East of Elmgrove

A Look Back

It was a good year. My family was healthy and as happy as one could expect. Our drafty house is still standing, and we finally repaired the front steps. My son Henry learned how to play “Bohemian …

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It was a good year. My family was healthy and as happy as one could expect. Our drafty house is still standing, and we finally repaired the front steps. My son Henry learned how to play “Bohemian Rhapsody’’ on the piano. (Mama, ooooh.) My other son Peder wrote a nice short story about an old man who trekked into the forest to die and did, inside a giant tree. My husband continued to cook our nightly meals, grand feasts that muted the world’s chaos. Oh, and the Red Sox won. Wow, what a series. A poster of Dustin Pedroia, the dogged leaper, is tacked to Peder’s door. I wanted to display it in the kitchen, but was overruled.

This year was also good because I got to write a bunch of columns for our great neighborhood magazine. Some essays were more memorable than others. Some were well-received by readers; a few were not. (I’m still trying to figure out what Dutch meant when he called me a “willfully ignorant ninny.’’) Many of my columns came to you compliments of the people who tolerated my prying questions – and that included my teenage sons. Thanks guys. I promise that from now on you get to read the columns before they’re published and have final say on any edits. Note to Peder: I will never call you my “beloved firstborn’’ again. Without further rambling, I offer abstracts on a few submissions from 2013.

I Don’t Appreciate That

I’ve always disliked confrontations, but lately I’ve been getting upset over things that I used to be able to shrug off. Maybe I’m getting old and cranky. Maybe the world really has gone wrong. But I’m an adult with children and should handle myself with more restraint. I’d like to thank Aaron Rodgers, QB for the Green Bay Packers, for setting me on my way.

I liked what he uttered on TV when a Packer fan told him he was short. Rodgers was ridiculed as a kid for his height, although he grew to be 6 feet 2 inches. That tactless comment on TV obviously bugged Rodgers, but instead of taking the guy down to the dirt, he shot back, “I don’t appreciate that.’’ Thanks Aaron for teaching me how to tell someone in a respectful way that he or she is out of line.

Stylist: “You really should cover your gray and, while you’re at it, tweeze your brows.’’
Me: “I don’t appreciate that.’’

Cheers
I like vodka. I like Russians. So does Pat Herlihy, an 84-year-old scholar of Russian culture and history and a vodka expert. She wrote a book called, Vodka, A Global History. It’s a delightful read, packed with all sorts of fun facts. Did you know that vodka can enhance virility? Funny, I thought it did just the opposite.

I interviewed Pat, a former East Sider who now lives in Boston, in her office at Brown University’s Wat- son Institute, an East Side gem. I did shots with her (just kidding) at a “vodka tasting” at Waterman Grille where she charmed the crowd with her knowledge of this most versatile of spirits. I suggest you buy her book. Better yet, try to meet her. She will dazzle you with her wit and warmth.

Emmanuel’s Books
International refugees who come here to escape war and political persecution remind me of real courage and how lucky I am to be living in America. Sure, we have plenty of problems – gun violence, for one – but this country offers so many opportunities for people willing to put in the long hours.

Emmanuel Logan fled a bloody civil war in Liberia years ago and landed in Providence, where his hard work and selflessness has paid off: He works in a group home and is also co-founder of a nonprofit group, IDEA, which collects school textbooks for his homeland.

Most of us take textbooks for granted, but Liberia is in so much chaos following the war classrooms make do with one textbook. That’s one textbook for 50-plus students. I have a pile of textbooks at home destined for Emmanuel. If you have books from high school and college that you’d like to do- nate too, please write him at springlr@yahoo.com.

Finally, I’d like to give my friends at Providence Granola Project – Beautiful Day a shout-out to thank them for their good work. The organization hires refugees to make and sell the best granola I’ve ever tasted. The group just came out with a granola bar that is perfect. It will melt in your mouth.

The founder is Keith Cooper, an East Sider who is quietly changing lives, one granola bar at a time. His organization is the real deal. These are not policy wonks writing up glossy reports unveiled at cocktail parties. He and his supporters are putting people to work – and what could be more valuable to a refugee than a job. The group has a cult following on the East Side. Now let’s help them spread their message to the world.