Sunday, August 17, 2014

Five Milestone Birthdays: Celebrating at a Beautiful Family Lakeside Cottage.






This is the huge Pollock family, five of whom are celebrating big milestone -- the second number being zero -- birthdays. (As the attention-loving patriarch, I naturally grabbed the front and center spot with two grandkids, Aidan and Nathaniel.)

How old are the celebrants? Sorry, no can say. They have let me know in no uncertain terms that I should not dwell on numbers --  if I want to live that is, which I do. All I can safely say is that the numbers all end in zero.

Hard for me to believe, but my grey-haired son Greg recently turned -- cough, cough, choke, choke --  well, it's up there. My oldest kid practically a senior citizen! Greg's cousin Jimmy also turned the same number ending in zero. My wife Barbara will soon turn a zero number and my brother Vic's wife Marianne just reached the same number. My baby brother Reggie made the same age earlier with minimal fanfare.

These were the five milestone birthday celebrants.

That is a story in itself, starting with my planning a big birthday bash for my son Greg. But as I made calls to my four siblings, one after another reminded me that they also had a recent milestone celebrant -- and wanted in.

I'm gonna say no? I repeat: I want to live.

But first, I had to see if this was okay with Greg. He had no problem sharing. Thanks, Greg!

Next, I had to get a date that my son Greg and his wife Kelly could make, then one that I and my four younger siblings could make, and one that the cousins could make. 

What a job! I called and called. No date agreeable to all in June. Ditto in July. Finally, I came down to one final date, Aug 2. All could make it except for one cousin, Nanci, who lives in California. It came down to either that date or no date. I decided to go with the last-chance date, Aug. 2. 

Nanci was disappointed and so was I. Sorry, Nanci, I wanted you there; we all did. If it's any consolation, you were there in our thoughts -- and very much missed.

But all five Pollock siblings were there. With distances, five different schedules, and everybody busy-busy, that's no small achievement. Here we all were at the party, with Reggie and I showing off our Pollock sweatshirts.  


From left to right are Marion, yours truly, Victor, Reggie, and Ruby. I am the oldest. Reggie -- a birthday celebrant -- is the youngest. He is the baby brother that I taught to swim at three when we were in the same foster home in Stoneham, Mass. -- by hanging onto my neck for dear life.

All of us were abandoned and grew up in different, ever-changing, uncaring, often abusive foster homes without family of any kind. It is the basis of my e-book novel, "State Kid," a tome which took me years to write.

My new e-book, "Something Tells Her," is a short novel about the horrendous experience of a 12-year-old foster girl who runs away -- and builds a life entirely on her own, something that all five of us have done. 

Marion became a nurse who rose to Director of Nursing at a major hospital in Malden, Mass. Ruby became a social worker and today is the longtime Director of Social Services at Crescent Manor Rest Home in Millbury, Mass. -- though she is years beyond retirement age.

Vic served 24 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He retired as a stern, no-nonsense Drill Instructor. Yet he had no trouble serving as my "rock bitch" when we worked together building a good-sized stone wall at  his beautiful home in Sturbridge, Mass.

When I needed a big rock, I just yelled, "BITCH!!!" and Vic came running. He was back in no time with a  good rock. Here was a former tough-guy, U.S. Marine Drill Instructor happily doing what he was told.

The irony was delicious: I was a one-time U.S. Army soldier busted to private for telling a drill sergeant,  in front of the entire company, to "kiss my ass."

Building the wall, Vic and I had a great time, laughing practically nonstop. And when we had finished, lucky for us, wife Marianne "loved it," said Vic.

The only sibling not to graduate from college and earn an advanced degree is Reggie. He had no interest in college. Yet he has built just as successful a life as his siblings. A craftsman extraordinaire in both iron and wood, he has worked steadily at well-paying jobs.

Reggie and wife Jeanette have a nice home all paid for in a great New Hampshire neighborhood. He built an iron and wood bench for me that is a master's work and that has been on my deck for years. It's a keeper!

From no family, here are the five of us today surrounded by family. If that is not cause for celebration, I don't know what is. From weirdo ostracized "state kids," here we are leading full, happy lives and even considered "normal."

I hear groans. OK, OK already, so I'm not normal. I got it!

When the five of us get together, as we did on August 2, the bad old days do come up. And we marvel at where we are today and how long-gone those awful days are.

Now here are scenes from the Aug 2 party, starting with five cousins and spouses. From left to right in the back row are Linda, Jonathan, Greg, Glen, and Jimmy. In front are three spouses, Kelly, Patty, and Janet. Those smiles are real.



Above, big-smiling Jimmy and Emmalee head up the long lakeside dining  picnic table. The yakking and laughs were nonstop over tons of great food, most of it homemade. In sharp contrast to our early-days "state kid diet" -- pasta, half a glass of milk, no seconds -- we had a feast: baked ham, meatballs, salads, fresh fruit, homemade desserts galore.

It was all you can eat, of course.

 Now scenes from the party:

Vic and Porky take a nice long, l o n g break.

Reggie and Jeanette do a little fishing and looking.
Kelly's family, with little Dallas, enjoy.
Greg and Kelly hard at work floating.
Greg tosses around brother Jon's son Nathaniel.

Cam and buddies D.J. and Collin chill out.
James takes Aidan and Logan on a fishing expedition.


Now you're wondering, where is the group picture of the five milestone birthday celebrants and their beautiful birthday cake with all their names on it?

Good question. The answer is, I don't have one. What? Why? 

Whoa, calm down. Let me try to explain (or, if you prefer, make excuses).

Just as Greg's birthday turned on its own into a celebration of five birthdays, the same thing happened with the absence of a group photo of the milestone celebrants. Without anybody realizing it, the five-milestone party morphed into a celebration of the extended Pollock family.

That sort of thing seems to happen every time I try to plan something.

I had planned to line up the five milestoners outside with the beautiful lake in the background. I, the patriarch, would be the MC. Starting with Greg, I was going to go down the line, saying something about each and inviting others to do the same. In fact, James had written out what he was going to say about his dad Jimmy.

I was going to talk about Greg; how he was born in Kenya; how as an infant he miraculously survived two deadly diseases -- malaria in Kenya and dengue fever in Nigeria; how he has shown remarkable resilience all his life and giving plenty of examples. 

On hand was the basket he rode in all over East Africa as an infant. Inside the basket were photos of his Africa days and also a book, "Child of Africa," put together by his cousin Linda and me. I had planned to quote from it.

Of course, as I talked on, I imagined that everybody would be snapping photos of the five. Then we would present each with a little arbor vitae tree decorated with scratch tickets, bring out the cake, sing happy birthday, and then enjoy the rest of the day.

But it turned out that it was more convenient to do all this inside. The trees and cake would not have to be lugged out. It was more intimate. It would be over in a flash simply because of something bigger and more powerful than my patriarchy: the voice of the people.

The place was a joyful, noisy, out-of-control madhouse. I had to shout and wave my arms to get the place quiet. When things finally calmed down, I said, "First, this started off as a party for my son Greg. He is willingly sharing it with four others today. I looked at Greg and said, "Thank you Greg."

The place broke into loud applause.

Meanwhile James waved the paper of his planned remarks while shaking his head. He sensed that this was not the time nor place for a speech. I nodded my approval.

"Also," I said to the assembled group when they quieted down, "I'm only going to say two sentences."

The place erupted in wild  applause, louder than before.

The family had spoken: shut your mouth and sit down. I did what I was told.

In all the noise and chaos, the singing of happy birthday and presentation of gifts to the five was over in a flash. People rushed outside to  enjoy the day at Ruby's beautiful cottage.  In all the confusion, I forgot to get a photo of the birthday five.

But you know what? Even though nothing went as I had planned, it all happened for the best. It was a triumph of democracy that turned out to be a great day for our family. And I'm sure I can figure out a way to take credit for it.

I'd like to end by thanking a member of the family who made this great family gathering possible: my sister Ruby. Forty years ago, she spotted this cottage for sale, saw its potential, and bought it for $13,000.  Over the years, she has spent all kinds of energy and money maintaining it and making it what it is today. And, while still working full time, she continues to do so.

Here she sits at the cottage's new natural stone patio:


Thank you, Ruby.

So long and keep moving.

                                                       E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.







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Friday, June 20, 2014

Breaking Routine: Go Different Places, Do Different Things -- and Have a Happy Face..



Now these are happy faces, you agree? Is this just another ordinary day for them? Not likely -- unless they are routinely out in the street to welcome the President of the United States.

Here they were in downtown Worcester, Mass. jumping up and down and giggling like school girls when they saw President Obama's motorcade pull into the DCU Center where he would address the graduating class of 2014 at Worcester Technical High School.

With no VIP invite or ticket, I was also out there on the blocked-off streets swarming with police and Secret Service. But I was just as thrilled as these three women. This was an historic event for Worcester. I had my camera and I was snapping away.

Who knows, I thought, maybe security surveillance will mark me as a suspicious character and I'll be grabbed by Secret Service for questioning. What a story that would be! What pictures!

But no grim-faced cop or Secret Service agent came and hustled me off for questioning. I guess they just saw me as a harmless old guy with time on his hands and nothing better to do. Oh well, maybe next time.

Still, this was something -- out in the street observing a visit by a sitting President -- that I had never done. I went on the spur of the moment and it was fun. Not only was I witnessing an historic presidential visit, but I was documenting it with photos, such as the one above and these:




In being there for President Obama's arrival, I gave old man routine a swift kick in the butt and the bossy grouch didn't like it one bit. Who was I to break away from routine? I put my face in his and growled, me, that's who. Out were the same old people, places, sleep-walking sameness, if only for a few hours.

Even the modern good life, which is what I have, is complex, demanding, and requires constant planning. It does not permit routine-breaking things to just happen. It works 24-7 to keep us in line. No matter how successful we are, no matter how much money we have, we easily fall into boring, same-old, stifling, habits.

What seems oh-so-comfy, however, is really a powerful barrier to anything new and different. It's a kind of solitary imprisonment without our even knowing it.

Regularly breaking out of routines, in my not so humble opinion, is important in taking the good life to a higher, more fulfilling level. When I got a call recently from my friend at a local advertising agency asking if I and my wife Barbara would be willing to play background, non-speaking, non-paid roles in a Honey Dew commercial, we didn't hesitate.

We jumped at it. 

What about the already crowded schedule? We made the time.

Neither one of us had ever done such a thing. It turned out to be a fun and enlightening new experience, which I wrote about here. The ad ran on major TV networks. You can see it on You Tube. I am the Bingo Master in the background.

And wouldn't you know, I recently got another call for a short speaking role in a TV commercial for a large, well-established Worcester used-car dealership, Linder's Inc. A speaking role!

Of course, I said yes. I told everybody that this was going to be my big breakthrough. I got lots of laughs and eye rolls. But I was also giving old man routine another swift kick in the rear end.

In the ad I and a couple of pretty young women took turns extolling the used-car buying experience at Linder's Inc. Following are  a couple of photos of the ad shooting.






I just heard that the script, including my speaking part, was dumped. But I still made it into the new TV ad. I'm the handsome guy getting into his hot Linder's sports car. The ad is running during televised Red Sox games. See it on You Tube.

Being a part of this TV ad was a new, fun, educational experience -- and a huge break from routine. I also got a $100 gift certificate. I got paid! And the team at Davis Advertising says that a speaking role for me is only a matter of time. Yes!

Earlier this month, I did something else out of the ordinary. (Are you beginning to wonder if I have any routine life at all? Well, I do.) I got an invitation to a Golden Graduate reunion at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. where I graduated in 1962.

Yes, 1962, 52 years ago this month!

Barbara and I decided instantly to go. If going back to days a half century ago is not a break in routine, I don't know what is. Oh, the memories that came flooding back.

It was 1958 and I was 20. I had just finished two years in the U.S. Army  and was determined to go to college no matter what. With no parents -- I grew up in foster care -- and no money, I had no idea how I was going to pull this off. I applied anyway and got accepted.

Then a miracle: The National Defense Education Act of 1958 which, as a veteran, qualified me for a U.S. Government loan of $3,000. It was enough to get me an off-campus apartment, pay the first semester tuition, buy an old used car, and feed and clothe myself for a few months. I dove into studies and made the varsity ice hockey team as a freshman.

Unfortunately, toward the end of the first semester, I was out of money.  Second semester tuition was due and I had no way to pay it.

Then another miracle. A week before the end of the first semester, Father Paul  Thibeau, the Athletic Director, called me into his office. He handed me a letter and said, "A four-year full-tuition athletic scholarship, congratulations."

An impossible dream come true!

The scholarship, plus working part time in the student union operating the telephone switchboard as well as working in the deli of a nearby supermarket, got me financially through the four years at Merrimack. My grades were good enough to get me a Research Associate appointment at UMass Amherst and free tuition while earning a Master's Degree.

In my year at UMass Amherst, I did research for a leading scholar on Africa, Dr. Gwendolyn Carter. That got me interested in the Dark Continent. Soon, with a new bride, I was off to teach for three years in Kenya and Nigeria.

How about that for going somewhere new?

In Nigeria, I taught in Maiduguri way up in the north where Boko Haram, the fanatical, ultra-violent Islamic sect now terrorizing all of  Nigeria, originated. As I write this, they are holding a couple of hundred school girls hostage.

My students were all Muslims and totally indifferent to learning. Afternoons I would see them sitting cross-legged by the side of the road with the Koran, heads bobbing, mumbling prayers over it. This was where the present horrors originated. I saw it firsthand. I understand it.

These were just a few of the memories that flooded back as Barbara and I had a fabulous lunch and chats with fellow graduates of Merrimack classes 1951 to 1963. (Merrimack was founded in 1947.) The President of Merrimack, Dr. Christopher E. Hopey, visited each table, welcoming and chatting with Merrimack's earliest graduates.

I looked for graduates of my year, 1962, but did not see a single one. They must have found out I was coming.

We were given a tour of a beautiful 220-acre campus where 75% of students live on campus and come from all across the U.S. and around the globe. Here are photos from the reunion:

The driver kindly took this picture of the tour group.  I'm up front with my Merrimack College hat on.

This is our table with my empty chair front and center, which is appropriate since I kept leaving to wander around, snooping and taking pictures. Barbara is at far left. She socialized with all, but especially so with the woman next to her. She is Mary Rae, 85, graduate of Merrimack class of 1951.

Barbara had noticed her walk in with her husband and thought "how great" she looked.

Mary Rae said that when she first saw Barbara, she "knew instantly" that she wanted to talk to her. And talk they did.

"She was just so fascinating," Barbara said. "And she had learned so much about what's important in life, what's not, and how to be happy."

Barbara summed up Mary Rae's prescription for happiness this way:

Don't take things personally. Don't let anything people do or say hurt you. You are better than that. You are who you are. Don't sweat the small stuff; life is too short. Don't hold on to things! Let them go! Whatever comes your way, deal with it and move on. Don't try to be what others think you should be. Be true to yourself. Don't let anybody make you feel less than you are. Just be who you are!

I would add: regularly give old man routine a swift kick.

So long, and keep moving.


NOTE: I have a new short novel, Something Tells Her. Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring, and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, rears back and kicks him you-know-where. Leaving him grabbing his crotch and yelping like a hurt dog, Jane runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive?  The E-book, is now available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 



                                   
                         Other Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
 







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Friday, May 16, 2014

Honoring Body Donors: Medical Students and Families Commemorate Anatomical Donors.


The auditorium at UMass Medical School in Worcester, Mass. was packed. Families were there to remember loved ones who had donated their bodies for medical research. Medical students, class of 2017, who had learned from the bodies of these donors, filled the upper balcony.

As a show of their appreciation,  the medical students had organized this donor commemoration. In the photo below, after a reading of the names of donors followed by a moment of silence, the medical students gave donors  a rousing round of applause.


My wife Barbara and I were at the invitation-only event because a dear friend had donated her body, and I myself am a future donor. Way back in 2000, after discussing it with Barbara, I trooped down to the UMass Medical School and signed up to be a donor.

When I die, Barbara will place a call to Dianne Person, Associate Director of the Anatomical Gift Program. If my body qualifies, and not all do, Dianne will set the process in motion and oversee the pickup of my body.

She will also tend to Barbara's emotions. She will walk hand in hand with her through the Anatomical Gift Program experience. And the body of the late George Francis Pollock III will become available for anatomical studies for from one to two years.

However, as Dianne well knows, I have ambitions to be, shall we say, a different kind of cadaver. The current practice is strict anonymity, which I fully respect -- except that I like attention. I would like medical students to know my name, who I am, why I donated my body. I'd love pictures of me all over the anatomy lab.

Dianne, I'm working on a video of my life that could be shown to medical students before they delve into my innards. Can we discuss?

My cadaver ambitions are laid out in my E-book, I,Cadaver, available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

In 2000, Dianne Person had been on the job only five months. But in the years since, I have interviewed her for stories and we have become good friends -- though for some reason that is beyond me, she does not always take me seriously. Oh, well, Barbara and I still feel a part of the UMass Medical School family.

Arriving just as the program was about to begin, I spotted Dianne and an important looking gentleman standing down front and to the side of the auditorium. I brashly went right up to her.

Hugging, laughing, we forgave each other for not calling or writing. Then she introduced me to the gentleman, Dr. Douglas Cotanche.


"This is my new boss," she said.

We shook hands. "I'm a cadaver in process," I said.

To my surprise, he laughed.

"I know you're getting ready to go on, so I'll go," I said to Dr. Cotanche.  "Where is the cadaver section?"

He laughed again, harder.

Dianne's new boss has a sense of humor.

Then, as the memorial began,  I learned something else about Dr. Cotanche, pictured at right: he is a caring, emotional man.  Reading  a remembrance that a donor family -- at the last minute -- had begged him to read, he was deeply moved.

His voice broke. Tears welled up.

"Sorry," he said. He took a few moments to compose himself and then he went on.

The first donor family speaker was another old friend, Marybeth. Her mom -- Mary H. in the donor directory, for privacy, last names are not given -- died last year at the age of 98. As she wished, she became a body donor to UMass Medical School. Dianne handled it, comforting Marybeth every step of the way.


Marybeth, left, spoke of her mom: of her love of life, her caring, her sense of humor, and -- perhaps most unusual of all -- her utter rejection of standard thoughts about old age. Mary was forever young, not just in her way of thinking, but in her daily life.

At the age of 68, she took up skulling or competitive rowing, Marybeth said. She was also a serious long-distance runner. Marybeth told the gathering that her mom still holds the 85-and-older Senior Olympics title for the fastest ten miles.

Marybeth said that being a donor made her mom happy. She ended her commemoration saying: "Not only did she get to go to college, she also got to go to medical school."

With that, Marybeth left the podium to smiles and chuckles throughout the auditorium. For more about Mary, her values, active lifestyle, and additional photos, see this story.

Marybeth was followed to the podium by five other family members reflecting on a donor: Mary Warbasse, Colleen Turner Secino, Nora Keil, Heather Allston and Judy Hallee.

They told why their family member was a donor. They described what the family member was like in life: their humanity, individuality, quirkiness, and, yes, sometimes told in funny anecdotes. 

When they were done, there was not, as they say, a dry eye in the place.

Next up were reflections from medical students, class of 2017, Robby Martin and Kate Singer. (Robby's reflections were read by Courtney Temple, class of 2017.) They had just finished their first year in which dissecting and learning from cadavers is critical to their understanding of the human body.

A medical student's first intimate encounter with the human body can be intimidating, even traumatic.  But, judging from their remarks, the students handled it remarkably well. Also, to them, their cadavers were clearly not  lifeless blobs of tissue.

They were human beings, people who had lives and families and histories. In donating their bodies, they had done a caring, generous, and wonderful thing. To these medical students, it was clear, their cadavers were heroes and heroines to whom they will always owe much to as doctors.

Still, while respecting and observing the privacy of donors -- no last names, the rigorous anonymity -- the medical students can't help but be curious about them:  who they were, where they came from, how they lived, what they were like ... and on and on.

After the memorial, we all repaired to a large adjoining area for lunch. I immediately noticed an elderly couple sitting alone. The gentleman was holding a big bunch of flowers. Curious, I went over to their table.

"Great flowers," I said. "What's the occasion?"

"Nothing," the man said. "They just gave them to me, that's all."


Albert, 94, is donating his body to UMass Medical School. His wife Ann says she has not yet decided. At only 100, she said she is in no hurry. 

And then who did I run into next?  None other than Mike Doyle, Dianne's colleague and for nearly eleven years the Manager of the Anatomy Lab -- where my body will be going some day. He is also a friend. It was nice seeing him while I am still alive and kicking.

Mike spends most working hours in the  secretive, public-not-allowed chamber where medical students dissect human bodies. You would expect him to be suspicious, slightly weird, maybe a little ghoulish, and certainly close-mouthed.

Instead, having known Mike for several years now, I can tell you that he is none of these.  As you can see in the photo at left, he is warm and friendly. He laughs at my fantasies of having my time in the anatomy lab be all about me and my life.

Mike is a family man and the proud father of three  daughters whose photos he readily shows off. There is nothing weird about Mike Doyle.

He is, however, just as passionate as Dianne  about protecting the dignity and privacy of donors. Once donors arrive at his anatomy lab, they become “patients,” following the example of Dr. Sandy C. Marks, founder of the Anatomical Gift Program.

For the first-year medical students introduced to a cadaver for the first time, it is their “first patient.”

Mike tells future doctors that these patients deserve the best possible treatment. How they treat this first patient is a good predictor of how they will treat patients later when they are doctors, Mike says.

Take care Mike. Great seeing you while I'm still vertical! When you get my bod, I hope you change your mind about not playing my video in the anatomy lab. I'm sure the medical students would love it!

At the post-memorial luncheon, some medical students joined us at our table. All were warm, open, and quite willing to talk about their dissecting experience. Once again that deep respect for their cadavers came out, but so did their wish to know more about them.

One of them, Michelle Gillespie, in conversation with my wife about aging, happened to mention one of the donors being a 98-year-old woman whose body was in great shape. "It was incredible how fit her body was," she said.

Barbara perked up. "That had to be Mary," she said. "Her family is right there," she said, pointing to the next table. "Would you like to talk with them? I'm sure they would love to talk to you."

Michelle was wide-eyed. "Yes," she said immediately. "I'd love to."


Barbara brought her over, introduced her, and Marybeth and her family were overjoyed. What a lucky coincidence!  Enthralled, Michelle and Mary's family spent the rest of the luncheon exchanging stories about Mary, the wonderful mom and fit-as-a whistle cadaver.

The photo above shows medical student Michelle Gillespie, center, in blue dress, chatting with Mary's family long after the place had emptied.

Also at the memorial was Albert B. Southwick, an historian and writer with a regular column in the Telegram and Gazette. His latest column, on May 15, was about the Anatomical Gift Donors Memorial Service. His late sister, Sarah, 97, had donated her body.

Early in the column, Mr. Southwick wrote: "A remembrance and tribute to those who have contributed their bodies for medical research may seem macabre. Could any such occasion be uplifting, moving, respectful and almost spiritual? It was all that and more."

He ended the column with an answer to a question that he knew had to be on the mind of every reader: "And yes, I will donate my body. You can bet on that."

So long and keep moving.



NOTE: I have a new short novel, Something Tells Her. Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring, and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, rears back and kicks him you-know-where. Leaving him grabbing his crotch and yelping like a hurt dog, Jane runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive?  The E-book, is now available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 


                                   
                         Other Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
 















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Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Star is Born: I am in a Honey Dew Commercial Now Playing on ABC and Fox Television.

It all came about when I got a call from Barbie, an old friend who works at Davis Advertising, a longtime family-owned local company. She said that Davis was doing a new TV commercial for Honey Dew and asked if my wife Barbara and I would be interested in playing small back-up roles.

Millions of TV viewers with their eyes on me! Of course I said yes! Almost immediately, I felt myself being lifted up into the national limelight. Finally, at age -- cough, cough -- my time had come! Barbara  agreed to go along with my latest escapade in delerium.

We showed up at Davis and met the other "actors" with background, non-speaking roles. We immediately clicked and I took a group selfie.


This was the first selfie I had ever taken. I think it came out great, but only because Barbie, shown in the bottom middle, was telling me how to do it and guiding my hand all the way. Barbara is in the center. Jeff and Lydia are at the top, and Allison beside Barbie.

As soon as we met, Jeff and I immediately started joshing each other. I made fun of his beard and he made fun of my bald head. Here is a photo of Jeff and me together.



We were ushered into the large room where the commercial would be filmed. The young director, also named Jeff, placed us in a scene depicting elders playing bingo and drinking coffee. While everybody else got just sitting roles, Jeff picked me to be the background Bingo Master. Aside from the main actors, I was the only one to be moving and in full view.

Jeff explained what he wanted me to do: point to winning numbers and then to winning players. Seeing the Bingo Master as a central character, I immediately gave him some life -- dancing around, shooting an invisible gun at numbers, then snapping an upraised palm at winners.

"Tone it down, George," Jeff said.

"Okay."

I tried to tone it down. But over and over, Jeff kept saying, "Tone it down." He said so matter-of-factly and without a touch of annoyance. In take after take, Jeff was the same way with the other actors. I was impressed. So this is how a professional director works, I thought. Cool.

Finally, Jeff came back to me and demonstrated exactly what he wanted me to do. Reluctantly, and seeing no other alternative, I did what I was told.

Here is a photo of me rehearsing my role:


In between takes, at the back of the room, I had a great inside view of the process of making a TV commercial. It was so interesting, so natural, so brimming with cooperative creativity. I couldn't help myself; I had my camera; I just had to take a video; and I did.

Jeff is a perfectionist. He knows what he wants and, doing take after take, he keeps going until he gets it. We arrived at 9 A.M. and didn't get out of there until about 2:30 P.M. But the time flew by because it was all so different, interesting, and fun. Yes, fun!  We had a lot of laughs, caught in my video.

Now would you like to see the finished Honey Dew TV ad and my behind-the-scenes video of it being made? I thought so. Well, to make it easy for you, I have uploaded them both to my account on You Tube. Here is the link.

Thank you, Barbie, for asking us to play these little roles in the Honey Dew ad. It was a blast -- and educational. Thank you, Jeff, for your patience, determination, and great technical and creative skills in pulling this ad together. Watching you work was a privilege.

And now, with my Bingo Master character out there -- though toned down -- I know it's only a matter of time before I get a call for my next, bigger, untoned-down role.

Come on phone, ring!

So long and keep moving.



NOTE: Something Tells Her, my new e-book, is now available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 

Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, a sexual advance from her latest foster parent, she screams "NO!" and runs out the door. Twelve years old, on the street, alone, no family, nobody, no money, how can she possibly survive? She can't -- except that Jane  is no ordinary foster kid. She doesn't understand "can't." Read excerpts.





                       Other Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
 


 


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Nantucket on Foot: Walking Around the Storied Island on a Beautiful Pair of Legs.



Now that's a beautiful pair of legs ... and they're mine!

Wait --  hold your fire! I'm not the one saying they are beautiful.

"Beautiful" was how my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Dennis Burke, described them a couple of weeks ago in his office at Mass General in Boston. I was there for my regular 5-year check-up on the double knee replacement that he did for me ten years ago.  

After X-rays and a two-hour wait -- Dr. Burke's rep is such that he is always swamped -- he welcomed me with his natural, big smile.

"How have you been doing?" he asked.

"Great, playing tennis, running full out on the court, played this morning."

"Let's have a look," he said, clicking on the computer and pulling up the X-ray of my knees.

 Leaning forward, he took his time, studying, and studying. I was getting nervous.

Finally, Dr. Burke turned to me, smiled, and said, "Beautiful. They look just as good as when I put them in ten years ago. Have you had any problems?"

"None. I don't even think about them. Thank you, thank you."

"Great, we'll see you in five years," he said, shaking my hand. And then he was out the door. I was in his office about ten minutes. For Dr. Burke, it was just another big success. For me, it was not only a life-changer, but a life-saver.

But this story is not about my beautiful knees, well not exactly anyway, though feel free to tell everybody  that I have great legs. It's about doing something that double knee replacements have made possible -- hiking for miles around the storied island of Nantucket, in off season, without a tourist in sight.

I was in Nantucket visiting my friend Bill, who lives on the island. He and I go back some 25 years and we "get" each other. By that, I mean that we both know and accept that the two of us are, shall I say, "different." For example, I was in Nantucket on my own, without my good wife Barbara, but with her full support.

Bill went off with me every day while his good wife Tracy cooked for us and let me take over the entire living room as my VIP suite. As I write this, Bill has just left for Nicaragua with a Nantucket friend for a full month, doing so with Tracy's full love and support.

They are back-packing it. They have no schedule. They don't know where they will be staying, where they will eat or what. They aren't sure they will be able to communicate in this Spanish-speaking land.  Bill has been trying to learn basic Spanish. On our early-morning swims at Nantucket High School, he counted his laps in Spanish.

Wondering how Bill is doing in a completely alien land and culture, I called him on his cell phone. There was no answer. So I left a message: "Bill, I'm worried. You okay? You want me to send somebody for you?"

I called him a couple of weeks later. Again, no answer. If I know Bill, I'm sure he doesn't want to listen to any crap from me or anybody else from the outside world, good wife Tracy excepted. Still, I left another message:

"Bill, you okay? Got a place to sleep? Are you hungry? Had enough? You know, I'll be happy to send somebody to get you." Pause. "Hope you're having a great time, Bill." 

No reply, so far.

Now the story of our five days together in Nantucket, with pictures.


Here's Bill on our morning hike with his dog Jackie leading the way. Jackie knows exactly where she is going and keeps looking back to make sure we are following. By the time we walk Jackie, Bill and I had already been swimming laps for an hour at Nantucket High.

In the boy's locker room one morning, I was made to feel like a celebrity. Bill introduced me to a friend of his. When he heard my name, his face lit up. "George Pollock! Sure I know the name, Captain George Pollock of the Essex."

He gave me a hearty handshake. "It's a famous name here in Nantucket."

I puffed up.

Every morning, Jackie was met by a play pal, below. As soon as they see each other, they start jumping around and yelping. The dog is totally friendly, but gives me a curious look that says, "What are you doing here, off-islander?"



Below is a scene on our morning hike.  Newcomers to Nantucket are always amazed at all the open space and forests.  Some two thirds of the island is forest with a large deer population.




Below is the Whaling Museum where I went one afternoon for a terrific free presentation by Alfie Sanford, sailor and explorer, on his adventures sailing across the Atlantic


The audience was mostly older and probably all-year-round residents, except for me. This was the winter off-season, a quiescent time with no tourists and when the some 9,000 all-year-rounders have the island to themselves. In the summer, the island is overwhelmed by tourists.



When the presentation was over, I stopped at the front information desk of the Whaling Museum. I was curious about this famous Captain George Pollock of the Essex. Given my crazy background of prolific breeding Pollocks, we could be related.

 "I have a question," I said to a woman at the desk. "I heard there was a famous George Pollock in Nantucket history."

"Yes," she said immediately, "Captain George Pollock of the whaling ship Essex that was rammed and capsized by a large whale. It was the inspiration for the book "Moby Dick."

 "Whoa," I said. I thought: What Bill's friend said was true!  But I wanted to make sure.

"How was Captain Pollock's name spelled?"

"P-O-L-L-A-R-D," she said.

I was both sorry and glad I asked.

I also learned that Captain Pollard was no hero. Far from it. After the sinking of the Essex he lost another whaling ship. It was even more horrific with many lives lost as the ship drifted aimlessly and starving crew members resorted to cannibalism. Captain Pollard ate some of his cousin.

Captain Pollard survived, but lived out his life as a despised, lonely Nantucket figure who worked as a night watchman. Now I just have to make sure Nantucket people know that I am NOT George Pollard, but George Pollock.

Back to footing it around Nantucket. I had heard about the erosion taking place on Nantucket's east coast of Sconset and one day Bill, Tracy, and I drove out there and walked around. It's an area of big, high-priced, ocean-front homes where the erosion has taken a great toll.


We walked past propped-up ocean-front mansions in the process of being moved. We stood on empty spaces where some had already been moved and could look down at the massive erosion eating away at the ocean front.

Above, Bill is with another visitor to the area. And wouldn't you know, but yours truly went to the edge and started jumping up and down for the camera.

Tracy was horrified. "Stop that, George," she quickly said. "That's dangerous. The ground could just give way."

I stopped. When a responsible adult like Tracy tells me to do something, I do it. Also, I do want to live.
  
In the town of Sconset, Bill pointed out the famous sundial home. The dial is shown behind us. It has no moving parts, Bill explained, and yet keeps accurate time from  shadows made by the sun. The sundial has been a fixture and popular tourist attraction for decades.

One day, Bill, Tracy, their son Tyler, and I went to a very unusual gathering, to say the least. It is called a Soup Party and it has been happening at the same couple's home for 23 years.

The couple is at left. I don't have their names because they were so busy they couldn't talk to me. Nobody I talked to could pronounce their names, much less spell them. (If anybody can, let me know at pollock.george@gmail.com and I'll print them and give you full credit.)

The couple started the party to break up the Nantucket winter for year-round residents, to give them something to do, to let them see and talk to other human beings.

The Soup Party is not advertised. Word spreads by word of mouth. You have to be invited by somebody who is going. I got to go only because Bill and Tracy invited me.

In other words, no one, not even the hosts, knows who is going to be there. And every year people show up and meet each other for the first time. The party is called a Soup Party, and there was a huge pot of chicken/veggie soup on the stove, but everybody brought food and it was as feast!

The place was packed, boisterous, and with no apparent plan. It was all meet, yak, eat, and be merry. I heard a woman talking about a young guy sitting by himself eating. "That's Toby. He's a Nantucket Selectman," she said.

I went over to him. "Hi, Toby, I'm an off-islander just visiting and I heard somebody say that you are a Nantucket Selectman."

"I am."

"Kind of young, aren't you."

"I guess so."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-six."

"Twenty-six! I have a kid twice your age!"

Toby said he had lived all his life on Nantucket and felt unbelievably privileged to be a Selectman. But with constituents waiting to talk to him, my chat with him had to be a quick and was.

I noticed a fellow sitting by himself and, surprisingly, not talking to anyone. I went over and introduced myself. "Hi, I'm an off-islander just visiting."


"Same here," he said. "I live in Brookfield."

"A couple of outsiders, how about that?"

We exchanged names. His name is Tom. He said he was 46, married, with three kids high school through college age.

He thought he was old.

"Old? I have a kid older than you. My oldest son is going to be 50 on April 10."

He looked like he didn't believe me. Anyway, we talked and he said that his longtime employer had laid him off and he was in the process of reinventing himself. I gave him my card and he gave me his e-mail.

It was great talking with you, Tom.

When Bill and Tracy had things to do (that is, excuses to take a break from me), I was on my own. I walked for hours all around the center of Nantucket. Here are photos of scenes that caught my eye:



This last photo is of a long line of people waiting to get on the Hi Line, or fast ferry, off island to Hyannis. I take the slow ferry which is half the price and takes more than twice the time. Yes, I like the lower price, but I find the slow ferry relaxing and enjoyable, a welcome change from our usual time-constrained, hurry-up way of life.

Well, that was my getaway to Nantucket, mostly on foot with those beautiful legs given to me by Dr. Dennis Burke of Mass General in Boston. Thank you, Dr. Burke. Thank you, Bill and Tracy. Thank you, Barbara. Thank you, Nantucket, for the historic island of natural wonder and beauty that you are -- and for welcoming an off-islander like me.

Now I have to call Bill in Nicaragua and offer to go there and rescue him.

So long and keep moving.



NOTE: Something Tells Her, my new e-book, is now available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 

Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, a sexual advance from her latest foster parent, she screams "NO!" and runs out the door Twelve years old, on the street, alone, no family, nobody, no money, how can she possibly survive? She can't -- except that Jane  is no ordinary foster kid. She doesn't understand "can't." Read excerpts.





                       Other Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
 











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