Beryl’s Byways

Beryl B. Byles

It began like this for a few of us….

Welcome to the first issue of “Beryl’s Byways”, my travel journal in this “Year of Adventure”. As you can see, it is a pdf attachment to an email, which is the format I will use going forward. Divided into four chapters, the first chapter has been a unique experience of housesitting near Safety Harbor, across the bay from Tampa. The second chapter begins at the end of next week and is distinguished as a bucket list item, specifically “autumn in New York”! I’ll be living on the Upper East Side, volunteering at the Metropolitan Opera (hopefully!) and looking forward to being both daunted and delighted by the “city that never sleeps”. As you can see from the masthead, I plan on commenting on experiences that happen by choice and/or those that happen by chance!

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My Come From Away

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

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.

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The Disastrous Ball Game

Bruce Zimmerman

The PS 52-school yard was completely enclosed with a ten-foot-high chain link fence topped off with barbed wire. Why the barbed wire, I’ll never know. The building and its grounds were a lot worse than some of our present-day work-release facilities. Aside from all that, it was one of the better places to play a good softball game. If we won the game, seven or eight of us would try to go home a little richer. With our game winnings in hand, we would go into the far corner of the schoolyard and shoot penny to nickel craps.

I would imagine I was about fifteen or sixteen at the time. Some old biddy who was being her nosey self, called the police to report the gambling activity. Either this harmless activity during the war years must have been unpatriotic, or perhaps the real New York gangsters were all in the armed services. And sure enough, this old-time paddy wagon backed up to the gate blocking our only exit.

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A Foxhole Conversation

Bruce Zimmerman

Scene: September 1944, somewhere in eastern Netherlands. Two American soldiers dig in their positions in preparation for Operation Market Garden, a bold effort to push into German territory just three months after the Normandy invasion….. 

“These hills are kind’a rough Frank. They seem to drop that artillery right down your neck—”

“Aw, we got it easy. I heard the jokers in Company ‘C’ are really having a rough time—watch it Joe…shelling again.”

“Yeh, we got it easy—just like riding a log down Niagara Falls. Say, how about that picture of that doll of yours? Where did ya’ ever hook up with a trick like that? She your steady?”

“More than that me lad. Keep yer head down, and I’ll give ya the story of Audrey G.—the sweetest little girl in all of Brooklyn ….,     

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Evelyn Romano

What would a summer reading list be without poetry? Surely no other season is better served by the weightlessness and sophistication of poetic expression. Today’s blog features three exquisite verses bathed in summer’s golden tones, contributed by one of our OLLI-USF award-winning poets. Kick up your feet, sip your coffee, tea or chai and let your senses revel in the refined beauty of language. — Editors                                                   

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The Moon

Patricia R. Antolino

The Temple to Luna, Goddess of the Full Moon, was built in the sixth century B.C. by Emperor Augustus on the Aventine Hill, overlooking the Tiber. There were tumbled tiled floors, double curved stairs, high archways, views of the river on all sides, groves of olives and lemons. On March 31st, upon the completion, a ceremony was held. It is said that the Emperor had commanded Homer to write a hymn invoking Luna, which was to be sung by 27 girls. And the story goes that, when the hymn was sung, Luna rode across the sky in Her silver chariot drawn by two horses, one white, the other black, pulling the Full Moon.

It became custom for a festival to be held each year on March 31st. This year was no different. The Temple had been busy all week …         Read more

To Kill a Mockingbird Redux

Joan Weaving

I was 15 the summer of 1963. It was time of hope and optimism. The promise of Civil Rights had permeated our generation, and we embraced it. We learned all the anthems: Blowin’ In the Wind, We Shall Overcome, WE Shall Not be Moved, argued with our parents about attending the march on Washington, and flocked to the movie theatre to see To Kill A Mockingbird which exposed the underbelly of southern segregation and Jim Crow. And oh how we loved Atticus, the gentle and wise soul whose integrity could not be diminished even as he was spat upon.

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Open Mic Night II

Victoria Dym

Lauren H., Hanover, NH

In last week’s issue we shared a smorgasbord of haiku contributed by our members to celebrate National Poetry Month. Before that we experienced live readings performed by more poets at a January Open Mic event. With today’s issue we return to live material, this time presented by the host of the Open Mic Night, Victoria Dym. As with our last mixed-media poetry blog the written poems appear below the video so you, the reader, can experience her writing skills as well as the spontaneous performance she delivered.

The above photo was part of a 2021 National Poetry Month poster competition for middle and high school students. Lauren H., at that time a 10th grade student in Hanover, New Hampshire, discussed her creative process illustrating the poem , “For Keeps” by U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Here is an excerpt of her description. — Editor

“…The experience of looking upwards into the pitch-black sky and just seeing the stars spread out above oneself is one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences that a person can have with nature. I wanted to show that experience with my artwork…..This poem acknowledges that despite how alone we can be in the world, we can form meaningful relationships that surpass the boundaries of language. In my drawing, at first glance, the two beings seem lonely and isolated in the dark of night, but upon deeper inspection, the person and the horse are companions who are truly appreciating nature together.”

Get a Clue!

Peter Terzian

Colonel Mustard

Here’s my story of a recent challenge: to design and build a set for our community theater’s production of Clue with only two weeks between shows with all volunteer labor, which translates into only about two full days of actual work. I’ve built several sets for this stage, but this one really pushes the limits of time and space.  Where’s Ant Man when you need him!?

The show takes place in seven rooms on a stage that measures 24 feet wide by 22 feet deep. There is minimal fly space above the stage and very limited wing space on each side. Which means any pieces of the set have to pretty much stay on stage. I’d read the script, watched the movie, and had meetings with the director, actors, and others. I consider several ideas.  

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Untold Riches

Marilyn Myerson

“…and that adds up to 26 dollars”, sighed my mother Nancy. Worry lines played over the soft, beautiful skin of her face as she consigned thin dollar bills into little brown envelopes, each marked with its own label: “groceries”, “rent”, and so on.  Those little packets were the kind you got from the bank, small enough to hide secrets, wrapped securely with rubber bands to keep their precious contents in place, and softened from years of handling.

In the background Ricky, the turquoise budgie bird, chirped along with the RCA Bakelite radio. Maybe it was Kay Starr belting out her 1950 hit, “Wheel of Fortune”; we could have used one of those.
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