Come wiz Me to ze Casbah!

Shelly Belzer

One of the phrases people of a certain age have imprinted on their memory was not spoken by Charles Boyer in the movie “Algiers,” which he made in 1938 with Hedy Lamarr, although comedians continued uttering it in a bad French accent for years afterward.  “Come wiz me to ze Casbah” was probably most famously spoken at the movies by Bugs Bunny.

“Algiers” was an American remake, down to some of the same camera angles, of the 1937 “Pepe le Moko,” starring the French film icon Jean Gabin.  With scenes of those movies in my mind’s eye, I set foot in the Casbah in Tangier in April.    (More…)

Cape Cod: Finding Her Secrets

Judy Huge

On hearing I was fresh from building a house on Cape Cod, the first 84 people I met after moving to Wisconsin 18 years back broke into huge grins as they leaned in to confide, “You’ll love Door County. It’s the Cape Cod of the Mid-West.” There was no doubt they felt proprietary. I guess that’s the way I feel about “my” Cape and why I’d like to make a few introductions.

The Cape I know is a bit shy. She hides her secrets on winding dirt roads, in the hollows of dunes, deep in the coolers of one-named ice cream stands or high on the shelves of artists who craft each coffee mug so the warmth you feel holding it on a winter morning seems to have come directly from the hands of the one who shaped it.  (More…)

Soviet Women in the Brezhnev Era

Diane Russell

“Do you have any abortion pills?” Marina whispered. Stunned, I answered a vehement “Nyet!”

For seven months from September 1979 through March 1980, my first husband did research for his doctoral dissertation in Tbilisi, Georgia. I learned firsthand about the Georgian woman’s lifestyle, which contrasted with the image presented in Soviet propaganda. Georgia lies 1,000 miles south of Moscow, bordering Turkey and the Black Sea, and was one of 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. Americans recognize Georgia as Joseph Stalin’s birthplace.

As a 27-year-old American woman with knowledge of conversational Russian, I befriended several young Georgian women who wanted to improve their English. However, my friends preferred learning about the American woman’s lifestyle.  (More…)

Dry Ranch, Mexico

Brenda Tipps

Rancho Seco sits on a hill in a landscape of green, dotted with small white pueblos on the distant slopes. It has the look and layout of the traditional Mexican hacienda you’ve seen in films: white adobe walls, red tile roofs, a one-story rectangular building enclosing a courtyard edged by a covered walkway from which various rooms can be accessed.

Mounted on the walls are the huge heads of Rancho Seco bulls that have distinguished themselves in the ring, each with a plaque showing his name and dates. The most famous was Pajarito, who jumped over the barrera and into the stands, landing in the laps of some of the spectators. (Amazingly, no one was hurt.)  (More…)

Lightning Strikes Twice with Dick Van Dyke

Diane Russell

When my beloved GreGra, my dad’s mom, asked me if I wanted to go to Disneyland, I shouted, “Yes!”

As a 10-year-old, I had watched episodes about Disneyland on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights at 6:00 p.m. for years. My dad, a free-lance cartoonist, had visited Disneyland when he went to the yearly convention of editorial cartoonists two years earlier. He had even met Walt Disney!  What’s more, he had met an employee at Disney Studios. Mr. Reddy offered to give GreGra and me a personalized tour of the studios during our stay. Maybe we would catch a glimpse of Walt himself.  (More…)

Taking Life by the Throat

April is National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating it (again) with another group of poems by OLLI members.  That fellow in the picture is, of course, Robert Frost, one of America’s best known and best loved poets.  He was Poet Laureate of Vermont, though never Poet Laureate of the United States.  He once described poetry as “a way of taking life by the throat”.

We think he would have enjoyed the poetry we have for you today.  And at the end of the post we’ll share some other ways you can enjoy poetry this month.  (More…)

Rocket in the Desert

Joyce Carpenter

As he drops us off at the Camel Safari, Mr. Sharma, our Rajastani guide, smiles wearily. We are spending several days in the Thar Desert in Rajastan, India, and he is charged with driving us to and from our various activities. Our hotel is near the town of Jaisalmer, formerly the massive fort dwelling of the Rajput ruler, Jaisal, and now the residence of one quarter of Jaisalmer’s population who live and work inside its substantial walls. We have spent the day exploring the town’s temples and its labyrinthian, crowded streets. We have left the clamor of town and are now ready for the anticipated calm of the desert. After our camel ride and the dinner and dancing program which follows, Mr. Sharma will have to return to collect us. It’s already been a long day for him.

“Have you ever ridden a camel, Mr. Sharma?” I ask.

“Never Madam!” he replies, and, as he escapes to the solitude of his van, the thought bubble trailing in his wake clearly reads, “You must be joking, Madam!”  (More...)

Words That Burn

April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate the awesome things poets can do with just 26 letters and some white spaces.   We asked some famous writers how they’d define poetry.  Here are a few of their responses.

“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn”. –Thomas Gray.  “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance”. –Carl Sandburg.  “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful”. –Rita Dove.  “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat”. –Robert Frost.

And Carol Ann Duffy said “You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart”.  Which is exactly what some of our own OLLI members have done for us here.  (More…)

Bratty Fourth Graders Changed My Career

Diane Russell

I was fascinated with school during my childhood in the Chicago suburbs.  I idolized teachers, offered to grade tests for them, and played school with younger neighbors in our basement.

In September, 1970, I headed to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to start my major in elementary education. I loved my classes until my view of teaching elementary school became more realistic during my second semester of sophomore year. I observed a fourth-grade class of misbehaving lower-income students in Urbana. During spring break, I observed my fourth-grade sister’s class in suburban Chicago, only to discover that my sister’s teacher faced the same behavior problems. I sadly decided that I did not want a career disciplining students who did not want to learn.  (More…)

All About Beer: Craft Brew, Microbrew, You Brew

Peter Terzian

OLLI usually doesn’t go in for tests or grades.  But we do like to spring a pop quiz on you every once in a while.  Like now!  Read this post’s headline and—without help from Google—tell me in one word what Peter Terzian’s upcoming class will be about.

Time’s up!  Who has an answer? Now, let’s not always see the same hands. Yes! The correct answer is “Beer.” Those of you who got it right can congratulate yourselves!  Those of you who got it wrong will just have to study harder.  In fact, you may want to take Peter’s class.  In the spirit of pop quizzes, we asked him some questions about it.  (More…)