1776 by David McCullough
My rating: 5 stars
It had been at least 50 years since I studied anythiing relating to the Revolutionary War, so I began reading 1776 (upon recommendation by by brother)wondering if I even had the background to understand it. I found it a highly-readable narrative of the events of that year in American history. It was replete with quotes from the diaries and letters of the famous and relatively-unknown men who fought that fight for our freedom. I was interested to read of battle strategies and found the personal glimpses of historical figures fascinating. Particularly interesting to me were the letters giving the on-the-scene evaluations of completed battles. Time and history have given new perspective to many of these. Time does alter perception - and it is possible to be too close to a situation to accurately evaluate it. Overall, this is an excellent book.
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Monday, September 12, 2011
1776 by David McCullough
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I wrote this tribute to a valient 9/11 hero on the 5th anniversary of his death. I reprinted in on the 6th anniversary and am reprinting it again on this 10th anniversary. God bless the memory of this wonderful fireman and his colleagues who gave their all that day!
In Memory of Robert Joseph Foti
New York City Fire Fighter:
Robert Joseph Foti, son of Rosemarie and Joseph Foti, husband of Mary Grace, and father of 12-year-old Alycia, 11-year old Robert, and 4-year-old James, was 42 years old and supporting his family as a New York City firefighter. He had worked on Ladder 7 in Manhattan for 13 years.
In the memorial held on October 6, 2001, family and friends mourned his loss with no remains to bury and no burial site to visit.
On September 10, 2002, the New York Times ran an article about him in which they told of a snapshot they referred to as “The Santa Claus Picture” which was displayed in the firehouse. Mary Grace, Bobby’s wife, had seen him and their son, James, in the bathtub with soapsuds beards like Santas. Bobby was chewing a cigar and had his arms around James. He protested laughingly at her intent to take a picture, but the result of her determination made a great photo.
On March 22, 2003, this story emerged: Bobby and Mary Grace honeymooned in Jamaica in June 2001. Both were stunned at the poverty they saw there. Bobby was killed only 4 months later, but a group called Food for the Poor raised money in the names of those rescue workers who perished in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. With the funds raised they built many 12 by 12 wooden homes for impoverished families in Jamaica. They built one home for each of the rescuers who died in the World Trade Center, a total of 403 houses! Mary Grace Foti said she cried when she received the photo of the home built to honor Bobby. The photo showed the smiling recipient family standing proudly in front of their new home.
On March 23, 2003, Newsday magazine writer, Nick Iyer, wrote: “Robert Joseph Foti and his wife, Mary Grace, were driving home to Albertson from Old Westbury Gardens in August when they spotted an elderly woman in an old jalopy, stranded with a flat tire. Foti got out of his car and pried off the flat and replaced it with the spare. After he finished, the woman called him an angel and offered him $10 for his services. Foti refused, but the woman insisted. He took the money, but snuck it into her purse when she wasn't looking, his wife recalled recently. ‘That was just the type of guy he was. He was always helping people.’"
Iyer also told this story (paraphrased by me to shorten the story): After seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last year with his family, Foti drove to his mother-in-law’s home, mashed the potatoes, carved the turkey and cleaned up after dinner. "He was always there," Mrs. Tastor said.
This notice was printed in the On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 1000 hours: There will be a street renaming ceremony honoring the memory of Robert J. Foti, who made the supreme sacrifice on September 11, 2001. The ceremony will take place at the corner of Grand Street and the FDR Drive, Manhattan. All off-duty members and their families are invited to attend as a mark of respect to the deceased. Members are requested to attend in dress uniform.
Following are some quotes from memorials written by family, friends and acquaintances:
From Mary Grace Foti, wife:
He was always stopping to help someone or doing the dishes. He would go on all the field trips with the mothers. It was his nature to help others, which explains why he became a fireman. He was very adventurous and outgoing. He liked to take risks. The more time that has passed, the harder it gets, the longer it has been since I've heard his voice. Things that were clear aren't so clear anymore. They say it has to get harder before it gets better. I guess that's where I am right now.
I lost track of the source of the following quote in a computer crash in 2007:
"Rose Foti (Bobby’s mother) and I met for only a few minutes, but we had both lost a loved one in the attacks. When we got off the shuttle ride we were sharing, she gave me a shirt to give to my friend’s widow. The shirt was imprinted: 'Before he was an Angel, Hero, Fireman, he was my son!'"
Maryellen Teaman, friend:
Bob was a hero long before September 11. About four years ago when I was picking up my daughter from the Epiphany School on East 22nd Street, I saw a truck that was on fire, rolling down Second Avenue. It was veering toward 22nd Street. Bob was at the school picking up his kids. He saw the truck; he ran to it, opened the door, looking for the driver, who had gotten out of the truck blocks away, when it first caught on fire. Bob turned the ignition of,f the truck stopped, and a tragedy was averted. There were many kids due to come out of school at that time. The truck could have crashed into parked cars on the block. He did not give a thought to his own safety. I was in awe of his response. I called his house that night to thank him for being a hero.
Jeff, Violaine, Jeff Jr., and Joey Acevedo:
Bobby, we will miss you, I never thanked you for the time you helped Joey when he got hurt in 5th grade at the Yankee Game, I thought about it all the time and never took the minute to say thanks. We will miss your umpire days in PSLL and those awful calls you made (smile). You are a great guy and were very brave, you will be missed so will your sense of humor.
Those who have never met Bobby have missed out on a very unique person. BobbyJoseph Guzzo:
was a very decent man who loved his family and adored his children. I grew up on Grand St. with Bobby. Bobby was one of the funniest people I knew. Bobby was
always there to lend a helping hand. I’m proud to tell my children that I once knew a Hero Firefighter named Bobby Foti.
Bobby looked to enjoy his life and to spread happiness whenever he could. He wasPeggy Cunneen:
sharing and giving to friends and strangers alike. He played with his children, and gave them many memories which are sure to carry them through the rest of
their lives. As a firefighter, Bobby was no stranger to helping people in trouble. I remember days when he and his good friend Jimmy helped pull struggling swimmers out of a riptide that threatened to pull them out to sea. Everyone knew Bobby. He was always talking to people. Never shy, he would turn to a new face just as likely as to an old friend. If there was a sudden burst of laughter, Bobby was probably nearby instigating it. One of my best memories of Bobby was an episode of him and his brother Joe clowning around. I can’t clearly recall how it started, but I suspect Bobby was nudging his brother without respite. Joe jumped up and started to chase his big brother across the beach. In a wild lunge, Joe grabbed for Bobby, but only succeeded in grasping the leg of his bathing suit. Well, picture Bobby being dragged to a halt by the bottom edge of his suit. Gravity and Joe’s weight dragged the suit down a lot faster than it did to the rest of Bobby. Everyone on the beach got to see more of Bobby than they expected. Afterward, Bobby sheepishly returned to the group. He was a little bit red-faced, and still laughing about the whole thing. That was Bobby! He always made the most out of whatever life tossed his way. Events have conspired to take Bobby from our presence, but nothing can take the memories of his life among us. No act of man can eradicate the fact that he lives on in his three children.When one looks at their faces, it is easy to see that Bobby lives on in each of them.
The void in our lives seems so much greater because of who Bob was. You always knew when Bob was in a room. He was blessed with such great looks and his charismatic personality. After the first day of school last year, he was the only one who knew everyone's name. At the end of the first week his firehouse was building us new bookcases. Anything that needed to be done that year Bob took care of it.Finally, read this tribute - a poem written for Bobby Foti by Ellen Brennemen:
Don't think of him as gone away-- his journey's just begun
Life holds so many facets --this earth is only one.
Just think of him as resting from the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort where there are nodays and years.
Think how he must be wishing that we could know today
How nothing but our sadness can really pass away.
And think of him as living in the hearts of those he touched...
For nothing loved is ever lost-- and he was loved so much.
Refer to this website for more information about the 2996 project and for links to other blogging tributes.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Night and Day by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I always enjoy Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone novels. As an analyst by nature, I enjoy trying to figure out what makes Chief Stone tick. I stop reading from time to time to dissect with my inner consultant the contrasts so evident in Stone's personality. Is it believable that he can be so genuinely loving and caring in some ways while being so callous and remote in others? Can a person who understands his addiction stay addicted in such a controlled manner? I grieved when Robert B. Parker died last year because his police procedurals are so entertaining and his continuing characters seem like old friends to me. I was glad to discover that this novel and one more, Split Image, were written in his last months. So I have one more RBP novel left to read, and I understand that it is another Jesse Stone story.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am catching up on best sellers from the last few years. I finished this one a couple of hours ago. I always enjoy Anna Quindlen's novels - she makes the reader think. I enjoy her use of language. I few examples: "I don't even have a dog. I tell people I'm allergic so they won't think less of me. Instead I have a cat, the pet that ranks just above a throw pillow in terms of required responsibility." "I love it," I said, which like most simple declarative sentences was an oversimplification merged with a lie and overlaid by the mists of blessed memory..." "I felt prosperous, as though I had so much, so much, as though I had been flat water and now I was carbonated..."
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011
I just read Lisa Unger's Die for You. There were several quotes I enjoyed thinking about.
(1) "I didn't want to know anything about Marc's lover...didn't want any fodder for my imagination to spin. Without it, I could just cast her as a bit player, someone who glided across the stage barely noticed. Any detail might have started me weaving her into something bigger, more important than I wanted her to be.
(2) When asked why she forgave her husband's affair: "Because I love him..."
"And love forgives." The detective sounded sarcastic, bitter.
"Love accepts, moves forward. Maybe forgiveness comes in time."
(3)"(He) thought that American women had been sold a concept that failed them miserably. Spend every free moment of your time fretting about your body, the media urged, exercise, buy diet books, primp, preen, pluck, wax, and a man will find you attractive and love you forever. Don't ever for one second worry about being loving or lovable, about kindness or finding fulfillment on some spirtual level. Just try to take up as little space as possible, be as small as possible, or you will be reviled and ridiculed by every industry posed to make a dime off of you -- the fitness and publishing industries, even the medical industry. They'll steal your money and your self-esteem. You'll give it all and still be unhappy. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they bought these ideas, believed wholeheartedly, built lives and lifestyles around them."
(4) (He) thought it required a special kind of ego-sickness to take a life, a core belief that your needs, your survival took precedence over all others. Unless it was a question of self-defense or to protect another, be believed you had to be at least a borderline sociopath to kill another person. Even if someone is overcome with rage, it takes amazing arrogance to kill."
(5)"I was fearless once...I remember being so sure of myself, of my opinions, passions, and goals...Everyone with a different opinion was simply wrong...But as I grew older, that passionate certainty faded. I beame more reserved, more reticent. My righteousness was less assured. I avoided the kind of heated politicl debates that I once enjoyed. Existential, religious, moral arguments made me uncomfortable. There were so many opionions, so many convinced of their own righeousness. A slow dawning that the world was impossibly complicated, that differences were too often irreconcilable, made me less inclined to do battle."
(6)Her sister commented on her mellowed approach to life. She replied, "I can't afford my own temper tantrums anymore. You owe them (your children) something you know. These kids, you bring them into the world. They didn't ask for it, you did it, for all you own reasons, good or bad. The least you can do is not be a bitch all the time, someone who's always in a rage, or complaining, or depressive."
(7) "Why didn't she see that it was about betrayal? infidelity? That it was about secrets and lies, an erosion of trust? Why didn't she know that those things cannot be fixed? You can't restore torn fabric to its original state. You can patch it, you can sew it -- but there will always be a seam, a place you can touch with your finger, a place that's weaker, prone to tearing again."
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wilma's 9-year-old son is a delightful child. He is a creative thinker and analyst. And, like his grandmother (me), he loves to use new vocabulary. Tonight he confided to his mother that he felt "conflicted." When she asked him why, he replied, "Wipeout and Harry Potter are on TV at the very same time tonight!"
Earlier today, as they were reading together, the subject of pigs came up. He commented to his mom, "You know, I've touched a real pig before." Of course, she asked what the pig felt like when he touched it. He replied, "It was soft -- like this chair. No, that's not it. It was soft UNDERNEATH but a little fuzzy on the top -- like your legs!!"
Wednesday he confided to his sisters that his favorite day of the week is Wednesday. They were curious, so he continued, "It's sausage and biscuit day for school breakfast - AND it is my day to sit in the front seat in the car (they take turns riding shotgun.) - And it is the night that the best TV shows come on."
One day last week, Eli told Wilma that they were studying family histories in Social Studies. He asked, "I need to know what my "hair tidge" is." At her raised eyebrows, he continued, "You know, are we German or something?" The word "heritage" will pop in more conversations soon!
As the family drove home from a long basketball practice recently, Eli yawned. Then he said, "Good Morning, Judge! Oh, wait a minute. What's a 'good morning judge'? Is it a hiccup? a burp? A yawn or what?"
I love that child!
Saturday, March 05, 2011
No Ordinary Joes: The Extraordinary True Story of Four Submariners in War and Love and Life by Larry Colton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This highly-interesting non-fiction book is an enlightening look into the individual battles fought during World War II. The story was presented in a bow-tie formation. The author introduced each of the sailors individually, giving his entire background story - childhood, interests, family relationships, early adolescent experiences, and first assignments in the navy. This introduction took about 13 chapters. After the characters were well-developed, the story narrowed to the events that brought the sailors together.
The narrow knot of the bowtie showed us how the men knew each other as crew members of the same submarine. Of course this is the part of the story that caused the story to be written. The experiences these young men (ages 17-23 at the time) endured as prisoners of war, were horrifying. I hung on every word as the author showed their physical and emotional degradation and their incredible strength as they lent support and comfort to each other.
After the central events of the war were told, the author widened the story again in the other side of the bowtie. He followed each man's life after they were freed when the war ended. This enlightening follow-up story showed the reader some of the long-term positive as well as negative results of such harrowing experiences as these men suffered in early adulthood. It was interesting to me to see the changes in the individual personalities as the men aged; however, it was also clearly shown that many of their early characteristics were intensified rather than changed by the experience. The men were shown as 80-year-old grandfathers at the end of the book.
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