A BIG DAY FOR BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

It snowed last night. We had no idea how much we’d get because one minute they’d say “just a dusting” and the next they’d say “maybe five or six inches” and finally someone would admit they didn’t know, but something was going to happen.

I sort of hoped nothing would happen, but it’s and early winter, so I was pretty sure we’d have snow. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a HUGE amount of snow, but that’s not coming till next week.

Flying!

When I woke this morning, it had definitely snowed and every bird in the woods was diving on the feeders. It was earlier than I usually get up, but the birds were enticing. When it’s cold and snowy, they forget to hide from me. They just want food and more food. I believe they eat a great deal when it’s cold and that’s how they survive the weather.

Taking off

I took a few pictures. More than a few. I burned through a whole battery and had to insert a new one. Usually, the birds leave while I’m changing batteries. This time, though, they were too hungry to go anywhere.

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

So I got some great shots of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, Mr. and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Carolina Wrens and Chipping Sparrows … among others. And a squirrel who snuck in for a snack. For once, I think the overwhelming flock of birds won the day and he left pretty quickly.

Getting wings ready to fly

But Garry said the squirrels were chowing down all morning, so maybe they finally got tired and went home for a nap.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE. SLOWLY. Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #52

The question?

Given the realities of who we are and what we need, I think this is a pretty good life. I might wish for gentler weather and a bit more money, but overall? I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to live in a place where most people are on the same side I am on. Where getting around (unless there’s a lot of snow) is pretty easy. No traffic jams. No parking meters.

Life is simple, peaceful, and sometimes, joyous.

Short of suddenly becoming physically young (that would be quite a trick!), this is “the good life.” For us. Maybe it wouldn’t be for you, but it works for us. We live “the good life,” but slowly.

ELDERLY INSPIRATION – Marilyn Armstrong

We are them. We are full of inspiration. We want to fix the world, end the Trump reign. Force congressional representatives and senators to do their jobs. No, really, that’s what we want.

The problem is the “elder” part of the title. We did this already. I did in personally with letters and protests and all that collegiate and post-college stuff. Garry did it on the air, with cameras, and the world watching.

Since retiring, we’ve been doing it online. Writing and urging people to vote. Warning people how dangerous not voting will be. Discussing issues. Making fun of The Bad Guys in DC. Personally, in conversation. Rationally, in words.

And maybe, after all this … just maybe we’ve gotten a few people here and there to take the issue seriously. Unfortunately, quite a few of them are not American and while they wholehearted agree, they can’t vote here. Oh well.

I’ve had old friends — from the south and that’s not a small thing — tell me that all reporters lie.

When I pointed out my husband was a reporter and trust me, he never got up in the morning and went to work for the purpose of deluding the public, they went silent, finally responding with “Does it really matter?”

You mean … DOES TRUTH MATTER?

When the truth stops mattering, nothing else matters.

So we are inspired and I’m pretty sure we are going to remain inspired, but unfortunately, we aren’t getting any younger. I’m very glad to see so many fresh, new political faces. We desperately need them because the battle that is building is going to need a force behind it that isn’t old and tired.

Younger people must stand up, be counted, and become involved in the NOW. The world is forever changing, rarely for the better. We — my generation of boomers and pre-boomers — didn’t start this fire. Nor did our parents or grandparents.

Time for an anthem:

WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE


Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola, and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it.

Songwriter: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

No one living today — or even during the past couple of hundred years — started the fire. Regardless, each person of every generation shares an obligation to stop looking for someone to blame and try to make this world better. Not only for yourselves but for every child who will come.

Do it for every child, all races, any religion or none.
Do the best you can for the humans of planet Earth.
Before the big giant head sends us all home.

If you don’t, there will come a time and I think sooner rather than later when there’s nothing remaining to be done. No number of inspired elders or youngers will matter by then. Do what you can while you have a world that can be repaired. It’s not going to wait much longer … if it is waiting. I certainly hope it’s still on hold!

ABOUT THOSE DOGS AND TREES – Garry Armstrong

Now that it has snowed, the mud that had almost become solid has turned back into gummy mud. With the best will in the world, this house will never be entirely clean. Too many dogs. Too many trees. Too many people. Dog hair, dust, and dead oak leaves — the triple D of home ownership.

Live in the country — both inside and out!

On their way

Always, the trees

Trees

Home again, from the road

There is more snow coming tomorrow unless it’s rain or unless instead of getting cold, it gets warm … or unless the winds change and everything blows northward. But something’s going to happen, whatever it may be!

A NOSE JOB FOR MOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story, or how many times I have told it to you. It bears retelling.

At age 22

My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor, and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as a bookkeeper. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The first place she worked was in a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to get a better job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. Of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them. My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant so no one would ever do that to her again.Finally, I made a leap of understanding. I connected this anecdote to an aspect of my mother I never “got.” My mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is the original model with which I was born.

Since the last time I told this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty enough. She was asking me if I wanted to not look Jewish. Remarkably, this thought had never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.

I know many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I know non-white mothers frequently sent their light-skinned children north hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until recently, did it occur to me my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. I was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age. I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

September 15, 1990 – My family at our wedding. I think most of us look a bit alike!

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion to “get my nose fixed” was an attempt to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said, “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.

He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 72? That is a bit slow. You really didn’t know?” I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently, everyone else got it. Except me.

CROSSROADS AND CONTRACTS – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a cold night. Not just wintry cold, but a deep, damp, clammy cold that climbed into your joints and made everything hurt. A light fog covered the ground yet it shed no light.

If you squinted, you could see two hulking bodies approaching the junction, each coming down a different path.  No need for the complexities of physics. It was obvious they would meet in the middle of the intersection. There were barely any shadows. Surely the stars were glittering in the heavens, but none were visible.

“You called me and I came,” said the taller of the two.

“Have you brought the papers?” asked the bloated one.

“Indeed I have,” responded Old Scratch. “Please look them over and make sure everything is in order.”

“No need,” said the other. “I got your email. My lawyer says it’s exactly what I asked for.”

Path in the woods

The tall one with the twisted features of a demon smiled. “Then I guess we can move forward. Remember, please that only those items written in the contract are yours. Other events not in the contract can occur. For such unrelated events, I bear no responsibility, either causally or to protect you.

“I thought I should also mention that we have a bonus for you. For each individual you bring to the crossroad to sign a contract, your power will increase.”

The bloated one snickered. “I already have a list,” he said. “It’s quite long and I’m sure you’ll appreciate it. Most are ready to sign. By the way, do you happen to have a pen?”

The demon opened his hand. In his hand was a softly glowing pen that was intensely black yet appeared to have an inner light. Instead of a standard tip, it had a thick marking nib. “I assume this meets with your approval?”

“Nice pen,” said the other. “Can I keep it? It has a certain … something.”

“Absolutely,” said Scratch “I made it just for you.”

The other took the pen and placed his signature on the dotted line.

Demon-face smiled, then laughed. “We are done,” he said and. With a brief flash of red, he vanished. Only the dark night remained. The glowing pen lay on the asphalt.

The deed was done. The other picked up the pen and put it carefully in his jacket pocket. He began a long, slow walk back to his limousine as a light rain began to fall. The world would belong to him.

WHISPERS IN YOUR EAR – Marilyn Armstrong

The day before the earthquake hit San Francisco in 1989, I decided I needed to go home a day early. I wasn’t feeling well (I actually had the flu, but didn’t yet know it) and most of my work was done for the moment.

It was like a little whisper in my ear telling me it was time to leave.

Had I not left, I’d have been one of the many crushed cars on the road between San Francisco and Oakland.

My boss in 2001 was supposed to fly to Los Angeles on September 11th. For some reason, a little whisper in his ear said “Cancel the trip. Go another day.”

The plane on which he had been booked crashed into one of the towers in New York.

There are all those little whispers out of nowhere. They tell us what to do. They tell us what to avoid. Listen to the whispers.