Category Archives: On the Lighter Side with Larry



by Larry Schwirian

It was the beginning of summer in the mid 1980’s, and I was sitting in the living room with my mother, her visiting college friend from Paris, and her friend’s sixteen year-old daughter. I had just finished my freshman year of high school and was looking forward to the freedom of summer. My mother made it clear to me before her friend arrived that I was expected to stick around and entertain her friend’s daughter before I was allowed my freedom. What I hadn’t expected was that the daughter had to be the sexiest sixteen year- old on the planet, and…she spoke no English. As I sat there admiring her, I wondered how I was supposed to deal with this gift from heaven. I spoke no French.  My mother suggested I take her down to the ice cream parlor just a couple of blocks away.

My mother gave me a ten dollar bill while her friend explained to her daughter what had been proposed. The daughter, whose name I still didn’t know, stood and walked over to me offering her hand. As we left the house, I grabbed the English/French dictionary, and when we went outside, she stopped, faced me, and, with her finger pointed to herself, said “Jane.” I don’t know why, but I was so flummoxed I pointed to myself, and said “me Tarzan.” She giggled, and we were off.

I was on cloud nine. Here I was with this vision of perfection, an older woman no less, about to show her off to my friends at the ice cream parlor. Only a couple of my classmates were there when we walked in, but they clearly were awestruck by my good fortune. As we looked at the display cases, I pulled out the dictionary and began to try to translate the names of the various offerings; how do you translate “Moose Tracks” into French?  After some time, I was finally able to murmur “elan des pistes.” I pronounced it phonetically which I am sure did not sound French. Jane cracked up laughing…I wasn’t sure whether it was the name of the ice cream or my pronunciation that was so funny.

Thank god she settled on the “moose tracks” so I wouldn’t have to do any more translating. We sat down at a table, and I was mesmerized, watching her coyly lick her ice cream cone while I slurped my “Cookies and Cream.” By now, at least a half-dozen more of my classmates had arrived and were watching us watch each other. After we finished and I tried to clean my sticky hands with a napkin, she reached across the table with both hands and took my hands in hers, looked through her bangs into my eyes, and said to me in perfect English, “My name isn’t really Jane, it’s Juliette.” I nearly fell off the chair but was adroit enough to respond,  “Well, my name isn’t really Tarzan either…it’s Bond, James Bond.” The entire place erupted in laughter.

As we left the store to return home, she took my arm and proceeded to tell me, in her perfectly French accented English…this whole scenario had been cooked-up by my mother and hers, and Juliette though it would be fun. She apologized if I was offended, but I told her that Tarzan was a real man and could take it. I then proceeded to put my arm around her waist as we walked home…while I plotted my revenge.

When we walked into the house, I slammed the door shut, stomped into the living room, and glared at the two women. Both looked shocked and concerned…then I couldn’t help myself and broke-out laughing. I turned to Juliette, took her in my arms, bent her over, then kissed and slobbered all over her delicious neck …she was as shocked as both parents.

Needless to say, that was not only the high point of my summer but of my whole adolescence. When it came time for them to leave, Juliette approached me, took my hand, kissed me on the forehead, and said, “It’s been fun.”

In the 90’s, after email came along, we communicated periodically, but I did not see her again until my wife and I, along with my mother, attended her marriage in Paris. We remain friends to this day.

BOLLI Matters contributor and chair of the BOLLI Writers Guild Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton.  They have led BOLLI courses on architecture, and Larry has led courses on Boston’s history.  Larry has been an active member and leader of the Writers Guild as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  This piece, he says, “Is pure dime store fiction…I was never that lucky.”



By Larry Schwirian

Prompt: What kind of problems would Superman have in old age?

When I was a young kid growing-up, I had fantasies of being a super hero; Superman seemed to me to have all the physical qualities that I aspired to have as an adult. But I never thought about some of the problems he might encounter as time passed and he aged, especially what his life might be like as an octogenarian or nonagenarian. In particular, I never thought about what would happen if his secret identity was ever discovered.

One of the things that Clark Kent had to do in order to keep his secret identity was to allow himself to age like a normal human. This was not really much of a problem when he was in his 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, but by the time he reached retirement age, his physical appearance was anything but super. He was practically bald, had sagging chins, was developing age spots, and was more than a little overweight.  He was so overweight, in fact, that he had to use his X-ray vision to be able to see his feet. Also, since he was never able to go to an earthly dentist, many of his teeth were rotted or missing.

Metropolis had grown substantially over the years since it was considered one of the safest cities in the world, and Clark Kent was getting tired of being constantly called upon by the mayor to solve the city’s problems. He badly needed some rest, so he grabbed Lois, left his home town, and flew south to Miami Beach.

He and Lois Lane had finally become a couple some thirty years earlier when Lois figured out his real identity when she caught him taking off his Clark Kent clothes in a phone booth. She just couldn’t believe that the eternally wimpy Clark could actually be her dream lover.  As it turned out he was never able to fulfill her dream anyway since his public moniker “man of steel” turned out to be a double entendre; Lois took one look and nixed the whole idea.  They never bothered to marry either, since Clark didn’t have a birth certificate, at least from any Earthly place, and being such a Boy Scout, he refused to forge a fake certificate.

By the time he became an octogenarian, all he wanted to do was sit back and enjoy his retirement. However, Russian agents had hacked into his Facebook and Twitter accounts some years earlier and outed him to the American public. Now everywhere he went, no matter his aged appearance, he was asked to perform tricks like jumping over tall buildings or stopping speeding trains. Occasionally, some jerk even took a pot shot at him to see if he would survive.  What a pain in the butt these guys were since he would then have to call the authorities.  He really missed his anonymity.

One of the most excruciatingly difficult things about being an aging super-person was the public embarrassment of having to apologize for things he could no longer control. Especially when it came to bodily functions.  Every time he farted in a theatre, the place would quickly empty of patrons; the smell was just disgustingly unworldly. When he belched, it could be heard everywhere within a half mile radius and would set off car alarms.  When he sneezed, anyone within one-hundred yards would typically be blown away, and trees and bushes would be defoliated. No one except Lois wanted to be around him anymore. He frequently wanted to die but didn’t know how or even if it was even possible for him to do so on planet Earth.

Finally, one fine morning he donned his old ill-fitting Superman outfit, threw on his cape, kissed Lois goodbye and set of for the ninety-three million mile journey to the center of the sun where he hoped to end it all.

BOLLI Matters feature 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, have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in  and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  


In response to the Writers Guild prompt, “Check, Please,” Larry took what we have come to think of as a Schwirian Turn.

Check, Please

  by Larry Schwirian

Three young eastern European men, educated in England, decided to take a holiday together in Germany before returning to their respective home countries. None of the three spoke the native language of the others; nor did they speak German; but they all spoke English. They wanted to see the Black Forest in southwest Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle (also known as Mad Ludwig’s Castle) in Hohenschwangau, the well preserved medieval old town of Rothenberg, the Rathaus-Glockenspeil in Munich, and they wanted to experience the dynamic economy of Germany to see how it compared to those of England and their home countries. They also hoped  to meet and party with some local Fraüleins before returning home.

All three of the young men could be considered attractive in that they were all physically fit and well-groomed, but there were distinct differences in their mannerisms and personalities. Andrei, from Russia, was taller and more muscular than the others and had a more outgoing personality. Mudrac, from Serbia, was somewhat smaller and thinner but was a keen observer and appeared to be the most introspective and learned of the three. Oldrich, from Prague, was the handsomest, was perfectly proportioned, carried himself like an aristocrat, and appeared to be from a family of some wealth.

One day, in Munich, the young men decided to stop in a restaurant for lunch. As it was the middle of the afternoon, there were not many patrons present, so there were plenty of open tables and an abundance of wait staff.  Three young waitresses—Uda, Hilda, and Darissa—saw the young men come in and began to discuss which of them would wait on them. As all three wanted the opportunity to serve these young “hunks,” a somewhat heated discussion followed. Finally, they decided that, since there were three of them and there were three young men, each of them would serve one of the young patrons. They drew straws to see who would have the first pick.  Uda, whose name means “prosperous or rich,” drew the long straw.  She calmly looked at the other two, smiled, and exclaimed, “I’ll take the Czech, please.”

Frequent “BOLLI Matters” contributor and co-leader 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.  Larry has been an active participant in  and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.