Saturday, May 25, 2019

Old Coots Give Advice

Definition of coot from the Cambridge dictionary:
1.   A small, dark bird that lives near rivers and lakes.
2.   An old man who has an unusual or slightly crazy way of behaving.

I am an old coot. Officially. Not the small, dark bird kind of coot, but the “unusual or slightly crazy” variety. Although strictly speaking a male phenomenon, nowadays a broadened definition includes old people of the feminine gender.

I was recruited for my new part-time volunteer job because I am an old coot. No one calls me that—at least to my face—but I wouldn’t be surprised if unknown persons refer to me as, “you know that old lady, the old coot, who lives in that house with the overgrown bushes...”

Or used to. I trimmed the bushes this week. 

Anyway...our town’s farmers market opened for the season Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The old coot stand is manned (and womanned) by a group of seniors. We sit under a canopy providing much-needed relief from the sun. A sign hangs above that reads, “Old Coots & Company Giving Advice.” 

I arrived early for my 9:00 a.m. shift, intent on making a good first impression, and settled into a metal chair. I observed people walk by accompanied by babies in strollers, older kids tagging along behind, and dogs. Folks wandered from one stand to the next, talking with vendors, buying fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and plants, local honey, breads, pies and muffins, and pasta, sometimes munching fresh-made crepes, breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

My co-workers wandered in and we proceeded to proactively invite folks to ask questions. 

Want advice? Need advice? It’s free and worth the price!

All sorts of questions came our way:

·     How do you cook kale?
·     Where is the nearest bathroom?
·     I’m having my first baby. Advice?
·     My three kids live in three different states. Where should I move?
·     A current town controversy is the distribution of new trashcans, much larger than the old ones. Folks asked about the cans – Do you like them? Do we have to use them? Why the f*** did they change them?
·     Construction crews are working on my street. How early can they start?
·     What are market hours?
·     Which stand sells coffee?
·     A band played music in one corner. Folks complained there was no shaded place to sit and listen.
·     Where can we buy beach badges?
·     How old do you have to be to become an old coot?

My hour and a half shift passed quickly. Replacements drifted in and I surrendered my seat. It was my turn to stroll around market and make my purchases. I filled bags with local products--lettuce, spring onions, tomatoes, asparagus and more, and headed home.

Until my next assignment as an old coot giving advice.

Friday, May 17, 2019

My Here and After

34,000 feet above the East coast of the United States, flying due south (and west), I am crunched into a Spirit Airlines seat. My turf for 2½ hours. And I forgot to pack a book. To make the situation somewhat worse the flight is a bumpy one. Passengers are warned to tighten their seat belts. My mind wanders... 

Hub and I cannot sustain our jet-setting lifestyle (if you call flying a low-budget airline to the same place all the time jet-setting) indefinitely. What happens when our bodies begin to reject us? (Cannot help thinking diSPIRITedly as the plane bounces and jolts.) We cannot continue to fly squashed into a narrow Spirit seat forever. Our bodies are beginning to reject the confinement. We slowly unravel as the plane shuts down at its final destination, our stiff joints protesting every movement.

When hub and I forego frequent air travel, Spirit Air will survive without our presence and our cash (barely). But we will want to continue seeing the family (and hopefully they will want to see us, but we won’t ask). Do we relocate and live near the kids? One family resides in Florida, the other in Vermont. Both interesting alternatives at different times of the year.

There is an intriguing option. I have read about a phenomenon called tiny houses or the small-house movement, loosely defined as homes with no more than 400 square feet of living space. I never needed or wanted a large house. Smallness appeals. 

The dilemma: Where to put a tiny house? Would our tiny house replace the Florida family's backyard pool? Could it be erected on stilts above the water? Or float in the pool like a houseboat? 

Or would our tiny house replace the Vermont family's ice skating rink and sandbox?

Two families to fight over hub and me.

The loser gets us. 

Or...some tiny houses can be equipped with wheels. We can secure the house in Vermont in the summer, Florida during the winter, and live the snowbird lifestyle. At a bargain price.  

Tiny houses cost anywhere from $10,000 to $180,000. And of course they come with associated costs. But one could be cheaper—and probably more fun—than conventional living arrangements. (What about an RV, you might be thinking. Not a viable long-term solution for us. Too big for hub and me to drive, too massive to maneuver into either family’s backyard or fit in one of their yards, and more expensive than a tiny house). 

The plane is about to land. Safely. Tiny house talk can wait for a time far into the future.

Meanwhile we forge ahead and fly budget airlines. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

An Awesome Responsibility

I sat still, rigid actually, not moving. Barely breathing. Perched on my thighs, my two hands caressing the sides, an open box with cargo weighing 20-plus pounds settled. 

The pressure proved almost unbearable.

What if I sneezed? Coughed? Spit while talking? Spit while not talking? Oozed saliva in a fit of panic...the possibilities seemed endless.

Not a speck of foreign matter must settle on the object my hands lovingly embraced.

What if any part of my body itched and the urge to scratch became relentless and intolerable? How could I release a hand to handle the problem? Would the box move, the precious cargo tilt, touch the side of the box and an imperfection appear on the perfect, flawless object secured between the sweaty palms of my hands? (After all I was in Florida, an ancient word meaning fiercely hot and unbearably humid much of the year.) 

The pressure. An awesome responsibility.

The task undertaken: transporting a two-tiered, rectangular black-and-white cake from bakery to its final destination. A half-hour journey.
I sat upright in the passenger seat, the hefty yet elegant delicacy centered on a flat silver base inside the open box. The cake rose high above the sides of the box, each tier composed of two cakes with filling between, coated with a fondant icing. The cake appeared level with the top of the dashboard, the top decorative ribbons curled in the center of the top tier, the cake looking like two large gifts for the birthday girl. 

I kept one eye on the movable, unanchored cake, which I hoped remained immobile, and one eye on the road. No potholes please, no abrupt stops, no precarious turns, simply a slow smooth ride.

The air conditioning blasted per instructions from the pastry chef who placed the object on my lap, breathed a sigh of relief the cake was off his hands and no longer his responsibility and bounded away. It was important to keep the pastry cool he noted before departing, otherwise the beautiful concoction might begin to melt. The air blew my hair around. It wasn’t a bother, but another worry. What if one of my brownish-gray wayward locks escaped and landed atop the spotless white top tier or chocolate bottom layer? An undesirable disaster. 

The minutes ticked away. The car edged closer to our final destination, glided up to the front door and stopped. The car door opened and a set of hands grasped the cake—gasping at the weight—and walked away.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief, the awesome pressure off. 

A few hours later I tasted the source of my short-lived stress. 

It was worth it.
Happy 70 Paula!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

An Island On My Mind

I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, "There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it."
- Robert De Niro

The history major in me surfaces at times. Names, dates, events conjure memories of hours passed steeped in stories of kings, queens, princes and their murderous end, medieval-era wars, influential artists and scientists, explorers and business titans. Most of the information gathered for essays and exams was soon forgotten, but some of the trivia facts linger.

Like the date May 6, 1626.

Picture this:
A group of Indians, dressed for the warm spring weather in light-weight leather and furs, sit in a semi-circle under a large tree which serves as a meeting place for important tribal assemblies. Across from the chief sit three or four Dutchmen dressed in breeches and long-sleeved shirts and coats, appropriate for the cooler Northern European weather from whence they came, but too warm for the temperate weather prevailing in the mid-Atlantic area of the New World. Indians had been harassing the colonists recently settled on the southern tip of the island. The Dutch West India Company was eager to buy the land, end the troubles and secure the land. The Indians roamed the island and beyond, immense territories available for hunting, fishing, planting vegetables, taking hikes with the kids...So what did the loss of a few acres of forestland matter? 

The Indians sold the land to the settlers; actually, the Dutch West India Company. A Company internal memo at the time summarizes the transaction:

Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23rdof September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island of Manhattes from the savages for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size (about 22,000 acres).

Which Indian tribe sold Manhattan? The identity of the tribe remains clouded in history, but probably an Algonquin group. One story says the Indians who sold the land didn’t own it--a reason they accepted the budget price. Or maybe the Indians believed they were renting the land, or offering only trading and fishing one knows for sure.

Who knew what that forested island would morph into centuries later?
I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. 
-                - John Lennon

I learned in school the price of the trade was equivalent to $24, but recently scholars dispute that and came up with a cost of $951.08 (no idea how they can be so precise). I was also taught Peter Minuet traded the Indians beads for the land, but there is no written account verifying that. Again, scholars question the accuracy of the tale, suggesting the Dutch probably traded food, coins, or other goods. The purchase of Staten Island in 1670 involved a trade of clothing, food, cooking utensils, muskets, and other items. 

What is beyond question is that Europeans settled Manhattan and surrounding areas, eventually creating one of the most populous cities on earth--an immigrant gateway, financial and commercial center, tourist destination, culinary and cultural hotbed.

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. 
-               -  Walt Whitman
Billy Joel (and Tony Bennett) in a New York State of Mind

I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance. 
– Nora Ephron, Heartburn

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Coterie of Candidates--Countdown to the Presidential Election

Installment #7 

555 Days (as of April 27, 2019) to the Presidential Election
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

I know, everyone has probably overdosed on 2020 political chatter and the election is over a year away. Every other day someone announces their candidacy for President. 

Will we survive without losing our minds? Can we endure months of talking heads blasting away with important stories on climate change and health care and inane ones like kids at an Easter egg hunt? 

Can we remember all the Democratic candidates? Do we care? Probably not, unless we are a registered Democrat and live in Iowa, the site of the first caucus--in case anyone is interested--on February 3, 2020. Only NINE—9—months away.

The American public has choices. Either embrace the madness and go with it, or take the next plane, train, or boat out of the country and stay away until November 4, 2020. Escaping has its merits—it’s tempting to think about spending months in a  budget-priced bungalow on a beach in Thailand or a mountain in Ecuador--but I will stick around.  

Two Republicans are running: the current President and one challenger, William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts. Both men are geezers. Weld is 73 and DT is 72. No fresh faces here.

As of April 26, 20 Democrats have announced their candidacy for the exalted position of President of the United States. They range from young, almost-still-kids to oldsters. Bernie Sanders is the oldest at 77; Pete Buttiglieg, 37, the youngest. Most are in their 50s and 60s. Some are well-known (Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren), others not so much (how many people heard of: Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam, John Delaney). 

Unannounced Democratic and Independent possibilities include Stacey Abrams, Bill de Blasio, Howard Schultz...and other currently obscure wannabes who may declare their intentions in the next few months.

I surmise many candidates are not so much after the top of the ticket as the second spot, or a cabinet position, or an overseas post in a country on their bucket list, or at least a coveted slot on The View, Stephen Colbert, even Fox News. The goal? To plug their soon-to-be-released memoir. Or land a cushy job (translation: better paying than their current one).

Campaigns cost money. Lots of money. My email box is inundated daily with pleas from candidates, political organizations and lobbying groups seeking donations. I don't want them. Unsubscribing rarely works. Banishing solicitations to junk mail leaves them in limbo until deleted. Other emails detail earth-shattering developments that will change my life forever and for the worse--unless I sign a petition supporting some candidate or lobbying group. Even better, ALSO send a donation.

Hub and I recently bought a new TV and now have access to Netflix and Amazon prime. We plan on spending lots of time in the coming months immersed in movies and binge-watching series, all with one thing in common—they are totally, completely nonpolitical. So, no VICE, about VP Cheney, for instance. Cheaper than escaping to foreign shores, and almost as much fun.

And the absurdity rolls on...and on...and on...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Boomers on Travel, Food and Finance

I returned from a week in the Boston area, watching my son and his friends participate in the Boston Marathon, celebrating the holiday, and visiting Martha’s Vineyard, a resort just waking up from a long, sleepy winter. The island is famous for many reasons, one of which is the location for the 1975 movie Jaws. Arriving home tired, it was too early to go to bed (still light outside!). Hub and I ended our week’s journey watching that classic movie, scrutinizing scenes for places recently seen. 

Travel is a favorite boomer activity. I have not been the only boomer on the road recently.

Egypt captured Carol Cassara's attention from the moment she landed in Cairo last month. The trip held many revelations, including some of the practical things guide books don't tell you. She reveals some of them in What You Need to Know Before You Go To Egypt.

Rebecca Olkowski with wrote a post for about the benefits of taking walking tours. On her own blog she talks about a healthy snack you can stick in your purse or pocket in case your blood sugar drops. That way if you go too long without eating you can avoid fainting and falling as Rebecca did several years ago. 
There is no better way to learn about a place, a topic—anything—than from those with firsthand knowledge. Tom at Sightings Over Sixty suddenly realized that we have a lot of inside information about retirement from people who have actually lived the experience. So turn a page over to Inside Stories to find some interesting insights and stories from our fellow bloggers. You might just be inspired!

And finally this week our consumer journalist offers tips on managing financial resources.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how to improve your finances during April’s Financial Literacy Month. Although some of them are familiar – make a budget and plan for savings – you’re likely to learn something new such as check the interest rates on your credit cards and make sure you’re getting the correct advice on how to manage your federal student loan.

Have a great week, take a few minutes to visit the boomers and say hello! We love hearing from our readers.

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.