Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sad Week in Boomerville

Three celebrities who were a big part of Boomer life died this week, two of them on the same day.

Ed McMahon wasn’t a Boomer, but he was part of a television show we all watched. He came into our homes every night on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. “Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!!” became part of our language.

Farrah Fawcett was one of our angels as much as one of Charlie’s Angels, although Boomer males had somewhat more devilish thoughts about her. She died this morning at age 62, which means she was a Boomer too. That poster picture is more than 30 years old, yet it is still instantly recognized by Boomers.

And Michael Jackson is a music icon whose career spans our own coming of age. He died today at age 50, making him a Boomer too. I will not miss the oddity he had become, but I still love his music. I bought the Thriller album twice over the years, originally on vinyl and later on CD. The song Thriller is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dad and Tools

My dad died several years ago and we lived in different cities for twenty years before that, so I rarely saw him more than three or four times a year. But now I see him nearly every day.

No, he doesn’t appear in a vision. I ‘see’ Dad in the tools he gave me. Not the tools of life, but literally tools, like hammers, screwdrivers, C clamps.

He probably had enough tools in his garage to start a hardware store and he always intended me to have them one day. So one day in 2003, a few years after he died, I loaded them into a U-Haul trailer for the journey from his garage to mine.

Every time I reach for one of those tools, I think of him. Some of the tools are older than me. He and I used them together on many projects when I was a kid.

This week I started moving the tools again, from one location in my house to another, and as I began to clean and re-organize them, I realized Father’s Day is this week. Interesting timing for my tool moving project, isn’t it?

Dad had a tool for every situation … big clamps, small clamps, tools that cut metal pipes, wire gauge tools, vice grips, crescent wrenches, ratchet wrenches, pipe wrenches. He had tools I can’t even identify. He could tell you the usage of every tool and often had a story to go along with the reason for buying some of the tools. Sometimes he’d buy a tool just in case he might need it some day.

As I move each tool to its new location this week, I think of him and how he influenced me ... and I realize that he really did give me the tools of life.

And whatever this thing is:

Thanks, Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two Georges Who Make Aging Look Good

Former President George Bush (the older, smarter Bush) celebrated his 85th birthday with an endeavor that is now a tradition for him. He went skydiving. This was the third time he did it on a birthday; he jumped two other times in recent years and once during World War II when his plane was shot down.

Clearly, he does not let age get in the way of doing things he wants to do. His post-landing walking looked a little unsteady … in fact, I think he regularly uses a cane now … but he is still strong enough to do a tandem skydive. Bravo!!

Country singer George Strait keeps scoring number one songs in a career that now spans more than 25 years. The chart-topping part of a typical country music career usually lasts only five or six years. George is now 57 years old and he seems to have the physique of a twenty-something. This picture was taken yesterday.

I’m the other guy in the photograph. I am also fifty-something. I should have asked him for fitness advice instead of my lame “how’s the tour going” question during the thirty seconds I spent with him.

I don’t know if these coincidences have anything to do with their creative aging, but …

- both men are named George,
- both live in Texas,
- both are military veterans,
- both are physically active (Bush with skydiving, among other things, Strait rides horses and Harleys),
- both are in long-term marriages.

I do not plan to take up either singing or skydiving, but I do look at both of these guys as role models for successful aging.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rage Is Ageless

An 88-year-old gunman walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC today.

Yes … an 88-year-old guy with a loaded rifle!

He went from blasting Jews and African-Americans with words on his white supremacist web site to blasting people with bullets and the intent to kill. He did kill a security guard before being shot and seriously injured by other security guards.

On one hand, this guy is a delusional paranoid whack job. On the other hand, he is a high-IQ Mensa member and a decorated World War II PT boat captain.

Ironic. Contradictory. Scary.

This wasn’t the first time he entered a D.C. building with a gun. He did jail time in the 1980s after he entered the Federal Reserve Board with a handgun and a rifle, took a security guard hostage and tried to see the Fed chairman. He surrendered the guns that time without firing a shot.

Some observations about age, rage and brain power:
- Don’t assume an old guy can’t be dangerous
- Don’t underestimate the power of blind hate fueled by despair
- Don’t assume a statistically intelligent person is smart

To quote their website, “the United States Holocaust Museum inspires leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.”

Although our democracy allows someone like this to publish his hatred in print and online, it does not allow him to kill in the name of his misguided beliefs.

Although I believe in the worth and dignity of every human, I’m not sure I believe this individual deserves the dignity of a trial.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Road Trip Coming

Back in my ‘hippie’ days I’d take a road trip at the drop of a hat. Jump in the car just to see what’s three hours west? Sure, let’s go! I even bought a van and planned to customize it for travel. I wanted to take a year off and just live on the road.

That was back in the 1970s, when gas was cheap and airfare wasn’t; and my career hadn’t really begun.

The ‘living on the road’ dream never died, but it was sidetracked by making a living. I sold the van and bought a practical car. Through the 80s and 90s, my travel usually involved planes and rental cars, except for relatively short trips to the beach. I spent so much time in traffic that I lost my love of driving and busy schedules didn’t leave time for long road trips.

But something changed in 2005. My sister and her car survived Hurricane Katrina, I flew south to meet her and we drove back from Mississippi to Maryland. The situation was stressful but the drive was quite relaxing. And my love of the road began to return.

Another road trip came six weeks later when I helped her move back.

Eighteen months later I took another road trip to New Orleans by way of two days in Asheville, North Carolina and a drive along part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I ate at outdoor cafes, visited museums, took pictures and spent time with friends I hadn’t seen in decades. It was one of the most enjoyable vacations I’ve ever had.

A road trip with softly focused expectations and a flexible schedule is the ultimate break from a hectic work life near the Nation’s Capitol. So next month, I’m finally doing it again. This one will include another stop in Asheville, plus a visit to Civil War battlefields in Mississippi (a new interest), a tour of the Alabama Museum (the band Alabama) and dinner with two friends from high school whom I haven’t seen since college.

Hmm, which iPod playlist is that song on? Oh, here it is … RT1 (for Road Trip).

-Click -

On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Time Keeps On Slippin’ …

… slippin’, slippin’,
… into the fuuutuurrrre

That Steve Miller Band song lyric from 1976 popped into my head the other day as my ‘to do’ list stretched onto a second page.

When did we get so busy?

And why?

And does it mean anything?

I like being employed and I know how lucky I am to have a good job, so I do everything I can to keep it; that includes taking on additional responsibilities whenever asked, even if it adds to my ‘lack of time’ dilemma. I spend at least two hours a day commuting to and from that job. Add to that some work-related activities that occur outside of work hours.

Personal ‘obligation’ time includes more and more maintenance on my thirty year old house, plus chores like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking. Time keeps on slipping away.

Admittedly I’m one of those Boomers obsessed with the search for meaning and purpose in life. The older I get the more I want my life to count for something and the less time I have to make that happen. I’m very active but I’m not sure that extra caulk on the guest room window is going to bring about world peace. Many parts of my media job touch a lot of people, but my main duty is making commercials; will an ad for a sale help the homeless? Where’s the meaning? Is my legacy that half-price meal deal on my radio station’s web site? Will my tombstone read “he drove 85 miles a day without crashing into another car”?

Sometimes I like the buzz and fast pace of my life.

But sometimes I long for simpler times, a predictable schedule, a 15-minute commute, a work week that is only 40 hours and a ‘traditional’ wife who does that chore stuff. If I had all of that I might have time to do more meaningful things.

Meanwhile, time keeps on slippin’.

Bonus observation:

The Steve Miller song I referenced is called “Fly Like An Eagle.” I was surprised to find these lyrics in the song:

Feed the babies
Who don't have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin' in the street
Oh, oh, there's a solution

It coincidentally and accidentally connects with one of the themes of this post.