Friday, September 1, 2017

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me, When I’m 84

Maybe it was watching the fireworks  from amid the monuments marking the lives of Petalumans now gone at Cypress Hill Memorial Park. Maybe it was the birth of our first grandchild. Maybe it was the article on elder abuse I read on Petaluma360. Or maybe it was the loss of my sister, a boomer barely retired, but I’ve been pondering the third third of my life. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

According to the 2010 census, more than 13.1% of Petaluma residents qualify for the senior discount at Petaluma Market (shop on Thursday, folks, and receive a 10% discount if you’re 55 or older.) That’s 2% more seniors than counted in the 2000 census. For better or worse, that’s a lot of white hair.

Although I was quick to jump on the $6.50 over-60-admission to Boulevard Cinemas, a 33% savings over the adult ticket price, I’ve been slow to consider how I plan to live my life now that I’ve entered my “golden years.” I know there are benefits to age as well as drawbacks. I don’t feel any older, and I’m surprised every time I look in the mirror. I’ve only got thirty more years, forty if I’m really, really lucky. I have no immediate plans to retire, but I better figure out how to spend my time when I do because soon enough it won’t be zip lining. It might not even be climbing the stairs to my writing studio. What then?

Like most people, my husband and my first consideration is to determine how we’re going to pay our upkeep in a world of rising costs, dwindled property values, eroded pensions, inconsequential investment earnings, and miniscule social security checks—one of the drawbacks. How will we survive in the Shadow of Sonoma Mountain?

The boomer population, born 1946-1966, isn’t about to go down quietly. A Study done by two Duke University sociologists published in 2004, determined that, on the benefit side,  baby boomers are likely to extend midlife well into what used to be considered "old age." They will continue working longer, and also are likely to enjoy good health and remain "actively engaged" longer than previous generations.” I’m down with that! Maybe I will be zip lining—SonomaCanopy Tours on Bohemian Hwy. in Occidental offers discounts for the over 60 set.

Another finding from the study reveals a distinct drawback, “…at midlife, boomers have the highest wage inequality of any recent generation. Late boomers have the highest levels of poverty since the generation born before World War I. One in 10 late boomers lives in poverty at middle age.” The least well-off face higher risks of unemployment and poor health at a time when we are encouraged to remain at work longer. And boomers have saved less than previous generations. Add to that, boomers have redefined traditional family structures. Nontraditional families, those who never married, had no children or were "absent fathers" may not be able to rely on family as part of their social safety net.

Before you crawl back under the covers, Petaluma is rich in quality services for us oldsters. I’ve counted fourteen senior housing complexes, including Vintage Chateau’s 240 existing units and 68 new units to be completed this year, and several complexes operated by Petaluma EcumenicalProperties. PEP Housing originated through a group of clergy and civic leaders who wanted to provide quality affordable housing to the community's lowest income seniors. As a result of their efforts, in 1978 PEP Housing became the first non-profit housing provider to serve the needs of the people of Petaluma.

My list doesn’t include assisted living facilities such as Sunrise of Petaluma that features Alzheimer’s memory care, something about half of us are going to need by the time we’re 84—either because we have this disease, or because we’re taking care of someone who does.

Ok, so lots of us still think 84 is mythical, but many are going to reach it over the coming two decades. The average life expectancy in Petaluma is 80, 2.8 years higher than the national average. (They say it’s our clean air. Obviously the demographers haven’t spent September in “Pew-taluma!) And time is zip-lining by at an ever-accelerating pace. We better get our lunch reservations in for Senior CafĂ© at the senior center on Novak, operated by Petaluma People Services Center. Or make arrangements for Meals on Wheels, another of PPSC’s programs. Petaluma People Services Center’s mission is to improve the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-sufficiency of the individual. We oldies-but-goldies can call them to arrange for a caseworker, find out programs we can benefit from, or to volunteer our time or money. They offer support, referral, advocacy and even adult classes in conjunction with SRJC.

Classes! That’s where I’ll be when I’m 84—and my darling husband better not ask me if I’m ever going to graduate. That is, if I can get there. Petaluma Green Taxi offers a 20% discount on fares to seniors as well a pre-paid vouchers. The company believes in giving back to our community and in 2011 Petaluma Green Taxi donated $1500 to PEP Housing residents. They have contracts with many of our local doctors, hospitals and clinics, another benefit to our aging population.

We may not need to call a taxi yet, but at the end of the month, several of our tribe will have birthdays. To celebrate, we’re motoring out to Occidental for a canopy tour of the coastal redwoods, and half of us will qualify for the discount. Wheeeeeeee—84, here we come!

1st published in the Petaluma Post September 2012 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And 23rd Place Goes To—

Five years ago our team of six lounged at a table in Theater Square, eating ice cream and nervously assessing the  competition registering for the 3rd Great Petaluma Treasure Hunt. As the two PM start time loomed, all kinds of people showed up, filling the square with noisy excitement. With growing confidence, we determined we had the advantage over the families with school-aged kids and the twenty-somethings who’d probably get bored. And wouldn’t the senior citizens get too hot tromping around in the August sun? Besides, we included a writer-editor, a computer whiz, two puzzle experts, an artist, a teacher, and between us held five undergrad degrees, two masters degrees, one PhD, and six smart phones. Not to mention a combined residence in Petaluma of about seventy-five years. Team Albuminati a cerain shoo-in!

Our team regiseterd in advance, proceeds benefitting Butter and Egg Days. The clue packets had been handed out at check-in, and we had nothing to do but bake in the hot August sun and speculate on possible clues until the “starting gun” of what was essentially a race to find locations in downtown Petaluma and solve clues. The cover of the sealed packet offered some strategies to maximize our use of time: “determine as many clue start locations as possible before heading out” being excellent advice.

At two o’clock, the MastermindTreasure Hunts team gathered the 28 participating teams together, explained the rules and instructed us to break the seals on our packets. I felt like I was back in school about to take the SAT. Maybe it was the heat, but pinpricks of perspiration broke out under my hat-band.  My pulse raced.


The Albumati raced to a corner of the square in the shade and started solving for clue locations. The teacher reminded us to answer what we knew, skip what we didn’t coming back to those later. We all got #1-A—a no-brainer: It’s quite an odd place for a lair/a business with tools and hardware/ but this place’s name/ is one and the same/ as the wondrous bear that is there. We marked our maps with  1)Rex Ace Hardware. 

In moments my husband had 3) Putnam Fountain. I knew 7) Copperfields and 8) The Petaluma Historical Museum. Our artist, Diane, was all over 2) The Petaluma ArtCenter. We marked our maps with the numbers and a route began to emerge.

Ours wasn’t the first team to leave Theater Square, nor were we last. A knot of “hunters” clustered in front of Rex Ace pondering the clue: a missing letter—the “v” in shovel. We raced to the Historical Museum and our scientist PhD easily found 26 apples in local artist, Sachal’s, painting Apple Tree: Homage to Newton. We streamed out onto Fourth at Kentucky and found “Heritage.” We were giddy, on a roll. Copperfields stumped us. We moved on to find a flour company. Forty-five minutes later, we’d covered every downtown alley and the Boulevard but couldn’t find the clue—because it was on Washington.

Well, if we hurried and got the rest right, we could still win, couldn’t we? We took a quick rest in the shade to google Petaluma flour companies before scurrying around Putnam Plaza to discover that the fountain isn’t dedicated to anyone in particular, but the drinking fountain is dedicated to Milt Whitt. Got another one—time to move back toward Theater Square.

I’d solved much of the puzzle for locaton #6 before we’d departed the starting line, and we knew we wanted to be near Graffiti Restaurant, but we never found the clue. “Ok, then let’s run to the Art Center,” concealed David, Mr. acrostic. He'd figured out the clue: a snake with a shovel for a tongue!

Time ticked on and we had about twenty minutes to find the last clue in Walnut Park. I don’t think anyone actually solved the maze, but we found the clue, 1932, through sheer will and jogged back to Theater Square with six minutes to spare. Someone handed in our score sheet and we grabbed a table at La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge and ordered drinks and appetizers. The Albuninati was sweaty, hungry and every one’s feet hurt!

Soon the tables filled up and the Mastermind Treasure Hunt team tallied the scores. Someone got onto the mic and said they’d announce the winners soon. I gripped my husband’s hand feeling like that six year old waiting to have her basket of colored eggs counted by the mothers—the basket with the most eggs (usually my sister’s) won a beautiful sugar egg with a pastoral scene inside. This was going to be my sugar egg! I ordered another glass of wine.

“In 3rd place, Red Harvest, with all ten answers correct and a 4:12 time stamp,” the emcee announced. A table of adults hooted and the crowd clapped.

Ten clues? “Hey, did you guys know we missed one?” I asked. “Yeah,” our detail- oriented programmer answered, “the one about the street crossing signs.” Drat!

“In second place at 4:10 with all answers correct, the Evil Goggles!” The crowd cheered, but I couldn’t see the group from where I sat. “And first prize goes to the Be Dang Cool with all ten clues and a finish time of 3:52.” The table next to us erupted—eight or ten twenty-somethings had won the prize—a night at High Tides Cottage on Tomales Bay. Definitely not bored.

And in 23rd place, the Albuminati! Our prize? A wonderful afternoon exploring our hometown, learning about its history and meeting our neighbors. After a day of laughter, ice cream and drinks with Petaluma, we had a big win.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Take Me Riding in the Car-Car

I first fell in love in the backseat of a black Buick Roadmaster convertible circa 1950. Miss Buick was shiny, curvaceous, and had a toothsome grin—and I could stretch out along her smooth upholstery and watch the sky whoosh over my head as we streamed along the roads on her spinning whitewalls. Dad loved her too, but in ways I didn’t understand—she was the symbol of post-war prosperity, and apparently she was lovely to drive, something I experienced many years later in my sporty Nissan with the sunroof—the thrill of mobility and control in the open air.
I don’t remember what Dad drove after the Buick, but I remember the green wood-paneled Ford station wagon, loaded to it’s gills with family and camping gear, that carried us on journeys throughout the West. Dad and Mom traded off driving the long distances and we three kids sat on the bench seat in back, playing I Spy or cards, or just gazing out the windows. I hated when I had to sit in the middle because the hump of the drive shaft made it uncomfortable. But the utter exhilaration of traveling across the ever-unfolding land, made even that worth it. I remember how it sounded to hear the rush of the wind flooding through the open windows and feel it on my face. When we stopped, I could still hear the roar in my ears, feel the tingle on my cheeks. “I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racing in the wind and the feeling that I'm under!” I wonder how I ever combed the knots out of my hair.
Our family car trips probably started in 1959, but the first record I have is in 1960, the year I received a Brownie camera. I have fading black and white photos of Bubbles the pilot whale, jumping from a giant salt-water tank for fish held by a trainer decked out in a white sailor suit, complete with the black tie and white cloth hat, at Marineland of the Pacific, Palos Verdes.
Bubbles the Pilot Whale
It was the following car-trip that marked the second time I fell in love. This time not with the car but with the travel. Still 1960, and later in the summertime, we packed up and toured the pristine forests around Crater Lake, looped up to Wyoming to see Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, then dropped back into California through Virginia City, Nevada. I loved the bubbling mud pots, the sulfuric stink, and the live bears of Yellowstone; this was the real deal—so much better than Yogi and Boo Boo. The majesty of the Tetons awed me, but the most memorable single image I have of this trip is of Bear Lake, Idaho. A turquoise set into the chaparral of high desert. By now my photos are in color, but no photo can compare to my remembered glimpse of this little lake.

For the next several years, we car-tripped to the California Missions, to Death Valley, to Disneyland, to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair—I’m holding my “Eye of the Needle Certificate” that certifies, I Ana Manwaring, “has dined in the sky high merry-go-round restaurant at the top of the Space Needle.” Shot through the steel railings enclosing the observation deck, my photos show the landscape of the fair spread a dizzy-ing 520 feet below. On that trip I fell in love once again—in Victoria B.C. at the Buchart Gardens. Now, give me a car to drive and a garden to visit, and I’m in Heaven.
What is it about our cars that we love so much—the potential for adventure or the promise of freedom? Have you ever counted the number of love songs written about cars and the road? I’m a woman of means by no means, Queen of the road! And how regal I’ve felt, passing by the golden Gateway Arch on my first transcontinental “progression” in a ‘57 Chevy, and later, navigating my ‘69 VW pop-top camper, tricked out with air shocks and red leather Cadillac “thrones,” on the back roads of Mexico and Belize.           

The era of long car trips may be coming to a close, but you can still hear me humming  “Get your motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure in whatever comes our way,” even if gas is over $4 a gallon, the windows are up and the adventure takes place in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain.
Is that my Prius I hear revving its hybrid motor?
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm.

Don't miss A Salute to American Grafffiti in Petaluma May 19th