Successful Retirement in NYC, 4 – Theater Extravaganza

April 14, 2015

We have spent the winter in NYC and what a winter it was – snow every Monday and freezing rain during the week to keep it interesting. So one way to beat the frozen winter blues was to go the theater and we have, a lot.  Right now we are at 40 plays/ performances and counting. The plays have ranged from one person performances to large productions with Hollywood stars – think Sting, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Moss, Emma Stone, Kristen Chenoweth.

When we started this whole NYC experience we knew we wanted to see a lot of plays but were somewhat concerned about three things . First,we are not night people so we prefer matinees and that limits how many days there are performances available. There are matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and, for some off Broadway, Thursdays as well. Second, Broadway shows are expensive, some very expensive. Fortunately we have friends who live here who are very savvy about how to score tickets at reduced prices or even for free. So they let us know to check out sites like Club Free Time, tdf, Theaterextras, Gold star and Travel Zoo. There is a membership fee for some of these but they are still worth it. Another way to save money is to buy tickets in person at the Box Office.  You’ll save the service and processing fees. Also we found lots of discounts for plays in preview and for Off Broadway shows.Third, my husband needs an aisle seat so that he can extend his right leg out ( result of back surgery). That has limited our ability to take advantage of some discounts since we can’t always be guaranteed an appropriate aisle seat when buying discount tickets. So buying in person with a discount code works best for us.

So what have we seen?  They have ranged from revivals ( King and I ) to one person plays like Churchill, Josephine Baker and Wiesenthal to  dramas (Delicate Balance) to brand the new Hand to God.

We started with Jersey Boys ( a repeat for us and well worth it); then Cabaret – Alan Cumming was phenomenal; The Audience – Helen Mirren truly is the Queen; Skylight with Bill Nighy – amazing; On The Town – best classic Broadway show by far; strange (for us) performances like Big Love; super dramas  like Disgraced and Curious Incident of The Nightime Dog and The River – Hugh Jackman was excellent. We took my niece and her son to Lion King – so fun to see a child’s first experience with a Broadway show.

Best play: Hamilton and this is before it goes to Broadway. We paid a little over 100 for our tickets and on a resale site they were going for a 1,000 per ticket. Money aside, the play was outstanding – without a doubt one of the best we have ever seen.

One more factor to consider – the theater or venue. Some are beautiful, some are cramped and none have adequate restrooms for the ladies. The dinner clubs have been a pleasant surprise – 54 Below is a great place with good shows and food.

Two more weeks to go and so much yet to see! We will appreciate the Tonys so much more this year!

Barbara Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price


Successful Retirement in NYC, 2 – Getting Around

February 10, 2015

New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.

Yes, we do ride in a hole in the ground and that works pretty well for the most part. The subway lines go up and down town in a fairly convenient way; but there are few underground cross-town options.

Buses go up and down town as well as across town but you need to stand outside to wait for them.  And, compared to subways going in the same direction, they are slower.

There are apps for your smartphone which will keep you apprised of routes, schedules, delays and even the imminent arrival of your bus or subway, but I still use a Streetwise Manhattan map to help plan my movements.

As a senior you can get a subway/bus pass that gets you 50% off.

Taxis are everywhere but I find most of them a bit cramped for my 6′ 4″ frame. A taxi alternative is Uber or other private car system. With Uber I can order up an SUV on my smartphone and track its arrival. Uber has my credit card so no money needs to change hands in the car. I have found the cars to be neat and the drivers professional. It can be a bit pricey: in a recent snowstorm I watched the estimated cost of my ride go from $17 to $25 to $38 in less than three minutes.

I have my car in the City but I would not use it other than to get back and forth to Connecticut or maybe a Target run to Mount Vernon for paper goods etc. Parking is terrible and many drivers are very aggressive. I have seen taxi drivers deliberately hit cars they didn’t think were moving fast enough.

The most interesting aspect of getting around has been walking. NYC is a very walk friendly. My wife and I frequently walk across Central Park to get from the upper west side to the museums on Fifth Avenue (we were at the Guggenheim today). My son suggested I get a Garmin wrist band to track my exercise and I have found I am walking 6 to 8 miles a day! This has been great at offsetting the caloric intake from NYC’s many fine restaurants.

Back to New York, New York: one of the most fun plays we have seen is On The Town with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Comden/Green. Highly recommended!

 

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price


Special for Mother’s Day

May 8, 2013

Special for Mother’s Day: In celebration of motherhood, the Kindle edition of  The Successful Retirement Guide will be available on Amazon for only 99 cents throughout Mother’s Day week-end (and you don’t have to be a mother to get this great price)!


Close Encounter with a Namibian Rhino

April 24, 2013

It was our penultimate day in the country and we were out for a morning drive. We were moving at a leisurely pace in our open Range Rover along a straight and narrow forested road, admiring the abundant bird life, when all of a sudden there was a great crashing noise to the left. I turned to see an adult Black Rhino charging full tilt out of the forest and right at us (seemingly right at me since I was on the left side of the vehicle)! It slammed to a halt about 10 feet away, glared at us, lowered and shook its head, made a huge snort and then…

One of the great enjoyments of my retirement is having the opportunity to travel to other countries and learn about their history, culture, geography, art, architecture, food, beverages, languages, government, social customs and the like.

Recently, my wife and I, along with some friends old and new, were able to visit one of the youngest countries in the world: Namibia. It is located on the southwest coast of Africa, north of South Africa, south of Angola and west of Zambia and Botswana. In size, it is twice the land mass of California but only has a population a bit over 2 million making it one of the least densely populated nations in the world. Its official language is English although about 60% of the population speaks Afrikaans and 30% speak German. There are also a number of tribal languages and many Namibians are multilingual. It has a democratic government and gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. The most important sectors of its economy are mining, fishing, agriculture and tourism.

Namibia is a very dry country. It gets little rain and has almost no surface water. It is home to two of the world’s great deserts: the Namib along almost its entire coastline in the west, and the Kalahari which makes up most of the eastern part of the country. The coast is called the “skeleton coast” due the large number of bleached whale and seal bones along the shore from when they were aggressively hunted, as well as for the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred there since the Portuguese began seeking a way around Africa to get to India and the Spice Islands.

The original people of Namibia were the nomadic San who were gradually replaced by the tribal Khoi-Khoi who were herders. Both the San and Khoi-Khoi were supplanted by the Bantu beginning about 2,400 years ago. In the late 19th century Germany, looking for land in which to expand, annexed Nambia and began taking over the best land for farming, driving the native population into the desert in the process. In 1904, a rebellion by the Herero people was brutally smashed with over 60,000 of them being killed. Following WWI, South Africa was given a mandate by the League of Nations to rule the Namibian territory, but the treatment of the native Namibians was not much better than under the Germans. The United Nations eventually voted to end South Africa’s mandate and, after much regional strife, Nambia finally became independent in 1990.

The capital of Namibia, Windhoek, reflects its heritage as a Germany colony both in architecture and cuisine (beer and sausage). The 500 seat church pictured below – Christuskirche – was built in part to symbolize triumph over the native culture:

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The Sossusvlei region of the Namib desert has the world’s tallest sand dunes, some of them towering 1,000 feet above the desert floor. They are red-orange due a high level of iron oxide. They are best seen early in the morning when early light plays against the sand. If you are feeling strong you can climb them:

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From Swakopmund on the coast it is easy to visit the Skeleton Coast and see shipwrecks and wildlife:

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After a day on the water it can be fun to visit a local tavern for some beer, fried caterpillars and chat with the locals:

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In Damaraland we learned how to track elephants (in part, by analyzing their dung). We were successful in finding several herds of “desert-adapted” elephants, which have smaller bodies and longer legs than the savannah/forest African elephants, and can go for several days without water:

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Our campsite in Damaraland was reminiscent of the Grand Canyon:

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In Twyfelontain we saw 2,500 year old rock carvings depicting African wildlife. These are considered among the best prehistoric art on the continent. There are over 2,500 individual carvings. Some examples:

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Each sunset called for a “sundowner” beverage to toast the magnificence of the landscape:

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Our final stop was Etosha National Park in the north of the country. It is roughly the size of Switzerland and is the third largest animal sanctuary in the world. We saw lions, springboks, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, jackals, kudu, ostrich, a wide variety of birds and of course, rhinos. A few examples below and then back to the charging rhino with which I began:

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I turned to see an adult Black Rhino charging full tilt out of the forest and right at us (seemingly right at me since I was on the left side of the vehicle)! It slammed to a halt about 10 feet away, glared at us, lowered and shook its head, made a huge snort and then…

and then it quickly made a 90 degree turn to the left and charged off into the forest.

When the Rhino had charged there had been a collective gasp in the vehicle. Now there was total silence. Then our Namibian Tour Leader made a loud snorting imitation of the Rhino, we all laughed with nervous relief and then we moved on down the road.

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price


Successful Retirement and The Meaning of Life VI

October 13, 2012

This is one of several posts on The Meaning of Life.

Over several posts I have looked at this topic from a variety of perspectives beginning with Calvin and Hobbes, then considering the contexts in which we might think about it, and then reviewing Classical Eastern, Classical Western and more modern philosophical views. I said at the beginning that I didn’t think there is an answer to the question “What is the Meaning of Life?” that would be definitive for everyone (obviously thousands of years of reflection have not produced a clear, or even a muddy, consensus). But I do think there are themes that emerge from all the thinking on this topic that enable us to at least begin to approach an answer.

In this post I want to focus the question a bit further and then in my next post I’ll attempt to approach the answer.

First I’d like to distinguish between the “meaning” of life and what makes a life “meaningful.” By “meaning” of life I am connoting that life has some significance, some import, some reason for being that extends beyond the purely biological and that exists whether life is short or long, happy or unhappy, pleasurable or painful, productive or not. By “meaningful” I am connoting that there are outcomes or results – good, neutral, bad or some combination thereof – from the mere fact of our living our lives, as well as how we live our lives, what we accomplish in life, how we affect others by our actions; in this sense our individual lives may be more or less meaningful relative to each other or in relation to some standard of meaningfulness that we as individuals or society might posit. My point: all lives may have meaning and perhaps a common meaning, but the meaningfulness of individual lives will certainly vary.

We should also note that we are social beings. While asking the question “what is the meaning of life?” may begin introspectively, it quickly extends to our loved ones, our neighbors, our fellow citizens, everyone around the world past, present and future. The answer to the question, if one can be found, has individual import but also collective, societal import.

We could also explore whether or not the meaning of life is “meaningful” with respect to other species. Certainly other species share our drive to reproduce and many share our desire to seek comfort and avoid pain.  And as we have noted Hinduism, for instance, recognizes souls in other species. But I suspect most animals are not reflecting on the meaning of life so I am not going to devote any energy at this point to seeking the nature of meaning in their lives.  Recall it was Calvin who asked: “Why do we exist?” Hobbes saw the answer in purely biological terms.

That is not to say that Hobbes’ view is entirely misguided. The Bible (Genesis) tells us to go forth and multiply. And certainly our sex drives and societal norms encourage reproduction. Some scientists even argue that the main driver of our behavior is survival of our gene pool. But while I accept the guidance of the Bible and Biology, as I said earlier I am seeking an answer that goes beyond the biological.

I am also not going to spend any more time on the view that life has no meaning. I agree with Albert Einstein who wrote: “…the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.” (The World As I See It, 1949)

Some people argue that the meaning of life is found in achieving our full potential. Abraham Maslow suggested we have a hierarchy of needs that we seek to address: Physiological (food, water, shelter, comfort), Safety (security stability, freedom from fear), Belonging/Love (friends, family, spouse) needs must be met before we can move onto achieving Self-esteem and Respect and then ultimately Self-actualization in which we seek fulfillment through pursuit of our inner talents and creativity. That seems to make some sense but it also seems very self-centered. In as much as we are social beings, the meaning of life seems to call for something larger than ourselves as individuals.

Other views of life’s meaning include: seeking knowledge and wisdom, caring for others, loving and being loved, doing good, seeking pleasure, achieving power or fame, having a relationship with the divine, achieving the victory of our ideals. All of these are worthy but seem inadequate to answer the question on their own.

In my next (and final, at least for now) post on this subject I will attempt to pull together thousands of years of diverse thinking on the subject and distill what I think are the major themes that point toward the meaning of life.

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2012 R.K. Price


Successful Retirement and The Meaning of Life IV – Classical Eastern Thought

August 20, 2012

This is one of several posts on The Meaning of Life.

My last post looked at some of the classical Western philosophical/religious responses to the question: what is the meaning of life? This post looks at some of the classical Eastern philosophical/religious responses.

Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions. It originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in modern day Pakistan. Hinduism has many subsets of belief and doctrine and there is no single founder or teacher.

Hindus believe in a supreme eternal deity called Brahman who created and is present in all things but who also transcends all things. But they also believe in and worship other deities (there are potentially thousands of these) who represent different aspects or manifestations of Brahman. Hindus usually chose a deity that is significant to them for reasons of family tradition, occupation or geography or some combination thereof.

Note that since the universe is divine, and we are part of the universe, we share in that divinity.

Hindus believe there is a cycle of life, death and rebirth of the soul which is governed by karma. Karma can be either good or bad. Being disciplined and doing what is right (being honest, exercising self-control, being pure, exercising compassion and fortitude, giving proper devotion to the deities, living in harmony with the earth and the universe and the like) results in good karma. Behaving in negative ways results in bad karma.

After we die our soul is reborn in another being. If we developed good karma in our previous existence we are born into a higher station in life. If we developed bad karma we may come back in a lower station or even as an animal. The goal is to live our lives in a way that enables us to progress to the point at which we are freed from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Being disciplined in our behaviors ultimately frees us from the ignorance and passions that restrain our progress.

While Hinduism is frequently referred to as a religion, a more accurate description might be: a way of life.

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Confucius was a civil service administrator and teacher who lived in the fifth century B.C. in China. He espoused the cultivation of virtue, propriety, warm-heartedness and respect for one’s elders, ancestors and civil authorities. He taught that this type of behavior would be consistent with the natural order of the universe.

Confucius maintained that the appropriate behaviors could be learned and then honed through practice. The goal was to have them so engrained into one’s being that their application in one’s daily existence became effortless, a second nature, spontaneous and harmonious with the natural order.

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Lao zi, who lived in China about the same time as Confucius, also believed that we should aspire to effortlessness in our actions. But in his view, all of the social conventions, values and rituals we develop in the normal course of our existence retard us from being able to achieve this effortlessness. In order to achieve effortlessness we need strip away our cultivated behavior and return to our natural state.

His views were documented on the Daodejing or the book of the Way. The Way here is the fundamental way things are: in life, the universe, everything. The book is short: 81 chapters most of which have only one or two paragraphs. An example:

When gold and jade fill your hall,
you will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with honor and wealth
is to cause one’s own downfall.
Withdraw as soon as your work is done.
Such is heaven’s way.

Another example:

When the people of the world all know beauty as beauty,
there arises the recognition of ugliness.
When they all know the good as good,
there arises the recognition of bad.

Lao zi argues that things and the language we use get in the way of understanding the Way and we need to get beyond these so we can live our lives in a fashion that is consistent with the Way of life and of the universe. Daoists read the Daodejing and reflect on its passages to help them achieve this.

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Buddhism originated in India about 500 B.C. with the prince Siddhartha Gautama, who was known to his followers as the Buddha, the Enlightened One.

Buddha taught that there is an eternal, endless universe of Absolute Being, of which we are temporary incarnations. As such, we are subject to delusions and temptations, pain and trouble, illness and death. But by studying to find wisdom, living to accomplish good, and concentrating on achieving control over mind and body, we can escape from the dominance of the physical world, and we can transmit a good inheritance of karma to our later incarnations.

Buddha taught that a succession of reincarnated beings, each improving its common inheritance of karma, can eventually rise to an existence entirely free of this world: the state of nirvana. Buddha himself is said to have achieved nirvana at his death – that is, permanent enlightenment in a state free from the cycle of rebirth.

Themes emerging from this history of thought regarding the meaning of life include: a relationship with and even perhaps a participation in a divinity or divine order; seeing pain and suffering as a natural result of our imperfect nature; doing good and avoiding bad behavior for its own sake and to build up a “bank” of good karma to help us advance through stages of our existence; achieving a state in which our actions become effortless through study and practice, or conversely, by shedding our cultured behavior to return to a more natural state; broadly, that we can improve our lives through our behaviors, attitudes and reflections and perhaps even enter into a heavenly state.

Next up I’ll look at more modern philosophical thinking on the meaning of life.

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2012 R.K. Price


Freedom in Retirement

March 31, 2012

Many people think of retirement as an idealized time of freedom to do what they want, to pursue favorite pastimes and investigate new ones. The pressures and structures of the workplace and daily schedules are left behind. We have freedom to enjoy ourselves as we wish.

The concept of having freedom and taking advantage of it probably seems easy to grasp. But consider another point of view from the Bhagavad-Gita.

The Bhagavad-Gita is an ancient Hindu text dating from about 2,000 years ago. It tells the story of a conversation between a Warrior Prince and his Charioteer in a battlefield prior to the commencement of fighting. The Prince is reluctant to fight because many of the fighters on both sides of the battlefield are his relatives. His Charioteer, who is actually the Lord God Krishna, gives him advice on his duty as a warrior.

Basically, Krishna tells the Warrior Prince that since he is a warrior and the essence of his duty as a warrior is to fight, that fight is what he must do. The Prince has a hard time with this because while he knows it is his duty to fight he doesn’t want to fight his relatives.

Krishna talks with the Prince about yoga. Not the yoga of the modern day yoga studio but yoga in its broadest meaning as discipline. Krishna discusses three types of yoga: karma yoga or the discipline of action; jnana yoga or the discipline of knowledge; and bhakti yoga or the discipline of devotion. The Warrior Prince’s place in the universe, his destiny, is that of a warrior and therefore he must fight; he mustn’t let such ephemeral things as the fact he would be fighting his relatives get in the way.

Krishna’s larger point in this allegorical tale is that we all struggle at times with what we should do and what we might want to do based on ephemeral wants and desires. But discipline is what truly makes us free. Freedom from discipline means we are being driven by temporary, external forces. True freedom comes from self-control and discipline in support of what is truly important in life and not allowing ephemeral wants and desires to dictate our actions.

Food for thought…

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2012 R.K. Price