Friday, 06 November 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Elder Storytelling Place Retires

You may have noticed that the addendum that is posted at the bottom of each story inviting readers to send in their own contributions has been missing this week. That is because The Elder Storytelling Place has arrived at the end of its run.

It's done pretty well for the past eight-and-a-half years. Over that time, about 300 individual writers have delighted, entertained and informed us with somewhere in the vicinity of 2200 stories.

ESP, as I refer to it in shorthand, began on 6 April 2007 (the day before my 66th birthday), with Norm Jenson's wonderfully funny story titled Curiosity. You can read it here.

The final story, Quandary, which appeared yesterday, belongs to Marc Leavitt.

In between, the stories and poems have been funny and silly and serious and enlightening and to a large part, reflective the kind of the world we have lived through for 50, 60 or 70 years and are still managing to navigate pretty well in our dotage.

The reasons for the shutdown are lack of interest - fewer submissions and declining readership over the past two to three years. Certainly, I take responsibility for that, in part, as I have never made the effort to promote ESP in places around the web where there might be interest.

Another, and I suspect bigger reason for the decline, is the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterist, Instagram and other social media websites where such little effort is required to participate. It is so much easier to post a link to a news item or upload a photo or a YouTube video than to write something longer than 140 characters.

(Frequently, these days, I despair for the the written word and the actual thought required to produce it in a world where the most important newspapers in the world are actively sussing out how to not only write shorter stories but to have robots do the work of it.)

The Elder Storytelling Place has had a good life. The site itself will remain available with a link from Time Goes By – there's no reason to take it down. Writers will be able to find their stories and others may want to dip in to the collection to see what they can find. I promise you will be well entertained.

Thank you all – every one of you who have contributed stories through all these years and the readers, too, who have made it a real community with your own thoughts in the comments.

You have all given me, personally, a great deal of pleasure.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (15) | Permalink | Email this post

Thursday, 05 November 2015


By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

[On reading The New Yorker’s “Goings on about Town” in my wheelchair]

New York is such a walking town,
How could I ever get around?
They have Otello at the Met,
I’d like to hear the tenor, yet
I don’t have the ability.

It’s all about mobility:
For one, I’d have to rent a car,
And two, would I get very far,
Without some help to find my seat?
The effort would be quite a feat.

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Wednesday, 04 November 2015


By Henry Lowenstern

When my dentist pulled the tooth
from my jaw, down to its roots,
he left a gap
in my dental map
that has become of little use.

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Tuesday, 03 November 2015

If You Can't Go Up, Go Under

By Clifford Rothband

I have met and dealt with some wealthy people, some famous because the media wrote about incredible feats they may have accomplished. Or maybe these folk just had a message to give, sort of a like seeing themselves' as a messiah.

These people all of them walked the same earth and had problems the same as the rest of us.

It took a long time for any Vietnam Veterans to gain any respectability. There were no parades or welcome home bands. At least I never saw any of it until of late.

It is hard to define a hero. My own criteria is one who survives and flourishes, raises a family, holds a job and cares for others. Lately I look at the political candidates, who are self worshippers, narcissists, money grubbers and collectors - if not of objects, then it seems to be other peoples money [OPM].

A true hero of mine recently passed away, Larry "Yogi” Berra. This was the man I don't have to quote his records in baseball. That anyone can look up. It is what he meant to me.

Remembering the summer of 1967, there I am in a rice paddy around Bong Son Vietnam. The grueling walking, the humidity and the heat. Walking in the field, and sometimes we ate a hot meal once a day guaranteed?

As an example, lining up with a metal helmet in hand, first comes the salad, then the spaghetti and meatballs on top, then desert like ice cream and Niblet corn sprinkled as a garnish.

Other meals included eating out of C rations canned. Another version was , K ration cans, including a package of crackers, salt tablets, Spam, a can of turkey, candy, chocolate, four cigarettes, a can of date nut cake [um good], two pats of TP.

We never figured out why they packed a rubber. Improvising, we used them over the AR-15 muzzles to keep the weapons clean.

It seems that every ranking GI had a money making scheme. We had a group of Vietnamese teenage kids following us as though we were on a beach in the states hawking cold drinks. If the kids weren't around you knew the enemy was.

The "underhanded" gimmick was that the kids sold ice cold soda's for a dollar American or two MPCs [Military Pay Currency]. I have later found out that the soda cans were supposed to be rationed out, not sold.

Now, I earned about $132 a month including combat and flight pay. They deducted money and I sent home about $115 for wife and child. How could I afford a cold one every day?

Yoo-hoo, that's how. Nobody drank that stuff but it was cold and half price or better.

One fine day, 30 or so years later, I am doing business with a guy named Charlie

who owned Canada Dry, RC Cola and Yoo-hoo chocolate drink. Just kidding. I told Charlie that Yogi Berra owned Yoo-hoo. He says that he will prove me wrong and telephones the Yogi and tells him to set me straight.

Wow, I speak to my childhood hero and tell him how happy he made a lot of troops.

Well, in true Yogi Berra words, No, he didn't own the product. He was the spokesperson and he did inspire a lot of kids to drink chocolate Yoo-hoo. And if he did deliver something from home and a little happiness to the troops, that was special. Sorry he couldn't do more for us, but like he said, "If you can't go over, you go under."

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Monday, 02 November 2015

I Love Talent

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

I love talent!
Just love alent!
Talent is an ace,
A grace –
A freebee,
Something that you get for nothing;
Something that’s a bank, a chest
Of treasures
And a toolbox all-in-one.
What next, and
How to reach it,
Find and turn it
From a talent
To a skill? Still more,
Teach it
How to be its best?

Talent’s quest as guest of soul:
Soul butler and handmaiden.

I love toiled refinement
And the balance of alignment;
Risk of pain,
Of world’s disdain:
A talent in itself –
And I love talent.

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Friday, 30 October 2015

The Politician

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

Every slippery politician
Has a partisan position,
But he’ll soften it with euphemism
To hide his rabid party-ism.

He’ll sweet-talk voters very well
To sell stuff that he’s told to sell,
And he’ll strive to gain affection,
Always seeking re-election.

His wealthy masters let him know
Without their cash, he’d have to go,
And he parrots what they taught him;
Since he’s owned by those who bought him.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Party

By Vicki E. Jones

The year was 1969, and I was a graduate student living in an old dormitory where graduate students lived two per tiny apartment. My roommate was named Helen and she looked exactly like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed version of Sophia Loren in both face and figure. She also had a sparkling personality.

Helen was a popular young woman who knew everybody and one day she asked me if I would like to attend a party with her, hosted by four graduate students who were sharing a large apartment.

I wasn’t a party-going person but she really wanted me to come with her. So I agreed to go along. I offered to drive, especially since I was a non-drinker.

The party was crowded and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. The music was good and there was plenty of food. Helen introduced me to those people that she knew and people stood around talking, learning more about each other or talking about events of the day or making new acquaintances.

Eventually someone suggested that everyone sit down in a circle. Once everyone was seated, one of the hosts announced that he was going to light a joint of marijuana and pass it around for everyone to take a puff.

Then I remembered Brenda. Brenda was a close friend during my last two years of high school, back in 1963 and 1964. When we graduated, I kept in touch though we were both so busy that it wasn’t often that we talked or saw each other.

She had entered UCLA after high school and I had gone off to a small state college about 40 miles from home and was living on campus. Each of us was carrying a full course load.

Brenda hadn’t been at UCLA more than six months when I got a phone call one weekend from her mother when I happened to be visiting my parents in L.A. Her mother asked if I had anything that had belonged to Brenda. I immediately understood, from her wording and tone of voice, that Brenda was dead.

Soon after starting college at UCLA, Brenda had met her boyfriend. It being the days of free love and social and sexual revolution and birth control pills, she had moved in with him. He had gotten her started on smoking marijuana and doing LSD. And now Brenda was dead. Brenda was 18 years old.

I learned decades later, at a high school reunion, that Brenda had taken her own life. But Brenda had no such inclination. She had no depression or any other factors that would lead to suicide. I could only think that perhaps her drug use had contributed to it.

So when everyone sat down and I heard that a joint of marijuana was going to be passed around for each person to take a puff of it, I only wanted one thing: I wanted to leave.

I turned to Helen and said, “Helen, I don’t want any part of this. If you want to stay and get a ride home with someone who has been smoking pot, that’s up to you. You could also get arrested. I am not staying. I am leaving right now.”

Helen thought for a few moments and then said, “Never mind. I’ll leave with you.”

That was the last time I went to a party where I didn’t know the people or their idea of what goes on at a party. I had no need of going to parties where drugs were passed around. I was – and still am - a no-drugs person. And I am that way partly because of Brenda and what happened to her after she started doing pot and LSD.

I was glad that I left the party, and proud of myself for taking a stand. And I was proud of my roommate for her decision to leave the party too. /p>

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I Can Always Be Right; Sometimes Left is Better

By Clifford Rothband

We use two GPS's full time in our car and AAA auto club. They have great tour guide maps and books.

A lesson my wife learned about touring is that we never go wrong. Getting lost is the best part. She used to yell at me, "Turn right, Turn right! You missed the cutoff!"

Big deal, the GPS will correct us and like I always say, let your spirit lead us to a better place. The route might be bumpy but hey, we are retired; time is cheap.

One of our most memorable trips was driving through New England in the early fall. The foliage - one just can't believe in the beauty of nature. Behold, Look at those colors. Often we had to backtrack a day or so later and of course, the view changed. Nature exploded in different hues and contrasting colors daily, if not hourly. That's living life to it's fullest.

Life is change, a state of flux, to adapt, acceptance. It's what takes the boredom or repetition away from those lonely days. Just the two of us realizing that we each have our own priorities, influences and tastes. That we all are created equal, just different.

When I worked as a salesperson, a drapery installer, or an auto body mechanic, every client looked for fault to chisel the price down.

I often laughed when there existed a genuine real fault and someone's pettiness had them looking at the wrong area. I could not let on so I did what was necessary to appease the situation. Often doing what was requested and sometimes, to my eye, making things worse, but what the hay; I had to bring the check home. One has to use his noggin lest a "professional know it all" take advantage.

I've often spoken of a client who had a TV court room program. Of course, at the installation everything came in wrong. It wasn't my fault; it was the fault in the stars. Or co-incidence, which some say is nature's way of showing its supreme wisdom or existence.

So anyway, the great judge, he noted my observation and he showed a little dissatisfaction. All I could say was that we'd take care of it. Not to worry. I am just the mechanic, I'll do my part to fix or replace what needs to be done to make you happy.

That word, happy. All we really exist for is pleasure. I know that the deposit money doesn't ever meet the cost of goods and supplies,;my labor is cheap. Still, there are also other expenses involved like rent and what not.

This judge, he about floored me. He paid me for everything and took my word for it that I would take care of it. Yes, I did order replacements and then he called up the next day and he opted to keep most of the original mistakes, admitting that he was not always right.

On top of that, he recommended us to so many new clients. An outstanding gentleman, or mensch, as some might say.

Now getting back to our travels, this one time in Connecticut we were looking for a lobster buffet. The restaurant's name was, by co-incidence, the same as my first name.

Of course, the GPS led us astray, into someone's backyard and they invited us to share a seafood dinner. But my wife insisted that she have her lobster quota so off we went again.

We found our objective, then we see the sign: "Sorry, closed Mondays!" Now we read the menu posted. I think it said something about having an ATM inside, or maybe 75 clams for dinner. Not within my allowance.

Again by co-incidence, or bizarre chance, this woman passes riding on a bike. She advises us that Mystic Pizza, like from the movie, including photos and movie posters galore is down the road. "Just take a left and you can't miss it. The absolute best food at the most modest prices."

It was one of my life's most memorable meals. "I am not always right. Sometimes left is better.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Weight Watcher

By Henry Lowenstern

Oprah threw her weight around
and miraculously found,
that with her luck,
the stock went up
with every pound

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 26 October 2015

Chokecherry Cordial

By Janet Thompson

Waiting to be picked up, maybe for the last time, on my kitchen counter rests a 10-ounce, clear bottle. A red satin ribbon crosses in front from around the neck over a gold-bordered, off-white label announcing Private Stock, also gold. At the bottom, stained and shopworn, almost faded to obscurity, in my best friends’ handwriting it says, Chokecherry Cordial 1985.

Moving between nine different homes since, each time I packed the cordial as carefully as I'd done my newborn preemie. It has always slept with my vodka, tequila, Bailey's, and Kahlua.

Rationing it for 30 years, I've only shared about a half-teaspoonful drizzled over vanilla ice-cream with a special guest. Otherwise, feeling covetous, it’s been my own private indulgence.

* * *

Vonnie was a year older than I in Fort Collins when we met at a late 1940s frat party. From hopping on the back of motorcycles with guys headed for breakfast in Cheyenne to slugging beer on the side of a hill on the way to Estes Park, we were a pair to draw to back then.

She married first; I was in her wedding. She moved away, her daughters grew up, she divorced and returned to Denver. We resumed our friendship again the same as if we'd never been apart.

We listened to music and visited art. She expertly created Mexican food and margaritas; I was best at roasts and stews. We shared secrets, cried and laughed over our good and bad experiences, and it never changed.

After she returned, every summer we went to her folks primitive cabin about 25-30 feet (up on stone steps) from the road in Poudre Canyon. Opening it up, the first chore was she'd turn on heat, water and propane. We swept cobwebs from the ceiling, gathered mouse turds from the corners and mucked out the two-holer outside in back.

After we gathered wood, made beds and scrubbed the floor, Vonnie would go about 15 feet below the road to the river and catch trout for dinner. I would read. As we vegged out, it took only a little of this gentle stuff to carry away any stress.

We were copycats. From famous Jonas Brothers Furs, Vonnie bought a silver-grey Persian lamb jacket and I found a special-brown-dyed Persian lamb jacket and hat. Her 1970’s Dodge Dart was green and mine gold.

Vonnie was tall, striking and fashionable; I, short but cute. For my Model-Talent Agency accounting client, she became the “older woman model.” There, we learned better ways to apply eyelashes so they stuck, tuck our shirts inside our panties to eliminate bulk at our middles and care for our skin. We could wear hot pants and go-go boots. Then in our 40s, fashion was FUN.

I was almost 50 when I bought a circa 1888 two-story, vacant, Victorian house to restore in the historic district. I dared Vonnie to buy an older one in the next block.

Winos had camped in both beauties. Starting in September, we froze without heat and sustained our lifetime Hazmat loads from stripping walls, ceilings and linoleum, hot-gunning decades-old paint and wallpaper without wearing masks.

Her stunning, curved staircase was black walnut, my elderly dogs nails clicked on my golden oak steps until he could no longer climb them. We both agreed, those 11-12 months of fix up were the best in our lives. Saturday respites for Wendy's chili, a burger and coffee restored us to keep on keeping on.

We joined the vintage 20th Street Gym, went to concerts, parades and partied with our younger, gay urban pioneers. We made close friends with our senior black and Hispanic neighbors and volunteered at community events. At the Gym is a memorial room named for Vonnie.

Vonnie’s next-to-last gentleman friend died of heart failure in her bed before “picking up my change from the dresser” (their private joke.) She put him on a blanket and gently slid his body down her elegant staircase before calling 911. Given her close friendships with the local firemen, they NEVER divulged her secret.

I was in California about eight years ago when sickness caused Vonnie’s two daughters to uproot and move her from her beautiful home and friends to assisted living. An old neighbor took her sweet little dog.

From then, it was ongoing dementia until about three summers ago when she joined the historic district in the sky.

Sad question: After my last “l'chaim," will I still treasure the empty 30-year-old bottle?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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