A Letter from the Fried-Cassorla's - 2015
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Dear family and friends,
Our 2015 was a good year -- and we hope yours was, too!
As I write this, Emma has just left L.A. (Glendale to be precise), after having visited Ben, Priya and our granddaughter Meera. Emma had a great time playing with Meera, and took her for a hike during which they practiced various vocal sounds. They're just like Tibetan throat-singers!
Emma is now in Florida with her boyfriend James, where they are visiting his family. In a few days, Ben Priya and Meera will be visiting us. Got to baby-proof the kitchen especially. Duct tape time. I will soon be polishing up Emma's old tricycle (bought by my Mom 33 years ago) for the new user.
Here we are! Left to right: Priya, Ben, Meera, James, Emma, Albert and Martha
Trip to Charleston and Savannah in October!
Martha and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Charleston, South Carolina and to Savannah, Georgia. In Charleston, we enjoyed the history of the city, as expressed in its lovely architecture, trees with hanging Spanish Moss, beautiful harbor, and incredible embedded stories. We took advantage of Two Sisters Tours, which were recommended to us by our friends Jean and Gail. In turn, we recommend them to you, should you visit.
We had one of the two ladies, Mary Helen Dantzler, and she did a magnificent job. We saw Cabbage Row (named Catfish Row in Porgy and Bess), St. Stephen's Church, and more. The harbor tour by boat on the Ashley River was fun and impressive. Among other notes, we were taught how the British tried to shell the US fortress there, and how their cannonballs simply disappeared into the sand. In one spot downtown, we saw malicious looking barbs on walls, used to protect the white people from slave revolts before the 1860's. At a major mansion we visited, the role of the original owner as a slave trader (not simply an owner) was skimmed over. It was as if to say: "Pay no attention to the horrible racist who built this place." Still, the mansion was impressive.
One highlight of our visit was seeing a performance of Little Shop of Horrors at the United States' oldest theater, the ... American history is still very much alive in Charleston. The city has become a great tourist attraction thanks to its mayor, who worked assiduously at developing that aspect. We also enjoyed Hyman's Seafood / Aaron's Deli, where the food was excellent and there is obvious pride in what they do.
In Savannah we enjoyed a tour of the Bonaventure Cemetery. A couple of remarkable graves are: what I call The Hoarder's Heaven, that of a man who collected all printed matter. A statue of him reading sits atop an underground monument that houses every but of print he hoarded during his lifetime -- not just books, but receipts, pieces of newspaper etc. Another remarkable person was the head of a children's hospital, who was also a runner and a very beloved person in her community. She is in jogging position in the park and looks joyful. However, she hung herself in her office. I don't know what to make of that except that people can be happy and beloved but still miserable. Perhaps Robin Williams' story has similarities.
Emma is still active at the Port!
Emma is still enjoying her job at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. There, she remains communications manager. Right now, as last year, she's in the midst of WinterFest, which is a great ongoing party with special features and attractions. She invites us to major events there, such as a New Years eve celebration held in part in a protected clear plastic tent. Last year, the weather was frigid. This year, who knows? We might be wearing bathing suits!
Emma brought a close to her extensive and popular blog, phillylovenotes.com, this year. But it continues as a legacy site.
She continues to make and sell paper-cut maps such as the one above and may even be expanding her map empire into strange new cities!
Emma was a speaker/moderator in Thinkfest 2015, a major event here. She moderated a panel on storytelling through technical innovation on the internet. You can see her onstage with her interviewees at www.phillymag.com/thinkfest/ There, you can click on the video and drag the cursor to the 6:04 mark to catch her part of the event.
We're so proud of our Ems!
Emma and James are going strong!
James Healey is Emma's boyfriend, and he is a delightful soul! They live in a loft apartment on the 12th floor of a former industrial building in Center City Philadelphia.
Emma and James hosted a great Thanksgiving dinner in their place. "'Twas joyful and filling!"
Benjamin and Priya are back at work and enjoying parenting!
Ben and Priya are great (it seems to us) at sharing parenting pleasures and responsibilities. Priya returned to work in this year, and things are going well there.
Meera is crawling actively and trying to get up on sofas and into cabinets. She loves to make noises and wave her hands at us -- today in person --since they are visiting as I write. At other times, it's all of the above during Facetime sessions, of which we have many! He greatest words are: da-da-da, ahh, ahh, and the memorable ooo-ooo. And the incipient: ma, ma, ma. We made two joint visits to California to see them this year, and Martha made one solo trip. As many of you have known for years, it's great fun being grandparents!
Ben has returned to music-making in a big way, minus long tours. He was treated by a wealthy producer to a long stay at a recording studio in Macon, Georgia. where he recorded with prominent studio musicians. The fruit of their collaboration may be revealed soon! Otherwise, Ben records, lays down tracks for other musicians, performs at some clubs, and composes. If you want to see some of his work, just google Ben Cassorla.
As I mentioned, Priya has returned to her fascinating work at Annapurna Pictures, where she works as a development person. As I mentioned last year, her work involves reading books and scripts and helping to decide what films to produce. She is great at her work and enjoys it. Their new film is Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro. Previously the company produced Her and American Hustle among other films. The company has a great reputation for producing quality movies. You can read more about them at their web site: wwwe.annapurnapics.com/main
Mini-Vacation during Robbie and Allegra's Wedding in Bridgehampton
We had a delightful time in Bridgehampton during the wedding of Robbie Whelan (our nephew, Peggy and Fred Whelans' son) to Allegra Ben-Amotz. We were with the extended Fried-Cassorlas, the Whelans, the Fried-Petersons and many others. The ceremony was superb, and so was the company, food and music. We wish the best to Robbie and Allegra, two wonderful young people!
Betty keeps on keepin' on at 93!
Betty Cassorla turned 93 on Valentine's Day, 2015! My Mom continues to live at our home where she has lived since 1957 in Bellmore, Long Island, NY. We talk almost every morning. And while her mind is not as sharp as it used to be, we still have good conversations. My brother Marshall regularly has Mormon volunteers visit, do household work and sing to her. Yes, this is unusual for an elderly Jewish lady -- but it's a good thing! We recently arranged for a volunteer from JASA to pay her regular visits.
Despite all of this, my Mom is in reasonably good health, with aches and pains of course. My brother Marsh still sets up two and three-way Skype sessions for my Mom and brothers. We have been singing to: "People will Say We're in Love," from Oklahoma and "Loverly" from My Fair Lady recently. If you want to hear my mom tell some of her stories, search on Youtube for Betty Cassorla, and you will find 9 or so.
We just had a party for her on December 27th, and it was a good get-together.
Betty welcomes visitors and phone calls. In fact, if you feel like it, give her a ring now at 1-516-781-3590.
Martha loves singing -- still in two choirs PLUS taking lessons!
In recent years, Martha has developed her singing skills and found plenty of ways to learn and perform. Martha has been singing regularly now with Singing City. She comes home hoarse in voice but happy after Tuesday night rehearsals.
Her former voice teacher, Cailin Matson, moved to New England, but she found a good instructor in Elizabeth Weigel. She takes lessons with her every week. Also, Martha sings with Germantown Concert Choir.
Martha continues to enjoy providing psychotherapy to patients in Jenkintown, where she maintains a private office, and in Center City (downtown). Also, she has a great and active Book Club based on our own 2 or 3 block area. They have great readings, discussions and chats every month.
I, Albert, have retired to a world of activities and learning!
In June, I retired after nine years of teaching in the Philadelphia school system, preceded by 25 years in advertising and journalism. Martha continues to work, and has no desire to retire. She may cut back her hours at some point.
People often ask me why I retired. I think they question my decision, partly from the sense that they enjoy working hard (in a regular job), and that I probably would too. I don't mind people questioning. In some sense, it shows they care. My answer to this is that there is a tremendous amount I want to do in life (see the list below), and being retired makes it possible. Other people believe that I do a great job with the students, they need me, and that I should continue full-time. That opinion is very flattering, and I appreciate it! I do love volunteering, and that helps me stay connected, contribute and "give back."
So here is what I have retired TO, in brief:
I greatly enjoyed the 2014-2015 school year. I organized a school-wide Poetry Slam which highlighted our students' amazing talents. You can watch it here:
Also, we produced one of our best ever Edison H.S. Literary Journals. My fellow teachers held a nice party for me in my classroom after school. More about that another time, maybe.
Attending university courses - a new passion!
I have been greatly enjoying courses at local universities. This fall, I took a great course on Ancient Greece by professor-Lecturer extraordinaire, Jeremy McIntyre. He spoke with great passion about the achievements and failures of the Greeks. The lectures covered early Mycenean civilization, the Age of Pericles, Greek drama, Athenian democracy, the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian Wars, the teaching and trial of Socrates, Alexander the Great (who was important and spread Green culture but who was a brutal dictator), and more. I will miss those twice-weekly lectures. The campus was also spectacularly pretty, especially in early autumn.
Arcadia University's Castle
Landman Library at Arcadia University
Another wonderful course was Fiction and Poetry Writing with Professor Jeff Ingram at Arcadia University. We had a great group of `15 or so students. The assignments were stimulating, and I got useful feedback. If you like, see of my resulting work here:
Next summer, I will take Greek and Roman Mythology at the University of Pennsylvania and History of Art from pre-history through the early Renaissance at Temple university's Main Campus. Both should, be great, and each institution is a short train ride away, all for just 85 cents a ride (senior rate) on a comfy commuter rail line.
Volunteering at Edison H.S.
Edison High School is in my mind and my system. I have many friends there among the faculty, and I get a lot of warm greetings from my former students.
So I have been volunteering, mainly in English classrooms, but also in Social Studies (I am dual certified). In English, I have helped students with their writings and taught partial lessons in Main Idea, The Casque of Amontillado (Poe), The Necklace (de Maupassant) and more. These visits are 90 minutes on one weekday and for two or three hours on another weekday. I also gave a well-received lesson on Ancient Greece. I based it on my visit there, including photos and videos.
Working for Bernie and enjoying it!
Martha and I are great supporters of Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who is committed to economic justice. He begins his honest crusade with a refusal to accept billionaire's money. Not surprisingly, the perception people have of his being honest is very high -- even among Republicans. People will concede he is honest, even if they disagree with them.
As other politicians and the media yak endlessly about terrorism, Bernie highlights the issues that count in everyday life: income inequality, a rigged economic system favoring the wealthy few, health care, fighting racism and climate change and improving education among other items. And so we have gone door to work with other volunteers, attended rallies and worked phone bank parties targeting Iowa and New Hampshire. It's worthwhile and even fun. For more info, check out wwe.berniesanders.com
The food pick-up center at Manna.
Once a year, we like to volunteer with Manna, an organization that helps indigent people, often with AIDS. This year we picked up hot food bundles and were given a car route that took us to West Chester, PA. There, we delivered food to people who were happy to receive it. Manna is extremely well-organized. You not only get food bags put into your trunk but also receive a detailed directions sheet with special notes about how to reach people via knocking on the door, cell phone, etc.
Visits to and from friends!
At Lincoln Center with Dan and Martha Ruffo, where we saw The King and I. "My" Martha played Anna in a production of it in 6th grade!
We had wonderful visits this year from Peggy and Fred Whelan, Dan and Martha Ruffo, Pamela and Larry Wilt (we met them at Longwood Gardens), Charlene Kahlor-Kramer and Roger Kramer, and Doug Burke. Charl and Rog took us outo te celebrate my never-ending birthday with a great evening at Tallulah's in cent3r city. Roger told a joke so uproarious that the people at the table next to us also cracked up. Doug helped celebrate my birthday and even attended a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania with me. In L.A., we had a delightful dinner with much catching up with Mark and Gina Zakarin.
We enjoyed Grounds for Sculpture with our friends Bill and Marie. It's in Hamilton, NJ, and is well worth a visit!
Staging plays and making movies
You're invited to a production on February 20th of my two short plays, Ariadne in Elkins and Does it Quack?
They will be performed at White Pines Productions in Elkins Park, a few blocks from our home. I will let you know how it goes. If you'd like to attend, shoot me an email to reserve at email@example.com .
Melrose Park Philosophy Club
Our Melrose Park Philosophy Club continues to ponder concepts such as chaos theory, philosophy of science and more. We have a wonderful group of folks gathering every two months or so for great conversation and camaraderie. Interested in attending or getting on our e-mail list? Do drop me a line!
This year's topics have included:
Philosophy of Language
What is consciousness? - Some of us will be seeing Tom Stoppard's play, The Hard Problem, soon. It deals with the same topic.
Melrose Park Neighbors Association
And the work of our Melrose Park Neighbors Association has been rewarding. Since 1990, we have been providing a good way to build the neighborhood, fight over-development, beautify the hood and more. Our new leader is the remarkably energetic and bright spirit, Caryl Levin. Over the years, we have: increased the sense of neighborliness; helped get a $2.6 million train station built, kept teens off railroad tracks with fences; reduced water pollution in our local stream Mill Run; planted flowers and much more.
For the full story, visit here: http://www.melroseparkneighbors.org Again, I recommend building or joining a neighborhood association as a great way to connect and accomplish much.
Lest we forget!
Here are some photos from yesteryear...
Elsie Fried, Lou and Betty Cassorla, and Stanley Fried -- the great ones!
Ben and Emma, circa maybe 1988, at Myers Elementary School playground.
I used to jog by, swing into the playground and twirl them around, then resume my run.
Weren't we lucky to be the parents of two such cuties?
Still close, today!
Do you recognize this girl, circa 1955?
Betty and Lou, circa 1944
My fifth Birthday Party, at our Brooklyn apartment at 732 Alabama Avenue.
My co-stars, left to right are: Sandy Cassorla, Meryl Camhi (Annibale). Kenny Cassorla, Roberta Cassorla (Wagner), and moi.
Happy New Year!
Here we are, celebrating too much at Penn's Landing!
Did someone ask for red berrries?
Well, that's it for now! Stay good and be as happy as you can possibly be!