42 – THE STORY OF A LEGEND. THE STORY OF AMERICA – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

42

We meant to see this one in the theatre, but time slipped away and by the time we were ready to go, it was gone. But that turned out to be fine, because we have a wide-screen television and surround. I bought the movie and we got a private screening. Time for baseball and history. Not only baseball. Not only history.

The integration of sports is taken so much for granted today, younger generations can’t imagine when it was any other way. This is the movie that shows how it happened. It’s a movie about many things.

It’s the story of how and why Jackie Robinson became the first non-white player in Major League Baseball. How this began the integration of all professional sports. It was the beginning of modern baseball as well as the first significant move toward real integration.

That it was our original home town team, the Brooklyn Dodgers makes the story more personal for us. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, decided it was time to make a difference. Because he could, he changed the world. Harrison Ford as Mr. Rickey mumbles. He’s also real, touching, human. He actually made me cry. Harrison Ford is not known for nuanced performances, but he gives one in this movie.

JrobinsonI commented that Harrison used to be President, not to mention Indiana Jones. Garry pointed out that owning the Dodgers was far more important. I agreed. Because Garry and I agree: there’s nothing more important than baseball. Especially right now.

Chadwick Boseman bears a strong physical resemblance to Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t sound like him, but that’s quibbling. Nicole Beharie is a pretty good likeness of Rachel Isum Robinson. Who, as Garry pointed out, is even today, old as she is, one fine-looking woman. It was no accident Rickey chose a good-looking couple. He knew what they would be up against and it would be hard enough. Any small advantage they could gain by just being attractive … well, they were going to need it.

It’s hard for people brought up after the Civil Rights Amendment to understand the intensity of the hatred, anger and rage bringing a Black man into baseball caused.

It was 1947, the year I was born. The big war in Europe was over and returning Black soldiers were appalled and enraged that the service to their nation had done nothing to alleviate the oppression of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was not merely as bad as it had been. It was worse. Returning Black soldiers made racists all over America nervous that their position of supremacy was being threatened.

It would take 20 years to make get a civil rights amendment to the Constitution. Twenty more to make it real and twenty-five years more to get a non-white President into office. It will probably take another twenty before people stop noticing race … if indeed they ever do. Race and the judgments we make based on skin color are so ingrained, so automatic, so very American.

More than apple pie or the flag, we the people love to hate. It’s the most universal of all human behaviors. Not our ability to love but our willingness to hate.

Chadwick Boseman not only looks like Jackie Robinson. He has his swing. I assume they taught him the swing, but they did it very well and really got that gritty baseball “feel” into the movie. Everyone plays their part with authenticity, as those of us old enough to remember the real guys can attest. Maybe that’s the problem with many of the critics: they never saw the real guys, met them, cheered for them. Lived and died with them through the long season of baseball. They don’t remember, but we do.

The cinematography is great, moving smoothly and naturally between wide and close shots to give you the feeling of the game and more. Nice, tight segues. What is even better captured is the intensity of the abuse Robinson was forced to put up with, to swallow without complaint while simultaneously playing at the top of his game. I’d like to see any modern player survive this.

In many ways, Robinson didn’t survive it. He lived through it, but it killed him from the inside. He blasted open the door of the future and it cost him dearly.

Why did Rickey do it? There was a strong moral component. Rickey believed it was the right thing to do and the right thing to do for baseball. But above all, it was a sound business decision. There was a huge pool of talent out there and the Dodgers needed all the help they could get. By bringing in first Jackie Robinson while simultaneously planning to bring up more Black players, Rickey figured he was going to do some serious winning. He was right.

Leo Derocher
Leo Derocher

Christopher Meloni, ex of Law and Order: SVU, nails Leo Durocher, the crazy, quirky Brooklyn Dodger’s manager. He actually looks like Durocher.

If you love baseball, see it. Even if you don’t love baseball, see it anyway. See it for the history, to remember how hard the battle for equal rights was, is and will continue to be. How much baseball, the American pastime, has always been at the center of the American experience.

And finally see it because it’s the story of a genuine red-blooded American hero. In every sense of the word.

From Garry Armstrong:

I have to admit I was tearing up in places even though there’s no cryin’ in baseball. Critics aside, this was no pleasant Hollywood fable but a fairly authentic account of Jackie Robinson, the man and the player and the times that swirled around him.

Much of this is first-hand recall for me. I was 5 years old and already a budding baseball fan in Brooklyn in 1947 when the young player wearing number 42 became a household name. I remember all the excitement in my neighborhood. Some of it I understood. Some of it I didn’t. The newspapers and radio were full of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson and how what they were doing would perhaps cause problems all across the country.

I remember angry things shouted by White people we encountered. I recall some very nice comments offered by White people who frequently said Jackie Robinson was “a credit to your people.”

I followed the Dodgers very closely over the years. I knew their lineup by heart, could emulate their swings and could recite from memory details of their personal lives along with the baseball stuff. In later years, I’d have the good fortune to meet many of the Boys of Summer including Peewee, Campy, Big Newk, Ralphie Branca, Gil Hodges, The Duke (My hero) and Jackie Robinson.

Later, as a reporter, they gave me their own first hand accounts of what it was like – that memorable year of 1947. I would also hear from Red Barber, the legendary sportscaster who called almost all of the games during the ’47 season for the Dodgers. One poignant memory involves a conversation with Campy (Roy Campanella) and Jackie Robinson. I was now a young reporter and a familiar face to many of the aging Dodgers. Campy was always “the diplomat”, pleasant and smiling.

Jackie always seemed angry. I thought he was mad at me sometimes until Campy said he was just “Jackie being Jackie”. The conversation was about how young Black people conduct themselves. Jackie thought many were irresponsible. Campy said they were just kids doing what kids do. Jackie glared at Campy and then smiled at me saying. “You get it, don’t you?”. I just nodded.

Sorry I strayed from the movie but it evoked so many, many memories. And, thanks Harrison Ford, for a splendid portrayal of Branch Rickey!

THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong

I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.

As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.

English: Neil Armstrong descending the ladder ...

So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.

How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.

Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.

I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.

It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.

I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.

I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either. 

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.

Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.

1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.

Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will  make things change and somehow keep the change alive.


Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.

Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band,  “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.

Freedom doesn’t come for free.

LIVING FOREIGN, BEING FOREIGN

The lack of sympathy for foreign-born immigrants in this country might have something to do with how few people in the U.S. ever lived in a different country. If you have never had to learn new customs, different cultural values, and another language, you probably don’t realize how complicated it can be.

With the best will in the world, not everyone learns a new language easily. Moreover, many customs are so ‘built in” to the way we interact with others, it can be hard to “unlearn” them. 

Smiling at strangers, for example, is very American. We do it automatically unless we are alarmed or frightened. In some other countries — Israel was one — a woman smiling casually at an unfamiliar man is considered a “come on.” Learning to not smile automatically is difficult. It’s a physical habit learned when we are very young.

I was also surprisingly bad at learning Hebrew. In almost a decade, I never became fluent. My son, on the other hand, was fluent in a few months. He had always been able to out-talk me in English, but a few months in Israel and he could out-talk me in two languages at the same time.

Israel was, overall, welcoming to newcomers. America, not so much. That makes everything harder for someone new to the country. Considering most non-Native people in the U.S. are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants — being nice shouldn’t be all that difficult. Remember your past. Remember your grandparents. Be civil and perhaps even a bit generous.

If you were never an immigrant, someone in your ancestry probably was. Being kind to those who come here from elsewhere should not be all a trial. Give it a try.

Hating foreigners is like hating yourself. 

THE WHITE HURRICANE: 03-11-1888

Today is my birthday.

It’s also the anniversary of the biggest, baddest blizzard to ever hit the east coast of the United States. The early part of March is frequently stormy. Blizzards are common, though usually the snow melts quickly in the spring.

Woods in winter

I appear to have been destined for snowy climes. This is not only the story of a storm, but a cautionary tale to never forget winter isn’t over until the daffodils are in bloom. You can never overestimate how dangerous weather in this region can be, especially in the spring when wind patterns become unstable.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 11. There had been a blizzard a few days before, but apparently it wasn’t a problem because I was safely born in Brooklyn Women’s Hospital. Nonetheless, throughout my childhood, no one in my family ever forgot to mention the blizzard that had hit right before I was born — they called me “the blizzard baby — and everyone still talked about my birthday storm from 1888.

Home in winter

Early March is a fine time for big snowstorms in the northeast. March 11, 1888 brought the biggest winter storm to ever hit the region. Known locally as the Brooklyn Blizzard of 1888 and up and down the east coast as the Great White Hurricane, it is my birthday blizzard, a foretaste of Marilyn to come. Or something like that.

Downtown crossing right after the 1978 blizzard

It was the worst blizzard to ever hit New York city and broke records from Virginia to Maine. It remains one of the worst — and most famous — storms in United States history. Accumulations of 40 to 50 inches were recorded. It’s hard to picture how much snow that is unless you’ve been through a few really big snowstorms. The deepest snow from one storm in my life so far was 28 inches. That’s only a bit more than half the amount of the 1888 blizzard. Despite all the changes and improvements to technology and infrastructure, that volume of snow would still paralyze us today. It’s more snow than any infrastructure can handle.

Did I mention snow is heavy? 50 inches on a standard roof will cause it to cave in. It would crush us.

It wasn’t merely a snow storm. The super storm included sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds. It was one of those occasions when people get put in their place, forcibly reminded of how strong Mother Nature is.

The storm blanketed areas of  New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It carried with it sustained winds of more than 45 miles per hour. It produced drifts in excess of 50 feet. My house, at its peak, is about 40 feet, so so we are talking about drifts as high as a three-story building.

All forms of transportation were stopped. Roads and railroads were unusable. People were trapped in their houses for up to a week.

The Great White Hurricane paralyzed the U.S. East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The storm extended all the way up into the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The telegraph went down, leaving  major cities including Montreal, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston without communication for days to weeks. Because of the storm, New York began putting its telegraph and telephone wiring underground to protect it from future disasters.

The seas and coastlines were not spared. In total, from the Virginia coast to New England, more than 200 ships were grounded or wrecked and more than 100 seamen died.

130 years later, no winter storm has yet topped the big one of 1888.

Robert Reich: The Meaning of America – http://robertreich.org/

HUMAN RIGHTS


Robert Reich: The Meaning of America
We are forgetting the ideals on which our nation was built.
By Robert Reich / Robert Reich’s Blog February 18, 2018, 2:33 PM GMT


When Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?

Some see a country of white English-speaking Christians.

Others want a land inhabited by self-seeking individuals free to accumulate as much money and power as possible, who pay taxes only to protect their assets from criminals and foreign aggressors.

Photo Credit: Celso FLORES / Flickr CC

Others think mainly about flags, national anthems, pledges of allegiance, military parades, and secure borders.

Trump encourages a combination of all three – tribalism, libertarianism, and loyalty.

But the core of our national identity has not been any of this. It has been found in the ideals we share – political equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and of the press, a dedication to open inquiry and truth, and to democracy and the rule of law.

We are not a race. We are not a creed. We are a conviction – that all people are created equal, that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Political scientist Carl Friedrich, comparing Americans to Gallic people, noted that “to be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.”

That idealism led Lincoln to proclaim that America might yet be the “last best hope” for humankind. It prompted Emma Lazarus, some two decades later, to welcome to American the world’s “tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It inspired the poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie. All turned their love for America into demands that we live up to our ideals. “This land is your land, this land is my land,” sang Guthrie. “Let America be America again,” pleaded Hughes: “The land that never has been yet – /And yet must be – the land where every man is free. / The land that’s mind – the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME –.”

That idealism sought to preserve and protect our democracy – not inundate it with big money, or allow one party or candidate to suppress votes from rivals, or permit a foreign power to intrude on our elections.

It spawned a patriotism that once required all of us take on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going – paying taxes in full rather than seeking loopholes or squirreling money away in foreign tax shelters, serving in the armed forces or volunteering in our communities rather than relying on others to do the work.


Robert Reich is the nation’s 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.


Source for complete post: http://robertreich.org/

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?

I need to admit something up top here. I think I wrote this piece because it includes some of my all time favorite folk music — played by the original people. The final one, “Everything’s Fine Right Now” was a love song from me to my baby in 1969 when my big tall adult was a little, funny kid. So if you don’t feel like reading this, don’t … but play the music. It’s great music. I think that may really be what the world needs more of. Folk music. Lots of it.


When I started writing Serendipity five years ago, I was enthusiastic and full of energy. Undisciplined. All over the place. Writing too much, leaping from subject to subject. Angry one day, mellow the next. Ranting about the wrongs of the world and how we needed to fix everything. I think I knew more when I was younger. I even ranted about philosophy. Imagine that.

And then I just dropped everything and took pictures of autumn leaves.

I was so passionate I probably contradicted myself a dozen time a week, but who was counting?

Parkland along the canal

A hideous election that completely altered my world view — and massive heart surgery — and now, I am living in my nightmare world. I expect awful things and to no ones surprise, that’s what we get. Because somehow, through the perfect storm of politics, we elected the worst possible president and now we are living under his … tweets.

I remember 2012, when I was full-bore into the election and all the positive change I expected to see. The election ended. Gridlock began. The air went out of my bubble. Life got grim and rather ugly. I got sick. I didn’t want to get down in the trenches and duke it out with people with whom I disagreed. I didn’t feel like bothering to call out the crazies for being crazy. I wanted to hear music. Not new music. Old music.

As we head into elections in 2018, we need to be much smarter. Less passionate, more intelligent. Anyone who still thinks voting has nothing to do with them is beyond help. Let’s find people we can help. Let’s give up on all those people who live in a state of blind hate. They aren’t going to change and we will never convince them of anything. More than half the people I hear from are irrational, stupid, and fascist. We aren’t going to bring them to our side. They don’t have a side. They simply hate.

How do you talk to people who are completely irrational? Who don’t care whether what they believe is true or not? People who think their personal feelings are more important than truth? Any truth?

Meanwhile, there’s music.

The current future looks a little bleak. I have started to discover where the cuts to Medicare are. I can’t afford my drugs. I could barely afford them last year, but it’s just February and I’m not optimistic about the upcoming year.  I hope I live to see this disaster end.

I want to move back to the United States. I’m pretty sure — this ain’t it. Are you hearing Phil Ochs singing “I ain’t marching anymore …” Are you wondering where have all the flowers gone?

100 YEARS OF HOT DOGS IN WORCESTER

GEORGE’S CONEY ISLAND HOT DOGS, WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS


It’s an old place, built 100 years ago in 1918. It’s got the biggest neon sign in Massachusetts and for the first time in memory, probably because the place is 100 years old this month, it has made the news. It’s a fun place to go for lunch and while it might not be the best frankfurters on earth (I still think that goes to Nathan’s in the real Coney island), they’re still good to eat. Also, the ambiance is fantastic and Garry — our hot dog maven — says the dogs more than good enough. He should know. They are his favorite all-American food!

Everyone goes there. It’s not expensive and it is basically the same place they built back in 1918. Rather than “renovated,” this place was preserved. The wood is original. The tin ceiling is original. I think the owners are original, or at least original descendants of the folks who built it.

When you see the neon sign at night with the mustard dripping in bright yellow neon lights onto the neon hot dogs, it makes your hard go pit-a-pat.

There’s more!

The walls are so carved with memories, they are as American artistic experience.

George’s Coney Island  is alive and well  in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. If you are interested, click the link. There’s a lot of information about it online. Reviews are available. It’s definitely worth the trip and you’ll love that astonishing, amazing neon sign!