"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Fantasy Retirement Home

     I've just come indoors after having spent 2 hours working in the yard. (I've been fighting a yard for more than 30 years and so far the yard has won). And I've started to fantasize -- fantasize about the true retirement home I'd like to have.

     I currently live in the suburbs, with a little less than an acre of yard, and a big garage to store all our lawn and garden equipment plus the two cars we need because we can't get anywhere in our town without driving a couple of miles.

     The suburbs have served me well. I've raised two kids who've been able to play in our yard, go to a decent public school, enjoy the benefits of Little League and lots of other community activities. And to be honest, I like to work in the yard. I like getting dirty and smelling the grass up close and trying to grow a tomato plant or two.

     Just not too often; certainly not as much as I used to.

     My fantasy house might have a little patch of lawn -- about as big as my bedroom -- and a small garden where I could grow a few flowers and an herb or two. The size of my retirement garden would be the equivalent of about two window boxes.

     I think I would like to live in a small town -- not too big or bustling, but with sidewalks and a coffee shop down at the corner where I could walk in the morning. I do worry about the noise. I've had problems with noisy neighbors in the past. But let's face it, the older I get the less I'm able to hear, so maybe the ambient noise from cars and kids and dogs and lawnmowers won't bother me.

     I don't really like the mountains that much; they always seem cold and remote to me. I'm a lowlander at heart, used to a thick, humid atmosphere. But I want something different from the generic suburb where I've lived for most of my life.

Maybe a place like this. Can anyone guess where it is?
    So, perhaps I should go down to the sea. I can't really afford the seashore, I know, because I've spent vacation time in Cape Cod, and Cape May, and Myrtle Beach, and Sarasota, and San Diego, and you can't buy anything within a block or two of the ocean for much less than $1 million, or rent for less than $4K a month.

     But this is a fantasy. So put me near the seashore. Maybe not oceanfront or on the beach, but somewhere nearby, in town, by the harbor or on an inlet, or possibly on a lake.

     I do like to play golf, but I don't want to live in a golf community. That's too much golf. And besides, I don't know if I want to live in the bubble of a gated community. But I do want a social life -- so I'd want to go to a town where there are some other newly retired people who are open to new friendships, not a town where everyone knows everyone else's parents and aunts and uncles and have been friends since 4th grade and aren't interested in meeting new people.

     I'd nevertheless go in search of a golf course where I could play a round once a week or so, with some of my new friends. I'd frequent the local library -- maybe there's a book club I could join. I'd get to know the proprietors of the local businesses down the street and around the corner, especially the barista at my local coffee emporium. Not a Starbucks. But someplace called Perks or The Beanery or Higher Grounds or Joe's Place.

     My house would be an older home -- definitely prewar. Yes, I know that means you have to make more repairs. But the place will have town water and town sewers (I own a septic tank and leaching field right now -- and boy, am I ready to give those up!) And not too big. Two bedrooms might be enough. Maybe three. Enough for B and me, with enough room for the kids to visit but not so spacious that they'd want to stay for too long.

     That reminds me, my new town would have to be easily accessible so the kids would visit now and then. Not too far from an Interstate or major airport. With a mild climate -- not too hot in summer or too cold in winter. And if I'm going to get the kids to visit, there have to be some attractions that would appeal to them. The beach perhaps. And some nightlife. A place where there's some live music or live theater. Besides, B and I have taken up ballroom dancing in our dotage, so we'd want a place where we could cut a rug.

     Should I insist on a one-story house? That would be hard to find in an older home. Some people say you don't want to climb stairs when you get older. And I have bad knees. How about a compromise? A place with a master bedroom on the first floor, with a guest room or two on a smaller second floor -- maybe bumped out like a dormer. We'd also want a good medical facility nearby, but I think that would come automatically with the kind of place I'm describing.

     Is my vision completely unrealistic? Or more to the point, can anyone recommend a place they know that sounds like the place I'm envisioning in my head? Don't worry, I'm not about to move in next door to you. This is still just a fantasy. First, I've got to go cut the grass.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Blogging Boomers Carnival

     John Agno over at So Baby Boomer explains what a blog carnival is, then coaches us on the singular mission of the Blogging Boomers Carnival. If that's not enough (for those us who are really into Boomers), he also offers a few suggestions for books about Baby Boomers that you might enjoy reading.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ten Years Ago Today

     Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of my father. He died on April 19, 2002, two years to the day after my mother died. They'd been married for 60 years before she finally succumbed to cancer at age 88, and he followed exactly two years later at age 91.

    I remember when my ex-wife's mother died, in the early 1990s at age 86, my wife lamented that she was an orphan. I didn't understand it. My wife was in her 40s at the time. To me, the word orphan connotes a sense of dependency -- that you have to be a child to be an orphan. But she insisted, and told me, "Just you wait."

     My ex-wife's father had died of a heart attack before I met her. She didn't like her dad much. But she loved her mother, despite the fact that her mother was opinionated (especially when it came to our two kids) and could be intrusive at times. But she was warm and had a big heart and only wanted the best for us, and the only friction that was ever created was because she had some old-fashioned ideas about the role of women and mothers, and about kids and how people should live their lives. Not that we lived an unconventional life, but like a lot of parents she struggled to understand some of our modern social values.

     My own parents were much more distant and cool. My dad loved his kids, for sure, but in an abstract way. He would do anything for us, but he didn't pal around with us, or play sports with us, or coach our teams or anything like that. He was more remote. He spent most of his time at work. He thought of himself as a "serious" man who'd worked his way up from a poor, immigrant family to establish a profession in the city, and a home and family in the suburbs, and he was proud of his success and judgmental about others who didn't see life the way he did.

     Over the weekends, when my parents went out, they usually went out by themselves. We didn't go many places as a family, except to see my dad's relatives, or very occasionally my mom's brother, Uncle Tom. The main image I have of my dad is him forcing down a fast bowl of cereal in the morning and rushing off to work. Or else he's at home sitting in his chair, reading his newspaper or going over some papers from work, and sometimes putting down the paper to help us with homework, or peering over the top of the paper to offer advice.

     I have often wondered, if this man was not my dad, but a teacher or a coach or a boss, would we have developed any sort of special relationship? The answer is:  No, I really didn't think so.

     But then my dad wasn't a very friendly fellow, or particularly personable. He was not the man with the joke or easy story; not one to punch you in the arm or clap you on the back. It was my mother who developed my parents' friendships, and it was only because of her that they joined friends for dinner or played cards with a group of people.

     A little while after I joined up with B, we were talking about something she wanted to do -- I forget what it was or how we got started. I was trying to encourage her, but apparently not responding quite the way she had hoped. Suddenly she turned and gave me an indulgent laugh -- realizing that I was trying to help, but bungling the job. "Tom, I know you are very supportive," she told me. "But you're not particularly sympathetic.

     And I realized that I had become kind of like my dad. A better version, I'd hope, or at least tempered by softer, more people-friendly character of my mom. But I guess we all carry around the qualities and characteristics of our parents, whether we want to or not.

     My mom and dad died when I was in my early 50s. No, I didn't feel like an orphan. But every once in a while, I miss them. And on this day I just wanted to say hello, from across the years.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Diagnosing the High Cost of Health Care

     As I mentioned in my previous post, the cost to cover a family of four under an employer health-care plan is now $20,000 a year -- and going up by 7 to 8% annually (which seems like a good deal to me, since my health-care insurance premium increased 15% for the upcoming year). The cost of health care has doubled in the last ten years.

     Why is health care so expensive? There are as many causes of high health-care costs as there are causes of cancer. And like cancer, some of them we don't even know. But we do know that improving technology, longer life spans, and greater expectations cause a lot of it. Everyone expects to be able to get a pacemaker if they need one, whether they can afford it or not, at a cost (according to my friend who's replacing his this summer) of $90,000 . . . to be paid by someone else.

     There's also the cost of malpractice insurance, to protect doctors from ambulance chasing lawyers. The cost of the increased medical bureaucracy. The cost of emergency room visits by the uninsured. The cost of all those unnecessary doctor visits and medical tests for the "worried well" who feel entitled to the medical care because they're paying insurance premiums, but don't have to pay extra for the unnecessary care.

     The list goes on and on. And we're all "guilty" of running up those costs. I do think the Republicans are right when they claim one reason health-care costs are so high is because there's no free market. The Federal government pays about half the cost of health care, mostly through Medicare -- and 30% of that Medicare bill goes toward taking care of people just in the last year of their lives. Private insurance companies pay most of the rest of the bills -- while we only have to plunk down a $10 or $15 copay to see the doctor. (Actually, those copayments are getting higher -- mine's up to $25 for my primary care physician and $50 for a specialist -- but you get the point; we don't pay directly for the services we get, so we don't care very much about how much it all costs.)

     However, I don't agree with Republicans who say we should have a free market in health care. It just doesn't work when you have a situation where you may not use services for a long time, then suddenly have huge expenses -- at a time when you're not in a position to shop for price. And besides, since the government already pays for half of our medical expenses, doesn't the government really set the price?

     I got taken to task in my last health care post because I referred to the "Affordable Care Act" as "Obamacare." Apparently, Republicans have tagged the health-care law Obamacare in the belief that it's unpopular. But for one thing, I don't know if that's correct -- I don't think it's so unpopular, it's just that the subject is scary, literally a life-or-death issue for people. And also, I believe Obamacare is more accurate than the Affordable Care Act since there's no way the new law will make health care more affordable for most of us. It only makes sense that Obamacare will increase medical costs. How can it not, when it will insure another 50 million people who currently either can't or don't want to pay for care.

     Also, if you can call the Massachusetts health plan "Romneycare," why not the Affordable Health Care Act Obamacare?

     Actually, Romneycare has apparently been reasonably successful in Massachusetts. As a result of the law, about 97% of the state's residents now have health insurance, and it's serving as a model for the neighboring state of Vermont, which has passed a bill that will move the state toward a single-payer system -- and some say a model for Obamacare itself.

     Speaking of Vermont, last year far-left Senator Bernie Sanders introduced another health plan, called the American Health Security Act of 2011 that would provide health care "for every American through a Medicare-for-all type single-payer program."

     Sam Baker at The Hill's Healthwatch blog explained: "The bill would be funded through a series of tax increases on businesses and individuals, as well as money that otherwise would have been set aside for subsidies and tax credits under healthcare reform.”

     Dr. Garrett Adams, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, supported the legislation saying it "would cover nearly all 51 million people who currently lack coverage and improve benefits for everyone by eliminating co-pays and deductibles and restoring free choice of physician," and "by slashing overhead and bureaucracy would recapture about $400 billion annually that is currently wasted on unnecessary paperwork. That money, in turn, would be channeled back into high-quality clinical care. Further, by using a single-payer system’s bargaining power, we would be able to negotiate lower prices for pharmaceuticals and other goods and services, allowing us to rein in rising health care costs.”

     I'm no leftist, but I'm definitely against our current employer-based health insurance -- it's discriminatory, inefficient and a relic of the past -- and in favor of some kind of national health plan (or, as an alternative, the kind of state-based plans pioneered by Mass. and Vt.).

     But let's get real. No government plan is going to save us money, not when these plans are promising medical care for another 50 million people -- people who are currently not paying and for the most part can't afford to pay that $20,000 a year. (By the way, where are all the primary-care physicians going to come from?)

     Here are the problems I see with the Sanders plan:

     The state sets payment rates. In other words, price controls. Doesn't work in other areas. Why would it work in the medical field? What it means is that people who can afford it will try to skirt the system or go elsewhere for their medical treatments, like the many Canadians who cross the border to Buffalo, NY, to get better medical care. (There's a whole industry in Buffalo catering to Canadians dissatisfied with their medical options.) And James Surowiecki in last week's New Yorker broached another aspect of this, reporting on Americans -- and others as well -- who travel overseas for health care.

     Sanders also readily admits that his new health plan would be funded through a series of tax increases. Obviously. But that's pretty loose language. Is it going to be like Social Security, where we all pay 15% of our income to support the program? Are you prepared to pay 15% of your income for your federal health insurance?

     He also wants to eliminate co-pays and deductibles. But I think there should be co-pays and deductibles, as an incentive to prevent hypochondriacs from overusing the system. Very few people are so poor they can't pay $20 to go see the doctor. And it would keep at least a small measure of free-market common sense in the system.

     He claims that a government program will slash the private insurance overhead. Do you really think the government will have less overhead than private business? Right, sure.

     Finally, Sanders says the government program will be in a position to negotiate lower drug prices. Now that's a good idea!

     Regardless of the plan we end up with, whether it's Obamacare, Romneycare or Sanderscare, we all should know that we're going to pay more for health care, mostly because we want to benefit from the latest drugs and services and procedures. Whether there's an Affordable Care Act or not.

     But to end on a positive note, I heard of one pioneering project at the International Union of Operating Engineers that is eliminating waste and duplication by targeting the sickest members and directing them to appropriate care. The goal is to avoid the bigger expenses that come with error and delay -- with the added benefit of offering people better outcomes through accurate diagnoses and targeted treatments. And that's another good idea!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Are You a Library Junkie?

     April 8 - 14 is National Library week, and I'm volunteering to help out at our local library book sale, which will take place on Saturday, April 14. So far we've collected -- oh, I don't know, probably 4,000 - 5,000 books that have been donated for the sale -- hard cover and paperback fiction; history and biography; piles of children's books and stacks of young adult books. We have multiple copies of the Harry Potter books, and Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. We have boxes of Patricia Cornwell books and Michael Connelly mysteries and David Baldacci thrillers.

     You can get anything you want at the local library book sale: $2 for a hardcover; $1 for a paperback. I'm officially the co-chair this year. But we have, probably, 20 volunteers helping us out. All of them are women of a certain age (except me, I'm a man of a certain age) -- although we did get some Cub Scouts in one day to help us carry boxes of donated books from the driveway into the activity room where the sale will take place.

     I feel that it's a worthy cause. We hope to raise around $3,000 for the library, which will be used for special programs and activities throughout the year.

     We might invest a portion of the money in some new equipment -- but not books. There's money in the official library budget for buying books. But because of the cuts in the town budget, which in turn have squeezed the library budget, we don't have money for any "extras."

     So I've been spending 4 - 6 hours a day for the last several days hauling books around, unpacking boxes, organizing displays and directing other volunteers. I'm exhausted (and still have four more days to go!). As I've said to B several times over the last week, I've forgotten how tiring it is to work every day, and I have raised my level of respect for her for holding down a full-time job.

     One benefit of volunteering for the book sale, however, is that I get first dibs on the books coming in. So far I've grabbed a copy of Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (I read Freedom last year and liked it, but never read the earlier book). I grabbed a Michael Crichton that I hadn't read (I've read most of them), and a book by Larry McMurtry called Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond. Over the years I've read a few books by Larry McMurty (including the Last Picture Show Trilogy comprising The Last Picture Show, Texasville, and Duane's Depressed), and I've liked them -- but I hadn't heard of this one. (You'll probably see a Larry McMurtry quote up at the top of my blog before too long.)

     I also picked up a book called The Forgotten Art of Building a Stone Wall, because I have a notion that one of these days I'm going to try to repair the stone wall that's collapsing into the back of our driveway. But not anytime soon -- my back is already acting up from moving all those books.

     Anyway, please join me in celebrating National Library week. Libraries are one of our national treasures, offering education, entertainment and new opportunities to Americans of all ages, all races and all socio-economic levels. And all for free. So go to your library, take out a book ... and enjoy yourself!

     P. S. I know there are some fellow Doc Martin fans out there, so f.y.i., the new season (at least where I am in the New York area) is premiering tonight on PBS. We'll see what new trouble Doc Martin can get himself into this year!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Who Should Pay for Health Care?

     I started thinking about this topic because I recently did my taxes and found I could take some medical expenses as a deduction on Schedule A. The IRS classifies any medical expense above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income as a legitimate deductible item.

     I figured that, including what I paid for medical insurance, I actually spent a little over 20% of my income last year for medical treatments. And I wasn't even sick!

     What if I needed something big -- like my friend who recently had to get a pacemaker implanted? The bill, he told me, was well over $50,000. But he has pretty good insurance, and so he paid just a tiny fraction of that out of pocket.

      In this day and age, I think of health care kind of like fire protection, or the police force. We have a fire department because a private, for profit, fire department just wouldn't serve the public very well. First of all, hopefully, there would never be enough business to support competing private fire departments. And then, you don't want to be standing there with the fire-department salesman negotiating a price while your house is burning down. Or, what if you're getting mugged, and the policeman who works for a private company demands a surcharge before he will pull the attacker off you?

     These days, who can pay for medical care if they get a terrible disease, or suffer injury in a car accident? There's no longer a town doctor who makes house calls. You instead go into the big, bureaucratic medical system where decisions are made out of sight, and prices are determined by some kind of weird calculus involving the government, private insurance companies and big medical groups. You have no say in the matter. You can't shop around. You're in no position to negotiate a price, any more than you would be with the private fire-department salesman.

      And besides, do you have a spare half million dollars lying around to pay for a bypass surgery if the doctor suddenly determines you need one? Or to pay for a regimen of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and follow-up care if a test suddenly finds a tumor in your gut? Are you going to try to shop around for a discount doctor? Are you going to cut costs by foregoing the anesthesia?

     And yet, I'm continually flummoxed by people who are appalled that they have to pay for health care at all. Some people think they have a "right" to free health care.

     But why should they? We don't get anything else for free. One way or another, you have to pay for your goods and services. You pay for the "free" fire department and the "free" police department and the "free" public schools with your local taxes (which, by the way, though you may not realize it, take a pretty good chunk out of your income.)

     The medical world uses around 16 to 17% of our national economy. So, theoretically, whether you're rich or poor, you should be prepared to spend around 16 to 17% of your income on medical care -- whether you're paying a private insurance company or the federal government, or paying directly to the hospital.

     I have a friend. I don't know the family's financial situation; but they live in an upscale townhouse; they have two cars, the younger daughter goes to a private college; and they seem to do a lot of traveling. Last year the older daughter, who's 26 and was living at home at the time, broke her arm and ran up several thousand dollars worth of medical bills. The daughter only had a part-time job with no medical benefits. For some reason she wasn't on her mother's plan (maybe she wasn't eligible, or if she was, they didn't want to pay for it), and she certainly didn't have her own insurance, because she "couldn't afford it."

    So when the doctor and hospital bills came in, the mother gave them to the daughter, who in turn passed them off to New York State. Both mother and daughter had to spend a lot of time on the phone, and fill out a lot of forms, but in the end they got New York State to pay all her bills. In other words, the daughter palmed off her medical bills on the rest of us. She had no qualms about it. It never occurred to her that it might be unethical; she felt no guilt or shame. In fact, she seemed kind of proud of her financial savvy -- that she was able to beat the medical system and get someone else to pay. And then she bought a new snowboard and some other winter equipment and headed off to California to spend the winter working at a ski resort.

     Now, I'm an American and I believe in democracy and I respect the Constitution, even if it sometimes makes us uncomfortable. For example, I'm in favor of gun control. But I'm aware of the 2nd Amendment, so I believe we should tread carefully in that area and find a way to limit gun violence without infringing on the rights of hunters and whoever else wants a gun.

     The same goes for health care and the individual mandate. It does make me nervous to have the Federal government start telling us what we have to do, and what we have to buy. But do you really think it's fair for people to save money by not getting medical insurance, then run up big, expensive medical bills and expect someone else to cover the cost?

     Honestly, I don't know what's in Obamacare. (I do know that our 20-somethings are now eligible to get onto their parents' insurance plans; but you still have to sign up for it and you still have to pay for it.) I don't know how much Obamacare will cost us (and I bet you don't either). But I'm definitely in favor of some kind of medical system that works for everyone, and that treats everyone fairly. And it seems to me that as long as doctors and hospitals are mandated to treat people who are sick or injured, then it's fair for people to be mandated to buy medical insurance. In fact, shouldn't that young lady be spending 16 - 17% of her income on health care -- just like the rest of us -- instead of blowing it all on a new snowboard and airfare to Lake Tahoe?

     One thing Obamacare doesn't seem to address very well is the cost of health care. If I spent over 20% of my income on medical care last year, what will I spend if I really get sick. Or rather, not if, but when I really get old and sick?

     According to the Organization for Economic Development we spend $8,000 per person per year for health care in the U. S. According to an article on CNN, it's $20,000 a year for the typical family. Meanwhile, the cost of health care has more than doubled in the last ten years.

     What can we do about it? Well ... I wish someone had some ideas, but I'll talk more about that in my next post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Remember Him?

     Author William Manchester called him "the most hated man of World War II." Not because he sided with the Nazis or the Japanese, but because he had been classified 4-F. Instead of serving in the army, the young man from New Jersey stayed home in America, made piles of money and enjoyed being photographed with lots of beautiful women.

     He was a man of many contradictions. He'd become a big star and was notorious for a kind of in-your-face arrogance and self-confidence. Yet even though the official reason he'd been classified 4-F was because of a perforated eardrum, in fact he was described as neurotic and judged "not acceptable material from a psychiatric standpoint."

     He rose to success before World War II. His group, The Hoboken Four, won first prize on the "Major Bowes Amateur Hour" radio show in 1935, then the young heartthrob went on to sing for Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. By 1941, he was voted top male singer in the country.

     After World War II his career suffered. He appeared in a couple of movies. He briefly had a radio show, and made a failed run at a TV show. In 1951, the story goes, he was walking through Times Square in New York and saw the name of his rival, Eddie Fisher, up in lights. A crowd of teenage girls was swarming the theater. He got so depressed he went home, shut the door to his kitchen, turned on the gas and lay his head on top of the stove. A friend found him later, lying on the kitchen floor, crying and sobbing that he was such a failure he couldn't even commit suicide.

     But he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and soon found his way to Las Vegas, appearing at the Desert Inn. Then he was signed to play Pvt. Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, the 1953 movie based on James Jones's bestselling novel chronicling the lives and loves of soldiers in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

     He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (the movie won eight Oscars in all, including Best Picture), and with that his career was back on track. In the late 1950s, as he was entering his 40s, he developed a more mature sound that included saloon songs, blues-tinged ballads and jazzier tunes. He was voted top male vocalist, and his albums led the charts with In the Wee Small Hours in 1955, Songs for Swingin' Lovers in 1956 and Come Fly with Me in 1958.

     It was during this period when Frank Sinatra -- for surely by now (this is an easy one!) you've guessed he's Frank Sinatra, aka Old Blue Eyes, aka The Chairman of the Board -- divorced his first wife Nancy (with whom he had his three children, Nancy, Frank, Fr., and Tina). He married film star Ava Gardner in 1951, and divorced her in 1957. He married and divorced Mia Farrow in the 1960s, then in 1976 married Barbara Marx and stayed with her until his death at age 82 in 1998.

     Sinatra led a storied life in the movies, the music business, in Vegas, even in politics. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for his starring role in Man with the Golden Arm. He won critical acclaim for the Manchurian Candidate (1962). He also starred in the original Ocean's Eleven (1960) with buddies Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop -- a group of top Hollywood talent that came to be known as the Rat Pack.

     Even as the Beatles and Rolling Stones brought a whole new culture to the world of music, Sinatra won the Grammy for Album of the Year in both 1966, for September of My Years, which included his hit single "It Was a Very Good Year," and in 1967 for his anthology album A Man and His Music. Meantime, he was churning out hit singles including "Strangers in the Night" in 1966, "That's Life" in 1967 and "My Way" in 1969.

     In his younger years Sinatra was an ardent Democrat, helping Franklin Roosevelt raise money and register voters in the 1940s. He also had a connection to the Kennedy family through Peter Lawford (married to John Kennedy's sister Patricia), and he joined the Kennedy campaign in 1960. He sang the National Anthem at the Democratic convention in both 1956 and 1960, and helped organize Kennedy's inaugural ball in January 1961. He was also at the time reputed to be associated with the Mafia ("If you sing in joints, you're gonna know the guys that run them," Sinatra said), and was allegedly a liaison between the Kennedy campaign and the Giancana family in an effort to "get out the vote."

     Sinatra turned more conservative in his later years. He endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1970 for his second term as governor of California, he supported Richard Nixon in 1972, and backed Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. Sinatra went on to arrange Reagan's presidential gala in 1981 -- just as he had done for John F. Kennedy 20 years earlier.

    As for me, I must admit I was never particularly a Sinatra fan (like, you know, some people are crazy about him.) It's just that, in 1965 when I was in high school, and Frank Sinatra was turning 50, he seemed so old. Nevertheless, I always appreciated his talent and his technique and his longevity. He made over 1,400 recordings over his 50-year career. And I did like a few of his songs. Especially this one: