Time, Time mag, mag*

Back when I used to go over to my mother’s house in the 1990’s, I would sometimes sit in her living room and read a magazine while she watched the Braves or NCIS reruns. There were a few of the classics, like National Geographic, or a good consumer magazine, like Consumer Reports. I would also find the occasional issue of Money magazine. I never could figure out why she subscribed to that magazine. I couldn’t find anything interesting in it, and I doubt she could either. Maybe that’s why we weren’t rich.

Anyway, so time passed, my mother went to live in Virginia for a year with my brother while he finished seminary school, and then moved into an assisted living facility for a few months, and then went back home to die.

And still the Money magazines kept coming. They ended up being mailed to my brother’s house in Chattanooga. I don’t think he thought much about it. He just assumed my mother had a subscription that would soon run out, and he wouldn’t renew it, because he never found much to read in the magazine either, so he’s also not rich.

But still they kept coming. And, as is so often the case, the whole matter just sort of drifted along just below his conscious mind. Eventually, however, as the months became years –almost four years, in fact – it occurred to him to look at the subscription information on the mailing label. My mother’s subscription to Money magazine was good through 2047.

I can imagine very well what happened. Someone called my mother and urged her to subscribe at a good rate, a tremendous rate, a truly Trumpian rate, and she agreed, despite the fact that she had been retired for 30 or 40 years and did not have any money to speak of. And then they kept calling her back, because she wouldn’t want to let a subscription to such a wonderful magazine as Money expire. And of course my mother agreed that that would truly be a tragedy, so she re-upped. And they called, and they called, and they called, and my mother renewed and renewed and renewed. All the way out to 2047, when she would be 124 years old.

I’m sure it never occurred to the truly wonderful, tremendous magazine subscription salespeople that no one alive in, let’s say 1997, would want to read Money magazine for the next 50 years, no matter how interesting and useful the articles might be. I’m sure they didn’t even consider the fact that it is as near a certainty as one is likely to encounter that Money magazine will not even exist in 2047.

So my brother called the Money magazine subscription department and described the situation. To their credit, when the staggering absurdity of the situation was explained to them in a manner befitting an ordained Presbyterian minister, they agreed that there might need to be some adjustment in the subscription particulars. They agreed to refund payment for some of the excess subscription. Quelle surprise.

Just last week my brother sent me a check for half of the refund. It was nearly $300. So, imagine that, if you will. The people behind convincing little old ladies to renew useless magazine subscriptions out decades beyond their likely death squeezed almost $600 out of my mother.

*Thanks Joan Baez. Yes, it’s Money magazine, not Time. But Time Inc. owns Money, so I think the title of this post is appropriate.

The Kings of Denmark

It has been seven years since my fourth and last Doberman Pinscher died. I have thought about, maybe, some day, getting another one. Someone I used to work with said you can’t be loyal to a dog, but you can be loyal to a breed. But for some reason, I have mixed feelings about getting another Doberman. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to be loyal to a dog.

So occasionally when I think about another dog, I think about a breed other than a Doberman. One day about a month ago I told Leah, “Hey, we should get a Great Dane!”

Imagine a dog bigger than Leah! Imagine him lying on the sofa with us, or pushing us off the bed at night, if we let him sleep in bed with us. Imagine how much dog food he would eat. Imagine walking him. I used to think a Doberman was a big dog until I saw one of mine standing next to a Great Dane.

Planning for a new dog is not an urgent problem. We have three dogs, which is, at a minimum, one too many. Two is a full house, three is a madhouse. Of course Zeke is getting old. We will have had him 11 years this summer, so he will be at least 12. He’s still healthy, but he’s a graybeard now. Lucy is also a graybeard. We don’t know how old she is, maybe 12, maybe 14. She, too, is old but showing no signs of declining health. Sam is a real youngster. So I doubt that our dog roster will get any shorter for a while. But isn’t it good to plan?

So I was thinking, if we get a Great Dane, what will we name him? I’m not great at choosing names. Not an urgent problem, but no harm in checking, right? So what about naming him (or her) after one of the kings of Denmark?

I Googled the kings of Denmark, searching for a good dog name. I was amazed to see that the list goes back more than 1000 years, to Gorm the Old, who reigned from around 940 to 958 AD. He died at about 58 years old. Gorm? I don’t think so.

Then there are Harald, Sweyn, Cnut and Harthacnut. Harald is a possibility, but I don’t think I like it. Sweyn is too hard to say. Cnut (even Cnut the Great) won’t work. For one thing, it violates my first rule for naming dogs: you must be able to visualize yourself shouting the name at the top of your lungs, and you cannot shout Cnut. No way. Harthacnut is ridiculously long for a dog’s name, plus there’s that “cnut” hiding at the end.

Magnus the Good might work. Magnus was a bastard child who died without children at age 23 on 25 October 1047. I wonder how true that date is, and if it has been adjusted for changes in the calendar.

Olaf, Eric and Niels don’t seem like dog names. Valdemar is too much like a fantasy villain. Abel might work, but Christopher doesn’t. There are a lot of Christians and Fredericks, definitely not dog names.

The one thing the kings of Denmark seem to have in common, along with names unsuitable for a dog, was that most of them died young. Most of those who did not die in their 20’s or 30’s died before 60. A very few of the ancient kings of Denmark lived into their 70’s. The oldest I could find was Christian IX, who died in 1906 at age 87, a remarkable outlier. Of course the more recent kings or queens generally lived somewhat longer than the ancient kings of Denmark. But most of the kings of Denmark were younger than I am when they died.

I did not find a good king’s name for a Great Dane, except for possibly Magnus, but looking at their ages at death made me think about something else. When we humans get a pet dog or cat, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that that dog or cat is almost certainly going to die before we do. That’s true for most of our lives, but at some point, at some age, we have to understand that a new dog or cat could well outlive us.

Leah would like to have a Siamese cat, like she used to have, one that might provide some of the emotional interaction that none of our current cats does. I would like to have another Doberman, or maybe a Great Dane. Neither of us is morbidly waiting around for our current cats and dogs to die, but, realistically, they probably will all die before we do. And at that point we have to think about how we will ensure that our responsibilities to any new cat or dog are carried out if our pets outlive us. Neither of us expects to die any time soon, but both of us are at an age that, if a 30-year-old read the obituary, they wouldn’t say, “They died so young!”

Maybe we should consider adopting senior pets, if we live long enough.

94

Today, January 12, 2017, would have been my mother’s 94th birthday. She died almost four years ago shortly after her 90th birthday and pretty close to 13 years after my father died. I posted a picture in 2013 of her, Leah, my brother and some of his family at a Japanese restaurant we took her to for her birthday celebration.

Over the years since my parents died they have become younger. Not young, but at a younger old age, after they retired and before they became too infirm to travel. The saddest part of their old age was their declining health. Sometimes when I think of them and wish they were still here, I realize that long before today neither one of them would be healthy and strong enough to even want to be here. It’s like they were given a few extra years and then robbed of the value of those years.

So the best thing for them and for me is to hold them in my memory. That way they are safe from any further insults the world might want to throw their way, at least for as long as I am alive and can think clearly. Once my brother and I are gone, they will be pretty much gone, too. I doubt that either of their grandchildren (my nephews) think much about them or, for that matter, even remember that much about them. So much the worse for them.

After Christmas

We had a very quiet Christmas. It was so quiet, in fact, that it didn’t occur to me that it actually was Christmas until I was walking the dogs down the mountain.

It was foggy, as it has been so often in the last week or so.

It had been even foggier a little earlier in the morning. I could barely see the closest trees when I looked out from the bedroom window.

For Christmas dinner we had turkey, dressing and gravy we had frozen after Thanksgiving. It still tasted pretty good to me. Neighbor John called just as we were sitting down to eat and offered us some leftover ziti that his wife had made for Christmas dinner. I declined politely.

The buyer of our old house brought her two kids and a container of sweets to our new house on Christmas Eve. They are very nice people.

One of my favorite foods for the holidays is bread pudding. Back when I was working, the company held a potluck Thanksgiving lunch. Bridgett, one of my coworkers, often brought bread pudding with two sauces, one made with rum (or some other alcoholic beverage) and one without. She assured everyone that the alcohol had cooked out, but it hadn’t. Since I retired, I don’t get bread pudding unless I make it. So I did.

I used a loaf of French bread cut into squares and toasted slightly, rather than allowed to go stale. I also used a cup of raisins soaked in rum for a couple of hours. One of the major failings of some bread pudding I have eaten is too few raisins, so I made sure I had enough. Some bread pudding is more pudding-like, but I like it more bready. This turned out pretty much just the way I like it. I also made some buttered rum sauce, using a whole lot of sugar and a quarter cup of rum, all according to the recipe. And then I added more rum.

Leah thinks I might have to make more sauce. She’s not eating bread pudding, but she is tasting the sauce a little. I think we have enough rum left. I have eaten about two thirds of the bread pudding. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

We strung some lights on the front porch for decorations, as you can see in the previous post. We didn’t do anything inside. Aside from the numerous Christmas trees we saw at the Biltmore estate, our closest approach to a Christmas tree was at the bar in a Mexican restaurant where we ate while in Asheville.

It some ways I miss Christmas, but it slipped away slowly, gradually over the years as grandparents died, and then aunts and uncles, and then parents.

At least we’ll have bread pudding.

Jazz and Culture

Thursday night we went to a Berry College concert featuring the Berry College steel band “The Berry Breeze” and the Berry Jazz Ensemble. We both thought it was very good. We were surprised by the steel band. They use steel drums (or steel pans, or just pans).

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I used my new camera, the Olympus EPL7. I used the relatively slow “kit” lens, which required me to shoot at a fairly long exposure. That caused some blurring of the performers. Maybe one day I’ll get a faster lens for things like this.

My favorite piece was Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening.” The Berry Breeze performed for about a half an hour, and then the jazz ensemble performed for another half hour. Their repertoire was mainly jazz from the ‘40’s, with some slightly more modern.

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I know very little about music, but I thought these students were professional quality. One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing how much the students seemed to enjoy their performances.

The performance was held in Berry College’s Ford Auditorium, one of seven buildings constructed in the late ‘20’s and early ‘30’s in the Collegiate Gothic Style. According to the marthapedia (from Martha Berry, the founder. The marthapedia was actually a class assignment at Berry) says that the buildings were financed by Henry Ford, but were not named for Ford until after his death. Apparently Ford was afraid if they were named for him he would be expected to maintain them during his lifetime.

The Berry Department of Fine Arts gives over 40 free concerts every year. We’re thinking about attending more.

On Saturday we decided to go to the Intercultural Fest held in downtown Rome. It was supposed to offer food, music and lots of other stuff. We first attended our own Intercultural Feast at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The Intercultural Fest was supposed to go from noon to midnight. Unfortunately, it had slowed down considerably by the time we got there. A Columbian dance group had just finished when we walked in. After that there was a West African bell and drum solo, which, I have to confess, did not impress except through the soloist’s enthusiasm. After that a local Latin rapper performed. By this time there were only about 30 people watching.

The event was almost entirely Hispanic. The mistress of ceremonies would speak a few sentences in Spanish, then say a few sentences in English, and then switch back to Spanish. I don’t know Spanish but I could tell that she was not just translating herself.

The light was so dim that any shot I took required an even longer exposure than at the Berry concert. The most visually interesting thing we saw was this.

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A little baby’s hand and foot. I had to put the camera in my lap and shoot for about a second.

The Intercultural Fest was a disappointment, but we’re hoping they do it again next year. If they do, we’ll go earlier in the day.