Sunday, April 29, 2012

This Band

I'm going to see this band tomorrow (Monday) night.  Bet I'm the oldest person there.  Doesn't matter - music is universal.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mind and Soul

When I first saw this quote this morning I was tempted to post just the picture and not any commentary. Then I started thinking about it. What does this actually mean?

These kinds of simple quotes are open to many interpretations; perhaps that is why they are so popular. I often observe and write about soul-related thoughts. The soul, in this context, is not necessarily the religious definition we are taught, but more of the undefined “thing” that guides our feelings. We often ‘feel’ something that is sad or confusing or depressing leading us to want to ‘heal’ our soul. This quote tells us our soul can heal itself … IF we don’t let thoughts get in the way.

The soul can be instinct. We act on how we feel. However, we can easily over-think our feelings and second-guess them by considering every possible option. Our mind shouts conflicting advice, clouding our decision process. We know how we feel, but the voice inside challenges our feelings, telling us we should or should not act in certain ways because of the expectations of other people or as a result of how we compare a current situation to a similar one in our past.

I am a classic over-thinker and have been trying to direct my decision-making more toward following feelings. I will always balance thought with feeling; it’s who I am and who I want to be. But sometimes the brain gets in the way of the soul and convinces me to deny myself opportunities I feel can have a good outcome because there might be some risk involved. To take this psychological anatomy metaphor a little further, my heart might want one thing but my brain throws up a road block. And I just cluttered this post with another metaphor.

Maybe what this quote really means is that it may be good to think things through and be mindful of the consequences of our decisions and actions in life, but sometimes we should just follow our soul.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What An Interesting City

My second visit to New York City this month was even more interesting than the first. This one involved meetng many media peers face to face for the first time, rather than our usual email correspondence.   I also was able to see a part of Manhattan that is less tourist and more local, specifically an area called TriBeCa. 

Some random observations:
- Waiting for a train in the Amtrak seating area at Penn Station I saw a pigeon flying through seeking food scraps. Yes, inside the station. 
- The attractive woman sitting next to me was having a cell phone chat in Russian. 
- A local colleague taught us the proper way to hail a taxi. The ones with a center roof light on are available; and don't tell the driver where you're gong till you're in the cab because if you're 'only' going a mile or two rather than all the way to an airport, they might not take you. 
- There is an eclectic (seemingly zoning-free) mix of structures in TriBeCa, including hotels, offices, condos, bars, restaurants, shops selling cheap knockoffs of name brands and a smattering of abandoned buildings. 
- Every taxi ride I have ever taken in NYC was accident-free, which I am sure is some kind of miracle. If I drove like that I be in a wreck in every block. 
- There are at least three or four people I know here that I want to have meals or drinks with next time I'm here and at least five or six places I want to visit. I have to come back here just for fun soon. 

New York City is such an iconic place that it feels familiar to strangers. Few other places I've visited leave a visitor with that kind of feeling. It isn't just a New Yorker's city it is every American's city, especially since the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. I am starting to understand that song lyric that is something like: 'if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.'

Monday, April 23, 2012

May and December

This post is about love and age and not a calendar. Are you familiar with the term “May-December Couples”? That refers to couples with a sizable age difference, usually thirty or more years.

We all seem to snicker when we read about such things, which I did for a moment while reading the article that made me think of this today, but the older I get the less I snicker. I think it is perfectly fine. Age shouldn’t matter when it comes to love and connection, right? I love the idea – of course I do! My ego loves the idea that I could get involved with someone thirty years younger than me. My question is this: why would a twenty-four year-old woman get romantically involved with a fifty-four-year-old man? I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; I just don’t see it from the woman’s perspective. There might naturally be some perspective differences relating to music or those “where were you when such and such happened” questions, but there doesn’t have to be any other issue. Each couple is unique. Of course there can be issues with what other people think of such a relationship. That can be more divisive than any real issue between a man and a woman separated in age by decades.

It seems there are many celebrities in May-December romances. Examples: Harrison Ford (69) and Calista Flockhart (47), Michael Douglas (67) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (42), Neil Diamond (71) and Katie McNeil (41), Steven Tyler (64) and Erin Brady (39), Celine Dion ($$) and Rene Angelil (70), Larry King (78) and Shawn South Wick (52), Rod Stewart (67) and Penny Lancaster (41), Chuck Norris (72) and Gena O’Kelley (44), David Hasselhoff (59) and Hayley Roberts (31), Lee Majors (72) and Faith Cross (38) (there is a “bionic man” punch line in that one), Woody Allen (76) and Soon-Yi (41), James Woods (65) and Ashley Madison (26), Clint Eastwood (81) and his wife Dina (56), Hugh Hefner (86) and … well that one is just creepy. OK, so those all involve older men and younger women, but it goes the other way too: Susan Sarandon (65) and Johathan Bricklin (33).

I mostly noted those with twenty five years or more, but there are plenty more in the lower twenty-year difference range. What’s wrong with that? Some people find love late in life, some women are attracted to power, status, security and confidence; some older men are still young in every way but the real number (Chuck Norris?). Sometimes older people are referred to as “young at heart” and some younger people are thought to have an “old soul.” In my opinion, the real number is much less important than the connection two people have, in mind, soul, spirit and heart.

If I were ever in a May-December relationship, which is not all that likely by the way, I guess I’d be the December. But I prefer to think of myself as a September or October. Where are you on that spectrum? And how does that compare with where other people think you are?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some Stuff

I went to the gym today for the first time in two months and only the second time since my medical issues began. In terms of strength I am almost all the way back to where I was three years ago. Ugh.

Watched NASCAR this afternoon. I really hope to see a race at a track this year and not just on television. My best shot at that is next weekend but I have already passed on that great opportunity (which includes tickets and track credentials) because I just have too many things to do all week. Being sensible and pacing myself sucks sometimes.

Happy Earth Day.

Hmmm, watching auto racing on Earth Day. NASCAR racers get around 5 miles per gallon ... Maybe a little more this year because they've just gone to fuel injection instead of carburetors. Fuel management sometimes wins races, so logic tells me technological advances in auto racing can be good for the environment.

Now I'm watching the Washington Capitals hockey playoff game on tv. Wish I could be at the game. I'd have taken Metro instead of driving. It's Earth Day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Questions Teens and Seniors Ask

Many boomers are technophobic. They can barely keep up with technological advances like smart phones, computers, online banking or more routine but increasingly common options like self-checkouts and self-ticketing kiosks. I fully embrace the first three examples but I am less excited about the last two.

Self-check at grocery and big box home improvement stores still has too many glitches for my taste. I don’t use them much, so I have to slowly think through the instructions each time. And then something goes wrong nearly every time and a human has to come fix it. I’d prefer to just go to the human in the first place.

Ticket kiosks seem to be a great idea but they are still at the edge of my comfort level. Why do I have to use my credit card to print out an airline ticket when my company’s travel agency bought the ticket? Is my credit card my ID? I travelled by Amtrak last weekend and it almost seemed odd to walk up to a human ticket agent, show my driver’s license ID and have her give me a printed ticket. How old school is that? I’m taking Amtrak again next week but that time I’ll be scanning a bar code at a kiosk. The bar code will be on the screen of my smart phone. I’ve never done that and like the mildly skeptical guy that I am, I’ll also have a printout of that bar code, just in case.

I realize people use smart phone bar codes all the time. How do I know this? Starbucks. I use cash or a Starbucks gift card. Some customers just scan the virtual Starbucks gift card bar code. Hmm, is ‘bar code’ even the correct name for what I’m talking about?

For me, self-image trumps looking stupid, so I eventually learn this stuff and make a big deal about looking like I know what I’m doing. But then I sometimes end up with semi-dumb questions like … it says ‘scan this image into your smart phone’, you know, that square, squiggly thing that looks like a cross between Warhol art and bar code? OK, so how exactly do I scan that thing with my smart phone? And c’mon, what is that thing called?

My job depends heavily on digital technology and I work around tech-savvy 20-somethings, yet with all that exposure and support there are times it seems I can barely keep up. So how do 65- to 70-year old retirees keep up? They might think they don’t have to bother … until they go to an airport or a Home Depot. And on the other end, how do college-age or high school-age people handle breakdowns in technology?

Revealing random questions that might be asked, at both ends of the age spectrum …

My iPad locked up. How am I supposed to take notes during class?

Grandma’s phone had a wheel with holes in it. What was that for?

You mean you had to get up and walk over to the TV to change channels?


You mean tweet like a bird tweets? How do you do that on a computer?

You have two thousand songs on your phone?

So don’t you have to sign up for some kind of club to use the internet? (my Mother actually asked me that question when I was trying to explain what an internet service provider was).

The connection between age and technological comfort can sometimes surprise you. I know an 89-year-old who does research on the internet and emails her daughter frequently, yet I also know a 68-year-old who is online for his job but has no home internet and no cell phone and the first time he saw Facebook was at my desk at work last week. I work with two 42-year-olds who regularly ask me for tech advice on audio editing software yet they’ve had smart phones for years and I only got my first one last October. I work with some people who have never used a typewriter or played music on a cassette.

I embrace technology, when it helps, but I am concerned with the ultimate effect of the exponential pace of technological change and how easily people can discard the old for the new, even when the old is only a few years old.

I worry about seniors who can’t keep up. I watched an elderly man in the waiting room of a doctor’s office recently as he struggled to complete the medical history form on a portable computer-like pad device. He didn’t understand what he had to do, how to turn to the next ‘page’ – things like that. The staff was helpful and relatively patient with him, but two things were clear: he had no clue and the young staff person had never encountered somebody who didn’t understand how to use the thing. I bet that guy hasn’t purchased an airline ticket lately.

I worry about younger people who couldn’t survive a long-term power outage. That iPad won’t run for all that long if it can’t be charged. They’d have to write with a pen and paper. Oh no, not that! Actually I worry about all of us during a long-term power outage.

Technology can be a wonderful tool on so many levels but it can also be socially isolating … Facebook and automated voice answering systems are two examples of that. Right at the moment in our culture where computers are turning human I am looking to reach out and touch real people. As I so often say in this blog, balance is my keyword. I made dinner plans with a friend this week by texting and I made restaurant reservations online – technology as tools - but the important part was eating, drinking, laughing and catching up face-to-face.

I wonder if I’ll live long enough to hear a fifteen-year-old ask me this: “You actually sat across from each other at a table? In the same room? Wow, didn’t that feel strange?”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For now … so long

He was such a big part of our lives for so long that it’s hard to believe he is gone. We haven’t seen much of Dick Clark directly since his stroke in 2004, except for during the final seconds of each New Year’s Rockin’ Eve when we watched him struggle to speak and couldn’t decide whether to congratulate him for overcoming obstacles or change the channel because it was so uncomfortable to see.

The direct connection between Dick Clark and every generation from boomers to millennials was the on-camera part of his career. American Bandstand was a ground-breaking national television show that made every new generation of popular music palatable to the generations that tried to latch onto the past and dismiss the future. It started as a local show in Philadelphia and Elvis was the first guest on its first national broadcast in 1957. During its thirty-year run, the show helped launch careers of everybody from Buddy Holly to the Talking Heads.

We also saw him extend the variety of music connection to the annual celebration of welcoming in another year as well as well as his hosting duties on Pyramid and TVs Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

We weren’t always aware of his ubiquitous presence in other parts of pop culture in the form of Dick Clark Productions projects like the American Music Awards Show, So You Think You Can Dance and the Academy of Country Music Awards show.

He was called the World’s Oldest Teenager, partly because of his connection with trends in young music and partly because of his boyish good looks. He never looked his age, right up through the last time most of us saw him this past December 31st.

There are some interesting quotes attributed to Dick Clark, including "If you want to stay young-looking, pick your parents very carefully" and "Music is the soundtrack of your life." His famous sign-off was "For now, Dick Clark ... so long."

Interviews Commodores:

Interviews James Brown:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

They’ll Take Back My Card

If there was a Space Flight Geek card, NASA would take mine back today. I knew the Shuttle Discovery was being flown into Dulles Airport near Washington DC today but I didn’t go anywhere to see it. It circled parts of the DC area for an hour before finally landing. It even flew over the suburban town where I work; I was in the building at the time and didn’t realize it had flown nearby till I saw a co-worker’s picture of it on Facebook. That’s his shot with this post, not mine. I could have taken one with my iPhone like he did; but even better, I could have taken photographs with my “good” camera. None of that occurred to me until it was too late.

What kind of space flight geek am I anyway? How could I not act on this stuff today? That bruise on my butt is from me kicking myself in the ass for missing yet another opportunity to see a Space Shuttle in flight. What I really wanted to do for years was visit Florida for a launch. I was on their email list and knew well in advance every time. I could have purchased premiere viewing area tickets. But there was always some obstacle, like lack of funds or schedule conflicts. But today would have been free and the Shuttle came to me. I could have gone to Dulles to see it up close like another co-worker did. Ugh.

The eventual home for Discovery is the National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, which is basically the suburban Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. There were so many aviation objects in the original Air & Space Museum in downtown DC, that they built this second one near Dulles to house the really huge aircraft like the Shuttle that don’t fit in the main one. You know I will go there to see this thing up close.

Maybe they’ll return my Space Flight Geek card.

Meanwhile, here is some raw CBS video of the flight over DC and the landing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

NYC Stuff

It's easy to forget what else is close to DC. It only takes 3 hours and 10 minutes to get to New York by train, with stops in Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia.

The meetings that brought me here this time involve tv & radio people. Some of the tv anchors look the part, well dressed, well groomed, authoritative.

New York is alive!  Loud, bright, fast, dirty, expensive, sparkly.  I probably  couldn't live here because I would get tired of some of that but it's fun to visit.

I walked twenty blocks from my hotel back to the train station. Crazy, I know, but my recent medical crap meant I haven't exercised much lately so this walk was good. Funny part is that I tried to walk fast like a local but slow-moving tourists kept getting in the way.

Wish I had booked an extra day around the business part of this visit. I might add a day to my next trip in a few weeks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Drink up ...

Too busy to write anything new today, but this is interesting ...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Good Quote for Today

Saw this on Facebook.  I tried to just copy it from the source, which would have also given you nice graphics and a web site address for more, but it wouldn't work.  So I'm just, uhhh, quoting the quote.

doesn’t come
from what you can do.

It comes from
the things you once thought
you couldn’t.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Creepy Facebook Stuff

Two Facebook friends died in the past couple of weeks. Both were former co-workers who I didn’t really know all that well and hadn’t seen in a year or more. But it’s just creepy that they both died at a young age, both in the same few weeks and both are still on my FB friends list.

Both of them were in media, one in news for most of his career and the in news for part of hers. News legend Mike Wallace died this week too. Creepy. And no, Wallace was not one of my FB friends.

Do you ever look at the ‘people you may know’ part? Do you know any of them? Do you try to ‘friend’ them? When did ‘friend’ become a verb?

I looked at a few hundred of the people I may know a little while ago and I do not know most of them. But I saw a few from the past that I actually want to connect with again. And some I never want to connect with. And some fairly famous people in my line of work who would probably find it creepy that I want to be their ‘friend.’ And a couple of top management executives in my company, who I probably should NOT connect with. And several people who I used to network with back when I went to industry conventions a lot but who would not remember me. It’s all so creepy.

Saw this on FB: “Facebook: Because Time Isn’t Going To Kill Itself.”

Yes, FB is quite the time suck. How often do you visit it in a week? In a day? During a typical day, including my work computer, home computer and iPhone, I probably drop by Facebook a few dozen times a day. Yes, that is creepy.

I used to take the surveys on Facebook, as well as visit various other places where I could send things like quotes or virtual drinks or other goofy items to people. Each of those involves allowing some kind of access to your friends list. I don’t usually do that any more, even though I really did like the surveys and got to know people a little better by reading their answers. Again, creepy.

One thing that is not creepy is that I have been able to keep in touch with people I really do like in a manner that is much easier through that site than via other means of communication. That part alone makes it worth ti to me to stay on FB … unless it gets really creepy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Icon Gone

Mike Wallace died over the weekend at age 93.

He was a fearless “60 Minutes” reporter full time until his upper 80s, and part time for a few more years, finally retiring in 2008. CBS waived it’s rule of forced retirement at age 65 (do they really still have that stupid policy?). He interviewed plenty of famous people including suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian, several prominent figures in the Watergate scandal and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini (during the hostage crisis). His interviews often seemed more like interrogations and some of his subjects deserved that kind of questioning.

Wallace started his journalistic career in print, then radio and ultimately television during its early years. He was the first person hired for “60 Minutes” in 1968. His famous style included something that came to be called “ambush interviewing,” in which he’d corner reluctant interviewees, camera crew with him. Before the early 1960s he also did entertainment reporting and commercials, but switched to mostly news after the death of a son in 1962.

He suffered depression in his 80s, something I did not realize till I read some articles before writing this post. Apparently he became a spokesman of sorts for depression, trying to remove the stigma that is still sometimes attached to that condition.

I used to watch “60 Minutes” regularly in the 1980s. His reporting stood out, partly for the guts it took and partly because it was sometimes obnoxious. But I respected him for doing whatever it took to get to the truth. He seemed to be unbiased in his reporting. His son Chris Wallace is a Fox News reporter/anchor/show host and one of the least biased on that opinion-not-news service; guess he learned something from Dad.

Mike Wallace is great role model for aging too. The numbers on your driver’s license should never get in the way of doing what you want for as long as you can.

That Web Thing

When did you first use the internet, either for email or to browse web sites? Do you remember what web sites looked like then compared to now?

My first time for email was 1991 and I first surfed a year or two later. I didn’t have my own internet service till around 1994 or 95, dial up AOL; my web exposure was at one of my jobs at the time. Web sites were text heavy, with few pictures, only a few colors and little or no audio or video.

According to an article in Fortune magazine recently, there are 400 million devices connected to the internet today. It is predicted that there will be 50 billion (billion with a B) on the internet by 2020, including those in cars and appliances, and many will be talking to each other. “Terminator” isn’t looking that farfetched anymore, is it?

Bigger questions: How often are you online? How much do you depend on the internet? Do you shop or bank on it? Do you watch TV shows on sites like hulu, fancast or Is the internet in your pocket or purse and not just on a desk or a laptop?

Does any of this scare you? Technology can certainly be a great thing, but like anything it can be dangerous. In “Terminator,” artificial intelligence takes over the world and attempts to replace humans. I think of that every time I get lost in automated answering systems. Or when I type a word on facebook and five ads related to that word pop up on my screen.

I accept technological advances and their nearly irreplaceable role in our lives, but if I have a choice between email, chat or in-person, I’ll take in-person. For me, touching a hand is much more of a connection than touching a keyboard.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Med Update

If you visit here regularly, you might remember I had a mysterious medical issue going, starting in Mid-January. It got worse for awhile. Being the obsessive person that I am, I read up on every possible condition, those suggested by doctors, others suggested by concerned friends, others found by typing in symptoms on a web site. I had some symptoms for a lot of things but very few of the total list of symptoms for anything.

The neurologist got me treatments for the main symptoms, mostly muscular in nature, and I am now feeling much better. Most of the pain, numbness and loss of strength has gone. Some symptoms linger but I am slowly returning to normal.

What was it? They don’t know. Doctors ruled out nearly everything it seemed along the way. Apparently this was a random flare up of some kind, with no obvious trigger.

I rarely get sick, other than routine colds and occasional flu, but when I do, I do it big. This is the third of fourth time in my entire life that I’ve experienced a significant medical situation, and the first I know of that didn’t involve some kind of injury-related event.

I did plenty of thinking during all of this. I considered how my life would change if this turned out to be a debilitating illness, something that would cripple me or end my life decades ahead of when I really believe it will end. In some ways, it is another wakeup call about getting on with my life. What’s that line in Shawshank Redemption … ‘get busy living or get busy dying.’ I’ll take living, thank you.

So did I learn anything from this? Did you? Will I actually accelerate my forward momentum or will I take my damn time, accepting procrastination as my norm? Stay tuned.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

You Are A Blend of Cottage & Transitional

Have you ever seen surveys on a web site that are supposed to help you narrow your choices among a dizzying array of product choices?

I found one on a furniture store site recently and answered their questions, with a great deal of skepticism. Much to my surprise they nailed it.

You are casual and informal. You eschew anything that conveys "stuffy" and instead collect items full of charming character. While you have an interest in outdoor activities, your home is a haven.

Then it went on to some psychological analysis ....

You are self-assured, and balance passion and purpose. You are devoted to your family and friends, and enjoy entertaining at home.

They mostly got that right too. How? I am surprised by how far Marketing has advanced in the years since I studied it in college. Of course I assume some software algorithm in the survey leads to one of a set of stock analytical results and many people get the same write up I got. But it is still interesting how 'accurate' this one is.

My taste in furniture leans toward something I believe is called Mission Style. Is that the same as Cottage or Transitional? I don't know. Do I own any? Not yet but maybe later this year. And the red chair in the adjacent picture is in my family room.  What style is that?  My current mix is Traditional Swedish Southwest PierOne OfficeDepot Parental Leftover. Quite a blend, isn't it? What survey algorithm would lead to that result?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Remembering and Forgetting

I’m a calendar freak and I admit it. I have two or three at home, several at work, paper and digital, and one in my iPhone. Anniversaries and birthdays are important to me. You would think I wouldn’t forget dates but I missed three big ones so far this year.

First, my Dad’s birthday. He died more than ten years ago so it’s not always on my mind. He is but not his birthday. This is the second year I blew past February without remembering. Mom’s birthday was a few days ago. Blew past it. She died a few years ago too but how can I forget April 1st?

In the middle of a conversation at dinner tonight a friend and I realized this is opening week for Major League Baseball. There was a game on the TV in the restaurant. Wow, baseball season is here already? How did we miss that? As we’re laughing about it I realized this week is the anniversary of my moving from Texas to Maryland a couple of decades ago. This week! How could I forget it? My first day at my new job that week included the home opener of the Baltimore Orioles.

I had moved partway across the country a couple of times in the past but that move was a bit more significant than most. I was happy in Dallas. I had purchased my first house, was engaged to be married and was a 60-minute flight away from my family. Then I lost my job there. Six months later I had no money, no job and no job prospects. I had turned down the job in Baltimore. Through a stroke of good luck and timing that job hadn’t been filled all those months later and I asked if I could change my mind and say yes to it. They agreed. I sold the house for just enough of a profit to pay off my other debt but couldn’t convince my fiance to move. Eventually things worked out for the best for both of us but the whole experience was still a jarring point in my life … and an anniversary I shouldn’t forget. But this week I did.

Birthdays means a lot to me. Anybody can celebrate New Year’s Day but only you and those you choose celebrate your birthday. Anniversaries fall into the same bundle, for me at least. Noting the date on which something happened serves as a reminder, an excuse to celebrate, a measuring unit for life events that can mark progress or push you toward action in the face of a lack of progress.

I remember my sister’s birthday, the date of the first date with my high school girlfriend, the date I fell down a flight of stairs and landed in the hospital, yet with six or seven calendars and I still forgot those other three dates. It’s a sad date for this calendar freak. Maybe I should note that on one of the calendars.


Wow, where can I buy THIS t-shirt?

Monday, April 2, 2012


I’m laughing at myself right now. I just made a decision between a bowl of ice cream and a margarita … I chose the ice cream. Sure, I could have had both but I have willpower. At least that’s what I tell myself. Did I say “bowl” of ice cream? It started as a small bowl, but I went back for more and finished the pint.

I’ve been pretty good about the diet I put myself on a few months ago. I had identified my food weaknesses and finally made a plan I could stick to. I lost fifteen of the twenty I was shooting for. Notice this is past tense. A side effect of the meds I was on last week is increased appetite. Wow, they weren’t kidding. The vending machine that’s fifty feet from my desk at work is one of the weaknesses I identified and I went for nearly three months without feeding that beast. Last week, however, I popped coins and bills into that thing several times a day.

Ice cream is another weakness. I have a tremendous amount of willpower at the grocery store, but not much at home. When I decided to stop eating ice cream, I simply stopped buying it. No problem. Last week a pint of ice cream appeared at home – the thoughtful reward for a rough two months of med issues. I ate a little that night then forgot it was there. Tonight, while opening the freezer for something else, I saw the ice cream. Mmmmm. The rest is caloric history.

I was actually in the mood for the margarita but I had stumbled over my willpower Saturday night at a party and had more to drink than I wanted, so my normal sensibilities let me to reject the Cuervo tonight. My kind or balancing act. My usual willpower is quite annoying to people. At times I am both stubborn and obsessive. I usually put these characteristics to good purposes but sometimes I am just annoying. The ice cream triggered the obsessive side and killed the willpower.

Now I am obsessively telling this story. I think I’ll just stop.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Retirement? What The Hell Is That?

I attended a wonderful party last night celebrating the life of a former co-worker who died recently at the fairly young age of 66. He is a legend in my field and this event served not only as a warm remembrance but also a reunion of colleagues. I was the only person in the room who still works at that company. It was great to see several people who used to work there who I had lost touch with.

Many people there are at the leading age edge of Baby Boomers, as was the man who died. A universal question as we each greeted each other was “so what are you doing now?” One said, “My 66th birthday is next week and I’m going on Social Security.” Another, who was my boss at another job years ago, said “I just retired three months ago.” Nearly everyone else in the room over the age of 55 had moved onto other backup careers and was planning to retire soon and those under 50 had moved onto other interests and no intention of retiring.

Retirement was on my mind years ago. In my forties it became obvious that technology would eventually allow me to do much of my job from anywhere and I actually developed a plan in which I would convert my full time, single-location job to a part-time remote location job to eventually a retirement. I even had a real estate agent searching for properties in one of my favorite resort areas; that would be my “remote” work location. My plan was to spend half my time there and half at my home base, till I could fully relocate, which I expected would take about five years from the point at which I began the process.

Plenty changed after my fiftieth birthday, however, and that plan is a mere memory I occasionally drag out and write about, like I’m doing now, or laugh (and cry) about when talking with people who are not all that much older than me who are “retiring.”

So what the hell is retirement anyway?

I am a workaholic by choice. I love my work. The only thing I would really change right now is the quantity of what I have to do; the sheer amount of work I have to do right now is ridiculous. But I am passionate about it and, without even a hint of self-congratulatory bragging, I can say I am at the top of my game. I am good at all the things I do and I continue to improve my craft. Any time I think I know it all, I snap back into reality and realize I can always learn more. There are peers who are better but that just gives me more incentive to get better myself.

Just like everything else in American society right now, retirement is being redefined along generational lines. Older boomers are at the tail end of the previous generation’s work pattern: one career, one or two employers for the entire career, a pension plan from that employer, retirement between age 55 and 65. Younger boomers and most Gen-Xers don’t have that pattern, partly because business has changed and partly because they don’t want it that way. Gen X and younger typically have, by choice, two or three careers in their lives and they save for later years on their own, not counting on pensions or even Government programs like Social Security. Even the word “career” seems ancient in that context. “I’ll do this for awhile, then I’ll do this, then maybe this.”

The common ‘second comment’ last night, in response to my follow up question about what these new retirees would do in their retirement, is “projects around the house.” Hmmm, so if you’re 66 and you have twenty to thirty years of relatively good health ahead of you, are you really going to spend all that time remodeling the kitchen or fixing loose door hinges? At least one of these people I spoke with last night was a high-energy media manager, news expert, international broadcast executive, former college professor who in his youth hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. I don’t see him spending the next thirty years tightening door hinges.

One thing each of these ‘retirees’ do have in common is they are financially prepared for an extended period of time without regular “job” income. They have paid-for houses, pensions (something media companies did have at one time, before I got into that line of work), decent savings and eligibility in programs like Social Security. I have a union pension and eventual eligibility in Social Security, if it doesn’t go away, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I have none of those other things.

After several of these conversations, I let myself think about my original plan. What was my ‘retirement’ really going to be? I’m pretty sure all I wanted was a more flexible way to continue to work. Like many people, I had let my job and my identity merge, but over the past five years or more I have specifically moved to separate those factors, to make my work something I do and not who I am.

But as I said, I love my work. Some days it doesn’t even feel like a job. I am lucky and grateful for that. If this job went away I would still find work. I have considered a career change of sorts, but I am unlikely to pursue it except as a backup plan.

My personal joke is that when I’m 80 I’ll still be making commercials, editing audio, interviewing people. The technology by that time will probably allow me to do it all by voice commands without even pushing a button, using a device smaller than my iPhone. Maybe I’ll just think it and it’ll happen.

Sure, I want to travel and do all those other things ‘retirees’ seem to want but I don’t have to retire to do that stuff, do I? I doubt you’ll find me fixing door hinges or sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch. Although it is entirely possible my retirement decades from now will involve sharing stories over glasses of wine. It’s kind of what I do now anyway.