HAMLET’S TRAGEDY – Marilyn Armstrong

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare
Act 1, Scene 3

LORD POLONIUS:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!


I’ve been thinking about the difference between borrowing, grants-in-aid, and theft. Which brought the quote from Hamlet to mind. I felt a clarification was necessary because a lot of people don’t recognize that “borrowing” is different than getting a gift or grant, or for that matter, theft. Sometimes the line is narrow, but it is there. Let’s see if I can illuminate the differences.

  1. To borrow something implies you intend to return the item, or, in the case of money, to return an equivalent amount of money preferably during the lifetime of you and whoever lent it to you.
  2. If you ask to borrow money (or some other item) but do not intend to return it? That is not borrowing.

(a) If the lender believes you will return it but you know you won’t and probably never had any intention of returning it, you’re a thief.
(b) If the lender is Mom or Dad and everyone knows you won’t return it, it’s a family dance performed to save the feelings of all the parties. It preserves the borrower’s pride and makes the old folks feel less foolish.

On the whole, most of us know that money and other items “lent” to a child or relative is probably a “grant-in-aid.” We call it a loan so everyone gets to keep his or her dignity. It’s a gift, not borrowing.

72-Sunrise-March-12_12

Then there are the true leeches. Not only are they thieves, but they are righteous thieves who believe they deserve whatever they take.

We need new words for this kind of “borrower.” These are the folks who want your stuff because, in their twisted minds, they feel they deserve it. We can afford to give it to them because whatever we have, they are sure they should have it. Therefore, it’s okay for them to take it because it really belongs to them.

Not only do these folks lack boundaries, but they have a bizarre sense of entitlement which is not the result of need or poverty. They are sure they deserve “the good stuff.” If you have it and they don’t, you have deprived them of their rights.

These are the ones who won’t work for a living because they don’t feel they should work. They aren’t responsible. Ever. No conscience, no honor, no respect for anyone else’s work. either. Not immigrants. These are usually white Americans with a really bad attitude.

Envy rules their world. They hate immigrants who they are sure are stealing their jobs (even though they wouldn’t do the hard work immigrants are willing to do) and they hate anyone who has a nicer car, bigger house, or even looks better.

If you make the error of feeling sorry for them and offer to share your life with them, they will view your generosity as a sign of weakness and take full advantage of you and yours.

I love being generous and am tickled pink when I give things away and it makes someone happy, but I take exception to the inevitable ingratitude. I’ve heard this quote as having come from OscarWilde, Mark Twain, and several other people but cannot confirm its real source:


“I don’t know why he hates me so much;
I never did him a favor.”


STOP THE WORLD – RICH PASCHALL

I Want To Get Off, Rich Paschall

Stop The World – I Want To Get Off

Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley scored big with their 1961 musical Stop the World – I Want to Get Off . They opened “out of town” in Manchester but quickly moved to London’s West End where the show was a hit. Newley directed and starred in the show. In October of 1962 the production moved to Broadway for a long run. Again Newley starred as Littlechap, with the play moving through the years of the main character’s life. When things were not going his way, Littlechap would shout “Stop the world.” He was a selfish being, who sought success for himself and cared little for others. Does Littlechap ever learn learn his lessons of life and love as you follow him from birth on to the end? (Spoiler alert: If you watch the Davis video to the end you will see the conclusion of the play.)

Anna Quayle starred as the women in Littlechap’s life and won a Tony award for her work. Newley was nominated but lost out to Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Bricusse and Newley picked up three other Tony Award nominations.

There was a film adaptation in 1966. A short Broadway revival starring Sammy Davis, Jr. ran in 1978. The revival begat a television special starring Davis and Marian Mercer. In 1996 there was a television movie starring Peter Scolari. The Newley and Davis productions, as well as the 1966 movie version have cast albums available on Amazon.

What kind of fool am I
Who never fell in love
It seems that I’m the only one
That I have been thinking of

“What Kind of Fool Am I?” closes the second act of the play as Littlechap reflects back on his life. The Newley recording of the song received a Grammy for Song of the Year at the 5th Annual Grammy Awards for the song writers, Bricusse and Newley. Sammy Davis also had a hit with his version of the song released in 1962. Davis’ love of the show and its songs brought him to star in it years later.

What kind of man is this
An empty shell
A lonely cell in which
An empty heart must dwell

So who sang it better? The composer and stage performer Anthony Newley or the dynamic consumate performer Sammy Davis, Jr? You be the judge. Feel free to file your review below.

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this

You Tube will also treat you to night club performances of the song by both artists. Just for fun, we offer this little vintage piece starring our favorite frog on the Ed Sullivan Show. That’s right, I said frog. You may recognize the other performer in this piece as well.

Sources include various Wikipedia articles including:
Stop The World – I Want To Get Off,” Wikipedia, the Free Encycopedia. en.wikipedia.org.

THREE ANGLES: BOSTON STATEHOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Three Angles

From the back, Boston Statehouse – Built 1795–1798

From the front, Boston statehouse

Closer

Boston’s statehouse’s resemblance to the U.S. Capital is not accidental. The Capital’s cornerstone was laid by George Washington on September 18, 1793. The building was completed in 1800. Both buildings used the same architect (Charles Bulfinch) and were built during the same decade.

STATE OF MY NATION – Marilyn Armstrong

STATE OF MY NATION – RDP SATURDAY


I have forbidden television viewing today. It’s the Republican opportunity to deny everything and I don’t think I can handle it. Worse, this might be the broadcast that finally makes Garry kick the TV until it shatters. Since we need to fix a broken toilet and the floor under it, we can’t afford a new TV so we’ll have to hang onto this one. This part of the impeachment will have to wait for the evening news roundups and late-night comedies.

Watching it will make us crazy.

Trump has only been in office for three years, but it feels like at least twenty. Maybe more. It isn’t only what he has done. It’s what he has tried to do, his twisting of reality and constant blatant lies. He has been the first president in my lifetime to make me wonder whether this country has a soul, conscience, or any aspirations other than the gathering of money and “things.”

Someone — and I really have no idea who — said that no one goes to their grave wishing they’d spent more time at the office. It goes hand-in-hand with all the wealthy people who have the money to buy everything they ever wanted yet feel as if there’s a big, empty hole in the middle of their life. They are lonely, bored, and feel unloved. They (who ARE they?) actually did a survey on this which has been on the national news for the past few nights. The rich don’t have friends. Making money hasn’t been nearly as satisfying as it was supposed to be. No amount of publicity, plastic surgery, or fashionable clothing fills that hole.


I have come to believe “The American Dream” is just a soft-focus, rose-colored version of greed for all.


With all the issues we have got, I am not lonely. I wish we had more in-person time with friends, but as we have grown older, so have they.  Our contemporaries mostly don’t like long drives anymore. Distances that weren’t a big deal even five years ago seem much longer now.

I always hoped we’d somehow find a way to stick together, but life has taken us in the opposite direction. Retirement to warmer climates and/or moving to wherever our kids and grandchildren live has spread us all over the map. There have also been too many deaths.

With all that, I’m pretty sure that if I died tomorrow, there would be at least a dozen people at the wake who cared about me. It wouldn’t be a crowd of people with whom I “did business,” but people I knew, talked to, and loved.

This nightmare through which we are passing has not only caused individual personal fear but has breached many friendships and family relationships.

Where we used to disagree and were willing to “agree to disagree,” we can’t seem to do that today. I don’t think I had a lot of Republican friends, but maybe I did. I never checked anyone to make sure they agreed with me politically. We didn’t talk about politics all the time. You were allowed to believe privately and in peace.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is so much anger, frustration, confusion, and hatred everywhere. You can feel it prickling your skin. If we don’t manage to get Trump and his trashy pals out of office, the future looks grim and frightening.

Worse, I’m ashamed of being white, and ashamed of my nation, and seriously wondering if we will ever find our way back from this mess. I never thought it could come to this.

From Mr. Potato Head to Flushin’ Frenzy

If you thought you had the worst toys, you don’t.. This has got to be IT!

DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on Society

Potato Mr. Potato Head with plastic potato

In 1952 George Lerner designed a toy called Mr. Potato Head. Originally the toy consisted of several facial features, ears, and hats that could be pushed into a potato (or any other veggie really). I assume Lerner figured that even a poor family could spare one spud for decorating, it could also be eaten after.

No more rotting taters; but limited options for creativity.

But by 1964 the stench of rotting potatoes became too much and the manufacturer, Hasbro, decided to include a plastic potato with slots to receive the various body parts. No more rotting taters; but limited options for creativity.

Of course, using ‘real’ things in toys can lead to disaster. Just think of the classic nerve-testing Operation. Or the potential for economic ruin with Monopoly or, God forbid, the arrival of Armaggedon in the guise of the war game Risk.

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BALLS, NERVE, AND חוצפה – Marilyn Armstrong

“You’re one tough broad,” my friend told me. I recognized this as a compliment. Maybe you have to come from New York or New Jersey to “get it,” but I got it. “Tough” includes brave, determined, and hard to kill. A survivor with חוצפה  (chutzpah).

I’ve heard “moxie” used in old British and American movies, mostly from the 1930s or 1940s, but it’s not what people say nowadays. In New York, if they don’t call it chutzpah, they would call it “nerve” or more accurately “noive” as in:


“Eh, buddy, you got a lot noive on youse.”


Another way to put it might be:


“That’s some set of balls ya got!”


This could as easily be referring to a woman as a man. “Balls” is no longer an inherently masculine attachment. I’m pretty sure I’ve got bigger balls than a lot of guys and whaddya wanna make of it, huh?

The best word is chutzpah (חוצפה). You need a good solid guttural on the “Het” (Hebrew: ח) because it’s a sound the English language lacks. Or, as we used to say back in ye olde Jerusalem:


“How’s your ח?


A good “het(ח) is half a throat-clearing with an “et” following the consonant. It’s where the letter “H” came from before English lost its gutturals. Words like “knight” used to have a guttural and the GH was pronounced as (ח). Look it up. English was a Germanic language loosely mixed with Celtic (which has gutturals) and French, which probably had them, but lost them to that back of the tongue rolling R.

Chutzpah doesn’t merely mean (as per the dictionary) “the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage, or aggressive energy and initiative.” It also means a willingness to stand up to potential danger and step out of your normal comfort zone and put it all out there, To not care whether or not you offend someone. Although it is not necessarily offensive, it is gutsy, determined, forthright, and assertive. And just a bit Jewish.

You do not need to be Jewish to display chutzpah but it helps. It certainly helps in the pronunciation. Some people are just like that.

It is an attitude, y’know? You got that?

So if you need to return that thing to the guy who did that other thing and you absolutely want your money back — no stupid restocking fees, either — moxie might do the job. But if you seriously need to get the job done?


Chutzpah. Gotta have it.


Trust me. I would never lie to you.

THE TRAIN THROUGH WORCESTER – OWEN KRAUS

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge:
Public transportation (bus, planes, trains, etc.


One day, Owen met a guy who turned out to be a conductor on a train that runs through Worcester. It’s a very old narrow-gauge train and its maximum speed is 5 mph.

“Take pictures!” I told him. He had never taken pictures except for a few snapshots, so I wasn’t expecting much. And he still rarely takes pictures, but he could. The pictures are great.

The conductor climbs up the engine into the engine

Heading into the woods

Leaving the yard

This is our train. There are two of them and our Department of Transportation runs these trains three or four times a week to keep them functional. This is the train created to run through places where no other traffic could go.

Train in the yard

Through a meadow, passing the long stone fence

Heading into a curve as the rain begins to fall

There are no roads nor will there be. The train travels through woods, swamps, and meadows. It slowly passes long-defunct mills and factories, past sludgy canals and dark swamps. Not only is this a look at an old train, but it’s also a look at parts of the Blackstone Valley no one sees because it is inaccessible.

Passing trains

About to pass

Looking out the window into the rain

Pulling back into the yard

Welcome to the Blackstone Valley. Have a look at our history as the home of America’s industrial revolution. This is where all manufacturing industries began in the U.S. and why we are a historical corridor.

LOOK FOR THE GOO GOO GOOGLY EYES – Marilyn Armstrong

I woke up this morning with an earworm. Not your normal earworm. Mine was a 1920s earworm. It was a song my mother sang often and for once, she actually got the words right. Ask any member of my family and they will assure you: my mother never ever remembered the words to any song — except this one. She would sing words from other songs to whatever melody was bouncing around in her head. But she knew all the words to this one. It’s SUCH an earworm, once you listen to it, it just sort of sits in your head and goes around and around and around.

So I get up this morning and this is what I’m hearing, but without the scratches:

And by golly, the words I had in my head were dead on.

How did Google get its name? – Mobilis In Mobile

The mysterious mysteries of the Internet

How did Google get its name?You may have read this kind of “official answer”: Google derived its name from the word “googol”, a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. The story goes, Kasner would have asked his nephew to invent a name for a very large number – ten to the power of one hundred, and Milton called it a googol. Blah-blah-blah!

Whatever say GSpecialists, Wikipedia or Google corporate itself, last Friday I discovered the secret when I was twittering with Orli. Google was named after Barney Google.*

Just listen to Barney Google’s song. No more to say!


You may have read the “official” answer that “Google derived its name from the word “googol,” a term coined by then nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, nephew of the American mathematician Edward Kasner. But I’d bet money (and I never bet money!) that Google was named after Barney Google.” It was the most popular comic strip in the U.S. for dozens of years … and is still around today.

Barney Google – The History

Now you know the truth about Google and somehow, it makes a lot more sense than
any other explanation I’ve heard!

SORRY, WRONG NUMBER – By GARRY ARMSTRONG

People of a certain age will recall the title from a popular radio drama that became a film noir classic with Barbara Stanwyck as the damsel/wife in distress and Burt Lancaster as the spouse with mayhem on his mind.  You can also dial “M For Murder” with the same theme: the telephone as a nefarious device and weapon.

A friend just wrote a piece, extolling the virtues of the telephone as a personal link in the impersonal age of social media. Good point. You need to be able to talk, hold an intelligent and coherent conversation on the phone.  Social media doesn’t require those basic skills.  Courtesy is also another trait required on a phone conversation even when you’re dealing with unpleasant matters.

My wife, Marilyn, rises to heroic stature dealing with insufferable customer service, health care reps, local business people who lose the check and fail to show up. Credit card hackers who’d love a little personal information and the idiots who’ve dialed the wrong number but keep redialing anyway.

I hate the telephone!  It stems from all the years of unwanted calls from the TV station that employed me for 31 years. Three o’clock in the morning calls demanding I grab my gear and immediately report to the scene of a grisly crime, awful weather, deadly fires, criminals running amok, traffic accidents with myriad, mangled bodies and the latest gangland or drive-by shooting with multiple victims.  All breathlessly awaiting my presence to round up the usual suspects for eye-witness accounts and/or to go banging on doors asking parents “how they feel” about the recent death of a loved one.

Hey, how do you feel, Pilgrim?  All of this hurled at me in fleeting minutes once I picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice with the phony excuse of waking me up out of my warm bed.  I usually cursed myself if I answered the phone.

Marilyn normally took the calls because of my hearing problems.  I couldn’t blame her. Nor could I hurl expletives at the person calling.  You can’t shoot the messenger in the TV news biz.  Being called into work goes with the territory.

Instead, I blamed the inanimate object.  The telephone. Outraged, I yelled obscenities at it.  Meanwhile, the telephone sat there quietly,  probably mocking me. After all, the phone was just doing its job. Nothing personal.

Statehouse on Beacon Hill

During my bachelor years when I had to take these calls, I frequently hurled the phone across the room during my tirades against the telephone company, its employees, executives, and Alexander Graham Bell who I imagined as Don Ameche from the old biofilm.

Why did they seemingly always call me?  Why was someone always picking on me?  Frequently, I’d envision conspiracies to target me. Racism? Envy because I was on the tube every day, outshining other folks? Political target?  I had an ‘attitude’ with some local pols. It was me against the giant telephone conglomerate.  I was riffing Dwight Eisenhower’s warning.

Truth time.  Early on in my Boston TV news career, I let it be known I was ‘always available’ for major, breaking news stories.   I envisioned the scoop on that major story that would shoot me to stardom and a mega-contract.  I put myself on the spot that assignment editors love. An eager-beaver young reporter with stars in his eyes and experience not yet absorbed.

Veteran reporters scoffed at my enthusiasm even as I sauntered around the newsroom full of myself at landing big stories that had me prominently featured on every newscast of the day from sunrise to midnight.

In my glee over the big stories I always forgot how it began.  Always the damn phone call.  During my saner moments, I knew I was my own worst enemy. That logic didn’t sit well with me.

During long lunches as everyone congratulated me with my face and story on all the monitors, I realized I was in a catch 22 scenario.  Hero of the hour absorbing lots of congratulations while my brain kept reminding me that it was that early phone call that made all of this possible. I continued blaming the phone for interrupting my sleep. I would go on shooting the messenger for years.

One time I lived up to my vow to avert the phone call-to-arms.  I answered the call. Heard the voice and slowly said, “Sorry, wrong number.”  I grinned to myself, returning for a good night’s sleep.

I was still smiling as I awoke and turned on the radio in the morning.  The all-news station was frantically blaring out details about a massive fire, building collapse and the loss of many lives.  It was such a big story that the networks were in on coverage.

My smile turned to a scowl. The potential ‘story of a lifetime’ had been lost to my erstwhile, “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Oops.

An Impeached President

My thoughts exactly.

This, That, and The Other

624C6C04-5D7C-40CE-963A-2F770EB554CCThe Republican majority in the U.S. Senate represents a minority of American Citizens. These Republican senators represent less than 44% of the American population. And yet, these Republican senators can block the conviction of an impeached president.

An impeached president who has committed crimes much more serious than those of Richard Nixon during Watergate, which led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

An impeached president who was impeached for acts a lot worse than lying about a blow job, which led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998.

An impeached president who lost the popular vote in 2016 by almost 3 million votes.

An impeached president who suffered the largest midterm election defeat in U.S. history in 2018.

And an impeached president who abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress’ investigation into that abuse.

This is the American democracy in 2020. What a shame.


Political cartoon: Matt Wuerker, Politico.

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GETTING NOSY AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Judy Dykstra Brown popped up with these questions and I found them kind of interesting. Also, I haven’t done this in quite a while, so why not? Right now, the shower installers are back removing ALL the grout and replacing it with the right stuff. I knew something was wrong. It just took a while to convince them that something was amiss.

Meanwhile, we can’t use the shower until tomorrow, but it is fixed.

Does anyone know the odds of getting a contractor to come back and fix something? I think approaching zero would be pretty accurate. Kudos that they came and did it properly this time.

1.  Do you like mustard? No, though honey mustard is an exception.
2. Choice of carbonated drink? Black Cherry ICE. It’s a lightly carbonated water and fruit juice with no sweetener.
3. Do you own a gun? No!
4. Whiskey, Tequilla, Rum or Vodka? We don’t drink.
5. Hot dogs or Cheeseburgers? Cheeseburgers. Garry, though, heavily favors hot dogs.
6. Favorite Type Of Food? Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Mexican (GOOD Mexican which is almost impossible to find in New England)
7. Do you believe in ghosts? Sort of.
8. What do you drink in the mornings? Coffee!
9. Can you do 100 pushups? Not even one.
10. Summer, Winter, spring or fall? Fall. If we had Spring, I’m sure I’d like it.
11. Favorite hobby? Photography, writing, reading. I still miss horses.
12. Tattoos? One which is uniquely mine.
13. Do you wear glasses? Yes. Two kinds. One is for using the computer and another for distance. I don’t wear glasses to read.
14. Phobia? Spiders.
15. Nickname? Hey, YOU! Also, Owen’s mommy, and Garry’s wife.
16. Three drinks you drink? Coffee, ginger ale, ICE, fruit juice (especially orange and grapefruit).
17. Biggest downfall? Unable to travel and can’t walk very far — OR do stairs. My sporting life is over and I will never pitch for the Sox.
18. Rain or Snow? Rain!
19. Piercings? Just ears.
21. Kids? One 50-year-old son and a 23-year-old granddaughter.
22. Favorite colors? Cobalt blue,  hot dark pink, wine red, and racing green accented with black.
23. Favorite age? 40 was good. 43 was even better.
24. Can you whistle? No.
25. Where were you born? Brooklyn, New York
26. Brothers or Sisters? 1 older brother, 1 younger sister. I’m in the middle.
28. Surgeries? When I exceeded 20, I stopped counting. Now, I can’t remember.
29. Shower or Bath? Shower. Last time I tried a bath, I couldn’t get out of the tub. Now, we don’t have a tub, just a big shower.
30. Like gambling? Not for real money. I love games, but I don’t want to lose my money and I don’t want to take someone else’s.
32. Broken bones? No. I specialize in torn ligaments and tendons.
33. How many TVs in your house? 3 – Living room, bedroom; Owen has his own.
34. Worst pain in your life? Having my spine fused. Emotionally? Losing my brother.
35. Do you like to dance? Yes, but I can’t anymore
36. Are your parents still alive? No.
37. Do you like to go camping? No. We used to “cabin camp” in Maine. That was okay except for the outhouse. Too many crawly things.

Please play along! These are fun to do and fun to read.
Copy, paste, change the answer!!

GREAT LIGHT FOR AN ALL BLACK DOG – Marilyn Armstrong

Great light for an all-black dog 


With two black Scotties in the house, getting a good picture of them is really difficult. If there’s too much sun, the sunlit parts look like white patches. If there isn’t enough light, all you see is a fuzzy lump. We recently got Gibbs groomed and he looks very dapper. They trimmed him tightly — not like a show dog but like a dog you are trying to keep clean during a long, muddy winter.

Good light for solid black fur is bright, but not sunny. A day with a flat gray sky with the pictures taken just before the sun came around to the western side of the house. I think this is as good as it gets from the point of view of light for this picture.

Gibbs really looks like the Wolfman. Poor Larry Talbot!

Gibbs has the most soulful eyes.

With the snow and rain coming in waves and the temperature going from bitterly cold to almost spring in as little as three hours — it jumped 40 degrees today between 8 in the morning and noon — gooey mud is a big issue. So are ticks and fleas because we haven’t had weather consistently cold enough to put them into cold storage.

I figured I’d better take pictures while he still looked good. In another week, he’ll look all grubby again.

OUT MY BACK DOOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Out My Backdoor


I look out my backdoor a lot. It’s a small deck leading to a rather small lawned area that when we were younger and more socially active, was the scene of many summertime barbecues, the building of a tepee, and just handing out. The tepee is gone. The idea of feeding a hoard of people — assuming we knew enough people to create a hoard — is exhausting. Nonetheless, our deck is a big piece of the territory to which we pay most attention.

The birds and squirrels believe it belongs to them and resent our presence, so we tread gently when we are out there.

A winter Goldfinch at the finch feeder

Junco keeping company with our stone Toad

The three birdfeeders which have replaced the hanging fuchsia that used to grace the hooks have greatly changed the deck from a human place to a wildlife feeding station. I believe it’s far more socially useful feeding squirrels, the occasional chipmunk, and wild birds than it was as a place for morning coffee.

Cardinal on board

Times change. Since the arrival of mosquitoes carrying diseases previously unknown in this region, it’s hard to get really thrilled about being that close to where they breed.

One of our most frequent visitors, a Tufted Titmouse

Two feeders on a very cold morning

Even though the woods have been sprayed, the spraying reduces the mosquito population. It doesn’t remove it. I’m pretty sure it also killed a few hundred birds and other small critters too. Whenever humans decide to fix something, some creature pays the price.

Mist in a January woods

WINTER BLUES – SWO8 BLUES JAZZ AND WINTER IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong

JANUARY! WE’VE GOT THE WINTER BLUES!


First published Feb 15, 2015 – YouTube

My collaborator, Leslie Martel of swo8 Blues Jazz did the work. She composed the music and wrote the words. She also put the video together. Posted it to YouTube. I think that’s all the work. I merely supplied photographs.

It hasn’t been a memorable winter except for it being mostly warmer than usual with sudden patches of very cold weather. A little snow, a lot of rain. One day it’s springtime warm and the next? Zero and a lot lower than that. You think the climate is changing? Nah.

This video is called Winter Blues, a unique, fun collaboration between me and composer-musician swo8 Blues Jazz.

Cardinal in the snowy branches

Up to the rail having jumped from the tree

Before this longest yet, ironically, shortest (by the length of day) month is finished, I hope to have more winter photographs. It’s not that I love snow. I just want my seasons back where they belong.

Since Leslie ran her copy of this today, I thought I’d run this tomorrow. Wait, this IS tomorrow!

USING A GPS IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong

When the GPS’s first came out and the prices dropped from ridiculously high to more-or-less normal, I was an immediate consumer. I was working in Groton, Connecticut which was more than 140 miles from my home.

Even though I didn’t have to go in every day, three days a week of driving 280 miles round trip with a 9 hour day in-between was a killer schedule. A lot of the roads I took were unmarked — no signs telling you what road you were on or which road you were crossing — and very small, so maps didn’t show them. I needed a GPS just to get home at night.

One night, on my way home, I got turned around in Rhode Island. I went around in circles for nearly an hour and finally called home and told them I was lost, had no idea what road I was on. What was worse, I was in the middle of nowhere, so short of calling the police — and since I couldn’t tell them where I was, I was not sure that would actually help — I might never see them again. Eventually, I found my way out of the loop and promptly bought a GPS. It was a small Tom-Tom, but with a little help from my electronic friend, I got home most nights.Since then — about 10 years ago — they have greatly improved the GPS to the point where you can’t be sure they can get you from point A to point C without taking you through golf courses, tiny, snow-filled back roads, swamps, vineyards, collapsed bridges, and roads that may have been real roads100 years ago, but clearly haven’t been used since. I know this because in the center of the road is a full-grown oak tree. It’s a dead giveaway.

So despite having a reasonably “up-to-date” GPS — a Garmin this time — I always print out a set of directions on paper. It’s why so many packages from Amazon don’t show up. Whatever GPS they are using, it seems to send the trucks down unpaved roads which when they aren’t buried in snowdrifts are socked in by mud, sometimes quick-mud (quicksand, but a lot gooier).

To make things just that much more complicated, most of New England is phobic about road signs. When we were in San Francisco, we could find our way around because not only were there street signs on every corner, but they would have a sign two streets ahead to warn you of an upcoming street.

In New England, they refuse to tell you what road you are on and often, what town you are in. You find yourself in the humiliating position of having to ask passing strangers what the name of the town is and what road you are on.

As often as not, the person you ask can’t give you an answer because they themselves don’t know anything. They just work there. The only route they know is the one that gets them to work. On top of that, most people are clueless about giving directions.

When they try, they are wrong. They say left when they mean right and have no idea of the distances between one place and another … AND they don’t know the name of the road (not that this would be much help since there are no signs to tell you the name) or route numbers. Even if they did, the absence of signs makes it hard to know what to do.

Even using a GPS as a map without chatter, many roads supposedly have names that no one ever uses. One of our nearest roads is Route 146A. That’s what everyone calls it because its official name changes every half mile or so. Each town or area calls it something different — and a GPS doesn’t EVER use route numbers except for limited access interstate highways, probably because these don’t have names. But if they do (such as the Massachusetts Turnpike aka “the Pike” and the Merrit Parkway (aka Route 15), they will use it and when that name is not in use in a particular town, change the name to South Main Street and you will have to deduce that it’s actually the same road.

And finally, there is the issue of “go straight on the main road.” New England has no straight roads. Between hills, mini-mountains, waterways, and inconveniently placed towns, everything loops, and swings. Worse, the GPS tells you to “make a right,” but what you see is a fork and both seem to be going in the same direction — sort of rightish. There’s no sign, so take your best guess. My best guess is inevitably wrong. You’d think all you need to do to fix the error is turn around and go back, but much of the time, you can’t do that. Either the road is too narrow or you’ve stumbled onto a highway and you have to find an exit that will let you reverse directions. There are parts of the state where that is impossible. Like anywhere near Quincy (pronounced for you out-of-towners) as Quinzy. So was it John Quinzy Adams? Just asking.

Why don’t they have street signs in New England? We have all had this conversation, usually after we’ve calmed down and had something to eat and drink. Our best guess is the Yankee belief “if you don’t know where you are, why are you here?” The area isn’t set up for tourists, which is funny because tourism is one of our major industries.

This isn’t as much of a problem for people who have a sense of direction, but neither Garry nor I ever know where we are unless it’s close to home. You can’t get seriously lost in the Blackstone Valley unless you use a GPS. We don’t have a lot of roads. Maybe all told, we have a dozen “real” roads. The rest are trails, suitable for ATVs, horses … and walking your dog. They certainly aren’t intended for cars or trucks. Many of them are bordered by what looks like the ground but is really swamp mud.

Recently, Garry has been doing a lot of traveling around Massachusetts and remarkably, probably due to printed directions from Google or Mapquest, has managed to get where he is going. It’s no small miracle. Also, for reasons I don’t fully understand, when we travel together, Garry is always sure I know the way. Or at least know it better than he does.

When I point out that we are equally lost, he thinks I’m hiding something. He never believes I’m as ignorant as I am. Is that a compliment?

I need to buy a new GPS, but I’ve been putting it off. The more they “fix” the GPS maps, the harder it gets to actually find the location to which you are trying to go. GPS’s are great for long, interstate drives and arriving in a neat suburb. On the other hand, when we used to drive up to Jackman, Maine, at some point the GPS would say “no directions are available for this area.” You’re on your own and good luck. Watch out for moose.

I suppose it’s like all other software,  upgrades usually don’t improve the product. After you’ve bought a new one, you wish you’d kept the old one, even if it is inaccurate. They now have so many traffic cams in cities and suburbs so a GPS can (and does) read the wrong input. Sometimes, it shows us driving down the Charles River.

Also, for reasons best known to their designers, no matter what settings you input, they will try to send you by their idea of “the shortest route” as opposed to the route that will get you there safely and quickly.

In other words, upgrades aren’t. Moral? If the old one works, keep it until it dies. Then buy a cheap one without all the frills. It’s the maps you need, not the radio.