NO MORE TEACHERS, NO MORE BOOKS! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — School

It was the joyous cry of the child as we were let out in June (yes, JUNE and the end of the month at that!).

Little did we know that soon enough, we’d be going to work and they would never let us out until we were too old to do it anymore or the company closed. Or someone decided a kid with no training could do the job cheaper!

My house with its maple tree. I couldn’t get the red correct without making the house look really strange. Sorry about that.

I miss that about childhood, that fundamental belief that every summer, it was pure freedom. No bills to pay, no work. When you were out of school, you were free to do anything your parents didn’t catch you doing.

I guess times have changed!

WHAT’S THAT WORD? – Marilyn Armstrong

Words That Sound Right

Although this is subjective, some words sound like the thing they describe. Personal favorites are:

Puffin, Bulbous, Fidget, Prickly, Twitch, Bubbly.  
Words Which DON’T Sound Like Their Meaning
Medical terminology is designed to take the sting — and sometimes the responsibility — out of troubling problems. PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the latest entry in trying to find a way around admitting that war is bad for those who fight in them — and other living things.
The Thousand Yard Stare

It started during the Civil War when it was noticed by a lot of people that many former soldiers were not the people they used to be. They were scary or scared. They had delusions. They thought they were being followed or that the war had found them … again.

The first army in history to determine in which mental collapse was considered a direct consequence of the stress of war and was first regarded as a legitimate medical condition was the Russian Army of 1905. The Russians’ major contribution was their recognition of the principle of proximity, or forward treatment.

In actuality, fewer than 20% were able to return to the front.

The brutalities of WWI produced large numbers of the psychologically wounded. This time, they began by attributing the high psychiatric casualties to the new weapons of war; specifically, large artillery. It was believed the impact of the shells produced a concussion that disrupted the physiology of the brain; thus the term “shell shock” came into fashion.

Another diagnosis was neurasthenia: “The mental troubles are many and marked; on the emotional side, there is sadness, weariness, and pessimism; repugnance to effort, abnormal irritability; defective control of temper, tendency to weep on slight provocation; timidity (also: rage, violence, insomnia).On the intellectual side, lessened power of attention, defective memory and will power….” (1)

At least the early descriptors name the cause — war or battle. Artillery. But those who make war and send others to fight it don’t like taking the blame — or the responsibility  — for dealing with the outcome. Since no one is planning to end wars, they try to make its repercussions less threatening by never mentioning battle in any symptom relating to it.

Thus if you remove the word “war” from the illness, there’s no more war.

By the end of World War I, the United States had hundreds of psychiatrists overseas who were beginning to realize that psychiatric casualties were not suffering from “shell shock.” … Unfortunately, they continued to believe this collapse came about primarily in men who were weak in character.

During WWI, almost 2,000,000 men were sent overseas to fight in Europe. Deaths were put at 116,516, while 204,000 were wounded. During the same period, 159,000 soldiers were out of action for psychiatric problems, with 70,000 permanently discharged. (2)

Then came World War II. Everyone knows the story of General Patton slapping the soldier in the hospital and treating him as a coward. Generals cannot afford to believe that war is bad for soldiers, that it isn’t just a matter of mind over matter. Although Patton is certainly the most famous for expressing his feelings on the matter, I doubt he was unique in his opinions. He was just more outspoken than most.

It became clear it was not just the “weak” who broke down. This is reflected in the subtle change in terminology that took place near the end of World War II when “combat neurosis” began to give way to the term “combat exhaustion.”Author Paul Fussell says that term, as well as the expression “battle fatigue,” suggests “a little rest would be enough to restore to useful duty a soldier who would be more honestly designated as insane.” (3)

Gabriel writes in “No More Heroes,” a study of madness and psychiatry in war, that contrary to what (we see) in the movies and television, in the military, it is not only the weak and cowardly who break down in battle. Everyone is subject to breaking down in combat.”When all is said and done, all normal men are at risk in war.” (4)

Vietnam and subsequent wars have kept troops permanently under siege while the medical community has sanitized symptoms. PTSD lacks any obvious link to war and battle. It doesn’t change the problem and has not resulted in better treatment in Veteran’s Hospitals. Today’s ploy is to not even acknowledge that any such problem exists and deny treatment by ascribing soldiers’ symptoms to “something else.” Anything else. Anything else to avoid the military’s accepting responsibility to care for its own victims.

The cost of war exceeds our ability to cope with its fallout.

Apparently, no one considers not sending more soldiers into combat might be the better — best — solution.

Funny about that.

UXBRIDGE IN AUTUMN – Garry Armstrong

Autumn Leaves in Downtown Uxbridge – October 24, 2019

I went out to pick up some pita to go with the hummus Marilyn was making. But I asked if it was okay if I borrowed her little Leica. Naturally, she gave it to me.

It was so beautiful out there I couldn’t stop taking pictures until the battery died. I could have put in another battery, but it was getting dark and I’d been gone for hours. Marilyn didn’t even ask where I’d been. She figured I took a camera, so I was taking pictures. So she got to refill the bird feeders, make dinner, clean the deck, figure out what to write and then I’d come home with a couple of hundred pictures. Which she would process.

I pointed out it was her fault. I didn’t take pictures until she stuck a camera in my hands and said “Shoot something. Don’t just stand there.” Who knew I’d get so addicted?

Marilyn knew and she knows I want that Leica. I absolutely assured her I didn’t really want the Leica, just to borrow it. She pointed out that the Leica was her “take everywhere” camera. On the upside, I can see in her eyes a new little camera taking shape. There are just a few other things that need to get done first. Like new gutters, a repaired back door. A camera is not currently on the agenda.

But the Leica is such a pleasure to use.

I took a few pictures.

The first Quaker Meetinghouse, built 1770. It’s at the corner of our road and Route 146A. It has no heating system, so it isn’t used much except for weddings or other events.

IT STARTED BY A CAMPFIRE IN VIETNAM – Garry Armstrong

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States, from 1963 to 1969. As President, he designed “Great Society” legislation, including civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the arts, urban and rural development, and a “War on Poverty”.

Location: A campfire in Vietnam near Saigon.

Year: 1967.

1967 and 1968 were very intense years for me. I had jumped directly from college and small-time commercial radio to ABC Network News. The time was right and the opportunity was there, but I was a kid thrust suddenly into the big leagues. My journalistic baptism started with the 6-day war in the Middle East which began on my first day at ABC. My professional life continued with the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the volatile 1968 Presidential campaigns and a long visit to Vietnam, the first of several.

At headquarters in New York, my assignment was to receive reports from ABC’s field correspondents. I’d speak with them over static-riddled phone lines. Difficult to hear for anyone, harder for me. The daily MACV — or war front reports — were often significantly different from what the Pentagon reported. It was disturbing, worrying. Then, they sent me to Vietnam. The sights, sounds, and smells of Vietnam are still with me, 50 years later.

ABC needed a grunt to help the news team covering President Johnson’s visit to Vietnam. I was it. My job required I not be distracted from the job.

I was a young reporter still learning the ropes. I had to stay focused on the story and exclude the other harrowing images around me.

LBJ vietnam 1967It was a typical evening in Vietnam. In the background was the never-ending rumble of artillery. This was what we called “downtime.”

It was dinner around a campfire. GI’s, South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians, and news media were all hunkered down for chow. The conversation was completely off the record.

Chow was beans and some unknown local meat. Most of us ate the beans. We skipped the meat.

President Johnson or LJ as he told us to call him, squatted at the point of the campfire and told colorful tales about dealing with his pals in the Senate and Congress. The stories were punctuated with smiles and profanities. LJ was drinking from a bottle which he passed around.

Good stuff.

Halfway through dinner, the beans began to resonate. The smell was pungent! I must’ve had a funny look on my face because LJ gave me a withering stare and asked if I had a problem. I remember sounding like a squeaky 16-year-old as I responded “No sir.” LJ guffawed and passed the bottle back to me.

Before completing his trip, President Johnson confided to some of us that seeing Vietnam up close confirmed his worst fears. He broadly hinted he was unlikely to seek re-election, given the backlash of Vietnam back home in the States.

I thought he sounded like one of my cowboy heroes putting duty above personal gain. But it wasn’t a movie. It was the real thing. It was history,

The following day was my final encounter with Lyndon Baines Johnson. There were handshakes, a smile about our campfire evening. LJ was again President Lyndon Johnson, one of America’s truly great Presidents.

I thought that ended my personal relationship with Lyndon Baines Johnson, but there was, it turned out, a lot more to it than I imagined. I’ve never written about this. In fact, I’ve never even talked about it, not even with Marilyn. It seemed too much like bragging, but today a very old friend of mine asked me if there was more to the story. He wanted to hear it. All of it.

This is the part I heard from “Tip” O’Neill and which I didn’t knew.

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician who served as the 47th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, representing northern Boston, Massachusetts, as a Democrat from 1953 to 1987.


Your “LBJ IN VIETNAM” comment triggered something I’d forgotten for the past 45 years or more. You graciously inferred there should be “more to the story.”

This part of the story has been posted quite a few times, leaving me wondering whether people are tired of hearing it. Marilyn says she posts it every time she needs to remember we used to have “real” presidents in this country.

There IS more. I realized while I was shaving in my “thinking room,” but it doesn’t involve LBJ exactly. It involves Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill Jr., otherwise known as “Tip” O’Neill.

It occurred on a rare day when I have an actual photograph of Tip and me. It has been around this block a few times, but I don’t have a lot of pictures.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

I’m going to write this as I remember it, profanity and all. So, please don’t be offended.

Tip and I were having a liquid lunch at a bar we frequented. It was near the TV station that employed me and across the street from a funeral home run by the brother of a famous Boston mobster. That’s another story. Tip and I were swapping tales between long slugs of lunch. I told him I had an LBJ story he’d enjoy.

Tip interrupted me: “Hold on, Garry. Betcha I know the story. LBJ, Vietnam and you.” I stared at the venerable Speaker of the House and my fellow imbiber. He just smiled as I stared. I nodded, just a bit ticked off.

Tip began to talk, savoring lunch — and the story. “LJ told me about the night in Vietnam, the night he was pondering whether to run again in 1968. LJ told me he was confused, torn by the decision he didn’t want to make.”

I nodded. Tip continued. “So LJ’s nipping at his bottle around the Vietnam campfire with you guys. He wasn’t pleased about the local civvies and the Washington coat-holders being there. He did like having the GI’s, the Vietnamese and our guys.”

I was staring at Tip who was clearly just warming up, a smile spreading over that big Irish “boyo face” that intimidated so many D.C. Pols.

“Anyway, Garry, LJ told me about spinning stories, ragging on about the same bullshit I deal have to deal with in the House and Senate. It’s like dealing with hacks and amateurs, lemme tell ya, Garry. But you know this shit, Pal. I don’t hafta tell ya.”

I smiled and he went on. There was no stopping Tip now.

“Garry, Gar? What the hell do the guys call you? I heard some calling you “Ka-Ching” and “The Samoan.” What’s with that crap, Garry-O?”

“More stories, another time, Mr. Speaker,” I answered.

Tip said: “Cut the Mr. Speaker, crap, here, Garr-ree.” I smiled and saluted as he continued.

“So, where was I? Oh, yeah. LJ is regaling you guys with the beans, that ‘Nam meat crap and his hooch. LJ sez he was really rolling, having his jollies and you were possibly the only guy really listening to him. He sez cut loose with a couple of BIG farts. Those beans can kill ya. LJ sez it felt so good to fart, but you were almost holdin’ your nose. He figured he’d have a bit of fun. He remembered you as that polite, young colored reporter. No disrespect, Garry. That’s how LJ described you.”

“Did he call me SHORT too?” I interrupted.

Tip guffawed. “No, he said you had nice hair with a silly part in the middle — old-fashioned. Nothing about being short. But, hey, kid, you’re not exactly John Henning (NOTE: A local, respected journalist who stood 6’5″ and a helluva good guy.) No disrespect, Garry. Hey, what about Billy Bulger? (ANOTHER NOTE: He was the State Senate President and brother to the noted mobster Whitey Bulger.) Billy’s a little guy but talks big. Okay, where wuz I? Oh, yeah, LJ tells me about facing you up about your stinko look. You apparently backed down and LJ loved it. You, I believe, got him with stuff about cowboy movies?”

I nodded, trying to remember.

Tip says: “LJ sez he told you that cowboy campfires didn’t smell pretty. LJ liked that ole’ Gregory Peck “Gunfighter” sweatshirt you wore. You impressed him with your interview with Peck.” (THIRD NOTE: I’d interviewed the star a few years earlier at my alma mater, Hofstra University. Peck gave me the sweatshirt.)

Tip continued, “Garry, you told LJ that Gregory Peck turned down “High Noon” because he’d just done “The Gunfighter” and didn’t want to do another western so quickly.”

I nodded and Tip continued. “LJ was really fascinated about that little piece of Hollywood information. He loved westerns and boy, I got to tell ya, LJ was impressed with your knowledge of westerns, good and bad ones. He remembered from his days growing up in Texas. LJ was looking forward to seeing you again, to talk about cowboy movies. Dammit, Garry, YOU had a fan in LJ”.

I just sat there. stunned, as Tip O’Neill rambled on, his smile getting bigger and bigger. We stared at our now empty glasses. Tip sighed heavily, shoving my hand aside as he paid the tab.

Tip at Boston Statehouse

He got up slowly, Tip patting me on the shoulder: “Garry, I love these chats. So much better than the crap I gotta listen to most of the day.” We walked out into the sunlight, cursing its brightness after our time inside the darkened bar.

Tip looked down at me: “See ya, Pal. Have a good day. Don’t let the bastards get ya.” Before parting company, Tip and I were photographed. I was showing him my new wristwatch. It looked like I was selling him some hot merchandise.

It was a long, long way from our college days and that little radio station where we all got started.

HUMMUS – Marilyn Armstrong

Feel like a nourishing meal without cooking? A lot of food from in and around the Mediterrean is some kind of salad, typically vegan.

How about humous? This is an Armenian recipe, but it’s delicious, easy, and all you need is a food processor, a few spoons and a knife to cut a lemon. If you don’t own one, you can get an inexpensive one for well under $20. I haven’t found that the expensive ones work any better. The only thing the expensive ones are is quieter.

HUMMUS – Armenian-Style

2 – 15-1/2 oz cans chickpeas (with water drained). You can also use the double-size can from Goya which equals the two smaller cans.

1 cup organic Tahina. The Yehuda brand (from Israel) which I find in my grocery store is not expensive and not gluey. In fact, you can use the whole can and save measuring.

1 fresh lemon, juice squeezed into the processor
¼ (or a little more) cup of olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (if you like it hotter, use a little more)
1 heaping tablespoon chopped (or ground) garlic

salt to taste (about a teaspoon and a bit)
1 – 2 tablespoons of water. Use more if it’s too gloppy.

Hummus, Armenian-style (but really, it’s all the same)
Processor (it’s the least expensive one I’ve seen and it does a great job.

Process everything until it is as smooth as you like it. Taste, add anything you think it needs. If it’s too thick, add more water, a little at a time. You shouldn’t need much.

I add a couple of teaspoons of hot sauce (chipotle or other).

This makes a lot of hummus. I usually divide it into two containers, serve one and freeze the other.

Serve with pita (fresh if possible!) Nice with a side of fresh avocado, fresh lemon, and sliced fresh tomatoes. In Israel, it is usually served with a drizzle of olive oil, a shake of paprika, and a bit of fresh, chopped onion on top.

And hot sauce on the side. Over there, they use very hot sauce. I’m not that hearty. I’ll settle for milder Arizona-style!