R&R WITH OLD FRIENDS – Garry Armstrong

It was our time for a bit of R & R in the lush Connecticut woods, far from the madding crowd. It’s another world where we can recharge our life force and mental batteries.

Home

Our hosts are the kindly friends for whom we are grateful. We’ve known Tom for more than 50 years dating back to our days in college when we and our world was young. We’ve known Ellin – it seems forever – or since she married Tommy and immediately improved the quality of life for all of us.

Our mini-vacation included time at the marina where everyone seems utterly relaxed — except when they are rehabbing their boats for another summer on the water. The much-maligned weather put on a good face for us.

Ellin
Tom

Sunshine and summer-like temperatures were abundant. It was warm but not uncomfortable. The breeze from the water made it almost perfect as we relaxed for an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing.

Marilyn and the camera
Garry at pier’s end

Tom apologized for not taking the boat out because the water was a bit too choppy for his taste. No worries, we repeatedly told him as we soaked up the afternoon sun, chatting about stuff that brought giggles and contentment. Really. NO worries!

I enjoyed looking at the names of the boats in the marina and wondering about the folks who owned them. I’ve never wanted to own a boat but have fantasies, thanks to Bogie in “Key Largo” and other movies which romanticize the boating life.

Ellin socializing on the pier

I’ve always thought I’d name my boat “The Busted Flush” after fictional detective Travis McGee who chased bad guys in his trusty little houseboat which also provided room for romantic interludes with his miscellaneous yet somehow dubious love interests. Hey, just a passing fancy.

Tom has schooled me in the difficulties of keeping “Serenity” in running condition. I’m good being a guest.

There’s so much to see just relaxing with Tommy and Ellin in the Marina. The setting is soothing. You can drift off mentally without a worry. No obsessing about what’s happening in our politically-challenged world. That stuff is blocked out for a few precious hours. I could actually feel my heartbeat slowing. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tom and Ellin on the boat

Back at “La Casa Bonita” of Tom and Ellin, it’s more of the easy life — at least for us, the guests. The conversation ramps up during the evening “News Hour.” Imagine sitting between two guys who’ve logged 80 years in network and top market TV News.  The old, war stories fill the air spiced with profanities that befit we who ducked idiot management suits from the “Tricky Dick Era” to today’s “Follies of Donzo.”

We can name drop with the best of them. Hell,  Tom and I have probably sent myriad suits seeking psychiatric care because we refused to tolerate their idiocy.

Tom is the master of his impressive entertainment room. He’s introduced Marilyn and me to shows and movies we never knew existed.

Tom, the telly, and Remy
One thing that impressed me — I looked and looked around the walls and notices no awards reflecting Tommy’s long and accomplished career at the highest level of TV News. I know he’s been in the cross-hairs of some of the biggest news stories over half a century. No collection of hardware — unlike me.  Tom doesn’t need any stinkin’ bodges.
Lexi

Marilyn and I were very reluctant to leave Tommy and Ellin and the comfy good feeling they bestowed on us, but our dogs were calling us homeward.

We have an invite to return with Tommy taking us for a trip aboard “Serenity” when the seas are smoother. I’m already dreaming about it.

A FEW PICTURES FROM HOUSE AND SHORE – Garry Armstrong

I took most of the pictures. Marilyn was off-duty this time. There are a lot more, but this is a little taste of our weekend with Tom and Ellen.

We didn’t go out because the sea was a bit high, but we had a fine time just hanging out in the marina.

Cleaning the boat
Still cleaning the boat
On the dock – Ellin’s in blue
Along the dock — Can you spot Tom?
A little cloud over the Curley’s house

THE START OF BOATING SEASON – BY ELLIN CURLEY

From New Years on, Tom counts down the days until he can start working on the boat to get it ready to go back in the water. It spends its winters shrink wrapped and up on pilings in the parking lot of the marina, squashed together with all the other beached boats.

The first thing we have to do each spring is getting off the shrink-wrap. This involves lots of cutting and rolling of the large sheets of plastic protecting the boat from the winter elements. This usually takes one day, which is not too bad. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Then comes the cleaning, which is a big production. The bottom has to be painted and the hull has to be waxed and buffed. On a 40-foot boat, that’s a lot of waxing and buffing!

It also has to be over 55 degrees and dry for Tom to be able to do this kind of work and this year the weather has not been cooperating.

We had a few warmer days and he got a lot done, but then it either rained or was too cold for over a week. Tom’s brother came down to help him work on the boat, but they only got one good day out of four. This time of year the weather is always erratic, but it seems to be getting more schizophrenic each year.

Big pile of cut plastic rolled up next to the boat

The fiberglass and the metal railings on the inside of the boat also have to be cleaned and Tom likes to get this done while the boat is out of the water. That’s because once the boat is in the water, Tom gets lazy and just wants to relax and enjoy it.

My job is the interior cabins on the boat. While it’s still out of the water, I do the annual thorough cleaning. Everything is covered in black soot and dirt and is disgusting. I throw away a garbage bag full of black paper towels. But I persevere and clean every inch of the boat, including the two toilets, the bathroom floors (by hand) and the shower. This is my least favorite day of the year.

The deck inside the shrink wrapping

Once I’ve cleaned the inside, I take home all the sheets and towels, wash them, bring them back to the boat and make the bed and put the clean towels out.

My pile of laundry for the boat.

Then I have to stock the kitchen. I have to wait until the boat is in the water because the only way onto the boat in the parking lot is by ladder and I don’t want to carry heavy grocery bags up a shaky ladder. Stocking the kitchen is like stocking a house – I have to buy every necessary item in my kitchen, starting from scratch.

I need basics like coffee and tea, salt, pepper and sugar, herbs and spices, condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce, and salad dressings, and items to cook with like butter, oil, vinegar, chicken stock, onions, tomato sauce, etc. Then there’s snack food and company food because people are always stopping by for a drink on the dock. So I need cheese and crackers, chips and dips as well as cookies and other sweets.

The other trick in shopping for a boat, is I have to try and find the smallest versions of everything so I can fit it all in my small kitchen.

When the kitchen is stocked, my last job is to clean the deck and the flybridge. That has to be done last because Tom keeps all of his cleaning items strewn all over these areas. It looks like a bomb went off at West Marine. Once he finishes his cleaning and puts everything away, I get to do the final job.

That’s when the boating season officially begins for us.

Anchors Away!

SPRING HAS SPRUNG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t love summer because I’m very sensitive to heat. I actually feel sick when I get hot because my sweat glands don’t work properly and I rarely sweat. Great savings on antiperspirant bills but it sucks when everyone else is happily sitting outside in the sun and I’m stuck inside with the air conditioning.

Apple Blossoms

So, summer is not my favorite time, even though I have a boat and summer is the prime boating season. I spend most of my boat days – you guessed it – sitting in the air-conditioned cabin, often by myself. Even my loyal dog, Lexi, who usually follows me everywhere, lays in the sun on the deck on a nice day and abandons me to the interior of the boat.

Daffodils

But spring is great. The obvious joy of spring is watching the grass and the flowers and the leaves bloom, turning the world from grey to a rainbow of colors.

Spring!

Spring is when my waterfall is fully flowing. I can open the windows to hear that wonderful sound throughout the house. In the summer, the stream usually dries up since we have less rain and more heat. So the view from my window is glorious – a picturesque waterfall in the middle of a continually greening wood.

The stream

Another, more pedestrian plus of spring is putting away my darker and heavier winter clothes and pulling out the bright-colored clothes of this bright-colored season.

I pay particular attention to my spring/summer wardrobe because when I hang out on the boat, I schmooze with people every day, as opposed to winter when I can go days without seeing anyone other than Tom. And when I make my rounds to the Post Office and the local stores and coffee shop, people can see what I’m wearing because I’m not wearing a coat that covers up what is underneath.

Brighter colors of spring

Not wearing socks is another wardrobe benefit of spring and summer.

My socks bunch up all the time and I have to take my shoes or boots off regularly to adjust them so I can walk comfortably.

There’s also the problem of navy versus black socks. I can’t seem to tell the difference in my bedroom, but as soon as I get downstairs, I can tell immediately that I’ve picked the wrong one and have to go back upstairs and change. (Yes, I care!)

Sock drawer, abandoned in the spring

Not wearing a coat or a sweater is also a spring thing. Outside, the temperature is perfect (same in the early fall) so no outerwear is necessary.

I don’t have to wear a sweater inside because the air conditioning everywhere isn’t at full blast as it is in the summer. I always carry a sweater with me throughout the summer in case I am subjected to frigid A/C’s.

Sweaters necessary indoors in A/C weather

Spring also means that the many local farms in my town reopen their markets and I can get beautiful, fresh produce and other gourmet treats, right in my backyard. The freshly baked bread is awesome!

In the offseason, I have to drive 20 minutes each way to a supermarket to even get an onion or a potato. Now these staples, as well as the seasonal fruits and vegetables, are just a few minutes away.

Tom is happy in the spring because he can start working on the boat, preparing it to go back in the water in May. So spring has a lot going for it in my world. I don’t hate winter, like most people, and I love snow, but spring really is a lot better.

Except for the hordes of tiny black ants that invade my kitchen every spring. Here they come! Get out the ant traps!

THE WOODEN BOAT FESTIVAL 2019 – by Taswegian1957

I really love wooden boats. I don’t want to take care of one, at least not at this point in my life but there was a time where I wanted nothing more than a teak boat. To have it where I could personally put so much sealant on it that it would glow in the dark. With canvas sails, too.

Our Other Blog: Two Sisters and Two Points of View

Here is a more cheery post than I’ve done recently. Today is the first day of the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart. It is only on once every two years so I didn’t want to miss it. As I was not sure if the bus would be running from Geeveston I opted to stay an extra day with Matt and Ally and go from their place leaving Matt to doggy sit Cindy.

I got a ride to town with Ally who had to work and arrived around 11:30am. Of course, as it was the first day, not all the boats had arrived and many were making their way into the harbour when I arrived. The tall ships that are usually on display were not due until the afternoon and unfortunately, I was not able to stay to see them.

There were still a lot of very nice ones to see…

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THE END AND THE BEGINNING – Marilyn Armstrong

According to Google, both the 70th and hundredth anniversaries are honored with platinum gifts.  Since Earth Abides is just a year short of its 70th anniversary, George R. Stewart’s epic work is approaching platinum. One year to go.

In the meantime, I finally got Garry to listen to it with me. It’s funny how many times I’ve read it and listened to it. This is the first time I spent the whole second half of the book crying. Probably because this is a book about the rebirth of the world after a plague wipes out most of humanity.

Maybe it’s all the stress about the near demise of our current world, but somewhere around the middle, I started crying and couldn’t quite stop. I think Garry was crying too.

Ish's Hammer(1)

The novel was published on October 7, 1949.  It immediately caught the attention of reviewers for its well-written, epic tale of humans living in a world they no longer dominate.

One later reviewer went so far as to call it “… a second work of Genesis.”  With its title from Ecclesiastes and the old testament rhythm of its language, it is biblical in its feeling. But not dull.

Stewart later insisted he didn’t intend it to be a religious work.  But even he admitted that there was “a certain quality there.”  The language was one thing.  Stewart taught himself Hebrew before he wrote the book.  He wanted to translate portions of the Bible into more modern English.  He was surely influenced by the style of ancient Hebrew.

The book has had an enormous influence on Science Fiction as an art form. To call this “the original post-apocalyptic story,” Stephen King based The Stand on Earth Abides, Grammy-nominated composer Philip Aaberg wrote “Earth Abides,”  Jimi Hendrix was inspired to write “Third Rock From the Sun” from the novel (his favorite book). Other authors and scientists honor Stewart’s works.  It is published in either 20 or 27 languages, depending on who you ask.

There is some talk about producing a film version of the novel, but it’s a book made up almost entirely of talk and thought.  To make it work on TV or in a film, they’d have to add “action.” It would be something, but not this book.

 

ligda

Earth Abides is a “foundation book.” It is frequently cited as “the original disaster” story. But isn’t a disaster story or post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s the end and the beginning.

Earth Abides was the first recipient of the medal for Fantasy Novel.


You might think the technology in the story is going to be old and silly. Except, everything fails immediately when the electricity stops. It doesn’t matter what you had. If you don’t have electricity, you have nothing. 

The plague is the starting point. The important part is how humankind copes with the tragedy as scattered remnants of people slowly find one another, form groups and rebuild. The earth itself revives and finds balance.

The book was re-released as a 60th-anniversary edition in 2009, including the audio version with an introduction by Connie Willis. It’s now 2018 (going on 2019) — making it just a year short of 70 years. The book is not merely relevant. By my standards, it’s optimistic.

It’s available for Kindle, Audible download, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback. There was a time when it was hard to find, but it seems to have found its way back into bookstores and libraries.  I’m glad. It remains among my top five all-time favorite books. If you haven’t read it, there’s no time like the present.

Now that Garry has read it, he won’t forget it. It’s not a book you forget.


A final note: Despite the fact that both “Storm” and “Fire” have been out of print for years, both books are available as Audiobooks. I had an extra credit and finally decided on “Fire” only because it was based on a real fire, one of the first that blazed through California. “Storm” is a combination of fiction and science — something that could happen and given the way the weather is these days, probably will. But just so you audio listeners know, George R. Stewart’s “Fire” and “Storm” are both ready for listening. 

BOAT DOGS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom’s brother, Todd, came down to visit for a week and he brought his six-month-old Catahoula Leopard Dog, Houla. with him. It was like having a toddler around! We spent four days on the boat with the three dogs. It was exhausting to supervise the puppy, but it was also a lot of fun.

Here are some photos from our time on the boat with our dogs.

Houla taking in the view from the outside
Lexi on the flybridge, chilling
Remy looking in from outside the cabin
Houla on the path leading to the bow
Remy with Todd and Tom driving the boat
Remy and Lexi on the path to the bow
Remy hanging out in the sun on the bow
Remy looking out the side of the boat
Remy looking out of the gate at the boat entrance