Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nine Years (Frances)

Last Monday was the ninth anniversary of The Best Day of My Life So Far, which means we’re just 361 days away from the big one-oh! A whole decade’s worth of writing came from the Philadelphia Senior Center, along with several six-week programs in five states, several lectures, and our own book. To celebrate our years of progress, I thought we could look back at some of our finest moments.


Northwest Regional Honors Council Conference at La Salle University
Happy Hour at City Tap House
Our Book 
Press and Awards

And you know I wouldn’t leave you without a brand new story.

Frances H. Bryce
Carless In The City
The story of my car continues, last week I was talking about seeing the car at the body shop, waiting for the adjuster from my insurance agency. The damage was on the rear of the driver side. The back panel, wheel and bumper were the only thing I could see that was damaged. I wanted to see when I would get a call that my car would be fixed and I again would be in the driver seat, as faith would have it. The adjuster said the damage was more serious than my eyes could see. Hence, they were going to not fix the car (totaled). I was not pleased with the fact that they were not going to operate on my visual observation.
I decided that I was not going to buy another car. I had planned to send my car to California before the accident, now I will use public transportation , Lyft, and then maybe a little more planning when I want to go out of the city or other places that I had used my car. A nine year old car with 24,000 miles attests to the fact that I had not driven the car very much.
The good news, I no longer have to find a parking place near my home, no insurance and gas payments. So you give a little and sometimes you in a little. I have to wait a while to see if I miss having my own transportation.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Surprises (Jose)

A couple weeks ago, Norman asked when Benita would be coming back to visit the Philadelphia Senior Center. I was curious too, since her kids were old enough to be in school. Maybe she’d have enough time on her hands to stop by. When I asked Benita, she said she’s come to the next session to catch up. That was surprise number one!
Last week, Benita came in to a class full of older buds. She caught up with Frances, Joan, Eugene, Elliot, and Rochelle, and I introduced her to Jose and Delores. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t introduce her to Anne, Kant or Nouria, and I was worried Norman wouldn’t make it. Norman’s been a busy bee lately, so he’ll often call to say he won’t make one of the workshops. So I decided to give him a call.
Norman picked up and asked if we’d be in our usual room or the computer lab. I told him that we’d be in our room, and that I wanted to make sure he could make it because Benita came to visit. I heard him laugh on the phone and say, “Well, if Benita’s gonna be there...”
Then I saw him walk into the room and say, “I’d better come.” Benita ran over to him and gave him a great big hug, and we all had a great big laugh.


Jose Dominguez
The Real Education
At 22, I was studying law at the University of Chihuahua. At the beginning, it was easy, but now the courses were really complicated. This story is about one turning point in my life as a law student. 
It was my fourth year and at the end of the period, the final exams came as a course. This time, it was a course “Mexican Agrarian Law” and I had to study 800 pages. The book consisted of 28 chapters and the biggest was chapter 8 with 220 pages long. 
We had 7 days to prepare so I decided not to study chapter 8. The test was oral and the professor and two other faculty members were the jury, it was impressive. 
When my turn came, they randomly selected 2 chapters and there it goes – chapter 8. Oh my god – the only thing I did was take some time to decide as if there were something to decide. After a few seconds, I told the jury I prefer chapter 11 if you please, but my professor told me 8. “Oh no, Jose, that chapter has been explained all day long, please explain chapter 8.” Oof, I said to myself, there are 2 options: I run from here or I fake my explanation. So I began reading the topic of the chapter. It was on the history of the Agrarian Law in Mexico. My professor was a communist and I knew he did not like the destruction of our cultures by the Spaniards and so on. So I began praising the primitive laws and taking the law from Spain. The professor was happy I noticed. The 2 other teachers were so bored that they decided to go out to smoke a cigarette and that was it. I was in charge. I finished the test, embraced by my professor who told me I came in 6th and continue studying, you have a great future. Conclusion: The school teaches us on how to solve exams, test, ect. But many times they do not teach the real life. 

Life is full of surprises, you know.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Public and Private (Kant, Mo, and Delores)

A few of the older buds have been reluctant to post their stories online, due to concerns about being traced or watched by dangerous forces. This is understandable, between Cambridge Analytica, Edward Snowden, and all the myriad ways apps and websites can collect your information with its users none the wiser. However, they were more than willing to post stories under pseudonyms and noms de plume. Some of you might be surprised to learn that Mo McCooper's real name isn't Mo McCooper. He actually took the last name in honor of our fearless leader Benita.

On the other hand, there are plenty of older buds who are more than happy to share their lives outside of the workshop and website. Delores took time out of her weeknight to see a play I had produced back in March, and she brought a friend with her who had no problem with her picture being put on the website. I even saw her walk past the window when I was having lunch and gave her a quick call to ask if it was her.

The most important thing for me as a Best Day Facilitator is to make sure the seniors are comfortable enough to share their stories, under their real name or otherwise. Many of them come from places of hardship, and I never ask them to divulge something so intimate until they're absolutely ready. That is why I always feel so grateful that they do, that they trust me with their lives...along with the world.

Kant Spel
The Best Thing You’ve Learned In your Life to Differ Judgment 

I always want to be right or at least have people think that what I’m saying is valid, correct, accurate. I have needed this affirmation. Being somewhat wobbly about most important things. The things my parents did were full of contradictions and didn’t make sense for me so I had to forge my own path.
I was somewhat desperate for clarify and a moral path, goals, with integrity. I read, I listened, I consulted. I compared my discomfort with other girls my age. Very few were as lost or discouraged as I was. They saw their parents as role models. I did not. I judged them because of my extreme discomfort. I had a grueling path to adulthood. Whatever my other efforts were – schooling, relationship, artist stimulation, my primary effort was to stabilize myself.
I held on to a few things that helped. Shakespeare’s words “to thine own self be true” came up frequently.

Mo McCooper

The only debates I remember when I was going to school were in games where you or a guy on the other team were out of bounds. There were no referees at those playground games, but we got by with some unwritten rules. If you called fouls on defenders, that seemed excuses for missing a shot – we would all foul you harder to discourage the habit.
Baseball and football had fewer disagreements, but they were sometimes harder to agree on.
The younger players would learn from the older or the new players from the regulars.
For it all to work, we had to learn how the games were more worth playing and winning more rewarding if a playground rules were followed by all.
As far as the classrooms from first grade to 12th grade, I don’t remember any debates at all.
More to follow.

Delores Wilson
Taste of Nostalgia

Our family was one of the first to have a television on the block.
The neighbors were welcome in our house to watch television until they could afford their own.
The programs were very original and children, friendly. They taught a lot of object lessons.
Did we have a favorite? Yes, Sunday for me was “Lassie.”
We were encouraged to pay attention to the local and national news.
The adults understood how to engage us children in current events of those days.
I recalled one time, it was a commercial on televisions. Mr. Lynch shared with me, “that the commercial paid for the shows.” After hearing that, I
Ed Sullivan Show was a variety show that aired on Sundays. Featuring movie stars that are still alive and performing today such as Gladys Night, etc.
The Uptown Theatre was “the place.” All who was who came from there. The Apollo Theater in New york held that same standard.
To be an “Artist” at that time, rather acting, singing, dancing, writing behind the scenes or in front. The enclaves demand the best and they, the “artist” gave their best.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Labor Day (Norman)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve wished people Happy Labor Days, and several of them said “I don’t have Labor Day off.” That got me to thinking how much of our work schedule we take for granted. We expect most people to go to school, go to college, get a job, get all the holidays off, save up a nest egg, then have a long, comfortable retirement. This lifestyle is getting harder and harder to maintain, especially for seniors. It’s easy to rely on Social Security when you retire, but it’s only a recent invention, and it might die out by 2035. Besides that, seniors who go on Social Security are forced to cut back a lot to make sure it lasts their entire retirement. Some of them have family who can pay for a retirement home, but not necessarily the exact services needed. Others are forced to continue working, many in physically dangerous jobs outside their area in expertise. 

Point being, there are a lot of seniors who don’t get the comfortable retirement they worked for all their lives. And if you yourself can’t support them financially, then support them emotionally. Buy the older bud in your life a nice lunch, take them on a trip somewhere fun, help them look up homes and services, invite them over for a barbecue. And above all, listen.

Norman Cain 
Working in Tobacco 

According to Deloris, our cousin who was raised by my grandparents, who was four years older than me and six years older than my sister Gwendolyn (whose beauty earned her the nickname “Baby Doll”), each summer during the 50s and 60s, my sister and I were sent to South Carolina to visit my maternal grandparents. We worked on their tobacco farm, a plowed plot of land boarded by linen covered a rectangular wooded bed in which tobacco seeds were encased. In April, the small emerging plants were removed from the bed, planted in rows, spaced several inches apart. This process was accomplished by three workers. The first worker made a whole in the ground with a pole; the second worker placed the small plants in the hole; and the third worker would place water and fertilizer in the hole. By mid-summer the tobacco plants would have bloomed.   

Our job would be topping: breaking small flower-like plants from the stalks, suckering/removing miniature tobacco plants from within larger leaves and worming, pulling green horned tobacco worms from the plants so that they would not devour the profits. Near the middle of July, the tobacco would be ready to harvest. Men in the fields would strip the leaves from the stalks and when they acquired a sufficient bundle, they would place them in a rectangular mule driven vehicle known as a drag whose sides were covered in burlap. 

Generally, young boys would drive the drags to the tobacco barn, where the ladies worked. Their job would be to tie the tobacco to sticks. Young girls would hand several leaves to the ladies who would tie them to the sticks. The sticks would be taken into the barn and hung on rafters. Then, the curing process begun. 

For at least a week, both day and night, my grandfather would have to check the temperature emitting from the oil heaters. When the tobacco was cured, it was taken to the pack house. The tobacco was unstrung and graded by quality – excellent, normal, and trash – and tied. The latter was accomplished by the tips of a bundle of leaves being aligned and tied together by a leave folded in quarters and tightly wrapped around the tips.  

The bundles would be parted and slid on polished hickory sticks. The first row bundle of sticks would be placed on burlap-covered floor. Sticks of tobacco would be placed on top of one another and when the process was completed, the tobacco was completely covered with burlap. Each day, the burlap would be removed and the tobacco would be sprinkled with water by means of a straw broom so that the tobacco would not dry out. 

Finally, the tobacco would be loaded on a wagon, driven to town to the warehouse. There, workers would remove the tobacco from sticks and geometrically be placed in wicker baskets according to grade. Auctioneers, followed by a clerk, and a line of farmers swiftly moved down rows rapidly calling out what his company was willing to pay for each basket. The farmers were given slips indicating upon which was written the amount the auctioneer was willing to pay for each basket of wares. 

The farmer was given a voucher, which he turned into a caged cashier. 
And here's this week's senior selfie, a labor of love by José and his trusty selfie stick.

 Curated by Caitlin Cieri