Tag Archives: featured

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? JACKETS

JACKETS

by Steve Goldfinger

Kafka might have put it this way:  One day, in his thirteenth year, Stephen Goldfinger looked into the mirror and saw he was a scorpion.

I was a Scorpion all right, with an upper case “S,” a member of our Brooklyn softball team. The incredible jacket reflected in my mirror was made of dark purple felt, and the word SCORPION was emblazoned in white on the back.  It had a six-inch image of a white scorpion with Steve written below it on the front.  And when it was turned inside out–mirabile dictu! Behold the purple lettering and SCORPION image now on white satin!

I never did know where the name came from.  The only other scorpions in Brooklyn were in the insectarium at the zoo.  My remembrance is that Brooklyn’s indigenous wild life consisted primarily of sparrows, squirrels, cockroaches, and ants.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that the image on the jacket wasn’t really a scorpion at all.  The guy we bought them from couldn’t find a suitable picture of a scorpion and went with a cut-out of a crab instead.

We had after-school matches with such teams as the Navajos, the Stallions, the Dukes, the Knights, and a few others.  Most were played on the cement softball field of the Avenue X park.  Routinely assigned to right field and ninth in the batting order, I was not a very good player.

But I loved my Scorpion jacket.  I wore it in all kinds of weather and to all occasions.  Told it would not look that great against the backdrop of Princeton’s ivy-covered towers, I finally left it at home when I went to college.  Mostly  because it was looking fairly smudged and seedy.

I couldn’t find it when I returned home that winter.  My mother had given it to our weekly house cleaner.  His name was Marion though she sometimes referred to him, not without affection, as the schvartza.

Now hanging in my closet is a jacket of a different sort–a Princeton reunion jacket.  Each class has its own distinctive one to put on while carrying on at reunion time.  Designed by a class member and purchased the year  after graduation, there only commonality is their garish displays of orange and black, often out-screaming circus frippery.  I remember being told, in 1956, that my $45 purchase would be different–a sedate evening jacket, silk-lined and suitable for fine dining, theater, ocean cruises, and the like.

When it arrived, I was aghast.  Before me was a beautifully cut dinner jacket, its soft white exterior studded with vertical lines of tiny running orange tigers alternating with lines of ’56es.

It still hangs in my closet. Someday, my kids will have to get rid of it. Just how, I don’t know. They may burn it or bury it or frame it. But give it away?  Who would ever wear it?

Frequent BOLLI Matters 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.  

AUGUST BOOK NOOK: Four from Abby Pinard

“Book Nook” feature writer Abby Pinard returns with four recommendations for recent novels.

PACHINKO

By Min Jin Lee, 2017

“History has failed us, but no matter.”

So begins this absorbing saga of a Korean family in twentieth-century Japan. There are no beautiful sentences in Pachinko, but no matter. The members of this family are so well drawn and the harsh realities of being perpetual outsiders even in the fourth generation are so movingly portrayed that unadorned prose suits the story just fine.

“In Seoul, people like me get called Japanese bastard, and in Japan, I’m just another dirty Korean no matter how much money I make, or how nice I am.” The money made, after decades of poverty, is from pachinko parlors, one of the few money-making opportunities available to Koreans who are barred from traditional occupations in Japan. I’m certain many readers of this novel were unaware of this particular shameful episode of segregation and discrimination. Now we know. And we know the characters in this novel, failed by history and ricocheting through their lives like the balls in a pachinko game. They are so complex, conflicted, and real that they will stay with you long after you finish the book.

ASYMMETRY

 by Lisa Halliday, 2018

This very fine debut novel juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated stories is made irresistible by the peek into the relationship between a young woman and a much older Philip Roth-like writer, drawn from a relationship that Halliday actually did have with Roth in her 20s. But that’s only the way into this novel. Come for the gossip value, stay for the subtle, thoughtful exploration of big questions of identity and art.

 

EVERYTHING HERE IS BEAUTIFUL

by Mira T. Lee, 2018

How nice to have expectations exceeded! I didn’t expect much from this debut novel, which I plucked off the library shelf on the strength of one review and the fact that the author is a casual friend of my daughter’s.  Mira T. Lee writes with great assurance and control about mental illness and its devastating effects on loved ones. The story is told from multiple, neatly overlapping perspectives but is most powerful when we hear from Lucia herself — her thirst for life and love, the periodic struggle with the serpents in her head, and the increasingly fraught relationship with the sister who is torn between responsibility and helplessness. The novel is heart-wrenching without stooping to mawkishness, except for one forgivable lapse at the very end. I’m delighted to recommend it.

 

FEVER DREAM 

by Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell), 2017

Don’t start Fever Dream unless you have about two hours to be mystified, horrified, and paralyzed by the sense of dread that permeates this short novel. A woman named Amanda, dying in a clinic in rural Argentina, is pressed by a boy named David, who is not her son, to remember and recount the events that brought them here. Where is Nina, Amanda’s daughter? Amanda repeatedly refers to the “rescue distance” — how far from her the child is at any given moment so she can rescue her if something terrible happens because, as her grandmother told her mother and her mother has told her, something terrible will happen.

Something terrible has happened. People, especially children, are being poisoned by agricultural chemicals. A psychic is “transmigrating” the souls of poisoned children into other bodies in an attempt to save them. The novel is a hallucinatory dream, an eco-disaster cautionary tale, a supernatural thriller, and a powerful gut-punch about mothers attempting to protect their children. There is no tidy resolution, nothing to assuage the terror Samanta Schweblin has provoked. You’ve been warned.

(Fever Dream unexpectedly won the 2018 Tournament of Books against much better known and more widely read competition. https://themorningnews.org/tob/)

“Book Nook” feature writer Abby Pinard

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

 

 

 

AUGUST TECH TALK: TSA Pre-Check

TSA PRE-CHECK

by John Rudy

For the last decade the process of getting through an airport has become increasingly onerous.  For some time, TSA has been providing a short-cut if you are willing to shell out $85 for 5 years, meet certain conditions (not being a convict or mentally impaired), and go for a 20-minute interview.  I live in Lexington, and the closest places for me to go for the interview were in Billerica and Waltham, each only about 20 minutes away from my house.  When I went to enroll, each had over 1,000 openings which was quite a surprise.

Go to the enrollment site https://www.tsa.gov/precheck, click on “apply now,” and just follow a series of screens which are well annotated.  Ten minutes later, you have the opportunity to pick your appointment.  They will then send you a text or an email (your choice) confirming the appointment.

An easy process to follow in order to avoid those long, long airport lines.

BOLLI Matters “Tech Talk” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

AUGUST LINES FROM LYDIA: IMRE’S LEAP OF FAITH

IMRE’S LEAP OF FAITH

by Lydia Bogar

Buda–the city on the hill–and Pest–the open flat land across the Danube–were joined by five bridges.

Imre was a soldier in the Hungarian Army, the only one of Stefan and Elizabeth’s three sons still in the country. Watching and feeling the frozen pellets of snow blowing across the river, he was thinking of his younger brothers who were now in America’s Army.  Could Frigyes, age 38, and Sandor, age 33, be out there with the Allies on the eastern flank of his magnificent city? Could they be having a hot meal?  Real food prepared by the soldiers in the Red Army?

Last week, the nurses in the underground told him that the Russians had conscripted dozens of Romanians who were camped under the bridges and in the derelict school on Margaret Island. Only half of the Margaret Bridge remained standing.  The bombs were out there.  Always out there. There were no lights on the bridge or on the island, or in the shattered city of Pest.  Only smudges of fog and shadow, pearl-like puffs, drifted across his line of vision.

He thought of his sister, only a year younger than he, now a wife and mother, 40 years of age and living in a place called Massachusetts. Would he ever see this village called Worcester? Would he ever meet any of his three young nephews?

His stomach growled in contempt of the frozen strips of meat and the dirty water in his cup.  There was stale bread, mostly frosted with mold, eaten in spite of warnings from the Captain.  Melted snow washed down the wretched food, if you could even call it that. Wretched is the only suitable word for the strips of meat, cut from the frozen carcasses of two cavalry horses found at the bottom of Gellert Hill. Rumors swirled around the fallen timber that his comrades used as a dining table.

The fragrant memories of his mother’s kitchen did not satisfy the ache deep in his belly, nor did the visualization of his village. He was a professional photographer but nothing in his current view called for the permanence of a photograph. Perhaps when he found his paper and pens, he would draw the Vagysala dinner table with Gomba Leves (mushroom soup) Borju Porkolot (veal stew) and Dios Torta (walnut cake). Today, his village seemed a million miles away.

Communication was nearly impossible at this point in the war, but he prayed for his family daily–especially for his parents who had returned from America only a handful of years before.

I can only imagine this was my uncle’s prayer as he vanished from the face of the earth on that Christmas Eve, 1944.

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.”

AUGUST CHEF’S CORNER: THE FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS

THE FOUR BASIC FOOD GROUPS

from John Rudy

Bacon Pancakes!

Chocolate (dark chocolate, of course!!), as many of you know, is one of the four basic food groups, along with pizza, bacon, and beer.  Some have argued that lobster belongs on this list.  I disagree.  What makes the lobster so good is the large amount of butter.  I could be talked into adding maple syrup.

Here is a recipe for lobster tails covered in bacon and dipped in maple syrup (You could alternatively use scallops which are less expensive.) . http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com/recipe/bacon-wrapped-maine-lobster-bites/

My daughter went to a wedding some years ago where there was a tray of chocolate-covered bacon on every table.  She brought a piece back for me.  There are LOTS of on-line recipes, here is one:  http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-covered-bacon

Papa Ginos has the all-meat combo pizza (the best in my carnivore opinion), and the best part is the bacon.

Here is a recipe for bacon filled pancakes. http://www.familyfreshmeals.com/2013/05/bacon-pancakes.html

Can you buy bacon beer?  Of course you can! http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/bacon-smoked-red-ale-recipe-kit.html The ad says, This smoked red ale is a bold taste sensation that will drive you hog wild.”

And for those who insist, here is bacon flavored coffee.   http://www.bocajava.com/fresh-roasted-gourmet-coffee/flavor-roast-coffee/maple-bacon-morning-coffee/5370#.  It even got a review of 4.3 of 5

As Julia would say – Bon Appetit!

BOLLI Matters “Chef’s Corner” feature writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

MEMOIR WRITING: THE END OF THE BEGINNING

THE END OF THE BEGINNING

by Larry Schwirian

It was the last week of May, and I was driving to McKeesport to pick up my tux for the Senior Prom.  This was probably the last time I would ever need to go to McKeesport for anything.   Graduation was only a few weeks away, and then there would be only three short months before I left the only home I’d ever known for college in another state.  I was anxious to get away, to begin to make my way in the world on my own terms, to be independent of my family…but I was also a little apprehensive.  I was, it could be said, more or less at the top of the heap, both academically and socially, in the small town where I grew up, but I knew the competition was going to be a lot tougher in the city at the selective engineering school I was going to attend.

As I parked the car to go into the store to pick up my tux, my train of thought shifted to the girl who was my date for the prom.  Her name was Ginny.  She was not my girlfriend or even someone I occasionally dated…but just a friend.  Her longtime boyfriend and future husband was a couple of years older and away at college;  she very much wanted to go to the prom, so she asked me to be her escort. I couldn’t very well refuse as I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time and there was no one I would be happier to spend a special evening with. She was quite attractive and a very personable girl, or should I say young woman?  I was never sure, at that age, what the difference was between the two.

Ginny was unlike most of the other girls in our class. She dressed more conservatively and seemed to be more introspective. She lived with her grandmother and never shared anything about her parents or siblings. I sensed a self-consciousness about her situation, so I never pushed for details.  Most of the “in-crowd” girls always seemed to hang around together, but Ginny didn’t seem to need the support of her peers.

On the evening of the prom, I drove to her grandmother’s to pick her up.  When she came down the stairs in a cream colored, spaghetti-strap, bare-shouldered gown, I was gob-smacked. I had brought her a corsage but was unnerved as to how and where I was going to fasten it to her gown. Fortunately, Grandma rigged-up something so she could wear it on her wrist.

The prom itself was fairly uneventful except that I got a small cut on my nose from Ginny’s hair…she used some kind of hairspray that made her hair that stiff. Afterward, I took her home, and we sat on her porch swing for a couple of hours, talking about our futures. As I was about to leave, she gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me for being a good friend…and benign escort.

Except for the graduation ceremony, that was the last I saw or heard from Ginny until our forty-fifth high school reunion. That prom and that graduation ceremony were, in a very real sense, The End of My Beginning.

BOLLI Matters writer and co-chair of The Writers Guild, Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, lead BOLLI courses on architecture.  Since joining BOLLI, Larry has dived into writing.  He has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

 

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THE MICRO-STORM

THE MICRO-STORM

by Dennis Greene

Safe inside our well-constructed home sand surrounded by an amazing network of electronic communication systems, we generally feel protected from those forces of nature that threatened and terrified our forbears.  Even when we hear about earthquakes, cyclones, or tidal waves somewhere else, and we feel some level of concern and sympathy, we don’t feel the gut-wrenching fear of those who came before us and knew nature better than we do.  But every once in a while, Mother Nature gives us a little nudge to remind us that she is watching us and can, with a gesture, wipe out our secure little nests at any time.

About six weeks ago, I got such a nudge.  After leaving BOLLI at noon, I rushed to the golf course to get in a quick nine.  The weather was sunny and warm, but there was a chance of some thunderstorm activity in late afternoon.  I spent a pleasant two hours strolling the fairways at Nehoiden and then headed home for a nap.  By 4:30, I was fast asleep next to an open window, oblivious to the world. I had given no thought to the approach of a violent “micro storm.”

At 5:15, I was startled into consciousness by a soaking wall of water driven through my window by violent wind.  I was in bed, facing the window, and as my eyes popped open, I heard an explosion and saw a bright flash of white light surrounded by a red penumbra. It looked like a bomb exploding right outside my window, and there was no interval between the boom and the flash.

The house shook, but since I saw no other damage, and our lights remained on, I rolled over to the dry side of the bed and tried to continue my nap.  It didn’t last long. Eileen yelled from downstairs that we had no internet or television service, all our phones were dead, and a message on her cell phone indicated that some isolated areas were experiencing severe micro-storms. I guess we were one of those isolated areas.

Hours later, I learned from a message on my cell phone that the “outage” in our neighborhood lasted for forty minutes, but service had been restored.  Many hours after that, at 3:15 a.m., I reached Comcast to let them know that the outage continued at my house. They confirmed that our house had no service and offered to send a technician, but since they had numerous other calls, the earliest available service would be no sooner than Thursday afternoon. For the next two days, our household was barely functional.  I couldn’t use the internet or read emails, and I missed the Celtics playoff game. On Thursday evening, after a very responsive young technician worked at our house for almost two hours, we learned from him that our modem, three tv control boxes, and all our telephones had been rendered inoperable.  When he returned on Friday morning to replace the modem and control boxes, we discovered that our new 55” smart TV and our Apple Airport router had also been fried. The next day, we began the daunting task of replacing the five telephones, beginning the warrantee process with Costco for our TV, and trying to reconnect all our devices and printers to our home network. The disruption seemed interminable, but after four frustrating weeks we were finally reconnected and back to normal.  But we are now much more aware of how subject we are to nature’s whims.

This is a warning to all of you to retain some of that primeval fear you were born with and to respect Mother Nature. She has her eyes on each of us and can hurl devastation upon you before you can blink.

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’s been writing blog articles for BOLLI Matters in quite a variety of genres:  science fiction, movie and video picks, creative nonfiction, and memoir.  And now, he’s even taken on the weather!

 

 

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? THE BODY SHOP

THE BODY SHOP

by Maxine Weintraub

Not another trip to the body shop.  Well, in my social circle, to call it a body shop is a bit pretentious.  It’s just a local garage, and I seem to be there more and more often.

It all started a few years ago when I began to notice little things I had never seen before–the scratch along the driver’s side door, the small crack in the windshield.  Where did that small dent in the bumper come from, and what was that peculiar lump in the floor carpet?

Last winter, the handle froze after an ice storm, and I couldn’t open the door.  That was frightening.  It seemed to me that it was time to start taking better care,  paying more attention.  I bought one of those coveralls that keeps the sap and the bird poop off and might keep ice from forming inside the door handles.

Now what?  A large stain on the front seat.  Purple.  And a funny rattle somewhere.   Not enough to keep me home but enough to make me very nervous.  Should I be out and about?

A flat tire in the supermarket parking lot.  The garage sent the large tow truck–the one with the flashing lights–so that everyone could see my distress.  Humiliation.  And over nothing!

Okay.  It was time for preventive medicine.  High test instead of regular.  But the cost was high, and, sometimes when I filled the tank, I forgot.

Then, the final straw.  A stain on the driveway.  A leak.  Wasn’t my garage doing its job?  They didn’t see these things when I got my sticker?  Did I need a specialist?

My friends laughed and told me to relax as I rattled down the local streets.  They said that this aging process could not be avoided.  But I raged.  I found a real body shop.  An expensive body shop.  I had a major paint job.  A valve job.  Flushed those pipes and relined whatever could be relined.  Was I losing control?

And at night, as I lay, fearful, in my bed, those old words from childhood rang in my head:  now I lay me down to sleep…

Oh! What if I just didn’t start in the morning?

 

Maxine Weintraub reading
BOLLI Member Maxine Weintraub

Maxine has been taking writing classes with both Betsy Campbell and Marjorie Roemer since joining BOLLI three years ago.  She has been an active participant in the Writers Guild and was the editor of the 2018 BOLLI Journal. As Maxi Blue Cabot, she is the proud author of the recently published “Grammie Lives at the Mall” and “The Round Happy Smiling Lady” now available on Amazon.

 

 

JULY CHEF’S CORNER: BARBECUED SHORT RIBS

BARBECUED SHORT RIBS

from John Rudy

This recipe came from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, and we have been making it since we were married in 1968.  A Slo-Cooker   is a fine alternative.  Buy pieces that are mostly meat, not bone, preferably with lots of speckles of fat.  This recipe creates a lot of gravy.  That is intentional.  I prefer short ribs with noodles; others like potatoes.

 

 

 

 

3 lbs    Short ribs (best if they are marbled)

1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

½ cup  Onions, minced

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

½ cup  Catsup

1 tsp    Paprika

½ cup  Water

1 tsp    Mustard (preferably dry)

¼ cup  Wine Vinegar

  1. (optional) Braise the ribs briefly, searing the edges to keep the juices in.  Drain off fat
  2. Combine onions and all other ingredients and pour over the meat.
  3. Cook at 275° for about 3 hours (or 6 hours on low in the Slo Cooker)
  4. Check with a fork to see if the ribs are ready. The meat should be falling off the bone.
  5. Remove the bones (optional) and refrigerate the meat/gravy until the fat comes to the top and hardens.
  6. Remove fat to use some of it to make roux, and thicken gravy.

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

To make roux

Melt a few tablespoons of fat

Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook over medium heat until the flour is totally incorporated and the mixtures turns brown.  If you stop too early there will be a floury taste.  If you don’t whisk enough there will be lumps.

Slowly add the de-fatted gravy whisking constantly and let it come to a boil, at which point the gravy will be thickened.  If you used too much flour and the gravy is too thick just whisk in some water or bullion.

BOLLI Matters “Chef’s Corner” feature writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

JULY LINES FROM LYDIA: MY HEROES

MY HEROES

by Lydia Bogar

Two weeks ago, the media  reminded us of our history–particularly our veterans, living and dead, who gave this country their courage and strength.  Among them, my father who joined the American Army in 1939, a year after his arrival from Budapest.  I have bronzed in my mind the image of him in uniform holding his DD214,  the honorable discharge certificate that entitled him to his prized citizenship.

But I am also thinking about the everyday heroes around us.  The ones we need to take notice of and silently appreciate as they weave in and out of our lives.  Truly hometown heroes.

The mechanic down the street who replaces a burned-out brake light at no charge, on a Saturday, in the rain.

The nice old guy at the hardware store who laughs with me when I tell a blonde joke.  He then easily threads the new line into the weed whacker and thanks me for coming in.

The young couple across the street who brush the snow and ice off the top of my car because I have lost another inch of height since last winter.

The  neighbor with the lilting Irish brogue who cuts my lawn and brings in the mail while I am burying my mother.

Heroes like these help to keep our small town  safe even as the population doubles and the dump is no longer open for Saturday morning chats.  I’ll never be a Townie, not even after 46 years, but I won’t be at home anywhere else either.

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.”