Thank you to all of my fellow writers for helping me complete the Slice of Life Story Challenge this year with your inspiration and encouragement. Thank you to those of you who read my slices, liked a slice, or commented on a slice. Thank you to all of you who shared so openly; I enjoyed reading your posts. I look forward to reading more “slices” each Tuesday throughout the rest of the year.
Today is National Pencil Day. It commemorates the day in 1858 when Hymen Lipman patented the ‘modern pencil.’ It was a wooden graphite pencil with a rubber eraser attached.
How do you feel about pencils? I love them! From the scritch-scratch sounds they make as they move across the page to the forgiving eraser conveniently placed on top, pencils are special friends. I don’t write with them as much as a would like to because sometimes I worry about smudging the page or wonder if my notes will fade over time, but I think I will resurrect my pencil usage in honor of the day. After all, it was a pencil that first sparked my love of writing, and it is much easier to control than the pen.
I can be a pencil snob. I prefer Ticonderoga yellow pencils or Staedtler black pencils. When it comes to colored pencils, Crayola it is! Obviously, my pencils need to be sharp, and I usually have a handy-dandy pencil sharpener close by for when I can’t get to my electric sharpener. In my classroom, I have one pencil sharpener for graphite and one for colored pencils because as much as I love colored pencils, their wax or oil-based interiors can wreak havoc on a sharpener.
Fun Facts About Pencils – link below
One pencil can draw a line up to 45 miles long.
Pencils can write underwater and in zero gravity too.
One pencil can write up to 45,000 words.
Almost 14 billion pencils are produced in a year.
Pencils in the U.S are painted yellow to indicate the best quality pencils.
Roald Dahl used exactly six sharpened pencils with yellow casings from the beginning of the day; only once all six became unusable would he resharpen them.
John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” reportedly took more than 300 pencils to write; Steinbeck was also said to be an obsessive pencil user, writing many of his masterpieces in pencil.
I will definitely try to remember the three lessons you can learn from a pencil. I am not fond of the first one; I worry about the second one, but I love the last one!
Since 2017, this day has been set aside to honor and remember Vietnam Veterans; it is the anniversary of the withdrawal of military units from South Vietnam in 1973. I was a freshman in high school at the time. As you might imagine, I didn’t know a great deal about the war. I had three cousins who were in the service at the time. Two were marines and one was in the army. They were all a good bit older than me, and I didn’t really understand the entire situation. I did know that one of them went “overseas,” but I don’t think I put two and two together. I do remember worrying about draft numbers when my older brother was getting close to turning 18. He did not get called to serve.
Vietnam by the Numbers
20 years – the length of the war – second only to the war in Afghanistan
9 million US military personnel served
58,000 soldiers are memorialized, for being killed in action, in the black granite of the Vietnam War Memorial
1500 are still unaccounted for.
19 was the average age of a soldier fighting during the war
27 young men from Father Judge HS in Philadelphia (where one of my brothers would later attend) were killed in action. 1961-1968
27 young men from the former Cardinal Dougherty HS in Philadelphia also lost their lives in Vietnam. These two high schools each lost the most alumni of any other parochial or private school in the nation.
64 alumni of Thomas Edison High School lost their lives from November 1965 to January 1971 while serving in the Vietnam War. Edison holds the distinction of having the most casualties from Vietnam than any other single high school in the United States.
When I was around ten or eleven (1968-1969) I began to notice the war and the protests against the war. I know I did not understand the politics of the times except for the arguments that would sometimes break out at family gatherings. I still don’t know enough – not what I should know. I have vague memories of the Kent State Massacre, and “Hanoi Jane” Fonda. For me, those years are etched in my memory via songs – the soundtrack of an era. We would sing songs around the fire on Girl Scout camping trips not knowing if they were for or against the war – at least I had no clue at the time. You could hear the echoes of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” through the trees as the guitars gently strummed the accompaniment. I would listen to my transistor radio and sing along with tunes like “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Peace Train,” “War,” “The Times They are a-Changin’,” and “Get Together.”
I do know that Vietnam Veterans were not welcomed home with parades and fanfare. Often they were disrespected and the victims of taunts and shouts. They came home with physical and mental health problems and some people didn’t even seem to care. Only now are they beginning to get some real recognition – too late for some. In just a few short years the US will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of our involvement in Vietnam. I promise to know more by then.
Within the soul of each Vietnam veteran there is probably something that says, ‘Bad war, good soldier.’ Only now are Americans beginning to separate the war from the warrior.
Spent the day with my hubby Made no plans Set no alarm Slept in late Watched some TV Drank a cup of tea while it was still hot Read a few chapters of a book Took a nap Cleaned out & organized the pantry Ate a delicious dinner thanks to my personal chef Sat down to watch the Phillies BAM!! Got another migraine 🤷♀️ At least it waited until after dinner! Good thing I didn’t make plans!
Jazz is alive and well in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys of Pennsylvania.
The sounds of Duke Ellington, Chick Corea, Sammy Nestico, and Miles Davis just to name a few echoed through the Musikfest Cafe at the Steel Stacks Music Venue in Bethlehem, PA https://www.steelstacks.org/about/what-is-steelstacks/. This was once the home to Bethlehem Steel, the second leading manufacturer of steel in the United States. The men and women who worked here from its inception and through its heyday lived through the Jazz Age – what a melding of the old and the new.
We were there to watch our son, Charlie, lead his high school jazz band students in the finals of the HS Jazz Band Showcase. This was our first live concert of this year, the only other one since Covid being the Holiday Concert at the high school where Charlie teaches.
These high school musicians were so talented that if you closed your eyes you could imagine yourself in a speakeasy in NYC, Chicago, or New Orleans. You could be transported to the Cotton Club, Birdland, or the Apollo Theater. It was magical.
What impressed me most is that these young musicians weren’t just playing the music; they were feeling it. You could see it on their faces, coming through their bodies as they kept the rhythm and beat, feel it in the music they were bringing the charts to life. The students who soloed and improvised amazed me with their incredible confidence and poise. This is to the credit of their passionate music teachers who are tirelessly working to keep music alive in our schools.
I am hopeful that the legends of Jazz will be kept alive for generations to come so long as there are music teachers to share their love of the genre, students who step out of their comfort zones and answer the call, and audiences who appreciate the their efforts. American music stands on the shoulders of giants. Let’s not forget them or their music.
Ooh You can dance You can jive Having the time of your life Ooh, see that girl Watch that scene Digging the dancing queen (ABBA)
Today’s slice is brought to you by the 6th-grade girls in the room next door who were spending their lunch recess with their homeroom teacher. All of a sudden the above lyrics came boldly ringing through the mid-day air bringing a smile to my face as well as a question to my mind. Why were they singing ABBA, and why did they know all the lyrics?
This song was released in 1976, the year I graduated from high school. I was NEVER a dancing queen, just ask my family, but I did enjoy dancing (complete with bell-bottomed pants and platform shoes) and imagining myself as that 17-year-old dancing queen. The movie, Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of the Swedish pop group, Abba, debuted in 2008 with a sequel in 2018. Apparently, there is a Mamma Mia tour happening in 2022. I have to admit that I always enjoy a trip down memory lane when I hear musical selections from those movies including: “Take a Chance on Me,” “SOS,” “Waterloo,” and of course “Mamma Mia!”
So this chance encounter with a blast-from-the-past would not have me concerned for the present generation of young people if it weren’t for the picture my daughter sent me earlier this week from The Hollywood Reporter.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed my teenage years in the 70s including bell-bottom pants, frayed jeans, midi skirts, maxi dresses, Tie-dye, peasant blouses, and ponchos. I had my share of Hippie accessories of chokers, headbands, scarves, and jewelry made of wood, stones, feathers, and beads. However, I am not sure I want to see the latest generation of teenagers in those “vintage” outfits. Been there. Done that. Don’t want to be reminded of just how old I am!
Today is National Cheesesteak Day. “Every March 24 America pays tribute to one of the all-time classic sandwiches — the cheesesteak. Much like national liberty itself, the cheesesteak is elegant, necessary, pure, and was born in Philadelphia. The cheesesteak rose from humble beginnings in South Philly to the cultural icon it is today: safely secure in the sandwich hall of fame.” (https://nationaltoday.com/national-cheesesteak-day/).
Being a Philly native, I have had my share of debates over who serves the best cheesesteaks in the area. Most notable is the rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks (established 1930) and Geno’s Steaks (established 1966); the two venues are situated on opposite corners of 9th St. and Passyunk Ave. I have had them both, and I prefer Geno’s. But not all great cheesesteak joints are in South Philly. I have fond memories of having cheesesteaks with my Roxborough relatives from Dalessandro’s Steaks and Hoagies on the corner of Wendover St. and Henry Ave. Of course, some of my Philly friends will tell me to mention Tony Luke’s, Steve Prince of Steaks, or some other sandwich shop but that could make my post go on forever. Did you know there is a Facebook page dedicated to rating cheesesteaks?
If you are a true South Philly regular you know how to order your cheesesteak just the way you like it without holding up the line. Here are some pointers.
How to order a cheesesteak “A cheesesteak wit,” is what you say if you want onions.
“A cheesesteak witout,” is what you say if you don’t want onions. (You can also order your cheesesteak “with onions” or “without onions” and nobody will mind.)
At some places, you may be asked to specify whether you want American cheese, provolone, or Whiz. Don’t ask for Swiss cheese. Presidential candidate John Kerry made that mistake.
Don’t ask for rare, medium-rare, or medium. All cheesesteaks are well-done.
Today is by far the hardest day of this challenge. Every idea that pops into my head is immediately shot down and tossed out like last week’s leftovers. I don’t know why today is so particularly difficult, but I cannot quiet my mind enough to write. I thought about waiting until later, but I have a list of things that I want to accomplish this evening before I sit down to lose myself in, “This Is Us” at 9:00 PM.
I can’t quite put my finger on the problem. I am feeling tired and restless, weary and on edge. I scrolled through some other posts – nothing. I looked up quotes of the day – nothing. I paged through my writer’s notebook – nothing. What do you do to break through writer’s block?