BEFORE VIDEO THERE WAS FILM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Video  and Ragtag Tuesday: Past

Garry should be telling this story because it’s his story, not mine. But since he’s busy elsewhere, I’ll tell the story — as I’ve heard it — and maybe he can write a better version later.

Garry started working in the business — television — before the switch from film to videotape was made — and he left the business just before everything went to DVDs, flash and SD cards, and hard drives. He was working at the end of the movie era through the early years of video when it was the “new kid in town. ”

He remembers the horrors of forgetting to load the camera and shooting only to come back with nothing. Not unlike me forgetting to paste down the full-page color advertisement from Sony that belonged in the middle of the magazine I was editing. Ah, the good old days of being young and stupid.

Or misfeeding the film into the camera and being unable to get it to run. Garry remembers racing back to the office so they could develop the film, edit it, and get it up in time for the news. Ah, more of the good old days!

Movie set

Film was touchier than videotape. If the light was wrong, it ran too hot or green. When it rolled, you wanted to hide under a table somewhere. Even though you didn’t do the shooting, it was still your work and when it was blazing orange or glaringly green, it was painful to see.

On screen, video looks different than film. Sometimes you see shows where parts are filmed and the rest is on video. You can always see the change from one scene to the other.

Film looks different than video. It’s both the texture and luster and crispness.  It’s hard to describe the difference, but you know it when you see it.

Film is also a sturdier product and lasts longer, which is why movies are shot on film, not video. Video tends to self-destruct over time and not a lot of time, either. We didn’t get our wedding video transferred to DVD soon enough. We lost a lot of the graphic portions. We were able to save the soundtrack, but a lot of pictures couldn’t be salvaged.

Thus, here is the message for all of you old enough to have videotaped important past events in your lives: Get the video transferred to DVD or you’ll lose it. If you haven’t already lost it.

THE SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP-Sunday–Squirrel


Things go missing. People go missing. I often think my brain goes missing and sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Right now, however, Garry took this perfect picture of (you guessed it) a squirrel. By the Blackstone in River Bend Park.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m pretty sure he isn’t the source of my loss, but who knows?

ROLL BACK THE CALENDAR! I’M NOT READY! – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – Not the Holidays again!


“Oh no,” I cried. “Not again!”

Bad enough that summer was nothing but a giant rainstorm … but it’s November and you know what that means! Holidays. I am even more unready for holidays as I am for finding someone to clear the millions of leaves off our property, much less having them mix with tons of snow. Arghh!

It will be a Christmas tree. At Christmas.

My son decided to not do Thanksgiving this year. It’s the first time we’ve ever lived near each other and not “done” Thanksgiving and he was a bit apologetic.

“Not to worry,” I said. He got an invitation to go to the Cape and enjoy someone else’s cooking. I congratulated him. I pointed out he might learn to enjoy not making a giant feast. We’ll do a get-together Christmas Eve and open our mini-gifts, which is what we give.

I have a tabletop fake (but it looks real) tree with decorations already on it.  It has lights, too. It lives in the guest room in a big black bag. Every year, I remove the bag, carry the tree to the living room, and plug it in.

Voila! Christmas.

I cook something on Christmas Eve for whoever is coming by. No one except Owen bothers to tell me they are coming. I think my granddaughter is hoping for a better offer.

We don’t buy “real” gifts. No big packages greatly reduce Christmas visits. I give better gifts for birthdays. One gift to one person — I can get something they may actually want. Garry and I give each other stuff all the time anyway. As for me, we’ve already got far too much stuff.

Christmas Day, Garry and I watch boring old movies during which they sing “White Christmas” and Garry always points out that it’s racist. Then we eat something, which this year, might be frozen pizza.

When I was a mere lass, the Thanksgiving through Christmas holiday season was a big deal. Mostly that grew out of being raised “atheistically Jewish.” That meant no celebration. No decorations. I always felt left out. When I married “out,” I was delighted to finally get a piece of the holiday.

November through a sunny window

But then, everyone, including my granddaughter, grew up. I realized we didn’t need a huge tree taking up half the living room nor did I need to go into five years of credit debt to buy stuff no one seemed to care about.

These years, the Holidays are stripped to the minimum. Enough so my little tree looks pretty — and takes less than 10 minutes to set up. Garry and I buy each other something small. This year, I think I’ll get him a Red Sox sweatshirt. He will buy me flowers because he figures if I wanted it, I’ve probably already bought it.

What a relief!

IF YOU DON’T DO THE RESEARCH – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday – Mentor


I never think of myself as having had mentors. I suppose I thought they were supposed to announce themselves or wear an ID that said “Mentor” on it. They were the teachers that listened to me. Who really read the papers I wrote and didn’t give me an automatic “A” because I was good with words.

My favorite grade was an A+/D. It was a 40-page paper and I thought it read pretty well. So what kind of grade was that?

I went up to him after class and said “Huh?”

He said: “Great writing. Pity you didn’t do the research. Writing is a wonderful skill, but if you don’t do the research …”

If you don’t do the research — or ignore the results of the research — you become Fox News.

COSTUMES – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – COSTUMES


Photos: Garry Armstrong

I wanted to wear a different pair of earrings today. I’ve had them quite a while, but I’ve never worn them. Not they I don’t love them, because I really do. They are gorgeous. Big, bright, beaded. Which also means they are quite lightweight and comfortable. All good.

Black and silver

But big bead earrings break. They are great for a while, the one day you feel this strange feeling that something is spilling off your head and it’s your gorgeous long bead earring become a million tiny beads. I have a set that I wanted to wear today that are black ravens with turquoise eyes, but one of them has come slightly unraveled and I’m afraid if I wear them, it will come completely apart.

Red and turquoise

So I admire them in the jewelry box and worry about wearing them. Of the most beloved bead earrings, I am wearing the sturdiest pair. These are built on a silver frame with silver beats and tips. I think it’s the silver that protects them because I’ve had versions of these for at least six or seven years. I wear them a lot and none of broken.

I have two pairs of them in black and silver. Identical. I thought I had lost a set, so I bought another — and of course, promptly found the originals. I still periodically misplace jewelry, though less often than I used to. This might be because I travel less, though it turns out most of my misplacement took place at home. I only thought I left them somewhere else.

They always turn up where I’m sure I’ve already looked many times. Have I mentioned “the pixie factor”?

Red and turquoise again

Except for my beautiful green turquoise earrings which seem to have vanished for good and all.

I have bead earring in varying shades of red with silver and dark purple. I have them in red and turquoise. Another pair which looks like red and turquoise, but includes some dark purple beads too. I’m sure the designer and I are the only people who can tell the difference.

I have them in all turquoise, too.

Red earrings – at Manchaug

Every time this designer makes a new pair, I buy them. She only makes one at a time and though the differences are getting subtle, I love them. I’ve now got 6 pairs of them in various color combinations. I wish she’d make a set in a new set of colors. I can but hope.

Costuming for me is dressing “up” which actually means the same clothing I wear, but clean (no dog hair or for that matter, my own hair), solid so the jewelry shows well. Basically, black yoga pants, a black top, and my best Native American jewelry can get me through almost anything except sometimes, a wedding.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Black ones again

No Halloween costume. Sorry!

JAMES ‘WHITEY’ BULGER DEAD IN PRISON – Marilyn Armstrong

“WHITEY” BULGER DEAD AT 89

They could have found him sooner had they tried harder.

It took them 16 years to find him. A lot of people knew where he was or knew enough to ask the right questions from the right people and get the correct answer.

If they had wanted to. But he was a dangerous guy with powerful friends. A dangerous guy with a brother who was a powerful figure in Boston’s government too.

Two brothers. So different. One becomes (eventually) the top guy at the University of Massachusetts. A really popular guy, too. Funny, witty, educated. But his brother — Whitey — was a killer. How does that happen? What kind of family dynamics produce the head of a mob and the head of the university?

I think every general assignment reporter in Boston had some inkling of his location, including my husband who never said so because he never talks about “the mob,” not when we were young or now … but I was sure he knew a lot more than he said. The FBI knew because they used him as a source for decades and paid him for it, too.

He was supposedly some kind of a “Robin Hood” in Southie. Maybe for his friends, he was. For everyone else, he was a murderous thug. Eventually, it all broke open and he went to prison and died there today.

Former mob boss and fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig is shown in this 2011 booking photo. In the opening of the murder and racketeering trial on June 12, 2013, prosecutors described Bulger, 83, as the leader of a criminal gang responsible for decades of “murder and mayhem.” Prosecutors say 19 people were killed by Bulger’s hand or at his order. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice/Handout via Reuters

His brother, who I’m sure always knew how to find him, leaped from his office and floated down on a golden parachute.

The feared leader of the Winter Hill Gang, “Whitey” Bulger was convicted (finally) in 2013 of 11 murders stretching from Boston to Florida and Oklahoma. Bulger had spent 16 years as one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives before he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.

The could have found him sooner. If they tried harder.

HOMES – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Home


Be it ever so humble, home is going to really cost you.

Growing up

I never really felt at home at my parent’s house. All I wanted was to be old enough to run. My first marriage was the classic “jailbreak.” He was still living in his parents’ attic. I had a rented room near the college. We both needed to get out of where we were and into something with “legs.”

The was our first house. It cost us $20,300 which is less than the car we drive. We took out an $18,000 mortgage. We lived there for 8 years, but it needed a lot of work. For one thing, its heating system was a converted coal furnace … and a second bathroom had become an issue. We could have remodeled rather than moving, but houses were still inexpensive, so we moved.

Exactly one mile away.

The next house

I loved that house. I used to walk around it during the night and just touch things. It talked to me. Unfortunately, that marriage was on its way out. Five-years later, I was on my way to Jerusalem, Israel.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

That marriage was troubled before we got married. Had I had any sense at all, I never would have gotten into it … but I was lonely, far from home.  I didn’t speak or read the language.

The marriage had endless problems, but I adored Jerusalem and that old Arab-built house in which we finally settled had magic. It was home … until I left. The troubled marriage only got worse and after 9 years, I went home.

I had no place to stay, so I stayed in the guest room of the first husband.

Roxbury. Great townhouse. Three flights of stairs.

Garry thought we should get married and not long after that, we did. We found a great home in Roxbury. A triplex with enough closets to last a lifetime … and a wonderful kitchen. It was not finished when we bought it, so we had it designed for us. It was a great townhouse. We wanted a yard for the dogs … but if the Big Dig hadn’t driven us away, we might still be there. Really, probably not. We wanted some land. We wanted to live in the country.

Now, and for the past 18 years, this has been our home. It is also undoubtedly our last home.

What made each place a real home and not just a place to sleep?

Fundamentally, it’s where our dogs, cats, books, and art lives. I have lived in homes with many different people — including alone. The art and the dogs and cats always came too. They are a lot of what makes me feel I’m me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Art, especially, is important. I don’t know how anyone can live in a house with blank walls and empty tables. The “glass and steel” trends of recent years look pretty in a photograph, but how awful to live in a place that’s all sharp edges.

Every place I’ve lived has had art and books everywhere. Dogs and cats and occasionally other critters, too.  Living with Garry has been a pleasure. After a lifetime of living with — or being married to — people I often didn’t really like, it’s great to live with someone I love.

Home is the stage from which we emerge into the larger world. We keep our costumes here. We keep our computers here. It’s the number we give to people who might want to call us — and one of the reasons I much prefer having a “home” telephone number.

This is where I live. Call me. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I’ll get back to you. This is where we live. This is home.