Showing posts from August, 2009

Late Nite Survey

I saw this on another blog (Eliz in Asheville) more than a year ago and decided to answer the questions too. But I don’t think I ever published it. So I went through the questions again and changed a few answers from my original attempt. And now I am actually posting it.

1.Where do you wish you could be right now? Walking along the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, holding hands with a woman, enjoying a sunrise.

2. What is one thing that you’ve always wanted to do/try but were always afraid to do? Snow ski.

3. What makes you feel good about yourself? When something I do helps someone else feel good about themselves.

4. What are you most proud of? Being involved in an annual radiothon for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

5. What are you not so proud of? I don’t really have an answer for that one.

6. What do you do to relax? Photography, write poetry, listen to music.

7. What makes you laugh? Good friends. Also performances by Bill Engvall, Jeff Foxworthy or Bob Newhart

8. W…

End of an Era

Gen-Xers probably get tired of hearing Boomers talk about the Kennedys. I’m sorry, but: too bad. I don’t think Gen-Xers have any political heroes, at least not at the moment.

You certainly didn’t have to agree with Kennedy politics to be captivated by the power and mystique surrounding that family. It was a generational ‘changing of the guard’ that began with John Kennedy’s election to the presidency in the early 1960s and continued with Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign of the late 1960s. If Bobby hadn’t been assassinated, he probably would have become President. Ted Kennedy had personal demons that ultimately ended his bid for President before it really got started, but clearly he continued the political dynasty with his 47-year tenure in the Senate.

Ted Kennedy was unabashedly liberal but he also respected and was respected by conservatives. The best eulogy at his memorial service a few nights ago came from political enemy and personal friend Senator John McCain. They rar…

Life Lessons in Lyrics 1.2

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
and you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

Martina McBride

Four Years

This weekend marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on my original home town.

My recent visit to New Orleans showed me two things: 1) residents are resilient and stubborn and 2) the city is still a shadow of its former self.

My sister’s house, the one we grew up in, has been rehabbed and looks great. The structure survived the flooding in Lakeview and the changes she was able to make have truly turned the house into hers.

But there is now a vacant lot on either side of her and I counted at least a dozen houses within two blocks of hers that are still boarded up, still look like they did when we first went back to access damage six weeks after the storm. Those houses have been gutted, as required by law, but remain unoccupied and unlivable.

October 2005 with water-logged belongings awaiting removal

July 2009 after elevation and much rehabbing

Many neighborhoods are worse off. The poorer sections of town have blocks and blocks of vacant lots, with the occasional partially…

Life Lessons In Lyrics 1.1

Funny the way it is, if you think about it
one kid walks ten miles to school, another’s dropping out
funny the way it is, not right or wrong
on a soldier’s last breath, his baby’s being born
funny the way it is, not right or wrong
somebody’s broken heart becomes your favorite song

Dave Matthews

We’re All Afraid

Have you ever had a completely open conversation with someone? A friend? A spouse?

I mean a conversation where you can say absolutely anything that’s on your mind, without reservation, without concern about the other person’s reaction? Difficult, isn’t it?

We are afraid to hurt the other person by saying something they might not want to hear. Or we are afraid of revealing some inner aspect of our own being because we’re afraid of how that revelation will make the other person think about us.


Part of it comes down to the power of words. Conversation can lead to hurt feelings, vocabulary can start an argument.
- Do I look fat in this?
- Go Cowboys!
- Damn liberal.
- Damn conservative.

Part of it comes down to an aspect of human nature: we all want to be loved or at least liked.

Some people have a knack for saying what is on their mind without offending someone or hurting their feelings. Some people have the ability to accept that kind of direct statement without feeling hurt, even if it is s…

Life Lessons in Lyrics

First in a series of posts in which we can learn something about life from song lyrics.

Life's not the breath you take, the breathing in and out, that gets you through the day, ain't what it's all about.
You just might miss the point if you don't slow down the's not the breaths you take... but the moments that take your breath away.

sung by George Strait

… health … makes me sick

The full title of this post is “all this angry debate over health care reform makes me sick.”

First of all, how can anyone who has ever attempted to make a medical insurance claim think our country doesn’t need health care reform?

Second, the same brand of politician who jumped at approving legislation allowing our country to invade Iraq when Iraq wasn’t really the threat now says we have to take our time with health care reform. Take our time? Who are they kidding? Health care reform was ‘priority one’ for a newly elected President in 1993 and sixteen years later we still don’t have it. We’ve taken too much time already.

On one hand, this President’s goal to pass health care reform before the August Congressional recess was unrealistic and some of his proposals shouldn’t be part of the reform. On the other hand, setting an aggressive goal accelerated the pace of discussion and means that an acceptable compromise might actually happen this year. Waiting another sixteen years is not…

REALLY Getting To Know Someone or TMI?

One of my ‘Facebook friends,’ a co-worker, offered an interesting challenge on her page recently: “ask me anything, one time only, any question about anything, and I’ll answer it.”

I decided to pose the same challenge on my page. Only two friends responded, both have been friends for more than 25 years and both hinted at a question but didn’t actually ask one. I’m not sure what to make of that.

I was totally serious about answering any question and was disappointed by the lack of response, but it occurred to me that if given the opportunity to ask them or anyone else any question, I’m not sure I’d do it either. And what would I ask?

In my twenties, I would ask anyone anything and I probably asked inappropriate questions. Funny thing is: I usually got answers. My intense curiosity about the littlest details of people’s lives, thoughts and dreams remains but my sensitivity about satisfying that curiosity has increased to the point that I now ask fewer questions.

There is such a thing a…

Totally Random 2.5

Here is another round of random stuff I've been thinking about:

- I don’t feel the least bit guilty that I’m spending a four-day weekend home alone this weekend. Well, not totally alone; the oldest dog is here too. The rest of the ‘family’ is at an out-of-town dog show.

- Wow, I’ve posted several times a week for several weeks now. Seems like the less I try, the more I succeed.

- A friend told me just last week that I seem to be trying too hard (my self-discovery project). She’s right.

- Keith Urban is one of my favorite performers of any music genre. He a singer, writer, exceptional guitarist, decent pianist, cares about the music and the fans, women say he looks good, men say ‘damn, he wakes up with Nicole Kidman every day.’ Saw his concert last night in DC – great show!!

- Car brands and models come and go, but you can still buy a brand new Mustang, Charger or Malibu, which are all models from boomer youth. Of course, Mustang is the only that has been in continuous productio…

Funny Stuff for Smart People

A friend sent me this months ago and I forgot to share it. Very, very funny stuff!!

Here is the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n..): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, …

Caffeinated Mommies

The Starbucks closest to my office is in a family-friendly strip mall which stages kid-friendly events on a regular basis. The first time I stumbled onto one of these events was a day I was running later than usual, but I H-H-HAD TO HAVE MY ST-ST-ST-STARBUCKS, if you know what I m-m-m-mean.

The line was long, geometrically speaking. It stretched from the counter to the door, not because there were all that many people in it but because each person in line except me was pushing a baby stroller. Ten moms and ten baby strollers take up a lot of space. I guess mommies need all the energy boost they can get.

Each mom ordered something complicated – caramel macchiato half caf with a shot of whatever, blah blah blah with extra whip, latte this latte that – that took time, further d-d-delaying the feeding of my own caffeine addiction.

Finally it was my turn. I’m fairly confident around groups of women, but at this moment I began to feel just a little inadequate. “Grande coffee, please.”�…

Unwanted Guests Are Coming

Unwanted guests are standing in line, waiting for the chance to visit us.

They have pleasant enough names – Ana, Claudette, Bill - but every time they visit, they leave the place a mess. Not just dirty floors or unwashed dishes, I mean they knock over stuff in the yard, break windows, leave water everywhere. They are noisy. And they can wreak havoc day or night during their visit.

Yep, hurricane season is in full swing. Throw away the welcome mat.


There it was, on the top shelf of the end cap at checkout 4 at Safeway last Saturday, sandwiched between the Slim Jims and the latest Cosmo, daring me to point out that it's only August 15th … Halloween Arts & Crafts, a guidebook for fun family projects.

Halloween projects!! August 15th!!!

Yes, it's nice to plan ahead and yes, craft projects take more than a day to complete. But August?!?! Isn't Halloween still on October 31st? When did Halloween become such a big deal? When will it become a 'day off of work' holiday - cause you know that's coming.

Halloween is already a Hallmark holiday. I know this because I actually get a couple of Halloween cards each year. Really. And the craft stores start stocking up on decoration and costume supplies months ahead. Paradoxically, Halloween has also become a significant adult party holiday; I know this because statistics and studies indicate that it is now the most dangerous holiday of the year for alcohol-re…

Appreciating What You’ve Got

I preach appreciation, much to the dismay of those who politely endure my rambling about how they should acknowledge the positive aspects of their lives even when negative things are swirling around them like a tornado.

Do I practice what I preach? Not always.

That occurred to me as I was walking around my back yard today. Note to self: yes, my commute sucks but I should try to appreciate what is at the finish line.

So here are a few things I observed this morning … and appreciate:

- The dog who accompanied me on my walk loves me unconditionally.

- Sunday mornings in this combination neighborhood/farm land are very quiet; the dominant sounds were the rustling of squirrels, the flapping of blue jay wings and the panting of a happy Border Collie.

- My acre-and-a-half is a pleasant balance of manicured and natural. My wife gets most of the credit for that; I appreciate her efforts and I know I don’t tell her that enough. For all the things that are wrong between us, landscaping is not one …

An Intense Week in Music

A death, a break up and two significant anniversaries converged in the music world this week.

The death:

Les Paul, the legendary guitarist who pioneered the design of solid body Gibson electric guitars that bore his name, died at age 94. He still regularly performed at a New York nightclub until just a few months ago. His guitars were used by everyone from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash to Eric Clapton to members of Kenny Chesney’s band. He was a recording artist with his wife Mary Ford in the 1940s and 1950s and developed some of the original multi-layer and multi-track recording techniques that are common today.

The breakup:

Brooks & Dunn, one of the most successful duos in country music history, have decided to end their musical partnership. Fortunately it’s on a good note. They believe their music has run its course and they want to quit while they’re on top. They’ve had a twenty-year run of hits, including two this year. A new CD called “No. 1’s And Then Some” comes out ne…

Destination Dating

Back in the day (I'm talking way back), dating was the journey, marriage was the destination. That might not be true anymore, but I don't really know.

By my observation, twentysomethings mostly hang in groups and usually 'hook-up' as couples only for those needs that can't be met in groups … until those hook-ups become exclusive … seconds later their Facebook status changes to "in a relationship" - a public celebration and declaration of something that looks a lot like a marriage. They reached their destination.

Thirtysomethings seem to take a more 'mature' approach (whatever the hell that means). They appear more cautious about hooking up and about getting involved, but most thirtysomethings I know are married. Go figure.

Fortysomethings are all over the place and fiftysomethings are talking about the '529 college savings' plans for their offspring and what they want to do in retirement.

All of that to ask this: does marriage matter anym…

Squirrels and Sunshine

Have you noticed the days are getting shorter? Do you know this because you can feel it or because you saw the sunset time on the Weather Channel?

The squirrels in my back yard know a new season is coming and they’re already gathering nuts (or whatever it is they gather) in preparation for the end of growing season. Clock-addicted urban dwellers are often oblivious to changing season and other natural cycles of life and we need calendars and clocks to remind us of these things.

When did we lose our naturals instincts?

After moving out to the country a few years ago, I began to notice things I hadn’t noticed before. I started to feel longer and shorter days, not because of cues from my clock-based schedule but just because I could feel a difference. I could see changes in habits of birds that visit feeders in the back yard; in fact I learned that different birds visit at different times of the year. I can feel subtle temperature changes too.

I’m not a naturalist by any stretch, but I …

New Orleans Photos

I finally posted some of my New Orleans Photos on my Photo Bernie blog.

Dave’s Music

Music is a universal connector, a time machine, an instigator, a soother, a social commentator, a romantic, a collection of vibrating sound waves identified by twelve notes. I watched all of that come together Saturday night at a Dave Matthews Band concert.

I will not proclaim him to be the god of music and he is not and probably will never be my favorite artist, but my introduction to his live show has opened the door to explore for more. His style is a seamless integration of many styles and influences; those I could identify include rock, pop, jazz and classical. The audience at this particular concert was younger than I expected and included mostly those in their thirties and twenties. There were times when it seemed as though the entire crowd of 20,000 fans were singing along, connected collectively by his lyrics and individually to a time point in each person’s past.

The crowd would leap from their seats at the sound of the opening notes of one song and a little while later a…

Live Long and Prosper

I just read an interesting article that claims personality can be factor in successful aging.

Here are a few highlights (the parts in italics are quoted from the article):

- “Successful older people are willing to branch out,” … “They keep engaging with the world -- expanding, not constricting.”

- conscientiousness is directly related to better health and therefore better longevity

- high extraversion levels raise life expectancy in part because such levels are associated with strong social circles and looking after oneself. … These are people who surround themselves with people who really matter to them -- and the extrovert has the sense to best make and maintain those relationships.”

- This one surprised me: no studies have definitively linked disagreeable types to diminished health or higher early mortality.

- Neurotic people live shorter lives … These are the people who interpret a friendly comment as a cutting criticism and a small complication as an impossible challenge.

One of my ‘…

Still Positive

The post-vacation positivity is eroding just a little bit, but this is still mostly present and for the longest amount of time it has ever lasted for me, even longer than after my Grand Canyon trip eight years ago.

The whole point of a vacation is to take a break from the norm, to give yourself a chance to recharge. But sometimes the smiles turn to frowns in the middle of the first day back at work. I’ve experienced that many times.

But this ten-day jaunt represents some kind of turning point on my self-discovery journey. My general confidence level about life has been on the rise for several years, but I have still struggled to be the ‘me’ I want to be. I’ve locked myself into other people’s limited image of me and often hesitate to break out. During the ten days since I returned home, however, I’ve maintained much of the ‘new me.’

As long as I’m being totally egocentric in this post, let me say one more thing about me … actually this is a self-description from my Facebook profile:


Bill Did a Jimmy

United States Presidents face an interesting challenge when comes to deciding how to spend their post-presidency.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter rode into office as a populist outsider and was defeated after one term, leaving office with a failed economy and botched attempts to rescue American hostages who were held captive in Iran for more than a year. But he refused to remain a footnote. In later years he established a global reputation as an effective American statesman, often helping, as a private citizen, to negotiate international solutions to problems that elected administrations could not solve.

In 1993 President Bill Clinton entered office as a populist outsider and lasted through two terms. In spite of acting stupidly in personal behavioral matters, he left the country in better shape than when he started. But in the years since, he has struggled to find his way as something other than just a mere former President.

Yesterday Bill did a Jimmy.

He went to North Korea and hel…

The Long and Winding Road

I went to the Paul McCartney concert Saturday night at Fedex Field, in the Washington DC suburbs.

On virtually any list of the most influential music artists of the 20th century, the top three would include Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and the Beatles. Drugs and tragedy were ultimately involved in the lives of Elvis and Michael. Drugs swirled through the lives of the Beatles but weren’t related to their tragedies; John Lennon’s tragedy was being killed by a mentally ill gunman; Paul’s was losing the love of his life to breast cancer.

With those thoughts as a backdrop in my own mind, it took awhile for this thought to sink in: a 67-year old music and culture icon was performing legendary 45-year-old songs as well as new songs with both joy and humility before 50,000 fans. His stage banter was informative and humorous; he told stories to the stadium crowd as comfortably as if he was sitting on your living room sofa.

Crappy cellphone picture from the concert

Baby You Can Drive My Car, Jet,…

Totally Random 2.0

- I had a convertible once … for a month back in the 80s … a restored 60s era GTO that was grand prize in a contest. I was in charge of the contest and part of my job was to drive the car around and show it off. Cool job, ey?

- Sometimes I open the windows and sunroof of my shiny black sedan and pretend it’s a convertible.

- A lot of guys see T&A first. I see eyes, lips and legs first. Everything else is a pleasant bonus. Personality trumps looks; if both are present … mmm mmm mmm !

- The walrus is Paul.

- I don’t like grumpy grocery store checkers at my local Safeway and will often get in a different line to avoid one. Their job isn’t glamorous, but it is a job; stop complaining. That is the only grocery store in the area that doesn’t have self-check … yet.

- This is my first full work week after the totally awesome vacation. Let’s see if the good mood continues. I’m optimistic it will.

It Is What It Is

This living in the moment thing is still new for me.

A Boomer habit (or is it just my habit?) is to make everything mean something. But sometimes (maybe many times) some things should just ‘be.’

Here is a paragraph of perspective that caught my eye in Richard Carlson’s “Stop Thinking, Start Living”:

You can’t enjoy your life if you are analyzing it; you can’t smell the roses if you are running past them; you can’t enjoy new people if you prejudge them; you can’t have fun doing simple things if you are thinking about how stupid they are; you can’t be relaxed if you are worried about what might happen; you can’t enjoy your work if you are comparing yourself to others; and you can’t even enjoy your weekends or holidays if you are walking around generating concerns all day long.

Another way to look at life can be summed up in this simple sentence that I’ve heard often from my boss Meg and more recently from my friend Leahe: it is what it is.

No excuse for not smelling these roses - they're…

Road Trip Photos

I've just begun to go through the 400 photographs I took on my recent road trip. Here is one of them. I've posted a few more at my Photo Bernie blog.

An archway in Asheville