Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Tenth Anniversary (Elliot)

Well, we did it. Ten years of running blogs, websites and storytelling workshops all over the United States of America. And we just celebrated our tenth anniversary last week. And what a celebration it was! We had at least a dozen volunteers running around gathering stories from all sorts of older buds...most of whom weren’t even from Best Day! I have some pictures of our story wall from earlier, but I was so busy I couldn’t get pictures of it at the end of the day.

But of course, Best Day’s regular writers were more than happy to contribute stories too. Norman even shared a full length story during the open mic portion.

And as promised, he brought older buds from Center in the Park (CONFIRM):

We also had a watch party in the auditorium, complete with popcorn, for a movie all about our older buds and volunteers. I even got a picture of Elliot watching his part in the movie.

And of course, our event wouldn’t be complete without the volunteers, guests (including former volunteer Kara and my mom), the vendors, the press (You can read The Philadelphia Inquirer’s article here), and fearless leader Benita Cooper herself!

The festivities are over, but you can still contribute to our 10th Anniversary by donating here, or sending us stories here. We’re taking donations until the end of November, and we’ll take stories for as long as Best Day is around. If you want a feel for what to send us, check out this story from older bud Elliot:

Elliot Doomes
I was thinking about tracing my genetic history and I’m not exactly sure how to do that or what the price would be to pursue that. I already know more than a lot of people about the history of my generation. My grandmother’s mother was named Annie Burke. How do you spell Burke? I never knew, but I guess it’s BURKE. And her and my grandmother used to work for a man called Mr. Jack Sutton. His name was probably John. To my knowledge, Annie and her brother were both in slavery because I was told by my mother that her bother’s brother ran away promising to come back, but he was never heard from again.
My grandmother, Buelah, had two older sisters. I can’t image their ages. I met one of my grandmother’s nephews. His name was John. When I met him, he was 70 years old and my grandmother was 70. Her any sister, Clara, who was over 68 when I met her, and that was over fifty years ago.
This is why I call this, “Generations.” From Buelah came Clara, from Clara came William and Elliot (and I got some nephews too, but I’m not going to mention them. I’m going to mention me). From Elliot came Cynthia, from Cynthia came Angie, Donte, Asia, and Amber, and now from Donte came Colin and from Asia came Omari. That is the history of my direct generations, but I ave no idea where the originals like Annie and her siblings came from. This is what I would like to know.
I almost forgot my Aunt’s nephew, John Fred and there was this big buy calling this woman who was younger than him Aunt Buelah. I never got the chance to get to know him. I only met him once. He came from Virginia to visit his aunt, but I never knew about his mother because I never got the chance to ask him or anybody. I was still trying to figure out how he could be older than his aunt. I only knew about his sister and grandmother, Buelah. I know she has two older sisters but I only met one. I only knew the other through mention. They were all born in the 1800s. I don’t have the exact date. I got a sense when Buelah said her brother ran away from some plantation and vowed to come back for his family and they never heard from him again. I don’t know if he got freedom or was killed. I never learned any more than that when we were coming up and I wit wasn’t talked about then and we never learned it in history class.
All we got was the music by Steven Foster, about how the slaves were singing, dancing and happy. I didn’t learn anything different until I started going to the library and started reading books and I started jumping into history and Carl Amstoct … The Mandigo and Drums and those kinds of books. They were fictional, but I was always told, “You can’t sit around lying all day without telling the truth.”

Thank you all for your love and support, and for making our tenth anniversary truly memorable.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 7, 2019

One Day More (Hazel, Norman, Ann, and José)

Only one more day until Best Day’s 10th Anniversary Celebration! You and the older buds in your life still have a chance to contribute to our story wall, so send us stories through this form. And click here to participate directly in our celebration at the Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Broad Street, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. You’ll have the golden opportunity to hear your favorite storytellers live and in person, and meet the volunteers who spread their stories all over. And here’s a story sampler to whet your appetite:

Hazel Nurse

As a girl growing up in a seashore town, every election day was a day of high activity in my neighborhood.

My dad, president of the Fourth Ward Republican Club, had eligible voters meeting after work in the evenings at the corner store to inspire good results week before Election Day.

Politicians often attended these gatherings along with many business people. Often job promises and even tasty foods were evident.

Today, law notices have been circulated to ask residents to attend meetings to hear about new voting machines. Will this new technology advance or hinder our election day results??

Norman Cain

When I become comfortable with a situation, I dread the prospect of change...which would mean, perhaps becoming emersked in a situation that would be uncomfortable.

This month, two changes in my life happened. The first one death with commitments to activities at several Senior Centers and a communal writing program at Drexel University, that program that consist of numerous workshops and individual assignments. My Senior Center commitments consist of a bi-weekly Afro-American session, two monthly book clubs, two weeks of Best Day of My Life sessions (Center-in-the-Park and Phila Senior Center), a poetry session and four line dancing classes. There months prior to September, all of the aforementioned activities with the exception of my line dancing classes were on summer recess, a situation that permitted me to slow down and do a lot of sleeping in. The summer classes have begun. The fact that I again have to maneuver at a rapid pace will be accentuated by the second change I mentioned. On the 30th of this month, I have to move; thirty, leaving my place of residence for the last six years. While my new location is only a block and a half a way, dreaded change has still slapped me in the face. I will miss a few nice neighbors, but the new location, while nice, does not have a washer and dryer. Then there is the question of transportation; whereas my present location is close to transportation, my new location will require me to travel several blocks to catch SEPTA. To make matters worse, one of my life dancing classes has relocated to from 20th and Christian to 21st and Snyder. That class is held from 10:45 to 12:00At 12:00, I could take the 17 bus that runs beside the center and make several other connections and make my Center-in-the-Park Best Day 1:00 pm class on time, or no later than 15 minutes. The new location at 21st and Snyder will present a problem. I feel that life is a series of changes, I guess I will have to do it now.

Ann Von Dehsen
Life at Jefferson

Over the past several weeks, I have been supporting a friend as he undergoes chemo in a formerly unfamiliar place that I now call Jeffland. I never realized how many buildings and blocks make up Jefferson Hospital. So far, we have spent time in the neuroscience building, Cribbons building, and the oncology center. Strangely, we took a 1 minute ambulance ride from neuroscience to Cribbons. There was neither urgency nor time to use the siren, but the driver let me push the button anyway, much to my inner child's delight.

We quickly learned the hospital routine - morning rounds by various attending physicians leading every growing groups of residents who look more like high school students than med students. We make up nick names (Dr. Tweed jacket, Dr. Baldy, and Dr. I don't-understand-a-word-you-say).

Lunch time, pill time, walk time down to the hospital bridge of Sansom Street and check on the food trucks' lunch time business. Then, there are the volunteer clowns who roam the hallways. They mean well and they volunteer their time, but somehow, we just didn't enjoy their visits with their corny usual jokes and sound effects. So whenever I saw their huge polka dot shoes luring down the hall, I'd run in the room and say, "Quick! Pretend you're asleep" and wait for them to pass by.

But its truly the nurses who are the stars and directors of the daily show. I really cannot praise them enough. Beyond their impressive medical knowledge, they come armed everyday with smiles, gentle humor, compassion, and encouragement. They consistently made us feel as if he was the only patient on the floor.

Slowly, a camaraderie develops between the patients and their families as we pass each other on the floor, noticing who has graduated from cane to assisted walking to walking only with an IV pole. "You look great today - your colors so much better." We share homemade cookies and banana bread and wish them well upon discharge. In this atmosphere, their politics, social status, religion and ethnic background make no difference. We are simply human beings just rooting for each others survival and happiness. And somehow this gives me a sense of hope and peace. 

On quiet afternoons as the patient slept and the chemo dripped, I often gazed out the window at the old, but once elegant, white stucco building across the street. It housed a tacky perfume store on street level, but on each of the eight stories above, there are 3 floor to ceiling windows encased in architectural sculptures of rosettes scrolls and 2 lions holding shields that said 1854. They appeared to be mostly unoccupied apartments being renovated, but I enjoyed imagining them as the apartments of starving young artists back in the early 1900s throwing paint on their canvases and screaming at their models who would later become their lovers, oo la la, until the being IV brought me back to reality.

José Dominguez
One Rule For Each Couple

My son-in-law is a kind of macho man and last February when I was visiting him and my daughter, Bealdy at their home in Houston, Texas, I had a chance to prune it. 

I was praising my son's home dealing, because he cooks, cleans the house and does everything necessary because his wife Sasha is a hard-working woman. Then Alex told me: Suego (father-in-law) Pondro does things that he is not supposed to do. I was mad about having hearing that, that I said, "Just wait a minute, every couple has a very particular arrangement that arrangement never applies to other couples because it is so intimate. For example, "I said, "My wife Maria and I used to have a very very unique marital arrangement. I guess many people thought that we were strange people, because she was so strong and appreciative and I was so easy going, but we were happy and our arrangement never applied to other couples in the same way Pondro and Sasha. They have their personal way to live and they are happy and perhaps some people believe he is doing house keeping so other state proper of the wife but they don't mind, they are happy and the some with you and Bealdy perhaps some people believe you are a strong couple because they away you live, but I suppose one happy and your arrangement doesn't apply to any other couple" and I stopped my comment.

Alex was annoyed about my speech and told me Suego, " I was not criticizing Poncho, I was just realizing his hard work in a positive way." And I close the little discussion saying you want to praise a person please use the proper words.

See you tomorrow and wish us a Happy Tenth Anniversary.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Treats (Norman and José)

Happy Halloween everyone! Last week, this week, and the week after was is and will be filled with lots of treats (and the occasional trick.) This week is obvious, because of Halloween, and next week will be because of our tenth anniversary celebration. But last week we had a treat we didn't expect. Paul Funaro, one of the heads of New Courtland Senior Services, stopped by one of our workshops to get a feel for what it was all about. He was treated to an offering of several Halloween stories, a Día de Muertos story from José and a few extra slice-of-life stories from some of our older buds. Paul will be working at our 10th Anniversary Celebration as well, so we were glad to give him a refresher of what Best Day was all about before our big day.

Only one more week until our Tenth Anniversary Celebration! We're looking to decorate the Philadelphia Senior Center with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our celebration at the Philadelphia Senior Center, 509 South Broad Street, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.

And as an extra Halloween treat for you, please enjoy these stories from Norman and José.

Norman Cain 
Two Almost Missed Birthday Parties 

Several weeks ago, I received from two members of my west Phila Senior Center line-dancing club, separate birthday party invitations. Also, I purchased a ticket for a Halloween at St. Ignatius Catholic Church Rec Hall, which was to be given by the facilitator.  

The first event was to be held at the Upper Darby Recreational Center, where a lady would be holding her 85th birthday and the second event was scheduled to be held at the Clifton Heights Polish Club in it’s Champagne Room.  

I got to the 85th Birthday Party without mishap. I must say, it was a successful event. 

The Halloween and Clifton Heights events were a different story because of transportation mishaps. I had scheduled the Halloween event via CTT for a Saturday night, however, the van came on Friday instead of Saturday. Not my fault. Because CTT does not accept 1-day reservations, I accepted not being able to go to the event.  

Luckily, a lady in my neighborhood called to say that she was going to the party and I could ride with her. 

Now for the second party mishap: When I boarded the bus at 69th Street last Sunday to go to the Clifton Heights 70th Birthday Party, the bus drive assured me that he would make sure I reached my destination. Not true. He let me off blocks from the event.  Luckily, a kind man picked me up in his truck and took me to my destination.  

Two folks sent to me by fate had me enjoy two wonderful birthday parties.

Jose Dominguez 
Dia De Los Muertos 

No Halloween for me. No memories of candies, lollipops, or chocolates. For me, the celebration was Dia de Los Muertos. The celebration was covered in two days. The first, on November first was the celebration of all the Saints. In included of course saints, babies, who die baptized, etc. The second day was November 2nd and it was to commemorate all the rest of the souls of dead people. In this day, they have the permission to visit us so that’s why we prepare with good, ornaments, candles, just to please those souls in their day of whatever they are. My real memories are going to the cemetery to take flowers to our closest persons who happened to be buried there. Many, many people crowded the place – seniors, adults, babies coming and going, taking flowers to the graves or cleaning the areas, or serving food as a present.

Happy Halloween, and Happy 10th Anniversary of Best Day!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Anniversary (Norman and Ann)

You've probably read me talking over and over and over on this blog about our 10th Anniversary Celebration; and I'm not going to stop now. Best Day has picked up a lot of storytellers throughout its ten-year run, and it's spread to seven different states, often with multiple locations in each state. We've been reaching out to local businesses to donate to our 10th Anniversary Celebration, gathering volunteers and writers, and stocking up on T-shirts. In fact, I'm proud to announce that our older bud Norman is bringing writers and volunteers from Center in the Park to the Philadelphia Senior Center, for double the stories and double the fun.

And we're still looking to decorate our Tenth Anniversary Celebration with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to donate or participate in our celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn

Events prep comes naturally to our older buds, and we've got just the stories to prove it. Check out these remarkable entries from Norman and Ann:

Norman Cain
A Hot Summer Day Back in the Day

Back in the ’40s and ’50s when seasonable weather was predictable, the boys in our crew engaged in prescribed routines that would coincide with the various periods of the year.  During the brisk temperatures that accompanied the fall, we gathered on the street each day to play touch football. In the winter, we threw snow balls, built snowmen and cruised on sleds.  During the spring, we played stickball and skated. During summer, we engaged in an activity that was held dear.
It was as if each day during the summer months could be considered a heatwave, and to make matters worse, air conditioning was years away.  There were no area swimming pools. We could only envision going to the seashore. Hand and electric fans did not generate relief, but there was a way that neighborhood occupants managed to cool themselves off.  We drenched ourselves in water from the fire hydrant which we referred to as the water plug. We turned on the water plugs, it was illegal, but it was traditional. In order to turn on the fire hydrant, a certain procedure had to be implemented.
We would have a boy stationed at each end of the block to watch out for police.  Two boys would emerge from the alley with a double-handled hydrant wrench that was kept hidden in an abandoned building.  The wrench would be placed on the valve of the hydrant and the boys would strenuously and rapidly turn the wrench until the water began to pour from the hydrant opening.  The boys would then disappear into the alley, and replace the wrench in the abandoned building.
The neighborhood residents, both young and old alike, would then wade, douse, soak, splash and chill themselves from the refreshing water coming from the water plug.  Blankets of arching dense sprays of water, which was created by a boy’s posterior on the opening of the hydrant would rain down on all under the soothing waterfall. Cars would receive a free rinse.  Buckets of water would be thrown on fleeing victims. Females would have on bathing caps and little boys would race popsicle sticks and toy boats in the stream of water flowing beneath the sidewalk – making sure that their vessels did not go into the sewer.  Eventually, the police would come and turn off the water plug.
Pleasant memories.

Ann Von Dehsen
Jerry's Kids
Do you remember the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethons for kids with Muscular Dystrophy? It was a tear-jerker that went on for many hours as Jerry pleaded for donations.
Another part of his mission was encouraging kids to put on carnivals in their backyards to raise more money. So one summer, the kids in my neighborhood and I decided to send away for one of his kits. There were about 8 of us, average age of 10-12 and we decided we would put on the best carnival ever.
First step, said the kit, was to decide the location, most likely someone’s backyard. All the moms (who thought this was such a cute, adorable undertaking) offered their respective back yards, but we had bigger and better plans. There was an empty lot in the middle of the block and one of the fathers knew the man who owned it. The father said he would talk to the owner but suggested we also write a letter. We proposed that if he said yes, we would clear the lot of branches, twigs, dead leaves, and weeds for free. So he said yes, of course.
Next step in the kit suggested doing something special such as face painting. Well sure, we would do that, but once again, we wanted something bigger and better, so off we went to Mr. Carmen’s house who had a nice wife, 2 lovely children, and a Shetland pony. He had often let us visit Sandy the pony and feed her carrots. We politely asked him if he would give pony rides at our carnival in exchange for weekly pony brushings from us. So he said yes, of course. But he sweetened the deal by telling us that he had a little pony cart in the garage with a straw hat with flowers for Sandy that he would use. Bingo!
Next item in the kit – refreshments. Strictly a mother-dependent area. We used the psychology of approaching our own moms and saying, “Mom, all the kids think you make the best brownies, or cupcakes, or cookies, etc. so would you please make them for our carnival?” So they said a very expressive, “Yes, of course, sweetie.”
The kit suggested making signs and posters to advertise the event. No problem … there was a couple on our block who had no kids, just 2 poodles and the man was a commercial artist and designer at an ad agency in the city. So in our visit with him, we proposed free dog walking for a month in exchange for signs and posters. So he said, yes, of course, and proceeded to make beautiful high-quality signs plus a banner for the carnival’s entranceway! In addition, his wife (who we all used to be afraid of) sweetly volunteered to make and donate homemade lemonade and quickly became our favorite non-mother on the block.
The toughest group to negotiate with was our respective older siblings who thought they were too cool for our silly carnival. After several closed-door mediation sessions, they finally said yes, of course — after we pretty much offered to be their personal slaves for a long period of time. So my budding artist sister became the face painter, her friend became the fortune teller (complete with magic 8 ball), someone else’s brother pitched a tent for that fortune teller and another brother became Leo the Magnificent, performing tricks from his recently purchased major kit.
After several weeks of hard labor, cleaning out the lot, and with help from our parents constructing frames for our ring toss, bowling, and fishing games, the big day arrived. At first, it was attended only by our neighbors, but they were very impressed and started calling nearby friends and relatives.
Someone called a friend who was a reported on our small weekly local newspaper. She arrived and interviewed us, took pictures of Sandy the pony pulling the car, and we were published in the next week’s paper. A cop came by and blocked off our street with cones so that Sandy could give better and longer rides. When we started to run out of food, our parents, still shocked by our success ran to the store and replenished the refreshments table. And so, when all was said and done, we raised about $100.00. In our innocence, we thought we’d get a thank you call from Jerry Lewis, but instead received a form thank you letter and one “Kids for Jerry” t-shirt which we took turns wearing, but it was a great experience and my only regret is losing that newspaper article over the years.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Red Day (Philip, José and Carolyn)

A funny thing happened at Best Day last week. I came in to the workshop at around 1PM wearing a burgundy shirt with stripes. I thought nothing of it, until I saw Frances, José, Delores, and Eleanor...all wearing red shirts. Even Hazel was wearing pink, which is really just light red. And the funniest thing is that I met with one of our former volunteers Kara for coffee that morning...and what was she wearing but a red hoodie! So I guess with the change in seasons came the changing colors...right in our workshop.

We're looking to decorate our Tenth Anniversary Celebration with lots of stories form lots of older buds! Send us their stories through this form. And if you want to do more to end senior isolation, click here to participate in our celebration, Friday November 8th, 10AM-4PM. Or if you’re looking to bring our storytelling experiences to your workplace, check out our lunch and learn.

And now I leave you with a leaf pile of stories to jump into and enjoy with a pumpkin-spiced treat of your choice:

Philip Pai
My Home Library

When I was young, I didn’t have books to read since my family was too poor, but I liked to study and I liked the books so much. Sometimes, I borrowed the books from the library that was nearby my house.
I remembered once I walked on the street, I saw a used book store on the corner. There was a lot of used books for sale and since the price was low, I was so glad that I found a place that I could buy cheap books so every day I got used books from the book store. When I found the used books that I liked, I would take it to my home and put it on the shelf. Doesn’t matter what kind of job I got. Anyways, I would buy the used books from the store. Right now, I have a small … library at my apartment. So if I have time, I did and go outside to borrow books from the library, I just stayed at home to enjoy my used books or review it there, for I am really liking my small library very much.

José Dominguez
Some of My Reading Frustrations

I have read some books in my life, many of them formative, amusing, enlightening, and practicable, but there were some impossible to understand by me. Even when I have read them several times or many times.
One of those was Derecho Administrativo (Administrative Law). It was the textbook for the course with the same name. My failure to understand marked my decision to only be a regular law student with [no other] purpose but [to] get rid of the pressure of grades. At the beginning, as a good nerd, I was looking for grades. After that book, I decided to be a regular, standard, normal student.
My second book problem was advanced statistics. When studying for a pad in education, I discovered that even when I was [an] analytical person, I was allergic to mathematics, probability, and all that paraphernalia. So I decided to be a humanist with superficial knowledge of statistics.
My third complication to understand a book was several weeks ago when being a participant of a reading group at a meditation center. I decided to read a book on Tibetan Buddhism. It was impossible for me. My study skills were insufficient, my logic system a failure, and my memory, as always, absent. So, I decided not to torture myself and left the reading group. Now I can use my neurons in things that I really like without damaging my self-esteem.

Carolyn Boston
Bucket List
Do you have a bucket list? What does it say? As we mature in life, we reflect on some of the things we never got to do during life’s journey. Some people decide they’d like to travel to foreign lands, others want to bungee jump out of a plane, but regardless of the desire, the idea is challenging.
I’ve seen the movie, Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and another actor whose name I can’t retrieve from my mind right now. The movie was hilarious and inspiring. Some people might say, “Why would you want to do that?” My goodness, why not? While we’re still living and fairly capable of moving around, we should set a goal that inspires and provides a sense of accomplishment and gives us something to look forward to. Plan it. Do it. And see how you feel. No matter how small the adventure or how big, make it something you’ll never forget. You can make your bucket list as small as a bucket or as big as a swimming pool. Along the way of fulfilling your bucket list adventure, you’ll find a greater and wiser and better you. You’ll learn more about yourself as well as others. The sky’s the limit and as Captain Kirk used to say on “Star Trek” – “Make it so!”
Curated by Caitlin Cieri