Sarah Collins, Will You Please Go Home!

I moved into a cul-de-sac recently and discovered that one of my neighbors has no sense of boundaries. Not only does she think the entire cul-de-sac is her property, but everyone finds her wandering ways endearing and sweet. “That’s Sarah Collins,” they say with soft drawls and smiles. “She just does whatever she wants.”

What the blond bitch wants, as far as I can figure out,  is to prowl around my yard, follow me when I take my dogs for a walk, and crap on my lawn.  I’ve always wanted an incontinent stalker.

Sarah Collins stopping by to drop off a little something something.

Sarah Collins stopping by to drop off a little something something.

Now, I’m trying to be a good neighbor. I want to get along.  But can’t I walk out the front door without Sarah Collins strolling by to check on me? And isn’t it enough I have two dogs to clean up after already? Must I add Sarah Collins to the mix? When I walk by her owner’s house,  I notice his lawn is pristine and green. Mine is marked by urine spots. Coincidence? I think not.

I don’t have any options at this point either. Sarah Collins has been ruling the neighborhood for the last ten years. As I speak, she has entered my yard for the tenth time tonight. No longer happy with the view from the ground, she’s walked up the steps to my second story deck and is standing at the gate, waiting to be let in.

I refrain from yelling at her. I want to be neighborly. Still, I previously lived in the land of leash laws and picking up your own dog’s poop. Down here, that’s not the way things work. In fact, my neighbor’s are entertained by the sight of me parading my leashed dogs around the circle,  leaning down occasionally with one baggie covered hand. “Oh, we just leave it,” they say. “It’s what dogs do.”

Perhaps, with time, I will become as mellow as the people I live among. For now, though, I wish Sarah Collins would go home, and stay there.

Ever had a neighbor’s dog drive you insane? How did you deal with it? Suggestions wanted in the comments.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Vaseline Glass Bowl-Hat

Vaseline Glass Bowl-Hat (Photo credit: Paul Garland)

When I was younger, I thought wearing glasses was the biggest humiliation I would have to suffer. Without glasses I can’t see the computer screen I’m sitting in front of, but glasses have a downside. In cold New England a walk from the chilly outside to toasty inside results in a thick layer of condensation that renders glasses wearers temporarily blind. In the summer, going from air conditioning to humidity does the same thing. Aquatic endeavors require a decision to either see what’s going on (my preference in a lake) or swim blind (my preference in the ocean. I believe if I don’t see the shark, it won’t see me).

PhotonQ-Under the Shark

PhotonQ-Under the Shark (Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE)

I’ve made my peace with wearing glasses, but now I’m confronted by a problem many of my fellow baby boomers are also facing,  hearing loss. Yes, we didn’t wear helmets when we biked/skied/played sports and we didn’t wear hearing protection when we shot guns, listened to our Walkmans at full blast, or spent time in noisy environments. Our youthful ignorance of the damage caused by loud noises has led to an explosion in the number of baby boomers with hearing loss.

The National Institute for Health reports that 18% of adults in the 45-64 year old category, have hearing loss. The percentage of Americans with hearing loss increases in the 65-74 year old group to 30%, and for adults over 75, a whopping 47% of them are struggling to hear.

How many of those hearing impaired people are wearing hearing aids? Less than 15 percent. There’s a lot of people out there who have no idea what you’re saying.

Seems like a minor problem until you read the early studies that indicate adults with hearing loss are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.

Scary.

So why don’t we embrace hearing aids in an attempt to increase our thinking skills and ward off dementia (as well as not blowing out the volume controls on the TV)?

Hearing aid

Hearing aid (Photo credit: Soitiki)

Maybe it’s because hearing aids are equated with old people and we’re a nation dedicated to never growing old.  Not all of us can afford facelifts, botox, or tummy tucks, but we can dye our hair, buy anti-wrinkle cream, and pretend we can still hear.

And most people don’t know how much sound they’re missing. When I trialed hearing aids, I couldn’t believe what a noisy house I lived in. The refrigerator cycled on and off, the dryer had a strange squeak, and with the windows open I could hear my neighbor’s children playing outside. All sounds that hadn’t existed for me before the hearing aids.

I wanted to turn the volume down.

But without hearing aids I struggle to carry on a conversation in certain decibel ranges. I lean in closer and keep a semi smile on my face because I’m not sure if the correct response is to laugh or to  cry. Most of the time I can piece together what’s being said through context, but once in a while I can’t. It’s embarrassing when someone asks me a question and I don’t understand enough words to even guess what they’re saying. It’s like suddenly I’m hearing a foreign language and my ears can’t process it.

As easy as it is to downplay hearing loss or make a joke about it, the sad truth is that it has a profound effect on quality of life and, it seems, the risk of dementia. Maybe instead of being fixated with the idea that wearing hearing aids makes us old, we should think about all of the sounds we miss without them. If it’s a choice between hearing my daughter whisper “I love you” as she leaves the house or looking and feeling old, I think I’m going to choose to hear.

There’s only a finite number of “I love you’s” we’re privileged to hear and I’d like to hear every single one of them.

Winter Storm Nemo: Stranded Without a Charger

LAX Delays 12/20/07

LAX Delays 12/20/07 (Photo credit: andysternberg)

Winter Storm Nemo didn’t do much in my neck of the woods other than fill my driveway with snow and make the dogs happy. While the dogs happily frolicked outside, I tried to figure out whether my mother, who had arrived in LAX Thursday morning to find her flight to Boston cancelled, had caught a flight home or been stranded for another day.

She’s one of the unlucky ones who found their travel plans disrupted by the closing of Boston’s Logan as well as every other New England airport. Hard to fly back from the West Coast when the East Coast is shut down. Hard for your family to figure out where you are when you forget your phone charger and are running low on battery.

Solar Charger and Nokia N82

Solar Charger and Nokia N82 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course my mother’s generation didn’t grow up with cell phones and smart phones. She grew up with party lines and pay phones. Her cell phone isn’t the way she communicates with the world, gets news, and keeps updated with her friends. It’s a phone.

In her world, someone meets her at the airport rather than waits for her in the cell phone parking lot. If her flight gets cancelled, she goes to the ticket counter and talks to a person rather than trying to rebook online. When she finds herself stuck overnight at an airport, she strikes up conversations with strangers to pass the time rather than  spending time playing Candy Crush or Words With Friends. Shutting off her cell phone to conserve the battery doesn’t bother her in the least because she’ll turn it on if she wants to talk to someone.

Being incommunicado is not a scary thing to my mother.

No Service

No Service (Photo credit: SkyWideDesign)

And maybe that’s not a bad thing, but my generation is used to being in touch.  Whether it’s updating Facebook. tweeting, or texting, you know where we are. We leave a wide digital swath behind us. Tracking us down is easy and we never forget a power cord.

As tethered as I am to electronics, part of me realizes that my mother’s casual attitude toward being connected isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She’ll return from her hours in the airplane terminal with a different experience. She might not know the latest weather update or the specials at the local restaurant, but she’ll have made friends and shared memories with her fellow unwired passengers. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

He and the Boys Aren’t Playing (Instruments) All Night

Small Paul at Canobie Lake Screemfest. KISS on the short side.

You have to love Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire. In October, a month not known to be kind to New England amusement parks, Canobie Lake keeps the grounds filled by having two events:  Screemfest and Oktoberfest. This year I returned, once again lured by the presence of Mini Kiss, a KISS tribute band, at the Oktoberfest tent. (Well, also lured by the haunted houses and rides, but Mini Kiss is a consideration.)

Mini Kiss is always a great time. They cover Kiss songs as well as some other notables such as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns and Roses. I’m not sure if it’s the quantity of beer being served or the novelty of having these mini men singing, but the audience joins in on every song. While singing along with the song “Beth,” I pondered the reality of the events in contrast to the sanitized, love ballad version.

At the time Beth was recorded in 1976, cell phones didn’t bulge in every pocket. Beth was relegated to (probably) standing in her kitchen on her landline phone hoping someone would answer the payphone at the recording studio. Since there was no caller ID, there wasn’t a foolproof method to duck the calls of curious, demanding girlfriends or wives. Some poor sap, a roadie no doubt, would have to physically pick the phone up and figure out who was on the other end of the line. Then he’d have to holler into the recording studio to call Beth’s boyfriend to the phone. I can only imagine the reaction of the band to Beth’s calls looking for an estimated time of arrival on her beau.

And, as if his staying out late and not giving her a heads up didn’t rankle enough, listen to his excuses in the lyrics:

“Beth, I hear you callin’
But I can’t come home right now
Me and the boys are playin’
And we just can’t find the sound
Just a few more hours
And I’ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin’
Oh, Beth what can I do?”

You can almost hear his band mates crack imaginary whips and call out rude comments  as Beth’s man frantically tries to shush them.

And what’s with Beth?  He asked “what can I do?”  He didn’t mention he was handcuffed to his instrument or being held at gunpoint.  It’s his choice to stay with his friends “a few more hours.” Instead of listening silently through her tears, Beth could have said,  “Come home in the next fifteen minutes or I’ll throw your stuff out on the street.” It’s domestic warfare, baby, sometimes you have to make threats. But not Beth, the date-able doormat.

When she calls again hours later,  her boyfriend can’t even come up with a new excuse.  Now, maybe he isn’t very smart or maybe he’s impaired by drugs and alcohol, but at least try.  If I was Beth, I’d be happy to hear your absence was because one of your band mates overdosed on drugs or two of them had a fist fight over writing credits and now you’re waiting for the cops to show up. When it comes to relationship lies, I believe go big or go home. But no, instead he tells her:

“Just a few more hours
And I’ll be right home to you
I think I hear them callin’
Oh, Beth what can I do?”

I’m calculating it’s around midnight at this point. If you’ve ever taken one of these calls in a relationship, you know he has no intention of coming home until he’s ready to pass out.  The best thing Beth could do for herself now is to take a sleeping pill and go to bed. Be fresh for the big fight when he staggers in at daybreak. But no, she continues to burn up the phone lines.

By 3 AM, the band has had enough. No one else’s girlfriend is calling. No one else is ruining boy’s night out. Time for the truth.  Now  he tells her:

“Beth, I know you’re lonely
And I hope you’ll be alright
‘Cause me and the boys will be playin’
All night”

Because at this point he realizes that Beth isn’t going to get dressed and come down to the recording studio and she isn’t going to stop calling. Telling her he won’t be home tonight might not stop the phone calls, but it will put an end to the whip cracking sounds from the band.  Anyway, after he hangs up a helpful roadie will leave it off the hook and Beth can listen to a busy signal for the rest of the night if she desires.

The next morning, boyfriend crawls home, hungover and tired, expecting a nice breakfast from Beth before he drags himself to sleep. She probably makes it for him because back in 1976 that’s the price you paid to be with the band.

I don’t miss 1976 that much. Now songs empower us to get our Louisville Sluggers and let our men know exactly what we think.  I’d love to hear Kiss sing a song about how quickly the studio empties out after that.