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Ronni and Barbara Walters in Austin


Ronni and Barbara Walters in Austin

[1984] We were hanging around in the hot, humid sun in the Texas Hill Country waiting for Willie Nelson to finish playing pool with Waylon Jennings so we could begin the interview with Willie. Look at the those dresses and handbags. Do you suppose this is the same idea as people who come to look like their dogs? That if you work together long enough…


zinetv @ 2003-10-09 said:
Ticked off, big time, that’s how you two look. If you could wish something not nice to happen to Willie, like having problems with the IRS, you would.

arto @ 2003-10-09 said:
You look like a couple of southern belles...

lauratitian @ 2003-10-09 said:
You look much cooler that Barbara, I gotta say. Those shades, baby, love the shades!

ribena @ 2003-10-10 said:
You remind me of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News in this photo - uncannily.

Social Security - Part 18: Presidential Pig-Headedness

There was little new information on Social Security in President Bush’s hastily-called press conference Thursday evening. He repeated his two favorite Social Security mantras:

  • the system is headed toward “bankruptcy” (which Crabby Old Lady and you know by now is a lie) and
  • private accounts must be part of any new legislation because they are key to his vision of an “ownership society.”

Clearly, Crabby hasn’t been keeping up. Until last night, she thought that meaningless phrase had been put to bed.

Again, the president repeated his refusal to accept the idea of raising the salary cap, currently at $90,000, on which Social Security payroll taxes are collected.

Recently, chief Social Security actuary, Steve Goss, calculated that removing the salary cap

“...would eliminate the [Social Security] deficit entirely.”
- SF Gate, 25 March 2005

The only new item Mr. Bush threw into the ring last night is a means test for future benefits that, according to Goss, would slightly increase benefits for low-wage earners while decreasing benefits for middle-class wage earners by 30 percent. Democratic leaders were quick to put this scheme into perspective:

“[It would] gut benefits for middle-class families,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid in a joint statement.

“…All the president did was confirm that he will pay for his risky privatization scheme by cutting benefits of middle-class seniors.”

- ABC News, 29 April 2005

If you missed the press conference, the above is all you really need to know about what was said in regard to Social Security. Nothing of substance has changed in the president’s point of view.

In fact, Mr. Bush expressed far more clearly how adamant he is on the subject of privatization in a conversation at the White House last week with Rep. Charles E. Rangel (D-NY):

“Congressman, I am the president. And private accounts are not coming off the table even if it’s the last day I spend in the presidency.”
- The New York Times, 27 April 2005

That's just presidential pig-headedness, according to Crabby, and worse, a danger to the retirement of future generations – your children and grandchildren.

A number of Republican legislators are wobbling in their support of the president’s Social Security privatization proposal, and in just one month, public support for the plan has dropped 11 points, from 56 to 45 percent, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Tuesday.

Social Security needs some tweaking, but with opposition to private accounts hardened and growing, this window of opportunity may close altogether due to Mr. Bush’s petulant stubbornness.

Crabby Old Lady urges you to make your opinion clear to your senators and congress person. You can do that here. be continued...

Social Security Privatization Series Index

Easing Into Elderhood

category_bug_journal2.gif Compliments produce feelings of self-conscious bashfulness in me. I tuck them away as mental keepsakes, and then quickly move on. Still, it is always a pleasure to find that you have been, in some manner, an inspiration to another person.

A couple of days ago, I discovered that a brand new blogger has made Time Goes By his first link to another blog with this explanation:

“The person who inspired me to take up blogging is a woman named Ronni Bennett, a former television producer who lives in Greenwich Village and writes a daily blog called Time Goes By. As the title would indicate, much of her writing is devoted to reflections on growing older, ageism, and the way our society treats its older citizens.

"She has also written a series of articles on the Social Security privatization issue that is as thoughtful and reasoned as you are likely to find in any American newspaper or journal. I recommend it to anyone who is at all concerned about this issue.”

- Deejay, Small Beer, 25 April 2005

After that, there is no way to move on without reading the blog.

Deejay is a retired, 65-year-old sports fan, freelance writer and translator who is fluent in Chinese and the author of a book on Chinese film. Impressive, but what prompted today’s post is this short statement in his personal profile, about a new haircut:

“I’ve become more interested in ease and comfort than in appearance.”

Yes! Ease and comfort are among the defining conditions of the transition from adulthood to elderhood, and manifest themselves in dozens of small ways: It is why God invented elastic. It is the reason my hair is now almost grown out into its grayness. It is the cause of my giving up high-heeled shoes (as tempting as they are in their glorious, gorgeous, sexy beauty lined up in shop windows). And it is why I’m now fat.

It is a relief to let go of the constraints imposed, in my case, by the age and beauty police who so influenced my adolescence and adulthood. But it is a mark too of internal change as we begin to enter elderhood.

In relaxing our adult rules as to appearance, we gradually allow the ego to recede from center stage as prescribed in Carl Jung’s seven tasks of aging. Betty Friedan discusses Jung’s third task in her book, The Fountain of Age:

“Draw some conscious mental boundaries beyond which it is not reasonable to expend the remainder of one’s time and energy. ‘Some careers, relationships, desired achievements, even cherished goals must be abandoned with grace or pain.’ But this can also be an ‘unloading of self-imposed burdens and a deliverance from exhausting efforts toward unlikely goals…perhaps only half-wanted rewards.

“Consciously letting go of these burdens and aspirations lets one focus total attention and energy not only on what is attainable, but on what is one’s truest concern.’”

And so, in allowing more physical comfort and ease into our lives – that is, giving up the pretense of youth – we are better able to seek the meaning of our lives and become more our unique selves.

Funny how small external changes can create deeper inner reflection. A bow to deejay at Small Beer for reminding me.

Age: the Last Acceptable Discrimination

As she writes this, Crabby Old Lady’s bile is overflowing big time. Read on:

“Before he turned to hair dye, the first words Levy heard in a recent job interview with a telecom company manager were ‘the average age around here is 28.’”
“…in the middle of a day of [job interview] meetings, the hiring manager abruptly asked Klos to complete an application form, and specifically directed him to include his high school graduation date...

“The job offer dried up within 24 hours. Klos…mentioned the story to his daughter, who had recently completed a personnel-management course at her firm.

“…Her jaw dropped open. ‘Oh my God, they just taught us to do that.’ In her management course, Klos’ daughter was told to insist on high school graduation dates on applications forms. ‘This is our vehicle for making sure that you don’t inadvertently hire older employees,’ Klos’ daughter was told by her company.”

These two incidents are from a story published Monday at which is subtitled, “Anecdotal evidence suggests age bias in hiring thrives,” and Crabby is grateful to see someone in the press paying attention to what any job seeker older than 50 runs into every day, and even if the reporter displayed her own age bias in burying the lead. Read on.

“’The concept that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is total nonsense,’ says Paul Boymel, an attorney in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s office of legal counsel.

“’Every study has shown that, at least where heavy manual labor is not involved, older workers outperform younger workers as a class, with far less absenteeism, far less hopping from job to job, better work ethics,’ he said. But ‘not everybody’s gotten that message.’”

As to the argument that older workers cost companies more to employ than younger workers, Crabby would like to send the bean counters back to accounting school for a refresher course. You cannot honestly place higher salary and benefits costs into the debit column without adding the savings of higher productivity, fewer errors and better judgment of older workers into the asset column.

That said, read on.

According to Renee Ward, founder of, who was interviewed for the MarketWatch story, human resources managers don’t even bother to hide their bias.

“At a recent conference, Ward asked a question of some personnel managers: If you posted a job requiring three to five years’ experience, would you deny the job to a candidate with 10 years experience solely because of those extra years?

“The consensus was yes, she said. ‘An older person can’t do this job,’ a 30-something manager at a perfume company told Ward. ‘She was just blatant about it,’ Ward said, noting that three other people at the table agreed with the manager.”

There is a little experiment we occasionally perform at Time Goes By to check if we are being overly sensitive about age discrimination. We substitute the word "black" for "older" to see how objectionable - and illegal - it might be. Let's try it here: "A black person can't do this job."

Imagine how different the MarketWatch story would be if the the 30-something manager had said that to the reporter: It would have been the headline - "XYZ Perfume Company Admits Racial Bias in Hiring." The reporter would have named the young manager's employer who would then make a showcase firing of the woman in a scramble to uphold the company's reputation, and Jesse Jackson would be all over the story, demanding an official investigation of the company.

But when older people are the target of bias, it is reported only as shameful, not important enough to name names.

Age is the last acceptable discrimination. It openly abounds in corporate America and if anyone ever again suggests Crabby Old Lady is imagining it in her job search, she swears she’ll smack ‘em.

Opposing the Culture of Decline

“We women had a sense of exuberance when we talked about what we wanted to do with these bonus years. The men had a sense of hopelessness.”
- Washington Post, 12 April 2005 [pay archive]

Abigail Trafford, the reporter who frequently writes about aging in her weekly “My Time” column at the Washington Post, was speaking about two sessions at a Baby Boomer conference she attended - one about what women want as they enter their later years, the other addressing the same question about men.

According to Jed Diamond, another conference attendee who is the author of The Irritable Male Syndrome, “men are in decline” because they have lost their traditional place in society and they are confused about what to expect from life. So debilitating is this problem, according to Trafford, that the highest suicide rates in the country are among men 65 and older.

On the other hand, women in that age group account for only one-tenth as many suicides and unlike many men, they face aging with sense of excitement, glad to have graduated from carpooling the kids and eager to get out of the house for work and play.

Diamond goes on to blame men’s depression on loss of their job titles through workplace turmoil and change in traditional male roles. In other words, lack of status.

Trafford suggests that the difference between men’s and women’s attitude toward getting older is a new gender gap, and her solution is a call for “…a new agenda for compassionate feminism: to lead the attack on a culture of decline that is sinking too many men.”

That “culture of decline” is the very definition of aging in America which treats elderhood as a disease to be cured. It stems, according to Dr. William H. Thomas (who believes, as I do, that old age is a season of life distinct from adulthood), from the notion that to be old is to become an object worthy only of fear and pity:

“Once vibrant adults who can no longer conceal the effects of aging are relabeled as ‘the frail elderly.’ Former masters of the universe are scorned for being ‘infirm.’ No longer able to command a share of social resources, the aged come to rely on the noblesse oblige of adults who cannot imagine growing old themselves.”
- What Are Old People For?, William H. Thomas, M.D.

Even though some women seem to have deeper resources than some men for the challenges and enjoyment of our later years, this declinist view affects elders of both genders. But, says Dr. Thomas, it is gradually being confronted by a

“…growing number of people who are willing to challenge the doctrine of youth’s perfection directly and on their own terms.

“These efforts are united by a search for meaning in old age, and they rely on the assumption that there is life beyond adulthood.”

Which is precisely what Time Goes By was created to investigate. Right now, mid-life adults hold all the power in our culture and they define old age only as decline and a drag on resources. But the joke’s on them: they will join us soon enough.

Wouldn’t it be a fine legacy – and give those lost and confused older men a reason to be - if we, the first generation in history to have been granted the gift of longevity, prepared a better kind of elderhood for those who can’t or won’t yet imagine being old themselves?

Anti-Aging Scams

The fountain of youth is bigger business than Crabby Old Lady imagined. She Googled “anti-aging” the other day and got 8.28 million returns. After checking out a few of those websites, she thinks maybe some of their claims - to put it as politely as possible - might be a wee bit exaggerated.

“Oxyage Reverses Cellular Aging” touts one and in November 2003, Reader’s Digest magazine featured this product on the cover with a headline blaring, “A New Pill That Can End Aging.” 180 capsules of this stunning medical breakthrough will set you back just $44.70, or you can have a case of it delivered for only $279.

Nexiderm-SP is a “proprietary blend of ingredients” guaranteed to “decrease wrinkle depth and volume by 68 percent” and you can get a one-month supply for only $79.95. Crabby might set aside her natural skepticism if she could figure out what wrinkle volume is?

Has-been celebrities, George Hamilton and Kathy Rigby, are shilling for the “Miracle of Renuva” (“as seen on national television”) and now you can get a small bottle, if you hurry, for $99.90. Not a bad price for a miracle.

Compared to the American public, Ponce de Leon was a piker in his pursuit of everlasting youth. In 2004, U.S. consumers spent $44.6 billion on anti-aging products and services (that’s in addition to medical procedures), and the total anti-aging market, they say, will reach $72 billion a year by 2009.

Crabby doesn't want to shock you, nor does she mean to be rude. Nevertheless, it must be said: some of these longevity gurus are lying. One example: thousands of them are selling what they say is HGH – human growth hormone - in pills, lotions and sprays. Crabby found the real skinny on this stuff in The Merck Manual of Health & Aging:

HGH “is available only by prescription and must be injected…human growth hormone taken by mouth cannot be used by the body because it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed by the body…

“…several studies have focused on whether human growth hormone replacement can reverse the aging process…Results of these studies have been disappointing, showing no improvements.” [emphasis added]

Now Crabby asks you - this instance of prevarication about one "clinically tested" nostrum couldn't mean the rest of the thousands of rejuvenation therapies are useless too, could it?

In addition to compounds of mysterious “proprietary ingredients” with their "youth enhancing formulas," there are anti-aging regimens that make even greater claims than the pill pushers. It is said that calorie restriction – CR in the jargon of its practitioners – can extend life spans up to a whopping 120 years.

The idea is to reduce calorie intake by one-third or more of the normally recommended amount. As Crabby understands it, CR is a kind of extreme vegetarian diet: no meat, fish, poultry, dairy, fat or carbohydrates – ever. And in addition, handfuls of vitamins and minerals must be included each day to maintain healthy nutrition when so many foods are eliminated. Of course, Crabby could be wrong about this; these guys always have a book to sell – 17 CR books at Amazon - before the exact details are revealed.

The anti-aging flim-flammers are, as Liberace said, laughing all the way to the bank and there are two things that make their scams possible: society’s abhorrence of old people and P.T. Barnum’s* dictum that there’s a sucker born every minute.

But not Crabby Old Lady. Getting old is just fine with her and she doesn’t need any phony-baloney magic potion to get her from here to death which, it is unlikely to surprise these quacks, will arrive for them too just about on schedule, give or take, with the Bible’s four score and ten.

*It wasn’t really P.T. Barnum who said that. See

David, Ronni and Lanny


David, Ronni, Lanny 1984

[1984] David had been a photographer for Rolling Stone magazine who morphed into a writer. In explanation, he said his captions got longer and longer until he eventually threw away the camera and in 1970, he won a prestigious award for his jailhouse interview with Charlie Manson. I recall our relationship as more friendly than passionate, and he once saved me from a giant waterbug by picking it up with his bare hand.


btezra @ 2003-10-08 said:
David, the savior from all bugs!

hamlet @ 2003-10-08 said:
Ah, gallant men!

zinetv @ 2003-10-08 said:
Picked up a waterbug???? In his bare hands??? That’s a lot more than friendly. Great Happy Picture.

Ronni and Paul


Ronni and Paul, January 1984

[January 1984] My brother was approaching 40 when he married another writer in Portland. It was over within about three years and so far, he has not remarried. It appears that neither of us is very good at this relationship stuff – that is, if you believe marriage is the goal.


setya @ 2003-10-07 said:
Marriage appears to be the "ultimate" for so many, but works for so few

zinetv @ 2003-10-07 said:
It seems like you are contemplating “relationship stuff” at the moment when this picture was taken. This picture and commentary seems to lead to the big questions like: "What’s it all about anyway?" Luckily my phone is about to ring and I have to go before answering that question.

arto @ 2003-10-08 said:
The maroon tie with the three piece gray suit suits him very well.

tatefox @ 2003-10-08 said:
Immersing yourself in the lives of others is what makes you complete, not marriage. A steady sip from the cup means you will never be thirsty.

On Respect For Elders

category_bug_ageism.gif BBC News reported a story last week headlined “Centenarian takes computer course,” in which Sidney Platt, who turned 100 in March, answered the standard inquiry, obligatory in all media interviews with people who have reached the century mark: To what do you attribute your old age:

“Porridge is the secret to a long life,” said Mr. Platt. “I have it in the morning and it’s the best start to the day.”

Aw, isn’t that cute. Almost as cute as the headline and the computer centre director’s standard comment in such stories: “He is one of the trail blazers of the centre…He’s an amazing character and a real inspiration to others.”

Also last week, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, Maureen Dowd, in recounting her mother’s short-term stay in a nursing home, commented on the behavior of the residents:

“All through the night, Alzheimer’s patients would moan: ‘Help me! Why doesn’t anyone come to help me?’ They were unable to remember the last time an attendant stopped by…

“Soon the residents began acting as if I were one of them, just one with better mobility. They would call out for me to fix them tea in the microwave – ‘Just Sweet ‘N’ Low,’ one woman ordered briskly."

Another woman asked Ms. Dowd to telephone her daughter. When no one picked up the phone, she left a message on the answer machine.

“As I hung up, the old woman looked up at me with big suspicious eyes. ‘What are you doing in my room?’ she demanded in a hostile voice. She had forgotten me already.”

It’s all about Ms. Dowd.

These two stories are almost perfect demonstrations of two extremes of media interest in people in their end-of-life years. In the first case, it is what Nina at Nina Turns 40 (responding in a comment to “Crabby’s Bad Hattitude”), termed the “cute-ification” of elders which, in effect, infantilizes us: “Isn’t he cute, that old coot at the computer” – robbing him and everyone in extreme old age of the respect and dignity automatically accorded mid-life adults.

In the second story, it is the abhorrence – without a shred of shame or compassion – of what old age can sometimes inflict on our bodies and minds that is so hateful - and moreso when Ms. Dowd's entire story was in service to a cheap laugh, in the last sentence, at the expense of the women she described so uncaringly.

“Old age is and will always remain difficult,” says geriatrician, Dr. William H. Thomas, in a remarkable book titled, What Are Old People For? But nature has her reasons - and her compensations.

I have recently realized how shallowly I have scratched the surface in writing about “what it’s really like to get older." There is much more to do at Time Goes By.

“If aging is truly a catastrophic prelude to death, an alien rot imposed on an unwilling adult, then it deserves the dread it currently engenders. But what if aging and old age are a normal, natural ripening?

“Even a brief examination of the world around us would offer support for that optimistic outlook. Aging is everywhere. Far from being some dreadful anomaly, it works its way into the lives of millions of species and hundreds of billions of creatures each and every day. This ubiquity suggests that nature finds aging to be very useful, even essential.”

- William H. Thomas, M.D., What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World

Mainstream media has a long way to go to catch up with nature in regard to their attitude toward elders.

The Case for Elderhood

When I started this blog, I made a conscious decision to avoid pejorative, euphemistic and cutesy words for old because they perpetuate negative stereotypes. I wanted to the word “old” to become as much a simple descriptor as “young” and in writing here day in and day out, I have been so personally successful that for some time now I’ve been able to throw around the words “old” and “older” with never a flinch.

Now there is another word we’ll practice with at Time Goes By: elder, defined in dictionaries as

“an older person; an older, influential member of a family, tribe, or community”

Elder is an old-fashioned word that is rarely spoken or written these days, though it has come into use in recent years as an adjective - elder law, elder care, elder housing, elder abuse – only, I suspect, because it sounds better than old people’s law, old people’s care, etc. and not with any thought to its real meaning.

Elder will be used at Time Goes By now as a noun along with its important, associated concept, elderhood, which is a different season of life from adulthood that was, by ancient tradition going back tens of thousands of years, granted a respect that our culture has discarded only in the past 100 years or so.

Adulthood is all about action - doing, reaching, grasping, achieving, getting, succeeding – as it should be. The idea that elderhood holds different imperatives does not exist in our collective consciousness anymore. Instead, elders are pressured to keep up the pace, to continue to achieve and society’s highest praise for old people is reserved for those who most resemble adults in their appearance and behavior. And when they no longer are capable of holding up that pretense, they are made invisible to the culture, consigned to institutions where all rights to decisions about their lives are claimed by adults.

But what if old people, as I believe, have a different reason to be? What if elders, when the time comes to step down from the hurly-burly of adulthood, were seen as the keepers of a shared culture, the storehouse of inherited knowledge, custodians of tradition? What if elders were respected for those qualities and called upon as guides and advisors?

What if the tarnish was removed from aging and elderhood was restored to its ancient position of worth?

Tamar at In and Out of Confidence asked recently,

“I wonder why we reach back to our past memories so much as we get older. Has looking to the future become frightening to think about? Or is it to remind ourselves of who we were so that we can be sure of who we are now?”

There is another answer. During busy adulthood with careers to build and children to raise, there is little time to look back. As the years pass and there are fewer ahead of us than behind, pressures abate and memories naturally come forward with their pleasures and pains, lessons learned, knowledge gained and we use those memories to help us determine, in our later years, the meaning of the active, adult lives we've led and to prepare us for an acceptance of death.

It is what elderhood is for. But by making youth, youthful pursuits or their facsimiles the gold standard of life unto death, as American culture insists, we are missing, on a personal level, the opportunity to understand why we were here. And in the community at large, we are impoverishing the culture by refusing the wisdom of elders and losing the usefulness of their influence.

We’ll be talking a lot more about elderhood at Time Goes By.

Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, Beth and Ronni


Walter Cronkite 1983

Barbara interviewed Cronkite at his Martha’s Vineyard home a few years after he retired as anchor of “The CBS Evening News.” Cronkite was the consummate, old-style newsman who never editorialized on the air, even with so much as a raised eyebrow – except twice: he wiped away a tear of joy when the U.S. landed on the moon, and he said at the end of a broadcast that he believed the U.S. should withdraw from Vietnam. In response, President Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country,” and he did not run for re-election.


av_producer @ 2003-10-06 said:
I think Cronkite and Johnny Carson represented what was best in the entertaiment/news (I guess they were still separate back then) in America.

tatefox @ 2003-10-06 said:
The days when journalism meant something more than a cat stuck in a tree or the titillation of Laci Peterson. (Sigh)

hamlet @ 2003-10-06 said:
I had never heard the Johnson quote. That`s great.

zinetv @ 2003-10-06 said:
Walter Cronkite gave the news the sense of history in the making. Unfortuately some of the news has become a sales pitch in the making.

Daylo a Boon For Older Folks

Recently, 79-year-old Millie at My Mom’s Blog left this comment on a post about New Skills For Aging Bodies regarding the difficulty of packing for her return to Boston after wintering in Florida:

“I am sitting here at the computer taking a break from packing. It gets harder every year. I do a little bit at a time and then I have to rest.

“Your post hit the nail on the head, we just have to adjust and figure out a way to deal with all this stuff.”

Now there is a whole new way for us older folks to deal with “all this stuff” – the chores, errands and other needs that sometimes become too hard to undertake as we age.

Daylo It’s called Daylo and let me disclose up front that although this is a blatant plug for a new, online service created and developed by three young friends I met in 1997 when we worked together at, you wouldn’t be hearing about it from me unless I thought it was an ingeniously useful tool for older folks. And it's just as good for young ones too.

Here’s how it works: You need some assistance, like Millie, packing for a trip. Or you need a lamp switch fixed or some IKEA furniture assembled. Maybe your computer is acting up and you haven’t a clue what’s wrong. If your knee has you laid up for a few days, you could use a dog walker, someone to do the grocery shopping, yardwork or even cooking. This is about hard-to-find help that isn’t listed in the Yellow Pages.

Whatever service you need – large or small – you can click on over to Daylo, type in your Zip code to see who’s listed there who could help out. If no one’s Profile has what you’re looking for, you can create a “Request” listing for your need.

When you find a match, you negotiate privately for the service and price right on the Daylo website creating a “Handshake” – a verbal agreement between you and the seller/provider. The web service is free for the time-being, without even a finder’s fee to Daylo, and there are plenty of privacy and reputation management tools for your protection.

Of course, it works in reverse too. If you have a service to offer, you can create a Profile and make some extra change.

Daylo is a hub, a neighbor-to-neighbor exchange of skills and talent that may be right down the block from you. But until Daylo, you had no way of knowing.

Daylo came about when my friends, Laura Holder, Chris Larsen and Aaron Wertheim, were chatting about all the time they spend fixing computers for friends and relatives. That led to their realization that there must be thousands of small services which are impossible to find - and Daylo was born.

The three talented partners – Laura is the web designer, Chris the programmer and Aaron handles the business end – have been building Daylo for more than a year. It launched just a couple of months ago and will go global before too long. It is poised to take off big time.

So check out Daylo, and if you don’t have a service to offer or need anything right now, you will one day. Bookmark Daylo, please, and tell your friends. When it's as big as eBay, you'll be able to say you were there at its birth.

Old Horsetail Snake

Old Horse Snake Banner

Not so long ago, Crabby Old Lady fired off a rant here about age humor - most of which displeases her either because it's offensive or just not funny. Now there is a fine, good reason to laugh out loud every day about getting older.

A newish addition to the Older Bloggers list is Old Horsetail Snake – 74-year-old Gene Maudlin by name - who blogs from Salem, Oregon about – well, let him tell it:

“I live in what is called, formally, an Assisted Living Community Center. That's a euphemism for old folks' home. There are about 60 of us, of varying ages, condition and intent (some came to live, some came to die). Our ages range from 67 to 102. The 102 is in better shape than the 67.

"'So it goes,'" as Kurt Vonnegut said, often, in Breakfast of Champions. So, this is our story, one comic or tragi-comic piece at a time. And, for the record, some of these stories are true!”

Ol’ Hoss is a damned funny old codger, a former newspaperman, and it doesn’t matter a whit whether his stories are true or not. They are the best laugh Crabby Old Lady and I get every morning – and I’m not saying that just because he’s living in my home state.

“Some people think I'm evil. But it's only because I got such good business sense. Here's what I mean:

“Today at lunch I said to Nelly Nervous: ‘If you were the administrator here, would you populate this place with more people like you, or more people like me?’

“I ask you, how does a person answer a question like that without either bragging or hurting my feelings? Can't be done, so Nelly conjured up a heart attack and died.

“I tried this on two other residents later, and they likewise expired. Everybody takes the easy way out.

“Anyway, by this time I have cost The Home $7,200 a month in income. So the administrator says to me, ‘If you'll stop that, you can live here rent-free.’

“See what I mean about having a good head for business? Hoo boy.”

Ol’ Hoss’s stories about life inside the “Way Too Old Folks’ Home” – also known as “The Home For Old Crones and Dorks” and “The Land of the Arthritic and Rheumy” among other sly epithets - are a hoot. There are new characters almost every day. People like Hazel Nutt, Zephaniah Doodoodrawer, Jed Crumpled, Rex Sagbottom and many more, but you should discover them for yourselves.

It’s a good idea, if you take to reading Ol’ Hoss regularly to not be easily offended either by his choice of language or his brand of humor:

“Today is the day the US of A observes Martin Luther King's birthday. All over the country people (including we at the Royal and Ancient Order of the Elderly) will be recalling his most famous speech:

"’I had a wet dream....’

“Or his most famous poem: "Old King Cole Slaw was...’"

Blasphemous? I don't think so. Silly, maybe, but there is lot going on at Ol' Hoss's blog of a serious nature too; he just delivers it with a good dose of salty sugar:

“Texans. Forgot yesterday to insult the Texans:

“Proud Texan to visiting Oregonian: ‘My spread is so big I can hop into my pickup, start at one end of the ranch, drive all day and never reach the other end.’

“Unimpressed Oregonian: ‘I had a pickup like that once.’

“Here in the Home for Walkers, Crutches and Scooters, I have done a survey of how racially diverse we are. Here's The Report:

My daughter tells me "fat" is not a racial category (see yesterday's posting). Too bad. We would have scored 94 percent.

“The Administrative Staff here is 100 percent Caucasoid. Not a good score. But the maintenance guy is black. I gave us 100 percent for typecasting.

“We inmates are over 90 percent pure vanilla. The lone holdout is Takiko, a Nisei (American citizen born to immigrants from Japan). Her claim to ‘fame’ is that she spent 4 years in a U.S. concentration camp (Tule Lake, California) in the 1940's. That was when, during World War II, all Japanese on the West Coast, many of them innocent farmers, were deemed a security threat, so they were rounded up and stuck in ‘internment camps.’

“Well, I should think so! These people were armed with shovels, hoes and pollination equipment. One even owned a box cutter, for Christ's sake! They easily could have overrun Fort Ord and the Alameda Air Station, threatening soldiers and sailors with smuggled-in nematodes and dung beetles. It was a close call for the US of A.

“While the Japanese extracts were penned up, their "friends" and neighbors made off with all their property. The American Way.

“A few years ago, Takiko and others like her were voted $20,000 (20k to geeks) to compensate them for their misery. Think of it, 20 grand!! Why, that was enough to pay for 8-1/2 months of room and board in The Home. Boy, did those Japanese rip us off.

“The goddamn bumble-dicking government dumb-butts (Congress) who voted for this money said it actually was more, but they had to charge the Japanese for 4 years of room and board at the internment camps. What's fair is fair.

“Takiko is a pretty, reserved, helpful, kind, friendly person. It would be well if we all were like her. Except for four years in the slammer.”

As Ol' Hoss explains it, every Sunday, the denizens of the "Home for Walkers, Crutches and Scooters" are visited by a different kind of religious practitioner. From time-to-time, he treats readers to a review of the creed in question:

"Tomorrow at The Old Folks' Home we're getting one of those Unitarian guys as our preacher. I don't know about Unitarians - they seem a little soft on religion...

"...It was a Unitarian, I believe, who said the Ten Commandments weren't really "commandments." No, he said, it was simply a True/False quiz."

Some of Hoss’s humor takes on a whistling-past-the-graveyard tone, an attitude - in his hands - the whole topic of aging could benefit from:

“It is fortitudinous that I am with you today. I tripped on a dead body outside my door in The Old Folks' Home and almost busted my kiester. It was Lydia Halfgood. I don't know why they can't clean up the dead bodies around here. They're a downright hazard...

“…Shit. I just heard a THUMP outside my door. I'll probably be trapped in here all day."


“It has dawned on me that you probably don't know much about me, your chronicler of events in the House Divided Between the Sick and Sicker. Malicious, choleric, spying, lying, crotchety old sonofabitch. But enough about you...

“My doctor says I might live ten more years, or I might die tomorrow.”

Bookmark this blog, my friends, and light a candle for Ol’ Hoss’s long, long stay at “The Home of Broken Hips and Failing Minds.” We need his kind in our old age.

Ronni and General Jeruzelski


Ronni with General Jeruzelski in Poland 1983

[21 July 1983] No one told me that in Warsaw, men – even Communist heads of state - kiss women’s hands in greeting and farewell. Graceful acceptance of this gesture is a social skill I had not mastered.


av_producer @ 2003-10-05 said:
A girl (now a woman) I once worked with carved a wonderful pumpkin with the face of General Jeruzelski on a dare from me using a cover from The Economist as her study. I wish I had a picture of it.

av_producer @ 2003-10-05 07:29 said:
To get back to the historical importance of the General - he was faced with the Solidarity movement and John Paul pecking at the Communist authority - an authority that was hollow at best. Fascinating time.

ronni @ 2003-10-05 said:
We were interviewing Jeruzelski for 20/20 on the occasion of his lifting martial law after two years of putting down the Solidarity movement. It didn’t make much difference because he had transferred most martial law to civil jurisdiction.

serendipity @ 2003-10-05 said:
Nothing like a frontal assault to breach the other side’s defences ;-)

zinetv @ 2003-10-05 said:
Great moment, and you carry that ton and half of paper in left arm so naturally. I understand these days network producers have reduced the paper to a slim laptop.

Manhattan Tower Album Cover


Manhattan Tower Album Cover

[Released 1945] When I was, until a few years ago, a music file-sharing slut, I stumbled across a song from this album that in an instant, slammed me back to age five or six listening to it on my parents’ 78rpm phonograph.

I tracked down the original on eBay and eventually found a CD version too. I had not heard it nor thought of it since childhood, but I still know every lyric by heart. I am convinced now it is this album that began my love affair with New York City for I cannot remember not wanting to live here.


av_producer @ 2003-10-04 said:
Great cover art work/illustration. What was the song? What are the lyrics?

ronni @ 2003-10-04 said:
It’s a story album, av, in four parts with narration and songs: Magical City, Love in a Tower, The Party, and New York’s My Home.

The lyrics are a bit saccharine here and there, but I love it anyway. Here’s an edited version of the opening narration - imagine lush string orchestra and chorus in the background:

“It was raining the first time I saw my tower. That is, the first time I saw it reality. In my mind I had seen it many times before.

“The outside of the building was as beautiful as the outside of anything can be, but the inside was pure enchantment. The elevator operator was Merlin. My feet touched the magic carpet as I ran down the hall and the key that I turned in the lock was Aladdin’s lamp.

“As I entered the tower for the first time I knew that at last I had found contentment. A home that I would leave many times, yet never really leave.

“I went over to the window. The sound of traffic on a New York Street creates a strange music. It is an orchestra conducted by the Statue of Liberty with the words engraved forever on her side. It is a great organ played upon by Father Knickerbocker, master organist.

“I opened my tower windows wide to let the music in. Uptown. Downtown. Chinatown. Harlem. Broadway. Times Square. Broadway. Broadway. Broadway.”

pellegrini @ 2003-10-04 said:
Impressive: Cover and text!

virgorama @ 2003-10-04 said:
I feel pretty much the same about London

lifehouse @ 2003-10-04 said:
Nice one, loved the text.

zinetv @ 2003-10-04 said:
I never knew this music existed but the graphics seem similar to the 50’s graphics for Bells Are Ringing, On the Town , Wonderful Town, etc. Having grown up in Brooklyn, Manhattan was always called The City. One never made the mistake of thinking that Brooklyn had anything to do with The City. Brooklyn was a borough, not really attached, except for some loose legal definition.

jungalero @ 2003-10-05 said:
Hey - I have a copy of that album, but it’s a later version of it on Capitol and it’s called "The Complete Manhattan Tower". I picked it up cheap because I liked the sky shot on the cover. I just pulled it out to give it another listen because of you. :-)

av_producer @ 2003-10-05 07:17 said:
Zinetv is right. Brooklyn is not the city, never will be. Outer boroughs will always be outer boroughs to those of us native to Manhattan.

kelly @ 2003-10-05 said:
Thanks for this. My recent "works in progress" reading was all about love and longing for New York. How wonderful for you to find this piece of music after so many years, and to see how it is the beginning of the thread in your tapestry called New York.

Desk Cleanup of Aging Items

[EDITOR'S NOTE] Melanie McBride at Chandrasutra is running a series of interviews titled "The Bloggers' Bloggers" and I am pleased to be included."

There was once a television commercial for a vacuum cleaner with a tagline I like: “Life’s messy. Clean it up.” My desk is messy, so I’m taking their advice today to pass on some items that have been gathering dust.

Social Security Privatization
It’s looking more and more like this dog can’t hunt. Even though each succeeding poll shows less support for private accounts, President Bush refuses to take this item off the table. As AARP CEO, Bill Novelli, put it recently:

"’If we could get the private accounts, the carve-outs as we call them, out of the way, I think we could get to solvency fairly quickly.’” This will be difficult, he said, because the White House is ‘very, very committed to them.’"
-, 12 April 2005

Meanwhile, the cost of the president’s partisan political campaign for privatization is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets and it’s costing a bundle.

In addition to the dozens of federal employees in high and low positions who have been pressed into service, there are four new, full-time employees at the Treasury Department just to run this administration campaign blitz. And then there are the large number of trips by the president on Air Force One which, in 2000, when jet fuel prices were lower, cost $54,100 per hour to operate. There are many additional costs, enough to cause Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) to request a formal accounting from the Government Accountability Office.

“…not only for the cost but also ‘whether the Bush administration has crossed the line from education to propaganda.

“’No one disputes the right of the President to make his policy recommendations known to Congress and the public…Yet there is a vital line between legitimately informing the public, as the President did in his State of the Union address, and commandeering the vast resources of the federal government to fund a political campaign for Social Security privatization...Currently, no one in Congress or the public knows the full extent and cost of the federal resources being devoted to promoting the President's Social Security agenda.”

- Washington Post, 10 April 2005

Social Security Privatization Series Index

Older Folks Take To Online Dating
According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, use of online dating services by people 55 and older is up 19.4 percent in the past year, and says their age 50-plus membership has tripled since 2000.

There is even a worldwide dating site just for older people - SeniorFriendFinder - which, the owner says, has 400,000 members.

Taxing Cosmetic Surgery
According to Newsweek, the state of New Jersey now levies a six percent tax on elective cosmetic surgery. Washington and Illinois, along with some other states, are considering a similar move.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m too curious to see how normal, natural aging will change my appearance to dabble in surgical or chemical alteration and most of all, I abhor the pressure by the youth-and-beauty police to camouflage aging, but I am clearly out of the mainstream on this.

In 2003, Americans spent $8.4 billion on cosmetic procedures – face lifts, breast implants, liposuction, Botox, etc. Perhaps the additional cost will cause older people to let their years shine through and if that doesn’t do it, this example of plastic surgery gone horribly wrong should.

Corporate America Needs Older Workers

[EDITOR'S NOTE] Melanie McBride at Chandrasutra is running a series of interviews titled "The Bloggers' Bloggers" and I am pleased to be included."

category_bug_ageism.gif In a recent piece in Fortune magazine, writer Anne Fisher notes:

“Intent on cutting costs, many employers are trying to get rid of people over 50, despite rising age-discrimination litigation…They’ll probably regret it before long, since demographics suggest that business is facing a dangerous brain drain from voluntary retirements alone. And those folks’ lost smarts can cost an awful lot to replicate."
- Fortune, 7 March 2005

Ms. Fisher gives an astonishing illustration (which you and I will pay for) of the costliness:

“Consider the chilling example of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Way back in the 1960s it spent $24 billion (in 1969 dollars) - and at one point employed 400,000 people - to send 12 astronauts to the moon.

“But in the 23 years since the Apollo program ended, the engineers who carried crucial know-how in their heads, without ever passing it on to colleagues, have retired or died (or both). At the same time, important blueprints were catalogued incorrectly or not at all, and the people who drew them are no longer around to draw them again.

“So to fulfill the Bush administration's promise to return to the moon in the next decade, NASA is essentially starting all over again. Estimated cost to taxpayers in current dollars: $100 billion.”

Anticipating a massive departure of older workers in the next half decade or so and fearing that younger managers won’t have the chops to take over, a few large corporations, according to Ms. Fisher, have implemented a variety of programs to capture the knowledge of their older employees before they leave. Among them:

  • Mentoring – of limited value because it transfers only one person’s knowledge

  • Communities of Practice – company-wide groups of varying ages that meet regularly

  • Action Learning Teams – cross-discipline groups where young managers are exposed to big projects and issues

All well and good, but as Ms. Fisher points out, the best way to pass on knowledge is to stop laying off older workers before their time.

Nevertheless, there is a hole in this otherwise excellent story. It ignores the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of older workers laid off in the past five years or more who are still healthy, still smart, still knowledgeable and desperately looking for work in their fields of expertise.

Not all knowledge is corporation-specific. Engineers know how to engineer, lawyers how to lawyer and even website builders like me still know how to do that better than kids just out of college. And one of the best things about getting older is the desire to pass on what we have learned in our long careers. I know from personal experience the pleasure of watching younger colleagues improve their skills and start to fly on their own. The satisfaction is enormous, and we’re dying out here (almost literally) wanting to be productive.

That we are not is attributable only to ageism and its illegal subsidiary, age discrimination. Okay, we’re not as pretty or handsome as the younger folks, but corporate America had better get over it. There are a lot of us and they are going to need us - soon.

Bob Corcoran, GE’s chief learning officer who is quoted in the Fortune story, has seen the future of business and knows it works:

“He envisions a future, not far away, in which ‘people aged 65 to 80 will share a job with someone else or work core hours, ten to three, or work part-time and take extended leaves to share their expertise with nonprofits.’ He says GE has offered those options to employees in mid-career for more than a decade now, and "these people have produced great results for us.”

Thank you to Kyrielle for alerting me to this Fortune story.

Ronni's Home



[1983 and 2003] In this townhouse is the first and only apartment I looked at when it was time to buy in 1983. It was built in 1820 as a single-family home, and I like imagining the lives that have gone before me here. It is warm and cozy inside, overflowing with books and music, good times and charm to spare. It is home - my sanctuary, my own little piece of Manhattan Island that would break my heart to leave.


av_producer @ 2003-10-03 said:
If you put a picture from 1820 in this flog, I am sure that there would be little difference which is what makes that area so special and timeless. In a borough where store fronts change so quickly at the end of lease it is reassuring to someone who has grown up in Manhattan that some things can remain as they were. Thanks for that reminder.

oldfinland @ 2003-10-03 said:
20 years hasn’t brought much change really, only the trees have grown... looks like a lovely place to live in.

Kelly @ 2003-10-03 said:
I have lived in my house for 20 years too, and it would be very hard to leave. Home is a powerful place...friends and lovers come and go, kids grow up and move away, but home is always home.

zinetv @ 2003-10-03 said:
Long time ago I lived on Morton Street. I have always loved the Village with the memories of all who dwelled there still reverberating through the streets.

(Extra)ordinary Lives

In response to last week’s Stories For the Infinite Future, an email arrived from a reader, who is not a blogger, saying that she can’t imagine what stories she could tell because her life has been so ordinary.

Let's say this all together now: No lives are ordinary.

Even if you “only” got married, raised children and tended the backyard garden, you have stories to tell. You especially have stories your children, grandchildren and beyond will care about. Everyone wants to know who and where they came from and what those people were like, how they lived, what they did. That’s why so many adoptees seek out their birth parents and why genealogy is popular: We all struggle to know ourselves and a large part of doing that is in knowing our family pasts.

Consider celebrities. The public can’t get enough of Biography on the A&E channel, profiles on the E! channel, mini-biographies such as the “Person of the Week” on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and the celebrity biographies in book form that are published each year.

Before they were celebrities, all these people were “ordinary” too, and every book, profile and interview begins with a rendition of birthplace, family and education with attendant personal anecdotes and stories. In fact, I would argue that what we want to know most about celebrities is their ordinariness; how they are like us.

When I was producing interviews for The Barbara Walters Specials, the most frequent question I got from people I knew about the stars we worked with was, “What is Sean Connery (or Katharine Hepburn or Cher, etc.) really like?”

What those people wanted to know was what a big-time movie star does with herself when she’s not making movies. That’s what the best entertainment profiles deliver - a peek into the celebrity’s private life...

...and it is also what your descendants will want to know about you. You are part of them; your blood flows in their veins; your genes will inform their appearance, behavior, perhaps even their interests and passions.

The smallest things can make interesting stories. There is a photo of my grandmother from about a hundred years ago, and I surely wish I knew how she did her hair like that because I’d like to do that with mine. And how did she and other women, I wonder, survive hot summer days in corsets and long, heavy dresses up to their necks with a petticoat or two underneath and no air conditioning while cooking on a wood stove? If she'd written down her stories (or kept a blog), I might know.

Your stories also become a record of life in general – modern to us now – that will, a generation or two hence, contain curiosities and puzzlements. Do you have a photo of your grandchild on Christmas day plugged into his new iPod, ignoring the festivities around him? Believe me, his grandchild, who will listen to music in some way we can’t imagine, will want to know what an iPod was as he sifts through the family photos.

My father told a story of when he was a boy, being sent to his room on the second floor of the house for some infraction of the rules. Bored, he dropped notes out the window on a fishing line to his cousin who waited below. His grandmother leaned out a first-floor window to halt the game and my dad, in a panic, reeled in the line and caught the fish hook on his grandmother’s wig, snatching her bald in front of the entire neighborhood. Obviously, he was in even worse trouble then, but it’s funny years later and now it’s part of the family lore.

Everyone has dozens of stories, large and small, happy and sad, funny and painful, that shouldn’t be lost because you think your life is ordinary. It is not. Your stories will bring alive times past for your descendants and enrich their lives by knowing the family stories of their ancestors (that’s you someday).

So let’s say it together one more time: No lives are ordinary.

Crabby’s Bad Hattitude

Those ladies of the purple dresses and red hats are at it again. Red Hat Society founder and “Queen Mother,” Sue Ellen Cooper, has published a new book: The Red Hat Society’s Laugh Lines.

Red Hat Book Cover Crabby Old Lady (grimacing while her toes curl in her shoes) mentions this today because a few women of the red-and-purple brigade have recently been leaving comments on a previous post here expressing their dismay at Crabby’s bad “hattitude” toward their club:

“…it is a shame you feel the way you do.”

“You may be missing out on some of the best times and friendships that you may make in your life.”

Crabby intends to take her chances on that second one.

This new book by Ms. Cooper is a 209-page collection of boilerplate platitudes and just about every self-help bromide published in the past 40 years. If anyone has reached 50 and doesn’t know these things – well, maybe they need The Red Hat Society.

One of the themes of this book and the Society itself runs counter to everything Crabby Old Lady and Time Goes By stand for:

“…the Red Hat Society seeks to take the sting out of reaching the age of fifty,” writes Ms. Cooper.

And, “I’m always encouraged when people refer to themselves as ‘years young’ instead of ‘years old.’”

She had better not try that phrasing around Crabby Old Lady who takes additional umbrage at Ms. Cooper’s self-important co-option and misunderstanding of the women’s movement:

“The Red Hat Society has been referred to as ‘the second women’s movement’…[but] it is important to emphasize one significant difference between the first and second movements. We Red Hatters are not angry with men, nor is there any stridency in our attitude toward them.”

Oh, let’s not raise our voices – it’s unladylike. (And can we find Crabby a frilly '50's apron?) It is attitudes like these that marginalize people – women, in this case. Crabby doesn’t know where Ms. Cooper was during the 1960s and beyond, but she surely missed the point somewhere in women’s struggle for equal rights, carried forward by women whose “stridency” she has surely benefited from.

The main purpose and goal of the Red Hatters, to “have fun,” is – discounting the feminist claim – harmless enough (if you don’t get caught in a horde of them loose on the streets of New York as once happened to Crabby). But the relentlessness of it, as recounted in this book, along with the red-and-purple uniform, is too cloying, too retro for Crabby who also fears she can never again wear a red hat without being taken for (Eew!) a Hattitude Hottie.

[See also Older Ladies and the Red Hat Society.]