Tag Archives: feature

LINES FROM LYDIA: SKYWARN SPOTTER Rob Macedo

SKYWARN SPOTTER ROB MACEDO

Rob Macedo at the National Weather Services Headquarters in Taunton

by Lydia Bogar

Red Sox, lobsta, Vineyard v. Nantucket, chowdah…and weather! Topics we New Englanders love to talk about—with the weather and its local propensity to change every ten minutes coming in at the top of the list.

This summer, we have seen a heat index of 106 degrees.  So, will we see a wind chill of 18 degrees below zero this winter?

On Monday October 22nd, we will hear from a self-professed weather geek, Rob Macedo, Amateur Radio Coordinator for the National Weather Service Boston/Norton SKYWARN program.

Rob has always had an interest in weather, a passion that peaked when his father gave him an Amateur Radio when he was 8 years old.  His uncle was an Amateur Radio Operator, and when Ron was in high school—with the support of both his dad and his uncle–he earned his Amateur Radio license. During his years at UMass Dartmouth, Rob wove a fabric of electronics, algorithms, graphs, and meteorology into a degree in electrical engineering technology. Since graduation, he has been employed at EMC/Dell.

Ron was SKYWARN trained in 1996. “It’s amazing to be trusted by the National Weather Service to teach SKYWARN to the general public,” he says.  “I feel that technology and weather can be very complementary.”  He goes on to say that “Collecting valuable weather and damage reports is a data science problem that can be solved through technology–and the work of good people. I would say, some weeks, my time commitment to SKYWARN is just a few hours, but in stormy periods, it can be up to 30 hours.” But, he reports, “The stormy times are always the most interesting!”

There are over 7000 SKYWARN Spotters in the NWS Boston/Norton coverage area. One-third are also Amateur Radio Operators.

Rob prefers not to comment on the veracity of the Farmer’s Almanac and continues to be amazed by the mechanics of the National Hurricane Center.

He would like to go storm chasing in the future, but for right now, he’s busy working with a global team on advanced data storage issues in the EMC division of Dell Technologies. In his not-so-spare time, in anticipation of upcoming snowfall totals, Rob collects damage reports and rainfall totals from across the state.

Check out the SKYWARN website at: https://www.weather.gov/box/skywarn

Seasoned sailor or ambitious golfer, the weather impacts our lives every day. Come to the BOLLI Gathering Space on Monday October 22nd to meet Rob Macedo of NWS Boston SKYWARN.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Boga

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

OCTOBER BOLLI AFTER DARK: IN PRAISE OF COMMUNITY THEATRE (AND HALLOWEEN)

                    In Praise of Community Theater                     (and Halloween)

by Donna Johns

BOLLI recently hosted Celia Couture for a noontime talk. Celia is an esteemed regional theater director, and she gave an interesting talk on the pleasures and risks of presenting edgy, thought-provoking plays to community theater audiences. That got me thinking about which local groups were tackling challenging material this fall. Here’s a short list of plays you might want to check out this fall.

Hovey Players in Waltham is presenting Ideation by Aaron Loeb. A group of consultants are pulled together for a top secret assignment. At first, it looks like just another day at the office. Ground rules like “no powerpoint” are scribbled on a white board. But as their instructions come in from the boss, it becomes obvious that they are being tasked with finding a way to dispose of a million or more dead bodies. Are they being sucked in to planning a holocaust? And do they care? Performances-November 23, 24, 30, December 1, 6, 7, 8 at 8PM and December 2 at 2pm  Click the Hovey link above for more information.

The Arlington Friends of the Drama takes an off kilter look at Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard is a Tony Award winning play described as an absurdist tale of fate and free will. The language is luscious as the audience is treated to a retelling of Hamlet from two minor characters’ points of view. This clip with Benedict Cumberbatch will give you a sense of Stoppard’s special brand of lunacy.  Performances November 30 – December 9, 2018. Click the Arlington Friends link above for ticket information.

Tcan Center for Arts in Natick tackles that age old question: what is my purpose in life? Princeton, a new college graduate, moves to Avenue Q and learns a lot about life from his neighbors. In case you didn’t know, this entire tale is told by puppets. Called “Sesame Street for adults,” Avenue Q is a Tony award winning musical which has a lot to think about. Check out this clip of “Everyone’s a Little Racist” for a taste of the fun. Performances are November 9,10,11,15,16,17,18 2018. Click on tcan above for more information.

For all you scientists out there…check out the Concord Players production of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. Thomasina, a precocious thirteen year-old, asks her tutor why jam mixed into rice pudding can never be unstirred? The play unfolds from that not so simple question as Stoppard weaves tales past and present together with dollops of physics, mathematics, sex and romantic poetry.  Here’s a sampler from Yale Repertory Theater. Performances are November 2-17. Click on Concord Players above for more information.

And here’s the best part: all four of these fascinating plays can be seen for as little as $80. Before you order tickets, check out Goldstar.  They frequently offer community theater tickets at half price. For example, right now, the Arlington Friends of the Drama tickets for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are being offered for $10. Just type “community theater” in the Goldstar search box to see all the choices.

If theater is not your thing, Goldstar can be a great resource for fun Halloween activities. Among their offerings are discounted tickets for a HalloWeekend Pub Crawl at the Hard Rock Cafe, a Ghost Tour in Harvard Square, and a Haunted Speakeasy at Bull Mansion New American Bistro in Worcester.

Autumn is, indeed, a wonderful season for BOLLI After Dark!

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

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

 

 

 

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, 1792-2018

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-2018)

by Eleanor Jaffe

I woke up with Shelley on my mind, which was very strange because I had not thought of Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822) since I was an English major at Brooklyn College a long time ago.  All that had been on my mind were the Kavanaugh hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee and Trump’s harangue to the United Nations about his triumphs since becoming President.  Nevertheless, my unconscious made these connections between Shelley and my perceptions of contemporary political life.

To me, this is how Shelley predicted our current Republican majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee (from “Queen Mab,” 1813):

Power, like a desolating pestilence,                                                Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience                                                     Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,                                                       Makes slaves of men, and, of the human frame,                                                    A mechanized automaton.

In his 1817 poem, “Ozymandias,” Shelley describes the decaying remains of a once supreme king. The traveler who discovers the remains describes:

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone,                                                                   Stand in the desert.  Near them, on the sand,                                                    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown                                               And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command                                                    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read.

 The once powerful king had boasted:                                                                    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:                                                               Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”                                               Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay                                                            Of that colossal wreck…”

I no longer remember the political machinations of Shelley’s England that led him to make these poetic observations.  However, in my opinion, he provides poetic insight into our current political circus.  The majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee has shown itself to be slave-like in its obedience to Power.  And Trump’s boastfulness would make Ozymandias jealous!  What do you think?

BOLLI Matters feature writer Eleanor Jaffee\

Eleanor says that, since November of 2016, her activist nature has been reawakened.  In addition to writing for BOLLI Matters, she has teamed up with fellow member Elaine Dohan to form BOLLI’s new and vibrant “Make a Difference” special interest group.

STORIES FROM STEVE: AT THE MOVIES

As Steve Goldfinger has been one of our most prolific BOLLI Matters writers, we thought it only fitting that we give him his own feature for his blend of memoir and creative nonfiction writing.  Welcome to the stable, Steve!

AT THE MOVIES

by Steve Goldfinger

My fright alarm went off for the first time when I was three years old.   It was my first movie, and the picture, my parents later told me, was Pinocchio.  It was Stromboli who caused me to shriek and them to carry me out to the lobby and then home.

Little has changed since then when it comes to my shriek alarm.  I left The Deer Hunter when  the Russian roulette scene had the soldier pointing a gun to his temple. I knew enough to never even try to watch Jaws or Psycho. If I had known about the bathtub scene at the end of Diabolique, I would have been spared that episode of chest pain and tachycardia. I was brave enough to join friends to see Fatal Attraction–but not without a blue woolen sweater to cover my eyes at the scene they warned  me would be coming. I adjusted the pull length on the sweater to obtain a suitably gauzy image, but this maneuver prevented me from stuffing my ears to quench the music as it amped and crescendoed at the same time.

Much as I would try to imagine an orchestra on the set (ridiculous!) or a director in a chair in front of the actors and a hanging microphone just above their heads but cut away, it never worked . I just got too rapt up and would totally suspend any whiff of disbelief.

A sequel to the Saw series, a horror movie for the the films’ avid followers, will be released just before Halloween–concocted by none other than my own Peter Goldfinger and his writing partner, Josh Stohlberg.  How could such a thing happen?

It is not Pete’s first venture into the horror genre.  He is married to Jen Jostyn who had a lead role in House of a Thousand Corpses; and  yes, its producer, named Rob Zombie, remains one of their close friends.  A while back, the Pete and Josh duo wrote Sorority Row and Pirhana-3D which outdid Jaws by about a hundred mutilations, most of them attractive coeds being plucked from a lake and halved by huge scaly carnivores. The lake gradually reddened as the action progressed.

When I arrived to visit Pete in Los Angeles, he told me it was my lucky day–I could come on the set when they were filming Sorority Row.   The nude scene.  Well, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.   I discovered that viewing a horror movie in the flesh, so to speak, wasn’t really that upsetting.  Not at all horrible.

So I await the pre-Halloween event. The title of this one is Jig Saw. I’ve seen a few trailers on my iPad.  And I’m saving my blue woolen sweater for the real thing.

Frequent BOLLI Matters writer Steve Goldfinge

Since joining BOLLI nearly three years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has taken writing classes and participated in the Writers Guild throughout but has also taken part in CAST and the Book Group.  

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: THE HOUSE AT 25

THE HOUSE AT 25

by Lydia Bogar

I can return to the house at 25 because, when I cleaned it out and sold it three years ago, I did so with respect. Respect for the efforts taken by Daddy to buy it. The efforts of Mom, with love and support from Papa, to keep it. Respect for the gardens, the contents of the cabinets, the memories in the cellar. I can sit in the zero-gravity chair at Liza’s house, in my brother’s old room, enjoy the reflexology, and not be intimidated by the room that was his space. The best part is that I can easily say I am going to Liza’s house.  Not home.  Not Mom’s.  Not my old house.

The house is full of life again, a life of a different kind.  A single woman gardener who cooks from scratch but who is not my mother. In at least a hundred ways, she is not my mother.  A nurse.  A massage therapist.  A lesbian.  And yet, she is like her.

Liza has a few of Mom’s cookbooks. It seemed the right thing to do. She keeps them in the same place on the counter where Mom kept hers.  Kindred spirits.  Since Liza believes in and practices alternative, holistic medicine, I wonder if Mom will communicate with her from heaven.  Absolutely in heaven, nothing half way for Ruthie.  Nothing  halfway, I suspect, for Liza either.

Liza is not an ordinary nurse but a holistic nurse working with distressed patients in a community clinic.  In it for the long haul. She is fearless and focused, which at her core, was also my mother. The mother, the widow, the only child.  The survivor.

Two dogs, one old Bassett and one very spunky mongrel. There is dog damage at 25–chewed baseboard and door trim.  A cracked window not repaired.  The garage no longer holds my mother’s odds and ends but Liza’s odds and ends, mostly for her gardening. I have not been in the cellar yet, but it isn’t necessary for me to go there. I know this house, every bit of it, and yet, it is no longer mine.  Mine is at number 8. Mine for 44 years, twice the length of time that I lived at 25.

Twenty-five.  Written out, it doesn’t taste different.  With the exception of the dog fence, the yard looks the same.  Maybe when those big ugly old pines come down, it will look different. The Shasta daisies look the same. The Rugosa roses that trail the ranch fence. The flamboyant Scotch Broom that welcomes spring. The shed–with its tired, ragged doors open–looks abandoned. The birdhouse that I made at camp in 1958 is no longer on the south side of the shed. It is on a tree at number eight. The dogs and cats that live at twenty-five run in and out of the shed, taking refuge from the rain or heat, soon to be snow and cold.

Scout, the frantic Beagle mix, barely reminds me of Bobo, my first dog.  My clearest image of Bobo is a small black and white photo of her with Daddy.  Poor, silly old girl. She kept Mom company as the nest emptied.

That thought reminds me of the crazy Malamute that Steven adopted when he got out of the Air Force in 1973. That dog chewed the headboard and then the smaller, wagon-wheel footboard. What a sad sight that was.

Dogs own houses and people.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? THE RED BELT by Charlie Raskin

THE RED BELT

An Experience in the Life of a Salesman

By Charlie Raskin

“The rain in Spain, mainly from the plain” couldn’t even touch it.  The fury of that downpour drenched every inch of me.  Right down to the bone.  No wonder my wife Kathy looked worried as I entered my home in Wayland, back in April 1970.  The loving emotion on her face was comforting.  But I never got the hug and kisses I so needed at that moment.  All of her worry and love was washed away five seconds later when she told me that the Boston Police Department was very much in need of my presence.

“My name is Detective Murphy,” the officer said.  “I’m heading a murder investigation here in the city of Boston.  We found a red belt, manufactured by a firm called ‘Paris’ and was informed by Filene’s Department Store that you were the salesman for this company.  We’d appreciate some information concerning this piece of evidence.”

At this point, I excused myself and reached for the telephone to call my wife.  Detective Murphy immediately obstructed my motion and informed me that a call to the suburbs cost money.  I used my A.T.&T. credit card to let Kathy know that all was well.

The credit card led to another call—this time, to my Chicago office.  The belt was small (30-32”), and it was red.   A cotton fabric comprised the body of the belt, and it was attached at each end with very soft, supple leather.  One part of the leather was attached to a buckle with a hook that slipped easily into any one of the three holes in the leather on the other end.  The soft leather showed a deep crease behind the first hole and a very slight crease in the third.  The middle hole showed no wear.  The few numbers stamped on the belt showed that it had been delivered to a military PX in Hawaii.

I asked the detective if they had made any assumptions about whether either the victim or the assailant was gay.  A crescendo of voices in the room responded with the same question:  “How did you know?”

In the 70s, as a salesman, I had come to recognize that a number of gay men who were out of the closet wore clothing in the high color range.  And, in my estimation, a good many of them knew how to coordinate colors.

It turned out that the victim was a well-known gay man in the antique business.  He had been left, nude, on the floor of his apartment.  The only item that didn’t belong in the apartment was the red belt found near him.  It was much too small for the victim.

I was asked for more impressions.

Well, I told them, the well-worn creases in the leather showed that the owner had lost a great deal of weight.  That and the evidence that it had been purchased at a PX led to my thinking that the owner had been in the U.S. Navy.

The detective told me that the department had a huge supply of other clothing stored in a cell in the basement of the building and asked me to look it over to see if I could make suggestions about their original wearers.  I came back the next day and took a look, offering a comment here and there, but nothing that I thought provided the detective bureau with any inspiration.

About a month later, I was called by the department to thank me for the investigative road I had suggested to them.  It led to the conviction of three young servicemen stationed in East Boston.  And my comments about the other clothing actually produced detective action on other cases.

It occurred to me that, in addition to holding up the weight of the world, the belts and suspenders and ties that I sold added a lot of high color to our daily lives.

BOLLI Member Charlie Raskin

Since this is the first piece I’ve ever written for any publication, it might be my last.  Inspiration to write came from Liz David, who happens to have an inside track to aging.  Also, thought it might be another road to “Conviviality.”

Hope others will take a stab at writing too!

WHO CARES ABOUT THE ADA?

WHO CARES ABOUT THE ADA?

By Cindy Wentz

Who cares about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?  I do, and you should as well.  OK, OK–perhaps it’s not as pressing as flipping the House or whether Kavanaugh gets confirmed… or is it?  I maintain that it touches many more aspects of our daily lives than many events of the day.  Moreover, it is influenced by all three branches of our government.

Did you know that 20% of Americans have some type of disability?  I have seen a figure as high as 35% for seniors.  Under the ADA, the term ‘disability’ refers to a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities regardless of whether said impairment is current, is part of the individual’s history or record, or is a perception by others.  Hence the disability may (use of a walker, blindness) ) or may not (mental illness, hearing loss) be visible to the casual observer.  Do YOU have a disability?  What about your family members?  What about your fellow BOLLI learners?  It has been said that disability is the only minority group to which one can gain membership at any time.  So, if you don’t have a disability now. . . just wait. . . or maybe not.

The ADA is a fairly straightforward civil rights act for people who just happen to have disabilities.  It was signed into law in 1990 by then President George H. W. Bush.  I will defer to Josh Mendelsohn, our October 9” Lunch & Learn” speaker, to provide more specifics.  Josh, an attorney, has worked for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and currently heads up the Community Living Division at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.  Josh happens to be Deaf.

Instead, I will attempt to convey what the ADA means in my life.  As some of you know, I have very poor vision.  I can’t read print, can’t see traffic lights, don’t understand those scenes in movies that lack dialog, and encounter challenges in a hundred other commonplace activities.  Under the advent of the ADA, the subsequent Telecommunications Act of 1996, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (amendments 1998), I can now expect to be able to use the ATM at my local bank branch by plugging in a headphone and having the information on the screen read to me.  I can hope that those traffic lights have audible signals indicating when the light has turned green.  Increasingly, I can access audio description for current films and, sometimes, even for theatre productions.  BOLLI will make any class handouts available to me in an electronic format so that I can read them using VoiceOver.  Most course readings can be downloaded to be read in large print or listened to in human or synthesized speech.  Most importantly, the ADA has contributed significantly to changing my perceptions.  No longer do I regard these fairly simple accommodations with gratitude as I rather apologetically request them.  No!  I have a right to them.  It’s the law, and I utilize them with dignity and pride.

What about you?  Do you or a fellow BOLLI student encounter any difficulty in hearing he SGL, in maneuvering your walker or wheelchair around the BOLLI space, in seeing/hearing those audiovisual presentations?  Do you have any other need caused by a disability?  If so, speak up!  Your tuition payment is as good as the next person’s and you need not shortchange yourself.  I assure you that Avi, Megan, and Lily are ready to assist as am I (BOLLI’s Inclusion and Disability Liaison).  And do come to “Lunch & Learn” on October 9 for a more in-depth look at the ADA.

BOLLI member and Advisory Council Inclusion & Diversity Liaison Cindy Wentz

Cindy’s  passion for and  her commitment to disability rights and independent living led to a 40 year career in rehabilitation.  Though happily retired,  she has found  gigs that allow her to continue to contribute to her professional interests.  In addition to BOLLI, Cindy enjoys traveling, hiking in the fall,  attending local theatre productions, and countless other pursuits–some of which she hasn’t even yet discovered.

FOCUS ON SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Aside from courses, lectures, seminars, and other activity, at BOLLI, we have an extensive menu of  Special Interest Groups that give us even more opportunities to get to know each other and dive more deeply into engaging pursuits.  Each month, we will focus on another BOLLI SIG and its activities–membership is always open!

In August, our BOLLI “Make a Difference” SIG was featured in the National Osher Newsletter.  That article is reprinted here.

OLLI at Brandeis University 

Make a Difference

Leaders Eleanor Jaffe and Elaine Dohan

“Make a Difference” is an affinity group that evolved naturally at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Brandeis University. It is led by two long-term members, Elaine Dohan and Eleanor Jaffe who have been participating for many years with classmates in discussion groups as well as in history and current event classes.  For example, Eleanor taught a course called “Resistance and Resilience in Politics and Life” in which current issues, as well as law and history, were discussed. In addition, every semester,  OLLI at Brandeis  hosts a variety of speakers who stimulate discourse from their unique positions.

Inviting colleagues to join with Elaine and Eleanor to form a group for civic action seemed an obvious next step.  As seniors, their particular experience and perspective gives them a unique vantage point from which to view today’s political climate and current events.  They also believe they have a responsibility to their grandchildren to set an example of the importance of citizen participation in civic discourse and action, both through voting and by speaking out.

Currently, the group is focusing their attention on issues concerning children. These include topics such as immigration, school shootings, voter registration and juvenile justice.  They meet regularly and reach consensus on current critical issues. Actions include writing postcards and calling editors of newspapers, members of Congress, and executives of corporations to urge action on behalf of these important issues.  They then follow up and write “thank you notes” to those individuals and groups who are providing positive leadership in these areas.

BOLLI’s “Make a Difference” SIG meets every other Friday morning from 10:30 to 12:00.  Watch the Bulletin for announcements of meetings and activities.

All of our SIGs are member-driven.  Don’t see your particular interest on our list?  Talk to a staff member about starting a new one!

BOLL Matters Co-editor Sue Wurster

Want to see your group highlighted here? Send updates on your SIG activities for future focus.  susanlwurster@gmail.com

 

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? RUTH BRAMSON ON “MAKING THE TIME”

MAKE THE TIME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

By Ruth N. Bramson
Service is the rent we pay for living.  It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”  So says civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman.  And that message has never been more important than it is right now.

There is no doubt that we are all busy with families, friends, and, of course, our studies at BOLLI.  During these troubled times, we tend to look more inward and wonder what lies ahead for our children, grandchildren, and our country.  But in the midst of this chaos, the need for creative, energetic, and skilled volunteers in our nonprofit community is more immediate than ever.

Too often, we underestimate the power of sharing our time.  And yet, that investment of ourselves has the potential to turn a life around or even change the direction of the world we live in–close to home or far away.   We only have to read the papers or listen to the news reports to recognize and understand the needs of people, whether from natural disaster, armed conflict, or thoughtless and cruel political action.

Non-profits depend heavily on volunteers to help them serve their clients, sustain their missions, and raise funds for their programs and services. Because the current turmoil has increased the need for these services tenfold, volunteers may, in fact, be the key to survival for many community-based organizations.  Even larger brand-name non-profits like the Red Cross need the muscle and passion of volunteers to sustain their missions.  And we need only to look at the recent disasters caused by hurricanes, fires, and flooding to see the urgency.

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.  We vote in elections, but when we volunteer, we vote every day about the kind of communities we want to live in.  Help address climate change, teach a child to read, keep a teenager in school, or support a domestic violence victim–the needs are as wide as our minds and our energies can embrace.  The personal pride and satisfaction that are derived from these activities are incalculable and are recognized as a true measure of character and values.

No monetary value can equate to the value of a dedicated volunteer.  You are an extension of professional staff who are engaged in the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.  Your time and accomplishments must and will be recognized and applauded.

As Dr. Seuss so wisely said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things aren’t going to get better–they simply are NOT.”

BOLLI member Ruth Bramson

Retired CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern MA, Ruth held prior executive positions at TJMaxx and Reebok and served as Undersecretary of Administration and Finance in the Romney Administration.  Ruth earned her B.A. at Columbia and her M.A. from B.U.   She lives in Boston with her husband.  They have  5 children and 9 grandchildren. 

 

MEMOIR WRITING: MY FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

MY FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

by Steve Goldfinger

My parents were aghast when I strode home from school wearing a large, gold helmet, bowl-sized shoulder pads, and a huge purple shirt bearing the number 34.  It hanged to my shins.   At nine years old in Brownwood, Texas (population 12,000 or so), I was on Miss Wilson’s football team.

My dad was a doctor in the 13th Armored tank division, training here to join General Patton’s final push. We had come from Brooklyn to be with him. Miss Wilson was the principal of the grade school. She was also spelling teacher, math teacher, librarian, baseball and football coach.

I was in the 3rd grade when I arrived. After appearing in a class and answering a few simple questions about Africa, the topic of the week, I was promoted to the 4th.  In short order, the 5th. And a few days later, the 6th.  Was I really that bright?

Anyway, in the 6th grade, the guys automatically became Miss Wilson’s football team. Me included, shrimp that I was, who knew nothing about football. When I was playing line during practice scrimmages, I couldn’t understand why the kid across from me sometimes took a running jump over me when the ball was snapped and, at other times, just stood there looking down. I dIdn’t even know the difference between offense and defense.

I made it into one play during the season. It was a game played under the lights on a Friday night–yes, in 1944, this was a Texas tradition even for grade schools–and my dad brought a few of his fellow officers to join him in the stands. We were losing 35 to 0 and had the ball when Miss Wilson pushed me onto the field. “Tell them to pass, pass, and keep passing.”  It took me a while to get out there. I repeated her words to our quarterback in a tremulous voice and got up to the line. I don’t remember what happened immediately after, but my father told me I appeared exceedingly brave after receiving smelling salts on the sidelines.

That was my football career.

When the baseball season came around, I was first up in the batting order–a cinch to draw a walk because of my measly size, even without crouching.  And walk I did at the begining of our first game. The next pitch was thrown for a ball as I stood there when, all of a sudden, there was Miss Wilson charging at me.

“Why didn’t you steal?” she shouted.

“What do you mean?”

“You gotta steal on the first pitch!”

Really? I didn’t know that, but, on the next one, I followed her command. The ball beat me to the bag by about ten steps.  The shortstop held it out at me, waist high, and I slid right under it into the base….safe!

There she was, charging again.

“What was that?!”

They had never heard of a slide inTexas!  So this pipsqueak from the north had something to teach them.

When we returned to Brooklyn, it took a fair amount of persuasion by my mother to convince the principal of P.S. 234 to allow me to move ahead.  He wanted to discount my Texas education altogether and send me back to the third grade where I belonged.

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.