A TGB READER STORY: After Hours

By Mary

My husband turned 78 in the spring and as the weather warmed and the garden burst into bloom he got weaker and weaker. He was a man of great accomplishment.

He was illegitimate, born to a poor orphan who often couldn't take care of him and so would leave him with her older sister. Then she married an angry alcoholic who beat her and her children.

My husband longed for his real father to come save him from his poverty, from his loving but incompetent mother, from his shame at being a bastard, but to this day we don't know if his father even knew he was born.

So my husband battled his circumstances and used his sharp intelligence and his strength of character to drive himself through college and graduate school and into the Senior Executive Service of the Federal government.

But his family history took its toll, and he was a heavy smoker and at times a compulsive eater. After two sons and a divorce, he decided to take a diet drug that ended up damaging one of his heart valves. And so began over 20 years of surgeries and worsening health.

Almost 10 major and minor surgeries and steadily worsening COPD and heart symptoms led to many hospitalizations and even more trips to the emergency department over the years. He started using oxygen all the time. His judgment showed some deterioration.

He refused home health care. He refused to discuss hospice. He hid worsening symptoms from me and his doctors. He developed occasional incontinence. Then he began to fall.

He wouldn't use a cane, much less a walker. "I don't want to look like some poor old guy", he said.

"But you ARE a poor old guy", I replied. He was not amused.

So he fell, and fell, and never hurt himself much until one night he hit his back on a wall on his way down. He had dreadful pain, but wouldn't go to urgent care until over 24 hours later when he just couldn't stand it any more.

We were the last ones in urgent care when they took him to be x-rayed and by then all the offices were closed. I sat in that huge waiting area watching a housekeeper empty trash and wipe off tables in front of the various departments. And I thought about what was coming.

I try not to cry in public. But I put my face in my hands and wept in that empty, echoing room. I tried not to make much noise so the housekeeper wouldn't know, but when she got close to me she said, "Señora, you ok?".

I answered her, saying for the first time, "My husband is dying". A few minutes later a man came by and asked if he could help me. I told him no, my husband was going to die a miserable death from COPD. He said that I was probably right.

My husband and I went home that evening and I tried to help him get comfortable in bed. The doctors would not give him any opiates for the pain of his broken vertebrae because they might adversely affect his breathing.

And so he suffered, and I suffered, and after two more ER visits he ended up in a nursing home, terrified that he would be neglected. But they took very good care of him there, fortunately. And I went to see him twice a day. He never wanted me to stay long.

He had another ER and ICU stay while he was in the nursing home, and then went back. In less than a week he called me saying he had begun to bleed rectally. I told him I would meet him at the ER.

As I stood outside the entrance waiting for him, I heard sirens as they drove up with him. They had never used them on any of his other ambulance trips. I stood aside as they unloaded him and told him I would see him inside.

Ten hours later he was dead.

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.




Magic Mushrooms, Cancer and the End of Life – Part 2

[Part 1, a backgrounder on psilocybin – aka magic mushrooms - is here. If you have not done so, I urge you to read that before this post.]

* * *

On the day before Christmas last month, I traveled to the home of a guide who would, the next day, be at my side during the five or six hours of a magic mushroom session.

In the years before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had followed reports of research into psilocybin therapy for terminally ill patients and determined that if I ever found myself in that predicament, I would seek to participate.

And so the predicament came to pass.

By December, I had been searching for a magic mushroom guide for a month or two – not an easy trick as psilocybin is illegal, designated a Schedule 1 drug (along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, etc.) by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

I had been anticipating having to muck about in the illicit drug market, of which I have no useful knowledge, but the universe smiled on me when out of the blue, an old friend with whom I had never discussed such matters asked if I was interested in end-of-life psychedelics.

How does something like that happen? And at just the right moment? It's a mystery to me but one of several things recently for which I have no explanation.

My friend put me in touch with a guide and after a long and interesting telephone conversation, the guide and I arranged the time and place for my session.

Over dinner, we spent the first evening discussing how the session would work the next day and the guide asked what my goal was, what I wanted to learn during my “trip.”

As I explained then, I was seeking relief from the fear and terrors that has been plaguing me since my terminal diagnosis in early October. I wanted to find acceptance of death as a normal part of life, gain some peace with the inevitable along with, if possible, some insight to the meaning of life and death.

The next morning, I ingested a measured amount of dried, crushed psilocybin mushrooms mixed with a small amount of ice cream and we moved into a large, beautiful, serene room overlooking a woods in which the background music the guide had selected seemed to me to be just right.

And here is where I get into trouble trying to tell you about what happened over the next five or six hours. It is impossible to do that without sounding like a hippie dippy doofus out of the 1960s.

Fortunately for me, I am not alone. The man who wrote How to Change Your Mind, last year's best-selling book on psychedelics, Michael Pollan, had the same difficulty, as he explained in an article in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. Some excerpts:

”William James famously wrote that mystical experience — perhaps the closest analogue we have of a psychedelic trip — is 'ineffable': beyond the reach of language. I couldn’t count on a common frame of reference, since not all of my readers would be familiar with the exotic psychic terrain onto which I wanted to take them...”
“Taking notes during my journeys proved futile. I couldn’t summon the will, and the very effort seemed like a violation of my guides’ first commandment, which was to surrender to the experience.

“So instead I asked them to write down anything I might say. This yielded a handful of mostly useless notes, consisting of vague superlatives like 'Spectacular!' or gnomic utterances like 'I don’t want to be so stingy with my feelings.'”
”What do you do with an insight like 'love is everything'? I wondered aloud. 'Is a platitude so deeply felt still just a platitude?' No, I decided: 'A platitude is precisely what is left of a truth after it has been drained of all emotion. To resaturate that dried husk with feeling is to see it again for what it is: the loveliest and most deeply rooted of truths, hidden in plain sight.'”

I quoted all that so you won't think I am too much of a hippie dippy doofus – or, at least, not the only one. (There is an excellent interview with Michael Pollan about a lot of this at Fresh Air With Terry Gross.)

A portion of my trip – though I have no idea of the length of time, long or short - involved many doors into empty white rooms. It wasn't entirely that but I don't remember visuals so much as impressions and feelings and maybe some insights to my life.

There were moments of supreme beauty for which I have no words and a strong sense of wellbeing, of connectedness to all living beings and to the universe.

After passing through many doors, I came to one that seemed identical to the others but when I walked through it, a strong sense of peace and contentment enfolded me, and an understanding that dying and living are inseparable; that there is nothing to fear.

And that's the best I can do to tell you what happened.

The next morning, the guide took me through a period of integration guessing correctly that I, being who I am, would be prone to dismiss my experience as not real.

She brought me around to believing otherwise and I have been able to hang on not just to the sense of connection, but to the sense that dying is as normal as living – that they are the same.

So far, since returning home, I have not had any of the terror attacks I'd experienced before the magic mushroom session.

And none of that even begins to explain what happened to me with my guide that day.

Caroline Dorsen, an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers School of Nursing, in an interview last June had this to say about her research into guided psychedelic sessions. There is, she says,

”...an underground — and understudied — community of people...helping others to use plant-based hallucinogenic drugs. In guided sessions or ceremonies, facilitators administer drugs like ayahuasca or psilocybin to people looking to alter their consciousness and improve their mental health...

“...plant medicine use is all about facing life’s difficulties in a safe and supportive environment. Used in the context of community and ritual, ingestion of plant medicines (like ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms) is seen as a powerful healing modality.

“Ingestion of these plants is taken very seriously and the ability to use them is seen as a privilege.”

Yes. I consider my psilocybin session to be an extraordinary privilege that has redirected my end-of-life journey onto paths I could not have found on my own or without my guide. I am deeply grateful to the universe for dropping this experience into my lap when I had no idea where to turn, and I am exploring a whole new set of assumptions now about living and dying.

There is more than a bit of the sacred about this.




ELDER MUSIC: Classical Predilections 1

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.

* * *

According to my dictionary (the Macquarie – the official dictionary of Australian English), predilection means a predisposition of mind in favour of something; a partially. That’s how I feel about this music.

Here is a nice sprightly way to start your day, and with, what is generally considered an “unsung” concerto. We’ll rectify that by singing it. The composition was written by JOHANN MATTHIAS SPERGER.

Sperger

Jo was considered quite a virtuoso and he often played the lead instrument during performances of his own works. It didn’t matter which instrument, he’d play it. Not only that, his works require great technical skill yet they remain cheerful and jubilant in character and temperament.

So, up on your toes and dance around to his Horn Concerto in E flat major, the third movement.

♫ Sperger - Horn Concerto in E flat major (3)


Some days I like to put on Gregorian Chants and let the sublime music waft over me as I read a book. I did that today and thought I’d share it with you - well not the whole CD, but some of it.

The term Gregorian Chants is often used to cover a wide range of early music to which it often doesn’t apply. In this case the term is correct. The music is from an album called “L'Arbre De Jesse” (The tree of Jesse), purportedly showing the family tree of Jesus. The track I’ve chosen is Sequencia sancti evangelii secundum Lucam. Sit back and let it wash over you.

♫ Sequencia sancti evangelii secundum Lucam


Although ANTONIO BRUNI was born and died in Italy, he spent much of his life in France.

Bruni

This was around the time of the French Revolution where he was appointed a Commissioner of Arts. One of his duties was to make a catalogue of all the musical instruments found in various noble households.

Among them it was noted that there were six hurdy-gurdies. That has nothing to do with his music today, I just found it interesting.

Besides listing instruments Tony was a bit of a composer, which is why he’s present today. He must have been a bit of an obsessive, because apart from a couple of compositions, everything else was in sets of six. From the viola sonatas here is the third movement of his Viola Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 27 No. 4.

♫ Bruni - Viola Sonata in E-flat major Op. 27 No. 4 (3)


JOSEPHA AUERNHAMMER had a couple of music teachers before she became one of Mozart’s earliest pupils.

Josepha Auernhammer

Mozart was taken with her piano playing and he also dedicated a couple of his own compositions to her. Besides composing and playing music she also worked for a publishing company (which may be why we know so much of her music).

One of those is her 6 Variations on an Hungarian theme. These are short pieces so I’ve included two of them. First the theme.

♫ Auernhammer - Theme


...and Variation 1...

♫ Auernhammer - Variation 1


Not a great deal is known about JOSEPH AUFFMANN. We also don’t have a picture of him. We know that he was a German composer and organist and once held the post Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop of Kempten-Allgäu for seven years. He ended his days in Switzerland.

Few of his compositions are known but one that is is the Sinfonia in D major. This is the second movement.

♫ Auffmann - Sinfonia in D major (2)


You can’t beat a J.S. BACH cantata.

Bach-JS

This one tells you to wake up. It’s known in English as “Sleepers Awake”, and it’s one of his best known. I suppose it’s wise to wake up or you’d miss it entirely.

This is the first movement Coro Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme – the famous bit.

♫ Bach JS - Cantata BWV 140 ~ Coro Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme


Keeping it in the family here is J.S.’s oldest son WILHELM FRIEDEMANN BACH.

Bach-WF

He was well trained in music, not just from his father but several other of the best musicians of the era. In spite of being acknowledged as one of the finest organists, composers and improvisers of his time he ended up in poverty, unable to secure a position.

Here is something from before things went awry for him, the third movement of his Symphony for Strings in F major.

♫ Bach WF - Sinfonia In F Major (3)


MARIE JAËLL was a French composer, pianist and teacher.

Marie Jaëll

She was born Marie Trautmann and married Alfred Jaëll, who was already an established concert pianist. It was through him that she met many musicians of the era, including Franz Liszt who described her as having “the brains of a philosopher and the fingers of an artist”.

Husband and wife often appeared together playing piano throughout Europe. Later, after tendonitis put paid to her performing career she took up writing about music and teaching. One of her pupils was Albert Schweitzer. This is the third movement of her Cello Concerto in F major.

♫ Jaëll - Cello Concerto in F major (3)


I’ll end with a shimmeringly gorgeous piece of music, and it will be no surprise to learn it was written by WOLFGANG MOZART.

Mozart

It’s the second movement of the Sonata for Piano Four Hands in D Major, K381. That means that two people sit at the one piano and try not to get tangled up.

The twenty fingers plinking away at the ivories belong to about the best in the business, DANIEL BARENBOIM and LANG LANG.

DanielBarenboim&LangLang1

Mozart - Sonata for Piano Four Hands in D Major (2)




INTERESTING STUFF – 5 January 2019

THIS IS SO SWEET

The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, talks about his 90-year-old grandmother who lives in South Africa. It is lovely.

ONE MORE CHRISTMAS THING

Because I might not be here next year to include it, let's do this one more Christmas video - it's too good to miss. Posted to YouTube in 2015, it was

”A special holiday musical presentation from Union Station in Washington, DC celebrating the service and sacrifices of our nation's World War II veterans and commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

“Featuring The USAF Band, Washington DC, an extraordinary dance troup from NYC (choreographed by Jessica Hartman), and a cameo appearance by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.”

Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.

A RIDE IN A WW2 FLYING FORTRESS

Speaking of World War II, reader Mage Bailey sent this video of a ride in a Flying Fortress. Yes, I know it looks like a long video but actual take-off doesn't occur until about nine minutes in so you can scroll ahead if you want to skip the leadup.

50 TIMES CATS CRACKED US UP

...or made us say “awww.” Fifty photographs of cats doing the funny and cute things they do. Here is a taste:

LiquidCat

GangstaKitten

These are from Bored Panda where there are 48 more kitty photo to entertain you.

FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL OLD MEN I KNOW

TGB reader Joared who blogs at Along The Way, sent this song by the inimitable Nancy Wilson: An Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine. Lyric is the below the video:

Some things are worth waiting for
Some things improve with age
Like a vintage wine, growing mellow and fine
As you let it reach the proper stage
Well, wine is not alone in getting better with the years
A man is at his greatest when he's graying 'round the ears

Chorus:
Yes, an older man is like an elegant wine
He's had the time to mellow and refine
A youth, I'd say, is a Beaujolais
Attractive but light
While a man who's mature has the powerful allure
Of a robust Bordeaux, with a sumptuous glow

That's why the man whom I would like to call mine
Will be an older man, who's like an elegant wine
He'll be strong but sweet, just right to soothe my troubles away
And he'll warm like the glow that you feel head to toe
When you savor the sock of a grand Armagnac

That's why the man with whom I'd like to combine
Will be an older man who's like an elegant wine
And when I need him, I'll enchant him
Hug him, kiss him and decant him

Every night when we're home
And it's time for us to dine
There'll be that beautiful older man
Who's like an elegant wine

FACING FINITUDE

TGB reader Sulima sent this quotation from Maria Popova's miraculously wonderful Brain Pickings blog quoting her friend, Emily Levine:

”More than a century after James, Rilke, and Dickinson, a different Emily — the pathbreaking comedian, philosopher, steward of poetry, and my beloved friend — offers a brilliant, funny, bittersweet, largehearted meditation on the existential art of befriending our finitude as she faces her own terminal illness:

“'We don’t live in Newton’s clockwork universe anymore — we live in a banana peel universe, and we won’t ever be able to know everything, or control everything, or predict everything...

“'I love being in sync with the cyclical rhythms of the universe. That’s what’s so extraordinary about life — it’s a cycle of generation, degeneration, regeneration.

“'I am just a collection of particles that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.'”

POLAR BEARS AND THE BLIZZARD CAM

Can Blizzard Cam save itself from the curiosity of three teenage polar bears?

”In a fascinating clip from the BBC show Spy in the Snow, a trio of teenage polar bears kick a snowball shaped camera around in between playful bouts of fighting. The snowball cam was purposely left behind by the larger and much faster blizzard cam as a decoy.”

FAST TALKING GUY

The YouTube page tells us:

”If you were a kid in the ‘80s, you might recognize this man, or, at least, you’ll recognize his velocity of speech. John Moschitta Jr.’s motormouth dominated the airwaves with stints as the fast-talking FedEx guy, Mr. Testaverde on Saved by the Bell and the infamous Micro Machines Man.

“With the ability to say up to 11 words per second, Moschitta broke the world record and made a career out of his dizzying cadence. The Guinness-certified speed talker sat down to give us the whole scoop on his life in fast lane. Now, try to keep up. “

TWO DOGS AND AN OTTER AT PLAY

I'm pretty sure I've posted this video in the past but I had just as much fun with it the second time around. Too bad the dogs' owner didn't shut up and let them have fun playing tag and getting to know the otter.

* * *

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.




Magic Mushrooms, Cancer and the End of Life – Part 1

As you might imagine, a diagnosis of terminal cancer can and does produce high levels of depression and/or anxiety in a large number of patients. Not to mention freaking, mind-bending fear.

I have, over the past two months or so, had debilitating attacks of dread that seem to rattle every cell in my body and leave me terrified.

Such responses are so well-known that for some time now there have been research scientists who are working to find ways to relieve these fears and anxieties.

A few years before this cancer predicament presented itself in my life in 2017, I began tracking reports of these studies. Most of them involve a person's ingestion of psilocybin, known colloquially as magic mushrooms.

You might recall that psilocybin, along with marijuana, mescalin and a few other hallucinogens, are among the substances many of our generation who were interested in altering our consciousnesses experimented with in the druggie 1960s.

Besides smoking pot regularly, I took three acid (LSD) trips back in those days. They were fascinating.

One of the most well-known, recent psilocybin studies took place at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. From the medical journal report's introduction (emphasis mine throughout this post):

”Cancer patients often develop a chronic, clinically significant syndrome of psychosocial distress having depressed mood, anxiety, and reduced quality of life as core features...In cancer patients, depression and anxiety have been associated with decreased treatment adherence...prolonged hospitalization...decreased quality of life...and increased suicidality...

And from the conclusion:

”The data show that psilocybin produced large and significant decreases in clinician-rated and self-rated measures of depression, anxiety or mood disturbance, and increases in measures of quality of life, life meaning, death acceptance, and optimism.

“These effects were sustained at 6 months. For the clinician-rated measures of depression and anxiety, respectively, the overall rate of clinical response at 6 months was 78% and 83% and the overall rate of symptom remission was 65% and 57%.

“Participants attributed to the high-dose experience positive changes in attitudes about life, self, mood, relationships and spirituality, with over 80% endorsing moderately or higher increased well-being or life satisfaction.

“These positive effects were reflected in significant corresponding changes in ratings by community observers (friends, family, work colleagues) of participant attitudes and behavior.”

If you have a tolerance for charts, statistics and scientific jargon, you can read the entire report here.

Another cancer-psilocybin study at New York University (NYU) concluded that a

”...single moderate-dose psilocybin (in conjunction with psychotherapy) was safely administered to a cohort of patients with cancer-related psychological distress (e.g. anxiety, depression).

“It produced rapid and sustained anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (for at least 7 weeks but potentially as long as 8 months), decreased cancer-related existential distress, increased spiritual wellbeing and quality of life, and was associated with improved attitudes towards death.

You can read this entire report here (with similar statistics, charts and jargon as the Hopkins study). There have been and are ongoing other studies producing remarkably similar results.

Something big is going on with psilocybin. You may have heard of or even read Michael Pollan's 2018 book, How to Change Your Mind, about what he calls the “new science of psychedelics.” I don't want to bury you in long quotations, but here is part of his response to his psilocybin research, having also tripped on it himself:

In a follow-up to the NYU study, Pollan reports,

”A few key themes emerged. All of the patients interviewed described powerful feelings of connection to loved ones...and, more generally, a shift 'from feelings of separateness to interconnectedness.'

“In most cases, this shift was accompanied by a repertoire of powerful emotions including 'exalted feelings of joy, bliss, and love.' Difficult passages during the journey were typically followed by positive feelings of surrender and acceptance (even of their cancers) as people's fears fell away.

With evidence of such positive results piling up, you wonder why psilocybin is not made available to terminally ill cancer and other patients. The reason is that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists it as a Schedule 1 drug: no prescriptions may be written and limited use is allowed for study.

That may be changing. Efforts are underway in Oregon and Denver to decriminalize magic mushrooms:

”Advocates with the Oregon Psilocybin Society received formal approval last week to move ahead with their language for a 2020 state ballot initiative that would reduce criminal penalties on psilocybin and allow for its use during 'guided sessions' at state-licensed facilities,” reports Vice News.

“Decriminalization efforts have moved a little further in Denver, where advocates have already started gathering signatures to put an initiative of their own on the municipal ballot in May 2019 that would decriminalize personal use, possession, and growth at the local level.”

Okay. Now you've got some background on magic mushrooms. Part 2 is here.




A TGB EXTRA: The Alex and Ronni Show

Yesterday, my former husband, Alex Bennett, and I sat down for our first Skype chat of the new year. Just two old friends who've known one another for about 60 years catching up with what's going on in our lives.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.




A TGB READER STORY: Market Dynamics

By Jack Handley - Diplomate, Curmudgeonology

I live in a small town facing a big river. Until the middle of the last century it had been a busy river port for timber schooners and barges carrying hay, grain, fruit and produce downriver from Sacramento to the big cities of Oakland and San Francisco.

It has escaped total dereliction only by also being the county seat. It's a fine, old American small town with alleys, vacant lots, an operating train station and barking backyard dogs.

It is also graced with a farmers' market held on blocked-off Main Street every Sunday (year-round, this being the West Coast).

I walk the town nearly every day and one Sunday several weeks ago while zigzagging between the double rows of market booths, I witnessed this interaction at a fruit stand. I suppose it was an exchange, of sorts. But not nearly a transaction, of sorts:

Old man: “I'd like a pound of the sweet peaches, please.”

Booth lady: “You choose them.” She points to the tray, and ducks down below the market scale to attend to something beneath it.

Old man stares at where she'd been standing. Looks at market scale. Looks at peaches, then walks off.

The booth lady rises into view, looks after retreating old man, then turns to her booth partner and mouthed, “Crazy old geezer.”

Me: “I suppose he wanted to buy some peaches.”

Booth lady: “Well, why didn't he, then?”

Me: “I mean, I suppose he wanted you to sell him some peaches.”

She stares at me. “Say what?”

Me: “Sell, sell. He was expecting you to sell him a pound of peaches. Like weigh out a pound of peaches and exchange them for his money.”

Booth lady: “This is a booth. You pick what you want — it's your choice, that's the idea — and put them in a plastic bag. I weigh the bag to find out how much, you pay, I hand you the bag, done, yes?” (pause) “I guess he was confused.”

Me: “I think he was just trying to simplify things. He wanted a pound of peaches, perhaps he only had two dollars, anyway the scale's on your side, so he can't weigh out a pound, he doesn't know how many peaches to a pound. So he thinks that, rather than put a bunch of peaches in a bag and hand them to you, and you weigh it and take out some, and then hand him the bag and take his two dollars, he'll just give you the bills and ask you to put two dollars-worth in the bag. Done.”

Booth lady: “Are you pulling my chain?”

Me: “No. Look. You go to France. You visit a local market square. You see a pile of nice peaches in a stall and decide to get a few to taste, not too many. You don't know French, you don't know a Euro from a franc, so you point to the peaches and hand the seller a one Euro note.

“He weighs out a Euro's worth, puts them in a plastic bag and hands it to you. See? Easy. No hassle.”

She rolls her eyes and makes a face to her partner. She turns back to me. “This ain't France.”

I walk away. I feel foolish. I sense her mouthing, “Crazy old geezer!”

* * *

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.




Happy New Year 2019

Happy-New-Year-Copy

Wow. What a year 2018 has been for me – pretty much all drama, no routine. Here's the list, bare facts only – mostly:

January:
Six months after Whipple surgery in June 2017, I am declared cancer-free

Discovered my son via DNA testing service

April:
Internal bleed that drained massive amounts of blood from my body. It took five physicians three weeks to figure out a fix. It worked.

October:
Tests reveal that cancer has returned in one lung and peritoneum. There is no treatment, I am terminal. A chemo therapy might delay advancement of the cancers. It fails.

November:
New but much stronger chemo begins that is known, like the first one, to slow the advancement of cancer. We'll see how it goes.

December:
After a period of speaking regularly on the telephone, my son – Tom Wark, his wife Kathy and their four-year old, Henry George, visit for a day. We all fall in love with one another.

And through all this drama, I have been blessed with the best group of readers on the known internet. You are there every last day with love, support, smart observations and funny stories. I love you all.

[This post will stay up for the holiday tomorrow and the usual Tuesday Reader Story will appear on Wednesday.]

Now, tell us your about your 2018.




ELDER MUSIC: Toes Up in 2018

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’m sorry if we missed anyone special to you this year, but for extended times, both Ronni’s and my computers went toes up themselves, thus we were off the air and some may have slipped by without our noticing them. There were other trying periods for both of us as well.

Montserrat Caballé

MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ was a Spanish soprano best known for singing bel canto roles – Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini. She was also known as one of the best interpreter of Verdi’s music. She made her debut in true fairy tale fashion, where she came on to sing the lead role after being an understudy to Marilyn Horne and was showered with accolades.

Montserrat was one of the finest singers of the 20yh century and performed in pretty much all the major opera houses of the world. She was also instrumental in introducing José Carreras to the world. From the Puccini opera Manon Lescaut, Montserrat performs the aria In Quelle Trine Morbide. (She was 85)

♫ Montserrat Caballé - Manon Lescaut ~ In Quelle Trine Morbide


RICHARD GILL was an Australian conductor of choral, operatic and orchestral works. He was also a musical educator and a great advocate for musical education for children. (76)

CHARLES NEVILLE was a member of the Neville Brothers, one of the best bands on the planet. He played saxophone in the group and he also had a separate career playing modern jazz. (79)

VINCE MARTIN was a singer, songwriter and guitarist who was popular during the folk music era of the sixties. He often played as a duo with Fred Neil, with whom he also recorded. (81)

DEAN WEBB was the mandolin player for The Dillards, a bluegrass band that expanded the repertoire of the genre by adding electric instruments and playing rock songs as well as traditional fair. (81)

Tony Joe White

TONY JOE WHITE was a singer/songwriter and guitarist of the first order. He was more a cult figure than someone in the mainstream but he had a few hits over the years. His biggest, Polk Salad Annie, came very early in his career. This song was covered by many, including a fine version by Elvis.

Other songs of his included Rainy Night in Georgia, also covered extensively, and Steamy Windows, a hit for Tina Turner. He kept performing and recording until the end, including a fine blues album released recently. Tony Joe performs High Sheriff of Calhoun Parrish, from early in his career. (75)

♫ Tony Joe White - High Sheriff of Calhoun Parrish


HENRY BUTLER was a jazz pianist and also an acclaimed photographer in spite of being blind since early childhood. He was yet another in the long list of great Louisiana pianists. (69)

DENNIS EDWARDS was an R&B and soul singer noted for joining the Temptations after their fine lead singer David Ruffin left. He later had a solo career as well as joining David and Eddie Kendricks, the other notable singer from the group. (74)

RANDY SCRUGGS was a guitarist, songwriter and record producer whose songs have been covered by many country stars. He also played guitar on even more artists’ records. He was the son of renowned blue grass player Earl Scruggs and helped to introduce modern sensibilities into Earl’s sound. (64)

ROY HARGROVE was a jazz trumpeter who incorporated elements of hip hop, soul, funk and gospel into his music. Besides leading his own group he performed with most of the best jazz performers over the years. (49)

Hugh Masekela

HUGH MASEKELA played the trumpet, and similar instruments, as well as singing and composing music. He was born in South Africa and became a vocal critic of the appalling Apartheid regime that ruled the country at the time.

He later studied classical music in London. He was mostly a jazz performer but ventured into pop music from time to time – he played with The Byrds on one of their albums. He sings and plays Alright from his album “No Borders”. (78)

♫ Hugh Masekela - Alright


ROBERT MANN was a violinist and the founder of the acclaimed Juilliard Quartet, one the foremost string quartets in the world. He was also a conductor and music teacher. (97)

VIC DAMONE was a crooner much influenced by Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He had his own radio program and later on a TV show as well. He had a number of hits in the fifties and sixties. (89)

HARRY M MILLER was an Australian music promoter who first brought out Louis Armstrong, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and many others. He also staged the first productions of Hair and the Rocky Horror Show amongst others. (84)

Dominick RANDY SAFUTO was the lead singer for the Doowop group Randy and the Rainbows who had hits with Denise (later covered memorably by Blondie), Little Star and a few other similar songs. (71)

Charles Aznavour

CHARLES AZNAVOUR was a French singer, songwriter and diplomat whose songs spread far and wide, and have been translated into many different languages. During the war he and his family sheltered and rescued many people risking their own lives.

He started performing at a young age and it was when he opened the bill for Edith Piaf at the famous Moulin Rouge that his career began in earnest. His songs have been covered by most of the famous (and less so) performers over the years. From the more than 1,200 songs he wrote I have chosen La Boheme. (94)

♫ Charles Aznavour - La Boheme


BOB DOROUGH was a BeBop singer, songwriter and pianist. He performed with comedians, folk musicians and jazz legends, including adding a rare vocal to a Miles Davis composition. He also had a successful career creating educational songs for kids on maths, history and so on. (94)

NANETTE FABRAY was an actress, singer and dancer who started in Vaudeville and became musical theatre staple. She also appeared in several films. (97)

SONNY PAYNE was the long-time host of the radio program King Biscuit Time that introduced blues music to several generations of listeners. (92)

JIM RODFORD was a bass player for the groups The Kinks and The Zombies. He was also a founding member of Argent. (76)

Marty Balin

MARTY BALIN was co-founder and co-lead singer of the San Francisco based rock band Jefferson Airplane. The Airplane was the first group in the burgeoning scene in the mid sixties to make an impact outside the city. Marty’s and Grace Slick’s vocals wove in and out and around each other and their vocals added an element to the music missing from most of the other bands at the time.

Marty sings solo lead on the song Comin' Back to Me from their successful and ground breaking album “Surrealistic Pillow”. (76)

♫ Jefferson Airplane - Comin' Back to Me


EDWIN HAWKINS was a gospel singer who had a surprise hit with his song Oh Happy Day in 1969. His group toured widely and often appeared at music festivals around the world. (74)

TAB HUNTER was an actor and occasional singer, one of whose records my sister owned as a young girl. (86)

THOMAS’S MUSIC SHOP started out selling sheet music and musical instruments in Melbourne. They later added records and CDs. They were the go-to place for classical music. (96)

HARVEY SCHMIDT co-wrote the long running musical “The Fantasticks” (with Tom Jones, not the singer). The pair also created “I Do! I Do!” and other musicals. (88)

Nancy Wilson

NANCY WILSON was a jazz singer who had crossover pop hits, mainly in the sixties, but later on as well. She learned from the best – Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and others were on the records her father brought home.

Nancy’s career began when, upon meeting Cannonball Adderley he suggested she move to New York where her style would be more appreciated. She took his advice and became an almost instant success. Her albums not only topped the jazz charts, but frequently the pop ones as well. She also appeared on all manner of TV shows.

From early in her career, indeed her first hit, is Guess Who I Saw Today. (81)

♫ Nancy Wilson - Guess Who I Saw Today


LORRIE COLLINS, who along with her brother Larry, formed the Collins Kids who were big rockabilly performers in the fifties. (76)

LAZY LESTER (Leslie Johnson) was a blues harmonica and guitar player as well as the writer of many songs that have been covered by just about everyone who plays the blues, as well as rock and country. (85)

BARBARA ALSTON was a founding member and lead singer for the vocal group The Crystals on their early records. She later became a support singer which she preferred due to her excessive shyness. (74)

RAY THOMAS was a singer and flute player and also a founding member of the progressive rock group The Moody Blues. He continued with the group until early this century. (76)

Terry Evans

TERRY EVANS was a soul, R&B and blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. He played with many people over the years, notably long stints with Bobby King and Ry Cooder. He also performed with Boz Scaggs, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Maria Muldaur and many others. He even found time to have a successful solo career.

Terry performs That's The Way Love Turned Out For Me from the album “Blues For Thought”. (90)

♫ Terry Evans - That's The Way Love Turned Out For Me


DONALD MCGUIRE was a singer with the fifties group The Hilltoppers. They had a couple of hits at the time, the most notable being Marianne. (86)

CONWAY SAVAGE was the long time pianist for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He also released solo albums, and was a member of several Australian groups in the eighties. (58)

RANDY WESTON was a jazz pianist and composer. He was influenced by the best – Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole. He made dozens of records, the last, earlier this year. (92)

GEORGE WALKER was a composer, concert pianist and teacher. His compositions included piano sonatas, symphonies, string quartets and many vocal works. (96)

Otis Rush

OTIS RUSH was a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He played the guitar left handed but strung as a right hander which probably contributed to his distinctive sound much imitated by younger blues and rock guitarists. Like many, he moved to Chicago after hearing Muddy Waters play and made a name for himself playing in the clubs.

From the album “Right Place, Wrong Time” Otis sings and plays Tore Up. (83)

♫ Otis Rush - Tore Up


ED KING was a guitarist and songwriter notable for such diverse works as Incense and Peppermints and Sweet Home Alabama. (68)

SPENCER P JONES was a New Zealand born, Australian guitarist who was in several of the leading Australian groups of the last forty years. (61)

DON CHERRY was a singer in the Sinatra mould, who had a number of hits in the fifties. He was also a world ranked golfer. (94)

EDDIE WILLIS was a session guitarist, one of the “Funk Brothers”, who played behind just about every Motown hit. (82)

Colin Brumby

COLIN BRUMBY was an Australian composer and conductor. He studied in Spain and Britain before returning to Australia to become professor and composer in residence at Brisbane University.

He eventually tired of working in atonal music, and switched to tonal which led to many more commissions and greater acceptance by the public. He wrote operas, concertos for many diverse instruments, two symphonies, chamber works, and notably, a number of operas for children.

Here is the second movement of his Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. (84)

♫ Colin Brumby Trio for clarinet cello and piano (2)


GEOFF EMERICK was a recording engineer at Abbey Road studios who recorded the Beatles’ records from Sergeant Pepper onwards. He also recorded many other groups. (72)

CHAS HODGES was a singer, pianist and guitarist best known for being half of Chas and Dave. (74)

BIG JAY MCNEELY was an R&B saxophone player who helped to define the sound of early rock & roll. His outrageous onstage antics probably helped as well. (91)

ROY CLARK was a country singer and guitarist who is probably best known for his appearances on “Hee Haw”. I prefer to remember him as a superb guitar player. (85)

Aretha Franklin

ARETHA FRANKLIN, considered the “Queen of Soul”, started her musical career singing and playing organ and piano at her father’s church.

Her first foray into recorded music was unsuccessful as the record company didn’t really understand what she was about. When she found a sympathetic company (Atlantic) the sky was the limit. Her first singles shot to the top of the charts as did most of the following ones.

Besides her music, Aretha was a great champion of civil rights and donated millions to help the poor, the indigenous and many other such causes.

Rather than one of her big hits you’ve all heard many times, here is Crazy He Calls Me. (76)

♫ Aretha Franklin - Crazy He Calls Me




INTERESTING STUFF – 29 December 2018

A TALE OF MOTHERS AND PINOT NOIR

Remember earlier this month when I told you about meeting the son, Tom Wark, I gave up for adoption when he was born?

Now Tom has written about our meeting in a story he calls A Tale of Mothers and Pinot Noir. You can read it here. It is beautiful.

TEE HEE

Yes, Christmas has come and gone but I probably won't be here for it next year so let's enjoy this together now:

Forleasenavidad

Thank reader John Starbuck for the laugh.

BLACK ICE

Winter is settling in and that means dangerous ice. Or sometimes it's just funny.

Mental Floss has some good advice about how to walk in icy places.

NURSES MOST REVERED PROFESSION

For the 17th year in a row, nurses come in first – rated the most ethical and honest profession by 84 percent of Americans polled in a survey by Gallup.

GallupNurses

What group of people came in last? You can find out at the Gallup story.

JUSTICE GINSBURG HOME FROM HOSPITAL

Ruth-bader-ginsburg-9312041-1-402Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the notorious RBG – is home from the hospital after successful surgery for lung cancer. It's her third bout with cancer and doctors are predicting a full recovery.

Read more here and here.

GLAMOUR SHOTS OF REPTILES

I first clicked on the link to this story because the headline, as above, is so deliciously incongruous. And guess what? It's not wrong. (Images from Tropical Herping.)

Reptile1

Snake

You can see more at Atlas Obscura.

ERIC CHIEN IPAD MAGIC

Thank Hank Berez for this amazing magician's iPad fun.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH ELEPHANT SEALS

As the husband of the woman in this video explains:

”It was while we were ashore in South Georgia on this huge gravel beach filled with King Penguins and elephant seals, that Jess laid down on the ground to get some cool low-angle shots of some passing King Penguins, when suddenly one of these huge baby elephant seals flopped over to investigate Jess, and was soon joined by another.

“Before she knew it, she was being squashed by several of these 100kg+ adorable animals, snuffling, burping and sniffing all over her.”

* * *

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.




Observing the End of Life

”I count it as the greatest good fortune to have these few months so full of interest and instruction in the knowledge of my approaching death.”

- Alice James in a letter to her brother, William

Isn't it comforting, even thrilling sometimes, to learn that others who came before you, especially those for whom you have great respect, have thought or felt what you are thinking and feeling.

In the past, before the doctors told me my cancer is terminal, I thought the minutes surrounding the moment of death would be the last great adventure of life. I hoped to be alert and unencumbered with pain so to be able to know the experience as it happens.

As I have come to see now, my former vision of the end is puny. Too cramped. Too small. There is much more to dying than a single moment.

There is, if you are fortunate enough to be made aware of your coming demise, the entire third act of life - the one we, in much of the western world, ignore - the period of dying.

Another who came before me, the late Scottish novelist, Muriel Spark, speaks well to what I have come to believe:

”Death, when it approaches,” she wrote, “ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life.”

However short or long my remaining days may be, it is a great gift I have received, knowing my death is near. It led to what I think is the most important question in the circumstance: what do you want to do with the time that remains?

I had asked that question before but my answer then was not adequate. It has become more complex now that my sensibility about death itself has changed. (More about that soon but not today.)

What I realize now is that I like my little life just as it is. No bucket list. No great unfinished tasks to rush to complete. Just to continue what I have been doing these past few years:

• Keep up this blog for as long as I can or want (my work)

• Spend time with the people who mean the most to me (my pleasure)

• And, do what I have always done when new and interesting things turn up in my life: find out what others know about them, observe and learn (my satisfaction)

In this case, what most engages me for the moment is the question of what living is like when you know you will soon die.

One way I have been working on that is, from time to time throughout a day, to move my consciousness off to one side of myself and watch. Allow myself to do whatever I'm inclined to do without directing it and to observe how I become different, or not. To become both the observer and the observed.

What I am curious about is how does this knowledge of impending death change me and my behavior? Am I frightened? How do I help make that better? What do I believe about life and death? Does it alter my relationships with the people I know? Do I do things differently or do I do different things?

And about a hundred other questions.

Then, sometimes, when I think what I have observed is interesting enough, I will tell you about it here.

For 15 years, the subtitle in the banner at the top of this page has been the topic of Time Goes By: “what it's really like to get old.”

Without my quite noticing for awhile, that changed in the past couple of months and now I've caught up with myself: the subject of the blog has morphed into what most interests me in these days: what is it like to die - to know I am going to die relatively soon and how I am navigating that knowledge?

There is no greater mystery to mankind than death. How, finding myself in this place, can I possibly ignore it.

So I suppose we could now call Time Goes By an end-of-life blog. That may be difficult for some readers and I understand if it is. But you can believe me that I am fascinated to be in this predicament and if you want to follow along, I will be pleased to have you here and to listen to what you have to say about it.

One more who came before me, the second secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld:

”Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.”

I'm working on it.




Twas the Day After Christmas

Just checking in. I'm home from my little trip and getting settled in again.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, however you celebrate (or not), that there were plenty of friends and family to enjoy and lots of seasonal food to savor. This is not the time of year to worry about calories.

Soon, we'll be back on the good ship This End Up here at Time Goes By, moving into the brand new year.




A TGB READER STORY: You Want Me to Do What?

By Patricia Kelly

Years ago I had my vehicle in the shop for repairs and the only loaner available was a humongous van with several rows of bench seats and side opening doors.

I was not used to such a large vehicle and was a bit nervous about driving it. However, I did need to pick up my dry cleaning so I illegally parked in the fire lane to protect the loaner from crashing grocery carts and quickly ran into the cleaners.

I had the side doors open looking for a place to hang my cleaner bags when someone gently pushed me aside. Startled, I watched a little old lady climb into the van and sit down wearily.

Need to state here that at my age then, anyone around 60 was OLD. Today I look on 60 is a still a youngster. Back to the story.

My mouth was still hanging open when the next wave hit. One by one, five other seniors climbed into the van, using my shoulder as a hand rail.

"We missed the bus." an elderly gentleman informed me as he squeezed beside two ladies and looked for a place to put his cane. "You will take us home?" he partially questioned, but mostly stated.

I looked at my little group of passengers and tried to push thoughts of law suit out of my mind as I asked, "Uh, where do you live?

They were from Century Village which is a huge retirement village in Palm Beach County. The Village supplied bus service to grocery stores and shopping complexes.

This group had stayed too long and had been left on the curb. The last bus of the day was history.

Against my better judgment but not knowing how I could possibly throw six seniors back on the curb and still sleep at night, I made sure there were no more stragglers. I then told them to buckle up and headed for the Village which was several miles away.

I was curious why they had no shopping bags. Man-with-cane explained that they went a couple of times a week to the book store/coffee shop that was part of the strip mall, to read and sip while the rest of the bus load grocery shopped.

I asked where their books were and he explained that they never bought a book except as a gift. They just read inside the store while sipping coffee. They would then write down the stopping page on a piece of paper so they could pick up where they left off next time.

Being a book and coffee person myself, I could see where that might be the perfect day out for seniors. The price for their entertainment certainly fit into a retirement income.

Now Century Village has more than 2000 condos. It would have been nice if they all lived in the same unit but each one lived in a separate building. Kind of wondered how they all got together. Perhaps they met at Bingo.

At each stop, I got out to open the doors for the departing senior and was rewarded with a quarter and a sweet smile or nod for my efforts.

I tried to refuse the change but they almost got ugly insisting. I quickly learned that little old ladies will not hesitate to slap your arm with their bony hands if you don't agree with them. So I just took the money and shut up.

I was really getting tickled at the absurdity of the situation. However with each successful unload, I breathed a new sigh of relief. I was beginning to think that this might work out after all.

Man-with-cane was the last to depart. He demanded my name and address. He did NOT offer a quarter. I was tempted to give a false name but I wrote my real name and address on the piece of paper he offered.

Ah, I thought, here comes the law suit. Perhaps I had taken a turn to quickly and caused a whiplash. I was living by the creed at that time that no good deed goes unpunished.

I was delighted though in a few days for I got a lovely card from Man-with-cane. He thanked me very nicely and there were TWO quarters scotch taped to the card. No lawyers ever called.

Still today, 38 years later, that ranks as the strangest, scariest, yet coolest buck seventy five I ever earned.

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.




Merry Christmas 2018

Greetings a day early because I will be away for the next few days and offline. There will be a Reader Story tomorrow but I'm taking off the rest of the week.

It's been an amazing year for me navigating my way through this cancer stuff. Your support and love and care and concern mean everything to me and there are not words to thank you all for being here day in and day out.

And meeting the son I gave up for adoption 56 years ago, getting to know him and his family has been a magnificent surprise out of nowhere I could never have anticipated. The happiest event that has happened to me – perhaps ever.

And now for what has become a Time Goes By tradition, the seventh annual playback of Penelope Keith's marvelous reading – as Miss Cynthia Bracegirdle – of And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree: A Cautionary Tale for Christmas Showing That it is Better to Give than to Receive.

It was originally broadcast on the BBC (Radio 4) on 25 December 1977 – and is wickedly funny.

Penelope Keith - And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, Ronni and Crabby Old Lady thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the fine community you create and sustain here all year every year and we wish you a big, fat, bright red

Happy-holiday680



ELDER MUSIC: Christmas 2018

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.

* * *

Christmas Oz

Well it’s the time of the year when I go on my annual rant about snow, icicles, chestnuts roasting by an open fire, sleigh bells and all that other folderol that seems to infect Christmas songs.

That’s not Christmas where I live and the couple of times I’ve experienced Christmas like that it felt completely, totally, utterly wrong.

Christmas is long warm (or dare I say hot) days with chilled Champagne or cold white wine sipped in the shade with cold prawns, lobster, salads and such for the Christmas feast.

Anyway, that’s enough of my ranting, let’s play some jolly music.

DADDY COOL would certainly know of what I speak as they come from Melbourne too.

Daddy Cool

They were the biggest band in Australia in the early seventies until they split. They reformed and split several times over the years but alas, no more as only two of the group are still alive.

The song today is from one of their later reformations when they recorded an album called “The New Cool”. The song is The Christmas Bug.

♫ Daddy Cool - The Christmas Bug


JULIA LEE AND HER BOYFRIENDS seem to have some sort of Christmas Spirit.

Julia Lee

It’s not the spirit usually associated with Christmas because Santa can’t bring what she wants most. I’ll let her (and her friends) tell you about it.

♫ Julia Lee and Her Boyfriends - Christmas Spirit


KEITH JARRETT, GARY PEACOCK AND JACK DEJOHNETTE perform and record regularly together.

Keith Jarrett Gary Peacock Jack DeJohnette

Separately they are some of the best around on their various instruments, so together they play some of the finest jazz going these days. From one of their albums, “After the Fall” we find out that Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Well, we knew that already, but it’s good to hear what they make of that hoary old song.

♫ Keith Jarrett - Santa Claus Is Coming to Town


THE HOLLY TWINS want only one thing for Christmas.

Holly Twins

Before I tell you what that is, I’d like to say that I know very little about The Holly Twins. The only thing is that they are twins and their names are Jonell and Glenell McQuaig. They sing I Want Elvis for Christmas.

They have the help of Eddie Cochran on this song both playing guitar and impersonating Elvis in between verses. Eddie died in a car crash at age 21.

♫ Holly Twins - I Want Elvis For Christmas


I featured a live video of THE POGUES' song Fairytale of New York in the very first of these Christmas columns and I thought it was time for their original studio version.

Pogues

In the past I've also used a superior version of the song by Tex Perkins and Claire Bowditch who are also far better looking than SHANE MCGOWAN who sang the song. But then, I'm far better looking than Shane too.

Shane McGowan

That's Shane, not me. Singing with Shane is KIRSTY MCCOLL, daughter of singer/songwriter Ewan McColl.

Kirsty Maccoll

Kirsty died in a boating accident in 2000.

♫ Pogues - Fairytale of New York


RUFUS THOMAS is probably best known for his novelty songs, one of which, Walking the Dog, was a nice little earner for him when the Rolling Stones covered it.

Rufus Thomas

Naturally he doesn’t take the season too seriously when he tells his sweetie (or someone): I'll Be Your Santa Baby. He gives it a really funky feeling.

♫ Rufus Thomas - I'll Be Your Santa Baby


ESTHER PHILLIPS, also known as Little Esther, recorded a few songs with MEL WALKER, backed by the JOHNNY OTIS orchestra.

Esthe rMel & Johnny

Esther is disconsolate because her baby is so far away, but like all good Christmas wishes, everything comes good in the end. All this is revealed in Far Away Christmas Blues.

♫ Little Esther & Mel Walker with Johnny Otis Orchestra - Far Away Christmas Blues


This year we’ll have a couple of moments of couth to end proceedings.

First up is ARCANGELO CORELLI.

Corelli

Around his time the Concerto Grosso was top of the pops and he wrote a bunch of them (as did Handel and others). The one I’ve selected is the third movement of Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 8 because it’s also generally called Christmas Concerto, or if you want to be technically correct: Made for Christmas Night.

♫ Corelli - Concerto Grosso n.08 Op.6 (3)


J.S. BACH wrote cantatas for every Sunday of the year and all religious holidays.

Bach-JS10

He wrote several for the various days around Christmas and the one I’ve chosen is a chorale cantata for the first Sunday after Christmas which is close enough for me. It is the first movement of BWV 122, Das neugeborne Kindelein, or The new born child.

♫ Bach JS - Das neugeborne Kindelein BWV 122 ~ 1. Coro Das neugebornene Kindelein


Christmas Oz



INTERESTING STUFF – 22 December 2018

AN OLD-TIMEY VAUDEVILLE ACT

TGB reader Joan McMullin emailed that this has a terrific surprise ending and she's right.

BERKELEY THE BEAR PLAYING ON ICE

Berkley is a Kodiak brown bear cub who lives at Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, Alberta, Canada, He's having a wonderful time on the ice.

THIS GIVES ME SOME HOPE FOR OUR COUNTRY

Thank my friend Jim Stone for sending this along earlier this week.

HOW TO CREATE A CROSSWORD PUZZLE

David Kwong, shows us how he makes a crossword puzzle – not just any crossword puzzzle, a New York Times crossword puzzle. This is a longer video that I usually post but I think it's interesting – at least for puzzle fans.

PEW'S 18 REMARKABLE FINDINGS OF 2018

Pew Research Center named 18 “remarkable” findings of 2018. One of them is about how younger people are better at telling the difference between factual statements and opinion statements. Take a look:

FactVOpinionPew

Well, I don't think there is that much difference between the two age groups. Neither one is all that good at it.

There are a bunch of other Pew 2018 findings at their website.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHEESE

My two favorite foods are cheese and ice cream. I had no idea that cheese making is thousands of years old:

JEANNE ROBERTSON AND THE CHRISTMAS BIKE

Here's one of our favorite comedians on a certain Christmas gift...

22 MUSICALS IN 12 MINUTES WITH LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND EMILY BLUNT

Thank Trudi Kappel for this musical collection.

It's James Corden with the stars of Mary Poppins Returns to perform a musical-inspired Role Call, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt singing classics from 22 musicals covering Evita to The Wizard Of Oz. And Kermit the Frog stops by to help James with The Rainbow Connection.

MAYBE THE BEST, CHEAPEST SLEEPING PILL EVER

From TGB reader Mary Symmes. This may be the best idea for falling asleep I've ever heard. It runs for just over an hour. You can find the YouTube page here.

* * *

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.




Christmas Eve Eve Eve

Did I get that headline right – three days before Christmas Day?

Maybe, maybe not. I'm really here to let you know that I'm taking some extra time off while the world gets ready for the big end-of-year holiday. And, I'll be away for a couple of days next week, but I'll tell you about that on Monday.

Meanwhile, all is as usual coming up: Interesting Stuff, Elder Music, Reader Story.

Feel free to talk among yourselves in the comments.




Anecdotes From the World of Chemotherapy

It's a rough day here on Tuesday as I write this – heavy fatigue from the new chemotherapy regimen I began last week has slowed me way down; I'm napping a lot.

In the past, I was lucky to need only about an hour's infusion; now it's five or six hours.

Actually, most of that time is taken up with infusions of medications to keep nausea and other side effects at bay. The chemo is only an hour or so at the end of the session.

But they thought up a new “treat” for me this time - wearing a chemo body pump at home for two days afterwards, like an across-the-chest pocketbook. It's about the size of a large cell phone plugged into the permanent port in my chest for an addition infusion.

Of course, I can't shower for two days – the pump must remain dry - so I try to keep my distance from people I run into because I'm probably kind of stinky for those days.

And it's just a joke getting in and out of clothes trying to keep that line from the pump to the port from getting twisted or yanked out while taking a sweater or nightgown off and on.

At one point I somehow got the line strung all the way through a sleeve and it took ten minutes to get that sorted out.

This is high-tech, modern medicine but sometimes you end up feeling like a three-year-old who doesn't know which shoe goes on which foot.

The thing is programmed to stop pumping after 46 hours after which I was scheduled to go to the clinic to have it removed.

Here's the fun part when that happened: So I'm working at the computer when the most ungodly loud alarm goes off. Truly screeching at me. The sound seemed to be coming from under the desk – you know, where that mess of cables that connects the computer and peripherals is plugged into the surge protector.

Clang, clang, clang, clang went the alarm like the loudest fire engine siren rattling my brain. Clang, clang, clang, clang. Fearing smoke or fire might erupt, I crawled under the desk with a flashlight and unplugged all the devices – all eight or ten plugs – while being careful not to bang into or lean on the pump, not an easy trick when you're mildly panicked.

Nothing. The screeching continued. Then I thought maybe it was coming from somewhere in the kitchen but nothing there was amiss. I stood around for a bit until dummy here (that's me) finally realized it must be the damned body pump.

Sure enough – I'd forgotten they told me it would “beep” when it was done. BEEP, you say? I'm still half deaf from it.

I finally managed to turn it off but if any of you know the difference between a Stop/Start button and an On/Off button, please do tell me. I punched both of them several times before the alarm finally stopped.

Or maybe it's just chemo brain that made my mind go too fuzzy to think straight.

I'm sure TGB readers who have themselves been through this and other unexpected complications of cancer treatment have your stories. As exhausted as we can be when these mishaps occur, the only useful way to deal with it is to just laugh at yourself, do the best you can and then go back to bed.




A TGB READER STORY: The Sunbonnet Crown

By Jannette Mountzouris

Our grandparents, known as Mim-Mim and Daddy Harry, lived on a ranch in Kerr County along Turtle Creek. Their modest home sat on a high bluff above the creek. Inside Mim-Mim focused on meals to be fixed, bread to be baked, firewood to be split for the cook stove, clothes to be washed and ironed and other somewhat mundane tasks.

However, outside she reigned as queen, wearing a sunbonnet as her crown while she cared for her flowers, maintained a garden, milked the cow and gathered eggs laid by her free range hens.

This was no ordinary jeweled crown for it was made of recycled feed sacks whose once vibrant colors were faded from many washings. Although our grandmother died more than 50 years ago, I can clearly see her in my mind’s eye – faded dress, old apron, and the sunbonnet on her head.

Her hoe became her scepter as she gently ruled her empire of flowers, garden, the barn, and all the nooks where the chickens laid their eggs. She carried the hoe not only to chop weeds but to address snakes that might cross her path. In the summer as she gathered eggs, Mim-Mim always had several visiting grandchildren in her entourage.

From the first frost-free mornings in early spring to the last golden days of autumn, Mim-Mim donned her crown and nurtured all things growing in her outside domain. I do believe she was happiest wearing her sunbonnet as she planted, weeded, and watered her flowers and the garden.

She loved flowers and it was evident they were happy in her hands with the green thumbs. They were pleased to show off along the fence or in any cranny where they were planted. There were no brightly colored fertilizer bags with instructions about where and how the plants were to be placed in the soil. Yet the zinnias, bachelor buttons, and shrimp plants along with others grew taller than any I have ever seen.

She always seemed to choose flowers that ethereal creatures like hummingbirds and butterflies loved. To my delight one summer morning, she pointed out a hummingbird nest in a huge oak tree which served as a canopy over a portion of the yard.

While I certainly don’t remember the names of all that she planted, I am sometimes amazed when I realize I know something about a particular plant I could only have learned from Mim-Mim.

Besides the flowers, there were the staples of the garden: squash, beans, onions, and of course, tomatoes and pole beans. At one end were little hills of cucumbers which would become crisp pickles during canning season. A spot was always saved for dill which released a piquant fragrance in the heat.

While others might complain about getting up at sunrise, Mim-Mim seemed to relish going out to water the flowers and vegetables before the sun advanced too far in its ascent.

Even after they moved to town for Daddy Harry’s failing health, Mim-Mim continued to don her crown as she cultivated a much smaller bounty of flowers and vegetables. It must have felt unnatural to be outside without the sunbonnet.

Our Aunt Dorothy told me that her memories of the sunbonnet centered on her mother always heavily starching the bonnet and ironing it. I was curious about why Mim-Mim took such meticulous care of it. Aunt Dorothy said the starching and ironing were done so that the brim would not sag over Mim-Mim’s eyes – the pragmatic memory of her daughter versus the sublime memory of her granddaughter.

Today when I hoe the good earth, recollections of Mim-Mim in her sunbonnet always come to mind – sacred recollections of the mind and heart.

* * *

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.




Crabby Old Lady on Honoring Cancer Survivors

Five year survival is the medical gold standard of a successful cancer cure and apparently there is a season of the year (December) to “honor” five-year cancer survivors as articles about several of these celebrations have recently dropped into Crabby Old Lady's email inbox.

Now, doing some light homework for this blog post, she has discovered that in June each year there is a National Cancer Survivors Day, “a celebration for those who have survived.”

Crabby would be ecstatic to be one of those people but her life hasn't turned out that way. Her two new cancers are incurable. And as you must have expected from the headline, here goes Crabby Old Lady again being a Grinch.

[Unpaid family and friend caregivers deserve respect too (not to mention some effective regulations about leave from work, etc.) but today is about professional caregivers.]

So. Honor the survivors? Give Crabby a break. It's fantastic when that five-year anniversary arrives and it should probably involve an over-the-top, joyous, hoot-and-hollerin' celebration with the survivor, along with his or her family and friends. But publicly “honoring” them?

When they should have been honored was during the months, maybe years of treatment. It's damned hard to be a cancer patient. Surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, things that go wrong like Crabby's internal bleeds that required two more surgeries, pain, fatigue like you've never experienced before, keeping track of all the medications and more.

Celebrations back then might have given patients encouragement when they most needed it as they wondered, too often, if they just should have skipped all the interim stuff and died sooner.

That's when the honoring of patients would mean something - for following all the instructions and doing it stoically. Well, for the most part. Sometimes you just need to have a good cry.

But the first people Crabby honors, above all the patients, are the professional cancer caregivers. All of them, from celebrated surgeons who get so much attention, through the RNs, CNAs, medical assistants, schedulers and coordinators and all the rest of them.

At the top levels, physicians, nurses and their assistants (the dozens Crabby Old Lady has spoken with about their careers during her 18 months of regular visits with them) CHOSE to make their careers with cancer patients.

Think of that: they made a conscious decision to spend their working life with people who, most of them, die in a relatively short period of time.

Patients and caregivers get to know one another over that time. They exchange personal information unrelated to cancer. They don't become friends exactly, but they do become friendly with warm feelings for one another: “Hey Sean,” Crabby might say to a medical assistant when she arrives, one who had been previously assigned to her. “How are you doing?” Or “Hi Nancy. Good to see you again.” High fives all around.

She gets the same in return from the caregivers as she walks by their desks. And by name. How many of us do they keep in mind?

Imagine what it is like for them when all too often and not unexpectedly, they get word that one of their patients has died. If you think it is hard for laymen like Crabby and you to grieve for loved ones, it doesn't happen but a fraction of the time it does for cancer caregivers.

And yet, they choose this work and they are universally wonderful people in all respects – different in their essence than other people.

As Crabby or Ronni has said before, every single one is smart, knowledgeable in their field, warm, comforting, friendly and as far as Crabby can tell, never has a bad day. They never, ever bring their personal problems to work – at least not with patients.

Yes, Crabby herself has worked hard following instructions to get through her treatment – sometimes awful stuff – questioning not infrequently if it isn't time to stop and let the disease take its course. But these men and women keep Crabby going as if it really matters to them – and it does, manifestly.

These are the people Crabby Old Lady honors first above herself and other patients. They are different in the best possible way from the rest of us. Maybe it's in their genes.