ALL OUR YESTERDAY’S

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Whether or not it’s a tale told by an idiot or a slightly less stupid narrator, I doubt there’s an action anyone takes in their life (assuming they’ve made it to adulthood) which is not in some way shaped by past experience. What other point is there is “learning the hard way?”

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the hard way seems pretty much the only way. That’s the way my life has gone. If someone has found an easier, less bumpy path to learning how to live, would they please be kind enough to tell me?

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Is your life in shreds? Out of work? Homeless? Hiding from the repo guy? Other half dump you? Bank threatening foreclosure? Don’t take it personally. It’s a joke. Your debacle is life’s way of pointing out how little control you have over your fate.

No weeping. No one likes a cry-baby or wants to hear your sad story. Unless you turn it into a funny story. Then everyone will listen.

The first time my world went to pieces, I walked away from a dead marriage, gave everything to my ex and moved to another country. The joke was on me because I promptly married a guy infinitely worse. After that fell apart, I staggered — bloody, dazed and penniless — back to the USA. When I stopped feeling like I’d gone through a wood chipper, I married Garry, which I should done in the first place. Except he hadn’t asked.

All that seemingly pointless pain and suffering was not for nothing. Stories of hideous mistakes and calamitous outcomes are the stuff of terrific after-dinner conversation. A few drinks can transform them into hilarity. Misery and disaster fuels humor.

Funny movies are not about people having fun. They’re about people in trouble, with everything going wrong, lives in ruins. The difference between a comedy and a tragedy is that tragedies usually end with a pile of corpses. Comedies (usually) don’t. Otherwise, it’s just timing and style. Funny stories aren’t funny when they happen. Later they’re funny.

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Our personal traumas are collateral damage in the battle to survive. Mindful of whatever tragedy lurks just over your personal horizon, why not prepare some clever repartee? You can give it a test drive at the next get together with your pals. Something to look forward to.

So no matter how bad things are, not to worry. Black depression will ebb. That crushing weight on your chest will be replaced by a permanent sense of panic you will call “normal.”

Life trudges on. Everyone will point out: “Life doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” You have my permission to whack anyone who says it over the head with something hard and heavy.

HANGING WITH OLD FRIENDS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Friendship is something you treasure more and more as the years go by and you realize the clock is ticking on your mortality. I used to have numerous friends during my working years. But when they finally turned the TV news camera off me, many of those friends disappeared.

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It goes with the territory. How many t’s in territory?

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In retirement, I have maybe a few real friends. I can count them on the fingers of one hand. That’s the way it was before I became a regional celebrity. I’ve never been a really sociable fella. People often confused my television persona with real “me.”

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I’m reserved in large gatherings. Always have been. Some of it is due to my hearing problems. Mostly, it’s because I’m shy. I hide behind what remains of my professional celebrity. I don’t laugh much except when I’m around our dogs. I’m always comfortable with our furry kids. I’ve found myself laughing a lot the past couple of days. Laughing with people. Very special people. Ron and Cherrie.

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Cherrie and Marilyn are best friends. They’ve known each other forever. They make each other laugh through the darkest of times.

Ron is a quiet guy, much like me. We don’t talk a lot, but we share a lot when we are alone. About a variety of things. It’s comfortable being around Ron and Cherrie. Easy. We talk about the problems of the world, our crisis-filled lives, and movie trivia. We finish off each other’s sentences as our overloaded brains smoke like old wiring.

More than anything else, we bring out the best in each other. We remember the joy of laughter, of enjoying the moment. Silly stuff reigns.

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Our visit with Ron and Cherrie will end in a few hours and then it’s back to reality. If only we could bottle the fun we’ve had, we could throw away most of our prescription meds.

Friendship. What a concept!

SHARING MY WORLD – BURGEONING SPRING EDITION

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #20

What is the most important thing that you ever learned? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school).

That life just happens. Both good and bad. Controlling life, to which we all aspire and in which we fervently believe until we learn otherwise, is a waste of time. You aim yourself in the general direction in which you want to go. After that? You take your cue from what happens along the trail. The people you meet, the opportunities you get.

Taken by the typical friendly passing stranger who, sadly, had no clue about how cameras work. Guess where we are? Hint: The picture was taken yesterday and they are not having a good season.

Taken by the typical friendly passing stranger who, sadly, had no clue about how cameras work. Guess where we are? Hint: The picture was taken yesterday and they are not having a good season.

As they say (with good reason): “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

What feeds your enthusiasm for life?

Writing. Photography. Creating things. Reading. If I feed my mind, I feed everything.

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I don’t know what I would do if I was no longer able to do anything creative.

What’s your most memorable (good or bad) airplane commercial or private flight?

We were coming back from Ft. Lauderdale after a 2-week Caribbean cruise. A lot of unexpected and interesting stuff had happened on that cruise, but we were not prepared for the flight home. Actually, the first leg of the journey, from Florida to Atlanta, was perfectly normal and on time. The connecting flight to Boston was waiting on the runway, our luggage got transferred. So far, so good.

Having boarded, strapped in, we sat on that runway in the plane. No air conditioning, not an offer of water or coffee or a soft drink for three hours. No one explained why. One of the passengers was a diabetic and went into a coma. They removed her from the plane on a stretcher.

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Finally, we actually took off. Thunder storms forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, where we sat for another couple of hours, waiting for the weather to clear. And for a new pilot. Why we needed a new pilot? Your guess is as good as mine.

We got back to Boston at 3 in the morning. Our original arrival had been 6 pm. Garry was scheduled to be at Channel 7 the following morning at five. He was exhausted. They told him “tough luck, you should have planned better.” We went home. Garry took a shower, got dressed, and went to work. So much for (a) Delta Airlines and (b) the glamorous life of a television reporter.

If you were a great explorer, what would you explore

I’ve never thought about exploring. I’d love to see Paris, the Great Wall of China, Japan, India, and Kenya. Among other places.

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That’s travel, not exploration. Exploration makes me think of jungles, insects, snakes, and yellow fever. How about a nice cruise to Tahiti? I’m up for that.

ALMS FOR THE RED SOX – GARRY ARMSTRONG

If you are a real baseball fan, you live and die with your team’s success and failure. It’s all about winning, not how you play the game.

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I’ve been passionate about baseball for more than 65 years of my life. The pre baseball years were devoted to kid stuff like cowboys and Indians. I’ve rooted for three teams in my life. The Brooklyn Dodgers, Casey’s original Amazin’ New York Mets, and the Boston Red Sox.

Agony and ecstasy have marked my love for these teams. All were perennial long-time losers, demonizing generations of their followers. Victory as in winning the World Series was the sweetest wine ever tasted.

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When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, their first title since the end of World War One, peace was bestowed on generations in the Red Sox Nation. The Bosox have since won two more World Series, totaling three in nine years. Success is now expected by the pilgrims who discovered baseball after 2000 and (current) new Sox ownership.

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Great expectations easily breed discontent. In the Red Sox Nation, the grapes of wrath are growing because of the team’s mediocre pitching, despite off-season trades and free-agent signings to bolster the offense.

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The suits who run Fenway’s boys of summer club refuse to deal for quality pitching. They claim to be satisfied with the mediocrity of the current staff, saying the arms will improve with time. One of the pitchers is already on the disabled list with a “tired arm”, six weeks into the season and with an ERA over five.

The suits say it’s still early. They don’t want to deal or spend foolishly.

Marilyn and I recently made our pilgrimage to Boston’s cathedral of baseball. The Sox were playing out-of-town, so we could move around easily, observing the salutes to past teams.

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You could hear murmurs about the current Sox and their woeful pitching. What to do?

Marilyn decided to help boost the team’s financial coffers and bought a nifty hat. It was a bargain! Only 3 times what you would pay at your favorite department store not named the “Red Sox Team Store.” Marilyn should get a lot of use out of her hat. Its brim has more snap to it than most of the curve balls thrown by the Red Sox starters.

It’s a long season. Maybe Marilyn’s purchase will be the alms that bring quality arms to our beloved team.

Maybe. Not.

DIRECT CREMATION – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I was driving along I-95 in Connecticut when I spotted the billboard for “Direct Cremation”.

cremation with confidenceTraffic was just slow enough for me to read a few lines of the pitch. It promised no fuss, no delays, no middle men, red tape … and a money back guarantee if unhappy with service. I wasn’t sure who’d get the money back.

I started laughing over Marty Robbins and “El Paso” playing on the oldies CD. I was still laughing when Marty’s gunfighter died in the arms of his young sweetheart. Instead of a tearful funeral and the strains of “Streets of Laredo”, maybe the gunfighter should have had direct cremation. No muss, no fuss, no mournful boot hill goodbye.

Direct cremation may be the latest answer to a world of violence. Mob hits, drive by killings, gang bang slayings with collateral damage. Stressed out serial killers and contract button men doing “jobs.” The bodies just keep piling up. Medical Examiners are overworked and cemeteries are running out of room. What to do?

Direct cremation!

Speaking of overworked medical examiners, I’m reminded of a story I covered in Boston.

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Goes back 40 plus years. The county medical examiner was, if you’ll excuse me, “under the gun” with some of his findings. He didn’t look like Quincy, Ducky, or even the sexy Lacey from the “Castle” series. He was a sad, tired, bleary-eyed man in the autumn of his years.

Your intrepid reporter was on the scene. The M.E. was momentarily diverted so I could check the autopsy lab and the morgue. I found the controversial corpse and made a cursory examination.

I confronted the M.E. about his findings on the case. He insisted the victim was stabbed to death. I asked him about the several large bullet holes I’d just found. He was speechless.

Direct cremation would have avoided a lot of controversy and embarrassing questions. It’s an idea whose time has come.