Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Norman (The Good Youth)

 
 
 
 
And now, here’s my bud Norman, bravely yet gently “grabbing us by the hand” on a walk through Philadelphia with two very different stories, showing us the soul and humanity that can be found even in the rougher city streets.


Norman Cain
8.14.2014
The Good Youth

While I often find myself engaged in a conversation about today's wayward youth, I rarely have discussions about some of their positive deeds.

Last Saturday night, I had a positive experience with a young lady.

This experience started at approximately 11 p.m. when we departed the Number 64 bust at 28th and Grey's Ferry Avenue. Because of a detour, we had to walk five extra blocks to our destination: 27th and Reed Streets.

I do not have to tell anyone how dangerous the streets of Philadelphia are at 11 p.m.

We decided to walk together. During our journey, the young lady expressed her concerns about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. I was impressed.

When we reached the corner of 29th and Reed Streets, the young lady exemplified the positive traits that we do not associate with young people of today.

A huge crowd milled around two young men who were arguing. My instinct was to usher the young lady out of the danger zone, but before I could react, she grabbed me by the hand and guided me across the street; thereby, showing respect for an elder, a dying tradition.

The positive encounter that I had with the young lady, that I have written about, strengthened my belief in the inherit goodness in the majority of our youth.

Norman Cain
8.28.2014
Excerpt From The Great Neighborhood Debate

Note: this is not an anti-Islamic excerpt; it is a coming of age observation.

But that's what we kids were always looking for: excitement. And my street, Olive Street, was a place to come if you wanted excitement and I'll tell you why. It was a small narrow, out of the way, alley-looking street with small brick row houses. It was a dead end street. It was a hidden street where people from other neighborhoods came to do dirty stuff or just hang out.

At first to see those Nation of Islam guys walk pass the street was exciting, but after a while, it wasn't because they would give evil looks to the teenagers who would be dancing at the mouth of the street. The music came from a piccolo that was on top of a platform in front of a wooden long wide strong and narrow shotgun building, which was right next to a kind of large granite barbecue place that sold delicious barbecue sandwiches. The Islam guys didn’t like the restaurant and talked about pork, like I said, real bad.

Another exciting thing on the street was seeing the guys that played dice on the big lot on the left hand side at the end of the street being chased by police. They would be funny. They would be running through the street, like a heard of spooked cattle in one of the cowboy pictures that we saw each Saturday in the neighborhood movie house. Bills would be stuck in their pumping fists, and one of them would always have a firm grip on an opened bottle of cheap red wine.

The girls did not mind them messing up their hop scotch games and the boys didn't mind them messing up their marble games, because they could always pick up the loose change. One day, those Islam guys had the nerve to go up on the ot and preach to the crap shooters. Me and Bobby, who was my best friend, got excited. We thought that there was going to be a fight, but that didn't happen, because after a lot of arguing, the Muslim guys left.

They passed by the gang boys, but didn't say nothing to them because they knew that all those guys wanted was a fight. I mean the gang guys would fight for no reason at all and they would definitely cause excitement when they engaged in a "fair one" which meant a fair fight. They would have everybody out there looking at them and "awing" when they threw swift left hooks and straight jabs and ducked bobbed and weaved in the nick of time. Sometimes the girls or the boys or a combination of the girls and boys would harmonize. The sounds they made would go through you real sweet. We would become excited when we knew they were about to do their doo wop thing.

For a while, there wasn't too much excitement on the street. We forgot all about the Muslim guys and turned our attention to the guys dressed like cowboys and riding those pretty horses on our street and laughed when Mr. Simon, the drunk, told his corny jokes in that funny voice of his. And on Sundays, we would go around the corner to watch the Fairmount Braves, semi-pro baseball team get off their brand new touring bus. The team would be dressed in their pretty red and white uniforms. They looked sharp as they headed into the little Belmont bar that sponsored them – it was the same bar that had exciting trips for the neighborhood kids. So we forgot about the Muslim guys for a while.

The day I dreaded, Sunday, came and more people showed up for the duel then I expected. Salmon, the funny drunkard lounged in a raggedy kitchen chair, a quart of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer at his side, and on his lap, a transistor radio that had hazy reception of a baseball game between the Phillies and the negroes beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. A group of crap shooters stood in front of the lot that was there.

"Special Vegas Casino" decked out in two-toned shoes, tailored three-piece suits, crisp shirts, with golden bones for the collars and golden links for the cuffs. Wide brim hats set rakishly upon their heads.

Young boys with splintered over-the-hill baseball bats held together by weathered black tape, stood besides girls with Shirley temple hair-do's, frilly socks, and long protruding dresses. Besides them were the local territorial gang, adorned to the man with the yellow and blue reversible jackets with their name "Fabulous Kings" emblazoned on the back.

Then a guy all dressed from head to toe in cowboy clothes and riding a large white, prancing stallion showed up and rode slowly down the street, hesitating briefly several times to let children stare in admiration. Suddenly, the loud roar of a motorcycle was heard at the mouth of the street. This caused the horse to neigh and rear up on its hind legs. The children squealed with delight. The action reminded them of a cowboy movie. Around that time, a couple of members of the Fairmount Giants baseball team came on the scene, all dressed up in their red and white uniforms. You could smell Sunday dinner – fried chicken, yams and lima beans – coming out of one of the houses.

And you also got a whiff of cheap perfume on the women and Old Spice cologne on the men. Some of the little girls held dandelions to their noses. Every non-and-then somebody brushed up against somebody but nobody got mad. The water ice man happened to come by pushing his cart. Within an instant, he was surrounded by a crowd who waited impatiently for him to shave a huge block of ice with a metal instrument, place the shavings in a paper cone cup and pour thick flavoring into it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hazel (Oldies Dances)

Lately, Hazel has got us all on our feet, dancing before and after every session!! I think we can host our own “So You Think You Can Dance” Senior Edition with the mad skills we are developing in our storytelling group. Actually, here's an idea… we are raising funds to host a series of pop up storytelling events as you know… what if for our group's version of the event we wrap up the main storytelling segment with an oldies dance party? Ok, I am going to have to ask Hazel about this idea and keep you guys posted… this is gonna be FUN!!!

Donate here by Oct 31 if you want to hear some good stories and dance the Suzie Q, the Slap, or maybe even the Chicken ;) http://igg.me/at/storypopup/x

Hazel Nurse
8.21.2014
Popular Old Dances

Recently, one morning, there was an article in the news stating that an “Oldies Dance Party” will be held at a Senior Center.

This enabled me to roll the years back to try to remember the name of some dances. In order to refresh my memory, I found that time was an element.

As I proceeded to tidy up every room, the first dance I recalled was the one my dad taught us: the “two-step.” Then next the “Tap,” the “Mooch,” the “Slide,” and the “Twist.” However, a few hours later “The Continental” and the “Rug Cutting” popped up in my mind.

I decided to make a list and before nightfall I had jotted down eighteen old dances. As I am writing them down now, more came to my mind.

Oldies Dances

1.    The Two Step
2.    Tap
3.    Dolow
4.    Mooch
5.    Slide
6.    Twist
7.    Continental
8.    Rug-cut
9.    Waltz
10.    Tango
11.    Charleston
12.    Suzie Q
13.    Bump
14.    Hucklebuck
15.    Ease on Down
16.    Lindy-hop
17.    Boogie Woogie
18.    The Bop
19.    Bunny Hop
20.    Dirty Dig
21.    Slap
22.    Sand
23.    Pony
24.    Camel Walk
25.    Chicken

Hazel Nurse
8.28.2014
Popular Old Dances

After telling my son about the number of old dances that we named last week, he added a few more.

This challenge to remember old dances didn't end there either – when my brother came up with a decades old one called "Truckin."

Along with contributions from our story-telling and writing group last Thursday, I counted a total of fifty-five different, fun provoking former dances that hopefully may be revised some day.

1.    The Two Step
2.    Tap
3.    Dolow
4.    Mooch
5.    Slide
6.    Twist
7.    Continental
8.    Rug-cut
9.    Waltz
10.    Tango
11.    Charleston
12.    Suzie-Q
13.    Bump
14.    Hucklebuck
15.    Ease on Down
16.    Lindy-hop
17.    Boogie Woogie
18.    The Bop
19.    Bunny Hop
20.    Dirty Dig
21.    Slap
22.    Sand
23.    Pony
24.    Camel Walk
25.    Chicken (Funky)
26.    Hokey Pokey
27.    Alley Cat
28.    Humpty
29.    Shotgun
30.    Funky Broadway
31.    Funky Penguin
32.    Jingle Jump
33.    Square Dance
34.    Eighty-one
35.    Stroll
36.    Mambo
37.    Slow Dance
38.    Pony
39.    Itch
40.    Hustle
41.    Fly
42.    Jitterbug
43.    Sand
44.    Limbo Stick
45.    Freak
46.    Tarantella
47.    Hora
48.    Watusi
49.    Cross Fire
50.    Mashed Potato
51.    Jerk
52.    Monkey
53.    Walking the Dog
54.    Trucking
55.    Locomotion

Dance teacher – Clorice Price

Friday, October 3, 2014

Caitlin and Joe (My Body is Leaving but My Mind Will Still Be Here)

As you guys may know from our Facebook and Twitter posts, our facilitator Caitlin has been accepted to University of Essex’s playwriting program. To quote Joan our senior bud, sad for us to see her go but we’re SO HAPPY for her!! We had an early celebration months ago, and last weekend we sent her off officially. This Thursday we had another great session but it was definitely not the same without the irreplaceable, awesome through-and-through Caitlin… but here’s what’s really cool: we came up with a way for her to be there in spirit. Every session she would text us 3 sentences summarizing her week abroad. And she kicked off our new tiny tradition with these 3. Ha!!

1. Everyone has nothing but good things to say about my teacher.

2. I finally finished unpacking.

3. I saw a play that was performed in a giant aluminum whale.

The last session she spent with us, she gave us all permanent smiles with the story below. I thought I would share that one with you along with two stories by Joe. Joe and Caitlin share a special bond–because he can’t see, every week he tells her his story verbally. They sit face to face off to the side of the room, away from the table where other seniors are huddled, writing. She writes it down for him word for word, and then reads it out loud for him when his turn to share comes along.

Caitlin, you’re definitely still here with us. No doubt about it. “See you” via text next Thursday ;)

Caitlin Cieri
9.25.2014
My Body is Leaving but My Mind Will Still Be Here

I want to write this huge, beautiful tribute to all the regulars of the Philadelphia Senior Center Best Day of My Life So Far group. I’ll be leaving for a yearlong study aborad program in England on Saturday and everyone here deserves a well-written sendoff, except I am having trouble figuring out where to start. I guess the best way to do this is by saying I miss everyone. That’s the gist of what I want to write and the point I want to get to by the time this is over.

I started in 2012 when Donnell whom I worked with invited me to the group during our lunch hour. I treated it like he was the regular helping seniors with their stories, but then I ended up being the regular ghostwriter catching him up on all the things he missed.

I regularly wrote for Joe and Loretta and a few seniors I only saw once, and it was hard to pass that role on to the other volunteers, Rachel or Jana or even Benita. It felt too much like my thing. But I know Jana and Rachel and Benita and whoever else is going to ghostwrite are great writers and transcribers. Besides, that’s not the only thing I’m going to miss.

I’m going to miss seeing Norman in the computer room, typing and retuning his story before bringing it in on freshly printed paper. I’m going to miss having Hattie, Frances and Millie determining the reading order with authority and efficiency. I won’t be able to take surprise phone calls from Beatrice, record Gogo, Hattie and Joan’s spur-of-the moment stories, or make sure Elizabeth signs the attendance sheet when she come rolling in on her scooter. It’ll be hard to make sure Greta comes to performances by the Philadelphia Young Playwrights (another group I am a part of which is how I first met Donnell) and all but impossible to accept Mo’s offer for coffee across the pond. I’m going to miss all of those seniors, plus the ones who only show up occasionally, and especially the ones who can’t come anymore.

I am going to keep in touch. I’ll send texts, videos, and the occasional story. I’ll keep up with the website, the upcoming Story Pop Up event series, emails form volunteers, and baby Kian’s pictures from Benita, of course. I will definitely come in person during the holidays. But I am not going to be here in person, not with any regularity. I am going to have an entire year where Best Day isn’t who I am at the moment.

But this city is full of thousands of seniors and volunteers, and one of Best Day’s goals is to find those people who want and need to be a part of this group. The outreach is only going to get larger with the Story Pop Up project, and there are going to be a lot of new people who can say, “The Best Day of My Life SO Far is a part of who I am right now.” And in these last few days before I leave, I’m glad to have worked with the volunteers who have been able to say this for years and will be able to say this for a very long time. I’ll miss you.

Joe Garrison
7.31.2014
More Misheard Lyrics

*The following is a conversation overheard between senior Joe Garrison and facilitator Caitlin Cieri.

J: I’ve got another misheard lyric for you.
C: Cool! You know I love those.
J: You know that song by Celine Dion from Titanic. It sounds like she’s singing, “I believe that the hot dogs go on!” I can just imagine those hot dogs sinking away!
C: Yeah! I can just see a bunch of hot dogs jumping and slithering away and Celine’s like, “No! Don’t go hot dogs! I’m still hungry!”
J: And you remember Neil Diamond’s song “Reverend Blue-Jeans?” And Elton John in “Kiki Dee?” I always thought he sang, “I’ve got your heart in a sock.”

Joe Garrison
1.16.2014
More Observances about the Cinema

There’s something I’ve been thinking of, these observances of what I’ve seen over the years in movies and television. Most of them believe it or not are from Western movies. I love other films too, but the Westerns seem to have the most clichés. The scenes I think are the most senseless, the most non-sensical, are the ones where two guys are sitting in a saloon. One guy would offer to buy the other guy a drink. He refuses, then the first guy says, “What are you, too good to drink with me?” And sometimes a gun fight starts. But these films, they’ll have gunfights over anything. Another one is how at the beginning of the movie the girl always mistakes the hero for a bandit or a lowlife and at the end of the movie she’ll apologize. He’ll always say: “Forget it.” Forget it, every time, no matter how badly he’s been mistreated. That’s not how it works in real life. I know that’s not how it works in real life! If someone feels mistreated and other people think they can fix it all by saying “sorry” they’re gonna stay upset for a while.

The reason why I’m writing this is to show that we really haven’t come that far. You still see these clichés in Westerns today! And there’s even worse clichés about us seniors on television and in the cinema! This just goes to show you that just because you see something on the screen doesn’t mean it’s right.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Our Story Pop Up Campaign Means to Me


September 2009, in a borrowed room in the basement
Lifelong friends I made along the way, young and old
September 2014, Best Day of My Life So Far groups across the country
And a new storybook and plans for an event series
Exactly 5 years ago yesterday, Best Day started in a basement.

No, not a meeting room or classroom in a basement. Vicky, the director at Philadelphia Senior Center at the time, wanted to give me a chance to try out the idea of "a senior storytelling group with a blog" but told me that there was no room or budget. I told her, "No prob, I don't need a budget, I will bring in pen and paper, and I can just borrow a staff's office for just an hour a week–we can make the group's meeting time lunchtime to make this work." And so, Jay started leaving his office unlocked for me every Thursday 1pm when he stepped out for lunch, and every week between these Thursday sessions I would reflect right here on this blog about the stories I heard and my personal experience.

The office even housed a mechanical closet so you would hear loud mechanical noise throughout the sessions. It wasn't exactly in top condition–since then, the whole basement has been gutted and renovated. But you know what, the seniors and I didn't care about the conditions of the room. We were so happy. The borrowed basement office and this blog were our oasis.

I want to paint a picture of how we started because I want to show you the true measure of what our Story Pop Up Campaign means to me.

If you are a Best Day Facebook and Twitter fan, and a Story Letter subscriber (a) you are the best!!, and (b) you know that yesterday in celebration of our 5th anniversary, we launched our Story Pop Up Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to bring our seniors stories' out in the open, for more people to enjoy. Now that we have groups, venues and volunteers all across the country, we are launching this campaign to print and distribute 100 copies of our brand new storybook for use in 10 unique storytelling events.

Picture A, 5 years ago: just four seniors and me in that noisy basement office.

Picture B, a reality that will happen with your help: armed with storybooks, Best Day seniors all around the country stepping outside traditional settings and into the open, entering with dignity and purpose places where seniors’ voices aren’t typically heard. Passerbys, friends, family, people in the neighborhood like you and me, gathering around, just to listen.

The road that we have been traveling together via this blog, from A to B, is why this campaign means so much to me.

Make a donation and share our campaign page http://igg.me/at/storypopup/x, so we can continue this amazing journey!