May 24, 2015

Beans and Cod by Kenneth Weene

“You’re going to boarding school,” my father proclaimed. It was December 1954. I was thirteen, in ninth grade and not really ready for this dramatic announcement. I was not, however, completely surprised. My father didn’t like me; that had been amply demonstrated the summer before. I could not forgive his rages and my multiple humiliations. From everything he said, it was obvious he could not remember any of those horrible episodes. Any references to the summer’s events met a look of incomprehension.
So, we set about the task of finding the right boarding school. My father, with his seething anger held in only minimal abeyance, wanted me to go to a military school. My mother, with her characteristic preoccupation with her own interest and comfort, wanted me to go to a school near Providence, where my brother would be starting college the next fall; he had received early admission to Brown. That way, she explained, it would be easier for them to see us both.
My own anger on low simmer, I wanted a school that would be the antithesis of my family. If I didn’t belong in their home, I was going to be something better than they. Coming from a middleclass Jewish home, I picked something historical, New England, traditional, and very Boston Brahmin.
Now called Governor’s Academy but at the time named Governor Dummer Academy, GDA met my passive aggressive standards. It was an old school, in fact the oldest boarding school in the country. Forty-five miles north of Boston, it was in the opposite direction from Providence. Most importantly, it was a bastion of traditional Back Bay values.
Foremost among those values was the religious nature of the school. It was well rooted in the myth of “the shining city on the hill,” with a heavy emphasis on what were Unitarian and Congregationalist values. While Catholic students were allowed to go to mass and Episcopalians – even if they were Tories – were allowed to go to Anglican services, Jews were expected to go to either Unitarian services in the nearby city of Newburyport or to join the Sunday morning hike to a nearby Baptist church. Those early Sunday hikes were part of the character building that was the cornerstone of GDA as were the Sunday evening assemblies with their talks on ethical values and singing.
To understand the disconnect in time between the school’s life and the outside world, one need only know that one of the songs often sung at those assemblies, or vespers as they were called, was Aura Lee. The tune of Aura Lee was used for that wonderful Elvis Presley song Love Me Tender. At GDA, Elvis was not to be mentioned, but tradition abounded.
The headmaster of this very traditional “New England” preparatory school was Ted Eames, and he had the lean, chiseled, unbending look of a true New Englander. I was immediately impressed by the way Ted Eames looked down on us. Evidently, he was impressed by my test scores.
The next fall my father took me shopping for the clothes required by the school. They were very explicit, and he – as was his style – ignored those specifications. My charcoal gray suit was, while quite attractive, very different from the one sold by Brooks Brothers. Other clothes from Filenes certainly set me apart the moment I arrived on campus, and my leather jacket would soon be a source of ridicule. Proper gentlemen did not wear leather.
Within hours of settling into my room in Perkin’s Hall, I was suffering from culture shock. Only forty-five miles from my childhood home, I had been thrown into a world I did not understand, the world of the Back Bay Bostonian. It was an offshoot of the world of that cute poetic comment:

I come from the town of Boston,
the land of the bean and the cod
where the Cabots speak only to Lowells
and the Lowells speak only to God.

Over the next three years I learned more of that world. I learned that one never admitted to discomfort or made requests of a personal nature. I learned that responsibility included those events over which one had no control. I learned that education was about attitude. I learned that sports had an important place in education but art was irrelevant. Most importantly, I learned that the appearance of good manners and breeding were the most important standard by which people were and should be judged.
And, yes, I learned what the proper charcoal gray suit would be.
Of course, I did not just go along with the values of GDA. I had my own little rebellions. For one, I continued to by the worst ties off the racks at Filenes’ Basement. But I knew better than to wear those ties to church or vespers; there are limits. 

Years later, with an Ivy League degree and a Ph.D. in psychology, I returned to GDA. My wife had become an established painter, having shown in such places as Paris, New York, and Arlington, Virginia. The fundraisers from GDA told me the school was very proud of the new arts center – now that was a major change. I suggested that my wife would love to have an exhibit at this new center and that we would donate part of any sales to the school. She also offered, with my urging, to give a portrait of Ted Eames to the school, which did not have one. With the school’s agreement, the show was to take place on a reunions weekend. A second artist, a sculptor who lived near the school, would also be represented. The plan sounded good to us.
When we arrived, we learned that the school had scheduled the reception only for the sculptor so nobody from the surrounding community would be coming to see my wife’s work. Nobody from the school administration showed up for the opening. Nor was it listed in the reunion weekend events. Nor was there any plan to accept the portrait; ordinarily one would expect at least some minimal ceremony.

After we returned to our home in New York, I wrote to GDA and remonstrated with them about their lack of manners. I received a response saying that the fundraiser who had made the arrangements was no longer at the school. The note did not even include the words “sorry” or “apologize.”
When I subsequently said there would no longer be contributions from me to the school and explained why, I received a letter from a classmate saying that the school had clearly apologized for what had happened and that I should forgive. I sent him back a copy of the letter I had received and did not hear anything further.
So what has this to do with Massachusetts? Everything and perhaps nothing. For me, a state is not just a place but also a way of life. In rejecting my father’s values – albeit with good reason – I had hoped to find a new set consistent with traditions that claimed to be of a higher order. Sadly, those values were anachronistic. Perhaps Ted Eames and I were the last people to believe in them. 

Does anyone sing Aura Lee anymore or does the whole world prefer rock and roll?
I remember the last night before graduation from GDA. We seniors were welcomed into the headmaster’s home. We were given old-fashioned but lovely ceramic pipes to smoke and glasses of sherry. We were being welcomed into a world that was already disappearing. Yes, there was once a Bay State that was a different world and I glimpsed it. But that world has slipped away. 

Kenneth Weene offers up a free copy of Memoirs and one of Tales from the Dew Drop Inn.  Print copies for US and Canada winners and Kindle for winners from elsewhere.  Leave your email with your comment for easy connection and good luck! 

More about Kenneth Weene here,  He has a great selection of varied work for every reading taste.
(All info provided by Author)

May 17, 2015

MARY-LAND of Adventure-Cari Marsi

Let’s get the Maryland stats out of the way before we get to the fun stuff.
Maryland consists of 12,193 miles, ranks 42nd in the nation and includes the Chesapeake Bay, America’s largest estuary (source: Maryland Geological Survey) Chesapeake Bay is 185 miles long, 30 miles wide at its widest, 174 feet deep at its deepest and holds 18 trillion gallons of water.
Maryland has 9,844 square miles of land, 623.35 square miles of inland water, 31 miles of Atlantic Ocean coast, including Assateague Island, almost 4,000 miles of shoreline, 400 lakes, all man made.
Now for the fun stuff.

For a small state, Maryland is big in resources with lots to see and do. I live in the neighboring state of Delaware. Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia make up the Delmarva Peninsula. Because the states on the East Coast are small and close to each other, travel between them is easy. Visiting Maryland, for me, is like traveling to another part of my state. 

Maryland has a great beach—Ocean City—situated along the Atlantic
coast just south of the Delaware beaches. The soft, white sand and the long boardwalk make Ocean City a popular destination. Although Ocean City is a tad too built up for my taste, with a proliferation of high-rise hotels, it’s a fun place, always awake and exciting during the summer months.

Then there’s Baltimore, a gritty urban city with a kind of downhome flavor. Inner Harbor is close to downtown Baltimore, and a bit touristy, but very pretty, especially in summer. Inner Harbor has an abundance of terrific restaurants, a world-class aquarium, and good shopping. If you’re looking for something with a little more edge, visit Fell’s Point, a gentrified, trendy area near Inner Harbor. I once stayed at an inn there called Admiral Fell Inn. The name still makes me chuckle.

Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a quaint little town filled with bars and restaurants, and some cool shops too. My husband and I once spent a weekend there on a friend’s sailboat. Finding a spot to dock your boat is easier than finding a parking spot for your car. When in Annapolis, go to Middleton Tavern, established 1750, and try their oyster shooters. For me, it’s worth making the one hundred mile trip just to have a few oyster shooters.
A nephew attended the Naval Academy. For four years, I dreamed of attending his graduation and seeing all those hats flying in the air. Graduation day arrived, in the middle of a week-long deluge that wouldn’t stop. We sat in the stands wrapped in garbage bags made into rain gear. It was awful, and to make it worse, the graduates couldn’t toss their hats. 

St. Michael’s, Maryland, derives its name from the Episcopal Parish established in 1677. It’s a fun town with quirky shops and restaurants, perfect for a summer day excursion. On a weekend trip there with a group of boaters, we took over an inn. Great food, lots of wine. My husband and I aren’t boaters, but we were
friends with people who owned boats. Those boaters know how to party!

I’ve enjoyed Maryland through the years, but the best trip there was one that was unplanned. The road less traveled can be the richest. Some time ago, my husband, son, and I took a road trip through Maryland and
West Virginia, with no particular destination in mind. It soon turned into a Civil War Battlefield journey. We stayed overnight in Hagerstown and visited Antietam, site of the bloodiest single day of war in U.S. history.

During the Civil War, Maryland was a border state with split loyalties (as was Delaware). The infamous Battle of Antietam took place Wednesday, September 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg,
Washington County. The combined forces at Antietam totaled just over 114,000, of which 22,717 either died, were wounded, or were lost.

The men who fell at Antietam that day haunt the battlefield, just as the dead haunt Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which we’ve visited several times. The indentation for the ditch at Antietam where so many died is still there. Walking through Antietam, I could feel the spirits of the brave men who gave their lives that day. The feeling got stronger at the ditch. I get chills even now thinking about it. There are a total of seven Civil War battlefields in Maryland, but Antietam is the most famous, the most deadly, and the most haunted. We visited other battlefields on that trip, but the haunting sadness of Antietam has never left me.

Visit Maryland and enjoy all it offers. Their crab cakes are without equal. Fresh seafood is abundant on its Eastern Shore. Swim in the ocean and take in the night life of Ocean City. Shop in the quaint towns and explore its rich history, especially the Civil War battlefields.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion through Maryland. 

 As a thank you for visiting Fifty Authors from Fifty States, a giveaway!!

June, the month of weddings, is near. To celebrate, I’m giving away a print, autographed copy of the bestselling anthology, The Marriage Coin Boxed Set, to one commenter chosen at random. Don’t forget to leave your email address.

“Flowers make the perfume of love stronger.” 

A mysterious coin is passed down through the centuries to those deserving of Luck and Love. Five couples in different eras each come into possession of the coin and enter into a marriage-of-convenience. Will the coin lead them to love as well as luck?
Five original sweet romance novellas by three award-winning authors and two talented debut authors. 
Violet-Any Earl Will Do by Gwendolyn Schuler 
Lilly-The Bronze Talisman by Martha Schroeder 
Rose-The Power of Hope by Kate Welsh 
Poppy-Her Forever Husband by Cara Marsi 
Dahlia-A Gypsy’s Flower by Daria Grady
Cara Marsi, an award-winning author and self-proclaimed TV junkie, is a former corporate drone and cubicle dweller. Freed from her fabric-covered cage, she can now indulge her love of all things romance. She craves books with happy endings and loves to write about independent heroines and the strong heroes who love them. And she loves to put her characters in dangerous situations or situations merely dangerous to their hearts and watch them fight for the happy endings they deserve.

An eclectic author, Cara is published in romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She has also published numerous short romance stories in national women’s magazines and online. When not traveling or dreaming of traveling, Cara and her husband live on the East Coast in a house ruled by a sweet, formerly homeless cat named Tortie and a fat black diva of a cat named Killer.

Find out more about me, and my author life, and sign up for my newsletter here:

May 10, 2015

Winter 2015: The Season of the Indomitable Human-Beverly Breton Carroll

No Maine author stepped up this year, I know there are plenty of people involved in the writing and publishing industry in that awesome and beautiful state so, here’s a request for next year, use the contact info on this blog to claim the spot!  
Anyway, when I can’t fill a state spot, I find something of interest from that state and let everyone know.  Here’s a piece from a past contributor at Fifty Authors from Fifty States blog for Maine.  Just stop by Beverly’s site and blog to find out more and enjoy this reposted read from her blog! 

Once you browse her sites, you'll be so glad you stopped to learn more about Beverly's work, what her blog involves and her interesting life!
Roof raking, roof melt puck tossing, and icicle batting are the new winter sports taking New England by, um, storm. Or at least the first two are. Icicle batting—using a bat, broom handle, mallet, or my particular favorite for its strength and length yet lightness, shower curtain rod to knock icicles from the roof gutters—is more of a specialized sport, reserved for the elite who have stalactite icicles the length of Shaq decorating the roof line. Variations to the sport include an extra-long outdoor hose which is pulled through the house and up the stairs where the competitor then pops out the upper story window screens and leans out into the frigid air to spray-blast those suckers into obliteration. None of this is to discount the more traditional events taking place across the region, no less grueling or daunting, of snow blowing, snow shoveling, and taking out the trash and recycling. We’re doing it all.
New Englanders are known to be independent and strong-willed, yet some of the best game plans instituted this year for victory over the opponent—WINTER 2015—have been by non-natives, hardy competitors from distant states or other countries. This is Olympic-level competition, and every bit as multicultural. We’re Team New England, up against snow piles registered, not in inches or even feet, but yards. And single digit temperatures? Amateurville. We’ve reached pro status, weathering double digit negatives on a regular basis.
This is dangerous stuff, and we’ve got the badges of honor to prove it. We’re agonizing through tasks as simple as pouring a cup of coffee because we wrenched our shoulder hurling pucks onto the roof. We’re counting the minutes until we can take more analgesics and dreaming of heating pads because we fell while attacking the roof snow. We’re laid out flat in bed, trying not to move or even breathe wrong, because a strong twist-and-swing with the icicle bat threw our back into spasms.
And yet, we’re doing it. We’re okay up here. Snow weary, yes. Bruised and achy, yes. Cabin feverish, yes. And yet. Even this record-breaking horror-of-a-winter hasn’t broken us. Jumping into snow banks out of those screenless second-story windows may, but until it does, we’ve got this.
Move aside, Abominable Snowman, although our current terrain would certainly present as the ultimate Disney-dream fantasy for you. No, let’s all take a moment to reflect, after we take several to catch our breath, and commemorate a different species altogether: Indomitable Human.