Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Avocado Pit Grower's Indoor How-to Book

There was a day in the late 1960's when everywhere we went, young married couples would proudly display in the corner of their living rooms the avocado trees they had grown from an avocado pit...Big huge trees with green, green leaves.  And all for the price of an overripe avocado.  So off I went, way back in the late 1960's, searching for an overripe avocado that would already have a sprouting plant within it.  And I found one and actually grew my own green leafed avocado plant, soon to be tree, even though my thumb was only the lightest of green.  Why someone had to write a book about something so simple was an amazing revelation.  I guess you can write a book (or a blog, for that matter) about anything.  Actually, I never read the book, perhaps because the book makes the whole process seem less than magical. Our shop has a fourth printing of the book, but the outer edge of the front cover's spine is split, just the way the avocado seed should be in order to sprout, but thankfully this book is not sprouting anything but information!

You know what?  I think, as soon as this post-hurricane clean-up passes, I'll head out to the green grocer's to look for an over-ripe avocado, and try my hand yet again at what every young bride of the late 1960s tried (in the category of indoor gardening, that is!)  Growing an avocado tree in the corner of my Victorian living room!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Power Point Critics Miss the Powerful Point

There is furor over the PowerPoint -- from the Wall Street Journal to NPR to Switzerland (where a political party wants to ban the Power Point there, claiming that Switzerland is losing billions of dollars in otherwise productive hours because its workers who are wasting their time watch power point presentations).  A book entitled the PowerPoint Fallacy by Matthias Poehm (which, although written in English, is as yet unavailable in the United States) discusses the issue, though I can only assume the position that the author takes from the book's title as well as from the fact that proponents of the Anti-PowerPoint-project get the book for 37% discount!

Despite the controversy, many teachers here in the United States feel that a PowerPoint presentation works in the classroom.  The audience in primary and high school classrooms, by definition, is still 35 or less, and PowerPoint allows the presenter to make points and still interact with individual students in an effort to get them to focus on the important points of the topic being presented. (PowerPoint certainly aids the student  presenter; whether or not it helps the student audience is still open to discussion.)

A math teacher (who will remain unnamed) believes in old fashioned teaching. "The students don't know a thing before the PowerPoint presentation, and after the PowerPoint they still don't know a thing!"

Passive listening to a lecture is bad enough; zoning out on a screen while the lecturer drones on is even worse.  While PowerPoint allows the presenter to present to a huge audience and (further) provides an assist to the presenter as he drones on,  White Boards and Flip Charts, by definition, can only be used in groups small enough and close enough to see the presenter, the White Board, and the Flip Chart, and therefore, these old-fashioned supports encourage interaction between the presenter and the audience.

The powerful point here is the interaction between the presenter and the audience, not the ability to drone on (with or without the PowerPoint), the presenter proving to the audience that s/he knows whatever needs to be known about the subject at hand.

In reality, PowerPoint is a further development of slide shows, film strips, and the Newton Plan, a plan created by Mr. Hayes in the 1950's to teach English grammar to all students in a particular high school grade at the same time and in the same place, in a large auditorium using slides as visuals and using only one teacher to teach.  The room was darkened in order to watch the slides (and allow some students to catch up on their sleep), and  I can tell you that I (along with many NHS students) never learned English grammar in high school; I only learned grammar through listening, reading, and finally teaching ESL (and not with PowerPoint, nor with slides in an auditorium).

After all, it's not what you've got, but how you use it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lottery and God's Promise

Every so often, my mother-in-law, a good and faithful woman, would buy a lottery ticket with the hope, of course, that she would win the lottery. One day she confided in me that should God allow her to win the lottery, she would give half of her winnings to the church.  I laughed and told her that God would probably allow her to win the lottery if, and only if, she would promise to give ALL her winnings to the church!

Which reminds me of a favorite joke.

A very faithful and religious man prayed daily that God would allow him to win the lottery.  He finally decided to have a serious talk with God.  God, I have followed all of your Commandments, I attend religious services regularly, I help the poor, I do good to those those who do me evil, and you still deny me the possibility of winning the lottery.  What more can I do?  God answers in a booming voice.  What more can you do?  Buy a lottery ticket!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Police Cars, Police Boats, Police Helicopters

On WBUR they are reporting people choosing to stay in their homes in areas where Irene is promising to hit, winds at tropical storm strength, rain, flooding. I could only but remember one of my favorite stories.

There's a hurricane coming, and the police are going through coastal neighborhoods to warn folks to leave their homes while they still can.

A police car approaches a house along the Atlantic Ocean where a man is sitting and rocking on his porch.  Come with us, said the police.  The waters are rising and your life is in danger.  There's a hurricane coming.

Don't worry, answered the man.  God promises that He will take care of me.

Hours pass, the waters rise, and the man has moved to the second floor of his house where he is sitting in a rocking chair and looking out of the window.

A police boat approaches.  Come with us, said the police.  The waters are rising and your life is in danger.

Don't worry, answered the man.  I'm stayhing right here.  God promises that He will take care of me.

The waters continue rising, and the man is now sitting on his roof, waiting patiently.

A police helicopter hovers over the roof and drops a ladder down to the lonely man.   Come with us, said the police.  Your life is in danger.  The waters are rising and will soon cover your house.

Don't worry, answered the man.  God promises that He will take care of me.

Soon the waters cover the roof of the house, the man drowns and goes to Heaven.

St. Peter comes to the gates.  Yes, what can I do for you?

I want to speak with God, said the man, a bit annoyed.  One moment, said St. Peter.  Come with me.

When the man sees God, he asks, God, what happened?  You promised you would take care of me, and here I am, dead.

God answers, I sent you a police car, a police boat and a police helicopter! What more did you want?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Community Police at Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts

If you take a walk around Jamaica Pond, you may just be lucky enough to meet a friendly policeman.  Not Officer Krupke of West Side Story fame, not Michael the policeman of Make Way for Ducklings fame, but yes, a policeman named Michael (whose dad actually played the part of Officer Krupke in West Side Story).  Evidencing Boston's efforts at community policing, Officer Michael, observing (which is a major part of his job) that a group of us were celebrating Bambi's birthday, offered to place the birthday girl behind bars, behind the bars of his police cruiser, and handcuff her, just long enough for us to take a photo that she could send out to all of her friends!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Males eat first . . .

My mother-in-law used to tell me that during her early married years, living in an extended family in Springfield, Massachusetts, [and having recently arrived from Marash where they had narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Ottoman Empire's carrying out a planned genocide of the Armenian people,] the women would prepare dinner in the kitchen for the men who sat in the dining room, and after serving the men, if there was no food left, there was no food left. In other words, the women often went hungry. This occurred, of course, during the depression, she said.  But even so, it was hard to believe, because I had grown up well after the depression in a house where, granted, my mother prepared the meal, but we all sat and ate together, men and women, and there was always more than enough food for everyone.

Lions at Springfield's Science Museum. Aline & Raffi in foreground. Photo Credit: Marash Girl
Fast forward 30 years, and on that hottest day of this summer, which I spent at the Springfield Museum of Science with my grandchildren, I learned something about lions. According to a film on the wilds of Africa, baby lion and mom lioness hunt down the prey and present the kill to father lion who eats first while mom and baby watch, then mom, then baby eat. The explanation? The male lion protects the herd and must be kept strong or all would die.

Recently, WBUR reported on malnourishment in Africa. In the villages where there is often not enough food for all, it is the custom to feed men first and only if any food is left do women have the opportunity to eat, even when the women are pregnant or lactating.

I never learned whether this custom existed in Marash. I hope not. When I asked a friend from Turkey whether or not he had ever heard of such a custom existing in the villages there, he commented that such a custom would make sense (and mind you, this was male reasoning) in a society where hunting rather than agriculture was the main source of food.  But in Springfield, Massachusetts?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

WBUR reports Mosque Crawlers in New York City

Anyone know what a Mosque Crawler is?  According to WBUR & NPR, New York City police are in plain clothes infiltrating mosques in an effort to keep their ear to the ground, as it were, because the CIA, by law, is forbidden to do so!  Who knows?  Perhaps these plain clothes police will all become good Muslims, or perhaps they are already good Muslims.  In any case, if a plain clothes policeman infiltrated the church in which Marash Girl grew up, the church people would smother him with love and try very hard to make him a member of the church family.  Marash Girl can't imagine that anything different will happen in the mosques of New York City.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tornadoes? Earthquakes? What's going on?

So we were on our way to Wilbraham to take a look at the post-tornado clean up operation that was in progress on top of Wilbraham Mountain -- the clean up of what was left of the trees and the cabin (see posts for June 1 ff.), when we got a phone call from our daughter.  "Are you alright?"  What?  "Did you feel it?"  What?  "The earthquake that hit 17 minutes ago."  What earthquake?  "It's epicenter was in Virginia, but folks in buildings in Washington DC, New York City, Boston, Natick and Springfield say they felt 5 to 15 seconds of shaking!"  So for the next hour we were trying to reach family in Takoma Park, Maryland, and New York City, although all the telephone lines were tied up, as we barreled across the Massachusetts Turnpike, going west.  I guess if you're driving at 65 miles an hour, you don't feel any more tremors than the car going over the Turnpike provides. My brother was the last to call to find out if we were okay.  He recalled, laughingly, that when he was living in Southern California, they were experiencing tremors like this one every other week!

What was hard to believe was that we were driving towards the cleanup from the devastation of one natural disaster (the tornado) at the very moment that another natural disaster (the earthquake) was in progress.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


If Marash Girl hadn't been volunteering at the WBUR fundraiser, she would never have known about the boat festival that occurs yearly in Salem, Massachusetts.  Thanks to the unerring reminders sent her by her sister volunteer across the table, this year Marash Girl will be volunteering at the 29th Annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival in Salem, Massachusetts.  Come on by and say hello! (See the press release below.) And if you're interested in volunteering, they can still use help on Sunday afternoon!
"Old Glory"         Photo Credit:  Ann Campbell



Date:    August 27-28, 2011 (Sat., 11 am-5 pm; Sun., 11 am-3 pm)

Place:    Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, 10 White St., Salem, Massachusetts

Admission:    $5, children under 12 free

Info & Boat Entry: 617-717-6443, 617-666-8530,

Antique and Classic Boats on Display in Salem, MA!

Over this coming weekend (August 27th and 28th), the public will have a rare opportunity to view privately owned antique and classic yachts at the 29th Annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival at Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, Salem, Massachusetts.  Selected by Yankee Magazine as a top event in Massachusetts, the eye-catching vintage fleet ranges from elegant cabin cruisers from the 1920s to sleek mahogany
runabouts and sailboats of many types: sloops, yawls and schooners.  Some proud owners invite the public  aboard to regale them with stories of how they acquired their boat, her history, voyages, and the joys and woes of restoring  her.  Festival Coordinator, Pat Wells, says, "Although many of these vintage vessels are museum quality, they are real boats, in the water, and in use by their owners today.  Festival-goers enjoy getting to vote for their favorites."

The Festival is especially honored this year by the presence of Jon Wilson, founder of WoodenBoat Magazine , who will be on hand to receive the Edgar B. Caffrey Award for his exceptional contribution to the preservation and  appreciation of maritime heritage.  Revered by wooden boat aficionados, he is credited with the wooden boat revival.

Stars of the Festival include, among others:

GOLDEN YEARS, a 1913 Matthews launch owned by Sam and Jerrie Hoagland  of New Jersey, she is thought to be the oldest original Matthews in existence. Her original owner used her to ferry house guests, including U.S. presidents! to his summer camp on Tupper Lake, New York.  Closer to home, Barry and Sue Blaisdell plan to bring their 50 year old custom Crocker
sailboat, GABRIEL, from Gloucester.  She was built  by Sturgis Crocker  of Manchester, Massachusetts for  Fred  Johnson, curator of the  Peabody Essex Museum of Salem,  renowned for its extensive maritime  collection.

CHAUTAUQUA, a handsome 1926 cabin cruiser, is being brought by owners, Linwood and Gail Cross, from South Portland, Maine.  An award-winning vessel, she was built by the George Lawley & Sons Yard in Boston, famous for building America’s Cup contenders.  VIOLET, a 1911 Scottish Zulu Ocean Voyager, owned and restored by Gary and Kristi Maynard, will be sailing to the Festival from Martha’s Vineyard.  Jon Margolis of Brookline, Massachusetts plans to show his comely double-ended canoe yawl, ROZINANTE, designed and ordered by the legendary L. Francis Herreshoff,  who, alas, crossed the bar before she was launched. There is more to the Festival than the boats!  Other highlights include a crafts market, children’s activities, the Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats.  Parade boats will be announced to the public at Derby Wharf at 3:15 PM Sunday.  This is where the public gets to see the grand old craft in motion!  Traditional music will be performed live on the marina deck throughout the weekend.  The show goes on rain or shine!

A fun way to go to the Festival is to take the ferry from downtown Boston (978-741-0220,  The Festival is next door to the ferry terminal.  Allow time to sightsee in Salem.  The Festival is located in the historic district next door to the House of the Seven Gables and close to museums and other attractions in this picturesque old seaport.  If walking isn’t your style, there are the tourist trolleys and pedicabs to ferry you about.

Above press release issued for the 29TH ANNUAL ANTIQUE & CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL. Antique & Classic Boat Festival is a 501(c)3 non-profit association.

NOTE:  Just received notice that this boat festival has been cancelled due to the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irene!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lucia's Plaintains: A recipe direct from Cartagena, Colombia!

Sobre cómo cocinar los plátanos maduros, puedes pelarlos, hacerles un corte a lo largo, ponerles algo de mantequilla y tu queso favorito y asarlos en el horno o parrilla. Quedarán deliciosos. Buen provecho.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Verizon Workers Continue to Strike Against Sending Jobs Overseas

Throughout the United States, 45,000 Verizon workers walked out on August 7, 2011

On Friday, August 19, 2011, on our way to the Cheesecake Factory in Chestnut Hill, we noticed 2 of those 45,000 Verizon workers, (2 of nearly 6,000 members in Massachusetts  of the I.B.E.W. Local 2222) that are on strike against Verizon. They were standing along Route 9, holding the sign you see above, just beyond a Verizon truck at the corner of Boylston and Florence Streets.  We stopped to ask how it was going.  The striking Verizon worker said, "We just wanna get back to work, but we want the public to understand what's going on."  Starting on June 22, Verizon pushed proposals that would allow them to outsource more jobs, including sending jobs overseas, slashing sick days, eliminating benefits for workers who get hurt on the job, and cutting the health care benefits they promised retirees . . . The good news is Verizon is still talking (negotiating) with the union; the bad news is they're still talking (negotiating) with the Union, and the strikers are still out of work!

See earlier blog post on Verizon strike entitled, "Newtonville, the Verizon Strike, and Grandpa Moses".

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Newton Corner puts the Garden back into the Garden City

Newton Corner has put the Garden back into the Garden City.  Beginning at Maple Avenue in Newton Corner, you need only walk two blocks down Church Street past Farlow Park to Eldredge Street,  and you'll see.  Or simply scroll down . . . . and you'll thank all the gardeners in Newton Corner who have made life so much more pleasant for all of us.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lords, Barons & Bums!

Yesterday, we started the day off with a visit to the "Armenian" Starbucks in Watertown Square, the Starbucks where Charlie Mosesian and his cadre of friends used to sit and chat -- they still sit and chat, though Charlie is now the unseen guest at their round table.  Marash Girl got to talking with one of the fellows, who just happened to be Marashtsi.  Recently having had an operation, he was wearing a neck support.  Marash Girl asked him what had happened.  Was he trying to get away from a cute young lady who was hugging him and wouldn't let go?  No, he said, in all seriousness, as he started to give her the gruesome details and show her the photos on his iphone.  Oh, come on, Marash Girl said.  Be like my father Peter and make a joke out of it.  Remember? He made a joke out of everything!  Yes, the Marashtsi fellow admitted.  For years after he retired, your father would come to the meetings of the Union of Marash Armenians, and tell me the following which I remember to this day.  "You know, my friend, in England, when you don't work,  they call you  a Lord. In France, when you don't work, they call you a Baron, but here in the United States, if you don't work, they call you a bum.  .  .  that's me . . .  a bum!"

N.B.  It should be noted here that my dad was rarely to be taken at face value.  When he called himself a bum, he was making a joke about the fact that he and his brother no longer were the proprietors of Newtonville Electrical Co., Inc., 439 Newtonville Avenue, Newtonville, Massachusetts, a business they had begun in the early 1930's at 84 Bowers Street in Newtonville, Massachusetts.  After closing the shop, Peter was working from his home, repairing anything and everything he could for folks, and asking them, in lieu of payment, to write a check to their favorite charity, or his:  The Watertown Evangelical Church on 182 Arlington Street in Watertown, Massachusetts (formerly the United Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church of Watertown), or at the time he began telling the joke about Lords, Barons & Bums, for the Relief Fund of the Earthquake that had just occurred in Armenia.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bats? Hummingbirds? A new solution! Keep those mosquitos away with blue paint!

Sitting on your front porch swatting away those mosquitos?  That's what we were doing when our daughter Karoun (who used to live in the Woodland Heights section of Houston, Texas), was visiting us at the cabin on top of Wilbraham Mountain."Why not paint the ceiling of your porch blue?" she asked. Our question back was, "Why paint the ceiling of our porch blue?"

Her answer? "I lived in the 'original suburb' of a now very sprawling Houston.  The neighborhood is called  the Woodland Heights and is filled with the cutest Arts and Crafts bungalows.  The better the bungalow, the bigger the porch!   The traditional way to paint the ceiling of the porch is in a shade of sky blue.  They say that it keeps the mosquitos  away.  I'm not sure if it was a tradition simply handed down through generations, or if it actually works.  The idea is that the mosquitos (even bees) stay closer to the recreated "sky" of the porch rather than the chairs and people on the porch. . ." 

Sky blue ceiling of front porch on Main Street, Rockport, Massachusetts
We might gather, then, from this bit of Texas  lore, that in order to have a mosquito free spring, summer (if anyone sits outside on porches in Houston in the summer anymore) and fall, Houston folks must paint their porch ceilings a special shade of blue.  Or did those houses in Woodland Heights (unbeknownst to their neighbors) discourage mosquitos  by currying the favor of local bats and hummingbirds, i.e., by installing bat houses and hummingbird feeders in their back yards? Whatever the case, today, on Main Street in Rockport, Massachusetts, look what Marash Girl saw! A very long front porch with, yes, a sky blue ceiling, and . . . . no mosquitos!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Newtonville, The Verizon Strike and Grandpa Moses

I was walking to Newtonville along Washington Street this past Friday afternoon in full 90 degree sun, when I was greeted by the placards of striking Verizon workers pacing the sidewalk in front of the Verizon building.  Ironic this was.  The block long brick building that presently stands at the corner of Central Avenue and Washington Street was built many years ago, replacing the humble wooden structure that housed the pool hall that Grandpa Moses ran early in the 20th century, a pool hall that was quickly outmoded once the automobile became the play thing of the rich.  The irony was not lost on me, because Grandpa Moses, when he first arrived in this country in the late 19th Century, Grandpa Moses who was handy with a gun from his days roaming the mountains of Marash, Grandpa Moses who knew very little English if any at all, Grandpa Moses was hired as a strike breaker!

This past Saturday, as I walked by, a police detail, hired by Verizon, was stationed at both the front and back doors of this imposing brick building, protecting the building, assumedly, from the small group of folk who, when asked, said they were striking for health insurance benefits and asking that their wages not be lowered.  Could it be that Goliath is afraid of David?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Dead Man's Float

"So you want to learn to swim but you're afraid of the water?  No problem!  Just try the Dead Man's Float!  It's easy!"

The other day, as Marash Girl was walking from the post office, she passed a sign at the end of the street around the corner from her house reading Dead End.  It got her to thinking about all the deads in the English language, and particularly, (since she's been swimming lately), the Dead Man's Float (known in modern parlance as the Front Float).  Marash Boy had recalled earlier this week that when we were growing up, the first thing children were taught during swimming lessons was the Dead Man's Float. . . Why would any child want to learn to swim if they first had to try to do something called a Dead Man's Float?

On a lark, I checked the free dictionary (on line) which listed the following popular expressions in the English language which incorporated the word dead (see below), but the one they missed is the one that affected almost every child growing up, almost every child that ever tried to learn to swim in the 1920's, 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's and 1970's:  the Dead Man's Float!

a dead duck
a dead end
a dead letter
a dead ringer for
a dead weight
at a dead end
be a dead cert
be a dead loss
be a dead ringer for
be as dead as a dodo
be as dead as a doornail
be brain dead
be dead and buried
be dead from the neck up
be dead from the waist down
be dead in the water
be dead meat
be dead on feet
be dead to the world
be half-dead
be the dead spit of
beat a dead horse
bring to a dead end
catch dead to rights
come back from the dead
come to a dead end
cut dead
dead ahead
dead and buried
dead and gone
dead as a dodo
dead as a doornail
dead broke
dead cat on the line
dead center
dead certain
dead drunk
dead duck
dead easy
dead from the neck up
dead giveaway
dead in or an animal's tracks
dead in the water
dead letter
dead loss
dead meat
Dead men tell no tales
dead of winter
dead on
dead on arrival
dead on feet
dead serious
dead set against
dead to rights
dead to the world
dead wood
dead wrong
drop dead
Drop dead!
drop-dead date
drop-dead gorgeous
faint dead away
flog a dead horse
give up for dead
have dead to rights
in a dead heat
in the dead of night
It's ill waiting for dead men's shoes
knock dead
knock them/'em dead
leave for dead
Let the dead bury the dead
more dead than alive
Never speak ill of the dead
on dead center
over my dead body
Over my dead body!
play dead
raise from the dead
rise from the dead
roll over and play dead
silent as the dead
stone dead
stop dead in tracks
stop one dead in tracks
take for dead
taken for dead
the dead hand of
wake the dead
would not be caught dead
would not be seen dead
wouldn't be caught dead

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whole Foods (Newton Highlands) Sponsors Barbecue Fundraiser for New England Champions

On Saturday (this past weekend), Whole Foods in Four Corners (Newton Highlands, Massachusetts) held a noon time barbeque fundraiser for the New England Champions, the Newton Babe Ruth 14-year-old Tournament Team to raise funds for the team’s journey to Richmond, Virginia, where they will be competing in the Babe Ruth World Series!  100% of the proceeds will be donated to the champion Newton Babe Ruth Tournament Team, to help defray the costs of traveling to the Babe Ritj 14-Year-Old World Series in Virginia.

Our hats off (although all the hats in the photos are on) to Whole Foods -- this festive neighborhood event was a wonderful way of honoring the boys for a job well done, and the food could not be beat.  All natural hot dogs, hamburgers, hamburger & hot dog rolls, chicken breasts (apple or chile lime flavored), all freshly barbecued to order by Whole Foods, with lettuce and fresh tomatoes to enliven the sandwiches, and all for a donation to the Newton Babe Ruth 14-year-old Tournament Team's trip to the Babe Ruth 14 Year Old's World Series.  Set up in front of the store, with round picnic tables and chairs to enjoy the repast, the picnic even offered free peanuts in the shell!  If you weren't there, you really missed a fun summer noon-time opportunity to chat with the boys and the coaches, and to support the team!
Best wishes to all of the boys, the coaches and the manager in the upcoming playoffs at the World Series in Virginia!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book Appraisal, the Newton Corner Way

My customer had said she would prefer to bring the 6 boxes of books she wanted appraised to my place in boxes, as the volumes were no longer on shelves in her mother's houses, but when she arrived, she announced that she had 16 boxes of books in her van, not the six she had promised.  Looking at the stairs that we would have to climb, we decided we would have to make a new plan; it was difficult to imagine carrying those 16 very full cartons of books up the stairs and into the office, and still having the energy to do anything else on that beautiful summer's day, which do we must, as the van and its books and driver would have to return to Vermont that afternoon.

Luckily we were able to work right there on the lawn, under the shade of a very old maple tree, the tree very likely planted in 1900, (around the same time that many of the books had been published). . . not exactly a "businesslike" decision but it worked.  It was a wonderful way to appraise books on a beautiful summer's day, but disappointing for those people who walked by and, thinking we were setting up a yard sale, wanted to purchase the precious volumes that were being appraised.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Is jaywalking really safer than crossing in a crosswalk?

 Don't assume that because you're in a crosswalk that you're safe.  You're not!!!!

While Marash Boy was standing in a crosswalk waiting to cross the street today, an automobile backing up hit him on the side of his knee.  Practical man that he is, because he could still walk, he kept walking.

Those of us who live in Newton will recall that a pedestrian crossing within a crosswalk on a side street in Newtonville Square was struck and killed by an automobile several years ago.
Perusing the internet, Marash Girl found mention of a book about the sociology of driving entitled Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) in which the author, Tom Vanderbilt, assures us that more people are killed in crosswalks crossing legally than jaywalking!

So for the second time in this blog, Marash Girl is asking her readers to be careful when crossing streets, especially if you are crossing in a crosswalk!!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011


After a big shish kebab dinner cooked over an open fire, what could be better in the cool of the evening (for the preparer of the meal as well as the diner) to have the traditional watermelon and cheese.  And not just any watermelon or any cheese.  Ice cold watermelon -- the big long heavy ones with plenty of black seeds (certainly not seedless or yellow inside) -- and cheese -- Armenian home made cheese, "banir", or failing that, slices of muenster cheese or (the closest in taste and texture) Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco (available in the cheese case at Costco for those of you who frequent Costco or in the Hispanic grocery stores for those of you who live in the inner city).   The men who had been working in the garden or tilling the fields would sprinkle salt on their watermelon which always surprised us kids who couldn't understand why anyone would put salt on fruit.  But the most fun of all was sitting around after eating the watermelon and cheese, finding the fattest blackest watermelon seeds that we had carefully saved on our plates (that is, if we were eating the watermelon at the table), placing those black seeds edgewise between our front teeth and cracking them in order to eat the yummy white innards of those seeds!  In fact, if you've traveled to Istanbul, you'll know that in the candy stores there, they sell those white centers of watermelon seeds that are hanging on long strings and dipped in sweet fruit syrup, sold as a sweet to hungry passersby.  (One would only hope that the whites of those seeds were not cracked in the vendor's mouth before the stringing and the sweetening processes!) 

Watermelon seeds also have a place in our family history because of Pambook Jack (whose name translates to Cotton or Soft Jack).   Pambook Jack had a very large belly and when the kids would ask him how his belly got so fat, he would always laugh and say that he had swallowed a watermelon seed and as a result, a watermelon had grown inside of his stomach!

These warm summer days bring such warm summer memories of those wonderful times spent in our back yard in Newtonville, at Aunty Nectar's Farm in Hopkinton, and those unending summer picnics in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.  But, as my father would say, those days are gone forever!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Swimming at the Gath Pool, Newton, Massachusetts: A lesson in humility

The Gath Pool, Newtonville, Massachusetts, at 8 AM on an August morning. Photo Credit: Marash Girl

If you've ever felt like you know it all, just take swimming lessons at the crystal clear Gath Pool.  With the gentlest of demeanor, young teenagers (in Marash Girl's case a 15 year old sophomore at Newton North High School,) decked out in grey Life Guard T-Shirts, can improve your stroke, and help you unlearn those bad swimming habits that have developed over the years.  It takes some work, but your swimming will improve, and so will your humility!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cooking the books? Microwave that mildew away!

Cooking the books, you say?  That may cause alarm among many, but not for the book collector!  Modern technology has found a way to save those books that have been hidden away in dank cellars for years.  One is, of course,  never to store books in a damp area.  And the next best idea is to throw away the worst offenders, the books that are clearly covered with mildew, for to shelve any book with the slightest sign of mildew is like introducing a fox into the chicken coop. The mildewed book will infect and eat away (eventually) all the books around it, one by one, by one.  But there is hope for the book lover!  And that hope comes in the form of the microwave oven.  No, I'm not suggesting you set your house on fire (which certainly would be a possibility for those who are not attentive to what they're doing!) Simply cook the offending book for a minute at a time, fanning open the pages in between those minutes, until the odor of mildew disappears.  No more than a minute at a time, though, or you'll have flames rather than microwaves destroying your book along with its mildew!

Two last notes of caution.
1) If you're not sure whether or not you have destroyed all the mildew, if you're in doubt, throw it out!

2) Only microwave books that have no metal in them (i.e., staples in binding, etc.)!!!!

Wilbraham Native Americans at the Science Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts

On the hottest day of the year, over 100 degrees in Springfield, Massachusetts, with the humidity reaching to almost the same number, Marash Girl escaped with her grandchildren into the cool of the Springfield Science Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts.  There to her surprise was an exhibit on the Native American, a rather dated exhibit, admittedly, but an exhibit that had its origins in Wilbraham.  In fact, the very soapstone that the model Nipmuc Indian is carving (below) into a bowl came from our own (then their own) Wilbraham Mountain!
Nipmuc Indian carves soapstone bowl from 3300 years ago from boulder found in Wilbraham, as Raffi and Aline (3300 years later) look on.
Nipmuc Indian woman preparing food using soapstone bowl carved by her tribesman.
A hard life, judging by the expression on their faces.
The plaque describing the exhibit pictured above reads, "This familiar scene depicting life in Wilbraham 3,300 years ago is getting a face lift.  We are adding realistic reproductions of trees that were made from molds of real trees and a background mural to show how the forest looked long ago.  The boulder you see is real and came to the museum in 1933 from a site in Wilbraham.  Researchers believe that Native Americans visited the site year after year in late spring and early summer to carve the relatively soft soapstone into bowls.  Look closely and you can see the outline of a new bowl being made. It was done by a Native American worker 3300 years ago."
Marash Girl knew through chats with Charlie Merrick, the town historian, that Native Americans once lived on the very land where she and her family used to live every summer (before the tornado) on the top of Wilbraham Mountain.  In fact, a soapstone quarry existed on Glendale Road and arrowheads can be found throughout Wilbraham, though we had yet to find one until after the tornado of June 1, 2011, when Lorig's husband Matt Rogers found an arrow head lodged in the clump of soil of the roots of an upturned tree.

According to Charlie Merrick, descendant of one of the original white settlers of Wilbraham, the area of Wilbraham was probably abandoned by the Indians soon after the time of King Philip's War in 1675, and the only known Wilbraham Native American thereafter was an old Indian woman called Weshaugan who lived on Wigwam Hill, named after her wigwam home on the mountain, known to Marash Boy as the "Page" land, now under Marash Boy's ownership. Weshaugan, according to oral tradition and Charlie Merrick,  invited the wife of the local minister, the Reverend Noah Merrick (1711-1776), who resided on the corner of Bolles and Tinkham Roads, a neighbor to Weshaugan, for Sunday dinner.  When the minister's wife learned that Weshaugan was serving skunk, Mrs. Merrick gently declined the invitation.  For further information on the early history of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, see Charles L. Merrick (ed.), THE HISTORY OF WILBRAHAM U.S.A. BICENTENNIAL EDITION 1763-1963.

For your edification, dear reader, below is a  history of the Native Americans in Wilbraham issued in a press release by Wilbraham's Atheneum Society.

"In 1674, William Pynchon of Springfield, Massachusetts, purchased land extending to the Springfield
Mountains from the Nipmuc Indians. Wequagan, Wawapaw and Wequampo sold the land for a fathom of Wampum – 6 feet of strung shell beads.  The word "Wampum" comesfrom the Narragansett word for 'white shell beads' harvested from the Whelk shell. A white wampum fathom was worth 10 shillings [half pound or half sovereign].  

It was an unusual land transaction in that it involved only 3 Indians. They received their pay, but were driven away by the Indian War in 1675. The land transaction was recorded in the County of Hampshire July 12, 1679 [attested by John Holyoke, recorder] and can be found in the Registry of Deeds in Hampden County. The agreement reserved the Indian’s rights for hunting and fishing to continue on the land. This area, called Minnechaug or Berryland, became the town of Wilbraham with its incorporation in 1763. The Nipmuc are a group of Algonquin Indians native originally to
Worcester County Massachusetts. Nipmuc originated from the word ‘nipnet’ meaning 'small pond place.'  They are sometimes called 'Fresh Water People' because they first settled around the clear crisp lake system at the Chaubunagunamaug Lake in Webster, MA. 

These Native Americans settling in the area now called Wilbraham operated two stearite (soapstone) quarries on Wilbraham Mountain. Their finished products included implements of necessity and convenience.  Soapstone artifacts include: arrowheads, bowls, scrapers, awls, pipe, spear points, plow heads, hoes, hand hammers, digging tools, pestles and cutting tools.  Many of these early artifacts are on display at the Quadrangle Museums in Springfield and others are here at the Old Meeting House.

There were only two stearite quarries in the fertile Connecticut River Valley - one in Westfield (now gone) and locations in Wilbraham. Quarried soapstone lasted longer than pottery and provided an excellent trade item.

Indigenous natives are believed to have inhabited sections along Nine Mile Pond, the Chicopee River, Spectacle Pond (Spec Pond) and the hilly mountain area during the Plantation Period (1620-1675) - where they operated a three- season campground.  The Chicopee River lowlands and the moderately sloping uplands in northwestern Wilbraham
would have offered abundant natural resources to these early settlers. There have also been smaller unidentified native campsites found in the eastern uplands.  

Good agricultural land was present in the northwest and the southeast and the Chicopee River was a major source of fish.  Spectacle and Nine Mile Ponds provided excellent interior stream fishing as well. The wooded uplands and marshlands likely provided sites for hunting and gathering.  They presumably trapped beaver in cool streams, speared
salmon in river waters, hunted deer and fowl and gathered berries and nuts."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Marash Boy & the Colonial Inn

"Louisa May Alcott" wishes Marash Boy a Happy Birthday in the dining room of the Colonial Inn, Concord, Massachusetts
Although it was pouring rain, a real downpour yesterday, Marash Girl invited Marash Boy to a buffet brunch at the Colonial Inn in Concord, Massachusetts. Much to Marash Boy's surprise, it was yet another birthday celebration, this time a joint party for Marash Boy and "rahmetli olsun" Peter Bilezikian, aka Danny Boy, whose birthday was on August 7.  Both Lions of Marash and celestial lions as well, their birthdays were always celebrated together in Wilbraham on the first Sunday of August.  And Marash Girl must comment here on how Danny Boy, were he present, would have loved to have held hands with Louisa May Alcott, most famous for her book Little Women which was first published in 1868!!!

Knowing that Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau were good family friends, (in fact Thoreau used to be one of Alcott's teachers,) Marash Boy, in his inimitable style, began an academic discussion with Louisa May on what Thoreau would have thought about turning the old railroad tracks (the installation of which Thoreau had been so against) into a bicycle/running path.  Once she understood that a bicycle was a velocipede, Louisa May responded that Thoreau and her father Bronson would have approved of such a path. Unlike most 19th Century United States citizens, Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau believed that physical exercise was healthy and beneficial, a must in the lives of children, men and women. In fact it is said that Louisa May's father, Bronson Alcott, was first to put in place school "recess" for young children attending school!

(As an aside, Louisa May mentioned that many 19th century folks felt that academic pursuits for women such as studying, thinking, and especially writing, weakened the body of women and made them ill!  But that never stopped her from writing.  For a list of some of her more unusual titles, go to

It's worth the trip out to the Colonial Inn situated in the heart of historic Concord, Massachusetts, for Sunday brunch, certainly for the food which was as pleasing to the eye as to the palate, but especially for the opportunity to chat with Louisa May Alcott!  And yes, for those of you who read yesterday's blog post, the Colonial Inn does have a front porch where folks can dine outside!
Louisa May Alcott having a good laugh with Marash Boy in the dining room of the Colonial Inn on the occasion of his birthday!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Our Front Porch: Newton Corner, Massachusetts

Is the front porch an American phenomenon? Do folks in other countries have front porches? Is the front porch going the way of all good things?

Yesterday, Marash Boy took it upon himself to ready our front porch for summer; granted summer is half over, but he had an excuse -- the tornado in Wilbraham, which not only took away our summer's front porch, but the house that went with it!  (See Marash Girl's blogs on the tornado in Wilbraham.)

On one side of our Newton Corner porch sit two comfortable chairs with history:  an Adirondack chair given to us by a neighbor who was moving and didn't have the energy (or the space) to put one more piece of furniture in the van; the other, a rocking chair with the black paint chipping off, a chair that Marash Boy's Uncle Karekin had remade from a broken down chair that someone had donated to the Wilbraham cottage.  (In fact, because this chair was salvaged from Wilbraham many years ago, it's the only piece of furniture from the cottage that was not taken by the tornado!)

So that's to the right of the doors as you walk out of our house.  And to the left is a big round wicker glass top table with 6 chairs around it, admittedly meant for a glassed in porch, but there it has survived for over ten years on our open front porch, which, by the way, was once a wraparound porch that went all the way around to the entrance on the other side of the house (the house is a duplex built in 1870, built by a father who wanted his daughters living right next door!)  The former owner of the house tore down the wraparound part rather than go to the expense of rebuilding it.  Much the pity!  But our porch is big enough for a private chat, or a small dinner party -- we even have 6 stairs folks can sit on if we run out of chairs!

Everyone who walks by our porch gets a wave or a greeting or an invitation to join us! 

We live in Newton Corner where almost all of the houses (except for the young whippersnappers) were built before 1900, and most of those houses have a front porch, a front porch that stretches from one side of the house to the other.  But of all the houses with front porches, Marash Girl has seen only 3 porches ever in use -- her porch, the porch diagonally across the street from her and the porch 5 houses down the street and around the corner.  Walk as we may through the neighborhood, and we often do, we never see folks on their front porches, even on pleasant balmy days. What has happened? Help me out with this one!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Newton Corner Native runs for Takoma Park, Maryland, City Council

Lorig Charkoudian is running for City Council:

Lorig Charkoudian, the Newton Corner native who in 6th grade took on the Mayor of the City of Newton, Massachusetts (Mayor Mann) and the Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Strand) when they decided to close her soon to be Middle School, is now running for  office in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Courageous she was, this then 6th grader, marching into a meeting called by the Mayor of Newton at Bigelow Junior High School, Newton Corner, Massachusetts, with her band of elementary school followers, carrying signs of her creation stating, "We've been Stranded!"

This same girl, now a woman, a long-time resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, has just announced for City Council in Takoma Park.

Go to her website, read about her, and support her campaign:

Vote Lorig Charkoudian
for Ward 2 City Council Representative, Takoma Park, Maryland,
On November 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Newton Corner Baseball Pitcher heads for Babe Ruth World Series

Newton Baseball Team on its Way to Babe Ruth World Series

"The Babe Ruth 14-year old division from Newton won the title of New England Champions today." So started the article in the Newton Patch.  Wait a minute!  Marash Girl knows the pitcher from that team!  She's known him since before he was born!

So she called him for an interview, and he graciously granted that interview -- a few minutes after the phone call!

Spencer Anderson of Newton Corner connects with the ball during the Eastern Massachusetts Championship Games, Newton vs Connecticut
(New England Regional Babe Ruth Tournament).  Photo Credit: Cheryl Clegg Photography
14 year old Spencer Anderson, who has been throwing baseballs with his father right here on Maple Avenue in Newton Corner, Massachusetts, since he was three years old, is heading for Glen Allen, Virginia, with his team, the Newton 14 year old Babe Ruth All Stars, to compete in the Babe Ruth World Series!

"I honestly thought we were just going to play a few games and get on with our summer," said Anderson.  "After we won the districts, I realized that we were going to go far!  It feels great, it really does!"

Since late June, Anderson and his team have worked hard with two hours practice every day, even on game day!

"I've been exhausted ever since, going to bed early and getting up early every day, and it's been fine."

"Do you remember throwing balls with your Dad on Maple Avenue?" asked Marash Girl, who has been watching Spencer out there in front of the house since he was a little tyke, throwing balls back and forth with his brother and his dad, Dean Anderson, the percussionist for the Boston Pops.

"Yes, he got me started playing ball when I was about 3.  I've loved it ever since!"

Asked if he admired any baseball players in particular, Spencer answered, "My idol is John Lester who is a leftie pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, and Adrian Gonzales who plays first base for the Sox.  I'm a leftie and they're both lefties. . . I've idolized Lester since I was 8, when I first saw him pitch at a game in Fenway Park. . . "

"Our Newton All Star games started off in district tournaments where we played teams from around Boston.  Our first game against Malden, we won 13-1; against Arlington, we lost 2-1; Medford, we won 4-3; Arlington we won 12-2.  We played Arlington for the Championship for District and beat them 11-4.  Then we went to the Eastern Massachusetts finals where we won all 5 games:  we beat Quincy 10-6, Peabody 11-4, Burlington 21-4, Franklin 13-3 and Lynn 3-2."

"After we beat Lynn, we represented Eastern Massachusetts in the New England Regional Tournament.  (All the State champions from around New England played against each other:  Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pittsfield (representing Western Massachusetts), and Westfield because they were the host of the tournament.)  We beat Vermont 14-4, Connecticut 2-1, Western Mass. 10-1, and that got us into the championship where we needed to win one more game, which we did against Rhode Island, giving us the title, New England Regional Champions!"

Congratulations, Spencer Anderson, and to the manager, the coach, and all of the members of the Newton 14 year old Babe Ruth All Stars, and good luck in the upcoming Babe Ruth World Series!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nasdaq, Times Square, welcomes the Lion King

The Lion King in Times Square, opposite Nasdaq

The Lion King with body guard in front of Nasdaq
Lion King in Nasdaq's Hall of Flags where he found among the flags of the world, believe it or not, the flag of Armenia (below)!

The Lion King looks over his Kingdom - Times Square, New York City - Photo Credit: Nasdaq

The Lion King and his body guards overlook their kingdom.   Photo Credit: Nasdaq

The Lion King and his entourage visitng Nasdaq at the opening bell!  Photo Credit: Zef Nikolla, Nasdaq
Thanks to Nasdaq's Meghan Donohue for hosting our visit to Nasdaq for the Opening Bell  on the occasion of the Lion King's birthday!