Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flying High with Spirit

It was time to relinquish custody of my granddaughter. After a week encompassing a trip to Vermont to play with her cousin, beach and boogie board time, bike riding, coloring, Princess matching and other games, library outings, Frozen and Wizard of Oz DVDs, and of course lots of ice cream, her visit was coming to an end.

Sami’s parents live 1,200 miles away. Four-year-olds are not quite old enough to fly solo, so Grandma accompanied her home.
Our local airport is small and rarely crowded. Checking in, checking bags, going through security expended only a few stress-free minutes.

Before settling in at the boarding gate we detoured to purchase a treat – M&Ms – for the plane.

Settling in for Grandma implies something quite different than settling in for a four-year-old. Unable to sit still, Sami wiggled over me, around me, onto nearby seats, and in front of me.

I was already worn out.

Thankfully no delays increased our waiting time, and when our flight was announced we proceeded to the back of the line (zone 4 boarding) and slowly made our way to the check-in counter. Sami proudly handed the attendant her boarding pass and we strolled onto the plane.

Spirit Air is known for tight seats with essentially no space between the back of the seat in front of you and your knees. This did not bother Sami. Small and agile, the seat suited her.

Unfortunately most travelers are taller and heavier than the average four-year-old.

Once wheels left the ground, Sami demanded her M&Ms. Then it was coloring time. We opened our tray tables, coloring book, and markers. Available space was so limited the top of Sami’s marker hit the back of the seat in front of her.

Two hours and fifteen minutes after takeoff we landed in the Sunshine State. Exiting the plane, we entered what in the past could be described as Airport Hell.

The Spirit terminal in the Fort Lauderdale airport.

A cavernous space very different from previous visits confronted us. I thought I was hallucinating. The area was clean, bright, and uncrowded. I am guessing the new terminal was built with funds collected from customers buying insurance, paying for checked bags, priority seating, and other extras.

We walked – actually I walked and Sami pranced - towards baggage claim, and as soon as we left the security area Dad appeared, waiting along with Mom and big brother.

A few minutes later everyone relaxed under a canopy at an outdoor café, enjoying a late lunch.

About four hours remained until my return flight, so we indulged in the All American Pastime – shopping.

We went to a mall.

In our defense it was raining, limiting choices to indoor activities.

Time spent was not wasted. Summer sales beckoned, and I purchased a pair of sandals and a black shirt. Before spending more money we left for the airport.

The flight home proved uneventful. Losing myself in a book, time passed quickly.

Exiting the Atlantic City airport at 11:00 p.m., I slid into the front seat of the car and almost fell asleep on the short ride home (hub was driving). No physical exercise or manual labor accomplished this particular day, but I was exhausted and looked forward to sleeping late the following morning, then relishing sedentary, tranquil, uninterrupted time with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.

A hectic and tiring pace replaced, at least temporarily, by a peaceful interval.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

One Friendly Summer Day in The City

New York City, and specifically the island of Manhattan, is one of the greatest places on earth. And one of the most bizarre. And one of the most fascinating. And one of the most crowded, especially during summer tourist season. Humanity converges from all corners of the earth, resulting in jam-packed sidewalks in the center of the New York universe: Times Square.

I boarded a Greyhound bus in my hometown at 8:00 a.m., traveling from my fairly quiet oasis (comparatively speaking) in a part of New Jersey characterized by farmlands, pinelands, shoreline, and the troubled Atlantic City, along tree-lined parkways, then speeding by over-crowded, over-built suburbia, passing wretched cityscapes and finally an industrial wasteland.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later I exited the bus in the bowels of New York City’s Port Authority Terminal, walked up a couple of flights of stairs – already faced with multitudes scurrying in all directions – and hit the streets of New York.

The heat of the summer sun and streaming folks struck forcefully. I stood still a moment – no longer, as the crush of movement from all directions shoved me around.

Throwing back my shoulders and attempting to summon my New York persona, I headed off, my destination a few short blocks away, a restaurant on 9th Avenue, dubbed Restaurant Row for the numerous eateries within walking distance of the theater district.

Walking the streets of New York is an exhilarating, energizing experience, activity everywhere. People outfitted in everything from expensive business suits to beach wear greet the eye, while ears are accosted by sirens, car horns, street vendors, children…and the smells, everything from cigarette smoke and vehicle fumes to incense and food-related aromas recognized and a few unfamiliar…city life unbounded.

Immediately upon arrival at the restaurant I proceeded to the ladies room.

One of the intricacies of maneuvering the city is locating clean restrooms. The condition of facilities in the Port Authority bus terminal, for instance, varies from barely usable to vomit inducing. I bypassed them.

I detoured into a Starbucks for coffee, another place with bathrooms (for customers only, of course). The place was packed, the wait to relieve oneself indeterminate. I continued on.

The restaurant, having opened only minutes earlier, offered a clean and well-appointed ladies room. What a relief…

I settled into a comfortable seat at a round table for five, and a few minutes later four friends traveling from various corners of the metro area joined me for lunch and a Broadway show.

Savoring our wine, we relished our leisurely time together, enjoying an interest neglected during long working years when stealing away for a Wednesday matinee was an unrealistic indulgence.

Actually we had too much time to linger - enough for coffee and, dare I admit it - dessert.

The bill produced one of those suck-it-up-you-are-in-New-York moments. But it was worth it…

We strode through Times Square, a sea of humanity, on our way to the theater. Bits and pieces of assorted languages reached our ears. People gazed skyward, staring at huge electronic billboards, in particular one displaying the crowds crossing Broadway. People scrutinized the screen looking for themselves and friends, heedless of traffic, traffic signals, and the throngs surrounding them.

Individuals of all ages stopped to get their picture taken with Disney or Sesame Street characters. Others stared at maps, attempting to figure out in which direction to walk. It seemed everyone had a camera in hand, clicking away.

Summer in the city.

Beautiful.

The show was, indeed, beautiful. The Carole King-inspired musical began with the fresh-faced 16-year-old’s desire to be a songwriter and closed with her award-winning album Tapestry 14 years later.

Everyone walked out of the theater with smiles, memories past and present, and familiar songs ringing in the ears.

Over a final drink we reviewed the show, finished catching up with family happenings, and parted reluctantly, already planning our next New York get-together.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Times Two

My summer seesaws between calm and chaotic. Let me explain…

A summer day in the life of a retiree…

Mornings begin with an early exercise class, then quiet time dawdling over breakfast and coffee. Activities include reading the paper, checking emails, chatting with neighbors, and thinking about lunch and dinner.

Afternoons fritter away reading, taking and making phone calls, deciding on dinner and wondering whether all ingredients are available somewhere around the house, talking to neighbors, watching the neighborhood kids play ball and fetching lost softballs among my bushes…

Late afternoon hub and I grab a couple of chairs and books and stroll down to the beach. Digging toes into the sand, enjoying the late afternoon sun, we linger.

I make a mental list of the next day’s should-do tasks. Weed the garden, spread some organic fertilizer. Time flies even during the summer, and the veggie plants need sustenance.

There is laundry to do, and piles of mail patiently await my attention. Bills must be paid. I doubt creditors consider summer laziness a valid reason for late payments.

Dinner enjoyed al fresco on our patio and a quiet evening at home conclude the day…summer (for a retiree) oozes the essence of laid-back living.


A summer day in the life of a Grandma…

Mornings begin early with the patter of little feet jumping out of bed and bounding downstairs. The kids lounge on the couch and floor, turn the TV on and fight over who gets to choose a show first.

Breakfast challenges. Cold cereal, French toast, chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, bagels, oatmeal…whatever the choices, the kids decide this particular morning they do not want whatever the cook (a.k.a. grandparent) suggests. Delicate negotiations ensue before the menu is finalized, prepared, and consumed.

Everyone suits up. Suntan lotion is liberally applied, towels collected, and the beach wagon, laden with toys and chairs, wheeled out of the garage.

The beach procession begins. We decide to buy subs and enjoy lunch at the beach. A quick detour to the sub shop and we continue our journey.

After some deliberating the perfect spot of sand is selected, chairs opened, toys scattered, and finally, lunch.

The four-year-old sits in her small pink chair, eagerly grabs her sandwich, carefully unwraps it and takes one bite. Suddenly a seagull swoops down, snatches the sandwich out of her hand and drops it on the sand a few feet in front of us, pulling it apart and consuming his (or her, I have no idea how to discern the gender of seagulls) lunch right in front of us.

Meanwhile Sami begins crying over her lost lunch. Who can blame her?

Grandma and Sami return to the sub shop, enduring hot sand and hot sun, and order another sandwich. The shop owner is concerned, asking, “What is the problem? The sandwiches OK?” I assure him all is fine and regale him with Sami’s misfortune.

A second sandwich quickly appears and Sami insists on eating inside. She was not going to lose her lunch to the mean seagull again.

The kind sub shop owner refuses to charge us for the second sandwich. We return to sand and sea. Grandma, much later rather than sooner, devours her lunch.

The afternoon passes quickly – for the kids - jumping waves, building sandcastles, covering bodies with sand, seeking out the ice cream man and inhaling purchases before they melt.

Adults exhausted, children hungry and tired – although unwilling to admit it – by late afternoon toys, towels and assorted paraphernalia are collected and packed. We trudge home.


An early bedtime concludes Grandma’s day. (I do wait until dark. Usually.) I fall asleep immediately and dream of an idyllic summer day in the life of a retiree…

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Best of Boomers Enjoy Summer at Home

My flowers love
this season's plentiful rainfall
Sunny, warm, breezy, low humidity define the best summer days, and that is what we experienced the past few days. A couple of evening showers watered the flowers but did not disrupt outdoor activities.

I spent time at the beach with the grandkids. One afternoon lifeguards suddenly herded everyone out of the water. Spectators lined the beach as the guards, in rowboats and on skidoos, carefully scoured the area following a reported shark sighting. No sharks were detected, bathers happily returned to the ocean to jump and ride the waves, and the crowd dispersed. It was time for ice cream…

This week’s boomers enjoy summer in their hometowns, and our consumer journalist updates us on recent consumer issues.

Laura Lee continues regaling us with her adventures in southern Colorado in her blog Adventures of the New Old Farts. Here she describes a walk in her day in small town USA.

Walking is good exercise, and fresh air invigorating. On the other hand most of us spend a lot of time indoors participating in less energetic activities. So what do you get when a couple of retirees are standing around the kitchen, equipped with a smartphone ... or just waking up in the morning? Find out from Tom Sightings over at Idle Minds.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the warning signs of heat sickness in older adults and what they should do to avoid problems.

While Robison thinks this is the article on her blog that most Best of Boomer Blogs’ readers would like to take a look at, she also reports there’s good news for consumers this week: The U.S. Department of justice is investigating four big airlines for collusion in setting the prices of airline tickets. And JP Morgan was fined $136 million for illegal credit card debt collection practices, and it will return $50 million to consumers. In addition, it will stop collection actions on thousands of accounts.

Visit our bloggers, leave a comment, and have a good week.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Flunking Dishwasher 101

I am not a technophile and have no interest in the latest electronic gadgets. Learning needed skills, new how-tos are apprehensively acquired only if the desire to do something new is overwhelming.

I am happy knowing less.

After all, less is more. Less frustrating time agonizing over the learning curve. More time accomplishing things, no aggravation, no hand wringing, no headaches.

It is comforting knowing some things in life, a few rare things, do not change, or change little over the years and decades. There are deeds repeated nearly my whole life without thinking, almost by rote, tasks I am capable and proficient at performing.

Like loading the dishwasher.

Wow, was I wrong and am I behind the times.

Apparently there are right and wrong ways to load a dishwasher, information discovered from an article in The Wall Street Journal. Dishwasher dilemmas are evidently as newsworthy nowadays as bankrupt countries and bombastic politicians. Couples actually fight over how to load the machine. Other individuals, attempting to avoid arguing over this petty issue, sneak into the kitchen and rearrange the dishes to their satisfaction.

Never crossed my mind to reorganize an unwashed load. If anyone in my family, or visiting friends and relatives, or workmen or women who happen to be around want to load my dishwasher, let them.

And if so inclined they can empty it too.

I was about ten when my parents purchased a dishwasher, a major event in our house. No more yelling and screaming about whose turn it was to wash the dishes.

I have been loading (and unloading) dishwashers for over fifty years, and must be doing something right. Cannot remember a problem. Dishes usually come out clean, except when sitting too long before running the machine.

The one time a cleaning cycle was interrupted occurred when suds starting foaming around the edges and seeping onto the kitchen floor. An unnamed member of my household poured dishwashing soap into the machine instead of dishwasher liquid. It took a long time to empty the machine of water and suds.

But the dishes turned out sparkling clean.

I worry about buying a new dishwasher when my current one dies. The latest models have so many options and buttons on the control panel the decision-making process seems mind-boggling. I already feel a headache coming on.

But questions remain about my current dishwasher. Should silverware be placed with handles up or down? Or arranged flat on the top shelf? I often rinse dishes before placing in the machine, but this is a dishwasher faux pas.

Life is getting too complicated.

Maybe I should wash dishes the old fashioned way, in the sink, by hand…

On second thought, it is worth the trouble and a few minutes contemplating these matters of so little consequence to me.

I will be deliberating on my couch, at least two remotes in hand, attempting to figure out the various features on my cable TV, which has just been upgraded, against my wishes, under duress, at the behest of the cable company.

It was so much easier years ago. One or two settings on the dishwasher, maybe a dozen TV stations.

No doubt about it. Less is more. Less hassle, less stress, more satisfaction. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Decades and Counting

A group of friends gathered for a reunion, a casual evening of conversation, salad, pizza and rum cake. Convening at the shore, we breathed deeply the salty sea air, sipped wine, and gazed at the shimmering lights of homes and businesses lining the beach. Not an unusual occurrence as people all over the country did the same thing, celebrating family, friendships and the Fourth of July, enjoying the opportunity to spend time together.

Our get-together was unusual because one of the attendees was lost to our crowd for over twenty years.

Couples from various cities along the Eastern seaboard settled in a small Pennsylvania town during the 1970’s, becoming friends, raising kids and celebrating milestone events together.

Every year we assembled for the Fourth of July at a local park. Hauling buckets of chicken along with other picnic foods, chairs and blankets, we colonized the grassy hillside for the evening. Kids roamed but always returned, lured by the appetite-inducing aroma of Roy Rogers’ fried chicken. The local symphony performed, culminating in a rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture complete with vintage canon fire and fireworks illuminating the night sky.

The evening over, everyone slowly trudged back to the parking lot, hauling empty coolers, carrying exhausted children, dropping into their cars, waiting in a long line to exit the lot and finally drive home.

Eventually families moved away, others divorced. Some kept in touch, some did not.

Years passed, actually more than a score of years, and an absent friend reaches out.

The holiday weekend proved an ideal opportunity for far-flung friends to reunite and welcome our long-lost comrade.

Sixty-somethings marveled over the fact no one changed much over the past two decades, the assistance of night lighting and wine supporting our valued opinions. Several retired over the past couple of years, attaining new achievements as senior citizens - receiving Medicare cards, collecting Social Security, celebrating landmark birthdays – 60, 65, 70.

Although reluctant to admit it, I turned 65 in June. Magazine articles, talk show hosts and guests insist age is just a chronological number; it is all about how one feels.

Well, in June I felt miserable. The ailment passed, and hopefully the young-at-heart mood returned wholeheartedly.

Hub and I enjoyed the weekend at home, but lots of people loaded their cars with beach equipment and headed to the shore. After spending hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic, they settled temporarily on our island. I never saw our town so busy. Speaking to others with a longer history on the island, the assessment was echoed. Beautiful weather and a long weekend created an opportunity to enjoy surf, sand, family and friends.

What could be better than that? 
Here's to good, not so old friends!
And in the spirit of full disclosure,
I am toasting with my girlfriend's
homemade mint tea.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Latest Cover Girl

Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of a sophisticated glossy women’s magazine, Vanity Fair, was  a confounding experience.

She is 65.

I am 65.

I do not look anything like her.

If she represents the new 65, I embody an older model.

We have some things in common. My hair is not gray, thanks to my hairdresser.

OK, we have one thing in common.

She worked hard becoming Caitlyn, imbibing hormones and botox and surgeries and, with the help of full-time professionals, learned how to become one of the sophisticated women that grace the pages of elegant, stylish magazines like Vanity Fair.

I do not know if the cover was photo shopped. But apparently Caitlyn has no wrinkles, no cellulite, no sagging neck, no flabby underarms, no drooping boobs, no knobby, creased knees or elbows, nothing to indicate she is a member of the baby boomer generation.

Honestly, not knowing anything about the person, staring at the picture, how old would someone estimate she is?

I bet no one would guess close to 65.

A picture inside the magazine shows her in a long gown, back to the camera, gazing out a window. I see a tiny waist, tight butt, and long slim legs…

I bet most of us with full-time professional assistance can look a few years younger, but we can never erase decades from our bodies.

Few of us live in a Caitlyn/Bruce world. No reality show documents our life, no Olympic medals adorn our mantle. Journalists do not line up at our door for exclusive interviews. Our kids do not have their own reality shows and do not cavort on the pages of People and other magazines.

But real life is not a reality show. The players may make oodles of money as cameras document their sham life, but their real real life is often a sad fractured fairytale.

I hope Caitlyn enjoys her new body and her new life.

Someone can keep me informed on her progress. I only read People and similar magazines in doctors’ offices, and have no plans to visit one soon. I got my fill of celebrity hype my last visit. Celebrity clothes (who wears it better?), celebrity kids and their clothes, celebrity couples dating, separating or divorcing, exes fighting…

All caught on camera in exotic vacation spots or in-places for dining and clubbing.

I added a headache to my list of maladies.

I am glad Caitlyn can now be the person she has always longed to be.

Thinking about it, Caitlyn is not really the new 65.

She is just the new Caitlyn. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Saga of the Humble Tomato

Digging into the soil, pulling weeds, planting seeds and seedlings, watering a parched earth, impatiently watching plants peek out from the soil and reach toward the sun, eventually producing beautiful, colorful flowers and delicious edibles create a spring and summer delight.
Not from my garden, but the local farmer's market. 
Why did the tomato blush?
Because he saw the salad dressing.

This year our tiny patch contains mainly tomato plants, a summertime favorite. I cannot wait to enjoy the juicy, wonderfully tasting varieties.

Commercially grown tomatoes, especially those found in stores during the dark, dreary winter months and purchased for a dear price, are usually tasteless letdowns. Every year I make a pledge not to buy tomatoes during the winter, but perusing colorful produce displays, occasionally a large, red, juicy looking specimen beckons. I buy, but am always disappointed.

Marketing wins, my taste buds and pocketbook lose.

The humble tomato made its way to North American shores in a circuitous way. Native to Peru, the plant traveled North through Central America into Mexico. Spanish conquistadors introduced the plant to Europe, initially for ornamental purposes.

The plant generated a dark, negative history. Botanists believed the plant similar to a poisonous one called nightshade, and the tomato’s reputation was stained for centuries. The tomato was also considered an aphrodisiac, adding to the dangerous side effects of the round red fruit if consumed.

Europeans dubbed the fruit ‘poison apple’. By the 18th century European aristocrats dined on pewter tableware. The plates contained a high lead content. When a tomato, high in acidity, sat on a pewter plate for any length of time it would leach lead from the plate. The unknowing diner ate the tomato and died of lead poisoning.

At the time people believed the tomato was the culprit.

And although the tomato is not poisonous, the leaves are toxic.

European immigrants introduced the plant into North America, and our Colonial ancestors believed tomatoes poisonous. Legend say Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes on his plantation and used them in cooking, spreading their popularity throughout the colonies. Originally a cooked vegetable – although actually a fruit – tomatoes were consumed in soups and sauces long before gracing salads.

The invention of the modern pizza in the 1880’s in Naples, Italy, sealed the tomato’s international popularity. A poor man’s ‘peasant bread’, the main ingredient typically leftover dough, toppings included tomato, cheese and whatever else was available.

The introduction of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup in 1897 secured the tomato an honored position as an American food staple.

My tomato plants.
The tomato’s negative reputation still at times haunts the plant. In the 1978 movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes giant red tomatoes terrorize the nation.

My tomatoes never get that big.

Green tomatoes appear on my plants every day, and I cannot wait until they turn ripe red, ready for picking and eating, the perfect summer food. 
How do you fix a sliced tomato?
Use tomato paste.