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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Am I a man or a ball?

Too much to do that people expect me to do that I don't feel like doing.
Too much to do that I want to do but can't start or finish.
Too much that was fun but is no longer fun.
Too many books unread and unwritten.
Too many bills that I can't pay.
Too much news I can't stand.
Too little to look forward to.
Too little tolerance.
Too little energy.
Too little time.
Too little joy.

Is this depression, sadness, pissed-offedness? Sometimes I seem like a ball on a pool table, bouncing around and reacting, not initiating action.

I still have a tear in my right eye from a Bob Edwards interview on the radio over an hour ago.

I have to pee but lack the motivation to stand up and go to the john.

Some body parts always hurt. Others have no sensation. My typing is filled with errors caused by my brain malfunctioning, not by sloppy typing.

Have I lost "it?" Where/why did "it" go?

Have I finally, at age 68, passed from middle age to old?

Why did I type this instead of finishing writing three long-past-due books?

Will reading this help me? Can I give myself a good kick in the ass?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sometimes it is too late

I was reading an article in the NY Daily News about a woman who is near death after being hit by a "speed demon" on a $4,000 bicycle in Central Park. At first her name didn't mean anything to me, but then I realized that Jill Tarlov is the daughter of my late father's late first cousin, Malcolm Tarlov from Norwalk.

I probably have not seen Jill in more than 50 years and probably would have gone the rest of my life without thinking of her. It's sad to be reminded of relatives when they are dead or nearly dead.

If you have old friends and relatives whom you don't hate but have not spoken to in a long time, get in touch. You may not have another chance.

Apparently there are no speed limits for bicycles in NYC. There should be.

From Australian

Police sources said it’s common for athletic cyclists to pedal in the car lanes, enabling them to travel faster.
“These guys think that they have entitlement and they don’t ride in the bike lanes,” one source said.
Witness Phillip Fenton, 21, visiting New York on a geography field trip from England’s University of Exeter, said Marshall was “speeding,” adding, “It didn’t look like he tried to stop.
“He was yelling for her to get out of the way, but I don’t think she heard him,” Mr Fenton added.
Mr Fenton’s pal Tom Longman said Marshall was hunched over the brakeless, triathlon-style “aerobars” attached to the handlebars of his high-performance, yellow and black ride.
“She went down pretty hard,” Longman said. “The right side of her face looked very bad. There was blood all over her.”
Local residents have long complained at Central Park Precinct Community Council meetings that the cyclists are a danger.<<

Update: Jill died.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I've learned some things in 68 years

I've done a lot in 68 years, probably more than I'll do in the next 21 years. I did some of the right things and some of the wrong things. I learned lots of lessons and now I'm putting them into a book. 
Do As I Say, Not As  I Did

If the old me could have spoken to the young me, maybe I wouldn't have made so many stupid mistakes. 
From an early draft of the introduction:
Time travel is a pervasive theme in popular culture. For something that doesn’t actually exist, time travel is surprisingly popular.

  • Google shows about ten times as many links for time travel as for European travel.
  • Time travel has inspired countless books, movies, TV shows, videogames and comic books.

My interest in time travel has often been extremely personal. I fantasize about interacting with myself—not with dead presidents or great grandchildren.

I’ve contemplated how the eleven-year-old me would have reacted to the twenty-year-old me. Would the fifteen-year-old me think the forty-year-old me was interesting, cool, smart, boring, stupid, scary, a creep or an asshole?

More importantly—and the impetus for this book—I’ve thought that if the old me could have spoken to the young me, maybe I wouldn’t have made so many stupid mistakes. Maybe I’d now be healthier, wealthier and happier.

I wish I could forcefully advise myself to “do this, not that.” The ten- and twenty-year-old me might have ignored the advice of parents, teachers and doctors—but not the advice of me. If I talk to myself I have to listen.

I’ve learned a lot since 1946. Many of the lessons have been difficult and some have been painful. I figured out many things myself. Some lessons were taught to me by others, especially by my father.

While technology will not yet allow me to go back and talk to myself, I can warn and advise anyone else who’s willing to pay attention.

That’s why I wrote this book. And maybe by looking back I can influence my own future.

It should be published around June 1.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The advantages of being old, or, at least, older

I noticed something interesting in recent photos of writers' groups that met in California and England. I noticed the same thing in a meeting of writers I attended here in Connecticut. There were no young people. The age range seemed to be from about 40 to 85. I don't know why this is so. Are the kids' literary output limited to Tweeting and texting? Are they incapable of writing 30,000 words or more?

Despite deficiencies in appendages and sensory organs, old farts have definite advantages over the young 'uns. We may not remember where we put the car keys or what we ate for breakfast, but we still have long-term memory. We have PERSPECTIVE. We can look back, remember, analyze and compare. We remember things that kids have merely read about or heard about. And, because we can remember when things like cellphones did not exist, we can APPRECIATE -- and maybe even marvel at -- things that younger people take for granted.

After walking around the planet for four or five or six decades, we've seen, heard, smelled, tasted and done a lot.
  • Despite the current Republican Party's fondness for "The Great Communicator," I can remember when Ronnie Reagan was a doddering old fool in the White House. (For me, the highlight of his career was starring in Bedtime for Bonzo.)
  • I remember the thrill when finally more than 50% of Americans were opposed to the war in Viet Nam, and when LBJ decided not to run for re-election.
  • I remember when presidential candidates were selected at the conventions, not in primaries.
  • Today, a burger at Mickey Dee's can cost six bucks. I remember the commercial that chanted "Forty-five cents for a three course meal? Sounds to me like that's a steal." (A burger, fries and a shake cost 15 cents each.)
  • I remember when one-gig hard drives and plain-paper fax machines finally became available for less than $1,000.
  • I remember when people were crippled from polio.
  • I remember when most kids had married parents and few mothers worked.
  • I remember when men were not nurses and did not teach at elementary schools.
  • I remembered when it was shocking that politicians and priests were involved in sex scandals.
  • I remember seeing two movies, seven cartoons and a newsreel for 25 cents.
  • I remember penny candy that actually cost a penny.
  • I remember cars that rusted and overheated and had windup windows and no air conditioning.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see an imported car in the USA. Or Ikea.
  • I remember the discoveries of quiche and fondue.
  • I remember when most women used hair spray, and only strippers wore thong underwear.
  • I remember when it was weird for a woman to run for political office.
  • I remember when pregnant girls left high school.
  • I remember door-to-door salesmen, and notebooks that were not computers.
  • I remember typewriters and correction fluid.
  • I remember shotgun weddings, people going to Europe for abortions and sex-change surgery, and to Nevada for divorces.
  • I remember when people were shocked by Playboy magazine.
  • I remember newspapers that did not print color pictures.
  • I remember having to choose from three TV channels.
  • I remember TV antennas (not dishes) on the roof.
  • I remember when headsets were for pilots and telephone operators.
  • I remember when people rented telephones and answering machines.
  • I remember when answering machines were actually machines.
  • I remember when it was weird to buy water.
  • I remember Pennsylvania Station, Bethlehem Steel and phone numbers with letters.
  • I remember when a doctor made home visits for five bucks, drove a $5,000 Cadillac and lived in a $25,000 house.
  • I remember when an expensive college cost $3,000 per year.
  • I remember paying a nickel to ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and for a bag of potato chips.
  • I remember life before Starbucks, Keurigs, plastic shopping bags, Star Trek and Star Wars, bungee cords, The Pill, cordless phones, reality TV, recycling bins, ZIP Codes, email, word processing, sports bras, $200 sneakers, unisex salons, apps, Silly Putty, The Czech Republic, Trumps, Palins, Kardashians, Lohans, Kims, networking, self-realization, permanent press, videos, value propositions, airplane hijacking, Lojack, GPS, VCR, DVR, LSD, HIV, ATMs, PDFs, FAQs, sex surrogates, texting, sexting, Nigerian scams, men going to weddings without neckties, and seatbelts.
  • I remember when 1950s music was not "oldies."
  • I remember when the USA had 180 million people and 48 states. 
  • I remember commercials for "your DeSoto-Plymouth dealer."
  • I remember the USSR.
  • I remember co-features.
  • I remember mink stoles.
  • I remember when Howdy Doody was "live."
  • I remember when Dick Clark was young.
  • I remember "Kukla, Fran and Ollie."
  • I remember "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet."
  • I remember when Johnny Carson replaced Steve Allen on the Tonight Show.
  • I remember people being concerned about 1984 and Y2K.
  • I remember when it was unusual for women to wear pants to work.
  • I remember pizza selling 25 cents for a slice. Maybe even 15 cents.
  • Although I never drank it, I remember ten-cent coffee.
  • I remember soda vending machines that poured liquid into cups.
  • I remember when "gay" merely meant "happy."
  • I remember when there were just three Radio Shack stores in the entire world, and no BestBuys or Circuit Cities.
  • When our family drove cross-country in 1959, gas cost less than 25 cents per gallon.
  • I remember preparing for World War Three. Duck and Cover.
  • I remember when American men did not wear necklaces, and most women did not have tattoos, or piercings other than in their ears.
  • I remember paying for long-distance calls, and keeping them short.
  • I remember tube testers at Radio Shack, being able to select either mono or stereo LPs, when mobile phones cost $3,000, and when going online could cost $20 per HOUR.
  • I remember when color TVs, touch-tone phones and microwave ovens were luxury items.
  • I remember when TVs had knobs and no remote controls.
  • I remember having a $1,000 VCR with a wired remote  control.
  • I remember open-reel tape, 78s, 45s, 33s, 4-track, 8-track, cassettes, Elcassettes, videodiscs, quadraphonic sound, and record players in cars.
  • I remember wristwatches with tiny LED displays.
  • I remember when there was a Disneyland but no Disney Worlds.
  • I (sadly) remember life without TiVo and satellite radio.
  • I remember when cars had just three-speed transmissions. (The first Corvette had just two.)
  • I remember when turbocharging was exotic.
  • I remember paying to have new cars rustproofed by Ziebart.
  • I remember calling relatives to let them know we had arrived safely -- after a 50-mile drive.
  • I remember when there was no President's Day, but there was a Decoration Day, and weekends had just two days.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see nude bodies or hear dirty words in movies, on TV or radio.
  • I remember when tacos were exotic, and pizza was not available with eggplant.
  • I remember when pocket calculators were exotic.
  • I remember when people stayed home to watch TV.
  • I remember when a science magazine said that it would never be possible to produce a color video camera that could be sold for less than $25,000.
  • I remember predictions of helicopters in every driveway, flat-screen color TVs, pocket-size phones and the end of war and disease.
  • I also remember when cigarettes cost 27 cents per pack, had no cancer warnings, and were advertised on TV. "More doctors smoke camels than any other brand."
  • I remember when magazines cost a quarter, paperback books cost 35 cents, computers cost millions, and homes had one phone and one TV.
  • I remember when milk and eggs were delivered to homes, mommy was home to cook lunch for the kids, and freezers had to be defrosted.
  • I remember hearing about nickel lunches, but I actually remember drinking nickel Cokes.
  • I remember when kids walked to school and it was up-hill in both directions.
  • I remember when KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • I remember when females were not supposed to like sex.
  • I remember when schools, public lavatories and water fountains got integrated.
  • I remember when Ivy League schools had quotas for Jews, and fancy hotels did not allow Jews or dogs to stay in them.
  • I remember when few Jewish people bought German cars and when few WW2 vets bought Japanese cars.
  • I remember when computer screens and printers were monochrome.
  • I remember floppy discs, and laser discs.
  • I remember changing spark plugs.
  • I remember snow tires, even studded snow tires.
  • I remember when radar detectors were illegal in some states.
  • I remember Montgomery-Ward, Gimbel's, Bambergers, Korvette's and Crazy Eddie.
  • I remember when people couldn't buy liquor with a credit card, or lots of things on Sunday.
  • I remember when cable TV was unusual. So were shopping malls. And wearing jeans and sneakers to school.
  • I remember when Howard Johnson's restaurants were ubiquitous, and the signs at McDonald's bragged, "Over One Million Sold."
  • I remember when you had to get phone service from the phone company.
  • I remember when nobody used lasers at home.
  • I remember when most pens and batteries leaked.
  • I remember the appearance of the Magic Marker.
  • I remember when Negroes became Blacks and Afro-Americans.
  • I remember when black people started using the N-word.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see black people in commercials.
  • I remember when "Protestants" became "Christians."
  • I remember when Mormons were considered weird. Hmm.
  • I remember when it was shocking to consider that a Catholic could become president.
  • I remember when Americans went to Cuba for vacation -- but not to China.
  • I remember the iron curtain and iron lungs.
  • I remember my Diners' Club card and receiving Telegrams.
  • I remember stores that let people charge purchases without using charge cards, and when Macy's started accepting American Express.
  • I remember when McDonald's started selling breakfast, and bagels.
  • I remember when banks closed at 3 p.m. and on weekends.
  • I remember when mail-order items were ordered and delivered by mail.
  • I remember the switch from steel to aluminum SCUBA tanks, from dual-hose to single-hose regulators, and from ski boots with laces to ski boots with clips.
  • I remember when people without legs did not compete in sports.
  • I remember when Saturn was not a car but Mercury was. Now Saturn is not a car, again.
  • I remember when Pluto was a planet.
  • I remember when "under God" was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • I remember back in the 1950s when banks paid less than three percent on savings. Hmm. Now two is considered high. 
  • I remember hearing about the Great Depression and that it could never happen again. 
Of course, one big disadvantage of all this perspective and memory is that that no young person wants to hear about it.

top photo from Thanks. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How much more time do you want?

A neighbor and a high school classmate both died yesterday, both much too young and both apparently of "natural" causes.

We can't control our genes, but we can exert a bit of control over our lives.

Be careful, friends.

The older we are the less we can "get away with." There's less time to heal, and maybe less strength to resist bad stuff.

I've been planning on 21 more years. I am going to make some changes starting today.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life's a bitch, and then you die.

Today would have been my parents' 70th anniversary.

They were two extremely intelligent people (both attended high schools for the "gifted" in NYC), active and productive -- but degenerated to become like helpless infants.

"Buddy," my father, died on 7/21/09 at age 87. He had a very full life and finally decided to shut down while in a nursing home. He enjoyed singing old songs to the staff, and grinned while doing a dump into his diaper. Pop eventually stopped wearing his glasses and hearing aid and asked my mother to hire a hit man for him.

Rita, my mother, is 91 and has severe dementia.

She's in a nursing home and doesn't know she should be celebrating, sometimes doesn't recognize her children, and seldom says more than "NO!" -- even when she means yes.

When she was more lucid (even a few months ago), she sometimes articulately described hallucinations,
 such as my father climbed out of his grave and married another woman. Often she substituted words and it obviously pained her when she was inarticulate. Sometimes she'd use a vague term, like "device" instead of "seat belt." Other times the substitution made no sense, like "marshmallow" for "checkbook."

A while ago we noticed that she had exchanged eyeglasses with another resident of the home. Neither woman noticed. More recently she lost a lens from her glasses -- but the lens was from in front of her blind eye. She no longer reads, so the glasses were put away.

Yesterday, bro Marshall and I were at mom's nursing home to discuss final plans. No feeding tube, no heroic measures, just keep her as comfortable as possible.

She shares a room with a slightly older old lady. They have two TVs in the room, a few feet apart. Sometimes they silently display two different programs, but neither woman seems to notice or complain. It's electric wallpaper.

My mother had a powerful brain, but her body suffered greatly over the years.

She's had various body parts replaced, and even had a broken neck. She fell from her bed (or maybe her wheel chair) a few months ago and broke a leg. She has not been able to stand up for several years. In school, mom won an award for penmanship. She knit, crocheted and made ceramic objects. Now she can't hold a fork or spoon, or release her grip from a handkerchief without assistance.

(OK, time for a humorous interlude: mom once broke a toe by kicking Marshall in the ass.)

At mom's 90th birthday party, her long-time doctor, Mark Schwartz, said, "modern medicine can keep people alive long after the parts wear out, but there's no quality of life."

I'm scheduled to become 68 years old in two months. I am not looking forward to 88.