for someone like myself who has been perplexed and stymied by world events, the Current Events meetings have been an excellent way to experience clarity if not solutions.”
For fifty years, artist Suzanne Hodes, who joined BOLLI this past fall, has enjoyed her quiet home near the Charles River here in Waltham. Pictured here in her studio with two of her paintings, she says, in fact that the river has often inspired her work.
Suzanne has found inspiration in many places and has, in turn, inspired others. In the 1980s, she co-founded Artists West Studios in Waltham and Artists for Survival, a group that worked for 15 years to plan exhibitions and educate the public about the need for a nuclear weapons freeze. She has exhibited widely in New York and New England, and her work is in many area museums.
She says that, at this point in her life, while she has many interests, she—like so many of us–joined BOLLI in order to make new friends. “One of my friends was teaching a course on Longfellow and was very enthusiastic, and I knew Tamara Chernow from the Waltham Library, so I went to some of The New Yorker discussions and also went to see a play with the group.” This fall, she took Fara Faramarzpour’s course, “Our Home/Our Planet,” which she very much liked. “I was a science major before art,” she says. “There was lots of interaction in the class, and Fara made time to have everyone involved.” She is looking forward to her next BOLLI ventures.
We are all so pleased to welcome you to BOLLI, Suzanne!
For a more thorough introduction to Suzanne and her work, visit her truly wonderful web site by clicking on the link below:
“Ever since I first fell for books,” Maxine says, “I have been a lover of short stories. My father had a huge collection, and I was tortured with nightmares from reading “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell Tale Heart” while still in grammar school. My older brother was a terror, so I understood “The Ransom of Red Chief” well. And I read the complete works of W. Somerset Maugham in a small, third floor walk-up apartment in the early ‘60s when I was home alone with a newborn baby as Nikita Khrushchev was placing missiles in Cuba and aiming them at the United States. I devoured short stories for years and then started writing my own some forty years ago.”
Stories by Maxine appear in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions of Maine’s Goose River Anthology available on Amazon. She wrote “Technology Gotcha?” for an assignment in Betsy Campbell’s Fiction Writing course during BOLLI’s 2015 fall term.
By Maxine Weintraub
Due to severe thunderstorms in the area, the flight from Phoenix to Dallas had been diverted to an Air Force base in Texas. Tons of huge, commercial airliners were lined up on the runways, like elephants standing in a row before entering the circus ring. Finally, the log jam opened, and they were airborne, Dallas bound. Bumpy, but who cared? Life was going to begin for her now. She knew it.
Barbara rushed off the plane in Dallas, hurried to the nearest airport store, and purchased a throw-away cell phone. Then, she went directly to the American Airlines waiting area until it was time for her Boston flight. The waiting area was fairly empty—two young couples sitting quite far away and one pleasant looking, middle-aged man sitting across from her on the usual uncomfortable plastic seat. He nodded and looked like he might strike up a conversation in order to pass the time. She was not interested. First of all, she had a most important call to make. She had waited months for this. And secondly, he was too young. Probably mid-fifties. Way too young.
She fiddled with the unfamiliar, cheap phone and dialed the number she had memorized two weeks earlier. The time was now.
“Hello? Hello?” The gruff voice asked for her identifying name.
“Charlotte,” Barbara told him.
“Okay. The job is done,” he growled, “and you owe me the balance. Cash. Now.”
“Currently,” she said, “I am stuck in the Dallas airport. Bad weather. I have the cash with me and will give it to you when I get to Boston. Or I can drop the envelop in a mailbox. What do you want?”
“Listen, lady. Your old man is dead. He’s in the alley behind Beacon Street, between Clarendon and Dartmouth, just like you ordered. Near his car. Looks like robbery. You owe me, and I want it now.”
“Okay, okay.” She was shaking. The miserable son of a bitch was dead. No more skirt chasing for him. No more humiliating nights for her. And she had his money. The hell with the prestige of being wife of the Chief of Surgery at Boston General Hospital. She had the bucks now, and her new life could officially begin. “Okay. I’ll be in Boston in a few hours and will follow through as arranged.”
“You better, lady, or you’ll be lyin’ in the morgue next to your old man.” He hung up.
Barbara was still shaking, both from terror and relief. It was done. Over. She had dealt with the under-scum of Boston to find a hit man—my God, had she really done that?—and had pulled it off.
She looked up, in a daze, at the man across the aisle. He had been on his cell too. Suddenly, two armed Dallas policemen were walking swiftly toward her. “Madam, please come with us.”
“What? What is happening?”
“Lady,” said the man from across the aisle. “You had that phone on speaker.”
In her capacity as BOLLI Matters’ literary editor, Maxine is in regular touch with the SGLs who offer BOLLI writing courses, with the Writers’ Guild Special Interest Group, and with the editor of “The Journal” to solicit material to feature in our BOLLI WRITERS column. Fiction and/or nonfiction in any genre is accepted.
“It’s kind of like Groundhog Day every time we come in here,” Nancy cautions as we squeeze through WBRS’s cramped studio located on the second floor of the Shapiro Campus Center. Wending our way through boxes of outmoded equipment items and bins of old CD’s, we move into the recording area. “Apparently, the studio is going to be renovated, so they’re always moving stuff out,” she adds. “But then, stuff seems to reappear every week.”
In the recording space itself, the walls are lined with posters (and wads of masking tape where other posters used to be). “BMI—Helping Bands Avoid Desk Jobs Since 1939,” declares one. “Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night,” announces another. Rock magazines, campus flyers, and newspapers are strewn about the space, and one blue ice skate blade guard rests on the floor under the counter at which I take a seat. This is definitely a college radio station. But Judith Stone and Nancy Connery are somewhat unique college radio station program hosts.
It was Judith who led the way into radio. A hospital administrator, she was Associate Hospital Director at U. Mass. Medical Center and Project Director at the Research and Training Institute at Hebrew Senior Life. But when celebrating her 60th birthday, Judith decided that she wanted to do something entirely different. “I had a friend in P-town who had a show on the Outer Cape station,” she says, “and I began to think about how much I had always loved radio.” She used to listen to opera with her father who would narrate the shows for her. “It was a fantastic bonding experience—a gift.” She sits back, smiling, and adds thoughtfully, “In adolescence, when you’re feeling isolated and awkward, radio becomes your friend. It’s your membership, really, in the culture.” Most of us can certainly relate to that idea. “Anyway, I heard they were looking for a DJ, so I went over to interview, but I didn’t get the job.”
That did not stop Judith, though, for whom the idea of becoming a radio host had taken firm hold. “There was this woman who called herself ‘The Trash Queen’ who did a show for a prison in the Catskills,” she recalls. “She lived in New York and collected stuff from estate sales. I thought that sounded interesting, so I called her to see if I could intern with her, but that didn’t work out either.” She kept at it, though, and eventually found her way to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, which she assumed was “a matchbook cover thing, but it’s actually real.” An open house led to an audition where “They put me in front of a teleprompter and sped it up,” she says. “Then, they offered me a scholarship.”
Eventually, Judith ended up with a jazz show on what she would later learn was a pirate station in Allston. “It was in a kind of sleazy neighborhood,” she remembers with an eye roll. “People would even walk in off the street. Nancy came along as security.” Not long after, the station was shut down, and she saw a notice that Brandeis was looking for someone to do a Yiddish radio program. “It was perfect,” she grins. “Yiddish had always been part of my life. My mother was raised in a Yiddish household, and her mother always said that English was just a flash-in-the-pan thing.” It was a match, and for the next several years, Judith and her mother, Pearl Cohen, then in her 90s, hosted “The Yiddish Hour” on the Brandeis station every other Sunday at noon. In 2003, Judith added her jazz show to the Brandeis station roster, and “Home Cookin’ with Jazz” has been running ever since.
After Nancy (also a hospital administrator) retired from her position as Director of Admissions and Financial Services at Mass General, she got involved with the show as well. “I focused on building up the audience,” she says. “I started mentioning it to people, had cards made to give out, and started emailing our listener base every week. We started coming up with catchy weekly themes to draw interest as well.”
Judith says she doesn’t have any musical talent herself but, being a great appreciator of music, she loves bringing it to others. Nancy prefers her backstage role on the show, but, not long ago, she started to add comments from the background and now just “gets into schmoozing” with their listeners. At times during my visit, I actually forget that we were on the air and just joined the conversation myself!
“There’s hardly any kind of music I don’t like,” Judith says. “Except maybe Kenny G.” She pauses for a moment and then adds, heatedly, “Do you know how popular he is in China? When stores are closing at the end of the day, they play Kenny G. And he doesn’t even get royalties for it.” She shakes her head in dismay–both for China and Kenny G.
“Most of what we play is vocal music,” Nancy says. “And the show is very eclectic. We sometimes play show tunes, R&B, Motown—anything that strikes us. And sometimes,” she adds with a wry smile, “we sneak in some liberal politics too.”
On the day of my visit, the show features “roots” music—Klezmer, Cajun, bluegrass, and more. It may not be jazz as some think of the genre, but it’s certainly folk music with a “home cooking” flair.
Tune in to WBRS 100.1 FM on Mondays at 1:00 for a full serving of “Home Cookin’ Jazz.”