Conscious Aging: Becoming a Better Traveler

As I wrote about before, part of my personal routine during the six days we were in Nassau for Sara and Ben’s wedding was sitting over coffee through at least three rounds of breakfast eaters, many of whom were their flyer group friends. In addition to finding these people extremely interesting, I was trying to pick up a few tips. Travel gets harder as you get older, and I’m trying to figure out why so I can mitigate some of the impediments.

This article from the NY Times, about their travel writer who gets sent to 52 different places in a year, caught my eye for the same reason.

First up: use of the word “routine”. When you retire, you pretty much lose a big chunk of external structure — the need to respond to deliverables, to meet clients or teach classes, the need to present or analyze or persuade. In response, I created my own structure for the day: writing, exercise, seeing family and friends, planning to participate in Seattle art and cultural opportunities. The structure isn’t rigid. I have to account for the unexpected, like a leak in the sink which required me to be home to greet the plumber. But a structure, a routine, it is.

Travel is all about what is not routine: finding the unexpected, responding eagerly to vagaries in weather or available transportation or lodging, picking up on spontaneous paths that open up and are interesting.

I need to be more flexible about moving between my constructed days and those I designate as travel days and make more open-ended. Usually it takes me a few days to feel comfortable on the road as I let go of my accustomed routine. I could shorten that, I think, and get a faster start on seeking out new experiences.

Next up: disruption as an opportunity. When I have a travel itinerary, I expect it toΒ  unfold according to plan. I don’t like delays, canceled flights, airport overnights that I didn’t choose. I don’t sleep well. I’m chomping at the bit to get home — even though I have no need to get back to work, or resume caring for family members. I never schedule appointments on my first day back from a trip, and most of my appointments can be rescheduled anyway without much penalty. But disruption of the anticipated plan, for me, is just that: disruption.

For Sara and Ben and the flyer group, disruption is an opportunity to enrich their experience.Β  If they are bumped from a flight, how much compensation can they get from the airline? What amount offered justifies volunteering to be bumped? What can they do during the extra time in place that will make the change more fun than annoying? This is a sea shift in attitude for me, but an important one if I want to be a more savvy traveler.

These are two examples, and I’ll be developing more. The article below prompts more thinking. Oddly enough, the bit of advice offered by the Times travel writer that I like best is “Don’t pack anything you’ll only use twice.” I think that’s a life lesson too.

Glad to hear your thoughts on being a more savvy traveler, older or not. πŸ™‚

Back Home

Ben, Sara and I left Nassau on Thursday a little after 5pm Eastern time, flew through Dallas/Fort Worth, and arrived home at SeaTac around 12:30am Pacific time. Our bodies thought it was 3:30am. We all did pretty well considering. πŸ™‚ We had my car — now loaded with only six checked bags plus the garment bag with Sara’s wedding dress and our three backpacks — and I asked them to drop me off at home and just drive the car to their house and worry about unloading after they’d gotten some rest. I also didn’t feel alert enough at that hour to drive home from their place, short distance though it is.

There’s something exceedingly pleasant about setting aside the niggling details of daily life to take a vacation, especially one that involves something as joyful as a wedding. Before I left the furnace maintenance guy chose to clean a small part instead of replace it, but said it was 50-50 the solution would work. It hasn’t, so that’s on my list of “to-do”. But for six days, all I thought about was the wedding, family and friends, the gorgeous resort, and being utterly and completely at leisure.

I have to go grocery shopping later, but I did make my own coffee and egg on toast this morning. πŸ™‚

Over the next several days I’ll get the password protect thing straightened out so you can see more pics of the kids, post some of my favorites from the wedding, and get back to my political and other writing.

When I got home last night my front garden was abloom — we had a lot of rain while I was away. Pic of that to follow too. πŸ™‚

Travel Day: The Wedding Event Begins

Sara, Ben and I depart Seattle on Thursday, and actually arrive in Nassau on Friday morning. I consider our departure the beginning of “the wedding event”. Lots of you have wished Sara and Ben much happiness, and I’m passing along those good wishes to the happy couple as well as holding them in my own heart.

Pics to begin soon. πŸ™‚

Jersey Girl, Jersey Wine

I haven’t lived in New Jersey since graduating from college, but I will always be a Jersey girl on some level. My sister surprised me with a gift that I never imagined would have come from my home state: Jersey wine.

Jersey is quite rightly famous for a lot of things: blueberries, tomatoes and sweet corn, the shore, Atlantic City, four of the most dismally dysfunctional urban centers in the country [Newark, Camden, Paterson, Passaic], and Tony Soprano. But wine? Never imagined it.

With our departure for the wedding fast upon us I haven’t opened the bottles yet. Will let you know when I do.

Conscious Aging: “Epiretinal Membrane”

Ah, the things our aging bodies spring upon us never cease to amaze. My regular eye doctor — whom we can call #1 — wanted me evaluated for cataracts, so sent me to a specialist. Said doctor #2 pronounced me fine re cataracts, but pointed out that I had an epiretinal membrane in my right eye that needed evaluation by a retinal specialist, doctor #3. I had that appointment yesterday.

Aging means a proliferation of doctors, not just a primary to see to your general health. Doctor #1 does glasses and glaucoma checks and such. Doctor #2 does the front of the eyeball. Doctor #3 does the back. Such is the specialization of medicine these days.

These membranes develop as a function of age, and can begin to interfere with vision — making surgery necessary. This surgery, unlike cataract surgery which gets you back to your best vision, doesn’t return you to normal. The expectation is “halfway”. Sometimes the membrane keeps growing, and sometimes it reaches a point and goes dormant. Right now I have no real symptoms, although my left eye is better than the affected right. Given that, the risk of surgery isn’t warranted. I’m in full agreement with watchful waiting.

I have to go every six months to have the membrane checked. In the meantime, I have toΒ  use this sheet in the pic below to check each eye every couple of weeks. If the lines start to look too wavy with that right eye, I have to send up a flare and go back sooner than my scheduled next visit.

I’m not overly concerned. The medical system in which I’m a patient is a highly ranked teaching system, so I saw a young Asian male technician who did the images, a Latina resident who did an exam, and then a delightful young Asian doctor trailing a very young blonde woman who looked like a first year medical student. The doctor repeated the same exam done by the resident. She asked most of the same questions the resident had, and I gave mostly the same answers. I feel thoroughly checked out, even as the whole thing took more time than if I’d just seen the specialist. I love living in a diverse city where professional services are provided by the best people, no matter their country of origin.

Conscious Aging: Writing a Bad Review

I rarely write bad reviews on Yelp, especially if the business makes a good faith effort to rectify a problem. But I did land a ton of bricks on a local business, a small independent theater here in Seattle, after my enjoyment of a film was completely destroyed by a noisy group sitting right in front of me. They whooped and snickered and guffawed and talked loudly through the whole showing of Jordan Peele’s highly rated horror film, Us. You’d have thought we were watching Comedy Hour, so discordant was their behavior with what was unfolding on the screen. I have pretty good powers of concentration, but the noise level and distraction generated by this group overpowered everything. Someone on staff did come into the small theater once, in the dark, to ask them to be quiet — to no avail.

I suspect the venue is marketing to after-work groups as a way of filling seats on a weekday night; this was a 5:45pm Thursday evening showing. The problem is that “noisy bar happy hour after work” is deeply ingrained in Seattle’s young culture. And this theater venue does offer drinks before, after, and even during the show. You order, give your seat number and the time you want your drink to arrive, and someone brings it in. Noisy group bar happy hour behavior and quiet film watching behavior simply do not mix.

In addition to writing the bad Yelp review, I did contact the theater directly via email, and the owners apologized and offered two free tickets for a future performance. But they defended their “group destination after work” marketing policy. I think it’s going to be a problem.

Literally while I was writing this post, the theater owner called to discuss the problem. He didn’t ask me to take down the review, although after we talked I decided to do so on my own. Jerry and I were small business owners, and I understand how difficult it is and how small the margins are. A bad review is, in a sense, overkill. The owner is adamant that if they didn’t market to groups, they wouldn’t have a revenue stream during the week. I’m adamant that if this kind of disruptive behavior happens again, I’ll leave the theater and not return.

We ended the conversation with sort of a truce. The owner wanted me to know he and his wife care about me. I wanted him to know that I have family and friends who care about me and what I want from him isΒ  a quiet venue when I go to see a film. We’ll see if those two lines in the sand can intersect.

Update: Mother of the Bride

We have less than a week to go before Sara, Ben and I depart together for their Caribbean destination wedding. Matt and Amy and the kids are coming on a different flight. The response from friends and family has been huge; many more are coming than might be expected at an event for which airline travel and hotel stay are required. Remember that Ben and Sara met through their flyer club, an informal group of people around the world who follow airline fares minutely and grab good fares almost no matter where they are headed. These are travelers who’ll snatch up an epic low fare to Beijing or the Maldives or the Emirates and go there for a long weekend. Traveling to a destination wedding promising to be joyful and fun takes little to no extra effort at all.

I’m all set with dress, sandals, jewelry, hair appointment, pedicure appointment. I’m waiting on wedding gift until I see what of their wish list isn’t covered, and I’ll step up and offer that.

My heart is filled with joy at this upcoming family event. Sara and Ben are great together. Jerry would have liked Ben and had a lot in common with him; both have a geeky quant side over which they would have bonded instantly. Our respective families are showing up in force, giving the clear message to Sara and Ben that they are loved and that we are all in to celebrate with them.

Life is full of ups and downs for all us. It’s the ups that are so especially sweet, that we savor and hold on to and relish. Pics of the big event to follow. πŸ™‚

Conscious Aging: New Car or No Car

My ten year old Subaru Forrester is low mileage, in great shape, and I could keep itΒ  for another couple of years going forward, likely without undue maintenance expense — even my Rochester friend and car guy Ben says so. Or, I could swap with Sara and Ben, take their 2016 Audi, let them trade in the Forrester and make up the price difference between it and their more expensive car. Or, I could trade the Forrester myself and get a new CrossTrek.

Or, I could go car-less.

The opinion writer who wrote this piece is a lot younger than I am, and she’s all-in for car sharing.

Seattle would be a great place to do so. We have Lyft and Uber, Car2Go, Zipcar — plus rental opportunities from Enterprise and other national chains. We have great bus service from Queen Anne into downtown, and with my Orca card I ride for a dollar.

I basically use my car for three regular things: grocery shopping, grandkids who still need a booster seat, and to reach my massage therapist about 20 minutes north of Seattle. Other than that, I walk or take the bus or call Lyft or Uber. That’s why I barely reach 3,000 miles a year on the car.

I have a Rochester friend who has never owned a car. She goes everywhere on foot, on public transportation — which isn’t that great in Rochester — or on her bicycle, even in the city’s hard winters. Her example lets me know it can be done.

Hmmm… still thinking. Have any of you gone car-less, and how does it work for you?

Conscious Aging: My Early Take on the Dems for 2020

Richard Cohen, writing for the Washington Post, agrees with me that Biden and Sanders are too old to run for president, or to be president. All of us who try to stay nimble in mind and body over 70 would love to say that age doesn’t matter. But it does. The Catholic Church has always elected old men to run things, and look how that’s working out.

I also think Biden has created a problem for himself by not putting down his marker earlier, and letting O’Rourke and Sanders put up big fund raising totals. If Biden doesn’t equal or exceed those, I think some of the air will come out of his early high polling numbers.

Beto wants voters to help shape him into what they want in a president. Yikes. Can we please have a grown-up here?

I think Elizabeth Warren is the smartest of the bunch and she’s great at explaining complex economic matters in clear and logical terms. But the white angry older voters who are Trump’ s base will go nuts at her call for a commission on reparations. Maybe they are lost anyway.

I’ve heard Cory Booker speak and he’s impressive. But his claim to fame is having been Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, which is a wreck and has been since the 1960’s despite huge infusions of money and effort.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is actually running something successfully, albeit a small city. He’s whip smart, and can actually speak to how he would run the country. I think he’s really interesting. Does it matter that his last name is hard to pronounce? It certainly matters that he’s gay, in this Trump-era backlash against LGBTQ acceptance. I’m thinking of those voters in Old Forge.

Kamala Harris got a big bounce in the rollout of her campaign. I haven’t yet heard her speak, or seen her on a Town Hall on cable tv, so I have no real sense of how strong she might be as a candidate. But her CNN poll numbers are up, which is good for her campaign.

I like Amy Klobuchar a lot, but she isn’t getting much traction. She’s nimble enough verbally to counter Trump’s slurs in real time, something few have figured out how to do.

The rest pretty much fall into the “meh” category.

I want someone who can win. I favor a candidate younger than 70, and I hope that with all the changes in the Democratic Party and the country, we don’t wind up with a good old white guy. I want someone who can counter Trump’s vicious personal attacks.

That person, for me, hasn’t yet emerged in any clear and indisputable way. Looking forward to the race unfolding.