Wednesday, September 20, 2017

1950 … a night at the Boston Pops

In 1950 I was 17, on a first date with a college man (sigh) and attending the opening concert of the 65th season of the Boston Pops conducted by the world famous Arthur Fiedler. Who could ask for anything more?

During the Symphony Season this venue was very conventional but as soon as it became “Pops Season” it changed drastically ... the seats and risers were removed and small tables and chairs (reminiscent of the type that you might see at a curbside Bistro) were packed in. Everyone relaxed and waited in anticipation for the great man to appear.

The minute that Arthur Fiedler came to the podium a roar of approval erupted from the audience. He gave a low bow of thanks and then took up his baton. The lights were lowered, the talking ceased and the concert began. It was a typical “Pops” evening filled with semi-classical music and a few lighter pieces.

What really impressed me was that, at the end of each number, instead of going offstage, Arthur Fiedler took a seat at the front of the stage and beamed at us, while waitresses collected orders for wine, or lemonade. Then he would stand up...our signal to stop talking...and the next segment would begin.

I still remember the thrill of that evening and smiled when I read that in May, 1979 he conducted a concert to celebrate his 50 years as conductor at the Pops. He was to die of a heart attack barely two months later but he certainly went out on his own terms and with the love and admiration of his audience.

Friday, September 15, 2017

16 years ago … but never forgotten.


On September first 2001 my dream of a lifetime began. My friend Douglas and I were on a plane leaving Newark and heading to Italy. He was a retired architect and a world traveler so it was a great treat for me to be able to tap into his expertise. I had planned the trip with the aid of an informative book entitled “Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries” and Douglas was happy to go along with that. (The picture above is where we lodged in Florence.)
On September 11th we'd spent the day in Assisi and returned late in the afternoon to our monastery in the small town of Bavagna. The first inkling that something was wrong was when the people in the Piazza called to us and pointed to their little bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor, insisting that we go there. The shop boasted the only TV in the square and it was just recording the horrific events of 9/11.

I can hardly put into words how this affected us. We felt totally shocked and helpless. A nice couple from Canada took us to their hotel and we tried to make calls to our family members in the U.S., but it would be 4 days before we could get through. When we left them and returned to the piazza a nun was waiting for us. She was from the monastery where we were staying and she led the way to an ancient church in the center of the town where she unlocked the side door and beckoned us to enter.
The interior of the church was cool and musty and we were completely alone. It didn’t seem to matter that neither Douglas nor I practiced any type of formal religion. We sat quietly absorbing the atmosphere, each lost in our own thoughts, and in about an hour the little nun came back. We tried to show our appreciation although we knew very little Italian and it was hard to speak without crying. She kept nodding her head to show that she understood and then gave Douglas a pat on the back and me a warm hug.
Now it is 16 years later and that day still haunts me, as I know it does for so many others. It also reminds me of the compassion and love that were shown to us...not only by the townspeople of Bavagna, but from all the Italians that we encountered during our month’s stay in their wonderful country. It is a memory that I will cherish forever.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

GREGORY PECK takes me under his wing!

(My granddaughter Faye is enamored with many TV and Film stars and I'm always embarrassed when I have to admit to her that I have no idea who they are… so this is my payback to her. Have you ever heard of this guy, Faye?)
In 1955, after 4 yrs. in college and working in a Radio Station and an advertising agency, I decided to leave the East Coast and went to California in search of a job. I was very lucky to be hired as head of the Publicity Dept. for KEYT…a small television station in Santa Barbara.
I was barely 23 and in on the ground floor of the burgeoning TV era…but I was a complete novice as to the workings of a publicity department. I couldn’t believe it when my boss told me that the MGM movie “Moby Dick” was going to premier in Santa Barbara and that our TV station was hosting it and my job was to act as liaison between the stars of the movie and the press.
The big day arrived and I went down to meet the train that would bring everyone to Santa Barbara. Of course the place was packed and it was all I could do to stay at the front of the line to welcome the cast and crew. Then all of a sudden there he was, stepping off the train… Gregory Peck …he seemed bigger than life to me and I felt my legs quake and I was afraid I was going to faint. I pulled myself together and managed to get his attention. In a very quivering voice I introduced myself and explained that I was brand new at KEYT and had no idea how to proceed.
I will never forget what happened next. He put his arm around me and started walking with me into the crowd of reporters. Of course they started to bombard him with questions but his only answer was, “Sorry, you’ll have to clear that through Virginia. We are guests of KEYT and she will arrange it all for you.” This was not technically true but it certainly worked like magic for me….and he was true to his word. I don’t know about the rest of the cast, but no one talked to “Captain Ahab” without clearing it first with me!

Moby Dick” is a John Huston film classic that is often replayed today. Gregory Peck’s masterful portrayal of the crusty Captain Ahab is spellbinding…but nothing compared to the actual man. He truly was, and is, my only filmdom hero.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Harvey brings back memories of our AA Angel...

In September, 2005, I met an outstanding woman. Her name was Louise and she was a victim of the horrendous Katrina Hurricane. She had literally lost everything. She was also a long time member of Alcoholics Anonymous. From the first minute we met her we were amazed at her positive attitude and her thankfulness at being a survivor. She never complained and fit right into the AA way of life attending three meetings a week faithfully.

Before long she decided to do some volunteering and she became a valuable member of the Red Cross organization. She even spoke to civic groups ...reliving her Katrina experience for their edification and helping to raise money for those remaining victims.

Her cheerful and humble persona was a great addition to our AA meetings and it never occurred to us that this wouldn’t continue for years, but then the unthinkable happened. Her cancer, unknown to any of us, came out of remission. The first half of her second year was spent with radiation and chemotherapy treatments and she became bald as a cue ball. She still went to her meetings and never once complained. Our little day to day misfortunes seemed to fade away in comparison as we watched her bravely face each hurdle.

In year three she had another remission but it lasted less than 3 months. Not once in that time did she bemoan her circumstances. She told us over and over how lucky she was to have survived the storm and to have found refuge with all of us. In the fourth month she became extremely fatigued and short of breath, but she insisted on making her meetings and, barely 24 hours after her last meeting, she quietly passed away.

She was an AA ANGEL who literally blew into our lives, in the wake of KATRINA and she taught us acceptance, humility and an abiding love. Those of us who were lucky enough to have known her will be forever blessed.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

9/2018 … Planning for a 68th year HIGH SCHOOL REUNION !!

I've only been to one of my High School reunions and that was in the year 2000. It was fun and I intended to go to more but life got in the way. So, when I received an email from Bill, our 1950 class President, I was once more drawn back to those amazing years.

Bill wrote that only 40 of us are still alive out of a class of 160 … a sobering statistic. It makes me want to partake in the festivities if I am physically able and I'll bet that's the same for most of my remaining classmates. It also brought back memories of my friend Gayle who, happily, is among the 40 still going strong.

In 1952 Gayle and I spent our summer break from college in California. We traveled there from Massachusetts by Greyhound and I will never forget that l-o-o-o-ng 5 day bus trip. By the time we landed in Los Angeles our ankles had swollen to twice their size and we could hardly walk. An active day or two got us back to our normal selves, however, and we did manage to get jobs as waitresses in the historic Pierpont Inn, in Ventura, overlooking the ocean.

That’s Gayle (on the left) and me in our waitress garb. It was hard work. We were taught to carry the big trays, loaded with food, balanced on our shoulder. By the end of the summer my right arm was actually larger than the left. But, the ambience and the clientele were delightful and the tips were plentiful…enough to enable us to fly home!

That was truly a magical summer and, with a little luck and some planning, I look forward to re-living it with Gayle at our 68th High School reunion in 2018.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Here's an earth shattering idea ...

I read a long article recently explaining what happens when an incoming administration picks Senate or House members to fill their needs. Of course this leaves their positions open and it means that special elections need to be held to elect their replacements.

The article went on in great detail to discuss how this works and the concerns of the candidate … will the President's endorsement help or hinder … do I espouse the strict party line … am I open to having my past exposed … etc, etc. ?

It was an interesting article but, as usual, I found it discouraging. Why do the politicians have to make it so convoluted ? I guess it's because they won't get elected if they simply … horrors ! … TELL THE TRUTH !

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


I watched most of the total eclipse on C-Span today and it was really interesting, especially when day turned into night in many places along the route. I live about 3 hours from where I could have viewed it in person in South Carolina but decided to stay home and hope that I would at least get a partial view.

Our viewing time was 2:33 so, as it neared, I decided to get in my car and go in search of a good spot to watch. I traveled North-East a bit and pulled into a large Church parking lot with a sweeping expanse of sky in front of it. I was the only one there and as the time approached I saw no changes and couldn't help but wonder if I'd been wrong about the time. It was a lovely summer day with an extremely bright sun but no sign of a darkening sky. However, as soon as I put on my special glasses I saw what is pictured in the photo. 

But, here's the strange part. My son Matt lives about 20 minutes South-East of me and, since he is in his own business, he structured his day so that he could lie on his back lawn and view the sky. He saw what I did but he also experienced the day darkening enough to activate his outside garage lights. He said the temperature dropped too and all in all it was an exciting experience.  

Just a few miles apart but, like the line in Frost's “Road Less Traveled” I made my choice and it “made all the difference”. In 2024 I intend to listen to others !!