DRAW, YOU MANGY DOG – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Draw


“Draw, you mangy dog,” snarled Blackie. No one could face down Blackie. He had the fastest gun west of the Pecos and a really bad temper too. And a bit of a drinking problem, truth be told. When he said draw, you could run, but you could not hide.

“Blackie, I was just funnin’ with ya,” he assured him. “No, really, just messin’ around widya. Puleeze, Blackie. I got a wife. A kid. A farm. I’ll never fun witya agin. No way,” he assured him.

Blackie was having a difficult morning. Charbucks had overburned his coffee and his pumpkin spice donut was stale. His horse had bitten him and he had trouble starting the car, too.

He had a really bad headache (too much hooch?) and he was pretty sure he was already late for work. He really needed to shoot someone, but this guy was so lame.

So he shot the bartender.

Then he went to work — selling stocks and bonds. Some days are just rougher than others.

SHELTER FROM THE STORM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Shelter


That’s kind of how I think of my house, these days. The roof doesn’t leak and the basement doesn’t flood. The heating system still works and I have a functional kitchen.

I even have some flowers in my wild garden.

I know it’s not going to be my personal mansion and I do not set forth from it thinking of it as the backstage area to the forestage of Life. This place is pretty much all of life and we could be doing a whole lot worse.

Today, it’s where we live, where we sleep and eat, and where we try endlessly to keep it from falling down faster than we can shore it up.

We have some lottery tickets. I could look them up, see if we got rich and I don’t know it yet. But when asked these days what we’d do with the money, I think ” A simple, bright house without steps and cleaning people to come in once a week and do the basic stuff.

And a cook.

I really want that cook!

THREE GUYS WITH BEARDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Beards


Happy Birthday – A great day for beards!

 

SEARS GOES DOWN IN FLAMES – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night on the news, they announced that Sears was going out of business. Destroyed, they said, by the likes of Amazon.

In the course of last night, I ordered two things I needed — a raised toilet seat because I’m finding it really hard to get up from the very low seats in our bathrooms and a raised seat is a lot less than a new toilet. Later, after the nurse called with the results of our blood tests, I learned I was anemic, so I went back to Amazon and ordered a couple of bottles of Vitamin D3. I didn’t have to get out of bed for either order.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was a kid, everyone went to Sears. That’s where you shopped for the “big stuff.” Refrigerators, washing machines, shop tools. You always needed help because these are expensive items that you intend to keep for a long time. You want to be sure they will be what you want — within the limits of your budget, of course.

Meanwhile, sometime during the late 1980s, Sears decided to take a chip from the local department stores and eliminate human sales personnel. For love nor money, you couldn’t find anyone to talk to. At the same time, they substantially cut down on the items for which everyone had gone to Sears — large appliances — and loaded up on dorky kid’s clothing.

Considering that every store carried kid’s clothing but almost no one carried appliances, it was a baffling decision by The Suits who ran the place.

Since then, I’ve never had any reason to go to Sears. Not only do they not have what I’m looking for, but they have hardly any people working with customers and they’ve closed down most of their checkout counters. So did most of the other brick and mortar stores.

There was a time when you could go into a department store and someone would be stuck to you like glue, showing you where your size was on the rack and helping you find the shoe or the dress or the jeans you wanted. Then, one day, all these stores decided we could all fend for ourselves, like a herd of sheep without a shepherd, a dog, or even a fence to keep us from falling off the mountain.

From that point on, which by then was the early 1990s, shopping at a mall became a chore. They would have one frazzled worker supposedly managing multiple departments and you had to wait, often for as long as an hour for him or her to have time to answer a simple question, sometimes as little as “Where’s the changing room?”

Amazon didn’t kill these stores. They committed suicide. They thought that they owned us and we’d keep coming because what else could we do, right?

Along came Amazon. They might not have someone to help you find the item you were looking for, but you had all the time in the world to read the reviews, compare prices … and if something didn’t work out, they were (gasp) NICE to you! That’s right. Nice. Polite. Helpful. And they sent the item right to your door. No battling for a parking space and hauling heavy boxes through the lots.

Our little grocery store — Hannaford — is the smallest store of its type in town. They aren’t fancy. They don’t have a lot of variety, but they also don’t have extremely high prices. Often, their actual prices are lower than Walmart and much lower than “Stop n’ Shop.” If you want help, there’s always someone around to show you where the item is … and they will wait for you to make sure you’re all set before they go back to whatever they were doing before. They never seem to be cross about it, either.

Hannaford

Not only are the nice to the customers, but they are also nice to the workers, many of whom have worked there for years. This has a side benefit of employing people who know something about their products and the store.

Amazon didn’t just join the market and destroy the competition. They found a big hole in the market — department stores who overcharged and acted as if customers were trivial. They made it increasingly difficult to find items and harder to pay for them. Parking lots got smaller to make room for more mall and around the holidays, they were a nightmare.

By the time Amazon loomed on my horizon, I had already made a big shift to buying more from catalogs and less from shops. It wasn’t even a big deal.

Parked cars

Today I bought my toilet raiser for $35 and two bottles of chewable D3 vitamins for $17.00. I wouldn’t have even known where to look for the raised toilet seat … and just one of those bottles of vitamins would have cost me the same price at CVS as I paid for two of them on Amazon.

I’m sorry that Sears is going out of business, but I’m not surprised. They stopped providing customer service years ago. Actually, it’s amazing it took them this long to crash and burn.

The irony is that I didn’t mind paying a little more to shop in a “real” store where I could get help and assistance, but I really minded paying more to get no assistance or help and a general attitude of surly indifference from employees.

I know working retail is hard. My son has worked his whole life (mostly) in retail. It’s hard work and many customers are not nice people. But then again, many of the workers aren’t nice either, so I guess it sorted itself out.

It all started because the shops decided to save a few bucks and get rid of their own workers and now, they are SHOCKED that the shoppers have gone elsewhere.

Parked cars

Our little local grocery store is always busy. The parking lot is constantly full and the checkout lanes are filled with people chatting with each other while waiting to pay. No one gets crazy when a line is slow because a new employee is learning the ropes.

They are nice, we are nice. Even though “Stop n’ Shop” offers delivery, we go to Hannaford because they offer human beings.

RDP THURSDAY – HERD
FOWC with Fandango — Fence

NO FREE PARKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Parking

There is no free parking in Boston. There is no free parking in New York either. I don’t know about the rest of the big cities, but I’m betting it’s pretty much the same. Assuming you can push your way through the traffic and actually get to the city … what do you do next?

Alley behind the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston

Weaving through Boston traffic on any given day can be a traumatic experience. Cars and trucks pop out of side streets, apparently without so much as a glance for possible other traffic. If you can find a parking place (good luck with that), it will either cost you a fortune … or pretty much the same amount for a parking ticket.

I have stood there, calculating which is going to cost more — the ticket or a legal spot. The legal spot is usually not only more expensive, but it’s much less convenient than parking wherever you happen to be.

My first car experience in Boston traffic was waiting at a light and getting hit by a car leaving a parking space. I got hit by a parked car standing still. At a light. Welcome to Massachusetts.

How about the people leaving illegally parked cars and stand there with their doors open, waiting for you to knock it off the frame?

I do not know if all cities are as bad as Boston, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Of course, now people lurch wildly through streets talking on the phone. Blind and deaf to traffic, at the very least can’t we ban cell phones in cars? AND while walking on the street?

Walkers who have parked are the terror of the roads.

Considering how often we stand at an intersection waiting for the driver in front of us to get off the phone and drive, it’s hard to tell who is parked and who isn’t.

Out here, in the country, the roads aren’t as packed with traffic as they are in town. You can generally find a place to park — at least in the village. Out in the country, it’s perfectly legal — but the odds are very good that someone — texting or talking — is going to come around a curb and whack your car.

Remember TV shows where the cop or private detective could park anywhere? There was always a spot for him, even in the middle of Manhattan or Los Angeles. I want to see more realistic shows where the guy misses his appointment because the IS no parking. And he doesn’t have $120 for two hours of downtown parking.

RUGGEDLY SILENT – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday – RUGGED and FOWC with Fandango — Silent

Rugged and silent, the Superstitions loom over the bleak desert near Phoenix, Arizona

Following them … and not by much of a distance, either … were a mixed bag of posse wannabes. A few professional lawmen, a clutch of bounty hunters, and anyone else that had a gun and a horse and could be drug up by the sheriff and the railroad people.

A cactus sunset near the Superstitions

The horses were exhausted and it wouldn’t be long before they collapsed unless they were allowed to stop, rest, drink, eat. For that matter, it wouldn’t be much longer before they, themselves, collapsed.

Whose idea was this, anyway? They could have hit a bank or a Wells Fargo shipment. Hell, they could have hit half a dozen stagecoaches without setting off this kind of frenzy. It was those railroad guys. They really didn’t like bandits. Which they were. Damn.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

It was getting dark, now. The sun was setting over the mountains. Where could they go? Ahead were the Superstitions … and there was nothing up there but jagged rocks. Where was water? Some grass for the horses and a place to lay themselves down and breathe.

In the distance, they could hear the hoofbeats of oncoming horses. They looked into the fading sun and they knew.

It was over. For good, this time.

SO I LOOKED DEATH IN THE EYE AND SAID “SCREW IT” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Routine


Since November 2016, I’ve developed something of a routine. I open my email and usually spot about 150 new ones added to the older ones I’m planning to get to any day now (right, sure). Mixed in with the advertisements for things I might sometimes actually buy, are dozens of “news flashes” along with politicians begging for money.

First, I delete all the advertisements unless one of them has something I need. Then, I delete all the advertisements for companies I’ve never heard of, unsubscribing and “spamming” them as I go. Sometimes, I stop and actually read an article. Today I read one about the final days (we assume they are final or nearly final because he is 95) of Stan Lee and what a mess his life became in recent years.

This proved to me that no amount of money and fame can perfect your time on earth. It’s his money and fame that’s causing most of the problems — the issues of the will and who took what and when. It was a long interview which would have been easier, but Stan Lee is deaf and won’t wear hearing aids. I can really relate to that.

He’s obviously just a wee bit lost from reality, but I suspect that’s the way he wants it. He does not want to reconnect. There’s nothing for him anymore. When his wife of 70-years passed, that was the end for Stan, if not physically, then psychically.

It got me to thinking about age. Stan Lee is 19 years older than Garry and 24 years older than me. He has it all or at least everything that “the world” can give you — and maybe it made him happy. Before. Now though, it’s just a reason for everyone to fight with everyone else. When large amounts of money are involved, it can get ugly.

When we go, the only things that will be left are paintings, pottery, antique dolls and a ton of clothing that for all I know will have come back into style. And of course, books, DVDs and CDs. There won’t be a dime left for anyone to fight over. The house is more likely to be a burden than a boon, but who knows? The world keeps changing. Maybe 2-1/2 acres in Uxbridge will be worth something by then. You could certainly put a fair number of condos on the property and there’s a lot of water down there for wells.

I realized I really only have one important job left in this world which is making our lives — Garry’s and mine — as good as possible. It isn’t to repair a badly broken world or shine the light of reason on a society gone mad.

Between one thing and another, I’ve had an incredibly hard-luck run of health issues. I’m not going to bother to list them, but it’s remarkable I’m alive … and even more remarkable that, to the best of my knowledge, nothing is trying to kill me at the moment.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

This past couple of years, except for pain and discomfort which sort of comes as part of other issues, I’ve managed to not have to be in the hospital. I haven’t had a near-death experience, gotten pneumonia or any other contagious infection. For me, this is nothing short of remarkable.

Instead, I got trumped. We all got trumped and amazingly, some people seem to think that’s a good thing. Those people make me wonder if we are all living on the same planet. Maybe we aren’t. Have we considered the possibility that there is more than one reality and we live in one and they live in the other?

Maybe where they live, gravity pulls things up and death and destruction is what we are striving for.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

All of this has given me a migraine I can’t get rid of — and the distinct feeling that I should DO something about it. Somehow, crotchety old me has got to fix things. Not alone. I don’t think I’m a force a nature to redress the balance of the world but surely, along with a group of intelligent, right-minded people, we can make things better?

That’s not what’s happening, though. After this past week of watching America puke all over herself, I’ve begun to seriously consider the possibility I’ve got this situation entirely wrong.

I’m turning 72 this year and while I realize as ages go, this is not as old as people get, it’s nothing short of amazing for me. The nightmare of politics is ruining my world. Instead of enjoying being retired, I have nightmares about Republicans. Honest-to-God nightmares populated by people wearing MAGA hats.

It occurred to me I can’t keep going like this. I’m ruining the only thing we have going for us: freedom. Every time the news comes on, I froth at the mouth.

Why? Am I so attached to “the American ideal” — which has always been far from ideal — that I have to battle my way into my coffin? Is all this so that my son and granddaughter, who don’t seem to care all that much about the stuff going on merely shrug and accept what is — while I can’t? If the next generation or two isn’t the issue, what is the issue?

Why aren’t they in an uproar, screaming for a better America, a rational world? Is it possible that this is more important to me than to those who will live long past me? And they are not nearly as troubled by what they see as I am? Mind you I’m not trashing the whole generation. Some people are deeply troubled and trying to do something and I applaud them … but too many people don’t seem to care.

I decided I need to stop my routine and get into a different groove. I’m not giving up watching the news or caring about what happens. I couldn’t if I wanted to. It’s everywhere. Yet I did realize in another 20 years, I’ll be gone — or close enough. This isn’t my battle anymore. I feel like everything I believed my generation got right is being trashed.

It’s horrible. Shameful. Appalling. Humiliating.

And I can’t fix it. If the people who are going to be around in 20 or 30 years aren’t willing to put up a fight, then what’s the point? If they think this is okay, maybe it is. For them. Maybe the world I thought we needed isn’t what they care about. Maybe it’s just what I care about.

Photo Garry Armstrong

So I will not be frothing anymore. I’m sure I’ll occasionally work up a good rant when something particularly toxic is going on, but otherwise? I’ll vote like I’ve always voted: Democrat and Liberal. I will donate tiny bits of what we humorously call money to a cause, but mostly, I’m going to try really hard to take care of me and mine. I’m going to do my best to make Garry happy, to make me happy, to love my dogs and care for my home and remember to clip back the roses every spring.

The prettiest pink shrub

The flowers in the garden bring me joy. Reading a good book makes me happy. Writing something good gives me satisfaction. Garry’s hearing progress is making me feel better about his life as well as mine. So instead of trying to fix the world, I think I’m going to try to enjoy it.

With all the horrors surrounding me, I’m going to do the absolute best I can to enjoy our lives while we have lives to enjoy. I may not entirely succeed, but at least, I’m going to try.