ATTITUDE – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – #FOWC- Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Attitude & #FOWC

I once took a series of pictures of Garry. All of them came out kind of dull. He looked at them. I looked at them. He said, “Why didn’t you tell me I needed to give you some ‘attitude’?”

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Someone has an attitude. Horse or rider? Maybe both?

That was, believe it or not, the first time I’d heard that expression used as a photographic term. I’m not a portrait artist. What I do best are landscapes and casual portraits, more or less on the fly. I’ve done very few “formal” portraits. Anything else has been candid, at best.

Kaity (I think this is her “good side”)

But Garry worked on television, so he “got it.” He also knew “his good side,” something about which I knew nothing. To this day, I don’t know if I have a good side, but then again, I didn’t spend forty years in front of a camera.

Good side?

I have, however, spent more than 40 years on the other side, so I probably ought to know more. I guess this is what you get for picking it all up without any training at all. You know things, but you don’t know what to call them. Terminology doesn’t come with “hands-on” learning.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – An actual portrait! I’m even dressed for the event!

Garry is the only person in my current life who seems able to take a picture of me I don’t immediately hate and want to delete. He has a knack for finding the “me” under the wrinkles and bags of age.

And also: FOWC with Fandango — Attitude

BIG GUY AND THE CARDINAL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #72 – CAT

This is a favorite story of Big Guy, the best cat ever, with pardon asked of every other best cat in the world. Because there are so many best cats!

Several years before the priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but more than acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.

He was working weekends for several decades that decade, so if anything happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old Catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.


For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle-class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of a positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.

To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.

But I digress.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors or felt safer.


The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”


“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.

Big Guy
Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.

I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly, he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes, sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered around and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now, YOU know. Truth revealed.


All that cream and milk didn’t make Garry’s tummy happy, so I decided to try a different chowder. I didn’t have more clams, but I had frozen shrimp. You can make this same chowder using any seafood from shrimp to haddock. I think shellfish is easier and less likely to fall apart, but it’s entirely a matter of your taste — and what you can find in the freezer section of your grocery. Unless you know a fisherman.

I have almost as many problems with tomatoes as Garry has with lactose. I can sometimes get away with eating it once in a while … so I figured I’d give it a try.

Aren’t allergies and sensitivities fun? Sometimes cooking for a family gets to be like tiptoeing through a minefield. He’s allergic to carrots. The other one is lactose-intolerant. I can’t eat anything acidic.

That one over there has diverticulitis and his wife recently had a gastric bypass, so she probably won’t eat anything. I want to serve it all with a good crusty bread, except someone is bound to be on an anti-gluten diet.

Of course, shellfish allergies are common, so before you serve it, check and make sure you aren’t going to make someone horribly ill. One horribly ill guest can totally ruin an otherwise good dinner.

It’s one of the things I do NOT miss about a larger family. Garry and I have enough eating issues. Add a few more people and I’d give up cooking.

I ultimately created the simplest recipe I could. It is hellishly hot here. My kitchen is the warmest room in the house. After I start boiling stuff, it becomes a steam room, so simpler is better. The shrimp is pre-cooked. The hardest part of this recipe is chopping up the vegetables.

The chopper I bought based on Judy Brown-Dykstra’s recommendation is turning out to be one of those “how did I live without it” goodies. All my diced vegetables are perfect, exactly the right size, including the potatoes. It’s a miracle!

My entire life of cooking I have suffered from unfortunately chopped vegetables. Whatever I chop first is fine, but for each subsequent veggie, my chopping becomes more erratic.

With this lovely little chopper, it’s so tidy and organized. The only thing it won’t chop is celery. It refuses.


1 pound shrimp – cooked, shelled, with tails removed
1 large onion, diced
1 medium pepper (pick your color)
1 cup of chopped celery
2 potatoes, washed, skins on, boiled 15-18 minutes, drained
1 teaspoon crushed thyme
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
hot sauce to taste (green or red, whatever suits your palate)
2 cups Clamato juice
1/4 cup smoky steak sauce
1-14 oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
4 slices bacon, cut small and fried almost crispy

Note: Vegetable amounts are all “more or less.” You can use more onion, less pepper, more pepper, carrots, corn. It’s entirely up to you and will not change the way it tastes very much.

Because I was using cooked shrimp, all I had to do was defrost it and remove the tails, then put it back into the fridge.

I scrubbed two Idaho potatoes, sliced and diced them and put them in a pot to boil. While they were cooking, I diced up the onion, pepper, and chopped the celery. I put it all in a bowl. I measured out the Clamato juice, the steak sauce, pulled 4 pieces of bacon from the fridge, chopped it up and put it in a pot to fry. When it was mostly done, I threw in all the chopped vegetables and cooked them in the bacon fat for about 10 minutes. Then, I added the garlic.

In between each addition, I washed whatever was dirty because I really hate a messy kitchen. Even if I’m not doing the cleaning, I still hate the mess. I’ve cleaned a lot of horrible kitchens and I may not be the best cook in the world, but I am absolutely the neatest, cleanest anywhere.

A couple of minutes later, I added the Clamato juice, tomatoes, and steak sauce and brought it all to a boil. I added the thyme and just for kicks, threw in some Za’atar because it has become my “I can’t cook anything without it” spice mix. I added a bit of salt, a splash of white pepper and stirred. Tasted it.

I grabbed my favorite Arizona Gunslinger Smokin Jalapeno Red hot sauce. Tasted. Added a half a dozen drops more.


Brought it back to a boil. Garry had brought home some focaccia bread and I turned on the toaster oven. It was just waiting for my “go” signal.

I added the shrimp. With one minute remaining on the toasting bread, I yelled “DINNER!” and all the dogs came running. I always wonder about that. Do they believe I’m doing all this cooking for them? Or is it some inherent DNA-based optimism given to all dogs?

I yelled louder and Garry stopped watching baseball and came to the kitchen to claim his dinner.

Dinner was a success, or as we put it around here: “So far, so good.” No one’s stomach has erupted. Yet.

The dogs are still waiting for their servings and lucky dogs, there is enough left so they can have at least some of the soup with their kibble tomorrow. Maybe I’ll let each one have a shrimp, too.

What didn’t I use?

The original recipe calls for an additional 1/2 pound of miscellaneous seafood such as mussels, clams, scallops, squid, or even haddock. I didn’t want to make that much food. When you add the extra 1/2 pound of seafood, you also need an extra cup of Clamato juice.

The full recipe should feed six, with second helpings. The way I made it, it will feed four. As an appetizer, six or eight probably. I have a very full quart of leftovers for tomorrow.

I used fresh diced tomatoes rather than stewed because I prefer them. I left out the carrots because I was tired of chopping and my wrists were beginning to hurt.

I didn’t use red pepper flakes because I like my own hot sauce. I think you could probably use fish broth rather than Clamato juice, but then you’d need maybe half a cup of tomato paste. Clamato juice seemed easier and it comes in a bottle with a screw-on lid. Also, you can buy it in a spicy version.

NOTE: Many people like Clamato juice mixed with iced vodka, so your alcoholic preferences could affect your choice of Clamato juice.

Good crusty bread is the winning complement to the chowder.

You can change the recipe to suit allergies, personal taste — and what you happen to have on hand. Aside from the chopping, it’s easy. Get the little chopper and it’s about 50% easier.

If you want this to be a bisque, run it through a food processor. Voila, bisque!

THE TINTED BOUQUET – Marilyn Armstrong


When Garry brought these home, they came with a note from the florist that all these flowers were tinted. They also said they could create flowers of any color you want. Create your own bouquet!

Apparently, daisies are the flower of choice. They water them with vegetable dye tinted water and the flowers grow in the color of the water. Cool!