Saturday, July 26, 2008

Boomer culture?

There was a little article in the paper this morning headlined “Boomers to remain ‘cultural titans’ as they continue to age, author says”. Caught my eye, of course, being both a Boomer and interested in being considered a titan of pretty much anything.

Turns out the author of the headline is a historian who will be speaking at the World Future Society’s annual conference in Washington on Monday. I have no information whatsoever on the WFS’ history of successful prognostication because although they have been around for over 40 years and have a website with some bits and pieces of information, nowhere does it provide statistics on how well they tend to forecast. So I suppose I’ll have to just hope for the best on this titan thing.

The main focus of the brief newspaper article was a specific aspect of culture: music. The writer opens by saying “Get ready for more radio stations blasting golden oldies…”, but a few paragraphs later expounds on “the disappearance of a generation gap in cultural terms [with] the iPod overlap between parents and teens, usually finding 20 to 30 per cent of songs in common.”

Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either the Boomers want only to listen to songs from the 60s and 70s and will commandeer the radio waves to ensure they’re played in plenitude, or we’re open to music outside of those two tired decades. Or perhaps her message was that what she calls the “millennial generation” (those who began graduating high school in the year 2000) include our golden oldies on their iPods.

I think it’s probably some of each, myself. I do agree that whatever gaps exist between my generation and that of my children, music is not one of the bigger ones. Rap and hip hop are not generally big with the Boomers (although Ellen Degeneres, who is one of us, has gone a long way in broadening the comfort zone of the older women who watch her TV program, as she is a fan of hip hop and opens every show dancing to it.) But there is much more to modern pop music than rap. My kids and I do have a percentage of overlap on our iPods, and it goes both ways. When I was 20, I listened to very little but the Top 40 radio stations of the day. It's a wonderful thing that my progeny are much more open-minded. They enjoy and have on their iPods music from a wide gamut of genres and times.

So I don’t know about this idea of a proliferation of oldies radio stations. I think most of us Boomers are actually pretty done with listening to the same armful of songs from 30 or 40 years ago. Some of the music from our youth has proved enduring and classic, and that’s the stuff that’s on our kids’ iPods. But a lot of it is just horribly cheesy and inane and needs to be left in the archives. If we Boomers are to continue to be titans of anything as we clump into the senior demographic, I think music is a bad example. Frankly, and sadly, I don’t believe we’re going to be titans of anything at all other than the paycheques of Millenials who are trying to support our health care demands.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Job One

Bye-bye, tree!

Today at Chez Grammar we are in the throes of the first big priority in shaping our new home to our own liking. There is an absolutely enormous pine tree in our back yard and three strapping and well-insured young men are currently involved in the long, careful process of taking it down.

Now, Grammar likes to hug trees and have her oxygen refreshed and all that with the best of them, but this tree is completely out of scale. Ours is a very small back yard and the tree is undermining the patio with its roots, eating the back deck with its huge scraggly branches, and generally looming ominously over our roof. High, high over our roof, at least again as high as our house. It is a tree that belongs in a forest, not an urban back yard. We cannot imagine how the previous owners allowed it to get this way. We do know that in notifying our immediate neighbours of our removal plans, they all expressed gratitude that appeared heartfelt, although I’m sure they are not enjoying the chain-saw-wood-chipper racket any more than we are. That kind of ceaseless noise just wears you down, doesn’t it? And it’s going to be going on for a long time yet. Did I say how big this tree is…?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Further to my post of yesterday, Grammar received word from Jimdandy this forenoon that all is well in his telephonic world. It seems the fine gentleman at Telus he spoke to yesterday apparently does have the clout his title would suggest. A woman called Uncle first thing this morning to assure him that three years' worth of overpayments would be immediately credited to his account, meaning he will not have a phone bill for some months. She was very apologetic that they could not offer more than three years, but that was as far back as she was able to check the records. Uncle thought that was jimdandy and graciously accepted. The woman gave him her name and direct telephone number and told him that any future problems he had with Telus, of which she fervently hoped there were not any, he should call her and she would personally fix them.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if we all had our own personal customer service rep down at the utility companies? But no, the rest of us who are not 95, stubborn as mules and persistent as bulldogs will still have to Push 1 for service in English...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Man on a Mission

There are days when Grammar feels every one of her 50-odd years. There are days when Grammar feels every one of them and a dozen or two more she’s not even entitled to. But then sometimes she gets reminded that her mere half-century is nothing.

SRH has an uncle who is 95 years old. To look at him or talk to him, you would peg his age at a healthy 20 years younger than that. He has every marble he was born with and a lot more he's picked up along the way. He lives in the same little East Vancouver house he’s lived in for the past 60 years. He will not entertain for a moment the idea of moving into any sort of older folks’ home because he doesn’t want to live with “a bunch of old people”. He has no help and wants none. He cooks his meals, including baking for dessert. He keeps his house clean. He tends his garden. The other day he didn’t answer the phone and we were a bit worried, but it turned out it was because he was out on the porch painting his front door.

Well, the other day he got his phone bill and noticed there was some sort of rebate on it, which pleased him very much. But he also noticed that there were two rental charges on it. Now, Uncle Jimdandy is one of the last people on earth who actually still rents a phone from the telephone company. He has rented this phone for about 40 years and we figure he’s paid about $3,000 for it by now. But he likes it because he is a little hard of hearing and he insists its volume control is better than any of the newfangled phones we’ve made him try. But it’s only the one phone, and he couldn’t figure out why there would be two rental charges on his bill.

So he phoned me, because about 100 years ago I worked for the telephone company for a few years, so clearly I would know what this charge was. I asked him if the charge had appeared only on this bill, or if it had been on previous bills. Jimdandy checked and gosh if it wasn’t on all his previous bills, too. (I’m not sure whether he checked all 40 years’ worth, but I wouldn’t be surprised.) I suggested he phone Telus to explore the matter.

Well, Jimdandy will never phone when he can speak to somebody in person. So he got in his car (yes, he still owns a car and a valid driver’s license which the powers that be, in their wisdom, renew for him every year) and he tootled over to the big corporate office known hereabouts as The Boot, because of its shape. Took him a long while to find a place to park, then the machine didn’t take cash, only credit cards, of which Jimdandy has never seen the need for one, so a kind -- or impatient -- lady also waiting to buy a ticket bought him one on her card.

Then he tootles into the building and marches up to the first desk he sees. He commences telling the young lady seated thereat his tale of rental woe, and she interrupts him to advise that he is in the wrong place; this building is just a corporate office. There is no customer service here, no billing inquiries.

Jimdandy is unsatisfied with this response. He does not believe this can be so. The building says Telus on it. He has a question for Telus, and someone is going to answer it. He begins wandering the building to find such a person. He goes up to the next floor and finds another young woman behind another desk. She gives him the same unsatisfactory response, so he gets in the elevator and goes up another couple of floors. In telling me this story, he notes as an aside that he saw a lot of people in the cafeteria. Was it like that when I worked there?

Finally he runs across “a nice East Indian man in a suit”, who kindly asks if he can be of assistance. This man listens patiently to Jimdandy’s tale, inspects the offending bill he is proffered, then tells Jimdandy that although the people he has spoken to are correct that there is no billing inquiry office here (and in fact they now only exist either at the end of a telephone line, where you are just as likely to be speaking to someone in the Philippines, or online), that he will take Jimdandy’s name and phone number and look into the matter personally. He gives Jimdandy his business card and advises him to call him directly if he doesn’t hear anything within a few days.

In telling me this story, Jimdandy first asks if I know this man, which amazingly I did not, then reads me his title off the card. I laugh: the man is the next thing down from a vice president. When I tell Uncle this, I can practically hear him puffing up with satisfaction. That’s more like it! He’s been a customer for 70 years, never mind renting this particular phone for only 40. He has never missed a payment. This is the sort of person he should be dealing with.

He also assured me that if he doesn’t hear back in the next few days that Telus will rebate every single overpayment he may have made, he’s going to the media. “They’ll eat this story up!” he declared. And he’s probably right, so if you see a dapper gentleman in a shiny suit and even shinier shoes on your television news one day next week waving a rotary dial telephone and ranting about ripping off the slightly elderly -- that’s our Jimdandy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

We're home!

Hello, Blog People! We’ve been in our new home three days now and are happy as little clams here. The move went as smoothly as such chaotic things can and we’ve organized a lot of stuff but still have a long way to go before we’re really settled in.

Although I am missing my old neighbourhood and particularly old neighbours (some of them are really, really old, not mentioning any names), I’m surprised to find myself not pining for the old house at all. I’d anticipated being terribly homesick for it and it just hasn’t happened. I think it’s because our new place is so perfect for us, we’ve bonded with it instantly. The layout couldn’t be more suitable. The kitchen and bathrooms are so much nicer than the ones we left behind.

You can hear the West Coast Express more clearly here, as we are just above Burrard Inlet. The wail of its horn is a sound that means home to me, as each of the two houses I grew up in were only a block away from the tracks. (On the right side of them, of course!) When you look east from my back deck you see the green hills of Belcarra across the water. When you look east from my front deck, you see the water of Indian Arm. Our back garden is a mass of mature indigenous greenery, huge rhodos and vine maples and the like, making us feel very cozy and private and part of the natural North Shore world. (Also, being indigenous, it won’t expect us to tend it.)

Also since we last chatted, The Lad has moved into his own place. He is over the moon with excitement and glee and phones us regularly to update us on how excited and gleeful he is. He phones us when he installs a shower curtain. He phones us when he cooks bacon and eggs. He phones us when he buys bananas. We know that soon enough he will stop doing this and are enjoying it while it lasts; it is touching that he still wants us to be part of his life.

So here we are. It will be weeks or months before we get ourselves totally sorted out, but we’re delighted to be here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Well, blog people, this will be my last message from the old homestead. It is our last day in it as our home as we knew it. Although we do not actually move until Tuesday, tomorrow the movers come and box everything up. So this evening we will be shutting down our computers preparatory to that, and when we next fire them up it will be from our wonderful new place. How soon I’m back blogging at you depends upon (1) whether our Internet Service Provider is Providing Internet Service right away; (2) how quickly we figure out -- without The Lad, who no longer lives with us! -- how to get ourselves up and running; and (3) when I find the time and energy to blog after the flurry of moving!

But one day soon Grammar will be back to tell you how it all went. Wish us luck, and goodbye from this station!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July Wedding Number One

Grammar had a good day today. It was just what she needed: a distraction from waiflike wandering in the domicile. It was the wedding of a dear pseudo-niece, held at Hycroft, a beautiful Edwardian mansion owned since 1962 by the University Women’s Club of Vancouver. (Interesting side-note: when the club purchased it, they had to pay in full, as women at that time could not hold mortgages in their own right.) Absolutely fabulous spot to hold a wedding and SRH and I enjoyed ourselves very much.

The Jaynut, Grammar’s dear old school chum from a lifetime ago and dear old friend to this date, looked so beautiful and proud and ridiculously slender in a stunning red dress. Grammar was watching her face more than the bride’s during the ceremony and it just seemed so impossible that someone who is still about 17 years old in my mind was watching her daughter get married.

Mind you, today Grammar saw many old faces with remnants of people she knew 25 or 30 years ago hiding under the wrinkles and pounds. She saw, for example, the older brother of the Jaynut, looking far too wise and grandfatherly for someone who used to tease me by endlessly calling me Lima Bean. (Long and silly story -- but he remembered!)

It was not the sort of formal reception given to speeches but instead the guests roamed the various rooms of the stately mansion, nibbling, drinking, mingling. It felt like a very relaxed and comfortable house party and I made a mental note to recommend just such a wedding to VCCGirl for when her time comes.

However, had I had opportunity to make a speech, I probably would have told the story of when the bride (let’s call her Kaitlyn) was about three years old and Grammar was visiting with her in her home. We were playing some sort of complicated game of Kaitlyn’s devising. Luckily, as Grammar was pregnant at the time and rather a victim of inertia, my role merely required me to lounge on the couch and eat the tea party food served to me. After I had dutifully consumed a particularly frangible cookie, Kaitlyn commenced a very thorough brushing off of my bosom. When I remarked after a time that I thought I was probably quite clean by now, wee Kaitlyn exclaimed, “Oh, no! You don’t want crumbs on your breasts! When I have breasts, I won’t want crumbs on them!”

So there you are, new husband of Kaitlyn: my wise advice on this your wedding day. It will behoove you to make sure your wife’s breasts are always crumb-free.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Outside my Door

Five days to the big move! Yes, I am still freaking out, spending much time nomadic in my home, dragging my trailer of memories behind me. But I am also trying to remember that the entire world does not revolve around Grammar’s relocation. It’s hard; this event feels as overwhelming to me as anything ever has in my life, particularly with the added twist (of the heart) that my Little Guy moves away from home on the very same day.

But I fear I’m beginning to wear out the compassionate listening ears of even those who care the most. I do not want to become a screened phone number, or encounter nothing but “Appears Offline” on Messenger. So I’m trying to get a grip. I’m trying to get some perspective. I’m trying to focus more on the world outside my door.

Outside my door, friends have children living -- or about to commence -- exciting lives overseas. Blogs are wonderful things for keeping us all updated on their adventures, although the young do seem to be unclear on the concept of how much and what sort of detail is required for us old folks at home to be able to properly live vicariously through them.

Outside my door, there are weddings galore happening this month. This weekend a young namesake, daughter of the Jaynut, a successful, brilliant and beautiful young woman, will be walking down the aisle, despite the fact that my brain insists she was born about two weeks ago. A couple of weeks later, an old friend is quietly marrying for a second time, looking for another shot at the happiness he well deserves. And at the end of the month, dear sister Punkin is formalizing a union of decades. If the sun is shining brightly for that event, we all run the risk of being blinded by her gigantotron ring, but I guess we’ll take the chance.

Outside my door, summer has at last arrived in Grammar’s town, and although a little too hot at times, I’ve kept the complaining about that to a minimum. It’s been so soft and pretty, here in the most beautiful place on Earth where I am lucky enough to live.

And in five days, in an exciting new home!