INGRATITUDE ACCORDING TO HAMLET

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Shakespeare | Hamlet | Act 1, Scene 3


Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!


It was Shakespeare’s birthday a couple of days ago, so it seemed appropriate to offer up his opinion on this issue, or at least his opinion per Polonius in “Hamlet.”

First, a clarification. There is a difference, a distinction as it were, between “borrow,” “take,” and “steal.” Although the line is sometimes fine, it is there. Let’s see if I can illuminate the differences.

To borrow something implies you intend to return said item, or, in the case of money, to return an equivalent amount of money preferably during the lifetime of both you and the lender. If you are asking for money or something else — but you do not intend to return the item or money to the “lender”? That isn’t borrowing.

If the lender actually believes you will return it, and you know you won’t, you’re a thief. If the lender is Mom or Dad and you never, ever return anything and they knows this, then it’s merely a little family dance you perform to save the feelings of both parties to preserve the borrower’s pride. Not theft … but also, not borrowing, either. Because, again, to borrow something implies an intent to return it. Absent that, it’s not borrowed. It’s gifted — or stolen. Take your pick. Usually, anything “lent” to a child or relative is a “grant-in-aid.” I know I will never see it again. As sure as the earth is round and the sun shall rise, whatever has been “lent” is gone for good.

Perhaps we need a new words for borrowers who aren’t really borrowers but who just want something from you. Who figure you can afford to give it to them because whatever you’ve got, they should have.

In this world, many people lack boundaries. They are sure whatever you have, should be theirs. It isn’t the result of genuine need or dire poverty. It’s more a sense of entitlement, that they deserve “the good stuff” and “life (aka God, fates, government, aliens, Those People) have deprived them of their birthright. Never ever does it cross their minds that they may be responsible — in whole or part — for whatever has gone wrong in their lives.

Thus, by this logic, if you have it, you have deprived them of it. You should give it to them. If you try to share with them, they will take it as a sign of weakness. I wouldn’t mind the giving, but I resent the ingratitude. This is a great quote for which I cannot find the source. I’ve heard it as Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and several other people but cannot confirm where it came from:


“I don’t know why he hates me so much; I never did him a favor.”

 

GRAY DAY, RAINY MORNING

The last two days were gorgeous. Warm enough for shirtsleeves, but not hot. It was perfect late April weather.

Today, the rain has returned. I don’t mind rain. It’s a gray day with a steady rain falling. After nearly  a decade of drought, having rain a couple of days a week is just fine, thank you. I can use the shower and not worry we’ll run out of water!

According to the Official Meteorologists on TV, tomorrow will be all blue skies again. Today, though, we will stay inside and watch the rain fall. It’s not as cold as it was last week. Cool, but not uncomfortable.

It’s a good day for a warm book while cuddled with dogs.

JOYFULLY ADDICTED

Times being as crazy as they are, we have needed to find escape. When I was younger, this would have been books and more books. Then, more books on top of that.

My eyes are not happy reading text these days. Maybe its the millions of hours I spent reading throughout my life. Maybe it’s too many hours in front of computer monitors. Or maybe I’m just moving along with the years. I continue to read, mostly via audiobooks. I still read text when I can’t get an audio version of a book, or it’s short enough to not bring on eye strain. And there are books that don’t do well as audio, especially when you need reference materials, maps, and other support documents.

While I’m immersed in audiobooks, Garry puts on headphones and enjoys all the television shows he likes, but I don’t. We get to be together, yet separate. It might not work for everyone, but it works well for us.

When I’m done with my book of the day, we move into whatever current shows we’re watching. Not very many of them. We tried to count them the other day and discovered it might add up to a dozen, including shows that are not currently on the air, but will be in whatever their next season is.

A few months ago, I signed up for Acorn TV. They were just starting out and were doing a ton of advertising. We had gotten pretty far along watching “MidSomer Murders” on Netflix. When I saw that Acorn had several more years of the show available — and they had Poirot and Marple and “Murdoch Mysteries” and a lot more of them than any of the other channels, I bought a full year for $50. Now, I wish I’d bought two years.

We watched the entire series of “MidSomer Murders,” and then got one more year with another still to come. We watched all of Poirot and Marple, moved through “Murdoch.” We followed with “Foyle’s War,” which was brilliant, possibly one of the best shows we’ve ever watched. “George Gently” was next and that was great. After that we wandered a bit, finally landing in Australia.

“Crownies” and “Janet King” which were different stages of the same story and many of the same actors. Both were really good, but as do all things, we ran out of shows. Especially because we find it difficult to stop watching after we start. Still, we could stop watching … until we stumbled into “A Place to Call Home.”

I was reluctant to suggest it because Garry has a deep and abiding passion for murder mysteries. If there isn’t at least one or two corpses per show, he usually feels cheated. The star of this show — Marta Dusseldorp — was also the star in “Crownies” and “Janet King,” so I thought he might like it despite an absence of murders and crime-solving.

Within one show, we were hooked. The only reason we stop watching is because it is so late, we have to go to bed. How in the world did we get utterly addicted to an Australian melodrama?

It turns out that addiction to “A Place to Call Home” (known locally as APTCH), is a well-known phenomenon in Australia. People can barely hold themselves together until the next show comes out. We have been lucky enough to be able to fully binge on a thoroughly bingeable show. For the entire time we are watching, we forget completely about politics. We aren’t worrying about the state of the nation or what trauma our government has in store for us. We get to live in the moment, even if it’s just until we run out of shows.

There will be more shows. I’m sure of it. We have the whole British Empire of television to watch.

CLOCKING OUT

I used to live by the clock. First, there was school — mine — to get to. Papers to write, deadlines to meet, exams to study for and hopefully, pass. Whoosh and I’m racing to get my son ready for school on time, ready for the school bus. Then me to the car for the long commute.

Watching the clock at work so I’d know when it was time to make that long drive back the other way.


White Rabbit: “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”


After I no long had an office job, I nonetheless wore a watch for some years. It felt odd to not wear one. Then, one day, my watch-wearing-wrist developed an itchy rash. It turned out — no kidding — there’s such thing as an allergy to wrist watches. It comes from wearing a watch for a lot of years and one day, the skin on your wrist rebels. I like to think of it as The Universe sending a message.

I do not wear a watch, these days, but I don’t need one. These days, there is a clock everywhere. On the telephone, cable box, and every item in the kitchen. We have clocks in the car, on the walls, in the halls, in the malls.

Beeping, chirping, ticking and occasionally bonging or ringing, clocks speak to our obsession with time — and our need to be forever busy and in a hurry. Many people are, apparently, proud of how busy they are and look at you with pity because you aren’t. I think they’ve got it backwards.

I am not in a hurry. I am occasionally busy, but I get un-busy as soon as I can. Not living by the clock is a great gift. There is life after clocks and definitely, without a watch!

Don’t bother to come looking for me. I’ve clocked out.

THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

ZIPPED UP

There is a code for everything today. Every item in the shop, every village in the world. There’s a code for every telephone. Bar codes float through the air like fireflies. We are all zipped up. Where once we needed our name, today we need a passport, email address, social security number, and zip code.

But, life on earth existed before codes. Before zip codes, cable television, and calling codes. Before bar codes were printed on every product. We used dial telephones which worked better — at least as telephones — than the phones we use now. In small towns, you only needed the last four numbers to place a call.

We mailed letters and remarkably, they got delivered. Television was not as interesting, but we did read books for entertainment. And we enjoyed it, or at least some of us did.

We had conversations with each other. That’s right! Imagine it, for a moment, groups of people getting together and talking about all kinds of stuff. History, books, and the state of the world. No one became enraged and charged from the room with blood in his or her eye.

Oh, did I mention that most of us were polite? Said things like “excuse me” and “thank you” and “please” … and no one felt diminished by this. It made many of the small things in life a little easier to deal with. Not that the world was perfect.

Much was broken and is still waiting to get fixed, but as a whole, we were nicer to each other. Personally, at least. We weren’t nice because we were whiter or browner or some shade in between. We were nice because we were taught to be like that. By our parents. Because civilized people were taught to be polite to adults and each other. It was the grease on the squeaky wheel of civilization.

As I watch kids today sitting together in groups busily texting each other, I have to wonder how they will develop human relationships with any depth. If they don’t know how to have a conversation, how are they going to build a life? Maybe the passion for tiny electronics will fade with time. Then, folks will remember how talking and laughing used to take up that space in the world.

You never know. It could happen!

SMACK IN THE GOB

I’ve heard this from a lot of people in a lot of places, so maybe there’s something to it.

Trump is a horrible president. He not only won the office, but has been a sore winner from day one. Of all the people elected to the presidency, he has to be the most unpleasant of any man to step into the Oval Office. Instead of taking this “honeymoon period” as an opportunity to try to make a few friends, maybe win over a couple of disaffected Democrats, he broke out of the gate hating everyone. From day one, he has been spiteful, nasty, bigoted, and thoroughly ill-tempered. Some people think he’s mentally ill, but regardless, he is extremely disagreeable. Any of us who hoped he might not turn out to be as bad as we thought … well, we sure were wrong about that!

He has been as bad as we feared — and worse. Every day in every way, he has been our political nightmare come to life.

Which may be the upside of his presidency.  The awfulness of these months or years may be  what finally blows the door off our proverbial electoral wall, getting people actively involved in politics and trying to make the world a genuinely better place.

Suddenly, after many a long year, people are out in the world. Demonstrating. Getting involved. Active. For the first time in 50 years, I’m seeing younger people waking up from their stupor and paying attention.

Is Trump horrible? You betcha. But maybe he was the smack in the gob we needed to get our act together.

You think?