Friday, December 31, 2010

Johnson City Makes the News Again-Although it Probably Wishes It Hadn't

This time the newsmaker is a former principal (and suspended assistant superintendent) of Johnson City High School.  He was there as principal for some of the time my son attended, so this is of great interest to me.

Some interesting things have been happening in the Johnson City schools the last few months. 

I don't know Mr. Lally personally, but I did have occasion to meet him.  I've seen him make speeches, and to me he seemed very hyperactive.  Apparently, the truth is a lot more sad.

At this point I don't want to comment on his case; I don't know enough to have an opinion.  But I wanted to mention something about bipolar disorder.

Years ago (I am positive) I worked for a man, a small business owner, who must have been bipolar.  It was an absolute nightmare.  I've known a couple of people since with the disorder.  One did some very good things for my son.  Another one was a co worker for a very brief time.

Just as a layperson, I can tell you that anyone with this disorder is enslaved by it.  And so are their families.  There is so little support out there for those with mental illness and their families.  It is a very sad situation.   There are medications, but they have major side effects.  This disorder causes so much suffering.   Being a caretaker for someone with bipolar, without support, can destroy families.  I've seen some of that suffering.

I can have compassion, though, because I didn't suffer at his hands as a co-worker. 

I hope this comes to an end without the school district bankrupting itself.  And guess what.  The taxpayers will suffer,too.

Not good.  Not good.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year- I hope

A week later, the smoke has cleared, the street with two burnt historic buildings remains blocked, and downtown wonders if the two buildings will be structurally sound enough to remain standing.

I pass near here every morning, and mourn the set back in the rebirth of downtown.  They still don't know what started the fire, which burned through the early morning hours of last Wednesday, December 23.

I still remember the smells of traveling to work last Wednesday.  Maybe it was my imagination, but I could smell smoke about 1/4 mile from downtown.  By the time I got to the corner of State and Court Street, the smell was quite noticable.

There was police tape along the sidewalks, where crowds had gathered the night before to watch the fire burn.  Remnants of ice from the water lined the sidewalks.  Up on the roof of the former midtown mall (the building where the fire started) were some firemen.  I stood there a few minutes before traveling on.

Once daybreak came, the damage was apparent.  The tall red building is the Press building, once the tallest building in Binghamton, built for the local newspaper.  It had only recently been renovated by a law firm, which had occupied several floors.

What a beautiful building, and it will break my heart if it has to come down.

As far as the historic Midtown Mall building.... this is what is left.  The building is totally gutted from the inside.

The building on the left is the Perry Building, another gem, and apparently it survived.

I still haven't been able to get hold of the historic photos (including some of fires at the turn of the century) I wanted to post.  If I get these pictures, I will post them.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, downtown. 
May 2011 be happier for all of us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Missing Numbers

Numbers are missing in Binghamton, NY.

No, someone hasn't been stealing house numbers.  Instead, as a sign of our times, our First Night celebration was cancelled.  The large numbers that were posted in front of each venue used to appear in early December.

Now, these streetcorners stand empty.

No parade of merrymakers will fill the street at 6pm on New Years Eve.  No horse drawn street cars will cruise the streets of downtown.  No venues will be filled with music, with arts, with merrymakers.  No maps, with numbers, will direct families to alcohol free entertainment.

No children's countdown at 9.  No fireworks or bonfire at midnight.  A friend of mine won't be entertaining.

Even the First Night organization, at one time headquartered in Binghamton, has fled (back to Boston.).  Meanwhile, Southern Tier Celebrates closed its doors too, earlier this year.  It almost makes you cry to read their list of past achievements to promote the arts in Binghamton.

All I can do is share some memories.  When my son was younger, I had a cousin who would come up here occasionally from NYC with her family and her daughter and my son would participate in First Night with us.  One year, Nickelodeon sponsored a show that was loads of fun.  Another year, my son, fresh from the funeral of his grandfather, was able to enjoy a magic act and an airflight simulator.  Many of those years, the temperature was hovering near zero.  The streets were always filled with snow.  There was at least one First Night I didn't go to because I felt it would be too icy.

I'm not a huge fan of the performing arts.  I rarely go to plays and almost never to concerts. (I'd rather stay home and curl up with a book.)  But I feel that communities need a celebration like First Night.

So what replaces First Night? Well, a "Studio 65" celebration (recreation of "Studio 54".  It's only $85.  OK, its a fundraiser.  But in this era of high unemployment, Binghamton needs something else.

I never thought I would miss First Night.  It's been about 4 years since I went last.  I was hoping to one day be able to stay up long enough (and keep myself warm long enough) to enjoy the bonfire and fireworks.  Now, I may never have that opportunity. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jewish Songwriters and Christmas

No, I don't mean the 2007 SNL TV Funhouse short "Christmas Time for the Jews" although I thought it was very entertaining and a dead-on parody of Phil Spector songs.  (It was, incidentally, sung by legendary singer Darlene Love.)

No, I'm talking about Christmas songs written by Jewish song writers.  My little quest started a year ago, reading a NY Times Op Ed.  There are a number of these songs, and other bloggers and writers have done the research for me:  I thank them, including the wonderful people at Mental Floss and this article. (a must read).

Some may argue that these are NOT Christmas songs, but rather songs about what I would now call the "secular Christmas". True, these are not hymns.  But it is true that the American celebration of Christmas incorporates many aspects of non-religious symbolism - this ground has been covered by other writers.

I consider them Christmas songs.  I think, in particular, few would argue that "I'll be Home for Christmas" isn't one of the most heartfelt Christmas songs every written.

(Note, I have not done any of this research myself.  I am not a musician or a music expert, just someone who likes to listen to well written music.  So if I end up spreading wrong information, I apologize.  I did try more than one source, but - as you well know- you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.)

1.  White Christmas:  Irving Berlin lived to 101, married a Catholic woman back when that type of intermarriage was extremely scandalous (to both families) and defined Christmas for entire generations of American Christians.  (Incidentally, he also wrote "Easter Parade". And "God Bless America") The next time you wonder if you will be having a white Christmas, and if you can't figure out exactly why that should be so important, well....blame Bing Crosby and.... Irving Berlin.

2.  Silver Bells:  this one is another movie song, and talks about the bells of the Salvation Army "in the city". (I always assume it is New York City.)

3.  Winter Wonderland: the author of this song was a Jewish man from Brooklyn.  The air must have been a lot less polluted in those days.   When I grew up a snowy day was more like a Black Crusted Snow Wasteland.

4.  The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire):  The Nat King Cole version is one of my favorite songs, ever.  This brings back so many memories of the holiday season in the late 60's in midtown Manhattan and the vendors who would sell roasted chestnuts.  The fragrance carried for blocks.

Jack Frost would certainly nip at your nose in NYC.  The climate there is so damp, it feels way colder than it really is.

5.  Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow:  the duo, both Jewish, who wrote that song, also wrote "The Christmas Waltz".

6.  I'll be Home for Christmas.  As an almost-history major in college, this song makes me think of my aunts and uncles during World War II.

And last but not least, something I picked up in my research:  the other day I blogged about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It would seem that Johnny Marks, the author of that song (and also "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree")  was Jewish.

So, whether secular or religious, Christian or Jew, enjoy today.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Downtown Recovers and Sings

I wanted to share a piece of Binghamton Christmas season tradition with you, in the wake of the fire we experienced Tuesday night.

Every "last day of work before Christmas" for around the past 16 years, employees of downtown employer Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York gather at noon in the marble lobby of their building to sing Christmas songs.  Not only are there talented singers, but also several employees on instruments accompanying them.

Thanks to You Tube, I can share this with you.  I was in the lobby for the 2010 caroling, made special by the smell of the smoke from the fire.  But it didn't stop anyone.  Note, the sound quality is horrible, but enjoy when the person taking the video scans the lobby.

Wouldn't it be great to work in a building like that?

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree

Feliz Navidad

(and no, I wasn't the one who made the video.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Festivus may be the only holiday created by a TV show. To be exact, a Seinfeld episode from 1997.  I don't formally celebrate it, although I do know a couple of people who do.  If I had to be totally honest (and you are supposed to be) I didn't even watch Seinfeld that much.  But I should.  Honest.

Festivus is a holiday for the "rest of us", the people burnt out by the total Overchristmasization of today's United States.  And, I can identify with that more and more each year.  Maybe next year I will be celebrating it.  Somehow, this year I feel so tired, so......and yet I have so much to be grateful for, such as still being employed.

For those not familiar with Festivus:

Festivus is celebrated every December 23 and has several aspects. 

First is the Festivus pole, always made of aluminum.  It is undecorated, as opposed to a Christmas Tree.  But strong.

Then is the Festivus dinner.  At the beginning of the dinner is the Airing of Grievances. Each participant tells each family member and friend how that person disappointed him/her.  However, if you extended this to other aspects of life...well, again it may just be my sour mood but I could really dump on some aspects of my daily life.  But not family.  To paraphrase, "I've got a lot of problems with certain things, and you are going to hear about it!"

I could recite a long list but basically I think our society is becoming more and more mean spirited each year.  And selfish, self-absorbed and a few other things.  We follow every detail of the Hollywood Stars lives, and musicians who don't even deserve the name, but we ignore those in our back yards who need friends more than ever.  Our news channels have turned into entertainment news.  We have lost our will to excel.

I saw a segment on CNN recently that dealt with-how much to tip your doorman!!   That's news?  That's relevant to most people in this country?  What about unemployment, lack of medical insurance, the burgeoning national debt, our borrowing and selling ourselves to China, and boring stuff like that?

History does repeat itself, friends.

Which brings us to the last event, the Feats of Strength.  After the head of the family is pinned to the ground in a match of strength, dinner is over.

Happy Festivus, I guess.  Hopefully I will cheer up once the sun decides to reappear, sometime next year.

The Night They Almost Burned Old Binghamton Down

A Soggy, Not So Jolly, Christmas for Downtown Binghamton.
I delayed posting this because I was hoping to get some pictures from someone, but I probably won't be getting the pictures until next week.

Downtown Binghamton could have burned down Tuesday night.

That's an exaggeration, but not as much as an exaggeration as one might think.

The headlines could have been "The Midtown Mall, the Perry Building and the Press Building burnt down Tuesday night, along with the old Strand Theatre, and other buildings on once-historic Chenango Street".  It would have served Binghamton right.  This city has a long track record of disrespecting its heritage.  Strong words?  Well, let's see.  How about the O'Neill/Ross Building, demolished several years ago in two stages after many years of vacancy and neglect - and the destruction of almost all of their Green Men.

And, let's not forget the Alms House, demolished earlier this year, unwanted by Broome Community College? (not downtown, but not completely off topic.)

So why not some instant urban renewal?

However, please don't cry just yet, Binghamton. We will get through this.  (I hope).

Why didn't the block go?  Because, to be blunt, they knew how to build in those days.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.  And a lot of spectators enjoyed watching the firefighters labor through a cold night of fire fighting.  (I arrived about 7:15 am on my way to work, and I will blog about it another time.).  But one wall of the Press Building (former office and plant of our local newspaper, and the second tallest building in Binghamton) has a lot of broken windows and blackened walls - it had just been renovated itself.

So much for student housing on Court Street, at least for now.  Downtown was depending so much on that for revival.

It's deja vu all over again. 
This is far from the first time fire has struck downtown.

About two weeks ago, I was privileged to view some photos of turn of the century (early 20th century, that is) downtown Binghamton, taken from around 1898 to 1913.  I still hope to get those pictures from a person who got them from the family.  The pictures have no copyright and I am assured they can be shared freely.

Three of the pictures deal with fire.  One fire wasn't all that far from Tuesday's blaze, another one was further down on Court Street.  Some things never change; these fires were a spectator sport too.  Just change the clothing and get rid of the color film.....

And then there was the third picture.  Dressed in long dresses and heavy wool suits, the long procession wound down Court Street to honor the victims of another fire that afternoon day of July, 1913:  the 33 dead in the Binghamton Clothing Company fire, which I blogged about last year.

Thankfully, this fire caught at night.  What caused it?  We still don't know.

But it wasn't fun breathing in that smoke at work yesterday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The True Rudolph

I received an email regarding the "true story of the origin of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It was a story of a man, Bob May, who created the story as a comfort to his young daughter, who was dying of cancer.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! 

There's a term fans of use for this type of tearjerker, "glurge".  This email is an example of glurge.  I won't copy the email here; you can find it on

Along with the story, is Snope's explanation of the real story of Rudolph.  When you read it, you will agree that the real story is better than the "glurge" version.  So I ask, why do people have to do that?

Do you remember back when many towns had a Montgomery Ward in the Mall and every year they would sell Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer books?  I bought one for my son when he was a baby.  And, I still have a Rudolph sweatshirt I bought at Monky Wards probably the last Christmas they were open.

For what it's worth, my memory of the book (I no longer have it) is that the story was a bit different than the story in the TV show that most of us remember.  As for the origins of Rudolph....

According to Snopes, Rudolph was created as part of a Montgomery Wards advertising campaign in the 1930's.  It is true a man by the name of Bob May created the character.  But there was no daughter dying of cancer.   The real story is actually a "better" one than the story someone made up, and I invite you to read it on their website.

Bob May's brother in law wrote the Rudolph song that Gene Autry recorded.

As a point of trivia, if Wikipedia is correct about the author of the song, he was Jewish.  So was Irving Berlin, who wrote the song "White Christmas". But that is a story for another day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Northern Exposure and the Quest for the Midnight Sun

In the past year I've gotten into the TV show Northern Exposure (I had never watched it while it was on.) thanks to the local public library.

The one thing that immediately struck me was that the quality of the sunlight in "Cicely, Alaska" (the small town where the show took place) just did not seem right.  I've only been to Alaska once (and that was the southeastern part, around Juneau and Ketchikan) but I will never forget how different the sunlight looked.

"Cicely" didn't have that special light character.  And, for that matter, it seemed to have too much daylight in the winter period.

Never mind that they featured shows talking about the midnight sun (and the total dark) but something just didn't seem right.  The scenery looked right, but.....

Well, there's a reason for that:  "Cicely, Alaska" is really a small town in rural Washington by the name of Roslyn.

It really didn't spoil anything for me to know that.  Instead, I have a one day "I'll go there" that may be a bit more manageable than Fairbanks.  Fairbanks is almost a full day's airplane flight (actually, flights) from here, all of which seem to get there about midnight. A lot of effort.  Roslyn may be a bit more doable.

So, knowing that Cicely was not in Alaska:  that's what I get for my fascination with the midnight sun (and the noontime dark.)  The TV detective Monk would probably be proud of me.

Cold and Darkness in Alaska aka The Winter Solstice

It's time for my semi annual post regarding my fascination with the midnight sun in the summer...and the lack of it during the winter.  Here are the stats for Fairbanks, AK (it's about 6pm here in Upstate NY)

Today's statistics:
DECEMBER 21 2010..........SUNRISE  1059 AM AKST   SUNSET  241 PM AKST

The weather:  right now it is currently minus 13.

                VALUE   (LST)  VALUE       VALUE  FROM      YEAR     
TEMPERATURE (F)                                                     
  MAXIMUM        -21    303 AM  40    1909   3    -24      -11       
  MINIMUM        -31    613 PM -48    1933 -16    -15      -24 
 More in another post.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Soapiness of Cilantro, the Bitterness of Brocolli Rabe

It is fascinating how we differ in our perceptions, due to the differing way our senses work.

I had blogged a few days ago about how my spouse finds the smell of paperwhites very pleasant while I find it very unpleasant.  The owner of a B&B we stayed in last year commented, and told me about the fact that some people find that the herb cilantro tastes like soap.

Sure enough, there are various discussions online, including an involved discussion on Chowhound.

Neither my spouse nor I find that cilantro tastes like soap but again, we have two reactions to the smell.  My husband rarely uses cilantro in his food preparation because he can't stand the odor.  On the other hand, I have no problem with it. (I do find the taste somewhat complex, but the first time I tried it it smelled to me like dirty socks would taste, if you were crazy enough to eat one.  It did eventually grow on me.)

So what else do my spouse and I differ on, food wise?

1. Brocolli rabe, a staple of my spouse's childhood (I'm of a totally different ethnic group) is heavenly to spouse, but I can't stand it.  To me it is so bitter I can't stand it. Even when it is prepared in a way that reduces the bitterness, I still taste it.  I'm not the only one; one of my spouses' cousins actually "feel guilty" about disliking this ethnic staple.

2.  Strong, mold-type cheeses such as bleu cheese and gorgonzola:  again, I find these so bitter I can't stand them.  My spouse loves them.  In fact my mother in law loves them so much she will put them into salad and I've begged her to serve the cheese on the side.  Sometimes she remembers and sometimes she doesn't.

When I had an aunt living in Iowa, we made trips a couple of times to the Maytag Dairy Farms near Newton, IA just so spouse could buy their blue cheese.  This was before their blue cheese became a "foodie classic".  But it is no classic cheese for me.

There is one other classic reaction to food that I should mention, which is the smell of people's "pee" after eating certain foods.  The classic food causing that is asparagus, but there are some other foods that cause pee to smell unpleasant and/or strong.  I'm told that asparagus affects everyone's pee, but not everyone can smell it.  Fortunately, because both of us love asparagus, neither of us smell it.

Since foods are chemical in nature, should any of this be surprising?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ah, Those Good Old Internet Days

A Stephen Colbert skit a couple of nights ago reminded me about a special anniversary today.

Fourteen years ago today (1996) I treated myself to a special present:  my first computer.  A smart phone today is probably more powerful.  This beauty, a black Toshiba desktop, set me back (with service contract) nearly $2,000.  Its Pentium I 133Mhz processor, 1.6 GB hard drive and 16 MB of Ram were state of the art.  It ran Windows 95.

My son still owns it. It's part of his unofficial electronics museum.

Approximately one month later, I went online for the first time, using CompuServe.  The browser was Mosaic. It used a 14,400 bps modem to access the Internet.  In those days, Internet service was dialup, and not only that, providers charged by the hour.

This is what the Yahoo site looked like in January of 1997.  This is the Weather Channel site in April of 1997.

This was the home page for eBay later that year.

It is hard to remember the Internet of early 1997.  Many sites were basically text oriented.  It took time for those pages to load.  I wasn't exactly an online pioneer, but it sure seems like it now.

I even still have my very first email stored.  It was request for information to find out how to build a potato "battery".  That's what happens when you have a science oriented son.

I was the last generation who knew more about computers than their young son.

Hearing the sound of a modem in that Colbert skit really brought back old memories.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pitching Now-from the Other Side of the Grass

Say it ain't so.

Tell me that the powerful 90 year old man I saw trot to the pitching mound at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY on Fathers Day, 2009 hasn't left the stadium for good.

Tell me that he will come back next year, as he had promised the fans, to pitch again.  Tell me he will delight another cohort of young boys and girls outside of Doubleday Field, waiting for him to come and sign their baseballs, even though the era he pitched in was, to them, just a historical footnote.

No, please don't tell me that Bob Feller, a young 92, lost his battle with leukemia yesterday.

When that crowd, and I, saw him trot to the mound, that day in 2009, I knew I was blessed to be there.  I felt goosebumps.  Chilled, I'm sure I forgot to breathe as thousands in the stadium, gave him a standing ovation.

Why did we all feel that way, about the man from Van Meter, Iowa, the farmer's son?

Have you ever seen the move Field of Dreams?  I visited, back in 1995, the site where the movie was filmed, a farm in Northeast Iowa.

Bob Feller's father built the original Field of Dreams, there on his farm near Van Meter, Iowa.  Not the movie field, which is over a hundred miles away, but a real Field of Dreams, for his son.  And eventually he built bleachers and charged admission, for his son was so good as a young teen that people would pay the princely sum of 25 cents to watch him pitch.

Rapid Robert spent his entire career with one team, the Cleveland Indians.  If World War II had not interrupted his career....well, a lot of men of that era had their careers interrupted.  But not too many of them volunteered for service the day after Pearl Harbor, and immediately asked to be placed into combat.  He served on the USS Alabama.  As it was, he pitched for 18 seasons.  And not one game featured the type of pitching you find today, with a pitcher rarely seeing a full game.  No, this was industrial strength pitching.

I can imagine what Bob Feller, farm strong, would have thought about pitch counting.
Three no hitters, three more than the entire NY Mets during their 48 year history.

It's a cliche, but they just don't make them like that anymore.  Goodbye, Rapid Robert.   I was so lucky to be able to see you pitch.  I will always remember you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Scent of Paperwhites

Every gardening season has its surprises. 

I've wanted, for years, to try to grow paperwhites.  These are bulb flowers that are not hardy in our area, and would die if we tried to overwinter them.  But instead, many northerners choose to grow them around Christmastime, indoors.  They bloom once, and then you have to get rid of them.

I was looking forward to smelling their strong, sweet, fragrance.

So this year, I decided to grow them.  I bought three bulbs at a nursery, brought them home, (I already knew I had a suitable pot-wide and shallow) found some colored gravel from a long-ago crafts project, dug them in, watered, left them in the dark for about two weeks.  At the end of the two weeks, they had sprouted, and I brought them into the light.

Yes, they were easy.  And I didn't even have to stake them.

They've been blooming a bit over a week now and:  the scent is strong.  Yes, as advertised, it can fill a room.

My spouse loves the scent.

I can't stand it.  To me, it smells kind of industrial, with an undertone of manure.  What a disappointment!  But the flowers are pretty, and I do take them off the windowsill from time to time so that spouse can enjoy it.

Was it just me?  Do I have a strange sense of smell? (I can't stand the scent of Russian Olive tree flowers, either- a scent that my spouse absolutely adores.)

No, it isn't me.  I'm not alone.

Apparently (if the article I am linking to is correct) about a quarter of the population has a problem with the scent of paperwhites, at least the mass produced ones.  I noticed that the local supermarket was selling a variety called "Ziva".  What the nursery sold me, I do not know.

So, you can really be surprised sometime.  Yes, they were easy.  Yes, they were pretty.  But would I grow them again?  I don't think so, unless I can find one of the varieties that allegedly are more tolerable to those like me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Annual "Why do I live here" Lament

Winter.  It's here.  Not on the calendar yet, but snow coats the sidewalk.  Even the snowglobe effect of snow twirling in the air can't defrost my heart. Winter.  I hate it.  I am grateful, though, that I don't live in Syracuse.  Several of my co workers do.  As of early afternoon they had over 13 inches of snow on the ground.  Yes, it could be worse.

Blowing, shivery winds make me doubt my sanity for ever moving from Florida in the mid 1970's.  Were the palmetto bugs ever that bad?  Or the hot humid summers?  Shouldn't I have stayed? Why didn't I chose somewhere with less snow?  Less gloom?  More sunny winter days?

My snowbird neighbors have finally left for the great South.  Maybe they secretly laugh at us, we who stay up here.

Winter. For the rest of this month, Christmas lights light up the night, and pointsettias brighten our homes.  But soon the cookies and eggnog will disappear and the lights will come down, leaving us only with the pointless short winter days.

Perhaps it is time for me to direct my thoughts, northward, towards Fairbanks.  It is dark there right now and 12 below zero.  This morning their low was 23 below.  They are down to 4 hours and 18 minutes of daylight.

Winter and upstate NY.  Why did I ever move here? 

But then I open the refrigerator and spy the half-full jug of local Purity Eggnog, the best eggnog on earth.  I eat the local apples still crisp from the fall harvest.  I think of the local goat cheese waiting to be cut and eaten.  I remember what is good about upstate NY.

But I still hate winter.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Driving the Dream

Since joining Facebook I've gotten to know some people I haven't seen in years, but communicated with through e-mail, in a whole different way.  I've learned a lot reading their posts.  I know that, of people close to my age: one dances the tango, one runs in marathons, another travels the world on business.

So, all that being true, why shouldn't I think about doing something I've dreamed about since being a teenager?

I mean dream literally, as in sleep dreams.

In those dreams, I would be ...somewhere.  Somewhere, walking with purpose.

In these dreams, I would be in the middle of a walk across the United States.  As dreams go, there was no beginning, there was only the "walk in progress".  I figure I'd have these dreams several times a year.  And then, one day, the dreams stopped.  Strangely, my spouse had these types of dreams too, except he would be running.

When you are young, you up and do something, no fear, sometimes no planning.  As someone almost a "senior",the mind works differently-that's both good, and bad.

Good, because you know you have to plan.

Bad, because you can be too easily scared.  Or overwhelmed by details.  Or, feeling the aching knee or the hurting ankle, wonder what the heck is possessing you.  Or looking in the mirror and seeing the weight that wasn't there when you were a teen, and knowing you have a bad back, that can cause some self-pity too.  Arthritis can slow you down a little.

Well, right after Thanksgiving, something happened.  The day after Thanksgiving, two of my spouses' cousins climbed into a moving truck and drove from South Florida to Southern California.  It took them about a week.  They stopped in various places and did sightseeing:  New Orleans, Austin.  They posted pictures as they went, via their mobile phone, on Facebook.

If I had done that walk across the country when I was young, but assuming I was young today and not in the 60's, I would have posted those pictures, too.  And in fact, earlier this year, a group of young people from the Rochester, NY area did just that, when they walked across the country in an undertaking called "Walk the Dream".  I followed them on Facebook, just as I followed my cousins in law in their drive.

Now, it's my turn.

Do I take up the challenge?  It doesn't have to be a cross country walk.  It could be (walking) a 1/2 marathon.  The point is, at my age the saying "use ir or lose it" is so true.  I must not lose my sense of wanting to do something I have dreamed about for years.  It isn't too late.  I know I won't do it tomorrow, as winter closes in.  But I must keep this dream burning bright.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Swimming in Lake OldSchool

I have never blogged about my job before.  I'm not going to (specifically) but I had such a frustrating day today that I want to talk about workplace tensions (and differences in expectation) between babyboomers and people in their 20's and early 30's. 

Someone I know, when that person talks to friends about this difference in outlook and attitude says we babyboomers are "swimming in Lake OldSchool".

On one level I realize people in their 20's and early 30's grew up in a totally different world than people in their 50's and early 60's.  I have more in common with Greatest Generation people 15 years older than me than people even 15 years younger than me.

I grew up in a world where there was no internet, where employer and employee both expected loyalty (that one is totally gone) toward each other, where people were expected to take transfers without complaint, where women stayed home to raise their children (is this beginning to sound like Mad Men?), where a person was expected to take pride in their job.

Younger employees march to a beat of a totally different drummer.  They walk in the door and wonder why they aren't CEO in three months.  They seem so needy....needy for constant praise and reinforcement.  They want a prize for every tiny accomplishment.  There's no respect for authority. (I know, there is some type of cosmic justice about that, considering that we baby boomers were "questioning authority" in the 1960's and telling each other not to "trust anyone over 30".)  I see the young people take to office technology like ducks to water, but then stare blankly when you expect them to understand concepts that aren't technology related.  They want to be challenged, but can't seem to understand that everything can't be fun, that what they are doing is called "Work" for a reason.

Because my college major was anthropology, this normally would be fascinating to me.  However, I am trying not to drown in Lake OldSchool.  I know that my generation will be gone from the workplace in a few years (or maybe not, if Social Security disappears), and these employees are going to take over.  Yes, I know it, because at work the people of my generation are constantly reminded that we are obsolete.

It's not just me.  I did a very short websearch and found entire books have been written on this workplace tension, including tomes devoted to managers who have to work with this generation gap.  However, the prevailing attitude of these books towards baby boomers seems to be "you're on your way out, so suck it up". 

So that means that the values of baby boomers are not worthwhile?  That values of wanting to give good value to an employer willing to pay for a day's work are obsolete?  That we should not point out to young ones that they are expected to work rather than surf the net and text each other?  Since when were young people granted a right to verbally abuse older coworkers because they are young and will own the workplace one day?

I don't think this is the "generation gap" of Socrates.

I don't think it is immaturity.

It is something else, a physical change in the brain.   Think that is far fetched?

When I was young, I was a big fan of science fiction. There is a 1943 science fiction story called "Mimsy Were the Borogoves."  I think about that story a lot lately, although I havn't read it in many years.
If you are interested in tension between our two generations, you may want to hunt down this story and read it.

That is what we are facing, and it isn't going to get better for people my age.

So what do we do about it, without losing our sanity?