Monthly Archives: July 2014

“How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas Foster

This book is fun. If you enjoy fiction but wonder if you are “getting” it, or you want to upgrade to “literary” fiction or tackle some classics, you need this book. Foster describes reading as a game of “connect the dots” and offers suggestions for how to “get the picture” quicker.

Foster’s chapters tend to come in pairs. “Nice to Eat with You: Acts of Communion” is followed by “Nice to Eat You: Acts of Vampires”. Who can resist?

The chapter entitled “Its All About Sex…” is followed by “…Except Sex”.

Breezy chapters cover Shakespeare, the Bible, fairy tales and Greek mythology.

In addition to frequent references to his favorite books, Foster provides an extensive reading list. If you are tired of what you can find in mall bookstores, this is helpful.

To me, the best chapter was “Don’t Read With Your Eyes”. He means, don’t read with your OWN eyes. You’ll miss a lot if you apply 21st century attitudes to Hamlet, for example. I tend to be rather literal minded, so I need that type of reminder.

I am planning to apply the “don’t read with your own eyes” logic to the work of non-fiction that will be the subject of my next blog entry. It was written around 1970. Not exactly the Dark Ages, but attitudes change quickly and by today’s standards it raises many red flags.

Foster wrote a second, equally lively, volume entitled How to Read Novels Like a Professor, and carries a “for kids” edition. Foster deserves lots credit for enhancing people’s reading experiences at a time when so many distractions are available.


Sex clubs, convenience stores and “The Wawa Way” by Howard Stoeckel

This is the story behind MY Wawa in Galloway Township, NJ. The one in the Cologne neighborhood.

I recently posted a link to a friend’s comments on “The Wawa Way”. (Read it if you never heard of Wawa.) The book was published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this chain of convenience stores.

I’m a Wawa regular (if not exactly an addict), and a few weeks ago my morning coffee was free, in celebration of said anniversary. And “The Wawa Way” (subtitled “How a Funny Name and 6 Core Values Revolutionized Convenience”) appeared beside the checkouts. I grabbed a copy for a birthday gift.

Moving through the line, I heard the young man working at the register try to convince a customer that the very Wawa in which we stood had been RIGHT HERE for 50 years! I got the giggles and walked out laughing. I know the real story.

I think the oldest Wawa in our area dates back to 1975. It’s a tiny store (no gas pumps, no bathrooms) in a town four miles down the road. Yes, it’s still there, unchanged, with just eight parking spots.

In 1980, I took a job with the county public health agency, supervising (among other things) food service sanitation. I shortly realized the restaurant inspectors were snickering about certain facilities. One was a “health club” that seemed to operate on a “clothing optional” basis. The proprietor greeted inspectors without a stitch on. The club was called the “Avant Gard”. Their food service was impeccable. No food related hazard to public health was found on the premises.

One day a local resident got a surprise. A relative from a few states away called to taunt “You’ve got a sex club in your town!” Say what?? The relative sent a clipping advertising party space, fantasy rooms, adult fun, etc. Yes, it was the Avant Gard. We aren’t so far from Atlantic City (at that time the only legal gambling venue on the east coast) which may have generated the demand for these services. But they were carefully NOT advertised locally.

There followed a mighty tempest in our Township. How had this happened? Who issued a business permit? What defines a health club? The proprietor claimed that sex is healthy… Public debate accelerated, leading to the memorable statement by an elected official, “We don’t want kinky sex in Galloway Township!”

The Avant Gard couldn’t take the heat. The health/sex club closed, and the building became a corporate training location.

I moved to my present home in Galloway, near the intersection of Route 30 and Tilton Road, in 1993. Around that time, a small Wawa appeared there, across from the corporate training location. “It’s a sign!” we said. We were meant to move here, and enjoy Wawa coffee.

A few years passed and “our” Wawa outgrew its location. It moved, in a much expanded version, across the street to the former location of Galloway’s one and only sex club.

Does any other Wawa have such an interesting land use history? I doubt it!

I like Wawa for its coffee, and because somebody there has a sense of humor. I sent them a copy of this post. They thanked me cheerfully, and gave me a twenty dollar gift certificate.

The Fountain of Young – A Myth for Our Times

The myth of the Fountain of Youth has been debunked, but I recently took a dip of the Fountain of Young. It left me tired but cheerful in a goofy way. No younger, but with a beneficial attitude adjustment.

The Fountain of Young pops up here and there. You have to look for it. I’ve found it in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, and once travelled to Colorado for a swim. My immersions range from a day to a week.

How do I get these privileged treatments?

I VOLUNTEER. My chosen specialty is the youth program of my religious denomination. I started assisting with middle school programs, then settled into a long, long run of high school activities. My sons moved through these programs, but I didn’t stop when they graduated. Age wise, I am now separated from the participants by two generations. I’m far from being the only senior volunteer, and age distinctions fade when the business of the day is community building and spiritual growth. Not to mention work (like cooking) and play (elbow tag, balloon volleyball).

What do I get out of this?

  • I get to see happy teenagers. Many people don’t even know that they exist! I have seen JOY!
  • I get to horrify my friends. Six days WITH TEENAGERS? Three nights IN A TENT? You slept ON THE FLOOR? They think I am Wonder Woman.
  • I get to meet fun loving adults, mostly chocolate addicts with a sense of humor. We laugh a lot.

What do I actually do?

Mostly I just show up. “The program” is planned by someone else. Volunteers often shake their heads when departing… “But I didn’t do anything!” That’s the point. Sprinkle enough adults among the teenagers and nothing much will happen. The adults are there to dial 911 if necessary, but I’ve never had to. Once in while someone makes a trip to the Emergency Room, but I’ve only done that twice in 15 years. Neither time was very serious.

I do “mom” stuff, like hand out band-aids and listen to minor complaints. I spend as much time helping other adults as safeguarding kids.

I store “organizational memory”. I remember the summer conference when it rained caterpillars. The night we fried the electric system in an old meetinghouse. The origins of our smoking policy. And yes, I remember the bad times – the death of a parent, a near drowning, and other sorrows.

But my experience as a youth volunteer has been overwhelmingly positive. Generally I come home tired and wonder how long I will keep doing this, but the fun and fellowship continue to bring me back. Come join us in the Fountain of Young!

The Wawa Way by Howard Stoeckel

My blog buddy Not Merely For Fun posted this:

My attention drifts for a few days and WordPress changes the manner in which a link is posted… Grumble. It’s not enough that I have to deal with a new i-phone, a new Kindle and the usual techno-disorder at work… Why does WordPress have to get cute?

Friends, I refer you to this blog post because I plan to have something to say on the same subject shortly.