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.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

GROWING UP WITH McCARTHY – Garry Armstrong

This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.

I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.

I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal,  Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.

All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.

McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.

I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.”  I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.

One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.

I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.”  I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,”  it didn’t involve people like us.

What did that mean? People like us?

I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.

While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.

It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words.  Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.

All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.

Garry receiving his Broadcasting Hall of Fame award – September 2013

We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.

“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.

I remember it was a warm spring day.  I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework,  my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.

My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills.  I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me.  I looked around.

Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!

The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me?  I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.

What was the big deal,  I wondered.

All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area.  I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.

I began to pick up the words.

“He’s a pinko.”

“His parents are pinkos.  I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”

The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain.  Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.

What now? Were they jealous of my composition?  What the heck?

The biggest kid came right up to my face.  He had bad breath and smelled worse.  I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r,  so you’re a pinko too, huh?”

Pimple face leered at me,  obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.

His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”

My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang.  Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.

That evening,  I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words.  When I’d finished,  they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.

Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.

I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.

And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.

THE “MODERN” WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

#FOWC — Modern Tyranny for Modern Times


Today is the press’ day to publish editorials supporting freedom of the press, but not every newspaper is doing it. Their reasons are varied. Some simply don’t have the financial structure to take on a major issue anymore.

Those papers have already lost the war. Like New York’s Daily News, taken over by the Trump mouthpiece of Sinclair to be the “nothing much” somewhere on the internet.

Illustration: Bangor Daily Tribune

As editorials show up in my inbox, I’ll reblog or post them, as I can. Some of them are “Pay to Read” and this is one of those days when that policy is downright foolish, so modern or not, I think press editorials need to be seen and read by as many people as possible, whether or not they are subscribers.

If trampling truth and publishing only what “our leader” (not my leader, but maybe yours) wants to hear is “the modern way,” then heaven help us all.

That is tyranny and our freedom will be, as they say, toast.

EFFERVESCENT INGREDIENTS – Marilyn Armstrong

I should be peppy and lively. I should be able to find the ingredients to get the laundry done, to go take a few pictures. Something.

I’m too beat up to find anything remotely effervescent in me right now. It has been a grueling few months. Not always in a bad way, but still exhausting and the crazy humid heat has not helped. I also suspect that my tolerance for extremes of weather is diminishing with the years because I’m far less energetic now than I was even a few months ago.

The combination of personal crises, national calamities, climate change, and a general sense that everything I worked for and cared about is being undone in such a short time, my head is spinning. The best part of the summer has been our winning baseball team. You know life has gotten awfully rough when you cling to sports as the only positive thing happening in your world.

I sense that I am not alone in feeling this way, either.

I read a piece on Facebook the other day where some Millennial was pointing out that we — the Boomer Generation — should stop blaming them and start accepting responsibility for handing them such a crappy world.

It suddenly crossed my mind that the world into which I was born was not exactly perfection, either. These kids have no idea how it was to grow up in a world where jobs were listed under Male and Female only … and if you weren’t white, there were no jobs listed at all. To live in a world where the only birth control was “not doing it” or a condom — and you couldn’t even buy a condom if you were under 18.

The voting age was 21, but the drinking age was 18. Great combination, wasn’t it?

The rivers and air were horribly polluted. We invented Earth Day, got the Civil Rights Bill passed. Cleaned up the air. You know the air over New York and Los Angeles used to be orange? Not just at sunset but all the time from the massive amounts of pollution. The river which runs through our Valley was one of the most polluted rivers in North America. We cleaned it up, along with the Hudson, Boston Harbor, and many other places.

We didn’t do all this because the earth was a perfect place, but because we saw how bad it was becoming and fought to fix it. I don’t blame Millennials for feeling they got the short end of some stick, but that stick has been pretty damned short for a really long time. Before I was born and for that matter before my mother was born too.

Garry grew up in a Jim Crow world. I grew up in a world where most of the people “like me” had been butchered or gassed to death. I had friends die of putrid abortions performed with a wire hanger. You really don’t need to tell me that we left you an evil world. It wasn’t wonderful when we got it, either.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971

Welcome to the real world. There’s been more than enough evil in the human world for a very long time. Whoever you are, whatever generation you come from, it’s time you stopped whining about whose fault it is or was. 

It doesn’t matter who caused what. Get your act together, put your shoulder to the wheel, and start pushing to make it a better place. The big bad boomer bunch did that. I’m terribly sorry it has come unglued so quickly and I don’t feel really happy watching all the things I worked for fall apart. It is shocking, horrifying, and deeply depressing.  But on the other hand, I didn’t vote for that asshole.

Regardless, I’m too old to go out and fix it. I would if I could, but me and my generation — we’ve done our part. Our effervescence is gone. The ingredients you need to fix this bad old world are yours now.

Get up and do something. Vote. Run for office. Get a decent education. Learn some history.

It doesn’t matter who made it this way. It has been working on becoming this way for hundreds of years and if you don’t get yourselves moving, it will simply get worse and your children will blame it on you.

Except you know what? If you don’t start to work on making it better, your kids’ worlds will be a whole lot worse than yours.

Are you registered to vote? Will you vote?

FOWC with Fandango — Ingredients
RDP #71: EFFERVESCENT

THIS WEEK IN TRUMPLANDIA: July 21 – 28, 2018

A good summary of This Week In Trumplandia. I know it’s hard to keep track of everything and to be fair, I no longer try, so it’s useful to get a good summary of the madness surrounding us.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Sex, Lies and Audio Tapes Edition

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APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
Gallup Poll: 42% — down from 43% last week
Rasmussen Poll: 46% — up from 44% last week

Welcome to Trumplandia, a place where with a bit of wit and snark, we keep the world caught up on all of the tasty Nuggets-O-Trump you may have heard about but were too busy to care. Because most of this minutia occurs just below the massive headlines about the POTUS, it’s in a land of its own. Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.

So just like the president, we start it all with a little tweet like this:

View original post 1,563 more words

IOKIYAR? – BY TOM CURLEY

I was reading a news story about the Trump Putin press conference in Helsinki where our Twidiot-In-Chief announced to the world that he is Putin’s little bitch.

Who’s a good little boy? You’re a good little boy!
Note: If you aren’t an American, the Daily News has always been a conservative, rather right-wing newspaper. Not anymore.

He put Russia first and threw the entire US intelligence community under the bus. It was just one of the dozens of stories I read. Two interesting things popped out at me after reading them.

First, the word “Treason” was showing up all over the place, both on the television news and in the newspapers.

Second, one of the comments on one of the stories about Republicans defending this asshole ended with this: IOKIYAR.

IOKIYAR?

What the hell does that mean? I know it’s internet slang. I know what most of the common Internet acronyms mean.

OMG – Oh My God

BRB – Be right back

WTF – Why the fuss?  (Why the Fuss? WTF?)

I even know some of the longer ones.

ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing

ROTFLMAO – Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

IMHO – In my humble opinion (Note: Nobody really means “humble”)

IOKIYAR? Never heard of it. So, I looked it up. It means:

It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

That got me to thinking.  Wow, this is a thing that happens so much, has become so pervasive in our world, that people have come up with an Internet shortcut to talk about it. Then I realized it makes perfect sense. The hypocrisy of Republicans has reached levels that were, until the last two years, unimaginable. For any political party. Ever.

The leader of the Senate can deny a sitting President a Supreme Court nominee for more than a year. Not even hold a hearing, yet he tells Democrats they have to be fair to the current nominee and confirm him immediately.

Hypocrite? Sure.

But IOKIYAR.

A Congressman, Trey Gowdy, can oversee dozens of investigations into Bengazhi, spending millions of dollars of your tax money to find absolutely nothing.

He can later demand the Mueller investigation be shut down immediately because it costs too much and all the evidence they have found must be turned over to them. Even though the DOJ never ever talks about or gives out information on what they are doing during an open investigation.

If a Democrat tried that, the Republicans would be screaming for their heads.

IOKIYAR.

The current administration is ripping children as young as one-year-old from their parents at the southern border and putting them in “baby jails” while few (if any) Republican Congressmen have anything to say about it.

Beyond shameful?

Yes, but IOKIYAR.

The President of the United States told the world he is a traitor and sides with Russia over his own government. The Republicans said Russia is bad but said nothing about the President who said it.

Beyond shameful?

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Sure.

IOKIYAR.

That’s the world we live in. It’s disgusting, immoral, vile, evil and unbelievable.

Every day I throw up a little in my mouth watching the news.  Many times, I’m ashamed to be an American.

So are a lot of other people.

IOKIYAR.

Or as Republicans would say “Why the Fuss?”

WTF!?