Thursday, April 18, 2019

Visiting a Tourist Mecca Off-Season

There are advantages to visiting popular places off-season--lower hotel prices, special deals, less crowds. But there are also disadvantages to off-season travel when visiting locales where climate dictates the popular tourist season. The main disadvantage is experiencing hotels, restaurants, museums and other tourist attractions closed for the season.

The closed-for-the-season scenario is what hub and I found when visiting the island of Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, mid-April. Restaurants and retail establishments were beginning to open, but museums remained padlocked.

We enjoyed two sunny, fairly warm (high 50s) days, perfect for exploring outdoors, and one cold, gray morning which disintegrated to pouring rain by late afternoon. Martha's Vineyard strives to prevent wide-scale development, such as high-rise developments, and so far has been successful. The off-season ambience and scenic surroundings provided a relaxing respite.

Martha's Vineyard was/is the home of a host of famous people, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other members of the Kennedy clan (Chappaquidick Island is part of Martha's Vineyard), the Clintons and Obamas have vacationed on the island, Carly Simon, David Letterman, Rosie O'Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris, Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen...and the list goes on and on and on. If thinking of investigating the Vineyard as a future first or second home site, be forewarned--home prices are steep and living expenses high.

In the spirit of pictures are worth a thousand words, here are some of my photos of Martha's Vineyard.

We encountered a number of these animals--domesticated feral turkeys, meaning they are descendants of domesticated turkeys that escaped and reproduced. No one is sure when the first  turkeys arrived on Martha's Vineyard, or who introduced them to the island. 
But apparently they came sometime in the 1970s and have proliferated since. 
It is estimated about 1,000 turkeys reside on the island. 

This staircase leads from the first to the second floor of the Edgartown Book Store
on Main Street in the town of Edgartown. 
A great place to wander and explore. 
No trouble finding interesting items to buy but, 
unless you have unlimited resources, 
you will have difficulty deciding what NOT to purchase!

View from Martha's Vineyard looking towards Cape Cod.

The fishing outpost of Menomsha.

The only retail store open in this tiny fishing port off-season.

Could not resist a picture of this street sign in Vineyard Haven.

The only way to get to Martha's Vineyard is via ferry or plane. There are parking lots on the mainland for those going to the island without their usual means of transportation. We parked on Cape Cod and took the ferry, the cost $8.50 per person (one way). A car costs $81 or $91 (not including driver and passenger) depending on the size of the car, one way. 

We purchased a three-day bus pass--$10 per person--and rode clean, comfortable buses all around the island. We used Lyft a couple of times when bad weather gave us an excuse to ride from the center of town (uphill) to our airbnb accommodations. 

We often stay at airbnbs when traveling because we like to eat some meals 'at home'. However the supermarket on the island, Stop & Shop, was closed due to a strike. The closest convenience store was out of eggs and other provisions. We settled for enjoying coffee at 'home' and eating meals out. 

In summary, Martha's Vineyard is a beautiful place to spend a few days, but be sure to take along a hefty wallet.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Skyscraper Catches My Eye

I am not a sharp observer of anything, especially when on the road. I miss a host of interesting sights, signs, and situations when behind the wheel, or when comfortably settled in the passenger seat. The landscape whizzes past and the world is a blur. 

When a passenger my eyes are often closed, not necessarily in sleep mode, simply resting my eyes. The motion of a moving vehicle, the drone of the car and air whizzing past my window ease my body into a lethargic reverie. I may be startled out of my daydreams if someone addresses me in an attempt at conversation, but am into my trance and the voice seems far, far away. I barely hear the sounds and do not respond, which results in a display of annoyance from the driver (usually hub), but that is an issue for another post...

I am not always in daydream mode when a passenger in the car. There are times my eyes open and wander around the landscape surrounding me. A sight, a sign, a building, somebody walking, riding a bike, maybe kayaking in a waterway next to the highway, catch my eye. This usually happens when stuck in traffic and I examine the environs out of sheer boredom. Although I cannot smell the roses, I might spot them thriving alongside the road.

Countrysides are scenic, but cityscapes can be awesome. Driving through Philadelphia recently, an (almost) new skyscraper caught my eye. The building soars skyward, far above neighboring buildings. I stared at it, grabbed my phone and took a couple of pictures. I will not comment on the structure, allowing readers to arrive at their own opinion of the structure. 

 The building does not lean, but that was the angle from the car.
Comcast Technology Center
60 floors
Completed November 2017, occupied July 2018
Tallest building in Philadelphia (and Pennsylvania)

Personally, I think the structure illustrates 
the Comcast customer service motto: 
The company our customers love to hate.

And on a totally different matter:
In case you missed this week's Best of Boomer blog, 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

I-Phone I-Repair

The volume on my iPhone voice mechanism grew weaker day after day. The speaker worked fine, but I could not continue long-term use of only the speaker. My conversations do not rate security-level clearance, but I am sure would be annoying to folks within hearing range.

The first effort to fix the problem: On-line Apple tech support. Following my description of the issue the tech support guy told me, “The phone needs to be checked out by our technicians. You need to mail in your device and you will be without your phone for about two weeks, maybe longer.” 

Phone-less in the 21stcentury? I don’t think so.

The second attempt to remedy the problem: The Verizon store. I handed my phone over to the customer service rep. She tweaked some settings. Nothing changed. The volume remained weak. The rep said, “There’s been water damage to the phone. It cannot be repaired. You need a new phone.” Not yearning to spend hundreds of dollars, we parted ways.

The third try at fixing the problem: An appointment at an Apple store. A  long time ago--maybe a year or so--an Apple store thrived a couple of miles from my house. In the company’s infinite wisdom, it closed the store. Now the closest one is an hour away. But I was in the Philadelphia area over the weekend and an Apple store was not far from my destination. The idea of traipsing through one of the largest malls in the country--the King of Prussia mall with over 450 stores--did not appeal, but I had little choice. 

We parked the car--hub accompanied me--entered the mall, scrutinized the digital directory for directions to the Apple store, and headed out. 

In the middle of the aisle in front of us loomed an I-repair kiosk. What could I lose?

“I have a problem,” I said, and quickly summarized my iPhone dilemma. The young man took the phone, turned it over, played with it, and reached for a cloth and small, thin metal tool, which looked like a pin. He proceeded to clean a section of my device, then handed it back to me.

Hub called me, I answered, and the results were miraculous! New, improved, better-than-ever sound.

“How much?” I inquired.

The man shook his head, “No charge.”

Hub handed him a ten-dollar bill and we thanked him. Profusely.

I dodged a major expense--this time.

We walked out of the mall very happy customers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Signs of Spring

Spring is in the air, on the ground, and inside too. The air feels cold, but the sun shines longer and stronger each day. My neighborhood is coming to life--greenery peeking out everywhere, folks walking their dogs or simply strolling around town, when lingering outside was done only when necessary just a couple of weeks ago.

Here are signs of spring in my town.
Spring has arrived when the local ice cream shop opens.
My first of the season!
Displays of sun tan lotion, outdoor chairs and beach gear 
replace racks of snow shovels, umbrellas, gloves and hats.

Spring color!

Unfortunately spring also brings weeds. Lots of them.
Winter hibernation ends.
Folks wander outside and walk, run, ride bikes, 
and welcome the season.

What is more spring-like than baseball?
To celebrate opening day of the baseball season,
I offer a quote--Berra-ism--from the late great Yogi Berra,
famous for his expressions. One of my favorites:

Baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dog Gone Where?

Grandsitting our Vermont granddaughters consumed me the past week. Hub was by my side. And I am happy to report both of us survived. When parents returned the kids were safe and healthy and the house remained standing and in relatively decent shape. 

Grandma and Grandpa were packed and ready to return home. 

The week passed with no major mishaps or meltdowns. However one event caused us brief panic. 

It was all about the dog.

On the last day of our grandsitting stint I let Leo out in the morning, as usual. An invisible fence borders the property. Leo runs around the yard, barks greetings at passing dogwalkers and dogs, the mailman, joggers and anyone else in the vicinity. 

The humans in the house (me, hub, and Lila, the 3-year-old) finished breakfast, dressed, and attempted to whip the house into shape. A frustrating task – me putting toys away and Lila retrieving them while at the same time adding others to her play pile. Finally, the task completed as best as it was going to be, we prepared to go out. First stop a bakery where kids get to decorate their own cookie. But before leaving the house Leo needed to be retrieved.

Opening the sliding glass door and calling, “Leo, Leo,” I waited for the dog to bound up the steps and dash into the house. But nothing happened. No barks, no visible sign of the dog. 

I tried calling again. No response. Hub went outside and walked around the house. No dog. He got in the car and began driving through the neighborhood, asking dog walkers, the mailman, anyone on the street if they saw a black dog running loose.

No one saw the dog. No sign of Leo.

Panic time.

How would we tell Leo’s parents we lost him?

“Should we call the kids?” hub inquired. And tell them we lost the dog? Not yet...Hub continued driving around. Luckily no one reported a suspicious out-of-state car cruising the streets. Meanwhile I checked Facebook for community bulletin boards. In our town folks post about lost dogs and cats and often include pictures.

I was ready to call the police when hub called. He was on the way back to the house. After scouring the neighborhood for an hour without finding Leo, he called our son. 

The response?

All was well. No need for alarm. The dog walker texted Leo’s parents that she had picked up Leo for his weekly hike. 

Unfortunately no one had informed us about Leo’s social engagement.

Lila, Grandma and Grandpa missed the cookie decorating session, but made it in time for Yoga at the local library, then stopped by the market for Lila’s treat. She hadn’t forgotten the promise of a cookie. 

We returned to the house to eagerly await the arrival of Mom, Dad, and Leo. Leo returned happy but exhausted from his trek. Weary parents, home after flying a red eye flight cross country, soon followed. 

We didn’t hang around for a family reunion. 

Grandma and Grandpa bade farewell until the next grandsitting adventure beckons.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Boomers March Towards Spring

My corner of the world began to display signs of spring over the past couple of weeks. Green shoots poke through the brown dirt that dominates my front yard. The local ice cream shop opens this week. Folks walking their dog linger and enjoy the fresh air. The afternoon sun feels warm on my pale skin.

But for me winter is not over. Hub and I packed the car this week and drove due north, destination Burlington, Vermont, to grandsit our two granddaughters. Vermont boasts snow on the ground. It snowed last night and remains ski jacket, hat and gloves weather. But boomers are nonetheless thinking spring. 

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty doesn't have much to say this week. But take a look at Can You Bear to Wait for Spring? and you'll see that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Spring heralds a season of new beginnings, and new beginnings can happen at any stage in life. In her latest Starting Over interview, Jennifer of Unfold and Begin chats with Roxanne Jones. Roxanne is taking a hiatus from her popular Boomer Haiku blog in order to focus on what retirement means for women.  Read more in Giving a Voice to Women in Retirement.  You can also find out how you can participate in the research.

We all face the reality of aging in our own way. One of the most remarkable things about aging, Carol Cassara of A Healing Spirit has noticed, is that her thoughts about life and mortality have significantly changed over the years. That's the topic she covers this week over at A Healing Spirit's blog. 
It is difficult nowadays keeping up with the latest trends, in any field. Things change quickly, new ideas pop up, old products become obsolete, new ones are introduced every nanosecond, or so it seems. This week Rebecca Olkowski with reviews some CBD products. Have you jumped on the bandwagon yet and are using them for pain management? They’ve become quite popular these days as alternatives for pain meds.
A problem our nation, and the entire planet, faces is the issue of recycling and reusing all of the stuff we produce. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how to reduce your use of plastic. Robison has been working on it seriously for the past year, and it’s a huge challenge. Her best tip is to take plastic bags you’ve saved from buying fruits and vegetables and reuse them when you go to the grocery store to buy more.
It may not seem like spring yet in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but the calendar tells us the new season arrives this year on Wednesday, March 20th, at 5:58 P.M. EDT. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Screwing It All Together

I have purchased items online. Sometimes the items are exactly what I want, other times not so much. Occasionally the dissatisfaction is my fault - I do not diligently read the fine print. I did not carefully review the data on my latest order, resulting in squandered time and a great deal of frustration.

The large box arrived on my porch on the day stated in the company’s email, a good omen. Hub and I dragged the box inside and opened it. Honestly, hub opened the box while I stood by eagerly awaiting the unwrapping of our new storage bench.

“Oh shit,” hub stated in an unmistakable tone of annoyance, “It’s in pieces. We have to put it together? Did you know that when you ordered it?” his voice challenging my intelligence and sanity. 

“No, I guess I didn’t read all the information,” I said sheepishly. Hub waved a sheet of paper plucked from the box, “it says it takes only five minutes to assemble.” He shakes his head, “Nothing ever takes just five minutes to put together.” 

We dragged the box into the family room and hub carefully unpacked the pieces. I took possession of the directions. There were two long boards - the top and bottom of the bench, shorter boards to separate the interior into compartments, three partially assembled baskets, and a bag of screws. The only additional item needed, not included in the box, was a screwdriver. 

We set to work.

Two hours later we had our storage bench. Two long, stressful hours later. 120 seemingly endless minutes later. And that does not include time spent unpacking the box and cleaning up afterwards. Styrofoam flakes and packing materials landed on the floor, chairs, our clothes, and assorted nearby items.

I read the directions while hub screwed parts together. We made (only) one mistake. Two panels were screwed on wrong. We realized this when installing the bottom of the bench and the holes did not line up. We unscrewed the misplaced panels and reassembled.

One task remained. Baskets, one for each cubicle, came four sided, the bottom pieces packed separately. We had to secure the bottom panel to each basket with four tiny screws, one in every corner of the basket. 

A frustrating endeavor.

Problem #1 – The holes were so small our senior eyes had difficulty locating them.
Problem #2 – The basket’s woven material obscured holes and proved difficult to move aside.
Problem #3 – We were tired and cranky.

We persevered, completed the job, and placed the bench in its new home next to the front door. Mission accomplished!

Next time I think about ordering online, I will rethink my thoughts. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

To TV Purgatory and Back

In the good old days you went to a store – a department store, an appliance store, general or hardware store - and chose a TV from models displayed. Unlike the myriad choices today, the number featured was finite. You selected a TV, paid for it, took it home, placed it on a table or piece of furniture designed for a TV and – here’s the clincher– plugged it in, turned it on, settled onto a comfy couch and began viewing favorite shows. 

That was it. Buy it, pay for it, take it home, plug it in, sit back and watch. Until you might have to get up and change channels. But that was a really long time ago...

Things have changed. 

Hub and I were not eager to buy a new TV. The fact that our kids and grandkids made fun of our 10-year-old set did not bother us. The fact that it was small by modern standards was OK with us. The fact that it was not smart and did not have HD capabilities did not trouble us. 

We realized a larger screen would be nice on our eyes, which are not as sharp as years ago. A clearer picture would be advantageous also. The price did not deter us, prices starting at a couple of hundred dollars. Or, in our blissful ignorance so we thought before finding out about required extras. 

It was the buying process we were reluctant to face, asking questions about things we knew very little about and not entirely understanding the answers. But one cold wintery afternoon we threw on our coats, hats and gloves and drove a half hour to the nearest electronics store, Best Buy.

Entering the cavernous building screens large and small confronted us. TV screens, computer screens, phone screens, screens on gadgets unfamiliar to me. 

We strolled to the back of the store and perused TVs. Different models, different prices, various sizes, descriptions in small print on tags beneath each one. HD, HDCP, 4K, HDMI, HDR, LED, LCD, OLED...My mind froze. 

It was not easy finding a store employee to help us, but eventually succeeded. Our specifications were simple: a TV that fit on the small table in the corner of our family room. Bigger than our 32” current TV, but not overwhelming for the cozy-sized room. (We have no suitable wall to hang a TV on.)

We did not have many choices. The employee found an appropriate model in a catalog: a Toshiba 50”. We were eager to complete the transaction and return home.

Not so quick or easy.

Do you want a sound bar? the salesman asked. Unless we want to sit behind the TV, where the sound mechanism is, it would be helpful, especially for seniors whose hearing is no longer cutting edge. We turned down a service contract. Added a DVD. Our old one died last fall. We ordered the TV for delivery. With installation. Additional costs, of course. No way could hub or I face the task of installing on our own.

Suddenly our reasonably-priced TV cost over $700.

Saturday afternoon the Best Buy Geek walks into our house with boxes containing our new TV, sound bar, DVD, and an assortment of wires.

Nothing nowadays proceeds glitch-free. Minor problems: Our fast internet signal did not reach the TV, only the slow service. I didn’t know there were two levels, but we learn something every day. The table we thought the TV would fit on turned out to be too small. Our Comcast box did not have HD capability. 

While the geek and hub installed the TV, hooking wires together and programming the set, I contacted Comcast about upgrading to HD service. This I accomplished via an online chat. The individual I discoursed with had difficulty spelling words correctly and keyed very, very, very slowly, but I finally completed my mission. For an additional $10 a month we were now HD-connected. It would cost $70 for a company man to come to the house and install a new box. Returning the old one to a store, receiving a new one and installing it ourselves – no charge.

When the geek finished installing the TV, sound box and assorted gadgets (including 4 – FOUR remotes), hub and I drove a half hour (again) to the nearest Comcast (actually Xfinity) store, returned the old box and received a new one. Before leaving I complained about our bill – too high, now going higher.

The lovely customer service rep took a few moments, “to see what I can do,” and our bill is now $30 LOWER than before.  

We returned home and hub connected our new box.

I am proud to announce I can turn our new TV on!

I can choose shows offered on Netflix and Amazon (thanks to our son) as well as Comcast. 

I can watch shows my friends talk about but previously could not indulge in viewing. I can join the conversation!

I am in binge-watching heaven!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sleep Soundly, Long and Often (without guilt)

I am not one to brag about my accomplishments, but today I have a confession to make. One of my favorite activities is sleeping. And I am a master sleeper. Not something I would highlight on a resume or boast about at a job interview, but sleeping is a pastime I can engage in throughout life. 

A skill, if indulged too much, that may make a person seem lazy. But sleep provides the energy and strength to do lots of other things. It is a skill to be treasured and appreciated.

Many members of my family are blessed with the ability to go to sleep rather quickly and easily. We possess a knack, a trait imbedded in our genes, passed down from one generation to the next. Usually – there are exceptions – we place our head on a pillow, or a couch, or the back of a car seat, a lounge chair or beach blanket, and nod off in a short time.
There are occasions the talent abandons us for a night or longer. Illness, too much caffeine, the daily worries of everyday life, can interfere with sleep. Luckily the sleepless periods don’t last long.

We all need sleep. Some need more than others. Sleep, for me, is a key to a successful day. A friend survives on five hours of sleep a night with no repercussions. I am a basket case if I don’t get eight (plus) hours.

Lots of folks fall asleep at not necessarily opportune times. I take a film class. When the lights go out more than a couple of folks doze off. Hub and I visited a planetarium a couple of years ago. Everyone leaned back in comfortable chairs in the darkened room and stared at a black sky sprinkled with twinkling stars. Twenty minutes later the talk ended and the lights turned on. Almost everyone in the room was asleep. Or more accurately, napping. 

A few years ago I took an Art Appreciation class. The instructor showed slides. The lights dimmed and the lecture began. Much as I tried to stay awake, to pay attention, it was a losing battle. I no longer sign up for Art Appreciation. 

Luckily there are no laws or penalties for falling asleep in public places. But that was not always true. 

Especially when individuals fell asleep in church.  
In days gone by church sleepers were denounced. Sometimes painfully. In 1643 (some sources claim 1646), Roger Scott, of Massachusetts, was caught sleeping in church. Apparently he nodded off in church on more than one occasion. Rudely awakened when a tithing man – a member of the church designated to monitor church behavior – began hitting him on the head with a cane, Mr. Scott instinctively struck back. As a result Mr. Scott was punished with a whipping, as well as the disgrace of being labeled, “a common sleeper at the publick exercise.”                                 

I have on occasion dozed off during services. I definitely sympathize with Mr. Scott. 

The art class was scheduled immediately after lunch. A full stomach can be a precursor to a nap. Water retention also affects sleep. It’s annoying when my bladder wakes me up from a comfortable sleep, or worse an interesting dream, urging me to scoot to the bathroom. Excess salt also negatively affects sleep. smaller meals, monitor water intake, decrease salt.

Are these suggestions old wives’ tales or do they actually work? 

I have no idea.

I enjoy sleeping. I find time in my busy schedule to indulge.

Research backs up my instinct that sleep is good for me. Researchers discovered a number of advantages to sleeping well and often. Like every day. Sleep is heart healthy, prevents cancer, reduces stress, improves memory and alertness, helps with weight loss (unfortunately I think the only way this would work for me is if I slept through dinner), reduces risk of depression, helps the body heal. 

Sleep is a skill worth achieving. So good luck working towards the goal of sleeping long and well. 

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

South America’s Natural Wonders at the End of the World

Argentina is far from my home. Not weeks or months distant, the time taken before the advent of air travel, but only hours away. Yet to my body the flight and its aftereffects lingered. Difficulty standing straight, strained neck, cramped feet, hungry stomach (food served aloft inedible) – welcome to economy air travel 21st century style.

But the discomfort was worth it, a prelude to three days in Buenos Aires followed by a two-week cruise and three days in Santiago, Chile. Summer in the southern hemisphere, we donned lightweight clothes most of the time, tossing on warmer garments when cruising around the tip of South America, around Cape Horn and through endthe Straits of Magellan. Only 600 miles from Antarctica, the temperature hovered in the 40s but the wind could blow you away!

Along with 2,500 other passengers from around the world – I met folks from England, Sweden, Germany, Canada, Russia, Australia, Argentina and Chile - we experienced the natural wonders of this part of the world. 
Sea lions sunbathing off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, 
Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
The small black ones are sea lion pups.
After a few months their skin color changes. 

Penguins in the Falkland Islands.

Sheep shearing

The End of the World, Argentina

Looking south, the End of the World, Argentina.

Meeting new 'friends' - 
the writers Jorge Borges and Adolfo Casares, 
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

And finally, penguins on the go...