E is for…

Think of all the “E” words you know that say lively. For example:

Eager – strongly wanting to do or to have

Energetic – showing or involving great energy

Electric – very exciting

Effervescent – lively and enthusiastic

Then there’s’ “elderly.” For me that’s the cruelest of the senior labels. True, I cringed when my first issue of AARP magazine arrived and thought it a bummer when I realized that even 55+ meant I was toeing into seniorhood. Moi? Couldn’t be.

The other day, as we bounced onto our bikes post yoga, I was feeling pretty perky…until our encounter with a younger yogini: “Can I take your picture” she says, waving an iPhone at us. “I want to show my parents elderly people on bikes.” Oh, how deflating! Call me sensitive, but the comment stopped me dead on my two wheeler. Desperate to provide some credentials to my youthfulness, I wanted to shout: “Look, an orthopedist said I had the spine of a 50-year-old, just last year. And today, my dermatologist said I had great skin.” At close range, with ravines cutting into my cheeks I find that debatable. Still…

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“Who you callin’ elderly?,” she asked bitterly.

And the night before The Elderly Episode, we took in the Paul Anka concert. See Paul below, then and now. Hold the giggling. Sarasota’s Van Wezel hall was packed with what you’d expect in FL for a late Fifties/early Sixties pop icon. We made our way to our seats dodging those accompanied by canes and walkers and seated in wheel chairs. Surveying the throng, I felt – well – young, even if we hit the average age. I wondered how old the voice was that loomed behind us shouting “I love ya Paul!”

Paul, at 74, is no slouch in the voice department. He belted out all the favorites – “Diana,” “You are My Destiny,” “Puppy Love,” “Put Your Head on My shoulder “ (Jack related to this make-out tune of his youth) and “My Way” written for Frank Sinatra.

But the one melody, penned by Paul in 1975, that hit home for me was “Times of Your Life.” OK, you can call it a schmaltzy advertising jingle.

Good morning, yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find
The memories you left behind
Remember, you you remember

Remember the ginormous Kodak color image in Grand Central zeroing in on cozy family moments? And will you ever forget the trailer for the series finale of “Mad Men” showing great scenes from this landmark TV show played to “Times of Your Life?” Talk about perfect lyrics for Don Draper’s trials and successes. The sheer genius of Don’s pitch to Kodak in “The Wheel,” episode 13 in Season 1: He’s loaded a Carousel with slides of his family. We witness photo after photo of the Draper clan.

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Betty and Don in happier times from “The Wheel”

The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you’ve seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life

LOVE YA PAUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

An Ode to the Old

“I was transported recently to a place that is as enchanting to me as any winter wonderland: my local post office.” Really? How so I asked as I read past this opening sentence of an Op-Ed piece. Don’t we all have our grumpy post office stories – the MIA clerks during the busiest times, the lines at all times. Written by a former immigrant from Turkey, the current assistant professor remembers fondly of discovering “the magic of reliable mail…Mail was one of the more enchanting aspects of life in my new country,” he writes. Bravo! We should throw our beleaguered P.O.s an appreciative bone as they demise locations and cut back hours. I’d rather get a personal letter than an email/text any day!

The post office offers a Premium Forwarding service which is totally reliable. Our weighty packages appear every week in FL or CO, having been posted just 3 days earlier in MA. It ain’t cheap, but worth it. Saturdays mean the arrival of  magazines, too many catalogs, bills,  our 2 local papers and if I’m lucky a personal letter or post card.

 

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This week The Dukes County Intelligencer, Journal of History of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands was included. I lingered over this image of  signatures belonging to “nine leading citizens” endorsing a 1837 petition to Congress. Love that penmanship. The P word is defined as “the art or skill of writing by hand.” Thanks to short-cutting emails and texts, it’s an art we have lost.

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What’s In Store?

Bookstores that is. Before launching into new releases from some of my favorite authors, I want to share a heartening piece in The Wall Street Journal from author Ann Patchett.  Four years ago Patchett and Karen Haynes opened Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett now reports that the duo are doubling the size of their store this year and they’ve bought a mobile book van! So, let’s keep frequenting our local bookstores to keep any death notices at bay.

So, what’s new on the shelves…

*”There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.” That’s how Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, a mother-daughter story, opens. It’s out this month. Patchett calls it “her best novel yet.” And didn’t we love Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge?

So, I wasn’t surprised to see it reviewed ON THE COVER of today’s NYT Book Review. In her review, Claire Messud, she of The Emperor’s Children you may recall, labels Lucy “powerful and melancholy…an exquisite novel.”

Lucy also took up a lot of ink in The Wall Street Journal‘s Review section Saturday. That piece told us that Lucy  is “not just about trauma and family; it is also about the difficulties of writing about those things.” So Lucy’s a writer. Another plus.

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*Just got word that British author Tessa Hadley’s The Past has arrived at our local bookstore in Sarasota. Hadley tells a tale of siblings returning to the family haunt to decide what its fate will be. Bickering ensues and secrets percolate. I discovered one of Hadley’s short story collections a few years ago at The Boulder Bookstore and have looked for her name ever since. You’ll also find her fiction in The New Yorker.

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Interesting that both Strout and Hadley employ gossip as a kind of distracting balm for their characters.

*Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl appears in June. Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, it’s part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which current novelists update the bard.

*And here’s a novel approach from the prolific Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of Downton Abbey. According to The Times, the ever-creative Fellowes will serialize his novel, Belgravia, via an app beginning in April on a website or through e-book retailers. With a nod to Dickens and his ilk, there will be 10 weekly digital installments: $1.99 for each chapter; $13.99 for the lot. Or you can purchase the hardback in July.

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But wait, there’s still more! The app will also incorporate an audio version, music, video, character portraits, family trees, images of period fashion and maps of Belgravia. Yikes, dothere’s a lot going on here to distract from the story, no? And what’s that about anyway?

We’re looking at London in the 1840s. Belgravia, perfect for Downton junkies on withdrawal, explores the class divisions between the established aristocracy and newly wealthy families who made their fortunes through the industrial Revolution.

So what think you?  A bit much or bring it on?

A Backward Glance

Since the New Year on my calendar doesn’t start until all holiday vacationing worker bees are back at their respective salt mines tomorrow, there’s still time for my 2015 review.

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Ring and Fitzgerald

When reading the obit pages in The Times I’m drawn to the names that “may have rung few bells,” as the paper put it in its 2015 obit review. One passing  I particularly noted: Frances Kroll Ring. Ring was the last personal secretary to F. Scott Fitzgerald and by all accounts a most devoted one. Her passing touched my nostalgic heart because a look at her life, among others The Times mentioned, had “the pungent effect of evoking an era long concluded.”

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Lara and Zhivago at Varykino

There were many others who left us and brought back memories — Omar Sharif in Dr. Zhivago. OMG, the summer dacha, Varykino transformed into a crystal palace and filmed not in Russia, but just 100 miles northeast of Madrid; Lesley Gore. Can’t forget her lyrics for It’s My Party:

“It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you.”

Well, if you were partnerless at a make-out party assigned to changing 45s on a Victrola (a favorite old word), you’d cry too if that happened to you. I speak from experience.

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A Victrola obviously!

On a perkier note, I took in my 50th high school reunion at the Greenwich Academy which made me want to start kindergarten all over again, or “connecting class” as it was called. Vast and enlightening changes since the days of uniforms with matching bloomers, mimeograph machines and gradeless, hand-written report cards. Here’s to a chorus of “Jerusalem,” William Blake’s poem put to music and sung at every graduation. Still tear up when I hear it, most boisterously at Prince William’s nuptial.

Whatelse…

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*Riveted to The King and I at Lincoln Center with my great pals Donna and Diane.

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Along the Danube

*Cruised down the Danube and biked along its shore. Before boarding our vessel, we took a brief jaunt through Munich. Want to return to that city of fantastic architecture. And why not Berlin on a future itinerary? Or England’s Lake Country?

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Jack and Pammi taking a break from biking in Bavaria

*Had my first MRI after a most painful back saga. Was told by a physical therapist never to cross my legs again while seated – not even your ankles – to stay in alignment. Another edict: No more shoulder bags to weigh down one side. Took that advice and haven’t had a problem since. Word to the wise.
*Took my first online course: The Creative Habit: Cultivating a Daily Writing Practice, an offering from Stanford’s Continuing Studies. Still prefer sitting in a classroom, but better than expected and completed the course.
*Finished The Brothers Karamazov
*Went on my first health retreat in Crested Butte, CO and left with a love of Korean cuisine prepared by our chef and now pal Justine Park.
*Discovered Palm Greens, an organic eatery in Palm Springs, CA tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza. The spinach nut burger is a must.

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An Organic Find in Palm Springs

*Met with old friends in Healdsburg, CA and paid an unexpected visit to our former doctor Paul Marguglio who facilitated a necessary blood test for Jack. Paul is one for the medical books. Was the best doc and still is!

And looking ahead…
May 2016 be a healthy year for all of us, provide great reading and viewing on the big screen and small. Satisfy your curiosity and make time for play because, according to a Dr. Stuart Brown, “it opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.”

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All About Play from Dr. Brown

Carpe Diem…Outside!!

Let’s applaud the retailer REI for closing its doors on Black Friday and urging folks to spend the day outdoors. Where would you rather spend that day, your tummy stuffed with Turkey Bird chowing excess?

Here, jammed cheek-to-jowl with crazed shoppers…

Shoppers waiting to start shopping

Or here, as REI suggests on its website…

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Take a road less traveled 11/27/15…

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Do’s and Don’ts Dept.

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Strangers on a Train

Hey, how about those three American fellows who subdued the would-be train terrorist in France. Kind  of a good news/bad news thing here. Bad obviously that the event ever took place, but good that this mighty trio – Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler -showed such courage and did the right thing, standing up against an AK-47.

When we lived in France a few years ago, a perky elderly Frenchman lived in an apartment below ours. When he heard we were Americans, his eyes watered as he told us about a memorable tale – repeated to us on several occasions – from decades earlier. As a young child, he remembered being picked up by an American GI just after the war and given a piece of chocolate. His story moved us, too, and continues to whenever I think about it. No heroics here, but an unforgettable show of  generosity, too often missing in today’s world.

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“Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy,” –The Beatles 

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Then, on the other side of the Atlantic, we have, well, generosity, but with a big hitch. Joan Weill (photo), a well-known philanthropist, wants to give $20 million to Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. However, there’s an egotistical string attached. In accepting the weighty sum, the college’s board must agree to change the name to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College. Talk about a mouthful. We hope Ms. Weill will note this comment on the college’s Facebook page and change her thinking: ”I appreciate her donation, but a true benefactor or philanthropist does not expect anything in return but good will.”

The kind that our American train travelers have just fostered, asking nothing in return for their good deed.

Data Yadda Yadda

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol"

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

“And the workhouses are they still in operation?…Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.” — Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

Have no fear Ebenezer. You need only look to Amazon for a Dickensian workplace. Tales have surfaced of folks crying at their desks, emails arriving at midnight then followed up by a tongue-lashing encore at 12:01 demanding to know why you haven’t responded. “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” said one employee who took an unpaid leave to care for her dying father and never returned. When she cut back working on nights and weekends to care for her father, the employee was blocked from transferring to a less-demanding job and told by her boss that she was “a problem.” “Data is incredibly liberating,” notes one apparently-contented Amazon employee. And exhausting, too!

Oh, and Amazon employees, did you happen to see the latest study that says people who work 55 hours or more per week have a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease than those working standard hours? Those especially vulnerable, according to the study:  employees with “job strain,” ones with jobs of high demands and little control.

What ever happened to the compassionate, caring employer? Sure, the hours at Fairchild Publications were I worked for many years were long and deadlines could be stress-provoking, but a heart lurked beneath the craziness at 7 E. 12th St. in New York. Exhibit A:  When hearing of my impending divorce, my boss said, “Pamela, do you want to work out of Los Angeles? Would that help?” I turned down the generous offer, but it was the kind of treatment I often received during difficult personal times. When my mother was dying of lung cancer I took off half-days midweek with no questions asked, as my workload fell to others to complete.

Maybe I find the Amazon story so irksome cause I’ve just returned from a retreat, the antithesis of a stress-filled environment. Stay tuned for what I learned about feeding my body and soul in Crested Butte, CO.

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Money Talks…

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I was sitting in the lobby of The Mansion House, the hotel which also serves as our health club, reading before my 8 a.m. yoga class. The place was packed with kids, some with parents in tow. Apparently there was an ice hockey game with an off-Island team later that day. Two kids sitting across from me were into their electronic devices. The dad of one was roaming nearby when he stopped and turned behind the couch were his son was sitting. “Hey,” he said. “I’ll give you $20 for every goal you score.” Dad turned the corner just before his son said to his pal. “If I can score 4 goals that’s $100 and I can buy a TV.” (An update: Yes, it appears our stellar student needs some help with addition. Should have commented on same, but just was so focused on that $20!!)

Four goals = one TV

Four goals = one TV


Wow. $20!! My eyes widened in disbelief. It was enough to think about dusting off my skates and heading for the rink.

A few hours later I was taking in the last of three meditation workshops offered free at our YMCA, ironically next door to the ice arena, site of the big game. At the workshop we heard about the three poisons: Greed, Anger and Ignorance. I’m simplifying here, but Buddhism alerts us that the 3 P’s are sources of all illusions and desires – not good. These three poisons continuously pollute people’s lives, and are obstacles of Enlightenment.

I couldn’t get that $20-waving dad out of my mind. What kind of message was this rich reward for his son, now focused on attaining his current desire, a TV. OK. If you gotta go the reward route, at the very least, why not attach some educational value to it? Let him pick out a book of his choice, even if it’s an electronic one.

"There are pleasures to be had from books…the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one's range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one's own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation." --Rebecca Mead, "The New Yorker"

“There are pleasures to be had from books…the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.” –Rebecca Mead, “The New Yorker”

Swept Away…

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I was prepared for a high grump experience. Don’t most appliance repair sagas end on a low note? Can’t get the part, weeks go by without word and OMG the bill. Second mortgage time.

So, I ventured to Cape Cod Vacuum prepared for more of the same. One of our summer renters had broken the hose connector attachment, rendering our workhorse Miele useless. It was due for maintenance as well.

I arrived at the Mashpee store as Bob, my hero, was opening up. The place was spotless – sparkling vacuums lined up like soldiers ready to do carpet battle. Yes, we have the part and oh, let me show you where the filters go. They were reversed, of course. Bob patiently explained about the maintenance and when our Miele would be ready – in three days. AND IT WAS!!! Forget Walmart, Target, Amazon. After our Mighty M has sucked its last dog hair, I’m heading right to Bob for Miele 2.

Why rhapsodize about a vacuum repair emporium you ask? Why not!! We live in an easy-come world where soon Apple’s Apple Pay will enable people to pay for every day goods with their smartphone. Apps could regularly replace checks, cash and credit cards. But getting good service? There’s no app for that. So, attention must be paid when it comes your way.