WHEN WORDS FAIL – Marilyn Armstrong

I was reading a comment in the Washington Post that followed my own line of thought:


Yes, the politicians are to blame — but so are we. The two trends intersect.The Republican war on science succeeded by making people distrust our medical experts. Next, there are, apparently, many fewer Americans willing to endure even minimal discomfort for the good of us all! 


I understand that politicians — neither Republicans nor Democrats — started the pandemic. And Republicans didn’t “make people” distrust medical experts. We just have an extraordinary number of really stupid people in this country who will believe anything Trump or his menagerie tell them.

That Trump and his menagerie are all liars is true but they couldn’t do it without a lot of stupid, selfish people who choose to believe them. Want to believe them. Because these morons don’t like reality, don’t want to learn, never read books, and ONLY watch Fox News. The concept of research appalls them.They hate educated people and firmly believe their ignorance is as good as an expert’s knowledge.

These are the same selfish pigs who are helping make American the pestilential center of the world. No other country has managed to have behaved as poorly as the good old U.S,A. We are the sickest country in the world and have the kind of citizens living here who think making things worse is okay because it’s their constitutional right to not be inconvenienced by a plague.

I’ve read the constitution. Nowhere does it says that our government can’t inconvenience us. They inconvenience us all the time and to top it off, they are racist and anti semitic.

Today, as the number of COVID patients has risen to an all-time high, Trump’s people went to court to kill Obamacare, The ACA. So that 20 million more people will be unable to get medical care. In the middle of a pandemic. Who are these people? What is wrong with this country? How have the rest of us been so negligent as to allow these insensitive thugs to be in charge? How can we have allowed it to happen? I didn’t vote for this government. Neither did Garry or any of my friends but a lot of people did vote and many of them, without regrets. Some wish they hadn’t, but a lot are still worshipping this sleazebag as if he is some kind of bizarre, larded god.

And more than ten percent of the voters aren’t sure who they will vote for. Aren’t sure? What would make them sure? When we are excluded from the rest of the world because we still have the disease and everyone else got their acts together and got rid of it? When nobody takes this country seriously or trusts us?

I’m boggled. I don’t even have the words to say how bad I feel and how ashamed I am of this country. It really is humiliating to be an American these days. And that is an awful way to feel.

“I AM SAMOAN!” DECLARES GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m Samoan. You may not believe it, but a whole bevy of racists in the 1970s believed it and it has become an inside joke in local media  — or at least the retired members of local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early ’70s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was an ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe.

“The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It meant (to me) I was on the right side.

One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also known as “Southie,” where all the action was taking place. A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. They were on the move, coming in to give the hated, lying media a serious tune-up.

At that moment, I had what I call “A Mel Brooks Moment.” An veritable epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best (and most popular) soothing voice.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.


“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  


A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered. “He’s not a nig__r. He’s Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there and pretty much ran for the truck. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

WHY WE NEED TO SAY IT – RICH PASCHALL

From The Battleground, by Rich Paschall

When someone says “Black Lives Matter” (BLM), some are quick to respond “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” or some other variant. Of course, they are all true, but they are not the right response at this moment in history. You would think the reason would be clear by now. Unfortunately, it is not.

This is similar to the Gay Pride arguments we discussed last year at this time. Some ask, “Why is there a Gay Pride parade?” or “Why is there a Gay Pride month? There is no Straight Pride parade and no Straight Pride Month.”  Gay pride erupted when Gay people were tired of being pushed down and discriminated against. The breakout moment finally happened against the police in New York in the “Stonewall Uprising” in 1969.

Stonewall 1969 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In June of that year,  the police showed up at Stonewall Inn for the usual round of harassing the patrons and arresting the drag queens and anyone else they wanted to bring along. They released some people but they waited outside. The crowd began to build and a riot erupted as the police tried to take some away in patrol wagons. The next night the rioting continued. Police responses included nightsticks and tear gas.

A year later parades were held to commemorate the battles that were held along Christopher Street in New York City. These were Pride Parades. It was a celebration of gay pride over discrimination. Parades will not be held this year. After 50 years of being in the streets to declare we will not accept mistreatment any longer, COVID-19 has put a halt to the parades. Why are there Gay Pride Parades? Stonewall is the answer.

Some ask “Why is there Black History Month?”  Like Gay Pride Month (June), Black History Month (February) highlights the often forgotten parts of African-American History.  When it was officially established in 1976, President Gerald Ford told Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Let face it, US history has been mostly White History month every month. It is important to say out loud the contributions of black Americans because they have been left out of our history books in the past. This is the time to bring them to the forefront of America’s collective knowledge. Yes, some object to a month to highlight Black history as it should be a regular part of history all the time. Think of February as the month we must hear ourselves proclaim this history.

Why is there Women’s History Month? The early history of the US was about explorers, warriors, settlers, entrepreneurs, in other words, all men. Few women found their way into history. Men were the “citizens” and women had to fight for their place.  When the 14th amendment granted citizenship to all born or naturalized here, they really meant men. Women began fighting for the right to vote as early as before the Civil War. They finally won that with the 19th amendment in 1920, but that really just meant white women. Roadblocks were thrown up to prevent black women from voting until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

After consistently pushing back on women’s rights and women’s contributions to society, it is necessary to have a month to highlight what has previously been left out of history. Women’s contributions to the nation are more than just Betsy Ross sewing a flag.

There are a variety of history and heritage months. We often hate to look back through the ages to learn exactly what our history has been, and has not been. The systematic suppression of some people has led us to a list of groups who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past. Over time they have risen up and demanded to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, and to be treated equally. Sometimes the only way forward is through marches and protests. These protests are not against the country, but against the discrimination that keeps people from being seen as equals, for understanding that their lives matter too.

“Black Lives Matter” has to be said for all those who still do not understand that it is a part of “All Lives Matter.” It is the part that is not recognized by white nationalists, neo-nazis, KKK members, supporters of extreme right-wing broadcasters, and certain politicians, including the orange one. It needs to be said over and over until those who have been deaf to it until now, hear and understand.

See also: “Stonewall Uprising,” SERENDIPITY, July 1, 2019.

NOT GETTING A NOSE JOB – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story, or how many times I have told it to you. It bears retelling especially since racism and bigotry are the words of the month and maybe, the  year.


My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor, and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as a bookkeeper. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The first place she worked was in a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to get a better job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. Of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them. My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant so no one would ever do that to her again.Finally, I made a leap of understanding. I connected this anecdote to an aspect of my mother I never “got.” My mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is the original model with which I was born.

Since the last time I told this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty enough. She was asking me if I wanted to not look Jewish. Remarkably, this thought had never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.

I know many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I know non-white mothers frequently sent their light-skinned children north hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until recently, did it occur to me my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. I was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age. I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion to “get my nose fixed” was an attempt to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said, “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 73? That is a bit slow. You really didn’t know?” I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently, everyone else got it. Except me.

WHAT WE ALWAYS HAVE BEEN – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

With the continual unrest across the country and the prospects that in some places it will not end soon, many may be asking themselves, “How did things get to be like this? When did our country become so racist, so divided?”  I have an unfortunate answer for those who would be asking. It has always been this way.

The division of authority and power between black and white Americans goes back to the beginnings of the colonies.  In 1565 the Spanish explorer who founded St. Augustine Florida brought African slaves with him. African slaves were brought to the British colonies by 1619. Massachusetts legalized slavery in 1641. Companies were set up to deal with the slave trade as if the people brought here were just commodities.

Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured slaves from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

In 1705 the Virginia Slave codes stated that anyone brought in to the land who was non-Christian could be a slave. Apparently, they thought this included Native Americans. Well, there is a whole host of regrettable “milestones” along the bumpy road to becoming a nation.

It’s no secret that the authors of the Constitution struggled with the idea of slavery. The Southern colonies were much more dependent on the free labor to work under the hot sun. Their booming agricultural economy relied on the slaves they had bought. Rather than have no country, the compromise was to allow this system of racism and slavery, mostly in the South. When slavery was put to an end by a horrific civil war, the racism did not end. In fact, in many places, it has not ended yet.

With a war ripping America apart in the 19th Century, you would think things would change by the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the story of the first 65 years of the 20th Century is one filled with white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Klu Klux Klan. They terrorized black citizens and any white person who would dare to stand up for them. Whipping and lynching were a way of life in some communities. By the way, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky seems to be blocking an anti-lynching bill in 2020. You read that correctly. 2020!

All the racism and discrimination in schools and housing and employment were put to an end, on paper anyway, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It did not, however, put an end to the racism taught in the home and in certain school districts across the land. With no national standard and decisions on curriculum made in every community, school boards were free to incorporate whatever version of history and sometimes religion that they approved. Even some local pastors perpetuated the myth that some people are superior to others. You still hear it today.

When children hear hate and lies as they grow up, in the home, in school, and in church, these lessons become the beliefs that they cling to in adulthood. Racism is taught. It is the only way people will grow up to be such haters. It is passed down through the generations.

Many police departments, big and small, have officers who believe they must keep “those people” in line. At one time that meant black, but with racism spewed by many of our national politicians, it could also mean immigrants, non-Christian religions, gay, or any other “non-conforming” groups.

Those who do not see it, do not care to see it. It is an ugly part of our history some would like to hide away, but like the Nazi atrocities of World War II, we can not hide what has been going on, nor should we ever forget.

When there have been protests and riots in the past, they usually die down after a few days, but this time they continue, as a nation weary from a pandemic and unemployment looks on. One thing that keeps the people fired up is the childish and hateful tweets of the orange one in Washington. His tear gassing of protestors to have a picture taken of himself in front of a church holding a Bible, could not have been more ridiculous. Does anyone think he has ever read it? Any of it?

In a scary development reminiscent of a sad time in the 20th Century, Attorney General Barr deployed a special detail of police in black shirts, without any identification, to patrol the area around the White House. If you can not identify them in their helmets and dark glasses and no uniforms, are they free to commit crimes on behalf of the WH?

Some people ask, how can anyone follow Trump? Don’t they see what kind of person he is? I even wondered that here in “What We Don’t Understand.” Some people even think of his followers as some sort of cult, and perhaps some of them are. But here’s the thing. They are him. They are just like him. They grew up with racism in their hearts and they finally have a leader that will allow them to express it. It’s not that they don’t see it.  They do see and they are pleased. The more he tweets and lies to them, the greater he is in their racist eyes.

Those who were taught racism will be hard to win over, but perhaps we can at least silence them again. If the orange one is to return for another term, however, …

Sources: “Bill Barr Deploys His Own Army Of Federal Correctional Officers,” by Emily Goodwin, Daily Mail, dailymail.co.uk June 4, 2020.
Civil Rights Act (1964),” ourdocuments.gov
Slavery in the United States,” en.wikipedia.org
See Also: “What We Don’t Understand,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com May 12, 2019.
Black Like Me,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com June 5, 2020.

BELLWETHERS AND BULLIES – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

When I was a girl in elementary school, probably around fifth grade, so I must have been about 8 or 9 – I started school almost a year early. It had to do with New York state’s cutoff entry dates for starting school. My birthday fell on the exact end of the age bracket, so I didn’t hit five until nearly the end of kindergarten.

If you’re a girl — maybe even if you are a boy — you remember “the mean girls.” There was always a clique of them. In every schoolyard, there was a Bellwether, the girl who — for no particular reason — was the leader of the mean girl gang. While she was usually pretty, she was not a heartbreaker either. She just had that inexplicable “thing” that makes others blindly follow her. A human bellwether.

You might think that a group of girls following each other wouldn’t automatically be rotten little brats. After all, they could follow each other and do good deeds. Help others get their homework done. Protect little ones from predatory bigger kids.

That’s never the way it worked. The gang was always mean. Physical and mental cruelty was their specialty. Taunters and teasers. Nothing made them happier than seeing others cry from being relentlessly humiliated and called names by their gang. Sticks and stones are only one of the many things that hurt. Words are lethal too.

Other features of the gang? They were stuck up. They “set the style.” They also had a radar capacity for spotting an underdog They knew who they could taunt until they broke down and wept.

I never understood them. Why behave that way? What do you gain? Are you that way because that’s how you were treated at home? Were your parents’ jerks too?

I came from a highly dysfunctional family. It brought my brother and me together and we stayed bonded until he died 12 years ago. It never occurred to me that making other kids feel bad would make me feel better. There had to be something else going on that I could never see.

Early in my post-professional career, one of the girls from the mean girls of childhood tried to make friends. Online. I couldn’t help it. I told her I didn’t remember her being my friend. I remembered her as one of the mean girls, never saying anything that didn’t have a barb in it. She never wrote back.

And now, here we are and the guy who supposedly runs our country is one of the mean kids! It was deplorable in elementary schools, but to run a country like that? Sometimes I feel as if I fell through the cracks of reality and am living in a place that merely resembles the U.S. as a physical entity, but otherwise, it’s a different universe. It’s another dimension where the mean kids have taken over.

We are all their targets because there’s always something wrong with us. Of course, if you really want to get mutilated, be any kind of minority. Skin color matters, but being Jewish isn’t bad either. Or being liberal. Or an atheist. Hating is easy. Love takes effort. It ought to be exactly the opposite.

It is my personal opinion that nobody hates one group of people. If you are a hater, you have a little list. You hate gay men and black people? You probably hate Natives, Hispanics, and Asians too.

Hatred is a lifestyle. If you are a hater, in your heart, you hate everyone probably yourself most of all.

THE MAKING OF AMERICA – RICH PASCHALL

It Isn’t Great, by Rich Paschall

After 100,000 have died, millions have lost their jobs and America’s cities burn, we can hear the right-wingers now. “You can’t blame this on Trump. This is not Trump’s fault.” But here’s the problem. It IS Trump’s fault, just about all of it.

LIAR in Chief

The amount of lies Trump has told the American people is staggering. This is not just a wild assertion as some on the right side of the aisle may claim.  It is a well-documented fact. This is not just put out there by the Washington Post, but also by many fact-checkers around the country. If the Post is too liberal for you, you can find a variety of sources. If he is talking or tweeting, he’s probably lying. Now he wants to stop Twitter from fact-checking him.

Opportunist  in Chief

Despite something known as the Emoluments Clause, Trump has taken the opportunity to further enrich himself and his rich friends. He plays a lot of golf on the taxpayer’s money, then has the secret service and others in the entourage stay at his lodging, also at taxpayers’ expense. This is the way to funnel your money to himself.

Clause 7   The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

He would not know the meaning of this, nor would he care.

Tax Cutter in Chief

OK, this was never meant to help you.  This was all about giving himself and his rich friends a tax break. In other words, the rich got richer.

Hater in Chief

You may think this one is pretty strong. Am I actually calling out someone as a hater? His whole term in office is about hate speech and defending “some very nice people” with confederate or Nazi flags and automatic weapons.

Anarchist in Chief

The statements by someone already in an office that are meant to undermine local, state, or even federal government are outrageous, to say the least. He has used his position of authority, not to work with others, but to bad mouth mayors, governors and US Senators, and Representatives. His provocative speech has indicated to his base of supporters that it is OK to “Liberate” states. It is ok to challenge public officials. That white nationalist protestors include some very nice people. White Racists, including the KKK, favor Trump. In fact, the KKK endorsed him in the last election.

Mis-manager in Chief

He had the opportunity to take the lead in times of crisis. He blew it. He blamed China, he blamed governors, he blamed scientists, he blamed Obama. He blamed everyone for not getting out in front of this crisis but himself. As we write this at the end of May, the virus is on the rise in many states. Trump encourages the opening of states because it would help the economy. The only thing it may help is the death toll.

Leaders of some countries took early and decisive action. Trump dismissed it
“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”  – January 22nd.

The World Health Organization warned of a worldwide pandemic, Trump called it a Democratic hoax: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”  – March 9th

Other countries took action to help their people. Trump and the Republicans blocked a second stimulus payment. They work toward legislation to protect companies from any liability for forcing employees back to work. They threatened to cut off unemployment benefits. Trump refused to cancel student loans.

Nero in Chief

He may not know how to play the fiddle, but he is doing a good job of pretending to be Emperor while the cities burn.  Here is why it is his fault:

Robber in Chief

Yes, there are people who are taking advantage of a bad situation to do bad things. Some are looting stores for their own personal joy or gain. Some are causing destruction to make one side or the other look bad. As I write to you, my emergency alert on my phone is not announcing bad weather, it is announcing a city curfew.  There is violence in the streets.

There are lawbreakers among the protestors and rioters, that’s for sure. And no matter what any of them may steal tonight or in the days to come, Trump has already stolen from them the most important thing necessary to make and keep America great. He has stolen HOPE. He has left many Americans broken and alone while he sits on his toilet, or wherever, sending tweets of hate into cyberspace. Meanwhile:

  • Is there any hope that situations will improve between big-city police departments and communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that economic opportunities will come to the communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that gun violence and people violence will subside in our country?
  • Is there any hope that immigrant families, ripped apart at the border, will be united?
  • Is there any hope that a leader will step forward and unite America with one voice through this pandemic?
  • Is there any hope that that the poor and middle class will find more assistance during extended unemployment, as other countries have done for their citizens, or will stimulus really be a way to hand more money to the rich?

People who take to the streets in protests that turn violent have lost hope that change will come by any other means. They have been driven down and stepped on and had a knee put to their collective throats. They are sick and tired of it. The words from the Orange Menace in Washington signals to the people of the nation that indeed, there is no hope.

On Monday Limbaugh and Hannity and Trump will all rage away. Will anyone offer hope to the masses?

This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee – The Washington Post

For what are probably obvious reasons, this has been a major subject in this mixed-race household. If I were a lot younger and sturdier, I think I might be out there too. This has gone on for as long as the U.S. has been a nation. It started with slavery, continued with Jim Crow, and apparently will never end. And EVERYBODY knows it.

There’s apparently no middle road on this, not politically or in sports. I supported Kaepernick’s position and could not understand why everybody didn’t support him.

We live in a racist country with a president who apparently hates his own people. Violence is what he wants and violence is what he gets. When he first came into office, I thought he was “merely” trying to tear down whatever Obama had accomplished. Now, I think, he is trying to tear down what our founding fathers created. He will, if he can, destroy our system of justice, laws, and balance of powers. He will turn this country into the biggest, richest banana republic on Earth.

Is this what the GOP calls “making American great again?” It seems entirely the opposite to me.  This is grinding America into the dirt, destroying all the things that made anyone want to be part of our nation. Shame on the country for electing this murderous, bloated bigot to a position of power. Shame on the rest of us for not getting him out-of-office and replacing him with someone — at the very least — sane and literate.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/c268c732-8f0a-4400-b65b-ffb17e37f0da

The NFL ostracized the quarterback for his protests against police brutality. It’s more clear than ever what a terrible decision that was.

Source: This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee – The Washington Post

OLD WEST TIME TRAVEL: NON-WHITE VERSION – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’ve always loved time travel stories, especially when they have happy endings. I used to think I’d love to be back in the Old West.

Ya know where I’m going with this. A man of color rides into town riding a handsome horse, wearing fine clothing — and two guns. You can see the women, kids, and cattle running for their lives.

All the alkies are lined up outside the town saloon staring at the stranger, whispering to one another as they gulp their cheap hooch. The saloon gals stare in fascination, their big boobs rising in anticipation over their wonder bras.

The sheriff dashes in to check his wanted posters, the colored section. The town bully sullenly sniffs his glue for some extra courage. The prim school teacher smiles, a warm inviting smile, suggesting that all are welcome in her classroom.

Meanwhile, the Choir in the old church is singing “Nearer My God To Thee”.

The colored gunslinger just keeps riding down Main Street, past the Chinese laundry and chop suey joint without stopping. Ever so slowly, he rides out of town. A small boy runs after the stranger, yelling “Come back, Stranger! Come back! We want you! We need you! Come back, please! We’re all ready for a lynching! Come back, Mister!”

The stranger keeps riding, softling humming “Kumbaya” as his profile disappears in the dust that rises over the horizon.

THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong

One of the great pleasures in my life these days is our car radio. Marilyn, in one of the most thoughtful of her gifts in this past year of discontent, signed us – me really – for Sirius Satellite radio, highlighted by the signature “Siriusly Sinatra” station.  It’s all Sinatra, 24-7.

Not just Sinatra. It’s all of the songs and artists from Tin Pan Alley’s swing halcyon days. Sinatra,  Dino, Sammy, Crosby, Ella, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, Cole Porter, Rosie Clooney and other legendary musicians who performed under the umbrella of “Standards.” It’s not just cob-webby LP music. The station also features contemporary artists covering the classics that span more than a century. You’ll marvel at the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Lady Gaga and Pink riffing Mel Torme, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Doris Day, Ol’ Blue Eyes and other voices. Tunesmiths from our youth.

This leads me into the theme of singing in the throne room as I assume most of us do — far from the madding crowd of critics. I don’t possess the same musical talent as my two younger brothers. Hell, it’s a miracle if I carry a tune. Lately, I’ve been serenading myself as I shave (very steady hand!).

Usually, it’s older standard music on the Sinatra station. Or maybe something Marilyn remembers her Mom singing from her childhood.  Marilyn says her Mom usually only remembered one stanza from a tune and would repeat it over and over again. I chuckle along with Marilyn because I do the same thing. Maybe two or three lines repeated myriad times until I forget those lyrics or  I’m done shaving. Then, I move into the shower. The water covering more old songs with misremembered lyrics.

It’s all good for me. Surely, I am the winner of The Lipton Tea Talent Scouts Show with Arthur Godfrey smiling and congratulating me. I’m gonna be the next Nat “King” Cole.  As sure as the turning of the earth!  I just need to pick the right song to cover.

A song that’s me!

Decades ago (The early 70’s), I used to walk around singing the very somber love ballad, “All For The Love Of A Girl.” It was the flip side of Johnny Horton’s “The Ballad of New Orleans.”  I sang “All For the Love …” with deep, sorrowful emotion. On or off the melody? I don’t remember. A lady friend asked, “Garry, why do you always sing such sad songs”?

I replied, “Because I’m sentimental.”

My friend shot back quickly, “No, You’re NOT!” And, you’re also not romantic.”   I suppressed anger and the blemish to my sensitivity.

Years later, the same performance, different song and a similar conversation with Marilyn who echoed the “No, you’re not sentimental. You may like sentimental songs and movies. But it doesn’t make you sentimental or a romantic.” This would lead down a conversational road I didn’t like. The difference between musical tastes and my own personality and behavior,  especially with people who cared about me.  The singer, not the song. But, as usual, I digress.

I chose our Wedding Song.  It was Nat Cole’s “For Sentimental Reasons.”  Marilyn and I slow danced, as bride and groom, to the dreamy ballad. It was supposed to be the standard for my behavior as Marilyn’s husband and dependable mate through good times and bad. The song proved steadier than the groom in the ensuing years.

It’s difficult living up to the romantic lyrics of a popular song when you’re dealing with bread and butter issues like bills, home repairs, and health care and working in the news business which is about as unromantic as work can be. The song isn’t always you. A very hard pill to swallow when you carry yourself off as a romantic or sentimental fella. Recognizing the difference is part of the long road to maturity, awkward when your 78th birthday is just a few, short months away.

Maybe this is part of what Frank Sinatra was trying to explain when we met half a century ago — another story in a different post. I never asked, but Sinatra told me he often felt at odds with some of his sad songs, the love affairs which supposedly went sour in smoky three o’clock in the morning gin joints.  I was the twenty-something filled with the angst of old movies and songs about love found and lost.  I still didn’t have a clue about being a three-dimensional guy ready to take on responsibility with the sensitivity essential to any meaningful relationship.

It would take a long, long time and still hasn’t been fully achieved. I always label myself – “a work in progress.”  The old love songs don’t always cover that ‘sharing and caring’ stuff.  Play “Misty” for me!

Another time travel stop for me and music. Autumn of 1959. I was brash, newly minted enlistee at Parris Island, the legendary basic training camp for young gyrenes. I was one of a very few “boots” of color and a damn Yankee in the deep south where Jim Crow still prevailed. Most of the other clean-shaven Marine wannabees were from below the Mason-Dixon line, deep in the heart of Dixie. Their music was Rebel Rock ‘n Roll, tempered with obscenities and insensitivity to anyone who was not a card-carrying beer and grits lover.

The southern music dominated our downtime. I was off in my own private world, serenading myself with the likes of “Mona Lisa”, “Stardust”, “Too Young” and “When I Fall In Love.”  My musical choices bought me a lot of grief with the good old boys. A lot of reprimands from the drill Instructors who already didn’t care for my “attitude” and added my music to their list of things for verbal reprimand.  I just laughed at them when they screamed at me. No hits of the week for me.

I got lost in a time warp when hard rock, heavy metal, rap, and hip-hop took over popular music. I guess I began to sound like my parents and grandparents wondering what happened to the good music of my early years. What happened to lyrics and melodies you could understand?

My fallback in music is the same as it is in movies. My one and only public karaoke performance was our local Tex-Mex restaurant maybe fifteen years ago. It was not my best performance, even by local standards. The restaurant closed a few years ago but I am sure some people still remember the magical night when I got up on stage, decked in western garb, reaching for the stars as I grabbed the mic and the music began. My heartfelt rendition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I sang for applause, free drinks, and some scattered “More, more, more.”

A musical homage to all my movie cowboy heroes.

That song is me, Pilgrim.

A NOSE JOB FOR MOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story, or how many times I have told it to you. It bears retelling.

At age 22

My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor, and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as a bookkeeper. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The first place she worked was in a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to get a better job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. Of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them. My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant so no one would ever do that to her again.Finally, I made a leap of understanding. I connected this anecdote to an aspect of my mother I never “got.” My mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is the original model with which I was born.

Since the last time I told this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty enough. She was asking me if I wanted to not look Jewish. Remarkably, this thought had never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.

I know many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I know non-white mothers frequently sent their light-skinned children north hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until recently, did it occur to me my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. I was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age. I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

September 15, 1990 – My family at our wedding. I think most of us look a bit alike!

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion to “get my nose fixed” was an attempt to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said, “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.

He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 72? That is a bit slow. You really didn’t know?” I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently, everyone else got it. Except me.

AMERICA FIRST IS RACISM FROM OUR PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

This post is primarily composed of quotes from HuffPost and other sources. “America First” has a rather long and ugly history … and it started long before Donald Trump.

If anyone thinks what Trump is doing is new, it isn’t. This is Fascism on the rise. It’s easy to suddenly discover that “free” now means “people who agree with The Leader.” We are far too close to that now. I’d hate to see what a second term would accomplish.

Democracy is a slippery slope. Ours is covered in ice.

Dr. Seuss Cartoon from 1941 on antisemitism. The old story, just updated with a red hat.


Trump Was Not First To Use The “America First” Slogan. It has a long history.

In his Inaugural Address, President Donald Trump repeated a theme from his Presidential Campaign, telling the world: “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.” Many Trump critics point to the fact that this was a watchword for those who opposed U.S. intervention in WWll before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Actually, the phrase has a longer history.

President Woodrow Wilson, a hardened internationalist, ironically coined the term today associated with Nationalism. In 1916, Wilson was running for re-election by promising to remain neutral in WWl. His campaign slogan was: “He kept us out of War,  America First.” Once Wilson was safely re-elected, he ordered troops into what was, at the time, called “The Great War.” My mother who had the “luck” to live through both world wars always called it “The Great War.”

Once the U.S. was enveloped in the war, newspaper Publisher William Randolph Hearst, a vociferous critic of Wilson, used the slogan against the President.

Hearst was sympathetic to Germany and warned the U.S. not to aid the allies in the fight against Germany. Hearst exclaimed: “Keep every dollar and every man and every weapon and all our supplies and stores at home, for the defense of our own land, our own people, our own freedom, until that defense has been made absolutely secure. After that, we can think of other nations’ troubles. But until then, America first!”

This slogan soon became an imprimatur for non-interventionists in both major political parties. Once WWl ended, the Americans became wary of foreign intervention. Wilson failed in his efforts to garner the requisite two-thirds majority needed in the U.S. Senator to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which included allowing the U.S. to join a collective security alliance called “The League of Nations.”

Some Senators would have supported the agreement if the President agreed to certain reservations. However, the bi-partisan group that steadfastly opposed the treaty came to be known as “the irreconcilables.”

Complete post: TRUMP WAS NOT THE FIRST TO USE AMERICA FIRST” – Huffpost 

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM LIKE A MAGAT? – AGAIN! – BY TOM CURLEY

Here is another in my unintentional series of re-posting blogs I wrote a year or so ago because they are more relevant today. This happened last week.

Ellin and I have a boat. We’ve been at the same Marina for over 19 years. This is our happy place. We love it. We don’t come here to discuss politics or religion. We come here to relax and have fun.

Here’s a picture of my neighbor to my right. He flies an American flag.

Lots of boats do. It’s a thing with boaters.  Why not? This is my neighbor two boats over to my left.

A little more nautical, but still cool. And then there’s the chucklehead next to me.

I was down below when he came in. I went upstairs to say Hi and he say “Hey did you see my flags?” I looked up and before my normal filter could kick in all I could say was

“WHAT THE FUCK?!! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME???!!!”

He laughs and says “Oh, you don’t like the guy? I think it’s funny.”

Now, those that know me would be thinking I was about to explode. And they’d be right. I knew if I did this, the guy would never know what hit him.

I didn’t want to do that. The marina is my safe place. It’s where I go every day to sit in the sun and relax. I know that some people on our dock are Republicans and some are Democrats. But we are all friends and we keep it to our selves. We can agree to disagree. I’ve grown to know them enough that we can put aside our differences by simply not talking about them. This is the dock. Mellow out. Have a beer. Go to the pool.

We are all here to relax and have fun. Then yesterday another one shows up on the dock next to us with the same God Damn flag. The vast majority of the dock was appalled. Angry. Livid. WTF?!!!

My problem is I believe in the First Amendment. I will defend your right to say stupid racist shit, but I get to also say I think you are a racist piece of shit.

There are limits to the First Amendment. You can’t shout “FIRE” in a theater. You can stand on a street corner and be as much of an asshole as you want but you can’t do it everywhere. Like our marina! The manager of  our marina, god bless him, went to both of these morons and explained the marina is a “politics-free zone.” Please take the flags down. Other people on the dock, almost all of them, were upset.

Well, chucklehead number two got all mad and outraged, but finally took the flags down. Chucklehead number one took them down but kept putting them back up until another boat owner got into a huge shouting match with him. He took the flags down.

Here’s the point. The First Amendment doesn’t mean you get to spew your racist hateful shit anywhere. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all private entities. They can make their own rules and regulations about what you can and cannot do in their app and on their property. The Trumpers have decided that you have to listen to them.  If I had put a flag up that violated the marina’s rules, I would have felt terrible and immediately taken it down. I would have been embarrassed.

They don’t. They have no respect for anybody else’s feelings or rules.  They feel they have the right to shove their opinions down your throat.

THEY DON’T!  They have the right to shout racist crap and you have the right not listen to them and call them a bunch of fucking morons. Oddly the upshot of this is that my neighbor is being shunned.  Revealed to be the moron he is.

Really, he is not the sharpest pencil in the box and has no idea how to drive his 37-foot boat — which scares the shit out of all of us on the dock.

He seems to be stunned that he’s being treated like a minority. Like someone who is different from all the people around him. Like, even though we all believe in the First Amendment, we don’t want his kind around here. Karma’s a bitch. Here’s the original post. Making the same point.


Nazis are bad.

This isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact. We seem to live in a world where facts are considered by many to be identical to opinions. That still doesn’t make them any less ‘factual.’

The fact is, NAZIS ARE BAD! White supremacists are bad. White nationalists are bad. A Nazi by any other name is STILL A NAZI!

Despite this, there has been a huge rise in Nazism, white supremacy, hate crimes, and massacres, the latest being the horrific massacre in New Zealand. Which, by the way, was live-streamed on Facebook. That was bad enough. What was worse was it was re-posted over a million times on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many sick fucks are out there?

Turns out, way, way more than I ever imagined.

They always were out there, but up until two years ago, they had the decency to stay hidden beneath the rocks under which they lived.

What changed?

What made them come out from under their slimy rocks to proudly proclaim their hatred, their racism, and misogyny? Duh! The White Nationalist in chief, Adolf Twittler got elected president.

Since then, a Nazi nut job living in a van covered with alt-right posters and pictures of Herr Twittler sent pipe bombs to two former living presidents and all sorts of media folk. Another shot up a concert in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, another bunch of right-wing nut-jobs committed mass murder.

What a fine crew they are. Yup. Good people on both sides.

There are so many hideous crimes after a while the details blur together. No matter how horrible Cheesy McCheese Face behaves — like refusing to condemn Nazis who commit murder in Charlottesville and dumping on John McCain even though he has been DEAD for months  — Republicans and “his base” continue to support him.

Well, there goes the neighborhood.

 

Although his base is a minority in the U.S., they comprise a lot of people. Too many people. So, the question remains, how do we (relatively sane) people deal with these assholes?

I disagreed when Hillary Clinton famously called these folks “deplorables.” Why? Because they owned it and started wearing tee-shirts that said “Proud Deplorable.”

She should have called them “Assholes.”

Why? Because how cool would it have been to see hundreds of thousands of these morons parading around in public wearing tee-shirts saying  “I’m a Proud Asshole.”

Lately, an odd thing has started happening. The MAGA hat-wearing public is complaining they are being discriminated against. They are being publicly shamed. They are victims. They’re being picked on because they’re MAGATs.

There are even websites and apps out there that tell them what restaurants they can go to. Where they can be sure nobody will make fun of them. Sort of a “Green Book for Red Hats.”

This shaming is a good thing. If we’ve learned anything in the last two years, we’ve learned you can’t talk to these folks. No matter how many facts you present to these morons, they only believe what the Hater-In-Chief says.

They’re a cult. You can’t have a rational conversation with a cultist. All cults are essentially the same. They only believe their “leader.” Everybody outside the cult is “the enemy.”

Everybody not in the cult is out to get them. The cult leader has secret information that only he possesses. That information almost always is the same:


The leader was anointed by God to be their leader.


As often as not, the hidden information is that the leader actually is God.  Everyone tends to forget that in most cults, the end comes when the leader goes stark raving mad, has sex with all female members, regardless of age, and decides everybody needs to kill him or herself.

The problem is this cult has more than 50-million members. That’s an awful lot of Kool-aid.

Shit, we’re gonna need more Kool-Aid.

So, what do we do with these MAGATs? These Nazis?

I say let’s treat them the way they treat other minorities:

*   If you see them on the street, cross the street. You never know if they will become violent.

*   If you see them in a store, follow them around to make sure they don’t steal anything.

*   Don’t argue with them. It’s like teaching a pig to fly. You just frustrate yourself and annoy the pig.

*   Shun them. Turn your back on them and walk away.

Give them all a message in the one language they understand:


Your kind is not welcome here.


LIVING WITH ANTI-SEMITISM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I am Jewish. My parents were both born in America but my grandparents were all born in Russia/Ukraine. I grew up on stories from my maternal grandmother about living in a Shtetl, where murderous, anti-semitic rampages by the Kossacks were commonplace. Jews were not allowed to integrate freely with the gentile population, let alone socialize or intermarry. My great grandfather was a respected Rabbi and one of the rare Jews who was allowed to do business with the Gentiles in the big town of Minsk.

In addition to these stories, I heard a lot about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe as the Nazis came to power. As a child, I used to think about what I would take with me if that ‘knock on the door’ came one night to take me away from my home and my life. I often wondered if I would be the kind of person in a Concentration Camp who shared my bread and tried to help others, or if I would do whatever I had to do to protect myself.

Nazi Concentration Camp inmates

I am terrified when I read some of the anti-semitic stereotypes and accusations that are used today. They sound just like the propaganda used against Jews, not just in the ’30s and ’40s but all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Romans probably also used similar rhetoric against Jews even before they started hating Christians as well.

Anti-Semitic propaganda from the Middle Ages in Europe

Overt and virulent anti-semitism has been relatively dormant in America for decades. Jews seemed to have assimilated into the mainstream to the point of almost becoming invisible. Or so I thought. Anti-semitism has clearly not been socially acceptable for a while. So it wasn’t expressed openly that much and I didn’t have to think about it or experience it.

American Anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s

I always knew that it was still ‘out there’. But I assumed it was less prevalent, less vicious and less relevant. Now I have to face the fact large numbers of Americans, in fact, do still nurse the same hatred and stereotypes that have plagued Jews for literally centuries. Americans are more tolerant and enlightened overall today, but some things just won’t die out.

I never thought that I would have to sit and watch a Nazi rally in an American city, complete with swastikas, arm salutes, and anti-semitic chants. Charlottesville was a wake-up call for many American Jews.

Charlottesville, NC Rally

For now, it’s ‘just words’. But my family is a testament to the fact that words can turn into acceptable attitudes than actions and finally into social norms and policies. I don’t think we are poised to become a Nazi state. I don’t think that anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican or anti-semitic language or behavior will be tolerated by the majority of Americans.

Anti-Anti Semitism

But it is still uncomfortable for me to deal with the hatred that I know is there for me because of my lineage and/or the religion I don’t even practice. I liked it better when all the haters had to hide under a rock somewhere and were afraid to come out in the open. I hope we can send them back to that place where they are afraid of us instead of us having to be afraid of them.