DRINKING THE NEWS – Garry Armstrong

Manhattan in the mid-’60s.

I was a newbie newsie at ABC News. The kid reporter among guys who’d worked for Ed Murrow and shared tall tales about Mayor LaGuardia, Governor “Beau Jimmy” Walker, Tammany Hall grifters, speakeasies, Jazz and an era that had gone with the wind before I arrived.

I was plopped in the middle of middle and old-age, usually White guys who took no notice of my skin color unless they were talking about Joe Louis, Lena Horne, or Jackie Robinson. The jibes were about individuals — not marked by race, sexual preference or religion.

Sometimes they laughed about “pretty boys” but that usually was about fellas who were light on work effort and heavy on looking good on camera.

The bartender and owner who was usually an Irishman. He ran the local numbers game and was an off-the-books source of loans if you were short. He usually broke up the noise if the conversation bordered on trouble.

He nodded at me. It was an inference: “Hey, watch it. The kid is here.” Not sure if I appreciated being a greenhorn among the grizzled guys. Lots of famous faces came in, usually tired, looking for a little respite and no hassles.

I absorbed the stories which, years later, became woven into my own tales. Funny thing, most of the chatter, although fueled by booze, was intelligent, sharp, witty and observant of the times.

A decade later, I was in the world of Boston bars. I became a familiar face, popping up on the tube pretty much every day. Chasing bad weather and bad hombres. The conversations were animated — VERY animated if they concerned the Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino”, and another pennant lost to those damn Yankees. There were rumors about lobbyists greasing the pockets of certain pols, queries about the availability of “Tommy, The Torch” and his crew

Whispers about “Whitey” and the latest bloodbath in territorial “hits.” Now, I knew who was who and played dumb when asked for the inside stuff. There was always a fresh drink to maybe loosen my tongue. No, there was never enough booze for that.

There were the lawyers in their rumpled suits, complaining about Judges they swore were in the pockets of people who went unnamed.

There was a bar near Fenway Park which gave me the greatest joy. Baseball players, sportswriters and sports wannabees came and went leaving us with a goldmine of baseball info. Once I was “in.” I was “golden.”

I loved kicking back the rounds, swapping stories with no fear of insulting anyone. Pesky “pilgrims” were quickly shown the door before they became the source of brawls. Many “tips” were turned into legit stories which solidified my notion that I was working.

It was a bar where religious leaders could bend elbows with wiseguys and, sometimes, you couldn’t tell who was who.

Those were the days, my friend.

INSTINCT OR THE GIBB’S THEORY OF “GOING WITH THE GUT” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Instinct


Without getting all Leroy Jethro Gibbs here … is there any other way to make a decision when you have no hard facts with which to work? It sounds right, doesn’t it?

Except when Gibbs does it, the entire agency agrees. When I do it, no one ever agrees.

If you’re a mother and you know your kid is “off,” you take him or her to the doctor. You don’t wait until the strep throat or whatever it shows up with full symptoms. The doctor promptly tells you he can’t see any problem. You go home. The kid is a mess the next day.

Let’s hear it for instinct!

pinterest.com

You hear a noise in your car’s engine. A funny little squeaky noise which comes and goes. Do you wait for the serpentine belt to snap or take it to a mechanic? You take it in. They look. They shrug.A few days later, the transmission falls out. Instinct! Gotta love it.The meteorologists on the television are predicting a few inches of snow, but your bones are screaming “it’s a big one on the way.”

Do you ignore your instinct and believe the guy on TV? Or lay in some supplies, fill the car with gasoline, and bring the candles out … just in case. I mean, what the hell. A few extra items in the house won’t hurt, right?If I have data to work with (better yet, if I had Data to work with), I’ll work with it or him. But through most of real life, we have no facts. We have instinct, experience, “gut feelings.” Plus, we have a sort of prescience that comes with years of making judgment calls, dealing with emergencies … a kind of “know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em” sort of thing.

Unfortunately, the doctors, mechanics, bosses, friends, colleagues et al? They don’t share that with uw. They merely think we are a bit strange. Remarkably, no matter how many times we are proved right? They still won’t believe us.

The next time you just know what’s going to happen? Everyone will completely ignore you. Totally.

So, when you get that deep, gut feeling, the one which tells you a catastrophe is on the way? Run around. Tell everyone. They will ignore you. BUT later — you can enjoy the rare opportunity to tell everyone: “SEE? I TOLD YOU SO!” and they will say, “Yeah, yeah. Right. Uh huh.”Most major decisions in my life have been gut decisions and they usually turned out better than the “rational” ones based on whatever evidence I had. Instinct on the hoof.

I think it’s how we contact the basic, hard-wired knowledge in our brains.

If only someone would occasionally agree with us.

THE SNOW IS GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: SNOW

The snow is gone.

We didn’t get a lot of it this year. It didn’t show up at all until March and it only lasted a week and a bit, but it rained and stormed almost continuously from February through this month. So our water table is doing fine.

Now that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have been spotted locally, we really need the rain — so of course, we have lovely, dry spring weather. The rain brings forth a little caterpillar killer bug that drops those caterpillars dead from the trees. But we need rain and a lot of it.

It’s as if the weather is rebelling. Whatever it is we want, we can’t have it. It’s not a lack of weather. It’s a lot of weather — at all the wrong times.

It’s funny to think about snow now. All I have on my mind are the hospital tests and getting finished with them. I think I’m about to (in late May and June) finally complete … and how doth the garden grow.

March blizzard

And how many squirrels are hanging on the bird feeder. Perhaps, as Stuart Templeton said yesterday, “Isn’t it great  to see some birds on your squirrel feeders?”

Unsurprisingly, the feeders were filled last night and were nearly empty this morning. I was going to let the feeder run empty and try to convince the squirrels to do their own hunting, but if the caterpillars take over, there won’t BE any food to eat. Those nasty bugs strip the woods and everything goes hungry.

The Gypsy moths are an evil omen in an evil year. Last time, I survived by getting everything sprayed, but I don’t have the money this year — and I don’t even know what (if any) company is set up to to the work. No one was expecting them to come back so soon. They usually lay low for decades before making a return appearance.

If it gets ugly (and Garry is horribly allergic to these nasty critters), I’m going to hide inside and refuse to leave. Since our squirrels are always starving, can they be convinced to eat these guy? Except almost none of the birds will eat the big hairy caterpillars, but many will eat the egg masses they leave behind. We do have most of those birds here. On our deck.

Bring on the birdseed!

And, for what it’s worth, squirrels eat them too, even the caterpillars. So I guess we’re going to keep those feeders full!


More information from Mass Audubon Society and Pests.org:

Some native birds, such as cuckoos, downy woodpeckers, gray catbirds, and common grackles, will eat gypsy moth caterpillars but, unfortunately, not in large enough quantities to have an effect during an outbreak. White-footed mice, and occasionally gray squirrels, prey on gypsy moth larvae and pupae.

Pests.Org

These little-known buggers can lay waste to entire forests and crops as they munch their way through the leaves and plants. Up until last year, the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar was not considered a big deal. Granted, they are still a problem when they infest your farm, but they had taken a backseat to other common pests. That is until some states (the northeast and especially Massachusetts) saw the worst Gypsy Moth infestation in more than 30 years.


NOTE: In 2016 and 2017 — here in the Blackstone Valley — virtually every hardwood and fruit-bearing tree were defoliated by the caterpillars), farmers started paying attention. 


Some birds typically eat Gypsy Moths. Birds such as the Bluejay, catbird, blackbird (cowbirds ARE blackbirds), crows (we have them, though they don’t favor our woods) and such find these insects delicious.

These ARE blackbirds!
One of our many cowbirds.

Encourage these birds to visit your property to feed on these moths by not chasing them away when they come.


We definitely encourage them!

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t usually get to take a lot of pictures of favorite birds, but this guy really settled into the feeder today and he didn’t flutter off the moment I had the camera up and ready. That’s not entirely true. He flew off a few times into the tree, cracked open some seeds, then came back to the feeder. Sometimes, it just takes patience. And waiting!

The following four pictures were taken from wildlife groups.

Before everyone points out that this bird has a red head and not a red belly, I know that. But there already is a Red-headed Woodpecker who looks a lot like this guy, but his entire head is solid red, not to mention the Pileated Woodpecker who has a red topknot and is about the size of a medium-gauge hawk and a beak you wouldn’t want to mess with. I’m pretty sure he’s the bird the creators of Woody Woodpecker had in mind.

The following are pictures I took this morning. Even though this bird looks (to me) as if he has an orange rather than a red head, I have been assured that he is a Red-bellied Woodpecker and not a Gold-fronted Woodpecker.

The only difference between the two is the color of their head. Worse, they live in the same parts of the country.

However, this is quite a thin bird and I’m pretty sure he’s recently fledged so possibly has not fully developed his colors yet.

NARCISSUS BY THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Narcissus – FOTD – 05/21/19

These flowers used to grow on the other side of the driveway. In the garden, in a grouping with the daffodils. I don’t know how they wound up on the opposite side of the tarmac.

Wind? Birds? Bees? The driveway is too wide for any kind of natural spreading, so something moved them.

I was really surprised to see them. I thought they had died. I thought a lot of things had died. Some things did.

The old Rhododendrons died, but new ones popped up and are blooming. We have to cut down the dead ones and are planning to on Wednesday. We also need to cut down the Holly which isn’t a bush and has become more of a  tree. A big, bushy tree.

We have about a thousand baby-sized maple trees trying to grow. And we have too many signs that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have come back.

NOW we need rain and a lot of it.  Maybe a solid week of rain would kill them before they get their tiny fangs into our trees.

It’s the only thing that will stop them. I get totally depressed even thinking about them. The last time they showed up, I hid in the house for weeks while they killed off all our trees. I’m trying to not see it, pretending it isn’t happening, but I’m terribly afraid that it is. And this time, I simply can’t afford to bring in the spraying people.

No money.

The irony of this is that these caterpillars BLEW HERE FROM A CITY MORE THAN 50  MILES AWAY. All that windy weather? It brought the monstrous bugs back. Again.

I’m not thinking about it because maybe it won’t happen. Talk about positive thinking, I actually think I’m more afraid of the caterpillars than Trump. That’s serious fear.