… that it’s dark in the morning when we get up, and it’s dark late afternoon as we head home. Reading on the beach is months away. So we’re tucking away our summer-shades header, and raising our winter (eye) glasses to honor the coming solstice and a good read, inside, by the fire.
Not one to ruffle feathers when faced with an impasse, I often defer. Whether it be a dispute that needs settling, a step-aside when navigating a pedestrian-heavy sidewalk, or where to go for dinner — I yield to the other guy.
So when I first approached an all-way stop sign that was installed at a tricky three-way suburban intersection that I use almost daily, I imagined that I could be stuck there indefinitely as I allowed car after car after car to take the expected “me-first!” approach. There’s nothing telling the driver what to do after the stop. There are no instructions; no green light. Nothing but a sanguine reliance on the credo that we all learned in kindergarten: take turns.
It could easily serve as a place to take it to the street — put your bully on. There could be a competing hot-rod revving of engines. Or an in-your-grill inching across the white line into the middle of the intersection to muscle into first place. Instead I’m often a partner in a rhythmic dance of nods to go, and smiles to thank. It has become a crossroad of civility in this seemingly less than civil, fast-forward, “get-out-of-my-way!”detached world, where many people don’t like to look up anymore, much less stop what they’re doing.
I’ve yet to see a mess-up. No middle fingers, honking horns, or near-misses. There have been times when two of us have approached at the same time. (The law states that the car that gets to the stop sign first, regardless of what direction it is going, has the right of way.) When I see it coming, I approach slowly, and prepare to be usurped, or to imply with a smile and a nod — “you first.” More often than not, though, I get an implied (or a wave out the window) “no, please — you first.” A sense of camaraderie swells within; a communal let’s-not-take-this-moment-to-the-gutter! We all can get along.
So I have found my own little corner of courtesy in a most unlikely place — a three-way intersection, where we are all veiled in steel and glass and can easily put our feet down, and be pushy — anonymously. Instead, it’s become a place to slow down, take pause, smile, nod, and be magnanimous; cordial. A chance to defer to the other guy. Perhaps, when we are not told what to do, we want to do the right thing.
Most primary care physicians, as a routine part of a well visit, will ask about your drinking habits. Having spent more time than usual this past year in doctors offices, the dialogue, always with the word “moderately,” and my answer, always the same, came up a half dozen times:
“Do you drink alcohol?”
“Three or four drinks per week.”
“Hmm. Uh — yes, moderately.”
Truth is, I’m a liar. I’ve started drinking wine at home. Every day. Since I’m dedicated to maintaining good health and my well-being, I know that comes with being happy. So if happiness includes opening a bottle of wine to close down the day’s toil (and every day has some toil), I will pop that cork.
I haven’t always enjoyed a daily dose of wine. I’m a social drinker. I just about salivate my way towards that first sip and, just as mouth-watering, is the anticipation of sharing it with other people. I rarely have a drink before I go out for the evening. But I’m more mature now, and my drinking has fully-developed. I drink gloriously. Like a European.
I’ve come to enjoy and look forward to grabbing the bottle by the neck before I open it up to let it breathe. (I confess that I can’t tell the difference between wine that sits for a bit to “breathe,” or wine that I’ve pulled the broken cork out with my teeth and sucked a first sip right out of the bottle.)
Regardless, once that bottle is untethered, all of the senses start to revel. The smell of an inky, purple-y Malbec, or a freezer-chilled, buttery Chardonnay soothes from the nose down. Unlike that first sip of vodka, which usually makes me quiver into a hoot (“Woo!”), wine whispers its way down my throat, turns up the corners of my mouth, and closes my eyes. It makes the end of the day celebratory; well-lived. Deserved.
Since I’m not a fan of feeling groggy at night, or heavy-headed the morning after, one glass usually suffices when I’m not sharing. I use the 1940s wheat-etched glasses that my Irish mom (who doesn’t drink a lick), recently gave to me. They’re just a touch of glass; delicate. And I can fill them just below the brim (once) — a pour that is improper (and probably against the law) outside of the home.
So perhaps I will fess up at the next visit to the doctor: Yes, I drink alcohol. Moderately. Every day. I drink wine every day. But usually just one glass. I moderately-pour usually-one glass of wine into a moderately-sized vintage glass. Every day.
Among the fondest memories of we over-50s is penny candy. It amazes my children when I tell them that when I was a kid, you could actually buy something with a penny. In fact, you could often get two of something for a penny — like Bazooka Bubble Gum. In this age of packaged candy that costs a dollar or more, it is truly remarkable that there was a time when we could cash in an empty bottle, and use the two-cent deposit to buy candy!
And just when my children are telling me that the only use for a penny today is to pay sales tax, I blow their minds when I tell them that back when I was a kid, there was no sales tax. People just paid the listed price. Those pennies were just for candy.
Well recently I was travelling on I-95 in Connecticut and I passed a sign that advertized a museum of PEZ. Now PEZ is one of those special baby-boomer-era treats like penny candy. For the uninitiated, PEZ is a small brick-shaped candy that comes in several flavors. It started out In Austria in 1927 as a mint for people who wanted to quit smoking. In fact, the word PEZ comes from the German word “pfefferminz” meaning “peppermint.” The famous PEZ dispenser was designed to look like a cigarette lighter.
However, PEZ did not come to America until the 1950s. So we were the first generation of children to experience it, and the novelty of the now-iconic plastic dispenser. I think that it was certainly the dispenser that made PEZ special. They made hundreds of different dispensers with many famous characters on them. Collecting PEZ dispensers is still widespread enough that collectors gather annually for conventions.
At the PEZ Museum in Orange, Connecticut they have displays of the many ingenious dispensers that the company has made over the years. My favorites are the dispensers with the heads of presidents of the United States. But there are few licensed characters in the world from Mickey Mouse to Elvis Presley who have not had their heads on a PEZ dispenser.
In addition to the traditional cigarette shaped dispenser, PEZ also marketed guns as dispensers. This allowed kids to shoot candy into the mouths of their friends.
The PEZ museum is actually located at the plant where PEZ candy is made (the dispensers come from China). So if you go on a weekday, you can watch them make thousands of little PEZ bricks in scores of flavors. And of course, you can buy PEZ. Here, the self-guided tour does not just exit through the gift shop, it is integrated into the gift shop. But where else can you find a Thomas the Tank Engine or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles PEZ dispenser?
PEZ and penny candy are among the great treats of a baby boomer childhood. Sadly, only PEZ is still with us. The types of candy that a penny used to buy, if you can still find them, are now a specialty nostalgia item. But even at the current inflated price, a licorice pipe is a treat that I will want to share with my grandson. And I can amaze him with tales of the wondrous things a penny used to buy for a kid.
One thing about being over 50 is that you have made some choices in your life that have brought you to where you are. You have chosen where to live, how to make a living, who your friends are, who your significant other is, whether to have children with that significant other. Each of those choices represents a branch in your path, a fork in the road. And if you’re like most people, you’ve made some good choices and some bad choices in the last 50 years.
So here you are, on the right side of 50 and it’s only natural to look back and wonder, what if? That is the theme of a show currently playing on Broadway called “If/Then.” It stars Idina Menzel and was written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. The show is loosely based on a 1998 film called “Sliding Doors,” which starred Gwyneth Paltrow. The show explores the ramifications of one decision the main character makes. We follow the character down both paths to see the differences depending on whether she leaves a park with one friend or another. It’s quite a cerebral concept for a Broadway musical and while the show has not been a complete flop, it has not been a hit either. It was shut out at the Tonys.
Anyway, I found the idea intriguing to ponder. Every time we come to a fork in the road we alter our life trajectory slightly. That fact was never so poignant as when we read the stories of the 9/11 victims and survivors. In so many cases, seemingly minor decisions made the difference between life and death. Many people would call this fate. But that’s really a cop-out. It implies we have no control over our destiny, when in fact our decisions determine our fate, even if those decisions are made without knowledge of the consequences.
In the course of a 50-plus-year life, the number of decisions is staggering. But our life is the sum of all these choices. I think that just about everyone would like a do-over on some of those decisions. Of course, if you only live once, you’re out of luck. For the mathematically-minded, the formula is: IF YOLO THEN SOL.
But if you believe in reincarnation this is not such a big deal for you. There is one factor tempering the destructive effect of bad decisions. Sometimes two paths can lead to the same place. Often we take the long way around in life. How often do we hear about childhood sweethearts who go their separate ways only to be reunited after their spouses die. There are many paths to each destination so in many cases you can get there from here. That’s why most of us can agree with the sentiment of the Paul Anka song: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” I call that the definition of a good life.
I read an article that said Vitamin D levels below 50 are a predictor for Alzheimer’s:
The study, published online in the journal Neurology, controlled for many dementia risk factors — including age, education, sex, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, diabetes and hypertension. It found that compared with those who had vitamin D levels of 50 or more nanomoles per liter, those with levels of 25 to 50 had a 53 percent increased risk for all-cause dementia and a 69 percent increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. People with readings of 25 or less were more than twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
I immediately began to worry, convinced I had insufficient Vitamin D consumption. I logged on to my doctor’s office website and based on the numbers from my physical in April, I decided I needed to up the ante. I was heading in the direction of increased risk. The question was what is the optimal and safe level of Vitamin D intake and how to get it?
Online sources give conflicting information. Mercola.com claims that most adults need about 8000 units of Vitamin D a day, The Mayo Clinic, and The National Institutes of Health weighed in with a daily dose of of 600 units, and the Vitamin D Council put the recommended daily allowance at 5000 units, but noted the upper safe limit is 10,000 units. So it seems one is on one’s own when deciding how much Vitamin D to imbibe on a daily basis because taking too much (like 40,000 units per day) can lead to Vitamin D toxicity.
Anyway, there was consensus that the best way to get Vitamin D was to expose your bare skin directly to the sun to absorb beneficial UVB rays, while at the same time avoiding UVA rays, the source of wrinkled skin and cell malfunction. To do this you need to aim your body into the sun for a short period of time “when the sun is above an angle of about 50° from the horizon.”. Geez Louise, but I think this is between the hours of 11:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon in the summer if you live in the northern hemisphere.
In addition, skin type definitely needs to be factored in. The lighter the skin the less roasting time required. The Vitamin D Council’s advice is that all you need is enough time for your skin to turn pink. Perhaps you should think that you are cooking a rare burger for lunch.
You don’t need to tan or to burn your skin in order to get the vitamin D you need. Exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day. In fact, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink. You make the most vitamin D when you expose a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms..
In other words if you cover your face and arms with sunscreen, but keep torso exposed for about 15 minutes around noon, you might perfect walking the fine line between not too much sun to get skin cancer, but enough to ward off dementia caused by Vitamin D deficiency.
Meanwhile amidst all this Vitamin D research, (and believe me there is alot more out there when you start trying to make sense of the litany of benefits that Vitamin D is supposed to provide), I rechecked my test results. It seems that my Vitamin D was measured in nanograms per milliliter, not nanomoles. Measured in nanograms, Vitamin D levels should fall between 30 to 74 which is the equivalent of 74 to 184 nanomoles per milliliter). With the conversion factored in, I think I may be skirting Vitamin D dementia at the moment, but who knows about the other risk factors that lurk in the new world of the right side of 60.