BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Do you hear the call of the wild?


When I read Kristin Hannah’s earlier novel, The Nightingale (about a female resistance fighter in WW 2 France), it was obvious the lady can write, which is why I was anxious to tuck into her latest novel, The Great Alone. This story is set in Alaska in the 1970s and is steeped in graphic descriptions of the geography, the wildlife, the people and the unusual lifestyles they embrace. As I was reading the book I was amazed at the depth of research she must have undertaken, then discovered that she lived in Alaska which explains why she has such a deep appreciation and sensitivity for the area.

The main character, Leni Allbright is born to teenager parents (her mother Cora was only sixteen) during the sixties. When Leni’s father Ernt comes back from Vietnam with what would now be called PTSD, his demons surface in the form of anti-social behaviours and domestic violence against his wife. One day he receives a letter from the father of a deceased army buddy stating that his friend had left him a plot of land and a cabin in Alaska. Ernt sees this as the perfect opportunity to escape life and live “off the grid” so he packs his wife and young daughter into an old VW van and they head off for remote Alaska.

Upon the family’s arrival in a small, isolated community in late spring, they are befriended by locals including Large Marge, a former lawyer who has also left the bustle of urban life in Seattle and runs a tiny general store in town. The few people who live nearby pitch in and help the Allbright family set up their homestead on a muddy patch of land with a dilapidated two-room cabin. Life without electricity, running water and plumbing is challenging and in order to survive their first winter they must start growing vegetables, raise chickens and goats and learn basic wilderness survival strategies.

When teenage Leni starts school there are only about half a dozen students of assorted ages in the tiny one-room school. She makes an immediate psychological connection with Matthew Walker who is the same age. His father is one of the town’s founding families and because of their long history and hard work in the area they are somewhat better off and more established than most of the community’s inhabitants.

Leni’s father Ernt soon displays the psychotic behaviours he exhibited back in “the world” and he becomes unpopular with the other members of the community. He’s pegged a trouble-maker and the abuse he inflicts on his wife soon becomes apparent. His only friend is the equally irascible father of his former army buddy. Leni and her mother Cora function in a constant state of fear and tension in an effort to not ignite Ernt’s hair-trigger temper.

I definitely plan to read more books by lawyer-turned-author Kristin Hannah.

A close friendship develops between Leni and Matthew but they must keep it secret from Ernt for fear of serious reprisal. During their early years in Alaska, Leni and her mother Cora adapt and learn to love Alaska as much as the local people and feel they have found the place where they want to spend the rest of their lives. The challenge is how to survive not only the geographical and climate conditions but also the volatile Ernt. Beyond this I won’t tell you any more of the plot as I don’t want to spoil it but I can assure you the narrative is beautifully and sensitively written. Hannah has a deep understanding of life in Alaska and articulates rare insight into the psychology and practicalities of domestic abuse. While the story is distressing at times, it is also fascinating, sensitive and educational.

I found myself wondering how I would cope in such an environment. The story is set in the 1970s long before the advent of the internet and wifi and life in Alaska is not easy. While I like to think I could rise to the challenges I’m afraid I’m now a confirmed city girl. The story is compelling and beautifully written. I highly recommend The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

To order The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

To order The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

 

 


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A patriot’s guide to shopping during a Canada-U.S. trade war


Macleans magazine’s Tom Yun has just published a summary of products we Canadians can purchase to offset the idiotic trade war launched by Donald Trump. While we may feel helpless in fighting back, we’re not. Here’s a summary of choices we can make to preserve Canadian business, excerpted from the article:

  • Buy French’s Ketchup manufactured in Leamington, Ontario, not American Heinz.
  • Buy J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe Rye distilled in Windsor, Ontario, not American bourbon from Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.
  • Buy Minute Maid orange juice from Peterborough, Ontario (even though parent Coca-Cola is a U.S. company).
  • Buy Canadian-made sweets and candies like Coffee Crisp, KitKat and Smarties made in Toronto and Mars Maltesers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers and Mars Bars made in Newmarket, Ontario, Ferrero Rocher, Tic Tacs, and Kinder Surprise from Brantford, Ontario instead of Hersheys’ from Pennsylvania.
  • Buy Cascades toilet paper manufactured in Quebec and Ontario instead of Kimberley-Clark products from Pennsylvania.
  • Canadian Dairy products are always available and preferable to heavily government-subsidized American products from Paul Ryan’s state of Wisconsin.
  • Fresh produce from Canadian producers is now readily available across Canada. Read your labels to avoid American producers. Mexico is still acceptable.
  • Buy President’s Choice soy sauce brewed and packaged in Canada instead of Kikkoman from the U.S.

    Ford Edge. Made in Canada.

  • Buy Canadian-made maple syrup instead of imported syrup from Maine.
  • Buy Canadian-made automobiles and SUVs such as Honda CR-V and Civic made in Alliston, Ontario, Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Pacifica manufactured in Windsor, Ontario, Ford Edge, Flex and Lincoln MKT and Nautilus are Canadian-made. General Motors makes Cadillac STS, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Silverado, and Sierra pickup trucks are made in Oshawa. Toyota Corolla and Lexus RX are made in Cambridge, Ontario and the RAV4 is made in Woodstock, Ontario.
  • Choose Godin or Michael Heiden guitars crafted in La Patrie, Quebec and Vancouver, Sabian Cymbals from Meductic, New Brunswick.
  • CCM, Sher-Wood and Colt hockey sticks are still made in Canada
  • Sam Bats for wooden baseball bats manufactured in Carleton Place, Ontario

We can do it. Read labels. For a full transcript of the Macleans article by Tom Yun, here’s the link:

https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/a-patriots-guide-to-shopping-during-a-canada-u-s-trade-war/


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Who cares if it’s swimsuit season . . . again?


Seriously??

Many years ago I read about a magazine editor who quit her job at a high-profile international women’s magazine because she just couldn’t face overseeing another annual swimsuit edition. I know how she must have felt because I can’t face another swimsuit season either. All the current magazines are full of tips on how to match a bathing suit to our individual figure types, how to look our best and feel confident. Pages and pages in the fashion mags have been dedicated to the latest swimsuit styles. The tropical patterns and colours are yummy and some of those scraps of fabric cost hundreds of dollars. The Photoshopped models look gorgeous. The reality is grim.

I’ll admit some styles are infinitely more flattering than others, but let’s face it, we’re never ever going to resemble anything close to those pubescent nymphets modelling the various styles featured in the magazine spreads. In fact, most boomers are even reluctant to go out in public in shorts much less a bathing suit. Those with cottages or winter homes in Florida can’t avoid donning a swimsuit occasionally but they’re usually hidden under diaphanous lightweight cover ups when we’re not actually under water.

I’ll have what she’s wearing!

It is virtually impossible for swimsuit designs to overcome what makes so many boomer broads self-conscious about beach wear. No amount of underpinning, tummy panels, supportive straps or bum tuckers will compensate for what nature has bestowed upon us after many decades of living our lives. By the time we’ve tried on dozens of unflattering designs in cramped fitting rooms with unflattering fluorescent lighting, cried a river, paid our dues at Weight Watchers, spray tanned our cellulite and waxed our lady parts to an unsightly, red rash, we’re fed up with the entire exercise. Sure, they tell us to feel good about ourselves regardless of our body shape—easy to say when you’re in your twenties or thirties. I sympathize with that fed-up magazine editor. This summer you’ll find me sitting in the shade and privacy of my back-yard gazebo, wearing elastic-waist shorts and a tee shirt, reading the latest New York Times’ best seller on my iPad mini. The beach is no longer my thing and even if it were, give me a birkini any day.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.


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Girls just gotta have shoes


The objects of my affection.

It was love at first sight. As soon as my eyes landed on that incredible pair of Jimmy Choo python pumps in the May issue of Vogue I found myself longing not only for the shoes but for my twenty-year-old feet to put in them. Even though it’s been years, or more like decades since I’ve been able to strut my stuff in killer heels, the old longing and feeling of empowerment bestowed on us by stilettos never leaves us. I could so easily picture my former self wearing those python beauties around the office in my power suit or slipping them on with skinny jeans (the jeans, not me) for a stylish stroll through the mall on a Saturday. Just looking at those babies made my heart beat faster; my imagination conjured up fantasies I haven’t had in years. There was a giant smile on my face just thinking about the possibilities those beauties could bestow on my life. Boomer women totally understand how Cinderella was completely transformed as soon as she put on those magic glass slippers. It’s no fairy tale.

If only we could buy new feet.

In the late sixties and early seventies I lived and worked in downtown Toronto. Too broke and too cheap to invest in subway tokens, I hoofed it everywhere—in heels, usually on the run. From Bloor Street to Front Street I made my way around the downtown core to and from work, to meet friends, to shop and out at night, always on foot. And those young, size seven feet were always shod in the latest fashion. I’ve twisted ankles falling off my platforms, caught spike heels in sidewalk grates and suffered burns and blisters on the balls of my feet from the heat of summer sidewalks burning through thin leather soles. Not once did I think my feet would outlive their best-before date.

Baby boomer women now have a different set of criteria when shopping for shoes. Toe cleavage and strappy high heels have given way to arch supports and low heels with rubber soles, and not the kind the Beatles sang about in 1965. Back in the day, our shoe purchases were treated like decadent works of art, affirmation of our sexiness and stylishness. I’d actually set newly purchased shoes on the diningroom table to admire them when I brought them home. Or I’d place them on my night table so they’d be the first things I’d see when I woke up in the morning. Talk about getting a high. Gorgeous shoes were like little magic carpets that carried us into a fantasy land where we were invincible. And, unlike dress or pant sizes, shoe size was immaterial. In fabulous shoes, our feet looked great no matter what size they were.

After clomping around in rubber sandals I recently squeezed my feet into a pair of stylish suede boots that don’t see much action these days. My back hurt from bending down to put the socks and then the boots on and my feet felt like they were going to explode by the time I got home from shopping. Mes pieds are just not used to such harsh discipline and they object strenuously to any form of confinement. I soooo miss the feet I had when I was twenty years old.

I wonder if those python Jimmy Choos come with industrial strength arch supports and cushy rubber soles? If I win the lottery, perhaps I’ll buy them and prop them up on my mantle, just to admire them like the works of art they are. I could reflect back on the days when I used to listen to the original Rubber Soul in my Mary Quant mini skirts and platforms—back when I could still wear fantasmic shoes. As the Everly Brothers sang so eloquently and in perfect harmony, “All I have to do is dream. Dream. dream, dream”, the siren song of Jimmy Choo and those fabulous shoes.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.


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Someone has some ‘splainin’ to do


Could someone please tell me why printer ink cartridges are so expensive? I went to Staples today to get new replacement cartridges for both our printers and the bill came to $232.14. It would have been cheaper to buy two new printers.  And, the manufacturers threaten to void our warranty if we don’t use brand name replacement cartridges. The original cost of the printer probably justifies buying off-market cartridges, making the warranty issue moot. With colour printers now available for less than $100.00 are they amortizing the cost of the printer into the cost of the toner? It’s a shameful scam right up there with the cost of Ontario Hydro/Alectra/OPG or whatever they call themselves these days.

Once upon a time colour printers cost the equivalent of week-long vacation in the tropics. As with all evolving technology however, manufacturing efficiencies soon brought the price down to a level any household could afford—until you run out of toner. When I look back on my working days, our department alone printed thousands of colour pages each month for proposals, presentations and reports. The monthly cost of toner for that volume of work would probably offset the national debt of Greece. Thank goodness I wasn’t paying the bills then. Although I could have been more cognizant of its effect on my profit sharing.

I thought there were laws against price-fixing. The cost of restocking my printer cartridges has seriously jeopardized my budget for wine this week and by anyone’s standard, that’s cause for alarm. While the printer cartridges last just slightly longer, they’re not nearly as satisfying. What is it about barely a thimble-full of coloured powder in an ink cartridge that warrants such usurious prices? How is it any different from the pressed blue power pigment in my eye shadow compact, which if I shop at Walmart is only $1.99? If anyone has the answer, I’d be grateful to know.

Hewlett-Packard’s printer ink runs at a premium cost of $4,285 per litre.

That exceeds the cost of Channel No. 5

 

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David Sedaris’s humour has a raunchy edge


The brilliance of David Sedaris’s writing is his ability to make it look so effortless. Having read most of his books over the past few years, I’m always amazed at how he can take the most seemingly ordinary situation and turn it into something hysterically funny. It’s a skill shared by Jerry Seinfeld—although Sedaris is raunchier. He’s a master of understatement and innocent observation. Growing up in a completely normal North Carolina family that included five siblings (one brother and four sisters) he’s versatile and wonderfully flawed. Sedaris has parlayed his weaknesses and ordinariness (is there such a word?) into a lucrative career as an author and humourist.

In his latest book, Theft By Finding Dairies 1977-2002, David Sedaris edits twenty-five years of entries from his personal diaries into manageable bite-sized excerpts. A large part of his material is drawn from his own experiences doing mundane jobs and his encounters with the peculiar people who pass through his daily life. With a history that includes drug and alcohol abuse, working at a variety of odd jobs including as a painter (not the artistic kind), Santa’s elf at Macy’s in New York, a teacher and part-time cleaning ‘lady’, Sedaris has lived a colourful and varied life. An aficionado of IHOP, he shares numerous stories from years of taking his meals at the famous pancake chain.

Eventually Sedaris met his partner Hugh, got his life together and now owns homes in London, Paris and New York thanks to his successful writing and speaking career. When Hugh bought him his first laptop, it required some adjustment to get used to the modern technology. “On a typewriter, when you run out of things to say, you get up and clean the bathtub. On a computer, you scroll down your list of fonts or make little boxes”. Who among us hasn’t wasted hours playing with useless functions on our laptop or personal devices. It’s those simple observations we can all relate to that make Sedaris’s writing so enjoyable. Fortunately he got the hang of his laptop and provides hours of reading for us to enjoy. I can’t say this is his best book, but it’s certainly fun to read. David Sedaris’s writing is not everyone’s taste but I read everything by him that I can get my hands on. He makes it look so easy and always puts a smile on my face. That’s good enough for me.

To order a book by David Sedaris from Amazon.com, click on book cover below:

 

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Is there really a Santa Claus?


Boomer gals looked to Helen Gurley Brown for divine guidance in the sixties.

Every boomer gal worth her salt in the sixties read the best-seller Sex and The Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Our lives were modeled around the latest COSMO decrees as our entire generation was creating a new world order. We also read Coffee, Tea or Me? about two high-flying stewardesses (as they were called in ancient times) living the swinging single life. There was even a movie and television series made of the book. We aspired to live exciting lives as modern gals enjoying beginning careers and the freedom of the sexual revolution—just like Helen Gurley Brown, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. Reading about Trudy and Rachel’s escapades as they flew the friendly skies in search of adventure was enough to make this boomer high-tail it to an Air Canada recruiting (cattle) call in their old Toronto head office on Bloor Street in 1971. Although I was turned down, a friend of mine was deemed to have the requisite ‘sex appeal’ and was hired. Fortunately, my life eventually turned out OK despite the rejection by Air Canada.

Last week, to my everlasting horror, I learned that Trudy and Rachel were totally fictional characters created by ghost writer Donald Bain. I thought the original Coffee, Tea or Me book was non-fiction. It was Bain’s obituary in the newspaper that alerted me to the fact my role models were neither real nor particularly authorly. Bain, who was an airline publicist and pilot himself, based the book on stories from conversations with a couple of Eastern Airline flight attendants, but they were inspiration only. Donald Bain, who was eighty-two years old when he passed away also authored all forty-six of the Murder She Wrote mystery novels, which were turned into the popular television series starring Jessica Fletcher, his alter-ego played by Angela Lansbury. He’s what is known in the biz as a ghost writer. We all know they exist and routinely pen autobiographies for semi-literate celebs and famous people who lack the wherewithal to compose their own story. Mr. Bain was so prolific writing for others, that it was fifty years before he finally had a book published under his own name. At least HGB wrote her own material so I’m somewhat mollified.

Imagine my shock when a major totem of my swinging sixties days suddenly came crashing down. The problem this bit of information has created is profound. It has undermined my entire belief system. For fifty years I actually thought Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were real people, role models I could aspire to. I’m now considering the possibility that there might be further deception in what I read on a daily basis. What if those long-ago stunning magazine shots of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy had been air-brushed and they really weren’t that drop-dead gorgeous? Was I bowing down to false idols? Perhaps Resdan really didn’t cure dandruff and Bonne Belle’s 1006 Lotion wasn’t the solution to my acne problems? Here are some other sixties’ assumptions that have been called into question as a result of that bit of revealing news about Coffee, Tea or Me:

  • “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Men prefer to marry virgins.
  • Your engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ wages of your beloved (I rather liked this one although it meant he’d be so far in hock you’d never be able to scrape together the down payment on a house.)
  • A woman’s place is in the home.
  • Marriage is forever.
  • Smoking makes you look sexy.

The end of innocence

The possibilities and implications of those decisions based on standard assumptions in the sixties have influenced my entire life. Where would I be today if Air Canada had deemed me sexy enough to hire? Are my wrinkles now the result of applying tank trucks full of harsh astringent to my face to combat acne fifty years ago? Boomer gals were raised to do as we were told, not question authority and to be patient; the rewards will come to those who are deserving. We have all since learned those premises are total bull crap. I know for sure that being a good girl who doesn’t rock the boat in business did not serve me well. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a whole lot more assertive in insisting on equal pay and recognition for work performed. I did well enough, but I could have done better if I’d cast aside so many of those standards of behaviour baby boomer gals were raised with. Self-promotion, equal rights, speaking up were issues we were just starting to dip our toes into. By the time we realized these traits were assets in business not liabilities, we were often past our career prime and nearing retirement. We got the ball rolling but there’s still a lot of work to do. You’re welcome, Xers, Y’s and millennials who think feminism is passé.

Some things never change. Buyer beware.

The upshot of this experience is that I’m going to be a lot more discriminating about everything I read and am told from now on. From now on I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about the claims made by the cosmetics companies about the efficacy of their ‘anti-aging’ potions. It’s entirely possible they could be selling me a bill of goods. A shocking prospect to consider. Do you suppose food conglomerates are not being totally honest with us as well? Can I really lose weight and stay regular on fat-free yogurt? We learned too late that chewing Dentyne gum does not replace brushing. The ramifications of questioning all those early assumptions are mind-boggling.

My brain’s straining from the implications of the simple discovery that a book I read in sixties and considered to be non-fiction was in fact a total fabrication. I’ve always put all my faith in media being unbiased, just like in the days of Walter Cronkite. Now I’m forced to consider that my entire value system is flawed and now I’m too old to ‘be anything I want to be’. I should have clued in when Air Canada didn’t think so and chose to reject me. Next thing you know someone will be trying to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. If that proves to be another deception, then that definitely proves there’s no advantage in being a good girl. It’s taken me awhile to catch on but from now on, I’m my own boss living by my own rules. It’s about time.

To order Coffee, Tea or Me from Amazon click here.

To order Sex and the Single Girl from Amazon click here.

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