DERAILING ARE US – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Yes! We Derail!

I moved to Massachusetts in 1988, one year after returning from Israel. Garry and I already had a “thing” and I thought he would collapse from exhaustion if he kept driving back and forth every weekend or two from Boston to Long Island.

With the help of friends (bless you), I found a good job not far from Boston. It was the 1980s and Massachusetts was blooming with high-tech companies, all of which would soon move out to the west coast. But for one decade, Massachusetts had full employment and great salaries. We were very optimistic.

I lived on my own for a year, then bought a small condo in Lynn (big mistake, but to be fair, everyone believed the area was going to improve) … until G.E. closed and put everyone out of work.

South Station 2016

Garry and I got more serious, so I rented my little condo and Garry and I got a beautiful place on the Charles River just a few blocks from Channel 7. Not close to where I worked, but at least I was commuting the wrong way. Now, there IS no wrong way. Commuters go every which way.

Inside South Station

I thought I could take the train to work … but I had irregular hours and getting to the station to get the train was not simple and required at least one bus and the underground. So I drove. I owned one of the original Hyundais. It had a huge engine — 48 liters! I bought it with a manual transmission. Even so, to get it to move you had to open a door and push with your foot. I’m pretty sure one of our small dogs could have beat it on flat ground and do even better up a hill!

I moved in with Garry and in the course of a year, we agreed to marry. He had never married. I was a two-time loser. Well, really, a one-time loser and a one-time giver-upper. For the first couple of years in Boston, we had very little snow. I was surprised but Garry just smirked. He knew it would be back. It always came back.

South station 1929

That was when I discovered that the trains in Boston derail when you look at them cross-eyed. This is because no mayor or other legal body had ever been willing to spend the money to fix the trains. Every year, the rails would freeze, the trains would derail, every commuter in Boston would complain loudly and Garry and his TV cohorts would cover the same story. Again.

South Station 1905

That was more than 30 years ago. No one has fixed the trains. No one has replaced the tracks. Except these days, the rails are so bad that the trains derail all year round. You don’t need to wait for snow. They derail and crash anyway. We don’t have those modern software packages that warn trains of other oncoming trains or bad rails or ice on the tracks.

Every year, they hire a new transportation manager and fire him or her in the spring. Because everyone is cross and angry about the trains not running. In 2019, the run a lot worse than they did in 1988 and although in theory, they are trying to fix (some of) them, they have left them to disintegrate for so long, it will take a huge amount of money and time to get them to work like “real” trains.

Derail? That’s the nickname for our transport system.

And tank trap is the nickname for the roads the cars use.

BIRD DU JOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Open Topic

We’ve been so busy trying to capture the foliage before it disappears I’ve had little time to shoot the birds. But also, we don’t have the number of birds we had last year. Fewer than half and many groups of birds are just gone. I keep hoping they’ll be back.

Today I did take some pictures, mostly of our newly arrived Blue Jays. In all the years of growing up where Blue Jays were everywhere, I never realized how beautiful they are.

Nuthatch about to take to the air
Fly away home

I managed to get two flyers today. I’m always so happy when I can capture them in the air. It’s rare!


Buff has lately come to mean “handsome guy.” For me, it’s wood finishing. Especially the kind of sandpaper or buffing cloth I need to get the wood as silky as I can. I used to do a lot of that sort of thing before my son grew up and took away all my tools because I was obviously too helpless to do anything involving tools with sharp edges.

These pictures are very buffed!

It’s not that I’m helpless these days, but I am wobbly. It makes clambering up chairs or stepladders dicey. Nonetheless, carefully hidden in my hall closet, I have a little jigsaw and mini power sander in case I get an uncontrollable urge to carve a piece of local oak.

I know language changes. As a rule, I change with it because that’s how it goes. I have watched American English drift into something that sounds more like tweets than language. I don’t necessarily like the drift, but I go with it anyway.

Every now and again, a word is used in a way that simply annoys me.

Buff as a description of the human male? That’s one of them. Unless, of course, he used to be a hunk of wood but has now been properly polished and smoothed to an ultra-fine finish!

SEVEN GOOD READS – Rich Paschall

Books I Remember, by Rich Paschall

Recently a friend posted this to my facebook feed:

I have accepted the challenge from (a friend) to post the cover of 7 books I love. The challenge is one cover a day for 7 days. No explanations, no reviews, just the cover. Let’s promote literacy! Each day I will ask one friend to take up the challenge. Today on day 7 I nominate Rich Paschall.

My first reaction was to take a pass. I was thinking that I did not have the time for it. After looking over my friend’s choices for the week, however, I decided to give it a go. After all, I did not have to read anything new. I just needed to copy the text above, post the cover of a book and move on. I resisted all temptation at any explanation or responses to comments.

My plan was to list books that were memorable to me. The first that popped into my head would do. There was to be no drawing up lists and then picking favorites. I just posted them as they came to me. This was a little harder as I got to the end, but not for reasons you might expect.

Of all the books you have read in a lifetime that you thought were memorable, which would you pick? Which ones do you love, really love? I will give you the choices I posted on facebook, but with a few lines on each. If you have not read them, you might want to give them a chance. You don’t have to buy any. If you can not find them for free online, there are those old buildings known as libraries. Ours even has digital versions of books you can “check out” online.

Day 1.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I likely read this as a teenager, or perhaps early twenties. It was popular for high school and college classes at one time. At its core, it is a coming of age story. It shows the conflict between two close friends who have very different personalities. Their differences would naturally lend to disputes, as one drags the other along on his adventures. There was a fine movie version in 1972 for which Knowles worked on the screenplay.

Day 2.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You may be familiar with the excellent movie starring Gregory Peck. The American Film Institute ranks it as one of the best films ever made. Peck won the Oscar. Even though it is a faithful adaptation, the book will offer you even more. It is a fascinating read dealing with complex and socially charged issues. You likely will not be able to put it down, even if you know where the story is headed.

Day 3.

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. If you know anything about Hemingway’s life, you know you can find a bit of him in all his stories. That he would know and understand the toils of the old fisherman should be a given. The Pulitzer Prize-winning short novel will take you out to sea for the struggle. Like many great works of literature this also has a movie treatment.  Spencer Tracy gives a powerful performance as the aging fisherman.

Day 4.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The novel is long (760 pages) and rather complex. The political and social issues it tends to explore are likely best understood in light of his several earlier works. I had, in fact, read all of Pynchon’s work up to this point before venturing into the satiric novel regarding history and science.

Harry Potter library books
Day 5.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. You have to admit, it is the book that started the world reading books on paper again. If you are one of the few who skipped this fandom, I urge you to read it. The works are not just for young people, but for all who love fantasy and adventure. This is the first of 7 novels.

Here it got a little tricky. With only two left to post I started thinking of many possibilities. I wanted to go with “A Clockwork Orange” next. I found it a fascinating read in an uncomfortable sort of way. There was also “In The Flesh.” It’s the sensational Hollywood autobiography of poet Gavin Dillard that was also a bit uncomfortable. It named, or tried to avoid naming, some well-known celebrities on the seedy side of a sometimes seedy entertainment business. There were also a number of well-known classics to consider…but I digress. And that is oddly the point of the next choice.

Day 6.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. The amusing novel is told through a series of digressions and diversions. The reader must pay close attention in order to know exactly where he is at in the story. In the process, you learn little about Tristram as he goes off on tangents about family, friends, and others. The structure of the lengthy work may be due in part to being published in 9 volumes over an 8 year period.

Day 7.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The title refers to “the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns …” The novel deals with the issues of censorship and book burning and is set at some point in the future. In this story, the “fireman’s” job is to burn any books that are found. It is an effort to keep people from knowledge.

While some of these have excellent movie adaptations, no film treatment can match the magic of the books themselves.

See also: How Harry Potter Changed The World.”


FUN FOTOS: TEXTURES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Textures

Our whole world is all texture right now. It’s October. If you can’t take a pretty picture in New England in October, you should definitely take up another hobby 😀