Tuesday, October 30, 2018

High School Reunion

I did not keep in touch with high school friends after graduation. During college I saw some occasionally, the last time at a wedding years ago.

Fast forward years. Lots of years. 50 to be exact, and a group of folks decide it was time to reconnect, stir old memories, rekindle friendships, find out what happened during a half century of living, celebrate successes, lament failures.

It was difficult locating people after 50 years, especially the women. Girls marry, change their name, move, maybe divorce and change names again. Social media helps, but not everyone could be tracked down. And not to dwell on the sadness, it is disheartening learning of classmates who died. We remember them as we knew them, young and healthy and lively.

Not everyone wants to be found. Not everyone loved or liked high school, me included. But for me, curiosity won. 
General Douglas McArthur High School, Levittown NY,
Class of '68
50th High School Reunion
 And so I returned to my hometown for my 50th High School Reunion.

The corridors of McArthur H.S.
Echo with the Sounds of the Class of '68 
A hearty group of grads ventured out in a rainstorm to tour our high school. From the outside the building looks the same as it did decades ago, like a three-story factory building, but that cannot be changed. Inside it appears much better than I remember. I recall dull yellow walls, long narrow gray lockers, too many students. Long corridors remain, but halls are brightly lit and not painted the same monotonous dreadful color. The building, classrooms, gym – all seemed in excellent condition. The cafeteria, recently renovated, was almost appealing. Not the same school I attended, and yet it was.

About 300 kids comprise the current senior class. My 1968 graduation class boasted 554 strong. We were boomers, offspring of parents who moved to Long Island’s new suburbs following World War II. Blocks of tract homes housed families. Today neighborhoods are more age-diverse, accommodating empty nesters, retirees, couples, singles as well as families. Fewer students rush through school hallways. Less pushing and shoving and bodies…

The main Reunion event took place Saturday night, hours of schmoozing with folks my age. Some I knew, or at least remembered that at one time I knew them, many I never knew. It was not possible to be acquainted with over 500 individuals as well as lots of other kids in the school. 

A large group of mature (but not yet elderly) people stood around talking and drinking as I entered the Holiday Inn bar. Appearance-wise I fit in perfectly and recognized some of the women. Women dye their hair, wear make-up, indulge in cosmetic surgery, preserving traces of their younger selves. The men, on the other hand, were bald or gray or a combination, many sported a mix of facial hair, and many displayed bulging bellies. I did not recognize any of them. 

Instructions received before the event requested everyone make a name tag with their yearbook photo. We stared at a picture of yesteryear next to the face of today and commented, “You look the same…haven‘t changed much...” and other untruths.

Some still work, many retired. To Florida. There are doctors and lawyers, teachers, business owners, photographers, CPAs, restaurant personnel, financial geeks, entertainers, lots of Grandmas and Grandpas. The class dispersed around the country and overseas, but many stayed closer to home, living in the same community and sometimes the same house they grew up in. 

No famous person emerged from the class. At least two made very, VERY big bucks. 

I needed a crowd to help me remember. When discussing people and events at times I wondered – was I there?Why don’t I remember her/him?Am I sure we all went to the same school?

It is hard to get my head around the fact that we graduated half a century ago.  Memories were rekindled, but others remain buried. I guess that’s what happens after 50+ years…

And I will (probably) maintain contact (at least on Facebook!) with some of my new-found old friends. 
McArthur Class of '68 Reunion photo 
(almost everyone is in this picture!)
Photo by hub

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Not a Lottery Winner and Life Goes On…

Hub purchased a lottery ticket, only the second or third time he participated in lottery madness. I buy a ticket occasionally, when the spirit moves me. I might be wandering around my local lottery-selling store and have a couple of extra bucks on me, or the hype excites and I participate in the craziness, or I go in with family or friends or, in the past, co-workers.

NOT hub and me,
but apparently a lucky
South Carolina individual/couple/work group or ?
 Of course we did not win The Big One. The knowledge does not surprise or shock or in any way change my life. But in a positive way it altered my universe temporarily, deflecting attention from mid-term elections. 

It was fun, at least a tiny bit, to think about what I would do if we, hub and me, won the lottery, or at least a substantial chunk of cash. Hub insists he does not want to win because he wouldn’t know what to do with the money. It would be a burden, he states. I counter that he does not have to worry. I will take care of everything. And maybe spend a few bucks on an item or two or three he might want, although he contends he doesn’t want anything. 

I know buying a ticket is a useless activity, the chances of winning absurdly low, but $2 is cheap entertainment.

Folks believe receiving a large chunk of money, like winning the lottery or getting an unexpected inheritance, will change their life. For the better. But that is not always what happens. Money sometimes not only corrupts, but can screw up your life.

There are responsible winners, those who invest wisely, use the money to help family and favorite charities, do not blow it all in a short period of time.

Couples fight over their largesse and get divorced…make ill-advised investments and end up in debt…spend their way into poverty…squander their fortune on drugs…gamble their winnings away…become ensnared in tax evasion lawsuits…make disastrous personal and/or financial decisions and commit suicide…or get murdered…

My lifestyle will remain the same, whether or not I win the lottery. Hub and I watch our spending, although I admit if necessary we could tighten our money belt. I’ll throw out the Neiman-Marcus catalog should it appear in my mailbox, the luxuries beyond my budget. I will be sensible when buying a car (no sports car or luxury models), continue to choose restaurants within my budget, travel (budget accommodations), and shop sales for clothes and other non-essential necessities. 

So life goes on…

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Autumn Opportunities and More from the Best of Boomer Blogs

The weather in my part of the world changed this week, temperatures dipping from warm 70s to chilly 40s, and foliage is fast morphing from bright colors to muted reds, oranges, and yellows. 

There's a fall nip in the air in many places, foreshadowing Halloween and the Day of the Dead --just around the corner. And that means pumpkins. Have you seen white pumpkins? At A Healing Spirit, Carol Cassara tells us how to carve a white pumpkin in memory of your loved ones.

Fall is a time of endings – and beginnings. This year one activity seems to overwhelm all others - 

Political Campaign fever…
Tom Sightings and his wife attended a public debate between the two candidates for their seat in the House of Representatives. The incumbent, a Republican, is a freshman Congressman. The Democratic challenger is from an old political family, but is himself a newcomer to elective politics. Take a look at Sign of the Times for a report on the state of Congressional politics, at least as it's played out in one swing district in the swing state of Pennsylvania.

Another fever is also temporarily sweeping the land -

Lottery fever… 
Although the odds of winning are incredibly small (1 in 302.6 million), we can dream. We Americans do love to gamble!  Check out Laura Lee's post at Adventures of the New Old Farts on how much we collectively spend on lottery tickets!

The latest news from our consumer journalist…On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a study that shows most burger chains continue to serve beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. Shake Shack and BurgerFi are the only two burger chains that received “A” in a scorecard prepared by six consumer groups. The beef industry is the largest buyer of medically-important antibiotics in animals produced for food. The widespread overuse of antibiotics for meat production is making antibiotics less effective by contributing to the creation and spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

Health issues are on our minds all seasons of the year...
Rebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com interviewed a woman who had a tumor taken out of her heart, a brain bleed and is now dealing with AFib. She had a Watchman implanted inside of her to help prevent the risk of a stroke. Her story is compelling.  You can read about it here.

Meanwhile fall ushers in an upswing in holiday activity. Retail catalogs and charity solicitations have begun swamping my mailbox. The past few years decorating for Halloween has become popular in my neighborhood. Pumpkins, scarecrows and hay bales installed in October come down in November, replaced by turkeys and Pilgrims. Christmas d├ęcor takes over in December.
Enjoy the week and take a few minutes to visit our boomer bloggers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Midterm Madness: Countdown to the Presidential Election

 Installment #7

747 Days (as of 10/17/2018) until the November 3, 2020 
Presidential Election

20 Days until the November 6, 2018 midterm elections 

Is it possible to avoid the hype of this year’s midterm elections?

My current state of residence – New Jersey – is involved in a contentious Senate race. Democrat Menendez is the current Senator. He was Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations until he resigned as a result of federal corruption charges. Not to be deterred by minor stuff like corruption scandals, he is running for re-election. 

New Jersey is not known for unsullied political activities. Its hallowed tradition is one of smoke-filled rooms and political bosses. Menendez’s Republican opponent, Hugins, is making inroads to possibly unseat Menendez. It is a tough choice – a corrupt political hack or a Republican, a former pharmaceutical CEO. I blame the Jersey Democratic machine for placing constituents in this position. I hope Menendez wins only because the Republican majority control of Senate and House needs to be busted. Any other election year I might vote differently.

In our local Congressional race our current rep, a moderate Republican, retired after 22 years in the House. The seat is up for grabs, the district registered 50-50 Democrat/Republican, although polls show the Democrat leading. The Republican candidate Seth Grossman is a strong supporter of Trump and his MAGA agenda, in favor of repealing Obamacare, pro-life, backs Trump’s wall, and has a history of intolerant remarks such as, “diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American”.

The Democrat Jeff Van Drew – previously serving in the New Jersey legislature - is not a great candidate either. He has a 100% rating by the NRA, voted against legalizing same-sex marriage, was the only Democrat to vote against raising the state’s minimum wage…there is more, but you get the idea. 

What kind of selection is the less damaging of two poor choices? 

There is an entire country out there of 49 other states, every one choosing House representatives. 35 Senate seats are in play. 

Gerrymandering and voter suppression rear their ugly heads every election cycle. Gerrymandering influences House races and voter suppression all contests. Negative ads fill the airwaves, more and more daily as Election Day approaches. Unless one disappears (temporarily) into the wilderness or a foreign country, completely tunes out all media - audio, video and written materials, studiously avoids joining or listening to political discussions - it is impossible to escape the media hype. 

And all this is only a prelude to 2020.

No matter what happens November 6th, we are in for a rocky political landscape over the next two years. 

What to do?

I am planning trips. Overseas. On the sea. In the wilderness. More as 2020 nears. Thinking about buying a new TV, but might wait until after November 2020. Politicians look scary enough on the screen now. I don’t need them yakking at me on a larger screen. I may temporarily stop newspaper subscriptions (print and online).

After all, I have to think about my health. Reading, listening to, thinking about the state of our nation results in rising blood pressure, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, nervous reactions. Republicans want to cut Medicare. I can’t afford to get sick… 

My goal is to survive (almost) unscathed until November 4, 2020.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Spam Email in Another Language

Most of us, if not everyone who ever had or has an email account, received spam. I have been the lucky recipient of emails informing me I am the beneficiary of a huge sum of money. All I have to do to claim my inheritance is follow the email’s instructions, which usually involves sending money (for ‘processing’, for example) to the writer. Other emails informed me someone is in trouble and needs my help. Send money and all will be well. Or I won a lottery, rather difficult to do without buying a lottery ticket. Grammar and spelling often is poor, testifying to either the individual’s foreign linguistic heritage or the writer’s poor education. Or both. 

I never, until this week, received an email in a foreign language. Opening my inbox, I was intrigued by an email written in Hebrew. But I could not read the note. Normally I ignore this sort of correspondence and delete without reading. 

But I didn’t delete it.

Last year I traveled to Israel. I visited the country once before, when I was 17, and stayed with relatives. When returning last year, I wanted to connect with cousins and began an online search, an unsuccessful quest. When I saw the Hebrew email, I realized it was a longshot, but might be a follow-up to my search. So, I opened it.

But could not read it. What to do?

I Googled Hebrew translator and a screen appeared in two parts. One empty box was titled English, the other Hebrew. I pasted the email into the Hebrew section and immediately the translation – or a translation – I have no idea whether it is correct – appeared.

Unfortunately, I am no closer to locating my relatives, unless one of them is a scam artist. Which I doubt (not in my family!).

The Google translation:

I am Adv. Wayne Walker, I offer you this in connection with the death of Mr. Emil, that you carry the same surname, he was my client before his death, and left a certain amount of money, $ 7.5 million in the bank. , I have decided to contact you, please return to me for further clarification and payment processes

For more information, please contact me by e-mail address: (barris.waynewalker002@gmail.com)

I did not answer the email. I will pass on the $7.5 million that might be mine. Maybe one of the scores of other people who received the email responded. I wish them luck. If anyone reading this blog post wishes to reply, be my guest. And if you receive the funds, I would appreciate a small commission (I’m not greedy).
I am NOT in the money!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Celebrating Columbus Day, in a way…

Columbus Day, October 12, entailed a minor celebration when I was a kid. Schools closed, always reason to cheer! I remember indulging in a feast, served on holiday-themed paper plates, at my girlfriend’s house. We were patriotic, we were happy, we did not have school. A delightful day.

Fast forward and the innocence of the 1950s is replaced by the cynicism, political correctness, and historical realism of today. Columbus Day joined a number of other holidays and became part of the American three-day weekend tradition, observed the second Monday in October. The day is now also designated Indigenous Peoples' Day. 

Poor Chris. Everyone has bad things to say about him. And he isn’t here to defend himself.

 When Chris set out with his three ships in 1492, he was searching for a western passage to the riches of Asia, unaware of the massive impediment preventing him from doing so – namely North and South America. He stumbled on the New World. 

Chris was not the first European to set foot in the Americas. Centuries earlier the Vikings established settlements in Greenland and Newfoundland, but the villages and the settlers disappeared, rediscovered centuries later. Meanwhile any knowledge of these lands was lost. 

Chris made four voyages to the New World and never found the riches he so desperately sought. He did, however, govern territories in a harsh, heavy fashion. He enslaved the natives, beginning a nasty practice that prevailed for centuries, ramifications of which we still face today.

Another devastating legacy Europeans introduced into the New World was disease. Columbus’ men carried smallpox, flu and other viruses, decimating the Indian population on Caribbean islands. The Spanish spread smallpox to the Aztecs of Mexico, and anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 Aztecs died.

It is estimated as many as 18 million natives lived in North America when Europeans began to explore the land. They transmitted a host of diseases, including bubonic plague, chicken pox, cholera, diphtheria, measles, scarlet fever, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. With no immunities natives suffered huge losses, as high as 80-90 percent of a population. The view that when the Europeans began exploring, trading and settling the Americas, the lands were vast empty places was initially inaccurate. The native peoples, however, perished as disease spread throughout the hemisphere.

Columbus pursued a vision he never realized, in the process setting in motion scourges that affected every part of the New World. But Chris was a product of his times, with ideas of ‘the other’ very different from the views of most of us today. His legacy is a mixed one that continues to evolve.