Bear Is All Grown Up

We need a good, happy dog story, don’t we?

I'm a Writer, Yes, I Am!

When I first got Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle such a big dog or an energetic puppy. I thought she was a mix of husky and Pyrenees. Marilyn, of the blog “Serendipity…” let me know she was familiar with Pyrenees and kind of talked me into allowing this giant breed dog into my family. It went well from the beginning.

A few months into the adventure, a friend correctly identified Bear as an Akbash Dog, not a Pyrenees. Big deal. Both breeds are livestock guardian dogs. The main difference between the two is that Akbash dogs are lighter in weight, faster on their feet and come from Turkey not the Pyrenees. Both are ancient breeds (Akbash have been traced to 300 BCE) and both have guarded livestock, working in a partnership with people.

I read everything I could about…

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HANGING OUT WITH ROBERT “MITCH” MITCHUM – Garry Armstrong

Marilyn and I watched an old Dick Cavett interview with Robert Mitchum on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) last night. We laughed a lot. It was a reminder of how good late night talk shows were. It also showed the legendary tough guy Mitchum as an affable and literate man who didn’t take himself seriously.

The Cavett show originally aired in 1970. I met Robert Mitchum the following year. Turned out to be a memorable encounter.

Robert Mitchum was in Boston to shoot “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, a film about small-time criminals. There was nothing small-time about Mitchum. I lobbied for and got the TV interview assignment. Those were the days of “The big three” television stations in Boston. Two of the stations had prominent entertainment reporters. I was the “go to guy” at my station.

The established entertainment reporters had first dibs on Mitchum. Fine by me. I waited until shooting had wrapped for the day. I lucked out because they finished just before 1pm. The star was in a good mood because his workday was over. We shot one reel of film and I got everything I needed.

Mitchum seemed surprised we weren’t shooting more. Actually, he smiled when I said we had a wrap.

I was getting ready to leave when Robert Mitchum asked what was next for me.

Nothing, I told him. I was through for the day unless I was called for a breaking news story. I also assured him I probably would not be reachable. He smiled. He asked if I knew any quiet places where he could have lunch without being bothered. I nodded and he invited me to join him.

It was a small, dark place. It could’ve been a setting from one of Mitchum’s film noir of the 1940s. He smiled approvingly as we walked in. Several people greeted me. No one gave Mitchum a second look. We settled back with the first of many rounds that afternoon. At one point, Mitchum took off his tinted glasses, looked around the place and said I should call him “Mitch”. I nodded. He wanted to know how I could just disappear for the rest of the day. I told him I had recorded my voice tracks, shot all my on-camera stuff and relayed cutting instructions after the film was “souped”. Mitch smiled broadly and went to the bar for another round of drinks.

robert_mitchum_by_robertobizama-d4ktib7We spent the next couple of hours talking about sports, music, women, work, and celebrity. He noticed how people would look and nod but not bother us. I told him this was one of my secret places. Blue collar. No suits. He wondered why I hadn’t asked him about the “Eddie Coyle” movie or shooting in Boston.

Not necessary, I told him. Everyone knew about that stuff and it would be mentioned by the anchors introducing my stories. He smiled again, lit one more cigarette, and ordered another round.

It dawned on me that Mitch was leading the conversation. Talking about me. How I was faring as a minority in a predominantly white profession. Just like the movies, I told him. I explained I did spot news stories to get the opportunity to do features which I really enjoyed. He laughed and we did an early version of the high 5.

We swapped some more war stories, including a couple about Katherine Hepburn. He talked about working with her in “Undercurrent” with Robert Taylor when he was still a young actor. Mitch said Hepburn was just like a guy, professional, and lots of fun.

I mentioned meeting the legendary actress after I was summoned to her Connecticut home during my stint at another TV station. Mitch stared as I talked. I had tea with Katherine Hepburn who had seen me on the Connecticut TV station. She liked what she saw but had some suggestions about how I could improve what I did. I never could fathom why Katherine Hepburn would choose to spend time with this young reporter. No modesty. Just puzzlement. Mitch loved the story and ordered another round.

I glanced at my watch and figured I couldn’t stay incognito much longer. This was before pagers, beepers and, mercifully, long before cell phones. Mitch caught the look on my face and nodded.

Mitch walked me to my car and asked if I was good to drive. I tried to give him a Mitchum look and he just laughed. We shook hands and vowed to do it again.

Mitch headed back to the bar as I drove away.

MYSTERY OF THE DUKE – Marilyn Armstrong

The Duke is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had. Not as smart as Tinker the Thinker. She was human in a dog suit. But maybe he is smarter in a different way.

Duke does what he pleases. He goes where he decides to go. He can jump all of our fences, break down doors and his desire to be our only dog has not diminished.

So the other day, Garry was outside, trying to get the hardened ice off the driveway and build a place to put the trash and recycling bins. He looked up into the window and there was the face of the Duke smiling down at him. From the window in my office.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

My office isn’t my office anymore. It has become the room where we put things that we use sometimes, but not all the time. The Christmas tree is in there all wrapped in plastic as are the two big wooden nutcrackers.

Red Finch atop Toad

The printer, router, and cable box, which the guy from Charter didn’t take with him. I think we need it anyway because it’s where we hook up the router. Which is how we send signals to the devices which use wi-fi. Computers, Kindles, iPads, and all that. Of course the two televisions. And an extra fold-up bed for a guest who might wander in from the cold.

The Duke was in that room. At the window. Smiling down at Garry.

Later that evening, in bed, Garry told me he’d seen the Duke peering out of the office window. I asked him if he’d closed the door to the office since Duke must have pushed the door open in to get to the window.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry said he hadn’t closed it because when he came in, the office door was closed. I said I hadn’t closed it either. In fact, had not been in that room at all that day.

So … who closed the door? The door has a standard round doorknob and opens inward, as do all the doors in the house. He could push it closed from in the room, but to close it? He would have to have pulled it closed from the hallway using the doorknob.

Doorknob

Doorknob? He doesn’t have hands. He has no thumbs.

So how did he close the door? Any explanation will do. I’ve known a few dogs who could close a gate, but never one who could close a door using a round doorknob.

Have you?

A MORNING FOR BIRDS WITH POINTY BEAKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Spiky Squares and Pointy Beaks

Every morning I get up and peer out of my bathroom window. Every day, there is a Cardinal there, eating at the flat feeder. By the time I get to the kitchen, he is gone. Or he is there. I grab the camera. He is gone.

Junco and Nuthatch, sharing the feeder
Two birds who are NOT afraid of other birds … or each other

All the fun birds to photograph are the first to fly — except the woodpeckers. But they always eat from the back of the feeder. I know they are there from the movement of the feeder, but I can’t get pictures unless they come to the front. They do sometimes.

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker? I thought this was a Hairy, but I’m not sure. Seems bigger than the other one who I’m sure is a downy (smaller beak).
This little Downy Woodpecker is pretty funny and rather athletic! He also seems smaller than the other one …

I also think they are intentionally cute.

Earliest in the morning, it’s squirrels, emptying out the flat feeder. As soon as the squirrels left, I got the big mourning doves who are pretty good at emptying out the feeders too.

My morning squirrel
Time to go home!

They are really fat. Actually, all my birds are fat. The Juncos are particularly fat, though Garry thinks the Cardinal is the fattest bird he has seen to date.

He definitely can’t see his feet. His stomach is in the way.

REMEMBERING WARM SUMMER DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s sleeting. It’s the followup to the snow that just ended. I’ve heard the freezing rain is next on the agenda and my feet are cold.

My feet are cold all winter. The rest of me is okay, but from the ankles down, permanent frostbite. It seemed like a good day to think about the river and the bridge and fishing along the Blackstone on a warm summer day.

Garry and I took a lot of pictures last summer. I went backward in time and processed a few new ones. It’s not that I don’t like winter. In a lot of ways I do, but it is difficult to do a lot of things. Like, walk up the driveway without falling down.

And although we are careful with our car in the winter, it’s surprising how many people don’t seem to realize how dangerous the ice flying off the top of their cars is to everyone else on the road. Today, on the way to the hospital we had to pass two big trucks while chunks of ice were flying off them. Several big SUVs were carrying a lot of ice and snow too.

Seriously folks. You live in the north and it is winter. Clean your car! If we can do, so can you.

Maybe time for a little dreaming.

The deep green of the trees. The quiet shine of the river. Reflections of the sky and trees. Kids with their fishing poles.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure I’ll complain about summer, too. I was born to live in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, I’ll relish my memories of warmer days.

PERFUNCTORY AFFECTION – A NEW NOVEL By KIM HARRISON – Marilyn Armstrong

The title as written on the cover is “PERfunctory AfFECTION” because it’s all about “perfection.” The reality of perfection. The truth and falsity of perfection. How nothing “normal” is perfect. If it seems perfect, it isn’t. Perfection can’t be in our world so that which seems perfect contains a lie.

Humanity, people are imperfect. Maybe somewhere in a parallel universe, perfection may exist, but we aren’t living there. We may strive for it, live and die for it. We will never attain it.

In the Hindu dynasty of gods and godlike figures, if you achieve perfection, you became a god whose job it is to help others attain perfection. Religion can urge you to seek perfection, but everyone knows it isn’t possible. Thus any who achieve it become gods.

Okay, it’s more complicated than that, but that’s a piece of the concept.

If you read “The Hollows” series, this isn’t it. This is a different Kim Harrison. Still a brilliant author, she is treading in places where waters run deep.

Meg had a terrible accident during which her boyfriend was severely injured. He is still in her life and his presence haunts her, drags her down. He is not helping her move forward in her life. She remains afraid of “the world” and the people she meets, yet she is in love with her art.

Thus despite her sense of isolation and fear of many things both real and imaginary, she is an inspiring painter who packs her classroom at the university where she works. She has developed a style where her paintings are incomplete but suggest completeness. She can find the exact amount to paint which allow viewers to sense and feel what else should be in the picture.

In many ways, the book is like those pictures leaving you mentally filling in spaces, taking your best guess based on suggestions and ideas or partial conversations. The book has a quiet start that continues to build, fill out, become more complete — and suggests that Meg is seeing reality and no one else is — or everyone else is seeing reality and Meg is not.

Is she meant to be perfect, part of a magic universe? Is it a dream or a nightmare? Possibly both? The interweaving of reality, truth, lies, uncertainty, imagination and something otherworldly is complex and fascinating.

Rather than spoil anyone’s read, I want to say this is a book you should read to the end. You cannot omit a chapter or even a few pages. Secrets, hints, images are waiting for you. What you were sure you knew you may soon discover you didn’t know.

It is a beautifully written book. Intense, sensitive, and passionate. At the conclusion, you will be asking yourself many questions. A second reading perhaps?

Hardcover from Amazon

It’s difficult to describe the story without using spoilers, so I’ll quit before I ruin it for you. This is a unique, stirring tale that leaves you wanting more.

Perfunctory Affection” will be released on March 31st and I’ve pre-ordered the hardcover. It is available for pre-order on Amazon in hardcover and as an audio CD. I believe other stores are also offering it. I’m sure a paperback will be released at some future point and hopefully, it will also come out on Kindle.