Patrick
Kennedy
 

Patrick M. Kennedy (P Manvel Kennedy) has been a professional writer, editor, and graphic artist for over 30 years. He is the author of two books: How to Have Fun with Retirement and his latest book Being a Senior Citizen: You rnew phase of life with many questions looking for answers. He currently works from Boise, Idaho. In the past he has worked from Seattle, Indianapolis, and Las Vegas. He keeps busy because he knows it is important when writing or editing any material with a particular objective in mind, for either personal use or business goals, to present ideas with quality, clarity and accuracy. He can do that, and he does most of it himself, but he occasionally must call upon qualified associates for assistance.

"My Resume shows me as an experienced professional writer and editor who specializes in the English language. With years of professional experience in the writing/editing/graphics field, I offer quality services to both individual and business clients, with prompt and accurate solutions designed to meet their needs, and online editing services and writing services for easy and quick results. www.abetterword.com

The Aging Battle (The Immortality Dream)
All Grown-up Now?
Asset or Liability?
Bad-Hair Days
Bam, Bang, Hiss, Sizzle
Boredom Be Gone (Or: Getting that Peppy-Step Back)
Changes to Senior Society (Or: The Invasion of Technocrats)
Collectors
Cool (Or: Some things get better with age.)
Dark Chocolate
Deeper in Debt Or: A New Year, New Goals
Deja Vu Driving (Haunting Habits Happen)
Dressing Down
Eating Smart
The Enemies I Buy
The 5th of July
Fun and Funny Or: Grow that Smile
Happy Talk Or: The Future Can Be Better
Help Wanted
Hunting the Elusive Hobby
I Hate Work
Is FREE a Fixed Price – Or a Down Payment?
I Got the Blues, sings Buddy Guy! (If you do, get over it)
Just Around the Corner (Or: Spring will spring soon)
Life is good
My Gastronomic Chemistry Set (The Battle for the Body)
A New Decade (Or: Y2K Survivors)
Oh No, Not Again! (Or: Brush the dust off that resume)
Old Friends (Or: Remember When?)
One Brain at a Time
Pals from the Past (Or: The Good Old Days)
Paradise
Past – Present – Future
Pets as a Lifesaver (Or: A Second Heartbeat)
Picture This
Seasoned Seniors (Or: Seniors weather the weather)
A Second Heartbeat (Or a Cuddle Buddy)
Senior Citizens as Veterans
Seniors already have Health Laws (Or: The dos and don’ts of living well)
Seniors and Arts and Crafts
Seniors and Spirits
Seniors Can Live Forever (Or: At least a little longer)
Seniors’ Dreams (Or: Dreams Don’t Stop at Any Age)
Seniors Hunting for That Hobby
A Senior’s Rights
Seniors with Seniors
Single Senior Show (Or: Dinner after the Wallflower Parade)
So, Get Over the Blues
Solitaire (Or: One Card at a Time)
Speed (Or: The Rate of Living)
Start Your Own Business
Summer Dreams (Or: Close your eyes to get there)
Thanks for the Memories Or: Today is the Future
When I’m Retired (The perfect plan for everyone)
Words of Wisdom (Or: Those famous last words)
Yard Sales Inch by Inch
Your health, your problem (Or: physical, mental, and social well-being)
Your Inner Magnet System (Or: Your Common Sense)
Zen vs. Nap

Thanks for the Memories Or: Today is the Future


Some of you enlisted, some were drafted, and some stood on the shoreline or at the airport greeting and saying goodbye as they left for peril lands or returned from life-risking experiences. Memorial by definition is something serving to preserve remembrance, a commemorative of or relating to memory. A memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms. Memorial Day is all these things and it is dedicated to the Veterans.

Many people observe Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, by visiting cemeteries and memorials and laying flowers on stone markers, and raising their eyes to heaven. Another tradition is to hoist the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at National Cemeteries.

For many Americans, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in cities all over the country. Most feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with young and old veterans and military vehicles from various wars.

‘Thanks for the Memory’, sang the super NCO trouper Bob Hope as he visited troops around the world for many years. He could sing that today and it would still be fresh and new.

For others, Veterans Memorial Day is like Thanksgiving Day. Thanks for the GI Bill that allowed me to get a decent education and thus a decent job when I returned from duty. Thanks for the Veterans Loan to help me purchase a house for me and my family. And thanks for the VA Medical for allowing me to proceed day by day in a healthy manner. Thanks for the Retirement Home that allows me to live my ending years in comfort. Thanks for all the friends I met from around the country from different states and cities. And thanks for funding my travel to cities and countries around the world I never would have seen otherwise.

Ah, but don’t forget the other side of Memorial Day … summer. Because Memorial Day is generally associated with the start of this warm and generally happy season, it is common tradition to inaugurate the outdoor cooking season on Memorial Day with a barbecue with all your friends attending in your backyard. It’s the season for vacations, and hiking, and camping out; softball games in the park; bike riding on the trails and along the river; jogging for health as well as pleasure; and just walking with or without your dog.

“Memories, important yesterdays, were once todays, treasure and notice today,” said Gloria Gaither a songwriter and author. Yes, today and this summer will be tomorrow’s memories, and it is important to live them well and happy. “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,” said Abe Lincoln, and I guess he was telling us to live life to its fullest, and if he were around at this time, he would probably say, have a great and happy summer.

So it can be seen, that you, as a senior citizen who is also a veteran or veteran supporter, have a wealth of benefits that should not be ignored. Everything helps in today’s environment and your senior-citizenship and maybe non-working status can be a positive. Don’t let today slide by without notice in the future. Today is the future.

Boredom Be Gone (Or: Getting that Peppy-Step Back)


Oh, thank you, those winter months are safely behind us and it is time to live comfortably again: Time to throw away that blasé mask that looks like Grumpy the dwarf. Is boredom contagious like the winter flu or the common cold? It happens to all of us at one time or another. When someone sitting next to us sneezes, we immediately assume cold germs are soaring through the air and will soon grab hold of us with our health protectors down and it will infect us. On the same hand, when someone yawns, another person seems to catch it and yawns too. It happens at the local cafe and even sometimes on Sunday in church. It is transmittable and is a sure sign of boredom, if not a sleepy disposition. Can it be catchy like a cold? Is winter to blame? And if so, what is the remedy?

Generally, boredom is an emotional state experienced when a senior citizen is without any activity or is not interested in his/her surroundings: tedium, ennui and world weariness come to mind. Some seniors think they have lived and seen it all and nothing will change. Boredom has been defined by C. D. Fisher in terms of its central psychological processes as an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity. And for many senior citizens that activity, or lack of it, is called retirement.

I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don’t have to stay that way, said Hedy Lamarr an actress from the early 20th century. So boredom had been around a while. Even the poet Dylan Thomas had an opinion on the subject. He said, -- He who seeks rest finds boredom. He who seeks work finds rest. So there is a solution to this contagious malady. But as might be suspected, each case of boredom has its own grounds for becoming a problem, and its own solution for activities that will create non-boredom, if there is such a word.

Of course, the opposite of boredom is excitement, diversion, and amusement. And this brings the coming spring season into mind. The sun shines more, and ideas for things to do in the warmth are arising with the morning mist. When we were kids, stuff like kick the can, hide and seek, marbles, and riding a bike as fast as you can were automatic distractions. Not any more. Other possible and doable passions must take their place. Here’s where imagination replaces boredom, that is, the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. Wow! That is a mouthful, head full, of stuff. It also incites the creative ability to confront and deal with a problem, resourcefulness … something needed in a boring lifestyle.

How about keeping it simple and doing the things you did last spring and summer: Walking a lot, window shopping, going to movies and dinners, biking if you can, and talking to other people: Or golfing or bowling again, or more, and participating in other games; poker, bridge, bingo, or even the incoming carnival, or, volunteering some of that idle time to a local charity.

Other people in your life help separate boredom from everyday life. Meeting people at different places replaces boredom. Maybe they have ideas for what to do to keep active and getting that peppy-step back. The saying ‘Just Do It’ comes to mind and the activity of burying boredom in the winter snow is non-boring in itself. As someone, probably many people, said, I don’t even talk about it boy I just do it. That’s the fun in it.

Pals from the Past (Or: The Good Old Days)


Oh, the internet is fun and helps you keep in touch with those people who were an important part of your life in the good old days … I did this, you did that, how does it feel, are you better now, how is the family I have never met, here’s my picture and do I look the same, are questions and info that passes the cyberspace test and is sent and received. But good weather is almost here and a trip for a good-old hand shake and a hug from on old friends is much much better. It makes it real and the face to face and eye to eye get-together rings chimes in the memory brain. A hug is like a boomerang - you get it back right away said Bill Keane the cartoonist of Family Circus.

A pal is defined as a close friend, or a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another: or amigo, chum, buddy, crony, or confidant. This is the opposite if enemy or foe, which may have existed at some time, but is all forgotten now. It also could be defined as a person who carries your past life into your present life. It’s called reminiscing. That is stories of the good times, once in a while the bad times, and common pals you haven’t seen for years. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend said Albert Camus. And that couldn’t truer than when in a meeting of the pals.

And a reunion, a get-together, with an old pal always evolves into the rapping session someplace over a few beers or cups of coffee. ‘Remember when we …’, ‘remember the time we went skinny dippin in the lake and got caught with our pants down … literally’. Good stories and they take us back and make us get stuck in the younger years. ‘By the way, where is so-and-so now? I haven’t heard from him or about him for years. Has anyone?’ This is a question that always comes up when jaunting down memory lane: The missing person … the guy or gal who was always way-out-there and uncontrollable within the social standards assumed by the gang. Will Rogers said, Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.

There is no better feeling of elation than sitting next to an old pal, now a present pal, over a couple of drinks and looking into each other’s eyes and exchanging thoughts and stories and laughs and the sorrows of bad memories. There is nothing that makes the heart pound with new life like that, and nothing like the rush of joy rushing through the body than these times. An old friend at your side is like a battery jump-start to a life. Everything is working again, and the headlights are on and the future looks bright once more.

Just Around the Corner (Or: Spring will spring soon)


Spring in approaching and is just around that far corner just past winter. There are so many things to look forward to; like more sun, attractive gardens, no snow, maybe rain but just for a while, and all those activities that keep the muscles and joints from freezing up in sore knots. “Behold my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love,” … so said that early philosopher and Native American Chief, Sitting Bull.

Warm weather comes and some seniors opt to sit around and play cards … not you … you won’t. Some may want to learn how to get wet and catch fish and become involved in all the rituals and debasing situations it puts them in. ‘Why do it?’ you have asked, but half the fun of fishing is just relaxing outside on or near the water. Of course, the other half is maybe catching a fish to fry. If you haven’t done it before, special techniques must be learned, like, tying the fisherman’s knot, and how to bait a hook is an important thing to learn. They say, once you get past the slime and wriggling, the tricky part of baiting a hook is getting the worm to stay on. Good Luck!

Bike riding is a day trip or a few skirts around the block, and a fun-filled and healthy exercise. The air wafting through your hair or across your bare head, or helmet, as the case and local law may be, and the drone of bike wheels as you coax your old-bone legs for more speed and extra hill power. Your gloved hands tightly welded to the handle bars as you wriggle from here to there. The feeling and fear you sense in the self-survival control of your muscles and an unknown destination. It’s the best of times. But, oh yes, there are some knee-scrapping no-nos that should be aired out at the beginning, especially if you ride in a city.

Then you look in the closet and see that pair of tennis shoes that haven’t been smelled up since summer. Remember that old Nancy Sinatra song – ‘These shoes are made for walkin’ ... or was that boots? Anyway, starting with a stroll around the block, the park, or along the river trail is a way to start. Then it gets faster each day. And then it becomes a challenge to make the route faster as it becomes almost a healthy feeling instead of a pain in the upper legs.

But be warned, after months of freezing and near-freezing temperatures, when the first warm days hit, if you’ve been a couch potato all winter long, you may need to start spring fun slowly to prevent injuries, say fitness experts. Injuries during spring exercise occur because of the inactive way of life you lived during the winter. Warm weather hits and you want to hit the outside. You set yourself up for a world of hurt because your muscles are not equipped to handle the new motions you are putting them through. It is extremely important to develop flexibility ideally throughout your entire body, but specifically for your lower body. Warming up and cooling down before and after exercise is so important. A priority should be stretching, before and after whatever you are doing. Muscles which were not active during the winter need to be stretched so that there is less of a chance for an inconvenient injury.

But remember one thing; don’t get carried away with spring’s charms and attractions. Remember the sound advice from Redd Foxx, “Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”

Deeper in Debt Or: A New Year, New Goals


It’s a new year and a lot has changed, “Another day older, and deeper in debt,” many of you remember “loading 16 tons and what do you get?” It’s an old song by Tennessee Ernie Ford that springs to life in reality these days. As the hardball-economy smashes bank accounts and dreams with flim-flam excuses and elaborate pie and bar charts that say nothing, many seniors are on the edge, or even over it. “I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store.”

Your income, whatever it is, stagnates, and the savings shrink and shrink daily as the bills and food costs get higher and higher. “Some people say a man is made out of mud”, and many seniors feel that way these days. But the real muscle and blood must be fed meals every day and there has to be a way to serve it.

Do you remember the days when you were a kid and on Saturday mornings you went to the garage and gathered all the beer bottles your parents drained during the week? You hauled them down to the corner store and turned them in for 1-cent apiece and collected enough to go to the Saturday matinee movie. Do you recall getting up early in the morning, or after school, every day to deliver papers so you could buy a bike? That was called initiative and resourceful thinking. If you could do it then, you can do it now, only a little different because you can’t get 1-cent for bottles anymore because they are all disposable, and the energy might not be there to deliver papers.

These days it’s called the pursuit of extra income, or short-term spending cash … pocket change … or in many cases plain survival. It will take some time, effort, and persistence. There is no easy way out or way to get rich quick, and if anyone tells you differently, they are most likely pulling your leg.

You must start with a plan, an idea, or how to go about getting this extra cash for the coming year. One way is to make your hobby an income. Do you knit? You can make sweaters and scarves you can sell. Do you paint or do water color prints? Do you build airplane or car models, or wooden bird houses? But how do you turn these items into money? The flea market business is great opportunity to make some extra money. They are all over the place; you just have to search your local area. That’s where the internet comes in. If you have items to sell at a flea market it is fairly easy and the initial investment doesn’t have to be a lot.

Or, on the other side of the coin, for those who can remember back that far, there is the doo-wop song by the Silhouettes in 1957 “Sha Na Na Na, Get a job”. That is a horrible thought to most retired seniors, but may be a necessity in this time of lower incomes and higher prices. There are areas to pursue. Baby sitting or being a tutor to kids, pet sitter or dog walker, mowing lawns or doing landscaping, cleaning houses or being a general handyman/woman, or even house sitting while your friends/neighbors are out of town, or, getting back to the internet, maybe selling some of that stuff/junk in the garage or attic on eBay may get a few coins. That’s not exactly a job but it will be work.

Try to be positive about it all and use your imagination. “Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction,” said Anne Frank. And, fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, work pays off that debt.

©2012, Patrick Kennedy

Dark Chocolate


It’s wonderful news. Recent studies have shown dark chocolate and cocoa may be good for your heart. Thanks to the wonderful scientists and doctors I can now eat chocolate covered raisins for twice the benefits; which are fat and cholesterol free, naturally low in sodium and packed with antioxidant protection for heart and colon health. In short-term clinical trials, dark chocolate has reduced blood pressure, improved blood flow, shown mild anti-clotting effects, and even may help prevent plaque formation in arteries.

It’s more than wishful thinking — chocolate can be good for you. These studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improve the all-important senior’s concern, cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. That’s because chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients.

Most of the studies to date highlight dark chocolate’s health values because it has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more antioxidants, which are also healthy for you. Dark chocolate and cocoa are rich in these cell-protecting antioxidants, that is, the natural compounds found in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. Scientists are saying antioxidants help prevent cardiovascular disease and premature aging and cancer. What? No more wrinkles? Is dark chocolate like a miracle drug or what?

But, if that is the case that grains are good for you, what about beer? Play close attention, then, all you beer lovers. It is now a proven fact that beer – yes, beer – can provide the same health benefits as wine; which upon close examination is made purely from grapes, water and yeast. Grapes are a fine source of sugars, fiber and chromium, but few of those things survive the fermentation and filtering process. No more sip after sip on the rim of a stemmed wineglass.

No matter what type of ale you prefer, studies show that drinking beer in moderation, up to two schooner glasses a day for us guys, can and will reduce the chances of strokes, as well as heart and vascular disease. Beer, as opposed to wine, is made from grains, water and yeast. Grains commonly used are barley and wheat, with cheaper mass-produced beers relying on corn and rice, both of which are loaded with a variety of vitamins that survive the fermentation and filtering process. And the vitamin value of the yeast is conserved in the hundreds of unfiltered beers that are on the market; both from the tap and in bottles with any shape or color or label.

In spite of their name, here is must be noted that beer nuts contain no beer. The name is intended to suggest to customers that they go well with beer. Many believe that Beer Nuts, with their high salt content, encourage people to order more beer in bars, which might not be all bad health-wise but not driving-wise.

Of course, beyond dark chocolate, there are some other healthy foods to eat, like: sweet potatoes (not too bad), mangos, unsweetened yogurt, broccoli, wild salmon, whole grain rye crackers (good with beer?), garbanzo beans, watermelon, squash and leafy greens. There is a whole list of bad things to eat and they are probably everything you really like.

There it is; dark chocolate wins hands down as the best tasting good food for senior citizens. To keep it all in perspective we shouldn’t listen to Mark Twain, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” I think Mark was talking about someone else than us modern mind-set senior citizens.

Speed (Or: The Rate of Living)


One thing about being a senior citizen is that you don’t have to get there fast. Unnecessary speed is not mandatory. You can get there on time, but you can just leave a little earlier. That guy honking his horn behind you in the big 4-door pick-up truck, and giving you the international sign for frustration and contempt, is probably late for work and he doesn’t understand the relaxed attitude you carry around like a gold medal. You earned it doing what he is doing for many years. Now, it’s over.

You don’t want to make the other drivers mad, really. You just want to casually enjoy what you have earned. You have been in that truck and have the ulcers to prove it. Speed is the act or state of moving swiftly, a rate of motion, or the more technical observance, the magnitude of a velocity irrespective of direction. But you have a direction, and it is from here to there, when you want to. “There is more to life than increasing its speed,” Mahatma Gandhi.

The rate of living for senior citizens is a self-directed motion or attitude that belies the norm of the working class, or in other words, your former life. “Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last. Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy,” sang Simon and Garfunkel. They had the right attitude years ago, and so did you, what happened? I guess the whole answer is that you have to become young again, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But then again, speed is not all bad. Ask your heart, you will always want to keep it up to speed. You’ve heard it all before: exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep, and don’t get it broken by another person, but that’s another story. Your heart will dictate not only how long you can have a good time, but at what level. You’ll want to go to the baseball or football game and cheer loud for the home team and ruthless toward the visitors. You don’t want to sit there like a wimp and wave your little pennant. You want to be up to speed with those around you and high-five the good plays. You’ll want to sit around and enjoy a roaring laugh with your friends at the local bar or salon without coughing up the morning’s breakfast.

Pace is the key here, which is, the rate of movement or an established rate of locomotion and progress, or in other words; amble, meander, ramble, stroll, and wander if you want to for seniors. And retired senior citizens should always think of going slower than those others. It will make the fun last longer. Don’t be afraid to say it to your friends, “Slow Down!”

A regular routine can be a part of the pace: same place, same time, and same thing. It sorta sounds like the work world, but this is formulated around fun and leisure and not the ruts of work: Meeting your friends for a few laughs at the same time and place; Buying that cup of coffee and newspaper at the café; Exchanging jokes by e-mail instead of ASAP work junk; Or, just doing nothing at the speed of turtles. Ah, that’s it. That truck driver doesn’t know what a good life he will have in a few years.

Senior Citizens as Veterans


Being a senior citizen who also is a veteran of the military, there are many benefits from health to retirement living that you should be aware of, and be taking the benefit of them. There things like Elder Care, Home Loans at reduced rates, downpayments and closing costs, the GI Bill for education as well as Vocational Training, Life Insurance, and even Burial Benefits. Seniors as Veterans have rights beyond normal life-bound limitations because they have earned them through the higher education of being there experiences, and they have the scars and darn wrinkles to prove it. Let us examine the core of the aging problem for veterans and what can help.

Most veterans are not aware of the eldercare benefits available through veterans’ health care, through state veterans’ homes, through home renovation grants (HISA Grants), or for two disability income programs called Compensation and Pension. One particular program called Veterans Pension, or more commonly known as the ‘Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit,’ can provide money to pay for home care for veterans. Aid and attendance can also be used to pay for assisted living for a veteran or the veteran’s spouse and for nursing home care for a veteran or the veteran’s spouse.

What is the ‘Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?’ Aid and attendance is a commonly used term for a little-known veterans’ disability income.

Veterans Nursing Homes are generally available to active duty veterans, but some states have beds for people who served with the reserves or National Guard and the spouses of veterans. The majority of these homes offer nursing care, but some may offer assisted living or domiciliary care. Generally there is no income or asset test. Most veterans in most states would qualify. Many states have waiting lists of weeks to months for available beds. Each facility has different eligibility rules and there is an application process. You cannot simply walk in the door and arrange for nursing care on the spot. You must contact the veterans home you are interested in to find out the availability of beds and the application process.

You can get up to $1,949 a month from the Department of Veterans Affairs if you are a veteran who served on active duty during World War II or the Korean Conflict or the Vietnam War. This extra income can be used to pay for home care or assisted living or nursing home care. For more information about a consultant in your area, you can go to this link on the Internet: www.longtermcarelink.net/ref_state_veterans_va_nursing_homes.htm

Home Loans, are you eligible for these? Veterans, active duty personnel, certain reservists and National Guard members, surviving spouses of persons who die on active duty or die as a result of service-connected disabilities, and certain spouses of active duty personnel who are missing in action, captured in the line of duty by a hostile force, or forcibly detained by a foreign government or power, are eligible.

How does this work, you may ask? Well, you get your loan from a private lender, usually your bank, and the VA ‘stands behind’ the loan with that lender. If something goes wrong and you can’t make the payments anymore, the lending institution can come to the VA to cover any losses that might incur. The VA loan guaranty is this ‘insurance’ that the VA provides to the lender. You won’t need mortgage insurance. Most loans are handled entirely by lenders. And more, you don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer; you can reuse the benefit, and VA-backed loans are assumable, as long as the person assuming the loan qualifies. For more information go to: www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/lp.asp

Then there is the GI Bill, now called the Post 9/11 GI-Bill, which provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It will pay your tuition based upon the highest in-state tuition charged by a public educational institution in the state where the school is located. The amount of support that you may qualify for depends on where you live and what type of degree you are pursuing. For further information you can go to: www.gibill.va.gov/post-911/post-911-gi-bill-summary/

Now, along with the GI-Bill, what are these Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment VetSuccess Benefits? The VetSuccess program assists veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For you veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that you cannot immediately consider work, VetSuccess offers services to improve your ability to live as independently as possible. This program includes; comprehensive rehabilitation evaluation to determine abilities, skills, and interests for employment; vocational counseling and rehabilitation planning for employment services; employment services such as job-training, job-seeking skills, resume development, other work readiness assistance, and much more. For more information go to: www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/index.htm

For your veterans Life Insurance there many options, too many to go into here: Insurance coverage such as SGLI, VGLI, Family SGLI, and SGLI Traumatic Injury Protection. So go to for definitions and help and enrollment: www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/default.htm

Then there are VA Burial Allowances. VA burial allowances are partial reimbursements of an eligible veteran's burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments: a burial and funeral expense allowance, and a plot or interment allowance. You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if you paid for a veteran's burial or funeral, and you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran's employer, and the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Again, there is more information available at: www.vba.va.gov/VBA/benefits/factsheets/burials/Burialeg_0508.doc

So it can be seen, that you, as a senior citizen who is also a veteran, have a wealth of benefits that should not be ignored. Everything helps in today’s environment, and your senior-citizen and maybe non-working status.

One Brain at a Time


My memory banks to the left/right. For starters, memory, and not to be confused with a memory chip, is the human’s control or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained, especially through associative mechanisms; that is, the store of things learned and retained from an individual’s activity or experience, and seniors have a lot of these, as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition. For seniors, these last parts, recall and recognition, are sometimes the deal killers. To sum it up George Burns said, “By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.”

To make is more complicated, the left and right brain functions are responsible for differences in seniors and the way we process information. Whether we use the left brain and right brain together or have a dominant half explains a great deal about how you learn and express yourself. Although many believe artists are right-brained, this isn't always the case. For example, some artists plot out their painting long before the first brush stroke, which indicates left-brained planning. This then indicates that the right brain is the non-planning culprit that makes most seniors they way they are … unpredictable, temperamental, or to some, just plain flaky.

Oh, you can be tested to determine which side of the plate you think from. But when it comes down to it, you R what you R, and not much can change that at this stage of the game. We are already ‘chuck full’ of learning. “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late,” said the wise old Benjamin Franklin.

We all know that we do have only one brain, but the scientists say it’s got various ‘bits’. The part of the brain that controls rational functions, the cerebral cortex, is made up of two halves. These are connected by billions of nerve fibers that allow ‘messages’ to be shot between them. These halves, for simplicity, have been named the right brain and left brain, but should more correctly be termed ‘hemispheres’. For some reason, our right and left hemispheres control the ‘opposite’ sides of our bodies, so the right hemisphere controls our left side while the left hemisphere controls the right side. Huh! No wonder seniors are seen staggering down the street. It’s not the booze; it’s the battling hemispheres in the ole bean.

So, which is better? Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as more creative, there is no right or wrong; it’s merely two different ways of thinking. One is not better than the other, just as being right-handed is not superior to being left-handed. What is important is to be aware that there are different ways of thinking, knowing what your natural preference is, and if it’s strongly verbal (left brain) rather than visual (right brain) being open to trying new approaches.

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” said Albert Einstein. In other words, who cares where your memories come from, or how they are used, as long as they are yours. If you trip over a crack in the sidewalk while on your daily stroll, you can say, ‘that is my right brain trying new approaches.’ If you shout out a stream of cuss words, you can say ‘that is just my left brain exercising its creativity’.

Memory and forgetting go hand-in-hand in a senior’s life. We all have experienced the ‘how to lose the remembrance’ of something, that is, to be unable to think of or recall something. But to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A man must get a thing before he can forget it.” And seniors have gotten a lot of things through life to forget, and remember if necessary. It’s just part of the deal in being a senior and some things just get bogged down from over use. The key is to use one brain at a time, and that brain should be used for writing down lists. You don’t want to go back to the store to buy that jar of Mayo you need for your tuna salad sandwich.

Solitaire (Or: One Card at a Time)


Solitaire is usually defined as single-player games of concentration and skill using a laid out deck of cards. In other cases and other places there are games that can be played using tiles, pegs or stones rather than cards. Of course, there are dozens of solitaire games that can be played while mouseing around while facing your computer screen. But being a senior citizen can bring another meaning to the word. That is, being alone, not being in the company of others: A solitary existence, one card at a time.

Your mind wanders through another world of fantasy or wishful thinking as you sit there. There are no distractions: No friends, no dog, no cat, the TV cable has been disconnected; the daily newspaper has been cut off, and the radio plays music from the times of yore; at least it seems that way, that everything is cut off. Memories are blurring the present and making everything seem all right and normal. This is called personal solitaire, or, games, any of a number of visions, played by one person. These are mind games trying to replicate reality.

Or one way out is you can pretend that there is someone else there. You try to please that person with everything you do. You even talk to him/her, although you don’t expect an answer; you just want to imagine you are not really alone, that there is an important person in your life who cares. But really, you are talking to yourself.

Being alone isn’t a unique situation or quality only bestowed on seniors. There others who live their lives that way: Think about the lone wolf, the Lone Ranger or a lone scream in the night. OK, they are only fantasies and art, but remember, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality,” sang John Lennon. This is food for thought for getting out of the doldrums. Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, “It is better to be alone than in bad company”, said George Washington. Hmmm, there are so few choices for such a difficult problem: Dream alone, or dream with others.

But if you think about it as a game of solitaire with your life, you play all the cards and make all the decisions without any help from friends. So what are the decisions you must make in this situation. Well, the opposite of solitaire is company, people, or better yet, friends. “No road is long with good company”, so goes a Turkish Proverb. But tread lightly, because … as Joe E. Lewis advises: “Show me a friend in need and I’ll show you a pest.” Go slow and don’t be a nuisance to those around you.

Here’s where you take off your slippers, slide out of your lounge chair or rocker, put on the walking shoes, and go down to the local coffee shop or grill and bar, and be with people. You’ll find it an amazing fact, people talk back, and many of them are looking for soundboards just like you. “How are you, today?” And then it starts, it is called conversation; not talking to yourself but to another human … or even another senior citizen looking for company.

Summer Dreams (Or: Close your eyes to get there)


Ah, summer times are the best of times to dream about pleasant things and make those dreams come true. The air is full of shining electricity and it powers the visions of the joy of life after a lifetime of work. It’s just around the corner because summer is near. It is time to prepare for that happiness. Don’t put that note pad and pen away. Start to make a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do. No, you can’t do them all in one summer, but it is fun to imagine some you may do later, and to do some others tomorrow. It’s just a pretend list that may come to life some day; and maybe with the next sunrise.

It is best to start with what summer is. It is that warmer part of the year. And technically speaking it is astronomically extending from the June solstice to the September equinox. What a mouth full. All we need for this list is to know that ‘the sun is coming’. It is the opposite of this bummer weather we have been experiencing lately. ‘Sun things’, is at the top of the list. If your summer reflects Mark Twain’s ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’, then get out as fast as you can.

Swimming, boating, hiking, camping, trips, sports and recreation, or hiking: blow the dust off that RV or SUV or pickup truck, air out the camping tent, polish the golf clubs, although many of you white-ball chasing fanatics probably have been doing that even in between snow storms, and get a head start on the sun. Or just as good, oil up the bike and hit the streets and trails.

Mark up those maps and create some dreams. Plan a time line from here to there, and even a budget. Close your eyes and drive from here to there and experience the fun of it. Make that dream a reality.

Many of us, or course, can’t do all or any of these activities because of physical or financial limitations, but a warm attitude can be achieved for internal joy. Unfold that lawn chair that has been sitting in storage and put it outside on the deck or in the back yard in the comfy sun. Let your eyes close and imagine the smell of the ocean or the mountain air.

Or if you have a small strip of dirt next to the house, why not plant seeds for a small garden with a few flowers, or tomatoes, or string beans; something to watch over and tend during the warm months. If you don’t have that strip of dirt, then a few clay pots filled with rich soil can work just as well sitting in the sun and they will need to be watered every day. ‘Retire from your work, but not from your life’, someone probably said at one time or another.

It is often noted that in the bigness of it all, that the Sun is an ‘ordinary’ star. That’s true in the sense that there are many others similar to it. But it is ours for the summer and its energy can create nice flowers and trees as well as rejuvenated energy in the old bones of humans. ‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.’ said Walt Disney.

Old Friends (Or: Remember When?)


The past is such a wonderful path to travel. And you know, the internet with its e-mail functions can bring old friends together who haven’t seen each other for 40 or 50 years. Just send an e-mail to an old friend, or even better, to a group of old friends and start the message with, ‘Remember when …’ we did this or that, here or there; or, ‘I was looking into my photo album and guess what I found, a picture of when we …’

One of the fantastic functions of e-mail is that you can post that picture right in the message and get the old brains stirring up things the others didn’t remember, but they will remember when you remind them. Pictures of all sorts from the past cross the airwaves and land on desktops everywhere you send them.

The comments will bounce back. ‘Looking at that picture, and how we dressed. It’s interesting how 50’s rock band suits and white shoes, etc., were influenced by the rural, the southern look, like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc., and we dressed like them to be hip and cool,’ could be one of the responses. Or, ‘Check it out, and the hairdos,’ could be another. ‘Did I wear my hair like that?’ ‘What an ugly blouse I had on!’

‘I don’t have any records for the 50s and 60s. Maybe something will show up later. Do any of you have any records of those years?’ one of your friends may ask. And even if someone in your old gang did have these records, which of them would still have a 45 or 78rpm record player; that would be called hanging on to the past. That would be having a firm grip on the past and not letting go. “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” This is so true from the award winning television show, The Wonder Years, about the past and all its fun.

Someone will always bring up the malt shop, or coffee shop, or the drive-in restaurant with the cheap hamburgers where you met your friends in the cars you drove just after getting a driver’s license. Or the drive-in theater where you went as a group to sorta look at the movie, but more likely looked at your date.

‘Remember when we …’, ‘remember the time we went skinny dippin in the lake and got caught with our pants down … literally’. Good stories and they take us back and make us get stuck in the younger years. ‘By the way, where is so-and-so now? I haven’t heard from him or about him for years. Has anyone?’ This is a question that always comes up when jaunting down memory lane: The missing person … the guy or gal who was always way-out-there and uncontrollable within the social standards assumed by the gang.

And reunion always gets into the rapping session someplace. ‘Let’s get together someday, somewhere, and have a party.’ Yes, the internet gets old friends and stories and photos in the same world at the same time, but the physical movement of the bodies through the airwaves is not possible … yet. As said, the past is a wonderful path to travel, but the trains, planes and automobiles have issues. However it can happen if a gang of memories wants to get together again in the real world. But remember what Will Rogers said, “Things ain't what they used to be and probably never was.

Pets as a Lifesaver (Or: A Second Heartbeat)


I have noticed that a furry or feathered or even a scaled friend is something senior citizens often consider after a lifelong business doing work-type things. You’ve probably noticed that when you pet a soft, warm cat or play chase the stick with a dog whose tail won’t stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. Studies by scientists have shown that owning and handling animals significantly benefits health, and not just for the young. In fact, pets may help senior citizen owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives. Now that’s something to think about.

A friend of about my age recently advised me that I needed another heartbeat. I immediately threw my hand to my chest cropping for that familiar pounding … and again another after that. “But the doctor says I’m in great shape”, I noted with irritation. “Not a transplant, idiot,” he put in plain words, “a second heartbeat, a companion.” Because I am a single senior citizen and tired of eating TV dinners and take-out food my mind immediately flashed with the brilliant colors of Las Vegas ladies and gala parties, but I knew with all that going on I may need a third or fourth heartbeat to keep up the pace. “A pet, dodo,” he clarified, “a second heartbeat, a cuddle buddy, someone to talk to rather than your impassive walls … a pet.”

My friend probably had a point. I had to give it some sober thought … and thorough research … so I started analyzing my way through the animal kingdom … starting with the most common heartbeats … dogs and cats, avoiding elephants and orangutans.

Dogs seem to be slow on the uptake, but loveable and active, and they come in a variety of sizes and colors, almost like humans. I figured size related directly to food consumption and dumption (if there is such a word to acceptably describe the process of following an animal down the path with a plastic bag in hand), and a color related to shedding hair on my carpet and sofa.

Cats are too mysterious and I am positive any one of them will stare at me with the intention of trying to possess my human soul. That scares me. I have enough trouble keeping my soul pointed in the right direction without it being attached to a cat. But cats do have a lot of fun and are fun to watch, from a distance. They run around the neighborhood, unleashed, and chase birds and an array of imaginary wildlife they eyeball from an ancestral crouch.

But cats and dogs are old hat and everyone has one, I figured, so a visit to a local pet store might reveal a menagerie of other second heartbeats.

Birds are multicolored, small and easy to maintain and can chirp or chatter or sing. Canaries are small and sociable, as long as you don’t touch them (sounds like some people I know), and can live up to 25 years. ‘Wait a minute,’ I worried, ‘I may have to include the canary in my will.’ Macaws are beautiful, but large and they can live to the age of 50 … another inheritor to my vast estate of packrat artifacts. And a plain old parrot, if taught to sing O Solo Mio like Enrico Caruso, could be a real pain in the brain in no time. Besides, where do you put a birdcage in a SUV while traveling across country?

Do snakes have heartbeat … a heart? Does a fish have a personality? One is dangerous to have around, and the other needs a constant supply of water. And if I have a snake and a fish, the snake might eat the fish. Who knows?

When is the last time you had the opportunity to cuddle and pet a rat, or even escort one down the street on a leash? I was told a fancy rat, I supposed as opposed to a Cinderella-before-the-Ball rat, is an ideal pet for the ages 8 and up with adult supervision. There I might need some help. Being over 8 years old, like most of us senior citizens and not wanting a babysitter, I didn’t know who I could ask to supervise me in my pet play time. Rats grow up to 10-inches long with up to an 8-inch tail. My O’ My! That’s a foot-and-a half of rodent fun and maybe I could escort mine on a leash down the street … if I want to lose all my neighbors as friends and be attacked by cats … and “you should have two rats”, I was told, “they are smart and can learn tricks … but they have large front teeth and need something to chew on.” Between the tangled leashes and my gnawed finger stumps, I passed on the rat(s) as a pet pal(s).

Then there is the reptile family of pets besides snakes. There is a variety of reptiles beyond the slithery snake group. How about a Crocodile Greco, a Panther Chameleon, a Blue-tongued Skink, or an Argentine Horned Pac Man Frog? All are genuine animals and not Sci-Fi creatures. And you know what? These pets eat live insects and worms that also must be fed nutrients before they are fed to the second heartbeat. I passed again on collecting bugs for my pet.

While considering a pet I also reflected on some of the secondary responsibilities. Cleaning up after it will be an olfactory challenge no matter what the source: Cats are not clean animals – have you cleaned out a cat box lately? Little doggie-poop baggies are just disgusting. Stained and dirty newspaper bottoms and littered water that must be changed, and sweeping the floor of a reptile cage littered with insect carcasses could be downright memorable.

There are a few other outlandish things to consider, such as, a decent burial in a Pet Cemetery; before that Veterinarian expenses; related to that I recently read that I may have to send my pet to be consulted by a member of the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants). I saw a sign in a pet shop I was browsing that advertised ‘Have your pet’s photo taken with Santa’. Come On! But the one I read written on a bathroom wall made me feel a little queasy, ‘Keep our city clean. Eat your dog!”

There you have it senior citizens, and as a man of strict indecision and sticking to it, I decided my friend was right and common and decided on two second heartbeats to keep me in high spirits: a spaniel puppy and a wirehair kitten.

Start Your Own Business


The senior citizen population is growing like zucchini summer squash in your backyard garden. It could double in the next couple or three decades. Money is tight, and jobs for the 65+ demographic are hard to come by. But that demographic age area is also a growing market for special and necessary items. Their lifestyles change and their needs are different. Maybe they want to move to smaller or larger housing, or warmer weather; maybe those healthy bodies and the usual physical activities are changing; maybe their financial picture has drastically changed, either for the better or worse; maybe they want to travel, have the money, but don’t know how to go about it and be secure as well as have fun; or maybe they just want to eat better to live longer.

You can’t be a worker, but maybe you can be the boss and top dog by starting your own business. All these trends mean an opportunity for knowledgeable entrepreneurs who want to start a business serving this growing and mostly well-to-do market. It doesn’t have to be a full-size and elaborate industry, and it can just be a one-person or one-family operation working from home in a spare room or that garage. In your work-life existence you may have toiled at a job and learned a lot about something special that you can pass along as a service or product.

There are a couple of different approaches to this potential income enhancer. You can start your own business from scratch, or you can purchase an existing business or franchise. The latter option sounds simpler, but it may be more costly and you don’t know what you are buying, and you have to be wary of why someone is selling a profitable business for so cheaply. Think about it, and check the facts before you put out your hard-earned retirement funds. Speak to other people, examine the books, watch the operation for a while, and don’t sign the papers until you are sure because you can always say “no” before that.

Starting your own business sounds overwhelming, but it may be the best path. There are some things you must do first. Here you have to examine your own books, determine a budget, check your knowledge bank, decide what you know and do the best, decide what and how you can sell this knowledge, and start taking notes about the dos and don’ts.

Maybe be you worked at a travel agency; this would be an easy transition for you. You know how, what, and where to go for cheap price, and you can probably sound pretty knowledgeable. Maybe you worked as a secretary for an important executive and had to type all his or her letters. You must have gained a lot of business knowledge doing that, if not, you know how to type, structure, and produce, or maybe just edit, these letters. There may be many small business people who need that service but can’t afford a full-time employee. You can get a group of steady clients who will depend on you and pay for this service. And if you decide to start a cleaning service or any kind of service, you will need a tight schedule to work from.

This is where the Internet and e-mail come in handy. Learn about these things. Many services and information can be provided from your computer. You must learn about marketing and advertising, your local taxes and licenses, shipping if you have a product to sell, cash or credit cards, and you will need a good name for the business, and in these days, you will need a web page. This isn’t as hard as it seems because there are many sites out there that will provide the connection as well as the tools to build your own.

OK, now that you have thought about it, start your own business.

So, Get Over the Blues


The past is the past and it is gone, so I must get over it, we all must say. Move on and forget the woe-is-me what-have-I-done lately blues. Blues are a relative thing. No, I don’t mean I am mourning my Mom, Dad, Bro or Sis, or any other character along my bloodline. No, I mean I’m getting old; being a senior citizen; my woman has left; my dog died; the car is stuck in the mud; and the utility has turned off my electricity, blues. I’m talking about dark, deep blues with tinges or halos of purples and crimson flashing in the back of my brain. The strings of the electric guitar between my ears are bending and screaming and crying real tears. The sax in my gut is spewing moans and groans of pity me, pity poor me, the low-down victim of all that is bad and worse. You know how it goes …?

I’ve disappeared … invisible … I’m aging … I’m old. My friends can’t see me as I walk by and say hello. My enemies burn my image with their eyes. People I don’t know glare at me like I was a resurrection of the devil. I am no one, nobody, non-existent, a person non-grata and the bottom of all shoes.

“I usta be somebody!” I know you’ve said that too.

Darn Right I got the blues. Slam-Blam-Bam Blues with accompanying steam of cooked egos and smoke from the trash I leave behind me. I got torn-jeans, black-eyed, mussed hair and hole in the boot, last-gasp blues. I’m down, I’m out, and I’m the trash after my last how’s-it-going-old-man birthday party. Heaven is no help for these blues. I’m so down; it’s too far for anyone in that spiritual sky to take notice of my cry.

And I’m wailing. I’m jailing. I’m hailing a cab to take me to nearest elevator down to my soul for introspection. My soul is a blue tar pit. It’s as blue as the boysenberry smudges on my brain.

Down here, inside myself, I disappeared to find my life. I walked behind the exit door and entered a world of the expectations. I saw the lights of a powerful blue neon sign blinking the message, ‘Poor You, You Poor Man, Poor-Poor Blue Old Man,’ following me to the next street into the future. Blues are everywhere, and you can’t escape it. You can’t shake the tail it has attached to your hind end, a tail called TIME. You must live with it and make it part of your every-day life. Blues are part and parcel of everybody, just like arms, legs, eyes, ears, and all the remaining hairs on your head.

That’s it; get over it!

Seniors are always crying about the past they can’t relive. It’s gone; times past; the life of a younger person, not you, now, in this stage of your life, that is, senior in retirement … for Gosh Sakes … I’m a Boomer!

The Future is my next step, next thought, next dream. I have no choice in the matter. Have a dream; make a plan; list things I want to do; list things I haven’t done but always wanted to do; consult a fortune teller; whatever it takes to get the process started. What process you may ask yourself? Living from now on is the process. You can go to the ocean and take that long, last swim, or swim toward that palm tree in the Tropics. This is the better choice. The blues, after all, is a natural phenomenon in the process of aging.

“Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved,” said D.H. Lawrence. You must spend your remaining years as if they were gold coins … only on the best items with the most value. You know what they are. You know what you want to do, but have always hesitated.

There are so many ways to improve and several things you can accomplish to make this the time of your life, actually, the time of your life, and not the blues of your life. So many plans you haven’t thought of, but others have. It is an economic or intellectual crisis for some, and the same opportunity for others. There is a potpourri of protection you can do and build around yourself to make this happen. Two things are essential; you must have friends and finances forever, or at a minimum, as long as necessary: Having no friends and no money is really depressing.

We all know there are other things that are more important as time flies by. Like … the alleviation of an enduring pain; sex after such a long time; a wrinkle cream that really works; solid 8-hours of sleep; a healthy bowel movement; and maybe even truth in advertising. But we can’t have it all.

Agreed, these are small things, but they add up to happiness from now on. After all, as Ben Franklin said, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” I guess he’s saying you, and I, can’t sit around and wait for the time of your life to land on our shoulder … we have to go for it and shake those old-timer blues and dark shadows of doubt. Now! Things change and we have to go for it, and leave the past there, in the past.

Changes to Senior Society (Or: The Invasion of Technocrats)


Changes our sociality is experiencing are good or bad depending upon how we adapt to them as seniors. So many things are disappearing, appearing, getting better or getting worse. We are being invaded by technology.

For example, the U.S. Post Office is slowly being replaced by Fed Ex, UPS, and e-mail. Our bills come online and we pay online and we don’t need an envelope or a stamp, or even a mailbox anymore. On-line finance and bill paying are replacing bills and even bank statements and notices, they come by e-mail. Even much of our junk mail is coming in the e-mails instead of the mail box. The bank check you used to mail has gone through a metamorphosis and become a Debit Card that takes the money from your account NOW!

Also disappearing are the newspapers on the front porch every morning. Now you aren’t stuck with just the local news, we can get any newspaper in the country for free, online. We can find out what is happening in Boise, Idaho, or even London, England, at the click of our mouse on the computer screen. At least they are free for now. That’s good in one way, we save a lot of trees when we don’t have to print on a lot of paper. But it is still nice to hold the news, clip the shopping coupons, and work the crossword puzzle. It was bad enough losing milk and ice delivery, but now newspapers!

The book is almost history. There are at least half dozen companies now that sell the books electronically to one sort of reading device or another, and it can store hundreds of books to read. No more paper, covers, bookmarks, turning pages, or those dog-eared page reminders, just a handy-dandy doo dad that you can flip through at the flip of a switch, and the squint of an eye in the noon-day sun.

Land-line phones that used to have rotary dials, then buttons, and long lines hooked to the wall, are slowly becoming an encumbered relic in most households. Cell phones are the new rage and Star Trek means of communication these days. They can be taken with you everywhere in your pocket or purse. With the flip of a switch you can hone in on the nearest satellite in the heavens and communicate with anyone in the world. Even the Internet is available on most of these cell boxes, and each one probably comes with a small camera … so there goes the 35mm digital camera, too.

And check out the disappearing pay phone, and when was the last time you saw a phone booth. For seniors these little cell phones might be a good thing; easy to carry, quick contact with family and friends, easy contact to anyone in case of an emergency, and especially while shopping in the supermarket or mall to call a partner at home to see if you have enough ketchup in the fridge to make a meatloaf that evening. There are so many uses for the little box.

TVs (boob tubes) with roof-top antennas or rabbit ears are not longer usable … pure junk. They have piles of them at your local dump site. Have you ever tried to create a flower pot out of an old TV? Don’t. The whole country has switched from analog signals to digital signals that are transmitted through special cables from a special company, or are beamed down from a TV satellite to a dish on your rooftop. This all happens and occurs if you purchase a new-fangled, flat-screen, HD (high density) TV and hook it up to 250 channels. This is where being an electronic wizard or just being plain smart helps. If not, find whiz-kid assistance. Television advertising revenues are changing our watching habits and eliminating some stations and adding dozens more. In this case technocrats are aligned with admanrats.

Remember the old 45-rpm records, 78s, LPs, VHS vs. Beta, cassette tapes, CDs and the Music Industry as we knew them. Forget them. They have disappeared into thin air and micro-bytes of vibrations and vocal yodels that can be downloaded to your ear via computer, cell phone, and I-thingamajigs, and be spit through little ear plugs into your dancing mind and feet.

Privacy is history. Everywhere you go there is a TV surveillance camera watching your every step and move and projecting the image back to a monitor in some-sort-of headquarters to some-sort-of company or institution. You are a star, but just don’t know it. The key here is not to scratch when it itches.

The solution to these new systems is to adapt as a senior, become a teenager again, or collapse under the weight of millions of micro bytes eating all the space around you.

Seniors already have Health Laws (Or: The dos and don’ts of living well)


With all the pro people, con people, and I-don’t-care people squabbling like little children on a playground, there is quite a controversy about the recent passed Health Law. But laws, rules, suggestions, and habits for good health have been around for ages. What’s new? What’s the fuss? We have been beaten on the brow since childhood by health laws. You know things like brush your teeth and wash your face, go to bed early, don’t wear your skates in bed, and say your prayers, were orders barked at us as kids at bedtime. Those were the early health laws or rules or must-dos.

As seniors, it’s a different set of physical and mental norms and opinions about what’s healthy and what’s not for the mind and body, and for whom. Brush your teeth and wash your face, every day, are rules still bugging us. There are others like take a bath/shower often, comb your hair, get plenty of sleep, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” said Benjamin Franklin, but he didn’t have late-night TV. Dress warm in cold weather, and wear comfortable shoes. Laws still sorta hangovers from childhood. Exercise by walking, bending, lifting, biking, hiking (different from walking?), or even just strolling. Maybe even skipping rope, golfing or bowling are thrown in. And the big law here is, avoid exposing too much bare skin to the sun, but not in bowling, unless you are lawn bowling. And the biggie, less potato couching and lazy-boy lounge lazing. Lose weight/gain weight.

Then there’s the law of eating well. Good healthy food, less sugar, less fat, more veggies’ and fruit, and be sure to eat plenty of roughage and fiber to keep the system rolling on, but don’t eat a 2x4 board or today’s newspaper, that is taking this law too seriously. We know eating smart is an absolute law for a better life, and this rule is a current fad being pounded from every direction: Magazines, infomercials, TV, and an occasional snake-oil salesperson that passes through town, gathers a crowd, charges a fee, spouts some gibberish, and tries to sell seniors a book or CD about better food. Don’t listen to them. There is another health law called, have fun, and eat a sprinkle-covered doughnut once in a while, or more often.

Now the universal and more important laws for seniors, like, have annual checkups with your doctor and dentist. But just remember what George Carlin said, “Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do practice?” One meaning of practice is: repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill. Do you really want to be a guinea pig? Or take the advice of Erma Bombeck, “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” Maybe a way to reduce stress is to avoid the doctor … or maybe not. Going to the dentist every year is a health law based on masochism, or the tendency to invite and enjoy misery of any kind. This is against the regular law, sometimes, and may be only promoted for oral profit or something like that.

Health Laws have been with us since the Stone Age, so what’s new. Even the Cave Man … well, maybe not.

Seasoned Seniors (Or: Seniors weather the weather)


The senior’ battle with the weather takes on temperature and wind velocity proportions unknown to the younger generations. Hot tempers can quell any tornado that tries to knock down a seasoned, wind calloused galoot with one foot anchored firmly on mother earth and the other in heaven. Currents of air are fodder for the craggy thick-experienced human of many levels. Temperatures, hot and cold, are, to make a pun, water off a ducks back. Seniors repel heat by reflecting back to the sun, and utilizing ice cubes to mix with their lemonade. The wind is a push forward when traveling with it and a boost up when walking against it. It is a tool for stability.

Weather is the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness, happy or sad, serene or grumpy, smiling or frowning, indoors or outdoors, hot chocolate or lemonade, sandals or boots, umbrella or parasol, and long pants or shorts. It is the state or vicissitude of life or fortune affected by disagreeable or agreeable atmospheric conditions. Seniors know all this after years of experience and dealing first hand with this friend and foe. The definition of weather could almost be the definition of a senior.

Summer, with its golden glow and high energy atmosphere is a relief to old bones and sore muscles that have been lingering and demanding full attention all the previous year. Everything is brighter, including the future and prospects. “Summer time an' the livin' is easy, Fish are jumpin' an' the cotton is high, etc. etc.,” Croons the singer in this famous song we all know. It captures the mood and expectations of summer for seniors.

Fall (autumn) is the season between summer and winter, a buffer between the good and the worst of the year. But some saw the beauty in the fall, like Emily Bronte, “Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree”. The leaves of trees, tough yet dying, have the splendor of multiple colors and shapes. Or as the author Albert Camus said “autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower”: To each his own. But for many seniors it means aching bones from raking leaves or dragging the winter clothes from the garage or attic.

Winter is without hesitation the grayest season of the year, which runs in the northern hemisphere, especially the northern states, from around November or December to February, and sometimes March: A period in which something is declining, inactive, or ending. A mummy of cold, wet snow blankets most of the earth and we wait for it to come back to life. In many seniors the warmth comes from within in the comforting memories that linger. It should be a comfort to know that in the depth of winter, you finally learn than inside you are an invincible summers.

Spring springs and things grow again. Sure, there are April showers, but they bring the joy of May flowers. “Sit quiety, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself,” a Zen saying. Of course, seniors know the reality that flower beds must be churned up and weeded and fertilized, and maybe even replanted. Little buds are poking out on the trees, and winter’s aching bones are starting to relax.

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each,” Henry David Thoreau. This should be the motto of all seniors.

Seniors’ Dreams (Or: Dreams Don’t Stop at Any Age)


What is a dream anyway? It normally is considered a series of mental images and emotions that occur during sleep. The life of the mind while resting on your pillow after being tapped on the brain by the sandman. Or, it could be a cherished desire or ambition while you are awake. You know, to be younger, smarter, and more athletic or attractive.

Dreaming while being wide awake is another possibility, called day dreaming, or in other words, a state of mind characterized by abstraction and the release from the reality around us. Or again it could be what many of us want, the incredible but vain hope of being someone else. You know, indulging in a fantasy or an illusion.

Then there is the impossible dream. … There are many ways to go insane, and this could be one of them. Of course, you remember the lyrics to that popular song of the same name – “Dream the impossible dream; to fight the unbeatable foe; to bear with unbearable sorrow; to run where the brave dare not go.” But are you brave today? Do you really feel like a fight?

Or perhaps, coming back down to earth, it is that perfect mate you married; he/she is a dreamboat, or the person you desire to date. Or that dessert you just had after dinner, or the new car or boat you just bought that rides like a dream.

But truly, in reality maybe the only thing you want is that dream house to retire in. You know, the one set next to a small lake or stream, surrounded by trees and a lush garden, maybe even a vegetable patch, in a quiet neighborhood where you can relax on the porch in the warm sun and catch up on reading all those books that have been gathering dust on the shelf while you were working. To some this would be even more perfect if a bowling alley or the first tee were just a few blocks away.

Or that dream vacation to warm weather or historical settings of the past world. A cruise around the ocean in a large luxury boat filled with food and games and blinding sun while skirting mysterious islands or historical sights. But be careful of fulfilling that dream of skydiving or mountain climbing because earth is way down there. Be real, “Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today,” said that young and short-lived actor rebel, James Dean, who went for it all and ended it all in a fast Porsche.

But be careful of dreams. They are intangible elements and can fade away, or be lost by a bad decision. But they can’t be, or shouldn’t be, abandoned. Dreams make the world go round. They are the beauty of the human mind, a function only the human animal can perform. “To dream anything that you want to dream, that's the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed,” Bernard Edmonds.

Seniors’ dreams are a way of life and a means to a successful and happy retirement. They are the handles to grab to advance into the future with a smile. Dreams don’t stop at any age. Seniors and Dreams go hand-in-hand.

Cool (Or: Some things get better with age.)


You most certainly remember saying it as a youngster, I’m sure … and your parents probably did as well. It’s the best way to say something is neat-o, awesome, or swell, or just plain nice or OK. The phrase cool is very relaxed, never goes out of style, and no one ever laughs at you for using it; very convenient for people who don't give a rat about what's “in”. Sometimes you use it when you don’t have a clue about a subject, yet want to act as if you know-it-all, or just sound “hip”. Admit it.

“Cool” has been with us as an acceptable, universal slang for years. Some things never change. The usage of cool as a general positive epithet or interjection has been part of the English slang since before World War II, and has even been lent to other languages, such as French and German. Originally it was a development from a Black English usage meaning “excellent, superlative,” first recorded in written English in the early ‘30s. Jazz musicians who used the term made it popular during the ‘40s.

Most slang words haven’t had the staying power or universal appeal of cool, and that’s cool; some things just endure and get better with age; like cheese, wine, scotch, some beers, and most people.

Aging with poise is a matter of self value and pleasure. “I'm proud of my age. I'm not going to hide behind a cosmetic persona. I'm aging gracefully, I’m cool,” should be a mantra chanted each morning while eating your oatmeal laced with lifesaving cinnamon. Or then there is the bumper sticker (there always is about every subject), ‘If things get better with age, then I’m nearly fantastic’. Age is an ongoing process; time marches on, its unavoidable, and we get older. It’s perpetual motion at a personal level.

However, there are rules if you want to become a fine wine ‘someone’, and not ‘crabapple’ vinegar. We age better when we are in high spirits and free of negative shadows. Researchers speculate that positive emotions may directly affect health via chemical and neural responses involved in maintaining a perfect balance between wine and vinegar. Your brain knows the difference. In other words, quit saying, “I can’t do it”, instead say, “It would be something cool to try.”

Hints for improvement are that creativity knows no age limits. In fact, there comes a certain freedom with age. You can create whatever you want. You aren’t at the mercy of the marketplace. You serve your own spirit by letting it have its say. Your years, your lines, your scars are part of who you are. They should be a matter of comfort and pride and even your joy and a foundation for creativity.

And just as age is an ongoing process, so is your sex life. Even if you've been married to the same wacko for decades, sex can be a continuous erotic adventure. And sexual fulfillment helps bring balance into other aspects of our lives, too. And it doesn’t hurt to get that ticker pumping a little faster. Cool.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter,” said that former printer's apprentice, Mississippi riverboat pilot, and newspaperman, Mark Twain.

Cool will probably outlive us all, but we may as well hitch a ride on its coat tail while we can. Being cool can make you hot! And better!

Seniors Can Live Forever (Or: At least a little longer)


The average life expectancy for people in the USA and probably Canada is around 77.7 years. Notice all the lucky 7s in that number. Is that good or bad, a win or craps? Of course, these figures are interpreted by people who haven’t been there yet. But the fact is some people live longer and some people don’t. Go figure. And some people just want to life longer no matter what it takes. “I intend to live forever, or die trying.” said Groucho Marx, and he was right. When you ask how we can not die, a good way to start is to ask how we depart this life in the first place. There are some factors that seem out of our reach, such as time and age. A sad fact, our body just gives out and we pass on of Old Age.

As immortality, that is living forever, is the negation of mortality, that is, not dying or not being subject to death, it has been a subject of fascination to humanity since at least the beginning of history. Think of the Fountain of Youth. We’ve always wanted to discover immortality; much like man has discovered space. But, let’s face it, space is there in front of us or above us, and all we have to do is build rocket ships to get there. Immortality isn’t something we can touch or see, just dream about. So what if you do find the magic answers and live forever, what or who do you want to bring with you? Look around and pick and choose the possibilities. Forever is a long time. It’s an eternity.

Do you want to be with that same person forever? Can you bring along your pet dog or cat? Will that old Chevy last that long? Will your golf game improve as time goes on? How about the life-time warrantee on that new HDTV you just bought? Think about all the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., you can have in all that time, and how many heirs you would have to fight over your accumulated estate. And another thing, if the Universe is 156-billion-lightyears wide, you will have time to make the trip.

OK, how do you get there? “We can live forever, a minute at a time,” said the famous Unknown person. So, how to do you that? Exercise and walking can add years to your life. Moderately walking 30-minutes per day can add 1.4 or more years, vigorous exercise can add up to 3.7 years to your life, they say. You see no magic pills or elixirs to take, just a little time. Some holler that square dancing will add 10-years to your life. Already your age can go over 90 years by doing these simple things.

Keeping close to friends and far away from enemies is a good rule and may add decades to your life expectancy. Driving safely until you can’t see over the steering wheel, then quit, is a good idea. And the modern rule: no cell phones for either talking or texting will keep your eyes on the road that you still can see, you hope. Aerobics and playing sport is part of the exercising rule, but also part of the socializing and mental alertness rules for longevity. You’re pushing 100.

Of course there are the obvious factors that will help add a few more years. These are dieting and eating healthy foods, and occasional medical checkups from a qualified doctor and not the neighbor’s mate. “Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today,” said James Dean, not a qualified doctor, or a saner attitude would be, “I intend to live forever. So far, so good,” said Steven Wright, a comedian. It all works if you try, but forever? Just do the best you can.

Seniors and Spirits


There are the good spirits, like guardian angels, Gabriel delivering God’s messages, and the Gods of good luck and fortune throughout history. But there are also bad spirits, like demon rum or a Red Devil drink with a combination of wicked things like bourbon, vodka, triple sec, schnapps, sloe gin, and dashes of grenadine and orange juice. Alcohol abuse by senior citizens is a growing problem and one that is often undiagnosed. Aging and alcoholism produce similar deficits in intellectual (i.e., cognitive) and behavioral functioning. Alcoholism may accelerate normal aging or cause premature aging of the brain. Don’t listen to W. C. Fields, “I never drink water; that is the stuff that rusts pipes.” Water as a drink is good, water as a chaser is not so good.

If you are older than 50 and you have a couple of drinks when you go out to eat, you may want to take some extra time before getting into the car and driving home. Research shows that after 5-7 drinks … Oh my … the brain is numbed to an extent that a person cannot even hold a pen and write properly. Some senior citizens can’t do that anyway. But, despite knowing this, many people drive under the influence of alcohol.

No one knows exactly why, but moderate amounts of alcohol impair a senior citizen more than younger drinkers. It may be because alcohol is metabolized and removed from the body differently once you are older, but even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause measurable impairment for those over age 50.

According to government studies more than half of adults older than 55 drink socially. Probably one of the reasons for this is that, with more time on their hands, they can sit on their bar stools longer and sip a few more. If those social drinkers are more impaired than they think they are, it can cause a significant threat to their health. It must be noted here that there is a difference between a drinker and a drunk. Social drinking in moderation is acceptable. But slugging down one after another is close to being a drunk.

One study based at the University of Florida, showed that adults aged 50 to 74 who drank the equivalent of two drinks took five seconds longer to complete a task than adults 25 to 35 who had the same amount to drink. Meanwhile, adults in the same age groups who had no alcohol to drink completed the task in about the same time. Again, don’t count on W. C. Fields: “Actually, it only takes one drink to get me loaded. Trouble is I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or fourteenth.”

Drinking in moderation and socially is not all bad. Social drinking is an accepted part of life, and history, and it is hard to know when the thin line to alcoholism is crossed. There are many factors – genetic, psychological, social, and environmental – that play a role in alcohol addiction, and any of these can sneak up on a senior citizens without alarms going off in the brain. It’s often difficult for senior citizens to tell when they’re crossing the line into dependency. There are small alerts that must be considered, like: using alcohol to get through painful situations, physically or mentally; not remembering what happened last night; hiding your drinking by drinking alone; or resenting people who advise you to drink less.

Check yourself out? Do you have sleep complaints or changes in sleep patterns, or unusual fatigue or daytime drowsiness? Is depression or anxiety popping up more often these days? Is there unexplained chronic pain or even difficulty in urinating?

This is a problem that must be dealt with by senior citizens and is being addressed. The American Medical Association says, “The onset or continuation of drinking behavior becomes problematic because of physiological or psychological changes that occur with aging, including increased sensitivity to alcohol effects.”

But there are other check points as described by that famous philosopher, Anonymous, “Drunk is feeling sophisticated when you can’t say it.” Or, Reality is an illusion that occurs due to lack of alcohol. The point is that alcohol is, or can be, a life changer for many senior citizens.

Words of Wisdom (Or: Those famous last words)


As well seasoned seniors we’ve said it all and heard it all before, you know how it goes, “I’ll never drink again,” or “When I was a boy,” or the dream, “I coulda, shoulda, woulda,” or some of those well-known last words, “What does this button do?”, “If I only knew”, or “Nice doggie!”, and the most famous non-word -- "Oops." Words are the gatekeepers to the brain and the keys that unlock inspiration and stupidity. “It’s a dud! It's a dud! It's a du...”.

Then there are those little words of wisdom or warning, usually on small signs behind bars throughout the land that are made by the famous common persons who have experienced all of life. “Men are like coolers, load them with beer and you can take them anywhere.” Or, “Beer has been helping ugly people have sex since 1862.” Or, “If you drink to forget, pay in advance.”

“Wisdom is what's left after we've run out of personal opinions,” said Bertrand Russell. Now, Bertrand may have meant the normal human animal, but he couldn’t have meant seniors who never run out of judgments and attitudes. “Trust me.”

So many people through the ages have been on top of this wisdom problem. “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom,” said the famous linguist H. L. Mencken, probably just before he was lost under a pile of un-fan mail. We know better. Mahatma Gandhi put it a different way. “We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”

Step by step all seniors discover all the positives and negatives of an eventful life, that journey we take. The positives we enjoy and put in our memory banks with a smile attached and a warm feeling. The negatives are placed in that same memory bank with a snarl and a flashing red warning light attached. That warning light is attached to words of wisdom that remind us to remind others that that is a no-no.

Sometimes those words of wisdom, or more commonly known as ‘famous last words’, are left to the last day, and should be heeded as well as considered by the source and the time. “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis,” said Humphrey Bogart the actor, who didn’t leave us with much new wisdom but never lost his character. “Go on, get out - last words are for fools who haven't said enough,” said Karl Marx, still in character. And, “Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something,” Pancho Villa, Mexican revolutionary.

Then some seniors just give up and say “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH”, or stop, wander around in a circle and say, “I never get lost.”

A New Decade (Or: Y2K Survivors)


A little while back you celebrated the beginning of a New Year as seniors. Sure, there were a lot of changes and new stuff added this past decade. But you made it through the Y2K fiasco, the millennium bug, that threatened to stop the world in its tracks, and through to the end of a single-digit century-turning event. Nine years older, and not a one of you looks it and are much wiser, healthier and more aware of a world that is moving faster than a hare passing a turtle. Certainly there were a lot of changes and new stuff added to people’s likes and dislikes this past decade, but how does it affect seniors? Or maybe you are already getting use to it?

New technology has transformed easy living into complicated, but sometimes easier, lifestyles. You’ve seen mail and photos pass between friends, families and grandparents, thousands of miles apart, and at the speed of light. To some your money became electronic bytes that appear in your checking account every month. Those same seniors used the same bytes to purchase whatever, and pay bills without writing ever signing a check. It’s a marvel.

But there also has been a whole new vocabulary to learn, such as Apps, the name for technical gadgets you can buy which could describe the whole explosion in these years. Blogs, or in other words, discussion web sites, which took the place of plain-old gossiping over the back fence. Blackberries that are not eatable, preserveable, and don’t grow on bushes. These are smart phones, sort of like a cell phone which has been around a while, that do more that make phone calls.

Twitter on which you can Tweet 140 character messages to the world. GPS, a global positioning system run by satellites, like AAA in the sky that can map you from where you are to any other place on earth. There is Facebook and the Facebook Friends which is another way to meet other geeks, senior or not, on the internet. And so much other stuff that crams the airwaves such as, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Netflix, and Texting. The best way to describe this decade phenomenon is Information Overload, or explosion, depending upon the way you look at it.

Oh, then there are those gadgets creeping in from the last decade and gradually appearing in this one. Like the electronic book readers produced by several sources that can store hundreds of books; books that are downloaded on to the reader from the Internet or from wireless space. Those seniors who love to read will no longer have to pack around a pile of books. They just have to pop the electronic reader into their pocket or purse and read anywhere.

Another event, catastrophe, that happened to all of us was called, 9-11, you all know about that, and would like to forget it, the day we went to war with the unknowns who are trying to disrupt our peaceful retirement. It put kinks and delays in travel plans, and placed young people, sons and daughters, into war and harms way.

Other things happened that affected seniors this past decade. Congress passed a bill that made prescriptions cheaper for a while, then expensive, then cheaper again … or something like that if you can figure it out. There was an economic crash that impinged on everyone’s financial well being. It especially hit seniors who had their retirement funds invested in an IRA, which all took a plunge along with the stock market. But then again, “Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

No doubt there were a lot of changes for seniors to deal with this last decade, but we have a lot more to look forward to, Ten More Exciting Years. “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” said Abraham Lincoln. And more of those good years with all their changes are coming in this new decade. No time to lose. Get living. “Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin.

Seniors and Arts and Crafts


Oh, there are so many options when it comes deciding how to fill your time with a creative endeavor like arts and crafts. First of all, you may ask, what is this arts and crafts thing? Well, during the arts and crafts movement back in the early 19th century, people began to take more interest and pride in simple, hand-made items made of local materials, and rejected the soullessness of machine-made products. It was in part a reaction to the industrial revolution and the increasing use of machines to make everything. Simplicity became the new trend and everyone wanted to get in on it, and now it’s your turn.

Simplicity is the key word here. Arts and crafts objects are meant to be simple in form, without superfluous decoration. They followed the idea of “truth to material”, preserving and emphasizing the qualities of the materials used. What materials, you future artisans may ask?

There’s glass; artisan wannabe senior citizens can produce their imaginative pieces using several equipment-demanding techniques. Glass tubes are bent and filled with neon gas. Liquid glass is heated, twisted and blown into various shapes; such as vases, ashtrays, or chandeliers, then baked and hardened in a kiln oven. Pieces and hunks of flat, colored glass of various textures are shaped and combined and stuck together with strips of lead to create stain glass windows or pictures.

Wood is chosen from a countless number of available trees on earth, and maybe the neighbor’s back yard. It is whittled, carved, chiseled, sawed, planed, turned on a lathe, routed, sand blasted, drilled, ground, sometimes chain sawed, or several other acts of deformation. Then it is sanded, burned, stained, painted, sealed, puttied, polished, waxed, and sometimes accessorized with other elements such as metal, glass, or clay, and then finished to the artisan’s whim. It can take many shapes and be many sizes.

Clay is wet dirt, or more commonly, special mud, an earthy material that is plastic when moist, fun to run your fingers through, but hard when fired. It is used to create bricks, tiles, and pottery. Clay comes in a wide selection of colors. Any senior citizen can throw the clay on a spinning wheel, mold it by hand and tools, trim it, and then form it into a vision inspired by years of lifestyle skills, that is, cast into a bowl, a pot, a wall hanging, or one more ashtray.

Metal comes in a variety of colors and properties. Steel, tin, copper, bronze, aluminum, lead, and pewter, which can be pounded, ground, bent, twisted, trimmed, filed, hack sawed, welded, molded, cast, glued, buffed, polished, painted, rusted, flushed in acid, or oxidized. The senior citizen artisan uses these delicate techniques, often combined with one of the other craft techniques and materials described above, to create a range of creative fantasies; such as, jewelry, framed art, wall sculptures, gates to the garden, furniture (indoor and lawn), figurines, door knobs, mosaics, wind chimes, mobiles, another ashtray, and the list goes on.

This is just a summary of just a few hints for future senior artisans. To be creative to the extreme requires creative tools. Off-the-shelf material and equipment will only carry the artisan’s imagination so far, and then ingenuity must develop new materials and tools to generate the pictures projected in the inner eye. That is also part of the fun. But with so much time available to artisan seniors, there are endless projects to pursue for fun.

Your health, your problem (Or: physical, mental, and social well-being)


Yes, the air waves and newsprint these days are bursting with questionable facts, statistics from around the world, and speculations of good and bad results, and objections from all sides with no usable answers about your health. The question really should be … “Who is in charge of my health, anyway.” And the simple answer is … “You … it’s your problem.” You can’t wait for some official from Washington to give you directions.

Way back in 1948 before madness was in control of most media, the World Health Organization said, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And guess who is the closest to all these states of being. The reality is it’s you.

Socially you possibly participate in losing money at a poker game, go to the church social, to the local bar every night, or the gossip confab at the beauty salon, and these are good and qualified social events and contribute to a healthy social well being. But what if you were to combine a social activity with something mental, like a book club where you have to read a book, think, activate the imagination, then discuss it, and socialize, with others; it’s like killing two birds with one or several hours.

Mental activities to maintain the health of that gray matter between your ears are all around you. The daily paper has a crossword puzzle and a Sudoku you can work while drinking your coffee to stimulate the caffeine. If you really want to crank up the brain cells, try doing the puzzle left handed, or visa versa, to give the other side of the brain some activity, too. Learn a new word a day and use it, or better yet, learn a new language so you can order tamales in Spanish or real Chinese food.

Just remember that old joke: The doctor tells you “Well I have good news and bad news...You have Alzheimer's disease.” “What's the good news?” “You can go home and forget about it!” That doesn’t really have to be you if you exercise the old bean.

Now the physical element of this health problem is a little more complicated, and sometimes it hurts. Simple exercising or stretching can go a long way to improve life and health. Don’t listen to Redd Foxx who said, “Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.” Well you can come back at say, “At least, Redd, I tried,” or “No one lives forever.”

Remember the other day when you dropped a bottle cap on the kitchen floor and it took an exerted effort just to bend down to pick it up? That is one health problem you can fix with a little time each day. It’s called getting off your butt in your own home, not in the million-dollar gym down the street. Some people stretch their legs and back before they even get out of bed. Lay back, grab your knees, bend them back toward you belly, and put on a little pressure. Sit up and grab your knees, and next week the shins, and next week, or so, the ankles. In a few weeks, drop that cap on the floor again to test the results.

The key is a small routine you can do each day to maintain some physical health. Of course, if you are on the other end of the scale, you can jog around the block. There are dozens of these little home exercises that don’t cost a dime, but a little time. Look them up.

“Just because you're not sick doesn't mean you're healthy.” said an unknown author. But you don’t have to wait for the pol-nuts in Washington to help you out with preventive health care.

A Senior’s Rights


Seniors have rights beyond normal life-bound limitations because they have earned them through the higher education of being here experiences, and they have the scars and darn wrinkles to prove it. There are so many rights for them beyond the Constitution which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” All men are created equal, yes, but that is just the basic idea, because seniors have improved that quality with age. Most are smarter than a baby and some smarter than a teenager.

Seniors have singular aged and ripened rights; the right to be grumpy, cantankerous, bitchy, crabby, unreasonable and sometimes difficult. If they want to they have the right to be happy or unhappy depending upon the day or time of the day, content, jolly, slow pokey, and can place their cane, crutch or walker where they want to. They can wear any clothes if any at all, and forget names, even those of family members. They can avoid crosswalks and at a snail’s pace cross in the middle of the block; they can insist that handicap parking is one of those unalienable rights especially for them.

Alexander Hamilton said it in 1775 “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” Now we know that Alex meant this to be directed at seniors. He was only about 22-years old then, but we know he had intelligence and foresight beyond his age. He must have meant that seniors were the sunbeam amongst the parchment and musty records.

After all, there is an International human rights law and it is a system of laws, domestic, regional and international, designed to promote human rights. Those who violate these laws can probably be tried in the World Court. There ought to be a legal court seniors can go to and complain because their inalienable senior-citizen rights have been violated, or made fun of. Charges like ignoring their right to pay no attention to and physically shoo away greedy relatives, life-insurance salespeople because there is no guarantee to live evermore, funeral-plot salespeople because who wants to be reminded, the neighbor’s dogs and brats, pesky squirrels who eat the bird seed, and all the flies who are trying to eat them. Why are humans more important than seniors?

Hubert H. Humphrey put it one way, “The right to be heard does not include the right to be taken seriously.” But, Hubert, this is serious stuff. And if all seniors could rise, they would rise up in rebellion, burn their AARP cards, and demand the right to be accepted just as they are and not be ignored or ridiculed.

To be elderly is defined as being advanced in years; an aged member of society. The key to a senior’s, an elderly-person’s rights, is their duty and obligation to be humans with different quirks because of years of ingrained attitudes and physical qualities. Being quirky is just being a different type of human. It’s a right.

Collectors


Look around you. Do you need everything you see in your residence? Or are you a packrat collector of things you are going to leave to your grandchildren, who will probably just throw them away anyhow. Maybe you look around and call it a hobby, all those knick-knacks, 78 rpm records (remember those, where’s the turntable?) and yesterdays and months of newspapers and magazines that are irreplaceable memories of times past, and take up so much room you must watch the TV in the kitchen while eating over the sink. Think about it. It could even be said that collecting is in itself a crazy activity.

Why would any rational person want to have a bunch of stamps sitting around that are never going to be of any use? Well, some who study human behavior speculate that collecting is a modern expression of our ancient instinct as hunter-gatherers, to hunt and gather and collect. Do you feel that old, or are you a throw-back retiree to the cave ages? Look around your place and decide.

Some things you need to collect like cash, trash, the mail, and empty bottles and dirty dishes off the kitchen table, but maybe not belly-button lint from the ages, your youth until now.

One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. You’ve heard it all before. Be careful how you define junk. Some say it is discarded things, or things regarded as worthless or causing clutter, or cheap and poorly made goods: or something to seriously think about, secondhand goods offered for sale. Have you been to a state or county or local street fair lately and seen the wares of collectors spread out on card tables? Have you been to a yard/garage sale lately?

If you are a pack-rate hoarder of tons of junk in the attic, the basement or the garage, like toy trains, baseball cards or matchbox cars, fishing lures or old postcards, there are places where these items can be traded or sold. There are buyers out there. There are, for real, clubs and organizations that deal with many of these ‘treasures’ that mess up your home. There are almost as many collectors as there are things to collect. Why? People like to collect things. That, you see, is the real reason they collect stuff, because they love them. It matters not why, if they even know why, it makes little difference if these things are obsolete or ungainly or ugly, that they cost far too much and take up a ridiculous amount of space and serve absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever. In love, as in collecting, irrationality reigns supreme.

If you are one of these types, properly organizing the stuff you call a collection has a definition. It’s called housekeeping, housework, or domestic science. After you have completed one of these chores, you have to find out what to do with your treasures. If you have some time on your hands there are collector’s sites on the web whose primary purpose is to provide free information for collecting clubs, collectors and the antiques, art and collectibles industry. For example, search for cigarette lighter collectors, or salt shaker collectors. You will be surprised. Of course there is the ever popular eBay site that has a bidding process where you can get rid of, or sell, your items. Or, you can organize your own, or a block group, yard sale. There are many out there just like you.

Eating Smart


I’ve spun a lot of miles under my vehicles in my days as I’ve traveled the country, and the most important question I ask myself after ‘How far is the next gas station?”, or “Where is the next restroom?” is, ‘What can I eat and still make time?” A fast-food drive-through eatery always looms alongside the highway, but is that smart and will my arteries harden before I get to my destination? Refolding maps is hard enough without deciding on what to eat while driving 70mph past the menu.

On the more serious side, a colorful crop of graphs, charts and pyramids bloom and are printed on a regular basis that categorize and dramatize all the food qualities recognized by man. We should be familiar with these. It must be some kind of rule for prolonged existence. They have been cranked out by the government, as well as other health and profit conscience parties, to educate eaters on the benefits of eating correctly, thus living longer and more productive lives. (This is important to the government because it collects most of its taxes from living humans and to a flam-flam few other parties who collect profits from the same group.)

Humans, referring to you and I, are the logical targets of this information bonanza because most of the other animal groups have their diet thoroughly and naturally figured out without by-the-numbers education. They munch through it on a daily basis. Giraffes chomp on treetops and lions gobble up giraffe meat. Dogs eat dry or canned food, and canned food eats…that’s another story. Big fish eat little fish. It’s a cliché as well as a fact. The animal kingdom has a regular diet program called a food chain that has evolved and been tested through the ages, and it works. Most are still alive and eating, reproducing on a regular basis and looking darn healthy. And to be perfectly clear, in this definition Taco Tommy’s just off the freeway is not considered a food chain.

We know Eating Smart is the current mantra pounded from print, infomercials, PBS, and an occasional snake-oil salesperson that comes through each city, gathers a crowd, charges a fee, spouts some spiel, and tries to sell us a book. Does that mean eating Smart Food? What is Smart Food? Are we to eat Rhodes-Scholar rutabagas, or PhD peas, or morsels of IQ like iron or iodine spread over Quail or Quiche: So many decisions beyond the bacon-burger with cheese served at the quaint little drive-in along the highway.

Eat to live longer is the complete notion, but isn’t that a given? If we stop eating, we die! Even a pretzel-poppin’ nincompoop knows that! It is a simple nutritional reality known since the Garden of Eden. Why was the first residence of man in a garden of smart food occupied and shared by the original snake-oil and apple salesman? It was a tempting taste of the future.

But let us get back to that bacon-burger with cheese and stack it up against the Smart Food Guide Pyramid pushed by the government and its allies. First, we start from the bottom, the bread layer. The burger has that, twice…two buns…another on the top. It is recommended by the perfect-food pyramid and is packed with complex carbohydrates and essential vitamins, though it calls for whole wheat instead of white bread in the pyramid, it is close but not with the full nutritionists blessing. The next level up is the vegetable group. We can unquestionably confirm that the burger stacks up well against the pyramid in this layer: All those garden bits and pieces like onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and maybe a gas-blasting jalapeno. What a potpourri of healthy stuff, i.e., smart food: A regular Garden of Eating.

Meat and cheese overwhelmingly satisfy the next level of the pyramid. A quarter pound, or more, of ground meat, and a serving or two of American cheese, provides a daily supply of all the carnivorous protein, vitamins and nutrients needed by man’s body since menus were illustrated cave drawings of food on the run.

Now holding to the pyramid pattern, neatly at the top of the perfect-pyramid burger is a serving or two of bacon. It contains a little meat burnt to the proper charcoal level, and a little oil (grease) to assure things run smooth. And also lurking at the top of the pyramid are the sweets and spices, because we know that any reputable burger bar has mixed in a hefty helping of sugar and salt in that special sauce used for added flavor.

There it is. We can find smart food anywhere if we look hard enough with a vivid imagination. The conclusion we must come to is that a bacon-burger with cheese served through a window is in effect smart food, but the party pooper group of three-piece-suit nutritionists from the USDA recommend it as a dish only 2 or 3 times a month, not a day. Now that’s dumb. Who wants to endure a burger famine for 27 days a month? Anything sounds better than Rhodes-Scholar rutabagas, which any breathing human animal would probably eat only 2 or 3 times a year, and try finding a drive-through supply just off the freeway. Smart Food is a smart idea for people who have the time to investigate it, cook it, eat at a kitchen table, and write a book or tape a video, but should only be a life-surviving hobby for us, the animal kingdom group referred to as Homo sapiens.

Hunting the Elusive Hobby


Now I could be talking about hunting for the Old World falcon, an elegant bird of prey, or simply called a Hobby, but I’m not. These are elusive birds that dine on insects and small birds, and sometimes dragonflies, but I’m not. I am talking about my pursuit of an auxiliary activity, outside my regular occupation, that I can be engaged in for relaxation. While hunting for this perfect hobby, I, at times, felt like that dragonfly, because I had to flit from here to there to discover the ideal and most enjoyable way to use my spare time. My regular occupation these days of course is in the past tense, such as, I once was a worker bee, and so keeping my mind alert and my body fairly active are my only objectives.

Hobbies I found come in many shapes, forms and activities, and to choose one I had to delve into a NASA sized research project. I discovered the list of options to be infinite and with all the properties of a can of worms. Some come under the category of keeping idle hands, the devils workshop, busy and creative. These would include for example: model building; painting in oil or water; carving in wood, stone or clay; needlepoint; jewelry making; and on and on. Others can be categorized under legs on the move because you have to walk, ride, dance, or tramp. This category combines physical health with mental health. Not an entirely bad idea. And another category would be keeping the brain waving and lively. This consists of activities like: collecting anything, playing chess, electronic games, cards (i.e., poker or canasta); genealogy; gambling; reading; and yes, even writing.

As an ex-worker bee I have a creepy need to fill my idle time with activity. I can’t just sit around and listen to the rust build up around me. I get anxious, like I’m doing something wrong by having nothing to do. I think early in life I must have been bitten by the work-ethic wasp, and it has stuck. I finally understand the problem, and realize now I must find the perfect solution, a hobby—but where to start?

The local hobby superstore was a bonanza of information and ideas. I strolled down the crisscrossing aisles and immediately my work synapses snapped signals to my pleasure genes hidden deep inside my libido. The aroma of glue and the small, slicing tools hanging on the racks brought visions of a cluttered workbench. I was in love with everything and I could envision my home beautified with the creations: Model airplanes flying from wires attached to the ceiling. Better yet, remote-controlled model airplanes screaming across the skies over the neighborhood schoolyard; boats floating in my bath tub and in the community pool, or just casually sailing across my fireplace mantle; or model cars from every age and every country covering every spare road and highway in my home. Wow! There’s not enough time to do it all, but I will try.

Unfortunately the rules and boundaries of a home invaded my fantasy. We need the kitchen for cooking, the dining room for eating, the bedroom for sleeping and dressing, the bathroom for other stuff, and the living room for entertaining (although we may allow a little space for one or two models). That leaves the closets. There is also some room left in the basement and the attic. My planes crashed, my boats all sank, and the cars were stuck on a freeway someplace. My glue gummed up the kitchen sink and I suddenly had small-tool cuts on my fingers.

I moved on to the next category of options which proved simpler. Dancing was immediately obliterated from the equation because I hadn’t danced since Chubby Checker asked me to do the Twist. Tramping the woods and camping seemed like a pleasant pastime, but it is mostly done on weekends, when it doesn’t rain, which is mostly in the summer and in the mountains, a far drive away. What about the rest of the year, and week. Now walking is easy, but I do that anyhow, and I don’t consider it a hobby, but a necessity. Gardening is good, and I’ll leave it at that. Running is just walking faster. I don’t want to do that.

Bike riding is another subject and one I can wrap my legs around. I’ve noticed bikes being ridden everywhere, by every one of every age, and I’m part of the ‘everyone’ species. City, country, day, night, fast, slow, stop for ice cream or chase the sunset, an extension of walking, only with wheels: It has it all. With 24 speeds, a crash helmet, water bottle, a neat little pack on the back rack, and riding gloves like an Indy racecar driver, it all sounds great. I moved this hobby to the top of my list—especially after visiting the local bike shop and seeing all the models and colors and accessories. I should be in good enough shape; after all, I walk don’t I?

I figured in fairness to the collection aficionados I shouldn’t dismiss this category altogether. There may be some fun here, and definitely another method for passing the time, as well as meeting people of similar interests. The other people element is an important secondary benefit of getting any hobby. Stamp or coin or comic book collecting, it seems to me, is something that should have begun in childhood and build itself into a passion, sort of like gambling, but I can’t see that happening overnight. Collecting dolls eliminates about half of us. Although collecting action figure dolls eliminates the better half. Antiques are nice. Collecting old cars is something I could really get into, but my garage is too small: About as small as my budget.

My choice was obvious. I would have to combine two or more hobbies into one. Some options were immediately out. I couldn’t bring together candle making and knot tying; or jewelry making and collecting action-hero toys (well, maybe not); Stamp collecting and bowling don’t seem to fit within my personality profile; and dodge ball and acting my age would never be a good mix … although I’d like to try dodge ball, just once.

I thought bike riding and collecting something could be combined; throw in traveling and/or camping, take a few notes for writing, and a hobby could emerge. Reviewing the combinations is endless and could be a hobby in itself, but is best left to each individual’s quirks. But Watch Out, if a medium-sized falcon mistakes you for lunch. You’re hunting the wrong hobby.

Bad-Hair Days


Most of us want the high-quality kind of luck that brings a random chance for prosperity and good fortune. It just takes one lucky day in a lifetime to be someone else. Some people have it, but most of us don't. I have bad-hair days, we all do, and I believe in all justice we should do something about it, because some of us have them most days of the year. You know who you are and I don't mean those with frightening combovers, split ends whipping you on the back like a cat o'nine tails, or frizzy curls undomesticated and maddening. I mean that for many of us who pat the decades on the shoulder as they pass us by believe good fortune has been left outside in someone else's sunshine - while it rains all over us inside. "It's just one of those days", has become a daily mantra.

We are the victims of Murphy's Law. It is a fact and not just an old saying, "If anything can go wrong, it will." There should be some kind of cosmic balance to this phenomenon. I'm of the notion that there are so many of us on this side of the scale that we have normal-hair days, and those on the sunshine side are freaks of nature. While THEY win the lottery or are four steps ahead when the truck barreling down the street hits the mud puddle near the curb, we lose and get splashed. That's the odds-in-your-favor existence that's always left to glow under someone else's sun.

But, like I said, we should do something about it, and I don't think a march on Washington DC would do the trick; besides most of us don't have the extra change for airfare anyhow. And I don't think we should duplicate the actions I read about one woman. She received a bad haircut at her local salon: This is a bad-hair day in the real sense of the word. The next day she came back with a pistol, demanded her $100 back, shot up the beauticians car, and went down the street to another salon to have her hair repaired. My guess, she probably is will be spending a lot of bad-hair days in the gray-bar hotel.

There is quite a variety of old sayings that try to smooth ruffled feathers (hair). "We have to play the hand we're dealt." "It all evens out in the end." And my favorite, "What goes around comes around." What the heck does that mean? Does it mean on days when I feel like a dog chasing its own tail, I'm OK? Does it mean that someday I will catch it? Then what? Will I find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or just another good saying? These are all nice feel-good sayings that function as pacifiers, but only work about as long as it takes to shoot up a beautician's car.

I think we should ignore that disgruntled Irishman, Murphy, and follow the advice of another distinguished philosopher, Simon. Simon says, "If anything can wrong, and does, pay no attention to it and chalk it up to experience." I know there are some of us who play the same Lottery numbers every week, and the one week we forget to buy a ticket, they draw our numbers. Now that's a bona fide bad-hair day and hard to ignore after you've jumped up and down on the coffee table and created a piece of pulp art. But, all in all, it is a real character building experience - isn't it?

Luck is all relative anyhow. If I win $100 at the local casino, I say "WOW!" If someone in the stratosphere of Mr. Gates or Trump wins the same prize, their reaction would probably be "That's nice, another drop in the bucket." These are both acts of good luck, so I guess luck is just in the eye of the beholder. Some of us see others gliding along through life like a silk butterfly in a slight breeze without a care in the world. Most of us feel like a caterpillar crawling along in the fast lane of a freeway. If we can only make it to the off ramp we may turn into a butterfly. "Hope springs eternal", I guess.

All in all if bad-hair days build character, and that's what we like to tell ourselves, then most of us have positive qualities to spare; and I'm a candidate for sainthood. We've endured the worst of days and are now trying to enjoy the best of days. There's nothing we can do to change it now. I look back at the scrapes and scuffs, black eye, and a broken arm; a car accident or two; sickness here and there; the lost loves; the lost lotteries; the fact that Ed McMahon never delivered my million-dollar check; and the reality that I was born and grew up less than tall, and know I must take it all "with a grain of salt". I know I'll move on. I'll comb my hair every day, shampoo when I feel like it, get a haircut once a month, pretend my hair is good, and croon a little show tune, "Luck be a Lady tonight."

Asset or Liability?


When you dripped out of the shower this morning and looked into that steamy full-length mirror, were you looking at an asset, or a liability? A while back a friend and I were leaving the city dump and I asked the attendant at the scale, "What is the fee for dumping." She answered, "$20.55 per ton including tax." That meant, my friend quickly figured, it would only cost a little over $2.00 to leave your body here at the city dump instead of disturbing the soil someplace. That led to a conversation and exploration into the value of a human body, that is, the entire material or physical structure of the organism humans carry around every day.

We found too many statistics and studies conducted to determine the chemical value of the human body. They range from the $.89 value we were taught in school, excluding of course the cost of extraction the elements, inflation and the fluctuating stock market for the price of chemicals, to a $4.50 value including the skin. Apparently a Japanese team meticulously measured the square area of the skin on a human body and determined it was between 14 and 18 square feet; depending upon the body size. They also determined using the approximate price of quality cowhide, about $.25 per square foot, the skin of the human body averaged out to be worth about $3.50. Now that means the other day when I was participating in one of my asset building activities, softball, and I scrapped my rear sliding into second, it cost me a several pennies off my asset. The question is: Did that negate the afternoon of asset building?

But this is a mere pittance of the real value. New studies have found you can feel like 45 million bucks, instead of a million, on a good day. Replacement body parts are only a fraction of the value. A lung, heart or a kidney is worth only between 50 and 100 grand. The brain has no value, sometimes even an active one. But throwing in the DNA, antibodies, male sperm, female eggs (Here again women are worth more than men.), and especially the bone marrow, these elevate the value up into the comfort zone, that is if you believe insurance companies and hospitals. Put the items on E-bay and you will probably watch the value climb from the comfort zone to the stratosphere. There is only one drawback to the economic process of this evaluation: All prices are based on living tissue and I don't know how long I could sit still for having the DNA, or other things, extracted from my body, molecule by molecule.

But getting back to earth, we had to determine whether the human body was worth more than a plug nickel other than to a chemist or surgeon. There are value scales other than the scientific. To fly your body from New York, NY to Melbourne, Australia and back, first class, makes your live body worth $16,906 to the airlines for taking up one seat on a 747. If you feel you have an economy type body, it is only worth $3,197 for a less comfortable seat. Being too close to the subject, we didn't venture to ask the cost of a departed body on the same trip. But to ride a bus it is only worth about a buck or so. To sit that same body in a VIP seat at the Broadway show, The Producers, for 2 hours and 40 minutes it will cost you $200 plus $40 service charge, whatever that is.

Looking at all the figures we determined that our body-asset is like a small business. Any balance sheet, even for our body-asset, has expenses subtracted from the actual value. We figured haircuts, perms, manicures, body waxing, cosmetics, shaving, some visits to the dentist, and the like, were minor maintenance expenses that improve the package, but not the product. Plastic surgery, we figured, was in a neutral zone between body maintenance and mental maintenance. Doctor appointments and operations were major and necessary maintenance expenses to keep our asset an asset and not a total liability. Physically working out the body in one form of exercise or another was positively split between minor and major expenses; looking good on the outside, and feeling good on the inside … with a dash of mental maintenance thrown in.

What to eat? What to eat? This is a totally different subject and deserving of a full examination. But in a nutshell, and by the way nuts are good for you and your cholesterol level, if you follow every recommended diet and believe every scientific study, you'll wither your asset away from the confusion. How to exercise? That's another profit making decision to be studied in your spare time, and a personal preference.

The bottom line comes down to the fact that the body reflected in the steamy mirror is our primary asset and it must be taken care of while we haul it around. Eat correctly and exercise smartly and we have a long-term asset; don't and we have a short term liability. Sooner or later, you know, we will be asked to quit carrying it around and exchange it for a no-maintenance Casper the Friendly Ghost type body that won't be reflected in the mirror. In the meantime, watch your asset. .

My Gastronomic Chemistry Set (The Battle for the Body)


Analyzing the components of my meals using my gastronomic chemistry set is essential for concocting a wall of defense against the assault on my health or a longer lifespan. Being a senior citizen and wanting to graduate to being a wise old person is a constant challenge that makes it necessary to carefully pick and choose my poisons. This full-time battle against all odds involves not only the woeful time spent at the table, but also the pre-research and calculation processes I must perform to decide what and when to eat; and if it is good or bad for me, what it will cure, what it will prevent, and what body part will fall off or be added by its consumption.

I prepare oatmeal for breakfast because it is a heart-healthy fiber that supports my body's fight against BAD cholesterol; not because the glob in the bowl is a mouth-watering delicacy. I use non-fat milk because it is what it says it is, and instead of sugar I use honey, since it is rich in antioxidants that prevent cancer and adds a golden color to the glob. I remember when I ate honey just because it tasted good. I add a few blueberries or raisins to the glob, if I have any; they also help fight the BAD cholesterol. Salmon also helps the heart but I just can't see it on my oatmeal this early in the day. I sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon on it, more decorative color, to improve the glucose metabolism that keeps my body from being taken prisoner by diabetes 2. I do all these things because I was told to do so by my supporting army of published nutritionists, and I add a glass of orange juice since it contains everything good, including the sun, as does any fresh fruit. It also lowers blood pressure.

Eating has become a full-time struggle to protect myself against the invasion of bad things. Now I'm not an expert, and I'm not a member of the accumulation of experienced researchers and nutritionists who rally around to protect my body, if I were I'd have to write a book to qualify, but I do bring a lifetime of eating experience to the table.

Lately I've had the paranoid feeling that everything I consume is a life threatening plot against my longevity. Believe me, this isn't half as much fun as downing hash browns, ham or bacon or sausage, and eggs with buttered toast. Many days I've been tempted to sacrifice a few hours of the unknown future for a single meal of joy; and some days the temptation wins. But don't tell anyone in my army.

There are so many convoluting, contradicting, and proven studies and marketing statements that it's hard to boil them down to fit into an ideal, yet non-intrusive, nutritional lifestyle.

Let's take 'Cool … Clear … Water'. I've always been told to drink eight 8oz. glasses of water per day. Recently that has been revealed as a myth, probably started by well diggers, because we only lose about 1 liter of water a day through sweat and bodily processes; about four glasses. What is the world coming to? If nutritionists can't figure out water, how can I believe them about steak? That raises the questions: How much to drink, when, and what? By the time I feel really thirsty, they say, I'm already dehydrated. Bottled water doesn't contain enough fluoride to prevent cavities in children (not my problem anymore), and some tap water may contain health-harming bacteria or parasites. A filtration system under the sink that performs reverse osmosis (RO) is a great answer while I'm at home, but a better answer would be a RO built into my body so I can drink from a public fountain or out of the river. There's a $1,000,000 idea.

The scariest part of the day: What's for lunch? Here my gastronomic chemistry set is used to analyze the rations I'm about to eat, and choose what I will not eat. Hot dogs and the usual processed meats I use for sandwiches, besides being fattening, contain preservatives, additives, and other chemicals used for processing including toxic nitrates and nitrites, or chemicals that are formed during processing, and can pull the trigger against my nervous system. They are snipers in the body also knocking off elements sensitive to insulin, and thus provide another chance of being taken prisoner by Diabetes 2. Soup is good, home cooked is better and some canned are OK, but there are so many flavors and recipes that thorough research is involved to avoid fats and retain nutrients. Eating fast food is a notoriously and highly publicized bad-bad no-no exposed for a multitude of chemical outlaws. A salad bar never fails the fast food test unless it is loaded with pepperoni and sausage from the pizza bar or covered with chocolate syrup from the desert bar.

Dinner can be one hope in this siege against my body surrounded by an army of destructive elements. That is if I avoid: red meat and pork, which poke red flags along the colon; pizza, which has more artery hardening fat than a cheeseburger; potatoes are good, but with butter or gravy are fattening; pasta carries a guarantee to make love-handle bulges on my sides; chicken and turkey sans fatty skin are OK if not deep fried or smothered in a fattening cream sauce. Fish is great and filled with the impressive sounding element Omega-3 fatty acids that are good for all things heart related. Fresh vegetables steamed or slightly boiled are good chemicals but taste like vegetables that are steamed or boiled. No butter again. Fresh vegetable salads are the best if tainted with vinegar and olive oil.

Dessert is OK if it's non-fat, non-sugar, non-white flour, and served with the perfect taste and texture of cardboard or Plaster of Paris. Dark chocolate contains those helpful antioxidants. What can I say about Jell-O?

My gastronomic chemistry set, as you may see, is merely a lifetime of knowledge I've collected over the years in my fight for life. After a while it becomes a habit to me, and should be for you, sort of like breathing … and that's not a bad idea either.

Deja Vu Driving (Haunting Habits Happen)


There are times when I really must do things different than I did for so many years. But things happen. Recently my Chevy took over my life and dictated my destination. Have you ever had that happen? I was heading home from an insignificant event, coupon shopping at a supermarket down the road, when it happened. I wanted to make a left at the next light to shop at another market that had wonderful savings on vitamins and tissues: A cheap price and it was the last day of the sale. My car ignored the left and continued on until it turned right into my driveway. I'd missed the turn, missed the sale, and didn't realize it until I started taking bags out of the back seat.

What happened? I scratched my head, which I know solves all my problems, and realized that that was the route I drove home every workday for years. My Chevy was on auto-mode into that old routine. It drove home on its own. Like a faithful horse it had that feeling it had been here before and out of habit followed the beaten path. Some call it sort of an eerie Déjà vu phenomenon. I call it a habit not broken. My Chevy just didn't know any better. Notice, I don't blame my memory, I blame the whole thing on the car. I also blame the Déjà vu God of Order in Life who is as overpowering and as intrusive as cheap cologne.

I'm all for order. It can be a good thing sometimes, like if I'm looking for matched sox in the dresser drawer, but enough is enough. For example, I finally realized a while back that I no longer must set an alarm because of the habitual pattern and many years of waking up at 6am; I still do, no matter how hard I try to sleep in. It's a routine I can't break. I eat lunch at the same time every day, hungry or not. The remote appears in my hand and TV news goes on the same time every evening. The experience of being controlled by the Déjà vu God of Order in Life is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity (read boredom) and also a sense of eeriness or strangeness. This I know from personal practice. I found through research that the previous experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in my case there is a firm sense that the experience genuinely happened in the past. My work history proves this last point. The only thing missing is my cubicle and desk. I don't want to be here. You know what I mean?

I also found that these haunting habits aren't just created through work-related patterns; they can spring from any repetitive action. A friend of mine owned a cat for years and each evening before bedtime brought it in from the wilds of the back yard to sleep in the warm house. After the cat jumped through its ninth life cycle by unsuccessfully challenging a wild raccoon, my friend still hopefully ambled to the door before bedtime, opened it, and looked around. 'Just checking for burglars,' she would justify. In the corner of the kitchen there still sat the lonely clean food bowl and a sand box. Visual habits, a place for everything and everything in its place, are just as hard to break. I still trip over the ottoman that was there before the invention of the recliner.

Then there is the haunting habit that never happens. Another friend spent work days in a bank data-processing department. Her job was to put out the fire if a system or cash machine crashed. She anxiously waited but never broke into an intense work mode unless reacting to a crisis; then she went into full throttle speed to solve the problem. Since retiring she is still anxiously waiting, and waiting, but not reacting because the problems aren't there: A habit not happening. Is this good or bad?

All habits are not as bad as smoking: Like brushing my teeth; washing my hands after a workout at the gym; and eating soup with a spoon and not a fork. But I want to have that soup for lunch at 2:00 and maybe drive to a market too far. Better yet, drive around the city until I'm lost then find my way home. The opposite of haunting habits, I find, must be memorable adventures.

A light bulb lit up over my head. Small sojourns into the world of the unknown around the city are what will make this retirement thing a little easier to cope with. Big adventures like trips to Maui and New Orleans are nice, and costly, but the little book store or small café across town once in a while can make the day: The road unknown and the parkway to somewhere else suddenly became inviting. It will take me a while to retrain my Chevy to seek the unfamiliar, but once I brush the Déjà vu voodoo dust off its steering wheel and take charge again, good things will happen. They've happened before haven't they?

Help Wanted


Hat in hand, I must carry out the most multi-faceted and degrading action-reaction performance devised for humans since the beginning of the Industrial Age: A job interview. The unexpected is always expected. Humility is the strongest asset to bring to the table. I know that. I must be pleasant and have a silk suit and tie on my tongue with a button-down brain cluttered with pearly smiles and polished pleases. The interview process, usually, in the past, in my case, unfortunately, after the interviewer, typically a fresh very-young graduate in Human Resources from Matchbook Trade School, after glancing halfheartedly at my resume, seems to consist of two questions: Why do you want this job? And, can you find the door? My gray hair trips me up every time.

While waiting – sweating – in the waiting room before this interview, dwarfed by youth, vitality, and the latest fashionable outfits, reality hits me in the face like the bottom side of a frying pan. It must be a weighty enough task for a young person to apply for a job or plan a career in these days of high-speed mutation: but what about me, a senior and proven useful individual? I just want a meager supplemental income to keep the corporate collectors from my door while at the same time doing something with my idle time. I squirm in my folding chair and feel like a no-nonsense tennis shoe at the Governor’s Ball as the tasseled loafers pass me by.

I remember what President Clinton so eloquently orated to an audience a few years ago, “By the time our young people reach your age, they will be working jobs that haven’t been invented yet.” Great! I see a lot of young people around me who have fingered through the yellow pages shopping for the Acme Trade School so they can master those yet-to-be invented jobs, or have applied at a local community college and asked, “Can you enroll me in all the classes for a job that doesn’t exist right now, but will pay me those ‘big bucks’ twenty years from now. And by the way, I’ll take my $1500 tax credit in cash.” They are at least smart enough to know that whatever they learn today will be obsolete tomorrow because technology is moving too fast. I feel their distress. I didn’t know the Pres was also talking about me.

What about me? I’m available, a neat dresser, experienced, and actively in the job hunt, but I’ve found, though, the openings for a trained and proven professional range from Superstore Greeter to Café Swamper. I guess they have determined any old person can shake a hand or swing a mop or drive a delivery van. If all else fails I can always resort back to delivering the morning newspaper like I did when I was 10 years old.

Despite all I continue the game. Two dailies thumping my door: Opportunity knocking? Wonderful! Men Wanted. Man Wanted For. Circle and call. Circle and call. I do the expected newspaper routine. “Not today, sorry! All filled up today, call again tomorrow or after you reincarnate as a younger version and own a bigger car.” I can’t demand. My resume and applications are probably stashed in file drawers all over town between chopped olive sandwiches and Mercy Missy Napkins. Because I have a young sounding voice I finally land this interview. Looking around I begin to wonder if this is actually an interview, or maybe I was invited as an example of what could be if they don’t play the interview game by the inflexible rules. My folding chair squeaks from the squirming.

Our great nation has fabricated a Great Society by blending all the melting-pot of newcomers, and has created some wonderful children so-far: The Beat Generation of Zen.; The Age of Aquarius or Where are we?; The Boomer’s Generation of Now; The X-Generation of Whatever; And they all boil down to the Skip Generation: Us, the cream at the top of the pot. The 500 skeptically intelligent and superficially compassionate people we’ve elected to rent homes in Washington D. C., and who qualified for their jobs by passing a political opinion poll in the comics section, are no help. They throw around a lot of words to get votes. We haven’t been defined yet. Our jobs haven’t been invented yet; they haven’t trickled down yet, because we don’t need work, they say, we’re not expected to work, they believe. We’ve been skipped.

A pleasant voice finally sings in demonic harmony through the room calling my name. I rise and a recent-undergraduate young lady beckons me to follow her through the gates of hell, the interview room. As I follow her, pleas echoes through my mind, ‘Please don’t ask me my age. I’ll have to lie, and then I’ll have to explain how I could be in the Army and Grade School at the same time. Don’t ask me my favorite song or singer because that certainly will date me as a Civil War Veteran’. In the cubicle I am the perfect interviewee. My tie is straight, I’ve swallowed my gum, my cell phone is turned off, I’ve laid out the correct resume (out of four I’ve had to concoct depending upon my experience as related to the prospective job), and I answer all her questions while looking directly into her eyes and avoid the trap, the distracting movie posters hung on the walls.

Then: “Thank you for coming in. We’ll call you when we have an opening you qualify for.”

“…But?”

Zen vs. Nap


A glazed donut smothered with a dark chocolate and garnished with a rainbow of sprinkles vs. a sugarless/non-raisin bran muffin: Like asking me to choose between riding on a trike with a square front tire or in a stretch Limo with a complimentary bar. Since exchanging my occupation machine routine for a serene state of eternal retreat, I've had to make so many new choices between happiness and health … 'one leads to the other' I've been told … but to me they're like animate forks in the road through life that interweave around each other. One leads to the other and they mirror each other just like a couple married for countless years.

How do I best treat my body and mind to become a healthier and yet happier person? I asked my inner self who at the time was busy reading the TV schedule.

Meditation, of course, or Zen as some people refer to it, is a subject often linked to the state of true happiness (I guess as opposed to ordinary happiness being a small fib). Zen meditation refers to a condition in which the body is consciously relaxed and the mind is allowed to become calm and focused: 'Continuous and profound contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects of a deep or abstruse nature'. This could easily describe my state just before I take my afternoon Nap on the couch. Do toes count as subjects of abstruse nature? A Nap, as you are aware, is 'a sleep for a brief period, often during the day … to doze': and it also has another meaning; 'to pour or put a sauce or gravy over a cooked dish'. I could easily be a cooked dish when I vegetate on the couch during my afternoon siesta, but not for this purpose of pursuing happiness in the psychic sense.

I believe for me the Nap option is closer to the phenomenon of meditation. Both these approaches to true happiness, Zen and Nap, position the mind (and body) in a relaxed state in order to become calm and focused. If I tell my friends I take a short Zen period every afternoon, would I be far from the truth? And I would appear to be a deep person since I am seeking happiness using a universal, trendy, contemplative method. Besides, Naps aren't that far from true happiness. I have free-flowing happy dreams in old style Technicolor; although mostly in slow motion and vivid flashbacks these days, and unfortunately I must I sit in the senior discount seats.

Breakfast is another and the first genuine challenge in the choices between happiness and health during the day (besides pushing or not pushing the snooze button on the alarm). There's that bran muffin again. Add a bowl of oatmeal and black coffee and I have a breakfast as exciting as a one-horse race: How about ham or sausage or bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast. I hover over this platter of happiness at least once a week at Ma's Café on the corner of cholesterol and glucose. I have to admit this weekly weakness trashes the health aspects of happiness but raises the joy-of-life happiness to a temporary level of ecstasy.

I've found, since being allowed to make my own decisions and not wedged into a rut, seemingly commonplace everyday choices can be earthshakingly important options in the quest for a healthy and happy life (WOW! is that a mouthful of gingersnap words), such as to walk or to drive (depends on the weather); cola or diet soda; (with or without spirits); regular or decaf; a few laps on the treadmill or a session of Tai Chi.

Now Tai Chi is my game at my speed … slow, fluid and gentle, and can be practiced outdoors, if I don't mind looking like a fool. It's a physical meditation I'm told. I've seen some neighbors practice it down the street in the park (it must be practice because it never looks completely refined). They say it can help with everything from blood pressure to increased bone density to lowering stress. That's a lot for an exercise that imitates a stork stuck in the mud. They claim it gives them a better perspective of their life challenges and problems; and I can say that would be an indisputable fact each time they lose their balance and fall to the ground flat on their back. Everything looks up from down there.

But I return to the original question: How do I best treat my body to become a healthier and yet happier person? And my fence-walking answer is simple … chocolate flavored bran donuts with raisins and sugarless sprinkles.

Seniors Hunting for That Hobby


As a senior citizen I have a creepy need to fill my idle time with activity. I can’t just sit around and listen to the rust build up around me. I get anxious, like I’m doing something wrong by having nothing to do. I think early in life I must have been bitten by the work-ethic wasp, and it has stuck. I finally understand the problem, and realize now I must hunt for the perfect solution, a hobby—but where to start?

Now I could be talking about hunting for the Old World falcon, an elegant bird of prey, or simply called a Hobby, but I’m not. These are elusive birds that dine on insects and small birds, and sometimes dragonflies, but I’m not. I am talking about the pursuit of an auxiliary activity, outside my regular occupation, that I can be engaged in for relaxation. While hunting for this perfect hobby, I, at times, feel like that dragonfly, because I have to flit from here to there to discover the ideal and most enjoyable way to use my spare time. My regular occupation these days of course is in the past tense, such as, I once was a worker bee, and so keeping my mind alert and my body fairly active are my only objectives.

Hobbies come in many shapes, forms and activities, and to choose one I must delve into a NASA sized research project. I discover the list of options to be infinite and with all the properties of a can of worms. Some come under the category of keeping idle hands, the devils workshop, busy and creative. These would include for example: model building; painting in oil or water; carving in wood, stone or clay; needlepoint; jewelry making; and on and on. Others can be categorized under legs on the move because you have to walk, ride, dance, or tramp. This category combines physical health with mental health. Not an entirely bad idea. And another category would be keeping the brain waving and lively. This consists of activities like: collecting anything, playing chess, electronic games, cards (i.e., poker or canasta); genealogy; gambling; reading; and yes, even writing.

The local hobby superstore was a bonanza of information and ideas. I strolled down the crisscrossing aisles and immediately my work synapses snapped signals to my pleasure genes hidden deep inside my libido. The aroma of glue and the small, slicing tools hanging on the racks brought visions of a cluttered workbench. I was in love with everything and I could envision my home beautified with the creations: Model airplanes flying from wires attached to the ceiling. Better yet, remote-controlled model airplanes screaming across the skies over the neighborhood schoolyard; boats floating in my bath tub and in the community pool, or just casually sailing across my fireplace mantle; or model cars from every age and every country covering every spare road and highway in my home. Wow! There’s not enough time to do it all, but I will try.

Unfortunately the rules and boundaries of a home invaded my fantasy. We need the kitchen for cooking, the dining room for eating, the bedroom for sleeping and dressing, the bathroom for other stuff, and the living room for entertaining (although we may allow a little space for one or two models). That leaves the closets. There is also some room left in the basement and the attic. My planes crashed, my boats all sank, and the cars were stuck on a freeway someplace. My glue gummed up the kitchen sink and I suddenly had small-tool cuts on my fingers.

I moved on to the next category of options which proved simpler. Dancing was immediately obliterated from the equation because I hadn’t danced since Chubby Checker asked me to do the Twist. Tramping the woods and camping seemed like a pleasant pastime, but it is mostly done on weekends, when it doesn’t rain, which is mostly in the summer and in the mountains, a far drive away. What about the rest of the year, and week. Now walking is easy, but I do that anyhow, and I don’t consider it a hobby, but a necessity. Gardening is good, and I’ll leave it at that. Running is just walking faster. I don’t want to do that.

Bike riding is another subject and one I can wrap my legs around. I’ve noticed bikes being ridden everywhere, by every one of every age, and I’m part of the ‘everyone’ species. City, country, day, night, fast, slow, stop for ice cream or chase the sunset, an extension of walking, only with wheels: It has it all. With 24 speeds, a crash helmet, water bottle, a neat little pack on the back rack, and riding gloves like an Indy racecar driver, it all sounds great. I moved this hobby to the top of my list—especially after visiting the local bike shop and seeing all the models and colors and accessories. I should be in good enough shape; after all, I walk don’t I?

I figured in fairness to the collection aficionados I shouldn’t dismiss this category altogether. There may be some fun here, and definitely another method for passing the time, as well as meeting people of similar interests. The other people element is an important secondary benefit of getting any hobby. Stamp or coin or comic book collecting, it seems to me, is something that should have begun in childhood and build itself into a passion, sort of like gambling, but I can’t see that happening overnight. Collecting dolls eliminates about half of us. Although collecting action figure dolls eliminates the better half. Antiques are nice. Collecting old cars is something I could really get into, but my garage is too small: About as small as my budget.

My choice was obvious. I would have to combine two or more hobbies into one. Some options were immediately out. I couldn’t bring together candle making and knot tying; or jewelry making and collecting action-hero toys (well, maybe not); Stamp collecting and bowling don’t seem to fit within my personality profile; and dodge ball and acting my age would never be a good mix … although I’d like to try dodge ball, just once.

I thought bike riding and collecting something could be combined; throw in traveling and/or camping, take a few notes for writing, and a hobby could emerge. Reviewing the combinations is endless and could be a hobby in itself, but is best left to each individual’s quirks. But Watch Out, if a medium-sized falcon mistakes you for lunch. You’re hunting the wrong hobby.

When I’m Retired (The perfect plan for everyone)


When I'm a retired cranky-old-man Boomer I will brag I have the perfect plan all laid out. All the things and wings of happiness are spread out before me like a wet blanket over a bed of roses. My years of experience in life’s games and the practice sessions have made it easy to see my future.

When I’m retired I'll live with and off my children and bring them the great joy they gave me when I was their parent. To repay for all experiences I've taken from each daughter and son, I’ll decorate their walls with indelible pens and scuff up the floors with my hiking boots on, and run in and out without closing the door, including the refrigerator. Break lots of dishes and drop apple cores on the floor. And whenever they yell at me, I'll hang my head and pout … things like that … just like I remember.

When I’m retired I’ll drive if I want to, even if they try to sneak the eye chart further away, or lower the driver’s seat in my car so I can’t see over the steering wheel. I’ll know it, and they won’t fool me. I’ll know that I’ve gotten old, no secret, probably because I had two by-pass surgeries, a hip replacement and new knees, fought prostate cancer, and diabetes. I'll likely be half blind, won’t be able hear anything quieter than a power-mower engine, take a bunch of different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. Have bouts with dementia, have poor circulation, hardly can feel my hands and feet anymore, and won’t be able to remember my birthday let alone if I'm 35 or 92. I’ll probably have lost all my friends.

“But ... Thank heavens; I will still have my driver's license and can go to other places to avoid my troubles and meet new friends!”

When I’m retired I’ll keep in shape, not like now, but in which shape I haven’t decided, yet. I’ll walk for 30 minutes every day, whenever I feel like it, or remember it. I’ll stretch what muscles I have left. I’ll turn wrinkled, gray and smaller like everyone else, and the doctor will tell me that lie, just like he does now, “You're in terrific shape. There's nothing wrong with you. Why, you might live forever; you have the body of a 35-year-old.” Pretty good for someone as old as me, huh? He’s been telling me that same lie all this time and I haven’t aged a bit.

“Gosh! What a good doctor he is to get me this far along, and in this shape,” I will say, “and still at a young age. I know he’s good, because he’s still alive.” I will think.

When I’m retired I’ll have no peer pressure, or even pee pressure, because at seven I always peed like a horse, at eight I pooped like a cow, so the problem will be, I know, and I hope, I don’t sleep past nine. Maybe one of my fellow peers will call me to see if I’m asleep yet. But I won’t be alone, because I’ll know, like everyone, that everything that works will hurt, and what doesn't hurt, won’t work. I’ll be able to buckle my own belt every time I need to, but won’t be able to unbuckle my knees to stand up to do it. My supply of brain parts and pieces will finally be down to a manageable size, not so loaded up with trivia from the job, and filled with dreams of running and jumping.

“I’ll have to excuse myself a little more often then than now.”

When I’m retired I’ll drink with the same moderation as I always have. I’ve also learned the hard way that lying doesn’t pay, unless I’m in a bar talking about the night before, or talking to my mate the next morning about how much I had to drink … and with whom. I still must do that. But, back to drinking, I’ll quit the hand-over-fist-fast marathon drinking practices I had in my younger days, and taper back to left-hand then right- hand then left-hand to slow me down. I’ll have parties but the neighbors won’t even know it … because, like I’ve said, I’ll have lost a few friends, and the ones I will still have will probably be as quiet as hospital patients.

“I will miss my two-fisted friends with motorcycles who will be replaced; I’m sure, by white-knuckled power-chair riders of the open range/hallway.”

When I’m retired I’ll have sex once in a while, sometimes, as often as I can, or whenever I feel like it, or at least once. I will still have an eye for the opposite sex. I will know the good from the bad; the maybe from the not-sure; the desperate from those like me; and the don’t-give-a-darn from who-cares-with-who-anyhow characters I use to hang out with. But when it comes right down to it I probably won’t miss sex, physically impossible speaking, as much as I’d miss a lost hearing aid or a pair of glasses. Dreams will be a wonderful replacement for reality, in many cases ... I think.

“Sex is so over rated, over rated, over rated, well anyhow, only semi-important.”

When I’m retired I’ll tell jokes like Henny Youngman with the machine gun attack style of a Jack Benny. I’ll make fun of the young and middle aged because they are so open to all the stupid things they do. Just like us. I hope politics and political parties are still around … what fun I’ll have. I’d try standup comedy, but then, I don’t know if I will be able to. By then, computers will be piles of junk and ESP will be in and I’ll be able to tell jokes without moving my lips, or without anyone knowing it. They’ll all be laughing on the inside. I can see it now, a whole room full of gray, blank, red-eyed faces staring back at me knowing I’m nuts for what I’d just said, ESPd, to them.

“What a thrill, I can hardly wait to try it. I practiced it last week and it works.”

When I’m retired I’ll take up bowling because I won’t have to walk as far as when golfing … just three steps at a time. And the ball will be larger and easier to control … and not lose. There will be a roof to stop the rain and blistering sun which might further crust layer my skin. There will be a gallery of friends and fans to cheer when I finally lift and roll the ball … and knock down a few pins. Pretty young people will bring me beers to my table instead of having to knock back a swig from a flask under the eyes of Mother Nature on the golf course or the softball field. And who will care what my final score will be, as long as I finish the game’s all ten frames.

“When I retire I’ll be happy to play the game.”

When I’m retired I’ll be my own cook. I’ll probably have to after having alienated all those people in my life who ticked me off and won’t live with me. Besides, cooking for one will be easier … and the menu will be simpler … I’m told: Cereal with milk, cinnamon, and fruit in the morning; Soup and crackers for lunch; a TV dinner for supper. What’s so different about that? And the dirty dishes will be so much easier to keep up on.

“I’ll even keep a supply of paper plates and cups, and eat over the sink, to keep things neat.”

When I’m retired there are certain things I won’t have to worry about anymore … like dressing and being fashionable … who cares … the clothes I have now likely won’t wear out, and the fashion police will quit following me around on my last day on the job, I’m sure. I’ll get lower prices on theater tickets, senior meals at the restaurant, and even special auto insurance rates.

Speed won’t matter because I will have time to spare and plenty of time to get anywhere. I’ve learned everything I can the hard way, so now I can learn things the easy way … if there is such a way. My eyes and ears won’t get much worse, and technology will only get better. ‘Maybe I will’ and ‘maybe I won’t’ will be my standard answer to things I may or may not want to do.

When I’m retired, life won’t be so bad, if I don’t forget where I put this plan.

I Got the Blues, sings Buddy Guy! (If you do, get over it)


Blues are a relative thing. No, we don’t mean you are mourning your Mom, Dad, Bro or Sis, or any other character along your bloodline. No, we mean your woman has left; your dog died; the car is stuck in the mud; and the utility has turned off your electricity, blues. We’re talking about dark, deep blues with tinges or halos of purples and crimson flashing in the back of your brain. The strings of the electric guitar between your ears are bending and screaming and crying real tears. The sax in your gut is spewing moans and groans of pity me, pity poor me, the low-down victim of all that is bad and worse. You know how it goes …

I’ve disappeared … invisible … I’m aging … I’m old. My friends can’t see me as I walk by and say hello. My enemies burn my image with their eyes. People I don’t know glare at me like I was a resurrection of the devil. I am no one, nobody, non-existent, a person non-grata and the bottom of all shoes.

“I usta be somebody!”

Damn Right I got the blues. Damn-Sam-Blam-Bam Blues with accompanying steam of cooked egos and smoke from the trash I leave behind me. I got torn-jean, black-eyed, mussed hair and hole in the boot, last gasp blues. I’m down, I’m out, and I’m the trash after my last how’s-it-going-old-man birthday party. Heaven is no help for these blues. I’m so down; it’s too far for anyone in that spiritual sky to take notice of my cry.

And I’m wailing. I’m jailing. I’m hailing a cab to take me to nearest elevator down to my soul for introspection. My soul is a blue tar pit. My soul is as blue as the boysenberry smudges on my brain.

Down here, inside myself, I disappeared to find my life. I walked behind the exit door and entered a world of the expectations. I saw the lights of a powerful blue neon sign blinking the message, ‘Poor You, You Poor Man, Poor-Poor Blue Old Man,’ following me to the next street into the future. Blues are everywhere, and you can’t escape it. You can’t shake the tail it has attached to your hind end, a tail called TIME. You must live with it and make it part of your every-day life. Blues are part and parcel of every body, just like arms, legs, eyes, ears, and all the remaining hairs on your head.

That’s it; get over it!

Seniors are always crying about the past they can’t relive. It’s gone, times past, the life of a younger person, not you, now, in this stage of your life, that is, senior in retirement … for Gosh Sakes … a Boomer!

The Future is your next step, next thought, next dream. You have no choice in the matter. Have a dream; make a plan; list things you want to do; list things you haven’t done but always wanted to do; consult a fortune teller; whatever it takes to get the process started. What process you may ask yourself? Living from now on is the process. You can go to the ocean and take that long, last swim, or swim toward that palm tree in the Tropics. This is the better choice. The blues, after all, is a natural phenomenon in the process of aging.

“Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved,” said D.H. Lawrence. You must spend your remaining years as if they were gold coins … only on the best items with the most value. You know what they are. You know what you want to do, but have always hesitated.

There are so many ways to improve and several things you can accomplish to make this the time of your life, actually, the time of your life, and not the blues of your life. So many plans you haven’t thought of, but others have. It is an economic or intellectual crisis for some, and the same opportunity for others. There is a potpourri of protection you can do and build around yourself to make this happen. Two things are essential; you must have friends and finances forever, or at a minimum, as long as necessary: Having no friends and no money is really depressing.

We all know there are other things that are more important as time flies by. Like … the alleviation of an enduring pain; sex after such a long time; a wrinkle cream that really works; solid 8-hours of sleep; a healthy bowel movement; and maybe even truth in advertising. But we can’t have it all.

Agreed, these are small things, but they add up to happiness from now on. After all, as Ben Franklin said, “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” I guess he’s saying you can’t sit around and wait for the time of your life to land on your shoulder … you have to go for it and shake those old-timer blues and dark shadows of doubt. Now!

Dressing Down


And I was positive I knew what I looked like in the mirror all these years. But, to say it wildly, the other oxford dropped when someone asked, "Do you know what you look like in those clothes? Are you comfortable? It's a barbeque, man. Loosen up!" I had to admit I'd ventured out on very few shopping expeditions for new rags since I embarked on my finer life of leisure. I began to feel like an eight ball at a beach ball party.

Someone then suggested I wear a brighter and more colorful shirt for a photo shoot. I can catch a hint. I figured I'd better examine my closet and I found it looked like a typical day in the Pacific Northwest; a dull assortment of grays, blacks, whites and occasional shades of blue…my dress-up clothes for many years that served me perfectly well in the cubicle world. The only traces of a rainbow in my closet were the neckties, which I pledged I would never knot to my neck again; at least I knew that much about casual wear. A light bulb lit up in my brain, wearing my old work clothes as party clothes wasn't socially acceptable and a major fashion modification was in order.

After that degrading comment about my casual rags I scrutinized the attire of my friends at the party (men only, because women always have two or three floors of wardrobe to choose from at any department store, even work clothes, while men's clothes are strung along racks between the tools and the shoes), and I deduced that casual clothes for men materialize in three fundamental styles: The golfer motif, which depicts the impression that the displayer of this costume is arriving at or coming from the 18th or 19th hole; Hawaiian-loud designed attire says vacation is my game and I've been around and I don't want you to forget it; or then there's the racetrack bookie garb that falls between an imitation of Cary Grant and the used finery purchased from a pawn shop. Believe me; any combination of two of these styles creates chaos in the GQ world.

I decided it was time to dress down and I ventured into unknown territory to shop for my new rags; I wandered the streets of the city rather than the aisles of the clotheshorse arcade. I stumbled on a store that specialized in sneakers where just about any creature from the animal kingdom or any barometric condition on the weather map could encase my feet: choosing from the basic activities of walking, running, cross training, basketball, skateboarding, casual or courting. Being a single guy I opted for the latter; it seemed like an all-purpose shoe with a sort-of-flat sole and a conservative gray color … hard to kick the habit.

Working my way up the torso new pants was my next objective. I remember when jeans were simply called blue jeans and had the little watch pocket in the front and a leather label on the back under the belt. Now they are called denims, Levi's®, Wranglers®, and an assortment of cowboy (girl) descriptive action adjectives and fashion designer dialog. They carry descriptive styles like boot cut, pre-shrunk, cargo, carpenter, relaxed, easy fit, form fit, loose fit, straight leg (What? As opposed to a broken leg?), patch pocket, paint splatter, boomer (now if that means baby boomer, they might fit me), and adult cut; baggies were out because they dropped below my love handles.

I had to make a fundamental style decision, that is, do I want to look like an adult type or a preshrunk-relaxed-easy fit type of casual person? I assumed the obvious and bought the adult style, which I quickly splattered with paint and dragged behind my SUV a few miles to make them look in style. Of course, there are alternative choices such as casual slacks, khakis, cords, and wash and wears, but I decided to hold off on buying those until I lose my extra weight at the gym.

I was beginning to get into this fashion-plate mood and decided to venture up the body parts and cover my middle-aged spread around the bread basket. Since I live in warm territory, and because the color of my jeans and sneakers were close in color to my work clothes, I decided on a clashing rainbow collection of polo, golf, tennis, and sport shirts; long and short sleeve; pocket and non-pocket; with or without a moose, alligator, brand name and golf club embroidered on the chest; multi-colored and plain; and one size larger than usual to cover all the good-time meals I'd eaten in my previous life.

Hats are a mood thing and my mood is usually not to wear one, unless it's raining too hard or the sun is shining too bright. I could hold off on jackets and sweats until the weather cooled to room temperature.

There, it was done; I'd bit the bullet and shopped till I dropped. I selected a set of sporty clothes that I'll wear to the next barbeque. It's a different approach than the three styles I'd observed on others. I looked into the mirror again and recognized that I'm now a retired teenager: Next, a pony tail, tattoo, and pierced ear.

A Second Heartbeat (Or a Cuddle Buddy)


A crony recently advised me that I needed another heartbeat. I immediately threw my hand to my chest hoping for another … and again another after that. 'But the doctor says I'm in great shape', I gasped. 'Not a transplant, idiot,' he put in plain words, 'a second heartbeat, a companion.' Because I am a single senior and tired of eating TV dinners and take-out food my mind immediately flashed brilliant colors of Las Vegas ladies and gala parties, but I knew with all that going on I may need a third or fourth heartbeat to keep up the pace. 'A pet,' he clarified, 'a second heartbeat, a cuddle buddy, someone to talk to rather than your impassive walls.'

My walls do just hang their and hold up the pictures and doorways. My friend probably had a point. I had to give it some sober thought … and thorough research … so I started analyzing my way through the animal kingdom … starting with the most common heartbeats …dogs and cats.

For the most part dogs seem to be slow on the uptake, but loveable and active, and they come in a variety of sizes and colors. I figured size related directly to food consumption and dumption (if there is such a word to tolerably describe the process of following an animal down the street with a plastic bag in hand), and color related to shedding to match the carpet. Cats are too mysterious and I am positive each one stares at me with the intention of trying to possess my human soul. That scares me. I have enough trouble keeping my soul pointed in the right direction without it being attached to a cat. But cats do have a lot of fun and are fun to watch, from a distance. They run around the neighborhood, unleashed, and chase birds and an array of imaginary wildlife they eyeball from an ancestral crouch.

But cats and dogs are old hat and everyone has one, I figured, so a visit to a local pet store might reveal a menagerie of other heartbeats.

Birds are colorful, small and easy to maintain and can chirp or chatter or sing. Canaries are small and sociable, as long as you don't touch them (sounds like some people I know), and can live up to 25 years. 'Wait a minute,' I worried, 'I may have to include the canary in my will.' Macaws are beautiful, but large and they can live to the age of 50 … another inheritor to my vast estate of packrat artifacts. And a plain old parrot, if taught to sing O Solo Mio like Enrico Caruso, will be a real pain in the brain in no time. Besides, where do you put a birdcage in a SUV while traveling across country?

Do snakes have heartbeat … a heart? Does a fish have a personality?

When is the last time you had the opportunity to cuddle and pet a rat, or even escort one down the street on a leash? I was told a fancy rat, I supposed as opposed to a Cinderella-before-the-Ball rat, is an ideal pet for the ages 8 and up with adult supervision. (Being over 8 I didn't know who I could ask to supervise me in my pet play time.) They grow up to 10-inches long with up to an 8-inch tail. My O' My! That's a foot-and-a half of rodent fun and maybe I could escort mine on a leash down the street - if I want to lose all my neighbors as friends and be attacked by cats … and 'you should have two rats', I was told, 'they are smart and can learn tricks …but they have large front teeth and need something to chew on.' Between the tangled leashes and my gnawed finger stumps, I passed on the rat(s) as a second heartbeat.

Then there is the reptile family of pets. There is a variety of reptiles beyond the slithery snake group. How about a Crocodile Greco, a Panther Chameleon, a Blue-tongued Skink, or an Argentine Horned Pac Man Frog? All are genuine animals and not Sci-Fi creatures. And you know what? These pets eat live insects and worms that also must be fed nutrients before they are fed to the second heartbeat. I passed again.

While considering the second heartbeat I also reflected on some of the secondary responsibilities. Cleaning up after any second heartbeat will be an olfactory challenge no matter what the source: Cats are not clean animals - have you cleaned out a cat box lately? Little doggie-poop baggies are just disgusting. Stained and dirty newspaper bottoms and littered water that must be changed, and sweeping the floor of a reptile cage littered with insect carcasses could be downright memorable.

There are a few other outlandish things to consider, such as, a decent burial for my second heartbeat in a Pet Cemetery; before that Veterinarian expenses; related to that I recently read that I may have to send my second heartbeat to be consulted by a member of the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants). I saw a sign in a pet shop I was browsing that advertised 'Have your pet's photo taken with Santa'. Come On! But the one I read written on a bathroom wall made me feel a little queasy, 'Keep our city clean. Eat your dog!"

There you have it, and as a man of strict indecision and sticking to it, I decided my friend was right and decided on two second heartbeats to keep me in high spirits: a spaniel puppy and a wirehair kitten.

The Aging Battle (The Immortality Dream)


The anti-aging, age-defying, longevity, staying young, never aging, and the most extreme, the never-ever dying goals in life, have spawned industries that create solutions and concoctions that materialize in the form of lotions, oils, skin creams, growth hormones, mud baths, secret herbs, nutritional supplements, and laser beams, etc. They are short-term answers to the age-old problem of a longer life. Last year, 2004, Americans spent $20 billion on various anti-aging products. To this date there is absolutely no scientific proof that any commercially available product will stop time or reverse aging, no matter how many lobbyists the pharmaceutical companies put in Washington; of course optimistically, anything can still happen in this scientific age.

Let us examine the core of the aging problem. There is only one legitimate, workable counter-attack in the battle against this process: Stop all the intimidating sweeping hands on clocks and rip the calendar numbers off the walls. Ignore everything and anything that announces the date or time such as newspapers, TV and the Town Crier. Mainly, don't celebrate birthdays.

Age is the duration of time one has existed. And after all, aging is in actuality the passing of time, isn't it? That steady arrow that silently moves in an undisturbed motion invisibly passing in front of our eyes through life on ball-bearing castors. It's the movement of the planets and tides, hopeful buds popping from the earth in the spring and tree leaves drying in the autumn like weathered skin. It is the organic process of growing older and showing effects of increasing age. 'No time, no aging,' it's as easy as that. Unless science can stop time we have a problem.

If Juan Ponce de León had discovered the Fountain of Youth in Florida in about 1513, we wouldn't have to worry. If we each had a portrait similar to the Dorian Gray picture that cracked, wrinkled and aged for us, we wouldn't have to worry. A sip of the elixir of life potion and the resulting immortality would be fun. But, NOT! It's a fact and historical consensus proves it: Without a doubt 9999 out of every 10,000 humans unsuccessfully inhibit the aging process. And that lonely 1 in 10,000, it is rumored, manages to beat the process and shows up as a same-old rehashed politician. The odds are against all of us: We either pass to the other side or become a politician.

As has been acknowledged, after all, aging is the organic process of growing older and showing the effects of increasing age; graying, wrinkling, sagging, and shrinking. But there are some positive qualities to aging, like acquiring desirable qualities by being left undisturbed for some time, you know, like good bourbon or tasty cheese or becoming a ripe banana or pomegranate. Maturing, as some people look at it, is the process of developing an entity until it reaches perfection. Somebody forgot to define perfection in the eternal human life process. It can be anything in the eyes of the beholder in this twilight zone between being and not.

The immortality dream can take on many concepts when mixed with personal and debatable reality. "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light," said Dylan Thomas. "Time to turn back and descend the stair, with a bald spot in the middle of my hair--," said T. S. Eliot. These are observations on facing the phenomena of life and aging. "Look younger," says every beauty magazine on the drugstore rack: This is nothing but sales gibberish. Unfortunately, eternal youth can not be found in a bottle or a jar, or even in a poem, but is a myth perpetuated by the anti-aging agents of profit. But, anything can happen.

Becoming a robot is one way to attain perfection and beat aging, but how can someone walk in high heels or sneakers with those club feet. The touchy-feely part of life is discombobulated. Wigs, weaves, plugs, dyes, skin grafts, wrinkle removers and plastic surgery don't make anyone younger but can make anyone feel younger; and they come close to the ultimate answer: robotic renovation - that is, becoming a mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance. I've seen some individuals who feel plastic is fantastic and believe they will never die because they can never decompose. But being a robot, or wanna-be robot, leaves out the option of tasting that fine bourbon and cheese, or eating a banana.

But again, something may eventually happen because we believe time is eternal, hope is not lost; maybe the scientific community of anti-aging gurus can clone time's eternal properties into the human DNA.

Oh No, Not Again! (Or: Brush the dust off that resume)


We all are aware that the economy is in such a muddle that a fight has broken out between Rocky-Mountain-sized bar graphs and unfit-for-human-consumption pie charts; we just may have to invent a tears broom to sweep up after all the sobbing. Or maybe, the answer can be, we concoct an environment where we forget all these worries and spats and live in cabins, caves and tents; and hunt and fish and plant things for survival. Whoops, we just came from that living milieu in the 1800s.

Or the other option, we boomers may have to continue working until we see that bright light, instead of being retired, laid back, and basking in the sun … like we’re suppose to.

You mean, get a job? Oh no, not again? Been there! Done that!

You know how it goes. You did it after high school, and maybe college. Hat in hand, you carried out the most multi-faceted and degrading action-reaction performance devised for humans since the beginning of the Industrial Age: A job interview. The unexpected was always expected. Humility was the strongest asset you had to bring to the table. You know that. You had to be pleasant and have a silk suit and tie on your tongue with a button-down brain cluttered with pearly smiles and polished pleases. Do you want to; have to; do that again.

Just remember what Ogden Nash said when applying for a job, “People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.”

The interview process, usually, from past experiences, unfortunately, will go the same way. The interviewer, typically a fresh very-young graduate in Human Resources from a Matchbook Trade School, after glancing halfheartedly at your resume, seems to base the decision on two questions: Why the heck do you want this job? And, can you find the door without tripping? Your gray hair trips you up every time.

You want to say, ‘Because my nest egg is growing smaller, or the nest is growing bigger, I don’t know which. But I need some more income to pay the pharmacist and grocer … let alone the gasser upper. If you are already retired, you have to consider the unthinkable. You may have to brush the dust off that resume. If you are thinking about retirement soon, you may have to have second, maybe third, thoughts. Of course, you can follow the advice of Edgar Bergen, who was no dummy (through the mouth of, Charlie McCarthy, who is a dummy) said, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” Just say No!

Do you recall what President Clinton so eloquently orated to an audience a few years ago, “By the time our young people reach your age, they will be working jobs that haven’t been invented yet.” Great! He forgot to say ‘when young people reach retirement age, those jobs won’t be available, or invented, yet.’

“What about me?” you will think. “I’m available, a neat dresser, experienced, and actively in the job hunt.” But you will find that the openings for a trained and proven professional range from Superstore Greeter, to Café Swamper or Bus Boy (man, lady). They have pre-determined that any ol’ person can shake a hand or swing a mop or drive a delivery van. If all else fails you can always resort back to delivering the morning newspaper like you did when you were 10 years old. Many seniors do it these days. Check it out some morning.

Of course, work, instead of retirement, can eliminate all those menacing and boring things you’ve had to do with your spare time: like taking long walks and improving the golf game; sleeping in as long as you want to; wasting all that time deciding whether you want watch a movie on TV or listen to some cool jazz on the stereo; preparing a nice lunch instead of a jammed sandwich with a soda; and even the time you spend in a totally semi-Zen, relaxed muscle state of bliss as you lie back in the lounge chair and count the holes in the ceiling tiles.

You’ll see, going back to work isn’t all bad. You won’t miss these things; especially crunching the numbers at the end of each month. And remember the up side; you will be meeting all those people on the job you used to hate, even a boss. Maybe you can get even.

All Grown-up Now?


We know the definition of a teenager: that is, we human creatures who put up with all the trials and tribulations, the invasion of an acne army and moaning growing pains, between the ages of 13 to 19. We know a baby is a small human in diapers with an insatiable appetite, and a tweener is somebody between a baby and a teenager; 'too young for this' and 'too old for that'. And it is assumed an adult is anyone with enough cumulative heartbeats to legally purchase and drink liquor, smoke cigarettes and gamble, be qualified to vote (if they want to), sign a contract, and do generally anything to enhance or defame the human image.

But when are we officially considered a grown-up? You know; someone who is full-sized, full-fledged, fully developed both mentally and physically and qualified for an enhanced lifestyle. Is that retirement? Is retirement the natural passage between adulthood and grownup hood? There are so many things they didn't tell us when we were handed a birth certificate and declared to be a human, and this is one of those transparent smudges in life we cross with no instructions or even a amusement-park-type map for directions.

Maybe people must qualify to be a grown-up: A mental test must be passed or anyone can claim this status of nobility. To be really qualified I bet there are questions like: Do you know who Rosie the Riveter is and the Yankee Clipper? Do Pearl Harbor and Air Raid Sirens shatter your memories? And to be a little less qualified I bet there are questions like: Can you define 'I like Ike', Rock Around the Clock, Ozzie and Harriet, and the Brooklyn Dodgers? Do you remember dancing the Twist or the Bunny Hop in Pegger pants, or pedal pushers, and a turned up collar, and for some of us, with our greasy hair shining under the revolving mirrored globe hanging from the gymnasium ceiling, while listening to music on the Hi-fi?

The physical qualifications are easier to ascertain. If your well-weathered face doesn't qualify for the cover of Elle or GQ magazine, you're in. Now you might be able to run a marathon race, but more than likely if your bones ache going from the front door to the car, you're in. If you believe gravity is the worst element in all of nature's wonders, and the southern environment sunshine is the best, you're in. If you purchase canned food and you quit purchasing food in jars because you can no longer open the lids with your hands, you're in.

Social qualifications take on the traits of a Bill hop-scotching through Congress. What being grown-up is to one person is different to the next person. (You see, lobbyists have already taken a nibble out of the process.) Responsibility seems to loom as a defining guideline for grown-ups: Learning to take responsibility and consequences for your actions. Learning to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. When you realize the entire world does not revolve around you and that it will go on tomorrow, with or without you, you are now socially a grown-up. Come On! Is this grownup hood or the Boy Scouts?

Then other critical questions arise: Is anyone ever completely grown-up? Does everyone really want to be a grown-up? Do we have to go through all this trouble? Can we be grown-up and still be an adult and have the energy and attitude of a teenager? Maybe just being a plain old adult is better. If I admit to being a grown-up, will somebody fix the bathroom mirror that makes me look like my grownup father?

Single Senior Show (Or: Dinner after the Wallflower Parade)


Eating fine food in a quality restaurant is a dream for all citizens who have worked a lifetime for it. So occasionally I have the urge to enjoy a quality meal while indulging a setting with tablecloths, linen napkins, and silver not plastic tableware, please. Eating it alone is the nightmare. You see, I know what it’s like to be the focus of attention as I cross a dining room like a wallflower parade with a of string of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe, trailing me like a bridal train, and people gawking at me, or worse, averting their eyes so they don’t display any impression of an I-know-him glance. That’s what I feel like, sometimes. I’m a single senior, and this lightning strikes me whenever I participate in a social occasion of any kind.

The most uncomfortable event, and probably the most frequent, is at a stylish restaurant. It inescapably begins when I approach my first adversary, the hostess, with mild apprehension, because the first embarrassment typically is manifested when I say, “One for dinner, non-smoking, please.” “Only one?” she asks. “Yes, Please.” Then the exaggerated yanking of one menu from the rack, and a full body twist, “This way, please,” and the show begins.

I know the spotlight is on me and I can feel the buzzing of gnats as they surround me, attracted by the nervous sweat rolling down my brow and back. Every eye in the place is directed at me, I’m sure. ‘Please get me to my table as quickly as you can,’ I silently plead with the hostess from the paranoid caverns of my mind. Then, after weaving around every table so I have been fully displayed, I arrive at my table. “A table for six, don’t you have anything smaller?” I appeal to the hostess. “This is all we have, unless you want to take a table in the bar?”

They always ask that. They always want singles to be with other singles in the bar, drinking, so maybe we, some day, will be couples and can become a full-table bigger-tip customer. “No, thank you, this will be fine.” I want to explain to her that all bars smell like dirty ashtrays and carpets soaked with spilt cocktails, and that truly spoils the taste of the fine dinner I am about to pay a good hunk of change for.

“OK. Your waiter will be, Smiley, and will be right with you.”

“Thank you.”

Now the second embarrassing adversarial event takes place. Smiley’s ally, Busboy Bill, charges the table and meticulously, with the grandiose flair of a Las Vegas magician, salvages the clean place settings of the five friends and family who obviously must have snubbed my dinner invitation. One, two, three, etc., the napkins, silverware, water glasses and placemats are scooped up and paraded across the room to the little nook in the corner where waiters and busboys congregate to plan my social demise. It happens. It must. These degrading rituals can’t be an accident. It has to be a social behavior created by generations of service workers, or taught in Restaurant 101. Who knows?

“Can I bring you something to drink?” asks Smiley. “Just coffee.” “Just coffee?” “With cream, please.” “Nothing from the bar?” There it is again: the bar. “No thank you.” From that time on the dinner goes just fine, except the eternity between when I’ve ordered the meal, and the point when the meal arrives. What to do? In a small diner or café I usually whip out the daily paper or a paperback and read it while sipping my coffee. Here? No way. It would be like waving a red banner, Lonely Person! Lonely Person!

During the meal, the eating part of it, after it parades in dish by dish, I get the usual courtesy drop-bys from Smiley, “More Coffee?” “Everything OK?” “Will there be anything else?” And invariably on each of these occasional visits, my mouth is full of food and I must either nod my head or spray a mouthful of it across the table if I say “More coffee, please”. They must also instruct waiters and waitresses how to do this with faultless timing at Restaurant 101. This is where universal sign language enters. I point at the cup and nod, yes … or no.

After the meal is complete I need, must obtain, the check so I can calculate the amount of a tip and escape out the front door. Smiley walks past me with 6 desserts somehow attached to all hands and arms and strides a beeline for a family at another large table. I move my plate away from me to signal that I am done. Smiley brings a pot of coffee … to another table: I need coffee, too. I don’t get it. I place my napkin atop the fragments of food I’ve left on the plate and nudge it to the edge of the table … and wait. Busboy Bill is more attentive and captures the plate, silver, cup, saucer, and water glass, and remaining are a couple of peas I’d accidentally brushed off my plate. They somehow have become plugged into an electrical outlet and develop strobe-light characteristics, which are attracting the critical eyes of everyone in the area.

Smiley passes again. I try a casual wave. Once. Twice. Then I realize I must make a dash for it. I put enough cash and a proportionate amount of gratuity, undeserved I must say, on the table and attempt to sneak out around the happy diners, past the hostess, and toward the front door, hoping all the time I don’t get stopped and accused of an act of Dine and Dash. And again, all the time, of course, dragging the same toilet paper train behind me that I dragged in. I must keep, it so I can display it at my next stop, the theater, alone.

Is FREE a Fixed Price – Or a Down Payment?


Offers for FREE goods and services are being delivered daily to my mail box and sent to me by e-mail, overwhelming me on TV, and falling like snowflakes from my magazines. As a frugal individual I pay attention to saving a buck or two. If I accept as true these offers, I may never have to spend another penny, on anything. But what is FREE to me? I’m not imprisoned or shackled, and I’m not under the control of another’s will, except by my Better Half, of course, who imposes house arrest, so set me free mostly doesn’t apply here … I hope. That only leaves the option that someone is going be a kind spirit and give me something at no cost, no money that is, complimentary, gratis … I hope.

For example, the other day a standard 4x6 pre-addressed postcard fell from a magazine and floated to my floor like a graceful and disarming dove. After it alit from its flight, the blazing red letters rose from the card like a ruthless hawk and cried FREE. I had to inspect the details of such a blazon command. 10 issues of the magazine FREE for the mere action of ordering a subscription for 30 issues at a low cost of $29 plus change. At the low per-issue rate the card advertised, it was just like getting 10 issues for FREE. I believe it was more like a down payment. Some deal, huh? Maybe the same company would sell me 10 acres in Manhattan and give me one for free. Fat Chance!

On TV the telemarketer rambles his spiel, “A FREE bottle of magic liquid cleaner… just buy one bottle and we will send you a second one FREE … and we’ll throw in two FREE bottles of shoe dye, the color of your choice, a FREE sponge on a stick, two all-purpose rags, and an entry form that entitles you to enter a contest that offers a FREE trip to Orlando as first prize. And if you order now, the telemarketer continues, for each future order you will receive 2 bottles for the price of 1 … for life” WOW, I cry out, all this for just purchasing one 20 oz. bottle of supernatural cleaner for the dirt-low price of $10 plus change. Now I no longer wonder why they immediately fill the TV screen with flashing phone numbers, replicas of credit cards, and attractive dusting housewives; because the announcer is definitely and uncontrollably laughing up his sleeve off camera after the pitch.

Now another scam (excuse me, offer) that is closely related to the magazine offer is the book-club offer printed on an attractive brochure personally addressed and slipped into my mailbox: First book, FREE; second book, FREE, third book, FREE (WOW!); fourth book at the Regular Price plus Shipping and Handling (OOPS!). All this for just signing up for a years supply of other and more books that I may or may not order or want. FREE in this case is definitely a down payment on my future reading activities and an iron clad guarantee of less space in my bookshelf. I like to imagine I’m just as frugal with my bookshelf space as I am with my cash … but I really believe I fall short of both.

Now in most cases Shipping charges I can see and understand. The product has to get from there to me, somehow, but Handling charges are a mystery. Does this mean they wear clean or latex gloves during the packing process? Does this charge guarantee the product will not be dented, torn, wrinkled or maimed, and the order will be complete, correct and properly addressed? I doubt it. I believe this handling charge is how they handle the lost profit on the FREE part of the offer. I’ve seen some Shipping and Handling charges range from 6 to 30 bucks, depending upon how fast I want their FREE product, when in fact postage glued to a brown envelop would be sufficient for delivery. Go figure!

Some things are really and truly FREE … excluding the obvious, air. E-mail offers of FREE newsletters are a windfall for the penny pinchers like me. I just sign up for the weekly/monthly/daily e-mail delivery to my inbox of a newsletter explaining the values of modern poetry and its effect on the environmental extinction of concrete libraries, and the filling in of mud flats in Nevada, or something along that order of madness. The neat thing is the newsletter will also offer bargains on everything. That’s all. But to sign up I have to fill out 3 web pages of personal information: likes and dislikes, shopping habits, income level, sex, etc., and recommend my friends. Hmmmm! No outlay of cash for me, so it must be FREE, and since I now loiter in semi-retirement I have oodles of time on my hands to read every word of every offer generated and sent to me in my personalized and valuable FREE newsletter. Is this a fixed price, or a down payment?

Some other things are FREE: Samples of products delivered to my home by a charming, bright-eyed, gray-haired lady; Catalogs, for obvious reasons, are FREE; CDs with multi-purpose programs to install on my computer are FREE (but SAFE?); Kittens are FREE if I want to take one home; Coins are FREE if I want to stand on a street corner with a cup in my hand; FREE tips; FREE hand up; and FREE peanuts or popcorn at the bar where I will contemplate and categorize all the FREEEEEE stuff in the world.

But here is some FREE advice; the most important and generally FREE item is my will or self control. I can or can not, will or will not, or must or must not, fall for FREE offers from even the most attractive offerer person.

The Enemies I Buy


I, as a red-blooded and very experience human being, have always had the self-belief that I was smarter than a toaster. I know the younger generation with all their gizmos and thingamabobs could fry me in a one-on-one contest of technology trivia. But I always thought my discount-store inventory of appliances was a safe haven. I know it’s a hard choice between saving money, and saving sanity. But things happen.

This morning I was rudely attacked from the blind side by a blood-curdling scream that interrupted my canoe ride through a softly tinted forest on a serene stream. My nighttime dream world had been shattered like a cheap mirror.

My first reaction was self-defense. I grabbed the pillows and crushed them to the sides of my head, for self-protection, to muffle the eventual mushing of my brain by those ultra-violent sound waves. It took a few seconds to clear the fog and readjust my wits so I could analyze how I’d been thrown from my serene stream into the front row of an acid rock concert in hell.

My second reaction, an automatic motor function, was to open my eyes, blink, then adjust to the daylight and investigate to see if the room was spinning around me or me around it. My third reaction was descriptive, ‘Dagnabit!’ If you haven’t figured it out, my first enemy of the day was a whirly little electronic black-blazer-butler Made-In-China hammer located somewhere inside my newly purchased inexpensive snooze-alarm-radio clock. My fourth reaction was to moan, ‘why is it screeching, and how do I turn it off.’ I hadn’t turned the alarm on in the first place the night before. I can sleep in these days. That’s what I’ve worked for. I must have placed one of the ten or dozen knobs and switches in the wrong position. I don’t punch a clock anymore, but this time I did.

To fix this little box of horrors before the next morning, I set each switch in the desired position, just like the multi-language instructional pamphlet suggested, secured them into position with a lump of Scotch Tape, and said a little prayer to Thomas Edison, who I’m sure, is the God of electronics.

The coffee pot is a mostly harmless, but a sometimes sneaky, enemy. I ran water into the coffee pot, placed a new clean white filter into the little basket with the magical hole at the bottom, measured in the proper ratio of coffee grounds per cup of water, poured in the exact amount of water, anticipating a little extra boost to help me forget the morning’s dashed dreams, closed it all up, and pushed the brew button.

I could hear the babbling and singing of the coffee maker. About once a week, or so, it’s an accepted disaster, one of the sides of the nice new white paper filter will collapse and allow pure, unsaturated, gritty bits of ground coffee to pass through the magic hole and into the pot. And So! The first cup I pour in that morning looks like a mud puddle in a freshly turned garden plot with dirt floating around the edges like baby bugs.

Again, I have three choices of defense to act out here: First, I could yell Dagnabit! Which I already know solves nothing; Second, I know lumps of Scotch Tape won’t work in this situation, so I can either repeat the steps above for a new pot; or Third, I can give ground (no pun intended) to the enemy and attempt to dab up the grit from the suspicious liquid with the corner of a paper towel. Next time, I muttered, I’ll remember to inspect the filter like my Army Captain used to scrutinize my footlocker.

In the meantime, the new toaster, the one with the unpretentious knob that assigns Light to the left, and Dark to the right, and neither means anything anyhow, smoked like a three-alarm fire in the corner of the kitchen cabinet, contentedly and warmly creating black tiles of bread. Enough said! I won’t get into the color of the butter as I took up the challenge and tried to spread it with non-crumbling agility across the flat sides of the tiles. This enemy is easy to defeat, but may take a whole loaf of bread. Starting from the left I toasted slices of bread until the exact color mix of $700-dollar-an-ounce gold and charcoal was attained. Then, with a dab of enamel paint (nail polish will do) I marked the spot for perfect toast … just in case someone turns the knob. Toast quality is personal choice and not an exact science.

The bowl of oatmeal gruel in the microwave had just bubbled and exploded. This enemy is a subtle sniper. The muted hum of the electromagnetic waves rattled my breakfast into an edible temperature zone and lulled me into a sense of false security. The muted crack of an explosion rocked the morning air like a sniper’s gunshot. I’d overlooked the warning sign: Cover All Food. The inside of the zap contraption looked like my enemy had layered stucco on the walls with a paint gun filled with my gray matter. I’ve forgotten to put a cover over the bowl. Never do that. Just a paper plate over the top is easy, and disposable.

My enemy started to resemble me.

Warning here, Juicers are armed land mines if the lid is taken off too soon, unless you want to wear a shirt with an orange spatter pattern. I think this remedy is obvious.

These lessons are disturbing for someone like me who is trying to be a non-morning person and sleep in, relax, read, etc. My enemies are lurking in every doodad convenience gadget I buy at the discount store. It’s part of the deal and clearly printed within the barcode I can’t read, also on the label I can’t remove from my appliance without a blowtorch or strong acid. I’ve found, just because these appliances are cheap and have been designed with all the friendly colors and curves, it doesn’t make them friendly, or trustworthy.

Well then, if you can’t beat them, join them. I’ve learned to fix and work around all these appliance attacks, and pass the information along to friends. It has built for me the reputation as the Appliance Guy: There are many enemy appliances lurking out there, this is just a sampling. I don’t make much money, but free coffee and lunch in exchange for that small appliance repair or hint can be an entertaining hobby, and if you get good at it, you can make lots of friends.

Yard Sales Inch by Inch


Finally, the apples of our eye have moved on to clutter up their own homes, and we may now think about moving to smaller and cleaner abodes, or southern and warmer climates. It’s the natural order of life. And this without a doubt means a yard sale, to clear out the clutter, must be considered. As enterprising senior citizens with the genes of a pack rat, we must scatter treasures atop folding tables and across lawns to grudgingly part with precious icons from our materialistic histories. But first, we should examine this commercial experience so we can understand it, and possibly make it a constructive and profitable event. We need a plan that will be meticulously crafted and followed, and probably just as meticulously abandoned. There are several areas to be scrutinized before setting up this scavenger boutique, and a little of my hesitant advice may help.

Advertising Fun: Hanging the letter-size posters everywhere is a requirement before any yard sale. What to say? Junk Sale sounds too trashy. Closet Clutter Sale reeks of desperation. Good Stuff For Sale sounds too iffy. Pre-used Trash Sale is too honest, and too negative, and definitely not very inviting, and Pre-loved Trash Sale…sounds too cute. Keep it simple stupid and just call it a Yard Sale. A map and an address must be included on the poster. Bright-red arrows painted on cardboard and tacked on telephone poles at the nearest busy street are a big help. Just make sure the wind can’t blow them upside down. Also, an A-frame sign on the curb in front of the house can stop any potential customer. A chain across the road isn’t necessary. Get the apple of your eye to help with this if you must.

Money: Pennies on the dollar is a fair swap for your time and material while planning for your less-than-cluttered future, and is a straightforward and obvious motivation for a Yard Sale. And what to charge for items? It’s a give-and-take situation and the master business plan of all Yard Sales is to barter.

How much change should be on hand? How about accepting checks? Take them on trust or not? Since it is all junk anyway, if the check doesn’t clear there still is a positive transaction because the customer has carted away another unwanted, unused item that took up space in the garage or attic.

Physical Layout of the Sale: How do you post the prices on the items: Big, small, or none at all? Everything listed as OBO (or best offer)? Or should there be a secret price list that only you know about and can reference? How many display tables do you have? Need? Should you put mats down on your beautifully manicured lawn so it won’t look like a cow pasture the next day? Should you open the garage door and put stuff in there? All these are legitimate multiple-choice questions with so many answers they can’t be listed here.

The Inventory: Rule One – Everything goes since you are moving out of town. Rule Two – Everything worthless goes.

Some have suggested that all the items should be cleaned and polished: Another option is to leave all that clean-up labor to the buyer. That’s part of their fun. Besides, when I buy things, I always want to clean off all their germs and replace them with mine. It gives the item more of a personal touch.

The Customers: Some early arrivers are looking for that unnoticed antique article of artwork they can snap up for a few pennies and a belittling snicker. Remember that a sale is a sale and anyhow, you never would have known the value of that old needlepoint anyhow.

The bargain hunters, the wheeler-dealers, the price whittlers, the I-want-something-for-nothing shoppers will make your day. They bring the real spirit of a Greek Market. The best solution is to participate in the game and negotiate to make the sale a win-win result. It just feels good to bicker with a person one-on-one instead of handing a bar-coded plastic artifact to the clerk at the local discount store.

The real shoppers are the young couples setting up a new household, and the teenagers who have finally been booted from their homes by their parents: Like you possibly just did. These are the real customers. They have a limited vocabulary and a limited bankroll, but also have an empty house or apartment to furnish, thus about half of everything you display is needed.

Pre-Pre-Planning: If you’ve really thought ahead to the unmentionable, that is, the reality that some items might not be on the Yard Sale shoppers’ list, you have already called an organized charity to pick up the remaining items, and then found out, My God, even the most desperate charitable organizations refuse to pick up some of the items! And then you also found out, of all things, that these organizations specialize, or have a list of items they do and do not take. You must call two or three of them.

It’s Over: After the Yard Sale is over, there are going to be plenty of items left over that even the most addicted Yard Sale shopper couldn’t purchase. The reality is, the dust gathering process has restarted with a vigorous flamboyance enhanced by the parting potential customers spinning their tires in the dirt driveway. And a further reality is revealed, as the sun sets, that all this time, unknown to you, all your precious icons of personal materialistic history are just dust magnets attracting all the particles from the cosmos. You probably will have to move them to the dust magnet headquarters, which is called the dump.

The 5th of July


Yes, the 4th is Wham Bam Bang and Sizzle Independence Day and it is packed to the horizon with picnics, parades and band concerts all over the place; with decorations of red, white, and blue stuck to everything. But the 5th is the first day of the next 364 where the practice of freedom is really celebrated. A day to mull over what went before, and what will be from now on; sort of like a day playing country-store checkers after a day of an international chess competition. The fire crackers have cracked and the rocket red glare is no longer in the air where the odor of burnt sulfur hangs around like an irritable family member. The ground is carpeted with paper confetti scattered by the fireworks and parades. But remember, the 5th is also the birthday of P. T. Barnum, the self-proclaimed prince of humbug; the day the Salvation Army was formed; the Secret Service was started on this day; and in 1946 the first bikini was worn in public. I don’t know if any of these events have a connection, but if so, let’s celebrate again! And some of us do.

This day-after day has always had a special meaning to those in the slower lane. The 4th of July conveniently this year falls on a Monday and provides another glorious three-day weekend. But those of us in a not-working-every-day phase of life say, “Who cares?” Mondays disappeared from the calendar a long time ago. We no longer have to suffer through Blue Mondays because it was the first visible benefit after the last day of work. A favorite question on Monday morning in the elevator use to be, ‘is it Friday yet?’ And the normal response was, ‘the third best day of the week, after Saturday and Sunday.’ Many of us in the past took the 5th off of work solely to gently recuperate from the 4th.

The 5th inescapably suffers as it is the day after the giant rotating backyard BBQs, this year your house and next year someone else’s, with all the trimmings, all the friends and neighbors, and all the merriment mess. The day after everyone has contributed their favorite casserole, salad, snack and dip, or a suspicious glob of something in the middle of a platter surrounded by a concoction even more puzzling. Some bring their favorite meat or fish to smoke and broil in the open air barbeques, and everyone tries to top everyone else in the taste department; which makes for a wonderful feast. Many even drag in their own portable barbeques and lawn chairs so there’ll never be a shortage of hot-coal surfaces or cool-comfortable seats under the trees. Ice chests brimmed with cooled beverages and tasty snacks are lugged in and spread to convenient spots around the back yard; and even in the house for those odd bodies who desire to dodge the sun’s rays.

Following the afternoon and early evening filled with food and beverages, as usual, a short parade is organized to march to and then re-gather at the high-ground point in a nearby park. The fireworks show begins at the edge of darkness and provides a spectacle full of oooh and aaah highlights, and concludes with the eye and ear shattering flurry of fire in the sky. The day is done for most of the partiers after that, especially those with kids, but some retreat back to the house and backyard. A few of the beverages hadn’t been tapped, the kids are gone, and a poker game seems to break out in the kitchen. Conversations and cards are dealt and replayed, and rehashed and reshuffled; food is eaten until the platters are clean; and one-by-one the players retire to the living room as the game diminishes down to a couple of winners.

And the celebration of the 5th of July begins a slow crawl to life.

“Remember when … Remember where we used to … Remember the time … Do you know … Can you recall … Do you think we’ll ever?” The warm radiance of the slight beverage buzz, or it could be the ambiance of old friends recalling memories, fills the room along with the morning sun and the flies seeking leftovers. Old friends who hadn’t gathered for a while, for some of them a year, take the weight off their feet and relax in a comfort zone built by years of experiences together, and slow down. The distractions of the present are left at the door like dirty boots.

Someone always brings up the issue of those who aren’t here this year. So-and-so has made a break for it and escaped south to warmer weather and the stories of “I wish I could …” and ‘Maybe I’ll …” begin to be fictionalized and exaggerated. Another soul mate has passed to the other side since last year and a rousing toast of beer bottles clang in a ring around the group, and an equaling rousing round of memorial stories bend the ears. “Remember the time when we all hopped that freight car and …” and on and on the conversations spin, like a great habit: A déjà vu day that really has happened before and will happen again.

Yes, the 4th ignited the roasting fire, but the 5th maintains the warmth of the celebration. It is one of those rare days, year after year, when old friends gather and randomly reminisce. It is an annual day-after day, sort of like the 26th of December and the 2nd of January and the Tuesdays after Labor and Memorial Days.

©2011, Patrick Kennedy

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Man arrives as a novice at each age of his life. - Nicolas Chamfort



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