BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Don’t get sick or hurt traveling outside of Canada

Boomers are taking out-of-country vacations in unprecedented numbers.

Now that baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement, many are choosing to escape Canada’s crappy winters and migrate to Florida, Arizona and other sunny climates for a few weeks or months each year. We’re taking boat cruises, visiting Europe and doing all the things we didn’t have the time or money for during our working years. Notwithstanding “pre-existing conditions”, we buy our out-of-country health insurance and off we go. Buyer beware. What happens when we’re in a car accident, develop intestinal problems or suffer a stroke or heart attack? That’s when we learn that insurance companies are in the business of making money for themselves, not serving the needs of policy holders. This realization should come as no surprise but it can make for some frustrating and inconvenient experiences. Not to mention the obstacles presented by health care provided in foreign countries.

Illness is one thing, but car accidents are another matter altogether when you’re travelling, In Florida and many other places, it’s still legal to use hand-held cell phones while driving, and dangerous texting drivers are commonplace. Compounding the bad driver issue is the age of so many of the drivers in the sunshine states as well as the preponderance of impaired drivers. I know more than one person who was run over when someone backed out of a parking spot without looking behind. That reinforces the argument that it’s always safer to back into a parking spot rather than backing out where it’s difficult to see obstacles.

Even minor issues can quickly rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs.

The bottom line is out-of-country insurance is a must but be aware of the hazards inherent in insurance coverage. I once went to “Emergency” on Christmas day in Florida to remove the rubber tip from my hearing device that had become lodged deep inside my ear canal. I couldn’t fish it out. A trip to the hospital involved several hours of waiting before being seen by a doctor (after being triaged by a series of admin staffers). The procedure took five seconds using special forceps and because I had failed to notify my insurance company in advance and get their recommendation for a facility to do the procedure, I was out of pocket $1,750.00. Ouch. After that experience, I found the perfect forceps on Amazon for $25.00 and now take of the problem myself when it happens.

Be well, but more importantly, beware.

Friends were rear-ended in a car accident when they went for a coffee one evening in Florida. A trip to the hospital involving six hours of tests and treatment resulted in a total bill of $37,000.00 as well as a truckload of paperwork and legal followup after they returned to Canada. Fortunately their insurance covered it. Another friend had intestinal issues and a couple of quick trips to Emergency for tests and prescriptions cost $18,000.00. He’s worried this will affect his future insurability and premiums. Someone else had heart issues in Greece and was treated in a hospital that provided no towels or hot water no drinking water to take pills, no toilet paper and minimal care. After moving to a private clinic, he was presented with a bill for thousands of dollars when he checked out two days later. The clinic demanded immediate cash or bank transfer in payment. The clinic would absolutely not deal with the Canadian insurance provider and finally agreed to accept a Visa card payment. Then, he faced a fight with his insurance company for reimbursement when he returned home.

The bottom line is beware, be healthy and bee-line it home to Canada if you can. Even paying for an air ambulance trip at thirty or forty thousand dollars could be cheaper and safer than out-of-country medical care. Call your insurance company before seeking treatment. If possible, get your ass home immediately. The Canadian health care system may not be perfect, but it is relatively hassle-free and we don’t have to mortgage the mobile home to receive care like our American neighbours do. In the meantime, drive very defensively in the United States, assuming, under Trump you qualify for entry. But that’s another subject for another time.

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The Price of Illusion exposes flaws in the life of luxury

A popular song from 1969, Where Do You Go To My Lovely (click here to listen) by Peter Sarstedt played in a steady loop in my brain as I was reading The Price of Illusion, a memoir by Joan Juliet Buck:

“You talk like Marlène Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do. . . ”

Joan Juliet Buck. Been there; done it; got the Chanel bag.

That song, although written long before Joan Juliet Buck embraced the lifestyle it describes, could have been her life. The Price of Illusion, a memoir by the former editor of Paris Vogue is a fascinating read. The story of her childhood drags a bit in the beginning but picks up when she becomes a young woman and begins her peripatetic transcontinental life. Buck was the silver spoon only child of Hollywood producer Jules Buck who was responsible for such memorable films as Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips starring newly discovered Peter O’Toole. She lived a transcontinental lifestyle in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, spending much of her childhood in Ireland at the home of her godfather, John Huston. There, she formed a life-long friendship with his daughter Angelica.

Moving in such illustrious circles obviously positions her to name-drop many famous people in the worlds of entertainment, politics and business. At first I found this off-putting but soon I was enjoying the rare first-hand insights into a world of wealth, glamour and superficiality. I learned the high life is not all glamour and glory. While Buck was an enthusiastic participant in all forms of pleasure, her highest highs were achieved while overseeing the rebirth of Paris Vogue from its traditional, staid format to a more edgy, avant garde publication. Under her stewardship in the nineties, the magazine doubled its readership and appeal.

Paris Vogue presented itself as being all things representative of French women.

Buck is an excellent writer and her brutal honesty combine to produce a wonderful read. I was halfway through the book before reaching her Vogue years but it was worth the wait. Being close friends with such icons as Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Rampling, Lauren Bacall and Angelica Huston, Buck transports us into worlds we would otherwise never be able to access. Like any human being, her life is composed of extreme highs and correspondingly debilitating lows. When she was sabotaged by a business associate at Paris Vogue and sent to rehab on false charges of addiction, her life unravelled. Losing her job along with its corresponding salary and benefits meant she could no longer support her ailing father. No matter how charmed one’s life may seem, no one escapes pain, loss or disappointment, even the privileged.

The Price of Illusion is obviously the story of a woman who lived most of her life in a superficial haze of privilege. As a life-long journal keeper and a keen observer of human nature, Joan Juliet Buck treats us to a view of the glamorous life that undoes many of our misconceptions. Her recollections and challenges along the way make for a fascinating read. As someone retired from the corporate world, I found the business and political challenges she encountered along the way to be particularly interesting, especially since I plan to be a magazine editor in my next life. Although I was unsure I would enjoy the book when I first began reading, I was soon swept up in the excitement of a life lived in realms beyond what any ordinary person would ever experience. And, ultimately, that’s the essence and joy of reading. I escaped into another world and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

To order The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck from Amazon, click here.

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Help! My scarves are choking me.

The inscription on my tombstone will be simple: 

She finally quit complaining about her hair.

She was organized.

As a young girl and even later as a teenager, I never had a messy bedroom. My bed was made every morning. My single bottle of Evening in Paris and two bottles of Cutex nail polish were neatly lined up on my “roxatoned” dresser. My spartan wardrobe was carefully organized on hooks behind my bedroom door (the house was built in the 1880s and had no closets). In the late sixties when I got my first apartment without a roommate, a bachelor unit in an old walk-up building on Vaughan Road in Toronto, I was immensely household. Furnished carefully with whatever I could carry up the street from the S.S. Kresge store on St. Clair Avenue, my belongings were arranged in an orderly and efficient fashion. I’ve always taken pride in being organized. Still do. Some friends would say, a little too organized.

Walking into a store like Solutions or The Container Store makes me weak-kneed with the pleasure. I could spend hours browsing the cutlery trays, shoe bags, garbage containers and cupboard organizers. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it. My bathroom linen closet contains little plastic baskets labelled Hair Products, Makeup, Meds, Dental, and so on. Those bins are further subdivided with labelled Ziplok baggies containing my overflow items such as Skincare, Eye makeup, Blushers and Lipsticks.  My kitchen pantry is arranged by food group (isn’t everyone’s?). You get the picture. While I’m not compulsive; I definitely like things to be orderly.

So, here some of my organizing tricks that you might help you in your everyday life:

Men’s tie racks (from Solutions) make great necklace holders. They’re visible and don’t get tangled.

Open-ended Umbra paper towels racks mounted on the wall are perfect for managing all your bracelets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too many pair of black pants? These little round metal tags (from Staples) on pant hangers tell me whether the black pants (which are hard to distinguish on the hangers) are leggings, dress pants, jeans, knit, etc. and indicate the size, depending on how fat I am on a particular day.                                                      

These Skubb shoe boxes are a deal at IKEA and only $12.99 for a four-pack.

 

But I do need help in one area

Sadly, one thing that has consistently alluded me and escaped my control is management of my scarves. I’ve tried those special hangers with all the loops, a hanging circular laundry dryer with scarfs draped from its tiny clothes pegs, scarves folded over pant racks and wadded up in a drawer. None of these solutions was satisfactory. If anyone has any ideas on how to remove this last menace from my organized life, I’d be grateful. There could be a reward.

This looped hanger system for scarves should work but unfortunately it doesn’t. I have several of these hangers; they get all bunched up and I have to pull them all out of the closet to find what I’m looking for. And don’t even suggest I get rid of some. That’s not negotiable.

Do you have any organizational tricks you’d like to share in the Comments section?

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Hydro has some ‘splainin’ to do

As if I weren’t confused enough already by Ontario Hydro changing their name to Enersource, OPG, Hydro One or whatever, now they’ve gone and done it again! The geniuses who run What’s-its-name have now decided to call themselves Alectra Utilities. It surely has something to do with trying to escape the negative perception of their brand in the market, otherwise, would someone please explain to me why they’re doing it again. Perhaps it gives them more nefarious channels to use for hiding fiscal mismanagement and reaming their customers. I finally just managed to sort out my gas bill from my hydro bill. In case you have the same problem—my gas bill comes under the name Enercare and my hydro bill is called Enersource. I’m not a stupid person but I’m probably not the only one who had to write that down to keep them straight.

As a retired Marketing Manager for a major corporation ($2 billion in new work annually) I have a working grasp of the concept, practicalities and costs involved in changing a brand’s name and logo. Lard thunderin’ jeasus! What are these people doing? Apparently, it’s to amalgamate several company names under one banner. Could they not have thought of this in the first place? We’re all doing our laundry on Saturdays and Sundays or off-hours in the middle of the night, turning off lights and lowering our thermostats to conserve energy and costs while the fat cats at What’s-its-name spend like drunken sailors.

How many Hydro workers does it take to screw in a light bulb? It’s no joke.

We’ve all seen hydro workers in the field. They’re easily recognizable—one person working in a bucket at the top of a pole while six others stand around on the ground with a cup of Timmie’s double/double in their hands. I’m not suggesting this could be part of the reason our hydro bills are so high, or am I? A friend worked in middle management at What’s-its-name for several years and reaching a point when she could no longer stand to be part of an organization that has no concept of controlling overheads or of management accountability, she left. Her stories were horrifying for those of us who toiled in the private sector.

Then, this morning came the pièce de résistance. I received an email from a company called (in case you’re still following this) Alectra Utilities. It’s a customer survey wanting to know my opinion on their operations. I completed the survey which was interspersed with pages of graphs and charts which 98% of people won’t read. The questions are cleverly skewed to justify their excesses and mismanagement. Here’s an example:

Now? You’re asking ME?

Thinking about Enersource’s forecasted plan for replacing aging infrastructure, which of the following statements best represents your point of view?

  • Enersource should look at the long-term health of the system and proactively spend what is needed to ensure costs are spread out evenly over time – even if that means higher rates.
  • Enersource should spend only what is needed to maintain system reliability – even if that means from year to year there may be fluctuations in the rate of capital investment.
  • Enersource should focus on keeping rates as low as possible in the near-term and only spend the bare minimum on replacing aging infrastructure – even if that means higher replacement costs in the future.
  • Don’t know

Here’s a link to the full survey in case you’re interested: http://surveys.alectracustomerfeedback.com/SE/1/survey01/

Ding dong. This isn’t a customer survey. It’s propaganda—thinly veiled permission to continue feeding the fat cat and justify decisions that What’s-its-name’s managers are being paid the mega-bucks to make on our behalf. I ticked off “Don’t Know” for most of the answers because that’s their job, although if they were doing it in the private sector, they’d be fired. Ticking off those innocuous little boxes could never begin to accurately convey what this customer really thinks. As if anyone listens, or cares.

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Maud Lewis respectfully recognized in superb Canadian film

I find it impossible to look at a painting by Maud Lewis and not feel uplifted.

Art is subjective and very personal. Sometimes it leaves us cold; other times it touches us deeply. I’m certainly not an expert but over the years I’ve discovered that the work of certain artists draws me in, makes me feel connected and engaged when I view their work. French Impressionist Augusto Renoir and Quebec artist Marc-Aurèle Fortin both have that effect on me. And, so does Nova Scotia primitive folk artist Maud Lewis. Simply looking at one of her paintings of a spring scene with bursting, colourful flowers, blue skies and puffy white clouds, happy cows grazing in bright green fields bisected by a meandering country road fills me with joy. It’s easy to disparage her work as it resembles the happy, brushwork of a young child. That’s the secret of its enchanting beauty.

Her world was small but her reach expansive.

Like so many artists, Maud Lewis didn’t gain a lot of notoriety and respect until after her death in 1970.  Born in 1903 with multiple birth defects Maud faced challenges right from the beginning, leaving school in the fifth grade. Her protective parents died when she was a young woman and her older brother refused to accept responsibility for her care and support. Destitute at the age of thirty-four, Maud responded to an ad in a local store by 44-year-old bachelor Everett Lewis who was looking for a live-in housekeeper. Maud presented herself at the door of his 12 ft. by 12 ft. cabin and never left. And now there’s a movie about their life called Maudie.

The movie stars Sally Hawkins as Maude and Ethan Hawke as her husband Everett. Before I saw him in the role, I couldn’t imagine handsome Ethan Hawke playing Maud’s contrary, awkward husband, but he was amazing. Sally Hawkins’s portrayal of Maude’s common sense, inner strength and sense of humour was exceptional. Maudie accurately depicts the life of Maud Lewis from early womanhood in Digby, Nova Scotia until her death in 1970. There were credits attributed to several Canadian organizations and it was gratifying to see the woman and her work represented in such a sensitive, respectful movie. There are so few films that the Boomer generation can enjoy (unless you’re into endless sci-fi special effects fantasies) and Maudie nailed it. I loved the movie. The girlfriends who went with me also loved it and if you go see it, I’m sure you will too.

Footnote: A few years ago I visited a Maud Lewis art show of her original work at a small gallery in Yorkville in Toronto. I was totally captivated and would have loved to buy a piece but the most affordable one was $16,000.00. Considering certain pieces now sell for upwards of $100,000+, I should have sold some RRSPs and bought it. Although it might have been a better investment, I probably wouldn’t have been able to part with it. I’ve also visited her tiny cabin which was dismantled and reinstalled in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. If you’re ever there, don’t miss it.

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Fashion . . . are we in or are we out?

Diane Keaton. My style inspiration.

In my mind’s eye I have the quirky fashion panache of Diane Keaton, the adorable personality of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the casual savoir faire of the mature Lauren Hutton and the smarts of Samantha Bee. In reality, there’s a significant spread between what I am and what I would like to be. Let’s just say my fashion style is more aspirational than inspirational. In reality, I resemble the hapless middle-aged lady from the television commercial who falls off her exercise ball or crashes down from the pole as she attempts the latest dance moves. In my attempts to remain current and relevant, will I ever get it exactly right?

Perhaps my frequent missteps are the result of fashion magazine overload a.k.a. fake news for gullible boomers. In our efforts to remain au courant, we sometimes misinterpret what works and what doesn’t work. Obviously, no one since Caroline Bisset Kennedy (late wife of the late John Jr.) has been able to successfully pull off a slip dress. And now the fashionistas are telling me all I have to do is pop a saucy little tee shirt under it, pair it up with some strappy sandals and I’m all set to go? Or that a one-shouldered pin-striped blouse with acres of ruffles across the front and on the single sleeve will qualify me for the eternal hall of fashion shame? Both looks are too horrifying to even contemplate and I really don’t want my picture circulating on the internet’s “Seen shopping at Walmart”. . . again!

Some things that may look great on supermodels are not quite as successful on real-life boomers.

I don’t need to paint a picture of what boomer gals would look like in a spaghetti-strapped mini length sun dress or, conversely, an oversized chunky knit boyfriend sweater with a cowl neck the size of a tractor tire. Spare me the embarrassment of trying to wear wasp-waisted sailor pants, a tube dress or the agony of five-inch platform heels. It’ll be a frosty day in hell before I expose my saggy knees in ripped three-hundred dollar designer jeans or my sun-damaged décolletage in sheer, gauzy plunging necklines. Rompers and jumpsuits don’t even warrant discussion. I have a drawer full of fabulous leather belts that will never again see the light of day. But I hang on to them in case I get lucky and acquire a parasite that causes me to lose twenty pounds and the return of my long-departed waistline. Haircuts are predicated on making the most of a losing (literally) game.

Despite the challenges, I keep subscribing to fashion magazines and poring over their ridiculously Photoshopped glossy pages in the vain hope they might feature something boomer women can confidently strut out in. We may not be the chicest or the trendiest nor may we ever be short-listed for the Best Dressed list, but most of us have finally found our groove despite being a demographic that is completely ignored by the fashion industry. It’s more about personal style than wearing what’s the latest fashion.

I think the best we boomer gals can hope for is a little bit “in” and not too much “out” sprinkled with a dash of fun and originality. Walking a balanced line of fashionably stylish and stylishly comfortable suits me just fine. And if I manage to capture even a teeny slice of Diane Keaton’s style, then I’ll count myself “in”. In the meantime, I think I’m talking myself into those weird silver earrings I saw yesterday but didn’t have the nerve to buy. Yes?

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Ivanka Trump. The real deal or deal me out?

Long before Donald Trump’s name rose from the swamp to become a contender for President of the United States, I was wowed by his daughter, Ivanka. Having watched her on a couple of talk shows and read her early book The Trump Card several years ago, I was impressed with the articulate, beautiful daughter of the real estate mogul. She won me over with comments that were critical of the sense of entitlement that was common among her contemporaries. She denounced the expectation of reward without working for it.

Ivanka Trump is a young, beautiful, intelligent working mother of three children. Educated and articulate, she projects sensibility in the midst of mayhem. One could say she moves serenely in the eye of the hurricane. Her vocal support of women’s business development programs and childcare issues is commendable but is our perception representative of the reality? Let’s face it, Ivanka is someone who may have been working for Daddy’s businesses when she was still in a training bra, MC’ing his beauty contests and walking around construction sites in designer jeans and jewelry, but she lives in a parallel universe. Her life is and never has been anything like what we mere mortals experience.

Ivanka Trump was defensive about her father’s track record on women’s issues.

I first experienced doubts about my faith in her when Donald Trump was campaigning. Ivanka appeared immune to the obvious examples of his shortcomings, the blatant lies, the sexism, racism and the incongruities. His cabinet choices of old, white rich guys speaks volumes. Understandably, she knows criticism is part of the package but she didn’t seem to be relaying these concerns to her father. Or, more likely, he wouldn’t listen.

She was invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be a guest panelist at the 2017 W20 Women’s Summit in Berlin recently. When called upon to comment on her father’s disregard for women and minorities, Ivanka understandably defended him by referring to his track record of promoting women within his own organization. The resulting hisses and boos from the audience knocked her off balance for a mere split second. Then, she switched into full-on offensive mode, disregarding the perception of the majority of women.

The truth is self-evident. Trump does not hold women in high regard with the possible exception of his exceptional daughter. Notwithstanding the position of power held by Kelley Anne Conway within his organization, Donald Trump’s track record is dismal and verifiable. My opinion of Ivanka dropped like a rock when I witnessed her reaction to the criticism. When I saw the horror on her face at the suggestion he was a misogynist and how she immediately slipped into her own fantasy-based world of daddy-worship, I was disappointed, to say the least. Perhaps I was naive in hoping she would acknowledge he needs to listen to the criticism and work on improving his attitude and behaviours.

Trump’s statement “no one in the world has more respect for women than I do” is meaningless. His lingo, always delivered in sweeping superlatives is not backed up by fact and affirmative action. I was hoping Ivanka would be the voice of reason whispering sense into the ear of an unreasonable man. What I saw was life viewed by a disillusioned woman on the other side of a gold-plated one-way mirror. And it doesn’t look good for all the other women who are on our side. If we can reach her, we can only hope she will reach him. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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