TIME FOR A DRINK! LIFT YOUR GLASS TO BECKYB – Marilyn Armstrong

Time for a Drink for BeckyB!

It was party time in Massachusetts. I would probably have been content to stay home and process bird pictures, but Garry felt we needed an airing. Also, he wanted to find out how his cochlear implant would handle a really large party.

George Regan gives amazing parties. He’s kind of the best PR guys in the state, so if you’re trying to make it in politics or business or whatever, George is your guy.

He’s also a remarkably nice person, too, with dogs and a lovely house on the water in Quincy. We are lucky to get annual invitations. We often don’t make it because it’s December which is usually busy — with bad weather. But this year, we made it.

Time for evening light through tall windows

In addition to wanting to test out his new hearing, there was a friend who was going to be there who Garry wanted to see very much. He has been ill, so it has been a long time since we’ve spent time together — and George’s place is about as midway to our houses as you can get. They live in Bourne, on the Cape while we reside in Uxbridge, south-central of nowhere.

Quincy is one of those places which somehow is always in the middle of a traffic jam, so even though it should only be about an hour’s drive, it always takes at least two … and that’s on a Tuesday afternoon. I can only imagine the traffic on Saturday or Sunday, especially since they are on the road which goes to the stadium where the Patriots play.

It’s close enough to Boston so over the years, it has become part and parcel of the Boston mega-traffic-jam, so we got stuck in it going there and coming back. We thought there had to be an accident or something along the way, but no accident that we found.

Time to drive to the party

Just traffic and a lot of it.

We made it. Not only did we make it, but we didn’t get lost, which may be some kind of record for us. We often set out for events, but get so lost, we end up going home without ever going to the party.

Time for that drink!

The moment we got there, I realized that wearing a black coat — Garry was wearing a gray one — were mistakes. In the “throw the coats in there” room were dozens of black and gray overcoats. We are nothing if not consistent.

I keep intending to get something in some other color, but somehow, best intentions notwithstanding, my coats are always black or gray and I can never find them.

Dinner was constantly served – Always time to eat!

There were a lot of people at the party. Garry eventually spotted three (other than the host) who he knew.

I knew Garry. And the host.

I used to know George’s beautiful Golden Retriever, but he passed a couple of years ago. During parties in the summer, the swimming pool belonged to the Golden. He used to swim around the pool trying to corral about 100 tennis balls. Then he would emerge from the pool, sopping wet, and shake.


Not square, but the beautiful Golden Retriever needed remembering too.


Almost everyone was all dressed except me because I don’t dress. It is one of the few privileges of age, so it made me laugh as guests ran in every direction as the dog shook off the pool water. Then he’d jump back into the pool because keeping track of hundreds of floating tennis balls is a pretty big job, but he was a dedicated retriever.

You better believe that NO ONE complained about the water and the shaking retriever. George adored that dog and his two other pugs who were carried during the party because they were old and couldn’t manage in a house that crowded.

Time to drive home

And then we were homeward bound with about a million other cars. Now, we can say we have partied, celebrated, and hobnobbed. Oddly, I enjoyed the party. I met the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a bunch of people I didn’t know. Ate pieces of hot pizza from Bertucci’s and took some interesting pictures.

These days, that’s a party!

PHOTO CHALLENGE: FESTIVAL – WHERE’S THE BAR? – Marilyn Armstrong

Photo Challenge: Festival

One thing is true of every festival. Everyone says hi and finds a place to sit. Then they ask: “Where’s the bar?”

After which, everyone bellies up to the bar, especially if it isn’t a “cash bar.”

Pity I don’t drink. Sometimes, I think a drink might be a perfect solution to an imperfect world.

ODD BALLS FROM THE MOB – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 22, 2018


A little light on the party

We went to a party. They aren’t my best pictures, but they were more fun than most.

A word about processing people pictures from parties. I use a lot of creative effects on people pictures because what I want to show is their faces, their laughter, the fun without making every look like they have the neck of a chicken or, as Garry puts it “the chrome dome.”

Everyone wants to look good. Most people our age don’t expect to look young and they don’t mind seeing character in their faces, but they also don’t want to look like they were just unearthed from a grave. Finding a balance is a bit of a trick. I put more time and energy into processing people — especially people in my age group — than I do for anything else.

Trees don’t care if the bark looks grungy, but people care a lot when their skin looks like tree bark.

MEETING THE MOB: A PARTY FOR THE GANGSTERS OF MEDIA – Garry Armstrong

MEETING THE MOB AT FLORIAN HALL

Once a year, we gather to catch up.  It’s time for the getting together and annual partaking of the M.O.B. party. It’s the Media Of Boston where everyone who used to be someone and more than a few people who still are someone, get together and remember news — the funny, the weird, the crazy, and the scary stuff they covered during Boston’s news history.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist sharing old Dodger baseball memories

I usually don’t go to these things. Part of it is that we are out in the boonies and all these events are in Boston or Dorchester. It’s a long drive through heavy traffic. As a general rule, I can’t find my way anywhere anymore. I never really could, but now that we don’t live in or near the city, it’s worse.

Lots of pictures of “the old days”

Marilyn promised to come with me this year, acting as my ears (she just went around telling everyone to yell in my left ear and oddly, that worked), and as my navigator which mostly meant yelling out the directions from the GPS. It’s not loud enough. Almost nothing is loud enough.

Andy announced dinner about to be served!

In past years,  most of us were competitors at Boston’s major TV News Departments, radio stations, and newspapers. Unlike media elsewhere, we always had a sense of respect, camaraderie between us — even though we all chased the scoops in one of the most  competitive major news markets in the country.

Three guys hanging out!

Careers overlap the end of radio news dominance, the transition from film to electronic news gathering. Some of us began working with elders from the Murrow Boys’ days. Our careers included covering the assassinations of political and social legends,  the Vietnam War, volatile court ordered school busing and integration,  Anti-Nuclear Power demonstrations, Watergate, Three Mile Island and the AIDS epidemic. The end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st saw an explosion of news coverage to match events like 9/11 and beyond.

Birth twins! Garry with Delores Handy (Brown) – both born April 7th!

Many of those at our newsies gathering have put their lives on the line —  multiple times — in pursuit of the truth which is often ridiculed by some public officials.

Charlie and Irene Ballantine – caught off-guard at the table!

The faces are probably familiar to those who have turned to the Boston media for news coverage for the past half a century.  Critics who have questioned their ethics have faded from public view as new crises demand instant and intensive coverage 24/7.

Something to drink?

Some of these careers began with Dwight Eisenhower in the Oval House,  John F.Kennedy as the Junior Massachusetts Senator and Mayor Kevin Hagen White overseeing the transformation of Boston into a world-class city that would host celebrated Tall Ships festivals,  court ordered school integration and a mega-expensive architectural “do” known as “The Big Dig”.

Garry, Lester, and Harvey. Someone is really tall!

Those of a certain age will remember some of these faces as young reporters and photographers who spent the best years of their lives covering stories that are now archive material.

You may not know some of the faces.  Many are behind the cameras that bring you haunting images of the news that never stops. They are reporters who never get their due respect. They’re part of the reason that Boston News coverage is highly respected around the world.

Many of us were bright-eyed idealists when we began our Boston careers. The city and New England region are journalistic gold mines and have been well paved over the years by those seeking journalistic treasure.

You’re looking at many ink-stained wretches who’ve been recognized for their diligent work.  Pulitzer, Emmy and other prestigious awards dot the homes of many of these folks who have devoted their lives to finding the truth, a job that is harder than ever in today’s political climate.

Our stories get bigger with each passing year.  We remember the facts but, in many cases,  prefer to “print the legend”.  We tend to remember our gaffes, the “egg in our faces” stories that go with any lengthy career. We smile at the recollection of our youthful energy and pursuit of stories that would top the likes of Watergate.

Garry and Fred Ward sharing stories

Amid the laughter of shared adventures, we remember those colleagues we’ve lost in the past year. Their images linger in our collective and personal sense memories.

Most of all, we agree, bad times aside,  we’ve been lucky to have spent years pursuing one of the best jobs on the face of the earth.


NOTE: Marilyn took pictures. Not enough and not as good as they should be — but she says she had the wrong camera. And it was hard to get people to stay put long enough to get a good shot. Also, there were so many cameras everywhere (what a surprise! with all those camera people and there were a lot of cameras!), she figured there would plenty of pictures getting taken, even if she personally didn’t take them.

MY MOTHER, THE PARTY PLANNER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s in New York City, social life revolved around the dinner party. Anywhere from six to twelve people would gather at someone’s home for drinks, appetizers and a sit down dinner. This was in addition to the once or twice a year that you would give a large party, with waiters, bar tenders and a buffet dinner.

Over the years your friends got to know each other. And you got to meet new people when you went to your friends’ dinner parties. Some of these people ended up as regulars at your own parties.

My mother loved giving parties. She did it well and often. Our home was beautiful and beautifully maintained – by the housekeepers. My mother didn’t do cleaning. Or cooking. Her elaborate and delicious meals were made by the cooks she always had during those years. (Not uncommon for professionals in the city in that era).

Mom’s NY dining room set up for a buffet party

However my mom did do all of the menu planning. She spent lots of time reading recipes in magazines and clipping them out. She turned them into a giant cookbook that filled several loose leaf notebooks. I still have them in my basement. I could never part with them.

My dad and I had a great time taste testing new recipes all the time. And I don’t mean meatloaf and brownies. Mom used recipes from American, French, Italian and Asian cuisine. There was also a smattering of Austrian and Eastern European when we had cooks from those areas. The dishes would be considered high-end or gourmet by today’s standards, though some were homier than others (a favorite was home cooked fried chicken, for example).

The desserts were to die for. My father was very thin, so my mother was always trying to fatten him up. She was always trying to entice him with amazing desserts – all kinds of cakes, pies, trifles, custards and puddings, you name it. Dad never gained weight, but we did. I ended up on a diet for most of my late teenage years living at home.

I had a friend who used to joke that at most people’s homes you got Twinkies for dessert, but at Ellin’s house, you got Oeufs A La Neige or Floating Island. That was my favorite dessert as a child.

Oeufs A La Neige, or Floating Island Dessert

My mother planned her parties meticulously. From the guest list and seating arrangements to the menu, from the place settings, the crystal and good china, to the dinner table centerpiece. Fresh flowers always decorated the rest of the house as well.

For summer parties at the CT house, Mom and I filled the house with flowers from our garden, including a big fancy centerpiece for the dining room table. Every week during the summer, company or not, we always did vases and vases of flowers for the house, just for us. These were simpler and less numerous. Those long hours arranging flowers with my mom are some of my favorite memories. My grandmother would often come in to talk with us while we worked. It was a wonderful time.

Summer meant flowers to me. I loved floral arranging so much, I actually got a part-time job in a florist shop for a short while in 2002. I also went on a dried flower binge and filled my entire house with dried flower arrangements of all kinds, in all kinds of exotic containers.

I was involved in every aspect of party planning from the time I was nine or ten years old. I was also allowed to sit with the guests before and after dinner. As a teenager, I usually joined the adults at the table as well. My parents’ friends adored me. I got to know many of them very well and I grew up with them as a part of my life from early childhood, on.

As an only child, I was very comfortable with adults. And I was always respected by them. My opinion was elicited from early on, at least on topics that I could understand and comment on at my current age level. I also knew when to be quiet and just listen.

Mom’s CT dining room

My parents were well-educated, intellectual, New York City professionals. So the conversations were always exciting, animated, interesting and fun. There were always lots of loud disagreements, but never any hostility. I learned to debate someone with differing views in a civil manner.

When I was a young wife and mother in NYC in the mid 1970’s – 1980’s, I followed in my mother’s party planning footsteps. I gave regular dinner parties for four to six guests. However, I had to do all the work MYSELF, including the cooking. I’ll never forget how proud I was to cook my first dinner party for my parents and some of their friends. It wasn’t as fancy or elegant as my mom’s, but I did it all on my own!

My first real dining room in NYC as a young lawyer

What I didn’t realize was that the times were changing and social life was different than in my mother’s heyday. I had party after party and rarely got invited back to anyone’s home for dinner. The trend now was for two couples to get together by going out to dinner at a restaurant. So people would invite us out to dinner with them, but not to their homes.

It was years before I gave up the ghost and stopped slaving over dinner parties, even after I had children. I eventually gave into the ‘let’s go out to dinner’ tradition. I don’t miss the hard work that went into planning formal parties. But there was an excitement and an element of creativity involved in the process that I do miss.

I still have people over for dinner. But it’s usually one or two couples and we usually grill or order pizza. I sometimes miss the good old ‘party’ days – but not enough to go back.

A VERY HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, AUNT HELEN! BY TOM CURLEY

I have a wonderful family. Most of them live in Minnesota. Oddly, we don’t talk much. It’s not that we don’t like each other. It’s not that we’re mad at each other. We all get along just fine. We just don’t. Talk.

Maybe it’s because we’re WASPs. (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) We tend to talk to each other when we need to. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s a WASP thing. (I’m sure I’ll be getting angry emails from WASPs who do talk all the time. Sorry.) Maybe we forget because life tends to keep us occupied. We do all get together, but very rarely. Usually it’s because someone dies. We all got together for my Uncle’s funeral, my Mom’s funeral, and my Dad’s funeral.

Last weekend Ellin and I flew out to Minnesota for another big get together. The only difference was this time it wasn’t for a funeral. It was for a birthday. My Aunt Helen’s birthday.

My Favorite Aunt

My Favorite Aunt

My Aunt Helen’s 100th birthday! My younger brother Todd from upstate NY came as well as my older brother Roger from Ohio. Helen’s two children were there along with their children and their children’s children. She knew there was going to be a party and that the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to be there.

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Four generations

But they didn’t tell her about me and my two brothers. That was the surprise. My Aunt Helen and my parents had this odd thing about surprises. When we were growing up, the only place we ever went to on vacation was out to Minnesota to visit my aunt and my uncle. More often than not, we just showed up unannounced. Surprise! We’re here for a week! Now, my cousins and I have always thought this to be really strange. If you show up unannounced most people will not only be surprised, but also more than a little annoyed.

But not my parents or my aunt and uncle. They loved it. It was their thing. So that’s what we did. And she loved it.  The look on her face when her three nephews walked out to say happy birthday was worth the trip.

Surprise!

Surprise!

She’s gotten pretty frail and her voice is very soft and sometimes the words she wants to say have a hard time coming out. After getting over the shock of seeing us the first thing she said was. “I never thought I’d see the kids again”.

The Kids

The Kids

The kids are 62, 64, 65, 69 and 74. The next day there was an official party for her at the home where she lives. All sorts of friends showed up as well as four generations of family.

All the kids

All the kids

The secret to her longevity? I don’t know. She’s a tough old bird. Maybe it’s because her granddaughter Erica told her years ago when she was a child “Grandma, you have to live to be 100”.

You did it Grandma

You did it Grandma

Maybe it’s because she has at least one beer every day.

Cheers

Cheers

Maybe it’s because she always said it was her goal to make it to 100. When we reminded her of that she said. “I guess I have to come up with another goal. Do you think 105 is unreasonable?”

Hell no Aunt Helen. It’s not unreasonable at all.

See Ellin’s view of this celebration: IT REALLY DOES TAKE A VILLAGE BY ELLIN CURLEY

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A birthday party was the perfect prescription for those of us trying to wrestle with the state of our nation and the new administration in Washington, D.C. Our friend Dave invited us to share his birthday. Nothing fancy. No presents. Just a few friends, snacks, drinks and a small cake.

Dave lives just a few miles from our house and the 2pm start meant we had enough time to socialize and get home for the two NFL playoff games. We have priorities!!

We heard laughter as we arrived. Always a good sign. I counted maybe eight faces as we went inside. Good for me. My poor hearing means I don’t do well in large groups. I looked around and knew everyone. Another good sign. There would be no forced conversation with strangers.

180-daves-bd-220117_02

It was a (mostly) baby boomer gathering and birthday boy, Dave could’ve been singing “When I’m 64.” He wasn’t singing. I promised myself I wouldn’t discuss politics. After a few hugs, kisses, and handshakes, guess who and what was the focus of our jibber-jabber? No one mentioned his name, the new President. The guy with the orange hair. President Obama’s successor. The reality show star. But we could feel his eerie presence, lurking like a shadow.

The conversation ranged from new cabinet nominees, to health care, to repeated questions about how this guy became our Commander-In-Chief. Even though half the folks in the room were normally Republicans, no one (apparently) had voted for him. But someone voted for him because he’s in the White House.

Meanwhile, talk about health care and the lack there of, not to mention the unfortunate quality of same, segued into cemetery plots. The cost of burials. We compared traditional burials with cremation. Marilyn reminded us about drive-through cremation, the economical alternative to getting planted in the traditional way. Francesca said they bury them vertically in parts of Italy because there’s no more room. The burial biz could be bigger than plastics for new graduates. There was a longish couple of silences while we all digested how we would each have to deal with “the big sleep”…  possibly sooner rather than later.

Time for the birthday cake and a round of “Happy Birthday” for Dave. We sang with gusto, each in our own key. Our enthusiasm compensated for lack of musical talent.

It wasn’t an easy segue. I asked a couple how their kids were doing. They are now young adults, one in college, another graduating high school. Another long pause and segue into the cost of college. Would Mom and Dad be around to see how their daughter and son fared professionally? A bit of a crap shoot, that.

We segued back to cemeteries and the cost of dying. Someone talked about time payments. Apparently, if you don’t keep up your payments, some places will dig up the bodies and stack them like cord wood. We laughed. Ruefully.

I noticed everyone casting furtive glances around the room. I blushed a little because I realized I was the oldest in our gathering. Marilyn assured me I look younger than her, certainly younger than my years. Thanks, Mar.

I looked at my watch and loudly announced we had to get home to feed the dogs, my best move to end the talk about dying and the prohibitive cost of funerals, not to mention grave maintenance. You need a multi-generational maintenance contract or they’ll toss your bones in the big pit. In any case, it’s not like you’ll be around to make sure they keep their end of the bargain.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAVE!!!