Bring Music and Life Back to an Elder

I’m not sure why this Kickstarter project to make a documentary called ALIVE INSIDE: A Story of Music & Memory hasn’t done better. Maybe we’re all tapped out?

“Alive Inside is the story of Dan Cohen, a small town social worker who discovers the power personalized music has to “awaken” and regenerate deeply locked memories in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

You might have seen the video of Henry on YouTube. He’s the alzheimer’s patient who comes to life when someone puts an ipod on his head. “Music is inseparable from emotion,” Oliver Sacks says in the trailer. So I’ve learned after spending the past few years researching the science of singing and music. There is a real physical effect.

For $75 you can “choose to either receive an iPod or have our team deliver an iPod, in your name, directly to an elder who needs it. We’ll also arrange the consultation to set up their playlists with the songs that touch them the most.” You don’t have to give this much, but that’s the one I went for. I couldn’t resist that reward.

Not too long ago I read about a study that found that the happiness from spending money on others rather than yourself is more lasting. I know there are many many worthwhile projects out there, but maybe you might consider contributing to this one.

A doorway to a house on Sutton Place, a very ritzy address in Manhattan, although you don’t hear about it anymore. I wonder why that is. Actually, people don’t say “ritzy” anymore either.

1 Sutton Place

Another Great Video about Happiness and Living Longer

This Ted Talk is technically about living longer, but the key to living longer is living better and having more fun. The first time I started to watch this it lost me early on, because of her focus on games, which I’ve just never really been into.

For some reason though, I tried again. I’m so glad I did. So just watch it. Pay attention. Stick with it to the end. It’s similar to a happiness video I posted last year in that the speaker gives a few simple steps to add to your daily “to-do” list; things that are easy to accomplish and are not a burden and will make you feel better, and live longer. Then she explains the research behind each step she is suggesting. It gave me hope. We could all use a little more hope, couldn’t we?

Give it a try.

I know this shot is not particularly earth shattering. I took it because it was two people as opposite as possible were about to engage in the same action, crossing the street.

Sopranos Live Longer

That means if my choir director ever demotes me in the future, I can say with authority, “You’re killing me!!” According to a recent study, “Life spans of sopranos were found to be significantly greater than those of lower voice registered contraltos, even after controlling for birth year.”

PS: I’m only kidding by my word choice of “demotes,” and I love all the voice parts. I will happily sing alto if the day ever comes.

This guy chose to have a telephone conversation while standing on this … well, obviously this is a Telephone Call Platform, one of the earlier, less successful designs.

Merry Christmas From 1952

One day, a few years ago, I was checking my mail and I looked down and noticed some old mail that had fallen behind the radiator underneath the bank of mailboxes for my building. I reached back and grabbed them. The first thing was a September 4, 1991 postcard about an event at a club called Speakeasy at 107 McDougal Street, NYC (now gone). It was addressed to Karl Rahnberg and although I lived here in 1991 I have no memory of Karl. Next up was another postcard and this one was mailed in 1959. It was for a Mrs. Rose Richter and it advertised a summer sale at “footsaver 34th St.” Rose is gone and so is footsaver.

The last thing was the oldest of all. It was an envelope with a 3 cent stamp and a Flushing postmark dated December 20, 1952, 4pm. Fifty-plus winters of steam had obliterated the name and address of the recipient, but the pre-printed label with the sender’s name was mostly intact:

Richard Farrelly, 15 Schenck Ave, Great Neck, NY.

I still have it and the label has since crumbled, in fact the whole thing is in much worse shape, but you could still read the full name when I first found it. (More below …)

Think about that. That envelope was sitting back there for more than five decades. Year after year after year as it sat there the mailman came and went, the tenants came and went, some of them moving out, some of them getting sick and dying, some had children who grew up here, racing by these mailboxes on their way to school, who then left to have children of their own. All the while this overlooked piece of mail sat back there, undelivered, for half a century, getting older and more fragile, as the sender and recipient themselves grew older and more frail, until the possibility that it would ever finish its journey from Richard Farrelly to whoever was most likely over, because both people are unfortunately but probably dead.

It was a Christmas card. The greeting read:

“To wish you happiness on Christmas and through the coming year.” Farrelly wrote “Sincerely, Dick” at the end.

Not a lot of warmth or effort there, but Dick was a man of the 1950’s, and this was not the most expressive decade for men. Who was he? Who never got his card? What if it would have been their only Christmas card that year? What if it was to Peter Tessa?  I wrote about Peter Tessa in my book Waiting For My Cats to Die. Peter Tessa lived alone in my building for many years.  Twenty years ago he died in his apartment one floor below me and no one noticed until the smell reached the halls days later.  He was 83.

I will never ever forget walking by the next day, and the door to his apartment was wide open and the place looked ransacked.  I walked in and saw a very old high school yearbook on the floor.  I opened it up and found Peter Tessa. Underneath his picture there was all sorts of predictions for him.  I don’t remember what, just the kind of happy, wonderful things high school kids predicted for each other (not dying alone, unnoticed for days).  I sat there for the longest time staring at his high school picture. I also found a framed picture which seemed to indicate that he did have a family at one point.

Anyway, I looked for Richard Farrelly, the sender of the 1952 Christmas card. For the next few days I made phone calls, checked libraries, went online. But I never found Richard Farrelly.

I’ve talked about this before, but I have always loved finding things like this, these traces of forgotten people, and then recovering their history. I used to go to used bookstores (when there were TONS of them in the city) and I’d shake out the oldest looking books for the cards or letters that would sometimes fall out. Those were the books I’d buy.

I had to make myself stop looking for Richard Farrelly. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s been more than a few years and I know a lot more about tracking people down, and there’s also a lot more resources online for searching. Maybe I could find him now.

Sigh. If only I could find someone willing to pay me to do stuff like this, like tracking down the forgotten senders of 50 year old Christmas cards. I need a day job! (A nice morbid day job … with health insurance.)

Gun Control — Enough Already

A friend of mine (Mikal Gilmore) tweeted: That old line that if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns is, in fact, an ideal we should consider aspiring to. I’ve never heard this point made before, and now I’m surprised I haven’t. If only outlaws had guns, would more lives be saved or lost? Here are the figures I found:

– Every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, it is used:

11 times for completed and attempted suicides (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263).
7 times in criminal assaults and homicides, and
4 times in unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.

– Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings (Harvard Injury Control Center).

– In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States. [The year for those figures is 2008.]

I got these facts from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website.

In the upper-right hand corner of the website there’s a live update of shootings in America. Right now it says 54,455 were shot so far this year in America—it went up three as I typed that!! It’s now 54,458! By the time I finished uploading the photographs below it went up to 54,464. Now 54,466. 196 people have been shot so far today in America. Christ.

Update: I found out later that the figures from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website are estimates based on the statistics from previous years. Very misleading and annoying!

Shots of helicopters from my Audubon cruise last weekend. Between the boat I was on and the helicopters, I couldn’t get anyone to stop moving long enough to get the shots I wanted.

Helicopter in the East River

Helicopter in the East River

Helicopter in the East River