Hello! Yes, it has been a while. Part 1

I hope everyone had a good summer.

Time for Fall.  Time for the Jewish High Holy Days.  Time to sit in sack cloth and ashes and mourn the long sunny days and the sultry nights of summer.  And that my summer was not anything like the summers I remember when I was younger.

I have learned many things this summer, some profound and some not so.  All important.

Dad continues a slow downward trajectory but never loses the essential elements (and annoyances) of the man he is.  Dad called me one morning.

SIDEBAR:  how DOES he call on my cell phone and office phone simultaneously???

He was quite fussed about the bank calling him about credit and debit cards, etc.  He couldn’t understand what the caller was saying.

Dad, I will call Chase and find out.  Did you give the caller any information?

No.  Nothing, but the caller seemed to know all my card numbers.

That’s a good sign, Dad.  There is no odd activity on your accounts [I have them linked to mine and pulled them up while we were talking].  I will call and find out and call you back.”

Thank you, darling.  I feel so much better.  You will call me right back?

I have a colleague in my office and a deadline, but this is my dad.  “As soon as I get some answers.  Don’t worry I am ON it.

I call.  Chase is being cautious with recent security breaches, and is sending my father all new cards.  I asked about any odd activity because what I see on the computer looks to be in real time but there may have been odd charges rejected.

I am sorry, M’am.  I will need your father on the line to answer these questions.

I have power of attorney.  His accounts are linked to mine.  Why do we have to involve my Dad?

This has to do with his profile.

I have no idea what this means.  The most important aspect was that for all of the planning, for all of the day-to-day handling of my father’s affairs, there are some places I cannot go without his express permission on tape.

I LEARNED THAT WE NEED TO MAKE BANKS ISSUE “FORMS OF POWER OVER EVERYTHING, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WHATEVER” so that we can sign these and be finished with the chaos.  Because there is the law and there is banking law.

I call Dad back on a three-way conference.

Dad, I have you on the phone with Chase, so that I can talk to customer service about our inquiry.

Don’t you already have that authority?

SIDEBAR:  I love that Dad can still identify stupidity, even in dementia.  Which really makes a person wonder about banking in general.  (Sorry, Mighty.)

The woman talked, doing her level best to ascertain that my father was who he was, etc., but he was too stressed and needed a familiar voice to prompt him.

Dad, Stacy needs your name. Dad, would you tell her your name?

Dad“.

SIDEBAR:  I love that Dad thinks that being dad is who he is.

Daddy, that is great.  Can you give your full name now??

So, he pretty much got the information right.

Dad, that last question was do you give me, [Blogger], permission to talk to Stacy about your affairs.

Of course; I thought we did that already.”

Ok, Dad, you can hang up now and I will call you back shortly.”

Ok, darling.  I love you.

I love you, Daddy.  Thanks.  I will call you back soon.

All was ok.  I resolved the matter and recapped with Dad.

I am a lucky man, to have the kids I have.

We are lucky.  These things are complicated and we can do this for you.  And we want to do this for you.

With nothing to worry about, I might live past 120!!

Don’t worry, Dad, we have that covered, too, but your children will be on social security, so we will have to pool resources. . . .

Another day, another problem resolved.

WHAT I LEARNED (AGAIN):

  • Little kids, little problems.
  • Big kids, big problems.
  • Aging parent, a combination of both and . . .

And I can only hope that, from day-to-day, there are mostly little problems until the day that it is THE BIG PROBLEM.

 

#THROW BACK THURSDAY

I am a pop-culture idiot.

Early on in college, when the Soviet Union existed and the Cold War was the only threat we knew, my friends assumed that I was a Soviet spy.

Not because I spoke Russian when drunk, or could take down a lascivious frat boy with one hand as I drank beer with the other.  No, no James Bond movie scenario.

The reason was rather simple:  the lapses in my pop-culture knowledge could be attributable only to the lack of social osmosis that occurs naturally with kids growing up in the United States.

Ergo, I grew up in an opposite environment.  Ahhhh, the Soviet Union.  Somewhere between the truth and the propaganda lies the truth.  And painful disparities on so many levels between how we grew up here and how our peers grew up in many countries within CCCP.

So, the facts that I even know about Throw Back Thursday and know that there is even a hashtag #tbt ARE SO BIG.

SOOOOO BIG.

And it gives me a chance to show off my beautiful mom and handsome dad and adorable siblings when life was more simple.

And my pop-culture prowess. Because I know hashtags (thank you Janet2).

Except, please tell me, who on Earth are the Kardashians and why should I care about them?  (P.S.: weren’t they an alien species on Star Trek?)

 

Time Machine

I bought an external something-or-other drive for my computer.  It was about time that I backed up iPhoto and iTunes, having crashed my computer a few times.

There is, of course, an app for this.  Time Machine.  And my external whatever drive has 2 TBs of memory.  That means gigabytes on steroids.  Or so I think that that is what it means.

And I have lots of photographs and days of music.

I had been meaning to get one for a long time, but kept forgetting.  That other memory thing.

Pictures are more important to me now that my generation is the keeper of all the memories of the prior generations. But pictures are not the memories.  They evoke the stories that keep the memories of people, and their insane characters, alive.  And the pictures won’t matter when I don’t recognize the people or remember the stories behind them.

And the eleven days of music in my iTunes library won’t matter unless they evoke the emotions and memories that make the music meaningful to me.

If I stick the USB connector in my ear, will this amp’ed up drive store my memories?  Will it remember the stories behind the pictures or the identities of the faces for which I was too lazy to run the face recognition software?  Will it remind me to cry when I hear Jim Croce’s Photographs and Memories?

So, while I finally remembered to buy the drive, it isn’t all I need.  I need to store my memories.  And, that is what computers cannot do.

Yet. 

I am willing to believe that there will, in fact, be an app for this, some time in the future.  As long as the hook-in site is any orifice above the waist, I am good.

Hurry, please.

Life in No-Fi

We all await the excitement of that moment — that one moment in time — when we are actually in the “4G air space” so we enjoy the rapid connectivity for which we pay extra every month, but never actually receive because we live in a “3G” world.

But I don’t always want to be connected.  I also dream of “unplugged” time during which I can relax and think deep thoughts and ponder the universe or my navel (whichever), over wine, music and a barbeque.

And then I spent a year one week in Wainscot (a sub-township of East Hampton) where Verizon has no “G”s at all.

None. 

Zero. 

Not a “G” within miles.

To get one bar of “G”-ness, I had to go north, cross a highway filled with aggressive sports car drivers and go in the direction of the North Fork.  I am glad that Verizon services the crunchier, family friendly North Fork, but Verizon must take pity on those souls who do not, by choice (rather for familial obligations and homesteading), inhabit the tonier side of the highway.

For work-related calls, I had to drive around for connectivity and then find a safe place to park.  I got so desperate that two bars of connectivity was a G-dsend.  When asked where I was — just to have idle chit chat until all parties to any given call dialed in — I simply could not mention that I was parked in the lot right near the King Kullen supermarket and, as luck would have it, in front of the liquor store.

Yes, yes, the Hamptons can be glamorous.  For some.

Being disconnected was not so bad, except for the essential people whom I needed to call or with whom I needed to be in contact.

But talking on the phone was unbearably like that commercial, “Can you hear me now?” except there was no “good” following the answer.

Only, “You are breaking up.  Text me.”

Which even worked for SOB, one of the most technically un-savvy 50-something year-olds I know.

But not for almost 93 year-old Dad who isn’t so great on the phone anyway.  Even when I had THREE bars in Montauk, it wasn’t enough for Dad.

Hello?

Hey, Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooo?

Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, CAN YOU HEAR ME?  IT’S [BLOGGER]!

Yes, darling, how are you and everyone there?

SIDEBAR:  If he can’t hear, then he can’t remember.  So, he didn’t really remember where I was or why or with whom.  Then everything goes to shit.  I get why the phone is hard on the elderly.

We are great, Dad.

Who is there?  Where are you?

Dad, we are away for a week.  There is bad reception.  Can you hear me?

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, I will text [SOB] and she will call you and let you know what I said.  ok?

Ok, sweetheart, where are you now?  Hellooooo?

CALL DISCONNECTS.  My heart sinks.  I have only confused my Dad, not helped the situation by checking in.

I text SOB.  I must speak to Dad through an interpreter while I am in No-Fi land.

No-Fi land.  A land of legend and dreams.  Of gods and monsters.  Of serenity but also of being with the person you have become.  Good, bad and, sometimes, ugly.

Still, I yearn for this land.

Or so I think.

No-Fi is in the future — when I don’t worry about parents but my loved ones and children (who may be aliens, depending on age and stage) are with me (which may mean building a compound for the multitudes).  But therein lies the rub.  If I am not worried about my Dad (or aunts and uncles, or fake aunts and uncles), then that means they are gone.

So, I guess I would rather live in Wi-Fi for as long as I can.

No-Fi is not uncomplicated.  It is a place you go to heal after life’s journey relieves you of some of your most beloved companions.  And the quiet forces you to think about who you are and what you want to become.

Yes, it is easier to be connected.

The beginning of the roller coaster

SOS is 10 years-old.  Today, he discovered that YouTube isn’t just for videos about locomotives.  He was visiting my office from 2:45pm to 4:15pm while POB needed to be at a meeting.  It seems that between 4:15pm and 6:45pm, he discovered some erotica (and I am being generous here).

How did POB know?  It was eerily quiet in his room.  Computers are not allowed in his room.  Ahhhh, iTouch with wifi.  Smart little whippersnapper.  (Previously, if we were only in ear-shot (as opposed to eyes riveted on the monitor, he would announce if he found “inappropriate” videos and voluntarily turn them off.)

SOS was very embarrassed at the discovery and immediately spilled his guts and broke all confidences (I will miss this reflexive truthfulness as he becomes a conniving teen).

“Don’t be embarrassed, bud.  Women in swimsuits (and without) can be beautiful.  But not every video or picture is about beauty or love.  So you can’t have access to everything.  It is hard to explain where the line is between what is ok and what isn’t.  So, we have to decide that line.”

SOS nodded silently, still not meeting my eyes (which is a problem for him anyway).

He was particularly pleasant at dinner as if trying to make up for having ogled some naked women.  There was a part of me that was weighing the pros and cons of the situation because it was really so nice not having him critique his food and start negotiating about what he didn’t have to eat and still get dessert.

Still, that “some day when SOS is older” is today. Today, SOS is old enough that his not-so-nascent sexual awareness requires that we even more actively monitor his computer time.

I put on all the parental controls I could find on Google, Yahoo and YouTube.  And re-instated browsing history retrievals. My blog is probably off-limits.  The funny thing is that the head of some ultra-conservative movement and I probably have the same filters on our household computers.  How’s that for ironic.

We are now in lock down.  SOS now wears an orange prisoner jumpsuit and cannot be left alone.  He is wifi’ed and dangerous.

Nah, not really.  But POB and I have cross-checked our seat belts and made sure our life insurance is paid up because one of us might not survive this roller coaster ride through the next eight or so years.

GDJOB

So GDJOB has converted to Judaism by osmosis.  In one set of email exchanges, she hit the all the major nerve centers and satisfied all of the prerequisites.

***************************************************************************************************

I get an email, which is an antiquated form of communication for the younger generation, but they humor us old folks.

Somewhat cheek-in-tongue respect for elders: Check minus 1/10th point for the smirk.

She mentions that she will have a sling at the wedding.  Surgery scheduled for Monday.

Worry now, I will tell you later.  Check plus bonus points for the nuance.

We had an opportunity to get all upset, letting emotions roll and imagining the parade of horribles . . . .

Recognition that Jews need these episodes for spiritual balance.  Check.

It’s her shoulder.  But, it won’t stop her from winning a Nobel.

She understands that this does not derail our expectations.  Check.

I ask if we know her doctor and is he/she the best?  “I like him.  And the surgery is happening in a specialty pavilion where the care is more individual and the place is cleaner than a hospital.”

Independence, with a nod to the important things: he’s a specialist and the place is clean.  Two checks minus 1/2 point for independence.

GDJOB did not give us enough information to take over, but just enough to wait on her every missive.

Controlling, yet using her powers for good.  Check minus 1/10th point for being a little TOO  precocious.

Welcome to the Tribe, dear GDJOB.  Just you wait for the hazing rituals.

I love you.

~ Blogger

What? Where?

Today, instead of Sunday night dinner, we planned Sunday brunch at 12:30pm at Edgar’s, a cafe on Amsterdam Avenue between 91st and 92nd Street.  SOB and HOSOB live around the corner.

It is well established old people always arrive early and then get impatient.  Dad is always 30-45 minutes early (“Dad time”).  And then, operating on Dad time, Dad gets impatient to move onto the next activity at the very moment we were scheduled to gather in real world time.  So, if you arrive on time in real world time (and not on Dad time), you might as well take your food to go.  Generally, we all arrive on Dad time because it is really unpleasant if Dad is asking for the check before we’ve ordered.

We arrive late for Dad time, at 12:15pm.  No one was there.  Dad is NEVER late (no, Daylight Savings Time is NEVER a factor).  So, he is either dead or in an ER.  And SOB wasn’t there, either.  Clearly, she was rushing to the scene of my father’s demise.  You think I am being histrionic.   I am, but this is how blogger family views the world.

I called SOB from my cell phone.  I am so used to calling from anywhere and having people answer a call from anywhere, that I don’t think about where a person might be when I call.  I usually ask, “are you in the midst?” just like my mother would ask, to give the person a graceful way to put off a phone conversation if necessary.  But not today.  Dad was missing and presumed terminal.

I reached SOB.

“Where are you? Where is Dad?”

“We’re here.  Dad arrived early.  We are just sitting.”

“I don’t see you,” as I look furtively around the small cafe.  “Where are you?”

“[Blogger], you called me at home.  I am here at home.  We’ll be over in 5 minutes.”

 

Ooooops.  In my stressed state, my fingers automatically dialed her home number (as in,  a land line), rather than her cell.

Who remembered there was such a thing?

Disconnected

It is Saturday morning. POB (partner of blogger) went to the gym at an ungodly hour that would shame me if I were susceptible to being shamed.  TLP (our son, the little prince) is subjecting me to Pokemon and Bakugan while there is a perfectly good Phineas and Ferb show on Cartoon Network.  I love Phineas and Ferb, in fact I DVR the show for POB and me.  TLP is only sort of into it.  (Ok, enough back story for a different blog entry).

My blackberry ran out of juice just before it was my turn for torture in the name of fitness.  This meant that I was going for a run without any telecommunication devices.  POB and I had to plan ahead and decide when and where I would meet her and TLP for a picnic in Central Park after the run.

Old style planning.  Never-heard-of planning for an entire generation of children.

I walked out of the house, feeling strangely like I lost an anchor.  No, not an anchor; actually, a ball and chain.  No, not exactly, a ball and chain; more naked.  No phone, no texting capabilities, no internet.  It is okay if I were actually naked; hey, it is New York, no one would notice.  Except that I need a sports bra.  That is totally non-negotiable.  Good thing the naked feeling was metaphoric and not actual.  (Am I digressing?  I really can’t tell anymore.)

As I set out, it is just the open road and I.  Ok, and city traffic, too, until I get into Riverside Park.

I was running, with a gusto that comes from sticking it to the Man.  I cannot be reached.  No one can find me.  Ha!!  I am untethered.  Wait.  I am the Man (or part of the Man)!  Oh, shit.  I am (part of) the Man and I can’t find me.  Existential nightmares start slamming my brain, even some too weird for Sartre, Camus or Ionesco.  The Man is not so bad.  Gee, I miss the Man.

Then, what if I get hurt?  What if POB or TLP gets hurt and I cannot be reached?

I have to stop running because my hyperventilation has caused cramps and shortness of breath.  See?  This wouldn’t have been so bad if I had waited for the Man to get powered up and put it in my back pocket for the run.  Now, my family is in need and I am turning blue. I am in the Wilderness of Riverside Park.  Actually, there is a cafe within view.  Ok, Wilderness is a relative term.  In New York, if there isn’t a latte available within 3 blocks, that’s wilderness.  No lattes at this cafe, so I am in ABJECT WILDERNESS.

Wait, what do I hear?  A voice?  As in vox clamantis in deserto (a voice cries out in the wilderness)?  Is this the moment of my spiritual awakening?  (And I am dressed like this?)

Turns out, someone was yelling at me, “Stay in the runner’s lane!!!

Ok, no spiritual awakening, no kindness of strangers, no nothing.  And I am unconnected to everyone.  And I cannot even post about this on FaceBook.  The horror, the horror.  Even Dostoyevsky was able to get out Notes from Underground.  Me, I got nothing.  No iAnything.  No RIM at the edge of the corporate drain.  I have my driver’s license, money and a credit card.  I could buy some minutes from someone, but who would believe my story?  The cops would be called and then I would have to explain my circumstances, and inevitably the response from the officer would be, “you own telecommunication devices and you willfully left them home?”  “Officer, yes, I did it willfully but not maliciously — call it, semi-youthful hubris.”

Ok, I can’t breathe from the stress.  I am gripping my heart.  Vagrants think I am giving them the “strong” sign and they pound their hearts back.  Really, really?  I am probably having a stress dream and I will wake up.  Then I stagger past a long line of people waiting for an opportunity to kayak in the Hudson River even though there was a warning about life-threatening sewage in the water.  Ok, even I cannot come up with this stuff.  I am awake and my family is in peril and the police are no help and my fellow citizens want to go boating in nuclear waste.

Exhaustion sets in.  How will I make it to the appointed meeting place for the picnic.  Thank G-d for taxis.  I am sweaty from my run/freak-out but he smells like he ran a marathon.  At least I know I am not stinking up this cab.  I get out a few blocks early to air out.  Really.  Seinfeld did not lie.

I arrive at the pre-arranged meeting place about five minutes early.  I am already apoplectic about the things that could have gone wrong that will upend the rendez-vous.  (How DID we survive without this crazy connectivity?)  I imagine that POB got a call about her father, my father, her sister, my sister or brother or our nephews.  Disaster has struck.  I am clueless on 96th and Central Park West.  What was I thinking not waiting until my phone recharged?  That was sooooo selfish of me.  My family is in need and I am standing on a street corner like an idiot.

And . . . tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. . . THEY ARE LATE.  They are always late, I tell myself trying to believe it.

I see them across the street.  They are smiling and waving.  We all hug and kiss and walk together into the Park, to look for a picnic site.  POB says, “you look exhausted!!”  I say it was a hard run.  We smile and hold hands as TLP runs slightly (did I say slightly) ahead to find a good place to plop down for a picnic.

I ask POB, “do you have your iPhone?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“No, reason. No reason at all.”

Desperately seeking “Apps for Dummies”

Well, not Apple apps especially.

I need help with any apps that are supposed to enhance my photo library or make on-line anything easier.

For a while, I have wanted to post an adorable picture of my son on my blog, but I have wanted to photo-shop it so that his eyes are blacked out for privacy (let me dream that identities can be protected).  And, apropos of nothing, I wanted to combine a few Adobe pdf scans into one document.

I sit down at the computer and an Adobe reader update is downloading.  Hmmm, I think.  The system that lets me combine files, mark up scanned documents, fill out governmental forms, etc. from my office laptop.

Adobe, I think again.

Adobe, I determine as my answer to all things technological.

ADOBE, I decide to purchase more applications.

ADOBE, I know will make my home computer dreams come true.

ADOBE, it becomes my mantra.

I click my heels twice as I also click on my credit card information and off to Oz I go. (Funny, Oz requires credit cards these days.)

I think Oz turned out better for Dorothy.

Two hours and two large glasses of wine later, I haven’t been able to combine my pdfs into one, but I managed to export my photo libraries into the netherworld.  Coming soon to a world wide web address accessible to you.

I wouldn’t care about having those pictures out in the world (they will bore anyone who is not inextricably tied to our families), but there ARE the teenage/post-adolescent fat pictures of POB (partner of blogger) and me.  Those could go viral.  Otherwise, if you need a soporific, have at the family pictures.

So, to all of these “make your life a snap” apps, I say, “Give me my typewriter and Polaroid camera.”

Oz was a bust.

 

 

Technology Upgrade

So, POB (partner of blogger) and I have been dancing around the DVR issue.  (To get a DVR or not to get a DVR?  That is the question.)

Why so resistant?  We didn’t want TLP (our son, the little prince) to become too attached to TV shows, etc.  We want him not to grow into a v-idiot who schedules social interactions around an episode of, let’s say, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

In short, we lost.  “It is only one TV show,” we say to each other as we slide head first down the slippery slope.  And it will make Friday nights around the dinner table with friends and godchildren less stressful if TLP doesn’t have to watch the clock until, as he says, he “must withdraw from society” and watch his program.  (Yes, my son speaks with a dramatic flair that is best left to an adaptation on Masterpiece Theatre.  Nevertheless, his turns of phrase are diverting, if head-scratching.)

I learned that a DVR is not a separate device, but an enhanced computer chip in a cable box.  Who knew?  (Two entire generations knew.)  Our friendly helpdesk person explained that to me and more.  “Sa-ay-yyyy you’ah watching O-O-prah, and you didn’t catch what they said, you can rewind a live broid-cast!!  It’s ama-ayyy-zing.  Not that I watch my programs live, because I am working the night shift here now since I lost my old job 15 months ago, but I’m just say-yin’ it’s possible.”

We chatted some, and I wished her well.  “It was a real pleasuhre talkin’ to you, [POB].”

Did you think I would give my own name?  Besides, the bill comes to POB.