Should we go? (on a road trip)

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – September 25, 2020

by Tom Blake Columnist

                                    Part One – Should We Go?

It seems that every time my partner Greta and I plan a trip, situations arise beforehand that make us ask: “Should we go?”

In 2004, we planned a train trip from Madrid to other cities in Spain. A couple of weeks before our scheduled departure, terrorists bombed Madrid’s Atocha Train Station. The bomb was detonated on the tracks from which our train was scheduled to depart.

In a column, I asked Champs: “Should Greta and I go on this trip?” Champs responded with a resounding “Yes! If you cancel, you let the terrorists win.”

Greta and I decided to go. However, we canceled our train reservations and rented a car instead. Navigating hundreds of confusing roundabouts likely made driving more dangerous than taking the train.

This year, we canceled an 82-day roundtrip cruise that was departing in October from Ft. Lauderdale. The ship’s itinerary included crossing the Atlantic Ocean, navigating the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, and circumventing the coast of Africa and back to Florida.

You’re probably thinking: “COVID-19 must have forced you to cancel.”

But that wasn’t the reason. We canceled before the pandemic arrived. We decided against going because a 737-passenger airliner was shot down with a missile over Iran in January 2020.

Our thinking was: Tensions in the Middle East are heating up again. Our itinerary takes us into the Middle East. If a commercial airliner can be shot down, what’s to stop some crazies from shooting a missile into a cruise ship with the words “Holland America” emblazoned on the smokestack? In addition, the itinerary was taking us through places where pirates had attacked ships recently.

As it turns out, Holland America canceled the cruise a few weeks later due to the pandemic.

We still had a yen to travel. In February this year, we made reservations to take the train to Seattle for a week beginning March 9 to visit relatives. In early March, when COVID-19 first surfaced in the USA, Seattle was the initial hot spot in America.

We wondered “Should we go?” We thought that being on a train for 33 hours going to a pandemic hot spot was not a good idea. We canceled.

Last month, the pandemic seemed to be easing somewhat. We had a one-week timeshare to use before the timeshare expired in October. So, we booked a resort in the Napa Valley wine country for September 20 to 27.

Our plan was to drive from Dana Point up the 5 Freeway, stop a night at Harris Ranch, and then on to Napa. On the return trip, we planned to spend a night at the Davenport Roadhouse (a few miles north of Santa Cruz), which is owned by friends of ours. And other friends were going to join us for dinner at the Roadhouse. And yet we wondered: “Should we go?”

Of course, we knew we’d have to be careful with the still-active pandemic. To avoid public restroom stops along the way, we purchased a portable camping toilet that fits on the backseat floor in our CRV. We even tested sitting on it in the car. We were ready to roll.

 Tom and Greta’s personal travel aid

I promised Greta if the portable was necessary to use along the way, I’d even pull over and stop the car. We wanted no backseat tumbles or mishaps while the car was moving!

And then in late August, the heatwaves hit California. We thought, “What happens if our car breaks down? Maybe we should rent a car? If a rental car broke down, the rental company would provide a replacement.” But, with the pandemic, we didn’t want to drive a car that other people had recently driven.

The heat meant we’d likely be inside in air conditioning most of the time.

And then the fires hit California. The two places we were going, Napa and Santa Cruz, were, where the second and third-largest fires, respectively, in California history were burning. The friends we were meeting for dinner in Davenport lost their home to fire. Plus, their son lost his home and my buddy’s sister lost her home. The air quality in both places was dangerous.

On September 7, California closed several national forests due to new fires. Who could forecast what September 20 would bring fire-wise? Would we have to worry about heat, fires, and air quality? Again we asked: “Should we go?”

All these considerations kept nagging at us. We thought: “For now, we should just stay home. Why chance it?”

We decided South Orange County is a good place to quarantine. I do my Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Dana Point Harbor, and Greta will do water aerobics when the pool where she swims re-opens.

So, we opted not to go, at least not now.

Oh, does anyone need a portable camping toilet that’s never been used for a cheap price? I suppose we could have a yard sale.

Tom’s comment: After this eNewsletter was published, one of Tom’s readers, aka Champs, offered to purchase the portable potty. But, Tom’s partner Greta didn’t want to sell it after all, saying sometime in the future they might use it.

            Part 2 – Comments from Champs – Liars, losers and lunatics

Jim – Humor columnist for Desert Exposure Magazine (

“Regarding the term,”breadcrumbed.” It could have applied to my first marriage. I gave her bread; she gave me crumbs.”

Arlene – “How ironic you mentioned POF (the free dating site, Plenty of Fish). I’ve been on it for years, to no avail. Lots of liars, losers, and lunatics. Currently, a man in Beverly Hills (iffy if he’s from there) contacted me. He says he’s a yacht-designer. OK. Yesterday, he left for Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and the oil fields (?). He says he’s from Spain and is calling me ‘mi amour,’ etc.

“I have never met this man and am amused by his stories. I guess it’s a diversion more than anything that could make me hope it’s a possible match.

“My feelings are that we are not puppies. Time is of the essence in finding someone. I hate being alone; no kids or family here. I am unable to get a pet due to regulations where I live. Wasting time I abhor. Yet, here I sit alone at 67. Covid has halted my dancing and club activities. ZZZZZ”

                            Tom’s response to Arlene:

Of course, the man you met on POF (the yacht designer) is most likely a scammer. What is a yacht designer doing in the Alaskan oil fields–doesn’t track? And the Beverly Hills aspect sounds bogus also. Don’t believe him. That’s the M.O. of a scammer.

Sometimes these guys send a token gift that makes gullible senior women believe the guy is for real. Some women end up losing a lot of money. Please, please, don’t buy into it.

Finally Meeting Willie Nelson (sort of)

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  September 18, 2020

by Columnist Tom Blake

Part One – Finally meeting Wille Nelson (sort of)

Some of you know that I worked with Johnny Cash for two years in the 1970s. One of Johnny’s best buddies was Willie Nelson. And while I met some of Johnny’s buddies, such as Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes),” Larry Gatlin, John Denver, Roger Miller, and Glen Campbell, I never met Willie Nelson.

I promised myself that if I ever meet Willie, I would share with Willie how highly Johnny spoke of him. I’ve tried a few times at Willie’s concerts to meet him but haven’t been successful. Willie’s 87 now, so my chances of meeting him face-to-face, are slim to none, especially during the pandemic.

However, on September 25, I hope to meet “True Willie” at an unusual concert event. Who the heck is “True Willie?” His real name is Roger Hegyi. For years, Roger has fronted a band called “The True Willie Band.” They are considered the most authentic Willie Nelson tribute band in America. Roger’s role is Willie. He lives in nearby Laguna Niguel.

True Willie and the Boys are outstanding. They also perform “The Highwaymen” songs and Kris Kristofferson songs. Greta and I saw them perform four years ago at an outdoor concert at the historical Mission San Juan Capistrano. We were amazed how much Roger looks like and sounds like, the real Willie Nelson.

Link to True Willie website:

True Willie Band at Willie Nelson sculpture in Austin Texas 
                                                                   Photo courtesy True Willie

On Friday, September 25, the City of Irvine (California), in partnership with the Irvine Barclay Theatre, is hosting a drive-in format concert at the Orange County Great Park. That’s right, people watch a live concert from their cars, as they would watch a drive-in movie. For Champs living in Southern California, who would like to experience this unique event, tickets are on sale at

Tickets are $25 per car. Available tickets are limited. Greta and I bought our ticket on Tuesday.

Why do I think I might meet “True Willie” on that Friday night? Because my Stand Up Paddle Boarding pal, Russell Kerr, is a friend of Roger, aka True Willie. Russell says if I ease up and allow him to paddle faster than I paddle, for even just one day, he “might introduce me to True Willie.” And since I likely won’t meet the real Willie Nelson, Roger would be the perfect anecdote to my having the never-met-Willie-Nelson issue.

Tom’s note: (I’m only joking about paddling faster than Russell. We usually paddle at the same speed, but, when Russell wants to turn on the after-burners, he can leave me far behind in his wake.)

A drive-in “live” concert sounds like a fun option during this restricted time when most concerts are canceled. Greta and I will be packing a picnic lunch and heading for the Great Park. I’ll report on the concert and experience in early October.

Updated note from Tom: Greta and I did go to the concert last night. It was awesome. Details next week. And yes, I did meet True Willie, albeit briefly. I gave him an autographed copy of my book “Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?” which features Johnny Cash and me on the cover.

                           Part 2 Positive news from Champ Ken

Champ Ken wrote, “Add to the challenges of dating during the pandemic, from your article last week, these thoughts: ‘Those of us who have actually HAD the Covid and now are still forced to meet all the rules. Mine was nine weeks ago, like a bad head cold for three days and a mild fever. Antibody test says I had it. I’m 62 and in good health with no other conditions, so I had no real issues.”

      Part 3 – Tom was taken to task for not following Covid guidelines

Champ Althea emailed, “I was shocked to see that picture of you standing next to Dave. You were not six feet apart and neither of you wore a mask. Why not? You don’t live with him, you met for lunch, you said you sat four-feet apart–should be six–and wore masks upon arriving and departing. So why not in the photo where you’re standing right next to each other?

“And about Champs ‘dating’ in this COVID-19 year. I ask, why do we need to date? Why do we need to meet strangers now? We can’t touch, hug, kiss, or even stand closer than six feet to a date, and we must meet with masks on, which, in itself is a turnoff.

“I say forget outside dating until 2021, and then see where things are with the virus. Being lonely for companionship is not worth the risk of getting sick or dying, especially for us Champs over 65.  

“If you’re lonely, then chat online, talk on the phone – that old-fashioned thing that used to work so well – talk to each other through Skype or on the other video chats, Facebook and even Zoom.

“Most online dating sites seem pointless because you have to pay money to be able to meet people (POF is free, but on that site, there are way too many scammers). Scammers are on all sites. Pay to only be able to chat online or through a video call? Why bother?” 

Tom’s response to Althea. You are right with your concerns. We took our masks off for the photo. And we dined outdoors. I don’t agree, however, with waiting to date until 2001. I do say, do it with extreme caution. 

Also, I think it was important to get my friend Dave out of the house and just chat. To have him stay at home after 23 years of caring for his wife, where he wasn’t able to make many new friends, could harm him almost as much as the virus. Social interaction for him is important. And social interaction is important for Greta and me, we haven’t been out much either. 

So, yes, we stretched the guidelines a bit. But, we were still careful. 

Another point, if Dave and I had been wearing masks during the picture, a plethora of women Champs would have said, “By Dave wearing a mask, how do we know what he looks like?” It was a no-win situation.

      Part 4 – Senior dating encounter & face-mask suggestion

Champ Linda emailed, “Thanks for a great truthful eNewsletter! I was introduced to a gentleman last week by a friend and we all wore masks. It was a brief encounter, at a grocery store, but hopefully, I’ll see him again. Maybe we’ll recognize each other by our voices.

“I wore a small straw hat with a band I had put on, so the hat should be one-of-a-kind. I could wear it whenever I go shopping there.

“Also, we could start a new fad by having masks made that look like us, or maybe Julia Roberts?

“Or, wear a name tag with our picture and first name? I hope you get other suggestions too.”

       Part 5 – Breadcrumb dating on the rise during the pandemic?

I received an email this week that stated, “Have you ever been on an amazing first date, just to have the person fall off the face of the earth only to reappear months later as if nothing had happened? That’s breadcrumbing. 

“The dating phenomena now referred to as ‘breadcrumbing,’ has spiked due to COVID-19, with more and more singles reporting they’re receiving messages from their on-and-off exes.

“Exes are going back to one another because they are unable to form new bonds due to the lockdown order. The problem here is that these individuals have unhealthy attachment styles and will disappear once they feel that the commitment is becoming too much, leaving the other person heartbroken and confused all over again,” a relationship expert, Tracy Crossley, who claims responsibility for coining the ‘breadcrumbing’ term, stated.

Tom’s comment: I’m uncertain how Ms. Crossley knows that ‘more and more singles’ are being breadcrumbed during the pandemic. It does make sense, however. How about you Champs? Have you been breadcrumed in the last six months? Have any former bread-crumbers (those dirty dogs) tried to enter your life? Let us know.

Senior dating challenges during pandemic

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  September 11, 2020

by Columnist Tom Blake

                   Senior dating challenges during pandemic

For years, I’ve stated the best way for senior singles to meet potential mates is to get off the couch and out of the house.

However, that advice hasn’t been very useful over the past six months. We’ve been quarantined and encouraged to stay home. So, how do senior singles overcome dating challenges during pandemic times trying to meet new people?

Choices are limited. Senior centers and other senior gathering places are closed. For example, the senior Meet and Greets at Tutor and Spunky’s, my former deli in Dana Point are on hold. The most recent event took place in January.

And when we go to a grocery store or any place indoors, we must wear a mask. It’s difficult to check somebody out from a distance when faces are covered. You don’t approach someone wearing a mask and say, “Excuse me, would you lower your mask so I can see what you look like?”

Internet dating has become the most useful dating tool in 2020. My email inbox is bombarded with online dating-site messages. An estimated 1,500 new dating sites have emerged this year. But, do seniors really want to click on sites with names such as “Cobble,” “Pokerface,” “Say Allo,” “IsMyGirl,” “Live” (speed dating), “Stripchat” or “Extreme age-gap?” Most likely not.

As the number of online sites has increased, so has the number of scammers. Seniors are targets for scammers. Many seniors are lonely, which makes them vulnerable.

Scammers use robocalls, which arrive on our cellphones daily; we should avoid answering them.

But let’s say a senior does meet a prospective mate online, using sites like, eHarmony, or Plenty of Fish (POF). The advice from dating coaches has always been to meet face-to-face as soon as possible, to avoid wasting time on the wrong person.

But that thinking has changed. Sure, singles can still try to meet face-to-face (or should we say “mask-to-mask?”), but, they need to ask themselves, “Is it worth the health risk?”

Before meeting “mask-to-mask,” should each person take a COVID-19 test and bring the results to the date? An Abbott Labs test recently released called BinaxNOW provides results in approximately 15 minutes, does not need any other instrumentation, is very reliable and costs only $5.00.

On a first date, or any date, does each person wear a mask or gloves and place a package of hand sanitizers/wipes on the table? 

Does each show up with a thermometer and take his or her temperature and then show the results to the other person, proving he or she isn’t overheated?

A thermometer for her and a thermometer for him

One of our Champs wrote: “You can probably forget about kissing (can we say Russian roulette every time?)”

How about hugs? That’s always been a nice way to end a date when a kiss would be premature. Even hugs are risky. Yes, senior dating during the pandemic is a challenge.

How can senior singles feel safe meeting a stranger on a first date? Some are trying, respecting social distancing and mask guidelines.

This week, Greta and I met two Champs for lunch. We wore masks upon arrival and departure and sat four feet apart while having our lunch. One of the Champs was Dave, a recent widower we mentioned last week, who appreciated getting out with people. He is doing remarkably well. So positive. So upbeat. Here is a photo of Dave and Tom.

Dave and Tom at lunch on Tuesday

People in established long-distance relationships where air travel is required to be together, are being particularly challenged, especially if one person resides in a foreign country.

Last week the news reported that the Canadian border will be closed for another month. So, Americans and Canadians dating across the border but living apart probably haven’t seen each other in person for months.

Larry, a former neighbor of mine, lives with his girlfriend, Emy, of five years in the Philippine Islands. He had to return to the United States in early January for a few weeks. He said, “I continue to be stranded in the United States. My first return flight, scheduled for March 20 this year, was cancelled by the airline.

“I had to cancel my second flight this month, because the Manila Airport remains closed to foreigners. I am now holding reservations to fly from LAX to Manilla on December 9.”

Will senior dating get easier? Not likely any time soon. A former fraternity brother of mine, a highly regarded doctor, emails a Coronavirus bi-weekly update, based upon the University of Washington’s IHME ((Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) data.

On September 5, he emailed: “The data sees lots of trouble around December 1 – worse than anything we’ve seen. Buckle your seat belts, we have a long journey ahead of us only to be avoided with effective vaccines.”

So, Champs, if you are going to meet in person, wear your mask, keep your distance, and save the hugs and kisses for later. And write and tell us how the date went and how the challenges during the pandemic were addressed.

Seniors beware of reverse mortgages

  On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – September 4, 2020

by Thomas P Blake author and columnist

Welcome to new subscribers this week. As you know, I call our subscribers “Champs.” Why? Because that’s what they are. I’d particularly like to welcome Dave, a friend I’ve known for more than 25 years. More about him a little later in today’s column.

Last week’s eNewsletter featured Helen, Phoenix, age 80 1/2, whose significant other, Phil, passed away on June 27. She paid $3,000 to a company to find a senior living residence for Phil, three weeks before he died. She’s had no success trying to get some of that money back. 

Champ Larry emailed, “What a timely article!

“I’ve had a dear friend for 48.5 years who decided to get a reverse mortgage to augment his monthly Social Security check.

“He found a phone number on TV offering reverse mortgages and called them for help.

“He was fortunate. He asked me to review the paperwork before he signed and executed this loan.

“The scammers wanted $11,432.00 in loan origination fees plus 5% Interest. These fees had various bogus names. What a TOTAL RIP OFF!

“If anyone needs a reverse mortgage, I suggest getting competitive quotes from your local established banks!

“My advice for seniors: do not buy anything advertised on TV because you can usually buy it for less in your own neighborhood. Also, sometimes when they get your credit card number, you will receive stuff every month that you do not want charged to your credit card!”

Tom’s response: Good advice Larry. More than likely, your comments will help some Champs avoid be taken in a reverse-mortgage scam. I’m not saying all reverse mortgages are bad, but from the reverse-mortgage experiences, people have shared with me, nearly all were bad. I have friends who paid to get out of them. Be very careful, if you are considering a reverse mortgage.

By the way, I’ve known Larry for nearly 30 years, when he lived two doors down from me in Dana Point.

Larry is now in the longest, senior internet long-distance relationship I’ve ever heard of. Until now, that honor (at least among Champs) was held by Chris and Tina, who dated for 14 years at an approximate distance of 5,419 miles—between San Clemente, California and England. Chris and Tina married in 2017.

Larry’s senior long-distance relationship of five years with Emy totals approximately 7,405 miles-between the West coast of California and Davao City, Philippines.

 Emy and Larry – Currently stranded apart by the pandemic

The biggest drawback during COVID-19 is he is stranded in the United States. The Manila Airport is closed to foreigners. Larry and Emy hope to marry in early 2021 but with so much uncertainty surrounding the virus, they will have to wait and see.

Champ Bobbi emailed“Sorry this response is too late to help Helen, but anyone belonging to the VA has a case worker of sorts. They will work with your doctor and place you in the nearest facility most suited to your needs.

“Hospice will also advise and assist you. Never turn to outside companies, and the $3,000 dollars that Helen paid is way out of line.

“My cousin has been at a VA Facility here in Menlo Park (California) and I must say it is a beautiful, clean, building. The nursing/dr staff are outstanding and very accommodating. He turned 100 on August 3, they had balloons, birthday cake, gifts, etc. for him. His mind is still sharp as a tack, but his knees are gone and he had a foot problem, so he can’t live alone.

“His girlfriend is now 88 and could not care for him properly. She’s an angel. The sad part is not being able to visit in person, only phones. We are planning to have a window-visit outside, hoping that will work out.

Champ Rosemarie, updated us from her country, “In South Africa, restrictions are still very much in place: home by 10 p.m. and out again at 4 a.m.  Wear masks outside at all times. Borders are still closed, we can only travel around South Africa.

“We can fly overseas starting in mid-April, 2021. I miss traveling, especially to my home in Germany, to see my brother.”

                                                 Champ Rosemarie

“I am still by myself, even after starting to date 13 years ago. Lately, lots of scammers online; I know they are only online for money, so I delete them straightaway.”

Welcome to New Champ Dave

Technically, Dave isn’t a new Champ. In my and Greta’s opinion, he’s been a Champ for 23 years. He’s just a new Champ to our group. Here’s some background:

Dave and Norma married in 1961. I first met them in 1995. One of my buddies is married to their daughter Tracy.  

In the late 1990s, a healthy and physically active Norma caught a virus, completely out of the blue. Overnight, she was unable to move from the waist down. A wheelchair became her mode of transportation.

The next 23 years became a huge challenge for Norma, Dave, and Tracy.

Dave would bring Norma to social events, usually at Tracy’s house. Norma was always upbeat.

As the years progressed, Norma became more and more bedridden. The challenges became greater for her, and for Dave. However, he was always there for her.

Greta and I admired Dave’s love and devotion to his wife. He had been a successful shoe salesman in Los Angeles, calling on clients for 48 years.

Dave and I could relate to each other, we were about the same age. Dave did every possible thing he could for Norma. 

Four months ago, a few days before Mother’s Day, Norma passed away.

I talked to Dave last Tuesday evening. He’s coming out of the fog, trying to decide how to begin building a new life. Questions like: keep the house or move? To travel or not. He hopes to take a river cruise in Europe next year.

He’s trying to do what many of us are trying to do. Get rid of clutter and other stuff. He’s found unopened wedding gifts from 60-years-ago. He said he can finally park his car in the garage after 48 years.  

Of course, now in the pandemic, it’s hard to get out and be among people. I hope Greta and I can help him in that department a bit.

He’s an incredible man. A true Champ for his 23 years of ensuring Norma had what she wanted and needed. I know other Champs, like Les and Ben, have been down this path. Together, Our Champs can help Dave move through the maze.

Be wise during the pandemic this Labor Day holiday.