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Rewind the Week – 11 July 2014

Compared to many blogs, TGB has a consistently compelling comment section. In addition, I needed to carve out time away from the the computer so I've invented Rewind the Week, a weekly (or so) compendium of some of the provocative, informative and stand-out responses to posts from the previous week.

For the time being, this is an experiment and we'll see how it goes. If you enjoy it or don't or have suggestions for it, let me know and I will place it in consideration.


Monday's post on Loneliness in old age was the most commented upon this week. Apparently, a lot of us have personal experience with loneliess – if not now, at some time in the past.

Several people told us that they have chosen to live in retirement communities precisely to avoid loneliness. Lynne Spreen explained:

“The center of the community is the lodge (clubhouse) where you can join or start a group, attend activities, or just hang out and say hi. Also, there's always somebody walking, biking, sitting around the pool, or having a meal in the cafe.”

Grandmother Mary says her father makes daily connections at his local senior center. On the other hand, chlost reports that her mother, resident in an assisted living home, has made no friends:

“I think she does not feel 'elderly' as she sees the residents. But she does nothing. No friends there. No activities that she joins. No connections there. I want her to have a full life. But she is not interested in any of those things, and finds reasons they would not work out when I make suggestions.

“So is she lonely, or just a person who prefers to be alone? I am not sure.”

Vera spoke up for the happy loners among us:

“...even as a kid I never had any close friends. That's just the nature of an introvert, one of its many advantages is that you are quite happy on your own, no depression, no nothing. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

“I know in my area they are trying to do some senior health program where they somehow think people like me would need company in our old age or we will pine away and die. There is nothing further from the truth.”

My favorite comment on the story, The Privilege to Grow Old was left by Gaga Cheri:

”I recently asked my 10 year old granddaughter if she thought I was old. I am 60. She said, 'No, but you are getting there. That's how I choose to look at it, too.”

Until they reach their teen years children, I think, are the great truth tellers.

Time Goes By readers or, at least, those who comment are mostly enlightened about the futility of following the cultural status quo to do anything and spend any amount of money trying to appear younger than we are.

“I've changed my goals from trying to LOOK good to trying to FEEL good...” wrote Nancy Wick.

“I have changed my diet radically to reduce my sugar consumption and increase my fruits & vegetables consumption. And I have added swimming to my yoga and r routines. I don't try to be beautiful anymore, just healthy. I think if I stay healthy, I'll enjoy the coming years much more.”

As she so often does, doctafil summed up in her own inimitable way:

”Every comment above is gold. I never lie about my age. Today I piped up in my ESL volunteer job classroom and flat out said I am 71. Nobody fainted or dove out the window.

“No way will I apologize for looking, acting, being this age...Nobody should be kicked off the dance floor of life.”

A lot of you had a good time with Crabby Old Lady's retirement coach story and apparently most of us agree, as Catherine Summers wrote, that they are “just another racket.”

“By the way,” wrote Marc Leavitt, “would you like to buy a bridge? Let me tell you about it, on the way to Brooklyn.”

Elizabeth left us her prescription for life as well as old age:

“Be all you are. Be yourself; everyone else is taken. You can do anything you choose to do. Follow your heart.”

And here is Darlene Costner's response:

“I'm speechless!!! I never thought a person would need someone else to teach them how to live. If they haven't figured that out by the time they retire I doubt if there is any help for them.”

Just one more thing. The number of comments a story receives is a rough – and only rough – indication of reader interest to be taken into consideration along with the number of unique visits and page views.

On Tuesday, I told you about the new book, Farmlines, written by our own Dan Gogerty who is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place. Even though visits and page views closely matched other days of the week, hardly anyone commented.

It's not often that one of our community publishes a book, particularly one who is as gifted a writer and observer of life as Dan. If you don't know his work from ESP, maybe take another look at my post where I've quoted from a couple of his stories.

What Dan does beautifully is compare the life we knew as children with life today. Even with the dramatic increase in everyday technology over more than half a century, you would be surprised at the connections Dan finds.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpreis: Carless in America


Crabby Old Lady and Retirement Coaches

Did you know that 11,000 people in the United States retire from the workforce every day? Crabby Old Lady doesn't know if that's true but it's what people who call themselves retirement coaches tell her.

Whether the number is real or not, there are way too many new retirees not to be taken advantage of. There's money to made from these folks and the recently invented career of retirement coach is doing its best to pick up some of the loose change – a lot more than you would think people would pay.

Crabby Old Lady has recently been receiving offers from retirement coaches to write guest posts for TimeGoesBy that will help her readers (that's you) become “fulfilled and find meaning” in their later years.

It's about needing a “trusted guide,” these emails tell Crabby, who will “generate options” because “transitioning out of the workforce" can be confusing, wrote one coach whose services help her clients into a “welcoming retirement.”

Does it surprise you to know that you don't need to move to Florida or Arizona to be happy when you retire? You would think that's a no brainer. Nevertheless, that's one coach's lead insight. (Maybe he's a real estate agent in real life.)

One warned that during counseling, which can last as long as 18 months, “you have to be very patient, understand the complex changes, and make no long-term commitments for a while.”

Just like like AA. Or, anyway, that's what it sounds like to Crabby for what appears to her to be a non-existent problem.

Keep in mind that this isn't financial information from a licensed advisor. This is – well, Crabby's not sure what it is.

Retirement coaches are not psychiatrists or psychologists. In fact, anyone can be a retirement coach.

No training is required, no licensing. There is at least one certification program that for $1200 will supply 10 one-hour webinars and issue a certificate but that's just another money-making scheme. Plenty of retirement coaches claim no special training or certification.

Even so, the gig pays well. Charges of $100 an hour are not uncommon and one coach's website lists $650 for three hours of coaching via telephone. Back in 2012, Patricia Marx reported in The New Yorker that retirement coaching can cost up to $150,000.

It sounds like a scam to Crabby Old Lady and leaves her wondering who would pay for such twaddle.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browning: Our Mothers


The Privilege to Grow Old

It's a cliché, that headline. You see it printed on plaques and greeting cards and if people still stitched them, undoubtedly it would turn up on samplers:

”Do not regret growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.”

The thought could be a companion to another bromide, “Old Age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.”

And that one could be taken as a reaction to actor John Derek's dictum in the 1949 movie, Knock on any Door: “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.” (Many other sources cited here..)

I doubt that Derek's character (or the film's writer) really meant that. I think the 17th/18th century satirist, cleric, poet Jonathan Swift nailed most people's feeling about old age, one that remains so more than 350 years after Swift's death: “Everyone wants to live forever but nobody wants to grow old.”

If anything, that sentiment has become only stronger over the centuries; it is now a cultural truism promoted and supported by the several billion dollar anti-aging industry.

From the cradle, we are brainwashed every day with images, jokes and advertising telling us that gray hair, wrinkles, saggy skin and other evidence of old age are bad, bad, bad and must be denied even when they are obvious.

We are exhorted to lie, pretend and spend large amounts of money in the attempt to make everyone looking at us think we are younger than they can perfectly well see we are.

When the appearance of old age can't be denied, people think saying “She doesn't act old'” - whatever that means - is a compliment. (By the way, next time someone says that to you, paraphrase Gloria Steinem as I do: “This is what 73 acts like these days.”)

All the negative energy aimed toward aging exhausts me. We're all going to die but in the United States, if we make it to 65, we can expect nearly 20 more years of living and that's just the average. Life expectancy at 65 for people in other developed countries is even a bit higher.

And it is a privilege to be here that long because some are not.

Too many friends died young. One was only 28. Another was barely 40. A third, the same year, was 42. And one, with whom I had planned to share a home in our old age, was 52.

It would be a wonderful thing if I could know what kind of old person they each would have become. I choose to assume they would have had no interest in worrying about how they looked at age 60, 70 and more and having known them well, I believe I'm not wrong.

They – along with some others I knew – didn't get the chance to find out what old age is like. I have that privilege and so do most of you who read this blog. Certainly we can use the time better than pretending we are not old.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Mexico Adventure


Farmlines: Dumb Phones and Analog Apps

[EDITORIAL NOTE: As you know, I went to New York ten days ago at the invitation of Senior Planet to report on the Consumer Electronics show known at CE Week. There were three of us, each charged with selecting one Senior Planet Best of CE Week Awards for elders.

The results are in now at the Senior Week website. The introduction is here (don't miss the photo of me on that page) along with links to my story and two other winners from Mike Lee and Erica Manfred.


Perhaps you already know who Dan Gogerty is. Well, you know if you read Time Goes By's companion blog, The Elder Storytelling Place, where five days a week, new stories written by readers appear. (There is a permanent link to that blog over there in the left sidebar about halfway down.)

Dan has been regularly contributing stories since January 2013. Mostly they are about growing up on a farm in Iowa back in the 1950s and 1960s. And much more than that too.

Here's what I mean from a story titled, Social Media – Thunder Road Style:

”...we had cars and like the social media of today, these heavy metal devices offered apps, instant messaging and the risk of serious hardware malfunctions.

“With our social network, we could date, hang out and cruise with friends but first we needed a communication device - a set of wheels. A few lucky guys drove Mustangs, Camaros or GTOs but most of us used whatever our folks would reluctantly provide. It might be the family's four-door sedan or - God forbid - a station wagon, but unlike today, we could not go on a date in the farm pick-up truck.

“Back then pick-ups seemed to arrive from the dealer's lot equipped with empty feed sacks in the back and the smell of hog manure in the cab.”

Dan's story titled, Big Data, Small Towns and Big Brother in Drag, begins like this:

”Revelations about government snooping and corporate data mining don’t shock me. When I was a kid, our phone was tapped repeatedly and a local Big Brother knew everything about us.

“Big Brother’s name was Pauline, the town switchboard operator. She gathered data more efficiently than the NSA but unlike the overlord in Orwell’s famous novel, Pauline was liked and respected.”

You don't need to have grown up on a farm or in a small town to appreciate Dan's recollections and cleverly observant contrasts with today.

Gogertybook3Sm The reason I'm telling you this today is that Dan has published 55 of his short stories in a book titled, Farmlines: Living in the Days of Dumb Phones and Analog Apps, and that a few of those stories appeared first at The Elder Storytelling Place.

It is a collection I've kept on my bedside table for the past several weeks reading a few each night, charmed by Dan's warmth, humor and storytelling so clear that I don't even need to close my eyes to imagine I was there growing up with him.

They are stories about an era that's disappearing but one that readers of this blog will recall even if you didn't grow up on a farm. I remember party lines and the Fuller Brush man and horsing around on the school bus even in a city and so will you.

On the back of the book, Dan explains better than I can:

”Farmlines are the threads that connect people to a place – in this case, a family farm in a time when kids downloaded games in the grove or haymow or from a Parker Brothers box; where they accessed apps by running out the door to a tree house, snow fort, or pickup baseball game; where they made social media connections by talking, scheming, sharing, fighting, and linking up with kids in the community.”

These days Dan writes for the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Long before that, he graduated from the University of Iowa and for 36 years he taught in seven schools on three continents.

It is such a delight to have a book of stories from one of our own Elder Storytelling Place contributors. Farmlines is available from Amazon in paper and Kindle editions. Or at Lulu in paper and ebook formats.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Worst Things About Growing Older


On Loneliness and Old Age

Have you ever had a spell of loneliness? I don't mean those times when, for a few days or a week or so, everyone you know seems to be overworked or out of town. That happens sometimes and it goes away.

No, I mean bone-deep craving for a human connection that isn't there and feels like it never will be.

Maybe you had moved to a new city and didn't know anyone yet. Or maybe, like me when I was very young, late teens/early twenties, I was on my own in the world and had no friends – no one I felt comfortable phoning to go to lunch or a movie with, and there was no one who thought or wanted to call me.

No one who knows me now believes it, but I didn't know how to make friends in those days. I didn't know how to talk to people and was too terrified of rejection to be the first to speak.

That left a lot of long, lonely evenings and weekends sometimes with more weeping that I care to recall. You can read only so many books.

In old age, loneliness creeps in for many when a spouse or a close friend dies, when old friends move away, when grown children live across the country or even the world. It is, unfortunately, in the nature of growing old, of life itself, that our social circles shrink.

Increasing numbers of new studies are revealing that loneliness is a major health risk to elders having twice the impact on early death as obesity. According to a study from the University of Chicago reported in Science Daily:

”Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person's chances of premature death by 14 percent...The research shows that the impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which they found increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent.”

Combine that information with the results of another study reported in Science Daily two months ago - this one from the University of Florida about the health effects of perceived discrimination (emphasis added):

"'We know how harmful discrimination based race and sex can be, so we were surprised that perceived discrimination based on more malleable characteristics like age and weight had a more pervasive effect on health than discrimination based on these more fixed characteristics,' Sutin said.

“The one exception was loneliness.

“Loneliness was the most widespread health consequence of discrimination among older adults.
Discrimination based on every characteristic assessed in Sutin's study was associated with greater feelings of loneliness.

“According to previous studies, the effects of chronic loneliness are severe: increased risk for unhealthy behaviors, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular risk factors and suicide.”

However or wherever it originates, loneliness in old age is being proven again and again a killer. Not to mention that it feels awful.

At this blog, we have discussed at length over many years how the internet and blogging create new friendships and I don't want to dismiss those. About half the people I hold most dear these days I've met through blogging.

Even so, humans have an inborn need for personal contact; there is something so life-giving about sitting across a room or table from another, touching a hand as you talk perhaps and, depending on what you are saying, seeing the twinkle - or sadness – in the other person's eye.

Since these loneliness studies began appearing, I've been putting a lot of thought to what we, old people, can do about it for others and ourselves.

Reaching out when we sense someone we've met needs a friend is one way. And there is a lot we can do to help ourselves: volunteering, faith groups, if that is your choice, local clubs, senior centers, exercise classes, library groups – there are all kinds of places where people with like interests come together.

Undoubtedly some of the people doing those things are looking for friends too.

It took a long time but I finally learned how to speak with people I've not been formally introduced to and anyway, so what if I'm rejected. It probably won't happen next time.

If getting out of the house is difficult, the growing Village Movement (and some other local organizations) have what are called “friendly visits” - volunteers who go to people's homes to talk, play games, watch movies or just sit and be together. Friendships flower from these too.

While I was staying with her and her husband in New York, Wendl Kornfeld told me how she has dealt with having family not only spread over ten states but, sometimes, knowing they just can't or won't be there for her.

”I have redefined family,” said Wendl, “as those people who are literally nearby, who care about me, and of whom I have a reasonable expectation of support and help based on proximity and affection. Of course, it is my great privilege and pleasure to reciprocate.”

In other words or, rather, those of Stephen Stills, love the ones you're with. It's great advice for all of us in our old age.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Now That I'm Old


ELDER MUSIC: 1955 Again

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


What happened in 1955?

  • Rosanne Cash was born
  • A riot broke out at an Elvis concert. It was not the last
  • Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat in a bus
  • First Guinness Book of World Records was published
  • Scrabble made its debut
  • Edna Everage made her first appearance
  • Rebel Without a Cause was released
  • Melbourne were premiers

The most appropriate way to start this year is with CHUCK BERRY who pretty much defined the year (and the rest of the decade).

Chuck Berry

Well, Elvis was in the mix as well, of course, but Chuck did it all - wrote the songs, performed them, played guitar just like ringing a bell. This was the first time, but far from the last, that Chuck made the charts. The song is Maybellene.

♫ Chuck Berry - Maybellene

Whenever the song Unchained Melody comes on around these parts, there's always a lively discussion between Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me concerning which is the definitive version. The A.M.'s preference is for the Righteous Brothers and mine is Al Hibbler's. Both agree that the other one is pretty good.

Having said that, I won't play either of them today. The Righteous Brothers' version wasn't from this year and although Al's was, I have made it a policy not to repeat anything from the first time around for these years. There is some virtual fine print in my unwritten contract, though, to the effect that I may use the same song as long as it's a different version.

Here's the third best (and it's not too shabby either) by ROY HAMILTON.

Roy Hamilton

See what you think.

♫ Roy Hamilton - Unchained Melody

It's a year of firsts (and some onlys) and here's LITTLE RICHARD's debut.

Little Richard

I should have mentioned Richard in my comments on Chuck as well. Rolling Stone magazine stated that Tutti Frutti "contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bam-boom!!"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

♫ Little Richard - Tutti Frutti

Another who changed the course of music is BO DIDDLEY. This year is full of them.

Bo Diddley

It's a pity Bo couldn't copyright that riff, he'd have made a fortune. In any case he didn't make much, if any, from the songs either, due to unscrupulous mangers, promoters, record companies and probably others as well. To the day he died he was still trying to recover what was due to him.

Anyone who can name a song after himself has a lot of front. Bo certainly had that. This is Bo Diddley.

♫ Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

A first appearance also for THE PLATTERS.

The Platters

The Platters were the best of the singing groups of the fifties and they were also the most successful. They initially got nowhere for a year or two and then their lead vocalist was replaced by Tony Williams and a female singer, Zola Taylor, was added as well.

Everything clicked and their first record, Only You, climbed up the charts.

♫ The Platters - Only You

This is the other hit for GOGI GRANT, you all know the biggest one which was also from this year.

Gogi Grant

The first of her two hits this year was Suddenly There's a Valley. After her time in the sun, she made albums and appeared on TV now and then and also supplied the voice for films where a good singing voice was required of an actress who couldn't sing.

♫ Gogi Grant - Suddenly There's a Valley

Mannish Boy was an "answer" song to Bo Diddley's I'm a Man. That, in turn, was an answer to the MUDDY WATERS song, Hoochie Coochie Man.

Muddy Waters

Muddy recorded the song several times over his career and I think the later versions to be superior. However, this is the first one and the one that counts this year.

♫ Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy

Okay, get out your coon skin caps, hope they're not too moth eaten, put them on and sing along with BILL HAYES.

Bill Hayes

The Ballad of Davy Crockett was first heard when Davy Crockett was shown on Disneyland on TV. Bill then recorded it and it became a hit.

Fess Parker, who played Davy, also had a version. I notice in the song that they gloss over his death at the Alamo.

Okay everybody - 1, 2, 3. “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee...”

♫ Bill Hayes - The Ballad of Davy Crockett

THE DREAMWEAVERS started out when Wade Buff and Gene Adkinson, who met in the Miami Boys' Drum and Bugle Corp, discovered they liked singing together. They wrote songs as well.

They thought they needed a female voice to complement theirs and tried several before settling on Mary Rude (who later married Wade).

The DreamWeavers

They recorded the song, It's Almost Tomorrow and that became a big hit. A couple more songs didn't do quite as well. Then Wade left, Mary divorced him and The Dreamweavers were no more. The dream unraveled, I suppose.

♫ The Dreamweavers - It's Almost Tomorrow

RAY CHARLES got the idea for this song while he was listening to gospel radio in his car (he wasn't driving).

Ray Charles

He heard the infectious beat and with Renald Richard, a member of his band, wrote new words to it. They also added a touch of jazz and some rhythm and blues and well, changed it completely. The result was I Got a Woman.

♫ Ray Charles - I Got a Woman

You can find more music from 1955 here.

1956 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF: 5 July 2014


MAINTAINING STRENGTH AND BALANCE

The older we get, the more important preserving those two physical attributes becomes. Darlene Costner found us some inspiration. Unfortunately, it is beyond you and me and most everyone - but it's amazing to watch.


BUZZFEED LISTICLE THAT MADE ME NOT HATE A LISTICLE

The headline to this listicle is “Jokes So Clever You Probably Won't Get Them” and yes, for me that's particularly true of the math and science ones. But there were several that knocked my socks off. Here are two:

”Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.”

I love that. Here's another:

”An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. 'In English,' he said, 'a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.'

“A voice from the back of the room piped up, 'Yeah, right.'”

You can read all 21 clever jokes here along with a whole lot of discussion with even more clever jokes going back several years at Reddit.


ANOTHER BUZZFEED LISTICLE: GRAY HAIR

My friend Lew Grossberger with whom I had dinner in New York last week sent along this Buzzfeed listicle titled, “27 Impossibly Pretty Reasons to Go Gray This Summer.”

The only problem with the photos is that all of them look like this:

GrayHair

Not a single photo of anyone older than 35 or 40. Here's what Lew said in his email:

“What, they couldn't find any old people with gray hair? Also, if gray hair becomes trendy, does this mean oldsters will get more respect?”

I started going gray in my mid-30s and believed – we all did then – that I had to cover it. It was years before I let the gray grow out.

Wouldn't it be a good thing if these young women never feel that pressure and don't cover their gray unless it's a wild color just for fun? You can see all the young grayheads here.


JOHN OLIVER TAKES DOWN DR. OZ

Oprah protege, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has long been a nemesis of elders as an advocate of anti-aging potions. He also pushes highly questionable dietary aids and a couple of weeks ago he was called before Congress to testify about that advocacy.

I wanted to report on it then, but I needed the time to prepare for my trip to New York. Thank god we have John Oliver to do the job for me – and so much better than I can.

This is a bit lengthy, 16 minutes, but worth your time not only for the comedy – but for some of the finest reporting you can see anywhere on television. Anywhere. On. Television.


CARROT CLARINET

Darlene has done it again sending in this fascinating video about how to make a carrot clarinet.

You can learn more about Lindsay Pollack at the YouTube page.


SEARCH U.S. CENSUS RECORDS FREE

Let's do a little crowdsourcing today. I know there are quite a few TimeGoesBy readers who enjoy genealogy and probably use ancestry.com. A few days ago, I received an email from that service with this announcement:

”This 4th of July holiday, discover how deep your American roots go by searching all of our U.S. Census Collections (1790–1940) FREE. Discover where your relatives worked, who they married, the names of their family members, and a whole lot more.”

Here is my problem with that come-on: Announcing that the service is free for one day pretty strongly implies that on any of the other 364 days, it will cost you. But what I don't get is how a for-profit service can charge for information collected by the federal government that we have all paid for with our taxes.

Does anyone have an explanation? Just curious.


NUMBER 1 BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR HEALTH

I'm acutely aware that I spend a lot of time here since I've lost so much weight and become an exercise convert reminding you of the astonishing health benefits of moving around a lot.

Not that I want to become a bore about it, this video animation has been sitting around on my computer for nearly a year and it is one of best exercise motivators I've seen. Take a look. From Dr. Mike Evans.


THE CAT AND THE DUCKLINGS

Another amazing cross-species event. I never tire of them. Thank you again, Darlene Costner.


EGYPT'S “JON STEWART” TV SHOW IS CANCELED

If you are a fan of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, you undoubtedly know of the Egyptian satirist, Bassem Youssef, who patterned his program in Egypt on Stewart's.

Youssef has appeared in the U.S. on Stewart's show and when he was directing a movie in the middle east last summer, Stewart appeared on Youssef's show.

A month ago, following the lopsided elections in Egypt, Youssef's show was canceled. He spoke about that last week at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum:

”Fear sells. Fear works. Fear makes you get away with anything,” said Youssef. “And when people are afraid, they will not accept logic, let alone satire. Fear can drive the masses. Fear can turn them into ruthless organisms devoid of human mercy and intellectual logic. Fear can drive humans to give up their best-ever given trait: humanity...

“Satire and comedy might be one of the very few antidotes against fear. It liberates your minds. It sets your judgment free. And that is why it is a threat. And that is why people who use satire will be alienated, marginalized or even scared off.”

Youssef sees some hope for the future and you can read a transcript of his entire speech here.

On the day Youssef's show was canceled, Jon Stewart opened his program with this heartfelt report:


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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


Independence Day 2014

Last year when I posted a video of spectacular fireworks on the Fourth of July, I told you that they were the best I had ever seen. That's no longer so. These, sent by Darlene Costner and Joan McMullen several weeks ago, are the most beautiful ever.

They were designed and executed by someone who calls himself mediabyjj. He writes:

”We all made it, safe and sound, to the year 2013, and I wanted to continue the party by sharing this fireworks display I created & actualized. It took me a little over a week to complete, and I am very happy with the outcome.

“All of the shells are custom-made by me, and I take huge pride in the handiwork that went into bringing them to life.”

The lovely music accompanying the display is by Norwegian composer, Thomas Bergersen, titled Heart of Courage.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend, everyone.


The Elder Storytelling Place is taking a day off too. Fresh stories will return on Monday


Traveling By Air While Old

On my first Manhattan post this week, TGB reader Annie left this important query:

”I noticed you didn't mention travel difficulties or sheer exhaustion. I hope there were no glitches, and your joy and new fitness level gave you much energy to make it an easy trip.”

Tiredness due to the hardships of modern-day airline travel is an important consideration when you're old. Senior Planet recognized this and gave me an up-front extra night at the hotel so that I could recover from the day-long flight and be fresh for a full day on my feet at CEWeek.

The respite was critical not just for my physical energy but mental too. When I'm worn out, my brain goes dead too so I am grateful for their consideration.

I was lucky to get a direct flight to New York with only one stop. That's not easy from Portland, Oregon, and it required that I leave home at 4AM to arrive at the airport in time for all that security stuff before a 5:20AM departure.

But wait! What an amazing, pleasant surprise was in store for me: as I presented my boarding pass and ID to the first TSA agent, he directed me to the fast-track lane. No line, no shoe and jacket removal, no separate laptop or Ziplock bag of liquids examination. Just shove my carry-on and handbag through the x-ray belt and move on through.

(Pathetic, isn't it, how little it takes to thrill us about airline travel these days?)

“How did I get so lucky?” I asked. “I want to know what to do to make this happen next time.”

“It's random,” he said and I didn't stick around to argue.

Of course, my gate was as far from security as is possible and still be in the terminal but Annie was right – my 40-pound weight loss made a big difference in the long walk compared to my last airplane trip in November, and a partial substitute for the morning exercise routine I was obliged to skip due to getting to the airport so early.

It was disappointing to see, however, that nowhere were there any of the scooters there once were in airports - the ones you could hail like a taxi that hold about six people with their carry-ons that toot-tooted along the concourses.

The walk to ground transportation at JFK airport was at least as long and although I was dragging after nine hours in a noisy tin can with bad air, my weight loss and workout regimen made this the least tiring flight I've had in a decade.

Even so, I was wiped out enough by the time I got to the hotel that all I wanted was sleep. Since it was only about 7PM, I strolled around the neighborhood until I found a place for dinner before taking those photos of the Empire State Building from my hotel window and falling into bed.

The return trip was even easier. Without a plane change or stop, it was the standard six hours from east coast to west and lo – I was allowed to glide through security again in the fast lane.

I can't be certain but here's what I think happened: when I was selecting seats online, the only choices for each flight were the last two rows – somewhere up in the hundreds, rows 247 and 248.

Okay, I exaggerate, but that's what those seats feel like and it made me want to cry.

It took me only a second or two to decide to personally pay an extra $99 each way to purchase seats in the first row or two of economy class even though that's no frivolous amount of money to me.

(By the way, I'm cynical enough to believe that airlines probably block out all seats but the worst so more people will spend the extra money for better ones but if that's the way the game must be played these days, it was worth it to me to skimp on a couple of restaurant meals and other treats at home this month to pay for it.)

Back to breezing through security – I suspect that it is an extra you get for paying that outrageous price for a good seat. I can't see any other explanation.

Now, having had many bad flights and one good experience, here are some thoughts that might help us all for future airline travel while old. Remember, even if we don't need extra help from others, we tire so much more easily than when we were younger that conserving energy is important.

If you cannot make the walk to the airport gate, order a wheelchair. You can do this online or by phone. Be sure to do so for both departure and arrival airports, and do it even if you are capable of walking but are slow or it wears you out. It's fair to do that.

If you can afford it, pay for seats closer to the entry area of the plane, especially if walking is difficult.

In fact, if you can afford it, consider business class or first class. For me, it's out of the question but if you can...

If you don't drive, there are the usual car services for hire to and from airports, but also check your town for medical transport in your area. Often it is free.

If you need wheelchair or other help, plan to arrive early at the airport.

Although it is expensive, some airlines have concierge services to help people with disability needs from curb arrival through security and to the gate. Others usually allow one caregiver to be with you to the gate.

Don't be shy, when boarding begins, to move to the line when they ask for those who need help to board first.

Bring your own food – what's for sale is awful and mostly unhealthy. I took some cheese, whole wheat crackers, Rainier cherries and grapes to nibble throughout the flight.

Wear layers or bring a blanket. Airlines no longer supply blankets in economy class and for some reason the planes are always chilly

When using wheelchair services, be sure to have some cash for tips.

These thoughts are from my own experience, from watching others at airports and some common sense. I'm sure you have even more good ideas on how to make flying easier for elders.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Mack: Countless Words


A Week in Manhattan: Part Two

My work at the Consumer Electronics Show for Senior Planet was done on Thursday and I moved from the hotel to stay with friends on the upper west side near 72nd Street.

Barry and Wendl Kornfeld have what is considered a luxury among many middle class residents of Manhattan, a two bedroom, two bath apartment. So, like my home here in Oregon with the same configuration, guests and hosts can comfortably cohabit during a visit without bumping onto one another unless they want to.

On my first day with them, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant along the nearby Hudson River and then walked the promenade. Wendl took this photo of Barry and me with one of the sculptures installed along the pathway.

Barry and Ronni

You might recall that it was Wendl who reported here for me in April on the start of Dr. Bill Thomas's Second Wind tour to promote his then-new book, Second Wind.

Wendl2014June175 As I explained in the intro to her story, I've known Wendl for going on 40 years – she married the man, Barry, I had lived with for several years in the early 1970s. I don't recall how Wendl and I became friends – it's one of those occurrences that sneaks up on you over time, that someone becomes important without you noticing until it is solid fact.

And a good thing it happened in this case because otherwise I might have lost Barry from my life.

There really is nothing like old friends particularly, I think, once we are old enough for the relationships to be really, really old. There is a great ease that comes with a long shared past, of the many events that don't need explaining woven into the present.

I saw another friend for lunch one day and we just continued the ongoing telephone conversation we have had and continue to have once or twice a week for many years. It was nice to do it in person this time.

On the evening the young woman on the subway gave me her seat (see yesterday for that story), I was on my way to dinner with another set of old friends, Joyce Wadler and Lew Grossberger.

Many of you know Joyce; she writes the delightful I Was Misinformed column at The New York Times.

Lew's latest book, Game of Cohens: A Parody, is available in paper and Kindle editions at Amazon where it is noted that he

"...has written four funny books and approximately umpteen quadzillion articles, parodies and satires for every magazine and newspaper that ever existed. He lives in New York City amid all the pomp and splendor befitting one of his exalted rank."

I've known Joyce and Lew almost as long as Barry and Wendl and we had a fine ol' time catching up and telling stories over a sensational dinner at North Square restaurant next to Washington Square Park in the Village.

Here they are with one of our spectacular desserts.

Lew and Joyce

By then, near the end of my visit, I had admitted to myself that leaving New York was the worst mistake of my life.

If I had put my mind to it eight years ago, there must have been a way I could have stayed. Maybe not living exactly where I wanted or in the perfect circumstances, but it might have been.

What shocks me now is that when I realized I had to sell my apartment, I didn't call a meeting of smart, good friends like Joyce and Lew, Barry and Wendl and a couple of others to help me brainstorm how I might stay. Why did I think I had to do it alone?

At dinner and via email since last week, Joyce – ever the reporter – has given me lists of ideas and places to check out for a possible move to New York or nearby.

Neither of us believes such an idea is anything but a long shot but given the power of my attachment to the city, I can't ignore the yearning. Now that the thought has been raised, I need to investigate it.

If it's not feasible, I will be fine here in Oregon. I've made some friends, I am doing useful, satisfying work for elders in helping to develop a Village and I have always been, if nothing else, good at accepting “what is” when there are not other choices.

Meanwhile, I'm still basking in the glow of a wonderful visit to Manhattan.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Full of Mind


A Week in Manhattan: Part One

When, eight days ago, Manhattan burst into view through the windshield of my taxi from JFK, tears dribbled down my cheeks. And so they did for the rest of my visit whenever I was careless enough to allow my love for that particular piece of earthly real estate to overtake me.

I don't know how to account for such a strong attachment to a place (as compared to a person or beloved pet, for example). That I have a preference for big cities over smaller ones and suburbs is part of it but I didn't feel a particular affinity for Chicago or Houston or San Francisco when I lived in those towns.

There is nothing wrong with them – or any others, I suppose. It's just that, for me, it is perhaps like cats other than my Ollie: they're nice but they aren't Ollie.

On the face of it, Manhattan has a lot going against it. It is crowded, noisy, dirty and wildly expensive but I don't care. And that's as far as I will go with that thought. It is enough to say that for the entire week, I ached with joy at being there and with despair knowing that I would have to leave.

My room on the 25th floor of the hotel was perfection for someone besotted with New York City. Is there any view more iconic than the Empire State Building lit up at night? And if you look beside it to the right, that upside down white triangle is the top of the Chrysler Building.

Empire State

On my first day, I walked the Greenwich Village streets where I lived for nearly four decades. Here's one of my favorite old buildings on Sixth Avenue – the Jefferson Market Library, once the Jefferson Market Courthouse and undoubtedly, the Jefferson Market before that.

I've forgotten the historical details but you can read them, if you are inclined, at Wikipedia.

Jefferson Market

It was sad to see that my apartment on Bedford Street is still unoccupied, as it has been since I sold it in 2006. I was curious how it fared in Hurricane Sandy, but there was no one to ask. And I have no photo for you either – I was too busy soaking up the sense and sensibility of city to remember to pull out my camera phone most of the time.

I did manage this one at Father Demo Square a couple of blocks from where I lived. When I moved from the city, the parks department had just redesigned the square and it was ringed with a bunch of just planted, spindly trees. Look what's happened to them in eight years - wow, plenty of shade on a hot day.

Father Demo Square

As I explained before I left, I was in New York to cover the New York City Consumer Electronics Show, CEWeek, for the Senior Planet website along with two other reporters, Erica Manfred who is a columnist for Senior Planet (“Aging with Geekitude”) and Mike Lee, senior advisor digital strategy for AARP.

We were each charged with finding our individual “best in show” for seniors among the exhibits and I will give you links when our stories are published at Senior Planet.

Electronics shows are always fun – you get to play with all sorts of delightful gizmos and gadgets – and it had been quite a few years since I attended one. More on that in time.

There were some simple pleasures I wanted during my visit. One of them was my favorite New York diner breakfast: greasy scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, fried hash browns and toast. Undoubtedly enough cholesterol to last a month.

My table, at a 23rd Street diner a few blocks from the hotel, looked pretty that day and is typical of most diners in Manhattan:

Diner table

My breakfast tasted the same as the last time I had it several years ago (as I wanted it to be) and the ambience reminded me of the importance of neighborhood diners to the locals.

The waiters greeted a blind man who was obviously a regular, his breakfast unchanged through the years so that he didn't need to order; it just appeared a few minutes after he arrived.

He and other customers – probably at their favorite stools at the counter – listened to the waiter recount his recent vacation. They discussed some ball games, mentioned some mutual friends and joshed with one another.

It felt like home. Even if it wasn't my home diner, it was for the others and I liked listening to them.

On my way to meet friends for dinner one evening, I had in interesting age-related exchange on the subway. It was a bit crowded but no one was scrunched together and I was happy to stand - no big deal.

As soon as the train lurched forward, a young woman across from me rose from her seat and gestured for me to take it.

As I said, I didn't need to sit but I've never liked those please-do-no-not-necessary-oh-go-ahead-etc. type conversations, so I sat. Then I got curious. Although I'm not certain, I believe this was the first time anyone has offered me a seat. Ever. So I tapped her arm and asked:

“Did you give me your seat because I'm old?”

“No,” she said. “I gave you my seat because you look so elegant.”

Elegant is not a word I would apply to me in any circumstance but I was dressed nicely: white-striped, taupe pants, a patterned blouse in the same colors worn unbuttoned over a dark brown teeshirt, glittery gold shoes and a white hat with a gold band. I was well turned out, as people used to say. But elegant?

Whether or not, it was an admirable recovery if the young woman, as is true for many people of all ages, was uncomfortable with my use of the word "old." That turned out not to be so.

I thanked her for the compliment and then we discussed the words old, elder, senior, etc. along with some less savory euphemisms for several more stops until she reached her destination, and we found ourselves in agreement on the words we like and don't like. She is an enlightened young woman in more ways than one.

It was such a New York encounter. I could tell you dozens of good stories of chance conversations in the city over the years and I love having a new one to add to my collection. It made me feel at home and as weepy again as I had been when the skyline out the taxi window popped into view when I first arrived.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Girth Control and the Pizza Lobby