Wednesday, June 21, 2023





                          (Originally posted 7/23/2017)

I call it ‘Elder Wisdom.’ The kids and grandkids are apt to describe it as “Gramps has gone off the rails again.” 

I suppose the truth lies somewhere between. Still, when my sometimes-suspect mind pauses to consider the matter it finds an ever-growing mountain of evidence to support my logic. The concerns that I first addressed in an earlier post, back when Oregon was preparing to legalize marijuana, were real then and even more real today.

“But why?” I wonder. What had me so upset about what I considered, (and still do) a cultural dilemma? After all, I am not a social critic. I write about late-life relationships. What prompted my emotional detour? Whatever it was, I have yet to outgrow it. With that, I offer Existential Anesthesia Redux.


I suppose I am a bit worked up, trying to find the logic in the wave of illogical claims. Whatever the reason it is enough to turn today’s BLOG into a RANT. I suppose it has been building up for a while and finally spilled over.

You see, a while back my beloved Tanner, along with the rest of Oregon, became a legal marijuana zone… willed by a vote of the folks who populate my mythical city, in the heart of a very real Willamette Valley. With that vote they became part of a rapidly spreading social experiment… that offers our population the freedom to indulge themselves with impunity. As you might suspect, I have some October (& November) reservations about the wisdom of that so-called “progress.”

Let’s begin with the obvious…..ours is already the most medicated culture in history. A large part that medication is perfectly legal…..for instance, the opioid epidemic that threatens our nation…..the toxic result of human need coming face to face with highly effective corporate lobbyists who spend hundreds of millions to convince us, and a cadre of well-funded lawmakers, that we need what they are selling. 

Disclaimer #1 - I will be the first to admit that when I seek the relief and healing of today’s medicines I am thankful to have them available. Like a lot of you, there have been times when I owed my life to their effectiveness. Yet I realize that even as they heal me, they are also instrumental in creating and funding a delivery system designed to insure huge profits for both vendors and providers…..while leaving our 

citizens to pay by far the highest health-care costs in the world, for what are often less than the best results.

Yet beyond those legal and socially acceptable forms of medicinal intervention our society, indeed the whole world, is awash in a sea of chemical “coping” agents……from booze, to narcotics, to pot, and a whole array of manufactured “designer” drugs. 

Our citizens are increasingly addicted to pharmaceutical aids, both legal and illegal. All around us lives are being ruined and families destroyed. Our streets are filled with the homeless survivors. At the same time governments rely more and more on the tax revenues generated by the sale of those products. And all the while a thriving underground economy is equally addicted to the profits that our ‘coping’ produces. Bottom line……more than ever before our “land of the free and the brave” is addicted to its addictions.

And now we find ourselves living in a world that includes yet another round of ‘socially accepted’ means of coping. Marijuana, long relegated to the shadow-side of the conversation, has been liberated. Now, firmly established in the light of day, it is available to one and all …..young and old. As I mentioned above, tipping the scales in the sometimes contentious debate leading to its legalization was pot’s undisputed ability to be a productive source of coveted tax revenue.

Disclaimer #2 - Before I dig deeper into my state’s “progressive” expansion of pot’s availability, let me take a moment to limit the scope of my objections. Like many states Oregon already had a modest medical-marijuana program in place. Though not everyone agrees with that, I accept the evidence of the drug’s medicinal capabilities and have no problem with it being available in that form, given proper regulation and oversight.

Rather, it is the brave new world of universal marijuana acceptance that has me concerned about what lies ahead…..the new world of ‘recreational’ pot. Though that new reality has yet to make its way into any of my Tanner stories, rest assured that it has more than a few of us October and November types wondering what good or bad, help or harm, will come from this new state of affairs. At least one old fossil I know feels the need to have his say about that.

To be clear, I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else. I may be the only one who harbors unsettling visions of where our chemically-sated society is heading. Of course, mankind’s efforts to escape the harsh realities of life are nothing new. Those tendencies are surely as old as the species. Everyone of us has moments when he or she wants to avoid hurtful circumstances. There was a time when scotch-on-the-rocks was my favored retreat. Fortunately, somewhere along the way I learned that whatever I was running from would still be there in the morning.

But I worry that in today’s increasingly chaotic world….with its ever-growing availability of more effective, even lethal, ways of avoiding life as it is….more of us are relying on those means of escape......those ways to dull the pain. I am so concerned about that trend that I have given it a name. I call our societal attempts to escape reality Existential Anesthesia or EA.

Of course, with true late-life logic I tell myself that if anyone needs Existential Anesthesia to face their circumstances, it would be we October and November types…..the ones worn down by decades of dealing with real life. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

But instead it seems that more and more of our young people are succumbing to EA in one or more of its often enticing forms. And they are apparently doing that at an ever-younger age. At the very time of life we hope they are curious, alert, and clear minded…..ready to prepare for the daunting challenges that await them… seems that too many youngsters, overwhelmed by those possibilities, are turning to EA…. seeking an emotional retreat that is likely to be a dead end. 

Still, the advocates of that brave new world tell us we must accept the reality of a ‘new way’… that makes pot available to everyone. They tout its “decriminalization,” a change that will allow future generations to avoid the legal residue of youthful indiscretions. And I’ll admit, those arguments ring true. Yet how many lives, young and not-so-young, will be impacted by the freshly reinforced message that we have the right to indulge ourselves in potentially harmful, but perfectly legal ways? How many of us will learn to cope by retreating into a TCH haze?

They tell us that escape, in a socially acceptable manner, is fine ….even therapeutic. They say it can be a wonderful stress reliever. Yet in the end how often does that form of retreat actually resolve the ills that drive our urge to hide and escape?

The fact is, however, in the end this is not an argument I am going to win. The forces behind the acceptance of marijuana as a valid form of EA are growing stronger. They will eventually have their way. I may not agree, and will sometimes give thanks that I won’t be around to see how it ends. 

But then I will pause to remember that my children and grandchildren will be there, dealing with that outcome. It seems that I must pray for their well being and accept what I cannot change. Unless, of course, I choose to pour myself a tall scotch-on-the-rocks and try to forget it.


Postscript…….Oh my, if only Existential Anesthesia was simply a matter of marijuana. Looking back, when I first offered my thoughts on what I considered a cultural misstep, legal pot was more or less my main concern.

But today’s cultural landscape has become literally unrecognizable to many of us. Our city sidewalks are cluttered with ragged tents and purloined shopping carts. Used needles are everywhere. Oregonians are overdosing at a rate never seen before. To the earlier list of anesthetic aids we can now add vaping, oxycodone, and the most lethal of all, highly addictive fentanyl…..and too, to stretch the metaphor just a bit, there is our individual and national addiction to the wonders of Debt, which they tell us will solve all our problems.

Seems that I remember reading somewhere….”the land of the free and the home of the brave is addicted to its addictions.”

So what do you think? I’m guessing that you have an opinion on these matters. I’d like to hear what you have to say. If you would like to “Comment” feel free to choose “Anonymous” to avoid exposing your personal details. If you are inclined to share this post I hope you will. Let me know what you think about this.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023



             AFTER ALL, SHE'S FAMILY

Let’s begin with the obvious. I am an old school kind of guy……heavy on the “old.” It’s the way I was raised. The first home I remember was literally a log cabin in the country, complete with a ‘one-holer’ outhouse in the back yard. We had a couple goats, some chickens, and a dog …….but no cats. Truth is, I have never been what you would call a ‘cat’ person.

Later on, when Roma and I were raising our own family, it seemed that then too we favored dogs over cats……perhaps because the two did not always coexist well.

It was rather late in the game, when dogs were not allowed in our digs, that Roma turned to feline companionship. As was her way, she showered her love on a series of cats, until they became part of the family.

But like I said, “I’m an old school guy.” Though her cats and I usually managed to coexist…..they didn’t have much to do with me, and vice-versa. That worked just fine for an old school guy like me.

And then our youngest son, Tug, moved in with us. From the beginning that was a blessing in most every way. So how could I hold it against him when he too decided that he wanted a cat…..making us a two cat family.

And that’s what we have been for several years now……a two-cat family. Roma’s ‘Nutmeg’ and Tug’s ‘Polly,’ became part of the family, though both of them basically ignored me most of the time. As far as they know it is their household. Since Roma left us, Nutmeg will occasionally sit on my lap, but that is about it. But  then, that’s okay….. after all, I am old school.

And then there are moments like the evening last week when Tug, who pays attention to such things, noticed that for the last few days Nutmeg seemed to be off her feed, and noticeably unenergetic. She was simply not her old self.

I had to agree. But after all, she is an old girl, so I suppose I can relate to such things. My own advice was simple enough. “Let’s  keep an eye on her and see if she gets better.” Though Tug was not totally comfortable with that, he agreed……at least until the next morning.

You see, the old girl was still not eating, not moving around like her old self. It was time to find out why……to take the next step. As you might expect, the ‘next step’ would involve a visit to the vet. The ‘emergency appointment’ was made for that morning. Since Tug was at work, I would be the one escorting Nutmeg to the doctor.

Long story short, I spent at least ten minutes with the doctor……long enough to offer my very unprofessional diagnosis……”She’s not eating and doesn’t show much energy.” Though the vet found no obvious problem, his nurse took a blood sample to be sent to the lab. The results were due back in a few days.

Once back home Nutmeg still turned up her nose at the food she normally attacks with gusto, and soon settled down on the same window ledge she had favored the last few days. Though I haven’t seen much change, I am confident she has received the most competent medical attention available in our small-town world.

How ‘competent’ you ask? Well, though she was still not her old self, I was convince that the clinic’s attention to our apparently distressed friend was so caring, thorough, and efficient that I signed the credit card receipt for $316, an amount Tug and I had agreed to split, without a moment’s hesitation.

I will admit, however, at that moment the ‘old school’ in me was making itself heard a bit. “Three hundred dollars spent on an aging cat?” It was saying. “What are you thinking?”

Yet, as I carried ‘Nutty’ back to the car, I was coming face to face to the truth of it. It was not such a lot to pay……three hundred of today’s inflated, devalued dollars……to help Nutmeg carry on. Why wouldn’t I do that……After all, she’s family.


                Postcript.......the vet called back a couple days later to tell us the lab work was 'normal.' So what was it that had us so concerned? He had an answer for that....."Could be she was just going through one of those 'spells' animals sometimes have." 

                Three hundred dollars to deal with a 'spell'? Are you.........? Never mind, the old girl is family, and she's feeling better. What else matters?

Wednesday, June 7, 2023




            (Originally posted 12/2017) 


I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that it is not normally a late-life thing….falling victim to the latest fad, jumping in headfirst before knowing how deep the water is. 

  After all, how many of us old-timers are ready to make a significant change in our life’s journey? Not many, I'm guessing. Yet, on the other hand, perhaps there is a case to be made for being a little bolder. How can we nurture the thriving and Becoming I so often rant about….the path I believe we are called to pursue....if we refuse to move beyond the same old rut?

  I won’t pretend to speak for you….not in light of my own suspect history. For any of us, climbing out of our comfortable, well-worn rut to move toward something new is apt to be a daunting mental/emotional journey….moving from the known to the unknown, or at least the less-well-known. 

  As sometimes happens in my November storytelling world, an evolving storyline is apt to have me pausing to revisit and examine some “taken-for-granted” part of my own late-life routine. That process became all the more personal when the story I am presently assembling focused on an October fellow who is sunk deep in his own existential rut.

  The new friend I have imagined into being, I call him Neal Fanning, is a semi-disabled, apartment-bound widower who has reluctantly resigned himself to a confining, home-based lifestyle. His most basic of Basic Cable packages allows him a mind-dulling routine of TV game shows, dated situation comedy reruns, and evenings spent nodding off in the middle of old movies he has seen too many times before. For all practical purposes that routine has become his life.

  Of course, scattered throughout those endless hours of uninspired detachment are the quiet moments that overtake all of us from time to time….when bittersweet recollections of times past float to the front of our mind.

Remembered bits of childhood, some of them sentimental, some traumatic, may capture our attention. Or the unsettling highs and lows of long-ago school days may hold court. For Neal those reveries will usually include endearing, but somewhat-hurtful memories of special times spent with his recently-departed wife of forty-some years.

    Having spent months adapting to his spartan lifestyle he has come to accept the latest, and apparently final stage of his long life as the only future in sight, the best he can expect.

  But what he has not foreseen are the insistent efforts of his daughters, who are determined to steer their father toward a more fulfilling future….. setting out to expand his isolated life by exploiting capabilities he had never considered. 

  Of course he will grumble each step of the way, railing against the possibilities ‘the girls’ are trying to sell him.  After all, what can they possibly offer that would move him beyond his well-worn rut? Let’s see if I can explain?


  Perhaps like you, I grew up in front of a television set, weaned on dramas, comedies, and variety shows that reflected the 1950s world I knew. Sadly, in today’s 2017 universe…..with its too-violent dramas, phony fantasy, too-graphic relational tales, and unhumorous comedies….there is little left for someone like me to watch. Beyond my nightly news fix, Rachel Madow, and a good ballgame or documentary it too-often feels like I have been left behind.

  Then, about the time I had resigned myself to that mundane existence, out of step with today’s cultural tastes, I came face to face with a most disruptive change….a technological firestorm that seemed to rewrite the rules and change the landscape.

  Could you and I have imagined such a thing in our well-remembered glory years? Just think about the timid, perhaps overwhelmed teenager you might have been back then. Could you have made your way in the intimidating new world of Twitter and Tweet, Gmail, and Facebook? Could we have handled today’s internet? 

  Of course, that was then. This is now. Here we are, a tick or two past our prime….living, if not thriving, in that brave new internet world. If you are at all like me you have set up shop on the fringes of that on-line techno-world, holding on by your finger tips.

  For a long time my internet involvement was limited to Gmail, Facebook, this blog, and The Daily Mail. Those had become the elements of my after-breakfast routine, before I moved on to the day’s more mundane activities….until, that is, I started looking around for more 'online candy.' The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I realized how much the internet, aka ‘the web,’ has to offer.

 In the course of late-life conversations I have met more than a few peers for whom the internet is at best a foreign idea, and at worst a threat they would rather avoid. You probably know folks like that. You might be one of them. It is not my place to say those concerns are wrong. But I do feel the need to explain, even briefly, what I think they are missing. At least I will try.


  First of all, long story short, my fictional friend Neal will use the internet possibilities his daughters are selling to expand his life. That is the story I want to tell….how so many of us October/November folks can use those tools to broaden our own horizons. More to the point, if you have been told, or have told yourself, that you can’t do that, that it is too late to change your spots …..YOU ARE WRONG. Again, allow me to explain.

  They tell us that younger generations no longer rely on newspapers to stay current on the issues of the day. But I’m guessing that many of us October/November types have never outgrown our reliance on a morning newspaper with our breakfast coffee. What many of us don’t realize is that if you are a ‘newspaper person’ the internet is definitely for you. 

 By now most every major newspaper in the world has an online, often English-language edition. It has never been easier to follow international events, in a format you can read, often presented from a very different perspective than our home-town press. As an avowed Anglophile one of my personal favorites is the site that lists websites for virtually every newspaper in England.

  Or maybe you are the social sort….perhaps the kind who fostered pen-pal friendships as a youngster. Rest assured that virtually every country has online senior pen-pal sites, making it easy to meet and visit with international friends….October types like us. 

Today, following a few common-sense rules, (Do not disclose personal information, succumb to romantic overtures, or send money.) it is still possible to create satisfying and lasting international friendships. I know, because I still visit with English friends most every week.

    Or you might be a senior who would rather use the internet for your personal entertainment. It is hard to overstate the range of entertainment and educational videos that await your viewing. There are literally thousands of videos featuring your favorite performers and their music from years gone by, along with classic stand-up routines and the situation comedies you remember from your own glory days.

  And finally there is the ultimate retirement staple….late-life travel. In both photographic and video formats the internet offers an incredible selection of travel material to whet your appetite. Most every country is represented….each with their own enticing photo essays and comprehensive video presentations, documenting the virtues of travel to and within their country. 

  Whatever your imagined destination, no matter what you hope to see or do, you can be sure that someone has been there, camera in hand, to illustrate the possibilities from every angle. Their efforts have literally taken 'armchair travel' to a whole new level.

  And how do you find all those treasures? If you don't know by now, you should certainly learn. It may be ’Google.' It may be ‘YouTube’. Or one of many other 'search engine' options.

 You call up the website, type any question you want answered, ("Where can I find old music videos?") and bingo, your screen will be filled with hundreds, if not thousands of answers. That works for any question you can imagine.

  So, it will be some of those possibilities, along with many more, which will finally win Neal’s attention….and hopefully allow him to move beyond his numbing retirement experience. And in the end, when the time comes for a break from those online diversions, his ‘most-favorite-of-all’ internet destination….Sixteen Exciting Solitaire Games….will remain just a click away.


  Finally, as I am prone to do, I will end with one more bit of context for the ‘Neal’ story I am telling. It was a few years ago when an upsetting cancer diagnosis had me seeking a late-life purpose, a reason to keep going.

  I would never claim to speak for the Divine. But it felt as though my continued meanderings through today’s tangled, but satisfying late-life landscape…. trying my best to shine a light, dim as it may be, on  opportunities and challenges that might await us…. was as close as I could come to a valid reason to keep plowing ahead. 

  Too often we allow ourselves to approach these years with dread, when we ought to be focused on the possibilities and potential. That’s what I would like to do. Hopefully, my friend Neal, and the story I imagine for him, will lend a hand in that effort.


    Postscript ...... By late 2017, when I first posted this piece, I had roughed out 10 or 12 chapters of Neal's story.....doing my best to tell of his sad circumstances, while relating some of his daughters' efforts to bring him into the new, slightly foreign online world.

    Sad to say, it was then my storytelling ran out of inspiration. Truth to tell, I simply did not know where his story was leading. I had yet to imagine a convincing way to use what the girls' had set in motion.

    And so it would remain until early 2023, when in a most unexpected way Neal's path forward, which ironically looked a lot like my own path, began to take shape. Once that course was settled the story I titled A Geriatric Adolescence seemed to complete itself. By April Amazon's self-publishing arm had sent me the copy that now resides on my bookshelf.