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Email Issues Affect Time Goes By

I will get to those email issues in a moment, but first:

This is the third week of the new publishing schedule at Time Goes By – Monday, Wednesday, Friday instead of Monday through Friday. Saturday (Interesting Stuff) and Sunday (Elder Music from Peter Tibbles) remain unchanged.

For more than 10 years, I've written or, occasionally, arranged for posts to be written by other people, 365 days a year. That's plenty of time to settle into a habit and even petrify it.

Now, cutting that schedule by close to 30 percent is a dramatic increase in the amount of personal, unstructured time I have. You might even compare it to retirement or, better, going from full-time work to part time.

Routine is a powerful force and a sudden change to it is disruptive, even mildly disorienting.

So far, in two-and-a-half weeks, I've read three or four books I wouldn't have done before haviing this “extra” time. But most of all, instead of anything new, I've spread out everything else I regularly do – chores and pleasures alike - slowed it all down and done a lot more pottering about.

You know the old saying: Pottering increases to fill the time allotted.

Perhaps this experience is comparable to that of newly retired people. I didn't go through that because by the time I realized, after a layoff, that I'd never be hired again, I had already been writing this blog every day for a year.

There was hardly a blip in my routine from a full-time salaried job to a full-time unpaid job. My brain was equally engaged and I still had (self-imposed) deadlines so I didn't notice much change except that my commute was dramatically shorter.

So this is the first time in retirement that I have faced unstructured time. I have no concern about using it. I have enough interests and curiosities to fill up my days ten times over. I mention it because it is a novelty for me and it's kind of fun watching what I do with myself during this period.

However, those two extra days are not yet entirely mine which brings me to the email issues.

EMAIL ISSUES
After a period of consideration and research, three or four weeks ago I gave up my old email program, the one I had used for more than a decade, for a new one.

I had given the change serious thought over several weeks, learned all the particulars of moving my settings, addresses and storage, etc. and spent the greater part of a day making it happen. Before a week had passed, I realized I'd made a terrible mistake.

The details are too tedious to relate and not important. Basically, I didn't like using the new program. The upshot is that after spending another several hours restoring the settings of the old program, my email went to hell.

A large percentage of it has stopped arriving. When it does arrive, some is in duplicate, triplicate and even quadruplicate. Others arrive hours, even a day late. There is no pattern. Among the missing emails are subscriptions, personal friends, monthly bills (eek) and blog comments.

The company that hosts my two blogs allows me to have each comment emailed to me. That way I don't need to constantly check the site to read what you guys are saying while I'm doing other things on my computer.

Now, only some of those arrive and as with all other kinds of email, almost nothing is delivered from overnight. In the past, there easily were 100 to 150 new emails when I signed on each morning.

I've been working with my domain registrar to fix the problem but so far, nothing has been found that is amiss. Work continues.

The most vexing problem for me is not knowing what I am missing. In relation to TGB, in addition to comments, what questions have readers asked? Are there suggestions for Interesting Stuff not getting through? What about suggestions for blog topics? If you have emailed me in the past two weeks or so with either my main email address or via the “Contact” page on the blog, it may or may not have gotten to me.

So I am asking for your help that might aid in fixing the problem. If you have emailed something in the past two weeks or so that needs a response and not received one, please let me know.

To do this so I actually receive your emails, I have created a temporary web-based account to use instead of the “Contact” page or my main email. Here is that temporary email address:

ronnib[at]outlook[dot]com

(In case you don't know how to use that configuration, replace [at] with the @ sign and [dot] with a period.)

Inflicting my tech problems on blog readers is not my idea of a good use of this space but until this is sorted out, some unknown number of people are not receiving answers from me. Plus, I'll never know how I might really use this new time I've carved out for myself until email is working again.

Remember, I need to hear from you only if you have emailed recently without receiving an answer.

Thank you in advance for your help. I appreciate it.

Meanwhile, you might also have something to say about going from full-time work to all that open time after retirement.


Generations: The Passing of the Baton

One of the biggest changes in old age is how we are treated by other, mostly younger, people. We are ignored, dismissed and made invisible based solely on our appearance.

Put the same words, thoughts and opinions we have in a younger body and the world pays attention.

It is hard to accept, this disregard, and for good reason. It is not a fairy tale that after decades of education, experience, study, learning from our mistakes and successes that we have gained not only a great deal of knowledge, but judgment too, something that only age can bestow.

”When I was a boy of 14,” wrote Mark Twain, “my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

I have been fond of that quotation for as long as I can remember. It must have been in high school that I first encountered it, a period when grownups (my grownups, anyway) paid little attention to what I said.

So I took heart not so much that in time they would learn as that in the long run, I would become old enough to have my opinions respected.

There is a period in each person's life – those mid-years – when that is true. The generation into which we are born becomes, in the natural course of things, the one that runs the world.

Recall what an important symbol of “arrival” it was for baby boomers when Bill Clinton, the “first boomer president,” was elected. With some help from the previous generation still holding a good deal of power and the next one starting to come up behind, boomers held the reins of control and leadership.

They were the politicians, corporate executives, artists, writers, actors, musicians of the day. That time comes to every generation and when it does, it feels like it will always be so.

Until you look around one day and there's someone your son's or daughter's age in the White House; that latest entrepreneurial billionaire went to school with your grandkid; and there's not a single pop musician you know anything about.

And here's the worst part: not one of them cares what you and I think. It's painful and certainly all our life-long, hard-won knowledge should have some use some application for the issues of the present and future. Shouldn't it?

It would please me if that were true but I am regularly disabused of the idea when my contemporaries insist on clinging to old ideas that have passed their use-by dates.

Take gay marriage. Pretty much everyone is astonished at how quickly support for it has grown for such a dramatic social change and if the Supreme Court decides the current case as is being predicted, opposition will be all over but for the shouting.

It is young people who have led the way as shown by a new ABC News/Washington Post poll [pdf] released last week. Take a look at the age breadown in the chart:

GAY MARRIAGE
Age Group % Support
18-29 78%
30-64 60%
65+ 46%

The world is changing, as it always has, as it always must and elders are dragging their feet.

The gap between young and old is even greater for legalization of marijuana. Take a look at this April 2015 Pew survey:

LEGALIZE MARIJUANA
Age Group % Support
18-34 68%
35-50 52%
51-69 50%
70-87 29%

Legalization of marijuana is as inevitable as marriage equality but you wouldn't know that from elder opinion.

By clinging to old ideas when it is evident the time has come to move forward, we earn the enmity and disregard of the younger generations now in charge. And they are right to feel that way.

Or are they?

Could it be that sometimes it is the job (or should be) of elders to put the brakes on moving forward too quickly? To keep cocksure youth from rushing headlong into a future that has not been thought through well enough yet?

I'm not saying this argument is necessarily sound, particularly in these two cases, but neither is it unreasonable.


ELDER MUSIC: 1975

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


What happened in 1975?

  • Natalie Imbruglia was born
  • Bruce Springsteen released Born to Run
  • Jimmy Hoffa disappeared
  • Microsoft was founded
  • The Governor General staged a coup in Australia
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released
  • North Melbourne were premiers

By 1975 THE EAGLES were the hottest band around.

The Eagles

The story of this song is that the members of the group were in a restaurant and saw a stunning looking woman with a fat, ugly, older man and one said to the others, "Look at her, she can't even hide those Lyin' Eyes.”

Light bulbs all round. Each of them grabbed napkins to write on and a hit song was born.

♫ The Eagles - Lyin' Eyes

Before the Next Teardrop Falls was a country song written by Vivian Keith and Ben Peters. It was recorded by a couple of dozen artists to no noticeable effect on the charts. Then producer Huey Meaux talked FREDDY FENDER into recording it.

Freddy Fender

Freddy said that it only took a few minutes and he was glad to get it over with. He thought that that would be the last he'd hear of it. Nope. The song caught on and went to the top of the charts.

♫ Freddy Fender - Before The Next Teardrop Falls

EMMYLOU HARRIS's solo career began in earnest in 1975 with the release of her album "Pieces of the Sky."

Emmylou Harris

The album title is taken from the words of the song Before Believing, written by Danny Flowers.

♫ Emmylou Harris - Before Believing

By 1975, SKYHOOKS were the most important band in Australia.

Skyhooks

Although often lumped into the glam rock category because of their costumes and makeup, they were a serious rock band who tackled issues head on in their songs.

They were the first to name check Australian locales in their music. Before them, no one had done that apart from a few country musicians. I don't know if this song tackles a serious issue, some might think so. It's called All My Friends Are Getting Married.

♫ Skyhooks - All My Friends Are Getting Married

The song Wildfire came to MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY in a dream.

Michael Martin Murphey

When he woke, he quickly wrote it down and started singing it to get it into his brain. Shortly afterwards he recorded it.

He wondered if it was any good so he played it to the staff at the lodge where he was staying at the time and they all loved it. They weren't the only ones.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - Wildfire

Here's something you probably weren't expecting, JOAN BAEZ rocking out.

Joan Baez

The song is from her album "Diamonds and Rust,” a high point of her recording career. The song Blue Sky was written by Dickey Betts, the fine guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band (and his own group).

♫ Joan Baez - Blue Sky

After a couple of mediocre albums (for them, anyone else have loved to own them) THE BAND returned to form with the album "Northern Lights-Southern Cross.”

The Band

Members of the group thought that this might be their best album aside from the self-titled one. They could be right.

As I've used several songs from the album in other columns over the years, I'll include one I haven't featured before, Rags and Bones.

♫ The Band - Rags and Bones

In 1975 JUDY COLLINS brought out her biggest selling album just called "Judith.”

Judy Collins

This had several good songs on it but I prefer a couple of her earlier albums. It doesn't really matter. From this one we have The Lovin' of the Game, a surprisingly country sounding song written by Pat Garvey.

♫ Judy Collins - The Lovin' of the Game

JESSE COLIN YOUNG's album, "Songbird," was pretty good but didn't reach the heights of "Song For Juli" a couple of years earlier.

Jesse Colin Young

Jesse was the driving force of the band The Youngbloods and has had quite a decent solo career since their demise. His style is not straight folk or rock; he brings elements of jazz and blues into his performances. The song from the album is Josiane.

♫ Jesse Colin Young - Josiane

I'll end these 41 years of music with The King. This wasn't a really big hit for ELVIS but I do sort of, kind of remember it from the time.

Elvis Presley

Okay, Elvis didn't look like that on 1975, alas. The song is If You Talk in Your Sleep.

♫ Elvis Presley - If You Talk In Your Sleep

Well, that's it. That's the end of these "Years" columns. There will be no more. If I suggest doing them for a third time you can take me out and shoot me. Or maybe just take me out and feed me a lot of wine so I'd be incapable of typing.

We return to normal service next week.


INTERESTING STUFF – 25 April 2015


YOU'LL BE GETTING A NEW MEDICARE CARD

People have long complained (correctly) that Social Security numbers displayed prominently on the U.S. Medicare card makes identity theft easy.

It's right there in the middle labeled “Medicare Claim Number” with a letter following it and everyone knows that, including the bad guys.

Medicarecard370

At last, that is changing. Last week, President Barack Obama signed a bill that removes the number from Medicare cards and Congress has provided $320 million to pay for the change. (Don't hold your breath – it's going to take four years to accomplish but it is still a necessary and good thing.)

You can read more at The New York Times.


JON STEWART ANNOUNCES DATE OF FINAL DAILY SHOW

Last week, Jon Stewart announced at the end of his show that the fine episode will be broadcast on Thursday 6 August. Here's the clip:


GEORGE LUKAS VERSUS HIS RICH NEIGHBORS

Star Trek Wars and Indiana Jones creator George Lukas wanted to build a movie studio on his 1,000 Marin County acres in northern California. His rich neighbors who live in large mansions refused to approve. So Lukas turned the tables on them. Here's the local TV story:

So far, according to reports, it looks like the neighbors can't do anything to stop Lukas's plan for low-cost housing.


JOHN OLIVER EXPLAINS THE PROBLEM WITH PATENTS

John Oliver's show, Last Week Tonight, is way too important to be buried on HBO. I would be happy to pay for it; just not as much as HBO charges to subscribe, particularly since there is hardly anything else on the channel I care about.

Speaking of care about, I am so eager for Oliver's video essays that this is where you can find me first thing Monday mornings checking out the show before anything else I do that day:

Oliver on laptop 20150420

What has become increasingly obvious about the program is that Oliver is committed to taking the most boring sounding-but-important artifacts of American culture, politics and government and make us pay attention to them - and love doing it.

Last week it was patents and you will be fascinated.

I am so grateful HBO makes the show available online.


HOW THE KOCH BROTHERS WERE DEFEATED IN MONTANA

Unlike many other red states, last weekend, the voters of Montana passed a bill expanding Medicaid. They did this even after the Koch brothers spent a fortune trying to kill the measure. It's not a perfect law but important for the defeat of the Kochs and their minions.

Reporter Eric Stern at Salon explained how that happened and some of the mistakes made by the opponents of the bill are hilarious:

”For the Medicaid battle the Kochs tried a new strategy, one that never works in the West.

“They flew in a bunch of high-priced young politicos from Washington to get the job done. These held 'town meetings' in rural communities at which they showed up in slim-fit suits and pointy shoes, looking like they were heading to a nightclub, lecturing farmers and ranches on politics and the dangers of 'more Obamacare' and publicly threatening moderate Republicans.

"It didn’t take long for them to get booed off the stage by their own partisans.”

And this:

”At the height of the debate two months ago, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a rancher, wrote a letter to his local newspaper pointing out that Koch Industries owns a ranch in Montana that has taken $12 million in public grazing subsidies while spending their fortune to prevent someone who makes $11,000 a year from getting public help for medical care.

“The Koch team leader reacted by penning an angry opinion piece, attacking Schweitzer but leaving his accusation unanswered, thus spreading the bad news. It was a serious blow.”

It's funny to read how badly the community was misread and it's also an important object lesson Democrats and progressives should heed as partisans in other states ramp up opposition to Medicaid expansion.

Read more here. It's informative and amusing.


WILLIE'S RESERVE

Last Tuesday was 4/20 – the annual maijuana holiday. Singer and stoner extraordinaire, Willie Nelson, took the occasion to introduce his branded weed, Willie's Reserve, that will presumably go on sale in the states where it is legal. Here's his laid-back announcement:

Possession becomes legal in my state, Oregon, in July; sales will begin sometime in 2016. You can read more about Willie and Willie's Reserve at Rolling Stone.


STICK BOMB WORLD RECORD

TGB's Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles, has a thing for domino chain reactions and he's made me a fan too. But what a surprise when he sent me this one which recently won the Guinness world record for largest stick bomb.

What does that have to do with a domino chain reacation? And for that matter, what's a stick bomb? Hang around for this entire video (it's not that long) to find out:

According to the YouTube page, the Tullin Domino Team of Austria set the new world record just four weeks ago on March 30, 2015,

”...for the largest stick bomb, also known as a popsicle stick chain reaction.

“The total: 30,849 sticks in less than 30 seconds. The chain reaction was built by 21 people in around 12 hours, beating the previous record of almost 18,000 sticks.”

You can read more here.


END OF WORLD VIDEO FROM JOHN OLIVER

That video above from John Oliver's show last week was shorter than most of his comedy essays. Maybe that explains why he also included this item.

Oliver and his crew discovered that Ted Turner of CNN once made – honest, for real – a video to air only when the network received a confirmation that the end of the world was nigh.

That was a long time ago so Oliver and company created a new one and gave us this preview - the world will not end if you watch it.


GOOGLE DOODLE FOR 4/21 LOCH NESS ANNIVERSARY

You know what Google Doodles are, don't you? They are the alterations made to the Google logo on their main search page in honor of holidays, anniversaries and any other reason that intrigues them. Google explains it all here.

21 April was the 81st anniversary of the publication of that iconic photograph of the Loch Ness monster. We all recognize it instantly even if the image was revealed to be a fake in 1975, according to the U.K. Telegraph.

Loch Ness Monster

For the anniversary this year, instead of a static reworking of the logo, this is the moving gif Google made for the Doodle:

81stanniversary370

What it represents is the Google Street View crew mapping Loch Ness.

”“The firm has, with the help of divers and local experts, used its Street View cameras to capture parts of the Scottish loch, the reputed home of the famous cryptid.”

Have they found any evidence of Nessie? You can find out more about the project here.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CATS AND DOGS

We can't end an Interesting Stuff post without an animal. I mean, it's a weekly tradition now and I don't think the Loch Ness Monster counts.

I'm pretty sure I've posted this video in the past but that doesn't make it any less funny and it still makes me laugh.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Elder Fashion – Still an Oxymoron

We gave Wednesday over to a men's club this week. Let's make today, Friday, women's day although men are as welcome to chime in as women did on Wednesday.

When I first wrote about “elder fashion” here in 2008, I labeled it an oxymoron. Here is a sampling from that post:

"I see more transparent blouses and even pants than much of anything that actually covers a human body.

"Designers just add fabric for larger sizes without considering differing proportions so that if a jacket fits at the shoulders, it is unlikely to button at the waist.

"Shirts...are missing proportion in petite sizes (I’m just under 5’ 2”). They are so long, I look like an eight-year-old wearing daddy’s shirt.

"And why do the few dresses designed without waists all look like muu-muus of the 1950s..."

Nothing has changed during the intervening seven years. Except me. I weighed about 160 pounds then; now, yesterday morning, I weighed 122 pounds.

Losing 25 percent of one's body weight requires a dramatic wardrobe do-over - total replacement for the most part - and that, beginning early in 2014, gave me an opportunity to see if anything has changed in the world of fashion for old women.

Nothing I could see.

I did most of my shopping in the two, excellent consignment shops where I live and found most of what I needed at bargain basement prices. Example: brand-new, unworn $150, lined cotton or linen pants for $20.

Of course, the price doesn't mean they fit this body as well as clothing did in my 20-, 30-, 40-year-old body. I mentioned a while back that my butt had disappeared and losing a bunch of weight only exacerbated that issue.

Those reasonably well-made pants in my new size, for example, are even baggier in the butt than when I was fat.

Recently, I have been trying to fill a few additional holes in my wardrobe – a medium-weight sweater or two, teeshirts, a couple of summer blouses. Nothing was turning up at the consignment shops so I checked a couple of the better known brand stores that cater to grownup – that is, older - women.

Teeshirts are impossible; they all are made with Spandex and even the largest size clings.

There is no such thing as a summer blouse (or, often, even heavier ones) with sleeves.

I blame Mrs. Obama for this. As soon as she showed off her toned upper arms during the election campaign in 2007, clothing manufacturers glommed onto the idea as a new way to increase profits without improving the product: just lop off all sleeves.

After two years of lifting weights every second day, I'm pleased with the little old lady biceps I've developed but even with the proper exercises, my triceps are still too bat-wingy for me to wear anything sleeveless.

(I know, I know. I'm old enough not to care anymore but I do. So shoot me.)

And don't get me started on the tacky, machine-made embroidery on so many blouses and shirts that might otherwise make the cut, if barely. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Sweaters? Even in winter styles, the knit is almost as thin as gauze and just short of transparent so they do nothing for warmth. Plus, with Spandex commonly added, they cling like the teeshirts.

In general, it is all so shoddily sewn that garments are likely to disintegrate the first time they are washed or cleaned.

Have you noticed anything about this post yet? Aside from baggy-butt pants, I'm not even asking for anything that could even vaguely be described as high style. I'd just like it to fit my body, be opaque and last for more than a month.

Here in suburbia (where I haven't lived until now for more than half a century), most of the women in or around my age group seem to live in sweat pants and shirts. If that's what makes you comfortable, fine, but it doesn't work for me on so many levels.

Besides, sweats are what I wear to bed so I would like something a little nicer to change into when I'm vertical.

I'm not asking for clothing that would put me in the style category of the elder women Ari Seth Cohen features on his Advanced Style blog, book and video. They make fashion their hobby and they do a fabulous job of it.

But that's not my interest. I don't want to spend anything but minimal time thinking about clothes. All I need are a few reasonably priced pieces that fit well, are comfortable and not too frumpy.

How much is that to ask of a multi-billion dollar business?


It's About Retired Men Today

If you read this blog regularly, you know there are a lot more women who comment than men. That is likely due to the fact that there are more elder women than men – we (women) tend to live longer (sorry, guys).

Or, it could be that women are chattier than men, although I doubt that explains it (I'm just throwing it out there).

At the Adult Community Center (that's a euphemism in my area for senior center), I'm guessing there is a 9-10 to 1 ratio of women to men but I'm basing that only on early morning visits to the gym and occasional evening meetings. Nevertheless, I'm probably not far off.

And if you check mornings at the local coffee shops here, it's mostly women-only groups doing the klatching. So where are all the retired men? Reporter Gail Sheehy's answer was this:

”When men reach their sixties or seventies and retire, they go to pieces. Women go right on cooking.”

Cute, sort of, but I don't necessarily believe it and it is certainly not so in the Westport/Weston area of Connecticut where 25 percent of the 65-plus, male population are members of the Y's Men. (If the name eludes you, just say it out loud.)

The group was created in 1977, when there was an active YMCA but

”...no place for retired men to meet and discuss their problems, world problems, health issues (we call them organ recitals), politics or above average grandchildren. Then some wise man said 'Let's meet at the Y.' And so they did...”

Since then, they've been doing it every week.

I know about this because my friend of many decades, John Brandt, is a member and last week he sent me a link to what the Y's Men call their Playbook.

Research indicates that the club, their “band of retired brothers,” appears to be unique and they are so pleased with what they get from it, they created this Playbook as a guide for other men in other places who may want to create such an organization for themselves.

The current president, Marty Yellin, explains:

”...I can tell you that belonging to this organization has become one of the best things I've done in my retirement. More than your usual 'how to' guide, this concise, lighthearted Playbook provides a simple way to build a retired men's club that really works.”

What Marty skips over is that besides funny and concise (which it is), it is amazingly thorough.

Drawing on the club's 37 years of experience, there are instructions covering governance, bylaws, officer succession, committees, membership roster, finding a convenient and accessible venue, the importance of regular publicity and PR, and much more – all with that touted light touch:

”Morning meetings, before nap time, work best. We begin at 10AM. But a lot of the fun starts at 9AM when many members arrive for coffee and donuts. It's that all important schmoozing hour.

“For some, this is their favorite part of the meeting, more so than the scheduled program. Other than having a dedicated set-up and clean-up crew, put your top negotiator on the job to find the best, homemade donuts at the best contract price.”

Y's Men meetings regularly provide information on the latest medical news and on the health conditions of members. They are also encouraged to share their personal and professional backgrounds and/or life histories in weekly 10-minute talks. Or, members can speak for those 10 minutes on subjects of their choosing:

”We've had doctors talking about what ails us, tax experts telling us how to file and a long list of guys who want to share their work adventures and hobbies. It both entertains and informs the membership of the diversity and depth of their fellow members.”

The club holds regularly scheduled talks from quality outside speakers – more than 1400 of them since the club began – and the Playbook provides excellent advice on invitations, presentation, audio/visual requirements and topic suggestions.

They have developed a wide variety of group activities, trips and events. Among them: backgammon, book club, bridge, community service, gardening, hiking/walking, investments, tennis, skiing and more.

”Our T&E people know that retirees are interested in damn near everything, including away-from-home experiences. Some trips are by chartered buses that make sufficient 'technical' stops for guys of a certain age to feel comfortable enough to hit the road...”

There are also scheduled events with wives and family.

Scattered throughout the Playbook is important advice of the sort that fits nicely with some of the things we discuss on this blog:

”...consider a way to provide transport to meetings for members who no longer drive but want to attend meetings. The lack of transport shouldn't be an impediment to staying engaged.”

“It's one thing to make announcements of upcoming travel and events but quite another to make sure members remember what they've heard. As a failsafe, set up a manned T&E table at meetings where members can see what's upcoming, sing up and take a flier home.”

This does not begin to cover all the useful information – nor have I included any of the dozen or more drawings, cartoons and photographs. The entire document – 15 pages, printed - is available for download as a PDF here. First, you will enjoy it; I hope is will inspire you.

President Marty Yellin again:

“Read it and you'll see how staying engaged makes your retirement a meaningful climax to a life well-lived. I have and it's been a hell of a ride.”

For further information, the Y's Men club also maintains an excellent website and except for members' personal information, it is open to anyone, no password needed.

You will find more information about the club, its history, a photo gallery of the men and events, past monthly newsletters, speaker schedule and activities pages.

As we frequently discuss on TGB, relationships and engagement are important to a healthy old age. Women appear to do this more easily than men but that doesn't make it less important for them.

When we retire, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Friends move away, some die and our opportunities for a social life diminish more easily than we think they will before we retire.

My friend John tells me that when the club decided to write their Playbook, they tried to find other men's clubs around the U.S. and came up empty. With the relentless increase in the elder population upon us, we need many different ways to help one another in our old age and I think the spread of this kind of men's club would be an important addition.

(By the way, there is a companion Y's Women group in the Weston/Westport area but I wanted to concentrate exclusively on men today. We so seldom do that here and I'm interested to read your responses.)

Let's hear once more from President Yellin:

”Our goals are to have fun, develop lasting friendships, become more enlightened, and serve our community. There are so many opportunities available to explore your own interests, or to try exciting and stimulating new interests with like-minded members.”

Dear Diary: A Foolish Passionate Woman

On reading The New York Times Op-Ed page yesterday, I had a bit of a private snit about columnist Maureen Dowd. As usual. Again.

From that you would be correct to infer I am not a fan. Never have been. But this time it was not her puerile snark or other cheap shots. It was the headline – Granny Get Your Gun – that first caught my attention.

Of course, that might not be Dowd – headlines are most often written by copy editors at The Times. But in this case, whoever did the writing took it directly from references within Dowd's screed:

”...granny in a Scooby van”

“...between Macho Man and Humble Granny”

“...the hokey Chipotle Granny”

Don't be fooled. Dowd's repeated use of “granny” is meant to demean presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the eyes of readers.

This word, granny, the latest affront to the dignity of elders (women in particular although “grandpa” is occasionally bandied about in a similar fashion) is growing in popularity. There are dozens of examples every day due to the fact, I think, that writers believe it can be defended: “I only mean that she's a nice old woman.”

Maybe. Sometimes. Well, no, not really. It doesn't matter if a writer “thinks” granny is a cute way to say old. The word in a news story is far from harmless. It is dismissive, meant to weaken the woman's argument and integrity.

While British newspapers are bigger offenders with this word, the U.S. media isn't far behind. Some recent examples, in addition to Ms. Dowd's, that took me one minute to find on Google:

Huffington Post:
Granny Hair Is The Hottest Beauty Trend Of Spring/Summer 2015

OregonLive:
Auburn Granny Tumbles 150 Feet Down Cliff

WDBJ7:
Runnin' Granny Training for First Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Okay, I cheated with the OregonLive item. Here is the entire headline:

”Auburn Granny Tumbles 150 Feet Down Cliff, 11-Year-Old Grandson Calls 911”

Even a child gets more respect in the media than an old woman. People of every other age group are routinely identified neutrally, by their number of years and full-word designation.

Just as I was sketching out my notes for a blog post about this, getting wound up about the ageism, I took a metaphorical step back: “Why bother, Ronni? Every time you write about ageism, particularly ageist language, at least half of TGB readers dismiss your point.”

It's been going on for years here - some version of “I don't care what anyone calls me,” they comment. Or, “You're over-reacting. It's not important what people call you." “Sticks and stones...” Et cetera.

But, you see, it IS important. Every time (and it's hundreds of times a day) an old person is demeaned with such language, it becomes easier to discriminate against elders in every other way. Refuse to hire them. Withhold certain medical treatment. Cut Social Security. Slash Medicare. It's all related.

So what, I said to myself. Nobody else cares and you haven't convinced anyone to change their mind in all this time.

I considered dropping that blog post and writing about something else. But my fury at Dowd's ageist tactic kept eating at me and I felt my bile rising again.

Then I remembered a couple of lines from a poem by William Butler Yeats. It is one of his lesser works, quite short and titled, A Prayer for Old Age.

God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song's sake a fool?
I pray - for word is out
And prayer comes round again -
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.

These days, “thinks in a marrow-bone” is more likely to be stated as “know in one's gut” and although there is plenty of solid information, both research and informed opinion, of the harm that results from ageist language, I would know that even without the science and expertise.

“That I may seem though I die old, a foolish, passionate (wo)man,” no one can convince me that ageist language is not discriminatory, prejudicial and cruel.


ELDER MUSIC: Songs with Street Names

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


BeaconsfieldPde

(That's Beaconsfield Parade – see below)

My home town of Melbourne has an endearing (or, as most people would have it, infuriating) habit of having streets change their names, quite arbitrarily it seems, along their length.

Just in my neck of the woods starting in Port Melbourne, there's Beach Street that becomes Beaconsfield Parade, the Lower Esplanade, Jacka Boulevard, Marine Parade, Ormond Esplanade, St Kilda Street, The Esplanade and finally Beach Road before it joins the Nepean Highway.

Then there's Williams Road/Hotham Street and Balaclava Road/Carlisle Street. This pair (or quartet) cross each other and at least have the grace to change their names at that intersection.

However, Williams Road is a bit greedy and it also becomes Alexandra Avenue, City Road and finally Bay Street.

Then there are two very silly ones. Inkerman Street has that name for most of its length but the last little bit it becomes Inkerman Road. Finally, there are many High Streets around town. I imagine that's the same in every English speaking city.

The one near me is called High Street half the time and High Street Road for the rest. These are just ones I walk along or drive down pretty much every day.

So, this is a column about songs with named streets. None of the ones I've mentioned will be present today due to a lack of songs about them.

For the first draft, indeed a completed column, about half the streets were from New York, all numbered ones. I thought that that would make a column on its own and so it proved. I then had to rustle up a bunch more for this one (quite an easy exercise as there are many from which to choose).

I'll start with THE DOORS, one of the iconic groups from the sixties. They made up their street name, but it still counts.

The Doors

They were blessed with having three fine musicians and probably the most charismatic lead singer from the era. Besides the charisma, he also sang well with a fine baritone voice.

Alas, he lived life to the full and just barely made it out of that decade. Here they are with Love Street.

♫ The Doors - Love Street

I have a couple of dozen versions of Green Dolphin Street so it's a matter of playing them all until I find the one I want to include. (Time passes). Okay, I've done that and have settled on GEORGE SHEARING and NANCY WILSON.

Shearing and Wilson

This is from an album they made together called “The Swingin's Mutual!” There seems to have been a lot of exclamation marks on jazz album titles back then. Here they are with a really nice version of the song.

♫ George Shearing and Nancy Wilson - On Green Dolphin Street

Tom Waits wrote the song Fannin Street and he did a good job of performing it as well, but I've decided to go with JOHN HAMMOND's version instead.

John Hammond

John recorded an album of Tom's songs which is really worth a listen if you like either or both artists. This is from that album.

♫ John Hammond - Fannin Street

There are several songs about Beale Street; this isn't the most famous of those. It is by CAB CALLOWAY though, and that's worth the price of admission.

Cab Calloway

Although his parents wanted Cab to be a lawyer, he had a good singing voice and preferred jazz. At some pointN he joined his older sister Blanche who had become a band leader and he always credited her as his inspiration to get into show biz.

Anyway, Cab's street song is Beale Street Mama.

♫ Cab Calloway - Beale Street Mama

There are two guitarists present today whose influence is beyond measure. The first of these is CHET ATKINS.

Chet Atkins

Chet's contribution is an instrumental, something at which he excelled, called Main Street Breakdown. You'll wonder if he really has only two hands. It's not the only tune about Main Street (that won't come as much of a surprise).

♫ Chet Atkins - Main Street Breakdown

DAVE VAN RONK was the avuncular presence and titular head of the folk scene in New York in the early sixties.

Dave Van Ronk

He was once considered for a group that later became Peter, Paul and Mary. That really wouldn't have worked even though as a youngster Dave was part of a barbershop quartet. That I'd like to have heard.

Anyway, Dave's contribution today is Sunday Street.

♫ Dave Van Ronk - Sunday Street

Another Main Street. I guess they're as common as High Street, maybe more so. Around the middle of the seventies JONI MITCHELL

started to move away from her image as hippy chick/singer song-writer and started creating more complex music, usually in a jazz style.

Joni Mitchell

This began around the time of the album “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” from which this track, In France They Kiss on Main Street, was taken. There are also some elements of rock & roll along with the jazz and leftover folk.

♫ Joni Mitchell - In France They Kiss On Main Street

Here is another influential guitarist, J.J. CALE.

JJ Cale

He didn't ever receive his due with the record buying public but other musicians, especially guitarists, recognised what a huge talent he was. I think we can thank Eric Clapton for recording several of his songs (in J.J.'s own style) and bringing his name a little to the fore.

J.J.'s song is Cherry Street, not one his most famous.

♫ J.J. Cale - Cherry Street

NAT KING COLE is always welcome in any column of mine.

Nat King Cole Trio

Here he is in the early days with his trio and Vine Street Jump.

♫ Nat King Cole Trio - Vine Street Jump

JULIE LONDON is another semi-regular in these columns and it's good to have another excuse to include her.

Julie London

Her contribution is called Easy Street. Hit it, Julie.

♫ Julie London - Easy Street


INTERESTING STUFF – 18 April 2015


THE ONLY KNOWN FOOTAGE OF ANNE FRANK

It's grainy, black-and-white shot on 22 July 1941, but you know immediately that it is Anne Frank.

She is leaning out of the second-floor window of her home in Amsterdam watching a bride and groom leave the house next door on the way to their wedding. It's only 20 seconds and as far as anyone knows, it is the only moving footage of her.


IDEAS ARE SCARY COMMERCIAL

It is not my habit to promote corporations and in no way does this imply endorsement of the firm. But the currently airing GE commercial delights me every time I see it.

It is as stunning a good idea as the ideas it is designed to make us think about - as thoughtful as it is charming. The commercial was produced by the agency, BBDO, and there is a list of production credits here. They all deserve our applause.


MODERN EGYPTIAN MUMMY BURIAL


GuentertGrave

Just a simple grave marker, right? Nothing important about it unless you are friend or family. If that is what you think you would be wrong.

For the past 25 years of his life, until he died in January this year at age 92, Frederick W. Guentert, Jr. worked on his own casket, a close replica to the ancient burial containers of the Egyptian pharoahs.

"Since the mid-1980s when he began working on it, the eventual three-hundred-pound, seven-foot-long reminder of mortality reposed in two pieces within his home garage...,” explains Mary Ellen Markant at the Finishing Touches blog.

"Occasionally, he 'tried it on for size,' but only when his wife wasn’t looking and wouldn’t witness him bedding down in this blatant representation of destiny."

Even the inside of the casket is carefully decorated:

EgyptianCasket1

On the lid is a depiction of Osiris, Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.

EgyuptianCasketCU

As elaborate as Mr. Guentert's final resting place is, his funeral was as simple as his gravestone:

”There would be no viewing or funeral,” explained Ms. Markant. “He wanted only to have his body embalmed, wrapped in a shroud, and placed in the box he had finessed to its completion.

“In spite of disavowing an afterlife, his face would be covered by a fiberglass mask depicting...Osiris.”

There is much more to Guentert's lifelong Egyptian obsession and you can read about it at Finishing Touches.


TEXAS DMV HAS NO SENSE OF HUMOR

This is so silly and would not warrant a mention here except that perhaps it explains why the really important stuff governments should be taking care of is so often ignored. Actually, I think the license place is clever and it makes me giggle when I see it.


BABY DEER RESCUE FROM PORCH

No explanation needed – just a lovely backyard rescue. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.


JOHN OLIVER ON THE IRS

Last Wednesday was tax filiing deadline day in the United Statesand on the Sunday before, John Oliver used it as a reason to feature the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)on his Last Week Tonight show.

He explained in simple, clear detail why the agency is crucial to the ongoing health of the U.S. economy and how Congress's budget and staff cuts have dangerously undermined it.

Keep in mind, too, as you watch, that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is running on a platform of abolishing the IRS.

Oh, and you'll enjoy Oliver's laughs, of course, too.


BUSINESS OWNER RAISES COMPANY MINIMUM WAGE TO $70

Dan Price is CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based, credit card payment processing company. He announced this week that over the next three years, he will raise the salaries of all 120 employees to at least $70,000 a year.

”[He] said would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.”

Price told The New York Times that the idea came about after he read an article about happiness that said “for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.”

Here is a video of Price making the announcement of the salary increase to the company's employees:

You can read more at The New York Times.


THAT TERRIBLE DAY IN POMPEII IN AD79

A few years ago, a company named Zero One created an animation for a 3D museum installation for the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. The idea was to show visitors an up close and personal sense of what happened when Mt. Vesuvius erupted destroying the town of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

It's an amazing recreation. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.


CAT PLAYS DEAD TO AVOID GOING FOR A WALK

The headline tells you all you need to know except – be sure you've swallowed your coffee or tea before watching. It will make cat lovers laugh out loud and make dog people too. (Hat tip to Joan McMullen)


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Disengagement in Old Age

Readers sometimes send me interesting questions about getting old (as if you think I actually have answers). When they are specific and about topics on which there is a body of knowledge and consensus from experts, I can act as researcher when I have time.

Then there are questions like the one from Jim Harris we discussed last week and today's from Lynne Spreen who blogs at Any Shiny Thing.

Lynne's question, which has been sitting on my blog to-do list for longer than I realized, is about her 89-year-old mother's apparent ennui.

Here are the most salient bits of Lynne's email:

”What do I say to my mother, who is asking, 'What's the point?'

“Mom is sharp and healthy, although discomfited by damage from a broken femur of 3 years ago. She lives in a 55+ community, where she participates, but she's older than almost everyone, and can't keep up with the younger peeps of 75 or so.

“Still, she does crafts, drives, has community and church activities, but says she feels like she's swimming through Jello. She laments the slowness, forgetfulness, dependency, and general fearfulness. She deals with grief, over and over again, when another friend or sibling dies.

“Not that she doesn't have joy! But sometimes she feels like she's just going through the motions...At 60, I don't know what to say to help her. She lives 4 blocks away and we include her in 90% of our activities, including those with great-grandchildren, which she enjoys.”

With mood or mental changes, it is good to check for physical reasons and my first thought was medical: is Lynne's mother takng a large number of medications – including over-the-counter drugs? This is officially called polypharmacy or overmedication and is a common problem in old age because it can lead to dangerous drug interactions, and is a serious issue because it is easily overlooked.

Dr. Mehrdad Ayati lists potentional side effects of overmedication in the book I told you about on Wednesday, Paths to Healthy Old Age, and they are many:

”...heart failure, seizures, disorientation, confusion, weakness, sedation, falls, fractures, hypotention, incontinence, electrolytic disorders, anxiety, delirium, mental decline, blurred vision, constipation, GI bleeding and loss of appetite.”

Because elders are often treated for several diseases and conditions at once, each with its own specialist physician, it is easy for a variety of drugs to cause negative interactions. If you use the same pharmacists for all prescriptions, those professionals are a good backstop for negative interactions.

You should keep an up-to-date list of all drugs with you always, including over-the-counter medications, supplements, etc. to give your doctor so he or she can check new prescriptions against the list.

If the problem is not an excess of drugs and Lynne's mother is not clinically depressed, then what?

Part of Lynne's message about her mother is a good description of old age in general: our bodies slow down, we become forgetful, dependent and our personal worlds contract, if we live long enough, as our friends and relatives die and the number of people who share our world view declines year by year.

These are the burdens specific to old age and they are not easy – particularly, I think, with grief because in the U.S., we do not grant ourselves much time for bereavement; we expect people to be “back to normal” in a couple of days.

On this, let me quote a bit from Sogyal Rinpoche's brilliant and wise Buddhist spiritual classic, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He speaks of how we can help the bereaved who, he writes, may be

”...shattered by the array of disturbing feelings, of intense sadness, anger, denial, withdrawal, and guilt that they suddenly find are playing havoc inside them.

“Helping those who have just gone through the loss of someone close to them will call for all your patience and sensitivity. You will need to spend time with them and to let them talk, to listen silently without judgment as they recall their most private memories, or go over again and again the details of the death.

“Above all, you will need simply to be there with them as they experience what is probably the fiercest sadness and pain of their entire lives. Make sure you make yourself available to them at all times, even when they don't seem to need it.

It takes a long time to grieve a loved one's death, time we don't readily acknowledge in our culture and in old age not only is time necessary, the deaths keep coming one after another; there are so many to mourn.

There is another factor that affects those who are very old. In all that I've read over 20 years of studying aging I have never come across a reference to it (that I recall). I have only personal experience.

My great Aunt Edith was my favorite relative. For most of her old age, she lived on the west coast and I on the east but we wrote letters (remember those?) and we spoke on the telephone about once a week for an hour or so.

Aunt Edith read widely – books and magazines. She mailed me articles that interested her – political, social, weird news, etc. - and she also liked to send cartoons from The New Yorker.

She had a good sense of humor – about life and about herself especially, as they occurred, her diminishing physical capacities. She was well into her eighties when she told me that after scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, no matter how hard she pushed, she couldn't stand up.

She had to crawl into the living room and pull herself up with the help of chair.

Aunt Edith laughed throughout the entire story (which she dragged out because she was a good storyteller). And we laughed some more when I told her that they'd invented this amazing new cleaning tool she might want to look into – it's called a mop and has a long handle.

It was about this time that I first noticed other kinds of changes in Aunt Edith.

Her letters didn't arrive as often and when they did, there were not as many cartoons and other clippings. She stopped sending her cooking-for-one recipes (she had never married and had a large collection). More frequently than in the past, I did the telephoning as if, perhaps, she had forgotten. Or was distracted. Or something.

None of this was sudden and it took awhile for me to notice. Gradually, over a period of two or three or four years, I came to see that she was withdrawing from life. She had less interest in news and politics. She wasn't reading as many books. Her stories were fewer. She wasn't as generally curious anymore. Our conversations became shorter.

There was nothing wrong with her mind. She just became less and less involved with the world and its activities.

Aunt Edith died in 1985 just a couple of months short of her 90th birthday. Since then, I have given a great deal of thought to her steady disengagement from life.

In doing so, I have come to believe that if you do not die suddenly or linger in great pain from disease or injury, a period of letting go makes great sense. It feels "meet and right" to make time as the end appears to grow near, perhaps over a few years even, to look inward, to make private peace, accommodation and to find some harmony perhaps within the mystery of being.

As it did with Aunt Edith, I suspect this goes on without need of discussion about it with other people, friends or relatives.

I have no basis in fact for any of this although I have noticed its possibility in three or four other people, including my mother who knew she was dying, that it would be soon and who, as she grew weaker, had less and less to say.

Does any of this have anything to do with Lynne's mother? I have no idea. In the (embarrassingly long) time since Lynne first emailed (January), I've poked through my library of books on aging, consulted Dr. Google and can't find anything that directly applies.

Her question, “What's the point?” already comes to my mind now and then and I'm 16 years younger than Lynne's mother. I'm not sure it needs to be answered or that there are any answers. Not to be too flip, but it occurs to me that you first have to figure out if it is meant cosmically or just about whether to replace a shabby chair.

What I hope is that my rumination has given us all a few things to think about and I'm looking forward to see what you, dear readers, might say. Remember, it's the internet and there is no space limitation – just please, please use paragraphs (hit enter twice) if your comment is long.


A Workbook for Healthy Aging

When I was a kid, old people regularly annoyed me with a mantra they used as a catchall comment to discussions of even the mildest difficulties: “As long as you've got your health.” they repeated. “As long as you've got your health.”

Now that I'm old, I understand. A simple cold feels more like a flu these days and lasts longer too. We all know, or know of, someone whose broken hip sent them permanently to a care home or worse, who died without recovering (20 percent of elder fall victims, within a year).

Our sleep goes out of whack, foods we've enjoyed all our lives now give us gas, stairs become problematic, our stamina is gone with the wind we used to have.

And that's just for the healthiest among us. Eighty percent of people older than 65 have at least one chronic disease and many have more than one.

What else most of us have in common, however, is a determination to do what we personally can to maintain our health, to take responsibility for it ourselves.

The difficulty emerges from the plethora of advice and information available nowadays via the internet. There is way too much that is too often contradictory and it takes too long to sort out what is useful and what is not, what is true and what is false.

Now, however, along comes a guidebook for healthy living just for old people written by a husband and wife team. Mehrdad Ayati is a physician board certified in family medicine and geriatrics. He's also an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and has a slew of other impressive credentials.

His wife, Arezou Azarani holds a degree in physiology along with fellowships in molecular biology and genetics.

PathstohealthyagingcoverPaths to Healthy Aging is a deceptively short “workbook,” as Dr. Ayati calls it, with just five chapters: Nutrition, Mental Health, Frailty, Overmedication, How to Find a Geriatrician. It is packed with useful, common sense information with easy-to-understand explanations about how we age and how that affects our health.

What is most neglected in treating the medical needs of elders, says Dr. Ayati, is someone who will actually listen and pay attention to their concerns. (I don't know about you, but my primary care physician spends more time looking at a laptop screen when I'm with him than at me.)

”The next thing that is of most interest to patients,” writes Ayati in his introduction, “is valid, up-to-date information on how to prevent, treat or live with diseases. They want to grasp complex medical issues in a comprehensible format...

“My goal here is to...simplify the journey. Based on my experience of what has worked best for my patients to achieve meaning, joyful and healthy lives...”

And that is exactly what he does throughout deceptively simple little book.

Each of the chapters begins with a set of questions to ask yourself that can be used then as a reference and comparison as you read through the information.

In nutrition, for example, he discusses loss of taste buds in old age, the need to keep up dental care, the importance of companionship (perhaps at lunch together each day) and why fad diets that rely on emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain nutrients lead to unwanted results and poorer health.

Since most people I know have a problem keeping their weight down, I was surprised at how much time Dr. Ayoti spends discussing weight loss in old age but as he explains,

”Data indicate that even the loss of a small percent of weight over a three-year period is associated with multiple negative health outcomes such as frailty, fatigue, a higher risk of infection, delirium (confusion) and an increased death rate in the elderly.”

He follows with an impressive section on many ways of overcoming loss of appetite or interest in food and eating.

The chapter on mental health is equally wide-ranging, easy to understand and, as you would expect, covers physical activity, stress reduction and staying engaged by choosing a variety of activities that, he notes, aren't very useful unless we enjoy them.

I know from my own reading that Dr. Ayati is up-to-date on the latest findings. I appreciated the pithy section on blood pressure that explains why systolic pressure of 135-140 over diastolic of 70-90, which might be considered high for young people, is normal for elders.

The frailty chapter includes a good selection of easy exercises anyone can do at home without special equipment to help maintain strong bones and muscles, balance and independence.

Each chapter ends with a “take home message” list summarizing the most important parts of the information along with an “action plan” you can fill in to track what you want to change and a long list of studies he has consulted in writing each chapter.

Although I won't attempt to summarize, the chapter on overmedication is important with extremely useful explanations of the reasons it can be a problem and how you can help control it with your physicians. And I like this funny cartoon he includes on the topic:

OvermedicatedCartoon

Throughout the book, Dr. Ayati reminds readers that it is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from your own doctors. Generally, at this blog, I ignore medical advice books as most of them have a particular axe to grind, usually on the order of “drink six cups of green tea a day while standing on your head and you'll live to be 147 without a single wrinkle.”

Oh, all right, I made that up but you know what I mean. Paths to Healthy Aging, however, is the opposite - filled with common-sense information you can trust, written by a friendly geriatrician whom I wish could be my own. He genuinely likes and understands the health needs of old people.

By the way, the one place where I part company with Dr. Ayati is his chapter on finding a geriatrician. He acknowledges that there are too few, but that it is good to see a trained expert in aging health once a year.

I don't disagree but I spent nearly two months calling and emailing local geriatricians when I moved here trying to find one who would see me.

It wasn't that I would need to wait several months as Ayati acknowledges can happen with the geriatrician shortage in the U.S. It was that they all gave me, politely, some version of we're not taking on new patients at this time.

That doesn't mean it is futile to try, but it's really hard.

You can read more about Paths to Healthy Aging at the website and it is available online at several of the most popular booksellers.


The Forgotten Generations and Ageism

REMINDER: Beginning today, Time Goes By will not be published on Tuesdays and Thursdays as in the past 10 years. This is an experiment to be re-evaluated in the fall.

In addition, links are no longer appended at the bottom of TGB stories to The Elder Storytelling Place. If you relied on those links to read the other blog, you will need to subscribe at that website.


In what is an otherwise laudable if not particularly special appeal to stop the conflation of old age with death, writer Amy Gutman in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, summed up this way:

”We baby boomers (soon to be joined by our GenX peers) have few guideposts to follow in designing fulfilling and productive lives for 30 more years.

“This makes it all the more important that we both recognize the issue at hand and talk to and learn from one another. For now, our proper focus is not 'aging and death.' It’s 'aging and life.'”

Hey, Amy. I'm older than baby boomers but I'm a long way from dead yet.

In two short sentences, Ms. Gutman has consigned me along with everyone else currently over the age of 68 to irrelevance.

It feels a lot like the years during which the women's movement ignored our sisters who chose full time motherhood. It took decades to repair that lamentable and unnecessary rift.

This time it is the baby boomer generation, replicating the role of careerist feminists, rejecting generations older than themselves (instead of mothers).

Move along now. Nothing to see here, nothing to learn. Only we baby boomers and a few gen-xers need apply.

This is not new from boomers. Hardly a day and certainly not a week passes when I don't find boomer-written references about ageing that specifically exclude anyone older.

(I don't mean to pick on Ms. Gutman but she is emblematic of an ongoing, widespread attitude. She's getting called out only because she is the most recent to raise my hackles and happened to do it on a day I decided to finally speak up.)

Deliberately omitting more than 31 million people (the population age 69 and older) from the conversation about growing old is another of the many forms of ageism.

Although Ms. Gutman and some of her generation appear lately to accept their own aging and want to find ways to change negative attitudes that remove old people from the mainstream of life, she immediately dismisses the one group who actually knows something about “designing a fulfilling and productive” old age.

I suspect the reason is what it has always been – denial:

Oh, I'm not like those old people over there. Don't confuse me with the ones on the bench in the park or the bridge bunch at the senior center. I'm getting old differently from them.

It's not enough to say, as old people too often do, oh, well – their turn will come. If old people are going to ever be accorded the respect and dignity all people deserve, it has to start now. The older generations cannot, should not pit themselves one against the others.

Amy Gutman is right, we need a public conversation about growing old (god knows I've been trying here for 10 years). But it is doomed from the start when any part of the group is excluded.

If Ms. Gutman doesn't think we of the generations older than she have anything worthwhile to say about fulfilling and productive lives in old age, she could start educating herself by reading just one post (among many) at this blog.

There is much that is rich, thoughtful and even wise in last Friday's conversation, filled with a variety of ideas about how to live and contribute during the last third of our lives.


ELDER MUSIC: 1974

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


What happened in 1974?

  • Ryan Adams was born
  • Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin on Christmas Eve
  • We really didn't have Nixon to kick around anymore
  • Rubik's Cube invented
  • Duke Ellington died
  • Blazing Saddles was released
  • Richmond were premiers

Well, we're solidly into singer/songwriter territory this year. All it needs is Bob to complete my favorite list of those – I'm omitting him from these years as he features prominently in other columns. Similarly you won't have found The Beatles or The Stones either.

I don't know if you'd call BOB MARLEY a singer/songwriter but I suppose that technically he fits the bill – he sang songs he wrote himself.

Bob Marley

No Woman, No Cry was Bob's breakthrough song. It was on the "Natty Dread" album but the big hit was from his album "Live" which, curiously enough, was a live album. The one today is from the former album.

♫ Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry

GORDON LIGHTFOOT is the first of the recognized singer/songwriters today.

Gordon Lightfoot

Sundown came from the album of the same name and the song is about his girl friend of the time who wasn't a very nice person at all.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown

Midnight at the Oasis was from that wonderful first solo album by MARIA MULDAUR.

Maria Muldaur

The song was really just a last minute inclusion and was written by David Nichtern who also wrote the beautiful I Never Did Write You a Love Song, also on the album.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Midnight at the Oasis

Seasons in the Sun started life as a song called Le Moribond written by Jacques Brel. The poet Rod McKuen wrote English words for it and it was recorded by TERRY JACKS.

Terry Jacks

Both English and French versions are sung from the point of view of a dying man but the French version is more scathing and sarcastic making references to the singer's wife's infidelity. Jacques himself was dying of cancer when he wrote the song.

Before Terry's version, The Kingston Trio (closer to the mood of the French language version) and The Fortunes both recorded it to some success. Terry's, though, went gangbusters – it's one of those rare records to have sold more than 10 million.

♫ Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun

I was going to gush here because JESSE WINCHESTER was such a wonderful songwriter and a terrific singer. I had originally included suggestions to catch his performances but alas, he died not so long ago.

Jesse Winchester

I'll just introduce Mississippi You're on My Mind.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Mississippi You're on My Mind

BILLY JOEL wrote the song Piano Man about his experiences of playing in a piano bar.

Billy Joel

Billy doesn't think much of the song musically and was surprised and embarrassed when it took off. However, he says his songs are like his children so he was pleased that "the kid had done pretty well.”

♫ Billy Joel - Piano Man

TOM RUSH is known mostly as an interpreter of other people's songs and a damn fine one at that.

Tom Rush

However, he does now and then write songs, and really good ones. This isn't one of those. It's by Richard Dean and is called Jenny Lynn. It's an amusing little ditty.

♫ Tom Rush - Jenny Lynn

JACKSON BROWNE was starting to make a name for himself around about now.

Jackson Browne

Many of Jackson's songs turned up on other people's records long before he ever recorded them. It's remarkable how someone who was so young as he was at the time could come up with such profound and wise songs. I just shake my head and listen to the music. For a Dancer.

♫ Jackson Browne - For a Dancer

RY COODER was, still is, the go-to man if you want some fine guitar playing on your record. He's graced many a memorable (and some not so) album.

Ry Cooder

He has recorded his own as well and they are really worth a listen. Besides that, he's brought to the general public forms of music that aren't generally heard outside their own musical ghetto.

With the "Buena Vista Social Club" album, film and live performances he brought a number of great Cuban musicians to the fore who hadn't been heard outside their country for decades. He's also a champion of what's labeled "Tex-Mex" music.

We're going back a few years, to 1974, of course, and from the album "Paradise and Lunch" we have Tatler, a song Linda Ronstadt covered pretty well.

♫ Ry Cooder - Tattler

JOHN SEBASTIAN was the driving force of the Lovin' Spoonful who were featured in previous years. You may also remember him for his performance at Woodstock (the film anyway, if you happened not to attend the actual event).

John Sebastian

John's songs have been covered by many artists who have made them more recognized than his own versions. Here he covers one of his own. The song Sportin' Life was recorded originally by the Spoonful and John later also included it on his album "Tarzana Kid.”

♫ John Sebastian - Sportin' Life

1975 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 11 April 2015


COLLEGE STUDENTS LIVING RENT-FREE IN ELDER HOUSING

This idea seems to be growing around the world and it is such a good one:

”In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands, requires students to spend at least 30 hours per month acting as 'good neighbors' [to the elder residents of a nursing home, reports PBS NewsHour].

“Officials at the nursing home say students do a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and, perhaps most importantly, offer company when seniors fall ill, which helps stave off feelings of disconnectedness.”

We first reported this kind of an arrangement here on Interesting Stuff last December regarding a college music student in Cleveland, Ohio. I think it is a sensational idea which should be expanded everywhere. You can read more here. (Hat tip to doctafil)


BOSTON DYNAMICS “HORSE” ROBOTS

It was about two years ago that we first featured the Boston Dynamics four-legged robots. They keep improving and wait until you see what this one, named Spot, can do. Amazing. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

The webpage tell us that "Spot is designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate and negotiate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs."


ANOTHER NEW YORK CITY INSTITUTION PRICED OUT

Out of existence, that is – another old favorite of mine, Pearl River in Chinatown.

Pearl River exterior

”The store can no longer afford New York’s skyrocketing rents, driven in part by money from newly rich Chinese mainlanders.

“Rent for the sprawling, 30,000-foot store at 477 Broadway — where Pearl River has been since 2003 — was likely to jump from about $110,000 a month to five times that, said Ching Yeh Chen, the retailer’s president.”

Here's a look inside the story. (Photo credits: Hiroko Masuike)

Pearl River interior

That does not begin to indicate how diverse the inventory is. I still have two pairs of fold-up mini travel scissors I bought there for a dollar each about 15 or 20 years ago. Until then I had no idea such a thing existed and they always are allowed through airport security checks.

Undoubtedly the site is due for another thousand dollar handbag store. Soon Chinatown too will be too pricey for all but the one percent. You can read more here and here.


KLM, DOING WHATEVER NECESSARY TO RETURN LOST ITEMS

It is no longer hyperbole to say there is no such thing as good consumer news about airlines. At least, not U.S. airlines. But look at the amazing efforts of Dutch airline, KLM.

Maybe I should stop flying anywhere KLM doesn't go. (Thank Darlene again for this video.)


OREGON'S NEW VOTER LAW

Maybe you've seen the news about this. At a time when voter ID laws in more than a dozen U.S. states seek to reduce the number of citizens allowed to vote, Oregon's new governor Kate Brown signed a bill making registration nearly universal. Here's how it works:

”The secretary of state's office will regularly collect drivers' license data and 'provisionally' register people who aren't already signed up to vote.

“These prospective voters will be sent a notice giving them 21 days to let elections officials know if they don't want to be registered. As a result, Oregon will become the first voter registration system that is 'opt out' instead of 'opt in.'

“Newly registered voters will also be given information on how to register with one of the state's political parties. If they don't, they will be listed as non-affiliated.”

The new law is expected to add about 300,000 people to the voting rolls. Oregon was already the first state, 17 years ago, to enact vote by mail. Now, all the new voters, like every other registered voter in the state, will automatically receive a ballot about 20 days before each election.

You can read more here and here.


JOHN OLIVER – GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE

On John Oliver's HBO show last Sunday, he snagged an interview recorded in Moscow with Edward Snowden on the subject, of course, of government surveillance.

Because it's Oliver, it's funny and it's profane and extremely important. Get a cup of coffee or tea, settle down to watch – and laugh too.

Oliver's dick picture rant has now inspired a new website – cantheyseemydick.com and it is not joke. It is from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has been working hard from the earliest days of commercial internet to protect our privacy online.


ELDER SKIN CARE

The National Institutes of Health website for elders has recently published three, succinct, good pages about old age and skin – what to expect as we get older – age spots, skin tags, etc. - and how to care for ageing skin. As the site explains, as we get older,

”...skin becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did. Your veins and bones can be seen more easily. Scratches, cuts, or bumps can take longer to heal.”

There is more to know here and here and here.


UKELELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN

Maybe not to everyone, but to me there is something inherently funny about ukuleles. They seem to be such dinky little, almost make-believe instruments. And then you see something like this, the Ukelele Orchesra of Great Britain performing The Theme from Shaft.

There are many more performances from the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain here.


HAPPIEST VIDEO EVER

Well, I don't know about that headline but that's what it says on the YouTube page. It's a whole slew of baby animals having fun.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its .


Finding One's Own Kind of Retirement

A month or so ago, I received an email from long-time TGB reader James Wallace Harris who blogs at Auxiliary Memory. He has been retired for awhile now and is feeling restless from what might be too much unaccustomed freedom:

”Doing whatever I want, when I want, is like a habit forming drug,” wrote Jim. “Want to kick back and listen to Van Morrison for two hours – cool. Want to watch the Oklahoma Kid, a western from 1939, sure, why not. Want to put off lunch until 2:30 to keep reading my science fiction novel, that’s a-okay...

“The trouble is, I’m writing less, letting the house go, ignoring things on my to-do list, and losing all sense of discipline.

“I don’t know if this is because I’ve gone eighteen months without working, or because I gave up junk food January 1st, and don’t have enough brain fuel to keep me energized. However, I don’t want to get a job just to force a routine on myself.”

Jim also mentions that some tell him he is going through a well-known phase of retirement and he wonders, he says, if some older people with more experience can help him work this out (as he notes, I am 10 years older than he is).

First, let's look at that notion of “well-known phase.” There are plenty of so-called retirement experts who will tell you this is true. They will especially tell you this for a good-sized fee that might include email or telephone “retirement coaching” sessions.

(I've done the calculations and discovered that there are precisely the same number of retirement coaches as there are people who tried and failed real estate sales in retirement.)

Okay, that's my personal prejudice – stages of life, including retirement. That's way too neat and tidy to be human and from the people I've known over years, few fit into the pigeon-hole categories pop psychology books like to lay out for us.

Even as we share some similar experiences, there are so many variables in our backgrounds, sensibilities, habits and personalities – moreso in old age than when younger - we can't be reduced to pre-digested ranks and classifications.

What I mean is that Jim is asking really hard questions for which there are no easy answers. There is not even a Chinese menu list with items to choose from columns A, B and C.

The fact is, one person's schedule is another's freedom. Some crave structure, others abandon it altogether and follow their whims each day. Undoubtedly, most of us fall somewhere in a spectrum between the extremes.

I understand completely how Jim has fallen into a kind of sloth (if he doesn't mind that description). I've been there.

It is my habit, after feeding the cat first thing in the morning, to read the news online and answer overnight emails with my coffee. Early on after I retired, that period gradually expanded from a couple of hours until I found myself still at the computer in my granny gown at noon and beyond.

Finally a day arrived when I saw what I had become and I was appalled with myself. After all, if you make it past noon without showering, why bother at all? And if it seems too much work by early afternoon to dress – well, there must be an old can of tuna in the cupboard that can work for dinner.

(As I write this, Jim, it strikes me now that structure or lack thereof is only one kind of issue people confront when we no longer owe most of our time to the company store. I've known plenty of people who happily cruise into retirement without a backward look or thought.

Me? I discovered that I need to impose structure on myself or it all goes to hell.

Seven or eight years have passed since I pissed away half of every day and now it is my habit to be washed and brushed and fed by 7:30 or 8AM, a schedule that includes plenty of time for the news, email, exercise and meditation that prepare me for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, there must be plenty of people who are completely relaxed about sitting around in their pajamas for many hours. If they are not bothered by it as I was, it's not a problem as far as I can see.

This blog takes up a large part of my time and I like it that way. Many elders volunteer, some work at paid jobs and others have one or more interests in their lives, as ageing is for me, that are so compelling there is no question where they will put their energy.

And that brings me back to where I started. There is no objective answer to Jim's question. There are only individual, subjective answers – and anyone who says differently is wrong.

What I do know that has always helped is hearing how others have handled such dilemmas. The particulars don't necessarily match our own but there are similarities of place and time and experience that give us new ideas on which to ruminate.

So, dear TGB readers, this is a crowd-sourcing day for Jim's retirement restlessness. I know for sure that others have wrestled with these questions.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: The Tea-Baggers Manifesto


Some Changes at Time Goes By

You may recall one of the quotations I selected from the Doris Lessing section in Esther Harriott's excellent book, Aging and Writers:

“It takes me longer to do things,” said Lessing. “Not physical things...but where it shows is the energy for writing...not ideas. I've always got too many ideas. It's the organizing of the ideas and getting down to it that takes longer. And also, energy runs out more quickly than it used to.”

So close is that to my own experience in recent times that I have said something similar fairly frequently – to myself and others. It's just what happens as we grow older.

BACKGROUND
For me, another part of slowing down, as I have written in the past, is that I am afflicted with a fairly rare condition called ASPD or Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder. I find it almost impossible to stay awake past 8PM, sometimes I can make it to 9PM and whatever time I go to sleep, I'm wake by 3AM or 4AM. On a good morning, I can snooze until 5AM but not often.

It is not much of a problem except when I have house guests or, for example, when there is a dinner at other people's normal hours. I can manage late evenings for a day or two, then the condition asserts its sleep demand.

An accompanying difficulty, unrelated to ASPD, is that all my energy, both physical and mental, is depleted by 2PM. That makes sense if you think it through:

In my working days when I rose at 7:30AM to be at the office by 9AM, I was tired by 5PM or 6PM – ten hours after I had awakened. There is the same interval between the time I awaken now and when I get stupid at about 2PM.

That means I am always rushed, on a treadmill to get the normal chores and errands required by daily life done along with the optional pleasures and still keep up this blog at the level of quality I require for myself.

After 2PM I've run out of steam for all of that, turn slothful and I'm no good for anything except reading, watching a movie, playing with cat, keeping up with friends or just pottering around.

Too often in recent months, my posts – stories, essays, whatever we call these things – have been more haphazard and less well thought through than they should be. Too often, I choose the easy road of rumination and chatter than take the time for the research or additional reading needed for more informed writing.

TIME GOES BY CHANGE
So now that you've got all those reasons and excuses, I am here today to tell you that I am set to experiment with a new publishing schedule. Beginning next Monday, here is how the week will look at TGB:

Mon: New post
Tue: DAY OFF
Wed: New Post
Thu: DAY OFF
Fri: New post
Sat: Interesting Stuff
Sun: Elder Music from Peter Tibbles

As many of you already do now, there is no reason, if you find the M-W-F post interesting enough, not to continue commenting and chatting back and forth with one another on the off days. Or not.

Remember, there is nothing you need to do. If you subscribe, via email or rss, the only difference you will see is that nothing arrives in your inbox or news reader on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

THE ELDER STORYTELLING PLACE
There is a secondary issue to resolve. If there is no post on Tuesday and Thursday, there is nothing on which to link to that day's story at The Elder Storytelling Place (ESP) so I am going to eliminate that feature altogether – the link, not the stories.

If you read ESP via email or rss feed or you have a bookmark you follow to read it, you don't need to do anything. If, however, you read that blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of TGB posts, you will need to rely on something else.

You can subscribe via email or rss by filling in the form at the top right of any page at The Elder Storytelling Place, or make a bookmark wherever you keep those things on your computer.

THE FUTURE
As I said, this is an experiment. I've set a general time period of spring and summer. If the spirit moves me, I might write something for a Tuesday or a Thursday now and then but it should not be expected as in the past – by you or me – for these next few months.

Sometime around September, we take a day together here to see how we feel about it. I'll let you know how it has worked for me and you will able to add your thoughts.

In addition to accommodating my age-related slowing down, this might also give me an opportunity to upgrade TGB in ways I've been remiss – some backend fixes, updating the movies and other lists and perhaps a minor redesign, but no promises yet on those.

Time Goes By, as an extension of my apparently undying interest in all things ageing, is my passion, my raison d'etre in old age, my reason to get up each day.

I am endlessly curious about what it is like to grow old and I use the thoughts, ideas and events in my own journey through this strange territory to guide my investigations and writing. (And that little piece of information is just to be sure you understand that I'm not going anywhere – only adjusting the schedule.)


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: It Was a Sunny Day Today


The Day after 7 April

Did you enjoy Peter Tibbles's musical silliness yesterday for my birthday? I did and thank you again, Peter. I spent my 74th birthday on a day trip to the Oregon coast with a friend, Ken Pyburn, and I know even as I write this a couple of days ahead of time that we had a wonderful time.

[Insert on Wednesday morning: As I predicted, the day trip to the coast was wonderful - I'll tell you about it sometime soon. Thank you so much for all your wonderful birthday wishes yesterday while I was gone. I read them all when got home in the evening. You are the best readers any blogger could have and I appreciate you so much.}

If you're reading these three or four paragraphs, it means I didn't feel like writing a blog post when I arrived home yesterday evening. But here is a quotation I like from writer, editor and literary critic Edmund Wilson when he was 73 in 1968:

”Old age has its compensations. I feel that I can loaf in the mornings, be less anxious about what I am going to write and not suffer afterwards so much about gaffes and errors I have made.

“My regrets mostly nowadays are about the things that I can't any longer do; but I dwell on old love affairs, and this does not impose upon me any further responsibility for them.”

That gives a thoughtful chuckle.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Welcome Home


Tuesday 7 April 2015

This is Peter (the TGB music columnist). There's been a coup here at TGB and I've taken over. I achieved that by waving ice cream at Ronni and distracting her that way.

I will be a benevolent leader, if you follow my orders that is. And my first order is that you help Ronni celebrate her birthday or no cake and ice cream for you.

So, happy birthday Ronni.

I've also gone to a great deal of expense and trouble and had all my minions prepare this humongous birthday cake for her. Make a wish. Ronni.

Cake

Before you blow out the candle, we'll sing some birthday songs for you.

I'll start with one of the best known in popular music by the best known group, THE BEATLES. Their song is simply called Birthday.

The Beatles

♫ The Beatles - Birthday

Well, today isn't Fats Domino's birthday but we'll allow a little artistic licence as it's such a good song. So, Happy Birthday Fats Domino sings BOBBY CHARLES, who was a good friend of the great man.

Bobby Charles

♫ Bobby Charles - Happy Birthday Fats Domino

The DUTCH SWING COLLEGE BAND play Birthday Blues. We'll have to take their word for it as there are no words to the tune.

Dutch Swing College

♫ Dutch Swing College - Birthday Blues

I have no idea who the PIXIES THREE are; they turned up on a compilation album singing Birthday Party.

Pixies Three

♫ Pixies Three - Birthday Party

Another tune you'll have to take on trust, as it also lacks words, is by the best bebop pianist ever, THELONIOUS MONK and it's Boo Boo's Birthday. I don't know who Boo Boo is (well, apart from Yogi's friend).

Thelonious Monk

♫ Thelonious Monk - Boo Boo's Birthday

Here's some advice on what to wear today. JOHN HARTFORD suggests that I Shoulda Wore My Birthday Suit. I hope everyone will follow suit (sorry).

John Hartford

♫ John Hartford - I Shoulda Wore My Birthday Suit

Last but not least, THE TUNE WEAVERS sing Happy Happy Birthday Baby.

The Tune Weavers

♫ The Tune Weavers - Happy Happy Birthday Baby

Okay, time to blow out the candle. Ready? Now puff.

Cake


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Sing-Along


Writers and Age

In 1985, the American poet Stanley Kunitz said he had found

"...more rewards and compensations in my mid-eighties than I ever expected.

“Just to be rid of the hang-ups and anxieties of your youth – that in itself is a lightening of the load. And then, there's an assurance that comes out of having learned so much about yourself, why you are here, what you have done, how much is left for your to do.

“There is a – I wouldn't call it serenity – but a feeling of relief that you haven't completely wasted your life. Maybe you can take a lttle pride in having triumphed over many difficulties and disasters that beset you...

“There's a kind of exaltation in waking up each day not out of an emptiness of accomplishment or of fulfullment, but out of a sense of having used your resources. Not as well as I might have hoped, but maybe well enough to feel that there is time still to justify the life.

“The persons I've know who have aged badly are the ones who don't feel justified. They can't forgive themselves for having abused or squandered their talent.”

I quote that at some length because it's hard to find that much good thinking about what it's like to grow old.

There are more than 100,000 books about ageing listed at Amazon. Based on my 20 years of reading widely on the subject, I have no doubt that 90 percent are a waste of paper and pixels.

Kunitz's thoughts, however, are from a marvelous new book that sits firmly in the other ten percent: Writers and Age: Essays on and Interviews with Five Authors.

WritersAgeCover The author, Esther Harriott, a former managing editor at The New York Public Library and a contributing book reviewer at Newsday, gives us a book rich in the thoughts and ideas of ageing from some of the 20th century's most important thinkers, along with their personal reports from the country of old age.

In addition to Kunitz, these five include V.S. Pritchett, Doris Lessing, Mavis Gallant and Russell Baker. Ms. Harriott's knowledge and understanding of their work is admirably extensive and each writer's chapter is divided into two parts: a review of their body of work as it relates to ageing and Ms. Harriott's in-person interview with each.

As I wrote to her following my first reading, “God knows I've tried many times, but Lessing has always bored me and I'm not sure I've ever finished anything of hers I've started. At least I know something more about her now but I doubt I'll go back to her works.

“Nevertheless, as with the other four, there is plenty in her section to learn about age or to nod in agreement with. In her case, especially the discussion of time and energy in old age and other little things few people think important enough to mention, but are.”

Lessing was 73 when she spoke with Harriott, one year younger than I am now and regarding energy, I agree with her (as, generally, do the other included writers):

”...I have much less energy – much, much less energy...So you don't rashly undertake things you might have rashly understaken ten years ago. You have to husband your resources a bit...

“It takes me longer to do things. Not physical things...but where it shows is the energy for writing...not ideas. I've always got too many ideas. It's the organizing of the ideas and getting down to it that takes longer. And also, energy runs out more quickly than it used to.”

Lessing also made an important point when Harriott suggested that perhaps people not engaged in creative work suffer more in old age from lacking relevant work.

”How do we judge who is irrelevant and useless?” asked Lessing. “By what criterion? That they're sitting in an office from nine to five, and doing some job that is pretty irrelevant anyway, or what? We don't know what's useful and what isn't. Who judges this?

Harriott quotes British writer and critic, V.S. Pritchett from his essay, Midnight Oil, on the death of friends as the “great distress of old age”:

”If we are not struck by mortal disease many of us in our seventies nowadays feel little different from what we were at fifty...except that we now know time is shorter. If by luck of vocation or temperament we are incurably active we have little time to think of our decline.

“But our sense of the mysteriousness of life becomes sharper and we are jarred by the more piercing grief, for the dead have taken away a part of ourselves. Indeed, it might be said that what the old learn at last is how to grieve.”

Pritchett was 90 when Harriot interviewed him in 1990, and asked about the pleasures of age.

”The way the affections increase. When you're younger, your feelings are very strong, very excited. They are constantly spending themselves. You haven't so many feelings to spend when you're older, so you think more of them. They are more lasting.

“Another pleasure is walking. I like to walk across Regent's Park and look at the trees and the changes in the sky. If I see people I might watch them or I might think, well, they're not very interesting, let's see if there's a more interesting lot somewhere else.

“I can't say I've ever had 'a great thought' or whatever they call it, walking across Regent's Park. But sometimes I've noticed things which have stuck in my mind. I think noticing is a great thing. The tendency in old age is not to notice, but to accept.”

New York Times readers of this blog might recall the many decades Russell Baker's Op-Ed column both entertained and enlightened us. Often, particularly on the topic of aging in America, he seemed prophetic back then. Harriott obviously has made a close study of Baker's evolution. Listen as she explains about his last years at the paper before he retired:

”There were occasional outbursts of moral indignation, as in his otherwise funny 'Saps of Today and Yesterday,' in which Baker wrote, 'Today's boomers now confront a world of their own making which cannot much comfort their spirits. What do they see? A society ruled by greed and moral license. A nation whose governing political theory is devil take the hindmost.'

“Then, as though to apologize for losing his temper, he immediately offered a self-deprecatory explanation. 'All of the above, I hasten to say, is the kind of highly doubtful speculation we fall into when generalizing about decades, generational antipathies and the flow of history. I hope no one will swallow it whole.'”

But of course, he expected us to do so and we did.

In one of his memoirs, Growing Up, Baker had written that there is a dividing line beteen people born before and those born after World War II. When Harriot asked him to elaborate, he jumped ahead a few decades to compare then and now and arrived at a sense that has recently been growing within me:

”I feel that now. Another generation has taken over. You're not of their world anymore. The experience of growing up in the Depression and pre-war America make you a very alien character. You have a sense of being displaced by time.”

Esther Harriot, who is in her ninth decade, is a wise woman who has written a wise book. She chose the writer and physician, Lewis Thomas, (a personal favorite of mine) for the epigraph: “To get a glimpse of what it means to be old you have to leave science behind for awhile and consult literature.”

In doing so, Harriott has produced a singularly rich, intelligent and learned book about “what it's really like to get old” written, as she explains in her introduction, not by younger people imagining old age but by people who are old.

Writers and Age is available at a variety of outlets around the internet.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: What's in a Name?


ELDER MUSIC: St Louis Blues

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


It's time for another variation on a song.

St Louis Blues, written by W.C. Handy, was the first in the blues idiom to cross over into the mainstream. It's been said that it inspired the foxtrot although W.C. himself suggested that it was his song, Memphis Blues that deserves that honor.

It's not really relevant unless you're all up foxtrotting around the kitchen or wherever you're listening. It's a tune that lends itself to many interpretations as we shall see.

I guess I could have subtitled this column Songs About Cities: St Louis, but that would be cheating.

The first was insisted upon by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and that one is by BILLY ECKSTINE.

Billy Eckstine

After singing in Earl Hines', band Billy started his own and my goodness, was his a breeding ground for talent. Amongst others, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro and Sarah Vaughan (as well as a lot more) began their careers in Billy's band.

I don't know if any of those are featured on this track but Billy sure is. Here's his take on St Louis Blues.

♫ Billy Eckstine - St Louis Blues

As a demonstration of the various versions possible, I give you DOC WATSON.

Doc Watson

He even suggests in the introduction to the tune that he plays it differently from everyone else. It certainly isn't like the other versions today.

♫ Doc Watson - St Louis Blues

You could say that BIG JOE TURNER's main gig was jump blues. You could also say that he did as much as anyone else in the development of rock & roll.

Big Joe Turner

Today he's in the former mode but I think you can tell what I'm talking about (a bit). There's also some jazz influence here. Joe was a very important musician around this time (and later).

♫ Big Joe Turner - St Louis Blues

MARIA MULDAUR has a variation on the theme.

Maria Muldaur

It's not the standard song but something called The Ghost of the St Louis Blues and it starts out sounding like something from The Addams Family.

She does reference the song, of course; with a title like The Ghost of the St Louis Blues, she'd have to.

♫ Maria Muldaur - The Ghost of the St Louis Blues

Even that old rocker who mostly wrote his own songs, CHUCK BERRY, had a go at our song.

Chuck Berry

Early in his recording career, Chuck recorded a few old blues tunes and this is one of them. He gives it the standard Chuck treatment and that's not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

♫ Chuck Berry - St Louis Blues

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL, not surprisingly, sound rather like Bob Wills as it was his band on which they modelled themselves.

Asleep At The Wheel

They have the help of another fan of Bob's and that is MERLE HAGGARD singing along with them.

Merle Haggard

Put them together and you have St Louis Blues. Well, you do today.

♫ Asleep at the Wheel - St Louis Blues

Back in the day LES PAUL AND MARY FORD would perform pretty much anything that took their fancy.

Les Paul and Mary Ford

What took their fancy this day was St Louis Blues. It still sounds like Les and Mary – well, Mary multi-tracked as Les had a wont to do.

♫ Les Paul & Mary Ford - St Louis Blues

A couple of my favorite jazz musicians have a crack at the song. Those being DAVE BRUBECK and GERRY MULLIGAN.

Dave Brubeck & Gerry Mulligan

I don't really need to say anything about these two giants. Just listen to what they do with the tune. This is from a live recording in Berlin.

♫ Dave Brubeck & Gerry Mulligan - St Louis Blues

Like Les and Mary, THE MILLS BROTHERS pretty much recorded everything that came their way.

The Mills Brothers

Their version is faster than the others today; I guess they had to fit it on to a 78 record.

♫ The Mills Brothers - St Louis Blues

I'll finish with the man himself. Here's W.C. HANDY AND HIS ORCHESTRA, probably from 1922. He published the song in 1914 and some say that's the date of this recording. That earlier date seems a bit early for me, so I'll go with the later one.

W.C. Handy

♫ W C Handy and Orchestra - St Louis Blues