We’ve been on a roll these past few days, the “angst mojo” temporarily set aside.


Now, we’re home, after spending a couple of wonderful days in Connecticut with old friends, sharing memories that date back to college and the 60’s when we and our world were young.

Ellin and Tom are special folks. Ellin gets top billing because she’s so quiet and often taken for granted.


She is the hostess — no matter what else she is coping with in her family life. She’s the woman you thought only existed in the movies or those old TV shows where everything is seemingly perfect.


Ellin is multi-talented. Superb cook, budding author, wife and mom. She’s humble about all her achievements. Amazing when she is surrounded by two guys with 80 plus years combined in radio and TV news. Guys who are often nonstop with their stories about the BIZ. Ellin and Marilyn have a special bond in that respect.

Gracious, I think, is the best word to describe Ellin. Like us, she and Tom always have furry kids around who brighten their lives. It’s nice to visit and come back with fur on our clothing. Makes it seem just like home.

Tom is the kid  who never grew up. We’ve known him since JFK was in the oval office. He is recently retired after 40 years as a highly respected director and audio expert with CBS News.

He’s still active, producing and directing cracker jack (does anyone say that anymore?) radio drama. Tom and Ellin actually are an impressive acting, writing and jack-of-all-trades team in radio drama that deserves a wider audience. Their work is far superior to the stuff being offered by network suits.


A day on Tom and Ellin’s boat is just what the doctor ordered for Marilyn and me. It’s a perfect day. Sunny, warm and with just a slight breeze. Surprise! Ellin has a lunch spread ready before we can settle in.

It allows me to fantasize as I survey other boats. Maybe we’ll see Bogey on Santana, Travis McGee and The Busted Flush, Slate Shannon with Bold Venture or maybe Grant and Hepburn on  True Love. Who knows what can happen as you dream?

My reverie is interrupted as Tom shares some more stories that have all of us roaring with laughter. In between we compare family drama that have us nodding at each other.


Then it’s back to more silliness and laughter. These are the best of times.

All photography by Garry Armstrong or Marilyn Armstrong with the Pentax Q7.


Food is about color, texture and scent. Meals are sharing with friends, celebrating life and getting together with the family. We make dinner with a side dish of memories. Dining is discovery — the exotic and new. It’s about comfort and familiarity. Being safe, warm and fed. The act of preparing food evokes memories.

Nutrition is good, but food is better. Feeding your soul, filling your heart as well as your stomach. Pills might keep you alive, but they would never satisfy you. Or at least, never satisfy me. Eating is living.

So break bread with those you love. Drop by the pub after work and share a cold something with the gang. Or alone, in contemplation, with a book.


Yesterday, we gathered to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier this year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

But many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career.

Yesterday, there were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business. Joe Day was at the core of all those memories.

It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. We have drifted apart geographically and socially in many cases. Sometimes we paused before hugging because we no longer look the way we did in our “head shot” days.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing. Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens.

That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.


From lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown comes and interesting challenge in which she asks us to post our ten best pre-teen memories. Childhood happy memories are rather thin on the ground for me, so I hope you will excuse me for including memories from other times, when I was free to do my own thing.

Please post your ten favorite youthful memories to your blog with a link to mine. To form a link, go to that page in your blog and select and copy the URL. Then come to my blog and in the comment box, make a comment if you wish and paste your URL. Then you can see each other’s lists via the hyperlinks on my blog.

And here are a few of mine.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). I think we were about 6 or 7.

Mary (left), Marilyn (middle), Carol (right). Age  6 or 7.

1. My girlfriend Mary’s mother was the only mom in our little group who had a car and could drive. She would take us to Coney Island where the three of us, little tiny girls, would ride the great big Cyclone roller coaster. We rode it again and again, screaming until our knees were so shaky we could barely stand. But we were still laughing.

2. Sixty year later, I joyously relived the experience with my 10-year-old granddaughter.

72-Cyclone with Kaitlin

3. Hanging out at the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park on the Hudson River. Cutting school, taking the subway all the way up to the very top of Manhattan. Roaming the museum, pretending I was in a medieval castle. Looking down on the great Hudson River. Pure bliss.

4. The day I got my Steinway grand piano. It was my 14th birthday. I cannot imagine a better gift, ever.

5. Long days spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Traveling in time from the Egyptian mummy exhibit at the front of the museum all the way up to modern times, far at the rear. Again, I was alone, so happy to take my time and immerse myself in each exhibit.


6. Trips with my mom into Manhattan in the winter. She wore her raccoon coat. We linked arms like girlfriends and equals. We might catch a matinée on Broadway (there were always tickets, even if the seats weren’t great) … or check out the window at FAO Schwartz.

7. We bought hot chestnuts from the vendor in front of the library, then sat on the steps under the shadow of the lions, peeling and eating them. And laughing. My mother wasn’t motherly, but she was adventurous, smart, had a sharp sense of humor, and a sharper tongue. She made me laugh. She was nothing like the mothers of my friends, but perhaps she was just the right mother for me.

8. At 16, with three wacky friends from college, piling into Micki’s VW bug. Driving all night to visit her boyfriend at his summer-house on Eagle Point Lake, high in the Adirondacks. We had no money for gasoline or food, but we were young.You could coast down the mountains to save gasoline.

9. Finding a riding stable that would rent me a good horse. Then, galloping down the trail on my own, wind in my hair. Totally lost but trusting that the horse knew the way.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

10. Getting married at 18 and realizing I’d never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.



I had a very dear friend who recently died. When I first wrote this, she was going through a terrible time. The thing she feared the most had come to pass. Her husband was sick, never likely to get better, and her children were pulling them out of the home they’d shared for more than 60 years.

marilyn baker 2

Her Christian faith never wavered. She remained calm, unshaken, even though her world was being disassembled. I was heartbroken. Inconsolable. I knew I’d never see her again. We both knew.

She once told me you could sum up Christianity in a sentence.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Christ died,” she answered, “so we would be nice to each other — even before morning coffee.” Then she smiled, and sipped from her cup.

Marilyn Baker

Be kind to everyone. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially then. Because maybe you’ll never see them again.



Un nouveau langage, par Rich Paschall

What if you could wake up tomorrow and be able to speak a new language?  Suppose you did not have to work at it at all.  There would be no boring repetition of words and phrases.  You would not have to study rules of grammar.  You would not have to learn to conjugate.  You would not take home lessons to write out.  The language would just be there at your command.  Your speech would be fluent and your understanding clear.  What language would you choose?

My best guess is that most people would consider a language of their ancestors.  If they came from Poland, then Polish might be their first choice.  In a city like Chicago, with a large population of Polish immigrants and descendants, this would make perfect sense.  If you have a relative that speaks the language, wouldn’t you be pleased to speak to them in their own language?  Your Polish grandmother would be so proud, and you, of course, would take great joy in this.

My elementary school was largely populated by kids of Irish descendent.  The Irish priests and an Irish American Bishop, who was also pastor, of course attracted a large student body made up of blond and red-haired children.  I can not say I ever heard any Gaelic, however.  I suppose some spoke it.  Many had a brogue so thick, I could not understand them.  Still, I can not say I was interested in knowing Irish language.

For much of my life, I lived in a German American neighborhood.  My maternal grandmother spoke German and would sometimes gossip (I thought it was gossip, anyway) with other old German-speaking neighbors.  The parish we lived in after the grade school years, was largely German American.  It was started by German immigrants who built the church.  For decades there was a mass in German.  I thought it would be cool to know this language, especially years later.  I was encouraged to take Latin in high school.

This proved to be a big disappointment as we grew up and took part in German fests.  There was Mai Fest and Oktoberfest and Rosenmontag and more feasts then you can imagine.  We learned songs in German and sang along at dances, festivals and anywhere a band was playing.  Unfortunately, my conversation was limited to Guten Tag, Auf Wiedersehen und zwei Bier bitte!

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

Years later as many Hispanic groups arrived and there were many more Spanish speakers, it seemed to me that learning Spanish would make far more sense.  The old Germans I knew were dying out, my grandmother was gone and I had less occasion to speak German.

Clearly, there would be a large Spanish population from Puerto Rico, Mexico and a variety of Spanish-speaking countries.  I have neighbors from Guatemala nearby.  There are ethnic restaurants all around and in the summer, Spanish music fills the air in our area of the city.  There are so many cultures I could learn if I knew this one language, it seemed like a logical choice.

What is the second language of your community?  Is there even a second language?  Perhaps you are in an area where you only hear English and there is no immigrant population or descendants to pass along another language.  Even if this is so, would it not be great to learn another language and travel to countries where this language is spoken.

In recent years, the desire to automatically know German, Spanish or even Polish have given way to another.  While all of the above would be interesting and certainly useful, not just if I travelled to countries where these languages were spoken, but even right here in our local communities.  I still have a different interest in a language I would never have thought to learn just a decade ago.  Friendship has become the determining factor.

My previous job brought in interns from other countries, particularly France.  As a result I made a number of friends from France and even got to know other friends and family members of these co-workers.  It was not just that I learned some of the culture.  Yes, we went to French restaurants and talked about their local communities.  Of course, we talked French politics and sports.  Indeed I learned about the regions that were home to many of my young French colleagues.  But in the process, something important happened.

This way?

This way?

Now one of my best friends in the world is a Frenchman.  We have gone on many adventures here and in Europe.  I have visited his home and the home of his parents.  We have visited all across Alsace.  For six years, France has been on my vacation list.  It turns out that the language I would like to know tomorrow when I wake up is French.  It is not about the neighborhood I live in, the ancestors I have, or the neighbors that have recently moved in.  It is not about my grandmother.  It is not about my parish.  It is not about countries I may someday visit.

The language I would like to know is all about my friends.  In fact, it is about one of my best friends, and it does not matter that he is fluent in English.  My friends and community are all French and I wish I could more fully participate in our adventures whenever we meet.  Is there a better reason than friendship to know another language?


I keep getting congratulated for taking the “less traveled road.” But it’s not true.

Sometimes, I took a back road because it was the shortest road to where I was going. More often, I traveled highways, because they offered the fastest, most direct routes.


Always a pragmatist, I was goal-driven. I don’t remember thinking about if it was a more or less traveled path. Sometimes, I made a good choice. The rest of the time, I did the best I could with whatever mess I’d gotten myself into.

I’ve had an interesting life, but not as interesting as it probably sounds. I don’t talk about the boring parts because they’re boring. That’s the thing about blogging. You get to write your life and leave out the tedious stuff.

I don’t write about staying up late cleaning when I wanted desperately to go to bed. Because there was work in the morning. I had to make the kid’s lunch, get him on the bus. Make sure the dog didn’t eat his homework.


All the parties I didn’t attend because I couldn’t find a babysitter … or was too tired to think about going anywhere. The nights I fell asleep in front of the television, unable to keep my eyes open past the opening credits.

I had good times. Exciting, weird, funny experiences. Tragedies and triumphs interspersed with long hours, short nights, and exploring the wonders of all-night supermarkets.


Most of life isn’t memorable. It doesn’t bear retelling. My life was just like yours, whoever you are, whatever you did. Most lives are more alike than different.

I’ve had my share of crappy relationships, horrible bosses, and tedious jobs. I had a husband and child to raise, groceries to buy, a house to clean. I was lucky because I also had wonderful friends who were there for me when the going was tough.

Don’t be misled by anecdotes. Between the anecdotes is where life really happens.