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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Summer Staycation

Trendy vocabulary is often annoying, but the new buzz word staycation is amazingly timely and accurate.

Because of the high price of gasoline this summer, many Americans are choosing to stay close to home for their vacation. I am one of them.

Spending my vacation at home is nothing new for me, however. I’ve done it several times in the 2000s. Instead of travelling, I work on big house projects and take a break on one or two days to do some local sightseeing. Using a combination of car and subway, I can reach the heart of our Nation’s Capitol in just over an hour. Driving for seventy minutes in another direction and I can explore Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, the grounds over which the rocket’s red glare inspired our National Anthem. A thirty minute drive in one of three other directions will take me to a noteworthy Civil War battlefield.

While I’m around the house this week, I hope to catch up on some landscaping projects and repaint my home office. The most significant item on my list, however, is my plan to replace my aging SUV with a more fuel-efficient vehicle. After that task is done, I can look forward to a future vacation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Dad’s Day

Dad prepared my sister and I for a lot of things we would face in life but I don’t think he prepared us for his death. Not the emotional part. Not the loss we would feel.

He died more than six years ago and the loss has faded, but the memory of him springs into my head at the most unusual times, usually when I’m trying to fix something in the house and I’m using the very same tools he used.

He was a quiet man but had a lot of presence. In a group setting, he’d quietly listen and observe in a way that made it seem he wasn’t paying any attention; then out of the blue, he’d say the one thing that became the most significant part of that conversation.

He was the consummate do-it-yourselfer, and not just with little projects. He built the house we grew up in, nearly by himself. That sturdy little cottage in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans survived the Hurricane Katrina floods. The contractors who rehabbed it told my sister (who has lived there since right before Dad’s death) that it was built more like a commercial structure than a residence.

This is my favorite picture of Dad. He was just a few years older here than I am now. I like this because it captures his classic look and smile. Parkinson’s disease robbed him of that look many years before he died and this shot takes me back to a better time in his life. We honored his long-standing request for a closed-casket funeral, but we placed a framed 8 x 10 of this photo on the casket. More than once that day we heard someone say, “there’s the Benny we remember.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Much Too Young

I’m sure you’ve heard that NBC Meet The Press host Tim Russert died today, at age 58.

Fifty-eight is much too young for death!

This guy was absolutely my favorite TV journalist. I loved his style. I’ll never be in his league as an interviewer, but I tried to think about his amazing composure while doing my own interviews on the radio. He was prepared, confident and very authentic. If you paid a lot of attention, you might know a little about his personal politics, but he never let the personal stuff show in an interview. He asked the tough questions on all sides and was well respected for it.

A couple of things I didn’t know about him till today: he went to Woodstock; he booked some concerts while in school, including one starring a then unknown Bruce Springsteen; he was the longest-running host of Meet The Press (16 years); he was a lawyer, admitted to the bar in New York and DC; he met his wife at a the Democratic National Convention (in 1976).

He died at work, while in a studio recording voiceovers for this week’s Meet The Press.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


No, no, no, not me!

Some actors familiar to fifty-somethings, and even 40- and 30-somethings, are turning 60.

Remember the TV show "Leave It To Beaver"? The Beave turns 60 this month.

And remember Bill Cosby's TV wife? Phylicia Rashad also turns 60 this month.

Thanks to Rhea for the monthly reminder that we're all aging. ;-)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Final Approach

There is an interesting story on the AOL website about companies that don’t exist anymore. Three of the twenty-five companies they profile are airlines.

During the early years of older Boomers, air travel was still a luxury most people couldn’t afford. So many of us didn’t take our first plane flights till we were in our 20s or 30s and some of the iconic airline companies we may have flown then no longer exist.

Pan American World Airways, Pan Am for short, flew from 1927 till 1991. According to the AOL article, their name and logo became synonymous with luxury travel. Boomers might remember Pan Am as the airline of choice for the Beatles in their early days. Sadly, Pan Am is also remembered for a terrorist hijacking in 1986 and the terrorist bombed Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.

Trans World Airlines was another one of the early airline companies, founded in 1930. For many decades, they seemed to be the only airline. The letters TWA often appear in movies and documentaries.
During the “hostile takeover” era of the mid 80s, they were taken over and reorganized a couple of times. American Airlines eventually picked up what was left of the company and TWA officially ceased operations shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Eastern Airlines was one of the top four airlines at one time. It began as a regional carrier in the 1950s, grew to prominence over the next few decades, then struggled in the 80s and went bankrupt in 1989.

So many airlines are in jeopardy these days that it’s hard to remember which are still in the air. And as you probably know, significant jet fuel price increases have led to staggering air fare increases, which may eventually lead to decreases in passenger numbers. I wonder how many of today’s airliners will still be flying at this time next year.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Old and Young Mindset

Velvet made a very interesting observation on her blog recently about old and young mindsets. I’d like to expand on it a bit.

She said her husband thanked her for introducing him to new things and keeping him in a younger mindset. She went on to say that many of her peers are set in their ways and “many of them have sort of frozen themselves in the era that they came of age. Why is that?”

I think I know why, or at least part of why.

Several friends and acquaintances, especially the fifty-somethings, seem stuck where they were at the dawn of adulthood. They like the same music and hate the new stuff. They like doing things like they’ve always done them and reject the thought that a new way could be better. They reached many conclusions about life in their twenties and believe that what they knew at that point is all they need to know. It was good enough then so it must be good enough now too. They have little interest in trying new things and often struggle to adapt to changes, regardless of the potential positive value of those changes.

The period just before coming of age is a volatile and memorable time of life and when we survive it, we ultimately feel invincible and bulletproof. Later on, when life throws us its inevitable curves, we seek security in that time when we thought we knew it all.

The paradox is that we look back at a time of constant change in our lives as something solid and secure, forgetting that it was neither. To those who are frozen, I say hit the defrost button.

Velvet also asks, “Shouldn't life continue to be an adventure of discovery?”

My answer is yes! We should embrace many of the changes we face as well as the challenge of change. At the very least we should accept the possibility that change can be good. We should give change a fair shake, even if we ultimately decide to stay the course. In some ways an adventure of discovery can be scary, but it can also feel a lot like our coming of age time; a time when we sought change and believed that anything was possible.

That was a great, exhilarating feeling then; why not feel it now? It’s a matter of mindset.