Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Broken Promise

     "I never throw up," I bragged to B on one of our first dates. This was sometime in 2003. At the time I was working on a no-throw-up record of almost 30 years.

     B was pretty; she was smart; she had a great personality. I liked her. So I thought this was a good selling point for myself. I mean, who likes someone who throws up a lot? But I guess what I was doing, with my lame attempt at humor, was making a kind of promise. I would stay healthy for her. She was not signing on to be my nursemaid. No throwing up.

     The last time I'd thrown up was in 1974 or 1975 when I'd had a terrible bout of the flu. And, well, stuff happens. Soon after, I fainted and cracked my chin on the bathroom sink as I went down. My wife (my first wife) panicked when she saw me crumpled on the floor with blood running down my face. She called 911. The first thing I knew, I woke up with my wife hovering over me and two male faces murmuring some mildly reassuring words.

     That's how bad it has to be when I throw up.

     But last weekend . . .

     We had just gotten home from our trip down south. Our grandson had had a bout of stomach flu. So did someone else in the family. But I kept my distance, washed my hands. And anyway, that was four or five days earlier.

     The morning we got home we went out to breakfast at a diner. We had never been there before, but it was crowded. Must be good.

     I ordered eggs, pancakes and a side of fruit.

     The portions were huge. But the fruit looked good. I dug in. As usual, B forked a few pieces for herself. But I was the one who gobbled up most of it. 

     Later that afternoon I just felt tired. I don't know why. I'd slept well. I hadn't really done anything vigorous or taxing. But we'd been traveling. That creates more stress than you think. Maybe it made sense that I was tired.

     At dinner the food, to me, looked intimidating. I ate a bite or two of chicken. It was too rich, too spicy. The asparagus seemed stringy and hard to chew. I left most of the meal on my plate.

     I did the dishes, as usual, then went upstairs to my desk. I tootled around on the computer for a bit, then B came in. We had an engagement the next day. She wanted to discuss what time we should leave and other details of the outing. I looked at her and said, "I hate to say this, but I don't feel so good."

     She looked disappointed, but understanding. "Well, let's see how you feel in the morning."

     It was about five minutes later when for some reason the thought crept into into my mind: I'd better get to the bathroom.

     I'll spare you the details. But it's a good thing I did. Because my now more-than-40-year throw-up record was over. In spades.

     Luckily, B decided to sleep at the other end of the house. I got more exercise than sleep that night. But finally around 5 a.m. I settled down and slept till about 10. I heard the phone ring a couple of times but didn't pay attention.

     I got up for an hour or two and found that B was still there. She had canceled our engagement. Then I went back to sleep. I got up again around 2 p.m. B asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I said no. She asked about dinner later on. Some toast? Chicken soup? No. No. Then I saw a potato on the counter. "How about mashed potatoes?" I asked.

     I took another nap from about 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Got up. Ate a few mashed potatoes. I was worrying that I would lie awake all night since I had slept most of the day. But no. I fell asleep listening to a podcast and stayed asleep until 8 a.m. the next morning.

     I got up. I don't know if it had been the flu or the food, but now I felt fine. Well, mostly fine. I felt like I had been through a fight, and was now recovering, like the guy in the movies who is sitting there half-dazed with a bandaged face and an arm in a sling.

     A day later I was back on my feet. I went to my class, played table tennis that night. I had met the enemy and had won. And the silver lining -- I'd lost about five pounds. But it took two days out of my life. And I had broken the promise I'd made to B, all those years ago.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Too Much to Do?

     I woke up this morning to the tune of "Here Comes Santa Claus" on the clock radio. B insists on setting the alarm for 6:10 a.m. because twice a week she wakes up early to get to her 7 a.m. yoga class.

     Most of the time I don't hear the radio in the morning. I'm a good sleeper. But how can you resist the gentle, mellifluous voice of Gene Autry from so long ago? I love the old Christmas songs, the ones that herald in the holiday season. Yes, the holidays are upon us, and our Baby Boomer bloggers are preparing for the season.

     To kick things off, Meryl Baer at Six Decades and Counting tackles the subject on many of our minds. Shopping. In Small Business Saturday and More she recounts all the special shopping opportunities we have these days, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. But she ends, appropriately for the season, on a different note, reminding us about Giving Tuesday.

      Rita Robison of The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide offers some holiday advice from her perspective as a consumer and finance journalist. She suggests that we make a budget, compare prices, avoid impulse items, keep receipts. But there's more, so check out her post Tips for Shopping before you hit the stores, virtual, brick or otherwise.

     Rebecca Olkowski of BabyBoomers.com reminds us that the season is really all about gratitude and counting our blessings. It's sometimes hard to do, she admits, when times are tough, but making the effort to feel and express gratitude can actually help us get through our challenges. In A Time to Be Grateful she reflects on her own life, which includes dogs, family, home, cancer, and the world we live in.

     Jennifer from Unfold and Begin is also grateful for the year that is drawing to a close. As she tells us in Be Thankful for What You Have she left Connecticut in 2019 to find a new life in central Florida. Now the blogger shares her first-hand experience about moving so far away from home . . . and how she now eagerly awaits "what's next."

     Carol Cassara of Heart, Mind, Soul has been thinking along the same lines as Jennifer Kolsak. Except she lives in California, not Connecticut. And she hasn't actually changed her life; she's only thinking about it. She's beginning to realize, she says, that as we age we tend to lose patience with nuisances, inconveniences and everyday problems. Things we might have done as a matter of course when we were younger become "too much trouble." So in her post Is My Love Affair with California Over? she examines life today in the Golden State . . . and if, for her, the love affair has run its course, or if, like any other love affair, it just has its ups and downs.

     Finally, Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles, asks us: Do you feel the holiday pressure starting to kick in? Do you feel the need to get everything done on time . . . on a budget . . . with a smile? As she watched her to-do list grow ever longer -- trees, wreathes, cards, decorations, stockings, holly, cookies, gifts -- her inner Scrooge started to well up. But then, like me, she heard a song. It was an unmistakable voice, one we all remember, one that for her would Save Christmas.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

What Are We Doing?

     Sometimes I wonder: what are we doing? Everybody, it seems, is worried about climate change and global warming, the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the general level of pollution in our water and air. But nobody seems to do anything about it.

     People blame the California fires on the electric company and global warming. But still they keep building more houses in sensitive and threatened areas. Politicians propose a green new deal -- but, it seems, only to make a point, not to seriously address the issue. But meanwhile . . .

     I just drove 150 miles down I95. I spied a few Toyota Priuses and other hybrids. There were some economy cars -- the smaller Hondas, Toyotas and Chevrolets -- that might average better than 30 mpg. But by far the majority of vehicles on the road were trucks and SUVs -- vehicles like the Dodge Ram, Toyota Tundra, and the Jeeps and big Mercedes that burn up fuel and spit out exhaust at a rate of 15 mpg. It's hard to believe these people are interested in saving the planet.
   
     And then, do they drive at 55 mph, when the car is at its most efficient? Or even 60 or 65 mph, when it's not much less efficient? No, they speed at 70 or 75, or many of them do, when gas efficiency starts to deteriorate significantly. I guess people want to save the environment . . . unless they're in a hurry.

     Then I get to my airbnb, a condo complex on the coastline of Florida. There are 24 units in my building, and there are a dozen buildings -- for 288 units. I checked in with the manager. She handed me a copy of the rules and pointed out where the trash bins are. She didn't mentioned recycling, so I asked.

     "No, we don't recycle," she said. She gave me a guilty look. "We used to. But too many of the guests just didn't bother, and it was costing us money. So we stopped. Everything goes in the trash now."

     Again, it seems people want to save the planet. But not if it's too much trouble, or if it costs a few extra dollars.

     And when I went to the beach, guess what I saw. The sand was peppered with little pieces of plastic, in amongst the seaweed. Should we be surprised?

Can you see the little bits of green and blue plastic on the Florida beach?
   
     I'm certainly not setting myself up as holier than thou. I drive a car (but not an SUV). I usually recycle my paper and plastics. But on occasion I've thrown a bottle in the regular trash, especially since I've read that there's so much plastic they can't recycle it all and some of it ends up in the landfills anyway.

     We have to live in our world. But it's easy to blame PG&E or Big Oil. But who buys the oil? Who uses all the plastic? Who's responsible for our ever-increasing use of electricity? What's the old saying? We have met the enemy, and it is us.

     I remember when I was a kid. My aunt lived out in the country. She'd burn her trash and throw what wouldn't burn into the woods behind her house. This was a common practice in those days. But eventually there was just too much trash. So now even the rural residents put their garbage in the proper receptacles to be hauled away to proper disposal stations.

     We really should stop throwing paper and plastic into the ocean, and stop spewing carbons into the air. Like the people in my aunt's old neighborhood, we have to become a little more advanced in our ways. Even if we don't care about it for ourselves, we should do it for the grandchildren.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

November By Any Other Place

     So the other day I left the Northeast and traveled almost a thousand miles, just to get out of the cold. Well, lo and behold, it turns out that Florida has winter, too!


     It rained the day I got here.

   
     The cloud cover broke up a little bit. But still, the beach is gray and wind-swept. Maybe, no matter where you go, you can't escape November.

   
     Nevertheless, there's a different feel. The coast is windswept, but not cold. Damp but not frozen. Lonely, but not bitter.


     And, a surprise for me anyway, the dunes were dotted with flowers, brightening up the gloom of the darkening skies.
 


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Shelter in Place!

     This happened just the other day. It was late afternoon, starting to get dark. I was home alone. My wife was out running errands. I noticed a cop car parked across the street, lights flashing. At first I didn't think anything of it. We occasionally have cop cars parked at our corner because it's a school crossing and the cops like to keep an eye on things.

     Then I thought, uh oh, maybe it's the woman across the street. She's elderly, pushing 90, and maybe something happened to her. But the next time I looked out the window I saw her walk onto her front porch, look around for a few seconds, then go back inside.

     A few minutes later the phone rang. I looked at caller ID (because I don't answer the phone if I don't recognize the number), and it was B. "I can't get home," she said. "The street is blocked off."

     There was a cop blocking the street, she reported. And the other entrance into our neighborhood was closed down as well.

     As we spoke on the phone I got up from my desk and peered out the window, then went around to the guest bedroom and spied out the other way. I saw cop cars, lights flashing, lined all the way down the street, starting at my house and going out toward the main road.

     "Oh, boy, something's going on," I said to her. "Maybe it's an accident? Or a medical emergency?"

     It was obvious this would take a while. We decided B would turn around and go over to Panera's and have a cup of tea.

     I hung up the phone, and about five minutes later it rang again. Caller ID said it was from the township. So I picked up the phone. And that's when I heard the recorded announcement: Due to police activity in my area, I was warned to shelter in place.

     So I called B back. She was in Panera's, and she'd had an opportunity to check in with the neighborhood women's group. The texts were flying. There was a shooter. A number of people had reported shots fired in the neighborhood. No one knew anymore than that, except my next-door neighbor was panicking because she had six neighborhood kids in her basement. They could see the lights of the cop cars out the basement windows, and knew there was a shooter on the loose.

      I checked our local news website. There were reports of gunfire coming from a house -- a house just around the corner from us. No injuries were reported. There was a young man involved. The news story claimed the incident was confined to one house.

     Next I surveyed the street as best I could, peering out from window to window. I saw a man in what looked like full combat gear sneaking around the house across the street in back of us. Down the street I saw a van with three -- no, four -- people crouched behind it for protection.

     A few minutes later an armored truck slowly rumbled down the street. It stopped. Then it started up again and moved down to the corner. The back of the truck opened and four or five fully armed men hurried out the back. They gathered on the corner, conversed with one another, checked on their radios.

     After a few minutes the men climbed back into the truck, and the truck turned the corner and continued down the street.

     I saw several other cops walking up ad down the street. A few were in combat gear, others wore blue uniforms with bullet-proof vests. The van stayed where it was, with the cops huddled behind it, surveying the area, keeping watch.

     I called B again. She'd been busy texting with her neighborhood friends. There was a young man, hyped up on drugs, who'd been shooting out the window of his house. Apparently the situation was now under control. She'd call me back as soon as she heard more.

     Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw a few of the cop cars turn and head out. B called me back. She was coming home. More cop cars left, until the street was dark. That's when I noticed that none of the houses along the street had turned on their lights. Everybody, it seems, was lying low.

     A little later a line of headlights appeared on the street. People coming home from work. They were now allowed in.

     B showed up and settled in. We had dinner. Her church activity scheduled for that evening had been canceled, due to the police activity. The school on the next block also canceled its evening program, a concert by the kids. We later read that while school had been let out before the incident occurred, there was a group of kids in an after-school program that were subject to the shelter-in-place order. The school went on lock-down.

     The news the next day summarized:  "No injuries were reported in conjunction with the incident, which unfolded just after 3:45 p.m. The police responded after reports of continuous gunfire in the area. When officers arrived a standoff situation ensued and 'numerous' shots were fired from inside the house, police said. The standoff ended just after 5:30 p.m. A 21-year-old man who lives at the home surrendered and was taken into custody."

     We don't know the young man, or the family that lives in the house. I guess we'll never know the details of the situation. But the basic problem is obvious. There was some mixture of drugs, mental illness and ready access to a gun that precipitated the crisis.

     We're always surprised when something like this happens. But we shouldn't be. We have more drugs, more mental illness and more guns than we've ever had. Shouldn't we do something about it?