STILL LIFE WITH RIPE PEACHES – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Still-Life (sort of)

Still-life for me is usually cherries. Why cherries? Because they are round, red, and delicious. But Nancy already did cherries and I cannot do better.

So I went with peaches. Ripe (almost) ready to eat. Not quite ready. Maybe tomorrow.

Peaches

RIDING IT OUT – Marilyn Armstrong

For almost two years, I’ve barely used the chair lift. I was glad it was there and it was useful for hauling groceries and suitcases upstairs and that was good for both of us. But lately, I’ve started using it. I realized there was absolutely nothing to be gained by dragging myself up two staircases, gasping, wheezing, with heart pounding.

Although I can —  and do — get up and down the stairs, it’s slow and getting slower. It’s more than a bit nerve-wracking too. It takes me a while to take that first downward step (up is easier) and I’m always sure I’m going to fall. I have fallen a lot over the years, including when I was younger. I can’t seem to find my balance going down.

One step at a time and carrying packages, stairs are impossible and dangerous. Riding up and down the stairs takes the fear and pain out of the process of getting in and out of the house. I’m okay walking on the sidewalk and the floors, but the stairs put such a strain on my lower spine and hips, I went from feeling okay to feeling ready to collapse.

It was time to actually use the chair lift.

Not only is it a way to get upstairs not on my feet, but it ‘s also possible to get someone in a wheelchair into the house and up to our living level. Before that, we’ve had to tell anyone with disabilities that our house was unready for them.

I reached the end of assuming that I’m going to get better and the stairs won’t be as difficult. Asthma is worse, probably because it’s untreated and my spine is worse, especially at the S1 juncture which was never fused — unlike the three discs above it. The pressure on the spinal cord is serious and unlikely to improve. There’s no exercise that will improve it.

It’s my final nod to the realities of my life, the “giving in” to the pain as something that won’t get better. The new drugs I’m taking help quite a bit — as long as I walk on relatively flat ground. I can climb a little bit if I am very careful. I can cook and clean in the house and if the ground is not rough, I’m mobile. To a point.

When I’m tired, I have to take it seriously. I need to stop and rest. When I do that, I don’t fall apart and I stay reasonably well. No amount of goodwill, determination, or optimism will change the condition of my spine. I think not hauling myself up and downstairs will probably marginally improve my mobility.

I cannot begin to tell you how much this isn’t what I envisioned for my life as a senior. I was planning to be a dashing senior. Like in the movies. Gray and wise, but ready to do it all.

Sometimes giving in is the right thing to do. I wanted to force myself to be that snazzy senior I imagined. Overall, I think it’s better if I stay alive and able to move!

MY GRANDMOTHER’S EARLY YEARS – By Ellin Curley

My Grandmother, Sarah, grew up in Minsk, Russia. Her father was one of the very few Jews there who were allowed to do business with the Russian Gentiles. Therefore he was relatively well off. Grandma remembers her mother taking baths in milk. Her mother was an aloof, Grande Dame and was treated like a queen by her family.

In order to stay in the good graces of the Christian Russians he dealt with, her father adopted their pro-Czarist beliefs. My grandmother, from early on, was an active socialist and anti-Czarist. She often clashed with her father over politics. The tension with her dad came to a head when Grandma took her mother and sister to a socialist rally with her. The rally was a set-up and was raided by the Czar’s troops. The troops crashed through the crowd killing and beating as many people as they could. Grandma was saved by a dead body falling on her and hiding her from the troops.

Grandma and her family in Russia. She is the little girl in the front between her parents

Grandma and her family made it home safely. But her father was livid that Grandma had exposed his beloved wife and favorite daughter (grandma’s sister) to such danger. It was decided that Grandma should move to America, and take her younger brother, Abe, with her.

Grandma and Abe had first class tickets on the ship to America. But Abe lost the tickets and last minute steerage tickets had to be procured. Grandma was not happy with her hapless brother. When they arrived in New York City, they were taken in by relatives who lived in the tenements of the Lower East Side, the Jewish section of the city. They were penniless.

To earn money, Grandma worked in a sweatshop, similar to and down the street from the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That factory caught fire in 1911 and trapped and killed 146 garment workers, mostly young, immigrant women. It was the worst industrial disaster in city history. So many lives were lost because doors had been locked and exits blocked to keep workers from taking unauthorized breaks or stealing. The tragedy spurred the passage of safety laws for factories. It also spurred the birth of the labor movement and the creation of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union.

Sarah and her brother Abe

Grandma knew some of the girls who were killed in the fire. She became active in the pro-union movement. In later years, she would take my mother, even as a child, to union rallies and to speeches by socialist and union leaders.

Grandma met a first cousin of hers, named Abe, who had also recently immigrated from Russia. They were actually half first cousins because Grandma and Abe’s mothers shared a father but had different mothers. They married after a short courtship.

After my mom was born, Grandma took in sewing to make extra money until Grandpa could earn enough money to support the family. When my mom was still a young child, my grandfather, a hypochondriac, spent all the family money on fake cures and treatments. He also went to stay in special treatment “spas”, for long periods. During this time, Grandma took in boarders as well as sewing to make ends meet.

At one point she fell in love with a wonderful, socialist teacher who was boarding with her. But she refused to leave grandpa to go with this man. Her marriage to grandpa was adversarial and volatile. They had no interests in common and one was a socialist and the other was a Republican. Not a good relationship. But divorce was not acceptable in those days so grandma stayed.

When all their money ran out, Grandma and Mom had to move in with relatives. They had to go from one relative to another, sharing beds with different family members until Grandpa came back and started to make money again.

Grandma and Grandpa with my mom when she was about two

From that point on, Grandma was financially comfortable but never happy in her marriage. She was a devoted mother and grandmother. Her parents immigrated to America and settled in Stamford, CT. Her father became a respected rabbi and teacher there. Grandma was a devoted daughter as well till her parents’ deaths.

Grandma was also active in pro-Israel organizations and was a founder of the Women’s League For Israel. She was also on the board of many other Jewish charitable organizations.

Grandma was a huge influence in my life. She encouraged me to fight for justice, freedom and equality whenever and however I could. She never lost her passion for liberal causes and passed that on to me. Thank you, Grandma!

A LONG LIST OF QUESTIONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME – Marilyn Armstrong

Not sure of where these came from other than Melanie. Does it really matter? So, for Melanie, answers to questions that have to do with someone else’s life, but very little to do with mine.


QUESTIONS:
This is a list of 72 questions. Number 15 was missing, so I renumbered the list.

1. What’s your usual Starbucks order?

Never been to Starbucks, but I don’t like their coffee. It isn’t “dark roasted.” It’s burned.

2. What does your workstation look like? 

What workstation?

3. Favorite food? 

Japanese.

4. Favorite author? 

Too tough to call.

5. What do you think of open relationships? 

Been there. Done that. It has good points and bad ones. This is much too complicated for a simple answer.

6. What is your favorite video game? 

Bridge.

7. Guilty pleasure treat? 

Fresh fruit.

8. Favorite movie? 

The Lion in Winter (the original)

9. Favorite book? 

Too many.

10. Twitter or Instagram? 

Neither.

11. Desktop or laptop? 

Laptop.

12. Best advice you’ve ever received? 

Take care of yourself. If you don’t do it, no one will (Author: My mother)

13. What project are you working on right now? 

I’m not. Unless you count blogging.

14. Favorite color? 

Lapis blue.

15. Dream job?

Did that already. Retired and planning to stay that way.

16. Play any sports?

Not any more.

17. Do you have a degree?

B.A. in something. I used to want to frame it and put it up over the sink so I could look at it while I washed dishes. But I lost it, so now, I can’t even prove I went to college. Not that anyone cares. Even I don’t care.

18. Nationality? 

American.

19. What is your favorite kind of blog post?

Something with an idea in it. Or great pictures. Or makes me laugh. Historical too.

20. What do you like to collect?

Nothing. I’m over-collected.

21. Describe yourself in three words?

Busy yet retired.

22. If you were a rapper what would your stage name be?

I would not be a rapper. By any name.

23. Who was the last person you DMed? 

What’s a DM?

24. What’s on top of your wishlist right now?

Winning a lot of money. I probably should cash in my lottery ticket, but I think I lost it.

25. Sorting house? 

What?

26. How many tattoos do you have? 

One. A big one. On my left calf.

27. What are you most grateful for this year? 

Being here. For another year.

28. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month? 

Owen fixed the hole in the back door.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today? 

I remembered to give the dogs their heartworm medicine. Now I have to ORDER medicine.

30. What’s the best thing ever? 

For who? Me? Garry? Dogs? Friends? Seriously EVER?

31. Favorite season?

Fall.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

32. Favorite holiday?

Christmas. I like the music.

33. What fictional character do you relate to most? 

Rachel Morgan.

And in the mid-October, we have autumn on the Canal

34. Do you like surprises?

It depends. What KIND of surprise?

35. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had? 

Garry wanted to get married.

36. Which surprise made you cry? 

If it made me cry, it wasn’t a surprise. It was something else.

37. What’s the best surprise you’ve given somebody else? 

Getting Garry a subscription to the Baseball channel.

38. Do you like muffins? 

Real muffins or the kind they sell at Dunkin Donuts? Because those are cupcakes, not muffins.

39. Do you cook often? 

Every fucking day.

40. What’s your favorite dessert? 

Ice-cream and fresh strawberries.

41. Is there a dessert you don’t like? 

Anything excessively sweet.

42. Cake or pie? 

Pie.

43. What’s your least favorite food? 

Snails.

44. What’s your favorite condiment? 

Za’atar.

45. It’s 4am on a random Saturday. What are you eating? 

I’m not eating. I’m sleeping.

46. If you could teach a college class what would it be called? 

How to survive all the things nobody warns you are going to happen.

47. Best animated film? 

Fantasia 1 and 2.

48. What has a guy done or said to impress you? 

Garry married me. I was impressed.

49. The best thing to do on a first date? 

First date? Do you realize my first day was 56 years ago?

50. The worst thing to do on a first date? 

That was also 56 years ago.

51. What’s the best pick-up line?

I love you. Let’s get married.

52. Best comic book character?

Superman.

53. Name three things which can always be found in your wallet.

Credit cards.

54. Favorite drink? 

Coke or Ginger Ale. It’s a mood thing.

55. If you could play a historical character in a movie who would it be?

Eleanor of Aquitaine.

56. Kittens or puppies?

Neither. I like cats and dogs.

57. Favorite sushi roll?

Wanakura’s special roll. it has EVERYTHING I love on it, from crab to tuna and then it’s cooked like tempura.

58. What lipstick do you use?

I don’t.

59. What foundation do you use?

Skin.

60. Blow-dry or air dry?

Air unless it’s really cold and I’m going out. I don’t want my wet hair to freeze on my head, so then I’ll blow-dry it.

61. Who is your fashion icon?

A fashion what?

62. Favorite Disney Character?

Minny Mouse. She doesn’t get any respect.

63. What are you doing tomorrow?

Nothing.

64. Movie you laughed the hardest through? 

Young Frankenstein.

65. A movie that made you cry?

Something with animals. I cry at all of them.

66. If you could sing a duet with anybody, who would you choose? 

Myself. Alone. In the shower.

67. If your life was a song what would the title be?

We Didn’t Start the Fire

68. What’s your favorite animal?

Horses. Dogs. Cats. Parrots. Ferrets.

69. Favorite illustrator?

John Tenniel

70. The person you’d like to have coffee with?

Anyone I like

71. What country would you like to visit?

England, New Zealand, and Japan

72. Best way to decompress?

Read a book! Or write one.

WHEN THE STARDUST RUBS OFF – Marilyn Armstrong

There was a piece on NBC’s Sunday Morning show about a guy who always wanted to be an NHL goalie. He never made it. Instead, he wound up as the equipment manager for a Carolina team. He wasn’t a player, but he got to hang out with them, be part of the team. Then, one day, the goalie was injured. They needed a backup goalie.

72-Peacham-Monday_022

Not even enough time to call one up from a minor league team … he got the call. Mostly, he sat on the bench, though he got to sit there in a full goalie’s uniform with his name on it. And for the final 7 seconds of the game, he was a player. He didn’t make the goal that saved the game and no one offered him a contract … but he could finally say he’d played in the NHL. As a goalie. His dream came true.

Most of us have dreams and occasionally, they come true. Or very close to true.

alfred_eisenstaedt_kiss_v-j_day_times_square_
V-J Day in Times Square, a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was published in Life in 1945 with the caption, “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers”

I got to hang out with Alfred Eisenstaedt on Martha’s Vineyard and talk to him about his photographs I had bought several books of his pictures (we eventually owned several of his actual pictures) and he went through the books, looked at each picture and could tell me what film he used, which lens, camera … and most important, what it was that inspired him to shoot that picture in that way.

About his arguably most famous “street shot” of the sailor kissing the lady in white on V-J Day in Times Square in New York:

V-J Day in Times Square (also known as  V-Day and The Kiss) portrays a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger—a woman in a white dress—on Victory over Japan Day (“V-J Day”) in New York City’s Times Square on August 14, 1945. I asked him how he got the shot.

He said “I was walking around Times Square with my Nikon. Everyone was celebrating, and I was looking for something special, I wasn’t sure exactly what. Then, I saw the sailor in his dark outfit kissing the woman in white. I swung my Nikon into place and just shot. I had the right lens, the right film. It came out well, I think.” Yes, it came out well. Very well.

I will never get that picture or any picture like it because I can’t “just shoot.” It’s not for want of trying. I see a shot, but I stop to think. One second of thinking is more than enough time to lose the shot. In a second, the hawk takes to the air and the kiss is ended. That special look on his or her face vanishes.

In short, I think too much to be a good street photographer. Fortunately, I think just enough to be a pretty good landscape photographer. Even a sunset moves slowly enough for me to get a few pictures before it goes to black. Which is why I always carry a camera.

Blogging has given me other pieces of my dreams. I didn’t become a best-selling, world-famous author, but I have gotten to chat with authors whose work is best-selling and widely read. And who I admire. Every once in a great while, I get a “like” or a “tweet” from a favorite author. I’m as thrilled now as I was the first time I made contact with one of my favorite authors.

I suppose I hoped by being in contact with greatness, a bit of the star-dust will rub off on me

THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN AT RIVER BEND – Garry Armstrong

Wildflower Garden at River Bend – 08/05/19

River Bend is all about “wild.” So, not surprisingly, the gardens are entirely made up of wildflowers. I took a few pictures of them. The gardens are peaceful and the bees are always busy within.

The wildflower garden at River Bend

FAMILY PHOTOS – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

It was a lovely day and we went to take pictures. But there wasn’t anything going on in the parks. It was hot — as it has been all month — and everyone is staying home with their air-conditioning.

So we took pictures of each other. We were, after all, the only people there.

Garry, upward
Marilyn
In black & white
Figuring out why the lens isn’t zooming
Garry
On the green lawn
Still Garry
Finally, a proper focus!

We got some nice pictures, but our plans for a cool day didn’t work out all that well. Our car ONLY went up to 99 degrees and after we started driving, it dropped down to 92. Not exactly comfortable. But we keep hoping and they keep promising!