BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and more . . .


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Dear Santa: It’s me again . . . Lynda

I rather liked my letter to Santa last year, so I’ve decided to repost it in case he didn’t get it in time to fulfill my wishes:

Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas this year is . . .

Enough already!

For the most part I’ve been a very good girl this year, more nice than naughty and I’ve generally tried to be a better person throughout the year. By Santa standards that should qualify me for plenty of loot under the Christmas tree but the truth is I don’t want or need a single thing. I’m incredibly lucky and the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. This was not always the case. In fact, it’s the bumps in the road of life that make us truly appreciate the good times. Boomers are now reaching the age where we’re losing friends, partners and family members at an increasing rate. Where we once spent a lot of time and money attending bridal showers, lavish weddings and baby showers, we now attend too many ‘celebrations of life’. Which is why I’m celebrating the life I have now, every single day.

Over the years, holiday arrangements with family and friends gradually evolved toward less gift-giving and more sharing of good times. I’ve even heard about parents withholding some Christmas and birthday gifts from the grandchildren because they already have too much and don’t appreciate it. We still remember the younger grandchildren in our family with gifts from Santa but that’s only until they’re launched. Everyone has more than enough in material goods and we no longer need to populate landfill with our accumulated and discarded frivolous consumption.

Not having to troll the crowded, over-heated stores and malls for questionable gifts that will only end up at a charity shop has been incredibly freeing. No more Secret Santa exercises and no more heart attacks and bouts of depression when we get our January Visa statement. And, how much does one really need when we have each other? That’s more than enough by anyone’s standards.

So, to wrap up, dear Santa, here’s my wish list for this year:

  • Love, caring and an end to the violence for all victims of abuse.
  • A warm, safe bed and home for the homeless.
  • Free medical care for the sick and ailing.
  • Plenty of healthy food for the hungry.
  • Hope for the hopeless.
  • Love and a safe environment for all the world’s children.
  • Peace on earth . . .

. . . and to all a good night.

Love, Lynda


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Princess Margaret comes alive once again in detailed tell-all

If you’re someone who enjoys reading salacious gossip about royalty, then you’ll love Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret written by British author and journalist Craig Brown. To be honest, when I downloaded the book, I thought it was a picture book—a photographic retrospective of the life of the Queen’s younger sister. The title was a bit misleading. As it turns out, there were relatively few pictures and hundreds of pages of stories, observations, first-hand accounts and general information about Princess Margaret, her lifestyle, her friends, enemies and her vices. And most of it was not flattering, but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have the most agreeable or sympathetic personality.

Canadian boomers growing up in the fifties and sixties were generally raised to revere the royal family, including the vivacious and glamorous Princess Margaret. In the olden days we stood up in class, raised our right hands to shoulder height and pledged allegiance to The Queen every morning at the start of classes. It’s tempting to employ amateur psychology to explain why Princess Margaret, the one-time first runner-up to the British throne was the way she was but it only invites the old nature versus nurture argument. Queen Elizabeth was the personification of duty and responsibility while Margaret was the polar opposite. She was temperamental, spoiled and disdainful of most of her royal duties. She embraced the bohemian lifestyle while insisting upon the rights and privileges of being a princess. Even her closest friends and lovers were required to call her “Ma’am” and defer to her royal status.

She chose position and money over Peter Townsend.

After I realized the book was a collection of tittle-tattle, I felt a bit icky about reading it but not so much that I could put it down. It was just too juicy. The good bits began with her relationship with former Group Captain Peter Townsend, equerry to her father, King George VI. Eighteen years her senior, already married with two children and standing more that a foot taller than the diminutive 5 ft. princess, their relationship caused quite a kerfuffle in the royal household. Hoping time apart would cool their ardour, the Queen and her government banished Townsend to a diplomatic desk job in Belgium where he promptly fell in love with and remarried someone even younger than Margaret. That was just the beginning of a lifetime of “unlucky in love” experiences she endured. Toward the end of the book there’s even a chronology of her many lovers over her lifetime including a few surprises like former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner (yikes!), Dusty Springfield (really?) and Mick Jagger (but then, me and the readers of Boomerbroadcast are probably the only people on the planet who haven’t slept with Mick Jagger.).

The book’s content is based on extensive research by the author. In addition to reading dozens of books, interviewing countless people who knew the princess and including details of his own experiences with her, the author gives the reader a pretty comprehensive overview of her life. We learn about her insistence on protocol while often displaying bad manners herself. Her bitchiness about performing the boring ribbon cuttings, official openings and attending formal dinners that are the life of royalty was no secret among those who move in such circles.

Her marriage did not have a fairy tale ending.

There’s a lot of speculation about the why’s of her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones but it’s ultimate failure and the disastrous fallout are well known. After her divorce, things went from bad to worse. She kept company with an increasingly shady assortment of characters. As she aged and lost her looks and figure, her conduct became easy prey for the media. Her questionable behavior only exacerbated the negative perceptions. Margaret’s love affair with much younger and wannabe rock star Roddy Llewellyn fed the fire.

Ninety-nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is a somewhat tragic story. On one hand, it’s sad to see someone with so many advantages (position, a title, beauty, talent, money) lead such an unhappy life but on the other hand she was the architect of her own destiny. She could have married Peter Townsend after the one-year waiting period but chose money and position instead. Everyone experiences problems and unhappiness at some time in their lives. It’s what we do with these negative experiences that frames who we are and how we will be remembered. Princess Diana was far from perfect and had her share of unhappiness but she leveraged the same advantages Princess Margaret had into charitable work and being a good will ambassador. I have to admit I couldn’t put the book down—even reading every single one of the dozens of pages of footnotes. It’s gossipy and voyeuristic but I’d rate it 8 out of 10. Have fun dahlings.

To order Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown from Amazon, click here.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.


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What’s the real price of economic progress?

It’s all so complicated . . . and expensive.

When I reviewed my recent ‘bundled’ telecom bill (for telephone, internet and Fibe TV) this week, the total nearly knocked me on my old lady ass. It was about the same as the mortgage payments on our first house in the seventies. How did this happen? I’ve tried unsuccessfully to cancel some channels only to reinstate them again because my honey needs three thousand sports and movie channels, the car channel and every news channel from the Outer Hebrides to Inner Mongolia. I’m no better with my HGTV, HBO, various History channels and BBC that I’m convinced I couldn’t live without.

That got me thinking about all the services that baby boomers did not grow up with that we cannot imagine surviving without today. Tally up what these luxuries add to our monthly budget expenditures and we get an understanding of why we always feel so broke. Here’s a sampling:

Once upon a time we were thrilled to be able to get Roy Rogers on Saturday mornings and Ed Sullivan on Sunday night.

  • I remember when a basic phone line cost $15.00 a month, plus long distance charges, which we were very careful to minimize by calling only on weekends and for short periods of time. We received three television stations through an antenna on the roof. Compare that with $350.00 a month today for hundreds of stations but we still have trouble finding something we like.
  • Speaking of phones, tally up what your family’s cell phones cost every month. Another $300.00? Or more? More importantly, we actually survived without cell phones not that long ago..
  • Mani-pedi’s are de rigueur for most women today to the tune of about $50.00 a month. Many of our mothers never even had a professional mani-pedi and back in the sixties and seventies we always did them ourselves. We also often coloured and cut our own hair to save money.
  • Modern washers and dryers are now capable of doing everything but our income taxes. Growing up, we reused wash water for several loads and hung clothes outside to dry. A clothes dryer alone is a huge energy-eater to the tune of another $60.00 per month and that’s if we schedule laundry for the middle of the night or weekends when hydro is cheapest.
  • Growing up in the 50s and 60s, families were privileged to own a car. Now, vehicles for every member of the family are lined up in driveways like a used car lot. Factor in the monthly payments for the vehicle, gas, maintenance and insurance and we’re looking at an additional $1,000.00 per month per car and many families have at least two cars.
  • Home security anyone? We never even locked our doors half the time when we were growing up and our family lived across the road from a high school. $50.00 per month?

Practice doesn’t always align with the plan.

These few items alone total about $2,000.00 per month ($24,000.00 per year in after tax income) and I haven’t even touched on our astronomical hydro bills, bank fees and interest charges on credit cards for merchandise we’ve ordered on line but really didn’t need and probably threw out a few weeks later. Then, there’s the cost of keeping up with the latest fashions, maintenance costs related to skin care, makeup and gym memberships. Nor have I discussed restaurant meals (which were rare for our parents’ generation), entertainment, overseas vacations or expensive hobbies like golf or skiing.

As teenagers, when our pocket money ran out, we were broke until next allowance day or payday at the drive-in burger joint where we worked on weekends. Now, parents shell out continually and without regard for limits. Seeing high school students with expensive designer purses, jeans or sneakers, leather jackets and even their own cars is mind-boggling for those who lived through the Depression.

It’s natural (or at least it used to be) that subsequent generations do better than those who went before. But there’s still a lot of fat that can be trimmed from our monthly budgets that would go a long way to ensuring a financially secure retirement. Just a few decades ago, the majority of young people did not go to university. That was a huge cost-saving but now a university education is considered essential. When I look at the shortages in skilled trades, service jobs and certain occupations, I question the validity of this but that’s another topic for another day.

Being able to afford a house requires discipline. There’s a lot of room for trimming the fat from monthly budgets to build up that down-payment. And your first home doesn’t have to include granite countertops and be located close to work. Certain accommodations and sacrifices must be made to get a foot in the market. On one hand I sympathize with the challenges faced by young people trying to get into the market, while at the same time I sometimes think their expectations are too high. It wasn’t easy for baby boomers when we bought our first place (especially when you consider that mortgage rates were upwards of 20 percent in the 70s), and just as hard for our parents. My parents sold their used car and went without a vehicle for a couple of years to help scrape together the down payment on their first house, and they already had two kids.

We’ve all grown fat and lazy on the improved standard of living for average North Americans. So many goods and services that were considered luxuries by our parents are now part of our everyday lexicon. In the midst of all this affluence, boomers are also trying to downsize. We’re hauling truckloads of valuable furniture, clothing and other possessions to charity stores and consignment shops. Have we become too smart too late? I’ve started turning off lights to save power, refraining from buying more clothing and shoes I don’t need and generally thinking twice instead of laying down that credit card for an impulse purchase.

It’s always been my belief that earned money is more meaningful than handouts. Spoiled children grow up to be entitled adults. There’s something surreal about swiping our so-called Smart phones or credit cards that has inured us to the real value of earned money. It’s like we’re playing with Monopoly money and sometimes we forget how hard the hard stuff is to come by. A quick stop at Starbucks could cost us the equivalent of fifteen minutes working in our employers’ cubicle. As the gap between the rich and poor widens, we’re going to have to become more aware of our spending habits and face the reality that we’re jeopardizing our future security. We could learn a lot by remembering how our parents (who lived through the Great Depression) handled money. Is the cashless society a good thing or a scam and a deceit that will be our ultimate downfall?

Pass the wine. I need to forget.

Our oceans are full of plastic waste; the polar ice cap is melting; certain species of wildlife are disappearing; thousands of hectares are being stripped of valuable trees and our natural resources won’t last forever. It sounds like a depressing prospect but it’s not too late to change our ways. I don’t envy the Gen Xer’s, Y’s and millennials who’ll be left to clean up the mess. I certainly don’t advocate abandoning technology but maybe there’s some justice in the standard of living pendulum swinging the other way for a few years. Let’s hope this old earth survives long enough to rejuvenate itself. Our standard of living may be better than it was for our parents but is life really better? What started with me questioning my telecom bill now has me reevaluating my entire life. Boy, do I need a glass of wine. Time to chill out.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

 

 


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For a good time . . . read Adam Resnick

I’ve just finished reading Adam Resnick’s autobiographical Will Not Attend, Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation. Resnick, who dislikes socializing (hence the title) and considers himself a misfit sounds like a downer but it’s laugh-out-loud funny. His writing reminded me of David Sedaris. The author’s self-deprecating humour and gift for understatement leaves the reader sympathetic and understanding of his struggles in life, while at the same time rooting for him throughout his misadventures.

Children from large families often have correspondingly large personalities. Perhaps it’s the result of competing for parental attention or simply from competing to be seen and heard at all. Adam Resnick is the fourth son in a non-practising Jewish family of six boys. Life for him while growing up was a constant battle to survive the bullying, subterfuge, thieving and general anarchy that characterized his family of six boys. Their mother Joyce was loving, often oblivious to the conflicts and at times completely overwhelmed. Merv, their father, was a strong patriarch, prone to voicing his strong, politically incorrect opinions and displaying a quick temper. How could life be anything but interesting and colourful in such a family.

Adam Resnick with former boss, David Letterman.

Reading about Resnick’s struggles to maintain a place in the family’s hierarchy while accommodating his personal neuroses and peculiarities makes for hilarious reading. Whether trying to catch the attention a favourite little girlfriend, plotting to lose his virginity or describing the odd assortment of people who pass through his life, Resnick is brilliant. A former writer for SNL, Late Night With David Letterman and a variety of television series and sitcoms, he’s deserving of a rating of 9 out of 10. If you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, read this book. I loved it.

To order Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick from Amazon, click here.

To order BOOMER BEAT by Lynda Davis from Amazon, click here.


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The solution to problems at General Motors and Conde Nast

What affects GM workers affects everyone.

The media has been very unkind to General Motors recently, and rightfully so. They marked the American holiday of Thanksgiving by closing plants and laying off thousands of workers. While I sympathize with those negatively affected, I’m also pragmatic. I’ve been downsized; my husband’s been downsized; nearly everyone I know, at some point has been the victim of reorganization, restructuring or whatever euphemism you wish to employ. Jobs-for-life and careers with one company are a thing of the past, gone the way of company pensions, rotary phones and carbon paper. We should not be surprised.

What does strike me, however, is the pattern of arrogance in major corporations that results in these drastic measures. Something has been ignored and it’s called (sit down; this is a biggie) “Listen to your customers”. Large corporations like General Motors and so many others like them have long regarded themselves as invincible, even omnipotent. Sears, American Motors and Blackberry are prime examples of big business paying the price for not paying attention to who actually pays their bills—not the company, the customer. General Motors was too slow off the blocks in recognizing that their customers now prefer SUVs and pickup trucks with their improved safety and fuel efficiency over conventional sedan cars. Sears’ executives kept flogging the same old haberdashery while they were falling apart at the seams. Tragically, their senior executives got big bonuses and golden parachutes while they raped the pension plans of their minimum wage hourly workers.

No longer relevant.

According to The New York Times, Condé Nast, the giant media organization and publisher of such magazines as Vogue and Glamour is also now trying to mitigate the effects of bad management. They’ve fired Chief Executive Robert A. Sandberg Jr. and shuffled various editors. Some publications like Glamour are going to digital only, ignoring old ladies like me who like to rip pages out of magazines for my inspiration file. Which brings us to the core of the problem. There’s little to no inspiration in fashion magazines these days. Vogue is particularly irrelevant and my commitment to my subscription is hanging by a thread. Have they ever considered asking what their readers would like to read? I’ve been a subscriber for years and no one ever checks with me. Seems pretty obvious but not to those occupying the exalted thrones at the top of corporations. Now, I’ll move on to the auto industry.

General Motors: Here’s your lifeline

Help wanted. Apply Oshawa.

It’s simple. Go into competition with Bombardier. They seem to have more business than they can handle, very little competition, a guaranteed source of financial handouts from various levels of gullible government (taxpayers) and no particular business or management skills. Anyone can do better than that with a little business savvy, some creative thinking and an already available source of skilled workers. The recent news that Bombardier is laying off 7,500 workers worldwide including 2,000 in Canada prompted me to revisit a piece I wrote earlier.

During my lifetime, I’ve watched automotive manufacturing plants grow and expand to meet new technologies, then retreat and ultimately close. I worked for the construction company that built a major portion of those Ontario plants. To see Oshawa’s General Motors operation go from almost thirty thousand employees to zero is heartbreaking. Ford has also closed facilities in southwestern Ontario.

As we know, Bombardier, the manufacturer of subway cars and streetcars is a perpetual sinking Titanic-sized case study in bad management. Taxpayers keep futilely bailing out the chronically mismanaged privately owned corporation like it’s a giant money pit. Despite this, Bombardier continues to be awarded new contracts for transit vehicles which they are guaranteed to not deliver on time. They’re years behind on delivery of stock for Toronto and other major cities. Obviously there’s not enough competition in the business of manufacturing transit vehicles.

The workers and the plants are in place. Do the work.

The answer is simple. Retool the automotive plants to produce subway cars and transit vehicles. Put the workers in Oshawa and southwestern Ontario back to work and let them show Bombardier how it’s done. Small fortunes were spent updating auto manufacturing plants in Ontario and they’re now sitting empty waiting for weed growers to lease the space and sell the equipment for scrap metal. The problem of trucks encountering insurmountable traffic problems moving stock across Toronto’s choked highways would be eliminated. At the risk of sounding immodest (!!), I think my solution is brilliant. Does anyone have any influence with GM President Mary Barra or the UAW? Put in a word. Better still, put the kettle on and sit down at the kitchen table and make this idea work.

It’s a perfect storm and has all the ingredients needed to launch a successful business enterprise—strong market demand for both present and future products, skilled, available workforce, existing manufacturing plants available for retooling, tested financial metrics and business case, shortage of reliable manufacturers. All that’s needed is a smart team to pull it together and we’re in business.

 

 

Bombardier is a train wreck of back-ordered stock on a track to disaster. For years we’ve been enduring the ongoing saga of mismanagement, government bailouts, law suits and failure to deliver. They’re being sued for failure to deliver public transit vehicles on schedule. Toronto Transit Commission is at their wits’ end trying to get delivery of long overdue streetcars and could face similar difficulties with future transit vehicle deliveries. Yet Bombardier keeps accepting new orders because buyers seem to have nowhere else to turn.

Well, dear readers, I have the solution. We did it during World War II and it could work again. Re-open the General Motors and Ford plants throughout southern Ontario that closed when manufacturing jobs went south, and tool them up to build streetcars, trains and other heavy industrial mass-transit vehicles. Get Oshawa, Windsor, Talbotville, St. Thomas and other automotive plants making streetcars and trains. If Bombardier can’t do the job, then give the work to those who can.

 

Imagine the jobs that could be created in Oshawa, Windsor, Talbotville, St. Thomas and other Ontario towns. Let’s talk.

I’m sick to death of hearing about the incompetency of Bombardier and failure to meet their obligations when half of Oshawa is collecting employment insurance benefits and would love to be back to work. If automotive plants could switch to making tanks and fighter planes during the Second World War, I’m confident Canadian ingenuity could make it happen again for trains and streetcars.Set up a conference call or better still, a meeting at Tim Hortons somewhere along Highway 401, between the automotive execs, the UAW, the Quebec and Ontario Government Ministers of Economic Development and Bombardier and let’s get this show on the road. I’ll buy the Tim-bits if it helps sweeten the pot. Time’s a’wastin’ and jobs are waiting. Let’s put the kettle on.