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Looking Old

When Crabby Old Lady was younger – way younger – it was common among her crowd to remark, when they had partied too hard the night before, that they'd had a preview in the morning mirror of what they would look like when they got old.

Of course, this was only a stab at a humorous explanation about why they were late to work that day. Crabby and her friends didn't believe yet, in their 20s and even 30s, that they would really get old; they just knew – from somewhere in the ether of daily life – that to look old was the worst thing that could happen to them.

That lame, old joke came to Crabby's mind earlier this week while she was (and still is) recovering from a case of conjunctivitis which has now traveled from one eye to the other. The swelling of her eyelid, according to the mirror, somehow caused even more wrinkles than usual below the eye so that Crabby appeared much like a shar pei.


Cute on a dog, but not on Crabby and maybe similar to what she will look like in five years. Or ten years. Or sooner. Who knows. But she wishes she didn't care. Two things about this:

  1. Crabby Old Lady doesn't like looking that old.

  2. She resents she has been brainwashed to dislike it.

Maybe because Crabby has spent so many years reading, writing and doing 'rithmatic about getting old, she has usually been more curious about aging than caring about what she looks like. But she is not immune and it comes down to what Crabby has always said here: there is nowhere to turn without hearing how awful it is to get and look old. It is shoved in our (old) faces every day in movies, on television, in print ads and commercials and from ageist comedians and aging celebrity spokes persons who are airbrushed to look 25 years younger than they are.

Although Crabby Old Lady has always had reservations about it, the “real woman” campaign from Dove cosmetics has featured so-called real women and was a bit of a welcome relief from the usual. But except that they are somewhat older than 16 and heftier than the models we are accustomed to seeing, the “real women” have been astonishingly beautiful.

Some of that was the result of professional makeup, hair, lighting and unknown amounts of Photoshopping. Now, however, Dove has been caught with their “real women” ideals down around their ankles in a casting call posted on Craigslist last weekend for a new Real Women campaign.

Dove casting call copy

You probably can't read that image of the page, so here's what it says – bold emphasis added:


RATE: $500 FOR SHOOT & IF SELECTED FOR Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only

Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies...NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles. A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!


The casting call has been removed from Craigslist. A Dove spokesperson told the website Stylelist that the posting was an “unplanned gaffe” (yeah, sure) and

"Unfortunately, this casting notice was not approved by the brand or agency team and did not reflect the spirit of the brand team's vision. We appreciate that this has been brought to our attention, and we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

“We believe our images demonstrate that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and we remain committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising."

That attempt at corporate ass-covering is worse than the casting call post. It never ceases to amaze Crabby how dumb public relations people think the public is. Instead of derision, they could have won Crabby's heart if they'd just said, “Oops, mea culpa. But hey, at least give us credit for including slightly older, chubby women that no one else does.”

Now if you will excuse her, Crabby is going to go work on adjusting her attitude about looking older.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Brrr...


SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the twice-monthly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. His other column, Gray Matters, formerly published in Newsday, appears each Saturday.

Category_bug_reflections I have been to Israel more than a dozen times between 1947, when I ran away from home to briefly join the Haganah, and through my dozen years covering the peace talks that produced the Camp David Accords, Israel’s treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and a tentative agreement between the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin.

I attended the signing of the treaty with Egypt on the north lawn of Jimmy Carter’s White House and the treaty with Jordan on a river wash between the two nations. And I celebrated with President Bill Clinton when he won the pledge of “no more war” from the Palestinians and Jews on a sun drenched day on the south lawn at the White House.

But much of those agreements have come to little. They have not brought peace. Rabin was murdered by an Israeli; Arafat’s Palestinians were hopelessly divided when he died. The Middle East became more volatile. So when the Israelis attacked the Turkish ship seeking to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza with relief supplies, it brought to mind my encounter in 1978 with one of the legendary heroes in the founding of Israel – a man I knew as Captain Ike Aranne.

I was on an El Al flight from Nairobi, in Kenya, to Tel Aviv to meet my wife who was coming to Israel for the first time. She told me she had been reluctant to come because her orthodox Jewish father, in chanting the prayer at the end of the Passover seder, seemed to be saying something about dying in Jerusalem. And she thought from childhood that she would die if she went to Israel.

Anyway, I had spent some weeks in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it was suspected that Cuban troops were stirring trouble against the imperialist powers of France and Belgium, whose King Leopold had made billions from its copper and diamonds by wreaking great cruelties among the workers.

There were no Cuban troops. The country had been torn by civil war encouraged by the CIA, tribal rivalries, a culture of corruption and Zaire became a stake in the cold war. It was ruled by the pro-west dictator, Joseph Mobutu, who stole millions but he had the support of the U.S., the World Bank and Israel, which was seeking influence in Africa.

I was typing out on my Olivetti my final story from Zaire when the man next to me on the flight asked what I was doing. He was handsome and wiry with a shock of white hair, and I noticed that the El Al cabin crew seemed to treat him with deference. I told him who I was and asked him if he was someone famous.

He asked me if I had heard of the President Warfield. Garfield, I said but there was no President Warfield.

The President Warfield, he said, had been a Chesapeake Bay ferry named after the head of the company that owned it. It had been secretly purchased by the Israelis in 1947 to bring Jewish refugees from Nazism to British occupied Palestine. The ship had been renamed “Exodus 1947” and my seat mate was its captain who gave me his anglicized name, “Yitzhak (Ike) Aranne.”

In contrast to the happy ending of the Exodus voyage in the movie of the same name, the British, resisting the creation of a Jewish state, rammed and blockaded the ship and refused to let it land as it stood offshore for days packed with 4,500 sick and hungry passengers, three of whom died in battles with British who boarded the ship. The British raised the phony charge that the refugees were armed.

After days of fruitless negotiations, the vindictive British prime minister deported the ship and with nowhere else to land, it was forced to land in Germany, which just a few years earlier tried to kill every Jew in Europe.

The refugees were interned, but one result of the world-wide outcry on behalf of the Exodus, was the 1948 vote in the United Nations to partition Palestine, which gave Israel its independence but left the Palestinians in a national limbo. The voyage of the Exodus had worked.

Not surprisingly, The New York Times saw a parallel between the plight of the Exodus and the Israeli attack on the Turkish ship trying to breach the tight Israeli blockade of Gaza with food and other essentials. The Times reported on May 31, “To some Israeli observers, it was impossible to miss the parallels” with the story of the Exodus. Rafi Man, of the Israeli Democracy Institute, asked on his blog, “Will this be the Palestinian Exodus?”

I am not sure that Captain Ike would disagree with the parallel. Yitzhak Ahronovitch, who died in December at the age of 86, was among the earliest settlers. He came to Palestine from Poland when he was ten and he was only 23 when he commanded the Exodus. He had been a veteran merchant seaman during the Second World War and in the struggle against the British occupation, he was a member of the Palmach, the Haganah’s strike force, which fought the British occupiers with bombs and terrorism.

But when we spoke in his apartment, with his American-born wife, and over a long dinner in Joppa, he worried that the Israelis had lost their way and had become the hated occupiers – of the millions of Palestinians, farmers and shopkeepers who could trace their roots in Palestine-Israel back to Christ’s time.

As I remember it, Ike told me that the glow of Israel’s spectacular victory in the 1967 Six-Day War had turned to uncertainty. Israel had conquered three Arab armies and had taken control of Egypt’s Sinai, Syria’s Golan Heights, Jordan’s West Bank of the Jordan River and most treasured of all, the old city of Jerusalem and the Western Wall of an ancient Jewish temple.

The occupation of these territories, which is still not recognized as legal by the U.N. or the U.S., brought internal violence again as the Palestine Liberation Organization asserted itself with terror bombings not unlike those of the Palmach against the British occupation. As Ahronovitch told me, “We were sure that the ‘67 war would give us peace at last. But now, we don’t know what comes next.”

Israel’s confidence in its future as a Jewish state had been shaken.

By 1978, as Palestinian resistance grew more violent, the inevitable dynamic of the occupied and occupier became increasingly violent and the call for security clashed with the democratic idealism of the nation’s founders, like Ahronovitch. Palestinians were treated badly, to counter the violence of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, which led to stronger, angrier Palestinian resistance and the spiral of violence that continues today. Although Israel regards itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, democracy does not extend to the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, the Bedouins and non-Jews.

The traditionally non-secular (younger, immigrant) Jews in Israel have become dominated by orthodox Rabbis and their right-wing parties (women are forbidden to pray at the Western Wall) have turned racist, seeking to expel the Palestinians and even the Israeli Arabs. For self-protection, the Israelis have built apartheid walls which keep the Palestinians and their plight out of sight of most Israelis and visiting Americans.

Because of real security concerns, the domination of the Israeli Defense Forces in the cabinet and the religious orthodoxy that closes down the country on the Sabbath and rules the lives of women, in particular, have made much of Israeli a military theocracy. Such are the fruits of occupation that lead to unintended consequences. To counter the influence of the non-secular Palestinians, Israel invited into the country elements of the deeply religious Muslim Brotherhood, based in Egypt.

They became Hamas, a grass roots political and social movement hostile to the more moderate non-fundamentalist Palestinians. Hamas’ religious fundamentalism is especially hostile towards Israel as an affront to the Muslim faith. But they won a democratic election and they now rule Gaza from which they send rockets into Israel, which responded with an invasion, many innocent civilian deaths and today’s blockade.

So nowhere is the peace in sight that Yitzhak Ahronovitch had hoped for in 1978. For without the reluctant support of the Palestinians, Hamas and the stalling Israelis, the so-called two-state solution seems untenable.

That brings me to another sad chapter in the ongoing Middle East drama - the reprehensible call by my friend, a long time colleague, that Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and Jews should go back to the European nations of their origin. But I know something of the background to the outburst.

Helen Thomas, born in Kentucky into a Lebanese family, covered dozens of Israeli officials who came to the White House and she traveled to Israel with presidents. Despite her inner anger at some of the more hostile Israeli statements and policies towards Arabs, and their bloody invasions of Lebanon, her reports remained straight with nary a hint of how she feels.

But her unthinking mini-diatribe, was born from frustration that the 30-year peace process is going nowhere and suggests a new path to peace – the one state solution in which Israel and Palestinians shared the land as Israel’s founders intended.

Let’s face it: It is impossible to cobble together two states out of the walled off Palestinians whose lands are torn by hundreds of armed settlements, a modern semi-secular and paranoid Israel and the besieged, destitute and powerless Gaza under Hamas. So why not one state with Palestinians and Jews who are more alike than they would admit, in looks, culture, intelligence, intellectual achievement, a desire for education, business sense and acquisitiveness, their penchant accumulate wealth and build a business?

In 2003, the Middle East scholar and political scientist Virginia Tilley, writing from South Africa in the London Review of Books, and writer Tony Judt, who is Jewish and a frequent writer on the Middle East, opened a discussion on the alternative to the faltering two-state solution.

TILLEY: “The two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an idea and possibility whose time has passed, its death obscured by the spectacle–the hoopla of useless road maps, the cycle of Israeli gun ship assassinations and Palestinian suicide bombings, the dismal Palestinian power struggles, the house demolitions....” And now as a last resort for safety, the walls of what Israelis acknowledge as Apartheid. What next?

JUDT: “The peace process is dead. The time has come to think the unthinkable. The two-state solution— the core of the Oslo process and the present 'road map — is probably already doomed. With every passing year we are postponing an inevitable, harder choice that only the far right and far left have so far acknowledged, each for its own reasons.

“The true alternative facing the Middle East in coming years will be between an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel and a single, integrated, bi-national state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. That is indeed how the hard-liners in Israel’s cabinet see the choice; and that is why they anticipate the removal of the Arabs as the ineluctable condition for the survival of a Jewish state.”

Other Middle East actors, including the Palestinian Authority have begun serious consideration of the one-state solution. The early Zionists, like Yitzhak Ahronovitz, according to Amos Elon, saw Israel (perhaps naively) as a socialist democratic home for Jews and Arabs, not necessarily a secular Jewish State, but a homeland for the Diaspora.

Captain Ike would not have supported the unthinkable, the expulsion of millions of Palestinians. If there is to be peace, I believe the one state solution – call it Israel or Palestine or both – inevitable.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Feeling Smug

New Information About Aging Brains

category_bug_journal2.gif It hasn't trickled down to employers yet or late-night comedians or much of mainstream media but with each passing year, evidence that old brains are dumber brains is being debunked. Remember that old standby from the 1960s we all believe about losing millions of brain cells a day after age 30? Maybe not, according to a report in the most recent issue of Newsweek. Past data that has indicated age-related brain shrinkage

“...may be skewed by the inclusion of people who have very early dementia – so early that they have no symptoms, explains neuroscientist John Morrison of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, but still have neuronal loss and thus volume loss in their prefontal cortex.

“If only truly healthy people were studied, there might be no such volume loss, he says.”

Other good news, according to the Newsweek report, also relates to neurons. A newly-published study of rhesus monkeys

“...shows how well the aging brain holds up. The animals’ prefrontal cortex indeed loses 'dendritic spines,' tiny protrusions that, acting as the brain’s wide receivers, catch the neurotransmitters that carry signals from other neurons. But there are two kinds of spines in monkeys as well as people.

“Small, thin ones are responsible for learning and remembering new things (where did I park my car?), and short, stubby ones are responsible for recalling things we’ve known for years. The brain loses some 45 percent of the first kind—and zero of the second kind...”

This may account for elders' penchant for reminiscence which plays an important part in life review that is important in our later years, but it is also useful to understanding how much experience we have to call upon in solving problems, an area where older people often out-perform the young. And those short, stubby dendritic spines may explain why we shouldn't worry about forgetting someone's name.

For most of us, there is nothing more frightening than the prospect of losing our memories and as interesting as advances in brain science are, they don't help much with advising us about avoiding dementia. But here is what is known for certain about brain health:

What study and after study after study shows is that the most effective way to maintain mental function as you age is to get off your duff. According to the Newsweek report:

“What does support mental acuity as we age is the same thing that’s good for your heart, lungs, immune system, and muscles: aerobic exercise such as brisk walking. A seminal study by scientists at the University of Illinois found that three vigorous, 40-minute walks a week over six months improves memory and reasoning.

“It also spurs the birth of new brain neurons, scientists led by the University of Illinois’s Art Kramer reported in 2006, and increases the volume of white matter, which connects neurons, in areas responsible for such executive functions as planning.”

You know what you need to do today.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Walt Grant: Uncle Bob

ELDER MUSIC: Sweet Soul Music

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

category_bug_eldermusic I realise that I haven’t featured any soul music. What an oversight. I have played a few individual tracks but not a complete column. That’s being rectified today in the most obvious way possible – playing Arthur Conley singing Sweet Soul Music and playing each tune and artist he references in that song.

Arthur Conley

Arthur was born and bred in Georgia. After a few hits in the seventies Arthur went to Europe to live - first England, then Belgium and finally The Netherlands. He remained there for the rest of his life. He changed his name to Lee Roberts and performed and recorded under that name.

Back in 1967, Arthur met Otis Redding and they wrote Sweet Soul Music together. Otis got the song released and it was a huge hit (and still continues to be played on certain radio stations). Here it is.

♫ Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music

Smokey Robinson isn’t explicitly mentioned in the song, but his song Going to a Go Go is, and that’s good enough for me.

Smokey Robinson

This was back when it was still Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, maybe even just The Miracles.

When I played this track Norma, The Assistant Musicologist, remarked, “His voice still hasn’t broken.” If I weren’t a gentleman, I’d have swatted her with my ostrich-feathered duster I keep handy, but as I am, I restrained myself.

Smokey does it all – he has been a record producer, executive for a major company, significant song writer and singer. Only Berry Gordy would be more important than Smokey in the development and success of Motown records.

Bob Dylan once said of Smokey, that he was "America's greatest living poet." Bob used to say a lot of things, but he could be right. Space precludes even a cursory glance at Smokey's (ongoing) career and life so I won’t even try. Here are The Miracles singing Going to a Go Go.

♫ Smokey Robinson - Going to a Go-Go

Lou Rawls was a classmate of Sam Cooke's and they sang together in a gospel group when they were teenagers. Lou replaced Sam in the Highway QCs when Sam left to join the Soul Stirrers.

Lou Rawls

In 1958, Lou was seriously injured in a car accident and it took him a year to recover fully. His recording career started as a jazz performer. These sold okay but were nothing to write home about.

He recorded an R&B album call Soulin' that contained the song Love Is a Hurtin' Thing. Another song from the album won a Grammy and he didn’t look back. Many more Grammies followed. Lou has also appeared in a number of films and TV shows. Here’s his song.

♫ Lou Rawls - Love Is a Hurtin' Thing

Sam and Dave performed together for twenty years and are easily the most successful duo in soul history. They are Samuel Moore and Dave Prater.

Sam and Dave

Sam and Dave developed a call and response style they learned from church and gospel music. Their records benefited by having Booker T and the MGs as their backing band and they used them in concert as well.

They also had great songwriters – Steve Cropper, Isaac Hayes, David Porter and so on. The song Hold On I'm Coming was the first they performed with them singing alternate verses that was to become a trademark style for them.

They were considered one of the best live acts ever, maybe the best. Alas, I can’t inform you from personal experience about that. They split in 1970 when Sam went on to have a solo career. In spite of that they still recorded together and occasionally performed together as well, although things weren’t too amicable in the Sam and Dave camp.

Here they are when they were happier together.

♫ Sam and Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming

Wilson Pickett is the only artist featured today that I managed to see live (of course, there’s still time for Smokey, indeed he was in town only a couple of weeks ago. Missed again. Oh, and Sam too, but not Dave).

Wilson Pickett

Wilson started his career, like so many others, in a gospel group. Like those others, he saw the lucrative takings that could be earned in the secular market and joined a group called The Falcons. The group also included Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice.

His first solo record came to the notice of Jerry Wexler who bought out the contract he had and signed Wilson to Atlantic Records where he had numerous hits. Pickett had a somewhat troubled life, too much to go into here, but created some of the greatest soul music. This is Mustang Sally.

♫ Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally

Otis Redding was the most important person in soul music after Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, who invented the genre.

Otis Redding

Unfortunately, Otis’s stay with us was much too brief. He was born in the same town as Little Richard who was a big influence on his style.

He recorded These Arms Of Mine when there was time left after another group’s session. Not a bad way to start. Like Sam and Dave, Otis had Booker T and the MGs to back him.

Sam and Dave and Otis often toured together.  Unlike them, he wrote many of his songs (and songs for others as well) frequently joined in this venture by Steve Cropper, the MGs’ guitarist.

He’s yet another performer who should have taken the train. This is Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).

♫ Otis Redding - Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (SadSong)

Arthur Conley thinks that James Brown is the king of them all, y’all.

James Brown

I’d vote for Otis in the kingship stakes but that’s okay.

James’s very public life is so well known that I couldn’t add much worthwhile. His most famous album, “Live at the Apollo,” recorded in 1963 was financed by James himself. His record company didn’t want to release it as it had no commercial potential, they said. Yet another case of record companies not having a clue.

Arthur didn’t actually mention a song in connection with James so I can choose whatever I like. I decided to stay away from the Apollo concert and instead I’ll go with the appropriate Soul Power.

♫ James Brown - Soul Power

GRAY MATTERS: Health Care Reform Benefits for Elders

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the weekly Gray Matters column which appears here each Saturday. Links to past Gray Matters columns can be found here. Saul's Reflections column, in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation, also appears at Time Goes By twice each month.

The final health reform law is much too long, more than 2,000 pages, mostly because of dozens of compromises to get Democrats (liberals and conservatives) on board, and in a vain effort to get support from Republicans who marched in lockstep to vote no like, say, the goosestepping North Korean army.

Nevertheless, a 2,000 page bill is not unusual for even routine legislation like the budget but the length reflects these contentious days in the Congress, especially for such a massive and comprehensive legislative enterprise as the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Most of us know, or will soon see, the main benefits, requiring insurance and drug companies to provide – with the government’s help – affordable health care and prescription drug coverage for 40 million uninsured Americans, including children, no matter their current health problems.

But in reviewing the bill and the analyses of various organizations, the PPACA, as it has become known, includes some valuable unpublicized benefit nuggets. For example, the June AARP Bulletin tells me than the law has set aside $2 billion over five years to encourage states to use Medicaid dollars to help older people “transition” out of nursing homes to more independent living arrangements – their homes or assisted living.

These patients ought to know about this and take advantage of it; best to stay home or in your community.

Preventive medicine also will be a high priority in the law, from which you’ll benefit in coming years. Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announced the law will allocate $250 million for public health initiatives on preventing and dealing with chronic diseases including curbing tobacco and alcohol abuse (something the British health system is tackling).

She wants to spend the money training hundreds of needed primary care doctors, but lawmakers want more spent on preventive medicine. This is part of the $500 million Prevention and Public Health Fund, the first of its kind under Medicare, created by the act. Money will be available through grants to community clinics, hospitals and researchers.

If you didn’t already know, beginning next year, all preventive screening and tests for Medicare patients – mammograms, colonoscopies and annual comprehensive physical exams will be free. Private insurers are expect to follow suit; at present, beneficiaries have had to pay 20 percent of the cost and use their yearly deductible.

One of my favorite obscure provisions is in section 4207, which requires employers to “provide a reasonable break time for an employees to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth” and to provide a place, not a bathroom, for mother to nurse the child.. Other benefits are enhanced for infant care.

The respected Center for Medicare Advocacy has compiled a number of important, but obscure provisions of the reforms. Beginning next year, Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans may not manipulate premiums for low-income beneficiaries in order to force them into other plans.

But the HHS Secretary is authorized to auto-enroll low-income beneficiaries who have lost their plans into more advantageous plans. Effective January 1, 2011, an individual whose spouse dies in the middle of a low-income eligibility period is granted continued eligibility for a full year beyond the date when his/her eligibility would end.

Of course he/she could reapply for the low income benefits. You should check with the center to see if you qualify as low-income.

“Dual eligibles,” low-income individuals who are eligible for both Medicaid (health care for the poor) and Medicare, have always presented the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with bureaucratic problems. The Republican Part D law, took away availability for cheap medicines from Medicaid beneficiaries and forced them to use more expensive and limited Medicare Part D, with its co-pays, limitations and the notorious doughnut hole.

Low income people can get “extra help” in paying for drugs. And the doughnut hole is to be phased out slowly. If you fell into the hole, you should have gotten a $250 rebate by now. That’s a pittance, but the next big change comes next year when the cost of brand named drugs, while you’re in the hole, will be cut by 50 percent.

A reader asks why the Republican congress in 2003 created the doughnut hole during which the beneficiary must pay the full, retail cost of his drug. This year the beneficiary who has purchased $2, 830 in drugs, at the cost of small co-pays, must pay, while in the hole, the full price until he/she reaches $4,300 in out of pocket costs.

The congress created the hole, which has grown larger each year based on the economic theory called ‘”moral hazard,” which means beneficiaries will buy more drugs that they may not need if there were no such curbs as the doughnut hole.

Put another way, persons with good auto insurance are more likely to drive recklessly and have accidents. For the Republican sponsors it was their way of saving money by forcing beneficiaries to pay more out of pocket.

Anyway, the problems of dual eligibles will be assigned to a new Federal Coordinated Care Office to integrate benefits under Medicaid and Medicare and, under the law, to provide dual eligibles “full access to all benefits of both programs.”

Too often the elderly poor who are on Medicare do not get the full benefits of Medicaid if they are under home care or in a nursing facility.

More specifically for dual eligibles, effective January 1, 2012, the reforms call for the elimination of cost-sharing (co-pays) for Part D drugs for all full benefit, dual-eligible beneficiaries who are receiving Medicaid and Medicare at home or on a nursing institution. The center says, “This provision creates equity in Part D cost sharing between those in institutions and those getting substantially the same services” at home or in assisted living.

Long term care remains, as AARP said, the greatest unmet health care need in the country. Perhaps two-thirds of people who are 65 today will need long term care, at home or in an institutional setting. The U.S. spends $207 billion on long term care, much of it on Medicaid funds which are used by many middle and working class families who game the system by transferring their assets to loved one, impoverishing themselves in order to become eligible.

They should not be condemned, for they have little choice; long term care insurance is expensive and few will spend years paying the premiums for insurance they probably won’t need. Only seven million Americans have long term care insurance. It’s not feasible for a person who is, say 60, to pay for 20 years on the chance he/she will need it.

If it is not needed, the money is lost. And often the insurance companies, several of which have been absorbed by conglomerates, will raise premiums when the elderly beneficiary can least afford it.

According to the center, the reforms call for better regulation of the thousands of nursing facilities, some of which have been literally getting away with murder, neglecting residents mostly because of poorly paid, insufficient staffs. There are perhaps a dozen provisions policing nursing homes to hold them accountable for maltreatment of patients.

Medicare, of course, covers medical needs of nursing home patients, but after 20 to 100 (expensive) days in rehabilitation after a hospitalization, say for a hip replacement, it does not cover long term nursing home care. Medicaid does, but the Congress has been cracking down on those who get rid of their money to get the Medicaid benefits.

The reforms, thanks to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, include the modest Community Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS) under which employees may voluntarily sign up to contribute $50 a month into a fund which eventually will pay a tiny fraction of the current $150 per day rate for a good nursing home. It’s an obscure provision of the massive health reforms. And it means less than minimal progress in dealing with long term care.

Maybe it deserves obscurity, for while some say it’s a start; I say it’s a shame. The Congress and President Obama, who speaks of his late grandmother in long term care, could have done more. Where is the real concern for older Americans, the fastest growing part of the population?

Finally, for the best and latest information on the 2,000 pages of the PPACA, try The Alliance For Health Reform website.

Write to

Reverse Mortgage – Part 1

category_bug_journal2.gif Like so many elders, I lost a lot of money in the financial crash of 2008. There was not all that much to begin with, but enough to augment my Social Security benefit so that without undue effort, I could live comfortably, if frugally. Frugally compared to my working years, but not difficult. I didn't feel deprived.

A large chunk of my loss was due to the Lehman bankruptcy from which I will eventually see only pennies on those tens of thousands of dollars. And because, on the day of the crash, I put all remaining funds into a cash account at a miniscule, if not quite nonexistent, interest rate, since then I have not had the monthly earnings I had counted on to ease my old age.

Don't get me wrong. I am not in danger of needing a food pantry or government help in paying Medicare premiums. But I do live close to the bone and any out-of-the-ordinary expense – an unexpectedly high veterinary bill, for example, auto repair or a denture as I recently needed – means further reducing my savings or running up a high-interest-rate credit card debt. Neither is a comforting option.

Undoubtedly some of you – braver sorts than I – have benefited from market returns since the crash and would advise me to reinvest. I am not ready to do that. Even the word “invest” gives me a stomach ache. In an economic environment that still feels uncertain to me, I don't have enough money to take those chances again and until I can think about investing without vomiting, it is not a place for me to be.

I am telling you all this because after much reading, note-taking, thought and consideration over several months, I have decided to seek a reverse mortgage. Further, I believe it would be beneficial for many TGB readers who might want to consider this move to follow along through each step of a real-life experience as I investigate the possibilities, seek the best advice and make the necessary decisions.

One of the problems with reverse mortgages is that the business has a poor reputation and the people who deal in them feel sketchy. The television commercials and email solicitations, whose numbers are increasing, sound like fly-by-night operations and in fact, a consumer advisory brochure from the comptroller of the currency at the U.S. Department of the Treasury titled, Reverse Mortgages: Are They for You? [pdf], includes this warning:

“Be wary of anyone trying to sell you other products along with a reverse mortgage. Because a reverse mortgage can give you access to a large amount of funds, it can make you a target for aggressive sales pitches for expensive and inappropriate products and services.

“You should generally steer clear of anyone trying to sell you other products – such as annuities long-term care insurance, investment prorams, or home repair services – along with a reverse mortgage.”

Five years ago, when I had been unable to find work for a year and was looking into how I might be able to afford to remain in my home in Greenwich Village years before I had intended to retire, I looked into reverse mortgages. My research then revealed an industry fraught with potential bad guys so slick they could skin me alive before I knew what had happened. So much so, that I gave up the idea and sold my home.

What has changed since then is that I met Saul Friedman. As you know, he writes the Saturday Gray Matters column on this blog and also contributes two Reflections columns a month.

He has recently written two stories on the benefits to elders of HECM reverse mortgages, a type I missed or misunderstood five years ago, but is insured by the federal government making them safe for both borrower and lender. You can read Saul's two reverse mortgage columns here and here.

If my new home in Oregon, on which there is no mortgage, is worth what I paid for it, and if the various reverse mortgage calculators around the web are correct, I could increase my income by about 40 percent. That is, if I took the mortgage as monthly payments; there are other options.

I don't need that much, but it would give me some financial breathing room and reduce anxiety about inevitable unexpected or even anticipated expenses that don't fit into the current budget.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story of my search for a reverse mortgage will appear here about once a week or whenever there is enough new information for an update. I will do my best to get the people I meet along the way on the record here. I will steer you toward the best information on the web. I will do everything possible to get your questions answered.

Also, I will give you enough detail about my reverse mortgage so you understand the process – although not so much that you know everything about my financial situation. (Come on now – you're not entitled.)

One of the requirements for an HECM (FHA-guaranteed reverse mortgage) is a counseling session with a HUD-licensed reverse mortgage expert who explains all details – the upsides and down – of reverse mortgages. I've done enough reading to believe that a reverse mortgage is a good choice for me, but I am moving forward slowly and carefully, and may learn something new that changes my mind.

So we will take this critical journey together. I hope it will be useful to you in your financial decision-making.

Reverse Mortgage Series
Part 2: The Basics
Part 3: Finding a Lender
Part 4: Do Not Fear HECMs
Part 5: The Mandatory Counseling Session
Part 6: The Home Appraisal
Part 7: Lender Conditions

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ann Berger: Jens, Our Scarecrow

GAY AND GRAY: An Elder Hero for Gay Humanity

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

In this month of Gay Pride celebrations, it seems good to raise up the story of a valued acquaintance, an unlikely hero in the international struggle for LGBT human rights who happens to be an elder.

Retired Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, 78, is a married, straight man. For 34 years he served the Anglican Church in West Buganda diligently, but without attracting particular attention. In 1998, he left office, but stayed active, starting a family counseling center in Kampala, the capital. He anticipated a quiet life.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

Recently he visited the United States and explained what actually ensued to a reporter who wrote:

”In 2001, his life changed forever when he met several gay and lesbian young people who had been rejected by their churches. 'They had lost jobs and been expelled from school. Some of them were on the verge of committing suicide.'

“Senyonjo gave them a radical message for their time and place: 'If you are gay or lesbian, God made you and loves you that way, and you should accept yourselves.'

“Once word of his compassionate advice reached his successors in the Anglican hierarchy in Uganda, there was a firestorm. Senyonjo was asked to 'condemn' the people under his care 'and convert them to something else.' Senyonjo said he would not. 'I cannot see God where there is no love,' he said, 'I would rather go with the truth.'

“In reaction, he was expelled from the church he had served for 34 years. More significantly for his own survival, the church stripped him of his pension. 'The cost has been great,' Senyonjo said of his post-retirement ministry. 'It is by the grace of God that I have been able to survive. By the strength of God I have been able to stand.'"

The virulent panic about homosexuality currently raging in Uganda is largely imported from U.S. Religion writer Diana Butler Bass explains:

”Africa is becoming Stage Two of the American political and religious culture wars, a theater for religious imperialists to accomplish overseas what cannot be accomplished at home - like denying women ordination to ministry and putting LGBT people back in closets.

For the last two decades, right-wing Christians have been tromping all over Africa trying to appropriate native African experiential faith for their western theological agenda - making Africa a wedge issue - and African Christians spiritual pawns - in their seemingly endless quest to grasp theological power.

So today, gay Ugandans are denounced as Western decadents by their President. They are threatened with a new law that would, under some circumstances, call for the death penalty for homosexual conduct or rights advocacy.

LGBT people world wide have called on their governments to speak out against the planned legislation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have both joined the chorus of protest.

Several times over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Christopher, most recently in May when I volunteered to drive him to some of his appointments in my city. A more gentle, unassuming man of the cloth would be hard to imagine.

This is a person who saw an injustice and felt called to speak out against it, accepting with equanimity and humor the rejection and privation he has suffered in consequence.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: The Penguins are Gone

Crabby Confesses: She Despises Bicyclists

Crabby Old Lady is aware that this is an unpopular stand, but someone's got to say it: bicyclists are a worse menace that automobile drivers.

A couple of days ago, while driving her car on a local street at the posted speed of 25 mph, Crabby had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting a bicycle steered by a grown man of age 50 or so, pedaling into traffic mid-block from between two parked cars.

He too stopped, directly in front of Crabby's car, shouting and gesticulating wildly - something to the effect that Crabby was a raging @#$%^ (this is a family blog) trying to kill anyone who was saving the planet and blah, blah, blah. (Her windows were closed so Crabby missed most of the tirade.)

Since he seemed prepared to emote all afternoon, Crabby drove around him into the other lane and off to her errands as he, predictably, gave her back the traditional one-fingered salute.

This isn't the first run-in Crabby Old Lady has had with a bicyclist. About 15 years ago, she nearly killed one in midtown New York traffic as she opened the door to exit a taxi and slammed it into a messenger passing on the right.

On another occasion, a New York bicycle messenger might have killed Crabby. Crossing a one-way street, she looked to make sure traffic coming toward her was clear, then stepped off the curb only to be slammed to the ground by a wrong-way cyclist.

Like Maine where, until a month ago, Crabby lived for four years, Oregon has a lot of bike paths painted on the sides of streets and suburban roads. Also like Maine, cyclists here seem to believe their specially designated lanes give them the right to ride the wrong way on one-way streets, weave in and out of auto lanes and turn without signaling.

A couple of weeks ago, Crabby saw a cyclist reverse direction in the middle of 50 mph suburban traffic by humping his bike over the median strip of the four-lane road.

It amazes Crabby Old Lady that cyclists who so blatantly ignore the rules seem to falsely believe two things: that automobiles need no more room than bicycles to stop and that thousand-plus pound vehicles can't hurt them. (Oh, maybe there's a third thing – that they falsely believe motorists don't hate them enough to behave as cavalierly as they do.)

Now don't go telling Crabby that most cyclists are responsible. That may or may not be true, but Crabby, in her entire life, has not seen more than two or three drivers going the wrong way on a one-way street, something cyclists do regularly and, unlike motorists, deliberately. They often run red lights which motorists almost never do, and as far as Crabby can tell, not one cyclist has ever learned hand signals.

Even children are more predictable than cyclists. When they're playing near the road, you know they are likely to do something stupid just because they are young and inexperienced. So you slow way down. Grownups are expected be smarter, but the act of buying a bicycle seems to drain brain cells.

The more bicycles on the road, the better for the environment and for individual health. But until cyclists lose the holier-than-thou attitude, and the rules of the road are enforced for bicyclists as readily as for motorists, Crabby Old Lady will despise them.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Hands Across the Years

In Memoriam – Nancy Belle

Yesterday, I learned that Nancy Belle died unexpectedly last Thursday, 17 June. Many of you may know her. She commented here from time to time and she blogged at The Tempered Optimist. Almost exactly a year ago, she wrote a guest blog for Time Goes By about turning age 65. She started out like this:

“I reach a turning point at the end of May. I will turn 65. I believe I am not defined by a number. But I have learned now I am.

“I also believe I am the total of life experiences have made me who I am today: someone who loves to have fun; someone who can be brutally honest; someone who has no tolerance for game players or hypocrites; someone who sometimes is impatient, silent, reflective yet personable and very intuitive.

“These characteristics were always within me but some became more prominent as I aged. So my first lesson is that you are who you are - formed at early age.”

Nancy's description is spot on; she knew herself well, she never pulled her punches, most especially about herself.

We “met” sometime in 2007, when she was working with Erickson Retirement Homes and sought my help in starting a blog for the company. Soon thereafter, she invited me to tour one of the Erickson communities in Illinois, so we then met in person and got to spend part of day together. She was funny, smart, thoughtful, passionate and full of life.

On 15 April, 2009, Nancy became a victim of the recession when she and many others at Erickson were laid off after many years of service. Not one to waste time, she had her personal blog up and running four days later and wrote this on the first day, proving her “tempered optimist” credentials:

“I begin a new at an interesting point in my life. I had thought I would retire in at least 3 years so I could get the maximum benefit from Social Security since my 401K is so down from what it was. But I got a small severance and some accrued vacation time. And there is always unemployment!

“Though it will be difficult, I have decided to take some time for me and think things over. You know the old saying: I don't know what I want to be when I grow up? I think this is true at any age. Maybe there is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.”

Nancy always jumped feet first into whatever she cared greatly about. During the health care reform debate last year, she joined several other elderbloggers in a conference call with Senator Harry Reid's office, and I remember the impassioned plea she made for bone density screenings to be included in the free preventive care for Medicare members. I don't know if it was due to Nancy or not, but a few hours later, we received a note from the Senator's office that it had been included in the draft bill.

Here is a photo of Nancy in her office at Erickson. In recent months, she had been tweeting and using Facebook more than blogging.


Nancy's funeral was held on Sunday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Baltimore. You can sign the memorial guest book for her family here and listen to the service here.

Nancy, who usually signed herself NancyB online, titled her TGB guest post, On Turning 65 - Lessons Learned. As happened so often with Nancy, her lessons were as funny as they were useful. Here is one:

“Don’t spend too much energy on people or things that upset you. My friend Jan used to say to me, 'those people are trees.'

“So, when someone or something gets me really angry, that thing or person becomes a tree. They are part of the environment, you know they’re there but it’s up to a mightier power to take care of them, not me. Sometimes I give them tree names - and sometimes, just before I let go, I envision a dog coming by and urinating on that tree.”

Funny, but hardly a way to end a memorial post. So here is how Nancy ended the inaugural post on her personal blog:

“Over the next few blogs, I will write of my experiences, my plan, and my outlook. I title the blog the tempered optimist because that is who I am. I like to think that I look at things from the best side, not the worst; yet I am tempered by life's experiences so that I do not always see only the rosy side of life.

“I choose to be realistic but with a positive twist. Does that make sense? Who knows? But this is the start of a new journey.”

Safe journey, Nancy.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: The Woman Who Inspired Me

New Home, New Treats

category_bug_journal2.gif This is what happens when I putter around not doing much of anything on the weekend: you get a photo story on Monday, something that doesn't require much thinking. But first...

I would love to have found a home with a view of Mt. Hood - like I had from my bedroom when I was a kid. But it didn't work out that way. Instead, this is the view when I look to my left in the early morning while reading the newspapers online at my desk. A mountain is magnificent, but I like this too. The light is gorgeous at that time of day when the sun is rising.

Office View Early Morning

My home in Greenwich Village where I lived for 25 years, was about two miles from Chinatown and I often made that zigzag walk through SoHo to go there for grocery shopping. Chinatown shops carried all the same produce, poultry, meat and fish as uptown stores, but at much cheaper prices.

Plus, I discovered a lot of Asian foods I would not have otherwise known. I've missed all that for the past four years. Let's just say Portland, Maine isn't widely known for its Asian cuisine. So I jumped at the invitation from my brother on Sunday to go to a not-far-away Asian supermarket, Uwajimaya.

Uwajimaya Storefront

In New York's Chinatown are many small specialized shops – fish, vegetables, noodles, prepared foods, mom-and-pop groceries, street vendors of every variety, dim sum take out, bakeries, Peking ducks strung up in windows. At Uwajimaya, there is a lot of the same stuff, but all under one roof for a different kind of experience.

Who knew there were so many kinds and brands of sake – and this is only one set of shelves I'm showing you. There was a second of the same size.


The amount of soy sauce was just as amazing. What surprised me most, that you can't see, were the gallon containers on the bottom shelf. That must be restaurant size, right?

Soy Sauce

In New York City, Koreans pretty much own the neighborhood produce market franchise. Besides fruit and veggies, soft drinks and beer, they also carried a lot frozen Asian prepared foods. On nights I didn't feel like cooking, I often heated up a batch of frozen shumai – Japanese dumplings - that might be filled with seafood, vegetables, pork or combination of them – and I was delighted to find them again after being deprived of this easy dinner for the past four years.

Frozen Shumai

With a couple of those packages in my basket, I definitely needed pickled ginger. As with the sake and soy sauce, I was shocked to see how many different kinds there are.

Pickled Ginger

A food advantage Portland, Maine has over New York City and everywhere else is cheap lobster. When I arrived at the supermarket, I'd pick out however many I needed and they would be cooked for me by the time I was finished shopping – a free service of the store.

No lobster on this coast, but Dungeness crab makes up for it. They are usually sold already cooked, but Uwajimaya sells them from a big tank.

Seafood Counter

Those are several kinds of local clams and oysters below the crab. I decided crab for Sunday night dinner was an excellent idea and picked up a beautifully fresh baby bok choy in the produce department to go with it. (God, I love to eat – there are so many great, good foods.)

Some people would argue with me, but Dungeness crab is best eaten chilled, so I had to cook him as soon as I got home in mid-afternoon. While the water was boiling, I left him on the counter, his many legs clickety clacking on the granite as he tried to move around on the slick surface.

Live Crab

Cold cracked crab was a favorite summer meal when I was a kid and it was just yesterday that I think I worked out a reason it's so popular with kids: you have to pull the crab out of the shell, so you get to use your fingers – that is, play with your food - and without mom getting mad about it.

Crab dinner is such a special treat that I decided to set the table for it as if company were coming – the crab, the bok choy stir fried with some ginger, a little wine. What else could an old woman ask for?

Dinner Table

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenda Verbeck: Options

ELDER MUSIC: Ladies’ Day

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

category_bug_eldermusic I have a nice easy time this week. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, is doing it all for me. In the past, the A.M. has chosen tracks and then left it to me to provide the words. Today she’s doing everything. So, over to you, A.M.

The simple term “jazz singer” can provoke long discussions on whether or not particular artists qualify. Personally, I’d rather listen to the music than argue about it, so I’ll just say today’s singers are all “jazz-infused” whatever music they are singing.

Billie Holiday was the obvious starting point for this set.

Billie Holiday

Her distinctive style has influenced many other singers from Frank Sinatra through to Madeleine Peyroux, whom we’ll hear later. Billie’s early recordings were made in New York in the 1930s, many of them with pianist Teddy Wilson.

At this time, the popular white singers had first pick of the new songs, however Teddy was able to select and arrange the available songs to bring out the best in them.

Musicians for the recording sessions were drawn from whichever of the big bands were in town at the time. Our first track, Easy Living, has probably the best combo Billie worked with including Teddy, Lester Young (Prez), Buck Clayton (“that handsome cat,” as Billie described him), Buster Bailey, Freddy Green, Jo Jones – all old friends from her time with the Count Basie band.

♫ Billie Holiday - Easy Living

Five years later, we find her in a television studio recording for the Sound of Jazz program, this time with the Mal Waldron All-Stars, certainly an all-star tenor sax line-up: Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster.

Unfortunately, a YouTube video has been removed due to copyright claims which is too bad. It is one of the rare pieces of film footage I have seen of Billie Holiday. It shows her totally immersed in and responding to the music, especially Lester Young’s solo. Here is the audio from that recording session of Fine and Mellow.

[EDITOR'S UPDATE: Thanks to TGB reader, Chuck Nyren who left a note and link in the comments below, here is video of this Billie Holiday recording which can also be found here at zappinternet.]

If that doesn't work, here is the audio only:

♫ Billie Holiday - Fine and Mellow

And I can't resist quoting a couple of lines from a poem I recently found, written just after Billie's death by Frank O’Hara. He recalls listening to her perform... the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Next up, “The Divine” Sarah Vaughan.

Sarah Vaughan

The young Sarah got her professional break in 1943, winning the talent contest at the Apollo Theatre as Ella Fitzgerald had done some years before. Billy Eckstine saw her performance that night and immediately persuaded Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines to hire her as second pianist.

The Hines’ big band and later the Billy Eckstine band were nurseries for bebop so Sarah worked with key musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Art Blakey. When Eckstine and these musicians left Hines, Sarah went with them.

Sarah made her first recordings as a vocalist with Dizzy Gillespie ensembles – also one of Dizzy’s first recordings leading his own band. From those sessions, here is Mean To Me. Hard to believe she was only twenty when this was made.

♫ Sarah Vaughan - Mean to Me

Billy Eckstine referred to Sarah as “my little sister” and they remained close friends and worked together over many years. Indeed, I think I first discovered Sarah through her duets with Billy. So our next track is their 1957 duet, Passing Strangers.

♫ Sarah and Billy - Passing Strangers

Coming forward a few decades to Kate Ceberano, a popular Australian singer whom we think of as “a young person” but last year she celebrated 25 years in the music industry. Doesn’t time fly?

She started out with a pop group, I'm Talking, in the 1980s but has also performed the jazz standards from early in her career. I had a Talk with My Man was recorded in New York in 2004.

Kate Ceberano

♫ Kate Ceberano - I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night

Another younger singer who has listened to a lot of Billie Holiday and the early blues singers is Madeleine Peyroux.

Madeleine Peyroux

Born in the U.S., she also spent time growing up in Paris. She cut her musical teeth busking around Europe with the delightfully-named The Lost Wandering Blues & Jazz Band, named after Ma Rainey’s Lost Wandering Blues. However, I’m not going to play one of her jazz or blues songs here. Instead I have picked Bob Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.

♫ Madeleine Peyroux - You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

It’s me, Peter, again. Sorry, it is I once more. We got to this spot and I said to the A.M., “Someone’s missing.”

“Nope”, she said, “That’s all I wanted to include.”

I suggested that doing a column on Lady Jazz Singers and not including Ella is a bit like doing one on Fifties’ rock & roll and not including Elvis. She agreed that Ella had slipped her mind.

Ella Fitzgerald

You don’t need either of us to tell you anything about Ella, it’s all been said before by better writers (and maybe a few worse ones). We’ll just play the track of her doing the Gershwins’ They All Laughed.

♫ Ella Fitzgerald - They All Laughed

GRAY MATTERS: Assisted Death

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the weekly Gray Matters column which appears here each Saturday. Links to past Gray Matters columns can be found here. Saul's Reflections column, in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation, also appears at Time Goes By twice each month.

The poet Dylan Thomas said it best for those of us of advanced age: “Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light.” But what if there is no good alternative to quietly turning out your light?

In Connecticut, the home state of insurance giants, a legal and moral battle rages that may have national implications as two physicians have sued the state for an action that could eventually allow patients to choose a peaceful, drug-induced death to avoid the pain and terrors of a terminal illness.

As CNN's Randy Kaye reported,

“While courts have addressed constitutional questions connected with aid in dying, no court has directly considered whether a mentally competent, terminally ill patient’s desire to bring about a peaceful death should be considered a ‘suicide.’”

That’s vital, for a suicide is generally against the law and the family of the person who dies may suffer spiritually and legally, including the loss of insurance and other claims.

Thus, Connecticut physicians Dr. Gary Blick and Ron Levine are suing the state, asking that the state’s laws restricting assisted suicides should not include cases in which mentally competent, terminally ill patients take their own lives to avoid pain and suffering.

The suit, which a superior court judge has dismissed on technical grounds, was prompted in part by several cases in which people have been punished for helping friends or relatives to die. Right to die advocacy groups are expected to appeal.

In the most publicized case, in 2004, John Welles, who was dying of cancer and suffering, pleaded with a friend, Hunt Williams, to give him a pistol. Williams did as his friend asked. As Welles walked away in the woods, Williams shouted “God bless” and heard the gunshot. Welles died and Williams was convicted of “assisting a suicide,” a felony in the state.

Blick’s suit was aimed, in part, to clear and free Williams and win permission to end a dying patient’s suffering. Said Blick,

“We’re not talking about hooking up a potassium chloride drip and have our patient’s heart stopped. We’re talking about terminally ill patients who I’ve counseled over the years and that I would like to give them prescriptions and help them die with dignity.”

Blick, the Medical and Research Director of CIRCLE Medical, is a specialist in infectious diseases and HIV-AIDS, which raised for me a question. Not a few years ago, AIDS was considered always fatal. Now it’s not. How many AIDS patients took their lives, rather than wait for the life-saving treatments now available?

Nevertheless, if Blick and Levine are successful in their campaign, Connecticut could join a growing number of states that recognize the right of a terminally ill patient to end his/her life with the help of a physician.

The recent HBO film, You Don’t Know Jack, was a sympathetic portrait of Jack Kevorkian who was jailed for helping a number of people die, most them not his patients. But he brought the issue to a life that is growing. Recent polls indicate that 60 percent of whites (38 percent of blacks) favor allowing physicians to assist the terminally ill to die.

By all accounts, Oregon’s pioneering “Death With Dignity” law has been doing what was intended. The 1998 law (which has been copied in Washington state) has survived legal challenges including protests by members of Congress because of its safeguards. A physician must determine that the patient has less than six months. and a second opinion is required. The patient must make repeated requests, waiting at least 15 days between requests.

If these procedures are followed, an Oregon physician can prescribe the life-ending drugs, which may be taken with or without a doctor present. In this way about 30 persons a year have gone through the process and died, usually with close family members present. Most of the patients were suffering from advanced cancer or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Leading medical institutions, Harvard Medical School and organizations such as the American Medical Women’s Association, the American Medical Student Association and the American Public Health Association support legislation permitting physicians to assist terminally ill patients to take their lives with drugs.

The American Medical Association stands opposed. And the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine is neutral, possibly because proper hospice care (in which I am now a participant) can avoid the need to take one’s life and even put off death.

But in the end, hospice provides for pain free and comfortable last days with the help of a hospice nurse to tend to the patient and a hospice social worker to work with the family.

Much of the opposition to assisted death also comes from the severely disabled and persons with serious chronic diseases. They fear, with some justice, that they and people like them will be vulnerable if, for example, their insurance companies balk at the cost of their care. Remember former Colorado governor Richard Lamm telling such people to “get out of the way” because they were costing Medicare too much money?

Other opposition comes from religious institutions and right-to-life organizations who also oppose elective abortions. I disagree, of course, but I believe that just as the state should stay out of a woman’s right to choose, so the state should not need to come between a dying patient and his/her right to choose the manner and time of his/her death.

Oregon’s statute, I admit, is a model of regulation for the safety of the patient’s rights and to guard against abuse - say by relatives who can no longer care for the patient. But the choice of hospice seems to be minimized. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with such organizations like Compassion and Choices, which seems to advocate an end-to-life as if it were a walk in the park.

They may encourage people to seek the alleged comfort of death for no good reason. A woman I know whose medical problems are serious but not life threatening seems to have given up on life because she’s despondent over the death of her husband.

End-of-life advocates seem to provide little encouragement to fight a disease, as I am, and the reasons for their despondency, the better to hang onto life and “rage against the dying of the light.”

As another, more gentle poet, Robert Frost. has written, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep.”


The Reason Old People Must Die

In followup to Crabby Old Lady's post yesterday:

Remember when the only way there was to write letters to one another was snailmail? It had been that way for nearly six centuries until, about 20 years ago, email supplanted it. And now – already - email has been proclaimed dead.

As one of the featured speakers at the Consumer 360 Conference in Las Vegas earlier this week, it was Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandburg who announced that email is “probably going away.”

She bases her prediction on the fact that only 11 percent of present-day teenagers use email daily. The other 89 percent prefer texting and social networking websites (i.e. Facebook, of course) and as Sandburg astutely points out, what those teenagers are doing today, they will carry with them into adulthood and the workplace.

If you are interested, here is the video of Ms. Sandburg. Unless you care deeply about (sarcasm alert!) how wonderful Facebook is, you can stop watching after 45 seconds. The rest of the 5:03 minutes is an extended Facebook commercial.

I agree with Sandburg about the approaching death of email and I am profoundly sorry about it for a mix of reasons.

I like how easy it is to save email the way I once saved (and still have) snailmail letters from friends and relatives. That is difficult on Facebook.

I like receiving long, chatty emails from close friends who live far away. Facebook and texting are quick-hit means of passing on one small bit of information; they are unsuited to thought or rumination.

Like me, most people with whom I email feel obligated to write in whole words and sentences. I like that. I don't like abbreviated text language.

I like that my email lands in a software program and is stored in directories on my computer, not in cyberspace as it is on Facebook.

Much is being been made these days about the end of private software and moving every computer-ish thing we do online, “in the cloud.” Here are my questions: What if the power goes out? What if the ISP is down? What if the third-party servers where my stuff is stored are breached or fail?

I want my email and all other documents on my own hard drive, not one owned by a giant corporation; Google and Apple are no more trustworthy than Goldman Sachs and BP.

There are more reasons I'm sorry email is fading, but you get the idea; I like email and all that goes with it. I don't want to change the method of my online communication. It suits the way my mind works; Facebook and texting do not. Nor do they fit with most elder minds or ways of doing things.

Yesterday in this space, Crabby Old Lady had some sharp words for those researchers and others who want to extend human life indefinitely. It is Crabby's and my own contention that the the current global population is already insupportable and eliminating death would kill the planet.

That is the most important reason to abandon the pursuit of life extension research. But the coming demise of email is another good reason or, rather, one small example among many of the need for death: progress would forever be hindered if old people didn't get out of the way so the young can move forward.

Without death, there is no evolution – biological and social. In five or ten years, those teenagers who now disdain email will be conducting their careers on Facebook or its equivalent in txt lang while the even younger kids coming up behind them in high school will have moved on to the next new thing or at least several refinements of current practice.

And that is as it should be whether I like it or not - without forward movement, there is only stagnation. Already, a couple of younger friends have told me to contact them via their Facebook and LinkedIn pages because they rarely check their email.

So I will dip into Facebook and its ilk when forced to, but at my age, I can continue to use email. It will not disappear as completely as snailmail has before I die – which we all must do to help make way for the future – i.e. our children and grandchildren and so on down the ages. Just not too soon.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Andrew's Eulogy

Anti-Aging Baloney

A lot of marketing and public relations people who do not bother to read or even skim this blog, send requests asking Crabby Old Lady to interview longevity experts or review books about life extension or report on anti-aging products. Perhaps it has been too long since Crabby has made herself clear: she rejects all anti-aging requests because she thinks it's all stupid, useless and wasteful.

The hope, dream and aim of all people involved in the lucrative anti-aging field (after cleaning out our pocketbooks to the tune of $50 billion a year in the U.S. alone) is, like ol' Ponce de Leon in Florida 600 years ago, to cure death so that we will all live forever.

Certainly, you are familiar with commercial anti-aging products – Botox, dermabrasion, skin resurfacing, creams, supplements, etc. These potions, procedures and pills, they tell us, will reverse signs of aging. They cannot and do not do this; they can only mask (or, rather, purport to mask) signs of aging. And they definitely do not extend lifespans.

More serious life extension enthusiasts, some of whom are legitimate scientists, advocate several theories and strategies to extend life indefinitely: cloning body parts for replacement as originals wear out or become diseased; cryonics to freeze our bodies until they can be defrosted when a disease treatment is found; stem cells for rejuvenation; genetic modification; and extreme calorie restriction, among others.

Plus, there are Ray Kurzweil and his followers who believe computer development in the form of the “singularity” will, within a few decades, allow humans and machines to merge into something they cannot describe but will, according to believers, eliminate ill health, aging and death itself. (See The New York Times for the short version.)

It goes without saying, of course, that in one of these ways or another, living forever will take place in the full bloom of youth, beauty and intelligence when their work reaches fruition.

What most drives Crabby around the bend, is that none of these people can effectively explain where we are going to put all these people who continue to procreate but never die. How will we house them? Feed them? Support them? Already the world is overpopulated. We should be devising ways to reduce population not expand it.

So Crabby Old Lady and Time Goes By will have nothing to do with these "researchers" - who lack the ethics to consider the planet - when they come knocking at her cyberdoor to promote their books and wares.

Crabby would rather tell you about geriatrician Bill Thomas, author of the brilliant book on aging, What Are Old People For? who blogs at ChangingAging. He recently posted a note about a window display he photographed while on a visit to the United Kingdom.

Bill Thomas Reverse Aging Image

Here is what Dr. Thomas wrote about it at his blog:

“I like healthy skin. I want my skin to be strong and unblemished. But. I am living in 50 year old skin and if I am lucky, someday I will be living in 70 year old skin.

“I want skin that works. I want skin that is comfortable. I want skin that is attractive. I can have all those things without the silly conceit of 'reversing aging.' In my experience, the older people live to be, the more ridiculous they consider these kinds of products to be.

“What about you? What kind of skin do you think you want to have when you are 70?”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ernest Leichter: A Teacher's Dream

REFLECTIONS: On the Paranoid Style

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the twice-monthly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. His other column, Gray Matters, formerly published in Newsday, appears each Saturday.

Category_bug_reflections Suddenly, libertarianism has become the newest fashion among the paranoid in American politics. But be not deceived; they are just as reactionary and extreme as their more deranged and schizophrenic political brethren on the far, far right who want to “take back” the government they hate in order to cripple it.

But libertarians are getting a measure of respect in much of the mainstream press and approval by 38 percent of Americans largely as a result of its two most prominent figures, Representative Ron Paul, a likeable Texas Republican, and his son Randall (Rand), who has captured the Republican nomination for the Kentucky Senate seat being vacated by a true oddball, Jim Bunning, a former star major league pitcher.

Perhaps Rand Paul, a practicing opthamologist who ran as a tea bagger, seemed sane compared to Bunning and the Kentucky Republican establishment that ran Bunning out of office, then endorsed a front man for the GOP regulars.

I’m not sure why the Pauls ally themselves with Republicans, most of whom stand for policies, deficit spending and the kind of central government they hate. They could follow the lead of liberal socialists like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who votes with the Democrats (not all the time) but lists himself as an independent.

Rather, as we shall see, these libertarians are not independent from the right-wing Republican Party.

But the Pauls and libertarianism are getting a relatively friendly press because they are not firebrands and libertarianism seems a rather benign, principled ideology which calls for the smallest central government possible.

Ron Paul has been a loyal Republican in the House, but when he ran for President in 2008 he seemed more eccentric than threatening. And he has differed from most of the Congress in opposing George Bush’s war in Iraq and his violations of civil liberties.

The positions of the Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, seem benign and consisting of mere slogans. It is holding its convention this spring with the theme “Gateway to Liberty,” and some of its positions on civil liberties (not civil rights) and the war in Iraq, which Ron Paul opposed, are admirable. But where principled libertarianism goes off the rails is its insistence on a small government as envisioned by agrarian President Thomas Jefferson. It’s not only hypocritical, but useless and dangerous.

I recall an ongoing conversation I had some years ago with one of the officials of the Cato Institute, Washington’s leading and richest libertarian think tank. He held that Jefferson made a mistake in setting a precedent for expanding presidential power when he undertook to make the Louisiana Purchase, 828,000 square miles west of the Mississippi from New Orleans to the Canadian border for about $15 million.

My Cato friend argued, as Jefferson’s conservative critics argued then, that the Constitution did not specifically permit such presidential power. Jefferson, who feared that the Spanish, French and English could establish colonies along the Mississippi and cut off the nation’s western expansion, argued that the Constitution did not prohibit the president from taking such action.

Since then, libertarians have regularly argued that presidents and the Congress have trampled on the Constitution’s limitations and expanded government for purposes that limited the freedom of the individual to make his/her own decisions and take responsibility for his/her actions.

That is essentially the Cato view, which favors “the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and peace.”

But since Jefferson, the limits of government have been steadily enlarged – by John Adams’s Alien and Sedition laws, Andrew Jackson’s federal bank, Woodrow Wilson’s decisions that brought the U.S. into foreign wars, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But Cato has rarely protested or lobbied against Republicans.

Instead, aided by its right-wing corporate sponsors, Cato has opposed most industry regulations, most social programs, the income tax, gun control, the Federal Reserve, much of the United Nations actions and the International Court of Justice on the grounds that they impinge on the U.S. Constitution and the rights of Americans.

And in practice, Cato and the libertarians support most of the conservative Republican initiatives to end Social Security and Medicare.

The last time I was at the Cato Institute, I attended a lecture by then-Representative Dick Armey, [R., Tex.], who taught economics at a small Texas college before he became the House Majority Leader, second in command to Speaker Newt Gingrich. They had taken control of the Congress with their “Contract for America” which consisted, among other things, of stripping the Food and Drug administration and the financial industry of regulations dating back to the New Deal. Armey’s special cause was, as he put to me, to “wean our old people away from Medicare” by slowly privatizing the program.

At the Cato Institute, Armey told the friendly crowd that he had decided not to participate in Medicare. And he recommended that as a libertarian course - that is, individuals should be at liberty to care for themselves through the free market.

Indeed, since then, Armey has sued to permit him and other plaintiffs to prohibit the government from forcing persons on Social Security to become participants in Medicare Part A. If upheld, such an action by enough libertarians would undermine Medicare’s beleaguered Hospital Insurance Fund.

Naturally, the Cato libertarians and every Republican opposed the Affordable Health Care Act, which, among other things, saved the trust fund for another 12 years. And Armey, a paid lobbyist, used his “Freedom Works” organization to round up corporate backing and money for the phony grass roots numbskulls that became the tea baggers.

It should be clear that despite the prineipled intents of those members who think of themselves as independents, libertarians have been right-wing Republican wolves in sheep’s clothing and part of what ths historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

It is worth revisiting his famous essay. It was written in 1964, when one of the heroes of libertarianism, Barry Goldwater, had captured the Republican Party.

The essay appeared in Harper’s Magazine shortly before the presidential elections began.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” wrote Hofstadter. “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority...I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Hofstadter, the scholar, traced the paranoid style back to the anti-Masons and the anti-Catholics. But he wrote in the wake of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s crusade against communists, the rise of the John Birch Society, which joined McCarthy in attacking President Eisenhower as a “conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.”

Goldwater opposed Medicare, the minimum wage, federal aid to schools and all welfare as “socialism.” With a famous speech of support from Ronald Reagan, the Goldwater movement reached its peak during the presidency of a liberal Democrat. It lost the 1964 election to Lyndon Johnson, but Goldwater’s libertarian heirs, which supported the non-libertarian, big government, Richard Nixon, solidified their takeover of the Republican right under the leadership of Ronald Reagan.

Later in life, Reagan and Goldwater, moderated their views on social issues and would not now qualify for the libertarian pantheon.

Today, the Paranoid style is best represented by the supposed libertarian tea baggers (of which Rand Paul is a leader), when they depict another liberal Democratic president as a “Marxist, socialist, communist and Muslim.” It turns out that most tea baggers are Republicans, but with a special venom for Obama and liberals and the federal government.

What else but deranged paranoia can explain the assertion by non-church goer Newt Gingrich, a thrice married admitted draft dodger, that the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress are a “secular socialist machine” that “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union?”

A moderate Republican, TV host and former congressman Joe Scarborough called Gingrich’s remarks, “sick” and “pure wingnuttery.” Libertarians and the rest of the Republican Party remained silent.

That’s because – Gingrich’s language aside – most Libertarian Republicans, with the Pauls leading the way, are just as extreme in their views. Rand Paul, who says he’s for limiting the government’s intrusion in our lives, suggested last month to a Russian TV interviewer that the U.S. should abandon its policy of granting citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants even if they’re born on U.S. soil.

That would be a direct violation of the Constitution. (See the 14th Amendment.)

But that isn’t the end of it for the Pauls. Father Ron has voted consistently with the lockstep Republicans against every Obama proposal like a good soldier in the Party of No.

In 2004, he was the only House member to vote against a resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which he denounced in a floor speech as a violation of property rights.

Son Rand, in his heart of hearts, still opposes the part of the 1964 Act (which Goldwater voted against) outlawing discrimination in restaurants and other private establishments open to the public. He also opposes all forms of gun control, even for suspected terrorists ad undocumented immigrants.

As Joe Conason wrote for Truthout, libertarians would take us back to the nation of Jefferson’s time:

“So they would do away with legal restrictions on wages, hours and working conditions, including the minimum wage and child labor laws.”

And if carried to the principled libertarian extreme, the Pauls would have to support the abolition of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, public schools and the national parks because private is better than public.

I’m sure that the pressures of practical politics would mitigate these principles. But the Pauls ought to be grilled in the way Rand was outed by Rachel Maddow’s interview to admit his opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

How far do his and his father’s libertarian principles take them in their opposition to the myriad laws and the actions of the federal government to mitigate inequity and promote “the general welfare”and social justice? I’d like someone to ask them, for example, how they differ from the Republicans.

According to Conason. Dr. Rand Paul, the opthamologist, who opposes public programs like Medicare as an intrusion on individual rights, is also opposed to the impending 21 percent cut in Medicare’s payment to physicians. So far his Republican brethren have blocked votes on delaying the cut. I don’t know how Rand Paul would vote.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Old Bag

Partnered Aging – Solo Aging

category_bug_journal2.gif It's amazing sometimes how readers' thoughts parallel mine. With the intention of writing about it soon, last week I made some notes about getting old as a single person versus as part of a couple. Lo – the next morning, Tarzana left this note on my most recent riff on the fear of getting old.

“Ronni, I get a tiny bit envious of your freedom to live your own life without factoring in someone else's agenda. Of course, there are those who appreciate having company on the journey. Perhaps the issues of partnered aging/solo aging could be hashed over in this space someday.”

A few minutes later, Genie followed up:

“I think Tarzana has a point. Balancing someone else's agenda with our own needs can be rewarding but it is not always easy.”

I feel both ways: sometimes I'm envious of people who have a partner and other times I'm relieved that I'm single.

In 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29.6 percent of people 65 and older – 11.7 million of us - were living alone. The majority, 6.5 million, are women, mostly widows. Elder men who live alone are often widowed too, but they are more likely than women to be divorced or never married. Of course, the percentage of single elders increases when older groups – 75 and older, 80 and older, etc. - are considered, as spouses die.

It is conventional wisdom that throughout life couples are better off than singles, and the medical community mostly agrees. Research studies going back as far as 150 years support the health and well-being benefits of marriage, speculating on the existence of a “marriage advantage” - that married people apparently suffer less pneumonia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, etc. and therefore live longer than single people, they say.

But according to The New York Times, there is a glitch in that long-held belief. A recent study of 9,000 people in their 50s and 60s found that when formerly married people became single through divorce or widowhood, “they suffered a decline in physical health from which they never fully recovered.”

And further – a new discovery:

“...people who had divorced or been widowed had worse health problems than men and women who had been single their entire lives. In formerly married individuals, it was as if the marriage advantage had never existed.”

For several reasons, I think statistics about wellness, disease and marital status are inherently flawed and I don't necessarily accept any of them. However, the larger difficulty is that married and single people are pitted against one another in the health sweepstakes.

Much more interesting (and, of course, hard to quantify so ignored by researchers) is nature and inclination in our living preferences, and how those might change with events and experience as we get older.

In the 55 years since I left home, I have been partnered in only 10 of them. My six-year marriage was in trouble from the beginning. A later live-in relationship was much better and although I couldn't explain at the time why I left after four years, I think now it was because I prefer living alone.

Tarzana and Genie referred to my ability, as a single, to live without consideration of another person's agenda. You bet. I never understood, in my marriage and second relationship, how much I owed to togetherness and how to behave in that regard.

Could I have a drink with a friend after work without checking in? What if I wasn't hungry tonight, but it was our custom that I cook dinner? When I went out for a walk or shopping, was I required to tell him when I would be home?

(Understand I say that with the firm belief, too, that in all living-together situations - parent/child, unrelated roommates, committed couples, even house guests – each person has the obligation to let the other know when he or she will be late so no one worries.)

Marriage seemed to eliminate spontaneity and since I have trouble committing to anything farther into the future than two or three days, that was a constant problem – what were those boundaries? What were my decisions and which ones had to be shared? Certainly my move from Maine to Oregon could not have happened with such ease if there had been another person to consult on every decision.

Also, when I come home, aside from greeting the cat who requires no conversation, I am almost always glad I don't need to make polite conversation. That applies to first thing in the morning too.

Obviously, it is in my nature to be comfortable alone. Certainly, other people (most people?) are as naturally inclined for togetherness. Listen to what Elizabeth Rogers wrote here last week:

“As far as traveling solo through aging, again speaking strictly for myself, I'm so grateful that I haven't had to face that to date. I truly can't imagine life without my wonderful, understanding, kind, patient husband who actually continues to put up with me after 32 years. He's also my guide to the increasingly complex world of technology - even at 80, he understands it better than I ever will.”

A part of me would like to know what it is like to have been married and gone through life – 40, 50 and more years – with the same person, surviving and thriving through the ups and down, triumphs and tragedies, good times and bad.

Too late now at age 69.

There are times I wish there were someone else here. Someone, for example, to turn to when I've read something interesting or funny or strange and say, “Wait til you hear this...”

It's unlikely to happen at my age, but I can imagine having that again – along with the parts that would annoy me. Or, maybe I'm more tolerant in my old age. I'll probably never know and that's all right with me.

We all do the best we can, I think, with the choices we make and the curves life throws us. How are you doing?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, A. Peri: When I'm Gone

The Saturday Farmer's Market

category_bug_journal2.gif Anyone who has been reading this blog for more than a few months knows that one of my favorite excursions in Portland, Maine was the Wednesday farmers' market in Monument Square. I liked getting there when it opened at 7AM before the many, hard-to-find, heirloom fruits and vegetables were picked over.

Millennium Plaza Park is a good-sized public area in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where musical events, evening movies, holiday celebrations and such are held during summer including the weekly farmers' market. I can walk to the park in under five minutes and on Saturday morning, I made my first market visit.

Market Arrival

I'd barely gotten my bearings on where to go first when I man offered me a sample of the first bing cherries of the year. Yum. So sweet and yummy that I bought a pound or so and forgot to take a photo of the gorgeous mounds of them. Here's one from home.

Bing Cherries

There were plenty of cut flower bouquets, but I didn't want to haul them around while I investigated my first farmers' market in Oregon. So I moved on leaving these behind – look at those amazing peonies on the left.

Cut Flowers

There was a good selection of plants too but alas, I have no gardening space in my new home. Even so, who could resist a taking a shot of this plant with it's – um, interesting name which brings back memories of a certain movie and TV show about the Korean War.

Hot Lips Sage

The farmers' market opens at 8:30AM which seemed a little early to me for popcorn.


But I couldn't resist a beignet for breakfast, forgetting that the powdered sugar would (and did) flutter down to decorate the front of my black teeshirt for the rest of the day.


If I had waited a little longer, I might have opted for this breakfast...


...especially since right next to the omelette stand there is a pleasant sitting area next to this reflecting pool.

Reflecting Pool

I had other plans for Saturday dinner, but next week I'll remember among everything else, I can get seafood at the Saturday market too.


Having grown up here in Oregon, in the more than 40 years I lived on the east coast, I never became comfortable with the sun rising instead of setting over the ocean. It just felt wrong.

However, what did become part of my being was my sense of location - North American Atlantic coast - in relation to everywhere else. So I am sometimes a little disoriented since my move here a month ago.

When I email a friend in Germany, I still think he is six hours away. Wrong. It's nine hours now. And I think of Colorado, where another friend is, as to my left. Wrong again. It is now to my right. And so on. When you live in New York or Maine, Sarah Palin seems correct: Alaska is so far away to the west that it may as well be Russia.

But there is nothing like the sign at this market stand to remind me that I live a lot closer now to Sarah Palin country.

Yak Elk Buffalo Meat

One of the difficulties of living alone is that food often rots before there is time to eat it all, so I was happy to see these mini-cauliflowers like the ones I bought at the Maine farmers' market.


I also picked up a fresher-than-fresh cucumber, several bunches of herbs and some scallions.

The Lake Oswego farmer's market is a lot more upscale that the one in Portland, Maine and a bit pricier too. At one table, the card next to the scallions said $3.50 a bunch. I assume it was an error but if not, there had better be gold inside those baby onions. I didn't buy any so I'll never know.

Generally, however, it's a good market and I'm looking forward to more and different fruits and vegetables as the season progresses.

Oh, remember those cut flowers I wanted when I first walked into the market? I stopped there again on my way home to pick up something to decorate the table for dinner here Saturday evening with my brother and his wife.

Table Setting

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Aunt Lois


PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.

category_bug_eldermusic I know that some of the topics I choose are a bit cheesy, but they give me a chance to select diverse music under a single umbrella. As it is today.

So, collect your owl, find your pussycat, get that pea-green boat out of the garage and stock up on seasick tablets because we’re off on a sea cruise somewhere beyond the sea.

Now I know there are any amount of sea shanties and the like, but they’re a bit boring so they won’t be featured. Oops, I’ve just lost the folkie crowd.

When I asked Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, for some sea songs she immediately suggested C.C. Rider. She has a warped sense of humor. Then I thought, why not? We’re not being precious here. However, when I asked which version, the A.M. said, oh, any one, you choose.

There are many versions of the song ranging from Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy to Elvis and Peggy Lee. I’ve chosen the version by Chuck Willis for no other reason than I found it first in my collection.

Chuck Willis

Chuck was an early rock & roll performer who wrote most of his songs. A lot of these have been covered by other artists - It’s Too Late, "What Am I Living For and Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes are just some. He didn’t write C.C. Rider of course, but he turned it into a rock & roll song.

He died far too young, just 30 years old, of peritonitis.

♫ Chuck Willis - C.C. Rider

Okay, now we’ve got that out of the way, it’s on with the real sea songs. The first to consider is Sea of Love by Phil Phillips.

Phil Phillips

Phil was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a town made famous by The Band if you have the same records that I have. He was known to his folks as Philip Baptiste.

Phil not only recorded his lead vocal but did the backing vocals as well. The song was picked up by a Baton Rouge disk jockey and flogged to death. From then on, it sailed up the charts and sold more than two million copies. However, Phil received no royalties from these sales at the time and still hasn’t.

The song was the centre piece in a rather good thriller of the same name with Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin.

Phil still performs to this day at age 84.

♫ Phil Phillips - Sea of Love

Don Gibson was a talented songwriter and fine singer and was nicknamed The Sad Poet because of songs about loneliness and lost love. I would venture that he’s more the wrist-slashing poet, but that’s just me.

Don Gibson

He sang a lot of his own songs in the late fifties and early sixties and many others had hits as well.

Ray Charles is notable for doing justice to several of his tunes - just think I Can't Stop Loving You. However, we’re featuring Don today and of course it’s the sea theme, so it must be Sea of Heartbreak.

♫ Don Gibson - Sea of Heartbreak

Frankie Ford is the adopted son of Vincent and Anna Guzzo and they named him Francis Guzzo. He’s another Louisiana native, from across the Mississippi from New Orleans (says he bursting into song. It’s lucky you can’t hear me.)

Frankie Ford

Frankie studied singing and dancing as a kid and made his stage debut at age five. He performed on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour and won many local, regional and national vocal competitions while still a child. He’s a dynamic piano player in the style of New Orleans pianists but has had only one huge, international hit and that is Sea Cruise.

Frankie is another whose still performing as good as ever these days.

♫ Frankie Ford - Sea Cruise

Charles Trenet wrote all his own songs. Indeed, he refused to record any but his own. Fortunately he was a prolific songsmith, around a thousand or more, so there was enough material.

Charles Trenet

Charles was born in Narbonne in France and moved to Perpignan as a child. Early in his schooling, he suffered from typhoid fever and it was during his convalescence at home that he developed his artistic talents, taking up music, painting and sculpting.

After leaving school, he studied art in Berlin for a time and when he returned to Paris, worked in a movie studio performing various jobs. He developed an interest in poetry and jazz and started writing songs in the early thirties. By then he was performing at venues around Paris and regularly appearing on radio. His recording career began at this time as well.

He had a long career, retiring a number of times and returning an equal number of times. His last recording was in 1999, and his final concert the following year. He died of a stroke at age 88.

Charles's most famous song to folks who live outside France is La Mer (that means The Sea for those who didn’t do French at school).

Charles Trenet - La Mer

La Mer was the template for the next song, Beyond the Sea, a big hit for Bobby Darin. They kept the tune and put English words to it, words that bore no resemblance to the original except for the sea reference.

Bobby Darin

Bobby’s folks knew him as Walden Robert Cassotto and he was from The Bronx. You don’t need me to tell you that he performed as a rock & roller, pop singer, jazz singer, folk and even country artist. He was always in rather fragile health and he was always strongly motivated to succeed before he turned up his toes which happened at the too young age of 37.

He started as a Brill Building writer, especially for Connie Francis with whom he was romantically attached until her rather strict father ran him off with a gun. Connie has said that he was the love of her life. He later married Sandra Dee, of course. No accounting for taste.

Bobby mentored such diverse talents as Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Wayne Newton and Jim (Roger) McGuinn. Anyway, I’d better stop waffling and have Bobby sing Beyond the Sea.

♫ Bobby Darin - Beyond the Sea

GRAY MATTERS: Republicans and the Health Care Reform Law

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the weekly Gray Matters column which appears here each Saturday. Links to past Gray Matters columns can be found here. Saul's Reflections column, in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation, also appears at Time Goes By twice each month.

Nobody likes a sore loser. But congressional Republicans, who have not yet come to terms with the election of Barack Obama, cannot get over the passage, with not a single one of their votes, of the health insurance reforms called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Thus the Republicans plan to campaign this summer to repeal the law, which they call unpopular. They have not read the latest polls which say otherwise.

The Wall Street Journal poll found that 55 percent want the reforms to have a chance to work. A Vanity Fair poll found that 42 percent would keep all the provisions. That may be why the Republicans won’t say, specifically, which provision should be repealed.

If they did, they would have to support denying insurance coverage to children with pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes which is outlawed by the reforms. Or perhaps the Republicans would force middle-class parents to buy separate policies for their adult children; the reforms would cover them until age 26.

How about getting rid of the provisions lowering the Part D cost of drugs, gradually closing the infamous doughnut hole or paying for cancer-preventive screenings?

Or maybe the Republicans simply don’t want coverage that will be available at low cost for the 40 million men, women and children who have no insurance.

More than a dozen state Republican attorneys general have taken a different tack – a fool’s errand, paid for by taxpayers, which pleads that the courts to stop the reforms and declare unconstitutional the provision mandating that all of us purchase insurance (with and without help from the government), the better to create a healthy risk pool.

I don’t have a clue how Republican-dominated courts may rule, but chances are the mandate will stand for each state similarly requires drivers to buy insurance. State laws regulating real estate also require the purchase of homeowners insurance. Becoming eligible for Social Security generally means automatically becoming a beneficiary for Medicare Part A, and Medicare sets a stiff penalty if beneficiaries do not sign up for Part B or Part D when they are first eligible and have no equivalent coverage.

The latest whine of the sore loser is the Republican criticism of the perfectly straight-forward brochure from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, explaining the admittedly complicated, many-faceted law, which will take years to have full effect. Republicans call it “propaganda” as if their flacks never heard of such a thing.

Her biggest boo-boo, according to the Republicans, was her defense of the law’s reduction of the slush fund for Medicare Advantage plans which George W. Bush gave us as part of the GOP effort to privatize Medicare. Said Sebelius:

“Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than Original Medicare...The new law levels the plying field by gradually eliminating Medicare overpayments to insurance companies.”

More important, she added, “If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan you will still receive guaranteed Medicare benefits.”

That has not been the case with MA insurers for in April, the Government Accountability Office reported that in 43 percent of MA plans, more than half the beneficiaries were in the “average or poor health group,” meaning they did not receive the best of care.

The reforms will hold all private insurers to a higher stand, mandating that 85 percent of premium income be spent on care. Perhaps the Republicans would repeal that provision.

Here is an example of how ridiculous the sore loser can get. In Britain, the heavy use of alcohol poses a serious health problem for the nation and its National Health Service. As a result, Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which produces guidance on public health, suggested the nation’s doctors question and screen patients on their use of alcohol, the better to understand and treat their health problems and their addiction.

It sounds reasonable. But according to Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Plan, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a leader in the resistance to the American health reforms, picked on Britain’s socialized health program and blasted NICE for requiring doctors “to invade the privacy of every one of their patients by submitting them to a questionnaire on alcohol use.”

There is no such requirement, but McCanne says AHIP is simply doing its conservative Republican thing, defending the “waste of the superfluous insurance industry” in order to discredit any health reform as “socialist.” I guess we should call this the “booze panel” scare.

Putting aside such silliness, it would be worth understanding how HHS intends to enforce the laws, something advocates have worried about because insurance companies have signaled their intent to poke holes in the reforms. Thus, according to Kaiser Health News, the administration has appointed four watchdogs, with plenty of experience dealing critically with insurance companies.

The new director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight is Jay Angoff, a former Missouri commissioner. They’ll be watching for unseemly premium increases, denials and cancellations of coverage and fraudulent sales pitches.

Finally, there is good news for Medicare Advantage, as well as original Medicare beneficiaries who can get eaten alive by deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs. The reforms included changes for the better, including lower costs, in the 10 standard Medigap plans that are now offered in most, but not all states.

The plans with increasing benefits range from A, the most basic; B,C,D, and F, the most popular; G, which is similar to F; and K, L, M and N. You can check them out at the Medicare website.

Depending on the level of coverage one needs and can afford, these plans are designed to fill the gaps in Medicare by paying co-insurance, co-payments, some deductibles and even needed blood transfusions and ambulance service.

Medigap plans cover you throughout the nation and some plans include travel and overseas coverage. With such a policy, many beneficiaries pay virtually nothing towards the cost of their care. And Medicare plus Medigap can end up costing less than Medicare Advantage, which does not have a great record when you’re really sick.

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Grumpy is Good for You

According to an Australian researcher who studies human emotions, grumpy people think more clearly and are better able to cope with demanding situations than cheerful people.

“In contrast to those annoying happy types,” reported, “miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible...While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking.”

At the risk of ruining her reputation, Crabby Old Lady wholeheartedly endorses Professor Joe Forgas's work. His conclusions corroborate Crabby's long-held intuitive belief that those with more negative views of the world are generally smarter than Pollyannas and Crabby is pleased that someone with better credentials than she agrees.

(Crabby Old Lady does, however, take issue with the interchangeable use of the words grumpy, melancholy, depression, sadness, miserable, etc. “Grumpy,” like “crabby,” seems more superficial and transient to Crabby than “depression” and “melancholy” which are serious conditions, and “sadness,” a recurring emotional state everyone experiences depending on events and which passes with time.)

“Joe Forgas, a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has repeatedly demonstrated in experiments that negative moods lead to better decisions in complex situations,” writes Jonah Lehrer in The New York Times.

“The reason, Forgas suggests, is rooted in the intertwined nature of mood and cognition: sadness promotes 'information-processing strategies best suited to dealing with more-demanding situations.'

“This helps explain why test subjects who are melancholy — Forgas induces the mood with a short film about death and cancer — are better at judging the accuracy of rumors and recalling past events; they’re also much less likely to stereotype strangers.”

One of the reasons Forgas's (and others') findings about the relationship between negative feelings and better analytical function is interesting is that American culture leaves little room for anything but cheerfulness. We are exhorted to always smile, be upbeat, put on a happy face which has been a lifelong personal burden to Crabby.

She was born with a face that when it is doing nothing but hanging out – reading a book, for example, or just thinking – looks angry or sad or, perhaps, something in between. Many people, starting with her parents when she was a kid, ask, “What's wrong, Crabby?” And nothing was or is – for the question continues to come up even in her old age.

Whatever our facial expression, it seems to Crabby that most of the time we live in emotional neutral, neither happy nor sad, but the pressure to always appear happy is enormous – as the billion-dollar prescription anti-depressant market attests.

Enough evidence has been gathered by Professor Forgas and other researchers to be able to state that sadness (depression, melancholy, whatever word you choose) makes us smarter:

“[Evolutionary psychologist, Paul] Andrews found a significant correlation between depressed affect and individual performance on the intelligence test, at least once the subjects were distracted from their pain: lower moods were associated with higher scores. 'The results were clear,' Andrews says. 'Depressed affect made people think better.'”

While Crabby Old Lady is not, in the clinical definition, depressed, she is definitely pissed off a good deal of the time (and believes that if you aren't, you're not paying attention). She is “happy” to find out that her state of mind is probably good for her and helps keep her sharp.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judy Watten: Adventures with Obituaries