The River – Book Review

Lucinda Knox

I am not an outdoorswoman, and my skills with an oar or a paddle are negligible. The last time I fished was with my dad when my family spent summer vacations in Wisconsin. I have never fired a gun, although I was good with a bow and arrow at one point. However, I loved this book. Peter Heller, who is an adventure writer, an outdoorsman, whitewater kayaker, fisherman, a recipient of an MFA in fiction and poetry, and much more, uses his background to good advantage. He has created a thrilling, poetic work with memorable main characters whose wilderness canoe trip is upended by a wildfire and men intent on killing them.

I was immediately hooked by the prologue:

“They had been smelling smoke for two days. At first they thought it was another campfire and that surprised them because  (More…)

Walking In a COVID-19 Wonderland

Diane Henrikson Russell

I drove over nine speed bumps daily on a major street in my subdivision as I impatiently commuted to my USF Career Counselor job, which was 21 miles away. I barely gave the homes or the intersecting streets a glance as I focused on my destination in the pre-dawn hours.

Fast forward from August 2014 to Fall 2020: I now leisurely stroll along the sidewalks of that same street as I watch impatient commuters drive over those same speed bumps.

The stark contrast in my change of pace was not caused by retirement. The COVID-19 virus has made walking a safe and enjoyable way to exercise outdoors while we “vulnerable” folks try to remain isolated from others and still exist on the planet.

Walking has been my preferred method of exercise for decades. As a USF employee, I strolled the sidewalks of the Tampa campus on breaks and at lunchtime. Before moving to Brandon, I even walked to and from work when I lived 1.5 miles away from the campus. I lost my campus walking routine as a retiree, but last year I began walking on the outdoor track at Bay Care Health Hub in nearby Valrico.  (More...)

The Ancient Desert Curse

Marilyn Myerson

Part the First

All signs and portents spoke of disaster befalling the project. Rumors abounded, warning of the ancient curse.

Easily disregarded was the curse as fictitious superstition if you were on the dig for money or fame. Both were promised in abundance if the early research proved to be well-founded. Not as easily dismissed was the curse if you were a knowledgeable local worker, recruited to help dig through the age-old ruins for the usual paltry wages and miserable working conditions. But other jobs were scarce and there were mouths to feed. You swallowed your foreboding so the young might swallow their ration of bread.

Me, I observe the scene with detachment, as is my wont.  (More…)

How I Almost Worked for the President of the United States

Robert Strozier

In 1979 I was hired as a writer by a well-known and flamboyant marketing-and-sales-management consultant named Stanley Arnold, who over a long career had created many a successful promotional campaign for various blue-chip companies, such as:  “Win Your Height in Dollar Bills” for Lever Brothers, “Win a Bathtub Full of Cash” for Dove Soap, and “Win a Mattress Full of Money” for Simmons.

One of Arnold’s more memorable promotions helped introduce a new line of specialty foods from General Foods, and the unveiling of the “horse-of-a-different-color” theme to marketing executives featured just that—a white horse dyed a bright blue. Another client of his—a man seeking a high-paid position at an advertising agency—brought a belly dancer along to the job interview…his resume written on her undulating abdomen. The list goes on and on.  (More…)

If You Could See Me Now

Peter Terzian

Ever since my wife died a couple years ago, my life has taken a turn in a completely new direction. My son moved away with his girlfriend, got married and had a couple of kids. The house full of stuff was no longer necessary, so I sold all of it. Any work I was doing was now done online, from anywhere in the world. So, I moved to the South of France and opened a small brew-pub. I call it Un Voyou.

Every morning I get up early. The first thing I brew is some coffee. Then I tend to my other brewing: beer. Every day there’s something to do:  brewing, fermenting, packaging, and ordering ingredients. Sometimes I imagine this is how the Belgian Monks lived. Not bad at all. Then, I walk to one of the cafes nearby to get lunch or just relax with some fresh fruit, a cheese sandwich, and some wine.  (More…)

What We’re Reading Now

Linda Feeney

Planning an OLLI social event in today’s world presents challenges. Robyn Cheung decided to try a form of book discussion and I offered to moderate. The result was an invitation to a virtual Book Lovers’ Happy Hour on September 4. Would anybody come? Should we prepare some back-up questions in case the discussion lags? Silly us.

The 15 participants signed in more than ready to talk about their books. There was very little moderating to do except to ensure that everyone had a chance to speak —  plenty of time to marvel at the variety and depth of both selections and accompanying commentary.  (More…)

The Quest in Question

Marilyn Myerson

Alphonse was on a quest: he wanted to commit the perfect murder. As a fledgling novitiate in the 16th-century order of the Aquinas Brethren, he considered himself a devout Christian. But the one precept he had difficulty obeying was “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” The neighbour in question was Bernard who slept in the cell next to Alphonse.

The monastery was several centuries old and its moldering dampness exacerbated the elderly Bernard’s afflictions: among them, severe arthritis and chronic catarrh. Alphonse was a light sleeper at the best of times, and much of his night was constantly disturbed by Bernard’s moans and groans, his teeth-rattling coughs, not to mention the incessant sounds and noxious odors brought on by his neighbour’s well-known digestive troubles.  (More…)

Brenda Tipps – A Memory

Joyce Carpenter

A woman stands in an archway

It’s hard to imagine a finer human being than Brenda Tipps. I do not use that phrase lightly: Brenda was a person one so rarely meets in one’s lifetime. We met twenty-eight years ago, and for me, the friendship born of that meeting has been life-changing.

Brenda was extraordinary. She was beautiful and classy but always in an understated way. I am sure that she was completely unaware of how her physical presence affected and captivated her circle of friends. Neither vanity nor jealousy of others ever wormed their way into Brenda’s life.

Those of us who had the good fortune to enroll in an OLLI class with Brenda know that she possessed a trove of literary information.  She deeply loved and understood books and poetry and plays.  She spoke never to demonstrate her brilliance or knowledge but only to contribute to the topic under discussion. Her comments were wise, considered, and often slyly witty. In her classes she was supportive and respectful of participants and she had the ability to respond to all remarks with insight and charm. When Brenda spoke, the class paid attention.  (More…)

I Like Ike! And Mamie!

Diane Henrikson Russell

I Like Ike button 01Back in 1956, my parents watched politics on television often. Even though there were only three commercial stations and a public television station (WTTW – Window to the World) in Chicagoland, they managed to cover President Eisenhower (nicknamed Ike) well.  He not only was our current President, but he also was running for reelection that fall.

It was perfectly normal to see my father drawing caricatures of him and other politicians while watching television. After all, he made a living drawing gag and editorial cartoons for local newspapers.

In early 1956, my dad even created an animated character for WNBQ-TV to introduce color television to Chicagoland. Red-haired Tommy Tint was dressed in a green shirt and blue overalls. Tommy painted the town and blew it up with a dynamite plunger to show off the vivid primary colors and entice the audience to tune in. Unfortunately, our family did not own a color television set, so we missed  (More…)

Becoming Americans

Lydia Gallucci Lombardo

Photo of Pietro GallucciHow Pietro Gallucci crossed the ocean and we became Americans

PART ONE: COMING TO WEST VIRGINIA

My Dad, Peter Palmer Gallucci, was one of the smartest people I ever knew…and he only completed fourth grade.  The best thing he did, in my eyes, was to immigrate to this country so we could become Americans! He took, as you will see, quite a circuitous route.

Things were tough in the Meggogiorno, the southern part of Italy where my father grew up. There were few jobs and no prospect of any in the future, even for a distinguished veteran of WWI. Farming, the only industry in Aprigliano Grupa, Calabria, my dad’s hometown, offered few work opportunities. The family farm already employed my dad’s older brothers, so he worked from age 10 on local farms needing seasonal help. He learned how to prepare the land for seeding, when and how to plant and then to weed, and the best way to harvest.  He loved working the land all his life. Later, growing produce, fruit and flowers became his hobbies instead of his occupation. (More…)