Where’s the Shift?

I’ve been driving Jeff’s new car. A Lincoln MKC. And much to my surprise, the whole thing is push button. The entire shift mechanism is gone. You have to literally point and touch your way to park, reverse and drive. Great for keeping your mind agile.

Change for changes sake

Every now and then, there’s an older person who plows through a crowd. That’s due to confusion between the gas pedal and the brake. And yet, with the graying of America, cars continue to change. Haven’t we learned anything? Fortunately, Ford has modified the once complicated My Ford Touch. They’ve gone back to the manual radio and temperature control system. Thank goodness. Traveling at 75 mph on the highway and trying to figure out how to make those changes was a death defying feat. Common sense has prevailed.Continue reading . . .    

Arthritis Anyone?

I’ve just taken an Aleve to calm the pain in my left thumb that an orthopedic surgeon pronounced as arthritis. Damn him!

Okay. It happens. None of us are young forever. My Dad had the same problem with his left thumb in his mid-forties. That’s when he dropped out of his bowling league. He was an awesome bowler until that left thumb started to ache. And being a lefty, well, that wasn’t going to work.

Me – I’m a righty. So this slow deterioration has come without any physical justification. My left thumb is barely used. I don’t hitch hike. And unlike Jack Horner, I don’t stick my thumb in pies. Though, if I did, I’d head over to Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City, Arizona. Spoiler alert: best pies ever. Come visit Arizona and I’ll prove it to you.

So what good is a left thumb?

I don’t use it to type. My right thumb handles the space bar. But I do use it to hold the steering wheel when I drive. Yow that can hurt. And my left thumb is also the preferred digit for ripping open envelopes. I’ve tried using my right thumb. It just feels so wrong.

Not the worst thing

I guess this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. People are diagnosed every day with life-threatening illnesses. What’s one left thumb in the scope of all that suffering? Not much. Besides, it gives me an excuse to stop lifting heavy weights at the gym. Instead, that left thumb might enjoy holding onto something icy cold like a shake from Culver’s or Dairy Queen. Come to think of it, I’ve heard icing an ache can bring down swelling. Hmm. Now there’s a perfect solution in search of a problem.

Weather or Not … Here Comes Summer

Some people are obsessed with weather. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, sleet and hail. A simple snowstorm becomes a nor’easter. Millions without power. At least that’s how reporters ramp up the story. But living in Phoenix, we don’t have much weather. It’s generally sunny and pleasant most of the year—until it isn’t. Then it’s still sunny and hot. Did I say hot? I mean really hot.

That’s a lot of zeros

When we first moved to Phoenix, the summer seemed unendurable. That’s because the triple digit temperatures started around May 7th and lasted until October 7th. I know this because I was desperate for a time limit on the experience. As the snowbirds flew north, we remained. Air conditioner jacked up. Ice water nearby. Pool in constant use.

And oddly enough, it’s during a Phoenix summer when you see Phoenicians in sweaters. That’s because the restaurants and movie theaters are kept at the temperature of a meat locker. We’re all wearing light weight clothing to stave off the heat.  At the supermarket, you have to run past the dairy aisle. The meat counter isn’t much better. And pity the poor soul who gets stuck in frozen foods. You can literally build an igloo in that aisle.

Sand anyone?  

And then, we have the monsoon season. It kicks in around June 15th and runs through September 30th—with most of the activity in July and August. The monsoons arrive courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing rain and dust storms called haboobs. Haboobs present the most dramatic weather of the season. Huge clouds of dust are swept up from the Arizona desert and engulf the area. News stations catch the beginnings of these haboobs as they start to roll. As you wait for them to arrive, the air is still. Then the skies darken and a massive gust of wind kicks up. You’re overtaken by sand as the visibility drops to zero.  Continue reading . . .    

Awkward Man Hugs

When did shaking hands as a greeting go out of fashion with men?

It seems that everywhere you go—guys are now hugging. Restaurants, gyms, sporting events, car shows—wherever men gather—they’re engaging in these awkward man hugs. Not quite touching—and yet—touching a little too much. No longer content in a fist bump, they’re now deep into each other’s shoulder space, bent forward as they stand two-feet apart.

Ubiquitous hugging

If you watch sports, it’s everywhere. Touchdown! Give me a hug. Three pointer. Body slam. Home-run. Grab a dude and lift him in the air. For decades men have been eager to touch as long as they’ve scored on the field. Celebrations only really start when men are leaping, grabbing and hugging. So when did it all morph from special events to everyday behavior? No one really knows. But man hugging is definitely here to stay.

Gay Hugs

Now gay men—they know how to hug. They pull you tightly into their personal space. Sometimes, you don’t know whether they’re being friendly or just feeling you up. It can actually be both. But when you get a hug from a gay man, it’s warm and welcoming. It feels completely like what it is. An embrace of supportive “great to see you” man admiration.

Shut up and give me a hug 

Today, we hug anyone we causally meet at a party. Friends of friends. Relatives you don’t even like. And if touching strangers is not your thing—well—something’s clearly wrong with you.

Years ago I had a friend who greeted everyone with an arm held stiffly out to signal that you were supposed to stand back. He refused to hug. And that never changed. Over the years, friends came and went through his revolving door. He never seemed to really connect. In hindsight, it’s not surprising. The signs were always there. Beginning with his unwillingness to embrace.Continue reading . . .    

Who is that Coughing?

I hate getting sick. I guess that’s normal. But I hate it even more when Jeff gets sick. And not because he’s uncomfortable—or I need to take care of him—but because I’m usually the next one up. It seems when you live with someone, it’s impossible not to catch their cooties. Especially if you’re together working out of the same house.

The secret

I’ve been told to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Yeah right. Like I could ever do that for a solid week. And washing your hands obsessively doesn’t really help either. Trust me. I’ve tried that too.

Clorox wipes with bleach are great for killing germs on counter-tops—but probably not a great idea for wiping down the person lying in bed next to you. Besides, whatever nastiness is happening, isn’t on the surface. The gross crud is breeding in the recesses of your beloved’s nasal cavity, throat or chest. And sometimes, God forbid, their tummies.

Flying

There is nothing worse than being on a plane and hearing someone sneeze. It’s like vigorously shaking a can of soda and then opening it. You’re trapped in a metal cylinder as germs float throughout the cabin. It’s simply impossible to avoid getting caught up in the wet spray. And if you must use the restroom, I recommend always using a tissue to open the door once you’ve done your business and after you’ve washed your hands. God only knows who was in there before you—though there’s little doubt what they were doing.

I’ve read somewhere that the aisle seat is the worst on a plane. Upon boarding, everyone passes by, breathing down on you. Hmm. And here I thought the extra leg room was the added bonus.

Theaters

And then there’s always someone coughing during a play. At the symphony, people seem to be constantly clearing their throats. But in a movie theater, the film volume is so loud it drowns out any background noise. It’s impossible to know if anyone nearby is sick. My advice. Slink down into your seat and keep your popcorn close.

Compassion

And so, I think it’s truly best that when your spouse is ill to move into the guest room. Close enough to check on them, but not so very close as to get infected.  But of course the time you spend away will depend on how attracted you are to someone who is ill. Personally, I’m a sucker for neediness. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Not Another Supermarket

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I seem to always be in the supermarket. I must have better things to do with my time than wander through Safeway, Fry’s and Trader Joe’s. And yet, now, I even go to Whole Foods to take out lunch.

Has grocery shopping become my new hobby? Seriously. How else can I explain pushing a cart up and down the aisles every other day and thinking it’s fun?

Feed me

I’ve decided that as you age, eating must be an obsession. As if time is running out, I seem to be eager to try everything.

Lord knows there’s enough food in our house to last for weeks. If we really needed to unload the cupboards, we could easily manage, though we’d be light on dairy and produce. Hmm. Perhaps that’s what’s going on.

Is anyone hungry? 

Maybe it just reminds me of my childhood. In my family, food was love.

Feeling blue? Have some chocolate pudding. Sick. We have a great chicken soup. Tired? Coffee cake is on its way.

There was once a time when I went outside on a nice day and rode a bike. Now, I wander the supermarket aisles. Not exactly exercise, but it is walking.

Bigger is better

Of course, I’m writing this sitting outside of Costco waiting for the doors to open. It seems my desire to be entertained has morphed into the big box stores. Making a second meal on bits of cheese, guacamole dip, and hot appetizers that they cook up for eager shoppers. I might buy the paper towels, but let’s get real. I’m here for the freebies.

Worried

I try not to let it bother me—but I am getting concerned. I wonder how many other people are feeling trapped by their fascination to horde food. Perhaps it’s all just a big nothing. Or maybe, I’m onto something. Either way, I find myself totally enraptured. Cut it, slice it, serve it. Call me yours.

 

But Darling, I love Turner Classic Movies

I admit it. I’m addicted to old movies. Really old movies.

I love silent films. I’m fascinated by those stars who never made the transition to sound. John Gilbert. Theda Bara. The list goes on. And though I regularly support the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I don’t always go. But I always want to.

I also love the early talkies. There’s something magical about the films of the 1930s and 1940s. The artistry is amazing. The camera work, the story lines, and the actors. But like everything in life, even movies made during the Golden Age of Hollywood can be stinkers. Bad directors, bad scripts, and bad casting. Just bad movies.

And then there’s the unusual enunciation of one key word.

Affected?

Some of the dialogue can be a bit much. Dated perhaps—or just overly dramatic. For instance, the word darling pops up an awful lot in love scenes. It’s kind of standard. My grandmother used to call me darling. But, there was never any romantic intent. At least, I don’t think so.

I have one friend who uses darling.  It’s a cue that a nasty zinger is about to be hurled your way. If you wear a bathing suit in his presence you might hear, “But darling, I thought you worked out.” Ouch. He’s truly a laugh riot, but you need to have a sense of humor. Fortunately, I do.
Continue reading . . .    

Smile

On a flight to Mexico, sitting in an aisle seat, a stranger once put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Cheer up, buddy. Things will get better.” Walking the dog in the morning, I’ve been told by neighbors that I’m rather stand-offish. And friends recently gave me a tee-shirt with the imprint: Grumpy Old Man.

Okay. I’ve come to accept it. I must appear naturally unhappy. Even though that couldn’t be further from the truth. Inside, I’m practically exuberant. Okay—maybe that’s a stretch. How about, calm.

Unfortunate resting face?

This must explain my childhood photos. Barely a smile anywhere. Because smiling doesn’t come naturally to me. I know. That’s just impossible. Then think Victorian England. Turn of the century America. The Amish. Any cover of Time Magazine. No smiles.

Kodak

Smiles are a Kodak invention. Not real life. We can’t always be having fun, running around with a ridiculous grin on our face. I doubt I’m the only one who has suffered through a family photo when the photographer has yelled, “Hey, you. The one on the end. How about a smile?”

My facial muscles just don’t work that way. Try as I might, I can’t achieve a smile on demand. I’ve tried practicing. It’s impossible.Continue reading . . .    

Now I Lay Me Down

I just received another invitation from the National Cremation Society. They seem to be reaching out monthly. They must know something I don’t. Perhaps it’s the actuarial table for men over sixty who were born and raised in New York City.

Diet is so Important

A few years back, I rubbed shoulders with an oncologist from MD Anderson. We talked about the benefits of eating organic. He made it clear that for someone my age, it was too late. I was already filled with harmful chemicals from a lifetime of processed foods. Thank you Hostess, Swanson and Sara Lee. At least now I don’t have to feel guilty about not shopping at Whole Foods.

Prescriptions

At last check, I take no medications. My Dad didn’t either and bragged about it for years. Then at 78, he developed a degenerative disease. So much for his good health. But I did have a male grandparent that lived independently into his 90s. He never held an emotion back. He yelled as easily as he cried. He exhausted us all.

To Be or Not to Be   

In our house, we’ve discussed whether to be buried or cremated. Jeff wants to be environmentally friendly. He got the idea from living in the Bay Area. I own a plot. And since I come from a dramatic family, the whole event has been planned out in my mind. Someone will sit in the front row, bawling hysterically, and at a key point in the eulogy will cry out, “it should have been me.”

Trust me. You won’t want to miss it.Continue reading . . .    

Aussie Survivor

Ever hike an Australian preserve in search of wild animals? Me neither. At least, not until the other day.

It was a side trip recommended by friends. I went along with it mostly because Jeff had always wanted to go on an African Safari. So, this was a kind of concession. Instead of days out in the wilderness living off the land, it would be just a couple of hours in a preserve riding around in a Mercedes van with a group of strangers and a very nice tour guide.

It turned out to be a day-long excursion that lasted from eleven in the morning until ten-thirty at night. A stretch of time that included two meals and what generally passes for my bedtime. Of course, my greatest concerns were: What would we eat and where would we find a restroom?

NYC Childhood

Growing up in New York City, I’m not much for wild animals. Oh—we had our native species of cockroach. Two-inch, brown water bugs with cellophane-like wings. And then, there was that occasional mouse. It generated a lot of excitement when it showed up. But I don’t remember anyone running for a camera.

Pigeons lined the terraces which we rarely used. And just like an episode from Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom, some even attempted to nest before brooms were pulled out to sweep them away. The adults called the pigeons—rats with wings—and years later on a trip to Venice, I thought a lot about that reference as they swooped overhead in St. Mark’s Square.

No Pets Please

Dogs and cats were barred from our building. And now that I think of it, I didn’t have one friend back then who even owned a pet. Not a bird, turtle or hamster. Not even a fish. So as I marched through the forest, damp leaves, broken sticks and loose rocks underfoot, I barely looked up from the trail, hoping that I wouldn’t be the first to slip and disappear into the deep canyon below. All the while our guide kept talking. “There are twenty variety of snakes here. Poisonous spiders that are perfectly camouflaged to match the bark. Kangaroos that have been known to seriously injure dogs.”

And I was searching for all of that?

Uh Oh 

And then, up ahead, resting in a tree—a Koala bear. Gray and fuzzy with Mickey Mouse ears and enormous eyes. He stared down at us as we stared back up and marveled at him. I forgot about the dangers, the dampness, and all that dung underfoot. I was part of nature, enjoying the moment, and grateful to be on the trip.Continue reading . . .