??How Much??

With all the talk about the demise of the middle class, I am reminded how much easier it was to be in the middle class a few decades ago.  I am grateful that I came of age during that time period.  I didn’t know wealth, but I lived comfortably and fully with what income was available.  I did not know any families where both parents had to work to make ends meet.

It seems to me that the only justification for many of today’s high prices is that they are determined by whatever the traffic will bear.

designer bag

A bar of candy, be it Hershey’s or Mounds or Mars of Necco Wafers cost 5 cents.  Gourmet chocolate didn’t exist in this country at that time.  I easily learned to love mediocre chocolate.

mounds

When I got my license to drive, gas cost 17.9 cents per gallon.  That meant I could take the family car, go for a jaunt, and afford to replace the gas I’d burned  so my parents would never know what I’d done.

Dollar amounts for houses or apartments in desirable cities can cost millions and millions of dollars.  It seems like yesterday (you know you’re old when you start saying things like this) that the benchmark for an expensive house was $100,000.  That amount of money could buy you just about anything anywhere.  We’re talking 1970’s.  Our first home cost us $35,000 and it wasn’t just a garage.  It was a 1920’s gem with 4 bedrooms and 5 fireplaces, and 10 foot ceilings.

Today, a loaf of artisanal bread can cost as much as $7.00 or more.  When I was growing up, a loaf of pasty white bread that you could play with by rolling the white stuff inside the crusts into balls, cost a mere 21 cents.  That was in the 1950’s.  It was also great for toasting and covering with sugar -sweetened cinnamon that came premixed inside a little container.  I also discovered that you could flatten the center of a slice of white bread with the palm of your hand, making a sort of bread pancake, then pop it in your mouth and savor the way it felt as it slowly disintegrated.

breadwhite bread

My parents, who owned an independent grocery store, put me and my brother through college.  Tuition was about $2000 a year.  They sacrificed to pay it, but it was do-able. They never could have afforded today’s fees.

Ordering a premium salted caramel ice cream cone today might set you back $4. As a child, I licked cones  at our neighborhood drugstore for 5 cents.  The flavors were limited to chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.  Coffee was too exotic for children,  but who knew what other possibilities existed then?

ice cream flavors

I didn’t break through the hundred dollar mark for a pair shoes until I learned that my adult children were paying that much for their shoes. They secretly laughed at my thriftiness and goodness knows what else.  Now, at high end stores, it’s acceptable for prices to soar over $1000 for a designer pair of shoes, particularly if they have a red sole and a Louboutin label.

louboutin shoes. $995

How in the world does anyone in their right mind spend over $1000+  for a handbag today? And that’s just a point of departure for some labels. I Blame Sex & the City for making that acceptable.

When we got married, our first one bedroom furnished apartment in Coral Gables, Florida cost $100 per month.  We kept it at $100 per month for five years.  Rent was never supposed to be more than 25% of income.  Ours never was.

I made $4250 a year teaching school, while my husband who was in graduate school, earned zero.  We never went hungry. We went to the movies almost every week, spending $1.00 or $1.25 per ticket and also ate out regularly.  I never felt poor. Although, I was told in later years, my mother wasn’t so sure.

When I was ten years old, an uncle of mine easily convinced me and my cousin to pull dandelions out of his backyard lawn for a penny a piece to provide money for us to go on rides at a local amusement park.  $1 went a long way and was not to be sniffed at.  We had a fine afternoon at the park after we’d picked our quota.

pulling dandelions

During college, I received $20 a week for expenses, which were primarily food related.  By purchasing a 25 cent cupcake from a dispensing machine for breakfast, I could save up money to buy clothes I wanted.

When I look at the advertised prices for many of these products, I wonder what is the ceiling for them?

I’m glad I knew the times when the living for most was a whole lot easier and probably more pleasurable.  Sure, it was a dream to Strike it Rich, but in those years that most likely meant being able to afford a big shiny Cadillac or getting a fancy new refrigerator.

Bill Moyers & Me

bill moyers

My eyes betrayed the depth of my feelings as they spontaneously filled with tears when Bill Moyers made his way to the microphone to deliver his recent talk here a few nights ago.  I have been a devoted follower of his for decades now, but seeing him in person for the first time and listening to him speak, was an incredibly powerful and revelatory experience.

In fact, I have never before listened and focused so intently to an hour long speech. My mind never drifted.  He deftly wove together the pieces of this gigantic puzzle we call electoral politics in the USA to help his audience gain understanding of our current national situation . Moyers is the Real Deal. I view him as a contemporary oracle. He personifies integrity, decency, compassion, thoughtfulness, intelligence, and commitment.  He’s in possession of the rare ability of one who can see the forest for the trees.  He doesn’t paint with stunted brushes. He uses all the considerable tools that are in his possession to make his points, be it quotes from philosophers, lessons from history, or the latest news. His message is CONSIDERED and not the usual worthless opinions that emerge from the blabbering mouths of the so called pundits in the electronic world.

This night he painted a grim picture of our current state of affairs, pulling no punches about the challenges we face as a nation. He did not mince words or offer glib or partisan solutions.  He described a problem and its genesis so that we could better grasp its significance.  I walked into the theatre somewhat aware.  I walked out with his message reverberating within me.  His words were too powerful to ignore or deny. After listening to him, I think it’s inviting disaster to pretend this crisis might just evaporate.

Civilization is but a thin veneer stretched across the passions of the human heart. And civilization doesn’t just happen; we have to make it happen.”
Bill Moyers

A brief summary:  Our democracy is in jeopardy.  Sarah Palin set the stage for a candidate like Trump to become acceptable to many Republicans. The coddling of the Tea Party laid groundwork for Candidate Trump as well. Add the disintegration of the Middle Class, the huge reductions in real reporting that has come about as the result of failing newspapers and reduced numbers of reporters, the Citizens United ruling…then add in our fascination and worship of celebrities.  Our system is rigged, no doubt about it.

“Our media and political system has turned into a mutual protection racket.”
Bill Moyers

Trump is nobody. No body.  His followers project whatever they want to see on his image. There’s no there there.  Basically, he’s a mean egomaniac.

Although Moyer’s talk was grave, I left the theatre determined to play whatever role I can to see that the Donald doesn’t become president or ever come to represent our country.

Bill Moyers represents everything I admire in a person.  It was good to be reminded that there are still people like him in public life, living life not for his own gain, but for the well being of us all.

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it – as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

-Bill Moyers

 

It’s Getting Scary!

approaching storm

You can’t escape him and it’s starting to get scary. It’s like hearing the thunder of an approaching storm and knowing that soon you’re in for it and all hell might break loose.   His image dominates all media. How is it possible that though he makes me shudder, he makes others cheer?   His outbursts and one liners are the highlight  of every late night comedian’s spiel. But, they’re running out of witty retorts.  He’s like the cartoon rabbit who sticks his head out of the ground, gets whacked and emerges again, a few feet away, smirking and unscathed.

Meanness and nastiness are his modus operandi.  Civility is the last choice when confronting a challenge.  He’s a misogynist in a way that no one before him could have ever gotten away with.  He cares neither for truth nor for principle.  His version of reality shifts constantly .  Does anyone know what he believes ?  Megalomaniac is not too strong a word to describe him nor is the word evil.  Each day’s reporting brings a new outrage.

There’s really nothing new I have to add to this conversation.  It’s been hashed and continually rehashed for months now.  The brightest minds of our time have tried to find explanations for the Trump phenomena. They’re unable to stop him with any rationale.

I’ve never considered myself a die hard patriot.  I’ve been angered many times by U.S. policies and actions.  However, Trump makes the presidential campaign look like a bad joke.  He’s mocked the entire electoral process.  Seinfeld would have called him “The Mocker.”

Now I fear for our country.

Proverbs 22:10
Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.

trump 1

My biggest complaint with Trump is that he dishonors our country by his belief that he is qualified to lead  the most complicated and powerful government in the world at a very dangerous time.  The fact that he has captured the Republican nomination to be president of the United States is an affront to every American who values the foundations our country has been built on, not to mention honesty, compassion, and intellectual candor and rigor.  You don’t have to be a patriot to acknowledge this.

This week, the Stop Trump movement has become the Accommodate Trump Cave-in.  It’s shocking for me to see other politicians, who I think must know better, try to make his candidacy acceptable by air brushing his faults.  Where are they hiding their principles?

Now, the possibility is real that Trump’s campaign will continue and actually stands a shot to ultimately win the presidency of the United States.  My own screen goes blank in that scenario.  It is virtually impossible for me to be able to consider a Trump presidency.  He mocks everything that our country is supposed to stand for.

the megalomaniac

megalomania

noun meg·a·lo·ma·nia \ˌme-gə-lō-ˈmā-nē-ə, -nyə\

Simple Definition of megalomania

  • : a condition or mental illness that causes people to think that they have great or unlimited power or importance

  • btw, I see not a shred of a potential “great man of history.”  Lunatic?  Most definitely.

Fleeting Moments

The images before my eyes were dreamlike in the late afternoon California sun. Although I was standing at the entrance to a local junior high school auditorium, I entered a world  that felt timeless and yet lasted only for a moment.

fairies-30-31

My mind was a camera, snapping images of young girls in ballet costumes, first onstage, and then mingling with their proud families. The young dancers seemed like otherworldly visitors. They were sweet, fairy like creatures wrapped in layers of pastel tulle, accented with colorful flowers, ribbons and sequins.  Their hair was meticulously pinned back in a bun, belying the usual childhood disarray.  Their eyes were shining, a mixture of excitement and pride of accomplishment. Their carefully made up faces, all happy smiles and pink cheeks,were a tantalizing glimpse of young womanhood that just waits around a corner for them.

girls on floor
photo by Brett Vapnek

I was at a recital for one of my granddaughters who has resumed ballet training after growing bored with it for a year.  She glowed onstage.  I was surprised to feel tears in the corners of my eyes. I knew immediately that she was loving dance, as she hadn’t before.  She had presence, grace and poise.  She lifted herself effortlessly off the ground in a jeté.  I could not have been happier!

These precious childhood moments, I understood, will soon be gone.  She may or may not continue to dance, for a wide variety of reasons.  The costumes will come off, the hair let down and childhood will resume again, until that too, remains just a memory.

But today was hers and mine. We’d locked eyes while she was dancing, sharing mutual happiness. She transcended the ordinary and for just a few moments she took me with her.

I am NOT Cute!

Just as my older cousin and I were exiting from a cosmetics store, the young salesgirl bubbled over, “You two are SO CUTE!”

I cringed.  I doubt that this was her desired effect.  I was hard pressed to mutter thank-you.

Call me anything, but please, please, don’t call me CUTE.  I’ll be ok with smart-ass, idiot, loud-mouth, jerk or even something more flattering like cool or just plain nice.  But not cute.

At my age, it’s condescending.  It makes me feel like someone’s pet. It’s infantalizing.  In other words, I hate it.

I might have been quite happy with the “cute” label when I was 16 or so, with a bouncy ponytail and layers of petticoats under my circle skirt.  But honey, that was looooong ago.  Now I shun cuteness.

I think the world of cute should belong only to young children and young animals.

cute baby

Cuteness in anything or anyone else seems contrived and frankly, boring.  It’s gotten a bit out-of-control as an object of desire, in my opinion.

Rather, just a little r. e. s p. e. c.t. as the song goes.

Those of us in old(er) age have lived longer than most people on the planet.  Our experience counts for a lot.  We’ve watched wars (WW2, Korean, Vietnam, Panama, Iraqi) presidents ( Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama) food fads and diet fads,(no carbs, no fat, grapefruit, South Beach, Atkins, the Zone),  clothing trends (the shift, the granny look, the hippie look, the New Look, bell bottoms, Diane Van Furstenberg, Twiggy, the gypsy look, mini skirts, maxi skirts, pant suits), celebrities, musical trends, cameras, copying machines, dial telephones, telegrams, McCarthyism, the Cold War, and silly Italian pop songs come and go.  I do like to think we have acquired some wisdom having gone through all that stuff.

I have zero desire to look cute.  I do have opinions and a point of view.  I hope I have some grit for challenges that lie ahead.  Most of all, I hope I can keep my sense of humor.  An intact mind and relatively intact body would be nice too.

But cute?  Just not in the equation.