Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sushi, Sartre and Senior Citizens

I cannot think of anywhere better than New York City in which to retire. Sure, rents are high and the weather can be less than ideal at times, but when you consider all the city’s advantages, any such shortcomings pale by comparison. It’s in New York that you’ll find the world’s best medical care (and at very affordable rates, at least for those of us on Medicare), heavily subsidized public transportation for senior citizens (half-price bus and subway fares), a variety of ethnic restaurants (Indian, Thai, Japanese, et al.) with menus offering ample lunches for less than $10, and, most important of all, at least to me, the world’s greatest concentration of cultural activities at discount rates (including museums, theatres, concerts, operas, movies, lectures, college courses, and more). As long as you’ve got a place to hang your hat, the Big Apple can’t be beat.

My friend Sam put it something like this (I’m paraphrasing here but I think I got it right): “It takes just four things to make for a great retirement: (1) good health, (2) enough money to be financially secure in being able to do the things you’d like to do (which doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d need sufficient funds to embark on a luxury cruise around the world or to maintain homes on Park Avenue and the French Riviera, but it does mean that you’d need enough money not to worry about paying the rent or buying theatre tickets or vacationing domestically or abroad from time to time), (3) a loving partner, and (4) sufficient interests of your own to keep you active.” Sam wasn’t just talking about retiring in New York City when he said all that but I fully agree with him and I know of no place better than New York City to put his ideas into practice.

Hunter College has an incredible program available for senior citizens: for just $80 a semester, a senior citizen can audit one or two courses in the undergraduate school. When auditing a course, he writes no papers, takes no exams, gets no grades (all plusses in my book) and receives no academic credit, but he does get to participate in class with all the other students (most of whom are young enough to be his children or grandchildren) who are enrolled in that course - which helps to keep him young in spirit and on his toes. Last year, Sam and I audited two courses in the Philosophy Department – (1) Great Philosophers: Modern and Contemporary and (2) Philosophy, Science and Culture – and this year, joined by our friend Julian, the three of us are auditing a course in Existentialism.

Now I’ve got lots of disagreements with Existentialism – I think all three of us do – but there’s one thing I’ll say for it: it’s certainly on the right track in affirming Free Will, denying the most extreme versions of determinism, and urging the acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions. So far we’ve touched on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger and we’ve just started on Sartre – who at least is more palatable than the others. As an individual, he had his flaws but he was neither a religious nut nor a megalomaniac nor a Nazi and, while his writing may be dense at times, his basic premise, that “existence precedes essence” is one that I not only can live with but one that I can wholeheartedly endorse. In the final analysis, we are all responsible for making ourselves who and what we are. Without denying the facticity (Sartre’s word, not mine) of differential genetic endowments, economic and social influences, and racial, religious, gender and other forms of discrimination, when push comes to shove it’s still the individual who must take primary responsibility for his actions and for who and what he is.

Sam and I attended class yesterday afternoon (as we do on Mondays and Wednesdays although Julian missed this one) but this time we arranged to have our wives – Clarissa, Sue and Barbara - join us for dinner after class. Our class ended at 5:25 PM and we walked half a dozen blocks to Wajima, a small Japanese restaurant that Sam and I discovered in our wanderings one lunch hour between classes last year. The restaurant has terrific sushi and sashimi and, if you enjoy raw fish (as Sue and I do), it can’t be beat. And, as a bonus, the restaurant offers a great prix fixe pre-theatre dinner special for just $20, consisting of appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert.. The restaurant has terrific sushi and sashimi and, if you enjoy raw fish (as Sue and I do), it can’t be beat. And, as a bonus, the restaurant offers a great prix fixe pre-theatre dinner special for just $20, consisting of appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert.

Dinner was excellent (as I’d expected) and the company was even better. A lovely ending to a productive day and a major uptick from how we might have fared had we all retired to Miami Beach, spent the day at golf or shuffleboard, and then simply availed ourselves of one of that town’s ubiquitous early bird specials.

1 comment:

  1. At age 41, I'm not near my potential retirement date - but what you've described above is my dream retirement. Glad you have the 4 ingredients for a happy retirement - it sounds wonderful!

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