Elder musings

A wise, old owl

I recently read an article in the local newspaper regarding a retired, 75-year-old man who had become so deeply in debt that he felt he had no alternative but to rob a bank. He wasn’t very good at it and was caught almost immediately. The article went on to report that this “elderly man” would be charged with a felony. What caught my eye there was the characterization of this guy as “elderly”. So, apparently, I have at most only three more years until I am considered to be elderly, at least in the eyes of the local press corps.

Regardless of how one might characterize a person of my vintage, it is often assumed that us graybeards must be wise as well as old, right? Well, I can assure you that is not always the case. But given the benefit of the doubt, if I am so old and, ergo, sage, then, just what, exactly, have I learned over all these years? Hmmm. Well, here are a few aphorisms I can share with you, in no particular order.

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My music, your music and everybody else’s music

One summer a couple of years ago I travelled in my Jeep from Jacksonville to Memphis to meet up with my sister and her husband who, in turn, had driven south from Michigan to join me for a little mini-vacation. Following a few pleasant days in that famed city, I set out on the first leg of my return trip. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and with all that drive-time coming up I decided to see what I might find on the radio. I was curious to hear what people were listening to nowadays.

As I clicked through the static and sermons I found myself looking for something akin to the old Casey Kasem American Top Forty that we listened to back in the seventies, or maybe something like Dick Biondi’s countdown on WLS Chicago before that. What I stumbled upon was John Tesh hosting his Intelligence for Your Life program, which, among other things, included the airing of some of the day’s most popular singles. That should work, I figured.

I listened to Tesh’s song list for an hour or so only to find that much of the music simply did not appeal to me at all. Why is that, I wondered?

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You’re a what?

I stumbled upon the thread below on the Straight Dope Message Board (published with permission) and felt as though I really needed to share it with my friends, especially you Michiganders and Floridians—this is a hoot. I have filtered it down a bit for your reading pleasure. Here we go:

 

 

________________________

Some state residents’ nomenclature is fairly well known, but others seem just plain awkward. The straightforward ones:

 

Alaska – Alaskans

Georgia – Georgians

American Samoa – American Samoans

Hawaii – Hawaiians.

And so on.

 

So, what do you call people from your state?

 

Lance Turbo:

I live in North Carolina but I am not from here. I call North Carolina natives “cousin bangin’ rednecks.”

I hope this helps.

 

Sledman

In Wisconsin we are “Wisconsinites.” To the rest of the world, Cheeseheads.

 

Bibliophage

People who live in Main because of the beautiful summer weather are “Mainers.” People who stay for the winters, too, are “Maineiacs.”

 

Some people from away call us all “Down Easters” because they think we all live Down East. Only Down East part of Maine is Down East. I’ve been Down East, and the people down there say, “No, this isn’t Down East. Down East is Down East.” I hope that clears things up.

 

Yossarian

New Mexico – “New Mexicans”? I hope not. That’s what I’ve always called my neighbors to the north-northwest. Actually, “Nude Mexicans” has a nicer ring to it.

 

Jayron 32

I grew up in New Hampshire, and so know most of the New England state resident nicknames (some are regional to a certain area):

Massachusetts: “Massatwosh*ts–” or “Massash*ts.”

Connecticut: “Connecticuter.”

Vermont: “Vermonter” (special note: to Vermonters, all out-of-staters are “Flatlanders”).

 

 

Bibliophage

Males from Michigan are “Michiganders”; females from Michigan are, of course, “Michageese.”

New Mexico: “New Mexicans”, whether you like it or not.

Illinois: “Illinoisans”

 

Darkfox

Many people in my state are called “Steve.”

 

ZenBeam’Uggh.

’m not a “Michigander”, I’m a “Michiganian.” Youse guys (below the bridge) are “Trolls,” unless I hear proof that yer not. ‘Fess up, you live under that bridge…

 

Wood Thrush

Why do people never seem to check the dictionary for a problem that can obviously be solved with a dictionary? For example, I found all these in the dictionary [Editor’s note: he/she goes on to list several]. The list goes on, but frankly, I don’t have the time.

 

Sledman

Common usage tends to run a bit ahead of the dictionary and there is some local flavor that will not appear in a dictionary, for instance “Trolls” and “Yoopers” [Michigan upper peninsula].

 

Lance Turbo

You won’t find “cousin bangin’ redneck” in the dictionary when you look up North Carolina. So, really, what good does the dictionary do ya’?

 

Xenophone414

Suh, I have to disagree about residents of Georgia. You can call us Georgians if you wish, but in practice there are several more accurate terms available, depending on circumstances: “Cracker” – any white male native (born n’ bred); “Redneck” – any resident sufficiently indoctrinated in the heritage of our fair state; “Bubba” – Any redneck wearing overalls; “Good ole boy” – a redneck who manages to hit the truck bed most times when he throws the empty beer cans out the window; :Hillbilly” – from the northern part of the state (mostly lost “Tennesseeans” or “Tarheels”); “Yankees” – visitors from that country up north of Virginia; “Damn Yankees” – Yankees that stay longer than a year. None of the above terms may be applied to our women. They’re all peaches.

 

I hope this ’s been instructive. Ya’ll come back, now.

 

Ultress

Well, Lance Turbo, I am a native of North Carolina. I won’t tell you what we call your type here, but it is in the dictionary, but I don’t think you could read it anyway [since] after looking it up there’s not a picture for you to see. North Carolina is known as the “Tar Heel State”, so people either use the “Tar Heels” or “North Carolinians.”

 

Random

“Illinoisan”, but make sure you don’t pronounce the “s”. ill – I –Noy-an.

 

Persephone

“I’m from Michigan.” That’s what I say.

In private, though, I call myself “STUPID” for staying here! Why didn’t I GET OUT when I had the chance? Sheesh!”

 

TVebken

Wood Thrush and Random are both quite correct about the name for residents of Illinois. But please note that the spoken version comes out as:” Ill-annoyin’.” Gotta love it.

 

DoctorJ

We’re pretty boring: “Kentuckians.”

Across the river, of course, they avoid the bulky “Indianian” by calling themselves “Hoosiers.” Hoosier, as it happens, is an old Indian word meaning “State with loud abusive basketball coach.”

 

Sealemon88

I’m from Texas. We’re called “Superior.”

 

Evilbeth

Well, people who are from Tennessee and/or live in the state year-round are called (gasp) “Tennesseeans” or “Vols” for the Volunteers. The really rude, older people who can’t drive that migrate here from Florida in the summer and fall are called “Floridiots.” [Editor’s note: that’s what they call us all over the place, based on personal experience].

 

Tally-Ho

In Florida, those of us who stay year round are simply “Floridians.” The ones that flock down here for the mid-winters are “Snow Birds” both for the timing and the amount of white hair. A large percentage seem to come from Canada. Can’t you guys figure out how to stay warm up there?

 

John Corraado

“What are the people in my state called? “G**D*** idiots,” but usually only when I’m driving.

 

Lance Turbo

Bear in mind that I live in Asheville, up in the mountains of North Carolina. Most residents of Asheville are not from North Carolina for some reason, so I don’t deal with too many natives. The natives remind me a little too much of the move Deliverance.  So, when I refer to North Carolina natives as “cousin bangin’ rednecks” it is mostly due to the Deliverance flashbacks they inspire. However, the way they look at their cousins isn’t really helping the case.

 

Fleetwood

And I always thought all people from Maine were “cousins”!

 

McDeath

As a Saskatchewanian, I thought I’d give you a couple more for the list.

A resident of Moose Jaw (yes, we have a city called Moose Jaw) is, wait for it:

A “Moosichappishanisippian.” Really.

Saskatchewan, of course, comes from the Cree phrase meaning “The land where no man may leap to his death.”

People outside Saskatchewan are called “Rich.”

Rich Saskatchewanians are call “Calgarians.”

We won’t get into what the residents of Climax are called…

Got junk in your drawers?

My junk drawer

For those of you who are new to my ruminations my maternal grandparents lived in an old, two-story farmhouse out in the countryside of southwestern Michigan. And the door that served as its primary entry opened directly into the kitchen.

The kitchen was the central gathering place in the old house, with most activities focused on or around the table located in the center of the room.  Repairs to radios and other household devices were typically done there (one could actually repair a radio back in those days) as were myriad other tasks requiring a flat surface and the aid of kibitzers, including the preparation of the family’s federal income tax return, as I recall. In earlier days one would have found a deep sink in there with a cast-iron hand pump that piped water in from a cistern outside. But by the time I was a teenager the room had been fully modernized with electric appliances.

In the far corner of that room, though, one would have also found a tall, white, built-in cabinet with enclosed shelving below for pots and pans and glassed-in shelving above for dishes and knickknacks. And at waist height (which was about nose-height to me when I first discovered it), was a junk drawer.

It seems as though a junk drawer is a natural component of any American household. It isn’t always in the kitchen but, in my experience, that’s usually where it will be found. The junk drawer in my grandparents’ house was a cornucopia of miscellanea: candles, batteries, a ball of cotton string, ink pens, rubber bands, a miniature hammer, pipe cleaners, screws, padlocks with no keys, keys with no padlocks, a screwdriver, a 22-caliber bullet, a spent 410 shotgun shell, sulphur kitchen matches (the kind that could be lit by scratching them against the back of a thigh when wearing denim trousers), various springs from unknown mechanical devices…

And a tiny hunting knife in a leather sheath.

When I first spied that little knife, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. It was about four inches in length with an ivory-like handle and the name of a Kentucky campground or something imprinted on the leather sheath. A perfect replica of a buck knife, in miniature. Well, upon stumbling across this excellent find I decided to borrow it for a while.

Fast forward to my house.

My father was an industrial engineer by trade and, at the time, was in the process of building the first of three homes he would eventually construct for our family and my paternal grandparents over the next twenty years or so. And in the garage, he had a brand-new coil of about 100 feet of what would probably equate today to Romex 20-amp electric cable, which was to be installed in the new house. I had been particularly curious about this cable. I could see the three copper wires at the tip of each end but could not help but wonder what it looked like in the middle. Was it the same all through? So, I set to work with my little knife to find out.

Interestingly, I don’t remember getting paddled for that first-of-many-to-come errors in judgment in my life. I could have just asked about it, I suppose—But I had been searching in earnest for something to use that knife on.

Well, Dad ended up tossing out the whole cable since it could not be repaired in a manner suitable for its intended use. He did ask me though why, for crying out loud, did I have to cut it right smack in the middle? I patiently explained, as I have above, and then never saw that little knife again.

It was the same in the middle by the way, in case you were wondering.

How democracies die

The following is a response to an abstract expertly written by my friend, Lynn Gerlach, of a book co-authored by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt entitled How Democracies Die. The abstract is an excellent read in its own right and was the inspiration for my comments below. I encourage my readers to visit the Speakeasy Blog at www.tammarackcommunicatons.com in order to read the entire piece, including the comments section. So, off we go…

 

Here are four underlying causes I attribute to many of the problems addressed in Lynn’s abstract, as they apply to the U.S., and which I have seen coming for years:

 

1.    Extremists from both parties have taken over the primaries: The squeaky wheels get the grease and the extremists are the squeakiest. And the squeakiest get the most media attention (the talk shows are always on red alert for something to talk about, especially if it can in any way be construed as controversial).

 

So, candidates seeking a presidential nomination must accommodate those extremists in order to get on the ballot. This may be accomplished by simply being radical in their own right or appearing to be radical. If successful, the nominees are then tasked with becoming “electable” in the eyes of mainstream voters, who are by and large moderates and who must choose between two seemingly unsavory choices.

 

2.     Individuals seeking Congressional nominations or reelection must forge a path through the same extremist demands and, in doing so, are often expected to pledge to be unyielding on key issues. Then, ironically, when successful in their election bids, the voters are angry with them for not compromising with the opposing party (“Throw the bums out!”).

 

So why are these persons so anxious to become/remain a member of Congress in the first place? In too many cases, it’s due to number 3, below.

 

3.     No term limits breeds abdication of duties. Congress, over the years, has slowly but surely enacted laws and regulations that greatly enhance the power and financial benefits of incumbents, which, in turn, result in an elitist lifestyle far more comfortable than that of the average American—it could truly be considered the best, part-time government job in America. Therefore, these office holders are incentivized to dodge anything that might negatively impact their fundraising abilities or their abilities to be reelected. This includes the fanatical avoidance of having to take a formal position on anything remotely controversial, in other words, voting. (Which is why, of course, Congressional leaders never allow a vote on anything of national consequence when there is an upcoming election).

 

Thus, with Congress having willfully forfeited its opportunity to govern on major issues, the sitting president has no choice but to govern through executive order. Unfortunately, some presidents are more than happy to do so. And if anything goes wrong, of course, Congress can then blame it on the president instead of taking the heat themselves. The ongoing immigration fiasco is a prime example of this.

 

(Incidentally, the dangers of finding ourselves stuck with a president-for-life was nipped in the bud after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a fourth term, leaving office only due to death. This was accomplished with the enactment of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in 1947 and ratified by the states in 1951. Unfortunately, the likelihood of our current crop of lawmakers voting for such an amendment regarding their own offices is virtually null.)

 

4.     Candidates who are highly qualified and eager to serve are discouraged from seeking elected office. Although I have only anecdotal evidence of this, there appears to be few in this category who are willing to endure a brutal and costly election campaign. Thus, we are left with many career politicians who are simply inept and retain their seats, term-after-term, through gerrymandering and other schemes, and ne’er-do-wells new to the scene seeking a way to latch onto one of those highly coveted U.S. Senate seats.

 

Finally, let it be known that there are numerous members of Congress who are capable, thoughtful and patriotic public servants and whose desire to serve takes precedence over personal ambition. Unfortunately, they are too often overshadowed by Congressional leaders who seem to thrive on polarization, and the loudest mouths among their peers who typically fall into the latter categories noted in item 4, above.