Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Published Authors (Norman, Eugene, and Frances)

It's no surprise that our authors are getting published. Many of you already know about our book The Best Day of My Life So Far, featuring the stories our older buds wrote during the first five years of our workshop. However, some of our seniors have been published in other literary magazines, and some have their own books. Norman Cain has had his works published in the Drexel Writers Room Anthology 2 collection and is working on a new publication, and Eugene Carrington has already published his short collection of stories and poems Messenger Blues, among other things. Here's some content form the both of them, available exclusively at Best Day.

Norman Cain
Father: The Railroad Man

My father, an amiable, quiet, lean, tall, bald, well-proportioned, copper-skinned man, was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a quiet man He rarely spoke. We communicated through physical activities. He took me to see the Brooklyn Dodgers where I was amazed by the athleticism of Jackie Robinson. One of the most memorable times that I spent with him was catching a baseball in an empty lot. We would spend hours  wallpapering, painting, and laying linoleum on the floor of the kitchen. When I was around five years old, he told me that I was a Highland Geehiee. Years later, I learned that the term Geehiee was derived from slave that inhabited the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia (around the Ogeechee River) who maintained many of African cultural traits, as they did not come to the main land for more than a hundred years. Those who were not from the low lands were known as Fresh Water Geehiees or High land Geehiees. He rarely took off from work; however, then a relative or friend or someone from his South Carolina township died, he took the train wherever the further was, up and down the East Coast.

He took advantage of his entitlement to free train tickets to various locations on the eastern seaboard. My family periodically visited relatives in Washington, New York, and Baltimore during the weekends. I was no stranger to the rails, I became accustomed to traveling on trains, recognizing landmarks in my travels during these journeys. During these junkets, he would be well-dressed: two-toned shoes, tailored suit, blocked hat. However, during the week, he was attired in the uniform required for a janitor at the 30th Street Station.

There are many mores stories that I can tell about my father, who was, in my opinion, a man amongst men. Those stories will follow. 

Eugene Charrington
Global Warming

Is it real or is it a hoax? Many conservative business people and politicians including President Trump feel that global warming is a joke. However, most of the world, top scientists, have stated otherwise. Every year the temperature of the atmosphere reaches a record high. And sea levels have been risking. For example, coastal areas in the southeastern United States have experienced the decline of beach fronts and severe flooding during storms. Caribbean islands have also suffered from torrential rains, flooding, and the encroachment of rising water levels along their costs. Storm winds at times have reached nearly 200 mph. Hurricanes have been arriving with more frequency, generally leaving a trail of death and destruction when they touch down.

Those who want to deny this change, global warming, or climate change, really need to wake up. Especially President Trump, before we all find ourselves under water, and human life on our planet is no more. 

Also, one of our newest members, Ms. M said she was going to have her letter to Dr. Martin Luther King published as well. Her publisher said her story wasn't to be "edited, distributed, or forwarded," so I will refrain from posting it until after its publication. Instead, I will be posting a story by Frances, the woman good enough to introduce Ms. M to Best Day.

Frances Bryce
Face the Mirror

I looked in the mirror,
Behold, I did see
A much older person
Staring back at me.

Who I standing in my space
Blocking my best view?
I wish she would move
Then, I too could see.

Someone with lots of wrinkles
Entered through the door
Face so familiar
My best dress, she wore.

I faced the mirror again
Cautious as could be
It’s useless to deny
The person staring back at me.

Days flew and the months rush by
The years take their toll
Beauty lives inside
Whether you are young or old. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lots-O-Laughs (Elliot)

The First Thursday sessions in the computer lab are always a change from the norm, but last week's session was especially funny. A few new buds joined us today, and one of them, Bettie, read a ghost story she had written. It was about a classroom with a haunted clock whose hands would move in places that never matched the time. As soon as she finished, Frances started reading her story...and the door swung open all by itself. And a few minutes later, it opened by itself again. "It's the ghost!" I said.

Second, I have a practice of making sure every guest and regular gets the chance to read, even during First Thursday. When I asked Ms. M, who Frances had brought to the class, this interaction happened:

Caitlin: Any friends of yours whose stories you want to read?
Ms. M.: No.
Caitlin: Not even Francis?
Miss M.: No.
(Everyone laughs)
Ms. M.: We're classmates from way back. I've heard all her stories already!
Francis: Just for that, now you have to hear me read you something you've already heard!
Ms. M.: Oh, I have a poem to read!
(Begins scrolling through her phone trying to find the story.)
Francis: Shall I read something while you find it?
Ms. M.: YES! Please DO!

And I figured I'd cap off this entry with Elliot's final story about the characters from his neighborhood. This one's a little more sad than his last two, but we've never shied away from sad stories at Best Day.

Elliot Doomes
Unforgettable Characters Pt. 3

There was an elderly gentleman who lived two door down from me. Every morning when I was on the way to work he would be standing on his porch and he would shout to me, "Top of the mornin; to you, me boy, and the rest of the day to meself." I would laugh every time he said that and I still laugh today when I think about it. And the first conversation that he had was after his dear wife passed away. He told me that he could no longer live in that house. I don't know the day he moved but one morning I looked for him and he wasn't there. Although I realize that he wasn't there anymore, I couldn't help gazing at his porch each morning.
I fondly remember the all the days that he started my day with a laugh. I missed him dearly and I wish him well wherever he may be. Thank you for all the laughter that you contributed to all my days, Mr. MacGuire. We never had a long conversation before he said he could no longer live in that house, even though he and his wife had been liging there for years; and I'd known him for ten years beore then. I never knew her that well, but her husband was very sociable. He was one of the few people in my neighborhood who was. The wife was a very quiet lady; though. I never heard her speak. I guess opposites really do attract!
But I want to wish you well wherever you are Mr. MacGuire. I still don't know what you meant, but I still laugh when I think about you.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Cup Runneth Over (Kara and Joe)

At Best Day, I usually facilitate the workshops alongside Neha and Hannah, but both of them had gotten a little busier lately and can't make every workshop. Fortunately, my friend Kara said she had some free time and wanted to see what The Best Day of My Life So Far was all about.

Turns out, Kara picked the perfect day to come in. The class was packed, with nine older buds and one extra volunteer, and we took up the entire table! She wrote for Joe (which is always a treat), heard everything the older buds wrote that day, and even stayed for our usual friendly post-reading discussion. This week, I've asked Kara to write about her experience at Best Day, and I'm posting the story she transcribed for Joe as well.
Kara Naklicki
A Great Day at Best Day

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of joining Caitlin at the Philadelphia Senior Center for Best Day of My Life So Far. I know she had been volunteering there for years, but I was finally able to see what it was all about. I had a great time! We got there early to set up, and she showed me around. We weren't sure about the turn out as the weather had been acting up a lot that week, but thankfully that wasn't a problem. We had a full group in, all ready to write and chat. I helped Joe write down an essay on his thoughts about artificial intelligence. It was great to have a conversation with him and hear his perspective. Caitlin helped a few others with their stories, and then it was time for everyone to read and listen. I loved all the different stories. Each person wrote about something personal to them, including memories of family, the effects of global warming, tales of a silly cat, and upcoming vacations. Everyone gave feedback and had conversations about the different subjects, and before we knew it time was up. I could see that everyone enjoyed writing and sharing with each other, and it was clear that this program was a huge success. I look forward to coming back and hearing more great stories and developing new friendships with everyone. It was a wonderful experience!
Joe Garrison 

We all marvel at new technology, but how much do we want done for us?
Years ago, I wrote a story titled, “With Folded Hands.” It was a sci-fi story about a very advanced technological society. Humans had no function because robots would cook, clean, and babysit their children. There was a humanoid factory. We are getting closer to this future.
From “smart” phones, “smart” robots doing surgery, everything is automated or tech-based. It makes us question things like religion. I’m not afraid of admitting it. We’ve created a technoGod. People can’t live without machines. I saw a commercial about a restaurant where the waitress said, “the people care more about wi-fi than forks and knives.” We need a wi-fi free zone.
Technology has killed social interaction. It’s a sad commentary on human existence. I wonder in the future if our species will even have a function because machines have taken over.
Technology has a built-in blessing or a curse. No one thinks there is a downside. Phones are toys, not used properly. Everything is a gadget. Face to face human interaction is important!
People seem sicker because they are not exercising. Kids want to play videogames, not sports. We’re not utilizing our bodies.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Backwards! (Elliot)

I just realized that I did things a little topsy turvy last week! I posted a story from Elliot called "Unforgettable Characters Part 2" and I didn't even put up the first part. Well, wait no longer, dear readers! You get to go back in time and read the first part second, including an introduction to Dr. Squeeze, who you met last week. And they say time travel isn't real...


Elliot Doomes
Unforgettable Characters 
There’s a gentlemen in our neighborhood. We lived on a small street called Nardane.
Every morning, he would come out and his first words would be, "My name is Cotton, and business is rotten." Usually, he would be half-high or on the way to getting drunk. I used to laugh at him all the time. He was like the joke of the day. I prejudged Mr. Cotton until one day I heard him arguing with one of his drinking constituents. And the guy talked about his family, his sisters, his brothers. I even remember him making derogatory comments about his mother. And I asked him, I said, "He’s talking about your mother like that and you’re not getting angry or mad?"
And he looked me straight in the eye. He said, "In order for a man to make me mad, he has to be smarter than me. And a dumb S.O.B ain’t never made me mad."
Needless to say, my opinion of Mr. Cotton changed right then. I had pre-judged him as a drunken bum, and my whole opinion of him changed right there and then. Next week, I’ll have to tell you about Dr. Squeeze!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lazy Summer Days (Liz and Elliot)

I've been feeling a bit lazy the past few days with the summer hear. I'm actually on vacation this week posting this from my aunt and uncle's farm in York Haven. So in honor of that, I'm posting stories about other lazy summer days.

Liz Abrams 
Summer Vacation 1946 in the Country of North Carolina 

Today, Summer of 2017, I write of summer 70 years ago, when it was a ritual of black families in the 30s and 40s to send their school age children to the South (NC), that is those families who made the diaspora to Philly from the sluggardly farm lands, tobacco/cotton fields and sharecropping…

THE RITUAL: Send me to my relatives down south for the summer

My first exposure to country life, my grandmother, poor but dignified lived in a 3 room wooden elevated house, no indoor plumbing (meaning outhouse) and no electricity (meaning oil lamps at night) ughhh 

My first morning, I heard flies and bees buzzing, loudly, outside the screen doors, my grandmother slamming the screen door pumping the water pump for the days supply of water, WHAT?????? 

She left treats on the porch table of a box of frosted donuts and sunning green tomatoes for dinner, yummm, my grandmother dipped Peachtree snuff, my grandfather smoked a corncob pipe. I’m walking around outside investigating. I was put on the run from the flies and bees and gnats, stepping on caterpillars, and a lady bug landed on my arm, I’m screaming BLOODY MURDER, as I almost ran into a tree, slapping my arm wildly, and she (the bug) held on like glue.

After my hysteria ended, I realized I lived in another world of the animal kingdom. A neighbor boy demonstrated how to use salt on a snail shell to come out and show his head. Tadpoles and frogs, dancing, hopping noisily, hiccuping up to the front porch. 

My grandmom always carried a switch to swat flies and me (if or when I got out-of-hand). Sundays came around. She walked me to a catholic church. I had to sit in the back (Jim Crow) maybe?

Weekdays, grandma would rise early and leave the house to walk down the train tracks. Curious, I followed her to the clearing. Surrounded by tall trees, her head and hands uplifted, for a long time. I realized later she was worshipping in her own very natural way. At night, a new attack from the deadly giant-sized mosquitos, which caused my grandpop to fire a smokestack near the house to keep them away, and he always checked the lightning rod outside the bedroom door for height and erectness. Oh, that OUTHOUSE was a horrible experience, particularly at night, carrying a flashlight to find the shack. Inside – worried that I would fall in the hole (it was made for adults). Moths, spiders, and every other crawling insects lived in that shack, of course, I didn’t get much business done there, plus the fear of falling into that deep hole of hell. Another nightmare grandma, cooked a chicken and cooked him whole, feet, eyeballs, heart, butt, and all… BOY WHAT A FIRST SUMMER VACATION!!!!!   

Elliot Doomes
Unforgettable Characters Part 2

Dr. Squeeze didn’t have a degree in anything, but for all intents and purposes, he was a doctor of sorts, heh, heh, heh! There was something called Sterno that women used for their hair preparations. It came in a can, tin cans, and the doctor would light the solution and melt it down and they would either add some solution which I think was water and after they melted it down, it would be pure alcohol. And Dr. Squeeze would take this special rag that he had with him at all times and dip it into the solution and squeeze out the alcohol that would be left in the rag. And he would come up and mix water with the alcohol he had squeezed out of the rag. And this became a potent alcoholic drink for him and his buddies. And they would all be high and merry. On these days, Dr. Squeeze became a neighborhood celebrity to speak. Kudos to Dr. Squeeze! 

Now the next one was Bicycle Jimmy. Bicycle Jimmy was for all intents and purposes legally blind. Living in a dead-end street, he could successfully ride his bicycle. The most amazing thing about this, is he would ride it backwards! Now us kids and pre-teenagers, we had never seen anybody ride a bicycle backwards before. It was great fun to see Jimmy ride. One day, his social worker arrived when he was riding. And lo and behold, this day when he was riding around backwards, she came up to visit him and saw him riding his bike. Needless to say, she terminated his assistance I guess he got it back, eventually. And it was a great treat to see Jimmy ride. 
 Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy Birthday Benita (Loretta G. and Liz)

Benita has just celebrated both her birthday and her 12 year anniversary of marriage to Jason Cooper. And Jason, being the gentleman that he is, surprised her with a limousine trip to a fancy restaurant. Does that make her wedding a birthday present? Did Jason come to the altar in shiny wrapping paper and a bow? Either way, I thought it only right to celebrate with stories of Benita and stories of...well, celebration.

Loretta Gaither
Mission Impossible Story
I went to the clinic last Friday and I was playing with the baby. My youngest son had a new baby and he’s about 3 or 4 months. I learned how to play pattycake and made the son laugh. They asked me if I wanted to move in with him, and I said no. I want to live with a senior partner but I’m glad I had my son laughing. Across the street from my church is Annie Thomas. I have a lot on my mind, but I do not give up, I just like people. I’m thankful for you, the volunteers, Loretta, and Joe, and this writing group. I’ll be 74 next month. I miss Benita, but I know she’s raising her sons. I like coming here for the arts. They try to make me upbeat, but I know we need to act like adults, not children, so I pay them no mind.
Signing off, Loretta Gaither. I love the Senior Writing Class, God Bless Benita and this class.

Liz Abrams
Treating My Older Sister Like a Kid
She said to me, a lady my sister of 60 -- That the circus was in town. I've never known my old sister, who was old before her time, a caretaker of everyone. I had never sen her play, she was a tomboy, 6 years older, never watch her play with dolls, jacks, but she liked jump rope.
My husband bought front row seats she got to sit up the front -- I bought her cotton candy, we bought popcorn, and watched my older sister, a person who intimidated me all my life -- cheered and clapped like a little girl.
When the show ended, she walked ahead of us, and she was crying softly with balloons in hand that we gave to her and we ask her why was she sad. She said not sad, but happy -- This was the first time anyone had taken her to the circus and gave her a balloon. Happy Days are here again we sand on the way home. 5 years she went to bed and did not wake up to go to work.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri