Tag Archives: LINES FROM LYDIA

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.”

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.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: BUENOS DIAS

BUENOS DIAS

My watch was still on Boston time.  Waiting in line for customs, I had decided not to change it to El Salvador time.  If I wanted a real getaway, then I needed to leave time and home behind, but that did not mean my loved ones.  I had already thought of my grandsons.  Brady, age 11, would love the van driver’s speed and his music;  Henry, age 6, would love the two cats and frantic little puppy that live in my friends’ home; and my daughter Diane, her Nana’s girl, would love the flowers and the warm breeze off the Pacific.  I am eager to walk on the black sand beaches of the Costa Del Sol.

My 1968 Spanish is weak; the CDs are still at home in the box. There has been no time to listen to them in the five weeks since I bought my ticket.  Today, I sit in my casa du amigos within a compound with armed guards at the gate and razor wire atop the 12 foot high wall. Escuela Americana.  It is 73 degrees at 8:00 a.m.   My grandsons are enjoying a snow day.

The coffee here is wonderful, as is the homemade Greek yogurt with local honey and oat bran. The taste is different from the diet that I follow at home. This is when I decide that I will eat to fill my belly, not my appetite.

Outside the small bathroom window, the skies are hazy. Pollution? Fog? I learn that it is a little of each. Tall concrete buildings tower over the tin roofs, palm and mango trees, and more cement.  So many different textures, foreign to me and fascinating.  Another difference is the bathroom itself.  The tub and shower is a large concrete box covered in white ceramic tile. The shower head is American, and there is a faint whiff of chlorine in the water, not unlike Miami.  From the window, through the haze, I see a mountain looming large over the neighborhood. Later, I am told it is a volcano and there may be an occasional, small earthquake.

My first day in El Salvador begins, and I am hungry for it all. As the daughter of an immigrant, I am very conscious of this first use of my American passport.  San Salvador is thousands of miles from my Worcester birthplace.  I travel with courage and focus to learn of a new culture and to embrace my religion where it is strongest, where clergy and missionaries were assassinated and, later, canonized. I ask God to keep me safe on this journey.

Today, I pray for the people of El Salvador.   Those who are victims of gang violence, and for Sergio, our former BOLLI custodian, whose family is in the capital city–as are my friends who teach at the Escuela Americana.

BOLLI Matters Co-Editor, 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.”

 

 

LINES FROM LYDIA: CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

   CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

by Lydia Bogar

Here at BOLLI,  one thing that unites us even more than our age, unfortunately, is cancer.  I would bet the farm that everyone currently reading this has been touched directly by cancer.

My father died fifty-eight years ago of stomach and colon cancer. As a long time smoker, there were probably malignancies in his lungs as well. All three of my boy cousins have had gastrointestinal polyps surgically removed. As the only girl cousin, I had my first colonoscopy at age 50. Free and clear to date.

Being proactive is the only way to chase the fear away. Limit bad chemicals in your life: don’t use pesticides, filter your tap water, use organic cleaning products whenever possible, and don’t tuck your cell phone into your bra.

My best friend Betty died seven years ago. She had a lump behind her knee that she shrugged off for almost a year. The diagnosis of bone cancer was a true shock. Within a month, she lost most of her left leg. Within six months, she lost her life.

Fifteen minutes of sun exposure, especially in the morning, is the best way to increase the body’s production of Vitamin D.

Within four months of her second melanoma diagnosis, my daughter Joanne was in clinical trials at Dana Farber. It was too late for her, and the treatments made her viciously sick. She had worshipped the sun but slathered sunscreen on her little boys. Metastatic melanoma will take over your brain and kill your personality. Then it kills you.

Walking and exercise is good for overall health, and walking with a friend is even better. Two years ago, I admitted to being old enough to go to exercise at the Senior Center. Yoga is much easier now, and the new friends are great too! Breathing and meditation are easy remedies for insomnia.

My friend Sally retired to a golf course in South Carolina. Last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a retired surgical nurse, she knows the questions to ask as well as the treatments that she will and won’t have. Surgery and radiation were sufficient, for now.  Her youngest daughter is having radiation for a rare carcinoma. I pray for them both every day.

Being aware of signs, symptoms, and signals is not enough. Fighting this enemy helps families and survivors in a hundred different ways.

This summer will be my fourth cycle of volunteering at the Pan Mass Challenge, the largest and longest running charity bike ride in the country. I help to register riders on Friday afternoon and bag trash at Mass Maritime on Saturday afternoon. On the way home, both days, I cry tears of fulfillment.

Cultivating happiness is not easy.

It is necessary.

BOLLI 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.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: FROM TOPSIDE

FROM TOPSIDE

Havana, 2017 – Lydia Bogar

 

As the ship approached Castillo del Morro, the stalwart guardian of Havana Harbor, passengers coordinated their backpacks for the day’s tours, and scrambled topside to gaze at the sun rising over their destination. Thirty hours from their Miami departure and ready to enter a Communist country, many were anxious and more than a few were fearful.  Past El Morro was Jesus de la Habana, the twin to the more famous statue that casts hope and peace above Rio de Janiero.

Dr. Fitz and Francisco finished their juice and silently thanked St. Christopher for the bounty of this journey. As they approached Sierra Maestra Terminal–neglected, majestic and under renovation  –Francisco thanked his chaperone again for this homecoming.  In Boston the year before, Dr. Fitz had successfully repaired the 12-year old’s heart.

Dr. Fitz needed the change of scenery as much as the boy needed his mother’s embrace. His wife had died during Francisco’s stay in Boston, and he accepted the suggestion of his adult children to accompany the boy who had become part of his family.  Having forgotten most of his Spanish, the good doctor travelled with a bi-lingual dictionary and an app on his phone that he hoped he would not use.  Francisco helped him with the adjectives and pronouns of his native language.

Francisco looked forward to giving his grandmother the cupcakes from the North End, a place the boy embraced for its family atmosphere and sweet smells, and more than enough sugar to contribute to the acne on his smooth cheeks.  Dr. Fitz smiled when he considered the facial expressions on Francisco’s family members when they heard his changing voice and saw his growing feet.

As Dr. Fitz and Francisco walked down the gangplank, a dockworker dropped a twenty-pound wrench that rang like a bell as it tumbled onto the pier–not unlike a church bell announcing Francisco’s return.

BOLLI Matters Co-editor and  blogger, 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.”

LINES FROM LYDIA: ANOTHER LIBRARY

ANOTHER LIBRARY

by Lydia Bogar

I love “The Low Country”–its history, culture, and food–which makes the Carolinas a good draw.  But the fact that my “best-est” friend lives on Pawley’s Island makes it an even more alluring destination.

I am also a book and library junkie who particularly likes reading local histories while visiting.  In the process, I’ve become a bit of a Civil War buff of which there is a ton in this area.  On Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, there is a gem of a library that provides all of that and more.

For the past forty years, the Edgar Allen Poe Public Library on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina has enjoyed its new “old” home in the upgraded Gadsden Battery.

The Battery, built in 1903  and named to the National Register of Historic Places in July of 1974,  hosted four six-inch guns during its active military.  The gun mounts remain in place today.   The walls are two feet thick, and it survived a direct hit by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Colonel James Gadsden, for whom the Battery was named, was an engineer during the War of 1812, and during the Seminole Wars, he was the Quartermaster General of the Florida Volunteers at Fort Moultrie located just down the road.  The fort is open to visitors and provides great views of Charleston Harbor, perfect for sunrise photographers

Why Poe?  The American writer was stationed on Sullivan’s Island in 1827, and he used this unique barrier island as the setting for his story, The Gold Bug.  The 2,000 square foot library (serving Sullivan’s Island population of nearly 2,000) houses over 15,000 books and remains well protected from storms (including its most recent visitor, Irma).  As part of its most recent upgrade, the library is now equipped with both Wi-Fi and computer work stations. If, like me,  you are a history buff or, also like me,  enjoy seeking out unique, even strange buildings, the Edgar Allen Poe Library is for you.  (The address is 1921 Ion Avenue, and the GPS coordinates are 32.7597 N, 79.8406 W.)

Another truly unique spot is Dunleavy’s Pub, around the corner from the library, at 2213 Middle Street.  The pub is a piece of real New England in the deep south whose owners are transplanted New Englanders themselves.  They  host a fabulous annual party on Fenway’s Opening Day and have treated patrons to celebrations of two of the three most recent Super Bowl wins–in style. (Their web address is www.dunleavysonsullivan.com and their coordinates are 32.7632323 N, -79.8367511 W.)

After all, who doesn’t get thirsty at the library?

BOLLI Matters co-editor Lydia Bogar soaks up a little low country flavor.

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

LINES FROM LYDIA: WANT AD

JOBS IN EDUCATION

WANTED: Teacher with a Funny Bone

Cartoonist Roz Chast

Qualifications:

  • A deep personal commitment to the nexus of knowledge and laughter.
  • Experience reading and accepting the wit and wisdom of Roz Chast, born and raised in Brooklyn, who has been drawing since childhood.
  • Understanding and appreciation of the value of chintz covered chairs and Baroque picture frames, and, generally speaking, everything related to middle class America in the 1950’s.
  • Finely tuned communication skills, including but not limited to Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast 1978-2006, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
  • Advance a curriculum that would include discussions such as:

The artist’s reflections of everyday life and the power of black and white (she started with single panel black and white drawings) graphics.

Why Roz hand-lettered the title pages of her books, why her books feature a cartoon of herself rather than the typical author photograph, and other mysteries.

How the artist’s perspective on a family translates for you.  

During the summer, I started to assemble ideas and research for a five-week BOLLI course under the working title “Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I Learned from Roz Chast.”

During the past few months as I immersed myself in four new BOLLI courses, I realized that I just don’t have the skills necessary to deliver this course myself.   Is there anybody out there who might like to do so?  If you’d be interested and  would like to see a potential bibliography for such a course before you decide, please let me know. Thanks for your time and interest!

Lydia Bogar (Toehead8@verizon.net)

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

 

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

 

 

 

 

LINES FROM LYDIA: PHOTOGRAPHY–IN THE FAMILY AND BEYOND

This term, I took Mitch Fischman’s five-week class on photography, a course I found to be  full of both fun and knowledge!  Photography seems to be a family affair for the Fischmans.  His daughter Andrea is a professional photographer who has come to visit Mitch’s class in the past.  This time, though, Mitch introduced us to Liz Linder, one of  Andrea’s mentors.   I asked BOLLI friend and SGL Mitch about his guest photographers.

“Our guest photographer, Liz Linder (above right), employed my      daughter Andrea Feldman (above left), when she was starting her career as a freelance photographer over a decade ago. Liz’s studio in Brookline Village was a perfect place for Andrea to develop her photography and studio skills and to learn what it’s like to run a photography business. After Andrea graduated from Skidmore, she started doing freelance work in the Albany-Saratoga Springs area. While on assignment during her post-year after Skidmore, she photographed a group of Bangladeshi immigrants working in a factory in New York’s Hudson River Valley, profiling their poor living conditions. Andrea also established the beginnings of her wedding business while assisting Liz, and, later, other photographers in New York City. Both Liz and Andrea are premier photographers.

Andrea lives in Long Island City, New York and her photo business is in New York City.  Photographs by both Andrea and Liz were shown and appreciated by the class. Andrea loves taking photos of  people on subway cars, a favorite of many of the photographers examined like Walker Evans shown in “Photographers and Photographs That Have Changed How We See the World.”  

While interning in Prague, Andrea initially developed her subway skill in a photo spread published in the Prague Post entitled “Eyes Wide Shut,” illustrating what Andrea referred to as the “Prague Stare” she saw while photographing people on the Prague Metro from her concealed camera. She told me that, when subway travelers saw she was photographing them and started to look angry, she would get off at the next stop.”

Andrea Feldman, Subway Couple

Since graduating from Haverford College and studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the International Center of Photography, Liz Linder has demonstrated her technical skills and a documentary style that captures the unique personality of her clients and her perpetual sense of fun. Liz loves the view from her camera, and her imaginative technique is honest and energized.

Alongside her portrait and decisive moment-based commercial work, Liz is currently collaborating with another long-term friend and colleague, RIch Griswold, on a form of documentary photography from a personal angle.  (Above, her “Shadow One” and “Shadow Two” images.)

Prior to social media apps, Liz and Rich developed a shorthand way of communicating using pictures instead of words, a game aptly called www.wetalkinpictures.com.  On the site, image exchanges touch on how disparate and similar things relate: these two have been friends since the 20th Century, when phones were tied to the wall.

Today, technology is re-writing the way we interact; just a decade ago, people used their phones to ask “how are you?” Now, the question is “where are you?” Most of us take pictures with something called a “phone,” and, as artists, we find ourselves exploring the expressive potential in the message of a photograph. What can we say in an image when it is served as a text message? What gets communicated? There are efficiencies, quandaries, and room for poetic license. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

The challenge from Liz to communicate in pictures should be easy for us New Englanders. We can send snow pictures to our retired friends in the south and  receive enticing beach and boating photos in return!  

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: OUR MASSACHUSETTS MARINES

All of the episodes of the Ken Burns documentary about Vietnam are on my DVR, and I will watch them one piece at a time — some other day.  Here is the story of two Massachusetts boys who grew up in the jungles of Vietnam and found new jungles waiting for them at home.

A TALE OF TWO MARINES

by Lydia Bogar

They walked and ran the tangled path to maturity in the jungles of Vietnam. Although born and raised in the same state, the culture and strata of their parentage were many miles apart. That is the way life was in the 60s.  And yet, both fate and the Marine Corps brought them to the same place.

The war was never kind, and the mission was not to come home intact. The smell of blood and mud stayed in their memories for decades.  The black silhouetted flag was a hallmark of their survival.

Initially, their post-military careers brought them together. They continued to live and train as Marines for law enforcement careers in the Massachusetts State Police, always crisp and ramrod straight in uniform.  Their personal lives took similar paths, predictable for baby boomers.  Love and marriage brought them to the same area code, the same assignment, and many of the same friends.  As the devil cancer took some of those friends, they again stood crisp and ramrod straight at burials that shook the sky with rifle rounds and blurred the eyes around them. They were still Marines.  Every minute of their lives, they were Marines.

Their first painful loss was another Marine, the perennial altar boy with the leprechaun’s smile. His death devastated friends and families, as he had beaten the devil cancer for almost ten years. Leaving his wife and son behind was a failure he could not discuss. The poison in his veins took all choice out of his hands. The walk from the church to the cemetery left even the strongest in tears. The flyover and hole in the ground sent others to their knees.

The second burial came along more rapidly, during a very cold, yet starlit night. The former combat medic had worked hard to progress through the ranks but was always within the devil’s grasp. The poison in his veins choked his heart and brought unforgiving grief to his wife and daughters.  Generous benefits were no match for the three daughters who would later walk down the aisle without their daddy. When you see every member of a Marine Corps honor guard in tears, you know that you have seen it all.

I write of these two Marines as co-workers and friends of long standing. Twenty plus years seemed to fly by, and they both faced mandatory retirement at age 55. With that roadblock in sight, their career paths diverted. One lost a child, a precious son, a loss that compelled him to take on more hours at work, more overtime shifts as he sought something. Anything to be away from the small cottage in the small town with the small empty room. The marriage became a farce. He worked days and nights, seemingly without end, and advanced through the ranks. We will not discuss the women in whose arms he found momentary comfort, only that those diversions did not heal him.

The bald Marine discarded first one marriage and then another. His work hours also increased, yet neither rank nor assignment ever filled his void. He remained on the job long past the 55-speed limit, defying gravity and modern medicine with the daily grind of a much younger man. His jungle became the streets, and he knew each cluster of villages as well as the age spots on the back of his hands. His rank remained the same, even when his pay grade maxed out. He ignored the urges of supervisors to take promotional exams. In the place of rank and money, he got a good lawyer, another Marine of course, and sued to stay on the job he loved.  He was content with his portable life, taking assignments that he liked, and travelling abroad when the spirit moved him.

His personal vehicles were the same make and model as the Ford Crown Vic that he drove behind the badge. His large frame knew the seat and the dashboard as well as the gun at his waist. His strength and courage never wavered, and his quest to understand the minds of his brother officers was a thirst never fully quenched.  When the towers fell in New York, he responded with the speed and determination of a Marine fresh out of Parris Island. He was in New York by noon that day, not knowing who the enemy was, only that it was his.

His current vocation is to talk with and listen to the troops coming back from the hellish sandbox. He continues to defy the usual parameters of age and agility. This past summer, while others bought retirement homes and cuddled grandchildren, he ignored his 70th birthday and went to Canada to support a brother officer.

His quiet, pale brother went uptown and worked in a skyscraper overlooking the harbor. His new uniform was an expensive suit, a starched white shirt, and ready-for-inspection wingtips. His knowledge expanded in different ways–away from physical harm and into the detection of fraud and deceit.  His daily routine remained intact, unmoved by age or circumstance. It was that routine and a daily dose or two of Jack Daniels kept him alive, or so he thought. His life ended quietly in an elevator, going out to lunch on a beautiful spring day.  He would be with his son again.

None of these Marines of a certain age need to watch the Ken Burns documentary. The original script remains in their hearts and minds.

Semper Fi.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!