31 October 2009

The Halloween Party

I crashed a Halloween Party on Capitol Hill Saturday night. It was quite a treat. I highly recommend it. It started when I took a wrong turn and ended up on the far side of the Hill early in the evening.

I saw a group of costumed children and adults in a park, obviously having a good time. So I sidelined my car two blocks away and lit out to join their fun.
This is what I saw when I arrived: a mostly average looking group with great costumes and tons of cute people filling them. But it was what I heard that made the difference. Not a word. No crying. No fussing. No talking.

I looked closer. You should look close, too. Oh, they're communicating alright, but this party was put on by the Capitol Hill Children of Deaf Parents. That's right. I crash parties given by people who the government classifies as "disabled." Ahha! Now you like me better, doncha?
But I ask you, does this woman look disabled? She's never seen me before in her life and yet, she appears quite delighted to let me snap a picture. No questions asked.

I've seen people whose attitudes seemed much more debilitating and as a reporter, I had to try to talk to them. (No worries about this guy. He was udderly tickled to be there.)

Look at these kids. Do any of them look disabled to you? Yes, maybe they are hearing impaired (I had no idea who has what level of hearing because no one talked and I don't "sign."), but certainly they seemed no less happy than any other kids on Halloween. (Update: I have since been informed by the group that many of the children are hearing impaired. Please see comments below.)

They were thrilled to see their friends, enjoy their costumes and share a quick game of "wrap the mummy."

Even happy to play with Dad's castoff golf clubs. It's amazing how fun two old golf clubs can be, if you have the right attitude. And they had it all... to spare.

Ah! These children came in costume as adults. Well done!

This child did not want to be photographed. It happens. Mom was gentle but firm. She'll come around. (What I particularly liked was the way everybody communicated by looking directly in the face of the person "speaking." They seemed much more tuned-in because of that, I think.)

And this little guy may have tripped or stubbed a toe. We'll never know because unfortunately, again, I don't sign.

But while I don't sign, they speak "people-ease." They all spoke it beautifully, loud and clear. Look at the wattage in her smile!

This woman had two of the most beautiful children I've ever seen. She seemed to be a profoundly good parent, as well as profoundly deaf.

And so it seemed were this man and woman, but in spite of that, I was under their spell.

They all seemed to be having a grand time and didn't mind at all that I crashed their little gathering. (I did let them know what I was doing. And I left before pizza was served. My "crashing credential" does not include freeloading.)

By the end of my time with them, everyone that I asked posed for a picture. Have you ever seen a more radiant mother and child?

I walked away quite thrilled with my party-crashing efforts and with this inescapable thought in my mind:
For a little while, I had been allowed to hang with The Beautiful People.

25 October 2009

People Are Candy: Merle

This is Merle.

I met Merle on Saturday as I stood in the pharmacy line, waiting to plunk down my money on Tamiflu, which is one of two drugs the FDA has approved for use with influenza symptoms.

Before we go much further, I should explain a little about Washington, DC culture and thinking.

In the Washington, DC metro area, when someone is sick, we think it's best if they stay home. We think it very considerate if you keep your germs to yourself. We appreciate a little warning if you have a fever. We'll clear a wide berth when you are coughing. We want to be kind and considerate, but if you're sick, we appreciate you doing the same. So it's polite to say "Stand back! Save yourselves! I've got a teensy head cold!" Friends and neighbors will thank you and be happy to scurry away from such warnings.

With that in mind, you know we're doing a full-on freak-out over Swine flu. Or, being the proper people that we are, the "H1N1 Virus."

One late Tuesday night, after working a weekend shift sitting next to a sneezing, coughing wreck of a coworker whose wife was diagnosed with H1N1 Swine Influenza Virus, (There. That was a mouthful.) and going to the gym, where I did not properly sanitize the equipment before or after I used it, I did get a little sick.

I have a home remedy that I generally like because it generally works: massive Vitamin C doses, Airborne, and Zicam. I launched that.
But by the next day, I was sicker. So I called my favorite doctor and begged a Tamiflu prescription, which he generously called in.

Yes, we're so paranoid of being sick that doctors will actually call in prescriptions for their regular patients without seeing them because A) according to news reports, 90% of what is going around will test positive as H1N1, so why bother to test? And B) the doctors themselves don't necessarily want Typhoid Mary 2.0 coming in to infect them and their staffs.
On Friday, I walked out the door to get the prescription when I suddenly thought, "Hmmm, what if this is just a typical early season cold? I don't want to blow $105 on Tamiflu, as well as adding to the general problem of over-using medications and building super-germs." So I went back in the house, figuring the situation would be better or worse by the next day.
Saturday morning came and my condition was definitely worse. The scratchy throat worsened along with my all-over acheyness. Plus now I had that nasty stiff, sore pain in the middle of my back that tells me either I've been run over by a semi-trailer or some awful sickness is about to hit.
I had a few errands to run and then I went to the pharmacy which is where I met Merle. Behind me in the pharmacy line, he bumped and jostled me a little bit. I said "Oh, you shouldn't get so close." He looked at me, probably thinking I was a rather prickly sort of person.
I explained "I'm a bit sick. Not so close, so you won't get sick."
He smiled and said "Oh, I'm not worried about that!" I said "Good for you!"
A big, beatific smile spread across his face and he said "I have a cure. I told my granddaughter how to cure it, she tried it. It worked. She fine!"
At that moment, I was all ears.
"Onion tea!" he said proudly. I blinked.
"How does one, er, make onion tea?" I asked curiously.
"Just make some tea and stick onions in it. Soak 'em and when you ready to drink it, take the onions out." This was not exactly earth-shattering medicine and actually, not even an "old wives tale" that I'd ever heard before.
"It make you sweat. The virus don't know what to do. The fever make you sweat. The tea make you sweat. You wrap up in a blanket, sweat it all out your pores and then in the morning, whatever's left come out in a bowel movement," he explained. (By the way, the apparent typos are his English usage, not mine. I was going for authenticity.)
At this moment, I realized I was in a Southeast District pharmacy, having a discussion about bowel movements with a 70-ish year old Washingtonian. I sorta chided myself a little in my mind. My well-known openness to new experiences nearly slammed shut.

But a second later, I decided, it was all in pursuit of knowledge and good health. Just then, I was called to the counter, bought my Tamiflu and went home, $105 poorer. (Seriously, $105 for ten pills. I realize they want to make money on their investment, but did they expect to recover it all THIS YEAR?)

When I got home, I realized I still had doubts about whether what I was going through was serious enough to necessitate taking actual drugs for it. My usual thinking is that every drug has side effects and unless you are really in need, you are better off without taking them. Plus, unless I'm truly sick or a deadline is looming, I like to build my immunity by letting my body work through it.
And as I gave it a little more thought I decided... what harm could a little onion tea inflict?
I pulled out a new box of Stash Spiced Chai tea, purchased a few hours before to sooth my throat and steam my sinuses. I made a cup of tea and then, pulled out half of a red onion and sliced off a chunk. I went a little "Paula Deen" and cut slices into it, in order to provide more onion surface and maybe make the tea stronger. Then I dropped that smelly sliced bulb in what smelled like a heavenly cup of spicy sweetened tea and... waited.

Wanting to enhance the effect, I decided to microwave it, which burst all the little onion-y cells to full effect. I pulled it out after 30 seconds, fished out the onions and sat down to, ughhhh, enjoy my cuppa.

To be very honest, I think the dreading was worse than the drinking. If I think back to yesterday, I believe the muscles in my cheeks were stuck in "revulsion" mode for the rest of the day.

But the actual onion-tea drinking experience wasn't that bad. It tasted like regular chai tea that had been made in an unwashed cup that was previously used for onion soup. It left a somewhat iffy aftertaste in my mouth. And I had a small dish of my favorite granola sitting on the side to help rid my mouth of that taste immediately after the first cup was finished.

The second cup was a lot stronger for some reason. (I think I microwaved it for a full minute.) There was a moment or two where it smelled like an underarm. That had been to the gym. For a couple of days in a row. And whose owner was out of hopelessly out of soap.

The next morning, I woke up and felt surprisingly better. It was as if I could feel that the virus was either gone or on its last legs. I drank another cup. And I put the Tamiflu aside, to keep it it safe for the time when I am sure that I do have some horrible influenza. Doc said it will have me ship-shape in 24 hours. Did I mention he's retired, U.S. Navy? Lots of those here in the Washington area, too. Solid medical knowledge and great experience.

So now, 24 hours after starting my onion tea adventure, I do feel a good bit better. I never did experience the sweating that Merle said would be so helpful, (no further bowel movement discussion will be offered here, in case you wondered), but I was already sweating and feverish yesterday, so maybe it was all tied up together.

Did it work? I couldn't say. It's hard to know what works with a cold and fever and what doesn't. I don't think it hurt. Well, maybe that onion-y aftertaste in my mouth that still persists.

But if it didn't, if there was no real effect and it is all a big joke on the "gullible woman in the drugstore," I hope Merle is somewhere having a very good laugh. Just him and his onion-breathed granddaughter.

Update: I dosed an ailing housemate. She feels better, too. I may start a mail-order influenza "cure" business, if anyone knows where I can get a truckload of onions at rock-bottom prices?

24 October 2009

The Road Not Taken

This is the road not taken. Well, not by me anyway.
I was driving past this street when I glanced up. Seeing saw all the colors of the leaves, lining both sides up and down, and being only a couple of blocks away from home, I pulled over and snapped a couple of shots. It may very well be the road not taken, but isn't it beautiful?
It seems my beloved friends in California and Utah think I am missing out by being on th East Coast. But my friends in Washington and I would like you to know that, in fact, you may be missing out. And I thought I would show you a little of what this season brings in the District of Columbia.

This time of year, the number of tourists in Washington is on the way down. Oh, we still have plenty of stragglers in town.

This was a gaggle coming out of the Jefferson Memorial this morning. There are not as many as when those cursed Cherry Blossoms bring out the walker and wheelchair set in the springtime every year.
I'm guessing this is the asthma and allergy sufferers group, getting out to enjoy the clear autumn days.

They still manage to stack up buses around the monuments, waiting for the eager riders to return from their meanderings.

And why shouldn't they be here? Fall is one of the best, prettiest times in Washington, which is one of the most beautiful cities in the World.
Just look what you are missing: October rains seem to clear our air and brighten everything around them. They make the world look richer, cleaner, and more colorful.

And look what a simple break in the clouds accomplishes in this little wooded area. Yes, there is indeed a bit of seasonal bloom everywhere you look.

What might be just another tree at any other time of the year suddenly becomes quite a stunner!

And there's still enough warmth (minus the city's legendary summer humidity) to make an afternoon game of rugby take on historic importance.
So if you're in the area, please come this direction. You never know what you'll see just around the next turn.
The reality and my message is, that wherever you are is wonderful. Some people complain about the rain, but to my thinking, it turns the outdoors into a jeweled wonderland. The sound of it falling is nature's own heartbeat.

Yes, it's a change from the summer heat. And still different from the snows ahead. It's a moment in time to relish the last days of warmth, store up memories and prepare for long months of cold ahead.

Or at the very least, get out the skis and enjoy an afternoon of polishing them in the carport with the rain running by alongside.

21 October 2009

Friends Old and Cyber

It's an interesting thing to surf these cyberwaves and suddenly find a friend, isn't it? It's almost like reading a book and discovering that you can see yourself or a loved one in some of the characters.

A week and some back, I was polishing off a third reading of a favorite book by a favorite author when I spotted a food blogger posting about that very same writer. She had recently read Jan Karon's "At Home in Mitford," and written a blog about it.

As I've explained here before, a friend loaned me a copy of that very same book over a year ago. Since then, I've read the entire "Mitford Series" and kept them for months at a time until my sweet friend bought me the paperback set for Christmas in order to get her own copies returned. (Thanks again, Lynn, for one of the most thoughtful gifts ever!)

Back to our story. The food blogger was posting about butterscotch pecan pie and "At Home in Mitford" and her mother and, well, let me clip her description of Cynthia, who is one of her favorite characters:
"It seemed to me anyone who can breeze through a witty list of things
they don't love was exactly the sort of person I'd like to grow into."
Well, yes, there's that. The character that she was speaking of is Cynthia, the wife of Father Tim, who is the central character in Karon's Mitford series.

By the way, in the book, Cynthia is a well-known children's author. Perhaps that's why she's the character that I like to think is modeled after the author herself, shown in the picture to the right.
That's right. I mentally ascribe many of Cynthia's great characteristics (including her pink sponge rollers) to Jan Karon. So the idea that the blogger wants to grow into having a few of her witty and positive attributes makes complete sense to me.

As I continued to read the blogger's post, she seemed to feel many of the same things I felt about Karon's writings. I could hear her rather, well, cheeky voice, coming to me across the internet, expressing the same feelings of wanting focus on happier things, send out happier tidings, and generate a happier countenance for everyone around her. And when I saw her pictures, it all seemed to fit together perfectly. (By the way, Brooke has a talented photographer friend who I actually swiped this picture from, at this blogsite. Go, look, and be quick about it!)

I jotted a quick comment on her blog, mentioning that I had just posted a blog the day before about Jan Karon's writing, too. I wasn't expecting her to respond back. It was just nice to feel a little emotional connection in an often disconnecting, jarring world. Then I went on my way.
What happened next surprised me and my new blogger (that would be Brooke) friend, too, I think.
First, Brooke backtracked from my comment to my blog. We swapped a few notes privately and then each got our own separate and collective days made by a note from (someone we presume to be) Ms. Karon's asssistant, telling us she'd read our blogs. Here's the comment made on my blog:
"Just a note to let you know that Jan Karon enjoyed reading your blogspot,
and your comments about the Mitford series. She sends her warm regards and
wanted you to know that her daughter was a journalist..."
I'm still not sure if Ms. Karon ever noted that her two blogger fans connected, but who cares? JAN KARON WAS READING OUR BLOGS!
One funny thing for me was that I received the above note while checking email on my PDA during a break at a work day "Basic Business Grammar and Writing" seminar. I mentioned this to my charming teacher, who cocked her head to the side and said her mother had been nagging her for years to read those Jan Karon books. Perhaps now, she said, it was time to find out what this (20 million copy selling) author was about?
A few blogs back when I was describing my absentminded efforts to fill a need within myself by surfing the Internet, I didn't think to make a new friend in this way, but it has happened. The writer of that cheeky little blog and I have now swapped several notes and connected on levels that I could never have anticipated.

In tribute and appreciation of Jan Karon, she has made these beautiful marmalade cupcakes, which are her own individual take found here at Tongue-N-Cheeky blog on a particularly beloved treat in the fictional town of Mitford: the diabetic coma inducing (that's nearly true, but mostly an insider comment for Mitford readers) stupendous "Three Layer Marmalade Cake."

Have you ever seen such a wildly energetic blog in your life? I'm in awe. And I truly believe that the reason that Brooke of "Tongue-N-Cheeky" wears yellow shoes in many of her pictures will be revealed to her in about another six Mitford books down the long, charming, literary trail that Jan Karon weaves.

She'll find a little of herself in "Sissie" and be delighted all over again.
As for myself, I continue to surf... the real horizon. I'm looking for that next bit of human candy to bring you. And if I was to consider which Mitford character I most resemble, well, certainly I've got all of Father Tim's foibles. But I'm most wishing to resemble Hope, the owner of Happy Endings Bookstore.
To understand why, you'll have to read all of the books or, well, be Jan Karon herself, who seems to understand a great deal. Thanks again for all the help your books provided last year, Jan. They were everything.

18 October 2009

Sweet Adeline on a Sunday

This is Addie. She's not mine. Relax. I'm not announcing anything.
She's a "loaner." Her rather exhausted but loving parents who were sitting right around the corner indulged me. She's quite wonderful, although I have known some whose company I have sought out for a more long-term, ongoing relationship, I suppose.

When I arrived (a bit late after having to move my car from a neighborhood that apparently doesn't like its churchhouse neighbors) the building was filled to overflowing. I kept ducking through doors, but seeing no empty chairs, and ducking out again.
So I kept walking further and further back. I finally headed for the stage which I noticed was filled with chairs and people in them. Perhaps one would be empty? No indeed, the stage itself was packed, so I made myself a place on the stairwell. It was quite comfortable and clean, and I plopped down quite content.
At 14 months old, Addie likes to get up and wander around to visit. She shows people various things that she's collected and brought with her. She's even willing, when politely asked, to plop down in one's lap and make herself quite at home.
She likes stuffed animals, keychains, cell phones that light up, and of course, Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers. Well, who doesn't, right?
She also greatly enjoys emptying purses. Mine is the green one in the foreground. The black blob providing a backdrop is my knees covered by a long crepe skirt that accomodates sitting in stairwells.
The prescription drug bottle she's got her fingers wrapped around, in case you were wondering, is my current "meter money" repository and yes, she was caught in the act of shaking it loudly. "Ching! Ching! Ching!"
Fortunately, I rarely keep my Swarovski crystal in my purse. Since a recent run-in with a metal detector, I also have no sharp objects. It goes without saying that I was even more fortunate to have no bright lipstick or permanent ink markers.
Equally marvelous, when Addie is sorting through funny plastic cards in people's wallets, she prefers the brightly-colored grocery store cards to the boring silver credit cards. Whew! And to give her what's due, I confess, after her miniature "tour de force," my purse was showed a marked improvement in organization.
Yes, little Addie (who is about the size of a Polly Pocket doll and shows a similar disposition: she has the personality of a living doll) was kind enough to sit with me during church on Sunday, just in case the speaking up front got a little dry. Addie knows how to liven up her surroundings. She certainly livened up mine.
And then she toddled off, on her merry way. Spreading cheer, and smiles and little bits of goldfish crumbs wherever she went.

I had a great Sunday and hope you did, too.

10 October 2009

Human Candy and the Void

I don't know his name.
We never spoke. I don't know if he even noticed me. It was doubtful (in a "not so great neighborhood of south Los Angeles") that he spoke English and the idea of disturbing his peaceful day seemed unnecessary. Besides, he was everything that I needed without rousing him from his quiet reverie.

I was surfing the Internet last night, looking for something. I wanted to find that something so much that I almost ached. I kept hopping from website to website, page after page, blog after blog. I peeled through a few favorite aggregaters looking for something to pore over. I visited a few "old favorites," but nothing seemed to do the trick.
I guess we all feel that way sometimes, don't we? We are looking for something but we aren't quite sure what it is and we don't really know where to look.
BBI, (back before the Internet) people, well, mostly teenagers and children really, would stand in front of the refrigerator, open its door and gaze in, "looking for something" within. They weren't really hungry, but they had nothing better to do. They wanted something, but they never seemed sure what it was they were looking for.
These days, one might well wonder if our national weight problem is because we no longer stand at the fridge, but instead put a bowl of chips next to the computer and mindlessly munch while we search the World-wide Web looking for something to fill our emptiness?
Last year, a friend loaned me some books. I was sad at the time and the books she put in my hands helped ease that unhappiness. They were by a woman named Jan Karon and called "The Mitford Series."
Jan Karon describes her writing as finding beauty in the lives of everyday people. She does that stunningly well and if you ever want to read something that can be like salve on a painfully burned (at that time) soul, I highly recommend them. Great for breakups, lost jobs, missed promotions, fallen cakes and burned cookies. They have a simplicity in their approach and are full of the sweetness of small town life. I liked their elegant approach very much.
Last night, as my fingers were busily trying to find something to fill a void and soothe a restless soul, I thought of my trip this past week through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Do you know how many toll booths lie between Washington, DC and Mercerville, New Jersey? About seven, if I counted correctly.
I like toll booths. When you're driving a long distance, they are like tiny shot of humanity. The operators in the booths are generally nice butsomewhat lonely folks, so they are often willing to play along with a bit of loosey-goosey-ness on the part of a solo driver.
I spoke with one toll booth operator named Joe in Pennsylvania. "How are you?" I called out while he made change. He said h'es GREAT. And why not? He has a decent job, three kids and a wife who loves him. Sadly, I didn't get a picture of his beautiful silvery hair.
There was another standout booth operator in New Jersey. His hair was apparently caught in a 1950's time warp. I didn't talk to him because I was taking in that 'do. I didn't get a picture of him, either. I wish I had because I think you would have enjoyed seeing him.
I won't make that mistake again. In reviewing this blog, it's nice that you would read it at all. It's terribly flattering. But I've noticed something: the blogs that get the most response aren't the ones where I study out an issue and post a few of the facts and the silliness that strikes me in it. The blogs that draw the most response out of you are the ones with pictures and commentary from my trips. And the pictures that elicit the most responses are the ones of everyday people that I've snapped a photo and shared a small conversation with.
I am by nature someone who likes to please. And to be honest, I have great fun talking and teasing with the people along my path. It's a huge source of amusement. Perhaps you've noticed?
So I think for the next little bit, I will play along. I'll try to take more of my own pictures of the interesting people I meet along the way. We'll see how that goes for a bit, eh? I'll offer a little visual (human) candy, and a little something positive about them. Although sometimes, I'm just going to take pictures because the person is funny looking. You know I can't resist that kind of mischief.
To that end, the above picture is not new. I snapped it from the front seat of a news van parked at the side of a street in South Los Angeles about five years ago. Since then, it's become my favorite. It seems appropriate to start off with him. The photo is titled "Sidewalk Cowboy."
When we drove up, my colleague took the TV station's video camera and went inside the fenced off area behind the man. It was an illegal urban garden, operated by "squatting" gorilla gardeners. They had illegally used the land for more than ten years, with the owners' tacit approval. But now the owners of the land were wanting to develop the property. The gardeners refused to give it up and were attempting to sue for "their rights." It's interesting how some people behave when granted a generous favor, isn't it?
I think that everything I liked about this man is probably visible to you, too. He seems to have lived a full life and now be content to rest for a moment on an upside down rubber bucket on a dirty sidewalk. He seems to have exhausted his emptiness and found contentment.
And in his face, I often find a little something to fill my void. Maybe you will, too.

05 October 2009

What Snubbing the Dalai Lama Means to You

The Dalai Lama is in Washington tonight. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet and past recipient of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal will meet with politicians, hand out thanks and awards and glad-hand the city's high and mighty. With one very notable exception.

He's not being received by President Barack Obama.
After 18 years of being honored and revered as the walking, talking human personification of the American belief in freedom of religion, he's been turned away at the gate. We, who were supposed to be his greatest supporters, have failed him.
The Obama administration sent a delegation to meet with His holiness at his residence-in-exile in India last month. Afterwards, the Dalai Lama's spokesperson said the Tibetan exile looked forward to meeting President Obama not during this visit, but after Mr. Obama returns from his first presidential visit to Beijing.
That key word "after" is very disappointing to Dalai Lama supporters. It allows the Chinese government to say to Tibetans, "See! Those Americans considered our bullying more important than your spiritual freedom."
For the Dalai Lama's part, this is part of being a good sport. On U.S. president's part, it's more like recognition of the New World Order. And Barack Obama is toe-ing the line.

The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty
fallen! Samuel 1:19

I want to be a supporter of this president, but this action gives me serious pause. The strange thing is, the Chinese didn't demand this of the United States. President Obama offered this sizable chunk of diplomatic coin without being asked. We surrendered without firing a shot.
Oh, I'm sure there was an implied threat. China routinely punishes nations that receive the Dalai Lama. They refuse to attend conferences and cut off diplomacy. They later reschedule, restore diplomacy and life goes on. So if the punishment is routine, and the Dalai Lama has met with the sitting president of the United States ten times since 1991, then why worry about it now?
Very simply, the position of the United States on the world stage has changed.
In reviewing the huge debt that nearly crippled the U.S. economy last year, the Chinese have emerged as the single largest holder of that debt. We ought to be dizzy and shaken to our knees by the throttling we are taking. Our own stupid spending has led us down this dark little trail and we may not have seen the depths of it.
A second story caught my attention as I flitted around the 'net this afternoon. "U.S. Drops to 13 on List of World's Best Countries to Live in." The second part of the headline was that China has moved up seven places to 92. Yeah, sure you smirk, but the weekend get-togethers on Tiananmen Square are killers.
We all know what life on the outside looking in on a Communist Regime looks like, but China has improved living conditions, education, income levels and life expectancy. Think about that as you watch the evening news reports of teacher layoffs and job cutbacks.
We're losing our position in world politics. We're losing our standing on world debt markets. And we're tossing out our self-respect by catering to a global bully that kills its own people, dictates religion and family size, and has refused to let an entire section of the country have access to its spiritual leader for the last 50 years.
Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama address his 90,000 followers form his home in India and told them to prepare themselves "in case our struggle (with China) goes on for a long time."
Sadly, this week our country is working against the oppressed in Tibet; doing the bidding of China, as our new economic taskmaster.

02 October 2009

Great Truths and the Stupidity that Follows in American Society

So today, we aren't going to look for the irony. We're going to look for the common sense. Any sign or symptom of common sense. Any breath or whiff or hair along the sidewalk that says "Common sense was here." And has since fled.
I point you in the direction of American retailers who now are turning their eyes away from Baby Boomers.
I remember the first time I heard that nomiker: Baby Boomer. It sounded ominously huge, powerful, and very desirable. It sounded like the Club of Clubs. I recall hearing that this huge (42 percent of the U.S. population are "baby boomers") group would drive the economy before it. That with the sheer force of their numbers, these children born during the demographic Post World War II demographic baby boom, would set trends, fire growth and stability and make politicians tremble before them.

Look at those smiles! I always thought the smartest thing I could do would be to figure out some industry to harness their interests and serve their needs. Some wonderful idea such as "velcro'd clothing" for their dotage would suit me to a T and make my own dotage a lot more luxurious. I've been trying to find the key to that door for a very long time.

Meantime, retailers have noticed that Boomers are taking this recession hard. This information came out of studies and white papers by Retail Forward, which is a retail consulting group that studies and presents trends. If you'd like to read some frightening, pessimistic stuff (or just see signs that Americans are finally understanding what frugality is) then you can click here for their website.

It always was going to be problematic: Americans need to spend because that's how the economy recovers, but they need to pay down their debt because well, $8000 per household in credit card debt was really never going to do, was it?

Back to Boomers. This is the time of their lives, demographically, when they ought to be enjoying and spending their wealth during the highest productivity of their lives, but it turns out, they're a bit depressed. And why not? They've being laid off with the rest of the country. They are staring down their retirement (the statistics on that are utterly terrifying), they are actually more pessimistic than much of the rest of the population about recovery, and they have cut their spending drastically.
Remember those childhood cartoons of poor people eating canned beans? Not so funny anymore, is it? And considering that Boomers are the wealthiest segment of society, it isn't a good sign.
So retailers have decided to move on. I'm not quite sure what they are thinking but it seems to run along these lines:
"Can't sell to the Boomers? Eh, so what? Let's go after the 20-somethings. They're still paying off college loans and living in their parents' basement, but let's get them to spend the money they save on rent!"

In other words, let's teach them to spend beyond their means, too. Ugh.

So, if 42% of your population is older, cranky, and nervous about money, do you ignore them? Or do you figure out smarter ways to attract them? At some point, those older folks still have to buy a new pair of pants and when they figure out that you're only selling capris for the 20's set, they are going to be so annoyed.

If you can tell me how any of this makes sense, I'll be interested to know. Meantime, watch this little bit from late night television's Craig Ferguson as he tells us how things got so far off course in the first place.
I think it may be the funniest, saddest, wisest, most insightful, and yet altogether horrifyingly true thing on Youtube.

01 October 2009

See Marti Run! (on an Elliptical Machine)

This is my beloved niece. She's quite beautiful, talented and of course, my favorite of her many gifts, she's exceedingly loving towards me, her prodigal Aunt.

Obviously, it was fortunate that we were born so close together in years, don't you agree?
The darling woman said something very sweetly innocent yesterday which sort of echos through my psyche. She said, in part,
"I am glad I am not in your profession. I would just never make it with all of the hard work on and attention to personal appearance."

Well, yes, there's that. She spoke in reference to some extra attention I am giving to nutrition and exercise right now, after taking a somewhat more relaxed attitude toward food for the last several months.

She's not the first person to comment on the superficial demands of the television news industry. Sometime back, a close girlfriend said...

"Wouldn't you like to not have to focus so much effort on working out just for the camera?"

And a male friend who once asked...

"So when are you going to just let go, Marti, and stop working out and just let yourself go?"

These questions don't offend me at all. Okay, yes, the second one sorta... made me shiver. But they're actually sort of flattering with the implications that the results of my efforts are noticed, even if the efforts themselves (including being unwilling to forego a workout to attend ice cream parties more conveniently) aren't particularly appreciated.
The truth is that being in television journalism has forced me to be cognizant of my appearance, but also provided exposure to the best, most up-to-date information and experts on nutrition, exercise, fitness and other health issues. I've had literally thousands of dollars in health consultations as a part of work and reporting over the years. Some of it was bound to sink in, wouldn't you think?

And let me state in my defense, it's not all about the camera. It's about my inner workings. It's about how I feel about myself. Admittedly, it does take a huge amount of confidence to pursue an on-camera career in television news (or an even larger helping of insecurities). And in spite of admitting to an immense vanity in the past, I will say these days, it's not about the camera.

It's about something more important. It's about how I physically feel. I'm determined that my life is going to be good. In fact, to re-jigger a 1970's coffee company's slogan for my own use, it's going to be good to the last drop, er, moment.

The sweet niece posted the following hand-drawn cartoon (see, I told you she is talented!) on her blog today.

I wish I could even think of running a marathon, but as it happens, I dislocated one particular joint in the buttocks area so many times that I'm grateful to be able to scurry across a parking lot. I have to confine my cardiovascular fitness efforts to an elliptical machine in a condominium complex workout center. Even then, sometimes it can all seem a bit overwhelming.

But again, it has to be done. Why? Because my body needs the benefit of every bit of nourishing oxygen and nutrients that I consumed that morning or the night before to be carried further and faster by the blood rush of a good workout. I need to feel the strenuous, sweat-gland-flushing hour-long pushing of pedals. I need to push myself and I need all that salt (that I still love to put on everything that goes in my mouth) pushed out of my body. I need an hour of meditation and reading a good book and singing along to whatever album my iPod provides. And heaven knows, I need the endorphins.

How do you get your body operating at maximum levels unless you get up and move around and encourage all the cells to function at their peak levels at least 5-6 times per week? I don't have any idea or the desire to find out. I think finding out would mean a life lived at such a smaller heartrate that my tiny rock-hard ticker can't even conceive of it. And doesn't want to.

And it's not just workouts. It's work. I want my mind engaged, too. I believe the resulting increased heartrate is beneficial in terms of getting the blood circulating into my brain. One of these days, I'm going to pull out crossword puzzles and start on those. I've always avoided them, but one day soon, you'll open your mailbox, friends, and find that I no longer send out those clever and intentionally somewhat offensive holiday greetings but Christmas Crosswords to get both our cranial areas functioning more fully.

So yes, I'm staying in the race. I'm in it all the way to the end. The niece is, too... even if I have to "tough love" nag her every step of the way.

(Disclaimer: I intend to live to 85. At age 84.5, I will abruptly stop exercising and start consuming dessert and lots of it. Please drop by for pie. Anytime.)