KAYAKING ON THE BLACKSTONE – Garry Armstrong

And so on a particularly warm and bright June day, we took ourselves down to the Blackstone in Rhode Island.

Not knowing what we would find, this time we met two kayakers. Each had his and her own kayak, one blue and one red.  There was a lot of discussion about whether to paddle up or downstream.

A general consensus existed that there wasn’t very far upstream one could paddle … that it was too rocky or possibly too narrow, but they decided to give it a try anyway. I don’t know how far they got, but it was a beautiful day, so why not?

Getting the kayaks ready
Paddling up the river

TOO EARLY TO BE DRINKING? – Garry Armstrong

I heard these lines recently in a movie. They made me laugh.

“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” he said.
“No,” she said. ” I’m awake.”

The line had stayed with me many years after the laughter faded, replaced by memories of work, reporters, bars, and pubs from New York to Saigon. As a reporter, I covered Presidential politics from 1962 to 2001. From JFK to Bush, Jr. As a newbie reporter, I saw veteran correspondents fueling up with multiple Bloody Marys as we began our day on the political or campaign trail.

Diner bar and table

I was impressed. During my rookie year, I summoned up enough courage to question one famous reporter who had begun his career working with Edward R. Murrow. He was on his third Bloody Mary — in one 10-minute period.

“Isn’t it too early to be drinking?” I asked, slowly and politely.

The veteran reporter who’d covered FDR, World War II in the trenches, and the McCarthy Hearings, among other assignments. He looked at me for a long moment, then finished his drink.

“Is it too early to be drinking?” he repeated my question and ordered another Bloody. “No, I’m awake!”

I shook my head in amazement and admiration. He was clearly fortifying himself for the day to come. It would be another long day on the road. Cold, dreary, and filled by interviews with people from pompous to angry to clueless when asked about election issues and the candidates.

I remember one fellow decked out in a hunting outfit, cradling a shotgun. He sneered when answering my questions. When finished, he said “Figures the media is not tellin’ the truth. A Negro askin’ me stuff about that Catholic in the White House. That’s what’s wrong with our country.”

The veteran reporter had overheard the conversation. He gave me a wry smile.

Years later, I shared the story with “Tip” O’Neill, Speaker of the House and a personal friend. He laughed so hard the bar seemed to shake. Then he looked angry for a moment, patting me on the shoulder with a huge sigh.

“Garry,” he said, “Here’s looking at you, kid!” The Political Legend smiled as we clinked glasses. “Some days, it’s never too early to start drinking,” O’Neill concluded. And ordered one more round.

I wonder about “eye-openers” for those covering last year’s Presidential race and even more about how those trying to cover “news” in this insane political year are managing. These days, for those who still drink, maybe it really is never too early to start drinking.

BOLD, NEW OPTIONS TO PREVENT MASS SHOOTINGS – Garry Armstrong

School shootings with multiple victims have become an everyday news story in the United States. It’s a boiler-plate political issue with second amendment activists led by the NRA holding fast to their rights — that is, the right to make a lot of money selling guns to everyone and anyone, anywhere. Fighting passionately to keep the right to own guns, even as bullets from assault weapons are killing kids.

Gun activists are seemingly oblivious to the availability of assault weapons through illegal purchases.

Gun rights trump young lives in harm’s way. It’s a deadly serious issue but the solutions offered by some of our elected officials are anything but serious. Do you think Jimmy Stewart’s Senator Jefferson Smith would be okay with arming teachers to shoot it out with offenders in crowded classrooms?

Can you imagine the late Speaker of the House, “Tip” O’Neill,  the consummate politician, agreeing to arm the real-life “Mr. Peepers” with magnum 44s to blast invaders as students scatter to avoid gunfire?  O’Neil’s reply would minimally question the sanity of his colleagues in the House and Senate. Sadly, we have no Tip O’Neill to step up with rational solutions to our national nightmare.

Pilgrims, it’s time to deal with the miscreants who surely don’t value human life.  Time to appeal to their inner demons and enable them to spray bullets with deadly intent into classrooms to assuage their problems.

But, I have a few minor modifications I’d like to add because it is time to lock ‘n load — with some creative thinking.

SUGGESTION #1 EXPLODING LONG GUNS:  Picture the iconic Red Ryder rifles of our youthful dreams. Long, gleaming barrels with the burnished red stocks, topped by an autographed picture of our 45th President. The sentiment would be clear: “Bad hombres die hard!” If the school shootist fires this weapon,  it’ll blow up in his face.  Crisis averted.

If a teacher or defending student fires the weapon,  it’s a senseless tragedy — but we need to look at the bigger picture. A Presidential eulogy will ease the pain of more innocent lives lost.

The exploding long guns should be massively advertised to draw the attention of would-be assassins. Just the rifle’s Presidential sentiment should entice those who are on the edge of committing bloody massacres.

They will be nudged into action by the Commander-In-Chief’s passion for thoughtless, narcissistic behavior.  The shooter is sure to take selfies with his presidential embossed rifle and post it on Twitter and Facebook, with pride gleaming in his orange eyeballs.

Gary Busey could do television ads for the imploding long guns. Busey’s colorful style would make the guns an easy sell, especially for those who really want to make their mark in the world.

SUGGESTION #2 – EXPLOSIVE TRUMP BOBBLE-HEADS.  These terrific replicas of our President will have all the verve and sexually traumatic attraction of DJT.  They’ll be personally autographed in that familiar, illegible scrawl used to sign faux bills.

The bobbleheads have a floating toupee that easily separates from the rest of the bobblehead on impact. School security could locate the bobbleheads at strategic positions likely to be invaded by would-be shooters.

Psychologists believe the invaders will be disoriented by the bobbleheads. They would automatically pick up the miniature DJTs and blow themselves into a parallel universe occupied by orange-haired robot women, all named “Stormy.”

Roseanne Barr will do all the advertising for the Bobbleheads, emphasizing her belief in MacCheesehead’s legacy as emperor of the world.

These are just the top of our R&D campaign for alternatives to avert School Shootings. We’re working on DJT dart boards that will explode when a dart hits the spot. THE spot.

Let’s stand strong against idiotic suggestions to avert school shootings. You can voice your opinion in the next elections that, hopefully, will sweep out more of the remaining corrupt and mentally- challenged officials pigging out at the public trough.

R&R WITH OLD FRIENDS – Garry Armstrong

It was our time for a bit of R & R in the lush Connecticut woods, far from the madding crowd. It’s another world where we can recharge our life force and mental batteries.

Home

Our hosts are the kindly friends for whom we are grateful. We’ve known Tom for more than 50 years dating back to our days in college when we and our world was young. We’ve known Ellin – it seems forever – or since she married Tommy and immediately improved the quality of life for all of us.

Our mini-vacation included time at the marina where everyone seems utterly relaxed — except when they are rehabbing their boats for another summer on the water. The much-maligned weather put on a good face for us.

Ellin
Tom

Sunshine and summer-like temperatures were abundant. It was warm but not uncomfortable. The breeze from the water made it almost perfect as we relaxed for an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing.

Marilyn and the camera
Garry at pier’s end

Tom apologized for not taking the boat out because the water was a bit too choppy for his taste. No worries, we repeatedly told him as we soaked up the afternoon sun, chatting about stuff that brought giggles and contentment. Really. NO worries!

I enjoyed looking at the names of the boats in the marina and wondering about the folks who owned them. I’ve never wanted to own a boat but have fantasies, thanks to Bogie in “Key Largo” and other movies which romanticize the boating life.

Ellin socializing on the pier

I’ve always thought I’d name my boat “The Busted Flush” after fictional detective Travis McGee who chased bad guys in his trusty little houseboat which also provided room for romantic interludes with his miscellaneous yet somehow dubious love interests. Hey, just a passing fancy.

Tom has schooled me in the difficulties of keeping “Serenity” in running condition. I’m good being a guest.

There’s so much to see just relaxing with Tommy and Ellin in the Marina. The setting is soothing. You can drift off mentally without a worry. No obsessing about what’s happening in our politically-challenged world. That stuff is blocked out for a few precious hours. I could actually feel my heartbeat slowing. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tom and Ellin on the boat

Back at “La Casa Bonita” of Tom and Ellin, it’s more of the easy life — at least for us, the guests. The conversation ramps up during the evening “News Hour.” Imagine sitting between two guys who’ve logged 80 years in network and top market TV News.  The old, war stories fill the air spiced with profanities that befit we who ducked idiot management suits from the “Tricky Dick Era” to today’s “Follies of Donzo.”

We can name drop with the best of them. Hell,  Tom and I have probably sent myriad suits seeking psychiatric care because we refused to tolerate their idiocy.

Tom is the master of his impressive entertainment room. He’s introduced Marilyn and me to shows and movies we never knew existed.

Tom, the telly, and Remy
One thing that impressed me — I looked and looked around the walls and notices no awards reflecting Tommy’s long and accomplished career at the highest level of TV News. I know he’s been in the cross-hairs of some of the biggest news stories over half a century. No collection of hardware — unlike me.  Tom doesn’t need any stinkin’ bodges.
Lexi

Marilyn and I were very reluctant to leave Tommy and Ellin and the comfy good feeling they bestowed on us, but our dogs were calling us homeward.

We have an invite to return with Tommy taking us for a trip aboard “Serenity” when the seas are smoother. I’m already dreaming about it.

A FEW PICTURES FROM HOUSE AND SHORE – Garry Armstrong

I took most of the pictures. Marilyn was off-duty this time. There are a lot more, but this is a little taste of our weekend with Tom and Ellen.

We didn’t go out because the sea was a bit high, but we had a fine time just hanging out in the marina.

Cleaning the boat
Still cleaning the boat
On the dock – Ellin’s in blue
Along the dock — Can you spot Tom?
A little cloud over the Curley’s house

THE FIRE TRUCK WHO SERVED AND GOT SAVED – Marilyn Armstrong

Old Number 2 was one of the long-serving fire trucks in our town. Almost 20 years ago, she was replaced, but no one could bear to scrap her, so she was put out to pasture … literally.

Her rusting hulk stood for years in the empty field across from the post office — where she remained until they decided she was too rusty, old, potentially dangerous and needed to be scrapped — at which point she was adopted.



OLD NUMBER TWO FIRE ENGINE

Undergoing rehab! Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

WHEN DO I LOOK LIKE ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

Considering one thing and another, I have always been sure I could not possibly be related to the people who raised me. I suspect everyone, especially as a child, is sure they are a misplaced orphan. Sadly, there was always one problem from which I could never escape.

I look just like them. Both of them. They didn’t look alike, so how could this be?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Apparently, you change as you age. So you can look exactly like dad when you’re three, but exactly like mom when you’re sixty. Periodically, depending on how the genetic package rolls, you can resemble one or the other — or both  — at any given point in time.

I used to look like my father, but I got older. Now, look like my mother.

I wonder if I’ll ever look like me? Whatever that means.

I know nothing about what brought me into the world any more than I know what will take me out. Probably, that’s just as well. I think I lack curiosity about my fate which others apparently have a strong need to know. I never felt any serious desire to research my ancestry or get my DNA checked. When I did it, it was a fun birthday present for Garry and I.

What was, is. What will be, will occur. I’m not in charge and never was. I am okay enjoying as much of the now as I can while I’m still part of it.

Yet, every now and then, I wonder if it’s possible I was actually put here by a transiting starcraft. An intergalactic seed dropped from the sky that somehow, wound up in this world. In this peculiar place. A bit of pollen falling from a drifting craft on its way to somewhere in an infinite beyond.

It could be true.