Meandering49

something about everything

Archive for the category “Baby Boomers”

Long John Peg-Tooth

No matter what they say about getting a pain-free tooth extraction these days, this is what I have in my mind’s eye:

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And if that’s not bad enough to make me want to swallow a bottle of Xanax, it’s one of my front teeth. But it has to be yanked out. I have a raging infection. It’s like I have microscopic piranhas in my mouth eating away at my jawbone.

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After the yanking, I need a bone graft to strengthen my weakened jawbone. The dentist said he uses cadaver bones. So I’ll have a dead person’s bone in my mouth. Why does this come to mind?

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They gave me a “flipper,” what a cute word for a fake tooth. This is on the way to a dental implant. This is a happy occasion, the dentist said. It should look like this:

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But I can’t help thinking it will look like this… Long John Peg-Tooth?

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But back to the yanking. I see myself tomorrow, waiting for the dentist, who is armed with AK-47 plyers…

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I know. It’s only a tooth. So I’ll enjoy my last day with that front tooth…by biting into a hard, honey crisp apple.

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All’s Well that Ends…with 50,000 Words! @NaNoWriMo

It started as an idea that expanded into a story.  It went from nothing to something.

It was a world that didn’t exist until I wrote it.

I made characters come to life; I strung words together into conversations; I connected story lines into a plot.

“Goodbye Woodstock” is in the books.

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It was a powerful experience.  It was more than writing.  Much more.

It was setting a formidable goal and persevering through the resistance.  It was keeping self-doubt at arm’s length when it accosted me with a barrage of reasons why I couldn’t do this.

Self-doubt failed.

I succeeded. End of story.

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My limitations are self-imposed; but my imagination is limitless.

So are yours.

Cruising with My Characters at 15,000 Words – #NaNoWriMo

My writing soars and obliterates the second week doldrums. I’m surprised myself. Today will be my most productive day so far.  I’ve already written 3,000 words in three hours, sure to reach my goal of 5,000 words today with ease.

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Because I’ve done this much by noon, I’m in a great mood. I just raked leaves.  It was a breeze, because I thought about my story and ideas for its development. And with my internal editor still banished, my story takes twists and turns but always moves forward.

My characters, and what they do, have taken over my story. I’ve put them in the forefront, something I haven’t been very good at doing.  They are the story.

The greatest lessons I’ve learned so far are that I can tell a long story, and that I realize why it takes writers years to craft a compelling novel. But I’m not discouraged by that realization.  Ironically, the knowledge of the hard work ahead moves me forward now to write, build characters, and keep telling a story that is pliable, shifting and unpredictable.

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Every first draft is shit – Ernest Hemingway

Writing “shit” is freeing.  If you’re a writer, try it.  Do NaNoWriMo.

For me, it’s been instructive…and wonderful.

In the Foothills of 50,000 Words

Creativity has me in its grip. Five days and 5,000 words into NaNoWriMo and I find myself moving into the foothills.

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The story I’m writing is unfolding and coming alive in a different way than I thought. I expected this to happen after I exiled my internal editor.  I’m free to create without judgment.  This goes for characters as well.  People I knew show up in my thoughts. People I know stand in the forefront of my thoughts, as if they’re ready to audition for my story.  People who are dead talk and laugh again because of my thoughts.  I pick and choose their characteristics to create my characters.

I struggled on the first and second days of writing because I felt the anxiety of the blank page.  On the third day, the idea to change the way I would tell the story floated into my thoughts like a dream, which set the stage for some good writing on days four and five.

For sure, there are bumps in the read ahead. Challenges galore. Like the infamous second week of NaNoWriMo, when you seem to “hit the wall” like a marathon runner.

But no real challenge is easy and without risk.  And when there is no risk, there is no real satisfaction when you achieve your goal. And for those of us who committed to writing 50,000 words in November, we press on like the marathoner who “busts” through the wall and finishes the race.

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And so as I climb the foothills, the peak will start to seem lower and eminently reachable.  Even if it’s not pretty when I do.

Chasing 50,000 Words

Do you know what it’s like to write 50,000 words?  How about in one month?  That’s what I’ll be doing in November, a worldwide phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month.  If my ambitious goal piques your curiosity, then I’m opening myself up to public scrutiny by giving you a window to watch me as I forge on.

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It’s my version of a reality show.

Your window into my writing will be my blog, Meandering49. Every five days I’ll tell you all about the exhilaration; the frustration; the soaring and the sinking; when I’m “in the zone” and when I’m ready to jump out the window; when I feel like I’m the next Hemingway and when I feel like I’ll never be able to quit my day job.  I’ll give you six blog posts in thirty days and my final thoughts.

I know it will be daunting.

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So far, I’m equipped only with an idea and a few incomplete characters. But that’s okay, because the magic comes from writing.  You start writing and your brain goes into high gear trying to figure out what you’re doing.  When your brain is firing on all cylinders, then your imagination takes over.  And then you soar.

I want my writing to soar. I want to explore.  I want to take risks and write with abandon.  My first action, though, has been to send my internal editor into exile for thirty days.

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With him out-of-the-way, I can explore ideas and create characters and scenes with no second-guessing about whether or not they are good enough.

I’m counting down to November first…should I open that window for you?

I promise the experience will be anything but boring!

What Happened to Woodstock Nation?

Woodstock became a national obsession for America’s youth. It grew to mythic proportions. We began to see Woodstock as a symbol, a defining moment in our generation’s history, complete with a “make love; not war” clarion call that seemed to sweep through our society like a wildfire .

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When I was young, that’s what I saw. But here’s what happened:

“Today, this self-described Woodstock nation has morphed into the very beings they rebelled against during that August weekend in 1969: Straight-shooting, buttoned-down, stressed-out parents.”  (American Reporter website, August 14, 2009).

No doubt students of American History can point to all the sociological and psychological factors that led to this. For me, it’s rather simple: It’s a youth glorification phenomenon.  Every generation does this:   We exalt an event, memorialize it…because it allows us to hold onto a precious time in our lives that exists only in our memories: Our youth. It stands as a testament to our greatness.  We are unique.  We are different. We did Woodstock.

Every generation has a “Woodstock” signpost in its youth – one that was lost when they were gone.

As baby boomers, we really do know the truth, even it it’s hard to admit to ourselves. They said we created the drug culture. It was born in the days of Woodstock Nation. And we still use drugs.

But we replaced the “living on the edge,” soaring visions of our LSD and Hashish trips…

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with the “take the edge off” our middle class existence with Xanax and anti-depressants…

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The idea for Woodstock was born six months prior to the festival by a couple of guys who wanted to build a recording studio in upstate New York to cater to musicians who were growing tired of city life in Manhattan.  They would put on a music festival to pay for it. Others joined in the plan. It was a purely capitalistic idea that went wrong and became a spontaneous  counter-culture event.  That is an interesting development in itself…but not enduring enough to last after the baby boomer generation is gone.

To the chagrin of our sense of importance, Woodstock Nation was short-lived, if it lived at all.

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The Last Frontier of Discrimination: Age

I was looking for a job not that long ago.  I had a bunch of interviews.  I excel at interviews because of  a combination of social skills and experience in my field of grant writing. I also have gray hair…and while that has nothing to do with grant writing, it has a lot to do with discrimination.

There isn’t a question about grant writing I haven’t answered.  I sometimes “prod” the interviewer in the direction of an intelligent question. Even so, I saw one interviewer look at my graying hair when she asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

When I looked beyond the inanity of that question, I saw the disturbing sign: She thought I was too old. It wasn’t the first time I felt that way.  I wondered if she heard anything I said at the interview. I never heard from her again.

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People say you have an advantage when you’re an older, experienced worker. You have a short learning curve; you can “hit the ground” running; you excel at working as part of a team; you have social “wisdom” that you can impart to your much younger team and help diffuse the dysfunctional dynamics of an office. It’s all true.

But the world judges us superficially, at least at first.  And when you interview for a job, the first thing people see is what you look like. Having gray hair is like having a missing front tooth.  You’re in an immediate hole, and you have to be firing on all of your interview cylinders to dig out of that hole.

Well I dug out of that hole and finally got a job.

But for those who are still digging, you can only persevere.  File a discrimination claim?  Forget it. None of the present five commissioners on the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has gray hair.

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Age.  It’s the last frontier of discrimination.

Should John Wayne have Killed bin Laden?

I’d like to think that you could “suspend your disbelief” and join me on this flight of imagination; but if you’re not a baby boomer, I suspect you barely finished reading the title before you left.

As they say: Youth is wasted on the young.

If you saw “Zero Dark Thirty” and you’re a boomer, you have to wonder what if John Wayne had played the Seal Team 6 soldier who killed Osama bin Laden?

We know John Wayne the actor was that larger-than-life American.  Once more, Wayne was instrumental in “pushing” our heroes into mythic figures (I thought briefly of using Errol Flynn here…his Englishness not withstanding).

Think of John Wayne as Davy Crockett in the 196o movie “The Alamo.” Did he not continue the exaltation of Crockett for baby boomer teenagers that started with Crockett played by Fess Parker for baby boomer children?

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In the Alamo, John Wayne’s Crockett is run through by a lance and then blown up as he ignites the powder magazine to kill more Mexicans.  But in the tradition of Fess Parker’s Crockett, who swings his rifle at the Mexican soldiers after running out of bullets, we never see either one die, because we want them to live on in the American spirit.

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But movies were for entertainment…and historical accuracy had no business in show business!  What could be better than sitting in the movies at fifteen with popcorn and John Wayne as Davy Crockett? Hollywood history brought us back to the movies again and again.  Remember Errol Flynn as the “fictitious” George Armstrong Custer?

So imagine if John Wayne had played the Seal Team 6 member who killed bin Laden.  It would have gone something like this: Wayne confronts bin Laden alone.  They’re face to face. Bin Laden kicks the gun out of Wayne’s hands and pulls out a big knife. Wayne hits bin Laden with a right cross and pulls out his knife.   Then they grapple for a while before Wayne finally kills bin Laden…as the stirring music reaches a crescendo.  And you stuff your face with the last of your popcorn.

I know.  That was then. And this is now.  And thanks to Kathryn Bigelow, her “now” proves that the truth can be more dramatic than fiction as she did in “The Hurt Locker.”

Zero Dark Thirty reminded me of an old TV show called “You are There,” in which Walter Cronkite was the commentator for re-enactments of historical events, such as the assassination of Lincoln. Like that show, I felt I was there as Seal Team 6 assaulted bin Laden’s compound.  I lost a sense of time, a sense of anything but the moment. And it was stunningly dramatic – with or without popcorn.

Still…John Wayne killing Osama bin Laden?  If you’re a Baby Boomer, it’s hard to resist that picture.  And if not Wayne…how about Flynn?

 

Chicken Soup and Football Saturdays

It’s a fall Saturday afternoon. Late October.  The leaves haven’t yet begun their mass exodus from branches to the ground, because it’s been unseasonably warm. Football rages on the TV. An avalanche of games, nobody worries about over exposure anymore…. Cable changed that.

An eon ago, my mother made chicken soup every Saturday afternoon in the fall.  My brother, my father and I balanced watching football with eating chicken soup.  My mother would time the cooking of her soup to coincide with the halftime, so we wouldn’t miss any of the game, because these were the days long before televisions became a fixture in kitchens.

I’m listening to Neil Young singing After the Gold Rush. Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s.  If she was on the run then, she’s in exile now.

The family routine of chicken soup Saturdays changed in 1964 when my brother played quarterback for our high school football team.  We sat in bleachers all over Central Jersey while my Uncle Sal filmed the games, and at home games, the players in the film bounced up and down as my uncle went up and down on the bleachers.

We were back to our chicken soup Saturdays the next year, although my brother was away at school.

Decades later, after Alexis and I moved across the country to the Napa Valley in California, hot air balloons, not footballs, floated in the sky in the fall and the aroma of wine, not chicken soup, permeated the air and mother nature had a refuge in the Mayacama mountains.

I hardly remember the taste of chicken soup anymore.  I haven’t eaten it in years.  But football is still in the air and the leaves still fall in the fall and I do drink wine.

But every now and then, on a cool Saturday afternoon, like today, as I listen to Neil Young sing Old Man, my olfactory system conjures up a distinct aroma, and for just a moment, the aroma of my mother’s chicken soup drifts from the kitchen through the dining room and into the living room while my father, my brother and me watch football on a chicken soup and football Saturday, long ago.

Snow on the Beach

I love how the ocean never changes.  Never looks or sounds different.  While everything changes around us, the ocean is always the same. It looks the same as it did when I was a child.  It looks the same as it did when I grew to adulthood. It looks the same as it did when dinosaurs walked the Earth.  If the ocean could speak, it could tell us about the history of life on the planet.

I like to sit and watch the ocean now. I rarely go in and swim or ride waves as I once did.  I no longer care about getting tan on the beach.  But I still love the ocean. Many of the people with whom I went to the beach over the years are gone now. They either died or drifted away like an ebbing tide…or like a surfer who, on a wave of life, ends up at a destination beyond his control.  Still, I remember all the people with whom I shared time on the beach against the backdrop of the ocean…the ocean that never changes.

Growing up in northern New Jersey, the beach was a summer ritual, a place to go…”Down the shore.”  I was in my sixth decade on the planet before I ever saw snow on the beach.  It was incongruous.  It didn’t belong there in winter.  The beach that I came to know was meant for sun bathing, swimming, and surfing.  The snow that I came to know was meant for clogging streets, snow shoveling, and snowballs.

Yet when I saw snow on the beach, it was beautiful.  It was white on the expanse of empty sand and gleaming even whiter from the reflection of the sun. On this seemingly alien snow-covered place, the blue waves of the ocean moved relentlessly, oblivious to whether there was snow on a deserted beach in winter or sun bathers on a crowded beach in summer.

Always the same…the ocean.  Winter or summer. Always the stability in a world where change happens at a dizzying pace.   We come and go. The ocean never changes.

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