Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Last Surviving Grouchy Grammar Nut

You know how, in World War II, the Marines employed Navajo code talkers to transmit radio messages because no one but another Navajo could understand the language?  Now there is fear that some of these obscure Native American languages will disappear when the last of the elderly code speakers passes on.

Well I’m 72 and I suspect that I’m the last person on earth who knows the proper usage of “lie” and “lay.”  Not that I would dream of correcting anyone, such as my fabulously flexible and toned Pilates teachers who say about a dozen times an hour, “Now everyone lay down on your mat with your head facing the mirror.”

I’ve also given up on “its” and “it’s”.  And of course there’s “two, to and too,” all of which are texted as “2”.  In fact, now that texting is ubiquitous, I suspect that all language will soon be written phonetically using numbers, symbols, emoticons and perhaps bar codes.

It’s always an error in The New York Times that sends me off on a grammar rant—and there was another one today (Thursday, March 28.)  In the Style Section, in a large, bold pull-quote from an article about photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith taken in the 1960’s, I read:  “After laying dormant for decades, a second life for photographs taken of a pair of artists on the cusp of fame.”  Of course, it’s supposed to be: “after lying dormant…”

This “laying” was the last straw after last week, when I saw in The Times a large headline about the economic troubles of Cypress(!) even though, throughout the text of the piece, the economic troubles were ascribed to the island of Cyprus, rather than a species of tree.

In the olden days, when I was being trained in New York Times style at  Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, these errors would have been caught by people called copy editors, but I can only imagine that, in this very difficult period for all print media, The Times has been forced to fire all its copy editors for economic reasons. 

That thumping noise you hear is the late, lamented Times editor Ted Bernstein spinning in his grave.  Once upon a time, Theodore M. Bernstein was the watchman of the venerable Great Gray Lady as well as a professor at Columbia J School. After he died in 1979, Time Magazine noted, “Theodore M. Bernstein, 74…served as the paper‘s prose polisher and syntax surgeon for almost five decades, authoring seven popular texts on English usage and journalism…In a witty Times house organ called ‘Winners and Sinners’, the shirtsleeves vigilante caught solecists in the act.”

At Columbia J School we often saw Bernstein’s “Winners and Sinners” newsletter. Somewhat like the judges on American Idol, Ted Bernstein would periodically praise a brilliant headline or turn of phrase in the NYT and chide and make fun of grammatical and syntactical lapses.  The “Cypress” debacle would probably have sent him into overdrive.

Three years ago, on April 14, 2010, in a post called “Michelle Obama, the Grammar Police and a Cranky Crone”, I gently chided the First Lady for a lapse in grammar.  Although I think I did it in a friendly way, it almost got me expelled from a women’s group I belonged to, as one particularly vehement member insisted it was heartless and morally wrong to criticize the First Lady for anything except her political actions.  (That blog post was also reprinted in a book called “Grammar Rants”—and they did not mean that in a good way.)

The funny thing is, I am a huge admirer of Michelle Obama.  Her photograph stands on the top of my desk. And the same day I published that post, I e-mailed it to her office.  Evidently no one there who read it was offended, because ever since, nearly every week, I get an e-mail from the office of the First Lady, or from the President himself asking my opinion of something, or sometimes it’s just from “The White House”.  If the White House had been as offended as my fellow club members by my post, certainly they wouldn’t have put me on their mailing list?

Anyway, I’ll reprint below some of what I said about the First Lady and grammar and let you decide whether I was being  “heartless.”  And thanks for sticking with me through this current grammar rant.  I feel a lot better now.

Today [April 14, 2010] I read in all the news media about Michelle Obama’s surprise visit to Haiti during her first official solo trip abroad.

I applaud her for her compassion and for bringing public attention to the devastating needs that still have to be met, especially for the Haitian children.

I’m a huge fan of Michelle’s and admire her more than any first lady since, say, Eleanor Roosevelt. But I did wince when I read the statement that she made to the press about her trip. Her insight was perfect but her grammar was not.

“I think it was important for Jill and I to come now because we’re at the point where the relief efforts are under way but the attention of the world starts to wane a bit, ” she said.

What’s wrong with that? Take out Jill and you have “I think it’s important for I to come now.” It’s supposed to be: “It was important for Jill and ME.”….

…You don’t expect perfect grammar from a baseball player (or from Bob Dylan…writer of “Lay, Lady, Lay”),  but maybe you do from a First Lady who’s a lawyer, educated at Princeton and Harvard.

Kids acquire an ear for correct grammar by hearing it spoken by the adults around them; their parents and their role models. But now that young people mainly communicate by texting in a phonetic code, both spelling and grammar are becoming as antiquated as the Model T.

It’s great that Michelle Obama is encouraging kids to eat smart and get out there and exercise, but let’s encourage them to mind their P’s and Q’s and their prepositions, nouns, verbs and grammar as well.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Amalia’s Jungle Adventure

On Saturday, 19-month-old granddaughter Amalia paid a visit to Florida’s Jungle Island in the heart of Miami, where she had her first chance to get up close and personal with animals she had only read about in story books.

Right inside the door, employees handed her Mommy a royal blue parrot and perched two other parrots on her Yiayia Joanie and her honorary Yiayia Eleni Nikolaides, and then they took a photo.  This did not make Amalia happy, perhaps because the parrots were so much bigger than her beloved Tonia, the green parrot who lives in her complex back in Granada, Nicaragua.
 Amalia  brightened up when she saw giant iguanas and agile little monkeys inside the first gate.  The monkeys followed us around, hoping that some food would come out of Yiayia’s purse, but it didn’t.
 Amalia was amazed to see children riding “paka-paka” on top of Judy, the elephant, just like people ride on horses back in Granada, but she said decisively that she did not want to go on such a ride (nor did her grandmas.)

 She was equally worried by the sight of some alligators and their big teeth, and wished that her Papou (Grandpa) was there to go “Da! Da! Da!’ to those alligators and drive them back into the swamp.
 After passing waterfalls, caged tigers and lots more parrots,  they came to “Dr. Wasabi’s’s Wild Adventures”  which was Amalia’s first look at live theater.

They met a pot-bellied pig

And a lemur

And a bristly porcupine.  Most of the animals came around so that you could touch them if you wanted.  But not the porcupine.

Next they came to the petting zoo where Amalia fed grain to a little billygoat

And Yiayia Joanie fed juice to another goat from a baby's bottle.

 And Amalia got to touch a furry little monkey

And watch two bigger monkeys who were showing off by swinging all over, like Tarzan.

She marveled at  huge tortoises, much bigger than the tortugas in her garden in Nicaragua.
 On the way to the restaurant, they passed a giant alligator that had its mouth open, and Amalia demonstrated one more time what Papou would do if he was there to beat up the alligator.  She didn’t realize it was only a statue.
 In the lunch room there were paintings of some of the animals they had seen and Amalia had a delicious lunch of pasta, but she fell asleep in her carriage before the Key Lime Pie.

She  didn’t even see the Flamingo Lake outside the windows.

The male flamingos were flapping their wings and running around aggressively while the females glided by and pretended to ignore them.
 Amalia slept all the way home to South Beach, and when she woke up that afternoon, she couldn’t stop talking about all the animals she’d seen, especially the elephant and the alligators.
 In fact, she was so excited that she woke up at three a. m. that night and stayed awake until 6 a.m., driving everyone else crazy while reliving her jungle adventures and recounting what Papou would do to the scary animals if only he was there.

Her Mommy said that it had all been too much excitement for Amalia and they probably shouldn’t take her to see Disneyland until she was about five.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Mystery of the Monarch Butterflies of Michoacan, Mexico

I first published this post two years ago when I traveled to Mexico and the mountain sanctuary to which millions of Monarch butterflies migrate every winter.  On Valentine's Day 2011 we were lucky to have optimum conditions for viewing the incredible beauty of the Monarch habitat, but this past week I've been reading that the population of Monarchs who arrived in Mexico this year is at an all-time low due to extreme weather, illegal logging in Mexico and especially  destruction of breeding habitats (wild milkweed plants) in the U.S.  So I'm re-posting this, to share one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life before the Monarchs completely disappear from their long-hidden winter retreat.

They are one of the great mysteries—and beauties—of nature. No one knew where the migrating Monarch butterflies spent the winter until 1975, when the mountaintop in Michoacan, Mexico was discovered by an American named Ken Brugger and his wife Catalina Aguada. The Bruggers had answered an ad in a Mexican newspaper  asking for volunteers, placed by Dr. Frederick Urquhart who had been trying to find the Monarchs’ wintering place since1937.

    The discovery of the Monarchs’ winter hiding place, according to another scientist, was “Like discovering the eighth wonder of the world.”

     For the native Purépecha Indians, the place of the Monarchs had never been a secret.  At the beginning of November every year, the church bells rang, signaling the arrival of millions of butterflies (which had flown all the way from the United State and Canada.)  The Purépechas believed that the mariposas were the souls of dead children, and the annual arrival frightened them, so they did not speak of it to outsiders.

     One of Mexico’s most celebrated poets, Homer Aridjis, who was born in a small village near the hibernation site, had known about the butterflies all his life, since he first discovered them while exploring near his home.  Here is what Christine Potters, an American fellow blogger, whom I met during my recent trip to Morelia, wrote about Aridjis in her excellent blog “Mexico Cooks”

        "In the town of Contepec, Michoacán, a small boy, Homero Aridjis, born in 1940 as the youngest of five Greek/Mexican brothers--used to climb Cerro Altamirano near his home to look at the monarch butterflies that flooded the forests for almost four months in the winter before they left again, heading north. No one living in his area knew where the butterflies came from or where they went. "When I began to write poems," Aridjis said, "I used to climb the hill that dominated the memory of my childhood. Its slopes, gullies, and streams were full of animal voices--owls, hummingbirds, mocking birds, coyotes, deer, armadillo. The natural world stimulated my poetry." But of all of these animals, he says the monarch butterflies were his "first love." Aridjis won Mexico's very prestigious Xavier Villarrutia Award at age 24 and years later, monarchs were still making their appearance in his writing. His 1971 book, El poeta niño, includes a beautiful poem that goes like this: "You travel/by day/ like a winged tiger/ burning yourself/ in your flight/ Tell me/ what supernatural/ life is/painted on your wings...."**"

      Early on, after the discovery of the hibernation site, Aridjis became an activist trying to protect the butterflies’ hibernation place and to prevent the deforestation of the fir trees on which they depend for their survival in the winter.

     When I entered the butterfly sanctuary at El Rosaria, in the Mexican state of Michoachan, on Valentine’s day, last week, as part of the first tour to the area sponsored by Susana Trilling, a chef who is based in Oaxaca, (  the people of El Rosario were still digging out from a tragic storm, exactly a year earlier, which  caused mud slides and floods that buried homes and people and washed away cars, homes and animals, leaving 30,000 homeless and at least 45 people dead. We could see the construction to rebuild roads and bridges as we approached Rosario.

In our itineraries for the trip, Susana had quoted an account of a  storm in 2002 that killed a majority of the wintering Monarchs.  It turns out that the butterflies, who don’t move, but cling to the fir trees when the weather gets cold, can survive temperatures well below zero, if they have little liquid in their bodies, but if they are wet, as they were in 2002, they freeze.  On the day after the storm, acording to Lincoln Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia,  “We were wading in (dead) butterflies up to our knees.”  He and his colleagues estimated that 500 million monarchs had died from the storm—five times more than they thought had even existed in the colony.

The scientists feared that only a fraction of the usual number of butterflies would return the next year, but to their delight, they found that the devastated Monarch population had returned to normal.

In my visit last week to the butterfly sanctuary at El Rosario, I learned a lot, including how to tell a male butterfly from a female.  A male has the two dots that you see below on the back part of his wings.   The dark veins on a female are wider.

The butterflies that flock to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada to spend the winter are the fourth generation, the “Methuselah Generation” of their breed.

An adult butterfly lives only about four to five weeks, The eggs are left on the milkweed plant, three or four days later the brightly striped caterpillars emerge, and during the next nine to 14 days they shed their skin five times.   On the sixth molting, the caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis, and after eight to 13 days, the adult butterfly emerges. (This is illustrated by a five minute film in Spanish for visitors at a theater inside the Rosario sanctuary.) 

Three days after emerging, the adult butterflies develop sex organs and, five days later begin to reproduce. This cycle occurs three times during spring and summer as the butterflies travel north into the US and Canada until, in the fall, the fourth or “Methuselah” generation is born.  This fourth generation will survive seven or eight months, will  perform the astounding feat of traveling from Canada and the United States to Mexico, and after mating, the females will return back north again to the United States. (The male Monarchs in Mexico after enjoying the 72-hour mating season in February, during which they will mate with numerous females, will then drop dead—their work is done.  Only the females fly back north to lay their eggs.) 
                                      photo of butterflies mating
On the day we walked up the mountain to the most butterfly-crowded sections of the forest, what our guide Raymundo called “The Nucleus”, it was a warm day and the beginning of the mating season, and the air around us was alive with butterflies, while millions more hung on the trees like orange autumn leaves.   We were very lucky, because in the early part of the winter—November and December-- the butterflie tend not to fly, but just to hang still on the trees, and on cold days they’ll do the same.
Our guide told us that only one day in ten will provide the optimum conditions that we saw on Valentine’s Day. As we started up the steps toward the apex of the walk it became clear this was a harder trek than I expected.  (We walked 2008 meters up and 2008 meters back for a total of 6 kilometers, our guide told us—And when we started at Rosario we were already 1850 meters above sea level.)

It looked easy at the start, but only about 100 feet up I was gasping for breath  I quickly realized that the altitude was a major factor in whether or not I was going to make it all the way.  As it turned out, half of our group of six—most in their thirties or early forties—had little trouble making the ascent but the other three of us—with me at 70 being the oldest—had to stop at nearly every bench to catch our breath, while marveling at the scenery around us. (For those not able to make the ascent, horses can be rented, but the last 300 feet up still has to be on foot.)

The butterflies were a constant commotion all around us.  As one book said, the miracle is that they never collide.  In spots where there was water, like a small stream over the road, they clustered. 

The view of the sky, of the laden fir trees, the beauty all around us was indescribable.  When I sat down to catch my breath, the silence was complete-- almost eerie.  But then, as I sat there and my heart stopped raced and my breath returned to normal, I could hearing, ever so faintly, the rustle of thousands—millions—of butterfly wings.

It was a transcendent experience, even for those who have no religion.  No wonder the Purépecha Indians thought the butterflies were the souls of their dead children.

We all took photos and then we realized, as one of the women in our group remarked—there is no way a still photo could give any idea of the indescribable experience we had.  So I tried for the first time to take some videos with my camera, and I’m attaching below a link to one of those videos.  It lasts 55 seconds and if you watch it to the end, you will see some of the members of our group.

This trip to Michoacan, Mexico was a gift from my husband for my 70th birthday—and I can’t think of a better way to mark a milestone in life.  It was something I’ve always wanted to do before I die, and I wish you an equality miraculous and moving experience, to mark a landmark birthday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why I’m Going to Miss Newspapers

I’ve said it before:  my favorite time is when I sit down in the morning with my first cup of coffee and start to read the three newspapers that I devour every day.

One reason this is such a guilty pleasure is the contrast to my first job, in public relations at Lever Brothers in New York, when I had to walk into an empty office at 8 a.m. carrying five newspapers, then read and summarize all the business news of interest to the company’s executives, who would get a mimeographed newsletter from me when they drifted in around 10 a.m.  Now, of course, all executives can get their own news summary on their I-phones right in the taxi or commuter train on the way to work.

The paper that I read first with my coffee is the local paper—the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette.  I need the comfortable perspective of the T&G before I tackle the increasingly depressing first page of The New York Times.
 The T&G on Monday, March 11, for example, devoted much of the front page to Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade-- photos and the title “Smilin’ Skies” with two subtitles “Sun Shines on St. Pat’s Parade” and “One band finds itself out of step.” Inside on page three was a feel-good story and photo about how the library in Hardwick is sponsoring a seed exchange, lending seeds as well as books to its patrons, who are expected to bring seeds back from their crop for the next year’s sowing.  That’s the kind of uplifting local story that I like.

While The New York Times likes to lead with photos of mass graves and starving refugee children, the T& G has featured page-one photos of firemen rescuing a cat from a telephone pole.  When I’ve finished the T&G and checked to see if anyone I know has died or been arrested, I go through The New York Times methodically, section by section.  Often the obituaries of fascinating people I’d never heard of are my favorite part.
 I need a second cup of coffee before I tackle The Times, and when I’m through, I go about my chores. But sometime during the day I go out and track down a copy of the New York Post, which is famous for its lurid headlines like “Headless Body in Topless Bar” (that one was voted a readers favorite.  Here are some more below.) 
 People often ask me “Why on earth would YOU read the Post every day?” (Meaning—since I’m an educated professional with presumably better taste.)  But I reply truthfully that I need my daily gossip fix, and often I find my New York friends and acquaintances and their misadventures chronicled on Page Six.  Where else but in the Post would I find articles like the one last Monday about: “Why does everyone hate Anne Hathaway?” 
 My kids and their friends get all their news on line.  And I understand and respect their reasons why I shouldn’t read the print version: it kills trees, it gets your hands and furniture dirty, and by the time the paper appears in the driveway at 6:30 a.m. (usually in a plastic bag landing in the snow), it’s already out of date.

But I love handling the newspapers; the smell of the ink that smudges my hands.  I love being able to tag with post-it notes and later cut out articles I think would be of interest to my kids.  I regularly send them clippings, which I suspect they never read (but if I forward the article by e-mail I sometimes get a comment back.)

Today we get breaking news via internet the instant it happens—and we also get all the confusion and fear and wrong information gleaned by bystanders.  Think about the Newtown massacre and how many wrong “facts” were reported until, by the afternoon, the terrible truth was pinned down and rendered into print for the next day’s papers.

I graduated with a master’s degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and I realize the serious dangers of broadcasting breaking news while it’s still rumor. I understand how easy it would be to cause mass hysteria , serious injury and even death using no more than your Twitter or Facebook account.   Look what Orson Welles did with “War of the Worlds” on the radio in 1938, before the days of television.

The ability of bystanders to report the news on line is also a good thing—it can uncover and document police abuse, domestic abuse, all kinds of criminal acts. But I still prefer my news on paper, evaluated and fact-checked by the reporters of the Great Gray Lady presenting “all the news that’s fit to print.” 

I know we’re approaching the end of the road for print media. Newsweek is gone, except for on-line. The Boston Phoenix just folded after 47 years. The New York Times, suffering financially like everyone else, is trying to find someone to buy the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. One day soon there won’t be any more news delivery people or any more newspapers landing in the snowdrift at the end of our driveway.  And millions of trees will have been saved.

When I was born on Feb. 4, 1941, my parents saved the entire Milwaukee Journal: (“Score Hurt as Big Locomotive Explodes in Streets of Denver”.)  In September of 1970 I cut our wedding announcement out of The New York Times and put it in an album. Like everyone else, I saved the paper from Nov. 23, 1963, about Kennedy’s assassination.  That was the first time the nation pulled together to mourn a tragedy as it was taking place on television, but, still in grad school, I didn’t have access to a television, but stood over the teletype machine in Columbia J School’s newsroom as crumbs of information were typed out at an agonizingly slow pace.

When all the newspapers are gone and news comes beeping through our phones and computers all day long, my first cup of coffee in the morning won’t taste the same.  And as one friend asked, what are we going to use to pack up the china and line the birdcage?

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Movie about the Barbizon Hotel’s Glory Days

 Four years ago on A Rolling Crone, inspired by seeing “The Devil Wears Prada”, I wrote a post called “Those Fabulous Magazine Divas –A Memoir.”

It told tales of eccentric and glamorous magazine editors I’ve worked for, long before the days of Anna Wintour (the current Vogue Editor who was allegedly the template for Meryl Streep’s character in the film.)

In that post I wrote about my first taste of glossy fashion magazine work—when I came to New York as a Mademoiselle Guest Editor in 1961. I was one of 20 college girls who won the contest that year and were housed at the Barbizon Hotel at 63rd and Lexington for the month of June during their dizzy whirl of activities at Mlle. Magazine.

About six months later, in May of 2010, I again mentioned the Barbizon in a post called  “Bring Back the Mlle. Guest Editor Contest!”  in which I made the point that there are no opportunities today for young women with talent in writing or art to get a foot up the ladder of success-- only reality shows which encourage bad behavior and drama instead of actual talent.

Those reminiscences about the Barbizon brought me to the attention of Melodie Bryant, who is a New York-based documentary filmmaker with 20 years of experience in television and film, as well as a composer who has provided sound tracks for many top television shows.

Melodie interviewed me by phone about my stay at the Barbizon and then on camera when I was visiting New York last year.  During her research she has flown from coast to coast interviewing women of a “certain age” who remember the experiences that gave the Barbizon such a glamorous aura and mystique, especially during the forties, fifties and sixties.

 The Barbizon, beginning in1928 as a residence for single women, attracted the best and most beautiful girls from respectable families, young women who came to New York to conquer the city.  Parents insisted their darling daughters stay at the Barbizon, secure in the knowledge that their morals, dress, behavior and social life would be carefully monitored.  The rules were strict: no men were allowed above the first floor. (You can guess how well that worked.)

Former residents of the Barbizon, in addition to all the Mlle. guest editors and the students at Katie Gibbs secretarial school and the Eileen Ford Models, included Grace Kelly, Ali MacGraw, Joan Didion, Nancy Reagan, Joan Crawford,  Dorothy McGuire, Liza Minelli, Cybil Shepherd, Ann Beattie, Mona Simpson, Betsey Johnson and, famously, Sylvia Plath, who wrote The Bell Jar about her stint as a Guest Editor in 1953 during which she had a nervous breakdown, threw her fashionable new clothes off the roof of the “Amazon Hotel”, then went home to Connecticut and her first suicide attempt.  (What she published as fiction was completely faithful to her actual experiences at the Barbizon, as Melodie has found out by interviewing some of Plath’s Barbizon buddies.)

I can’t wait to see the finished documentary, because in talking to Melodie I’m getting hints of stories even stranger than Sylvia Plath’s—tales of men smuggled upstairs, rebellion against the strict parietal rules, even suicides leaping from the Art Deco roof terrace.

Now Melodie has prepared a trailer of her film, which she will post on sites like Kickstarter  to raise interest and funds for its completion and distribution.  I think it’s a good trailer, which effectively evokes the aura of the Barbizon in its glory days—even if it does include a clip from my interview which leaves me devoutly wishing I’d at least had my hair and makeup done first! 

Daughter Eleni wrote on Facebook: Watch my mama, Joan P. Gage, talk about the Barbizon hotel in it's early 60s heyday. Here's a companion drinking game: take a swig of sauvignon blanc every time she says "slacks"

Eleni (and everyone else who has seen the trailer and is under 70 years old) thinks both my Midwest accent and my use of the word “slacks” are side-splittingly funny.

Then last weekend I did a two-hour telephone interview with a young woman from California, the thirty-something author of well-reviewed novels, who is researching the Barbizon in its heyday as the background for her next book.

In 1981 the Barbizon began to allow men in as residents and in 2006 the building was converted into condominiums.  And in 2012 it was declared a New York landmark. Although its glory days are long past, I think the Barbizon is about to have another moment in the sun.

(For more information about the  upcoming documentary,  see

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

If 72 is the new 30, Then I’m Not Even Middle-aged!

 (This post is also published on the Huffington Post in the "Fifty" section. -- If any pals would like to leave a comment there, I'd be mighty grateful!)

I heard it from a radio disc jockey as I was driving to the hairdresser last week- “Scientists report that 72 is the new 30!”  It caught my attention, because I just passed my 72nd birthday a month ago

So the next time I got to my computer, I Googled that sentence and found out it didn’t mean exactly what I thought.  Researchers in Germany have decided that a 72-year-old human being today has the same probability of death as 30-year-old hunter-gatherers back in the cave-man days.

In other words, I’d better make sure that my insurance policies are paid up. 

If you read this article in the British Daily Mail on line , published on Feb. 26, you will learn that the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany have published a report saying that  a primitive hunter-gatherer at 30 would have had the same odds of dying as a 72-year old in a developed country today. And the biggest drop in mortality has occurred in the past four generations.

Thanks to improved medicine and nutrition, life spans are now past 80 in some developed nations. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To illustrate, the Daily Mail trotted out a photograph of Faye Dunaway with the caption “Alive and kicking, Faye Dunaway, 72, is as healthy as an ancient 30 year old, scientists have said.”
 This is interesting to me, because Faye Dunaway went to Boston University at the same time as my husband, and they used to double-date.  So this is what I know about her:  she was a brunette and she was a little overweight then.  Here’s something else: Dave, the young man she was dating, died decades ago.

Right now, I know that Faye has had extensive plastic surgery (so have I, but I haven’t had my nose replaced). 
 I’II tell you who looks amazingly good despite being wicked old (79) and that’s Jane Fonda, who also probably has a plastic surgeon on speed dial. Did you see her at the Oscars?  But then, I suspect neither Faye Dunaway nor Jane Fonda has ever led the hard-scrabble life of a primitive hunter-gatherer.  And the cave men and women didn’t have sun screen.

So after studying the facts behind the statement “72 is the New 30”, I’ve learned the following:

1. I’m as likely to drop dead tomorrow as an early caveman was to be trampled by a mastodon or disemboweled by a saber-toothed tiger.  In other words, very.

2. German scientists should find better use of their time.

But here’s what seems to be a more cheering scientific statement about longevity that I saw on a billboard on the way to San Francisco airport recently.  It said in very big letters, “One out of every three babies born today will live to be 100.”

It was paid for by an insurance company.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Amalia's Playa Iguana Adventure--Nicaragua Part 2

Setting out to drive to the seashore from Granada, Amalia made sure to bring along her stuffed owl, named Kookoovaya.  Owls are one of Amalia's favorite things.

When they got to Playa Iguana on the Pacific, the surfers were already there.  The waves bring surfers from around the world.

Don't forget the sun screen!

Papi didn't forget.

Papou took Amalia in the pool, while Mommy and Papi went to the ocean.

Later Yiayia showed Amalia funny videos of things she did when she was smaller.

Amalia's counting the seashells they found on the beach.

Papi brought her a teeny crab and they put it in a pail shaped like a tortuga.

Everybody's beach towel had a different design.  Amalia chose the crab.

Crabs are another one of Amalia's favorite things.

Then Amalia took a nap in a green hammock.

Mommy took a nap too.

Later Papou whispered a story in Amalia's ear.

Sometimes his stories are shocking.

A walk on the beach as the sun began to set.

Then hummus and pita and wine by the pool.  Hummus is definitely one of Amalia's favorite things!


The next day Amalia did a lot of work.  She arranged the chairs around the table.

She collected the beach towels...

And dragged them off to the washing machine.

Then took a nap after all that work.

Lunch was a big paella with lobster tails.

Then it was time to drive back to Granada, so Amalia could sleep in her own bed, with an owl and a hedgehog and a squirrel on the wall overhead.

And an owl pillow and a tortuga pillow for company.   Tortugas are another one of Amalia's favorite things.