“BEING THERE” – A MODERN DAY REVIEW – Garry Armstrong

Last night, Marilyn and I watched “Being There.” We hadn’t seen this comedy from 1979 in a long time, probably years. What a difference time has made!

I recall seeing “Being There” when it opened. I enjoyed the farcical Hal Ashby film about a mentally challenged man who somehow influences high and mighty power brokers including our Commander-In-Chief and his aides. It seemed like a Capra-esque flight of fantasy in 1979.  Couldn’t happen in real life. Our political leaders couldn’t be so naïve or vulnerable. We were caught up with Jimmy Carter versus Ronald Reagan. Many laughed at the notion of an actor becoming President.

It wouldn’t happen, we smart folks reasoned with our historical savvy. No way a B-movie actor, revered for his roles as a beloved college football player and pal to a chimp named Bonzo — no way that guy could become the most powerful political figure in the world.  So we smugly thought.

Being There, 1979 poster

Peter Sellers is “Chance.” AKA Chauncey Gardner, a middle-aged gardener. The simple-minded assistant to a wealthy man who dies at the beginning of “Being There.” We don’t know much about Chance except he apparently has the mental capacity of a child. He is a brilliant gardener and likes to watch television. Chance is a sweet-tempered fellow whose world revolves around tending the garden — and watching television. He can’t read or write. He just gardens. And likes to watch …. television.

Chauncey Garden walking through Washington DC

Through a series of farcical plot twists, Chance becomes the house guest of an elderly, dying business tycoon and political king-maker (Melvyn Douglas) and his capricious wife (Shirley MacLaine).  The new benefactors mistake Chance’s observations about gardening as metaphors for Wall Street and fixing what ails our government.

The President (Jack Warden), a close friend of the tycoon, thinks Chance — now accepted as the mysterious Chauncey Gardner — is his benign Henry Kissinger. Chauncey’s garden recipes become talking points for the President’s economic directive.

Peter Sellers & Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979)

There’s one hilarious scene in the middle of the film where the Black maid who raised Chauncey from infancy — and knows he has “rice pudding between his ears” — rails at her friends and points out that “all you need to become president is to be white.” That was a joke in 1979. Not so funny these days.

In 1979, the movie plot seemed outrageous and outlandish. In those days,  many of us didn’t believe Ronald Reagan could be taken seriously. None of us conceived of him as what we called “a president.” We would have deemed it impossible. I still do.

As “Being There” reaches its conclusion, Melvyn Douglas’ tycoon dies. At the cemetery, as he is laid to rest, the tycoon’s pals and the President’s aides quietly share anxiety about the country’s future. They don’t think the President is strong enough to lead the country out of its economic swamp. There’s a final quiet agreement that only one man can save the country, the man with the savvy garden metaphors, Chauncey Gardner.

Closing scene

The man who would be President is seen wandering through the woods and into a lake, staking his umbrella in the water, perhaps divining a miracle. The end credits roll with outtakes of Peter Sellers laughing his way through many retakes of plays on words.

Marilyn and I laughed as the credits rolled by. Then, we looked at each other. Quietly. Very quietly. Through some bizarre upside-down ill-starred event, during the heart of a perfect political storm, Chauncey Gardner became America’s president after all. Not benign — and definitely not a gardener, yet surely as stupid and illiterate.

A gardener would have been a better choice. At least he could have grown a few roses.

TIME FOR LUNCH: A SQUARE FOR BECKYB #6 – Garry Armstrong

Time for Lunch – 
A New Square for Becky B

Buy a new car? Get a free lunch. Miss Mendon is a restored 1950s Worcester dining car, so where else should it live except in the middle of Worcester County, Massachusetts?

It has become a part of the big collection of collectibles on the huge site of Imperial Automotive. We’ve bought our last three cars there and have never had any reason to not go back again.

They have a great selection of cars, new and used, but also, a highly entertaining shopping area. It includes antiques, and all kinds of shops, places to eat and a quality repair area.

Oh, and a really excellent car washing place. It’s so much better than any other one in our area, it’s a no-brainer where to take your car to be washed.

Lunch at Miss Mendon – and the day we got our new car – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

THE WEEKLY SMILE – Marilyn Armstrong

This week, our town was a smiling place!

We went to the Uxbridge Christmas Parade. It was a nice day, not nearly as cold as it will be tomorrow. It didn’t rain and it didn’t snow. And the ground was grassy and not all mud.

Chowing down

We took tons of pictures, so here’s another happy opportunity to show our little town when everyone looks happy.

Street scene with balloons
How did they get all those people into that little van?

It was like living in a normal town, at least for Christmas.

MY COCHLEAR IMPLANT: THE 3-MONTH AUDIOLOGY EVALUATION – Garry Armstrong

LEARNING TO HEAR by Garry Armstrong, 
Photography: Marilyn Armstrong

Sing “Hallelujah” softly and this year, I will hear you. Crystal clear!

One of many hearing tests

That’s the lead on a delightfully mild Monday as I look back on today’s evaluation of my Cochlear Implant at UMass Memorial Hospital.

It was like getting an A on your first major exam in college.

Nicole Seymour, audiologist on the job!

Last week, I got excellent grades at the surgical evaluation of the Cochlear procedure. All the stuff placed inside my brain was line-dancing with the receiver parts atop my head and right ear. No unseemly scars, bumps or rashes. Even my fast receding hairline appears to be flourishing.

Is this a side perk?

Garry in the booth, listening to the test signals

Today was a detailed session of testing and adjustments. I sat in a small room that looks like Interrogation Room 1 on NCIS, but with more electronic equipment. I went through a series of tests administered by my audiologist. The tests involved various levels of single-word recognition, complete sentence awareness, and range of tone comprehension.

It’s harder than you think.

Putting the equipment on again

If you’re hearing-challenged, which is to say, deaf, you have problems with all these things. Single words that rhyme – led, dead, bread, red are easily confused. Whole sentences are often misinterpreted, sometimes leading to misunderstanding and embarrassment. High and low tones aren’t audible. I couldn’t tell the difference, so statements and questions sounded the same.

Consultation

I sat tensely – my body coiled – as I sat for decades during my TV news career. Struggling with interviews, courtroom testimonies, and pivotal political speeches. My breath came in rushes because I wanted to be successful.  A lot rides on the cochlear implant. At age 76, this is a major turning point. 


I can experience clear hearing for the first time in my life.

I clearly heard many of the words, sentences, and sounds.  But some of it was guesswork, just as it was throughout my working years. I could feel my body tighten as I wondered how well I was doing.

Nicole setting the levels on the implant headset

Progress or not?  I’ve been working hard with the cochlear implant. I wanted progress very badly.

Tools of the trade

When it came time for evaluation, the audiologist gave no facial hints. I was tense and nervous. She slowly and clearly told Marilyn and me that my progress was substantial with major improvements in all the areas tested. Some of the improvement was huge, some more moderate. But everything was better.

I smiled inwardly which turned into a broad smile that could have lit the room.

Filling in the forms

My cochlear implant and the hearing aid in my left ear were adjusted to give me more audio on 5 levels. She expected I would probably not want (or need) the strongest (loudest) level, but it was there, just in case. The new “bottom” level was the top of my previous levels. Go, Garry!

Setting the new levels on gear

In the coming weeks and months, Marilyn and I will be attending several large events where there will be many people, lots of background noise including live music — the dread of anyone who has trouble dealing with background noise. These events will be powerful tests for my implant.

More tests

What’s more, these are exactly the events that I dreaded before the cochlear implant surgery.

Now, I am eagerly looking forward to them.

Hallelujah! Time to celebrate!

AS ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE SAID, “WHAT FAMILY DOESN’T HAVE ITS UPS AND DOWNS?” – GARRY ARMSTRONG


“What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” – Eleanor of Aquitaine, “The Lion In Winter” (1968)


Family!

We are always in the middle of dealing with our relatives, especially this time of year. It can be a challenge. We love them but brokering who is going where while trying to avoid the inevitable battles which will last until the next century leaves us having “loud conversations” with each other.

Which is not fair. It isn’t even our drama. I suppose that’s why some families just give it up after a while. The drama overwhelms the joy.

Dublin, September 1990

We don’t have Mom and Dad, Gramps or Gramma, Uncles or Aunts to consult for help. We’re it!

July 2012

I look at the old photos of my family from long, long ago. I wonder how they dealt with these things. They look so young and carefree. I know things were not always easy for them as my brothers and I grew up. I still recall “loud conversations” between Mom and Dad.

I used to wonder why they didn’t resolve things easily like they did on family TV shows which were forever playing as we were growing up? You know, where father definitely knew best? I once even asked my Mom why our house wasn’t like Donna Reed’s home. You can guess how she answered me.

1963

Why didn’t the clock stop for Marilyn and me when we were younger and healthier with some of those beloved family members still around to help us deal with stuff. We’re the “old folks” now, the senior members of what was once a lot bigger bunch of relatives.

Family are us. It’s more than a little disconcerting.

CHRISTMAS PARADE DAY IN OUR LITTLE TOWN – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

We went to get groceries, but we also brought cameras. Because we knew it was parade day and we didn’t have a lot of time. Also, the place we had parked was right in the parade route, so we were going to have to move before the parade.

But that was okay. We’ve seen the parade many times, but the preparations were so much fun!


No idea what the float was, but got some entertaining pictures. Garry says they look like the new political team for 45’s administration. They sure are a bunch of clowns!

We both want to know how they got all those people in that van!


This is as big a crowd as you will ever see in this town. These are the commons and this is most of the village. It was also nice to see everyone in a good mood!

Photo: Garry Armstrong
I think — but am not entirely sure — that the costumed kids were part of a play, but maybe they were just being kids – Photo Garry Armstrong
A crowd on the commons. I’m on the left, dressed in black – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Steaming! Photo Garry Armstrong

The petting zoo used to be provided by the people on our block, but they have retired. We have all grown older.

Hot dogs for the Uxbridge Fire Fighters – Photo Garry Armstrong
Garry taking a picture of the hot dogs for the firefighters – Photo Marilyn Armstrong
A little head-butting! Photo Marilyn Armstrong
More head-butting – Photo Marilyn Armstrong
The keeper of the flocks – Photo Garry Armstrong

There are a lot more pictures. Like three hundred, between the two of us. So I’ll add a couple more and more will go up as the month rolls along. It’s going to rain again tomorrow, but whenever we get a night without rain, I’ll go take pictures of the lights on the common. They will be up until the day after New Year’s Day.

And also hamburgers – Photo Garry Armstrong
A lot of the kids were wearing costumes. That’s new. Photo Marilyn Armstrong
North end of the commons – Photo Marilyn Armstrong

Welcome to the Christmas Season in our little town!

FIELDS – CEE’S BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – Garry Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Field

Really, we live in a field, except it doesn’t look like a field because it’s full of trees. It’s hard to take pictures of a field with so many huge trees on it. They tend to block one’s view.

So I have settled for more open spaces, except for just one of the walls of Fenway Park. Because you can’t come from this area and not include Fenway!

If I think about it, this area is nothing BUT fields!

Field by the river – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Field of snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Mountainous fields in Arizona – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Fenway Park – the oldest baseball field in the U.S. – Photo Marilyn Armstrong
Cornfield at harvest time – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The landing field at the Tuskegee site
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Field of green by the river in June