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The Habits of a Lifetime

category_bug_journal2.gif Habit and routine. The unremarkable modus operandi of our days that, remarkably, remain mostly unchanged through a lifetime - decades, at our ages, of private custom and practice so mundane that we hardly notice.

For nearly 50 years, my weekday mornings never varied. I went from bed to the shower without passing go. Then to the kitchen to start the coffee, feed the cat and, when the coffee finished brewing, took a cup with me to the bedroom to have while I dressed moving smoothly with it back to the bathroom to sip during the makeup and hair ritual and then to making the bed.

Radio news which, in addition to announcing if the world had ended overnight, provided a time check every two minutes alerting me to the need to pick up the pace, or not, getting me out the door and to my job without being tardy.

Does anyone plan such routines? I don't recall doing so and I don't recall making a decision to change how I order my early mornings when I retired from the workforce. It just happened, although not as much I might have guessed – if I'd ever thought about it until now.

Without the time pressure of paid work, I've just spread out the same motions over a longer period of time. The cat and coffee come first now followed by a direct path to the computer to read the news and answer some overnight email. It can be two hours until I shower and dress.

My days in retirement are not ruled as closely by the clock or someone else's call on my time but mostly, habits don't change.

I began making daily to-do lists 45 years ago when I was first producing radio programs because if details slipped through the cracks, there wouldn't be a show.

The number of those items only increased when I moved on to television production and then to the internet. There may not be as many now but still, my last act before I shut down the computer in the evening is to make a list for tomorrow. (I may not update the Elderblogger's List as often as I should, but it would never, ever get done if it were not on the to-do list.)

The rest of my personal routines that have survived into retirement are related to the to-do list in that they all work to prevent a pile-up of boring chores that would overwhelm me.

I never go to bed without cleaning up the kitchen because it makes me feel defeated before the day has begun to face a pile of dirty dishes first thing in the morning.

The bed is made every morning not because I'm virtuous, but because I don't like to crawl into a messy bed at night.

And while I probably should have dusted and/or vacuumed yesterday or the day before or even two or three days before that, books and papers are stacked neatly here and there, clothes are hung in the closet or put in the laundry basket and the desk is straightened when I've finished the to-do list so there is fresh space in the morning to spread stuff around.

I'm sure you see a pattern here – bringing order to what would otherwise become chaos: Where's that book I am halfway through? Why can't I find that shirt? How can I make coffee when I can't find the pot in the sink?

It's not that I think cleanliness is next to godliness (see dusting reference above). It's that I learned decades ago that my mind won't function when the space around me is in disorder.

On the other hand, lots of people I've known are capable of living and thinking successfully amid what to me looks like an insurmountable mountain of unrelated detritus. Their habit and routine is to leave it – a lot of it - wherever it is and for them, it works.

I don't mean to concentrate on household habit – they are just the ones that came to mind.

Obviously, we adhere to our routines because they fill a need or suit us in some manner so they must grow from our nature. Or, perhaps we unconsciously copy our parents and incorporate their behavior into our lives. Or I could have forgotten that somewhere in the distant past I got fed up with misplaced books or a handbag or shoes and decided to live differently. But I don't recall that.

What surprises me is how we carry these habits throughout our lives into old age. It's not like the necessity of eating regularly. Or maybe it is – maybe our individual routines for getting through the day nourish us too.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Carmi: New Inspiration

ELDER MUSIC: Some More Classical Folks

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.

This is continuing my series on classical folks whose CDs I hadn't played for a while but, upon listening to them, wondered why I haven't. The first of these can be found here. There are some composers from the 18th century but several from much earlier.

It looks as if JOHANN NEPOMUK HUMMEL knew everyone in the musical business of his time, and a pretty handy bunch they were as you'll see.


He was born in Hungary, then part of the Hapsburg empire, in 1778. His father was a musician and conductor.

When he was eight he was given lessons from Mozart. Indeed, he lived with the Mozarts for two years and his first concert appearance was at the age of nine at one of Wolfgang's concerts.

Like the Mozarts before him, Johann's dad took him on a European tour where, in London, Haydn composed a sonata for him and had young Jo play it at its premier. It was decided to skip France when the terror erupted and they returned to Vienna where he had some more lessons from Haydn and Salieri.

At the same time, the young Beethoven arrived and took lessons from the same people. He and Jo struck up a friendship that lasted their lifetime. Beethoven's ability put a big dent in Jo's self-confidence, well it would, wouldn't it? He eventually got over that.

He succeeded Haydn at the Esterházy's joint where he stayed for seven years until being fired for neglecting his duties. He toured Russia and went to Germany where he married and had a couple of kids and pretty much settled down there.

Years later, he visited the dying Beethoven who asked him to play at his memorial concert. It was there he met Schubert and they became friends. Although essential a Classical player, he had an influence on the Romantic pianists who followed him. Chopin and Schumann both heard him play and were influenced by his style.

This is the second movement from his Piano Concerto in B min, Op 89. The first and third movements are more in the Romantic style, quite bombastic, but I like this one.

♫ Hummel - Piano Concerto Op 89 (2)

I mentioned a number of composers in the previous tale and I've decided to go with one of them next. It's the most unlikely, ANTONIO SALIERI.


Poor old Salieri, he's had a bad press these last few decades, libeled in books and films, accused of murdering Mozart. He didn't, of course.

They actually quite liked each other and generally supported each others' works. The myth probably grew up after Salieri selected others rather than Wolfie for various positions. Old Leopold Mozart wasn't too happy about this but his son took it with equanimity.

Salieri was born in 1750 in a Venetian town. He first had music lessons from his older brother and later from the organist at his local cathedral. As a kid he had a passion for sugar, reading and music. Sounds normal to me.

He also took off from home a couple of times to hear his brother in concert. He lost his sugar privileges for this.

When he was about 13, both his parents died and he was taken in by a local monk. Uh oh. This didn't last long before he became the ward of a Venetian nobleman, a friend of his father. It was there he continued his musical studies.

In his day, he was most noted for his vocal compositions, operas, church music and the like. His instrumental works were more modest in number but they are the ones that have mostly survived. This is one of them, the third movement of his Concerto for Oboe and Cello D maj.

♫ Salieri - Concerto for Oboe and Cello D maj (3)

JOHANNES HIERONYMUS KAPSBERGER was a German-Italian virtuoso performer and composer of the early Baroque period.


He is most remembered today for his works for lute, theorbo and chitarrone. Nope, I didn't know either.

A theorbo is a long-necked lute with two sets of tuning pegs, one at the top and the other half way up the neck as far as I can tell from the picture. A chitarrone is another name for a theorbo. I don't know why it needs two names.

He was born around 1580 somewhere in Austria or maybe Venice. It is known that he moved to Rome in his early twenties where he gained a reputation as a brilliant virtuoso, sort of the Eric Clapton of his day.

He lived in Rome for the rest of his life where he worked with composers of the time such as Frescobaldi (who thought he was brilliant) and Landi (who wasn't so taken with his music).

This is a piece he composed for the lute, Gagliarda.

♫ Kapsberger - Gagliarda

And one for the chitarrone, Canario.

♫ Kapsberger - Canario

Speaking of GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, he was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1583.


His family was wealthy and it seems his father and brother were noted organists, so Girolamo went into this business as well. He was a bit of a prodigy and, as often happens in such cases, his dad dragged him around Italy performing for all who'd pay.

He met many of the famous composers of the day – Monteverdi, Dowland, de Lassus and, most importantly, Gesualdo. All favorites of this column.

In his twenties he headed for Rome where he pretty much remained from then on. He joined the musical establishment there until he fell out with the Medicis (not a healthy thing to do). There may have been a young woman involved, or that could have been a separate scandal.

In spite of that, he married and had five kids, some of whom preceded the wedding. Among all this, he had time to write numerous compositions. He was employed by various cardinals, popes and dukes around the place.

He is considered the most important of the early Italian instrumental composers. His compositions were known to have influenced numerous major composers, including Purcell, Pachelbel and the great Bach.

This is a Sonata for Harpsichord, Violin and Viola da Gamba.

♫ Frescobaldi - Sonata

Now we have "the mystery composer," UNICO WILHELM VAN WASSENAER.


Unico was born into a very wealthy Dutch family of soldiers and diplomats in 1692. He studied law and he carried on the family diplomating trade at which he was very successful.

He was also a musician and composer of considerable ability but, because of his trade or his noble family or maybe just because he didn't think much of his ability, his works were published under the name of Carlo Ricciotti, an Italian violinist.

It seems that his friends weren't fooled by this and knew who wrote them. Later, they were attributed to Johann Birkenstock and Fortunato Chelleri and finally to Pergolesi. I guess everyone who knew who wrote them had died off by then.

The Pergolesi attribution lasted well into the 20th century when manuscripts in Unico's handwriting were discovered around 1980. These were the "Concerti Armonici" and this is what we have today – well, one of them, Concerto No 4 in F maj.

♫ Wassenaer - Concerto No 4

As we were speaking of Pergolesi, we might as well have something of his too.


GIOVANNI BATTISTA PERGOLESI was born in Jesi, Italy in 1710 and studied music there. He went to Naples to further his musical education.

He was an important early composer of opera buffa (a fancy way of saying comic opera). Apparently his piece in this style, La Serva Padrona, caused a riot in Paris between supporters of serious opera and those who like a bit of a laugh.

He wrote a lot of religious music and some orchestral works as well. He died at the age of 26 of tuberculosis.

To see (or hear) what the fuss was about, here is a duet from La Serva Padrona. The singers are Jeanne Bima and Petteri Salomaa.

♫ Pergolesi - La Serva Padrona (7)


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

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

This happened. In Ohio. And the local reporter does a nice job with the puns.

Some new research indicates that our sedentary life styles can undo the good regular exercise and eating well does for us, reports Patty Henetz in The Salt Lake City Tribune.

”As University of Tennessee researcher Gregory Heath says, 'Essentially, opportunities for physical activity have been systematically engineered out of our daily lives.'

“We now sit for more hours each day than we sleep. Some studies suggest that sitting more than six hours a day makes a death within 15 years more likely than if we sit just three hours per day — even if we do aerobic exercise.”

Although there is still more research to be done, there is some evidence that the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is connected to the advent of the personal computer. Read more here.

Swiss artist Zimoun has been creating a series of audio installations called immersive cardboard structures. It isn't music – just the sound of various materials, powered by small dc motors, hitting cardboard. Here is a video of one of them:

This one sounds a little like rain and I found it quite soothing. You can see more here. (Hat tip to Nikki of From Where I Sit)

On 30 June, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed legislation allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons into, among other public places, bars.

“The law also prohibits gun owners from consuming alcohol or being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they carry their weapons into bars.”

Let's see if I've got this right: The sole purpose of a bar is to sell alcoholic beverages. The gun anyone carries into a bar is concealed. So the gun owner is on his or her honor not to drink in an establishment that has no other purpose.

Oh yeah. That'll work out just fine. Read more here.

With a kitten.

In the most recent fiscal year, the government printed no $10 bills and the number of $5 bills dropped to its lowest number in 30 years. Reports The New York Times,

”In 1970, at the dawn of plastic payment, the value of United States currency in domestic circulation equaled about 5 percent of the nation’s economic activity. Last year, the value of currency in domestic circulation equaled about 2.5 percent of economic activity.”

No one is suggesting cash will go away and that's good for me. Aside from online and a few other places where it is impossible, I always pay cash. It's how I keep to a budget. It's way too easy to go overboard with plastic. Read more here.

At 5PM on the Friday before the 4th of July at a Stop and Shop on Cape Cod, Spirit of America organized a flash music mob to get people in the mood for the annual celebration. Couldn't tell you why, but watching this made me a little teary – in a good sense. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

Until last Wednesday or Thursday when the verdict became wall-to-wall news 24/7 for a couple of days, I had never heard of Casey Anthony. Am I the only person in America, do you suppose, who never saw a minute of the trial, knows nothing about it and doesn't care? Just asking.

Nikki of From Where I Sit sent this video. I like the first comment on the video's YouTube page: “That's how I go downstairs on Monday morning too.”

Two Things You Need to Know About Social Security Right Now

For all the public posturing, threats and uninformed chatter over looming default by the U.S. government, you may have noticed an eerie silence from politician- and medialand on this topic: if the debt ceiling is not raised, will Social Security benefits be paid?

A U.S. default would be certain to cause long-lasting and cataclysmic economic consequences worldwide but since this has never happened before, no one knows how cataclysmic.

Republican Representative, presidential candidate and leader of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, Michele Bachmann (who believes the Founding Fathers ended slavery), along with other Republicans, says in a new television commercial for herself currently airing in Iowa, “I will not vote to increase the debt ceiling.”

Additionally, this past week, she shrugged off the consequences of a U.S default:

It's that “prioritize our spending” - meaning other government obligations after paying interest on the debt - that is of concern to elders. Millions of elders live month-to-month on Social Security and two-thirds of people 65 and older rely on Social Security for more than half their income.

Will Social Security payments be prioritized out of the mix if the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline? Official Washington and the media are not saying.

This is a stealth Social Security cut that would affect not just those age 55 and younger whom other proposals to “strengthen” the program would affect. This would impact you and me too.

The idea being “seriously discussed” in the deficit talks as part of a compromise to allow raising the debt ceiling is to change the formula by which inflation is calculated (“chained-CPI” versus the current “CPI-W”) which would dramatically affect the cost of living adjustment (COLA) to Social Security and would go into effect immediately. Here is what is at stake as explained by Social Security's chief actuary:

“...moving to chained-CPI would constitute an immediate 0.3 percent benefit cut. That may sound small, but the effects would compound, and '[a]dditional annual COLAs thereafter would accumulate to larger total reductions in expected scheduled benefit levels of about 3.7 percent, 6.5 percent, and 9.2 percent for retirees at ages 75, 85, and 95, respectively.'”

This chart shows the difference in an average Social Security benefit over time. (Click here for a larger, more readable size.)


The skewed idea behind the chained-CPI is that as goods and services become more expensive, people adjust their buying habits downward and therefore, presumably, don't need as large a COLA.

Tell that to elders who already go hungry and cut their medications in half or do without entirely. There is a level of income below which there is nowhere to go and millions of Social Security recipients fall into this category.

It is said that President Obama is open to this CPI shift. As Richard Eskow notes, the COLA change would raise taxes “on everybody but the wealthy.” He goes on to analyze where this proposal currently stands in Washington:

Contrast the White House's bobbing and weaving with Harry Reid's firm statements on the topic. In January Reid said Social Security cuts were 'off the table.' He asked the President to leave Social Security out of the deficit talks in February. In March he said he wouldn't consider restructuring Social Security for twenty years.

“But now the President has announced that he's taking direct control of negotiations, and it could be hard for Reid to block a White House/GOP deal - especially if that could lead to a government shutdown.

“That means that Social Security is now in the President's hands, and he's not telling us what he plans to do.”

No one has any business making Social Security any part of the debt ceiling ruckus or deficit reduction. It does not and never has contributed one penny to the deficit and contrary to hysterical Republicans, there is an easy fix for the minor shortfall in future years.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

“...the longer-term gap in Social Security is relatively modest. The Social Security tax only applies to the first $107,000 of wages. If the tax applied to all wages, so that Bill Gates paid more than a senior firefighter, it would fill the gap in full.

“So this shortfall is not some huge chasm. It can be relatively easily met and there is no rush to do it.

That is, of course, the best and simplest proposal for Social Security held by many economists, and some, but too few, politicians agree. Don't hold your breath for it to happen anytime soon.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Surprise Letter

Air Travel and Elders

If you insist on reducing the width of the aisle on the plane to 14 inches, it is not discriminatory to require your flight attendants' backsides to be narrower than 18 or 20 inches.

The attendant of the wide butt banged her hip into Crabby Old Lady's shoulder every time she walked by and once, approaching from behind where Crabby couldn't see her coming, knocked Crabby's Kindle out of her hand.

Fortunately, those are tough little gadgets and luckily too, no one stepped on it while Crabby was disengaging from the tight quarters of her seat to retrieve it from the floor. And that was the least of Crabby's air travel woes.

Here is a remarkable achievement in engineering: On one plane during the trip, Crabby's feet didn't reach the floor causing her legs to go numb while the reading light button and the fresh air valve were placed too high to be reachable. Someone must have spent a great deal of effort to make that possible.

And fresh air, indeed. For several years, on every plane, Crabby gets a banging headache within an hour of take-off which is not alleviated until she steps, gasping, into the relatively cleaner air of the terminal. This trip was no exception.

A year ago, after several cross-country trips in quick succession, Crabby Old Lady vowed never in her remaining years to fly again unless there is a tax-free, million-dollar check waiting for her at the far end of the trip.

Crabby broke her vow a couple of weeks ago when, due to an invitation to a conference that promised to be worthwhile, she traveled from Portland, Oregon (PDX) to Detroit, Michigan (DTW) and back via, in each direction, a plane change in Minneapolis (MSP).

The four flights were more of a horror than Crabby had recalled. That the air travel industry – specifically, commercial airlines and airports – has become expert at human torture is not news. Crabby's contention, however, is that it is particularly hard on elders.

Let's start with the Transportation Safety Administration, the TSA, and security check-in. It's not just the agents' intrusion into private parts we read about with increasing frequency.

Due to a temporary physical problem, Crabby has a limited range of motion in her right arm so that it is difficult, slow and painful to get out of her jacket. Lots of elders have other conditions – age itself is enough - that slow them down, but we are pressured in that security line to keep moving, moving, moving.

If you're wearing socks or stockings, removing shoes leaves the passenger in danger of slipping on the slick floor and if you're old, you are super aware that a fall could mean the end of your mobility for a year or more or even forever. So you step carefully which usually means slower than everyone else.

But the TSA officers and those business road warriors behind urge you forward at their young or midlife speed. You can hear their deliberately loud sighs and know without looking that they are also rolling their eyes.

The public seems generally tolerant of a parent herding two or three rambunctious children, but they have no patience for elders.

Airlines require that domestic passengers arrive 75 minutes before flight time. Add in an hour's travel from home to the airport and it becomes more than two hours before lift off – if the plane leaves on time - and a lot of that is spent walking and standing.

Apparently, there has been a change in boarding procedure since Crabby last flew a year ago. The useful and efficient system of boarding the back of the plane first has been ditched for the reverse leaving the majority of passengers backed up in the jetway for 15, 20, sometimes 30 minutes while those with seats in the front of the plane block the aisles.

With all that walking and waiting, Crabby Old Lady was exhausted before she left the ground.

Leaving her home for this trip in the early morning, Crabby had been pleasantly surprised to find that her wheelie was remarkably light compared to past trips. Staying over in Dearborn only two nights, there hadn't been much to pack, the tiny Kindle replaced the two or three pounds of books Crabby dragged with her in the past and her laptop in her over-large shoulder bag, while heavier than the carry-on, was manageable.

Or, would have been if airport management gave any thought to the needs of the legions of elders who fly.

With leaving, arriving and transfers, Crabby faced six long airport walks on this trip. Leaving from PDX and from DTW on her return were tedious but tolerable. It was early in the day.

One of the lessons about getting old that Crabby still must repeatedly re-learn is that what is easy when she is rested and fresh can become impossible late in the day.

Although her energy was waning during the plane change at MSP on her outbound trip and both her wheelie and shoulder bag seemed to have doubled in weight while on the plane, it was a walk in the park compared to the return.

Crabby's flight booking allowed only 40 minutes between planes at MSP. By the time she got into the terminal, she had a scant 25 minutes until take-off. She checked the screen for the next gate. Here was the insurmountable problem:


There was not a chance Crabby could make it that far in 25 minutes. She scanned the terminal for a solution. Just then, an electric cart whizzed past and Crabby's New York City street chops kicked in. She thrust out her arm and yelled, “TAXI,” stretching out the word to three our four syllables.

Everyone turned to stare at her outburst. But the cart stopped and the driver laughed, saying no one had ever hailed him that way before.

Even on the cart, it was 30 minutes to the gate and Crabby resigned herself to waiting hours for the next plane.

She did wait hours – five to be exact – but not because she missed the plane. Due to a mechanical problem, the flight was delayed. Five hours during which Crabby became increasingly depleted of energy hauling her bags to the rest room a couple of times, along the corridor and back looking for food that wasn't deep fried (there was none) and the constant din of announcements broadcast at decibels high enough to kill.

At one point, exhausted almost to tears, Crabby asked the woman sitting next to her if she would keep an eye on her wheelie while Crabby went to the rest room. “Oh, that's not allowed,” said the woman. “Terrorists, dontcha know.”

And you're a pig, “dontcha know,” thought tired, hungry and cranky Crabby. At least her airplane headache had stopped banging by then.

Crabby had intended to make this report funny but this stuff isn't funny and travel should not be this hard.

She was deeply grateful for that electric cart at MPS, but there were none at DTW and PDX. When Crabby finally deplaned at her home town airport, the walk from the gate, all uphill, felt like climbing Mt. Everest and it was four days until Crabby felt her old self again.

Since airlines and airports are unlikely to improve conditions for elders (or anyone else), Crabby has renewed her no-fly vow.

At The Elder Storytelling Place toay, Linda Carmi: I am a Widow Now

Summer Distractions and Blog Hooky

blogging bug image For the third day in a row yesterday, the weather was glorious. I woke early, before dawn, and 30 or 40 minutes later took my coffee at the little wrought iron table outside to watch the sky go from dark to bright, clear blue. The change happens remarkably fast.

The temperature was brisk – 55F to 60F – just right for early morning.

By the time I spent two or three hours doing laundry, reading the morning news, answering some email and playing with Olllie the cat, the sun was filtering through the surrounding trees irresistibly. So off I went to the paths of the nearby park along the Willamette River.

On my return, I remembered that Ollie needed food. Not just any old food you can get for $8 or $10 a bag at the market. Oh, no. He's on a diet (who knew there was diet cat food) per the veterinarian and it must be bought at the pet store for twice the price. Off I went in the car with all the windows rolled down, the better to enjoy the sunny breeze.

Next to the checkout counter were kittens for sale, six or eight of them, and I couldn't resist plopping myself down to play.

Ollie is my friend good and true, but is there anything better than a whole passel of kittens jumping and rolling around and crawling up to your shoulders – just because they can - the tiny, pink pads of their paws soft against your skin? You don't get to do that much in life.

Back home, I decided not to save the halibut I had bought at the fish market for dinner, so cooked that up with some steamed veggies for lunch and by the time I'd cleaned the kitchen I was, for no obvious reason, overwhelmed with sleepiness.

I succumbed and a great nap it was with a dream about clocks for sale in Chinatown but not really for sale yet and I would need to return in a week or two to buy one. Or something like that.

Clocks. It was 3PM by then and there was not a thought in my head for a Wednesday blog post except maybe that Congress and the White House seem determined to sell out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to not raise taxes on corporations and the rich.

Or maybe that story about airports and elders that Crabby Old Lady has been working on.

But the outdoors was calling to me again. Although it was 80F degrees by then, a breeze made it wonderfully tolerable and off I went to the park paths again.

When I returned, it was time for Chris Matthews' show. He amuses me and sometimes I learn something. There went another hour and by then, 5PM, Ollie wanted his evening meal and I was beginning to think about my own dinner.

But yikes – no blog post yet. Nevertheless, I set about preparing a fresh fruit and vegetable salad with homemade ginger dressing, and leisurely enjoyed every bite.

From long experience, I know that by late afternoon or early evening there is no point in attempting the kind of critical thinking serious writing requires. I get stupid by then. So this is what you get. (Fair warning: The weatherman predicts another week of days as glorious as this one.)

In the sense that pasta of any shape or size is nothing more than a vehicle for a tasty sauce you would otherwise eat as soup, this post today is a vehicle for a link to The Elder Storytelling Place.

And how are you spending your days this summer?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Geezer Chic – The Ultimate Alternative Lifestyle

Age and the Body Beautiful

category_bug_journal2.gif Thanks to cramped quarters, security measures imposed after 9/11 and the general difficulties of traversing airports, travel by plane these days is an exercise in non-stop torture, particularly for elders.

This is not unknown and Crabby Old Lady will have something to say about it later this week. But on my recent trip to Michigan, I discovered a whole new means of personal bedevilment.

Some background is required.

In my apartment in Greenwich Village where I lived for 23 years from age 41 to 64, there was, next to my closet, a full-length mirror. Like many people, I checked myself there before leaving home to see that I was pulled together in reasonably good order.

If you don't count the last four or five of those years when age-related pudginess made it a less than satisfying ritual, I was pleased with what I saw.

I left that mirror behind when I moved to Maine where the only mirror in the house was on the door of the medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink. For four years, I saw myself only from the neck up and that was fine with me given the bulges, sags and crepe-y skin here and there that I'd rather ignore anyway.

Then, a year ago, when I moved to Oregon, the apartment came with full-length mirrors on two of the sliding closet doors and a long, large mirror above the sinks in the dressing room together with, on the perpendicular, the medicine cabinet mirror.

Like the fun house at an amusement park, all these mirrors create a multitude of images from varying angles reflecting off one another leaving no possibility of fooling oneself into thinking the body is well-used but okay.

Not a chance of that.

It was a shock, after four years, the first time I saw myself naked in that room. It is a sight best left undescribed and in fact, I quickly learned to cover myself with a robe even when, for example, it might otherwise be more convenient to brush my teeth in the nude after showering.

I have become adept, too, at averting my eyes when my body is, necessarily, exposed while dressing.

You think that's easy? Take a look at the room I'm talking about:

Dressing Room

Nevertheless, I am so expert at it now that I might as well be blind when I'm changing clothes.

Then, two weeks ago, I stayed in a hotel room where there was a full-length mirror on the outside of the closet door, another one opposite the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom (the better to see one's saggy butt) and a large mirror above the desk across from the bed.

Additionally, the lighting was unexpectedly different from home so that it was impossible - dressing, undressing and showering - not to catch sight of my mis-shapen old body as it actually is.

This shouldn't be a surprise and theoretically (that is, applied to others), I believe there is dignity in an elder body as shown in this Auguste Rodin sculpture titled, “The Old Courtesan,” of a woman who had been a professional model in her youth:

Rodin old woman

I think she is beautiful in the manner of a fading flower at the end of summer.

We have been inured through our culture's obsession to judge youthful bodies as the ideal and to disdain the inevitable changes that come with age. I am reminded of a quote from James Hillman that Marian Van Eyk McCain left in a comment when I first posted the image of the Rodin sculpture a few years ago:

"...when the body begins to sag, it is abandoning sham and hypocrisy. The body leads the way down, deepening your character. It doesn't know how to lie."

I'm working on seeing my own body in all those mirrored reflections with such a sensibility.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Roughing It

Independence Day 2011

category_bug_politics.gif Two hundred thirty-five years ago, the 13 colonies issued their Declaration of Independence from the King of England. The most important and stirring passage of that document is this:

”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Please note the word “men” (now understood to include women) and the phrase “consent of the governed.”

That's “men,” meaning humans; homo sapiens; people. But 110 years later, in 1886, the Supreme Court of the United States recognized corporations as persons for the purposes of the 14th Amendment – in particular, the “due process” clause.

Furthering that magical transformation, in 2010, the Roberts court held in Citizens United that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited due to corporations' rights to free speech (as persons) under the First Amendment.

What's next? Giving the vote to corporations? Oh, wait. Silly me. They don't need the vote; they just buy all the votes they need with that unlimited right to spend any amount of money, giving malevolent new meaning to the phrase, “consent of the governed.”

In 1776, the people of the colonies were subject to the absolute power of the king through his resident enforcers, the Redcoats. Today, the people of the United States are subject to the limitless power of corporations through their retainers in Congress and the White House.

The people of the United States must redress this injustice sooner or later. For now, on this day, it does the heart good to remember the courage of the men who stood up to the king when they signed the Declaration of Independence on that hot July day in Philadelphia in 1776.

I hope your celebratory fireworks tonight are as beautiful as these:

The Elder Storytelling Place will return tomorrow.


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.

This is an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren't the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they're just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.

What happened in 1958?

  • Well, I was in 2nd form (year 8)
  • [Editor's note] Ronni Bennett graduated from high school
  • Paul Robeson sold out Carnegie Hall
  • A B-47 dropped an atom bomb on South Carolina. It didn't explode
  • The John Birch Society was founded
  • My Fair Lady debuted on Broadway
  • The first stereo records were released
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • W.C. Handy died.

1958 was the year I could have included 50 or 60 songs but I had to restrain myself. I thought I'd include less obvious choices but I don't think I succeeded at that. You can see for yourself below.

BOBBY DAY was from Forth Worth and he and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a teenager. This family knew him at the time as Robert Byrd; this is not the Bobby Byrd who was a musician in the Seventies.

He was, however, the original Bob in the soul group Bob and Earl; back then he was using his real name of Bob Byrd. When he did solo work on the side, he used the name Bobby Day for contractual reasons. Bob Relf later took his place in Bob and Earl.

Bobby Day

Bobby was also a songwriter and several of his songs have been covered by other artists. However, what we have today wasn't written by him although it was famously, and poorly, covered later by Michael Jackson.

It was written by Leon René, although he used the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas. The song is Rockin' Robin.

♫ Bobby Day - Rockin' Robin

THE FOUR PREPS met at Hollywood High School and if there isn't a movie in that alone then the scriptwriters are out to lunch.

The Four Preps

They had a couple of hits this year and either one would have been suitable for inclusion. Besides being fine singers, they were good mimics and had a couple of hit records parodying other singer of the time. Indeed, I've written a previous column on one of those. You can find it here.

The Preps were discovered at a talent show and went on to record interesting songs for several decades. This is 26 Miles (Santa Catalina).

♫ The Four Preps - 26 Miles (Santa Catalina)

1958 saw a spate of silly songs, usually with sped-up voices – The Witchdoctor, Alvin and the Chipmunks – especially Alvin's Harmonica – and the king of them all was by SHEB WOOLEY.

Sheb Wooley

Sheb was an actor; he played Frank Miller, one of the baddies in High Noon, and had a long-running part in Rawhide as the scout, Pete Nolan. He was in other films, Giant for one, and was also a bit of a singer.

Sheb was born on a farm in Oklahoma and worked there as a cowboy so he really knew how to play the part properly. However, we're interested in music and in that field Sheb's contribution to the culture of the world is The Purple People Eater.

The school I attended at the time had the color purple as its main color so you can imagine the stick we copped that year (and the next) whenever we played other schools at sports. They started singing the song to us in a rather desultory fashion but we embraced it and, channeling our own inner Purple People Eaters, sang it back to them with gusto.

♫ Sheb Wooley - The Purple People Eater

BILLY GRAMMER changed his name from Billie Grammer. Perhaps it looked better on the billboards.

Billy Grammer

Billy was born in Illinois and his father was a musician of note in the area, playing violin and trumpet. Young Billy (or Billie) became proficient on guitar, mandolin and violin and would often accompany dad at local gigs.

Billy was going into scientific or engineering fields but World War II intervened. Work was scarce for budding musicians after the war so he took a job as a toolmaker. When the plant closed, laying off virtually everyone, Billy again tried his had at being a professional musician.

This time he was successful and he ended up as a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry. He became so proficient at playing guitar that the company that made guitars for him renamed itself in his honor. His biggest hit was Gotta Travel On.

♫ Billy Grammer - Gotta Travel On

THE PLATTERS were easily the best of the vocal groups of the Fifties.

The Platters

They started as just another run of the mill DooWop outfit until their management was taken over by impresario Buck Ram. Buck moved Tony Williams right to the front as lead singer. He also recruited Zola Taylor to the group.

Buck was also a songwriter and he had a keen ear for classic songs as well. Put all that together and we have greatness.

Unfortunately, by the early Sixties the group was disintegrating and several members went out on their own and formed their own groups (generally all called The Platters). These days there are more than a hundred versions of “the original Platters” doing the rounds.

This is Twilight Time by the real original Platters.

♫ The Platters - Twilight Time

As with Ritchie Valens, below, THE BIG BOPPER is really just remembered for two things. The other one is Chantilly Lace.

Big Bopper

Jiles Perry Richardson was from Texas. He had a big voice and was a natural as a disk jockey. He later changed his first name to Jape and of course, unofficially changed his whole name to The Big Bopper when he ventured into radio.

He played the guitar and was a songwriter of some note. However as I suggested, he's remembered for being on the plane with Buddy and Ritchie and this song.

♫ Big Bopper - Chantilly Lace

PEGGY LEE was born Norma Egstrom in North Dakota. Hmmm, I wonder how many other great singers are from that state? I'm sure any North Dakotans reading this will let us know.

Peggy Lee

Through many trials and errors she was eventually picked up by Benny Goodman as singer in his band. She stayed with him for a couple of years and married his guitarist. This was against Benny's policy He sacked the guitarist and Peggy resigned in protest.

She became a housewife for a while, looking after their daughter. All the while she was writing songs and occasionally recording them. One became a hit and there went the housewifing business.

The song today is not one she wrote, well not in full. It was written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport, first recorded by Little Willie John.

Peggy added some extra verses (although she's not been credited with those). Elvis recorded a near identical version not long after Peggy's. Here she is with Fever.

♫ Peggy Lee - Fever

DON GIBSON was one of the great country music songwriters and singer in the Fifties.

Don Gibson

Not just country - his own recordings hit the pop charts as well and a list of artists who have covered his songs would be too long to list here. However, I will mention Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young and Patsy Cline as a few who have done so successfully.

Don made a career out of writing songs about loneliness. You could put together a complete album of songs with lonely or lonesome in the title. This is one of them, Oh Lonesome Me.

Don Gibson - Oh Lonesome Me

Dolores LAVERN BAKER was born in Chicago and made her start in clubs in that city.

LaVern Baker

She originally appeared and recorded under the name “Little Miss Sharecropper.” I don't know why, I can't imagine too much sharecropping being done in the south side of Chicago.

Anyway, she did get to use her own name after a while. LaVern signed to Atlantic records in 1953 and had many hits throughout the Fifties (some that were covered by inferior artists sold better, alas).

Eventually she went to The Philippines to live and stayed there for many years. She returned to New York for the fortieth anniversary of Atlantic Records and had another career for a few years. LaVern died in 1997. Here she is with I Cried a Tear.

♫ LaVern Baker - I Cried a Tear

There seem to be only two things RITCHIE VALENS is remembered for these days – being on the plane with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper and the song La Bamba.

Richie Valens

However, in his lifetime his biggest hit wasn't that song it was Donna.

Richard Valenzuela was born in Los Angeles of Mexican and Native American parentage. The song, Donna, was his first hit record and the only one he had while still alive. La Bamba was to follow on its heels.

He had been a professional performer for eight months and was only 17 when he took that flight.

♫ Ritchie Valens - Donna

In past columns I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you'd like to hear more, here are some links.

Teddy Bears - To Know Him Is To Love Him
Tommy Edwards - It's All In The Game
Bobby Bare (as Bill Parsons) - All American Boy
Clyde McPhatter - A Lover's Question
Little Richard - Good Golly Miss Molly
Jerry Lee Lewis – Breathless
The Kingston Trio – Tom Dooley
Royal Teens - Short Shorts

1959 will appear in two weeks' time.


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

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

Last Monday, I showed you the video of my test drive of park assist at Ford Motor Company in Michigan.

I tried only the tamest hands-on opportunities available to conference attendees and now Mike Wood of Ford has put together a montage of the more exciting ones with a little more, too, of yours truly.

Due to unprecedented and prolonged flooding in parts of Pakistan, spiders have moved from ground level to the trees by the gazillions and stayed there.

“According to University of Akron biologist Todd Blackledge, who studies web-weaving spiders, some spin new webs each day. After weeks, the dense layers of silk, seen here in Sindh province, covered the trees.”

Spider tree

You can read more about the phenomenon here.

Jan Adams of Happening Here sent this New York Times story about all-metal hip replacement joints that are not only failing, but distributing metal debris throughout blood and organs.

One reason for the problem is that some newer metal hips are not human-tested and rushed to market, as is true for other devices and some drugs:

”Several heavily promoted artificial spinal disks, claimed by their makers to be major innovations, proved no better than previous ones. After the blockbuster diabetes drug Avandia was linked to heart attacks, a federal study concluded that older drugs were safer and worked better for most patients.

“And a new heart device component from Medtronic started fracturing after it was implanted in more than 200,000 patients; at least 12 people died in connection with that product.”

With medical issues, we need to listen to our doctors, but we must also be our own advocates. Read more here.

No one in Washington, D.C. is as much on the side of we the people as Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Last week, he spoke on the floor of the Senate urging President Obama not to cave (again) to the stupefying demands of Republicans, corporations and the wealthy to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. Here is part of his speech:

Sanders summed up the situation in a letter to the president that had been signed by more than 16,000 people by the time he completed his speech. You too can do that here.

There are Congress members who vote with Sanders, but I can't think of any other representative or senator who speaks out at all, let alone with the passion and commitment of Bernie. Can you?

The size of the internet is almost unfathomable. Every 60 seconds, more than 13,000 hours of music are streamed on Pandora, 98,000 tweets are posted and 12,000 new ads are uploaded to craigslist. Here are some more factoids from Shanghai Web Designers.

Click here for a larger image, then click on the image for an even larger, more readable version.

60 seconds

I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for interspecies friendship. I found this story at the financial/political blog, Naked Capitalism and I'm just going to repeat that post in its entirety:

The cat mother, Tito. The kitten, Paco. And the baby squirrel, Firulais. They became family last year, when Rubén Darío Gaviria, who lives in Colombia, found the squirrel under a tree, limping and unable to climb up. The squirrel instinctively cuddled with him, hiding from the cold weather, at 6AM.

As Rubén got home, he introduced the little squirrel to mom Tito, who was not so pleased to see the newcomer. A quick reprimand of “Bad Tito! He’s family now,” followed.

The mom got the message and immediately welcomed the squirrel into her bed with Paco, the baby kitten. The squirrel, then named Firulais, bonded with his new mother when she started nursing him back to health.

Cat Squirrel

The unusual family plays together daily. At night, Firulais ventures into the woods, where he dug a hole. He’s free to go whenever he wants, says Rubén, but he doesn’t seem to be very interested in giving up the comforts of his new home. He always comes back to sleep all curled up with Tito and Paco.

Ca tSquirrel

Geriatric specialists have long warned that taking too many drugs can lead to mental confusion and decline in elders. As Dr. Robert Butler reported in his book, The Longevity Revolution,

”Individuals receiving many medications (polypharmacy), especially if older, may experience fatigue, intellectual confusion, memory loss, impaired sexuality, or urinary incontinence...Drugs should, when possible, be used sparingly and at low dosage.”

Additionally, new drugs are rarely tested on old people so that physicians do not know how recommended dosages affect elders.

Sky McCain, who blogs at Earthen Spirituality, emailed this BBC report about a new study from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that discusses these issues. You can read it here.

I know – seagulls are just rats with wings, but I have always liked the symmetry of their shape especially when they are soaring on shifting winds. They are also inveterate thieves and that's funny to watch.

Next time you hear one of those Republicans telling you the wealthy need more tax cuts or that the budget cannot be balanced without trashing Social Security and Medicare, pull out these charts.

This shows the capital income earned by the top one percent (gray) and the bottom 80 percent (red) between 1979 and 2003.


These two charts speak for themselves:



You will find more facts and charts about the distribution of wealth in the U.S. at Business Insider.

When I called for some help with Interesting Stuff items a couple of weeks ago, nearly a dozen of you sent in the latest viral cat video - The Barking Cat. It has had so many millions of views at YouTube that I expect most of you have seen it. Or, maybe not.

On the Pains of Blogging

blogging bug image I had finished what was to be today's post when something happened yesterday afternoon that so disheartened me, I need to address it right away.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted when actor Betty White agreed to an interview for TimeGoesBy. Further, I was pretty sure you would be equally delighted and I eagerly set about preparing for our conversation.

Betty often talks about her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, who died 30 years ago. One interviewer told her that he always asks about Allen because he likes the look on her face when Betty speaks of him. I know what he means.

It seemed to me that her marriage and loss would be a good topic for readers of TGB many of whom are at an age when they have already or may in the future become widows and widowers.

Comments on the interview yesterday followed on my conviction that nobody doesn't like Betty White until – wham! - there appeared a comment so ungenerous and so off-base in its assumptions that A) due to her celebrity, widowhood is somehow easier for Betty White and B) that she was advising, as the commenter inelegantly put it, “tits up to widows” - neither of which is true - that I sit here now, an hour after reading it, angry and embarrassed.

It is no different than if one guest in my home had rudely attacked another at dinner. This blog is my online home and Betty White was an invited guest. But there was no way for me to intervene in real time, as there would be at dinner, to try to set it right.

Given the wild west nature of much of the web, I think of TimeGoesBy as a respite from trolls and name-calling - a little corner of the internet where elders can speak openly and honestly about issues and ideas that concern us beyond the decline, debility and disease (but those too) by which too many in the world define us.

Overall, that's what TGB is. More, some of you are friends. Others are acquaintances that are perhaps growing into friendship. New connections spark all the time.

The last thing I expected here was bad manners. I thought we were all old enough - or ought to be - to know better.

In case anyone misunderstands, Betty White did not need to do this interview - she appears on Saturday Night Live, Letterman, Leno and other talk shows pretty much any time she wants.

She and other celebrities are not sitting around home wishing they had an interview to do. It is part of their job, usually by contract, to promote their projects and it's hard work. I often wonder how they can stand to answer the same questions over and over as graciously as they do.

In exchange, we the audience get a little bit more personal insight into people whose movies, TV shows, concerts, recordings and books we admire, respect or are entertained by. They are not politicians whose decisions can change the nature of our country, the world, even our day-to-day personal lives and are therefore fair game to be nailed.

Betty White was my guest and someone spit in her soup.

In regard to the subject of grief which apparently caused the outburst, I'll repeat here in part what I posted in a follow-up comment on yesterday's interview:

“No one knows another person's grief. In personal tragedy, well-known people have no more or no fewer resources, necessarily, than anyone else.

“Neither Betty White, Darla or anyone here has indicated in any manner that widows (or widowers, for that matter, or anyone who has lost someone dear to them who is not a spouse) is not to be honored in their sorrow.”

I also wrote that there will be no more interviews. That may have been hasty, but being nervous now about how future guests might be received, I will certainly hesitate. Betty White in no way deserved this tirade and neither do I deserve the aftermath of bad feelings it has caused me.

I was particularly surprised that this comment is not from some troll, but a regular reader whose contributions until now have been smart and worth reading. I refer her and others who may want a refresher to the Comment Rules. You can always find a link to them in the upper left corner of any page.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Refinishing Furniture