HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, JEFF – Marilyn Armstrong

I married Jeff in 1965. I was 18, he was 26. I was still finishing my B.A. Both Jeff and I needed to get out of our parent’s homes and make a life. It was a  classic “jailbreak” marriage and for a long time, it worked well.

But time marched on and I wanted to move on. He wanted everything to stay the same — and so we parted. I went to Israel and he stayed where he was.

Graphic Jeff, Studio A

When I was sad, Jeffrey used to sing to me. This is the song he sang.

For one birthday, I bought him a wind-up snow globe. It played “You Are My Sunshine” and had a big green frog on a lily pad in the water. When you wound it, it played that song. He kept the globe as long as he lived, which was not nearly long enough.

Happy birthday, Jeff. You would have been 80 years old today and I wish you were alive so I could tease you about your age.

You should still be here.

A GRADUAL CONGREGATION – Marilyn Armstrong

It turns out, there are a lot of variations of congregate meaning “to get together, join together, group together, party hearty.”

With some fish, it also means collaboration to make baby fish. Or is that conjugation?

But there is no word which means “someone who congregates.” No congregator. Congregationalist? Congregationistic? Congruent?

 Way back when, in the days when I had energy, enthusiasm, and I liked most people, I was much more enthusiastic about “getting together.” I was considered sociable and I almost agreed with that.

I was never quite as sociable many thought. I was a party “edge person.” I would look for whoever was standing along at the edges of a party and engage them in conversation. I never like big groups of people in one place because you couldn’t have a conversation with anyone when everyone was trying to talk.

I made exceptions when I gave the party because if it was my party, I didn’t expect to engage in conversation. Party giving was more about flitting about and making sure everyone else was having a good time. I gave a few good parties through the decades (generations?), but mostly, I preferred having a friend or two or three — and a great conversation about everything.

Remember conversations that lasted until dawn? We covered philosophy, government, the meaning of life. Travel to the stars, reincarnation and the best books we’d read lately. No one was bored or left out.

Later, people got old. Died. Drifted into a world of their own, moved to senior housing “somewhere near their kids” which was always hundreds of miles from us. Others simply drifted.

What we had previously held in common — work — it was no longer relevant after we all had stopped working.

Those of us with functional marriages who really liked our partners have been lucky. Singleness is fine when you are active enough to travel and gadabout, but these days, it’s an abiding joy to have a partner whose hand you can hold while you watch old movies, cuddled by dogs with cold noses.

We’ve been talking lately about how few friends we have remaining. This isn’t unusual at our age. People leave and don’t come back. Many others don’t like traveling. Or driving any distance. More don’t like going to places with which they are unfamiliar. Everyone like their own bed.

If you have pets, it gets increasingly difficult to find someone to take care of them, especially as your pets get old, too.

We still have friends. They are old friends. Friends forever. Who knew the people we knew and share memories of the times through which we’ve lived. Have common political and philosophical beliefs — and hopefully enjoy the same movies.

So let us congregate to our greater enjoyment! Or try, anyhow.

A LOOK BACK: THE SHORT AND TO THE POINT 2018 EDITION – BY TOM CURLEY

So, 2018 is over. Like any end of the year, the last few weeks were filled with “Year End Retrospectives.” A year ago I wrote this blog.

I hate year-end retrospectives.

Especially this year. A year ago, all anybody could talk about was just how much 2016 sucked. And it did. But then, along came 2017.

2017 said to 2016 “Here, hold my beer” Then along came 2018 who said to 2016 and 2017 “Pussies! Let me show you how it’s really done.”

So here’s myYear End Retrospective, The Short and To-The-Point-2018-Edition.” And yes, I’m doing it in 2019. Why? Because I’m a rebel because I’m going rogue because I only remembered I wrote it last year on New Year’s Eve this year.  So here it is, 2018 month-by-month.

January. Well, that sucked.

February. God, that really sucked.

March. Are you kidding me? How much more can this possibly suck?

April. This can’t get worse.

May. It got worse.

June. Are you fucking kidding me!?

July. This is just not happening.

August. Well, that just happened. WTF?!

September. This is insane.

October. No, he’s insane.

November. Shit, he is REALLY insane.

December. This insanity has to end.

🎇🎶 Happy New Year. 🎶🎇

At least we still have Betty White.

PS: And to start the New Year off on a good note, I give you two dogs playing “I got your nose.”

MY FAVORITES CARTOONS OF 2018 – Marilyn Armstrong

I love to laugh. I love wit. I adore cleverness and am particularly enamored of very smart people, which is probably one of the many, many reasons I am so deeply disappointed by our government. Not only are they completely wrong about pretty much everything, but they are also utterly lacking in humor. If they are going to be this awful, can’t they even be funny? Each of them has undergone a humorectomy or maybe they were born that way.

Is not having a sense of humor a genetic abnormality?

I love cartoons. Political, literary, or just goofy. Love them all. Love the artwork, love the little jokes within the jokes. Of course, some of these were originally published years ago, but this is the year I discovered them.

This has been a year of political cartoons. Not surprising being as this country has become a political cartoon.

Alternate science is when you ignore the news warnings about the fire and wait until your house is on fire — or YOU are!

Dave Granlund / politicalcartoons.com

Bannon may be gone, but he left his hatred behind.

Nicer Trump cartoons, please!
Definitely NOT a witch hunt!

Chris Britt / Illinois Times
A very important cartoon!

We used to worry about drunk drivers. Now we worry about texting, watching movies and once, we saw a guy driving by reading a huge BOOK. While driving. And they put movies in cars. What could go wrong with that?
Yes, offending people might make other people feel uncomfortable … or does it?
Speaking of time …
Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a brand new red hat. And this was written years before we started locking up children in baby jails. What do you think Dr. Seuss would say about that!
Torture? No problem!

Didn’t you hear? The NRA is also taking Russian money.

This year has given America a migraine. Probably so will next year.
A personal favorite. I got contact lenses — and no one noticed any difference in my appearance. Not even my brother.
You need at least ONE literary comic, right? People still read, don’t they?

Back when we used to get newspapers, Bizarro and Doonesbury were the two comics I followed. Both are still around, by the way. They did an interview with Gary Trudeau — who is married to Jane Pauley, so she interviewed him herself. I never knew he was married to a news anchor.

Didn’t we fight this battle before?
And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …
Trump-A-Dog

And finally, a happy New Year from Gary Trudeau and all the great cartoonists in what is still a sort of free-ish country!

Happy New Year and let’s hear it for more of the same!

Here’s to a better year. To quote Jim Jefferies, “We can all do better!”

SO, HOW ABOUT NEW YEAR’S EVE? – Rich Paschall

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly, your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Happy New Year!

Since there seem to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be more or less logical. Restaurants, bars, and hotel ballrooms all have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound.

For some strange reason, everyone is expected to have a plan.

One year, when downtown Chicago still had a glut of movie theaters, I was on a double date at a late showing of a movie that finished up just before midnight. I do remember which movie, but not the date. We had just enough time to empty out into the intersection of State Street (that great street) and Randolph where Chicago used to conduct a poor man’s version of the final countdown. Since it was quite cold and we were not loaded with anti-freeze, we stayed for the countdown and ran off for warmer places. It was an experience I do not need again. If I watch the ball drop in Times Square, it will be on television from another locale.

Since then I have ventured to house parties, bar parties, restaurants, and shows, but I am not sure any of these supposed grand events were particularly memorable. They certainly did not ring out like many of the grand events we see in the movies. If you missed all of them, then I will suggest that you put “movies with new year’s eve scenes” in your internet search so you can find a lot of them. Maybe you will get some cool ideas.

Since the death of one year and the dawn of another seem to evoke feelings of nostalgia, then you may know that “When Harry Met Sally” contains one of the most memorable and nostalgic New Year’s scenes of all. Indeed it is the climax of the “will he or won’t he?” scenario. It has all led up to one fateful New Year’s Eve moment.  The typical New Year’s Eve hoopla only adds to the drama of the moment.  (SPOILER ALERT). I love making dramatic “spoiler” pronouncements, and here is that great scene from one of our favorite movies.

The director of the movie needed no special music as “Auld Lang Syne” made the perfect background song. And what does this sentimental tune actually mean? We don’t know, something about goodbye and hello. It doesn’t matter, our sentimental feeling just associates with it and that is all that counts. So will you have a sentimental moment?

For some gentlemen, the coming of New Year’s is met with all the anxiety of asking someone to the high school prom. You know you are supposed to do something. You know it is supposed to be really good. You know it is going to cost you money, which you are not supposed to care about. You also know, just like the high school prom, you might get shot down when you ask the “jackpot question.” Unless you want to get teased by family and friends, you may just have to ask the question anyway.

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Did you ask yet? What was the answer? If you haven’t asked, what are you waiting for?

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show and stars in “The Orville.”

OUR MANAGEABLE LITTLE CHRISTMAS AND HOW IT GOT THAT WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was little, everyone’s trees were covered in tinsel and some fluffy white stuff. It imitated snow on the branches of your tree and placed judiciously, was quite lovely. The white fluffy stuff was banned because it was mostly fiberglass. It was lethal to pets and dangerous for people, too.

2003

As for tinsel, I think it was a cleanup issue. It got into everything. Animals ate it, including dogs, cats, and baby rug-rats. It did look very pretty, all silvery on the trees. It came in other colors too, but I don’t think most people really got “into” the pinks and oranges and blues.

From when I married Jeffrey in 1964, we had ‘real’ trees. It was a family thing, to get the biggest tree you could, then spend hours reconstructing it with saws and wires to make it look perfect

2015

Real Christmas trees weren’t expensive, either. Even though they made an awful mess (I was usually still trying to get those dried pine needles out of the wood floors a year later when the new tree was going up), it wasn’t a big deal to get a tree and there was a tree lot on every corner.

2017

Then one year — it must have been during the late 1970s — the price shot up and a tree that had cost $10 the previous year was $50 the next.

We still got a real one until the end of the 1970s when Jeff and I divorced and I moved to Israel.

2014

By the time I came back from Israel (August 1987), a $10 tree was $100. Garry and I bought got real ones for a few years when we had the townhouse in Boston. One was so perfect — and so WIDE — it took up the entire living room. The following year I tried to find an unreal tree that would fit into our actual space.

Christmas cactus – 2018

Then we moved here and since we live 5 doors down from an actual Christmas tree farm (which today I noticed is for sale, so there goes Arrowhead Farms!), you could choose your tree in August or September, watch it grow, then cut it down yourself immediately before you were ready to put it up. Talk about a FRESH tree.

I never had trouble putting up the tree and everyone was eager to help decorate it, but no one ever wanted to take it down or put away the decorations. We still had a tree standing one year on my birthday in March.

2016

We had a few more live ones after that, but the bloom was coming off the rose. Even a six-foot tree took up more room than we could really give it. There was nowhere to walk around it — and the dogs were always trying to eat the glass ornaments.

NO ONE wants their dogs eating glass anything, much less those fragile ornaments. Cats just liked to play with them, but the dogs liked a good hefty bite! Then, for a while, it became almost impossible to get glass ornaments. Some sort of national agreement that all decorations would be plastic.

A few years ago when my son and his family moved out, Garry and I realized we didn’t need gigantic trees. We started buying little real trees in pots on the theory that we could plant them in the spring, but they never survived long enough to plant. They dried out and died long before it was warm enough to plant anything.

2014 – The year of two small trees!

Finally, three years ago, I found the perfect fake 4-foot tree. It looks so much like a real tree, most people think it is real until they touch it and even then, they aren’t sure.  I had a lot of searching to do to find it.

Also, it is big enough to have some presence. It feels like a tree, not like a toy yet it is small enough to put on our huge coffee table on which we never serve coffee. The table really functions as a place to show off old pottery and other small decorative things because under the glass top is a shelf for “stuff.” And it’s big enough to sort the laundry.

2013

Thus we found a viable version of Christmas for us. It is big enough to be a Christmas but sufficiently small and neat to make it something we could do ourselves without winding up exhausted with a giant mess following the holiday.

I think our 4-foot always-decorated tree is perfect. It safeguards all our earlier Christmases and it’s ready in half a blink to take its place. From last year, it also has lights.

2018 again

There’s nothing religious — per se — about the tree but there is symbolism in it and continuity. It means something because we’ve always had some kind of Christmas. This is easy, pretty, painless … so we get to keep our personal history.

A very little, very pretty Christmas from us to you! And don’t forget: at least one of us is sort of Jewish, in a casual sort of way.

TIME FOR A LITTLE CHRISTMAS DECORATION – Marilyn Armstrong

Christmas down by the Mumford River 
Another square for BeckyB

In downtown Uxbridge, they have decorated the park. I think this is the first time I’ve seen more than the snowflakes. They’ve been around for a few years. But this year, we have reindeer, an elf, a couple of snow guys and a big red sleigh. That’s huge for little old Uxbridge.

A snow guy along the Mumford dam in downtown Uxbridge

Since we have a park and a river and two dams in the middle of town, it’s quite decorative. Since we were getting dentistry done next door, I got lucky and took some pictures.

Time is a ‘wasting! It will be Christmas next Tuesday!