It has nothing to do with hooking up or any other kind of sex. It has to do with becoming the closest of friends with a complete stranger for one afternoon, then never seeing him or her again.

One year, about 30 years ago, I was visiting friends in Montreal. I was poor, didn’t have a reliable car, so I took the bus from New York to Montreal. It was a five-hour ride. I figured I’d sleep most of it, but instead, I found myself seated next to an Indian (from India) medical student who was studying medicine at McGill University. He had just been visiting friends in New York and it was time to go back to studying.

He explained that he was on a scholarship from India and the deal was, he would study, become a doctor, then go back to India and do three years of work there to compensate the government. But, he said, he wasn’t going back.

I was surprised. “But you took the money,” I pointed out. “Don’t you feel you owe them something?” He sighed.

“India is so big,” he said. “So poor. There is very little I could do there that would mean anything. But I could do some great work here in Canada. Research work that might save many people and not just for three years. Maybe for a hundred years.”

He then talked about India’s relationship with Great Britain. “Mostly, everyone hates the British, but they gave us one thing for which we will always be grateful.”

I raised both eyebrows (I can’t raise just one, sorry) and looked at him.

“English,” he said. “Before the British, we spoke hundreds of languages. In each valley, the villages had their own language. Across the nation, we couldn’t talk to each other. Then along came the English and suddenly, we could communicate. For that, we are grateful. It may not be our best language, but it the one everyone speaks.”

After that — getting a look at India I had never seen before — I passed along all of my current issues including trying to get a Jewish divorce in Israel while living in New York, a process so complicated that even 32 years later, I get a headache thinking about it. Not to mention the nasty piece of work who,  for hard-to-fathom reasons, I had married. And children. Mine. His. Ours. As well as the big ocean between us.

Greyhound bus terminal

The two of us never even exchanged names. When we parted at the bus station in Montreal, we had no thought of ever meeting again.

We were best friends for one afternoon on a long bus ride between cities. And three decades later, I still remember it.

BUT THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT, CAN IT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #58

To put it most simply, I always thought that — socio and psychopaths aside — everyone has a conscience. Even after Trump was elected, I thought that Americans weren’t stupid enough to actually follow this moron.

I was wrong.

All the cynicism I decried in my mother has settled on me. Apparently many people don’t have even a shred of conscience. Those that might have a conscience are prepared to ignore it in the name of promulgating their personal agendas. It’s embarrassing. I feel I should apologize for being American, even though I didn’t vote for the guy and never would.

Can we regrow a backbone? Film at eleven.

GOLDFINCHES IN BLOOM – Marilyn Armstrong

Many of our birds show up in twos and threes, but only the Goldfinches show up in flocks. They may be small, but when they show up, they take over the feeders. All three of them. I took a few pictures.

There were a lot more Goldfinches up there, but they kept taking off and landing on another feeder. They were in the trees, on the rail, and on the reverse side of the feeders where I can’t take a picture.


Feb 27, 2020 – The Suicidal Tendencies of Cacti & Orchids

I am embarrassed by the growth of my cacti and orchids. I have been growing plants forever. Indoor plants. I’m not much of an outdoor grower because my back has been in pretty bad shape most of my life. I had surgery on it when I was 19 and it has not improved with the years. The bending over needed for successful outdoor gardening has never worked for me.

I have grown enough indoor plants to make up two full-size nurseries. Not here in Massachusetts. I don’t have the right light here … or for that matter, a place to put them. As it is, I have more plants than I planned to have. People give me plants. All the plants I have were gifts. I didn’t buy any of them. The ones I had bought years ago got too big for this house.

My Dracaena Marginata was almost 10-feet tall before I finally rehomed it to someone with a tall green room. I grew another dracaena and when it got to about 9-feet tall, it too was rehomed.

That was “it” for boughten plants. Since then, I was given two Christmas cactuses — a pink one and a red one. A big philodendron. A small, but rapidly growing Jade tree. A Norfolk Island pine. And a pot of mixed plants that included orchids which regrew and flowered once, then died on round two. It turned out I was overwatering them and didn’t give them any fertilizer. Oops.

Until I moved to Massachusetts, I never convinced anything to flower. My plants grew huge and I had to move them to houses that had more space for them, but they never flowered. Then, finally, we settled here and I put my couple of plants which had survived my many moves into the only room with a big window and a place to put plants stands … and flowers grew. Suddenly, the Christmas cacti bloomed like mad and even the orchids grew. Orchids? I had been told orchids were impossible and needed special growing conditions.

I feel a little out of my league, florally speaking. The plants grow, but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything much to make that happen. I put them in the window. I water them when they are dry. I stick some 10-10-10 fertilizer in the soil, find a few ice cubes. Buds turn into flowers and everyone congratulates me like I did something special.

Trust me. I didn’t do anything special. Mostly, I didn’t do anything at all.

I put the plants in the window and every now and then, watered them. I know what conditions seem to work, but they aren’t necessarily easy to replicate. It’s a room where most of the light comes from the window and where the lights in the room are rarely turned on. I know that’s what helps the cactus to bloom. The room is cool, around 65 degrees in the winter, maybe 70 in the summer. It’s a northeast window. Sun in the early morning, bright light without sunlight the rest of the day. As little water as I can give them. And very little fussing with them.

Is there more to it? I don’t know. That more or less sums up my knowledge of my current plants, which are very different than the plants I used to have. I have never been able to grow a Norfolk pine before. They always died on me. I never got a Christmas cactus to flower or even considered the possibility of flowering my own orchids.

It’s probably why I’m so astonished that they are all flowering. It isn’t the pride of craft. More like amazement at my sheer good luck.