Saturday, September 24, 2011

The AARP Life @ 50+ Convention in Los Angeles--or as I say, "Age be damned!"

It's 1:30 AM on Saturday, and I've got to wind down and sleep. Still, I feel compelled to write about my experience at this conference, and how it has enriched my life.

In the past several months, when I first became aware of this convention, I vacillated as to whether I was going to go or not, wrapping three days -- Wednesday the 21st, Thursday the 22nd, and today, Friday, the 23rd -- around my standing therapy appointments. In the end, my curiosity won out, and I'm glad I attended. I met some wonderful people, and have come away energized and inspired.

On Wednesday evening, we were escorted to a fleet of tour buses to go to the "Meet & Greet" at the L.A. Center Studios. We almost didn't make it. What was supposed to have been a quick jaunt down Figueroa ended up being an hour-plus odyssey with a bus driver who was young, inexperienced -- and totally lost. After an unintended scenic tour that nearly took us to Long Beach, and having a busload of disgruntled riders ready to mutiny and commandeer the vehicle, some stepped to the front and convinced the driver to get back on the freeway toward "home."

Ultimately, the Meet & Greet proved worth it. There were catering trucks with quality grub, including one from In 'N Out Burger, a bakery, and some vegetarian fare. There was a cash bar and free wine tasting. What made the evening, though, was the jazz sounds of The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. How wonderful to see so many jumping up and down, waving their arms rhythmically as if they were kids at a rock concert, and dancing under the stars.

When we packed into the Nokia Theater on Thursday, passing the bag checks at the security check-points, we were all thrilled hear Jon Secada give a heartfelt performance of the national anthem. Jon also performed at Friday's Ice Cream Social. Major Villaraigosa and AARP officials were on hand to set the tone with an encouraging welcome, and it was also a learning experience. CEO Addison Barry Rand told us that AARP got its start in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal who had begun the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947. Dr. Jane Goodall, who most of us remember from the National Geographic documentaries we saw growing up, gave us elders an urgent call to action on behalf of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. The Jane Goodall Institute, together with its Roots and Shoots program, helps combat ignorance and apathy among youth who have despaired over being able to turn back some of the damage inflicted by prior generations. For a dramatic shift in tone, the show ended with the riotous comedy gifts of Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. I wanted to get Dr. Goodall's autograph on one of her books, but I got distracted among the vendor booths, and didn't get to that area in time. I consoled myself with ambling around the vendors, from travel firms to computer companies--to things like Depends and hearing aids!

My AARP experience was topped off with the Friday return visit to the Nokia Plaza for the Ice Cream Social. The Rope Master amazed early arrivals with his talent with novel moves with an ordinary jump rope. I also enjoyed walking among antique automobiles, buffed to a mirror shine. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of some representatives of a local chapter of the Red Hat Society (www.redhatsociety.com). Fueled by a combination of ice cream and Cosmopolitans, I followed them onto a packed dance floor, and we concluded that the music of the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band is the best damned fibulator in the world!

The most important thing I have taken away is the camaraderie I felt and observed, and the validation of my belief that "life does begin at 50." I feel a renewed sense of purpose, hope, and responsibility to my generation.

www.aarp.org/about-aarp/events/national-event

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