Hooray for Old Dogs

Stump struts his stuff

Stump struts his stuff

Stump the Sussex Spaniel has not only won the hallowed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but he also has the distinction of being (a) the oldest dog, and (b) the first of his breed, to win the coveted Silver Cup awarded to “Best In Show” at this esteemed event.

Stump impressed me not only for his good looks and perfect breed attributes, since, having had mutts all my life, I’m far from a pro at knowing what makes a Sussex Spaniel a perfect Sussex Spaniel. No, what I loved about Stump was the fact that he showed up.

Seems that Stump was down for the count just a few years ago. After overcoming a severe bacterial infection that might have laid low a lesser specimen, Stump – officially retired until entering the Westminster – returned to the ring just because his people thought he looked good, and “…wanted Stump to have a good time.”

For those of us doing the math, Stump is, in human years, anywhere from 62 to 72 years old, depending on which calculation you choose to employ. In other words, not your run-of-the-mill young starlet.

Granted, he must have some powerful genes in his corner, and probably top-notch veterinary and home care. But still, he’s an old man.

And that’s what we love about him. He’s the Phoenix risen from the ashes. Several years ago, when faced with a severe illness, lesser humans could have elected to “just put him down…” or at least keep him far away from younger, healthier competitors. But thankfully, that did not happen. There must have been something about Stump – his spirit, his willingness, his love of life – that made his humans do whatever it took to get and keep him well.

And that’s what won the Westminster.

Good for you, Stump. And good for the people who love and take care of you.
We all appreciate it, especially those of us past the common definition of “prime”, who may have been counted down-and-out once or twice. Here’s to the spirit of the Phoenix in all of us.

This and That

If I were sentenced to spend eternity viewing only one film of my choosing, I think I would have to select the 1995 film Apollo 13.

Thanks to the AMC channel, I happened to catch the Oscar-winning classic twice this past weekend, which makes a total of maybe two dozen viewings over the years, I would guess. There aren’t many films I would elect to watch more than one time, and even fewer rank “more than twice.” But there’s something about Apollo 13 that pulls me in like a “free return trajectory” back to earth.

I wish I could say it’s because the intense drama of those seven days in the spring of 1970 is forever seared into my memory; or, that of all the Apollo missions, I have a special fondness for that one because it launched on my birthday; or, that I can remember being huddled around a television at school with all my classmates, each of us wide-eyed and open-mouthed waiting for the three parachutes to appear miraculously before our eyes, right before the funny looking “spaceship” splashed into the ocean. But, only the birthday part is true.

Apollo 13 did indeed launch on my 12th birthday, but I have absolutely no recollection of it – not the launch, the explosion, the days of televised drama, the international jubilation after the astronauts’ safe return. And that really ticks me off! Why the heck not? Where was I? What possibly could have been soooo important in my 12-year-old world to NOT remember? To this day, I have no clue.

But, if Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 is on the screen, commercial-free or not, I am there. Why? Sure, there’s the great filmmaking, and the fact that I happen to like historical movies. And several of my favorite actors are in the lead roles. But why is it that the emotions — the tension, the tears, the cheers  — always return, even when I know the outcome and every line of dialogue? What the heck?

Some of my favorite moments in the film occur when “Houston” realizes the carbon dioxide levels in the cabin are getting dangerously high. Because the astronauts were slowly poisoning themselves simply by exhaling, they needed to improvise an air filter of sorts (a “scrubber” in spaceman lingo) to maintain enough breathable air so they could address all their other problems with fully functioning brain cells. Too much CO2, too little brainpower. In the film, a team of NASA engineers is tasked with figuring out how to solve this problem:  “We need to find a way to make this (indicating a square something) fit into this (indicating a round something) using nothing but that…” (indicating a pile of miscellaneous stuff – a piece of hose, plastic bags, tape, even a sock for crying out loud – only items available to the astronauts at that moment). And, daggonit, they do it. After the folks on the ground guide Lovell, Haise, and Swigert step-by-step through a Legos-on-steroids kind of building process, the scrubber is in place, the cabin CO2 level falls, and the design team leader is congratulated with a line that, for my money, ranks as one of the greatest in film: “And you, sir, are a steely-eyed missile man.”

And that, I think, sums up my fascination with Apollo 13. With the odds stacked overwhelmingly against them, a team of smart, driven, and dedicated individuals squarely faced their limitations and mounted an all-out attack on the impossible because, as another great line noted, “Failure was not an option.” Expectations changed drastically, from strolling along the moon’s surface and collecting lunar souvenirs, to safely returning home in time for dinner, but rockless. In the few seconds it took for a wire to short out and blow apart a gazillion-dollar flying machine, they were forced to forget the script for Plan A, disregard an irrelevant Plan B, and completely invent Plan C. And, they did.

Note to my president: Since our current economic situation somewhat resembles a badly damaged rocket ship careening uncontrollably through space, maybe you could find a few of those NASA brainiacs from the early 70s who are still around and available for service. In light of the odds stacked overwhelmingly against us today, perhaps you might want to pick their brains a bit, presuming of course they’ve all paid their taxes. I mean, talk about “recovery plans”!  We sure could use a few steely-eyed missile men, and women.

We are “Go for launch.”

Pot and Taxes

Are you KIDDING me?
Olympic God Michael Phelps admits to having smoked pot? Mr. Daschle withdraws his name from consideration for health secretary due to past and potential transgressions? And that smart and rather smug guy who’s going to head the IRS “forgot” to pay some taxes?

Huh….  Please excuse my lack of outrage.

Don’t get me wrong, would that none of that were true…(always wanted to use that funky subjunctive tense that caused me to sweat blood while learning it back in the day)… which means, in effect: “Man, wish we could say it ain’t so!”  But it is so.

Guess what … there are no saints in the Senate, no choir boys or girls standing on those Olympic platforms, no presidents (and yes, that includes my president) who never have been or never will be exposed for having done something either marginally or frankly illegal, purely politically motivated, and/or just plain stupid. (That last one could depend, of course, on what the definition of “is” is….).

Welcome to the human race.

Like anyone, I wish that my role models — my heroes and heroines, my community leaders and elected officials — were well above flawed. I wish that we could put only perfect people into positions that matter. And, try as we might, we can’t.

Prime example: we can’t prevent people who don’t have a nurturing bone in their bodies from becoming parents, the most important jobs on the planet.

We also can’t always identify the maniacal narcissist among the high-profile up-and-comers. We can’t always see the incompetent-but-electable  buffoon when we’re intentionally distracted by the smart people who surround and protect him/her.

But at the same time, we just cannot expect perfection, even from those who earnestly strive to achieve it. (I will admit, I wish there were more people who would at least make the attempt.)

What we can do is shift our focus. Which is not to say “Look the other way.” Ironically, that is exactly what gets us into this kind of mess in the first place.

No. Instead, we should require those who choose to live in the public arena — be it as a humble servant of the people, or as a not-so-humble self-serving one  — to allow us see them squarely, head-on, in the bright light of day. And call things as they are. And then, to look even deeper.  The trick is to do this up front, and not in retrospect. And the even bigger trick is to do this first in our own mirrors, and not wait until an unwelcome spotlight does it for us.

We’re good at retrospect, at saying hhmm…. look what I found out…… hhmm… things are NOT as they appear to be.

No, usually they’re not.

But what I’m more interested in is: who will fight the good fight with every ounce of his/her flawed humanity? Who will be less enamored by delusions of “Shock and Awe” and more humbled by the frank realities of  “Truth and Revelation”? Who will dare to say “Mea culpa” and try his/her best to sin no more?

And, who will be willing to say: “Yes, you were wrong, thanks for being big enough to admit it.  Now find a way to live with your shame and our disappointment. Go out and do one hell of a good job to redeem yourself and us.” With the exceptions of outright criminals and deviants, that should take care of just about everyone else.

The moral of this story? I’m not sure there is one.

And now, I’m off to gather my IRS forms and forget about paying some taxes, which are the bane of existence even here, at

The Bottom of the Boom.

Even though the idea of a Generation Jones has been kicking around for about 10+ years, it’s relatively new to me.  And this discovery has created just what I needed, another bout of indecision. Another tempest-tossed edition of “Who Am I?” newly blossomed into “Who Are We?”

Boomers? No.  Never have felt at home with that appellation. So I do thank Mr. Jonathan Pontell and others who have offered intelligent commentary about  how generational characteristics are developed as history unfolds around us, and are not simply imparted by demographic statistics.

But Jonesers?  Sorry, no again.  And here are just a few reasons why:

(1) It sounds stupid.

I seem to have passed through the entire decade of the 70s without once using the “hip, passionate” slang words that are supposed to define me: “jones” (noun) or “jonesin'” (verb).

Well, OK, not exactly true, since I do remember singing along with the Boz Scaggs lyrics “Got to have a jones for this, jones for that….” from his 1976 hit Lowdown. But, lo these many years later, I feel safe admitting I had no idea what that meant.

I’m quite sure I never used the J word to express “a strong craving for something or someone.” Of course, I’m the first to admit I was far from “hip and passionate” back then. But apparently, neither was anyone else I crossed paths with over the decade.

Another valid indicator, so they say, is use of the J word in the song Basketball Jones by Cheech and Chong (1973). What?! I just chalked that one up to another wacky song from the cannabis-crazed duo, with a title that meant absolutely nothing.  (I much preferred Santa Claus And His Old Lady.) And besides, they were sooooo much older than I was, and just plain, well, stoned.

But the assertion is that this little bit of lingo, sprinkled through maybe a dozen pieces of pop culture, supposedly reigned supreme throughout my youth and accurately describes my generational role in the overall human drama. Come on. There might as well be some cohort called “Generation G ” <groovy>.   No. Please.

(2) It’s lame.

I agree with many of the qualities attributed to us: a large and heretofore anonymous generation, “strikingly driven and persevering,” with a “non-committal, pending flavor….” sandwiched between the post-WW II gang and the so-called Gen X-ers (another lame term, I think, but not my battle to fight). I will concede that because the name “Jones” is commonly used in a generic sense, it speaks more clearly here, and that these traits do indeed distinguish us from the true Boomer. At the same time, it seems to me, such attributes call out for a moniker with a bit more gravitas.

[Read the 1998 piece from which the above descriptions were taken. ]

(3) One Big, Bad Memory

I almost hate to mention this one, and I haven’t seen it discussed elsewhere; but on November 19, 1978, in a place called Guyana, a very bad thing happened involving more than 900 people and a bunch of bad kool-aid. Don’t make me tell you that guy’s name…..

As I’ve mentioned (see Please Don’t Call Me Jones, Part One), similar commentary and thoughtful musings can be found all over the blogosphere, by and about those of us who have celebrated somewhere between 44 and 55 birthdays, give or take one or two.

We — whatever we call ourselves — are forever trying to make sense of the disconnect between our 60s-ish childhoods, 70s-ish adolescence, and 80s-ish plunge into adulthood, as we look out from

The Bottom of the Boom.

Thank You, Lilly

Today, my president signed his first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which in essence says that if you and I do the same work, we are due the same pay, regardless of our genitalia. And if it turns out the boss owes me some back pay — say several years’ worth — because our paychecks differed in proportion to our reproductive organs, then pay up, boss. Amen.

Congrats, Mr. Prez, and Ms. Lilly.

I leave the explanation of all the gory details of legislation to those professional gory-detail types, but I think we all get the idea. Finally.

According to an Associated Press account by Darlene Superville,

“Ledbetter, who won’t benefit from the legislation, said the richest reward is that the nation’s daughters and granddaughters will have a better deal….

“Obama cited Census Bureau figures that show women still earn about 78 cents for every dollar men get for doing equivalent jobs, and it’s even less for women of color. He said Ledbetter lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits.
The bill, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act, also applies to discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, national origin, disability or age.”

This very good news takes me back to several long, hot summers in the late 70s, when the income I earned at area apartment pools and swim clubs was a key factor in allowing me to return to college in the fall, since financial aid went only so far, and my parents were not able, nor expected, to send me to a movie, let alone an out-of-state liberal arts college.

As a lifeguard or pool manager, I usually worked with a staff more or less like me — college kids, often athletes, generally good team players, but also intent on having a fun summer before returning to Cliff Notes and 70-pound textbooks. One guy in particular sticks in my memory — he was very handsome, with a great smile, great tan, and more than a little charm. All the pool ladies loved him. The kids loved him. The bosses loved him. We all loved him.

I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing today…. all I know is, he was a slacker then, and if I had to guess, I’d say he’s been a slacker ever since. A nice slacker, but a slacker.

I don’t remember all the particulars, but one fine day while a bunch of us were shooting the breeze waiting for a thunderstorm to pass, talk turned to paychecks, and I discovered that Slacker Boy made more money than I did. That was my introduction to the inequities of the workplace.

I don’t remember feeling angry, and I didn’t go all “women’s lib” over it by raising a ruckus and confronting my boss with the fact that I did ten times more work than Slacker Boy, was more reliable, more responsible, and besides, it just wasn’t fair — even though all of that was true.

I do, however, remember feeling hurt and confused, as in, “Wow, I guess that’s just the way it is….”

Geez, was I young and clueless. And although I can’t say for sure, my guess is that if I had dared to ask the boss about whose paycheck was zoomin who …  well, as I mentioned, the job was a Have-to-Have, not a Nice-to-Have. And the summer was long and hot enough already.

Well, today that’s not the way it is. Thank you, Lilly.


For the first time in my life, my president is someone like me!

No, I am not African-American, bi-racial, from Hawaii, Kansas, Kenya, Indonesia and/or Chicago, or male. But I am, like my president, one of the millions of Americans who, I have only recently discovered, are members of something called “Generation Jones.”


With apologies to Mr. Jonathan Pontell, a marketing and political consultant from L.A. credited with christening us thusly, I have to report that exactly no one I’ve contacted in a very recent and completely unscientific poll ever heard of it — I mean us. And, having been born somewhere between 1954 and 1965, each of them was indeed a so-called “Joneser.”

“A what?” they said.  Exactly, I say.

And, as I’ve been tooling around with this new blogging thing over the past few days, I see that I am far from alone in my surprise, or in my discomfort with a name like “GenJones”.

But then again, how could I be, given the vast number of us down here at

The Bottom of the Boom.