LABEL US CLEANING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Label

Label me too busy to write anything.

We’re having company. Most people have company, but we virtually never do. Why not? Because we live in an odd place. Even though we’ve just 70 miles out of Boston, many people — even people from other parts of Massachusetts — are convinced we live somewhere on the moon. I think they are surprised we have Wi-Fi and telephones and (sort of) paved roads.

We also have cars, cows, horses, a LOT of churches and a decent selection of grocery stores and hairdressers. I’m not sure why we have so many hairdressers, but we do. Barbers, too.

Today, though, we started cleaning. We hadn’t done any serious cleaning in a while. I washed the floor when we came back from the Curleys and we vacuumed — but that’s our “minimum” cleaning. We hadn’t done the stairs or downstairs in a while because we haven’t been using it.

Surprise! It came out looking amazingly nice. Needs painting and a new rug in the den — and new flooring in the bathroom as well as a new sink — but that’s doable. Eventually.

On a positive note, we got a lot done. I cleaned all the equipment (but NOT the inside of the fridge — I just couldn’t bring myself to haul everything out so it’s grubby in there). But I did the floors (bathroom and kitchen), the little oven, the big oven, the entire outside of everything including the corners and finally got the downstairs bathroom looking like a real bathroom.

In fact, other than needing a new sink (the old one is worn out), it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was. The living room needs organization, but for now, it’s in waiting mode. If I could manage the stairs better, the underneath living room would make a fantastic office and den. That’s how we used it when we first moved here. Before the kids came and took over the lower level of the house. The fireplace in that room works too, though it makes the room awfully hot.

I haven’t gotten to this blog until now and it’s already dinner time. In fact, it’s past dinner because the dogs have already eaten. Speaking of labels, if your dog doesn’t eat, try Pedigree Choice Cuts In Gravy Steak & Vegetable Flavor Adult Canned Wet Dog Food. They like it better than OUR food and that’s something!

Label us finally getting the house clean. And this doesn’t include dusting, which is an entirely different subject. I don’t want to cook in the kitchen. It’s so … CLEAN.

OUT OF THE MIST YOUR VOICE IS CALLING – THE PLATTERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Mist

So many words remind me of songs … and this is a big one!

GRATIS (PLUS SHIPPING AND HANDLING) – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Gratis

I love late night local television advertisements. Garry and I sometimes sing along with the text. It’s remarkably similar from one ad to the next, regardless of what is being sold.

“It’s free! Gratis! All you have to pay is shipping and handling!” The price for which is usually more than the item is worth. For a while, this was the thing on auction sites. The price? One cent. Shipping and handling were a mere $19.95.

“And if you buy one now, you can get a second one free. Plus shipping and handling.”

I get the shipping, which is a lot less than they are charging … but what’s the handling thing? Picking the item up and sticking it in a box? Adding a label? Collecting the money?

Maybe you are being charged “extra” because they have to drive to the bank with your money?

“And even better: But NOW and you can have three — that’s right! — THREE of these amazing (knives, shampoos, weight loss products, tire pressure gauges, ad nauseum) for the same low, low price of nothing except the minor cost of shipping and handling!”

They never tell you the price of the shipping and handling. With good reason! Is this how people buy those weird gifts you get at Christmas? In those bright boxes that say “As shown on TV”?

My first professional writing job that wasn’t for radio was writing these advertisements. They appear in print, too. You’ve seen them. They are full-page ads in cheesy magazines. They used to show up in the back of comic books. They pay about $800 for each ad. If you do them often, you can create a boilerplate for them and churn out a dozen a week.

Ah, I bet now I’ve got your attention!

HANDSOME WITH A CLASSY SASHAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Sashay

Garry and I were just talking about attractive people we knew to whom we were not attracted. He said when he started at Channel 7 and they were beginning to “diversify,” the station hired three really gorgeous brown-skinned women, one of whom was so exceptionally beautiful that she had pretty much all the guys drooling.

She knew it, too. She dressed for it. When she sashayed into the station in the morning, the temperature in the room went up. She liked the attention. She sought it. But she left messes, Garry told me, that other people had to clean up. He didn’t appreciate the poor work ethic, so while he was not immune to her charms, he was uninterested in her in any other way.

This got us talking about attractive people we’d known to whom we were unattracted. I remember one guy, after hanging out with him (I like him, I just didn’t like him “that way”) finally looked at me and said: “You don’t find me attractive at all, do you?”

“No, I guess not, ” I admitted. “I like you, but there’s no chemistry for me.” I didn’t try to explain that for me chemistry wasn’t merely physical. It was also mental. He could look great (and he did) and had lots of ladies interested in him. I just wasn’t one of them. Why not? Because he was an artist and very focused.

I liked art, but I had other interests too. History, writing, music, philosophy. I was a serious reader and wanted to natter on about the 14th century and current politics. It was Vietnam and there was a lot going on.

D-Day at the Mumford River

But in that area, we had no meaningful connection. Many artists are highly focused on their work and that is how it should be, but at that age, I was interested in everything. I was about as unfocused as anyone could be. There was almost nothing in which I was not interested.

It would take another 20 years before I settled down mentally. I think Garry was also a slow starter that way. It took him years of working to fully emerge as a personality.

It’s a hard thing to explain to someone that you need more from a relationship than physical attraction and the ability to have fun. Especially when you are still not sure yourself what you need. That attraction is nice, but it’s only a piece of the thing. There also needs to be intellectual compatibility and a sense that both of you agree on essential things. Those were as important in the 1960s as they are today.

Home in the trees

A sexy body and a bit of a sashay in the walk are enjoyable, but not — by themselves — something on which to build a life.

That is also why, now that we are older and not so beautiful, we can still be happy. The foundation things keep you together. Even when you scrap about who takes out the trash and who forgot to turn out the lights.

EDUCATION AND HOMEWORK – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Homework

This is a little rant about schools, educational funding, underpaid, exhausted teachers, outdated textbooks, and overpriced colleges lacking state and federal backing.

In the years since I graduated from college in 1967, I’ve been watching what was a mediocre school system get much worse. I see legally required fancy buildings which offer little real education. Each year, it gets worse. Do we care about education or is it just something we like to to talk about? Do we want our kids to be able to compete in the world?


I pretty much never did my homework. To be fair, back in those golden olden days, teachers didn’t check to see if you did it either. You might get tested on it at some point later in the term, but if the information was covered in class, I’d remember it. Back then, I had a great memory. I prided myself on not having to write down phone numbers. I could remember all of them.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Now, no matter how often I use a phone number, other than my own and my son’s, I have to look it up. I may not remember it long enough to not have to look it up a few times while trying to make the call. Time. It does its thing. I have maybe 15 seconds between getting information and it disappearing like the breeze in the trees.

I swear kids these days get homework intended to make up for not getting taught anything in school. Apparently, they are supposed to learn on their own what their teachers are too tired, bored, or incapable of teaching.

Leslie commented the other day that there are some great movies that could be used in the classroom. There are, absolutely. Inherit The Wind. On The Waterfront. The Lion In Winter. A wide variety of well-done historical documentaries and movies. But they aren’t used.

Harvard – Photo: B. Kraft

What they are getting is dry, dull textbooks, many of which were out of date when they were written fifty years ago. I never cracked a textbook. I just read on my own and I had a mother who loaded me down with books and a library that was a mere mile away. I remember toting home the maximum limit of books they’d let you borrow in a week. Ten books. They were heavy books, but I was young.

High School, really

For a country that supposedly values education, this country has a  strange way of showing it. Every year, when we begin to run out of budgeted money, states and the feds cut school budgets.

You can’t make a great country from a nation of ignoramuses. Yes, if your parents have the money, they might be able to send you to a superior school and if the child is smart enough, he or she might really benefit from a better education. But there are also a lot of private schools that are essentially “pay tuition for good grades.” Send your kids there. Pay the fabulous tuition and they’ll get grades which should get them into college.

Hofstra in 2014

Colleges have gotten smarter, though. They test incoming kids to make sure they can read and understand what they’ve read. They make sure they have basic maths skills. They check science education. This isn’t to make sure they are brilliant, but to make sure have a basic grasp of English. To see if they can understand the concepts of what they’ve read because — as an English professor I know has pointed out, many kids not only don’t read but can’t.

They don’t know grammar because it isn’t taught in public schools and hasn’t been since before I started school in 1951. They don’t know the parts of speech, have no concept of punctuation, and can’t do anything resembling research because when all of the preceding is true, how can you research anything? If you don’t understand what you’ve read, you can’t move forward.

Let me state for the record this is not the fault of the kids. It’s OUR fault for allowing education to become so bad in so many places and so expensive everywhere else. Only the brightest and most individually motivated youngsters manage to rise above the system.

I know not every child from every family is going to be a scholar, but shouldn’t every child have that opportunity? If they have the smarts and the interest, shouldn’t it be possible?

P.S. 35, Queens

Loading them up with eight hours of homework while loading them down with 50-pounds of boring, timeworn textbooks is a total educational cop-out. The schools I went to weren’t fabulous, but the teachers knew something. They encouraged us. If we showed promise, there was always a teacher who’d give us a nudge, suggest we try a little harder and get better.

These days? Working (briefly) as a substitute I was appalled at how listless and bored the students were. They were thrilled to have someone in the classroom that could talk to them about anything. I was told that usually, all they did was read the textbooks until the bell rang. I’d have collapsed from boredom.

We wonder why they spend so much time on the phone or iPad or computer? That’s how they learn. But what are they learning?

UPON REFLECTION – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Upon Reflection

Jon Stewart’s rant at the Senate a couple of days ago is still all over the news. This is unusual insofar as he has beaten the “news cycle.” Lots of other things have happened, but he didn’t get forgotten. I think in part, he has not been forgotten because he was and is a particularly eloquent speaker and a very professional handler of news, microphones, and politicians and even after all these years, I miss him. No matter how many times he said “I’m just a comedian,” we all knew that was not true.

He may have started out in comedy, but he ended up as good a newsman as I have seen. Rather better than most.

So, for anyone who might have missed it, here it is again:

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And amazingly, today the House panel unanimously passes 9/11 victims fund bill after Jon Stewart shaming. Read about it in the New York Post.

Also, if you get a chance to take a look at, “Teach Your Children Well,” please watch the CSN&Y video. The artwork is heartbreaking and brought me to tears.

On reflection, some things news stories do last beyond their time as does some music. These are two of them.

BRING BACK THE GAP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Gap

The Gap had the best jeans ever. Although I loved the cut of the button-down version, sometimes one didn’t have the time to hustle the buttons, so I generally had to settle for zippers.

Zippers are quicker.

They have been in the process of closing many (in some areas, almost all ) of The Gaps.

Not that I could afford them since I stopped working. They used to have sales, so their $60 (probably now $90) jeans dropped by as much as 75% and I would load up until the next sale. They were not only attractive, but it was good, soft, solid denim. The shops were a bit erratic. You never knew if they were going to have your style or size.

Still, it was good knowing they were there. Just in case I or someone I knew  (like Garry or Owen) decided to go and buy good jeans to last a lifetime. I remember one of Owen’s birthdays, I took him to the Gap and bought him a couple of pair of jeans, a great denim jacket, and a few cool shirts.

Plus one hoodie which I seem to have inherited. It’s just worn out enough to be the perfect Gap hoodie. And it’s got to be at least 20 years old … and it’s still got another ten or twenty years in it. That is the joy of quality. As long as you don’t change sizes, the clothing lasts forever.

This is probably why Garry has so much clothing. He can still wear his dress Marine Corp clothing from when he was 17. I think I hate him.

Now, it’s all “Old Navy” which is going independent and of course, the wildly overpriced “Banana Republic.” Although these three companies produce essentially the same stuff, it’s not exactly the same product. There are quality and style differences.

Old Navy is okay, but they don’t have the range of sizes the Gap had. The jeans are thinner and frankly, Wranglers look at least as good. Often better. They certainly wear better. Old Navy is also weak on styles anyone older than 18 would wear.

I could never afford The Banana Republic, even when I was working. Though these days, it’s hard to know if that is the name of a store or the name of the country in which I live.

Bring back The Gap!

I need those boot-cut button-fly jeans! Or maybe not. Are they elastic?