WORLD SHARING AS MARCH TRUDGES ALONG – Marilyn Armstrong, Photos: Garry Armstrong

Marilyn Armstrong – Photos: Garry Armstrong

QUESTIONS:

Do You Have Any Guilty Pleasures?

At my age? Not really. I probably did, but honestly, I seem to have forgotten what they were. I think maybe they were chocolate covered raspberry jellies. Not much of a guilty pleasure, now that I think about it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge
What is the worst pick-up line you ever heard?  

On a personal level, I don’t think anyone tried a pick-up line on me. I wasn’t the type. I was too snarky and bookish. Not the pick-up line type.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown Uxbridge, late winter

But my personal favorite is “Do you come here often?” Garry says that to me every time we bump into each other in the kitchen.

What slang or trend makes you feel old?

Hearing the Beatles as elevator music.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Wall by the old cemetery
What do you consider the most overrated song?

I don’t listen to music much anymore. I have no idea what people are listening to. If you asked me what the most overrated book was, I might give it my best guess, but a song? It’s a total blank.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – By the Mumford River
Instead of a tender mercies question, here’s a philosophical one. You find a book and begin to read only to discover it is your life. You read to the point at which you currently are, do you flip the page — knowing you will be unable to change events to come?

No. And, I wouldn’t read that far, either. I prefer to live my life, not read about it. Oh, wait. That’s what blogging is for. But at least it’s about what has already happened or is already planned.

HANGING OUT WITH ROBERT “MITCH” MITCHUM – Garry Armstrong

Marilyn and I watched an old Dick Cavett interview with Robert Mitchum on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) last night. We laughed a lot. It was a reminder of how good late night talk shows were. It also showed the legendary tough guy Mitchum as an affable and literate man who didn’t take himself seriously.

The Cavett show originally aired in 1970. I met Robert Mitchum the following year. Turned out to be a memorable encounter.

Robert Mitchum was in Boston to shoot “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, a film about small-time criminals. There was nothing small-time about Mitchum. I lobbied for and got the TV interview assignment. Those were the days of “The big three” television stations in Boston. Two of the stations had prominent entertainment reporters. I was the “go to guy” at my station.

The established entertainment reporters had first dibs on Mitchum. Fine by me. I waited until shooting had wrapped for the day. I lucked out because they finished just before 1pm. The star was in a good mood because his workday was over. We shot one reel of film and I got everything I needed.

Mitchum seemed surprised we weren’t shooting more. Actually, he smiled when I said we had a wrap.

I was getting ready to leave when Robert Mitchum asked what was next for me.

Nothing, I told him. I was through for the day unless I was called for a breaking news story. I also assured him I probably would not be reachable. He smiled. He asked if I knew any quiet places where he could have lunch without being bothered. I nodded and he invited me to join him.

It was a small, dark place. It could’ve been a setting from one of Mitchum’s film noir of the 1940s. He smiled approvingly as we walked in. Several people greeted me. No one gave Mitchum a second look. We settled back with the first of many rounds that afternoon. At one point, Mitchum took off his tinted glasses, looked around the place and said I should call him “Mitch”. I nodded. He wanted to know how I could just disappear for the rest of the day. I told him I had recorded my voice tracks, shot all my on-camera stuff and relayed cutting instructions after the film was “souped”. Mitch smiled broadly and went to the bar for another round of drinks.

robert_mitchum_by_robertobizama-d4ktib7We spent the next couple of hours talking about sports, music, women, work, and celebrity. He noticed how people would look and nod but not bother us. I told him this was one of my secret places. Blue collar. No suits. He wondered why I hadn’t asked him about the “Eddie Coyle” movie or shooting in Boston.

Not necessary, I told him. Everyone knew about that stuff and it would be mentioned by the anchors introducing my stories. He smiled again, lit one more cigarette, and ordered another round.

It dawned on me that Mitch was leading the conversation. Talking about me. How I was faring as a minority in a predominantly white profession. Just like the movies, I told him. I explained I did spot news stories to get the opportunity to do features which I really enjoyed. He laughed and we did an early version of the high 5.

We swapped some more war stories, including a couple about Katherine Hepburn. He talked about working with her in “Undercurrent” with Robert Taylor when he was still a young actor. Mitch said Hepburn was just like a guy, professional, and lots of fun.

I mentioned meeting the legendary actress after I was summoned to her Connecticut home during my stint at another TV station. Mitch stared as I talked. I had tea with Katherine Hepburn who had seen me on the Connecticut TV station. She liked what she saw but had some suggestions about how I could improve what I did. I never could fathom why Katherine Hepburn would choose to spend time with this young reporter. No modesty. Just puzzlement. Mitch loved the story and ordered another round.

I glanced at my watch and figured I couldn’t stay incognito much longer. This was before pagers, beepers and, mercifully, long before cell phones. Mitch caught the look on my face and nodded.

Mitch walked me to my car and asked if I was good to drive. I tried to give him a Mitchum look and he just laughed. We shook hands and vowed to do it again.

Mitch headed back to the bar as I drove away.

TEMPERATURE AND WINTER IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong, Photos -Garry Armstrong

RDP Thursday – TEMPERATURE

“Oh, the temperature outside is shocking …” and it really is. Really really cold, though it’s supposed to go up into the 40s over the weekend. I hope so. Because nothing is melting.

Photo Garry Armstrong

Photo Garry Armstrong
Photo Garry Armstrong
Holly, By Garry Armstrong

REMEMBERING MY MENTOR – JEFF KRAUS – Garry Armstrong

If fate had been kinder, Jeff Kraus would be celebrating his 80th birthday with us. Many people who’ve achieved success in broadcast journalism would be partying.

Some of the names are familiar even if they’re not around to remember the man who opened career doors for them. Alan Colmes of the Hannity-Colmes tandem on Fox News, “Big Dan” Ingram – a hall of fame deejay during the heyday of classic rock and, still with us, Charlie Kaye – the successful CBS News executive who just recently retired.

We all cut our newbie teeth in radio at WVHC-FM, the original radio voice of Hofstra College/University – celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In its infancy, Hofstra Radio was guided by Jeffrey Kraus. His spirit is still there in the studio walls of the latest class of college radio students.

WVHC Probably 1961 or maybe 1962

I met Jeff Kraus in late 1960. I was beginning evening college classes at Hofstra and peaked my nose inside the tiny radio operation. I was full of hope and dreams at age 18. Just out of a shortened stint in the Marine Corps, I wanted to be “somebody” but not sure who, what or where.

The tall, thin gent – in a blue suit that would become legend. Wearing cowboy boots and puffing a pipe. He looked like a young Leslie Howard or Ronald Coleman. He sounded a bit like Coleman as he addressed me in a voice like the Lord of the Manor.

Jeff Kraus WVHC 1966 or maybe 1967

I was immediately impressed. I sounded and looked maybe 5 or ten years younger than Jeff Kraus but he was just 21 for all his cosmopolitan manner. I don’t know how it happened but – in the blur of seconds – we formed an unlikely bond. Mentor and student, two non-similar guys who would become best friends.

I was a bit hesitant. I was one of a handful of minority students at Hofstra as the new decade began with JFK promising bold ventures for millions of young Americans.

I was intent on becoming an actor or an author. Maybe both. During the day, I sold children’s shoes at a big Department Store. The job paid for my college fees. Tuition back then was something like 16 or 17 dollars per credit. Hofstra was a relatively young commuting college without dorms. All that would change in decades to come.

WVHC 1963 or maybe 1964

The constant was Radio Hofstra. We had an odd collection of people on the WVHC-FM staff which had just grown from carrier current to 10 mighty watts at 88.7 on the FM dial.

I think we were perceived as weirdos by others on campus. We weren’t jocks, frat members or lab rats. Jeff Kraus steered the ship of wannabees with a calming influence. I wanted to be “on the air”, spinning records. However, my hearing impairment left me with flawed diction, not good enough even for a beginner. Jeff worked patiently with me, pointing out my diction problems and helping me find a “radio voice”. He encouraged me to write and gave me great latitude in producing music shows and writing radio drama.

Little Theater – WVHC

This was the door opening for me. I was rapidly promoted from record librarian to program director to, wonder of wonders, station manager as Jeff moved into an executive capacity. These were heady times for me as I found confidence and maybe a little swagger in my work. Jeff would always “school me” if I overstepped boundaries with the new confidence.

My favorite time was – after we signed off the station at midnight and headed over to our favorite bar. This was my introduction to Imbibing 101. I can still smell the pipe smoke (I shamelessly copied Jeff’s debonair style, adopting pipe smoking) and the sips of scotch, brandy, and vodka as my liquor taste quickly expanded. My shyness faded and, for the first time in my life, felt like I was one of the gang. Jeff led his wannabees in chat about post-college life. We were too good for conventional broadcast media. We dreamed about going to work for the BBC or CBC. We’d do “exceptional stuff” for an audience surely just waiting for us.

Studio B – WVHC

This was also a very special period for aspiring college radio folks who had easy access to the nation’s number ONE media market in New York City. I’ve told the story a zillion times about calling DIRECTLY through to CBS, ABC, NBC, and other media giants. The iconic (yes,  overused) figures like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Arthur Godfrey, Howard Cosell and news legends who’d worked with Ed Murrow – made themselves accessible to us. They gave interviews, did promotional “ID’s” and generally encouraged our little group to pursue our dreams in the big leagues. Jeff Kraus was generally recognized and respected by the big time media moguls. Jeff was seen as the man who sent well-trained prospects out to mesh with established news people.

1965 in the WVHC office

The success I encountered in later years on radio and television is directly linked to those early years at Hofstra and the tutelage of Jeff Kraus. Despite repeated “Thank you’s”, I’m not sure Jeff appreciated how he molded the professional lives of so many people.

Jeff Kraus left us — too young at age 53 in ailing health. Rest assured he’s not forgotten. They’ll be many stories about JCK as he is still affectionately remembered when many of his radio kids gather later this month to celebrate Radio Hofstra’s 60th anniversary.

One final round.

Here’s looking at you, Jeff.

VICTIMS OR PERPETRATORS? TAKE YOUR BEST GUESS! – Garry Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Victims or Perps?

Marilyn and I follow lots of those TV procedural crime shows. We anticipate all the cliché lines.

“Stay in the car”

“He was turning his life around.”

“Everyone loved him.”

“No one was supposed to get hurt!”

Two dog

We usually figure out who the “vics” and “perps” are before the coppers and lawyers find the answer. Often before the credits finish rolling. Now, fiction has turned to cold, hard reality in our home. We are the victims. Not the mob, not the cabal, not even some local mokes looking for an easy score.

It’s an inside job and the perps are our DOGS!

If you look beyond the fence, you’ll see Gibbs and the Duke by the front steps

They’ll smile, offer constant affection and cheer us up when we aren’t feeling good. But it’s part of their sting.

Food is the motive. Their “jackets” are full of priors. Most are misdemeanors but now they’ve moved up the chain to a felony. Bonnie, our beloved Scottie, is the boss. She leads the furry gang in snatches, intimidation, assault (head butting), larceny and perjury.

We’ve tried to turn their lives around with extra Christmas goodies, more fun battles on the love seat and long chats to emphasize our affection.

Alas, but Bonnie and her accomplices are food-driven. Hunger stalks them, often immediately after a full meal. With leftovers thrown in.

Nothing we do can stop this furry reign of terror. We don’t want to profile Bonnie because she is black, and we are afraid of possible lawsuits. Perhaps the IA people can check out her background.

Bonnie, driven to revenge, is hell-bent on retribution because … we’ve put her on a diet. Bonnie is relentless in stealing Marilyn’s food. She stalks Marilyn and refuses to back down when confronted. The other dogs make sure Bonnie’s six is protected.

We’ve tried so hard to show them the path to a good life but their crimes are senseless.

Generosity… That was our first mistake.

THE CHANGING SEASONS: FEBRUARY 2019 – Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons: February 2019

This has been a very strange winter. Instead of what we usually get — mountains of snow accompanied by very cold weather — we got a tiny bit of snow, a fair amount of sleet, and a lot of rain and wind.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – House and some snow
Aldrich Street – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In a lot of ways, this is a good summary of this winter. A little snow, a lot of sleet, and when this picture was taken, 60 mph winds were blowing.

And of course, there were the birds. Two bird feeders, about 100 pounds of birdseed … and one Panasonic 4/3 telephoto 100-300 mm lens later …

And of course, our Christmas cactus that has been in more or less continuous bloom since Thanksgiving ..

And more pictures from Garry.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
If you look beyond the fence, you’ll see Gibbs and the Duke by the front steps
Photo: Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

    • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
    • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
Bonnie and living room

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

    • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
Three bright birds

If you do a ping-back to this post, Su-Leslie will update it with links to all the other photographers.

FENCES: A WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Garry Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge – Fences

I picked up a camera and went out to take pictures. Which is when I realized the battery needed changing … so I went back in and got a fresh battery. Then I took some pictures.

It was almost dark, but through the magic of electronic camera technology, everything came out clear and surprisingly bright. Yes, there are fences. Our fences.

The pictures look black and white, but that’s the way our world looks this time of year.

Our house, some snow,, and the fence …
And if you look beyond the fence, you’ll see Gibbs and the Duke back by the front steps
The 1928 Fordson tractor and the fence …