Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category.

Mi Cumpleanos

So I approach another birthday, insignificant in terms of celebrated “zero” numerology, but it’s still there and has to be navigated.  I think these are “speed-bump” birthdays, but they’re becoming less disruptive, and more complicit in abetting my hurtling to dusty doom.

It’s like I’m cruising along, as we do in a comfortable car that befits our age, registering the occasional Mail Pouch barn painting, even perhaps a Burma Shave collection of signs (Sleepy?/Just remember, pard,/That marble slab/Is doggone hard.), when I check my speedometer and - shit! - see it says 68.  I was sure I had put it on cruise control at 50.

Even so, it’s just a blip.  When I hit this late October birthday, in recent years, I’ve been thinking that, Hey!, even if I get a diagnosis, I’ve got one more summer.  And since I mostly avoid my doctor, I’m unlikely to even have a diagnosis.

So here we go again, one more lap around the celestial wristwatch.  Look forward to my 69th.

Hello, Seattle, 43 Years Ago

Click to engorge

So I’ve been watching Mad Men fitfully for a couple years on Netflix, haven’t pushed into the last half of the last season just yet.

It beguiles and intrigues me because it’s set in the 1955-1965 time when my parents were reaching the apex of their youth and surfing, however timidly, the incredible surge of the post-war economy and culture.  Of course, there’s the costumes and props and maddening telephone technology in Mad Men that resonate, but also wisps of the urgent issues of the day, and how the writers ingeniously filtered them through office culture.

I worked at summer jobs at my dad’s manufacturing plant ( they made glass for General Motors) in the late 60s, and, although we weren’t working in a Manhattan high-rise, we were still firmly attached to the skeleton  that underlay the social and professional fabric of the country, so in so many ways my dad’s office in middle America was just a door or two away from Don Draper’s.

43 years ago, perhaps to the day, (I’ll close this loop in a moment), Mrs. Perils and I returned to our post-college digs in Bowling Green, Ohio, from a breathtaking trip to Seattle, took a look in the mirror, and decided that we were going to be those guys that, as Huck Finn said, lit out for the territory.  We hitched a 4×8 U-Haul to my ‘67 Pontiac Tempest and headed for Seattle.

In the Mad Men episode I just watched, Don has just walked out of a meeting in Manhattan and begun driving west, to a future as uncertain as we faced in 1974.  Somewhere around Cleveland, the ghost of Bert Cooper appears in the passenger seat and recites Kerouac: “Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”

The question, of course, is existential and not merely geographical.  It was sufficiently laden with emotion in the Mad Men plot, but - and I’m not a crier - I found myself suddenly weeping (in a manly way), a late-summer squall exposing long-forgotten topology.  Where was I (we) going back in October, 1974, taking leave of family we knew would feel our absence and (probably) question our choice?  By all measures, we’ve had a wonderful life, and connected deeply with our families, but at the time it didn’t seem so certain.

I think “Whither goest thou” is a trenchant question for life’s next adventure.  And this car, this formerly shiny car, nonetheless seems up for another cycle around the odometer.

50th Reunion Letter to the Class of ‘67

It’s amazing how the years have melted away.  I’m sorry I can’t be there with you next weekend, I was just in Columbus last weekend to march and play with the Ohio State Marching Band Alumni.  I would have stayed through the week if my mom still lived in Pburg, but the only remaining family that would host me are in the cemetery.  It’s a lovely cemetery, but my superannuated slumber there would most likely be interpreted by the employees there as inventory.

After PHS graduation, I attended Ohio State, eventually graduating in 1971 with a degree in Accounting.  Along the way, I got to do something I’d lusted after in high school as much as that Raquel Welch poster from One Million Years BC - I tried out for and made the Ohio State Marching Band.  Biggest thrills: playing in The Big House at Michigan, and the 1971 Rose Bowl and Rose Parade.

After graduation, I worked for a (formerly) Big Eight accounting firm in Toledo for about a year and a half, but I really didn’t like it, and quit before the onset of my second “busy season”.  I’d had this idea from high school that I really wanted to be a writer, and enrolled in courses at Bowling Green for writing, and reading literature that I was supposed to read in high school but never did.

Betsy Piez and I had our first date around Thanksgiving of 1966.  It was really glamorous.  I was editor of the Somethin’, and was covering the basketball game at Lake, and I dragged her along.  Must have been the cachet of that byline, we stuck together even after I left for college (she was a sophomore).  She was her class valedictorian, and went to the elite college (Carnegie-Mellon), while lazy me got the default state school.  Pittsburgh’s not that far from Columbus, and we did lots of weekend commuting.  After she graduated, she joined me in Bowling Green and we moved in together, to the consternation of both our families.  We eventually relieved the familial tension and married in June, 1974, more detailed story here:

The writing thing never panned out for me - lazy again, probably - and we arrived at a restless stage.  However, when I was working in Toledo, one of my co-workers got a job teaching accounting at Seattle University, and we took him up on an invitation to visit, driving across the country in 50 hours.  He took us on a 3-day bicycle trip, and a backpacking trip.  We fell in love with Seattle.  We were outdoors types, even in Bowling Green, daily runners and frequent bicyclers.  We drove back reluctantly to Bowling Green and, a month later, loaded up a 5×8 U-Haul and moved to Seattle.

I worked fitfully as a bicycle mechanic for a few months, then went back to work in accounting.  I still didn’t like doing taxes and auditing all that well, but it was a living.  Then, in the early 80s, people began buying IBM PCs and asking us how to do their accounting on them.  I migrated to systems consulting, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since.  I started my own business in 2001, and finally found professional fulfillment by doing so.

We’ve had a sweet life here in Seattle.  Shortly after moving here in 1975 we rented a house near Greenlake about 4 miles north of downtown because Greenlake was a popular running venue, and bought it (the house, not the lake) later that year.  We still live there, with 42 years’ worth of detritus filling the basement and threatening any fondness our son (see below) might have had for us.

Our son and only child, Andrew, was born in 1981, and lives close enough to visit on a weekend, but far enough away to have his own life.

Betsy and I met in high school band, but after college, didn’t play our instruments (clarinet for her, trumpet for me) except for Ohio State band reunions.  In 2009, I decided that I’d like to find a community band to play with, and that spurred Betsy to exhume her high school clarinet, and we both joined a band here in Seattle that is LGBT-based.  We’re a marching band in the summer, playing in parades from Seattle to Vancouver, BC, and in fall, winter and spring we’re a concert band that I think Frank Menichetti ( would be pleased to hear, and it’s become a major hub of our life. We’ve been calling it our Reunion Tour.

Last summer I had an unexpected opportunity to connect with Perrysburg.  I was notified that the Ohio State Alumni Band would be playing in a parade and concert for Perrysburg’s Sesquicentennial.  Since my younger brother Brian was in the OSU band, we decided to come back and participate.  Details here:

Besides playing my trumpet, I love sea kayaking, and exploring the incredible coastline of the Salish Sea.

In high school, I was a band geek, and band was my primary social life and the primary object of whatever effort my lazy ethos might engender, so I didn’t socialize as much with you non-band classmates.  I have immensely enjoyed acquainting with many of you on Facebook and hope you will continue to stay in touch even though I’m not attending the reunion.  Be well, and have a great reunion.  Send pictures.

Feliz Cumpleanos, mi Hermano!

Tomorrow’s my middle brother’s (Larry Philbin) birthday,and I have a few things to say about that.

Our mom was a girly-girl, and they had hot girl names picked out for each of us 3 until that wrinkly birth-borne appendage destroyed their hopes. I was to be Cynthia Leigh, Larry Philbin was to be Beth Anne; Brian Philbin was to be Sharon Leigh.

While I became a sorta-soft band geek, Larry arrived with a blazing arm and power hitting in high school and AAU. Don’t tell him, but I actually looked up to him.

But this is about brotherly interactions. When I was in college and visiting home, my younger but physically-equally-proportionate brother and I would mingle, then I would split for college while he had to damp down the crazy at home.

This one time when I was leaving for OSU, I was hauling my luggage to the garage when, out from an adjacent bathroom, an air pistol appeared. In the bathroom between the frontier and freedom stood Larry Philbin demanding to open my suitcase. Unarmed, I complied.

Over the course of several minutes, he developed a pile of various apparel that I could not deny I was pilfering as I fled the house for a higher cause.

Larry Philbin, that was fucking hilarious. Happy Birthday!

Re-routed from Facebook before it sinks under the dirty wave.

Home, Once More

My Ohio State Marching Band Alumni has a “regular band”, a year-round group that plays concerts, parades, funerals, weddings and other special Buckeye occasions.  Of course, you have to live within driving distance of Columbus to participate, which definitely rules me ineligible as long as a private jet is beyond my means.

Last winter, however, I received a notification from them that they would be playing a parade and concert for the bicentennial of my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and it got me thinking.

I moved away from Perrysburg in 1974 but, because my parents and grandparents lived out their lives there and I visited fairly frequently, there was always a sense that it was home (despite the fact that the bulk of my life has been lived in Seattle).  Once we moved my Mom out of our childhood home in 2013, however, nothing remained with enough gravitational pull to justify a destination-based trip back there..until the coalescence of a Bicentennial, TBDBITL (the OSU Alumni Band) and two brothers who apparently were also looking for a reason to hit the Burg once more.  My youngest brother also played in the OSU band, the OSU people responded affirmatively to our request to join them for the festivities, and our trip was on.

It seemed strange booking a hotel room in the town where I’d always just crashed at my parents’ place, especially since the hotel was less than a mile’s walk from there.  We arrived on a Thursday, walked around town a bit and dined at a pretty decent restaurant in “downtown” Perrysburg.

Although eclipsed by nearby Toledo in size, Perrysburg has always been an independent municipality and never a soulless suburb.  Its “downtown” stretch of independent retailers, however, suffered greatly over the last 2 decades, as mega-malls and big box retailers sucked away their customer base.  On this trip, for the first time in a long while, I observed a renaissance along the main drag, Louisiana Avenue.  For many of the venues, we could hardly walk through the front door.  Although inconvenienced, I was happy for them.

(Click to enlarge)

Our parade and concert was Saturday.  First would be the parade, and then the concert later in the afternoon.  The OSU band staged for the parade on the grounds of Elm Street Elementary, a block from (wife) Betsy’s childhood home, where my high school marching band used to rehearse on foggy fall mornings, hard by the building where my mother-in-law taught 3rd grade for 20 years.  As we waited to enter the parade, I spoke with an old friend, an OSUMB sousaphone player from my high school band who had lived up the street from me and had spurred me to a running regime in order to try out for the OSU band.  A running regime that I would carry on for 40 years.

The parade up the main street of town was so reminiscent of the Memorial Day parades our high school band played in.  Later, I saw our concert was setting up in view of the building where I attended Junior High, and right in front of the (long gone) Perry Dairy Bar, where I used to sneak off-campus for hamburger & french fry lunches.

I started to feel like I was in an alternate reality, one where I had never left town, where I recognized everyone on the street and knew their dogs’ names.  Could I envision myself satisfied with playing little bandbox engagements instead of the thrill of massive, raucous, bawdy urban Pride Parades in front of half a million screaming fans?  I gazed at the audience that was assembling, nibbling on picnic lunches and hailing neighbors, and then I espied my high school band director (Judy Justus) in the stands.  I left my seat in the trumpet section, ran over and gave her a hug.  The concert began, time slowed down and for a while I could imagine myself…content.

During the concert, they introduced folks in the band who had Perrysburg connections, including me.  After the concert, several people I’d known in high school, people I hadn’t seen in 50 years, came up and introduced themselves, and that only added to the feeling of alternate reality.

After the concert, my brothers, their wives and I paid a visit to a couple who live next door to our childhood home.  I’ve always enjoyed them and loved them for the support they provided for my parents in later years, and we had a good time catching up.  But our ulterior motive was to see what the new owners had done to our place.  Our friend/neighbor contacted the new owners, and we were awarded a tour of the extensively, but sensitively, remodeled residence.

My parents built the house and we moved in in 1961, signified by a Lincoln 1961 penny enmeshed in the concrete of our front sidewalk.  It was eerie to walk through the place.  They had blown out a back wall and built a modern kitchen and changed the interior floor plan in ways that our mom had often wished for.  Each time Mom would develop a plan, however, our dad would shake his head and say, “We can’t do that, that’s a bearing wall.”  The “bearing wall” cupidity we observed would have boggled our mom’s mind, in addition to pantsing our dad.  As we left, we saw that the front sidewalk had been rebuilt.  With a bit of trepidation, we walked to the end and saw..two pennies embedded in the new concrete: our original 1961 coin, and their 2016.  They will forever be our heroes.

(Click to enlarge)

As night fell, we headed west on River Road to visit old friends who had made their lives in Perrysburg.  As we entered their place, their music system was blaring OSU marching band songs that turned out to be on a record that I was playing on in 1971.  This never happens to me in Seattle.

We caught up with a lot of history, marveled at our friend’s opulent riverside digs, and I let the experience of a warm, fecund midwestern summer night soak in.  We said our good-nights in the cricket-and-tree-frog cacophony, with the river ambling picturesquely by, and it was strangely seductive.

But my morning flight from Detroit to Seattle emerged insistently on my phone, and that same raspy lozenge of - not discontent, exactly, but more of an Urge For Going - that spurred me west in 1974 hastened me inexorably to the airport, and on to my real home at the edge of the continent.

Memorial Day Musings

(Originally posted on Facebook, but cross-posted here - with enhancements - before it sinks beneath the FB wave)

My dad and my grandfather were both veterans, but neither experienced combat, and I rode a college deferment into a beneficent draft lottery number as the Vietnam War wound down. So Memorial Day to me wasn’t at all about death and loss and heroism, it was all about small-town ritual.

My high school band marched in a parade down the main street, my grandfather drove a miniature Monza car in a Shriner group, and we all ended up at the town cemetery. My junior and senior years, I played echo taps on my trumpet, but at that blithe age it was all about getting the notes right. Everyone close to me was alive and well, and Memorial Day mostly meant the end of school and the start of summer, and as soon as I tore that band uniform off, the pool would beckon.

As the years progressed and I began losing people, on my visits home I would head out for a run but go to the cemetery to commune with my relatives interred there.  It wasn’t the “I know you’re happy in Heaven with (blank)” kind of thing, it was just the physical proximity, the solitude and the clearing of mental clutter for a while in order to re-experience them sensually - seeing them, hearing their voices, placing them in a familiar context.

Memorial Day for me is remembering them, their admonishments and compliments, breaking their hearts, reconnecting and coming home again.

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Abandoning Our 40-year-old Landline

So we changed internet providers this month, as Centurylink has strung fiber through the neighborhood and began offering killer deals in competition with Comcast.  Collateral damage in the process: our landline phone number, which we first acquired from Pacific Northwest Bell in 1975.

We could have included it in our package, but for the last 5 years or so, we’ve just used it as a sponge to absorb solicitor calls, almost never actually answering.  We’ve switched all our important communication to our cell numbers.

One problem with this might be that more solicitor calls start raining down on our cell numbers, but I might just ameliorate that by continuing to cite the old landline number when whoring around the internet.

But my larger angst about losing that phone number is its historical and sentimental significance.  The first thing to come to mind is the physical, sort of bricks-and-mortar history.  The number first took up residence in a yellow rotary-dial phone which we rented from PNB, and resided there until the early 80s, when I needed touch-tone capability in order to use a 1200-baud modem to support clients and tap into the nascent Internet.  This required dumping the rotary-dial in favor of a touch-tone model (still rented from PNB) and upgrading our line service to “digital”.

Eventually, in the late 80s, we quit renting from PNB and acquired a cordless model.  We also, owing to the burgeoning demand for bandwidth from a) our son’s internet and bulletin board participation and b) my increasing requirement to do online software support, signed on for a second landline and phone number.  In theory, this should have resolved our bandwidth competition, except that our son took to signing on to bulletin boards with one of our lines whilst engaging in long-term voice communication on the other line with the same person he was engaging on the bulletin board.  Broadband internet couldn’t have found our house soon enough (and eventually did.)

But that’s just the bricks-and-mortar story.  My nostalgia for the phone number I’m forfeiting is more cerebral and perhaps emotional.  So many significant life events pulsed through the copper wire that struck the northwest corner of our house and found its way inside to a prosaic, non-ringtone, ring, especially because the bulk of our families lived in the midwest:

  • so many Christmases, New Year’s, birthday greetings
  • celebrating Buckeye victories, and lamenting Buckeye losses
  • the death of our wedding’s best man.  I still remember my grandmother delivering the news, while the aroma of fresh-cut sweet peas wafted through the room
  • calling to tell my parents, and then my grandparents of our son’s arrival.  Anecdote: Both my grandfather and father were named Philip, as was I, and when I conveyed our son’s (non-Philip) name to my grandmother, the venerable phone line was silent for quite a few ticks
  • the deaths of my grandparents in the mid-80s, and my last conversation with my grandmother before the surgery that she didn’t survive
  • the wonder of making a phone call and having a pizza arrive at my door
  • conversations of our son’s that we were not privy to, but were likely fraught with love, growth, deception, friendship, devastation, redemption
  • job acceptances, and rejections
  • the nurturing of those first clumsy, inexpert, messy flirtations with the internet and cybercommunication

This event feels a little like losing a family member, a little like physically changing residence and a little like quietly abandoning a friendship that was vital for so much of my life but whose usefulness and relevance has severely dissipated in the last 5 years.  I can still hear clearly the tone and timbre of dear people long dead that this antiquated technology delivered to my ears, and sometimes wonder if, listening really intently, I could detect snippets of those conversations in overtones ricocheting around the copper alloy.  But I’m entering the season of letting things go, and I’m sure this will prove to be one of the least painful.

Hello again, October.

Well it’s October and, suddenly, summer seems in jeopardy.  Since it’s often slow to arrive in these climes, I complacently assume that it will be slow to depart as well.  However, celestial mechanics do not observe such sentimentality, and I found myself for the last 2 weeks departing the house for my bike commute in pitch dark, whereas it was nearly broad daylight at 5:15 in July.  We’re having a nice weekend, though, and I’m counting on a couple more before the wet and cold takes center stage.

October is significant this year for at least a couple reasons.  First, it’s my birth month, and this year’s cumpleanos is a tad more significant than others: I become a fucking Senior Citizen.  I went on Medicare effective 10/1, and while my health insurance drops from around $700/month to $78, I noticed a marked sea change in the language of my coverage.  While my prior coverage (mainstream individual coverage as a self-employed person) emphasized contraception, well-baby programs, maternity and sports medicine, my Medicare-based plan document deals in the language of decline: end-stage renal disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, cardiac rehabilitation services, prosthetic devices, pulmonary rehabilitation.  It’s a sobering (hahahanotreally) boundary to cross, as my self-image is back there in the sports and impregnating people thing.  Someone here needs a reality check.

This October is also significant because it’s the month that, 40 years ago, Mrs. Perils and I were sitting in our rented digs on Church Street in Bowling Green, Ohio, having gotten married the previous June, and we looked at each other and, with great trepidation, said, “let’s get the fuck out of here!”  We loaded up a 5×8 U-haul, hitched it to my sweet ‘67 Pontiac Tempest and, Huck Finn-style, “lit out for the territory”, the territory in this case being Seattle.

Seattle had been whispering in my ear for 2 or 3 years before that.  Mrs. Perils had flown with her mother to the Northwest a few years previous on a mission of family imperative, and she returned with tales of lush green wilderness and imagery that excited her artist’s soul.   Then one of my co-workers at the CPA firm I worked at in my first job out of college had taken a position on the Seattle University accounting faculty, and his correspondence was tantalizing.

By 1974, I had left the CPA firm, finding the business of public accounting not to my liking, and had tried, unsuccessfully, to remake myself as a writer and academic English professor.  While taking classes at Bowling Green, I worked as a philosopher/bicycle mechanic alongside perhaps the only soulmate friend I’ve ever had, and that summer a petite woman pulled into the bike shop with some needed repairs to her Raleigh International.  She was a schoolteacher in Nome, Alaska, and had purchased her bike in Seattle and proceeded to ride it across the country and into our fervid imaginings.  The sticker on her bike from the shop she bought it from said, “Aurora Cycle”, and it conjured fantasies of a pristine launching place for a bicycling and life adventure that we, I and my bikeshop buddy, both hungered for.

Then, later in the summer of 1974, Mrs. Perils and I and a mutual friend of ours undertook to drive west to Seattle for a visit to our friend the accounting professor  We brought our bikes, of course, because they were our identity.  Our Seattle University friend had planned a bike trip that went west to Port Angeles, took a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, proceeded through the San Juans and south down Whidbey Island back to Seattle.

We followed this bike trip up with a backpacking weekend in the Olympic National Park.  I was absolutely hooked; all I had to overcome was the inbred notion endemic to midwesterners that, while we know those places and experiences are out there to be had, the act of detaching ourselves in order to pursue them was unthinkable.

So here we are.  Nearly 40 years in the same house, scions now of stability when, in 1974, you would have predicted chaos and perfidy.

October, you’re an unenviable month, saddled with the conflicting responsibilities of staving off loss and embracing winter, but we’re in this together.

Happy New Year 2014

So I’ve slouched passively towards 2014 (although “rough beast” is probably a compliment I haven’t earned), dressing in sensible layers and avoiding hypothermia and making no promises to myself or others..well, non-work-related others.  (to my employers: I’ll deliver on-time and under-budget, if I haven’t already).

I know New Years’ Resolutions are a folk tradition, but I’ve never seen how one can develop the ebullience necessary to contemplate bold initiatives for financial gain or corporeal loss or connubial bliss at this time of year, when it’s all you can do to remember that you set that January alarm clock for the distinct purpose of arising in the freezing cold dark in order to arrive at some vague destination in search of monetary gain, and that it’s not yawping at you because your enemies are gathered around your bed in gleeful retributive cacophony. At this latitude, in January you don’t fully realize this until around 10:00.

Even so, it’s appropriate to ever so gingerly look forward to things already in place on the calendar, without promulgating implausible outcomes:

  • at some point (OK, October 21) I’ll turn 65. Just (indulge me for a moment), holy shit.  I’ve pretty much blown by my “zero” birthdays with the help of good health and friends and alcohol.  For this one there is at least one  “arrangement”: Medicare? - I haven’t actually looked into it yet. Not sure yet what else.  I think some “senior discounts” begin to accrue, but most likely not for the good stuff. Watch this space…
  • our annual trip to Ashland, OR to watch plays and recreate is already locked in for the first week of July
  • we’re going to Pawley’s Island, SC in late March to scatter our mom’s ashes as she requested, and it will be another opportunity to advance the sibling bonding that we’ve nurtured for the last 2+ decades. Unless we decide to fight over her will.
  • our musical endeavors continue, and rehearsals have already started for a symphonic band concert on 4/5; my swing band will play at Crossroads on 2/1; we’ll have another band camp with our Rainbow City Band peeps in May in Port Townsend, and a fun list of parades throughout the summer
  • I’ll join my OSU Alumni Band on 9/13 for our annual debauch of music and marching and memories

I really would like to do a multi-day kayak trip like I did a couple years ago in Desolation Sound, but nothing concrete so far.  And whatever happens, we’re sure to keep physical fitness firmly in our crosshairs even if it’s just the mundane but enjoyable litany of urban hikes and bike-commuting to work.

There are some significant initiatives that need to be engaged around our domicile. My mom’s lesson of ruthlessly winnowing stuff around her house, as she did for the last 10 years, is not lost on me.  Her place was pretty easy to close up, especially compared to what our poor offspring would have to contend with if we suddenly croaked or needed to enter the Federal Witness Protection Program.

As a “resolution”, that one’s pretty wan, especially if you deconstruct the word and hold “resolve” in your left hand  and “lack of” in your right hand.  I’m right-handed, if you hadn’t already guessed.

So Happy 2014 to both my readers!  If you’re of the Resolution persuasion, I’d love to hear what you’re planning.

Moving On

Let’s shift the focus from Atlanta back to Seattle for a while, since I live here, after all (but we’ll be shifting back to Atlanta shortly, but for other reasons).

Somehow, I have myself playing in 4 musical groups, taking up the evenings Monday - Thursday for rehearsals. This is certainly excessive for a trumpet player of middling talent who’s not getting paid. It all started 4 years ago September when I joined the Rainbow City Band with Tuesday night rehearsals; then a guy I was taking trumpet lessons with said a community band he was playing with in Shoreline on Thursdays needed trumpet players, and I thought, why not, since going somewhere to play real music was preferable to creeping down to the basement to practice scales; then a couple years ago, I was offered the opportunity to sit in with RCB’s Purple Passion Swing Band, which rehearses Monday nights. I grew up with my dad’s Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Harry James records (I’m a child of the 40s, after all, even if it was only the last 2 months of 1949), and getting the opportunity to play music from that genre was irresistible.  Then a woman in the Thursday concert band who plays in a symphony orchestra said a couple pieces they were playing needed an extra trumpet this quarter to play Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and there went my Wednesday nights.

It’s fun and challenging, but Friday night, with no organized rehearsal, begins to look like safe landfall for the Wreck of the Hesperus.

I’m still working full-time as an accountant/accounting software consultant and mostly enjoying what I do.  I have a nice set of clients who are amenable to my jeans-wearing faux-eclecticism, and they’re all good people doing good things.  I spend a majority of my time these days with this manufacturer/distributor of goods to the outdoor industry (can you believe that I’d have an affinity for such a place?).  I still do work for my client in Milwaukee, a supplier to the construction and DIY industry who has weathered the vicissitudes of the Great Recession, as well as my clients in two of the four major food groups (wine and pastry), and consult with an interesting company that builds elaborate and creative signs for malls, resorts, airports, etc.

Increasingly, people are asking me how long I plan to work.  From the questioner’s standpoint, it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask a 64-year-old, but each time, the question jars me, mired as I am in a self-image of a much younger man and a self-employed status that brooks a lot of financial uncertainty.  People who have a defined benefit plan or are working for a single employer have to confront this question as a matter of course, as a response to stimulus from HR.  If I’d stayed with my first post-college employer, the Big 8 accounting firm Ernst and Ernst, I would probably be in possession of multiple emails apprising me of this and that, and requiring decisions.  I remember receiving a notification from the E & E pension system a few weeks after hiring on with them in 1972, something to the effect that I would be eligible to retire with full benefits in October, 2014.  2014!  I’m sure I rolled my eyes and probably denied the possibility that I’d even be alive in 2014.  And now, here I am staring down both barrels of of that unimaginable future (except the part where I’m a beneficiary of the E&E pension system).

I like what I do well enough to keep doing it, and I like my clients and find them interesting, so I’m not planning on a sudden devolution to a life of budgets and waiting for the Social Security to hit the bank.  But if I thought I could, I’d forget with alacrity whether it’s the debit or the credit that’s supposed to be toward the window.