Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Concert Is When?!

Tickets to see Lady Gaga here in DC are on sale now (February). The concert is in ... November!

Tim McGraw/Faith Hill tickets have been on sale since around October 2016.  The concert is ... October 13, 2017!

This pattern is fairly typical and very different from our youth.

More differences: as recently as ten years ago, you went to a location to buy concert tickets. It was the box office at the venue or a Ticketmaster location or a Ticketmaster partner. I bought concert tickets at a department store a few times. Now I buy tickets at my desk at work or my coffee table at home.

Concert prices. OMG!  It seems like $20 - $30 dollars was a high ticket price just 15 to 20 years ago. Now the service charges can run that high. What's the most you've ever paid for a ticket?  I've paid close to $125 for three concerts in the past few years: U2, Coldplay and Dave Matthews.   These tickets were all purchased through standard vendors like Ticketmaster or Ticket Fly. Some people pay much higher prices through other entities that could really be considered scalpers.

What's the least you've ever paid? A LONG time ago (1975?) the Grateful Dead were playing Friday and Saturday night shows at a funky little New Orleans venue called A Warehouse. Tickets were a then exorbitant $10 each, which was way out of my price range. After their Saturday night show, they were ... are you ready for this ... busted down on Bourbon Street. They hastily arranged for a Sunday show to raise money for lawyer fees. I could afford that one because it was only $5.

Boomers can probably relate to this scenario. Festival or general admission ticketing was popular at one time. The first Willie Nelson concert I went to was a GA and I happily stood shoulder to shoulder with other fans for the whole two hours. Many outdoor venues feature a general admission lawn area behind the reserved seat sections. 'Pit' sections are growing in popularity; that's the section between the reserved seats and the stage, named after either the orchestra pit or the mosh pit.

The last time I had standing tickets was for a ZZ Top show about five years ago. I'll never do that again. Give me a reserved seat please. How about you?

I love live music but I hate crowds. I wonder if that's a boomer thing or just me. As recently as two years ago, I went to ten or fifteen concerts a year. Because I work for a country music radio station, I get free tickets to most country concerts. I think I only went to four shows last year, even though there were thirty or more in my area. Some of this comes down to convenience and some of it is because of some increased MS-related mobility issues.

This is on my mind today because tickets are on sale now for at least twenty shows I'd like to see this year. I'm carefully choosing which I'll actually attend. I'll go to at least two because they are work-related and I have to go. My best guess for the rest? Maybe two more.

What about you?  Any concert plans this year?  And how far in advance are you willing to buy the tickets? And what's your top price.

While you’re contemplating that, I think I'll channel surf to see if any live shows are available to watch from the best seats in town: my sofa.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To Live or Not To Live, That Is the Question

Don't worry, this post is NOT about suicide.

This post IS about life and what our lives are or could be.

At this point in our lives, many of us boomers are evaluating our lives and wondering if we are truly living the lives we want to live. Maybe we've been stuck in jobs or careers that were thrilling at first but are now merely the means to pay our bills. We might be so busy that all we do is work. Is that really living?

Many boomers get to their 60s and attempt to finally do what they always really wanted to do.

Fortunately I've been doing mostly what I always wanted to do for most of my adult life, but I would like to cut back the workload. Sadly, the only way that will happen is for me to retire. I'm not there yet, but I can picture it.

My favorite movie line on this topic is spoken by Andy (the Tim Robbins character) to Red (Morgan Freeman's character) in Shawshank Redemption:  "I guess it comes down to a simple choice really: get busy living or get busy dying."

So are you busy living?  Are you doing what you want to do?

A big surprise for me at this point in my life is that everything takes more time to do that it used to and I seem to have more time commitments than I used to. One reason is my MS, which slows me down a little. Another is that I have a more active social life in the past four years than I did in the previous ten. That's a good thing, but sometimes I just want to sit at home and do nothing. Although sometimes I want to spontaneously take a leisurely stroll through my awesome neighborhood.

All things considered, I am busy living and not busy dying. It seems at times that all I do is work, work, work but some of my young coworkers thing I live a most exciting life and they are jealous.

Returning to the title question, I'd say I live. It is a conscious choice. Sometimes work gets in the way of life, but the key to keep on living is persistence.

My advice to you (and to myself): get busy living.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Roomful Of Perspective

India, Syria, Lebanon, the Philippines and the United States. Those are the countries of origin represented at our neighbor's home where we had dinner and wine on a recent Saturday night. Although we mostly avoided political conversation, we did talk about life and culture in these various countries.

Of the nine people there, five are immigrants. All legal. All now American citizens. All college educated and employed in professional jobs. One lived through war in Lebanon. One has lived in at least two other countries. All five speak more than one language. They all love our country and all are appropriately critical of certain aspects of life here, as they should be. All love the freedom to be opinionated. All are grateful for the opportunities they have here. All are concerned about some family members who still live in their home countries and are sometimes mildly concerned about their own safety here.

That is some awesome perspective and I enjoy discussing their take on issues and life.

One thing that strikes me every time I get to know someone from another country is their multi-lingualism. Our American culture is such that most of us, at least those of the boomer era, only speak one language: American English. I do believe a country is more unified when there is a dominant language but I also believe the reality of our increasingly global world is such that we should speak other languages too, so we can better understand and communicate with our brothers and sisters around the world. (Side note: do other languages have run on sentences like that last one?)

I began language lessons in four other tongues at times in my life, yet I still only speak English. It's one of my few regrets in life. We're never too old to learn another language but it is definitely more difficult to do so as we grow older. If I had stuck with it, I'd be fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and Latin. Latin isn't really a spoken language but studying it could help with learning the other three.

Many articles on creative aging point to the mental advantages of learning a new language. Different parts of the brain are stimulated by such a pursuit, potentially delaying or even reversing dementia. In addition, conversing with someone in another language can be a stimulating social experience.

Two of my dinner companions the other night speak French. That conversation could be fun. One of them also speaks Spanish, another language I could have learned. Italian isn't very practical on a day-to-day basis but it connects to my family heritage as well as a bucket list vacation item.

Meanwhile I enjoy the perspective of spending time with friends who are rooted in cultures other than mine. The perspective is priceless.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Stuff Boomers Grew Up With

My family's weekend rituals during my pre-teen years included Saturday morning grocery shopping, afternoon lawn care, dinner and some television watching. Sunday started with church, then a tasty breakfast from a neighborhood bakery, reading the Sunday newspaper, a Sunday drive in the city or country or a visit to a grandparent's house. The weekend often ended with a dinner of leftovers, followed by a card game, scrabble or some family tv watching (Bonanza, Ed Sullivan).

Reading a recent Sunday newspaper is what triggered this nostalgic journey, specifically the now 8-page Parade Magazine. Wasn't that section at least three or four times bigger, more like a real magazine?

Many cities, including my hometown New Orleans, had two daily newspapers, one published in the morning and another in the afternoon. My parents subscribed to both and my stay-at-home mother often had time to read each one cover to cover.

In some circles a daily newspaper still means something, but there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other news sources, so the average American doesn't read a daily newspaper any more. I bet many of those that do, read it online and not on paper.

I still like the printed version of a newspaper, but we only get it on Sunday in my home and much of it ends the weekend unread and in the recycle bin.

There is much debate these days about journalistic integrity or lack thereof. People whine about the 'mainstream media' and their biases yet I question the objectivity of the 'fringe media'. The point is that it is hard to tell what is honest, unbiased news and what isn't.

The television networks of my youth seemed to have high journalistic standards and went out of their way to separate facts from opinions. Today's news sources, be it television, print or online, seem to wear their biases with pride.

This post is basically an open-ended observation. I don't have a particularly specific point to make, other than to tell you I miss some of the rituals I grew up with. Honest news reporting is sort of one of those things.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The C Diet

Warm Italian meatballs swimming in tangy marinara sauce fills the bowl, covering al dente rigatoni. Garlic bread sits at the edge of the plate, still steaming from from its tenure in the oven moments ago. The white and red place setting is flanked by a fork, a knife and a glass of fine Chianti Classico.

Ok, so that's what my teasing brain sees. What's really there on the table in front of me?  A tall glass of bottled water, another glass filled with clear apple juice and a hot cup of black coffee. Breakfast. On colonoscopy prep day.

Wait, excuse me, I have to pee. Be right back.

Ok, so where was I?

Mmmm, what's for lunch? Cold water, chilled Gatorade and a warm mug of clear chicken broth.

Hang on, be right back.

Dinner?  Sprite, water, broth, black coffee and the first dose of that stuff that will clear out nearly all of whatever is left inside of me.

Oops, back in a sec.

So when was the first colonoscopy done? I assumed twenty years ago, which is when I first heard about the procedure. I was wrong. The first one was performed ...

Be right back...

... almost 48 years ago, in 1969. I'm trying to imagine that. You know how small cameras are now, right? And how large they were then.

... hang on...

More facts: a colonoscope is small, flexible tube that is 42 to 72 inches long. Maybe you didn't want to know that. Me neither. Actually, maybe you don't want to know that I'm having a colonoscopy. Even though it is a potentially life-saving medical procedure recommended for everyone over 50 (in other words, all boomers), it might still fit in the 'too much information' category. So I'll stop now, partly because this is gross and partly because

... gotta go again.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

That Basket

Hillary Clinton started to believe the polls, her advisors and some in the media. She, like many of us, didn't really think Mr. Orange could actually win the election. She also forgot that her arrogance could be her downfall. She forgot to recognize that her spontaneous opponent could get a pass on some of his outrageous remarks because many people didn't take him seriously, yet her own uncharacteristically spontaneous remarks could be interpreted negatively by Trump supporters.

Clinton's most damaging utterance was calling Trump supporters a 'basket of deplorables'.

That arrogant comment lumped together some people who truly were stupid and fell for Donnie's con with smart voters who intensely disliked her and voted for him because they were voting against her.

I can name at least four people from my neighborhood who voted for Trump. All four have college degrees and have professional careers. Three of them are over 50. None of them are deplorable. I probably know several other people who voted orange but they have wisely kept their votes to themselves, as I should have done.

Hillary Clinton is a hundred times smarter and more caring than Donald Trump, but her arrogance puts her in an elite category that doesn't resonate well with 'average people'. Trump is as dumb as they get when it comes to running a country and clearly puts himself ahead of God, country and his wife. BUT he is an extremely talented marketer and salesman. Like most good sellers, he can instinctively read his potential customer and spontaneously say or do things that tap into their buying impulses.

The thing that bothers me the most about him is that he has no concept of reality and truth. And unlike Clinton's arrogance, Trump's arrogance is dangerous. During the campaign he referred to his opponent as Lying Hillary. Yet he lied thousands of times during the campaign, after the election and in the days since the inauguration. Her lies were subject to interpretation; his are proven.

His focus on his fabricated statements about millions of illegal votes for Clinton rather than focusing on learning the job of President adds to the growing speculation that he is mentally ill. And he fuels hypocrisy when he says that many voters were registered in two states, while ignoring the now proven fact that two of his children and two of his cabinet nominees are also registered to vote in two states.

I could go on forever about this stuff but I'd be wasting my time and yours. Let me just end this post with one more opinion: there IS a basket of deplorables, but there is really only one person in it.