CITYSCAPE: A PHOTO A WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Cityscape/Townscape

I love shooting in town. We used to get into town a lot more often than we do now. Admittedly, we get into Uxbridge often, but there isn’t a lot of Uxbridge to shoot. It’s a very small town and all the towns in the area a small. Boston has a lot to offer, but it’s a long drive with terrible traffic, bad roads, and incredibly expensive parking and we go there only rarely these days.

Schubert Theater, Boston, 2014
Fenway Park 2018

The city has spent literally billions of dollars to redesign the roads. They look better, but the traffic is even worse. They made the roads straighter and one of the worst ones now runs underground so you don’t have to see what a terrible mess it is. But the mess is there and for me, the idea of bumper-to-bumper traffic in an endless tunnel is not an improvement. Just breathing would be traumatic.

Brookline
Parking on the street!

So we stay here in the country. Our city pictures all date from 2016 or earlier. That’s how it will remain. I don’t see the traffic, parking, or distance getting easier, cheaper, or shorter.

On the street
Symphony Hall, Boston

A TERRIBLE WONDERFUL YEAR – TWO ARE WON! – Garry Armstrong

And tonight, minus the rain and the lightning, game two commenced … and we won. Two down, two to go. 

No power outage and there will be a day off, then they will be off to L.A. It was 47 degrees (8.3 Celsius) in Boston. It will be hot in L.A. It was a good day. 

Maybe the Sox really ARE the superpower team?

Yes, we won. Again. So far, and even better!!


I’ve asked my “Uncle Louie” to supply the music for this piece.  So much of what we’ve shared and written this year has been tinged with negativity.  It’s the state of our nation and world – greeted by dawn tweets and midnight White House tantrums.

Baseball has been my salvation.  It has been for most of my life. I’ve escaped to the field of dreams from youth, rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to the 20 something years cheering for Casey’s inept New York Mets, to retirement years yelling for the Red Sox to exorcise decades of futility.

This year, the sons of Teddy Ballgame have produced perhaps the best team ever to play at Fenway Park, exceeding even those early years when Babe Ruth was our Mr.October. Regardless of how the Sox fare in the upcoming World Series, they’ve already given us a season about which we can ponder for years to come.

This piece has a different feel for me.

There’s no “David Versus Goliath” theme for our hometown team.  For decades, we could point to the Bambino curse and generations of despair marked by garish plays like “… the ball went right through Buckner’s legs,” and “… there’s a long drive outta here. The Red Sox lose — thanks to the bat of Bucky fuc##ng Dent.

I could sprinkle images of past stories with snapshot memories of music, movies, politics. Iconic stories covered along with personal interviews with major players.

Not this year.  We’re on the outside, looking in. Like regular fans.

Our TV baseball package has precluded us from watching Sox games live.  We’ve been able to follow all the other teams — except the Sox.  Ironically, I’ve seen more games of our blood rivals, the New York Yankees than the Bosox. It’s reduced my nightly high anxiety where I frantically reach for my blood pressure meds as another game lurches on the high cliff of danger.

Marilyn is the score updater with reports from her computer as we watch Aussie melodramas or our favorite procedurals.  It’s a different feel.

Marilyn tells me, “We won again.”  I allow myself a sigh of satisfaction and look forward to reading the sports section online the next day. It’s a new world!

Pundits outside New England are pointing out that the Red Sox are seeking their 4th World Championship in 14 years.  It’s the national attitude faced by the Bronx Bombers for so many years.  There’s no underdog love for our Red Sox in small towns and big cities across the country as the World Series fervor begins.

I look at this year’s Red Sox and smile. A paternal smile.  A grandfather’s pride.

I don’t have any inside anecdotes. I appreciate the growth and maturation of the players.  There’s an irony to how this team is constructed.  Mookie Betts, the frontrunner for “Most Valuable Player” honors wasn’t the first choice to be the franchise player he is.

When the talented Jacoby Ellsbury bolted from the Red Sox to the Yankees for a mega contract 6-years ago, we felt betrayed again. We wondered how Boston would revive its outfield.

The Sox Suits said they had a youngster with huge potential. He was an infielder with an impressive minor league career. Fine, but how does an infielder help us with the outfield gap and power loss with Ellsbury’s flight to Gotham?

The question rippled with tsunami-like waves across Red Sox Nation.

I remember watching a spring training game with a young — very young –Red Sox outfield. Who were these players? Too young to shave and, certainly, not ready for prime time baseball!  There was Jackie Bradley Jr. who roamed centerfield like a young Willie Mays. The aforementioned Mookie Betts seemed okay in right field, but there was more interest in his first name than his player bonafides.

Many of us wondered if he was related to Mookie Wilson,  the one-time Mets star who hit the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the ill-fated 1986 World Series.

Our brave, new world was just beginning.

The next five years included a World Series triumph,  3 Eastern Division crowns and 2 (3?) last place finishes. These guys were definitely the spawn of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, the Yankees were overhauling their team and presenting baseball with an intriguing collection of young sluggers.  We were scared out of our retro Red Sox.  I admit to angst and anxiety all winter as I watched the video and stats of these youthful Pin-stripers. Aaron Judge,  Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and the newly acquired Giancarlo Stanton who’d come close to 60 home runs as the National League MVP last year.

Surely, New York would crush the Red Sox like Rob Gronkowski plowing through a defensive line of mortal defense players.  It didn’t look good as the 2018 season rolled around. I avoided reading pre-season predictions, something that was a rite of spring for most of my 76 years.

The Yankees were the flavor of the year team, biding their time to acquire their 28th World Series title.

2018 Red Sox Team

My anxiety ramped up when I realized our baseball TV package excluded live Red Sox games.  Surely, that was a sign. I wouldn’t be able to see the Sox doomed chase of the Yankees.

A funny thing happened along the way.

The Red Sox won the regular season opener. An olive branch, I thought with cynicism creeping through my fevered fan’s brain. But the Sox kept winning. Game after game. Injuries and illnesses, they kept winning.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Yankees stumbled off to a mediocre start. A month into the season, the Red Sox were in first place and had established a nice distance from New York and every other American League Eastern Division team.

I scratched my head, watching a Yanks game.  The young sluggers were struggling. The pitchers were inconsistent. I laughed at the Yankee broadcasters who smugly made excuses for the team which, they said with enormous confidence, would right itself and catch the runaway Red Sox who they referred to sneeringly as “that other team.”

I dared to wonder.

Soon, the Sox, aka “The Sawx” to sports journalists outside New England,  were highlighted nightly on the national sports outlets. Old beisbol-wise guys were marveling over J.D. Martinez who was everything and more as our big-ticket free agent slugger.  Boston’s “3  Bee” outfield — Andrew Benintendi, JBJ (Jackie Bradley, Jr.), and **MOOKIE** Betts were making highlight-reel defensive plays and mashing the horsehide with incredible regularity.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As the regular season unfolded, the Sox kept winning.  The Yankees improved and gave chase, providing a little drama … but the Sox never fell behind. Not once. Their longest loss was three games.  “YES,”  the Yankees Broadcast Network, relentlessly told fans that the Sox would fold and succumb to the mighty pinstripers.  Yes. I believed “YES.”

Marilyn wasn’t so sure and kept commenting, “We are playing really well, you know? Like … all the time.” We, the skeptics, were exposed as the Sox continued to roll through the regular season, spiced by a late August sweep of the Bronx Boys that left us giddy in Red Sox Nation.

I noted, with surprise, that the Sox were doing all “the little things” that mark a championship team. They were disciplined and aggressive at the plate. They ran the bases with abandon and played defense like never seen before, at home and on the road. They even BUNTED – something akin to walking on water in New England.

Rookie manager Alex Cora, a former utility player and member of past Sox teams, pushed all the right buttons. He utilized all the players on his roster.

Cora had the respect of players who “dissed” previous managers. He didn’t shirk from pulling pitchers who were tiring but nonetheless argued to “get one more inning.”  That argument had severely cost previous managers and Sox teams. Cora was honest and straightforward with players as well as upper management and media.

He was a breath of fresh air from the “Bull Durham” baseball clichés of the past.

The pennant at Fenway

Boston, to almost everyone’s disbelief, in and outside of Red Sox Nation,  swept past the Yankees and defending World Champions Houston Astros, to await the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their opponent. The Dodgers soundly defeated the stubborn Milwaukee Brewers to advance to baseball’s biggest stage.

It’s going to be a very interesting series.  Many of us have a tinge of Dodger Blue from our childhood days as Brooklyn Dodger fans.  The Boys With Mics are calling the Dodgers underdogs because they haven’t won a World Series in 30 years. Not since Kirk Gibson’s iconic home run off Dennis Eckersley.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open for business!

A moment remembered with Vin Scully’s perfect line:  “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.” Here’s hoping the now-retired Vin Scully graces Boston and offers a few more memorable game descriptions.

The Cathedral of Baseball is open.  It’s diverting our attention from a world gone crazy.

Here’s to the Boys of Summer who’ve made this Autumn our field of dreams.

THE 7-DAY BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – DAY 1

Done this before, but I’m doing it again. Probably because it’s fun.

Here’s the challenge:

Black and White Photography Challenge: Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.

Since I’m an old time player at this game, I’m letting people in as long as it’s not a portrait and not the primary part of the image.

I invite you to consider giving this challenge a try, even if you’ve done it already. An extra push to do better photography is good for your art. Moreover, finding a black & white picture that somehow represents “you” in a visual way poses an interesting challenge — an artistic double-whammy, so to speak. At least one of the pictures I used in the first round of these challenges turned out to be one of my most popular-ever posts.

Who’d have thunk it.

This challenge comes from Luccia Gray at “REREADING JANE EYRE.

Gate D at Fenway Park in Boston

ON BOSTON STREETS – BEACON HILL AND FENWAY PARK

I’ve been continuing to experiment with processing. Not so much with Photoshop which has now become more or less the “legs” of my process, but with Topaz Studio. Last year, when it first emerged, it was hailed as a stand-alone program.

Medium rise – Beacon Hill

It wasn’t, at least not at that point. Since then, however, it has come a very long way. Not only does it incorporate all of my Topaz filters — a lot of them over a period of four years — but I can use it from inside Photoshop or as a stand-alone graphic processor.

Corner of Beacon Hill

It still lacks some of the simple things I need to use it all the time: a simple way to crop and level a photograph would be on the top. And a much less complicated way to save a processed photograph would be a huge help. Finally, some kind of sorting mechanism — like Photoshop’s Bridge — so you can find the pictures you want to use.

Gate D – Fenway Park

I use Photoshop for leveling, cropping, saving and sorting, but when Topaz Studio finally come of age, I will be glad to work with it. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity, check it out. If you already own Topaz filters, it might be free — I’m not sure anymore what the price structure is. Regardless, there’s a 30-day free trial. It might offer exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Topaz filters and studio work with other graphics program including Adobe’s Lightroom and Corel.

ME AND “THE NATURAL” (1984) – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“God, I LOVE baseball.”

It’s a line that comes up near the end of Robert Redford’s 1984 film, “The Natural.” Redford’s “Roy Hobbs” character is reflecting on the odd turns his life has taken, but he is still playing baseball, still chasing his dream. It’s a wistful, melancholy reflection because the protagonist has lost many productive years because of a bizarre and almost fatal incident.

As many of you know, I’m a life-long baseball fan with roots dating back to the late 1940’s and the Boys of Summer, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I’ve always loved baseball!  It’s had an almost hypnotic grip on me. I fantasize about baseball the way some men day-dream about a tryst with a beautiful woman. There are only a handful of really good baseball movies. Hollywood, for some reason, hasn’t been able to get a grip on baseball. The short list of good baseball movies includes “The Natural”, “Bull Durham”, “Field of Dreams”, “Major League” (The original), “42”, “Cobb”, “A League of Their Own” and one or two I’ve forgotten.

“The Natural” and “Field of Dreams” top my list.  Some baseball purists, including a couple of Boston sports writers I know, claim those films are too hokey and sentimental. I disagree. Both films carry the lyricism of baseball. They are “print the legend” movies about America’s national pastime. Pro football is great but baseball is special, part of the fabric of our American dream.

My favorite memories, then and now, are of baseball games played during hot summer afternoons. They are languid, not long. Each at bat is drama unto itself. What will the pitcher throw? Can the batter hit the 100 mph fastball? It’s really a chess match between two teams, managers trying to out-scheme each other. I still stand and gasp when great defensive plays are made. This year’s Boston Red Sox have several gifted young players. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr, and Andrew Benentendi are capable of highlight reel plays in the blur of a second. It’s a joy to watch them play.

Field of Dreams – the Ghostfield

The long-maligned Chicago Cubs were the talk of the Nation last year when they won their first World Series in over a century. Everyone felt good for the Cubbies and their fans. It didn’t really matter that your team was on the outside looking in. Real baseball fans have a special bond. Our political leaders might take note.

The New York Yankees have their own core of talented young players.  Mother of mercy, did I just say that?  Never in the wide, wide world of sports did I think I’d watch and appreciate the dreaded Yankees. Applaud “The Pinstripes”?  Family and old friends would gasp in disbelief. The “Baby Bombers” include Aaron Judge, a giant of a young slugger who is setting the baseball world on its ear. Judge, 6’7″ or 6′ 8″ is a muscled Paul Bunyon who appears on the verge of becoming a legend as a rookie. He’s already surpassed Joe DiMaggio’s record for home runs by a rookie and we’re just past the midway mark of the season.  Aaron Judge has the looks and personality of one of those old “Wheaties” Breakfast of Champions heroes. I tune into Yankee games just to catch Judge at bat. His home runs are routinely Ruthian.  You have to be a genuine baseball fan to appreciate Aaron Judge in a Yankee uniform. He appears to be (so far) this generation’s new superstar without the baggage of arrogance or rumors of drugs.

The new generation of Yankees and Red Sox promises to fire up their long rivalry, hopefully with appreciation rather than spiteful dislike.

The Yanks visit Fenway Park in a few days for a four-game series. It promises to be exciting and fun for all. It certainly will get me away from our national political angst.

All of which brings me back to “The Natural.” I’m 75 and still have boyish dreams. Yes, some are X-rated. Men are pigs. No argument. However, most of my dreams are about baseball. I’m Roy Hobbs who is a composite of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and (for me), Duke Snider.

Robert Redford admits he copied Ted Williams’ batting stance, even his uniform number 9. Redford’s grace on the base paths and in the outfield remind me of my hero, Duke Snider. There’s a sense of grace to his movements, even the way he swings his shoulders as he runs. I shamelessly copied those movements when I played baseball as a not-very-gifted youth and adult.

If I could have one genie wish, it would be to morph as Roy Hobbs in his prime. I think now, more than ever, America needs Roy Hobbs to hit a walk off home run and send us home with unbounded happiness.

CITGO: THE GIANT SIGN LOOMING OVER FENWAY

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Citgo1It is a peculiar, beloved symbol. It’s an old friend for anyone who follows baseball. It’s a landmark to everyone who lives in or around Boston.

You can see it from miles away and follow it to the park.

Visitors recognize it no matter where they come from. Yet it’s nothing more than a giant neon advertisement for a gasoline product you can’t actually find in the area anymore.

The product may have left town, but no one is moving the giant Citgo sign over Fenway Park.It has been an important — dare I say iconic and bizarrely beloved — part of the Boston skyline since 1940.


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It is held in particularly high regard by Boston sports fans. Red Sox sluggers are enticed by the so-called “C-IT-GO” sign as they blast home runs over the left-field wall. Runners in the Boston Marathon welcome its sight as the 20th mile marker. Its pulsing flash in the night sky has been used by mothers-to-be at nearby Beth Israel to time contractions.

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It is an important piece of navigating the twisting roads of Boston. When you see the Citgo sign, you know you’ve found Kenmore Square. And Fenway Park. As soon as it comes into view, you are no longer lost. If you are on any of the high points of land looking towards midtown, you can see it, that bright red triangle.

Kenmore is a particularly Byzantine area of the city, so while you may see Fenway Park, actually getting to it can be surprisingly tricky. But no problem, really … if you just follow the giant red and white sign.

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They tried to take it down some years back. Bostonians and baseball fans erupted in protest. What in any other city might be an eyesore is a beloved symbol in Boston. Maybe you just have to live here to get it.

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If, perchance, you’re on your way to see the Red Sox, you’re home.

GIANT CITGO SIGN LOOMS OVER FENWAY PARK | THE DAILY POST

SUMMERTIME SUMMERTIME SUM SUM SUMMERTIME

Summertime! When all the leaves and trees are green … and the red bird sings, I’ll be blue …

The Jamies were an American singing group
Single Released in 1958
Chart : Peaked at No.26 on The Billboard Hot 100 in 1958

There’s a long, interesting history of “Summertime” and its historic relationship to Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. Possibly the oldest tradition in baseball! 

Sherm Feller, who wrote Summertime, Summertime was an old pal of Garry’s as well as the public address announcer at Fenway Park for many years. He was known for playing the song regularly over the speakers at the park.

Read all about Sherm Feller and his song …

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Summertime, Summertime Lyrics


It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime summertime…

Well shut them books and throw em away
Say goodbye to dull school days
So come on and change your ways
It’s summertime…

Well no more studying history
And no more reading geography
And no more dull geometry
Because it’s summertime

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free-for-all

Well are you comin or are you ain’t
You slow-pokes are my one complaint
Hurry up before I faint
It’s summertime

Well I’m so happy that I could flip
Oh how I’d love to take a trip
I’m sorry teacher but zip your lip
Because it’s summertime

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball
A regular free for all

Well we’ll go swimmin every day
No time to work just time to play
If your folks complain just say,
It’s summertime

And every night we’ll have a dance
Cause what’s a vacation without romance
Oh man this jive has me in a trance
Because it’s summertime

It’s time to head straight for them hills
It’s time to live and have some thrills
Come along and have a ball A regular free for all
It’s summertime

It’s summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime

It’s summertime!