Friday, October 13, 2017

Sushi Samurai

It was a dimly lit sushi restaurant. There were little candles on each table, but except for the candles it was dark. The sushi chef stood at attention behind the bar, flanked by one short waitress, one tall waiter, and an perpetually smiling host.

We were literally outnumbered as there were only two of us and four of them. Maybe five if there was a dishwasher in the back room. Not good odds. I eyed the door discretely, measuring how many steps it would take to make a run for it. I knew I could make it but I wasn’t sure about my companion.

Calm down. Forget about it. Enjoy the moment, right? Think positive thoughts. We came here for a good meal so why not relax and study the menu. Have some hot sake, loosen up. There was a long list of familiar sushi dishes…sashimi, nigiri, California roll, caterpillar roll. There was a nice selection of noodles, soba, udon and ramen, plus some tempting tempura and teriyaki dishes. And potsticker appetizers…everyone likes those. It all looked good. Things were turning around here.

Then my eyes drifted down to the bottom of the menu. What’s this? In large capital letters that one could not miss. It was an unmistakable warning that filled me with foreboding thoughts. NO SEPARATE CHECKS

What does that mean? Why the harsh tone? What had happened that was so dreadful that management felt the need to boldly print this admonition at the bottom of the menu? Had there been a separate check massacre? A table of six ordered 15 different dishes and then insisted on separate checks for each of them. Business was so good you could turn away customers because they insisted on having a separate check. There were only two of us in the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. What would happen if we insisted on separate checks? I had visions of sushi samurai warriors with very sharp knives coming out from behind the bar. Maybe on horseback, although I would say that would be most improbable given how small the restaurant was and how close together the tables were. Difficult to maneuver on a horse, but not impossible.

Where was I? Right, the separate checks. I decided the best course was to play along, order our food and then when the check came – not going to happen. I was not going to fight the system. The threat of samurai warriors was too great.

I wonder how they are going to react when we ask them to split the bill on 2 credit cards. There was no warning about that.

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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Loneliness. It’s a killer. Really. An AARP research study found that 17% of adults age 65 and older are isolated. They are facing a 26% increased risk of death due to these subjective feelings of loneliness. Of those over age 75, 51% are living alone. It’s a very safe bet that you and I know someone in this category.

Chronic loneliness is already posing a disturbing mental health threat and it’s growing. We live in a society where offspring leave the nest and relocate in far-off places with little connection to their parents beyond telephone calls, texts and emails. Many aging boomers are hanging on to larger homes rather than downsizing to more collective living options such as assisted living facilities or even apartment complexes where they would have more social contact. Downsizing may be a loss of square footage but that’s outweighed by the expanded social contact that can be gained.

Exploring options to participate in fitness programs or continuing education courses is another avenue that lonely boomers are going to need to consider if they are really motivated to reduce their isolation. Libraries and religious facilities are also logical places to seek out social connection.

The most obvious solution is for boomers to actively support each other. If you know someone living alone, you can be a link to the outside world for them. You’re helping them feel less lonely and you’re helping yourself. The baby boomer generation can act as a giant buddy system which would go a long way to combatting this potential mental health crisis.

You might be thinking that this loneliness problem is something far off in your life. Ask someone who has lost a spouse about the one thing that has changed most about their life and you will see that loneliness tops the possible answers you will get. Yes, this should be the time to do great things with our lives but it does not take much to throw those plans out the window. Illness, death or disability can change your social dynamic irrevocably overnight.

Final words of advice to baby boomers. Unite! Be there for each other. It’s that simple and it will prove that boomers are not as self-centered as some think we are. So there’s that.

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.

Lucky 13

I’m not exactly sure when I knew I was meant to be a writer. It must have been when I was very young. It could have been when I realized words were important because whenever I asked my mother how to spell a word she made me look it up in the dictionary. So words are collected and put in books. Maybe that was the start.

By the time I was in high school, I was typing up short stories that I was sure the New Yorker magazine would be delighted to publish. In college I was bored with the standard curriculum but enthralled to be taking creative writing classes. My mentoring professor told me I had writing talent and I believed her.

Once established in my public relations career, I was writing speeches, congressional testimony, news releases, and articles for publications. I was getting paid to write – I was a professional.

I had enjoyed mystery novels for quite some time but it finally occurred to me that perhaps I could write one. I was living in Annapolis when I got serious about the possibility. The mystery subgenre that interested me most was the accidental detective. A crime is committed and with no experience for detecting, the main character attempts to solve the mystery. It’s even more interesting if it imparts some knowledge about people and places that are outside your own experience. Annapolis and the boating scene on the Chesapeake Bay offered just such an opportunity. And that’s how my mystery novel entitled Head Above Water came to be. I wrote the kind of mystery novel that I liked to read. That was a long time ago.

For years I would not let anyone read it. But then one friend was allowed to see it, and then another, and another and another. All were enthusiastic and encouraging. By then self-publishing had emerged as a real avenue for aspiring writers, so after 13 years, Head Above Water is finally available on Amazon and Kindle. I’m no longer a pre-published author as it used to read in my byline. I should savor the moment but it has freed me up to work on the new mystery featuring an aerial photography pilot in New Mexico. No time to waste because I am not waiting 13 years for this next one to get published.

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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Down at the Factory Things Are Looking Up

For boomers anyway. Manufacturers in the U.S. depend on baby boomer labor and they are doing whatever it takes to keep us on the job. Around 27 percent of manufacturing workers are over the age of 65.

What’s so great about baby boomers in the factory? For starters, they have experience and knowledge that younger works don’t have. They are loyal. And the best part is they need/want to work.

As enticements to stay on the job, manufacturers are offering flexible schedules, reduced work weeks, and job sharing, along with mentoring and consulting opportunities. Even the ergonomics of the shop floor are being retrofitted to reduce the physical wear and tear on older workers who want to avoid knee and back issues.

The scary aspect of this looming labor shortage for manufacturers is that it’s not just happening in factories. Think about where the next generation of plumbers and electricians are coming from. Or auto mechanics. If you think that plumbing, car engines and the household electrical systems can be engineered to be so simple that expert repair personnel is no longer needed, you are dreaming. If anything, some of these systems are going to get even more complicated as the technology behind them gets more sophisticated. That faucet that comes on automatically when the infrared sensor detects motion? It still can leak under the sink or the sensor can go on the fritz. Millennials don’t even know the meaning of “on the fritz” never mind how to replace a worn out faucet washer.

You might be thinking that robots can pick up the slack but I don’t think that’s the solution. Robots can only intuit so much and a simple short caused by worn wires in a light switch may be beyond their capability.

The solution is to keep boomers on the job and start a serious program for knowledge transfer. Not every millennial wants to be a computer programmer or app inventor. It’s time to give tradespersons the status they deserve, along with better compensation. When a plumber can make as much as a doctor, with a lot less stress, the problem may solve itself. Until then, stay on good terms with your trades people and hope that they keep on keeping on.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Freud to Avoid

I ran into Sigmund Freud the other day (I told you once but I’ll tell you again. It’s my fiction so I can meet up with anyone I like).

We were in front of a smokeshop and he was just coming out the door.

Sig, long time no see. Are you still smoking?

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

I know, but the research? I mean you must know smoking is bad for you.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

Hey, I’m really glad I’ve run into you because I had this dream a few nights ago that —

“The madman is a dreamer awake”

Okay, but this dream was really weird and I can’t figure out what it means.

“If you can’t do it, give up!”

That’s it? What happened to the whole dreams as wish fulfillments and dealing with the unconscious? You’re the man when it comes to understanding repressed thoughts.

“The ego is not master in its own house.”

Boy oh boy, today you’re handing out these bromides like they’re lollypops.

“When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

Sig, you know I respect you and the whole thing with the Oedipus complex and the libido, I mean it’s brilliant. You’re brilliant. But sometimes you can be really dense.

“We are what we are because we have been what we have been.”

That explains it. That explains everything. How about a little help here. My dreams make no sense to me and I’m really trying to get to the truth.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

For a guy who’s explored the human mind for a living you can be little flippant about my problem. I’m looking for answers.

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”

That’s what I’m talking about. You talk to me like I’m a hopeless case. Can’t you tell me some universal truth, something that will forever improve my psychic condition?

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Things Boomers Can't Let Go Of

I recently stumbled across a list of things baby boomers can’t let go of…I’m guessing it was composed by a millennial. There were supposed to be 25 things on the list but it ran closer to 45. Maybe boomers have trouble letting go but we did learn how to count.

So what kinds of things made the list you might ask? It starts off with diamonds, golf, the mall, plain toast, 24-hour news networks, Yahoo and Crocs. Honestly, I know many boomers would be OK with losing all those things.

From there the list moves on to Reader’s Digest, ironing, jorts (which I had to Google to know what they are), airbrushed t-shirts, cruises, messages in all caps, and Mrs. Dash spice. Once again, many of the boomers in my circle would have little trouble walking away form these things forever.

Racquetball, patterned wallpaper, those fuzzy rug matching toilet seat covers, potpourri, buffets, metal detectors, juice from concentrate, infomercials, Avon, knickknacks and chain restaurants? It’s all good man, if I never see any of them again.

The entire concept of boomers being unable to let go of these things was starting to smell funny. Fossil fuels? Most of the boomers I know want us to promote alternative energy sources so that we can fend off climate change for future generations. Maybe the 70 year-old oil company executive wants to keep drilling but that would put him in the boomer minority.

Was there anything on the list that I did want to hang on to? How about meatloaf? I’m okay with that. It’s not my favorite but it still ranks very high on the all-time comfort food list. Retirement funds? Millennials are so cynical about the future that they think saving for retirement is pointless. That’s harsh. Catalogs? I like catalogs in moderation. Sure it’s a dead tree product but sometimes you just want to see something printed on paper rather than on a monitor.

Somehow this list comes off as just another Buzzfeed tease. I’m ready to battle back with a list of things millennials can’t let go of. Start with bashing baby boomers by blaming them for everything that’s wrong with our world. Then add Starbucks, YouTube, smart phones, yoga pants, Chipotle, Pinterest, Snapchat, Netflix, and more. You can see where this battle of the lists is going, and it’s pointless. The stereotyping does not work. Let’s try to spend more time focusing on what all of us agree are things that are worth hanging on to. Someone second that motion!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wild Thing – You Move Me

I killed a scorpion in the bathroom today. How many people you know can say that? And don’t give me that “living thing” rebuke. Did you want me to put this stone cold killer in the scorpion relocation program?

Okay, they don’t often kill you. I’m exaggerating as usual. But within a few hours of being stung by a scorpion you can experience pain and swelling, difficulty swallowing, drooling, muscle twitching, respiratory problems and sometimes death. Does that sound like fun?

This was an Arizona bark scorpion and they, like most scorpions, prefer to hang out in dark and damp places. Hence, it’s no surprise I found one in the bathroom. People here advise one to shake out their shoes and damp towels before using. One advisory notes that scorpions can climb any surface except glass and plastic, which comes as little comfort since houses are made mostly of wood, plaster and tile. They have some impressive survival skills due to their ability to slow their metabolism. It allows them to use little oxygen and live off as little as a single insect per year. You can freeze them overnight and put them out in the sun the next day only to watch them thaw out and walk away. We’re talking hardy.

The stinger is in the tail but I didn’t feel the need to get up close and personal with this cousin of the spider family. Experts suggest you hunt for them at night when they are most active. Dig out your old black light if you have one because they glow in the dark. A flashlight with a black light bulb will work just fine. They also suggest you have a long-handled tweezers or a knife and boots. They don’t say it but I think the implication is that if you don’t want to tweeze them you could alternatively give them the boot. You can also use Raid ant and cockroach spray which has the fastest activation. It’s a good idea to check the perimeter of the house at night with black light in hand to see if you can find them before they get inside.

Cats and chickens enjoy hunting scorpions so if they are persistent, it may be time to get a cat or keep chickens in the yard. Ground cinnamon is a natural scorpion repellent but it can get pricey sprinkling that spice all around the baseboards.

My defense plan? I’ve only seen 2 scorpions in the house in 8 years so I’m going to do nothing unless a third one shows up.

However, I will shake out my shoes more often.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.