Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Predictions Scorecard

I have started thinking about New Year’s resolutions and predictions for 2012. Nothing is written down yet. Before composing a 2012 list I thought I should review my 2011 forecasts. My score for 2011 is not very good.

I got several things wrong…

Ed Rendell (ex-Governor of PA) did not become a member of President Obama’s cabinet.

Rush Limbaugh did not divorce his fourth wife (yet).

Bill Clinton continues a variety of humanitarian causes, plus public speaking engagements. Hilary Clinton is still Secretary of State. No new job for either Clinton in 2011.

Lady Gaga is not really pregnant, or at least of the date of this post I have not read anything about a baby Gaga. But she did appear pregnant in a Saturday Night Live sketch in May. And apparently she is moving to my old backyard – Lancaster PA.

 I do not believe Mike and Molly joined Weight Watchers.

Iceland and Greece have not become the latest ‘in’ tourist meccas.

Gas prices reached $4.00 plus a few cents at the end of March, 2011, and remained there until June.

I still have not unpacked all of the boxes of stuff in the garage nor reached my weight loss goal (but I did lose a few pounds).

 …and a few things right:

Arnold Schwarzenegger is apparently working on a film. What I did not foresee was the sensational story of 2011 – his infidelity, his out-of-wedlock son, and his subsequent divorce from Maria Shriver.

The summer of 2011 was one of record weather, including high temperatures and drought in some parts of the country.

 There were more tropical storms than normal and an average number of hurricanes, but three of the hurricanes were major ones.
 Lindsay Lohan was back in rehab again.

Iceberg lettuce, out of favor for years, is now promoted as a salad option on menus from the most casual to the chic-est restaurants.

 2012 predictions soon to be published…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our December Family Tradition

Hub and I are flying home from our two-week vacation Christmas Day. Experience has taught us Christmas Day travel can be cheap, convenient, with no airport crowds or hassles. Just about everyone is where he or she wants to be on this one day.

We spent five days with the Denver crew and twelve days in California with Santa Cruz as our base. We took advantage of a house swapping opportunity.

Hub and I are part of a family with both Jews and Christians. For years we all got together on Christmas Day. It made sense. No one worked and there were not a lot of other things to do in our town. The only other option was a movie and Chinese food. December 25th is my sister-in-law’s birthday, so there was an additional reason for everyone to get together.

The tradition ended over a decade ago. My brother-in-law and his wife decided to start a new family tradition of their own. He was born and raised Jewish, moved on to the Jews for Jesus, and then morphed into a fundamentalist Christian. He decided he did not want his family to celebrate the Christmas holiday with unbelievers. That was initially the Jewish side of the family. More recently he has enlarged his uninvited list to those Christians who do not quite meet his standards.

Over time families and relationships change. From time to time circumstances draw family members together. At other times the fragile bonds holding people together tear. Occasionally they can be salvaged and repaired, and sometimes not. Families break apart, sometimes spectacularly and sometimes slowly over time. People move away – figuratively – from each other.

Hub and I were faced with a dilemma. The rest of the family felt bad they could not continue the traditional all-encompassing, all family get together.

We solved the problem by going out of town every year. We went to Florida, visiting family and friends scattered throughout the state – Melbourne, West Palm Beach, Miami, Naples, Tampa.  Sometimes we drove to Florida, one year getting stuck in traffic on I-95 for hours. We have also flown south for the holiday. We spent one year in Colorado, once again flying home Christmas Day.

The worst Christmas was 1999. Two days before the holiday my girlfriend’s son died suddenly. We flew to Michigan on Christmas Day to see her, comfort her and attend the funeral the day after Christmas.

Next week my son, his wife and baby will spend four days with us at the Jersey shore. Other family members will come from New York and Pennsylvania to see them. Our family is experiencing a baby boom. Three babies under eighteen months will add to the happy, hectic scene. My brother-in-law, his wife and two teenagers will not join us.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.

Happy Chanukah!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby Boomer Memories -Do You Remember This Iconic 1960s Media Event?

There are certain events, personal and public, remembered forever. We can recall them immediately and, no matter how young or old we were at the time, the events become imprinted permanently on our brain. For better or worse they shaped who we are today.

One of those events was the assassination of President Kennedy. I bet there are few Americans, old enough to understand what was happening at the time, who do not know exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out Kennedy had been shot.

Then there are the inconsequential events we recall. One event epitomized the outrageous culture of the 1960s. You may have actually witnessed the event on TV, read about it, heard about it, talked about it, and viewed pictures of this major media event in the newspapers and magazines.

On December 17, 1969, between 20 and 50 million Americans (the number depending on which account you read) witnessed the marriage of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Thousands of tulips were imported from Holland for the occasion. Tiny Tim met his future bride at Wanamaker’s Department Store where Vicki patiently waited in line for Tiny’s autograph. Tiny Tim, born Herbert Khaury in New York City in 1932, became famous for his very high voice, his ukulele, and his recording of the song, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”.   

I honestly cannot remember if I watched the event live on TV. I was probably at college, getting ready for winter break, and may have sat in front of a small black-and-white TV in the dorm watching the nuptials. I can see the couple, sitting on Carson’s couch, and standing together. Whether I saw it live or later, I do not know. But I was aware of the momentous happening when it occurred.

At the time of their marriage Tiny Tim was 37 years old. Miss Vicki was just 17 years of age.  Most of us have no idea what happened to the blissful couple after that very public ceremony. The marriage of Tiny Tim to Miss Vicki, aka Victoria Mae Budinger, lasted eight years. They had one daughter named Tulip.

Tiny Tim married again in 1984, to Miss Jan. Although the couple was legally married for ten years, they apparently never lived together.

Tiny Tim married a third and final time in 1995 to Miss Sue. They were married just 14 months before he died of a heart attack at the age of 64 in 1996.

Here is the interview with the newly married couple on The Tonight Show, immediately following the ceremony. 

And on a totally different subject -



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Air Travel Circa 2011

Modern air travel is supposed to be seamless. Real-life experiences can, unfortunately, prove otherwise. That about sums up my trip from Denver to California this week.

Following a fun long weekend with the grandkids, hub and I were off to California; Santa Cruz to be specific. We are involved in a house swap. We planned almost two weeks in the area, visiting local tourist spots, taking side trips down the coast to see cousins and spending two days in San Francisco, hub working while I enjoy the sites.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We had to get to Santa Cruz first.

We arrived early at the Denver Airport. Hub had a business call, so we decided to get to the airport, through security, take the tram to the terminal and find our gate. Hub could take his call and we would be ready to get on the plane when it was time for boarding.

We drove my son’s car to the airport and parked it so he would have it when he returned from a business trip later that day. The parking lots were almost full. By the time we found a parking spot, unloaded our luggage and entered the main terminal it was time for hub’s phone call. No time to go through security. We found a coffee stand outside of security and settled in.

 Hub turned on his computer; he needed some information during the call. A few minutes later he passes me the computer. He had just received an e-mail from the airlines. Our flight to San Jose was canceled because of mechanical problems, or so we were told. We were rescheduled - on a flight leaving the next morning.

Hub immediately ended his phone call and we made our way to the airline desk. We did not want to wait until the next morning. Fortunately the airport was not busy. There was only a minimal line, so it was only a few minutes before we faced a customer service agent.

Hub handled the negotiations, and that’s exactly what they were. Novice travelers getting stuck in a similar situation often have no idea how to work the system.

 Airline personnel proved helpful once hub persuasively made it clear we could not wait until the next day. There was nothing available to San Jose that day on any airline. We then asked if we could get a flight to San Francisco. After phone calls and paperwork, we were rebooked on a flight to San Francisco on another airline.

Ironically when we planned the trip we initially looked at flying in and out of San Francisco, but it was expensive. Seeking alternatives we ended up with the San Jose flights.

We contacted the car rental agency. We now needed to pick up a car in San Francisco. Luckily that proved easy enough, although it will cost $45 more; the price includes a drop off fee for pick up in one airport and drop off at another (we are still planning to fly home from San Jose).

Before leaving the airline desk, hub asked about lunch vouchers; after all, we now had to spend the entire afternoon at the airport. We received two $6 vouchers. Now that goes far for airport food.

We were lucky hub travels frequently and knows how to handle these situations. I would not have been forceful enough or sufficiently familiar with the system to get what we wanted.

The goal was to get to our destination, and that was achieved. Air travel used to be an exciting adventure. Nowadays it is barely tolerated to reach our endpoint.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Resort Vacation the Senior Living Way

I just returned from four days in Dallas, Texas, but did not see much of the city. I experienced a relaxing, restful resort vacation – sort of.

My Mom (86 years young) has a close friend (94 years young) - they are related by marriage and call each other cousins - currently living in a senior independent living residence in Dallas. My Mom had not seen Helene in a couple of years. She wanted to visit, but did not want to fly alone. I went along for the ride.

The independent senior living center is two years old and beautiful; you feel like you are in a four-star hotel. Entering through huge, heavy double doors (hit the automatic door opener for instant easy access), the high ceilinged lobby includes a sitting area with a large TV over the fireplace, comfortable chairs and sofas. A board lists the current day’s events and a concierge-type person is available to assist your every need. Floor to ceiling windows along the back wall look out onto a large courtyard with a fireplace and several tables and chairs. This is the outdoor dining patio.

The dining room was decorated for the holidays. Tables varied in size from small, intimate tables for two to large round tables for eight (or more if you squeezed together). There was pretty china tableware, large cloth napkins and food was served with attention to detail. Each plate looked like a mini work of art. The staff could not be more helpful. I believe you have to be a special person to work in a senior-type facility. Residents can be very demanding. I guess people get used to things a particular way and expect others’ to accommodate them.

The menu included a stable of offerings as well as daily specials. The DR was open for lunch and dinner daily. A smaller bistro opened every morning for made-to-order breakfasts and offered light fare and snacks throughout the day.

The complex has a library, game room, beauty salon, arts and crafts room, Wellness Center, computer center, heated outdoor pool and free Wi-Fi. There is a theater with enormous comfortable lounge chairs, a popcorn machine and huge screen. I envision everyone getting comfortable, leaning back in his or her chair, and the lights dim. The movie starts and most people nod off. An hour and a half later the lights go on, and one after another members of the audience must be tapped on the shoulder and awakened!

The Wellness Center offers a large room for exercise classes and a room equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, stationary bikes, a stair climber, weight machines, and assorted apparatus including balls, free weights and mats.

The two friends participated in activities throughout the day, enjoying meals together, catching up and reminiscing. I joined them for some doings, but spent time utilizing the gym facilities. I rode the bicycle, climbed mountains (hills, actually) on the treadmill and used the weight machines. The locker room was spotless, decorated with brown-toned tiles and stone. All areas are open, spacious and handicapped accessible.

Most people walked unassisted, but there were some wheelchair and walker-aided residents. The majority are in their eighties; there are doubtless a couple of residents 100+.

My Mom and I stayed in one of the guest suites available for out of town visitors. It was roomy, spotless and larger than most expensive hotel rooms.

I devoured an authentic Tex Mex meal when we spent an afternoon out at a restaurant (I was the chauffeur), shopping at the dollar store and Tuesday Morning, and visiting a craft show where Helene’s granddaughter displayed her jewelry. We were on a timetable and had to return home before the next scheduled activity. There was Wii bowling, bridge, Texas Hold’em, Happy Hour (which lasted way longer than an hour), exercise class…

The days passed quickly and the two friends did not stop moving. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and an inspiration. I hope I am as active and with-it mentally and physically as these two great ladies are at their age.
Mom and Helene, December 2011. 

A note on affordability (or not)
It all sounds very expensive and decadent, but prices are surprisingly reasonable. This particular place was not the most expensive Helene visited when researching independent living choices. But I do not believe there is any such place at affordable prices in the New York area (where my Mom lives) or probably other high-cost-of-living metro areas. If I am wrong, please let me know and I will pass the information on to my Mom and her friends…

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" Anniversary

On December 1, 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released their "Happy Christmas" recording in the United States. Forty years ago.

On one hand it seems like a long time ago, but on the other hand it was not so very long ago.  Some things have changed, but unfortunately some things are the same. Our country is embroiled in another interminable war overseas. This more recent war has lasted longer than the Vietnam War. Hopefully our soldiers will be home soon and our country can begin healing.

The politician William Jennings Bryan is credited with the phrase "guns or butter," meaning government cannot adequately finance domestic economic requirements and war at the same time. For the past ten years the U.S. has funded war, whether officially in the budget or off-the-books spending. It has cost our country profoundly. It will take the economy years to recover. Hopefully the massive defense spending can soon be scaled back and attention paid to needs closer to home.

Here is a video of the Lennon/Ono anti-war song Happy Christmas (War is Over)