Turn the page – another year begins

marchello xmas 2021
Pre-Christmas meal at Greta’s son’s home (photo courtesy Tony Marchello)
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter December 31, 2021
by Tom Blake – columnist

Turn the Page – another year begins 

My partner Greta and I have taken the Covid concerns seriously. Both of us have had two Covid vaccinations and a booster shot. Our health seems good.

At our age, we’ve got to be careful. Like most people in the United States, we are concerned about the Omicron variant of Covid that is spreading rapidly. Hence, we avoid crowds and have no cruises planned. 

On Thursday, December 16, we decided not to attend our Dana Point Chamber of Commerce monthly indoor Meet and Greet party. We didn’t want to risk it. And the office Christmas party scheduled for Friday, December 17 at the home of our newspaper publisher and his wife was canceled due to renewed Covid concerns.

Greta and I had been looking forward to that event, especially to spend time with another couple (Dominque and Tom) who are friends and who are also associated with the newspaper. Tom is a columnist for the San Clemente Times, for which I also write. And his wife Dominque worked with Greta in Special Education for years. We replaced the canceled event that Friday evening by inviting Tom and Dominque to our home for a light meal and a glass of wine.

Plans for Christmas week 

Our Christmas week plans were small—only joining a few family members. On Thursday, the night before Christmas Eve, we were having dinner at Greta’s son Tony and Joann’s home (pictured above), with two of Greta’s grandchildren. 

On Christmas Eve., we were going to Greta’s daughter Tina’s home with her husband and two more of Greta’s grandchildren, plus one of their other friends. Just five others, and us. 

And on Christmas day, we were scheduled to go to San Diego to my sister Pam’s home, with her husband Bob, and my other sister, Christine. This was to be a particularly important event for Pam, Christine, and me, as our only brother passed away in January. There are only three of us left in our family.

On Wednesday, December 22, mid-afternoon, five days after Tom and Dominque were at our home, Dominque called Greta to say that she had tested positive for Covid. And while Greta and I felt no symptoms, we wanted to get a rapid-results Covid test. We didn’t want to endanger any members of our family. But where to get a test on such short notice? 

I checked online. CVS pharmacy seemed to be the place of choice, but every location in Orange County required an appointment and there were no appointments available before Christmas. We asked Dominque where she had been tested: South County Urgent Care Talega, in San Clemente. 

We telephoned. Yes, they were accepting walk-ins but advised us that they were busy and there could be a bit of a wait. Greta and I were in the car within minutes and arrived at the South County Urgent Care place 25 minutes later. We signed up for the rapid-results test. The nice woman told us getting tested would be an hour’s wait, and because all seats in the waiting area were taken, we could wait in our car if we preferred (it was more of a suggestion; it was please do it).

She would text us when our turn was up. We decided that would be the wisest thing to do. 

I’m about as patient as a puppy. After three minutes of sitting in the car, I said to Greta: “Let’s take a drive and see if we can find a fast-food place where we can grab a beverage and perhaps use the restroom before we’re called for our test.” I wasn’t familiar with that part of San Clemente, so I just started driving. Within five minutes, we saw a mini shopping center with a couple of restaurants.

One place was called Wow Poki, which sold poke bowls. In we went. We ordered a poke bowl and a beverage and drove back to the parking lot of South Coast Urgent Care. We had a delightful, delicious, light dinner–each using different forks and paper plates—in case one of us would test positive—in the front seat of the car. 

Shortly after our meal, the text came; Urgent Care was ready for us. We went in and filled out the paperwork. We were surprised that the rapid test would cost us $100 each. But, to be with our families at Christmas, we willingly accepted the price. I had been tested three times before, so I knew what to expect. Greta hadn’t had a Covid test yet. She was a bit uncomfortable when the cotton swab was inserted into her nose, but the doctor was gentle and considerate.

He said we’d have the results in 10 minutes. So, there we sat, for the longest 10 minutes of our lives. “What if?” “What if?” “What if?” We kept thinking. And then the doctor returned and handed us our results: Both negative.

Oh my gosh, what a relief. The first thing Greta did in the car was call Dominque to tell her the good news. She was ecstatic, so pleased we were okay, and she was feeling well. We also reflected on how wise my newspaper publishers had been in canceling the office party, which avoided approximately 20 other people being exposed to Covid. 

When we got home, you bet we had a wine-glass toast to each other. How lucky we felt. However, we realize that we still must be careful. One test doesn’t guarantee we won’t be exposed again. And our three Christmas visits went off without a hitch. Plus, we have a new poke restaurant to frequent.
Happy New Year Champs!

A 60-year senior love story

Ted and Marcia Everingham – 60 years of marriage and love
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – December 23, 2021

by Columnist Tom Blake

I’ve often said, and I truly believe, that our Champs are incredible people: Warm, friendly, observant, caring, sharing, giving, and helpful.

On this day before Christmas Eve. 2021, I decided to share with you a poem I received this week from my high school classmate Ted Everingham—who is a Champ and a friend. It captures the warmth of Christmas, love and 60-years of happy marriage. So, the total credit of today’s eNewsletter message goes to Ted and Marcia Everingham, of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Ted Everingham:

“My Christmas Eve was cold and snowy in 1960. It was a Saturday evening, and I was working at the local radio station in Albion, Michigan, reading top-of-the-hour newscasts and running the control board for Late Date, a popular weekly radio show targeting teenage listeners.

“The program ran from 10:00 p.m. until midnight. The show’s host – a senior at the high school in nearby Marshall – chose to close her program that Christmas Eve with a bit of verse. It didn’t rise to the dignity of a ‘poem,’ but it expressed in rhyme an important idea in simple, homespun language appropriate to the time and place.

“I heard the first line or two through my headset, and then for a reason that I have forgotten (if I ever knew), I turned to look at the host through the glass that separated the control room from the studio where she sat. I discovered, to my surprise, that she was not reading the verse but reciting it from memory, and she was speaking directly to me through that glass.

“Here is Marcia’s Christmas wish to me that long-ago evening: ‘If I could do whatever I want to do, To make complete your gladsome Christmas Day I would not bring a single thing to you, But I would come and take some things away: I’d take away all trouble from your heart, Each pain and sorrow I would have relieved, And every pain that caused a single smart, And every hour through which you sorely grieved. I’d have them all be gone — forever gone – Forgotten, like the things that cannot be, And then each hour would be a joyful one, For only good things would be left you see.’” 

Ted said, “Eight months later, the host and I were married, and the rest (60 years) is history.”Merry Christmas!

Ted & Marcia Everingham, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.

Thanks, Champs, enjoy your Christmas. Be safe. We will send out the final column of 2021 on New Year’s Eve.  Merry Christmas Champs!

Book signing leads to pleasant afternoon

tom 5 books
Tom’s 5 printed books
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletterDecember 17, 2021

by Tom Blake author and columnist

The Book Signing 

Last Saturday, I had the third book signing of my memoir, “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.” In a nutshell, the book is about my 26 years of opening, operating, and eventually selling Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. The signing was held at the deli I didn’t expect many people to show up for a couple of reasons.

I’d already had two book signings there and several people had already purchased the book. Also, I didn’t adequately promote the event. I only mentioned it in this eNewsletter and put a poster up in the deli front window and notified a few acquaintances who were mentioned in the book, thinking they might want to see what I wrote about them. 

At the signing, in addition to displaying my latest book on a table where customers could see it, I also had the four other printed books I’ve written on the same table. I’m guessing that reading this sounds pretty boring, I admit. But then meaningful things started to happen.

A younger couple, I’m guessing early 40s, came in for a sandwich. They were perusing the dating books and I heard the guy say to his lady, “This book would be good for Mom to read.”He was referring to Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What To Do, which I published in 2003. 

When I heard him say that I introduced myself, and asked, “Is mom single?” He said, “She’s a new widow. She has no idea what to do. She married right out of high school and has never dated anyone else. Which of these books would be good for her?” 

I said, “The one you mentioned, Finding Love After 50.” He said, “I’ll take it. Will you sign it for her?” 

“Of course,” I said. And then he added, “By the way, I’m J.J; I went to Dana Hills High School with your former stepson, Mikey. I’ve eaten at this deli for 30 years. How is Mikey doing?” “Funny you should ask. I received a heart-warming text from him yesterday. Hadn’t heard from him in almost a year.”

“J.J., I don’t know if you knew that Joey, Mikey’s brother, was murdered, along with his wife and two young children in 2010. Both Mikey and Joey worked at the deli. Losing his brother like that has been very tough on Mikey. On all of us, as well.” J.J. said, “Yes, I knew about it. I didn’t want to spoil your day by mentioning it. Thanks for being here today, Tom, seeing you brings back great memories and some sadness as well.” 

I autographed the book for his mom. I also signed a complimentary copy of How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 for her. And I added, “I suggest your mom sign up for our free eNewsletter. Our Champs can really help her arise out of a very difficult time. Many of them have walked the walk.” 

As J.J. and his lovely woman left, it occurred to me that meeting them and likely helping his mom was worth the entire book signing effort that day. Over the years, you Champs have helped so many newly widowed people it warms my heart. 

And then, two women–a mother, and a daughter–looked at the books displayed on the table, as the women were waiting for their sandwiches. I said, “Hi, I’m Tom, the author, let me know if you have any questions.” The younger woman said, “You wrote these?” “Yes.” 

She said, “We’re both single, mother and daughter. Why are you here?” I said, “I owned this deli for 26 years. I’m just doing a book signing today.” She said, “You owned a restaurant and you’re also an author?” I said, “Yup, when you own a restaurant for 26 years, you need something else to occupy your mind, to keep you from going crazy; I was fortunate enough to become a newspaper columnist and have been writing articles on finding love for 26 years.” 

The daughter said, “Gee, we were just driving by and saw the deli sign. We each want one of your new deli books. Can you sign one to ‘Lana,’ who is Mom, and one to me, I’m ‘Lana S.’” I said, “Lana? As in the movie star Lana Turner?” 

They laughed and nodded. I said, “And this is Greta, as in Garbo. the famous Swedish star.” We chuckled. 

I said “Famous names of famous people. I encourage you, Mom Lana, to sign up for the eNewsletter that I send by email every Friday to 2,000 people all over the USA and other countries.” Then, a tall man named Jim, mid-70s came in wearing a Diablo (Mission Viejo High School) sweatshirt. He said he helps out with the basketball program there. A senior, volunteering to help kids–I love it.

Plus, he mentioned, “I need three books. A new deli book and two How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 books. “Why two 50 Couples books?” I asked. “One for me and one for my friend Fred. He’s having trouble meeting women and he heard that this book explains how all those couples met.” 

Jim added, “I came to your Meet and Greets here at the deli. Met a nice woman and we dated exclusively for a couple of months. Then, I went to my grandson’s football game and sat with my other grandkids and my ex-wife.”My new significant other was so insecure, she got jealous and broke off our relationship. Hard to figure that one out. So, I also need to read your book.” 

Earlier that Saturday morning, I had gone to the outdoor flea market the city of Dana Point sponsors in the town center to see my friends Vince and Julie who have a booth there where they sell hats with custom-made logos that Vince designs. Vince calls himself, “Vince Thehatman.” (check out his website—VinceTheHatman.com) I told them about the mid-afternoon book signing and they said, “When we are done around 2 p.m., we’ll come for a sandwich and chat.” 

They arrived with Jeff Freeman, a guy who also has a booth next to theirs at the flea market. He sells high-quality sheets. The three of them stayed for more than an hour. Julie’s mother Dee S. is one of our Champs. Vince and Julie’s photo is in the new deli book. I’ve known Vince for nearly 30 years.

Occasionally, he helped at the deli when Greta and I traveled. And then, a man named Ron Sobel came to get one of the new books. In 1988, Ron opened Ron’s New York Deli in Dana Point Harbor at the same time I opened Tutor and Spunky’s. His menu is pictured in the new book. Ron and Vince had known each other years ago so they found time to get caught up. 

A bit later, another long-time friend, Patrick Hynes, with whom I worked at the Victoria Station Restaurant chain in the 1970s, came in to get one of the new deli books. He drove down from Newport Beach.

Patrick used to be the concierge at the Newport Beach Bay Club, where he met a lot of famous people. Patrick is from Adelaide, Australia, a wonderful person. I had no idea he’d be coming to the book signing.

Patrick publishes a blog titled, Patrick’s Brief Encounters…Snippets of my life in America, which features famous people he’s met since moving from Australia. He’s going to publish a book on that one day. Patrick was featured in another memoir I wrote in 2006, titled, Prime Rib and Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? a copy of which was on the table in the deli.

Ends up, he stayed for over an hour, chatting with Greta, Vince, Julie, Jeff, and Ron. And then a woman, who was dressed to the nine’s came in. It took a few seconds to recognize her, it was Sally West.

Greta and I had met Sally in 2007, on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train on a trip from Venice to Prague and on to Paris. Sally and her traveling pal occupied the berth next to ours. Oh my gosh, what a delightful surprise. (I checked to see if that Orient Express train is still operating. It is. Now, if you take a six-day trip from Paris to Istanbul the cost is $25,000 per person. Sure happy we took it 14 years ago.) 

I said to Sally, “Why are you dressed so exquisitely?” She said, “I live in a retirement community. Your book signing was a nice social event for me to get out and attend as sort of a change of pace, so I dolled it up a bit.” 

Sally is a Champ and loves our eNewsletter. She and the rest of us chatted extensively. The book signing had turned into a delightful event, something that happens when seniors get out and about. It was almost spur of the moment.

The final couple to attend the book signing were Kathy and her husband Dave. Both are retired. Kathy owned and ran McCool’s Flowers, the best damn flower shop in Dana Point for 30 years. They are mentioned in the book.

Often, Kathy did the floral centerpieces for banquet tables that took your breath away and filled banquet halls with a lovely aroma. It was getting dark. And we seniors didn’t want to drive in the dark, so we adjourned. But what a special time it turned out to be. 

I realized once again from this simple outing that life is about friends and cherishing old memories. Not many books were sold but that didn’t matter; seeing old friends and meeting new ones is what was important. And it reminded me of how blessed I’ve been in my life.

Merry Christmas Champs!

Senior couples enjoy life despite pandemic

Jackie Hammond at car show Champ Jackie and her new friend Ken at car show in Georgia. Ken’s 1931 model A Deluxe Roadster, shown on the right won the gold medal, which Ken is holding.ken 1931 fordKen’s Ken’s 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster won gold. It’s in mint condition.
For details, see couple # 4’s story below
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletterDecember 10, 2021
by Tom Blake  author and columnist

Four senior couples enjoying life in spite of the pandemic

 1   Champ Art says Meetup.com is not just for singles
 Art, 83, Margate, Florida, emailed, “I hope that as hospitalizations for Covid continue to go down, the senior single scene will increase. Meetup.com groups are active and becoming more popular, and not just for singles. “I belong to a Meetup group called Single Events and Partys 45 Plus. Recently, about 30 of us went to a large restaurant for a twin lobster dinner for $30.00. I brought my lady friend Jyude; we all had a fun evening. 

“A week ago Wednesday, 20 members of the group celebrated their birthdays together at a local Benihana and a few weeks earlier 50 members of the group went on a Caribbean cruise. “Meetup groups are a great way for all seniors—not just singles–to meet for activities ranging from hiking, visiting museums, and a host of other activities.

 “The group I belong to started 14 years ago, and most of the members range from their 60’s and 70’s to a few members in their early 80’s. I’m 83.” 

2   Andy, 87, San Clemente, Ca, finds online success 

Andy (name changed by request) shared, “I have had several dates mostly via online dating services and that’s difficult—a frustrating way to go. Never just the right chemistry. “However, six months ago, I connected online using the dating site OurTime, with a genuine, wonderful woman.“We have a fabulous relationship and so much in common. She’s 77 and very active and smart. And, she has no problem sharing expenses! 

“In fact, she goes overboard. Very loving and a great sense of humor. We are so busy going and doing. “I’ve been a widower for four years (after a 63-year marriage) and she’s been widowed eight years (after a 44-year marriage). We are so happy and it’s a match made in heaven.“We both consider ourselves to be very lucky indeed!” 

3   Update from Ginny, 80, and Harry, 87, (Pennsylvania) our NY Times couple, who married in September but still live apart (LAT relationship)

After last week’s column about the status of senior dating as 2022 approaches, newlywed Ginny wrote, “Harry and I are doing great. Our LAT-M (Living Apart Together while married) arrangement is working out very well. 

“We had been so wrapped up in our wedding plans this year that I was unaware of how challenging the year had been for other singles. Your newsletter reminded me of how fortunate we are. 

“I am on the council of our local senior center. Our holiday party is today. Because Harry must take his son for tests, he can’t be with me at the event, so I will get a taste of what it is like to go ‘single.’ I think it will make me more empathetic toward those women without dates. I will look around for a ‘lonely looking face’ and try to make that person feel special.” 

4   Jackie, Georgia, ventures online and meets a nice gentleman and credits her deceased husband 

Jackie emailed a month ago, “I don’t like online dating, but I found a file in my deceased husband’s) filing cabinet after Randy died in 2017. The file was from 2006, nine years before he and I met. It was a nice profile of a lady on the website Christian Café (Randy never threw anything away!). I don’t know if he reached out to her, but I liked what she had written and put it back thinking IF I ever get on a service, I’ll follow her example of sharing. 

“Recently, one lonely day I went online to check out a free one-week trial on that same Christian Café website. I didn’t continue after the week but later received offers for a free day or two. I went online and noticed a man named Ken who lives about 25 miles from me here in Georgia, to where I have just relocated. 

“I mentioned to Ken that I hadn’t been able to give any of my info to him because I wasn’t a paid Christian Café member. And said if he was interested, he could write me. It wasn’t until my next free day online that I saw he had written me four times and now I had his email. 

“We have been seeing each other several times a week and have been going to church together since Sept. 12. Time will tell if it’s to be something more.  “I don’t know why I feel funny when people ask how we met. I only knew about this site after finding that file–in Randy’s old file cabinet.  

“I’ve said that many things about my life are all because of Randy’s kindness! Meeting Ken is because of Randy.  “I attended a car show where Ken’s 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster won first place. It’s been interesting to see that our paths have had the same journey with a divorce and now having lost our special mates. 

“It’s been almost five years since my Randy passed; he and I met at our 50th class reunion. This latest encounter will be interesting to see if there will be a third time for both Ken and me.” 

Tom’s comment: Thanks Champs for the nice stories. The pandemic has slowed us, but not stopped us from (carefully) getting out and about.

Senior dating status as 2022 approaches

sunset waldorf astoria nov 21
Sunset over Catalina Island from Waldorf Astoria Resort, with friends, Dana Point, California, November 2021
On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – December 3, 2021

by Tom Blake author and columnist

The senior dating status as 2022 approaches 

The year 2021 changed senior dating dramatically. Covid 19 was the culprit. In-person social events were canceled or switched to being presented virtually. 

For example, I had a “Senior-dating-in-the-digital-age” speech scheduled for September 24 requested by the Orange County Aging Services Collaborative. I was to appear at the Dorothy Visser Senior Center in San Clemente before an audience of 50 people. 

My talk was scheduled to be aired simultaneously to nine other OC senior centers with an expected live audience of 40-50 people at each center for a total of 500 people. I was hoping one or two potential couples would meet at each center, but because of Covid, the speech went entirely to Zoom so none of the 500 people could meet in person. 

During the pandemic, libraries, restaurants, bars, social clubs, and other gathering spots were closed or open with limited access and saddled with mask restrictions and six-feet apart requirements. Senior social interaction was reduced by at least 80 percent (my guestimate) for most of the year.

Face-to-face meetings, which are essential in cultivating relationships, were rare. Most seniors understandably didn’t want to risk catching Covid. Yes, restrictions have been lifted somewhat in the last three months, but many seniors are still leery and hesitant to venture out. To combat the face-to-face restrictions, many seniors, not all, turned to internet dating, which is a great way to meet new people. 

Romance scams and romance scammers

However, singles weren’t the only people using internet dating sites. Romance scammers used the sites to spoof and scam vulnerable seniors. Some seniors tragically lost their savings. The pandemic has been tough on couples who live in different states or countries. Canada’s border was closed for months, which made seeing a loved one in person who lived in Canada nearly impossible. And vice versa for Canadiens.

People in long-distance relationships saw each other less often than they liked. Even flying and driving long distances to see a loved one within the United States was challenging. Larry, a friend, and former neighbor I’ve known for 28 years met a woman in the Philippines Islands a few years ago. He lived with her there but came home to the USA on a short business trip just before Covid started. Since then, he’s had nine trips scheduled to return to be with her but each time the P.I. government did not allow him to reenter the country. 

I asked him this week, “Did you finally get to the P.I?” Larry responded, “Still in the OC. Patience has turned to anger, and I really don’t care if I ever go back to the Philippines! But, Emy and I really love each other, so we have other destinations in consideration.” 

During the pandemic, I’ve received many inquiries from readers about where they can go to meet someone or if I know of someone that might be right for them. It surprises me when I respond to them with comments or suggestions, some don’t have the courtesy to respond back. How the heck can I help them during this difficult time if that’s how they operate? And do they treat potential dates that way? 

And now, there’s a new Covid Variant called Omicron that is possibly contagious and dangerous. Will that make senior dating more difficult again? That’s hard to say, but it certainly is creating more uncertainty. In the 26 years, I’ve been writing about senior dating and relationships, I’ve never seen the senior singles scene so challenging. 

Last month, Greta and I met our friends Ron and Lee at the renamed Waldorf Astoria Resort in Dana Point for happy hour and to watch the sunset. Neither couple had been out with friends much for more than a year. The picture above was taken from our outdoor table. Catalina Island is on the horizon. I suggest singles try to get out with vaccinated friends, but oh-so-carefully. Wear masks, avoid crowded places, gather outside when possible. Be vaccinated. 

Network through friends and organizations by asking people if they know of other singles who would like to meet people. That was the old-fashioned way of meeting potential mates pre-internet. Also, consider internet dating, but if you go that route, do so carefully. Beware of scammers; they lurk on every site. Trust your instincts. And if you do connect online with someone interesting, meeting in person sure has its challenges. Don’t give up. Modify your expectations. You never know who’s around the corner or in the next aisle at a store. Be friendly. Be upbeat. That guy wearing the Santa Claus suit and beard might be perfect for you. 

Hopefully, 2022 will be better for senior dating. We’ll keep you posted. 

Part 2 – One more “Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark” book signing

My third, and likely final book signing for my recently published book, is scheduled for Saturday, December 11 at, where else? Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. If any of you would like an autographed copy shipped to you, I will sign and mail one for $24.00, which includes tax, shipping, and handling. Simply email me at tompblake@gmail.com.
Tom's new book cover