ALONG THE BLACKSTONE IN RHODE ISLAND – Garry Armstrong

FOTD – October 18, 2018 – Autumn Foliage


And so, on the only sunny day of last week, we went back to the river in Rhode Island. The rain had been pelting down every day for more than a week. Not all day or all day every day, but for at least a few hours every night and most mornings. The leaves falling were green and many trees were beginning to strip.

Yellow trees east of the bridge over Route 98
Golden leaves — and a bit of orange — south of the bridge on Route 98

So we figured we might as well get as much of autumn as we could. It wasn’t going to be a good autumn and very far from great, but we did get at least a nice burst of yellow and a bit of orange in the trees along the river.

From the base of the boat slip on the Blackstone River in Rhode Island — and the stone wall along the river and canal

The only bright colors were the maples in River Bend. Maybe I’ll show them tomorrow.

A SURREAL DAY – Garry Armstrong

“This has to be one of the most surreal days in a surreal administration,”   CNN Anchor Jake Tapper offered this assessment, opening the late afternoon segment of his newscast.

Tapper was referring to rapper Kanye West’s bro-mance visit to the Oval Office today. Rambling and profane, West’s rant apparently left Commander-In-Chief 45 speechless,  a formidable accomplishment in itself.  The West-Trump bro hug was the perfect photo-op in a scenario that ventured where even Mel Brooks would not go.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 11: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump hugs rapper Kanye West during a meeting in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras – Pool/Getty Images)

West, presumably speaking for some segment of the Nation’s African-American populace, had nothing but praise and atta-boys for the President who sat with a broad smirk on his face as West delivered rambling compliments.  On the surface,  it seemed like a  boost for a racially divisive administration with the midterm elections less than two weeks away. Kanye West, to be kind, is not generally held in high regard by people of color.   Music?  Yes.   Politics and all things concerning civil rights, NO.  It’s a given that Kanye West’s high-profile salute of Commander 45 will have “legs” and be on a continuous loop for GOP spinmeisters. It’ll be fodder for the late-night comics, but who’ll have the last laugh?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see clips of Kanye West, in his MAGA baseball cap, pop up frequently as GOP candidates shift into high gear for votes with the days dwindling down to a precious few.

It’s shrewd politics on a day when most of our attention is focused on Hurricane Michael’s devastating wrath.  Once the major newscasts wrap their hurricane coverage,  the Kanye West story will get lots of play.  It’s win-win for the administration trying to spin away from the residual anger and bitterness that surrounds Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination.

All the Kanye jokes will play well in the Trump hinterlands where minorities are regarded as fools or tools whose collective cord isn’t long enough to reach the socket.

Here’s hoping the political reporters and commentators are shrewd enough to dissect the controversial rapper’s White House rapport for what it is.  A one-way love affair with between two mentally defective guys who will do anything for attention — with no real affection from the West Wing where they are probably snickering over their cheeseburgers and smoothies.

Yes, it’s a surreal day but it’s also a sad day.  Time for some encore plays of “Send In The Clowns”.

A LOSS OF INNOCENCE – Garry Armstrong

A friend took me to a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park. It was the middle of April, so there was a chill in the wind. I layered up and topped it off with my retro Brooklyn Dodgers tee-shirt. It was Jackie Robinson day. Everyone was wearing the fabled #42.

red sox 42 jackie robinson day
April 15, 2016 – Fenway Park

April is the beginning of the new baseball season, when hope springs eternal. Anything could happen. The haves and have-nots are equally in the race. For me, it’s also when I open the cookie jar of memories, mentally racing around the bases to those days when I listened to our boys of summer on the radio.

Vin Scully was a 20-something rookie broadcaster, calling his first season of Brooklyn Dodgers games.

The Korean “conflict” dominated the radio news, which preceded the important stuff, baseball. The Brooklyn Dodgers were “America’s Team” in 1950. Vin Scully was a new breed of a sports broadcaster. He mixed in stories about President Truman’s desegregation of our Armed Forces and “discontent” about the integrated Dodgers’ team.

Scully used phrases like “Goodnight, sweet Prince,” after Jackie Robinson turned in another memorable game amid jeers from rabble-rousers. It was curious to this young fan who dreamed of becoming a teammate of Jackie Robinson, Peewee Reese, and Duke Snider. I’d wear Dodger Blue with pride, I promised myself.

I thought it would be wonderful if they played baseball all year round and the stories would always be about the Bums and the dreaded New York Yankees. How terrific to listen to Vin Scully and not those other people talking about grown-up stuff. Scully even mentioned things we were studying in school and made them sound exciting.

I’ll never forget his referring to April as “the cruelest month.” I’d steal that line a zillion times.

A couple of decades later, chance opened the door to meetings with Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and other fabled Boys of Summer. Campy was friendly and outgoing, eager to share stories with a newbie reporter. He would say, “Life is good, young fella. You gotta appreciate it.”

Jackie Robinson would glare at Campy as he wove the stories of good times with the Dodgers. Sometimes, he would interrupt Campanella with a sharp, “Enough, Roy. Enough of that fiction.”

72-Jackie-Robinson-Baseball-HOF_038

Robinson would turn to me, his eyes blazing, seemingly angry. “Life isn’t a ball game, young man,” he once said.  Then, he gently patted me on the shoulder, noting that I was a good conversationalist and listener.

It was a bit confusing. It happened that way several times.

People like Campy, Peewee Reese and even a reluctant Duke Snider would share that Jackie Robinson was an angry, complicated man on a mission. The inner turmoil, anger, frustration, and multiple health issues took Robinson from us way too early, at age 53.

1950. So long ago. A time of innocence for many young boys like me.


Almost two years have rolled around. It’s the beginning of October and the playoffs are about to begin. Our team is in them. It has been a record-breaking year, so regardless of what comes, we’ll remember 2018.

Vin Scully retired last year. I keep thinking “Maybe we can bring him back, just for this one final set of post-season games … because we need his eloquence.” The world is not running short of baseball commentators, yet I feel we need him.

Depending on how the mid-term elections go, so will go this country. It’s no small thing. It’s possible the future — our future — depends on what happens during the next few weeks. It’s daunting and frightening.

Baseball has been a saving grace for me during this otherwise disgraceful year of political ugliness and international ill-will. Could a World Series win fix this?

Somehow, I doubt it. We need something bigger than a ballpark win this year.

FRANK CAPRA – THE ODD BOID – Garry Armstrong

I was thumbing through an old magazine when I remembered this one. Don’t think I’ve ever shared it.

Early in the 1970’s at the Boston television station where I worked.  The newsroom was on the third floor and we had a lobby receptionist who looked and sounded like Thelma Ritter.

The phone rings at my newsroom desk. It’s the receptionist in the lobby.  “Hey, Geeery,  got a guest fer ya.  An old guy. Odd ‘boid.’  Sez his name is Frankie and he’s gotta book fer ya.”

Frank Capra

I was puzzled.  Didn’t have any celeb guests booked.  Who was this “Frankie?”

“Geeery, Hon. Ya still there?   Frankie’s got this book fer ya?  Whadda I do, Hon?”

I was still puzzled.  I didn’t play the ponies and I didn’t know any bookies. I asked him to send the guest up on the elevator, then I raced out to meet him. The elevator opens and out steps … FRANK CAPRA. I simply stared with my mouth wide open.

Capra laughed at me. “Hi Garry, will you interview me?” Capra continued laughing as I continued to stare.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – Frank Capra, Director

Of course,  we went out for a few drinks afterward. He shared some great stories about working with Harry Cohn at Columbia.  Capra had “director’s final cut” in all his contracts.

Harry used to go wild. He wanted a different ending for “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” Frank told Harry where to go.

KAMMIE’S ODDBALL CHALLENGE – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

Kammie’s Oddball Challenge 10/4/18

Meeting on the path – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry likes to take pictures of signs and posters. He used to use them, when doing news pieces, as ways to “place” the story — in case he forgot where he had been.

Find your adventure? – Photo: Garry Armstrong

He didn’t do one story a day like they show on television. He often did a handful or more of stories in all different parts of Massachusetts and often, Rhode Island or New Hampshire or even Maine.

King Charles as a small dog – Photo: Garry Armstrong

And he often had stories on the network, so his work got seen in many other places and thus was recognized in some very odd locations. Like Dublin and a castle in Scotland.

Carry  out, carry in – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Those posters and road signs reminded him where he had been. Now he takes them because they are interesting and occasionally, funny.

FROM THE BACK – Garry Armstrong

My Wife from the Back, Side, or Merely Off-Center


Marilyn does not like having her picture taken. She always feels fat or old or her hair is a mess and the clothing doesn’t fit. She would much rather be behind the lens than in front of it.

I have tested the limits of her patience. I sneak up from every direction. Determined to get a few good shots and I do. And anyway, since she does all the downloading and processing, she can just delete the ones she hates.

So this is a gallery of backward Marilyn.

Just the other day in Rhode Island … Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

CREDIBILITY MATTERS – Garry Armstrong

“The media always lies,” she said and I cringed.

Then, I got angry. Why do people believe a president who has never told the truth about anything while failing to believe the fact-based truth?

I’m not talking about “ultimate” truth or the meaning of life or faith. I’m talking about things that can be proved with evidence, science. Stuff caught on tape. Printed, heard, overheard, and to which testimony has been given.

I really hate it when I hear that cliché – “The media doesn’t tell the truth. They always lie.” It demeans all the passion and belief I put into more than 40-years as a working reporter. Moreover, it demeans the careers of so many others who give their lives in pursuit of the truth. Many, literally died in pursuit of the truth.

Photo: USA Today

I am not romanticizing my career. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve gotten it wrong. It happens when you’re covering multiple stories a day, 5 to 7 days a week. With deadlines breathing down your neck.

I always tried to clarify mistakes by accepting my culpability up front and being clear with viewers. There were many days when I hated what I had to do. Usually, it was in pursuit of a truth which would be ugly, demanding, tedious — and require a good deal of soul-searching. The truth isn’t simple, or black and white. Despite what you usually see on television or in movies about reporters, there aren’t many clear “wins.”

180-Graphic-Photographs-2-MOB-Party-04212018_036
The old days

Often, we’re lambasted for telling the truth by the same folks who call us liars. Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” line should be crayoned on the skulls of those who insist the media always lies. Those critics are the same pilgrims who gobble up the pablum offered by the current White House Tenant who doesn’t know what the truth is. It’s like a foreign language to him.

I fervently wish that Those People who belittle the media and law enforcement officials spend some time, real-time — like 24/7 on the streets. The real streets, not just their cozy neighborhood. They might see life closeup without any of the public relations filters. I suspect those critics would change that tune and maybe sing a different song. They might think before they speak and see our world in three dimensions instead of whatever propaganda they accept in their biased, insulated worlds.

Finally, I’m proud of what I did for a living. For 40 plus years, I fought to tell the truth.

It was a privilege!