Author - Paul Schatzkin

A Lot Of People My Age…

… are dead. 

Ken Shane ca. 2016

I got a text message from my sister a couple of days ago, informing me that Kenny Shane – a classmate from  the Columbia High School class of 1969 – has died.  I looked for an obituary online but haven’t found one yet. 

I remember Ken Shane because we shared a few interests in junior high. First it was slot cars and, later, music (which is a euphemism for ‘girls’).  I recall Ken as a drummer, though I don’t remember what bands he might have played with.  Max Weinberg was the drummer in our class.  He went on to play with some other guy from New Jersey, Bruce somebody.  

I encountered Ken on Facebook some years ago. We traded the occasional Like or comment.  By then he was a regular contributor to an online music publication called Popdose, and a singer/songwriter.  He sent me a CD he made (Spotify link).  I listened to it. Once.

We chatted a little at our last class reunion in the fall of 2019… the 50 year reunion.  Fortunately he didn’t ask me about that CD.

Ken Shane’s last Facebook post was October 10 – a birthday salute to John Lennon (also dead). There is nothing on his Facebook about an illness.

And now, Ken Shane is dead. 

Like a lot of people my age. 

I’m 72 years old today, November 15, 2022. 

And still I wonder…. how is this possible? 


It’s funny, the yardsticks by which we measure good fortune.  

I spoke with a dear friend a couple of days ago.  I hadn’t spoken to her in several months, and actually only made contact when I sent a text message to somebody else and iMessage accidentally added her name to the ‘to’ line.  She replied with the news that she’d been in a horrendous auto accident three months ago, had been in the hospital for 3-1/2 weeks, and was still in physical therapy and recovery.  

First of all: I. Had. No. Idea. (That none of our mutual supposed friends thought to say a word to me about this is its own source disturbed curiosity – but that’s a subject for another time/post – which means I’ll probably never mention it again.)

When we finally spoke a couple of days later I learned that her femur had been broken, along with several other bones and an accompanying raft of bruises and lacerations.  She sent me a photo of the car. It’s a wonder anybody survived. Her husband was driving but the worst impact was to the passenger side.  Airbags may have caused some of the minor injuries, but they also saved both of their lives. 

The good news is that after several months of arduous rehab, she is presently walking with cane and expects a full recovery.  

As we were talking, I went through a mental inventory. I could not find anything similar in my own experience.  

I haven’t been in a serious wreck since I was in high school: a rear-ender that was absorbed by the trunk of my mother’s Buick Skylark. I was involved in a couple of pretty bad wrecks when I was younger, but, again, no serious injuries (and that was before seatbelts).  That’s one reason why I am a pretty careful driver – and why I am a terrible passenger when anybody else is driving (just ask my ex-wife). 

What do I have to compare to such grievous injuries? 

I pulled a muscle in my left calf last week and can’t play pickleball for a few weeks. 

Yes, I have been caught up in the pickleball craze.  As most people I mention it to are aware, pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport – and the fastest growing source of sports-related injuries.  I suffered one myself last week, pulling up lame as I rushed the net after a serve.  An orthopaedist fondled my calf and advised me to just stay off it for a while.  I hobbled about the house for a couple of days but I’m about 95% normal now, save a bit of residual tenderness.  I’ll wait another couple of weeks before I venture out on the court again.  

That’s it.  

I’m 72 years old. And some of my friends are dead already. 

But the closest I’ve come to anything that could even be remotely considered a health scare was when I had a skin cancer surgically removed six years ago.  That might not even have qualified as a ‘scare’ were it not for the fact that my father, my mother and my brother all died of various kinds of cancer.   

And since I dropped 30+ pounds during the pandemic (and hanging in pretty consistently at 5’8″ and ~155lbs),  my ‘numbers’ have been the best they’ve been in a decade: blood pressure, cholesterol, A-1C – all more or less normal.  

Some people get a ticket for their last bus ride.  Some people get hit by the bus.  Barring the latter, I should still be around long enough for my next colonoscopy.  


So what am I doing with this gift of time?  

Hah. Please don’t hold me accountable. 

I am working on several projects, all writing-and-publishing oriented.  

Remember that book project I was working on in the ‘aughts?  “The biography of a man whose story cannot be told”?  A few weeks after Apple canned me I found myself drawn back to that material, and over the summer I finished the second draft that eluded me for more than a decade.  Funny how things work out, huh?  I am planning to publish in January (I could use a proof-reader, anybody wanna volunteer?).  

I also spent a fair amount of the late summer editing a friend’s memoir.  He handed me a 100,000 manuscript and six weeks later I handed him back a 60,000 word manuscript.  I really enjoyed that work. And he paid me for it – the most I’ve ever earned from word-smithing!

I’ve been maintaining this personal blog/site for more than a decade, with little regard to how much traffic it generates.  Even though I’ve been on the Internet since before most people ever heard of the Internet, I have a lot to learn about the Dark Arts of Keywords, Indexing, Search Engine Optimization and Analytics. Right now I am a digital carpenter gazing into an unfamiliar box of virtual tools, picking each one up and wondering “what does this one do?”

When I’m baffled by all these moving parts, I wonder if that’s how I should be spending my time – staring at screens, tapping at at keyboards, scratching my chin. But for the remainder of the fall and coming winter, this will suffice.  And I always have a guitar within reach, and I expect pickleball to resume at the end of the month.  

What else am I supposed to do, play golf?

I’m also thinking about another pilgrimage to the U.K. in the summer of ’23:  Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in June, the British Grand Prix in July (I’ve started following Formula 1 racing, a rekindled interest from adolescence).  Time will tell if I can line that up. 


And of course, there is Buster, my constant companion.

The point is: Most of the time, I consider myself unimaginably fortunate.  

I’ve got a couple hands-full of close friends, and a larger personal ‘social network‘ that I stay in regular contact with this way.

I have a paid-for house (thank you, Gaylord), a cord of firewood for the winter, a few shekels in the bank and no debt to speak of, a bit of Social Security and Medicare, food in the fridge, a small collection of fabulous guitars, and a convertible that I can drive dangerously fast when the mood strikes me – and I am still agile enough to manage a stick shift (if I ever need a car with an automatic transmission, please, just put me in the ground with it).

And I never invested a dime in crypto.

Also: 35 years without a sip, a sniff or a puff. My last drink was Thanksgiving day 1987.  When people ask “how’d you do it?” I tell ’em “I’m on the 2-step program: 1.  Don’t drink.  2. Don’t die.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time alone, but I can’t say as I feel entirely lonely.  Compared to a lot of people I know, I’m my own best company. I mean, sure, I’d like to have snuggle-buddy, but it’s hard to meet somebody a) when you don’t leave the house much and b) so many people my age are dead.

Will there be cake? Oh yeah, who wants a slice? Have cake, will travel (within reason).

Tonight I’m going to dinner with some friends and I am going to eat many things that some people will say are ‘bad’ for me (including an incredibly indulgent chocolate cake).  

But I’ve been eating those things for 70+ years now and they haven’t killed me yet. Why mess with success? 

So, yeah.  72 years old,  unimaginably fortunate – and not dead.   

I just want anybody taking the time to read this to know that I am grateful for your continued goodwill and friendship, however it is manifest (but, please, if you’re in a life-threatening car wreck, maybe let me know and I’ll bring chicken soup).

Because, like the guy in Monty Python…

It Breaks Your Heart


A few thoughts on the end of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, starting with some of the truest words ever written on the subject:

Baseball is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

A. Bartlett Giamatti – Commission of Baseball, 1986-1989

…and I’ll add a few thoughts now that the  2022 season is over, and since baseball played such a big part in my summer

One of the many summer nights I spent at the ballpark.

I watched a lot of the World Series, but it was really kinda boring.  Thankfully I had lots of other things to multitask with – photo editing for the book – because the games themselves were mostly… well, long periods of strike outs punctuated by occasional home runs.  I got a lot of work done.

But jeezus the games still go on forever and I must have lobotomized the part of my brain that saw the same commercials two (or was it three… or five…) hundred times.  Mercifully, I don’t remember any of them.

I don’t care much for the new playoff format.  I’ve never been a fan of the whole ‘wild card’ business that lets a team that hasn’t ‘won’ anything a chance to appear in ‘The Fall Classic.’  This year, the format allowed a team that had finished the regular season in third place in their division to reach what Bob Costas has more correctly labeled “the MLB finals.”

Fortunately, a team that won their division prevailed in the ‘finals.’  Unfortunately, that team was the Houston Astros.  But I’m happy for Dusty Baker, he finally won a World Series as a manager (only the second Black manager to do so).  I remember Dusty Baker playing for the Dodgers when I lived in Los Angeles – and that was a millennium ago.

Smiling because only winners get to the World Series, and when this was taken it as usually the Yankees.

When the first rounds of major league expansion in the 1960s dictated a playoff for the pennant, you still had meaningful divisions – east and west – and the winners played five (later seven) games before the Series and it was all  still over by the middle of October.

As Keith Olbermann has opined a few times on his podcast, if a third place team can make it to the World Series, then what is the ‘regular season’ even for??

In the good old days,  your team either won the pennant and went on to the World Series – which was played on sunny warm days in early October – or went home for the winter.  Now it’s frozen night games (or, worse – indoors!?!?) in November.

November?  You do. not. play. baseball. in. November.  That’s football season.

George Carlin put it best:

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything is dying.

George Carlin, “Football -v- Baseball”


I’ve written elsewhere about my 4th-grade fascination with Roy Campanella.  When I was poking around to find an image to illustrate ‘It Breaks Your Heart’ I found this photo of Roy:

baseball, campanella, ebbets, giamatti, carlin

…at what was left of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn as it was being torn down after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

And, finally,

Inscribed on a wall at First Horizon Park, where I worked four days a week all summer.


Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training on February 14.

Peak Pegram – Autumn, 2022

And here it is November.

I always liked the morning after Halloween when I was a kid, because that meant it was November– the month of my birthday.  Maybe I’ll say more about that when the time comes (Nov 15).

In the meantime, it has been a surprisingly colorful autumn here in Middle Tennessee.  I say surprising because it has also been very dry, and that usually means that the foliage turns brown before it has a chance to show the full range of color that comes with some seasons. This hear has been pretty spectacular, actually (Photoshop helps,  but ya gotta have something to start with) and I’ve been taking pictures during my daily jaunts around the neighborhood here in Sunny West Bumfuque.


Most years, I go on some kind of ‘Fall Tour’ to some colorful place.  Like last year I drove all the way to Quebec City – the most European city you can drive to from Tennessee (and with the top down most of the way).  That was during the first few months of my self-imposed exile from ‘the socials’, and I never did post any of those photos, like, anywhere. I’ve started doing that now. 

It’s all mostly gone now.  My yard is covered with dead leaves, and Winter is Coming.

Here’s some instrumental music to listen to while you’re sitting by the fire:

Fall Tour 2021
Retrospective #1: Gettysburg

I have always been interested in American history.  Even when I was failing every other subject during my junior year high school, I did well in an American history class.  I am an attentive student of the ‘Early National’ period, owing in large part to my devoted following of Clay Jenkinson’s ‘Thomas Jefferson Hour” podcast (and I’ve been to Monticello like four times – I should dredge up some of those photos, too).

In 2011, that general interest in the subject drew me into a partnership with songwriter/producer/guitarist Thomm Jutz, songwriter Peter Cronin and a host of Nashville’s finest as Executive Producer for ‘The 1861 Project’ – a series of three CDs released to coincide with the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  In the course of that project, learned a great deal about the ‘War Between The States’ (aka ‘The War of Northern Aggression if you’re from the South) and in particular the gory details of the Battle of Gettysburg.

When I started thinking about a destination for my annual ‘Fall Tour’ last year, I decided it was finally time to see Gettysburg for myself.  I spent the better part of three days there, finally seeing for myself all the spots I’d read about: The Angle, Seminary Ridge, The Seminary Cupola, Little Round Top, the Highwater Mark of The Confederacy.

I’ve never done anything with all the photos I took during that trip, which also took me to Cooperstown NY (Baseball Hall of Fame), Quebec, Canada (the most European city you can drive to), New England (Alice’s Restaurant), my old stomping ground in New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Here’s some photos I shot during the first leg of the trip. Over the next coupla/few weeks I’ll post some from the other stops. I’d gotten off the socials a few months before that trip, and hadn’t fired up this site and My Dunbar Project until a few months after – so this is the first time I’ve shown this stuff anywhere.

While I’m at it, here’s some of the best stuff from The 1861 Project:

Greetings from Autumn, 2022

Or, What I Did With My Summer Vacation (and the rest of my summer).

Hi there, remember me? 

When I started my ‘Dunbar Project‘ about six months ago, I had expected to post things to my personal website and send out an email with some links every couple of weeks or three.  

The last post was about three months ago. 

Where’d the summer go? 


I was thinking this morning about how many times in my life I’ve dedicated myself to some initiative and quickly moved on to something else.  Is it just me or you too?  Sure, there have been times when I’ve gotten going on something and stayed with it.  But there are also lots of times when the best intentions  get derailed by the next distraction.  You know… #squirrel! 

So, let’s see… where were we?  Read More

What Does YOUR T-Shirt Say?

While I”m at it…

Here are a few of the more… ummm… interesting… T-shirts I saw at the ball park this summer. There were lots more, but these are the only ones I managed to get a photo of:

Actually, my favorite T-shirt I saw all summer is one I didn’t think to get a photo of.  It was blue, with a Chicago Cubs logo and white lettering that read,

The greatest baseball game in history
Was a Wednesday night in Cleveland

I didn’t quite get the reference, so asked the gentleman wearing the T-shirt to fill me in.

“Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.”

For the uninitiated, that was the year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time sine 1908:

America: It’s Still A Good Idea

This country is an idea, and one that’s lit the world for two centuries…

––Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn in The West Wing – S2 E16

I am writing this post mostly because it’s the ‘4th of July Weekend’ and I want to encourage anybody who is reading this to listen to this:

The Thomas Jefferson Hour
Episode 1501 – 4th of July 2022

Anybody who has known me very long knows I’m a huge fan of this podcast.  I have listened to almost every episode since I first learned of it more than 20 years ago.

In a typical episode, the creator of the show, Clay Jenkinson, is interviewed as Thomas Jefferson, speaking from a 21st century perspective on both historical and contemporary events and issues; at the end of each hour Clay returns as himself to speak about what he has just said as Jefferson.

This episode is a departure from that format. To discuss Independence Day, Clay speaks with three people.  The first is a listener, Brad Crisler – from Nashville, no less;  second is Lindsay Chervinsky, an accomplished young historian; third is the venerable Joseph Ellis, one of the country’s most renowned authorities on the Early National Period (side note: it was Ellis’s American Sphinx that sparked my interest in Jefferson to begin with).

With Clay and his ‘semi-permanent guest host’ David Swenson, these three individuals offer a useful perspective on why, despite the challenges of any given moment, we shouldn’t give up on the idea that took shape in Philadelphia  two-and-half-centuries ago: that all men (and women!) are created equal, are entitled to equal justice under the law, and can effectively govern themselves through compromise and majority rule.

Murica!  It really is the best idea anybody’s ever come up with for a country – even if its origins are steeped in contradictions, and even as the institutions that were formed to implement those ideas have outlived the compromises that were necessary accommodate those contradictions.

Read More

What Is It About Baseballs?

I keep a baseball by my desk.  I’m not sure where it came from.  Beneath the Rawlings logo there’s a stamp that says it’s an “Official Ball” from the Pacific Coast league, so I must have picked up at one of the many Nashville Sounds games I go to.

I keep it by my desk and when I’m proofreading something I’ve written, I pick it up to give my fingers something to do when they’re not flapping away at the keys.

My ‘fidget spinner’

I like the way a baseball feels in my hand.  I like the smooth texture of the leather surface, the tight precision of the laces, the hardness of the thing.

Mind you, I could never do much with an actual baseball. I never could judge the flight of a fly ball off the bat; I’d set myself where I thought it was gonna come down and … it always went over my head.   And it scared the living daylights out of me when Donnie Cohn pitched hardball in summer camp.

They say the the hardest thing in all of sports is “swing the round bat at the round ball – and hit it squarely.”  The doesn’t even take into account that the ball is coming at your head at 90 miles an hour.  Before you can even think about swinging, the first thing you have to do is not duck.

Still, I just like the way a baseball feels in my hand. It’s much more organic than one of those ‘fidget spinner” gizmos.


Have I mentioned yet that I’ve got a ‘part time summer job’ at the ballpark?

Read More