BLOW YE WINDS

The wind out of Cleveland stank. It was a dark, hot wind full of pollutants. It left everything it touched covered with soot and grit. The Man-Who-Would-Be-King, or as Garry calls him “Orange Head,” was a mighty wind. Warning us all that we live in a dreadful, dangerous country and have everything to fear, including fear itself. But he, our self-proclaimed savior and possibly America’s first-ever home-grown fascist demagogue would save us. He — and only he — can Make America Great Again.

It was a real shock to me. I think America is pretty great right now and always has been.

Then the wind started blowing up from the south, up from Philadelphia. A gentler cooling breeze. It carried the scent of hope and a future of which we can be proud. Finally, last night, Hillary Rodham Clinton, America’s first woman major-party presidential candidate gave us a line which resonated.

72-A man you can bait with a tweet

“Aah,” I said.

“Ooh,” said Garry.

And suddenly, everyone was picking up the line and passing it around the cyber world.

I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump to not steal my silver on his way out the door. Or stab me with a kitchen knife, dull blade and all. I can’t control the winds that blow. It is the nature of wind to go where it will, but for a few days this week, the wind was fresh, warm, and scented with flowers.

THE DAILY POST | WIND

THE WEEK DRAWS TO A CLOSE

I got to see some really great x-rays of my spine yesterday. Garry got to see them too and I gave him a short course in why Marilyn’s back hurts. And how come what hurts also keeps my spine in one piece.

FYI, I'm a level 4 -- or was at the time of my surgery.

I was level 4 at the time of my surgery.

When I was 20 years old (1967), my vertebrae L3 through L5 were surgically fused. Not the way they do it today using hardware, but by taking a piece of my hip bone, pounding it into paste, and thence into glue. They first removed (to the extent they could back then, before micro instrumentation) the discs which were herniated and ruptured. Not doing me any good anyhow. They did their best to wrap the nerves to protect them from additional damage. Then, they  doped me up, wrapped me in plaster from armpit to knees, and told me not to move for a year.

I was in the hospital for four months. Flat on my back. Then I was at home for a long time. As soon as I felt better, I got pregnant.

They don’t do the surgery like that anymore. Nowadays, the surgery is entirely different. Plus, they get you out of bed and on your feet the day after surgery. But, this was 1967.

Treatment had begun to change even then, but change hadn’t made it to Oceanside, Long Island where I had my surgery. I should have gone to a more up-to-date hospital. I would have saved myself some pain and misery, though I think, in the end, the results would have been pretty much the same.

Fast forward 49 years. The fusion disintegrated decades ago, but nature is creative. My body provided its own version of fusion using calcium. That calcification is called arthritis, but it has effectively stabilized my spine. It hurts, but I’m not falling apart. This back won’t easily break.

There’s also nothing to be done about it. No surgery. My hips are terribly painful, but my hips are fine. The pain is reflected (deflected?) pain from my spine. So how come my back hurts too? If the pain is going to make something else hurt, shouldn’t it not hurt there too?

Spondylolisthesis-1What’s an aging lady to do? I can’t do MRI because I have a pacemaker and it isn’t one of the fancy ones that are immune to magnetism. I should have a warning label that says “Keep away from magnets.” An MRI is all about magnetism, so I’ll have to settle for a simple CAT scan.

Then, off to the spine folks and see if they are able and willing to try injecting cortisone and lidocaine to at least give me a few months of relative comfort. They might not be willing to do it. My back has scared some pretty impressive medical professionals. And if they can and will do it, there’s no guarantee it would help.

The good news? That ugly mass of calcification that has formed a solid sheath around my lower spine also guarantees that I can stand on my own feet. I may not walk well or stand straight, but I’m also not falling apart. It won’t get better, but it seems likely that it won’t get a lot worse, either. It’s pretty much as bad as it can get.

m-horseback-small

Who knew falling off horses when I was a teenager would disable me as a senior. They don’t warn you about that … and I wouldn’t have listened anyway. When you’re 15, you don’t see yourself old and broken. Probably, that’s a good thing.

The good news? My back is close to the same as it was seven years ago. It isn’t noticeably worse, though the CAT scan will paint a clearer picture. For me, not worse is good. Great, even. There are worse things than pain.

SCOTTIES AT FURRY FRIENDS SALON & SOCIAL CLUB

Grooming day! Time to take the fur-people to Furry Friends Grooming and Social Club. Do not be deceived by the humble exterior. This is a class act.

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Gibbs has never learned to walk on a leash, so if you put a leash on him, he just locks all four legs. You have to drag and coax him. Bonnie has never received any formal training, but she will walk along reasonably nicely anyhow, with occasional twining about your ankles … in case you aren’t paying attention.

We didn’t have to be at the salon until noon, so we were spared our version of “rush hour.” On some level, it’s always rush hour around here. The roads are all two lanes, one in each direction … or less. A slow driver (there are so many!) and road construction (everywhere from March through November) turn even a few cars into a traffic jam.

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Whatever they are doing in downtown Uxbridge, it involves heavy equipment with caterpillar treads and massive fork lifts with earth moving scoops. Drains perhaps? New water mains for the town where there is “city water” rather than private wells? They’ve been working on this project for a couple of years. Like most projects in Massachusetts, it promises to go on more or less forever. Garry says when he came to Boston in 1970, they were working on the Mystic River bridge. They are still working on it. That’s 46 years plus however many years they were working on it before Garry moved here. I think this is our state’s answer to unemployment. If you never finish a project, at least a few people will have a job.

But … I digress.

We managed to get both Scotties into the back of the Jeep … a much more comfortable arrangement for all of us compared to previous vehicles. At least they are on a flat surface and cannot decide to help drive the car. Bonnie is a very persistent back seat river and will periodically try to move into the front seat to provide more direct input to whoever is driving — nearly always Garry.

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It took us just half an hour to get there. A possible land speed record for getting from Uxbridge through Milford. We delivered the little dogs. Had a conversation about grooming them to look like Scotties and not deformed poodles. Nothing against poodles, but Bonnie and Gibbs are Scottish Terriers. They look silly with plumed tails or tufted ears. Pom-poms do not look well on short-legged terriers.

We settled on modified Scottie clips. I like their faces with eyebrows and beards, but I want everything else shaved close since these guys revel in filth. They don’t appreciate our attempts to change their earthy odor to something more pleasing to human noses. They do the best to return to their previous grungy state as soon as possible.

While we talked, Gibbs carefully marked the room lest some other dog not know he had been there. He also marked Garry’s leg which was a first for Garry. Probably Gibbs, too. I’m pretty sure it was a sign of acceptance, but unreasonably, Garry didn’t like it.

We went home with construction in full gear. The return drive took longer.

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Garry hit the shower. I made a sandwich. We both took a breath. The phone rang. Gibbs and Bonnie were finished. Ready for their closeups.

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The construction had ended for the day by the time we went back through town which was a gift. I stopped. I bought a lottery scratch ticket — the first time this year — and won $20. That will pay for something. Maybe a trip to MacDonald’s?

Bonnie

Bonnie

Gibbs

Gibbs

They are home. Gibbs survived, though apparently he had prior bad grooming experiences. He freaked out at bath time and subsequently required a two groomer team to keep him from bolting backwards off the grooming table.

I got a couple of pictures of them which are actually (more or less) in focus. You can see their eyes. I swear they know when they look good because Bonnie actually stood still for two nanoseconds while I got one decent head shot.

SHARING MY WORLD – JULY 27, 2016

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 30


Do you prefer a bath or shower?

These days, I’d go with a shower because I can get into the bathtub, but I’d need the jaws of life to extract me from it. Going down, gravity is on my side, but up? The Universe is against me … so I’ll stay on my feet, thank you very much.

But, if it’s available, can I please have the bathroom in this picture? I copied it from Cee’s site because I’m in love. I could live there full-time. Maybe add a bookcase, a small laptop. I’d never come out. That is a bathroom to die for.

If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?

Amazon. They have everything. You can buy a house and a car and everything else on Amazon … and have two-day delivery too.

If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what age would that be?

I think I’d be me about ten years ago. When I was thin, but not emaciated. Before cancer and heart disease, but old enough to have a real brain in my head.

Marilyn - at Loch Gill

I’ve gotten smarter with age, even if I can’t remember anything. Maybe that’s why I’m smarter.

List at least five movies that cheer you up.

  • Murphy’s Romance (James Garner, Sally Field)
  • Casablanca
  • A Mighty Wind
  • My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, director (and it’s really about Mel Brooks and Errol Flynn) … and when I wrote Woody Allen, I was thinking of Radio Days, which I forgot to include and which Woody directed)
  • Tombstone (Righteous violence … YES!)
  • Rustler’s Rhapsody
  • A Little Romance
  • The Wind and the Lion
  • History of the World, Part I
  • The Americanization of Emily

There are so many more I could add. Really, anything that makes me laugh will cheer me up. Above and beyond, any movie with good performances and a well written script will make me happy. As long as it isn’t too “noir.”

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

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


RABBIT - Down_the_Rabbit_HoleWhite 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.

I’ve officially clocked out. It turns out, there is life after clocks.

THE DAILY POST | CLOCK

HEARING AIDS AND GEORGE RAFT – BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

Most of you who know me from these pages or my working days know I’m hearing challenged.

It’s a life-long disability that’s has gotten worse over the years. At this point, hearing in my right ear is all but gone. I still have about fifty percent hearing in my left ear — with the assistance of hearing aids.

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I’ve had a bittersweet relationship with hearing aids.

I hated them as a teenager. These were the primitive “portable radio receiver in a pocket with a cord in your ear” hearing aids. It was worse than being called “four eyes” when I wore the aids. There were lots of jokes, smirks and knowing winks at me. Oh, right, I also wore glasses.

hearing aids

I was short, wore glasses and hearing aids — and was one of a handful of black kids in my classes. I was also painfully shy.

Fast forward to college and my discovery of radio. College radio would lead to a wonderful career and brand new alter ego, the familiar TV News Guy. I turned my hearing disability into an asset. Friends pointed out diction problems, and speech therapy followed. Presto, I became the black guy with great diction. Amazing!

A few awkward social encounters convinced me to wear my hearing aids regularly. The new models were smaller and less conspicuous. Eventually, they would be invisible, all inside the ear.

My hearing problems gave me certain advantages. Court clerks would make sure I had a good seat for cases I covered. Judges would admonish lawyers to speak clearly so that all could hear. Ironically, I understood more testimony in some cases than my peers with normal hearing. Yes!

My disability provided many laughs in my career.

In the early 70’s, Boston Mayor “Kevin from Heaven” White started a new program to assist senior citizens. It was called “M.O.B.”. Forgive me, I forget what the acronym exactly meant, but it was a PR blitz for seniors. They needed a spokesman for MOB. Someone who senior citizens would easily recognize.

MOB? How about George Raft??

I got the call to interview the legendary old-time star of gangster movies on Boston City Hall Plaza. We met just after Raft had a liquid lunch with the Mayor’s people. The veteran actor, wearing his trademark fedora, greeted me with a grunt. A brief exchange about the interview, then we rolled cameras. I asked the questions. Raft grunted.

George_RAFT_headshot

George Raft

I asked Raft about “Bolero,” a film where he displayed tango expertise which earned his keep before he was called to Hollywood. “Call me George, pal” he rasped with a smile.

I called him George and he said “What”?

I figured he was kidding with me. I tried it again.

“What, kid?” was the reply. Back and forth several times. I could hear the cameraman giggling.

“George”, I tried again, pointing to my hearing aids.

“What’s up, kid”? Then, it slowly dawned on him. Raft pointed to his ears and gestured. Cautiously, I took a look. I thought for a long moment before speaking.

“George”, I said slowly and carefully, “You need to turn on your hearing aids.”

Raft gave me a long look, then that familiar smile which typically preceded him mowing down guys with a machine gun. He snapped his fingers. A crony walked over, reached in and turned on his hearing aids.

“Thanks, Pal”, George Raft smiled with relief.

I couldn’t resist the moment. I pulled out a coin and began tossing it in the air and catching it. Raft stared. We shook hands. He smiled over his shoulders as he walked away.

Just so you know, I was half an inch taller than the guy who used to duke it out with Bogie and Cagney.

Thanks, Pal.

“What?”