Thursday, September 22, 2011

you know when you're old when...

You know all of those advertisements that they put on the side of the page on your Facebook page. They usually have to do with diets for celebrity fan clubs. Mine always suggests the Bob Dylan fan club which I don't mind.

Well today I had a real demographic kicker. a new advertisement appeared clearly targeted to the 'mature' market. It was a dating agency aimed at old people. The only request from the geezer in the advertisement was for a "faithful wife". Faithful translates to someone who will make three squares a day and do the laundry. The site is called SENIOR PEOPLE MEET. Avoid at all costs unless you are a man without a cleaning lady.

Monday, September 19, 2011


The Beatles song When I’m 64 seemed touching and quaint to me when it came out over forty years ago when I was still a teenager. Now that I am actually turning sixty-four the lyrics sound terrifyingly like they were written by the Grim Reaper. I am not ready to cross the threshold where Sunday morning go for a ride is the highlight of my week.

You can’t do much about the aging process, unless you are Joan Rivers, however you can stay mentally au currant. One way to be ‘with it’ is to be up on modern technology. I, therefore, decided that before my sixty-fourth birthday I would have an iphone with at least sixty- four apps.

Thus far my old PC computer and an old cell phone (with my cell number taped to the back of the phone so I could remember it) was all I’d had. I should point out that however antiquated this technology was I managed to be quite productive and write several books, newspaper articles and even wrote a magazine column for years. All of my publishers and editors were invariably shocked when my books were in not only on time but consistently early.

Ignoring my salient past history, I decided that I needed an iphone, and a big honkin’ iMac computer and a small MacBook Air portable computer to take with me if I ever had a stray creative thought while on the road. I kissed the old PC good-bye. I was leaping into the future with ‘cool’ features like imovie, itunes, iphoto or photo booth. I was on the threshold of making a movie or a u-tube. I was planning a podcast that would hopefully excerpt my memoirs for NPR.

It has now been a month since I bought all of this drek that has tied me down to rechargers and failed sync systems. Since I have bought all of this new gear, I have not had one moment of peace. First of all the data could not be transferred from my PC to the Mac. I went through all the team at several Mac stores, the self-named ‘Genius bar’. (Twenty three year olds in headphones who rock to their own garage band apps.) This group of ‘geniuses’ gave up mighty quickly and said that I had to call the ‘help line’. No one in Canada could sort out my ‘issues’ so I called the U.S. They couldn’t get the data in any categories at all. As one honest apple employee in Georgia drawled, “Mam, This looks like a pile of bird doo-doo to me.” Finally I got the head engineer at the ‘Mobile-Me’ department in Austin, Texas. This engineer was the first man I talked to who was over thirty. He said he’d had a team working on my data all weekend and then said he wanted to ask me a few questions. He knew nothing about me other than the categories of my files or as he called it ‘my file tree’. He said in that stochastic blast used by Dr. Phil, “Cathy, may I call you Cathy? I would be willing to bet that you once did a Ph.D. over forty years ago and that you are between fifty-eight and sixty-five.”

“Bingo” I responded.

Then he said, “I have worked on a few cases like yours before. You did your thesis before computers existed and you used file cards, Am I right, or am I right?”

“Your right”, I confirmed.

“And you never have trouble finding any of your files in your life, right?” He knew my type. “Well I can tell that by the way you file your data you are ‘thinking’ with your files. People don’t store data like that anymore.”

Apparently most people do not have ten or fifteen subcategories in their file system. Most people have only three or maximum four. They use the search function or Google to find their data. The Mac can’t transfer that many levels of complexity.

Thus the bite in the apple!

Suddenly the lines ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty four, are sounding much more inviting to me since my Mac debacle. They have touched a file card deep within my subcategories.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Remembering vinyl

If you are under 50 you are probably wondering what is so special about these strange black clocks with small circular indentations in them. If you are over 50 you will know that these clocks are made out of old vinyl records. Only people who are over 50 will remember dancing to one of these. I think it is cool that old records are now used to make clocks--using the past to tick time away.

When I showed someone under 21 this bunny clock and said it was made out of a record, he said 'Record of what?' as in 'Did that bunny set a record?' Only people who were around for a long time will remember vinyl--unless you're a hipster. If you were a 'collector' in the 50's and 60's you know vinyl. If you were 'of the 70's' you had tapes and a tape deck. If you were of the 80's and 90's you had c.d.'s and if you are after that-- as in around the age of consent, then you have nothing. You steal from Torrents.

I wonder what they will make clocks with in 40 years for today's youth?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas of yore

You know you are old when you can sing songs like Come oh Come Emanuel.A young friend of mine thought it was a porn site. If you think that Joy to the World! is a song and not someone on acid then you are old.

The public schools are now non-denominational and have been for a long time. They aren't going to celebrate the religious component of Christmas any more than they will do Ramadan. The result of this policy of political correctness is that people under 30 or even 40 may know Frosty the Snowman, but have never learned or even heard these religious Christmas songs in School. They have never done the nativity play or even know what 'nativity' means.(I love the outfit on the magi in this nativity picture.) This is especially true in the under 25 age group. I learned this recently when I wrote an article mentioning the 'gift of the Magi'. I had several emails and letters asking me what the magi was. One young person asked if a magi was a Canadian-- sort of like an Eskimo only more esoteric.

I remember my Grandmother who grew up on an Indian Reservation in Salamanca, New York, thought it was tragic that I didn't know how to make Christmas tree ornaments. She had made balls of spun sugar and made ginger-men in hats,etc. She thought Christmas ornaments bought from stores deprived children of learning to create their own beauty on the tree. My mother just rolled her eyes at this sentiment and said 'So the world has changed. What's her problem?"

I am just being nostalgic. Who is to say that my childhood was great and all children should know religious Christmas carols? I didn't make my own Christmas tree ornaments and I am not going to hell in a hand-basket-- or am I the last to know? It is just that as we get older the group who shares 'old' memories gets smaller and smaller.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stuff old people like for Christmas season

I have been visiting several small towns in New York State recently to publicize my book After the Falls. I was even in Lewiston for two days - the town I grew up in and wrote my first book about. I notice that Christmas is bigger in small towns than it is in cities. In Toronto, where I live now, there are whole suburbs where people don't observe Christmas at all.

Women of a certain age in small towns own a Christmas sweater. It is always red or green and usually has a picture of a Christmas tree on it or sometimes it has Santa's reindeer or his sled. If you are really bold you have a picture of Santa, himself, with his beard made of curly yarn. If you are not really that old but as they say, on the cusp of old , you may have a reindeer that lights up with a little flat battery in Rudolph's nose on your sweater. The Christmas sweater comes out of mothballs on December 1st and stays out until the epiphany on January 6th. (a Christian holiday celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.) The Sweater is often accompanied by Christmas tree earrings a Christmas pin on their winter coat lapel.

Christmas socks are also de rigour. I have several pairs of these. Since my husband is Jewish and I am sort of Catholic, I have one pair of socks with a menorah (Jewish seven-branched candelabrum for Hanukkah) and a Christmas pair with Angels.If I close my legs at my ankles in a certain way I can trip the battery and the glittering angels start to sing Silent Night. It is always a hit.

Another feature of Christmas in small towns is the Christmas tree decorating store. It is open all year--languishing while the aging proprietor gets even older. Then in December it springs to life with whirling ornaments and is packed with people eating tiny free candy canes.

I prided myself on my tree ornaments. They had been in my family for four generations. Some were given to my Grandmother's father who was an Indian agent on the Salamanca Reservation in the 1800's. One was an Indian mother in a white leather fringed dress carrying a tiny papoose on her back.

You will, no doubt, have noticed that I used the phrase had been above. Well I stored them at our farm in the basement last year. I didn't know at the time that the old basement with its rubble walls and earthen floor was not impervious to chipmunks. Unbeknownst to me the crafty critters scampered in after mating season looking for material for nest building. They ripped off (literally) most of the ornaments and the paper they were wrapped in. All the feathers on the decorative bird ornaments were gone.I found them denuded and forlorn in their boxes.

The farmer who cuts the hay on our farm and visits the barn frequently (More frequently than my husband who has never been in it) told me he found several chipmunk nests. When he brought a few into the house I was amazed by how much they glittered and looked like pieces of primitive Christmas art. They were large, the size of a large cooking pot and they had ornaments all woven through stalks of hay and Kleenex, wood chips and milkweed pods. The nests were festooned with red cardinal feathers, Santa's beards and fake cranberry chains. One nest actually had wound hay around a bulb bought at the Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904. An ornament of a Victorian woman had been stripped of her maroon velvet gown. She was shamefully abandoned in the basement, face down wearing only her bustle and pantaloons. Her dress had been shredded in a nest.

I was sad about all of this loss, especially since it was all I had left of my family Christmases. My parents are dead and I am an only child. However, I decided that what was once so precious to me has now been spread around the universe and has even been shared with other species-- I am giving my gift of the magi to the chipmunks. What an epiphany!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

pens are an anachronism

My friend Judi sent me a message from Lib's blog which is perfect for my aging blog.

Signs of Age

Posted: 01 Nov 2010 07:18 PM PDT

"There are moments that in life when the realization suddenly hits you that you may be aging. I was talking to a 20-something recently about plans for the upcoming TEDxIBYork conference. Should we have a stash of markers available for people to identify their gift bags? I pointed out that this might create a traffic jam, and why not let people use their own pens? He seemed rather stunned that I would think anyone was likely to carry a pen with them. "It's probably an age thing", he gently pointed out.

I had a similar thing happen at the airport when my bag was overweight and had to pay extra for my bag.. I said "Well this must happen often when people travel with books. I mean what else can you do? You have to read. The airline official said, "Hardly anyone travels with books anymore. Like a Luddite I said, 'Oh it is so sad that people don't read anymore.' She just looked at me as though I was an antique chair and said, "No I meant most people have an e reader."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

technology crazed-- the cell phone for old people

Is this not the perfect phone for old people? I want to order one right now. I swear I would actually call my relatives and return phone calls if only I could dial them up. I had just begun to learn the cell phone and now there is the bluetooth. what is that-- an off color implant?

Last year I was at the rowing centre down by the lake and someone had left an old rotary phone for people to use in a Quonset hut. The women under thirty had no idea how to use it. They kept pressing the numbers under the plastic circular dial disc and finally said, "I guess it is broken." I showed them how to to dial (now an antiquated verb form). They stood there waiting for the dial to move for each number. I said you had to use your finger and put some muscle into it. It really did take a lot longer than I remembered. Before they got all the digits dialed they said "Forget it, this is like Pony Express!" and hung up.

So If you remember the dial phone you are old. If you remember when the phone only came in black you are really old. If you remember the party line you are ancient and if you remember when the phone was a wooden box on the wall you are barely breathing.