GHOULIES AND GHOSTIES AND LONG-LEGGED BEASTIES

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t know if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts and many have a strong link to them. There seems to be an overall, yet non-specific agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they’ve slipped their otherwise mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, era, and ethnic origin.

I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear ghosts. In 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing a degree.

Bedford Ave marilyn owen

The house on Bedford Avenue

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and died in it. Not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved. We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

Initially we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half had been turned into a big bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was much bigger and had wonderful light, but we wanted to fix it up first.

Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor head it. The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.

We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier, like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until us.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me. I’m still waiting to meet one and I’m all ears.

SHARING MY WORLD – THE HALLOWEEN EDITION

Share Your World – October 30, 2017

Where do you eat breakfast?

Like so many others, with my laptop, my English muffin with some fruit spread or jam on it … and coffee. I almost never drop the jam into the keyboard these days.

I’ve really improved eating skills. And I can always get a dog to lick my fingers clean.

Too much information?

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want to have an evening with?

Garry will do nicely.

Seriously, I have absolutely no interest in celebrities or even otherwise famous people. I’m really happy being me with mine. Boring? Probably. But peaceful, too.

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

A Triffid. Then I could take over the world while still being a plant. Does it get better than that? I don’t think so.

More realistically? I really don’t want to be a plant.

If I had no choice, maybe a giant sequoia. But I don’t like the idea of being rooted.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I was totally thrilled at figuring out that I could charge my phone enough to use it by plugging it into one of the laptops. And when I saw the pie-chart on GEDmatch and realized I finally understood what they were talking about, that was even better.



I get excited about learning. Learning new things, especially things that are difficult and require mental effort are inspiring. Someone — well, more than one someone — suggested I would have been a good academic. Probably, but I was tired of school before I even graduated with my B.A., so academics were not happening for me. I tried to go for a masters — three times in fact — and I couldn’t do it. I could not sit in a classroom anymore. Instead, studying strange science stuff has become a hobby.

GHOULS DON’T DO TAKE OUT

No Halloween visitors expected here on our street. It’s dark and quiet with long shadows from tall trees.

We used to run out of candy back in Boston. Here, we don’t buy candy. At all. We live so far from anything kids won’t come down our long, dark street … and especially not our long, dark driveway where the trees lean in from both sides.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s dark and lonely and it would be a perfect Halloween path for the brave of heart. But kids are not brave. They want well-lit suburban houses.

Scary should not be really scary. So they go into town where the street lights make everything cheery and every household has pounds of candy. “Boo” they say, and that’s plenty scary enough.

We used to give out 20 pounds of candy every year when in Boston, but out here? No one comes. Even with the lights on. So, happy Halloween. Have some wine with that candy, why don’t you?

IN HONOR OF HALLOWEEN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Halloween Special

Photography by Garry Armstrong

Poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A PSALM OF LIFE


WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

NOT ESPECIALLY FLUFFY — UNLESS YOU COUNT THE DUST BUNNIES

I’m trying to think fluffy. It isn’t working. Last night, we had a storm. High winds. Rain. How fluffy can things be when the rain is coming down so hard it sounds like little rocks?

We got the promised torrential rains and wind — with a 4-hour power outage too. It was the dead of night — around three, I think when it hit — and it was repaired by morning. For the first time ever, my cell phone was dead. I usually turn it off when I’m not using it, but I must have forgotten. The WiFi was down of course and the only phone number I have for the electric company is on my cell.

So — brilliant move, if I do say so myself — I plugged the phone into the laptop to got enough charge to call the electric company. I figured it was late. Although the whole street was blacked out, I might be the only person awake to notice it. If I waited until morning, there wouldn’t be (gasp) COFFEE when we got up!

I was right. No one had called, but there were several lines down and the power was back this morning. Now, the sun is out and the trees are bare. The 70 mph wind last night finished them off in a hurry.

In the course of last night’s meanderings around the computer, I was checking out a DNA research area called “GEDmatch.” It’s not an ancestry testing company. It’s more a researching humans on earth thing. It is free. So if you already have your DNA from some other organization — doesn’t matter which group — you can dump it into GEDmatch and get information about yourself and to whom you might be related.

The main problem is that this is pretty heavy scientific stuff and I’ve been staring at it for more than a week without it making any sense at all. Then, last night, I ran one more test. It showed up as a list and a pie chart. Bing! It made sense. I realized exactly what the pie chart was showing and how to get additional information on what each pie slice comprises. I love it when the light bulb goes on for the first time.



There are email addresses for people to whom you might be related, so I picked the one from the top who would be my closest relative in that heap of Ashkenazi Jewish people … and wrote a note explaining that I feel like a moron, but I’m too curious to not at least ask a few questions. He got back to me this morning. He’s trying to figure it out too.

I think he is my second cousin — or more to the point — the grandchild of my grandmother’s sister or brother. I think sister, but I’m guessing.

There are three or four more on my father’s side, too. A huge chunk of what might have been family was wiped out during the Holocaust. No surprise there. That may explain why the family never ever talked about the rest of the family that we didn’t know. It was not exactly forbidden, but it was definitely not encouraged. Without getting complicated, I think my mother found it too depressing to discuss. With anyone. Ever.

If you have had your DNA run by any company — doesn’t matter which one — you might want to check out GEDmatch. Prepare for a lot of “HUH??? Does this mean anything?” Total confusion — speaking of fluff — seems to be the initial reaction. There are some parts of it that are so completely obscure, I doubt I will ever make any sense of them. But I’m beginning to see bits and pieces of  information popping through the mishmash.

You can hook up with them on GEDmatch.com.  

You have to register, but it’s free. They do encourage donations because research costs money and research funding is hard to come by. If you have a packet of DNA from any company, you can add it to GEDmatch. After a while, you might get information you find useful. I’m getting there. It’s a giant puzzle, but it’s probably good for what remains of my brain.

RERUNS AND REWRITES – BLOGGING WITH 6,000 ARCHIVED POSTS

I rerun and rewrite archived posts. I pretty much always do at least some editing for anything I post and in many of the older posts, I do enough rewriting to make it newer than older. I rewrite to make sure dates and any other “hard” information is correct … and I rewrite because there’s always something that needs fixing.

Garry by the dam

Garry was explaining that he feels he needs to always tell people it’s a rerun, even if it is also a nearly full rewrite. I asked him if the shows on TV come with a big “RERUN” plastered across the screen.

“No,” he said, “But I’m a better man than they are.” I bet if he were managing the blog, he’d change his mind fast enough.

I used to reblog things. Reblogs were obviously reruns, so I didn’t have to point it out. Now my reblog function essentially doesn’t work and I have to use “Press it” — a major hassle. It’s just as easy to copy it, rename it, edit it and let it fly. Most of the people reading me today never read these posts in the first place. If you are one of my old friends and realize you’ve read it before, feel free to stop.

I always improve the post during the rewrite anyway, so that old piece may have a bright new shine. I find all the klutzy sentences that bothered me in the past. I fix them. Sometimes, my third rewrite is a huge improvement on the original, reminding me how much I miss having a real, live editor.

There’s more to it than just rerunning things because I’m looking for “something to post.” I have almost 6,000 posts archived, many of which were seen just once, years ago. What a waste of material to never use any of them again.

I have a “random post” finder in the rightmost column of my “front page.” Test it out sometime, just for fun. I use it to see what will show up. Half of the pieces that pop to the top? I have absolutely no memory of having written them. If I can’t remember writing it, how many other people will remember it? Also, a lot of earlier posts never got much attention. Some of them got maybe two or three views and no comments and if they are reasonably good, they deserve better than that.

A lot of posts are thoughts for the moment. Some of them come out much better than expected — while others make me gag. Some posts just get neglected. Last week, I posted what I know is one of my better pieces of writing. Nobody read it.

And dogs!

Why not?

No idea. I do know it will come around again. I’m stubborn. If I think it’s good and I’ve put time into researching and writing it, I’ll run it until I feel it has gotten its due. Every good post deserves a reading.

There are pieces that have done brilliantly that I don’t think are all that good. A few of them have thousands of hits over the years while other pieces I know are far better don’t go anywhere. I’m sure that happens to all of us. There’s really no telling what is going to be a “hit” or a “miss.” There’s no formula that works all the time. Just when you think you’ve got it, it turns on its head and you realize you don’t have it. And probably never will.

There’s a powerful element of sheer chance in publishing. Not just for blogs, but for magazines, books, newspapers. A great book never makes the grade because the perfect publisher never saw it. The right readership never knew about it. It was published before its time … or just a bit too late. It’s still good work and it deserves it’s time in the sun.

So I republish my better pieces — even if no one ever pays any attention to them because I like them. I also republish other people’s pieces. Again. Because I like them and I think so will other people. I also republish posts that relate to specific holidays and historical events. I don’t see any point at all in writing the same thing again and again, though sometimes by the time I’m done with my latest rewrite, I must as well have started from scratch.

Finally, there’s something Tom pointed out which is that there is a reason why television shows are so frequently repeated. Not everyone saw that show. Most people don’t mind seeing it again, if they liked it the first time. That’s how you”make your point,” whatever it may be and accustom people to the concept, the story, whatever it is you are promoting.

None of this stops me from writing new stuff.

With two Scotties

I like writing. I’m always tucking ideas into drafts. Like this one. I gave it a title and a couple of lines to remind me what I wanted to say. I don’t know when I’ll post it because this is a busy time of year. So many photographs make Serendipity very visual and there is not so much space for other stuff I would write. This is not true all year round.

Summer tends to be slow as are the weeks following the holidays and right into early spring. Family holidays are generally terrible, though occasionally, I’ve been surprised.

And then, given our totally insane, whacked out government, I think I can be sure there will ALWAYS be something making me crazy enough to need a good rant. I’ve never lived with an insane government before, so pardon me while I continue to try to make sense of the mess.

MY TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

It was the night of October 18, 1987. My husband, Larry, had been devolving into a state of paranoid rage for several weeks. He couldn’t enter the house at this point without punching something, like a wall. Or breaking something.

That night was the worst. He was screaming at me. He knocked me down and put his hands around my neck. He stopped himself, in horror. He said he had to leave the house so he wouldn’t hurt me. He didn’t want to hurt me. So he left me alone with my two-year old and seven-year old, both sleeping peacefully through the whole scene.

I was panicked and confused. I didn’t understand what was happening to my husband. I didn’t know what would happen to my family. Was he gone for good? Could he be reached and helped?

Larry and me in March of 1987

First thing the next morning, October 19, 1987, I called my mother. I started to cry to her about my critical situation. She couldn’t talk. She was hysterical herself. The stock market had just crashed epically. She had lost 40% of her net worth.

I was stunned. I quickly called my broker and was told about the crash. It was being called “Black Monday”. I too had lost about 40% of my net worth. We relied on my investment income to pay our bills, which were more than my husband’s income alone could cover. So now I had no husband and not enough money to live on.

I remember sitting on the floor in the bedroom in shock. What was going to happen to me and my family now? My whole world was coming apart at the seams, literally, all in one day.

I asked the au pair to take my two-year old out for a while so I could have a meltdown in private. I cried hysterically. I paced. I couldn’t see light at the end of this double-barreled tunnel.

Larry finally called. He was staying at a nearby hotel. He was seeing his psychiatrist and was going on medication. We had no idea if the meds would work. The initial meds just sedated him and he could barely function and work. Eventually they decided to try Lithium, the medication for bipolar disorder. The psychiatrist didn’t think it would work but it was worth a try.

The Lithium took six weeks to kick in. Six weeks to the day, Larry became a totally different person. Calm, together, reasonable. He was clearly bipolar. He moved back home and had a very good year or two – until he decided to stop taking his Lithium. Going on and off of Lithium would be the roller coaster we lived on for the rest of our marriage. Years of normalcy followed by years of increasingly worse mania. Larry, like many bipolar people, refused to stay on his meds for any length of time. Even though they helped dramatically (which he didn’t see) and had no side effects.

My kids in December, 1987

The financial crisis also took time to rectify itself. My brokers panicked and sold me out of many assets at their low. So I actually lost a lot of money. The investments I kept came back eventually. We muddled through financially.

So I survived the day from Hell. I’ve never had another day with so much earth-shattering, life-changing events hitting at the same time.

Thank God! Once in a lifetime is enough!

BRING BACK VAMPIRES TO TORONTO – FOREVER KNIGHT!

What with Halloween just around the corner, this seemed a good moment to revisit my all-time favorite vampire show, Forever Knight.

I discovered Forever Knight when it was in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. It was showing around 2 in the morning. Garry was working the dawn patrol and had already left for work by the time the show came on. I was working from home, allowing me to sometimes see my husband before he was off to work … and indulge my taste for weird TV shows you could only see in the middle of the night.

forever_knight_2009

I became an addict. I needed my knightly fix. They were showing season two when I found the show. I didn’t see the first season until I bought the DVDs (used) on Amazon. We watched them one winter when the ice and snow locked us into the house. It proved a good antidote to cabin fever.

How cool can a cop show be? This one is extremely cool. A vampire, repenting of his formerly evil ways, joins the Toronto police department. How does he get around the whole “vampires can’t be in the sun” business? Not to mention they “only drink blood” thing? He has this big old American car with a huge trunk in which he can hide in a “sun” emergency. Drinks cow’s blood. Works the night shift. Invents a massive allergy to the sun to explain his inability to work days.

Nick Knight is more than 800 years old. A vampire working homicide. He is trying (with the help of Natalie, a lovely young coroner) to regain his humanity. Knight is not his name, of course. He was an actual knight in the 13th century when he became a vampire.

forever-knight-season1-cast1

The show ran from 1992 to 1996, though the pilot ran in 1989. The DVDs divide into three seasons and no, I don’t understand how they count seasons. There are 22 shows in the first season, 26 in the second, 22 in the third for a total of 70 episodes.

The original broadcast channel in North America was CBS — May 5, 1992 to May 17, 1996. The show also ran in Germany, England and Australia. I don’t know if it was ever shown in Canada where in theory, it all happened. It has been rerun in several places since including the Sci Fi channel in the U.S. My DVD set originated in Germany and was afterwards repackaged in the U.S. The American and German sets are different in length editing. The German versions are longer and sexier. Mine came in boxes that say made in USA, but the DVDs were pressed in Germany. This link (in Wikipedia gives a full list of episodes. I think I have the “good” set.

A cop show with a vampire as the lead detective? It isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s actually a good show and was well ahead of its time. And last, but not least, it’s witty and clever.

Geraint Wyn Davies plays Detective Nick Knight. He also co-wrote and directed many of the shows. Nigel Bennett is Lucien LaCroix, Knight’s maker and the weirdest overnight DJ in radio history. Deborah Duchêne plays Janette DuCharme, Nick’s sexy vampire “sister” and sometimes lover. Catherine Disher is Natalie Lambert, the police coroner and Nick’s sort-of love interest.

foreverknight3_nick

The acting is good. The scripts are coherent, thematic, often with a moral twist and some interesting philosophical speculations. Who would have guessed Toronto was crawling with vampires? Fortunately most of the show’s undead are surprisingly circumspect showing far more restraint than they have shown in their pasts, which are seen in flashback.

During the show’s final season, when the producers, director and cast knew they were not being renewed, they methodically kill off the entire cast. That third season is memorable. Fascinating. Also, pretty much unavailable. It took me a couple of years to find a used set of them. If you want to see it, you’ll have to come here and watch in my house.

Forever Knight Season 1 and Forever Knight Season 2 can be purchased via Amazon Instant Video. Season 3 is not — for the moment — available anywhere I know of. Netflix has some part of it on DVD, but I don’t have a DVD plan and they won’t let me search to find out which seasons they’ve got. I’m betting they rent it DVD by DVD. There are 5 or 6 DVDs per season with 5 or 6 episodes on each disc. I bet they don’t have all three seasons either.

Garry and I have watched our way through the entire series twice, so it may have been a bargain after all. It’s a lot of entertainment … a lot of bang for the bucks. And what with Halloween an annual event, a Forever Knight marathon is always a good choice.

Forever_Knight__Nick_x_Janette_by_Lioncourt87

It’s fun. Well-written. Original, Unique. Sexy. Creative. It won’t gross you out with gallons of blood and gore, but I love it when Nick’s eyes glow orange or green, depending on circumstance. I like the music and Toronto is a fine city.

I recommend Forever Knight, though I’m not sure what you can do about season three. Invitations to watch at our house are available via Ticketmaster. Please bring your own beer and pretzels.

A WHOLE LOT OF SPAM

Akismet, WordPress’s virus scanner-remover hasn’t been doing as good a job lately as it used to. It used to catch all the spam for this site. They did such a good job I didn’t even worry about it. These days, a lot of spam is sifting through as “trash,.” Trash isn’t categorized as spam … and as a result, it isn’t blocked the same way.

I’ve been trying to keep up with it. Most of the spam I get is full of viruses, worms and who knows what else. Often it is pages long and each line is a link to something I don’t want any part of. Last night, during a look around my site, I casually checked to see what was in the “comments” section of my personal page … and I realized there were more than 3,000 spam messages there — all received during that past 10 days.

What?


“Ham” is e-mail that is not Spam. In other words, “non-spam”, or “good mail.” It should be considered a shorter, snappier synonym for “non-spam.” Its use is common among anti-spam software developers, and not widely known elsewhere. In general it is probably better to use the term “non-spam”. 

Note that Askimet’s assessment of “missed spam” is a lot less than the spam they really missed. They missed thousands of them this month. 


I tried to delete them in one go — as in “Delete spam” — and the site crashed. Which it usually does if I try to delete more than a small amount of anything. This system is much better at adding stuff than removing it. I finally discovered that 50 was the maximum number of spam messages the system would delete without crashing. I deleted and deleted and deleted and noticed that for every fifty I deleted, another half-dozen would arrive. All were labeled as some version of “buy cheap auto insurance.” The comments which are, I assume, copied and pasted from who knows where, ranged from gutter porn to a criticism of political views I’ve never expressed, as well as the usual offers to set me up for working at home for triple digit salaries every week.

Half of the incoming posts were labeled trash, which I converted to spam and then deleted permanently, but I couldn’t get on top of it. I finally copied the contents of my page and deleted the original. Then I pasted the contents into a new page. I went into settings and removed “comments” as the default setting. I can add it for any post, but it won’t automatically appear and this is important on those pages where we don’t usually look.

It took me hours to deal with this. I’m writing this as a warning: there can be spam and dangerous viral spam in more places than just the spam and trash folders. If you have other pages, check and see what’s wormed its way into the “comments” on those pages.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting a lot of hits from Google these days, but the volume of spam coming has gone way up. It isn’t the highest it has ever been, but it has been very persistent and worrisome insofar as half of it comes it as “trash” rather than spam. Sneaky.

Popularity is something we aim for as bloggers … but spam is the price we pay for it. I’ve been hit by more than 20,000 spam items this month. I know a lot of people think spam is sort of funny and cute, but so much of it is full of malicious malware and viruses, I am having trouble seeing the humor of it. Mostly, I wish it would go away. Oh … and all the spam in my regular comment pages is mostly from the same five or six spammers, except for another few dozen who call themselves “floor sanding” companies.

A lot of it was originally written in Russian, Chinese, Greek, and other alphabets I can’t read.

Floor sanding?

Cheap insurance?

Does anyone … anywhere … look at this stuff? The people who do this must do it for a reason, presumably. They are trying to make money, right? Does this stuff actually make any money? Is there anyone so naïve that they believe this is “real”?

SOUP AND SANDWICH – RICH PASCHALL

There were many stories about Harold, the great planner from the Midwest who retired to an orderly life in Florida.  This was the first.


Everyone who knew Harold would agree; he was an orderly man.  Everything about his well-ordered existence was, well, “orderly.” That would perhaps be the only word to describe it.  He firmly believed in the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  That did not just include things, but it also included time.  Harold ran on a strict schedule and parceled out his time for maximum efficiency.  He was dependable, likable and predictable.

72-StPetePostcard-soft

Harold had been chief mechanical engineer at a plant that made small motors for big applications.

This work demanded designing a wide variety of parts for the many specialized applications.  Harold was up to every task.  He drew his special parts the old-fashioned way at his drafting table.

He kept copies of all his special drawings in a filing cabinet, organized by type of part.  His methodical brain could recall all the special requests to modify the little motors to power everything imaginable.  While you would have no idea all the appliances and machines and gadgets that required little motors, Harold could see them all in the depths of the storage places in his mind.

When Harold was approaching retirement, he knew instinctively that it was time to move on.  More work was being done by computer, and while Harold mastered the technique, he could not set aside his love of the drafting table itself.  A desk and computer were okay, but his computer-like mind held all the gigabytes he needed.  As for manufacturing the parts, that was now being farmed out to other places. He could no longer watch his creations made real in the machine shop.

The next phase of life brought retirement on the gulf coast of Florida.  This was not a retirement were you could just be lazy and do nothing.  Harold had imposed an orderly routine on his life.

There probably would have been no other path to happiness.  Harold’s road was clear and free from clutter.  His home was so neat and clean you would swear he had a helper.  There were few items out and on display as everything had a specific place to be put away and that is exactly what Harold did.  As for things that Harold did not think had a practical use, he threw them away, gave them away or recycled them.  He owned nothing that he could not imagine using in the near future.

For his weekly schedule, Harold chose Mondays for a walk on the beach.  A few moments admiring the Gulf was a retirement activity Harold felt worth scheduling.  If the weather was inclement, he drove into Sarasota for a little stroll through a shopping area.  He might look for items he previously recorded on a list.  Monday was the appointed day for picking up requirements, there would be no unplanned or hasty trips to the store.  Time was too valuable to spend wandering to and fro.  The only wandering of the week would be down the beach on the appropriate Monday morning hour for such things.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were spent in town at the local library.  Harold maintained a list of books he felt would be worth reading and set out to read as many as he could find.  If he did not finish the book at the library, he would check it out to make sure he had it on his next visit.  On a rare occasion he might continue reading at home when his schedule for the day was completed.  That only came when something he was reading really caught his fancy.  There certainly were a few good books on mechanical engineering and anything he discovered on the topic was a delightful find.

Fridays were for sports.  He read about the local high school and college sports in the morning.  He watched reports on the cable news channel, Sarasota Now.  In March, Harold carefully planned which Major League Baseball spring training games he should attend.  His love of sports was not quite the same as his love of mechanical engineering, but it came close.

lunch 2

While Harold might declare Sunday to be his day of rest, it was anything but that.  He cleaned the small townhouse on Sundays and checked many of the drawers and boxes to make sure everything was put away properly.  He reviewed the contents of the closets to determine if there was anything that no longer belonged.  Cleaning and inspecting everything could take Harold most of the day, but he did not mind.  It gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

Perhaps most special of all the scheduled activities was Harold’s trip to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar every Wednesday and Saturday for lunch.  When Harold arrived at 1 pm sharp, cane in hand and smile on his face, every one greeted him warmly.  “Hello Harold,” the manager on duty would shout with glee, calling attention to his arrival.  At that the waitresses, would call out his name and people would turn around to see who entered.

“Hello Harold,” the bartender would say loudly so her “hello” was heard with all the others.  The broad smile on Harold’s face got even wider at all the attention.  It seemed the entire crew felt a bit sorry for Harold.  He was always alone.  He moved deliberately, carefully placing his cane down with his left hand every time his right foot took a step forward. While they considered Harold a simple, maybe even dim-witted but likable old-timer, and just wanted him to feel good, Harold was well aware that he got the added attention due to his apparent simple nature.

Once Harold found his table near the window, his usual waitress, Tiffany, came over to give him a hug.  “Would you like the soup and sandwich special?” Tiffany began.  “Yes, please, and I will have the chicken noodle soup.”  There was no need to ask Harold what he wanted.  It was ham and cheese sandwich with chicken noodle soup on Wednesday and vegetable beef on Saturday.

He enjoyed a bit of ESPN, a lot of attention and a good lunch. Then Tiffany brought the bill and wrote her name and put a big smiley face next to it.  So, twice each week Harold purchased attention and friendship for the price of the soup and sandwich special.

RAINY WEATHER PHOTOGRAPHY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was peak color in New England … or at least in our area of south central Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it was also raining, so long excursions to exotic parts of the valley were out of the question.

Rain or not, it was magical outside. Without bright sunlight, the wet trees were richly colorful … and for once, evenly tinted without sharp shadows or burned out areas.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Our Olympus OM-D M5 cameras are weatherproof, so there was no reason to not at least wander around our own property and shoot our very local color.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

THE HALLOWEEN BOUQUET – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Halloween

Nobody comes trick-or-treating on this street. No sidewalks. No street light. Tall, dark trees and houses are far apart. Kids look at the long, dark road … then they go into town where homes are close to the street and the lights are on.

I gave up decorating for the holiday years ago, but Garry likes to make sure we have a little something to remind us … the Halloween bouquet.

H. L. MENCKEN, AN AMERICAN PROPHET – AUTHOR: GORDON C. STEWART

H.L. Mencken wrote it in The Baltimore Evening Sun, Sunday, July 26, 1920:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”

23353-004-D77B30AD Mencken

Henry Louis Mencken @The Baltimore Evening Sun

Mencken was known as “the Sage of Baltimore.” These days, I listen to Bill Moyers, Christopher Hedges, and watch the PBS News Hour Friday nights with Mark Shields and David Brooks.  David Brooks’ “The Week Trump Won” (Oct. 26 NYT) confirms — in chilling detail  — H.L. Mencken’s status as a prophet. Yet it ends with the faint hope that the better angels of the American character still lie buried in the people’s DNA, waiting for a spokesperson, a leader, to give voice to sanity and vision.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Oct. 28, 2017.

SOURCE: H.L. Mencken — American prophet Please address comments to original author.

LOST HORIZONS: ARMSTRONGS MISS IMPORTANT LUNCHEON, EVENT-DAZED, CONFUSED IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON

This is a hard one to share. Make it embarrassing, BIGLY embarrassing for someone who lived and worked in Boston for more than 30 years. The résumé says I worked as a knowledgeable, street savvy TV news reporter. Familiar with all the nooks and crannies of Beantown. Well, as the man says, that’s FAKE news!

Outbound

We had premonitions of a mission impossible last night when we discussed if we should attend the noon luncheon featuring nationally respected Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Marilyn and I bandied emotions about the drive from rural Uxbridge into the big city.

Yes. No. Maybe.

We agreed it would be a noteworthy event. I looked forward to getting  Bill Bratton’s take on crime in the United States, especially the frequency of mass shootings across the country.  I remember Bratton’s tenure in Boston when drive-by shootings filled my assignments three or four times a week. Bratton has also headed Police departments in New York City and Los Angeles.

Surely, he would have cogent observations I could share via blog and our local newspaper. That was all on the plus side for attending the Boston luncheon. The negative side?  Marilyn and I shared murky smiles about our mutual nemesis — the Mass Pike and downtown Boston. It seemed almost comical as fear gripped our sensibilities.

Boston awaits

Sometimes you shouldn’t sell your fears short. We made it into Boston with minimal trouble, but I wasn’t fooled.  The first hint of trouble came when the designated Mass Pike exit was a no-show. No problem!  Marilyn, always the excellent navigator, directed me to and into Boston’s financial district.


Marilyn’s Note: You just know your excursion is in trouble when the designated exit from the Pike doesn’t exist. It means the directions are old. When there’s one error, you can bet your bippy there will be more.


The second hint of trouble came amid confusion in the parking garage of our designated building. First, we were on the wrong side of the building and that part of the garage was only for those with a transponder. We got to the other side of the building. Parked. It turned out we were in the wrong building entirely — despite the instructions on our invitation. I was confused and angry. I believe Marilyn was irritated with my confusion. Why didn’t I, the know-it-all reporter, know where we were supposed to be? I was irritated with myself!!


Marilyn’s Note: I was not irritated at Garry’s inability to find his way through streets that have changed completely since we lived there. I was annoyed because I told him to make a left and he ignored me — and went straight ahead. It turned out not to make any difference since we were at the wrong building in the wrong part of town. 


As the situation deteriorated with ever-increasing aggravation, we finally agreed on something.  Let’s get the hell out of Boston and head home!! Surely, the worst was behind us.  Make that mistake number three! We escaped Boston and were back on the Mass Pike. We would laugh about this when we got home and relaxed.

Mistake#4!

Marilyn was talking to me but I couldn’t hear her over the ambient car noise and blare of sirens from Police Cars that snaked around us and the Pike traffic. She thought I was faking deafness — which elevated my irritation as I focused on the route home and our newest nemesis, a giant midday traffic jam on the Pike.

Mother of Mercy!

Judas Priest in your Mama’s combat boots!!

I couldn’t take much more of this. Marilyn talked. I nodded while missing almost everything she said. I looked down at the dashboard and saw the fuel gauge edging down to “Empty.”  For chrissakes! We’re running out of gas??

Obscenities filled my mind as traffic inched along like an aging battalion of frogs. I had a nightmarish vision of what might happen next and told Marilyn I’d tell her about it when we got home. Surely, now the worst really was behind us. My stomach was churning as the highway traffic continued at a snail’s pace. Marilyn was taking pictures of our slow-mo drive to document our long day’s journey into hell.

Finally, we negotiated our exit off the Mass Pike. I casually looked at the fuel gauge which had now dipped below “Empty.” I silently cursed the gods and looked for an opening on the last major artery of our drive home.  My mind drifted off to other things, including tonight’s World Series game.  Something to smile about in anticipation of more in what’s become an exciting fall classic between the Houston Astros and the La La Dodgers.

I was pondering the possibility of my hero, broadcaster Vin Scully dropping in to cover tonight’s game. That thought prompted my first smile of the day.  My smile grew bigger as I realized we were HOME … in downtown Uxbridge.

Home again!

We ended our afternoon with Marilyn explaining to shoppers and staffers at our local supermarket why we were dressed in our Sunday best. Marilyn’s account of our trip to Boston seemed to draw smiles and laughter.

I’m glad someone thought this day was funny.

TO SLEEP, PERHAPS TO DREAM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Falling asleep is usually not a problem for me. I can nap during the day and when I wake up during the night, I can usually fall right back to sleep.

I have had training for this. My first child, David, was not a good sleeper. He gave up napping early and stayed up late every night. He also woke me up three times a night for two solid years. And he would only go back to sleep if I nursed him. I let this go on way too long. But our pediatrician kept reassuring me that David would stop nursing when he was ready. I was convinced that he was not going to give up my breasts until he found someone else’s he liked better!

Reading at bedtime with David

Anyway, I trained myself to go back to sleep three times a night. It wasn’t that hard because all I had to do was pick up a baby and sit with him in a comfy chair. I could close my eyes and keep myself from fully waking up. Sometimes HE had trouble falling back to sleep. Then I would have to walk with him and sing to him for a while. The one song I sang for both kids, every night, was “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, by John Denver, also recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary. I don’t know why I picked that particular song, but that became “our song”. But most nights, our routine went smoothly and post midnight serenading was not required.

Nursing two-year old David

I have a similar problem now. This time, I’m not wakened by a baby. It’s my dogs. One dog. She wants to eat breakfast between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM. She jumps on me and sticks her nose in my face. If I ignore her, she whines and paws me.

So now I get up at the crack of dawn every day. I am not an early riser. Tom and I are retired so we stay up very late and sleep late. I want to go back to sleep as quickly as possible after feeding the dogs. My experiences with David have served me well.

Remy, the dog who wakes me up every morning

However, to feed the dogs, I have to go downstairs, get out the dog food, measure it out and put the right dose of medicine into my older dog’s bowl. The whole process takes maybe three minutes. Then I’m back upstairs and back in bed.

The problem is that I have to be awake enough to do a precise task correctly. Because of this, sometimes my adrenaline kicks in and I wake up completely. When that happens, it’s hard to go back to sleep.

Parts of the morning feeding ritual

When I can’t sleep, I use a Yogic breathing exercise that relaxes the nervous system. This usually works pretty quickly. When it doesn’t, I often get a head start on the morning’s news on my phone. Eventually my eyes will start to get heavy and I’ll be ready to fall back to sleep. I don’t usually toss and turn for hours in the wee hours of the morning.

That only happens when I can’t go to sleep at night. That’s when I have to get out of bed and read or write till 3:00 AM. I watch the clock tick off hour after hour and get anxious and upset. That sucks. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often. My forays into the wee hours of the morning are mostly limited to my daily doggie breakfasts.

Now, when I’m feeding the dogs, I think back to when sleep deprivation involved an adorable little human. History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.