A variety of senior topics

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter

By columnist Tom Blake

September 9, 2022

Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition dated Feb. 12, 1990

3 Topics from the Mailbag

1. Too good-looking to pay her restaurant tab

I read this little tidbit online Monday, September 5, 2022. Nothing surprises me anymore:

At the Harry Reid Airport (Las Vegas), a 28-year-old woman left a Chili’s restaurant at the airport without paying her tab a week or two ago. She was arrested by police.

She reportedly said that the police arrested her because they had never seen anyone so good-looking. Apparently, she threatened to spit at the police.

Delightful. I guess she felt that being “so good-looking” allowed her to skip out on her restaurant tab.

Judit Masco, a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition front-cover model, pictured above, was pretty “good-looking” and not only paid for her tab in 1990 at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, but also left a large tip). 

2. Comments from Champs responding to last week’s “Senior non-romantic love” article. (also known as senior platonic love)

Kaitte said, “Some of my best friends are men. I have met and known several women who have married younger men. One man was 17 years younger, and they are as happy as a clam.

“All of the items you listed–keeping your independence, keeping your life, and staying friends are important–they will know if their situation changes but after 10 years together, I doubt it will.”

Brenda emailed, “I have a senior unromantic love relationship. My man friend and I have played very important roles in each other’s lives and shared many laughs and tears. We have confided things to each other that we’ve never discussed with others. I wouldn’t trade his friendship for anything.”

Ted (a Jackson Michigan, high school classmate of mine) emailed, “Regarding your ‘Live at the Ryman’ article two weeks ago, I’ve always envied your relationship with Johnny Cash. I knew very little about country music until my days working at WALM radio in Albion, Michigan.

“One of my colleagues there came to Michigan from Tennessee as a young man and brought with him a love and deep knowledge of that genre.

“We had a program at WKHM radio in Jackson (Michigan) that was hosted by a guy who called himself ‘Georgia Boy Ben Worthy,’ who used Johnny’s Orange Blossom Special as his theme music.

“I have two or three favorite Johnny Cash albums that I listen to as I mow my lawn. (Yes, I still mow my lawn, maybe just to prove that I can!) My wife Marcia says that sometimes I sing along with Johnny as I mow, but of course, I attribute that to her imagination.

“I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite Johnny Cash song, but Sunday Morning Coming Down would be near the top of the list.

“‘I Walk the Line’ always reminds me of our classmate Lee Taylor because it was on the jukebox in a tiny restaurant he and I visited during one of our extended fishing trips 200 miles or so north of Sault Ste. Marie.”

3. Senior scams. Scammers at work

On Friday, August 26, I received an email from a comcast.net address with this subject line: “question!!!!!!!!”

It read, “Please can I ask you something important?

Jon”

I thought it was strange. Not only was the question grammatically incorrect–“can” is wrong here; “may” is the correct word, but why does someone need permission to ask? Normally, I would just delete an email like that, but I didn’t want to be rude in case it was one of our Champs asking the question. So, I replied, “Sure, what’s up?”

The person, using the same name, replied from a different email address(<axxxxxxxx34474@gmail.com): “Thanks I’m glad you replied back. Sorry to bother you, today is my niece’s birthday and I promised her and her friend a Sephora gift card for her birthday. I’m traveling at the moment and have tried every means possible in purchasing one online, which is to no avail.

“Please, I would appreciate it if you could help me purchase it in a store around you. Am only looking to spend a $400 Sephora gift card ($100 each denomination 2 cards) on it. I’ll pay back as soon as I get back. Please let me know if you can handle this.

“Await your soonest response. Best regards, Jon”

Of course, I knew it was a scam. And then I realized that the name on the original email seemed familiar. I checked our eNewsletter subscriber list. Sure enough, the name and email address belong to Jon, a Champ. I had received 16 emails from him between 2007 and 2013, but none since 2013. However, our eNewsletters are still being opened by him.

Hence, I sent him an email to notify Jon that he had been scammed. Jon responded: “A lot of people got stuff like this. It’s all nonsense. Ignore and discard.

“I’m still seeing Sharon. Today is our mutual birthday. Going out for dinner when her cat recovers.”

Hence, Jon is aware of what happened. I also reported the scammer’s Gmail message to Google. They are investigating.

And then this Tuesday, I received another suspicious email from needles@progidy.net, with the subject line: “Urgent.”

It read: “How are you?

“I need your help. I’d appreciate it if you could email me back. Am unable to talk on the phone right now due to a serious sore throat.

“Please let me know if you are online. Thanks. Deanna.”

A sore throat? Really? I did not answer.

These two emails are samples of methods scammers are using. Please beware.

That’s it from the Mailbag for this week. Let’s hope this heat wave eases; we all need a break. 

Five Songs

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  October 30, 2020

By Columnist Tom Blake

                                                 Five Songs

One of the offshoots of the pandemic is that Champs are tapping into their personal reservoirs of creativity.

Several Champs have mentioned they are working on creative projects. Perhaps it’s because they have more free time than usual. Or, they are reflecting on their lives and what’s really important to them. It’s interesting that several men are working on writing projects such as autobiographies, blogs, or books. Women are painting, gardening, and exercising more.

Patrick Hynes, a native of Australia, is writing a postcard blog that he emails to his friends. It’s titled, “Patrick’s Brief Encounters…Snippets of my life in America.” Working as the Public Relations Director for the Anaheim Hilton Hotel years ago, he met many famous people. Each weekly postcard contains a photo and about 150 concise words. Patrick’s first postcard was about meeting Muhammad Ali. Here’s the photo of him and Ali:


Patrick’s first postcard (July 20, 2020) photo (courtesy of Patrick Hynes)

Other postcards have featured President Reagan, Madonna, Buzz Aldrin, Joe Dimaggio, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Sean Connery (James Bond), and Kobe Bryant.

Champ Pam Peters, San Diego, has created more than 100 paintings during the pandemic. She has created boxes of gift cards that feature her paintings. (By the way, Pam happens to be my sister; she’s the creative one in the family). Here’s one of the 100 she’s created during this pandemic.


                  Come for dinner – Shrimp Provencal

Champ Sandy,
 Sonoma County, California, also paints, “I have been painting more and creating cards from it…just a lot of fun. I’ve been dormant on writing but have started writing in my head again..and I can feel it about to jump out.”

Champ Rick O. is writing about his career as a former professional baseball player. His writing project is temporarily on hold while dealing with several serious family-health issues, which, understandably, take a higher priority than the writing.

Champ Teresa has been creative in a different way, one that has taken time and patience but is changing her life. In the August 21 eNewsletter, I wrote about refinancing my home. Teresa capitalized on the information. How so?

This week, she emailed, ‘Wanted to thank you for the referral to your broker Vanessa Schwartz. My refinance/loan closes Tuesday, a day after my 64th birthday. Yea! I am really jazzed as my monthly payment will be about $300 less than before, allowing me to stay in my home for a few more years after I retire at 70, probably (Italics by Tom). My neighbor refinanced with Vanessa as well. We are both grateful for this opportunity to lower our interest rate and payment. 

“I’m doing a little ‘happy dance’ right now, in honor of your willingness to help a stranger.”

In a coincidence, Teresa and I (and Patrick Hynes) worked for the Victoria Station restaurant chain, eons ago, but we didn’t know each other.

I’ve been friends with Rick Lenz for merely 65 years—we were classmates at Jackson High School, in Jackson, Michigan in the 1950s. Rick is a retired successful actor (played opposite Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Walter Matthau, and Peter Sellers among others). He has written several books, including his latest novel, which will be published early next year.

Here is my favorite piece of art that Rick has created. This painting hangs on my wall.


                  Old Friend by Rick Lenz

   Check out this creative man at http://www.ricklenz.com (Lots of wonderful art like this)

Another high school classmate is Carmen (Carm to me), who lives in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. Carm was featured in our May 29 eNewsletter which is posted on the FindingLoveAfter50.com website. Carm is writing an autobiography. He and Patrick Hynes often send me rough drafts of their work for my comments.

Last Friday, Carm sent a draft of Chapter 10, titled, “My Life with Karen.” Carm was a friend of Karen and her husband Charlie, and when Charlie died, Carm spent time ensuring she was doing okay. The relationship grew and they had five special years together before she passed away on August 1, 2019.

As I was perusing Carm’s Chapter 10, I noticed he included a cluster of four pictures of Karen and him. The caption under the photos reads:

Loving her was easier than anything I’ll ever do again.  –-Kris Kristofferson 

That caption blew me away. You’ll see why in a minute.

During Greta’s and my 23 years together, I’ve occasionally mentioned to her that when I pass away, I don’t want a funeral. An upbeat, fun, small, positive, memory-celebration is ok, but only if five songs that express how I’ve felt about her, are played on a video for the people attending. I wrote down the titles of the five songs on an old, tattered, envelope for her to keep in her files.

Three weeks ago, Greta left that envelope on my desk with a written request to put those songs into a word document, so she could access them on her computer desktop (I don’t know why she made that request, perhaps Greta knows something I don’t know!). 

Here are Tom’s five songs (and the links to each)

1) Loving her was easier than anything I will ever do again (written and sung by Kris Kristofferson)

Note from Tom: That’s the same song Carm used in the caption under Karen’s pictures. That’s why I was blown away. I found it hard to believe that a guy I’ve known for 65 years and I picked the same song to honor our partners.

                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCgnbRWVvU8

2) If Tomorrow Never Comes (written by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy, sung by Garth Brooks)

3) Sunday Morning Coming Down (written by Kris K, sung by Johnny Cash) 

4) Dreaming My Dreams (written by Allen Reynolds, sung by Waylon Jennings)

5) Dry Your Eyes (co-written and sung by Neil Diamond)  

Note from Tom: This Neil Diamond video I took on my phone at one of Neil Diamond’s last concerts, August 2017, at the Forum in Los Angeles. It’s not a perfect video as I didn’t zoom in until later in the video. But the sound is terrific. Note the trumpet player solo near the end. He is spectacular. It’s nearly impossible to find videos of Diamond performing this song–he rarely played it in concerts. It was originally written honoring Martin Luther King after he was assassinated. 

Do you have a song that has special meaning to you or to a loved one? Are you working on a creative project?  If so, please share it with us and tell us why it’s special.

History of Country Music September 2019

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter September 27, 2019

by Columnist Tom Blake

   History of Country Music September 2019

When I first met Greta, one thing we did not have in common was a love of country music. I got hooked on it initially after seeing a Johnny Cash concert at Madison Square Garden in 1969. And, when Western Swing and Outlaw Country arrived in the early 1970s with the likes of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, I became a country music fan.

Greta, on the other hand, was busy raising four children as a single mom, teaching full time and attending graduate school at night. She didn’t have time or an interest in acquiring a taste for country music, although she admits to watching some of the country shows on TV, such as The Johnny Cash Show.

After 21 years together, my affection for country music has rubbed off on her. Slowly, Greta’s accepted most of it, just not the twangy, honky-tonk sound. Her meeting Rosanne Cash in person piqued her interest in the genre.


Greta, Rosanne and Tom – 2018

For my birthday one year, she got us tickets for a Kris Kristofferson solo performance in Los Angeles. I’ve dragged her to about six Alan Jackson concerts, a man I refer to as “The Dude.”

And I was quite surprised when she agreed to spend the night of October 20, 2015, at the San Manuel Casino so we could catch Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson in concert together there.

Kristofferson had written “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” one of my favorite songs; I will explain why a bit later. That night, he and Haggard performed it together. I captured this photo from the video I took of them while playing that song:


Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson performing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” Oct. 20, 2015, at the San Manuel Casino

Greta is a supporter of PBS. So, when she read in her PBS mail that Ken Burns, was directing an eight-episode, 16-hour documentary titled “Country Music,” this September, she wanted us to watch it together. One episode at a time.

Burns has directed many highly regarded documentaries including, “The Vietnam War,” “Jackie Robinson,” “The Dust Bowl,” “The Civil War,” and “The National Parks.”  We knew “Country Music” was going to be entertaining and informative because Burns is so thorough and professional.

In “Country Music,” Greta and I have been blown away with what Ken Burns has created. The music, the old black and white footage, the interviews, have all been spectacular. We’ve both learned a great deal about the history of country music and of our country.

Of course, in the series, we are reminded why Nashville is called “Music City USA,” home of the original Grand Ole Opry in the Ryman Auditorium, with footage of numerous performances there. Three years ago, we spent a week in Nashville and Memphis with my brother and his wife, including a visit to the Ryman, and a Saturday night show at the new Grand Ole Opry, on the outskirts of Nashville.

Series one in Burns’ documentary is called “The Rub.” It features the history of the banjo and fiddle and talked about the importance of the introduction of the radio in the 1920s.

Each series advances time wise across history. Burns uses musicians—not scholars or record-company executives—as spokespeople explaining the history of country music.

Actor Peter Coyote is the show’s main narrator. However, musicians who also share their thoughts are Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Larry Gatlin, Dolly Pardon, Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, and Wynton Marsalis, to name a few.

For me, this PBS series hits home. In 1975, as the marketing director for Victoria Station, the railroad-themed, restaurant chain, I hired a boutique advertising agency in San Francisco called Pritikin and Gibbons, the last names of the agency’s two founders, Bob Pritikin and Jerry Gibbons.  They had done creative ads for “Marine World Africa USA” and Chevrolet (“The Chevy Man Can.”)

I remember distinctly the day Victoria Station’s top executives were summoned to the P and G office, located in a converted mansion on Sacramento Street for a “Creative Unveiling” presentation and luncheon. They wheeled out a reel-to-reel tape player and said, “On this tape, you will recognize the voice of the person we recommend hiring as your company spokesperson to sing your radio commercials; it will be a challenge to sign him.”

They played Johnny Cash. I about fell over. It was six years after hearing him perform at Madison Square Garden. As we left the building, Victoria Station president Dick Bradley said to me, “Make it happen, as soon as possible.” (In other words, get Johnny Cash hired).

That began a two-year association with The Man in Black and June Carter Cash and the Carter family.


Rosey Nix in car, June, John Jr., Johnny and Tom at the Miami Victoria Station parking lot the morning after first meeting them in 1975

As Greta and I have watched these “Country Music” episodes, so often featuring Johnny, his daughter Rosanne, June and the Carter family, I pinch myself and say, “Did this really happen to me?” “Did I become friends with Johnny and June?” “Did I co-produce a record album with Johnny?” “Did I actually go inside the walls of San Quentin Prison with Johnny and his band?” The answer to each: Yes, although it seems like a dream.

A few months after Johnny became the Victoria Station spokesperson, he and June invited several VS executives to be their guests at a dual-concert event at the Sahara Tahoe Resort and Casino in Lake Tahoe. Between concerts, 17 of us went back stage so I could introduce them to John and June.

Johnny said to me privately, “What’s your favorite song of mine?”

I said, “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” In the second show, he said, in front of a large audience, “Hello Tom Blake, this song is for you.” And he played it.

June Carter Cash with Tom in 1975 At the Sahara Tahoe Resort Hotel at Lake Tahoe when the Cashes hosted Victoria Station executives at a brunch the morning after the concerts we all attended. 

One day, Johnny asked me if Victoria Station would sponsor an album of train songs. We agreed. So, on August 15, 1975, I returned to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to the House of Cash recording studio, where we had recorded the radio commercials with him, to work with him on what songs would go on the album. It was my job to select the songs. He wrote the title song, “Destination Victoria Station.”

                    

The album, Destination Victoria Station, still in its original clear cellophane wrapper, that Tom co-produced with Johnny (Trust me, Johnny did all of the work). 50,000 albums were pressed.

Johnny had just published his book, “Man In Black.” After the recording session, I asked him to sign copies of his book for a few of the Victoria Station people.

Johnny signed his Man In Black 1975 book to me on August 15, 1975, at this recording studio

After the Johnny Cash/Victoria Station association ended, I kept in touch with him.


  Tom, Johnny and Tom’s sister Pam, in San Diego at Humphrey’s by the Bay in the late 1980s

I feel the most noted biography in the entire series of eight is that of Johnny (OK, a bit biased here). The observations of Rosanne about her dad are precious. In the final episode , Rosanne sings a memorial at the Ryman Auditorium to her dad called, “I Still Miss Someone,” which I heard Johnny sing in person a dozen times. It could bring a tear to your eye.

Burns must have been preparing this documentary for years. He was able to include Merle Haggard as a spokesperson prior to Haggard’s April 6, 2016, passing. Haggard, was a huge contributor to the “The Bakersfield (California) Sound,” an offshoot from the music of Nashville. He and Buck Owens were the two most successful “Bakersfield Sound” musicians.

In episode six of “Country Music,” Kristofferson talked about writing “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” It sure brought back memories for me.

Seniors often ask for suggestions on what they can do for inexpensive entertainment. One idea is to have a “Country Music” party on eight different nights, and, invite friends to come watch this fascinating series on home TV. The sessions are archived on PBS. The shows can also be streamed online.

If you decide to watch “Country Music,” be forewarned if you aren’t a country music fan. You’re probably going to become one.

Link to PBS https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music

Update to above posted October 3, 2019

Country Music Final Comments

 The Ken Burns “Country Music” 8-part series on PBS, and, the responses from Champs affected me in many ways I did not anticipate. Here are two examples:

1 The John Denver lookalike comments

Champ Mary Lou emailed, “Oh my gosh Tom you outdid yourself with last week’s “Country Music” eNewsletter. Also, you looked so much like John Denver in your younger days. It’s uncanny in the photo with you in those (ahem) plaid bell bottom pants.

“I loved John Denver from the minute I heard his voice on the radio, and was so very, very sad when he died. Not the true country performer, I suppose, but such a beautiful soul.”

Reply to Mary Lou: Yes, I did resemble John Denver in the 1970s. Many people would tell me that when I first met them.

tom and jrc abook cover photo

 Tom and Johnny Cash 1975 at Victoria Station Newport Beach California

I think it was mainly due to my eyeglass frames being similar to the ones he wore. And I did meet him, which I suppose, is worth a paragraph or two.

After Bob Freeman (Victoria Station co-founder with Dick Bradley and Peter Lee) and I attended the San Quentin Prison concert with Johnny Cash, outside in the prison’s parking lot, Johnny’s agent, Marty Klein, invited Freeman and me to go to Folsom Prison for an afternoon concert that same day. Both Bob and I had plans and couldn’t go, it was a two-hour drive. (Not going to Folsom, by the way, was one of the biggest regrets of my life).

And then Klein invited us to attend a television-special taping (not a live show) the next day at the NBC studios in Burbank (Los Angeles). Johnny was appearing with Glen Campbell, Roger Miller, Mary Kay Place and host John Denver. I told Klein I’d be there.

Susan, my girlfriend at the time, and I flew to Burbank, rented a car, and drove to the studios. We had to pass through a security gate in the car. The guard looked at me and said, “Pass right on through Mr. Denver.” Susan teased me big time about that.

In the waiting room, we mingled with about 200 other members of the audience. Two people, thinking I was John Denver,  asked for my autograph. Susan insisted I sign them, which I did: “Bill Denver, John’s brother.”

At the six-hour taping, Susan and I sat with Rosanne Cash in the front row. Afterwards, Rosanne took us to her dad’s dressing room. Johnny was highly respected by his piers; the other entertainers stopped in to visit him.

Denver brought his parents to meet Johnny. Klein introduced us to Denver, saying I was his lookalike.

Denver extended his hand saying, “Far out.” Then, he stepped back a couple of feet, stared at me, and repeated, “Far out.” Then, he stood six inches from my face and said it a third time.

I was composed enough to tell him I’d like to be his stand-in for the upcoming movie Oh, God! that he was in with George Burns. He said he thought the role had been filled but he’d call me if it wasn’t too late. He never called. There went my film career.

Denver died October 12, 1997, in a private plane he was piloting in Monterrey Bay, south of San Francisco. As Mary Ann stated above, it was very, very sad. I hadn’t met Greta yet. After we were together for a short time, I related the above story to her. She had seen Denver, waiting for his luggage at a baggage carousel, in Honolulu. She was equally saddened when he died.

2 The history of Country Music

Greta and I watched episode 8, the final episode of the Ken Burns “Country Music” series, Saturday night. When the credits appeared, the last song of the entire series began. Again, I was amazed at the coincidence for me.

Just six eNewsletters ago, August 23, I wrote about the Irish singer in a pub we visited in Waterford, Ireland, who sang a song and asked if anyone in the bar could identify the song and who sang it. I blurted out, “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family. I hadn’t heard that song in 25 years.

The singer asked later how I knew that. I explained to him that I heard Mother Maybelle Carter sing it several times in person.

So, you bet, the Ken Burns “Country Music” series struck a chord with me. It made me realize how blessed I’ve been in my life.

Part 2 – The Sound of My Voice

I don’t want to confuse the above Ken Burns documentary music message with another documentary music message. But, on Wednesday afternoon, Greta and I went to the movie about Linda Ronstadt’s life and career, titled “The Sound of My Voice.”

Oh my gosh, an incredible movie. I had no idea she was so talented and versatile. She can’t perform now, as she has Parkinson’s Disease. But this movie is highly recommended. The music is lights out. Do you remember the song, “Different Drum,” when she was a member of the Stone Ponies? I sure do.