THE SCREENING ROOM: TALL TALES–TRUTH OR FANTASY?

TALL TALES:  TRUTH OR FANTASY?

By Dennis Greene

Back in 2003, two films were released which plucked at my heartstrings.  Each, in fact, seemed to be playing the same tune.

Both films made me experience wonder, think about storytelling, and appreciate the uplifting power of nostalgia and fantasy.

Yesterday, while channel-surfing, I stumbled upon one of those films, Big Fish, which was directed by Tim Burton and featured Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi, Miley Cyrus, Billy Crudup, and Robert Guillaume.  A quite talented cast.

The story focuses on the irrepressible traveling salesman Ed Bloom (Finney) who has spent his lifetime telling unbelievable stories to his family. His son Will (Crudup) is initially dazzled by his father’s adventures, but as he grows up, he begins to doubt the truth of these oft- repeated tales and, over time, becomes estranged from his father. The audience experiences these past adventures through slightly surreal flashbacks featuring young Ed Bloom (McGregor). which present charming fairytale images. As Ed Bloom lies dying, Will returns, along with his pregnant wife, to try to reconnect with his father and discover the truth about his father’s life and love for his mother. Will wants to be able to pass the truth on to his own child. The movie ends with Ed Bloom’s death and some revelations about the truth, but it closes with an uplifting note which left me both satisfied and a little choked up. Big Fish received positive critical comment but is not very well known. One reviewer noted that “Big Fish is the enchanting story of a father and son, but it really is the story of stories themselves.”

As I watched Big Fish, I realized how much the film reminded me of Secondhand Lions, another high quality but often overlooked film from 2003. Lions also had a very talented cast including Robert Duval, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment, Kyra Sedgwiick, and Jennifer Stone.

The film centers on a fourteen-year-old boy who is sent by his irresponsible mother to live with his two very eccentric “uncles” on their run-down ranch in the middle of nowhere. The uncles are strangers to the boy, but as they become acquainted and then close, the uncles tell the boy extraordinary tales of their youthful escapades as soldiers of fortune. The stories seem right out of The Arabian Nights with sultans, harems, princesses, vast treasures, daring rescues, and desert escapes, but the boy also sees aspects of the two old men that suggest the tales could be true. He is also told about the unwavering lifetime love of one of the uncles for the princess he rescued. Again, the film involves the telling of fantastic stories, and the audience has to decide whether or not to believe that the stories are true. The movie also ends with death, revelation, an uplifting feeling, and a few tears. The review of Big Fish mentioned above is equally applicable to Lions. It is an enchanting story of two old men and a boy, but it really is another story about stories themselves.

I am a storyteller and am prone to retell and embellish my stories repeatedly. Those who spend time with a storyteller, like spouses, children, siblings, and long-time friends or coworkers sooner or later come to find these stories tedious. Roger Ebert, in his not entirely positive review of Big Fish, described Ed Bloom as a “tireless blowhard” who “repeats the same stories so relentlessly you expect the eyeballs of his listeners to roll up into their foreheads and be replaced by tic-tac-toe diagrams, like in the funnies.”

I have always had high regard for Mr. Ebert, so his comment hit home—but not about the movie.  I think I have detected eyes rolling up as I have told my stories, but I have stubbornly ignored those hints. Because I don’t want to become a tireless blowhard (if I am not there already), I have decided to cease retelling any story to anyone who may have already heard it, with the possible exception of a few stories I feel are so good that they are worth hearing again. So now, I will have to create new stories, find new listeners, or just shut up.

If you want to escape the real world for a few hours, I highly recommend either of these feel-good films about storytelling and truth.  I will not tell you this again.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  

 

MORE TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: Another Scam…

DEFENDER SCAM

by John Rudy

Scams continue to be a major problem, and all of us need be very careful about them.  Some are fairly obvious as they contain poor English, but others seem almost reasonable.  Let me address one that I recently received.

Before showing it to you, let me mention that Windows Defender is important software from Microsoft that is part of your operating system.  It protects you from viruses and is the Microsoft default product for this service.  Many purchase other products from Norton and other companies because, until recently, Defender and its predecessors were deemed insufficient.  In general, though, that is not the case today.  And, as I said, it is FREE.

So this is what I received as an email (I’ve compressed it a bit). If this is sent to enough people who actually respond, they will receive a lot of money.  Two weeks ago, I received a very similar scam, but that one was only asking $299.

DO NOT call the “toll-free number” provided.  Just delete the message and move on!

===================================================

Thank you for your order.

Your order number: #5327271724162153

This is your receipt make sure to print or save a copy for your records.

Your order has been shipped through online delivery.

If you want to cancel this order, Give us call on our toll-free number:-  (704) 764-1190

Your Order Information:

Order Number: #5327271724162153

Customer Number: 0008547896 

Order date: 05/18/2020

Items Ordered: 1

Your Billing Information:

Total Amount: $499.99

Payment Method: Visa Credit/Debit Card/Net 500

Your Shipping Details:
Shipping Method: Online
Product Detail: Download File

Thank you for your recent order with us. If you have any questions or want a refund for this order, Please call on our Toll-Free Number: (704) 764-1190

We all need to be particularly careful these days as there are predators out there trying to take advantage of our fears.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this regular BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, be sure to provide John with questions,  comments, or suggestions future tech items to cover. 

TECH TALK with John Rudy: LIBRARY PROGRAMS

LIBRARY RESOURCES 

from John Rudy

Although this information is specific to the Lexington Library, most is applicable to the other libraries in the Minutemen region so if you think that a particular capability is worthwhile you might find that your library has it.  Also, much of the functionality is through the Boston Public Library.

So, how can the Cary Library help you now, even though it’s closed because of Covid-19??

Christine Muir, Community Librarian at Cary Memorial Library, focused on many library resources that are available even while the library is closed in a recent presentation to the weekly meeting of the Lexington Computer and Technology Group (LCTG).  We recorded this presentation; you can view the program and see all of the options available to you right now—all at no fee.  You may find it useful to pause the program so you can take notes, as she covered a lot of material!

The link to the video is under Past Meetings on the LCTG (computer group)’s page: http://LCTG.toku.us

Look for the April 8, 2020 entry and click on “Watch Presentation” in the column on the right.

The LCTG meets (virtually nowadays) on Wednesday mornings and we have been recording most presentations for nearly 2 years.  There may be other topics on this page of interest to you.  Membership in the LCTG is free; see the group page for information about joining the group and our upcoming meetings.

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, suggestions; or good jokes.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this  BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide John with questions,  comments, or suggestions future tech items to cover. 

 

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: SHRIMP & CORN BISQUE

SHRIMP AND CORN BISQUE

from John Rudy

This is from the book Best of American-Traditional Regional Recipes.  I have no recollection of where or how I got this.  (I have increased the amount of shrimp and do not use the thyme.)  It serves four hungry people.

 

2 Tbsp      Olive oil

1                Onion minced

4 Tbsp      Butter

¼ cup       Flour

3 cups      Chicken stock (or other stock)

1 cup        Milk

1½ cup     Shrimp, peeled, cooked

1½ cups   Corn kernels (fresh, frozen canned)

½ tsp        Minced thyme (optional)

Salt

Pepper

Scallions (optional)

½ cup       Light cream

 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan.  Add the onion and cook over low heat until softened ~10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Make roux by adding the flour and stirring with a wire whisk until blended.  Cook 1-2 minutes until it darkens.  Pour in the stock and milk and stir to blend.  Bring to boil over medium heat and cook 5-8 minutes stirring frequently.  NOTE: could use bouillon cubes to make the stock, but they tend to be very salty.  It is better to use a good boxed or canned stock.

3.  Cut each shrimp into 2 or 3 pieces and add to the onion along with the corn (and thyme).  Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from the heat.

4. Add the sauce mixture to the shrimp and corn mixture and mix well. Remove 3 cups of the soup and puree in a blender or food processor.  Return it to the rest of the soup in the pan and stir well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add the cream and stir to blend.  Heat the soup almost to boiling point, stirring frequently.  Serve hot.  Can add a full shrimp or two to the soup just before serving.  Optionally, cut up some scallions for garnish on the top of the soup.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

John has been contributing recipes and tech hints to BOLLI Matters since this blog first got underway–he says his cooking inspiration came from his mother (who cooked vegetables in boil-able packages). He is also a  member of the Lunch & Learn or Distinguished Speaker Series committee and is always looking for suggestions for lunchtime speakers, so send ideas to 

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu or call at  781-861-0402.

A SPECIAL MOMENT: with Donna Johns

This piece from Donna was written before we started engaging in social distancing…to me, it seems just that much more poignant…

HANDS

by Donna Johns

I hold my newborn granddaughter in my arms and do an inventory. Hair? Maybe red. Eyes? Probably brown because of brown eyed dominance. Nose? Tiny, so not a long nosed Swede. Complexion? Somewhat lighter than her sister. Mouth? Her mother’s cupid bow. Her hands? Oh my, her hands.

From her first photograph, those hands were compelling. Broad palms and large fingers wave through the air, as though she is trying to make sense of her new world by touch. She flings them over her head, stretches out her fingers, swoops her hand over her face, then straight out. She grasps your finger, then moves across her face, samples a thumb and then begins to explore again.

She has my grandmother’s hands. Farm girl hands capable of hard work and loving touches. For years I watched Grammy Signe as she transformed flour, milk, yeast, sugar and cardamom into a recalcitrant dough. Patiently, those hands would work the dough, pressing her palms into the stickiness, flipping the edges, pressing her palms again until a smooth, satiny dough bloomed. Those hands lovingly shaped the braids and rolls. Those strong hands pulled heavy iron cooking sheets from the oven, laden with delectable sweet bread.

My grandmother’s hands were never idle. They dusted and swept and mopped and scrubbed and cooked and baked and tidied. Every night after dinner clean up, she would sit at the kitchen table and play solitaire as she smoked a Parliament cigarette. Even the solitaire game kept her hands busy as she flipped cards, made rows, set up her aces. Sometimes she won. Most of the time she didn’t. She would sigh, bundle the cards together and try again. In solitaire, as in most things, she was a patient optimist.

And now here are Signe’s hands, replicated in miniature, in her great great granddaughter. Who knows what adventures these hands will have, what order she will create out of chaos, what talents she will display? That is the blessing of a newborn life, open to any number of possibilities.

The baby’s hands wave in front of her face as her eyes begin to close. She manages to capture her thumb in the corner of her rosebud mouth. She sleeps, held in my arms. Her hands are still for now.

Sweet dreams, Rosalind.

BOLLI MATTERS feature writer, Writers Guild member, CAST and Sceneiors actress–and more–Donna Johns

Donna is also a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, and sometime director of community theater. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? Nemeses – Marty Kafka

NEMESES

By Martin Kafka

It’s been a long time since we were children, and for many of us, including myself, I look back on that part of my life  during the early 1950’s with an unrequited longing and a micro-filtered recall of positive memories. So, from the vantage point of my current moment, it took a while to recall that our generation did face some very serious common nemeses.

Two related nemeses quickly came to mind: Communism and the threat of an atomic bomb.  Communism was an abstract concept for me as a 6-year-old. I was unaware of it as a formidable menace. As for nuclear war, I do remember air raid sirens and bomb shelter drills in school at P.S. 197 In Brooklyn.  I recognized even then, however, that hiding under my kindergarten table was not going to make any difference when the Bomb struck.

There was a third nemesis that I recall more personally, a threat posed by an invisible monstrosity that sought out children. It was a threat we all feared, and it must have been especially terrifying for our parents. It was an invisible menace that lurked amongst us like something out of the Steven King’s horror novel “It.” “It” was mostly dormant, patient, hidden, waiting for the right circumstances to strike. “It” had its preferences for warm weather, crowded spaces, and most especially, for defenseless children. “It” was an amorphous, pervasive, and alien creature that, if it could speak in a single voice, would likely malevolently growl, “Give me your children.”

Think summer camps, for example. When “It” struck, “It” could kill, but “It” was more likely to maim or cripple “Its” victims sadistically, as if “It” were engaged  in a vengeful war with us and wanted to slowly suffocate children to death.

I remember being a kid with my parents at a summer bungalow colony in New Jersey.  “It” struck one of the kids at summer camp. I don’t remember who, as he was not a particular friend of mine, but “It” showed no mercy. After “It” `struck and he died, we cowered in our bungalow, or my brother and I sheepishly played outside on our cabin’s front porch. We didn’t socialize with other kids or adults for several weeks. There was a foreboding silence amongst us, a cloud of fear that crippled our colony’s sense of community. Was there anything we could do? Would “It” strike again? Who might be “Its” next victims?

In 1952, an epidemic year, there were 58,000 new cases of “It” reported in the United States, and more than 3,000 died. It wasn’t until 1955, when I was an eight-year old kid, that I would anxiously look forward to a vaccination shot in my left arm.

Thank God for Jonas Salk.  This time, it was American science beckoning to us “Give me your children”– and we did.

BOLLI Matters contributor and member of the Writers Guild, Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.

FOOD BRIDGE

FOOD BRIDGE

By Barry David

A proper gumbo has to be thick, spicy, and loaded with shrimp, sausage, a particular assortment of sautéed vegetables, and it must include okra.  An article in the Wall Street Journal reviewed four of the best gumbo joints in Louisiana. I tried placing an online order at the top three listed, but their sites were either not user friendly or indicated that they were “out of stock–leave your request and we’ll call ya when we make more to ship.”  This was Mardi Gras time, and gumbo was in high demand down there.

I resorted to the telephone and called the top restaurant.  The WSJ food editor said they made “the best gumbo in the world.”  I strategized and called after the noon rush and spoke to Charlene.  She had a soft, smooth, southern voice and was unbelievably friendly.

I told her about having difficulty ordering online and said I wanted to place my order by telephone. She checked with the chef owner and told me about what they could ship.  I asked about what was in their gumbo–shrimp or crawfish?  Do you use butter in the roux?  Do you put okra in?  What kind of sausage?

“Whoa, there, northern boy.” (The Boston accent had tipped her off.) “How do you know so much about gumbo?”

“Well, Charlene, I happen to make my own gumbo, and it’s terrific,” I said.  “I like to cook, sort of a hobby.”

“You make gumbo up there? Do you have a recipe?”

I couldn’t resist putting her on…“Why, yes.  It’s an old secret family one, and I use lots of butter, shrimp, and okra.”

“Well, by golly, for a Yankee, you do know your gumbo.”

We completed the order, and I gave her my AmEx info.  As soon as a new batch was made and put in quart containers, it would be packed and shipped overnight in a foam cold pack.

All went well.

The “imported” gumbo from Baton Rouge, Louisiana was truly wonderful and almost as delicious as my own thick and spicy version (never the same twice).

More importantly, I made a new friend, sharing recipe secrets and  “breaking bread” in a real sense. I hope Charlene feels the same.

*

So, here’s Barry’s Gumbo—which I started from a basic recipe found on the internet and modified to perfection.  Substitute items depending on your own tastes and what you have available.

Stuff to Get Ready

4 tbsp butter

¼ cup flour

2 onions, diced

2-3 peppers, red, yellow, green, etc. diced, 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces

3 celery rib (skinned), 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped okra (more or less) in ½ inch pieces

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped (more or less, depending on what your crowd likes)

1 pound Cajun sausage (I try to get spicy turkey) cut into ½ inch pieces

1 large 12-15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes

1 jar spicy chunky salsa

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning–if you want more, add when simmering to taste

4 cups chicken broth (I make from concentrate,  Knoors)

1 pound real good med-large shrimp…shelled, cleaned. Leave tails on.

Bunch of scallions…cut up 3-4 to sprinkle on top if people want

Teaspoon of red pepper flakes (test, add more while simmering to taste)

¼ cup brown rice

White jasmine or basmati rice to serve with gumbo.  Have ready, or just microwave some in those small containers.

Steps
  1. In skillet, brown the sausage pieces. Set aside.
  2. In large pot, medium heat, melt butter and add flour. STIR, STIR, STIR while mixing in flour until mixture (ROUX) darkens…5-10 minutes of STIRRING
  3. Put all vegs in the ROUX and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add in broth, tomatoes, salsa. Bring to boil then to a SIMMER…stirring in cajan spices, the red pepper flakes, brown rice(optional, help to thicken as you like) some salt if you want..go easy on salt, pepper until you check it.
  5.  45-60 minutes of simmering. Check to see if vegs  soft.  NOT MUSHY.
  6. then add in shrimp, sausage..stirring after about 5-10 minutes shrimp will get pink. Can also use cooked/cleaned shrimp but only leave to heat for 1-2 minutes, no need to cook.

     

    DONE!!  Serve over the white rice, sprinkle with scallion pieces and your favorite beer/wine.

BOLLI Matters contributor Barry David

Barry says that he and his wife Liz began taking courses at BOLLI “almost from the beginning while winding down my career in the computer field as GM of ADP.  Love taking subjects that I’ve not had exposure to before.  Being snowbirds, we’re delighted that spring semester has five-week offerings.  BOLLI has been and remains an important part of our life.”

 

MAKING A COMEBACK: BOLLI PLAY READING GROUP

                 MAKING A COMEBACK:                   BOLLI’S PLAY READING GROUP

FRIDAYS at 2:30 ON ZOOM

Interested?  Contact Sue

susanlwurster@gmail.com for meeting link & pdf copy of script  (pdf versions available for sharing will be linked in the Bulletin)

There’s something about reading a play out loud together…it just kind of enriches the soul.

So, when I arrived at BOLLI five years ago and saw a Bulletin notice about a Friday afternoon play reading group, I was quick to join,  But, alas, Friday afternoons, as we know, are not ideal for BOLLI gatherings. In the winter, as the days grow shorter, we itch to get home before dark, and traffic gets heavy.  In the spring, as the days grow longer, we itch to get to the Cape, the Berkshires, or Maine, and traffic gets heavy.  The group dwindled in number and eventually petered out altogether…

This, however, seems to be ideal time to gather for reading plays aloud together.  SO–I hit the internet and gathered quite a collection of “old nuggets” (and others) in free pdf form that we might enjoy bringing to life in a “remote” way.  I discovered other favorites available as e-scripts that can be screen-shared when we meet.  As a result, we have quite a treasure trove of material from which to draw over the course of the coming many weeks.

Up for trying this out?  At the moment, we are enjoying classic American comedy–we started off with ARSENIC & OLD LACE and then moved on to YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.   Check the weekly BULLETIN for what comes next!  Just email me at the address listed above for our Zoom meeting link and, when possible, a copy of the script.

BOLLI Matters co-editor Sue Wurster

Known in some circles as “Wurster the Wily Word Woman,” Sue has acted in, costumed, propped, stage managed, and/or directed countless plays with first grade through college students as well as community theatre groups over the course of the past six decades…more recently, she’s even started writing some as well.  

 

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? Tales from the Twitter Bunker

Tales from the Twitter Bunker

by Donna Johns

Call me by my name: librarytwitt. I’ve been a user of this microblog, 140-word limit, for about 15 years. I follow 704 accounts, and I’m followed by 422. Over that 15 years, I’ve tweeted around 2500 times, not counting private messages or retweets. I check Twitter a few times a day, scroll through the “recents” for a few minutes, hop off. Who do I follow? Librarians, authors, a few celebrities, some news services (Reuters, AP, Daily Mail), a few friends, teachers, actors. No politicians.

Some call social media a time suck, and I guess it could be. Fortunately, I’m not compulsive. If I’m super busy, I may miss a few days. But when I have idle time, it fills me in on news that may take weeks to slog its way onto the pages of the Boston Globe or the New York Times. Such was the case these past few weeks.

Identity politics has made its way into the publishing/writing community with a vengeance. First came the total meltdown of the Romance Writers of America. The RWA has an operating budget of over $1 million, the largest of any professional genre writers’ organization. As of 2007, the organization had over 9,000 members and over 150 local chapters.  The paid and unpaid administrators of the RWA began to be held accountable for the exclusion of people of color in their annual awards. As year after year passed with no recognition, groups of writers became more organized and vocal. At last year’s awards, the RITA judges were loudly booed at the annual conference. Then one of the leaders of the resistance was officially sanctioned in a backdoor, apparently illegal, ethics subcommittee meeting.  The reason? She publicly called another member’s new novel “f..king racist trash.”

Tempest in a teapot? That’s what I initially thought, but within two weeks, almost half of the RWA members had cancelled memberships, the entire executive board and two(!) presidents resigned. Almost leaderless. The awards were cancelled, the annual conference is in danger of being cancelled, and local chapters are disbanding. Battle lines are drawn, and neither side seems interested in talking to the other. Sound familiar?

Then focus shifted to a book recently released and already chosen as an Oprah book. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a story of a mother and son escaping from a drug cartel in Acapulco and attempting to enter the United States after the murder of their family. Latinx authors began to question how a white woman could possibly reflect this experience. Tempest in a teapot? Nope. As more people read it, excerpts began appearing on Twitter. Then parodies. A wave of disdain for a book which apparently does not reflect the experiences of Latinx women.

Then came the launch party. A tony affair with lobster and champagne. Lovely purple floral arrangements in containers wrapped in barbed wire. Completely tone deaf, but you could blame the publishing house’s event planner for that one. If only the author hadn’t appeared and proudly displayed her very expensive manicure. It featured the same barbed wire motif.

Is it a crime to be tone deaf and insensitive? One thing is clear. The publishing world is taking sides. Authors are demanding that the gatekeepers of the industry open those gates to people with different life experiences, different skin color, different sexual orientation. The next battleground of identity politics.

I read it on Twitter, raw and uncensored.

BOLLI Matters feature writer, Writers Guild member, CAST and Sceniors actress, and more–Donna Johns

Donna is also a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, and sometime director of community theater. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

MEMOIR: 1973 with SANDY SHERIZEN

MOROCCO, 1973

by Sandy Sherizen

I realized that I was stalling.  I really didn’t want to go to Morocco. OPEC, Pan-Arabism, and harrowing stories from other tourists all convinced me that this was a trip I could skip. Still, sitting in a camp in Algeciras, Spain, an hour’s boat ride way from Tangiers, I waffled.

Finally, the weather made the decision for me.  After five days of rain, cold, and the same conversations with our friends, my wife and I decided to cast fears aside and go to sunny Tangiers.  So, off we went with another couple, promising our friends at the camp that we would return that evening in time for a combination birthday/going away party for Fay, John, and the kids.

We were armed with the usual tourist weapons–information and misinformation. We knew that we should not change too much Spanish money into Moroccan dirham since the rate of exchange was only 50%. We knew not to hire an official guide but, instead, wait for the many kids who would approach us and select one we liked. We knew to bargain in the shops. So we were prepared for a grand adventure.

In Tangiers, the women were searched upon entry, but we men coasted through customs. In six hours, the ship would return to Spain, so we headed into the city. As we had been forewarned, a guide with an official badge offered to show us around the town and get us back for either the 2 o’clock or the 6 o’clock ship. When we turned him down, we were suddenly surrounded by kids of all ages who hollered at us in English, French, German, and Swedish about their talents as guides.  We answered with international shrugs until one kid who looked like Jerry Lewis impressed us with his hustle, convincing us that he was to be our guide and protector.

Off we went on our thrilling visit. We toured, gaped at the veiled women, ate couscous, and finally, prepared to shop. Steering clear of officially recommended shops, we went to those where our guide knew the owners and would get us good prices.  We wandered around one until we found a lovely wall hanging. After the mandatory greetings, mint tea, and haggling over the price, we bought the hanging and tipped the salesman with a ballpoint pen with “U.S. Government” printed on it.

We had missed the 2 o’clock sailing, so we decided to pay our guide and take a leisurely walk to the dock.  At five, we arrived at the office outside the port gates to buy tickets for the 6 o’clock sailing.  There we were told that the ship had already left.  We quoted the official guide who had told us that it did not leave until 6 o’clock and were reminded that 6 o’clock in Spanish time was 5 o’clock in Morocco.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come here,” I thought as panic and fear set in.

But, we decided to see for ourselves. Breaking international records for the 2,000-yard dash over hurdles including the port guard, numerous workers, and two fences, we made it to the dock where the ship was still waiting.

We rushed to the office to buy tickets, only to find it locked. So, we turned to a line of Moroccan officials for help. We told them our problem,  and, in soothing tones, they made it worse.

“It is 5:15, and we stop our work at 5:00,” they said.

“But the ship is still here. Just let us buy tickets,” we said.

“You cannot get on the ship without having your visas               stamped. The tickets would do you no good without visas,”                     they said.

“So stamp the visas,” we said.

“We cannot.  It is 5:15, and we stop our work at 5:00,” they said.

“But the ship…!” we said.

“Do not worry, the women can come with us for a very pleasant       stay in Tangiers,” they said.

“No, thank you,” we said, visions of harems and court eunuchs              filling our heads.

Soon, it was quiet. No ship.  No officials.  Just four stranded tourists with no Moroccan money, no warm clothes for the night, and no place to stay. We were scared.

Suddenly, a young man walked by and said something to us in Arabic, then French, and, after receiving no response, in Spanish. We told him our story, and he asked if we would be interested in staying here. Here? There was nothing here but an empty dock and the port authority building.  He motioned for us to follow him into the port authority, where he led us to the upstairs waiting room and introduced us to his boss, the head night watchman.

The boss welcomed us with offers of tea, hashish, and stories about other tourists who had had similar experiences. He showed us pictures of other strand-ees who had spent the night there. One group of travelers had ended up spending every night of their week-long vacation at the building and, when their mother came to visit Tangiers the following year, she immediately checked into the “hotel” where she was welcomed like one of the family. We spent the evening playing cards, swapping stories, talking about life, and being chided for not having any children while our senior host had nine, the last born when he was 67.

Promptly at 10:00, the couches in the lounge were placed together to make four beds, and we were assigned sleeping places. We two men slept on the outside beds while the women slept together on the double bed between us.  No other arrangement was acceptable to our host. At six in the morning, we were woken up after a restful sleep even though the women were a little tired from whispering and laughing until the wee hours.

We were so happy with the hospitality and so grateful that the women’s honor and our men’s parts were intact that we offered some small gifts and money. But they refused everything, telling us that all they wished from us was a letter when we returned home. This we did, and we continued corresponding with our junior host, trying to help get him into an American university.

Our port authority hotel will never be written up in a Michelin Guide, but for us, it was the best night we ever spent with friends.

BOLLI Member and SGL Sandy Sherizen

Sandy Sherizen has been a member of BOLLI for about 10 years.  He has taught classes on privacy, the invisible forms of manipulation, sociology of deviant behaviors, Jews secretly surviving forced conversion during the Inquisition and, currently, crime and criminal justice.  He was a sociologist, criminologist and cybersecurity consultant.

 

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