WHERE’S MY STUFF? – Marilyn Armstrong and Rich Paschall

I know this isn’t the sexiest subject on the Internet, but this morning, I had to explain to my furniture store from whom — at the beginning of June — we ordered a new loveseat. The one we sit in — ALL the time — is 15 years old and has more or less collapsed. Considering that we are home pretty much all the time, we need something to support our backs — and sturdy enough to not be done in by the Duke’s sharp, pointy feet.

They have no idea when I’ll get my sofa. I’m not in a hurry anyway, so it was more a matter of information than urgency. Rich Paschall has explained this to me and to you (if you read the posts), I explained it to her. She hadn’t understood it either and said she was grateful because customers get restless and don’t seem to understand why the world isn’t working like it used to.

Tracks are the road

Most people think the delays are (or were) because so many people are (were, will be) sick, but that was where it began. From then on, it is far more complicated and it is not repaired. Most places aren’t entirely sure how to repair it. Until it is finally fixed, it might be quite a long time  before we see the improvements, even if every airline and freight mover works as hard as they can to get it working. Old ideas need to be replaced, in some cases with older ideas we abandoned or changed to entirely new ways of doing things.

We won’t have an economy if we can’t move our goods. Forget about overseas shipping. Even shipping in this country — which is a very big country with many airports and uncounted numbers of roads — has a lot of moving to do.Living in New England, we are completely dependent on getting fruits and vegetables from California, Florida, and Mexico from November through April and often longer. By early summer, I’m drooling over the idea of a fresh orange.

Spanning the river

Weather matters. Road conditions are critical.  That’s why public works — resurfacing, rebuilding roads and bridges — is a very big deal. It’s not just whether or not you get to work on time.

It’s also whether or not you have work to get to.

We need trains that run in addition to trucks, but we’ve never bothered to repair the tracks, so throughout the country, many direct routes are unusable. We have the trains, but the tracks are old and have not been maintained.

So, while wondering how come we don’t have our new recliner, we should ponder where it’s coming from and how it will somehow get from it’s point of manufacture to the shop in Uxbridge (where we bought it) and ultimately, to our living room.

A big truck and a low bridge

So for all of you waiting for a shipment, I’m posting a list of three of Rich’s well-written, clearly explained posts about the shipping. How it is broken and how it is being resurrected — to the degree that it can be resurrected.

I’m sure most of you don’t read these pieces because they aren’t sexy or exciting, They won’t make you laugh, but it’s information you nee, whether you are running a business or dependent on those who do. Shipping affects everybody, from grocery stores to flower growers, and people who just want a new fridge.

No one has stopped making stuff … but getting it? That’s a whole other story.

1. THE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTION – RICH PASCHALL

2. SENDING AND RECEIVING STUFF – RICH PASCHALL

3. BRING ON THE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – RICH PASCHALL

Considering that I had to explain this to my furniture company this morning what’s going on in the shipping industry, I’m pretty sure we all need to understand how complicated this process is. We’ve come to depend on getting everything as soon as we want it, whether it’s coming from China, England, or Australia.

Stuck in traffic on the way to Connecticut

The freight and shipping lines are broken. Like the damaged train tracks all over the U.S,, our supply lines are badly damaged. Restoring them to something like what we used to have won’t be instant. It will take time, cost big money, and require rethinking the process.

It’s a great opportunity for local farms, carpenters, builders … anyone whose business is close to its customers to do a major “reboot.” For everyone else, it’s the giant migraine of migraines. Be patient … or order locally, even if it costs more — assuming there IS a local manufacturer. When we moved all our manufacturing to Asia, a lot of things we all need went far away. I don’t think we make kitchen or laundry appliances anywhere in this country. When you aren’t buying it from a Chinese factory, it will cost more and try to remember even if it has an American brand name on it, that doesn’t mean it was made here or even on this continent.

On the other hand, it might be worth more, too. And you might get it during this lifetime.

ONCE UPON A TIME, WE HAD A GOVERNMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

For the past couple of weeks, Garry and I have been watching (again) all 7 seasons of “The West Wing.” Aside from being a brilliantly written show, it clarifies where we are as a nation. That we are fighting exactly the same battles today we were battling 10 years ago. They are using the same words on the show we are using now. They are fighting the same “refusnik” Senate we have been fighting. Maybe it’s worse now, but it was not much better then.

As you watch the show, it produces a lot of responses:

  1. Realizing there were actually some good television shows with great dialog.
  2. Recognizing the mistakes Democrats made, mostly by trying to be everything to everybody and never being themselves.
  3. Failing to recognize issues which needed to wait until another day would become life and death issues in less than a decade. For example, all those environmental issues they ignored or avoided because it would anger contributors or Republicans or their own members.
  4. Never really confronting the gun issue or immigration.
  5. Often doing half a job and never completely dealing with major issues.

The show is so well written that you see how and why they fail and why even the successes aren’t really successful, how many bills were essentially toothless.

Middle of the road is not a safe place to drive and this show has a liberal president who is essentially afraid to be the liberal he really is. He’s always trying to placate someone and the results leave you wondering if he really accomplished anything. When you drive in the middle of the road, you are very likely to crash into another car or truck or pedestrian.

The show is so well written you feel as if you are actually participating in a government. Our government. Because whatever is wrong with their televised version of “The West Wing,” it is a government. They try very hard to do the right thing. Even though they often don’t get where they should go, they do the best they can. They work very hard. Win, lose, or partly succeed, it was a government, though I think people on it were a bit more clever and witty than they are in real life.

It’s playing continuously on Netflix. These days, because we have been down the Obama and now the Trump path, we know where those decisions lead and why it wasn’t the right way to go. We watched the whole series during the last few weeks and when we ran out of shows, we decided to watch it again. It fills a gap in our lives. It makes us feel that somewhere in the ether, a better government awaits us.

LET’S BAN PENNIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email from AT&T. It was alarming. I was overdue on my bill! They were going to report me to collection agencies, send it to all those companies that decide whether or not you deserve to have a credit card or a mortgage.

I was surprised because I paid the bill. On-time. Online. I know I did.

Obverse side of a 1990 issued US Penny. Pictur...

So, after resetting my password — it doesn’t matter how many times I set my password … the next time I go to AT&T’s website, I will have to do it again — I looked at my bill. Somehow, I had underpaid the bill by a penny.

One cent. $00.01

In retribution for my oversight, AT&T said they would sic the collection agencies on me. I deserve to pay heavily for this lapse in fiscal responsibility. Though I think it was their error, not mine, but let’s not quibble.

There are many battles to fight in life. One must pick amongst them lest one be overwhelmed. This giant corporation is going to destroy my credit for want of a penny. This is what happens when computers run the world and no people monitor what they are doing. I’m sure this was all automatically generated.

I am sure if I’d called them, they would have canceled the bill. but that would take even more time and effort. I fondly believe my time, even retired, is worth more than a penny.

So I paid the bill. I wasn’t actually sure my bank would let me pay a one-cent bill, but they did.

One cent. Just one cent. Mind-boggling.

CONUNDRUM – A QUANDARY ENCLOSED BY CONFUSION AND VEXATION – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Conundrum

We are living in a conundrum of rather massive proportions. The definition is confusing because the word is confusing.

It is a difficult, vexatious problem. It is not unlike an enigma. It may be a riddle impossible to solve. It’s a quandary, often with many potential solutions, but none which work.

We live in a nation of laws where laws don’t seem to have any current relevance. Our protections — Congress and the Supreme Court — are as much a part of the conundrum as the moron in the middle. We can’t count on protections from anywhere. Where a few years ago, we were nervous and worried, today many of us are plain terrified.

He was described last Sunday by Jake Tapper as follows:

We have a “leader” who cannot lead because he knows nothing. That would be bad enough, but he also doesn’t accept advice from those who actually do know many of the answers.

He is driving the world like a 12-year-old kid who just stole the family car. Can his tiny little legs even reach the brakes?

The economy of the world is endangered by him. He refuses to allow sane people to do what needs to be done.  He denies science, evidence, facts, and truth. Although he certainly appears to be among the most stupid men alive, I have trouble believing he is really as stupid as he seems, but no matter how I look at him, I cannot see anything but stupidity, cruelty, meanness, and rage.

Did he get this way via dementia or Alzheimer’s? Is he — above and beyond the obvious loss of brainpower due to disease — also so deranged he thinks the disaster he is creating is amusing? Is anyone laughing?

In my nightmares, I imagine him sitting in one of his ugly, tasteless “homes” cackling at the misery he is causing and wondering what else he can do to make it worse.

People keep asking, “How can he look at himself in a mirror?”

The answer is simple. He has no conscience, no moral center, no sense of right and wrong. The only reason he hasn’t built more effective concentration camps is that he hasn’t got the money. Yet.

Not to worry. He’s working on it.

ABOUT THE HOUSE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — House

These days, when I hear the word “house” my brain flicks into “fix-me” mode.

On television commercials, people always have plenty of money to hire “pros” to fix whatever needs repair. I hope they get better service than we’ve gotten.

For the rest of us, finances get a bit thin as repairs pile up. All of those television people are more concerned about finding the time to find a contractor then they are about how much the job will cost.

They live on a different planet than I do. Because even when we were both working, we had to be careful about how much anything would cost and whether or not we could pay for it.

So here’s my wish list.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

A house in which the pipes never corrode or clog. Where the electricity doesn’t blow if you turn on the hairdryer at the same time as the microwave. Where the modem never needs rebooting and the price of electricity goes down. Where any item you ever purchase lasts forever and the price of heating oil is always low.

Where snow is moderate and melts before noon and the wind blows the dead leaves off the driveway.

Windows never sag. Mice don’t move in and try to take over. Ants don’t invade. Doors never rot. The lawn, mowed once, stays mowed and the garden, once weeded never needs a redo. Where a roof lasts for the life of the house, as do all the windows and doors.

And above all, never let the well run dry or lightning strike the pump.

BETTER FIREWALLS FOR A BETTER LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Firewall

We’ve got firewalls all over the place. Our modem, our router, Chrome, Microsoft are all busy protecting us. Theoretically, our ISP protects us, too. I think their idea of protecting us is to have such a bad service no one can get through, not even us. My phone blips out a dozen times a day and the computers die with regularity. If other people weren’t having the same problem, I’d think it was us, but I know it’s them.

If you call them, they will deny everything. Lying is a national sport.

Our many firewalls are obviously insufficient to protect us from anything.

I need protection. From life, politics, and the vast stupidity that is closing in around me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge, late winter

I need to be protected from $1000 hikes in taxes when my town does absolutely nothing for us. We don’t have buses or taxis or trains. We pay to have our trash hauled. We have our own well and septic system. No one prunes the trees or even sprays for mosquitoes which, as it turns out, is fine because it would probably kill the birds while leaving the mosquitoes. They also didn’t spray for gypsy moth caterpillars.

Basically, we are on our own. Pay the taxes and figure out how to survive. The one time I called emergency services because we’d gotten frozen into our driveway and couldn’t get out, they told us that was a real pity, but they couldn’t help us. They said their trucks don’t have snow tires so they couldn’t help us. If we died in our house, that would be a real pity too. Oops. I wonder if they’d pay for the funeral?

Down our snowy road – Photo: Garry Armstrong

So what am I paying for? So the town can waste money on some other stupid project? A townwide soccer team for kindergartners? We can’t get them to expand the library (who needs a library after all?) … or repair the sidewalks. Or even add a minibus so older people can get in and out of town.

Take a walk along the river. It’s the best part of living here.

So far, the only “famous” person to emerge from this town is William Howard Taft which is pretty dismal. Though I hear his ranking as a Chief Supreme Court Judge was better than his record as President. It is unlikely to be worse. He was a hard tryer, but a big failure. Not a bad description of Uxbridge, come to think of it. Except I don’t think we try all that hard.

I want protection from gigantic rises in the cost of oil to heat our house. I want them to fix the roads so that the repairs last more than the first month of winter.

I want to be firewalled from reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I want some of that money we pay to underwrite the cost of my drugs. I want the town to plow my driveway and clear away the monstrous piles of autumn leaves and other trash that accumulates. I want someone to come by and clean up the trash people throw from their car windows onto our “front lawn,” which is actually a lot of trees that need to be cut down.

I want them to collect the trash and not make us pay for it! You know. Like they do in other towns.

I want them to give us a senior discount on our taxes like most other towns offer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If they are going to leave us to decay here amidst the forest, I think they should stop charging us more and more for the privilege of being unable to afford to live here. I could understand it if they actually gave us something for our money, but they don’t. Oh, but they built a firehouse.

So if the place burns down, they’ll be sure to drop by with hoses. At least, in theory. There are no fire pumps along our road, so they better also bring tanks. Do we even have tanker trucks?

Some mornings, life is just too much with me.

NO SPENDTHRIFTING THIS YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spendthrift

There was a time when “spendthrift” meant spending too much money for something that wasn’t necessary. This was when we were both working and earning good salaries. Summer vacations were when we really spent money.  Great restaurants, jewelry, clothing, hotels, airfare. We worked hard. We deserved it. We still work hard, for our age and we still deserve it.

Back deck Vineyard house. Did a lot of drinking back there. Eating. And reading. It used to have a huge rope hammock.

We did most of our summering on Martha’s Vineyard. We shared a house with a lot of other people — which made it sort of affordable. At the end of the season, everything went on sale, so I would buy all the Christmas presents in August on the Vineyard. People got interesting stuff.

Vineyard house – Originally part of the New York Yacht Club. The house where we stayed before it was restored.

Now we don’t go to the Vineyard — and we also don’t give much in the way of Christmas gifts, either. If someone really needs it, we can’t afford it. If we can afford it, they don’t need it.

Basically, these days, being a spendthrift would mean spending any money for anything unrelated to fixing the house. There’s no “fun money” lying around. Being a spendthrift was a lot more fun than being “house poor.” Although I dearly love our new bathroom, I wouldn’t object to a vacation, either.

I was a lot younger, too

I’d like to get some good graphics software for my MacBook Air, but all the good “full service” software that normally works on a Mac won’t work on this one. The MacBook Air is the lightest weight “real” computer made. It’s incredibly light. To make it so lightweight,  Mac removed a lot of stuff.  It weighs less than my more solid (older) 10-inch Kindle with its Bluetooth speaker. It also has a very small hard drive (half a gig SSD) and it feels kind of fragile. I’m very protective of it because I don’t think it would survive a serious fall onto a hard surface.

I wanted it so I could process photos while we were out of town. Without hauling the big Dell which weighs like a cinderblock. As it turns out, I can’t do it anyway. Either the hard drive is too small and the application won’t fit, or it doesn’t have the right graphics processor. Everything in the machine is rather miniature. It wouldn’t make much of a difference if it weren’t for photography. Photographs use a LOT of space.

I’ve been saved from myself. Most of what I want doesn’t exist.

Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs

Except for the vacation. I’d really like a long vacation. But we’ve got three dogs, two of whom are getting old. I’m not comfortable leaving them for long periods of time.

Never mind. We’ll save tons of money and enjoy that new shower!

ADULTING 101 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I read a fascinating article from Today, on Facebook. It was written by Meghan Holohan on March 29, 2019, and is titled “ ‘Adulting’ Class at Kentucky high school teaches crucial life skills.”

What a great concept! I’ve always thought high schools and colleges should offer life skills classes so kids aren’t left totally unprepared when they move into adulthood (that is if their parents don’t prepare them, which most don’t).

In the Kentucky school, ‘Adulting’ seminars were offered and the response was overwhelming and positive. Parents were as thrilled as the kids when the project started blowing up on the internet. Seniors could choose three out of eleven workshops to attend with the goal of gaining more general knowledge and specific skills needed to help them navigate their lives after high school.

The classes offered were awesome and totally practical. Some of them were: Dorm Room Cooking, How To Interact With the Police (I’m assuming it’s an inner city school), Healthy Relationships and Boundaries, It’s Money, Baby, i.e. Personal Finance, Writing a Resume and Cover Letter, Filling out an Application, Basics of Checking and Savings and When you Need to See A Doctor.

The first class to fill up was dorm room cooking. The Police were the second most popular and the third was Healthy Relationships. Apparently, a lot of young girls were not sure how and when to set boundaries in a relationship and what you should and should not expect — or accept — in a relationship. If you don’t see good relationships in your life, I guess you need to be taught what a good one looks like and how to get it. Very sad.

This school’s adulting classes are hopefully the start of a new trend. I looked online and found an adulting class for millennials that teaches them ‘survival’ skills like monthly budgeting and how to open a wine bottle with a cork. A library in Oregon offers “Adulting 101: Basic How-To’s for ages 16-25.”

Apparently, neither mainstream schools or parents are preparing kids to take on the world beyond home and high school.

I’ve read several conflicting explanations for why kids today seem so clueless when it comes to basic adulthood skills. Some blame it on the fact that so many kids continue to live at home through their 20’s, and even later. But one article pointed out that in the 1940s, people lived at home in even larger numbers and for even longer periods than recent generations. But those kids also did chores and were given adult responsibilities while at home, so making it in the real world was not a problem for them when the time came.

That points to late 20th-century parenting as the problem.

One author argues that both parents usually have to work crazy hours just to provide good lives for their families, so no one has time to teach life skills to their kids. Another author blames helicopter or snowplow parents who treat their kids like delicate, pampered snowflakes, do everything for them and expect nothing from them.

Another school of thought blames high schools, which used to teach skills like cooking, shop, and bookkeeping but now don’t. My husband had a great home economics class and learned how to cook as a teenager. He was the only boy in a class full of girls! Win, win!

Another author argues that every generation of young adults is equally ignorant of life skills and that most people learn them in the field, as adults. I had never cooked a thing until I reached law school and had my first apartment. Many kids don’t have their own checkbooks when they live with their parents and so they don’t learn how to manage one until they are living and working on their own.

I’m not sure which theory I believe, but I agree with the person who said that whatever the root causes of their egregious lack of ‘adult’ knowledge, the kids today should be commended for trying to learn what they realize they don’t know.

Hopefully, there will be a big spike in enrollment in the Adulting School that has opened, which offers classes in cooking, sewing, and basic conflict resolution. I know some adults who could use those classes. I know many career women who don’t know the first thing about cooking, except ordering out. I still can’t balance a checkbook.

Where do I sign up?

ANOTHER YEAR ON A FIXED INCOME- Marilyn Armstrong

We got our taxes done.

This used to be a big deal because we got so much money back at the end of the year. Then Reagan changed everything and we got back less than half we’d gotten in the past. Now, on a fixed income, we get pretty much the same thing every year.

This year we got a little more Federal, a little less State, but the result was essentially the same as last year.

Not a big deal, but it beats out nothing. It’s the only “lump” of money we get all year and I’m hoping it’ll be enough to get the chimney fixed.

I’m still a little punchy with the upcoming fix up to the bathroom and trying to snip whatever payments I can downward so that maybe we can get through this alive. Getting out of AT&T and into US Mobile brought $40/month back into our account. I’ve got a few almost finished accounts and when they are done, we’ll have another $100 maybe?

It’s the fixed income thing.

Prices go up, but income never goes up. We haven’t had crazy inflation, yet the price of food has been slowly rising. Heating oil has risen. Trash went down a little, but taxes went up too. And somehow, our “low-end” cable package keep crawling upward. A dollar here, two dollars there, another five in that corner.

We dumped cable and got “YouTubeTV” and haven’t looked back. Of course, we still have to keep paying Charter for Wi-Fi and somehow, the price of Wi-Fi is now more than our original cable bill was. Funny how that works.

We don’t get “big hits” of income change, either positive or negative — but over time, since we’ve been on a fixed income, it has eroded by 15%, give or take maybe another 5%. That’s with low inflation, mind you. If inflation rises faster, we will be in trouble.

There is nothing to be done about it … other than winning Mega Millions of course. I suppose we should buy a ticket. Just in case.

THE SHINBONE STAR – REBLOG By NATHANIEL R. “NAT” HELMS

TIME HEALS OLD WOUNDS . . . UNLESS THEY’VE TURNED GANGRENOUS

A self-imposed exile from the machinations of Donald Trump is a good thing. It is like spraying Febreze Clean Linen scent inside your skull until the rotten stench is completely covered. Two weeks wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy it, but it is a start.

A real exile from Trump means no cable news, newspapers, Facebook memes and rants, not answering taunts and jibes and no light-hearted political discussion with the neighbors.

Netflix is a good hiding place. A more extreme alternative is Devotional Hour with Sister Marie, the wizened old nun who provides solace on a local Catholic television show. Five minutes cured everything. Even with great alternatives available, actually weaning oneself off the Trumpian titty is like quitting smoking without a nicotine patch. His nefarious influence is everywhere.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about such an experience is discovering that people who must work every day to care for their kids, dogs, and homes don’t often give a tinker’s damn about politics. It takes a particularly powerful whiff of Trumplandian swamp gas for them to even notice all is still not well in Washington, D.C. They apparently leave all the angst for old retired people who won’t suffer too long no matter what happens.

Several other discoveries jumped out immediately. The Trumpian Wall saga has run its course across the emotional nerves of my neighbors. So have mass shootings, the endless litany of #MeToo sexual peccadilloes and reports about election campaigns so far in the future they are irrelevant. The baffling Mueller probe is seen in the same light as all the other probes getting shoved in people’s keisters in the name of New Age correctness.

My hardworking neighbors know that a Saudi journalist named Khashoggi was chopped into mincemeat by lackeys of some medieval Arab prince who won’t be touched; that war in Syria and Afghanistan may be over but don’t count on it; and that some big, bald-headed guy on TV when they arrived home Friday was in a pointless pissing match with the Democrats. None of it touched their lives.

What really pisses off Mr. and Mrs. Working America is finding out that they aren’t going to get the income tax refund they used to use to buy a little fun, the really unimaginative halftime show at the cliché’-rich Super Bowl and that the constantly rising price of food and gas never gets factored into those glowing reports about how rich America is.

Just ask a working mom who looks forward to taking the kids for a week at the beach that won’t happen this year because she didn’t get a useful tax refund. Ask the tradesman who tolerated his union dues going to Democrats, thinking their expanded presence in the House would improve his life. Instead, they are using his money to buy a bully pulpit to promote themselves without accomplishing much else.

Perhaps the most illuminating people to talk to are the mid-level government employees where I live that are wracked with doubt because they spent all their savings just to survive Trump’s 35-day government shutdown. They are imminently aware that another shutdown is still in the cards. They are equally certain that at some point a shutdown will wreck the economy the same way it already has wrecked their households.

The so-called Trumpian base, the badly informed working class folks who turn to anyone who offers them red meat, are confused and angered as well. They thought their lot would have improved by now, said one of my forsaken buddies while buying donuts. We’ve been punching holes in targets together for 30 years and he still can’t bring himself to say he might have been wrong about Trump.

My old buddy lives in a trailer court down the road. He lives there because he can’t afford a house. He can’t afford a house because he earns a $1,000 or more a week during the working season and still can’t save enough for the 20-percent down payment. Despite all the news stories about how the country has run out of skilled and unskilled labor, he doesn’t have a job.

His mobile home costs $780 a month plus utilities. His wife doesn’t work because they can’t afford daycare for his three kids. Being a union laborer doesn’t provide much work in the dead of winter, he said. Unemployed union laborers go on the extra board and draw $280 a week unemployment that they hope will last until the spring thaw. The only thing being a cherished veteran got him is a VA house loan and lip service. Meanwhile, Republicans who supported Trump in Missouri are again trying to introduce “right-to-work” laws because they think laborers like my friend are paid too much.

I learned a lesson from this experience. To move forward, the country must clear its head, put its feet back on the ground and wean itself off the milk of Trumpian discourse. Hate holds only bankrupt answers. Trump’s forte is lies. It is time for Democrats to go around him, under him, over him or through him, the way illegal aliens would get past his useless border wall.

The presumption that time heals all wounds is misplaced. Time only heals wounds that don’t turn gangrenous.

Democratic leaders need to spend less time blaming Trump’s egregious behavior for the country’s wounds and begin binding them instead.

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS, BIRDS, AND A SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

This is another one of those “lost days” for me. There seem to be more and more of them, like I’ve been saving them up. But the suitcase got too small and everything is bursting out and blowing all over the place.

We had a long summer of nothing much going on, preceded by a long slow winter and spring, suddenly, as summer rolled around … everything went wild and crazy. For us, that is. For someone else, probably not so much but we don’t move fast.

I never seem to have a whole day to just relax. Or even a  half a day.

Squabbling Juncos or a Junco and a Nuthatch. Hard to tell.

The reddest bird of all birds

The red one’s lady friend

Chickadee and Goldfinch

Early Squirrel

Tomorrow we get our taxes done. I’m hoping for the best and hopefully, we won’t have another government shut-down and we’ll actually get our refund. This year. Like … soon. Because we need an infusion of money.

Finances are running a bit thin. And did I mention that it’s gotten very cold again with sleet and snow and maybe freezing rain tomorrow? But not to worry because it will be 50 degrees by the weekend, at which point, it will all melt.

UXBRIDGE ON THE RITZ! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ritzy

Amidst the Sturm-und-Drang of life in our dinky little town, we suffer from what most forgotten towns suffer from.

We have nothing going for us.

Uxbridge has no work or hope of meaningful employment. There are no malls with big stores that hire people for living wages. No budget, sidewalks (except mid-town, which is one street (Main Street, of course). There are no streetlights, though we do have one traffic light. No public transportation. Not buses, trains, or trolleys or even a taxi. Someone said there’s an Uber driver somewhere, but I’ve never seen him or her.

On the street where we live.

There is no bookstore (we had one, but it went out of business). No greenhouses or nurseries. No places to buy clothing unless you count the Salvation Army (often the most fashionable offerings in the area). No quaint coffee shops (but lots of donuts).

It’s a mosaic because we don’t have any murals. But it’s an old one and it’s all about shearing and marketing wool.

We have some restaurants serving among the worst food you can imagine. We’ve got one really good (and ridiculously expensive) sushi joint we can no longer afford. We used to go there when it opened and prices were normal, but people discovered it and up went the prices — and they opened two more restaurants in other towns, too. There is one other Asian eating place — just over the Rhode Island border — which has sushi as well as pretty good and almost affordable Thai and Vietnamese food. It’s only a mile and a bit from home, so when we go out — rarely — that’s where we go.

Otherwise, the ‘American’ restaurants think garlic and black pepper are too spicy. It’s all brown gravy and white bread bland. We have a couple of Chinese restaurants that change owners regularly. New chefs start off with decent food, discover no one EATS decent food and promptly delete all spices from all foods.

I love Chinese food and fortunately, I know how to cook it, else I would be forced to drive fifty miles to someplace that recognizes the difference between Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese, et al.

Take a walk along the river

Our other local “restaurants” are pretty good at making burgers, fries, and serving cold beer. Mostly, beer.

The little white house with the big red tree

Three years ago, Massachusetts passed a bill allowing pot shops in the state. They have been wrangling over taxes and shmaxes and what about stoned drivers and is it moral? Meanwhile, the citizens have been getting downright irritable that we still didn’t have any way to buy any.

Between the “medical marijuana” bill we passed, we seem to have also said, “Aw, nuts, bring on the ‘just for fun’ dope, too.” We all own more land than we need around here. Mostly, the soil is too stony and rooty to grow normal crops. It’s truck farming. Cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries in June, and squash forever  … and a few places grow corn … and of course, dairy cows.

Plus lots and lots of apples. Orchards everywhere. We really do grow amazingly good apples and anything we don’t eat, the horses are happy to finish off for us. Did I mention horses? We grow big horses. Clydesdale and Percherons, each horse the size of a 10-ton truck, but gentle as a kitten. Just don’t step on my paw, please.

About three months ago, finally we opened our first two pot shops. one somewhere in a sleazy part of Boston and someplace not far from the crossing into Cape Cod — near Plymouth I think, but I could be wrong.

During the first two months, these two TINY little shops brought in more than 2-1/2 million dollars — each.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Suddenly, all the people who doubted pot was something we ought to have here in Massachusetts began to sing folk songs, buy bongs, and whistle a happy tune because — hey, that’s REAL MONEY. No kidding. Money in huge quantities. The only reason there wasn’t more money coming in was the shops kept running out of dope.

The Canal and river

No problem. Spring is coming.

Anyone with a piece of empty land is going into the hemp-growing business — or renting their land to someone who’ll do the growing and pay them to use the property.

Last night, on the local news, they announced the next two locations for the new pot shops. One will be in Pittsfield, the town in the Berkshires where no one wants to live, and … are you ready? Really ready?

UXBRIDGE.

No shit. There it was. On the map on the big television. Dead center of south-central Massachusetts and hyper-convenient to our neighboring border states of Connecticut and Rhode Island — where they don’t (yet) have “enjoy the munchies” dope.

UXBRIDGE.

I’m sure everyone was sitting and looking at the screen and saying “Where the hell is Uxbridge?” Nobody knows where we live. No one ever bothers to visit us because “Where the hell is Uxbridge?”

Well. Now we are someplace. You will come here to buy marijuana.

We’ll have a permanent traffic jam in front of Hannaford’s and every doughnut shop will be overrun by stoned people looking for stuff to eat. Dear lord! There will be no parking because who needed parking?

Our one lane, each direction Main Street will be full of expensive cars and stoned people who have hiked in from Boston and the Cape. We are actually only an hour and a bit from Cape Cod, but no one knows that … yet. Soon, they will know.

They will build coffee shops and bake pies. Someone will open a bakery. Stores will sell widgets no one needs that cost too much money. Maybe the price of our house will finally rise in value. Is it possible our taxes will drop?

Nah. Taxes never drop.

But more people might move in. We might get a trolley or a bus or a train stop. It could happen. And they could fix the sidewalks and put in some streetlights!

Uxbridge Commons

I’m dreaming of a stoned Christmas, unlike any I’ve ever known.

There was a time in my life when I dreamed of legal pot and at least I’ve lived to see that happen. And who’d have thought in UXBRIDGE?

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” She chortled in her joy.

Talk about ritzy.

RITZY has come to UXBRIDGE!

NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 18 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.

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But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.

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They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.

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Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?

FORGETTING AND REMEMBERING – THE PAST IS NEVER GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

History wasn’t supposed to be an academic subject we learn in school and promptly forget. I am always a bit pixelated by people who tell me that there’s nothing in the past that means anything to them. They are inevitably the same people get twisted up in something they could have  (easily) avoided if they knew some history.

Photo: Owen Kraus

Let’s take the old “trickle down” theory of economics. It has been tried by I don’t even know how many conservative or Republican administrations. It has never worked. That’s because it doesn’t work. It can’t work. It’s one of those theories that presupposes that the people involved will intentionally do “the right thing.”

That extra money will be reinvested in the business and used to pay employees better and hire more people.

Except they don’t. Ever.

They take the money as a bigger salary for themselves and other top-level administration. They use the rest to pay bigger dividends to investors and as often as not, cut staffing, lower salaries, and these days, move the entire business to a less expensive economic environment. The thing they never do is raise salaries for current employers and hire more people.

Why not?

Good question. There was a time when that is what businesses did. They believed in America. They weren’t any less greedy or rapacious than the current bunch, but they were patriots too. They believed in the United States, trusted Americans to produce high-quality work. They also thought high-quality work mattered.

Crown and Eagle mill

These days, greed is what’s left but without the patriotism or dedication to producing quality work. They don’t care whether what they do strips the land, destroys anyone living in the area, or is lethally poisonous. As long as they make an extra penny per whatever, that’s good enough.

Most of these “old time” rich people eventually turned to philanthropy. They did care about America and once they’d wrung every penny they could get from whatever industry they built, they thought it was their duty to “pay back” the country.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

These days, most of the super-rich have no allegiance to anyone or anything but themselves. They think if we aren’t rich, we’re trash. That’s exactly how they treat us.

If you work harder at your job, they will fire someone else and you will get twice the work. I eventually learned to never let them know how quickly I could work because I never got a raise or a pat on the back. I just got more and more work. In one job, I started out as the junior writer in a department of five.

Rumford River dam, part of the original Bernat Mill complex.

By the time I left, I was the junior writer in a department of me alone. Everyone else had quit or been let go. I still hadn’t gotten a raise or promotion. I did what five people had previously done. Nothing trickled down.

That was the last time I let myself work full-speed.

And that’s why trickle down is a pile of horseshit. Nothing trickles down. The guy at the top keeps it all and laughs as they haul his money to a Caribbean island while he avoids paying any taxes. To anyone.

Two banks, night in Uxbridge

If anyone reads history, the story of economics in this and every other country will assure them this isn’t going to work because it never has. It never will.

Meanwhile, a pile of damn fool voters will believe the bosses who promise they will make it better — yet never understand why they keep getting poorer.