Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Childhood 2.0

The writer Morgan Jerkins recently posed this question via Twitter: What was a part of your childhood that you now recognize was a privilege to have or experience? Essentially, what experiences are today’s kids never going to know.

You could answer the question with things such as 8-track tapes, rotary dial telephones, VHS tapes and dial-up modems, but most respondents were more nostalgic for experiences rather than things. And the experiences fell into four broad categories: taking risks, family time, reading books and a screen-free existence.

For risks, people cited being able to ride a bike all over the neighborhood and playing outside all day. I know that I left the house on Saturday morning and played with friends until it was time for dinner. We were free range kids and there was no inkling that play dates were in the future. Helicopter parenting has definitely changed child rearing and the lack of independence is most likely the source of considerable anxiety for today’s youth.

When it comes to family time, respondents talked about grandparents that were close or living under the same roof. You heard the family stories and lore directly from the source and mom and dad were not so harried with work that they did not have time to interact with us. The stress of the modern world and the likelihood that relatives are far away has greatly reduced time kids get with family.

Reading was a mainstay activity growing up. It started with Dick and Jane and then moved on to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but the point is that we were readers. We could find entertainment in a world of books with stories that peaked our imagination. Now, 27% of 17-year-olds say they never or hardly ever read for pleasure.

Which segues perfectly with the reason they are not reading books. We had a screen-free childhood. No social media pressures, no smart phones, no tablets. We did watch TV but we also played Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, and a whole bunch of goofy spelling games (Perquackey anyone?). Compared with today’s penchant for being online all the time, we spent much more time creating our own entertainment and it did not involve any electronic devices (unless your want to count a Texas Instrument calculator that we thought was some amazing invention, right up there with the transistor radio!).

The point of this exercise is not to denigrate the way kids are growing up now. Every generation must feel nostalgia for the way they grew up and today’s kids may wax poetic about their childhood in another 30 years (when people are flying around in personal autonomous airplanes operated by Amazon). So it goes.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Everything Is Something

Have you noticed a strange red mark on the top of your foot? Do you think you’re seeing floaters on your eyeball more often? Do you feel lower back pain only hours after getting up in the morning, and you haven’t done anything physical? Does one of your back molars hurt when you chew on that side? Your knee joints ache? Your neck hurts? Numbness in your shoulder?

Congratulations! You’re aging. The thing is, mentally I’ve begun to think that everything is something. And worse, that the something is going to kill me. Experts like to say that one of the challenges of growing older is knowing which pains we need to pay attention to and which ones we can ignore.

I’m going with the contrarian tack. I’m thinking that any one of these pains is going to kill me and as a result I feel more sanguine about the whole aging mess. It feels a little bit the zebra trying to outrun the lion and after exhausting itself it just gives up and goes down. Well, maybe that’s not the best metaphor. I don’t expect to be torn apart by a predator cat, but I know I’m going down some day and it’s totally impossible to predict which pain or bizarre symptom is going to mark the beginning of the end.

I’m not going to blithely ignore serious ailments. Even zebras would go to the doctor for routine ailments if there was a veterinarian around out on the savanna. It would be foolhardy to ignore some of the more obvious signs of cancers or dementia and I’m certainly not advocating willful ignorance. The reality for all of us is that something that starts out small is going to be the thing and there’s not much we can do to alter that. We can be watchful, exercise, eat as well as we can and live life to the fullest. And isn’t getting the most joy out of life while you can the best revenge? I know…tell that to the zebra.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Perpetual Buffet

What some might call the ideal retirement others can only imagine the horrors of a perpetual buffet line.

A startup company in New York, Storylines, is selling cabins on a 584-foot luxury cruise ship to retirees who want to ply the oceans. There are only 302 cabins so you’ll have to act fast. Not.

For someone like me who considers being trapped on a cruise ship to be a complete and total nightmare, this all seems like a terrible idea. But I have no doubt it will be a success.

Cruise ship condominium owners may rent out their cabins much like the Airbnb model in order to defray monthly fees that range from $4,770 to $9,600. Yes, you read that right. The condo cabins start at $225,000 for purchase and the monthly fees are on top of that initial purchase price. One can only imagine that it’s the cost of 24 hour buffet service that’s pushing the monthly fees into stratospheric levels. Storylines officials say that the fees cover alcohol, housekeeping and other amenities.

Hopefully the “other amenities” include a ship’s doctor and medical staff. Somehow I can’t get the mental picture of a floating germ factory out of my head. It seems like at least once or twice a year there’s a cruise ship health disaster in the news. You know, the ones where the ship has to return to port after some sort of virus infects more than half the passengers who can only projectile vomit over the railing until the ship docks. Well who wouldn’t want to pay nine grand a month for a shot at that scenario.

Baby boomers have a multitude of options for how to occupy themselves in retirement and while cruising is very popular (27 million international passengers are projected for 2018), not everyone has the stomach for it. Literally.

Oh, and one more thing. Your ownership is actually a lease that is tied to the “seaworthy life of the vessel.” If the ship runs aground, so does your investment. No amount of life jackets will save you from drowning in debt if that happens. On the bright side, maybe the buffet will continue service.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Turns In the Road

Maybe it’s a function of feeling like you’ve reached the three quarter mark, the back nine, the fall season, mid-life plus, whatever….but have you found yourself second guessing some of the turns you made at critical junctures in your life?

It might be just a few “what-ifs” or an entire catalog of them, but I sense that many baby boomers could be wondering how their lives might have turned out had they taken a different path. How would life be different if you majored in accounting instead of physical education? Where would you be now if you married Alice instead of Denise? Clown school may have been the worst idea you ever came up with. Sorry that you only had one child or sorry you had any children at all. Was the third marriage your biggest mistake?

Most of us can identify some crossroad where a choice was made that changed the course of our lives forever. Choice of a mate would certainly top the list but a first job or career choice would be right up there in the critical crossroad category. So let’s say you didn’t marry Alice and instead followed Denise to Oregon to join that commune. That would most likely mean you never went to medical school but instead ended up selling farm equipment in Iowa.

The geography choices alone can be critical determinants in the turns your life takes. Settling in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey seemed like a good idea in the halcyon days of 1970…not so much now. Las Vegas turned out to be a bad locale for someone who realized he was a compulsive gambler.

At some point we just have to come to terms with the choices we’ve made and by that I don’t mean we settle. Life turned out the way life turned out and while it may be interesting to ruminate about how it could have been different, you’re better off just marveling that you made it to this point at all.

Besides, you still have crossroads and choices ahead and if you don’t pay attention you could miss your turn all together.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#hertoo

I bumped into Eleanor Roosevelt the other day outside the Apple store. It looked like she was carrying the new iPad. No surprise there – the lady has a knack for connecting with people and texts and emails are great tools for that.

Elly, how goes it? What’s your take on #metoo and #timesup?

The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.

Amen to that sister. But do you think women can sustain the movement?

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

But the personal attacks that some women have experienced…

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

You certainly demonstrated that a first lady could have great influence.

As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along.

Sure, I can see that but you risked a lot when you spoke out about injustice, civil rights and the plight of the poor.

Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Does it pain you to see what the political climate is now in America?

Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little.

A lot of people are discouraged by our present polarization and want to opt out or disengage.

Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

How do you stay so upbeat? Everyone wants to be happy but we don’t know how to get there.

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.

It seems like everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame now, to go viral on the internet, to be recognized for something, anything. Do you see the downside to it all?

I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.

Funny. I’ve got to run but what’s the biggest lesson you learned from your experience?

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spare Bedroom Match-ups

Who knew? Millennials are enduring a housing crisis and baby boomers may hold the key…literally. As in the house key.

High rents and home prices are locking millennials out of affordable housing options. At the same time, boomers are sitting in houses with a lot of empty bedrooms. Real estate site Trulia is calling this a match made in housing market heaven. And they are calling these potential matches boom-mates.

By extrapolating from census data, Trulia estimates that there are around 3.6 million vacant bedrooms in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Boomers want to remain in their homes and millennial renters are desperate for cheap rents.

If this sounds to you like the perfect scenario for a sit-com, I’m way ahead of you. The first pitch that comes to mind is a remake of Three’s Company. But instead of two girls and guy, the cast is made up of two boomers and a girl. The husband and wife boomers spend all their time reminiscing about Woodstock and looking up slang in the Urban Dictionary while the millennial is always walking around with earbuds and looking for the next big app.

If that doesn’t work for you, there’s Happy Days. Howard and Marion Cunningham, you may recall, did rent an upstairs room to The Fonz, so we’re not talking about a big leap here. In this remake, their millennial boarders do not have names like Fonzie or Chachi but the show would feature their struggle for respect in a world that constantly tries to diminish their ethos.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Street smart millennial from Philly moves in with wealthy boomers in LA where his sense of entitlement is a constant source of friction with the self-made couple. He doesn’t get their taste in music and they don’t get his music or really anything about him.

If taking in cash-strapped strangers sounds far fetched, let’s remember that it was not that long ago that a third to one half of 19th century urban residents in this country either took in boarders or were boarders themselves.

So is boom-mates really a thing? Is it really happening? Not so much. But it’s a safe bet that one of the sitcoms mentioned above is coming back to a TV in the common room where millennials and boomers can gather and share some laughs.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Plot Thickens

Everyone knows by now that retirement and old age are going to be defined differently by the baby boomer generation, and that’s okay. We were different from the start so it makes sense that we’re going to be different when it comes to the end of life experience.

But here’s one curve you may not have seen coming. Cemeteries are running out of plots and the ones they do have are costing an arm and a leg…along with a head and a torso. Land shortages for urban cemeteries are the norm now and they refer to it as a “space crunch.” Finding 50 acres of land to build a new cemetery when you’re up against the NIMBY effect (not in my back yard) has contributed to the maxed out capacity crisis.

A single burial plot in an urban cemetery can run anywhere from 6 to 8 thousand dollars. That’s a big reason why many more people are opting for cremation. While boomers may find that they can just squeeze in (sorry for that mental picture), millennials are out of luck once again. They will blame boomers for that too, but we’ll be dead so there’s that.

Green or natural burials are growing in popularity as a direct consequence of the space shortage. The body is buried without embalming or a coffin, allowing it to decompose naturally, so the land ends up being a conservation ground. Sounds oddly efficient but it still requires enough space to accommodate millions of boomers. Plus there’s the whole humans as fertilizer aspect to it that can be a downer (the death itself being the ultimate downer).

Do you think many of the 78 million or so boomers have given much thought to this looming crisis? I think not. Sure, many have secured a plot or prescribed cremation in their wills, but I’m betting that the vast majority are not worrying about it. We’re a fairly optimistic bunch not often known for advance planning. So it looks like many boomers are going to be sticker shocked or scrambling to come up with alternate disposal plans for themselves and their loved ones. You might consider a Grateful Dead song at the funeral. And We Bid You Goodnight would work but consider planning now for that end.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.