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The Halloween Trolley

 

The Halloween Trolley

 

fiction by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

When my guide dog Glenda and I left the weekday evening Mass shortly after six o’clock, I heard a few umbrellas pop up.  Then, I felt the heavy mist and pulled the hood of my coat over my head.  As Glenda and I turned east, we walked directly into the wind off the lake while dampened leaves lined our path on that Halloween night.  When we were walking by Spirit Park, I heard no other people nearby.  Although darkness had already set in, at that in-between time of after rush hour and before party time, I heard only a couple of cars on the Boulevard and, thankfully, no trolley.

 

As usual, Glenda, my creamy-colored Yellow Labrador Retriever, was guiding me especially well toward home.  I planned our route so that we would have to cross only two sets of trolley tracks–the ever-present reminder of too many negative changes in our city.  Two street crossings past Spirit Park, Glenda and I were on the west side of our home block when I heard footfalls behind me.  Suddenly, someone was on my right.

 

A bit too close to my right side, the gentleman said, “Good evening, little damp out here tonight.”

 

“Yes, it is.  Have a good evening.” I replied to dismiss our conversation; then, I stopped so that he would hopefully walk ahead of us.  He did not.  I wiped off Glenda’s head with a paper towel I had slipped from my pocket.

 

The gentleman continued: “You need not worry.  I told you once before that we –well, homeless people–watch out for you when you and your dog are walking around this area.  We see you walking everyday with your Lab.  You did really well working through those three years of construction for the trolley.  Now, don’t worry:  we will watch out for you with this quiet trolley zipping around Spirit Park and the whole area.”

 

“Thank you, but my guide dog and I are fine.  Good night.  Forward, Glenda.”

 

Walking right beside me, the gentleman insisted, “I want you to stop beside the next trolley, at the end of this block.”

 

Although I tried to explain to him that we would be heading east at the upcoming curb, he was determined that I must check out the next trolley.

 

I was still at a point of being upset whenever I spoke of or thought of the most unnecessary trolley.  Living where I did, I could not ignore it.  “I think you know that I was totally against this trolley–before, during, and after the construction of this most unnecessary trolley.  All I can now find any satisfaction in is living on my principle that I will never step foot into one of those new trolleys.”  Before I could utter another thought, I heard something like the trolley swishing by us.

 

“You look a bit puzzled, and you should be:  that is not the new trolley.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“It is what I want you to ride.  It is a trolley from the turn-of-the-century–not from the year 2000, but  vintage 1900.  You need to meet some people on this vintage trolley.  You and Glenda are most welcome to ride this Halloween Trolley.  You will not be compromising your principles–I promise you will be pleased with what you find on this trolley car.  Follow me.”

 

Without a moment to think, I found myself following the homeless man onto the trolley.  The trolley did not have any sort of “new” smell:  it did have an antique fragrance.  Pausing at the front of the trolley with Glenda at my side, I could hear that the trolley was filled with people.  The homeless man was standing in front of me and was trying to grab the attention of all the riders.

 

“Thank you, thank you.  This is the person I have mentioned to you–and her guide dog Glenda.  Starting from the back of this trolley car are our ghostly representatives from the 1890s, then our ghostly representatives from the 1900s. then the 1910s, next the 1920s, the 1930s, and finally the 1940s on your left, and the 1950s on your right.  None of these homeless people were able to ride the trolley for free during the first twelve months nor at any time during their own decades, but they all are riding the trolley for free now.”

 

I had never before had the opportunity to speak with ghosts–especially this many of the ghostly representatives of their appointed decades.  Before I could manage to say a word, the gentleman said with a large grin and a wink, “Guess who is driving this trolley car.”

 

Somewhat sheepishly, the driver introduced himself, “Mayor Bartleby, here.  Good evening, and Happy Halloween.”

 

“How long will you be driving this trolley car?” asked my walking partner as he turned toward the driver.

 

“Just to the next turn …”

 

Suddenly, as a chorus of ghosts who knew very well from their unique perspective how much the most unnecessary trolley had negatively impacted our city, all the riders shouted, “The next turn-of-the-century!”

 

 

Thanks for reading my fictional story!

Early wishes for a Happy Halloween!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

October 11, 2017, Wednesday

 

BOOKNOTE:  You are always welcome to visit my author’s web page, where you can find photos and a variety of links concerning my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season.

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

 

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Emily Dickinson’s Heather and Mine

 

 

NOTE:  I remember my life in “dog chapters.”  These chapters overlap in the month of October.  After my Beagle-Terrier mix, Little Prince, sadly left us in October of 1962, my Toy Manchester-Chihuahua(the smallest of all of my dogs)–Little Prince II–was born on October 9, 1962.  The largest of my four guide dogs and all of my pet dogs–Heather, my second Leader Dog, was born on October 22, 1996; and  my current Leader Dog, Willow) was born on October 19, 2013.  Thinking about my Yellow Labrador Retriever on this warm day in October, I am sharing with you a poem about my Heather.

 

On May 4, 2012, I wrote this poem for the course “Elements of Poetry,” offered by the Hadley School for the Blind (now the Hadley Institute for the Blind); however, I recently significantly revised a number of lines and added a few lines before I submitted the poem to my writers’ critique group for their  comments on September 26.  Thanks to my writer friend Leonard Tuchyner’s keen observation, I made another important revision to the third stanza.

 

Within the framework of my poem are quotations  from the Massachusetts poet Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830-May 15, 1886).  The quoted lines are from a famous two-quatrain poem of Ms. Dickinson; since most of her poems were untitled, the borrowed lines are from the poem known by its first line “I never saw the moor.”  The eight-line poem has always been one of my favorites and can easily be found online.

 

 

Emily Dickinson’s Heather and Mine

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

“But, know I how the heather looks ….”  –Emily Dickinson

 

From Amherst came two quatrains

from Emily, of course.

Thanks to Mabel Loomis Todd,

the world relishes the poetic source

from where I grasp my favorite line—

the one that did foretell

the name of my creamy-colored Yellow Lab

who guided me especially  well.

 

Through this Leader Dog,

I learned how Heather looks

through all seasons of life,

in tactile photographic books.

 

Large, strong, muscular Heather–

walked over drawbridges with me,

lay by my desk as I taught,

cuddled near my theatre seat

as I listened to musicals and Maya Angelou,

guided me up the stairs

where Lincoln had lived,

saved me

from being hit by a falling icicle,

learned to walk down a special ramp

when she could no longer descend our back stairs,

easily befriended her successor Zoe

for the final thirteen months

of Heather’s season on Earth—

softened with age,

but strengthened my heart and hands.

 

“… and what a wave must be.”  –Emily Dickinson

 

From Amherst, with her red tresses and white dress,

Emily wrote these words of the sea;

however, they apply to a Midwestern me

as I tearfully wave and wave,

like whitecaps, again and again,

good-bye, good-bye

to Heather, so missed,

my second guide, my valorous friend

who now remarkably rests and runs

with Keller, Chelsea, Chico, and Prince,

and all who came before.

 

“…as if the chart were given.”  –Emily Dickinson

 

POST-SCRIPT:  For additional information about the “Elements of Poetry” or other courses of the Hadley Institute for the Blind (courses through correspondence in various mediums for people who are legally blind), please visit the website:

http://www.hadley.edu

 

Best wishes for a peaceful and happy October!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

October 4, 2017, Wednesday

 

Book Review: Peanut of Blind Faith Farm

 

Book Review:  Peanut of Blind Faith Farm

 

The Little Lamb Who Inspired Blind Faith Farm Now Inspires Readers

 

Review by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Peanut of Blind Faith Farm  (Little Creek Press, 2017)

written by Jim Thompson

illustrated by Rebecca Gavney Driscoll

 

With all that has been happening in the world in recent months, are you ready to read a heart-warming, sweet, and uplifting story of a little lamb?  Peanut of Blind Faith Farm will be the book of the season to brighten your day.

 

Wisconsinite Jim Thompson tenderly shares the story of how Peanut, a little lamb who was born blind, meets and overcomes the challenges of her life on the hobby farm of Jim and his wife Laura.  Through the twenty-seven pages of this remarkable story, readers learn how Jim and Laura, as well as Peanut’s mother–Sweetie Pie–helped the little lamb to lie down to sleep, find buckets of water, interact with a selected flock, come when called (for an apple), and even run with the lambs of the next spring.  From her first day of life, Peanut keenly used her sense of hearing and touch:  as the story progresses over three years, we realize what an intelligent sheep Peanut is.

 

The author’s description of the wool of two-year-old Peanut as “the color of vanilla ice cream” will appeal to the imagination of a child.  While children of ages four to eight will happily snuggle up to this book, readers in the nine- to twelve-year-old range will garner an even greater appreciation and understanding of the challenges that Peanut surmounts.  Moreover, this memorable book is for animal lovers of all ages and any hobby-farmer-want-to-be.

 

After the precious ending of the story, the 28th page contains “More about Sheep,” which will thoroughly prepare you for a “Sheep” category on my favorite television program Jeopardy.  For example, did you know that of all the farm or ranch animals in the world, the number of sheep is the highest?

 

The warm, soft, and delicate illustrations throughout the entire hardcover book (approximately nine by ten inches) are by Wisconsinite Rebecca Gavney Driscoll.  Her favorite medium of water color enhances this marvelous story.  Besides the expressive lamb and Shetland sheep, Rebecca captures farm scenes with birds, mice, bees, a rabbit, and a dog.  (NOTE:  All of the beautiful illustrations were described to me in detail by my sister Mary Elizabeth Fanyo, who started teaching at the elementary-school level in 1969 and is now enjoying her sixteenth year of teaching prekindergarten.  Mary is also a past president of the Colorado Council International Reading Association.)

 

Peanut of Blind Faith Farm is Jim Thompson’s first children’s book.  After serving in the United States Air Force, Jim earned a degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  In 2007, he semi-retired after twenty years with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  To read more about Jim, Laura, Peanut, and their hobby farm, please visit their website where you can also order Jim’s book:

 

http://www.blindfaithfarm.com

 

In addition to being able to purchase the book from the publisher–Little Creek Press of Mineral Point, Wisconsin–Peanut of Blind Faith Farm is also available at the following Wisconsin bookstores:

Tribeca Gallery Cafe, Watertown

Books and Company, Oconomowoc

Mystery to Me, Madison

Ebert’s Greenhouse Village, Ixonia

 

On August 15, I first heard of Peanut of Blind Faith Farm  by listening to an outstanding interview with the author on The Larry Meiller Show of the Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio.  You may listen to the almost 35-minute interview at the following direct link:

 

https://www.wpr.org/listen/1146276

 

Although I rarely do book reviews, I thought this book was so touching and special that I wanted to highly recommend it to all of you for your own reading, your reading to children, and/or your gift-giving.

 

Warm thanks to Jim and Laura for raising and loving a lamb who happened to be born blind, and many thanks to Jim for sharing the inspirational and wonderful story with us.  With permission of the author, I am closing with the meaningful final portion of the dedication in Jim Thompson’s book:  “To all those, both animal and human, who struggle through adversity to live productive, fulfilling lives.  And in so doing, reward us all.”  God bless Peanut!

 

 

Happy reading!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

September 27, 2017, Wednesday

 

An Abecedarian Poem: Creativity

 

NOTE:  An abecedarian is a poem based on twenty-six lines, each of which begins with a subsequent letter of the alphabet.  Thus, if you read down the left column of the following poem, you will find the letters “A” to “Z.”

 

 

Where Can You Find Creativity?

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Around an array of bookshelves, …

Beside the whispers of a child, …

Canning the harvest of a joyful garden, …

Down the Blanford Cut-off Road, …

Especially in homeland and heartland, …

From old family letters and new notes from friends, …

Generally wherever sweet solitude is found, …

hidden within hope and desperation, …

inside a treasure chest of mementos, …

Just to the left of the jonquils in Spring, …

Kayaking or knitting on a quiet lake, …

Listening to instrumental music, …

Making homemade bread, …

Nodding to Nature’s beautiful ways, …

On the wings of a cooing mourning dove, …

Past the first trial and error, …

Quilting designs of dreams, …

Riding a horse along a meadow trail, …

Sampling cream-centered chocolates, …

Taking tap-dance lessons or another new class, …

Under the artificial Christmas tree, …

Vying for a first-place prize, …

walking with my Leader Dog Willow on a velvet night, …

Xenolithic findings along a rocky path, …

Yodeling in a covered bridge, …

Zigzagging through crisp autumn leaves, I find creativity.

 

Where do you find creativity?

 

Enjoy a creative day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

September 20, 2017, Wednesday

 

 

 

Piles of Autumn Leaves

 

A Child’s and a Guide Dog’s View of a Pile of Autumn Leaves

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

While we, indirectly or directly, witness the ravages of Mother Nature and send our prayers and best wishes to those so enormously impacted by Irma and Harvey, I, in contrast, am recalling the more delicate and artistic touches of Mother Nature.  The Midwest’s autumn splendor can reinvigorate a worried and weary soul.

 

In the ample yard of my family’s Hoosier home, the soft maple trees, planted by my maternal grandfather around 1914, turned into bejeweled autumn shades of ruby, gold, emerald, along with outstanding oranges and warm browns. then, the dazzling leaves  dried and fell to prompt a substantial amount of leaf-raking–leaf-raking of the peaceful, rhythmical swish-swish type, not the smelly and noisy type of leaf removal, so common today.  Raking the leaves into a huge pile, then running and jumping into the cushion of dry leaves was a delightful autumn pastime.  In my much younger days, I liked to fashion a gigantic bird’s nest from the pile of leaves.  After this nest-making routine, I–no doubt, pretending to be a bird–was content to sit in the middle of the nest for a while and observe Mother Nature’s September or October splendor.  Actually, in that nest of leaves, I must have felt one with Nature.  I wonder if children today still enjoy this season of raking leaves into a pile for exercise in fun and imagination.

 

Decades later, at the onset of every autumn of my life in Milwaukee, each of my four guide dogs had to come to terms with the fallen leaves.  At times, the crisp autumn oak leaves must have seemed like projectiles to each of my Leader Dogs as we walked through a strong wind.  In a soothing voice, I have chanted the mantra, “They are just paper leaves:  you are fine.”  Each fall, eventually, Keller, Heather, Zoe, and Willow made peace with the falling and flying leaves.

 

Last autumn (Willow’s first autumn with me), my current Leader Dog, Willow, was not happy when a pile of leaves gathered on the sidewalk, directly on our walking route.  My fourth guide dog once again chose to treat the pile of dry leaves as an obstacle.  “No, I am not taking you through that dangerous pile of leaves!  I take better care of you than leading you through all of that!” Willow was most assuredly trying to tell me.

 

“Willow, hup up.”  After a hesitant pace forward, Willow stopped again; I reached out with my right foot and heard a safe pile of leaves beneath my shoe.  “Good dog,” I praised and then commanded, “Willow, forward.”  My Black Labrador Retriever did not move because, of course, she was exercising her right of “intelligent disobedience” (a term learned by guide dog handlers at guide dog schools).

 

“Willow, Hup up,” I urged her again.  No movement.  “Those are just paper leaves.  It is okay,” I tenderly added.

 

Suddenly, I heard a voice from the Milwaukee School of Engineering parking lot:  “Wait!  I will move those leaves for you.”  The man, whose voice I have heard before, kindly wanted to rake the pile of leaves away from Willow and my path.

 

“You do not have to: my guide dog and I can go around the leaves.  My Leader Dog does not like to guide me through leaves,” I explained.

 

“No, this is a big pile.  Just give me a minute.  I will have the pile of leaves completely cleared from the sidewalk.”

 

The worker made the leaves fairly quietly disappear, and I thanked him.  I am sure that Willow was giving him her best Labby smile of satisfaction that, of course, once again, she was absolutely correct with her decision-making process.  I do appreciate how extremely cautious Willow has always been and continues to be with her guide work.  With a clear path ahead of us, I said, “Willow, forward.”  We were on our way into more autumn splendor.

 

I do not think I would ever convince Willow to me one with Nature by sitting in the middle of a pile of dry leaves.  My British Lab has better ideas, and I very happily and gratefully follow her lead.

 

With blessings for all who are dealing with the tremendously harder side of Mother Nature,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

September 13, 2017, Wednesday

 

Epilogue of a Poem

 

Epilogue of a Poem

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Have you ever taken a ride on “Cloud Nine”?  Well, I feel as if I did over Labor Day weekend.  “Fifty Years Later, Meet Me,” the poem which I posted here on Wordwalk last Wednesday, seemed to take on a life of its own; and it hit the poetry road.  First, my cousin Carole Morgan, who has been living in Florida, posted on the Facebook site for alumni of Clinton High School (Indiana) an announcement about my book’s availability at the Little Italy Festival.

 

After Fran Rayce, formerly of Indiana and now a longtime resident of Michigan, read my blog post last week, she brought the poem to the attention of our Clinton friend Mary Fornero  while they were preparing the Piccola Casa (restored Little House) for visitors of the Little Italy Festival.  Then, Mary Fornero took a printout of the poem to Mrs. Diane Waugh at the office of The Daily Clintonian.  So, much to my surprise, my poem “Fifty Years Later, Meet Me” was published in The Daily Clintonian on Friday, September 1.

 

On Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, at the Clinton Public Library, Susie Zanandrea was kind enough to take photos of the display of my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season.  Not only did she e-mail to my sister two wonderful photographs of the remarkable display, Susie also e-mailed a photo of the page of the Clinton newspaper with my poem.  When my sister, another Mary, described the photos to me, I was thrilled about the display at the Clinton Public Library and was very pleasantly surprised to learn that “Fifty Years Later, Meet Me” was in the newspaper that was such a daily part of the lives of my grandparents, parents, other relatives and neighbors, and me.  The epilogue of this poem with an Italian flair does not end here.

 

Rosemary Iacoli, a friend of Mary Fornero and a board member of the Clinton Public Library, took the poem to the library on Saturday so that a printout of the poem was added to the display which included copies of my book and copies of two recent blog posts.  I was especially pleased that the display of my book and writings coincided with the library’s special genealogy exhibit.  Later, Susie also posted the photos on another Facebook site–“If You Grew Up in Clinton, Indiana, You Remember.”

 

Then, my poem landed at the train station!  Joanie Jenkins, another Little Italy Festival volunteer and friend of Mary Fornero, took a copy of my festival poem to the renovated train depot/Coal Town Museum and added my poem to the Art Show of the Little Italy Festival.  Here is where the “Poetry Train” stopped, but my splendid memories of all the attention which my book and other writings received will warm my heart through many upcoming rainy autumn days and snow-filled winter months.

 

Knowing that my holiday book and one of my poems had so many more opportunities to be read by many more people in my hometown area filled me with excitement, happiness, and gratitude.

 

A bouquet of special thanks to Mary Fornero, Fran Rayce, Rosemary Iacoli, Joanie Jenkins, Susie Zanandrea, Diane Waugh, Carole Morgan, Mary Fanyo, the LIFT Board, librarian Ashley Wolfe and the staff of the Clinton Public Library!

 

To see the photos of the display at the library and my poem in The Daily Clintonian, please visit my author’s web page:

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

 

More thanks to David Dvorkin (DLD Books of Denver, Colorado) for posting the photos on my author’s web page and to my critique group–Leonard Tuchyner, Abbie Johnson Taylor, Brad Corallo, and Valerie Moreno–who first read the poem “Fifty Years Later, Meet Me” and encourage me to share it with a wider audience!

 

Happy September to all!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

September 6, 2017, Wednesday

 

Thinking of the Little Italy Festival

 

Thinking of Indiana on Labor Day Weekend

 

One of the times when I do become somewhat homesick for my Hoosier homeland is Memorial Day weekend as I await to shed a few tears during the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the opening ceremonies of the Indianapolis 500.  Another one of those times when I long to be in Indiana is Labor Day weekend for Clinton’s Little Italy Festival.  Unfortunately, I will be unable to be at the festival this year.  Much to my amazement, this year’s festival coincides with the marking of the onset of my senior year at Clinton High School–fifty years ago!  Thus, thinking of the festival places, events, and food which I have so enjoyed in previous years, as well as the fifty years since the CHS Class of ’68 began its senior year, I was inspired to write the following prose poem which is creative nonfiction.  The “creative nonfiction” comes into play in just a couple of spots in the poem.  For example, although the authentic gondola is still a part of the Little Italy Festival parade, one can no longer take a ride in the festival’s gondola on the Wabash River.

 

After the poem, you will find a brief announcement which I posted last week on my author’s web page:

http://www.dldbooks.com/alicemassa/

I hope you like this poem as much as my critique group did.

 

 

Fifty Years later, Meet Me

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Once again, fifty years later,

meet me

at the Little Italy Festival.

This time,

follow the green, white, and red lines

down Ninth Street,

and meet me

at Immigrant Square,

west of the Coal Fountain,

in the striped shadows of the twenty-six flags

which represent countries

from where Clinton area residents

have immigrated.

 

Meet me

in front of the statue of the immigrant

Luigi,

with his one hand waving

and his other hand

holding a valise.

 

Meet me

by the drinking fountain

called “Il Toro”–

the Bull–

like Luigi,

crafted near my ancestral home,

in Torino.

 

Then, we will go

to the riverfront,

down the terraced banks

where Joe Airola

nurtured his grapevines.

On the Wabash River,

we will ride

in an authentic gondola.

 

Returning from our taste of Venezia,

we will eat spumoni

as we sit beside

the Quattro Stagioni Fountain,

listen to music of the main stage,

and absorb the chatter of festival-goers.

 

Back to Ninth Street,

we will tour the Little Italian House,

Il Mercato, and the Wine Museum

where you can buy my book.

Then, in the Wine Garden,

we can sit

under lush Grapevines and Hoosier stars,

sip Chianti,

listen to a polka band,

talk of old times

and fresh tomorrows.

 

Don’t be concerned:

at Immigrant Square,

in the midst of the crowd,

you will recognize me:

I will be the one

with the Black Labrador

guide dog.

Meet us.

 

 

Special Announcement:

 

My Book Will Be Sold

 

at the Little Italy Festival

 

(Clinton, Indiana)

 

 

I am very pleased to announce that print copies of my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season will be sold at the 2017 Little Italy Festival (Clinton, Indiana).  During the four days of Labor Day weekend, my book will be available at four locations at the festival.  From September 1 through September 4, you will have the opportunity to purchase my book at the gift shop in the Wine Museum and in El Mercato.  (Both of these buildings are on Ninth Street, near the Wine Garden.)  On the main festival grounds, throughout the Labor Day weekend, my book will be sold at the official souvenir booth of LIFT (Little Italy Festival Town).  On only the Saturday of the festival, my book will be available at the Clinton Public Library, during the special genealogy exhibit.

 

To learn more about the Little Italy Festival which has taken place each year since 1966, you may visit one of the following:

 

http://www.thelittleitalyfestival.org

 

https://www.facebook.com/littleitalyfestival/

 

Grazie to LIFT for selling my book during this year’s Little Italy Festival!

Also, special thanks to Clinton resident and longtime LIFT volunteer Mary Fornero for facilitating this opportunity for my book!

 

 

Best Wishes for a sunny and happy Labor Day weekend!

Alice Massa and Leader Dog Willow

 

August 30, 2017, Wednesday