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

Monday, July 25, 2016

NOT over my dead body

My siblings and I were just asked to approve a bronze grave marker for our mother, who died last year. Most people probably think the submitted design is fine. I think the typography is ghastly!
  1. Some "A" letters look too small.
  2. Some seem to extend too low.
  3. Some spacing between letters is too large.
  4. There is no kerning.
I'm merely an amateur typographer but could have done a much better job.

I long ago decided on the inscription for my own grave stone ("OK, What's Next?") but now I think I'll have to do the actual design to be sure of competent typography.

Humans seldom hang around for more than a century but graves can last for millennia. They should be done right.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Today is my 70th birthday. Am I old yet?

I used to say that middle age lasts until they shovel dirt onto you. I can still say that, but with a bit less conviction. I do everything with a bit less conviction. Especially climbing stairs.

Last summer I went to a doc with an office sign that said "geriatric and adult care." I asked the receptionist how old one has to be to be considered geriatric. She said 50. Ouch.

I don't "feel old." But maybe that's because lots of my body parts have no feelings at all.

I certainly don't "think old." I have a 14-year-old brain imprisoned in a 70-year-old body. Maturity is overrated, and if I have not yet achieved it, I probably never will. My next stage of emotional development will likely be senility.

For most of her 90-plus years my mother was an active and brilliant lady. At the end she had terrible Alzheimer's. She didn't recognize her children, didn't read, speak or stand. She ate and slept. That's not much of a life.

At Mom's 90th birthday party her long-time physician and friend said that medical science can keep a body functioning long after the mind stops, but what's the point?

I had previously predicted that
I'd die in 2035, at the "ripe old age" of 89. Now I wonder if I should revise my plan.

Within the past eight months I've been hospitalized twice. I've been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. My diabetes attacked a nerve that controls one of my eyes. I wear an eye patch to eliminate double vision. I have no feeling from the soles of my feet to half way up to my knees. The combination of loss of vision and loss of feeling makes walking wobbly, so I sometime use a cane. On different days different knees hurt. My hands hurt 97% of the time. My left foot, which theoretically has no feeling, often hurts a lot.

I've cut back on pizza consumption to twice a month, and ice cream to twice a week. I can spell the word "exercise."

Typing is tough because I often tap the wrong keys and forget and substitute words.

Within the past month or so a bunch of famous people died while in their 60s and 70s. That's scary.

Later today I'll drive to Firestone to get new brakes. The better brakes have a lifetime warranty. How long is that?

I'm going to have a surprise birthday party on Sunday. The party is not a surprise, but the birthday is. I thought I would've been killed before now by an overdose of brownies or by someone I pissed off.

I still enjoy life and will still do almost anything for a joke. I have no idea how much time I have left. I've started to dispose of my collections and acquire less, and cross items off my bucket list.

Today I will taste my first cup of coffee. I will probably never go to bed with a prostitute, bungee-jump from the George Washington Bridge nor give a bronsky to Sofia Vergara.

Maybe it's best to not empty my bucket list. It gives me something to look forward to just in case I get a second chance.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I'm not older than dirt but I am older than Trump

I expect that Donny will have a very subdued 70th birthday celebration on June 14th so his fans don't learn how friggin' old he is. Maybe he'll spray some extra yellow paint on his head to hide the gray.

My 70th birthday is planned to be on 4/15/16, and if I survive that long I'll have _two_ birthday parties. 

They'll be surprise parties because I'll be surprised to live that long. I expected to be killed about ten years ago by an overdose of brownies or by someone I pissed off.
Survival is the best revenge and I'm not embarrassed to show my gray hair. In fact, I'll add some gray hairs for the celebrations.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Where did it go?

A few minutes ago I wanted to type "Wendy's" but typed "Wednesday." Have I lost it? When did I lose it? Where did it go? What is it, anyway?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

(Almost) anything for a joke

Wife Marilyn often complains that I have a reckless sense of humor and I “go too far.” She’s afraid that I’m going to get into trouble like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin did.
I think artistic expression outranks domestic tranquility. In my domicile, we have much more expression than tranquility.
Like Penn and Teller, Bart Simpson and the folks on the "Jackass" TV show, I’ll do almost anything for a joke -- even if the joke's on me.
Other people have occasionally described my humor as sick, tasteless or black humor. That’s because I can find humor in almost any situation, and that can make people uncomfortable.
I designed and wore the pee-pee shirt when I went to the hospital to be treated for a kidney stone a few years ago. It made people laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. Most people are too serious most of the time. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.
Because of diabetic damage to one of my eyes I've been wearing an eye patch since mid-February. I bought a couple of pirate shirts to enhance the experience. Little kids sometimes ask if I'm a real pirate. I smile and say "aaaarrrgh."
Being half-blind doesn't have to be completely unpleasant.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Maybe I won't make it to 2035. Oh shit. Please call Sofia.

The original and continuing premise of this blog was that I'd die in 2035, at the "ripe old age" of 89. Now I wonder if I should revise my plan.

Within the past eight months I've been hospitalized twice. I've been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. My diabetes attacked a nerve that controls one of my eyes. I wear an eye patch to eliminate double vision. I have no feeling from the soles of my feet to half way up to my knees. The combination of loss of vision and loss of feeling makes walking wobbly, so I use a cane. On different days different knees hurt. My hands hurt 97% of the time. Arthritis, too, of course.

Years ago when our ancestors were gored to death by sabre-toothed tigers before they reached their 21st birthdays, there was little chance of developing our 21st century maladies. Now we have much more time to develop maladies, and there are many more ways to get killed. Cavemen had no nukes nor assault rifles.

In recent weeks I've heard of lots of people dying of "natural causes" at around age 75. And of course there are plane crashes, car crashes, tsunamis, pollution, food poisoning, terrorists and murderers.

In reality, unless we plan suicide, none of us know how much time we have left. There's an old Jewish blessing, "may you live until 120" (
"Biz Hundret un Tsvantsig"). Living that long seems extremely unlikely in my case, but now even 89 seems unsure.
That really pisses me off. I have lots of stuff still on my bucket list, but maybe I should throw some out of the bucket.

My 70th birthday is scheduled for April 15th. I'd love to celebrate by giving a bronsky to Sofia Vergara. If that turns out to be the last thing I do, I'll die with a big smile on my face.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Contemplating suicide (Relax. It's merely an intellectual exercize. There is no need to send help.)

A wise person once said that when you talk more about what you've done than about what you want to do -- you're old.

Based on that, I suppose I'm old. I'm scheduled to become 70 years old next April 15th.

  • I've gone SCUBA diving under ice, I've skied, experimented with various pharmaceuticals, been arrested, had a threesome and had my salad tossed, eaten raw clams, lived in The Bronx twice and been to four foreign countries. I've survived long enough to collect Social Security and Medicare. I've written lots of books, including a bunch of bestsellers. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook and a few in real life. I've earned and spent lots of money. I've voted in every election I was eligible to vote in. I was invited to the White House (Bush One) and was nominated to be Hispanic Businessman of the Year (a long, silly story). I live with a wonderful woman and a wonderful dog who both seem to like me.
  • I am unlikely to visit the moon, jump with a bungee, become president, earn a PhD, win a Pulitzer prize or an Olympic medal for jumping. At this stage, it's extremely difficult for me to stand up after being on the floor. I have no human children to provide grandchildren. I probably won't buy a 3D TV. My next home will be smaller and less-grand than my present home.
  • I am almost prepared for the end. My will needs to be updated but I've written the text for my headstone and planned the music for my funeral 
My bucket list is pretty much empty. It contains a few fantasies (time travel back for a weekend in 1967, read every book I own, own a Ferrari, get an honorary PhD from Lehigh and ride a fast camel across the dunes in Morocco).

There is just one semi-realistic item on the list. For years I've had a vision of staying in a cabin next to a lake in the Adirondack Mountains. 

So, with health declining, money waning, discomfort increasing and little or nothing to look forward to... why should I bother to stay alive until my anticipated death in 2035?

Is there any good reason to not kill myself right now?

There are a few:

  1. My wife and my dog need me.
  2. I have to sort out, throw out, and give away lots of stuff.
  3. I want to finish writing a few books I've started or planned.
  4. I actually enjoy large parts of most days. 
  5. Suicide is not reversible. 
  6. There is probably no pizza or ice cream after death.
  7. I'd like to get back to Maine at least one more time.
  8. Some people would probably miss my blogging and Facebook postings.
  9. I expect that someone will give me a really good 70th birthday party next April.
  10. I probably won't hear what people will say at my funeral.
  11. I have lots of empty bottles to exchange for nickels.

In a few months I'm scheduled to become 70 years old. However, as I grow older I still refuse to grow "up."

About 35 years ago I met a guy whom I thought was a few years older than I was. Today I found out that I'm 3-1/2 years older than he is. That means I was older than him 35 years ago.

Lately I've realized that lots of people I thought were older than me are really younger than me.

As time passes, there are fewer and fewer people older than me.

However, as I grow older I still refuse to grow "up."

Like Tom Lehrer​ I plan to pass from adolescence to senility without passing through maturity.

Like Peter Pan I don't want to wear a tie.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Nap time!

When you're four years old, a nap is a punishment. At my age it's a mini-vacation. I can even nap at a red light.

I'm not yet ready to begin my dirt nap.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Another one gone, and less left

Holy shit!

I just looked at my appointment book.

It's almost September. Wife Marilyn has been in the hospital since June. This summer has been a blur. 

I can remember assorted minutes and hours, maybe even half-days. But not weeks or months.

Where did July go? Where did my life go?

This will be my approximate 50th summer of unfulfilled fantasy.

I will not get to paddle a canoe and then fall asleep in a hammock near a cabin at a lake in the Adirondack Mountains. 

I'll need a second life to check off the remaining items in my to-do-list. I'd really like to visit Morocco, Italy, Greece, Austria, Israel, Egypt, India, China, Japan, Australia, Antarctica, Chile, Brazil. 


Kids look forward to birthdays because age implies empowerment.

Later on it just means one less year left.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Should I revise the text for my gravestone?

Other than people who are planning suicides, most of us don't know how much time we have left.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did some research and calculating and estimated that I'd die in 2035, at the ripe old age of 89. (My father died at age 87. Mom made it to 92.)

The 89 number seemed realistic, and neither pessimistic nor greedy.

Now I wonder if I'll hang on that long.

I've been a Type-Two diabetic for about 25 years, but it's under control. I've had kidney stones, but they were blasted to smithereens and I peed them out. I don't smoke and seldom drink alcohol. I don't bungee jump, sky dive or engage in dangerous sex.

Like many Americans I eat too much. I assumed that I'd have a heart attack when I was in my 40s, then 50s -- but it didn't happen.

A few years ago I lost about 120 pounds. I got rid of the other person who was living under my skin and hanging onto my bones. I was able to buy jeans for $14 at Sam's, not $50 at the fat man's store. I felt good, looked good and some hot chicks flirted with me. Twenty pounds came back but I made ten go away. I want to lose the other ten, and maybe more.

Last week I was diagnosed with inadequate kidney function and atrial fibrillation (also known as coronary arrhythmia and irregular heartbeat). Yesterday I found out that my blood pressure is very low (80/60, compared to a normal 120/80).

My wife Marilyn inherited bad heart genes from both parents. She's had a triple bypass and two stents installed. We knew she had a "bum ticker" and she ate carefully, got lots of exercise and good medical care. She's lived longer than both parents and a brother.

Marilyn's been in the hospital for a week because of a bad concussion. I nearly blacked out when I visited her last Friday, and I was admitted to the hospital. My room was on the floor below hers. Not very intimate.

My heart and kidney problems were discovered while I was visiting her. They had not been previously diagnosed, but probably were incipient and worsened by my not eating or sleeping properly while Marilyn was in the hospital, plus stress.

I have some new drugs to take with various good and not-so-good effects. Some drugs may be the wrong drugs.

  • I had a small scab on one arm from a dog scratch. Suddenly it erupted and blood started flowing. The leak is probably caused by my new blood thinner. 
  • I was given a new drug for high blood pressure -- and three days later I was diagnosed with low blood pressure.
Human bodies are very confusing. Androids don't have to deal with this crap.

Friday, May 1, 2015

When does "old" start?

I used to say that middle age lasts until dirt is thrown on you. I became 69 two weeks ago. Am I (GASP) already an alte kocker? (That's Yiddish for "old shitter.") I prefer something like "esteemed, learned kvetcher."  (To kvetch is to complain.) I do a lot of that.

I've kvetched for my whole life. My mother said that I once cried in my high chair until she realized that I was upset because a kitchen cabinet door was left open. I could not speak yet, but I could kvetch.

I've always had very high standards, that often do not apply to me. My wife often kvetches about my lapses. She thinks I should shower every day. That's ridiculous. I have aroma, not stench.

The Internet makes it easy to kvetch to a large audience. I have dozens of blogs, websites and Facebook pages and I tweet sometimes. My books are filled with kvetching, mostly funny kvetching.

When does alte-kockering begin? Maybe 75 or 80?

Is there a Yiddish term for "pre-alte kocker?"

Photo from Thanks.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My tank of life is emptying

I have a birthday coming up soon. It's not a "milestone" birthday to be marked by celebration, it's just one of many innocuous numbers that mark a decrease in the years I have left until what's left of me gets put away to rot.

When we are young, we are excited, maybe even proud, of reaching ages 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 25, 35 -- because each of those numbers indicate added privileges and authority.

Later on, 65 means money from Social Security and Medicare, and senior discounts at unexciting restaurants.

After 65, each new number means that there is less left in the tank of life.

I've been assuming that I'll die at age 89. That number is now five years closer than when I picked 2035 as my last year, for my blog about dying.

Time is speeding up as it passes by. Sometimes years feel like they have only about five or six months in them. 

2035 is approaching quickly. It's a mere two decades away, now. But there are many unforeseen horrors that could move my exit date closer. I'm taking things off my bucket list as I realize they are unattainable fantasies. I am buying less and giving way more.

I watched both of my parents -- both previously super-smart and vigorous -- fade away to become useless, barely animated collections of atoms.

Damn. Shit. Hell. Fooey.

I'm not depressed, just pissed off. 

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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Damn summer!

It's 4:20 a.m. I've been awake since at least 1:24. It's dark out and I don't hear any birds chirping. It seems like just a few days ago at this time that the sun was shining and there was an avian concert outside my window. 

Winter is coming. I'm both pissed and relieved. This summer, like most summers, has been extremely frustrating, even annoying. Many things on my to-do-list remain undone. I want summer to go away.

One particularly annoying item remains on my annual list. My mind sees my body asleep in a chair outside a cabin on the shore of a lake in Adirondack State Park. Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" is playing, but not too loud. A breeze is tickling my face. Blue sky, blue water, my dog and a canoe are waiting for me to wake up.

Maybe next summer. Maybe next life. 


photo from iStockPhoto. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Forgive and forget, or ignore and move on?

We've all heard the phrase "forgive and forget." I seldom forget, and if I remember, I seldom forgive.

At a high school reunion about 25 years ago, I was approached by another man.

Years earlier, when his hair was darker and greasier, "Rick" was known as "Daddy Demon." He was probably one of just two Jewish juvenile delinquents in New Haven.

Rick smiled, said “Hi, howya been?” and he raised his right hand to shake mine.
I kept my right hand at my side.

I reminded Rick that in the fall of 1958, when we were both in the seventh grade, on the way home from school, he and a couple of other 12-year-old hoods ambushed me for no discernible reason. Rick poked holes in both of my bicycle tires and then he snuffed out a cigarette on my head. 

A few months later, Rick’s posse held me down on the ground with my mouth forced open so they could spit into it. Later on, one of them stabbed me in the pool at our country club.

I did not shake Rick’s hand.

I did tell Rick to go fuck himself.

I still remembered a lot. 

Fast-forward to a few days ago. Rick wanted to join an online group that I administer. My initial reaction was to ignore him -- a polite way of saying "go fuck yourself" again.

I thought about my decision. I've held a grudge against an evil, sadistic bully for 55 years, the vast majority of my life, and now he wanted -- or needed -- something from me. 

Unlike that day in 1958, I now had power over him. I was in a position to show the mercy that he and his posse did not show. 

I clearly did not forget what they did, and cannot forgive it -- but I can choose to ignore it. 

Maybe Rick on Social Security is not the same person that the pre-teen Rick was.

I've done a few crappy things in my life ('tho I was never a bully) and I'd like my transgressions to be ignored.

So, I let Rick into the group.

If I meet him again, maybe I'll be willing to shake his hand. I probably won't tell him to go fuck himself. I'd probably like to have a conversation with him. I'd like to know what diabolical influences turned him into Daddy Demon, and how he outgrew the demon.

Maybe by being nice to a former nemesis, I outgrew a demon of my own.

I definitely feel better now.