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.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Early Bird Extinct

Years ago I swore I would never be caught going to an early bird dinner. The whole idea of going to eat early to save a buck just nauseated me, as in made me lose my appetite. Now I guess I don’t have to worry, because it would appear that the Early Bird Special is going extinct.

Go to the heart of the retiree republic in South Florida and you’ll see that restaurants are near empty around 4 pm. Early bird specials are for old people. Boomers don’t want to be thought of as “old” so it’s goodbye early bird special.

Back in 2009 it looked like the early bird dinner was making a comeback but it was just a brief flicker of a revival. Restaurants were doing anything to fill seats in non-peak times and the early bird special targeted anyone pinching pennies, not just the grey heads.

Restaurant owners can see that baby boomers are not taking the bait (sorry, the whole worm thing can do that to you), but they have not given up on the concept. New euphemisms have sprung up for it however. Sunset dinner and twilight dinner are now more common terms for dinner at 4-5 pm. The name change has not lured boomers back to the table. Millennials who are scraping by as contract employees without benefits are the more likely customers for bargain meals these days.

The chain restaurants have found another way to get boomers into the seats – namely discounts. There are all sorts of deals for 2-person dining as well as reduced portion specials. Applebee’s gives the 60+ crowd 10-15% off, Carrabba’s gives 10% off to AARP members, so does Chart House, Dairy Queen, Subway and Friendly’s. Dunkin’ Donuts will give AARP members a free donut with the purchase of a large beverage.

The extinction of the early bird special is just one more sign that baby boomer retirement is nothing like mom and dad’s version of the golden years. Boomers don’t want to identify as “retired” so the last thing they want is people gawking at them eating dinner at 4pm. They are out windsurfing or roller-blading and they will eat at a civilized 6:30 pm, thank you very much. Of course, they may still be in bed by 8:30 so at least that sign of being a senior hasn’t changed.

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.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mar, Sam, Whatever Your Name Is

I bumped into Mark Twain the other day as he was coming out of Brooks Brothers. The white suit was so bright that I was temporarily blinded.

“Mark, I mean Sam? Is that you?”

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

“It’s funny that you say that because some people just keep harping on this whole fake news thing.”

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

“Exactly, and there’s a whole lot of distortion going on these days. What some would call outright lies.”

The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.

“Well there’s a lot of that going around these days, especially among people elected to hold high office.”

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

“Amen to that. Are you working on any new books? You still have a lot of fans/”

My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Fortunately everybody drinks water.

“And everybody likes a good Mark Twain yarn.”

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.

“That’s witty. I wish I thought of that one.”

Repartee is something we think of twenty-four hours too late.

“True, but you seem to have a knack for the bon mots. How do you remember them?”

When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.

“That’s one of the drawbacks of getting older I guess.”

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

“Say again?”

The more you explain it, the more I don’t understand it.

“I don’t know what to say.”

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

“This may be a foolish question then, but do you believe in the afterlife?”

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

“I’ll drink to that, but I need to be going.”

All right, then, I’ll go to hell.

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, January 4, 2018

You're Gettin Sleepy...

Boomers are not sleeping like we used to and people who study this kind of thing can prove it. No less an authority on health than the National Institutes of Health is telling us that older adults typically have more trouble falling asleep.

No kidding. In their study of adults over 65, 13 percent of men and 36 percent of women take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. On top of that, we sleep less deeply and wake up more frequently during the night. This change in our sleep patterns is mostly due to a lowered secretion of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.

How about the fact that we have a lot on our minds? Yes. Experts agree that boomers have cares that are both upstream and downstream. They worry about their children and grandchildren as well as their elderly parents. Then there are the financial issues. Did we save enough for retirement? Will we be living in a van?

So this is not the new normal. If we’re not sleeping well, we need to do something about it. The mattress companies would have you believe that the solution is a new mattress and foundation (that’s what they’re calling boxsprings these days). And that could help, but experts think that getting more exercise is effective along with meditation and getting outdoors more often. So start doing something more aerobic such as brisk walking or swimming and get out and commune with nature before you run down to the mattress store where you will be tortured to find 107 kinds of mattress choices that totally baffle you. Consistency when it comes to your bedtime schedule is also supposed to help according to insomnia experts. Your bed should be in cool, dark and quiet space and it helps even more if you can create some kind of ritual that puts your mind in a restful state. To which I say, easier said than done when it comes to achieving a restful state of mind these days, but worth the effort to try.

If none of these suggestions help, it may be time to talk to your doctor or head to the sleep clinic to see if there’s a medical issue that’s affecting your sleep. There are effective treatments out there and seeking them out is a lot healthier than ignoring the problem.

So if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep that should be a wake-up call. I bet the experts never use that one.

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, December 22, 2017

Comma Before the Storm

I was an English major, which qualifies me to do just about anything…at least that’s what English majors proudly maintain. But the brouhaha (just had to work that in) over commas is just the tiniest bit absurd.

There are a lot of bad things happening in the world at this moment in time, enough so that a debate over the placement of a comma pales by comparison. If you are not familiar with the issue, here is the lowdown. You could write “We invited the rhinoceri, Washington, and Lincoln.” That would mean you invited more than 1 rhino, Washington, and Lincoln. Without the Oxford Comma, the meaning could be construed to mean that you invited Washington and Lincoln who are both rhinos.

I told you this was a stupid debate.

By the way, it’s called the Oxford comma because it was used by editors at Oxford University Press. The Associated Press and the New York Times style guides prefer no comma before the word “and,” however the Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office style manual do not. Even some British style manuals are coming down on the side of dropping the comma.

The argument for keeping the serial comma is that it reduces ambiguity, but diehard “no serial comma-ists” counter that the serial comma can have its own ambiguity and there are ways to rewrite a sentence to remove any ambiguity.

I have to admire the Chicago Manual of Style for the fact that they keep the door open just a smidge:

“When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma … should appear before the conjunction. Chicago strongly recommends this widely practiced usage.” In answer to a reader’s query, however, The Chicago Manual of Style Online qualifies this, saying “the serial comma is optional; some mainstream style guides (such as the Associated Press) don’t use it. … there are times when using the comma (or omitting it) results in ambiguity, which is why it’s best to stay flexible.”

So let us bend and stretch as we move on to much more important issues of the day, such as the shredding of the Constitution.

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Head Above Water

Excerpted from the mystery novel Head Above Water.

You get used to things going bump in the night when you live aboard a boat. A fender works itself loose or the tide slaps an empty plastic bottle against the hull, and then you have to decide if it’s going to keep you up all night, or whether a pillow over your head might block out the noise. On this particular night, I knew that I was too keyed up to listen to any noise for very long. I was in a rearward cabin and from the sound of it, whatever was banging against the hull was right alongside the stern, just inches from my head. I pulled on my heavy terrycloth robe and well-worn boat shoes, and made my way up on deck. Grabbing a flashlight that I kept at the helm, I went out the port side door on to the walk-around deck, carefully moving to the foredeck where I kept a gaff pole to fish out the source of the noise. Moving back toward the stern I made a quick check of my portside fender lines, which were all intact. I aimed the beam of light toward the water line on the starboard side. If you’re expecting an old soft drink bottle or an empty plastic oil container, you don’t quite know what to make of a smooth round shape. It was like nothing that I had ever seen floating in a marina, and believe me, you see an extraordinary variety of disgusting objects floating on the water where there are boats and people. Holding the gaff pole in my right hand, I aimed the flashlight with my left hand and leaned over the teak capped railing, trying to get a better look at what was keeping me awake. I pulled upward with the gaff and rotated the orb until I realized that whatever it was, it was looking back at me.

“Jesus H. Christ,” I shouted to no one as I backed up with a start. The gaff pole hung up on the railing and the flashlight went skittering down the narrow deckway. My heart was fibrillating at an alarming rate as I realized that the thing banging against my hull was someone’s head bobbing just above the waterline. A very dead person, who nonetheless had stared back at me as though I could save him. And in a way, I would.

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.