THE WORLD CHANGED 17 YEARS AGO – Marilyn Armstrong

I had just come back from a couple of weeks in Israel. It was work, not vacation. I was in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, so there was no sense that this was a vacation. I also made the dreadful mistake of drinking local water without worrying about it because, after all, I had lived there a decade without a problem. Times changed. So did my gut. What I did in the past didn’t stop me from getting one of those ugly waterborne diseases.

Which is why I was at home on 9/11. I was in no shape to go anywhere where I couldn’t get to a bathroom in less than a nanosecond.

The phone rang. My son was working at one of the “backbone” services that handled the Internet.

“Turn on the TV,” he said.

“What channel?” I asked.

“Any channel,” he replied.

Any channel? That sounded serious. I turned it on in time to watch the first tower fall and was still standing there with my mouth open, in total shock when the second tower fell.

Tall ship by the towers that were there before 2001

Everything changed after that. We were not invulnerable. Not that we had ever been invulnerable. Pearl Harbor should have reminded us of that, but that was before I was born. And it was on “some other island.” It wasn’t “home.”

Not that I currently live in New York, but I was born and raised there, as was Garry. New York wasn’t “just a place.” It was home and even though we lived in Massachusetts, New York was where we began, where we became ourselves.

Everything changed and we thought, for a while, it was better. But it wasn’t. I wonder if it will ever change back again to the place I remember. I know growing up, the world was very far from perfect, but it was home.

Now, I don’t know what this place is. It doesn’t feel like home anymore.

THE “MODERN” WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC — Modern Tyranny for Modern Times


Today is the press’ day to publish editorials supporting freedom of the press, but not every newspaper is doing it. Their reasons are varied. Some simply don’t have the financial structure to take on a major issue anymore.

Those papers have already lost the war. Like New York’s Daily News, taken over by the Trump mouthpiece of Sinclair to be the “nothing much” somewhere on the internet.

Illustration: Bangor Daily Tribune

As editorials show up in my inbox, I’ll reblog or post them, as I can. Some of them are “Pay to Read” and this is one of those days when that policy is downright foolish, so modern or not, I think press editorials need to be seen and read by as many people as possible, whether or not they are subscribers.

If trampling truth and publishing only what “our leader” (not my leader, but maybe yours) wants to hear is “the modern way,” then heaven help us all.

That is tyranny and our freedom will be, as they say, toast.

“AMERICAN PIE” IS NOW AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Handle


It’s possible I included this song (twice, no less) entirely because I wanted to hear it. Oddly, though, when I googled “handle” this is the song which came up half a dozen times.

Was it a sign? I took it as such.

When I was first working (at that point, for my father, which I should add didn’t last long) — getting paid badly because no one pays you worse than your family — this was the song of the year. They always played it at the end of my relatively short commute and I would sit in the car and wait until the song was over. I can still sing along with it.

A friend of mine one day sat me down and explained every single line in the song and what it meant. I still see all of our music encapsulated in this one, elegant song. And because sometimes, two versions really are better than one, please watch this one. The sound isn’t as good, but it’s our story. Or maybe, my story. Yours too?

What is really eerie about the song is its relevance. Satan was originally Mick Jagger … but I think we all know who Satan really is.

McClean had the right idea, just the wrong character.

REALLY THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

Trevor Noah did a long spiel on “adult summer camp” on “The Daily Show” which left Garry puzzled. He went to summer camp. He even liked it. I never had the chance, but I think I’ve gotten over my resentment. It was a long time ago.

Garry wanted to know why grownups — adults — would want to do that stuff?

I said that some people don’t actually have a clear understanding that the past as a memory is not the same thing as reliving it. Like this town where they are so determined to go back to a period in time that — especially for this town and valley — sucked.

It was a bad time. All the mills and factories closed their doors, then moved south. They left the river a stinking waste of hazardous gunk and everyone out of work. Half the population left because there was no work. The other half sunk into poverty. The train no longer stopped here and the buses no longer ran.

Why would you want to go back to that?

For that matter, why would an adult want to go back to doing arts and crafts and sleeping in cabins with mosquitoes?

We all want to get away. For this purpose, we have books and movies. And memories.

I loved the late 1960s, with 1969 officially my best year. Why? We had men walking on the moon and Woodstock. The Mets won the World Series and my son was born. All my parts worked. I was 22 years old, I had my first camera. I wore rose-tinted eyeglasses and bell-bottom jeans. It was an exciting time politically, socially … and I was young with a whole life ahead of me.

At 22, that world was mine and I loved it. We took drugs and the music was great. If I took one of those drugs now, I’d die. Immediately. Boom, gone, finished. Garry has fond memories from childhood, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be a child.

It would be especially awful going back because I would know that all the progress I thought we were making was going to turn out to be a sack of trash 50 years later.

We all want an interval in a different time. That’s why Garry watches old movies and I read time travel novels. I also understand this is entertainment.

And that is all it is.

FORGETTING AND REMEMBERING – THE PAST IS NEVER GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

History wasn’t supposed to be an academic subject we learn in school and promptly forget. I am always a bit pixelated by people who tell me that there’s nothing in the past that means anything to them. They are inevitably the same people get twisted up in something they could have  (easily) avoided if they knew some history.

Photo: Owen Kraus

Let’s take the old “trickle down” theory of economics. It has been tried by I don’t even know how many conservative or Republican administrations. It has never worked. That’s because it doesn’t work. It can’t work. It’s one of those theories that presupposes that the people involved will intentionally do “the right thing.”

That extra money will be reinvested in the business and used to pay employees better and hire more people.

Except they don’t. Ever.

They take the money as a bigger salary for themselves and other top-level administration. They use the rest to pay bigger dividends to investors and as often as not, cut staffing, lower salaries, and these days, move the entire business to a less expensive economic environment. The thing they never do is raise salaries for current employers and hire more people.

Why not?

Good question. There was a time when that is what businesses did. They believed in America. They weren’t any less greedy or rapacious than the current bunch, but they were patriots too. They believed in the United States, trusted Americans to produce high-quality work. They also thought high-quality work mattered.

Crown and Eagle mill

These days, greed is what’s left but without the patriotism or dedication to producing quality work. They don’t care whether what they do strips the land, destroys anyone living in the area, or is lethally poisonous. As long as they make an extra penny per whatever, that’s good enough.

Most of these “old time” rich people eventually turned to philanthropy. They did care about America and once they’d wrung every penny they could get from whatever industry they built, they thought it was their duty to “pay back” the country.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

These days, most of the super-rich have no allegiance to anyone or anything but themselves. They think if we aren’t rich, we’re trash. That’s exactly how they treat us.

If you work harder at your job, they will fire someone else and you will get twice the work. I eventually learned to never let them know how quickly I could work because I never got a raise or a pat on the back. I just got more and more work. In one job, I started out as the junior writer in a department of five.

Rumford River dam, part of the original Bernat Mill complex.

By the time I left, I was the junior writer in a department of me alone. Everyone else had quit or been let go. I still hadn’t gotten a raise or promotion. I did what five people had previously done. Nothing trickled down.

That was the last time I let myself work full-speed.

And that’s why trickle down is a pile of horseshit. Nothing trickles down. The guy at the top keeps it all and laughs as they haul his money to a Caribbean island while he avoids paying any taxes. To anyone.

Two banks, night in Uxbridge

If anyone reads history, the story of economics in this and every other country will assure them this isn’t going to work because it never has. It never will.

Meanwhile, a pile of damn fool voters will believe the bosses who promise they will make it better — yet never understand why they keep getting poorer.

ARE YOU A DECENT HUMAN BEING, OR ARE YOU A DICK? – BY TOM CURLEY

I listen to the various pundits on all the news stations and newspapers going on and on about what Democrats need to do to win the midterm elections. They all have a variation of the same theme. They must have a “message.” They can’t just say “Hey we are better than that asshole Trump and those fucking Republicans.”

They need to be for something, like universal health care, a 15-dollar minimum wage, not ripping innocent children from their parents for the crime of trying to come to America for a better life.  But here’s the thing.

That’s bullshit. I completely disagree. We have moved far beyond arguing about political policy. We need to run on what kind of human beings we are in this country.

It’s really simple.


Are we, as Americans, decent human beings? Or are we dicks?


It turns out that over the last two years we have found out there are a frighteningly large number of Americans who are unimaginably horrible dicks. 

If you think ripping a baby from a mother or father and then sending it to another state without any way of keeping track of who the baby belongs to or where it went is OK, you’re a dick.

If you are horrified by this and you didn’t believe such a thing was possible in America, you’re a decent human being.

If you think white supremacists and Nazis are good people, you’re a dick.

If you think a white supremacist running down innocent protesters with his car and killing at least one is bad, you’re a decent human being.  Side note: NAZIS ARE BAD.

If you are a white person who calls the police because

1 – A black family is barbecuing in a public park
2 – A black fireman is doing fire safety checks in his own neighborhood
3 – A black state representative is going door to door talking to her constituents
4 – A black woman is at a community pool to which she belongs
5 – A black man is wearing socks at a public swimming pool

you’re a racist dick.

Oddly, most of the dicks who called the police on these people were women. Turns out


You don’t need a prick to be a dick.


That might make a pretty good bumper sticker or tee-shirt.

racist white women
One of dicks who actually did one of those things.

If this stuff both surprises and appalls you, you’re a decent human being.

I’ve been covering elections for CBS since Nixon. In every election, both sides always say the same thing. “This is the most important election of our lives.”

And we all go, “yeah, sure, whatever.” But this time, for the first time in my life, I agree. We, as a country, are at an honest-to-God existential crossroad. We are being governed by the largest group of horrible dicks in modern history.

And we are being led by the biggest dick of all, the twidiot-in-chief.

So, please, get out and vote this November.

Be a decent human being.

Don’t be a dick. There are way too many of them out there already. 

ALLOWED AND FORBIDDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

Are we still free?

As our “freedom” seems to be becoming increasingly less free with each passing day, I have to wonder about a lot of things I always accepted as true. Or close to true.

I never believed Americans were quite as “free” as we said we were, but we were freer than most places I could live. Americans were under less scrutiny than most places. Our press was stronger — and freer — than most other places.

A friend told me a long time ago that one of the major differences between Europe and the U.S.A. was how we see our “freedom.”



Is that still true? I have a feeling it isn’t. You think?

Just a little note here:

The U.S. was explored by Europeans.

Spanish, Italian, English mostly. French. Portuguese. The people who didn’t “explore and settle” were the Natives whose land it was. So if a lot of what came with those original “explorers” stuck, you guys stuck it here. It didn’t get born in this soil. It was European. Brought here by the greedy guts explorers who showed up in ships and did their worst. We are your descendants. YOUR descendants. You might consider that in the midst of your condemnation.

You brought it and this is what it became.