Welcome to Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Hello there. I’m Dave Price and I operate this writing/speaking/video podcasting/tour guiding practice in Washington, DC. Before that, I was a journalist (10 years) and an educator and educational consultant (29 years).

We focus on 4 subjects:

  • the history, culture, and lifestyle of the Baby Boomer generation
  • the music of the Woodstock Generation (classic mid-60s/70s/early-80s rock, pop, and soul)
  • speech, dissent and protest for social problems still with us from the activist times of the 50s, 60s, and 70s
  • issues of importance for aging Baby Boomers today such as work, retirement, leisure time, and health

As a Book Author: The first book in my 3-book series (and my first book ever) on classic rock entitled Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles and a Young Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation was published in November of 2019. Come Together is currently available at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. It can be purchased here through the Politics and Prose website. It is also available in a Kindle edition. Click here to purchase the book for Kindle for Amazon.

As a Speaker: I deliver lectures for Smithsonian Associates and other venues here is DC. This was my summer 2019 program for the Smithsonian. Currently, all my 2020 lectures have been postponed due to closings prompted by the COVID-19 virus.

As Podcaster/Internet Show Host: I am the creator, curator, and co-host for the music history video podcast Rock of Agers: Talking About the Music of the Woodstock Generation.and I am also a featured recurring guest on of the Facebook/YouTube/Periscope/Twitch political talk program Divided We Stand

As a Tour Guide: I led First Amendment tours at the Newseum from 2017 until the museum closed in 2019. Currently, all my tours for 2020 have been postponed due to restrictions for the coronavirus pandemic.

At this Website: Talking ‘Bout My Generation contains my articles, musings, photos, and video podcasts focusing on the Baby Boom generation (those of us born between 1946 and 1964). More specifically, you will find items dealing with history, lifestyle, and culture of the Baby Boomers, rock music from the ’50s/’60s/’70s, issues on aging that affect Baby Boomers today, and concerns of free speech as specified in the First Amendment that echo those of the Baby Boom era.

Here is a link to an online version of what academics call a CV and most of us call a resume. You can find out more there about who I am and what I have done there. Thanks for checking out my writer/speaker/tour guiding page. I hope you find things here to interest you and keep you coming back.

From my musical years playing in some of the loudest, least legendary bands in the Philadelphia/ South Jersey Shore area.

Passing On Your Family History to Your Grandkids

Of all the gifts that grandparents can give their grandchildren, few are grander than a sense of where they fit in to the history of their family.

Why do I say that? Well, who is better positioned than grandparents to be the family griots, a term for those great African storytellers, whose job it is to be a repository of tribal history, traditions, and culture and pass them on to future generations?

But this family storytelling idea is more than just a wonderful bonding custom; it has a proven basis in scientific fact.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia have found that children who know a lot about their families have higher self-esteem than those who only know a little. In addition, those children aware of family history are more likely to feel in control of their own lives.

Passing on Your Family History Personally

Now, while my wife and I both knew the importance of family history when we got married 43 years ago, we were really just too busy getting through the day to come up with an organized plan to pass that information on to our only son or his cousins.

But, of course, by the time our first grandchild arrived 8 years ago, we were in a much different situation.

Not surprisingly, Judy, being an artist and manager of an art gallery, chose a visual approach to letting our granddaughter, and then our grandson, be introduced to their personal past.

She framed dozens and dozens of pictures of relatives and family events and then created a portrait gallery on the long stairwell wall leading to our 3rd floor. When our grandchildren visited, she would carry them one at a time up the stairs, pausing to point out who some of these people were, what they did, and then answering any questions from Audrey and Owen.

As a writer and a teacher, I chose a different, more sedentary method. When our son was old enough to understand the alphabet, I would write letters on his back when I put him to bed after story time.

He would have to guess the letters. Later, I broadened that idea to have him try to tactilely feel out simple words I would write.

With my grandchildren, I expanded that technique to use the back-written words to introduce a family background story that I would then tell them, often tailoring that tale to something they had asked about or encountered during the day.

Of course, these are just 2 ideas. There are almost as many ways to tell family stories to grandkids as there are grandparents to tell them. Here are some other suggestions:

Visual Ways of Family Storytelling

  • Make a family photo album and share it with your grandkids.
  • If you are technologically savvy, create a family history picture compendium online. Perhaps you can even get some computer tips from your grandchildren for this one. Nothing says younger ones can’t teach older ones.
  • Fill in a family calendar with important dates for your family and discuss it periodically (weekly, monthly, seasonally, etc.)
  • If your grandchildren are like ours, they love memory matching card games. Create a set of matching cards using pictures of family members and/or events and play it with your grandchildren. You can assign bonus points if they recount facts about the pictures on the cards.
  • If you have easy access to a number of family burial sites, make tombstone rubbings and use them to prompt directed family discussions. This is a good way to introduce the ideas of death and dying when your grandchildren are ready for such a talk.

Written Ways of Sharing Family History

  • Make a Me – My Parents – My Grandparents Chart. If you’re not familiar with this fun learning exercise, here is an example of how it works. Create a 4-column chart. At the horizontal top of columns 2, 3, and 4 places the designations Me, Parents, Grandparents. Working vertically down, assign subjects for column 1 such as – at age 6 my favorite food, TV program, book, activity, sport, etc. The possibilities are endless. Use the answers to discuss personal history and cultural changes.
  • If you have access to old handwritten letters or diaries, transcribe some of the entries and read them with your grandchildren. This may get them interested in writing their own letters, diaries, or journals.
  • Compose a short Focused Memoir Chapter. Pick one event from your life and write it up as if it was going to be part of your overall autobiography or memoir and share it. You can write about something as routine as spending a spring day in the park or as historic as watching the first man walk on the moon.
  • Create an abbreviated written version of your Family’s Food Heritage. Seek out favorite recipes from family members and write them down. Add a short bio piece with each recipe. If you want a more hands on approach, make some of the simple recipes with your grandchildren.
  • Find online newspaper clips of historic events in your lifetime. Write down your feelings and reactions to those events. Create a scrapbook or online blog to share all of this with your grandkids.

Extending Learning About Your Family History

If your grandchildren express a real interest in family history, here are 2 involved collaborative projects you can enjoy together:

  • Plan and undertake a Family History Field Trip. For example, if Judy and I were to take such a trip with our grandchildren, we would go back to the small New Jersey community of Bridgeton, where we were born and lived for 59 years. You could even record the entire adventure with a video camera or your cell phone and then have your own family documentary episode.
  • Create a Family Museum Exhibit of Important Ancestral Artifacts. For example, if we were going to create The Price Family Ancestral Museum, we would need artifacts from my career as a writer and an educator; Judy’s art years, my Dad’s military, dry cleaning plant operator, and professional gambling years; my Mom’s 50 years as a school teacher; Judy’s Dad’s career in glass manufacturing; and her Mom’s years as a homemaker and retail sales clerk.

History, whether it is that of a small farm family or a massive nation state, is really the personal stories of how people faced the challenges and changes in a specific period of time

Speaking of the challenges of our time, Dr. Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City says: “The elderly are the only increasing natural resource in the world”.

So hey there, fellow resources, I think a great way to begin offering our advantages to the world around us is to share what we know about our own family and times with our grandchildren.

I hope you agree.

I also hope to meet you somewhere out there on our intersecting family history trails. We have so much to offer, not only to our own families, but to each other.

Am I the Only One Using Bar Soap? Well Maybe Then I Am Getting Old

They told me one day I would feel old, but I just refused to believe them. Age 30. Then 40, 50, 60, now 68. Nope, not old. Grey hair. White hair. Thinning hair. Definitely more hair in my ears and my nose than on the growing bald spot on the back of my head. Still didn’t feel old. Besides, wild ear and nose hair … that’s what small scissors are for.

An expanding stomach. Creaking bones. Getting up at night to pee. Still no significant difference. Hey, I thought, maybe I’m impervious to aging and its supposed incapacitating side effects.

The Decline of the Humble Bar of Soap

But all that changed recently. I had to face the fact that maybe I really am old. What happened, you ask? Well, I still use bar soap. And, according to research from the market firm Mintel, younger adults think a dispenser of liquid soap is easier to use, less messy with no slimy soap dish to clean, and more hygienic. Not only are they thinking that, they’re showing their anti-soap-bar feelings as consumers.

Bar soap sales were down 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, even though overall sales for soap, bath and shower products increased by nearly 3 percent during the same period. Usage of bar soap is also slipping and sliding, with the percentage of households using the traditional bar dropping from 89 percent to 84 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Generational and Gender Findings are Clear

It turns out that older men made up the only group clinging to their bars of soap. Women and younger body washers of both sexes were abandoning their old bars for new fancy plastic bottles of liquid soap.

The study reported that while 60 percent of those age 65 plus were happy to keep using bar soap to wash their face, hands, and other body parts, just 33 percent of those ages 25 to 34 were still grabbing the bar.

It also showed that men are also more willing to use bar soap than women. The survey found that 53 percent of men were willing to wash their face with bar soap, compared with 36 percent of women.

I first heard the findings on a my car stereo. Shaken, I rushed home to my apartment to check out their veracity on my computer. The internet did supply more detail. For example, the younger people were using the liquid soap because they were convinced that it had fewer germs in it. But soon I found a buried paragraph that showed I didn’t really have to abandon my green Irish Spring Soap – the only soap for really virile, really manly men.

An epidemiologist told The Huffington Post that while germs likely do live in the damp “slime” of bar soap, they’re unlikely to make you sick. And, since one of my former students Kate Sheppard is an editor there, I know the HP would never print a falsehood. And, my new favorite scientist added, rinsing the soap under running water before lathering with it should solve any problems.

Immediately, my aging fears melted like a tiny bar of my beloved Irish Spring left too long in a running shower. Not only was I not old, I was still smarter than those young whippersnappers with their dubious soap safety claims. Exclusive liquid soap use was simply like arranged playdates and bone-marrow appetizers so popular with Millennials today. So let the young have their ways. But for us Boomers, we’re not going too take it. I’m not going to let the youngsters pry my beloved bar of Irish Spring soap from my cold, wrinkly, but immaculately clean fingers

Can Being Messy Transform Your Life for the Better?

If you know the nursery rhyme story of Jack Sprat and his wife, then you have an idea of the relationship my wife of 48 years, Judy, and I have. If you’re not familiar with the child’s poem, here is the first stanza:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
And so betwixt the two of them,
They licked the platter clean.

As you can see, Jack and his wife are a husband and wife with quite differing, opposite tastes. However, by combining those complementary preferences, they are able to “lick the platter clean” – that is, in other words, experience complete success.

Judy and I are a lot like that. We have generally similar interests. But within those interest categories, we have very differing approaches and penchants. But we have learned to accept and enjoy those differences and have come to believe that they make us a better couple.

But there are exceptions. One of our longest-running disputes involves household (or now apartment) cleanliness.

How Clean is Too Clean?

One of our longest-running disputes involves household (or now apartment) cleanliness.

Judy is tidy. I am untidy. Judy is well-ordered. I am messy. Judy is a neatnik. I am a scruffie. Judy straightens up several times a day. I would clean once every week or so. You get the picture.

Of course, Judy believes her way is best. I counter that even if I did agree, I am constitutionally incapable of achieving her impossible standard of neatness so why should I try.

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives

That’s why I was excited to discover the latest book by noted economist, author, and Oxford University professor Tim Harford titled Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

I was sure Harford’s book could provide ammunition the next time our tidiness issue arose. I mean who could be more expert and believable than a professor at one of the world’s most prestigious universities?

In his introduction, Harford promises to celebrate the messiness in our lives and show why it is important, why so many resist and why we should embrace it.

Is an Inclination for Tidiness Innate?

Harford first establishes that indeed there is a human inclination for tidiness. Order can help in many areas of life such as finding keys quickly if we always keep them in a particular location.

However, mess isn’t the problem that many make it out to be. For example, a messy desk isn’t as chaotic as it first seems. Harford says that on such desks, the useful stuff eventually works its way to the top of the seemingly disordered stacks.

He explains that basically there are two types of workers: there are filers and there are pilers. Both can be effective. Of course, both can be ineffective, too. Problems arise when people don’t realize that their way isn’t working and refuse to change or are forced to adopt an alien system.

On Making Lists

Harford spends a fair amount of time in the book discussing the relative merits of making lists.

Now, both Judy and I make lists. She makes few lists, keeps them short, and usually accomplishes all her proposed tasks quickly. I, on the other hand, make many lists, most of them long. They are long because I keep adding tasks from previous lists that I never accomplished.

Judy describes my inveterate list-making this way: “You know, if you would stop making lists and just do things, then things would get done.” Of course, I feel a moral obligation to disregard such specious logic. I mean what self-respecting, procrastinating scruffie could ever agree to such an outlandish approach?

So, what does Harford have to say about list making?

In brief, just as he indicates on the controversy about clean/messy desks, there is no one-answer-fits-all definitive statement. For some, lists can be discouraging and counter-productive, often causing them to quit involved tasks. Others do best with multiple lists or a detailed daily plan, while still others perform optimally with only a broader, less-structured idea of what to do.

In his other chapters, Harford continues to present evidence for the life-changing magic of sometimes cluttering up. He explains why rigid targets can wreak havoc, how unpredictable leaders get ahead of their more organized counterparts and why we should abandon our predilections for orderliness when flexibility and improvisation matter more.

So How Did This Mess Turn Out?

Armed with all my new information, I couldn’t wait to discuss my new proofs that life is messy and sometimes you need to embrace that condition with my wife.

Judy listened patiently. She even nodded her head a time or two.

“So, what do you think?” I asked as soon as I finished my presentation.

“I think you should go over there and clean up that mess you made,” Judy said.

It appears that I’m going to need to compile more evidence that messiness can be okay.

And I plan to do that.

But first, it looks like I need to clean up a mess that I find a sign of genius, but Judy believes is just another of my untidy jumble piles. And I guess I better do that right now if I want our marriage to extend to year 49.

You’re Not Over the Hill Until You Start Believing You’re Over the Hill

How old is really old?Apparently, the answer depends on the age of the person responding to the question.Intuitively, this makes sense. Take a moment and think back to when you were 15. How did you view a person who was 20? Now return to your current mindset. How do you view a person who is 5 years older than you today?

Well we now have research data to support the concept that age is relative. The AARP recently conducted a survey on different generations’ views on aging and what exactly constitutes being old.

When Are You “Over the Hill?”

Possibly the most interesting generational finding came from the question that asks what age is “over the hill?” Millennials born between 1981 to 2000 consider 56 is old. Gen X born 1965 to 1980 say 62 and Baby Boomers, born 1946 to 1964, say that age 75 is officially when you are “over the hill.”

Don’t Forget This Finding

Traditionally, forgetfulness has been associated with aging. But the AARP study found that Millennials claim to forget things daily by 5 percent more than those reporting from the other 2 generations. Perhaps this is due to their hectic, fast-paced lives.

However, the 3 generations have a differing term for labeling exactly why they forget. Millennials call it forgetfulness or memory lapse. Gen Xers say they are having a brain freeze or brain overload. Baby Boomers report experiencing a senior moment.

What About Age Stereotypes?

Approximately 30 percent of those surveyed admitted to having made assumptions about people based solely on their age.

When it came to describing aging stereotypes, the most common generalizations focused on an older person’s poor driving ability, physical slowness, and stubborn view on things.

Younger people were most often accused of being too dependent on modern technology, appearing self-centered, and wanting everything immediately without earning it.

Despite beliefs to the contrary, for the most part, all age groups didn’t see themselves treated inappropriately or disrespectfully based on their age.

Interestingly the youngest respondents felt most victimized by age discrimination. The breakdown for experiencing perceived inappropriate treatment were Millennials, 17%; GenXers, 7%; and Baby Boomers, 13%.

How Are We All the Same Regardless of Age?

In the research, there were several beliefs and priorities that all the generational respondents agreed on. This included continuing to learn new skills regularly and feeling that aging is about living, not dying. All ages agreed that both experience and wisdom come with age.

They all claimed that the biggest limitations due to aging centered around physical abilities, fashion choices, and the ability to find a job. Thinking people are more likely to lie about their weight or their income than age.

Finally, There is That Great Equalizer

Not surprisingly, that would be sex.

While respondents in all age groups claimed they were engaging in sex several times a month, the vast majority would prefer to have it more often than they were.

Guess it all just goes to show that there is equality when it comes to what happens behind closed doors and drawn curtains. No matter what age we are, when it comes to sex, we’re more alike than we are different. Or at least that’s what we want people to think.

Pandemic Pushes Puzzles to the Forefront

This article is part of an ongoing series of life in the Washington DC area during a pandemic

My wife’s fascination with putting puzzles together has always been somewhat puzzling to me. I simply don’t have the patience for such a time-consuming activity. However, Judy obviously isn’t the only person currently using puzzles as a big piece of their pandemic-forced homebound entertainment.

Judging by sales, jigsaw puzzles are proving welcome relief for individuals and families all over America and sales are skyrocketing.

Brian Way, the owner of Puzzle Warehouse, the largest distributor of puzzles in the country, reports business is up 2,000% compared to this time last year.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Way told CBS News. “As you look down the aisle, we’ve got people getting orders off the shelves to ship out.

Amazon reported in April that “adult jigsaw puzzle” was the 8th most searched term on its website. In fact, at different times this spring, Amazon, as well as Target and Walmart, were sold out of all but the most expensive puzzles.

But that hasn’t deterred determined puzzle put-togetherers. Unable to purchase new puzzles, they took to exchanging puzzles with other avid enthusiasts. For example, Judy has put together a few puzzles belonging to our apartment complex neighbor Mark, who is an administrator with the National Parks Service and possesses a large collection of puzzles depicting scenes of natural beauty and wildlife.

Others have come up with novel technological ways to satisfy their puzzle itch. Hannah Boehm told NBC 7 News in San Diego that she uses the Next Door app and other social media to arrange puzzle swaps. She will leave a puzzle on her doorstep and someone will take it and leave a different puzzle in its place. Boehm says that process allows both parties to maintain recommended social distancing, adding that she always wipes down the boxes and puzzle pieces before she starts working on her new project.

The jigsaw puzzle itself has a long history. The origins of the puzzles go back to the 1760s when European mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker, is credited with inventing the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767.

Initially, puzzles were considered for play and learning for children only, but puzzles for adults emerged around 1900, and by 1908 a full-blown craze was in progress in the United States much like that of today. 

Adult puzzles range from relatively easy (a few pieces) to extremely challenging (1,000 pieces or more).  While Judy tackles her puzzling task alone, our daughter-in-law Shannon, who is currently with our son Michael and our 2 grandchildren Audrey and Owen on a one-year stay in Australia, convinces her family members to join her in the fun.

Or at least that is the plan. Shannon recently got a complex Harry Potter-themed puzzle for Audrey, who is a huge Harry Potter fan. But Audrey moved on to other things, leaving Shannon to complete the complex puzzle.  She said about a third of the 1,000-piece puzzle was black/navy or dark brown making it difficult to determine which pieces went where.

But my daughter-in-law is nothing if not determined. “It’s torture, but I can’t quit now,” she said.
And she didn’t. As you can see, the puzzle was no match for her. Despite the arduousness, the fact of Shannon’s determination certainly didn’t surprise her mother, Sue Sullivan. “You always did like a challenge,” Sue wrote on her daughter’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, back here in America, Judy discovered a fix for her puzzle addiction. A local gift shop in our underground run by a Taiwanese owner has puzzles for sale. And Judy has already gotten so many there that the owner says she can look at the catalog and she’ll order special puzzles for her.

Man, if this stay-at-home lockdown continues, I guess I will just have to come out of retirement and get a job to support my wife’s puzzling puzzle habit. Can anybody out there solve the puzzle of where to find a high-pay, no-work job in a pandemic and an economic depression?