Friday, July 29, 2016

Donald Trump and his Co-Conspirators

The light at the end of the lengthy, unpredictable election year tunnel is in sight as the final round of the 2016 Presidential campaign begins.

Election Day – Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This election will be remembered as one of the most bizarre in American history, yet an important one determining the future of the country. I see the election as a choice between two very different visions: Does our nation forge ahead and tear down walls, or look back and build walls?

Full disclosure: I will vote to forge ahead.

The establishment has looked disbelievingly at the rise of Donald Trump, but I believe his ascendancy can be traced back to the rise of a co-conspirator of sorts.

The candidate’s window of opportunity began with the repeal of a federal regulation, the Fairness Doctrine, in 1987, requiring radio stations to provide free broadcast time for responses to controversial opinions previously aired. The repeal of the Doctrine permitted stations to broadcast editorial material without presenting opposing points of view.

Rush Limbaugh, a radio talk show host in Sacramento CA, declared himself free from the liberal media, moved to New York City and began his radio show, quickly gaining a national following. He is often rated the #1 radio talk show host in the country.

Limbaugh advocates conservative causes in an extremely heavy-handed, take-no-prisoners way, verbally abusing and pummeling adversaries professionally and personally. He repudiates one of the hallmarks of a vibrant democracy - compromise. Part of his modus operandi is delivering inaccurate statements. When the mistake is brought to his attention, Limbaugh professes a meek, half-hearted apology.

A direct line can be drawn from Limbaugh’s vitriol to the emergence of the current Republican Presidential candidate. Limbaugh, along with other conservative talking heads and Fox News (the number 1 network news station), encourages listeners to disdain alternative opinions and those advocating them.

I do not understand why so many people support a man with a history of shady business practices; a man who takes advantage of small businesspeople and workers; a misogynist; an individual with no qualms about dissing anyone–women, disabled, minorities, various religious groups; a man who refuses to disassociate himself from white supremacists and other hatemongers; a man capitalizing on people’s fears...I could go on and on, but what is the point? I understand people’s frustration with the system, but Trump offers nothing but bluster and empty promises.

I am not surprised Roger Ailes, a conservative Republican strategist and consultant before becoming head honcho of TV’s most notorious one-sided news venue, was fired resigned under a cloud (his demise had nothing to do with his political views but everything to do with sexual harassment allegations). Unfortunately I doubt Ailes’ departure will change Fox News' right-wing leanings or journalistic integrity. Fox works hard reshaping the news to fit a particular worldview, magnifying certain problems and demonizing the opposition. A PunditFact’s TV network scorecard found 60% of Fox News’ claims mostly false or worse. In comparison 44% of the news reported on NBC and MSNBC were mostly false or worse, and on CNN only 20% of reports were in some degree false.

The irony of Trump’s rise is that the Republican establishment is now sharply divided. Many politicians avoided the Republican convention and either refuse to back Trump or offer at best a lukewarm endorsement. A segment of the conservative media - individuals, organizations and websites - that previously adored Limbaugh now deride him for supporting Trump.

I look forward to the fun and games following the election that hopefully (wishful thinking on my part) result in a GOP Presidential defeat. 

Whatever your political leanings, there is one thing I am sure everyone can agree on–Election Day will not arrive soon enough.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Delaying the Arrival of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Today I feel better about my relentless move through the ages.

My 20s passed quickly, engrossed with college and grad school, getting married, having two children. Then it was on to the 30s, busy years raising kids, relocating twice, grad school (again), working…and before I knew it I turned 40. Kids, work, vacations, volunteer activities, graduations, family events all clustered in the 1990s, my 40s decade.

Y2K came and went and my world, along with the rest of the world, survived the computer meltdown bust. I entered the new century as a quinquagenarian, a long, sophisticated, unpronounceable word meaning a person 50 years old, or between the ages of 50 and 60.

My boys married and began having babies, and hub and I became grandparents. Downsizing, family events, work filled the days and the years zoomed by. 

Suddenly I turned 60. I became a sexagenarian, a much cooler sounding word than quinquagenarian. Another relocation, retirement, more grandkids, travel, family, old friends and new, volunteer activities, writing, now consume my time and the days pass quickly.

I keep an electronic file of articles for future reading. The file grows and some pieces will never be read, but one item caught my eye this morning as I scanned the list when relegating another story to the must-read pile.

It was very short but made my day.

The article summarized a scientific study that concluded grandparents who babysit their grandkids delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The study was done in Australia, but I bet grandparents around the world, including American grands, would duplicate the results. Including hub and me.

The study made clear being a full-time babysitter, five days a week, does not bode well for grands. But babysitting one or two days a week is ideal. The conclusion reached is grandkids are good for the older generation – in moderation.

Hub and I do not grandsit every week. The kids live too far away. But we do it regularly enough, I believe, to put ourselves on the side of grands deferring at least two of the evils of aging.

And that is why I feel better today about my aging progression than I did yesterday…
My 91-year-old Mom with her 5-year-old great granddaughter.
She is a perfect example of how grand sitting puts cognitive impairment on hold.

Hub and I returned from our latest grandsitting and visitation adventure tired, a little sore from sitting in the car for hours, and a bit rounder from too much pizza and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake.

The instructor explaining to four and five-year-olds the
intricacies of the game of Capture the Flag at our
granddaughter's birthday party.
Here is a peek in pictures from five days with three grandkids and two pooped parents. 
An afternoon blueberry picking
Visiting the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory
An afternoon at the trampoline gym.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In Search of One Night’s Sleep

So we are on the road again. Hub and I find ourselves amidst commuters and vacationers ahead of us on heavily traveled roads, in front of us at Starbucks, the restroom, tollbooths and traffic lights. In our cocoon of a home and town we maintain a degree of isolation from the summer madness, rarely driving to crowded malls or supermarkets or tourist attractions. Our chosen mode of transportation is bicycle or our feet.

We left home mid-afternoon, planning to stop along the way at a motel and finish our trek to northern Vermont the following day.

We exited the New York Thruway at Kingston in search of dinner and a comfortable bed. I was impressed by a downtown lined with appealing eating establishments, retail stores, including an independent bookstore, an LGBTQ community center, and a variety of businesses from yoga and fitness studios to law offices.

Opening the door to a tavern a couple exiting at the same time told us, ”You don’t want to go in. The kitchen is closed tonight.”

Hub asked, “Any suggestions where we can go? Never been here before.”

The man thought a moment and responded, “Around the corner are a couple of places with great food…one has cauliflower wings, excellent…”

I didn’t need to hear more.

We found the restaurant, a bit pricier than we would have liked but we enjoyed delicious food on an outdoor deck furnished with a lively bar and huge screen showing movies (To Catch a Thief). Hub researched motels  while waiting for our food and eventually said, “We must be in a resort area. Cheapest place I can find is $165. Maybe we should continue driving after dinner.”

Which is exactly what we did.

Once again we headed north on the Thruway. A few minutes later I realized my long-sleeve shirt remained on the back of my chair on the restaurant’s deck. I called the restaurant – we weren’t going to turn around – and the shirt will be waiting for me when, hopefully, I remember to stop by and retrieve it on the way home this weekend.

Hub drove and I searched for a motel room, my go-to ap Yelp.

One town within reasonable driving distance seemed promising, listing several places. I touched the screen on the most highly rated to read the reviews. The first one began, “This was the first nudity place I ever visited…” The website describes the place as a “clothing optional nudist resort”. Reading further I discover it is a campground. No tent or RV? You can buy a single day pass, or a season day pass.

Uh oh. I don’t think so. I don’t want strangers gazing at my nude body, and I certainly do not want to look at other nude bodies hanging around the pool, riding bikes, playing volleyball and walking along the nature trails (viewed in pictures of peoples’ backs on the website). I cannot afford all the bug spray and suntan lotion needed to lather my nude body.  Where do people put their cash in case he or she wants to buy a drink or more bug spray?

Luckily a moderately priced chain motel was right off the next exit. By the time we arrived at the motel it was dark, we were tired, but most important the bed, adorned with several pillows, felt comfy.

We collapsed into sleep heaven.

One issue unresolved: Why is traveling, sitting and not moving the body, so exhausting? 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Best of Boomers Look Back and Move On

Real spring never arrived in my town this year. Cold, wet, ugly conditions existed during most of what is traditionally known as spring. But the weather gods finally got their act together and, perhaps as an apology for the appalling spring, delivered a beautiful summer (so far) of warm sunny days. 

Currently the humidity oppresses, but occasional humid days are part of the summer experience. Not a cloud in the sky, leaves on trees move subtly in the breeze, the beach teems with sun worshippers and kids cavorting, and a steady stream of folks converge on our beach cottage. We relax with friends during lazy evening dinners highlighted by steamed clams and fresh-picked Jersey corn.

We bid visitors farewell and collapse, relax, recover, reenergize and prepare for our next guests. The pattern prevails throughout summer and fall, then ceases during the winter months. As boomer friends relocate permanently or seasonally to far corners of the country, we treasure our time together.

Many boomers wandered far from home starting with college. Today boomers migrate to Sunbelt or other desirable locales while others return to childhood communities.

Speaking of moving, Tom Sightings reports that he is in the middle of that great American retirement dream...downsizing. For the latest see Today We Move, and for some humorous background check out We're Drowning in Boxes!

I have encountered people who returned to my beach community full time, or as snowbirds, after thirty or forty years working around the globe.

And speaking of working…Laura Lee Carter has been fantasizing lately about other lives she might have had if her mind had been more open and she had known herself better in her early 20's, when she chose her first career.

We Boomers couldn't wait to leave home. But our children and grandchildren's generations? Not so much.  What do you do when your grown child won't leave the nest? A couple of psychologists weigh in over at Heart-Mind-Soul. Carol Cassara shares their thoughts here.  

On a more sober note, on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the need to revise the Funeral Rule so consumers can get cost information on the Internet. Two consumers groups have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take action now rather than waiting until 2019. Consumers are likely to spend at least $50 billion on funeral services between 2016 and 2019. A nationwide survey by the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America found that few funeral homes fully disclosed prices online.

The weather outside beckons, shouts of kids playing override the hum of the air conditioner and neighbors pass by, intent on completing errands or stealing time at the beach. It is a peaceful microcosm in a world gone wild.

Enjoy the season and hope your week is safe and peaceful.

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will be as one.
- John Lennon 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

10 Excuses for Missing Exercise Class

Numerous articles appear in newspapers and magazines, on websites and blogs about the importance of exercising, different types of exercise, the latest exercise fads…the list goes on and on.

No articles–at least none that I have seen–about the art of missing classes. We all do it. Or most of us do. Olympic athletes and super jocks aside, there are times most of us, or some of us, simply do not want to sweat and exert ourselves. We make excuses for NOT exercising.

What if an individual is not creative enough to formulate his or her own excuses?

There was no help. Until now.

I have lots of experience missing exercise class, and amassed a plethora of reasons why. The vast majority are weak excuses, I humbly admit, but justifications nevertheless.

A feeling of guilt emerges when attempting to wear an outfit that does not fit as well as in the past. Because of inconsistent workouts, unwanted bulges suddenly appear. Once acquired they become difficult, if not impossible, to lose, forever glued to waist, hip, or another part of my body now ampler and squishier than before. Yet I remain an erratic exerciser. I try for consistency but am weak, with not enough willpower, motivation, endurance, energy, whatever, to maintain a rigid schedule.

Over the years I concocted an assortment of excuses for foregoing exercise at the gym or anywhere else. In case you seek reasons to avoid the hard work, feel free to use one or more of mine.

In no special order, here are 10 Excuses for Missing Exercise Class. Need more? Let me know and I will be happy to provide additional suggestions.
  1.      I need the extra time to clean the house. Company is coming. 
  2.      I cannot abandon my company. 
  3.      My alarm did not go off and I missed my early morning class. The rest of the day is tightly programmed, so no exercise this particular day. 
  4.      It is too cold and dark to venture out so early in the morning (obviously a seasonal excuse). Or hot (although the gym is air conditioned, it gets warmer and more uncomfortable inside as the temperature and humidity outside rises). Or severe rainstorms. Or any weather event offering a pretext to stay home. 
  5.      I forgot to do laundry and have no clean exercise clothes. 
  6.      I am too tired and sore from over-exercising yesterday/the day before yesterday/three days ago. 
  7.      I am traveling, so cannot attend class. Much as I should work out while away, there is not enough space in my hotel/motel/airbnb/family quarters. 
  8.      I have an early appointment/meeting and, if exercising, would not have time to shower and change. 
  9.      It is a holiday, the gym is closed, and I might as well take the day off too. 
  10.      I stayed up late the night before watching a great movie/attending a meeting/going out with friends and need the extra sleep before tackling the day.

 And so it goes, one step forward then two steps back, another step forward followed by a period of no measurable success (weight loss? inches lost? improved stamina? stronger yoga pose?)…My workout life!

To those quiet souls out there who do not want to exercise and need reasons not to, I hear you. We are a new silent minority. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Showtime in the Big Apple

Hub dropped me off at the bus terminal at 7:40 a.m., in plenty of time to make the 8:00 Greyhound to New York City. A 2-½ hour ride, I would be discharged into the Big Apple’s streets by 10:30 in the morning.

A few anxious moments ensued as the terminal’s PA system announced a delay in departure time. Meeting friends for lunch at 11:45 before seeing the Broadway production Kinky Boots, I had all the tickets in hand (actually in my oversize bag) and could not be late.

We planned this reunion months ago. Finding a Wednesday matinee day everyone could make proved challenging, but four friends converged on Manhattan the last Wednesday in June.

The bus pulled into the Atlantic City bus terminal bay about 8:20, and by 8:30 drove out again. Three-quarters full of single men and women like myself, a few couples and family groups, some with suitcases but most without, we settled into comfortable seats for the ride north on the Garden State Parkway.

I pulled out a paperback and settled into reading mode. The bus remained quiet, a couple of muffled conversations occasionally heard. Most people settled into their seat, eyes closed, others checked emails and played games on electronic devices. Electric power outlets next to the seats allowed long-term use without worrying about dying batteries.

A traffic backup entering the Lincoln Tunnel into the city the only delay, the bus pulled into the basement of the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 11:00 a.m. Everyone quietly filed out of the bus and into the bustling terminal, maneuvering upstairs and outside onto busy, intensely sun-drenched city streets.

The restaurant a four-block walk, I meandered slowly along Eighth Avenue. Or tried. Too many people jostling each other, walking in all directions, entering and leaving stores and restaurants, humanity spilling over sidewalks and curbs onto the street. Some did not move at all, a hand stretched out begging for a dollar, street vendors imploring passersby to purchase their wares, tourists posing while companions snap pictures.

Entering the restaurant, on the other hand, a quiet, muted atmosphere greeted me. A half hour early, the place was just beginning to fill with diners eager to fill their stomachs before heading to the theater.

I settled into our table, the first of our group to arrive. The other three soon wandered in, hot and disheveled after bumping crowds in the increasingly hot sun.

Following a leisurely lunch we walked around the corner to the Al Hirschfeld Theater for the day’s main event–Kinky Boots.

The 2-½ hour production knocked our socks off, as the saying goes. From the moment the lights lowered until the very end, we laughed, clapped, and listened intently to the story of a failing English factory that found an offbeat way to extend its life.

Based on a true story, the Northampton, England factory confronted the fate of businesses across England and throughout the industrialized world–a drastic loss of business due to foreign competition. The show takes liberties with the details of the story, but the premise remains true.

The 100-year-old men’s shoe factory faced the prospect of closing. A chance request for women-styled shoes strong enough to withstand the stress of a man’s weight energized the factory owner. He accepted the challenge, designing footwear for transvestites.

The result is a hilarious 2 ½ hours of fun.

Unfortunately the postscript on the true story is not as cheerful as the show’s ending. The move into transvestite footwear bought the factory additional time but eventually closed, the victim once again of fierce overseas competition.

Kinky Boots is a story of the struggle for survival of a company and the people it shaped, a tale about seeking alternatives when life appears stacked against you. It is also a story of tolerance - accepting folks different from yourself, and acknowledging who you are. As the performers belt out in the show:

Just be.
Who you wanna be.
Never let ‘em tell you who you ought to be
Just be. With dignity.
Celebrate yourself triumphantly.

The bus home left the city on time, the first part of the trip slowed by rush hour traffic. As  the city receded, the energized urban atmosphere transformed into a quieter landscape of green, fewer people, buildings, vehicles and noise, and finally the scent of salt air. A summer day in the city is fun, but summer at the shore is heaven.