How Does an 80-year-old Plan his Year?

evas-cake-for-rons-80thI turned 80 on January 7, and I’m feeling rather smug about it. Eva and I invited a great number of guests to just ‘be silly’ on my birthday, not wanting a big hoo-hah, but rather a co-mingling of a few sets of friends who don’t often, or ever before this, socialize with each other. Despite the dreaded ‘flu’ and inclement weather preventing some guests from attending, we had a goodly group in two tranches (Eva is the consummate planner, as well as chef) so they wouldn’t overwhelm our modest apartment. I deem it a successful gathering. Thanks, Eva.

The theme of the party was “It’s important to be silly,” which I fervently ascribe to. Fellow writer Karin and her husband Erik presented me with this writing instrument, fully in keeping with the theme.img_0615

Additionally, Terry anointed me with a flower to augment my own decoration.






Some of the guests asked what my plans were for the next 80 years, and I gave it some thought. So today, the day after the event, I laid out year 2017 for myself, and I hereby and herewith share it with you.

In no particular order:

– Choose a Podcasting persona to provide the basis or platform for my intended presence in the podcasting universe, whatever and wherever that is. My writing group has urged me to create and perform podcasts, based on a few presentations I have made to them. Once the persona is established, the material and format will flow, probably using some of my already written material—blog articles mostly, possibly poetry. I used the persona “Pavel Hammer” for my classical music radio show on KBBI in Homer, Alaska, 1993-1995. This allowed me great freedom to indulge in fantasy and whimsy, which I enjoy. I’m reading a relevant text on the technology and mechanics of podcasting.

– Complete the memoir/biography, “Report to Grandma.” My mother’s mother died when Mom was four years old. Mom was the youngest of four; the oldest, Uncle Harry, was the only male. The three sisters were put in an orphanage and had a terrible beginning, but they lived long and had interesting lives. My format for this piece is to tell my grandma what happened to her husband and children after she died.

– Complete the first draft, including outline and synopsis, of the novel I have been working on for maybe five years, with pre-Year 2000 San Francisco as the main locus of action.

– Monitor the trajectory of the number of visits made to my many blogs, adding to the oeuvre as inspiration occurs (no schedule or plan), always with a goal of improving traffic. At the end of 2016 I eliminated the music blog, but have put most of the articles in the ‘Expatriate’ blog. I have also extracted most of the articles from my creative writing blog (“A Few Words”), saving only the essay-type entries and “thoughts”, re-naming the blog “I Thought So.” Many of the ‘extractions’ have been re-assigned to other blogs, and the remainder put to sleep. I don’t know if this will improve traffic, but probably it won’t hurt it since volume was so low in these two blogs.

My letters from Fred remain to be fully transcribed (27 years of ‘em). I will work on these between bouts of creativity. I have already completed (save three letters) the first three years (1989-1991, and many of the more recent years) and have combined and compiled these three years with mine to him. I have kept the original words intact, but have created a new document where I have inserted many footnotes to persons and events that he and I referred to in our correspondence—all the while eliminating uninteresting (to others) asides that were peculiar to us. I perceive that this expurgated and footnoted document might have some historical value.

– Attend symphonic concerts, as in previous years, with Vasil and his daughter Jeanette. We’ve got several scheduled or intended for the fist half of 2017.

– Continue with my membership in the Stockholm Writers Group, meeting and critiquing every other Wednesday evening, beginning the new semester January 11. I will submit at least two writings during the Spring semester, the first being the continuation of “Report to Grandma.”

– Continue with my membership in Terry Leblanc’s book circle, once per month.

– Repair my lower extremities. Let me explain. The main joint on the great toe of my left foot is fused. This makes me off-balance in walking, etc., and puts undue stress on the smaller toes which are affected in various ways. I had a similar problem in the right great toe, for which I had a successful operation 25 years ago. I have been promised an operation for my left great toe, date unknown right now. Meanwhile, I finally have a diagnosis for the problem in my right knee which presented itself in August, 2015, after I stupidly went up and down a steep ridge in Alaska with no walking sticks. The patella (knee cap) is affected and the resultant distress can be effectively cured, or largely ameliorated, by strengthening the muscle system supporting the knee. A full recovery may not be reasonable to expect, in that I seem to be getting arthritic, or losing the cushioning, in the knees. A visit to the physical therapist has been scheduled. I remind anyone who reads this that many old people talk about their health and body problems as a matter of course.

– Continue to schedule at least two sessions per week at the Friskis & Svettis exercise club. Every Tuesday and Friday (with variations) I meet fellow writer and friend Rebecca early in the morning at the club, after which we have breakfast at “Marie’s” (Café Bullen at Thorildsplan).

– There are around a half-dozen of my friends with whom I have fika (afternoon coffee break), sometimes lunch, quasi- or non-regularly. These will continue.

– Continue to take photographs when the moment seems apt.

– Continue to write poetic phrases when the moment seems apt.

– Maintain my tools: I have two PCs, one desk-top and one for travel. These need constant attention to keep them current and useful. Backup the data regularly onto an external hard drive and also a personal cloud (server in the home-office).

– The usual tasks of maintaining, jointly with a partner, a household.

This is rather an egoistic article, but as I said at the top, I’m feeling rather smug for the moment.

And, perhaps it may interest others to see what an 80-year-old does with his day.

Happy New Year!


The World Changed

I recently read an article by a person whose “world changed” at a young age by the event of “9/11” in New York City. My reading of her well-written memoir initiated a memory search for that moment in my life when the perception of the world may have changed — that is, to have shaken me loose from the unexamined feelings of comfort and safety that childhood, for some, allows.

After pondering, I found that my awakening was gradual, with punctuated moments of fear, despair, horror and, in the case of “9/11,” anger.

I was one month away from becoming age five when the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. I don’t have a memory of the actual day of the invasion. What I have is the memory, subsequently developed, of all the pictures and commentary since that time. It didn’t affect me at age five — this was just the way the world was.

My first memories are of living with my parents and my mother’s family in the top flat of a Victorian house on Arguello Boulevard in San Francisco, around three miles from the Pacific Ocean. None of the men in the house were called to military service, but Dad and Uncle Harry were ‘war workers’ in the shipyards of San Francisco, and in Richmond across the Bay. Grandpa was too old for service.

Uncle Harry was also a block warden for the times when ‘blackouts’ were called by the civil defense organization. He was to assure that we and the neighbors had pulled down their blackout curtains and shades so that no light could be seen by possible invaders from off the coast of San Francisco. These were the times the whole family, seven of us, would gather by candlelight in the living room to listen to news on the radio, or to music on the big Victrola. I imagined Japanese planes and submarines searching, searching, but finding nothing because we were so good at hiding. It wasn’t scary.

Later in my youth, I would play with other kids, boys, in building a small fire and throwing into it stick figures of Japan’s General Tojo, Italy’s Dictator Mussolini, and Germany’s Fuehrer Adolf Hitler. Then the war was over, and I was eight years old.

My dad got a job in Manhattan with his cousin, a printer, and found a railroad flat in Brooklyn for us, a few blocks from the docks. Mom, sister Diane, and I followed later to arrive by train on New year’s Day, 1946. I learned to live with fear and uncertainty in this neighborhood, more and more as I grew toward adolescence.

When I got to junior high school, we learned how to act when the sirens went off, signaling a nuclear bomb attack from the Soviet Union. These felt weird, and I always felt that such preparations were useless because everything would be wiped out anyway.

Toward the end of the 1940s, many people from Puerto Rico started arriving in New York’s boroughs, including Brooklyn. One summer day a car full of Puerto Rican immigrants was circling around 48th Street, looking for a destination, the occupants unfamiliar with the neighborhood. They had interrupted the stickball game of the older guys too many times, so they stopped the car, bounced on it, rolled it, and beat up the guys in the car, using pipes and other things as clubs. I ran away to our tenement up the street, feeling as if I had been beaten up.

Not long after this we moved back to San Francisco and, later, to Berkeley. We felt safe again.

Until, ten years later, October, 1962. This is when the world changed for me: the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was living in Berkeley, attending the University. I often awoke, sweating, having dreamed a nuke had exploded over the whole Bay Area.

Then, then in 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and began a horrible period of uncertainty and anger and disbelief in the authorities which the ‘Warren Commission’ could not quite damp down.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, then Senator Robert Kennedy gunned down within months of each other in 1968. I didn’t care that much for the Kennedy brothers or family, but upon “Bobby’s” death I felt America was coming apart.

Then the horrors of the Vietnam War, in which I was too old to directly participate, but I saw and felt the havoc it wrought on the young people and their elders.

I was present, in 1964–1965, at the ‘Free Speech Movement’ on the Berkeley campus, which began as a righteous protest and devolved into a battle between well-organized radicals and the State. It was warfare on campus and, in my mind, began the destruction of universities everywhere in the USA.

Time passes, wounds are layered over while one continues to do what humans tend to do, make families, go to work to support them, try to enjoy life occasionally. The horrors are buried, then… 9/11.

I could not believe, at first, I was not seeing a video-fiction, a story. My guts roiled, at age 64, wanting to go to battle with the hidden perpetrators.

I felt I finally understood the anger of the nation upon the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor.

The general anger and concomitant madness have not dissipated. I cannot now imagine what life will be like for my five children and, especially, my four grandchildren.

In grade school we used to sing “God Bless America.” Is there any singing in grade school these days?