Monday, October 19, 2020

It's time for a break

Election Day is drawing near and things are getting really crazy. It seems like every commercial break, on every channel, has some tired incumbent or hopeful newcomer spewing the same worn claims and tawdry half-truths. I don’t know about you, but that’s when I reach for the mute button. Besides, I made up my mind weeks ago. We dropped off our ballots the morning after we received them.

Truth is, after months of mind-numbing campaign videos I was ready for a change……something more sane, lighter, even heartwarming. If you are in that same boat I may have something special for you. 

No matter what your political taste……Republican or Democrat……Conservative or Liberal……and especially if your are a member of our October/November generation……I invite to join me for a well-deserved break from the tedious trials of election season silliness.

Disclaimer…..Odds are some of you are already acquainted with today’s good news. If so, feel free to return again to those fun-filled times. You already know you will enjoy your visit as much as you did the first time.

What is the “good news” that could possibly brighten the dreary prospect of pandemic politics? First of all, what I recommend is humorous……clean, age-appropriate humor. Though our younger, middle-age readers will find hints of familiarity in the offerings suggested here, I know for sure our October and November visitors will appreciate the undeniable reality of late-life situations they have probably faced themselves.

So where will we turn for this taste of late-life reality, served up with a dose of humor? Let me first introduce you to Jeanne Robertson. As I mentioned earlier you may be familiar with Jeanne and her take of late-life. She has been around for a while, entertaining mature audiences for decades. How many years? I read that she was Miss North Carolina in 1963……that was a while ago.

Ms. Robertson seems to be a busy lady, scheduled for speaking engagements  all over the country. She has even appeared on Grand Ole Oprey, which I consider an important endorsement.

Best of all, you don’t need a lengthy introduction from me. Simply call up YouTube,com on your phone or computer, enter “Jeanne Roberson” in the 

search box at the top of the page, and choose from the dozens of intriguing videos that appear.

What sort of videos, you ask? How about these examples……every one of them served up with a generous helping of laughs.

*** Don’t bungee jump naked.

*** Don’t get Frisky in a tent.

*** Don’t ask the plastic surgeon.

*** Be careful here you sit.

*** The internment of Cousin Rudolph.

*** Don’t send a man to the grocery store.

*** Don’t ask a man to clean the carpet.

*** Don’t flash the bellman.

*** Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.

*** Don’t mess with Broom People.

*** Don’t underestimate a five-year old.

*** And many more.

Or perhaps you are dealing with October/November questions that have you stumped. Where might you turn for helpful advice and answers? How about an aging Ann Landers or Dear Abby, a warm-hearted soul who dispenses late-life advice……sprinkled with hard-learned knowing and unfailing humor?

That description certainly fits Mary Maxwell. Her compact Laughing With Mary videos have attracted tens of millions of YouTube viewers, addressing the challenges we face at this stage of life, answering submitted “senior” questions you may recognize with common-sense replies, laced with unfailing and insightful humor.

What sort of questions? How about……….

*** The kids think I’m crazy for wanting a facelift.

*** Is Dad having a mid-life crisis?

*** Secrets to a happy marriage.

*** Attending a past love’s funeral.

*** How to tell the kids I’ve fallen in love again?

*** We’re in our 70’s and need jobs again.

*** My sister won’t help take care of Mom.

*** A pray about getting old.

*** Seniors at the gym.

*** And dozens more.

I am guessing that for most of us a good laugh, a touch of reality-based humor will take some of the sting out of today’s chaos…..especially when the bearer of that good humor is someone who deals with the same late-life situations you and I experience.

If you are in need of a well-deserved laugh break here’s hoping I have tempted you to make your own YouTube excursion into the wholesome and oh-so-funny offerings of Jeanne Robertson and Mary Maxwell. 

Until next time…..take care.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Framing The Future


Where did we go wrong……this October/November generation of ours……we children of the 30’ and 40’s? As I look back on the times when we were one of the “generations in charge” it seems like I must have missed a few things along the way. Some of what was happening must have gone right over my head. Either that or I simply wasn’t paying attention.

In my more lucid moments I remember our generation as the product of post-WWII unity. And why not? In those trying war years our nation had come together, if only superficially, to fight a common enemy and defeat that era’s Anti-Christ.

This generation of ours was shaped and tempered by that wartime experience, when everyone, at every age, was expected to do their part in the “war effort.” Grade schoolers, such as we were at the time, were expected to save tin foil and metal cans, add our few coins to War Bond collections, and willingly forgo bubble gum and candy for “the duration.” Without knowing exactly what it meant we were being groomed to accept and support a “united” national effort.

At the same time, in our youthful and naive eyes, that unity was producing a powerful affirmation……a sense that “We can do anything.”

But now……seventy years later……it feels like that affirmation has faded for too many of our people. Something as simple as civil discourse is too often out of reach. At times it seems that we are inhabiting an altogether different world … that I scarcely recognize. 

In many ways that new reality is fueled by the internet, with its often unsocial social media, and twenty-four hour cable news, always hungry for eye-catching content. Those technological “improvements” have changed the way we gather the information we use to make decisions.

Perhaps you have noticed that in the process we have become a drastically divided country. I realize that to some degree it has always been that way. But when was it ever this bad……when even our divisions are divided? Right and Left we are divided. Conservation and Liberal we are divided. White and Black we are divided. ’Haves’ and ‘Have-nots’ we are divided. 

How could a nation as united as I once believed we were become so disjointed? Was the perceived unity I remember a mirage? More to the point, is there any way out of the quicksand quagmire we find ourselves in today? 

Fact is, we can offer a serious problem for most any taste. Just take a moment to consider the signs of the time……the more obvious ways our nation’s dysfunction has made itself known. 

One of the most intractable of those divisions is the widening gulf between our country’s ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-nots.’ Is there anything in sight that might reverse that trend? I am one of those who believe that until the ‘Have-nots,’ who make up the vast majority of our nation’s population, are provided a more meaningful place at the table their increasingly vocal complaints will stand in the way of a lasting reconciliation.

On the other hand, if a ‘Have vs Have-not’ debate fails to gain your attention you might consider Climate Change as major-league point of social division. 

I have never put much faith in prophecies, the ones claiming to foretell the future. But it seems that any seer worth his or her salt could have predicted that 2020 would be an apocalyptic disaster for mankind………at least the American branch of the species. Given that magic gift of foresight why couldn’t an adept fortune teller have gazed into his or her crystal ball to warn us of a Tropical Storm season on steroids, or how the dry and windy western half of our country was about to spawn such disastrous fires and destruction.

For those of us who cannot foretell the future the question is……how did we get to this distressing place? Have we failed to appreciate the fragile balance that allows our world’s eco-system to operate in a “human friendly” manner ………or have we consciously allowed the ‘gods of profit’ to drive their destructive, “unfriendly” agenda? In either case, why have we allowed this global destruction to happen?

In our little corner of the world 2020 will be remembered as the year the Oregon Cascades, and especially the Santiam River Canyon, turned to fire. Roma and I are rightfully thankful that our discomfort was limited to a darkened, orange-tinted mid-day overcast and days of low-hanging, ash-laden smoke. 

Still, it is hard to find comfort in that when a mere twenty minutes from our front door dozens of unfortunate folks, including a few we know personally, have lost literally everything except the clothes on their back and the vehicle they used to escape the approaching inferno. It is hard not to feel a tinge of guilt about our unmerited good fortune.

Or perhaps your complaint de jour is the plague of ‘social, racially-fueled unrest’ that has gripped our nation. Without pointing fingers or placing blame I fear that sad reality is destined to impact American society in ways we may scarcely comprehend. No matter how I approach our sad dilemma I keep returning to one unrelenting question. What about the world our grandchildren will inherit?

More to the point, how will the gradual demise of the country’s white majority……the demographic condition that some assume was God’s intended plan……impact that future?  It seems that trend, so threatening to so many, is unlikely to be reversed. And if it is not, will ‘social unrest’ remain a permanent feature of American life?

Yet, be it economic disparity, mankind’s impact on global climate, or social and racial unrest the epic problems we face have at least a couple elements in common. Each of them is deeply ingrained in American culture. There will be no "On/Off" switches, no quick fixes. Beyond that, at least for the immediate future, each of those obstacles will be impacted in its own way by the weighty presence of Covid-19.

With that in mind it seems to me that until our nation…..its leaders, its politicians, and its people…….is able to come together, and more importantly “work together,” the answers we seek will remain out of reach. Truth to tell, that “coming together,” which we have managed to accomplish in times past, will not happen all by itself. It will require a special sort of leadership. 

The status quo, circa 2020, cries out for that leadership……the sort that can help stop the bleeding, acknowledge our failings, and turn us toward the slow and tedious process of reconciliation.

From the beginning Obama struck me as one who could be that leader. Sadly, I fear that he was simply too black for many of our people to accept in that role.


On the other hand, as a “unifier” Trump will never get out of the gate. Actually, it is a role he has no interest in playing. “Bringing people together,” seeking a middle ground, is far down his list of priorities, a list that appears to be headed by “Winning at any cost.” Instead, he revels in Napoleonic posses, wanting us to believe the epic grandeur he sees in his own mind.

At this moment in history I happen to believe that Biden understands and believes in the “coming together” we need so badly. But I do wonder if he can muster the dynamic charisma it will take to bring today’s young voters into the fold. 

So many of those youngsters have been raised on “Not winning is the same as losing.” The notion of ‘compromise,’ instead of ‘domination' might be a hard sale with many of them……at least until they, like the rest of us……have spent more time paying the high price of everyone doing their own thing.

To summarize……Economic inequity……climate change……social and racial unrest……Covid-19

Together they will play key roles in framing the coming decade and beyond. In the hands of leaders we have yet to choose these important elements will help shape the outcomes we have yet to create. Here’s hoping we choose wisely.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Reality Denied

2020…..It’s been quite a year, one we won’t soon forget. Among other things, no year in the last one hundred has brought us a pandemic as dangerous as the one we are facing at this moment. Among other things this will go down in history as the year of Covid-19.

By mid-March we knew it was bad, and getting worse. Truth to tell the devil was in what we did not know.

Having lived with that reality for six months, seeing the ways it has impacted our lives, we are just now learning that in the midst of all that death and dying our President has realized from the start how serious that invisible enemy would be.

So what did he do with that terrible understanding? Well, in the beginning he assured us that any talk of real danger was a “hoax,” since this new “bug” was no more lethal than the seasonal flu. 

The way he tells it, to alert our unsuspecting population to the truth of the matter would have probably upset them, creating anxiety, perhaps even panic. Rather than trigger that awful possibility he concluded it would be better of “downplay” the threat…… label it “fake news”……and soften the blow. AND WITH THAT PEOPLE BEGAN TO DIE.

But what about the need to protect our health-care providers with the tools and equipment they would need for the coming battle? Masks, protective gear, and ventilators would be necessary tools in their arsenal. But cranking up production of those items would probably fuel the dreaded possibility of anxiety and panic? Best not to do that. So pandemic preparation was set aside for the sake of calming the population. AND EVEN MORE PEOPLE DIED.

In a matter of weeks, as the scope of the pandemic became more obvious to the general public, a new round of concerns was being voiced. Perhaps it was time to restrict social and business activities to help control the spread of what now had a name……Covid-19. 

A few state and local leaders began moving in that direction……requiring masks in public places, calling for “social distancing,” even closing “non-essential” businesses. The government’s own scientists and experts supported those efforts…….at least until they were instructed to “back off.” AND STILL PEOPLE WERE DYING.

Yet, even as isolated examples of “Lockdown” effectiveness began to surface, the President and his loyal Republican state governors resisted the economic price to be paid by closing bars and businesses ……the always disturbing loss of jobs and profits. By then our Leader was suggesting that like FDR and Churchill he was leading His People through a great test…….shielding them from a hurtful reality, by denying its reality. AND PEOPLE CONTINUED TO DIE.

And now we have learned another 2020 lesson, about our ‘Designated Protector’s’ opinion of those who have died or suffered in the defense of our country. You’ve heard the stories of how he has called them “losers” and “suckers.” 

Of course he denies ever saying that. That is his way……he always denies everything…….falling back on his familiar justifications……”It’s a hoax.” “That’s false.” “Not true at all.” 

You may believe his denials. You may be one of those who accept his word when he says “Up is down, and down is up,” or “White is Black.” (Sorry, bad example…….He would never suggest that anything White is Black. In his eyes that difference is too important to mistake.)

As for me, having seen the President’s response to John McCain’s passing, and his thoughts on what McCain stood for, I am inclined to believe those who have confirmed his unsavory quotes about our fallen heroes. Having seen how he has “downplayed” the patriotic loss of life in war, it is easier to understand his apparent lack of concern over the tens of thousands of lives lost in our present pandemic. 

Yet, even though his disinterest is understandable, it is not acceptable …….. NOT WITH HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE DYING EVERY DAY.

What would a better response look like? Who ought to lead that effort? In a matter of weeks the American people will have the opportunity to answer those important questions for themselves.


Friday, August 28, 2020

United we stand, divided.............

   “United we stand, divided we fall.” It was the group Brotherhood of Man who turned that time-worn adage into melodic lyrics. Sadly, however, it appears that ancient wisdom has been lost in the chaos of today’s politics. In so many ways our so-called “United” States of America has become a misnomer.
   It’s been a while since I’ve darkened these pages. In times past I have tried to walk a middle path.....setting aside my rose-colored glasses, while at the same time steering clear of today's sad situation, at least as it registers in my tired, old mind.
   Yet it feels like it is time to be realistic… face the facts, speak up, and add my voice to the conversation. In particular, I am here to ask why “Making America Great Again” has me scratching my head like this, wondering where our great nation took the wrong turn? And why it feels like our train has jumped the tracks.


   Well, I suppose I could start close to home. Truth is for decades Portland, the bellwether of our Oregon country, has been viewed as a peaceful and welcoming place to visit or live. After all, what is not to like? Our first city, on the banks of the Willamette, has normally been depicted as fresh, clean, and progressive……perhaps even a bit bland.
   But now…….you can scratch the “bland” part. Who could have guessed that Portland, in the heart of the green and peaceful Pacific Northwest, would have suddenly become an internationally-visible magnet for social protesters, both peaceful and violent. For ninety days their nightly side-show, with its destructive property damage and tear-gas standoffs, sometimes even including an intervention by “federal enforcement forces,” has been played out on most every TV set in the so-called “civilized” world.


   And of course the violence in our streets has not been limited to one city. Across our country the impact of racism and class warfare……. whether Black Lives Matter or the various strains of White Supremacy…… no longer hidden in the closet. It has spilled out into the open.
   Protests have become weaponized, ugly, and dangerous. Law enforcement struggles to find its place in the scheme of things. Even professional sports leagues have stepped forward to make a stand. How long can we expect to endure these hateful standoffs……the new and distressing symbols of our “Dis-United” division?


   Moving a bit further afield, while Portland and the rest of the country struggle to find their footing, our nation faces the harsh effects of another of our government’s favored “hoaxes.” While those in charge dither, ignoring the dire projections, California is on fire……boiling and burning at a record rate, and praying for the end of the terrible drought that threatens to become their new normal.
   At the same time the Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana are literally afloat in water…..far more than they need or want. For perhaps the first time ever storms are arriving in pairs, magnifying the damage created by hurricane winds and raging tidal surges……precursors of increasingly unpredictable weather fueled by spreading pollution, melting polar icecaps, and rising ocean temperatures.
   Though science assures us it is real, “global climate change” has yet to be accepted or seriously addressed by those who can direct the necessary changes. And why should we expect them to take that sort of action? After all, it would surely impact the profits they have come to worship.


   And as you have probably noticed, in the midst of all that existential chaos our nation and the world are dealing with a raging and dangerous pandemic. Sadly, by any measure our country is faring worse than most. As we approach 200,000 Covid-19 deaths our hospitals have too often been overrun, and our medical professionals worn out. Now, as public schools and colleges prepare to resume their hoped-for normal schedules a spike in new virus cases seems likely.
   So why are we so far behind the curve? For far too long those responsible for responding have continued to play their ever-popular “hoax” card. 
   In every way…….planning, diagnosis, testing, treatment, and safety equipment for our caregivers ……they have abdicated their responsibility, insisting that individual states must deal with the problem, while hoping it will simply fade away.


   As we have learned in the course of the last several months an out-of-control pandemic carries a steep price. In economic terms, after a promising start, 2020 has taken a decidedly ominous turn for the worse…….at least on Main Street, USA.
While federally-funded cash infusions have fueled a stock market resurgence, small businesses and American consumers have been held hostage by mandatory lockdowns. Unemployment has soared, food bank lines grow longer by the day, and evictions and bankruptcies are likely to reach new heights.
   And, of course, the resulting fiscal push and pull has worsened the already growing disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots,” fueling new levels of social unrest.


   At the same time, given our many domestic trials, it is often easy to overlook another undeniable reality. Our nation’s standing on the world stage………among the major nations that since WWII have generally accepted our leadership role …….has been significantly diminished.
   Internationally, the American brand of democracy, once the world’s standard of excellence, has suffered. Over the last three years we have abandoned long-standing alliances and treaty obligations, and turned our back on long-time allies…….all the while showing unfamiliar favor for dictators and authoritarian regimes. If there is safety in numbers, where does that leave us?


   And finally…….adding a bit of spice to our already boiling stew…...all of the above is taking place against the backdrop of a Presidential election.
   True, this year’s electoral dance is a bit different than usual, thanks in part to the distressing presence of Covid-19 and a spat of seldom seen campaign tactics. 
   Who would have imagined that the US Postal System would be a pawn in the Administration’s voter-suppression game….an apparent effort to reduce the impact of vote-by-mail in this pandemic era? Or what about other voter suppression efforts…..the wholesale closing of voting sites, the not-so-subtle attempts to limit voting among parts of our population.
   Taken as a whole the ugliness of ‘Campaign 2020’ may be hard to swallow, yet the need for all of us to cast our votes and have our say has never been greater.


   By any measure these are interesting times.
   Take a moment to consider all of the above ingredients stirred together. We have continuing social unrest, violence in our streets, a mishandled pandemic, the impact of global climate change, a stumbling economy, booming stock market, and ever-widening wealth disparity, and our nation’s changing status on the world stage…….all of that played out in the glare of election politics.
   Would you agree that it will take the best efforts of all our people, working together, to restore the normal we like to remember?
   And how likely are we to see “All our people, working together”…… theses times of seldom-equaled division, political distrust, and befuddled leadership?
   No wonder I have a headache. I believe I’ll use a cool Budweiser to wash down my aspirin.
   As always…….I would appreciate your comments.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Beyond Normal

     Think about it for a moment. Does it feel as though the world we used to call home has been hijacked, jerked away from us, leaving us in limbo? 

        To be sure, change has always been with us. We have spent a lifetime adapting to new and altered “normals.” But never have we experienced such drastic change in so short a time. It’s simply not “normal.”

They tell us we are on our way to a “new normal.” But having spent the last few months sipping on 2020’s “on-the-way-to-a-new-normal” cocktail…..a potent blend of pandemic possibilities, economic distress, and social unrest …..I am ready to settle for a different label.

Near as I can tell there is no Goggle map to tell us where this new and disorienting path leads. Truth to tell, it feels like the road to a new normal leads right through the heart of “Abnormal,” an intimidating place where dark clouds gather, the ground is unstable, and visibility is limited…..leaving me to hope that my stumbling attempts to deal with these new challenges will finally lead to a more fruitful “normal” down the road.

And it is not just me. Every one of us has our own litany of “abnormal” complaints……changes that seem to come with the territory these days. They may seem like little things ……activities and events we never dreamed we would someday miss, but now wish were once again part of our daily “normal.”

Take for instance…….grocery shopping. These days we fill out our online order, send it off to Walmart, and a day later sit in our car while they load our order in our car trunk. It is safe and easy, and we are thankful for that. 
But who would have believed that both of us actually miss our weekly stroll through the friendly, often crowded aisles of the local Winco? Granted, I did little more than push the cart. For Roma, however, it was an opportunity to check out their offerings……to pinch and poke the veggies, read the small-print labels, comparing one to another, before selecting the one she wanted. We took our time and never once worried about some illusive virus that might be lying in wait for us. Remember those good times? We look forward to their return.

I understand that it might be unseemly to brag about our monthly Amazon bill, but in a time when we avoid extended shopping trips downtown that “Prime” account has become an important part of our personal “abnormal.”

Or how about Sunday church? As lukewarm Methodists no one has ever mistaken us for fanatics, but we have always looked forward to the fellowship of weekly services in what has been our church home for nearly fifty years……renewing that comfortable and rewarding time spent with friends. The congregation’s YouTube sermons and weekly Zoom sessions may help fill the void, but they are not the same. Chances are you know how that feels.

Speaking of “abnormal,” what about the sudden disappearance of March Madness ……just as the Oregon ladies were primed for a national title? The baseball season too has been neutered, and who knows what football will look like in this new Covid world. For us TV sports junkies the outlook is bleak. How long must we settle for the very definition of “abnormal”……. ”Professional Cornhole competition”? Surely we deserve something more.

And then there is a more hurtful form of “abnormal.” Like many of you, ours is a family-centered family. True, we are spread around the Pacific NW, but we have always stayed in touch, while looking forward to the twenty-plus of us getting together several times a year. This year long-standing family gatherings have been put on hold, including a much-anticipated summer wedding. 
For the last few months our clan has become a “telephone, email, and Zoom” family. We are thankful for the technology that makes all that possible. But it is not the same.

The lucky ones among us, and I count myself as one of those, are facing this “abnormal” slice of life in the company of a caring and compatible quarantine partner. It is not too much to say that in the course of our sixty years together we have become a well-oiled, if somewhat creaky, team. In times like this we give thanks for the backyard garden, which allows us to work off about all the nervous energy we can muster these days.

In the process it sometimes feels like we have become semi-hermits, occasionally venturing out behind our masks and relying on “social distancing” to help keep us safe..…while what seems like an increasingly unsafe world carries on all around us. 

        In the best of times old age includes its trials. These “abnormal” moments simply magnify those speed bumps. Still, in our sometimes unorthodox way we will ride out this unwelcome storm.

And please remember that those who do not have the luxury of a stay-at-home partner need and deserve our continuing attention….. regular phone calls or emails to let them know they are not alone in these crazy times. 

As always, if you are so inclined I would appreciate hearing how you and yours are dealing with your own “abnormal” world. In the meantime stay safe and take care.

Friday, June 5, 2020

It's time for a break

Okay, I’ll admit that I let myself get carried away with my last post. Why did I feel the need to rant about the possibility of a “New Normal,” especially when it seems to be arriving before I ever made sense of the “Old Normal.’?

What was I thinking? So what if more than 107,000 of us have died a distressing death from what we were assured was a “hoax”? No matter what the source of our consuming plague the fact remains we stumbled mightily in our national response.

Then for weeks a large portion of our population hunkered down, filling once-vibrant cities and towns with a ghostly silence. By the time we finally woke up and smelled the coffee more than forty-two million of us (42,000,000) had lost their life-sustaining employment……many of them are still waiting for the safety-net benefits promised by state governments that have been literally overwhelmed by the sudden surge.

Meanwhile businesses, large and small, are paying a staggering price for our ill-prepared pandemic response. Tens of thousands of small entrepreneurs have lost everything……years of dreams and efforts have vanished, and for many are lost forever.

So again, what was I thinking? Sure, things were tough. By any measure it had been one devastating “hoax.” But hey, we were still carrying on, weren't we? Things were bound to get better. They sure as heck couldn’t get any worse. Could they?


Well, of course they could……and they have. Just as that lethal pandemic was claiming tens of thousands of lives, and creating unimaginable levels of economic pain, an all-too-familiar societal goblin once again raised its ugly head.

Racism….police conduct….peaceful protest….rioting and looting……stir them together and you may create a toxic blend, capable of producing a wide range of sad outcomes…..especially when viewed against the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly and expression, and the accompanying assurance that “all men are created equal.”

All that emerged in a single brief, hard-to-view instant, documented by a spur-of-the-moment video. In those few seconds the aforementioned health and economic problems were suddenly overlaid with a shocking level of social unrest sparked by a single uniformed policeman reverting to long-standing, often-criticized law enforcement attitudes and techniques. 

In a matter of hours the already toxic blend of societal distrust and dysfunction had turned even more sour…..until it felt like we must be approaching its outer limits. After all, what more could go wrong?


Then, in a matter of days, we had our answer. From the depths of a White House bunker came the “official” American response. If “fierce dogs” and “tremendous weapons” were not sufficient, then it was time to “dominate” those who dared protest. 

The US military, the strongest forces on earth, would be activated. And sure enough, overnight the District of Columbia effectively became a war zone. “Martial Law” had been dusted off and brought to the sidelines, ready to be used as necessary.

And that is where we are today. Charges have been brought against the officers whose actions set the latest events in motion…….but who certainly did not invent the crimes they committed. At the same time George Floyd has been memorialized over and over.

And in the process I have dealt with about all grief I can handle for now. It is time for me to escape for a while, to move on to something more tasteful and productive. You’re welcome to join me if you wish.


I don’t know what you do when your need a break from the real world, but I know what works for me. Over the years I’ve learned that feeding my own wanderlust virus can be an effective antidote for reality overload.

It takes only minutes to revisit people and places I have known, or wish I had known. ( a click on the red headings will take you there)……for instance...........

Head Rambles…..a blog of rural life in the Wicklow Mts of Ireland as seen through the eyes of crusty old fellow whose motto is ….. “Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”

Silver Tiger…..A retired London fellow who blogs about his daily travels among the sights and out-of-the-way places around London. Has a chatty style with lots of photos and a historical bent.

Big John…..Another Londoner, opinionated and outspoken on the events of the day.

Grit and Giggles…..Amanda, the self-proclaimed Bush Babe of Oz blogs about life on an isolated cattle station in the Australian outback.

Peter-Pho2…..Photo sights and insights of expat life in present-day Paris.

Gerry Hasson…..When it comes to making sense of today’s world as seen through UK eyes I enjoy Gerry Hasson’s view with a Scottish slant. For instance his thumbnail sketch of English PM Boris Johnson…..”He is a habitual liar, a cheat, a cruel betrayer of the women he seduces, with no redeeming character… short he is unfit to lead the country.” (Where had I heard that before?)

Meet me by the sea…..a photo-filled offering of one of my own favorite English delights…..the beautiful Cornish coast. If this doesn’t transport you to a better place I don’t know what will.

With that in mind I will trek off into the sunset…..reminding myself that none of us get out of this alive.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What is this "new normal" they talk about?

As you might expect, over the years I’ve had a few folks take exception when I label my stories about 60 year olds as October Years” tales. As far as I know no one has argued for “September,” but quite a few of you have suggested a later month. 

Truth to tell, a while back I decided that “November” better described my moods and physical capabilities. Heck, I’ve probably dipped a toe in “December” a time or two. That’s what had me stepping forward to add “and November too” to this blog’s title.

But of course my use of “October” was never meant to be simply about age. When I first used that label I was thinking of October as a state of mind. More to the point, like the October on a calendar, our October Years (and November too) are periods of harvest---a time to gather fruits from the seeds we’ve sown and the things we’ve learned in the course of our already-long lifetime. I happen to believe that even at that age there are ways we can put that experience to good use.

I will admit that one of the risks I face in telling my October stories is the temptation to dwell on the maudlin...stressing the negatives and hardships of late life. Of course, by that stage of the game we’ve had our share of bumpy roads and unexpected detours. And there will be more of those. If we’ve been paying attention at all we should expect that. 

But recent history, the sort that has kept us house-bound for weeks on end, proves there are still “unexpected” twists and turns for which our personal life journey and the life views we have come to lean on have not prepared us to face.

If you are my age, infirmity and distress are sure to have been part of your personal experience. I can accept that. Yet lately this November mind of mine has struggled to make sense of what we are told will be a “new normal”…….a time when the cultural infirmity and deep division that already plagues our society comes face to face with a new set of societal norms. 

Long before the ugly virus raised its head what I had perceived as the chaotic unraveling of our national persona already had me wondering if what I called “normal” had always included the deep division and chaotic internal conflict that taints modern American culture. 

Here we are celebrating another Memorial Day, remembering those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy………..including the freedom to choose the middle road that leads to the common good, instead of stoking our extreme and divisive dreams, both right and left.

Perhaps our declining generation has been lulled by decades of relatively-civilized peace. Are we simply experiencing a regression to the human norm? Or has there been a fundamental change in the path of social evolution? Is there a new “normal” being created?

How else would you interpret the headlines that assault our sensibilities? Thousands of our people are dying every day, victims of a silent, unseen assassin. All around us small businesses are devastated, paying their own ultimate price. Unemployment has reached unimaginable levels, signaling potential distress and disaster for millions.

Sadly, those intimidating events have too-often left us numb to the already-existing world of social problems we have failed to resolve. Our “old normal” was the one where homeless camps lined our streets and filled our parks…….where wide-eyed young men unleashed their lethal revenge in our high schools…….and an ever-increasing number of our people, young and old, depended on mind-altering pharmaceuticals? 

Long before Covid-19 took center stage it already seemed as though our beloved nation was drowning in a tsunami of insanity. Our towns and neighborhoods struggled to stay afloat, while finger pointing and blame-game politics  stirred the flames of governmental dysfunction, displacing bipartisan problem solving. 

In a world of spiteful politics and crushing, always mounting debt, most of which will never be repaid, the great majority of us will be hung out to dry as the Wall Street and Washington vultures slowly circle, fighting for their piece of the pie before it vanishes into the economic quicksand. The supposedly “drained swamp” still hides menacing creatures, and smells as bad as ever.

Surely I am not the only one who wonders what has happened to the world I knew. Even before the virus it was becoming harder to recognize the place where I grew up and perhaps thought I understood. Small wonder the October characters I write about are apt to stumble as they try to make sense of it.

Chances are every one of us grew up hearing our parents grumble about “the younger generation,” and how things were not that bad in “the good old days.” Perhaps we heard hints of ancient wisdom in their words……..of times when age was equated with hard-earned knowledge. Truth to tell, I keep getting older, but the elder-wisdom I once heard of seems to have eluded me.

There was a time in the world of our childhood and adolescence, when we felt comfortable in the world we knew. Today’s virus-induced normal has brought with it an unsettling dose of uncertainty. What will it look like ……tomorrow’s post-virus world? What should we be doing to get ready for what comes next? 

For some of us this crazy new world impacts our ability to “thrive in our 60s and 70s.” In those moments, I like to think it is my sometimes-faulty elder-wisdom nudging me ahead……reminding me that even at our age we have reasons to look ahead, beyond these uncertain times.

I would appreciate your help here, your input. (The email link below is easy to use.) As always I'd be interested in hearing your input via “Reply.”

With that, I will try to calm down a bit in time for the next post.