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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

technical challenges remembering white out

I just loved this picture. When you find you are fixing your computer screen with white-out you know you are old. In fact if you are reading this and even know what white-out is then you are old. Remember that little bottle of correction fluid. Whenever you needed it to fix a typo (another archaic term) in a term paper the white out was always too thick. (It had a shelf life of five minutes) and you needed to go out in the middle of the night and get a new bottle. I eventually found you could add Cutex nail polish remover to it as a thinning solvent. Whenever I handed in my papers they smelled like a beauty parlor. If you remember WHITE-OUT let me know. Now there is a business I would not like to have inherited!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tea and Bullets


Have you ever noticed that old people love dishes. I am one of those people. They usually get it for their wedding. I am old but don't fit that demographic. I figured my mother-in-law would cause too much of a guffule at my wedding since I wasn't Jewish so we just went to city hall forty years ago and got married on our way to school for the day. ( Smartest thing I ever did but I didn't get dishes.) However, I am totally into ceramics. I have inherited several sets. I even read about it all the time. Did you know that Charles Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood of the famous Wedgwood China family. It was the Wedgwood fortune that financed the Beagle voyage. Whenever I go to Ashley's, the biggest china store in Toronto, to look at China I only see old people in flea bitten minks looking for replacement pieces for their china. Now that gay people can marry I sometimes see gay men arguing over china patterns in the newlyweds registry section. I totally get why they feel strongly about a creamer or a sugar bowl. It takes a boring cup of tea into the realm of entertainment.

What I particularly like about the above picture of the china ( I think the blue and white pattern is Royal Copenhagen) is that it combines both of my favourite things. I love violence and china. I adore yelling at people and then threatening them. It is an old habit and old people have trouble breaking old habits. Now I can have a ceramic gun that is pretty and it can match my pattern. This is really old people heaven. Thank you Wedgwood, Spode and Royal Copenhagen for thinking of everything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

old people like penmanship

I used to work for a national magazine and write an advice column. I received hundreds of letters and I could always tell how old the person was by their penmanship. If they were over 75 they wrote in the Spencerian method. It is a cross between what we would call Cursive writing and calligraphy. If they were over 85 they would write in the Spencerian style with a little bit of a quiver in the letters. ( see picture above)

If the writer was between 65 and 45 they wrote in cursive writing of the Palmer school which is a slanted writing with specific style to each letter.

If they are under 40 they wrote with a smidgen of cursive style and a smattering of printing.

If they are under 30 they often wrote in cursive and when they became anxious or tired by the end of their four line letter they often fell into block letters.

If they are under 20 then the writing is usually block lettering and then becomes larger and more scrambled when they are expressing an emotional thought. It often looks like the writing of "Son of Sam",the paranoid schizophrenic who wrote to the newspapers in 1976. ( see printed letter above)

There are a lot of reasons for this decline in penmanship. We now have computers and the school system no longer sees the need to teach penmanship. Cursive writing is going the way of the Dodo bird. You can only get a job as a Dickensian scribe with good penmanship. Now schools stop teaching penmanship in grade two if they teach it at all. There is actually a lot to learn with proper cursive lettering in terms of motor coordination in the hand, wrist, and shoulder in order to form letters . You have to learn how to hold the pen, and how to glide across the page. Remember doing it with that pen that had that fat round bulb in the middle so your untrained hand wouldn't slip. It is no wonder that those in their 20's and 30's write like they are in first grade--that is when they stopped learning it.

It saddens me to read the letters I receive from these poor ill equipped young adults. They would often apologize for their lack of penmanship and grammatical savvy. Now people learn computer programs instead of penmanship. There are several problems with this shift in learning. Very often what you learn in the field of technology is outmoded before you even finish school. A perfect case in point was when I was in graduate school in the dark ages, I opted not to master French but another language--a computer language called FORTRAN that would be of use forever in my work on computers. It was the hardest course or language that I ever took and it was completely outmoded before the ink dried on my Phd. It disappeared within two years. I have no idea where it went but no one ever mentioned it. Whenever I say I know Fortran people say "Wow, are you old". Those that learned decent cursive writing are still plugging along. If I'd taken French, I could at least get a Mac Poulet in Montreal at McDonald's without having to repeat myself.

It is quite shocking to receive hundreds of letters from all age groups. Old people not only write legibly and as though they have some personal discipline, they also know how to compose a letter with a salutation, etc. Young people just dump out their feelings in a higgedy-piggedly style that is harder to decipher than the Rosetta Stone. Old people use compound sentences full of independent and dependent clauses accompanied by the right punctuation. Young people struggle to get their meaning across in simple sentences. I sense their frustration at not having been taught the tools of simple letter writing. The letters that have decent cursive writing also contain appropriate punctuation. The old people know exactly what they want to ask and never resort to the terminology of the undereducated young people. The young person says, "you know what I mean" or 'get it?' or 'whatever' instead of clearly explaining the problem. They count on my having experienced what they have experienced instead of explaining what is on their mind.

When I showed these letters to my husband, he commented on how sad it was that some of the young people have been to university while the older ones will often say they are from a farm in Saskatchewan and never went past grade eight. The correlation between decent writing, proper grammar and punctuation is positively correlated with age not educational level. What does that tell you?

Anyway at this point I am raving - but if you had to read the hundreds of letters that I have had to decipher for hours-- you'd rant as well.



There is so little written about older women in terms of 'erotica' I thought you might want to hear this little ditty on video.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

bird watching

Old people really like watching birds. I know because I'm old and can do it for hours. On my old farm in Ontario I can rock on my front porch and watch the ruby throated hummingbirds come to the feeder that I fill every day. They are really into sugar water. Sometimes I have a coke while watching them and then I know we are having the same treat.

Did you know that hummingbirds are the evolutionary link between birds and bees? They eat nectar like bees, buzz like bees, but have wings and feathers like a bird. They are the only bird that can fly backwards. They also have really tiny feet. I love to discover one of their nests. As you watch this video remember that the whole nest is only the size of a walnut shell, yet holds the mother and the babies. Catch this video:

If you are not sure if you are old but are on the cusp -- say 50 to 55, then you can see if you are glazing over at this point in my hummingbird tale. If you can't take anymore and would rather shop or look at guys or girls then you are not really old. I think bird watching is an electric-kool-aid-acid test for old age. Or maybe like the hummingbird the birdwatcher is the link between the aging and the elderly.

emailing grandchildren pictures

A lot of old people are grandparents who love emailing their grandchild's picture to you. Beware of this really annoying habit as they can be sneaky. They often don't say "grandchild in my arms" in the subject line since, of course, you would press delete. Instead the subject line reads "don't miss this!" When you open it you see a new grandchild that is hard to distinguish from an iguana. There are dozens of pictures and your computer gets clogged with images of someone you do not know, will never know, and has no interest in knowing you. EVER

The best one I ever received was labeled 'granny and grandchild swim class.' The only thing worse than seeing a grandchild is seeing a wet one emerging from the pool. It looks a bit like the missing link between man and fish. The tag line attached to the photo was interesting in its profound delusion. It said 'please don't forward'. I guess that grandmother was afraid that her picture of 'tot and granny swimclass' might go viral.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Masterpiece theatre

Have you ever noticed that you have to be over 50 and closer to 60 before Masterpiece theater on PBS appeals to you. It is not as though I am old enough to remember the Dickensian workhouse, but I guess I am close enough for those 19th century scenes to come alive. Whenever I have my young friends over to watch my giant TV and I have a great night of Middlemarch loaded in the VCR, they yell, "Are you kidding. Costume Drama is for old people." Actually that is not true. They yell that when I am in America. In Canada they say, "This looks great" and then they fall asleep in their popcorn.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

stuff old people like

What is really scary is I just woke up and realized that at 62 years of age. I am old. What form did this revelation take? There is always an incident that drives it home. In my case there were two tip offs. The first occurred last year. I was going to a wedding and I hobbled into the TV room teetering on one high heel and one flat shoe and asked my three grown (or so they say) sons who were watching the video 'Jackass' ( That's how grown up they really are) which shoe looked better with my suit. One son said in a totally matter-of-fact tone, 'Mom wear what's comfortable. You're old. No one is looking." The other two nodded in agreement. I staggered out of the room into the dreaded daylight. He was only trying to say 'why not be comfortable.' My husband said 'I have no idea why you are upset-- didn't you know you were old?'

The next event that sealed my identity as an old person happened just last week. We are restoring a farm house and I gave all of the carpenters coffee and then went upstairs. Walking past the heating grate I heard one of them say, "I bet she was a looker." Key word was. I hoped for some dissension in the group; however, the others agreed. I only wished I'd put some arsenic,( or instant coffee) in their cups. Again my husband said he thought that was a compliment. Clearly men don't mind getting old. After all, they are respected for what they achieve. As they get older they achieve more. Women are valued for how they look. As they get older they look worse (if youth is the measure of true beauty.) Joni Mitchell said it best in her song Raised on Robbery when she says the woman is 'sitting on her groceries'.

I've had my mourning period. It's over. Middle age is over. 'Tall', 'blond', 'thin' and 'athletic' are no longer in anyone's lexicon when discussing me. Yet, I have an annoying habit of tying to find the up side in a situation.( my friends hate this about me.) Well there are several advantages to old age and I am enjoying them all. I no longer have to wear high heels, run for lipstick when someone arrives at my farm, or dress to go to the store. It is actually quite freeing once you realize and accept that you are no more interesting than wallpaper. Invisibility has its positives. I can be a closet sociologist. I can simply analyze the way old people behave in our world. The stuff they like is a reflection of who they have become and that is a reflection of how they are treated. I wonder if old Japanese people would like the same 'Stuff' since they are revered in Japan and in North America they are a symbol of what you do not want to become. That's why no one looks at you. They fear getting old like you.

Oddly enough this is the best time of my life. The kids are grown and no longer tell me how un-amusing I am. They never married so I don't have to have grandchildren and take them to smelly swimming classes. I can come and go as I please with my husband, who by the way, is also old. I was a psychologist for 25 years in private practice and now I am retired from that and can write what I want when I want. I have no more clocks or obligations.

I've decided to write a blog on Stuff what old people like. I hope to add a new thing every time an item or idea hits me. I'm aiming for one two a week. So if you're old stay tuned. If your young you can tune in to this crystal ball.

The first thing old people like is plastic surgery, particularly face lifts. I just got back from Buenos Aires where even the women in Burger King have bandages on their heads. A compliment in my forties used to be a woman saying, "You look great" or "You look rested." Now the ultimate compliment is "Have you had work done?" That means you look good enough to have had plastic surgery. The best kind is of course the 'work' that cannot be detected by the naked eye. You are supposed to be flattered and respond, "No, not yet."

I like this photo of Faye Dunaway above. Now there is a face lift that must have been done with a fork lift. I think most of her skin is folded in that hat she's wearing.