I don't expect to be reincarnated,
so I'll blog about dying and death (with appropriate irreverence) while I'm still alive.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How long is a year?

I just realized that it's time to buy a 2013 appointment book. I've barely gotten to know my 2012 book, and it's almost used up.

When I was in high school, each 45-minute class seemed to last a hundred years. Now, years seem to have about five months, and are shrinking fast.

(Hmm. I said that in the last blog post. Is repetition a sign of getting old?)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How the heck did it get to be December?

Wasn't it summer just a few days ago? When I was in high school, each 45-minute class seemed to last a hundred years. Now, years seem to have about five months.

I figure I have 23 years left. I hope they won't seem like five years. I have a lot to do.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I can't take it with me, but I'm not ready to throw it out.

When I moved from an apartment to my first real house in 1977, I felt that for the first time in my life, I had enough storage space for all of my shit. Unfortunately, I failed to realize a basic fact of life: shit expands to fill the available space, and then it overflows.

The move to our second house in 2001 required FIVE MOVING VANS, plus about 70 trips in our own minivan, plus the disposal or recycling of about 50 CUBIC YARDS of crap, junk and trash.
  • Shit is stuff with value that is mostly sentimental.
  • Crap is stuff that can be eliminated with little debate or tears.
  • Junk can be eliminated with no debate or tears.
  • A collection is a bunch of junk which can be classified and displayed.
  • Trash should have been thrown out, not stored for later debate.
  • Garbage usually is disposed of promptly because it starts to stink.
  • A husband's shit may be considered junk by a wife.
  • And, vice versa.
One good way to classify stuff is by applying the 90-day rule (or one-year or five-year rule, or whatever time interval you select). If something has not been used in the last year (or other time interval), there's a good chance that it will not be used in the next year, and can be eliminated.

Unfortunately, if you have enough space, the 90-day rule can be easily extended to become a 30-year rule.

Our second house is huge. Most people think it's much too big for two people and a dog. It's not. A house can never be too big. Not even Buckingham Palace.

Well, we've been in this house for over 11 years. The house now contains a lot of both shit and crap (plus lots of stuff and things). The formerly cavernous attic is almost impenetrable. The three car garage has become storage space. It has about 10 cartons that have not yet been unpacked from the 2001 move. (A shelf in our laundry room has a carton containing a silver serving thing which was packed for a move in 1975 but never unpacked.) A guest room has no room for guests.

I know it's summer, but it's time for spring cleaning. It's always time for spring cleaning.

We have 14 huge bags which were supposed to go to Goodwill by the end of 2010. I hope they get there this year. They're supposed to go today. I'd rather write, go in the pool, watch TV, and try a new restaurant. I also should visit my mother. What the heck. Goodwill is open tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. 

I'm faced with a major decision.

I have a growing stack of early versions of my books which were marked up for corrections. I don't want anyone to read them, so I can't sell them or give them away. I can't throw them away, because destroying books is one of the few (or maybe the only) sin that I recognize.

Sometimes, when overcome with egomania, I have a vision that some future literary critic will analyze the stash and proclaim to the world, that "AHA! -- in version 3.68, Marcus changed a comma to a semicolon in the last sentence on page 254."

I realize that there is little likelihood that this will happen. But just in case, I'll keep the books. Besides, retention is better than sinning.

The next time I move, I want to go horizontal, feet first, in a black zipper bag, with a tag on a toe. I'll let the next generation decide what is valuable shit and what is mere crap or junk.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Am I losing my mind -- already?

My mother is nearly 90 years old. She was always super-smart. Like my father, she attended a high school for the "gifted," and she earned multiple college degrees.

In the last year or so, she's had trouble with conversations. Like many people -- even young adults -- she sometimes can't think of a word she wants to use.

My mother, however, instead of merely hesitating, sometimes substitutes words. She may use a general term instead of the specific -- like "fasten the apparatus" instead of "buckle the seatbelt." Or "I need a new thing for the thing" instead of "I need a new cushion for the wheelchair."

She sometimes merely substitutes a word that is the right part of speech, but makes no sense, like "produce" for "bank check" and "poster" for something I never figured out.

Other times -- actually pretty often -- her conversations are perfectly normal.

When she was younger, she read three or four books a week. She recently stopped reading. When she was in high school, she won an award for penmanship. Now she has trouble writing a check.

Although I am "just" 66 years old, I've lately been worried that I might develop my mother's condition.

I never learned how to type the "real" way, but about five years ago I degenerated from being the world’s fastest six-finger typist to a pretty-good two-finger typist. (I actually have ten fingers but I’ve never used them all for typing.)

Now I'm a terrible two-finger typist. I produce a lot of typos -- often pressing an adjacent key, like "v" instead of "c." I frequently hold down the shift key as I press the key to insert an apostrophe, and end up inserting a colon. I often type “i nthe” and “fro ma.” I now tap the Caps Lock key a lot by accident, the semicolon instead of the apostrophe, and the “Page Down” key instead of “delete.” I seldom produce an error-free sentence. [The first time I typed that sentence, I typed "arror," and then I corrected it to "errror."]

A more recent -- and much scarier -- sign of degeneration is that I sometimes substitute words at the keyboard, usually with the same initial letter, like "party" for "path." Sometimes I use the wrong letter sequence, like "nad," "hsould" or "writign."

TRhis is an uncorrected sample of my typign. Anr here is another sample senterncer, and some moer. Today is Sunday and I'll havelots of newsapers to read. I wnatto spend some time writing, readign and editing books, too; and neeed to vacuum the algae for mthe botto mof the pool.

This is really scary. Is it an early sign of dementia? Is part of my brain DEAD? Tomorrow I'm going to call my neurologist and maybe an occupational therapist.

(above) Aging Baby Boomer’s Low-Tech Secret Weapon: If you remove the Caps Lock key, you can’t tap it accidentally.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I think I'm running out of time to read my books.

I'm typing this in a room filled with books, in a house filled with books. A quick estimate indicates that I have about 400 linear feet of books (100 feet more than the length of a football field, with the books standing up, not lying in the grass).

With an average thickness of one inch, and 12 books per foot, those 400 feet mean that I have a frightening total of about 4,800 books. That can't compare with the Library of Congress's collection of several million books, but it's pretty good for an amateur bibliophile.

And that 4,800 doesn't include hundreds of other books on my iPad, Kindle Fire, desktop, laptop and smart phone, and on the UPS truck coming from Amazon. Or what I might pick up at Barnes & Noble this afternoon.

I'm what is called an avid reader. I'm also a collector. That can be fun --  or a dangerous combination.

I read everything. I read labels, cereal boxes, signs and even magazines that I should have no interest in (including one for tow truck operators, one for poultry farmers, one for appliance dealers and another one about air compressors).

When I was a young teenager I subscribed to about two dozen magazines -- everything there was about science, cars, cameras and electronics. They took up a lot of space. One summer I decided that instead of going to the beach club every day, I would devote three days each week to going through my collection. I'd cut out the interesting articles and file them for future reeference.

This was actually a problem, not a solution.

At the age of 14 I could not afford to buy a photocopier and therefore could not resolve the dilemma caused by pages with important articles on both sides -- but about different subjects that should go into separate folders.

But even worse was the depressing realization that the magazines were coming in faster than I could read, cut and file them. I stopped being a librarian and swam more.

And that brings me back to 2012.

I assume that I've read about half of my books. To make it simple, I'll assume I have about 2,500 p-books and e-books to go. According to my theory, I have about 23 years left. I acquire about 80 books a year. I read about 100 books a year. I'll assume that as I age my acquisition rate may diminish, and my reading speed may also diminish, However I'll probably have more time to read.

Although my College Board scores in "verbal" were much better than in math, my quick computation makes me think I'll die with about 2,400 unread books.


What should I do?

Should I read faster, live longer, stop buying, or get rid of a lot of books.

Sadly, none of the options seem likely.

(Top photo is from

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is living long really better than dying young?

Several times a month I come home and stand in front of my door and press the button on my car key and get pissed off because the house door doesn't open.

However, my mother (age 89) has recently realized why my late father doesn't visit her anymore. She said that Pop got out of his coffin and married someone else.

She also reported that three mechanics were working on the air conditioner in her bedroom and left through the back door -- which does not exist. She also thinks her name is written on the ceiling above her bed, and that a woman called her at 2 a.m. Tuesday and asked her to marry her. She told me that a family with three kids was living in her guest room and said that my brother and his wife were living under her coat.

Mom was an extremely bright, aware, articulate, active lady with a master's degree and almost a PhD. Now she can't stand up and gets too tired to talk.

I sure hope this is not a preview. Life was much simpler when our ancestors got gored by woolly mammoths or toasted and eaten by fire-breathing monsters -- at age 17.

What is it?

I started a brief conversation with my wife a few minutes ago and she asked me to wait a minute because the garbage disposer was running and she couldn't hear me.

When she turned it off I could not remember the subject of the conversation.

I'm not merely losing it -- sometimes I don't even know what "it" is.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Getting closer to the $$$

Another day older and another day closer to hitting the Soc-Sec jackpot. So far, being 66 is much better than being dead.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Counting down to my first Social Security payment

Will I still be alive on 5/17/12?

Will the Treasury still have money on 5/17?

At age 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50, being 66 seems disgusting and decrepit.

But actually being 66 is EXCITING. I feel like I've been stuffing quarters into a slot machine for half a century, and, finally, this month -- JACKPOT! Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

I had thought that my new wealth would become a slush fund for toys, travel, maybe a second house. Now I know it will pay bills. Damn.

Can I get Mitt to adopt me, or buy a ton of my books?


Sunday, April 15, 2012

I hit 66 today. That's a good thing.

Today is my birthday. I made it to age 66. It's not a major accomplishment like winning a Nobel or Pulitzer. Lots of people have done it -- but lots of people have not.  I'm glad I did. Life is still good, or at least good enough.

I figure I have about 22 more birthdays to go. That's a sobering thought.

There are people alive now who did not have electric lights in their homes when they were kids, but now have iPads. I was one of the first kids in daBronx to have a television, and my current house is filled with the latest electronics. A flying car was at the New York Auto Show last week. I doubt that I'll ever own one, but I lived to see one. I wonder what I won't live long enough to see -- other than world peace, of course. Will I miss something important?

Today is not one of those milestone birthdays, like 10, 13, 18, 21, 35, 60 or 65. But, like Number One, it's one of the few ages that correspond to a famous American highway.

There was even a TV show named after the famous Route 66. People sang, "Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six." Even the Stones sang it. The Beatles sang, "When I'm 64." Been there. Done that.
66 is two thirds of 666 -- the mark of the beast, the sign of the devil. That probably means more to Rick Santorum than it does to me.

There is one really good thing about being 66. If I can hang on for about 32 more days, and if the Department of the Treasury can also survive, I'll start receiving Social Security payments. That's even better than being old enough to run for president.

I feel like I've been in a casino, putting coins in a slot machine for 50 years, and finally, next month, KA-CHING, KA-CHING, KA-CHING!

Thanks to everyone who remembered my birthday. Please forgive me if I don't remember yours. I'm getting old.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fuck football

Based on increased advertising for taco chips, TVs and frozen pizza, I think the Super Bowl game is today. I think one of the teams which will be playing is called the "Pats." I think they are based somewhere in New England (where I live).

If you paid me a billion dollars I could not name the city where the game will be played -- or the other team. I think it may be the New York Giants or San Francisco Giants or Indianapolis or Dallas Somethings. Or maybe Miami Something. Or Toronto?

Am I the only man in the country who doesn't know -- or care -- who's playing?

I can name exactly two football players: Joe Namath and Roosevelt Greer. I have eight flat-screen TVs in my house and none of them have ever been used to display a football game. I plan to keep it that way. After I die, I won't know or care what the TVs are used for.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

When death can be productive

Deaths -- at least deaths of good people -- are undeniably sad. Even if the newly deceased suffered greatly, and might have caused suffering to family and friends, the death causes grieving, not just relief.

Despite the grief, some funeral procedures -- such as Irish wakes and New Orleans jazz funerals -- seem downright jubilant.

Many years ago, I attended the funeral of an elderly relative, and it was the first funeral I attended. After the religious service, the "mourners" gathered in a large room in the funeral home, and chatted as if they were at a cocktail party. There was little seriousness, and no tears, and I was shocked.

As I have gotten older, I have had to attend more funerals, and the behavior -- despite differences in religion, ethnicity and location -- has been the same.

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a woman who was about 95 years old. Her time, clearly, was up. She died in her sleep, with no suffering. There was a mass in a Catholic church followed by a service at a cemetery. These sessions, led by priests and with words added by family, were appropriately solemn. But afterwards, we went to a very nice restaurant, and it was PARTY TIME.

The mood was undeniably jovial. There was little "celebration of life" of the deceased, nor looking ahead to Heaven as touted by the priests.

Instead, it was a family reunion, and an occasion for people who were connected by the cadaver but had never met, to get to know each other.

At events like this, there are always comments like "How come we can get together at funerals, but never at happy times?"

That question made me think about a possible "purpose" of death.

Just as decaying flesh and vegetation fertilize the fields to feed a new generation of plants, animals and people, maybe the celebration after a human death leads to a renewal and reinvigoration of the human community, the coming together of friends, relatives and even strangers who would not be in the same place if someone had not died.

Maybe it's important and useful -- not frivolous and wasteful -- for some of the insurance money to pay for food and drink, and not just scholarships and medical research and new clothes, cars and homes.

Party on.


(photo from Thanks.)