Thursday, March 21, 2019

Multitudes (Jose, Norman, Eugene)

For three weeks in a row, Best Day has had a table full of writers. The warming weather encourages everyone to join new workshops, or return to their old favorites. One of the older buds, Eugene, phased out Best Day in favor of pursuing his dream of photography. He’s been talking about this for a while, so I’m glad he’s finally doing it!
Also, Julie said that some of the kids from the local high schools were interested in volunteering as well. We at Best Day always love student volunteers, and with all the older buds we have now, we could use a few more hands on deck.
And don’t forget to check out the stories from our Philadelphia-based sister group Center in the Park. They’ve got lots of amazing stories, including a few from our very own Norman Cain. And if you’re ever at 33rd and Chestnut, go into the Barnes and Noble, ask for the Drexel Writers Room, and grab yourself a copy of Norman Cain’s “Debates, Defenses and Dreams” from their book vending machine.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to, so I leave you with the stories you’ve looked forward to for this entire post!

Eugene Charrington
Cameras in the Closet

At my best friend’s house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in the living room there’s a huge antique china closet and oddly enough, this closet contains about 12 cameras plus some photographs.
At times, I would sit there and marvel at these professional cameras, there was a Canon, a Pentax, and even a few Yasekia mats. During the 1990s, I worked as a photographer. I shot demonstrations, architectures and still life. I worked with several non-profits and Impact Visuals, a photo co-op where I had black and whites, plus color slides on file. After eight or nine years of photography, put the camera down, not to start again until 2012 when I taught myself how to use a digital camera.
My buddy in Brooklyn recently informed me that he was tired of the expensive and cold NYC life, and to my delight, he told me I could pick two cameras from the closet for myself.
What a going away present! Thank’s a lot Doug!

Norman Cain
When I Saw Caen
When I was 13 years old in 1955, an amazing thing happened. The news media was a buzzed with the unheralded news regarding Negroes (that was what black folk were called then) who resided in the racial oriented city of Birmingham, Alabama. A lady, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus. She was arrested. Led by a young Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, the Negro folk from the city embarked upon a bus boycott, a boycott they insisted would act until Negroes were granted the right to ride public transportation without being required to sit in the back. On November 13, the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was illegal. The boycotters were victorious. Because I left Philadelphia each summer for rural South Carolina, where I resided with my maternal grandparents, I witnessed segregation first hand. Negroes and whites were not allowed to sit side-by-side in vehicles, there were signs that designated what water fountains and toilets the races were allowed to use, Negroes were required to step aside when directly in the path of whites, Ku Klux Klan marchers were prevalent, the chain gang were disproportionately manned, elderly Negroes were called Aunt or Uncle- never Mr. or Misses, and white youth were addressed by negroes as Mr. and Mrs. Negroes were required to engage in hard labor from sun-up to sun down for little pay. To maintain the environment, Negroes were arrested under false pretenses. There were tales of missing folk and human remains being found in the forest. Twice, I saw Negro women in the white section of town, suckle white babies. Because my maternal grandparents who were land owners and who managed a large farm, I was not subjected to the humiliation or hardship experienced by the majority of the Negroes in the vicinity. I, nonetheless, felt the pain of my people: therefore, when I read about the exploits of those boycotting in Birmingham, I was elated. I definitely wanted freedom for myself and all of humanity. At the time, I hand idea that King had been a seminary student at nearby Chester, Pennsylvania, Crozier theological center in 1949. He met Rev. William Gray, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in 1958 at 12th and Columbia Avenue. He also spoke at Calvary P. Church at 41 Brown Street, a Baptist Temple Church at Broad and Berks. His appearances in Philadelphia were steady until February 1968. In August 1965, he came to Philadelphia in conjunction with is northern city tour for "Freedom Now Rally." Over 10,000 people heard him speak at 40th and Lancaster Avenue. There is a mural of him and Cecil B. Moore at the spot as well as a PA Historical Marker and bust of his likeness. During King's 1959 appearance, I was in the Army, thereby missing that historic occasion. However, I did get a chance to see King. But I would get a chance to see him later. As a student a Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia between 1961 and 1965, I was actively involved in the Civil Rights movement. Two of the college's alumnus who happened to have a Philadelphia base would often come to the University to lead us in our demonstrations. They were Cecil B. Moore and Reverend William Gray. They were both King supporters. They had both joined him in his civil rights activities in Philadelphia. When I graduated from college, I became a member of The Friends of The Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, which was located at 58th and Lansdowne Avenue. We solicited money, and books, as well as clothing for needy folk in Mississippi. From August 24th through the 27th, I accompanied the Philadelphia Chapter of the Friends of The Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee to the Democratic Convention National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For three days and nights, I was on the boardwalk in front of the city's Convention hall at 2301 Boardwalk. There, I mingled with civil rights activists and luminaries like James Forman, John Lewis, Ella Baker , Gloria Richardson, Stokley Carmiceal, Rap Brown, Ralph Abernathy, and Fannie Hamer, among others. On the last night, King, who was hoarse, gave a brief speech in drizzling rain from the third and fourth rung of a step ladder. I was not too far from him and I could feel his spirit. I will never forget that experience.

Jose Dominguez
My Unique Friend Alberto

When I was 15 years old, Alberto was my best friend I had in high school. He was an orphan and he inherited a small fortune for his age. He could expend money however he pleased and he did things for me that were amazing. He was sexually active and since our city was very conservative, he specialized in brothels and call girls and he invited me many times so I ended up knowing many places in Chihuahua City.
One of those days when we were studying in a Catholic school, I was enjoying my high school studies and suddenly one night, he appeared in the house where I rented my room. He mocked about my wish to study for the test (not proper for most of my young friends of the next day.)
I tried to dissuade him, telling him that the exam was crucial. Laughing, he told me he wanted to invite me for some beers and not to abandon the test. Meaning what? I asked him. It means that you come with me and drink some beers and I will look for girls. What? And my test? Very easy, you take your stupid books with you because I will not go alone and if you refuse, I will stay here in this room and promise to distract you so you will not study… so you decide. Oh my God! Knowing him, I took my book and we both took a cab. We went to a brothel in the area near the army barracks and accommodated myself in the bar drinking one Tecate and studying logic. The girls laughed at me but I did not care. When my friend arrived, I was the joker of the bar and of all of the brothels. My beer was empty and I solved some complicated Aristotelic silogism. Alberto, my friend was very pleased because he found a pretty girl and I ended with an A+ in Logic. Oh my God, I was such a good student!!

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Women's Day (Eleanor, Frances, Delores)

Like I said last week, March is International Women’s Month, a month to celebrate the women that make history. Best Day has no shortage of women historians, but imagine my surprise last week to find that our session was made up entirely of women! All the male older buds were either sick or otherwise occupied, so last week the girls were running the world. 

Not only that, but Eleanor’s story was featured in the most recent issue of the Milestones Newspaper. Of course, she read it aloud to all of us before posing, but you can read it yourself over here, along with a nice selection of stories from our women writers.

Eleanor Kazdan
Tidying Up
Like thousands of other Netflix subscribers, I have been watching the series, "Tidying Up." The graceful, adorable, diminutive, upbeat Marie Kondo dances into people's homes to help them declutter and face their piles of possessions. These people are not "hoarders" in the technical sense, but just ordinary people with a lifetime of stuff to deal with. 
My first thought when I started watching the program was that I was way beyond needing advise in this department, since I am constantly throwing things out, even things I need later. I even once diagnosed myself as a "compulsive de-clutterer" after reading an article in the Oprah Magazine. When I moved from a large suburban house 13 years ago, I got rid of a ton of things including most of my furniture. 
After watching 2 episodes - one about empty nesters wanting to downsize, another about a new widow having to face her husband's possessions, I began to realize it was time to take stock. Marie counsels people to only keep items that "spark joy." Other items should be thanked for their service and discarded. She sees meaning in each thing. 
I realized that I was hanging on to a lot of stuff that is cluttering my life. Things that remind me of lost friendships, clothing that remind me I am no longer 35 and don't have a waistline. So, once again, I am facing the passage of time and trying to move forward - trying to declutter my life.

Frances H Bryce 
Sailing, Sailing 

Vacation each year, all the places we would like to go requires that a vote is taken to determine who gets their favorite place.
My husband knew I wanted to go to Canada, my kids, Disneyland or some amusement park. He stated that a sailing trip would be his wish with a side trip to Disneyland, he said that he would not vote. I was doomed from the start. With two kids voting for their vacation wish and my one vote for Canada, he did not need to vote in order for us to go sailing with a side trip to Disneyland.
He had already stacked the odds in his favor and also pleased the kids. 
The preparation for the sailing adventure began. We were enrolled in a sailing class with a crew, captain, and five other families that would be a part of the sailing trip from Chesapeake Bay to Florida. Our boat was a 28-foot craft that we learned was unsinkable – a great relief for me, each boat had a motor in case there was no wind to propel us and we were left far behind, we could use the motor.
The captain of our boat (my husband) did not want to think about using the motor, after all, it was a sailboat, trenching the sheets (sail) meant a great deal to him. The boat was equipped with a tiny galley, a place to sleep, and a toilet that required several pumping before a flush was assured.
All of the boats got on the way, heading out to sea. The wind gave us a good start and soon died down, no matter how much trimming of the sails our captain did, we were soon behind the other boats. My son and daughter began telling my husband we were too far behind the other boats and please use the motor to keep up. Finally, my husband relented, unhappy as he was because a sailor uses sails, not a motor.
Our first rendezvous was met with great excitement. We anchored our boat and ran to a restroom, a real live flush.
We saw magnificent ships carrying cargo, other ships that made our boat seem like toys.
It was our first family trip out in the ocean and a desire for my husband and daughter to plan another trip. I am waiting to sail on the huge ships with luxury cabins, and of course toilets that require no pumping.
We all enjoyed the trip to Disneyland. 

Delores Wilson
Lunch With George Bush Senior

When I initially received an invitation to attend a George Bush luncheon at North East high school i was going to decline, however when had my quiet time that morning, I was instructed by the Lord to attend. That was a Sunday morning. That evening i received a call from my son's school. It was the principal telling me to go because the President of the United States of America was going to be there. That was my confirmation for me. i realized if i had lived in a monarch country, it would be the same as being summoned by a king or queen. I was given permission to go by my job. At the time i worked 3 to 11. I'm thankful that I went. I saw for myself that President George Bush is a people person, has a great sense of humor, and handsome. I liked him.
If you liked what you read, then you should check out the stories from Center in the Park. Both of us will be featured on Best Day’s newsletters and social media accounts for the month of March, so take the chance to get acquainted if you haven’t already.

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, March 7, 2019

International Women's Month (Joan)

Back in January, I mentioned that Joan told a story about surviving her husband’s abuse. She didn’t finish writing it for another week, and it took a little time to get it fully typed. But with International Women’s Month in full swing, and International Women’s Day just a few hours away, it feels right to post Joan’s story now, and to show how strong a woman can be. Just a forewarning, this story is about domestic abuse and violence.

Joan Bunting 
A Living Miracle
Do you believe in miracles? I do. You are in the presence of a real live miracle.
Most people go through hard, hard, terrifying times in their lives, but once that part of their life is over, they never give a thought that it was God that delivered them.The hardest time in my life started at age twenty-two years old when I met my future husband, Billy.
I didn't know enough to leave him once the abuse started. I didn't know what there were signs to have the sense enough to run.
The abuse started with, out of nowhere. I would get sucker-punched. Then the cuttings began. One night, he threw lighting fluid on me, then threw a lit match at me. Just image what could have happened if he hadn't missed. Through the years, I was pushed down the cellar steps, just so he could sue our landlord. One night I was knocked to the floor, he straddled me, then hit me in the head with a handle bar from a bicycle very hard to the point that all the nerves in my body singled. I was scared because I had heard that if you were hit hard enough and got the same reaction that I got (the tingling) that meant you were about to blackout, which I didn't eat to happen for fear he would surely kill me. So I pleaded with him that I felt strange as he raised his arm to hit me a second time.
A lot of other cruel things happened such as calling me out of my name an attempt to belittle me by telling me that if any other man would only want me for sex and last, but not least, if any other man saw my body, the knife scars would let them know that I belonged to him.
The main point in my story is how God delivered me. I have spent many nights and sometimes during the day realizing how I could or would have died. And it also showed me how God protected me.
You know when I was lying on the floor the night Billy straddled me and brought the bicycle handle bar down on my heard, I noticed his hand raised again to hit me a second time, when I looked back on that, I've come to the conclusion that God had sent an angel to hold back his arm after I had pleaded to him (Billy) that I was afraid and that I felt funny.
After all of the violence, I'm not crippled, scared to the point where there's evidence of what I’ve been through.

When you talk to an older bud, and when you really listen to them, you’re offering them an incredible gift. You’re giving them company, understanding, time, and importance. You’re giving them someone new to open up to, to trust, to really talk to. It’s one thing to listen to the fun stories about their youth, but quite another to be there for the tougher moments. Joan didn’t have to tell this story, but she did because she knew we would listen.
This is why we started our ten city tour and “Joy Starts Here” initiative. Our goal is to end senior isolation, and the best way to do that is by listening.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Coming Into March (Barry)

The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and our usual group of older buds are back in business. José’s back from Houston, Frances and Ann are fully recovered, Eugene has a new house, and new people are coming in every day; and getting Valentines!

The warmer weather will bring in even more older buds, along with plenty of fun surprises from the Best Day facilitators of Philly. March’s newsletter will be all about PSC and Center in the Park, so we want to give our pages’ visitors more bang for their buck. And be sure to check out Stockton University, the star of February’s newsletter. They're getting a nice collection of stories from their students, and you can check them out here!

And we’d never leave you without a good story, so we’re posting this brand new one from a brand new older bud Barry.

Barry Vernick
Lemons Into Lemonade

I was married 41 years when my wife, a college professor was diagnosed with FTD. It's like Alzheimers. The brain dies a slow death. For 3 years, I was her full time caregiver, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was hard. She lost all functioning. A beautiful, brilliant woman had become a vegetable who needed her diaper changed. After she died, the grief I felt was unbearable. I wanted to die. For 2 years I drank and took sleeping pills. But slowly, ever so slowly, I began to heal. Today, I can look back on that experience and be grateful. IT was a life test. A test of my love and commitment. How many people are fortunate enough to be tested? The darker the tunnel, the brighter the sun when you emerge. Today, I attack life. I don't hold back. I leigh. I stay busy. I do things no one else my age would dare do.

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Benita’s Valentines (Elliott and Eleanor)

Valentine’s Day is a day to show your love for the people in your life, but it’s also a day to reach out to the underrepresented. St. Valentine himself was a champion of those persecuted by Ancient Rome. So it only made sense for our older buds to get lots and lots of Valentines last week.

Our fearless leader Benita has two school-age boys right now, and the youngest one, Kian, made Valentines along with the rest of his class. His teacher gave them to Benita to give to the older storytellers of PSC, and she surprised us with a visit last week. Our older buds were tickled pink (and every other color on those Valentines) to see her, and she even got to meet older bud Ann for the first time. We also made sure to take lots of pictures to send to the kids as a thank you.

The thing about Benita is that she doesn’t know how much she means to us at Best Day; especially at PSC. When she asked if she could come in, she worried that she’d be distracting us from our writing. But we assured her that it’s never a distraction to see her! After the workshop, she talked to older bud Elliot, who talked about how much she taught him. She said that she was no teacher, but that the older buds were the real teachers. But Best Day is a collaborative effort. Everyone is here for each other here, no matter what their age.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Benita. Your love is what keeps Best Day strong! I hope you enjoy this week’s stories.

Elliot Doomes
Kids Can Be Funny

It was funny, kids are always funny. I don't care what they do or how they do it, kids are always funny. Kids will keep you laughing and the funniest part is that kids don't know they are funny. I remember one time I was talking to my granddaughter. She asked me, "Pop-pop, do mice like cheese?" And I said, "Yes." So she took out a bunch of cheese and started putting it behind the appliances for the mice. I caught her and I asked, "What are you doing?" It was the funniest thing. She thought mice were cute and wanted them to be happy. But when I asked her, "Why?" she looked up at me and said, "I don't know." And she looked so sad when she said it too. Those are moments that I will treasure forever. And when kids are quiet, you really got to look for them because you know they up to something. My daughter is a rambunctious, energetic kid so when she's quiet, I know she's up to no good. One day, she was quiet and I went into the kitchen. She went into the cabinet, opened the baking soda, and had it all over her hair and her face. I don't know how she got into the baking soda, but that's why you put things up on the shelf. Kid's will find things you can't. I'm just glad it wasn't anything toxic. I had to sneak out of the house if I wanted to do something on my own. As soon as she'd see me with my hat and coat, she'd go please and be right at the door waiting for me with her hat and coat. You know what I used to wake up to every morning? She'd be sitting on my bed singing the words to the theme song to "Captain Noah." I never thought she'd remember that but she knew all the words and what time it came on. Kids are so smart you know that? Any time you say, "Don't do this." Guess what they're going to do? Their curiosity level is very, very, high. 

Eleanor Kazdan

My mother had always been eccentric and difficult. You might say she marched to a different drummer. She started running at about age 47 and became a marathon runner, completing 37 marathons up to age 80. Around the time my mother was 80, she began to act even more strangely than normal. Once she picked me up at the subway station and didn't seem to know the payback to her house. It was a terrifying drive. Another time, while crossing the street, she didn't understand the walk signals. Then there was the day of her granddaughter's bat mitzvah. By that time we knew that my mother's mind was failing. I had reminded my father to make sure she had suitable clothes to wear that morning. When we came to pick her up, she came downstairs dressed in a jogging suit. Frantically, I went up to her bedroom to round up some party clothes. I hadn't set foot in that bedroom for years. To my shock, it was in complete disarray with pies of clothes, plastic bags, and old papers covering the floor. By the grace of God, I was able to find nice dress and a pair of shoes in the clutter under the bed. After much prodding, my parents moved to a seniors apartment complex. Six months later, my father suddenly died and my mother moved to an sister living facility. About 2 weeks after my father died, my mother called name and said, "Eleanor, do you remember this old boyfriend I used to have called Aaron Kazdan?" I felt a knife in my stomach, "Mom, Aaron was your husband for 60 years." Although my mother barely remembered my father, she thrived at the facility. She had a boyfriend. They sat in the lobby for hours holding hands and believed they were married. One day her boyfriend disappeared. He had gone to a nursing home. As terrible as my mother's decline was, it gave me a chance to like her a little more. Dementia had smoothed out her rough edges and made her a sweet person.

Share your love for the older buds in your life by submitting their stories here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Talking Shop (Norman)

The great thing about Best Day is that not only have we published our older buds stories in our own book, some of our older buds had gone on to write and publish books elsewhere. In fact, we’ll often get visits from published authors who are interested in a little help with their next stories. One of our newest members, Princess, had recently published her autobiography and came in during one of our First Thursday sessions. I asked her to read a short passage from her book, and she talked a bit about her experiences with the genre. This led to a discussion between the rest of the older buds, including Norman who had published his stories before. It just goes to show how much we can learn from each other.
Norman Cain 
Poverty Pimps 

In 1974, I was involved in an organization entitled Living for the City, whose purpose was to create and implement recreation, counseling and job readiness training for North Philadelphia impoverished youth. A couple who had come into some money, purchased a two-story building at 22nd and Lehigh Avenue that they planned to convert into a center for the areas youth. The couple was in need of a staff. They heard about our organization, conducted an interview with us and hired us. At the time of our hiring, we only had three members in the organization: me and Douglas, who were both young counselors at a state operated reformatory, and Alex, a music teacher at Friends Select School. We would spend our evening at the center. I was the activity director and was coordinating with a restaurant executive who envisioned creating a chain of youth maintained restaurants throughout the Delaware Valley. 

After several weeks had transpired, the city of Philadelphia became interested in funding the program. They send two representatives to the center to speak to us. During the meeting, they said that we would need a financial person to oversee the monetary segment of the center. I thought that the city’s representatives were supposed to monitor our program, not become a part of it. It seemed to me that my partners were fine with the situation. 

I told them that I was capable of handling the finances of the center, because as a caseworker with the Philadelphia Welfare, I was responsible for auditing the finances of over three hundred families associated with the clients housed at Uptown Jewish Nursing Home. I was not about to allow the finances of our organization be manipulated by those I consider to be outsiders, and who I believed to be Poverty Pimps. Also, the executive director of the center was a minister who did not have the welfare of the areas youth a priority. Like the City Hall representatives, he was looking for money and fame.  

During another meeting with the representatives, I vehemently disagreed with one of their proposals. My partners agreed with them. My partners believed were in cahoots with the representatives. But I decided to vie my time. We definitely had the respect of the youth in the city, as we, as counselors at the Youth Development center, we developed favorably reputations with the clients. Once we were able to prevent a gang fight that was getting ready to erupt in front of the center. Eventually, a misunderstanding between members of our organization and the center erupted. We left. 

After our departure, we connected with a center at 22nd and Ridge Avenue that had created and sponsored the first Pregnant Girl School in the city. Our new organization seemed to also be in the business of Poverty Pimping. They asked us to write a proposal. When we requested help from two Board of Education lawyers who were affiliated with the group, we were denied. When we showed them the proposal we had written, they were amazed at the professionalism it represented. They asked us where we had gotten help and we let them know that the proposal was our product.  

I found out, several days after presenting our proposal, that they had given us certain financial information (that was presented in the proposal), that could lead to a fraud investigation. They did not want to give the proposal, so I had to physically retrieve it. Undeterred, we decided to finance our organization by holding weekly discoes in a loft where we had space for a boutique. My questionable partners recruited a lawyer, industrial arts teacher, banker, and parole agent. We now had eight folks in our group. The majority opted for high salaries and downtown offices, I felt that if we were going to help ghetto kids, we should be where they were. 

It was apparent to me that I had spent six months in the company of Poverty Pimps who had no concern for youngsters in need of help. I left the group.

If you your older bud to get published, submit their story here: 
And if you need a refresher on how to submit stories to “Joy Starts Here,” check out this handy-dandy link:
Happy reading, and stay warm!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri