Sunday, April 06, 2008

And you think I'm an elder phenomenon? Wait'll you meet my friend, Jane Stillwater... .

During yesterday's late morning Ms. Applewhite, a writer from the East Coast, arrived for an interview as planned. She had been referred by a local friend with whom I've done some work. I'm, potentially, one of the subjects to be featured in a upcoming book entitled, "So when are you planning to retire?" or words to that effect. It's about those of us who are over eighty and still in the workforce. Interesting. She'll fly back across country tomorrow to Maryland to attend a week-long conference on gerontology. I cannot believe that she came all the way here just for this interview. The thought occurred to me for just a few seconds -- but I couldn't bring myself to ask the question. What if she'd said no? What would that have meant? But there it is. Am I becoming ... (not sure how to think about that).

But let's get back to Jane.

She is now in her mid-sixties and has more adventures than anyone on the planet half her age. And -- these escapades are certainly not "age-appropriate," if you're hung up on stereotypes.

This morning's email arrived from China (she's en route to North Korea) where she has taken herself without ceremony or fanfare -- but over the past year she's been to Iraq twice (both in and out of the Green Zone) where she was embedded as an independent journalist. She's been to Egypt, to Kuwait, to India, Mexico, and (over the past few months) to the midwest to hang out with the other newsies on the Clinton and Obama campaign trails. Last week she was in San Francisco to cover the McCain fundraiser from across the street and behind the barricades. This, is an elder phenomenon, big time!

And -- Jane lives almost exclusively on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gelato with an income that most would consider totally inadequate to support life. She saves up in jelly jars and takes off into the wild blue yonder as the mood strikes; and always for good cause and to satisfy her need to effect positive change in the world.

Take the time to check into her blog ( for some of the most understated adventures imaginable. She has a wonderful light touch that she applies to the most horrendous of subjects -- and it works. Her awesome sense of humor fails to mask a deep sense of humanity in much the way of the late great Molly Ivins.

Jane once made a trip to Washington, DC, for the sole purpose of hanging an eviction notice on the fence at the White House! She is the original free spirit; a flower child of the Sixties who never recovered. It is Jane who embodies the Berkeley image more than anyone I know; bright, sensitive, powerful, dedicated to principle, and an unforgiving and unrelenting idealist with a wanderlust. She has an abiding belief in the power of one.

Jane and her daughter's Girl Scout troop hold the record for having sold 60,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and by doing so earned a trip to the Caribbean!

When and if world peace is eventually achieved, it will have been Jane who brought it about. I'm certain of it.

I am so honored to be one of her close friends (one who chipped in to buy her a Kevlar vest for the red zone). I wondered during yesterday's interview why it was not Jane sitting in my chair with the tiny tape recorder at the elbow? Maybe it's because she's not yet an octogenarian? Maybe -- at 64 -- she's simply too young ... .

Now how's that for a new perspective on aging?