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ELDER MUSIC: 1970 Part 1

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.


1970 is rooly trooly definitely the last of these “years” because music pretty much went downhill from here on. Anyway, I lost interest in new music after about 1973 so there won’t be much in my collection, except for those artists I liked who kept recording.

However, I’m going out with a bang, with a two-parter because this was the best year in the rock era for albums.

Okay, The Band’s eponymous album wasn’t from this year and Bob Dylan’s best were from elsewhen, as were those of The Beatles. Nevertheless, overall it was a fine year.

I spent much of 1970 in the United States, the first of many visits, mainly in Berkeley, San Francisco, Palo Alto and Los Gatos. I traveled across country all the way to New York and Boston and up to Montreal where I saw the tanks trundling down the main streets, took the train over to Vancouver, and back to northern California.

All the while I was taking in music, usually at the Fillmore, Winterland and the Family Dog but also in small clubs around Berkeley and Palo Alto.

This is me at the start of 1970.

Peter Tibbles

This is me at the end of 1970.

Peter Tibbles

What happened in 1970?

  • Well, I grew a beard that has lasted to this day
  • The Beatles released their last album (although it wasn’t the last one they recorded)
  • Doonesbury made its/his debut
  • A serious monsoon hit Vietnam and stopped the war. Not for long, alas
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died

A slight change of pace for this year as I’m going to check those great albums. These are (some of) the ones I bought at the time, so naturally they are the best from that year and there were a lot of them, so I have quite a bit of scope.

In 1970, I was seriously into singer/songwriter mode as will be evident from most of the music this week and next.

Okay. Let’s start at the top with the best album from the year,VAN MORRISON's “Moondance”.

Van - Moondance

This should be in any person’s top 10 albums; it’s certainly in mine. He had another album a year or so earlier called Astral Weeks that should also be in the best as well.

Back to Moondance. Selecting a single track is a daunting task and I played this album several times to try for a single one. I also asked Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, but she’s no help as it’s her all-time favorite album and she suggested I play all the tracks.  It’s not the first time she’s said something like that.

I finally decided on And It Stoned Me.

♫ Van Morrison - And It Stoned Me

THE BAND's second best album came from this year – “Stage Fright.”

The Band - Stage Fright

This is one that’s generally been downgraded by the critics but I say, “Fie upon them. They know not of what they speak.”

After a fine album, “Music From Big Pink”, and the best album ever recorded, “The Band," it was assumed that they would go downhill – thus the expectations of the critics. They were wrong, of course, and the quality was still there - even exceeding “Big Pink” with this one.

Again, it’s useless trying to pick a track; it’s going to be a random choice so I’ve gone out on a limb and selected All La Glory.

♫ The Band - All la Glory

While I’m on The Band, I’m going to go with an album upon which several of that group played. This is the first record from JESSE WINCHESTER and that’s the name of the album.

This is another that should be in anyone’s top 10 (of course, the top 10 really has expanded to about a top 100, but never mind).

Jesse Winchester

I first read about this one in Rolling Stone and on the basis of that review, I bought it. I’ve collected every Jesse album since. I saw him first in Canada and I’ve seen him every time he’s visited this country (more than several). He is a great favorite of mine.

I can’t pick a best album of his but this is the one from 1970, so here it is. The track is Yankee Lady and this one has pleasant memories for me.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Yankee Lady

PAUL SIEBEL's debut album is called “Woodsmoke and Oranges.”

Paul Siebel Woodsmoke1

This came about when he cut a few demos with David Bromberg and David got them to the ear of some honcho at Elektra records. They gave him a very modest sum indeed to finance a record and this is the result.

In 1971, he released the almost as good “Jack-Knife Gypsy” and that’s all he wrote except for a live album that pretty much echoes the first two albums. There have been no more records, no songs and only intermittent performances.

The songs on his albums have been covered by the cream (and others) of recording artists. This is Long Afternoons.

♫ Paul Siebel - Long Afternoons

BOB DYLAN released two albums this year. The first, “Self Portrait,” has been universally disparaged as his worst album. I wouldn’t go along with that but it is far from his best.

The second one, “New Morning,” was greeted with much relief after the other one but over the years it has lost its cachet somewhat. Not around these parts though. It’s the A.M.’s favorite Bob album and I think it’s pretty good as well.

Bob Dylan - New Morning

We have featured several songs from this one over time and there’s going to be another. Again, it’s a matter of which track. I’m doing this on my own as the A.M. is gallivanting around Queensland as I write this (a little later than Van above) so there’ll be no input from her. I’ve gone for Winterlude.

♫ Bob Dylan - Winterlude

I saw the GRATEFUL DEAD a few times this year and when they were on song there wasn’t another band that could touch them. That didn’t always happen though.

In the studio, they left a lot to be desired recording only three good albums, two from this year, one of which was superb. It’s called “American Beauty."

The title of the album on the cover is somewhat ambiguous as it could also be read as “American Reality”. I have since learnt that this is called an ambigram. I didn’t know that until recently.

The Grateful Dead - American Beauty

On this album, as they did on their previous one, “Workingman’s Dead,” they played songs; they didn’t go in for extended solos and the like. The music was ahead of its time and mixes folk music, rock & roll, bluegrass and country. Not the normal Dead style.

I think the song to play selects itself. It’s called Ripple.

♫ The Grateful Dead - Ripple

JOHN PHILLIPS recorded a couple of really good albums after the demise of The Mamas and The Papas.

John Phillips-Wolf

Indeed, the others in that group suggested this one would have made the best M & P’s album ever if they had been asked to perform on it. It’s certainly the best John Phillips album but then, he didn’t make many. The album I’m talking about is called “John, The WolfKing of L.A.”

I don’t know whether this song should be considered brave or gross; I’ll let you decide. It’s called Let it Bleed, Genevieve. It’s about his girl friend of the time, the actress Genevieve Waite, having a miscarriage.

♫ John Phillips - Let It Bleed Genevieve

This year saw LINDA RONSTADT’s second solo album. Even earlier, she had made a name for herself in the group the Stone Poneys.

Linda Ronstadt-Silk Purse

The album is a lot more country than her subsequent efforts – peddle steels and take-out meals, the full catastrophe. However, any Linda album is worth listening to.

This one is called “Silk Purse” and Linda does her Daisy Mae bit on the cover. The song I’ve chosen was written by Mickey Newbury, a writer of fine if rather dolorous songs. It’s Are My Thoughts With You.

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Are My Thoughts With You

I’ll never miss an opportunity to play TOM RUSH and Tom gave me two opportunities this year. The first of these was an album simply called “Tom Rush.” This is a title he’d used before so there can be a bit of confusion if you ask for this one.

Tom Rush (1970)1

Tom has said that this is his favorite of all the songs he plays. It’s not one of his; it was written by Murray McLaughlin, a Canadian singer/songwriter. It’s Child’s Song.

♫ Tom Rush - Child's Song

If I mention JIMMY WEBB, you’ll probably think of all those wonderful pop songs he wrote, mostly for other people. However, he recorded some albums himself.

One of those came out this year and it’s not what you’d expect. There’s a song cycle that doesn’t do much for me but there are a couple of quite interesting, gritty songs on the album as well. Okay, gritty for Jimmy Webb.

Jimmy Webb-Words and Music

The song I’ve chosen is called P.F. Sloan. This references another songwriter and occasional singer by that name. P.F. is not very well known but one of his songs has become iconic. That song is Eve of Destruction that sold a bunch for Barry McGuire back in 1965. Let’s hear the song about the writer of that song.

♫ Jimmy Webb - P.F. Sloan

Next week: 1970 Part 2


INTERESTING STUFF – 10 December 2011

LAUGHING THROUGH THE AGES
Through the ages, literally, from infancy to old. That's all, just laughs.

(LAUGHS! from Everynone on Vimeo.


100 YEARS YEARS OF FASHION IN 100 SECONDS
Well, fashion east London style, but it's similar to the U.S. too. Great, well-done video.


IN MEMORIAM: DAVID B. WOLFE
One of the first bloggers I met online many years ago was elder marketing guru, David B. Wolfe of Ageless Marketing.

David Wolfe It wasn't that I am so interested in advertising or marketing in and of itself, but David was an important thought leader in his field who understood how our minds, behavior and worldviews change as we age, and he worked to impress this on marketers. What that means for you and me is that sometimes, maybe more frequently thanks to David, advertising is not quite as insulting to elders as it can be.

David deeply understood the importance of storytelling to the human condition. He was a big supporter of The Elder Storytelling Place and contributed several stories in that blog's earliest years which you can read here.

David died on 3 December. You can find out more about David's life and influence from Brent Green at his Boomers blog.


ONE SOLUTION TO A HOLIDAY TASK
Tee hee. Hat tip to Kathi of My Sister was a St. Bernard

Christmas House Decorations


ELDERS TAKING JOBS FROM YOUNG PEOPLE
Apparently, older workers are the cause of our nation's unemployment problem or, at least that's what some business people believe as TGB reader, Joe Erlich, pointed out when he sent the link to this story and this video.


LARGEST INSECT ON EARTH (?)
I was amazed when I saw this photo of what is described at geekosystem.com as not just the world's largest insect, called a giant weta, but the largest ever example of one.

Credit: Mark Moffett/Minden/Solent

Others were astonished (or, maybe like me, creeped out) enough to publish the story all over the web but New Zealand, where the big bug is native, took exception. The New Zealand Herald points out that it's quite common for wetapungas (full name) to eat carrots and this particular one isn't any larger than many.

Nevertheless, I'm glad they don't live in my vicinity.


CUTE ANIMAL PHOTO
After that gigantic bug, a cute antidote is in order.

Squirrel and ice cream


ELDER DRIVING SOLUTION
Last Monday, we had a good discussion about the terrible loss of freedom elders face when/if it becomes time to give up driving. Since then, I ran across a TED talk by Sebastian Thrun, one of the developers of Google's self-driving car.

The car has been successfully tested in cities, on highways and mountain roads, during daylight and night with no mistakes, no accidents.

Thrun makes a point about how many young lives can be saved (auto accidents are the number one cause of death for young people) with this car, but I think the usefulness for old drivers is equally important and would solve the problem many of you mentioned on Monday about being stuck far from public transportation.

I am eagerly awaiting production of this car with a price in an affordable range. Here's the video.


SILLY STEPHEN COLBERT FUN
Many of Stephen Colbert's interview guests can't compete with his public persona. Most are good-natured about being the butt of his conservative jokes, but occasionally it is cringe-producing, seems a bit cruel and makes me uncomfortable.

Every now and then, however, someone you would never expect could do so takes on Colbert and wins. Such was true this week with David Hallberg, a dancer with both American Ballet Theater and the Bolshoi in Moscow.

It's wonderful and be sure to stick it out for Colbert's participation in the dance at the end. Hilarious.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
David Hallberg
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

And not a single cute cat video this week...

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.


The Future of Unemployed Older Workers

WHERE ELDERS BLOG: Monica Devine has added a photo of her workroom in the Where Elder Blogs feature. You can see it here. If you would like to add a photo of your blog space, instructions are here.


category_bug_politics.gif When the jobs report for November was released last week, it was hailed by some politicians and mainstream media as good news. The unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.6 percent and the number of jobs increased by 120,000.

Sounds promising, right? Well, not so fast. That 120,000 rise in the number of jobs barely covers new entries into the workforce and one of the major reasons the jobless rate fell is that 315,000 unemployed simply gave up – stopped looking for work – and have been added to the 5.7 million officially classified as long-term unemployed.

In addition, it was not widely reported that the unemployment news for elder workers is terrible. From Motoko Rich in The New York Times:

”More than half of all unemployed workers 45 to 54 years old have been out of work for six months or more, and among unemployed 55-to-64-year-olds, close to 60 percent have been searching for work for more than six months.

“People in the older of these two groups are worse off than they were a year ago. The median duration of unemployment rose from 36.6 weeks a year ago to 42.7 weeks this November.

“The younger of the two groups is slightly better off; its median duration of unemployment fell to 27.9 weeks, down from 30.2 weeks a year ago.”

Don't forget that those weeks of unemployment are average; some older workers have been out of work for years but whether short-term or long, the consequences will have a negative impact on the rest of their lives, circumstances from which they will never recover even if they find work.

HEALTH COVERAGE
Most laid off workers who had health coverage through their employers are allowed continue it for 18 months via COBRA – that is, if they can afford the premiums. But later, anyone who still out of work after a year-and-a-half is unlikely to be in a position to purchase coverage at open market prices.

Medicare is no help yet. Except in a few specific instances unrelated to employment status, it is unavailable to anyone until age 65, so many must go without health care and live in constant fear of an accident or illness.

I have some personal experience with this. For the several months until I would turn 65 after my COBRA expired, I could not buy health coverage at any price. More than a dozen insurance companies dismissed me out of hand as soon as they heard I was 64. Imagine being in that position with needed medications or regular checkups for yourself, a spouse or children, with no income and no coverage.

There are many older, unemployed workers living like this; some will die prematurely though no one will attribute their deaths to lack of a single-payer system that covers everyone.

RETIREMENT SAVINGS
Unemployment insurance does not and was never designed to cover all living expenses. It doesn't take more than a few weeks for most newly unemployed to begin dipping into their retirement savings to pay the bills and for older workers, this happens just at the time in life when many have accelerated their contributions to 401(k)s and other savings programs in anticipation of retiring in five or ten years.

There are stories all over the Web of people who have maxed out their retirement savings and, often, have racked up big balances on credit cards just to stay afloat. They will rely entirely on Social Security in their retirement, even the ones who were diligent in planning and saving.

MORTGAGE AND HOME
Many older workers relied on the growing value of their home as one kind of investment for their retirement. Until the housing crash, they intended to sell the house, pay off what was left of the mortgage and downsize.

Now, many cannot sell because their home is worth less than the remaining mortgage. Others are losing their homes to foreclosure when savings are depleted and they can't keep up the payments. So – no job, no savings, no home.

SOCIAL SECURITY
This is the most insidious consequence of high unemployment for elder workers that few politicians and policy wonks have considered.

Workers who, due to unemployment, are forced into taking early Social Security benefits, which can be done beginning at age 62, will see their monthly payment dramatically reduced for the rest of their lives.

Plus, there is a second strike against them and even against those who can hold out until they are eligible for the full benefit: their payment will be reduced further because they were not working during what are, usually, their highest earning years.

Here is how that happens. A person's starting Social Security benefit amount is calculated based on lifetime earnings – an average of the 35 years during which the worker earned the most. A formula is then applied to determine the basic benefit from which all future COLA increases, for example, will be determined. The only way to increase the basic benefit is to retire at a later date.

So all this is a quadruple whammy for older workers: declining health when there is no money for doctors; depletion of retirement savings; loss of home; and permanently reduced Social Security benefits.

As terrible as unemployment is for young workers and new college graduates, they do have the rest of their lives to plan for their old age. Not so for those who are older than 45 or 50. Any who are unemployed for longer than a year will never catch up.

Even though it is illegal, age discrimination in the workplace happens every day and it is almost impossible to prove. Many companies are refusing to hire workers who are unemployed. As a result, there are unknown numbers of people in the upper age groups who will never work again and those who do rarely match their previous salaries.

Unless there is suddenly such a abundance of work that employers don't care about these things, hundreds of thousands of people face a bleak old age. It would not have been this way without the bankers who brought the economy to its knees and continue to stuff their pockets with stolen money. Yet, none have been indicted.

Worse, Congress is fighting over the payroll tax holiday this week. Hardly mentioned is that if they do not act by 31 December, two million unemployed will lose their benefits in January along with three times as many later in the year.

You can read some real-life stories of older unemployed workers at a website called Over 50 and Out of Work and more stories from people of all ages at the AFLCIO website. I urge you to do so.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: From Sweet to Sour Notes


Holiday Gifts for Elders

The gift-giving holidays are fast approaching and if you did not max out your shopping budget on black Friday and cyber Monday, this is annual TGB list of gift ideas for old people might be useful.

Last year you, dear readers, provided many – I do mean MANY – more ideas than what I suggested and they were terrific. I'm expecting the same from you this year so I'll start off with some thoughts of my own and you can follow up below. But first, some important considerations:

I worry a lot about elders with small, fixed incomes so gifts of practical, everyday items that seem too mundane to be classified as gifts can be more welcome that you might think. They free up money for food, clothing and medical needs.

How about a basket – a big one – stuffed with a year's supply each of hand soap, bathroom tissue, Kleenex, sink and tub cleaner, batteries in several sizes, paper towels, trash bags, kitchen sponges, half a dozen new dish towels, etc. If there is a cat or two, include a year's supply of kitty litter or for dogs, a similar amount of pickup bags.

When my friends and I were still quite young, we would often give this gift to newlyweds and they loved it. Anyone on a tight budget resents how much these necessities cost.

“Stuff” becomes less important as we get older so be careful to find gifts, whether useful or entertaining, that will not complicate anyone's life. This is particularly true of elders who have downsized.

If you ask what they want, many elders will tell you, “Don't bother with me. I don't need anything.” Although that may be true sometimes, it's no fun. You might have to do some investigating, but there is always something another person will enjoy.

Here are some specific suggestions.

ELECTRONICS
Last year, I recommended a Kindle and I am even more behind e-readers this year. The text can be enlarged with one click, and the Kindle, along with the Nook but not the iPad and new Kindle Fire, has a non-glare screen so it's easy to read in any light.

The simplest Kindle book reader now costs only $79. I've found over the past year that many publishers set the prices of Kindle editions higher than I think is fair. But increasing numbers of public libraries have e-reader versions to borrow. Plus, there are still thousands of out-of-copyright classics for the Kindle that are free or as inexpensive as 99 cents. I'm not sure if those are available for the Nook.

If there is someone on your list who is technophobic but you think would enjoy the internet if it were not so daunting for a newbie, there are two new-ish computers – the Wow Computer and the Telikin – designed to ease elders into the club.

They are large-monitor, touch-screen based, need no additional software and provide email, video chat, calendar, photo sharing, games and web browsing in a easy-to-learn interface that, they both say, can be up and running in under five minutes.

My caveats are these: I have never tried either one so I cannot recommend them necessarily, and the price seems outrageously high at $1199 although both are currently on sale for $999. (No Herman Cain jokes, please.) Still, they may be useful for some elders.

Other electronics you might consider are large-key keyboards for people afflicted with arthritis, iPods already filled with favorite music, electronic photo albums, digital cameras, even a Wii for games and exercise. Or pay for a TV cable or broadband connection for year.

THE GIFTS OF MOBILITY AND TIME
As we discussed earlier this week, giving up driving is a terrible prospect and there are good gifts you can consider for people who have had to cross that Rubicon.

Vouchers for a local taxi or transportation service.

Prepaid movie tickets with the round-trip taxi vouchers to go with them.

Print up your own certificates for trips to the grocery on a regular schedule or occasional runs to specialty food shops that are out of the way.

Tickets to an upcoming concert or a play or any event you know your elder will enjoy with, of course, your intention to accompany them.

This stuff is endless. A promise for a summer weekend trip to the beach or a day every three months at the mall with lunch included and plenty of rest time if needed.

Depending on family interests, personal certificates for evenings at the elders' home with dinner brought in and an evening of Yahtzee or Monopoly or Wii or whatever the kids can enjoy with grandma or grandpa.

When people are retired from the workplace, when the kids are grown and gone, when old friends have moved away or died and it's not easy to get around, the gifts of time and mobility are precious things.

But keep uppermost in your mind that all these kinds of promises must be kept. Even when you are capable of getting out on your own, it is a huge disappointment when people do not follow through with the time they have promised. I know (and don't ask).

Some repeats from 2010:

PERSONAL
For a woman, quarterly prepaid visit at a salon for haircut and manicure. It’s good to include a pedicure too for elders who have trouble bending over to do it themselves.

Find out if your elder likes a particular kind of clothing that needs regular renewing. I have a fondness for a specific brand of flannel nightgowns that can be hard to find. Two friends know this and starting long before I entered the realm of elderhood, have kept me supplied over the years.

Perfume and cologne fall into this category too. It doesn’t appear to be so common now, but people of my age (70) and older, often settled on a particular fragrance when they were young and have used it all their lives. The price of mine is now so high that I feel it is an unwarranted extravagance, so it is always a welcome gift.

HOME
A lifelong gardener who no longer has a yard might appreciate a Plant-of-the-Month membership or a kitchen herb garden. There is little upkeep and a continuous supply of nature’s color in the house.

If you're a blogger and have written stories about your childhood and your parents, you could print them out and make a book for a parent. If you're not a blogger or time is too short until Christmas, you could start such a project now for next year.

For cooks and bakers among the elders in your life, there are new, silicon pans, cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc. in stores that don’t need greasing and can be cleaned easily without scrubbing - more healthful and work-savers too.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer or have expertise in carpentry, plumbing, electricity, etc., check to see if there are repairs needed around the elder's home and commit to getting them fixed as soon as possible. I've been putting off having some non-working electrical outlets fixed because the price of electricians is frightening and there's always something else that needs paying for. I wish I had an electrician friend who could diagnose the problem if not fix it.

STAYING SAFE
If an elder lives alone and you are concerned about their safety, consider a personal medical emergency service. Anyone, no matter how active and vital, can find themselves in need of emergency help with no telephone in reach.

A purchase of one of these alert gizmos with the service contract paid for each year can be a good peace-of-mind gift. A large number of companies provide this service and you should check them thoroughly before subscribing. Here is a TGB story from three years ago that will get you started on your homework.

Please, when you give practical items or services or vouchers and certificates to be used later, be sure to include a token physical gift. It doesn't need to cost much, a scented candle, a box of candy, a bottle of wine – because it's fun at any age to tear open packages.

Now it's your turn. What are your suggestions for elder gifts? Don't worry if you are repeating from last year. We can all use the reminders and there are new readers too.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Ann Hard: Living in the Moment – Part 3


A Terrible Loss for Medicare

category_bug_politics.gif Last Friday, 2 December, Dr. Donald M. Berwick resigned his post as administrator designate of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). His interim appointment was due to expire at the end of the year and he resigned because it had become evident that the Republican Congress would never confirm his appointment.

I first heard of Dr. Berwick about 18 months ago when Time Goes By contributor, Saul Friedman, who died in December 2010, hailed Berwick's recess appointment by President Barack Obama while predicting that Congressional confirmation would be difficult because, wrote Saul,

”...the insurance industry, conservatives who oppose regulations of all kinds and most public health programs, and Republicans in the Congress who seek to privatize Medicare have joined in opposition to the President’s choice to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

And so The New York Times confirmed in an editorial last week about Berwick's resignation:

”...a respected expert on health care costs and quality, [Berwick] became a lightning-rod for Republican attacks on health care reform and government entitlement programs.

“Republicans distorted his record and past statements to imply that he would introduce 'socialized' medicine and 'death panels' and ignored the praise heaped on him by health care professionals and medical organizations.”

As they prove at every opportunity, the Republicans and their health industry campaign contributors will do everything in their vast economic power to see that the status quo, commercial, health system continues to enrich them magnificently.

There might have been a chance to dent that conspiracy if Dr. Berwick had been allowed to head CMS. People like him – smart, knowledgeable, experienced, passionate and compassionate - do not often come along in government service so before he entirely leaves the public arena, I want you to know what kind of man he is.

A pediatrician by training, Dr. Berwick – who became eligible for Medicare this year – has dedicated his career to creating high-quality, patient-centered care as a Harvard professor of pediatrics and health policy and later, as president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a not-for-profit organization helping to lead the improvement of health care throughout the world.

There is an excellent (and long) article by Harris Meyer at Health Affairs about what Berwick accomplished in his short tenure at CMS (a lot). Or you can read a short version at Kaiser Health News but the former will tell you more about the man himself. It is worth your time.

On the day of his departure from CMS, Dr. Berwick spoke with New York Times reporter, Robert Pear, about his tenure at the agency, the Republican attacks against him and his health care policy objectives. Wrote Pear:

"As Medicare chief, he has pushed doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records, merge their operations and coordinate care to eliminate medical errors that kill thousands of patients each year.

"If his estimate is right, Medicare and Medicaid could save $150 billion to $250 billion a year by eliminating waste, which he defines as 'activities that don’t have any value.'"

Go read more of this "exit interview" here, and for TGB readers living in Ohio and Rhode Island who are keeping track of D.C. players, please note that Berwick

"...said some members of Congress had 'deep knowledge' of health care — he mentioned two Democratic senators, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Sherrod Brown of Ohio."

All the above is factual, but to really get a sense of this man and what the country has lost thanks to craven Republicans, you need to watch this interview with Dr. Berwick from last Sunday conducted by one of the best young liberal pundits coming on the scene now.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The United States almost never gets people as qualified, dedicated and decent as Dr. Berwick to serve in government agencies. This is a terrible loss for Medicare, for you, for me, for all Medicare beneficiaries and for the entire American health care system.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Ann Hard: Living in the Moment – Part 2


Of Winter at Home with a Cat

category_bug_journal2.gif Any of you who've been reading this blog for more than a year or so know that those four winters I spent in Maine before moving to Oregon were heavy with snow storms.

Even in New York City, sometimes, where I lived before Maine, the snow could reach arctic heights. I exaggerate, but still - see here and here.

Winters in the Willamette Valley of Oregon are less dramatic. Mostly, it gets dreary here. I took this shot of the last fall color through the window on a soggy day a few weeks ago.

LastLeaf

The wettest, grayest days are a good excuse to stay indoors and do things that warm the body and soul. So one day shortly before Thanksgiving, I set upon the stove two humongous pots of winter food – pea soup and apple sauce bubbling away in this photo just as they were getting started.

StoveApplesPeasoup

A few hours later, I had about ten pints of soup to freeze and five or six of apple sauce. Here are some of them.

FinishedSoup

The human version of storing nuts, I think, resulting in lots of rib-sticking meals stacked up in the freezer after not much effort in one afternoon. Certainly less work than a squirrel puts in.

This time of year, the sun goes down between about 4 and 4:30PM and I've found that short winter days and long, dark nights are conducive to contemplating the cat, although paying close attention requires comfort with ambiguity.

It is often said – I've said so myself many times – that cats are creatures of habit. They complain when we move furniture around, they want their meals on schedule (damn it!) and don't like surprises. Routine is their middle name.

So I was surprised recently when, after insisting I get out of bed, Ollie the cat walked away from his breakfast without a bite. He jumped up on the counter and made dissatisfied noises at me.

I, being nothing more than a stupid human, pointed to his food bowl on the floor. No reaction. I stooped down and stirred my fingers around in it. Ollie eyed me from above with pity at my obtuseness.

For no good reason, I put the bowl up on the counter where Ollie immediately tucked into it.

OllieonCounter

(The photo is fuzzy because he wouldn't hold still.)

Ever since then, breakfast, but not dinner, is required to be served on the counter. Ah, but wait. Soon after the coffee has brewed and I have settled at the desk to read the news and answer email, there comes some insistent meowing at my feet.

Unlike Siamese cats who are known to yowl at length and with great frequency just to hear the sound of their voices, Ollie speaks only when he has a message to convey – usually a complaint.

Did I say “usually?” I mean, “always” and although I sometimes don't understand, it is clear every time that Ollie's is not idle commentary on the weather.

If, as happens some mornings, I try to finish reading an email before responding to his loud demand, a nip – well, closer to a bite – on my ankle redirects my attention to its proper object – Ollie the cat.

After trial and error on my part, he has taught me now that breakfast is henceforth to be a moveable feast. Half on the counter, half on the floor. Every day. No exceptions. So I am now trained to go to the kitchen and move the bowl from the counter to the floor when directed.

That should cover the morning ritual, don't you think? Oh, don't be silly. Soon there is more meowing at my feet and another ankle bite if I ignore it. Looking down, this is what I see.

Mouse_Floor

Yes, that's a mouse, though not a real one, at the bottom of the photo. (And yes, that's Ollie in his favorite fan chair in the back of picture.)

It had been many months since Ollie last showed interest in his mouse toys. Now they are part of the morning routine and what you cannot see in that photograph just above is that the mouse is soaking, dripping wet.

What do you suppose goes on in cats' minds about such things? When he finishes breakfast, he finds a mouse he has hidden somewhere, drops it in his water bowl, fishes it out and leaves it next to my desk chair. Every day.

Well, not quite. One day I was rushing to get out of the house early and when I sat down just before leaving to check email, this is what I encountered.

Mouse_Desk

He did that another time when I showered before he had finished breakfast. So he makes a distinction about where to leave the wet mouse: next to me on the floor when I'm at the desk; next to the laptop when I'm not.

So, just when you think you've got your cat figured out, he changes his routines.

As soon as we moved to this home, Ollie adopted as his the rattan fan chair (see above). It is where he settles down for both his morning and afternoon naps. Unless I'm not home. Most times, when I return, he casually drops down off one of the dining room chairs that are nearer the door, trying to behave as though he hadn't been there. He never sits there when I'm home.

Leaves you to wonder just what it is that cats get up to doing when we're not around.

Recently, however, Ollie has been mixing in all kinds of new places around the apartment. Occasionally now, he naps on the love seat behind my desk chair. Here he is doing those circles cats do before settling in for a snooze.

OllieonSofa

Most surprising, a couple of days ago I found him asleep on the wicker chaise lounge in my bedroom. I can't recall that he has spent time there since it “lived” on the outdoor deck of my home in Maine.

OllieonChaise

Maybe cats are not the creatures of habit I assume they are. Or maybe I just pay closer attention in winter when I don't go out as frequently. Or maybe this post is just a rambling excuse to use up a few photos that have been hanging around.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Ann Hard: Living in the Moment – Part 1


Elder Driving – Let's Get Serious

EDITORIAL NOTE: Jim of jimsjournal blog sent in his photo and information to be included in the Where Elders Blog list. You can see his entry here and look at a whole lot more of them here.

If you would like to include your blog or blog reading workspace, instructions are here.


category_bug_journal2.gif Many current elders know from dealing with aged parents how fraught the issue of driving is as people get old. There is good reason to fear giving up the car keys: depending on where you live, doing so means your ability to move around becomes severely limited, possibly dependent on the kindnesses of family and friends or not easily affordable to hire taxis or car services.

Public transportation in the U.S. ranges from excellent in a few place to non-existent with iffy being the norm often involving lengthy walks and of course, if it's a shopping trip you can't buy much because you must carry it home.

And almost all trips, without a car, are longer and more tiring. Giving up driving ain't fun to contemplate.

As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, aging happens to individuals at dramatically different rates. A 50-something can be impaired enough that he or she can no longer drive. Some 90-somethings drive as safely as they did half a century earlier.

Of course, we all believe we will become the capable 90-year-old. (What else are all those sudoku puzzles for?) But when we think about it rationally, that is not statistically possible.

So I believe it is incumbent upon us to monitor our own driving (don't place the burden on the kids to force the keys out of your hand when the time comes) and, additionally, to plan now for getting around without a car.

My friend John Brandt sent me a link to a story at Everyday Health with some suggestions on how to monitor our own (or others') driving skills. Among the warning signs that it's time to re-evaluate:

  • * Stopping at green lights or when there is no stop sign
  • Hitting the gas instead of the brakes
  • Stopping within an intersection
  • Getting confused by traffic signals
  • Running stop signs or red lights
  • * Accidents
  • * Getting lost frequently
  • Changing lanes without looking

These are mostly reasonable except that it would be wrong to blindly apply them to everyone in all circumstances. I placed asterisks by three items that need more clarity.

Stopping when there is no stop sign. I need to do that a lot where I live because except in winter, a large number of stop signs are hidden behind densely leafy trees. Or, sometimes not. Better to be safe by stopping.

Accident. Well, obviously you must ask who caused it. Just because an old person is involved doesn't mean he or she is the cause. Statistically, young drivers, mostly male, have the worst driving records. An accident in and of itself does not necessarily mean an elder's driving days are done.

Getting lost frequently. I get lost pretty much every time I drive somewhere I've never been by car before – even with GPS – and it's not because I'm impaired (yet). It happens so frequently that when I have an appointment at a given time, I add 30 minutes travel to find my way again after getting lost.

Here, the reason is the sorriest street signage I have ever seen. There are places you can drive blocks with no signs for side street names. Or, often, when you've made a turn on a guess, you can drive a couple of miles before you find a sign with the name of the road you're on.

So it is not always the old person's fault. But sometimes it is and that, coupled with extreme reluctance to give up driving, can lead to terrible accidents.

My favorite personal solution would be to live in Manhattan or northwest Portland, Oregon, where it is possible to do just about everything you need via shank's mare and good public transportation. Unfortunately, I can afford neither.

So here is what I do: I always drive as if there were a DMV examiner sitting next to me – a really nasty one - and as though I will lose my license if there are too many points against me.

To be sure I don't forget this little game, I have designated a certain speed bump I drive over leaving my home parking area as a reminder to be sure the DMV examiner is with me. It's habit now. He's always there so that on even routine trips I could almost drive blindfolded, I remain conscious of careful and defensive driving.

This kind of driving is not as carefree and fun as when was I was young, but it probably should not have been that way back then either. I hope, too, it is a way to help me be honest with myself in knowing if and when it is time to stop driving.

For the 40-odd years I lived in New York City, I didn't need a car and drove only rented vehicles when I was on vacation or work trips away from home. A lot of that was highway driving, often in a convertible and I loved going 100 miles an hour down the road with Joe Cocker's Cry Me a River blasting at top volume.

I don't do that anymore but I like remembering how great it felt.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Monica Devine: Old Road


ELDER MUSIC: 1969

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.


What happened in 1969?

  • Rupert Murdock bought News of the World. Hmm
  • Police broke up an impromptu Beatles concert on the roof of Apple studios
  • Two men found that the moon is rather dusty
  • Richard Nixon declared the “Nixon Doctrine” which boils down to “anything I say goes”
  • Blind Faith made their debut. They also disbanded
  • The halfpenny ceased to be legal tender in Britain
  • We won’t mention Chappaquiddick
  • Sesame Street premiered on TV
  • El Salvador and Honduras went to war over the result of a soccer game. They should have played tennis
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • Judy Garland died

This was the year of...

Come Together
Midnight Rambler
A Boy Named Sue
Don't Let Me Down
Honky Tonk Women
The Boxer
Get Back
You Can't Always Get What You Want
My Way
Lay Lady Lay
Pinball Wizard
Here Comes The Sun
Gimme Shelter
Something (in the way she moves)
Let It Bleed
Kick Out The Jams
(I really wanted to include this one, but stopped myself)

None of which will be featured here today.

THE HOLLIES started out when childhood friends Allan Clarke and Graham Nash got together with a couple of other guys to form a group. Those other couple were soon replaced by Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott. Later Bernie Calvert was added.

The Hollies

Like most of the British groups, they started by covering old rock & roll and R&B tunes. However, they sang with excellent harmony reminiscent of the Everly Brothers. They soon started writing their own songs and that later made up most of their music.

Graham Nash had left by the time the today's song was a hit because he was tired of the life of a pop star, he said. That’s rather interesting considering his subsequent career. Anyway, here is He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.

♫ The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother

PETER, PAUL & MARY were, as most readers of this column would know, Peter Yarrow, Noel Stookey and Mary Travers and they already had a decade’s worth of hits under their collective belts by this year.

Peter, Paul and Mary

As they had often done, they took a song from a then unknown songwriter and put their own stamp on it. Sometimes these were better than the original, just ask Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. Here they cover John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane.

♫ Peter, Paul and Mary - Leaving On A Jet Plane

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL were really hitting their straps this year with songs they wrote themselves - well, songs that John Fogerty wrote.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

They were really a band shaped to the vision of John who wrote all their songs, all the good ones anyway, played lead guitar and sang. Also in the group were his elder brother Tom, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. They sounded as if they were from around the bayous of Louisiana but they were from the east bay across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco.

They weren’t really accepted in the San Francisco scene at the time; they preferred crafting great, succinct rock & roll songs. These have stood the test of time whereas the noodlings of the other groups haven’t. Here is my favorite Creedence song, Lodi.

♫ Creedence Clearwater Revival - Lodi

THE METERS were, and still are, a hugely influential band from New Orleans.

The Meters

The Meters started out as Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter Jnr. and Zigaboo Modeliste. They later included Cyril Neville. Art and Cyril are also part of the Neville Brothers.

The band was successful from the late Sixties into the mid-Seventies when they split and each member joined or started various bands. Later, they were involved in lawsuits with their record company for royalties that hadn’t been paid. This went on for years.

This century, the original members often get together to play at various events although a permanent reformation hasn’t happened yet. This is Cissy Strut.

♫ The Meters - Cissy Strut

Miles Davis was the coolest dude on the planet at this stage, but TONY JOE WHITE was the coolest white man. He still is.

Tony Joe White

This song needs no introduction from me; I imagine most people reading this know what I’m talking about. If only I could understand what he’s talking about. Singing’s okay, just the talking is problematic.

Tony Joe was from Oak Grove, Louisiana, one of seven children. His older brother, Charles, taught him to play guitar. Boy, did he do a good job.

Eventually, after a lot of years had passed with Tony Joe playing everywhere he could, he got a recording contract. His first half dozen singles sank without a trace. He then released Polk Salad Annie and the rest is history.

♫ Tony Joe White - Polk Salad Annie

I remember this song from 1970, but it was actually released in 1969 and sold quite a lot that year and even more then following year. This is NORMAN GREENBAUM. He may have had other hits but if so, I don’t remember them.

Norman Greenbaum

Old Norm heard Dolly and Porter sing a religious song on TV and thought, “I could do that.” So he did. He claims to have whipped up this tune in 15 minutes.

He thought it’d be interesting to have some gospelly type words with some heavy guitar. This is the result. In spite of the crappy lyrics, I quite like this song, Spirit in the Sky.

♫ Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky

While I’m on a bit of a religious song kick, here is the real thing. If someone asked, “Are you a Christian, child?” I’d have to reply that I am for the next five minutes. Of course, when the music stops all bets are off and that’s it for me and I revert to my heathen, non-believing ways.

Here are the EDWIN HAWKINS SINGERS with Oh Happy Day. Lordy, what a great song this is.

Edwin Hawkins

♫ Edwin Hawkins Singers - Oh Happy Day

R.B. GREAVES or Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III - no wonder he shortened his name - was born on an air force base in Georgetown, Guyana. He moved to California where he was raised by his stepmother.

R.B. Greaves

He became a skilled singer and went on a tour to Europe with a troupe of musicians. In Hamburg, he performed with The Beatles. That was when they weren’t known to anyone outside of a small circle of friends.

R.B. developed into an accomplished songwriter and he recorded one of his own songs, Take a Letter Maria. His singing is rather reminiscent of his uncle, Sam Cooke.

♫ R.B. Greaves - Take a Letter, Maria

Here is another great voice, BROOK BENTON.

Brook Benton

Brook, or Benjamin Peay to his mum and dad, was from North Carolina. He developed a love of gospel music and starting writing his own songs. He went to New York to start a music career where he joined several gospel groups, most notably the Golden Gate Quartet.

The record company thought he’d make a good solo singer and so he went out on his own. That record company was right. He had a number of hits in the late Fifties and the Sixties.

I’m cheating a little with this song. It was recorded in 1969 but not released until 1970, but that’s okay with me.

Brook’s version of Rainy Night in Georgia is just about the equal of that of Tony Joe White who wrote the song. What tips it slightly in Tony Joe’s favor is his eschewing the string background that’s Brook employs.

♫ Brook Benton - Rainy Night in Georgia

Sylvester Stewart was born in Dallas. The family moved to California when he was young. There, the four youngest Stewart kiddies, Sylvester, Freddie, Rose, and Vaetta, formed a band called The Stewart Four.

Later on, Sylvester became a disk jockey in San Francisco using the name Sly Stone. By then he was also a record producer of some note.

He formed a band called Sly and the Stoners and Freddie also had one called Freddie and the Stone Souls. They decided to amalgamate their bands, recruited Vaetta and SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE was born.

A little later, Rose joined as well. Sly and Freddie were both guitarists so Sly learned to play keyboards.

Sly and the Family Stone

They appeared at Woodstock and made a big impact in the flick of the festival, maybe the highlight of the film. Okay, Jimi was the competition in that regard.

The group recorded a couple of influential albums but disintegrated in the Seventies due to excessive drug use by Sly and some of the other band members. This is from when they were bright, new and shiny, Everyday People.

♫ Sly and The Family Stone - Everyday People


INTERESTING STUFF – 3 December 2011

UPDATE: With the exception of YouTube, just about all online video formats that allow embedding are of questionable quality and cause a variety of problems including slowing page loading, hanging halfway through and/or not playing at all.

This is why I am usually careful to include no more than one, maybe two non-YouTube videos each Saturday. I forgot my own rule this week and there may be problems with page loading or some of the videos. My apologies. The three videos in the last item, Cats With Politics, should be fine.


FINDING FRIENDSHIP IN A CEMETERY
For almost as long as I have been blogging, I have known elderblogger Claude Covo-Farchi who lives in France. She even visited me in Maine for a few days.

Then she realized she enjoyed photography more than writing, so she changed her blog name from Blogging in Paris to Photoblogging in Paris where she now posts some of her extraordinary photographs.

But every now and then, Claude busts forth with a story and what a good one she published yesterday, Au cimetiere Vaugirard. Don't worry; the story is in English. Here is Claude's accompanying photo.

CemeteryClaude

Now go read the lovely story of two old people who meet during their regular visits to loved ones' graves. You'll be glad you did.


WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN THE CONVERSATION CHANGES
Until the #occupy movement began, the public conversation consisted largely of shared sacrifice meaning cut social programs for the 99 percent and reduce taxes for the one percent “job providers.” Now we are regularly hearing about fairness, democracy, inequality, election reform and much more.

You don't need to be at an occupy encampment to be part of the change that is beginning to be evident. In this story from Atlanta, the sheriff and the movers refused to enforce an eviction request from Deutsche Bank against a 103-year-old and her 83-year-old daughter.

Watch this video to see what I mean.


BETTY WHITE AND JON STEWART
In June, I was privileged to interview the always wonderful Betty White for this blog. You can read it here.

This week, the sitcom in which she starts, Hot in Cleveland returned with new episodes on the TVLand channel and she has published a new book about all the animals she has come to know and love.

Here is her charming interview on The Daily Show earlier this week.


THE MAN WHO WANTS TO LOOT SOCIAL SECURITY
For decades, billionaire Peter G. Peterson has used his influence in a campaign to privatize Social Security. Recently, he has dedicated half is fortune, $1 billion, to this project.

Now Brave New Films is holding a vote on 30 of the one percenters. Visitors to the Who Are the 1% website are asked to rank each one from “ho-hum” to “pure evil.” The ones who receive the highest number of pure evil votes will then be exposed in a series of films from Brave New Films.

All of them rank pure evil in my estimation, but let's vote up Pete Peterson not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren to ensure for them a secure old age. You can do that here. Click the farthest right thumbs down image under Peterson's photo.


AROUND THE WORLD IN FIVE MINUTES
The International Space Station circles Earth every 90 minutes. Most of us will never experience that trip, but TGB Reader Tarzana sent this NASA video showing what the astronauts see. This was shot on 21 November and, according to the website:

”Many wonders of the land and sky are visible in the eighteen sequences, including red aurora above green aurora, lights from many major cities, and stars in the background. Looming at the top of the frame is usually part of the space station itself, sometimes seen re-orienting solar panels.”

You can watch it here or in a much larger frame at the NASA website.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.


LIVING IN CARS AND TRUCKS
With an economy as bad as ours for as long as it has been going on, a lot of kids are affected. Last Sunday, 60 Minutes reported on some of the children of the unemployed who will both break your heart and amaze you with their strength and resilience.


POLITICS WITH CATS
Two of my favorite topics.

Peter Tibbles – you know Peter Tibbles who writes the Sunday Elder Music column – sent me some links to several segments of an Australian TV show named The Hamster Wheel wherein there is a regular feature about current events and politics in Australia where Peter lives.

You don't need to know anything about Australian politics to laugh out loud.

That was so much fun, let's watch another.

Oh, hell. Let's have one more go.


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.


Crabby Old Lady and the Consumer Culture

Undoubtedly you have heard that the real purpose of Thanksgiving – Black Friday and Cyber Monday - were a big success this year racking up billions of dollars in sales for retailers. A lot of pundit know-it-alls would have you believe this is good news for the economy.

Actually, it is nothing more than a blip on data screens that will soon reverse itself, nothing more than a temporary consumer response to rock bottom and loss leader prices.

Crabby Old Lady who, in case you can't tell, is not an economist but has a great deal of good sense, regularly wonders if the know-it-alls actually expect her to believe them when they attach positive or negative meaning to the daily ups and downs of the stock market and other economic indicators.

Three months of steadily improving numbers might be a trend. Six months worth could be reason for cautious optimism. A year would be better. But one day of billion dollar sales at near giveaway prices from giant retailers who pay their employees $8 an hour with no benefits does not indicate an improving economy no matter what the one percenter talking points are.

So sayeth Crabby Old Lady.

Actually, Crabby is a capitalist's nightmare – someone who hates to shop, who avoids all but the most necessary purchases, a woman for whom shopping in general and shopping centers in particular cause heartburn.

Additionally, Crabby despises all but the handful or two of retailers she has come to trust over time, mostly local ones, because the majority work overtime trying to either trick or gouge her. Have you noticed that too?

Of course you have – such as bank ATM fees, debit card charges, high minimum bank balances and other afflictions of the 99 percent. In other retail realms, there are many hidden charges, unwarranted increases in price without explanation and when buying online, the price itself is often not displayed at all until checkout.

Maybe they figure if Crabby has clicked through that far she won't mind if it's overpriced by a 100 percent or more. Wrong.

All year long, retailers cram Crabby's email inbox with sales crap and this time of year, it triples and quadruples nearly blinding Crabby as she tries to pick out the important mail from friends and blog readers that she wants to read.

She can use that unsubscribe link (when she can find its miniscule font) all she wants, but even if the company honors her request, they've already sold Crabby's email address to dozens of other retailers who harass her unmercifully.

Certainly, you too suffer the astronomical increase in snailmail catalogs during this season of year. One weeps for the forests and for Crabby, it's just that many more pounds of paper she must eventually haul to the recycling bin.

Crabby may not be a typical consumer; she is, perhaps, more irritated than many at the non-stop attempts to raid her pocketbook. But she thought she had experienced every possible retail annoyance there is – until yesterday morning.

First you must understand that normally, Crabby is an early riser – that is, very early. 4:30AM is not uncommon. This is not necessarily by choice. She just wakes that early.

When she does sleep later, Ollie the cat usually makes it clear that food is required – right now - by about 5:30AM. On rare occasions, extremely rare, the two of them stay tucked in until 7AM or so.

Yesterday was well on its way to being one of those twice-a-year, late snoozy mornings when WHAM! Ollie the cat went directly from dead out asleep to straight up in the air. Crabby's mind fumbled its way from dream state to screeching reality – the phone clanging in her ear.

A glance at the clock told her it was 6:30AM. Someone must be dead. Still a bit foggy and expecting the worst, she gingerly answered the call – which went something like this:

MJ: This is Mary Jane. I have some suggestions on how you can save money on your cable bill.

COL: (not quite functional yet) Huh?

MJ: I'm Mary Jane. I have some suggestions on how you can save money...

COL: (Getting the idea now) You're kidding. You woke me to sell me something?

MJ: Well, I can analyze your...

COL: What company are you with?

MJ: Comcast.

COL: (loudly and profanely) It's @#$%^&* 6:30 in the morning and you have the nerve to make a sales call???

MJ: Would you like me to call back in an hour or two?

COL: No.

MJ: When would be convenient then?

COL: Never. (punches “end call” button)

Just so you know, Crabby recently received a mailing from Comcast increasing her monthly charge, as of January, for internet access and cable television. She cannot tell you how big the increase is because the letter is obscure on that point (see “trick or gouge” above).

It did assure her, however, that the value of the new sports and shopping channels added to her subscription package makes up for the increase.

Uh-huh. The two areas of life Crabby least enjoys.

There is no longer anywhere to turn in the U.S. where Crabby Old Lady is not being beaten over the head to spend, spend, spend. Advertising has taken over every empty spot on the continent. There is nothing left that is not branded.

Crabby is the farthest anyone can get from being a sports fan; she actively avoids knowledge of all sporting information. But she thinks she lost heart in her culture for good when, a few years ago, she noticed that ballparks were being renamed not for famous or accomplished athletes or even managers or team owners, but for billion-dollar corporations.

And now the almighty corporation has reached into Crabby Old Lady's sleep. Surely, such a culture is doomed.

“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

- Alexis de Tocqueville

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, A Message From Ronni


The Wit and Wisdom of TGB Readers

category_bug_ageism.gif Well, maybe not the pithy sayings we are accustomed to from those little “wit and wisdom” books of the past, but the best part of this blog is the discussion in the comments and in recent months, it appears to be getting more compelling by the day. You guys are a treasure trove of thoughtful ideas to mull over and learn from.

On Tuesday, I used a reader's comment as a jumping off point for a story titled Another Reader, Another Age Dilemma. And now, I'm using a comment from that post for today's story.

At the top of his message, Alan G wrote in part:

”Like the majority of you, if not all, somewhere inside there is still a 20-year old alive and well and looking out through these eyes which are being chauffeured around by a body...”

I have been arguing against this kind of shorthand – a 20-year-old inside an aging body – for many years. It's hard to blame anyone who uses such language to describe our still well-functioning minds as it is an artifact of a profoundly ageist society which, from our cradles, has insisted that only youth has worth.

When we compare ourselves in this manner to young people, we perpetuate (to ourselves as much as the world around us) the false idea that youth is the gold standard of life and we denigrate our value making it easy for everyone else to do so too. We become part of the ageist problem.

Another reader, a few comments above Alan's, put it more pointedly:

”I find that when someone says that a person is "mentally young" it as offensive as when they say, 'You don't look 75!' My mind is the mind of a 75 year old person. Don't give me BS!”

Well said, Cab Comp.

After noting the shock of seeing a hand that looks so old he does not recognize it as his own (I know that one well), Alan moves on to the related phenomenon that women, more commonly than men, describe as becoming invisible after a certain age:

”Why does the world seem to be treating me differently as my years go higher?” writes Alan. “Why is no one interested in my opinion any longer within the social networks of our time?

“If I leave a room no one seems to notice I have left. If I enter a room few seem to notice I have arrived. When the greetings are being handed out why does it seem I am always last? There is something terribly amiss in my world.”

Yes, indeedy, there is. Alan concludes:

”I have finally come face to face with the reality of what my body has become. My body has become terribly old and completely out of touch with its owner. I struggle but I fear that I can no longer keep up. I fear that the 'looking but not seeing' syndrome is nearing its climatic end.”

Lately, I have come to suspect that if our culture were not so deeply ageist, pressuring us daily to do everything in our power to emulate all-perfect youth, we would not be so shocked when we notice the physical manifestations of our accumulated years and could face the changes with more composure and acceptance.

It would help a great deal if the culture would allow us to talk about what getting old is really like in more places than just this blog. It would have been good to know with greater honesty what old age is like before I got here. If that were so, if we all understood from a young age how becoming old changes us, I suspect elders would not be so easily dismissed.

This is, of course, what is “terribly amiss” in Alan's world and the worlds of us all. It has not always been thus. In the past and still so in a few pockets of the world, elders are accorded the basic respect due to people of all ages and sometimes, when earned, elders are honored for the knowledge and wisdom they can contribute to their communities.

This is almost universally not true in western developed countries and what Alan – and so many of us – are feeling is the disrespect of having been tossed aside as soon as we can no longer pass as youthful-ish.

After having worked hard throughout life to try to understand, after finally in recent years feeling that I might have an answer or two to contribute, no one wants to listen.

What a waste. I am astonished that most of us are in such good humor much of the time.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Refrigerator Memories