Category Archives: The Daily Thought

Eternity as the New Ninety

Human life expectancy has taken an unprecedented leap during middle-aged American’s lifetime. I hadn’t paid much attention to this phenomenon or seen evidence of it until just the past few years.

Suddenly, everyone I know has a loved one in their nineties. Not eighties: that used to be the standard for “old.” It appears ninety is the new eighty.

Some ninety-year-olds I know are articulate as ever. If they were feisty before, they’re feisty now. What made them happy before makes them happy now. The only visible impairment is slowness in walk, use of a cane, wrinkles, thinning hair, et al.

Maybe I, too, will live another ten years beyond what was expected fifty years ago. In fact, if we all take care of ourselves, with luck, we might live to ninety and beyond. I suppose that wish depends on how you define quality of life. Currently, this issue is approaching me head on because many of the ninety-year-olds I know are just barely hanging on. And on. And on.

The strong human will to live, combined with advances in science seemingly keep people going forever (that is, if you have the money to afford never-ending medical bills). Many ninety-somethings don’t even recognize loved ones who’ve come to visit them at the health center. Many are cognitively alive but unable to do much with their bodies, particularly activities that were special foundations to their happiness and self-worth.

If we knew now we’d be severely compromised at ninety, how many of us would elect not to be there? This question is dicey. So many if’s, so many legalities; so much family involvement, so much confusion. It’s one of the peskiest philosophical questions we’ll ever ask.

Not too many decades ago, it seemed when people died, they died. No hook-ups to machines; no cure or appreciable turnaround in health was imminent. People expected to die in their seventies and were happy to have lived that long. The dream today is about being as strong in our nineties as we were (or are now) at seventy-five. But most folk I know in their nineties, or know of, are nothing near their seventy-five-year-old self. We have to prepare for what the modern reality of ninety and beyond is.

One elderly woman I know is sharp as a tack. A beautiful person. She adds life and insight to everyone she knows. She’s glad not to be in any great pain, that she can walk a hundred feet from her apartment and back twice a day, but says she’s ready “to go.” Happy to have had ninety great years of life, it’s time. It’s time to die. And that’s that.

Another woman I know wants to live forever. She has a great circle of friends around her, lives in the same house she’s spent most of her life, and continues to cultivate a burning hobby. She’s also been healthy for over ninety-one years and is one of those never-get-sick, strong-as-an-ox kind of people. Even with the crippling changes in her body and other unfortunate recent circumstances, she’s better than she was at seventy-five!

Yet, most of my friend’s parents or relatives or close associates are stringing out life far into the nineties, making their families go through a living hell to care for them. Sure, no one wants a loved one to die, but how long should life go on? How exactly do we define quality of life? Again, a prickly question, one that’s not going away.

Neither is science (or pharmaceutical companies). In thirty years, will the new human one hundred be ninety? Will science of the near future be able to keep all vital systems of the mind and body going to sustain life past one hundred? I doubt it. Centuries of human evolution changed in mere decades? Modern health science seems more about halting disease, keeping ventricles pumping blood and lungs inhaling oxygen than sustaining the heart and soul of the survivor, not to mention breathing vibrant life back into a living, caring being that wants to go on for more than just the sake of going on.

As for me (note: I don’t have to worry about any of this since I’ve still got thirty years to think about it) , I joke about my plan to live a good life right up to the end by having a will made out, all possible loose ends tidied up, then, when the time is right, I step in front of a speeding train.

Even this flippant, quick and easy plan has a crack in it: “when the time is right.”

‘Tis the eternal question – when is the time right?

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Players, Personality and Major Fuego for the Game

Feugo 002

 

“Hey, Fuego fans, let’s pass the hat for Matt Patrone’s home run,” the PA announcer says amid cheers. I’m certain Patrone’s blast here in Fort Marcy Ballpark, a Pecos League venue, would have been at least a ground rule double in about any major league park (a place no fan passes a hat for home runs after paying what he did to get into the park).

The next hitter lines a pitch out of play toward the parking lot behind the dugout. Hard hitters, these Santa Fe Fuegos.

“That foul ball is brought to you by Discount Glass and Glazing. Just mention Fuego baseball and get a discount on your next purchase.” I love it. This place has personality.

The woman in charge of collecting money for tickets wanders over to me from her top row seat. She’s right on time. We’d made a deal if I liked the place I chose to sit with my dog, Rusty, after two trial innings, she’d only charge $3. Dogs aren’t allowed in the $6 seats behind home plate. Either way, what bargains. I’m glad the Fuegos are in an independent pro baseball league, not even a minors system affiliated with a team in the majors. Think I’d be able to bring my beach chair, let alone dog, into their ballparks?

Sitting behind the Trinidad Triggers dugout, Rusty and I notice a Trigger player come our way. On his walk to the park’s all purpose port-a-potty, he stops to pet Rusty. He even lets me take pictures of the two together. On his return trip to the dugout, he gives Rusty some more love, saying that with so much time on the road, he misses his dogs back home terribly.

Strangely, however, the Trigger player doesn’t go into the dugout, but sits on top of it. In fact, neither the Triggers nor Fuego players sit in their dugouts – they sit around the dugouts.  It must be a Pecos League tradition. Again, what personality.

Out of nowhere, a pop foul comes my way and I catch it! – something I’ve never done in all my years attending crowded major league and AAA games. I feel special, like a kid again. I’d like to think that’s what baseball should be, a special connection directly from pitcher to batter to fan. To continue the link, I give my cherished first ball to a two-year-old who’s apparently already caught baseball fever.

Where else do you bring your own lawn chair to a professional baseball game? Negotiate a price and place to sit with your dog? Have more fun, pay less and see a competitive sporting event?  Switch gears from watching the game on the field to playing catch with a kid and then going back to the game. See players perform for practically nothing just for the love of the game?

Where else is there a meeting on the field of every team member in the bottom of the fifth inning for team unity, spirit and awareness of what this is all about?  Where else is there a pro sporting event where the majority of fans leave their cell phone behind? Fuego baseball is where.

It’s life in the moment for fans and particularly the impressionable young men playing. It’s a spirited, fast game. You have to watch closely. There are no scoreboard replays, let alone bathrooms every fifty feet.

I love the game just the way it is. I’m sorry the season is over. I’ll be back for 2016, connecting this season’s joy with the next.Feugo 006

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As Thrift is Joy, the Store is Home

miniature ceramic houses 004Joyful one minute, sad the next, I drive out of the thrift store parking lot a final time. After all these months, what have I learned working as a sales associate here?

While navigating my ride home, I reminisce.

At the store’s back doors, I go through countless articles people have just donated. Immense amount of junk, I think, even for when it was new! Get a load of this crappy little ceramic house. And what about that – the world’s ugliest candlestick holder? And now a plastic cutting board with a zillion cuts in it. No wonder they got rid of these things. Hey – don’t be so judgmental. Your job is to sort the donations, not roll your eyes. Just chalk it up to a “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder” kind of thing.

But then, many of the donors turn right around, enter the front of the store, and buy more stuff. What am I supposed to think? Stuff, stuff, stuff. Buy, buy, buy. There’s nothing wrong with buying, per se, it’s just that I’ve noticed how much people play such a value on consuming, far more than I realized before I started working here.

While cashiering, I basically serve two groups of regulars. The first are dealers here in Santa Fe, buying bargains for their own thrift stores or online outlets. The other group, a far larger one, is women over sixty. They love to shop. And shop. And shop. God love ’em – they make the store go round.

Then there are all the other sub-groups of shoppers. One such group is the needy, people who can’t afford to shop anywhere but a thrift store, especially for clothes. Another group consists of the noticeably ill, disabled, or those challenged in some way, perhaps so strapped by health care costs that thrift stores like this are their only opportunity to buy clothes, furniture and whatnot. And another group – I’ve finally deduced – are here for something quite personal: the comfort they receive from the thrift store experience. Maybe they like the people who work here – regular faces and fixtures in their lives. Maybe they’re lonely. Or maybe it’s as simple as understanding a day just doesn’t feel centered without a visit to the thrift store, a little home away from home.

A thrift store, however, is made up of a wide collection of individuals, many who carry an unfortunate situation around with them. I’ve seen customers walk up to the counter and pay with change, the only currency they have. I’ve consoled donors who’ve broken down at the back door, unable to watch me unload from the car a lifetime of personal items that belonged to their just-departed spouse. I’ve picked up furniture from people who’ve just lost their job.

I’ve watched our manager ask shoplifters to leave the store. I’ve caught people ripping price tags off items hoping to get a better price at the checkout stand. I’ve dealt with hagglers who, with every visit to the store, want to wiggle the price down. Are these people con artist types, or just desperate and down on their luck?

Add to these folks the customers who wait by the front door ten minutes before we open, staring at me through the large glass windows, hoping I might open early for them. There’s those who walk in two minutes before closing, then linger ten minutes before heading to the checkout stand. And there’s those who donate large bags of goods, knowing inside that big black sack is also a lot of trash they’re happy to get off their hands.

To my surprise, many customers speak with thick, foreign accents – not just Spanish – making it crucial we take the time to help them understand the money transaction they’re about to make. There’s the time it takes us to finally understand certain customers really aren’t a threat to the store, only that they want to spend most of the day here to shop, relax and intermittently lie on a couch to read while occasionally nibbling on a snack. And there’s always the time we take to listen to customers talk about how much they know about gold, silver and jewelry – but don’t.

But what customers share most in their thrift shop experience is joy. Yes, joy. When people find what they want, they often bring it to the counter like a kid who’s just opened the Cracker Jack box to find the best prize ever inside. I sense many customers see this store as a house of healing, another home for them within our beautiful city, one that can be humbling to live in. And I am humbled by the joyous smiles I see at the counter, especially from those who’ve fallen on hard times.

 

In hindsight, I realize being part of these little customer joys was the perk to help me and other sales associates get through long days. Every day was long. Perhaps sorting through thousands of donations made us feel tired (imagine opening up your own garage doors to accept all the neighborhood’s yard sale items that didn’t sell over the weekend). Perhaps cashiering all day did it. Or, maybe it was just trying to make every customer a little happier than when they first shuffled in through the doors.

Anything to see joy.

Anything to  have a job.

Anything to live in Santa Fe.

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I Don’t Get My Life Back Until They Lose. They Just Lost. Now I Don’t Like My Life

BSirois 48bit 800 color dust087There’s a hole in my heart only a puck can fill.

Yes, I’m a hockey fan. A Washington Capitals hockey fan. I saw eighty regular season games on cable this year (well, most of them), all in hopes my Caps would make the Stanley Cup playoffs for only the second time in their forty-year history.

Well, they made the playoffs. That’s where the hysteria began.

Playoff madness takes over your mind, your life and you lose all perspective. Time becomes a blur. For any avid fan, life’s goal changes from spending time with friends and loved ones to intimately following your team through all four playoff rounds (and a possible twenty-eight games over a sixty day period) just so you can watch your ice heroes hoist the Stanley Cup sometime in June. June, as in beautiful late spring, early summer. When the weather is nice to be outside again. When chores need to be done. Yards need to be tended. What, little Johnnie is six now? When did that happen?

The worst part of the playoffs is pace: a game, a night off, another game, a night off – there’s practically no break until your team loses a best-of-seven round and is eliminated. I’m tired and the Caps only went two rounds this year. Think what it must be like to go to the finals.

If you’re a Caps fan, it gets even worse. Their hockey MO is to stretch series to the seven game limit. They cannot win or lose in four – they love teasing you with 3-1 series leads, then blowing the next three games. Sometimes they blow the next two and pull out the seventh in overtime, having succeeded in wearing themselves out just to do it all over again for another series, then ask for more.

They also love close games. There are no blow outs. They love overtime. They once played a playoff game into four overtimes, finally losing at 2 AM (I saw that one personally and stayed to the bitter end).

This is very difficult on fans. Sleep patterns are disrupted. Eating times are often rearranged. Bad moods last for days. Weight is gained. Interest in other activities wanes. Actually, bad moods never end. Unless … (until) you win the Cup.

The Capitals should be playing tonight. Had they beaten The New York Rangers in game seven Tuesday (losing in overtime, 2-1), they’d be playing Tampa Bay this weekend in the Eastern Conference finals. I miss the misery. I miss my emotions being yanked up and down like a yo-yo. I miss having to skip laundry because the game is on. I miss screaming at the TV, “Take that, Marcel #!%@* de &#@!#, you &#%$!!!”

Time now to clean the bathroom, refill prescriptions, vacuum, replace burned out light bulbs, refill the empty freezer case, take the snow shovel away from the front door, fix the front door lock, dust.  No wonder I can’t wait for the first preseason game in September.

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MLB Stadiums Without Crowd Noise?

my yard bloomg flowers 024There’s a point in any game where everything changes. Every player feels it. It’s when the crowd is so loud, player’s emotions and abilities swing on a dime, for better or worse. That’s exactly what players compete for, that rush, the roar of the crowd, the adulation to prove they’ve done something great or are important people. So, can you imagine NFL, NBA or NHL games played in empty stadiums? Major League Baseball may be headed that way.

The current average length of a Major League Baseball game is 3:02, of which only eighteen minutes is actual action, meaning there’s almost three hours of non-action. The current human attention span average is eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. (And, yes, these figures come from credible research study).

Can you imagine a kid today going to his first live baseball game? He’s used to thrill-a-minute stimulation from his device, or television, or anything nowadays. The kids of this and future generations are tomorrow’s MLB fans – also known by team owners as “fannies in the seats,” the people who pay most of the player’s salaries.

But wait, young people aren’t the only ones distracted by modern-day living and technology.

The average worker today checks his email thirty times an hour. Typical mobile users check their phones 150 times a day. From 2011 to 2013, social media sharing doubled.

This is trouble for MLB. Look at the trends. The average length of an MLB contest in 1980 was 2:39, and we had far fewer distractions then. With the average 2014 MLB ticket price at $27.93, plus expensive concessions, plus travel time, plus the fact the game is available on cable, one might ask why go to baseball games at all?

Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner, says he realizes these problems and is implementing new rules this season to speed up play to lure younger fans. No more forty-five seconds between pitches for batters to readjust their jock strap or pitchers to circle the mound two times. That’s just enough time to tempt fans to reconnect with friends, co-workers and social media outlets on their devices. Or just time to get bored, and the stadium goes quiet again.

Anyone who thinks crowd noise isn’t crucial to the excitement of sports is wrong. The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons were recently fined for pumping crowd noise into their stadium during games the past three seasons. Anyone who thinks the attention span issue isn’t crucial to sports is also wrong. The NFL has had to implement rules and fines for players and coaches from texting during games. It’s a different world today.

Major League Baseball’s official Opening Day game is April 5 in Chicago’s old Wrigley Field, ironically a night game. In 1988, Wrigley was the last MLB franchise to install stadium lights for night games.

I worry what MLB stadiums will look like in another twenty-seven years.

P.s.  The solution here in northern New Mexico: Go to our Triple A Albuquerque Isotopes games. Bring all your kids. Leave all devices behind. Baseball is too beautiful a game to miss.

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Aquarius Astrology and Horoscope in Retrograde

Aquarius signs 002I’ve never used astrology. I’ve never read horoscopes. If it hadn’t been for the Fifth Dimension’s big hit “Age of Aquarius,” I wouldn’t know I was in the age of anything.

However, curious about all the horoscope hoopla, I pick up a local newspaper to check out what people of my sign – Aquarians – should do today.

I’m immediately cautious. The horoscope section in The Santa Fe New Mexican is sandwiched between “Annie’s Mailbox” advice column and “Hocus Focus” puzzles. However, my horoscope for today says Aquarians are going to have a “dynamic experience,” according to astrologer Jacqueline Bigar.

“Recognize that you can’t do more than is possible. You need to take better care of yourself. Make it OK to be a couch potato for now. Tonight: Don’t feel as though you have to go anywhere.”

Not exactly a dynamic outlook, this advice may nevertheless be spot on. Maybe I do need to slow down a little. On the other hand, I wonder what other horoscopes have to say. I get comfy of the couch, go online and check out Newsday.

“It’s the ideal day for getting involved in some negotiations because you’ll be able to play your hand without giving away too many of your tactics or motives.”

I don’t get it. How can one horoscope say, “Be a couch potato,” and another, “It’s the perfect day for getting involved.” Get involved from the couch? How?

I check out what famous astrologer Linda C. Black has to say.

“Dare to speak words of romance and passion right out loud.”

Again, am I supposed to do this from the couch, in my living room, a place where the echo is real bad?

“Declare your heart to someone important,” Ms. Black continues. “Share a bold decision. Write poetry or prose. Send off a message in a bottle.”

To me, this sounds like, “Read poetry and drink heavily tonight, then go online for love.” Geez – I could have written that (and have followed similar advice several times before and got nowhere).

The New York Post horoscope says, “Chances are you want to relax and not take life too seriously this week.”

“This week” – does that mean I take the whole week off from work? Stay on the couch for seven entire days? I need more guidance than this.

The Albuquerque Journal suggests, “You might pull back in your personal life and create some space until you figure things out.”

Figure what out? Do I have a big problem I’m not aware of?

The Journal goes on to say, “Check the ristra.”

What? Do they mean the dried chili pods hanging by my front door? Does my ristra needs replacing? And is that what I’m supposed to “figure out?” Maybe The Journal’s horoscope is too local for such a big Aquarian as me.

I try The New York Daily News.

“Love: You want strong connections, but also need independence. Career: Opportunities for work and money can open up.”

Open up how? I thought I was supposed to be at home this week, on the couch, taking it easy, writing poetry and drinking a lot while looking online for love. Every horoscope for Aquarians today is different. Does the kind of day astrologers predict I’ll have simply depend on which newspaper I happen to read? Which astrologer I think is prettier?

I scan The Albuquerque Journal horoscope one last time when I notice something at the bottom of the page.

“If you don’t like your horoscope click here to change your luck with the stars. These horoscopes are for your entertainment only. They are generated randomly by computer.”

What? You mean I could’ve lost a week of pay because I listened to a computer generated horoscope? I can just see my horoscope for tomorrow: “Pay scale goes into retrograde; love life disappears into black hole; Mars has last laugh.”

The heck with it. I’m going Capricorn from now on. Or Pisces. Or Scorpio – that’s a cool-sounding name.  I don’t care what day I was born on. Aquarians are all wet. Supposed trailblazers of the zodiac, we’re terminally stuck spinning around in orbit as lame Water Bearers, singing hysterically for someone to please let the sunshine in.

I pick up The Santa Fe Reporter. Finally, someone’s got it right – their horoscope is on the next to last page.

 


All horoscopes were taken from cited newspapers and astrologers on February 22, 2015.

 

NM road sign, crocus, 007

 

 

 

(The God Aquarius slipping on wet floor.)

 

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Get on Board the Hollywood Express

CH 12  Depression sq SELF PORTRAITIn this year’s Oscars where history, genius and war are highlighted subjects among the films nominated for Best Picture, so is identity.

In Whiplash, aspiring drummer Bob Ellis confirms his future desire: “I wanna be one of the greats.” But his mentor and teacher pounds it into Bob’s head the reality of who he is now: “You are a worthless pansy-ass.”

In Boyhood, little Mason struggles with growing up and a father who asks, “What do you want to be, Mason? What do you want to do?”

Still Alice, although not Best Picture-nominated but includes Julianna Moore’s Best Actress nomination performance, centers on a woman with Alzheimer’s whose past identity must define her future’s: “I must stay connected to who I once was. To live in the moment … is all I can do.”

And in Birdman, a struggling ex-megastar suddenly reprises the role that flew him to stardom. “You were a movie star, remember? You’re Birdman!” as if to say, “That’s who you are now and always will be.”

Films are visual expression about one’s identity. The film-making process itself lends itself to questioning who you are even more, or it did for me.

“Quiet on the set. Roll tape. Mike Andberg’s ‘Hollywood Express’ documentary. Take one. Action.”

 

About to graduate film school, my biggest question at the time was, “Do I stay or do I go? Do I move to Hollywood to make films or not?”

I was filled with wonder making the documentary on my first trip to Hollywood. Constrained by a student budget, I packed only twelve minutes of 16 mm film stock for the entire project (from which making an intelligent four-minute film deserves an Oscar for something). I had no agenda but to capture what I thought was interesting about Hollywood.

Rolling ever westward by car from Santa Fe, New Mexico, I asked many questions along the way. “Doesn’t moving ahead to something new mean the loss of something else? Didn’t the people who ventured to Movie Town leave a life behind just to pursue their art? What am I willing to leave behind? Am I even going to Hollywood to make film? – Oh, don’t think so much. Just go.”

Cue the beautiful palm trees, sleek Jaguars and huge billboards driving through Hollywood. “Oh my gosh, this place is amazing. But isn’t it just a fantasy world here?”

Cue downtown Hollywood and Vine. “Oh, come on. Look around. People here are just like regular people walking along the street anywhere. We’re all the same, aren’t we?”

Cue all the people approaching me because I have a movie camera in my hands. “Yeah, but isn’t fame what most people here really want? Is that what I’m after? What do I want to be? What do I want to do?”

It’s funny, isn’t it? I had any subject to choose from in creating my little Hollywood documentary and it wound up being a personal essay about me and what I wanted – or didn’t want – to be.

As it turned out, I never moved to Hollywood. I never pursued film-making. But I learned a lot about myself in the process of deciding I didn’t want to dedicate my life to it, and why.

So, I can’t help it. I hope this years’ Oscars go to films about identity.

 

Image above:  Self Portrait by Mike Andberg, 1996;  24″ x 36″ charcoal on paper

 

 

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