ROMANCING THE THRONE AND ITS ROOM – Garry Armstrong

What’s the most important room in the house for men?

Many would say it’s the living room. It’s got the television and the important remotes to find the “game.”

That’s not true for all guys. One of the first things I look for when visiting is the bathroom. How quickly can it be accessed? This is probably what Wolf Blitzer checks first in his “Situation Room.” Breaking news waits until Wolf is sure the bathroom is near and everything is working.

It’s not for nothing that for men, the bathroom is known as “The Throne Room.” Many of our most important decisions are made in that room as we conduct “business.” We practice speeches, mentally edit stories, and dig into our brains for new ideas.

Time flies by quickly while seated on the throne. As we are making life-altering decisions, seconds, minutes and hours fly by like rogue asteroids in outer space.

As a kid, my Dad would frequently yell, “What the hell are you doing in there? Are you rediscovering America?”

Actually, what Dad said wasn’t so out-of-line. We had one bathroom for five people: mom, dad, and the three boys. The first one in the bathroom ruled the world through the hot water fogged environment. I recall stepping out of the bathroom and fog with my Dad curtly observing, “Well what do we have, the new King of the World?” I’m taking dramatic license, but I’m not that far off, either.

My bachelor pad in Boston’s East End was perfect, for a bachelor. One bathroom. One person. No one yelling at me, no one banging on the door shouting profanities. Top of the World, Ma!

Early in our marriage, Marilyn and I occupied a Beacon Hill apartment. Swanky, right? But we only had one bathroom. I called dibs when we settled in. I was the glamorous TV reporter who had to look perfect before heading to work. Marilyn somehow staved off crises as I primped in front of the foggy mirror.

Fast forward to 2000 and we moved into our present digs. A one family house with 2 and a half baths. I quickly called dibs on the big bathroom as Marilyn shot me a look that could’ve killed.

(Note: If it could have killed with one look, how come I still only get 
to use the room when The Man is finished, huh?)

19 years later, in retirement and the throne room is still a subject of conjecture. It’s still “How long are you gonna be in the bathroom, Garry?”  I scowl. You can’t put a clock on throne room stuff.

The Throne room is about to undergo a facelift. It’s old. It needs help.

We’re not exactly in a financial position to glamorize the bathroom but it’s not pretty we’re looking for. We aren’t getting any younger or sprier and hiking over the tub is tricky for me, scary for Marilyn.

The tub is hazardous for both of us. As senior citizens, we have to be careful about getting in and out without slipping and doing serious damage to our fragile bodies. I’ve already done a tumble and fall into the tub. It wasn’t pretty.

Garry at Manchaug

I was trying to get into my jeans without support. It never was a problem before. Now, I was reminded that I’m an old fart who needs to prop against a wall or sit down while doing something as simple as putting on your pants. I vividly recall my head banging on the tub as I fell. There was nothing to grab. I saw more stars than there are in heaven.

In our “meet and greet” session with a bathroom designer/consultant, we discussed our needs, our very slim budget — and the upgrades we needed. We carefully looked at the ancient toilet, the grimy and faded floor, the additions needed for the tub. It would include hand grips, up-to-date shower fixtures plus a glass door to replace the curtains that reek of mold despite our diligent efforts to keep things clean.

We looked at different models with money the major concern. This is something we needed. Clean, simple, easy to get in and out of.

The sign in our bathroom! It’s from 40-years ago but could have been printed yesterday. Or tomorrow.

After some tense moments to learn whether we could seal the payment deal, we were told “YES.” We could move ahead with plans to give the Throne Room the look and respect it deserves.

Smiles all around.

Garry and designer and owner of Baystate Kitchen and Bath Remodeling

There will be “before and after” pics to share. Meantime, plans for our new look throne room have us smiling – almost as happy as our celebration of the Patriots’ latest Superbowl win.

Hey, maybe Tom Brady may visit us now.


There’s more to this story, but we are still waiting for more pictures. You might say this is the surprise part of the story. Somehow, no matter how bad things get, something good happens. And something good really happened!

DREAMING ABOUT CHICKENS – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I dreamed about chickens.

It looked a lot like it does around here. A bit hilly. Lots of trees. There was a movie star living in the house. She was supposed to be young, but her skin looked like the bottom of an old leather suitcase and was a trifle orange. She was going back to California where she believed she would be better off.

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That left me with 200 chickens. The fowl were arriving (shortly) by truck. Healthy, young, hens and roosters. Enough to start a nice little chicken farm.

Except I didn’t want to be a chicken farmer and I was pretty sure, neither did Garry. I couldn’t just leave the chickens to die of hunger, thirst, and cold. I’m a responsible person and I love animals. Even chickens.

Chickens don’t get lost

I was still baffled over the whole chicken conundrum when I finally gave up, opened my eyes, and began my day. Coffee would banish chickens. Garry said it was from a movie we’d seen and I was caught in an old movie loop.

Sometimes, the absolutely best storyteller in the world has got to be my subconscious. I would never consider creating a story involving me and chickens.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens
Author Gordon Winter, Garry, and chickens

Not counting authors since this prompt doesn’t concern that … who tells great stories?

Garry tells wonderful stories. He makes us laugh. I don’t know if the story is true or maybe just a little true, but whatever, it is great entertainment. Tom tells great stories too and he usually has a good closing line, which is probably my biggest story-telling issue. I can tell a good story but I run on too long and am not good at wrapping it up. I’m good for the yarn’s first three-quarters.

Story-telling is the glue that makes friends want to hang out with each other. If you can keep the crowd laughing, you’ll never be alone.

It’s not booze, movies, or video games. Certainly not texting. It’s stories. The tales of our experiences, things we remember, times and places and people we’ve known.

Photo: Ben Taylor

I keep wondering what people will do when they realize you can’t live forever with just a cell phone? They don’t seem to have a clue about having conversations or telling stories. From whence will their stories emerge?

Our stories are our personal mythology. Will our children and grandchildren have stories? Or anyone to tell them?

It worries me. It really does.

MY FAVORITES CARTOONS OF 2018 – Marilyn Armstrong

I love to laugh. I love wit. I adore cleverness and am particularly enamored of very smart people, which is probably one of the many, many reasons I am so deeply disappointed by our government. Not only are they completely wrong about pretty much everything, but they are also utterly lacking in humor. If they are going to be this awful, can’t they even be funny? Each of them has undergone a humorectomy or maybe they were born that way.

Is not having a sense of humor a genetic abnormality?

I love cartoons. Political, literary, or just goofy. Love them all. Love the artwork, love the little jokes within the jokes. Of course, some of these were originally published years ago, but this is the year I discovered them.

This has been a year of political cartoons. Not surprising being as this country has become a political cartoon.

Alternate science is when you ignore the news warnings about the fire and wait until your house is on fire — or YOU are!

Dave Granlund / politicalcartoons.com

Bannon may be gone, but he left his hatred behind.

Nicer Trump cartoons, please!
Definitely NOT a witch hunt!

Chris Britt / Illinois Times
A very important cartoon!

We used to worry about drunk drivers. Now we worry about texting, watching movies and once, we saw a guy driving by reading a huge BOOK. While driving. And they put movies in cars. What could go wrong with that?
Yes, offending people might make other people feel uncomfortable … or does it?
Speaking of time …
Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a brand new red hat. And this was written years before we started locking up children in baby jails. What do you think Dr. Seuss would say about that!
Torture? No problem!

Didn’t you hear? The NRA is also taking Russian money.

This year has given America a migraine. Probably so will next year.
A personal favorite. I got contact lenses — and no one noticed any difference in my appearance. Not even my brother.
You need at least ONE literary comic, right? People still read, don’t they?

Back when we used to get newspapers, Bizarro and Doonesbury were the two comics I followed. Both are still around, by the way. They did an interview with Gary Trudeau — who is married to Jane Pauley, so she interviewed him herself. I never knew he was married to a news anchor.

Didn’t we fight this battle before?
And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …
Trump-A-Dog

And finally, a happy New Year from Gary Trudeau and all the great cartoonists in what is still a sort of free-ish country!

Happy New Year and let’s hear it for more of the same!

Here’s to a better year. To quote Jim Jefferies, “We can all do better!”

LAUGHTER IS THE LAST BEST CURE – Marilyn Armstrong

Everything and everybody changes, but recently a couple of people I’ve known for a long time have changed suddenly and dramatically. Overnight, they became dry and humorless.

It appears they had a humorectomy. While they slept, their sense of humor was removed. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it’s deeply disturbing. Have they been replaced by pods, like the  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?

I could not survive if I did not see how ridiculous my life is. If the absurdity of it didn’t make me laugh, I would do nothing but cry and bewail my state.

Laughter heals me. It’s better than sex. Better than yoga, meditation, medication, or street drugs.

It’s free, unrestricted by laws, available to anyone who is not yet dead and is acceptable behavior under almost all religious systems.

Many friends are going through rough times. Their problems vary, but the results are the same. Stress, anguish, fear, worry, insomnia. You worry, try to keep it together until you’re ready to explode.

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What can you do? When the light at the end of the tunnel really is the headlight of an oncoming train, I say: “Buckle up and let your hair blow in the wind. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

Laughing at the craziness, insanity, ludicrousness, the utter absurdity of my life — and the demented world in which I live it — is my first line of defense against despair. Take away laughter, strip away my sense of humor, and I’m a goner.

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I laugh any time I find a reason. At anything that strikes me as funny, which isn’t always appreciated by other people. I even laugh when I’m alone (weird, right?). It reminds me why it’s worth staying alive.

My friends make me laugh. I make them laugh. When our lives are in tatters and everything around us is collapsing, we laugh. Then, we take a deep breath, and laugh some more. The more awful the situation, the more dreadful and intractable the problems, the funnier it is. We are not laughing at tragedy … we are laughing at life.

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The difference between tragedy and comedy is how you look at it. Laughter is the antidote for everything. Try it. It’s a cure.