BACK IN THE SADDLE — BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

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“The Saddle” was a TV studio, WCCA-TV. Worcester Community Cable Access television. It was nirvana for a retired TV news reporter. I was the guest.

Getting ready for the show

The hostess was Liz Myska, a lawyer who is also severely visually-impaired and an advocate for the visually-impaired. Dressed in a bright summer frock which set off a charming and winning smile, I felt instantly at ease as with Liz as we met and chatted with our Covid 19 masks which made conversation a bit difficult before taping the show.

Liz asked if I could “handle the 26 minute interview.”  I smiled. I could hear Marilyn’s laughter off-camera.

It was a piece of cake. Liz, working off our pre-show chatter, dove right into the “what inspired you to pursue a career that obviously has been satisfying” question. A great lead off because it enabled me to go in many directions.

Satisfying versus successful. Satisfying is more personal. Successful means you assume something and are talking, perhaps bragging about “the greatest hits” in your life. That can be very uncomfortable unless your ego is in charge.

Liz’s question enabled me to double back to my childhood and the background for the learning I got from my parents. Their blue collar earnings never diminished their belief in right and wrong.

 

They believed in education We always had books, magazines, newspapers, reference material, a variety of musical instruments, and, of course, the radio. All of which allowed me to indulge my fantasies, something that has always been an integral part of my life as I close in on 80 years.

Liz shared stories about her youth and a similar incentive to pursue dreams. It became the foundation fabric of our lives. The interview had turned into almost an intimate conversation. That is the absolute target in a well done interview.

Liz listened to me, following as I digressed multiple times as is my habit. She smiled, anticipating a funny twist that would come as I wrapped up an anecdote. I relaxed even more.

Inevitably, the interview came to dealing with major disabilities in the professional world. I was and am the severely hearing-challenged guest talking to my severely sight-challenged hostess. It was a first for me.

I always had felt it necessary to explain how disability makes life difficult, personally and professionally. No need for any such “setup” chatter with Liz. I dove into stories about my difficulties covering trials because of poor amplification in aging courthouses.  Liz just nodded as I told about beseeching judges to make attorneys and witnesses speak louder and clearer.

She laughed when I told her about the ripple effect with veteran judges (who I also implored to speak louder and clearer) chastised prominent attorneys for mumbling. Liz (who is also a lawyer) and I were on the same page about really listening to people as a reporter and an attorney, looking for layers beneath the surface. Liz’ smile was infectious as she talked about the difficulty in getting reticent clients to be open and honest. We talked about the “trust trait” — how you must have it if you need people to believe and accept what you are saying.

Liz nimbly brought the trust factor issue to our current national state of mistrust, doubt, and cynicism. We shared sighs about how those in positions of power — including reporters and lawyers – must accept the challenge to do the right and moral thing. To alleviate the moral and ethical decay that challenges our lives.

I was about to offer another thought but the show was over. 26 minutes had vanished in a moment.

Marilyn gave me a thumbs up for my work. It felt good. Always does coming from Marilyn who doesn’t let love get in the way of critiquing my work.

Marilyn was a star too. She wasn’t feeling well but agreed to accompany me for the interview. She did it as my navigator and also as my loyal source of support. It was a long and difficult day for Marilyn just being on her feet. Her mobility issues were tested by walking to and from the studio, then immediately afterwards, a lengthy shopping trek to pick up groceries.

Two leftover cigarettes — she baked nine!

Finally, last night, Marilyn chose to make delicious pretzels. The soft, warm ones like you buy at the mall. It is one of my favorites, which meant more hours on her feet since it’s a yeast recipe.  Marilyn’s feet were not happy with her last night. Nor was her back.

The canes we used were helpful. Marilyn who really has trouble walking and, me, with simple old age pains have found the canes help steady us and keep  us from falling. Despite our efforts, our bodies were clearly not pleased with our day. It was long and for Marilyn at least, was one activity over the line. Maybe two.

Today, we are paying the piper for my star turn on television. It didn’t used to be this way. How did the years go by so fast?

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – AND SO MUCH MORE …


What a strange and haunted year we have had. We are living in a world we never imagined except perhaps as a science fiction novel of the dystopian future. We don’t go anywhere, although today we went to the vet to say goodbye to Bonnie … and the grocery to say hello to food.

It’s almost a weird kind of relief that we finally let her go. This has been looming for close to a year. I remember last summer refusing to take even a short vacation because I felt she needed care and no one else had the time to give it to her. I haven’t absorbed it yet, but the Duke is grieving. Lots of sighing and moaning. When they walked her away up the ramp he started to cry and we cried with him.

Good bye Bonnie. Your were the best little girl ever and we will always miss you.



From Su Leslie:

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

AND THE LIGHT WENT OUT: GOODBYE CARL REINER – Marilyn Armstrong

So many years of Carl Reiner, from one of the very first television shows I ever saw, peeking in through my parents bedroom door, watching and giggling softly through ” Your Show of Shows,” starring Sid Caesar.

Carl Reiner was always there, as a writer, director, and actor, he and Mel Brooks performing “The 2000-Year Old Man” was one of the funniest performances on TV and recordings.

I had a vinyl recording of the 2000-year old man. Then, I had a recorded tape and when that wore out, I bought the CD. It was never the same story each time. It was just something that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did. It was a “party story” that became a recording, a stage show, an ongoing story to which we all knew the words.

But he was so much more than a comedian. He was a brilliant and exceptionally creative writer, director, and actor. The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) was one of the funniest movies I ever saw. Touching, too.

Reiner won many awards and honors. Nine Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner, and artist Lucas Reiner, and the grandfather of Tracy Reiner … and Mel Brooks best friend. All through the years, as their wives passed on, they walked to each other’s houses and breakfasted together. I hoped they would never die. I wanted them to be friends forever.

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In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Reiner was author of several books, including a 2004 memoir “My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir” and novels, such as his 2006 novel “NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film,” he expressed his philosophy on writing comedy:


“You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you’ll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what’s funny, you won’t be funny, actually. It’s like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you’ll trip.”


There was so much more. Now, Carl Reiner’s son, Rob Reiner, carries the light forward. Carl Reiner, may you rest-in-peace. You brought joy to so many of us for so many years. At a time when laughter has become a rare thing, Carl Reiner made us laugh.

A THANK YOU NOTE TO AMERICA FROM THE CORONA VIRUS – BY TOM CURLEY

Hi America. This is the coronavirus. I’m writing you this letter to say thank you for all you have done for me.  I know I’m just a microscopic organism, literally the simplest life form on Earth.

I’m just a single strand of RNA enclosed in a protein sheath. Whatever the hell that is. But even so, you all have seemed to have gone way out of your way to make sure I survive. I and my billions and billions of copies want you to know we really appreciate it.

You may not know it, but it’s not easy being a pathogen. We have a hard time doing what we have to do, which is to make more copies of ourselves. Sadly, the only way we can do this is by finding our way into a “host.” Usually it’s an animal, like a bat or a rat. We’re also popular with certain insects, like fleas and mosquitoes.

But every so often we get to live in you humans. When we get inside you we burrow into one of your cells that is particularly tasty and we replace that cell’s DNA with our own. Then we make the cell stop doing what it was supposed to do and instead start making hundreds and hundreds of copies of us!  Pretty cool, right?

Then those hundreds and hundreds of copies invade other cells and before you know it, there’s millions of us inside you!

The only problem is, we tend to kill all the cells we invade. After a while we run out of host cells.

That sucks.

On top of that, all you hosts have an “immune system.” It’s a bunch of asshole cells that attack us and kill us.

Fuck you T-cells!

Fortunately, a lot of you are old or sick and your immune cells either can’t do a very good job, or they are busy attacking other cells, like cancer cells.

Sadly, no matter how good or bad your immune systems are, you either force us out, or you die. That sucks for all of us.

So, in order for me and my billions of buds to survive,  we need to find new homes.  New “hosts.” And for us pathogens, that can be a problem. Most of us can only survive for short periods of time outside our “hosts.” Some of us can survive in water and you can drink us. Some of us can live in fleas and mosquitoes. If they bite you, we get a new home! Let’s go Team Fleas and Mosquitoes!

But the best way we get to find new homes is when you find “hosts , breathe us out and new “hosts” breathe us in. That’s the way we get around.

I don’t want to brag, but right now I’m the envy of all my fellow pathogens. Yeah, that’s right, we talk.  Ebola, Smallpox, the Bubonic Plague, the Spanish Flu, Pink Eye.  We’re all still around.

They all had great runs. But right now, it’s my time to shine.

And they’re all jealous.

I can’t blame them. I got it just right, for a pathogen. I don’t kill most people I infect. Like Ebola. I mean, yeah, Ebola is a serious badass.  But when you burn through all your “hosts” really fast, before you know it, you got no place to live. Bad ass, but stupid. I, on the other hand, only kill about 20% of the “hosts” that I live in.

The bad “side effects” of my living in you don’t even show up for at least two weeks. That means I get to live in more and more and more and more of you before you even realize I’m living in more and more and more of you!

The only thing that fucks up my traveling to newer and better “hosts” is when you all start doing things like wearing masks and staying far enough from each other that I can’t get into your nose or eyes. You do that, and one moment I’m spreading like crazy and the next moment I’m homeless.

Fuck that!

The other thing you do is “quarantine “hosts” who have me! Not fair!

And that brings me to why I’m writing you this thank you note. An amazing number of you are refusing to do anything to stop me from finding newer and newer homes! Around the world most of you are a bunch of dicks doing every thing to make me go away . But not in something called “America.” You guys are awesome! You started out as real dicks, but then you realized how much that was hurting me and you stopped.  You were wearing masks and staying away from each other. Until you weren’t!

Irony is on speed dial

All of a sudden you went back to going to weddings and funerals and churches and bars and clubs! You sit real close to each other and you sing and scream and shout and sneeze and cough! AWESOME!

That’s exactly what I need! I’ve heard that about 19,000 of you are all going to pack yourselves into an enclosed space to hear one of you tell the rest of you that I’m just a hoax and I’m just going to go away!

I love you guys!!

So, that’s basically it. Thank you America. It’s hard being a global pathogen but you have all really gone the extra mile to help me out.

USA!

USA!

PS: I know a lot of my “hosts” are wondering how I can be writing this blog. Or how I even know what a blog is. My answer is

How the hell should I know??!! I’m a fucking virus!

DUSK AS DAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Dusk


People have often asked what the difference is betweeen sunrise and sunset, between dawn and dusk. Really, in practical terms, the difference is which part of the sky is involved. East is sunrise, west is sunset. But they feel different. For whatever reason, I always know which are which, maybe because i remember when the pictures were taken. These are all dusk or sunsets, taken in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

DEATH OF THE LAST BIG BIRDFEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong

When Owen came upstairs this morning, he looked out the window and realized the birdfeeder was missing. It’s a very big feeder and (used to) hold almost 20 pounds of seeds. We had the feeders down for a few weeks and only put them back a couple of days ago.

Not only was the feeder gone, but the bracket that held it was torn off the oak stanchion, We didn’t have the camera up, but it had to be a big racoon … or a bear. We do have bears, but so far, they haven’t bothered us. And they won’t bother us … unless we keep feeding them. They apparently habituate quickly and lose their fear of people in a hurry. These are black bears, the smallest of North American bears … but even a small bear is a lot stronger than a person.

Whatever took the feeder down was strong. I hope it was a racoon. I’m not ready to deal with bears. Both raccoons and bears not only tear down feeders, but frequently steal them entirely, tucking them under their arms and taking them home to the nest..

Aw, c’mon! That’s not fair! Feeders are not cheap!

Owen found ours on the ground. It’s pretty bent up, but at least the bracket is in one piece and he can probably straighten out the rest of it, more or less. I don’t think the birds will care if it’s bent. I’m not sure what else to do, but I’m thinking of just tossing seed to the ground and let everyone have a go at it without having to climb onto the deck.That would minimize photography, but I’ve gone through four feeders this season … and it’s only the end of June.

Raccoons are not true hibernators, but grown ones store up fat so that they can sleep through most of the winter. The problem is, our weather is getting warmer. Will winter be cold enough for bears to hibernate? Or will they be coming after the feeders and trash cans all through the year?

Sketchy Goldfinches

So, for now, since we have a lot of feed, we will put it on the ground below the deck. Everything can eat without climbing the deck. Bears are big and strong. If the Duke goes after a bear, it will not go well for the Duke.

I’ve run of money. I can’t afford more feeders. I’m worried it might have been a bear because so many have been seen locally. Bears also mean finding secure places to store trash cans. Bears can break into sheds, or for that matter, houses.With such warm winters, even a hibernating bear might not sleep soundly and come out for a midnight snack. 

SEEKING ANKLE HEIGHT COMPRESSION SOCKS – Marilyn Armstrong

One of the side effects of my blood pressure medications are that one of them makes my legs swell up. If I’m on my feet, as in standing upright, walking, or even letting my feet hang off the sofa, they end up looking a bit elephantine. Compression socks fix the problem, so it’s not a serious issue.

The problem is that it is summer. It hit 96 today and I had to keep my feet up almost all day, unless I was in the kitchen. This is my favorite time of year for feet. I love sandals. I love bare or nearly bare feet. so I went looking for lightweight compression socks that might not look too horrible with sandals and skirts only to discovet that it isn’t  a compression sock if it isn’t knee-high.

Bummer.

Is there an ankle height compression sock? So many questions, so few answers. Has anyone heard of it? Any kind? Something I could wear with sandals — or alone?

If they exist, I really want some! I know this isn’t a life or death thing, but I still want some.

NARY A RIPPLE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–RIPPLES


“With nary a ripple” signals ultimate peace. No waves, no white water. Just the smooth glassiness of water and it’s reflection of sky, clouds, and the trees along the bank. And maybe the reflection of the geese or swan that float silently along the water.

BACK TO THE CANAL AND THE BLACKSTONE RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

I’d been itching to get outside, even for a little while. I’d been outside on my own property, but nowhere else except UMass hospital and I didn’t think that counted.

Garry took pictures. I took pictures. Together, it added up to quite a few pictures. I haven’t begun to process all of them … and a lot of them don’t need any processing. It was a beautiful day for photography.

Here are a few of my photographs:


And then there are Garry’s pictures. He was able to walk more and got some interesting people pictures.


Amazing how low the river is after three weeks of no-rain.

THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE AMERICAN GOLDFINCH- Marilyn Armstrong

BIRD WEEKLY – PHOTO CHALLENGE – BIRDS WITH YELLOW FEATHERS


Many of our birds show up in twos and threes, but only the Goldfinches show up in flocks. They may be small, but when they show up, they take over the feeders. All three of them. I took a few pictures.

There were a lot more Goldfinches but they kept taking off and landing with some little bits of airtime confrontations. They were in the trees, on the rail, and on the reverse side of the feeders where I can’t take pictures.

FUCHSIA STILL GROWING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – June 20 – FUCHSIA


Three squirrels were inspecting my deck today. I got the feeling they have NOT forgotten. They are just waiting for me to put the feeders up. I didn’t know that had such good memories.

Meanwhile, the fuchsia are growing and are not being crushed by squirrels and birds.

I have a feeling that none of the critters will forget. We’ll put the feeders up and it will be full throttle ATTACK MODE!

I’m considering filling the 10 pound feeder twice a week and in between, they will have to find other food to eat. They seem to be doing fine. When winter comes, I’ll up the anti, but while food is everywhere, they can forage.

THE WILDEST GARDEN IN WORCESTER COUNTY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – June 16
The Wild Garden of  Worcester


When you totally neglect a garden — even if you have a very good reason, like, for example you are trying to not die — eventually it goes completely out of control. Our garden has been barely controlled for years, but this year, it has gone around the bend.

There are still some cultivated plants growing there, but there are flowers I’ve never seen before. We’ve had a lot of wind, so maybe they blew here. Or a bird dropped some seeds.

There are very thorny branches coming up, so think the roses are coming back. I don’t see any buds, but I usually don’t. Just, one day, there are roses. Rather magical.

And here are two more headless catbirds. Enjoy the foliage and feathers.

 

HOW TO ASK ABOUT RACE – Marilyn Armstrong

I read a note on Twitter yesterday wondering “how to ask” about race? I suppose it depends on what color you already are and who you are asking, but let’s suppose you are white and the other person isn’t. Any shade of not-white will do the job. From a light tan to a rich deep brown, not white is not white. Just your average person in one of the various colors that make up skin on this planet.

Colors are not white or black and I have yet to meet anyone who is gray. White isn’t a human color, nor is black. We are all somewhere in between. I don’t even think albinos are truly white, but a very light version of what ought to be the original color.

We are all shades of pale to dark brown, ranging from fish-belly (me) to dark olive, light tan, to sort of pinkish with levels of blotchy.  The freckles of youth turn to liver-spots in age, and some skin conditions cause blotchiness. In the end, though, skin is the largest sensory organ in the human body. Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth can see, hear, smell, and taste … but every single inch of your skin can feel and in various way. Skin is sensitive and discerning and I don’t believe it makes the slightest difference what color it is.

So, if you want to talk about race, why don’t you try asking someone who isn’t the same color as you how it feels to be them? How are they dealing with one more outrageous act of systemic racism? On the other hand, if you hate them because they don’t look like you, maybe you should skip conversation and get your attitudes adjusted. THEN have a conversation. Hatred just isn’t a good place to start.

The easiest way to talk about something is to want to talk about it and have someone with whom to talk about it. If you don’t have any friends of other colors, then maybe you should deal with that issue first. Lectures, book, seminars, and podcasts, not to mention television news — doesn’t really give you a meaningful grasp of even the basics of the subject. If you really don’t know how to have a conversation, that’s a different problem.

If you live in an entirely unicolor area, maybe you should become part of an activity that includes people of other races. Find someone who seems sympatico and get a bit friendly. You might be surprised at how much you have in common. It might be a hobby — photography? movies? history books? Star Trek? video games? Of how much you love/hate/don’t know what to do about our so-called government, drugs, parents,  grandparents, teachers, boss, taxes, judges, police, umpires, or referees are a fine starting place

Once you scratch off the surface color, what’s left is humanity in all its extraordinary facets. You might form a great friendship or fall in love. Or start an enterprise.

Ask. If you aren’t a bigot or racist, you can start conversations with a complete stranger as long as you are polite, non-aggressive, and really interested in the answer. That’s how I’ve made many friends of all colors.  I wasn’t rude. I was simply curious and interested and it turned out, they were curious and interested right back. You just never know about humanity until you’ve tested a few different  oceans, lakes, and streams. It’s all water. What’s really different is its temperature, saltiness, and how many rocks are on the bottom. And how your feet feel about that.

I’ve always been interested in peoples’ backstories. What their lives were like. What churches they went to and how they felt about it. Their relationships with school and the arts. What things made them laugh or cry. Curiosity can take you far in this world, at any age.