Seniors beware: some companies want your money

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  August 28, 2020

                    Seniors beware: some companies want your money

In writing this weekly eNewsletter, and my newspaper columns, I am fortunate to hear from many seniors who are willing to share their questions and experiences.

Some Champs have contacted me multiple times over the years. For example, Helen, who lives near Phoenix, has contacted me 19 times in the last 12 years.

On June 6, 2020, Helen emailed: “Phil, my significant other, is in the hospital. I have taken care of him physically since we met in 2003. I am trying to get an Arizona long-term care program and VA benefits in place for him. Today, I hired a company that does that. I feel guilty but at 80 and 1/2, I no longer have the physical mobility to take care of him.”

I asked Helen about the company she hired to help her get benefits for Phil.

Helen responded: “I looked online for senior living and was contacted by some company that I signed up with for assistance. To begin, they required a $3000.00 deposit.”

In mid-August, Helen emailed sad news. “I lost Phil on June 27. He had been in the hospital for over a month, on hospice the last five days. I miss him terribly. I was stressed out, as he wanted to come home until near the last and I was physically unable to take care of him.

“Phil is no longer enduring all the problems he had. He would have detested having to live in a nursing home or adult-care center. 

“With my lack of decent mobility, everything I do takes so long but I am very blessed when I look around at what the world is going through. 

“Regarding the company that has kept my $3,000, I suppose they are within their rights but I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t blindly sign any ‘docu-sign’ things that are sent to one’s email without asking for and waiting to fully examine their contents.

“I asked for half the money back and made numerous phone calls and emails. It was only when I wrote them private messages on their FB page that I got a response. I may write to the BBB but doubt it will do any good and I do not wish to create a problem. Some things are better put aside.”

Before sending my condolences to Helen, I checked the email archives. Her first email to me was on October 24, 2008. In that email, she wrote, among other things, “Phil and I had been to some of the same places while in the military and both were born in obscure little towns in northern CA and grew up in Oregon about 150 miles apart.”

I shared those first-email memories with her.  

She responded: “I no longer feel the need for male companionship. Maybe it’s due to my age, but, also, Phil and I just clicked. 

“Life is o.k. The most difficult part is when a person has no close relatives or really good friends, it can make one feel insecure.

“I worry about our cat even if that sounds silly. I can’t catch him to take him to the vet for routine appointments and to get his claws trimmed. He is so bored and wants out and misses Phil a lot. So Petey and I are now holding down the fort.”

I responded: “Even with your pain, you have a great attitude. I know you miss Phil terribly–I can only imagine the emptiness you feel after 17 years. But stand tall, you took care of him and were the strong one. Be proud of what you did.”

A lesson for seniors. Be careful when engaging a company online to help find a senior living place. It can be expensive and a waste of money. Three weeks after Helen signed up for that company’s assistance, her Phil passed away.

Thanks to Helen for sharing her story.

 Part 2 – A look back at the start of COVID-19 in the USA – a can of organic pinto beans

It seems so long ago. None of us knew what was happening. On March 16, I went to Trader Joe’s to purchase some cans of black beans so that we’d have food that would last. I waited in line to get in. Finally, I entered the store and went to the shelf where the beans were located. Here’s what I found:

The canned goods shelves at Trader Joe’s in Laguna Niguel, California on March 16, 2020

There were no black beans. I snapped this photo. A store employee requested no photos of their empty shelves, but I had already taken the picture.  Only, one can of organic pinto beans was left, which I put in my cart. There were no paper towels, no toilet tissue. I was shocked. Who could imagine, five months later, that we’d still be dealing with this pandemic?

What lies ahead? Let’s hope, five months from now, we’ll be free to move about without restriction. It’s been the strangest of times. Stay safe.

A mortgage refinance made sense for me

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – August 21, 2020

by columnist Tom Blake

             A mortgage refinance made sense for me and other stories

Last Friday morning, I received an email from a long-time friend who used to be a yacht captain on boats in Dana Point Harbor. He had read the eNewsletter about the homecoming king and queen and wrote to touch base. “Take care. Hope you are well,” Champ Captain Richard Carnesale signed off.

About six hours later, I’m sitting in a rather large waiting room of a large doctor’s office in nearby Laguna Hills, with Greta, who was having an eye examination. It was like mask-city; every person was wearing one. I saw a man emerge from one of the consultation-rooms and walk toward the front desk. I said to Greta, “That man looks like Captain Richard.” I didn’t know for sure because of the mask.

Then the lady at the front desk called his name. He walked there. I moved to within 10 feet of him and said, “Thanks for the email this morning.”

We had a nice chuckle about the coincidence and talked for a few minutes after he checked out.

Ten years ago, Captain Richard and I worked together on a story about a yacht-Ponzi scheme that happened in Dana Point Harbor. Captain Richard had worked with the man for 27 years who swindled several investors. Here is a picture of Captain Richard from an article I wrote in The Dana Point Times on July 13, 2012, about the case.

Captain Richard Carnesale with photo of the man who swindled investors

I also wrote an ebook titled “Dana Point Yacht Ponzi.” You can order it on for .99 cents by using the promo code BM58K

                            From Seattle – A Star Spangled Night

Champ Ellen, Seattle, emailed: “In case you don’t remember me, I’m the lady who sang the National Anthem at the Anaheim Angels baseball game, oh so many years ago, that you did a lovely column about.”

Tom’s response to Ellen: “Of course, I remember. I was seated behind home plate near you. An Angels’ employee came and escorted you to the pitcher’s mound. I noticed your name on the scoreboard monitor. You did a great rendition of the National Anthem.

“When you returned to your seat, I introduced myself. I think we might have had one coffee date. That column was titled, “A Star Spangled Night,” and was published on August 30, 1995, almost 25 years ago to the day. It was the 61st column I had written (now over 4,000).

Ellen added, “I read in your 8/14/20 eNewsletter that you met Diane Sawyer. I’m envious. I have a picture of her in my scrapbook from when she crowned Linda Felber, America’s Junior Miss in 1964. Linda was from a little town 20 miles away from where I grew up.

“I also have a picture with Johnny Cash. He sang at a Luther League Convention when I was in college. I was charged with keeping him comfortable. He was very quiet.  A friend was the President of the National Luther League group, which is how I got the ‘job.’ 

“Earlier, in 1967, I sang for that convention in the Dallas Convention Center. I thought it would be my biggest audience ever: 17,000 young people. But, the 35,000 fans at the baseball game topped that.

“Paul and I have been together for nine years. Our initial meeting was thru business, thru a networking group. Then some years later, someone else that was a referral from that same networking group, also knew him and set us up to meet at a political breakfast. 

“I remembered him; he didn’t remember me. He was in a relationship when we first met. 

After breakfast, we planned to have coffee, but in the end, we got together to see a house jazz concert and the rest is history.

“We are happy to be in Seattle with a little cooler weather. I’m still ‘working.’  Became an insurance agent specializing in Medicare. I keep trying to retire, but it’s hard when you can help people understand this very confusing plan. Fortunately, it’s seasonal.”

More small-world stuff – a common bond in Grand Haven Michigan

On Sunday, August 9, I received an email from a Champ named Larry who travels between a summer home in Michigan, a home in Florida, and the home of his daughters and granddaughters in Laguna Niguel, California. He has been a widower for a year after 45 years of marriage.

He became a subscriber to this eNewsletter (a Champ) by searching online for senior dating in Orange County. He found my website and signed up.

In exchanging emails, we discovered that Larry, and my Uncle, George Pardee, were great friends while Larry was the City Manager of Grand Haven, Michigan. That was like 40 years ago. 

Larry was in Laguna Niguel this week so we got together for lunch at Tutor and Spunky’s, my former deli, in Dana Point. Larry will be back in Southern California in October, November, and December.

Tom and Champ Larry near Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point

  My friendship with another remarkable Champ – Les Jones, a World War II vet led to a mortgage refinance for me that made sense

Les Jones has been a Champ and a personal friend for more than three years. He’s also a widower. He’s 94 and lives in San Juan Capistrano. A couple of months ago, we were talking about real estate. I told Les I’d like to refinance my mortgage but three lenders I contacted felt I wouldn’t qualify.

Les said, “You should contact my friend Vanessa Schwartz. I’m working with her on financing some real estate and she does incredible work, especially with veterans.

I called Vanessa. She said, “We can make this refinance happen.” My interest rate was 4.25% at that time.

On Wednesday this week, Vanessa, Les, and I got together for lunch in San Juan Capistrano to celebrate my refinance. My loan went to 2.88%. A vast improvement over the first loan I ever had in Orange County in 1987 at 13%.

As a World War II vet, Les is good friends with Gary Sinese—actor, director, musician, and producer–who sponsors the Sinese Foundation, which benefits veterans.

Vanessa said, “I was so inspired and enlightened by Les’s stories and how so many that had served allow us to enjoy the freedoms that we have today. It gave me such a higher level of appreciation and gratitude. It made me want to help and this seemed like the perfect way to help those men and women and their families. 

“I know the Sinise Foundation is near and dear to Les, not to mention that every dollar goes to those in need (none kept for management). I’m doing this, not to pay back, but to give recognition and appreciation. It really feels good to do this and I hope to write a lot more checks.”

Vanessa can be reached at or email 

Because of our Champ Les, and because I am a veteran, and because Les introduced me to Vanessa, she donated $1,000 to the Sinese Foundation. Here’s the three of us after lunch.

 Les Jones, WW II vet, Vanessa Schwartz, and Tom Blake on August 19, 2020

It was a busy and rewarding week. Knowing so many of you incredible Champs is an inspiration to me. Stay safe.

Scenes from An Italian Restaurant

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  August 14, 2020
                             Scenes from An Italian Restaurant

By Tom Blake columnist

 I have often stated that opinions and experiences shared by our Champs are what make publishing this eNewsletter possible each week.

Today’s help came from Stephanie in the Midwest. She saw an article in the New York Post newspaper that she felt all of us would enjoy.

Sometimes, the information from Champs strikes a chord with me in some strange, remote-connection sort of way. That happened with Stephanie’s information this week.

The essence of today’s story from the NY Post is about two students who were crowned homecoming king and queen in 1992 at Montclair State University in New Jersey. The crowning took place on the 50-yard line of the school’s football field during halftime of a game. The king and queen knew each other, but never dated.

After college, the homecoming king and the queen went separate ways. Each one married and had children, and each divorced in 2016.

Both joined the dating app Bumble. They were surprised to come across each other, as it had been pretty much out-of-sight, out-of-mind for 24 years.

On April 5 of this year, the king proposed to the queen. On August 1, they married on the same football field where they had been crowned 28 years before. Montclair State University cooperated by hosting a wedding with social distancing in place.

Granted, these kids are much younger than most of us. However, the love story is still pretty darn neat. The article quoted the king about his re-meeting the queen: “There was instant trust and warmth. We just slipped right into the conversation as if we were sitting in the school cafeteria. I didn’t want it to end.”

The words: as if we were sitting in the school cafeteria? are a perfect description.  

Their honeymoon was a bit unusual as well. On August 4, the king had knee-replacement surgery at St. Barnabas Hospital.

Strike-a-chord situation number one

How did this story strike a chord with me? First, it happened at Montclair State University. How many people have been there? (No offense intended) Or, even heard of it? Well maybe more than one realizes, after all, it is the second-largest university in New Jersey.

I was there in 1961, after my college graduation. I was hired by Irving Trust Company in NYC. A fellow DePauw University graduate named Peter Work lived near Montclair, NJ. We decided to get together. He was a heck of a football player at DePauw and he wanted to go to the Montclair State University football game that weekend, which we did.

While getting a Coca Cola at halftime, we met two nice coeds. We sat with them during the second half. We invited them on dates, but they felt Peter and I were too old for them (they were juniors, probably 19 or 20).

However, I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Montclair State University because of that one day in 1961.

                        Strike-a-chord situation number two

But there was a second strike-a-chord situation for me from this king and queen story. It made me think of my favorite Billy Joel song, “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” which was on The Stranger album.

In the song, Joel sings about Brenda (I swear, sometimes Joel pronounces her name Brender) and Eddie, the queen, and the king of the prom. And how they married too soon out of school. And quickly got divorced. 

So this week, when I read the NY Post king and queen article that Stephanie sent, it reminded me of Joel’s song about Brenda and Eddie. I pondered the contrast of those two king and queen relationships. 

In 2005, Greta and I, and her daughter Tammi, went to NYC when I was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America.

June 2005 – Tom, Greta and Diane Sawyer on GMA

On one of the nights in NYC, Greta, Tammi and I went to the Broadway musical, “Movin’ Out,” the story of Billy Joel’s music. My favorite song in that production was “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.”

                      Poster from Movin” Out

I wonder if the Montclair State couple had gotten married right out of school, if they would have stayed together, unlike what happened to Brenda and Eddie? 

Or, what if Brenda and Eddie, had waited 28 years to get marry? What would have happened?

So, Champ Stephanie’s thoughtfulness triggered today’s eNewsletter. Wonderful memories, coincidences, and strange ponderings by me.

Treat yourself to listening to “Scenes from An Italian Restaurant.” Don’t be in a hurry, it’s 7:37 of pure joy. And, oh my gosh, Richie Cannata, the saxophone player is incredible.

You can click on “Skip the ads” soon after the video begins.

Thanks, Stephanie, for providing this week’s topic.

Link to New York Post article:

Joe L Brown widow and widower love story responses

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  July 31, 2020

by Tom P Blake columnist

                       Six words. Succinct Responses from Women Champs

Andree, San Clemente, Ca., responded to last week’s eNewsletter about the romance of Paulita and Joe L Brown. What Andree wrote was concise, short, and meaningful:
“Your story gives me hope at 71 years young. I do not want to marry again, once was enough for me. Having a nice partner to do things with would be lovely. I trust in God and if it’s meant to be it will be. I am blessed having many friends, male and female. And I have lifetime friends all over California.”
Responses from three other women to last week’s eNewsletter echo Andree’s words.
Jennifer, “This is a warm and wonderful widow and widower love story and I sure hope it happens to me, too.”
Kathy B., “Thank you for another encouraging and heartwarming story of senior love. During this time of sometimes complete isolation, the glimmer of hope shines through; this is one of those glimmers.”
Reni, “That’s a story that warmed my heart; I wish I could find a love like that after my husband, the light of my life, passed four and a half years ago. Thanks for sharing and giving hope.”
In my opinion, the sentences the above four women shared can be culled down to six words, which are listed below, with my comments under each word.  
1 Hope
Hope is something we all need. Hope is positive. It provides us with a warm glow and gives us a purpose for which to live. It’s a feeling that reminds us that everything’s going to be all right.
2 Age
At age 71, Andree is, indeed young. Lots of great things can happen in her life. I think of my mom, who was widowed at age 55 and then lived 43 years on her own. She kept her mind and body active. She loved her life and made the best of it, where she lived in an adult community called Oakmont, in Santa Rosa, Ca. At 91, she bought a new car. She was an avid reader. She played her last hand of bridge three weeks before she died, four months shy of age 99. So, indeed, Andree is young.
3 Marriage
Whether a person Andree’s age has never married, or been married once, twice, three times or even more, I understand not wanting to marry again.
Greta and I have been together 23 years. We both were married more than once. We didn’t see the need to do that again. For us, our life has been great together. Champs who don’t want to marry again have lots of company within our group of approximately 2,000 members.
However, if older people want to remarry, that’s ok, nothing wrong with that, if it’s right for them.
I have a buddy in Hawaii who just married for the first time at age 72.
4. Companionship
Oh wow, this is “the biggie” among our women Champs. I can’t tell you how many of them say having someone to share things with is their biggest wish.
And it’s the most elusive wish. In 26 years, I’ve quoted hundreds of women who’ve asked “Where are the men?”
At Andree’s age, the ratio of single women to single men is approximately 3.5-to-one. (Plus, some women proclaim that not all men in the dating pool are relationship material!). Hence, a more accurate ratio may be close to four-to-one. Now that’s a challenge. But, that’s where hope comes in. It’s still possible, but getting out and about are essential to helping reduce that ratio. And, of course, now, during the pandemic, that is more difficult.
5. Faith
Many women Champs say they trust in a higher power to bring them a match. Most of them, also add, that they realize they can’t just sit home and expect Mr. Right to appear. They understand, when the virus subsides, they will need to get out and about. Of course, a little help from above would be graciously appreciated.
6. Friends
Staying in touch with friends is particularly important during this time of quarantine. We have written about the damaging effects of loneliness on the health of seniors in previous eNewsletters. According to doctors and research, loneliness can be as deadly as many of the nasty diseases out there. Avoid social isolation.
Reach out by phone (face time) or email or Zoom to see and interact with each other. As we wrote about a month ago, “Don’t let the old man or old woman in!” Take the initiative. Contact those friends. Meet in-person safely with them while ensuring proper distancing. Avoid close-together group gatherings.

The Canadian pronghorn antelope

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  August 7, 2020

by columnist Tom P Blake

                         The Canadian pronghorn antelope

An exasperated male Champ has raised his arms in frustration. Martin emailed this week: “What is the answer to all this lack of love between the sexes? I am 76, a healthy male. I find women around my age so independent these days they are more interested in their dogs or pets than a good loving intimate relationship.

“I have found most dating sites a waste of time with most women just playing a game and not at all serious about finding a good man.

“Have all women lost their hormones? Trying to make love more than once a week is almost impossible in a lot of relationships–mine included. A big problem is a difference in libido! Don’t women realize how healthy sex is for the human body? What happened to Senior sex?

“I compare this dating game to my hobby of keeping chickens. When I let them out of the barn in the morning, my rooster tries to chase and mount some of his harem but with great difficulty.

“The hens don’t want him but he catches them. Are the hens playing a game also? It’s a wonder I ever get any fertile eggs being laid. Two hens seem to like him and roost next to him on the perch at night.”

The email was signed: “Yours, a frustrated human rooster, Martin.”

Nearly at a loss for words, I wrote to Martin: “Dear Frustrated Human Rooster. May I print what you wrote?”

Martin said, “Yes. I am a Canadian living in Marmora, Ontario. I was in a love affair for over 10 years. The relationship kept getting worse.

“We were opposites, but initially the sex was good. I felt she had some hang-ups; she worked less and less at keeping the relationship together.

“Now with COVID-19 she has said, ‘That’s it,’ ‘goodbye,’ and bought a $2000 dog for company.”

I answered: “Your words, a $2,000 dog for company remind me of my first-ever newspaper column, written July 7, 1994, titled, “Home Alone with only dogs for company.” That column was written six months after my wife, without warning, cleaned out the house on Christmas Eve 1993 and moved out of my life. I was away visiting my 83-year-old mom in Northern California. 

“The gist of that column wasn’t about wondering if women had lost their interest in sex, rather, it was whether they had lost their interest in dating altogether. I couldn’t get anybody to go out with me.

“Similar to what your girlfriend said to you, “That’s it,” my wife also had done the same. 

“I didn’t have to buy a $2,000 dog, I already had two dogs at home. Besides thoughtfully leaving them for me, my wife left four other items: a TV, bed, couch and a cassette player. That’s it: six items. 

“I think the answer for you might be: “She’s just not that into you,” a take-off from the popular, ‘He’s just not that into you,’ book from the 2004-2005 era.

“In the 1970s, when I was single and working for the Victoria Station restaurant chain, one of the founders, Bob Freeman, liked to jerk my chain. He called me “a pronghorn antelope,” describing his perception of my dating modus operandi (pronghorns, by the way, aren’t antelopes; they are classified as mammals. They are the fastest land animal in North America, 60 miles per hour).

Pronghorn antelopes   (photo courtesy San Diego Zoo)

Bottom line: 42-years later, undoubtedly, some men are still pronghorn antelopes. But Marty, since, you are north of the border, we’ll call you “The Canadian pronghorn antelope.”

“Cool your jets. Take a deep breath. Tend to your chickens. Becoming single later in life is a bear. Although you may not see it at the current time, someone more compatible with you could enter your life, when you least expect it.

“Who knows? Maybe one of our woman Champs, who lives near Ontario, will ask to correspond with you.“If that happens, put your libido in the Canadian deep freeze, at least until the spring thaw.” Senior sex can wait.