I Don’t Like Counting to 70

On Monday America the moon cast its shadow all across America, a “happening” from coast to coast. Here on Long Island we got a 70% partial eclipse, which did not stop my cats from going absolutely wild in the weird astronomical low light of mid-day. I was there to record just how the strange ions (or whatever) affected the teeny tiny brains of Taffy (the buff-colored one) and Bibs (the striped one), who do not like each other at all.

As you can see, this eclipse really did have weird  spiritual/psychological ramifications of peace and love for catkind.

The commotion started at 1:23 pm:

Things got even more exciting around 1:55:

At 2:12 we were absolutely frantic with anticipation:

Peak umbra was 2:44 local time and the crowds went bat-shit crazy dancing in the streets and crying tears of hallejualla :

The situation became positively frenzied as the moon slid onto the other side of brightness at 3:15:

And when it was all over at 4:00, and we were all hung over from the soulful impact of the heavens doing their immortal thing and normal behavior and boundaries were re-established, Dennis, from next door,  came over to compare wacky eclipse stories:

But when it comes to moon-dancing in your dreams during an eclipse of the Sun, Lickety really nailed it:

For just five minutes, I want to be in the mind of that cat.

Thank you all, Dear Commuters, last week who, by the judiciousness and passion of your words, confirmed what I’ve know all along: you all are much smarter than I. I rant, I rave, but it’s nothing personal dear Maryanne in SC, and as for Going High When They Go Low . . . yeah, well, we all saw how well that worked for Hillary. I’m sorry to the Dear Readers whom I offend, but it’s time to fight fire with fire NOT LITERALLY. The other side has no morals, no respect for truth, no decency. They are evil, and standing up to them is standing up for democracy.

I wonder what would happen if, the next time the Klan and the Nazis march upon an American city, all us good citizens of sound mind met them and just pointed to their little tiny Jolly Rogers and laughed?

Seems to me that these creatures of the night take themselves very seriously, and they are all too repulsive to get girl friends, and they relish the way they can tie us hordes of do-gooders into little knots of bewilderment that such stupid can exist in the world; so if we just laughed might that not make their heads explode?  Just wondering.

Anyhoo, I did not come here to rehash the atrocity that is our every waking day here in America in the time of der Drumpf.

I came here to tell you a story about Liz Smith.


Liz Smith used to be a well known newspaper gossip columnist in New York City. She was a hot gossip columnist in New York City back in the 1970s and ’80s, maybe the ’90s.

That’s a photo of her (above) in 1987 with the kind of trash people one rubs shoulders with when you’re a gossip columnist in NYC in the ’80s. Liz Smith is the lady who is not Drumpfy-sparkly.

And then newspapers went the way of the world: away, on line; and so did gossip columnists, now that everyone’s a gossip columnist because of easy access to “celebrities” and easy access to distribution of “information” (see: this very blog you are reading).

And then Liz Smith got old:

Photo credit: Hilary Swift, New York Times

The New York Times published an interview with Liz Smith on July 28 of this year and I’ve been dying to blog about it AND HERE’S MY CHANCE. Because she talks about being old, in her case 94 years old, in a way that I found quite thought provoking. Especially this bit:

“I am in search of Liz Smith,” she said softly, musing at the thought. “After a lifetime of fun and excitement and money and feeling important and being in the thick of it, I am just shocked every day that I’m not the same person. I think that happens to all old people. They’re searching for a glimmer of what they call their real self. They’re boring, mostly.

“I’m always thinking falsely, expending what little energy I have, believing every day I may just rediscover that person. I try to be all of the things I was, but it inevitably fails. I don’t feel like myself at all.”

You might react, at first, as I did:  Get a grip Liz Smith. You were a gossip columnist for New York’s worst newspaper (the Post), and by definition a hack, leech, a bottom-feeder. What’s with this “feeling important” crap??

But then, like me, I hope you pause and let her words sink in.

Don’t we all feel important as the central figure in our own lives, surrounded by bit players and second leads?

And isn’t “feeling important” just a very naked, and honest, way of saying that Liz Smith used to feel relevant?  And doesn’t that wonderful feeling of being important, being in the thick of things, relevant, fade for us all, year by year, year by year?

Verily, I say unto you, Liz Smith has spoken a Great Truth.

It starts when you discover that not only do you not know what is the hit song of the moment, but you don’t even care what the hit song of the moment is. All the “celebrities” that pop up your Yahoo home page have names that mean nothing to you. People all around you start wearing clothes and beards that repulse you. You start voting against the local school budget. You lust after a good night’s sleep instead of the cute guy at the Stop ‘N’ Shop deli. You watch a lot of Law and Order re-runs because the predictability of the “procedural” is right up your alley. You get my drift. We drift out of relevance, and we hardly notice it until we do.

It was on a late Spring day this year that  I had my own utterly appalling Liz Smith-like reckoning about how the OLD version of us bores the daylights out of the YOUNG version of us that we can still feel in our bones.

It was a Monday and I had a long To Do List, which included going to the bank. I plotted the 7 or 8-mile route that would take me from home and back again, via To Do List #1, To Do List #2, etc. For maximum efficiency, I even plotted a course to a new bank branch office so I didn’t have back track out of my way to stop in at my usual bank (which is almost exactly 1 mile from my house).

So I pull up at this new bank branch, I park in a strange parking lot, I walk into a totally foreign bank lobby, I stand in a wholly different configuration of queue than I am used to, I make a transaction with a teller who is completely unknown to me, I exit through a set of unfamiliar automatic doors, and I get back into my car. And I am feeling really, really proud of myself: for the first time in 13 years of living on Long Island, I have discovered that there exists a whole new place to do my banking! How exciting.

I hate to say that the glow lasted until ten minutes later when I was stuck in traffic on Old Country Road and I realized what was wrong with this picture.

How can it be that I, Vivian Swift, who once traveled on one-way tickets / impulse -jetted / left in the middle of the night / jumped on stage . . .  to places I’ve never been before / African countries I never even heard of / to hitch hike with Buddhists and Hell’s Angeles / at rock concerts . . . have let myself drift into the kind of life where I, that Vivian Swift, am proud of finding a new Chase bank branch office five miles from my house on Long Island?

Oh, man. I was really disgusted with myself.

Because all-text blogs are dull, here’s a pic of Top Cat tending to his awesome tomato plants.

So all that happened about four months ago.

That’s my white wine, and Top Cat’s red; with emmenthaler and french bread and Top Cat’s tomato with basil hors d’ouvres.

Like Liz Smith said, I’m shocked that I’m not the same person I used to be. Shocked.

All this Summer I’ve been taking to Top Cat about how this decade, the ten years between our ages of 60 and 70, is our last chance to Be Who We Used To Be. And how this decade is the Time Of Our Lives. And how we have to make plans to take maximum advantage of this last wonderful years (before decrepitude, as it seems to me, blame Liz Smith if I’m getting too far ahead of myself).

It’s an on-going conversation, as you can imagine, because of how hard it is to grapple with the fact that we’re talking about our mortality. Yeeesh. In 9 years I’ll be 70. If I’m lucky (ha ha).

Faced with this feeling of doom, I got myself a personal trainer for the first time n my life, and she knocks the snot out of me once a week. I also joined a gym so I can swim in between my push ups etc.

It turns out that I love swimming. I love it because I can not think of anything else but the swimming, the stokes through water. I’m never this Zen. I swim a 25-meter lap pool and I do about 70 laps in an hour.  I keep count. Because I keep count, I have to concentrate, which is extremely difficult to do: If my mind wanders, which it is apt to do, I lose count and I am flummoxed and liable to start counting backwards. TRUE STORY.

My mind is more likely to take off on its own tangent in the 40s and 50s. It’s just too much counting.

So I have found that I can be trusted to keep count up to 35. After that, I have to start over from 1 (one) and go back up to 35. So that’s what I do, I count to 35 twice.

Like I said, I hate counting to 70, but it’s a count I must figure out how to do.

In my life so far, I’ve had two careers. It looks to me like it’s time for me to start my third, the one that takes me though my 60s to at least my 70s, so I don’t end up bored with myself or feeling like I’ve accomplished a great thing because I ventured to a new bank branch office. I have no idea what that new venture will be, but I hope to swim my way there soon. I hope to have something worked out — a timetable, a Mission Statement, or a Wish List — to be Not Boring for my Glorious 60s — before the end of the year, and I will let you know what we have decided is the best way we can experience these last years of vitality.

Have a great weekend, my Dear Readers and Commenters, and I hope that whatever side of 70 you find yourself on, that you are still the fascinating and wily and cute creatures you’ve always been.

Stay away from the news, surround yourselves with fat fluffy cats, and, oh yeah, der Drumpf is is politically inept, morally barren, and temperamentally unfit for office.

17 Comments, RSS

  1. Casey

    I hope Bibs and Taffy are recovered from their eclipse exertions. Those cats are just too energetic. Loved Lickety’s Moon Dance. Yes, I’m sure he hears a different drummer patting out a happy rhythm in his head.

    That’s so sad that Liz Smith thinks old age is boring. I’m not old yet but I agree with you that getting old requires some planning. Or else you end up sitting your last years out, watching the world go by. Or you end up in the way. We have a 70-year old president who is a great argument for not letting old people GET IN THE WAY.

    What will your next chapter be? See I still think of you as a bookmaker. If anyone can overcome the age barrier and turn around misconceptions of old age it’s you. And Lickety.

  2. I get her.

    I never enviosioned getting older.
    In fact some parts of me are still a child..other parts..although active..are different.
    I will tell you that health is everything..because we are ..a lot about “memememe”..our health is the most important thing.
    One life long lasting change changes your everlasting life.
    So if you are healthy count your lucky stars and enjoy each day 🙂
    And yes..live it to your fullest..and I think giving of yourself is so enriching..so rewarding..so much better than receiving.
    Super excited for you about your swimming and that you have actually had a tomato turn red lol..we have had the summer of unripening tomatoes.
    We saw nothing of the eclipse and I didn’t care.I was washing all my windows ..spray painting wicker in between 2.
    I find I would like 48 hrs in my day.So many interesting things to do..I showuld be counting laps..I am counting stitches;)

  3. Kirra

    You cats looks like they totally got into the eclipse! Imagine if you’d been in a location with a full eclipse, what then?! Ha ha….

    I know what you mean, sometimes outrage just doesn’t cut it and is too predictable, go with laughing at them!

    This is a very interesting discussion about ageing. I think it comes down to routine, sometimes when I’m working away and trying to rest on the weekend I feel pretty boring and I’m not very old yet. I have studied some neuroscience this year and the main thing I learned is that the best way to keep the brain working well is to learn something new (e.g. brush your teeth with your left had, learn a new language, travel somewhere…..) also more complex tasks (e.g. do a puzzle, complex knitting….). So try to keep your brain as well as your body fit and healthy might be good advice? Because when we’re older we usually spend time doing things we already know how to do, learning something knew is quite different, but as mentioned the best thing for the brain.

    I like swimming to but haven’t done it for a while, thanks for the reminder to get back to it. I’m impressed with the 70 laps.

    Wouldn’t mind you white wine, cheese, bread, tomatoes and basil and sunshine myself! Lovely looking tomatoes Top Cat.

  4. Angela De Marco Manzi

    Some marvelous points in this writing. First of all, I love the idea of laughing at idiots. I work with one, and whenever he says something stupid to me to get me aggravated, I just laugh at him, even better I ignore him. Ignoring him works like a charm. Secondly, your comment about becoming less relevant really struck a cord because I am soon to be 4 years from 70. I still get dressed up and wear Jimmy Choo’s to work, because I am afraid that if I stop that, it will be over for me, I will fade into some nothingness and never return. I think you hit the nail on the head when you spoke of mortality, blech, what a horrible word, but you are absolutely right. I hope you have a joyful weekend.

  5. Megan

    How lovely, lots of cat photos. My day is complete. The tomatoes look fantastic, how wonderful do they taste though… like a difference species compared to those in the green grocers. Have a great weekend.

  6. Kathryn

    Thank you Vivian for making me laugh. Your two eclipsed kitties say it all. I live in Idaho and was lucky enough to experience total eclipse. There is nothing boring about it. It,s our sun for gods sake. It could go out at any minute or let go a giant plasma release ( kind of like a sun fart)that could exterminate us all. Boring it ain’t.

  7. Janna

    My cats and dog all slept through the eclipse, too, right on the couch where they spend the day waiting for me. I was in a meeting when the eclipse happened and everyone ran outside, I didn’t even bother. I know . . . what a kill joy! But seriously it was nice to have some peace and quiet for a moment 🙂 I guess, that’s where my priorities are . . .

  8. Bunny

    My tomato patch looks a lot like Top Cats. They are big and juicy, one of the best years, ever, and of course, they taste fantastic, there is NOTHING like a home grown tomato, nice and warm off the vine. At this point in the season, I enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes, even dessert.

    We took a break from work for the eclipse, and went up to the rooftop on the west side of Manhattan, and with a pair of welders glasses, I took a nice peek at the sun, and went into a panic, cause after my brief look at the “event”, I was temporarily blinded, and had the sun, moon, etched into the back of my skull: I shut my eyes as tight as I could, and saw dozens of eclipses, dancing around in the darkness of my brain, now worried I would be blind for the rest of my life!
    Thankfully, the spots faded after 15 minutes, and the takeaway is, my mom was right, don’t start at the sun! (even if thats where the fun is)

    I agree with Angela, and suppose we ALL work with idiots and there is a lot to laugh about.
    Thanks for your very saavy point of views— all of them!!!

  9. I love this post! You and I do our laps the same way — except I have trouble with odd numbers so I do it in twenties. I’m not at 70 yet, though. Count me a good 50-60, depending on the day! Bravo to you.

    And to Top Cat for those tomatoes. Rick’s are going well — just finished making the first batch of gazpacho for the year and more to come, I think! Love this season at the market…

    Liz — I read that and thought much as you did. When I was in Quebec last week I felt very proud of getting myself up the damn hills without overcomplaining or stopping. (Well, there was one heavy breathing spot but that’s pretty good for this wimp.) And then I remembered when at was just what you did. But I’m kind of enjoying anonymity and not feeling important. When I was working on doing lots of TV I never felt private in our little town. And this was just public television. But literally, there wasn’t a day when I wasn’t stopped by strangers. That doesn’t happen as much anymore and I miss it a little but not a lot. I do more things I love than I ever did when I was working and I have a whole lot more fun doing them because I can take the time to do them better. I don’t care about the hit song of the moment. When I was getting my hair cut, I looked at a People. I didn’t know half the people and thought it should be named “People that People of a Certain Age Neither Know Nor Care About.” And that was just fine. Every day I’m learning something knew and it’s such a kick that even the down days aren’t so bad. I feel for Liz — but you’re right. She nailed it. (And at 94, I may well agree with her completely.)

    Love me my Taffy and Bibs. The Lizzie-and-Gypsy look-alikes! Now THEY know how to appreciate an eclipse! Made me smile big and so did Lickety!

  10. Vicki Abbott

    Dick Van Dyke put it well. In an interview on NPR on his 90th birthday, when asked by the interviewer if he had any advice, he said, “Keep moving!” I’ve done that. I’m heading for my 80th at the end of this year and I”m in excellent health. My doc thinks it’s because of my daily one-hour walk which I’ve incorporated into my daily routine. I’ve missed very few times in 7 years.

    And I love your cat pics! Mehitabel says hello!

  11. Vicki Abbott

    And oh, yes, I was in Madras for the eclipse. It was truly awesome. ( this word should be retired from common usage and saved as a descriptor of an eclipse.) The word perfectly describes the experience for me. Also I was with with loved ones, many of whom were musicians. Irish harp was playing softly during the whole slow event, joined by a motley assortment of instruments — bass fiddle, guitars, ukuleles, clarinet, accordion — but at the moment of totality there was only perfect silence. And that was awesome, too. It took 8 hours to get home, normally a 3-hour drive. Traffic was like the opening scene in Lala Land. Highway as parking lot. But for me, it was totally worth the experience.

  12. Yes, he is all you say and more, totally inept.
    I am in my 70’s and work out in the gym three days a week. Someone recently said to me that I was the only person my age that could wear a sleeveless top. I didn’t think lifting the weights was helping, but I guess it was. Whew! Keep it up and you can wear sleeveless tops into your 70’s.

  13. Patricia

    I stopped reading anything about The Trumpet; I just get too pissed off and it doesn’t help. I will, however, vote in every election and support with words and dollars, candidates of good character and persistence. Eventually the pendulum will swing back to the direction of sanity.

    I’m nearly thru my 60s (68 in September) and I’ve had a busy decade so far. I intend to keep on traveling and taking the unfamiliar path. I’d like to have a second chapter like Iris Apfel. At age 95, she is a fashion icon and even has her own emojis despite not knowing or caring what an emoji is.


    Maybe I can be her for Halloween?

  14. Any day now, I will adopt a Lickety mindset about world and galaxy events. I might even be able to laugh at sophomoric haters and put The Dumpster phenomenon in perspective. At least I could do a better job of ignoring them.

    Until I align more completely with Lickety, I am enthusiastically supporting a change of POTUS in the very near future. I do my part to move this important national exigency along through FB, Tweets, and (as called for) face-to-face rants.

    The thing I love about being 67 is that I feel relevant with respect to issues of significance. Take, for instance, comfort. I wear Birkenstocks everywhere! And I know (from observing my 95 year old mother) that no matter how good a bra fits now, it will not impact the outcome past one’s fifth decade or so. So be comfortable. And besides, physical comfort helps us have more energy and better focus for doing the mentally uncomfortable things that improve our cognition. I can now eat with my left hand, and I have the shirtfront stains to prove it.

  15. I am a boring wrinkly old bat who does needlepoints….
    and feels about 8
    oh my!
    the challenge of it all

    How wittily you write and how laid back the cats are.
    Maybe need to get a pet to remind me of life’s joys.

    Just had 2 weeks on LI and am somewhat glad to be back in the city!

  16. Becky

    Those pictures of Lickety just make me smile. Really nailed the moon dancing for sure. I DEFINITELY want to be in Lickety’s mind…..especially now with all the sorrowful happenings in Texas. I can not wrap my brain around all the flooding they are getting. The kindness of people has shown through as neighbors help neighbors.
    As for getting older…..I think the key is to keep fit…..learn something new…..eat healthy…but not too healthy…..(I never saw a piece of chocolate that I didn’t like?). I am close to 70 only a few years away, and don’t feel that age. Things that used to mean so much I put on the back burner to do the things I want to do. Which is painting, and not cleaning house! Also, I say ALWAYS eat desert.

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