Table for One

Robert Strozier

Reflections of an 80-Year-Old Bachelor

Steve Martin Lonely Guy 01In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, The Lonely Guy, Steve Martin enters a fancy restaurant and requests a table for one. Spotlights from all angles zero in on the lowly intruder as the diners shrink back in shock and distaste.

A long-time bachelor, I know that rebuff well. Once, after I was seated in a restaurant, the waitress asked, “Will we be joined by the missus?” “Highly unlikely,” I said, “I’m single,” and over her face passed a fleeting shadow of pity and mistrust.

I was always eager to get married, I told myself, certain the world would eventually beat a path to my doorway… someone from Publishers Clearing House would ring and—surprise! —present me with the woman of my dreams. Then one day I checked my watch and noticed that five decades had gone by.  (More…)

On the Road, Sort Of

Robert Strozier

On the Road Cover 02In 1960, during my freshman year at Harvard, I decided after reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road that studying and exams were a waste of time and that I’d take a year off to hitchhike across the country, experiment with drugs and sex, write a novel, and get in touch with my inner self.

Among those who weren’t exactly thrilled by this news was my father, who in an uncalm manner asked such questions as, “And how the hell do you intend to support yourself, may I ask?” Though a little vague on particulars, I assured him that the income from odd jobs and my writing, plus the seizing of various financial opportunities as they arose, should see me through.

The prospect of being drafted for two years by the Army caused me to amend plans, and in the summer of 1960 I enlisted in a military alternative then available: six months active duty followed by six years active reserve. My first stop: Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC, for basic training.  (More…)

Boyhood Capers

Don Menzel

Route 66 signGrowing up in small town America where Route 66 went straight through it and with freedom to do most anything was just too much of a temptation for me. I was never thrown into a juvenile jail or correction facility, but I surely would have been had I grown up in a city. So, what did I do that was so juvenile?

For starters, the local culture was gun friendly, so I wasn’t very old when I acquired a BB gun, a perfect weapon to shoot out street lights and do other nasty things. At age 15, apparently my father thought I was old enough to handle a shot gun, so he bought me a 16-gauge automatic firing Remington, so I could hunt. I also acquired a .22 single shot rifle.   (More…)

Comfort Reading

Cindy Knox

I enjoyed George Hyde’s recent OLLI Connects contribution that contained various OLLI members’ recommendations for reading while we’re in self-isolation. However, the books that I crave right now – and some of you may, also – are what I call “comfort reads,” similar to comfort food.

I need a book that takes me to another world without murders, torture, or other examples of man’s (extreme) inhumanity to man. Or women, children, and animals. We get plenty of that on the nightly news – or, indeed, on cable news all day. So, here are a few offerings of the “comfort reads” variety off the top of my head.

(First of all, I hope that each of you reading this is in your PJs or however you dress at home. I myself tend to favor old T-shirts and flannel PJ bottoms. (Yes, even in Florida.) You will need to get comfortable and sit in a favorite chair – or your bed. No judgement here.)  (More…)

Here Now the Weather

Robert Strozier

Welcome to the Weather Channel.  This just in:  A damp sprinkling of the wet stuff, mixed with a wet sprinkling of the damp stuff, could spell trouble for the mile-high city by Thursday. Those of you planning to drive to the Southern corner of Indiana today should use extra caution, but Pendleton, West Virginia, is looking pretty good, if you’re thinking of doing something there.

Checking out the radar screen, the satellite picture, and the meteorological monitor, we can see that a weather alert is in partial effect along the outer edges of the Northeast Corridor, and a muggy mass of drizzle-activity is making its way toward the Mississippi Delta. Temperatures today in the Black Hills of North Dakota will be high in the low 20’s, as well as low in the high 20’s, and you can expect gusty and variable winds, sometimes gusty and variable at times.

This afternoon the bottom is expected to drop out of a gathering cold front just north of  (More…)

High School: the Misery Years

Robert Strozier

The first girl I fell in love with was a horse.

Charlene Atkins, circa third grade, was a worshipper of anything equine, and, meeting me in the hallway, she’d rear and haughtily paw the air, whinny and snort, then gallop off—taking my heart with her.

Charlene and I attended a small, protective private school on the South Side of Chicago, and our class stayed together from kindergarten to graduation from high school (in 1957).  Although my crush on her never faded, I did explore other options over the years. In seventh grade, for instance, my best friend Keith Hudson and I worked up the nerve to ask the Korman twins, Harriet and Louise, to a movie at the Picadilly Theater. I don’t remember who made the call—perhaps we asked them out in unison. Because it wasn’t clear what pairings-off we had in mind, the twins ended up seated to Keith’s right, I to his left. I bought two bags of popcorn, and they shared one, he and I the other, and the only hand I touched that afternoon was his.

Finally I reached high school—The Big Time. Renewing my pursuit of Charlene, I managed to  (More…)

Chapbooks

Morrey Grimes

At a meeting today, I was asked about chapbooks and also about self-publishing. I have reconciled with my mistress, Valentina, and we are again on the same page (no pun intended), speaking the same language,

Valentina is my PC. I have personalized my PC, and provided it (her) with a gender. I like the mercurial energy of women better than the static energy of men.  Valentina is my muse and inspiration, but also my critic.

Let me tell you about Valentina:  she is smarter than I am, but I will be the first to admit that that is not too difficult of a place to be. She does not correct my mistakes, but only points them out for me to correct. Not only is she in a perpetual state of learning, but she also is constantly is teaching me something. She keeps me entertained and  (More…)

The Texas Turkey

Neil Harvey

The Christmas season was fast approaching.  The year was 1944, the war in Europe and the Pacific had swung in favor of the Allies, and the holiday mood was upbeat and festive in Dallas, Texas.

In those days, I was the foreman, laborer, and chief chicken plucker and poop scooper for the Harvey family Poultry Enterprises.  My family was going to move into a more fashionable part of Dallas, and our wartime chicken-raising project would not be tolerated in the new neighborhood.  I had butchered and dressed out all the fryers for our customers.  Dad sold off the turkeys, laying hens, and George, the rooster, to a neighbor.

My grandmother, Nanna, who had lost her sight and lived with us, sat in the shade of our willow tree and plucked the feathers from the chickens I had butchered.  Nanna had been raised in the 1880s on the Kansas plains and never shirked the drudgery of any menial job.  She was an expert on all of the household skills like gardening, bread-making, and canning – skills needed to survive on the American Western frontier.  She was an authentic pioneer woman.  (More…)

Why 80 Matters

Don Menzel

In a few weeks I will hit the magic number: 80 years old.  I reckon I can no longer deny that the so-called ”Golden Years” are just a breath away.  “What will be will be” says the great philosopher Doris Day. And so it is. Or, as another modern-day philosopher, Harlem-born Charlie Rangel once said about his age, “I don’t buy green bananas anymore”.   Well, I haven’t reached that stage yet, and I hope I don’t, but I will share a few personal considerations with you.

First, I never ever expected to clock 80 years for two reasons:  Most of my life has been in the fast lane.  Of course, maybe that’s the reason I down 15 pills daily, seven of which target high blood pressure.  And then there’s heredity.  (More…)

My Novel is Wonderful!

Creativity surges through the veins of OLLI-USF members! Especially those who read OLLI Connects.  Who among us has not had our most sublime creative work reviled and rejected by some soi disant critic whose own creativity could be measured in, at most, milliliters?  But some of us vigorously respond in defense of our work, as our colleague, Derek Burke, does here.

To the Editor:

I am writing to protest your publication’s review of my last novel.  Of the many criticisms Mr. Mitchell levels at me, none merit reply, and space unfortunately forbids me from addressing more than those that time will allow.

“The novel’s numerous flaws,” pronounces Mr. Mitchell, “Include clumsy writing, embarrassing dialog, awkward pacing, and ludicrous plot resolutions. Almost every page is seriously marred by  (More…)