You Hate Us, We Get That.

We Baby Boomers have become one of society’s favorite piñatas, that much is obvious but why? Is it because we’ve always acted like our music was the best music? Is it because many of us still have all those heavy dark furniture ‘sets’ from the 70s and the kids are jealous haha?

Really I think it’s because we rode such a long wave of prosperity when we were young. We acted like it was just normal when, as soon as our school days were behind us, lots of us said say sayonara to the folks and set ourselves up in funky little walk-ups with candles stuck in empty rosé bottles and wooden-bead curtains to separate our sitting area from the so-called kitchen. In the apartment my cousin and I sublet the year I was 20 the fridge we inherited with the lease was found to have, in the 4-inch thick ice cave of its freezer, many jagged shards of a broken whiskey bottle and a lone human hair. Even so, it was all ours and what joy it was to do your underage drinking in a place where nobody ever yelled you to cut out the foolishness and go do your homework. Those were the days all right.

So if you guys coming along behind us envy that far more affordable life we had, well, I get that. I get why you’re sore, but I have to ask myself: Why do you have to go after our CLOTHES? A person can’t turn around these days without seeing list after list of Fashion Don’ts for us Ike-and-overs. (And, of course 90% of these lists are directed toward us women, since a man in this age group can go out looking like one of the Walking Dead and nobody thinks a thing about it.

It stings, kind of, in no small part because half the things on the list are things most of us ladies are still wearing.

I speak of sleeveless or cap-sleeved shirts. These we’re not supposed to wear because people will recoil in horror and be turned to stone by the sight of our upper arms.

Also, a pair of shoes with a matching bag is now a major no-no. But didn’t we used to pay people to have the bag and shoes dyed to match the dress?

And how about the fact that we’re told never, ever to wear a fleece outside the house? Instead, the list makers say, we should wrap ourselves in “cool, slouchy cardigans,” presumably over large loose ‘boyfriend shirts’ and never mind that this get-up is exactly what I wore in 8th grade while pacing the floor and trying to memorize The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained for Mrs. Meehan in Fourth Period.

To top it off there’s this most galling prohibition that makes it to every bossy list I have seen this season: We women over 55 aren’t supposed to ever, no matter what, wear “neutral” pantyhose, which I first thought meant the really pale kind that make your two legs like a pair of uncooked sausages, because surely they can’t mean those nicely tinted ‘Suntan’-hued L’Eggs that I have favored for the past 40 years?

Alas, they can and they do. Instead of wearing any type of translucent pantyhose we’re meant instead to pull on black or solid colored TIGHTS. Tights, like a babies wear over their diapers! Tights, like court jesters wear under their bloomers and inside their curly-toed shoes!  So now – what? – am I expected now to wear tights with a cocktail dress?

Oh no, they say, heavens no, certainly not. In these cases we are invited instead to – get this – go barelegged, which to me is truly insane since what if it’s freezing out? Or what if we have long walks or waits at a bus stop in our daily working life? And how, in the name of all that is holy, does it make sense for us ‘elders,’ who are asked to hide sight of our upper arms to then inflict on the world the veiny fireworks going off ON OUR LEGS?

I’m on to these youngsters though. I know they’re trying to make us all crazy so they can lock us up, or put us by our millions out on a giant ice floe off the coast of Antarctica. I know they’re just dying to take a big old bat to the piñata that is us.

Well, let ’em, I say. For revenge, we’ll die and leave them all our dark old room sets with the faux-carved wood – like this one I just found on the internet – and see how they like that haha!

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Dodging the Falling Anvil

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Many Floridians feel that they dodged that old falling anvil in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and I know the sense of relief of my own family members in that area is immense.  Anyone lucky enough not to be flattened by the falling anvil,

or the falling safe,

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or the falling piano…

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…is bound to feel relief, though sometimes there is guilt too, or at least a heightened compassion for the folks who were not so lucky.

I’m thinking of the people of Cuba, of St. Martin/St. Maarten and Barbuda and Antigua. I’m thinking of the people of St. Thomas and St. John – any of these places where things are very bad indeed right now, with no power and scant food and structures that look as though a gaggle of elementary school kids just walked away from a giant game of Pick-up-Sticks. The New York Times described things most vividly in their lead story yesterday: “The wind whipped the tops of palm trees around like pompoms in the hands of a cheerleader,” it said in part. “The flooding in Key Largo had small boats bobbing in the streets next to furniture and refrigerators like rubber toys in a bathtub. Shingles were kidnapped from roofs; swimming pools dissolved into the ocean….”

Here’s a picture I took a couple of winters ago when, due to promised financial inducements, we got talked into staying at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas, a hotel the likes of which I have not been a guest at before or since. (I posted about it back then if you’d care to take the detour.) Until last week, this was their pool. That’s the ocean in the background of course, but the whole foreground is pool. I had never seen a swimming pool this lovely where, on the ocean side, the water brimmed up clear to the rim, as on a spillway, and did in fact trickle gently over.

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I don’t know what this pool looks like now. I only know the hotel’s website advises the world that the hotel is closed until further notice.

I can only think that the vast cleanup effort to get back to where folks were before the storm must be keeping them in that unhealthy-over-time state where the stress hormone cortisol just keeps pumping and pumping.

I felt stress myself this past summer, though in a very minor key by comparison. Back in the first part of the summer while we were on a ship in Russia for two weeks, our hot water heater died, peed all over the cellar floor and left us, on our return, with a waist-high pile of travel clothes in such a state of UNcleanliness that it was practically steaming, like grass clippings in a compost pile. Lucky for us in the modern world of detergents, you can also wash in cold water.

Then, some weeks later, we came home one day to find that the handle-slash-control panel of our dishwasher broken. Just broken and hanging off, so that for 15 days we were washing glasses, china and cutlery by hand until the repair guys could get the part shipped here from Louisville and they could come install it. That finally happened yesterday.

The point is, we lived. We were fine.

The real falling anvil that we dodged, we dodged at the end of August when, in their regularly scheduled walkabout, our local utility discovered a major leak in the gas going into our house.

As it happened, we were away that day too, but a close, near-family member had offered to look after things for us.  When he walked up our street from the train station after work, he was greeted by the sight of a big white truck, a team of workers busily moving about our property and a trench two feet deep and three feet wide running in a wide gash from the far side of our street, over our lawn and clear over to the house’s foundation.

“Are you the homeowner?” they asked our kind caretaking friend.

“No, but I can call them.”

He did that and ten seconds later I was on the phone with the job’s boss.

“The pipe from the street is very, very old and very narrow!” he said with what seemed like genuine surprise.  It’s leaking,” he said, “and we need to stay right here and fix it. Will that be all right?

“More than all right!” I yelped, “and thank you SO much! I’ve been smelling gas outside my house since 2008! I called then and when you guys came you said it was just minor.”

“It probably was back then, but it isn’t minor now,” he said. “Can we get inside and fix it? Will somebody be here?”

Our friend agreed to stay, though he was just home from work and mighty hungry. He stayed until they were done some three hours later, a little bit after 8pm.

So our house did not blow up which is what happens with a gas leak and we felt relief. My Florida-based sister and her husband did not see their home on the bayou destroyed, either by the winds or by that predicted  storm surge. Their kids’ home was fine too, as they learned yesterday from the place where they sheltered after their mandatory evacuation last week. Miraculously, they none of them even lost power and maybe all that was because of prudent building, and strict codes, and careful planning.

But prudent foresight will only take you so far in this world. At the height of Irma’s fury on Sunday, when the winds were so strong they sucked the water right out of the Tampa Bay, that city’s mayor Bob Buckhorn said it best:  “Everybody’s got a plan ’til they get punched in the face.” He was quoting Mike Tyson.

Look more closely now at the sign in that cartoon of the falling safe here at the top. It does  “Warning,” yes, but it also says “This is a Safe Area.” As IF there could be such place on this old earth!

10 Tips at the School Year’s Start

schoolroomI guess we’re ALL back to school now, so how about this: How about we pretend I’m the teacher seated on one of those pint-size elementary school chairs and you guys are on the floor in front of me. Pretend we’re sitting in a sunny classroom where dust motes from the chalk lazily circle. Pretend everyone’s tummy is nicely full and we’re thus all feeling peaceful enough to take in some words of advice.

In that hope, I offer the following:

One, sit up front, whether your classroom is a literal or a figurative one, and let yourself be known, by both your teachers and your fellow students.

Two, if the teacher writes something on the board and you’re at an age where note-taking is the norm, then copy when s/he has said in your own notebook, even if it’s just a few word. If your teachers are going to the trouble of setting down something large and neat enough to be read from 30 feet away, then you should go to a little trouble too.

Three, make sure you actually LOOK AT this notebook after class. Even just glancing at what your teachers said and what you heard and copied down will help you begin knitting things together in your mind. I know someone who, for the Con-Law class she took in college, copied out all 27 Amendments to the Constitution and taped them at eye level around her dorm room, then read them twice a day as she brushed and brushed her waist-length hair. Does that sound old-fashioned? Maybe, but who can sniff at the reward of  a Magna Cum Laude served up with a side of Phi Beta Kappa? I can tell you the effort felt worth it to her!

Four, don’t wait ‘til the last minute to write that term paper, composition or Compare-and-Contrast paragraph. Doing so will cause you to become unduly fond of what you have finally managed to get down on paper, just because it IS down on paper, and falling in love with your first draft is like growing fond of your shortcomings. If we are very lucky in life, the people who love us will grow fond even of our shortcomings over time, but that’s for them to do, not us.  Waiting until the last minute will also cause you to panic and freeze as the deadline approaches, leading you to decide not to complete the assignment at all and take the F.

Five, never give up and take F. Making the effort in life counts way more than you can imagine at this stage of things.

Six, stay strong, as the saying goes. Remember who you are. Be mindful of the dignity of your family and of their struggles, and the dreams that have been dreamed for you.

Seven, about ganging up on others, even “in fun”: Do not participate in such behaviors, ever.

Eight, Don’t engage in gossip, or listen to gossip. Ugly speculation about others harms everyone. It withers the soul.

Nine, since sexual gossip is even worse, there is corollary: Do not speculate about what other people may or may have done or be doing in the sexual realm. If there was ever a topic that was none of your business this is it.

And finally, Ten, never laugh when someone asks a question.  We’re here to ask questions, the little questions and especially the big ones. So ask away and think hard with your well-rested post-summer minds. Then come back and teach the rest of us what you’ve learned.