PARKS BY A RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Parks

We live in the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor, so basically, we live in a park. It’s one level below a national park, but without the funding (such as it is these days). The good news is that we have parks. Everywhere.

As the Blackstone winds its way down from the Worcester Hills, there are parks in every town and at every curve along the river.

The Dam on the Mumford

From Worcester, about 20 miles north of here, all the way through Rhode Island, the Blackstone has parks with areas designed for walking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Marilyn on a bench by the river
The big Canal locks and a couple of bloggers with cameras!
Garry and me – Thank you, Rich Paschall!

There are picnic tables and barbecues. Best of all, there are places to safely walk and park the car. All of them are open all year round, though when the snow is heavy, it’s difficult to get into the park. The small parks don’t always plow, but the larger ones do plow. Then all you need to do is find a way to get through the drifts.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone
The stone bridge in the rain

My favorite three parks are the one in the middle of town around the Mumford (one of the larger tributaries of the Blackstone), another behind the medical building in North Uxbridge. That one has two connected parts: the Canal and its locks — as well as its lovely stone bridge — and River Bend which has turned a farmhouse from the 1600s into a small museum.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

You can walk from one park to the other along the route that was once used by horses to haul the barges in the canal.

And in the water …
Together forever, swans mate for life

Finally, there’s a lovely park in Smithfield, Rhode Island which is literally on the same road on which we live. It’s set up for fishing and loaded with trout. People come there to kayak, fish, and swim. We come to take pictures, enjoy their smiles and their dogs and little kayaks. And of course, the fish!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s nice living in a park. For at least three seasons every year, the parks welcome us and we are always glad to visit them.

BLACK AND WHITE – NAME YOUR TOPIC! – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: New Photos, Any topic

I’m not always sure where black and white — also known as monochrome — ends and color begins. There are a lot of choices now that bring back some part of the original color, but not all the color or its intensity.

Four of these pictures are classic monochrome. The final one is “transparent,” tonality which uses part of the original colors but unsaturated.

Not sepia exactly. Peaches in a color closer to chocolate
The bridge over the canal in traditional black & white
Garry in classic black & white
Detailed sepia — the bench on the lawn by the river at River Bend
Transparent monochrome: Flowers along the edge of the river

Cee's Black-White

 

AUTHENTIC MASCULINITY AT ITS MOST VALOROUS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Authentic

Last night I watched a show — Colbert I believe — with Kirsten Dunston as the guest. There were cuts from her first interview on Johnny Carson’s show, 25 years ago which was when “Interview With A Vampire” opened. Someone in the 25-year-old clip commented it was “like a young girl caught by R. Kelly.”

So that long ago all the bigwigs in show biz knew about Kelly. All this time, no one did anything. It was so well known that it was okay to joke about it on the Carson show.

This is an authentic piece of America so well-known no one even winced when it was mentioned. And they were showing cuts from Carson’s show when Kirsten was a girl and a child star.

Now, today, we have R. Kelly telling everyone “it never happened” and it’s all “racist lies.”

R Kelly explaining he can’t read and is broke, There’s no REAL evidence and the whole thing is pure racism. He didn’t do nothin’ while he tries to hire Michael Jackson’s lawyer. Photo: CNN

I loathe how people like him use racism as their excuse for their hideous behavior. That racism even exists is bad enough, but that it is used as an excuse — and believed by many — as an excuse for some of the most egregious male behavior ever displayed.

Make no mistake: it is men. You can argue with me until the cows come home, but in the #metoo discussion, men are the predators.

Why are men the predators?

Because:

      • They are bigger than most women
      • Physically more powerful than most women
      • They have all that rampant testosterone turning their brains to mush.

I understand men were “designed” by whoever did the original design for the two sexes (Note: I think it’s time to admit that a few mistakes were made in creating that design!) so men could be aggressive enough to bring down a mastodon while women could nurture the babies.

Nonetheless, I don’t think men need to be rapists and assaulters. They didn’t have to rape the mastodons, did they? They didn’t need to become the pigs that so many have become.

I understand many men are not pigs, rapists, or assaulters. Not all men beat up their women. Or other men, or children, for that matter. But an awful lot of them do and are proud of it, too.

For reasons that escape me, they feel very brave and authentically masculine because they can beat up a woman, man, or child less than half their size. They feel especially masculine when a group of them beat the crap out of someone. Let’s hear it for the stalwart men of our world and their willingness to take no risks as they prove how brave they are.

Isn’t it humorous when the law finally gets one of these brave lads and they whine and whimper about how it so unfair? Where did all that authenticity and masculine pride go?

What audacity! What courage, nerve, daring, and boldness they display with the cameras full on them! What a bunch of spineless bullies they become.

And now, of course, Kelly is in jail, where he should have been all these years and I don’t care how well he sings. He can sing his heart out from his cubby hole in the Supermax prison of his choice. He can wail about prison conditions and blame it all on racism. He can blame everything on someone else because that’s what those valorous ones do.

Yesiree! That is authentic masculinity at its finest!

SECRET BRAIN STEALERS – Marilyn Armstrong

I spend way too much time reading science fiction. “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is my favorite of the brain-stealing monster stories.

I first saw the movie when I was 14. I had a tumor on my right tibia. Not malignant, but big and it had to be removed. Even a non-malignant tumor can do considerable damage if it keeps growing and this one was growing like mad.

The movie was surprisingly quiet, a movie that sneaks into your brain

So there I was in Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. I had a private room. I think most of the rooms were private and it was in that hospital that I very briefly met Eleanor Roosevelt who was not long for the world at that time. It was an elevator meeting, two wheelchairs and a brief “You are the woman I most admire in this world” and a “Thank you, dear.”

I was probably the only kid on the floor and the nurses tended to congregate in my room in the evening. I was watching TV at night. During the day, I read. One night, there was a movie on the tube — “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

I was terrified. I was convinced there was one of those pods under my bed and I made the nurses check there and in all the closets. Those Body Snatchers were sneaky and I wasn’t going to let them turn me into one of those emotionless neo-robots!

And if the movie isn’t enough, I just got the audiobook. Woo hoo!

Although I’ve seen many other science fiction movies — and read thousands of books in the genre — I think that was the single story that scared me the most. Not because of its strange appearance. No tentacles and nothing bug-like, but because it looked like me. Or you. It was the alien clone that removed our humanity.

I think I’m still afraid of that. Maybe that’s the one thing left to fear!

MELLOW YELLOW – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Yellow

We were away for three days and the bananas didn’t do well. Three of them literally fell apart when I tried to stack them up and were too gooey even for a photograph. Two made it, but they are still going into the trash.

Bananas don’t last. But, lucky for me, Garry brought home a batch of acorn squash, so I have yellow on yellow. I suppose the acorn squash is more ochre … but that’s sort of yellow, right?

Yellow!

YOU CAN’T BUILD A FUTURE ON HATE – Marilyn Armstrong

When I moved to Israel in 1979, I thought I knew something. After all, I read books, I knew the history.

After I had lived there for 9 years, I realized I knew nothing at all. There is SO much right and wrong on BOTH sides and everyone had a good reason for whatever they’ve done.

It’s about the past and ironically, not about the ancient past but about the past since the 1920s or thereabouts. Because in more ancient times, Jews and Arabs got along well — FAR better than Jews and Christians or Muslims and Christians. Christians only got along with their own KIND of Christians. They didn’t even get along with each other if they were slightly different sects. In fact, they still don’t.

The British got this mess started. It gave them a reason to plant their flag in the soil and say “We have to stay here to keep the peace” when the absence of peace was of their own making.

This is why I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again.


THE ONLY WAY THERE WILL EVER BE PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS FOR EVERYONE — JEW AND ARAB OF EVERY KIND — TO LET GO OF THE PAST.


Terrible things happened and who did the more terrible thing? Does it really MATTER? They can’t go back and fix what broke. What happened, happened. What they need to understand is if they stay frozen in the past, they will NEVER find a future. Hatred breeds hatred from generation to generation and no one’s life is made better as a result. NO ONE has a better life because they hate.

I remember once sitting up in the Banias talking about how hopeless it seemed and realizing that as long as everyone believed that their version of the past was the only one which counted, there would be no progress now or ever. It’s the main reason I left and came back here. Who knew the same evil would follow me home?

According to Terry Pratchett

I’m sure these people have said hateful things and they should take them back. Hate is not the same as disagreement. You know it, I know it. Everyone knows it. We all have to stop hating and recognize that people — all people everywhere — have more in common than differences.

The irony is that most Israelis are NOT religious. Most Arabs are not orthodox, either. We could get along. Our kids get along until some adult tells them they can’t.

Jews need a homeland. They have nowhere else to go. Arabs have a lot of homelands and despite rumors to the contrary, many Arabs live in Israel and build a life there. Maybe imperfect, but my life isn’t perfect either. Israel may be a “newbie” in these centuries, but not always a newbie. And many of the Arab countries were created from existing nations.

On some level, most countries are “new” at some point. The world didn’t come into existence with national-lines drawn with various placenames so we could live nearby and fight all the time.

Hitler managed to do a pretty good job killing off most of the Jews in Europe and many Jew-hating countries helped finish the job even after WW2 was over. Israel is a tiny piece of land. No oil, no aquifer, not rich. Maybe two peoples could share it? Why not give it a try? There’s little to lose and much to gain.


Donald Trump believes in hate. It’s his thing. He really must have had a terrible childhood to be so totally centered on hate. Does he have any love in him? That he has worked so hard to fill the United States with people who hate others without a single reason — except they had the misfortune to listen to their so-called president. 

Hate never makes the world better. Never in history has hatred spawned a better world, neighborhood, nation, or faith. Never does hate make better, only uglier and eviler.

That Trump has managed to take his hatred and spread it around is appalling. If you know anything about the 20th century, this is how we got the world wars into gear. World War 1 was a tinderbox, waiting for the first match to blow it up into the biggest butcher bill our world ever saw. The next butcher bill could conceivably be worse.

It could be total annihilation.

I keep thinking we are better than this. All of us. Humankind is better than this. Why do we let the worst of us force the march? What’s the matter with us?

I’ve been blogging for seven years. More than seven years if you want to count the little blogs that preceded this one and I’ve been a writer since I was old enough to grab a pencil and form letters. These days, I’m tired. My heart and I are not doing well and I’m not looking at a long road ahead.

I desperately want to see a better world while I’m still alive. In the United States. And in the U.K, Israel, Russia, China, Korea … everywhere where hate appears to be winning and the rest of us are being flattened by racism and despair.

We cannot hate our way to a better world. I am living in a world I never wanted, surrounded by people I thought knew better. Was my life a total waste? Was yours?

You can’t build a future on hate, but you can build an end. Hate will not make America great. It will tear it to shreds.

“They Hate All Jews” – Fandango

FOWC with Fandango — Newbie

A ROAD HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

I grew up in a semi-rural nook in the middle of Queens, New York. The city had surrounded us leaving a tiny enclave walking distance from the subway.

The house was more than a hundred years old. It had been changed by each family who had lived there, so much that I doubt the original builder would have recognized it. From its birth as a 4-room bungalow in the 1800s, by 1951 it had become a warren of hallways, staircases and odd rooms that could be hard to find.

It sat at the top of a hill amidst the last remaining fully-grown white oaks in New York, the rest having fallen to make masts for tall ships. The shadows of the oaks were always over the house. Beautiful, huge and a bit ominous. Some of the branches were bigger than ordinary trees. I remember watching the oaks during storms, how the enormous trees swayed. I wondered if one would crash through the roof and crush me.

I was four when we moved into the house, five by summer. When the weather grew warm, I was told to go out and play. Like an unsocialized puppy, I had no experience with other children, except my baby sister and older brother and that didn’t count. Now, I discovered other little girls. What a shock! I had no idea what to do. It was like greeting aliens … except that I was the alien.

The first contact took place on the sidewalk. We stood, three little girls, staring at each other. First on one foot, then the other, until I broke the silence with a brilliant witticism. “I live up there,” I said. I pointed to my house. “We just moved here. Who are you?” I was sure they had a private club into which I would not be invited. They were pretty — I was lumpy and awkward.

“I’m Liz,” said a pretty girl with green eyes. She looked like a china doll, with long straight hair. I wanted that hair. I hated mine, which was wild, curly and full of knots. She gestured. “I live there,” she pointed. The house was a red Dutch colonial. It had dark shutters and a sharply pitched roof.

A dark-haired, freckle-faced girl with braids was watching solemnly. “I’m Karen,” she said. “That’s my house,” she said, pointing at a tidy brick colonial with bright red geraniums in ornate cement pots on both sides of a long brick staircase. I’d never seen geraniums or masonry flower pots.

“Hello,” I said again, wondering what else I could say to keep them around for a while. I’d never had friends, but something told me I wanted some. We stood in the sunlight for a while, warily eyeing each other. I, a stranger. I shuffled from foot to foot.

1952

Finally, I fired off my best shot. “I’ve got a big brother,” I announced. They were unimpressed. I was at a loss for additional repartee. More silence ensued.

“We’re going to Liz’s house for lemonade,” Karen said, finally. Liz nodded. They turned and went away. I wondered if we would meet again. I hadn’t the experience to know our future as friends were inevitable.

1953 – Three little girls

Summer lasted much longer back then than it does nowadays. By the time spring had metamorphosed into summer, I had become a probationary member of The Kids Who Lived On The Block. I did not know what went on in anyone else’s house. I imagined the lights were bright and cheerful in other houses. No dark shadows. No sadness or pain except in my scary world where the scream of a child in pain was background noise, the sound of life going on as usual. Behind it, you could hear my mother pleading: “Please, the neighbors will hear!” As if that was the issue.

Across the street, Karen’s mother was drinking herself into a stupor every night. The only thing that kept Karen from a nightly beating was her father. He was a kindly older man who seemed to be from another world. As it turned out, he would soon go to another world. Before summer was ended, Karen’s father died of a heart attack and after that, she fought her battles alone.

In the old clapboard house where I thought Liz led a perfect life, a battle raged. Liz’s father never earned enough money and their house was crumbling. It legally belonged to Liz’s grandmother. Nana was senile, incontinent and mean, but she owned the place. In lucid moments, she always reminded Liz’s dad the family lived there on her sufferance. Where I imagined a life full of peace and goodwill, there was neither.

About 6 or 7.

A lovely neighborhood. Fine old homes shaded by tall oaks. Green lawns rolling down to quiet streets where we could play day or night. I’m sure the few travelers who strayed onto our street, envied us.

“How lucky these folks are,” they must have thought, seeing our grand old houses. “These people must be so happy.”

I have a picture in my album. It’s black and white, a bit faded. It shows us sitting in Liz’s back yard. I’m the tiny one in the middle. A little sad. Not quite smiling.

We envied each other. It would be years before we learned each other’s secrets and by then, we’d be adults. Too late to give each other the comfort we’d needed while we grew up, lonely in our big old houses all those years ago.