HONORABLE RETIREMENT – OLD NO. TWO

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been two years since I visited my favorite old fire engine. He’s right where I last saw him. In the vacant area across from the post office.

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Harder to spot him from the road, now because the bushes and brush have grown around him. Enclosing him tightly in overhanging branches, wildflowers and weeds closing around his old tires.

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There’s a little memorial nearby in memory of lost firefighters, the Worcester fireman and the 9/11 first responders. And a few locals, too. I don’t know if anyone but me visits any more.

old number 2 two side view

Old Number 2, with all his memories, is slowly being forgotten by everyone. Except, I guess, me.

old number two 2 wheel

WHY I LOVE LUCY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’ve got the end of summer blues. Maybe it’s the lingering memory of last year’s winter from hell. Walter Houston is talk-singing “September Song” in my head and he won’t go away. A phone call from a dear friend who has received some bad news from his doctor just deepens my melancholy. I need to get out of this funk.

LUCILLE-BALL

Melancholy. Melancholy Serenade. Serenade of the Bells. The Bells of St. Mary. A silly word link game I play to lighten things. It suddenly reminds me of another August more than three decades ago. Late August and Lucy.

The assignment? Cover Lucille Ball’s arrival in Boston. The nation’s favorite red-head was visiting her daughter, Lucy Arnaz, who was opening in a pre-Broadway show. It was pushing 9 pm, another long day. Yes, I had the end of summer blues.  Lucy finally arrived at Logan Airport, surrounded by an entourage and a gaggle of media.

I hung back, beckoning with my TV smile and waited for things to quiet down. I was looking down at my feet for a long moment when I heard the familiar voice. “What’s the matter, fella, long day?”, Lucille Ball inquired as I looked up, face to face with that very familiar face.

We smiled at each other. Real smiles. Not the phony ones. I didn’t realize it but Lucy had already cued my camera crew and things were rolling along. I’m not sure who was doing the interview.  Mostly we chatted about the “glamour” of TV, celebrity, long working days and Boston traffic.

I signalled the crew to shoot cut-aways, beating Lucy by a second and she winked. We shook hands and Lucy gave me an unexpected peck on the cheek..and another wink as she walked away with her entourage.

Lucy showFast forward to the next afternoon and the end of a formal news conference. Lucy seemed tired as she answered the last question about the enduring popularity of the “I Love Lucy” reruns. I was just staring and marvelling at her patience. She caught the look on my face and gave me a wry smile. As the room emptied out, Lucy beckoned me to stay. We waited until all the camera crews left. She offered me a scotch neat and thanked me for not asking any dumb questions during the news conference.

I asked if she’d gotten any sleep and she flashed that wry look again. Lucy gave me that “so what’s the problem?” look. I muttered something about being burned out and a little blue because summer was fleeting. She laughed. A big hearty laugh. Her face lit up as she pinched my cheeks.

Lucy showed me some PR stills from her “I Love Lucy” days and sighed. I showed her a couple of my PR postcards and she guffawed. Another round of scotches neat.

Lucy talked quietly about how proud she was of her daughter. I just listened. She smiled as she realized I was really listening.

A PR aide interrupted and Lucy looked annoyed. We stood up. I reached out to shake her hands but she hugged me. She pinched my cheeks again and gave me that wry smile again as she walked away.

IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT

The WordPress guy asks me “if money were no object, would I work anyway?” 

Silly man. Money is definitely an object, but I don’t work. Anyway. Because I am, as is my husband, retired. I know this is a difficult concept to grasp, so allow me to explain it.

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When you get to a Certain Age, you are even more tired than you were during your earlier working years. You are more exhausted before you begin your work day as you formerly were after finishing it. You feel that way throughout the entire day until, at the close of business, you crawl to your car, drive home, wondering if you’ll make it. Gasping, wheezing, with accompanying soft moans, you crawl into your abode.

You look in the mirror.

“Self,” you say. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“I could retire,” you point out. “I could pack it in, take the money” and as you think this, a little bell ding-a-lings deep in your mental recesses … a bell labeled “What money?” Have you sat with HR to find out what kind of money there is in your retirement fund? Do you have a retirement fund? 401 K?

“And anyway,” you continue, “There is Social Security, right? I’ve worked hard my entire life. Surely there’s enough in there to sustain life?”

So begins the intricate dance by which you detach yourself from the working world — from whence all paychecks come. You slide into  a better place where long deferred pleasures await you. The satisfaction of a hobby well done. Free time that amounts to actual freedom. The joys of life without a programmed schedule.  (But alas, no paycheck.)

You get up when you like and go to bed when you choose.

Read all night till the sun come up and the cows are mooing to be milked. Watch old movies until sleep pulls you into darkness. You can blog, read, write your memoirs. Travel if money and your personal physical conditions allows. Most of us, after some initial confusion, settle down and discover that retirement is good. With its restrictions, issues, whatever … it’s very good. The best.

It is, barring ill-health (we wish we could bar ill-health!). Better than childhood because you don’t have to go to school and your parents aren’t telling you what to do. Better than your working years because you don’t have a boss telling you what to do. Better than the years of raising children because you are no long a slave to the whims of your delightful if spoiled darlings who you love more than life itself. Hopefully, l they have flown the coop and now nest elsewhere. With luck, they won’t fly back, bringing a birdie spouse and all the fledglings.

Would I work anyway? You’re kidding, right? I’d take the money because retirement and poverty, if not actually synonymous, ought to be.

But return to an office? Deadlines? Doing what I’m told or face the consequences? Schedules, on the job and off? Endless commutes? Taking ten minutes to get a sandwich, then wolfing it down while seated at the computer to the accompaniment of acid reflux?

No. I think not.

I’ve served my time, put in more than 40 years. Mr. WordPress prompt guy? Piss off.

LAZY DAY ON THE FARM – GARRY ARMSTRONG

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Garry doesn’t merely take pictures of animals. He chats them up. Amazingly, they chat back.

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Maybe it’s all those years as a reporter and they all want their 15 minutes — more like 30 seconds — of fame, but animals like Garry. Always have. From our afternoon on the farm, Garry’s portraits of deeply contented cows.

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For those of you wondering what those big yellow ear tags are: They are from the Department of Agriculture. They certify these cows are free of tuberculosis and other diseases so the farmer can sell unpasteurized milk. And indeed, the milk from this farm does not taste at all like grocery store milk. It tastes much better, even after most of the cream is gone.

You can see the Blackstone River in the background. The pasture lies along the banks of the river and there’s always a cooling breeze, even on the hottest afternoon.

I LOVE YOU, AUDIBLE.COM

I joined Audible.com in 2002.

I had a long commute and I’d been buying audiobooks for a few years from Books On Tape and Recorded Books.

Books On Tape had recently announced they were discontinuing non-institutional services. Bummer. Recorded Books didn’t have much of a selection and were expensive.

Audible was a relatively new concept. Downloading was slow, but the price was good. For $16.95, I could have two books a month. I would own them, but wouldn’t have to store them. They were digital files and would be stored in my library on Audible’s server.

audible home page

Twelve years later, I have close to a thousand books in my Audible library. A few have disappeared. They may be there somewhere, but the search engine can’t find them and I don’t remember what they were. It doesn’t matter. There are so many.

A few years ago, Amazon bought Audible. For once, I was unperturbed by the acquisition. Amazon and I have had a great relationship since Amazon was an online bookstore selling real books. Kindles and e-books didn’t exist. The closest thing to an e-book was a PDF file.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Audible is bigger and better. Higher quality audio files, many more books. Famous actors and brilliant narrators. Almost every book from any publisher has an audio version. You can buy twinned Kindle and Audible books that synchronize. That’s overkill for me, but I often own both versions because listening and reading are different experiences. I listen, then read, then listen again. My eyes are increasingly reluctant to focus on print, so I listen more, read less. Audible has become primary and reading is now an alternative to listening.

Times change. I’ve changed.

Late the other night, already tucked in bed, I decided to select this month’s audiobooks. I still have the original plan I subscribed to. New subscribers pay more, but I’m “grandfathered.” The only thing I don’t have that newer plans include are “rollover” credits. I have to use my credits within the month or lose them. Technically, anyhow. The only time I didn’t use them — I didn’t forget, but I was in the hospital — they gave the credits back and threw in a couple of extra because I’d been sick.

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This month, I wanted two books, both not yet released. Pre-orders. The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey, Book Six in the Sandman Slim series, to be released on August 26th. And The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison, the 13th and final book in The Hollows series, to be released September 9th. I ordered the books using this month’s credits. Except when I completed the order, I had a credit left. I figured that meant they would charge the book to my credit card on delivery. I cancelled the order and redid it. Same thing happened.

It was 1:30 in the morning, but I knew I could call Audible and get this fixed. Unlike other customer service, I like calling Audible. Even before they become part of the Amazon family, they were friendly folks who wanted to make you happy.

A nice lady answered. I explained what happened. She said: “Let’s make this simple. I’ll just put the Kim Harrison book in your library. You keep the extra credit. Have a nice night. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I double-checked: “You mean, I actually have an extra credit?”

“Yes, you do. I put The Witch With No Name into your library. When it’s released, you will automatically receive it. You can use your other credit for whatever you like.” Indeed, the book was already in my library. I ordered another book.

I was smiling. How often do you smile after talking to customer service?

I love you, Audible.com. 

I AIN’T MARCHIN’ ANYMORE

Phil Ochs said it. I agree. I served my time, marched my miles. Signed an infinite number of petitions. Fought on the right side, believed in the good guys.

Now … I’m retired.

You, younger people. Yes, you. The ones on the sofa swigging beer. It’s your turn.

Go protest. Carry signs. Fix the world, because I ain’t marchin’ anymore.

Peace and love my friends. Carry the torch for me!

Daily Prompt: Breaking the Ice

CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: BLACK AND WHITE STUDIES

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

yellow summer squash black and white

Vegetables are delectable in color and in monochrome. Different, but mm, good! Summer squash (summer not).

apache junction black and white

Apache Junction is a conveniently located ghost town, not far from Phoenix. It’s actually the first non-city “place” when you are trying to escape the urban sprawl. I was hoping for tumbleweed, but alas, none appeared.

Quality of Light - Black & White

In color, it’s all about the quality of the light. In black and white, the picture is an architectural study.

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Rooftops in downtown Boston, just down the block from symphony hall. Black and white emphasizes the texture of the bricks and roof as well as the lines and angles of the rooftop.