Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Retirement Transitions - Times Are A-Changin

I expected that retirement would bring change. My hope was to control the changes that were inevitable and avoid others by planning carefully. It seems that the world is changing in ways that have nothing to do with my retirement. Has it been doing this right along, but I’m newly aware of it? Here are some examples.

You undoubtedly know that after 25 years on TV, Oprah Winfrey is beginning a new chapter in her life. Because I worked full time until my recent retirement, I saw very few of her shows, but it still weighs heavily that she’s going off the air. The musical chairs of morning show co-hosts and evening news anchors roll off my back. They’re reprising ones from just a handful of years ago. But life without a daily dose of Oprah? Unthinkable.

Then there’s Arnold and Maria splitting up. The fact that we’ve now learned why doesn’t minimize the jolt of hearing that yet another long-term marriage has bitten the dust. I have no strong opinions about them as individuals (except for my disgust for Ah-nold the Groper, assuming that was true,) but their separation still spiked my change meter.

This week’s Advertising Age has an article on all sorts of disconcerting changes to beer packaging. Some of you may be surprised that I would pay attention to this, being a baldly proclaimed wine lover. The truth is, there are times when nothing will do but a nice cold brewski.  I’m partial to Sam Adams, but I also enjoy Dos Equis, and I like to try local craft beers, but I’m not enthusiastic about the new packaging.

Take for example the Bud Light bottles that you can write on. Other than “Hands off my brewski!” I can’t imagine what I’d write on my beer. Certainly not anything that I’d expect to be reading later on. My eyesight is less than stellar at its best. After I’ve downed a few, I’d need someone to read my beer to me. Talk about demoralizing!

Heineken cans now feature raised ink that gives them texture and looks like condensation to make us think the beer is nice and cold. For me, the benefit would be that in a dimly lit bar, I wouldn’t have to squint to see which beer was mine. I could just grope for the one with the raised ink. Maybe that’s what Arnold was doing when he got a handful of… never mind.

Then there’s the home draft offered by Miller Lite. It comes with a carbon dioxide system that fits in your refrigerator and will stay fresh for thirty days. Thirty days would never do it for us. We once had half a six-pack in our fridge for more than five months. From the photo in Ad Age, home draft looks a lot like the wine-in-a-box that was introduced some years back. You just might be a redneck if you have home draft in your fridge.

Some craft beers offer variety packs. At first blush, that sounds like a good idea. Then I think about other samplers I’ve tried, like tea and cat food. Typically, at least a third of the varieties are losers. In my efforts to remember the keepers, I collect empties or labels that get sticky and smelly. “Honest, officer, that beer smell is not an open can that I’ve been drinking while driving. It’s empties from the sampler, so I know which ones are worth a six pack.” Yeah, right.

The last and most off-putting packaging change is something called “Canhole.” My first thought was: “If that’s supposed to be a euphemism, it’s worse than the slang it’s replacing.” Then I read the description. It’s cases of Keystone Light where a hole is cut out of the middle so people can toss in bags of beef jerky. Ad Age noted: “Midwesterners might know what cornhole is; the rest of the country… not so much.” Not so much indeed.

This led me to Google “cornhole” (AKA bean bag toss.) I turned up the website for The American Cornhole Association, established by a group of dedicated Cornholers from the west side of Cincinnati. (First prize one week; second prize three.) Wikipedia tells us that the cotton duck bags that get tossed are filled with feed corn. As you can see, Canhole makes the beer drinkers’ necks even redder by having them toss beef jerky.

This gives me new respect for my beverage of choice. Some might have offered wine in a box, and screw tops may now be available; but you’ll never see a case of wine jiggered so you can toss in beef jerky. The most redneck thing wine drinkers would be guilty of is spitting olive pits into empty bottles. And even then, they’d probably be artisanal olives.

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