Recuperation

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Here I sit in front of a frozen pond, in a County Park in the woods in  the waning days of February in northern New Jersey. It is 70 degrees out. And so are the people.
A few months ago I had a total knee replacement. The 1/4 mile walk felt like the Bataan Death Match. But this is therapy and it doesn’t come without pain. But here there are rewards afterwards.

The park is filled with people. People and dogs. Everyone stops to chat. Although not a bad winter it still was a long winter. Everyone is happy to be out. Although still in New Jersey, only a short distance from Civilization one would not know it from here.

Life is good.

MARTY

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MARTY 

This is my friend Marty. I have known Marty since 1971. At that time, I knew him as Mr. S., one of my new found friends’ parents.

You see I grew up in Teaneck, a town in New Jersey and went to a Junior High School on my side of town. The other side of town had their own Junior High School and there was not any mixing of the two. In fact, we had an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. That was until we got to High School. The High School is almost smack dab in the middle of our town. In September of 1971 we all got thrown into this mixing bowl of a school. Suddenly we met, and made friends, with people on, what could have been, the other side of the planet. In fact, they were literally on the ‘Other side of the Tracks’.

Now I don’t actually recall how our group on my side of town became friends with this group from the other side of town, but we did. Maybe it was because we were all members of the Audio Visual Aids Department. Something that does not exist with the invention of the PC, Windows, and the White board. (I have just lost all of my younger readers). In any event our group suddenly doubled in size and logistics. Just like the parents of our friends on our side of town, these new parents took us into their homes and made us feel like family. In the case of Mr. and Mrs. S. I suddenly had another Grandmother, and two ‘little’ sisters that came along with my new friend Jeff. This was repeated with all of the new friends that I made but that is a blog for a different day.

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MR. AND MRS. S. AROUND THE TIME THAT I MET THEM.

Over the years Jeff and I have kept in close contact, regardless of the fact that he is not on Facebook. And over the years, my ‘little’ sisters grew up and Mr. and Mrs. S. became Marty and Anita. At first I felt weird calling them by their first names but as time went by it became easier and our relationship morphed as well. Topics that used to be taboo with your friend’s parents were suddenly okay to discuss.

A little over a year ago Anita passed away. After her funeral, during a Shiva visit, Marty waved me over. He then asked me to teach him how to use Anita’s iPad, something that he had avoided, letting Anita, instead deal with technology. Of course I said yes. And so our true friendship began. All under the guise of the iPad.

I started visiting Marty weekly. We would sit in the kitchen and I would explain to Marty how to order from Shoprite, how to read emails, and how to surf the internet. Sometimes successful and others not. Marty reads his emails but is not fond of writing back. But I know that he loves to look at the pictures of his children, grandchildren and the grandchild of one of his daughter’s boyfriend.  And now I send him pictures of my family and grandchild to see as well.

Somewhere along the way, the iPad, still the excuse for the visits, took a lesser role. We still sit and work with it for a while. He shows me pictures, I show him pictures, his son got him a keyboard to type on and that is making it easier for him, but more and more our visits and just plain social. We discuss everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Marty and I confide in each other and you would never know that there are about 27 years separating us in age. Recently we were exchanging stories about getting drunk and our not so great experiences with it. I found myself telling Marty about a night that his son found me wandering the streets in a Tequila haze and brought me home. How I passed out on the front lawn and ultimately locked my father out of the house when I tried to sneak in after the sun came up and I was covered in dew. We had a good laugh on that one. I love to listen to Marty tell me about growing up in Brooklyn, his time courting Anita, the time spent in the National Guard, stories about the kids when they were just growing up, etc. We go story for story. We look forward to our weekly visits together and are disappointed when we have to miss one.

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MARTY AND I LAST WEEK

Currently, I am in Florida visiting my Mother and Marty is preparing to go out west to visit his son and daughter-in-law. As I was leaving last week we hugged like it would be our last visit together. In reality I will be picking him up at the airport upon his return (I hope that I recognize him as he just shaved off his signature mustache) and will will have a few weeks of visits before I get a knee replacement. We will resume where we left off and have more tales to tell each other. Oh and we will work on the iPad some more too. After all isn’t that the reason for these visits? Wink, wink.

 

 

 

CHAPTERS

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CHAPTERS

A strange thing happened this morning. For the first time in our 34 year marriage the day after Labor Day neither my wife or I got up at ‘0 dark hundred’ to go to work. I am almost 61 and my wife is almost 58. Actually we have been rehearsing for this day for a couple of weeks now but for some reason Labor Day made it official. Yes too early in our lives not to be working, but I am not going to go into the gory details in this post.

We always knew that this day would come. The turning of a page in our book of life, the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. It is exciting.  And yet?

We have been preparing for this time in our lives for a couple of years now. Oh we will have to work as we truly cannot afford to retire but the days of killing ourselves for ‘The Man’ are over. My wife and I are planning on pursuing things that we love in life and make money along the way.

We have raised two fantastic children. One married with a child and the other unmarried and sorting out his path in life. And us? We are learning, or should I say relearning, how to be alone together in the same room. How to not necessarily fill the air with talk. That it is okay for us both to read and just be. Sometimes  one of us will look over, catch the other’s eye and will say, “What? Is everything alright?” Of course it is, we are just getting to know one another again. We made a spaghetti sauce the other day and for the first time ever I did not get out the mega pot to make a mega sauce (if we had some meat to put into it it would have been ‘gravy’) because we didn’t need a mega sauce. Our Costco membership just ran out. That became a topic of discussion. Do we really need to buy in that quantity anymore? No, we decided but aren’t ready to give it up yet. We both love the Costco Buffet. I spent a good part of the weekend in what has become my ‘happy place’ when not staring at waves at the beach, my hammock, and my wife spent her time doing art, reading, and just relearning how to chillax.

Today I was going to make a special day as it is the first one after Labor Day when she was not going to return to a classroom. But my plans changed. It was even more special than I could have ever imagined. Our daughter-in-law asked us to sit for our 6 month old, first Grandson while she and our son had to work.

Yes this new chapter in our lives is starting off just great. I can’t wait to see how the next 20 years turn out.

Deadhead1155                                                                                                                                                  September 6, 2016

 

As Campaigns Seek Delagates, Ordinary Voters Feel Sidelined

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THE TITLE OF THIS BLOG IS ACTUALLY FROM AN ARTICLE IN TODAYS (4/10/2016) NY TIMES. HERE IS THE LINK TO READ THE ARTICLE: Election 2016

   Normally, I begin my mornings with a cup of coffee and the NY Times on my tablet. Today I was greeted with the article above and it made me think that the time has come to update our Political System before it is too late. Yes, for most of my life I have heard people around me expound on the need to do away with the Electoral College. I agree wholeheartedly with this view.

      When our Nation was founded, the Revolutionary War was fought for economic reasons and less about taxation without representation as they teach us in school. Europe was at the beginning of their Industrial Revolution and they needed the colonies to supply the raw materials so that they could produce the needed product. The colonies in North America were just another cog in their wheel. We, on the other-hand, wanted a piece of that pie. Like workers today, we wanted to earn more and improve our wealth and status in life. 

      If you think about it, the Founding Fathers who hammered out the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were the owners of plantations, factories, etc.  The Revolutionary War, however, was fought by the working class.  Our government was not really ‘By the People, for the People’ because if it was, there would have never been the Electoral College, where appointed citizens vote for whom the feel would be a good candidate.  Never ever forget that although most people will tell you that our nation is a Democracy it isn’t. The United States of America is actually a Democratic Republic. I will let you google the difference between the two.

     Now to the Article in today’s Times.  Apparently about 150 years ago, the National Conventions of the current political parties began to change. This change was for the purpose of keeping the Party’s choice of the Presidential Candidate out of the hands of the general electorate. Sound familiar? I will let you read the article above and form your own opinions, but as I see it, this once great nation is in need of some serious change and soon, or we will end up like the Roman Empire.

     The time has come that we become truly a Nation by the People, for the People.

 

 

The Eight-Second Attention Span

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I realize that many of you followers, assuming there are followers, have been waiting for me to post some original material. Well possibly the winter doldrums have set in but I promise I will be contributing my own material soon.  I read this during my daily perusal of the news online and felt that it was worth sharing.  The N.Y. Times posted this on the Op-Ed page.   deadhead1155

Timothy Egan Timothy Egan JAN. 22, 2016 51

This weekend, I’m going to the Mojave Desert, deep into an arid wilderness of a half-million acres, for some stargazing, bouldering and January sunshine on my public lands. I won’t be out of contact. I checked. If Sarah Palin says something stupid on Donald Trump’s behalf — scratch that. When Sarah Palin says something stupid on Donald Trump’s behalf, I’ll get her speaking-in-tongues buffoonery in real time, along with the rest of the nation.

The old me would have despised the new me for admitting such a thing. I’ve tried to go on digital diets, fasting from my screens. I was a friend’s guest at a spa in Arizona once and had so much trouble being “mindful” that they nearly kicked me out. Actually, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the Seahawks game, mindful of Seattle’s woeful offensive line.

In the information blur of last year, you may have overlooked news of our incredibly shrinking attention span. A survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000. We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.

Attention span was defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.” I tried to read the entire 54-page report, but well, you know. Still, a quote from Satya Nadella, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, jumped out at me. “The true scarce commodity” of the near future, he said, will be “human attention.”

Putting aside Microsoft’s self-interest in promoting quick-flash digital ads with what may be junk science, there seems little doubt that our devices have rewired our brains. We think in McNugget time. The trash flows, unfiltered, along with the relevant stuff, in an eternal stream. And the last hit of dopamine only accelerates the need for another one.

I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone. One of the joys of going to Europe was always the distance — nine hours in my case — from compulsive contemporaneous chatter. While I hiked the Cinque Terre, the West Coast was sleeping. No more. Somebody, somewhere is alerting me to something that can’t wait.

You see it in the press, the obsession with mindless listicles that have all the staying power of a Popsicle. You see it in our politics, with fear-mongering slogans replacing anything that requires sustained thought. And the collapse of a fact-based democracy, where, for example, 60 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama was born in another country, has to be a byproduct of the pick-and-choose news from the buffet line of our screens.

Even “Downton Abbey,” supposedly an exemplar of popular taste for refined drama in the Digital Age, is in fact a very hyper-paced entertainment. The camera seldom holds a scene for long, cutting from Mrs. Patmore’s sexual advice to the butler Barrow’s latest plotting at a speed that is more Nascar than “Masterpiece Theatre.”

 

A New York friend used to send me clever, well-thought-out emails, gems of sprightly prose. Then he switched to texting, which abbreviated his wit and style. Now all verbs and nouns have vanished; he sends emojis, the worst thing to happen to communication in our time.

But all is not lost. I don’t know what the neuroscience has to say about this, but I’ve found a pair of antidotes, very old school, for my shrinking attention span.

The first is gardening. You plant something in the cold, wet soil of the fall — tulip bulbs or garlic — and then you want to shout, “Grow!” Eight seconds later, nothing. Working the ground, there’s no instant gratification. The planting itself forces you to think in half-year-increments, or longer for trees and perennials. The mind drifts, from the chill of a dark day to a springtime of color. Hope, goes the Emily Dickinson poem, is the thing with feathers. But it’s also the thing that rises from a tiny seed, in its own sweet time.

The second is deep reading, especially in the hibernation months of winter. I’m nearly done with the second volume of William Manchester’s masterly biography of Winston Churchill, “The Last Lion.” (O.K., I’m late to the book, Churchillians.) It’s zipping by. Next up is a new history of the Roman Empire.

Remember all those predictions that technology was going to kill book reading? It never happened. Paper books and stores that sell them are experiencing a revival of sorts. So, yes, I’m as screen-scrolly as the next guy when I’ve got the world in the palm of my hand. But put the thing aside, and kneel next to fresh-tilled earth, or curl up with an 800-page tome, and you find that the desire for sustained concentration is not lost. If anything, it’s greater.

Irony alert: I invite you to follow me on Twitter, @nytegan.