Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Material Things

By Clifford Rothband

One of my favorite ditties is Dolly Parton singing Coat of Many Colors. It is about how proud a little girl felt was about a handmade coat made of different scraps and colors and how she handled the ridicule of other kids.

They belittled and called her names but she knew where it came from and often times the labor of love is enough to put the naysayers in there place, if only in our own personal pride.

When I was a kid, our folks put on there best for Shabbus, Friday night dinner, with whoever showed up with or without invitations. Who cared how the interloper dressed even the out of work, hungry cousin with cardboard shoe inserts. There was always another chair, another plate even if Bubby didn't eat.

In my army days, walking in a parade presented a sense of authority. A smile, spit-shined shoes and a clean, ironed uniform meant more than a chest full of colored ribbons.

Thinking back to the era when my Dad, brother and I had race horses, colors, names, breeding meant something. Sitting square and proud on a sulky, the pride of a horse going into a gate – yes, they looked for the gate and seemed to know when it was time to race.

Our stable was built on potential - horses sold off because of injuries or bad training habits. Understanding that a bright star might be there, the track stewards evened out races by setting conditions in categories such as speed, earnings or other traits.

One must remember that, as the saying goes, "every nag has her day.” If there are nine horses in a race, one will win. Whose time to win is what handicapping is all about and is a science, or mathematical algorithm. Let's not forget to extrapolate or dream in exponential terms.

Now, what does my tale have to do with a coat or jacket?

We'd had a winner at Pompano Park race track the night before. I had some extra money and wanted to show off. The next day I go to Grif's Feed and Western Wear where I bought the most expensive, reddish-brown color, white pearl buttons, white stitched suede jacket. The most I ever spent on a single clothing article.

That night we had another entry, a five-year-old mare, Goldie Raider. You never heard of her? She was a qualified pacer, had the breeding. Not a show horse; just enough to get by and earn her oats. Somehow we could read her or persuade her and she brought home the check that night.

Military lesson: supporting the second in command, I have found, is more important than the head person. In this case, walking off and cooling down a horse after a hard-run race are as important as the trainer or person at the reins.

I checked for injuries, hosed and washed her off. Talked her down. So here I am walking through the stall or paddock area. Nine hundred-pound Goldie in a steaming horse blanket, little 150-pound me with a lead and chain attached through a bridle with a small chain over her nostrils.

Out of nowhere dashes a loose horse, a danger to everyone near, including itself. As the intruder passes, by instinct I reach out and grab the bridle, still holding Goldie's lead chain.

I managed to get my left leg over the frightened galloper, now we're headed toward a area of dumpsters. In an instant, an abrupt stop. I fly forward into the manure bin - the acme of dumpster diving.

A crowd forms laughing. The two horses are a smelling me and I swear smiling out loud. Like shoot me! Phew! I was covered. Head to new blue suedeboots. My new jacket.

Needless to say, I had it dry cleaned. It hung in our closet until I found someone who didn't remember the incident. But since then I never bought into showing off again.

So that is another lesson in life that I leave to kids; yours, mine, theirs. Children, they are our immortality.

Material things mean little. I once believed that memories were all we could take with us yet I've learned that like time, they do get lost. So I continue to laugh and smile. I write about what I believe is most important to me including this little poem from somewhere.

To live without pretending
To love without pretending
To listen without defending
To speak without offending.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 26 January 2015

Why I'm Watching the Australian Open

By Peter Tibbles who blogs at Time Goes By

...rather than doing something useful. That, of course, is part of the title but it would be far too long, like one of those novels from the nineteenth century.

I love tennis. It's the only sport I was any good at. Well, good is bit too strong a word; I was okay at it.

I took up the game when I was about seven or eight years old and I would play most evenings when that was possible. That was possible about 300 days a year as it didn't rain in the town where I was born.

In the forties, fifties and sixties every community, village, town, city in Australia had many public tennis courts open to everyone. This is probably the reason my country was so dominant in the sport during that time.

In the small town where I grew up, most of the courts were grass which is a bit strange in retrospect as it was in the middle of a desert. However, there was ample artesian water (we didn't worry about depleting the aquifers back then). Thus we all became serve-volleyers.

I never did learn to lob properly or defend against them. Tennis lessons? Never! We just played our natural game. Of course, those who took lessons usually beat us by employing that tactic. We thought that was cheating.

When I moved to the big city (Melbourne), I was surprised by the dearth of grass courts. There were many other surfaces but grass seemed to be the province of the rich folks as it was everywhere else in the world.

Playing tennis had many advantages when I was at school. It meant that I didn't have to play any of the other sports which were boring, dangerous, uncomfortable, pointless or otherwise not worth considering.

The other advantage is that we got to play with the girls in their very short white dresses or shorts which for a hormonally charged teenager was a considerable plus. It's probably no coincidence that my girl friends from my last couple of years of high school (both of them) were tennis players.

I kept playing (now and then, it must be said) until I was in my early forties; until one day I developed "tennis elbow.” This was a painful problem for more than a year and pretty much halted my tennis playing entirely. However, the malady wasn't due to playing the game.

Those who know me won't be surprised that it happened when I was trying to remove a recalcitrant cork from a bottle of champagne (Billecart-Salmon for those who are interested in such details). After that, and quite unrelated, my arthritis gained momentum such that my fingers now go in odd directions and I can't hold a racquet properly anymore.

That's why I'm just watching the tennis these days.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 23 January 2015

By Any Other Name

By Wendl Kornfeld

During the 1970s I wrote and produced hundreds of broadcast and print ads for a couple of ad agencies that specialized in entertainment accounts such as Broadway shows and movies.

I worked with dozens of top-name stars, directors and producers, whose behavior and reputation often required diplomacy and extra patience on my part. I recall a few who were challenging in the extreme.

For one voice-over commercial, our agency needed a Latin-inflected mature male voice and we were able to secure an actor named Carlos Montalban – in fact, the older brother of Ricardo Montalban, that Hollywood heartthrob of the dazzling smile and impeccable suits.

Carlos Montalban proved to be utterly charming and so pleasant to work with, I actually wished the recording session could last longer. But, he knew his lines, took direction well, delivered like the seasoned pro he was and it was over all too soon. The following December I was delighted to receive a lovely Christmas card and photo of his beloved dogs which I treasure to this day.

If the name Carlos Montalban was not readily recognizable to you, his face and former fictional persona might have been. Do you recall that character from the old Savarin coffee commercials? He wouldn’t settle for just any coffee bean - he demanded only the best for our morning cup.

And so it is quite ironic that this smiling, easy-going actor I am telling you about was actually much better known to the world as El Exigente - the Demanding One.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

At Sea with Rock Hudson and a Drunk Stowaway

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

My wife and I receive regular brochures in the mail from organizations offering cruises around places such as the Greek Islands or the fjords of Norway.

Enticing, but a week or so in the top deck stateroom would cost as much as we paid for our aging car so we make excuses. “Sounds like fun but we’d probably get norovirus or fall off the deck at night,” we mumble.

Our cruising days occurred years ago during the 25 years we spent teaching overseas and usually, we boarded a ship to get from one place to another.

The amenities were cruder and the entertainment random but at least we didn’t have to dress up for dinner or decide which exercise class to attend.

In 1975, we boarded a small passenger ship on our way from Perth, Australia, to Singapore. The cruise was ill-fated from the start. Our vessel was a poor substitute for the original liner that had been diverted a few weeks prior to provide relief efforts in Darwin after a massive cyclone.

So we joined a few hundred Aussies and set sail with Greek officers and a Malaysian crew on a rusty ship that was probably registered in Panama.

The loose-talkers on board called the ship’s commander Captain Ouzo and they claimed the crew members regularly visited the engine room to smoke weed. Most of the passengers passed the time drinking Swan Lager and sliding coins into the five “pokie machines” that made up the ship’s gambling parlor.

The rear deck held the fitness facility, a swimming pool the size of a king-sized bed. It was more like a washing machine with its cycles dictated by the pitch and roll of the ship.

The final perk on board was an evening movie, a “Cinema Paradiso” at sea with a clacking projector beaming light through the salt-filled air and onto a swaying screen.

A murderous Rock Hudson killing off Pretty Maids in a Row was tolerable the first night but when we realized it was the feature on the second night also, only cold beer kept a mutiny at bay.

Thirty minutes into the repeat performance — two dead maids, three to go — the ship lost all power, and even though it was a great moment in film viewing history, it was frightening for those of us sober enough to realize we were adrift in high seas at night somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

The pitch darkness provided a splendid view of the stars and I imagine the ship’s navigator stumbled onto the deck and raised his sextant to the sky. The only other active spot on board was the bar where the drinking continued by Braille.

The outage lasted only a few hours but the waves grew stronger and the next day, we were riding the swell from a nearby typhoon. With my weak sea legs, I’d been queasy since we left Australia, so I joined others in a “chundering chorus.”

As we drew closer to Singapore, most forgot about the rough seas and some started worrying about the island nation’s famous draconian laws related to drug use, pornography possession and male hair styles. The place was notorious for refusing entry to hippies, slackers or those of us with hair creeping over our ears.

In the end, the official at the customs desk stamped my passport without even looking my way. His eyes were laser focused on the young woman ahead of me in line. Her sheer white blouse clearly showed what she had to declare and it certainly wasn’t a bra.

I was just glad to walk on stable ground, especially considering how the trip had begun.

On the night we left Western Australia, we had turned around an hour out to sea and steamed back to Fremantle because of a drunken stowaway. I’d heard it takes forever to turn a ship around so I was surprised they didn’t toss the drunk overboard or take him along figuring the Singapore officials would sentence him to 20 lashes and three more viewings of Pretty Maids.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Did the Swallows Return to Capistrano?

By Clifford Rothband

I just think that there is too little advice given to older men besides medical, death benefits or how they can save or use hard earned money type of advice. I am still looking for a men's horoscope in print.

In retirement, men seem to look for things to do. I volunteer when needed but sometimes it seems that I am being taken advantage of or taking some paid workers duties.

My 42-year-old daughter derides me as an instigator. My 47-year-old son is often astounded at the situations life has delivered. My wife understood when I got behind Marcel Marceau and mimicked him at Seaworld until he chased me away.

The following are some incidents that few might speak of but could have a very pronounced effect on our old man's lives. Not all inquiries are questionable or deserve a smarty, wise-ass or double entendre answer. Read on if you want to be amused.

For instance, we are in a casino and some young woman walks up to this old guy and says something. The next thing, he pulls out his wallet and three security men arrest him for soliciting.

We are in Panama City at the Seafood Festival. The wife and I walk our separate routes. This young thing in heels, tight jeans, an open midriff, a jeweled belly button and blue eyed contact lenses approaches me and says, "My man is in the can, I have six kids at home and will do anything for money.”

My answer: "Will you at no charge just go away!”

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, some older folks are walking when a group of kids stops them asking to change a larger bill. As the old guy pulls his wallet out, one kid grabs it and runs off. The others stay saying that they didn't know that kid. But they are hampering any pursuit or police action.

At a resort area our 12-year-old granddaughter is invited to party by some older guys that she never met.

Her reply, "Hey Poppy, you want to teach these guys some manners?"

Then the wife is approached by a woman. "Hey sexy, are you alone, want to be friends?

My wife answers that she is with me and asksd, “Are you up for a threesome?” Now that blew her away.

At a I-95 rest stop in North Carolina, this guy approaches and gives a hardship story. He has no money for gas, got to get home for the kids, a job, he's hungry. If I give him my address, he will return the loan.

I am not so hard or distrusting, so I say, “Come with me and I'll buy you a sandwich first.”

“No, another time, my friend,” he answers. Yet in half an hour we see him do the scam at least three times.

Picture this. Vacationing one evening in Washingtin, D.C. with two grandkids, wife, daughter and son-in-law in tow. We are waiting in the rain under an overhung awning and this normal-looking man approaches. He hands flowers to the girls.

In a return gesture, I reach into my pocket for a few singles. "Hey man, that ain't enough. I need $35 for a room tonight. You got anything larger, I can make change!"

I say, "Listen up, family, Let's move on."

My favorite. The wife is taking a picture of me on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. The King Neptune bronze statue is behind me.

Everybody is in swim suits and a redheaded lady in a sheer black summer dress comes up. She asks, "Are you retired or alone? Do you want to see the sights, have a good time? If you got money I'll show you a good time."

Now the wife, a few steps away, hears it all and she is laughing. Her overweight balding old man being propositioned by a young tart. The wife of course offers no help; she stands back and just listens.

As I try walking away, I get a close-ear whisper again and I figure she might be an undercover cop or something. She really scares me. Finally the woman trots off with a humpf.

The wife comes up and asks me, "How did you get rid of her?"

I only asked her if the swallows returned to Capistrano?"

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Skin in My Face Is Growing Downwards

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

Wrinkling earlobes.
Ditto neck.
Drooping jawline; skrinkling cheek;
Eyes: the lids.
The mouth the hideous-d of all:
A mix of
Wrinkling, drooping, lined, thinned, fallen.
But it functions and I’m glad.
It talks, it sings, it bends, it hears
(that is the ears)
Not as unpropitious as it sounds.

But growing downwards, definitely.
Or as the case may be indef...

Shall I interfere and try
To youngify?
Restyle, revamp, remodel, work, in short
A reconstruction?
How shall I adapt?
How shall I, in other ugly words escape?

Gather rosebuds while they're there
And you're not in a wheelchair -
It doesn’t last - this now becoming past.
Not even Chinese Mings or tanks or emerald rings
(although they may take somewhat longer)
Anything that’s formed – reformed is de-formed in the end.
I’m wise enough to save that effort.
Not to take that shot at, stab at, or a crack
At getting my young beauty back.
Do I suffer?
That’s a tougher!

I ignore the mirror
Or I study the way Rembrandt did,
Leaving not a wart ignored.
Warts and all, I make my call without a comment
And a row.
I’m doing it right now.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 19 January 2015

How Many Houses Should a Rich Man Own?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This poem arrived from Marc way back during 2012 presidential campaign. Somehow it got overlooked and then was out of date. Now, however, Mitt Romney seems to want to run for president again so I am pleased to finally publish this poem from Marc.]

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

How many houses should a rich man own?
Does that bother the homeless on the street?
Or, is that question better left alone?
Are the rich embarrassed if they should meet?
And should health care, available to all,
In the land of the brave, home of the free,
Remain an empty promise, still in thrall
To political expediency?
And what about the weary middle class?
Its dreams on hold, jobs lost, and homes foreclosed,
While rich men smile and drink champagne en masse.
Is modern life the way that we supposed?
Is life unfair? You’ve every right to ask.
To reason why’s the unforgiving task.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 16 January 2015

A Sea Cruise with Few Amenities but Plenty of Personality

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

In an era before cruising meant champagne, yoga and shopping ports-of-call, most travelers hopped on vessels to get from point to point. In the late 1970s, my wife and I were traveling the Indonesian islands and we were the last to board a large, crowded ferry at the port in Jakarta.

Since we had not booked one of the few small rooms for the two-day trip, we walked onto the huge single deck lined with small mats and skinny kids.

Indonesian families had staked out an orderly Woodstock crowd plan and we were left standing at the railing as the wooden cargo ships of Jakarta faded behind us in the haze.

Eventually we camped out on a small bench that was hooked to the wall outside the kitchen. Occasionally the cook would come out to smoke clove-filled cigarettes and aside from a few futile attempts at communication, we quietly shared the space until he went back to work.

He must have been the Iron Chef of the Malacca Straits as he chopped up boiled fish and produced caldrons of steamed rice.

Our two on-board meals came in the form of Dickens-like gruel lines. Servers set the pots filled with rice and fish bits at the front deck area and the passengers would file by, bowls in hand and all-purpose spoons at the ready.

We didn’t get the memo about meal procedures so we found plastic coffee can lids and joined in.

While standing in line, we met an Australian couple who had a small mat area staked out on the deck. The shaggy brown-haired young man mentioned that some Indonesian passengers camped next to them had asked why he and his wife didn’t use the wad of money he had in his shirt pocket to book a ship with furnished rooms.

They all had a good laugh when he unbuttoned his pocket and pulled out a bar of Ivory soap. Like us, they were on a tight budget, traveling “on the local economy.” But also like us, they were a lot wealthier than the families that were shoehorned on the deck — at least monetarily.

For entertainment we squinted at the site of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption and tried to imagine tidal waves that could kill 40,000 coastal dwellers in minutes. A few decades later, we would read about an earthquake under the sea nearby and a death toll more than five times that number.

By the time we rounded South Sumatra and turned north toward Padang, the sun was setting and we were planted on the bench. The cook, thin and stark in the twilight, appeared with a large steamed fish head on a tin plate.

The fish’s mouth seemed to form a soggy smile and the puffy gray face had a smug look, almost like it was saying, “Ha, I’m dead and this man is being kind to you by sharing the best part of me, but you’re about ready to puke.”

Of course we thanked the cook and used the bent fork to pick at the cheek pouch and jowl areas. A cold beer would have helped, but the only drink we had found on board was Coca Cola that came in those classic, eight-ounce bottles. It was warm.

In one respect, we were happy to have limited food and drink options. We wanted to shut down our digestive systems as much as possible because the toilets on board had become unusable after only hours at sea. Both the men and women facilities were at the bottom of a flight of stairs and even during our first visit, water had started seeping across the floors.

Later in the day, my wife reported that the ladies room had a foot of water sloshing back and forth in it and some mothers in the facility held toddlers that peed straight into the water.

The men’s room was no better off and if the smell was any indication, the crude flushing system was not working either. We practiced a form of mind-over-matter body control, a bit of Zen irregularity.

During the second day, we basked in sunshine and walked the narrow gangways to people watch — laughing kids, sleeping grandpas and a young man sporting a James Dean hair style and a tight black leather outfit.

At noon folks lined up in an orderly procession for rice and fish and within a few hours we chugged into the port at Padang. As we shuffled down the gang plank, we spoke with a few Indonesians and they informed us that the ship was arriving in Sumatra with the same number of live passengers it had left with.

During the night, an old man died and a baby was born.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Is it You, Dahle?

By Norm Jenson of Mostly Anecdotal

We have a dog, her name is Dahle, she’s a brown and white Shih Tzu.

Today my wife asked me if I would mind picking up the dog from the groomer. She dropped her off earlier in the day and when they call, I’ve agreed, I will pick her up.

It always makes me uncomfortable when I pick up the dog. It should be as simple as saying I’m here to pick up Dahle and then they bring her to me.

But no. Invariably they have the dog in a crate at the front of the store with other dogs and they say, “Do you see your dog?” and they point at the cages.

I look and there are two Shih Tzus - our dog is a Shih Tzu and one of the two looks like our dog but the grooming has changed its appearance. It looks different.

Our dog may still be in the back and this is just a dog that looks like ours. I worry about embarrassing myself. What will I say if I open the cage and the Shih Tzu’s not ours and bites me?

Or what if it acts friendly and I take it to the car just as the real owner shows up and confronts me. Accuses me of trying to steal the dog and calls the police. I agree it’s not likely but it’s something I worry about.

I open the cage; the dog just sits there. I whisper her name. She looks like Dahle, but she doesn’t wag her tail. I look for her collar and her name tag. I remember it’s in my pocket, removed before the grooming and now replaced by a bandana decorated with butterflies and ladybugs and other harbingers of spring, though spring is still months away.

I can tell she’s anxious to leave but any dog would be anxious to leave - it’s no guarantee she’s our dog.

I put a collar on her. She doesn’t seem to mind. I lift her and set her on the ground. I can’t tell for sure if she’s ours or just happy that someone is there to spring her.

We walk out to the car. She looks back over her shoulder. I open the door and she tilts her head to the side and looks at me askance. Is it because she doesn’t recognize the car or because she needs my help to get in?


I pick her up and place her on the passenger seat. I get in and start driving home. She seems happy enough. I pet her. She may know me but she’s not giving it away.

I’m pretty sure I have the right dog, but not 100 percent positive.

What if I get her home and the groomer calls and asks what I’m trying to pull. What if my wife comes home and looks at this dog, maybe ours maybe not, and says what the hell.

The dog follows me upstairs and sits on a rug at my feet. I pick up a book and start reading. I’m having trouble concentrating, my wife will be home any minute now.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Doing Doggerels

By Henry Lowenstern

Whenever I'm swimming laps,
I turn on my rhyming apps
and rehearse
a verse,
made up of mental scraps.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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