A Boomer’s Reflection
In my mind’s eye, the memory was remarkably clear±
It was my first deal and it was fun±
Easy money±
It was 1965± I was 16, cocky, and on a mission± I sat at a polished wood table in a secure room
at Santa Barbara Bank±
A 12-year-old kid from my neighborhood, who could be described as my “first employee,”
sat at the other end of the table± He was busy with a machine that repacked coins into green
paper rolls± I had a sizable pile of pure silver half-dollars to my right, and to my leF a smaller
heap with traces of copper at the coins’ milled edges± I took the razor blade and carefully slit
the length of a fresh roll± I pried back the paper and scanned the four-inch column of stacked
coins± Te all-silver ones were still running about two-thirds to the roll± Cool±
My young accomplice looked up from his work at the coin machine± “Man,” he said with a
grin, “you’re going to be rich!” I remembered laughing at the kid’s naïve remark, but in a way
he was right± I had just discovered “the art of the deal” and had more than doubled my
money in two months± Pure silver coins were running 13% over face value± I had the sense
that I was running full throttle and
going places
My eyes snapped open as I was jerked back to the present± It was 2014 and I was seated in a
medical clinic waiting room, surrounded by old people±
Te receptionist was calling another patient’s name± Te silver coin deal had happened
nearly 50 years ago, in a more innocent time when I believed the world was my oyster±
I was minutes away from a consultation with my doctor to discuss the results of a recent
biopsy, and was awash with melancholy± I sensed that life, as I knew it, might be about to
take a serious turn± Previous worries and triumphs were of little consequence±
I was nervous about my appointment, but at 65 I had developed a modicum of patience and
waited quietly for my summons to the examining room± Te table in front of me was piled
with magazines, but all the best ones were in the hands of other patients± I picked up a copy
magazine and read an article about the various medical tests recommended for
people over 60, skimming past the full-page advertisements showing attractive older men
and women±
Another senior magazine featured an article titled: “
Sex in the Golden Years.”
I tossed it back on the table±
The author at work in his study
During my 50s, I had noticed a few aches and pains, but I’d still felt
positively young± AFer 60, it started to be a different story± I’d become
aware of ugly little gremlins hiding in the bushes around each new corner±
Gazing into the mirror, I truly understood that growing old was not
going to be a picnic, at least not for me± Te medical test results were not
encouraging, nor devastating± More tests were needed – I was informed
that it could be a long, bumpy ride±
My foundation for longevity is not stellar± I grew up during the 1950s on
Wonder Bread, Ovaltine and a myriad of other artificially flavored
carcinogens± During the ’60s, my three food groups were whatever was
piled on top of a pizza± As I grew older, my diet moved upscale to include
yuppie salads, steaks and iced tea± My weight began to be an issue as
I absorbed daily doses of extra-strength stress and failed to exercise±
Now I sleep less soundly and have to get up in the middle of the night to
pee± I’m nagged regularly by an aching back±
Even my fat pants are tight±
Allergies have somehow crept into my life, making my eyes itch±
I need cheater glasses to read the newspaper± During conversations, I
find myself placing my hand behind one ear in a feeble attempt to bolster
my hearing± Te recent reassurance from a 40-year-old doctor, who
calmly remarked, “Your symptoms are not uncommon for a man your
age,” provided little comfort±
But the real bummer is something far more haunting± My memory is
beginning to fade± Te hard drive in my head has momentary glitches± I don’t
say too much about this because my father suffered from dementia during
his later years± My family already knows what forgetfulness may portend±
What I was seeing in the bathroom mirror was a relic of my former self±
It dawned on me that I could be one doctor’s visit away from really bad
news± All my body parts now seemed suspect± Even my penis might start
slowly driFing into the twilight of its career±
I could remember being grossed out when my own parents sat around
grumbling with their friends about their ailments± At the time, I thought,
I’ll never do that
And yet here I am, whining like a baby, so please accept my sincere
apology± Given what some of my friends are suffering through, I have no
cause for complaint±
If I had taken better care of myself, some of my problems might have
been avoided or delayed± Still, as the years pass, I’m never without hope,
Over the next hour, in a reflective mood, I recalled other happy episodes
from my youth± I was in no hurry to hear my own name called out±
I knew the routine± Soon my doctor would ask me to bend over and grab
the exam table while he again performed what is euphemistically
referred to as a “digital” exam± Ten we’d sit down to discuss the
most recent test results±
Sobering stuff±
Six years before, in 2008, my life had purred along on cruise
control± I was in my late 50s, and I felt great± My days began at
the Avila Bay Club, paddling around the pool± At mid-morning,
I’d drive to my offices in San Luis Obispo to calmly review the
day’s schedule with my assistant±
My business partner and I owned commercial buildings in
cities along California’s Central Coast± Our properties were
fully leased± On any given morning, I might meet with a prospective
tenant or draF a business proposal, but my time, at least during the day,
was mostly my own± At noon, I oFen walked a few blocks to meet a buddy
for a leisurely lunch at one of many restaurants that overlook the
meandering stream that runs through our storybook small town±
My friends, my business associates, and our tenants all seemed happy± My
stepson had been accepted at Cal Poly, a nationally ranked university, and
my wife was pleased that I had recently slowed my once-frantic pace± We
began talking about travel plans±
Ten Wall Street melted down and I began to age in dog years±
My thoughts were again interrupted as the nurse walked into the
reception area± Tis time she called my name± I followed her to the exam
room to receive the doctor’s verdict±
It was past lunchtime when I leF the clinic, but I found myself driving
straight past my office, longing for the comforts of home±
My wife was away on a trip, but our dog Abby greeted me with a wagging
tail± I went into the bathroom and stared into the mirror± Tere was no
resemblance to those well-preserved seniors in the glossy magazine ads±
Instead I saw wrinkles, permanently pressed into my face from six
decades of living± My puffy eyes reflected high mileage± I sighed deeply in
resignation± Where did all the time go?
In that moment, reality sank in±
I was an
old guy
about my life before 1998± I also had a hankering to write about social
and political issues that I had thought about for many years±
My mother and father both were writers and editors and had always
meant to write
personal before they died, but the years slipped
away and illness caught them by surprise±
I began writing that night±
My mother leF me more prepared than I knew± Some years before, she
had given me five sealed boxes stuffed with family photos, newspaper
clippings and assorted memorabilia± I’d placed the unopened boxes
on a shelf in my closet, but now I decided to have a look±
What I found was a time capsule – my mom had saved
As I looked over the contents, a lot of them yellowed and dusty
with time, I began to contemplate how much the world had
changed in the past six decades± I knew how blessed I had been to
grow up during a less complicated era, in an affluent family, as a
member of the Pepsi Generation, on California’s pristine Central Coast±
In this book I’ve made a sincere commitment to be as accurate as possible
when writing about people and events± Where I give my views on current
political and cultural trends, my opinions and beliefs do not come
from university degrees or represent other professional
± My
observations are those of an eyewitness who has paid very close attention
to our changing society for most of the last 50 years± I’ve tried to take the
long view in reviewing my own life and the world around me±
What I’ve written is simply the reflections of a boomer, divided into three
main sections± Each section is very different and yet related to the others
by interwoven themes±
The Early Years
presents stories about growing up on the coast
of California±
The Later Years
covers ages 20 through 65±
A Boomer Looks Back
sets out my observations on cultural
and political issues±
Tese sections are followed by
Closing Thoughts, Acknowledgments
and a
Final Note
Tere is also a
with photos and postscripts
about the people who are a part of my story±
because my wife is always generous with her gentle reminder: “Cliff, it’s
never too late to start±”
I digress±
What hit me that day with the doctor was the realization that I was
exhausted from swimming in molasses± ²ive years of the Great Recession
had inflicted some ugly road rash and sucked the vitality from my spirit±
In the clinic waiting room, I had fondly remembered my younger years,
but they were now ancient history± My friends were also growing
noticeably older and I’d watched many of their hopes and dreams – and
their health – diminish in the wake of the financial crisis± A gut punch to
many boomers planning retirement±
Te 2008 Wall Street meltdown had also leF its ugly stain on my coastal
California town, and on every city and state in our nation± And yet none
of the Wall Street crooks had gone to jail - they simply skated away to
plan their next con± Te media was now polarized to the point where
pious pundits simply ranted and pointed fingers± Soulless big banks again
reaped record profits without remorse, and the U±S± Congress had
dissolved into a name-calling match between rich, pompous politicians±
Te once-free-spirited Boomer Generation was rapidly growing anxious
and cantankerous±
I went into the living room, curled up with my dog on the couch and
faded into a long aFernoon nap±
I woke up revived, took a shower, and headed back to town± I strolled
slowly down the main street of San Luis Obispo, the place that Oprah
had once declared “Te Happiest City in America±” It was warm that
night at ²armers’ Market, and I loved watching the children run by, the
smell of fresh strawberries and the voices of a local singing group± I felt
lucky to live in such an idyllic place – it’s just plain wonderful±
I wandered in and out of the crowd, and driFed into my favorite yogurt
shop to savor a cup of ³ahitian Vanilla±
With a mouthful of the frozen treat, I contemplated adjusting my sails±
Te doctor’s visit had reminded me that I was no longer in my prime, but
I found myself driven to do something creative±
Off and on, my wife had encouraged me to write something about
growing up in the ’50s and ’60s± Her idea was intriguing, especially when
she pointed out that my stepson (the apple of my eye) knew very little