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Sisterhood of the Traveling Twins

I worked a lot my freshman year of college. I saved every penny I made from my work study job in the library and I took on extra shifts in the tool department at our local Sears whenever I was back in my hometown. Similarly, my sister didn’t spend a dime of her megre ROTC stipend and stocked fruit at the grocery store down the street until she couldn’t look at another banana.

Eventually, all of our hard work paid off and by mid-spring, Jessi and I had socked away enough money for something we’d been dreaming about for ages: an epic European backpacking trip. Ignoring our parents’ protests (“You’ll be kidnapped!” exclaimed my father), we applied for passports and booked our plane tickets. This was exciting stuff for two New Hampshire kids that had never crossed the Mississippi River, nevermind the Atlantic.

Our parents dropped off their (technically) adult twin daughters at Logan with some trepidation and off we went for a grand adventure. Our Fodor’s guide was our bible for the next few weeks. We got front row seats at Wimbledon by sleeping all night in the sidewalk queue, we hiked up the beautiful hills of Scotland to see what we could see, we visited anything that looked like a museum or cathedral, we drank beer and and made friends with strangers, when money ran low we ate bread and Nutella for dinner, and we actually used our high school German. In short, we had the time of our lives.

Since that time, my sister and I have traveled around the country and the world, although mostly separately. The army took her and her husband far away from me and to places she would never have otherwise traveled (and in some cases, places she hopes never to see again) while my husband and I spent the years touring the great natural wonders of the western hemisphere.

After life threw our family a huge curveball this spring, my sister decided to move home to New England. As we made plans to get her back East, she and I started talking about a road trip. Just the two of us. No kids, no dogs, no work, no commitments. So after more than a decade, my sister and I will be taking our first solo trip together. I could not be more excited. Seeking to find the places where the only incomprehensible tweeting we hear about is from the birds, we decided to drive from Lake Tahoe to St. Louis, stopping at every national park along the way.

While Google maps has been a lifesaver, this type of trip requires some real planning and a giant stack of books. As my sister and I started mapping our route, I started collecting titles relating to the stops we would make along the way. Of course, I picked up the tried-and-true staple of the thoughtful wanderer- a Fodor’s guidebook (“The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West” in this case). I also grabbed Frommer’s “Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks” and two Moon guides that cover Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Now with the basics covered, I went in search of some titles that are a bit off the beaten path.

The first odd-ball I found was by an author you may recognize for his award winning historical epics, Thomas Keneally. “The Places Where Souls are Born” takes readers on a journey through some of the interesting characters and places that have shaped how the American southwest is perceived. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it certainly did not satisfy my need for information on the history of the area. In fact it did just the opposite.

Lusting for more information, I sought out books that would give a concise history of the geography and people of Utah in particular. While I wanted more information than the encyclopedia could provide, this girl doesn’t have time to study an exhaustive history of the native peoples, learn every tenet of the mormon faith, or become an expert on the geological forces that shaped the landscape, so I reached for “The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America: The Desert States” and “The Smithsonian Guides to Natural America: The Southern Rockies- Colorado, Utah.” These series are like “Sox in 2” for the curious, but time crunched traveler. It gave me just what I wanted to know, and not too much more.

Armed with a map, GPS, and a stack of books, I think we are prepared for a repeat of our college wanderings. We’re going to drink beer, make friends with strangers, and eat Nutella and bread when money gets low, but most importantly, we’ll get to spend time making memories that will last a lifetime.

Allison Palmgren is the technology librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Allison’s column in the August 17th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Doing the Right Thing or What Would You Do?

A few years ago, when our grandson was still in high school, he worked at the local Dunkin’ Donuts in the center of Norwood. This work location was perfect because he could walk to work after school and he could walk to our Norwood home in the evening or on weekends if we weren’t around to give him a ride.

He was 16 when he got the job and one afternoon on one of his first trips home from work he found two twenty dollar bills folded up lying in the crosswalk. He picked the cash up but told us about it when he got home, asking what he should do with it.

My husband had had something similar happen a few months back when he found a twenty dollar bill on the floor right next to the milk coolers at the rear of Shaw’s.  He immediately brought it up to the service counter and announced that he didn’t want to take the money in case some elderly shopper or young parent had just lost his or her entire grocery money for the week. Shaw’s took the money to hold onto just in case someone came looking for it. The promised my husband that after a week or two, with no claim for the money lost that particular day, they would call and welcome him back to retrieve the twenty dollars.

In the end, no one came looking, Gerry got the call from the service desk and he was twenty dollars richer that day.

When we discussed the possible scenarios of how the money might have been lost – or who it belonged to – Colin understood that someone could have dropped the money on his or her way to shop. I called my favorite local police chief and it was decided that we would hold onto the money for one month, leaving time for someone to claim it.

No one came looking, and Colin was a richer teenager with forty dollars in his pocket after the thirty days.

Then one sunny summer afternoon in July of last year, as we exited our car near our Marion home in a busy Route 6 parking lot, Gerry found a one-hundred dollar bill, crisp and neatly folded in half on the ground. Knowing that it could have been lost by any customer visiting any number of small shops, we sat and discussed the question this posed. What was the right thing to do?

Of course, we had just taught our grandson the valuable lesson of giving the owner the option of reclaiming lost cash… Perhaps it was a careless tourist with money to burn who slipped a $100 bill in his or her pocket for a trip to the gourmet coffee shop. Or perhaps it was a local resident with a particular purchase to make who would discover the loss and report it to the police.

Here’s what Gerry did, after one of those “aww, do I have to?”  moments. Remembering his own advice, he knew he had to do the right thing. He brought it to the Marion police station where he was told it had to sit for one full year in the evidence room in case the owner came looking.

And it sat for one exact year until the detective in charge of evidence released it. No one had come looking, obviously, and Gerry was a richer man that day.

Public safety officers we’ve told this story to have told us that very, very few people bring money to the station and turn it in. Most of our friends, in fact, have laughed at the story and told us that they’d have pocketed it. And perhaps Gerry would have if he hadn’t just tried to teach a lesson in morality and ethics to our young grandson.

Juan Manuel Quiñones, or better known as John Quiñones, is an ABC news correspondent and host of What Would You Do?  This television series, originally known as Primetime: What Would You Do?, ran for about 8 seasons beginning in 2008 through 2015. Reruns can still be seen on other networks, evidence of the popularity of the ethical and moral questions that are proposed and the questions they raise.

In the reality show, actors portray scenes in public settings which are being recorded by hidden cameras. The What Would You Do moments happen when bystanders are either moved or not moved by the events happening within their eyesight or earshot. The scenarios usually involve a profound situation – teenagers bullying one another or a person of color or different ethnicity being treated unfairly in a public setting. The producers of the show are looking for people to do the right thing. And, happily, that is often the case.

Of course John Quiñones appears on the scene at just the right time. Bystanders are interviewed and witnesses questioned. Psychologists respond to the actions and reactions. I’m always intrigued by What Would You Do? when I come across it on television and, of course, I am always heartened to see that there are people all over the world who do the right thing.

In 2015 when the series ended, John Quiñones wrote the book What Would You Do? Doing the Right Thing Even When You Think No One’s Watching and it is full of both the real-life stories, and some made-up ones, that create discussion.  Quiñones wrote the book hoping to inspire others to speak up when they witness wrongdoing. (Quiñones’ first book written with Steven Williams, Heroes Among Us – Ordinary People, Extraordinary Choices, was published in 2008.)

Doing the right thing is not always the quick and easy answer. Gerry and I would like to believe that we helped teach our grandson to think beyond the free cash lying on the street. There might always be an owner who desperately needs it.

Our lives might be richer in the end, cash or not.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the August 10, 2017 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Reserve August and September Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?

August 2017 Fiction

Download or view the August Fiction and August Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.

Reserve July and August Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?

2017 July Fiction
Download or view the July Fiction and July Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.

You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat!

Jaws Benchley (190x286)It was one year after the release of the Steven Spielberg horror/thriller Jaws that Universal Studios Hollywood created their Jaws ride on their Studio or Backlot Tour. In that pre-digital age, the awesome special effects of the Jaws exhibit were animatronic Jaws, some foamy water and bright red blood, and a terrorizing tram ride along the shores of Amityville. Hardy riders watched the demise of a replication of the notorious boat, The Orca.

For four decades the ride scared, thrilled and mesmerized millions of visitors, especially those who had seen the movie. And who hadn’t seen the movie? The Jaws sensation was perfected and redesigned at Universal Studios Florida and at Universal Studios Japan.

Over the years, however, children and teenagers were dragged on the spectacular ride (in the eyes of their parents and grandparents) and they found it lame and fake. Even those of us who rode again after the run of the century found it hokey and tired. The Jaws Attack ride went through several iterations across the world and was, finally, fully retired by 2012.

Author Peter Benchley was a 31-year old struggling journalist in 1971 when he wrote a novel about a shark that terrorized a community on Long Island, New York. He had become captivated by one particular shark hunter, Frank Mundus. Frank was a fisherman and a sensational boat captain and he capitalized on a fear, awe, and fascination with sharks. He led “Monster” fishing expeditions in hunt of sharks all for a pretty price. At the same time, he caught what might be the largest shark ever in 1964. Its weight was estimated to be 4,550 pounds.

Mundus was a colorful character who drank beer during the day, sported an earring in his ear, and skippered the Cricket and Cricket II off the coast of Long Island’s Montauk. Those of us who have seen Jaws know that this was the real life Quint, the passionate shark hunter that was written into Benchley’s book.  No fish was too big for Mundus to tackle in 1964. He eventually became discouraged when his catch of a 3427 pound Great White on one of his sport fishing trips was disqualified. He moved to Hawaii but traveled back to New York in 2005 as the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, Shark Hunter – Chasing the Great White. (The one-hour documentary can be seen in full on You Tube.) He died in 2008 in an airport in Hawaii, returning on yet again another trip to New York.

There is no doubt, then, that Mundus inspired Benchley’s book that was commissioned and then published by Doubleday in 1974. It was a sensational thriller, staying on the bestseller lists for 44 weeks. Of course, the rest is history when Benchley co-wrote the screenplay and a 30-year old Steven Spielberg directed.

In the early 90s, sharks had virtually disappeared in the waters off Montauk, assuredly the result of Mundus and others who followed him. Nearly 1000 sharks were caught each day off Long Island. Both Mundus and Benchley eventually came to regret spawning both the appeal of shark hunting and the fear of sharks that was invoked by their successes. Benchley followed the success of Jaws with The Deep in 1976 and The Island in 1979, both made into films but never with the success of Jaws. He wrote more novels and works of non-fiction about the oceans and seas, was the first host of Shark Week in 1994 and created Peter Benchley’s Amazon television show.

The producers of Jaws invented the summer blockbuster. Up until the summer of 1976, films very infrequently became huge successes. It helped that the beaches were open and the days were hot for swimming and Spielberg spent heavily on advertising and planned for simultaneous release of Jaws across many markets.

None of the three sequels reached the triumph of the original Jaws. Jaws 2, Jaws 3D and Jaws: The Revenge made money but never held the allure or achieved the success. The book and the movies all managed one thing, however. It kept people from going in the water. Beach attendance after the release of the first Jaws was at an all-time low. The fears experienced by millions of people was similar to that induced by Hitchcock’s movie Psycho in 1960.

Jaws is included on any number of “Best Film Ever” lists and there are few people who haven’t seen or heard about the film or the book. A 2007 documentary, The Shark is Still Working, studies the influences and power of the 1975 film. The images, let alone the impressionable music, conjure smiles, smirks and squeals from most of us. Richard Dreyfus, the young oceanographer was 29 when Jaws was released. Roy Schneider, police chief Brody, saw his first success in French Connection but had amazing and multiple successes in Jaws and Jaws 2.

Beloved (or hated) shark hunter Quint was played by Robert Shaw who died only four years after Jaws was released. Unlike Dreyfus, Spielberg, Williams and Schneider, whose careers exploded after the success of the movie, Jaws was one of Shaw’s last appearances. He also starred in Benchley’s The Deep in 1977, and died in Ireland of a heart attack at the age of 51 in 1979. Composer John Williams had already won an Academy Award for Fiddler on the Roof in 1971 but he won again for Jaws in 1976 and for Star Wars in 1977.  Peter Benchley’s legacy of shark conservation and education lives on in the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards.

The Morrill Memorial Library has copies of all three of the Jaws films and Peter Benchley’s bestselling book. The Minuteman Library Network has many more. June 20, 2017 was the 42 anniversary of the film, Jaws, and sharks have been fascinating, terrifying and intriguing us for all forty-two years.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the June 29th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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