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Duplex Planet

Duplex Planet

If, for some reason, you’ve been out of the loop for the last couple of decades, I wanted to bring the wonderful “Duplex Planet” to your attention.  I bought this book about ten years ago, and share it whenever I get the chance.  It’s an example of why I enjoy the biography business.  You never know what someone is going to say.

As activity director of the Duplex Nursing Home, David Greenberg became friends with the residents.  He had the idea of asking common and wacky questions to the residents, from “How did you meet your wife?” to “Who was Frankenstein?” and record their responses.  Because it was a nursing home, the mental processes of the residents varied.  “… the names of their conditions of deterioration mattered little to me,” wrote Mr. Greenberg.  “What did matter was that this was someone still very much alive, very interested in conversing, in entertaining or being entertained, in connecting with someone else.”

 

Excerpts:

 

What’s the most valuable thing you ever lost?

 

Well, to me it was valuable.  It was a letter written to us extolling the virtues of my son from the Superintendent of Schools.  He said it could be used as a letter of recommendation anytime in his life.  It told that he was not only good scholastically, but he had good character as well.  I lost it somewhere. It fell out of my pocket.  To me it was valuable.

 

Herman Seftel

 

What can you tell me about the Beatles?

 

I don’t know nothin’ about the Beatles.  I can tell you more about the Salem Fire.  June 25th, 1914.  It burned seven days and seven nights.  We had doughnuts and coffee by the Salvation Army. I also wrote a book on the Salem Fire.  Worked with the Salem Public Works Department, fifteen years.

 

Walter Kieran

 

What’s the worst trouble you were ever in?

 

Probably I’ve been in plenty, but I don’t remember it.  My memory isn’t as good as it used to be.  Used-to-be.  How long ago is that, huh? 

 

Fergie Ferguson

 

Treat yourself to this insightful, humorous and poignant book of collected conversations of seasoned individuals.

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1963We couldn’t afford store bought costumes, so ours were usually hand-made, like this witch’s outfit which Mom sewed, which included stitched-on orange felt pumpkins and other shapes.  My two younger brothers and I didn’t care that the costumes were handmade.  We were happy just to dress up and see what the other kids were wearing.

 

We lived on a horseshoe-shaped street, and we’d cover its entire length, running back-and-forth across the street (with Dad walking along keeping an eye on us), from house-to-house filling our bag.  And, I mean, filling it.  We used grocery bags – yes, the big paper ones – which we would decorate, and it almost topped out by the end of the evening.  Can you imagine?  A grocery bag completely filled with candy!

 

For a couple of years, to save money, Mom made popcorn balls with crazy food coloring to hand out.  I can still see some of the kids’ faces trying to figure out what to make of them.  The 4″ size usually won them over, however.  

 

Abbott & CostelloEvery Halloween, at 6:00 p.m., the local television station would play “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.”  (For some reason, Dracula and Wolfman didn’t get equal billing.)  I would watch it after we got home, digging through my saccharine bounty.  Sweet Tarts were the best, and the marshmallow peanuts were the worst.

 

One thing I avoided every Halloween were haunted houses.  I was too jumpy. (Did I mention I have two brothers?)

 

What were your favorite costumes?

 

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How accurate will your biography be? 

Dorothy Parker, writer and wit extraordinaire, was witness to two plays written about her.  One was written by Ruth Gordon, and the other by George Oppenheimer, which made her leery about writing her autobiography.  “If I did, George Oppenheimer and Ruth Gordon would sue me for plagiarism.”  Read the rest of this entry »

What did your grandmother do before you knew her?

Mine was a sharp shooter.  It was news to me!  Never saw her hold a gun in my life, which is probably a good thing.  She was always yelling at us kids to get out of the house, because we were making it dirty.  If she had a gun, I wouldn’t be here writing this …

Ask a grandparent about their childhood; what they did for fun when they were little.  Share here what you find out.

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So, what?  Biographies are not just for “famous people.”  Every single person has an interesting story to share.  Everyone. 

Ask five people you know the same question and see what different responses you get.  For example:  “When you were a child, what was something you got away with?”

Share your results here.

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