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Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Or, if your Cajun is a little rusty, “let the good times roll!” This phrase captures the joie de vivre, or joy of living, carefree attitude characterizing the culture of New Orleans. Known as Nollins or Nawlins, NOLA, The Crescent City, The Big Easy, The City that Care Forgot, and Mardi Gras City, New Orleans is truly unique.

I had the great pleasure of visiting NOLA this past spring. Whether your interest lies with cuisine, music, history, folklore, nature, art and architecture, or vice, there is something for everyone in New Orleans. The number of attractions and pastimes is almost overwhelming; I spent a week in New Orleans and only saw a fraction of what the city has to offer. Luckily, NOLA is such a popular tourist destination that there are lots of guidebooks and websites to help you plan your trip.

Firstly, I advise that you prepare yourself for a culture shock. The culture of NOLA is a very far cry from our New England Puritan roots. Massachusetts was settled by English colonists, while Louisiana was largely settled by the French and Spanish. New Orleans has historically had its own unique Creole dialect, and even as recent as 50 years ago, there were lifelong residents who exclusively spoke French. In addition, New Orleans is influenced by Southern hospitality culture and the slower pace of life necessitated by a hot climate.

The daily rhythm of the city was a shock to this New Englander: the middle of the day is so hot that few people venture outside until the sun starts to set, and then the city comes alive. NOLA is known for its vibrant nightlife, and as a result, many businesses are open late and do not even open until 10:00 am or later. Mind you, I was visiting in May, and while the weather was sunny, in the 80s, and quite humid, I was assured by every native local I met that New Orleans was actually cool and pleasant compared to the temperatures and humidity levels of August and September. As a Northerner, I advise visiting in early- or mid-spring.

As I said, there are many resources available for tourists, but I’ll discuss the guidebooks I found most helpful. I’m not the sort of traveler who likes to account for every minute of time in a rigid itinerary, but rather I identify some things I’d like to see and do at some point, and let the journey take me from there; I didn’t start looking at guidebooks until a week before departure, and didn’t plan in earnest until I was at the airport. Even so, I had a full and rewarding trip.

I recommend “New Orleans: a Lonely Planet City Guide” as a general guide. It offers detailed maps of sections of the city with points of interest, and is a good way to help get your bearings and learn about the city in broad strokes. I used it daily to plot my route. “Discovering Vintage New Orleans” by Bonnye E. Stuart was hands down the book I found most valuable for finding unique attractions, including the Beauregard-Keyes House and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum in the French Quarter, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum and Museum of the American Cocktail in Central City, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and Commander’s Palace restaurant in the Garden District, and the Camellia Grill in Audubon.

Another great resource for finding out-of-the way attractions is “New Orleans: The Underground Guide” by Michael Patrick Welch with Brian Boyles. While this book does cover sites in the more touristy areas of the city, it is perfect for the traveler who wants to get out into other neighborhoods and live like a local.

If you know you want to focus your visit around music or food, pick up copies of “Hear Dat New Orleans” and “Eat Dat New Orleans.” Two words for music fans to remember: Frenchman Street. I heard five different genres of music in a single evening, and only paid a cover charge to see Kermit Ruffins, a jazz musician being hailed as the new Louis Armstrong. Speaking of jazz, I didn’t actually like jazz before my trip. New Orleans taught me there are many varieties of jazz, and the music is alive and growing. If you’re not a jazz fan, give it a try in New Orleans: you just might be surprised.

No matter what you decide to do in NOLA, there are a few practicalities to keep in mind. NOLA hosts many festivals year round, and can be fantastic free, authentic New Orleans entertainment. Be aware that there are a high number of muggings in NOLA, so plan accordingly. Don’t pay for anything in NOLA without looking for coupons online first – there are TONS.

Also, you can’t visit NOLA without being conscious of Hurricane Katrina. The city was forever changed by that disaster, and tensions still run high around Katrina and the aftermath. Many buildings were never rebuilt or repaired, and outside of the French Quarter, vacant buildings (including vacant skyscrapers and malls) are a common sight.

There’s no way I can capture in a single article the vibrant spirit and unique mixing of cultures of New Orleans and its people. Regardless of which name you call it, the city is a truly special, indomitable place.

Liz Reed is an Adult and Information Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Liz’s column in the August 4, 2016 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Curious Minds

Reserve August & September Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Reserve Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks of Books Being Published in August and September

2016 August Prepub

Download or view August Fiction and August Non-Fiction. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.

Great Bllue heron

For the Birds

When I wrote several columns about birds in 2011 and 2013, I shared the many new books that you’ll find in our library’s collection. (For anyone hoping to read a past column, you can find all of our nearly 400 columns archived online or organized annually in spiral books that are available from our adult services librarians.)

I wrote about my experiences as a non-birding wife; that is, one who is married to a man who stops conversations, meals, and eyes-on-the-road to stare at, point out, or listen to birds. I used to find it particularly annoying when I was interrupted. Gerry would excitedly stop everything to exclaim about the long lines of black cormorants on the electrical wires. When he spied the trail of a circling hawk spotting an unfortunate prey, all other words and thoughts went out the window.

Lately, though, I don’t mind those interruptions so much. I’ve softened over time to the world of birds. In fact, one of Gerry’s and my favorite dawn or dusk pastimes is watching the Blue Herons soar above with fish to feed their young when we are spending our weekends near the water of Buzzard’s Bay. Two pair of eyes are now keenly inspecting the sky and tree lines. My ears are finally fine-tuned to the Eastern Towhee’s “drink your tea-e-e-e-e” or the osprey’s high-pitched whistle above the treetops.

On weekends we sit in our breakfast room on the south coast and admire the birds feeding winter through spring. I’m not sure which of the seasons is my favorite time to birdwatch. Winter is spectacular when the male cardinal stands out shockingly against the white snow. Summer is whimsical when robins lay eggs in a nest in the far-left tree in our front yard. We smile when we spy baby birds just weeks later. What a sight it is to watch a round of twenty robins scurry around the lawn after a rain, searching for every last bite of worm they can swallow.

While I’d love to actually study bird identification or songs, I’ve got many other hobbies that take up my time. I made it my New Year’s resolution several years ago to learn more about birds and I try to read small parts of the many birding books we have in our home.

Several new books that bird lovers will enjoy have been published just within the past few months. One is The Genius of Birds (April 2016) by science and nature writer, Jill Ackerman. Ackerman believes that birds are extremely intelligent and she gives many examples of this in her book. Bird brain has traditionally been a term used to describe someone who is thought to be stupid. However, a bird’s brain is certainly not the smallest we can find and it might, in fact, be packed with more neurons than anyone ever realized. They might, Ackerman writes, have huge brains compared to their body mass.

Ackerman doesn’t just hypothetically suppose this to be true; she journeyed the globe backing up her writing. From Australia to islands in the West Indies and then along Louisiana south coast, Ackerman puts to rest the myth of the bird brain. Ackerman has written many articles for National Geographic and Scientific American, in addition to other books. She is an award-winning investigator of the worlds of biology and nature.

We’ve all read about the fantastic flights of the honeybee – up to 8 miles to find pollen – and the return to the hive to tell their fellow bees where they’ve been. Birds have tales to tell, as well. Think of the bird song and how birds of each species must remember each in order to recognize who is near them. Crows and pigeons are incredibly impressive birds who find their way home or act as engineers, using tools to solve problems.

My family had an African parrot as a family pet about 20 years ago. This parrot played hide and seek with the cat. He teased me incessantly by repeating my admonitions at the cat. He eventually terrorized us because we were no longer paying him the attention he felt he deserved. I often felt that Oz (he was bright green) was the real king of the household. He was, no doubt, a genius in his own right, manipulating and playing with us.

Also published in April of this year, One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives by Bernd Heinrich is one about the meeting of the minds – birds and human. Heinrich has written prolifically about the relationships of birds with humankind. The Mind of the Raven is an exquisite introspective of the world’ largest crow, the raven. Heinrich has been birdwatching since he was a child. He studied crows in the woods of his Maine cabin and from his home near the University of Vermont where he taught biology until he retired. He wrote about his relationship with a great horned owl in One Man’s Owl (1987) and has authored many books about nature, including A Year in the Maine Woods, Summer World, Winter World, and the Snoring Bird.

In his latest book, Heinrich writes of his observations of both individual bird behaviors and what birds do when they are together with others of their species. For months at a time, he lives in a cabin deep in the Maine woods and spends his life journaling throughout the year. His book is a memoir of those annotations from his unique vantage point – through his windows, from his porch, and in the surrounding woods and meadows.

If you love birds, or you want to know more about them, there are a plethora of books in your local library. In addition, there are audiobooks and bird song books that can help you learn even more. Call the library for help finding any item you’d like to check out.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the July 28, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


Pick-Me-Up Books That Leave Worries Behind

Open any paper, stream the news, and soon you will feel overwhelmed with the world. A car bomb killing hundreds in Bagdad, a train going off the tracks in Pennsylvania. Truly it’s a wonder we get out of bed every day and head to work or the gym.

Lately I’ve found myself avoiding many things but reading isn’t one of them. Instead my tastes have changed. Now I’m searching for what I’ve termed a good “Pick-Me-Up” book. No, not a book on dating, but one that makes me smile. While I may be The Queen of Denial, a humorous escape seems like the perfect remedy to this world’s ills.

I’m sure many of you remember that old television ad for Calgon, the bath bubbles that “take you away” from your worries. In that vein, I’m including six books that can also carry you away. (Of course, if you check them out from the library be careful not to drop them into the bubble bath). Here they are:

F In Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers by Richard Benson. If you need a laugh, this is the book for you. Of course, teachers will find it amusing, having lived through these foibles in their classrooms, but anyone will get a chuckle. The book is divided by subject, ranging from Chemistry or Math to Psychology or English. Here’s a few samples to give you a taste. Under Biology the question on a test was “What is a fibula?” The student’s answer: “A little lie.” Under Physics: “Describe what happened during the Big Bang?” The answer: “A lot of noise.” And one of my favorites from History and Geography: “Define the term ‘intensive farming.” It takes a special student to reply: “It is when a farmer never has a day off.”

We Are Women: Celebrating Our Wit and Grit by June Cotner and Barb Mayer.  This fun and flashy book is a real “feel good” read for summer. By combining vintage photos with inspirational and fun-loving quotations, the authors have created a power-packed package. As Cotner describes it, the pairing of photographs with famous sayings serves to “remind readers how women’s character and strength have endured through time.” So take this one to the beach. You can’t go wrong!

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with numerous Barry books and he has yet to let me down. This time Barry tackles parenting and family issues with comical finesse. One of my favorite chapters touches on the modern day conveniences that have gone over the top, including a men’s public restroom where you no longer need to flush the urinal. As only Barry can describe it: “This tedious chore is a thing of the past because the urinal now has a small electronic “eye” connected to the Central Restroom Command Post, located deep underground somewhere near Omaha, Nebraska, where highly trained workers watch you on high-definition TV screens and make the flush decision for you.”

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. It’s hard to believe but I haven’t read a book by Anne Tyler until now. Yes, I’ve been living under a rock, but this was a fabulous place to start. This is the story of Ira and Maggie’s marriage. It begins with a bang, literally, when Maggie is picking up her car from the repair shop. Surprised to hear her ex-daughter-in-law on the radio revealing that her one true love is still Maggie’s son, Maggie promptly shoots the car out of the garage into a passing Pepsi truck. Mind you, the car has just been repaired. Thus begins the couple’s literal journey to comfort a friend, Serena, during her husband’s funeral and the metaphorical journey to explore and reignite Maggie and Ira’s marriage. Their adventures are full of the joys and disappointments that await most married couples, all told with Tyler’s perfectly-timed sense of humor. (I hope to watch the 1994 movie with James Garner and Joanne Woodward too)

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?: True Stories and Confessions by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. Another confession. I love short chapters. They make me happy, and so does this summer pick-me-up. This mother-daughter team really pack a punch and it begins this way: “People go to the beach for lots of reasons, namely, the sand, the sun, and the water. I go for the food.” As Scottoline reveals, growing up in a family of self-described “chubby Italian-Americans” molded her point of view on life. From Hollywood selfies to first dates, Scottoline and Serritella had me in stitches. After all, I can relate to these words: “I have met the love of my life, and it comes in a box. I’m talking, of course, about ThermaCare. The heat wrap you buy at a drugstore that you stick to various parts of your achy body.”

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. Think Des Moines, Iowa, 1950s, in combination with one of the best travel humorists, and you have one of my favorite books of all time. Bryson has come a long way from his childhood in the Midwest, but it becomes clear that his sense of humor started early. Take his view of his mother. He admires that she was a woman who dared to head back into the workplace when few others did the same, but he also revels in the outcome. As he writes, “We didn’t call it the kitchen in our house. We called it the Burns Unit.” He goes on to say, “Happily, all this suited my father.  His palate only responded to two tastes — burnt and ice cream — so everything suited him so long as it was sufficiently dark and not too startlingly flavorful.  Theirs truly was a marriage made in heaven for no one could burn food like my mother or eat it like my dad.”

Hopefully, one of two of these reads will float your boat this summer. Remember, even the resilient reader needs an escape now and then from this crazy place we call home.

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Nancy’s column in the July 21st issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Free Fun in Massachusetts: A Day at the Zoo

In 1889, when Andrew Carnegie wrote his essay titled Wealth, it was published in the North American Review and soon after became known as The Gospel of Wealth. In the article, Carnegie reasoned that successful capitalists have an obligation to improve the world, both culturally and socially, with the bulk of their riches. They must, he contended, leave the world better than they found it. “I should consider it a disgrace to die a rich man,” in Carnegie’s words speaks to his legacy to the world. Carnegie’s wealth built over 3,000 public libraries in English-speaking countries, many of them in the United States. The foundation in his name endures to this day.

Although it can be argued that Carnegie was just one of the many American industrialists who made their fortunes using the sweat and blood of common laborers, there is no debate that he and many other capitalists left fortunes in foundations that are still enriching the world today. George Morrill, Norwood’s wealthy printing ink manufacturer, undoubtedly read The Gospel and Wealth written in 1889. Morrill not only provided the funds for our elegant public library, but he and his wife advocated for the location, hired the architects and contractors, chose the exterior granite and interior mahogany, and funded the furnishings and volumes of books. In 1898, Morrill turned the keys over to Norwood – with no strings attached. The building and its contents was erected as a monument to their youngest daughter, Sara Bond Morrill. Yet, it is also obvious that this legacy was also a testament to the love of their town and their personal way to leave Norwood (which they eventually did en route to New York) better than they had found it.

Today, the hype about gifts and grants from philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and dozens of others are splashed across the print and online news. We may claim that this philanthropy is only a portion of their wealth. Or we may debate the fact that the American rich have made their millions and billions exploiting American workers or insulting our intellect. However, without philanthropy in America, many social, educational, medical and cultural initiatives would not have been funded in the past or continue to be funded today. To date, Warren Buffet has donated over $30 billion. Bill and Melinda Gates over $29 billion. Others like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie raise millions of dollars to support humanitarian causes. Money may make the world go ‘round, but philanthropy (or from the Greek, love of man) makes the world a far better place.

One of Boston’s many philanthropists is responsible for making Boston a better place to be in the summers. Fun Free Fridays is the brainchild of the Highland Street Foundation. Libraries promote Fun Free Fridays even though you don’t need to get a coupon or pass at the library. Each Friday, 10 wonderful places are open to the public for free all day. Attendees are only asked their zip code as they enter.

The Highland Street Foundation was established by David McGrath in 1989. Friends and entrepreneurs, David McGrath and Tom Cook were both MIT students when built their company, TAD Resources International in 1956. From there, McGrath and Cook became very successful and McGrath and his wife decided to give back by endowing the Highland Foundation. After David McGrath’s early death at the age of 62 in 1995, TAD (a staffing and contract services company) was sold and the proceeds from that sale make up the majority of the endowment of the Highland Street Foundation today. David’s wife and their five children oversee the Foundation and over $170 million has been given to non-profit organizations to date. Dozens of grants, community events and programs, and initiatives are funded each year. Best Buddies, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Cradles to Crayons, and the Tadpole Playground in the Boston Common are just a few of Highland Street’s beneficiaries.

The Fun Free Fridays project was rolled out in 2009 and nearly a million visitors have taken advantage of this generous program over the past eight summers. Parks, museums, zoos, and exhibits across the state from east to west and north to south are participating venues. From the end of June to the end of August, about eight of the eighty locations each Friday are open to the public absolutely free. Included are Sturbridge Village, the Franklin Park Zoo, the USS Constitution, the JFK Presidential Library, and 76 others.

Gerry and I were lucky enough to have two of our grandchildren and their mothers visiting us over the Fourth of July week. While out and about in along the south coast of Massachusetts, we decided to have our picnic lunch in New Bedford on Friday. In the center of New Bedford’s Buttonwood Park is the Buttonwood Park Zoo and it was open free to the public that day as part of the Fun Free Fridays program.

This perfectly-sized zoo in the center of New Bedford was a delightful excursion for our eighteen-month old twin grandchildren, Ava and Judah. The Buttonwood Park Zoo’s ten acres of creatures include elephants (Emily and Ruth who are 51 and 56 years old, respectively), three black bears, one coyote, a bison, and assorted other mammals, amphibians, fish and fowl.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo has been named one of America’s best small zoos and is definitely affordable even on non-free days. It’s the twelfth oldest zoo in the United States and was founded in New Bedford during its prosperous 19th century whaling and textile eras. It’s owned and operated by the city of New Bedford (which funds 1/3 of its operating costs) and is open year-round, welcoming about 150,000 visitors a year. It is supported by donations through the Buttonwood Zoological Society.

Come to the library and pick up a Fun Free Fridays brochure or visit the Highland Street Foundation’s website for a downloadable one. The library continues to post the Fun Free Friday dates poster on our Facebook page and website. Thanks to the Highland Street Foundation and the family of David McGrath for this delightful venue for a summer picnic and romp with our grandchildren on a Fun Free Friday of summer.

Charlotte Canelli is the Director at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Charlotte’s column in the July 14th issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

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