Saturday, March 29, 2014

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

Okay, I have to be honest here. I was doing my utmost to star in the commercial, but failed.

But I did play a small role in a new Honey Dew commercial now playing mornings in New England on ABC and Fox television. It was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a commercial for network TV.

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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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Big Snowstorm! Time to Be Sensible -- or to Play in the Snow?

It was 5:45, Wednesday, February 5. Always an early riser, I was sitting at the kitchen  table having my usual oatmeal, half an orange, and black coffee and looking out the front window and marveling at the free-fall snow, cloaking the outdoors in pure white and turning it into a masterpiece of nature.

I was dying to get out there. To shovel the driveway and front walk? No, to play in the snow.

Here I am waving goodbye to my  grown-up, understanding, super-caring wife.



She had made sure  I was wearing long underwear, had my scarf on, and had warm gloves. She noticed that there was a hole in the left thumb. "You going to be warm enough with that?" she asked.

"I'm good."

"You sure?"

And I was off into a winter wonderland.

The big storm was no surprise, that's for sure.  TV weather mavens had been warning us of the storm for days and scaring the crap out of people. It's going to be eight inches to a foot, they said. Stores are going to be closed; so unless you want to starve, stock up on food.

Don't drive; the roads will be too dangerous and you could easily get run over by a monster plow.  In fact, don't go outside at all. There's ice under all this snow; one false step and you crash and land on your head.

Maybe get a little healthy exercise with  some light shoveling. However, do not, do not overdue it.  Bottom line, this is a dangerous storm;  don't take any chances with it -- unless you want to die.

Was I scared? Hah! Just a couple of weeks before, I took a dive playing tennis and ended up in the emergency room getting six stitches in my hand and bandages on my face and knees. Big deal.  I'm healing and couldn't wait to get out in the middle of this great big beautiful storm.

And, best of all, it looked like I, moi, would likely have this winter wonderland to myself  except for  monster plows acting like they own the road. Hey, guys, you got it all wrong. I own the road, not you.
You work for me so ... so ... stay out of my way!

And then I was out in a paradise of natural beauty.

Well, I think it's beautiful.  I especially like the words on this license plate, "The Spirit of America."  To me, I am out here in the same spirit of our forebears who explored and tamed a wild and unknown continent and made it what it is today.  Or. you are probably thinking,  I am a crazy old man out in this storm because he doesn't know any better?

Let's vote on it. If you think I'm in the spirit of America, raise a leg. Please, raise a leg. I'm waiting.  Sorry, we have to move on.  If you think I'm just a crazy old man, raise a leg.  OMG!  An army of legs!

Well, here's what I have to say:  You're all dead wrong!  I'm in the true spirit of America and all the rest of you are ... are.... No, I'm going to calm down and not let this get to me.

Instead, let me introduce you to a soul mate I met out in the storm.    Except for two people walking dogs, she was the only other person I saw out walking. Here she is:


"Hi," I said with a smile, "what are you doing out on a day like this?"

She smiled back. "Good morning, I'm going to work. I live on the hill up there and didn't want to drive down in this."

"That makes sense," I said, now walking on the road beside her.  "Where do you work?"

"Oh just down the road.  We have an office where that big elderly sign is."

"I know right where it is.  So you work with the elderly?"

"Not really.  We do counseling for  anybody who needs it."

"Hey, how about that?" I said brightly. "Counseling. Here I am out here in this storm and just what I need. How's that  for timeliness?"

She laughed. And then, reading my expression, she beat me to what I was about to say. "I guess I could use a little counseling myself."

We both had a good laugh.  I  told her I was writing a story about the storm, gave her my card, and asked if I could take her picture.

"Sure," she said, posing for the camera.

 "Send me an email," I said, "and I'll have your name and make sure you see the story."

So lady, where's your email?  (Just kidding.)

Next the Donut Cafe, pictured below, where I go on big snowstorms.


Normally the Donut Cafe is packed mornings, but today there were just me and a couple of other guys, regulars from nearby.  The two waitresses had little to do but look out at the storm. "We'll probably close early," said the owner, who is shown in the photo clearing snow.

I took a seat by the window. I call it the VIP table and the waitresses go right along with it without missing a beat.  I ordered black coffee and raisin toast with a little jelly on the side. I sat there munching, sipping, flirting with the waitress waiting on me.

"I hope Lisa is not going to be jealous," I said with a concerned look.  Lisa is another waitress who was not there. She tapped my wedding band and, with faux seriousness, said, "Lisa's not the problem, that's a problem, a big problem. You're married."

We both had a good laugh.

From my VIP spot, I marveled at the snow packed scene outside -- which  included an animal looking in right past me.  He was totally uninterested in me. My feelings were a little hurt.


"Hi buddy.  Good boy.  Isn't all this snow great?"

He didn't even look at me. His eyes were fixed on his owner inside.

On the trek home, I saw a few people shoveling. But  I met not a soul on the road out for a walk and a magical time.

This beautiful snow storm was all mine!

So long and keep moving.


NOTE: Something Tells Her, my new e-book, is now available on 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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Friday, January 24, 2014

Tennis Player Down! A Very Different Trip to the Emergency Room -- Enjoyable.


Me with three pretty girls -- whoa, how sweet is that?  

I had just taken a wicked fall on the tennis court at the Greendale Y in Worcester -- and was on a stretcher about to be taken by ambulance to the UMass emergency room. My wife Barbara was on her way to meet me there.

So what's with all those happy faces? 

Impressed with how quickly and responsibly the Y first aid staff responded -- inspecting damage, cleaning open wounds, bandaging, checking for concussion, looking to my every need -- I thought a break in all the seriousness would be good for all.

After the two paramedics had loaded me on the stretcher, I put up a halting hand. To the assembled Y first aid staff, I said, "Wait. Here I am going off to the emergency room in an ambulance. Want to make me feel better? How about if you three pretty girls come over here and take a picture with me?"

I held up my cell phone.

Instantly, a male staffer said, "I'll take the picture."

Lu Lu, Danielle, and Christina looked at each other, giggled, and gathered around me. They sent me off to the emergency room with those big, heartfelt smiles you see in the photo above. And you know what? Those smiles did help me feel a lot better because, honestly, I was a little afraid.

So, you're wondering, what happened out there on the court?

First, I spent an hour hitting with my friend Joge from 8 to 9 a.m. Then I stayed out there for doubles. The first doubles set was hard-fought and tight. Bill and I won, but just barely. In the second set, Rich and Dave came roaring back.

They won four straight games and were ahead in the fifth when I, determined to avoid a wipeout, went flying through the air after a short ball -- and crashed head first onto the clay court. My right hand, my racquet hand, was caught between the ground and my falling body. Head, right hand, and both knees took the brunt.

On my face below my right eye was a big ugly red blotch. Blood spurted out of my right thumb from a deep laceration. There were two gashes on the back of my hand, both oozing blood. Both knees were bloodied.

The guys came running to help a fallen fellow player with a towel and bandages. With their help, I got to my feet and sopped up the blood with the towel. They helped me put on bandages.

The guys kept asking if I was okay, how they could help. "Nah, I'm fine," I said, flipping Rich's bloody towel to him. He gave it back to me. "Keep it," he said. "With all that blood, it's no good any more."

Despite hitting the surface so hard, I wasn't knocked out and didn't feel dizzy. Both knees hurt, but I was able to walk on my own. In all the years I have been playing tennis, I have rarely fallen and never ever fell so hard.

Making my way off the court slowly, haltingly, I figured I would be able to make it to my car and drive home and get to a doctor.  But on my way out I had to go by the maintenance office. On the spur of the moment, I stuck my head in and said, "I just took a bad fall on the court. Does the Y have any first aid?"

That's all I had to say. The staff stopped everything. They sat me down and swung into action. They summoned the first aid team who went right to work on me, cleaning, bandaging, doing everything they could for me.

They called Y manager Trevor Williams who came immediately and advised an ambulance. When I agreed, he  made the call and the ambulance and two paramedics were there in what seemed like  minutes.

In no time, I was on the stretcher. After the happy picture above, I was quickly in the ambulance and on my way to the emergency room. While one paramedic drove, the other sat beside my stretcher.  First he asked me a series of questions to see if my brain was still functioning. He didn't say it was or wasn't; he just made notes.

Then he took my vitals, starting with blood pressure. Everything was normal, he said.

"Age?"

"Seventy-five."

He looked surprised. "I wouldn't have thought that."

I took that as a compliment.

Then we were at  UMass Medical Center and the two paramedics, both a couple of kids from my perspective, wheeled me into the emergency room. I got barely a glance and not a second look from anyone. I fit right in. To everybody there, I was just another stricken old guy who may or may not walk out of there.

Being wheeled in, I saw room after room of elderly patients, many hooked up to life-preserving devices. I didn't get a room. They parked my stretcher in the hallway. Laying on it, I signed standard paperwork.

And there I was on a stretcher, alone, a part of the woodwork, taking it all in.



Talk about busy. Phones ringing. Staff rushing here and there. Nonstop calling out. Lightning fast communication. Papers being handed back and forth. A young man in blue stopped by. "Hi, I'm Andrew Cathers," he said. "We're going to get to you soon."

"You're my doctor?"

"Yes." And then, with a smile, he was off.

Barbara arrived and we  found ourselves in the midst of a non-stop drama that is an emergency room. We  had better than front row seats. We were on the stage -- as players.

Another doctor, Dr. Sean Rhyee came by. He was Dr. Cathers' superior, said one of the staff. With the paramedics having already sent descriptions of the wounds, he gave them a quick examination and was off.

It was about 11:30 a.m. and Barbara and I settled in to both watch the show and play our parts. A middle-aged woman was on a stretcher in the hallway, directly facing me no more than ten feet away. Obviously in terrible pain, her eyes full of fear, she regularly let out an exasperated, loud cry.

Who is she? What is her story? I had my phone and could easily take her picture and wanted to, but I didn't. I wanted to respect her privacy. Nor did I take pictures of other patients, except for one, whose identity could not be made out.

There was a sudden commotion farther down the hall. A man who had just been brought in by ambulance was yelling at nurses and trying to hang onto his guitar. His guitar! Emergency room staff and police officers were trying persuade him to give it up. As far as I could tell, the man held onto it.

My first thought was that he had to be troubled. My second thought was: maybe he is right. Maybe his guitar could give him the strength to overcome what no doctor, no level of medical science medicine could match. Here is the photo:


Now Barbara and I waited to see Dr. Cathers. And waited. The staff brought me lunch: sandwich of chicken, lettuce and tomato, plus tomato soup. An older volunteer, probably years younger than I, came by and gave me a pillow.

A staffer brought me ice for my face. Another staff member asked if I was cold. And when I said I was, he said, "I'll get you something." He quickly came back with two heated blankets. "You should be okay now," he said. "If you need anything else, give me a holler."

I felt like a VIP.

We waited. And waited. But we were far from antsy. Actually, Barbara and I were both entranced by this up-close documentary of the actual saving of lives. And, of course, I was seeing this story and already composing in my head.

Dr. Cathers trotted up and tapped me on the shoulder. As he passed by, he gave me a big surprisingly warm smile saying, "Don't worry. Haven't forgotten you. Be there soon."

"Not a problem," I said to his back. "We're good."

It was clear we had some time on our hands.  So, since I had the time, I decided to make a statement. I would let the UMass Emergency Department know that I was not your typical ancient on his last legs.

"I'm going for a walk," I said to Barbara.

"Okay, I'll be here."

Actually, I had abrasions on both knees and wanted to try them out. I started out slowly, but feeling that nothing was broken, quickly stepped up the pace. Soon I was doing fast-paced laps, one after another, smiling at people, joking that I was out to set a new world record for laps around an emergency room.

I passed the elderly-younger-than-I volunteer several times. Each time, with a big smile, he asked how many laps I had done. Each time I gave him a number and he gave me a thumbs-up. Now emergency room staff were looking up from their work, some shaking their heads with looks that said, "What's that crazy patient doing?"

Simple. I was letting the staff know that I was not there to die. That's not the role I will play here today, thank you. In any case, doing laps was a lot more fun  than just laying there on a stretcher. And as my laps kept going, I was soon making eye contact with staff, attracting smiles, thumbs-ups, and, I have to emphasize, those quizzical looks.

Hey, it's attention. Nobody noticed me laid out a stretcher. Everybody noticed me doing laps.

Finally, at about 1:00 p.m., Dr. Cathers returned. As I lay on my stretcher, he examined my wounds: face abrasion, right thumb laceration, knee abrasions. He and his boss, Dr. Rhyee, had discussed what had to be done. He explained that the main procedure would be several stitches to the lacerated right thumb. The face and knees would need inspection, cleaning, antibiotics, and fresh bandages.

Dr. Cathers led us into an available trauma room where he directed me onto the table. He proceeded to take off bandages and carefully inspect the wounds. He is serious about his work; that becomes quickly evident.

First job: my badly lacerated thumb. Here Dr. Cathers stitches my thumb:


But even as he works intently on me, a warmth and playful sense of humor comes out and we chat. I ask him how old he is.

"Twenty-seven," he said

"Twenty-seven!" I said. "You're a kid! You're too young to be a doctor! I can't call a kid doctor!"

He laughed. "My father was a Marine jet pilot and he wanted me to be the same.  But growing up I wanted to be a doctor. I went to the University of Connecticut-- go Huskies! -- and became a doctor."

"I hope to God you are married or at least engaged."

" Nope, but I have a girlfriend. She's a doctor, too, at the University of Arizona."

"Your girlfriend is a doctor! I don't believe it." If they get married, I wondered which one would be the home-maker. She? He? Both? Hired help? "Well, that's different," I said. "I hope you're going to settle down and get married."

He looked up from stitching my finger and just smiled.

And so it went. After putting six stitches into my thumb, he went to work on my knees and face, pictured here:



Finally, at about 2:30 pm, Dr. Cathers --  I call him Andrew, of course -- is done repairing me.  I want to socialize. But he has patients waiting for him and has to run.

"Tell you what Andrew," I said. "Get up on this table and my wife will take a picture of us together."

Out came that big, warm smile. "Sure," he said. We sat on the table together, put our arms around each other, and Barbara took this photo:



We look like brothers, don't you think?

So long  and keep moving.

 ***

NOTE: Something Tells Her, my new e-book, is now available on 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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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Something Tells Her: Jane, a 12-year-old Foster Kid, Screams "NO!" to Attempted Rape, and Then ... Well, Here Are Excerpts.



In my new novel, Something Tells Her,  Jane is abandoned as a baby and raised in multiple horrific foster homes. After her latest abuse, an attempted rape, 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."

Something Tells Her is fiction based on real-life --  my own childhood  and that of four younger siblings spent in multiple abusive foster homes and group homes. Against all odds, the five of us reunited and built successful, happy lives filled with family.

I have ten grand kids, for example. Hanging out with my granddaughter Mia, 12, has given me an inside look on how a 12-year-old girl thinks, feels, and acts. Mia is the girl on the cover of Something Tells Her.

Gabbing all the way, Mia and I walked to a nearby park with swings and play equipment. We were two kids having a ball, until some girls her age showed up and  she dumped me.

I was relegated to watching, listening, taking notes. But I learned a lot about young girls from Mia and also from my three other granddaughters, Bela, Talula, and Riley.  The credited editor of Something Tells Her, Miabela T. Riley, is a combination of their names.

Something Tells Her is now available on Amazon.

Following are short excerpts:

Excerpt One

To Mr. and Mrs. Williams, struggling to pay the bills, Jane knows she is nothing more than a sum of money from the state. She wishes that were not so, but always, always hopes for more. She dreams of the same kind of love that she sees Kate getting every day.

So when Mr. Williams suddenly dropped his gruff ways toward her and started looking at her and talking to her in a friendlier way, it felt good. Before, he slipped sweet treats to Kate alone. Now, he also gave them to Jane as well, with a smile.

One Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Williams and Kate were out and Mr. Williams and Jane were alone in the house. Jane was in Kate’s room drawing at her desk when Mr. Williams came in.

He was a little tipsy from drinking. “Got a nice fresh cantaloupe,” he said, slightly slurring his words. “Want some?”

Jane loves fresh fruit, but almost never gets it. As a general rule, fresh fruit is too expensive to waste on a state kid -- slang for foster child or ward of the state. And this is the first time Jane has been offered it, though Kate eats it all the time.

Jane’s first thought was: yummy. Her second thought was: Gee, maybe he likes me and is going to be nice to me. So she smiled, took the piece of cantaloupe, and said, “Thank you, thank you. Cantaloupe is my very favorite.”

He brought over a chair and sat down beside her. He put his hand on her shoulder as she ate the cantaloupe. He stroked her hair. In a kindly voice, he told her that she was “beautiful.”

Although boys like the way she looks -- she can tell by the way their eyes follow her -- no one has ever told her she is beautiful. Hearing it was as sweet as the cantaloupe.

Smiling, Mr. Williams moved closer. He kissed her tenderly on the cheek. Jane took a big bite of the cantaloupe, saying, “Oh, this is so delicious. Thank you so very much.”

You’re welcome,” he said, in a warm, fatherly voice.

He gently pulled her closer to him. And then, as his lips were about to meet hers, alarms inside of Jane started clanging. Pushing herself away from him, she jumped up screaming.

No! No! NO!”

Mr. Williams’ eyes all but popped out of his head. Friendly face gone, he glared at Jane. “You little brat!”

Fatherly smile now replaced by a twisted face, the man moved toward Jane with outstretched arms. “Come to papa, little girl,” he said. “Come to papa.”

Just as he was about to grab her, Jane reared back and kicked him as hard as she could -- right between the legs. With a howl, he grabbed himself and fell to the floor.

With Mr. Williams on the floor yelping like a hurt dog, Jane ran out the front door and kept running. She didn’t know where she was running to. She just ran and ran until she was so winded she couldn't run anymore. 

She plopped down on the edge of the sidewalk near the entrance to a big shopping center. There she sat, knees to her chest, head dropped, gasping for breath, trying to get control of herself.

Excerpt Two

In the car, Jane said, “Mr. Williams tried to touch me in a bad way.”

Not taking her eyes off the road, the assistant said, “I'm so sorry, but could you please save it for the social worker? Thank you.”

Jane sighed, folded her arms, and didn't say another word.

After a half hour drive in silence, they arrived at the Department of Social Services in Boston. Jane sat in the waiting area for over an hour before being seen by a social worker, a woman Jane had never seen before.

The social worker listened to Jane's story, took notes, and was genuinely appalled by what she heard. “Don't worry,” she said. “You're safe now. We're going to take care of you and find you a good home.”

But, with Jane's file in hand, listing her as a repeat “maladjuster” with “severe behavioral problems,” the well-meaning social worker could not help but take her story as more of the same. She ended the session with the usual feel-good, no-promise words that Jane had come to know so well.

Jane’s story of the cantaloupe-bearing, sex-seeking foster father never gets written down, never becomes a part of her official record – but what the foster parents and their daughter said about her, does.

As usual, the adults are believed, Jane is not, and her supposed lying, disobedience, disrespect and non-stop trouble making makes it into her personal profile.

Excerpt Three

As a professional knowing how to deal with troubled kids, Dr. Blake arrives with a big smile, empathetic eye-contact, and a warm two-handed clasp of Jane’s hand.

"Hello, Jane,” Dr. Blake said. “Nice to meet you. I understand you like to read and write.”

Yes.”

Dr. Blake, used to attention-deprived kids jumping at a chance to be heard, waits for the usual long, childish rambling. Instead, she gets no more than a “yes” from a young girl calmly reading her face.

Dr. Blake continues. “I’m sure you must enjoy your reading and writing. What is it you like best about them?”

It's another world.”

Dr. Blake waits for more. No more comes.

After several more questions with the same lack of response from her patient, Dr. Blake ends the session. After a few more similarly unproductive sessions, Dr. Blake diagnoses Jane with Social Anxiety Disorder. She writes out a prescription for medication and dismisses Jane -- a routine diagnosis and prescription. 

Her job is done.

Jane fakes taking the pills.
NOTE: The story of Jane Joy reflects the way the foster care system was in the bad old days of the 1950'sand 60's, a pattern of  abuse, exploitation, and official negligence. While being in foster care still involves great emotional pain and  hardship, things have improved greatly.  See previous story. 

Also, now the emphasis has shifted from long term foster care to returning kids to their families as soon as possible. If that can't be done, efforts shift to adoption as explained here.

Below is my granddaughter Mia as she posed for the cover. It depicts a scene in the novel in which something tells Jane that she should stay out of rough waters -- which, she later learned, drowned another unwarned girl.

After performing in The Wizard of Oz, Mia poses for photos with her mom and grand mom.


As a performer, singing and dancing, Mia is making her mark. In Something Tells Her, so does Jane Joy. -- by rewriting the script for what is possible for a 12-year-old girl entirely on her own in the world.

So long and keep moving.

                            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.


For the Barnes and Noble Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver
Killers



Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Day for Foster Kids: No Longer Dumped on the Street When They "Age Out."

A morbid narcissistic mom hands her five kids, aged under a year to six, over to the state of Massachusetts and goes on to the good life of travel and fine restaurants. Here she is all dressed up as she celebrates Christmas without the responsibility of five kids.

Meanwhile her kids live, or we should say survive, in ever changing foster homes of uncaring people who are in it for the money. As each "ages out," turns 18, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services considers them adults and no longer its responsibility.

One after another, they find themselves on the street.

Those five kids were me and my four younger siblings. I've written our story earlier. But for now, read this story -- about a quiet, but breathtaking, revolution in foster care.

It's about foster kids no longer "aging out," no longer dumped on the street, but actually treated as human beings by the state of Massachusetts. It's about the  Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni carrying out its remarkable vision: seeing that all former foster kids are "well-supported and well-connected throughout all phases of life."

I learned of this when, out of the blue, I got an invitation from MassNFCA to attend a Thanksgiving dinner in Worcester for former foster kids. I thought: What's this?

Foster care alumni? State kids now honored guests? Thanksgiving dinner? Free? And at Maxwell Silverman's at Union Station, one of the best eating places in the city? I was skeptical. "My guess is that it's a fund-raiser," I said to my sister Ruby, "or it could be some kind of scam."

She agreed.

But I was curious. So was my sister Ruby. We decided to go. I called our two brothers, Reggie and Victor. Ruby called our sister Marion. All three passed, preferring not to be reminded of those horrendous early days when we were nothing but meal tickets. Ruby and I understood completely.

I called the Director of MassNFCA, Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky, and told her that I, my wife Barbara, and my sister Ruby would be going. We got to talking and, to my utter amazement, she said that she is also one of five siblings, all of whom grew up in foster care.

When she told me that the five of them had been "split up like puppies," as we had, I knew that she and the Alumni Thanksgiving was the real deal. The feeling was mutual. In a later email, Grace wrote: "I'm honored to read about your story, your siblings' stories, your family's story! We have a lot to talk about."

Grace went on: "I promise you this event is happening.... There is no need to bring food. I greatly appreciate the offer though. This is taken care of.... Dress is celebratory! We're here to celebrate a community of alumni of all ages with great ambiance and good company."


Besides being Director of MassNFCA, Grace is also an artist who expresses ideas and objects in metal as a "means to pass on knowledge."  Click here to see some of her works. In the photo below, she is preparing to teach a class in metallic art at Stonybrook Fine Arts.


Now, drum roll please, Grace's remarkable Thanksgiving dinner for former foster kids. First, the setting. It was beautiful, fit for royalty. Yes, royalty. Second, the place was packed with former foster kids. Many of them, I quickly learned, are in college, made possible in large measure by MassNFCA.

For me, this was breaking entirely new ground. While I had occasionally met former foster kids here and there over the years, I had never ever been in a room filled with former foster kids going to college and looking and acting like young people on their way up. I was pinching myself. Was this really happening?

It was. Here is the gathering being addressed by Grace:



The food was wonderful -- from appetizers to a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the fixings.


Did I mention that all of this was FREE, nothing, nada? Even the parking was free with ticket validation on the way out. Nor was there anyone there hitting us up for money. And I thought that this could be a scam?

Sorry, Grace!

This Thanksgiving dinner for former foster kids is visible, unmistakeable proof that Massachusetts has left behind the old days of aging out and dumping foster kids on the streets where, in desperation, many routinely fell victim to crime, drugs, and hopelessness.

Now MassNFCA's financial help for college and access to professional services gives former foster kids a chance for productive and happy lives, just like other young people lucky enough to have loving parents and stable homes.

It is clearly a smart investment. The payoff for Massachusetts taxpayers and society, not to mention former foster kids themselves, is huge. Thanks to MassNFCA, these young people, instead of being financial and social drains, can get an education, go on to good jobs and professions, pay taxes, raise families, be normal.

Take Nafis Delacruz, pictured here, who played the guitar and sang at the dinner.


If Nafis had been "aged out," he could easily have taken the low road. Instead, with the help of MassNFCA, he is a student at Salem State University while pursuing his love of music. He performs at many open mike nights in Salem and has done shows at Salem State University and Mcgann's Irish Pub in Boston.

For Nafis, as with all the other former foster kids at this dinner, the sky is the limit. See that smile? It's real. He was smiling that way the whole time as he sang and went around the room chatting it up.

Lest I come off as someone with his head in the clouds, I did have a couple of complaints. As I mentioned, the place was packed and the tables filled up fast -- except for ours. This was a young crowd and it appeared that no one wanted to sit at a table with a bald greybeard old enough to be their grandpa.

I, my wife Barbara, and my sister Ruby had the table to ourselves. Our table got lookers, but no takers. Finally, feeling badly for us, Grace brought over two social workers to sit with us. She introduced us to Maureen Messeder and Mary Gabon, both of whom had been on the job for more than 30 years.

I was thrilled. My only experience with social workers was as strangers who picked me up and drove me to a group home or placement. Now here I was as a full-fledged grownup sitting as equals with two of them. It was a pleasure meeting them and soon we were talking away, joking, and laughing.

"Now that aging out at 18 is no longer," I said, "that means that I haven't aged out and I can get services if I need them, right?"

Maureen and Mary both chuckled, though nervously.

"I guess so," Maureen said, a little uneasily.

"Great," I said. "So I can call and we'll explore my options?"

"Of course," said Maureen, getting that I was kidding. And we had a hearty laugh.

My second complaint was no coffee after dinner, young people not being coffee addicts like us old fogies. Maureen and Mary also missed the coffee.

Later, as raffle winners were being announced, Grace called out my name. I went up and she handed me a Dunkin Donuts gift card for $25. I thanked her and quietly offered to tell the assembly the story of my childhood in foster care. "No more than forty-five minutes," I said.

No response. I guess she didn't hear me.

Here's a photo of me up front after receiving my gift card from Grace.

Back at the table, I waved my gift card at Maureen and Mary. "Coffee complaint no more," I said. "You guys took care of it, right?"

They nodded, winked, and giggled like a couple of teenage girls.

"Oh, boy," I said, rubbing my hands happily. "My two social workers are already taking care of me."

Then Grace called my sister Ruby's name. She won a raffle prize too,  twenty dollars cash.

 She came back with a big smile on her face. Here she is with the envelope in her hand, with Grace at the podium in the background.

Ruby and I left amazed and delighted with what we had just experienced. When we were foster kids, it was something that we could never have imagined.

Grace, congratulations. Thanks to your great commitment and hard work, this foster alumni Thanksgiving was a huge success. For all that you, Maureen, Mary and the rest of your staff do for foster kids, thank you, thank you, thank you.

 So long and keep moving.
***
NOTE: George Pollock's novel,  State Kid: Hero of Literacy is  available as an E-book on Amazon's Kindle.

Billy Stone was a foster child.

He ran away from abuse.

He went to juvenile prison.

He went up from there.

And he did it his way.


  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.


 
For the Barnes and Noble Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver
Killers






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