Tag Archives: baby boomers

Brain washday

When you reach a certain age, you get tons of unsolicited advice on how to make the most out of your remaining years (months? minutes?). Half the new-old-age barkers give you the pitch that these times are magical and blessed, while the other half say, “Son, you’ve got one foot under the daisies already. Better shape up quick.” Without even trying, you run into something like this item from AARP, the print version of which was headlined, “Cleanse Your Brain.”

WARNING! DISCLAIMER! The foregoing phrase should NOT in any way be taken as an instruction to do something spectacularly ill-advised involving a cordless drill, a funnel, and a bottle of Mr. Clean. (Know what “trepanning” means in this context? Don’t even look it up.)

The article is legit science about the glymphatic system, which is what the brain uses to clear out damaged protein, dirty fluids, and other waste. It got me to thinking: what if I could purge the memory bank portion of my brain? That’d free up space on the cerebral hard drive for all the Important Stuff I need to absorb and retain, especially how to stave off wrinkles and decrepitude.  After 63 years and a few odd weeks, it’s time for a super-duper spring cleaning!

But what memories would I unload? Things like algebra, sociology, the infield fly rule, sentence diagramming, medieval history, how to drive a stick shift, and the name of the person I just met are already gone. What’s left to lose?

Getting beaten up on the playground and being hopeless at sports. Trashing those memories – several school years’ worth – would do wonders for my self-esteem. Ditto all my romantic rejections from junior high onward, job flubs, bad life choices, and other sundry gaffes like busting up my fender in the car wash. No, that didn’t happen! I’d remember if I’d been that dumb!

Song lyrics. “Satisfaction,” “Purple Haze,” “Crossroads,” “I Will Follow,” and “Once in a Lifetime” can stay. I do not ever need to recall “Don’t You Want Me,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” or anything by Madonna, the Eagles, or anyone named Osmond.

Everything I ever learned about manners and etiquette. Useless in today’s world. Go to a restaurant and see how many people never look up from their phones during dinner, even when the maitre d’ politely informs them the place is about to be engulfed by a volcano.

Sports trivia (a redundant phrase anyway). The games I saw from the stands in college? I’ll keep ‘em. The name of the backup quarterback on a 3-13 NFL team, so lousy I had to get tanked every Sunday to watch them on TV? Not so much.

Old TV shows.  I remember “My Mother the Car,” “Men Behaving Badly,” and many episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Why?

Certain web surfing moments.  Not that I ever actually checked out “Vixen Virgins of Vegas” and the like, but if I somehow got there by mistake, it’d be helpful to truthfully not recall it.

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Anti-social security, or “Ten things to know about getting old”

Dear Sir,*

We’ve received your application for Social Security. We welcome you to the ranks of the senior beneficiary retirement subgroup, or as some of our younger staff call it, “Geezer Gulch.”

Before we can start payments, we need you to answer just a few questions to be sure you’re eligible. After all, we wouldn’t want to eviscerate the millennials’ future accept more money than we’re entitled to, would we?

  1. How long have you had that white hair exploding out of your ears and nose?
  2. Are you binge-watching “The Golden Girls” on TV Land and thinking Blanche was actually pretty hot?
  3. Do you understand these song lyrics? “When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps; Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps.”** If so, please explain them and define “Mugwumps” (Note: Calling us and singing over the phone are grounds for immediate, permanent loss of all benefits).
  4. Is your current bedtime earlier than your bedtime as a kid? Can you even remember that far back?
  5. Can you still put away the Rolling Rock, Canadian Club, Stoly, Moet, and Purple Jesus like you used to?
  6. If so, is your drinking just one more sad attempt to escape the emptiness and anguish of your wasted, humdrum life?
  7. Could you ever have been a contender? Or were you always a bum?
  8. Do you remember “dial-up,” “VCRs,” “cassette tapes,” “black-and-white TVs,” “leaded gas,” “the milkman,” “bi-partisanship,” “common courtesy,” and “common sense”?
  9. Is that really you in that rock festival video on YouTube, with hair down to your navel, a pink and green tie-dye shirt, and what seem to be no pants, jumping up and down on a car hood while screaming “WHIPPING POST”?
  10. Please estimate your annual Viagra intake. This won’t affect your benefits but it’ll sure make us feel better about our own TQ (tumescence quotient).

*We dug this form of address out of the archives because we know it’s what people your age are used to! See how dedicated we are?
**This is from “Creek Alley” by the Mamas and the Papas, who’d probably be the Great-Grandmamas and Grandpapas by now.

Retired, but not from life

Yesterday I retired from the job I’d held for many years. I had a great sendoff, with lots of good wishes and some truly special gifts from the best bunch of colleagues anywhere, or at least in this corner of the Milky Way. I’ve got plans for the first day of the rest of my life, and the days after that. What’s been a little hard to pin down is my identity and sense of self.

“Retirement,” of course, isn’t what it used to be. In the old days, I might’ve put on a golf cap and plaid pants and headed off for a life on the links. Now I’m updating LinkedIn – but how? Do I call myself a former journalist and writer-editor or a current…what exactly? My conundrum isn’t “Woe is me” but, “Who is me?”

Even though I was ready to move on and did so wholly on my own, with nobody nudging me toward the door, it’s a jolt to the system. Except for a year in grad school, this is the first time I’ve been voluntarily without some kind of paying job since I got my undergrad degree back in (!) 1976.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, and not just any old rollercoaster, no sir, but one of those new ones like the “Twisted Colossus” or “Wicked Cyclone.” After all, this is a Big Move, especially for someone in the early stages of geezerdom. I was ready to declare a mid-late-life crisis with all the attendant benefits, like moving my personal happy hour from 5:30 to noon. Then I read about the latest chapter in the all but unbelievable story of Austin Hatch.

You might know that name if you’re a University of Michigan sports fan. Austin survived two small plane crashes that killed his parents, brother, sister, and stepmother. The second time, in 2011, he was not only orphaned but left in a coma with a severe brain injury. However, U-M honored the basketball scholarship it had offered before the crash. He fought his way back, stayed on the team, and scored his first points last season in an inspirational moment for the ages.

Now he’s facing another life change. To focus on academics and all-around recovery, he’s taking a medical redshirt. That means he’ll keep his scholarship and be a student assistant with the team but his playing days are over.

This has thrown lots of athletes into despair. But Austin’s response, as reported here by the Detroit Free Press, was “Basketball has always been a huge part of my life, however, it is what I play, not who I am.”

Thanks for the reminder, kid. I’m not a title or a Facebook status, but a person. And if Austin can handle the kind of adversity and upheaval that the fates have dealt him, people like me can definitely get through our own relatively minor transitions. (Grammar grump alert: transition is NOT, at least on these pages, a verb.)

Some of my retirement will be inspired by Bob Dylan’s line “Oh, oh, are we gonna fly, Down in the easy chair!” from “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” But I’ll also keep trying to live by this one, as I have for a long time: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Monday morning I’m going to sleep in. Then I’ll get up and write. See you soon.

“Booming” officially bust

Well, that didn’t take long. The New York Times has announced that its online Booming section, which I wrote about when it first sprouted, is going away.

Say it isn’t so. Can’t you just hear the anguish from the aging multitudes, suddenly and forever deprived of a defining voice, a place to call home in this wild new world?

Me neither. If this was such a hot idea, why not a “Gen X” or “Millennial” site, to say nothing of a “Greatest Generation” site? The closest thing to an explanation from the Times is “While the blog has been popular, eliminating it as a daily report will allow The New York Times to free up resources for other new ventures.” Translation: “Our page views are lower than Congress’s approval ratings. Thank God we still have jobs.”

I hope this doesn’t sound egotistic, but I really think the site fell victim to what I described in my original post: A lot of us are already tired of being “Boomers” and had no use for yet another entity that just reinforced the stereotypes. The whole point of the 60s was to reject the old rules, be our own selves, and not be defined by what others see.

In fairness, some of the site’s features had merit. Joyce Wadler’s columns are usually a real hoot and always worth reading, and the stories about divorce could help those of us who are trying to stay spliced. But the Music Matches, which tried to pair up the classics with like-sounding contemporary artists, exemplified the whole problem with “Booming”: it was a buzzword in search of a rationale. If our music is so special, why must we listen to what are usually pale imitations in order to stay relevant, cool, and young?

A lot of great songs are older than any boomer and will be touching people’s hearts long after we’re all gone. Right now, when the haters and goons are attacking a Coke commercial in which people sing “America the Beautiful” in their own languages, there’s one song that sounds every bit as true, real, brave, and full of love as ever. Maybe you can get through it without crying. I couldn’t.

Peace.