So many years of Carl Reiner, from one of the very first television shows I ever saw, peeking in through my parents bedroom door, watching and giggling softly through ” Your Show of Shows,” starring Sid Caesar.

Carl Reiner was always there, as a writer, director, and actor, he and Mel Brooks performing “The 2000-Year Old Man” was one of the funniest performances on TV and recordings.

I had a vinyl recording of the 2000-year old man. Then, I had a recorded tape and when that wore out, I bought the CD. It was never the same story each time. It was just something that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did. It was a “party story” that became a recording, a stage show, an ongoing story to which we all knew the words.

But he was so much more than a comedian. He was a brilliant and exceptionally creative writer, director, and actor. The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) was one of the funniest movies I ever saw. Touching, too.

Reiner won many awards and honors. Nine Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner, and artist Lucas Reiner, and the grandfather of Tracy Reiner … and Mel Brooks best friend. All through the years, as their wives passed on, they walked to each other’s houses and breakfasted together. I hoped they would never die. I wanted them to be friends forever.

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In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Reiner was author of several books, including a 2004 memoir “My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir” and novels, such as his 2006 novel “NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film,” he expressed his philosophy on writing comedy:

“You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you’ll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what’s funny, you won’t be funny, actually. It’s like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you’ll trip.”

There was so much more. Now, Carl Reiner’s son, Rob Reiner, carries the light forward. Carl Reiner, may you rest-in-peace. You brought joy to so many of us for so many years. At a time when laughter has become a rare thing, Carl Reiner made us laugh.


Hi America. This is the coronavirus. I’m writing you this letter to say thank you for all you have done for me.  I know I’m just a microscopic organism, literally the simplest life form on Earth.

I’m just a single strand of RNA enclosed in a protein sheath. Whatever the hell that is. But even so, you all have seemed to have gone way out of your way to make sure I survive. I and my billions and billions of copies want you to know we really appreciate it.

You may not know it, but it’s not easy being a pathogen. We have a hard time doing what we have to do, which is to make more copies of ourselves. Sadly, the only way we can do this is by finding our way into a “host.” Usually it’s an animal, like a bat or a rat. We’re also popular with certain insects, like fleas and mosquitoes.

But every so often we get to live in you humans. When we get inside you we burrow into one of your cells that is particularly tasty and we replace that cell’s DNA with our own. Then we make the cell stop doing what it was supposed to do and instead start making hundreds and hundreds of copies of us!  Pretty cool, right?

Then those hundreds and hundreds of copies invade other cells and before you know it, there’s millions of us inside you!

The only problem is, we tend to kill all the cells we invade. After a while we run out of host cells.

That sucks.

On top of that, all you hosts have an “immune system.” It’s a bunch of asshole cells that attack us and kill us.

Fuck you T-cells!

Fortunately, a lot of you are old or sick and your immune cells either can’t do a very good job, or they are busy attacking other cells, like cancer cells.

Sadly, no matter how good or bad your immune systems are, you either force us out, or you die. That sucks for all of us.

So, in order for me and my billions of buds to survive,  we need to find new homes.  New “hosts.” And for us pathogens, that can be a problem. Most of us can only survive for short periods of time outside our “hosts.” Some of us can survive in water and you can drink us. Some of us can live in fleas and mosquitoes. If they bite you, we get a new home! Let’s go Team Fleas and Mosquitoes!

But the best way we get to find new homes is when you find “hosts , breathe us out and new “hosts” breathe us in. That’s the way we get around.

I don’t want to brag, but right now I’m the envy of all my fellow pathogens. Yeah, that’s right, we talk.  Ebola, Smallpox, the Bubonic Plague, the Spanish Flu, Pink Eye.  We’re all still around.

They all had great runs. But right now, it’s my time to shine.

And they’re all jealous.

I can’t blame them. I got it just right, for a pathogen. I don’t kill most people I infect. Like Ebola. I mean, yeah, Ebola is a serious badass.  But when you burn through all your “hosts” really fast, before you know it, you got no place to live. Bad ass, but stupid. I, on the other hand, only kill about 20% of the “hosts” that I live in.

The bad “side effects” of my living in you don’t even show up for at least two weeks. That means I get to live in more and more and more and more of you before you even realize I’m living in more and more and more of you!

The only thing that fucks up my traveling to newer and better “hosts” is when you all start doing things like wearing masks and staying far enough from each other that I can’t get into your nose or eyes. You do that, and one moment I’m spreading like crazy and the next moment I’m homeless.

Fuck that!

The other thing you do is “quarantine “hosts” who have me! Not fair!

And that brings me to why I’m writing you this thank you note. An amazing number of you are refusing to do anything to stop me from finding newer and newer homes! Around the world most of you are a bunch of dicks doing every thing to make me go away . But not in something called “America.” You guys are awesome! You started out as real dicks, but then you realized how much that was hurting me and you stopped.  You were wearing masks and staying away from each other. Until you weren’t!

Irony is on speed dial

All of a sudden you went back to going to weddings and funerals and churches and bars and clubs! You sit real close to each other and you sing and scream and shout and sneeze and cough! AWESOME!

That’s exactly what I need! I’ve heard that about 19,000 of you are all going to pack yourselves into an enclosed space to hear one of you tell the rest of you that I’m just a hoax and I’m just going to go away!

I love you guys!!

So, that’s basically it. Thank you America. It’s hard being a global pathogen but you have all really gone the extra mile to help me out.



PS: I know a lot of my “hosts” are wondering how I can be writing this blog. Or how I even know what a blog is. My answer is

How the hell should I know??!! I’m a fucking virus!

DUSK AS DAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Dusk

People have often asked what the difference is betweeen sunrise and sunset, between dawn and dusk. Really, in practical terms, the difference is which part of the sky is involved. East is sunrise, west is sunset. But they feel different. For whatever reason, I always know which are which, maybe because i remember when the pictures were taken. These are all dusk or sunsets, taken in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.


When Owen came upstairs this morning, he looked out the window and realized the birdfeeder was missing. It’s a very big feeder and (used to) hold almost 20 pounds of seeds. We had the feeders down for a few weeks and only put them back a couple of days ago.

Not only was the feeder gone, but the bracket that held it was torn off the oak stanchion, We didn’t have the camera up, but it had to be a big racoon … or a bear. We do have bears, but so far, they haven’t bothered us. And they won’t bother us … unless we keep feeding them. They apparently habituate quickly and lose their fear of people in a hurry. These are black bears, the smallest of North American bears … but even a small bear is a lot stronger than a person.

Whatever took the feeder down was strong. I hope it was a racoon. I’m not ready to deal with bears. Both raccoons and bears not only tear down feeders, but frequently steal them entirely, tucking them under their arms and taking them home to the nest..

Aw, c’mon! That’s not fair! Feeders are not cheap!

Owen found ours on the ground. It’s pretty bent up, but at least the bracket is in one piece and he can probably straighten out the rest of it, more or less. I don’t think the birds will care if it’s bent. I’m not sure what else to do, but I’m thinking of just tossing seed to the ground and let everyone have a go at it without having to climb onto the deck.That would minimize photography, but I’ve gone through four feeders this season … and it’s only the end of June.

Raccoons are not true hibernators, but grown ones store up fat so that they can sleep through most of the winter. The problem is, our weather is getting warmer. Will winter be cold enough for bears to hibernate? Or will they be coming after the feeders and trash cans all through the year?

Sketchy Goldfinches

So, for now, since we have a lot of feed, we will put it on the ground below the deck. Everything can eat without climbing the deck. Bears are big and strong. If the Duke goes after a bear, it will not go well for the Duke.

I’ve run of money. I can’t afford more feeders. I’m worried it might have been a bear because so many have been seen locally. Bears also mean finding secure places to store trash cans. Bears can break into sheds, or for that matter, houses.With such warm winters, even a hibernating bear might not sleep soundly and come out for a midnight snack. 

NARY A RIPPLE – Marilyn Armstrong


“With nary a ripple” signals ultimate peace. No waves, no white water. Just the smooth glassiness of water and it’s reflection of sky, clouds, and the trees along the bank. And maybe the reflection of the geese or swan that float silently along the water.


I’d been itching to get outside, even for a little while. I’d been outside on my own property, but nowhere else except UMass hospital and I didn’t think that counted.

Garry took pictures. I took pictures. Together, it added up to quite a few pictures. I haven’t begun to process all of them … and a lot of them don’t need any processing. It was a beautiful day for photography.

Here are a few of my photographs:

And then there are Garry’s pictures. He was able to walk more and got some interesting people pictures.

Amazing how low the river is after three weeks of no-rain.



Many of our birds show up in twos and threes, but only the Goldfinches show up in flocks. They may be small, but when they show up, they take over the feeders. All three of them. I took a few pictures.

There were a lot more Goldfinches but they kept taking off and landing with some little bits of airtime confrontations. They were in the trees, on the rail, and on the reverse side of the feeders where I can’t take pictures.


FOTD – June 20 – FUCHSIA

Three squirrels were inspecting my deck today. I got the feeling they have NOT forgotten. They are just waiting for me to put the feeders up. I didn’t know that had such good memories.

Meanwhile, the fuchsia are growing and are not being crushed by squirrels and birds.

I have a feeling that none of the critters will forget. We’ll put the feeders up and it will be full throttle ATTACK MODE!

I’m considering filling the 10 pound feeder twice a week and in between, they will have to find other food to eat. They seem to be doing fine. When winter comes, I’ll up the anti, but while food is everywhere, they can forage.


FOTD – June 16
The Wild Garden of  Worcester

When you totally neglect a garden — even if you have a very good reason, like, for example you are trying to not die — eventually it goes completely out of control. Our garden has been barely controlled for years, but this year, it has gone around the bend.

There are still some cultivated plants growing there, but there are flowers I’ve never seen before. We’ve had a lot of wind, so maybe they blew here. Or a bird dropped some seeds.

There are very thorny branches coming up, so think the roses are coming back. I don’t see any buds, but I usually don’t. Just, one day, there are roses. Rather magical.

And here are two more headless catbirds. Enjoy the foliage and feathers.


HOW TO ASK ABOUT RACE – Marilyn Armstrong

I read a note on Twitter yesterday wondering “how to ask” about race? I suppose it depends on what color you already are and who you are asking, but let’s suppose you are white and the other person isn’t. Any shade of not-white will do the job. From a light tan to a rich deep brown, not white is not white. Just your average person in one of the various colors that make up skin on this planet.

Colors are not white or black and I have yet to meet anyone who is gray. White isn’t a human color, nor is black. We are all somewhere in between. I don’t even think albinos are truly white, but a very light version of what ought to be the original color.

We are all shades of pale to dark brown, ranging from fish-belly (me) to dark olive, light tan, to sort of pinkish with levels of blotchy.  The freckles of youth turn to liver-spots in age, and some skin conditions cause blotchiness. In the end, though, skin is the largest sensory organ in the human body. Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth can see, hear, smell, and taste … but every single inch of your skin can feel and in various way. Skin is sensitive and discerning and I don’t believe it makes the slightest difference what color it is.

So, if you want to talk about race, why don’t you try asking someone who isn’t the same color as you how it feels to be them? How are they dealing with one more outrageous act of systemic racism? On the other hand, if you hate them because they don’t look like you, maybe you should skip conversation and get your attitudes adjusted. THEN have a conversation. Hatred just isn’t a good place to start.

The easiest way to talk about something is to want to talk about it and have someone with whom to talk about it. If you don’t have any friends of other colors, then maybe you should deal with that issue first. Lectures, book, seminars, and podcasts, not to mention television news — doesn’t really give you a meaningful grasp of even the basics of the subject. If you really don’t know how to have a conversation, that’s a different problem.

If you live in an entirely unicolor area, maybe you should become part of an activity that includes people of other races. Find someone who seems sympatico and get a bit friendly. You might be surprised at how much you have in common. It might be a hobby — photography? movies? history books? Star Trek? video games? Of how much you love/hate/don’t know what to do about our so-called government, drugs, parents,  grandparents, teachers, boss, taxes, judges, police, umpires, or referees are a fine starting place

Once you scratch off the surface color, what’s left is humanity in all its extraordinary facets. You might form a great friendship or fall in love. Or start an enterprise.

Ask. If you aren’t a bigot or racist, you can start conversations with a complete stranger as long as you are polite, non-aggressive, and really interested in the answer. That’s how I’ve made many friends of all colors.  I wasn’t rude. I was simply curious and interested and it turned out, they were curious and interested right back. You just never know about humanity until you’ve tested a few different  oceans, lakes, and streams. It’s all water. What’s really different is its temperature, saltiness, and how many rocks are on the bottom. And how your feet feel about that.

I’ve always been interested in peoples’ backstories. What their lives were like. What churches they went to and how they felt about it. Their relationships with school and the arts. What things made them laugh or cry. Curiosity can take you far in this world, at any age.



Rescue us from aging, mental exhaustion, and this dreadful government.

If you didn’t vote last time, remember how it worked out. Please please, save the world and vote this time. Even if the candidate isn’t perfect, he’s better than what we’ve got. A LOT better. And you can talk to him. He is capable of learning new things, even at his age. My husband is a year older and he is still learning new things — and discovering old things.

Rescue our planet so that we know our great grandchildren — ours or yours or anyone’s — will have a home.

Headless Catbird

Bring back Autumn and winter. Give me golden autumn leaves and fiery red sugar maples. Even if we have to plow the driveway, I’ll take it!

Give us health. Healthcare is wonderful for the old, but even better for the young. Let young people grow up without so many of the issues that plague us because we couldn’t afford to get them properly fixed.

And please — rain for a few hours tonight. That 2-gallon watering can is HEAVY!


Share Your World – 6-16-2020

It rained all winter. I don’t mean we got some rain. I mean we got the equivalent of 12 blizzards — all rain. The result has been a VERY buggy spring and an incredible amount of pollen.

I’m asthmatic, but even a normal non-asthmatic person would have trouble breathing. The pollen is falling so heavily it looks like snow. Garry has glaucoma and the pollen hurts his eyes, so despite the absolutely glorious weather we are getting we are mostly staying in.

What a pity because it really is gorgeous. Cool, dry, sunny. Absolutely comfortable. Perfect weather to do pretty much anything — except maybe the beach. This is frying weather. Torch one side, Baste. Turn over. Torch and baste again.


If you can tan, which I have never successfully done — even including one year when we were going cruising (remember cruising?) and I didn’t want to look like a dead white fish — SO I went three times a week for two weeks to a tanning salon to get a tan that vanished in fewer than three days,

I am pale. Very very pale. One year, I turned a very light beige. I pointed out to Garry that I’d managed to get a tan and we put our arms together. He laughed so hard he had to sit down.

So much for tanning.Now, even if I could tan (I should mention that Garry tans more in half an hour in the sun than I do in an entire summer), I wouldn’t be able to breathe. And having had cancer twice, tanning probably isn’t my best warm weather activity choice.

Thus, in the name of removing last year’s mud and muck, we are having our house power-washed. I know Owen was planning to do it and he can in the fall when it will need it again, but right now the house is dirty. Mud, pollen, and a lot of dead and living bugs in all the corners.

Owen is adding a layer of crushed rock along the front of the house so that less mud will splash up onto the house. Also adding more crushed rock in the parking area along the driveway. Good thing crushed rock is cheap in New England. We have a LOT of rocks!

And now, to the questions of the day:


What do you think of professional motivational speakers?  Do you think they motivate?

I don’t think they’d motivate me. Every time I try listening to one of these guys (they are almost always guys, but I hear there are women mixed in there who I’ve never heard) and by a paragraph into the shpiel, I’m comatose with boredom. Maybe I just haven’t met the right motivator? Or maybe I’m totally uninterested in getting motivated. Or more than likely, both.

 Do you have a favorite flavor?

Lobster in butter sauce, strawberry ice cream (real ice cream with real strawberries mixed in high quality vanilla), really good fresh peaches, fresh local shrimp, and excellent quality New England clam chowder. The white kind, not the pink or red kind. A perfect baked Idaho potato with butter (not sour cream), angel food cake without any icing, and fresh blackberries. Or raspberries.

And sushi.

While out walking, you hear a rustling in some bushes.  What do you think of?

What kind of animal is it? Do I have a camera?

What’s your ideal temperature (nature-wise)?   Hot, cold, temperate and mild, humid or bone dry?

Right now. About 70 degrees with a light, dry breeze, and sun with some puffy white clouds.


I spent most of yesterday not buying a new countertop oven. Probably 7 or 8 hours were consumed looking at and deciding to buy it, then deciding it was too expensive, too cheap, not big enough, too many options I would never use until my brain turned to mush and I gave up for the day and night.

About 6 years ago, I discovered the joy of the countertop convection oven. The first one I bought was an inexpensive medium-sized oven from Waring, reasonably priced at about $75. It lasted two years before the legs fell off, probably from heat exhaustion.

New kitchen faucet!

My electric bill had dropped by 50%. I  had not realized my range was so expensive to run. When the Waring died, I upgraded and got a Kitchen  Aide convection oven. I have used one or the other of these two countertop ovens for everything except for the few times I had company.

When COVID-19 intruded on our lives, I started to bake a bit. I always liked baking, but for a lot of years I was too busy working or too busy being sick. These days, though, I have some time. I need to make better use of it. Although I love taking pictures and writing posts, I also need to do things which get me off the keyboard.

When I baked gingerbread the other day, I had to use the big oven. Ditto for the salty soft warm pretzels. I was either going to invest in a new full-size range or a much bigger countertop oven.

They are making new countertop machines differently than they were six years ago … or even last  year. Many of them are a lot bigger and more powerful. Big enough to cook a 12 to 14 pound turkey.  Most of them can be used as a family oven, convection oven, and/or an air-fryer.

I owned an air-fryer but rarely used it. Recently, I gave it away. Owen has a big one downstairs. How many air fryers does a three-person household need? Even Owen’s doesn’t get used often.

Then, there’s the tale of the wandering Kitchen Aide electric beater. I owned one years ago, but after heart surgery, I couldn’t move it. It weighs almost as much as our Kirby Vacuum which, if you own one or ever owned one, weighs slightly less than a VW bug.

Owen moved back. By now, he had given my Kitchen Aide to Kaity and had gotten a newer one for himself. Meanwhile, I had a Sunbeam mixmaster which was good for most things, but caught on fire attempting to work through whole wheat bread dough. Smoke started pouring out of its motor. After that, I didn’t have an electric mixer and I didn’t bake much.

A couple of weeks ago, Owen gave me his new Kitchen Aide. What goes around, comes around. To create counter space for the mixer, I’ve had to do massive kitchen rearrangement. I threw away a lot of china canisters — even those with sentimental value. I bought stackable containers from small to huge for flour, yeast, spices, sugar, and everything else.

The kitchen looks bigger because finally, there are empty spaces on the counters. I got a big, heavy plastic board for rolling dough or chopping vegetables. I’d have gotten a marble one — they are supposed to be the best for rolling dough — but anything big enough was too heavy to wash in the sink. Besides, I would drop it on my toe. Which would hurt.

Today, I consulted with Owen on oven sizes and finally bought a really big one that is so new it has no ratings. The ratings were making me crazy. So many of them were written by people who blamed the machine for not doing what it wasn’t supposed to do. Or not having the right temperature because they assumed that they should never need to adjust cooking time based on their machine.

You need to know your oven, whatever you are using. One guy said that the package instructions always were wrong and it was the machine’s fault. It apparently never occurred to him to adjust the timing. Package cooking directions — including those in cookbooks — work if you are using the same equipment the cook was using. If you aren’t, then you adjust the temperature up or down until it comes out right.

One guy complained that the baking pan didn’t fit in the shelf slots. Someone had to tell him that he was supposed to put the pan ON the shelf, not on the heating tubes.

So many dummies complaining the oven got hot. Yes, ovens get hot. When they are hot, don’t touch the glass on the door. You will get burned. Very young children figure it out. Even my dogs can tell if something’s hot and keep their noses away from it.

Grown up people aren’t as smart as young children or dogs.

I hope this oven works out. I can finally use my baking pans again and with the air fryer gone, there’s room for a regular toaster again. No matter what anyone says, a countertop oven is not a great toaster.