CASH NOT ACCEPTED HERE! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Cash

The first time I saw that sign in a package store, I stood there and gawped. CASH not accepted? But … isn’t cash our money? I mean, isn’t it supposed to be accepted everywhere?

These days, the sign is not so uncommon. A lot of places won’t accept cash. Why not?

CHANGE

Cashiers can’t make change. No one told them how to count backward to get to the right amount. They can’t do basic arithmetic in their head. I;f they are supposed to give you 99 cents and you say “Wait, I’ll give you a penny, and you can give me a dollar,” they look baffled.

If you repeat it, they look frightened. Are you trying to steal their money? Their register says 99 cents and by god, they are going to give you whatever the register says. They do not understand that if you add the penny to that 99 cents, it equals a dollar. It’s what modern math has done to the brains of our youth.

Furthermore, they don’t understand that 100 pennies make up a dollar. I’m pretty sure they are even less sure about half a dollar or quarter (a quarter of what?) and are equally vague about all the other coins. A lot of our quaint American speech — like “two bits” has gone the way of the dinosaur. Two bits equals 50 cents because a quarter is “one bit.” In case you aren’t from around these parts.

CASH IN REGISTERS GETS STOLEN

The guy with the Saturday night special (a cheap handgun for those of you not up to cop street language) isn’t looking for credit card receipts. He just wants cash to pay his dealer or his bookie or the guy who sells booze down the street.

YOU CAN MAKE A LOT OF MISTAKES HANDLING CASH

Even if you know how money works and even if you can count properly, that doesn’t mean that the amount of money in the cash drawer at night is what it is supposed to be. I was (oh so briefly) a cashier before I was really working for a living and I don’t think I ever came out at night with the right amount of money.

Sometimes enough is not enough

I wasn’t short (or long) by much. Usually a few dollars and sometimes, even a few cents. But it’s got to be exactly right or your boss gets peckish about it and is likely to fire you.

A LOT OF MACHINES ONLY TAKE TOKENS

The baskets on toll roads often don’t take cash. These days, they just read your license plate and send you a bill in the mail unless you have a “reader” in your car. Why not?

Let us fondly remember the golden olden days when you were trying very hard to drive from New York to Washington D.C. and the entire Garden State Parkway (New Jersey) would only accept cash in its baskets. But NOT pennies because pennies are not real money. Certainly not paper money. So there you are behind someone who is digging through every compartment of his car including the floor, the trunk, glove box et al because he’s missing a nickel.

Squared toll booths?

Traffic cannot flow until he comes up with that nickel and his five pennies don’t count. Or a cop comes by and arrests him for lacking a nickel. I don’t think they hang you for that these days, but the other drivers behind you might.

PAPER MONEY CHANGE MAKING MACHINES

For that matter, you know those machines that are supposed to take your paper money and give you change? They were very popular for selling lottery tickets.

Except they don’t accept your money because it’s wrinkled. Machines cannot read wrinkles. Or, they don’t have enough change so they just keep your five or ten — and you get a very expensive soda or nothing — in return.

This is why you find elderly people using up the last of their physical strength trying to get a machine to give them their money back (assuming it took it in the first place) or at least give some change in return.

$100 BILLS NOT ACCEPTED

That’s because the cashier can’t tell a real $100 bill from a counterfeit and neither can I. My mother once got $300 in counterfeit money from her bank and they wouldn’t take it back. No, that’s not true. They did take it back, but she got nothing for it. Apparently, we are supposed to know if it’s counterfeit — AT THE BANK.

Banks are not supposed to give you counterfeit money. There are laws about that. That was at least 50 years ago, so $300 was quite a lot of money. In fact, it was school clothing for me and my sister.

So where can you use cash?

      1. Liquor stores. They get cash because a lot of drinkers don’t want it on their credit card. ‘
      2. The grocery store when the power is down and the registers won’t work.
      3. Your bookie only takes cash as does the guy who runs the gambling saloon in the basement of the liquor store.
      4. I never have any cash because even taxis take plastic these days and everything is so expensive, I’d have to carry a big fat roll of cash to even buy groceries.

If you want to look rich, buy 100 single dollar bills plus one 20 to put on top. Everyone will look impressed and you can pay for newspapers for at least a month and a half. Maybe even coffee and donuts!

YESTERDAY WHEN MY WORLD WAS YOUNG – Garry Armstrong

No, I didn’t pick the wrong day to give up sniffing glue!

If you write, professionally or just for fun, you’ll probably understand.  I’m trying to set down the words that have been conga dancing in my brain as I just showered and shaved. I probably shouldn’t have shaved because my fingers kept poking my brain in rhythmic harmony.

It’s the end of a truly bad week for Marilyn and me. We’re sharing a bug that includes migraine headaches, queasy stomachs and bodies lurching from one room to another.

Our Vineyard house

It’s the capper to a week where Marilyn has been battling the insurance company to pay for repairs to our house battered by the spate of recent storms and very vulnerable to the next storm on the horizon.  You’ll be shocked to hear that the Insurance Company is stonewalling us, oblivious to damage documented by one of their investigators and tone-deaf to our meager social security and pensions that cannot pay for the repairs.

As we assess the latest debate by the Democratic Presidential wannabees and aren’t as excited about a viable candidate to oppose the guy now squatting in the White House, we are staring at each other, two seventy-something wunderkinds, wondering how quickly we slid from the top of our game to “seniors.”

What happened to the world of youth, energy, and expectations?

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

My bathroom conga line of memories, with bongoes banging on my brains, was back in the ’70s and ’80s. I was living in Boston, in my prime as a TV reporter with earnings that promised to rise with no end in sight. Life was a  pulsating 24-hour trip that kept recycling.

Work and play blended seamlessly. Everyone was young with boundless energy. I slept little, worked hard, and played harder. I paid little attention to health or finances. My pockets were always full.

I had a tendency to forget life wasn’t like that for most other people.

Those days of wine and roses were most obvious during my Martha’s Vineyard summers. There were more than 20 magical summers with other media friends who shared a house. We had the kind of life you thought only existed in F. Scott Fitzgerald novels.

The wine never stopped flowing. My box of unpaid credit card bills, growing in volume, sat ignored as I plied myself with more of that feel-good liquid.

Best of all, the summer Sundays. I was usually up with the roosters. A tall bloody Mary and the Sunday papers to peruse slowly. The sports section came first. Baseball box scores studied with the scrutiny of a lifetime fan whose life revolved around the fate of the Boston Red Sox.

Looking down on the Sound

The Bloody Mary intake accelerated as I looked at the stats of Yaz, Rice, Lynn, Pudge, Dewey, and the other Fenway bats.  I would always need to strengthen the drinks to pace myself — absorbing the gaudy numbers of the sons of Teddy Ballgame.

The numbers were always robust during the New England summers when home runs battered the old cathedral of baseball. The bloody Marys now had me dreaming that this would be the year the Sox would finally defeat those damn Yankees.

I gave little attention to the Sox pitching which was wise. Even with the alcoholic bliss. I thought that fall we’d hold the lead and not succumb to the chill of autumn and the Yankees’ superior pitching. I always ignored the suggestion of friends to eat a little something to balance out the alcohol which had been replaced by Cape Codders. Then, as sunset crept across the Vineyard, moving on to a sturdy rum with just a dash of coke.

All was blissful as someone started the barbecue in the backyard which faced Nantucket Sound.

We rarely talked about work. Our TV jobs were in another world where the less fortunate continued to toil while we played. As twilight faded into warm evenings, we would sit on the back porch, staring at Nantucket Sound. There was a mutual agreement: “We were living the dream.”

Vineyard art

I gave little thought to my future. Life was now. In the moment. If you worked in TV news, there was always a collective fear someone would call, demanding we leave our reverie and cover some breaking news – murder, fire, weather, or another politician’s dirty laundry uncovered.

We often ignored the phone. That was the world before computers and cell phones made it impossible to hide. Now and then, we did ponder a future. Maybe a communal home on the Vineyard for our lives in retirement.  Those idle thoughts were lost in the pungent haze that floated above the back porch. In my mind, I could see a vague future. Lots of free time, good health, and no money worries.

I figured I’d always look the way I seemed to look for so many years. No worries. I’d always be “the kid.” I smiled to myself. Another rum with a hint of coke and I was ready for dreams about a world I figured would always be good to us.

Things promised to get only better when Marilyn came back into my life, solidifying our relationship that began in college when LBJ was president. Marriage began a new chapter in my life. Little did I envision how the future would change life’s trajectory.

All the things I’d ignored awaited us. I had a lot of maturing to do as reality began to check-in. There would be the termination of a job I thought would go on forever. The joys and nightmares of homeownership in a misty mid-region valley. A plethora of health issues that almost took Marilyn’s life.

A wakeup call for me about my own health issues, finding recovery and the backbone to be a dependable spouse. Facing survival in a world I never thought I’d see.

POSTSCRIPT: I finally put a cork in the bottle on December 7th, 2004. I’ll always be grateful to Marilyn and my family for the support, patience, and encouragement as life seemed to be going down the drain for me.

Now, I celebrate those olden days with raspberry lime rickey and lemonade mixed with ginger ale. All current problems notwithstanding, I’m a lucky guy. And I’ve still got a working liver!

JAPAN’S KIDNAPPING PROBLEM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about Japan’s strange (to us) cultural norms regarding women’s roles. The blog elicited a lot of interesting comments so I decided to follow up with another blog about a different cultural phenomenon in Japan that is even more appalling to Westerners.

Japan has a unique approach to child custody that differs from most of the rest of the developed world. Japan does not recognize the concept of ‘joint custody.’ Instead, courts give custody to one parent, applying what is called the ‘continuity principle.’ This states that if the child is settled in one household, the continuity of their care should not be disturbed. This, in turn, means that if one parent kidnaps a child, once the ‘new’ household is established, the court will consistently award custody to the kidnapper.

This bizarre system is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, where children are not viewed as having individual rights or even as ‘belonging’ to their parents. They are seen as the ‘property of the household’ where they live, so as soon as a child moves to a new household (say, with the kidnapping parent), the estranged parent automatically becomes an outsider with no right to ‘disturb’ the newly established household.

As a result (surprise, surprise), tens of thousands of Japanese children are kidnapped EACH YEAR, by one parent, usually the mother. And the other parent, usually the father, has no recourse to the authorities or the courts for help. Hundreds of these parents/fathers per year who are kept away from their children are foreigners who married Japanese citizens.

In one situation, an American man was married to a Japanese woman and they were living in Washington state. There was a divorce and the father was awarded custody. He dropped the six-year-old child off with his mother for a visit and she immediately took the child to Japan. The Japanese government refused to help him and, in fact, the Japanese embassy in Portland, Oregon actually helped the mother escape to Japan by getting her young child a passport in just one day.

Campaigns have been organized here, in other countries and even in Japan, to protect the rights of the outsider parents as well as the children. An American pressure group is called “Bring Abducted Children Home” and represents over 400 American parents whose kids have been abducted to Japan by a Japanese parent.

The Prime Minister of Italy and the President of France have raised this issue with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, calling the situation ‘unacceptable.’ A formal complaint has also been filed with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, arguing that Japan has violated the Convention on the Rights of Children and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

But this only deals with the plights of foreign parents who are deprived of access to their children. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese parents are in the same boat.

Apparently, momentum for change is building domestically and internationally. This past February, Prime Minister Abe acknowledged that children would want to see both their parents, which is a huge concession and opens the door to giving rights to ‘outsider’ parents.

 

Also, the U.S. State Department says that progress is being made regarding enforcement of the Hague Convention on abductions since 32 kidnapped children have been returned to the U.S. since 2014. That’s just a drop in the bucket and more abductions are happening every year. But it is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, it seems that the best policy for foreigners is to avoid marrying and having kids with a Japanese citizen until Japan joins the rest of the developed world in their views on custody and parental kidnapping.

A WALK IN THE PARK – Marilyn Armstrong and Garry Armstrong

September 23, 2019 – Autumn Leaf

On one of the prettiest days of the month, we took our cameras and went to River Bend. We had hoped there would be some autumn foliage. There was a little bit. A few changing maple trees and hints of gold in the dark green leaves of late summer. But mostly, it was lovely but not especially autumnal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Today the leaves began to fall. They haven’t changed color. They just started falling like a storm of leaves. Maybe it was the wind or maybe it’s going to be another year when instead of autumn, the leaves just curl up and fall to the ground.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

At least the weather has been lovely. Bright and clear and cool and night, warm by day. It is the first really nice weather we’ve had all season. Just in time for putting up the bird feeders.

Amber light in early fall
Black-Eyed Susans

We do have birds. They are still very shy and mostly, very small. Lots of nuthatches and titmice. And a few others I have not yet identified. They are in different feathers than they were in breeding feathers over the summer. I’ll get them all right yet.

Garry at River Bend