That was how it first came to my attention. My beloved hickory walking stick had been unceremoniously dumped in the brown river water, solely to satisfy adolescent curiosity. I don’t know which one of the ten-year-olds said it; nor did I know who actually did the deed. I only knew that my stick was fast disappearing in the swift current of the Trinity River, while I had the forced realization that, while it was a treasured possession – it figuratively represented my authority in the woods – I wasn’t going in after it. Nope. Bad choice. Current too swift, not a good swimmer, it’s just a stick. In that order.
It was the summer of 1973. A year after college graduation, I was making a life for myself on the gritty upper west side of Manhattan in a run-down tenement building occupied by a motley crew of hippies and disillusioned Columbia University graduates. My boyfriend Fred and I shared a fifth-floor walk-up at 105th Street and Columbus Avenue, adjacent to a building controlled by the local drug dealers. Each evening we were serenaded by salsa music emanating from the bodega just across the street, sometimes punctuated by the click, click, click of dominos accompanying excited comments from local Dominican and Puerto Rican players and onlookers.
I remember it as though it was yesterday. My 5-year-old life changed during WW II when I saw a Navy Fighter–probably a Corsair–buzz the neighborhood. My aviation career started very early that morning. l was sitting on the front steps and watched the sleek fighter make a low pass over our house. In retrospect it was that lucky early morning moment that set my course for the future; from a Huckleberry Finn in the Bronx to over six thousand hours in the cockpit in all types of aircraft. My favorite: fighters! But I also logged thousands of hours in bombers, tankers, commercial planes, helicopters, gliders, seaplanes and flight trainers.
Snakes were the subjects of a recent challenge issued to the Imaginative Writing Crew. Some weeks later two contrasting stories arrived in our mailbox, and we thought it fitting to combine them for this week’s blog. Here’s a little taste of each story…..
Blocking my exit was the largest, meanest, blackest water moccasin I had ever, ever seen. Hell, years ago me and the kids would race through the swamps, and never fear o’ nothin’, but this guy was really, really mean looking. As he started his curl, ready to strike, his green eyes flashed from the light of the newly banked stove…..
I reached out, a mite tentatively at first but soon enough my arm stretched out in full confidence to savour the first touch of this magnificent creature. Her skin was dry, nothing “ooky” about it at all….
It was Christmas vacation time in December of 1945. World War II had ended a few months earlier. I was three months shy of my 18th birthday, and at six foot one and 172 pounds, looked a little older. I had saved a hundred dollars and got my parents’ permission to accept Uncle Willie’s invitation to visit him in Hollywood Florida.
The train fare was sixty-five dollars, round trip. Mom packed me a lunch/dinner, a combination of five or six sandwiches and fruit. My twenty-four-hour train junket started at New York Pennsylvania Station.
We like to end each year with an issue in which we look back at the stories, poems, articles, memoirs, and–well, whatever–that we’ve published during the past 51 weeks. And we have a staggering variety this time around.
We’ll share them with you in a moment. We want to stress that these are not necessarily “the best” articles in their category–just the ones that stood out for us personally, sometimes for very subjective reasons. We hope that you have a list of your own favorites.
You’ve flown with Neil Cosentino before here in OLLI Connects. Most recently on his flight into the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. But before that you crossed the Andes with him, shared a Christmas Eve flight in Spain, and accompanied him on his world record for the shortest flight between airports in a KC-135. (If you put his name into the Search box on this page, you can find all of the stories Neil’s written for us so far.)
Today’s story is different in that you are a vital part of it, not just a passenger. When you’ve finished reading it, scroll down to the Comment box, and tell us whether you think it’s merely clever fiction or whether the author has “told the truth”.
I would normally say, it was a dark and stormy night, but it is likely you have heard that story before, so let me begin with—the sun was rising at Campobello—no, not that one either. The truth goes a little like this. The sun had already risen over the lighthouse at Provincetown, located on the very northern tip of Cape Cod. I estimated it to be about 10 a.m., which should allow ample time to get around Nantucket sound and down into Narragansett Bay. The waters were pretty flat along the National Seashore, but I decided… Read more
“Just a week or two, maybe less,” I heard my doctor quietly tell Gillian. She walked him to the door, wished him a good day, and came back to me. “You heard that, right Mom?” she asked, sniffling, holding the embroidered handkerchief her grandfather gave her when she was just a tot. And what a bright, energetic girl she was. She grew to be so accomplished. Married well as the old saying goes. Made me a grandmother to three amazing people. Read more
After two days in the care of Carol and Merlin, Beryl had yet to receive permission to return to Philadelphia. A few more adventures awaited her before she was cleared to embark on a flight home. Episode II concludes with her personal reflections and a warm story describing the purpose of her trip to Brussels.–Editor
Day Three and the Journey Home The next day, Thursday, Carol needed to complete her planning with three other ministers for a Prayer Service that evening. Merlin also needed to be away and they allowed Joe, Peg and myself to be at their home for what we thought was going to be the morning. The hotline number had been helpful in providing information about departure times, but the delays began to be the norm. Carol came home and suggested that we might like to get out for lunch as a change. As we drove around, I noticed the many flags at half-mast, which felt like a very supportive gesture on the part of our neighbors to the north!
More television that afternoon plus the opportunity to get on email at the home of a neighbor of Carol’s made the time pass quickly. At 6:30 p.m., Carol needed to be at the church for the service. Read more