A Boomer's Blog

Notes for the Boomer Generation

A Short Review of A Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

My dates here are estimates. This book was a tale about the progress made by the generations of poor families, but told in a very personal memior. My own childhood nuclear family was poor, and certain things in his memior struck melancholy minor chords in me. I knew families in some of our neighborhoods who were like this “crazy hillbilly” family. My family, though poor, was from New England, and our history was different.
I like the way the author does not cast blame on society, the government, or the work ethic of the poor as generalities, but shows us a complicated and fair (I thought) picture of class struggle while just using his own family.
I read it straight through, all the boring parts were left out by the author! Recommend for all. Memior writers who have misgivings or reluctance to write about our families, this is a good read for us, as an example of stretching the boundaries.
Like the author, I joined the Marines because there were few other options available to me in the small southern town I grew up in. Semper Fi, J.D.

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Oscars

It’s Oscar time again!  On March 2, Ellen DeGeneres will host the 86th Oscars.  Of the past 85 Best Pictures, I have seen 61 of them.   I saw some of them, of course, many years after their release, on TV.  Here’s a list of all Best Pictures since the first ceremony was held in Hollywood in May 1929.

http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/best-pictures.html

My all time favorite from this list — Shakespeare in Love, 1998.  How many of them have you seen?  The winner the first year, 1929, was Wings, the only silent film to win Best Picture until The Artist came along in 2011 (although, technically, there was that one scene at the very end with a few sentences).

The first movie I ever saw was April Love with Pat Boone and Shirley Jones, in 1957.  I had just turned eight and saw it with an older girlfriend, my neighbor Peggy, who was ten.  I don’t remember a thing about that movie except that Peggy and I sang Pat’s hit song, April Love, all the way home.  I’ve been a movie geek ever since.  For years, my son was a movie projectionist, and I was able to get a fabulous Mom Discount, Free Admission.  I saw everything!  I no longer have a free ride, but one benefit of time passing by (so fast!  so fast!) is the Senior Discount.

My worst movie experience ever was attending the Twilight marathon at Scappoose Cinemas last year.  My friend Bobbi wanted to go, and I wanted to see her.  It sounded like a great adventure, FOUR TWILIGHT MOVIES IN A ROW!  Well, I had never seen them, and it’s a testament to my love of film (and my desire to spend time with a friend) that I was able to spend twelve hours watching these movies.  I rate this as my worst experience for two reasons, neither of which is about the movies themselves.  The movies were very entertaining!  In the Worst Ever category of Comfort, I was nearly unable to walk the next couple of days, due to spending twelve hours sitting in a movie theater seat.  This may have something to do with the aforementioned Senior Citizen status, but I’ll never do another marathon movie event again, because I believe it will kill me.  The second Worst Ever category is AudienceAt one point towards the end of the second movie, two women in their forties stood up and began screaming obscenities at each other because one woman accused the other of ‘talking’.  So they were shrieking SHUT UP, NO YOU SHUT UP, BITCH, and I missed some crucial lovey-poo dialogue at that moment.

Of this year’s nine nominees, I’ve seen them all.  I have my favorite movie and actors all picked out.  Did you love or hate any of these films?  Don’t you think that Christian Bale was so great in his role in American Hustle, that it took the first fifteen minutes of the movie to figure out that the character you were watching was him?  Here are the nine nominees for best picture this year:   American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Philomena, Her, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street. 

I’ll be hosting an Oscar Party in my small living room with the big TV, Sunday March 2.  You’re all invited, spaghetti dinner provided.

 

 

To your health. And your copyrights…

I read this post this morning by Kristine Kathryn Rusch about the devastating effect an unforseen health crisis can have on a writer’s life.  Don’t pass it by!

All a writer’s past works copyrights can be taken to pay off the insurance and hospital bills because they are considered financial assets…  that is just one of the eye opening details I learned from this article.

I won’t go on a rant about the American healthcare system, based on greed and the bottom line and not on health……..  but this particular blogpost provides even more devastating details pertinent to writers.

The Business Rusch: Life-Changing Events.

http://kriswrites.com/2013/06/26/the-business-rusch-life-changing-events/

Mothers’ Day

img022 Mother’s Day is here again.  For the last few years I’ve met with my friend Julane and a few other women who have lost their children.

We have a ceremony, and I thank my friend Julane for giving me this way to honor the memory of my son.  We purchase balloons (not mylar, they are bad for birds and the environment), take them to a park or another scenic spot and release them to the sky with our notes to our loved ones attached.  This will be my third year.

img066      My son Jim was due on Mothers’ Day 1970, which fell on May 10 that year.  He was late (he kept to that practice in his life)  and didn’t arrive until May 25.  My sweet-natured, golden-haired boy died of a drug overdose in 2009 at age thirty-eight.  He will be forever young, and I am certain that he would have stayed young at heart throughout his life, even if he had lived to a ripe old age.

It doesn’t matter if we lose them to disease, accident, crime, suicide or overdose, we all grieve the same.   The Oregonian ran an editorial a couple of years ago quoting some quack who said that people who die from drug overdoses were not loved enough as children by their mothers.  Yes, on the editorial page of the Oregonian.

I learned from The Oregonian this morning that Mother’s Day was originally established as a day of unity for the mothers of the world to unite against war and militarism.  It was proposed by Julia Ward Howe, songwriter of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1870, after the horrors of the Civil War.  Her effort was denied.  Years later, in 1914, Mothers’ Day was officially recognized, but the original purpose was lost.  Now it’s all flowers and candy, and endless ads featuring perfect, photogenic mothers and their perfect, photogenic children.

This post is for all the rest of us, imperfect mothers who love their imperfect children.  We still love them, even after they have gone down the wrong road somehow.  We still love them when they disappear for days or weeks or a year.  We still love them when they are lost and unreachable, when they are incomprehensible.   We still love them when they are in jail.  When we can’t help them, all we have left is to still love them.

In my note to Jim this year, I tell him that I miss his company at the movies and his thoughtful reviews afterward.  I miss the sounds of his guitar playing while I cooked Sunday dinner.  I tell him I’m sorry for all my parenting mistakes.  I made many.

I’m so grateful to be part of this small group of mothers.  People who have lost a child make no judgements about other grieving parents.  We share our stories and send our balloons up to honor our lost kids, all of them perfect.

Women in Combat — Semper Fi

Women have recently gained the right to obtain combat assignments in our armed forces.  Combat in 2013 is very different than it was in, say, the Civil War or WWI, or even in WWII or Vietnam.  Ground troops were assembled in large groups and sent out into a field, beach, hillside, jungle, swamp, desert or frozen tundra to kill and be Boomer in Bosniakilled by a large group of guys from the other country.  There aren’t very many countries left in the world that have big armies they can assemble against us.  We kill with drones and bombs dropped from the sky, mostly.  Our current conflicts have American troops being killed by lone suicide bombers and roadside detonations.  Traditional “combat” has devolved into something more impersonal.  Recent conflicts had our infantrymen working on “winning hearts and minds” much of the time.

My service number is W722375.  Yes, I am so old that I was in the US Marines back in the days before the social security number was the service number.  If I am ever captured by an enemy of the United States, I will recite this number over and over.  The W in my number stands for Woman, I’m pretty sure.  The differences and restrictions between military men and women in 1969 were very different from today.

My opinion has always been that unless women served in ALL the military jobs and were subject to Selective Service registration the same as men are, we would never have true equality of opportunity and pay.  I still believe in equality, but now I wonder ….  will we ever evolve enough as human beings so that combat between societies no longer exists?  Maybe when the oil is finally gone, or when the earth is nearly completely covered by water and all countries are tropical or frigid?  Will we evolve then?

The people who die in wars aren’t the ones who decide to have a war. Not the soldiers, not the civilians.  Corporate chieftains and the politicians they purchase  are the folks who decide that it’s time to start killing off citizens, soldiers and civilians, men and women, old and young.

Like many teenagers who join the military, my opportunities in my little Florida town were limited.  Money and transportation were hard to come by.  I needed a job I could walk to each day.   Plus…. the US Marine uniform is beautiful.  The rich khaki material, the forest green stripes, the red piping.  The ribbons worn with pride, the sharp creases and the shining footwear…. a disorganized, unemployed teenager sees hope for his (or her) own future just being in the presence of such squared-away confidence.  I signed the contract, eager to start my new life of fitness, confidence, knowledge and beauty.

I had to lose about fifteen pounds before I could go to boot camp, so I was good and hungry when I got there.  Lunch was the highlight of the day, but I thought this would be fine because now that I was a Marine, I’d be running a few miles every day, getting lots of exercise, marching, shooting, and would become buff and sexy!  Hua!  That’s what I thought…

Instead, we learned how to do laundry and to take it in off the line at oh-five-hundred (that would be 5 am) each morning, nice and damp for ironing.  Ironing, one of the most-practiced skills.  We learned to iron perfect creases with spray starch on our cheap cotton boot camp work uniforms.  We learned to shine shoes brilliantly.  We learned to wash the wood floors and baseboards with little white rags and water.  We learned to strip floor wax, put on new wax and control the hundred pound buffer in the wide hallways.

All Marines have classes in Marine Corps history and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Women Marines, in 1969, also had classes in how to walk properly, actually balancing books on our heads.  We learned how to smoke in public and how to apply eyeliner.  Red lipstick was considered part of a Woman Marine’s uniform and we could only escape the red lipstick for religious reasons.  My boot camp platoon had several miraculous holy conversions during the first week.  With uniform skirts, no bare legs were allowed, pantyhose were required year-round.  White gloves were part of our uniform as well.  We had to keep several pairs on hand due to forgetting we had that damn red lipstick on…..  Some of us mumbled about discrimination against women, but kept it to ourselves.

I started gaining that fifteen pounds back on the first day.  We had gym three days a week where we practiced sit-ups, push-ups and chin-ups (or chin-up in my case).  We were required to perform a certain number of these exercises and run one mile to graduate from boot camp.  So my idea about the buff and sexy…….  never happened.

One day our drill instructor passed an unloaded M-16 around the classroom.  We each held it for a second, then passed it on the next girl.  That was my only exposure to weapons while I was a US Marine in 1969 during the Vietnam War.   Some of us, seeing the men jogging in groups, chanting songs, having weapons training, wearing their comfortable green BDU pants and green T shirts (looking very buff and sexy!)…. muttered to ourselves about discrimination against women.

Thirty years later I was a short, fat, middle-aged lady working for the US Army in Germany as a civilian government employee.  I was required to go to Bosnia to provide some computer support for our troops there.   I had to attend a one-week, boot-camp-like training class called Styx training, required before I could go.

I had to wear the green BDU uniform, helmet, flak vest and black combat boots at all times.  I had to qualify at the shooting range with a 9mm handgun. (I did, with the lowest score possible and a gun that jammed with every second shot.)   We had training in cultural awareness and how to speak to the press (try not to).  We learned how to pat down a prisoner for weapons. I had to sleep in a barracks, stand watch, and practice running away from imaginary snipers.  I huffed and puffed along, lagging behind all the young soldiers and civilians in my Styx platoon.  If there had been a real sniper, I would have been a goner.

Lunch was still a highlight in everyone’s day, so I had to run for the mess hall if I wanted any food.  The tall young people in my Styx platoon could all march and run much faster than me.  There I was puffing along at the tail end of my platoon, begging them not to eat all the biscuits.  I lost eight pounds during training.  Eight pounds in a week!  Finally, thirty years later, I got all the things I wanted from the US military, ever since I first signed up in 1969!  Running.  Marching.  Shooting.  Weight loss!

Women in combat?  About time.  We’ve come a long way, baby!  Semper Fi.

Writing in the Rain

Writing in the Rain.

Writing in the Rain

A few days ago, I received in my email a column by Timothy Egan called ‘The Longest Nights’, printed in the January 10, 2013 New York Times.  He lives in Seattle and talks about the benefit that our long, gray, wet and dreary winters can provide for a writer.  As I write this now from my desk in Beaverton, Oregon, I am thinking about the last week of cold, foggy, gray days and how much I slept, ate, pitied myself, and generally dragged my ass around.  Right this moment, the sun (the sun!!) is out and I feel I MUST interrupt this writing to go outside for a long-overdue walk around the duckpond.  Take a look at his column while I visit the few ducks who hung around for winter.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/the-longest-nights/

Well I went out for the walk and now it’s a couple of days later….. Mr Egan may have a point when he claims that the dreary winter provides the writer with good reason to stay inside at the keyboard.  But I know that when the sun was shining, I  accomplished a couple of hours of housework and organizing, answered a few emails, and finally, finally, wrote on my blog again after an extended absence.

His column received many comments from people in the south, citing Mark Twain, Hemingway and other writers from sunny climes as proof that his theory was no good.

I think it took the sunshine to get me started, and the drearies (which have come back to Portland again) to force me to stay inside and finish.  Yes, yes, I know …..  it is my Libra nature to hop from one side of the scale to the other weighing the value of all conditions.  I am grateful to live in a place where I get a nice sampling of all weather, with good reading weather having an edge on the go-outside-and-play weather.

I don’t know how Hemingway was able to write in Key West.  Me, I would have been walking the beach every day.

 

First Blog Post of an Abandoned blog

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

3aug10 Day 1

 
             This is the first entry in the Boomer Babe Blog.  I’m intimidated by the firstness of it, but there is something that  has been on my mind.  Well, more like IN my mind than ON it.  I just finished a wonderful book called The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard.  Early on, she talks about inchworms.  Any of us who were children and played outside have seen them…  skinny, light green, about an inch long.  They scoot blindly along a blade of grass then suddenly they hang out into the air, waving around from side to side, looking for footing.  Her description of the stupid inchworm flailing around searching for the next blade of grass is sort of a comparison to the writer who meets the moment where the next sentence doesn’t appear right away.  What?!  No next sentence?  Where is it?  Where is it?            Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the inchworm for a few days, since I finished her book.  The worm is having a panic, waving around in all directions, but really….  the next step is very close by.  That’s me tonite, at a crossroads. 
            Quit the hateful boring job?  Is there another blade of grass to step onto?  Should I spend the years I have left clinging to this spot?  Take a leap of faith in myself?  I’m planning to give two weeks notice in the morning.  Wish me luck, I’ll try not to wave around too much.

Surgery and Politics

My first blog started in 2011 and never really took off.  Here is the last entry I made in that blog, in March 2012.  I’ve been recovering from some painful dental surgery this month and haven’t been posting as often.  So I offer this up and hope it will suffice.  As the election approaches, it seems relevant.  Don’t forget to watch the debate Wednesday nite!

 March 21, 2012  Politics for those who have time.

I’m kind of in the middle of the boomer population wave that swept the country
after WWII.  My dad participated in that war, along with many other boomers’
dads (and some moms).

Age 62 now, I received my second ever Social Security check today.  I’m thrilled to have it, so happy to be free at last.  But this morning, there was more bad news from our Congress.  The latest budget proposal provides for upping the retirement age for medicare and social security to 67.  And for cancelling the Affordable Health Care Act.

For many folks, this means they won’t have health insurance if they can’t last at their jobs until they reach their late sixties.  Do you have a job that you will be able to perform into your late sixties?  Will the nation’s employers be able to provide health insurance for these extra years?  Many employers kick their employees and retirees off their health insurance rolls when they become eligible for Medicare.  They can’t afford to do otherwise.

     I became embroiled in a Facebook brouhaha this morning about this issue, futilely arguing with some former high school classmates about what they call ‘entitlement’ and ‘job creators’.  I have fondness for some of these people, happy childhood memories and all, so I’m sad that I am not skilled enough to get them to consider a different view.  I’ll never convince some of them that their best interests are not being served by corporations or by our current tax codes, or by the endless bloody wars.  It all devolves into a silly argument with aspersions
about teleprompters, vacation days, birth certificates, and the price of the president’s suit.

Retirement has given me some time to reflect on these things, to look
things up and educate myself about what is happening in our country.  This is a
blessing and a curse.  I can’t go back to being a person who does not pay
attention, and I can’t stop myself from trying to give good information to my
old friends when I see that they’ve got their facts wrong.

The lesson I have learned today is — volunteer to register voters, help out at your local precinct and don’t get involved in political arguments on the Facebook.  We’ll see if I can manage to do that!

********

 The surgery info:  I bit my tongue, literally, and created a little bump on the tip of my tongue.  At least, that’s where I thought the bump came from.  If this ever happens to you, and your dentist sends you to an oral surgeon, and the oral surgeon won’t give an opinion but is insistent that you need to remove it…….  well, just don’t.  Just don’t.  Yes, this is foolhardy advice, and I have peace of mind now, knowing that it was nothing, but, next to childbirth, it was the most painful thing I have ever done.  The Vicodin combined with the 800 mg of ibuprofen only made a thin, frayed little cushion against the misery of the next two weeks.  There were several stitches involved, and I spoke with a lisp, using as few words as possible because my tongue would get tired and then hurt more.  I ate soup and noodles for several days and wished I had left the damn bump there!

Anyway, I’m back in the saddle again, more blather coming soon.

 

9/11

Last year on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I wrote an essay describing my experiences during and after the attack at the Pentagon, where I was working on that terrible day.  This year, the eleventh anniversary, didn’t garner as much media attention.  This is both good and bad.  Good in that we are moving away from the horror.  We have survived and hopefully have learned things about ourselves as a nation and as individuals.  Bad because it should be recognized every year for the great shocking horrible tragedy that it was.  The ‘Today” show, which I have always disliked anyway, chose to ignore the moment of silence obsereved by all the other major networks and continue broadcasting their interview with the Kardashian’s mother about her boob job.  No joke.

This morning we learned of an attack on our Libyan Embassy where our ambassador and others were murdered by an angry mob.  They were angry about a YouTube video that insulted their religion.  There are photos on the internet of citizens taking pictures of the unconscious (or already dead) ambassador with their cellphones.  When will we humans start to be more… human?

This year 9/11 fell on a Tuesday, the same weekday as the attack.  I’m posting my essay that was printed in the Oregonian last year here.

Remembering 9/11: Inside the Pentagon

Published: Saturday, September 10, 2011, 12:04 PM
Guest Columnist By Guest ColumnistThe Oregonian Follow
By Linda Paul
On 9/11 I was at my desk in the Pentagon, where I was the operations manager for a computer support team in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A co-worker told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Before I could get The New York Times online, she came back and said there was a second plane. The first shock was realizing that it was done on purpose.
My computer users started calling because they couldn’t get on the Internet. I told them there was just too much traffic.
“But this is the Pentagon!” one man complained.
When the plane struck us, there was a single loud “boom,” more like a solid but muffled thud and the office shuddered, identical to the shudder of an earthquake. Our partitions squeaked a little. Our noisy office was deadly silent for a few seconds. It’s a testament to the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world and a genuine fortress, that more people weren’t killed that day. Shuffling toward the exits with thousands of others, I noticed how subdued we were. No shouting or panic, just a quiet mob leaving the building. Outside, I looked back to see the giant black cloud of smoke hovering over the building. I thought, “They’re killing us with our own damn airplanes.” I may have said this aloud.
I walked around the building toward the crash site. Already there were fire trucks and rescuers running toward the gash. I saw black smoke pouring from the wall, flames and debris. A security guard was waving people away, shouting, “Go home! Go home!” One of my first thoughts was that this is what religion does for us. A former Sunday morning mass attendee, I have been unable to go back to church since, except on a couple of rare occasions involving my aunts and Christmas.
I usually rode the Metro to work, but on that day, I drove. When I reached my car I saw that the parking lot attendant had thrown open his gates allowing us to exit for free. Although I lived only four miles from the Pentagon, it took an hour to get home. By this time, all the planes had been ordered out of the sky and fighter jets had scrambled overhead in Washington. D.C. As I sat in traffic, a plane zoomed so close over me that I gripped my steering wheel with both hands and screamed aloud, alone in my car, as the plane shrieked by. That was the only time I “lost it,” and it was the only time I felt the fear I had been suppressing all morning.
That evening, my boss (many rungs up the ladder from me), Donald Rumsfeld, went on the air and said that the Department of Defense was still open for business. I took that as an order to be at work in the morning. When I awoke the next day, I smelled a fire. The heavy, musty smell of smoke hung in the air for miles around, and lasted for weeks.
My team and I were back at work at 7 the next morning, setting up computers in a nearby building for the engineers and analysts we supported. Our Pentagon office was now part of a crime scene and had been secured with yellow tape. My greatest accomplishment during the next week was to persuade the Army MPs to allow us inside the yellow tape to retrieve some important objects from our office. One of our young guys put on a hazmat suit and, like Bruce Willis in “Armageddon,” lumbered down the toxic hallway into the unknown. We stood at the end of the corridor, shouting encouragement. He came back with garbage bags containing laptops, my Rolodex, our backup tapes and CDs, and someone’s slippers.
During the following days I frequently saw people walking along who would suddenly recognize an acquaintance passing by. Cries of “Hey, man!” “Hey, girl!” “Good to see you. Where you at?” were everywhere. We really were glad to see each other. We didn’t know who was gone. Those weeks after the attack were full of hugs and handshakes.
We were allowed back into our offices after about three weeks. We needed portable air purifiers for months afterward.
Counting the five hijackers, 189 people died in the attack on the Pentagon. We had a memorial display of all the Pentagon victims with a photo and biography of each person. I read each one, more than once. A few of them have stuck in my mind all these years.
A young analyst from our department, Bryan Jack, was on Flight 77 that day. We were grieving for him as we worked our way through the next few weeks, putting ourselves in his shoes, forced by knowing him to consider the genuine terror he must have felt. I take the word “terrorist” literally now. Predictions of catastrophe don’t frighten me.
LTG Timothy Maude had been the commander of 1st Personnel Command in Heidelberg, Germany, where I worked for a while. I received emails from some of my former co-workers there, military and civilian, who had fond memories of him and wanted to send their good thoughts of him out into the ether. The general and his staff had been moved just days earlier into the offices struck by the hijacked plane.
Max Beilke was a retired Army master sergeant who was the last U.S. Army person to leave Vietnam. Nearly 70, he had been in the Pentagon that day working on veterans issues. Amelia Fields was working her second day of her new job in the Pentagon. Sept. 11 was her birthday. When I read her memorial, I thought about how excited I had been when I started my job in the Pentagon.
I lived two miles from Ronald Reagan National Airport, which did not reopen until October 2001. I welcomed the peace and quiet, but I had to watch any plane in the sky until I was satisfied that it was just flying by. On my morning bus ride it was not unusual to see all the commuters stare in unison at a dot in the sky until it disappeared, or to see all heads turn to the sound of a siren approaching. Here in Northwest Portland I don’t see that many planes. But when I’m driving along Skyline or Kaiser Road, or out in the back roads between Forest Grove and Hillsboro, I might see a plane in the sky — I still have to keep an eye on it, to make sure it’s just flying by.

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