Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Totally Random 3.1

• Slow Traffic Keep Right is law on the Interstate Highways in some states but merely a strong suggestion here in Maryland. One week eighteen months ago I noticed that I regularly encountered slow-pokes in the left lane when the right lane was open so I decided to keep track of how often that happened. As of tonight, the total number of nights in a row in which that occurred since August, 2008 … ALL OF THEM.

• Winter Solstice was just over nine days ago; the days are getting longer! Woohoo, break out the shorts, tank tops and flip flops.

• I will be up at midnight at the end of December 31st to bring in the New Year as I have every year since high school. I have a deep-rooted fear that if I don’t do this, the new year might not start and we’d be stuck with the old one for twelve more months. I can’t let that happen.

• I have some pretty remarkable friends. Sadly, I will not be ringing in the new year with any of them face-to-face. But I’ll be with each of them in spirit and with some of them in text messages.

• When I think about specific years that proved to be transitional years for me, several instantly come to mind. 1981, 1984, 1986, 1996 and 2000 are at the top of the list. 2010 will eclipse them all, for both good and bad reasons. Bring it!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ho ho hmmm

OK, Christmas is done; reality is back.

My annual January-long process of looking back and looking ahead is starting early this year. It is the one time each year that I make no apology for over-thinking; that strategy serves me well.

I got a late start planning 2009 but the rewards were worth it. A transition began in May that will continue into 2010.

More later.

Friday, December 25, 2009

We’re All Kids at Christmas

I have few regrets, but sometimes I do regret not having children. That image bobs around the ocean of emotion I swim through during the holidays. Christmas is as much a family celebration time as it is a religious-based holiday and as adults, we often revert to traditions and rituals from our youth.

A few years ago I produced and co-hosted a one-hour radio show called “We’re All Kids at Christmas.” The show included songs that showcased some of the child-like qualities of the holiday, such as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy.” My co-host and I also reminisced about Christmas time in our youth and we each had a conversation with “Santa” and told him what we wanted for Christmas as adults. (By the way, I did NOT get world peace but I did eventually get a bright red Ford Explorer).

The best part of that radio show was our conversations with kids. We got the OK from a local shopping mall to interview children standing in line to see Santa. We interviewed some of the parents too. The sense of wonderment in each kid’s voice was even more memorable than whatever it was they planned to ask the Big Guy to get them.

I think if I had kids I would have tried to make this holiday as special for them as it was for me at that age. Part of why so many people experience holiday depression at this time of year is that we try to recreate that feeling, even though our lives may have taken many twists and turns since then. Something that usually snaps me out of my own holiday blues is the sound of children, even if it’s only Zuzu’s line in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Laugh if you want to, but seeing that movie each year as an adult means even more to me than it did as a kid.

Random questions about your Christmas traditions, if you happen to celebrate it:

- Do you unwrap presents on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning?
- Did you pretend to sleep but were really awake trying to see Santa?
- How did you feel upon discovering that Santa wasn’t quite who you thought he was?
- Which is your favorite holiday movie: “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street”? Or do you not like any of them?
- Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
- Do you object to religious-themed displays in front of public buildings at Christmas?
- OK, back to kid stuff because that last question could start an endless debate … do you carefully unwrap presents or do you rip through the wrapping paper?
- Have you ever actually eaten a fruitcake?

OK, the kid in me says it’s time to go watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” again. The adult in me says I’ll have a glass of wine instead of milk and cookies. Although I do believe I smell cookies being cooked as I write this. Maybe I’ll have wine and cookies.

Merry Christmas to my blog family!!

And if you don’t celebrate any of the December holidays, come back in a day or two and we’ll talk about something else.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Death Happens

Everyone eventually dies, yet is seems to surprise us when someone we know reaches the end of their life. Celebrity deaths often affect us in a collective way … it’s someone we ‘know’ because we see them on a screen and read about personal aspects of their lives.

Today a celebrity I actually know died. That’s a double whammy and it has me thinking about death, life and living in the moment.

George Michael was a legendary TV sportscaster here in the Washington DC area and was known by sports fans in other cities because of his weekly syndicated Sports Machine program. In the early 1990s he also did a weekly sports report on the radio station I work for; I spoke with him on the phone almost every week and I met him a few times.

We didn’t know each other well, but we had a few interesting personal conversations. He gave me advice on pursuing a TV career (gotta have thick skin because someone is always criticizing you) and he all but told me I was crazy for marrying a divorce lawyer (he was right).

And he once ridiculed me for having a Border Collie in a townhouse with no yard. He did that without knowing I was shopping for a house on fenced acreage. I always planned to ‘finish’ that conversation, if you know what I mean. He turned 70 this year, which in my opinion is still young, so I was in no hurry to reach out to him again even though his comment was made more than ten years ago. That contributes to the surprise I feel today upon learning of his death.

Our parents usually don’t teach us much about dealing with death. It seems the only acquaintances who died in my youth were old people; no surprise there. An elementary school friend died when I was in high school, but I hadn’t been in touch with him for years so the loss seemed distant.

But the older we get, the more we face death. Our uncles and aunts die, our parents die, cousins and friends die. We always think there is more time left, but often there isn’t. Death never discriminates based on age.

I truly believe I’ll celebrate my hundredth birthday, but what if tomorrow never comes? That may seem an odd thought to have on the eve of a day that celebrates one of the world’s most famous births. But even He died.

Death happens to everyone. It’s what we do in life that really counts, isn’t it?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gone in 2009

Today I saw a list of products, TV shows and people whose last year was 2009. Here are a few of them:

Kodachrome - remember film? This legendary slide film was around since 1935 and was my favorite back in my film days (which only ended 18 months ago). This film was known for rich color, expecially in warm colors like red and yellow. The best photos I've ever taken during a whole life as a photo enthusiast were in Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, September 2000, and I shot mostly Kodachrome on that trip. I'll actually post these one day, when I can afford a slide scanner (unless that product disappears too).

Pontiac - I never thought I'd see Pontiac go away. The Pontiac GTO was one of my favorite cars of my youth. Pontiac also made the Trans Am, LeMans and Firebird. My sister drives a Pontiac Vibe, although that is mostly a Toyota with a Pontiac nameplate.

Saturn - This was supposed to be the brand of the future when it was introduced back in 1985. GM announced this year that they will stop making them next year. Gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday.

ER ended it's 15-year run on TV this year. I stopped watching it several years ago when most of the original cast was gone, so I didn't know it was still on till the highly-promoted final episode.

Guiding Light ended a television run spanning more than 50 years. No, I do not watch soap operas. But I'm sure I saw this one a few times as a kid because it was one of my Mother's faves during her housewife/child-raising years.

Oscar G. Mayer, the retired chairman of the meat company that bears his name, died this year at age 95. He was the third Oscar Mayer in the family. Until I read the story I had no idea that Oscar was actually a real person.

Boomers might remember this jingle:

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Christmas Songs Are Played The Most?

Have you ever wondered what Christmas songs are played the most on the radio? According to ASCAP, the music licensing organization, these are the Top Ten this year:

1. "Sleigh Ride" played 118,918 times
2. "Jingle Bell Rock" played 118,601 times
3. "It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" played 101,614 times
4. "White Christmas" played 89,348 times
5. "Winter Wonderland" played 77,599 times
6. "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) played 74,360 times.
7. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" played 57,948 times
8. "Little Drummer Boy" played 55,617 times.
9. "Feliz Navidad" played 51,072 times
10. "Frosty the Snowman" played 51,068 times

Have a holly, jolly winter wonderland sleigh ride Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Record-Setter

That snow storm yesterday set many record for snowfall amounts in Washington DC and the surrounding subburbs in Maryland and Virginia. It was the largest amount of snow in December and one of the five largest amounts on record for any time.

My neighborhood topped out near twenty inches.

This picture was taken in the morning when the snow had only reached eight inches.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Blizzard of December 2009

It is snowing like hell today in the Washington DC area. These pictures are in my yard, taken at 9:00 this morning. Forecasters predict at least 15 inches for my county (northwest of DC) by late tonight.

Look to the left of this page for some webcam links.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Decade Since

It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks we will have ended the first decade of the 2000s.

Remember the Y2k scare? Were you just a little concerned that computers would stop working as 99 turned into 00?

Are you still deciding how to refer to the year? Is 2009 “two thousand nine” or is it “twenty oh nine”? What about next year? Two thousand ten or twenty ten? We didn’t call 1999 “one thousand nine hundred ninety nine” or even “nineteen hundred ninety-nine.” Come on, sing it with me … “party like it’s one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine.”

In 2000 did you think almost a quarter of U.S. homes would have cell phones only and no landline? Gasoline would cost more than $4 a gallon one summer? A woman and a black man would be among the leading contenders for President and one of them would win? Twenty men would simultaneously hijack four airliners and bring the country to its knees?

Could you have imagined Facebook? Twitter? Susan Boyle?

What do you think the next ten years will be like? Will CDs be thought of in 2019 the way cassettes are today? Will paying with cash be considered old school? Will Jenna Bush be President? Will we finally get the flying cars they’ve been predicting since boomers were babies?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Random Updates

My holiday depression … isn’t nearly as bad as I expected it would be. In fact, I’m feeling pretty good. Things that helped: a gentle wrist-slapping from a friend, a cool custom Christmas CD from that same friend, a stray comment from another friend, some decisions I’ve made recently and the return of my usual kick-ass attitude about not letting negative things bother for extended periods of time.

My diet … well, hell, it’s the holidays. I don’t think I’ve gained weight lately but I’m sure I haven’t lost any either. Don’t know because the scale battery died. I’ll get a new one on New Year’s Day.

My car … is back from the body shop, looking as good as it did the day I bought it.

My commute … still sucks. This morning is took me two and a half hours to get to work. Normally it takes close to an hour (which is also too long).

That’s all. Didn’t have much else to say today. How are you?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Louis and Christmas

This week a cool friend sent me a custom-made CD full of unique holiday songs. One song that popped right off the disk was “Christmas in New Orleans” by Louis Armstrong.

Armstrong, if you don’t know, was a legendary jazz trumpeter and singer in the 1920s – 1940s, who also had some pop hits in the 50s and 60s and one more in 1987, a remake of his own “What A Wonderful World” that was featured in the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

His voice, phrasing and style are part of the unique mix of elements that makes up New Orleans music.

Do you have any idea what that does for a music-loving native of that city?! Probably not, so let me explain. New Orleans music is almost its own genre, borrowing from many styles but blending into a distinctive gumbo of rhythms and sounds. The instrumentation is spiced with hints of Dixieland jazz and Cajun zydeco, the vocalization features that “Noo Awlins” accent and often the drum beat is similar to the percussion of the ‘second line’ jazz funeral marching bands (it sounds a little like taking two steps forward and one step back).

Boomer natives of the area heard it all the time during our youth. It’s in the streets for the tourists and old jazz preservationists; parents and grandparents knew the words to some of the traditional songs. That sound even oozed into some pop music of the mid 20th century, escaping the local scene in national hits from singers like Fats Domino in the 50s and 60s and Dr. John in the 70s. That song “Iko Iko” that was remade in the “Rain Man” movie soundtrack also has the New Orleans sound.

New Orleans music is part of the DNA of anyone who grew up there.

For me, just a few notes of that sound instantly rushes through my ears directly to my brain and heart. That’s not as messy as it sounds. The New Orleans music style is a sonic time machine instantly blinking me to any number of moments from my youth, mostly good times. Thanks to my friend for putting Louis on the CD.

Oh, here is the Louis Armstrong song, paired with a Billie Holiday song:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It'll Be A ....

I was going to compose a clever post relating to the New Orleans Saints victory over the Washington Redskins a few days ago ... saying something about how I am normally a Redskins fan but for this one game a year I revert to my original hometown team ... about how the bumbling Redskins almost beat the unbeaten Saints ... etc., etc., etc. ... when I saw this cartoon that says it better than I could:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Discovering Live Music

In May I declared my keyword for the remainder of the year would be “play” … a one-word reminder to myself to have more fun.

Part of that fun includes seeing more live music, which I did. During the summer tour season I saw acts I had seen before, like Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts, and performers I had never seen, like George Strait, Paul McCartney and Dave Matthews.

Now I am stalking more of the non-hit acts, especially blues bands, and checking out the smaller venues, which I prefer to arenas and stadiums. Back in the 1980s I hung out at slightly-bigger-than-a-hole-in-the-wall bars like the 8x10 club in Baltimore, where I saw numerous blues bands. It turns out that some of those bands are still around and occasionally play in my area and others I didn’t see back then are also passing through. And my current venue of choice is usually the Birchmere, bigger and more comfortable than the 8x10, but still sporting the perfect vibe for music on the fringes of mainstream.

Last week I saw the double bill of Tommy Castro and Coco Montoya. Awesome show! Both performers are great guitarists and singers and each is backed by some amazing musicians. Each band did an extended jam during their set, featuring solos by each band member. Tommy Castro’s band jam was a 15-minute version of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” Really! It started and ended with that one-chord song, but meandered in the middle through hot solos on keyboard, sax, trumpet, bass and a killer drummer.

Tommy Castro a few years ago (some of the band members are different now):

The next stop on my little musical adventure is another double bill: The Nighthawks and the Billy Price Band. Price is legendary in Pennsylvania and the Nighthawks are local legends in here in the DC area. Back in the day, I saw each of them twice. One of my Nighthawks nights was an alcohol-fueled New Year’s Eve and one of the Billy Price nights included a surprise appearance by his personal friend Billy Joel. On January 1st, I’ll find out if those bands are still as good as they were in the late 1980s.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interesting Quote

Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else's life.

- Kobi Yamada

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Totally Random 3.0

You might be able to call this post 'sex, drugs and rock & roll.'

- I saw a TV commercial today for a drug used to treat acid reflux. It’s called aciphex. Would you use a product pronounced ass-effects? What were they thinking?

- Saw this one in Consumer Reports: a sleep aid product called Calms Forte. Look at the picture: on the box are the words “Non-Drowsy Formula.” A non-drowsy sleep aid?

- The Beatles Rock Band, an interactive Wii game, is now available. Think about this: most people who buy Wii games are in their twenties or teens. Some of their parents are in their upper thirties or lower forties. The Beatles broke up in 1970. If you have any doubt about the lingering power of the Beatles, just do the math.

- Paul McCartney could be your father. Or grandfather.

- Back to drugs for a moment … have you ever heard the disclaimers in ads for prescription drugs? Especially the one relating to risks involved with a certain condition that could last for four hours. You know what I’m talking about. Is the risk because of the condition or because of what you might attempt to do with that condition for four hours?

- While putting those last random thoughts together, a slightly disturbing image popped into my head: Hugh Hefner and his seven live-in girlfriends.

- The bookends in the picture are two of his current girlfriends, 20-year-old twins. Hef is 83. OK, a fiftysomething and a thirtysomething might be a stretch but it’s not odd. An eightysomething and a twentysomething? That’s just odd.

- I’m all for no-limits aging, but there really are some limits.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Don’t Tell HIM or HER

If you ever climb the corporate ladder, try to remember what it’s like on the first few rungs.

Here are some trends I’ve observed in large companies in many industries: Companies fire workers but still want all the work done. Fewer employees handle more duties and increased responsibilities but have less time to pay attention to details. Management strategy still encourages delegation but there is no one left to delegate to.

High quality productivity and improved morale could probably result in more profitability, but who is going to tell top management that productivity and morale are suffering because there is too much on our plates?

There are so many things going on in some workplaces that no one has the time to focus on any one thing; quantity trumps quality. Back in the day – and I’m talking about less than ten years ago – workers had what is now considered an obsolete luxury: time to do things carefully and correctly.

Sure, there was waste in the past. We could all have done more and done it faster. Haven’t we gone too far the other way now?

But who is going to tell upper management? Do you want to be the person who tells the regional or national managers that we’ve got too much to do? You’ve got your own job to protect so you are likely to pick your battles and that isn’t one you can win. Your local managers might get the point, but they have their own jobs to look out for so they’ll pick their battles too. The regional and national managers? Same thing.

It is like they forgot what it is like down here. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re just picking different battles.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obeying the Law of Averages

I used to brag about how it’s been more than twenty years since I was in a car crash and that the three accidents I have been involved in had all occurred at speeds of less than 30 miles per hour. Now one of those statements is no longer true.

Tuesday night I was the middle car in a three-car wreck.

The short version: drizzling; three lanes of bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic heading north at 30 mph or less; driver in front of me hit their brakes, I hit mine, driver behind me didn’t; it happened fast enough that I had nowhere to go to avoid being hit but slow enough that I had a second to brace myself; he sort of knocked me forward, which means I was almost stopped when he hit me; I might have hit the car in front of me but there is no damage to the front of my car and that night I saw no damage on her car either.

A few ironies: all of this happened as we were driving past a police car stopped in the shoulder dealing with an earlier crash so the police didn’t have to be called; another accident happened next to us while we were exchanging information; the drivers in the other cars in my accident are ages 20 and 19, which means neither of them were even born the last time I had a traffic accident.

Some good news: nobody was injured, no air bags deployed in our cars and the damage to my car mostly involves broken plastic parts and a dented trunk lid.

Some bad news: I’m even more paranoid about my daily commute. In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned that I had witnessed two serious accidents this year from only a few car lengths back. I said I planned to not obey the law of averages. Apparently I obeyed that law after all. Hopefully this is the only time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Random Thankfulness

Even though I’ve had many ups and downs this year, I have a lot to be thankful for and I’m happy we have a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

Here are just a few things:

I’m thankful for my sister, who has also become a friend over the years.

I’m thankful for my friends, from my oldest in suburban New Orleans to my newest in North Carolina and all the others who have enhanced my life along the way.

I’m thankful that the traffic accident I was in a few nights ago was relatively minor (more on that in another post later).

I’m thankful for a great job, a great boss, great co-workers and the opportunity to make a living doing things I love to do.

I’m thankful that my wife is still speaking to me after I’ve been uncharacteristically direct and blunt about how I’m feeling these days.

I’m thankful that my dogs love me unconditionally.

I’m thankful that I live in the greatest country on the planet and have the freedom to live the life I want to live.

And I’m thankful to you, whoever you are and whether I know you or not, for reading my ramblings.

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fitness Update

Down to 188; first time under 190 in ten years. That strategy of trying to lose one to two pounds a week is still working. After three years in a row of failed attempts at losing the twenty pounds my doctor said I needed to lose, I might finally succeed.

I say all of this to encourage you or anyone you know who has tried and not succeeded in getting into the shape you/they want to be in. Keep trying.

Eight pounds to go and six weeks to do it in. The holidays might be a challenge. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Perspective

Twenty years ago I did a lot of ‘self-help’ exploration. I read books and articles and listened to tapes. That six-month period of self examination began a positive pattern that continues to this day. The two biggest influences were Alan Loy McGinnis’s book “The Power of Optimism” and, are you ready for this, the Tony Robbins “Personal Power” series. Sometimes Robbins is as obnoxious in those cassettes as he was in the infomercials, but much of the advice was solid and effective.

The biggest takeaway: you get what you focus on!

Lately I have focused on the gloominess of winter and my occasional holiday depression. I wrote a pretty depressing post about it on this blog recently and I posted some very gloomy pictures on another blog.

Upon reading all of that, a dear friend reached out to remind me that there is more to winter than short days and dead trees. She provided me with a different perspective and some other aspects of winter to focus on: such as curling up with a good movie, eating stick-to-your-ribs food, watching that beautiful first snow, throwing a beach-themed party.

Oh, in that same email she called me a melodramatic poophead. Fortunately, in other emails she has called me a warmhearted man and she says she enjoys our friendship as much as I do. So I guess I’m a warmhearted poophead friend.

I like that … it’s an interesting perspective. :)

My holiday depression will still come and go this season, but thanks to her and other friends, maybe the blues visits will be short.


And now that I’m in a better mood, I posted some pictures on my photo blog showing off a more cheerful focus on fall.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cookie Monster Turns 40

I can’t believe I let this go by without a comment. Cookie Monster turned 40 a few weeks ago!

The milestone made national news. This friendly monster is a television icon as well as an educational icon. His influence, along with that of his Sesame Street cast mates, is an indelible part of growing up for people in at least two generations.

Cookie Monster has taught many lessons and I think he is a good role model for my thirtysomething friends who fear turning forty … look at how good he still looks!

In the era of health-conscious eating, even a cookie monster has to adapt and get creative. During the past year he has been extolling the value of eating fruits and vegetables and mostly avoiding the cookies. Childhood obesity is a growing problem and Sesame Street has always been an effective teaching tool, evolving along with societal changes, so this new attitude makes sense.

But don’t we all still like cookies?

So I’ve got two words for Cookie Monster when it comes to combining the health benefits of veggies with the taste of something sweet: carrot cake.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life Lessons in Lyrics 2.5

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard.
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars.
As for me I’d like to think my lucky stars that
I’m alive, and well.

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you set and watch go up in flames;
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain;
But not me, I’m alive.

And today you know that’s good enough for me.
Breathing in and out is a blessing can’t you see?
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive, and well.

sung by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tis The Season, Dammit

Dark, bleak, gray and hazy, a quiet November morning signals the beginning of holiday depression season. Happy family holidays punctuate the remaining six weeks of the year with periods of joy. Those same days are also the root of gloominess in late fall and early winter.

As adults we try to recreate the happy holidays of our youth. However, as children we didn’t have to make choices about family obligations, work or other socialization invitations, infinite gift choices with finite resources. We are supposed to be joyous as we jostle through the crowded malls or try not to spill a drink on the boss at the company party.

Some of us battle the disconnect between expectation and reality. If we get out ahead of the inevitable feelings, face them head on, plan for them and lower our expectation, we survive months eleven and twelve and start month one of the new year with new perspective and optimism.

I predict my own holiday depression this year will resemble the roller coaster my life has been on, but overall it’ll be just slightly worse than average. As long as I think it through and don’t overthink it, I’ll be fine.

If you know me in real life, you know how reluctant I am to show my depressed side. I always want to be the friend you count on and the shoulder you cry on when you need your spirits lifted. I’ll still do that. But this year I might need your shoulder a few times too.


Sometimes gloominess leads to visual creativity. Check out a few new 'solitude' photos on my other blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not-so-random Lyrics: Some Days

Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor

Some days just drop in on us
Some days are better than others

Some days you wake up with her complaining
Some sunny days you wish it was raining

Some days are honest, some days are not
Some days you're thankful for what you've got

Some days you hear a voice
Taking you to another place
Some days are better than others

Performed by U2

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Sale

Have you ever wondered why there are holiday sales even on holidays that are not associated with gift-giving?

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – all have natural gift-giving components. Hanukkah too, for children. But Memorial Day and Independence Day? No. Veteran’s Day? No gifts. In fact, many of the veterans gave us the gift of freedom.

Yet there are Memorial Day Sales, Independence Day Sales and Veterans Day Sales. I don’t really understand why there are happy ads about discounts on shoes, furniture and cars on a day set aside to honor sacrifices made to ensure our freedom.

And this one is even more disturbing: the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Sale. Twenty years ago I was employed in a workplace that was ninety-five percent African American. That holiday was relatively new then and a black co-worker predicted that we’d see King Day sales one day. We laughed about a potential commercial announcing the department store sale in the house wares department, specifically bed sheets. My laugh was a bit more hesitant than his. This past January I saw a television ad for just such a sale. I wonder what his take is on that now.

So on this day, Veteran’s Day, honor those who have served in our armed forces. And while you’re out, get twenty percent off on winter apparel at …..

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Evil Twin

Most people have a collection of sometimes opposing personality characteristics. A person can be loving and hateful, funny and serious, good and evil, happy and sad, optimistic and pessimistic. Some of those characteristics are more dominant than others, so a person may be more of one thing than another; but the complete picture of a person includes some amount of all of the characteristics.

People who know me in real life generally think I’m a nice guy. I’m optimistic, positive, loving, caring and happy; sometimes I’m also funny, serious, energetic, lazy and boring.

But most people I know never seen my dark side. I can be cold, hurtful and vengeful, but I have to be pushed pretty hard for those characteristics to come out of their hole.

The biggest aspect of my dark side, however, is anger and it takes less pushing for that to show.
It doesn’t show much, but tonight Evil Bernie is definitely in the house. My anger is usually fueled by other people’s selfishness or disrespect. One incident here and there doesn’t mean much, but a few of those injustices piled on top of each other can unlock Evil Bernie’s cage.

Tonight’s pile is mostly stuff like the dangerous behavior of rude drivers added to an ‘it’s not my job’ attitude on the part of a few co-workers added to the general ‘cut the jobs but increase the workload’ attitude in my company added to the fewer hours of sunlight this month added to not being able to count on some other people to do their part of things added to my ongoing ‘finding myself’ journey added to anticipation of the upcoming holidays and the depression that sometimes comes with them and on and on. The end of my eleven-freakin’-hour workday was the tipping point when I was the only one left to do yet one more thing that had to be done.

So here I sit, pissed off that I didn’t do two or three other things I planned to do tonight, nursing a sore throat from screaming at other drivers during my ride home – clearly the stupidest part of Evil Bernie because they will never hear my outrage and it wouldn’t matter to them anyway, which pisses me off even more – and I come home to a dark house because a certain someone didn’t turn on any outside lights – my street has no street lights so it’s pretty damn dark here at night – and I had a damn salad for dinner because it is too late to have a big dinner because I’ll have to go to sleep in a little while so I can have another night of not-enough-sleep so I can get up early tomorrow and start it all over again.

See what I mean? It piles on.

Some people who do actually get to see my Evil Twin are amused because this guy is so different from Regular Bernie. Well I’m happy they’re amused but I’m not especially amused tonight.

Fortunately this side of me does not dominate and I almost never take it out on people. I predict that by mid-morning tomorrow I’ll be back to normal and Evil Bernie will again be locked away. I say mid-morning because I’ll be damned if I’m going in to work early to start this shit all over again. I’ll get there when I get there, which will be some time after I run the errands I had planned to run tonight.

Wow, you’re still reading this? I’d thank you but Evil Bernie is still at the keyboard. Regular Bernie will thank you tomorrow.

I’ll close with a line from an old TV show: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Too Close

I don't like this forecast ... a Cat 2 hurricane brushing just east of New Orleans in the next 48 hours. You probably know I have lots of family and friends in that area. Maybe Ida won't amount to much; keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Contemplating the Universe

Have you ever tried to picture the size of the universe?

I thought about this a few weeks ago as I watched the movie Men in Black for the tenth or fifteenth time. Part of the plot involves an alien searching for a galaxy. The humans all assume the galaxy is some huge thing but it turns out to be contained in a pendant attached to a cat’s collar.

Picture that: an entire galaxy fits inside a glass ball the size of a coin.

The alien turns out to be a giant roach-like creature.

We think of size in terms of inches and feet or centimeters and meters, from a few to a few hundred. We think of distance in units of miles or kilometers, from a few to a few million or billion.

Sometimes when I try to contemplate the universe (I actually do that sometimes. Don’t you?), I start by picturing an atom. What I remember from science class is that an atom consists of electrons orbiting a nucleus; it looks like the planets orbiting the sun.

So maybe our solar system is an atom.

Every object is made from millions of atoms. There are millions of billions of objects on each planet; each planet orbits around the sun; some scientists say the sun orbits around a central point of a galaxy; and there are millions of galaxies.

Following that line of thought, Earth might just be an electron orbiting the nucleus of one of the millions of atoms on the wing of a cockroach scurrying across the surface of a huge planet. Armageddon might be what happens when someone steps on that roach.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

Men in Black seems like a goofy, clever sci-fi comedy with a few sight gags and script points that provide hints of social commentary; but in the middle of all that you might find some interesting contemplation of the universe.

Stalking The Stars

Remember Kellie Pickler from American Idol a few seasons ago? She didn’t win, but she did start what is now a fairly successful career in country music. She’s had a few hit songs and has toured with legend Alan Jackson and her young-but-extremely-successful friend Taylor Swift.

I met her twice this year, two months ago when she was blond and this week as a redhead. She is a very interesting person with a wicked sense of humor and an A.D.D. personality. She comes off as a ‘dumb blond’ but my sense is that she is very smart. Her tough life has led to some great songwriting and her range of song styles within the country genre could very well extend the life of her career beyond the typical two-to-five-year pattern of today’s recording artists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Random Quotes About Disparate Topics

I was thinking about two usually unrelated things today … friendship and stress. I am not connecting these topics; I just happened to be thinking about both. Here are a few interesting quotes about each, starting with stress:

- Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven’t fallen asleep yet.

- “Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
Lilly Tomlin

- "It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny."
Jean Nidetch

- “If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you don’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”
George Burns

- "When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice."
William James

- A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you just the way you are.

- A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

- Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.

- Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out but to see who cares enough to break them down.

- True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for awhile. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off, and even if they die they’re never dead in your heart.

- A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting an award for doing the right thing

Getting an award for doing the right thing – how cool is that?

During a recent annual awards ceremony, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program honored me and my radio stations for spreading the word, but they deserve major kudos for effectively dealing with alcohol abuse in the Washington DC region.

They conduct education programs for adults and teens, in schools and businesses. They lobby lawmakers in Maryland, Virginia and DC for stronger anti drunk-driving legislation. And they have helped remove more than 44,000 would-be drunk drivers from local roadways during the past sixteen years through their Sober Ride free taxi service on selected holidays. And they do it all with a paid staff of only three people! The rest is done with volunteers and great partnerships with sponsors and law enforcement agencies.

I’m thankful for the award, but all I’ve done is given them an audience. W.R.A.P. does the hard work.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Daylight Savings Time Randomness

- So just how much daylight did we save this year?

- Does it pay interest?

- We now have Daylight Savings Time for 6 ½ months a year. Doesn’t that mean Daylight Savings Time is now really the standard time?

- Why don’t we have it all year?

- Sunset where I live is at 5:08pm today. Doesn’t that suck? And it only gets worse for the next seven weeks. On December 21st, sunset will be at 4:48pm.

- Hmm, where did I put those vitamin D pills?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Halloween has become a holiday for adults as much as for children.

Kids still dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating like when I was a kid, but adults often dress up in scary costumes and go drinking. The drinking part doesn’t bother me so much, but the resulting drinking and driving bothers the hell out of me; so I usually stay home or if I go out, I appoint myself the designated driver.

I don’t remember Halloween parties I went to in college or the few years afterwards. I was in a fraternity and drank a lot then. Memory is a little faded and jaded.

But there are two later Halloweens I do remember vividly.

One, in the early 1990s, was at a nudist club facility. Really. I was the DJ. I’ll leave this to your imagination, other than to say that the woman dressed as Lady Godiva was quite memorable. Her blond hair really was that long and she wore gold body paint and a smile. That’s all.

The other involved my own costume. I dressed as Ronald Reagan, sort of. He was still President then. I wore a full-face Reagan mask, white dress shirt, old-man-style tie, overcoat, black shoes, black socks … and instead of pants, I wore boxer shorts with hearts painted on them and hung a banana in a strategic spot. I walked around the party flashing people. I said nothing and did nothing to reveal my true identity, other than to whisper my name to the party hosts so they knew I was someone they knew. I walked up to people and wrote notes to them, indicating that I knew them. I did this for two hours. Nobody guessed my identity and I got laughter and applause when I finally removed the mask.

It appears there is a pattern in my Halloween memories. I hope that pattern didn’t exist during the years I can’t remember.

Trick or treat!?!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Like A Magnet

I am drawn to the ocean like a nail to a magnet.

An off-season beach is the perfect setting for reflection and contemplation. The vista view draws me in with endless possibilities. The rhythmic ebb and flow of the waves is consistent yet no two waves are alike; the ocean is both predictable and random, just like me.

Sunrise is my favorite time on the shore; an awakening of new possibilities.

Photographers and other keen observers know that sunset offers the biggest surprise. Actually, it is the post-sunset afterglow, with one set of expected color schemes melting rapidly into another and another and another that catches nature newbies off-guard, resulting in oohhs, ahhhs and smiles.

Forty-three hours alone in Ocean City is just what I needed this week.

See more pictures on my Photo Bernie blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ocean City Off-Season Randomness

No crowds, no waiting for anything, no noisy parties, no guests in the rooms on either side of me.

Not much is open. It was more difficult to find a restaurant for breakfast than I anticipated. I almost stopped at McDonalds but found a local, non-franchise place just in time.

I like to travel alone but I also like to share. So I’ve shared by way of cell phone pix, emailed photos and posting pictures on this blog. Check my photo blog soon for more shots.

Stress-relief and picture-taking were my only goals for this short trip and I’ve hit my goals.

This place is just over three hours from home. I must come here more often!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Alone At the Beach

The most crowded, raucous place in Maryland in July is the most quiet, desolate spot in the fall. Ocean City oozes solitude in late October and that is why I’m here for a couple of days this week.

I’m here alone, away from home, away from work, away from stress … just me, my camera, my laptop and my thoughts. I was hoping for sunshine but I’m not disappointed by the clouds and rain; they match my mood. Mist, humidity and an empty beach are inspirational for photography and poetry. I’ll engage in plenty of the former and some of the latter.

My hotel room is an ‘efficiency’ with a balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. These were my exact requirements and this particular place had a half-price sale on the already low-priced room rate. It has a stove and a microwave, which I probably won’t use, and a refrigerator, which I am already using to chill a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

More later. Cheers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where Did It Go?

What happened to those two little words that used to be the common and expected end to a retail financial transaction?

During my four hours at Lowes yesterday, at least seven different young employees greeted me with, “Hi, how are you?” All of them were pleasant and each seemed sincere. I chose the human checkout over the self-serve option and after ringing up my $125 purchase, the friendly, chatty, twenty-something cashier said, “Here ya go; have a nice day.”

Sure, that was pleasant, but what happened to ‘thank you?’ I just spend over a hundred dollars. Shouldn’t she be thanking me?

Today I spent five times that much on new glasses and the pleasant twenty-something person who handled the transaction finished with a smile and the words, ‘have a nice day.’ I’d have a nicer day if she had said ‘thank you.’

I spent $5 at McDonalds for lunch today. The counter person said ‘thank you.’ She was a little grumpy and didn’t seem to want to be there, but she did say ‘thank you.’ I’m pretty sure she was at least forty years old. Did I mention she said, “thank you?”

Sorry for the disparaging slam against twenty-something retail personnel, but this trend is ongoing and annoying. And it does seem to be generational. I fully accept that many things from my youth have disappeared, but when did ‘thank you’ leave our vocabulary? And where did it go? And why?

Still Losing - Update

Down to 191. Two pounds a week since the last post two weeks ago - right on target.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I CAN Go For That

I saw Hall and Oates a few nights ago. Yes, they are still around and in my opinion, better than ever.

They played at the 930 Club in Washington DC, a warehouse-looking place more known for alternative and rap acts. The place was packed (1000 people? – not sure – maybe more). They could play a lot of music but they played their crowd-pleasing hits. Some of the arrangements are updated. The band is tight!!!!

And Daryl Hall and John Oates seem to be everywhere these days … maybe because they’re promoting a box set CD collection. This morning I saw them on A&E’s Private Sessions. A new version of their song Sara Smile is climbing the country music charts thanks to singer Jimmy Wayne; Daryl and John back him up on the recording and John sang it with him live on stage in Baltimore on Thursday.

Daryl Hall has an interesting project online called Live at Daryl’s House, featuring performances and conversations with various musicians from various genres, including Smokey Robinson, Todd Rungren, Plain White Ts and K T Tunstall.

Here is a live performance of my favorite H&O song:

The horrible cell phone shot I took:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Distracted Flying

Packed plane lands on wrong runway in Atlanta! Another packed plane overshoots its destination (Minneapolis) by 150 miles after an hour of no radio contact with air traffic controllers!

Both of these incidents actually happened ... today!

There is speculation that the overshoot incident was caused by either pilot distraction or pilot fatigue. I don’t like either possibility.

And you wonder why my minor fear of flying is on the verge of becoming major. Sure, the per capita possibility of dying in a car crash is far greater than in an airplane crash, but the illusion of control I have while driving is very comforting.

I used to fly a lot. For example, I probably flew twenty or thirty times in an eighteen month period in 1983 and 1984 (work conventions, job interview, long-distance relationship). But I’ve only flown ten times (five round-trips) in the eight years since September 11, 2001.

Sure, I’ll book a flight again one day; but I’m in no hurry.

Here is info on today’s incidents:

From AOL News
October 22 2009
On Monday, a Delta jet flying into Atlanta mistakenly touched down on a taxiway instead of the runway it was cleared to land on, reported CNN today.

The aircraft was flying in from Rio de Janeiro just after 6am when it accidentally descended in an area designated for planes to wait until takeoff instead of landing on a parallel runway.

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International is the world's busiest airport, but at the time the taxiway was empty. "Landing at about 160 mph, if the Boeing 767 had hit another plane, the results could have been catastrophic," reported local news station WSB-TV.

From Comcast News
MINNEAPOLIS — Two Northwest Airlines pilots failed to make radio contact with ground controllers for more than an hour and overflew their Minneapolis destination by 150 miles before discovering the mistake and turning around.
The plane landed safely Wednesday evening, apparently without passengers realizing that anything had been amiss. No one was hurt.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the crew told authorities they became distracted during a heated discussion over airline policy and lost track of their location, but federal officials are investigating whether pilot fatigue might also have played a role.
The National Transportation Safety Board does not yet know if the crew fell asleep, spokesman Keith Holloway said, calling that idea "speculative."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breaking the Law of Averages

I see plenty of law-breaking during my 42-miles-each-way daily commute: speeding, weaving, texting while driving and others. I break a few laws myself.

Tonight I watched a serious, high-speed crash happen just three or four cars in front of me. Cars bump like in NASCAR, spin out away from each other across multiple lanes, one car sliding off the road down an incline, the other nearly hitting an embankment. A few months ago I watched a similar accident happen … different stretch of the same highway, more cars, more lanes, just three or four cars in front of me.

If I was a superstitious man, I’d say fate slowed me down just enough as to not be four car-lengths further ahead than I was. I’d also say it’s only a matter of time before I’m the one spinning around.

I’m not superstitious. But I do understand the law of averages. It is one law I intend to break.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sell ‘Em

I went to a Washington Redskins game today for only the second time in the 25 years I’ve lived near DC. The seats were great; got them from my boss. Traffic was no problem, thanks to an alternate route suggested by the guy who went with me to the game.

But we lost to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs! And check out this math: the final score was 14-6 but neither team scored a touchdown. Washington scored two field goals! Kansas City scored four field goals and a safety!! Have you ever seen a safety in an NFL game? Geez

I did enjoy the day, however. The boss’s seats were on the Club level, which means the concession area is enclosed. Good thing – it was cloudy, windy and in the 40s. And we avoided the post-game traffic nightmare by taking advantage of restaurant choices on Club level – we chose Hooters.

A few other observations:

We were surrounded by a sea of burgundy and gold … not fans dressed in team colors but lots of empty burgundy and gold seats. A lot of fans stayed home and more than half of those who did attend left early in the fourth quarter.

Me and my friend Darrin, in the middle of 4th quarter - note the empty seats

Funniest line of the day, heard in the Men’s room: after the announcer said that quarterback Jason Campbell would be replaced in the second half by Todd Collins, one guy shouted “why don’t you replace him with PHIL Collins? It couldn’t be any worse!”

The KC player who kicked their four field goals is Ryan Succop … pronounced ‘suck up.’ The stadium announcer seemed to put just a little sarcastic spin each time he said the name.

Best cheer of the day, screamed out by a whole section of fans at half-time: Sell the team! Sell the team! Sell the team! (In case you don’t follow this, many fans believe the team problems are mostly caused by owner Dan Snyder).

Despite the loss and other oddities today, I do plan to go to a game again one day … especially if I can get Club level tickets again.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Love Story

I will seek and find you.
I shall take you to bed and have my way with you.
I will make you ache, shake & sweat until you moan & groan.
I will make you beg for mercy, beg for me to stop.
I will exhaust you to the point that you will be relieved when I'm finished with you.
And, when I am finished, you will be weak for days.
All my love,
The Flu
Now get your mind out of the gutter and go get your flu shot!

Me In 50 Years ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We’re Number 2! We’re Number 2!

The Washington DC region has the second-worst traffic congestion in the country. C’mon! We’re not trying hard enough! Don’t we want to be #1?!

My ridiculously long commute takes fifty minutes when there is no traffic. This morning it took me twice that long to get to work. My top speed for more than half the ride was 15 miles per hour, shown below in this blurry cell phone picture.

If you look hard, you’ll see that Honda thinks this car could cruise at 160. I think it would go airborne at that speed, but I can verify that it is a solid ride at 90. At this morning’s pace, my commute would have been faster on a bicycle.

Boomers, our parents are partly to blame for this mess. Back in their day, as late as the 1950s, busses, trolleys and trains were the commuter norm in urban areas. Families often had only one car, the ‘family car,’ and sometimes it sat idle for much of the week because no one needed it.

Auto manufacturers did an effective job lobbying national, state and local governments to spend more money on roads than on mass transit. Their advertising efforts helped create demand for cars to enhance the spirit of American individualism and prosperity that took hold after World War II. These factors, combined with ‘white flight’ to the suburbs during the racial tension years that followed, led to what we have now: nearly every person of driving age seems to have their own car … and we drive everywhere we go, usually alone in our car. This is the norm even in areas like DC, where there is good mass transit and highly-advertised car-pooling opportunities.

So on rainy days like today, most drivers slow down, others drive recklessly, causing more accidents than usual, and the congestion gets worse.

And I leave home at 7:20 to get to a 9:00 am work meeting at 9:01, with no time to stop for my morning coffee.

How did I get talked into living this far from work?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Live Like A Dog

My sister sent this to me. I don’t know the origin, but I live with three dogs so I totally believe this advice:

Live like a dog ...
Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Losing It, Again

Each of the past three years began with my resolution to lose twenty pounds. Each year I let something get in the way of achieving that goal. I did lose five pounds one year and gained it back a few months later.

This year might be different. I have lost five pounds in the past four weeks. I’m hitting my exercise goals and have a pretty good handle on dietary balance and portion control. I’m not an especially big guy, but I do weigh about 20 pounds more than I should for my height.

I hesitate to put the numbers out here because that strategy didn’t work last time (and the time before and …), but here they are: consistent weight for the last three years: 200. Ideal weight for my height: 175-180. This week: 195. Goal: 180 by New Year’s Day. That means losing about one to two pounds a week, which I believe is realistic.

I’ll keep you posted. If I don’t, then remind me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall: Endings and Beginnings

Fall is a time of contrasts in the cycles of life. We see the most beautiful colors of the year during fall, but those very colors exist because things are dying off. Leaves fall, trees go dormant; days get shorter and colder. As kids we trade the lively freedom of summer for the dead bleak confinement of school.

Those of us who sometimes face Seasonal Affective Disorder see fall as prelude to the dreaded joyous and often depressing holidays. How ironic is it that SAD and Happy Holidays run concurrently?

Fall is a powerful season in my own life. My first great love began with a fall date. My first move away from the emotional safety and security of my hometown occurred at the end of fall one year. Fall is my favorite season to pursue my favorite hobby, photography.

Fall 2001 is probably the most significant fall in my life, and the most depressing: the terrorist attacks in September, moving Dad and Mom into a nursing home in October, Dad’s death in November. I checked out emotionally and mentally during the next several months and flashbacks to that year pop into my head and heart at least a couple of times each fall and winter.

This fall is transitional for me and some of my closest friends know why. Part of me moves forward and part of me gets sucked back into where I’ve been. My personal battle between what I want to do and what I’m supposed to do rages on and the cloudy damp fall weather outside the window next to me as I write this isn’t helping.

Yet that very same weather is photographically inspirational.

My optimistic nature guides me to embrace the contrasts of the season. Live in the moment, moment after moment, knowing that rebirth and renewal are all part of this cycle. Whatever happens over the next two seasons, spring will arrive like it always does, signaling new growth, a different set of bright colors, and the beginning of many more moments to live in.

I am certainly not alone in my mixed feelings about fall. How do you feel? Post your thoughts in Comments. Better still, blog about it and send me your link. We can share the season.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Couple More Random Life Quotes

Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.
- Soren Kierkegaard

Dogs don’t trouble themselves with minutes or hours. Time is either “NOW” or “RIGHT NOW!”
- Arthur Yorinks

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Geography of Friendships

I was thinking about my closest friends today during the ride home from work. These are the friends who appreciate me as much as I appreciate them, the friends who think about me, keep in touch with me and are here to support me when I really need a friend.

In this context, however, ‘here’ is relative. My five closest friends, for example, the five I know I can count on, the ones who know some of my deepest secrets, the ones who have known me forever and have survived my many changes as well as the newer ones who are just remarkably open to knowing about me and helping me when they can, are scattered across the entire planet. None of them live in Maryland, where I live, or in any adjoining states.

This mobility phenomenon is relatively new in the history of the United States: Boomer generation and newer. Both of my parents, for example, can trace their ancestry to other countries with immigration as recent as their own grandparents. But in their generation, they stayed put. My Mom and her siblings lived their entire lives within a hundred miles of their birthplace. My Dad and all but one of his siblings lived their whole lives within the same twenty miles. Their friendship and family support systems were geographically close.

My closest friends are close in spirit … an email, text or cell phone call away. I’m grateful for that, but wish we all had more face time. At least I did see three of the five this year.

A brief outline, using initials not names, in the name of privacy …

P lives in Louisiana, a friend since high school. Nobody knows more about me than she does. We share news about house projects, other friends, work; we whine about our spouses. We joke about high school, chat about music.

S lives in Hawaii. She’s been a friend for decades; we first met during the very short time she lived in my hometown. She is just slightly older than me, yet she retired years ago. She and her husband fell in love with Hawaii on their honeymoon and always knew they’d live there one day. She called me the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans because she knew I’d be worried sick about my Mother and my sister.

L1 lives in Wisconsin. We have known each other for at least two decades; we met when I lived in her home state. We have shared many conversations about music, jobs, animals and crappy love lives. She always remembers my birthday, even when I forget hers, and sometimes she calls me at midnight on December 31st to wish me a Happy New Year. She knows me well enough to know that wherever I am I’ll be awake at that moment. I was able to spend some time with her and her new husband in the past couple of years.

F lives near London. We met on the job many years ago when she lived in Virginia. We used to eat out together every few weeks – long lunches or dinners during which we analyzed our jobs, love lives, music tastes, childhoods, parents. She is now a parent herself and I have pictures of her son on my computer.

L2 lives in North Carolina. We’ve known each other either 3 months or 2 years, depending on how you count it. In that short amount of time we’ve become very good friends and share conversations about music, psychology, photography, food, wine, spontaneity vs. over-thinking, love lives and relationships with parents.

These are five unique individuals, with some things in common: all are female, each loves music, each has at least one failed relationship that I know something about (and they know about mine) and each lives hundreds, or thousands of miles away. Oh, and I guess they all have me in common.

I am a lucky man! But sometimes I disagree with the phrase “small world, isn’t it?”

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Community Service

Community service is required in most public schools in Maryland. Students have to do some amount of volunteer work to graduate. I wish that was the case when I was in high school. Getting into the habit of volunteering early increases the chance it will become a life-long habit.

I used to feel guilty that I don’t do more volunteering until someone pointed out that I work with causes and non-profit organizations as part of my job. I interview representatives of these groups for a weekly radio program that plays on Sunday mornings in Washington DC and sometimes in Baltimore MD. Although I don’t do very much direct work with them, I do give them an outlet to get their message to people. I feel good about that. At some point, however, I plan to get more directly involved.

Here is just a small sample of groups I’ve spoken with:

St Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Multiple Sclerosis Society
American Cancer Society
American Stroke Association
WRAP (Washington Regional Alcohol Program)
American Red Cross
Stop The Silence
SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia
Hope For Henry
Bread for the City
National Brain Tumor Society
National Kidney Foundation
National Parkinson Foundation

And October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I personally know three breast cancer survivors, so this one hits closer to home than most. Locally, the Breast Cancer 3 Day is going on this weekend, benefiting the Susan G. Komen For The Cure.

Many of these are local to me but some may have chapters where you live. Just sayin'

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Today is my 18th anniversary with my current employer. That is certainly a personal record – my previous best was four years and my norm was two – and it is highly unusual in the media world for someone to work at the same place for that long.

In that eighteen years, I’ve seen five ownership changes, five immediate supervisor changes and four top boss changes. The next longest tenure in my department is just four years, after that is just under three years (my immediate supervisor) and the rest are two years or less.

I started at this radio station as a part time DJ, then became a full time DJ. My Sunday morning public service interview shows were added along the way. Eleven years ago, I was promoted to my primary current job, but still also do most of the previous jobs in one form or another. That’s life in corporate America these days.

Working at one job for years or decades was the norm for older boomers and boomer parents. Gen X and younger can expect to change jobs every few years and change careers at least 2 or 3 times in their working life.

Boomers these days are often thinking about retiring from their first careers at my age and are searching for a second career that is more fulfilling or meaningful. Fortunately for me, my current career does all that. I don’t plan to ever retire, but I would like to cut back the quantity of work one day so I can focus more on the quality.

Meanwhile I’m grateful for what I have: a good job that pays well, challenges my creativity and often fulfills my desire for doing something meaningful.

Hmmm, a song lyric from my youth just popped into my head: I'm eighteen and I LIKE IT. Yes I like it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random Lyrics and Quotes

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
Norman Cousins

"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today."
James Dean

Just what kind of love keeps breaking a heart
No matter how hard I try
I always make you cry
Come on, baby, it's over let's face it
All that's happening here is a long goodbye
Brooks & Dunn

Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Pity the nation that will listen to your boys and girls
‘Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven't heard
Is it true the perfect love drives out all fear
The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear

"Happiness is only real when shared".
Into The Wild

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Pope Paul VI

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why I Like Blues

I like blues.

Three chords, twelve bars and a whole lot of range: sad, depressing, heartbreaking, sheer joy, fun, danceable, raw emotional singing or playing, breaking up, making up, making out, naked and grinding, laughing, drinking, moaning, crying. Up tempo, down tempo and everything in between. Lots of sex and no sex. Heartbroke, dead broke. Deep feeling dressed in simplicity. Colorful vocabulary in shades of blue. In a roomful of friends and all alone. On the road or anchored to home.

A five-letter word that spells out a lifetime. Or a moment.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Totally Random 2.6

This round of randomness is just a list of random questions:

- Do you ever respond to a question with the answer you think the asker wants rather than your real answer?

- Have you ever wanted something so much that when you finally had the chance to have it, you choked?

- Or didn’t know what to do with it?

- Can you tell which of your dog’s barks means “I’m so happy to see you,” which one means ”give me another damn treat – it’s been two hours since the last one!” and which one means “I have to go outside NOW!”

- Have you had any regrets in life? Real regrets over something you did or did not do that keep surfacing in your mind cloaked in the repeating question ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘why didn’t I do that?’

- Did you ever buy something in orange even though you know it looks better in blue? Maybe a shirt? Or a car?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Change Your Thinking

My sister and two or three other friends regularly send me these pleasant little stories. They are usually accompanied by a suggestion to send them on to x number of other people in the next ten minutes, or some such thing. I usually read the story, smile for a moment at the thought that someone sent this to me, then hit delete.

This story, however, struck a different chord. I decided to share it with you, my five or ten regular blog readers.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.... His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

'Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present.'

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Famous Kiss

Have you ever seen this famous picture, taken at the end of World War II?

I just learned today that the woman in the picture, Greta Friedman, is alive and well and lives in my county. This is a more recent picture of her:

There is an article about her in the latest Frederick Magazine. Small world, ey?