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.