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Part 2: How The Beatles Ended My Musical (Accordion) Career

On February 9, 1964 at 8:00pm, I joined over 70 million Americans watching The Beatles live on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was 13 and would turn 14 that September. For weeks before their appearance, their songs were all over the airwaves. I Want to Hold Your Hand was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. My 8th-grade class was buzzing with excitement.

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Paul, George, Ringo and John, 1964

Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles to his audience of teenagers as the “youngsters from Liverpool” and the girls screamed. In front of our TV, mom, dad, sister Chris and brother Tom were glued to the screen. As soon as George, Paul, John and Ringo started singing All My Loving, Chris and I joined in the screaming, 10-year-old Tom got caught up in the excitement and dad was making fun of the haircuts and outfits but seemed to be having a good time, too. Mom just looked mystified by it all.

The Beatles played three songs in the first half hour of the show (Including She Loves You… Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!) and two in the second half hour, including my favorite I Saw Her Standing There.

Here’s how the performance started:

The British invasion was underway and although I didn’t know it right then, my 8-year accordion-playing career was about to be over.

In Part 1 of this blog, I wrote about how my parents bought accordion lessons for me at the age of 6 from a door to door salesman and how I became a very good classical accordionist by my teens, performing with an accordion symphony orchestra and competing in solo events around the city and state.

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

Me … a little girl with a big accordion! Circa 1958

The Beatles, and the British rock and roll bands that followed them like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and Herman’s Hermits, were all about guitars and drums. Teenagers all over the US were listening to this new music and many of them were yearning to be in their own rock and roll bands, preferably playing guitar like Paul, John or George.

In the book Squeeze This: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, the author wrote:

“By 1963, the accordion had reached the height of its popularity, but America’s youth were beginning to embrace new music and new instruments. Playing the accordion became, for all intents and purposes, uncool”.

At 13, I really liked boys, I was experimenting with makeup, I wanted to wear short skirts and I played Beatles records constantly with my friends.  I also started to rebel against authority (i.e. my parents). I was a true teenager.  I definitely didn’t want to be uncool.

I started to complain.

There’s nothing I can do with the accordion… … I have too much homeworkI want to go out with my friends …. I don’t want to play polkas for grandpa anymore.

And then, sometime in late 1964 or early 1965, I quit.

I don’t remember how hard my parents fought with me about this, but I don’t think they fought too much. They, too, were seeing the change in musical tastes and didn’t have an answer for me about what I’d be able to do with accordion skills.

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My brother began taking guitar lessons. The money my parents had spent to develop my musical skills were now transferred to developing his.  He grew his hair long, got an electric guitar and drove us crazy. I was jealous. Playing guitar was definitely cool. I would have liked to play, too, and even bought an acoustic guitar and taught myself some chords. But in my family, Tom was now the guitar player so I didn’t get any encouragement. (He became an excellent guitarist, played with several bands, has a great tenor voice, gained recognition as one of the best guitarists in Cincinnati and still plays gigs at age 62.)

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

Brother Tom’s publicity shot in the early 70’s

I was busy being a teenager anyway.

Over the years, I have had a lot of guilt about quitting after my parents had spent so much money and I had spent so much time. I’ve also been asked why I didn’t transfer my accordion playing to the piano, an instrument that provided more practical career opportunities, even in rock bands.

Those of you who have played accordion understand that this is not as easy as it may seem. Although my right hand played on a musical keyboard similar to a piano, I played buttons with my left hand. The transition could have been made, of course, but not without a lot of work, more lessons and a good piano in our home. At that time, I didn’t have the will to learn a new instrument and my parents didn’t have the money to encourage it.

I have to admit that my recent reading about the accordion’s popularity in the 50’s and its subsequent demise in the 60’s and 70’s made me feel a little better. Sales of accordions dropped to an all-time low in 1964, around the time I stopped playing.  I was not alone in being caught up in the new music wave.

I’ve never regretted my years of musical training, but I’ve often wished that my parents had gotten me started on a piano or guitar.

Here’s “the rest of the story” about accordions:

Accordions made a comeback in the 80’s and 90’s and since then have found their way into rock bands like Bare Naked Ladies, Counting Crows, and Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band. Bruce Hornsby, Tom Waits, Billy Joel, Pete Townsend and Eddie Vedder play accordion, too.

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Bruce Springsteen with band member Mark Metcalfe

Backstreet Girl by the Rolling Stones features an accordion and Sheryl Crow plays one for the song Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

A January 2014 article in The Atlantic entitled Accordions So Hot Right Now reported that the last remaining accordion manufacturer in the US is selling 60% of its accordions to people under the age of 30 and is having trouble keeping up with production.

My accordion playing days were obviously in the wrong century!

By the way, I learned recently that both Paul McCartney and John Lennon played the accordion before the guitar. Somehow, that tidbit of information about the Beatles didn’t make it into the press releases at the time.

I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have made a difference to 14-year-old Cathy anyway.  Being cool was just too important!

Cathy Green

PS… Friends have asked me if I have ever wanted to play accordion again. I remember picking up my old accordion when I was  in my 40’s and realizing how little I remembered and how poorly my hands worked on the keys and buttons. I had lost the ability to read the sheet music, too. When musicians tell you that practicing constantly and consistently is critical, believe them!

Accordion Lessons From a Door to Door Salesman in the 1950’s

PART 1
I was six years old in 1956 when a salesman came to the door selling accordion lessons. He apparently convinced my mom and dad that I was a musical prodigy. They rented a small 8-bass accordion (the number of buttons on the left side) and bought a first set of lessons.

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I don’t remember those early lessons, but I do remember that they were followed by more lessons and then the rental of a larger 12-bass accordion and then an even larger 48-bass accordion. In time, I was taking lessons twice a week at an accordion music studio not far from my home in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Apparently I was doing well, even if the prodigy part was not yet confirmed.

Both of my parents were musical. My father loved to sing and was a member of a barbershop quartet and the church choir.  My mother played piano when she was young and would occasionally play for us on an old piano in the basement. (We had a small house and nowhere else to put it). I assume they decided that they wanted me to be musical, too.

I recently bought a book called Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America to see where my own story fit into the bigger story of the 50’s and 60’s. I learned, for example, that the door to door salesmen were fairly aggressive and well commissioned. As they went from home to home in a neighborhood, they would offer tests of children to assess musical abilities.  They would even come around at dinnertime to get both mom and dad involved in the decision. If they made the sale, they could usually count on at least a couple of rounds of lessons and accordion rentals.

This door to door selling was targeted toward middle-class working families and was limited primarily to the Midwest, the West Coast and the upper East Coast.  (A friend in Asheville, however, said that his parents bought accordion lessons for him from a door to door salesman in Atlanta.)

In the 50’s, the accordion was a big deal.  It was one of the most studied instruments in the country and purchases of accordions soared to over 250,000 by the middle of the decade.

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If you grew up in the 50’s, you’ll remember that the Lawrence Welk television show was extremely popular. Mr. Welk (“Wunnerful, Wunnerful!”) played accordion with his orchestra. But Myron Floren, a regular accordionist on the show, was younger and better looking.

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Myron Floren on the Lawrence Welk show, early 50’s

Here’s Myron “live” playing an accordion classic, Lady of Spain.

In the 50’s, there were also hundreds of accordion music studios across the country, an increasing number of accordion orchestras and lots of competitions.

Although two other kids in my neighborhood took a few lessons, neither of them kept up with it like I did. I had my own “music room”, practiced at least a couple of hours each day and more in the summer, and liked being the musical child in the family. I wanted to get better.

And I did.

By the time I was 10, I was playing solos at my grade school band concerts and getting enthusiastic applause from the audience of parents. I played songs like Flight of the Bumble Bee, Lady of Spain and Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

My grandfather, whose father came to the US from Germany, was a butcher by trade. He was a big man with a big laugh, a love of bratwurst, and an even bigger love of polkas. He insisted that I play polkas at family gatherings to much cheering, clapping and dancing. He couldn’t get enough of the Beer Barrel Polka. I could.

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The movement in the 50’s was toward classical accordion and away from the instrument’s use in barrooms and vaudeville acts with ethnic and folk songs, including polkas. (Accordions were initially introduced to America in the early 1900’s from Europe and took off in popularity around World War I).

As I got older, my parents bought me a much bigger, 120-bass electric, amplified accordion and I began playing classical music – Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and more. I was being taught by a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra violinist, and played once a week in an accordion symphony orchestra which he directed. It consisted of about fifteen 10 to 18-year-olds and we would perform around the city.

The key to playing classical accordion was in the management of the bellows … smooth, consistent bellowing was the gold standard. No standing up and dancing around the room playing crass, low-brow ethnic music! Classical accordionists were seated for performances and braced the bellows on the left thigh for control. Accordions had gone high-brow!

At age 13, I began entering competitions around the state, traveling by bus with my mom. At one of them, I played Sabre Dance, a difficult Russian ballet movement in which dancers performed with Sabres. It was extremely fast, discordant and challenging – which was encouraged by competition organizers in order to score higher points.

Here is my photo and ribbon:

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

1964 Regional American Guild of Music Competition

At age 14, I began teaching accordion at my music studio. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t legally allowed to work, but no one told me that at the time.  I made a little money teaching young kids and even a couple of adults for a year or so.

I was, they tell me, an accomplished accordionist. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was even considering adding an accordion position and I could be a candidate, they said.

And then… just like that … it all ended.

NEXT WEEK PART 2: How the Beatles ended my musical (accordion) career.

Cathy Green

Reflections on Turning 66

I celebrated my birthday last week.

I enjoyed the presents from my husband, the birthday wishes from friends and business colleagues, and the great food and wine at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. I’ve always liked the special attention I get on my birthday and shamelessly promote it, even posting this photo on Facebook.

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

Enjoying my birthday Cosmo

But this birthday freaked me out a little. It struck me that 66 years of age is now closer to 70 than 60, and the thought of being a 70-year-old is scary.

The good news is that I know a lot of women and men in their 70’s (both friends and public figures) who are vital, sharp, attractive and happy. I also know people in their 70’s, however, who spend a lot of time unwell or unhappy or both.

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Since I definitely want to be among the former types of 70-year-olds, I started thinking about what I’ll need to do in the next few years as I sneak up on that big number.

First, I know I’ll need to stay active. I don’t like to exercise. Never have. Never will. But I have worked out in a gym twice a week for years, pushing myself to lift those weights, do those squats and get on and off benches and floors. A personal trainer once told me that “making friends with the floor” is one of the mantras that older people should adopt in order to be able to handle falls in later life. Sigh!

I also walk most days, a task made easier because my labradoodle won’t have it any other way. (Maybe dogs are the answer to keeping us in shape?)

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I will need to do whatever I can to stay healthy. Although there’s no way to guarantee it, I’ve had enough experience with my own health and the health of people close to me to understand that a combination of eating well, having annual check-ups and staying aware of my own body’s signals can make a big difference.

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I will need to stay closely connected with the right friends and important family members. Superficial relationships are OK once in awhile, but the key is being with people who are positive, curious, caring and involved in enjoying life. They are the ones who will help keep me positive, curious, caring and involved.

I will need to continue to live in a place that makes me happy. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to live in three places and in three homes that I truly loved. Now, at 66, I enjoy living in the mountains in a home that makes me smile. I also enjoy Asheville and will need to continue taking advantage of what it has to offer.

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

This is my favorite artist’s painting of Asheville. Jeff Pittman

I will keep caring about looking good. Not obsessively — no multiple plastic surgeries, for example. But I’ll use good skin cream, I’ll dress up to go out to dinner, I’ll spend more money than I should to get a good hair cut and color, I’ll continue to have my nails done every couple of weeks, and I’ll occasionally buy a new pair of black pants (what else!) or a new handbag and shoes.

I’ll continue to write, although maybe not this blog.  Patty and I started the blog site when we both turned 60. She asked me the other day whether I thought we would be up for writing “Sensational Over 70” blogs. I’m not sure. But writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. It keeps me thinking and it just makes me feel good, so in some way or another, I’ll keep doing it.

Lastly, I’ll continue to make it my number one priority to enjoy being with Ray. I know I’m lucky to be able to be growing older with the love of my life.

And, even better, he’s already 70 and doesn’t seem to care that I’ll be joining him soon.  He even told me I looked beautiful on my birthday.

He’s a keeper, right?

Cathy Green

September 2016

Cataracts? Could It Possibly Be That Time Already?

Here’s the good news!

Dr. Sean beamed at me as he pushed back from my eye examination.

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He is probably in his mid- 30’s, but he looked like a 12-year old who had just completed the final level of a video game.

Your eyes are healthy!

Great! Now I braced for the bad news.

Well, it isn’t really bad news.

Your cataracts haven’t grown much, so the light flashes you’ve been experiencing in that left eye are due to dryness and irritation from your contact lenses. I’ll be prescribing antibiotic eye drops for a month. And, there’s no sign of glaucoma or macular degeneration… yet.

Yet?

The dry eye and antibiotics information barely registered. That seemed pretty benign. And glaucoma and macular degeneration sounded like things I could put off worrying about for awhile.

Instead, I focused on the part about cataracts. They haven’t grown too much? That means they’ve grown, right?

Dr. Sean patiently explained that all of us (how nice of him to include himself, don’t you think?) will get cataracts as we… cough, cough… get older.

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They get worse over time, but it’s not a big deal, he said.  At some point we just have to have them removed from our eyes.

Removed …  that means cut out.

So, when will I need to have it done?

He smiled and patiently explained that my cataracts could suddenly grow larger or it could take another few years

We’ll know when it’s time, he said kindly and I thought he was going to pat me on the head.

When I got home with my antibiotic eye drops, I went immediately to my primary self-diagnosis website, WebMD.

“Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye, and can affect people of any age, but are most common in men and women age 65 and older.  Approximately 75 percent of people age 75 and older have cataracts.”

 

So, I’m definitely in the age zone. But what exactly are cataracts?

“A cataract is a progressive, painless clouding of the natural, internal lens of the eye. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly.”

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“Over an extended period of time, cataracts can cause blindness”

Now that’s scary.

Here’s what else I learned, in no particular order of additional scariness:

  • Outpatient cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens via suction. (Suction in my eye?)
  • The lens is replaced with a clear, artificial, plastic one. (I’ll have plastic permanently residing in my eye?)
  • It’s the most frequently performed surgery in the US, with 1.5 million surgeries done each year. (That’s a lot of Porsche payments for ophthalmologists.)

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  • At least 90 percent of people who have cataract surgery have vision improvement. (What about the other 10%?)
  • The operation lasts less than one hour and is almost painless. (Almost?)
  • Most people choose to stay awake during the operation (Are you kidding me?)
  • Someone will need to drive you home. (As if you have to make a special point of this?)

I actually know quite a few people who have had cataracts removed.  They’re happy. They say they got instantaneous great results. They say they should have done it sooner. They say it’s a piece of cake.

I’m glad for them, but I just don’t like the thought of eye surgery for me.

I was never one of those people, for example, who was brave enough to do LASIK eye surgery to correct my farsightedness, even when it was trendy.  I had enough problems just getting used to my contact lenses and remembering where I put my glasses.

But since I plan to be around into my 90’s, playing golf and streaming videos on my iPad (or its equivalent in the 2040’s), this surgery doesn’t look like it’s going to be optional.

But I think I’ll opt not to be awake.

Cathy Green

Do I Use The Word “Great” Too Much?

Golf course attendant: How was your golf game today, Ms. Green?

Me: Great! Thanks.

Waiter: How was your dinner this evening?

Me: Great! Thanks.

Anyone:  How are you doing today?

Me: Great! Thanks. 

I think I’m overusing the word great, but I’m not sure what to say instead.

According to the dictionary, I am using great in its informal variation which means very good or satisfactory.

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If suppose I could use “very good” more often.  Or maybe “fine”. But they sound quite a bit less great than great.  How are you doing today? Fine.  (Hmmm… what’s her problem?)

Saying “satisfactory” is even less satisfactory.  How was your dinner? Satisfactory. Thanks. (Alert: smaller tip on the way)

If I were younger, I could say “awesome” or “amazing” or “incredible” like the millennials. But at my age?

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If I were older, I could say A-OK, super-duper or honky-dory, but only my assisted living roommates would get it.

I suppose I could say “delightful” or “splendid” or “lovely”, but those sound pretentious. How was dinner?  Delightful, my dear. Such a splendid trout almondine.

I could also say “fantastic”, “fabulous*”, “terrific” or “marvelous” but those are considerably more bullish sounding than the word great, so I’d have to be in a really, really great mood to use one of them. (There I go again).

*This blog site is called Fabulous over 60. Great over 60 would have sounded a lot less fabulous, don’t you think?

I’m obviously not alone in my overuse of the word “great”.  

In a column by Asheville Citizen-Times columnist Nancy Williams called Surviving the Other Party’s Convention, she writes about a competition she had with her sister during both presidential conventions this year:

Competition. We play Exer-jargon, a game we made up where we each pick a word for the other sister, who has to do a sit-up every time the word is said. Couldn’t be a proper noun. I picked “country.” She picked “great.” I didn’t keep count of who did how many sit-ups, but I’m telling you politicians need some synonyms for great. It’s overused. I just stayed on the floor and waited. I got several double-whammies for things and people who are great, great whatevers.

Exer-jargon sounds like fun. Certainly a lot more fun than watching the conventions.

I searched the internet for lists of the most overused words. To my surprise, great was NOT on any of them, but awesome and amazing and incredible were. Take that, millennials!

By the way, some of the most overused words on recent lists were:

Literally

Seriously

Absolutely

Basically

Really

And…

Whatever!

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I seriously would never use the word whatever, but I absolutely use the others a lot. Really!

So, even though it didn’t make the overused words lists, is it a great idea for me to be so greatly dependant on one single word to describe a great dinner, a great conversation, a great day or a great golf game?

Or is there a great alternative?  Help!

Cathy

If In Doubt…. Don’t Press Send!

Emails have been in the news a lot these past few months… and not in a good way. Just this week, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was found to have sent emails that shouldn’t have been sent and which she does regret sending.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote in late 2013 about the importance of being careful using emails in emotionally charged situations. Although they appear to be a great way to have quick communication, they also have an incredible power to disrupt both friendships and careers. Here is my original post.


I was reminded this past week about the potentially destructive power of email. Two couples … friends of ours and of each other … are no longer speaking. The rupture is so bad that it’s difficult to imagine how it can be repaired.

The issue isn’t as important as how it was handled. The first couple – who now admit that their first email was a mistake – sent it anyway. The response from the second couple was highly emotional – “scathing” is a word I’ve heard used to describe it. In fact, the clear message was that the friendship was over. The first couple sent another email apologizing and explaining. There has been no response.

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I haven’t actually seen any of the emails and I’ve only talked to the first couple about them. However, I think I understand the situation well enough to say that the emails … all of them … should never have been written or, more importantly, sent. In fact, I suspect that they were difficult to write and that both parties wrote at least a couple of versions of them. I also suspect that if everyone was being totally honest with themselves and others, they would say that they wish they could take them back.

Not too long ago, I was angry with an out of state friend. Again, the reason isn’t important. I immediately sat down and wrote an email. Then I wrote another version. I didn’t think I had the right tone, so I wrote it again. This one was better, but I still had a nagging suspicion that it didn’t capture the issue well enough. I decided to wait and try later. The issue weighed on me the rest of the day. I composed different versions of the note in my head. And then I began to think about receiving it as if I were my friend.

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That’s when it hit me. This issue was not an email issue. It required a phone call… a real discussion. So the rest of that day and the next I thought about the conversation rather than the words I’d use in an email. It was difficult to pick up the phone to call… but it was absolutely the right thing to do. I learned that my friend felt conflicted by the issue too. We had a great discussion and resolved it easily. A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and we were better friends than ever.

I can’t say that I’ve never sent an email I regret. But I think I’m even less likely to do it in the future given the recent sad story of my two friends.

When I talked to Ray about it, he said that Billy C. Owen, his Master Chief in the Navy, used to say: “Once you pull the trigger, you can’t get the bullet back in the gun.”

The wrong email is like a bullet you can’t get back.

So, I have a new rule for myself: If an issue is potentially emotional, if it’s difficult to write, or if it could be misinterpreted, I’m going to pick up the phone or … even better, if possible … have a face-to-face discussion.

I wish one of our sets of friends would do that now. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late?

Cathy Green

Are Road Trips Worse Than They Used To Be … Or Is My Age Showing?

I’ll admit that I’ve never liked road trips. I remember several long six-hour summertime drives from Cincinnati, Ohio to Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the 50’s and 60’s with my dad, mom, sister and brother in our non air-conditioned car.  There was also one horrendous 20 hour drive to Hollywood, Florida that no one in our family ever discussed again.1

These trips were definitely not relaxing, although I assume that is what my dad and mom had in mind as we were pulling out of our driveway.

My own feeling about these road trip vacations was that eating greasy fried food in Gatlinburg or getting sunburned and insect-bitten on the beach in Florida wasn’t worth my car sickness, my dad’s irritability, or putting up with my annoying baby brother. And counting the number of cows on my side of the road was the most boring game on the planet.

Lately, since our semi-retirement, my husband and I have been taking road trips of several hours from Asheville to places like Charleston, Charlotte, Cincinnati and Nashville as well as a few 12 hour drives to Florida and one three day drive to Maine.  I therefore consider myself an expert on road-tripping.

Here are just some of my recent observations:

Bathrooms:

This one comes to mind first since it is first and foremost on my mind on road trips. To put it bluntly, I’m over 60, I’m a woman and I have to pee a lot. The good news is that, unlike the old days when dad was driving and couldn’t find anywhere to take his whiny kids, there are usually many options – and most of them are relatively clean. Fast food restaurants, rest stops, gas stations and convenience stores abound on the highways and byways of our nation.*

*This is NOT true when traveling on mountainous stretches of highways in Tennessee and the Carolinas. Be warned, over-60 travelers!

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The bad news is that there are some very weird people at these stops, as well as crabby children, surly clerks and lots of tempting stuff to drink and eat which perpetuates the need to make another stop further up the road, creating a vicious cycle.

Food:

In my normal (non road-tripping) life, I rarely eat stuff as bad as what I eat on the road. McDonalds hamburgers and fries are the fastest way to eat and stay on my husband’s schedule*, Waffle House eggs and pancakes make a quick late morning meal, and trail mixes (the ones with candy included for energy, of course) are easy to pick up on bathroom breaks along with my large Diet Coke and Ray’s ice.** I’ve even been known to indulge in a Dunkin Donuts glazed donut when I’m especially hungry in the morning which, for some reason, is true of most mornings on road trips.

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These are not good choices, I know, but I can somehow justify it more easily when I’m a bored passenger on a long trip. (See next category)

*We really don’t need to stay on schedule. However, Ray is very happy when we get to our destination a few minutes early. It apparently proves his superior driving abilities.

** Ray chomps on ice to stay alert during our trips.  If any of you have husbands who do this as well, my condolences. The only good news is that he has to stop for bathroom breaks too. I sometimes play a silent little game called “who’s going to say ‘let’s stop’ first”. I hold out as long as I can.

Boredom:

My husband does most of the driving. He says that he likes to drive. What he means is that he doesn’t like me to drive since we might travel 2 miles per hour slower and get to our destination a few minutes later than planned. I am not one of those people who can sleep in a car, and reading doesn’t work for me either. Since my husband and I spend a lot of time together these days, there isn’t a lot we need to talk about except where we want to stop for lunch. I don’t have anything else to do but read billboards, so I have a lot of suggestions. As I wait for the next food or bathroom stop, I watch fields and towns fly by while checking the Jeep’s GPS dashboard every few minutes to see how many more hours and minutes remain in our trip. When the mileage dips below 400 and then 350, 300, 250, etc, I get really excited about our progress. Yes, I realize that’s a sad comment.

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Trucks:

I remember liking big trucks when I was a kid. My dad would often cruise behind one of them so that he wouldn’t get a speeding ticket. “Those guys have CB radios and know where the cops are.” he’d say. My dorky younger brother would even pump his arm out of the car window and the truckers would honk at us.

These days, I don’t view truckers as my friends. For one thing, there are just too many trucks on the highways, they go very fast, and they seem a lot bigger than they used to. Since we are often wending our way through mountains, these huge trucks can be extremely intimidating. They barely fit on their side of the road, which I’d often like to remind them is the right-hand lane.  I find myself closing my eyes and praying as our car squeaks through a small opening between a concrete barrier on the left and a monstrous rig on the right.

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By the way, I think it’s great when trucks have to pull into the weigh stations. Briefly, so very briefly, there are only cars around us on the highway. Enjoy your stop, guys!

I could go on and on sharing other brilliant observations about road trips since I haven’t even touched on road repair delays, traveling with our dog or overnight stays in high-churn, low-comfort highway hotels. However, I’m getting anxious just thinking about our next trip to Blowing Rock, NC this month.  It’s only 2 ½ hours away, but we’ll be traveling on mountainous roads and I’m already worried about bathroom options.

I wonder if I’ll be able to get a glazed donut on the way.

Cathy Green

I’m Not Sleeping and My Cat Knows Why

Last year, I wrote that Ms. Blue, my elderly Maine Coon cat, was keeping me up at night by meowing loudly in my face. I also shared my husband’s thoughts on the subject as he moved to another bedroom!

I asked for help from readers and got some good ideas.

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Here’s an update: For her sake and mine, I decided to lock Ms. Blue in another room at night with her treats, her food and her litter box. It took several weeks for her to understand that howling at the door was not going to get her out of that room and into my face.  

She is doing much better now, I’m sleeping again and my husband is back in our bed.  A happy ending!

Here’s the link to my original blog about my dilemma.

The 70’s Rock Concert That Didn’t Rock!

We just bought tickets to see Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald at the Biltmore Estate’s Summer Concert Series in our hometown of Asheville, NC.  Both performers are favorites and the venue is incredible.  Concerts are held under the stars on the grounds of the beautiful  Biltmore House.  I can’t wait!

This year, however, I’m going to nap in the afternoon and drink nothing all day. Why?  Here’s a blog post I wrote about another concert at the Biltmore House in 2014.  The 70’s Rock Concert That Didn’t Rock!

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Things That Should Have Killed Us in the 1950’s

At a family reunion this weekend, sitting around with my husband Ray’s cousins who grew up together in the 50’s, I was reminded how surprising it is that we all survived our childhoods!  

Ray shared with his cousins that he used to order snakes .. including poisonous ones .. through the mail. His parents knew about it and encouraged his interest in herpetology. Unreal!   

Here’s a blog I wrote last year about some of the other things that should have killed us as kids in the 50’s.  I’m sure many of you will relate!


Those of us in our 60’s like to brag that we lived through a lot of things that parents today worry about incessantly. But some of us – including me – think our parents should have worried a little more!

We all know that cars didn’t have seat belts in the 50’s and we shake our heads remembering how dangerous that must have been – especially since today’s news stories constantly remind us that car seats have to be chosen with extreme care.

Car seats? The only car seats available in the 50’s were designed to “bolster” children so that that they could look out the window and not move around so much. A few early protective car seats began to be used in the 60’s, but it wasn’t until the 70’s that they really got on a roll.

I remember dad driving home from many family parties in the 50’s after partaking of a couple, if not several, Manhattans. We three kids, all 10 and under, would be in the back seat dozing or fighting – probably more of the latter – while mom (who didn’t drive) would hold on tight, work her feet on imaginary pedals and say, as sweetly as possible – “Joe, don’t you think you should drive a little slower, dear?”

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I also remember leaving the house early in the morning on lazy Cincinnati summer days and staying out until lunch – or sometimes even until dinner. I would be at a friend’s house on my street, riding my bike up and down neighboring streets, or going to the drugstore a few blocks away to get a Cherry Coke. There were no cell phones and no electronic trackers… in other words, no way for Mom to know where I was. I don’t remember her being all that concerned about it, either.

I asked my husband, Ray, what he remembered about the 1950’s and the dangers lurking for kids in his small town of Gaffney, SC. Riding bicycles with his friends behind the DDT spraying trucks came immediately to mind. Apparently, at that time, in areas where mosquito populations were high, the government decided that spraying a few times a week would help cut down on malaria. Parents, his included, encouraged the fun. DDT was finally banned in 1972.

Here’s a photo if you don’t believe me:

DDT spraying truck

DDT spraying truck

Another story Ray told was about accompanying his mom to Gaffney’s downtown shoe store and getting his feet x-rayed in something called a fluoroscope. The machine, operated by the shoe store salesman, had a little box on the bottom where he would put his feet through in a new pair of shoes. The x-ray would be turned on and Ray’s mom and the salesman could look through the viewing windows to see if the shoes fit well – that is, if there seemed to be enough room for all of the bones in his feet. According to articles I found on the internet, the only safety shield on the fluoroscope was a tiny layer of aluminum and the manufacturers’ brochures recommended that the stores place the fluoroscope in the middle of the store for easy access.

Sometimes, Ray and his friends would stick their hands in the hole and look at each others’ bones. The kids loved it! What fun!

Fluoroscopes were almost universally banned by the 1970’s

Fluoroscopes were almost universally banned by the 1970’s

These stories, of course, highlight only a few of the hazards we faced in the 1950’s. Toy arrows with rubber tips that could be taken off easily, a radioactive science kit called the Atomic Energy Lab, baby oil that we slathered on our skins for a great sunburn, mercury that we played with when thermostats broke, skating and biking without helmets or knee pads, drinking out of garden hoses … I could go on and on.

So, what were our parents thinking? Well, to be fair to them, they were probably not very clear about the best way to raise kids, especially when they were bombarded with ads like these …

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And…

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Now that I think about it, we are pretty lucky that we made it into the 1960’s, much less into our 60’s!!

Cathy Green

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