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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

NAMES CAN NEVER HURT YOU – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A while back, Marilyn wrote a piece using the word chutzpah. This is a word I’ve always badly mangled when I try to say it. It’s just a word, what the heck? That was my take for many years until Robin Williams and Billy Crystal gave me a proper public whupping for butchering the pronunciation of chutzpah.  I don’t try to say it in public anymore. It’s a word. I respect it because it carries its own meanings and images.

These days, people often use words or phrases without understanding their origin or meaning. I hear political aspirants, celebrities, athletes and civic leaders say things that make me scratch my head and run back to my dictionary.  Words!  They can be powerful tools used correctly. They can be dangerous used in ignorance.

I grew up in a home full of books. Including dictionaries. Big ones and pocket dictionaries. My parents insisted on using proper language and crisp diction. Street slang guaranteed a head slap or a smack. My two brothers and I were warned about using prejudicial clichés. Since my head has never been properly wrapped, I’ve been guilty of violating those warnings because of my warped sense of humor.

Marilyn warns people that I have toys in the attic.True. And some of the toys are very old.

A friend and I were trading insults the other day. I snapped at him with, “That’s white of you”.  His smile said everything. Words!  You gotta know who, when, and where to use them.

Way back in olden times, I was 19-years-old and worked in a department Store in Hempstead, New York. I was the only non-Jew working in the children’s shoe department. I was waiting on a customer who drove me bonkers. I couldn’t take it anymore and told the parent he was a schmuck.

The manager quietly called me into the stockroom, explained what schmuck meant and asked me never to use it again — even if the customers were jerks. I think he was smiling although reprimanding me. It was a word I’d often heard used in friendly banter, but I didn’t know its origin or meaning. It was just a word. What was the big deal?  I was 19 and knew everything!  I used big words, “20-dollar” words to impress people. People often complimented me, saying I spoke very well. I didn’t understand the veiled insult behind many of those compliments.

After all, they were just words.

John Wayne, of all people, once commented on words and ethics.  It was movie dialogue but still reverberates a half century later. In the 1961 film, “The Comancheros,”  Texas Ranger “Big Jake” Cutter (John Wayne) is lecturing his younger sidekick, Monsieur Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman). Regret asks Big Jake to spin a lie to his superiors to alleviate a problem. Big Jake refuses. Regret doesn’t understand, saying they are just “words.”

Big Jake, with that iconic Wayne frown, says softly, “Just words??  Words, MON-soor, are what men live by. You musta had a poor upbringing.”  Regret looks puzzled, not fully grasping the ethical code of this rough and ready Texas Ranger.  It’s a sublime moment and perfect for the young 1960’s when youth was defying the older generation’s moral code.

I recalled the scene years later in an interview with John Wayne. He smiled, shaking his head because he was in the middle of on-going national dissent against the Vietnam War.  Wayne was one of the most visible and vocal “hawks” in the Vietnam controversy. He had been ridiculed by strident protesters at a Harvard University gathering earlier that day.

“Words, dammit,”  Wayne looked at me, angry and sad. “My words! No damn Hollywood script. I have as much right as those damn college kids.”  Wayne was fuming. The Hollywood legend collected himself as I redirected the conversation to my time as a Marine. I had enlisted in 1959, fired up by the “Sands of Iwo Jima.

“Words. Good words,” I said to Wayne who smiled broadly.

Today, words are often tossed around loosely on social media with little regard to truth or the repercussions of ill-advised words. We have a president who uses words without thought in a daily barrage of tweets. Our media is engaged in a daily war of words, ignoring crucial issues facing our nation and world. Those of us of a certain age shake our heads as we watch young people immersed in tweets rather than direct conversation with friends in the same room. Words have become an endangered species.

I remember the good old days when me and friends went face to face with verbal jousts like “Your Mother wears combat boots!”

Words!  I love’em.

SHARING MY POLLEN-FILLED WORLD (ACHOO!) – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – 6-16-2020


It rained all winter. I don’t mean we got some rain. I mean we got the equivalent of 12 blizzards — all rain. The result has been a VERY buggy spring and an incredible amount of pollen.

I’m asthmatic, but even a normal non-asthmatic person would have trouble breathing. The pollen is falling so heavily it looks like snow. Garry has glaucoma and the pollen hurts his eyes, so despite the absolutely glorious weather we are getting we are mostly staying in.

What a pity because it really is gorgeous. Cool, dry, sunny. Absolutely comfortable. Perfect weather to do pretty much anything — except maybe the beach. This is frying weather. Torch one side, Baste. Turn over. Torch and baste again.


HAPPY MEMORIES! OH HOW I WISH WE COULD DO IT JUST ONE MORE TIME!


If you can tan, which I have never successfully done — even including one year when we were going cruising (remember cruising?) and I didn’t want to look like a dead white fish — SO I went three times a week for two weeks to a tanning salon to get a tan that vanished in fewer than three days,

I am pale. Very very pale. One year, I turned a very light beige. I pointed out to Garry that I’d managed to get a tan and we put our arms together. He laughed so hard he had to sit down.

So much for tanning.Now, even if I could tan (I should mention that Garry tans more in half an hour in the sun than I do in an entire summer), I wouldn’t be able to breathe. And having had cancer twice, tanning probably isn’t my best warm weather activity choice.

Thus, in the name of removing last year’s mud and muck, we are having our house power-washed. I know Owen was planning to do it and he can in the fall when it will need it again, but right now the house is dirty. Mud, pollen, and a lot of dead and living bugs in all the corners.

Owen is adding a layer of crushed rock along the front of the house so that less mud will splash up onto the house. Also adding more crushed rock in the parking area along the driveway. Good thing crushed rock is cheap in New England. We have a LOT of rocks!

And now, to the questions of the day:

Questions:

What do you think of professional motivational speakers?  Do you think they motivate?

I don’t think they’d motivate me. Every time I try listening to one of these guys (they are almost always guys, but I hear there are women mixed in there who I’ve never heard) and by a paragraph into the shpiel, I’m comatose with boredom. Maybe I just haven’t met the right motivator? Or maybe I’m totally uninterested in getting motivated. Or more than likely, both.

 Do you have a favorite flavor?

Lobster in butter sauce, strawberry ice cream (real ice cream with real strawberries mixed in high quality vanilla), really good fresh peaches, fresh local shrimp, and excellent quality New England clam chowder. The white kind, not the pink or red kind. A perfect baked Idaho potato with butter (not sour cream), angel food cake without any icing, and fresh blackberries. Or raspberries.

And sushi.

While out walking, you hear a rustling in some bushes.  What do you think of?

What kind of animal is it? Do I have a camera?

What’s your ideal temperature (nature-wise)?   Hot, cold, temperate and mild, humid or bone dry?

Right now. About 70 degrees with a light, dry breeze, and sun with some puffy white clouds.

A SWITCH OF REALITIES – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn asked me to dig this one up from the archives. It took me a while to find it. It was written quite a while ago. If I didn’t tell you this you would swear it was brand new. Unless you don’t swear. But really, who doesn’t swear? At least once in a while. There was my Aunt Helen, no wait. She could cuss like sailor …

Sorry, I got distracted.

I think if we suggested this now, everybody would go along with it. Including the idiot-in-chief. It’s the “get out of the White House without going to jail card”  he’s been looking for. The “get out of this insane reality card” we’ve all been waiting for.


I figured it out!

The solution!

To reality!

This reality!

This reality TV reality!


The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s just not working folks.

youtube.com

Do you know what does work? Fictional TV reality! Think about it. There’s a show on TV today called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government is blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all gone. The one cabinet member that has to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the entire government from the ground up. And while he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal,  the ones responsible  for blowing everybody up, that’s also trying to take over the country. In spite of all that, their government and their President are doing a hell of a lot better job than ours!

tvguide.com

So here’s what we do.  Let’s just switch realities! It’s a win-win for everybody. How do we do this? Simple.

First: The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV 24 hours a day. On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger. And on Fox News.

quickmeme.com

They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, cut taxes for billionaires, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! And here’s the best part. Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News. As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Second: OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Real honest to God fictional ones.

thegeektwins.com

And the cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” It’s on Netflix, the whole series, all seven seasons.

theoddessyonline.com

We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

nndb.com

We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was he President, but he was also God!

knowyourmeme.com

And the list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it. Every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

cbs.com

Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

cbs.com

Secretary of Defense? Well I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

memegenerator.com


ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.


(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

pinterest.com

Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

themarysue.com

Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from the medical show of your choice. Any one of them will do just fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

humansofjudiasm.com

Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

memegenerator.net

(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

How do we do this? Simple. We have an election. Not the usual kind. Between voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, our elections are not working out well.  I mean, seriously — that’s how we got into this mess to begin with.

So what do we do? We have an election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time. (Text and messaging fees may apply.)

ethnews.com

Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College. We can set up March Madness style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. More office pools!

yankeeinexile.wordpress.com

And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.


It’s Democracy at work!

And it could work!


As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people a while back:

theoddeseyonline


“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


BREAKING NEWS! PROTESTORS IN UXBRIDGE!

I didn’t think we could organize enough people, but Owen says we have TWO PROTESTORS. One at each (major?) intersection carrying signs. Maybe by tomorrow, we will have three.

I think it’s a miracle especially since Garry is one of only a few dark-skinned people in town.

Arrests in northern BC prompt protests in two Powell River ...

By the end of the week, we could have as many as half a dozen protestors. It means that at least some people in this town understand that something important is happening. It’s nice to know that even out here, people are thinking.

CURSE OF THE LEISURE CLASS.

Once upon a time in a life long ago, I worked hard. I don’t know if you could call it overworked. I never felt I had more work than I could do — if only they would let me get to it instead of using half my day in useless meetings. I always did the best job I could and worked as many hours as I needed to meet my deadlines while maintaining quality.

Blogging is the closest thing I do to “real” work these days, but I don’t get paid and I don’t have a boss, unless you count me. I’m not such a bad boss, except I don’t believe in sick days. Even with a doctor’s note.

I think most of us who have worked in offices of one kind or another are mentally abused by micro-managing bosses who have never had to perform the work they are supervising.

I don’t know if that makes us overworked. I think it is closer to mistreatment. The work is the easy part. Dealing with unrealistic demands, bad manners, and a myriad of absurd rules and regulations turns what ought to be a profession, into a nightmare.

72-Traffic-Road-071416_10

I’ve had a lot of bad bosses. Micro-managers and backstabbers. The plain cursedly mean ones whose main joy in life is making others miserable. The little emperors and empresses who think they have the right to rule your every breath.

I’ve had great bosses too. Managers who appreciated good work and believed it was their responsibility to help get the job done. To remove the obstacles and make work rewarding. When you’ve got a good boss, you can actually look forward to work. You don’t start dreading Monday morning on Friday evening. Thinking about work doesn’t give you a stomach ache and a migraine. It’s rare, but it can happen. Work doesn’t have to be a thankless grind. It just is and far too often.

To all the great bosses I’ve had, thank you. To the rest? If there’s a Hell, I hope you have a lifetime during which you have to work for you.

BAD BEHAVIOR TRUMPS RACE, CREED AND GENDER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

What our Coronavirus and riot-plagued world does not need is even more pointless intolerance. There’s no excuse for not using a modicum of civility when dealing with others, especially in the workplace. It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had. Do you know how bad the day of the person you are working with has had? Did you ask? Did you even think about him or her as a person?

We have all been living through the tensest, most frustrating, angst-riddled period since the Civil War. With the way things are going, we could be rerunning the Civil War soon.

In my 40+ years on the TV news trail, I’ve been verbally assaulted by every kind of minority. I understood it was part of my job. Many people seemed to figure it was okay to shoot the messenger.  Early on in my career, I was warned to have thick skin if I wanted to succeed.

That thick skin was tested many times. I was taunted by Black people who called me Uncle Tom or house boy. Labeled by religious fanatics who called me a Christian stooge. Feminists who tagged me as chauvinist. I sucked it up and plowed on to report the facts.

The gasoline bays.

Facts usually silenced my assailants who then wrote hate letters in red crayon.

My good stories were balanced by controversial reports that fanned the flames of ill-tempered people. I probably made it worse by writing the haters “thank you” notes. It further angered the wankers. Civilians who have never worked as journalists are surprised by how often people behave badly toward people who are merely trying their best to do their jobs.

Uhaul for the haulers

So it was that my stepson came home with a story that sounded painfully familiar. Owen manages a local garage which does repairs, inspections and has a mini-mart. He’s known for his work skills. pleasant manner, and humor. He manages to be cordial in the worst of scenarios.


Yesterday, Owen was in the middle completing one job when he was besieged by a man who jumped out of his Mercedes demanding instant access to a Uhaul truck.

Owen tried repeatedly to pacify the agitated fellow, explaining he would not be able to get his Uhaul for a few more minutes until he finished the inspection on which he was working. The customer not only refused to accept any waiting but left his car so it blocked all the gas pumps. When asked to please move his vehicle, he launched into a profane tirade topped by the ever-popular race card.

Owen is white. The angry one was a man of color.

Given several volatile national stories, this local incident had the makings of getting serious. The indignant Mercedes driver was sure the “race card” would pay off.  It almost always works. Owen has heard numerous stories about racism from his step-father (me) who specialized in covering race riots and protest marches dating back to MLK and the Freedom Rights movement. Thanks to his parents and stepdad, Owen is more than typically sensitive to anything that smells of racism.  We joke about it at home — but that’s a different story.

Today’s potentially race-toxic incident was defused by Owen who stood his ground and convinced the angry gent to leave the shop and take his business elsewhere. Eventually, the ante was upped in include a full volume and very firm suggestion that he leave and never return. No Uhaul for him.

Owen in the shop

The race card didn’t end in a riot or even police intervention. Owen is of the opinion that the fancier car he or she is driving, the more arrogant and mean-spirited is the driver. Especially those who drive Mercedes’s and BMWs.

Owen is my step and godson. I’m proud of him. He’s made of stern stuff. This country could use more of him. Way to go, O!

HOT ONES AND COLD ONES – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of years ago, I discovered my most popular post was black & white pictures of implements in my kitchen. Also well-favored were cute pictures of Bonnie and a 300-word piece on why I’d like to be called “Spike.”

72-bw-knives-tools_01

You can read my MOST popular ever piece here and try to figure out why for yourself.

Also, about once per year, other than my faithful friends, I have a whole new group of followers and a piece I’ve revived is new to them. Even I don’t remember everything I’ve written. It’s not that each item isn’t good, but they aren’t all that much better of different than the other 10,690 posts I’ve written.

The “biggest post” has gleaned more than 10,000 hits. It’s a complete puzzle since it’s not topical, not especially well researched or passionate. If you can figure out why everyone wants to read about why my blood type is B+. I’d like to know.

What do these posts have in common? Let’s analyze them a bit. The pictures are good, but this isn’t the first time I’ve published them. On previous occasions, no one found them particularly remarkable. I’m sure this means something, but what?

Coming home at sunset

Cute pictures of Bonnie? Well, you can’t argue with cute pet pictures, now can you? I mean … who doesn’t like kittens and puppies and adorable animals in general?

Finally, everyone has a name and everyone wishes it was something else. Now there’s a revelation.

Why are these three most popular posts more popular than other better pieces? What do they have in common, other than having been written and photographed by me? I can’t see anything special in any of them. Well, maybe the swan.

I have no idea. I can publish the same piece three times under slightly different names. It will be ignored twice, but be almost viral the third time.

My most popular photograph. It’s a good picture, but is it the best?

There’s no accounting for taste. Also, no accounting for when people feel like reading and the other times when no one bothers to read anything and my stats fall through the floor. To keep myself from getting crazy, I have stopped trying to figure it out.

I take pictures of what I see in a world grown much smaller in recent months. This piece may get a great response or fall flat. If something does poorly, I run it again later. Often, it’s a big hit on a different day because … well … who knows? Full moon? Wind from the north?

Do you know? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows. We just do what we love and hope the rest will follow.

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT: A LOVE STORY – EDWARD LEAR

The Owl and the Pussycat

by Edward Lear

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

II

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there, in a wood, a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

III

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

ALMOST INTERVIEWING JIMMY STEWART – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Full disclosure upfront. I never met Jimmy Stewart. No interviews. No emails. No phone conversations. But I’ve got Jimmy Stewart in my brain, maybe because Stewart is TCM’s “Star of the month.” They’ve been airing most of the legendary star’s films from the ’30s through the ’80s. There was a masterful Stewart profile hosted by Stewart’s good friend, Johnny Carson. He made it feel like two buddies reminiscing about the best years of their lives.

Stewart, (center) with Amos on his right, and the B-52 crew moments after safely landing at Andersen. Before leaving Guam the next morning, Stewart again thanked Amos for his professionalism during the emergency and presented him with signed prints for each of the crewmen. (Courtesy Bob Amos)

The other night might have been my first (Yes!) viewing of 1954’s “The Glenn Miller Story.” Somehow, “The Miller Story” escaped me during those years when I went to the movies 3 or more times a week. I absolutely enjoyed the warmth and nostalgia of the movie in a way I rarely feel about contemporary films. I’ve been steadily humming “Moonlight Serenade” for the last two or three days.

Jimmy Stewart is stuck in my mind. I’m doing an interview with him — but it never really occurred. I’ve been digging through my mental folders and files for why I feel this link to Stewart. I’m aware of all his unforgettable film performances, from “Mr. Smith” to “Wonderful Life” to “Harvey.” And all those rugged 1950s and 1960s westerns — including “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

I couldn’t find that link.  It’s more than just the fan and movie maven thing going on.  What was it?

It hit me as I was cleaning my hearing aids. The answer!

During the late 1980s — maybe 1988 or 1989 — during Ronald Reagan’s second term in the White House, life was changing for me. Marilyn was back in my life after spending almost a decade in Israel. And I finally was able to wear the new, smaller hearing aids that are nearly invisible to onlookers.

I was elated!  No more of those ugly, big hearing aids. I was always sure people stared at them while I worked on local TV News. That was when I remembered — a conversation I had with a colleague. She was the station’s entertainment reporter and had noticed me talking to myself as I checked the audio of my tiny new hearing aids with a big smile on my face.

I was in the middle of covering a major trial that was getting international attention. I saw my image on network news shows. No hearing aids were visible. Oh, the vanity! I explained to my colleague what the tiny hearing aids meant to me. How I’d coped with a major hearing loss most of my life and the adjustments I had made to succeed in TV News.  She was genuinely surprised and smiled with an appreciative tap on my shoulder. We’d sat close to each other in the newsroom for months, talked about business and personal things — but I’d never mentioned my hearing loss.

That was also the summer Marilyn and I entertained actress Patricia Neal and legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstadt at our Martha’s Vineyard cottage, a rented place we shared with other TV news friends. Word of our friendship with Neal and Eisenstadt made the rounds in the local entertainment news world. I remember sharing stories with my entertainment reporter colleague. Sometimes name dropping can be a lot of fun … and this was one of those times.

“I met Jimmy Stewart at a Washington, D.C. cocktail party,” my colleague told me one afternoon. She had my complete attention.  “Poor Jimmy. He was struggling with his gigantic hearings aids.”

I listened with fascination. I didn’t know Jimmy Stewart needed hearing aids. It never showed in his movies or TV interviews. I listened closely for details on Stewart’s dilemma.

“Jimmy couldn’t hear what was being said at the party,” my colleague told me, “He kept looking at me awkwardly and fumbled with the conversation.”

I had an epiphany.  Jimmy Stewart fumbled with a conversation because he was trying to absorb and register what people were saying to him. The famous Jimmy Stewart verbal fumble was his way of coping with hearing problems. I probably smiled to myself as my colleague went on with her description of Jimmy Stewart’s cocktail party struggles. Fascination turned to compassion as I imagined myself in Stewart’s place, trying to filter our multiple conversations, loud music, and ambient background noise.

The Stewart story quickly faded out from my mind as I returned to my story and a pressing news deadline.

There was a letter on my desk a few days later. I was running late for the trial and was worried about getting a good seat so I could hear the lawyers and the judge,, so I didn’t get to it that day.

Trials were always a major headache for me. Years earlier, I’d taken my situation to myriad judges, court officers, and lawyers. I wanted everyone to know I was working with this handicap and wanted to be sure I got all their wise words accurately. They appreciated my candor and efforts were made to make sure I could get the information accurately and efficiently.  My best, most sincere face helped my cause. If you’ve heard this from me before, know it was the prologue for my relationship with Jimmy Stewart.

I finally opened the letter a day or two after it arrived. I was immediately suspicious. Phony, threatening, and suggestive letters are common for a TV news reporter. This one wasn’t in thick crayon or illegible ink scrawl, but I was still suspicious.


“Dear Garry,

I hope you don’t mind my assumption of friendship since we’ve never met. I deal with this business of celebrity all the time and it is presumptuous.”


I continued to read with skepticism until I realized this missive was from Jimmy Stewart. He went on to explain his cocktail party hearing problems, his encounter with my colleague who apparently talked about me and my hearing problems. Jimmy Stewart heard about this Garry Armstrong guy who was a success on Boston television news despite hearing problems. I blushed a little as I read Stewart’s account of my bravery. Most of the letter, however, dealt with Stewart’s details about his hearing aids, its components. He wanted my take on the efficiency of these new little hearing aids.

I put the letter in my desk, planning to take it home and show to Marilyn because I wasn’t good at holding on to such possessions in my professional life. My attention turned to the trial and my report for the six o’clock news.

Fast forward several hours, including my ritual, stop at the local bar before heading home — without the letter. Out of sight and mind.

I did manage to write Jimmy Stewart a few days later. I spent most of the letter talking about how I struggled with my hearing and the use of the aids. I must have appeared awfully vain, talking about overcoming my reluctance to wear hearing aids because I thought it was a stigma. My vanity was probably also obvious when I mentioned some of Stewart’s colleagues I’d met in my career.  I was young and lacked humility, telling Stewart about time I’d spent with Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Cagney, Gregory Peck, and other stars. I forgot to mention the other stars, like Albert DiSalvo, Whitey Bulger, and Tip O’Neil.

In retrospect, I can only wonder what Jimmy Stewart thought as he read this silly, name dropping letter from a young Boston reporter.

Another Stewart letter arrived several days later. No indication of displeasure in my letter. He asked lots of questions about my hearing aids, my interview tact, and how I handled myself in large crowds. There was a hint of getting together when he came east again.

The meeting never occurred. Perhaps that’s why I’m now having these dreams about the sit-down interview that might have been.

Me and Jimmy Stewart. It never happened, but it could have. It almost happened.

ABOUT THAT TOILET PAPER – Marilyn Armstrong

I got really tired of the endless hunt for toilet paper, especially when you find some, they say you can have one roll. We have three toilets, so what do we do? Pass it around?

I managed to get the last known 24-roll package of Charmin on Amazon in March and it was finally delivered sometime in early April. Not only do we have three toilets, we also have three asses. Two guys and me. Owen and I took readily to the “point and shoot” hose type of bidet. Garry took a while longer, but eventually, he liked it too.

You actually feel clean. I have never found that kind of cleanliness with toilet paper. A few people went “EW. TMI!” This made me wonder why it should be more repulsive to hose your butt with clean, cold water rather than smearing the gunk around with paper — not to mention the paper clogs in the pipes.

Did you know that worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills 365 days a year? Roughly 10% of that total is attributable to toilet paper (according to the latest issue of World Watch Magazine). Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day. If for no better reason, we might consider that in every country around the world, trees are vanishing and we are using them to wipe our asses.

Unless you designed your bathroom to have a separate space for a bidet in its own place — which would require a rather bigger bathroom than most of us have –you can add an adjustable hose. It is very easy to install and I like the hose better. I like to aim it where I want it — and It has other uses, like cleaning the toilet. I’m told it’s marvelous for washing diapers now that cloth diapers have made a comeback. I was actually surprised at the popularity of paper diapers. I used cloth for my kid and paper only when we were traveling.

Hibbent Dual Function 2 Sprayer(Stream/Jet) Handheld Bidet Toilet Shattaf Cloth Diaper Sprayer Kit – Premium Hand Shower for Personal Hygiene Cleaning with No Leaking Attachment – Stainless Steel

That’s what I love about how we save the world. We go back to cloth diapers. Nice. Diapers have a lot of uses and make the best polishing cloths (if you are a polishing kind of person). BUT. We while we aren’t using paper diapers, we cut down 27,000 trees every single day because we think we need to use mounds of paper to smear our butts rather than hosing it down.

We have three of them, one for each potty. I’m not happy with mine, only because turning it on and off is awkward. I like Garry’s much better. It has an easy to use on/off valve and you don’t need to peer behind the toilet to find it.

It’s not that I never use toilet paper. I just use a lot less and I feel a lot cleaner too. I use paper to clean my eyeglasses, clean the sink drain, blow my nose (no tissues either). It’s less expensive, less environmentally damaging in an area with plenty of water, and makes us all feel so clean.

YOU CAN STOP HOLDING YOUR STOMACH IN! – Marilyn Armstrong

In every relationship, there comes a moment when you stop holding your stomach in.  You realize you don’t need makeup unless you’re going out. A tee-shirt and sweat pants are fine. You can let go and just be YOU.

Remember how that felt? What a relief!

live-and-let-live

The day you give up trying to remodel family and friends is like that. One day, you have this huge revelation. Other people aren’t projects! You can’t fix them. Moreover, they don’t want to be fixed. They don’t think they are broken.

Talk about relief. Phew.

The world keeps spinning. Turns out, we never had any control over anyone but ourselves — and not much control over ourselves, either.

Welcome to live and let live.

DUKE, THE PIN UP GIRL, AND THE GYRENE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The title probably suggests one of those old “B” films from old Hollywood. It was usually the second feature and ran while we scooted from our front row seats to get hot dogs, popcorn, and a Godzilla-sized Coke.  You could hear giggles and lots of frantic searching for coins to pay for our goodies.

This is the 2020 version of that old relic which usually featured John Wayne, Claire Trevor, and Ward Bond/John Payne/John Carroll in the title roles.

Duke

Duke, of course, is the newest member of our furry family. He’s the one who’s injected new energy into the household even if today’s pictures suggest otherwise. Duke is always good for laughs as our court jester.  He’s the very randy suitor of Princess Bonnie who’s very particular about her men.  Bonnie, no doubt, was dreaming about some of the passionate lover affairs from her gilded past.

The eyes of the Duke

Bonnie, it turns out, is also a cover girl. She’s “Miss May” in the calendar on a kitchen wall. She’s the face that could launch a thousand ships. Bonnie has more internet followers than the tweeter-in-chief, much to his agitated dismay.

Then, there’s the Gyrene. The young Gyrene. Garry Armstrong in his USMC uniform – almost 61-years ago when Dwight Eisenhower was the Commander-In-Chief.

Armstrong, the Private E-1, who somehow enlisted right after high school graduation,  from comfy, cozy Long Island to the heat, bugs, and D.I. hell of Parris Island, the USMC training base. Young Garry, inspired by John Wayne movies, envisioned a career as a Marine and then life as a movie star. Great expectations all the way!

Garry’s hearing disabilities, miraculously, were not uncovered until months and many exams in basic training.  Leather-necked drill instructors were dismayed to learn of Garry’s hearing problems. They had him branded as a wise-ass Yankee “boot” who laughed in the face of their heavy-handed efforts to terrorize all the young Marines in that long-ago summer and autumn of ’59.

Garry, the young Gyrene in 1959

This came on the heels of a national scandal about alleged harsh treatment of fuzzy faced Marines in the swamps that surrounded Parris Island.

Garry’s departure, on medical grounds, from the Marines left many of those hard-nosed Sergeants melancholy,  deprived of their favorite target to toughen the young Leathernecks.  It was a story retold many times in years to come. Oo-rah!

The face that launched a thousand cookies!

Sixty-one years later, Bonnie and Duke are unmoved by Garry’s colorful recollection of his brief time in the United States Marine Corps. They are recharging their batteries for another marathon barkathon later today and tonight, a major barkathon to wreak havoc on the now old gyrene and his bride.

The furries show NO RESPECT for the old, mumbling and grumbling leatherneck.

Semper Fi!