Two Realities of Growing Old

For as long as this blog has been here, I have kept a notebook of thoughts and ideas for future stories. It is a godsend to have when my mind goes blank or, in today's case, when I'm just plain tired, feeling slow and stupid – as from last Thursday's all-day chemo session.

But you don't need to be a cancer patient to be tired. It comes quite naturally with old age and in that notebook, I found a couple of relevant reports from long-time TGB readers that I think most of us can relate to.

SLEEP
Salinda Dahl talked about the common old-age difficulty with sleep:

”Over the past year, sleep has become very elusive,” she wrote, “and despite good advice from herbalists and docs, meditation, lots of exercise, no screens before bed, ETC, the situation persists.

“For now a coping strategy is to take a nap each day, whenever possible. Not only is my capability to function impaired by the tiredness, it's also more difficult to keep a positive attitude. Would love to hear how others deal with this.”

Me too, Salinda, that elusive search for sleep. For more than a decade, unrelated to my cancer, I hardly ever slept more than three or four hours. I tried all the recommended pills, potions and practices to no avail. Each worked for a few weeks, then stopped.

What finally changed is that about six or eight months ago, I remembered that I live in a state where cannabis is legal so I tried that. Wow! A full night's sleep – seven or eight hours. Consistently, night after night.

But before long, that stopped working too. I asked one of the cannabis dispensary “bud masters” who told me that most sleep aids wear off in time and I should rotate different kinds – an edible, a tincture, etc. One of my physicians agreed and now I am happily sleeping through the night most of the time.

What works for one person does not necessarily work for others. In my case now, I am grateful to have found a solution. I had almost forgotten what a good night's sleep feels like.

WANING ENERGY AND STAMINA
On the same post as Salinda's comment, Jim Fisher left this note about how his enjoyment of volunteer work in nearby natural areas has raised a new age-related concern:

”As this work has branched out and expanded I have found that being in my 70s also means that I just don’t have the energy and stamina to do everything I want and I worry that I may not live long enough to achieve everything I care about.

“It’s a new, nagging feeling, and one I try to dismiss. But it reoccurs when my hip and back ache or I get too tired to endure City council meetings that drone on for hours, etc.

“I want my youthful body and energy back I guess. Thank goodness and thank you that I know I have a place to share my feelings and know I am not alone.”

Part of having achieved old age, I think, is a growing sadness as our personal end time looms. Of course none of us will finish everything we would want (but you knew that, Jim) and Jim's concern is nothing less than the nature of the human condition that philosophers and thinkers have been seeking answers to for millennia.

For me, it has become easier to live with, easier to think about, since my psilocybin session in December. That doesn't mean I have any answers to the ultimate dilemma of life or even the decline of the energy and stamina we once took for granted.

But I thought I'd throw it out here for us to discuss. I'm eager to hear your thoughts.




ELDER MUSIC: Save Your Sugar For Me

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.

* * *

I thought that we all need a bit of sweetening so I'm serving you up a lump of sugar. It’s probably not very good for you, but at my age, I don’t care anymore. Okay, I tend not to eat much sugar anyway, so it’s not really a problem. It’s good for a music column though.

The GRATEFUL DEAD weren’t noted as a recording band but they were as good as anyone (when they were on song) as a live band.

Grateful Dead

However, they did record three excellent albums, one of which I’d include in my top ten. That album was “American Beauty” and from that one we have Sugar Magnolia.

Grateful Dead - Sugar Magnolia


BESSIE SMITH was known as the Empress of the Blues.

BessieSmith2

She was certainly the best known blues performer in the twenties and thirties and had a huge influence on other blues and jazz singers (as well as later rock singers such as Janis Joplin).

Her work challenged the elitist norms of her era encouraging woman, especially working class woman, to embrace their right to do things that men were doing. This is evident in Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.

♫ Bessie Smith - Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl


In the early seventies JESSE COLIN YOUNG was extracting himself from his band The Youngbloods.

Jesse Colin Young

During that period he recorded a couple of excellent solo albums. The best of those was “Song for Juli” but it’s not that one we want today. Instead, the album is “Songbird” and from that the song we need is Sugar Babe.

♫ Jesse Colin Young - Sugar Babe


DJANGO REINHARDT could do more with playing with just two fingers on his left hand than just about any other guitarist can do with a full set.

Django Reinhardt

He lost the use of the others in a caravan fire where he was living at the time, early in his career. The doctors said he’d never play again. He showed them. From around about 1939 Django plays Sugar, with the help of an unnamed band.

♫ Django Reinhardt - Sugar


One of the first songs I thought of for this category is by the MCGUIRE SISTERS.

McGuire Sisters

They were all over the hit parade in the fifties, including several songs that hit the top of the charts. One of those was Sugartime.

♫ McGuire Sisters - Sugartime


NAT KING COLE has one of the most famous sugar songs, certainly one of his most famous songs.

Nat King Cole

This is from recordings he made with Billy May and a big band going full tilt behind him. The song is When My Sugar Walks Down the Street.

♫ Nat King Cole - When My Sugar Walks Down The Street


Besides her solo career, NANCY SINATRA had a long musical association with Lee Hazelwood.

Nancy Sinatra

As well as often recording together, Lee wrote many of her biggest songs. These Boots were Made for Walking was one of his. Jackson was another. Yet another that hit the top of the charts is Sugar Town.

♫ Nancy Sinatra - Sugar Town


Here's another song called Sugar Babe but it's a different one from Jesse Colin's. This one is by TOM RUSH.

Tom Rush

This was from his terrific early-ish album “Take a Little Walk With Me”, more than 50 years old and still one of the best albums around.

♫ Tom Rush - Sugar Babe


If the world was an equitable place JOE TEX would be a more important artist than James Brown, but it’s not, so I’ll just have to do my thing and play his music when I can.

Joe Tex

This song will get you up and dancing, or at least tapping your toes. The song is If Sugar Was as Sweet as You, a song he wrote himself.

♫ Joe Tex - If Sugar Was As Sweet As You


I can only remember one song by JIMMY GILMER & THE FIREBALLS.

Fireballs

However, checking Wiki, it seems he had quite a few that made the charts. I guess I wasn’t taking much notice at the time.

That song is Sugar Shack which was written by Keith McCormack and Jimmy Torres. Keith gave the rights to the song to his aunt, who helped him with some of the lyrics, for her birthday. That would have been a nice little earner for her as it hit the top of the charts around the world.

♫ Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs - Sugar Shack




INTERESTING STUFF – 23 March 2019

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's Interesting Stuff is two-thirds about animals. As what I call my “predicament” moves forward, I find myself settling in more frequently on nature, most particularly animals - who never, ever bore me.

DON'T LET THE OLD MAN IN

The YouTube page tells us that singer/songwriter/actor Toby Keith wrote this song, Don't Let the Old Man In, after spending time with 88-year-old actor/director Clint Eastwood. Keath asked Eastwood:

“...'what keeps you going?' and he said, 'I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.'” The scenes in the music video are from Clint’s latest movie The Mule.

BUDWEISER LOST PUPPY COMMERCIAL

Thank Darlene Costner for this melt-your-heart beer commercial. It's several years old but not the sort of thing that ever gets old.

STANDOFF BETWEEN EAGLE AND SQUIRREL

Take a look at the defiant stare-off between this little squirrel and a gigantic eagle looking for lunch. You're gonna love it.

DECORAH EAGLES NESTING LIVE

Speaking of eagles – I post this every year or two when the Decorah Eagles are nesting. You can watch them live from Iowa.

FYI: “This bald eagle nest is located near a trout hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. After two of this pair's nests were destroyed, the Raptor Resource Project team began constructing this nest with the hopes that the eagles would take it over and build upon it - and they have! Watch as they come back each year to raise another brood.”

Babies usually are born in late March or early April so this is the time to stay tuned. You can do this at explore.org. There is a second Decorah Eagles live nest here.

25 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE HUMAN BODY

The webpage titles this feature, 25 Amazing Facts About the Human Body.

“Amazing” seems to be overstating it but there are interesting ones too. Here are a couple to get you started:

”If they were laid end to end, all of the blood vessels in the human body would encircle the Earth four times.”

“Your tongue is made up of eight interwoven muscles, similar in structure to an elephant’s trunk or an octopus’s tentacle.”

Read all 25 at Mental Floss.

RESCUED CIRCUS LIONS RETURNED TO WILD

Mother Nature Network reports:

”What was eating Luca, Charlie and Kai? For these sister lions, it should have been obvious.

"Their lives were given to the circus.

“With around 370 square feet of steel and concrete between them — as well as a cub named Nathan — these animals knew neither direct sunlight nor fresh air. Only the roar of a circus crowd — or whoever bothered to show up for this pitiable show in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“It's little wonder that when the day came to open those cages — thanks to the efforts of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation — the lions were depressed, endlessly pacing their concrete confines.”

You can read more of the lions' story here.

NEIGHBORS DISLIKE THE FLINTSTONE HOUSE

This Flintstone-inspired house has been labeled a “public nuisance” by some neighbors and others. reports:

”The town of Hillsborough, Calif., perhaps seeking to avoid becoming the next Bedrock, has sued its owner to force the removal of dinosaur statues, a sign reading “Yabba Dabba Doo” (the catchphrase of the animated television show’s prehistoric patriarch, Fred Flintstone) and other landscaping, according to a lawsuit filed last week in State Superior Court.

Nestled in a hilly community of about 11,000 in San Mateo County, where homes routinely sell for millions, this particular residence, with its curving lines, red and purple domes, multicolored mushrooms and scattered animal statues, has long attracted attention from neighbors (no, not the Rubbles). One could even say it is “a page right out of history.”

But at least in its current form, officials and some residents do not to want the home, which evokes the 1960s cartoon, in their backyard.”

More at The New York Times.

THE LANAI CAT SANCTUARY

Cats on the small Hawaiian island of Lanai have got it made – amazing weather, meals served in their own "catfurteria," and a steady influx of adoring fans ready to give them all the love and affection they could ever want.

COW BACK SCRATCHER

Wouldn't it be nice to have a human version of this? Wait until you see how happy it makes this cow.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.




Elder Fraud

SELF-SERVING EDITORIAL NOTE: A year ago, Jana Panarites, host of The Agewyz Podcast, interviewed me about my cancer and a bunch of other things. She has posted again and if you missed it the first time, you can listen to it here.

* * *

If you go by the number of fraud alerts aimed at elders that drop into my inbox (unless you are an overwrought conspiracy theorist, there is no reason to believe they are wrong), you couldn't be blamed for thinking old people are idiots.

Look at this chart from the 2018 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018 [pdf]:

FraudByAge2018

As you can see, the largest age cohort, 60-69, takes up the largest number of fraud reports in 2018 – 20 percent of the total. Apparently, however, we get better at identifying fraud as we get older: The 70-79 age group accounts for 13 percent of fraud reporting; 80 and older, only six percent.

On 7 March this year, the U.S. Department of Justice reported in a press release:

”Attorney General William P. Barr and multiple law enforcement partners today announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, surpassing last year’s nationwide sweep.

“The cases during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly. The Department took action in every federal district across the country, through the filing of criminal or civil cases or through consumer education efforts.”

As to my rude assumption above that elder fraud victims are idiots, many are dementia patients and sometimes victims have been threatened by the scammers:

”Among the would-be victims highlighted were William Webster, the former director of the FBI and CIA, and his wife, Lynda,” reports the Associated Press.

“The couple described how they were targeted by a man from Jamaica who threatened them. The Websters involved the FBI, which arrested the man after he arrived in the U.S.”

It's the scale of this crime that leaped off the pages for me: 260 defendants with 2 million victims. I know this kind of fraud aimed at elders has been going on for decades but at this particular political juncture in U.S. history, it seems almost as normal as the president's tweet storms have become.

And neither should exist. Or, at least should beget more outrage than I can see happening.

Further, the harm beyond stolen money itself is that unlike younger victims, old people do not have the time to recoup their losses often leaving them without enough money to afford both food AND medications.

The FTC encourages reporting fraud. The complaint page at the FTC is here. Or telephone 1.800.FTC.HELP.

Have you or anyone you know been a victim of elder fraud?




She's Ba-ack, Along with The Alex and Ronni Show

Did you miss me? I sure missed you – five days of no access to Time Goes By, nor to email. I left a couple of notes about the problem on Facebook so you wouldn't think something terrible had happened but it's only a small group of you who access TGB from Facebook.

Sorry to have put a scare into you.

The problem came about last Wednesday when I was switching from one domain registrar to a new one. It's been more than a decade since I last did that but as careful as I was I screwed up, losing the blog and email.

Email mysteriously returned on Saturday after several semi-productive telephone conversations with the help desk at one of the registrars. I still don't understand how that happened. I'm just grateful it has returned.

Then, the always wonderful people at the Typepad help desk (which has hosted TGB for all 15 years of its life) restored Time Goes By to its – ahem – glory, and now I'm ready to get back to blog business.

The return of TGB began yesterday with posting a new Reader Story. The fix happened so late in the day, I was too tired to write a new post and I was otherwise engaged on Tuesday so I just went with this explanation and the bi-weekly Alex and Ronni Show. I think after today I'm back to usual TGB form.

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW
This is what should have been last week's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.

The video is frozen for some seconds at the top of the video and it's out of sync otherwise. Alex has been having sync and other problems with the latest version of Skype and we both ask your indulgence as he works out the difficulties.




A TGB READER STORY: Saturday Scenes

By Carol Nadell

LOIS’S APARTMENT
The long-awaited sun streams in the window, bouncing brightly off Lois’s silver hoop earrings. I see her first from the back as I’m coming in the door. I walk over to her and greet her with a kiss, carefully stroking her bony shoulder.

“You’re wearing the necklace,” I say, smiling with genuine pleasure, as I notice the string of pearl gray translucent beads I gave her – not knowing what else to do – when she was told the cancer had returned.

“I knew you were coming,” she croaks in a voice so faint that her hard-of-hearing husband has trouble understanding her.

Always my most well put-together friend – perfectly coiffed, dressed and manicured - she still insists on getting dressed, combed and lightly made-up, now all accomplished with the help of a home care aide provided by the Metropolitan Jewish Hospice Service from nine to 12 every weekday morning.

Through a small disc inserted in her chest, Lois receives pain medication by pushing a blue button on the remote control device she holds in her lap. She munches on ice chips to keep her lips and mouth moist. She hasn’t eaten solid food in weeks, this latest bout with cancer having robbed her of a functioning digestive system.

Her hands, skinny, weak and ice cold, are wrapped around a cup of hot water as she struggles to bring some feeling back to her fingertips. But constant vigilance is required as she nods off frequently, creating the risk of hot water spilling on her legs.

Later that day, I will go to a medical supply store and buy microwaveable gel packs to wrap around her hands. Her other visitors and I will smile at each other as we watch the color return to her hands. Even the smallest victories are celebrated when someone you love is dying.

I report that I have been to a wonderful matinee the day before and she, a theater lover like me, wants to hear all about it. The unspoken truth is that we will never again share a Broadway matinee, a movie at the JCC or long dinners talking about grandchildren, travel plans and the latest political travesties.

But she is still alert, still interested and still strong-willed. She is still Lois.

MADISON SQUARE PARK
The oldest person in the park seems to be about 32. Everyone is in shorts and t-shirts, visibly thrilled with what they mistakenly take to be the real arrival of spring.

I watch shapely young women as they delight in combing and styling each other’s hair. I see buff young men raising their toddlers aloft while diligently keeping a careful eye on the infant in the carriage. Balloons of bright primary colors float overhead.

Guitarists are perched on park benches, strumming contentedly, unconcerned whether anyone is listening to their tunes. The unmistakable aroma of char-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs slathered with mustard settles over the park like a familiar, comfortable blanket.

Uncomplaining young couples and singles stand in the serpentine line at Shake Shack waiting to place their orders. Cholesterol and carbs are far from their minds. They will live forever.

HOME
I make my way back to my apartment. My gait seems just a bit slower. My arthritic thumbs are not to be ignored. The woman who looks back at me from the mirror has grayer hair and saggier jowls than I remember.

I am not Lois. But I am not the frolicking young people in the park either.

I know where I am on this continuum.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Robot Doctor Tells Man He Has Only Days to Live

Three medical professionals walked into the examination room where I was waiting for them late last year – my oncologist and a registered nurse, both of whom I knew, and a social worker.

The four of us sat close together as the oncologist told me my cancer, after a period of remission, had reappeared in a lung and in my peritoneum, and that it could not be cured.

Particularly after a period of several months when no cancer had been detected, the news was, if not entirely unexpected, a stunner. I was shaken and I cannot imagine getting through the ensuing conversation about treatment possibilities without the doctor holding my hand.

That simple human gesture, the warmth and reassurance of another person's touch, is what anyone needs when being confronted with terrible news.

Nevertheless, last week, a dying man and the granddaughter who was with him in a California hospital room was informed he had only a few days to live by a robot doctor. Take a look at the phone video recorded by the granddaughter:

Seventy-eight-year-old Ernest Quintana died two days later. As CBSnews.com reported:

”Granddaughter Annalisia Wilharm, 33, was alone with Quintana when a nurse popped in to say a doctor would be making his rounds. A robot rolled in and a doctor appeared on the video screen. Wilharm figured the visit was routine. She was astonished by what the doctor started saying.

"'This guy cannot breathe, and he's got this robot trying to talk to him,' she said. 'Meanwhile, this guy is telling him, “So we've got your results back, and there's no lung left. There's no lung to work with.”

“Wilharm said she had to repeat what the doctor said to her grandfather, because he was hard of hearing in his right ear and the machine couldn't get to the other side of the bed.”

A hospital spokesperson later apologized to the family for the insensitivity but went on to say that the characterization of the live video physician as a robot was inaccurate. According to CNN,

”Gaskill-Hames, the hospital spokeswoman, said the health care provider is 'continuously learning how best to integrate technology into patient interactions.'

"'In every aspect of our care, and especially when communicating difficult information, we do so with compassion in a personal manner,' she said, adding that the term 'robot' is 'inaccurate and inappropriate.'"

In what world, I wonder, is it good and right and compassionate to hear you'll be dead in a few days from a screen? I can't be sure but none of the reports I read of this incident made mention that the “robot” checked to see that the patient was not alone when this news was delivered.

Having my hand held by the doctor while she told me about the change in my condition made all the difference to me. I'm not sure I could even have parsed the new diagnosis if I had been alone with a robot when the words were said. And how would I have asked questions?

For the record, I'm not against telemedicine in general; I think there should be more of it.

Often enough when I see one of my physicians, it's not for an exam or painful-to-hear information; it's a discussion of how I'm doing, how my body is tolerating chemotherapy, what concerns me that day.

We could as easily have that conversation via video and make an in-person appointment if that became necessary.

But to repeat myself: In what world is it good and right and compassionate to hear you'll be dead in a few days from a screen? And why wouldn't hospital personnel, who work every day with ailing, vulnerable people, already know the answer to that?




A TGB READER STORY: No. No. No.

By Regan Burke who blogs at BackStory Essays

A friend asked me if I’ve given my son a list of people to call when I die. And right then I felt the future running away with me so fast I could hardly catch my breath.

“No.”

“Why not?”

I told her he'd never do it. “He'd get mad if I even approached the subject.”

“How do you know?”

How do I know? He hardly talks to me as it is, much less about an uncomfortable subject.

“It’s a hard job—to call around to strangers and tell them their friend has died. Think of the responses—the oh-no’s! and the demand for details. No. He wouldn’t do it.”

“Well, how will I find out?” pleaded my friend.

There’s that future again, coaxing me to live in it, whispering that it’s my responsibility to inform my friends when I die.

I’m drawn to a passage in Pascal’s Pensees:

“We never keep to the present…we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up.” He writes about our failure to live in the present, “we think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control…”

So, no. I’m not going to try to control what happens to me after I die other than keeping my end-of-days papers in order. I’m happier owning this moment and this moment and this moment. I’ll let time future govern itself.

On the Sunday after All Saints Day, November 1, my church recites the names of those members who’ve died the past year. This year there were more people on the list I knew. I mean, I knew them. Not just their names. I knew them.

After the service, as I sat alone in my pew listening to the organ postlude, I popped open my iPhone. I read an account about two women who guarded the dead body of one of the synagogue victims in Pittsburgh so that, in keeping with Jewish custom, the person would never be alone.

I had descended into the grace of solitude, a still point, wondering if Jews believed the soul lives beyond the body when I heard someone call my name.

“Hi Regan,” came the voice of my pastor, Shannon Kershner. I looked up to see we were the only two people left in the church after the All Saints Service.

She had just delivered a sermon on John, 11:35: Jesus wept. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. Pastor Shannon reminded us Jesus cried over the death of his friend, Lazarus, joining in the collective grief of his community.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” I answered, “the dead.”

“Yes.”

She knew.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.




Alex Trebek and Pancreatic Cancer

You can imagine, I'm guessing, that every time the words “pancreatic cancer” show up in front of me online, they grab my attention.

Even though pancreatic cancer is rare compared to such cancers as lung, breast and prostate, it has an outsized impact on me and seems to appear in media headlines more frequently than one would guess for its small numbers.

Or maybe it's just my personal heightened awareness and knowledge of how lethal it is.

Whatever, it was a shock early last week to see long-time Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, paired in headlines with those dreadful words.

Within a day of the announcement, Trebek had issued a short video statement via YouTube. Here it is with the transcript below:

"Hi everyone, I have some news to share with all of you and it’s in keeping with my longtime policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base. I also wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health.

“So therefore, I wanted to be the one to pass along this information. Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.

“Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you."

Did you note the part about “stage 4”? That means Trebek's cancer has spread to other organs and, like mine, is not curable although chemotherapy and some other treatments can manage symptoms and improve quality of life for awhile.

It feels to me that Alex Trebek has been at the helm of Jeopardy! forever. (Actually, he has been hosting since 1984.) A strong, steady, down-to-earth presence in Americans' lives. How could this happen?

Ken Jennings, who won 74 consecutive games of Jeopardy!, wrote this about Trebek last week in The New York Times:

”...we all think of Trebek as 'Alex,' that avuncular, Canadian-accented presence who has been in our homes every weeknight for 35 years. Whether we watch it regularly or not, we all rely on Jeopardy! always being there. It’s no longer an entertainment property; it’s an institution.”

So it is. And so is Alex Trebek.

I've watched Jeopardy! off and on pretty much all the years Alex Trebek has been hosting. Sometimes regularly, sometimes as a drop-in, and who can help but play along.

In his video announcement, Trebek invoked the commonly-used fight metaphor about “beating” cancer and I'm sorry he did. It is already exhausting to live with cancer and we should not be urged to use our remaining, precious time fighting the inevitable.

From my point of view, it is the doctors who do the battling; I just follow their instructions and am grateful for the extended life they have given me.

That quibble notwithstanding, it's a good thing that a beloved public figure as Trebek has made his diagnosis public. The small number of pancreatic cancer cases means that it gets little attention and few research dollars compared to the big-time cancers.

Although progress is being made, there still is not a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer and it is extremely difficult to find before it has reached late-stage development. I was just luckier than many that mine was detected at stage 2.

So perhaps Alex Trebec's well-known public presence will light a fire under some people and some institutions who can afford to fund the research necessary to find a better treatment and even a cure for this terrible cancer.

Meanwhile, I'm sure that all of us and millions of others agree with Claire Sattler, a high-school student who won the 2018 Teen Jeopardy! competition:

“I hope he knows that he does have the whole support of every person who’s been on Jeopardy, every Jeopardy fan, along with his family and friends,” she [told The New York Times]. “Whether he’s around for 20 more years or whether he’s not, he’s made such an amazing mark on so many individuals.”



ELDER MUSIC: John Sebastian

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.

* * *

John Sebastian

If you’re going to be a musician, you couldn’t do much better than emulate John Sebastian. That is being born in Greenwich Village in New York, and growing up there surrounded by the best folk, blues and classical musicians of the time. Also, having a father in the business as well – John Senior was a classical harmonica player. There aren’t too many of those about.

He taught his son the instrument and there was a period in the sixties when, if you needed a harmonica on your record, he was the one to get. That is, if Sonny Terry wasn’t in town.

John started as a folk/blues performer, but when The Beatles hit town he and his friend Zal Yanovsky watched them on TV (at Cass Elliot’s house) and said, “We could do that”. And they did.

They found a bass player and a drummer (Steve Boone and Joe Butler) through friends of theirs and The LOVIN’ SPOONFUL was born.

Lovin' Spoonfu

The period from 1965 to 1968 saw the Spoonful hit the charts with more than a dozen and a half songs, as many as any band from the period. One of those is Did you Ever Have to Make up Your Mind? I like it as one of the verses resonates with me.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have to Make UpYour Mind


Lovin' Spoonful

Probably their grittiest song from that time is Summer in the City. Indeed grit gets a mention in it. Also, who else thought of including jack hammers in a pop song?

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Summer In The City


Lovin' Spoonful

The first single the Spoonful released was their first of many charting songs. It is Do You Believe in Magic, essentially about rock & roll, not conjuring tricks.

The group was proud of the fact that they played all the instruments in the recording studio, unlike a number of their contemporaries at the time who relied on session musicians.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Do You Believe in Magic


Lovin' Spoonful

On one of their tours the group was in Nashville and after a show, they repaired to a local bar where they encountered some musicians playing there that they realised were far better than they were, and yet no one knew of them. To honour them, and others in town, John wrote the song Nashville Cats.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats


John Sebastian

Around the final year of the sixties, the band was going in a couple of different directions. Zal wanted to continue in the pop vein that made them successful, and John was writing songs that anticipated the later singer/songwriter period of the early seventies. So John left and became a solo artist.

One of his earliest and most famous gigs was at Woodstock, wearing that iconic tie dyed jacket. One of the songs he performed is Younger Generation, a song about the high hopes that parents have for bringing up their kids and find they can’t quite live up to those hopes.

I’m just guessing, as I’ve never had any kids. Here is a live version of the song.

♫ John Sebastian - Younger Generation


John’s first solo album was called “John B. Sebastian” which had many of his friends along as session musicians – particularly Crosby, Stills and Nash who wanted him to be in their group. That didn’t happen. He reprised a couple of the Spoonful songs, but the best thing on the album was a new one called How Have You Been?

♫ John Sebastian - How Have You Been


John Sebastian

Here’s another song about looking back, those so inclined would call it nostalgia. It’s probably more about people sitting around with a glass of wine and a couple of guitars singing about Stories We Could Tell. It’s been covered by Jimmy Buffett and memorably by the Everly Brothers.

John Sebastian - Stories We Could Tell


John had always been a fan of Mississippi John Hurt and had learned his lesson well, as is illustrated in the song Sportin' Life, ostensibly a song written by him, Zal and Steve, but whose roots go back many years.

♫ John Sebastian - Sportin' Life


John Sebastian

In the mid-seventies, John was out of fashion and his record company, Warner Brothers, who was also a television company, was thinking of creating a TV sit-com set in a school called Kotter (the TV show, not the school). As he was on their label, they asked John if he could write a theme for it.

He decided that he couldn’t do one of that name but as the program was about a teacher returning to a school where he was once a student, a song called Welcome Back might work.

Did it ever. It was so successful that people wanted a single and an album with this song on it. One was quickly produced and the album was John’s biggest seller. Here’s that song.

♫ John Sebastian - Welcome Back


John Sebastian

The visit to Nashville that the Spoonful made, mentioned above, must have made quite an impression on John, because he wrote another fine song about the city. That one is A Song a Day in Nashville.

John Sebastian - A Song a Day in Nashville


John Sebastian

John always had a sense of humour, particularly about himself. After all, anyone who could name one of his albums “Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian” is okay with me.

From that album here is Darlin' Be Home Soon. It’s another song that’s been covered extensively, most notably by Joe Cocker.

♫ John Sebastian - Darlin' Be Home Soon