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April 2023

A Boston Treasure

I am embarrassed to say that I have lived in Greater Boston for over sixty years and, until last week, had never visited The Boston Athenaeum, a perfect gem of a museum that is a working library, an art and sculpture collection and so much more. 

Situated a stone’s throw from the Massachusetts Statehouse at the top of Beacon Hill, the building itself is a classical beauty with stunning views overlooking the Granary Burial Grounds on Tremont Street. 

According to its website, “The library contains over a half million books from works published in the 1800’s to the latest best sellers. Special collections include active research holdings of 100,000 rare books, maps and manuscripts, and 100,000 works of art, from paintings and sculpture to prints and photographs.” 

Do not try to discover the Athenaeum on your own.  Take an hour-long-docent-led tour (you can sign up on their website). Our guide seemed to enjoy sharing her knowledge of a place she loves as much as we enjoyed learning from her.   

There are reminders of our past—remember card catalogues? You can walk through five floors of dusty stacks.  I stood in awe in front of bookshelves of George Washington’s own books.  

The Athenaeum has not asked me to write this.  I was genuinely thrilled to visit. 

You would be too. 


My Love-Hate Relationship With Google

First, what I hate. 

Google keeps us from using our heads.  It solves problems for us.  In my view, it makes conversation much less stimulating.  When we are having a good discussion and an issue arises, someone inevitably pulls out a phone and asks Google to chime in with what may or may not be a useful answer. 

Unfortunately, it often is useful. 

On the other hand, Google is also a godsend.   Take the other night.  I decided that I couldn’t live another minute with the four square indentations in my bedroom rug, a result of moving a chest of drawers about two inches. 

Google suggested that I fill the indentations with ice cubes and let them melt for several hours (up to 12).  After that, I was to dry any damp spots and fluff up the affected part of the rug with the back of a spoon. 

I did as suggested and in the morning, the ice had melted and dried.  I scraped at the spots with a tablespoon.  There is now a complete lack of indentations in my bedroom rug. 

Like I said, I have a love-hate relationship with Google

Never Too Late For A Challenge

Long ago, I was proficient in French. I remember M. Delakas, my French professor, having our advanced French class over for dinner.  I spent the evening speaking quite adequate French, although my accent left much to be desired.   

Years later, on a trip to France with Peter and Jeremy (who was then thirteen), we went to lunch somewhere near the Paris flea market, and when the bill came, Peter (who learned French chauffeuring some rich French man’s kids around for a summer) noticed it was incorrect.  His ‘Je crois qu'il y a une erreur’ to the waiter was impeccable, and our bill was adjusted.  So, I pretty much let him do the talking throughout our trip. 

In 2008, our son Seth took a journalism job in São Paulo, Brazil, and a visit to him was my ears’ first exposure to Brazilian Portuguese.  I managed to learn pão de queijo, my favorite breakfast item, but not much more. 

So why at my advanced age have I decided to learn Portuguese? Believe me, I ask myself that every day.  In my in-person class are eight people.  I believe the closest in age to me is four decades younger than I.  Even worse, I missed the first class meeting so I am scrambling to catch up.   But my marvelous trip last fall to Brazil’s Pantanal, and Seth’s recent purchase of a home in São Paulo where he spends about half of each year has given me the incentive to try.

Wish me luck.  

Newspapers (Continued)

It’s been a month now since my newspaper delivery has been erratic, arriving mid-morning, if delivered at all.  I have contacted the distributor and the newspaper itself with no success.  On the one day it did arrive, I wrote to thank them.  The next day and since then, if delivered at all, it’s late morning. Not life threatening, but annoying.

It was a Sunday when I returned from my week in the South.  I planned to buy The Sunday New York Times in the Atlanta airport.  I went to two “book” stores on the long trek to my gate, expecting to buy a newspaper. Neither sold newspapers any longer.  When I arrived in the Boston airport, I went to Hudson Books only to find that it also no longer sells newspapers.

My last chance was my subway stop in Harvard Square, once the home of the iconic Out-of-Town News, now preserved as a landmark, but with nothing to sell. Across the street from Out-of-Town News had been an also-long gone newspaper source.  Both had thrived for years. 

In desperation, I went to the CVS next to the “T” stop.  You guessed it—they don’t carry newspapers any more either.

What has the world come to?

One More on Civil Rights

On my recent trip to Alabama and Georgia, there were multiple memorable moments every day.  But some were more impactful (yes, that’s a word) than others.

I spent a whole day at The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The museum presents compelling historical evidence of the horrors endured by Blacks in our country in film, personal stories, and displays, including a whole wall of containers of soil collected from lynching sites.  The entire museum is a history of horrors, remarkably presented in film, interviews or displays.  The stories of arrests of the innocent are disturbing to say the least.

One of several moving films depicts the story of a man wrongly incarcerated for thirty years.  Through the amazing work of the museum’s founder, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony Ray Hinton was declared innocent and released.  He missed the best years of his life. It is a heart-wrenching story.

Hinton is now employed at The Legacy Museum,

Other reminders of our shameful history:  Do you recall that Blacks couldn’t try on clothes before they purchased them?  And that they couldn’t return them if they didn’t fit?  Do you remember that to buy shoes, Blacks had to make cardboard tracings of their feet, and of course, they couldn’t return mal-fitting shoes either.

In order to register to vote, Blacks had to take a test that required them to correctly state the number of jelly beans in a huge container, how many drops of water there are in the Alabama River and the amount of suds in a bar of Ivory Soap.  Of course, the right to vote was denied. 

Selma, Alabama is a sad town of fewer than 20,000 people.  Its recent tornado devastated the town. Somehow the mobile homes supplied by FEMA to house those who lost their own homes haven’t made it to Selma yet.

I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, unlike those on the march from Montgomery tried, but failed to do.  Did you know that Edmund Pettus was a grand master of the KKK?  Some people want to change the bridge’s name to honor John Lewis.  Others want its name to remain as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred there.

Tears filled my eyes frequently during my trip.  I was alive for all of those happenings, but they did not affect me as much as they should have.

Our country has not come close to eliminating discrimination and hatred.

It’s very sad.

Do You Remember Denise McNair?

I returned from a seven-day civil rights tour to Georgia and Alabama on Sunday.  I can’t call it a vacation; rather it was an education.  No matter how much we have read about how civil rights were violated in our country during the time of slavery (and often still are), there is nothing like being where it happened. 

At 10:24 a.m. on Sunday September 15, 1963, a dynamite bomb exploded in the back stairwell of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Five young girls, dressed in their white Sunday best, were in the downstairs ladies’ room. They were chatting away about the new school year. It was Youth Day, and the girls were excited because they were going to take part in the Sunday adult church service.

Four of the five young girls in the ladies' room were killed  that morning. A fifth, a sister of one of the four, watched her friends die.  She survived, but lost an eye.

In an exhibit about the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Church, there is a glass display case, about 4 feet by 2 feet.  It contains a small pair of Buster Brown ballet-slipper-like shoes, a brown change purse, a necklace with a delicate cross hanging from it and a fist-sized piece of the building that had penetrated the girl’s skull during the explosion.

The girl was eleven.  Her name, Denise McNair.

Sharp Knives

Over the years, most partners/spouses have well-defined tasks. This was definitely true in our fifty-three years of marriage. For example, unless Peter was out of town, he put the garbage cans out near the curb every Tuesday.  He also took primary responsibility for our tax returns and was the lawn-mower-in-chief.  He was adept at changing flat bicycle tires.  However, he was not capable of running the washing machine and dryer.  

The other day, I realized that I did not have a sharp knife in the house. That was another chore Peter owned.

I dug out the electric knife sharpener from way back in a closet. Then, I realized I could do some real damage (to me) if I didn’t use it properly.  After an extensive search of our instructions notebook, I found the instruction booklet.  (Yes, I looked online first, but our model was outdated years ago.) 

I sharpened every single knife in my kitchen.

What a difference!


 It’s time to face ChatGBT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer).  Whether we find it interesting, a great tool and time saver or just plain scary, it’s here to stay.  For those who have managed to avoid facing this potential-life-changing technology, I wish you good luck.  The future is now.

What is it?  ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot that can produce text that looks and sounds like it was written by a human.  People worry that this technology could be used to make fake news, send phishing emails, and much more to trick people.  There are both ethical and security concerns.

I decided to give it a try, opened an account (free), and asked ChatGPT to write me a cover letter to use to apply for a job writing a newspaper column. This is what appeared in my screen almost instantaneously.

I am writing to express my interest in the Newspaper Columnist position at your esteemed publication. With my passion for writing and my experience in journalism, I believe that I can bring a unique perspective to your readership and help to enhance the reputation of your publication.

I have always been passionate about writing, and have spent many years honing my skills as a journalist. Throughout my career, I have written for a variety of publications, covering a range of topics from politics to entertainment. I am particularly drawn to the art of column writing, as it allows me to express my opinions and ideas in a way that resonates with readers.

I believe that my ability to connect with readers is one of my greatest strengths as a columnist. I am able to identify topics that are of interest to my audience and approach them in a way that is engaging, informative, and thought-provoking. I have a keen eye for detail and a talent for crafting compelling stories that capture the attention of readers and keep them engaged until the very end.

I am excited about the opportunity to join your publication as a columnist, and am confident that my skills and experience make me the ideal candidate for the role. I am passionate about the field of journalism and am committed to producing high-quality content that meets the standards of your publication.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss my qualifications further and to learn more about this exciting opportunity.


[Your Name]”

I advised job hunters about cover letters for years.  I still do.  I would have a lot of suggestions for tightening up this cover letter. 

But, alas, it is NOT awful.

Newspaper Kerfuffle

The morning newspaper with my cup of coffee is my happy time, a reward for my early-morning stretches. And for more than four years, it had been neatly placed in front of my condo door, usually by 6:00 a.m.

Until last week when it did not appear at all for three days.  Reading a paper online is NOT the same, at least not to me. 

It turns out that the distributor changed the route of our delivery person, that he is unhappy about it and that the new person doesn’t think it’s his job to deliver to individual apartments.  Imagine me taking the elevator to the lobby in my sweaty workout clothes every morning.  A very disturbing thought.

When I was growing up, we had two papers delivered daily, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the morning and The Pittsburgh Press at night.  I read them both.  I am so devoted to reading a real paper that I will probably be the last subscriber standing when newspapers cease to be in print.

On the fourth day, I opened my door, and there was a real paper.  Not neatly nestled up to the door as it always had been, but it was there.  You cannot imagine how happy I was. Or how surprised I was at how happy I was.

On day five, it was not there again.  I got the number of the distributor and complained (to a voicemail, of course).  At 2:30, a newspaper was at my door.

I don’t think this is the end of the story.