It’s been brought to my attention lately by my children, and by other young people in my life, that I say “Excuse me?” or “I’m so sorry, but I didn’t catch that,” and “What?” as much as I say, “Hi!” or “I’ll have a Chardonnay.”
I have noticed that I pump up the volume to ear-splitting levels when listening to music in my car or on my phone. And my television is turned up to number 25 or more. (Uh – like the movies! I explain to other people in the room who question the volume.)
And that little voice in one ear that was urging me to get my hearing tested (I believe the last time I had a hearing test was 1980-something), went right out the other.
But apparently poo-pooing a potential compromise in hearing is not unusual. Hearing loss is among the most untreated of the age-related disabilities. It seems that for us 50-somethings, as long we can hear the human voices around us, we tend to peg any auditory decline as not in our ears, but in the soft-talkers among us and the increasingly noisy world that we live in.
But, hear ye, my skeptics – I finally heard you. I tested the ears. And I’m normal. I guess I just like loud.
I found this cool hearing test offered by The National Hearing Test. May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, so the test is free (it costs only $8 regularly). It’s done over the phone (landline only) – call 866-223-7575 – and it takes about 20 minutes. You put one ear at a time to the phone, and punch in the numbers recited by a recorded voice amid static, which rapidly increases throughout the test. At completion, you are told whether or not your hearing in each ear is in the “normal range.”
And for those of you who may know someone like me, where broaching the subject of hearing fell on deaf ears, there’s a nifty little offering from The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in New York and Florida. Check out Soundgram. You record a message to your loved one, and CHC will notify them that there is a message waiting for them, along with an offer for a free hearing screening at one of their locations. Your recorded message will be played for them at their free screening.
So listen up; take heed. Take the test. Send a Soundgram. And like me, either assure yourself that frequently saying, “What?,” means that you’re annoying (or as my son said when I shouted my test results, “Then maybe you have ADD?”), not hearing-impaired, or, if the test suggests your hearing is not in the normal range, go to an audiologist for further testing and treatment.
Studies show that ignoring hearing loss can lead to Dementia and Alzheimer’s – why rush those? There’s sophisticated technology out there for the taking – for free – to ease concerns, to diagnose hearing impairment and to treat accordingly.
… expect snafus!
The “fresh look” we promised upon return after our week-long hiatus may not be evident at first glance.
That’s because the change is behind the scenes. Julie is learning the technical and administrative end of the blog, and starting today (on the 18-month anniversary of The Write Side of 50), she’ll be running the back end now, while I extend my hiatus to pursue other ventures.
And like anything new, there’s a learning curve. (And lots of laughs.)
So if you get an e-mail from us that makes no sense – like yesterday’s inadvertent Happy Memorial Day, a week early – or if a blog is posted, and then it disappears (or if the whole blog disappears), laugh with us! And stay tuned.
You may notice a dangling participle, an errant ellipsis, or (no!) a misplaced em-dash. There may be a blank space where the headline should be. But no doubt, with each accidental click (Uh-Oh – I hit publish!) or slip of a finger, as with anything that is in transition, the blog that was built over the last year and a half may very well, through brilliant mistakes, deconstruct and manifest into something better.
And know that I’m still here for my friend, Jule – just a martini, a text, a phone call, or an accidental click away.
To Our Readers:
Without any conscious intent on our part, and with the intrepid adaptability that is necessary in the face of the unexpected slings and arrows that life in our 50s is rife with, we had to allow the blog to morph into a new direction yesterday.
We have been talking for some time now about whether or not we should shutter the blog. Not because we don’t love it – we do. It is our baby, our artistic release, and a ton of fun. No, we were thinking of shuttering because our schedules and obligations and responsibilities are endless. And yesterday, without warning, they all caught up with both of us.
We all know that this journey through middle age is unlike previous journeys. It seems as if, all of a sudden, we go from our crazy, partying 20s to careers, marriage and kids. Then there is the 10-year respite – when children leave home, and we have to re-define ourselves. Our generation has managed to (at least in our minds) extend each stage of our lifespan – 27 is the new 17, 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40! Until now.
How could we project what it would be like to have to worry about, take care of (and sometimes bury) our parents? We don’t want to retire – but can we if we wanted to? Is there enough to live on? Loss and change can be daily, and decisions are often of the momentous kind.
Plus, we are being reminded every day that our days are shorter. It’s daunting.
So all that stuff, plus our demanding full-time jobs, took over yesterday. Neither one of us had a moment to get the blog up and out. This was a first. We’ve published 412 posts in over a years’ time. And have not missed a day.
But we have 105 possible posts in the queue, from us, and our contributors.
So we’ve decided to do the lemonade-out-of-lemons thing. The blog is here to stay, but it will be a little different. It may not always be six days a week. If our responsibilities pull us in all directions, simultaneously, the blog may be dark for a day.
One last thing. Without a doubt, this blog is the sum of its parts, and we thank each and every person who has contributed. And a special nod to Bob and Frank, who were a part of it on November 19, 2012, when we launched.
And that’s the sweet spot in all of this – yesterday’s date. We realized today, that it was the perfect day to change course. It was March 19 – our 16-month anniversary.
The Soil Safe Web site explains the “beauty” of what they contribute to the world. They specialize
in the recycling of soils contaminated with a variety of petroleum products and heavy metals. Since our founding, Soil Safe has processed over 18.5 million tons of contaminated soil from over 40,000 successful remediation and construction projects.
While I wish I had the time to investigate whether that 18.5 millions tons of contaminated soil has been as successfully remediated as Soil Safe claims, it seems their boasts are sufficient for New Jersey. The state intends to use their dumping trucks to lay some toxic waste in the vicinity of the Rahway River in North Jersey. This particular site is a little wildlife haven for diamondback terrapin, yellow-crowned night herons, and bald eagles, but it appears it shall be thrown under the wheels of the trucks because there are big bucks to be made. When weighing billions of dollars against the health and safety of the citizens of New Jersey, and their environs, money is talking way louder.
These are the facts according to The Times:
1. Soil Safe will dump enough petroleum-contaminated soils to create a 29-feet-high mound of garbage in North Jersey between Staten Island and the Arthur Kill. (I am pretty sure this area may already be an environmentally-polluted area, or is very proximate to another landfill dumping site. Could the unsaid perverse reasoning of it all be that it really doesn’t matter, given what’s already in the ground around there?)
2. Since the plan was first floated, back in 2010, to as recently as last year, various experts within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection have verbalized the fact that dumping this much contaminated soil could have severe consequences on the environment. One grave concern would be a flood. In such circumstances, that mound filled with soil laced with oil could collapse into the water.
But what’s a little pollution in the riverbed? The agency, whose goal is to protect the environment, gave conditional approval for Soil Safe to proceed.
The Times made a connection with the workings of New Jersey politics. It looks like profits are to be made, either though direct distributions to the pocketbooks of certain well-connected people, or to the campaign coffers of others.
For example, Soil Safe is a client of Bob Smith, duly elected state senator of the 17th Legislative District, Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, and a lawyer in the firm of Bob Smith & Associates. The Times stated that Senator Smith “represented Soil Safe at a hearing before an elected county board.” That means the chairman of the state Senate’s committee that oversees the environment got paid for representing a company that deals with materials that contaminate the environment. Not sure what happened to conflict of interest concerns.
At the moment, Soil Safe pays the three landowners of the future dumping site rent of $75K a month. It is unclear to me what they could possibly be renting. Are they paying “rent” for the right to be guaranteed the contract to dump? But this is a paltry sum because “if the deal goes through, (Soil Safe) promises the owners many millions of dollars in tipping fees.”
What are tipping fees? Another way of saying, “pay-off”? Or, “thank-you”?
There are other politicians that are benefiting from a connection with Soil Safe. The State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney is logistically close, being that he serves out of Gloucester County, and Soil Safe runs operations out of the same county. Mr. Sweeney and the county both seem to have gotten a little richer from the generosity of Soil Safe.
It also appears that Governor Christie has a hand in the pie, if not exactly directly, through the throwing of political favors. But that’s a whole different story on a different day.
In Naples, it is said the Camorra controls the garbage, and makes the money. In New Jersey, we anoint our duly elected officials to be our Camorra.
Anyone who grew up during the 1960s remembers “duck and cover.” At an alert, crawl under your desk and put your arms over your head, and hope the nuclear bomb lobbed by “the Russians,” as we called what was once the Soviet Union, would miss and hit elsewhere.
There was a time my boomer friends and I laughed at that memory. Today, watching the 24-hour coverage of the Ukraine crisis, we are not laughing. We’re back to fearing the Russians again.
Those of us who study history, or in my case is married to someone who does, see a strong parallel between Vladimir Putin sending Russian troops into Crimea to “protect” the ethnic Russians there, with Adolph Hitler sending German troops into the nascent nation of Czechoslovakia to protect the ethnic Germans in 1938.
You might remember what happened a year later when Hitler’s troops went from “protecting” to invading, this time Poland.
In today’s world, we have instant and constant bombardment. You can watch an invasion as it happens, not wait as our parents did to read about it in the newspapers. There are tweets, blogs and Facebook posts.
I find it overwhelming on a normal day, and these are not normal times.
Back in the 1960s, I did not understand the implications of what we were doing when we went through the “civil defense” drills and hid under our desks. But there was a real fear in the adult world the “Russians” would lob missiles at major cities, as the Cuban missile crisis showed.
My parents and their generation were finally feeling some economic security after growing up with immigrant parents trying to “make it” in the new world. They feared another world war, only this time with nuclear bombs.
“The living will envy the dead,” the Communist USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev supposedly said, perhaps mocking as he quoted from Revelations in the Bible.
Boomers, until recently, have had it easy. We grew up comfortable, and took it for granted we’d go to college and live better lives than our parents because that is what they wanted. The USSR disappeared. The US “won.” We spent our money, and buoyed the economy.
We’re older now, and times have changed.
Wages are stagnant, unemployment is high (particularly for us over 50), and those who can’t afford to retire keep working. There is fear of another economic recession. Now, like our parents, we might fear a nuclear war with the Russians.
Perhaps we can ignore the crises in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan (unless we have a personal connection, of course.) But for me and perhaps you, Ukraine puts us face to face with the Russians again, the “Evil Empire.” At a time of economic instability, that only heightens the tension.
We’re beyond “duck and cover.”
Remember, it wasn’t Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that ended the Great Depression, it was World War II. If Ukraine escalates, that economic “lift” could happen again.
We boomers won’t pay that price. My nephew and his generation will.
I have long held that Baby Boomers are defined by the fact that they were all in school when President Kennedy was killed. And just a few months later, all Baby Boomers were witnesses to the British music invasion that began 50 years ago with the appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was Friday, February 7, 1964, when Pan Am flight 101 arrived from Heathrow Airport carrying The Beatles. The newly-renamed Kennedy Airport was the scene, as hundreds of screaming fans turned out to see the four long-haired musicians from Liverpool. The Beatles gave a press conference at which their long hair was a constant topic for questions.
“When’s the last time you had a haircut?” a reporter yelled.
“I had one yesterday,” George replied.
A little later that day, thousands flocked to the Plaza Hotel in New York, where The Beatles were staying. Meanwhile, WINS, WMCA and WABC went wall-to-wall Beatles as John, Paul, George and Ringo called in to the various New York disk jockeys. Chief among these was Murray the K, who managed to talk himself into the Beatles suite for a live broadcast. Thereafter, Murray liked to call himself the 5th Beatle.
The Beatles hysteria continued all weekend with its climax Sunday night on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s hard to describe the Ed Sullivan Show to people who never saw it. I suppose it followed the vaudeville model of something for everyone. And so it was not unusual for Ed to introduce an opera singer, followed by a comedian, followed by a rock group followed, by a troupe of acrobats, jugglers or trained animals.
Anyway, on the evening of February 9, 1964, everyone knew that the Beatles were making their U.S. debut, and the audience was filled with screaming teens. The Sullivan show was the hottest ticket in town that night. I remember seeing that Walter Cronkite’s daughter was in the audience. Those of us without CBS connections had to make due watching on television.
Ed was a smart showman, who knew he had pulled off a coup in booking the Beatles. He was known as, “Old Stoneface,” because he rarely smiled on his show. But Ed was all smiles that night. When he said, “Here they are – the Beatles,” the screams from the audience surely pinned the needle on the studio sound meter, and Ed put his hands over his ears. The Beatles themselves were barely audible over the noise. This would be the norm for the next two years every time the group performed.
During the course of their performance, the CBS staff put up identifications (as if we needed them) of the four Beatles under close-ups of each one. That included a second line under John Lennon’s name that said, “Sorry girls, he’s married.”
I remember that the Beatles actually appeared on the Sullivan show three weeks in a row (the third performance was on tape). In between, they appeared at Carnegie Hall and in Washington D.C. – Beatlemania in the U.S. was under way.
That summer, their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” was released, and the same screams that always followed the Fab Four were heard in movie theaters throughout the country.
Beatlemania was one of the hallmarks of the youth of Baby Boomers. And now it’s 50 years in the past. Can you believe it?
First Lady Michelle Obama turns 50 today. Front and center in today’s New York Times is a feature about how she’s “finding her own path.” But what impressed me most about this piece is what reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, and her editor, chose as the lede. Because what it put front and center, and told us at the top, is that Ms. Obama is a girlfriend.
She has perfected a mean forehand, is working on her yoga poses, dishes with girlfriends over brussels sprouts and dirty martinis (one olive) at the Mediterranean hotspot Zaytinya, pushes her two daughters to play two sports — one of her choosing and one of theirs — and said this week that the wonders of modern dermatology, like Botox, are in the realm of possibility for her.
While I’m already a fan of hers (even more so, since I’ve learned, like me, she “dishes” over dirty martinis), I’m giving her an extra nod because she’s in touch with her female-friendship side – crucial for aging well. Smart women know this.
And while this is not new news, and I realize Julie and I trumpet incessantly about how much we love, and need, our girlfriends, its value is always worth noting. Let this piece on our first lady nudge all women in middle age to put front and center – along with keeping ourselves fit, eating right, staying mentally engaged, nurturing our families, saving the planet, doing for those less fortunate – time with our gal pals.
So Happy Birthday, Ms. Obama. (Can I call you Michelle?)
“Don’t break bad, now,” the 30-something pharmacist at my local Walgreens said to me after handing me a 12-dose box of Claritin-D. He had determined, after a mini-background check, that I was not a meth cooker.
All this ado, according to said pharmacist, is a reaction to the popularity and the press surrounding the AMC television series, “Breaking Bad,” about a down-on-all-luck chemistry teacher who crosses the line to methamphetamine (meth) kingpin.
It’s because of the D-part in Claritin-D, which stands for psuedoephedrine, a component of methamphetamine, which, when broken down, cooked, and then snorted or smoked (or when downing a whole 12-dose box of Claritin-D at once), produces a brain-stimulating, euphoric rush that will probably help you forget that you have a runny nose.
So Claritin-D, and all decongestants with psuedoephedrine are no longer over-the-counter, and are illegal to buy if you are under 18, or if you are over 18, and do not have a valid drivers license.
This system required me to take a card from the shelf, hand it over to the pharmacist behind the counter, and wait for the rundown on my background before I was handed the goods.
Claritin has been a newsmaker before. It wasn’t that long ago – 2002 – that Claritin won approval to be sold over the counter without a prescription. The decided culprit then was not an ingredient (no psuedoephedrine then, just loratadine), but instead, a cocktail of questionable conduct – the lengthy and arcane F.D.A. approval-process, the effectiveness and the cost of the newly-available Claritin, and the purported greed of Schering-Plough- the pharmaceutical company that developed Claritin.
So I’m all for consumer safety; awareness. We all need to be watchdogs. But my encounter with this latest keep-the-goods-from-the-bad-guys, and keep-the-public-safe tactic seems a bit short-sighted, certainly not foolproof, and just plain silly. I can confirm the pharmacy’s findings that I am not a meth cooker. But how do they know, given that I wasn’t buying Claritin-D for myself, but picking it up for someone else (the pharmacist didn’t ask), that I’m not a mule? Or a huckleberry.