Jacob put down the pen, pushed back the stool, and stretched out his long, lean arms. His stiff back resisted painfully as he struggled to his feet. His feet – how they throbbed in their sandals!
It had been a busy day, reflected Jacob, stroking his long, graying beard. The profits were worth it, though. His sharp black eyes again scanned the figures of the inn’s assets. Yes, he had finally made it. He and Sarah could retire to that little farm in the country, and his son Ben could take over the inn.
Twenty years ago, when he had first bought this run-down inn, he had dreamed of this day. He had worked hard to enlarge the inn and the stables and to keep them in good condition. In a town like this, where the census was taken every ten years, a good innkeeper needed only two good chances to make his fortune. True, the years in between (more…)
My family arrived from Austria in New York’s Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy) on a very cold January 17th, 1957. The family included my parents (Johann and Herta Barthmus), aged 46 and 48, sisters Brigitte, and Sieglinde (aged 14 and 16 years respectively), and my 12 year old brother Hans-Jürgen. I was just over 20 years old. We landed after a harrowing 28-hour flight in a Flying Tiger Airlines prop plane. Because of two major storms over the North Atlantic we had to land on the Azores, and at Gander Airport (Newfoundland, Canada). As we were landing in New York we saw the impressive skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance. After going through customs (each with one suitcase) we were welcomed by a representative of the Lutheran World Federation, and taken by bus to the Pennsylvania Station. It had snowed that day in New York City, but the snow had started to melt, and was mostly gray and dirty. A shocking first impression was (more…)
When you first look at this photo, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “What a beautiful sunrise.” But if you look closely, you will see a threat lurking on the sand. The remains of a sandcastle built the day before and half washed down by the ocean is more than troublesome to sea turtles.
From the time hatchlings emerge from their nest buried in the sand, they’ve already had the odds stacked against them. A very daunting fact is that only one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings born will ever make it to adulthood. Humans have sadly contributed to this fact. With six out of the seven species of sea turtles on the endangered species list, it is (More…)
“The afternoon is serene, simple, and pure at the cottage. Beneath the shadows of the trees, I lie in the hammock. The breeze that calms me and the whispering leaves create within me a tranquil lull… I hear the ducklings quacking; they, too, enjoy resting in the comfortable grass. The fragrant odors of the flowers sweeten my contemplative thoughts. It is time for sunset. I walk to the bank of the river. Now the motor boats don’t disturb the water. The waves sprinkle my face with tasty kisses. In the sparkling water, I see the reflection of an iridescent sky, and I reflect on this ethereal sight.”
In 1973, I recorded these impressions of our family cottage in a college literature class essay. This treasured property in Johnsburg, a northeastern Illinois village along the Fox River near Wisconsin, was (More…)
What is the appeal of horror? I remember reading the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe with a friend from junior high years ago. We would sit with a flashlight in the back of a dark closet in my home in Illinois, taking turns reading and scaring ourselves half to death. At night, still terrified, I would bolt under my covers, hiding my head under the blankets while still imagining the horrors from “The Fall of the House of Usher.” You would think that experiences like that would have turned me away from that genre forever. But not so. As others have discovered, it is cathartic to read these books. After all, they deal with the many unanswered questions that humans have grappled with through the ages.
From Greek and Roman myths and the writings of the Bible, to the medieval stories of werewolves and vampires and the Gothic novels of Hugh Walpole (The Castle of Ostranto that Jane Austen skewers in Northanger Abbey), to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, and to all the books that follow, storytellers have pondered such questions as, (More…)
We were on a northeasterly heading at 7,500 feet above and along the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Had I not looked down through a very small hole in the clouds by pure happenstance, there would be no log cabin in our life. I saw, at that moment a long, paved runway in those high mountains. It seemed odd and in curiosity that paid off later, I circled the location on the aeronautical chart and placed it back in the map holder.
This happened while en route to Mount Airy, North Carolina to look at a large track of land owned by the Reynolds Tobacco family. We landed and were met at the airport and toured the property. I found it strange that (More…)
The names on the 9/11 Memorial are etched into marble and our hearts. I touched the names and there was something. An echo or reverberation. Like the experience at the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. Tears. You see people grieving next to you and long to reach out to comfort them. Sometimes you do.
On 9/11, I was with Verizon in the Information Technology department on an early morning conference call. Someone suddenly shouted into the phone (More…)
We decided to walk back to the hotel rather than take a vaporetto. For one thing, it was a lovely spring evening, and besides, no place in Venice is really all that far from any other place in Venice. Once the mobs of day-visitors return to their hotels and caravans on the mainland in the late afternoon, Venice becomes a different place – quiet, elegant, sophisticated, ancient, and haunted. Straight-line routes are nonexistent here, so we wove a circuitous path along the narrow passageways that serve as streets and over some of the multitude of footbridges that arch across the narrow canals.
We walked beneath iron-railed balconies overflowing with flowers, the air hinting of roses, lilies, and geraniums. We admired the (More…)
It was the old standard – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and the kicker, boy finds girl, – but, was it really the same old same old?
The boy in question is Benji, the girl is Jeannie. Benji met Jeannie at a conference for mining engineers. He was new to the field and had ventured to these meetings to pursue job opportunities. Jeannie was something of an anomaly in the profession: she had been the only female in her graduating class. In her first few years of establishing herself, it was no surprise that she was met with sexist skepticism. As the years went on, however, more women entered the field and their presence was gradually accepted.
Jeannie was now at the peak of her career – she was a well-published author, the recipient of professional honours, and an executive in her firm. (More…)