Category Archives: Like Life

Upcoming: 44

Ezekiel J. Emanuel has written the truly provocative “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” His thesis, to chop the article down to an elevator speech, is that he’s rather certain that when he reaches that age he will no longer be a creative, contributing member of society, but only a consumer of health care services.

… over the past 50 years, health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process.

And for Emanuel, what seems ethical for him to do at that point is to refuse major treatments and let nature take its short, brutal course.

I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.

I find a certain affinity with Emanuel. Like him, I fear the loss of faculties; for me, to be bed-ridden and watching endless daytime TV would be miserable. I think we differ on the milestone. Eighty sounds like a nice round number, but let me get back to you as that time post looms.

On the other hand, consider what Fred Jones (88 years old) has to say. He’s one of a half dozen elderly New Yorkers that John Leland has been talking to. Jones is one of the unlucky folks who has too much income to qualify for government subsidies, but not quite enough to afford services that would make his life more comfortable. He’s sort of trapped in a rent-controlled $300-a-month Crown Heights walkup; if he were to move, he’d be priced out of the market. Nevertheless,

Mr. Jones was not dismayed. He never is. “Oh no, I don’t have any money worries, thank God,” he said. “I have none. My only money worries are, keep the ladies away from it.”

* * *

I asked him when in his life he was happiest.

“Right now,” he said without hesitation. “I have health problems, but it’s been going on a long time, so it’s secondary. But I think happiness really is what’s going on at a particular time. I used to think happiness was something that somebody brought to you. But happiness, as opposed to enjoyment, is when you are doing something and you are elated.”

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Happy homeowner dance

before 2after 2I am taking a moment to enjoy my new windows (right). No more cracked-glass, peeling paint windows (left) that don’t open, don’t close, and don’t seal out the cold air and dust.

before 1after 1And the scary kitchen window with the busted sash that needed a stick in the track and a shim under the lock to stay closed and secure? Gone!

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On the radio: 8

Jane Gilvin reads the employee directory to Mike and Ian.

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Road trip 2015

Leta and I patched together a road trip of several places that we’d never visited before. Much driving, many quick stops, unmanaged time zone changes, and an emergency trip to the phone repair shop, but a good trip nonetheless.

crossroadsIn downstate Indiana, we visited Leta’s colleagues at their offices in Bloomington as well as our theater friend Erika in nearby Nashville. The street name signs in this town with artist colony roots are quite nice.

cable stayed artrectilinearAlso a quick afternoon in Columbus (this part of Indiana is full of cities that share names with much bigger burgs) for a gawp at the architecture. I found much more to see than we’d planned for, so we’ll have to come back (and schedule a Miller House tour in advance). But we did find the Robert N. Stewart Bridge (J. Muller International, 1999), which is very fine. And we wandered as far as the Cummins Inc. Plant One—perhaps less noteworthy architecturally, but it’s a reminder of my B-school days and many, many case studies.

another roadside attractionlook for the signThe next day we moved on to Olney, Illinois, resting place of Robert Ridgway and his family, where I made one photo to contribute to the Commons. The historical marker on U.S. 50 is easy to see, but Bird Haven is a little trickier to find—unless you listen to Leta and look for the big blue sign. We lunched at the Roll with It Bakery on Main Street, justifiably known for its “loaded” cinnamon rolls.

baldiesunderexposedRelentlessly, we headed south for Memphis: Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Wapanocca NWR across the river in Arkansas. We both enjoyed dinner at South of Beale. An unexpected find to add to my collection was this fallout shelter sign downtown on Court Avenue.

checking mailAfter breakfast at Brother Juniper’s in the university district, we pushed on to the bigger Nashville to see Reid (Leta’s cousin) and Jocelyn. Jocelyn gave us a tech tour of Nashville Ballet’s costume shop. We paid homage to the closing sequence of Robert Altman’s Nashville with a visit to the Parthenon in Centennial Park.

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On deck: 14

some chunky onesSome great fat volumes in my future. Will Robert Caro even fit in my briefcase?

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On the teevee

CBS This Morning finally ran its feature about Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson’s Tiny Desk Concerts. They were there to film on a couple-three occasions many weeks ago, including February’s awesome Mucca Pazza show. Apparently the producers felt that my colleagues made for more interesting audience shots than me, but you can see my chin and my wristwatch starting at 3:59.

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On the radio: 7 bis

With the launch of NPR’s new embeddable audio player, I can directly link to audio like this: voiceover work I did in 2011 to accompany a profile of Zhou Youguang.

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On deck: 13

another bookrackNew books on the shelf, thanks to Brett, Leta, Cleveland’s Horizontal Books, and Powell’s.

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New venues, 2014

I visited several new spots, without making a big deal of it this year.

2013’s list. 2012’s list. 2011’s list.

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My year in cities, 2014

I missed the VNPS annual meeting in Tidewater Virginia this year, but I got to visit a few places. Overnight stays in 2014:

2013’s list. 2012’s list. 2011’s list. 2010’s list. 2009’s list. 2008’s list. 2007’s list. 2006’s list. 2005’s list.

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tenth and marketthird and marketAlong the broad swath of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania’s Market Street (surprisingly, Market is not the north-south axis: rather, it’s the narrow nondescript Center Street two blocks over) can be found some lovely old street name signs suspended from scrolled brackets. There are variations and simplifications of this design (clips instead of hangers, utility poles instead of purpose-built supports), and eventually the newer signs give in to the conventional perforated post and crosstree design. But still, these that remain are graceful and quite fine.

the fountain is onAt Market and Main across from the Civil War monument is this well-maintained fountain. The only flaw in its design is that there’s insufficient dallying space next to it: lingerers are likely to get wet.

no creditNot all of the businesses on Main Street are thriving.

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cheeryA cheery batch of sunflowers from Charlie’s garden, just because.

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On deck: 12

today's selectionA new shipment from Powell’s, thus some turnover on the read-me shelf. The Bible is my mother’s much-read copy, mended with spike tape; equal time after getting through Mohammed and Joseph Smith. Kate Atkinson continues to wait in the wings, perhaps patiently. The Echenoz translation is a bare-faced crutch to help me through Les Grandes Blondes. The revived-from-downstairs title is Catch-22, one of those books I came to so long ago, one with a strong movie attached, that I can’t remember whether I’ve actually read it.

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old and newA quick trip to Main Line Merion, just over the Philadelphia city line, for a quick, gentle wedding. A nice opportunity for a ride on SEPTA’s regional rail, something I’d never done before, and a lovely hand-built street name sign. I surmise that Idris Road was once named something else, because the fonts on the two wings of the sign are different: graceful serifs for South Highland Avenue, and a more no-nonsense sans for Idris Road.

And that would turn out to be the case: Beacom Avenue, provided with a sidewalk in 1911, was renamed to Idris Road by ordinance of 8 April 1914.

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old boots 1Rather than an unboxing post about new hiking equipment, this is a goodbye to my old New Balance boots. They finally blew out on me, catastrophically, on a naturalist’s hike on the Appalachian Trail in May.

I bought these boots somewhere in the early 1990s—I know, nothing is built to last any more. Light and comfy, they took me up to Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee in 1993: that’s when I figured out that the nicely ventilating nylon uppers weren’t waterproof. Together, my footgear and I climbed in the Cascades of Washington, the Adirondacks, Yosemite, and many times up, down, and over the Blue Ridge.

old boots 2Stitched and glued back together several times, they’d finally had enough. So long, old boots.

Hey, the laces are new and in good shape. I can use them again for something.

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