WOULD YOU LIKE TO STAY FOR DINNER?

CELEBRATING THE FAMILY WE NEVER MET AND MAYBE DON’T WANT TO

“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who having appeared out of nowhere, now miraculously speaks vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent, “Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”

“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”

“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”

“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”

“Are you Kosher?”

“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, remembering the bacon that has passed through our kitchen. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”

Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”

Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. It say “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.

“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You have problems with the Cossacks?”

“No Cossacks, but lots of politicians,” I reply.

“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?”

“Not so much,” I admit.

“And for a living you do what?”

“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”

“What’s a television?”

I look at Shmuel, realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation, so all I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.

Oy vay. Can someone set the table?

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION IN 100 WORDS – HAPPY BIRTHDAY U.S.A.!

The Revolution was about money. Like all wars. Mostly about taxes, especially on tea, which was huge until we discovered coffee. And who should pay what to whom.

We believed we should keep all the money. King George felt otherwise. We offered to split the difference.

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George said “Hell NO!” Then we fought a war.

France, pissed at England, came with warships and troops. They helped us beat the British, then went home. In a later skirmish — “The War of 1812″ — the British returned to burn down Washington DC. We survived.

Next, we become a real country. The rest is history.

DO YOU REMEMBER?

WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO I MISS? I DON’T MISS TECHNOLOGY. I MISS CIVILIZATION.

Telephones on which both you and the party to whom you were speaking could hear each other.

Sound tracks on movies where dialogue was louder than background music.

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Silence when you were out and not near a phone. Being out of touch was wonderful — the whole point of vacation.

People walking on the street without things stuck in their ears, paying attention to where they were walking. Saying “hi” and smiling when they passed by.

Conversations which were not constantly interrupted by tweets, dings, beeps, and ringing.

Good manners. “Please” and “thank you” being part of normal human intercourse.

The customer always being right. I’d settle for the customer occasionally being treated with respect.

Complete sentences with words spelled correctly and including punctuation.

Full-service gas stations where they cleaned your windshield.

FINAL GONG SOUNDS ON OUR WELL STORY

It took 9 months to get the job finished, starting from when our well went dry in late August 2014, until mid-May 2015. That was when Dave, the Well Guy, showed up to finish the job. I do not know how many calls I made that went unanswered and not returned. I considered just showing up at his front door. He lives around the corner, after all, but he probably wouldn’t answer the door. I wouldn’t, if I were him.

He had the grace to not bill me until after he had capped the well and completed the sidewalk. From completion of the job, it then took a mere two months before the bill arrived. I had reached a point of giddy expectation in which I thought maybe he was doing the job free. I mentioned this to Owen, who said “Fat chance of that.”

Eventually, the other shoe dropped. The bill arrived, delivered in person by none other than the elusive Dave.

Completed well-head in front of the garden gate

Completed well-head in front of the garden gate

I’d been holding the funds in a separate account the entire time. I needed to be sure it didn’t get used for some other frivolity, like fixing someone’s teeth or buying a hearing aid.

After the bill arrived, last week I transferred the funds to the checking account so I could issue a bank check. I left a week between transferring funds and paying him to be sure the bank didn’t get weird about my moving so much money at one time. They didn’t.

When the calendar flipped into July, I scheduled Dave’s payment.  Minus $100, a small fraction of the total bill.

“Why?” asked Garry.

“How long did it take Dave to finish the well?”

Garry thought a moment. “A little more than nine months.”

“Well,” I said, “In nine months, after he calls me a dozen times asking for the money — and I ignore the calls — then, after a suitable period of time has passed, I’ll make sure he gets that last bit of money. If he has a poetic streak, he’ll get the point.”

My work here is done.

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #12 – EARLY

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #12 – EARLY

Wednesday – July 1, 2015

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. The world has turned. Springtime ended. It’s summer! If you are anywhere in the northern hemisphere, you are no doubt feeling the pressure to have fun. To leap out of bed to greet the sun. Romp on the beach. Burn meat on a grill. Drive a thousand miles. Climb a mountain.

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Do something. Earn some bragging rights before it’s too late. Don’t forget the camera.

GOOD MORNING, SUNSHINE

I have an ambivalent relationship with “early.”

I love sunrise. First light. The glistening of light on leaf and grass. The glow of dawn. A flight of birds across a pristine beach.

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I would merely prefer that it happen later. Like around ten. After I’ve had a chance to have some coffee, catch my breath. Focus my eyes.

Did you know you can say “good morning” to your computer and it will say “good morning” in return? You can do it and it’s easier than you think. Most newer computers and tablets (and telephones) will happily burble to you any old time of day. I have carefully avoided activating any computer voices.

I can barely bring myself to be polite to the dogs in the morning. They are wildly enthusiastic, but know better than to bark at me. The stand in the kitchen doorway huffing, puffing, wagging, and dancing. In silence. Because a biscuit is coming, a biscuit is coming. Unless they bark at mom. If they are noisy, mom will put her four-footed pals outside until she gets her cup of coffee.

To have my computer jabbering at me would put me over the edge.

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I can prevent my computers from babbling, but there’s nothing I can do about the birds. Birdsong is beautiful (sometimes). Under the right circumstances. The problem is that birds sing at ungodly hours. In particular, the little Carolina Wren who has taken up residence in our back forty.

He sings so piercingly loud and so early, it wakes me out of a dead sleep.

“What? What?” I cry, but it is only the bird. Such a little bird. Such a big voice. What an amazing decibel level!

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I’m proud of these pictures because these wrens have a serious case of ADD. They are never still for more than a nanosecond, so getting a picture of one represents a personal best.

CALL OF THE WILD

When I was a kid, my bedroom adjoined the roof of the “playroom” on the ground floor. It was right next to my window. A broad expanse of nearly flat asphalt tiles, it became — for reasons I’m sure someone could explain, but no one ever has  — the battlefield of an ongoing territorial dispute between the crows and the squirrels.

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They bickered and quarreled at the top of their obnoxious voices. They didn’t care it was not their property. Nor did it actually matter who (if anyone) won the battle.

It was a bloodless war, characterized by sound and fury. Signifying nothing. Every morning, year round, the grey squirrels and the black fish crows went claw to foot for domination of my roof.

Chattering and squawking, they would start before dawn and continue until I found myself pounding my tiny fists on the glass and screaming ‘GO AWAY, GO AWAY.’

They never quit. My mother was unsympathetic, though nothing would get her out of bed before mid morning.

Even coffee couldn’t make her cheerful in the morning. It merely woke her up. Jumpy and grumpy. Not a morning person. It seems I have become remarkably like her in ways I never expected.

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Now, though, I keep a camera — sometimes several — on my jewelry chest near the accessible window in the bathroom. When my body tells me to get up, I can turn a necessity into an opportunity by snapping sunrise and early bird photographs. Then, I pull the shade down and climb back into bed.

Sunrise Strider

I hardly break my sleep rhythm. Until the phone rings …

RIDING SHOTGUN THROUGH LIFE – SHARING MY WORLD

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #26

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?

For many years, I would have rather driven, but these days, I’m perfectly happy to ride shotgun. And navigate. I can read a map, an all but forgotten art form which enables one to correlate one’s position in the real world with a virtual location on a piece of paper.

The road and an atlas

The road and an atlas

Oddly enough, this primitive system works very well and the paper map rarely routes me into weird back roads to bridges that have long since collapsed.

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them? Why?

It would depend on the opera. I’m not a big opera fan, but there are some I like better than others … and I might go just for the architecture. They have restored Boston’s historic opera house and I wouldn’t mind a visit.

Describe your own outlook on life in seven words or less. (NOTE:  does not necessarily have to be a sentence.)

Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.

Which would you prefer:  a wild, turbulent life filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and adventure–intoxicating successes and stunning setbacks; or a contented bordering on happy, secure, predictable life surrounded by friends and family without such wide swings of fortune and mood?

I’m sure there is a middle ground between those extremes. I’ll take the option that gives me a reasonably peaceful life with enough adventure to build up happy memories, funny anecdotes, and interesting experiences.

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Because it’s hard to write about life and the world if you’ve never gone anywhere or done anything. Also, there are only so many photographs you can take in your kitchen.

 

CONFESSIONS OF A PEN THIEF – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I could run for elective office if I so chose. Even in retirement, after more than 40 years as a TV and radio news reporter I’m sufficiently recognizable that I could put my name up for election. I don’t have a lot of skeletons in my closet. Certainly none scandalous enough to draw attention.

Nonetheless, I felt it was time to come clean about the addiction I have not been able to shed. I steal pens.

I am a pen thief.

My reputation precedes me into the offices of public officials, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, business, and law enforcement. I am welcome with smiles and handshakes — but the pens are locked away.

My pen thievery is the stuff of legend, admired by icons like “Tip” O’Neill, the late Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Tip” and I once swapped anecdotes about the quality of watches and pens on “The Hill”. He actually once double dared me.

Garry-With-TipONeill

Having swiped pens from Scotland Yard, the Vatican, Buckingham Palace, state houses, city halls, and other high-profile venues, I set my sites on the biggest of all: The Oval Office.

I’d already established a rapport with then-President Clinton. He knew and liked me. I had it planned. A one-on-one interview with no one else in the big room. I diverted the President’s attention and reached for one of his elegant pens — only to find him staring at me. Smiling.

“We know all about you, Garry”, President Clinton smiled cheerily.

Garry and Marilyn at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

Turns out the good pens had been stashed and replaced by cheap, discount ones that dried up after a few uses. I later found out some of my best political contacts — on both sides of the aisle in DC — had joined in a bi-partisan move to warn the President about the notorious pen thief from Boston.

Being a legend isn’t as easy as it looks.

WAITING WITH THE NEWS – A HEALTH ALERT UPDATE

The only time I read the newspaper is when I’m waiting for the doctor or dentist. Usually, I get headlines online and carefully avoid reading “hard news.”

I don’t want to know. I can’t fix what’s broken in the world. Knowing about it will depress me.

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Yesterday, I had a moderately long wait for the dentist. It was an emergency visit and I didn’t bring my Kindle. My bag is already stuffed, overloaded with camera equipment and everything else.

Garry always buys newspapers and he had brought two. Halfway through the second newspaper, I remembered why I don’t follow news. I caught up with everything I didn’t want to know.

The waiting experience was crowned by seeing the dentist.

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The good news? The antibiotics healed the infection in my gums and if I lay off the flossing, I should be fine. Other good news? My broken tooth was filled. I no longer have a big, jagged hole where my premolar ought to be. In fact, I still have the premolar, or what’s left of it. Even better news? The tooth can be fixed, made good as new, almost.

You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, right? Wait for it …

$1200 for the crown. No insurance. Because health insurance doesn’t cover teeth, vision, or hearing. Eating, seeing, and hearing are cosmetic, not medical issues.

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Now that I know I’m not going to die from infection, I can relax. I can stop being cranky, snarky, and insomniac. Because all I need to worry about is money.

Footnote: The photographs have nothing to do with the post. I took them when we got back from the dentist. With the Pentax Q7, which was not having a good day. It took me an hour to figure out what was bothering it — and set it to rights. I felt obliged to use the pictures.