Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Process – January 2017

Every January I go through a process of reflection on the past year and planning for the next year. I start around New Year's Day and continue through my birthday near the end of January. It's a cross between making New Years resolutions and goal-setting.

I couldn't remember much about the results of my process last January, so I looked it up. It appears I did not get very specific last January and apparently the same is true for the previous January.

Hmmmm. Last year I decided to carry over 'discipline' as my keyword for 2016, in part because I failed to follow through on discipline in 2015. Looks like I've done it again.

Another thing I noticed is that I considered letting 2016 just be whatever it wanted to be. I am often guilty of overthinking and making detailed plans that I don't follow through on. In reflecting on 2016, I guess I really did just roll with whatever came.

The year itself was weird, dominated by political crap. However, it was a pleasant year for me. A great relationship got even better and some friendships grew stronger. Travel included the beach, New York and New Orleans. Work continued to be crazy but fun.

One new thing popped up during numerous conversations... the word 'retirement'. That's always been an interesting but far away topic. Now I actually have a target year in my head. I'll never fully retire but I can see a day when I'll cut back. It's not soon but it's no longer decades away.

So what's the plan for 2017?  The 'process' begins on Sunday, New Year's Day. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Age and Mick

Legendary Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger just welcomed his 8th child. Mick, age 73, and his 29-year old girlfriend Melanie are parents.

Ok, I'll pause for a second while you think about that; about their age difference.

Some questions probably float through your head:
-Isn't that a crazy age difference? What do they have in common?
-Why does Mick want to be a dad again in his 70s?
-What does she see in him?
-Can you picture them together naked?

The real question: what difference does it make?

I clearly remember four years ago when I didn't understand why some women I was interested in hesitated getting involved with me because of a twenty year age difference. Mick and Melanie are 44 years apart. Mick had five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Again I ask 'what difference does it make?'

I know a couple who are twenty years apart. He's 74 and she is 54. They are an awesome couple.  Three years ago I found someone who is six years younger than me and that is perfect. Would things have worked out between me and a women twenty years younger than me?  I don't know. I also don't care. I found what I wanted.

Why are we obsessed with age?  I don't know. Age is just a number, right?  Let's keep saying that.

Meanwhile, let's try to visualize Mick having a baby with a woman who is younger than his last hit song.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It IS Rigged

Our voting process is definitely rigged, but not quite the way Trump whined and lied about during his campaign.

Maybe rigged isn't the right word. Our process is unfair and outdated, subject to corruption, just plain stupid.

The math is really simple: Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, yet Trump will become president because 302 'electors' of the 538 voted for him. Why is this antiquated and obviously unfair system still exist?

We don't actually vote directly for
President. We vote for 'electors' to the Electoral College. The exact formula varies from state to state and is more complicated than I want to talk about here.  The short version: we elect electors and they elect the president. Millions of voters pick 538 people who actually elect the president.  The electoral college electors do not actually have to vote for the candidate they pledged to vote for, although most do.

What all this means is that my vote in Maryland is not the same as a vote in California or a vote in Wyoming. We are 50 states but aren't we ONE COUNTRY?  Shouldn't each vote be worth the same as every other vote?

There were good reasons for this system a couple hundred years ago but not in 2016.

For the 5th time in our history and the 2nd time in 16 years, the candidate who got the most votes did not become president. This is wrong, wrong, wrong and it's time to change the system.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Wireless World

Technology is awesome, scary, miraculous, confusing, helpful and creepy.

My work world depends on technology and I embrace most of it. I do a reasonable job of keeping up with changes. Yet I seem to be a little behind the curve sometimes, marveling over things that are new to me but firmly established for many other people, especially younger-than-boomer aged people.

Some examples: I've had an iPhone 6 for a year but rarely use Siri. I'm sure it would be easier to say "hey Siri, what's the weather forecast today?" than to type in my passcode, click on my weather app and scroll down to the forecast. But I do the latter.

Prior to Christmas Eve my only Bluetooth devices at home were a printer I bought a few months ago and a speaker I received for Christmas last year from my girlfriend's sons.

On Christmas Eve her sons gave me two more Bluetooth devices, which I am connecting as I write this. Right now I'm playing a playlist on my phone through my stereo, with no wires. Everybody does this but it's still kind of new and amusing to me.

The other device is an Echo dot. When that's set up I'll be able to say "Alexa, play my Christmas playlist."  This Alexa entity could adjust the volume, turn my lights on and off and answer important questions like "How old is Sting!" Do I need something like this?  No. Will I enjoy using it?  Yes.

Sometimes awesome innovations we consider necessaries begin as novelties. The telephone is a pretty good example. The tv remote is another. The personal computer and the smart phone are two more. I get the feeling Alexa can be a best non-human friend for visually impaired people. I picture a future world in which nearly all of our home and work activities are voice activated. That's already the case in some countries. It was certainly the case in Star Trek.


And a little scary, miraculous, confusing, helpful and creepy.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Does It Have To Mean Something?

My high school buddy Jim had the right idea about jobs. He was a U. S. Postal Service letter carrier for more than twenty years. He did care about doing the job well but he didn't particularly care about the job itself. He didn't take it home at night, he didn't think about it much during his off hours. It was just a job, merely a way to earn money to fund the other parts of his interesting life. He had no identity wrapped up in it and he hasn't missed it at all during the five years since he retired from it.

I have poured my heart and soul into my jobs for four decades. It's a career and I take pride in my work. My industry is 24/7 and I do think about work when I'm not at work.

To a large degree what I do is a big part of who I am. I care deeply about what I do. Some parts of my job have great meaning to me. So when management messes with parts of my job, effectively diminishing the importance of certain parts of it, I get pissed. When I don't even know about some changes till after they've already happened, I get pissed.

That happened this week. I can't really get into any detail, other than to say it's one relatively small part of my job and I wish I didn't care. If this stuff didn't matter to me, I could just go on my merry way. I could just 'deliver my letters', cash my paycheck and live my interesting life. However, this particular part of my job means a lot to me and to say I'm disappointed is a diplomatic understatement.

So, I'll do what I always do: I'll suck it up and move on. And if I don't get reprimanded or fired for the email I shouldn't have sent but sent anyway, I'll just suck it up and move on. The grudge I'll hold indefinitely will live in the background and this post might be the last time I verbalized my disappointment. Maybe.

Does your job have to mean something? That's entirely your choice. For me, the answer is always yes.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wow What's Wrong With Me?

Every December I realize, and reluctantly admit, that I am gift-challenged. I give Christmas gifts to my sister and two very close friends, and participate in couples or group gifts for a few more people, but I rarely think about getting gifts for anyone else. Till someone unexpectedly give me a gift.

What's wrong with me?  I certainly appreciate co-workers, colleagues, the neighborhood mailman, the apartment maintenance guy. And I think I'd like to give them something. But then I forget.

A salesperson at work just gave me an Amazon gift card as a thanks for what I do to help her clients. She is very easy to work with and helping her with client relationships is part of my job. I don't expect anything more than the occasional gratitude email and I get plenty of those from her. But I barely know her and was surprised to get a gift. Appreciative but surprised.

Ten or more years ago I gave some coworkers holiday gifts, customized to their tastes. Simple things like picture frames, a Kenny Chesney calendar, a book about Maryland history. I stopped doing that a few years later and I don't remember why.

I send Christmas cards to some cousins and a couple of close friends but I used to send more. And I tried to send cards right after thanksgiving, partly to be first and partly so I wouldn't forget. What happened?  I don't know.

Anyway, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Zero G and I Feel Fine

Most dads went to work while most moms stayed home to cook and clean. Cars had AM radios and crank windows and a house usually had only one phone. A typical house had only one TV, a small black-and-white set, and there were only two or three channels to choose from.

In 1962, kids like me were glued to that TV every time a man was launched into space. On February 20th that year John Glenn became the third American to be launched and the first to orbit the earth. He died this week at age 95. If you're religious, you might say he was launched to heaven.

"Roger, the clock is operating, we're underway,"

John Glenn was memorable for many reasons and a role model for living and for aging. He was a fighter pilot, a test pilot, an astronaut (at the relatively old age of 40), eventually a Senator, and then at age 77 he became an astronaut again, the oldest ever, flying with a space shuttle crew and conducting tests related to aging. That's what I call not letting age define you or stop you.
"To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible."

He was married to the same woman for 74 years. He ran for senator in 1964 and 1970, losing both times. He ran again and won in 1974 and remained in the Senate till retiring in 1999.

John Glenn was a hero on so many levels. He flew 59 combat missions in World War II, 90 more in the Korean War. He set the transcontinental airspeed record in 1957, flying from LA to New York in 3 hours and 23 minutes.

I looked up to John Glenn as a kid because of his space flight in 1962. I respected his accomplishments in the Senate. I always wanted to meet him and actually took some steps to do a radio interview with him in 1994; unfortunately that didn't work out. I cheered him on during his 1998 shuttle flight, again with eyes glued to the TV like when I was a kid.

John Glenn was a role model for living the dreams, for living without limits, for creative aging.

"Godspeed, John Glenn."

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Thanksgiving week in my hometown New Orleans is an interesting mix of old and new attitudes, old and new people, old and new places.

We stayed at my sister's house, which is the house she and I grew up in. She moved back in when we had to move our parents into a nursing facility. She moved out after Hurricane Katrina flooded it and returned after two years of rehabbing. It has the bones of the house Dad built but is now totally reflective of her tastes and lifestyle.

Interesting then and now emotions spring up as I wake up in her guest room, which was my bedroom growing up. I wrote this at her dining table which is in the exact spot where dining tables sat for the whole 50-plus years this house has existed. A pleasant difference: the wall between the dining area and the living room was removed, making way for a more contemporary open floor plan.

I visit New Orleans every year or two, although I should visit more often. Those trips usually include cousin reunions. I lost touch with my cousins for a couple of decades because of my own stubbornness and lack of attention, and I now treasure being in touch with them again. I enjoy sharing stories about our parents and I learn more family lore every time. These gatherings help me connect the dots of my often disconnected life. Six decades of family ties helps make  my life a unified novel rather than a collection of disjointed chapters.

I often wonder, and write about, finding purpose and meaning in life and ask whether this is a boomer obsession or just my obsession. I have no answer to that question, but this thought pattern is part of my search for that answer.

The word family is much bigger than its six letters. Family is blood, friendship, connection. Family can be siblings, cousins, parents, friends, neighbors, workmates, schoolmates, country mates. On some level all 7 billion of us earthlings are related but those closest to us are the ones who count the most.

Most of my cousins are slightly older than me and many of them have experienced health issues during the past few years. Four have died since my reunions began and I'm grateful to have reconnected with them before their passing. As I write this paragraph I realize that one of my favorites was unable to join us this year for health reasons. I'm going to call or email him today. I have this horrible feeling that I might never see him again.

It was interesting to see which cousins have attempted to stay contemporary in their attitudes and which either cling to the past or merely choose to take their time catching up to the present. I don't mean to sound judgmental; there is no right or wrong about things like that. I tend to be ahead of the curve for my age with respect to technology, music and social attitudes, mostly because most of my coworkers are half my age and I have to try and keep up. But some of my cousins surprise me. There were many iPhones at one table, which contrasted with my sister's flip phone. One iPhone user at another cousin party is not on Facebook and does not have email.

Anyway, before I get carried away with minutia and rambling, let me say that one thing I was thankful for during Thanksgiving week is that I get to spend time with family.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

No Bah Humbug

The first time I saw a live performance of the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" was in December 1984. A manager at work treated a dozen of us to a memorable evening that included tickets to see the play at the historic Ford's Theatre in Washington DC.

I promised myself that night I would see the play at that theatre again one day and hopefully share the evening with a special lady. Twenty-nine years later I finally did and now we've made this an annual tradition.

The whole ghost of a story resonates with me and I'm not completely sure I know why. I do know that I get teary-eyed near the end, even though I already know how it ends, and I feel so good after it's over. And for weeks later.

We see it during Thanksgiving week and the spirit stays with us through the season.

Maybe it's the idea that we often get so busy in our lives that we lose our heart. Without even realizing it, we lose the wonder, caring, purpose and fun of our youth.  It is replaced by the hard-edged, selfish pursuit of careers, of making money, of living up to expectations of others. It often takes some jolting event in our lives to snap us back to the idealism of our youth. For Ebenezer, that jolt is the overnight visit of three ghosts. For me, it is seeing A Christmas Carol.

Hard to believe that Charles Dickens novella was written in 1843. It connects on many levels with our lives in 2016. I went through many years of holiday depression, probably caused by the mismatch of expectations and a disconnect between the Christmases of youth and adulthood. Maybe I was just grieving the loss of my youth. The words "bah humbug" crossed my lips many times.

My determination to live a more positive life over the past five or six years was enhanced by adding A Christmas Carol to my holiday season. The annual production at Ford's Theatre is especially spectacular.

I'll end this line of thought with one of my favorite paragraphs from the play:

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"

The stage for A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre

The Lincoln box.  I'll take the tour some day.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Different Stuff Matters

Maybe this is why people retire: their priorities change. Things that matter so much at work for so many years eventually begin to seem like a waste of time. When viewed in the context of a person's life, little details that seemed so important don't really matter.

We begin to question things. We seek meaning and purpose in life.

On the other hand, maybe we just get tired of working. At the peak of our careers, if we have careers, we work our asses off, we get really good at what we do, we make more money than we thought we ever would. Then we sort of crash.

I love what I do, I'm good at it, I'm at my peak earning power; and sometimes there is just too much on my plate. And sometimes I laugh at myself when I look at the tiny details and think that those details that seemed so important a year ago or a decade ago aren't really that important.

Somewhere between mid life and retirement age, we read that this is the time to do what we always wanted to do. I am lucky that I AM doing what I always wanted to do. I'd really just like to do less of it or maybe focus on the parts that really matter to me or to people who might benefit from what I do.

This is a recurring theme in my blog. I'll try to keep it from getting too boring or redundant. I'm pretty sure, however, that I'm not alone in pondering these questions.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Colored, Negro, African-American, Black. These monikers, and a few more that I won't print here, show an evolving attitude about race in our country during the boomer era. I'd like to believe we've come a long way since the 1950s. I'd like to believe there is little or no discrimination based on race. I'd like to believe our children accept the equality of all races. I'd like to believe I have escaped the racial prejudices of my Louisiana upbringing.

I'm not sure any of that has happened. We've come a long way but are we there yet?  Do we still make judgements based on color?  Is this a white issue? A black issue? Everybody's issue?

Do we ... and by that, I mean us white folk ... see a few black faces in suits in our work place and say to ourselves 'we've come a long way'?  Do we (white again) go out of our way to hire or befriend black people out of some form of white guilt?  Is that kind of prejudicial attitude just as biased as rejecting black people for jobs or friendship?

Do we use the term African-American rather than black out of respect? Concern that we're saying the right thing? Guilt?  I have a black friend whose heritage is Caribbean. She told me once that she sort of laughs when people (white people) use the term African-American to describe all people of color.

Are white people upset by the phrase 'black lives matter'?  The white reaction is often 'all lives matter', implying that saying black lives matter means other lives don't. Some black people say 'black lives matter' is not intended to say that other races don't, but rather to indicate that  black lives do.

In an effort to prove we aren't prejudiced, we sometimes say we are color-blind when it comes to race. A black acquaintance pointed out once that she doesn't want people to ignore that she is black, but rather to just not judge her based on race.

I work for a country music radio station and I regularly see confederate flags waved in the parking lot at local outdoor concert venues. One of our young producers is black. He has the perfect skill set and personality to help me record listener comments about music and DJs but I asked him if he would be afraid to walk out there in that parking lot with a recorder. He said he'd be happy to. I'm still reluctant to ask him to do that. Am I concerned for his safety?  Yes, to some degree. Am I concerned that there is some image issue sending a young black man into a nearly all-white concert crowd in Virginia wearing my radio station logo?  God, I hope not, although I did just ask that question, didn't I? Would I even bring this up if he was white?

Speaking of confederate flags, I got into a testy conversation about that topic a few months back with a white acquaintance. She said that flag was about 'southern pride' and not racial hatred. I said I grew up in the Deep South and I know that the confederate 'battle flag', the specific flag in question, became the symbol for racial hatred in the 1960s, a hundred years after the Civil War. Corn bread and fried chicken are symbols of southern pride, not that flag.

So why is race still an issue in the USA?  On one hand, I am a little embarrassed by my southern heritage and my over thinking and overcompensating of the race issue. On the other hand, I enjoy learning about other cultures and debunking some of the myths of my youth.

My bar hangout friends include a black former HR exec/current author who grew up in Watts during the Los Angeles riots of the 1960s. Another friend is a man of Indian heritage who lived part of his life India but most of his life in NJ, NYC and MD and just officially became a U.S. citizen this summer ... on Independence Day! Another bar friend was born in Ireland, another in the Philippines and another in Somalia. White, black, brown, 'other' ... those characteristics certainly inform their personalities, values and beliefs but provide no reason for judgement, no reason for concern, no reason for prejudice, no reason for special treatment.

In a perfect world we would celebrate our cultural differences as well as those things that unite us. The heritage of our roots as well as our common American heritage are cause for celebration. Diversity is the thing that makes the USA the great nation that it is.

But old ideas, old beliefs and old attitudes die hard. A few paragraphs ago I asked 'are we there yet?'  Something tells me I've answered that question too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Can Songs Join?

People who turn 50 can join AARP. What about songs?

These classic songs are 50 years old. Wow.

Beatles "She Loves You"
Bob Dylan "Blowin' In the Wind"
Beach Boys "Surfin' USA"
Rolling Stones "Satisfaction"
The Who "My Generation"
Dave Clark Five "Catch Us If You Can"
The Yardbirds "For Your Love"
The Monkees "Last Train To Clarksville"
Simon & Garfunkle "I Am A Rock"
The Mamas & the Papas "Monday  Monday"

Many great songs have been recorded since these ten, but these are still among my favorites. And yes, I remember all of them when they were new.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I Don’t Get It and Neither Do They

I keep wanting to believe that most of the people who voted for Trump were white, male, uneducated rednecks. Sadly that is not the case. At least three of my bar mates voted for him. All three are white but they are also educated; they are not rednecks in any sense of the word. One of them is female.

The argument I witnessed (and partially participated in) a few weeks ago was an exercise in futility. A white man, a black man and me (white). The other two are friends and have known each other a long time. I'm still fairly new in the mix. These guys were basically echoing their respective candidates' commercials and talking points. In other words, the argument points were impressions and feelings but not especially fact-based. I got them to stop arguing, which is ironic because someone else had to do that to me a few weeks before the election.

There is nothing either could say to the other that would change any attitudes. Same for me; nothing will convince me to back off of my position. We all agreed that we had to choose between two flawed candidates. Which is the biggest liar?  Which is the most corrupt?  Which really cares about the future of our country?  No agreement on those points.

No friend at my hangout and no reader of this blog will convince me that Trump can be a good President. My 'facts' are as valid as anyone else's 'facts'. The best we can hope for is that one of Orange man's multiple personalities will turn out to be a decent leader. He had a mildly humbled look on his face when he met Obama and began the transfer of power process. I also sensed an 'oh shit I actually have to do this now' look on Trump's face and a 'good luck, it's all yours now, and you have no clue, do you?' look on Obama's face. Obviously that is my opinion, with no actual facts to back it up.

That old 'reap what you sow' adage is coming into play now. Trump set the stage to make racism, sexism and violence acceptable. Then he says those who protest his election are professional protesters. Bullshit. Those people are as valid as the Trump supporters who protested Clinton. And all of them are wasting their time.

The deed is done. Time to try and make it work. I negatively predict it won't and I positively hope I'm wrong.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I Bet Your Dad Didn't Tell You About THIS One

This is a public service for the boomer men, which is defined as those who are ages 52 to 70 this year. 

It's almost like an Outlook reminder: when you hit 50, you will get up to pee every night, probably around 4:30 am. Around age 60 you might stop laughing at Viagra and Cialis commercials. You might eventually learn enough medical terms to become a doctor yourself. Colonoscopy, endoscopy, prostate (by the way, that is the correct spelling), 2.0 readers, cataracts and my new favorite: cystoscopy.

That last one is the weirdest of all. As of this week, I have now had a camera up every opening in my body except my nose. TMI?  Probably. But I bet your daddy didn't tell you about that one. Look it up. Maybe some of this didn't exist in his day.

Diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions are also common things in our age range, for women as well as men. So far, I don't have any problems in those areas, although my blood pressure is a little higher than it used to be. I do have MS, which is unusual in our age range.

So there you have it. Feel free to call my office and schedule an appointment. I take all insurance, including Medicare, Obamacare and Trumpdontcare. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Don't Thank Me

I originally wrote and posted this in 2011 and 2012.  

When I see the tributes and thank you messages to vets around Veteran’s Day each year, I usually embrace the message and in some way add to the salutes. I want to praise “them” for their service. Then in the middle of it all, I remember that I am a military veteran too. I do not usually include myself in the praise.

Me in the Army
I have served my country in many positive ways over the years but my military service is not one of them. I hated the military at the time and most of what I thought they stood for then. I enlisted in the Army but only because I thought I lost my college deferment because of bad grades and I mistakenly believed I would have more choice if I joined rather than being drafted. The draft ended soon after and I would never have had to go. Fate works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

My three-year enlistment lasted only one year. The details are my business and I’ve only shared them with a few friends. Let me just say that it was perfectly legal and I was honorably discharged with access to full VA benefits prorated for the amount of time I served.

I will say that I did not and do not believe in killing. Something I understand now that I did not get more than three decades ago is that sometimes there is no other way. Our brave military men and women sometimes have to kill to keep us free. I don’t like it but I understand it, accept it and benefit from it. They put themselves on the line for the rest of us and deserve our respect for that. I and others serve our country in different ways that are just as valuable. Another thing that has changed inside me over the years: while I still do not believe in killing, I will gladly beat the shit out of someone who harms me or someone close and I won’t regret it a bit. I just hope I’m never in that position. I have the right to hold this complicated set of beliefs, thanks in part to veterans; try not to judge my for what I believe.

Dad in the Navy
Another military veteran with complex reasons for his service was my Dad. He joined the Navy at the very end of World War II for reasons similar to mine. He did serve his full two-year enlistment. He almost lost his life but not because of lingering post-war gun fire; his ship almost went down in a typhoon in the Pacific. Other ships did sink in that same storm. Fate again?

I wonder what it means that my Dad died on Veteran’s Day eleven years ago. There are plenty of reasons for me to remember him and the day he died, but the public spotlight on that day each year makes it even harder to forget. It is such a public day yet he died very privately in a nursing home room with only his wife and his two children at his bedside. That month we were still in the process of arguing with the VA over benefits he earned that would have helped pay for his medical care. How ironic that the VA paid for a year of my education and helped me buy a house yet they threw up obstacle after obstacle to avoid paying for some of his needs.

Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, in my opinion. I learned a few things during my unremarkable Army year: the value of physical fitness, the buzz of marijuana, the positive side of discipline, how to correctly peel a potato, how to befriend the only black man I had had deep conversations with up to that point in my life, how to scale a solid 7-foot wall, how to clean a gun, how to clean a gunshot wound, how to clean a latrine, how to defend myself with words, how to stand up for something I believed even though I was the only person in a room full of 40 men who all thought I was some kind of unpatriotic freak for having those beliefs.

And since that time more than three decades ago I have also learned to accept and respect all men and women in the military for what they do and who they are, for how their actions help make us free and for the bravery some of them show in the face of situations that even the best training cannot fully prepare them for.

If you are a veteran, I thank you for your service, whether you spent your whole time stateside as a cook, driver, mechanic, doctor or band member, or you ran headlong into certain death in a jungle or a desert and returned missing limbs and parts of your soul. But don’t thank me; all I did was sweep floors, move furniture and type sympathy letters to families of those who didn’t make it. I learned to respect and support you and what you do over the years, but you taught me that. You can thank yourself for the lesson.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Uncomfortable Anger

It was a quiet Sunday evening in the nursing home. Most visitors were gone, dinner trays had been picked up and many bedside lamps were switching off as the residents turned in for the night. The only sounds in Mom and Dad's room were the rhythmic whir and release of Dad's breathing respirator and the somewhat hushed conversation between me, Mom and my sister.

That weekend was unique and memorable on many levels. I went straight from the airport to the nursing home. As I greeted Dad, his eyes seemed to acknowledge my words in a way his voice and mind no longer could. A few minutes later my sister and I had a conversation with a hospice volunteer and then left to have a late dinner.

Sunday began with another brief visit to the nursing home, followed by a fun lunch with my sister and me and several cousins I hadn't seen in decades.

We returned that evening to see Mom and Dad. I knew Dad would die that week because he had refused to eat or drink anything for days. The staff kept him comfortable at our request but also respected the wish he had told us for many years: "I don't want to be on machines."

The respirator wasn't intended to keep him alive forever, but rather to assist his breathing for a few days. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday the moment he took his last breath. He had not been responsive for days but an hour before he died he seemed to look at the scene in that room, with his wife of more than fifty years and his two children gathered around him, and in some way thought "ok, it's time; my family is here and they'll do just fine without me.  I can go."

Religious people say that when someone dies they're going to a better place. Religious people often say everything is God's will. If the 'better place' part is true and if there is a heaven, then I know Dad went there that night. But what I don't understand to this day, fifteen years later, is why he lived with Parkinson's disease for the last sixteen years of his life. Was that God's will?  Was it God's will that a man who spent most of his life helping people, designing quality buildings, working his ass off providing for his family, saving money to put his kids through college, delaying retirement for several years in order to save extra money to provide for his wife after his death, should live for sixteen years with a disease that robbed him of mobility, mental agility and dignity?

A few days later, during the funeral, I realized I was angry with God. That's an uncomfortable kind of anger. We are taught to love God or fear God. The idea of being angry with God had never crossed my mind. But there I was, looking for someone or something to blame for my Dad's years of suffering and loss of dignity. The funeral service included a Catholic mass but I skipped communion, probably freaking out the young priest and surprising my family members.  I held in my emotions till we were leaving the funeral home but I started sobbing on my way out. I was sad, angry and emotionally drained.  I was disappointed with myself for not visiting my Dad more often during the earlier stages of his disease, when we might have been able to resolve some lingering issues from decades earlier.

And I was angry with God for letting all this happen to my Dad during the last years of his life, eliminating the possibility of his living the retirement life that he had dreamed of for so long.

I don't really believe God controls every action or answers individual prayers to solve individual problems. If he/she did, then my Dad's Parkinson's would have gone away. If God controls actions then my Dad would have been rewarded for being the good man that he was. It feels like he was punished for something but I can't imagine my Dad ever doing anything so bad that he'd be punished with sixteen years of a debilitating disease. The disease just happened; it is what it is.

I don't think God works in this all-controlling way but it is difficult to clear my head of those beliefs, especially when surrounded by people who do believe those things.  I needed to blame someone that day and He was a convenient target.

There is usually a learning opportunity in these situations. What did I learn from my Dad's life and death? Prepare for the future but don't put off living in the present. There is no particular cause and effect relationship between the morality of how we live and the way in which we die. God is not a person sitting in heaven pulling us around like string puppets.

In writing this blog post I learned that lightening won't strike you dead if you ask serious, uncomfortable questions about religion. I also learned that this whole issue remains an unsolved mystery in my life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pros and Cons

My first thoughts this morning:

‘We the people’ have spoken. Approximately 48% of voters who voted have elected the most unqualified, uninformed, narcissistic, fraudulent con artist in modern times to be President. Welcome to the end of American democracy. Get ready for the worst four years in our country's history, with the possible exception of the Civil War.

He should be going to jail for all the times he's defrauded people. My prediction is that he will be impeached at some point and will not finish his term. He doesn't really want to be President anyway.

If you're thinking about moving to Canada, forget it. We need to exercise our votes to keep that a-hole from screwing up our country any more than his campaign already has.

This morning I've seen many Facebook comments urging unity, peace and faith in our systems. If you know me, you know that's my usual mantra. But it's going to take some time for me to break from the negativity I feel right now and come back to my usual positive feeling.

On January 20th, a man who had never read the Constitution will swear to uphold it. Good luck with that.   God help us; although that might not be enough.

My later thoughts:

An acquaintance of mine posted something interesting on Facebook this morning and it immediately changed my attitude.  She said “I refuse to be afraid.”  That led me to remember that we survived the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  If we can do that, we can survive the terrorist we just elected President. 

It will be very difficult for me to change the negative feeling I have right now, but refusing to be afraid is a good start.

I hope to have faith in our American democracy.

A year of therapy and decades of reading self-help books helped transform me from a very negative, pessimistic person to a very positive optimist.  For a few hours this morning, all of that was erased.  Fortunately some calm is returning.  My anger might never go away but I refuse to give away my self-control and identity to that con man.  What goes around comes around.  For now, this is still the land of the free and I choose to continue to live MY life and not someone else’s.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Old People

Last Thursday ...

I'm in the waiting room of a urologist office. The other seven people in the waiting room are old. Actually most appear to be within five years of my age. Because of my MS, I walk with a limp, so I probably look as old as they do, especially the two with walkers.

I really would like to own my age. I'd like to be proud of it, brag about it, show the world that age is just a number. My ego won't let me. At least not yet.

Is this bad? Is it unusual?

They say 50 is the new 30. Or 60 is the new 40. My favorite numeric analogy, however, comes from Joann Jenkins, CEO of AARP. She says 50 if the new 50. In other words, according to her book Disrupt Aging, we need to redefine what it means to be 50. Or any other age we refer to as 'old'.

Scroll back a few dozen posts and you'll see I talked about her book once. Maybe I need to reread it. Except for my MS, I'm as healthy and mentally sharp as I was at 40. And ten times more experienced and confident.

Time for me ... and maybe you ... to disrupt aging and change the definition of what it means to be old. Aging isn't for the feint of heart. And our 60 isn't your daddy's 60.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

We the People

Last political post till after the election.

The majority rules in this country. We don't all agree with each other but we accept that if a majority of people elect a President, that person becomes the President. Those of us on the losing side must accept the outcome. If we don't like the outcome, we have the right to say that out loud, print it, broadcast it, blog it.

We do NOT have the right to arm ourselves and try to overthrow the government or assassinate the winner of the election.

There are some asshole militia groups in Arizona threatening to do exactly that if Hillary Clinton wins the election. Who the fuck do they think they are?

By the way, I would be asking the same question if some asshole militia group wanted to overthrow the government and kill Trump if he won the election.

This country is great because we all can vote, because we all can debate issues, because we all can work to find common ground. No one person has all the answers, no one person has all the solutions to our problems. No group of angry, gun-toting assholes has the right to interrupt the peaceful transition of power from one elected President to another elected President.

If Trump wins, I will exercise my voting rights to do whatever I can to limit his ability to fuck up our already great nation. I will write and speak my mind to anyone who will listen. I will insult that asshole every day. But I will also respect the 'will of the people'.

I just hope and pray that he does not win.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Scared Concerned Angry

The worst candidate for President in the history of our great country could actually become President. That should make us both proud and angry; proud that anybody can grow up to be President, angry that so many citizens have fallen for the biggest scam in our great nation's history. We should be scared that a clueless and ill-informed bully can con so many voters; scared that a sociopath could become Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military on the planet.

We should be concerned that so many people can't see this.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will be a good President. That is something many of us can agree on. My feeling is that Clinton will be ineffective and Trump will be dangerous. I had many spirited discussions with various friends and acquaintances during the last two presidential campaigns. During this one I've had a few very loud arguments. I usually respect the opinions of others even when I disagree, but it is so obvious to me that Trump is grossly unqualified and unfit to lead our great nation. Worse that that, he is dangerous.

The biggest problem with any discussion or argument on this subject this year is that we are so polarized by these candidates. There is nothing nothing nothing anybody can tell me that would lead me to vote for Trump. Nothing!! And there is nothing I can say to some people that would lead them to vote for Clinton. A bigger problem is that for the most part we are not dealing with facts; we are mostly dealing with speculation and innuendo.

One of my bar friends hates Clinton as much as I hate Trump. After a particularly testy conversation a few weeks ago, one in which others at the bar had to referee us, we agreed to stop having political discussions. Fortunately we love music, wine and Indian food, so we have plenty of other things to talk about.

During the past two presidential campaigns we had honorable, qualified candidates on both sides and disagreements were about policy more than character. Both candidates in those elections were fit and qualified. Not this time.

Boomers, this is 1968 on steroids. This is civil unrest amplified by social media. In 1968 we only had three tv networks and very few talk shows. Now we have thousands of media outlets and a culture that values image over substance.

At the very moment in my life where reducing stress is a top priority, I'm scared, concerned and angry.

When my bar friend and I start down that argument path, I usually suggest we debate something less stressful, like which Sinatra song is better, "That's Life" or "Fly Me To the Moon". That comment gets laughs but the stress is still there. How the hell will we keep that stress in the background for the next four years?


That's Life

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Retirement Practice

In an earlier post this week, I referred to my vacation week as retirement practice. My staycation included plenty of unscheduled free time and I decided to spend some of it visualizing life without full time work.

How's it going?

Well, I'm surprised by how much I like this time off. I love my job but as of the day I'm writing this (Thursday), I don't particularly miss it. I did connect to work one day this week to finish a timely project and it felt good to be doing that for the 45 minutes it took to complete the task. But twenty minutes later I was off to the outlet mall, then home for some dinner, then to my hangout for a little wine, then home to tv toggle between the CMA Awards and game 7 of the World Series.

On Monday I'll be back to my normal life, my 30-minute commute to work, ten hours of stress and fun, 30 minutes to home, wine, conversation, mindless tv, sleep. Repeat. Repeat.

You get the picture.

Don't get me wrong; I have a great life: a rewarding job, good friends, access to fun activities, a woman who is the love of my life, reasonably good health and a positive attitude.

But this week off has given me a sneak peek at a possible future. I really like what I see.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cars and Problems

I love cars. I hate car problems. I've been a car lover since I was a kid. I can identify the brand and year of nearly every American car made between 1953 and 1965 and quite a few after that too. I've owned thirteen cars. I used to get a different car every couple of years, some new and some used.

Now I keep cars a long time. My current ride is a 2005 model that I bought in 2008. Prior vehicle was a 2000 that I got in 2003. Previous one was a brand new 1995.

I've been mentally car shopping for about six months. I know exactly what I want and seriously considered finding one this week while I'm on vacation. My current one has 172000 miles on it and has had a couple of issues lately. It's time. Problem: it broke down again today. Repairs: $930. That's half the trade in value of the car. Not much choice; had to have it done. Guess I'll keep it for a while longer.

I hate car problems.

Monday, October 31, 2016

To Go or Not To Go

This week my vacation is a staycation. It would be great to be going somewhere like the beach, the mountains or New York City, but I chose to stay home and catch up on some overdue projects and a couple of doctor appointments.

I've also referred to this week as retirement practice. Several friends I've made in my neighborhood over the past four years are retired. I've been watching how they live in their retirement and I'm visualizing that kind of life for myself some day. Retirement is not something I paid much attention to until a year or two ago but every day that distant, fuzzy idea attains a closer, sharper status in my head.

I'll always do some kind of work but I can see a day when I don't have the all-consuming job I now have. Like many boomers, I am unprepared financially for living without a job. At some point in a relatively few years I'll be eligible for Social Security and can draw from a union pension and a 401k. All of that combined might be enough to live on but I don't really know.

Today has been an interesting start to my week at home. My neighborhood is relatively quiet on Monday's. My stops included a physical therapist and an orthopedic supply store. Side note: the PT is an old friend I hadn't seen in fifteen years and the store is right next door to my wine hangout. I also stopped at Starbucks during a time in the morning significantly less hectic than my usual pre-work time.

During my lunch break I channel surfed past Soap operas, old tv shows, political talk shows and the last few minutes of a Jason Bourne movie. I hope this doesn't become a habit this week or in some future retirement.

Tonight I'll avoid trick-or-treaters by having dinner and drinks away from my apartment. I might wear the only Halloween clothes I own, an orange pumpkin sweatshirt.

I must admit that I don't miss work a bit today. It's been on my mind a little but I'm trying so stay disconnected and make this a true vacation, even though I'm not traveling.

In the spirit of retirement practice, I might visualize a work-from-home-part-time schedule, just to see what that would look like and feel like.

More later. Time to start on a home project.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


A recent Kenny Chesney song called "Noise" includes lyrics that are relevant to today:

"Yeah we scream, yeah we shout till we don't have a voice.
In the streets, in the crowds it ain't nothin but noise."

I think about that song every time I see or hear a political ad and every time I see or hear a screaming car dealer ad. Noise!  In my area there are even furniture store commercials with screaming announcers. NOISE!!

"Twenty four hour television gets so loud nobody listens.
Sex and money and politicians talk talk talk,
But there ain't no conversation."

The final Presidential candidate debate was on last night. All noise, especially from the Orange candidate.

"We can't sleep, we can't think, can't escape the noise.
We can't take the noise, so we just make noise."

It seems to me that if everybody shouts, nobody is heard. It all blends into the noise. Sometimes when I get home and I'm sitting in my living room alone, I don't turn on the tv. No music either. Just quiet. Or the quiet hum of the refrigerator. Silence. The absence of noise.

"Ain't nothing left to the imagination.
Trapped in our phones and we can't make it stop."

Fortunately, it is very quiet as I write this at 8:30 on a Thursday morning, while getting dressed for work. The only sounds I hear are the whir of a ceiling fan above me and a train whistle in the distance.

Peaceful, calming silence. In five minutes I'll begin my commute to work. I'll try to savor this moment.

Because in five minutes, the song begins again ...

"Can't take the noise"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wine and Conversation

Topics of conversation during a recent random Wednesday conversation at my local wine and beer hangout:

Presidential campaigns
Vinyl vs downloads
Heroin addiction
Kids, grandkids

I love this place. And just like Cheers, it's a place where everybody knows my name.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lock HIM Up

That orange con man running for President is guilty of many incidents of fraud. He ripped off 'students' at his fake university, defrauded contributors to his fake foundation and didn't pay many of the contractors who built his empire. He is a proven liar; not just speculation but proven by videos of him saying various things then claiming that he didn't say them. He is a world class hypocrite, especially when it comes to statements about Bill Clinton's infidelities when he has so many of his own.

You want this as your President?

Using his own logic, Conald Frump should be locked up. Actually just one night in a real jail for him would he like years in jail for the rest of us. Lock him up.

Hillary Clinton is no saint and would not be a very effective President but Trump is totally unfit for that office by every measure possible. And he's dangerous like his hero Hitler. A vote for him is a vote to end our democracy and quite possibly our lives.

Lock him up!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Grab Bars and Such

Dad was a hell of a planner. He bought mausoleum space more than thirty years before he died, saved much more money than most people of his modest income level, paid down what little debt he had years before retiring, bought Medicare supplemental insurance and began to write his autobiography before Parkinson's disease robbed him of his memory.

I was very proud of my dad when he started making adjustments in his house for his worsening Parkinson's disease. He still had strength and enough dexterity to install grab bars in the tub area years before he needed them.

His planning and reaction to aging served as a good model and inspiration. Too bad I'm only now starting to act on the inspiration. I admit that I mostly ignored his obvious advice and good examples. I might be working till the day I die, not because I want to but because I haven't prepared enough financially and will have to work.

I often think about the signs of aging, both good and bad, but I am especially aware this week because grab bars were installed in both bathrooms in my apartment a few days ago. Grab bars were on my annual lease renewal negotiation list and I knew they'd be installed this week. I didn't ask for them because of my age but rather because of my MS. However it was still a bit of a shock to actually see them. My first reaction: oh my God, an old person lives here.

I've known for many years that I'm not accepting aging with open arms and I've been frustrated by MS since the diagnosis eighteen months ago. The grab bars represent, in my head, the best and worst of the acceptance and the frustration.

Another aspect of those two things happened Sunday. Walking is sometimes a challenge for me and I should probably accept that a cane would be helpful. I do have a walking stick that hikers use and I used it while walking around an Oktoberfest event in my neighborhood. Although I was self-conscious about it I'm glad I had the stick. My sense of practicality and reality is slowly pushing aside my ego. Slowly.

My parents accepted aging reasonably well and I should probably try to learn from that. Maybe if I keep saying that out loud I'll actually believe it one day. For now I'm still trying to pretend I'm the age I look rather than the age I am. Maybe grab bars and walking sticks will help me reduce the denial, accept the realities of aging and just keep on living the wonderful life I have.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Music radio stations today are usually segmented by genre or even sub-genres. Rock, alternative rock, classic rock, adult contemporary, hot adult contemporary, hits, urban hits, mainstream country, classic country are among the radio industry format names.

Boomers at the older end of the age range might remember when top 40 radio stations played all the top hits, regardless of genre. A 1968 radio station playlist could include the Temptations, Beatles, Paul Mauriat Orchestra, Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell.
Billy Idol and Miley Cyrus
The company I work for has successfully staged a genre-less music festival each of the past six Septembers called the iHeart Radio Music Festival and I have been lucky to attend five of them, including the one last weekend.  This year was one of the best.

Faves night 1: Sam Hunt, U2, Billy Idol.

Faves night 2: FGL, Backstreet Boys, Pitbull, Tears For Fears, Cage the Elephant.

Others on the lineup were also good and much of the audience loved them, including Brittany Spears, Drake, Zedd, Sia, Ariana Grande, Usher.  Sting was also on the show and he is one of my favorites but this particular performance was underwhelming.

Thumbs up to iHeart for this one. And I'm not saying that just because I work for them. My iTunes playlists are just as genre-less as the festival. I bet yours are too. Music is the language and the feeling that connects and unites all of us.

Florida Georgia Line and Back Street Boys

As you can see from the list, many styles, genres and generations were represented and people who normally favor one type are exposed to others they/we might not normally see. Pitbull is the best example. He was great. I would not normally be at one of his concerts. Many people who don't usually like country loved Florida Georgia Line. Back Street Boys seemed to appeal to everyone.

Genre-less is probably not a word but Kenny Chesney used that term in an interview to describe the festival. He has played it twice now. Many of the artists are as excited to see performers out of their genre as we are.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Meaning Of Life

Finding purpose or meaning in life seems to be a boomer obsession and my search for that elusive definition is rapidly growing beyond mere curiosity for me.

I'd like to follow the often suggested idea of 'live for today', 'live in the moment'. But I am also a planner and sometimes a visionary and often look to and plan for the future. Finding a balance between those competing ideas is my challenge and mission.

Have you ever wondered what all this is about?  Why are we here? Where does our life fit in with the universe?  With our friends and family?  With God's plan if there is such a thing?

How much planning should we do for our future?  How much should we embrace the present?  There's no time like the present. In fact that is a quite literal observation because the past is gone and the future instantly become the present.

So what does all this mean?  Sometimes I think if I have a purpose here, maybe it is to help other people feel good about themselves. That's a noble goal but I don't really do a lot to reach it on any large scale.

Questioning the meaning of life also leads to questions about the structure of living things. Why do humans have two kidneys but only one liver?  Why are there poisonous snakes?  What came first, the chicken or the egg? Who ate mushrooms first and when did they determine that some will kill you?

More questions ...

If there are billions of planets, are we really the only living, thinking beings?  Assuming we are not alone, why are our nearest neighbors so far away that we can't see or hear them? Is the definition of life an object that moves and grows or is it possible that the red rocks on Mars are living, thinking beings but we just don't know it yet?

Is a death certificate really a boarding pass for travel to a new and different life on one of those other planets?

Is the life of someone who finds a cure for cancer any more important than the life of a garbage truck driver who works his or her ass off to support a family?

Is the life of a thoughtful, kind and caring person who believes in God any more significant than that of one who doesn't?

Is God the bearded billion-year old man in the heavens guiding and creating or is God the heavens, earth, water, clouds, planets and stars?

Does asking these questions make you feel good or make you feel frustrated?  When you look at the enormity of the universe, do you feel small?

So, backing up a few paragraphs ... past? Present? Future?

I don't know if there is a consistent answer or line of thought in boomer circles. Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest boomers are turning 70 this year, the youngest are turning 52. Is there a consensus between those two ends?  Probably not.

Are both ends of that age range looking for the meaning of life?  Are they/ you looking for meaning in their/ your lives?

Tough questions with no answers. I'll end here and let you think about it. I will also. More another time.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Is Was Is My Fave

Starting the year after moving to northern states in my 20s, fall has usually been my favorite season.  My hometown New Orleans really only has two seasons: summer and not-summer. Living in Wisconsin, Illinois and Maryland has taught me the beauty of four seasons, especially the colors and anticipatory chill in the air in the fall.

Fifteen years ago, however, I came to hate fall and that feeling lingered for many years.

Fall 2000: an awesome vacation in Arizona and Utah in September, beautiful tree colors in October on the acre and a half property where I had moved a few months before, a pleasant Thanksgiving Day with a roaring fire in the fireplace in November followed by a nice drama-free Christmas and much less than usual holiday depression.

I love fall.

Fall 2001: terrorists attack on September 11, my parents move into a nursing home on October 5, my dad dies on November 11, all of which ramps up to the usually emotional rollercoaster of the holiday season. I was numb and depressed through most of that fall. My then-wife was initially supportive when dad died, but she didn't travel with me to the funeral. In fact she had never been to my hometown with me at that point and never did meet dad. Then one day during my depression-filled holidays, she said something like 'get over it'. I don't remember my exact screaming response but I do remember not saying another word to her for several days. And I haven't forgiven her to this day.

I hate fall.

A few years after that horrible fall, I did begin to appreciate the season again. I knew one day I would leave the semi-rural property and return to the near-in suburban life I wanted, but for a few fall seasons I focused my thoughts, eyes and camera on the Japanese red maples and huge oak trees in the back yard, the two yellow maples in the front yard and the changing color palette in the nearby town. I noted the welcome chill in the air. Living in the country makes you aware of even the subtle seasonal changes like shorter days; your senses become your calendar.

I love fall.

The fall during which I finally decided to move and live MY life was a major positive turning point. I found my apartment in November, moved in December and was actually happy to celebrate Christmas alone that year. I smile when I remember digging through the moving boxes in search of a radio or CD player for some Christmas music while making a turkey sandwich.

I love fall.

The next fall was even better. That's when I met the certain someone I sometimes refer to in this blog but haven't fully celebrated here yet. Don't worry, I will.

I really love fall.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Comfort Zones

Sitting on the deck, coffee in hand, witnessing yet another beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic. Standing at the overlook sipping wine while watching the spectacular sky colors as the sun sets beyond the next mountain ridge. Singing and dancing to throwback songs with like-minded friends of similar age. Hiking nearby trails or browsing shelves at the neighborhood bookstore dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops. Three or four friends sitting on the porch sharing life stories and memories of traffic jams and grumpy former coworkers. Talking politics and tax rates and TV shows from the 1960s. Comparing aches and pains and scars. Renewing your driver's license in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Idaho.

Many people my age contemplate retiring somewhere other than where they currently live and visualize scenes unlike their current lifestyle. Right at the age when comfort is key they consider packing up what they don't sell off and moving to another state. Or country.

My mindset drifted in that direction at some point in my life. In the late 1990s my then-wife and I actually spent several hours with a real estate agent during each of our three or four times a year visits to the beach towns of the Outer Banks NC. I knew execs or owners of three of the six radio stations out there and occasionally had employment reality check conversations with them. My ex researched possibilities for lawyers, her profession. We brainstormed seasonal businesses, photography for me, dog sitting for her. I even had a plan for doing the job I had ( and still have) partly from there.

As I get closer to retirement age (I'm already there but refuse to admit it) and spend more time with friends and fellow barflies who have already retired, I hear so many stories and actual plans for retiring somewhere other than here. And I've had serious retirement conversations with my special someone about the pros and cons of moving one day.

At the same time, I can't imagine leaving. I love where I live. On the emotional side, I have a growing set of neighborhood friends. I know where everything is and how to get to where I want to go. I  am comfortable here. On the practical side, that same expanding set of friends could come in handy later in life when I might need help for simple things like getting to places. And I'm within a few minutes of doctors and outstanding hospitals and other medical facilities. I love the OBX but there is only one small hospital on the entire island and I can't imagine how long it would take to get there on a tourist-packed summer weekend, even in an ambulance. Plus, I don't think the Georgetown University Hospital MS Clinic has a branch there.

As always, I seek balance in my life. The patio where I'm writing this doesn't view an ocean or a mountain, but I can drive (or be driven to) such a view in three to five hours. I could certainly make friends in another town or state but I like my Maryland friends.

Am I missing some great future opportunities by staying in my comfort zone? Maybe. But my gut tells me I've got great opportunities right here. And hell, if global warming continues, I might have an ocean view one day too.