Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

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.



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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.

ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY.

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.

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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

Eighteen

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!