Baby Boomers '52

Born a third the way into the 18-year Boom

we 1952-ers travel just ahead of the crest of the wave . . .

. . . we're the froth.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gray is the New Blond

Have I got some great news! Gray is the new blond!
This epiphany came to me when that cute Jimmy-B from high school took note of a Facebook pix of me from the era.
I was a blond.
My daughters were shocked. Which made it a double-wonderful photo posting.
Blondes had more fun back then. This is, of course, news to my daughters who never heard the Clairol ad playing within the Musak of our formative years.
My youngest shrugs off the time differential and assures me she gets the jokes of the Sixties. "Remember," she flapped her hand at me, "I'm a history major."
I want to point out to her, a blond herself, that the girls of my generation with a Clairol connection led the way to the burned out brain cells that ultimately fostered her generation's blond jokes. Now that's history.
But I don't bother. Now that I realize gray is the new blond, I toss back a word of her own, "pssshaw."
This is even better than when brown became the new black -- an intelligent move taken as the Baby Boomer Bulge hit the age where black turned many of us sallow. And seems everyone has learned to work their photo-phone these days. Browns, of course, provide a wider range of opportunities to spruce up a paler palette.

Of course, I am gender specific here. Because, naturally, just like with Mz Clairol, none of this matters with men.

That's one of those failures I think we Baby Boomers have to accept. We have jealously kept much of our gender-stuff entrenched in WWII roles. This is different with the Boomlets. Just take a look around.
For a while it was nice to think Boomer mothering eased gender distinctions and barriers. But when my daughters reached puberty my mother's words spewed from my mouth. Nothing was different. It still was, after all, girls who carried the babies.

So now I think it is because of the hormones in grocery store chickens. It's what my friend Carolyn has always said. A Boomer. Blond Boomer.

And for Boomers, men will always be boys. And even this most spectacular of recent Baby-Boomer shifts -- making the Seventies the new Fifties -- isn't really going to help. As I see it, the guys just get twenty more years to play Peter Pan.
What do you bet they still picture Wendy as a blond.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did you? Or didn't you?

So here's how I see it. Those of us born in 1952 ride the upswing of the 18-year wave of post­war babies destined to change everything.

We embrace that destiny. We've held the spotlight pretty much since the beginning of time -- circa 1946 -- we're good at it. This means, in the Boomer World, that we think we're the most fascinating going. Our offspring and their offspring are clever, and we have photos, but accept it, they're still covering our music.

Yet, even though we still tap our feet to the same oldies, there is a divide between us: Those of us who Did and those of us who Didn't.

Those of us who smoked (cigarettes). And those of us who didn't. Those of us who quit and those of us who still miss it.

Those of us who smoked (and inhaled). Those of us who voted for Nixon.

Those of us who swallowed, snorted and shot up and those of us who had personal levels of Didn't on each of those verbs. And held to them mostly.

Those of us who learned three chords and rocked and rolled. Those of us who learned the fourth minor key and stuck with folk and thought we were cooler.

Those who went to Vietnam. Those who protested. Those who did neither.

Those who went to Woodstock. Those who still wouldn't. Those who wish they had.

So it's not just Did or Didn't -- it's timing as well. Maybe that's what Einstein meant. So does it matter when we went all the way? High school? College?

Did you or a girlfriend have an abortion before it was legal? Ah, that is more than a timing question. Its phrasing determines which Boomers will not broach this topic with me.

It is odd. I have dear friends on both sides of this crux. We did and we didn't. We know it and remain friends. How do we do that?

As a nation we fall about evenly on opposite sides judging from elections, pollsters and the Supreme Court's dabbling in both. We all shrug, one outcome or the other. How do we do that?

We did it with Vietnam. How did we do that? Do you remember that divide? Search that long-term memory for the evening news. Think how much we have assimilated.

Back in the days when we lined elementary school hallways, squatting chin to backbone of the classmate before us, we learned compartmentalization. It is not that there would be a nuclear meltdown. The bad times would be when Billy Johnson farted. We learned to compartmentalize and tell jokes.

So maybe that's it. Our Make Love Not War generation has developed a way to work around huge gulfs between one another's values, lifestyles and beliefs and to remain friends.

Or, then again, maybe we're just shallow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Removing a 76-foot Mast

Friday, April 23, 2010 the mast was removed from the skipjack the Dee of St. Mary's for the second time. The mast was removed once before in 2001 to dig out the damage "clinker bugs" had done to the wood.

Travis Mattingly, overseen by his father Aubrey Mattingly, pulled the mast the first time. Aubrey's son Aaron Mattingly operated the crane to pull the mast this year with the assistance of Joe Hockinson.
Francis Goddard, who built the Dee of St. Mary's skipjack in 1979, advised on both projects down to specific inches and pounds on the 76-foot mast and (estimated) 22-ton vessel he built. For example, Francis determined where the strap would be secured on the mast for a safe pull, swing and placement.
Jackie Russell, former owner and still Captain of the Dee -- now owned by the nonprofit, Chesapeake Bay Field Lab, Inc. -- performed on-site supervision and labor.
Eugene "Bones" Ramsey, former first mate of the Dee during her oystering years, went aloft to fasten the strap.
The entire process from the arrival of the crane to its departure took less than 2 hours.

When the Dee was built in 1979 her launch came before her mast was stepped. The photos below were taken before and after.

The mast is a single tree. A pine tree Francis, Jackie and George Bean floated across the Potomac from Virginia once Francis found the tree he wanted. George pulled the tree is his boat the Cathy Lynn -- also built by Francis. The tree would dive deep into the river, Jackie Russell recalls and the men would lose sight of it and not know when or where it would rocket out of the water. Or when it would dive again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Everyone on Facebook is 35

Everyone is 35 on Facebook. Did you already notice this? Probably. But for me, naturally, it took a mistaken identity involving a replacement wife to provoke my typical foot-in-mouth epiphany.
While chewing on and attempting to explain the foot in my mouth, it came to me how easy it is to mistake a generation or two in Facebook. Almost every little photo on my Facebook Home page looks, well, 35.
There are my 20-something daughters. They seem to always be posting photos of themselves looking 35. What do they think? Hiring executives won't look at those other campus party pics where everyone looks 6 at the end of a high-glucose, bad day at the playground?
I certainly post any 35-year-old photo of myself that I run across. My scanning skills have become sensational since joining Facebook. I've been thinking of ordering PhotoShop.
All of my rediscovered childhood friends and even sorority sisters (who would have guessed) look 35 on Facebook. Well, that's not exactly true, there is that solid contingent who post photos of themselves in high school and junior high so we can recognize one another. And then they sometimes also post photos with their significant other which mandates their true ages appear at least briefly. This is where I have gained photo splicing skills I would be happy to share with any of my Facebook friends.
Because, really, who among us Boomers and Boomlets wouldn't want to be 35?
Sure, plenty of Boomers might not want to be much younger than that, forced to relive the abandonment of our Whole New World movement for day care and mutual funds. But just dropping 15 years off the current date could put us back before 9-11 and Baghdad-the-Recent and even the embarrassment of the whole 2YK misjudgment. (And the government is surprised we don't react to Amber Alerts? Did no one read Peter and the Wolf to these folks?)
As for the Boomlets, adding 15 years should theoretically carry them past the current employment and financial disaster our mutual funds and leveraged greed brought upon them. Fifteen years and they are well into their own universe. Might not be any prettier, but at least us old, self-consumed and greedy oldsters will have largely moved on.
I continually have this image of the Baby Boomers as a lump the size of a jack rabbit making its way through a snake. The image always makes my stomach hurt.
My father, when asked -- at the time in his mid-40s -- said 30 was the best age because you were old enough to know what you wanted to do and young enough to still have time to do it.
So who wouldn't want to be 35?
Now if I can just remember where I put that box of old photos I think I'll go update my Facebook profile.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Removing the Boom

With the support of a generous grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the Dee of St. Mary's skipjack will undergo a tremendous restoration this year. Planning began in late 2009 and continues. This month labor began to prepare this 30-year-old wooden boat for major surgery.

The Dee of St. Mary's is 56 feet long with a 20-foot beam. Her mast is 76 feet tall and her boom 56 feet long. She carries about 2,600 square feet of sail with a hull speed of roughly 10 knots--about 11 m.p.h.

The large amount of sail enables skipjacks to pull large iron dredges--toothed scoops--along the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay even in minimal wind. The few skipjacks still oystering today use hydraulic motors to pull the dredges from the bottom.

The boom of the Dee of St. Mary's weights 750 pounds. This boom, the vessel's second, was made in 1987 in Jack Russell's yard. It is made of laminated pine. The boom is held in place by lines rigged to the mast.

Helping Cap'n Jack Russell in a delicate dance of balancing and weight lifting to remove the boom are:
Antonio Hernandez, Joe Panella, Roman Pauley, Andrew Sarenceno, James Burnett, Jr. and Marcus Fields.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Lot of Work Ahead

Shipwright Benjamin Goddard, Marine Surveyor Michael Previti and Captain Jack Russell spoke in somber,sometimes outright grim tones as they prepared to write the plan for

the reconstruction of the inner keel. The men are standing in the aft cabin on the bottom of the skipjack (flooring was removed ahead of the ballast earlier this week.

The Dee of St. Mary's skipjack was built in Piney Point in 1979 -- the first skipjack to be built in 50 years.


Left: from disparate collection of photos taken during the 1979-1980 construction of the Dee.
 Her first sail in November 1980.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So Much I Don't Get

There is just so much I do not understand.
I don't understand how Google makes money on me writing this.
I am savvy enough to know that somewhere, somehow, somebody makes money for letting me send -- well, what? Blog-ese? And sending where? Cyber-Neverland? I guess so. I think so.
Maybe Blog-ese is just something in the air, virulent and free, like Bubonic Plague.
Regardless -- whether it's the Odyssey or the garbage -- I don't understand Whose reaping What for sending My Blogese into a Permanent Repository--somewhere.
So of course I don't understand how certain ads land on My Blogs. And I don't understand how you could ever effective filter them if the Reader's computer impacts the selection. How do I know what a reader's cookie are about?
Sheesh. Suffice it to say that there is  a tremendous amount I don't understand about cyber-advertising-networking-linking algorithms -- which is the best understanding I have of what Monetize does.
What I did come to understand clearly was this: There is no opting out, no sign-out button to click, no ctrl-alt-delete.Acceptance  came to me when the only opting-out program I could find contained 'jihad' in its name.
The single cyber-warning granted me from a younger generation old hand was, "Just remember, it's there forever. That's really the only thing."
I started slowly.  I get the New York Times online. I joined Huffington Post even word-a-day and watch the e-mails accumulate. Today I waded in. I read about Michelle Obama and what she wore to Haiti.
I looked at every photo.
There is just so much I don't understand.

3.5 Tons of Ballast Taken from Skipjack

Jack Russell and crew currently training at the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at the Paul Hall Center in Piney Point removed this week 3.5 tons of ballast from the skipjack Dee of St. Mary's.

Skipjacks are commercial sailing vessels used to harvest oysters. The vessels, when working under sail, drag man-sized toothed mesh claws from both their port and starboard beam. They carry a great deal of sail in order to gain the speed and power to pull the dredges along the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay scooping up oysters. The Dee carries more than 25,000 square feet of sail.

Despite carrying such sail capacity, skipjacks are shallow-bottomed for maneuverability so their ballast consists of many small weights nestled in their bottom hull between the ribs.
The Dee's ballast included:

Removed from Wings (beneath aft cabin bunks)
Starboard: 24 bricks; 13 cinderblocks
Port: 55 bricks and 13 cinderblocks

Removed from Stern: 
Stern: 8 bricks, 1 lead and 25 cinderblocks
Removed from beneath Aft Cabin:
Port: 96 brick; 44 cinderblock; 1 lead in keel
Centerline keel: 17 bricks, 0 cinderblocks 11 lead
Starboard: 88 bricks; 55 cinderblocks

Observation from C. Caryn Russell, "You'd be surprised how small three-and-a-half tons of brick are."


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baby Boomers Can't Grow Up

We're all screw-ups. Our parents lived too long and they held power for too long.

That's my sister's view of why we Baby Boomers keep, well, screwing up. Let's not quibble. Let's just put the words "Greed" and "Self-indulgent" right here and concede that as a generation we don't appear poised to leave a strong legacy.

Not every last one of us is a screw-up, of course. Indeed, a few of us are brilliant and, then again, a few of us are colossal screw-ups. But for the most part we're middle-management screw-ups who, a sage once pointed out to me, left our so-called revolution to tend houseplants and sell insurance.We are indeed the pinnacle of bait and switch -- driving Suburbans to fossil fuel protests and joining Save the World organizations and flushing into the nearest tributary.

My sister claims our failure to grasp Real Life stems from our parents' generation refusing to hand over the reins. I contend that we don't want them. Regardless, she says, we never learned what to do with them. We never learned how to be adults.
Try not to picture Lord of the Flies.

As is the wont of Baby Boomers my sister places the blame for this arrested development squarely at the feet of someone else. In this case; the Greatest Generation, those Americans who came of age believing they had already saved the world which their Depression-addled parents had bankrupted.

"They named themselves the Greatest Generation," my sister says, meaning what novelist Tom Robbins meant when he pointed out that the brain is what tells us the brain is the smartest organ.

As the 1950s opened the newly minted middle class (that would be one returned GI plus one stay-at-home wife) moved into suburban homes bought on the GI Bill. The men went off to work somewhere and the women consumed, which was what their new homes were designed to do. Many of their own mothers ran complicated home economies in their more rural and decentralized times, but those times were over.


So the Greatest Generation had babies and the women stayed home to pamper and educate us to become consumers in a way unimaginable to anyone coming before.

They made us, my sister says, but "they never trusted us. Our parents thought our way of thinking was BAD," my sister drags this out over the telephone. "We didn't follow the rules. We didn't play kiss-ass."

Even those of us who were and are prodigious rule-followers, we really didn't follow their rules. We may have left the revolution early, as my sage suggests, but we really were different.

They started, the Greatest Generation's overhaul of the framework of America had our economy based on things that hadn't even existed before the war. Rather than start listing them -- plastics, appliances, pantyhose -- consider this one thing that didn't exist before the Greatest Generation returned from World War II: Garbage.

"Garbage is a new invention," my grandmother would say as my grandfather carried food scraps into the garden. Once a week they had a fire in a small cylinder for those rare items worn beyond repair -- the only things I recall in the ashes would be an occasional tin can from the store. My sister probably won't remember this. She is younger. Garbage, as a commodity, caught on quickly.All that was needed were consumers. Boom.

No matter that  if you did or didn't grow up to look like them, vote like them, scold like them -- think back. Remember your father's face when you brought home James Brown's first album? Remember the Walrus? Remember whatever then slipped from your short term memory and is now stored somewhere in your long term? And the biggest punchline: Vietnam, a war without a point. Remember?

My sister is right: We were and remain a different commodity, and our parents not only didn't want to give up the reins to a society that mocked them, they really and truly didn't believe we had the moxie to keep it all going. And looking around I have to wonder, maybe we don't.

We stand ill equipped my sister contends, to take on what we all pretty much still want to see -- equality and access and free Internet and unlimited gadgetry. Nobody hungry. Nobody tortured. Peace. We still by and large believe all that stuff, we just wish he grownups would come back and take care of it all. And a darn good thing, some of us are thinking, that are kids are showing signs of early rein-taking.

We're busy supporting the economy.
It's what we're trained to do.

Sad Story

Somewhere there is a black and white photograph of Jackie Russell taken the first day I met him. In this old black and white photo self-consciousness shows in his eyes which are averted from the photographer. Otherwise it is an unusual photo of him. He wears a sports coat, no hat and holds a pencil with its eraser touching the perfect bow of not quite pursed lips.

For a newspaper, the description of a photograph is in the present tense. The cutline sustains the action. Even if the photograph is centuries old, its description is of its current depiction, even if that which it depicts no longer exists today.
It is perhaps merely this that makes old photographs seem poignant. Makes us keep them. Makes them worth a thousand words.

“His is a sad story,” Joseph Norris intoned the day that photo was taken. We sat side-by-side in cold metal folding chairs. He looked up at Jackie Russell. First time I’d seen Jackie Russell. Joseph Norris hung his head. His arms draped over his thighs and he looked at the lean reporter’s notebook held in one and a pen held in the other of his dangling hands. “A very sad story,” he repeated and slowly shook his head.
Joseph Norris is an authority on local sadness. He sings woeful ballads of the disappearing Chesapeake culture and munificence. He writes prodigiously of St. Mary’s County’s losses. He calls it The County. He carries about himself a moroseness and appreciation thereof. At barely 30, he was a tradition, under his belt a decade in local print on the subject of all that was gone or headed that way. That morning at 4 a.m. he showed me how to work the audio switches in the closet where he broadcast the news. And where, on Monday, I would broadcast the news.
“It’s good on Wednesdays,” he told me when the closing bars of the “He IS Southern Maryland News” promo played and he opened the door, unfolded himself from the closet and joined me in the hall. Wednesday was the day The Enterprise published so the local stories were fresh. “But you’ll have some good local stories for Monday,” he assured me. We were to meet up again at 8 a.m. for the Potomac River Fisheries Commission meeting held in Colonial Beach, Va., a two-hour drive but right across the river as the radio beams fly. “Probably the most important story you’ll face,” Joseph Norris told me.

I located Joe in the first row. Sliding into a seat next to him I jumped when my skirt slid up and my thigh made contact with the cold metal folding chair. I realized I was the only woman in the room. At the far wall a bank of white men faced the room. They sat across the width of three tables pushed together end-to-end. Behind them, sitting off to the side next to the wall, I spotted one other woman. She was also taking notes.
Behind us sat 40 or 50 men, mostly with their hats in their hands but a few with caps affixed atop their heads that they’d methodically take off, punch or fold about a bit with their hands and replace. They wore mostly old clothes, outdoor clothes, long-sleeved shirts and heavy woolen vests. Some held thick coats in their arms wrapped tightly around their chests. They were brightly clothed above their underpinnings of gray and brown and scuffed workpants, creased and greased. Their shirts and coats and hats filled the room with tufts of bright red, faded hunter green and flecks of yellow-gold.
I wouldn’t have noticed that day, but there would have been no blue. No blue beyond faded denim. A bad luck color aboard a boat, blue is. As bad of luck as carrying a women aboard I have had occasion to learn since.

The watermen were all a sad story, Joseph Norris had told me before we left The County. Their way of life was disappearing. The oysters were dying. None of the fish populations were what they used to be.
“Who’s that?” I asked Joe, squirming to warm the seat.
“Jackie Russell. He’s one of the saddest stories yet.”
He didn’t look all that sad to me. He looked, actually, to be in pretty good shape. Jackie Russell had the round face of a little boy with a couple broken blood vessels to enhance rosy cheeks. A small curl actually did curl down the middle of his forehead. He had lips like a bow when he pursed them together in a pose of attention. I mention this only because of the photo mentioned above. Because, actually, usually he was grinning.
He had a quick smile and bestowed it widely, speaking to nearly everyone in the room. He moved smoothly through the rows of chairs, suddenly up from his seat at the front table to grab a man’s upper arm and clasp his hand in a pumping shake, then startling me only a row away, pulling another man near to whisper something short before leaning back with a guffaw. Straight, white teeth. He’d throw his head back when he laughed. He’d reappear behind the table, his arm around yet another man. Shaking hands. All the while smiling, laughing.
“He doesn’t look sad,” I said to Joe.
“He’s from The County,” Joe said in a mournful tone. “He’s local,” Joseph Norris said of Jackie Russell.
“Oh yeah?” I said. “Local, like St. Mary’s County?”
“Oh yeah. More than that. St. George Island. He built a skipjack.”
“Uh, huh,” I said, looking finally from Jackie Russell and registering a blank look for Joe Norris.
“A skipjack,” Norris said, lifting his arms up from their dangle in a struggle to convey to me the colossal nature of such a thing. “First one built in half a century. The Dee of St. Mary’s. A boat. A big boat. A big working boat. A wooden sailing boat.”
Joseph Norris was upright in his sea. “She’s the youngest vessel of the last commercial sailing fleet of North America.”
“Uh, huh,” I said, looking back at Jackie Russell, who was still not looking back at me.
It’s even possible Joe Norris told me the whole skipjack story that day, that first day I saw Jackie Russell. But I don’t remember Joe telling me the story of the skipjack. I only remember Jackie Russell telling that story.

I didn’t get the story that day. I couldn’t even pull that glad-handing man’s eyes to mine that day. That day I was too far away to get the story. To get that story. But I got the drift, which was more than Jackie Russell got as I tried again and again to catch his icy blue eyes and suspected for the first and not for the last time that he might be pointing them steadfastly away from me. “Well,” I said, determined, not for the last time, to not take it personally, “he doesn’t look sad at all to me.”
“But it is a sad story,” Joseph Norris insisted with his hanging, shaking head. “He built this beautiful boat and then him and his wife split up.”
“Well,” my head jerked up and I tried yet one more shot at those icy eyes. “Well break my heart.”