Welcome to “Work In Progress,” your full-service blog about life in America. I’m an over-60 American man with too much experience, some of which I can remember. I write about living simply and frugally, politics and the economy, and books. You might find something new here on any given day. It’s unpredictable! Please drop in often and join the conversation. There are no wrong answers. The final exam has been postponed indefinitely. Let me know how I can serve you better.
See, there was this used typewriter . . .
The first major purchase of my life was a used Royal typewriter from the Wheaton Typewriter Co. for $99 in 1965 (a standard typewriter, not electric). Made the $99 working at Hot Shoppes. Bought the typewriter so I could take a typing class in senior year of high school, and maybe be a newspaperman. It seemed like a good idea.
Majored in journalism, received a degree. Always a journeyman in a modern, Darwinian newspaper business that wanted media stars. Newspapers are the incredible shrinking industry, so I took my leave of a top metro daily in 2002. 1965-2002 was a good, long run in the news biz, but I’ve still got typewriter ribbon in my blood. Ten years later, 2012, newspapers are all but dead. The New York Times and Washington Post are the main exceptions.
Thought I’d catch on at something else in a year or two. Real estate seemed like a good idea. Sold 5 houses, but the expenses eat you alive. Ran for the state legislature. Twice! Running for low-level political offices is like applying for a job. But instead of 500 resumes for every job opening in business, there’s a handful of applicants for thankless political jobs. I would have been good at it, too. Or at least, honest.
Lost. Twice. Seemed like a good idea.
Blogging since 2007 . . . Now comes something called eBooks . . . Kindles, iPads, Nooks . . . I can touch type . . . I was born to type . . . typing and writing, 45 years and counting . . . born to type . . . born to write . . .
Losing Speed and Altitude
I have a picture in my mind of America as a high-flying jumbo jet with two powerful engines. One engine is American democracy, and the other is American capitalism.
Democracy and capitalism have served America well, but both engines are showing their age and in danger of burning out.
I could use the same metaphor for my own life’s trajectory, and I will. Flying at typical American cruising speed, I enjoyed moderate career success and a modest level of affluence. I lived the middle-class American lifestyle, credit cards and all. In my early 50s, I began to lose speed and altitude at an alarming rate. By the time I hit 60, I felt about burned out!
A lot of Americans in my age cohort (the baby-boomer generation) are in the same boat . . . make that the same airplane. Sometimes, it feels like we need a handbook, “How To Make A Controlled Crash Landing.”
“Life After Sixty” “Dispatches from ConsterNation” “Work in Progress” (I keep changing my mind about the blog title) attempts a serious but light-hearted commentary on the above phenomena — the faltering American political and economic systems, and the predicament of everyday Americans, particularly those of us who have reached a certain age.
It appears that mid-flight corrections are needed to save American democracy and capitalism. And many Americans are coping with unavoidable adjustments in the way we live. It’s called CHANGE. We’ll be talking about it a lot.
Personally, I’m trying to change my life in the direction of simplicity and frugality.
Posts to this blog will be frequent, short, and sweet. Period. Amen.
Searching for Simplicity
Based on my current trajectory, simplicity seems to be the mid-flight correction that I need the most. And frugality? Well, I really don’t see an alternative, other than a winning lottery ticket.
To give you a sense of where I’m coming from, here are three of the best books about simplicity on my bookshelf:
“The Greening of America,” by Charles A. Reich, first published by Random House in 1970. The book was a phenomenon in its day. My friends and I passed it around, adding notes on any empty pages.
- “Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered,” by E.F. Schumacher, first published by Blond & Briggs in London, in 1973. The concept that small might be better than big was innovative, almost revolutionary, at the time.
- “Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream,” by Jerome M. Segal, published by University of California Press in 1999.
So who needs another blog – specifically the blog you’re reading right now? I really can’t justify it, except to say that it’s a matter of perspective.
Once, I had an office in Bethesda, MD, with a window on the ninth floor. Across the street was a church and a high school. I memorized the air-handling equipment and watched the repairs on the flat roof of the church. I could read the greetings of bygone graduating classes, spray-painted on the pitched roof of the high school. I could even see the athletic field on the other side of the school. I knew that summer was nearly done when I saw the football team begin morning drills in the August heat.
The tops of the roofs of the church and the school were hidden in plain sight. I could see them clear as day, every day, because of my perspective from the ninth floor. But pedestrians on the street had not a clue about the roofs of the buildings, or the practice field beyond. That information was not visible or knowable from street level.
What I mean to say is that this blog will offer a different perspective, my perspective, an over-60 Baby Boomer looking for a soft place to make a crash landing.
One more thing. Many books and blogs are written by people more wise and knowledgeable than me. I’m a willing participant-observer in democracy, and a somewhat reluctant (indentured?) cog in capitalism’s labor market. As for simplicity, I’ll be learning (or making it up) as I go along. Frugality is uncharted territory.
Much of what I write will seem basic (over-simplified?) to people who have lived simply and frugally for a long time.
“Life After Sixty” “Dispatches From Consternation” “Work In Progress.” Make yourself at home. Your participation makes it all worthwhile.
– John Hayden
- A Blog By Any Other Name Is Still A Blog (johnhaydeninmd.com)
- Baby Boomer Divorce Rate Doubles (fox2now.com)
- Aging drivers present new transportation challenge (sfluxe.com)