A DIFFERENT WORLD – RICH PASCHALL

Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup was available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as an online product. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

No passengers? Move cargo.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.

“I AM SAMOAN!” DECLARES GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m Samoan. You may not believe it, but a whole bevy of racists in the 1970s believed it and it has become an inside joke in local media  — or at least the retired members of local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early ’70s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was an ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe.

“The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It meant (to me) I was on the right side.

One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also known as “Southie,” where all the action was taking place. A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. They were on the move, coming in to give the hated, lying media a serious tune-up.

At that moment, I had what I call “A Mel Brooks Moment.” An veritable epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best (and most popular) soothing voice.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered. “He’s not a nig__r. He’s Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there and pretty much ran for the truck. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

SHARING MY POLLEN-FILLED WORLD (ACHOO!) – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – 6-16-2020


It rained all winter. I don’t mean we got some rain. I mean we got the equivalent of 12 blizzards — all rain. The result has been a VERY buggy spring and an incredible amount of pollen.

I’m asthmatic, but even a normal non-asthmatic person would have trouble breathing. The pollen is falling so heavily it looks like snow. Garry has glaucoma and the pollen hurts his eyes, so despite the absolutely glorious weather we are getting we are mostly staying in.

What a pity because it really is gorgeous. Cool, dry, sunny. Absolutely comfortable. Perfect weather to do pretty much anything — except maybe the beach. This is frying weather. Torch one side, Baste. Turn over. Torch and baste again.


HAPPY MEMORIES! OH HOW I WISH WE COULD DO IT JUST ONE MORE TIME!


If you can tan, which I have never successfully done — even including one year when we were going cruising (remember cruising?) and I didn’t want to look like a dead white fish — SO I went three times a week for two weeks to a tanning salon to get a tan that vanished in fewer than three days,

I am pale. Very very pale. One year, I turned a very light beige. I pointed out to Garry that I’d managed to get a tan and we put our arms together. He laughed so hard he had to sit down.

So much for tanning.Now, even if I could tan (I should mention that Garry tans more in half an hour in the sun than I do in an entire summer), I wouldn’t be able to breathe. And having had cancer twice, tanning probably isn’t my best warm weather activity choice.

Thus, in the name of removing last year’s mud and muck, we are having our house power-washed. I know Owen was planning to do it and he can in the fall when it will need it again, but right now the house is dirty. Mud, pollen, and a lot of dead and living bugs in all the corners.

Owen is adding a layer of crushed rock along the front of the house so that less mud will splash up onto the house. Also adding more crushed rock in the parking area along the driveway. Good thing crushed rock is cheap in New England. We have a LOT of rocks!

And now, to the questions of the day:

Questions:

What do you think of professional motivational speakers?  Do you think they motivate?

I don’t think they’d motivate me. Every time I try listening to one of these guys (they are almost always guys, but I hear there are women mixed in there who I’ve never heard) and by a paragraph into the shpiel, I’m comatose with boredom. Maybe I just haven’t met the right motivator? Or maybe I’m totally uninterested in getting motivated. Or more than likely, both.

 Do you have a favorite flavor?

Lobster in butter sauce, strawberry ice cream (real ice cream with real strawberries mixed in high quality vanilla), really good fresh peaches, fresh local shrimp, and excellent quality New England clam chowder. The white kind, not the pink or red kind. A perfect baked Idaho potato with butter (not sour cream), angel food cake without any icing, and fresh blackberries. Or raspberries.

And sushi.

While out walking, you hear a rustling in some bushes.  What do you think of?

What kind of animal is it? Do I have a camera?

What’s your ideal temperature (nature-wise)?   Hot, cold, temperate and mild, humid or bone dry?

Right now. About 70 degrees with a light, dry breeze, and sun with some puffy white clouds.

DAY OF THE MONARCHS – Marilyn Armstrong

We named our little sailboat Gwaihir, the wind lord. Really, she was a wind lady and the name was a bit pretentious for such a tiny boat. Somehow, I thought it would be a lucky name. She was a 16-foot Soling with a centerboard. She drew a mere 16-inches with the board up. I used to tell people Gwaihir could sail on a wet hankie and I believed she could.

Soling Drawiing

She was a surprisingly stable craft. We carried a 5 HP outboard motor so when tide and wind were against us, we could still get home. In the old days, sailboats had to drop anchor and wait for one or both to shift. Today, we have to get home for dinner … so we have outboards.

When my husband had the time and felt particularly frisky, we took Gwaihir out through Sloop Channel and Jones inlet into the ocean.

Even a 3-foot roller looks big when you are on the deck of such a small sloop. My then-husband was a madman on the water. He would sail through thunder squalls because he liked the challenge. His father had been equally insane, so I guess he came by it honestly.

Mostly, I piloted her through the salt marshes and canals off Long Island. She was perfect for shallow water sailing. We could sail through nesting plovers, herons, and ducks, silent except for the soft flapping of the jib. The birds were undisturbed by our passage and went about their business, white sails wing-like in the breeze.

One bright day with a warm sun lighting the water and the sky blue as a robin’s egg, I anchored on the edge of a shallow, reedy marsh. I drifted off to sleep as I watched little puffy clouds scoot across the sky.

MonarchButterflies_20090910

I awoke a while later and our white sail was covered with thousands of monarch butterflies. I had drifted into their migration route and they had stopped to rest on my little boat.

I didn’t move or say anything. Just looked up and watched, thinking that if ever there had been a perfect day, crafted for my delight, this was it.

Then, as if someone had signaled, they rose as one and flew onward to complete their long journey, and I sailed home.


Check out AMAZING MATHILDA, Bette Stevens’ inspirational tale of a Monarch butterfly and her meadowland friends. This award-winning children’s book follows the life cycle of an endangered butterfly. It’s a beautiful read and learning experience.


Fandango’s Friday Flashback: June 13, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! PROTESTORS IN UXBRIDGE!

I didn’t think we could organize enough people, but Owen says we have TWO PROTESTORS. One at each (major?) intersection carrying signs. Maybe by tomorrow, we will have three.

I think it’s a miracle especially since Garry is one of only a few dark-skinned people in town.

Arrests in northern BC prompt protests in two Powell River ...

By the end of the week, we could have as many as half a dozen protestors. It means that at least some people in this town understand that something important is happening. It’s nice to know that even out here, people are thinking.

BAD BEHAVIOR TRUMPS RACE, CREED AND GENDER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

What our Coronavirus and riot-plagued world does not need is even more pointless intolerance. There’s no excuse for not using a modicum of civility when dealing with others, especially in the workplace. It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had. Do you know how bad the day of the person you are working with has had? Did you ask? Did you even think about him or her as a person?

We have all been living through the tensest, most frustrating, angst-riddled period since the Civil War. With the way things are going, we could be rerunning the Civil War soon.

In my 40+ years on the TV news trail, I’ve been verbally assaulted by every kind of minority. I understood it was part of my job. Many people seemed to figure it was okay to shoot the messenger.  Early on in my career, I was warned to have thick skin if I wanted to succeed.

That thick skin was tested many times. I was taunted by Black people who called me Uncle Tom or house boy. Labeled by religious fanatics who called me a Christian stooge. Feminists who tagged me as chauvinist. I sucked it up and plowed on to report the facts.

The gasoline bays.

Facts usually silenced my assailants who then wrote hate letters in red crayon.

My good stories were balanced by controversial reports that fanned the flames of ill-tempered people. I probably made it worse by writing the haters “thank you” notes. It further angered the wankers. Civilians who have never worked as journalists are surprised by how often people behave badly toward people who are merely trying their best to do their jobs.

Uhaul for the haulers

So it was that my stepson came home with a story that sounded painfully familiar. Owen manages a local garage which does repairs, inspections and has a mini-mart. He’s known for his work skills. pleasant manner, and humor. He manages to be cordial in the worst of scenarios.


Yesterday, Owen was in the middle completing one job when he was besieged by a man who jumped out of his Mercedes demanding instant access to a Uhaul truck.

Owen tried repeatedly to pacify the agitated fellow, explaining he would not be able to get his Uhaul for a few more minutes until he finished the inspection on which he was working. The customer not only refused to accept any waiting but left his car so it blocked all the gas pumps. When asked to please move his vehicle, he launched into a profane tirade topped by the ever-popular race card.

Owen is white. The angry one was a man of color.

Given several volatile national stories, this local incident had the makings of getting serious. The indignant Mercedes driver was sure the “race card” would pay off.  It almost always works. Owen has heard numerous stories about racism from his step-father (me) who specialized in covering race riots and protest marches dating back to MLK and the Freedom Rights movement. Thanks to his parents and stepdad, Owen is more than typically sensitive to anything that smells of racism.  We joke about it at home — but that’s a different story.

Today’s potentially race-toxic incident was defused by Owen who stood his ground and convinced the angry gent to leave the shop and take his business elsewhere. Eventually, the ante was upped in include a full volume and very firm suggestion that he leave and never return. No Uhaul for him.

Owen in the shop

The race card didn’t end in a riot or even police intervention. Owen is of the opinion that the fancier car he or she is driving, the more arrogant and mean-spirited is the driver. Especially those who drive Mercedes’s and BMWs.

Owen is my step and godson. I’m proud of him. He’s made of stern stuff. This country could use more of him. Way to go, O!

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR – RICH PASCHALL

The Class of South Pacific, by Rich Paschall

Most of your high school and college graduates will not have the pleasure of hearing the typical graduation speeches this year.  Students are usually listening to them in wonder, perhaps even shock at some odd notion.  It seems like a peculiar thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time.

“These are the best years of your life,” a guest speaker may exclaim.  Some may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.”  The best year?

It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere.  “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves.  “What about the next 60 years?  You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”

Are these youthful years the best years of our lives?  Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything?  The answer is a surprising yes, and no.

graduation

When I was in the third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school.  To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit.  Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment.  However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors.  So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.

There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers like me and some I knew from grade school.  There were also new experiences. There were dances and plays.  They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all-boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies.  I took drama, not fourth-year Latin.  I came, I saw, I took something else.

The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends.  The interaction was an education itself.  Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.

The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.”  Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students.  I got the nerve to audition.  I have no idea what I sang.  Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up.  We were going to do South Pacific.  I was rather unaware of it.

I’m in this group, front row just left of center.

Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love.  Learning to play our parts was important.  We were commanded to be professional in everything.  We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.

When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi, and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it.  In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical.  We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us.  We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.

So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education.  We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, and in the gym which was also our auditorium.  We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold.  But was it the best year of my life?  If so, what about all the intervening years?

It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate.  Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so.  Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully, they are all positive.  Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.

While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is at 18 or 21.  Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going.  The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.
If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience.  You may say it was the best time ever.  If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind him to enjoy what he has because it will be the springboard to everything else.  It will be his touchstone.

Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story.  My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance.  I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.”  Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward to a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.

GIVING UP, NOT IN – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost quit any number of times. I didn’t smoke a lot. Less than a pack a day and eventually I got it down to five or six a day and sometimes less. The problem with cigarettes is that one day, for no special reason, you realize you smoked an entire pack. You just sort of forgot you had quit.

In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew because he told us. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies, and the world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was relatively easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in even more than the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “It was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out back and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He did soon thereafter, quit. He decided having kicked narcotics, he could kick cigarettes too. So he did.

I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction that lured me. I understood how bad it was for my health, disastrous to my budget and getting more costly each day. It made my clothing and hair smell like a dirty ashtray. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky.

I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering a desire to smoke.

I am sure today, after more than ten years if I were to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker. Again. It’s not unlike being an alcoholic. One drink and you’re a drunk again.

It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to cigarettes.

It would probably be easier to quit now since most offices are smoke-free. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

THE JOY OF HANGING OUT — MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Hanging out is a concept lost to modern youth, but the most fun times of my young years were spent hanging out. Too bad modern kids have lost it.

I was a teenager in college. Madly in love with my first boyfriend who was seriously into the “Village scene.” He brought me there for my first taste of cold chocolate at a MacDougal Street coffee shop. I took to the Village like the proverbial duck to water.

From the old Italian coffee houses that sold coffee along with a few other non-alcoholic drinks, to the tiny, dingy coffee houses where folk music was born, this was the Heart of Hip. Everything was a 15 cent subway ride from home.

The world was mine.

It wasn’t only the Village, either. A lot of New York was free back then.

Museums were free. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a magical experience. For that matter, the huge New York Public Library behind the stone lions had basements full of original, ancient documents into which you could freely delve. You couldn’t take them out of the library, but they were free for you to absorb. (I have no idea if that’s true anymore.)

You could spend an afternoon at the Hayden Planetarium watching the stars. If you had just a little bit of money, afternoon plays on Broadway could be very cheap, especially if you could live with “standing room only.” In the afternoon, there were always seats available. A lot of things you pay big money, for now, weren’t expensive back when. This wasn’t just a matter of the change of the value of money through the years. It was a huge change in culture.

If you were a teenager, New York on your doorstep was heaven, but Greenwich Village in the 1960s on your doorstep? That was the stuff from which dreams came true.

From Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton to Pete Seeger and Judy Collins … they were all there. The famous, soon to be famous and a few infamous people. All young, making music and passing the basket.

Caffe Reggio — the place where cappuccino (in America) was born.

I’d take the subway and get off at Bleecker Street, alone or in the company of friends. It didn’t matter whether you brought company or went by yourself. There were always people to meet. You didn’t need much money — good because none of us had any. We were kids, mostly without jobs and in school. Those of us not still living with parents lived in apartments shared with other people so we could make the rent and maybe afford food too.

All I needed was subway fare — 30 cents round trip — and a few more cents for a hot (or cold) chocolate at the Reggio. For this pittance, I could spend an entire day and evening in the Village. Hanging out.

“What do you mean “hanging out?” asks my granddaughter.

“You bought a coffee or a hot chocolate and just sat around waiting to see what might happen. You could read or watch people coming and going. Hoping you’d see someone you knew — or maybe wanted to know.”

“That’s it? You just sat around?”

“Yup. Just sat around. And we didn’t sit around with our cell phones because there were no such things. We just sat around. Talking or thinking or reading. It was a quiet place until the music started. That was hanging out. No one told you to hurry — or told you to buy something or leave. It was cool to simply be there.”

Bleecker and MacDougalI often sat with a cup of coffee or chocolate for a whole day. No one pushed us out the door to make way for ‘the lunch crowd.’ No one bothered you unless you looked like you’d like some bothering.

When it got dark, you went to one of the places where people sang. There were usually no entry fees. Hopefully you had enough money to drop something in the basket for whoever was performing. It wasn’t particularly odd to have no money at all. A lot of us walked around with empty wallets. Without wallets, too. Rich was having exactly enough money to buy a coffee and subway tokens. It was okay in the 1960s. Poverty was cool.

Not only were there no cell phones. A lot of people had no phone. People rode bicycles with naked guitars strapped to their backs. Cars? I think most of us didn’t have driver’s licences. I know I didn’t. That was a decade in the future.

People were friendly, funny, and we were sure we were going to change the world. I think we did, though sometimes when I’m in a dour mood, I wonder if all we really did was make denim a fashion fabric.

Out near Hofstra in Hempstead, where I was occasionally attending school and getting far better grades than I deserved, I was a music major and one of the perks were free concert tickets to Carnegie Hall. There’s the “main room” — but there are also a number of “recital halls” where up and coming musicians perform. I’m hoping that’s still true.

Meanwhile, one of my soon-to-be husbands and his best friend decided to bring culture to Long Island. They opened the AbMaPHd (pronounced ab-ma-fid) coffee-house. It was a light-hearted reference to education — AB, MA, and Ph.D. Nobody got the joke.

They brought in the same people who were playing in the Village. Dave Van Ronk gave me my first good guitar strings. He even put them on the guitar for me.

Dave Van Ronk (back then)

What did I do there, in Hempstead? I hung out, of course. Sat around, meeting friends, drinking something, listening to music, meeting musicians. Hanging. I also played bridge upstairs in Memorial Hall instead of attending classes, but no one is perfect.

No one was texting, computing, or phoning. There was no electronic background noise (unless you count the squeal of feedback from the microphones). Nobody’s phone was beeping, dinging, or wailing. No one was going off into a corner to talk on the phone.

If you were going off into a corner, you were either making a date — remember dating? — or buying (or possibly selling) drugs.  All the noise was human. Talking, laughing, fighting, singing, discussing. Eating. Drinking.

It was an incredibly happy time for me, even though I thought I was deeply troubled, probably because I hadn’t really made the full breakaway from home to real life … and also because I’d read too many books about troubled youth and figured I must be one.

I know that whatever kids are doing today, they aren’t having nearly as much fun as we had. I feel sorry for them. We were adventurous, playful, willing to try anything at least once and most of us, more often. If I hadn’t been me during those years, I’d envy whoever had been the girl hanging out. If I miss anything of the “old days”? It’s hanging out. Just being there and doing nothing important.

Being there was enough.

DUKE, THE PIN UP GIRL, AND THE GYRENE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The title probably suggests one of those old “B” films from old Hollywood. It was usually the second feature and ran while we scooted from our front row seats to get hot dogs, popcorn, and a Godzilla-sized Coke.  You could hear giggles and lots of frantic searching for coins to pay for our goodies.

This is the 2020 version of that old relic which usually featured John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Ward Bond/John Payne/John Carroll in the title roles.

Duke

Duke, of course, is the newest member of our furry family. He’s the one who’s injected new energy into the household even if today’s pictures suggest otherwise. Duke is always good for laughs as our court jester.  He’s the very randy suitor of Princess Bonnie who’s very particular about her men.  Bonnie, no doubt, was dreaming about some of the passionate lover affairs from her gilded past.

The eyes of the Duke

Bonnie, it turns out, is also a cover girl. She’s “Miss May” in the calendar on a kitchen wall. She’s the face that could launch a thousand ships. Bonnie has more internet followers than the tweeter-in-chief, much to his agitated dismay.

Then, there’s the Gyrene. The young Gyrene. Garry Armstrong in his USMC uniform – almost 61-years ago when Dwight Eisenhower was the Commander-In-Chief.

Armstrong, the Private E-1, who somehow enlisted right after high school graduation,  from comfy, cozy Long Island to the heat, bugs, and D.I. hell of Parris Island, the USMC training base. Young Garry, inspired by John Wayne movies, envisioned a career as a Marine and then life as a movie star. Great expectations all the way!

Garry’s hearing disabilities, miraculously, were not uncovered until months and many exams in basic training.  Leather-necked drill instructors were dismayed to learn of Garry’s hearing problems. They had him branded as a wise-ass Yankee “boot” who laughed in the face of their heavy-handed efforts to terrorize all the young Marines in that long-ago summer and autumn of ’59.

Garry, the young Gyrene in 1959

This came on the heels of a national scandal about alleged harsh treatment of fuzzy faced Marines in the swamps that surrounded Parris Island.

Garry’s departure, on medical grounds, from the Marines left many of those hard-nosed Sergeants melancholy,  deprived of their favorite target to toughen the young Leathernecks.  It was a story retold many times in years to come. Oo-rah!

The face that launched a thousand cookies!

Sixty-one years later, Bonnie and Duke are unmoved by Garry’s colorful recollection of his brief time in the United States Marine Corps. They are recharging their batteries for another marathon barkathon later today and tonight, a major barkathon to wreak havoc on the now old gyrene and his bride.

The furries show NO RESPECT for the old, mumbling and grumbling leatherneck.

Semper Fi!

ARMS AND WRISTS AND HANDS, OH MY! – Marilyn Armstrong

Repetitive motion issues are a bitch and they are almost universal for people who spend a lot of time on a keyboard, or a piano, or sewing, or other small hand-muscle activities.

My wrist and shoulder have been ongoing problems since I was in my twenties. Yes, they can last a whole lifetime if you never really stop what is causing the problem. Which is my problem. Almost all the stuff I like doing involves many small hand muscle activities. My right arm is getting very impolite about it.

And then there’s also arthritis.

My right arm is issuing orders that I stop lifting and putting back this heavy computer every day all day. So I’m not going to do much. I really need to let that shoulder calm down. It’s hard to not use the computer these days when our world is permanently at home, but my shoulder is pretty bad. Even the lidocaine patch that usually makes it feel better didn’t entirely work.

Meanwhile, my wrist and hand are sore — and it’s all repetitive motion issues which are really my problem and only I can fix it. Every time it gets a wee bit better, I start using it again and it is definitely annoyed with me.

When it feels better, I will do more. Right now, it’s reminding me of what I failed to do and not it’s making me pay. Oops.

Also, there’s again. After a certain point in time, whatever is going on in your body, aging has something to do with it. It makes it worse, it makes it more difficult to overcome. You don’t recuperate quickly past 60 and even less after 70. So when you fail to heed early signs of problems and you go ahead and let them get worse, you are going to pay. Soon.

So now I’m going to do what I would have done a week ago. Let the arm rest.

SHARING MY WORLD IF ANYONE’S INTERESTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 5-4-2020


What can you break even if you don’t touch it?  Yes, there is a real answer to this.  I’ll reveal it in the next week sometime.  Still, answer how you would like – no right or wrong answer.

I feel like this is an Alice in Wonderland question, along the lines of “How is a raven like a writing desk?” The answer to that one is that they are in no way alike. It’s just there to annoy the reader. As for this one, I think of bubbles and other floaty things, but really I haven’t the slightest idea. I’ll be waiting for an answer!

What’s the most useful thing you own?

Probably my computers, but after that, the countertop oven I used for almost everything except baking in pans that won’t fit in the small oven — which is about four times a year.

That little oven has saved me hundreds of dollars in electricity and when it finally dies (so far, so good!), I’m going to get another one just the same as this one. When something works, stick with it until necessity whacks you in the head.

What’s The Silliest Reason You’ve Ever Gotten Into A Fight With Someone Over?

Silliest? There have been so many stupid/silly arguments over the years, I could never work out how many there have been. Zillions? Millions? Thousands? Hundreds? Definitely dozens. Also, how funny is a matter of opinion and could probably start one more fight about something utterly ridiculous.

If You Were A Snake, How Long Would You Want To Be?   No, size does not matter. 

I should think size is the only thing that matters, but I’m not a snake so who knows? As a person, I’m really short, so size definitely matters. Half the time, when my son is home, I call him by yelling “TALL!”

Big ladder for short person

He gets all the stuff from the top shelves. I used to be tall enough to stand on my toes and get stuff, but I can’t do that anymore. Too short. I have shrunk by 4-inches because my spine is sort of twisted.

EXTRACTION FROM THE MIRE OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

The endless recitation of woes on blogs I used to enjoy is giving me a headache. It’s not a lack of personal sympathy. It’s more like emotional exhaustion. So many people seem to be stuck in the mire of misery that began in childhood.

Don’t they want to move on? The quagmire of despair has become comfortable. They have moved in and made misery their home. Some of these bloggers continue exploring the depths of their suffering for hundreds — thousands? — of posts. Many are closing in on Social Security yet are still suffering from childhood trauma. So much for time casting a rosy haze over the past.

There ought to be a legal cutoff date at which point you are required to close the book on whatever awful experiences life has dealt you. At some point, there ought to be a law forcing you to come to grips with your rotten childhood and terrible former relationships. Or at least be required to find another subject about which to write.

we are not our mistakes

I know lots of people who were abused as children. I was. My brother was. Many of the people to whom I sold or gifted my book had never been able to talk about it before.  I helped more people to be able to talk about it. It was a big deal for me.

Because we don’t talk about it. We act like we are the guilty parties. It seems that more folks than not grew up in dysfunctional families … and each dysfunction was different than any other. And anyway, who hasn’t had a terrible relationship or three?

I plead guilty on all charges, your honor.

It was my first husband (before you ask, he was the one who died) who gave me a Gibbs slap and got me to get it together. This was before my second marriage, the one in which I managed to step in front of the same bullet I’d previously dodged.


Note to Self: We never get too old to act like morons.


Jeffrey didn’t have a storybook childhood either (who did?), so he had his own issues to resolve. One day, when I was going on about my father he said: “You know, you’ve told me these stories before. Several times. Maybe it’s time to move on.” It was good advice and I wish he’d taken it.

You have to want to move on. It took time and work, but I’m glad I did it. There have been plenty of new traumas and I doubt I’d have survived if I hadn’t cleared the decks. Nowadays, I’m overloaded. I cannot bear to read another angst-laden tale of abuse and emotional trauma. I’m aware is its, was awful.

Been there. Survived. I support all efforts to free oneself from the lingering effects of the past are hard. We are so stubborn about the bad stuff we’ve gone through. Why is pain so much clingier than good times? There’s enough misery to go around without adding more.

For all of us, maybe it’s time to stop defining ourselves as the worst times in our lives.

  • We are not what others did to us.
  • We aren’t our mistakes.
  • As much as we have suffered, we’ve also found fun, joy, friends, love. It’s just so much easier to remember the pain.

We empower misery and dismiss happier times.

Misery is like a piano falling on your head; happiness just creeps up on you. The result? Long after the people who hurt us have disappeared from our lives, they are still beating us up.

Let’s celebrate the good times. Who couldn’t use a few good laughs? Especially now. I was SURE today was Thursday. It’s Wednesday. By Sunday, it might be next month. Who can tell?

THROWING IN THE TOWEL – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s a lot of news right now and it’s more personal than usual. One of the things I’m trying to find out is how infectious Worcester County is, but I can’t find out. We have no testing program so nobody knows anything. Nonetheless, I try every day to find out something that I really won’t find out.

We are the place with snow and long commutes

I also want to know why we haven’t gotten checks yet. “Get My Payment” says we are getting checks and they even know our account number, but no money. Each day I hope to see a notice telling me when we are getting checks. I yearn and I wait.

Today I proved conclusively that I can’t manage to write, take pictures, process photographs and still have time to read something that isn’t someone else’s post. I went and deleted more than 200 posts that I was hoping to read and realized I never would because by morning there will be another 200. I swear there are more each day.

I keep hoping that I’ll be able to get it all done, but I can’t. No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t make the day any longer. So here I am at 1:30 in the morning writing a post for tomorrow morning. You’d think with all this isolation we’d have more time, but we don’t. I have less time and I don’t know why. Apparently doing nothing takes more time than doing something.

Our working kitchen and the autumn outside

So if I don’t get to you, it’s not you. It’s me. I’m lost in a tidal wave of email and news and photographs waiting for processing.  And I have never in my life wanted less to clean my house. I do it anyway. I wasted at least an hour and a half by cleaning the toaster, the rice-maker, discovered the paper towel dispenser was glued to the counter by what I suspect was gravy. So I cleaned it and the counter.


And this on about 3 hours of sleep because Bonnie barked all night. We tried to keep her up all day so she’d be tired tonight and disinclined to furious barking. We discovered that you cannot keep a dog awake when he or she wants to sleep. Dogs don’t get insomnia.