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ELDER MUSIC: Classical Predilections 3

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.

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Here is more music that has caught my ears in recent times.

This will wake you up this Sunday morning, get your heart racing, toes tapping and generally wanting to start the day in a good mood. You may not even need coffee. The gentleman responsible is JOHANN JOSEPH FUX.

Fux

Jo was a composer during the late Baroque period. He was also a writer about music of considerable reputation. One of his works, still used today, is about the Palestinian style of Renaissance polyphony (see below).

The music today (and I wonder if he wrote the words himself) is Plaudite, Sonat Tuba, which is a Motet for Voice, Trumpet & Strings. It’s the second movement, and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it’s called Alleluja, and is sung by JUAN DIEGO FLOREZ.

Juan Diego Florez

♫ Juan Diego Florez - Johann Joseph Fux ~ Alleluia Plaudite sonat tuba


Early in his career, JOSEPH HAYDN wrote three symphonies called “Le Matin”, “Le Midi” and “Le Soir” (Morning, Noon and Night).

Haydn

He went on to write more than a hundred symphonies, most much grander in scale and ideas, but these three are quite charming. Today I’d go for the middle one. To give it its official title, it’s the fourth movement of Symphony No. 7 in C Major.

♫ Haydn - Symphony No. 7 (4)


Very little is known about CARLO CECERE which is a bit surprising as he lived in the eighteenth century, a time well documented, at least as far as composers are concerned.

Cecere

He was probably a violinist, although some say he played the flute. He must have cocked an ear towards the mandolin as well, as several works for that instrument survive. This is one of them, the third movement for his Mandolin Concerto in A Major.

♫ Cecere - Mandolin Concerto In A Major (3)


JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU was a leading musical theorist of the early eighteenth century.

Rameau1

He was also a leading French composer of operas and also music for the harpsichord. It’s noted that he was taught music at three years of age, before he could read or write (his dad was in the music biz).

Although very popular in his time, his music went out of fashion towards the end of the century, and was pretty much forgotten until revived during the twentieth century. From his Concerto Number 6 is the fourth movement, called, for some reason, L'Egyptienne.

♫ Rameau - L'Egyptienne


GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA was born, quite fortuitously, in Palestrina near Rome. He was one of the most important composers of the Renaissance.

Palestrina

Gio studied in Rome and spent pretty much all his life in that city. He played organ and was musical director at a number of places around town during his life. He once thought of becoming a priest, but caught the eye of a wealthy widow and married her instead.

He left behind for us all hundreds of compositions, including 105 masses, 140 madrigals, more than 300 motets, hymns, offertories, Magnificats and a bunch of other things. One of those is the motet Sicut cervus. This is the second part of that performed by the Cambridge Singers.

♫ Palestrina - Sicut cervus (2)


JEAN-BAPTISTE BRÉVAL was a French cello player and composer.

Bréval

The majority of his compositions involved the cello in some way or another. He was a member of the orchestra at the Paris Opera, and probably taught cello at the Paris Conservatoire. His music was certainly part of the curriculum at the time. This is one such, the Cello Sonata, Op. 12 No. 1, the third movement.

♫ Bréval - Cello Sonata Op. 12 No. 1 (3)


JOHANN JOACHIM QUANTZ was a flute maker, flute player and composer (predominantly for the flute).

Quantz

He caught the ear of Frederick II of Prussia, himself an enthusiastic supporter of all things flute, because by all accounts, he was a pretty good flute player himself (Fred, that is, of course, who would tell him otherwise?) I’m probably dissing him too much there, as old Fred wrote music too, and his works are really fine.

Anyway, J-J must have been pretty good as well as he became Fred's resident flute person for more than 30 years. This is the third movement of JJ's Flute Concerto in G Major, QV 5-174.

♫ Quantz - Flute Concerto in G Major QV 5 174 (3)


GIOACHINO ROSSINI is best known as an opera composer, and probably even better known for the overtures to those: “The Thieving Magpie", "The Barber of Seville" and most especially "William Tell".

Rossini

That’s not the only string to his bow (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). There are quite a few other works that really should be better known. Perhaps this will help a little.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good his string quartets are because he wrote them (all six of them) in three days when he was 12 years old. He called them string sonatas, perhaps because they were written for two violins, cello and double bass, rather than the standard quartet instruments. Here is the first movement of his ♫ String Sonata No.1 in G major.

Rossini - String Sonata No.1 in G major (1)


CHARLES AVISON was an English composer as well as a writer and musical critic – he rather liked to disparage the works of Handel. Charlie spanned the Baroque and Classical periods.

Avison

That dichotomy is evident in his Concerto No.6 in D major where the two elements seem to be tugging in different directions. It makes for an interesting piece of music though. Here is the second movement.

♫ Avison - Concerto No.6 in D major (2)


I enjoy putting on a Gregorian Chant or other early polyphonic music. I just let my brain wander where it will, or read a book (I know, musical snobs say you shouldn’t do that, but I don’t care).

One album I’ve been listening to lately was recorded by Ensemble Gilles Binchois, a French group named after Gilles de Binche, one of the major composers of this sort of music from the early fifteenth century. This isn’t by him, it’s that most prolific composer, ANONYMOUS: Submersus jacet Pharao.

♫ Anonymous - Submersus jacet Pharao


Something else from that very same composer, well sort of. We tend to associate the Baroque period of music with Europe, but there was a considerable amount of activity in the various countries of South America at the time as well. Certainly, Bolivia produced some interesting music, including this piece by that ubiquitous composer ANONYMOUS. Unfortunately, the percentage of anonymous works is higher here than in Europe. Here is the third movement of >em>Sonata “Chiquitana” No 4.

♫ Anonymous - Sonata Chiquitana No. 4 AMCh 264 (3)




INTERESTING STUFF – 30 March 2019

EDITORIAL NOTE: No excuses – I just got behind on everything this week so today's Interesting Stuff is shorter than usual.

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THE DOG WHO COULDN'T CATCH

Big Geek Daddy tells us:

”Duffy the dog has a tough time catching tennis balls so his owner decided to film some of his efforts in slow motion and the result is awesome. The soundtrack for Duffy playing catch is Vincerò which opera lovers will recognize from Puccini’s opera “Turandotas” as the concluding cry of the aria 'Nessun dorma'.

“Dog lovers who don’t know anything about classical music will recognize it as a song of triumph over failure.”

PLEASE PASS THE SALT

My god, I wonder how long it took these two guys to make all this happen exactly right.

TIDY MOUSE

As Bored Panda explains:

”72-year-old British man Stephen Mckears began to question his sanity when he started noticing objects had been moved around in his shed overnight.

“And they weren’t just being randomly placed, things like clips and screws were somehow finding themselves neatly packed back into a tub as if to chastise Mr. Mckears for his untidiness. Just who was this fastidious phantom, this organized apparition?”

THE BACKPACKING CAT

Adventurer and filmmaker, JJ Yosh, resides in Boulder, Colorado with his black cat Simon. He adopted the feline 2016, and they have been traveling together across land and water ever since - with Simon normally nestled in his backpack.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.




Cancer Test Anticipation

Back in mid-February, after two months of treatment with my then-new chemotherapy regimen, I reported this news from my doctor:

“'The CT scan shows the size of the lesions in your lung have decreased by half and some are no longer detected at all,' said the doctor. 'The one lesion in your peritoneum is not visible.'”

Woo-hoo. I don't have words to describe my relief and pleasure when the doctor told me that. Until that moment arrives, you wait and wait and wait, rocketing back and forth from fear and despair to confidence, then suddenly the answer is right there, right now, and in this case, it was spectacular.

Now, an additional two months have passed and it is time for another CT scan next week. I thought the wait period, having been through it before, might be easier this time, but no. As the date gets closer, I worry. I don't seem to be able to control that, but I do my best to enjoy these good days I'm having.

In a week or so, I'll have the new CT scan results. On my best days I believe the new pictures will be a repeat of those in February. Meanwhile, however, excuse me while I go worry. (I know I'm being an idiot but there is a little part of me over in a corner of my brain who believes worry is a requirement for making good things happen.)




A Note or Two on Growing Old Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

Recently, I overheard some younger people (not youth, more like – oh, early middle-age, late 30s to mid-40s or so) making plans together for a celebration they were looking forward to.

The friends were filled with enthusiasm: You'll do the decorating, right? Who wants to cook? Wait – have we decided on a menu? I'll take care of invitations. And so on.

Pulling it all together sounded like fun (I used to entertain a lot) until I recalled that those days are long behind me. I don't have the stamina nowadays, or even the breath, to do that much work.

What struck me then, however, is that as these younger people continued with their plans, how free they were from even noticing this would be the lot of work I knew it to be.

Because it would not feel like it to them.

That used to be me when I was their age. It never occurred to me then that older people would have trouble getting the preparation done, and I doubt those party planners I was overhearing thought about it either.

Because no one tells us when we are young that old age will be different. It will be harder than when we were 20 or 30 or 40 and maybe even 50.

Part of the reason, too, is that age groups in U.S. culture spend hardly any substantive time together so why would the generations know how we differ (and don't differ) from one another.

Elders' loss of strength, energy and stamina as the years pile up isn't a bad thing; it just is. Bodies wear out and perhaps youth's ignorance of old people's physical decline gives them the freedom to use their energy to full effect. Why burden them with information they don't need yet.

Or not. I'm not sure what I believe about this – it was just a passing thought that day. It's up to you now.

Yesterday, my former husband and I recorded one of our biweekly videos which, once again, centered on old-people chatter. That's because we're old.

Here is yesterday's Alex and Ronni Show.




A TGB READER STORY: "No" is Not Always a No

By Ann Parrilli

"Hello. Hello?" I could hear some shuffling on the other side of the door.

"This is the United States Census Bureau. I'm here to help you fill out your census form. It will only 10 minutes. Can you please open the door?"

I was about to graduate from college in Chicago and was determined to spend at least part of the summer of 1970 in Italy. When my roommate said she could get me a temporary job helping with the 1970 census I jumped at the chance.

After a scant three days of training, we were set loose upon the unsuspecting public to ask such unseemly questions as, "How many toilets do you have in the house?" and "Is there anyone living here who is not related to you?"

We could pretty much work our own hours as long as we didn't harass people too late at night. I'm sure I violated that rule more than once in order to launch a sneak attack on a household full of working people who weren't around during the day.

A few days later: "Hello. It's your census worker again. I think I hear that you're home. This will only take a minute".

That was probably not true. This particular household was assigned a long form which took 15 to 20 minutes to complete. But for every completed long form I would be paid $2.50 instead of the $1.25 for a short form. I was not about to let this hefty fish get away.

Despite the turmoil of the late 60s, the average citizen was remarkably compliant and, I hoped, mindful of the penalty incurred for assaulting a census taker or refusing to provide information demand of them by the U.S. government.

A few days later: "Hello. It's your census worker again. Are you feeling better today? I'd like to talk to you if possible". I could hear someone close to the door.

Finally the frail, warbling voice of an elderly woman - "My son said not to open the door to anyone". The accent was eastern European.

"Oh, but I'm a government worker so you have nothing to worry about." And then, shamefully, I persisted. "It's against the law not to comply with the census."

One of my more memorable experiences was the family of 13 recently arrived from China. They smiled politely and lined up in family groups so I would know who belonged to whom because they all seemed to have the same name. But I'm afraid my luck ran out when I asked the Toilet Question.

I went to the bathroom, pointed to the porcelain vessel and asked if there was only one. They gently urged me inside and closed the door, stifling giggles, when they mistakenly assumed that what I needed was to use the lavatory.

And finally: "Hi. I'm back. Did you talk to your son? Can I come in and help you fill our your census form? I could hear her slippers scraping the floor as she approached the door.

"I'm not dressed." I sensed her guard softening.

"Oh, that's okay. I'm guessing you're in a nice warm robe. That's fine."

After a long, dry minute I heard series of locks slowly snapping open. The face that greeted me was older than I expected, apprehensive and kind. When she stepped aside, it was tentatively and a bit unsteadily. Her pink robe was stained here and there and not at all warm looking.

Mrs. Gershen was a frail 82-year-old who lived alone in her high rise apartment. She didn't go out anymore except when her son came to get her every Friday for the Shabbat meal at his house.

As we filled out the census form, she confessed that sometimes when she felt lonely at night she'd take the elevator down to the lobby and chat with the doorman.

Long after the prized form was completed, we were still drinking the tea she had insisted on preparing for me. She told me that she and her husband had left Russia with their three children, embarking on a 30-year odyssey that took them to China, on to Uruguay and finally to the U.S. because they wanted their children to grow up there.

It was dark by the time we washed the teacups. I think I had been there over two hours. She wanted me to stay for dinner but I had a study group in half an hour.

I visited her once more after that but thought better of returning again. She hadn't told her son about our visits and I was uneasy about having manipulated my way around his mandate.

Maybe I was just being selfish and doubted whether I could alleviate the loneliness that had turned an intractable "no" into a brave, if tentative request for friendship.

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EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Two Realities of Growing Old

For as long as this blog has been here, I have kept a notebook of thoughts and ideas for future stories. It is a godsend to have when my mind goes blank or, in today's case, when I'm just plain tired, feeling slow and stupid – as from last Thursday's all-day chemo session.

But you don't need to be a cancer patient to be tired. It comes quite naturally with old age and in that notebook, I found a couple of relevant reports from long-time TGB readers that I think most of us can relate to.

SLEEP
Salinda Dahl talked about the common old-age difficulty with sleep:

”Over the past year, sleep has become very elusive,” she wrote, “and despite good advice from herbalists and docs, meditation, lots of exercise, no screens before bed, ETC, the situation persists.

“For now a coping strategy is to take a nap each day, whenever possible. Not only is my capability to function impaired by the tiredness, it's also more difficult to keep a positive attitude. Would love to hear how others deal with this.”

Me too, Salinda, that elusive search for sleep. For more than a decade, unrelated to my cancer, I hardly ever slept more than three or four hours. I tried all the recommended pills, potions and practices to no avail. Each worked for a few weeks, then stopped.

What finally changed is that about six or eight months ago, I remembered that I live in a state where cannabis is legal so I tried that. Wow! A full night's sleep – seven or eight hours. Consistently, night after night.

But before long, that stopped working too. I asked one of the cannabis dispensary “bud masters” who told me that most sleep aids wear off in time and I should rotate different kinds – an edible, a tincture, etc. One of my physicians agreed and now I am happily sleeping through the night most of the time.

What works for one person does not necessarily work for others. In my case now, I am grateful to have found a solution. I had almost forgotten what a good night's sleep feels like.

WANING ENERGY AND STAMINA
On the same post as Salinda's comment, Jim Fisher left this note about how his enjoyment of volunteer work in nearby natural areas has raised a new age-related concern:

”As this work has branched out and expanded I have found that being in my 70s also means that I just don’t have the energy and stamina to do everything I want and I worry that I may not live long enough to achieve everything I care about.

“It’s a new, nagging feeling, and one I try to dismiss. But it reoccurs when my hip and back ache or I get too tired to endure City council meetings that drone on for hours, etc.

“I want my youthful body and energy back I guess. Thank goodness and thank you that I know I have a place to share my feelings and know I am not alone.”

Part of having achieved old age, I think, is a growing sadness as our personal end time looms. Of course none of us will finish everything we would want (but you knew that, Jim) and Jim's concern is nothing less than the nature of the human condition that philosophers and thinkers have been seeking answers to for millennia.

For me, it has become easier to live with, easier to think about, since my psilocybin session in December. That doesn't mean I have any answers to the ultimate dilemma of life or even the decline of the energy and stamina we once took for granted.

But I thought I'd throw it out here for us to discuss. I'm eager to hear your thoughts.




ELDER MUSIC: Save Your Sugar For Me

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.

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I thought that we all need a bit of sweetening so I'm serving you up a lump of sugar. It’s probably not very good for you, but at my age, I don’t care anymore. Okay, I tend not to eat much sugar anyway, so it’s not really a problem. It’s good for a music column though.

The GRATEFUL DEAD weren’t noted as a recording band but they were as good as anyone (when they were on song) as a live band.

Grateful Dead

However, they did record three excellent albums, one of which I’d include in my top ten. That album was “American Beauty” and from that one we have Sugar Magnolia.

Grateful Dead - Sugar Magnolia


BESSIE SMITH was known as the Empress of the Blues.

BessieSmith2

She was certainly the best known blues performer in the twenties and thirties and had a huge influence on other blues and jazz singers (as well as later rock singers such as Janis Joplin).

Her work challenged the elitist norms of her era encouraging woman, especially working class woman, to embrace their right to do things that men were doing. This is evident in Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.

♫ Bessie Smith - Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl


In the early seventies JESSE COLIN YOUNG was extracting himself from his band The Youngbloods.

Jesse Colin Young

During that period he recorded a couple of excellent solo albums. The best of those was “Song for Juli” but it’s not that one we want today. Instead, the album is “Songbird” and from that the song we need is Sugar Babe.

♫ Jesse Colin Young - Sugar Babe


DJANGO REINHARDT could do more with playing with just two fingers on his left hand than just about any other guitarist can do with a full set.

Django Reinhardt

He lost the use of the others in a caravan fire where he was living at the time, early in his career. The doctors said he’d never play again. He showed them. From around about 1939 Django plays Sugar, with the help of an unnamed band.

♫ Django Reinhardt - Sugar


One of the first songs I thought of for this category is by the MCGUIRE SISTERS.

McGuire Sisters

They were all over the hit parade in the fifties, including several songs that hit the top of the charts. One of those was Sugartime.

♫ McGuire Sisters - Sugartime


NAT KING COLE has one of the most famous sugar songs, certainly one of his most famous songs.

Nat King Cole

This is from recordings he made with Billy May and a big band going full tilt behind him. The song is When My Sugar Walks Down the Street.

♫ Nat King Cole - When My Sugar Walks Down The Street


Besides her solo career, NANCY SINATRA had a long musical association with Lee Hazelwood.

Nancy Sinatra

As well as often recording together, Lee wrote many of her biggest songs. These Boots were Made for Walking was one of his. Jackson was another. Yet another that hit the top of the charts is Sugar Town.

♫ Nancy Sinatra - Sugar Town


Here's another song called Sugar Babe but it's a different one from Jesse Colin's. This one is by TOM RUSH.

Tom Rush

This was from his terrific early-ish album “Take a Little Walk With Me”, more than 50 years old and still one of the best albums around.

♫ Tom Rush - Sugar Babe


If the world was an equitable place JOE TEX would be a more important artist than James Brown, but it’s not, so I’ll just have to do my thing and play his music when I can.

Joe Tex

This song will get you up and dancing, or at least tapping your toes. The song is If Sugar Was as Sweet as You, a song he wrote himself.

♫ Joe Tex - If Sugar Was As Sweet As You


I can only remember one song by JIMMY GILMER & THE FIREBALLS.

Fireballs

However, checking Wiki, it seems he had quite a few that made the charts. I guess I wasn’t taking much notice at the time.

That song is Sugar Shack which was written by Keith McCormack and Jimmy Torres. Keith gave the rights to the song to his aunt, who helped him with some of the lyrics, for her birthday. That would have been a nice little earner for her as it hit the top of the charts around the world.

♫ Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs - Sugar Shack




INTERESTING STUFF – 23 March 2019

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's Interesting Stuff is two-thirds about animals. As what I call my “predicament” moves forward, I find myself settling in more frequently on nature, most particularly animals - who never, ever bore me.

DON'T LET THE OLD MAN IN

The YouTube page tells us that singer/songwriter/actor Toby Keith wrote this song, Don't Let the Old Man In, after spending time with 88-year-old actor/director Clint Eastwood. Keath asked Eastwood:

“...'what keeps you going?' and he said, 'I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.'” The scenes in the music video are from Clint’s latest movie The Mule.

BUDWEISER LOST PUPPY COMMERCIAL

Thank Darlene Costner for this melt-your-heart beer commercial. It's several years old but not the sort of thing that ever gets old.

STANDOFF BETWEEN EAGLE AND SQUIRREL

Take a look at the defiant stare-off between this little squirrel and a gigantic eagle looking for lunch. You're gonna love it.

DECORAH EAGLES NESTING LIVE

Speaking of eagles – I post this every year or two when the Decorah Eagles are nesting. You can watch them live from Iowa.

FYI: “This bald eagle nest is located near a trout hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. After two of this pair's nests were destroyed, the Raptor Resource Project team began constructing this nest with the hopes that the eagles would take it over and build upon it - and they have! Watch as they come back each year to raise another brood.”

Babies usually are born in late March or early April so this is the time to stay tuned. You can do this at explore.org. There is a second Decorah Eagles live nest here.

25 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE HUMAN BODY

The webpage titles this feature, 25 Amazing Facts About the Human Body.

“Amazing” seems to be overstating it but there are interesting ones too. Here are a couple to get you started:

”If they were laid end to end, all of the blood vessels in the human body would encircle the Earth four times.”

“Your tongue is made up of eight interwoven muscles, similar in structure to an elephant’s trunk or an octopus’s tentacle.”

Read all 25 at Mental Floss.

RESCUED CIRCUS LIONS RETURNED TO WILD

Mother Nature Network reports:

”What was eating Luca, Charlie and Kai? For these sister lions, it should have been obvious.

"Their lives were given to the circus.

“With around 370 square feet of steel and concrete between them — as well as a cub named Nathan — these animals knew neither direct sunlight nor fresh air. Only the roar of a circus crowd — or whoever bothered to show up for this pitiable show in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“It's little wonder that when the day came to open those cages — thanks to the efforts of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation — the lions were depressed, endlessly pacing their concrete confines.”

You can read more of the lions' story here.

NEIGHBORS DISLIKE THE FLINTSTONE HOUSE

This Flintstone-inspired house has been labeled a “public nuisance” by some neighbors and others. reports:

”The town of Hillsborough, Calif., perhaps seeking to avoid becoming the next Bedrock, has sued its owner to force the removal of dinosaur statues, a sign reading “Yabba Dabba Doo” (the catchphrase of the animated television show’s prehistoric patriarch, Fred Flintstone) and other landscaping, according to a lawsuit filed last week in State Superior Court.

Nestled in a hilly community of about 11,000 in San Mateo County, where homes routinely sell for millions, this particular residence, with its curving lines, red and purple domes, multicolored mushrooms and scattered animal statues, has long attracted attention from neighbors (no, not the Rubbles). One could even say it is “a page right out of history.”

But at least in its current form, officials and some residents do not to want the home, which evokes the 1960s cartoon, in their backyard.”

More at The New York Times.

THE LANAI CAT SANCTUARY

Cats on the small Hawaiian island of Lanai have got it made – amazing weather, meals served in their own "catfurteria," and a steady influx of adoring fans ready to give them all the love and affection they could ever want.

COW BACK SCRATCHER

Wouldn't it be nice to have a human version of this? Wait until you see how happy it makes this cow.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.




Elder Fraud

SELF-SERVING EDITORIAL NOTE: A year ago, Jana Panarites, host of The Agewyz Podcast, interviewed me about my cancer and a bunch of other things. She has posted again and if you missed it the first time, you can listen to it here.

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If you go by the number of fraud alerts aimed at elders that drop into my inbox (unless you are an overwrought conspiracy theorist, there is no reason to believe they are wrong), you couldn't be blamed for thinking old people are idiots.

Look at this chart from the 2018 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018 [pdf]:

FraudByAge2018

As you can see, the largest age cohort, 60-69, takes up the largest number of fraud reports in 2018 – 20 percent of the total. Apparently, however, we get better at identifying fraud as we get older: The 70-79 age group accounts for 13 percent of fraud reporting; 80 and older, only six percent.

On 7 March this year, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in a press release:

”Attorney General William P. Barr and multiple law enforcement partners today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep.

“The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly. The Department took action in every federal district across the country, through the filing of criminal or civil cases or through consumer education efforts.”

As to my rude assumption above that elder fraud victims are idiots, many are dementia patients and sometimes victims have been threatened by the scammers:

”Among the would-be victims highlighted were William Webster, the former director of the FBI and CIA, and his wife, Lynda,” reports the Associated Press.

“The couple described how they were targeted by a man from Jamaica who threatened them. The Websters involved the FBI, which arrested the man after he arrived in the U.S.”

It's the scale of this crime that leaped off the pages for me: 260 defendants with 2 million victims. I know this kind of fraud aimed at elders has been going on for decades but at this particular political juncture in U.S. history, it seems almost as normal as the president's tweet storms have become.

And neither should exist. Or, at least should beget more outrage than I can see happening.

Further, the harm beyond stolen money itself is that unlike younger victims, old people do not have the time to recoup their losses often leaving them without enough money to afford both food AND medications.

The FTC encourages reporting fraud. The complaint page at the FTC is here. Or telephone 1.800.FTC.HELP.

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of elder fraud?




She's Ba-ack, Along with The Alex and Ronni Show

Did you miss me? I sure missed you – five days of no access to Time Goes By, nor to email. I left a couple of notes about the problem on Facebook so you wouldn't think something terrible had happened but it's only a small group of you who access TGB from Facebook.

Sorry to have put a scare into you.

The problem came about last Wednesday when I was switching from one domain registrar to a new one. It's been more than a decade since I last did that but as careful as I was I screwed up, losing the blog and email.

Email mysteriously returned on Saturday after several semi-productive telephone conversations with the help desk at one of the registrars. I still don't understand how that happened. I'm just grateful it has returned.

Then, the always wonderful people at the Typepad help desk (which has hosted TGB for all 15 years of its life) restored Time Goes By to its – ahem – glory, and now I'm ready to get back to blog business.

The return of TGB began yesterday with posting a new Reader Story. The fix happened so late in the day, I was too tired to write a new post and I was otherwise engaged on Tuesday so I just went with this explanation and the bi-weekly Alex and Ronni Show. I think after today I'm back to usual TGB form.

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW
This is what should have been last week's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.

The video is frozen for some seconds at the top of the video and it's out of sync otherwise. Alex has been having sync and other problems with the latest version of Skype and we both ask your indulgence as he works out the difficulties.




A TGB READER STORY: Saturday Scenes

By Carol Nadell

LOIS’S APARTMENT
The long-awaited sun streams in the window, bouncing brightly off Lois’s silver hoop earrings. I see her first from the back as I’m coming in the door. I walk over to her and greet her with a kiss, carefully stroking her bony shoulder.

“You’re wearing the necklace,” I say, smiling with genuine pleasure, as I notice the string of pearl gray translucent beads I gave her – not knowing what else to do – when she was told the cancer had returned.

“I knew you were coming,” she croaks in a voice so faint that her hard-of-hearing husband has trouble understanding her.

Always my most well put-together friend – perfectly coiffed, dressed and manicured - she still insists on getting dressed, combed and lightly made-up, now all accomplished with the help of a home care aide provided by the Metropolitan Jewish Hospice Service from nine to 12 every weekday morning.

Through a small disc inserted in her chest, Lois receives pain medication by pushing a blue button on the remote control device she holds in her lap. She munches on ice chips to keep her lips and mouth moist. She hasn’t eaten solid food in weeks, this latest bout with cancer having robbed her of a functioning digestive system.

Her hands, skinny, weak and ice cold, are wrapped around a cup of hot water as she struggles to bring some feeling back to her fingertips. But constant vigilance is required as she nods off frequently, creating the risk of hot water spilling on her legs.

Later that day, I will go to a medical supply store and buy microwaveable gel packs to wrap around her hands. Her other visitors and I will smile at each other as we watch the color return to her hands. Even the smallest victories are celebrated when someone you love is dying.

I report that I have been to a wonderful matinee the day before and she, a theater lover like me, wants to hear all about it. The unspoken truth is that we will never again share a Broadway matinee, a movie at the JCC or long dinners talking about grandchildren, travel plans and the latest political travesties.

But she is still alert, still interested and still strong-willed. She is still Lois.

MADISON SQUARE PARK
The oldest person in the park seems to be about 32. Everyone is in shorts and t-shirts, visibly thrilled with what they mistakenly take to be the real arrival of spring.

I watch shapely young women as they delight in combing and styling each other’s hair. I see buff young men raising their toddlers aloft while diligently keeping a careful eye on the infant in the carriage. Balloons of bright primary colors float overhead.

Guitarists are perched on park benches, strumming contentedly, unconcerned whether anyone is listening to their tunes. The unmistakable aroma of char-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs slathered with mustard settles over the park like a familiar, comfortable blanket.

Uncomplaining young couples and singles stand in the serpentine line at Shake Shack waiting to place their orders. Cholesterol and carbs are far from their minds. They will live forever.

HOME
I make my way back to my apartment. My gait seems just a bit slower. My arthritic thumbs are not to be ignored. The woman who looks back at me from the mirror has grayer hair and saggier jowls than I remember.

I am not Lois. But I am not the frolicking young people in the park either.

I know where I am on this continuum.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Robot Doctor Tells Man He Has Only Days to Live

Three medical professionals walked into the examination room where I was waiting for them late last year – my oncologist and a registered nurse, both of whom I knew, and a social worker.

The four of us sat close together as the oncologist told me my cancer, after a period of remission, had reappeared in a lung and in my peritoneum, and that it could not be cured.

Particularly after a period of several months when no cancer had been detected, the news was, if not entirely unexpected, a stunner. I was shaken and I cannot imagine getting through the ensuing conversation about treatment possibilities without the doctor holding my hand.

That simple human gesture, the warmth and reassurance of another person's touch, is what anyone needs when being confronted with terrible news.

Nevertheless, last week, a dying man and the granddaughter who was with him in a California hospital room was informed he had only a few days to live by a robot doctor. Take a look at the phone video recorded by the granddaughter:

Seventy-eight-year-old Ernest Quintana died two days later. As CBSnews.com reported:

”Granddaughter Annalisia Wilharm, 33, was alone with Quintana when a nurse popped in to say a doctor would be making his rounds. A robot rolled in and a doctor appeared on the video screen. Wilharm figured the visit was routine. She was astonished by what the doctor started saying.

"'This guy cannot breathe, and he's got this robot trying to talk to him,' she said. 'Meanwhile, this guy is telling him, “So we've got your results back, and there's no lung left. There's no lung to work with.”

“Wilharm said she had to repeat what the doctor said to her grandfather, because he was hard of hearing in his right ear and the machine couldn't get to the other side of the bed.”

A hospital spokesperson later apologized to the family for the insensitivity but went on to say that the characterization of the live video physician as a robot was inaccurate. According to CNN,

”Gaskill-Hames, the hospital spokeswoman, said the health care provider is 'continuously learning how best to integrate technology into patient interactions.'

"'In every aspect of our care, and especially when communicating difficult information, we do so with compassion in a personal manner,' she said, adding that the term 'robot' is 'inaccurate and inappropriate.'"

In what world, I wonder, is it good and right and compassionate to hear you'll be dead in a few days from a screen? I can't be sure but none of the reports I read of this incident made mention that the “robot” checked to see that the patient was not alone when this news was delivered.

Having my hand held by the doctor while she told me about the change in my condition made all the difference to me. I'm not sure I could even have parsed the new diagnosis if I had been alone with a robot when the words were said. And how would I have asked questions?

For the record, I'm not against telemedicine in general; I think there should be more of it.

Often enough when I see one of my physicians, it's not for an exam or painful-to-hear information; it's a discussion of how I'm doing, how my body is tolerating chemotherapy, what concerns me that day.

We could as easily have that conversation via video and make an in-person appointment if that became necessary.

But to repeat myself: In what world is it good and right and compassionate to hear you'll be dead in a few days from a screen? And why wouldn't hospital personnel, who work every day with ailing, vulnerable people, already know the answer to that?




A TGB READER STORY: No. No. No.

By Regan Burke who blogs at BackStory Essays

A friend asked me if I’ve given my son a list of people to call when I die. And right then I felt the future running away with me so fast I could hardly catch my breath.

“No.”

“Why not?”

I told her he'd never do it. “He'd get mad if I even approached the subject.”

“How do you know?”

How do I know? He hardly talks to me as it is, much less about an uncomfortable subject.

“It’s a hard job—to call around to strangers and tell them their friend has died. Think of the responses—the oh-no’s! and the demand for details. No. He wouldn’t do it.”

“Well, how will I find out?” pleaded my friend.

There’s that future again, coaxing me to live in it, whispering that it’s my responsibility to inform my friends when I die.

I’m drawn to a passage in Pascal’s Pensees:

“We never keep to the present…we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up.” He writes about our failure to live in the present, “we think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control…”

So, no. I’m not going to try to control what happens to me after I die other than keeping my end-of-days papers in order. I’m happier owning this moment and this moment and this moment. I’ll let time future govern itself.

On the Sunday after All Saints Day, November 1, my church recites the names of those members who’ve died the past year. This year there were more people on the list I knew. I mean, I knew them. Not just their names. I knew them.

After the service, as I sat alone in my pew listening to the organ postlude, I popped open my iPhone. I read an account about two women who guarded the dead body of one of the synagogue victims in Pittsburgh so that, in keeping with Jewish custom, the person would never be alone.

I had descended into the grace of solitude, a still point, wondering if Jews believed the soul lives beyond the body when I heard someone call my name.

“Hi Regan,” came the voice of my pastor, Shannon Kershner. I looked up to see we were the only two people left in the church after the All Saints Service.

She had just delivered a sermon on John, 11:35: Jesus wept. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. Pastor Shannon reminded us Jesus cried over the death of his friend, Lazarus, joining in the collective grief of his community.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” I answered, “the dead.”

“Yes.”

She knew.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Alex Trebek and Pancreatic Cancer

You can imagine, I'm guessing, that every time the words “pancreatic cancer” show up in front of me online, they grab my attention.

Even though pancreatic cancer is rare compared to such cancers as lung, breast and prostate, it has an outsized impact on me and seems to appear in media headlines more frequently than one would guess for its small numbers.

Or maybe it's just my personal heightened awareness and knowledge of how lethal it is.

Whatever, it was a shock early last week to see long-time Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, paired in headlines with those dreadful words.

Within a day of the announcement, Trebek had issued a short video statement via YouTube. Here it is with the transcript below:

"Hi everyone, I have some news to share with all of you and it’s in keeping with my longtime policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base. I also wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health.

“So therefore, I wanted to be the one to pass along this information. Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.

“Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you."

Did you note the part about “stage 4”? That means Trebek's cancer has spread to other organs and, like mine, is not curable although chemotherapy and some other treatments can manage symptoms and improve quality of life for awhile.

It feels to me that Alex Trebek has been at the helm of Jeopardy! forever. (Actually, he has been hosting since 1984.) A strong, steady, down-to-earth presence in Americans' lives. How could this happen?

Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy!, wrote this about Trebek last week in The New York Times:

”...we all think of Trebek as 'Alex,' that avuncular, Canadian-accented presence who has been in our homes every weeknight for 35 years. Whether we watch it regularly or not, we all rely on Jeopardy! always being there. It’s no longer an entertainment property; it’s an institution.”

So it is. And so is Alex Trebek.

I've watched Jeopardy! off and on pretty much all the years Alex Trebek has been hosting. Sometimes regularly, sometimes as a drop-in, and who can help but play along.

In his video announcement, Trebek invoked the commonly-used fight metaphor about “beating” cancer and I'm sorry he did. It is already exhausting to live with cancer and we should not be urged to use our remaining, precious time fighting the inevitable.

From my point of view, it is the doctors who do the battling; I just follow their instructions and am grateful for the extended life they have given me.

That quibble notwithstanding, it's a good thing that a beloved public figure as Trebek has made his diagnosis public. The small number of pancreatic cancer cases means that it gets little attention and few research dollars compared to the big-time cancers.

Although progress is being made, there still is not a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer and it is extremely difficult to find before it has reached late-stage development. I was just luckier than many that mine was detected at stage 2.

So perhaps Alex Trebec's well-known public presence will light a fire under some people and some institutions who can afford to fund the research necessary to find a better treatment and even a cure for this terrible cancer.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that all of us and millions of others agree with Claire Sattler, a high-school student who won the 2018 Teen Jeopardy! competition:

“I hope he knows that he does have the whole support of every person who’s been on Jeopardy, every Jeopardy fan, along with his family and friends,” she [told The New York Times]. “Whether he’s around for 20 more years or whether he’s not, he’s made such an amazing mark on so many individuals.”



ELDER MUSIC: John Sebastian

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.

* * *

John Sebastian

If you’re going to be a musician, you couldn’t do much better than emulate John Sebastian. That is being born in Greenwich Village in New York, and growing up there surrounded by the best folk, blues and classical musicians of the time. Also, having a father in the business as well – John Senior was a classical harmonica player. There aren’t too many of those about.

He taught his son the instrument and there was a period in the sixties when, if you needed a harmonica on your record, he was the one to get. That is, if Sonny Terry wasn’t in town.

John started as a folk/blues performer, but when The Beatles hit town he and his friend Zal Yanovsky watched them on TV (at Cass Elliot’s house) and said, “We could do that”. And they did.

They found a bass player and a drummer (Steve Boone and Joe Butler) through friends of theirs and The LOVIN’ SPOONFUL was born.

Lovin' Spoonfu

The period from 1965 to 1968 saw the Spoonful hit the charts with more than a dozen and a half songs, as many as any band from the period. One of those is Did you Ever Have to Make up Your Mind? I like it as one of the verses resonates with me.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have to Make UpYour Mind


Lovin' Spoonful

Probably their grittiest song from that time is Summer in the City. Indeed grit gets a mention in it. Also, who else thought of including jack hammers in a pop song?

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Summer In The City


Lovin' Spoonful

The first single the Spoonful released was their first of many charting songs. It is Do You Believe in Magic, essentially about rock & roll, not conjuring tricks.

The group was proud of the fact that they played all the instruments in the recording studio, unlike a number of their contemporaries at the time who relied on session musicians.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Do You Believe in Magic


Lovin' Spoonful

On one of their tours the group was in Nashville and after a show, they repaired to a local bar where they encountered some musicians playing there that they realised were far better than they were, and yet no one knew of them. To honour them, and others in town, John wrote the song Nashville Cats.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats


John Sebastian

Around the final year of the sixties, the band was going in a couple of different directions. Zal wanted to continue in the pop vein that made them successful, and John was writing songs that anticipated the later singer/songwriter period of the early seventies. So John left and became a solo artist.

One of his earliest and most famous gigs was at Woodstock, wearing that iconic tie dyed jacket. One of the songs he performed is Younger Generation, a song about the high hopes that parents have for bringing up their kids and find they can’t quite live up to those hopes.

I’m just guessing, as I’ve never had any kids. Here is a live version of the song.

♫ John Sebastian - Younger Generation


John’s first solo album was called “John B. Sebastian” which had many of his friends along as session musicians – particularly Crosby, Stills and Nash who wanted him to be in their group. That didn’t happen. He reprised a couple of the Spoonful songs, but the best thing on the album was a new one called How Have You Been?

♫ John Sebastian - How Have You Been


John Sebastian

Here’s another song about looking back, those so inclined would call it nostalgia. It’s probably more about people sitting around with a glass of wine and a couple of guitars singing about Stories We Could Tell. It’s been covered by Jimmy Buffett and memorably by the Everly Brothers.

John Sebastian - Stories We Could Tell


John had always been a fan of Mississippi John Hurt and had learned his lesson well, as is illustrated in the song Sportin' Life, ostensibly a song written by him, Zal and Steve, but whose roots go back many years.

♫ John Sebastian - Sportin' Life


John Sebastian

In the mid-seventies, John was out of fashion and his record company, Warner Brothers, who was also a television company, was thinking of creating a TV sit-com set in a school called Kotter (the TV show, not the school). As he was on their label, they asked John if he could write a theme for it.

He decided that he couldn’t do one of that name but as the program was about a teacher returning to a school where he was once a student, a song called Welcome Back might work.

Did it ever. It was so successful that people wanted a single and an album with this song on it. One was quickly produced and the album was John’s biggest seller. Here’s that song.

♫ John Sebastian - Welcome Back


John Sebastian

The visit to Nashville that the Spoonful made, mentioned above, must have made quite an impression on John, because he wrote another fine song about the city. That one is A Song a Day in Nashville.

John Sebastian - A Song a Day in Nashville


John Sebastian

John always had a sense of humour, particularly about himself. After all, anyone who could name one of his albums “Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian” is okay with me.

From that album here is Darlin' Be Home Soon. It’s another song that’s been covered extensively, most notably by Joe Cocker.

♫ John Sebastian - Darlin' Be Home Soon




INTERESTING STUFF – 9 March 2019

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME BEGINS AT 2AM SUNDAY

Dst600

Spring forward again. If like me you still have clocks that don't update digitally, you need turn them forward one hour on tonight.

If you feel like you just did this yesterday in reverse, you're almost right. We did it just last November. But at least we don't need to think about it again until November.

If you are interested in the history and background of daylight savings time and recent efforts to do away with it, there is more than you could ever want to know at Wikipedia.

THE BLESSINGS OF AGE

Even if you quibble with a few of these elders' attitudes about growing old, mostly they are happy with their generally quiet lives – unlike the media's urging us to join outlier old people who climb mountains and bungee jump.

Here is a short documentary by Jenny Schweitzer Bell titled, The Blessings of Age.

There is more information at The Atlantic.

THE AWESOME OPOSSUM

I don't often think about opossums (opossi?) but as this video tells us, they are a lot more interesting than I imagined.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S INSTAGRAM PHOTO CONTEST

National Geographic is probably more well-known for its stunning photography rather than the articles it illustrates. The organization just published the current winners, runners up and others from the recent contest. Here are two to whet your appetite:

NGbldings

NGiraffesAnuroop Krishnan

You can see the rest at Bored Panda.

MEDICARE FOR ALL

For going on two years, I have racked up about a million dollars in treatment for pancreatic cancer. And I have not paid a penny more except for a supplemental plan and the small Medicare deductible each year and Part B premium.

Everyone, not just old people (and a few others) should be free from financial worry when they are sick. Without that, in my case, there is no way I could have paid for it and I would undoubtedly be dead now.

There are some new political/policy movements to figure out how to expand Medicare to everyone. It won't happen as quickly as Congressional Democrats seem to think, but I believe this conversation period will lead to it eventually.

Comments can be read at Twitter.

NEW TWILIGHT ZONE

The original Twilight Zone TV show was broadcast from 1959 to 1964 and is still a popular choice on Netflix and other streaming service – well, it certainly is with me.

Here is the trailer for the new imagining of it:

The new program premiers on 1 April. Unfortunately for me, it will be exclusively on CBS All Access, a pay service I do not subscribe to, so I won't know if it is as well done and compelling as the original.

FLYING WITH THE BIRDS

We end today's Interesting Stuff with two videos of birds from two realms: sky and ground.

According to Big Geek Daddy,

”Christian Moullec takes us some amazing flights with his birds in this wonderful video. He has been helping birds migrate from Germany to Sweden since 1995. His efforts have raised awareness about the disappearance of migratory birds in Europe.”

DAILY LIFE OF BACKYARD BIRDS

Bored Panda tell us:

”Lisa, who goes by the name Ostdrossel on her social media, has always been fascinated by nature and birds, so when following her love to Macomb County in Michigan from Germany, she had an urge to get a little closer to the birds in her yard that are uncommon in her homeland.

“She began exploring the ways to make it possible and as a result, she has thousands of images capturing different gorgeous bird species, their funny expressions, majestic poses and sometimes crazy behavior.”

A couple of examples:

Birdbathtwochattng

Birdfedder[peanuts

Many more are at Bored Panda.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.




Growing Old My Way

Earlier this week, long-time TGB reader Elizabeth left, in part, this comment:

”The culture we live in insists that 'living to the fullest' means an incessant pursuit of experiences. One MUST travel in retirement. One MUST attend cultural events. In some circles, one MUST volunteer or be politically active.

“The idea of a bucket list is another piece of that pressure to do, do, do. After a lifetime of working and raising a family, I am able to live fully the way I want to...

“My paternal grandmother once commented on how annoying she found the recreational staff at her senior residence. They were so worried that she didn’t participate in the (to Grandma) condescending song fests and games. She kept saying that she was finally able to do exactly what she wanted.”

Elizabeth is correct. The only old people to whom American culture pays even a small amount of respect are the ones who act like younger adults, 40-year-olds for example.

You know the headline stories: a 102-year-old park ranger; an 80-year-old who climbs Mt. Everest; a 91-year-old marathon runner.

These elders are outliers who, via glorification of their physical advantages, we are urged to emulate. Not the tens of millions of us who carry on daily activities the best we can, without too much complaint (if you don't count Crabby Old Lady), while navigating the large and small and sometimes frightening difficulties of old age.

In the media hubbub surrounding the recent Academy Awards, I saw a headline announcing that movie producers are now embracing older actors and stories about old people. No, they are not - not unless their name is Judi Dench or Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren. (It helps to be British.)

And in general, there are just three storylines:

The aforementioned extreme sports stories (that always imply “if he can do it, what's wrong with you?”)

Love in old age (aren't they cute)

Spunky elders (with or without terminal disease) who carry on through every adversity, designed and guaranteed to leave the entire audience weeping when they die at the end

In supporting roles, elders are almost always the objects of ageist humor.

As Elizabeth points out, it is close to universally true that people who have not yet reached old age think we're doing it wrong if we are not behaving like 40-year-olds.

Until you're old, you probably have no idea how chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and dozens of others hamper one's ability to do the things that were easy at age 40.

And that doesn't include plain old tiredness, the fatigue that comes along just because you are old now and your body slows down.

People sometimes say it's too bad there isn't an instruction book for getting old. I think it's a good thing NOT to have that book, not to have an arbitrary “expert” telling us what we should be doing.

Remember, there is no right way to grow old. Do it your way and do it proudly.




Crabby Old Lady on C.R.A.F.T. and Typing Errors

Trying to live with a couple of the irritating artifacts of old age – that's what we're talking about today.

TYPING ERRORS
There was a time over many years when Crabby Old Lady could type faster than most people and do it accurately, without hitting wrong keys. It was easy for her to do 125 words-per-minute in those days.

Crabby hasn't timed herself lately but there really is no point since she cannot get through a single line of type nowadays without errors – sometimes several. Because in general, such as cooking or writing with a pen, Crabby does not have hand/eye coordination difficulties, she's chalking it up to old age.

There is a fairly large collection of activities that are not symptoms of dire disease but nevertheless are annoying and slow Crabby down. Typing errors are near the top of the list because Crabby types a lot.

It's so bad recently that she can no longer shoot off even a quick email to a friend without reading it carefully for errors. Even in as short a note as three lines, Crabby often finds half a dozen mistakes.

There is no solution, no backtracking to the days of near perfection in typing that Crabby can find, so she resigns herself to everything involving a keyboard taking twice as long as it once did.

Just to show you what it's like, Crabby going to finish writing this post leaving all the errors intact. Have fun.

C.R.A.F.T.
At the top of Crabby Old Lady's annoyance list is C.R.A.F.T. It was only a few weeks ago that she discovered this acronym and prompty named ie perfect for the irritating situation: “Can't Remember A Fucking Thing.”

Every old person knows the story: make a list for the grocery market, leave it at home (C.R.A/F/t) and even if it had only three items om oit, Crabby gets home with only two. Tthe third one is lost is the ether forever until she needs whatever it is and it's not in the cupoard.

The weird thng is, she remembers the item was on the originalshopping list as soon as she realizes it is missing. How does memeory work, anyway, that Crabby can't remember an item on the list but two wqeekslater recallsit was on the list.

Convervations are the worst. Halfway through a sentence, a word Crabby needs will not appear in her mind. Zero ip there in the vocabulary section of her brain. Her favorite, if it were not so annoying was the time she shouldn't remember the word for scissors.

Here solution that time was to pantomime cutting with her first two fingers while saying, “that thing you cut paper with.” But most of the time even a dedcriptijom like that will not come to mond.

C.R.A.F.T. leaves a lot of holes in conversations and most often it isn't the name of an item that disappears but the entire idea Crabby was talking bout or rwis;;u e,barrassing, the punchlineto a storyl.\

And that common belief that if you don't try to remembere, it will reappear?

Yeah, sure. right after you arrive home or haveh ung up the phonel.

Just to be clear, none of this has anything to do with dementia. It's common to just about all old peple and win't kill you – although it might irritate you to death.

You know, maybe if Crabby Old Lady complains enough, lets off enogh steam about all the memory irritations, she'll die without a single thing bothering her/




A TGB READER STORY: Around the Pond

By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal

I watch the avian life around the pond at work every day and I have decided that it's really a high-school class with wings.

The geese are the jocks - always daring each other to stupid stunts like bracing to land on the water and digging in with their heels to create maximum skid and backsplash in minimum space.

They are constantly eating and doing the follow-up bodily functions, strutting with that hip-swivel and radiating a "Wanna make something of it?" attitude.

The ducks are the regular kids - shy around everyone else but comfortable with each other, splashing their wings in each other's faces, diving to show off their underwater "holding my breath" duration to their brethren but mostly quiet and well-behaved - aspiring "Teacher's Pet" candidates.

The cattle egret is the loner Goth, his plume always groomed like a mohawk 'do' quietly pacing the edges, apparently harmless but playing his cards close to his chest. Taciturn and morose, he comes and goes at will, embracing his inner introvert with wings and beak.

The pelicans show up when the mood takes them, serenely confident in their size, fishing ability, beak capacity and wingspan. They are the bosses - too dignified to mingle, willing to grace the others with their aloof company. “Don’t envy me because I’m beautiful”, they seem to say coyly, knowing full well that they are the “in” crowd.

The gulls are the newcomersn- outsiders determined to make their mark, trying hard to look interested but really keeping an eye on the hierarchy in an effort to make a power play for top spot.

They look ready to play dirty if needed, their weapons carefully sheathed as they study all the angles with ulterior motive. Their beady eyes have that gleam of back alley shenanigans, and they look ready to say, “Wanna make something of it?”, and to take it out to the alley at the least provocation.

The ravens fix everyone else with a beady eye, content to flaunt their nerdy "intellectual superiority" card when needed, fully aware that this environment does not play to their strengths. They privately gag at the food choice the geese have made, much preferring to dumpster-dive for more calorific bounty. They would be the cafeteria lady’s nemesis.

And then there's the Cooper's hawk - terrorizing principal/hall monitor/crossing guard. He eyes them all with insolence, secure on his perch.

He watches them intently, occasionally swooping dangerously close to the noisy gaggle of geese, causing them all to harumph, settle their ruffled wings and look around in wide-eyed innocence as if to say "What? What'd we do, huh? We were just minding our own business."

All the other birds bustle about their own business - teachers, custodians and helpers. They don't have time for this flighty behavior, they say, even as they watch the fun. There's work to be done and somebody's got to do it.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Living While Dying

Snoopy-cartoon

As much as I like the Snoopy cartoon - which is all the more admirable for its simplicity – dying is, nevertheless, more complicated than that.

Some people die quietly in their sleep, others die suddenly in, for example, a traffic accident, while another group of us slowly dies while being treated with drugs meant to extend of our lives even though we know the disease will eventually kill us.

Twenty-seven years ago, my mother chose no chemotherapy. She didn't want to be sick or drugged during her final months of life. I chose differently. So far the chemo side effects are minimal and the professional guesstimates of extended life sufficiently long to make the treatment worthwhile – at least, to me.

You might have guessed that I have put a lot of thought to this interim period. Back in June 2017, when I was first told I had pancreatic cancer, I made a bunch of decisions at least two of which have proved fruitful.

  1. Spend every day living to the fullest extent I desire

  2. Talk about my “predicament” as much as I want

For number 1, I have surrendered to life and living as fully as possible because what other choice is there? I don't have the first idea of other possibilities.

One thing that gets in the way is that I feel apologetic when the simple life I lead comes up in conversation, when someone asks about my bucket list (none) or fulfilling lifelong dreams, etc.

I don't know why I'm touchy about my life and I'm working on figuring it out. In addition to having cancer I'm old, nearly 78, and I'm slower than I used to be. There was a time when I tried to hide that.

Nowadays I have no difficulty behaving like an old person even though American culture recognizes (begrudgingly) only old people who act like younger adults.

The amazing plus side of number 2, talking openly and often about my cancer and about dying, is that when I do it, it is easier for the people I'm speaking with to do so too. And writing about my predicament on this blog has freed up readers and friends to leave messages that stick with me every day, long after they are said.

My friends Gail and Jim wished me “a safe and harmless journey.” Isn't that lovely. And not long ago, another friend, Wendl Kornfeld, signed off with “May you live long enough.” Both of these being beautifully inspiring.

But we need to talk more about dying until it becomes a normal part of life. It wasn't always hidden away, you know. Until 100 years ago or thereabouts, most people died at home among family and friends. Even the children were involved.

Personally, I am fascinated with these final weeks and months of my life, eager to let myself follow natural inclinations to wherever they take me.

Palliative care physician and author Kathryn Mannix also believes it is time to break the taboo surrounding death, as she explained in this March 2018 video from the BBC: