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You Are A Classic


I covered a news story for a local paper about a pop-up Cupcake Show. Held at a local library, participants created paintings on-the-spot of photographs of cupcakes supplied by the organizer. The event also included a cupcake potluck, a painting demonstration and music. The paintings were on display for only a few hours and then removed.

Diverse pop-ups are growing in popularity, not only with individuals organizing them, but also businesses and non-profits, such as museums, restaurants and boutiques. Like a potluck, the event is dependent upon the community contributing to the event.

From a personal history standpoint, consider creating/hosting Pop-up Storytelling events in your community. Fairs, festivals and farmers markets are popular venues.

– Buy cheap picture frames of various sizes at garage sales or thrift stores to “frame” the contributors’ storied objects.

– Put notices in the newspaper, Craigslist and other media inviting the community to participate in the pop-up by (1) bringing an item that has a story and (2) a story label to accompany it, explaining that it will only be on display for a few hours and they will take it home at the end of the event.

– On the day of the pop-up, at your selected venue spot, place the empty frames (glass removed) on fold-up tables covered with neutral colored cloths. As participants/contributors arrive, place their items into the empty frames with the story label placed just outside of its frame. (Be sure to obtain contact information in the event contributors fail to retrieve the items, for whatever reason.)

Host a monthly Pop-up Storytelling with a different theme each month and gain a following!

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Mark Twain

Although he died a century ago, he continues to be quoted and his books continue to be read by each generation.  He has so many fans that Hal Holbrook has been successfully performing his Tony Award winning one-man show, “Mark Twain Tonight,” every year since 1954. 

And, yet, the publishing and retail industries were stunned to learn that Mr. Twain’s autobiography would sell more than the originally printed 50,000 copies.  I shook my head in bewilderment.   Have they been living in an alternate reality?

I experience the same head shaking moment when people tell me their life stories aren’t interesting.  No one else has lived them.  That, in and of itself, makes them interesting.  Additionally, reading the biography of a celebrity is never as interesting as reading biographies of family members, because you’re related to them.

“You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.”

Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain

Have you begun dictating your autobiography?  Why not?

You Are A Classic

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Coop and DietrichGene Autry only kissed his horse.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced their way to romance.  Humphrey Bogart showed Ingrid Bergman how much he loved her by sending her away.

I was fascinated by the movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s.  My brothers were fascinated by sports.  The inevitable battle would break out on who could watch their program on the large color television set, instead of the small black-and-white one in the back room.  They usually won, because the games were in color, and my movies were in black-and-white. 

The magic of romance transcended the stark colorless screen, however, and I would melt into the kissing scenes, as the camera panned to the moon and the viewer was left to his or her imagination.


Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall

Key Largo
Gone With the Wind
Wuthering Heights
Love Story
A Place in the Sun
African Queen
An Affair to Remember
Doctor Zhivago


Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn

It Happened One Night
The Lady Eve
Pillow Talk
Harold & Maude
The Awful Truth
What’s Up Doc
The Palm Beach Story
I Was A Male War Bride
The Thin Man
My Man Godfrey

What is your favorite romantic movie classic to watch this Valentine’s Day?

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As we move into the digital television era, I’ve been thinking about the old black-and-white TV my family had.  It had to warm up for a few minutes before coming on.  When you turned it off, the screen would slowly fade, getting smaller and smaller, until it became a tiny white dot, and then completely disappeared.  There were several glass tubes in the back that would periodically blow and would have to be replaced.

I had a skateboard which I absolutely loved, and was very adept at riding, including down our very steep driveway.  One birthday, I was given a wood burning set, which I immediately used to write my name on the skateboard, and anything else I could think of.  When I ran out of space, I looked around the yard and the street, for pieces of wood to release my creativity. Having run out of places, I realized the back of the television set was wooden and I could write something on it.  Since it was on the back, no one would know.

Until a tube burned out. 

My dad took one look at my creative drawing, and good-bye wood burning set.

What do you remember about the old television sets?

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Childhood pets can run the gamut from cats, dogs, hamsters, goldfish, turtles, etc., to pigs and ferrets.  If Mom and Dad don’t want to deal with an animal, they can get pretty creative, suggesting hermit crabs and ant farms.


My first pet was a cat, which I named Felix, after the cartoon.  We lived near a heavily trafficked corner and, sadly, Felix was hit by a car. 

Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat



My next cat, Boots (named after the story Puss n Boots), had to be given away because it gave me ringworm.   

Puss n Boots

Puss n Boots

Share a story about your first pet.


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I received my first camera – a box Brownie – when I was about 8 years old. It didn’t take me long to go through a roll of film. I took pictures of anything that moved.

My father’s camera didn’t have a flashbulb (early 1960s). Instead, he would hold a T-shaped bar with three very large bulbs that could light a stadium. He had to take our pictures quickly, before we were blinded.

When my uncle decided to become a professional photographer, he asked me to sit for him so he’d have some shots for his portfolio. He suggested a nearby park. I said, “Fine,” but, was secretly mortified. I was in high school, and was afraid someone I knew might see me. Ah, teen angst.

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We all have our favorite Christmas songs, standards, pop and novelty.

My father’s side of the family is Scandinavian, so each year we love listening to Yogi Yorgesson’s “I Just Go Nuts At Christmas” (or, I Yust Go Nuts at Kreesmus) and “Jingle Bells” (or, Yingle Bells).

My favorite version of “Frosty the Snowman” is sung by Leon Redbone and Dr. John, with their funky, raspy voices, especially the “thumpity, thump, thump …”

Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” is sexy.  Madonna’s version is stupid and annoying.  (Two cents.)

The standards of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, etc.  evoke a certain peacefulness appropriate for the holiday season.  My favorite – “O Holy Night.”

I love that satellite radio offers a few different Christmas stations so I can choose classic, contemporary, standards, etc whenever I want.  We can all revisit Christmas’ of our past, or enjoy where we are now.

What’s your favorite Christmas song?

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At the end of an event I recently attended, two gentlemen discussed their respective fountain pen collections.  I listened in as they conversed prices and types (cartridge, inkwell).  An image of my father using a fountain pen (and complaining of its leakage) surged out of my memory banks, quickly followed by Koko the Clown.


Koko_2koko_3The cartoons were a creative combination of animation and live action.Although originally created during the silent movies, a later version was created for television in the early 1960s, and I remember avidly watching them, as they intrigued me to no end. (Trivia: Larry Story of “F Troop” fame supplied many of the voices.) Fountain pens are used by Presidents to sign important legal documents. Artists and writers benefit from the meeting of the literal flow of the ink and the metaphorical flow of the creative processes.

How would you describe the benefits of an ink pen over a ballpoint or gel pen?

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Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words.   His response:  “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

Smith Magazine decided to tap into that creative exercise as to one’s life story, and produced a book of compiled six-word memoirs, entitled “Not Quite What I Was Planning.”  Examples of submissions:

404: Life could not be found.


Rode the hare instead of tortoise.


Found success, lost relatives, then friends.


Ignored instructions; still picking up pieces.


I still miss my big brother.


Took road less traveled. Skinned knees.


Always the last in from recess.



Submit your own six-word memoir here.


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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.”




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.

You Are A Classic

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