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!

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

33 thoughts on “YESTERDAY WHEN MY WORLD WAS YOUNG – Garry Armstrong”

    1. I suspect the crashed stock market in 2008 was more the problem than anything else. We had been putting money away, but there were bank crashes and major crashes of companies like General Motors and suddenly, all those investments were worth pennies on the dollar. We need real pensions that guarantee us a safe place to land. Social Security was supposed to do that, but Reagan “borrowed” the funding and it was never paid back. So all the money we all invested in it over the years — and ALL of us invested in it because it’s a legal requirement — discovered our own government had stolen our pension. Yes, there is a cautionary tale. Several cautionary tales in fact and the first is “don’t trust the Republican party.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Becky, thank you. I must admit my dreams usually focus on the missteps — of which there were many. Probably a good way of making sure I stay the course. Hopefully.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Garry; I’m SO tired (in the middle of my French afternoon, mind you) but when I saw that title jumping up on my screen which was blocked for a few hours for unknown reasons, I HAD to check you out. But little did I see that coming; I was prepared for a joyful little look back to your youth, not to take in a deep dive into the abyss of what your life for you and Marilyn has become. Not that I blame you, au contraire, it’s good that you put your feelings and experiences into words, and kind of you to share those feelings with your readers. Our concerns, thoughts and (whether you like it or not) prayers in some form or other, will give you new strength, the knowledge that there are many people out there truly caring for your wellbeing, should uplift your downcast minds as much as possible.
    I know about alcoholism and I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’ve overcome the devil in the bottle. I am grateful that I never had ‘that’ problem, but I’ve seen the devastating results of men incapable of saying no to drinking and I laud everyone who could do it.
    I have read much about Martha’s Vineyard, however I know nothing about it all. It just looks as a manmade paradise with never ending flows of goodies, wine (obviously) and happy faces all round. It is great you had this time, it’s wonderful that you could enjoy so many days in such bliss, and thanks Goodness we cannot (and mustn’t) imagine that things can or will change drastically in no time at all. I think that it can be said that nobody expected the changes for the worst your once so lauded country experienced. Hero Husband had an uncle, RIP, who lived the American dream and who ended up – a bit same as you – nearly destitute and with not enough money left to care for him sufficiently when he was ill. For us he was the ‘rich uncle in America’ – but we with our limited funds and no great expectations, can say that our lives are now vastly better (in hindsight). So, I can see and understand the worries and helplessness. Sadly, however, I am in no position to actively help you, unless you take up the suggestion one of your friends made to enter your worries on one of those go-fund-us pages. In that case, let us ALL know so that we can be of active help with a few $ a person.
    I DO hope you both get better, although I can see you have not much to pull yourselves up in order to become stronger once more. Sorry for the long pouring out…. One of our great Swiss writers, Gottfried Keller, wrote to a friend: Sorry for writing such a long letter. I didn’t have time to be short.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s poor and then there’s REALLY poor. Too many people put up fund me pages for no good reason. We’ll do the best we can as long as we can. After that? Who knows? No one knows how their life will go. I know plenty of people who were extremely cautious with money and STILL wound up poor. Stock markets crash. Illness can suck you money to nothing in very little time. And the cost of elderly housing is staggeringly high and most people can’t afford it even when they have always thought they were comfortable. When Garry and I both, within a couple of years couldn’t work, the stock market was crashing. It was 2008 and what had been looking like a comfortable retirement had turned into a bed of rocks. That’s what’s wrong with “investing” for retirement. It’s not necessarily there when you need it.

      As for the Vineyard being “manmade,” it’s an actual island and has always been there. For half the year, they make their money as a resort. The rest of the year, the people who actually live there, do anything they can to survive until the tourists come back. That’s the life of a tourist site.

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      1. I now really feel I have to explore that famous Vineyard!
        We believed in ‘investing in a house can never fail’. Except it did. Big time. When we both left Switzerland for work abroad, we HAD to pull out all our pension money we had acquired. What else could we do but invest it in a house? We got away with a modest gain when selling in England, went even when we sold in Switzerland after, for going to live in France and lost it all here. We will be lucky to get half of our investment when we sell….. it sucks big time but at least we’re still reasonably healthy. I’m a few years younger than you guys but Hero Husband still has to work for a long number of years and we will never be able to buy a new abode. We will rent like everybody else when we can return to Switzerland.
        When we went to UK, the number of employees at HH’s job were around 7.5k, then went down to 70+ by the time he had to leave and return to Switzerland….. It was terrible and now the country has the fearsome Brexit situation. We don’t even know if we will be able to continue to visit our friends. They don’t even communicate much any more because they are so depressed. They have children and grandchildren and are terrified for their future.

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    2. Kiki, thanks so much for the thoughful words and ATTENTION given my piece.

      Those Vineyard years were magical in so many ways. I even reread Fitzgerald’s “The Sun Also Rises” and, yes, it seemed close to our lives if we walked less melodramatic paths. They were great fun. The sweet and the bitter.

      Sometimes the summers were surreal. We were not far from the site where JFK Jr’s plane went down. We were among the first to hear the tragic news. Obviously, it changed the tenor of our day.

      As for the alcohol: It was familar and commonplace. Glad I’m around to talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your days as a reporter were noteworthy and memorable (having witnessed several). The world of our youth was indeed an endless time of joys, high, a few lows and an endless road ahead. I doubt there were many that looked down the path to the future, most living in the now. I’m thrilled for you, that you found yourself, found Marilyn and had a wonderful family to support you. You’ve always had your head on your shoulders when it came to the world view and that includes you now too! Life can throw us a curveball, several in fact, but you’ve managed to juggle them all and well.

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    1. Covert, thank you. It certainly has been an interesting life, that’s for sure.

      I’ve always had trouble hitting the curve ball.

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      1. lol @ hitting curve ball, but yes, I have to say you, Marilyn, Martha K, you’ve all had phenominal interesting lives that the rest of us can only dream of. Have you written an autobiography? That would sell in a heart-beat I’m sure!

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    1. Thank you. Those memories come and go, uninvited. It’s an obvious sign that they visit me frequently. A reminder of when I didn’t get it right.

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  3. Poignant, stirring and beautiful. We ALL have these moments of nostalgia for things as they were when we were ‘young’. You have some really great memories and you’ve lived in some AMAZING places! I think I’d have loved to live on the Vineyard. It seems the sort of place where I imagine there are really good folks, who become friends in a conversation or two. And I realize I’m coloring that idea with rose tinted expectations that may not have anything at all to do with reality. It’s always a shock the first time you glance in the mirror and see an ‘old’ person peering back at you – worse if it’s the face of one or the other of your parents staring back. Age is merely a state of mind. I know some mighty young 80 year olds, and I can state from personal experience that there are some mighty old nearly 60 year olds. Thank you for sharing another chapter in your amazing life with your audience. We’re still watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Melanie, thanks so much.

      – the face in the mirror obviously isn’t the face of the TV reporter in pics hanging on our walls. It’s always a bit jarring. I am really grateful for those days of wine and roses. They were fun and now I see them in true perspective. I think I have a new audience with speaking gigs which include hosting a movie night for our town’s senior citizens’ club. Looking forward to that one.

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    2. The Vineyard WAS friendly. There was an unspoken rule that no matter how famous you were, no autographs, no pictures without permission. It was where regular people, students, locals, the rich, the humble, writers, painters … everyone collected there. I think the ONLY thing that threw me was Alan Dershowitz at the nude beach. No, I didn’t see him, but the idea was … well … hard on the brain. VERY hard on the brain. Anyone who thinks nude beaches are full of sexy people hasn’t been to one. Personally, I think most of them should keep their clothing on, It would improve the mental health of all of us.

      The people who lived there year-round were mostly poor, There’s was no work on the island anymore. In 1935, there was a massive hurricane that eliminated one major harbor bays where fishing boats were kept. Gradually, as fishermen persisted in fishing where they were asked to NOT fish so the baby fish could grow up and make new baby fish, the fishing markets closed down and all that was left were tourist sites. Anyone could find work in the summer. Everyone needed shop workers and housekeepers and bartenders. There were even a few police. And of course, people who care for the harbors and waterways. But the difference in population between summer and winter was HUGE. Hundreds of thousands of people came and went in summer, but only a couple of thousand all year round. And once the channels froze, you couldn’t get to the mainland at all … and flying into MV Airport was not easy … as the death of Joe Kennedy made obvious.

      We haven’t been back in 20 years, but I suspect it’s still much the same. Very relaxed. Lots of places to eat and if you have a place with a kitchen you can save a lot of money. I’m not very beachy, but I loved the boats and the little towns and the unique places for clothing.

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    1. Thank you, Leslie. It wasn’t easy. I’d tried a couple times before, unsuccessfully.

      Now, it’s no problem, even when in the company of others who are imbibing. Frankly, the only time I “miss” it is when I’m mad–mad — ANGRY off the anger chart. I usually make myself a nice raspberry lime “cocktail”. Lemonade and soda. Works nicely. Who knew?

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  4. It comes to us all, Garry. Those moments creep up on you when you realise that actually, life, health and money aren’t for ever, they’re not a given, and eventually our erroneous ways and age will catch up with us and bite us back. I’m beginning to realise that too. And it’s scary. But at least you have taken the message life gives us all on board, and I’m glad you still consider yourself lucky. You’re right. You have a lot of love in your life, you live in a lovely place and you have each other. And that can’t be bad. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Ali. Y’know, I just get so angry with myself for mismanaging my money when I was in my prime. No one to blame but myself. I had this stupid notion of being a real “gent”, walking around with large amounts of cash, frivolously spending money on clothing (But I LOVED the clothing), dinner, theater, cars (Yes, I LOVED driving the mint new rag tops).
      I think I was stupidly rebelling against my earlier years when I didn’t have that kind of money and my Dad’s stance on frugality. So darn stupid! Now, Marilyn is bearing the brunt of keeping us afloat on our meager social security and puny pension. Judas Priest!

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      1. You’re not alone, Garry. It’s not uncommon for people to live for the here and now and not consider the future. I’m guilty of that too because I decided to be a stay-at-home mother when my daughter was little, and when my son was born I couldn’t work because he’s autistic, and I still can’t because there’s no childcare for autistic kids over here. So now we’re paying for doing the right thing, and we have difficulties too. That’s why I’m hoping that doing a degree while I can’t work will mean I can earn a reasonable wage when Nathan is older. So don’t beat yourself up too much over enjoying life, clothes and all when you were younger. I reckon it happens a lot. We’re all immortal, until we get older. 🙂

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  5. As George Bernard Shaw noted”Youth is a wonderful thing. Too bad it’s wasted on t he young.” The idea of writing your biography is a good one. There are many stories in your life that should be told to preserve the history of journalism and radio and sports. I am so sorry about your problems with the insurance company. They love to collect premiums and hate to spend money. Our house is 80 years old and has to be maintained, and that costs money. I’m living on Social Security, and that doesn’t, as you know, allow for many extra expenses. My daughter is blind, and my eyes are now failing me. I go to get shots in my bleeding retina every five or six weeks. So far, I can still read if the print is larger than normal, and can see fine to drive. Where are those “golden years” we were told about?

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    1. Patricia, I’m also vainly searching for those golden years. Nowhere in sight. YOU seem to be handling dire situations with a sense of “what else can I do? humor. BRAVO!

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  6. Youth is wonderful, as it’s meant to be. I often cringe at some of the stuff I did in my late teens and early 20s. Although I do sometimes find myself telling my daughters humorous stories of those days, and they are flabbergasted to learn that Mom actually had a life before they came along. Maybe it could have been a star-studded life, but I opted out to raise a family. Not that I regret that, mind you, but sometimes I wonder …

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    1. I enjoyed the stuff I did when I was a kid. I think if I had fallen off fewer horses, life would have worked out better because I wouldn’t have this broken spine, Both my son and granddaughter have bad spines too as did my father, so it’s possible this is genetic and the horses were just my personal way of discovering the problem. That being said, we really had FUN. Separately and together. Most of it was NOT dangerous. Maybe too expensive, but it was fun. We traveled and we worked hard and liked the work we did. It sort of caught up with us, but maybe it always catches up with you eventually. Age happens. If you live long enough, there it is. Waiting.

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  7. I guess you can’t imagine what it is like to be old or to have health problems until it happens to you even if you have seen what happened to others. It all seems so far away when you are young. When David and I both worked and put money into our superannuation funds we never imagined we’d have anything but moderately comfortable retirement years. I know we made some poor financial decisions along the way but I don’t regret them. I just deal with the present.
    I loved your post, thanks for sharing.

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    1. I don’t think I ever thought about getting old except in the vaguest possible terms. I don’t think I had a plan. Any plan. My life had no plan. Stuff happened. I did the best I could with it. But plans for old age?

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  8. seems like you have both wonderful memories and a wonderful life now with Marilyn, despite the health ailments and the house concerns. both of your minds are still sharp, and I can imagine the two of you have some interesting discussions at the dinner table, while you sip lemonade with ginger ale

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  9. Normally, we do okay. But there’s been a much higher level of stress since hizzoner got into office, a sort of national upping of blood pressure (seriously … !) and then all this house stuff came up, one thing after another … and something is going on with my body I don’t understand. I have a lot of chronic stuff including rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia and the stress combined with that stuff — I’m exhausted. And kind of stupid, too. Like my brain is encased in cotton.

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