Saturday, July 13, 2024

When words fail

Words have been part of my life, one way or another, for as long as I can remember. From a very early age, I understood the power of words arranged in the just the right order, and especially when they’re delivered at just the right time, however that may be measured. So, when words abandon me, it’s a particularly difficult thing.

When I was somewhere around seven, give or take, I found an antique manual typewriter in the attic of our house. It had belonged to my parents, though I have no idea where it came from. Nevertheless, I carefully typed out what I labelled “Schenck News”, with some small “news stories”, including an “interview” with my dad which reported that he liked his job. It even had a “comic”, the humour of which was based on an answer to a question that was random letters/characters that I typed. I don’t know, but I doubt I thought that was actually funny even back then.

Whatever that was way back then, I’m fairly certain that it was my first attempt at creating something that I specifically intended for others to read. I did that several times during my childhood and adolescence, and the pace only picked up over the decades after that, and this blog has been part of that for nearly 18 years.

In recent years—say eight, give or take—I’ve had periods in which I didn’t produce much of anything, for one reason or another. That’s become much worse since Nigel died, mostly because of the realities that followed. In the past couple of years in particular, something new emerged: In my head, I heard only silence.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: There have been times when posts popped into my head nearly fully formed, though often at night when I was in bed and trying to fall asleep. Many other times, there was simply silence, and no amount of willing things to be different could make the words arrange themselves on the page.

Any recent casual reader of this blog would see that my last post of June and first post of July were both in the ”Weekend Diversion: 1984 series, and it would be logical to assume that those were pre-written and their publication pre-scheduled, since I talked about doing exactly that back in March. However, both were written shortly before I published them, and, in fact, only two of the 10 posts in the series so far were pre-scheduled.

This is a specific example of how things are for me at the moment: I knew those posts were coming up (it’s a set schedule, after all), I knew the subject of each post, and probably exactly what I thought about it. I could easily have pre-written all the posts in the series—but I didn’t.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this happening, and why it’s been far more intense than it ever has been before. I don’t have one single answer, and that’s part of what has made all of this so challenging—and frightening.

I know part of it is that this is a very difficult year for me, what with its overload of challenging times: My 65th birthday, what would’ve been Nigel’s 60th birthday, and the fifth anniversary of his death. All three of those events are how the fuck can that be true?!” moments for me. My age, that Nigel didn’t make it past 55, that he’ll have been gone five years—all of that means I’m in an existential nowhere land, carrying a rich and beautiful past, but also nothing but doubt, uncertainty, and fear about the future. Even so, much of that has been the case ever since Nigel died, so what’s different now?

I think part of it was that I launched into what turned into a major a project I’ve yet to talk about here or on Facebook, for various reasons and no particular reason. I began with the best of intentions, and then derailed myself—and my emotional well-being—several times along the way. Worse, the project isn’t even finished yet, though there are extenuating circumstances for that.

So, when I take the existential angst I live with like background radiation, add in the specific emotional demands of three important anniversaries, and then put all that under the immense weight and pressure of an absolutely huge and very physically demanding project, I know it was inevitable that something had to give. As bleak as I know that sounds, it’s actually not: Instead, it’s actually a light, and a bit of hope: This means that the current dark times will pass, and not as long from now as I am from where this particular challenge started. The massive project will end, and then I’ll get through each of the two remaining challenging dates this year, just as I got through the first one.

What I can’t know for certain is that the end of my current dark times will mean the silence should end, too, and the words will return. I hope so. Still, I’ve also learned that, if necessary, I can learn to live without arranging words in the just the right order, and delivering them at just the right time.


When I was thinking about this post in recent weeks, my mind once again seized on pop music, in this case, the 1982 song ”Words” by French musician F.R. David (video below). I’d never heard of the song when lived in the USA, and when I heard it on the radio here in New Zealand, I thought it was performed by a woman. Clearly I didn’t listen very carefully then—or ever, to be honest. Still, it was the lyric, “Words don't come easy to me” that kept playing in my head as I planned this post, and it’s definitely not the first time that my life and pop music had interwined. It’s not surprising I didn’t know the song in the USA: It only hit Number 62 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, but it did hit Number 7 in New Zealand, which is probably why I eventually heard it on NZ pop radio. Veritas in musica/ and all that.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Road way

It’s been a year since that road connecting my neighbourhood to the rest of Hamilton opened, something I talked about at the time. That’s probably because I’ve used it so much over the past year that it feels like it’s been there for years. I use that road to get to nearly anywhere I’m going in Hamilton, so, in a sense, it really did connect my house to the city, something I talked about last year. That’s mostly about “feel”, of course, but isn’t that true about much in life?

Making me feel physically connected to the city aside, it hasn’t exactly made Hamilton feel like “home”. I think I’d say, “it’s okay”, which is the kind of non-committal indifference I’d say about things I may not love, but also don’t hate. I say that about things that I really do think are okay.

One thing that would make me like this city a lot more would be if they would finally build the small commercial area along that now year-old road, but there’s no indication that’s going to be any time soon. Maybe when interest rates finally drop?

The original part of the road we were connected to last year has a new development under construction, Orient Industrial Park, which will have warehousing and live/work light industrial units, along with “two onsite food and cafĂ© providers plus an interactive indoor golfing simulator,” the latter made me chuckle.

Interestingly, at one point Nigel was really keen on us moving to a similar live/work unit on Auckland’s North Shore. The concept was new to New Zealand, and I wasn’t as keen as Nigel was (honestly, at the time I thought it sounded kind of odd). He moved on to being interested in living other places—in fact, I lost track of how many houses we actually visited, let alone how many others we just looked at from the road or online. Still, I backed him, as I always did, and if he’d truly been into the live/work units, I’d have backed him on that, too. Of course.

So: A year on from that road opening, my ordinary daily life is so much easier than it was before then: It now takes around 5 minutes from my house to The Base/Te Awa, two different supermarkets, my dentist, and Leo’s vet. On a bad day before the new road was opened, it could take me 15-20 minutes or more to get to those same places, so the road brought a big improvement.

There are several different things holding me back from feeling at home in Hamilton, but at least now I can see how the feeling could be possible—and that new road is definitely an unexpectedly huge part of why that is.

I’m still only at the start of my own personal road, still finding my way, and there aren’t any maps. But that actual new road really did help my actual and existential journeys.

This post began life as a Facebook post. That’s only relevant because that’s the only reason this is post is here. More about that soon.

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 10

Number One songs come and go, and some hang around longer than others. This week in 1984, yet new song went to Number One and began the year’s second five-week run in the top spot, but this one was especially significant for that year. On July 7, 1984, “When Doves Cry” by American musician/singer/songwriter/produce /etc. Prince (his full name was Prince Rogers Nelson). The song was the lead single from Prince’s sixth studio album, Purple Rain, which was the soundtrack album for the film Purple Rain. “When Doves Cry” was Prince’s first Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” chart.

“When Doves Cry” was was the second single of 1984 to stay at Number One for five consecutive weeks (I talked about the first, Van Halen’s “Jump”, in Part 3 of this series, back on February 25). “When Doves Cry” however, was even more significant because it went on to become the Number One song for 1984 on Billboard’s “Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1984”. “Jump” was Number 6 on the same year-end list.

As we all know, Prince’s life was complicated. In 1993, he had a dispute with his label, Warner Bros, and changed his name to a symbol, but was often referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” (or “TAFKAP”, usually said as a word, as I recall) or was just called “The Artist”. In 1990, after moving to Arista Records, he began using his own name again. His personal life was complicated, with some controversy. At the same time, though, he was hugely popular and sold more than 100 million records worldwide, which made him among the best-selling pop artists of all time. He was also clearly a gifted musician, songwriter, and performer., and all of that is quite a legacy.

I liked quite a lot of Prince’s songs, beginning with his 1983 song ”1999”, which peaked at Number 12 on the “Hot 100” (and was probably my favourite of his songs). I liked “When Doves Cry” when I first heard because its sound was so different from other songs at the time. In the years that followed, I liked more of his songs, but not necessarily all of them. Even so, I can’t think of any of his songs that I actively disliked, and that’s kind of unusual for me: When I like some songs by a musician or band I don’t consider myself a fan of, there are inevitably songs of theirs that I don’t particularly like. However, I also can’t think of a time I intensely disliked a song by a person/band I otherwise liked (for at least some songs, anyway).

“When Doves Cry” reached Number One in Australia and in Canada, Number 2 in New Zealand (Gold), 4 in the UK (Platinum), and it was Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and also on their “Hot Black Singles” and “Dance Club Songs” charts, as as well as Number One on Cash Box. The song was also Platinum in the USA. The song charted again after Prince died on April 21, 2016, reaching 8 on the Billboard “Hot 100”, the first time it was Top 10 since September of 1984.

The album Purple Rain reached Number One in Australia (3x Platinum) and in Canada (6x Platinum), Number 2 in New Zealand (5x Platinum), Number 7 in the UK (2x Platinum), and Number One on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (13x Platinum). In 2016, the album charted again, hitting Number 5 in Australia, Number 7 in Canada, Number 4 in the UK, and Number 2 on the “Billboard 200” chart, as well as hitting Number One on their US “Soundtrack Albums” chart. A remastered version of the album was released in 2017 (the first of his albums to to be remastered), and hit Number 4 in the USA.

The next post about a 1984 Number One song will be August 11.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8 – June 9, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 9 – June 23, 2024

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 9

Another new song went to Number One this week in 1984, and, like the previous Number One, it also had a two-week run at the top spot. On June 23, 1984, ”The Reflex” (video up top) by English New Wave band Duran Duran became the new Number One song. It was the group’s eleventh single, and the first of two songs to reach Number One in the USA. The song was the third single from their third studio album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

Duran Duran is one of the groups I remember most from the mid-1980s, however, I wasn’t exactly a fan. In the US, it was fashionable among some people to hate the group, which I thought was silly. Mind you, I thought many of the lads were rather fetching, so maybe I was more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? They were (and are, of course) all around my age; while most members are a year or two younger than me, lead singer Simon Le Bon is nearly three months older than me.

As with nearly every band played on radio and MTV at the time, I liked some Duran Duran songs, and other songs I didn't particularly like. For me, “The Reflex” was in the latter category. I certainly didn’t “hate” the song; as is so often the case with me, not liking a song doesn’t necessarily mean disliking it. What kept me from liking the song was the refrain that began, “Oh, why don't you use it?” because of the warbling on the word why. It was unique, sure, but for some reason it really annoyed me. I have no idea why. Still, that wasn’t enough to make me hate the song, so it wasn’t exactly a deal-breaker, either. I guess I had a kind of benign neutrality.

The music video was mostly footage shot at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on March 5, 1984 during the band’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour. The Wikipedia article linked to adds:
In keeping with the band's insistence that their music videos "never be ordinary", the video screen above the stage displayed bits of naked models wearing collars and chains illuminated with black light, occasionally interrupted by computerized video white noise. At one point, a computer graphics–generated waterfall appears to pour out of the video screen above the stage to soak the audience.
I’m always fascinated to find out, well, “what were they thinking?!” when a video is made, whether I like the result or not. In this case, my feelings about the video were pretty much the same as for the song itself: A kind of benign neutrality.

Like many songs form this era, and probably more so than was true for other Duran Duran songs, I think I may have become better acquainted with “The Reflex” over the years that followed, particularly because it remained in rotation for both pop radio and, especially, MTV.

“The Reflex” reached Number 4 in Australia, 3 in Canada (Platinum), 6 in New Zealand, Number One in the UK (Silver), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on the Cash Box “Top 100 Singles” charts; the song was also Gold in the USA.

The album Seven and the Ragged Tiger reached 2 in Australia, 7 in Canada (3x Platinum), 11 in New Zealand (Platinum), Number One in the UK (Platinum), and 8 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (2x Platinum).

This series will return July 7, when a huge hit reached Number One.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8 – June 9, 2024

Mirror on the wall

On Monday, June 10, I finished a mini-project, one that came about kind of by accident and was to solve a problem that an earlier “solution” didn’t. Not that I ever mentioned any of that here. That’s nothing new, even if the project was.

Back in February, I spent several days knocking off a bunch of very small jobs, including two in the en suite: Installing a hand towel ring and installing a rechargeable LED light over the mirror, which is visible in the photos above. I needed to do this because the ceiling light is in the wrong spot—and off centre, which annoys me at least as much. When I trim my moustache, I like to get close to the mirror so I can see better, but that’s meant I was blocking the light, putting my face was mostly in shadow. There’s no electricity in that wall, so I couldn’t easily have an over-mirror electric light installed, so I thought the rechargeable light I installed was the best answer. I hoped it would help because it was pointing downward.

I spent days and days working on a blog post about that and all my February projects, complete with photos, but it was just too complicated (and very long…) so I gave up. In the end, I talked about some of of the small projects I did, including installing that light, on AmeriNZ Podcast Episode 413.

I used the light several times, and wasn’t entirely happy with it because it wasn’t point downward enough, mainly because of the magnetic holder: It can’t be pointed down any more than it is. I knew that he touch-sensitive power button was a little temperamental, but the bigger problem is that the light doesn’t hold a charge all that long, something that I noticed in recent weeks (possibly because winter and cold temperatures arrived).

I didn’t have a better solution, until one day when I was watching a YouTube video by an interior designer who was talking about good design, but I wasn’t paying close attention until I happened to see one photo of a bathroom included a shaving mirror that is attached to a wall and pulls out for use. I knew that was the solution.

From their website.
I found one at Mitre 10 for around $40—and others that ranged from $150 to $399. I decided to get the one at Mitre 10, and that’s why I went there at the end of May, after my dental appointment and vaccinations. Their website said they were “low in stock”, so I asked a friendly young woman to help me find one. She checked the computer which said they had four. She couldn’t find even one, not where it should’ve been, and also not in the back-stock above the shelves (she got a ladder to look).

I was going to give up and make do with a handheld one I already have, because I couldn’t be bothered ringing other Mitre 10 locations to see if they had any. But then I thought, why should I settle? The whole point of literally everything I’ve done to this house has been to make it meet my needs, easier to live in, etc. So, Wednesday, June 5 I ordered one online and it was delivered Monday the 10th.

I decided to install it on the wall to my right so I could pull it out and stand over the basin while I trim my whiskers. However, there’s a power point (outlet) on that wall (don’t worry—it’s on a RCD circuit, usually called GFI in the USA), so I wasn’t keen on drilling into the stud—which, it turned out, was where the window frame was, anyway. Instead, I drilled into the noggin (the horizontal wood between studs, often called blocking in the USA), and used a drywall anchor for the bottom screw. As a result, it’s attached very solidly—not a surprise, really, since I have rather a lot of experience at doing that sort of thing.

The photo up top shows the before (on the left) and also the after with the mirror folded against the wall, where I’ll keep it. I could put it the other way, closer to the mirror, but because the extractor fan is also in the wrong place, that corner has dead air and there’s condensation there when I take a shower (when I’m done, I open the window and leave the fan running for a 10-15 minutes, which takes care of the problem). The photo at the bottom of this post shows the new mirror pulled out and tilted to show me—and as far as I can remember, it’s the first time I’ve ever shot a selfie using a mirror.

I’ve sued the mirror a couple times since I installed it, and it works great—exactly what I wanted. I use the regular side, but I can flip it for 3x magnification, if I had a reason to. There are two other things I noticed. When I walk into my bedroom, I can see it reflecting light, which is just new, not bad or anything. The other thing I noticed is that when I first get in the shower, if I look over at the mirror I can see my head and the top of my shoulders, kind of like a vignette portrait. That doesn’t last long—it ends when the glass in the shower steams up—and it, too, was just a new thing. I usually don’t even notice it.

This was just a small project, and not very expensive. Even so, it’s made my life so much easier because I can better see what I’m doing now, and that was the point all along. This isn’t the first time that I was able to recognise a solution to a problem, then carry out the work to fix that problem. It’s also not the first time I was willing to re-do a project because I came up with a better solution. I think that reflects well on me, too.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Same page, not same seasons

Seasons are pretty obvious in temperate climates. For example, summer and winter can be quite different from each other. However, it turns out that when, precisely, people say seasons arrive can also be quite different, too. Sort of.

I’ve often talked about how seasons in this part of the world are said to begin on the guest of the relevant month, and not on a solstice or equinox. Some people who use the traditional dates (solstice or equinox) become kind of angry at those of us who don’t.

I think the crux is what’s being measured. Traditionalists use the position of the sun relative to the equator, much as our ancestors did in ancient times. The problem is that weather doesn’t neatly correspond to where the sun is. This is why some people prefer the first of the relevant month because it’s more closely identified with seasonal changes on weather. For example, this year we started having chilly autumn temperatures in late May, and some parts of the Northern Hemisphere were having quite warm temperatures around the same time, and all of that didn’t wait for the June Solstice some three weeks later.

Most people would acknowledge that this is a really unimportant disagreement. However, I do wish we could agree to refer to the solstices and equinoxes by month, not by the season. The seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are complete opposites, so whenever people use the season to describe solstices and equinoxes, we have to stop to work out where the speaker actually is in order to know month they’re talking about. That’s not ideal.

In that spirt, the June Solstice arrived in New Zealand at 8.50am this morning. The temperature at my house at that moment was around 6C (42.8F), because winter arrived three weeks ago. For us, seasons and astronomical events definitely aren’t the same. But, you already knew all that. Of course.

Related: Today is the shortest day, but tonight won’t be the coldest nightStuff

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 8

Forty years ago this week, a new song went to Number One, beginning another two-week run at the top spot. On June 9, 1984, ”Time After Time” (video up top) by American singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper (co-written by Rob Hyman, who also provided backing vocals) became the new Number One song. The song was Lauper’s first Number One hit in the USA, and was the second single from her debut studio album, She's So Unusual. The first single from that album is the arguably better-known song ”Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.

I bought the album when it was released, and because of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, but I also loved this song. At the time, I had a partner who I often had to catch when he fell, but I don’t recall ever feeling I could rely on him to do the same for me. However, I definitely felt that kind of mutual certainty with Nigel, but I didn’t associate this song with that until after he’d died and I saw the video for this song on one of my many YouTube video sessions during the first Covid lockdown. The chorus encapsulated what I knew was true of Nigel and what he knew was true of me, too:
If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time
Those lyrics can still make me cry. Is there higher praise I could give to any song?

The music video is pretty straightforward story-telling. It includes her real-life boyfriend at the time as her boyfriend, as well as her mother and Lou Albano, both of whom had also appeared in the video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. According to the portion of the Wikipedia post on the song that talks about the video, Lauper said, "It was important to me that we were natural and human in the video. I wanted to convey somebody who walked her own path and did not always get along with everyone and did not always marry the guy." The walking her own path part is a theme throughout songs on the album—even in the title.

Having said all that, I don’t remember seeing the video much at the time, and it was only in 2020 and beyond that I grew to appreciate it (that’s largely because once you watch a YouTube video of a song, their algorithms will serve it up again, and more frequently if you watch it, and then it'll turn up again and so on). Because of this, the video helped reinforce for me the power of the song’s lyrics, and it led me to appreciate them more than I did in back the day. This song, then, is one of those times when I liked the song and the video, but the video (eventually) helped me appreciate the song even more.

“Time After Time” reached Number 6 in Australia, Number One in Canada (Gold), 3 in New Zealand, 3 in the UK (Silver in 1984 physical sales, 2x Platinum digital sales since 2005), and Number One on the USA’s Billboard “Hot 100” and on their “Adult Contemporary” charts, as well as Number One on the Cash Box “Top 100” chart. The song was also 5x Platinum in the USA.

The album She's So Unusual reached Number 3 in Australia (Platinum), Number One in Canada (8x Platinum), 3 in New Zealand (Platinum), 16 in the UK (Gold), and 4 on the USA’s “Billboard 200” chart (7x Platinum).

It’s natural to become reflective as we move through life, looking back nostalgically or wistfully at our past, probably especially the time when we were just starting out in our adult lives. The album She's So Unusual (especially its singles) is one of the albums from such a time in my life that can make be reflective—not sad or melancholy, just kind of mindful. That reflection makes me feel grateful for all that was good about those days, and grateful, too, that I survived all that wasn’t. It seems to me, that’s not so unusual at all.

This series will return June 23 with another new Number One song beginning a two-week reign.

Previously in the “Weekend Diversion – 1984” series:

Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 1 – January 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 2 – February 4, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 3 – February 25, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 4 – March 31, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 5 – April 21, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 6 – May 12, 2024
Weekend Diversion: 1984, Part 7 – May 26, 2024

Saturday, June 08, 2024

Not quite yet, thank you

Social media companies, including Facebook, have long had troublesome algorithms. Their problems include politically radicalising people, promoting conspiracy theories, advancing misinformation/disinformation, helping scammers and other criminals to find targets—and also serving up useless ads. Clearly that last one is the last important, but it even that can have negative implications. I found that out this week.

The ads I see on Facebook have always been mixed: Some have been good or interesting, but a lot more were irrelevant—or worse. In recent years, I've been sent ads for fundamentalist “christian” churches/organisations, far-right NZ political parties, and even anti-LGBTQ+ groups, and for all of them I selected “Hide” so I’d never have to see their excremental rubbish. What annoyed me nearly as much as seeing such ads was the fact that the only reason I could give Facebook for hiding the ads was that they were “irrelevant” when there clearly should be the option to choose “offensive”.

This week, the ads took a different turn: They treated me like I’m elderly.

Over the course of four days this week (so far…), I saw the ads in the montage at the top of this post. “When you’re over 65, your immune system is more vulnerable,” the first ads began before going on to say that foods that once were safe suddenly posed a grave risk of bacterial infection—apparently just because I turned 65. Things like cold deli meats, cold cuts, dried sausages, and soft cheeses like brie, are supposed to be off my menu now (cold smoked fish already was, though…).

My first reaction was probably to laugh. It seemed highly improbable that I’d suddenly get sick from making a ham sandwich for lunch, or from having some brie, or anything else I want, but am being told to not to have anymore. Surely, I thought to myself, the issue is food safety, not age?

Next, though, I began to worry that maybe I should be worried about getting a Listeria infection from a sandwich or a cheese board. Maybe I also should’ve known all that, too, and I was stupid, naive, or both for not knowing it. What other hidden horrors of aging were lurking around, waiting to jump out at me? Maybe it was time to panic—make that, PANIC—about what I eat? These dark thoughts mainly happened because I’m already worried about what ageing may be like, primarily because my parents never made it to the age I am now, so I have no examples to go by, and especially because Nigel isn’t here to age along with me.

Those thoughts would never have happened if I’d never seen those ads.

Ultimately, rational reason returned, and I realised that I’ve always used an abundance of caution in food safety. “If in doubt, throw it out” has long been my mantra for food items, though it’s also true that Nigel was far more cautious than I ever was. I also realised that in my lifetime I’ve known plenty of actual elderly people who didn’t flee in terror at first sight of a ham sandwich or a cheese platter that included brie. I’ve also never known an elderly person who was infected—or worse—with Listeria. It seems to me that diligent food safety measures are what matters, and not necessarily cooking things I didn’t used to.

Here in my real world, in addition to practicing good food safety measures, I actually do cook things I supposedly should now avoid. For example, I’ve used sliced sandwich ham in dishes instead of bacon. I’ve also used soft cheeses in a cheese sauce. Even so, I very rarely have any of those things I supposedly should now avoid, so I really don’t have anything to change.

That existential crisis dealt with, a new one popped up today when I saw the ad below. I mean, COME ON! I may or may not need to worry about Listeria, but there’s no way on earth I would want, let alone need, “walking shoes for Elderly Men in 2024”—nor any other year, like, ever. I’ve seen actual elderly men wear shoes like that, and maybe in a decade or two I might decide I need them, but that definitely ain’t happening now.

Naturally, I’m mostly amused at being served that shoes ad, but it does annoy me that the advertiser apparently selected men 65+ as being “elderly”. I’m well aware that there are health issues I now have to pay attention to, like being sure I get my annual influenza vaccination, and maybe I really do need to be extra super-duper cautious with food to avoid Listeria. But I am absolutely NOT “elderly”, nor even close to it—not quite yet, thank you.

These ads may well be typical of what I’ll be seeing from now on. I suppose that’s better than seeing ads that are flat out offensive—though targeting me with ads for “elderly men” is getting pretty damn close to being offensive—for now. Give me a decade or two and I may feel differently—and maybe that’s all the ads I’ll see. Assuming I’m still around by then: After all, a rogue bit of brie may have finished me off before then.

Getting older is just full of surprises.