“AMERICAN PIE” IS NOW AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Handle


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

Was it a sign? I took it as such.

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

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

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

McClean had the right idea, just the wrong character.

FREEDOM AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #76 – FREEDOM


Folk songs notwithstanding, freedom is not “just another word for nothing left to lose.” Freedom is exactly the opposite of that. Freedom — having freedom — leaves you a lot to lose.



Like … say … your right to live a life you want to live. A life that is open to any choice you can make. Without freedom, life is a prison, even if you aren’t behind any bars.

When you are not free, they are always watching you, tracking you, closing off the doors to opportunity. They write laws which can get you executed, locked up, deported. They can take away what little you have and leave you with nothing, not even your life.

Lack of freedom means lack of choice. You can’t go where you want, do what you want. Achieve what you would.

Freedom means wings to fly while its opposite is chained and barred.

Stay free. Help keep us all free!

ORCAS R US – BY ELLIN CURLEY

RDP # 75: BLUE AS THE OCEAN, BLUE AS THE SEA


I’ve been reading a lot recently about a touching story that has caught the imagination of the world. It’s the very human and relatable story of a mother Orca whale, named Tahlequah, whose calf died shortly after birth. Tahlequah has been mourning her baby by carrying it around with her for over 17 days now.

Her family, or pod, have been traveling with her in a funeral procession covering over a thousand miles. The length of this mourning period is unprecedented for the species.

Tahlequah and her dead calf

People have realized that the Orca’s behavior shows real emotional pain, similar to what humans feel. The attention the world has focused on Tahlequah has also focused attention and interest on the plight of the dwindling Orcas in the Seattle, Washington area. I’ll talk about that later.

The most interesting article I read was in the Sunday New York Times on August 5, 2018. It was called “ An Orca, Her Dead Calf and Us” and was written by Susan Casey.

The author talks about how ‘human’ the mother-child bond is in Orcas. Also, how social their close-knit family groups are. “Like us, Orcas are self-aware, cognitively skilled individuals that communicate using their pod’s signature dialect.”

Tahlequah’s pod

Their core identity is communal, not individual. “Orcas are among Earth’s most socially sophisticated animals.” They live in matrilinear groups that can include four generations. The oldest females are in charge. Some can live to be 100 years old!

Fascinating fact – Orcas are one of just a few species, like humans, who go through menopause! This is because the grandmas are needed to devote themselves to training the younger generations. “The matriarchs serve as midwives, babysitters, navigators, and teachers.” Calves deprived of the care and influence of their grandmothers are ill-equipped for adult Orca life.

Tahlequah and her calf

“Orca behavior and neuroanatomy point to a complex inner life.” Their brains are larger and in some ways more elaborate than ours, especially in areas devoted to social emotions and awareness. They have similar neurons to ours that relate to empathy, communication, intuition and social intelligence.

We have more in common with Orcas than we do with many other mammals. This makes it even more tragic that we are destroying the Orca’s habitats and putting the species at risk for extinction. There are only 75 Southern Orcas left in the Seattle habitat. There hasn’t been a successful birth there in three years. Many of the orcas have starved to death because their food supply is dwindling due to pollution and overfishing in the area.

Biologists and government officials are now working on a plan to save the youngest member of Tahlequah’s pod, a three-year-old who seems to be on the brink of starvation. They are tracking the young whale and trying to feed her antibiotic laced salmon.

They are also tracking Tahlequah because they are worried she may not be getting enough to eat, although members of her pod are bringing her food. It may not be enough because she is expending so much energy keeping her dead baby afloat.

If we don’t reverse some of the environmental problems we have created for the Southern Orcas, our grandchildren will only read about these amazing creatures in history books. Knowing how much we share, emotionally, socially and linguistically, makes the prospect of their extinction particularly depressing. But the attention that is being focused on Tahlequah may actually help her pod’s survival.

There are people who want to build a Trans Mountain Pipeline that would make the already dire situation of these Orcas much worse. Greenpeace, among other groups, is trying to stop this pipeline from being built.

You can help them by letting Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, know that you are watching him and that you care about the Orcas. Tell him that you want a moratorium on new fossil fuel traffic in Washington state waters until Southern Resident Orcas are no longer at risk of extinction. https://www.governor.wa.gov/issues/issues/energy-environment/southern-resident-killer-whale-recovery-and-task-force

You can also donate to Greenpeace and get more information at https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/greenpeace-calls-for-greater-efforts-to-protect-endangered-orcas/

UPDATE – Aug. 13 – Tahlequah has finally let her calf go.

LACK OF SUBSTANCE – MARTHA’S VINEYARD – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Substance

When we used to spend a month or more on the Vineyard and became “summer people,” our vacations were completely lacking in substance and that’s the way we liked them.

You lost your watch on the third day. You forgot to wear underwear by the end of the first week. By the middle of the second week, you had no idea what day of the week it was and were probably at least a little tipsy.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club, it was a boathouse that became a house and is now an air BNB. This was where we stayed before it was restored. This looks “pre-restoration,” so the odds are that I or one of the many other photographers with whom we shared the house took the picture

If you made it to week three, by then you forgot what you used to do back on the mainland.

The Vineyard was where you went and nothing happened. There were no events. No parties. No concerts except usually one around the end of August to raise money for the food bank — generally the Taylor and Simon families propped up the event.


Since 1884, islanders have enjoyed the beauty of this magnificent carousel. Built by Charles W.F. Dare, it is the nation’s oldest platform carousel still in operation. Acquired by the Preservation Trust in 1986, the carousel is a National Historic Landmark. Children (and others) may enjoy a ride from Easter Sunday through Columbus Day. Rides cost just $1 and if you catch the brass ring, you ride for free. Video games and refreshments are also available.


Unless a president came to visit, or a plane crashed somewhere, nothing happened. Oh, right, one year, there were fireworks in the channel behind the house. There were two Clinton parties, one hosted by the Simons (that was when Clinton played the saxophone) and the next held by the Taylors, which is when I met Kate (I had no idea who she was until later). She was the only woman I met who dressed like me in long Indian dresses and beads.

One year it was really hot.

One summer it was surprisingly cold.

One summer, a novelist I liked did a book signing at “Bunch of Grapes.”

One of our friends made an amazingly good daiquiri. I made frozen strawberry daiquiris using real strawberries and brown sugar that tasted so good, even people who never drank got wiped out.

Garry commented considering the alcoholic stupor many of us were in, our real question should have been “Do I know who I am?”

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. There was a big rope hammock at the end of the deck. This picture had to be pre-restoration while we were still the summer residents — along with a bunch of other people.

So what made it so special? Probably the same thing that makes boating special. Nothing. You slept, you hung out on the dock. Read a book. Roamed through Oak Bluffs looking for bargains. Wandered around Edgartown. Had a burger. Had a drink. Bought something useless but pretty.

No substance. Doing nothing and loving it.

The Island Theatre. When we were there, it wasn’t air-conditioned. I suppose it is now.

Strolled over to the Flying Horses carousel. If you got lucky, you might catch a gold ring and get a free ride while the calliope played.

Watched pink sunsets over Nantucket Sound.

If it rained, maybe we’d go to a movie.

1891 – Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs. It changed very little in a century.

There was no schedule until you had to leave. Then, you had to find your watch, make sure you could find your ferry tickets. Hope the bridge was not open so you wouldn’t miss your boat. Missing the boat could mean a very long day in the parking lot of the Steamship Company.

Nothing was special or substantial about the Vineyard. That’s what made it special.

DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? – Marilyn Armstrong

This story has been on the news for the past few days. Every time it has been on, Garry and I had a good laugh.

There was a zesty little scuffle between Bill Murray, actor, and Peter Simon, a photographer who is, incidentally, Carly’s brother. And it was at “the restaurant” to which everybody who is anybody goes so that everybody knows they were there.

We used to go there once every vacation. It was wildly expensive, so not the sort of place you visited often. Or at least, not a place we visited often. Mostly, I prepared our meals at the house.

The Simon’s are permanent Martha’s Vineyard residents (and you should see their house — it’s amazing) which means something on the Vineyard. They do a lot to try to help feed the people who get hungry in the winter when all the tourists are gone and there’s no work.

The Taylor family (James, et al) are also Vineyard residents, so even though Carly and James are no longer married, they sometimes get together and do a show that will raise money to feed and house the hungry.

Thus, when Bill Murray asked Peter Simon “Do you know who I am?” and Peter answered with “Do you know who I am?” it was like a Vineyard joke.

Photo: Washington Post – Bill Murray

The thing is if you’ve spent any amount of time on the Vineyard — not as a two-day visitor but weeks at a time — you realize that everybody on the Vineyard is somebody, or is related to somebody, married to somebody, used to be somebody or is about to become somebody.

It’s a very somebody kind of place.

Peter Simon, photographer

I remember when Garry spotted Patricia Neal at a store in Edgartown. He whispered to me to wander over and find out if that was really Patricia Neal.

It is considered uncool on the Vineyard to ask for autographs or anything like that. People come to the Vineyard to get away from that … but they do want to make sure you know who they are. This can be difficult if they are on the naked beach in Aquinnah, by the way. Naked people just don’t look like their picture in the newspaper.

So as I was sashaying over to see if I can overhear relevant conversation (yes, she was), someone else was pointing at Garry because that was when he was somebody, too.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t anybody. Pat did give me some good advice which was “The most important thing for a woman is to have someone who’s good with hair and great with makeup.” Not that I have anyone, but if I had become a star, I would have taken that to heart because I’m sure she was right.

Patricia Neal – PHOTO: JAIMIE RODRIGUEZ-GLOBE PHOTOS, INC

There’s no point to this story except that if you are going to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, be careful about assuming you are more important than that other guy. His face may not be familiar, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a movie studio. Or his father does.

RDP #74 – ZEST

LOVE AND LOSS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Love

Before I left for Israel at the end of 1978, my best friend for a long time was gay. It started out casually and eventually got to be an intense friendship. He’d never had a straight female friend and I’d never gotten close to a gay man. We both learned a lot about each others’ worlds … and eventually, each other.

He would call me every night. He could tell by the sound of my voice if I needed company or felt bad about something. Even when if I said everything was fine, he knew. We were best friends and spent pretty much all our spare time together.

When I finally decided I needed a divorce, R. asked me to marry him. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t kidding. Married?

I told him I didn’t think it could work. Not only was he gay — and had always been gay — but he was a serious Roman Catholic who wanted to be a priest. If we could leap the sex hurdle (highly unlikely), I was pretty sure we’d never get past religion.

He said he could change.

We can all change … but how much? I asked him if he’d ever had sex with a woman. He admitted he hadn’t. I asked him if he had ever wanted to have sex with a woman and he said “no,” although he thought I might change that.

Then there was his fascination with Catholicism versus my skeptical Jewishness. It wasn’t only that he was “born a Catholic.” He went to Mass several times a week. He was serious about it. Religious differences between friends is not an issue, but between a married couple?

I said I didn’t think he could change that much. I didn’t think anyone could. Religion isn’t like that … and sex isn’t a choice. We are what we are; we need what we need. Despite what some misguided people believe, you don’t get to “pick” the sex you prefer.

He said we could do our own “things” and we’d still live a fantastic life. That was true, but it was not what I wanted from marriage. I wanted a marriage that could be the center of my life and I wanted it to include physical closeness.

I thought about it long and hard for several weeks. I tried to figure out how it could work. Was I ready for a marriage that was, in fact, a close friendship with vows?

For him to ask me to marry him was a giant leap. I was touched, flattered, and a bit haunted by it. It was not a casual suggestion.

In the end, no matter how many ways I looked at it, I was sure it would not be successful. For either of us. It wouldn’t matter how hard we tried. It would not work. So, I said no.

That he had asked had already changed our relationship.

He seemed to take rejection well, but he was hurt and angry. I don’t know if he was angrier with himself for asking or at me for saying no. Probably both. For him to ask me to marry him was remarkable, generous,  and heartfelt. To be refused was more than he could handle.

It’s not like the rest of my life was going to be perfect. I did a lot of things wrong before I finally got it right.

The problem was simpler for me. Everything I understood about gay men told me being gay was not a choice. Not optional. There was no way he could decide to not be gay. Moreover, there was only so much Catholicism I could stomach.

I was already in a failing marriage.  I didn’t know I had another one waiting in the wings, too. Even if I’d known what was awaiting me, I could not see the point of starting another impossible relationship. I’m convinced I was right, but he was the closest friend I ever had. I have missed him for all of these years. We loved being together and no one ever took his place.

Sex and religion can really get in the way of life, you know?