Morning in summer …

Just after sunrise, the sun low in the sky.

Morning. Although I want to sleep late, I almost never do. On summer mornings, I drink my coffee and watch the early sun filter through my woods. Each day, the world is made anew.

The sun has risen higher in the sky. It’s about 7:30 in the morning.

Cat Stevens’ rendition of this traditional Christian hymn is beautiful, as is the presentation. I ask that you please leave your prejudices behind. It is a beautiful song of praise.

it is the bonus you get if you arise early. Late sleepers, make an occasional exception and see the world in a different light.

And now, coffee finished, the sun is high in the sky and the day has begun.

Proud to be …

Proud to be an American.

Proud to be from Texas. Proud to live in the greatest city on earth (fill in the name of city). Proud to be white. Proud to be a man, but proud to be a woman. Proud to be Irish, Black, Hispanic, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim  … any religious affiliation, ethnicity, or nationality will serve. Why? What makes you proud to be something that was an accident of birth? Are you proud to be alive? Human? Proud you aren’t dead of disease, starvation, natural disaster, or war?

I am not proud to be an American. I certainly am glad to be an American, happy that I am free to live in a beautiful place and have a home in this valley. I love the United States. I think it’s fundamentally a great nation which, if we stopped screwing around, would be an even greater one. But proud?

I’m proud of things I’ve written, some things I’ve done, and ashamed of others. I’m proud of what I’ve earned. I’m not proud of the gifts I was given at birth, but I am deeply grateful that I was lucky enough to receive them.

I am proud of my country’s achievements, but ashamed and embarrassed by other things we’ve done. I believe our Constitution is one of the finest legal documents ever written anywhere at any time. That we so often fail to live up to it saddens me, but at least we had founders who weren’t airheads or mass murderers, a burden other nations bear.

Pride implies you actively participated or contributed to whatever makes you proud. I don’t think being born qualifies. If you exist, you were born (not counting Jesus and other less popular deities). Birth gets you get a ticket to stand at the starting line and a chance to run. To breathe air. After that, it’s up to you. What you do by the time your life concludes may or may not confer any right to be proud.

So I’m glad to be an American. I’m happy I was born here and not in Sarajevo or Beijing. But I didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t a choice I made. Nothing was required of me. My mother’s pregnancy occurred here and not somewhere else. If she had been Mexican or Turkish? Then, by current jingoistic ethnocentric guidelines, I’d surely be proud to be Turkish or  Mexican.

Borders are lines on a map. There are no substantive differences except those imposed by tradition and politicians who live on one side or the other of an invisible, artificial, politically driven boundary. If you live on the border of another country, you are no doubt aware the only reason you are who you are is luck. For that matter, your social status, your class, religion, ethnicity, level of wealth of poverty … all dumb luck. You aren’t special because you were born to a family that is rich, white, Christian, Republican or anything else. You are not defined by who your parents were, nor by their traditions, religion, politics, or social status. The life you live will define you. The choices you make, the work you do, the way you treat the rest of God’s creatures along your path … these determine your character.

The only thing that you could legitimately take pride in is the good you do and if you are either Jewish or Christian, even that is wrong and lessens the value of the righteous acts you perform. Charity performed anonymously is of far greater value than anything for which you get recognition or rewards.

Being righteous isn’t special. It’s what you are supposed to do. That’s why you have a conscience and free will. Whatever you got or didn’t get when you were born determines where you stand as the race begins, but you define who you are at the finish.

What you do in this world may perhaps be something to take pride in.  Where and what you were at your birth are not.

Does that make me unpatriotic? I don’t think so, but others will disagree. I think patriotism and love of country needs to be tempered by intelligence and the realization that nations, like people, don’t always do the right thing. When nations are better than they need to be … or worse than they should be … you are free to judge them as you would a person who does well or badly. Judge your homeland on its merits, not because an accident of birth dropped you there.

I know this isn’t a popular point of view or one that everyone will understand, but if you get it, spread it around. Nations don’t deserve a free pass for bad behavior. You don’t get a free pass for bad behavior, do you? Unless you are super rich, in which case you get to do whatever you want and count on your lawyers to take care of the fallout.

Most of us are not super rich or even sort of rich. A lot of us are glad if we break even at the end of the month. We have to deal with the consequences of our behavior. Being “a product of your times or environment” is not an excuse for ignorance, bigotry, hatred, or cruelty. It has never been okay to mistreat fellow creatures because they aren’t like you or because you grew up in a world that despises them. You aren’t special by reason of birth.  You just think you are.

Ask God. Ask yourself. Look in a mirror. What have you done to deserve the air you breathe?

Charge!

My world runs on batteries. Mostly rechargeable batteries. Three laptops, two Kindles, two cellphones, three cameras, four mouses (mice have fur and make squeaky noises, mouses attach to your computer using USB transmission), two wireless keyboards, GPS, various clocks, flashlights, who-knows-how-many remote controls, electric razors, tooth cleaning machines, and a mind-numbing array of miscellaneous devices I can’t remember off-hand.

To keep the world running, I have to charge things that recharge and keep a stack of AAA and AA rechargeable batteries ready to go.

I have never lived in a house that had enough electrical outlets for things like lamps and televisions, but with all these chargers to accommodate, I own dozens of power strips. Everywhere you look, and in many places you would never think to look, in every room, power strips keep the chargers charging and other electrical devices functioning. The strips range from high-end hubs with surge protection to whatever was on sale at Walmart when I needed another strip. Every one of them is full. Or, more accurately, as full as the size and shape the chargers allow.

Power strips are designed by people who don’t use them. I have come to this conclusion based on the stupid design that presumes you will never have anything larger than a lamp plug that needs a socket. Not even a vacuum cleaner cord fits properly, much less a laptop power supply.

No room is left on either side that would make it possible to fit more than two or three chargers in a strip theoretically designed for half a dozen plugs. There’s no allowance for odd-shaped power supplies that will use half a strip.

I don’t understand why chargers have to be so inconveniently shaped, or why they can never make a 3-pronged plug that will fit into an outlet without a fight. Why do most chargers require that you insert them at the end of the strip. No one ever seems to consider that there are only two “ends” and only one without a cord in the way. There’s some kind of Murphy’s Law that say if you are going to need two wall outlets, both devices will need to be on top or on the bottom.

I have 2 electrical sockets in the bathroom and 2 devices that require electricity. Only one can fit. The other socket is always unusable. The one charger blocks both outlets. Always.

The first day we moved into this house, two events occurred that have since defined our lives in the Blackstone Valley. The toilets backed up and the power went out. The toilets backed up because the crooks who sold us this house backed their moving van over the pipe that runs from the house to the septic system and crushed it. The power went out for the usual reason: heavy rain, high wind, and lightning. Getting to know my neighbors meant figuring out how to find an electrician and plumber before I’d unpacked.

I don’t notice how dependent we are on batteries until I’m packing for a vacation. Half a carry-on is allocated to chargers … just for things we use while we travel: laptops, accessories, a pair of Kindles, his and her cell phones, mouses, portable speakers and more. I used to pack this stuff carefully. Now I just shove the chargers and wires in a bag and untangle as needed.

If you think our civilization will endure, remember: We are entirely dependent on devices that run on batteries, most of which need to be recharged from an electrical outlet. Without electricity and batteries, life as we know it would end in about two weeks. A month maximum. After that?

Our world will be a jungle in which every man, woman, and child will fight to the death for a working AA battery.

Postscript:

I’m reading comments on this blog and suddenly I remember that Garry’s Kindle is still waiting to be charged and is probably flat by now. And that the “land line” phone is still charging and I need to take it out of the cradle, and that my cell phone is still charging and shouldn’t be. So many batteries, so few outlets.

Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding …

Harry Morgan as the judge, Spencer Tracy as Dr...

Cover of "Inherit the Wind"
Cover of Inherit the Wind

Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding … and we are feeding it well.

From “Inherit the Wind” 1960, Directed by Stanley Kramer, based on actual transcripts of the 1925 Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, where the teaching of evolution had been banned. As far as I can tell, we are going back there again.

Is this where we want to go with our country? Is this what we fought and died for? God help us.

Garry Armstrong: From another life.

Once upon a time, we had a different life. Garry Armstrong was a household name in New England and I was not, but I got a paycheck anyhow. We did cool stuff and went cool places and I watched Garry every night on the news.

So I wondered if anything of those who-knows-how-many pieces of video could be found on the Internet today. I was just curious to see what, if anything of Garry’s 40 years of work in television was still “out there.” You can find anything on the internet, right?

The answer turned out to be “yes, you can” and “not much,”  in that order. Not nothing, but nothing big. His résumé lives on LinkedIn. I hope I’ll be able to post his video resume later, but I need to put it into a format that my website recognizes.

I watched my husband on TV every night and it seemed perfectly ordinary. That’s what he did for a living and so did so many of our friends that I really didn’t think about it all that much.  I had a ritual. As soon as I got in from work, I turned on the news. A tape lived in the VCR, so when Garry came on, I was ready.  This was how he got to see how his stories really looked because he rarely saw the finished piece at work. He had barely enough time to finish cutting it.

He covered virtually every important event in the region for 31 years. I wish I had some of that to show you.  Meanwhile, I have a little list:

1999 JFK Junior Memorial Coverage: Provided a wide variety of stories, features, retrospectives on a life cut short.

1999 Busing Retrospective: In the wake of the end of busing in Boston, a history of busing, the tragedy, the triumph, with commentary from many original – now adult – participants.

1998 The Nanny Trial: Did the British au pair slay the child in her charge? Only the nanny knows. Heavily involved for the full length of this very intriguing trial.

1998 Boston Garden, The End: Final day of the Old Garden before the wrecking ball eliminated it forever. A few mementos, but surprisingly few tears.

1997 The Hunt for Holly Piranen: Was a primary play in the hunt for lost 10-year old girl in western part of state, including the final, sad discovery of her body. The killer has never been found.

1995 Charlestown Dock Fire: Major conflagration with network feeds and affiliate coverage.

1993-94 President Clinton on Martha’s Vineyard: Pushed the limits of professional creativity to make the story newsworthy.

1993 Rome: Progress of the former Boston mayor’s metamorphosis into U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. The real question: when will he return to run again?

1993 Boston Votes. Series of pre-election profiles of candidates and issues for the upcoming Boson Mayoral elections.

1991 Profiles, Alfred Eisenstadt and Lois Maillou Jones: Two Presidential Gold Medal in Art award winners, their lives and works.

1990 The Great Art Heist: Major art heist at Gardner Museum that remains unsolved through today.

1990 CBS’ mini-series “Common Ground” on the court-ordered desegregation in Boston in the mid 70s: Appeared on Boston Common, also variety of retrospective coverage.

1990 Full licensing of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant: Historical and breaking coverage of the event.

1990 South African Anglican Archbishop Tutu’s visit to USA and Mandela Release: One-on-one interviews, family, and local reaction pieces..

1989-90 Gangs/Violence/Drugs/Guns

1989 Charles Stuart Murder Case: Followed story to its semi-conclusion. Appeared on Boston Common (CBS Sunday morning news magazine), representing TV news reportage in Boston.

1989 Queen Elizabeth II visit: It was fun to cover royalty.

1988 Boston Public Housing Integration

1988 Mashpee Pow-wow: Rare chance to see annual ritual and talk with Native Americans about variety of issues.

1988 Comic Aid: Robin Williams and Billy Crystal roasted me after I publicly mispronounced “Chutzpah”.

1987-88 Street Gangs: Assignment – Infiltrate Asian, Jamaican, Black gangs.

1987 Papal visit: From atop trash barrel in rainy South Boston, was blessed and cautioned not to fall.

1983-86 NAACP Conventions: New Orléans, Boston, Baltimore. Saw changes of old guard leadership. Difference in racial attitudes across country. Produced series and long form specials.

1980 Claus Von Bulow Trials

1980 Presidential campaign, Reagan-Carter: Memorable interview with Reagan who swapped baseball stories and movie anecdotes.

1978 Profiles/Obits: Sonny McDonough, and John McCormack

1978 Profiles: Jimmy Cagney and Ruth Gordon

1978 The Great Blizzard: Live reports from moving vans, devastated shoreline areas, ghost town cities, etc. Glad I lived in Boston.

1976-77 Investigative series, Suffolk City Medical Examiner: Coverage revealed undermanned staff and erroneous reports. Changes followed!

1976-77 Investigative series, Boston’s Emergency Medical Services: Coverage led to upgrade of system, better equipment for EMTs.

1976 Bi-Centennial/Tall Ships: Sailed up the Atlantic coast aboard Danish ship “Christian Radich.”

1975-78 SEABROOK anti-nuclear power protests: Coverage of major protests at the Plant site (Clamshell alliance). Two Emmy awards.

1975 Red Sox Pennant/World Series: Euphoria then despair. The town went crazy.

1976 The Great Chelsea Fire: On scene from beginning to end.

1974-76 Court-ordered desegregation, busing: Covering the story across the city and encountering frustration and rage from both sides. Despite numerous confrontations, contacts and friendships have been maintained over the years.

1974 John Wayne vs. Anti-war protesters: A personal favorite for this movie buff, did one-on-one interview with the Duke (the original) as he combated anti-Vietnam protesters while promoting new film.

1974 Minorities at West Point: One of first on-location series as “The Long Gray Line” comes into the 20th century and responds to civil rights advocates.

1974 Armstrong Unlimited series. First in region to do fantasy series, including sky diving, piloted commercial and private planes, rode as Suffolk Downs jockey, worked out with Red Sox.

1972-73 Walpole prison riots: Including interviews with Albert DiSalvo, the Boston Strangler.

1972-73 Delta plane crash, Logan Airport: Among first on the scene.

  1. Presidential campaign coverage.

You’d think that 31 years on the air would leave a lot of video hanging around in the ether, but most of Garry’s career took place before the Internet became so all-encompassing and accessible. The world hadn’t quite figured it out. Navigating it was complicated, browsers and websites not so sophisticated or user-friendly. There was no Facebook, no Google.

Nonetheless, I found on story from a noon news broadcast. Garry’s report shows up about at about 1 minute and 30 second into the news, so you can go there directly and skip the intros or watch from the top of the show:

That was a “live shot.” Now, I guess it’s an historic shot. Time passes. Nice to have a history to remember.

Summer is ending and the corn is ripe

Summer Sun

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

School starts next week, but this week, the weather is perfect. It’s still summertime as long as corn still grows in the fields nearby. Kids are taking their final swim in the pool before dad closes it up.

One … two … three … jump into the water as August draws to a close and school looms on next week’s horizon …

Bed in Summer

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Corn grows in the fields in late summer.

The Meetinghouse

The old Quaker Meetinghouse, built 1771. Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

They hold one service every year at the old meetinghouse. It’s the oldest meetinghouse in the country and most of the year it’s closed, although I’m pretty sure you can rent it for weddings, though I’m not sure how.

The meetinghouse is open on Thanksgiving morning and there is a Quaker service. The church is only slightly heated, just enough to make it possible to sit there for an hour and a half and unless the day is unusually warm, you need to wear your overcoat even during the service. It’s cold and the pews are hard, but it’s the perfect place to give thanks.

Besides the autumn poets sing,

A few prosaic days

A little this side of the snow

And that side of the haze.

A few incisive mornings,

A few ascetic eves, –

Gone Mr. Bryant’s golden-rod,

And Mr. Thomson’s sheaves.

Emily Dickinson