Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just a Second

As I write this, less than ninety minutes remain in 2008. At the stroke of midnight, a new year begins.

Isn’t it amazing how much difference one second makes?

The time between 11:59:00 and 12:00:00 is only one second, yet in that instant we move from 2008 to 2009, from a year of campaigns to a year of a new President, from a year of economic difficulties to a year of potential recovery, from twelve months during which most of us did not stick to last year’s New Year’s resolutions to a year in which we try again.

Nothing physically changes when the clock strikes twelve.

Here in Maryland tonight, the wind is gusting to 40 miles per hour; at 12:00, the wind will continue to blow at 40 miles per hour. At one second before midnight, the sky will be dark; as the clock reads 12:00:00, the sky will still be dark. If your heart rate is 72 beats per minute, your heart will beat 1.2 times between 11:13:59 and 11:14:00 and it will also beat 1.2 times between 11:59:59 and 12:00:00.

Yet as 11:59:59 becomes 12:00:00 tonight, a whole new year begins.

Jokesters among us will blink during that second then say, “hey, I haven’t seen you since last year.”

In that one second, many of the negatives we experienced during the last twelve months are erased and the door opens to a whole new world of positive possibilities. Even if we have never lost the weight we said we would in New Year’s resolutions in the past, it is possible we will lose the weight in the next year, so we make that resolution again.

Any dream we have could become reality: zero balance credit card debt, a clutter-free house, a new job, a new lover, world peace.

In just over one hour, that one second will flash across the Eastern Standard Time Zone in the United States. Millions of people will engage In a shared collective countdown: 10, 9, we watch our clocks or the readout on a TV screen, 8, 7, fiftysomethings see Dick Clark on TV and remark on how young he still looks despite the slurred speech pattern resulting from a stroke a few years ago, 6, 5, partygoers ready their champagne glasses as one brave soul prepares to pop the cork, 4, 3, some people are already asleep, viewing this as just another Wednesday night, 2, 1, but sentimentalists like me take a deep breath in that remaining second and shout …


Monday, December 29, 2008

More Merry Than I Expected

A few posts ago, I talked about holiday depression. I was having a particularly down day but speculated (hoped, actually) that it might be the only really depressing day of the season for me this year.

Fortunately, it was.

I won’t go so far as to say I’ve been joyous this holiday season, but I’ve been happier than usual. I followed some of the advice I’ve been given over the years – don’t over schedule, try to accept whatever comes, work on establishing new rituals to replace the ones form youth that we might miss – and it actually worked.

My wife and I have a few rituals of our own, including a making a big deal out of opening presents with the dogs and taking pictures of the proceedings. We went through this whole season without arguing about which lights to put where and which corner of which room to place the tree. We had a nice meal on Christmas day. I caught myself singing along with Christmas songs on the radio while driving home from work one day. And this past Saturday we spent the afternoon with some old friends of mine who were visiting the area.

So the season has been relatively jolly. Hope yours was too.

And New Year’s Day, my favorite holiday, is just two days away.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Kidless Christmas

We don't have kids, but my wife and I treat Christmas as if we did. See all of these presents? Most are for our three dogs.

Here is one of our dogs thanking my wife for all the great presents.

Here I am showing off a Christmas present from my wife, a 'coffee table' book of photographs by one of my favorite photographers.

Hope you have a great holiday, and if you don't happen to celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a great December.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Me Me Me

I think I discovered a reason for my temporary writer’s block. Basically, I don’t really like to talk about myself.

OK, people who know me in real life would laugh at that statement; I talk about myself way too much. But those conversations are held among a small circle of people I know. Blogs, by their very nature, are public forums in which people write about themselves. Subject matter can range from daily mundane activities to personal opinions about the meaning of life. Readership can range from dozens to millions.

Much of what I’ve written in this blog has been through the “life in our fifties” filter with the goal of sharing common experiences and offering explanations of our attitudes to other generations, using my life and observations as examples.

But my parents said we shouldn’t talk about ourselves. That presents an annoying inner conflict. I also recall being taught to keep my opinions to myself.

All of that adds up to a lot of second-guessing on my part.

Do I say my opinion or not? Does anyone really want to hear my opinion? Do I really want to hear anyone else’s opinion, especially if it’s a comment post in which someone disagrees with me?

On the other hand, engaging conversation based on disagreements in point of view is a very engaging form of communication. We learn and grow through that type of discourse. We discover that ours isn’t the only valid opinion. We learn how to bond and maintain friendships in spite of philosophical differences.

Back to my writer’s block. I could write about myself daily … endlessly. Most writing I do in my life is work-related and for other people. The writing I do here is for me. I even said something like that in my very first post: This blog might turn into a place where I express my opinion, for no particular reason other than that I can.

By the way, this is my 281st post.

So, to borrow from a Toby Keith song from a couple of years ago … “I want to talk about me, me, me, me, me.” Maybe this will cure my writer’s block.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Opinionated Journalist and Quick Reflexes

The White House Press Room can be quite contentious at times, but it's nothing compared to this scene in Iraq today.

I bet no American journalist ever threw shoes at a U.S. President.

Of course a few questions and observations come to mind:

- It was an Iraqi reporter who threw the shoes at President Bush. If he had thrown shoes at his country's leader six years ago, he probably would have been shot.

- A majority of American citizens dislike President Bush but most of them (us) would never consider throwing something at him. Like him or not, he IS the President and deserves respect.

- Some people have probably dreamed about throwing something at him.

- What will most people remember about the press conference - the message or the shoes?

- Bush has some damn good reflexes.

- What did the person sitting on either side of the Iraqi reporter think when they saw him remove his shoes?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow in New Orleans

THIS doesn't happen very often:

I grew up in New Orleans, and I only saw snow three times during the 27 years I lived there. One of those snowfalls set a record ... 5 inches. I've since lived in places where that would be called a dusting.

It snowed there yesterday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Temporary Writer's Block

I've been busier than usual at work and at home and paying more attention to my photo blogs than this one. Basically, my brain is a little tapped out this month, so I have had little to say.

But I'm still here, still alive and well. Thanks for asking.

Check back again soon. I know my creative spark is around here somewhere.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Calories and Tears

I’m holding back tears as I watch a TV documentary. I’ll tell you the subject matter in a moment.

Even my closest friends would be surprised to learn how emotional I really am. In most public settings, including work and family gatherings, I have a fairly steady, even temperament. I show emotion but not in an extreme way. My laugh isn’t hearty and I rarely cry in public.

But I experience holiday depression. From Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Day, that bundle of pent up emotion that a surprisingly large number of people deal with lives just below the surface of my exterior personality. It doesn’t take much to open the window and let it out.

I’m revealing this part of me in this somewhat public setting just in case you have similar feelings during the holiday season and need a little validation to prove you’re not alone or crazy.

I got through Thanksgiving week in a great mood this year. My sister and some of my cousins emailed greetings and a few old photographs to each other. These are the cousins who I spent nearly every Thanksgiving of my youth with. The photos and messages felt good. No tears, many smiles.

But this afternoon is another story. It is three days after Thanksgiving, cloudy, rainy and cold, much colder than it ever was in late November in my southern youth. I’m eating the last of the holiday leftovers, thinking about how my original plan to spend Thanksgiving with my sister in New Orleans didn’t work out, and watching the beginning of a documentary on television. It is a whimsical but fact-based look at the history of donuts.

Yes, donuts are making me cry.

The lead example this documentary uses to explain the world’s fascination with fried dough is the beignet, the only food item served at Café du Monde in New Orleans. I have probably been to that that famous outdoor café more than a hundred times in my life and often during significant, emotional moments. My earliest memory of eating beignets there was after a grandmother’s funeral. Dad took us there after at least three funerals during my youth. I spilled the powdered sugar beignet topping on a tuxedo after at least two proms in high school. In the years since leaving New Orleans, I have shared their café au lait and beignets with at least two girlfriends and a wife. I’ve dropped in solo. The strong coffee and calorie-laden beignets are major part of my life and viewing those sights and sounds have opened the emotion window.

This kind of reaction is a normal component of holiday depression. As adults we often try to recreate family rituals from our youth and the disparity between that attempt and current reality often leads to sadness rather than joy. There is nothing wrong with it and it is perfectly normal. Knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to cope with, however, but it is a good first step. Making your own rituals and traditions is another positive step toward reducing the sadness. Letting it just happen rather than kicking yourself in the butt is another good technique.

I used to feel sad for the whole six or seven weeks of the fall/winter holidays. My favorite two words were “bah humbug.” Scrooge had some serious holiday depression going on. Changing his current behavior and attitude after connecting with his happier childhood helped him feel better. A story like that could help me and you. A tasty beignet from Café du Monde would help too.

Fortunately my holiday depression doesn’t last long any more. This one afternoon incident might be it for this year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It’s Crazy

A stampede of people trampled him to death just inside of the entrance.

Does that sentence refer to a political demonstration gone bad? Restaurant patrons as they flee a burning hotel? A prison riot?


That sentence describes what happened this morning at a Wal-Mart in Long Island, New York as the doors opened at 5:00 A.M. for the beginning of the post-Thanksgiving Day sale. The investigation is not yet complete, but early indications are that a crowd of shoppers rushed the entrance, broke the glass doors, destroyed the metal door frame and crushed a young store employee.

That is just f-ing crazy!

I do understand why hordes of people would arrive for a 5:00 A.M. store opening to get bargains like a 50-inch plasma TV for $798 or popular DVDs for $9 each. Holiday shopping on “Black Friday” is a ritual that has been going on for decades; the prices are great and it’s nice to finish Christmas gift buying in one day, a month ahead of the big day.

But what bargain price justifies the kind of pushing and shoving that damages property and endangers lives? Did the first ten people through the doors take advantage of the $69 sale price on those 10.2 megapixel digital cameras?

Picture from a different store

The young employee who was crushed died at a local hospital an hour after the incident. He was a 34-year-old maintenance worker from a temp agency. A 28-year old woman who is 8 months pregnant was also injured, but she and the baby are doing fine. Early reports indicate that five other shoppers were also injured.

The day after Thanksgiving Day is called Black Friday because that day is typically when retailers reach profitability for the year … the day they ‘go into the black.’ For family and friends of the dead Wal-Mart worker, that term will forever mean something else.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Honey, Have You Seen My Hammer?

My Dad was quite the handy man and his workshop contained enough tools to supply a Home Depot. Those tools were his. Mom never touched them, nor did she have much interest in them. He had a specific plan for storing his tools and he always knew where each one was.

I have many of those tools myself now, his wish before he died, and I’d like to think those tools and others I acquired myself over the years are mine. I also have a plan for tool storage, but my wife is fairly handy with tools herself and she uses “my” tools all the time. Her plan differs from my plan and I often have to ask for the whereabouts of “my” tools.

So I was quite amused to learn that astronauts lost a bag of tools last week … in space! The bag floated away and is now orbiting the Earth on a path just ahead of the space station the astronauts were working on. In fact, if you look in the right place at the right time, you can see the tool bag’s trek across the night sky.

The contents of the orbiting tool bag? A couple of grease guns, a scraper tool and some large trash bags. The cost? $100,000. For a grease gun and trash bags?! Don’t they know there’s a sale at Home Depot?

By the way, the astronaut who accidentally let go of the bag of tools is somebody’s wife. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper is the lead space walker on this mission and her job is to clean and lubricate a jammed solar panel on the space station. Her husband is a NASA engineer in charge of the equipment used for her training. That means he is in charge of the tools. I guess their tool storage plans aren’t exactly in sync either.

Click for more:

The bag streaks by in the night sky.

The story on

Track the bag.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forty Five Years Ago

For those of who remember that day, it’s hard to believe it was forty-five years ago today. A young, vibrant, inspiring President who promised change (sound familiar) was gunned down in Dallas (hope that never happens to a President again).

Even though I was very young, I remember that Friday like it was yesterday. Today it took a Google search to find any media stories noting this sad anniversary. From my perspective as a fifty-something I can't believe it doesn’t get major coverage, especially on an anniversary ending in five (a number that usually garners memorial almost as much as zero-year anniversaries).

Maybe it is time to forget about John F. Kennedy’s assassination or to just relegate it to the history books and the Jeopardy home edition. If you’re at the leading edge of the baby boom, you were 17 years old that day and remember it well. If you’re a young Boomer, you were a baby and not even old enough to know there was something unusual about your parents crying in front of the television all weekend.

If you are Gen X or younger, the whole thing is something your parents talked about, sort of like my parents talked about the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. You know it is important, but it doesn’t really mean anything to you.

For me, November 22nd is right up there with September 11th as a significant day to remember.


If you’re interested, here are some of today’s stories, memories or commentary:

- Dallas television station report

- Boston Herald column

- Newseum

Here’s an excerpt from the Newseum story which shows how different news coverage was in 1963:

Journalists didn’t have laptops, digital cameras or cell phones four decades ago. But using typewriters, film and land-line telephones, they reported every breaking development — from Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was pronounced dead, to Love Field, where Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president, to the Texas Theatre, where suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.

Television networks carried nonstop, commercial-free coverage for nearly four days. Two days after the assassination, TV viewers who were tuned to NBC, the only network that carried live coverage of Oswald’s jail transfer, witnessed the first live murder on television when nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot the accused assassin at point-blank range. The following day, more than 93 percent of U.S. TV households watched Kennedy’s funeral.

- The Zapruder film of the actual assassination

And if you’re a TV news geek, watch these two videos. They are part of a series of videos showing uncut CBS television coverage that day as the story was developing. You’ll hear numerous references to “our CBS news correspondent Dan Rather” who was at the hospital but without live TV cameras.

- CBS News coverage segment part 6

- CBS News coverage segment part 7 (the famous scene where Walter Cronkite holds back tears as he reads the ‘official’ announcement of Kennedy’s death is near the end of this clip)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran’s Day

November 11th is an important day for anyone who has ever served in the military as well as for families of those veterans. We salute all who have worn the uniform, everyone from heroes on the battlefield to the soldiers who provided the most routine of services back home; those who are alive today and those who gave all for their country.

One veteran who holds a special place in my heart is my Dad. Although his enlistment in the Navy near the end of World War II was somewhat reluctant, he proudly served his country. He never saw combat but he certainly saw danger. The ship on which he was a radar tech nearly capsized in a typhoon in the Pacific, and the base where he was stationed in China was surrounded by people who weren’t always convinced that the war had really ended.

November 11th is also significant to my family because Dad died on this date a few years ago.

I don’t talk about this much, but I am also a veteran.

I was in the Army near the end of the Viet Nam war, but my service was totally unremarkable. Most of my time was spent safely in Louisiana and Texas, where I typed letters, moved furniture and swept floors. One enduring memory was the sad look on the faces of soldiers returning from that war; not the sadness of what they had endured but rather the ridicule they faced when they got home from fighting that unpopular war.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion of our current unpopular war, the men and women in uniform deserve respect for their service and fortunately, they usually get it. Those soldiers will be veterans one day and November 11th is their day. And ours.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Where Were They Then?

Curiosity in the fifty-something world often leads to the question, “where are they now?” But sometimes it’s interesting to see where some boomer celebrities were, say, twenty-five or thirty years ago.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was on television tonight. I have never seen this cult classic movie all the way through and until tonight I hadn’t paid much attention to the cast members. While watching it with my wife, I dug through a movie trivia book to answer her question about a cast member and was surprised to learn who was in the movie.

The lead character in Rocky Horror was played by Tim Curry.

I was aware of that and also knew he had a role in The Hunt for Red October starring Sean Connery.

The question that started this information search was about Susan Sarandon. I knew she was in the cast of Rocky Horror but didn’t realize she played a major role.

Here was the surprise. Do you recognize the actor in this scene with Susan Sarandon?

Here is a more recent photo.

It’s Barry Bostwick, known for many roles including that of the Mayor on the popular 1990s TV show Spin City. Rocky Horror was one of his first film roles; he played Brad Majors. His more recent work includes appearances on the television shows Law & Order: SVU and Ugly Betty and he will be in the Hannah Montana movie next year. He is also a regular host and singer on the PBS broadcast of the 4th of July festivities on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC.

Rocky Horror was one of Sarandon’s early movie roles; here is a scene from Thelma and Louise, one of her most memorable films:

All three of these actors have had and still have great acting careers. I wonder if they are ever embarrassed by their earlier roles.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Peggy Reunion – Accidental Friendships That Last Forever

How did you meet your closest, longest-lasting friends?

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful, three-hour meal, but it was the company not the food that made it so special. I hadn’t seen Peggy for thirty years. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Peggy is not an old girlfriend, but she is one of the key players in a significant circle of friends that were part of my life at the time I left home three decades ago to chase a dream. Our reminiscing reminded me of how random social connections can be.

For me, Peggy, Melanie, Sherry, John, Tommy and Jeanne formed the core of this group, which probably totaled a couple dozen people. As part of our catching up conversation, Peggy and I tried to remember how the people in this circle met each other. Peggy, Melanie and Sherry met at work. Melanie, Tommy and John lived in the same apartment complex when they first met. I’m not sure how Tommy and Jeanne met, but by the time I met them they were a married couple.

My connection to this group is just as accidental: we met at a pizza parlor. I was a DJ playing oldies in the backroom bar, perhaps the oddest job I’ve ever had, and they discovered me while waiting for pizza one Saturday. They became regulars and we all became friends.

It still amazes me how random and accidental these meetings were and how some of these interconnected friendships continue across time and distance. A little more randomness: Sherry, John and I all left Louisiana within a year of each other, heading for three different parts of the country. Sherry and John both eventually lived in the same part of California, where Sherry introduced him to Kate, his future wife. It turns out both John and Kate grew up in Illinois, they got married there and I made it to the wedding because by that time I was living in that area. Sherry might now be the best connected and organized of us all because she has managed to keep all of us in touch, even though she now lives in Hawaii.

Confused? I’ll spare you the rest.

The point is that some of our best lifelong connections begin accidentally.

Mobility is a boomer-era trend that conspires to separate lifelong friends; we keep moving across the country and around the world. But two boomer-era inventions help keep the connections alive: cell phones and the internet.

It is no accident that I am getting back in touch with old friends – it was a goal I set on my 50th birthday. Maybe it is no accident that after decades of individual personal growth and change, some accidental friendships continue to exist even though the original span of face-to-face friendship time was only a few years.

All philosophy aside, it was great to see Peggy again and to know that she is happy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Do We Believe Everything We See?

Have you ever seen this photograph?

Is it real or is it Photoshop?

This picture and others like it are often used to make a religious point. Maybe this one is supposed to mean God is on our side. I do not intend to discredit anyone’s religious beliefs, but I want to raise at least a small bit of skepticism. Photos can easily be altered.

The technology is both amazing and scary. That photograph can indicate some kind of sign from the heavens or it can document someone’s very creative photographic manipulation skills.

Have you seen THIS photograph?

Is it real or is it Photoshop?

As we age, shouldn’t we question everything in life? Politics, religion, a car salesman’s claim. Answers to questions may alter beliefs we formed in youth. We might change political parties, religious affiliations or favorite brand of car.

On the other hand, answers to questions might re-confirm earlier beliefs.

Either way, shouldn’t we ask the question?

We can’t always believe everything we see.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Your Last Minute

Do you ever picture your last minute? Where will you be when you take your final breath? Who is with you? How old are you?

I never really thought about death till my parents died a few years ago. Death was always some future thing. There’s plenty of time to do whatever I want to do. The end is for old people and I’m not old yet.

My parents, on the other hand, seemed to think about it a lot. The evidence isn’t so much in what they said but in how they planned for it. Dad purchased mausoleum space in the 1960s. He didn’t need it for another forty years. Mom moved in four years later.

Twice in my life I’ve witnessed a person’s last minute.

One person was my Dad. He expected death but he occasionally confessed some fear near the end, telling my sister something about seeing “the devil.” In truth, he had nothing to worry about because he had lived a long, by-the-book life, met nearly every goal he ever had and seemed to decide, in a short clearing of the Parkinson’s-related dementia fog, that it was time to go. He took his last breath with his wife and two children watching. His last minute included several smooth breaths assisted by a respirator, followed by two labored snoring-like spurts, then nothing. His eyes were closed. He was at peace, with his family at his side. The only thing that could have made this moment better was if he had been in his own bedroom and not a nursing home.

The other person was a construction worker, probably in his 20s or 30s. I watched in horror from my office window as he got caught in a crane cable, was pulled right off the open edge of the 6th floor construction site along with a steel beam and fell to his death. No plan, no thought, no warning. His last minute included fifty seconds of attaching a cable to a beam and a ten-second screaming freefall to a concrete parking lot. His eyes were probably open. The only thing that could have made that minute better was if it had never happened.

At fifty-something, my days fly by, wonderful friendships fade away; twenty-four hours isn’t nearly enough time to get everything done yet there seems to be no forward momentum in my life. I know I should live like there is no tomorrow because maybe there isn’t one. Yet I tend to do the same thing day in, day out. My job involves constant change but the process is very similar each day. My commute IS the same every day and it sucks, but it is the tradeoff for living where I live. I have many hobbies and interests but only time and money to pursue one at the moment.

Although my parents led relatively interesting lives for their time, they seemed to have fairly basic expectations: raise kids, work, eat, sleep, go to church, clean, putter around the house, retire. Their hobbies were interesting but always optional: Dad repaired watches and built things as a hobby and Mom painted landscapes on canvas.

Many Boomers, on the other hand, expect to lead interesting, full lives. We want jobs to be fulfilling as well as bringing home the bacon. We want interesting hobbies and active retirement that includes a second career doing what we might have always wanted to do but didn’t because we needed the steady job to fund all the other things we wanted in life.

We want to live forever. Death is not an option. St. Pete’s number isn’t in our Rolodex or Outlook.

And with no warning this week, I pictured my Dad’s final minute and wondered what mine would look like.

I tried to imagine Dad’s last minute from his perspective: did he know his family was with him in that room? Did he see us and think “I can go now?” I tried to imagine Mom’s last minute: did she know she was two hundred miles from home at the end of a hurricane evacuation odyssey with no family members in sight? Did she see a nursing home staffer’s face and think, “everyone I know is gone so it’s time for me to go too?”

If my last minute happened today, and my entire life played back in that sixty seconds, I’d be laughing, crying and wondering in amazement how this shy, straight-laced Louisiana Catholic kid born in the 1950s could have lived such an amazing life. But somewhere during that minute, I’d be screaming, “Wait! I’m not done yet! My bucket list is full of unchecked items!”

Sixty seconds? I want sixty more years!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Economic Perspective and a Fifty Cent Haircut

A good friend sent this to me.

These comments were made in 1955, just 53 years ago. If you’re 50-something, you might remember hearing your parents saying some of these things:

'I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20.00.'

'Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2,000 will only buy a used one.'

'If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous.'

'Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?'

'If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.'

'When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage.'

'Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail haircuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long as the girls.'

'I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying DAMN in GONE WITH THE WIND, it seems every new movie has either HELL of DAMN in it.'

'I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas.'

'Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the President.'

'I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now.'

'It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet.'

'It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.'

'Marriage doesn't mean a thing any more, those Hollywood stars seem to be getting divorced at the drop of a hat.'

'I'm afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.'

'Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to congress.'

'The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.'

'There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend, it costs nearly $15.00 a night to stay in a hotel.'

'No one can afford to be sick anymore, at $35.00 a day in the hospital it's too rich for my blood.'

And last, but not least ...

'If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a haircut, forget it.'

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Issues or Fear?

I wonder if character attacks have always been part of politics.

Yesterday, Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” She was referring to Bill Ayers, a former 1960s radical with whom Obama served on a charity board in the 1990s.

Palin’s source of information about this connection was a recent New York Times article. What she failed to mention is what the article actually said … "A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"

In other words, in the absence of anything substantive to say about issues, Governor Palin makes up crap about an opponent to scare people. Serving on a charity board with a man whose past actions he detested does not add up to palling around with terrorists.

I could probably find as many reasons to vote against Obama as to vote for him, and none of them would have anything to do with religion, race or age. I think he is at least as ready to lead as anyone else who has become president in my lifetime; so is McCain. Palin is clearly NOT ready to lead.

We might not think much about Vice Presidents when choosing a President, but in my life time two VPs have become President before the end of their President’s term: Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford. Two other Presidents in my life time (Ford and Reagan) survived assassination attempts and their VPs could very well have been called on to become President.

Palin said in a speech (her VP acceptance speech?) that if the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were good enough for the Founding Fathers they’re good enough for her. Uhh, those words were added to the pledge in 1954! She also apparently doesn’t know that the Pledge itself doesn’t go all the way back to the Founding Fathers. Not everybody under 50 knows those two facts, but I expect the potential President to know at least that much about U.S. history, especially when citing those things to make a point about government.

Maybe we should pay more attention to Number Two than we usually do.

I wonder if Palin knows how to spell potato.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman Died

You could say Paul Newman was a guy who aged successfully.

He is most well-known for an acting career that spanned more than 50 years. Many of his movies are classics, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, The Color of Money (playing an older version of the same character), The Sting, The Verdict and Cool Hand Luke (my favorite). His voice was heard as the Doc Hudson character in Cars.

As he grew older, he also was a winning race car driver (till age 81)and his big smile and blue eyes grace the labels on a line of food products that not only raise money for worthy causes but taste good too.

More than a month ago he knew his time was short and he told his family he wanted to die at home. Yesterday, cancer killed him at age 83.

He is gone but his movies and sincerity will live on.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Knight? You’re Kidding, Right?

Blame this on more Boomer nostalgia or a Gen Y lack of creativity. Either way, it’s a Wednesday night TV time waster that won’t last a whole season.

NBC has a new version of Knight Rider, the 1982-1986 show with a “plucked-from-near-death and given a new identity” crime fighter Michael Knight who partners with futuristic tools like a computer-driven talking Trans-Am called KITT.

What’s the good news/bad news about the new version?

First, the bad. It’s even less believable than the original series. In one scene, the car turns into a truck … do they have to pay royalties to the Transformers creators for this idea? A car that can drive itself? In another generation, that fantasy will be reality – we’re almost there now. A talking car with personality? The original KITT was much more entertaining than the new one; in fact the original KITT (voiced by William Daniels, the same actor who played Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere) was much more entertaining than the original human star (played by David Hasselhoff).

The good news? KITT is now a Mustang.

That’s it. There is no other good news. And if you’re on the TransAm/Camaro side of that classic car debate, this isn’t good news. For me, it’s great. I always preferred Mustangs.

Does someone at NBC really think this show will last? Or is it just something to fill time on Wednesday nights before Deal or No Deal? Do they think this will create some fond memories for those of us who watched the original Knight Rider? It never was a great show, but it was entertaining. Is it for kids? Probably not, because in the 5-minute scene I endured, the lead villain that Michael is chasing cuts off the thumb of her passenger. For teens? Maybe; the lead villain is a hottie!

If 30-somethings at the networks are trying to snag Boomer viewers with nostalgia, don’t just copy the details. The thing that made KITT so interesting in the original wasn’t that it was a talking car; it was because KITT was sarcastic, naïve and funny, which are unexpected characteristics in computer-based language software. You could almost call KITT a role model for the Terminator or Star Trek’s Data – humanoids trying hard to pass for human. The new KITT is just a dry voice (played, by the way, by Val Kilmer).

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you might wonder if the producers of the new Knight Rider also produce the shows that play in that time slot on CBS and ABC. It might have been their worst idea, so they convinced NBC to take it so their other shows would do well. Just a thought. A stupid thought perhaps, but not any, uhh, stupider than the show itself.

Here’s another review of the show

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It’s Coming

Tick tick tick tick

It’s coming!

Tick tick tick tick

Nothing can stop it!

Tick tick tick tick

The signs are all there: earlier sunsets, nippy nights.

Tick tick tick tick

School busses …
Tick tick tick tick… and that sinking feeling I used to have on the first day of school and still have for a brief moment at this time each year when I first see school busses on the streets.

Tick tick tick tick

Nothing you or I can do will stop it.

Tick tick tick tick

At that precise moment, it will begin, silently, unobtrusively, with no measurable change from the moment before it happens. On Monday or Tuesday, depending where you live, it will arrive … fall, autumn, the autumn equinox, the day when night and day are exactly the same length.

I’m not ready for the coming darkness, the earlier sunsets, the higher heating bills. But I am ready for the cooler temperatures we’re already having in Maryland and for the fall color palette.

Tick tick tick tick

Yep, it’s coming.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Glory In The Flower

I love poetry, I write poetry, I know virtually nothing about poetry.

I can’t recite poetry from memory, not even my own poetry. The only poets I ever really paid attention to in school were Carl Sandburg and e e cummings, although I know I’ve been exposed to everyone from Longfellow to Thoreau to Langston Hughes.

But tonight I heard an amazing excerpt from something written by William Wordsworth. I’ll tell you where I heard it in a moment.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.

These words were spoken by a character during the final scene of a TV show called Criminal Minds. One of the plot lines running through this episode involved grief and loss. Hearing poetry on a television program is a surprise. Hearing something as eloquent as this, something that resonates so well with anyone who has ever dealt with loss, is beyond surprise.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mild Writer's Block

I promise I will write about something other than hurricanes soon.

There are several fifty-something issues floating around in my head ...
- changes in TV viewing (some of this decade's most talked-about shows like Sex In The City and The Sopranos never aired on the 'big three' ABC, CBS or NBC)
- generational workplace differences (boomers like process, twentysomethings live totally in the moment with no apparant thought about the next moment or the previous moment)
- cars almost drive themselves (everything from automatic traction control to that bell that yells at me when I don't buckle up, even though I'm only in my driveway)
- why do I need a home phone when everyone calls me on the phone in my pocket?
- do men really buy that hair color product that specifically covers only some of the gray?

Burning questions about aging, right?

I have a lot to say about all of that and other topics, but the words just aren't connecting with the keyboard this week. Maybe I should just speak my thoughts, record them and transcribe them.

More later.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Hurricanes Keep Coming

Last weekend it was Gustav in New Orleans. This weekend it's Hanna on the East Coast.

I bet the odds makers in Vegas are busy betting on Ike.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a little obsessed with hurricanes. I've been near them and in them and even ran away from a few of them. Most of my hurricane experience came from growing up in New Orleans, but I've also evacuated from a hurricane in coastal North Carolina and have been drenched by two since moving to Maryland.

Tomorrow morning I actually get to be one of the people on the radio dissemminating storm information. Fortunately I'll be home before the worst of the rain and wind gets here.

I have both fear and respect for hurricanes. In my youth I almost liked the adventure involved with getting ready for them. Not so much any more.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Jerry Lewis and Hurricanes

Today I was thinking back to some family traditions from my youth. One was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. I can still clearly picture the regular family gathering at Aunt Catherine’s house, with cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandma watching the telethon. I hear the sound of Jerry’s whiney but sincere voice pleading for donations, punctuated by occasional snoring from Dad or Uncle Denny during their post-meal snooze in front of the television. The entertainment on the telethon was incredible and because there were only three TV station choices, it was hard to ignore or forget the telethon.

I thought about this as I surfed past the telethon today. It is now merely one of nearly 100 program choices and I don’t recognize one single entertainer. I’m happy to see that they still can raise significant amounts of money for this great cause, even though the event is no longer a significant part of Labor Day weekend.

Hurricanes are another part of family tradition that is on my mind today. Because our neighborhood was vulnerable, we would usually evacuate to Aunt Catherine’s house when hurricanes approached New Orleans. She lived on slightly higher ground in a suburban neighborhood that was less likely to flood. My mental picture is of Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandma sitting around the huge dining table playing dominoes or cards till the power went out.

I still hear the sound of local TV meteorologist Nash Roberts in the background talking about wind speed and barometric pressure. He first appeared on TV in New Orleans in 1948, when there was only one TV station, and he was the first full time TV weatherman in the South to use radar on television weather reports.

He always warned of a specific hurricane path that could flood the city. Long after he retired, a hurricane named Katrina took that exact path, and for the first time in his life, he evacuated. He is still alive (age 90) and still well-known to baby boomers from New Orleans. (Click here to read or watch a recent interview with him)

So this Labor Day, from the safety of my Maryland home, I’m watching TV coverage of a hurricane moving in on the New Orleans area. My viewing choices include the traditional networks from my youth (NBC, CBS and ABC), several news networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox) and something no one could have imagined in the 1960s – The Weather Channel. And I can even watch live coverage from New Orleans TV stations on the internet.

I guess some traditions never die.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Years Later and Another One’s Coming

This weekend marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating attack on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. This is a weekend to remember but definitely not one for celebration.

Katrina is personal to me because I grew up in New Orleans and much of my family still lives there. An artist cousin lost a lifetime of his work to the flood and my sister lost most of her belongings, including a lifetime of family photos. At least her house survived, the house we grew up in, and she was finally able to return to a rehabbed version of the Dad-built structure this year.

Mom wasn’t so lucky. She died shortly after a stressful evacuation from the nursing home where she lived for her last four years. Her health wasn’t very good at the time and she might have died that day even without Katrina, but that doesn’t make us feel any better.

My sister's house in Oct. 2005, after the 1st day of cleanup

New Orleans is still a broken city. The tourist areas have recovered and those parts of town suffered less damage to begin with. However, many parts of town still look like they did right after the water receded. My sister’s neighborhood is slowly coming back, but vacant lots dot as much as a third of each block; houses that couldn’t be repaired were torn down, a sad but safe alternative to leaving them there in moldy squalor.

And now another hurricane is threatens New Orleans.

Same house in April 2007, part way through rehab. Note the vacant lots on either side

Some people wonder why anyone would live in an island-like city that sits three feet below sea level. I often wonder that myself, as I sit here perched on high ground thirteen hundred miles away. But if you grow up there, or spend extended time in the “city that care forgot,” you understand the attraction and comprehend the risk. San Francisco has earthquakes, Nashville has tornadoes, Chicago has blizzards; no place is totally free from natural disasters.

So this week the cycle begins again: watch the weather forecast, say some prayers, hope that places like New Orleans just get a little rain and wind. And if you live along the Gulf Coast, pack your “ready kit” and fill up the gas tank.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looks Good

Have you ever heard (or said) the words “she looks good for her age”?

A sentence like that is often spoken in reference to famous women over 50. If you are a woman (or man), famous or not, does it annoy you when someone says that? What if a fifty-something person looks good without that qualifier? Can’t someone just look good regardless of age?

I recently met a fairly famous fifty-four-year-old who looks good. Period! Without qualification or reservation. Remember the Mandrell sisters of music and TV fame, especially in the 1980s? This is Louise Mandrell, the middle sister.

She visited one of my radio shows recently to talk up a Christmas season show she is putting on in Nashville this year.

And she looks good. Great, in fact! Age has nothing to do with it.
By the way, she is also talented, friendly and fun.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pop Queen Turns Fifty

Even by today’s definition of fifty, Madonna doesn’t look fifty. But today, August 16, 2008, is her 50th birthday.

Called The Queen of Pop by some, she has been making hit songs since the 1980s, with twelve of them reaching Number One, and she has sold more than 63 million albums. Madonna was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year. In addition, she has been in more than twenty movies. Some sources say she is worth $400 million.

This was her look in 1985:

And she is still recording. One of her hits this year is “Four Minutes,” a duet with the 27-year-old Justin Timberlake. She holds her own vocally and visually. Here is a video of the song:

Happy birthday Madonna Louise Ciccone from Bay City, Michigan.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Boomerandomness 5

Here are a few random musings:

- XM Satellite Radio has a channel called Fred. And another called Ethel. I just got that. Doh!

- The price at my neighborhood BP station is down to $3.79/gallon tonight. Woohoo!

- “Did you really think the lane wasn’t going to end in ½ mile? 1500 feet? 1000 feet? 500 feet?! NOW!?!?” HONK!!! “Jerk!”

- What if you never bought an iPhone or a Blackberry? Would it matter?

- Do you remember when power steering, power brakes, power windows and air conditioning were expensive options on a car and not standard equipment? Do you remember a manual transmission shifter on the steering column and not the floor? Geez, you must be as old as I am.

- Do you remember when each candidate wasn’t chosen until during the convention? And this year do you sometimes wish they’d just skip the conventions and go right to the election?

- Thunderstorms can be mean and dangerous. But the sunset after a thunderstorm can be incredibly beautiful.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why Being 50 Is Good

The AARP Newsletter I read on my computer includes an article this week called “50 Reasons to Love Being 50.” I’m sure if I thought about it for awhile, I could find an equal number of reasons for hating this age, but I’ll save that for another post (or for a post that I’ll write but never share).

Their reason #36 is close to being my #1 … “we’re living longer.” The average American born in 1900 didn’t even make it to age 50. My parents, who were both born in the first quarter of the last century, beat the odds by making it to their 80s (Dad) and 90s (Mom). If genetics is a predictor, I’ve got a lot of time left. Even just going with the odds, someone who is 50 today will live to be at least 80, according to this article. I’m shooting for 100.

The article also says that love, sex and confidence are better, our brain is more efficient and we are less neurotic than we used to be (well, I don’t know about that last one).

But for me, the most important part of their article only ranks in the 30s on their list: “we are powerful.”

Here are the statistics that back this up (quoting reasons 30 – 35 of their 50):
- 41 percent of American adults are over 50, the highest percentage in U.S. history.
- 80 percent of Congress is over 50.
- Half of the Americans who voted in the 2006 elections were 50+.
- People over 55 own 77 percent of all financial assets in the United States.
- 50+ adults account for 45 percent of U.S. consumer spending, or $2.1 trillion per year.
- By 2011 the American 50+ population will surpass the 100 million mark.

So there you have it. Just when I thought 20 and 30 year olds were taking over, this article backs up the assertion I’ve made since I started this blog two years ago: Boomers rule the world!

To my twentysomething and thirtysomething friends and readers – you are welcome to have the world, eventually. For now it’s still ours. The good news for all is that some of the idealism we had when we were 20 and 30 will actually become reality when you’re in charge. The bad news is that it might take that long because we can’t seem to make it happen. For example, caring for the environment.

If you get a chance, read the article. Number 10 is embarrassingly cool, as are #s 8 and 14.

I’ll close this by quoting #48, which they’ve quoted from Maggie Friede of Quincy, Massachusetts: “Happiness no longer seems like an unobtainable goal—it can reside in a superb cup of coffee.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I haven't had much to say for a week, but I didn't want this blog to go dormant. So tonight I did what I usually do in this case: I dug through old posts in search of repeatables.

And I found this brief post from September 8, 2006:

Gas is only $2.75/gallon today! Woohoo!

I can't believe I'm doing mental hi-fives at the Exxon because gas is ONLY 2.75!! I'm happy the price is going down. I paid $3.09 per gallon at this same station just 2 months ago. I've paid as much as $3.59, shortly after Katrina.

But even $2.75 seems high. Only 20 years ago we were horrified that the price had crossed the dollar-a-gallon line.

So just two years ago, I noted that the highest I had paid for gas had been $3.59. Tonight I paid $3.96 at the same Exxon station that inspired the old post and thought: woohoo! - it's below $4 again.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Small Barely-remembered Step For Man …

Today, July 20, 2008, is the 39th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon.

Space geek kids of the 1960s like me make note of this date every year. The total absence of any mention of this anniversary in today’s Washington Post tells me that my claim that Boomers run the world might be in error. A quick scan of NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC and CNN backs up my observation that this scientific and cultural milestone isn’t considered news any more. (It is possible that one or more of those news networks might have mentioned it, but I haven’t seen any mention).

Two days before this momentous event in 1969, three thirty-something men were launched into space while the whole world watched on live television. There were no 24-hour news networks then, just three networks that still exist (NBC, ABC and CBS). All three pre-empted their soap operas and aired the launch live, with reporting and commentary by their star anchors, most notably CBS’s Walter Cronkite.

The only “moon” story on today is about Rev. Moon’s injury in a helicopter crash. The next closest Apollo 11 story is from two days ago; it is about a piece of the spacecraft being donated to a museum. A search of shows no story today and just some passing reference to Apollo 11 in a story about the bald eagle. I couldn’t find anything current on NBC sites either. did something on it a few days ago on the anniversary of the launch. Their story is mostly about Michael Collins, the “forgotten” astronaut on that mission; he’s the one who circled the moon in the orbiter while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took small steps for man and giant leaps for mankind on the grey, sandy lunar surface.

In my opinion, those first steps were an event that changed the world. Apollo 11 redirected in a positive way how we as Americans felt about ourselves and how the rest of the world looked at us. The successful voyage there and back was the culmination of a dream spelled out by a dynamic president years earlier, even though he didn’t live to see it happen. July 20th is a date that should be filled with celebrations every year. Maybe someone will notice next year on the 40th anniversary; our culture tends to acknowledge zero year anniversaries.

At 10:56pm tonight, the exact moment when Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and said “it’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” I’ll drink a toast to the event as I continue looking for the pictures I took of our TV as those moments were broadcast live. They’re around here somewhere.

Here is more information about Apollo 11:


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Geezin’ Tonight

I do a pretty damn good job of masking my age. If I didn’t talk about this blog to friends, they’d never know I’m even 50 yet, much less … well, you know. And I’m proud to say I’m not locked into or stuck in any era. My attitudes, music tastes, etc. run the full spectrum from then till now.

But after listening to country music all day at work and 30 minutes of alternative rock on during my ride home tonight, I surfed to the 60s channel on XM for a few moments of age-appropriate nostalgia.

And there it was …

Duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh; duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh …

That heartbeat paced jammin’ bass and organ line starts … Duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh; duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh … climbing the scale, the bass drum and snare kicking underneath.

Four bars in, that 60’s guitar soars in on top with the organ melody behind it, with the ever-present Duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh; duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh folding into a staccato drum bridge to Eric Burdon’s soulful voice:

When you complain and criticize
I feel I’m nothing in your eyes
It makes me feel like giving up
Because my best just ain’t good enough
Girl I want to provide for you
And do all of the things that you want me too

Oooooh oh no don’t bring me dowwwnn!!

By now I’ve cranked the sound as loud as I can stand it while driving, singing at the top of my lungs, cruisin’ somewhere between I-70 and high school.

Some music really sounds dated as the years unfold, but this song is just as cool to my fifty-something ears as it was in 1966. Hit ‘play’ below and tell me what you think, especially if you're thirtysomething and have never heard the song before.

... duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh; duh DUHH duh, duh DUHH duh …

Saturday, July 12, 2008

News and Age

Do you watch the news on TV? Do you read a newspaper daily? Weekly? At all? Do you listen to a newscast on the radio? How old are you?

If you’re over 50 you might remember when an average midsize city had three television stations and two newspapers. Add in news headlines on the radio and you get maybe ten news sources.

In some families like mine, watching the news was a daily ritual. The local news was part of dinner time, followed by national news delivered by Huntley, Brinkley or Cronkite. And at some point in my youth, there were two daily papers. Mom read both, daily.

Now with cable television and the internet, we have hundreds, maybe thousands of news sources, with the potential for timely updates 24 hours a day. Does anyone still use TV or newspapers as a source for what is going on? And is the source age-specific?

My impression is that younger people don’t care much about news (by news, I mean something other than the latest on Britney’s sister’s baby), and when they do care, they hit the internet for the details. I also assume older people care more about news but choose newspapers or TV for the stories. But I might be wrong about some of those assumptions.

A recent online AARP article says that “Forty-two percent of users 50 and older check the Internet for news daily or several times a day, compared to 18 percent of users under 20.”

Note that I’m over 50 and saw that story on the internet.

Keeping up with the news is still a habit for me and I still like turning pages with ink-stained hands. But I only buy a newspaper about two or three times a month. My main news source is television, followed closely by the internet. Most 20-somethings I know don’t care about the news no matter what the source, even though the same 20-somethings regularly use the internet on their cell phones and use texting constantly to spread the news within their own personal community.

Any thoughts on this from your perspective?

P.S. - I picked up a paper twice this week. A friend was profiled in a local daily paper and I was profiled in a local weekly. Both stories also appear online and I saw the online versions first. Both stories got much bigger play in the print versions; hers was front page in the Food section with several more photographs and mine was on the front page of the paper. And both stories were about blogs. Slow news week out here in the boonies I guess.

Monday, July 07, 2008

This Made Me Laugh

This message is on a baseball cap advertised on a Boomer web site:

What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it’s all about?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy 4th of July

This is a slight rewrite from something I posted two years ago. I still feel this way.

There is a great song by the country-rock duo Montgomery Gentry called “My Town,” which celebrates small town life in America. Their town is in the middle of Kentucky (Lebanon, population 5700).

My wife and I live near a small Maryland town (pop. 3500), less than 50 miles from the Capital of the Free World. As I watch Independence Day fireworks shows from a park in my town each year, I think of the lyrics in the song.

There's a "For Sale" sign on a big old rusty tractor.
You can't miss it, it's the first thing that you see.
Just up the road, a pale-blue water tower,
With "I Love Jenny" painted in bright green.
Hey, that's my Uncle Bill, there by the courthouse.
He'll be lowerin' the flag when the sun goes down.
And this is my town.

The story continues with images of a closed mill, a diner, and the crowds at church on Sunday. Life goes on, the kids grow up and have babies of their own. The storyteller buys the rusty tractor, paints it and proudly shows it off in his front yard. When you hear the song, you can picture the scene and recognize it as a part of the mosaic of lifestyles we celebrate every year on the 4th of July.

The Washington DC suburbs are slowly beginning to invade my small town, but the mentality is still more rural than urban. Many of the families watching the fireworks in the park each year are the children or grandchildren of farmers. The crowd in the park numbers in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands who witness the rockets’ red glare on the Mall in DC, but they are no less enthusiastic as they watch the modest fireworks show.

Even though I’ve been a city/suburb kid most of my life, I have grown to enjoy small town Independence Day celebrations with their red, white and blue saturation of the senses. Each year I experience the sound of a local country band, the scent of barbeque, the taste of home-made ice cream and the thrill of the grand finale: the fireworks show.

The rockets’ red glare! It doesn’t get more all-American than this.

Although I’m relatively private in how I show my patriotism, soaking in a small town 4th of July connects me with those things that make me proud to be an American. I encourage you to seek out a similar experience near where you live.

Happy Independence Day!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Fun Time-Waster Survey

I saw this on KJ’s blog a long time ago and have been saving it for a week when I don’t have anything else to say. This week, for example. Answer these questions on your blog and let us know where they are. Here are my answers.

If you could get a brand new car for free what kind would it be?
Acura TL 3.2

Have you ever lived in a trailer?

What is your favorite talk show?

If you could be another race would you?
probably not

What did you last color with a crayon?
can't remember

What is on your bed?
two of my dogs, snoozing on the lighthouse-themed comforter

What is your favorite thing to drink when you first wake up?

What is your favorite brand of shoes?

Have you ever been to jail?

Have you ever caught some one in a lie?

Have you ever flirted with a cop just to get out of a ticket?
This must have been written for women to answer. If I flirted with any of the cops I’ve met, they’d shoot me.

What do you think about clothes with polka-dots?
looks like a Target commercial

When you see a WAY overweight person does it gross you out?
I feel bad for them

Do you like to drink beer?

Ever broken your cell phone?

Do you rather write with a pen or pencil?
a roller ball pen

If you could have 1 thing for free right now what would it be?
round trip airline tickets for two to Hawaii

When is your birthday?
early in the year

What is your favorite color?
depends on what it’s on, but often it’s red

What do you do for a living?
make radio commercials

Where are you from?
New Orleans

What's your favorite food?
Chinese or Italian

Do you like snowy weather?

How often do you watch the news?

Do you prefer coffee or cappuccino?

Have you ever cheated on a test?
a few times in high school.

Are you on a diet?
not officially.

Have you ever had braces?
Yes, in my 40s

Have you ever had a root canal?

Do you have a good memory?
I have an annoyingly detailed memory for things relating to cars or first meetings

What is your biggest wish?
to know that something I did helped make someone feel good about themselves

What is your worst fear?
being ignored

Do you like rainbows?

Where is your favorite shopping place?
the internet or an Eddie Bauer Outlet

Where is your favorite vacation place?

Are you scared of the wilderness?
not especially

Have you ever been fired?
yes, more than once

How old were you when you shared your very first kiss?
real kiss? 17, I was a late starter. I made up for lost time later.

Do you like Astrology?

Are you scared of airplanes?
I love airplanes but I’m not a big fan of flying

Do you fear heights or the dark more?
the dark

Do you like junk food?
sadly, yes

Do you believe in God?
sort of, but not the God I was taught about growing up

What's your religion?
Unitarian Universalist

Are you scared of death?
I’m afraid of dying before I’m done all the living I want to do

Are you scared of needles?
I don’t like them at all

Are you paranoid of the police?

Do you follow or break rules?
a little of both

Cupcakes or soft baked cookies?
soft baked cookies

Sunday, June 29, 2008








Thursday, June 26, 2008

30 About 50

Sometimes you hear the phrase, “50 is the new 30.” AARP, the organization built for those past 50, prefers to say that 50 is the new 50. In other words, turning 50 is a good thing. It’s a time for looking at life differently, for taking new directions, for starting a new career, or, as in my case, returning to college.

Or to quote their January article on the subject, “it can mean the freedom and confidence to do whatever the heck you want—whether it’s to spend time with family, write children’s books, take to the stage in a corset, or, like Madonna, do all three.”

Here is a list of 30 people or organizations celebrating the big 5-0 this year:

-Madonna (August)
-Prince (June)
-Sharon Stone (March)
-Michelle Pfeiffer (April)
-Ellen DeGeneres (January)
-Prince (June)
-The Daytona 500
-the Hula Hoop
-Alec Baldwin (April)
-Jimmy Smits (July)
-The American Express Credit Card
-BankAmericard, now known as Visa
-Alaska as a State
-Deborah Norville (August)
-Shaun Cassidy (September)
-Marg Helgenberger (November)
-Jamie Lee Curtis (November)
-Jeff Foxworthy (September)
-The Grammys (Best Song: Volare by Domenico Modugno; Best Male Vocal Performace: Perry Como, Best Female Performance: Ella Fitzgerald)
-The Jolly Green Giant television ads debut (whose first version scared kids, so they lightened the color and added the ho, ho, ho)
-Kevin Bacon (July),
-Daniel Day-Lewis (April)
-Michael Jackson (August)
-The Chevrolet Impala

-"Look Ma, no cavities"(Crest ad slogan)
-Stereo records
-and last, but not least, AARP

Any surprises? Parts of this list might change your perspective on turning 50, especially if you are in your 30s … or if you’re 49.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Forecast Tonight: Dark

Does that title sound familiar? Here is the whole sentence: "The forecast for tonight, dark. Continued dark tonight, turning to partly light in the morning.” The line is from Al Sleet, the hippy dippy weatherman, a bit and character created and performed by the legendary comedian, author and free-speech advocate George Carlin.

Carlin died yesterday at the relatively young age of 71. He wasn’t a Boomer but his humor was central to Boomer life from the 1960s and 70s right up to this day. He was outspoken and painfully, brutally honest in his observational humor. He made you laugh and he made you think. He was funny!

Here are a few of his one-liners:

Electricity is really just organized lightning.

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

“I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?

George Washington’s brother, Lawrence, was the Uncle of Our Country.

If there is a heaven and he’s doing a show there tonight, he might have to rewrite this one: I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it.

George Carlin was also famous for the “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” And those words are … not going to be said on this blog. Amazingly, at least five of those words are regularly heard on cable television now, so maybe he opened the door for that to happen.

Here is a clip of one of his best observational pieces. This is actually a 1990 performance of one of his older routines. It is funny because it is so universal.

Sadly, the forecast for his brand of comedy is dark; and I don’t think we’ll see his kind of light shining any time soon.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Finally Did It

My vehicle shopping dilema is finally over. In a post last month I speculated that Boomers often choose vehicles that relate in some way to their identity. An additional observation: car buying was often a passionate endeavor. It still is for some people.

Most of my vehicle choices have been practical as well as passionate. I've owned three station wagons, two of them to haul around audio equipment when I was a wedding DJ. I had a sporty luxury car for a few years when perceived status was important to me. I had a Mustang when it was all about fun. I owned a van when I lived on a farm.

The vehicle I've driven for the past six years was an SUV. I wanted a wagon-style 4-wheel drive vehicle for a long time and was able to justify the high price and low gas mileage because it snows a lot around here and I live 42 miles from work. Truth be told, it was a horrible vehicle for such a long commute. And it got 18 miles per gallon, which is a problem as gas prices keep rising.

So last week, after months of agonizing and second-guessing, I traded this:

for this:

... a 2-wheel drive, 4-door sedan. Ugh!

Actually, I love it already. It handles better than every other car I've owned, it is very comfortable, and it should get 28 mpg on the highway. The trunk is large for this size car and the rear seat folds down, adding to the trunk space.

I'm pretty good at rationalizing, aren't I?

Actually, this is exactly the right car for how I use a car at this time in my life. I know I'll miss the Explorer the next time there is a significant snow event, but all things considered, this was a good move.

Two other environmental aspects of this trade: 1) the Explorer had 164,000 miles on it when I sold it, a personal record and a good example of vehicular recycling, and 2) this "new" car is a used car, so I've recycled again. Maybe I'll set another personal mileage record.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Thousand Tears

You’ve heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words. Is there a picture in your life that led to a thousand tears?

Many images in the 150-plus years of documentary photography have generated strong emotional response.

This famous photo most surely leads you to some kind of reaction:

And this one:

Can you think of a personal picture in your life that has done the same? Perhaps a graduation shot or a wedding picture.

This one picture below on the right caused me to gasp, then to cry:

It is a photo of my childhood home in New Orleans sitting in ten feet of water after Hurricane Katrina.

See the house with the white reflecting roof? Ours is two houses below that. The picture on the left was taken during a routine satellite mapping pass in 2004 or early 2005. The one on the right was specifically commissioned in September, 2005, a week after Katrina, to help survey the flooding.

I call this “our” house because it is still in my family. My sister has been the owner for at least ten years and has lived there for most of that time. She evacuated fifty miles north the day before the storm and learned days later that there was flooding and residents would not be allowed back into the city till the water receded. So she moved into my house in Maryland for six weeks.

We were desperate for news about the Lakeview neighborhood and I spent a lot of time searching the internet for photos. I found many, some as close as a few blocks away. Then one day I found the aerial shots. Till that moment, it just wasn’t real. I discovered I could zoom in, and there it was, the little Dad-built white cottage sitting in water up to its eaves. I literally gasped, then started crying; I was sitting at my desk at work but no one bothered me.

My sister’s initial reaction that night was a bit less emotional. She was in denial at first, thinking that maybe the water wasn’t as high as it looked and maybe there wasn’t as much water inside as there was outside. When we finally returned to the house a month later, we saw firsthand that it was even worse that the picture indicated. The house survived but virtually everything in it was destroyed, partly by the standing water and party by weeks of heat and humidity.

People in the midwest who are experiencing the floods this week understand this kind of loss, maybe more than they ever thought possible. Years from now, pictures will bring them back to this moment in an instant; tears may follow.

It took more than two years for my sister's house to be rehabbed, but that work is done and my sister lives there again. I have pictures of the house taken periodically through the gutting and the rehabbing, but only one picture of the pre-Katrina house, taken just a week before the storm to show off some new landscaping. Those are all emotional photographs in their own right, but for me, this one is still worth a thousand tears.