WELCOME TO THE ZOO

Underneath the deck in the backyard, back in the days when everyone had jobs with incomes, and no one was retired or out of work based on disability — or, as storytellers say, “A long, long time ago” — we bought and installed a large, fancy, hot tub. A five-seat tub. It has all the good stuff in it. Lights, places to lie down or curl up, with various fittings to massage whatever muscle mass you desired.

We took good care of it, too — which is a lot more work than you think it will be, especially if you aren’t overly fond of the smell of hot chlorine. A natural tub takes considerable work to manage.

We got an official electrical engineer to install a separate socket to handle the excessively large amount of electricity it consumed. It used more than $40 per month — all year round because you can’t turn it off. You can lower the heat when you aren’t using it, but you have to turn it up regularly or it grows … well … stuff.

And this was electricity for just the hot tub, not including the rest of the house.

To support it, we had a concrete slab laid. Five-hundred gallons of water is a pretty hefty volume of water. Heavy. It’s one of the main reasons  hot tubs live outdoors. That much weight is a lot for your floors to support. It was heavy enough to cause the concrete to split, but by then there was a hot tub on it which didn’t go anywhere for the next 12 years.

When we were setting the cement, I bought a special tile that read “Welcome to the Zoo.” It had pretty text and pictures of little animals all around it — and I made it part of entryway to the tub.


Welcome to the zoo.


At the time, the dogs were only part of the zoo. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter also lived here … and who knows who else. I lost track over time. It was a zoo indeed.

Four, maybe five years ago, we got rid of the hot tub. No one used it anymore and the electricity bill was ridiculous. I liked it when I could use it. Soaking in really hot water for five to fifteen minutes does some very good things for tired old bones and muscles and it was particularly amusing if you got to do it while watching the snow falling all around you. But, there came a time when moving the heavy cover off of it was a bit much for me, and the roof that protected the tub had gotten a bit loosey goosey.

Being in the tub and watching the falling snow was fun. Having it falling on your head was less fun. The movable plastic walls we’d built needed redoing, too. Finally, we drained it one winter, since we weren’t using it, but the following spring, it didn’t want to work anymore.

We donated it — and I hope they fixed it up. It was a good tub and we enjoyed it. It was worth repairing.

Meanwhile, the slab under the deck has become difficult to read, covered as it is in leaves and fallen debris from the trees. But, if you clear it and clean it up a little bit, it still says:


You are still welcome to our Zoo!


All those cute little animals are still dancing around it, though most of the zoo has left.

SERENE – MORNING SUN ON A SHORT WINTRY DAY

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – SERENE


The sun was so bright this morning. Sometimes, the sun is the brightest in the winter. It is such a white sun again a dark blue sky. The trees are bare now, yet somehow, the forsythia bush still has green leaves.

It’s the only green-leafed growing plant out there. Everything else is brown or gray. It’s not terribly cold yet. I could take my pictures  in just my sweater — it wasn’t cold enough to need a coat.The cold will come. It always does, but not quite yet and I’m just fine with that. I love the peacefulness of the dark blue sky and the white sun with its long rays.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

 

THE HAIRDRESSER MYSTIQUE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t go to the hairdresser often. Just once every couple of months to get my hair cut and colored and thus keep myself as a perpetual brunette. I look forward to those trips. I love the feeling of having someone else wash my hair and blow dry it.

I do almost everything for myself. I do my own nails (badly), except when there’s a big event and I actually want them to look good. I always do my hair myself except for the coloring and cutting. My mother went to the hairdresser every week and never washed her own hair. That horrifies me. I can’t imagine being that dependent about something so basic.

Hair Salon in the 1960’s

I usually don’t like being pampered. I like giving gifts more than I like receiving them. I’m usually the caregiver rather than the person being taken care of. I even feel uncomfortable when I’m sick and I have to rely on my husband to bring me food, water and meds.

Yet I love having someone else do my hair. Maybe it’s primal. Maybe it reminds me unconsciously of when I was a baby and my mother washed me and fed me. Maybe it’s like playing ‘doctor’ when you’re a kid. It’s fun to have someone focus totally on you.

There’s also the social element to the hairdresser experience. I’ve known my hairdresser for about 25 years. She cut my kids’ hair when they were young and she cuts my husband’s hair now. It’s a family affair. We’ve shared stories about each other’s marriages (we’re both divorced and remarried after long-term first marriages). We’ve watched each other’s kids grow up – vicariously. We’re actually pretty involved in each other’s lives, even though we don’t socialize outside the beauty parlor. I gather that’s very common.

My mother was very close with her straight male hairdresser, Dante. He was Italian, married and had a daughter. I loved him too. He did my hair for my first wedding. He was a charming and wonderful man.

My mother also became close friends with another one of Dante’s customers, a woman named Rosetta. They eventually scheduled their hair appointments together so they could have lunch and chat every week. When they got together with Dante, it was a party! As a teenager, I joined them when I could. It was a blast hanging out with them. Lots of conversation and lots of laughter.

My Mom and Rosetta, both with perfectly coiffed hair

Ironically, I don’t like the way my hair looks when I leave the hairdresser. It’s too pouffy and looks too ‘done’. I like the more natural look I get when I curl my own hair. So I brush it a lot and try to flatten it out so I look more ‘normal’ until I wash it again myself.

I love my trips to the hairdresser anyway. I’m even beginning to be able to just relax and enjoy being pampered. But I still don’t like getting my nails done and I hate getting a pedicure. Which is why I’ve only done it twice in my life!

I don’t know what I’ll do when my hairdresser retires. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to look forward to my days of pampering and bonding with my friend and hairdresser.

WORDS & PICS – ALMOST DECEMBER

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: PICK A WORD IN DECEMBER Y2


It is time for another “Pick a Word” themed challenge and it is the last one this year. As usual you get five words to choose from: sagacious,  non-human, portrayal. remains, stellar.

One sagacious American — and a fine maker of beer

Non-humans out-number humans around here

Portrayal of my granddaughter

No remains — except the pits

Stellar orb, aka the Sun

jupiter najnajnoviji

A MERE SNIPPET

That’s what I write about in this blog. Snippets.


A small piece or brief extract.
“Snippets of information about  … “
Synonyms include ” a piece, bit, scrap, fragment, particle, shred”


This is the place for the small things I can wind around my fingers. Like  playing “Cat’s Cradle” … verbally twisting a bit of yarn to make one shape, then twisting it again and finding another. But it’s still the same yarn and you should remember that as you twist it to your various shapes.

Blogging is perfect for the small things. Posts are short and usually, a single idea or piece of an idea is enough to make a story. I try to avoid the big picture. This is not a “big picture” forum. This is the place for a speck of an idea, spun outward to form an almost complete thought.

Today’s snippet is a bare snippet. A tiny post about a fragment of an idea.

LOOKING OUT THROUGH MY WINDOWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I am not an outdoorsy person. I’d go so far as to say that I am predominantly an indoor person. I like the regulated temperatures on the inside. I also like the absence of bugs and wind, let alone rain and snow and other types of weather.

On the other hand, I absolutely love LOOKING outside. I am a huge fan of windows. My house has lots and lots of them. I have a rounded porch that is all windows. My bedroom has two walls of windows. The bed is in the middle of the room so that it is surrounded by all of the windows.

This makes my house horribly energy inefficient. As a result, my heating and cooling bills are high. But it’s worth it for me.

I built my house in the woods, overlooking a stream and a small waterfall on one side. I wanted to be able to look out at nature 24/7. And I wanted natural light everywhere in the house. I want nature and light all around me, in every room inside my house. I just don’t want to actually be outside in it. Looking at it through my wonderful windows is fine with me.

I’ve always been ever so slightly agoraphobic. My home is my happy place or my safe space. There are times when I don’t want to go out at all. I often consolidate my errands so I have to go out only a few days a week. That leaves me several days when I can just stay home. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with wanting to look out at nature from indoors. But in my mind, they’re related.

Next to my home, the thing I love the most is our boat. Now, boating is considered an outdoor sport. But in my case, it’s not. My boat is a floating condo. It’s a miniature apartment or house with a comfortable and spacious interior. But of course, I only wanted a boat that had lots of big windows. I can look out at the water and the other boats all the time. The deck on the boat is a screened in porch on three sides. Technically, there is no outdoor living space at all on the boat!

You can see the fully enclosed but windowed deck on our boat

So, even when I’m on the water, I’m inside, enjoying the outside through windows and screens. I’m fine with that.

View from our boat in the marina

At home, we don’t even have to go outside to walk the dogs. We installed a doggie door and fenced in a huge area in the backyard for the dogs. We are the rare dog owners who never have to go outside because of our dogs. We do go outside with them for a few minutes most days to get them to run around and chase each other. And we do have to walk the dogs when we have them on the boat with us. So in that way, boating does get us outside more than usual.

When I lived in New York City, I walked outside all the time and loved the freedom of being able to get almost everything I needed in my own neighborhood. I also used to play tennis and ski a lot. I have experienced the joys of outdoor sports. But that was a long time ago. And I don’t miss them now.

My kitchen table looking out at the yard and the stream/waterfall

Now I’m content sitting in my kitchen, looking out at the trees and the waterfall, watching the birds and the dogs. I’d be bereft if I could only look out at other buildings, a city street or something else man-made and unattractive. But give me my nature on the other side of the window please.

Don’t make me GO OUT THERE!

THE UN-GOLDEN PAST

How come what I remember of the past bears no resemblance to the memories of the people I knew while I was growing up? I get notes from people with whom I went to school. High school — even elementary school. I’d swear they went to different schools than I did — or knew someone who they identify as me, but who was not me. Not the me I know.

They have wonderful memories of our relationships. What I remember is them as the mean kids who wouldn’t even talk to me because I wasn’t one of the “cool kids.” I recall them as petty tyrants. Bullies. Yet they swear we were practically best friends. Interesting since I’m pretty sure I wasn’t invited to their parties and I’m sure we never had a civil conversation. I remember kicking one of them in the leg with the heavy, orthopedic shoes I wore — that they were making fun of. Because anyone who wasn’t like them was someone to torment.

Is my memory damaged?

I grew up in the 1950s. I get a dozen emails a week extolling that decade as “the best of the good old days.” I do not remember the 1950s as a better time. Different, but not better. Racism was rampant. Sexism and ageism weren’t even part of our vocabulary. Women and old people were treated horribly and no one was trying to fix the problem. No one thought it was something that needed fixing.

It was not a simpler time. We had less technology, but we were constantly embroiled in trying to get whatever it was we did have to work.  Our refrigerators were layered in ice. Our ovens couldn’t maintain a constant temperature. Our televisions barely registered a signal, even if we were lucky enough to have a real antenna.

In fact, everyone was so happy, they were building bomb shelters in their backyards so if someone nuked us, we might survive. I doubted it. I thought I’d rather die in the big explosion than live in a hole in the ground for the rest of my life.

Clearly, those were better days.

GoodOldDays

To my mind, the social issues were at least equally complicated. As far as climate goes, we were busily polluting it. Enthusiastically polluting it, I should say. We are still cleaning up the mess we made in those good old days.

Life wasn’t easy. Assuming you had a decent job, your pay probably allowed you to live reasonably well, but a lot of people — anyone of color, for example — was lucky to get a job at all, much less one on which a family could be supported. Nor was childhood sunlight and roses. Abuse was common. Society had silent, cultural agreement to never talk about the things that happened at home. No laws protected children and no agencies interceded. As far as that goes, it hasn’t changed all that much. We’ve got laws and agencies, but essentially, kids are still on their own.

A few years ago, Garry went to his 50th high school reunion. He came back shaking his head, wondering what school they went to. It obviously wasn’t the same one he attended. I skipped my high school reunion. I kept getting notes from former classmates about the great years we enjoyed at Jamaica High School. I don’t share those memories. I remember a racially divided school with bigoted teachers and bullying classmates. Cliques of privileged kids who ostracized anyone who was different. Sad teenagers, lost between childhood and a frightening future. Looking for help from counselors who denied the existence of the problems many of us faced. They did not care.

Is it me? Am I the one who’s broken? Or am I just someone who can’t find the rosy glow of the past. I keep remembering what really happened. It ruins everything.

A TUESDAY MYSTERY – RICH PASCHALL

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.

He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he looked better to himself. He did not really give much thought to what others may think of his appearance.

All through his working career, and right into retirement, the only one Harold ever tried to please with his appearance was himself. He felt perfectly comfortable at work with a pocket protector in his white shirt pocket. He gave little thought to whether his socks clashed with the rest of his clothes as he only purchased white and black socks. There were no colors to worry about. His shirts were solid colors as were his pants. There was little chance that he could wear anything that would clash. As everything was rather basic, he had little concern about clothes going in and out of style. It seemed like the most practical style tactic for the very practical Harold.

After donning the proper underwear, shirt and pants for the day, Harold went back to the dresser for his socks. As he stared in the drawer a moment he decided that something was not quite right. He felt instinctively that the items in the drawer were not as neatly stacked as usual and decided to take out the stacks of black socks so that he may return them to the drawer in neater piles. When they had all been removed Harold was surprised to spy something that certainly did not belong in the back of the drawer. You can not imagine the unpleasant feeling that ran through the body of the sultan of socks’ stacking when he made the curious discovery.

There is was!  It was in the back of the drawer, hiding behind the socks. Was it there since Sunday? Could it possibly have been there from the Sunday before that?

pottery Qianlong-1736

Harold carefully reached into the back of the drawer and removed the Chinese porcelain egg. He placed it softly on the bed and went to get the step-ladder. He used the ladder to get the special box of porcelain collectibles down from the closet shelf and took the box and the egg to the living room.

As if it was Sunday, the day the lord made for Harold to clean house, he set the box down on the coffee table. He then set himself down on the sofa and studied the egg closely, just like it was the time of day on Sunday that was set aside for such things. Clearly Harold introduced a piece of the Sunday schedule into Tuesday morning. The discovery of the egg was both pleasing and perplexing.

Try as he might, and he did, Harold could not imagine how the egg got into the drawer. There would seem to have been no point in time over the previous 10 days that he could have accidentally placed the egg into the drawer. Was it out of the box or even in his hands the last time he was folding and putting away socks?  Could he possibly have dropped it into the drawer when he put away underwear? No! He would never have underwear and his precious porcelain out at the same time. What in the world happened?

Many minutes of mystery manipulated the thoughts of Harold, normally the master of minute manipulation.  He reran the tapes in the back of his mind that held all of the activities of the past ten days.

96-VishnuOnGaruda-HPCR-1

The previous two Sundays seemed like the most probable times to have inadvertently placed the egg in the drawer, but how did he do it?  Nothing in his highly organized memory banks gave him a clue to the mystery.  Nevertheless, the beauty of the item also held the riddle Harold wanted sincerely … even desperately … to solve. How could it be that the vault of knowledge Harold secured in his brain failed to hold the key to this riddle?  Why couldn’t Harold recall how this had happened?

After too much time had passed staring at the egg, Harold knew he could not let Tuesday morning’s plan turn into Sunday afternoon’s activity. So, he placed the egg carefully in its box and returned the box to its shelf.

What should have been a happy Tuesday for Harold ultimately resulted in more than a bit of concern.

The mystery of Harold’s Missing Memory remained unsolved.

Related:
First Harold story:  “Soup and Sandwich
Second Harold Story: “The Case With The Missing Egg
Third Harold Story: “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright

NO WAY OUT

Follow the yellow brick road? No crossing! Turn left, turn right, run in circles! Put your left foot in, then take you right foot out …

Sometimes, the road signs, especially around Boston are impossible to understand, much less follow. You can make a left unless that second light under the main light is blinking yellow. Or red. And a blinking green light isn’t really green, nor is a blinking red one necessarily a stop sign. Boston is also the only town that has post scripts on parking signs.


PARKING ALLOWED

Except on Wednesday between 4 pm and 6 pm;
Or on any day the Bruins or the Celtics are playing;
Or if there’s snow, or the street cleaners are working.


GORE AND GUTS ON TV – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My husband is a sweet and gentle man. He is not aggressive and doesn’t have a violent bone in his body. Yet he spends hours a day watching violence on TV, in movies and actively participating in it with video games. What is going on? His appetite for onscreen blood and gore is unfathomable and unsettling to me.

He says that it’s all make believe, that none of it is real. But my problem is that to me, it’s all way too realistic. I have no tolerance whatsoever for any kind of on screen blood and guts. I can’t even watch realistic operating room scenes on my TV medical shows. The sight of someone getting an injection makes me cringe, let alone someone being sliced and diced, even by a pretend doctor. I am a total wuss.

I may have become more sensitive as I get older. Or maybe it’s just that the entertainment industry has taken onscreen violence to another level. It’s more extreme and more gruesome these days. It’s also more graphic and much more realistic looking.

Onscreen violence used to be more suggested and less in your face. When someone got shot or hit on the head, they just fell down and maybe bled a little. Now, wounds are gaping, flesh is torn, internal organs are everywhere and blood is all over everything.

I can’t handle it. I could deal with pretending that someone’s hand was cut off. But in a recent episode of my favorite show, “Outlander”, the cutting off of the hand looked so real I almost lost my dinner. This is true everywhere in the mainstream now, not just on the military, underworld, superhero or shoot ‘em up shows.

There is so much fighting and brutality on TV and in movies. People seem to be more inhuman to each other, and also more creative in their violence. Torture is portrayed, again realistically, all the time. People don’t just shoot each other or stab each other, they use more inventive and sicker ways to inflict pain and suffering.

The world is portrayed these days as a much more brutal place. Man’s inhumanity to man is front and center and perverse sadists are everywhere you look. Many shows are very dark. They are dark in theme as well as lighting. I can tolerate some, like “The Blacklist” and “Blindspot”. But some, like “Gotham” are over the line for me. They portray the underside of life, the worst of the worst. The public’s appetite for darkness, crime and just plain meanness seems boundless.

Close to half the shows my husband watches on TV, he has to watch without me. I can’t stomach them. If I did try to watch them, I think I’d be depressed and anxious all the time. I know there is horrible stuff going on out there. But I can’t focus on it or wallow in it. I can’t even bear to read stories about cruelty to animals or children. If I think about it, I become obsessed with awful images and I literally feel sick.

I need to spend most of my time dealing with the normal and the positive. I get enough angst from reading and watching the news. I don’t need to add to that by watching sadism and butchery as entertainment. There is enough crazy and destructive going on in the government, I don’t need to watch pretend craziness and destruction on television in my down time.

Please let me keep some of my illusions about people having common sense and caring about each other. If I can’t keep some of these fantasies alive, I don’t think I’ll ever make it out of bed.

SHARING OF MY WORLD – BARE TREES AS CYBER MONDAY FADES AWAY

Cee’s Share Your World – November 27, 2017


Would you prefer a reading nook or an art, craft, photography studio?

None of the above, thank you. There was a time when all of them would have been high on my list, but as the house has emptied of other residents, there’s plenty of room here to do whatever we want and a pretty good selection of rooms in which we could do it.

In reality, we do most of our stuff in the living room where the laptops live, the kitchen where the food lives, and the bedroom where we live.

Previously, my office. Now it has the guest bed and the Christmas presents that still need wrapping. And, of course, a giant oak desk. Anyone need a giant oak desk?

Garry uses his office as a place to store the stuff he can’t seem to get rid of. My office contains two critical closets (coats!) plus the guest bed. Also the router, the printer and the paper and ink cartridges — not to mention whatever boxes I’ve saved from my cameras and lenses and computers et al.

There was a time when a photo studio seemed a good idea, but I don’t do studio shots anymore and don’t think it a very likely project for the future.

So, what I’d REALLY like is for this house to stop falling apart so we can live here without wondering what we are going to do about the next crisis!

Tell how you are feeling today in the form of a weather report. (For example, partly cloudy, sunny with a chance for showers, etc.)

Chilly, with slightly damp hair. Need warm winds to blow hair dry!

If you could witness or physically attend any event past, present or future, what would it be?

I think I’d go for either lunch at the Big Bang Burger Bar or dinner at the end of the universe. Or — a really nice sushi restaurant.

Speaking of which, did I mention that Garry and I got the world’s best holiday party invitation a couple of weeks ago? We get invitations from people who haven’t forgotten we exist. Most people have, but a few remember us and this is one of the better invitations. It isn’t a dinner party, but I have to at least hope that appetizers will include wonderful Japanese foods that we will never find anywhere else.



You think?

We gave this one a definitely thumbs up, especially after I tried on My Good Dress, realized it isn’t too small … and my Better Shoes which fit, though whether or not I can actually walk in them is another question entirely. Garry is good to go and he always has something appropriate to wear.

There was a time when I owned a really great wardrobe of expensive, formal and semi formal clothing. Why in the world I didn’t hold onto it, I don’t know. It would still fit. It would still be in style. I think I hit one of those periods in life when I figured “if you haven’t worn it lately, you don’t need it,” and out it went. What an idiot!

If you own really expensive dress clothing which fits, and is in good condition? Do NOT throw it away. One day, you’ll get an invitation to someplace you never imagined you’d be invited and you will be so glad you have it. Just saying.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  

Amazon pissed me off so much, that I got myself into one of those stubborn, “I can lick them” moods. This is not a crazy, screaming, frenzy. It’s more like “Oh yeah? Well …”

Basically, I wrote a long blog explaining exactly why I was pissed off, and for how long I’d been pissed off. I included  colors and illustrations. About 1000 word blog, really in my best “rant on the web” style, but without any unsuitable words.

You wouldn’t believe how nicely they have come around. Oh, I also emailed it to EVERYONE in their customer service department … and there are quite a few departments. And I kept sending them. I didn’t think you could bombard a large company with email, but I did. I’m not sure what it proves, but I get so tired of being the customer cum victim in my relationships with organizations that are supposed to value my business. The whole “being on hold” while they tell you how important you are to them … while they ignore you. The disconnects. The service people who have no authority to do anything but say “I can understand your frustration.”

Driveway with shadows

Frustration doesn’t begin to cover it. I’m sure all of you know what I mean. I know we can’t beat them all, but we need to try because if they think they can get away with lying to us, ignoring us, pretending they have no idea what we are talking about, it will continue to get worse until we are crushed. So … all of us … take up your electronic cudgels and FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

Then, have some tea and relax.

ME AND THE ALMOST INTERVIEW WITH JIMMY STEWART – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Full disclosure up front. I never met Jimmy Stewart. No interviews. No emails. No phone conversations. But I’ve got Jimmy Stewart in my brain, maybe because Stewart is TCM’s “Star of the month.” They’ve been airing most of the legendary star’s films from the 30’s through the 80’s. There was a masterful Stewart profile hosted by Stewart’s good friend, Johnny Carson. He made it feel like two buddies reminiscing about the best years of their lives.

Stewart, (center) with Amos on his right, and the B-52 crew moments after safely landing at Andersen. Before leaving Guam the next morning, Stewart again thanked Amos for his professionalism during the emergency and presented him with signed prints for each of the crewmen. (Courtesy Bob Amos)

The other night might have been my first (Yes!) viewing of 1954’s “The Glenn Miller Story.” Somehow, “The Miller Story” escaped me during those years when I went to the movies 3 or more times a week. I absolutely enjoyed the warmth and nostalgia of the movie in a way I rarely feel about contemporary films. I’ve been steadily humming “Moonlight Serenade” for the last two or three days.

Jimmy Stewart is stuck in my mind. I’m doing an interview with him — but it never really occurred. I’ve been digging through my mental folders and files for why I feel this link to Stewart. I’m aware of all his unforgettable film performances, from “Mr. Smith” to “Wonderful Life” to “Harvey.” And all those rugged 1950s and 1960s westerns — including “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

I couldn’t find that link.  It’s more than just the fan and movie maven thing going on.  What was it?

It hit me as I was cleaning my hearing aids. The answer!

During the late 1980’s — maybe 1988 or 1989 — during Ronald Reagan’s second term in the White House, life was changing for me. Marilyn was back in my life after spending almost a decade in Israel. And I finally was able to wear the new, smaller hearing aids that are nearly invisible to onlookers.

I was elated!  No more of those ugly, big hearing aids. I was always sure people stared at them while I worked as a local TV News guy. That was when I remembered — a conversation I had with a colleague. She was the station’s entertainment reporter and had noticed me talking to myself as I checked the audio of my tiny new hearing aids with a big smile on my face.

I was in the middle of covering a major trial that was getting international attention. I saw my image on network news shows. No hearing aids were visible. Oh, the vanity! I explained to my colleague what the tiny hearing aids meant to me. How I’d coped with a major hearing loss most of my life and the adjustments I had made to succeed in TV News.  She was genuinely surprised and smiled with an appreciative tap on my shoulder. We’d sat close to each other in the newsroom for months, talked about business and personal things — but I’d never mentioned my hearing loss.

That was also the summer Marilyn and I entertained actress Patricia Neal and legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstadt at our Martha’s Vineyard cottage, a rented place we shared with other TV news friends. Word of our friendship with Neal and Eisenstadt made the rounds in the local entertainment news world. I remember sharing stories with my entertainment reporter colleague. Sometimes name dropping can be a lot of fun … and this was one of those times.

“I met Jimmy Stewart at a Washington, D.C. cocktail party,” my colleague told me one afternoon. She had my complete attention.   “Poor Jimmy. He was struggling with his gigantic hearings aids.”

I listened with fascination. I didn’t know Jimmy Stewart needed hearing aids. It never showed in his movies or TV interviews. I listened closer for details on Stewart’s dilemma.

“Jimmy couldn’t hear what was being said at the party,” my colleague told me, “He kept looking at me awkwardly and fumbled with conversation.”

I had an epiphany.  Jimmy Stewart fumbled with conversation because he was trying to absorb and register what people were saying to him. The famous Jimmy Stewart verbal fumble was his way of coping with hearing problems. I probably smiled to myself as my colleague went on with her description of Jimmy Stewart’s cocktail party struggles. Fascination turned to compassion as I imagined myself in Stewart’s place, trying to filter our multiple conversation, loud music, and ambient background noise.

The Stewart story quickly faded out from my mind as I returned to my story and a pressing news deadline.

There was a letter on my desk a few days later. I was running late for the trial and was worried about getting a good seat so I could hear the lawyers and the judge,, so I didn’t get to it that day.

Trials were always a major headache for me. Years earlier, I’d taken my situation to myriad judges, court officers and lawyers. I wanted everyone to know I was working with this handicap and wanted to be sure I got all their wise words accurately. They appreciated my candor and efforts were made to make sure I could get the information accurately and efficiently.  My best, most sincere face helped my cause. If you’ve heard this from me before, know it was the prologue for my relationship with Jimmy Stewart.

I finally opened the letter a day or two after it arrived. I was immediately suspicious. Phony, threatening and suggestive letters are common for a TV news reporter. This one wasn’t in thick crayon or illegible ink scrawl, but I was still suspicious.


“Dear Garry,

I hope you don’t mind my assumption of friendship since we’ve never met. I deal with this business of celebrity all the time and it is presumptuous.”


I continued to read with skepticism until I realized this missive was from Jimmy Stewart. He went on to explain his cocktail party hearing problems, his encounter with my colleague who apparently talked about me and my hearing problems. Jimmy Stewart heard about this Garry Armstrong guy who was a success on Boston television news despite hearing problems. I blushed a little as I read Stewart’s account of my bravery. Most of the letter, however, dealt with Stewart’s details about his hearing aids, its components. He wanted my take on the efficiency of these new little hearing aids.

I put the letter in my desk, planning to take it home and show to Marilyn  because I wasn’t good at holding on to such possessions in my professional life. My attention turned to the trial and my report for the six o’clock news.

Fast forward several hours, including my ritual stop at the local bar before heading home — without the letter. Out of sight and mind.

I did manage to write Jimmy Stewart a few days later. I spent most of the letter talking about how I struggled with my hearing and use of the aids. I must have appeared awfully vain, talking about overcoming  my reluctance to wear hearing aids because I thought it was a stigma. My vanity was probably also obvious when I mentioned some of Stewart’s colleagues I’d met in my career.  I was young and lacked humility, telling Stewart about time I’d spent with Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Cagney, Gregory Peck and other stars. I forgot to mention the other stars, like Albert DiSalvo, Whitey Bulger, and Tip O’Neil.

In retrospect, I can only wonder what Jimmy Stewart thought as he read this silly, name dropping letter from a young Boston reporter.

Another Stewart letter arrived several days later. No indication of displeasure at my letter. He asked lots of questions about my hearing aids, my interview tact, and how I handled myself in large crowds. There was a hint of getting together when he came east again.

The meeting never occurred. Perhaps that’s why I’m now having these dreams about the sit-down interview that might have been.

Me and Jimmy Stewart. It never happened, but it could have. It almost happened.

NO BITING

Our dogs don’t bite.


Well, mostly they don’t bite and when they do, it’s not on purpose. Sometimes, grabbing a piece of food will nick one of my finger. I yell ‘OUCH!!” and all dogs look guilty. They aren’t supposed to do that.

 

They do a lot of pretend biting with lots of jaws clacking. For some reason, that clacking makes me laugh. They can play “war” for hours and no one get bitten … or even close to bitten. No fur pulled out. No bleeding.

This cannot be said of the biting done on the wood corners of the coffee table. They are no longer square but nicely rounded. I’m sure eventually, there will be no table. It will have been reduced to shards by Duke, the magnificent. It is his job to reduce large pieces of wood to smaller pieces of wood. Not our choice and he knows this, because he does all his gnawing in the dark of night. Hard to miss all those wood chips on the rug.

DATING THE SECOND TIME AROUND – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I hadn’t dated in over 25 years. I was not computer savvy and had to learn the technology of ‘modern’ dating online. I had teenage kids to observe and comment on the whole process. What fun!

I got lucky. Very lucky. I had been separated for five months, in early 1999, when I tackled computer dating for the first time. I actually did find it fun. I emailed with several men, one extensively. He was a psychologist who felt that we had to know each other’s life stories before we even talked on the phone.

Me and my daughter in 1999

Then there was Tom. I sent him my profile because I liked something I saw in his. He said that he was a ‘normal’ guy, looking for a ‘normal’ woman. After my first marriage, I felt kinship with anyone who understood the importance of normalcy in relationships. He wrote back that he was interested in meeting me and gave me his phone number. I called. After ten minutes on the phone, he asked me out for dinner. He was my first in person date this time around.

We now realize that it was love at first sight (except for the ugly green jacket he was wearing that almost scotched the deal). We hit it off immediately. We were comfortable with each other. It felt right. We discovered that we had both come out of 22 and 25 year marriages, respectively, to people who were mentally ill. We could finish each other’s stories about horrific scenes at family events caused by our exes.

It turned out that both our exes had left both of us twice. We took them back each time. It was only on the third time walking out on us that we both said enough is enough and refused to take them back. What a coincidence!

Tom when I met him

We commiserated about the fact that no one in our lives could understand why we had stayed so long in dysfunctional marriages. But we each understood why the other had stayed – a first in both of our lives. It was a true bonding experience. We ‘got ‘ each other instantly.

After a short conversation at the diner, Tom said, “Let’s get this over with. You’re a keeper. Are you free next Friday night?” I said yes and Tom said, “Great! Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.” The evening went on till 3:00 in the morning! We just kept talking. We didn’t want to go home.

When I finally arrived home at about 3:30 AM, my 19-year-old son, David, was waiting up for me at the door. He was furious. He greeted me with “Do you have any idea what time it is? I was about to call the police!” He went on to lecture me. “You should have called home if you were going to be so late. I was so worried. I didn’t know who you were with. He could have been an axe murderer. I was getting frantic. How could you be so inconsiderate?”

Me with both kids when I started seeing Tom

At first I thought that David was joking – doing a parody on a parent greeting their teenager coming home after curfew. Then I realized that he was serious. He really was a nervous wreck. I felt bad, but not bad enough to agree to call my son when I was out on a date.

Tom and I had another date the next week. We ended up spending the whole weekend together and we’ve been a couple ever since. We’ve been together now for 18 ½ years and married for almost 15 years.

After we had been dating for about six months, I asked my fourteen year old daughter and David if they would be okay with Tom spending weekends at our house. My younger daughter was fine with it. My nineteen year old son had to think about it for a minute. He finally said, “Mom, I’m just getting used to the idea that you slept with Dad. Can you give me a little more time on this one?”

I did and a short while later we took the first step towards becoming a family. My kids were basically good with Tom. They knew that he was a good guy and that he was good to me. They sometimes gave him a hard time, but the integration process went pretty smoothly. (We were not so lucky integrating my dogs with Tom’s cats after the wedding in 2002). Now we’re just their ‘parents’.

Tom and me on our first major trip together

I had the easiest and best experience with online dating of anyone I know. I got really lucky, really quickly. Maybe it was Karma for both of us. We had both been through a lot and were due for something positive in our lives. I never really believed in Karma before. But I truly believe that Tom and I are each other’s Karmic rewards.

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A HISTORIAN – SEAN MUNGER

” …  the misunderstanding and contempt for professional history.”

Not long ago, somebody tried to post a comment to this article, one of several I’ve written about “fake history,” which inevitably attracts angry axe-grinders. This particular comment–I didn’t approve it, of course–denied the existence of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and also obliquely denied the Holocaust, a prima facieracist position. This kind of thing is sadly pretty common when you run a history blog, but I noticed this comment employed an argument I’ve often seen before: an attempt to induce shame (in me) by saying something to the effect of, “And you call yourself a historian?” The argument is supposedly that, by not believing (or, in this case, disbelieving), a particular assertion about history, I have obviously fallen below some basic threshold of competence of the profession. In fact, this person attempted to lecture me about what historians do and what historical methods they use. It was wrong, of course, but it illustrated a disturbing trend that unfortunately I think is on the increase: a general misunderstanding and contempt for the historical process, what historians do and how they work.

I will categorically state that I have never heard the admonishment, “And you call yourself a historian?” from any person other than a purveyor of pseudohistory or some kind of patent falsehood about history. In fact, when I’m criticized for my supposed lack of historical competence, it usually comes in the same breath with an assertion that is demonstrably false and ridiculous: the idea, for instance, that Hitler was a leftistthat the Nanking massacre of 1937 did not really happen; or that the Crusades were provoked by Muslim aggression against Western Europe. A real historian has never questioned my competence based on genuine and reasonable agreement with historical analysis. I have a Ph.D. in history, specifically environmental history. Curiously, the only people who have ever questioned whether I deserve it are drive-by commenters on the Internet, usually racists or right-wing ideologues who are usually trying to advance some nationalistic or racialized distortion of history.


The complete post and room for comments are at:  “And you call yourself a historian?”: the misunderstanding and contempt for professional history.