The news has been slow around here. Just regular stuff. Accidents, government stupidity and incompetence, scandals of the famous and wannabes. Politics as usual. Autumn.

It got me wondering about today’s prompt — what we would want of all the possible results — from blogging.

Why do you blog?


A friend asked me why I blog. Which is the same as asking me why I write and take pictures. I felt like asking her why she breathes because writing and shooting is like breathing to me, but instead, I asked her why she plays golf.

She is a fine sportswoman and can’t imagine living a life in which she can’t play or compete. That’s as much who she is as her face.

I write because I have a head full of words. I take pictures because I see them wherever I go. These things are as much part of me as my face or my feet. I can no sooner not write as not breathe.

Go figure.


I don’t even know how many times WordPress has run this prompt or some close version of it. I do not know how many times I have responded to it, but here is a clip from my book that is pretty much on target. If WordPress is going to run the same prompts over and over again, I guess I can run the same posts too.

People are surprised when I tell them that Uxbridge, with its oak woods, huge plots of land, picket fences and farms reminds me of the neighborhood in which I grew up. I was raised in the middle of Queens, one of five boroughs that make up the city of New York.

My neighborhood was an anomaly. The city had grown up around us leaving us in a tiny rural enclave within easy walking distance of the subway.

My childhood home was more than a hundred years old or at least its foundation was. It had been changed by each family that lived in it. I’m sure the original builder would never have recognized it. It began life as a four room bungalow. Subsequent owners added to it, seemingly at random. By the time our family moved into it in 1950, it had become a warren of hallways, staircases and odd little rooms.


Two staircases went to the second floor, both of which ended on the same landing. Eighteen doorways on the first floor meant that there was not a single unbroken wall in any room. The living room was cavernous and dark.

Amongst the many unfathomable additions to the house was the living room’s huge field stone fireplace that lacked a chimney. No mere faux ornament, the fireplace was a massive construction that completely dominated the room to no real purpose.

Despite the strange interior, the setting was stunning. Beautifully situated on more than two acres, it stood at top of a hill, enfolded by mature white oaks. They were the last remaining mature white oaks in New York state, the rest having been cut down to make masts for tall ships.

Because of their rarity, the city of New York cared for the trees free for as long as we lived there. My mother was passionate about trees, which is why she’d wanted the house. She became a fierce protector of her trees, never letting anyone as much as trim a branch from one of her precious oaks.

All the land belonging to the house lay either in front of it or off to the side. There was no back yard except for maybe a 15 foot sliver separating the house from the back property line. After that, the land there dropped abruptly downward … so sharply that it was useless for any purpose.

The house had been placed at the highest point of land on the property, set back about 250 feet from the road. The enormous trees towered over it. Summertime, when the trees were in full leaf, the house was invisible from the street. In all seasons, it was a long climb from the street to one of the house’s many doors.

Our oak trees loomed. No sunlight penetrated their canopy. The house stayed comfortable through most of the summer because of the perpetual shade, but was bitterly cold in winter.


My mother was stingy about heat. The furnace, an old converted coal burner, was nearly as old as the foundation and very inefficient. With huge amounts of hissing and groaning, it delivered some heat to the first floor of the house and almost none to the bedrooms on the second floor. I was cold from fall through spring, no matter how many blankets were piled on my bed. Some mornings, a thin skin of ice formed on the glass of water on my night table.

Being such a small, thin child, I was cold even when I was fully dressed. All complaints drew the same unsympathetic response from my mother.

“Put on another sweater,” she said. End of discussion.

Pointing out that there was a practical limit to the number of sweaters that I could actually wear was pointless. Once my mother had her mind made up, she was not going to be confused by facts.



The shadows of oak trees were always present, summer and winter. They were magnificent, but also ominous. Many branches of those oaks were bigger than the largest tree on our land in Mumford. As a child, I would watch those branches sway during storms and wonder when one of them would crash through the roof and crush me like a bug.

I was just past my fourth birthday when we moved into the house in Queens. I was considered a precocious child, which meant, I suppose, that I knew a lot of big words and could talk in full sentences. I’d had no contact with children my age and was a complete social retard.

When winter turned to spring and the weather warmed up, I was told to go out and play and so discovered that there were other little girls in the world. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was supposed to do about that. I might as well have been commissioned to make peace with the Martians as make friends with other kids.

First contact took place on the sidewalk in front of my house. There we stood, three girls, all not yet five years old, staring at one another. We stood on one foot, then the other, there on the sidewalk until I broke the silence with a brilliant witticism.

“I live up there,” I said, and I pointed at my house. “We just moved here. Who are you?” I felt left out, as if the two of them formed a private club into which I already knew I wouldn’t be invited. And they were both pretty. I felt lumpy and awkward, standing there on the sidewalk.

“I’m Liz,” said a pretty girl with green eyes. She looked like a china doll, with a sweet, smooth face. Her hair was absolutely straight. I wanted that hair. I hated mine, which was wild and curly, always full of knots.

“I live down the street.” She gestured in the general direction. “There,” she pointed. The house was a barn red Dutch colonial. It had dark shutters and a sharply pitched roof.

A dark-haired, pink-cheeked, freckle-faced girl with braids was watching solemnly. “I’m Karen,” she said. “That’s my house,” she said, pointing at a tidy brick colonial across. There were bright red geraniums in ornate cement pots on both sides of a long, red brick staircase leading uphill to the house. I’d never seen either geraniums or vase-shaped masonry flower pots.

“Hello,” I said again, wondering what else I could say to keep them around for a while. I’d never had friends, but something told me I wanted some. We stood in the sunlight for a while, warily eyeing each other, old friends, the in-crowd. I the stranger. I shuffled from foot to foot.

“I’ve got a big brother,” I announced.

They were not impressed and I found myself at a loss for additional repartee. More silence ensued.

“We’re going to Liz’s house for lemonade,” Karen said, finally. Liz nodded. And they turned and went away. I wondered if we would meet again because at four years old, I hadn’t the experience to know that our future as friends was a virtual inevitability given the proximity of our homes.

Summer lasted much longer back then than it does nowadays. By the time spring had metamorphosed into summer, I had become a probationary member of The Kids Who Lived On The Block.

To be continued …

From “The 12-Foot Teepee” by Marilyn Armstrong – Copyright 2007


This was originally going to be about sequels and remakes to movies and TV shows. Somewhere along the line, it changed. Now, it’s about predictable, boring, and repetitive material for what is supposed to be a new television season.

We are having trouble finding stuff to watch. It isn’t merely that the shows are trite, poorly written, badly acted, and trivial. They also give you that “Deja vu all over again” feeling. I swear they are using old scripts from other shows and just change a few names.

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How predictable are they? Garry and I always know “who done it” before anyone has done anything. We know who done it because it’s always the biggest name guest star of the week. If, by some bizarre accident, we miss the opening credits, we can guess who done it before we know what was done because he or she looks guilty. Or it’s that same actor who always plays the bad guy.


TV shows cast the same dozen or so actors over and over again — in the same roles. There are the scary looking guys who play evil drug dealers and gang leaders (or both). The older guys who play spies gone bad. The other ones who are inevitably cops gone to the dark side. There are the women whack jobs and sultry bad girls. Regardless, you know the moment they appear on-screen that whatever happened, it was his/her/their fault. They done it.

And oh the clichés.

“No one was supposed to get hurt.”

“He was turning his life around.”

“Everybody loved her/him.”

“I had no choice.”

And the ever-popular “Stay in the car.”

This season’s “Castle” had a problem. Stana Katic, who plays Kate Beckett (love interest, now precinct captain), wasn’t available for the season opener. She was still busy making a movie.

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So they had to write around her character. According to TVLine.com, the producers and writers saw this as a creative opportunity to find a way to make the show work without her.

What did they do? What was their “creative solution?” They went back — again — to the tired, old story line of Kate and her obsession with Senator Bracken (now in prison for life). Because creativity, in TV land, means doing same thing they’ve done countless times before.

Another one. Just like the other one.

Apparently we are too stupid to understand a plot we haven’t seen at least a dozen times. We might get befuddled by all that originality.

Ratings were, unsurprisingly, significantly lower than in previous years.


NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans also came up with tepid season openers. New Orleans was particularly bad. I actually thought the show was running longer than usual. It was that dull.

According to the powers that be who run the networks and control programming, anyone below the age of 18 or over the age of 45 doesn’t count. They do not care whether or not we watch their shows. We do not exist.

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I finally realized the actual problem. It’s not that Garry and I are too old to enjoy the newness, uniqueness, and cleverness of the new shows — or that we won’t buy the sponsor’s products. It’s that the “new” shows are not new and certainly not clever.

What is being presented as “new” are tired old stories with different people playing the same roles. Same scripts, sometimes word for word. Totally predictable plots, endlessly repeated. Of course they don’t care about our opinion. They know what we are going to say.

This stuff is crap. Boring. Stupid. Mindless. Dumb. Crap.


It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be. Both Amazon and Netflix, as well as other cable outlets are doing some really good stuff that appeals to every age group. The trick? Good stories, good acting. Intelligent scripts.

Maybe the whiny networks should stop complaining about how the mean old competition is stealing their viewers and try giving viewers something to watch. They could steal us back!

Isn’t that a great idea? Huh? Isn’t it?


Back from the mountains, from the north land. Out of 9 days away, 4 were spent entirely in the car. We drove most of the day today and are exhausted. We need to rethink how we take vacations, how much driving we do. How close together we do long drives. 


I am not going back to posting three or four times a day. Garry commented I didn’t seem to be having fun anymore. He’s right. It has become a job. Serendipity has eaten my life.


So I’ve pulled back … and my stats are falling like a rock. Apparently, there’s a direct correlation between how much new material I post and how much traffic I get. So be it. I guess I’ll have to make do with less traffic. Because if I can’t do less, I’m going to quit entirely.


Vacation is a good time to ponder how I spend my time. I realized I spend all my time with the computer in my lap. The only time I’m not hooked up is when I’m physically out of the house, asleep, or cooking. I shouldn’t be surprised my wrists and shoulders hurt.


So … what?

I love comments. I’ll answer comments, but if I don’t answer you every time, it’s not because I don’t care. There aren’t enough hours in my day to keep up this pace. I’ll visit your blogs when I can, but I won’t make myself crazy trying to visit everyone everyday.


I’ll write if I have something to say. Post pictures when I’ve got something worth displaying. It will depend on the season, my mood, and what else is going on. Probably I’ll post more in the winter when I’m stuck in the house anyhow, less in nice weather.

So what do you guys think? Am I being unfair? Unrealistic?

I have stopped visiting bloggers who never visit me. That was easy. I don’t expect daily visits, but never isn’t enough. Never is actually insulting.


I wish I could give everyone a boost. I know you want me to look at your site because you drop links in my comments. Which would be okay if it weren’t obvious you haven’t read me. Or even looked at the pictures.


Blogging — especially over the long haul — is a lot of work. it means keeping at it when you are sick, tired, and you don’t feel remotely creative. It takes determination, patience, and time to write and edit. I’m slower than most people to fully develop an idea. Even slower to edit.

My pictures aren’t just snapshots. I seek pictures and locations … because there are only so many pictures I can take of my backyard before even I don’t want to look at them.

Then I download, review, and finally, process. I don’t do a lot of processing, but I do the basics. Even so, it takes time. Merely reviewing a hundred or so pictures — the output of a typical outing — is a day’s work. I’m often still plugging away at it when everyone else is watching a movie or asleep.

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don’t accept web chain-letter awards. It doesn’t matter what you call the award. Or who is giving it.

Anything that requires I annoy fellow bloggers, most of whom also won’t accept so-called awards, is spam. If you feel compelled to distribute them, send them to someone who has not up front stated he or she does not accept awards. Please: take “no” for an answer. If I say thank you, but no … nagging is just going to piss me off.


So there you have it. It will be interesting to see who keeps visiting. I’ll do the best I can for all of you, but it’s time for a change and I am determined to make it stick.


Yes, I’m going to keep doing it. Because it’s fun. And blogging is supposed to be fun. Expect a new one this Wednesday, September 23rd.


Song of Myself (1892 version)

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Marilyn with shawl, Cooperstown by the shores of Lake Otsego

Marilyn with shawl, Cooperstown by the shores of Lake Otsego

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Continue reading >>>


Greetings from the birthplace of James Fenimore Cooper, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. We are poised on the shore of Lake Otsego. We just got here less than an hour ago … and I opened the back door to our room and voilà … Glimmerglass!

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For anyone still under the impression that young James Fenimore Cooper was raised in a log cabin on the frontier, he was actually raised in a big, white mansion at the head of Lake Otsego. To be fair, it had indeed been wilderness when his father settled there. Today, it is gentrified and expensive. Manicured farmland abuts mansions. An elegant area of exceptional beauty.

James’ father, the venerable William Cooper, founded the town. Will Cooper hung out with John Adams and George Washington and was a big deal even before his son became America’s first best-selling author.

Glimmerglass in the books is, of course, Lake Otsego. Tonight, as we were coming back from dinner, the lake looked like a gleaming gem in a deep green setting.

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Everything you might want to know about James Fenimore Cooper, America’s first novelist, here.

It’s kind of gray and rainy today. Tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, the sun will shine, or so they promise . I hope I will have more pictures to show you and stories to tell tomorrow.

An interesting point about lake side living is that it’s at least 15 degrees colder out back than out the front door. All the folks in the back barbecuing or just watching the day end are wearing heavy jackets. Those on the front porch, in the rocking chairs are wearing tee shirts. Natural air conditioning at work.