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?

Continue “My music, your music and everybody else’s music”

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.



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



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.



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”).




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

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

Illinois: “Illinoisans”



Many people in my state are called “Steve.”



’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.



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’?



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.



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.”



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



“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!”



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.



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.”



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



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].



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.



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



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.

Make my (Memorial) day

After watching a couple of golf tourneys these past two weekends I found myself feeling a little “golfy”. This is the inclination that seeps into my subconscious after a sufficient amount of time has passed for me to have mostly forgotten the less than desirable outcome of my most recent foray to the links.

Thus, ignoring Einstein’s premise that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time, I cheerfully headed out to Blue Sky without a tee time to play a pickup round with someone or, perhaps, join another group who had room for me—this is something I used to do all the time back in my travel days. And, sure enough, upon my arrival at the tee box, the starter teamed me up with another solo player who was also looking for a game. And off we went.

My new acquaintance, a twenty-nine-year-old named Matt, chose to tee off from the “blues” (way back there) and I decided to stick with the standard whites (my dignity will not allow me to go up to the red ladies’ tee, thank you very much, which some have suggested is better suited to my capabilities). As it turned out we were surprisingly well-matched: he could hit the ball a mile but had no idea where it was going to end up; in my case, I don’t hit the ball very far, but also have no idea where it’s going to end up.

At any rate, as we worked our way around the first nine I was delighted to learn that I was playing golf with a baseball pitcher who had played in the minors for the Chicago Cubs for four-and-a-half years. Upon further enquiry I learned he was just finishing up a temporary assignment with an independent league while rehabbing through a shoulder injury.

Through the course of conversation Matt asked me about my background as well. My response included among other things an off-hand reference to my four years of active duty in the United States Coast Guard.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable afternoon even though neither of us played particularly well. And in keeping with my established skill level, I managed to double-bogey the last hole (that’s two strokes over par for you non-golfers).

Ah, but this is the hole where one is supposed to get a great score in order to “make one’s day!” and thus, (blowing off Einstein once again) be encouraged to come back as soon as possible and try the whole thing all over again. In my case, this mystical phenomenon could only occur in the event of the immediate onset of amnesia, which would cause me to forget how I managed to get all sweaty and covered in sand and mud and lose six brand new balls and a sock before arriving at the eighteenth tee. So, it certainly wasn’t that last hole that made my day: rather, it was a comment from Matt earlier in the afternoon when I made reference to my veteran status that made my day. He said something, in fact, I had not realized until that moment that no one had ever said to me. Here it is: “Thank you for your service.”

Well, my first reaction to Matt’s statement was to be a little embarrassed, and here are the reasons why:

First of all, it seems to me that this gracious comment would best be directed to one who has courageously exposed him- or herself to great personal risk in order to protect the lives and property of others, such as in mortal combat. In my case, I have never so much as aimed a firearm at another person; nor, to my knowledge, has any person ever aimed a firearm at me (with the possible exception of one of my exes). In fact, the only time I ever had the opportunity to discharge a military firearm was in boot camp. I never set foot in a combat zone; and was only ever considered to be in harm’s way by virtue of being an aircraft search-and-rescue aircrewman (the Guard paid me hazardous duty flight pay for that, which was not undue since I managed to be a party to a helicopter crash during my tour of duty—but that’s another story.)

Another reason I felt a bit awkward was because I admit to harboring a little “survivor’s guilt”. This bubbles to the surface when I consider the stark contrast between my relatively mundane military experience as compared to those who variously sacrificed life, limb and, often, their innocence in the Viet Nam war as well as in countless other past and current conflicts.

So, I’m thinking maybe the acceptance of such a comment is simply not fitting in my case.

On the other hand, I did, in fact, dedicate four irretrievable years of my youth in service to my country. And I might add that four years, in the eyes of an eighteen-year-old, or twenty-year-old in my case, seems like an eternity, regardless of one’s duty stations. In the case of Matt, it would represent nearly his entire career with the Cubs to-date.

Given this quandary, Merriam-Webster comes to the rescue with an apt term: “honorable mention”, which is defined as a distinction conferred upon persons who are of exceptional merit but not deserving of top honors.

So, upon further reflection I decided to allow myself the indulgence of believing that maybe those of us who dedicated our time in non-combat roles might deserve at least a little appreciation as well, if only in the form of honorable mention. And everyone knows it’s nice to be appreciated. In fact, even nicer than a birdie on eighteen (that’s one under par for you non-golfers).

Regarding my golfing skills: I’m considering a recommendation made to Willie Nelson about his golfing skills, as reported by Chris Kornelis, a journalist. In an interview with Kornelis, Nelson said he was once joking with a golf pro about what to do about his on-again, off-again performance on the links. The pro told him to take two weeks off and then quit.