WHICH WAY? MARILYN BY THE WIDE BLACKSTONE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 11, 2017


I take pictures of Marilyn while she is taking pictures. She is almost impossible to pose, so it’s the only way to get any interesting pictures. All of these taken at River Bend near the museum where the river is wide and lazy. Summer 2017.


WHEN A PUPPY GOES NUTS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We can’t call for help. The Police wouldn’t even file a report. They’d smirk and call it a domestic matter. We’re senior citizens, living alone, with three furry kids. We’ve tried to be good parents, but sometimes good love turns bad.

This is the carnage from “Duke”,  our newest family member. Duke is about 15-months old. He’s brought new life into household, lighting a fire under Bonnie and Gibbs,  our Scotties who’d settled into the lazy life.

Duke’s energy is something to behold! He can leap over the baby gates in our house in a single bound. He bounces off walls while chasing toys at a dizzying pace. Look —  it’s … SUPERDOG!!

The price of living with Superdog is commitment to patience as he demands constant attention for most of our awake hours. You can’t ignore Duke. He won’t allow you to dismiss him. If you do, you’ll pay! This is a dog from whom lack of attention brings in-your-face barking … into which Bonnie often enthusiastically joins.

TV? Reading? Thinking? Not while the two of them are going at it.

Duke is on a mission to dismantle the wooden basket that contains all the doggie toys. The toys have been tuned up like some two-bit felons in a small town Police interrogation room. Those toys, like most two-bit felons, won’t rat on Duke. They’re scared. Scared big time!

Duke makes it clear what he’ll do to squealers. He’s methodically chewing through the wooden basket. I’ve cleaned up the crime scene several times in the past two days. No flies on Duke!  He just returns and continues to destroy the basket, leaving little pieces scattered across the floor, just in case we don’t get his message.

Marilyn has ordered chewy toys, a last-ditch effort at getting Duke to turn his life around.

It’s down to a few desperate hours. Will the chewy toys arrive in time? If not, this grisly scene could be the epitaph for a loving couple who tried to save a puppy from going nuts.

ROUND UP AN ANGRY MOB! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

That was our granddaughter, years ago. A precocious 7 or 8-year-old venting her anger over the loss of the salad bar at a favorite local restaurant. We did our best to explain the issue and somehow placated our granddaughter. She clearly thought we should tackle the issue head on.

She reminded me of all the high-profile, controversial stories I’d covered in my more than 40 years as a TV news reporter. I never backed down! I was relentless!!  I had to do something!!

Gradually, the hot button issues faded away. Gramps was now in retirement. I’d hung up my guns.

We’ve often laughed about the “angry mob issue” through the years. When something comes up that bothers us, someone yells, “Let’s round-up an angry mob!” Giggles all around.

I heard the familiar refrain again, today, in the middle of grocery shopping. I started to laugh and stopped quickly. Two very angry people confronted me. I just stared, trying to make sure they were talking to me. They were shouting!

“We need to round-up an angry mob. That’ll get their attention!”  I continued to stare as my brain shifted into second gear. They — the angry duo — clearly wanted to do something about the state of our nation. I almost squashed the tomato I was holding.

“I’m retired,” I tried to reason, but they wouldn’t have it. It was just the beginning for me. I was still picking tomatoes a few minutes later when I heard it again.

“This is crap!! We need to do SOMETHING! I’ve had it with this guy!”.  It was a store employee I’ve known for several years. We’ve discussed politics, the economy and local environmental issues between my getting tips on what’s good in the supermarket on a particular day. No such tips today. He was angry — and it had nothing to do with the price of tomatoes.

“Nobody wants to get involved! We need to do something, Garry. This country is in big trouble”. I bit my lower lip and nodded in agreement, hoping to appease what I saw coming.

“Garry, you could do a special report. You know people. You have clout. People respect you!!”.

“I’m retired,” I said it slowly, dolefully. He shook his head as if he didn’t hear me, didn’t believe me … or it didn’t matter.

“We need to get people involved. We need people to make things right. We’re running out of time, Garry!!”  I bit my lower lip. More people had gathered around. I realized we had a small audience. People were nodding, red-faced, shaking their fists.

I surveyed the crowd. Shook my head solemnly and said it louder. “I’m retired!”.

They shook their heads in disbelief. I could hear mumbles of anger and confusion. I should have anticipated what would come next.

“We grew up watching you on TV. You always told us what was happening. We’ve told our kids about you …”

It was the guilt card, face up. Ouch.

“I’m retired,” I repeated again. They couldn’t accept it. They moved in closer, fingers poking in the air as if I didn’t understand. Of course, I understood. I understand.  It’s hard making sense out of what’s going on with the current administration. Real news is called fake. Fake news is being analyzed as if it’s real. There’s no precedent for this in my lifetime. I have no war stories to share about dealing with the type of people who are now in charge. I covered Presidents from JFK to Bush Number 1. There was lots of crazy stuff over the years but nothing, nada like what is happening today.

I dodged several more small crowds and made it to the checkout counter. I was feeling pretty good because I had found some fresh fruit Marilyn wanted. Head down, I spread my groceries on the counter, glancing at the young woman bagging the stuff. I thought I was free as soon as everything was tallied and bagged.

Free at last?

No! I felt a hand on my shoulder. An elderly man, maybe 80 or so grinned at me. But it wasn’t a happy grin, but a grin of anger. I’d seen this many times before. I braced myself.

“Garry, why the hell aren’t you out there, telling the public about this guy? Everyone’s angry!! You done it before! You done it with them other bums. We could always trust you!”

“I’m retired.”  I said it slowly. Sadly.

I politely extracted myself from the elderly gent’s strong grip and wheeled the groceries outside. As I loaded everything into the car, I saw a couple of people approaching me. I double-timed the rest, got in the car, put pedal to the metal and beat it out of the parking lot.

In my head, I could hear my granddaughter.

“Gramps, let’s round-up an angry mob and storm the place”.

WE WERE ALL SUCH GOOD FRIENDS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’ve just finished reading Terry Ann Knopf’s “The Golden Age of Boston Television”.  Terry was a long time TV critic for a prominent Boston-area newspaper. It’s an interesting read, covering a special time in Boston television news. I’m in it, briefly.

You would think a local legend like me would get more space. Just kidding, Terry. I’m flattered you included me.

The Golden Age of Boston Television by Terry Ann Knopf

Boston, indeed, experienced a wonderful period of TV news excellence. It was the envy of the nation at one point. I know because many reporters from network to major local stations shared their feelings with me. I knew because I had worked at a network (ABC News) before my career landed me in Boston. I could do the comparison without bias. Sadly, the excellence in TV journalism is now history with a few exceptions. Terry deals with that in her book.

I’m sure there will be a mixed response to “The Golden Age of Boston Television” from those who worked at the various television stations during the period.  As for me, I enjoyed the journey through time. I logged 31 years on Boston television. I have a treasure chest of memories.

Garry with Barry Nolan

One of the things missing from Terry’s book is an acknowledgement of the excellent work done by people from all the competing TV stations.  This was a time when reporters received five to ten minutes to deliver stories in complete depth. Facts were double and triple-checked. Words mattered. Our editors were old-school and verbally spanked us for purple prose or improper use of grammar. We cared more about the quality of our stories than how good we looked in live shots.

Reporters, competing for a scoop on the same story, often shared information to be sure we were accurate.  We wanted to be first — but we wanted to be right. There was no joy in seeing a competitor embarrassed by bad information. We had a bond — unlike any other major news market. Writing came first for most of us. Our words were supposed to complement the video — not be redundant.

There was a false belief among outsiders that we didn’t like each other. We’d back stab one another for a “beat.” Sure, there were a few who were better suited to modelling, chasing ambulances, or selling insurance, but that was not true for most of us. For a few precious years, Boston boasted an all-star lineup of reporters who graced the lineups for its TV stations.

Charlie “Chuck” Austin, Jack Harper, Jorge Quiroga, Dan Rea, Kirby Perkins, Walt Sanders, Sarah Ann Shaw, Ron Gollobin, Marty Sender, Shelby “Storm Queen” Scott, David Roepik, Ron Sanders, Paul Reece, Victoria Block, Rehema Ellis, Maurice Lewis, Byron Barnett, Greg Wayland, Gary Gillis (a multi-threat in hard news and sports), Mark Wile, Jack Borden, Chet Curtis (all-star reporter and anchor).

I know I’m forgetting some people and I apologize. Age is catching up.

Clark Booth is special. He’s a hero. Clark’s way with words often meant “we don’t need no stinkin’ video”.  Clark’s catch phrase “good stuff” has been stolen here myriad times.

I’ve stayed away from the news anchors because they are a different story and deserve separate space. News anchors, local and network, are a special breed. Terry Ann Knopf deals with many of Boston’s star anchors in her book. I’ve also not mentioned the “behind the camera” people who were so integral to our success. I will have a special piece on them. Stay tuned.

One of my former colleagues epitomizes my feelings about Boston’s television news reporters.  Ask anyone of a certain age about Joe Day and they will smile. Your political persuasion or news preferences don’t matter. We lost Joe two years ago and our world is poorer for his absence.

I’ll wrap this up with memories of the day we remembered one of Boston’s finest TV news reporters.

The Golden Age of Boston Television
Terry Ann Knopf
University Press of New England, Hanover and London

243 pages including appendix


In August 2015, we gathered as a group to celebrate the life of a friend who passed away earlier that year.

Our friend was Joe Day. Joe’s name should be familiar to those who’ve lived in New England during the past forty years. He was a highly respected TV news reporter for four of Boston’s major television stations (WHDH, WCVB, WGBH, WBZ). Joe specialized in politics. He covered presidents, governors, senators, congressmen and local elective officials.

Many of us fondly remember Joe’s “people” stories, his vignettes about everyday folks living their lives in relative obscurity. That was Joe at his best. On and off camera, he was a modest, plain-spoken guy despite the richly deserved awards he received which recognized his career. There were smiles and tears as people shared stories about Joe. We were mostly the generation of “old fart” journalists, recalling the days when news wasn’t just a business.

Joe Day’s family marveled at the size of the gathering. It’s one thing to send an email or video tribute. But to turn out in impressive numbers on a hot August Saturday, that says so much about how Joe touched the lives of people around him.

Fame is fleeting and transitory in TV news. Friendship is another thing. Usually it fades quickly after changing jobs, states and retirement. You always mean to stay in touch but it rarely happens. That’s what makes the celebratory gathering so special. All those folks bonding in their memories of yesterday when our world was young and Joe Day touched our lives, making each one of us a little better just for knowing him.

Such good friends.

THE WHEELS OFF THINGS – BLACK & WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wheels


Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was Shirley Jackson who reported that “the little wheels off things” would forever appear in our lives. And they do. Big wheels in cars and bicycles and everywhere the roads run, but little wheels of gears and motors and toys. We find them everywhere. We look and we wonder — where did it come from, this little wheel? What sprocket, gearbox, or clock sprung this wheel?