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Enough With Crazy Politicians

It has been going on for so long that it is hard now to remember what life was like before we had so many crazy politicians.

How about, just for the length of this blog post, we all try to rewind our mindset to a time past when politicians (with a few notable exceptions) mostly dealt in ordinary graft that could be reprehensible but not dangerous or life-threatening to people and our nation.

So-called leaders like that believe only that they deserve a bit more than the rest of us and take advantage of their positions to get it, but they aren't crazy. Now we live with daily crazy. Just this week:

The Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, following the killing of George Floyd had dwindled to fewer than about 50 people in the streets near the federal courthouse when the president – the crazy-in-chief - sent in paramilitary soldiers to quell what he calls “riots.”

Those unidentified troops have snatched protesters off the street or bombarded them with pepper spray, flash bangs, tear gas and more until the number of protesters swelled again to thousands each night. CRAZY

Hydroxychloroquine as both a preventive and treatment for coronavirus is back again this week. Several members of the Trump family, including the president, have promoted the video of a Houston physician, Stella Imannuel, who says she has cured hundreds of people with the drug.

She also says that women can become pregnant by having sex with demons in their dreams, that doctors create medicines from alien DNA and that doctors are also working on a vaccine to make people immune to becoming religious. Trump tweeted the video promoting her beliefs. CRAZY

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Wednesday asked the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy to rescind its plan to ban hydroxychloroquine saying the choice should be between patient and doctor. CRAZY

When Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) tested positive for coronavirus this week, he said he could have contracted as a result of wearing a mask. CRAZY

In an attack on mail-in ballots, Trump suggested that the November election be delayed to avoid massive fraud thereby asking the people to forget that A: he does not have the authority to do that, Congress does and B: more than 20 states already have versions of vote by mail and anyway, it is up to individual states to determine how their citizens vote. CRAZY

Stating that many people think it is fake news, Trump said he did not discuss, in a recent telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the issue of Russia offering bounties to those who kill American soldiers. CRAZY (and traitorous)

If you are anything like me, that little list – as awful as it is - doesn't seem to be enough to get exercised about because it is only one week's worth and we know how much overall craziness I have omitted.

But I think we are wrong about that. Instead, I suspect we are no longer capable of returning our minds to that time when politics in Washington was not crazy.

We have forgotten what it was like when we saw the president on television once or twice a week if he was introducing a visiting foreign dignitary, perhaps, or signing a bill in the Rose Garden or on rare occasions, speaking to us of important matters from the Oval Office.

Now for nearly four years we have been living with a vulgar manchild overflowing with grievances for perceived slights. Every day. Have you ever seen him laugh, genuinely laugh in enjoyment of anything? Of course not. He feels only anger and resentment.

There is one more group of American crazies, millions of them. The people, like some Congress members, who refuse to wear a mask.

Some have been known to spit on store employees who ask them to mask up, some believe not wearing a mask is a macho political statement and some even think there is no such thing as the virus. CRAZY Not to mention, stupid.

Make no mistake: people who refuse to wear masks are killing people. That's not hyperbole or fake news. it is fact.

Yes, yes, yes. I know we are not supposed to say such things aloud but I have no reason to care anymore what people think so here goes: anyone who refuses to wear a mask and to maintain distancing deserves to die. I have no sympathy beyond those who may mourn them.

There is way too much crazy and too much crazy-stupid in this country. It has infected millions of Americans but it starts at the top.

This is not a Republican versus Democrat matter. It is about saving lives and our sanity. Whatever else Joe Biden may be, he is not crazy. Trump and his enablers are.


Famous Last Words

The final words a dying person utters have been noted for centuries – in some cases, a whole lot of centuries.

In 1078 BC, just before he pulled down the pillars killing himself and 3,000 others, Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines.”

The Buddha, in 483 BC said this, they say: "All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness.”

Whether last words seem to be in character or not, in many cases it is impossible to know if the person actually said that or if someone made it up after his/her death.

Which doesn't make last words any less interesting to read. Here is a small handful that feel to me to be in character:

Groucho Marx: “This is no way to live.” (1977)

Sir Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.” (1955)

Emily Dickinson: “I must go in, for the fog is rising.” (1886)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: "The taste of death is upon my lips...I feel something, that is not of this earth." (1791)

One of my favorite last-word stories concerns John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States. They were both major players in inventing their new country and they each died on the same day which happened to be – drum roll: Independence Day, 4 July 1826.

What could possibly be more fitting for either of them.

Jefferson died in his home in Virginia. History remembers his last words as: "Is it the Fourth? I resign my spirit to God, my daughter, and my country."

Adams, at home in Massachusetts, is said to have spoken these last words: "Thomas Jefferson survives."

What Adams did not know is that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier.

I also like last words that comment on dying itself or appear to speak to us from the other side.

Albert Einstein when he declined surgery the day before he died: "I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." (1955)

(Those probably were not Einstein's absolute final words, but let's go with it anyway.)

Cotton Mather: "Is this dying? Is this all? Is this what I feared when I prayed against a hard death? Oh, I can bear this. I can bear this." (1728)

Thomas Edison: "It's very beautiful over there." (1931)

All this dying last words stuff came to mind when TGB reader Salinda Dahl left this comment on Monday's post:

”I hope when your time comes it's beautiful and thrilling...which I believe is at least 50% possible. Remember Steve Jobs? As he was dying, he kept saying, 'Wow! Oh Wow!'

Yes! Oh yes! That had slipped my mind. I did some checking around the web to see if those last words are confirmed and came across them in his sister's eulogy for him:

”Steve’s final words,” wrote Mona Simpson, “hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

“Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

“Steve’s final words were:

“OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”

Of course, we don't know what he was experiencing that was wow-inspiring. But wouldn't it be a fine ending if one's last earthly moment is something of beauty and joy.


A TGB READER STORY: A Bad Day – May 2020

By Carole Leskin

I tried to find something to post today. Something sweet, gentle, funny or hopeful. But I could not.

Today all I could do was sit - and grieve. Overwhelmed. Where am I? What is happening to the imperfect, but basically kind country I knew?

Minneapolis and St. Paul are burning. George Floyd is murdered. A Central Park bird watcher is reported to the police. More than 100,000 people are dead from COVID=19 with more every day. The pandemic rages on.

The number of people unemployed is as great as during the depression. We can not get close to people. We wear masks. Our loved ones die alone and have no funerals. There is more but this is enough. And so, many of us spend our time inside and afraid.

I try to be optimistic.

Today I failed.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Ruminating on Pancreatic Cancer and Me

It's everywhere recently, this pancreatic cancer stuff. Or so it seems to me.

Yesterday, there was a celebration for the late U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia who died of that disease just over a week ago. There will be more ceremonies and remembrances during the next few days.

Last Tuesday, Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek's memoir, The Answer Is – Reflections on My Life, was published just a bit more than a year after he announced his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. To promote the book, he has been giving interviews that, of course, include a discussion of his disease.

Maybe these things are more noteworthy to me than they might otherwise be because, as many of you know, I have pancreatic cancer too. I've been living with it for more than three years which, according to my oncologist, makes me an “anomaly” - hardly anyone lives this long.

A lot has happened in my past three years – the extensive Whipple surgery and recovery, which took four or five months; two non-invasive surgeries to repair an internal bleed; three rounds of chemotherapy; an additional diagnosis of COPD; and now hospice.

If I had known in the beginning that I would still be here three years hence, I would have thought of it as a long time. But all those years flew by and the big events – such as the day they told me I had pancreatic cancer – are as clear in my mind's eye as if they had happened a day or two ago.

Time is such a squishy thing. It is equally true that an hour can feel like an entire day and a year can feel like a week. Nowadays, since they told me I have fewer than six months to live, I prefer the former – that a few minutes stretch out into many hours. Unfortunately, that is not the usual case.

There is pain these days, too, and before the medications kick in, I am in a deep, dark, dreadful mood and an hour of it easily feels like a day. When I'm stuck in the pain, my mind goes to imagining my death, picturing what it will be like.

Because when I feel the time is right I will be using Oregon's Death With Dignity Act to end my life, I probably have a better handle on how it will happen than people who wait for death to find them. It's still not a pleasant place to spend one's time.

On the other hand, I have always believed in confronting my demons head on and there can't be any greater one than death.

Nevertheless, these speculative detours into what will be my final moments of consciousness, always accompanied by pain, leave me angry, depressed, lonely, panicky and generally shattered.

But wait. When the pain pills finally go to work, it is as though none of what I just described happened even while, like now, I am writing or thinking about it.

Instead, I become attached again, as strongly as crazy glue, to the world we live in. Even in humankind's once-in-lifetime predicament – pandemic, economic disaster, climate change, increasingly dangerous demonstrations, Trump's wicked and corrupt presidency – the last thing I want to do is leave.

We're not even halfway through this movie yet and the universe is telling me it's time to go??? How dare it. And yet, here I am.

For the moment, I just hope my remaining time is not as messy as whatever it is I am trying to say with this post.


ELDER MUSIC: Strange Days

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.

* * *

These are certainly strange days we’re living through, and that means I get to play some strange songs. Okay, not necessarily strange songs, but those with strange in their title. Quite a few of these are blues which seems strangely appropriate.

Given the title of the column, many people could guess that THE DOORS would lead off proceedings. They are right.

The Doors

They actually have a song called Strange Days, taken from their second album also called “Strange Days”, but that song was a bit too strange. Instead, I’ve gone for one of their more famous songs, People are Strange from the same album.

♫ The Doors - People Are Strange


PATSY CLINE is always welcome in my columns and judging from past comments, you readers rather agree with that.

Patsy Cline

On this song I think that Patsy sounds like Tami Neilson. Of course, Tami wasn’t even born when Patsy died, so it should be the other way around. If you have a chance check out Tami’s music (particularly her song Cry Over You) I suggest you do that to see what I’m talking about. Anyway, here’s Patsy with Strange.

♫ Patsy Cline - Strange


ELMORE JAMES was a particular favorite of the British bands of the Sixties, especially Brian Jones who developed his guitar playing style from listening to his records.

Elmore James

Elmore worked in an electrical store early on and devised his own electric guitars that were in advance of the standard versions of the time. It took years for the others to catch up. He had a wide variety of styles which is probably why he was so influential. Here he performs Strange Kinda Feeling.

♫ Elmore James - Strange Kinda Feeling


Love is Strange was a big hit for the Everly Brothers. However, before them MICKEY & SYLVIA also hit the charts with the song.

Mickey & Sylvia

Bo Diddley claimed that he wrote the lyrics and Mickey and Sylvia also claimed to have done so. Bo was the first to record the song, but his version didn’t see light of day until a recent box set of his complete recordings. Buddy Holly also recorded it, but he didn’t claim to have written it. I’m going with Mickey & Sylvia.

♫ Mickey & Sylvia - Love Is Strange


JAMES HUNTER has recorded Strange But True twice.

James Hunter

The first time was on his album “Kick it Around” with a band and backup singers. He later did it again on “The Hard Way” with minimal accompaniment. I like the stripped back version, but the other isn’t bad either. Actually anything that James records is worth a listen.

♫ James Hunter - Strange But True


OTIS SPANN was easily the finest post war Chicago blues pianist.

Otis Spann

Besides his solo work, he was also Muddy Waters’ pianist for many years. He was also involved in one of the two or three best blues albums ever (“Super Black Blues”) with T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner. That’s another one to check out.

Here is Otis, with some of Muddy’s band, with Strange Woman.

♫ Otis Spann - Strange Woman


NICK CHARLES is a particular favorite of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, such that we’ve seen him live many times over the years.

Nick Charles

Besides playing in Australia, he’s performed all over the world and played at some of the best blues festivals around the world. He’s a superb acoustic guitar player and quite a decent singer. Here he is with a reasonable sized band backing him with Strange Things Happen at Night.

♫ Nick Charles - Strange Things Happen At Night


Racism has always been present in yours and my societies, but it’s been somewhat hidden until recently when the American president essentially gave licence to the darkest elements of society to raise their heads and spew their vile filth over all of us.

The next song by BILLIE HOLIDAY is as relevant today as it was 80 years ago.

Billie Holiday

The song is Strange Fruit, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol and put to music by him and his wife, Laura Duncan.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit


From his fine, but rather underrated album “Believers”, DON MCLEAN gives us the song Isn't It Strange, one he wrote himself.

Don McLean

It is a wry, ironic song about love and the way that men and women see their relationships. On the surface is a pleasant gentle song, but digging deeper into the lyrics reveals the clever and bittersweet exploration mentioned before.

♫ Don McLean - Isn't It Strange


I’ve always thought of CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE as an old bluesman, however, when I investigated him I discovered that he’s only a year older than I am. Okay, that could still make him an old blues man, but not in the way I had in mind.

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie’s instrument is the harmonica and he also sings a bit (not while playing the harp, of course). He came to prominence in the early sixties with other white blues players like Michael Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield.

Although mainly a bluesman, he has also played with such musicians as Cyndi Lauper, Hot Tuna and Jools Holland. To fit into the column he performs Strange Land.

♫ Charlie Musselwhite - Strange Land


I’m really surprised to find a song by ELVIS from the Fifties I didn’t know.

Elvis Presley

Yep, that can happen even to your musical guru (“That’s a joke, Joyce” – that’s for my Australian readers). The song I discovered hidden somewhere on my computer is Is It So Strange.

♫ Elvis Presley - Is It So Strange


JIMMY JOHNSON is a blues guitarist, and a fine one at that.

Jimmy Johnson

A couple of decades ago he recorded an album called “Johnson’s Whacks” (ho ho) which contained a blues guitar rendition of Paul Desmond’s jazz classic Take Five. It’s worth seeking out. This has nothing to do with today’s selection, I just thought I’d mention it.

From a completely different album (“Every Day of Your Life”), Jimmy plays and sings Strange Things Happening.

♫ Jimmy Johnson - Strange Things Happening


INTERESTING STUFF – 25 JULY 2020

GRETA THUNBERG WINS 1 MILLION EURO GULBENKIAN PRIZE

Climate change has gotten lost in the pandemic news but some are paying attention. A few days ago the Swedish teenage activist, Greta Thunberg, won the one million Euro (1.15 million U.S. dollars) Gulbenkian Prize for humanity.

”...for the way she 'has been able to mobilise younger generations for the cause of climate change and her tenacious struggle to alter a status quo that persists', Jorge Sampaio, chair of the prize jury, said earlier,” reported The Guardian.

As Thunberg says in the video, all the prize money will be donated, through her foundation, to different organisations and projects who are working to help people on the front line, affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis.

You can read more at the Gulbenkian website.

WONDERFULLY FUNNY DRUNK TWEETS

If you read The New Yorker magazine, you probably recognize Susan Orlean's name. As the Washington Post describes her, she is

”...an award-winning author of several books, including The Library Book and The Orchid Thief, and has received both Nieman and Guggenheim fellowships. Meryl Streep was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying Orlean in the movie Adaptation.”

A week ago, she – oh, never mind. Let WaPo reporter Travis M. Andrews explain:

”...the work that had her name trending on Twitter this weekend was a little different. See, Orlean got drunk Friday night, met a newborn foal and fired up the social media platform. And the ensuing thread — in which she bemoaned the state of the world, threw shade at her cat for not snuggling and recounted an epic quest for candy only to wind up with sugarcoated fennel seeds — proved utterly delightful.”

Here is a piece of it:

SusanOrlean

You can read her entire drunken thread here. And, it's worth following the WaPo link above to an interview with Orlean about her drunken tweet night.

This is such an excellent respite from our global troubles.

PETER TIBBLES' MUSIC COLUMN

In last Monday's post I mentioned that Peter Tibbles, who writes Sunday's TGB Elder Music column is thinking over whether he will continue it in some form after I die.

In case you missed it, here is the response he left in the comments:

”I don’t think I’ll continue with the music column. I have seen with my own eyes the amount of work Ronni puts into producing each day’s column. I retired from the computer industry after 50 years and it and it seems to me that I’d be just going back to work, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

“Having done this for more than 10 years and about 600 columns I wonder if I have anything to add that won’t bore you all. However, you never know. I might become inspired and find some easy software and start again.”

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW

As we do every two weeks, last Wednesday my former husband, Alex Bennett, and I record a short chat I have dubbed The Alex and Ronni Show.

Usually, I post it on Friday but got carried away yesterday with a long discussion of the Gestapo tactics being unleashed by the federal government on cities across the U.S. Actually, Alex and I got carried away on that subject too. Here is the video.

Alex's video chat show can be found here.

CROWD CATCHES CHILDREN JUMPING FROM BURNING BUILDING

Last Tuesday, two young boys in Grenoble, France, brothers age 10 and three, exhibited extraordinary bravery and trust in their fellow human beings by jumping from high floors of a burning building to be caught by people waiting on the ground:

Neither boy was harmed but at least one of the “catchers” was checked at the hospital for injuries. You can read more at Huffington Post and The Guardian.

EXTRAORDINARY ANTI-TRUMP CAMPAIGN VIDEOS

Two groups of Republicans are carrying on an amazingly sharp and pointed video campaign against the re-election of Donald Trump – The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump.

This week they came up with a remarkably similar idea for their latest videos:

NAKED ATHENA

In the law-and-order surge from the president in Portland, Oregon, there has been one small bright spot to give us a smile. She has been given the name, Naked Athena. Here is the story according to Snopes:

“Police officers in Portland, Oregon were caught off guard after being approached by a nude female demonstrator, who lay down in the street and began performing yoga. The cops were then filmed ‘withdrawing.’

“A woman wearing nothing except a mask and a beanie approached a group of officers clearing out the downtown area in the early hours of Saturday. A line of police and federal agents were standing at an intersection when the naked woman seemingly appeared out of nowhere.”

Here is some video from The Sun including some commentary on the protests from Trump:

Among all the turmoil and fear being generated, Naked Athena makes me feel happy for a little while.

CAT DISCOVERING IT HAS EARS

Priceless.

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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.


Portland and Democracy Under Federal Siege

You cannot have missed it these past two weeks – the clashes, between protesters and some shady, heavily armed paramilitary force in the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon.

Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been dragged off in unmarked cars, locked up in what one described as a “nondescript” location and later released without being told why or by whom they were arrested.

One protester was hit in the face with a “munition” - whatever that is – 12 days ago and is still in hospital recovering from facial reconstruction surgery.

Christopher David, a 53-year-old Navy veteran, was beaten and pepper sprayed for trying to ask a question of these “soldiers”. He was left with two broken fingers. Take a look:

Wednesday night, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by the federal force as he spoke to demonstrators.

Please think hard about what is happening in Portland. Please think about how you would perceive it if it were happening in another country – that is, unidentified people in combat uniforms, wielding batons and guns attacking their fellow citizens.

This is happening in America. Right here. Right now. And President Trump has already sent similar troops to Chicago and Albuquerque this week to shut down what he says are “heinous acts of violence.” He says more will be sent to other cities all of which, he admits, are run by Democrats.

”Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, tweeted on Tuesday evening: 'Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump's troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents.'

“Earlier in the day, she said she would 'welcome actual partnership, but we do not welcome dictatorship.'

“And New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich tweeted after being informed the operation was expanding to Albuquerque that federal law enforcement wasn't welcome.

"'Given the mess it created in Portland, I let him know in no uncertain terms that this isn't the kind of 'help' that Albuquerque needs,' he wrote on Twitter.”

These armed men (women too?) can only be called secret police. Their faces are fully covered with gas masks. Their camouflage uniforms are empty of agency identification, badge numbers and personal names. They carry fearsome weapons.

Apparently, these troops are members of several participating federal agencies led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is said they were mobilized to Portland to quell attacks on a local federal building.

By the time this force arrived in Portland on 4 July, daily protests in Portland – begun in the wake of the murder of George Floyd - had dwindled to no more than a hundred or so demonstrators but the presence and violence of the federal forces have swelled their numbers again.

Beginning last weekend, the protesters were joined by “The Wall of Moms” - hundreds of local mothers in yellow shirts who stand in front of the protesters each evening to protect them from the federal troops.

Portland officials did not ask for these soldiers and have all but begged the acting DHS chief, Chad Wolf, to withdraw what is, essentially, an occupying army. Mayor Wheeler, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and both Oregon Senators have called for the troops to leave.

The attorney general of Oregon and the ACLU have each sued the federal government on Constitutional grounds.

As part of these attacks on American citizens by federal troops, Trump has taken to calling himself the “law and order president.”

His base loves their law-and-order and Trump is way behind in recent election polls so these street clashes, which appear to be provoked by the federal troops, will supply just kind of footage Trump wants for his campaign videos.

Public demonstrations are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. But if the armed federal troops Trump sends into cities can goad demonstrators and others into damaging federal buildings – graffiti seems to be enough cause for bodily harm to the protesters - he can make a plausible case that troops are defending federal property.

What I see is an insurgency of anonymous federal troops taking over the job of local police without being asked to do so and behaving like storm troopers. It feels to me like Portland is a dress rehearsal for more of the same and maybe worse in bigger cities.

Most of us who read this blog were around when the last law-and-order president ran for re-election in 1968. It was an ugly time in the United States then, it is uglier now (and I'm not even counting the pandemic).

There seems to be no way to stop Trump no matter what laws or norms he ignores. I am deeply worried for the safety of the demonstrators and not incidentally, for our democracy. Something terrible is happening in our country.

Are you following this? What's your take?


Darlene Costner: 1925 – 2020

Just short of two months ago in these pages, we celebrated Darlene Costner's 95th birthday. Today we mourn her. I received a note from her daughter, Gail, early Monday morning saying, “Mom is at peace now.”

DarleneCostner2016BFor many years, Darlene kept a blog, Darlene's Hodgepodge, in which she covered her many interests. One, politics, took a strong lead on her blog. With strong opinions, too. She was a smart, informed and passionate advocate of the left-leaning variety.

I don't remember when I first met Darlene. Actually, we never met in person. Undoubtedly, our blogs brought us together or, rather, I can't imagine how we would have otherwise found one another – she in Arizona and me in Maine at the time.

We were internet friends, that new kind of personal connection that our generation has learned in late life and that in some cases is no less close or important than if we were next-door neighbors. Darlene was one of those for me.

Another blogger Darlene kept in touch with is Jan Adams who blogs at Where is the Way Forward? Lucky Jan, she and Darlene met in person. But let her tell us:

JanAdamsDarleneCostnerB02_2013

"I only met Darlene Costner once; we connected via Ronni's blog. One day in 2013 when she was visiting her daughter in the Bay Area, we met for lunch in San Francisco's Japantown and happily chatted for several hours about the places around the world that we'd seen - and still wished to see.

"In her last years, travel wasn't possible for her, but she never lost interest in a wide world, sending along her internet discoveries to a far flung list of friends. I hope to retain a similar curiosity and openness to the new as I age further."

When age was catching up with Darlene and slowing her down, she stopped writing her blog, but for a long time after that, she was a prolific contributor of items for the Saturday Interesting Stuff post. I'm including one of those today because it so exemplifies her excellent eye and good taste.

It is a video from 2013, created by a student who used the screen name drivinman687. From the Youtube page:

”My final project I made for my video productions class Cutaway Productions at my high school. I don't own the rights to the song or the pictures and I am not trying to claim them, I just did this video for fun and i spent many a hour on it.”

And it is amazingly beautiful and seems most appropriate to Darlene:

So today let us celebrate the life of the indomitable Darlene Costner. As I said on her birthday post, she was my friend, my old age mentor and I cannot imagine my life all these years without her friendship, her wisdom and her sense of humor.

Farewell, Darlene.

LilacsDarlene


A TGB READER STORY: A Perspective on Time

By Melissa Hart

I’m sitting on my patio on a cool Arizona morning drinking my tea and observing my yard. The birds are active, lizards are scurrying about and the occasional rabbit gets under the fence or perhaps there’s a nest under the shed.

Some mornings I’m thinking about the details of the day ahead but today my mind wanders to deeper things.

I’ve watched the seasons go by from my spot on the patio. Birds come and go. Plants grow, get big and need to be trimmed. Nature continues on and it makes no difference if we’re here or not. It moves forward with no regard to our situation, our desires or our fears.

Time goes on.

We are currently stuck at home. Time passes - sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Some of us have family and friends nearby, some at a distance. Some of us have none at all. Some welcome alone time, some dread it.

This event is a fraction, a speck of our lives. Our lives are but a speck in history. Who will remember us? Have we made a difference? Will we make a difference? Will future humans look at our remains and relics and speculate about us?

Time is measured in eons. In geologic time, the continents move imperceptibly. Glaciers come and go. Earthquakes happen. Floods, fire. The land changes in the present as it has in the past.

The dinosaurs wandered the earth for millions of years. Did they ponder their existence? Then the earth changed and they were gone. The earth was different, but life continued.

We have changed the face of the earth, too, for growth and survival and also by ignorance and greed. We have fought nature, but nature eventually adapts and continues.

Time goes on.

In reality, the future is always uncertain, except for this: We are here. We grow old. We pass on to whoever or whatever our next stop is. If we are lucky we have known joy, contentment, love. We have made a difference to someone. We found meaning in our lives.

My hope is that humans will eventually coexist with each other and with nature. But the world will exist with or without us. The future is always there, whatever part we play in it.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Some Questions, Some Answers and Some Information

Last Friday's post about Questions produced a few queries I can actually answer. Let's start with the life-after-death thread readers carried forward.

SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCES
Gail asked,

”How do you feel when you read a posting like the one above? I’m rolling my eyes! I’m pretty sure you might not answer - and I understand.”

The “posting like the one above” Gail references is a story from Andrea Bonette about a supernatural experience of her father's. There was a mini-backlash from two or three other readers labeling Gail's comment rude.

I don't see it that way. She made her point and asked a question. Me? I've never experienced communication with a dead person and I don't spend a lot of time with events that cannot be proved.

The point of such stories, of course, is the hope that there is life after death, that we - our individual consciousness - survive in some recognizable form after we die. Generally, I don't believe that. Everyone else should believe whatever they like.

PSYLOCYBIN
Adie van der Veen asked,

”Do you think back to the time you took a psilocybin trip? It made such an impact on you, especially around your fear of death. Do the memories help? Would you consider taking another trip...?”

What my “magic mushroom” trip in December 2017 did was allow me to feel, to a degree I had never felt before, one with the universe. Recently, reading physicist Alan Lightman's Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, I realized his description of a transcendent experience describes my own better than I ever have – not literally, but certainly in spirit.

”After a few minutes, my world had dissolved into that star-littered sky. The boat disappeared. My body disappeared. And I found myself falling into infinity.”

“...I felt connected not only to the stars but to all of nature, and to the entire cosmos. I felt a merging with something far larger than myself, a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute.”

“...after my experience in that boat...I understood the powerful allure of the Absolutes – ethereal things that are all encompassing, unchangeable, eternal, sacred. At the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, I remained a scientist. I remained committed to the material world.”

Like Lightman, I do not dismiss the experience but I am also fiercely connected to the material world, the measurable and provable.

Would I do it again? Certainly. But it's unlikely to happen. Working with a guide is expensive and if the experience has faded a bit, it is not gone.

MY SON AND HIS FAMILY
dkzody asked,

”Ronni, you've not mentioned your son and grandson lately. Would love to hear how they are faring through the pandemic.”

For those who don't know, about two and a half years ago, as the result of a commercial DNA test, I was contacted by the son I gave up for adoption when I was 21 years old.

He, his wife and his six-year-old son live about a 45-minute drive from my home. We speak once a week and visit now and then. They are, like most of us, sheltering at home and are doing well. In fact, my grandson just learned how to ride a bicycle - no more training wheels.

ELDER MUSIC
Laurel asked, “Will Elder Music continue being posted on your site, or somewhere else?”

That Sunday column is written by Peter Tibbles, my friend who lives in Melbourne, Australia. After I die, the ten-plus years of his posts will remain available on this blog but new ones will not be added because – ahem - I won't be here to post them.

Peter is thinking over if he will start a blog of music columns and you, dear readers, will be the first to know what he decides.

THE ELDERBLOGGERS LIST
Both dkzody and Elaine of Kalilily asked me to update and post the Elderbloggers List. Here is the story on that:

The Elderbloggers List is a collection of many blogs not necessarily about ageing but which are written by old people. For many years, I updated it regularly – deleting those that had disappeared from the web and adding new ones as I discovered them.

The problem now (and for the past two or three years) is that an update takes two or three or more weeks of my time. Every current link (hundreds) must be checked to see if they still exist or are still active.

New ones must be checked for literacy, interest, frequency of publishing and to eliminate any that are commercial in nature. More time. Then all the coding to make it look good and be functional.

What has happened with my diseases, accelerating in the past six months or so, is that I tire easily even without putting out much effort. So nowadays, I have about eight hours a day to accomplish everything most people (and me in the past) do in a full 16-hour day.

And, three or four times a week, I seem to need a midday lie-down for an hour. More time gone. Plus, in addition to the few useful hours I have in a day, even less gets done because I'm slower now too.

So, the Elderbloggers List saw its last update in 2005, and so it shall remain. You will find the list here and there is always a link to it under the header, Features, in the right sidebar of every page of this blog.

WRITING AND MY NAME
Terri asked,

”I have one question. Prior to this blog did you ever write or edit in your career? I ask because you are such a good writer. Ok. I lied, maybe two. Is Veronica your birth name?

Yes, Veronica is my birth name but I have always been called Ronni. The only time my mother ever used my full first name was when I was in trouble.

Beginning in 1995, for three years I was the first managing editor of cbsnews.com. For 30-odd years before that I wrote for television news and interview programs and some documentaries which is a whole different thing from writing for print.

But writing words to be spoken by hosts and interviewers greatly improved my prose writing.

What I aim for, in addition to being as engaging as possible, is clarity and (except in certain fiction and poetry), I am intolerant of ambiguity. What I deliberately borrowed from writing for television is that the words and paragraphs sound good aloud. I always “listen” to what I'm writing and when I've done it well, people should be able to “hear” the words in their minds as they read.

If you want to improve your writing, read, read and read – good and bad. It's all useful. And that is the sum total of what I know about writing.


ELDER MUSIC: Ain’t it Funny…

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* * *

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.

* * *

You’d expect that songs that have funny in their titles would be, well, funny. Having collected these songs, it seems that that isn’t so (mostly). They’re good songs nonetheless, if a little on the depressing side of things. Let’s get to the funny songs.

Funny is certainly not the way to describe BILLIE HOLIDAY’s life.

Billie Holiday

She had a really hard life but in spite of that (or maybe because of it), she produced some of the most sublime music ever put on vinyl. He's Funny That Way was written by Neil Moret and Richard Whiting and it first appeared in the film “Gems of M-G-M” in 1929, sung by Marion Harris.

Since then it’s been tackled by many singers of both genders, changing He to She whenever appropriate. This is the way Billie does it.

♫ Billie Holiday - He's Funny That Way


In the early sixties, BURL IVES had a rather unexpected worldwide hit with the song, Little Bitty Tear.

Burl Ives

He followed that pretty much immediately with what to me was a follow-up song, trying to explain what had happened in the first one. A bit like someone trying to talk their way out of an embarrassing situation. I’ll let Burl try to explain that with Funny Way of Laughin'.

♫ Burl Ives - Funny Way Of Laughin'


My Funny Valentine was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It first appeared in the musical “Babes in Arms” sung by Mitzi Green to Ray Heatherton. Since that time, it’s usually sung by a male to a female, although, if you listen to the words, it makes more sense the original way.

However, you’re probably like me and have pretty much only heard male performers sing and play it, and my goodness, there are a lot of them. It’s certainly popular with jazz musicians, and here’s one of those, CHET BAKER.

Chet Baker

Chet was a fine trumpeter and terrific singer and he threw it all away on drugs. Before his decline this is the way he sounded.

♫ Chet Baker - My Funny Valentine


JESSE BELVIN could have been a contender, up there with Sam Cooke, but he was killed in a car accident in 1960.

Jesse Belvin

The accident was almost certainly orchestrated by the Klan or another white supremacist group as he was returning from the first integrated concert in Little Rock, where there were several death threats.

Coincidentally, Sam was at that one too, along with Jackie Wilson and others. Jesse sings Funny.

♫ Jesse Belvin - Funny


JOHN SEBASTIAN sings a rare happy song in our category today.

John Sebastian

The song She's Funny was from his album “Welcome Back” which was based around the song of the same name that became a big hit when it was used as a theme for the TV program “Welcome Back, Kotter”.

♫ John Sebastian - She's Funny


Funny (But I Still Love You) was an early single for RAY CHARLES.

Ray Charles

That was back in 1953 and was the flip side to his big hit, Mess Around. I image people were surprised when they flipped over the record as it’s a complete contrast to that one. Ray wrote the song and that guitar playing is by ace session guitarist, Mickey Baker.

♫ Ray Charles - Funny (But I Still Love You)


HELEN SHAPIRO was easily the finest female English singer of the sixties, maybe ever (excluding classical ones of course).

Helen Shapiro

Helen toured with The Beatles very early in their career. Actually, it was a matter of The Beatles toured with Helen, it was that early.

She was offered a song they had written but her manager refused it as he didn’t want her recording songs by unknowns who’d be forgotten in a couple of months. She would have been the first person other than themselves to record one of their songs. This isn’t one of them: It's so Funny I Could Cry.

♫ Helen Shapiro - It's so funny I could cry


Things Aren't Funny Anymore was MERLE HAGGARD’s 17th number one song on the country charts. He went on to have 38 of those.

Merle Haggard

Hag was the master of the tear-jerker songs, although not as blatantly as some others, and this is an excellent example of that genre of country music. Of course, there are some who’d say that’s all country music is, but I’m not one of those.

♫ Merle Haggard - Things Aren't Funny Anymore


It probably comes as no surprise that BOB DYLAN is present today.

Bob Dylan

What is a bit unusual is the song he sings: It's Funny to Everyone but Me. It was written by Jack Lawrence in 1939. The Ink Spots were the first to record it and Frank Sinatra followed soon after when he was still with the Harry James Orchestra. Also unusual is the way Bob turns himself into a crooner.

♫ Bob Dylan - It's Funny to Everyone but Me


Okay, just insert here my usual rave about what the record companies insisted on accompanying NAT KING COLE with, rather than his terrific trio.

Nat King Cole36

Good, I’ve got off my chest. Nat recorded and released Funny (Not Much) in 1952 and since then it’s been recorded by a bunch of people. However, I can’t imagine anyone surpassing Nat, even with that orchestra behind him.

♫ Nat King Cole Trio - Funny (Not Much)


Funny How Time Slips Away has become a classic, a standard, over the decades which isn’t surprising as it was written by Willie Nelson. The first time I heard it wasn’t by Willie, it was JIMMY ELLEDGE.

Jimmy Elledge

It was some years before I knew of Willie, but I obviously knew his songs – not just this one, but others by Patsy Cline, Faron Young and so on. I’ve found that the version you first hear tends to make a big impression and that is so with this song. I still prefer Jimmy’s.

♫ Jimmy Elledge - Funny How Time Slips Away


INTERESTING STUFF – 18 July 2020

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GEORGE WASHINGTON'S TEETH

Maybe like me, you've heard all your life that George Washington's false teeth were made of wood. Well, that would be wrong, according to this Atlas Obscura video.

The story is more complicated than that and I'll leave it to this curator from the New York Academy of Medicine to explain.

UPDATE ON ALEX TREBEK'S CANCER TREATMENT

You will recall that Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek has been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer for more than a year.

I've come to feel a kinship with anyone who lives with pancreatic cancer and anyway, who doesn't like Alex Trebek. Here's the update:

The book he mentions, a memoir, is titled The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life and will be published next Tuesday.

TEENS HEARING DOLLY PARTON FOR THE FIRST TIME

The reaction of these two kids listening to Dolly Parton singing Jolene for the first time apparently is a surprise – enough of one to get more than 1,700,000 views in just a month.

NEW ONLINE COLLECTION OF HISTORIC NEW YORK CITY MAPS

The Brooklyn Historical Society just published nearly 1500 maps of New York City – all its boroughs and Long Island - going back to the 17th century. The New York Times reports,

”The collection, which is sourced from the historical society’s archives, includes maps from 1562 to 2015 — including transit maps, topographical maps, cultural maps and nautical charts, as well as plans for Central Park and Prospect Park.

“The project, which required that damaged and fragile maps be repaired, took two and a half years. More maps will be added in the coming months, said Maggie Schreiner, the manager of archives and special collections at the historical society.”

LowerManhattan1854

You will find the online collection at the Brooklyn Historical Society website.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE ALERT

Heads up, folks. According to CNBC and others, President Donald Trump has told Senate Republicans that he will not sign a new virus stimulus package unless it includes a payroll tax cut. That means, of course, cuts to the Social Security and Medicare deductions.

"However, his past calls for going this route to help people during the continuing economic crisis have been met with opposition from both Republicans and Democrats...

"While it’s uncertain whether a payroll tax cut or suspension will make it into the next stimulus package out of Congress, or exactly how it would look, Trump has suggested in the past that the entire payroll tax should be suspended for the rest of the year."

Both programs already face shortfalls in the next few years and some experts say those shortfalls may happen even sooner due to the poor economy caused by the coronavirus.

You might want to let your senators and representative know how you feel about this potential cut. You can contact Senate members here. And you can contact your House member here.

More at Politico, at the Washington Post and elsewhere online.

SPOTTED IN LONDON, U.K

And offered without comment – sent by TGB reader John Starbuck.

AmericansAccompaniedBAdult

“A JABBA THE HUTT OF PRIVILEGE”

Can you guess who that headline is talking about. I lost track of how many people sent this item but even after a dozen readings, I keep going back – for its craft and its truth.

The writer is Nate White, described an “articulate and witty writer from England.” The story, titled British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I’ve Read, is published on the blog, journal of a grumpy old man. Here is an excerpt:

”Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

“There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t.”

Now go read the whole thing – it's not that long - you won't be sorry.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT RACISM

TGB reader, Mary Evans Young sent this video that is more than pertinent in our new era of Black Lives Matter. As Phil Vischer of Holy Post website explains on the YouTube page:

”Three years ago my brother Rob and I co-taught a class that discussed issues of racial injustice. That class turned into a popular podcast episode, which we've now turned into this video. Why are people still angry? Let's take a look at race in America...”

HOW CATS TOOK OVER THE INTERNET, OUR HOMES, OUR LIVES

I missed this when it appeared on The New Yorker website a couple of years ago.

* * *

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.


Questions, We Have Questions

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Sometimes in the comments on these pages, there are questions. I have always been too cavalier with them – answering some that seemed pertinent to enough readers to require a response and setting aside others to use as the basis for a blog post which I have done less frequently than I should have.

So today, I will answer two or three questions that came up in Wednesday's comments. Here is one from Lola:

”I'm curious about the 'presence' and wonder whether it is a physical sensation or a sort of 'knowing'. Like the inchoate not-quite-thought that becomes a poem.”

It's physical sensation, Lola. Until these pains began (I assume this applies to most people), I didn't notice my body much. It just did what I needed it to do and I didn't feel anything out of place unless a mosquito bite itched, I pulled a muscle or over-ate at Thanksgiving.

These “presences” are an awareness of various places on my torso, scattered front and back, an extremely mild ache - not something I would, in the past, pay attention to. But I've learned the hard way that they are precursors to the real pain they always become in an hour or so.

I now think of them as an early warning system: take the pain pills NOW before it gets worse. I still forget to notice now and then and suffer for it, but I'm getting better at responding to the presence.

Melinda Applegate left a long story in two parts in the comments – too long to summarize but you can read it here and here.

It is about Melinda's father, a piano player whose favorite song was The Entertainer, and the music box he owned that played the tune. A few days after he died, her mother was wakened at night by the sound of the music box that had not been played in years.

”I didn’t get much sleep that night,” Melinda writes, “as I was completely astonished by the story my mother had just told me. But I was also in awe of it and somehow comforted to know that my dad’s spirit, his energy, was still here before going onto another plane of existence.

“Several other unusual occurrences happened in the next few days and even later; one in particular that also involved the sudden playing of “The Entertainer” (this time on a jukebox)...

“All I know is that since the 'spiritual' visits by my dad to me and my mom, I strongly believe that somehow, in someway our existence continues after our physical body dies. There is another plane of or type of existence that is unexplainable to us as humans.”

Melinda then writes, “I sure wonder what you think about it.”

Well, Melinda, that, as they say, is above my pay grade. I've not had such an experience and as to whether our consciousness - our self - exists beyond the grave, it's not something I believe.

However, many people do believe and I'm perfectly happy to be proven wrong when I get there. (And no, I don't think you're loony.)

Another reader, Betty, also has a story of an encounter with dead loved ones. You can read that here. But she has a different kind of question:

”...how will we, your audience get along without you to lead the way. Will we carry on with our own stories or will this site die too. What do you want us to do and how do you want us to do it? Do others have this question?”

Arrangements are being made for this blog to remain just where it is online for at least five years after I've died. If anything is different, my friend Autumn, who is handling everything following my death, will let you know via this blog. So when she posts information, it will show up in your email subscription just as you receive it now.

I know we come to feel that others we read in the comments are our friends and in a way, that's real and true. I wish there were a way readers could safely contact one another but I've never sorted that out and I'm now running short of time.

If anyone knows of an online service that might facilitate that, do let me know – not in the comments, but via the “Contact” link at the top of the page.

Now it's your turn again. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I'll follow up with answers to those one day soon.


Good Days and Not So Good Days

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Back in May, I wrote a blog post about trying to settle into my end days in which I concluded: “I was so certain I had this end of life stuff under control. It's going to be awhile.”

No kidding. Sometimes I think I will get there only when I die.

Of course, I have no idea how to make peace with impending death. It's not like I took a class in school or that there is an instruction book. Well, actually, there is a lot of such advice written by counselors of various types. In general, it is bland or obvious or dependent on religious belief and most of all, it avoids the point which is this:

“Dear god, I won't be here anymore. How can that be?” It is the most sobering thought I can imagine - the world going on without me. How dare it.

The counselors mean well, but they haven't been here. They don't know. I have decided that it is like skydiving – you can read how it's done, watch all the videos and you still don't know how to overcome the fear until you jump out of an airplane yourself.

Everyone who has been or is in shoes similar to mine has had to work this out. Me? I muddle along not doing anything much differently than I did before they told me I am nearing my use-by date.

Writing for this blog along with preparing Peter's music columns and readers' stories are the central focus of my days. It's what I do, my job, and I have no less interest in it now than when I began although the focus has narrowed somewhat to more about my predicament.

That's the good part. Otherwise, I feel my energy level decreasing almost by the week. Following three days in a row of visits from several hospice workers, I spent a lot of the next day lying down, resting. One in-person visit a day is all I can do now, I think, and that will soon require a day off in between. Even too many telephone conversations tire me.

Also now, pain – or the anticipation of it – is my daily companion. Most mornings I wake with no pain and I consider it a good day when none appears within the next couple of hours.

Most days, I feel a “presence” here and there on my body sometime in the morning. I use over-the-counter pain medication which kicks in after an hour and I'm fine until late afternoon or evening.

But if I miss that “presence” and don't take the medication until the pain is banging at me – which happens now and then - it takes me to a dark place in my mind that is no fun at all and from which I can't climb out until I'm pain-free.

Then, fortunately, my short-term memory difficulty kicks in and I escape the black thoughts. (There are advantages, sometimes, to old-people problems.)

Once every 10 days or so, I go an entire day without pain. Those days are a joy. I forget the deadline I live under, I can move about with ease and in my now-limited, little world, I feel joyful just doing the everyday stuff of life. And laughing at the squirrels.

On those days, I know I can handle my predicament. I believe then I will be fine even without an instruction book and everything will be okay even if I don't come up with some answers for this last period of life.

And you know what else? I just figured out that there's no test at the end. No matter what, it's a win.


A TGB READER STORY: Just Pass Me By

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By Kathy Kaiser of AgingJournal.net

It’s tricky enough being an older person navigating a world that belongs to the young. But in this time of pandemic, it’s becomes even more problematic.

A few weeks ago, I was walking on a path near my home, when a group of children and their mothers were heading straight for me. When we saw each other, we all froze in place, unsure of what to do. Because the path had a ditch on either side, I couldn’t move off the path and keep our distance at the prescribed six feet or more.

Finally, I squeezed myself as close to the ditch as possible, and they silently walked by.

In normal times, they would have seen me smile, and I likely would have made some conversation like "How are you doing?" or "Beautiful day," but the mask prevented them from seeing that I was happy to encounter a bunch of children enjoying this spring day, and anything I said would have been muffled.

The situation felt awkward and after they passed me, I heard one little girl say: “Some people are just jerks.” Was she referring to me or someone else?

Since then, I’ve made it a point, when I encounter others on the path, of stepping off and loudly saying (through my mask) hello or waving. If they’ve stepped off the trail for me, I thank them loudly. Yet each encounter feels slightly tense, as if my presence requires some action on their part.

Or maybe they regard me, as an older person statistically more susceptible to the coronavirus, with some suspicion. Maybe I'm a reminder of the deadliness of this disease, as if they spotted the grim reaper coming down the trail.

Many writers on aging have noted that this pandemic is exacerbating ageism. As public health agencies warn that those most susceptible to COVID-19 are people over 60, we seniors are being lumped into a category of people who are helpless, weak and close to death (even as some 70-year-olds might be healthier than a sedentary 35-year-old).

More than ever before, I feel I'm the "other" — separate from the rest of humanity because of my age and vulnerability to disease.

I appreciate my fellow hikers and walkers who are considerate enough to give me a wide berth on the trail but I want nothing more than to go back to normal, to a time when an older woman hiking on a path was nothing to fear — or even notice.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


BLOG HOUSEKEEPING: Time Goes By and Facebook

After a period of requests from readers, I began publishing each day's Time Goes By blog post to Facebook. That was many years ago. Maybe more than 10. Now the time has come for Facebook and me to part company.

Before I go any further, let me say I have never been a fan of Facebook. Okay, I'll admit I never took the time to figure out how it works but really, should anyone need to? Shouldn't it be obvious?

On the rare occasion I look closely enough to see that people leave comments or ask a question, I have no idea how to reply. What's public, what isn't? Don't answer that – I don't need to know now.

And the advertising. The Time Goes By website/blog is purposely an advertising-free zone on the internet but I have no say about that on Facebook. And when on rare occasions I scroll down through the – um, is it called a feed? - some obnoxious ad turns up after about every third legitimate posting.

Also, there's something about website's herky-jerky character that I dislike. One person posts a selfie, half a dozen people respond with a heart emoji but don't write anything, then there is a rant about some politician or whatever else people have in mind to write, but nothing sustains on Facebook. It all feels ephemeral and, therefore, unimportant.

For years, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has blithely allowed anyone to attack or threaten or defame any other person(s), and defended that policy as free speech. I never thought that was a good enough answer and now, in a time of Black Lives Matter, it has become a serious problem.

Some are saying Black Lives Matter may be the biggest protest movement in the history of the United States. Even if that's not so, it's big enough and organized well enough now that it feels like real change – real change this time – just might happen.

And now, the advertiser boycott of Facebook, organized by the Stop Hate for Profit organization to rid Facebook of hate speech, may also be the biggest boycott in history having so far gathered more than 1,000 companies under its umbrella. Something is happening here, folks.

Last week, the results of a two-year audit commissioned by Facebook to assess its impact on the world were published. Reports Alex Hern in TheGuardian,

”The final report, which focuses primarily on decisions made since June 2019, praises Facebook’s move to ban American advertisers from using its tools for housing and employment discrimination, and the company’s belated decision to ban explicit support for white nationalism.

“But, the auditors say, many of the changes were offset by Facebook’s decision, beginning with a speech from Mark Zuckerberg last September, to 'elevate a selective view of free expression as Facebook’s most cherished value'”.

Further on in the final report, according to Hern,

“Specifically, we have grave concerns that the combination of the company’s decision to exempt politicians from fact-checking and the precedents set by its recent decisions on President Trump’s posts, leaves the door open for the platform to be used by other politicians to interfere with voting.”

Dear god, as if there were not already enough people trying to cheat or game the November election.

It was a long time ago but I like to think my participation in the 1960's civil rights and women's rights marches and the anti-Vietnam War protests along with the radio and later, television shows I produced with movement spokespersons helped a little.

Now it's time to step up again. I am too old and sick to march this time but I can stop supporting organizations that are not aligned with my values. So, Time Goes By's daily appearance on Facebook will end next Sunday – that is, as of Monday 20 July, no more Time Goes By posts on Facebook.

According to the latest numbers from June this year, Facebook has 2.6 billion users. My absence obviously doesn't matter a hoot but it leaves me believing I did the right thing.

For the 600 or so people who follow Time Goes By on Facebook and still want to read it, you can subscribe to email notifications of postings by going to the website, entering your email address under the “Subscribe” header in the right sidebar and clicking the word “subscribe.”

Of course, your email address is never used for any other purpose but to deliver TGB.


ELDER MUSIC: Songs about Cities: San Antonio and El Paso

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.

* * *

After searching for songs about certain cities I found that some didn’t have enough good ones, or even enough songs, to justify a column.

However, there were certain good songs that deserved an airing so I’ve decided to put two Texas cities together in the one column because they both had terrific songs about them. San Antonio has more variety than El Paso as it really only has the same song four times (and another one).

First, San Antonio.

Alamo

You could probably guess that BOB WILLS would be present.

Bob Wills

He wrote and recorded a song called San Antonio Rose, then some time later he updated it to New San Antonio Rose. The newer one is the better of the two and it’s what we have today.

♫ Bob Wills - New San Antonio Rose


DOUG SAHM deserves his place today, not just for a fine song, but he was born and bred in San Antonio.

Doug Sahm

Doug was a musical prodigy, playing several instruments before he even got to school. He also appeared on stage with Hank Williams when he was just 11 years old. This was Hank’s last concert.

If you’re not familiar with his name, he was the founder of the Sir Douglas Quintet and also the leading light of the Texas Tornados. As a solo artist he’s appeared with some of the finest Tex-Mex performers, including Freddy Fender, Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers and, dare I mention him in this company, Bob Dylan.

Doug performs (Is Anybody Going To) San Antone.

♫ Doug Sahm - (Is Anybody Going To) San Antone


Susanna Clark was the wife of Guy Clark and friend (or “friend”, who knows?) of Townes Van Zandt. She was an artist by trade, but dabbled in song writing. More than dabbled, she wrote some wonderful songs, including this one sung by EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmylou Harris

Emmy performed a few of her songs but the one we’re interested in today is I'll Be Your San Antone Rose.

♫ Emmylou Harris - I'll Be Your San Antone Rose


LOS LOBOS may be from East L.A. but their music covers the territory today.

Los Lobos

Their song is Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, which sort of means I leave you in San Antonio. My Spanish isn’t good enough (I took French at school) to determine if they’re coming back or not. As this is a song and not real life, I suspect not.

♫ Los Lobos - Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio


The HOT TEXAS SWING BAND takes its cues from Bob Wills, but they are a contemporary outfit. Asleep at the Wheel comes to mind when listening to them.

Hot Texas Swing Band

Like many fine Texas musicians, they are resident in Austin where they have regular gigs. They tour as well, of course. The membership seems to fluctuate between four and eight, depending on the circumstances.

Today, with quite a few of them by the sound of it, they perform Somewhere South of San Antone.

♫ Hot Texas Swing Band - Somewhere South Of San Antone


And El Paso…

Roses Cantina

I’ve been to El Paso, but I’m afraid it didn’t inspire me to return (sorry, readers from that city). The city did produce one of the greatest pop/country songs of all time though and you know what it is.

Before we go hard-core Marty Robbins, here is DON WALSER to kick off the El Paso section.

Don Walser1title=

Prepare yourself for some yodelling because it seems that cowboys must yodel. Don demonstrates that in El Paso Cowboy.

♫ Don Walser - El Paso Cowboy


Marty Robbins

I hope you like MARTY ROBBINS as much as I do as the rest of the songs are either by him, comments on his most famous song or both. I’ll start with the famous song, the one you expected to be present, El Paso.

This is a terrific song made extraordinary by Grady Martin’s guitar playing.

♫ Marty Robbins - El Paso


Marty Robbins

If you thought that song was long – it certainly was for the time it was released – then prepare yourself for the next one which is twice as long. It’s really the same song, only from the point of Feleena.

It’s called Feleena (From El Paso). It’s also sung by MARTY.

♫ Marty Robbins - Feleena (From El Paso)


Marty Robbins

But wait, there’s more. I hope you’re not tired of MARTY yet because we have another one of his. This time it’s a modern take on the same song, El Paso City.

♫ Marty Robbins - El Paso City


Tom Russell

I guess TOM RUSSELL is getting tired of all this because he’s Leaving El Paso. Naturally, he referenced Marty’s song as well.

♫ Tom Russell - Leaving El Paso

I nearly included Kinky Friedman’s Asshole from El Paso, then thought better of it.


INTERESTING STUFF – 11 July 2020

There are several very old videos in today's post. They qualify as Interesting Stuff to me but aside from cute kittycats which never get old, it feels like fewer items I come across are as clever or creative or interesting as some in the past. Maybe we have reached peak YouTube. Or maybe it's just a lull.

TEACHING A KID HOW TO TELL TIME

This is one of those old videos – I may have posted it in the distant past and if not, I've certainly seen it before and I had just as good a time watching it again this week as the first time.

The Irish comedian is David Allen, who died in 2005. If you enjoy this, there is a lot more of his comedy on YouTube. Thank TGB reader Mary Evans Young for sending this.

ACTION MOVIE KID

Another TGB reader, Joan McMullen sent this one. Apparently, this kid's father creates special effects for movies and he put together this video of his kid.

There is a whole series of Action Movie Kid videos at YouTube. Just search the name, “action movie kid” for more.

WEAR A MASK

The U.S. federal government has bungled the information on wearing masks so badly for so many months that there are now millions of people who refuse to wear them because hoax, according to the president, endangering every person they come into contact with.

The only tools we have against the coronavirus are masks, distancing and hand washing. If we can't do those three things, I believe we are doomed to millions of deaths.

Through a convoluted trail I cannot now retrace, I found this on the Facebook page of Janet Batchler. I'm pretty sure TGB readers don't need to be reminded to wear masks but I think you'll find this article interesting anyway. Do click over to read the whole thing - it's worth your time.

FARSIDE CARTOONIST GARY LARSON RETURNS

I'm pretty sure Gary Larson's weird and wonderful The Far Side was my all-time favorite cartoon and I have missed it ever since Larson retired in 1995.

But wait. After 25 years, it's back. In a personal essay about his return, Larson explains that it took a good while to make the transition from hand-drawn cartoons to digital. He writes,

“Believe me, this has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. (True, I don’t get out much.)

“But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there—a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run and sometimes coming up with 'Cow tools.'

“So here goes. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo, and I’ve got no deadlines. And—to borrow from Sherlock Holmes—the game is afoot.”

Respecting copyright, I'm not posting a cartoon today. You can go here to see the first three new ones. You can see a selection of original Far Side cartoons here, updated daily.

You can read some interviews with Larson about his return here and here and elsewhere around the web.

PIGEON IMPOSSIBLE

Here's another oldie video – an animation from 11 years ago when I may have posted it. It's still a goody.

About the story, the YouTube page tells us that a rookie secret agent is faced with a problem seldom covered in basic training: what to do when a curious pigeon gets trapped inside your multi-million dollar, government-issued nuclear briefcase. It was directed by Lucas Martell of Mighty Coconut.

JUST WHAT WE NEED - NOT

A case of bubonic plague turned up in China this week. CNN reports,

”Authorities in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia have closed several tourist spots after a case of bubonic plague was confirmed this week.

“The case was discovered in Bayannur, located northwest of the capital Beijing. Five nearby grassland scenic points have now been closed, with visitors "strictly prohibited from entering the affected area and visiting the surrounding region," according to state-run Xinhua news agency...

Doctors officially diagnosed the case as bubonic plague on Tuesday. The patient is being isolated and treated in hospital, and is in stable condition, Xinhua reported.”

You can read more at The New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC and elsewhere around the web.

TRUE FACTS ABOUT MACAQUES

More than once and probably more than twice, I have posted videos of local macaques basking in a Japanese warm spring pond in the middle of winter.

Now there is a new video from Zfrank (ncluding his um, colorful, jokes) with a whole lot of new-to-me good information about these interesting monkeys.

YOUR FEEL GOOD MOMENT FOR THE DAY

Like I said up front, there are a lot of repeats today, this one from my friend, John Brandt. As he put it in an email, “A gorgeous wedding gift from Russian lovers of American music.” And so it is – a wedding celebration in the middle of winter.

I'm pretty sure I posted this video a long, long time ago. Maybe in 2012 when it was first published at YouTube, and it feels even better now. Just forget all our troubles in the world for a few minutes and enjoy.

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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.


Me and Oregon's Death With Dignity Act and The Alex and Ronni Show

[See below for the latest Alex and Ronni Show in which we chatter on about cats, hospice, medical workers, the virus, New York subways, a little bit of Trump, New Yorkers' attitude. Early in the video I mention that if we had not divorced, we would now have been married 65 years. Uh, that would be 55 years. So much for my on-the-spot math skills.]

* * *

Death With Dignity Act (DWDA) is the formal name of the law that allows terminally ill Oregon adults to end their lives by administering to themselves a dose of lethal medication.

My doctors refer to this as Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) which I much prefer to the state's name.

On Wednesday this week, I spent 15 or 20 minutes with the physician who manages this program at the medical center where I have been treated for cancer and COPD for the past three years.

We had spoken at length some weeks ago, so I was familiar with the law, with the details of how it works and what happens when a patient takes the drug.

This time, the doctor went over the legal requirements again, asked me the formal, verbal questions the state requires, and then emailed an official form entitled, “Request for Medication To End My Life in a Humane and Dignified Manner.”

You can see that document online here (pdf).

For such a monumental decision, it's not much of a form. Just a few declarations on my part and the signatures of two witnesses.

None of this is new to me. I've written about MAID in general over the years in these pages. I've known since years before my cancer diagnosis that I prefer this way of death to lingering beyond the time when I can enjoy daily life and/or care for myself.

Still, when I printed out the form on Wednesday and read through it on not just an ephemeral screen of pixels but solid paper, I felt a mild chill on the back of my neck and down my spine. I got light-headed for a minute or so.

A goodly part of me says that it is one thing to die on the universe's time frame and quite another to choose one's own time. Some call that suicide and they are not wrong.

That charge, however, doesn't resonate with me. The facile response is, “Hey, it's my life” but many of the world's religions condemn suicide, and the restraints against it are ancient. They can't be ignored by any thinking person, even someone like me who at best is agnostic but much closer to atheist.

Which doesn't mean I don't take seriously the many admonitions against suicide from learned people through the millennia. For a large part of my life, suicide was so taboo in American culture that relatives often hid the truth when a family member took his or her life.

Life is precious and as I mentioned a few days ago, I am so sad to be leaving Earth. But I am also a realist and I have made this choice. I expect to be comfortable with it when the time comes, but nothing says I can't change my mind if it comes to that.

In October 2018, when I had just been told there was no more useful treatment for my cancer, I wrote this about being terminally ill:

”For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about dying. When I have explained myself through the years, I've said that I want to be awake, lucid, not drugged or in pain because I want to experience the event of dying as clearly as possible. It is the last great mystery of life and I don't want to miss it.”

But now a monkey wrench has been thrown into the plan. If/when I use the MAID drugs, I will go into a coma within a few minutes. It is unlikely in that state that I will experience dying in the way I anticipated. Damn.

Roseanne Roseannadanna was right, “It's always something.”

* * *

Here's this week's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.

You can check out Alex's online talk show here.


Meltdown Monday

I felt it building and then it hit me hard. Suddenly I couldn't think straight, my mind skipping from one unfinished thought to the next, to the next, to the next and me unable to stop them or even make sense of them.

At the same time I knew I was out of control but I didn't know how to calm down and articulate what was wrong. It felt too complicated to explain and the words wouldn't come. All I knew for sure was that I wanted it all to stop and the problem to be made right.

In the three years since my first diagnosis, I had never reacted to anything this badly. You say I've got pancreatic cancer? Oh good, I can stop my despised daily workout routine.

You say I might live longer if you slice me open all the way down the front of my body and take out a bunch of my organs? Well, okay, let's try it.

Now you say I've got COPD too? Oh, for god's sake. Well, tell me how to deal with it and let's move on.

It's not that I took any of these events anywhere near lightly – only that I am good at identifying what cannot be changed, sorting out options and getting on with the more interesting parts of life.

But not this time, and for something that should have been so much simpler than those real-life examples above.

There I was at the table in my dining room mid-morning on Monday, full of frustration, salty tears running down my face while stuttering out unrelated words and phrases to my hospice nurse on the other side of the table.

I will spare you the most boring details and just say that the discount on the gigantic co-pay for a drug I need and cannot otherwise afford, is expiring in August. I was able to get the discount a year ago due to the kind intervention of a pharmacist.

When, on Monday, my nurse called the pharmacy to discuss renewal of the discount, the person on the telephone insisted that the pharmacy had taken no part in the original arrangement for the discount, that it could have happened only if I had personally spoken with my Medicare Part D provider.

That's just not true. I was there. I know what happened.

My nurse's further call to a physician only complicated the issue and nothing was resolved.

Now that I'm back to my normal, uncrazed self, I think I know what really set off my meltdown. It was the lie from the person at the pharmacy, a lie she repeated at least once and maybe twice, word for word. The certainty in her voice was infuriating and unnerving. (Remind you of anyone?)

When you know for sure, when you can see with your own eyes that the sky is blue and someone insists it is red, your mind can splinter. Or go numb. Or, if you are an old woman like me who needs a specific drug to breathe, you just lose it. Or, at least, I did.

There was a time – for most of my adult life - when I had a talent for sorting out malfunctions, getting past petty bureaucrats and charming intransigent helpers into fixing a problem. I took some pride in being able to do those things.

Now I'm old. I'm tired. Sometimes my body hurts in various places. I lack the patience I once had for cajoling people into doing what they are paid to do. And after my Monday meltdown, I lost the rest of the day, exhausted from the frustration and the anxiety.

Eventually this will work out but there is a larger issue: it's not nice to treat an old woman this way, and I don't mean just me. I'm not unique – if it happens to me, it happens to thousands of other people. It shouldn't be this hard to talk over a prescription problem and track down the right person to help deal with it.

And many of all those other people stuck in a communication snakepit don't have a nurse as dedicated as mine.

UPDATE: Monday afternoon, that nurse spent two hours of her own time on many phone calls tracking down someone who understood the problem and could deal with it. She phoned me Monday evening to let me know that I should hear within three days whether I have been approved for a continued discount.

At 9AM Tuesday, I received the approval via a telephone message from the Part D insurer. My relief knows no bounds and I am deeply impressed with my nurse on several levels. The terrible thing is that in our new coronavirus world I cannot hug her.