Geezer Stuff: Enjoyment For The Elderly
The Trouble With AARP: Karl Denninger is on AARP's case and rightly so.
"Now, the disaster tsunami is engulfing Medicare-covered individuals as Obamacare's latest scam - long concealed - begins to reveal itself as evidenced by a shocking announcement from health giant UnitedHealth Group. UnitedHealth, AARP's pet private health insurance carrier, has been busy cutting thousands of doctors from certain of its networks according to a Wall Street Journal report published on November 15."
"Note that AARP was one of the charge-leading groups behind Obamacare's passage and Obama's election, playing the shopworn "scare the senior" card over and over again."
I, for one, am sick and tired of AARP - the non-governmental organization and special interest group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons - and the seemingly never-ending robo-calls promoting pet legislation - "Write your Senator now!" - and piles of junk mail from AARP and its annoying advertising partners.
Erick Erickson of RedState wrote, "We know the AARP is typically left-leaning and sided with the Obama Administration on Obamacare and other policies that will wind up hurting seniors.
But now it seems they're siding with the far-left environmental movement to put people out of work and raise energy prices - something that has a direct effect on seniors with fixed incomes.
The AARP and Sierra Club worked together to stall nuclear energy legislation in Iowa. They claimed the legislation would hurt seniors when, in reality, the legislation would have incentivized low cost nuclear energy production in Iowa."
David Von Drehle wrote "AARP is a tremendously powerful organization dedicated to taking money from people who don't have much, and giving it to people who do."
Even everyone else "can see that the federal budget is out of whack, AARP is all about spending more tax dollars on old folks, whether they need it or not. And what AARP wants, it usually gets, because AARP is among the most aggressive lobbies in the United States."
"AARP lobbied hard and heavy for Obamacare, but not without, shall we say, 'mixed motives'. How so? Obamacare is slated to pull over $500 billion out of Medicare over the next 10 years to help foot the bill for itself. And what will seniors do who then have to go out and purchase more insurance coverage on their own to make up for that little "redistribution of wealth"? Yup, that's right… turn to AARP to purchase such coverage from them."
Were Mr. Rogers still alive, he would undoubtedly ask, "Can you say "conflict of interest?""
In one recent, especially galling campaign, AARP is urging mothers to send e-cards to their children reminding them to sign up for Obamacare.
AARP is nothing but an insurance agency, peddler of mediocre mutual funds and lefty-lobbying group. All my fellow senior buddies with know this. All of us are fed-up with AARP's lefty lobbying and annoying junk mail. Last week, a friend sent me this little parody:
"I wanted to let you know that earlier today I received my latest AARP membership packet. It contained:
• An aspirin and a band-aid.
• An 'Obama Hope & Change' bumper sticker
• A 'Bush's Fault' yard sign
• A 'Blame Republicans first, then anybody and everybody 'poster
• A 'Tax the Rich' banner
• An application for food stamps and a free cellphone
• A letter assigning my debt to my grandchildren
Everything was made in China and all directions were in Spanish. Keep an eye out. Yours should be arriving soon."
There used to be lots of AARP discounts offered by hotels and rental car firms. Most are now no better than those offered by AAA. In recent years, I've noticed that several hotel chains have wised up and offer the Senior Rate to all seniors - not just people with AARP cards.
When my gift membership to AARP expires in 2014, I plan to join AMAC. (posted 12/9/13, permalink)
Luddite Love: At TTAC, Derek Kreindler wrote about the proliferation of complex and confusing technology in vehicles.
"In the endless rush to attract younger buyers, luxury car brands may have ended up alienating their traditional customer base older buyers, specifically those old enough to collect social security by implementing complex, technologically advanced features like touch screens and complicated infotainment systems. What if there were a way to opt-out?"
Larry Vellequette of Automotive News has jokingly suggested a 'Luddite' trim package for older buyers, which pairs traditional knobs and buttons with comfortable seating options. It may be a semi-satirical idea, but I am sure that plenty of older buyers would take well to it.
TTAC commenters were mostly supportive of a Luddite Package, most saying they'd specify it if offered. I has been suggested that many traditional Lincoln and Cadillac customers have shifted over to something like a Lexus ES350, because they found CUE or MyLincoln Touch to be too much of a burden. Last month, I related my difficulties with a MyFord Touch-equipped rental car. The Consumer Reports Annual Auto Issue has severely criticized the FoMoCo touch systems and lowered the ratings of vehicles equipped with it.
When I ordered my 2008 Lexus LS 460 in September '07, I had to do a special order because I didn't want the navi/premium sound combo. It would have added $5,600+ to the price of the car. If the sound/navi system combo was $1,000, I probably would have taken it even though it is mostly useless to me. I'm now old/deaf enough that I have trouble telling cassettes from CDs ("What tape hiss?"), so the benefits of Mark Levinson and His Many Tuned Speakers were lost on me.
I'm not a fan of navigation systems either; if I was, I'd probably want a portable one so I could use it in rental cars, too. These two options are frequently bundled with satellite radio and its ugly little fin as well as Lexus Parking Assist which costs even more and adds those ugly 'buttons' to the front and back bumpers of the car. My LS 460 has a screen-free dashboard with reasonably large knobs, pushbuttons and controls:
It works just fine for me. And yes, I can jack my iPod into the vehicle's sound system.
Want to sell more cars? Keep things simple. We already have enough complexity in our lives. (posted 3/20/13, permalink)
Getaway Jam: In 1941, Marion Post Wolcott documented the flight of New Yorkers out of the city and toward the seashore (or, more appropriately, given that it's described as Sunday traffic, the drive from the shore back into the city) for the Farm Security Administration.
In this photo, a 1939 Plymouth two-door sedan returns from the New Jersey shore in heavy Sunday afternoon traffic.
This picture was taken along Route 35 in Laurence Harbor, near Keyport - east of Old Bridge, New Jersey.
In 1957, my parents built a weekend home at the NJ shore. During the summer, we left NE Philadelphia in a rush Friday afternoon, fighting the traffic to get across the Tacony Palmyra Bridge, stopping to pay the 5¢ fare and then fighting lots of traffic and stoplights on the way to Brigantine. Then it was time to relax until the traffic-heavy return trip on Sunday afternoon. Just as New Yorkers did back in '41. (posted 1/08/13, permalink)
Stormy Weather: Fifty years ago, there were two record storms that older people still remember.
The Great Atlantic Storm of 1962 - also called The Ash Wednesday Storm - occurred in early March 68, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. It was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states. It lingered through five high tides over a three day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000 and causing hundreds of millions in property damage in six states.
In New Jersey, the storm ripped away part of the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Avalon, New Jersey lost 6 blocks. Long Beach Island was cut through in several places. The decommissioned destroyer Monssen was washed ashore near Holgate.
In New Jersey alone, an estimated 45,000 homes were destroyed or greatly damaged. The above-ground heating oil tank at my parents' small Brigantine summer place floated away and was found 40 blocks away.
A huge oil tank that fed the boilers at the Brigantine Hotel just completely washed away. The waves crashed through the windows of the piano bar. An Army 2.5-ton transport truck was lost - never to be found - after Brigantine Avenue collapsed and the truck went down in a hole.
The Columbus Day Storm of '62 was the most powerful Pacific Northwest weather event in modern history raked stretches of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Gusts of 170 mph were reported along the Oregon Coast, and some people around the Northwest were without power for weeks. The storm killed about 50 people, including three in Vancouver, WA. About 70 people were treated at two local hospitals over the weekend for storm-related injuries.
Winds that hit an official high of 92 mph in Vancouver toppled thousands of trees, knocking down utility lines. At one point, the only power customer getting electricity was a north county mill with a direct transmission line from Yale Dam. The storm cause $250 million in damages.
1962 was also the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were some bad events in '62 but I remember one exceptionally good one: in September of that year, I met my wife. (posted 10/29/12, permalink)
Cane Mutiny: I still have my grandmother's wooden cane from 1955 or so. I've used it in the past when I've injured my knee or ankle. These days, I take it with me on our early morning golf course walks - to lean on when I rest, or to deal with seriously uneven ground. I suspect that it might be good for fighting off wild cougars, although I've yet to encounter one close up.
About 25 years ago, I put a new rubber tip on the cane. Recently, I discovered that it had worn completely through. Time to get a new tip.
My wife bought a package of two at Albertsons. That's a fifty-year supply. Selling rubber cane tips at a supermarket? This is why I can't find my favorite brand of potato chips anymore. It's been dumped in favor of cane tips. I'm ready to start a food mutiny against all supermarkets.
When I complained to my daughter about this, she pointed out that her supermarket sells Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise. I asked her if any of the Thomas stuff was edible? "No." Did they sell a Thomas hopper car carrying a load of potato chips? "No."
It's the same with cane tips. You'd think they would make them out of licorice, instead of rubber. That way, you could eat the spare tip.
The new tip is much larger and beefier than the old one. It's a huge molded black rubber thing, designed with the same mind-set of those massive SUV-like baby strollers which clog up sidewalks and mall aisles. Roughly double the size of its predecessor, it's made in China - of course.
Grandmom's reconfigured cane is now properly equipped for climbing Pike's Peak. Or any other off-road excursions. (posted 9/10/12, permalink)
Leathery Laments: It's no fun being old if you can't complain about stuff.
Recently I bought two pairs of shoes at a specialty shoe store, When The Shoe Fits. Very few of these kind of stores - specializing in well-made shoes and personal service - are remaining these days.
I bought brown loafers, meaning I needed to buy a belt because I didn't have any brown ones. Black, yes. Cordovan, yes. But cordovan has become an 'out' color in the shoe and belt biz. It's even hard to find cordovan shoe polish anymore. Once upon a time, Florsheim Imperial wingtip shoes in a cordovan color were the preferred choice of top business executives.
Nowadays, most people don't even wear ties in business, much less dressy shoes. Sigh. Times have changed.
I stopped at Nordstrom but decided I didn't want to pay $200-plus for a %!#$@ belt. So I went to that famous French department store, J.C. Penney (pronounce it Chey Zeee Penn-eh and it seems Gallic) and got a nice leather one for $25.
Good shoes that fit well are one of the under-appreciated joys of modern life. (posted 9/4/12, permalink)
Overnight Adventures: James Lileks writes wonderful stuff on his blog, The Bleat. He also posts tons of scanned archival material. I'm particularly taken with many of his motel postcards because they bring back memories.
I began traveling on business in the late 1960s. In those days, if you were traveling to an unfamiliar city, you'd choose one based on the Hotel Redbook (which tended to favor large downtown hotels and didn't usually list motels near the airport) or those 'Take One' paperback directories found in the lobbies of large chain hotels/motels - Holiday Inn, Marriott, Hilton, Ramada Inns, Hyatt, etc.
I tried not to stay at Holiday Inns; many were badly run with broken televisions, poorly-cleaned rooms, glacially slow and overpriced breakfast service, etc. Anytime I got screwed over by a Holiday Inn (and in those days, I was paying top rack rate), I'd steal a couple of towels. After a while, I had quite a collection. They were great for cleaning cars. I still have some. Whenever I would win a trophy at a car show and people would ask me the secret to getting such a shiny finish, I'd tell them, "I always use stolen Holiday Inn towels to polish my cars."
In those days, Ramada Inns were much better than anything Holiday. If I was lucky, I'd travel to a city that had a Hyatt or Marriott, which were top-of-the-heap.
Sometimes, my company's local salespeople would make reservations for me at a hotel they had used, usually an independent mom-and-pop place. I'm pretty sure that's how I ended up staying at the Magic Lamp Motel in Anaheim, California during my first trip to the Golden State in 1972. "Across the street from Disneyland," proclaimed the back of the postcard on Lileks' site. The problem is that the hotel was across from the back side of the Magic Kingdom, so it was quite a trek to get to Disney's front entrance.
There was a Denny's down the street from the Magic Lamp. My first experience at Denny's was dinner there one evening. It wasn't very good but I didn't die.
Speaking of Anaheim, we stayed at the Ana Lin Motel when we took our kids to Disneyland in 1982. The place was operated by a large East Asian family (Pakistanis? Indians?). They were fastidious about cleaning the rooms and keeping the old property in ship shape. When I was checking in, the proprietor said, "Poor dirty." What? "I am simply informing you, sir, what time the Jacuzzi opens this afternoon - poor dirty." Oh, 4:30. We tried it - clean and refreshing.
Honest folks, too. During our stay, my daughter left her favorite pillow behind. Six months later, I was in California for a business trip and stopped by the Ana Lin. They still had her pillow and cheerfully returned it. Sadly, the Ana Lin closed in the early 1990s.
By the late 1970s, a number of chains had sprung up and exploited Holiday Inn's many weaknesses. Between that and switching to AAA travel guide books as a source for good places to stay, traveling away from home became a less unpleasant experience. Nowadays, the Internet has made everything easy: Photos, online reviews, room descriptions, listings of amenities, super-hot discounted prices and the booking rooms online are just a mouse-click away.
Lileks has written, "Nostalgia for old motels, like most forms of nostalgia, is selective and dishonest. We like to imagine a pure world before the soulless hotel chains took over, a landscape of lovely neon, local charm, and individuality."
Then he pops the bubble of nostalgia with a qualifying pinprick: "A motel was only as good as the fellow who ran it. I've spent a lot of nights in cheap motels; I remember scratchy sheets, creaky beds, TVs that wobbled on their stand. Old soap. Nubby blankets. Pillows as thin as a small-town Sunday paper.
But. There's something to be said for these humble places. Not because they were better, but just because they were the norm. This is the way things used to look, and that's reason enough to pay attention."
I just read that Ikea plans to offer a chain of budget hotels throughout Europe. The rates will be cheap but you'll have to assemble your own bed.
Elsewhere on his site, James Lileks has set up a mini-tribute sight to hotel stationery.
It's getting harder to find these days. Four years ago, when we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in Palm Desert, my wife asked a young female desk clerk for some stationery and envelopes. The reply: "What's 'stationery'?" (posted 8/31/12, permalink)
Recuperation Gift: My friend and fellow plastics buddy, Dennis G., had knee surgery recently. All of us are now discovering that, as old age descends upon us, our parts are starting to wear out. And our warranties have expired.
I thought to myself, "I should give him some kind of get-well-soon gift but I don't want to send flowers because that seems kinda gay."
Someone in the floral biz suggested, "Well, why not give him a small plant instead?"
So I did:
It's a Plasticville HO scale structure and is about three inches tall. (posted 7/21/12, permalink)
America's Oldest Teenager ... Dick Clark, who never looked his age, has died at age 82 from a massive heart attack. He had suffered a debilitating stroke in 2004.
Clark found fame in 1956 when he took over as host of 'Bandstand', a local dance show in Philadelphia. He took it national in 1957 and renamed it 'American Bandstand'. I've written more about Bandstand here.
Dick also hosted ABC's 'New Year's Rockin' Eve' for many years, as well as several game shows. He was a very successful producer as well. He also had a stake in a chain of music-themed restaurants licensed under the names 'Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill'. My wife and I once dined at the one in Indianapolis.
There have been many jokes over the years about Dick Clark's relatively ageless appearance. The best one was a 1982 episode of 'Police Squad!' where Clark made a cameo appearance buying a jar of 'Secret Formula Youth Cream' from street snitch Johnny the Shoeshine Boy. Rest in peace. (posted 4/19/12, permalink)
Old Meat: I recently found an old Philadelphia area newspaper clipping from August, 1969. When I turned it over to see what was on the back, I found this ad:
The prices for meat were astoundingly low. Those were the days. (posted 5/13/11, permalink)
Old Friends: Recently, I was thumbing through a book and came across some information on old toys, including information on Manoil, a manufacturer of diecast toy vehicles. Memories came flooding back.
The first toy car I can remember was ... (more >>>)
In Control. James Lileks has previously complained about overly-complex remote controls: "Today's remotes have more buttons than a Prussian lancer's dress uniform! Why, in my day, remotes were the size of heirloom Bibles, and they had one button: on!"
I first saw a remote control in 1960 at the home of my friend Marty in Philadelphia. His dad was a well-to-do psychiatrist and the family always had the latest cars and gadgets.
Including an Admiral color television with a Son-R (sonar) remote control.
The handheld controller, with gold-tone finish and ivory buttons, could turn the television off or on, change any of the three available channels and adjust the volume to four different settings.
As creative, mischievous teenagers, we quickly found that a brass-finish, fabricated wire LP record album holder could, if the album separators were 'strummed' properly, create the sound necessary to change the channel and would override the signal from the Son-R.
We used this scientific discovery to torment Marty's younger sister whenever she had control of the remote.
"Mom! Tell them to stop strumming the record rack! They're driving me nuts!" (posted 3/10/11, permalink)
Sleeper Buses: I had never heard of them before but road vehicles with Pullman-style accommodations were cruising the nation's highways and byways in the 1930s.
Last month, I watched the 1939 movie 'Babes In Arms', starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In one scene, Judy boards a double-decker sleeper bus to travel from Long Island to Schenectady, NY.
She has just broken up with Mickey and he chases after the bus as it pulls away as Judy wipes her tears away. Later, she can be seen unpacking in her private compartment.
The trip must have been a long one in those pre-freeway days, the bus can be seen traveling city streets at night. There were few limited access highways and most were less than 30 miles long.
Developed in the late 1920s, the Pickwick Nite Coach bus was semi-streamlined and offered 28 air-cushioned chairs by day and 28 berths by night. Hot meals prepared and served on board. There were two lavatories. These buses were staffed by a crew of three (driver, steward and porter). They ran over Pickwick-Greyhound and affiliated lines.
In the end, these buses failed to compete with rail service and disappeared. (posted 1/17/11, permalink)
Silent Souvenirs: My wife has three decorative wood boxes, dating back to the 1950s. Her parents had them, possibly gifts from an aunt. We don't know the story behind these items; there's no one alive left to ask.
The large box is about 14x9x6 inches high. The smaller boxes measure 6x3x2 inches in height.
The two smaller boxes are decorated and labeled. The one with a flower says 'Mother'; the one with geese is marked 'Dad's Trinkets'. The wood is soft, possibly pine, but the boxes are well-crafted - the large one has dovetail joints. All are nicely stained and finished.
The two small boxes have 'Bushkill Falls Lodge, Bushkill Falls, PA' on the front, indicating that they were purchased at the lodge's gift shop.
Sometimes called the "Niagara of Pennsylvania", Bushkill Falls is an attraction in the Pocono Mountains resort area. This unique series of eight waterfalls is accessible through a network of hiking trails and bridges which afford views of the falls and surrounding forest.
Charles E. Peters first opened Bushkill Falls to the public in 1904, with a single path and a swinging bridge over the head of the main falls. Bushkill Falls is still owned by the Peters family. The Bushkill Falls Lodge is long gone.
Once upon a time, souvenirs were made in America. Wood boxes, bowls and carved statues were found in gift shops across the nation. Many of these items were made by local craftsman.
Today, too many souvenirs are injection-molded in China by the ton, then "individualized" for a particular tourist attraction by hot-stamping something on a premolded flat area.
In Oregon, you can still find local wood crafts and souvenirs made of Myrtlewood, mostly along the Oregon coast. Some of the items are very well-made but reasonably-priced. Meanwhile, most of the stuff at Disney parks is made in Shenzhen or Dongguan, where the workers have a hard time pronouncing 'Mickey Mouse'. (posted 1/12/11, permalink)
Star Wars Episode II - Attack Of The Cribs: The Consumer Product Safety Commission has outlawed drop-side baby cribs after the deaths of more than 30 infants and toddlers in past decade.
As a child, I almost died in a drop-side wooden crib. I don't remember the event but the story is part of our family lore. At 15 months, I had figured out how to climb out of my crib. This was distressing to my mother and grandmother who decided to solve the problem by installing chicken wire on top. On my next escape attempt, I managed to get my neck caught between the chicken wire and the crib. I was choking to death when I was discovered and rescued.
I was then given a regular bed and a Stern Lecture.
The same crib was used by my brother - sans chicken wire. Later, my parents dragged it out to use as a guest crib for my son but, on his second visit, he jumped up and down vigorously and kicked out the side rail uprights, destroying the crib.
"The Force is strong in that one," said I. (posted 12/15/10, permalink)
The Hardware & Fastener Museum: Like many other guys my age, I have enough assorted screws, bolts, nuts, washers, etc. in various jars, cans and Zip-Loc bags to last me for the rest of my life. And my children's lives too.
Last week, I bent a small wood screw. I went to my museum in the garage, grabbed a couple of appropriate jars, brought 'em inside and dumped the contents on newspaper. Rooted around until I found a match. Then I veed-up the paper and poured everything back into the jars.
It took me about 20 minutes - less time that it would take to drive to town and back. No gas, nothing to buy and no sales tax to be paid. Recycle, reuse - why I'm greener than a dead Al Gore floating face down in an algae farm. And my museum still looks full - the purloined wood screw will not be missed by future museum visitors.
Once in a while, I find a bolt or nut in my driveway. I feel compelled to save it just in case it fell off one of our cars. More than likely it came off the frame of a UPS delivery truck. Or fell from a 747. I have Mystery Driveway Fasteners dating back to the 1960s in my museum. Some of the earlier ones might have come from a DC-6 or Lockheed Electra. Or maybe Carmen Electra.
I also tend to save shipping fasteners from appliances and other large items. You never know when you might need them for "something."
Many sci-fi writers have speculated that the Egyptians couldn't have constructed the pyramids without help from space aliens or time travelers. Maybe some of those visitors simply lost some things - perhaps hardware, force-field devices and/or fasteners falling out of the pockets of their silver lamé jumpsuits.
Then an Egyptian picked them up, put them in a jar (probably an earthen one with lots of hieroglyphics) and used them later to leverage big blocks and fasten them together. And ... Voilà! Suddenly, there's a Grand Opening Celebration at the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Proving that saving things in jars is a good idea.
Even though my needs for hardware and tools are much less now that I'm older, that doesn't stop me from visiting hardware stores and looking at the merchandise. My dad used to do that too. He sought them out when he traveled, so I guess there's some kind of genetic component at work.
In Corvallis Oregon, there is a small hardware store called Robnett's. Typical old-time joint - in business since 1893 and still owned by the founding family. When I lived there, I visited it often and purchased quite a bit. Had an account: "Buy whatcha need and sign for it. We'll send ya a bill at the end of the month." I loved it - bring no money; get screws with just my signature.
Robnett's is staffed by grizzly old guys who know everything. And where everything is. Fasteners are sold in bulk, too - grab a handful and put it on the scale. None of this pansy, prepackaged stuff displayed on trendy point-of-purchase fixtures. No hang-carded merchandise either.
Need two eight-inch carriage bolts? No problem. They're in a pull-out, zinc-lined wood drawer in the far side aisle near the bottom. Pick out what you need and weigh it. Mark it with that chewed-up pencil you keep in your pocket. Or behind your ear. You don't have to purchase a shrink-wrapped nine-pack. Buy exactly what you require.
Visiting the place is like stepping back in time. I'll probably stop by the next time I'm in town. Not as a mere customer but rather, as a fellow museum curator. (posted 12/15/10, permalink)
Just One Fin: If a vehicle has the satellite radio option, BMW, Lexus and other cars have a an odd little fin installed just above the back window. I don't like the look of it; it's one of the reasons I ordered my LS 460 without the satellite package.
The television program aired in 1951 and '52 and featured a one-off two-seater custom roadster, probably a fiberglass California creation like a Glasspar. The low-slung two-seater had central fin running down the center of the back deck.
Or maybe I'd like a bigger fin, like the one on the Checker Aerobus I spotted a few years back. (posted 12/14/10, permalink)
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copyright 2010-13 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.
Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.