Monday, July 30, 2012

A Warehouse

My oldest dog is nearing the end of his life; in fact, it could happen within a few weeks or even days. He is 16 years old, which is old for a dog. He has trouble walking, his hearing and sight are both bad, he seems scared and helpless when alone and is often incontinent. His co-owner is the real owner and she just can't quite deal with putting him down yet, although she knows that is rapidly becoming the best and most appropriate course of action. I think it is past time but I won't push the issue.

There is a parallel between old people and old dogs. Many elderly humans reach a point in their lives when they have trouble walking, seeing and hearing, are afraid and helpless and are, well, incontinent. We put down dogs but what should we do with the humans? I am NOT advocating treating elderly humans the same way we treat elderly dogs, although that issue has been discussed and people like Dr. Kevorkian practiced a version of that choice with some of his patients. Laws were later passed either allowing or disallowing the practice, usually referred to as assisted suicide.

What we often do is warehouse elderly humans. We put them in nursing homes because we don't have the time, money, patience or energy to take care of them ourselves. We (or Medicare) pay for 'professionals' to deal with those seniors who need constant attention, to try to communicate with them, to assist them with getting around and to help (and clean up after) bodily functions. I wonder if that is really better. Both of my parents spent their last days in a nursing home. My Dad only lasted six weeks there. Despite his nearly constant dementia, I think he knew where he was and decided to just stop living rather than being warehoused. My mother lasted another four years there and was very much aware of her surroundings for three of those years. She was a fighter and never gave up on living, partly because she stubbornly believed she would be able to return to her home some day, but she hated every minute of her warehousing. One of her most profound statements on the subject: "I'm not living, I'm just existing."

Visiting her in the nursing home was a depressing experience, although living there had to be worse. Most residents were barely mobile, many needed help with everything from eating to brushing their teeth to getting dressed to using the toilet. My Mother needed that much help for her last year or two.

My old dog needs that help now and every time I see him I wonder of that is the fate all of us humans eventually face. It is sad and depressing to think about that but it's a bad idea to ignore that possibility. And it’s a good idea to get the most you can out of your life while you are able, if for no other reason than to accumulate good stories to tell the warehouse staff.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sign

My Horoscope one day earlier this week. Aquarius and damn proud.

The time for peace and reflection is fast approaching. Because you have no problem interacting with people, the confidence you posses in life and yourself will increase and lead you to obtain new insights. Now is the ideal time to develop these insights and to allow your ideas to mature into concrete plans for the future.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Random ANSWERS About Random Stuff

Questions usually demand answers and that process is a pretty good way to think through some things. I (and others) do actually think about some of the random things I mentioned in my previous post, so I decided to answer the questions. And I don’t really have anything else to talk about today. There are a few blog post ideas in my head and my computer, but they can wait a few days.

Road rage is a horrible thing; and it is difficult to not get wrapped up in it regardless how much I try not to. Driving as ridiculously as the complete moronic jerks I encounter on a daily basis in the DC area is not a good thing, but it happens sometimes anyway.

I need new lunch places.

I like living in climates with a variety of hot and cold and all the interesting things that come with that.

If I ever find an answer to my relationship questions, I’ll let you know. I have never and will never understand why something so simple is so complicated.

Had a convertible for a month once; it was a contest prize and my job involved taking it places during the contest. Rented one in Hawaii too. Fun.

Yep, Mick really turned 69 yesterday. If he can be that ‘healthy’ at that age with his lifestyle, I should be able to make it to 150.

I love and hate my name. Love the unique part, hate that is sounds dated. I like the names Jason and Kevin but would never change my name. The older I get the more comfortable I get with my unique side.

“Afraid” would not really describe my attitude to my own aging, but I am definitely fighting it. I reject stereotypes connected to a number. Eighty seems like a good age to be considered ‘old’ but I’m certain that when I get there I’ll change my mind.

I do not practice the religion I grew up with. I don’t completely reject my earlier beliefs, I just have expanded and redefined many of them.

English is my only language, unless you consider ‘sarcasm’ and ‘radio’ to be languages. I wish I had learned others. I studied French briefly as a kid (my Mother’s first language) and Spanish in high school and part of college. Started Italian lessons a few years ago and plan to start that endeavor again this year.

Obviously I do think about stuff like this. Some friends do too. Most people I know are curious to some degree but I’ve been told I am curious to a large degree. I have always wanted to know how things work and as I age I am more interested in how people work. I want to know how they feel about things, what they think about, what leads them to do or not do certain things. Sometimes I am curious about their inner most thoughts, sometimes in a very inappropriate way. Some friends, and occasionally people I barely know, trust me with their thoughts and feelings and I hope I have earned that trust.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Random Questions About Random Stuff

Do you ever engage in road rage?

Do you go to the same two or three places for lunch every day, not because you really like them but because they are convenient?

Do you whine about hot weather in summer and cold weather in winter? Ever consider moving to San Diego?

Do you wonder how relationships can start so well then end in arguments and hurt feelings?

Have you ever owned a convertible? Wanted to? Driven one with the top down?

What's odd about this sentence: Mick Jagger is 69 years old today.

Do you like your name? Have you ever considered changing it from the one your parents gave you to one you like better?

Are you afraid of getting old? What number do you use to define old?

Do you practice the same religion you grew up with?

How many languages do you speak? If one, do you wish you spoke more?

Do you ever think about stuff like this?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Wouldn’t Want To Be a Dark Knight This Week

A cynic might think the events surrounding the opening of the new Batman movie are part of a publicity campaign. They are not, of course, but The Dark Knight Rises is in the news for many reasons that have nothing to do with the movie.

Early in the week, that radio jackass Rush ranted about the movie’s bad guy Bane. He claimed the character was intentionally named Bane as a political move to paint Romney's association with Bain Capital in a bad light. “There’s now discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful, and whether or not it will influence voters ... the audience is going to be huge, a lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people ... entertainment, the pop culture crowd. And they're going to hear 'Bane' in the movie, and they are going to associate Bain.” Even a simple Google search would show that the Bane character got his name in the early 1990s, long before any controversy with Bain; and he is not a corporate CEO but rather a venom-breathing villain. So is Rush, of course; takes one to know one?

I’d like to draw a connection between the radio a**hole’s use of the term ‘brain dead’ and his listeners, but sadly I know that at least a couple of those listeners do have a brain, which makes it all the more ridiculous that they waste their brain power listening to that idiot.

Then comes the shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at a theatre in Colorado. There were many heroes in the aftermath but Batman wasn’t one of them. Reality.

I usually don't read the reader comments below news stories online but I read a few yesterday who commented on the shooting spree. The thread of comments was mostly about the pros and cons of guns and gun ownership. Some said if they were in that theatre with their guns, they would have shot the shooter, reducing the number of casualties. Others pointed out the obvious opposing view: that the same person could have been shot instead while fumbling around trying to pull out their gun. Or worse, they could have shot someone else accidentally.

I have strong opinions about guns, which I usually keep to myself because I don't want to get shot. As usual, my beliefs are complicated. I have fired guns, mostly in my youth and at the beginning of my Army service … bb guns, shotguns, rifles, M-16s. I hate guns and will never own a gun. I wish guns did not exist, except for those used to hunt for food or defend our country. Realistically, of course, guns cannot be outlawed in the USA. As a country we are usually the good guys but we have also been a violent, trigger-happy society since the beginning and our Constitution upholds the right of individual citizens to own firearms. I agree with the right to own guns, even though I disagree with the Supreme Court's logic on their most recent ruling on the matter; but I also believe it should be difficult to buy guns, especially those obviously meant for more than mere self-protection.

Gun advocates believe we are safer if individuals can carry guns around with them all the time, yet study after study indicates that most gun injuries and deaths involve people who know each other or who accidentally shoot somebody. A typical scenario involves somebody shooting a possible intruder who turns out to be a family member who chose to leave the lights off while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night or coming home late. Some gun injuries involve drinking and shooting, others involve children playing with guns. The whole argument about guns is like 'what came first, the chicken or the egg'. If we outlaw guns, only the bad guys will have them because they seem to be able to get guns no matter what the laws say. Yet the fact that it is so easy to get a gun makes our society that much more dangerous because so many more people have them. Some gun advocates are against gun registration regulations for reasons relating to privacy or too much personal information in government hands. That seems paranoid to me but I do understand that concern. Complicated.

Ironically, the shooter in the Colorado incident bought all of his guns legally. He was an intelligent college grad student (who probably does not listen to Rush) but obviously has some kind of mental problem. Does the blame game now point to the psych community, school administration or friends and family of this guy? Should quiet loners be singled out as potential mass murderers? Hmm, I’m kind of quiet and sometimes a loner. Guess it’s a good thing I hate guns.

So have you seen the movie? Has anyone? Will it be the opening week blockbuster it was predicted to be or will people stay away due to fear of copycat shooters? Will a tragic incident on a dark night temporarily keep our minds focused on something other than two Presidential candidates blasting each other rather than telling us about their own solutions to real problems?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Celebrating A Life

A few weeks ago I wrote about a work friend’s emotional struggles dealing with his Mother’s deteriorating health and how we often aren’t prepared for the death of a loved one. His Mother died a few days ago and of course he is devastated, even though he knew the end was coming in days rather than months or years.

This friend has a great sense of humor and it was tough watching him go through this situation. He is also very private and I am grateful to be among the few who knew what was going on.

One of the things that is cool about all of this is to see who is ‘there for you’ in times like these. Word did get out over the past few days, flowers were sent from various parts of the company and emails shared the news in various waves. Some people knew, some were shocked, all were supportive.

The service tonight was only open to family and close friends of his Mother. Earlier I texted him to say I was thinking of him and hoped he got through the night OK. A few minutes ago I got a return text thanking me. He said there were tears, of course, but also much laughter as people shared stories about his Mother’s life. He said he was happy to hear great stuff about his Mom.

That is the kind of service I want when it’s my time to go … music, fun, laughter. You can cry but please laugh too.

His last text back to me was about the service and sums up this story nicely: “It was great. A little disorganized, funny and touching. Just like her.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today

I spent the little free time I had today thinking how lucky I am that I have the friends I have, especially a few select close friends. I am a lucky man. That’s all for tonight. Those thoughts pretty much fill my head. And my heart.

Monday, July 16, 2012

That Car Ad

I have said for a long time that advertisers miss the mark by ignoring people who are over 50. Research says we have more money than everybody else and we're not afraid to spend it.

Some details: There are 78 million American baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 (current ages 48 to 66). A Business 2 Community article says boomers control more than 50% of discretionary spending and buy 40% of all technology products in America. Over 90% of them/us use online search engines and email and 70% buy online.

If adult diapers and assisted living facilities are on the boomer spending product list, they are likely for our parents, not for us.

Fifty-plus car buyers spent $87 billion in 2010 versus $70 billion by those under fifty.

So how do we react to commercials clearly aimed at boomers?

Here is the one that led me to write this post:



Toyota is clearly targeting 50+ buyers. I have to admit the Venza appeals to me. It looks good, it has some of the benefits of an SUV as well as those of a car. It is slightly less rugged than a Highlander SUV (currently my most likely next ride); basically this would be a Camry wagon if such a vehicle existed. I like vehicles that can haul stuff and the twelve vehicles I’ve owned included three wagons, a van and an SUV. Venza was designed and is built in the US and although it was not specifically designed for 50-plusers, their marketing clearly points that way.

Most ads targeted to the 50+ crowd seem designed by twenty-somethings and play to stereotypes. According to the guy who runs the Boomer Project "Most marketing that targets Boomers presumes there's something wrong with them that needs fixing," such as age spots, wrinkles or erectile dysfunction. "It's malady-based. For the most part, it's not accurate."

Truth is most of us are time-challenged, dealing with aging parents and paying for college for our children. We are also somewhat influenced by the ‘flower power’ era which means ethics are a priority. So time-saving, convenience and truth-in-advertising are important to us; so is quality.

Back to my question: how do we react to ads targeted to us? The best ones appeal to our reality: we are not afraid to spend money if we have it, we’re active and healthy, we feel young and want to stick with that feeling. Show us how we see ourselves and maybe we’ll notice the ads. Don’t make assumptions; watch us, talk with us, pay attention. We’re still running the world (more or less) and are not ready to give that up yet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Both Right Both Wrong

Yesterday I watched an interview with Romney in which he said the President should apologize for things he said about Romney outsourcing jobs. So the ad below quotes sources for claims that Obama is making about Romney. Does that mean Romney wants all of those entities to apologize too? Apologize for telling the truth?



The Romney campaign make all kinds of claims too, many of which are contradicted by facts, including charges that Obama spent more than previous Presidents. The article says that according to Marketwatch, “our president has actually been tighter with a buck than any United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Yes, the budget went up 17.9% during Obama’s first year in office. Why? Because the first year of any incoming President works off the budget set by the previous administration and passed by Congress. That budget was already in effect during Obama’s first months in office. Obama’s four budgets: down 1.8%, up 4.3%, up 0.7% and down 1.3%. Click here to read the article.

Both campaigns are running ads in battleground states, including Virginia, which is adjacent to DC, which means my TV is full of those ads.

When are both sides going to stop this crap and tell us what they plan to do to fix what’s wrong? I have made my decision already and no television ad will change my mind. I might re-think things after seeing some debates, but if this election season debates are anything like they were in 2008, I’ll probably stick with NCIS marathons on TV.

At various times both sides are right and both sides are wrong. Meanwhile we have to suffer through this crap. I would not live anywhere else, but sometimes it is a pain in the ass to live here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Those Three Little Words

It's been on my mind a lot lately ... those three little words that pack so much power, that often change the course of a life. Three simple words that might be thought of a lot but are sometimes hard to say.

And those words are: Let it go.

Often the context in which those words are spoken involves letting go of a past practice or an old idea or method of doing something. I’ve heard it at work from time to time. I sometimes have a certain way of doing things that is less relevant than it was in the past and I’m encouraged to ‘let it go’, to not worry about it or to spend less time doing that particular thing because it is not as important as it used to be.

As we get older, we are sometimes forced to let certain ideas and attitudes go. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it is not. We might grieve over the loss of certain beliefs or other aspects of life we have held or lived with for many years.

I am about to let go a wife. Again. I am on the verge of letting go the whole idea of marriage. I can spend hours telling you why marriage is a great idea and many hours explaining why it isn’t. Humans are social by nature but from a societal point of view we don’t really ever have to get married to be happy. We can find love, companionship, sex and sharing of life moments without ever getting married. Yet some of us still like the idea of marriage. For me, however, it’s time to let it go. There is no problem letting this one go, but it is more of a challenge for me to let the whole idea go.

Good health is another aspect of life that is on my mind as I write this. I expect to be in good health. My mother was a health fanatic in many ways. She was very specific about diet, she exercised as long as she was able and had no life-shortening vices. I am the same in many ways. I eat three meals a day, mostly healthy food, I don’t smoke or do drugs and my only health vice is red wine, but one or two glasses a night is not a health issue. Yet I am starting to have those little annoying health issues that just come with age. Basil cell carcinoma … geez, who knew that being out in the sun without sunscreen in the 1970s would lead to skin cancer in the 2000s? That is the ‘good’ skin cancer and I survived it quite nicely last year. Now I have another spot on my face that is most likely another episode. This on top of the still unexplained medical issue I had from January through April.

Good health from now through my 90s? Let it go.

OK, so I will be single again soon. Hmmm, that conjures up all sorts of delicious images in my head. I can see myself with all those beautiful women I’ve known through my life. Except I’m over 50 and most of them are too. I’ll slap you (verbally) if you tell me 50 is old. It isn’t. But this fantasy in my head of having a 30-year-old girlfriend sometime next year … let it go. Not going to happen. In truth, I don’t really have that fantasy but I do have the self-image of a man who is at least ten years younger than I really am and I am beginning to question that image. Time to let it go? I hope not but I do have to accept the possibility.

Most guys my age are thinking about retirement. Some of them have already retired, in most cases from those kinds of government jobs you can retire from at a fairly young age. I am in a part of the media business that is dominated by people much younger than I am, but instead of planning for retirement, I have just taken on even more responsibility and I am doing work designed to extend the life of my career. Twelve years ago I had a specific plan for retirement and a specific idea for how to make a part-time living starting ten years from that point. I identified three places other than my current hometown where I might be able to execute my plan in the event I decided to leave the relative insanity of where I currently live. I visited and ruled out one of them (Flagstaff AZ) and made business and real estate contacts in another where I already had personal contacts (Outer Banks NC). Six years ago I did additional research on possible future places to live and added one more to the list (Asheville NC) and I now have both personal and business ties to that town.

The idea that I’ll ever live in those places? Let it go.

The idea that I’ll ever retire willingly? Let it go.

Aging is all about life experience, gaining wisdom, building a circle of personal supportive friendships, hitting personal goals. It can be about living out dreams. At a certain point in your life you can find out what you really want and design your life in support of getting it. A good thing you can let go is whatever in your past holds you back.

Some times during my current transitional period I have become frustrated with the possibility of having to let go certain things I used to take for granted, parts of my life I assumed would always be there. But as I move forward (and as I re-read this post), I think maybe there is positive power, impact and energy to those three magic words I cited at the beginning. It is time for me to shout to those things in my life that present obstacles: let it go!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

13

Happy Friday the 13th!


Do you have triskaidekaphobia? That's a the fear of the number thirteen. If so, you might not want to read the rest of this post, at least not tomorrow.

I'm not especially superstitious, so one year I challenged all this 13 phobia. I was the afternoon DJ at a Baltimore radio station at the time and I tried a little experiment on the way to work. At 1:13 I filled my car fuel tank with 13 gallons of gas. As I pumped the gas I notice that the numbers on my license plate added up to 13 - I'm not kidding about any of this. At 3:13 that day I told this story on the air. Nothing bad happened.

More?

My hometown is New Orleans, LA. Spelled that way, it's 13 characters long, including the comma (but not the spaces).

The big city I currently live near has 13 letters when spelled in similar fashion: Washington, DC.

The nearest small town too: Middletown, MD.

Even more?

I just discovered the next part as I was writing this post:

One of my best friends in Louisiana has 13 letters in her first and pre-married last names combined.

One of my best friends in North Carolina has 13 letters in her first and last names combined.

One more: look how many letters there are in the word superstitious.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shrink

People tell me things they'd never tell anyone else. It happens all the time. Although I have mixed feelings about that sometimes, I mostly like it and I am happy that people trust me. Some of what they tell me is very personal. It is often told in confidence and I'm pretty good at keeping things confidential. Here is what I can't figure out: why me? Do they trust me? Am I a good listener? Am I the only person in the room that day? I really don't know.

Some random examples:

A work friend recently told me he was probably going to quit and move back to the town he lived in before moving here for this job. He did have good reasons, personal reasons that really didn't have anything to do with the job. He had no hesitation revealing his thoughts to me, even though he knew I might have to break that confidence at some point if I thought it would interfere with our business operation.

A female friend once gave me an explanation about why size matters sometimes. She and I never had any experience with each other in which that topic would come up, so to speak, but she trusted me to hear her explanation.

A work friend who is usually very private has confided in me details about an emotionally stressful family situation he is going through. He knows I have had a somewhat similar situation myself and he needed to talk it out with someone. He talked it out with me. I invited the conversation and am happy to help. I am also surprised he accepted the invitation.

Another friend has told me about her current boyfriend and her previous one. Compared them a little. I know both guys so it was interesting to hear her perspective. Also interesting to hear her share such private emotional matters even though she and I are really not a lot more than casual friends.

These examples and a few others hit me at the same time today, as did something else. You know those tests people take to see what jobs they might be good at based on certain personality and attitude characteristics? One of the tests I took back in college indicated that I might be good as a psychologist.

Wow.

I briefly considered that option and took a couple of psych classes but decided that although I can listen to what my friends are going through and provide some emotional support and feedback, I don’t think I have the patience to do that for a living. I can’t imagine listening to the problems of total strangers hour after hour, day after day, and take on the responsibility of helping them solve those problems. I respect people who can do that. I have been in therapy myself a couple of times years ago and I understand the benefits and respect the practitioners. I have read many self-help books and Psychology Today articles. Sometimes I provide unsolicited Dr. Phil-style analysis for certain friends, and I take my observations seriously because I sense that these friends pay attention to what I tell them and I don’t want to get it wrong. But I don’t think I could be a shrink for a living.

I am happy that so many people trust me with their private feelings. I am insatiably curious about their feelings too. But the circle of friends I have who I trust with my own feelings is much smaller … two or three at the most. I don’t think those particular friends would dig as deep into my head as I would dig into theirs and I’m OK with that. Maybe that’s a good thing. The self-discovery journey I’ve written about during the past few years is nearing a new chapter and those friends have helped me navigate the journey in ways I barely have the words for. A real shrink could certainly help me turn the page but I don’t have the time. I am not in any kind of crisis mode but I am impatient. As I get ready to move on I realize I have solved some problems but opened the door on a few new ones. I guess this is simply life. I wish I knew how to make it a much simpler life.

Our Government In Action Inaction

Before you read the illustration below, let me point out that I am not against Republicans.  But I am against this crap, no matter who does it.  Why doesn't Congress spend their time on fixing education, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, dependence on foreign energy, etc.? And if they don't like the health care act, fix the parts the people who elected them don't like ... don't scrap the whole thing and start over just because the health insurance lobby and misguided talk show hosts say so.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another One Died

Actor Ernest Borgnine died today at age 95.

Boomers probably know him best for his role in the television series McHale’s Navy. He also played in TV’s Airwolf in the 1980s. Famous movie roles include Marty, The Dirty Dozen, The Poseidon Adventure and many others. He still had some acting roles into his 90s, including a character in the last episode of E-R in 2009.

OK, for those who believe celebrity deaths happen in 3’s, who is next?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Assorted Observations About Commercials

Best line I heard in a commercial this week: “a greasy bag of deep fried easy.” Great line but I don’t remember the product. Not good.

The old Charmin commercials with Mr. Whipple saying “don’t squeeze the Charmin” were odd but funny. The animated commercials with bears using Charmin are just stupid. Although they do answer the question “does a bear shoot (tv commercials) in the woods?”

Why do car dealer commercials use screaming announcers? Does that make you want to buy from them? And scripts list a bunch of boring prices that you know are only for one car on the lot. Does that work? Many dealers talk about being number 1 in sales; does that really provide an incentive for you to shop there? Or they use generic lines like “lowest prices”… nearly any dealer has the lowest price if you do your research and you’re a good negotiator.

The best ads for any product play to some emotion or need. Some are tense  …



Some are funny …



Neither of those scream at you and neither use generic verbiage or list any prices. Both are unique and memorable.

And that concludes today’s lesson on advertising.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Proud to be …


Today is July 4th, a day we celebrate the beginning in 1776 of what is now the United States of America. We started with 13 states and now connect 50 states and a few territories. We are a complicated country, with a delicate balance of rules and freedom, three branches of federal government that provide checks and balances for sometimes competing interests, all serving as an umbrella for 50 separate states. Each state is unique but has similar bodies of government and law. Complicated but it usually works.

Some positive things that connect us are a belief that we can achieve anything, that we are fair and just, that each of us has individual rights and our government protects those rights, that any individual can be born into poverty yet die rich.

Some negative things that seem to set us apart from citizens of other countries are that we are loud, arrogant, self-centered and believe our way of life is the only way of life.

All of that is probably true.

Are we perfect? No. Is our way the only way? No. Do some of us hate some things, even many things about the state of our nation right now? Yes. Do most of us want to stay here anyway and try to work things out? Yes. Are most of us proud to be Americans even though we have differing opinions on exactly what that means? Yes.

In some countries everyone speaks one language, practices one religion, lives their whole life in whatever socioeconomic place they are born into and follow a narrow path in life determined by their government or family tradition. They all look like each other and act like each other. There is nothing wrong with any of that but it is not usually the American way.

The USA is either a melting pot or a salad bowl, depending on your point of view; both analogies, however, are valid. Our population contains a diverse collection of ingredients that combine to make us one mostly unified thing.

Diversity can sometimes be the root of conflict but it is also what makes us unique. We are a nation of immigrants. My own parents could trace their roots to Italy, Albania, Canada, France and Germany. People in my circle of close and mid-close friends connect back to those places as well as England, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Scandinavian countries, the Caribbean islands, Columbia, Greece, Venezuela, Iran and probably many other countries and regions. Ironically I know of only one friend who can trace roots to the original population of our land, in her case Cherokee.

Religions in that same circle? Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Jewish, Presbyterian, Baptist, Unitarian Universalist, atheist and probably many more. Languages? English dominates but my circle includes people who can have conversations in Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian, French and Farsi. Lifestyles? Straight, gay, bi, married, divorced, single, living-withs, never-marrieds, married many times, monogamous, not monogamous, relationship-of-the-months, you name it.

The connection? We are all Americans. The 50 or so friends I referenced all have different birthdays but we all celebrate this one today. Happy birthday America!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Died

Every boomer knows this guy. We grew up watching him on television in the role of the sheriff of the fictitious town of Mayberry, modeled after the real town of Mt Airy, North Carolina where actor Andy Griffith was born. His character was a role model for nice guys and fatherhood, while the town provided a glimpse of the simple life in small town America.

Gen Xers might recognize Andy more from his role as Matlock, a big-city lawyer with small town roots, values and attitude. Andy Griffith’s career spanned the decades from the 1950s into the 2000s, as stand-up comic, story-teller, singer, actor (playing both good guys and bad) and producer to his more recent cameo appearance in Brad Paisley’s 2008 video for “Waiting On A Woman.”

Andy lived the later years of his life in another small North Carolina town called Manteo, located across the bridge from the popular Outer Banks beach resort, not far from the site of his first acting jobs in an on-going tourist-season play about Sir Walter Raleigh called The Lost Colony.

Here’s a short version of the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show, a song that gets stuck in your head. Bet you can whistle the rest of it.



And here’s the Brad Paisley video, one of Andy’s last acting jobs. This was shot at an outlet mall in Nags Head. I’ve been to that mall so many times that I recognized it instantly, even before looking up details to verify that I was correct about the site. There is something eerily appropriate about watching this video in the context of his death and also as a salute to small-town America on the eve of Independence Day.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Doing Without

No power, no computer, no lights, no hot water, no refrigerator, no air conditioner, no television, no elevators, nothing resembling normal. That's a slice of life when severe weather tramples infrastructure.

We are used to a functioning electrical system in our homes and work places. A bad storm can interrupt what we're used to in ways that range from nuisance to dangerous.

No flushing toilets, no way to keep a perishable lunch from spoiling, no traffic lights at a busy intersection, no way to pump gas.

Those severe storms last Friday night in the Washington DC area blew through in less than two hours but as I write this exactly 72 hours later, a couple hundred thousand people in the area are still without power, more than 100 intersections still don’t have functioning signals, many businesses are still closed and at least 22 people have died.

We take for granted that a light will come on when we flip the switch and there will be safe dinner or a cold beer in the refrigerator. We are slapped into reality when those things don’t happen. Our lives depend on electricity and computers for nearly everything. It is scary to think how vulnerable we are in so many ways.

Believe this ...