Outcome of Hurricane Sandy



First the back-story of how I met my cook/butler. It was early days after Hurricane Sandy; only the village center in our town of Lincroft, NJ had electricity. Dunkin Donuts had hot coffee and it was the most popular spot around. The parking lot was loaded with trucks bearing logos of every tree service for miles around. Lots and lots of trees were down, including those on my front lawn. Power lines were hanging from branches and on the ground. People had survival on their minds, as most homes nearby were still without heat and lights, to say nothing of TV, the Internet and land phone lines. I set out to get some coffee and sweets to cheer us up, driving the half mile very carefully.

Downed Trees

This improbable story started with a smile, a nod and a question. This slightly worn-looking man was next to me at the counter of Dunkin Donuts. He said “Hello.”  I met his eyes and said “Hi” back. The stranger, emboldened by my smile asked a question.  “Is there anything you would like done? “

Whatever he might have meant, an answer just popped out of my mouth, “I would like a personal chef.”  I hadn’t even realized I had that thought in my head. The man’s face lit up and he replied, “I am a personal chef, and a butler.”

You’ve just got to love it! You put the most insane things out there and the universe answers in its own dandy way. Afterwards, when we got to laugh about it, I found out his question was referring to tree removal. Did I want tree work done?  Later he revealed his background, formerly working for an English lady in NYC for twenty years as her butler and chef. He was unemployed since she died, living on a family farm in Monmouth County.

For my part, this longing for a personal chef was not a whim. I had been thinking about this, imagining food cooked at home by a professional.  Wholesome, non-fattening tasty food; probably cheaper than the meals we ate out most nights of the week. Food placed on my table without my shopping or cooking when I came home tired from work. Wouldn’t my husband love it too?  I imagined pounds melting off both of us while we experienced eye-popping luscious-tasting platters on our table.

Something primal and spontaneous within me blurted out at that moment:  What do I want? Why, of course, it was a personal chef!  Anyone could chop down my tree. I wanted a chef.


So after he cut down my trees the next day we made a date for him to prepare dinner in my home for my husband’s birthday three weeks later. It was marvelous. He set the table with flowers and candles, though the lights were back on. He cooked a gourmet meal in my kitchen and served us as if we were a Duke and Duchess. He cleaned up everything while we had brandy afterwards in the living room. It was only that once, but it was all I imagined.

Dr. Geraldine Velasquez is a member of the Ollie Writers Group. She is Professor Emerita of Art and Design and recently presented “Look at me” an art appreciation lecture at Olli.

More Musings from an Amateur Cosmologist

Mt Chimborazo

The Earth is an oblate spheroid.  Say what?

This is the mathematical term for a solid object that may look spherical when, in fact, it is not.  Due to its rotation (at roughly 1,000 miles per hour), the Earth bulges at the equator and flattens at the poles such that its equatorial diameter is, on average, about 26 miles greater than its polar diameter.  This may seem like a lot but the difference amounts to only 0.33%.

bulging earth

And this affects me how, you ask?  Not much, unless you happen to be a mountain climber.

For example, if you measure altitude from the center of the Earth (rather than from sea level), you will find that Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain on the planet.  Due to its location on the equator (and the “bulge”), that distinction now belongs to Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorian Andes. Everest’s latitude is about 28 degrees north of the equator and its peak is almost 2 miles below Chimborazo’s (as measured from Earth’s center).  It is Chimborazo that sticks out into space further than any other spot on Earth.  On the other hand, because of the local climate, topology, etc., Everest is much harder to climb.

By the way, since the Earth’s rotational speed is very gradually slowing due to the continuous transfer of a little of Earth’s momentum to the moon, the equatorial bulge will likely shrink as the length of an Earth day increases.  Not to worry though, as it will take about 140 million years before we have to contend with a 25 hour day.  As with my own equatorial “spare tire”, it looks like Earth’s bulge is here to stay.

Howard Horton (OLLI Member)




Music in the (very chilly) Mountains

Robert Mann

The New York Times gave half of an entire page early this year to the obituary of Robert Mann, founder of the Juilliard Quartet.  He died at age 97, and the obit made clear that he had enough joie de vivre to last a century.

My own experience with Mann illustrates what an original he was. I’d just finished my masters degree in journalism at Columbia in 1960, when women still had trouble landing interesting jobs in the field. So the dean sent me up to Saranac Lake, N.Y., to work on the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and weekly Lake Placid News. Although the daily paper used the Associated Press service, I was the only in-house reporter.

I lived with the publisher, Jim Loeb, a proud Sorbonne alum who had worked for Averell Harriman and Sens. Hubert Humphry and John Kennedy (you can imagine the dinner table gossip). Jim’s wife, Ellen, was a gourmet cook and a fine violinist. Temperatures outside reached 30 degrees below zero that winter, but we had interesting neighbors, including an adolescent named Garry Trudeau, who would go on to Yale and create “Doonesbury.”  Ellen Loeb was an old friend of “Bobby” Mann, so she invited him to bring his quartet up to the mountains.

The Juilliard gave a splendid concert at a packed church, and afterwards dozens of the Loebs’ friends were invited to their home for refreshments. I stayed in the kitchen with Susie, their teenage daughter. We ended up sitting on the kitchen floor with bowls of goodies and the family dog.  Eventually who should join us but Bobby himself!  He mumbled something about having done enough socializing as he plopped down on the floor with us and started nibbling popcorn.

What an amazing man: He chatted with Susie like a fellow teenager, and with me as a fellow music lover. I wonder if he’d done this before — or since.  But all too soon his hideaway was discovered, and he had to join the other guests and act like a grownup.

I had a quite different musical experience when the Loebs’ son, Peter, came home on winter break from Harvard. He didn’t have a driver’s license so one day when his parents were out, he asked me to take him to the nearby Will Rogers Sanitarium. There we picked up a resident: Bill Bailey, the handsome — and healthy-looking — brother of Pearl Bailey. Peter rolled up the living room rug, sat down at the piano, and played jazzy accompaniment for Bill, who turned out to be a tap dancing virtuoso. I was their sole audience. As we drove Bill back to the sanitarium, I wondered why he was there instead of starring on Broadway. Bravo, Bill, bravo!

Barbara Haddad Ryan (Member of OLLI and the OLLI Voices blog team)


Let’s Dance!

Lets Dance MK

I used to be an avid walker. I’m not sure what happened, but I noticed as I got older I wasn’t as anxious to hit the pavement as I used to be. I know what happens to sedentary bones, joints, and tissue. And don’t let me start talking about heart disease and dementia.  Still, I had my excuses: It’s too hot out. It’s too cold out, or I’m too tired or blah, blah, blah. Fortunately for me, I found a good replacement: line dancing. All it takes to get me up and moving is “cue music.

Line dancing is more than exercise. I’ve met interesting people from different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve gained better balance, coordination, and I don’t want to brag but, I CAN DANCE! Ever been to a wedding reception, beach party, or cool restaurant where music was playing and people were dancing and you wanted to dance but couldn’t because you didn’t know how? I have, and let me tell you, it sucks. The good part about line dancing is that it does not require a partner; everyone is on his/her own, so even if I don’t know the dance being done at the time, I know I can get out on the floor and learn it on the spot. Try to tell me that’s not a wild card in my pocket.

I’ve been line dancing now for about three or four years and I’m having so much fun I want everybody to try it. Once you learn the steps and terminology the dances are easy to learn. When you learn the dances all you have to learn is self control – so you won’t get cocky trying to show off all your cool moves every time you hear a dance tune.  Personally I hope to be dancing for the rest of my life and who knows, maybe one day you and I will share the same dance floor. Keep in mind that occasions to dance can pop up at any time. Don’t you want to be ready?

Pictured above are a few of the dancers from the Garner Senior Center’s Wednesday class.

Juke Joint Joe

Dance on, you well seasoned man.

Sip your sap and tip your tap in tune with the band

Stomp that twig and do your jig while the blood moves fast

Do it now; you know how. Your chances may not last

Boogie on before the juice is gone and all the music stops.

It’s no sin to grin and spin ‘til your funny bone pops

There may come sorrow on the morrow but until then

Bop; don’t stop ’till the jug has no more gin

Feast and dine at the table of mind shine round by round

Savor the fires before all expires for they shall die down

Dance on, you well seasoned man

Sip your sap and tip your tap while you still can

Mary King (OLLI Member)