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.