TOM’S CATARACT SURGERY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Recently, Tom’s cataracts started to give him problems driving at night. He began seeing large halos around the headlights of the oncoming cars, which made driving a challenge. He went to the eye doctor who told Tom that his cataracts were ‘ripe’ and it was time to get cataract surgery in both eyes.

Now, no one looks forward to someone slicing and dicing their eyeballs, but Tom was borderline phobic about anyone touching his eyes. We had two close friends who had recently had the surgery and they both reassured Tom that they had felt nothing during the procedure and little if any discomfort afterward.

Tom listened to them but didn’t believe them on some level. So he procrastinated about scheduling the surgery – and procrastinated, and procrastinated.

When he finally scheduled it, he didn’t feel good about it. He worried more and more as the surgery date drew near and he reached a peak of panic the sleepless night before D-Day. On the ride to the surgery center, as well as in the waiting room, Tom kept repeating that he really didn’t want to do this. I began to worry that he might make a run for it.

Of course, Tom had to wait endlessly at the doctor’s office before he was finally taken in for the seven-minute procedure. So by the time he saw the doctor, his blood pressure must have been off the charts. Fortunately, along with buckets of numbing drops, they gave him some ‘good drugs’ to relax him.

I waited anxiously in the waiting room for an hour before he came out the other end. During that time, I saw a veritable parade of post-surgery patients, smiling in their identical pairs of unfashionable sunglasses. I relaxed as I realized that no one seemed freaked out or even stressed.

So I was not surprised when Tom reappeared, gushing about what a weird but not unpleasant experience it had been. As he had been told, he felt nothing but water being pumped into his eye. He saw strange lights and heard psychedelic music, which made it all feel like a mini acid trip.

Tom in his ‘cataract sunglasses’

Fresh out of surgery, his eye was blurry and totally dilated, and he felt like he had a grain of sand in his eye, but he could already tell how much better his vision was. Everything was brighter and clearer, especially colors. Tom said it was as if he had been looking at the world through a yellow filter and suddenly now he was seeing everything in vibrant, living color.

We bumped into an old friend in the waiting room who was coming in for the same surgery. Tom went on and on about how awesome his vision was now and told his friend not to worry but to get ready to be amazed at how colorful and sharp the world is.

By the next day the dilation was gone and even though only one eye was fixed, Tom’s vision was dramatically improved. He no longer needed his glasses for distance vision but will still permanently need reading glasses. Not a big deal. He also could see that our sunroom was painted bright blue, not green or teal.  And he was telling everyone what a miracle he had just experienced!

Tom seeing great without his glasses for the first time in decades

Now Tom can’t wait for the second surgery!

ESAU WAS A HAIRY MAN … Presented by Marilyn Armstrong

These may be the funniest guys ever … except for maybe Monty Python … sometimes Mel Brooks … and Carl Reiner … 

These guys were first and somehow, they are just perfect, even today.

So in this passage, we explain that being hirsute is offensive to God. And from this …

You may put away your bibles. Don’t forget to drop some money in the basket.

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

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Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

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So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

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The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

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The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


REMY’S DADDY ISSUES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Our two-and-a-half-year-old rescue dog, Remy, is a Daddy’s girl.

Remy

She shows her love for Tom in a variety of ways, some endearing and some annoying. For example, when we go upstairs to bed, Remy immediately lies down smack in the middle of Tom’s ‘spot’ on the bed and won’t budge. She follows Tom with her eyes and wags her tail, but no amount of Tom’s cajoling or commanding will get her to move. When Tom gets into bed, he has to physically push her out of the way to make room for himself.

Remy sleeping with Tom

Remy has problems with her anal glands (if you don’t know about dogs’ anal glands, you’re lucky) and she has to go to the vet every three weeks to have them cleaned out. That’s a lot of vet visits!

Remy pawing at Tom

Originally I took her myself, but she would sit bolt upright in the car and cry, howl, whine and scream for the entire half hour ride. It was unnerving and probably not pleasant for her either.

Then I got the idea to have Tom come with us on our torturous rides to see if it calmed Remy down. It was miraculous.

With Tom in the car, Remy was quiet and even lay down peacefully and closed her eyes, so now Tom is stuck going to the vet with her every three weeks.

Tom and Remy cuddling

Another weird expression of affection comes every morning right after breakfast when Remy starts to jump around, wag her tail expectantly and bark at Tom as if she wants him to do something. But when he goes into the backyard with her, she just sits on the steps and looks at him.

Occasionally she’ll run around with him for maybe a minute and then run back inside. We can’t figure out what she wants Tom to do, but whatever it is, she doesn’t want the same thing from me.

Remy with Tom driving the boat

In the same vein, when I’m getting the dogs’ dinner ready, Remy will go up to Tom and bark and whine and jump on him and paw him. I always feed the dogs, never Tom, so why she is pestering him while I’m actually preparing her food, is another mystery. But it’s always all about Tom.

Remy and Tom communing

One other unique token of love happens when Tom gets out of the shower. Remy obsessively licks his legs while he brushes his teeth. I think it’s funny – she may be attempting to groom him.

Tom finds it disconcerting though and tries to get her to stop. While she may give me a few perfunctory licks when I get out of the shower, it’s nothing like her devotion to Tom’s legs. I adore Remy but I have to admit that she has something special with Tom. I actually feel good about that because the dog we lost before we got Remy, Lucky, was also more Tom’s dog. Tom missed that bond.

Remy kissing Tom

Our other dog, Lexi, is my shadow, who thinks her job in life is to protect me from errant squirrels, cars on the road and especially the cleaning lady with the vacuum cleaner. She loves Tom but is clearly ‘my’ dog.

Remy and Lexi

Remy does have an independent streak. Lexi is always on the sofa with us but Remy sometimes disappears while we’re watching TV. Lexi is always on the bed with us, but Remy sometimes goes off on her own. It’s nice that she feels secure enough to do her own thing, but it’s also nice that she shows us how loved we are – especially Tom.

WHY DID YOU TAKE THAT PICTURE? – Marilyn Armstrong

“Why did you take that picture?” I was startled. No one ever asked me before. Photographers usually know the answer and non-photographers don’t think to ask. It gave me pause to think about the arts and what they mean to us.

I remember when I was teaching tech writing to graduate students and someone asked me “How do you know what to write?”

I was flummoxed. How did I know what to write?

I just knew. I never thought about it. I sometimes had to struggle for finding the right organization for a document, but I never failed to know what had to be there.

This flower really is pink!

So I went home and asked Garry “How do you know what film to shoot or what script to write?” He looked at me like I had two heads, so I explained what had happened in class and how I realized I knew what to write because … I just knew. Apparently, it was the same for him. You see the story and you know what you need to do with it.

I realized if you needed to ask, you were probably in the wrong place.

To me, it’s obvious why a picture was taken: the photographer saw something: light, shadow, image, color. Something spoke to the photographer and said: “Shoot me.”

I don’t need a reason to take a picture, though I may have one. I don’t take pictures of churches for religious reasons. I like the architecture or how the light plays on the steeple or reflects in the windows.

A Junco and the Cardinal

If I think it will make an interesting composition, I’ll take pictures of my feet. I have taken pictures of my feet, with and without shoes.

 

You can’t explain art. You get it or not. It speaks to you or not. No amount of studying will make art comprehensible if you don’t have a fundamental sympathy for it.

I know I’m going against the current mantra that “If you try hard enough, you can learn anything.”

Maybe this is true for some stuff, but I don’t see how it can apply to the arts. Or sports. You need to be taught, but you also need some ability. I spent years trying to learn to ice skate and I got to the point where I didn’t look too bad … but I was never really good at any of it, not even the simplest things. I had years of training and it was a complete waste of time, effort, and money.

 

If you have no eye, no course will give you one. It would be like trying to cure color blindness. If you are tone-deaf, you won’t be a musician. No matter how many lessons you take or how many hours you practice. If you have no gift for putting words together, you will not be a writer.

Not everyone is equally talented, even within the arts … but anyone earning a living in the arts has some talent. Some natural gift.

It’s cruel to tell kids they can be whatever they want merely by working harder. It’s not true. We should try to find out what our kids are good at and encourage them to go in directions in which they have some chance of success. Not everyone has a talent for art … but everyone has a talent for something.

The challenge is determining what it is.

IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand, and mud. It’s amazing how anyone can navigate the distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road.

There are far too many roads. All of them need grading and paving.

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side occasionally for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t one road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. Your brother becomes a businessman and lives a pretty normal life.

Your sister discovers her own version of chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded and compared to your brother, you’re a wild child. That’s worrisome because you know how much weird stuff is going on in your head.

All three kids had the same parents. As far as anyone knows, you also all had (more or less) the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.

ROMANCING THE THRONE AND ITS ROOM – Garry Armstrong

What’s the most important room in the house for men?

Many would say it’s the living room. It’s got the television and the important remotes to find the “game.”

That’s not true for all guys. One of the first things I look for when visiting is the bathroom. How quickly can it be accessed? This is probably what Wolf Blitzer checks first in his “Situation Room.” Breaking news waits until Wolf is sure the bathroom is near and everything is working.

It’s not for nothing that for men, the bathroom is known as “The Throne Room.” Many of our most important decisions are made in that room as we conduct “business.” We practice speeches, mentally edit stories, and dig into our brains for new ideas.

Time flies by quickly while seated on the throne. As we are making life-altering decisions, seconds, minutes and hours fly by like rogue asteroids in outer space.

As a kid, my Dad would frequently yell, “What the hell are you doing in there? Are you rediscovering America?”

Actually, what Dad said wasn’t so out-of-line. We had one bathroom for five people: mom, dad, and the three boys. The first one in the bathroom ruled the world through the hot water fogged environment. I recall stepping out of the bathroom and fog with my Dad curtly observing, “Well what do we have, the new King of the World?” I’m taking dramatic license, but I’m not that far off, either.

My bachelor pad in Boston’s East End was perfect, for a bachelor. One bathroom. One person. No one yelling at me, no one banging on the door shouting profanities. Top of the World, Ma!

Early in our marriage, Marilyn and I occupied a Beacon Hill apartment. Swanky, right? But we only had one bathroom. I called dibs when we settled in. I was the glamorous TV reporter who had to look perfect before heading to work. Marilyn somehow staved off crises as I primped in front of the foggy mirror.

Fast forward to 2000 and we moved into our present digs. A one family house with 2 and a half baths. I quickly called dibs on the big bathroom as Marilyn shot me a look that could’ve killed.

(Note: If it could have killed with one look, how come I still only get 
to use the room when The Man is finished, huh?)

19 years later, in retirement and the throne room is still a subject of conjecture. It’s still “How long are you gonna be in the bathroom, Garry?”  I scowl. You can’t put a clock on throne room stuff.

The Throne room is about to undergo a facelift. It’s old. It needs help.

We’re not exactly in a financial position to glamorize the bathroom but it’s not pretty we’re looking for. We aren’t getting any younger or sprier and hiking over the tub is tricky for me, scary for Marilyn.

The tub is hazardous for both of us. As senior citizens, we have to be careful about getting in and out without slipping and doing serious damage to our fragile bodies. I’ve already done a tumble and fall into the tub. It wasn’t pretty.

Garry at Manchaug

I was trying to get into my jeans without support. It never was a problem before. Now, I was reminded that I’m an old fart who needs to prop against a wall or sit down while doing something as simple as putting on your pants. I vividly recall my head banging on the tub as I fell. There was nothing to grab. I saw more stars than there are in heaven.

In our “meet and greet” session with a bathroom designer/consultant, we discussed our needs, our very slim budget — and the upgrades we needed. We carefully looked at the ancient toilet, the grimy and faded floor, the additions needed for the tub. It would include hand grips, up-to-date shower fixtures plus a glass door to replace the curtains that reek of mold despite our diligent efforts to keep things clean.

We looked at different models with money the major concern. This is something we needed. Clean, simple, easy to get in and out of.

The sign in our bathroom! It’s from 40-years ago but could have been printed yesterday. Or tomorrow.

After some tense moments to learn whether we could seal the payment deal, we were told “YES.” We could move ahead with plans to give the Throne Room the look and respect it deserves.

Smiles all around.

Garry and designer and owner of Baystate Kitchen and Bath Remodeling

There will be “before and after” pics to share. Meantime, plans for our new look throne room have us smiling – almost as happy as our celebration of the Patriots’ latest Superbowl win.

Hey, maybe Tom Brady may visit us now.


There’s more to this story, but we are still waiting for more pictures. You might say this is the surprise part of the story. Somehow, no matter how bad things get, something good happens. And something good really happened!