Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What is Your Retirement Housing Preference?

UPDATE AT ABOUT 10AM PACIFIC TIME: This is the most interesting thread I've read here in a long time. I'm fascinated by all the different choices, reasons and the thoughtfulness you are putting into this. Please keep the comments coming. We all can learn a lot from one another on this topic.


Last week we discussed location choices and the finances of retirement living. It was interesting to read how many who commented left an impression that elders and boomers coming up on retirement soon are all doing fine financially.

Today, let's talk about the type of housing we are interested in for our retirement.

Although I can't prove it, it is my sense that a large number of our parents and grandparents worked hard to pay off the mortgages on the homes where they raised their children and, barring the need for full-time care, stayed there until they died.

Some may have moved to Florida, Arizona or their personal equivalent but there were not a lot of retirement living choices beyond Sun City-type, 55-plus communities. Today there are many more.

In fact, there are so many that I can't possibly cover them all here so let's go with the most common new kind of choices that do not involve the need for caregiving.

NORCs: These are neighborhoods most commonly of condominiums or single family homes that, unplanned, hold a significantly high number of retired people.

Cohousing: Communities that are planned, shared and owned by the residents that may include common facilities like kitchen, dining room, child care, laundry, offices, etc. They are usually multi-generational with common interests, often involving environmentally sustainable living.

Age-Restricted Communities are usually segregated by age: 50-plus, 55-plus, 60-plus are the most common. Sometimes children – grandchildren, for example - may visit for only a limited number of days per year.

Active Adult Communities: These, too, are usually age restricted to 50-plus, etc. of privately owned homes and/or condominiums that also provide recreational facilities such as golf courses, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, etc.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: CCRCs for short are a hybrid idea for life-long living. Residents can move from independent living in apartments or individual homes to assisted living to nursing care as needed.

Shared Housing is a growing phenomenon of two or more unrelated retired people living together in a single family home. Think Golden Girl although there is an uptick recently in elders who own their homes taking in college students or unemployed who can't otherwise afford housing on their own. New matchmaking services that include background checks are helping like-minded people connect.

Common Identity Communities: Quite new are retirement communities with people who share an interest or identity: LGBT elders, musicians, unions members, a specific religious faith, etc.

RV-ers: Speaking of common identity communities, a couple of TGB readers have commented in the past that when they need a respite from travel, there is a specific community of RVers to which they return to live until the next time they head out. (Please do enlighten us further, RV-ers.)

The Village Movement: I've written about how I am working with a group of people in my town to start a Village – a group of people living independently in their homes who band together to provide the services they and one another need help with as they grow older.

These are only some of the possibilities. Personally, had I not been forced out of New York City, I would have stayed in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die (or need full-time care). Maybe I would have attempted to create a Village in my part of Greenwich Village.

As it turned out, I chose a medium-sized condominium community that, unbeknownst to me when I bought, is a NORC. The most planning I did was for affordability (e.g. condo to share big costs rather than a single-family home) and continued ease of living as the normal declines of old age increase in coming years (e.g. no stairs).

If I were doing it now, I suspect I would choose differently but I am not uncomfortable here and I have little patience for regret. I am fine where I am.

Now, what about you? I am curious how others approach retirement living arrangements, and the reasons are probably as varied as individuals themselves.

How did – or will – you choose how to live in your retirement? Does it come easily? How much did you or have you planned? How has it worked out so far?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: No Blue Hair, Please

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Crabby Old Lady and the Old Gray Lady

(For those who may not know, “The Old Gray Lady” is a nickname of The New York Times.)

For the past few years at that newspaper there has been a blog titled The New Old Age where almost exclusively the posts deal with decline, disease, disability and caregiving of elders.

If The New Old Age was all you knew about old people, you would be forced to conclude that old age – at least, the new kind The Times has staked out for itself - is nothing but misery, and Crabby has whinged about this stereotyping in the past.

In keeping with the paper's negative view of aging, a few days ago there appeared an essay titled, What, Me Old? that is an unrelenting complaint about strangers assuming the writer is older than she believes she appears.

”In the space of a day, three people offered me their seats on buses. I remember doing that when I last lived here in New York, three decades ago. But when I gave my seat away back then, it was to old ladies...

“The next day, three residents of my building raced past me to hold open the heavy front doors. 'What's their problem?' I thought. I mean, I go in and out, without assistance, many times a day...

“Then, not two hours later, I went shopping at the grocery store, seven blocks from home. As I was leaving with three bags of groceries, the 20-something at the checkout counter asked if I wanted a cab. I huffed out and carried my bags home. My shoulders are just fine.”

"Huffed out" of the store? Since when is kindness a cause for taking offense?

The writer of this story is 66-year-old Jane Gross, a long-time reporter at The New York Times. She is one of the few blog regulars who does not entirely toe the age-defeatist editorial line of the blog.

Two recent examples worth reading are Conversation with the Dead and Finally Taking Her Own Advice to Downsize.

On those two stories alone, Crabby expects better of Ms. Gross Instead, we find that like too many others in the final third of life she not only denies her age, she is aggrieved when others don't share her willful blindness of it.

Worse, she is a jerk about it. “Huffed out” of the store? Don't think that 20-something, who was being polite, respectful and kind, didn't notice. No wonder there are too many nasty “get off my lawn” jokes about old people.

Contrary to the position of Jane Gross in particular and The Old Gray Lady in general, there is nothing wrong with getting old. Crabby Old Lady is both disappointed in and ashamed of them both.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: The Panhandler

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

ELDER MUSIC: 1949

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


What happened in 1949?

  • Bonnie Raitt was born
  • Death of a Salesman opened; it ran for years
  • Hopalong Cassidy began on TV, the first TV western
  • J. Edgar Hoover gave Shirley Temple a tear gas fountain pen. Hunh?
  • The best film ever made, The Third Man, was released
  • America won the Davis Cup
  • Essendon were premiers

Although, as we've seen and heard in previous years, songs that could be called rock & roll were around earlier, this next one by FATS DOMINO is often credited with being the first.

Fats Domino

It's The Fat Man, the first of many, many hits for Fats.

♫ Fats Domino - The Fat Man

Here is VAUGHN MONROE with his most famous song.

Vaughn Monroe

Or maybe the most famous of his is They Call the Wind Mariah. It could be either one as far as I'm concerned.

The song we're interested in today is Ghost Riders in the Sky. Burl Ives was actually the first to record the song but Vaughn wasn't far behind.

♫ Vaughn Monroe - Riders in the Sky

ROY BROWN was one of the foremost exponents of jump blues.

Roy Brown

His vocal style was influential as well; Jackie Wilson listened closely to him. James Brown and Little Richard probably lent an ear as well.

The song Miss Fanny Brown is rather unusual. Fanny's an older woman, not a girl of seventeen as is often (too often, probably) the case in these songs.

♫ Roy Brown - Miss Fanny Brown

Bill Haley obviously listened closely to JIMMY PRESTON.

Jimmy Preston

I know that because he covered this song and pretty much pinched the arrangement. Jimmy was a sax player as well as a singer, although the wailing on this track wasn't his. It belonged to Danny Turner.

Okay everyone, let's Rock This Joint.

♫ Jimmy Preston - Rock This Joint

It's not all jump blues and rock & roll this year. Here is EZIO PINZA.

Ezio Pinza

Ezio was an Italian opera singer. He sang bass. Outside of opera, he's best known for playing Emil de Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein's “South Pacific" on Broadway. He wasn't in the film because he died the previous year.

Here is Some Enchanted Evening.

♫ Ezio Pinza - Some Enchanted Evening

Back to the rocking with WYNONIE HARRIS, another great jump blues musician.

Wynonie Harris

All She Wants to Do is Rock was the most successful song of Wynonie's career. I notice in the song she hucklebucks as well. That's yet another euphemism that's gone into the language to mean something different, just like rock & roll.

♫ Wynonie Harris - All She Wants To Do Is Rock

Okay, that's it for the rocking for this year. MEL TORMÉ is the antithesis of that style of music.

Mel Torme

I don't know about all that hand clapping throughout the song, but the Velvet Fog gives us another great performance with Careless Hands. This has been covered by such diverse performers as Bing Crosby, Dottie West and Jerry Lee Lewis. A good song will work in any milieu.

♫ Mel Torme - Careless Hands

Black Coffee was recorded first by SARAH VAUGHAN.

Sarah Vaughan

She wasn't the last – Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and scads of lesser singers have had a go at it. It's a fine, mellow song until that blast of brass in the middle woke me up. I could have done without that.

♫ Sarah Vaughan - Black Coffee

Both Sarah and CHARLES BROWN are favorites of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

Charles Brown

Charles had classical training on the piano and he also earned a degree in chemistry that he put to good use for a while. He later lit out to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career, initially with Johnny Moore's group and then with his own trio. Trouble Blues was a hit for him.

♫ Charles Brown - Trouble Blues

FRANKIE LAINE enters the picture. Well, our picture; he'd been around for a few years by 1949.

Frankie Laine

Get out your stock whips so you can sing and crack along to Mule Train. Frankie's version was the first recorded, pipping Bing Crosby by a couple of weeks. I think Frankie makes a more authentic mule driver than Bing.

♫ Frankie Laine - Mule Train

1950 will appear in two weeks' time.

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 12 April 2014


FORD MUSTANG 50TH ANNIVERSARY

One of the many terrific things about living in Manhattan is that there is no need to own a car, a possession I find annoying in the extreme. It always wants something – gas, tires, washing, tags, insurance – not to mention that it is unwieldy and expensive.

(I believed we would have the Star Trek transporter by now and I'm deeply disappointed that we don't.)

But when I got married in 1965, we bought one of the first then-new Ford Mustangs in a gorgeous deep green color. It is one of the best looking car designs in the history of automobiles and I cannot imagine why we got rid of it.

But here, on the 50th anniversary of the Mustang, is a video from a man who kept his 1964 Mustang all these years and he's still driving it.


HAPPY COWS

Cows are big, lumbering lumps of animal flesh who never have seemed to me to have much personality. Now, thanks to TGB reader Jan Cooper, we have a glimpse of what they can be like when they are filled with joy.

And it's also a nice story about people who care for these cows.


BLACK DEATH NOT CAUSED BY RATS?

The black death that killed a third or more of the British and European population in the 14th century was caused by infected rat fleas biting humans. That's what they've always told us. But now some researchers believe they have a different cause:

”...for any plague to spread at such a pace it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then been spread by coughs and sneezes. It was therefore a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague.

“'As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics, said Dr Tim Brook.”

If this proves true, there will be a lot of textbooks to change. You can read more about this potential historical reversal in The Guardian.


NICHOLAS BROTHERS – BEST TAP DANCE EVER?

According to the YouTube page for this video, Fred Astaire himself said it is the best dance number ever filmed.

Whether everyone agrees or not is beside the point. It is from the 1943 movie, Stormy Weather and and it is fantastic. That's Cab Calloway doing the lead-in song.


ACTOR KEVIN SPACEY ON THE BOSTON BOMBING

Tuesday 15 April is the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. A few weeks ago, Kevin Spacey told David Letterman about visiting recovering bombing victims and what puppies have to do with that.


WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN YOU DIE

Now don't go thinking this is icky or scary or something you'd rather not know. It a really interesting animation about literal dust to dust from Scientific American.


HOW TO BE A BETTER SON OR DAUGHTER

I found that Scientific American video because TGB reader Chic Barna sent a link to another story from that magazine: “How to be a better son or daughter.”

Usually, articles with such titles are a bunch pop psychology hooey but this one caught my attention for its ring-true simplicity. Just four smart, little rules we all should know but sometimes we need to be told:

Have a happy life
Accept help
Don't tell them what to do
Have patience

Now go read the short explanations that go with each rule. You'll be glad you now know these things. There are other places to apply them besides with parents.


HOW WEIGHT LOSS HAPPENS

You probably know all this. I do. But it is a good refresher course of facts to help explain to people who think they will lose 30 pounds in two weeks if they eat nothing but pineapple.


SIMON'S CAT – CRAZY TIME

Just when I think Simon's Cat has lost his touch a good one comes along. Hat tip to Bev Carney.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Retirement Living Reality Check

In March, Better Home and Gardens Real Estate released a new survey about where baby boomers intend to retire that is getting some media attention. The big surprise, they say, is that the boomer generation does not want to live in Sun City and its equivalents.

Surprise? A zillion surveys over recent years have already told us that and in this one, only 27 percent say they will choose 55-plus retirement communities.

Here are some other highlights:

57 percent will leave the homes they now live in and

72 percent of those will remain in the state where they now live

39 percent want to move to a rural community such as a farm or small town

26 percent are aiming for an urban, metropolitan environment

Survey results on at least one question confirm the baby boomer reputation (deserved or not) for self-centeredness:

”...83 percent – do not expect family to move into their home in the future, indicating that any 'house guests' will be temporary.”

Those guests include both parents and grown children – no granny flats for this generation.

Of those wanting to move to a new home, 69 percent are willing to upgrade or renovate to fit the home to their needs but most of all they want low-maintenance homes. (Who doesn't?)

25 percent intend to buy a second home for retirement.

Really? All of this seems wildly optimistic to me - on the part of the boomer respondents themselves and the real estate industry promoting the survey results to their constituency. Median savings of the boomer generation is about $120,000. That won't go far.

The survey doesn't really tell us anything about boomers overall and here's why: it was conducted with 1000 respondents age 49 to 67 who were self-selected by answering an email inquiry. And, it's designed for people in the real estate industry who want to build and renovate homes for old people.

So we have an impossibly rosy picture of those 77 million boomers living it up in pricey, big-city condos or on rural gentleman farms with leisurely weeks at their second homes at the shore or in the mountains.

What are these folks smoking? 2008 changed everything. Millions of boomers were forced into early retirement or are working at much lower salaries than before the crash or they have lost their homes to foreclosure (illegally or not) or are struggling with underwater mortgages or all of the above. (No one talks about this stuff anymore but it is still real.)

As a Businessweek story noted:

”Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and in the aftermath many also lost their jobs at a critical point in their productive years.”

So I thought that today, we might get some real retirement information from people who have actual experience at it – those of us, usually a bit older than boomers, who have lived through the retirement transition – a lot of whom, even though not boomers, live with the effects of 2008.

A couple things that occur to me:

Except for the wealthy, buying a second home is out of the question.

Every elder fears losing the privilege of driving but it happens and it's good to live in a city, town or neighborhood that is walkable and has good public transportation. Farms do not meet those criteria.

I doubt that as many as in the survey will find it possible to sell their homes in the near future and will need to adjust their attitude about remaining where they are now.

All of us, young people starting out, mid-life earners, boomers facing retirement and those of us already retired - live in a post-2008 world that is not as affluent as this silly survey implies.

It is a much more serious world for the 99 percent now with fewer choices that must be made more carefully than in the past.

What, for you who are already retired, is the reality you would want people soon to retire to know about life in retirement? Did you need to adjust your expectations? If so how? What's working for you and what is not?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sondra Terry: The Giving of a Tallis

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Medicare MEGO

I stole that – MEGO – from my friend Joyce Wadler who, these days, writes the weekly I Was Misinformed column in The New York Times.

Eons ago when she was a reporter at a different paper, she used that acronym in a story I don't recall. But the acronym stuck - MEGO: My Eyes Glaze Over.

I know that for many of you, when you see the words “Medicare” or “Social Security” in the headline of this blog, your eyes glaze over.

You should get over that because there are powerful forces at work in the United States that want to take those programs away from you, from everyone. It is only by remaining informed and following through when it's called for that we can prevent that from happening.

Since early this year, the health insurance industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress and broadcasting videos to scare elders in an effort to rescind the subsidy cuts to the private Medicare Advantage (MA) program that are required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, i.e. Obamacare).

And this week, they won. Instead of reducing the payments to the private insurance companies by 1.9 percent as stipulated by the ACA, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) increased the subsidies by .4 percent for 2015.

As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reported:

”These subsidies were supposed to be gradually trimmed in order to expand benefits and improve the quality of care for all seniors in Medicare.

“However, each year the insurance lobby threatens to cancel coverage or charge more to seniors in MA plans rather than accept a reduction in their overpayments or reimbursement rates.”

As the NCPSSM goes on to explain, all Medicare recipients, including the majority not enrolled in Advantage plans, pay higher premiums to help fund the subsidies to the private Medicare Advantage providers.

”Over the years, as much as 14% more per beneficiary has been paid to MA plans than is paid to cover individuals enrolled in traditional Medicare.

“It’s a wasteful federal boondoggle that was rightfully corrected by passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Additionally, thanks to the ACA, growth in health care costs have been decreasing which means that reimbursement rates also go down. As reimbursement rates have decreased, MA plan enrollment has increased.”

The insurance company lobby keeps telling people that if those subsidy cuts are allowed to go into effect, they – the insurance companies – would need to cut benefits, raise premiums, restrict access to physicians or even cancel coverage, among other dire predictions.

The NCPSSM again:

”Let’s be clear, contrary to the health insurance industry’s massive lobbying campaign claims, Medicare doesn’t make the decision about cuts to seniors’ MA coverage, including increasing premiums or reducing access to doctors.

“That decision rests squarely in the board rooms of the nation’s private insurance industry, which is unwilling to give up a penny of their government giveaway in favor of continued threats of diminished coverage and higher premiums for seniors.”

In case you think the big insurance companies would be forced to cut services due to subsidy cuts, read this from the respected Kaiser Health News:

”At UnitedHealth Group, one insurance giant, Medicare Advantage plans account for a fourth of all profits, said Ana Gupte, an industry analyst for Leerink Partners. Another, Humana, owes two-thirds of its profit to Medicare Advantage, she said.”

The entire story at Kaiser Health News is worth your time to read.

Getting back to MEGO, if you had not waded through the Medicare information above, you would not have arrived here for two pieces of good Medicare news.

ONE: For many years, Medicare patients have been denied further physical therapy treatment if they were not improving. Holding steady and not backsliding was not enough to continue payment for treatment.

”No more,” The New York Times and others recently reported. “In January, Medicare officials updated the agency’s policy manual — the rule book for everything Medicare does — to erase any notion that improvement is necessary to receive coverage for skilled care.

“That means Medicare now will pay for physical therapy, nursing care and other services for beneficiaries with chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease in order to maintain their condition and prevent deterioration.”

As good as this news is, patients can still lose coverage under certain conditions or be subject to a therapy cap. The Times story has details and links to other sources for additional information.

TWO: Following on President Barack Obama's efforts to make the U.S. healthcare system more transparent and affordable, yesterday CMS released the most detailed data ever made public since Medicare began about physicians and payments to them.

As The New York Times reported, the data, all from 2012, covering more than 800,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals,

"...provides an unprecedented look at the practice of medicine across the country, shedding fresh light on the treatment decisions physicians and other practitioners make every day.

"It will also provide consumers with an ability to compare doctors and treatments in a way they have never had until now."

This is a big deal. You can get the data from the CMS website in tab deliminated or Excel files. Or you can use The Times' nifty interactive presentation of the same data by simply searching a provider's name, specialty and city or Zip Code.

The Times story also gives a thorough grounding in the importance of the data and how it is likely to be used in America's ongoing healthcare debates. You'll find The Times search tool here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Personality Split?

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Wednesday, 09 April 2014

A New York Day with Granddaughter Hannah

There is a lot I want to accomplish in today's blog post so I hope you will stick with me until the end – it will be immensely worth it, I promise.

First, a big thank you and many warm thoughts for all your kind comments on my birthday Monday. You say the nicest things about TimeGoesBy – enough to make me blush - and there were additional wonderful surprises.

To understand how everything came together, there are three facts you need to know:

No. 1: It has been just about four years since I moved to Oregon. I have settled in, made some friends, joined several local projects to help improve my community for elders and I like it here.

Equally true is that I miss New York City – more precisely, Manhattan – every single day. This does not mean I am unhappy.

A couple of Oregon friends tell me I should not tell anyone that I miss New York, that I shouldn't talk about liking another place more than Oregon. I disagree.

I may have been born in Portland, Oregon but from about age five or six, I dreamed of living in New York someday and my dream came true. I lived there for 40 years. It is the city where my heart will always be. My real home.

There are many people whose life circumstances have taken them away from the place where they feel most grounded, most engaged and most themselves. There is no reason friends should not know this about them. Or about me.

No. 2: Millie Garfield is one of the oldest elderbloggers on the internet – 88 and blogging at My Mom's Blog since October 2003. She may be my earliest and longest-running internet friend – we've met in person too – and we keep in regular touch by telephone in addition to email.

As you will see, Millie, who lives near Boston, knows how I feel about New York City.

No. 3: Near my home in Clackamas County, Oregon is Faustine's Bakery. They make cookies – the most amazingly decorated cookies you've ever seen. (Well, they make cupcakes and cakes too, but it is the cookies that charm me most.)

So combine those three facts and let us recall Monday last, my birthday.

I returned from lunch in the early afternoon to find a delivery box at my door. The card on the ribbon noted that it was from Faustine's and inside, the sender revealed herself to be Millie Garfield.

After I plowed through the tissue paper and other protective wrapping inside the box I found, of course, cookies. I knew that's what there would be, but what cookies they are. Take a look:

Cookies Big Apple

The iconic I ♡ New York teeshirt, the Big Apple apples and if it's hard to tell in my poor camera shot, a zebra striped high-heeled shoe with a red lining.

Woo-hoo! Millie had Faustine's make a special order just for me. And a perfect one it is. Fan-Tas-Tic!

I may just frame them and not eat them – well, besides being so greatly decorated, the cookies actually taste good too so take that statement under advisement.


If you have read this far, you must be wondering if I gave today's post the wrong headline: A New York Day with Granddaughter Hannah.

Another old friend, John Brandt, who I have known for about 35 or 40 years sent me on Monday the charming, true story of a recent day trip with his granddaughter to Manhattan.

That would have been reason enough for me to publish it. But when I got to the last several paragraphs, I was left weeping for more personal, bittersweet reasons: what I have left behind and what John so perfectly understands about me and New York City that he gave his story this subtitle:

For Ronni in Exile on the Wrong Coast
By John Brandt

It started last week with an ad for a film about a member of the New York City Ballet Company who contracted polio at the height of her career and how it changed her life and the lives of those around her.

My granddaughter, Hannah, has been taking ballet class since she was three and now, at 13, is starting to show signs of real promise. So I decided to take her into New York and see the film.

The trip had a second agenda. Hannah auditioned for and will be studying at The Joffrey Ballet in New York for a week of intensive, all-day classes this summer. I wanted to see how intimidated she would be by the city. She won’t be alone, but still.

Our day was geared to exposing her to as much of the “New York state of mind” as possible in just a few hours. Happily it worked.

We drove in from Connecticut, very close to where the subject of the film lived with her mentor and ex-husband, George Balanchine, to west 30th street, where we parked. My son’s apartment is at 30th and 8th Avenue where Hannah will be staying during her Joffrey intensive week in June.

Next was the subway from Penn Station to 95th street and Broadway. After the $2.50 a ride sticker shock at the subway ticket booth (it’s been awhile), we boarded the local, per instructions from one of New York’s finest.

At 42nd street, we jumped across the platform to the express. Hannah was wide-eyed. “Can you do that?”

Sure, and lots more.

The 96th street station was right across the street from the theater so we got our tickets and a recommendation for lunch from the ticket lady.

She sent us to the Manhattan Diner, across Broadway at 95th. What a find. So much more than a diner. French toast with candied apples and cinnamon for her and salmon benedict for me. Heaven!

We were still a little early, so we walked up Broadway to see what we could see.

First stop was the Westside Market, a combination of deli, supermarket and gourmet food haunt of the Westside cognoscenti. The selection of food, both prepared and to cook, was quite overwhelming. The smell was pure France, or Italy, or Spain, or China, depending on the aisle.

I’d weigh 300 pounds if the Market, as the locals call it, was in my neighborhood. Of course, I’d also be bankrupt but for a good cause.

Then, 16 Candles yogurt shop caught Hannah’s eye. It’s a make your own kid’s fantasy story. She got a frequent visitor card for the one in her town. Mom’s gonna love that.

The film was next and well worth the trip. Narrators who knew and danced with Tanaquil Le Clercq told her story and theirs in touching detail, illustrated by archival stills and early kinescopes of New York City Ballet dancers and choreographers in the 1940s and 50s.

After absorbing 90 minutes of her journey, we are far more aware of how dance can move the lives of the dancers and their audiences.

It was more than a story about one dancer’s challenge. It was the story of how the interaction of talented artists and the people who handled them shaped ballet in New York in the 20th century. Some of what we learned was disappointing but all of it clarified our knowledge of and love for the dance.

But more than the dance aspect of our day, it was New York that moved us the most.

The city has a rhythm, a texture, a smell, a special interplay of light and darkness that exists nowhere else on Earth. Okay, maybe Paris, but it’s different and they talk funny.

You begin to feel it as you cross the bridge into Manhattan, drive the streets, walk shoulder to shoulder with people you would never meet anywhere else and breathe its intoxicating air.

It’s been 40 years since I worked in the city, commuting each day and taking for granted all that the city has to offer a willing supplicant. I’m reminded that it feeds creativity with a myriad of experiences and offers limitless stimulation. It is impossible not to yield to its visceral seduction. What one minute seems inconsequential evolves into a life experience that elevates everything that follows.

Yesterday, in the space of five hours, I was reminded that life isn’t routine or measured in years. New York reminded me that life is minute-to-minute, a banquet of delights set for all who dare to venture outside the ordinary.

Being one with the city is extraordinary on so many levels. It is a booster shot for mind and body, one that must be renewed from time to time. It sets the day-to-day in proper perspective. It is, down to the core, what makes everything else move forward “con brio.”


Ronni here again. So you see, my birthday on Monday came together in the most remarkable and unexpected ways: New York, cookies, two old friends who know me well doing such lovely things for me on my birthday.

JohnBrandt)HannahNutcracker2013_150 It would probably make John's story even better for you to know that in his younger days he was a ballet dancer too and he still appears each year at Christmas time in The Nutcracker as Herr Drosselmeyer. This photo is from the Connecticut Dance School's production last December with Hannah, who danced in the corps de ballet, standing with John.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Too Old to be Self-Conscious

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (24) | Permalink | Email this post