The Jitterbug Phone– A Christmas Present for the Aged

This year we treated ourselves to Jitterbug Cell Phones, which are advertised in the AARP magazine. (That’s a magazine which features people like Sally Field on the cover simply because they manage to reach the age of 50 without dying. For this, you receive a membership card good for discounts at your local soft-foods emporium.)

Jitterbug phones are lacking things like GPS, eMail, music, and the like. They are to be used in situations when the surrounding populace ignores you during an emergency, simply because you’re OLD and unimportant. No matter; the Jitterbug will put you instantly in touch with a more compassionate world.

Here are some quotes from a review of the phone, shamelessly lifted from the Internet:

Typically the elderly want access to the same technology everyone else has, (like cell phones,) but not having grown up with high-tech toys, they prefer to have a simplified version. They also need technology that addresses how our bodies decay over time. Thus Jitterbug phones provide a loud speaker with an ear pad, large buttons and a large, simple interface. The first thing you notice about the Jitterbug is its size. Normally simple phones such as this are diminutive. However tiny phones with small keys and small screens are not very useful to people with poor motor control and poor eyesight. Surprisingly, the Jitterbug does not have an extremely loud speaker. It is loud enough, but not deafening as you might expect. This may actually be intentional based on some older people’s propensity for yelling into phones.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, everyone is a writer , and everyone has a blog. Now, I generally enjoy what twenty-somethings have to say about life, because their thoughts are often as amusing and simplistic as those of tiny children. And it’s obvious that the above quotes came from the Celeron-fueled mind of someone who has yet to complete puberty.

Personally, I’m pleased that a phone was invented that simply addresses a NEED, meaning that you NEED to call someone if the situation you find yourself in might result in death or maiming. Period. I’m perplexed by these people who constantly poke, pick, and jab at their electronic scabs, constantly maintaining a vigil in case they miss an all-important eMail or phone call. Well, guess what? Civilization survived without these extravagant annoyances; the great cathedrals of Europe went up without the use of cell phones and eMails, and I don’t recall that any text messages led to the creation of a better pyramid.

As “large” as the Jitterbug phone is, I’m quite happy with it, regardless of the opinions of still wet-behind-the-ears bloggers without whose very existence the Earth would cease to exist. 




St. Patrick’s for Christmas 2007


Christmas is over! I can’t believe it. This year we were in NY from Sunday through Wednesday, and it was a whirlwind. We brought wads of cash with us… and spent it on cabs and car service– nobody wanted to take the subway, even though I hear it’s very safe since Giuliani had taken over and made the City a worker’s paradise.

We were on line by 10:00 PM, and it was pretty cold. I had to use the restroom at one point and walked all the way up to the Hilton, where a nice lobby man checked my photo ID and let me use their facilities. (I stopped at Rockefeller Center on the way there so I could take pictures of the tree. There were THOUSANDS of tourists standing on the corner taking pictures of that tree, and I think I must be in lots of their pictures because it seems that I crossed in front of lots of people aiming their cell phones.)

We had to pass through security because Bloomberg and Koch were in attendance, and we sat on the far left, but the view was good. It was packed! There were a lot of society people sitting front and center who didn’t have the good manners to sit and listen to the choir as it sang; instead, they clogged the middle aisle and gossiped and air kissed for an hour. Rude!

There were televisions mounted here and there for the benefitr of people who were stuck behind columns. The trick was to STAY IN POSITION at the left of one’s pew when late arrivals came and wanted to sit; better to let them clamber over you than have them usurp the better view. (How charitable of me during the holy days!) Cardinal Egan talked a LONG time during his Homily, but Communion took a surprisingly short time– there was an army of priests in attendance, as the Mass was apparently concelebrated.


By 1:30 we were out in the streets again, headed home. George and Annie and Caitlin dropped us off in Brooklyn– Annie is Susan’s sister-in-law, and Susan is the one who got the tickets. We’ll do it again next year!

Latin Mass

St. Ephrem’s Choir

Some Sundays I like to go to the Latin Mass at All Souls’ Church in Sanford. It’s a nice half-hour drive along the beltway, over alligator-choked Lake Jesup, and through the side streets of this little Florida town. Everything at All Souls’ creaks: the floors, the pews, and– yes– some of the congregation. You have to be very still in your seat so as not to make it sound like you are running a woodchipper while you worship. The front row on the Holy Family side is usually occupied by a family with four little children. (There may actually be five; it’s hard to tell.) They do a lot of creaking and sometimes it’s hard to concentrate, but that’s okay; I just turn my hearing aids off.

The Tridentine Mass is what was said in Latin up through 1962, before they started rummaging through the Church and changing things. The language is mystical and beautiful, and you can follow along in a red prayer book they they supply– Latin on the left, English on the right. The last time I went I brought Uncle Ren’s ancient little prayer book, which was printed in 1908, and which he used at Mass. (It falls easily open to the Ordinary.) It was a very comforting experience reading the Mass in the same words that Uncle Ren read, because the 1908 Tridentine service was naturally also in effect in 1962.

I used to sing it in St. Ephrem’s choir from 1964 through 1969 but really didn’t appreciate it. If you were able to sing on key, you were in– no exceptions! Sister Claire Anne saw to that.

Mass didn’t begin to make sense, really, until they filled the church with felt banners, folk singers, and bad guitar players. “Eat his body, drink his blood” we cheerfully sang in “Sons of God,” not realizing that the Mystery was being ripped from everything so “the people” could be happy. That’s not what Mass is about!

Anyway, in the picture above you’ll see a very small part of our very large St. Ephrem’s choir– you can see me at the upper right. I was originally, because of my young beauty,  front and center but felt nauseous and was taken into the sacristy where I threw up; the nuns gave me smelling salts and brought me back out, but put me on the end “just in case.” The picture appeared in the December 25, 1966 issue of The New York Sunday News Coloroto Magazine; I had just turned 11 years old.

Christmas on Fifth Avenue 2007

I’m going to New York for the holidays! Here’s an old postcard showing St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City– that’s where I’ll be for Midnight Mass. Can’t wait!

My (Latest) Passion

cheese.jpgI could eat a bag of these a day… yesterday I had TWO. They are white cheddar Cheetos, which seem immeasurably more healthy than the orange version. Also, the bag they come in looks eco-friendly, printed in semi-matte green and beige inks. I fell for it all immediately. But they ARE good. When I need a junk food fix, I eat these and don’t feel so guilty. But, when I’m really low and not caring about anything, I will still succumb to the siren call of the orange, finger-staining version.


There are orchids blooming on the back porch, and there is one threatening to in the back yard. It’s an apricot-colored ‘Apricot d’Or’ Cattleya, and I’ve been waiting for it to bloom ever since buying it a few years ago at an orchid show in Orlando. There are always beautiful specimen plants blooming at these shows, and so you hand over your $40 and bring home your own non-blooming plant, and then wait years for something to happen. And you try everything: fertilizer… water… shade… some sun… no sun… no shade. Should I move it to a different part of the yard? the porch? the house? Should I leave it in a window? Should I rinse it daily in the shower? Should I leave it in the street for a truck to run over?

Here is a picture of an orchid blooming on the back porch. I have no idea what kind of Dendrobium it is because the lady who gave it to me doesn’t keep the original tags. To an anal-retentive obsessive-compulsive like me, who keeps lists, this sort of behavior is unconscionable!


A Trip to IKEA

flags.jpgA Norwegian woman once told me that I spoke her language as if I were speaking Danish with a German accent. Wasn’t that nice? Saying “hello” in Norwegian made it sound as if I were insulting the citizens of three nations, but that’s all right—I’m an American and not expected to know anything besides English, and that not too well, either.

Armed with rudimentary Nordic phrases, Kirk and I drove down to IKEA from our Winter Park cottage the Saturday after it officially opened. I especially couldn’t wait, because I’d been hearing my mother extol the virtues of the blue and gold Swedish retailer for years; she is a big fan of the Newark branch, a facility I’d only fleetingly seen from the windows of the taxis speeding me merrily to and from the airport. Once when I arrived in Brooklyn for a small vacation, there was a giant box waiting for me, filled with the makings of a sideboard complete with sliding glass doors and slotted drawers. “I got it at IKEA,” Mom said. “You have to put it together though.” I am always very wary of people who end their sentences with “though,” because it usually presages a trip to the emergency room, but this time I was lucky: the glass did not slice off my kneecaps, and I did not choke on any of the unusual looking fasteners, though I did conceal one in the carpet so Mom would have a surprise the next time she vacuumed.

So, you can imagine how ecstatic we were when IKEA came to Orlando. Cultural center? Bosh. Arena? Ho hum. This is Central Florida—people SHOP when they aren’t devising ways to avoid ferrying relatives to Disney, so that’s exactly what we did that fine Saturday (I-4 was JAMMED, but that’s the price you pay).

IKEA was jammed, too! Precisely-designed, the layout sees to it that shoppers are encouraged up the escalators to the showrooms on the second floor where, armed with a map, you are led along a strict path marked with arrows so that you don’t miss any of the cunning wares these Swedes have come up with. (There are marked shortcuts, though, but God help you should you come across a squadron of shoppers headed in the opposite direction!) I mistakenly took the Spanish language map, and became helplessly disoriented because the Spanish I know works only in chat rooms. We eventually got the hang of it and, after a nice in-house lunch of Swedish meatballs and macaroni and cheese, decided to look for a bed.

Spotting someone official and blonde, I went over and peered at her badge: Swedish! Out came my rudimentary Nordic phrases, which elicited laughter and a stream of completely unfamiliar words. I probably said something like “welcome to America, land of the brave and the home of the free! Could you show us your beds as well as your nipples?”

She directed us to the famous BEDDINGE, a daybed which becomes a regular bed that sleeps two tourists comfortably when you lift up the mattress and activate a sinister-looking spring mechanism. (“No fingers or toes were lost in the manufacture of this bed,” stated the label.) We put it together at home later that day, and were pleasantly surprised when the bed did not eject us through the window and into the yard while we were watching Schindler’s List.

And once you have a bed, and lie down on it, you find yourself staring at the ceiling and walls, wondering what ELSE the room needs…

The HOPEN corner wardrobe is something that I never knew I was dreaming of: a wall of closets fronted with tempered glass, aided and abetted by a corner unit with—get this—a wall-mounted seating platform! Well, it might actually be used for stacking boxes, but as soon as I saw it I wanted to sit right down and pull the door shut behind me. It’s the sort of enclosed space that would add significantly to the drama at parties, especially those peopled exclusively by gay men.

In the living room, you might want to install a turquoise HAMRA sofa, which will remind you of what life was like in the ‘fifties: your mother dressed in a black sheath and high heels, perched precariously on the arm of the couch while smoking a cigarette and sipping a martini, regardless of the fact that she is pregnant with you because she desperately wants to emulate Audrey Hepburn.

Now that you’ve got a BEDDINGE and a HOPEN and a HAMRA, it’s time to furnish smaller with the sort of accent pieces exclusive to millions around the world, but which look as if you’re the only owner. The GLANSA LYSA hanging drape lights are eye-catching, as are the NORRSKEN low-voltage wire lamps. I like when something electric is low-voltage, especially if you’re going to suspend it above the lutefisk.

ISIG holiday decorations give a decidedly Nordic twist to your decorating scheme. They are very colorful and, coupled with a viewing of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, your home will be instantly filled with holiday cheer. (Except for the parts in the movie about the abusive minister husband, but still; I’m just saying.)

After making our selections and noting them properly on forms that the store provides, we went downstairs to easily procure the items from warehouse bins (it’s a lesbian Valhalla). Women well into their seventies were carting around entire living rooms, and we happily joined them as we were herded toward the bank of checkout counters. The shopping was not done, however; we (and tens of thousands of other shoppers) eagerly swooped up packages of TINDRA scented tea lights– and this year’s must-have fashion accessory: the 59-cent IKEA shopping bag!

In toto, IKEA is a paradise for everyone, especially gay men and women—a perfect blend of fussiness, beauty, utility, and DIY sweat. And even though we sat in traffic for an hour simply to eat macaroni and cheese, we’re ready to do it again. And again!