Friday, June 29, 2012


I’m taking a break from the blogging world but it’s just a temporary one ! I will be visiting family and friends in the New England area and also attending a memorial service for my oldest sister, Mary.

I’ll keep my camera clicking so that when I get back I can share my adventures with you right here … on my blogsite.

Until then, stay cool and have a WONDERFUL 4TH

Monday, June 25, 2012

1957, WABC & Howard Cosell

1957 was an exciting time for me. I had been hired by WABC radio to write promotional material and every day was a new adventure.

I was living in Tudor City, which was located near the United Nations on 42nd Street. My place of business was on the opposite side of town at West 86th Street. This was a bit of a hike but I actually walked it many mornings. I would be dressed “to the nines” but wearing sneakers and carrying my “stilettos” in a shoulder bag! I would start out very early and loved to stop and buy breakfast at one of the open-air carts that dotted the streets. This would consist of two eggs on toast and a few sliced tomatoes.

The days at work were long and very tiring and I seldom walked home. Often I would share a cab with others who lived on the East side, or were taking a train home to the suburbs from Grand Central Station. One of the regulars who did this was a young man named Howard Cosell.

Howard worked on the “broadcasting” floor of our building so I never ran into him except on our rides to the East side. His demeanor was always extremely proper and I had no reason to believe that he would become one of the most controversial figures in the world of sports reporting.

The thing I remember most about Howard Cosell was his quiet and compelling voice. The nasal sound was there but I never heard the excited and almost-manic quality that were to become his particular trademark. I remember seeing the Woody Allen movie “Bananas” years later and being shocked at Howard’s part in it.

Howard loved music and especially opera. He never tired of telling us about the shows that he and his wife had seen. He would outline the plots of the operas and when and where they had been performed. He was a born teacher and we were avid students.

Howard Cosell was a sportscaster like no other. He has been revered and despised but he has never been forgotten. I don’t know if he changed as he became famous but somehow I doubt it. I prefer to believe that he was a man with strong opinions and loves and that he couldn’t attempt to please all the people all the time. He probably didn’t care to either.

Howard is many things to many people...but to me he will always be the gentleman who insisted on paying the cab-fare.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Baths of Caracalla … Rome, 2008

Thanks to the generosity of my daughter and her husband I was able to visit Italy for the third time in 2008. My oldest son was my traveling companion.

We had ten days to take in the wonders of Florence and Rome and all the surrounding towns and it wasn’t until the very last day that we happened upon the famous Baths of Caracalla. I had no idea that it would prove to be one of the most fascinating of all our adventures.

We were having lunch in a small café after having visited the Coliseum and our waitress asked if we’d been to the baths yet. When we said that we hadn’t she informed us that it was just a short walk from there and we decided to go.

When the buildings came into view we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. The Baths of Caracalla complex was built in 212 AD and, despite the fact that it is now in ruins, it still retains the feeling of those bygone days. It was so eerie to be walking through rooms with inlaid mosaic tiling on the floors and the remains of marble statues everywhere.

We read that libraries, gymnasiums and even cafes were part of the elaborate layout and they even installed a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground to heat the buildings and the water.

But the strangest thing that we saw was a fresco of the Madonna with Child on the wall of one of the less ruined baths. It was amazingly well preserved but totally incongruous in that setting. Obviously it had been painted at a more recent date and we were sure there was a story attached to it.

When we finally had our fill and were leaving we asked the curator to tell us about the mysterious fresco. He just shook his head and said that it was indeed a mystery, and one that has baffled scholars and art critics for years.

(I guess it’s honorable to stick to facts but you’d think they could have made up something to satisfy us !!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Off my duff … and remembering Richard

I’m really trying hard to keep moving. I know it’s the only way to fight growing old but it’s so much easier to cuddle up with a good book than it is to exercise ! Soooooo … with this in mind I’ve been forcing myself to WALK to my post office instead of drive there everyday.

It’s about a mile and a half round trip so that certainly won’t kill me and it also goes right by the Vass Memorial Garden. That place has a special meaning for me because it’s where this brick lies, in memory of my husband Richard.

There’s nothing fancy about this small memorial garden but it’s a sweet place to pause and to remember Dick who passed away in 1990.

It also reminds me that he’d be the first one to tell me to get off my duff and “keep moving” !

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thank you, thank you, David McCullough Jr. …

This is a picture of Wellesley High School in Massachusetts and of David McCullough, Jr., the English teacher whose commencement address to the class of 2012 has gone viral ... much to his amazement. The fact that he told the graduating teens that “you’re not special” is, evidently, so out-of-the-norm, especially in an affluent community like Wellesley, that it struck a chord among students and parents alike.

My favorite part of his speech is : “You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. … We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.

No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s ‘So what does this get me?’ As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.”

David McCullough ends his dissertation with: “… you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.

The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is.”

Isn’t that wonderful?

I graduated from Wellesley High School in 1950 and have never forgotten another amazing English teacher, Mr Wilbury Crockett. He was the teacher who inspired me, as well as my classmate Sylvia Plath, to follow our dreams.

Now 62 years later I am, once again, in awe of a Wellesley High School English teacher. I couldn’t wait to write to Mr. McCullough and tell him that. His message, his humbleness and his eloquence reminded me so much of Mr. Crockett and I hope his students treasure him as much as we did Mr. C. back in 1950.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Compassionate Pumpkin

This is a repeat post from 2007 but I thought some of you new readers would enjoy it. That was the year that a very early Spring, followed by a severe frost, played havoc with our state’s fruit trees. My son, for instance, has over 40 blueberry bushes. They are great producers and he always has more than he can possibly use, but in 2007 he didn’t harvest enough to fill a quart jar.

So, it was not a complete surprise when I visited friends in Blowing Rock, North Carolina and saw that all their apple trees were devoid of fruit. They said the trees had produced a few wrinkled and sour apples but nothing worth eating or putting into a pie.

The strange thing, however, was what did manage to survive. In hopes to buffer the effects of the freeze they had used a mixture of compost and loam around the trees. This didn’t seem to work but, much to their surprise a healthy and robust vine started to grow from the base of one of the apple trees. The tendrils wrapped around the trunk and moved protectively up into the branches and, as the owners watched in amazement, a seedling appeared far up in the crook of the tree limbs.

Nothing could stop the progress of that hardy little guy and it wasn’t long before the seedling took on shape and color. IT WAS A PUMPKIN … growing larger and happier with each passing day,

My friends were thrilled and dubbed it “the compassionate pumpkin” who couldn’t bear to leave the apple tree fruitless.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

What WOULD a Romney Presidency be like ?

It’s no secret where I stand politically but you will be relieved to know that I don’t intend to spend the next 5 months blogging about it.

HOWEVER … I just have to comment about the insipid Romney commercial that is flooding the airways in my state of North Carolina right now. If you haven’t heard it yet it goes like this …

We are treated to a series of clips showing a very bubbly and clean cut Mitt Romney shaking hands with his constituency, which of course includes a token black. The announcer is talking over the music and his message is …

“What would be different about a Romney Presidency? …from day one, President Romney focuses on the economy and the deficit, unleashes America’s energy resources, and stands up to China on trade. President Romney’s leadership puts jobs first."

This litany of promises reminds me of the old slogan of the depression years promising “a chicken in every pot” … never mentioning how the chickens going to get there !

And then to add icing to the cake the message ends with this line: “It’s the feeling we’ll have that our country’s back on the right track." To my ears that’s saying … we’ll be right where we were in 2000 to 2008… i.e., a pure white guy in the Oval Office and all the breaks going to big business. (The 1% will be thrilled !)

Of course I don’t agree with everything that’s gone on for the past three years but I think President Obama is doing an amazing job holding firm. In November my vote goes to him.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

1943, Paddy reads our tea leaves

Paddy was a Welshman and one of the many British sailors that our family entertained in our home in Wellesley Hills, Ma., during the 2nd World War.

Paddy was also a great story teller and he loved to practice that art by telling our fortunes using the age old method of tea leaves.

Let me set the stage for you. We were a family of 5 girls ranging in age from 10 (me) to my oldest sister, aged 18. We lived in a large 3 story Victorian style house and the inner hallway with the stairs was completely enclosed. This was important because it was 1943, we were in a “brown-out” and no lights were allowed to show at night. It’s where we girls, Paddy and whoever else was there at the time would meet after the sun went down.

My mother had a collection of fancy, unmatched cups & saucers and we’d bring these and a large pot of tea to the hall. We would choose our favorite spot on the staircase, fill our teacups (making sure that we got a good share of the leaves) and sit back in anticipation.

Then, one by one as we finished our tea we’d hand the cup to Paddy. He'd make a great show of turning the cup upside down and twirling it around . When he finally looked at the tea leaves he would express astonishment and wonder at what he saw there. More often than not there’d be a handsome lad and gobs of money!

There was a war raging and those boys knew they would be back in the thick of it soon ... but for a short time that was forgotten as Paddy transported us to a magical place with the aid of a bit of blarney and a cupful of tea leaves.