Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dittos and Disney

We sometimes amuse ourselves by comparing technologies.

Example: I was eight in 1955 when my family got its first television, a black-and-white set. That meant I could watch the “Mickey Mouse Club” without  having to go next door to Susie Hekman’s house.

By the time Michael was eight, in 1972, he could watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights – with fireworks in full exploding color.

I remember phone numbers with letters in them, like  CH3-0303 , or 5473J.  Michael doesn’t.

It seems a given that age-gap couples would suffer a technology gap, but ours seems to narrow with time. What we both remember: transistor radios, 45-rpm records, rotary phones, a world before hand-held calculators, and our first electric typewriters.

Technology isn’t always a reliable way to measure how we experience time. When Michael and I met in 1991,  I was the one who had a CD player; he was still buying vinyl records. In 1992, when we lived along the Delaware River for a summer, we brought along Michael’s first PC – a clunky Atari – as well as a manual Royal typewriter.

In the March/April issue of Poets and Writers magazine, author Eileen Pollack recounts how she began writing stories in longhand, then moved to typewriters and finally to computers.  In the article, “Track Changes: Ditto Machines to Digital Literature,” she notes that it’s now possible to write and publish entire novels without producing anything you can hold in your hand. (Irony: I can’t link you to the article. It’s available only in the magazine’s print version.)

Pollack also remembers using ditto machines, which got us thinking about them too. I last used one in 1971, teaching junior high English and handing out sweet-smelling purple-lettered papers to my students.  As late as 1998, when Michael was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Arkansas, he had to make class handouts using an aging ditto machine. Sometimes it took a screwdriver to make the thing rotate.

Now here we are in the blogosphere, yet neither of us live full-time in the digital world. Maybe we came together because we were like-minded about things: we love the smell and feel of newsprint and books, the turning of pages.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ask Bob

The other night, Sheri and I argued over potatoes. She had made meatloaf. It was a great meatloaf. Boiled potatoes sat on the side.

As I forked potato and sour cream into my mouth, I said something like, “I’m not supposed to eat potatoes.”

This led to a discussion of our diets, our menus. Somewhere along the line, we misunderstood each other. Sheri thought I was criticizing our eating habits and blaming her for them (I wasn’t). I thought she didn’t believe that potatoes were bad for me. It’s true, I wasn’t explaining myself well. Sheri knows that the strange head trips I’ve had since childhood – during which the world slows its motion and objects shine brighter and my balance teeters and I become ravenous – have to do with blood sugar. To prevent my spells, I need to eat mostly protein, though some fats are okay, too, and stay away from sugars – especially high fructose corn syrup and other items high on the glycemic index. Among these are potatoes.

But when I said that potatoes had too much sugar, Sheri didn’t believe me. Her newspaper editor’s hat appeared, pulled low over her skeptical gaze.

And I remembered another time when she didn’t believe me. The details here are fuzzy, too. It had to do with a big auto crash at an intersection near the Bitterroot River in Montana, where we used to live. Driving by one day, I mentioned the smash-up. For some reason, Sheri didn’t believe it had happened. Maybe because she hadn’t heard of it elsewhere or seen it in a newspaper. A week or so later, we drove by again, this time with our friend Bob McGiffert, a curmudgeon and professor emeritus at the local university. A true gray eminence. He mentioned the accident. Sheri said, “Oh,” and she believed him. Stupefied, I protested.

Ever since, when we’ve disagreed over a fact, we’ve said to each other, “Let’s ask Bob.”

Bob died this past Christmas. He was a great good friend, among the most big-hearted men I’ve known. We miss him and his feisty, curmudgeonly zest. When we disagree, we still want to ask him – at least in spirit – to be our Google, our arbiter, to know who is right.

But we couldn’t do that over our potatoes. So I wondered aloud why Sheri had been willing to believe Bob that long-ago day, but not to believe her husband. Why is it that if Bob were here, and he said something about potatoes and blood sugar, she’d believe him?

“It’s because he was older, wasn’t it?” I said.

And she said, “That’s a blog post.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Q & A

You have questions? We have (some)
We sometimes wonder: What questions do people really want to ask us about our age difference?

And over the past two years, we’ve answered most of them on the 100+ posts on this blog.
Q: How do you deal with the fact that the older woman will probably die well before the younger man?
A: Michael thinks about it a lot.
Q. What was it like to meet his/her parents?
A. A lot more stressful for Sheri than for Michael. And pretty stressful for Michael’s mom, at first.
Q. Does the older woman worry about being left for a younger woman?
A. Sometimes. See death question, above.
Q. How did you deal with not having children?
A. We are still dealing with it: Michael here….. Sheri here.
Q. In the beginning, did you think he was just a boytoy?
Q. Have you ever been mistaken for mother and son?
A. Yes
Q. What was the sex like and has it changed?
A. This is about as close to that as we’re ready to go.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Him+17, countrified

Sheri’s a merciless editor – even of her husband’s words -- and nothing I write gets out of the house without her reading it first. Likewise, I read her work. We collaborate. We butt heads. And in the end, what we write is better for our collaboration. Our marriage is, too.

So I’m rooting for Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, a husband and his seventeen-years-older wife, who right now are Grammy Award nominees for a duet called “I Run To You.” The show will be broadcast next week, on Feb. 13, 8 p.m. east coast time, on CBS. The couple are competing for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Stuart is up for another for Best Country Instrumental; both songs come from his album Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions.

The couple married in 1997, having first met when Marty was a 12-year-old who saw Connie perform at a fair in his hometown. She forgot him, but he didn’t forget her. You can watch them perform “I Run To You” in this video.


I’m no country music expert, and the song is likable enough, but I’m saying the outfits are more fabulous than the tune. Nevertheless can’t we all agree that husband-and-wife teams with a seventeen-year age difference deserve mega-national awards? Isn’t there a Pulitzer Prize for blogging collaborations?

Can’t we also agree that I’d look yes-yes-yes in a silk scarf and sequins?