Saturday, May 2, 2009

Onward to the Shallow End

I can think of few inventions that have brought more benefit and peace of mind to mankind than the automatic dishwasher. My own model of this beneficent device is whirring and gloshing away as we speak. Without it I would be awash in dirty dishes, plates with odd blue-green growths, cups with the accumulated rings of a thousand servings of coffee, glasses with more rings than a sequoia tree to tell the archivist exactly how many servings of milky substances I have consumed since they were purchased. Because I hate doing dishes and I pretty much don’t do anything I don’t want to do anymore.

It is a lovely, albeit chilly, morning and I am contemplating my plans for the future. First I am going to install a very expensive new front door – not counting installation it has cost me just under $4000: a lovely beveled glass affair with a sidelight, rated highly enough in insulative qualities to garner a 30% tax write-off this year. Then I am applying for a reverse mortgage on my home (which will be raised in value, one hopes, by more than the $4K investment, since there is no one to leave it to anyway. All my relatives fall into two categories; either they have homes that suit them very well or they could not afford to pay of the rest of the mortgage and hold onto it. And then – do you hear it coming? – the sweet, sweet relief of retirement.

This business of living in two places with a 2-3 hour drive between is getting very old. For one thing, it reduces my time to do things around the house to one day a week. This is the same day in which I have to do any buying for the week, write my blog, conduct my social life and so forth. Oh – and rest, doing nothing. Guess which of these enterprises wins most often? I have observed that when I have that rare two-day weekend on Reedville, i.e., a three-day weekend overall, I get things done. Unfortunately, about half those three-day affairs contains a holiday on which I traditionally attend a dinner at a relative’s home – Christmas at Caitlin and Brad’s, Memorial Day at Joan’s and so on. So the extra day is lost so far as accomplishing tasks is concerned.

I have done the math, admittedly with a view to making it come out the way I want it to, and I think without my mortgage, even considering the taxes here and insurance and so forth, I can swing it. Anyway, I have lived my life acting on impulse and it has stood me in good stead. The man that I know who plans most carefully for his future is my friend Yan, and those of you who read my last entry know how that turned out. The life I am living is simply not worth the added money it brings in. I do a lot of spending which I recognize afterward is simply to atone for the deep malaise into which continuing to work has plunged me. There has been no real social life, nothing meaningful on the horizon for all the 14 years since my return from Saudi. I just cannot get up any enthusiasm for travel that must be rushed through in two weeks or less. Vacations leave me with less devotion to my job, not more.

One always hears of these freakish men who retire and find themselves at loose ends. I do not personally know any such men. Without exception, those many friends I have who have achieved retirement have found their lives more full of zest, energy and things to do. I have not been able to converse with any who have died still working, but my guess is that the number one answer to, “What do you think of that?” would be “chagrin”. And that presupposes that cussing in the afterlife is frowned upon. Or pointless.

Well, how boring was that? Let’s see – did you see the news article about the couple that wandered out of a pub and began banging on the Windsor Castle lawn in broad daylight, surrounded by tourists? That was fun reading. Although in residence at the time, the Queen was not involved so far as I can tell. Pity.

I have had occasion in the past to acknowledge how extremely shallow I am, and as further evidence of this, I now admit I am an avid watcher of American Idol. I have had my favorites through the seasons – there always seemed to be at least one contestant to whose performance I looked forward each week – not necessarily because they were the most talented, but because they usually delivered something a little unexpected or unusual. The five top finalists this year are easily the most talented of any season; any one of them would have been extremely strong contenders – and likely winners – in former seasons. But this year there is a contestant so supremely gifted both with voice and showmanship, that I can’t wait each week for Tuesday and my two-minute Adam Lambert fix. This guy has everything I would expect the word ‘Idol’ to imply. I find him thrilling – and when I listen to his singing without watching him (I have downloaded four of his performances, compared with two for all other singers in all other seasons put together) – I am as astounded by his gifts as when I watch him. He may well not win – he was one of the two lowest vote-getters this week - but I have never seen anyone before who I was so sure will be a major star.

Each year there is a division of sorts between voters on the show – many years it is pop v country, but the country contestant left early this year. The division this year is between crooners – boy-band types – and rock performers. There is a bit of church versus Satan in the ranks, too, and of course Satan’s followers have dates on weeknights and a life that is not on hold until Eternity rolls around, so some of them are too busy to vote. I don’t think there is a Mormon this year in the finals or a candidate who plays up his origins in a small state, or an ethnic favorite who is getting votes for that reason (I do not refer to black v white, which doesn’t seem to happen on this show, but more like when there is a Filipino or some smaller minority candidate), so the block-voting such contestants sometimes receive irrespective of their performances is not occurring. The preference for a crooner or a rocker, or an R and B or country singer is an entirely legitimate preference and seems to play heavily in the voting. In addition, physical attractiveness weighs heavily, as it does in all other aspects of life – although I am not sure that is not more the case among the judges than among the voters. Simon Cowell is incapable of seeing beyond looks, particularly in females (those of you who know to whom I refer when I say ‘bikini girl’ will recall how completely incapable of impartiality toward beautiful women he is), and Paula Abdul is also strongly biased by appearance, particularly (and unsurprisingly) in the men.

Mainly, I want Adam to last at least until the final two, just so my Tuesdays will be exciting for a while longer. I doubt that his success or failure as a performer from this point on will be much affected by how he fares on Idol. So I will still be able to buy his music and, believe me, I will.

And now, out into the sunshine – I hope you will be doing the same.


  1. Congratualtions on the retirement plan! I am trying to figure out mine and it seems the earliest is 7 years out assuming the bosses keep me on that long. Between that and (let the chorus sing Alleluia) social security, I should be able to make it assuming I get the mortgage paid off by then. It is a delicate house of cards but, I've come to realize that's as good as any description of Life. I am sure you will enjoy Life much, much more once you are free of the daily grind.

    I also watch American Idol and refuse to apologize for it. I told the womanchild that I think Adam, Gokey and Chris will make it to the final 3 and after that it's anyone'sguess. When Adam sang Tracks of my Tears, I was riveted in my seat. Which, given the squishy nature of my very cheap sofa, is saying something. This weeks song was equally good.

    Until next time...

  2. Well, when I’m not pulled one way or another by my various responsibilities, I keep finding myself on the couch unhappily channel-surfing and, experiencing occasional highlights such as now, listening to my skinny cat barfing just out of my line of sight. There’s no point in interfering right now—might as well wait until she’s finished. I’ve absorbed gardening requirements at my mother’s house as well as almost keeping up with my own. I don’t spend much money because I simply don’t have time and energy to shop, so the most fun I have is watching my bank balance build (except it’s less fun than it was when I never knew if it would all stretch as far as necessary each month). If I didn’t have my job to go to I would be truly lost.

    I started collecting my husband’s Social Security last January. I have none of my own because I’m in the old civil service retirement system (which has never paid into Social Security and which I hope means my pension will be about equal, because I stop getting his the minute I retire). I did pay off my mortgage and now just let it build up in my savings giving a hunk now and then to my kids because they are being more affected by the stinking economy than I am. My job is very affected by the economy and now the flu, though—as we are trying to deal with our budget cuts and increased demands on our services. It has become so obvious that everyone is disturbed by world situations—it has become a matter of trying to keep our heads as all those around us are justifiably losing theirs. And awaiting with dread the probability that each of us will receive a direct hit in some way also (like your Mr. Yan).

    And I had a not-so-fun revelation about how taxes work when you get a lot of extra money—something about filing quarterly or you get a big awful surprise on April 15. I immediately mailed in to Social Security a W4 to establish withholding, but it hasn’t taken effect yet (I know they got it because I tracked its delivery via certified mail) and I fear I’ll have to go down there in person and spend who knows how long waiting to talk to someone. I’d almost rather learn how to do the quarterly thing than wait for service anywhere, you know.

    What WILL I do when I retire? I have no idea. I hope at the very least I become one of those people with a perfectly maintained house and yard, but I fear I just may deepen the crevice in the couch. I’m lonely now. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel then.

    But, you know, if one finds one’s self at loose ends and limited in recreational choices because of finances, one can always “unretire.” And find a job maybe, paying a fraction of the ones we retired from. For you, I hope you will be making scads of dough by writing your usual insightful and moving life observations. But wait—that won’t work—I won’t be able to afford them then. At the very least, I hope you have more time and inclination to blog once you retire. How about a series on what to do when you don’t know what to do with your retired self?

  3. Gonna try yet again here to comment--have been thus far unsuccessful, guess that makes me really old when I cannot get the computer to work for me.
    It gives me great happiness to hear that you have worked out your retirement. I have thought of you often in this regard, and felt a little sickened at the deminse of your long-awaited and hard-earned plan.......and knowing you are only one of the mass of people who are in the same boat only makes it worse. FABULOUS to do the reverse mortgage gig. We should look into that. My own investments have been cut nearly in half......I shall sally forth with the hope and (some would say naive) positive outlook I have come to be known for in these last three years, and 'just know' that things will turn out GREAT.

    Gonna keep this short in case I can't get it to stick.......but let me say I have been keeping close watch on your space. Still working on printing out the other blog. I do a few each week. Better speed that up or it will take years. Sending love and a hug, as always, be it seen here or nay.

  4. OMG it worked. Except that was a blogger name I thought I had deleted, no longer wishing to identify with the Blue ilk. This is (and just was) your old pal One Beam.

  5. now that I know the stage isn't going to fall away under me after I speak my lines, I wanna say more:

    Never Boring, David. Never. There is just something about the way you describe things, even the most mundane (which is rare) that makes this world a warmer, more intriguing place to stand. Your words ad depth to my experience. So, Shallow?? Who has said this about you?? Let me at 'em.

    I only watched the talent show once, when I went to Florida last month. If Adam is the one I think you mean, yeah, (was he the one who one time made up like Elvis?) he was terrific! There were a couple other guys on that show that night who may have been 'Adam', who also were very engaging.

    I have not done much blogging at the old spaces site. An occasional splutter. Perhaps I should try your trick and start a fresh one. Anywho, here's to your retirement. Och Aye!!

  6. I'm so glad you'll get to retire!! Now you can write more for our entertainment!! HA! I really am very glad you've figured something out.. Let us know!