If You Could See Me Now

Peter Terzian

Ever since my wife died a couple years ago, my life has taken a turn in a completely new direction. My son moved away with his girlfriend, got married and had a couple of kids. The house full of stuff was no longer necessary, so I sold all of it. Any work I was doing was now done online, from anywhere in the world. So, I moved to the South of France and opened a small brew-pub. I call it Un Voyou.

Every morning I get up early. The first thing I brew is some coffee. Then I tend to my other brewing: beer. Every day there’s something to do:  brewing, fermenting, packaging, and ordering ingredients. Sometimes I imagine this is how the Belgian Monks lived. Not bad at all. Then, I walk to one of the cafes nearby to get lunch or just relax with some fresh fruit, a cheese sandwich, and some wine.  (More…)

What We’re Reading Now

Linda Feeney

Planning an OLLI social event in today’s world presents challenges. Robyn Cheung decided to try a form of book discussion and I offered to moderate. The result was an invitation to a virtual Book Lovers’ Happy Hour on September 4. Would anybody come? Should we prepare some back-up questions in case the discussion lags? Silly us.

The 15 participants signed in more than ready to talk about their books. There was very little moderating to do except to ensure that everyone had a chance to speak —  plenty of time to marvel at the variety and depth of both selections and accompanying commentary.  (More…)

My Mother: Ugly Duckling

Mother with two childrenMy Mother, Margaret Lucile Burnett, was the first-born child to a wealthy couple in Denver, Colorado, in 1911.  She was her father’s dream come true, but not so much so to her mother, Lucile, since Margaret was an unattractive child.  Lucile much preferred her next child, Chuck, a handsome boy, and her beautiful baby, Jean.

Mother grew up feeling ugly, especially as she moved into her teens.  When she was 13, she sprang into her full 5’8” height, with much extra weight to boot. She often told us of the time that her parents invited a German couple to visit.  As Mother descended the stairs to greet them, Mrs. Higgenbottom exclaimed, “Oh what a backfisch!” which Mother interpreted as a devastating put-down.  (More…)

Cold War Warrior

Don Menzel

The 1960s was a decade of hope embedded in the prospect of a nuclear holocaust. I was there; I was a Cold War warrior in every way imaginable. When I signed up for navigator training in the U.S. Air Force, I wanted to be on the front line, and that meant getting assigned to a B-52 Stratofortress crew. This awesome 8-engine plane was the Air Force’s answer to the need for a strategic bomber force that would win the war against Communism and take down the Soviet Union. This bomber fleet was also an essential component in the planning to assure that the U.S. could survive a first strike and deliver devastating destruction to the enemy—this is the language of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

In this essay, I want to describe the training and experience that I had in order to become wedded to a weapon of mass destruction. I also want to share with you the spine-chilling atmosphere that I and many other Americans shared about a nuclear future.  (More…)

The Quest in Question

Marilyn Myerson

Alphonse was on a quest: he wanted to commit the perfect murder. As a fledgling novitiate in the 16th-century order of the Aquinas Brethren, he considered himself a devout Christian. But the one precept he had difficulty obeying was “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” The neighbour in question was Bernard who slept in the cell next to Alphonse.

The monastery was several centuries old and its moldering dampness exacerbated the elderly Bernard’s afflictions: among them, severe arthritis and chronic catarrh. Alphonse was a light sleeper at the best of times, and much of his night was constantly disturbed by Bernard’s moans and groans, his teeth-rattling coughs, not to mention the incessant sounds and noxious odors brought on by his neighbour’s well-known digestive troubles.  (More…)

Confined to Quarters

Shelly Belzer

02 VendorIn normal times, the OLLI Shutterbugs range over the state, the country and even the world to take pictures. Staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic has made us look at what’s right around us for good subjects.

Rich Edwards was probably the most adventurous, traveling to a goat farm in May and then to the Blairsville farmer’s market in Georgia in July for these shots of a vendor and honey in sunlight, as irresistible to a photographer as to a honey lover. Gail Parsons, master naturalist, shot the pictures of a yellow-sided skimmer and a black swallowtail butterfly getting ready to drink nectar from a thistle at Lake Dan Preserve in northwestern Hillsborough County.   (More…)

Nine Eleven Memories

Diane Russell

The University of South Florida (USF) Career Center staff in Tampa, Florida happily spent Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, attending the Student Affairs Annual Employee Recognition Breakfast, an event that we always enjoyed. One co-worker left the breakfast early, and the rest of us lazily strolled back to our office. I was surprised that the people I passed along the way seemed unusually troubled and self-absorbed. I chalked up their moods to hectic schedules and deadlines.

As I entered the Career Center, I noticed that the co-worker who left the breakfast early was openly watching her small portable black-and-white TV. I wondered why she was so lackadaisical.

Another co-worker said, “Did you hear about planes flying into the Twin Towers? They thought the first plane accidentally flew into one of the towers, but then a second plane hit the other tower.”  (More…)

Life and Death in Peru

Junia Acaya

Map of PeruToday is the big day at Emilio’s and Lucrecia’s hacienda, a cotton farm in the coastal desert strip of Peru, five hours by car south of Lima. Soon, my Peruvian in-laws will get ready to butcher a goat and a lamb to honor our annual arrival from the U.S. We’ll have a feast.

It is Christmas 1976, and the summer heat in the sun is extreme. The white concrete dwelling, at the heart of the estate, is open and welcoming in the shade of a royal poinciana tree—the blazing splendor of its blossoms showers the ground like a crimson carpet. Cumbias, waltzes, huaynos, and boleros blast from a radio wrapped in plastic to protect it from the mortifying sandy breezes.

Lush masses of purple bougainvilleas drape the adjacent patio where my husband, children, and I are cooling off after the morning Cessna flight over the nearby Nazca Lines—the mysterious desert geoglyphs, two thousand years old, seen only from the air. Surrounded by our solicitous native relatives, among them my quiet mother-in-law, Señora Baldomera, we sip maracuyá juice, passion fruit nectar, chatting in the oasis of a peach orchard.  (More…)

Brenda Tipps – A Memory

Joyce Carpenter

A woman stands in an archway

It’s hard to imagine a finer human being than Brenda Tipps. I do not use that phrase lightly: Brenda was a person one so rarely meets in one’s lifetime. We met twenty-eight years ago, and for me, the friendship born of that meeting has been life-changing.

Brenda was extraordinary. She was beautiful and classy but always in an understated way. I am sure that she was completely unaware of how her physical presence affected and captivated her circle of friends. Neither vanity nor jealousy of others ever wormed their way into Brenda’s life.

Those of us who had the good fortune to enroll in an OLLI class with Brenda know that she possessed a trove of literary information.  She deeply loved and understood books and poetry and plays.  She spoke never to demonstrate her brilliance or knowledge but only to contribute to the topic under discussion. Her comments were wise, considered, and often slyly witty. In her classes she was supportive and respectful of participants and she had the ability to respond to all remarks with insight and charm. When Brenda spoke, the class paid attention.  (More…)

Pandemic Potato Salad

Diane White

The Saga of the Pandemic Potato Salad – Comfort Food Through the Generations

Potato saladWhat does potato salad remind you of? To me potato salad is summer days, picnics, family, tailgating at the beach. Happiness.

I am calling this story the pandemic potato salad saga which reached out and brought comfort from the past.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 stay-at-home order, the call went out across the family network. S.O.S! My middle sister wanted to make potato salad. Not just any potato salad – the potato salad from our childhood. The way our Polish immigrant grandmother made it. So, I looked through my recipe files – something else I’ve been meaning to organize. And yes, I found it! Not only do I have it, it is handwritten, in my grandmother’s hand with notes lovingly explaining how to make it, addressed to her daughter-in-law, my mother.

Who was she, my grandmother, to remind us of comfort at this time? Katarzyna (Catherine) Walczak White was born in 1909. She emigrated from Andrychow, a small town in southern Poland, in 1913. She was four years old.  (More…)