Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An Abundance Of Potential Presidents

406 Days Until the 2016 Presidential Election
(as of September 29, 2015)

Bernie Sanders threw his hat into the Democratic Presidential race along with a couple of lesser known, or rather less publicized individuals. Sanders is a breath of fresh air, especially in comparison to the cookie cutter guys on the Republican side, most hewing to the same ideological line.

Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont, represents the small state known for its individualistic streak. He has struck a vein of discontent among Democrats discouraged by the slow economic recovery, a deadlocked, difficult to get anything done government, and the behind the scenes way big money influences the political system. The last thing Vermonters want is billionaire industrialists pulling strings and telling them - perhaps more like guiding them without their knowledge  - to vote for their candidates. The Koch brothers, two of these mega-wealthy one percenters, along with a tiny minority of other uber-rich, are the 21st century incarnation of the old political bosses who chose candidates in smoke filled rooms.

Sanders does not have much of a chance of actually being sworn in as POTUS in January 2017, but he is an interesting voice of the people. And he scares a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters and undecided Democrats, some of whom want a third big name - Joe Biden - to step up and run.

This primary season is more fascinating than the Bush-Clinton race originally predicted by many political pundits.

I watched the two Republican debates and was underwhelmed. Too many candidates, too little substance, way too much Trump. Rick Perry bowed out of the race, Scott Walker returned to Wisconsin, but there remains double-digit numbers of Republicans vying for POTUS.

Reverence to big money and a hard line against any Obama initiatives has gotten the GOP into a heap of trouble, resulting in non-traditional political candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. These anti-government, anti-establishment GOPers walk onto the national stage and yell, "I've had enough!" Enough of big money calling the shots, and enough of a do-nothing government. People listen and applaud.

Well thank you Citizens United and the last seven years of the GOP Congressional delegation. The Republican mantra - don't let Obama, and therefore the government, do anything - is wearing thin.

People want government to govern again.

And that will only happen when open minded, less strictly ideological individuals are elected. Government does not work when too many legislators refuse to get along with others. Democratic government is all about attempting to work together, eventually resulting in a meeting of the minds and the dirty word hard line conservatives love to hate - compromise.

Over the past few years we experienced hollow GOP victories that in the short run garner publicity but in the long run prove meaningless.

Now that John Boehner will no longer lead House Republicans, can the GOP get their act together and pass meaningful legislation? And will they be able to unite behind a Presidential candidate able to win a majority of American voters? Stay tuned... 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Era of Solicitations

I have entered a new age with my grandchildren.

The era of solicitations.

It was bound to happen. There were years back in the last century when my boys brought home brochures urging their parents and other adults to buy magazines, candy, popcorn, cookies, holiday wrappings, and I do not remember what else. What I do recall is the pocketbook often opening. Then my kids and their friends grew up, and we moved to a mostly non-kid area. 

The solicitations slowed to a trickle. I cannot remember the last time someone knocked on our door or sent an invitation to purchase something, for a good cause of course, through the mail.

Well, yes I can. My girlfriend’s son sent via snail mail a donation request for his football team. Every year. Not selling anything, just a plea to please support us. 

He graduated high school this past June. 

Also every year Girl Scouts appear outside the grocery store and other strategically located places, sitting at tables with mounds of mint cookies and other delights. I buy a box or two and usually give them away. They are dangerous if allowed into my house. I will eat them…

The offer to buy stuff from kids has begun once again with a new generation.

Yesterday we received a colorful brochure in the mail listing a variety of magazines we are supposedly eager to purchase. The envelope, stuffed with the brochure, return envelope, order card, and letter of explanation, came from my granddaughter’s elementary school. By ordering a product I am “helping America’s school & youth programs” – so says the logo, words wrapped around two hands shaking. Shaking hands, not hands quivering. Picture below to avoid misunderstanding…

Anyway, hub and I perused the brochure, not exactly with excitement and anticipation. Resignation would be closer to our emotion.

The ordering system, in keeping with modern technology, encourages online ordering. No need to fill out and return the form. We ordered two magazines online, each for one year. Discounts apply for multiple year subscriptions, but that presents a problem.

I will probably receive the magazine solicitation every year as long as my granddaughter, and then her younger sister, attend this particular elementary school. If I order a two-year subscription, I will have to order another magazine next year…and before you know it my mailbox will be stuffed with magazines, their load weighing down our poor mail carrier. And when will I find time to read everything?

I can renew a one-year subscription next year or try another publication I am not necessarily enthusiastic about reading. All for a good cause. And the grandkids.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Best of Boomers On Home, Credit Cards and Retirement Lifestyles

Summer ends this week on Wednesday, September 23 at 1:21 a.m. The signs are in the air. Darkness rolls in earlier, early mornings require a light jacket, my tomato plants offer their last delicious gifts of the season, and although the weather is sunny, warm and beautiful, locals now outnumber visitors. Most people scattered to homes around the region, returned to work and sent the kids back to school. Retirees and occasional vacationers now populate the beach during the week.

How do you spend your days in retirement? Tom Sightings wants to know: Are you a Traveler, an Athlete, a Dreamer or a Loafer? Check out What's Your Retirement Lifestyle? to see where you fit into the whole scheme of things.
I am definitely a traveler and a loafer, with a bit of artist and stock market guru thrown in (after years in the financial field I can’t get out of the habit of checking the market.).

Laura Lee says: Since I hit my head and got my last (AND FINAL!) concussion, I have had the time and proper disposition to sit and look out of my windows quite a bit. This is what I've observed lately.  Check out the beautiful views in Adventures of the New Old Farts!
On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about credit card issuers who are cutting benefits on credit cards. For example, Bank of America is eliminating five benefits on its Better Balance Rewards MasterCards as of Nov. 1.

Explore this week's blogs and leave a comment for our bloggers. They love to hear from you. And have a good week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Muir Woods Deferred

Sunday dawned cold, overcast and windy, but the weather did not deter four visitors with one day remaining in San Francisco. We looked forward to a hike in the woods. Muir Woods, viewing towering redwood trees.   
View of Sausalito from the ferry.

We opted for public transportation, locals firmly warning against renting a car and driving. Too much traffic, parking scarce.

Our travels began with a half-hour ferry ride to Sausalito. On terra firma once again, signs directed us to the shuttle bus, a short walk from the ferry terminal. Buses scheduled every half hour did not arrive on time due to Sunday traffic, but we patiently waited.

About an hour after leaving the ferry a bus arrived. Unfortunately during that time tourists kept coming. We were four among a throng anticipating a day enjoying nature's wonders.

We thought we were at the front of the line, but the back of the line morphed into the front when the bus appeared. It quickly filled, leaving a couple of dozen people, including the four of us, waiting on the sidewalk.

Looking at each other, we all had the same feeling.

Enough. What happens at the end of the day? How long would we have to wait for a bus? What if, hanging around for the last bus we again were left standing in the dust?

Suddenly no one looked forward to a bus ride. And what fun is it hiking with a crowd?

So much for communing with nature.

We deferred Muir Woods for another trip and another day, preferably a weekday, avoiding the weekend multitudes.

Crossing the street and investigating Sausalito, we traded nature for an upscale, totally touristy town.

But flexibility is what traveling is sometimes all about.

We strolled the main street and enjoyed drinks at a cafe. Fog obscured the view of San Francisco, but the sunny Sausalito waterfront bustled with activity. Street musicians, cyclists, people strolling the waterfront promenade, sidewalks lined with tables filled with families and tourists.

Returning to the city via ferry, next on the agenda lunch, the place of choice The Plant, a restaurant renowned for vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Approaching the place we had a sinking feeling. No signs of activity. Outdoor tables empty. A sign posted on the door read 'closed for private event'. Peering inside we viewed the staff rushing around arranging tables and chairs.

Disappointed and dispirited, we slowly retraced our steps to the Marketplace by the ferry terminal. Home to a number of restaurants, we finally devoured a late lunch. Actually an early dinner

Next stop the Buena Vista, a bar near Ghirardelli Square our friend Jim often patronized when in the city for business. The best Irish coffee, he insisted. 

A trolley car ride and short walk later we arrived to find every table occupied. While waiting we engaged in conversation with three young women, eventually sharing their table.

The bar sat across the street from a cable car terminal. Deciding to end our day with a ride, we encountered a 45-minute line. Cold and windy, getting colder by the minute, we did not linger. While discussing alternative means of transport back to our lodging a limo driver approached, offering to drive us for $25.

The cable car cost $7 a person.

We arrived at our Airbnb about 7:00 p.m. as a rainy, cold mist began falling.

Our trip home would begin 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

Home, until traveling again. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Two Weddings, Two Coasts

Hub's parents were spending the weekend at our house sometime during the late 70s when the phone rang. By the time my mother-in-law finished the mysterious conversation, she was upset and in tears.

Her sister Penny died.

That was the first time I heard Penny's name and when I learned of her existence.

Fast forward thirty plus years and hub and I travel to the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts where hub's first cousin, Penny's son, would tie the knot with his soul mate.

We have known Gary about five years. No one in the family knew about him until he began searching for his birth parents and siblings. We met for the first time at a restaurant. Walking in I knew immediately he was a Melamed. Short and slim like all the Melameds, small boned they used to say, with facial features undeniably connecting him to the family.

Gary's mother Penny disappeared for years, reappearing for a short time and leaving again. No one knew where she was or what she was doing.  She left the first time when a teenager, in the 1940s. She bore a son in the early 50s given up for adoption and another baby, a girl, in the early 60s, also given up for adoption. The family did not know Penny gave birth to a third baby in the late1950s, a boy, until the child located his birth mother's family.

By the mid 60s Penny lived in Greenwich Village in New York City. She reached out and reconnected with family to a limited extent.

Few pictures of Penny exist. Immigrant parents struggling to support a family during the 20s and 30s could not afford cameras and pictures. Family photos show up in the 40s and Penny appears in only a couple.

Hub and I walk into the sanctuary, tentatively look around and occupy two seats. We are strangers here.

Absolute quiet pervades the room, everyone waiting in respectful silence for the ceremony to begin. No one rustles program pages, teenagers do not whisper, poke each other and giggle. No one moves, a few seconds frozen in time.

A soft melody breaks the silence. In unison, as if prompted, we turn to the back of the room. The procession begins, maid of honor and groomsmen, ring bearer and flower girl, then the groom. We stand while the bride walks down the aisle and joins her groom under the chuppah, the traditional canopy for Jewish weddings. Seated once again, we watch the service, witnesses connecting generations.

Less than a week later, seated in the exquisitely ornate Board of Supervisors room in San Francisco's City Hall, we witness another couple tie the knot.
Ceiling of the Board of Supervisors room,
San Francisco City Hall.
Hub and the bride crossed paths years ago in the course of business. They now work for the same company and are part of another type of modern family, the workplace family.

The ceremony temporarily unites the couple's diverse families, guests gathering from around the world. The groom's parents and brother traveled from New Zealand, the bride's parents from North Carolina, friends and colleagues from around the country and Europe. An American civil ceremony, an evening reception with a taco food truck, and a Saturday afternoon lawn bowling barbecue comprise the wedding festivities.

Two weddings, two coasts, two different kinds of family. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Jetsetters R Us

Breakfast in Philadelphia, lunch in Seattle, dinner in San Francisco.

 A day on the road, actually in the skies. Jetsetters R Us.

Luckily our day did not turn out quite that way. 

Destination San Fran, frequent flyer points routed us through the Emerald City with a three and a half hour layover. So much for free.

The extended day began when my alarm buzzed at 4:00 a.m. and I found myself practically sleepwalking out of the house a half hour later.

Packing for a trip to warm weather places is a pleasure compared to stuffing winter wonderland wear in a reasonable sized suitcase. Hub and I squeezed our summer clothes into two carry-ons. Money saved, no charge for checked luggage. Not that we are cheap or anything...

We breezed through security, not always a fast, easy pass through at Philly airport. Following a quick, pricey, unsatisfying breakfast, we headed to the desk at our departure gate.

"Would it be possible to change seats so we could sit together?" Boarding passes indicated two middle seat assignments, not the most desirable.

"No," the chatty airline representative informed us. "The flight is full. Would you like $400 each to NOT take this flight?"

The wedding was not until Friday, and it was only Wednesday. We could do it, but in true negotiating fashion we responded, "How about moving us to the San Francisco flight instead? It is leaving the same time at the next gate. And that's our destination. We're scheduled to change planes in Seattle."

 "Why did you make the reservations that way?"

Not wanting to mention free, hub said, "I don't remember. Probably because it was cheaper than the nonstop."

"Well," the man said, in a chipper mood. He must have just started his workday and not yet faced many irate customers, "we need the seats. Any checked luggage?" We shake our heads no. "Then it might be possible..." And he spent the next couple of minutes furiously punching computer keys.

The next thing we know we are on a non-stop flight to San Francisco, arriving 11 a.m. Pacific time instead of 5 p.m. Middle seats but we do not care.

We were on our way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Walk in the Woods Underwhelms

Robert Redford wanted to make a movie of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods for over a decade. I am not sure why. He originally wanted Paul Newman to play his hiking buddy, but Newman passed away before the movie was made. The book recaps the Appalachian Trail adventure of Bryson and a friend, Stephen Katz.

The movie downplays the challenges confronting the hikers. A difficult undertaking, especially for the physically untrained and inexperienced, Bryson and Katz, unprepared, out of shape and clueless concerning the rigors of mountain hiking, determinedly marched on. Hundreds of miles and weeks later they end the trip, realizing they will never complete the 2,100 mile trail.

Yet all was not in vain. Bryson wrote a humorous account of their journey, and Robert Redford stars in the movie.

Bryson and Katz were in their mid-40s. Robert Redford is 78 and his costar Nick Nolte a spry 74, but I guess age did not matter because the men did not actually hike the trail for weeks.

Nolte was sometimes difficult to understand. I am not sure if that was due to a less than ideal theater sound system, my imperfect hearing, Nolte's slurred way with words, or a combination. Probably the latter.

Emma Thompson, a beautiful 50-something British actress, plays Redford's wife. Much as I like her, a woman closer to Redford's age would have been a delight. Men have wives two decades younger, but I am sure in this particular case the director desired an almost wrinkle-free female face on screen.

The movie not only details an extended hike, but also explores the two mens relationship. Bryson and Katz lost touch for years, as so often happens with friends, reconnecting when Bryson seeks a hiking partner. Along the trail the two recount old times, catch up with each others very different lives, and bond, sort of.

Hub and I read A Walk in the Woods a few years ago. Some events depicted in the movie I remember, others not at all.

Before seeing the movie we read the reviews. Less than spectacular, we decided to go anyway.

The reviewers were essentially right on. The movie portrays a nice, somewhat humorous romp in the woods by two geezers who in real life would never embark on such a venture.

A Walk in the Woods will not win any awards, in my humble opinion. If you like Redford and/or Nolte, it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. On the other hand movies are expensive these days. You might want to wait until you can rent it or watch for a couple of bucks, or even better, wait until it is free on TV or available on Netflix or another service...and now I am getting into an area I know nothing about and do not understand...

In summary, I like watching movies with seniors in starring roles. I like Robert Redford. And the scenery is stunning.

Friday, September 4, 2015


This updated post first appeared March 25, 2011, soon after starting this blog, when only my two or three readers at the time saw it.

The New Jersey legislature passed a new law concerning kids and car seats. Revised guidelines took effect September 1, 2015.

The law mandates rear-facing car seats with 5-point harness for children under the age of 2 and weighing 30 pounds or less. Toddlers under 4 years and 40 pounds can be positioned in a forward-facing car seat equipped with 5-point harness. Children under 8 and 57” in height require a booster seat and seat belt. Over 8 years of age and/or a height of 57”, the child can sit in the car secured only with a seat belt.

My question: What happens when senior citizens, and specifically this writer, fall below the 57” threshold?

One of the challenges of senior citizenhood is a diminution in height.

Will seniors need booster seats?

Nothing in the law mentions seniors, or anyone over the age of eight for that matter. But the time may come when so many folks have difficulty peering over the steering wheel or, settled in the back seat, are not seen at all, legislators become concerned seniors face the same dire consequences as unrestrained children should an accident occur.

I am now taller than 57” by a good 5”. OK, barely 5”. 5 feet 2 inches tall. Or short, depending on your perspective. I foresee the time the top of my head barely scrapes the 5-foot marker on my doctor’s scale, and possibly less, meaning 57” is not out of the realm of possibility within the next couple of decades.

Will I eventually need a booster seat? I own one, useful when the grandkids visit. I assumed it would be given away when the kids outgrew it, but maybe I should keep it.

On the other hand the reality is a seat designed for kids, cushioned and wide as it may be, will not be wide enough to comfortably fit my derriere. Seniors shrink in one direction – down, closer to earth – and many (no doubt including me) expand outward in strategic places.

New Jersey is not the only state mandating booster seats for children under a certain height, and guidelines by groups such as the NHSTA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the American Academy of Pediatrics concur. Government groups and geriatric associations, concerned about the welfare of their constituency, may one day investigate the implications of the downsizing of people like me.

Consider the ramifications.

Will police ticket short seniors? The state of Florida may have to be placed under protective custody until this seat thing is figured out. How often driving around the state do you wonder if anyone is behind the wheel of a nearby vehicle?

This may become a national issue.

Will Congress mandate the use of booster seats for seniors in taxis, buses and limousines?  Must senior booster seats be inspected and meet certain guidelines?

Will we need to stock extra boosters so friends can drive with us? Or will we carry around our own personal seat, a lightweight, collapsible model in a handsomely designed, monogrammed case?

Catchy slogans for senior drivers and passengers, urging everyone to safely secure boosters, will appear in ads and magazines such as AARP. For example…

Sit Down and You’re Almost Standing Up!

Can you see me now?

How about borrowing the American Express slogan to remind people to take their booster seat wherever they go - Don’t leave home without it! 

I look forward to seeing short actors and actresses – Danny DeVito, Jerry Stiller, Linda Hunt, Betty White – in public service ads discussing the importance of buckling boosters while the performers do just that and drive off into the sunset…

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Passing of the Passenger Pigeon

September 1, 1914

I doubt anyone or anything – newspapers, magazines, TV news broadcasts or tweets – will commemorate the landmark event of 101 years ago.

No drum roll, no banners, just a sad asterisk in history.

On September 1, 1914, Martha, believed to be the world’s last passenger pigeon, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The passenger pigeon numbered in the billions during the 19th century, yet disappeared from the face of the earth by the early 20th century. At one time it was the most numerous bird in North America, traveling in groups, eating and nesting together, then moving on, roaming from southern shores along the Gulf Coast to woodlands in the northern states and Canada. The numerous densely packed birds offered easy prey.

The birds needed vast forestlands to support their population. Deforestation and hunting depleted flocks. The pigeons produced a couple of eggs per year. Their reproduction rate could not make up for the multitudes killed.

The bird may have faced extinction eventually because of an inability to adapt and share the continent with newcomers, but humans never gave them a chance.

The end occurred quickly.

I doubt many took notice of the passenger pigeon’s demise. People were too involved in the events of the time, such as World War I, which began a couple of months earlier in Europe.

The term climate change was decades from becoming part of our everyday lexicon, and conservation a new idea introduced to the American public by a small number of forward-thinking politicians, scientists, writers and artists.

President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman and prominent conservationist, made preservation and the environment a priority during his administration, creating the National Forest Service, five national parks, four game refuges, and 51 national bird reservations.

Over the past 500 years over 1,000 species disappeared forever, many a result of human activity. A timeline of some of the creatures declared extinct from 1600 to the present can be found here.
There is probably no one alive who remembers seeing a passenger pigeon. Out of sight, out of mind, what we never knew or experienced we do not miss. We may not mourn the passenger pigeon, but how many animals and plants and habitats must disappear before recognizing hey, you know what? We do miss them

"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. 
But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen 
when our forests are gone, 
when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, 
when the soils have still further impoverished 
and washed into the streams, 
polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."