WHITE SUPREMACISTS ARE NOT THE ONLY RACISTS

I had a major battle on Amazon about a book I said was racist. A lot of people said “No, it isn’t. The author is an avowed Boston liberal.” I’m sure he said he was and he probably believes it’s true, but he wrote like a racist. Every time he mentioned someone of color, he referred to his or her color.

 

Tears never ran down their cheeks. The tears ran down their black cheeks. The didn’t have hands. They had brown hands or black hands. Not once were the Natives of the region — somewhere in or around Guiana, I think — ever mentioned without in indicating their race. Their name might be forgotten, but never their race.


That is racism. Call it whatever you like. It is what it is.

Passive? Probably insofar as those who feel that way rarely attend racist rallies or carry fascist flags. But these are the friends who would never visit us when we lived in a Black neighborhood because they were sure they would be mugged or shot by our neighbors — most of whom were police officers, one of whom was a guard at a city prison, and two of whom were Sheriffs.

We had less crime there than we had while living on Beacon Hill. Far less. No one broke into our house or vandalized our cars. No one stole our cars (both of which were stolen while we lived on Beacon Hill) or tried to swipe things from our deliverers. Racism isn’t only the white-hooded, marching and shouting kind. It’s an attitude. A belief that says that dark-skinned people are more violent, predatory, and criminal. Different in bad ways. Dangerous. Gun-toting. The kind of “passive ‘I’m really a liberal’ ” racism that’s so easy to pretend doesn’t exist.

Without significant attitudinal changes, it will never go away.

 

Racism runs deep in this country. North, south, east and west and without regard for ethnicity or political agenda. You’ll find it in your household, your neighborhood, your church. Your “liberal friends” who won’t go anywhere that isn’t known as a “white” neighborhood. These are the people who prevent non-white people from being promoted at work, from getting scholarships, from getting into management positions.

The ones who are constantly complaining about “equal opportunity” ruining their work are because dark-skinned people are stealing their jobs. The same morons who never consider they don’t get promoted because they don’t work hard enough and aren’t very good, either. The same people who bitch that “political correctness” is keeping them from calling people “n#gg#rs.” Who would use that word — with or without political correctness as a measure?

Red lights in Roxbury

These folks are cops and judges. Office managers. Parole officers. Social workers. Teachers. They are your drinking buddies, the barkeeper, and the kids your kids play with. The first step to making this problem begin to go away is to figure out where you stand on this matter. Are you a racist? A nice, quiet, suburban racist? Are you? Think about it. There has never been a better time to take a good hard look at who you are and where you really stand.

Get back to me on it.

BITTER ROOTS

I am named after an aunt I never met. In my version of Jewish family, you don’t name babies after living people. Only after those who have passed. This is not true in all Jewish families. It depends on where you come from and your “tribe’s” traditions in the matter. When I was born in 1947, there was a serious shortage of dead relatives after which to name me. Of course, there’s no law requiring you name your kid after a dead relative, but it certainly is the more popular path for naming.

You don’t have to pick the whole name. You can just pick your favorite part of the name. Like, maybe the middle. Or the second middle. Or an Americanized version of the primary name — or what people who didn’t speak English thought the Americanized version might be. It accounts for the far-too-many boys named Isadore (for Itzchak or Isaac). Lacking a deep knowledge of English-language roots, baby’s name could be similar to the original Hebrew or Yiddish name by simply matching the first letter or syllable … a method resulting in some pretty bizarre names Jewish boys and girls spent a lifetime trying to lose. It’s too complicated to explain.

Even your Jewish friends can be reduced to tears of laughter. Most of us have Jewish names that we try to never mention. Anywhere. Ever. For any reason.

 

My mother and her sisters. 1953. Queens, New York.

The only dead relative lurking about my family at the time of my birth was my grandmother’s cousin (or was it aunt?). Her name was Malka. Which means Queen in both Hebrew and Yiddish, so don’t start dissing me. The problem is that this is not a name that has an elegant North American “ring” to it.

My mother didn’t like it either and decided to name me “Mara” instead.

Mara is the Hebrew “root” word from which comes Mary, Marilyn, Maria and all the other “Mar” names. But Mara has music in it. I wouldn’t have minded it. I liked its tone in my ear.


It means “bitter.” If you don’t believe me, look it up.


The moment she told her the tribe I would be named Mara, the family leapt into the fray. “You can’t name her Mara. That means bitter! Who’d want a girl named bitter?” Mom was quite the individual, but there was only so much family pressure a woman could handle. They wore her down. Thus came Marilyn, which apparently was a great name for 1947. It remained a pretty hot name for a few more decades too.

On the other hand, Malka? Not a hit. Anywhere. Still stuck with it as my Jewish name. You don’t get to choose these things and anyone out there with one of those names they wish they didn’t have knows what I mean. I never liked my name. I still don’t like it. I don’t even know why I don’t like it. It isn’t mellow. Doesn’t have music. It’s just a name.

As a kid, I figured if I found a name I liked better, they might bestow it on me.


Me: “Mom, I’d like to be Linda. It means pretty.”

Mom: “No.”

Me: “Mom, could you call me Delores? It sound so romantic.”

Mom: “No.”


And so it went until I went to Israel where some fool told me I should use my Jewish name. I glared him down and stayed Marilyn. I could live with Marilyn, but Malka? Really? I knew two other North American ladies named Marilyn. All of us refused to change our names. Malka not only wasn’t a lovely name, it carried the whiff of “cleaning drudge.” I don’t know why. It just did.

So now, here I am. Seventy odd years later and I’m still Marilyn. Still fundamentally bitter. It doesn’t seem as bad as it did back in The Day. Whenever that was.

FORGIVE AND FORGET?

I absolutely believe in forgiveness, but forgetting? I remember. I may not remain angry about the things I remember, but I don’t forget them, either. I keep a tally. If you’ve betrayed me, lied to me, broken your promises, not been there when I needed you or sometimes, just not been there at all … I remember. It’s not necessarily a grudge. I can forgive bad behavior, but I’m not stupid enough to let myself get betrayed repeatedly by the same person. Twice gives you an asterisk and a footnote: “Not someone I can depend on.” The footnote is permanent. Thrice? I tend to quietly slip away, if not from the person, then from whatever kind of incident was involved.

Any number of combinations can be extrapolated from this, including:

  1. I may refuse to forgive or forget — and hold a grudge. I’m not planning revenge, but you aren’t invited to my party.
  2. I forgive you. I remember everything and won’t trust you when I know you to be untrustworthy. Not holding a grudge, but I am wary.
  3. I forgive you. I pretend to forget because I love you so much I will let you do what you do because that’s just you and you can’t help it. Every now and again, I’ll get really mad about it but real love wins.
  4. I forgive you but I remember everything. No grudge — except I never want to see you again. I don’t hate you, but I do want you out of my life. Permanently.

There are lots of permutations based on combinations of forgiving, forgetting (not) and the holding grudges.

Forgiveness is not the same as “let’s be pals again.” Damage has been done. A sincere apology helps but I am unlikely to trust you after you have hurt me. Most people get a free pass for one hurting. People I adore get two and sometimes more free passes because love is more powerful than the hurt. But after that, be careful. Because when I decide to drop someone from my life, I never change my mind. It’s permanent. Even if I wish I could change it, I can’t. I never have. If I sever ties, they stay severed.

With my moon solidly in Scorpio, forgetting is impossible. Pisces sun? I forgive, but I remember. I don’t plan vengeance, don’t even wish ill on people them, but I won’t give them another shot at me either. I don’t even stay angry. It’s as if all the feeling I had goes cold.

As far as I’m concerned, all this means is I learn from the past.

SAYING NO TO BULLETS: THE FIRST TIME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This is one of the funnier old family stories. My family believes that it documents the first time being a conscientious objector was used as a rationale to get out of military service. The concept didn’t exist in World War I.

Abe was my grandmother’s brother. He was a nebbish and a schlemiel. He was not too bright, whiny, screwed things up a lot and the family often had to bail him out. For example, in around 1908, he and my grandmother had first class tickets on the ship that was bringing them to America to live. He lost the tickets. New tickets had to be procured, but this time they were steerage. My grandmother was not happy with him.

My grandmother and Abe

Abe got drafted and somehow managed to snivel his way through basic training. He was scheduled to ship out to Europe to fight in World War I. The family got a call. It was Abe. “They want to send me overseas to get shot at! I’m not going! I’m coming home!” He went AWOL, was caught, thrown into the brig and faced a long prison term. Or worse – he could be shot!

Whenever the family faced a serious problem, the person to call was Ivan Abramson, a well-connected cousin. He was brilliant, charming and knew a lot of “important” people. He was a producer in the Yiddish theater and I think he had something to do with gambling. He was definitely “a player”. One of the people he knew was the Secretary of the Navy. Go figure. It just so happened that the Secretary was coming to New York City to review the troops before they shipped out. A perfect time for Ivan to talk to him about Abe.

So, picture the military pomp of a formal viewing ceremony. There was the Secretary of the Navy, the troops, the press, Cousin Ivan and – Uncle Abe, dragged out in chains, crying. The story goes that Abe was pleading with Ivan to “Save me! Don’t let them shoot me!”

Ivan was clever and made a persuasive pitch to the Naval Secretary. He said that Abe belonged to an obscure Jewish sect that didn’t believe in violence. He said that fighting in the war would be against all of Abe’s religious convictions. He argued that this should never happen in “the land of the free” etc., etc. The ploy worked. Or he paid off the Secretary in some under the table way we’ll never know about.

Abe was discharged from the navy and released back to his family. He continued to cause problems for everyone for the next 60 odd years! But I like to think that he had one shining moment, inadvertently paving the way for future conscientious objectors. It would be the only candidate for shining moment in his life. So I’m going to stick with my story!

WHAT A SHOCK! – Marilyn Armstrong

You think you know someone. You hang out with them, exchange emails, jokes, and anecdotes. Maybe you even work with them. Then, one day, out of the blue, you discover they are fundamentalist Christians who believe you are going to Hell or are a hard-core right-wing Trumpist, conspiracy theorist, or believer in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

I lived in Jerusalem for almost 9 years. You meet a lot of people who are sure they are Jesus Christ come back to finish his work on Earth. One of them worked at the local pizza joint and seemed perfectly normal, until in the middle of a casual conversation, he would drop a bomb about his mission and there you were, transported to wacko central.

I had a casual friend who was a piano player. He sang and played at fancy hotel lounges, like the Hilton Hotel lounge. He was, like me, an American, so it was inevitable we would meet. We struck up a little chatty relationship. One night, he called and invited me over. He had something important to tell me.

Important? Our relationship consisted of reminiscing about life in the U.S. in the 1960s — and I’d done his horoscope. I was (coincidentally) the astrology columnist and managing editor of a short-lived English-language weekly. Please, let’s not discuss astrology or my psychic abilities (or lack thereof). You don’t want to know and I don’t want to tell you.

Having nothing better to do at the time, I walked over to his house (just around the corner) and we got to talking. Suddenly, I knew. He was going to tell me one of two things: he was an alien and came from on another planet or galaxy … or … he was Jesus Christ.

edward-gorey-donald-imagined-thingsIt was the latter. Another Jesus. He wanted me, because of my brilliant psychic abilities, to be Paul and spread the word. I worked very hard to tell him that his timing was off and I would be sure to advise him when the right moment arrived. Then I fled into the night and home. He was one of several people who convinced me there was no future for me in the psychically predictive arts.

Then there was the guy I worked with at one or another of the many high-tech companies at which I was employed who one day informed me of his intention to quit his job and move to an underground bunker in anticipation of the coming apocalypse. I hadn’t even done his horoscope.

Not surprisingly, a series of these unwelcome surprises has made more than slightly wary of prospective friends. I’m afraid of what will be revealed as we get to know each other better.

The thing about people who believe in cabals, believe they were dropped from an alien spacecraft (or will be leaving on one shortly), are certain that God has assigned them a mission … ? You can’t argue with them.

You can’t point out the incongruities and contradictions of their beliefs. They believe what they believe and that’s that. There’s no point in offering facts. They will ignore all evidence that goes against their world-view.

These folks make me nervous. What happens when they (inevitably) decide I am one of their (many) enemies?

GIVING UP, NOT IN – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost quit any number of times. I didn’t smoke a lot. Less than a pack a day and eventually I got it down to five or six a day and sometimes less. The problem with cigarettes is that one day, for no special reason, you realize you smoked an entire pack. You just sort of forgot you had quit.

In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew because he told us. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies, and the world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was relatively easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in even more than the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “It was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out back and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. He did soon thereafter, quit. He decided having kicked narcotics, he could kick cigarettes too. So he did.

I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction that lured me. I understood how bad it was for my health, disastrous to my budget and getting more costly each day. It made my clothing and hair smell like a dirty ashtray. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky.

I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering a desire to smoke.

I am sure today, after more than ten years if I were to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker. Again. It’s not unlike being an alcoholic. One drink and you’re a drunk again.

It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to cigarettes.

It would probably be easier to quit now since most offices are smoke-free. That being said, it’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

SUMMER FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about old friends; people who knew you when you were a lot younger and who shared a part of your life that doesn’t exist anymore. That got me thinking. Why do some people become ‘old friends’ and others drop by the wayside? Why do some people stick with you over decades while others drift away?

I believe that most people start out as situational friends. You meet and become friends because you’re sharing an activity or a stage of life. Examples are people you work with and parents whose kids go to school with and/or are friends with your kids. Also, people you meet through hobbies, like at a golf or tennis club, a knitting circle, a book club, etc.

What makes some of those friendships ‘take’ and become permanent? I have no idea. Many friendships seem to end when the shared activity stops – you change jobs, your kids graduate or find new friends, you leave the club, whatever. I’ve had so many friends like this it blows my mind. I’ve often wondered why we lost touch. Why was it that that particular person or couple slipped away? We were so close!

72-dock-marina-serenity-curley-09222016_016

But some friends do stay with you and ripen into wonderful ‘old friends’. I’ve never been able to tell which friendships will last and which won’t. In the mid-late 1980’s I was redecorating my house from top to bottom. I spent two years working closely with my decorator and we became friends. At around the same time, my daughter became friends with a girl in her kindergarten class and I became friends with her Mom (and Dad as well – we also socialized as couples). Those friendships lasted all the way through high school – 12 years. Who am I still close with 30 years later? The decorator. The Mom still lives five minutes away from me and we haven’t even talked in years and years. The decorator moved out-of-state more than 10 years ago but we’re still the dearest of friends.

For many years, Tom and I had a group of friends who shared a dock with us at the marina where our boat lives. We were crazy close. We traveled together with our boats, partied all summer, and had gotten together regularly over the winter. Gradually, boats left the marina, people moved away and most of them disappeared from our lives. Only one friend remains out of at least six or eight couples. I was heartbroken that the ‘gang’ dispersed into the ether.

72-marilyn-marina_063

I think friendships like these end because of some odd combination of laziness and busyness. When you no longer share that situational ‘bond’, you’re not thrown together. You have to make more of an effort to see each other. Obviously, if you haven’t developed a strong emotional connection that transcends your ‘situation’, that won’t happen.

Also, people are busy. Between work, family, and other friends, time is at a premium. If you’re not at the top of someone’s ‘priority list,’ you lose. The common ‘bond’ was what got you to the top of the list before. Now, unless you have a personal bond or you forge a new one that shoots you to the front of the line – you’re toast. You just don’t fit into the new reality of your former friends’ lives.

72-Tom&Ellin-ct-Marina_18

I have to admit, I’m hypersensitive. I take it at least a little bit personally whenever someone drops out of my life. But, I don’t lose sleep over it either. I’ve learned making and keeping friends has as much to do with timing as anything else. Like romantic relationships, some things are not meant to be. Fortunately for me, many wonderful friendships have blossomed, lasted, and enrich my life today.

Now that we have encountered a world with a plague we never imagined possible, I suspect there will be more losses of friends and groups of friends. There will be people who don’t want to go out. I have heard that is beginning to happen to people my age in other places. I’m hoping we are not among them.

EXTRACTION FROM THE MIRE OF THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

The endless recitation of woes on blogs I used to enjoy is giving me a headache. It’s not a lack of personal sympathy. It’s more like emotional exhaustion. So many people seem to be stuck in the mire of misery that began in childhood.

Don’t they want to move on? The quagmire of despair has become comfortable. They have moved in and made misery their home. Some of these bloggers continue exploring the depths of their suffering for hundreds — thousands? — of posts. Many are closing in on Social Security yet are still suffering from childhood trauma. So much for time casting a rosy haze over the past.

There ought to be a legal cutoff date at which point you are required to close the book on whatever awful experiences life has dealt you. At some point, there ought to be a law forcing you to come to grips with your rotten childhood and terrible former relationships. Or at least be required to find another subject about which to write.

we are not our mistakes

I know lots of people who were abused as children. I was. My brother was. Many of the people to whom I sold or gifted my book had never been able to talk about it before.  I helped more people to be able to talk about it. It was a big deal for me.

Because we don’t talk about it. We act like we are the guilty parties. It seems that more folks than not grew up in dysfunctional families … and each dysfunction was different than any other. And anyway, who hasn’t had a terrible relationship or three?

I plead guilty on all charges, your honor.

It was my first husband (before you ask, he was the one who died) who gave me a Gibbs slap and got me to get it together. This was before my second marriage, the one in which I managed to step in front of the same bullet I’d previously dodged.


Note to Self: We never get too old to act like morons.


Jeffrey didn’t have a storybook childhood either (who did?), so he had his own issues to resolve. One day, when I was going on about my father he said: “You know, you’ve told me these stories before. Several times. Maybe it’s time to move on.” It was good advice and I wish he’d taken it.

You have to want to move on. It took time and work, but I’m glad I did it. There have been plenty of new traumas and I doubt I’d have survived if I hadn’t cleared the decks. Nowadays, I’m overloaded. I cannot bear to read another angst-laden tale of abuse and emotional trauma. I’m aware is its, was awful.

Been there. Survived. I support all efforts to free oneself from the lingering effects of the past are hard. We are so stubborn about the bad stuff we’ve gone through. Why is pain so much clingier than good times? There’s enough misery to go around without adding more.

For all of us, maybe it’s time to stop defining ourselves as the worst times in our lives.

  • We are not what others did to us.
  • We aren’t our mistakes.
  • As much as we have suffered, we’ve also found fun, joy, friends, love. It’s just so much easier to remember the pain.

We empower misery and dismiss happier times.

Misery is like a piano falling on your head; happiness just creeps up on you. The result? Long after the people who hurt us have disappeared from our lives, they are still beating us up.

Let’s celebrate the good times. Who couldn’t use a few good laughs? Especially now. I was SURE today was Thursday. It’s Wednesday. By Sunday, it might be next month. Who can tell?

2020 WON’T BE ANYONE’S FAVORITE YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

I had a favorite year and it was 51 years ago. Hard to believe because it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago.

Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I was a new mommy. Home with the baby, I had time to see it. We watched it on CBS. Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there. On the moon. He could barely control his excitement, almost in tears, his voice breaking with emotion. The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest.

woodstock-1

Woodstock was a month. Friends had tickets and were planning to go. I was busy with the baby and wished them well.

I was young, healthy. I just knew we would change the world. Make the world better. I was still of the opinion the world could be changed. We saw the future brightly and full of hope.

How could we — in a mere three years of The Trump Dump — manage to watch a lifetime of our generation’s effort vanish? I remember crying when Obama was elected and now we have this bombastic idiot tearing down everything we thought we’d accomplished. And I’m crying again at all the good, torn to shreds by one evil guy.

From 2016 until today, we’ve discovered the fragility of our democracy. In the face of a viral plague, watching this madman destroy our clean water and air and ignore the cries of the Earth. Tears apart our relationships with our allies and the rest of the world.

Take me back to a better time and place where I am young enough to hope for great things to come in my lifetime. Will life be better again in another 51 years? Will it be better next year?

THE REAL BEGINNING – GARRY ARMSTRONG

As much as I hate telephones, I loathed pagers. I was, admittedly, spoiled by years of minimal interference in the field. We did the usual schtick on the 2-way. Hand over mouth responding, “We can’t hear you. You’re breaking up. We’re headed to the story. No landlines. Sorry, can’t hear you”.

There was one phone call where I almost blew a major story and probably would have also blown my career at the same time. I was still working for ABC Network in New York. One night, around 3am, having just gotten home from a late shift and making my way home from Manhattan to Long Island. I took the call with an obvious attitude. The voice at the other end was nonplussed.

“Garry, don’t pull any of your BS. You really want to hear this call.”

Heavy breathing from me.

“Garry, don’t be a jerk.”

More heavy breathing.

“This is a good one! They want to send you to Vietnam with the team …” In essence, they wanted me to go as a grunt back-up to the A-list correspondents. President Johnson was in Vietnam and something “big” was expected.

“Are you serious or is this a bad joke?” I finally asked.

“No joke, Garry. They like your ballsy attitude and think you’ll be a good fit with the ‘old guys.’”

“Jeezus H. Christ,” I answered.

“Yeah, Garry, that’s right. Grab some of your old Marine gear and get your ass in ASAP. There’s a debrief and then you’re on a special flight to Saigon.”

“Okay, thanks for the heads up, round eyes.” Laughter on both sides of the call. I grabbed some of my old gyrene gear and headed to the door.

My mom yelled, “Garry, where are you going, NOW?”

“Mom, I’m going to Vietnam. Call you when I can. Love you. Bye.”

I heard Mom yell, “What?” as I headed out the door and into an exciting new chapter in my life. Glad I took that call.

SMILING FACES, SOUR CHERRIES – Marilyn Armstrong

Bad days are like sour cherries. Even in a great batch of fruit, you hit some duds. As you munch, you’re going to get some berries that are overripe, sour, or bitter. You bite into them, make a face, and put them aside. You don’t eat them because they don’t taste good.

Life is like this. Day follows day. Some days suck.

The past couple of years have been difficult. Too many bad days, too many days of feeling helplessly enraged by events far beyond my control. Too much anger in me and in the air and all around. Too many prices going up while our incomes never change.

I suppose I could have smiled on through, but I didn’t want to, any more than I felt like eating sour cherries. I had a right to be angry and saw no reason to pretend otherwise.

Was I wrong?

I don’t think so. People who care about us will cut us some slack. Leave us emotional space to get over what’s bothering us and what’s more, they should. You’d do it for them, wouldn’t you?

The whole “stay positive” thing is out of control. If the proponents of permanent smiles are to be taken seriously, no one will ever frown again. No tears, no sadness, no anger. Ever. There will be one acceptable emotion. Happiness. We will all wear a Happy Face. Happy, happy, happy. No matter what. Has anyone read or seen The Stepford Wives?

Original 1960 George of the Jungle cartoon

So, what’s your problem? Losing your home to foreclosure? Got cancer? Heart Disease? No job? No prospects? Don’t be mad or sad. You’ll be fine. No matter what those doctors are saying, no matter that you don’t have a place to live. Or a life. Or a future.

According to the proponents of Happy Face, no problem is so big it can’t be overcome with a positive attitude and a bright smile. I’m betting most of the people who believe in Happy Face have never confronted an intractable problem. One day, their fake smiles will catch up with them. They will crash and burn. The corners of their mouths will turn down and their faces will shatter on impact.

I’m not suggesting we all walk around sneering, sulking, and grumpy, but we need to be allowed to express what we feel. Otherwise, life becomes a total fake.

GREAT TEACHERS: A VERY LONG DEFERRED THANK YOU – Marilyn Armstrong

In the course of my school days, I had a handful of great teachers to whom I will be eternally grateful. They taught me to learn, to love reading, to make up stories and write them down. To write non-fiction that was complete, accurate and unbiased. To find humor in physics. To love history, religion, archaeology, philosophy and the mysteries of our world.

They encouraged curiosity, imagination and creative thinking.

This is P.S, 35. It’s still there, but I’m not.

Mrs. Schiff, a 4th-grade teacher at P.S. 35. She suggested I write “diaries” of historical people and put myself into their worlds. Thank you. You encouraged me to write and find other worlds.

Dr. Silver, who taught English Literature and Linguistics at Jamaica High school. He forced me to parse sentences and respect punctuation and grammar while making me laugh. His doctorate in Linguistics helped him make our language intriguing, like a giant mystery to unravel. I’m still unraveling it.

Dr. Feiffer — my high school physics teacher — taught me, the least mathematically inclined student ever, could be fascinated by science. I never got together with numbers, but I learned to love science and I still do. The logic of it, the truth of it, the importance of it have stayed with me an entire lifetime.

Professor. Wekerle, head of Hofstra University’s Philosophy department. He believed in me. He taught phenomenology, History of Religion, Philosophy of Religion, but more importantly, saw through my bullshit. The first — and ONLY professor to give me a grade of D-/A+ … D- for content, A+ for style. He didn’t let me get away with anything. He made me fill in all those leaps of logic even though I whined vociferously that “everyone knows that stuff.”

Hofstra in 2014

Wekerle said “No, they don’t. You know it. Now tell them about it.” And I did and from that, I extracted a 40-year career.

I got what so much from these overworked and underpaid teachers who were dedicated to teaching dunderheads and wise-asses like me to think, write, research and love learning. Bless them all. The gifts they gave me were precious beyond words!