HANDSOME WITH A CLASSY SASHAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Sashay

Garry and I were just talking about attractive people we knew to whom we were not attracted. He said when he started at Channel 7 and they were beginning to “diversify,” the station hired three really gorgeous brown-skinned women, one of whom was so exceptionally beautiful that she had pretty much all the guys drooling.

She knew it, too. She dressed for it. When she sashayed into the station in the morning, the temperature in the room went up. She liked the attention. She sought it. But she left messes, Garry told me, that other people had to clean up. He didn’t appreciate the poor work ethic, so while he was not immune to her charms, he was uninterested in her in any other way.

This got us talking about attractive people we’d known to whom we were unattracted. I remember one guy, after hanging out with him (I like him, I just didn’t like him “that way”) finally looked at me and said: “You don’t find me attractive at all, do you?”

“No, I guess not, ” I admitted. “I like you, but there’s no chemistry for me.” I didn’t try to explain that for me chemistry wasn’t merely physical. It was also mental. He could look great (and he did) and had lots of ladies interested in him. I just wasn’t one of them. Why not? Because he was an artist and very focused.

I liked art, but I had other interests too. History, writing, music, philosophy. I was a serious reader and wanted to natter on about the 14th century and current politics. It was Vietnam and there was a lot going on.

D-Day at the Mumford River

But in that area, we had no meaningful connection. Many artists are highly focused on their work and that is how it should be, but at that age, I was interested in everything. I was about as unfocused as anyone could be. There was almost nothing in which I was not interested.

It would take another 20 years before I settled down mentally. I think Garry was also a slow starter that way. It took him years of working to fully emerge as a personality.

It’s a hard thing to explain to someone that you need more from a relationship than physical attraction and the ability to have fun. Especially when you are still not sure yourself what you need. That attraction is nice, but it’s only a piece of the thing. There also needs to be intellectual compatibility and a sense that both of you agree on essential things. Those were as important in the 1960s as they are today.

Home in the trees

A sexy body and a bit of a sashay in the walk are enjoyable, but not — by themselves — something on which to build a life.

That is also why, now that we are older and not so beautiful, we can still be happy. The foundation things keep you together. Even when you scrap about who takes out the trash and who forgot to turn out the lights.

EDUCATION AND HOMEWORK – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Homework

This is a little rant about schools, educational funding, underpaid, exhausted teachers, outdated textbooks, and overpriced colleges lacking state and federal backing.

In the years since I graduated from college in 1967, I’ve been watching what was a mediocre school system get much worse. I see legally required fancy buildings which offer little real education. Each year, it gets worse. Do we care about education or is it just something we like to to talk about? Do we want our kids to be able to compete in the world?


I pretty much never did my homework. To be fair, back in those golden olden days, teachers didn’t check to see if you did it either. You might get tested on it at some point later in the term, but if the information was covered in class, I’d remember it. Back then, I had a great memory. I prided myself on not having to write down phone numbers. I could remember all of them.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Now, no matter how often I use a phone number, other than my own and my son’s, I have to look it up. I may not remember it long enough to not have to look it up a few times while trying to make the call. Time. It does its thing. I have maybe 15 seconds between getting information and it disappearing like the breeze in the trees.

I swear kids these days get homework intended to make up for not getting taught anything in school. Apparently, they are supposed to learn on their own what their teachers are too tired, bored, or incapable of teaching.

Leslie commented the other day that there are some great movies that could be used in the classroom. There are, absolutely. Inherit The Wind. On The Waterfront. The Lion In Winter. A wide variety of well-done historical documentaries and movies. But they aren’t used.

Harvard – Photo: B. Kraft

What they are getting is dry, dull textbooks, many of which were out of date when they were written fifty years ago. I never cracked a textbook. I just read on my own and I had a mother who loaded me down with books and a library that was a mere mile away. I remember toting home the maximum limit of books they’d let you borrow in a week. Ten books. They were heavy books, but I was young.

High School, really

For a country that supposedly values education, this country has a  strange way of showing it. Every year, when we begin to run out of budgeted money, states and the feds cut school budgets.

You can’t make a great country from a nation of ignoramuses. Yes, if your parents have the money, they might be able to send you to a superior school and if the child is smart enough, he or she might really benefit from a better education. But there are also a lot of private schools that are essentially “pay tuition for good grades.” Send your kids there. Pay the fabulous tuition and they’ll get grades which should get them into college.

Hofstra in 2014

Colleges have gotten smarter, though. They test incoming kids to make sure they can read and understand what they’ve read. They make sure they have basic maths skills. They check science education. This isn’t to make sure they are brilliant, but to make sure have a basic grasp of English. To see if they can understand the concepts of what they’ve read because — as an English professor I know has pointed out, many kids not only don’t read but can’t.

They don’t know grammar because it isn’t taught in public schools and hasn’t been since before I started school in 1951. They don’t know the parts of speech, have no concept of punctuation, and can’t do anything resembling research because when all of the preceding is true, how can you research anything? If you don’t understand what you’ve read, you can’t move forward.

Let me state for the record this is not the fault of the kids. It’s OUR fault for allowing education to become so bad in so many places and so expensive everywhere else. Only the brightest and most individually motivated youngsters manage to rise above the system.

I know not every child from every family is going to be a scholar, but shouldn’t every child have that opportunity? If they have the smarts and the interest, shouldn’t it be possible?

P.S. 35, Queens

Loading them up with eight hours of homework while loading them down with 50-pounds of boring, timeworn textbooks is a total educational cop-out. The schools I went to weren’t fabulous, but the teachers knew something. They encouraged us. If we showed promise, there was always a teacher who’d give us a nudge, suggest we try a little harder and get better.

These days? Working (briefly) as a substitute I was appalled at how listless and bored the students were. They were thrilled to have someone in the classroom that could talk to them about anything. I was told that usually, all they did was read the textbooks until the bell rang. I’d have collapsed from boredom.

We wonder why they spend so much time on the phone or iPad or computer? That’s how they learn. But what are they learning?

UPON REFLECTION – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Upon Reflection

Jon Stewart’s rant at the Senate a couple of days ago is still all over the news. This is unusual insofar as he has beaten the “news cycle.” Lots of other things have happened, but he didn’t get forgotten. I think in part, he has not been forgotten because he was and is a particularly eloquent speaker and a very professional handler of news, microphones, and politicians and even after all these years, I miss him. No matter how many times he said “I’m just a comedian,” we all knew that was not true.

He may have started out in comedy, but he ended up as good a newsman as I have seen. Rather better than most.

So, for anyone who might have missed it, here it is again:

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And amazingly, today the House panel unanimously passes 9/11 victims fund bill after Jon Stewart shaming. Read about it in the New York Post.

Also, if you get a chance to take a look at, “Teach Your Children Well,” please watch the CSN&Y video. The artwork is heartbreaking and brought me to tears.

On reflection, some things news stories do last beyond their time as does some music. These are two of them.

BRING BACK THE GAP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Gap

The Gap had the best jeans ever. Although I loved the cut of the button-down version, sometimes one didn’t have the time to hustle the buttons, so I generally had to settle for zippers.

Zippers are quicker.

They have been in the process of closing many (in some areas, almost all ) of The Gaps.

Not that I could afford them since I stopped working. They used to have sales, so their $60 (probably now $90) jeans dropped by as much as 75% and I would load up until the next sale. They were not only attractive, but it was good, soft, solid denim. The shops were a bit erratic. You never knew if they were going to have your style or size.

Still, it was good knowing they were there. Just in case I or someone I knew  (like Garry or Owen) decided to go and buy good jeans to last a lifetime. I remember one of Owen’s birthdays, I took him to the Gap and bought him a couple of pair of jeans, a great denim jacket, and a few cool shirts.

Plus one hoodie which I seem to have inherited. It’s just worn out enough to be the perfect Gap hoodie. And it’s got to be at least 20 years old … and it’s still got another ten or twenty years in it. That is the joy of quality. As long as you don’t change sizes, the clothing lasts forever.

This is probably why Garry has so much clothing. He can still wear his dress Marine Corp clothing from when he was 17. I think I hate him.

Now, it’s all “Old Navy” which is going independent and of course, the wildly overpriced “Banana Republic.” Although these three companies produce essentially the same stuff, it’s not exactly the same product. There are quality and style differences.

Old Navy is okay, but they don’t have the range of sizes the Gap had. The jeans are thinner and frankly, Wranglers look at least as good. Often better. They certainly wear better. Old Navy is also weak on styles anyone older than 18 would wear.

I could never afford The Banana Republic, even when I was working. Though these days, it’s hard to know if that is the name of a store or the name of the country in which I live.

Bring back The Gap!

I need those boot-cut button-fly jeans! Or maybe not. Are they elastic?

DABBLING IN CONNECTICUT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Dabble

We are still in Connecticut and I still have remarkably little energy for writing — or even looking at pictures right now. I REALLY needed that break. I was going to dabble a bit this morning — maybe actually looking at my email or answering comments, but I needed this time off badly. So … I’m still on vacation, a much needed albeit short vacation.

We didn’t get out to sea yesterday. Sea was running at two feet which is not comfortable for just sailing around. So we hung around the marina and talked.

For Garry, who has had a really hard time over the years having conversations can now actually sit around and talk. He can’t hear ME at home but I notice Tom can’t hear Ellin either, so this much be a married person issue.

All the quibbling over “I don’t WANT to cook and did you take out the trash” is what keeps life going. Also, watching all six episodes (it’s on Prime Video) of “Good Omens” is definitely worth it, especially if you read the book. A lot of the episodes basically take the dialogue straight out of the book onto the screen. Scriptwriter was the co-writer of the original book Neil Gaiman. Pity Terry Pratchett is gone, but you could feel his presence, especially in the character of Death.

HUSTLE IN THE HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Hustle

I used to be the Entertainment Queen of my crowd. It was more than 40 years ago, but I was the hostess with the mostest. I fed the hungry, housed the homeless, cheered up the downhearted. I rescued cats, dogs, and lost people. No living creature was ever turned away.

It got crowded.

Image: Mashable.com
Image: Mashable.com

Life — in my own home — became one long hustle. It was like running a party that never ends. Anyone could show up. Anytime.

One day, I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted privacy. I didn’t want to clean up the mess or cook gigantic meals. I was tired of spending all my money on other people. The crowd that assembled nightly in my living room weren’t necessarily friends, either.

Home had become a facility. A place to crash. Where there was always music, food, something to smoke and probably a good conversation and a sofa.

So I started locking my front door and asked people to call before showing up. About half the crowd never came back … and I never missed them. Others drifted off in the course of time. The rest are still friends.

Where friends … and guests … are concerned, quality is not necessarily quantity. These days? Fewer are more fun.


now – THE joke


A very poor man goes to his Rabbi complaining his house is too small and he can’t stand it anymore. “What should I do?” he asks.

“Get a big dog,” advises the Rabbi.

Puzzled, the man buys a sheepdog and brings him home. The house is even more crowded, and the man returns to the Rabbi. “It’s worse,” he moans.

The Rabbi nods his understanding. “Get a goat. He can be friends with the dog. Oh, and get a cat too.”

Even more confused, the mad does as instructed. The house is unbearable. He returns to the Rabbi. “Please, Rebbe, it’s horrible at home. The dog, the cat, the goat … and it smells really bad.”

“I think you need a lamb,” says the Rabbi. “And a calf.”

DogsSlayThe BeastieDutiful to the end, the man gets a lamb and brings it home. The noise alone is deafening. There’s hair everywhere and the place stinks. Finally, he goes back to the Rabbi, now desperate for relief.

“Rabbi, OY VAY, IT’S TERRIBLE. The animals go all over the house and they chase each other. We have no peace, no privacy.”

“Get rid of all those animals,” orders the Rabbi. The man heaves a sigh of relief and the next week returns to see the Rabbi.

“Rebbe, it’s wonderful! We have so much room. The house is clean again. Life is wonderful!

No more hustle. Peace reigns.

KILLING PAIN – OUR LUDICROUS LAWS STRIKE AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ludicrous

It’s ludicrous. I do not get up at 6 in the morning. But we did today. Why? Because the medication I need is only made by a single manufacturer and none of our local pharmacies have any left. There is a full dose at the pharmacy at UMass, so first we have to go to the doctor to pick up the prescription, then dash off to UMass to get the pills — and hope they saved them as requested AND hope traffic isn’t too horrible.

NSAIDs

Demerol is an old medication, around for at least 40 years, maybe longer. It’s milder than most of what they make today and more importantly, it doesn’t make me sick, which most narcotics do.

So we’re on the run. Again.

Tomorrow we’re heading down to Tom and Ellin’s and I hope the weather is decent! It’s going to be another nutsy week for the retired people.

The problem with NSAIDs

I was pretty sure when this country decided to get rid of opioids, they were going to forget that there are people who actually need them because they can’t take anything else. I can’t take any NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) including ibuprofen in all its many forms, aspirin (in its many forms), Celebrex, Vioxx … or any combination of these packaged in combination a different drug. I can take Tylenol (generic or not), but only 6 per day lest I overload my kidneys. That doesn’t leave me much wiggle room for a lot of pain from this, that, or the other thing.

They have actually improved the glue so they stay on!

I have invested in a lot of 4% lidocaine patches and liquids and surprisingly, it helps. It’s not addictive, either. The prescription strength is 5% and is so insanely expensive, it’s out of my range. I bought it once. It was for me out-of-pocket $488.

If the 4% patches are $20 for 15, how can 30 — on a script — run nearly $500? That doesn’t make any sense. If you want to stop excessive opioid use, how about making other stuff priced so regular people can afford it?

On social security, you only get a certain amount you can spend on drugs. I’m lucky that I’m on a Blue Cross plan that requires no payment for blood pressure medication, which is the vast majority of what I need to survive. But everything else is on my dime and it’s a very little skinny dime. The Demerol —  being a generic — is not expensive. It’s also not available most times and getting less so every day. I can easily foresee a day in the not very distant future when no one will make it and I’ll either have to switch to something stronger and more addictive — or suffer. I’m not very enthusiastic about either possibility.

America is an overkill kind of country. We either give out opioids to everyone by the handful, or we decide no one needs them.

And this works too, but the patches last longer. On the other hand, you can use this in places the patches don’t fit.

People like me get slammed between the pages of their current standards. Which I’m sure will be changed soon enough because there are a lot of people in pain that need help. Pain is actually the second largest subject with which medicine deals. Chronic from a wide variety of causes including men back from battle, people who have fallen off ladders, police officers … and people like me who can’t take what everyone else takes.

It is ironic because regular over-the-counter Excedrin (or equivalent) works better than Demerol. So do most muscle relaxants — but I can only take them a few times a week because I have a long history of ulcers.

The frustration is crazy. I can’t take a lot of things because of the replaced heart valves and the pacemaker, other things because of the ulcers, and many more things because of allergies or sensitivities.

I know I’m hardly alone in this. And I’m sure it will get worked out, but whether it will get worked out fast enough for me is another big question.

And yet I’m not terribly worried because in the end, if this becomes unavailable, we’ll find something else. I just wish it wouldn’t be so damned complicated. Or expensive!