Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sorting Photographs

I have just begun to sort and edit the 450 photographs I shot during my recent road trip.  I don't even know where to begin, so I picked a few at random.  Visit my photo blog to see some of them.  More will be added over the next few days.

Here is one.  This face is in a tree and one of several on this particular property.  Pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Keyword

For the past two years, I have adopted an annual goal-setting tradition used by my friend and colleague Mary. She begins each year with one word that sets the tone for the coming twelve months.

Last year my word was ‘play.’ Items I attached to play were things I wanted to do just for me that have nothing to do with work or chores; just activities that I think are fun like going to concerts, listening to blues bands in bars, photography, happy hours with young friends and visits to museums. I did a pretty good job of living up to the keyword.

This year, my word was ‘simplify.’ There was/is plenty going on in my life, personally and professionally. I wanted to make my life simpler. That has been more problematic but I did make at least some progress toward simplification.

Where I differ from Mary’s tradition is that I continue each keyword into the next year and beyond. So I am still playing more and continue to work on simplifying my life.

So what is my keyword for 2011? I’ve been thinking about that for a month. Next year will be life-changing for me and it was a challenge to find just one word, preferably an action word, a verb, to set the tone for my next chapter.

Today it hit me: ‘focus.’

For me, focus means concentrating on one life goal at a time instead of the multi-tasking I tend to do. There are two life-changing events coming and a few smaller but significant planned activities and my plan is to focus on those, one at a time whenever possible. They are my A-list. Everything else is B, C or D.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

A Nice Wake up

I tried to watch the Saints game last night but just couldn't stay awake.  They were leading when I turned the TV off at halftime, but Atlanta was playing better.  Fortunately, the Saints didn't give up and I woke up this morning to learn they won the game ... and a wild card playoff spot.  MAYBE they'll go to the Super Bowl again and maybe they'll win it again.  Geaux Saints.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Picturing It

Every time I visit New Orleans, I allow myself a few minutes to picture living here again.

I try to visualize what my life would be like in this funky town I left more than thirty years ago to chase my career dreams. I think about where I’d live, who I would spend time with, where I would socialize and how I would make a living.

My social life would probably be active because people are born gregarious here. It is hard to be a hermit in New Orleans. I am regularly in touch with two of my oldest friends, occasionally in touch with two more and family contacts come and go but are always easy to re-establish so I would probably never be lonely. Would I make new, younger friends? Probably. I hang out with younger people now anyway because too many people my age think of themselves as old. I don’t, although I have ridiculous issues dealing with my age; I’ll save that for another post. One of my best friends doesn’t even know my exact age and until I get past that obstacle (maybe next year), I won’t be writing much about it here. But I digress.

How would I spend my free time? Music would be involved. It is part of the culture. Alcohol would be in the mix but hopefully not as much as it was in my younger days here. This place is surrounded by water (no kidding!) so I’d probably go fishing. And I know I’d be photographing constantly.

My career? Ha! That’s why I left to begin with; it is difficult to make a good living in media here. My talent is significantly better and more marketable than when I left, but pay scales are low here except for the more established people.

Where would I live? Probably Lakeview, the neighborhood where I spent my childhood. Of course that is the dilemma because that area was one of the flooded parts of town after Hurricane Katrina. But I like Lakeview and at least some of the direction it is taking during the recovery.

It took about fifteen minutes to write this. That is approximately how long I usually contemplate returning to the cool, musical, quirky town where I grew up. And this time, as always, I have come to the same conclusion: this is an awesome place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here again.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Buuuurrrppp!

Random Road Trips Notes:

- Six days in New Orleans. I'm afraid to get on the scale. I ate every local food item on my 'must eat' list.

- Saw every friend and family member I planned to see on this trip. It is an awesome feeling to be connected to so many wonderful people.

- Anyone who knows me for more than a few hours knows I am a story-teller and I love to talk, probably to a fault. Spend time with my relatives on all sides of the family and you'll see where I learned this behavior. Except they are louder than I am.

- I heard more family stories I had not heard before, including a few from my sister about our parents. Some of the tales are sad, some funny.

- Now comes the hard part: driving home. Wish I had taken two more days. There are two stops I want to make that I won't have time for.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

December is a great time for celebrating. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice or even Festivus, families and friends gather to celebrate. It is a season to share time, joy, food, conversation and more. I am especially lucky this year; by the time my road trip is complete, I will have spent time with nearly all of my favorite people.

Hope your December 25th is great!

- Bernie

Friday, December 24, 2010

Water

To understand New Orleans, its people and, well, me, you have to understand water.


Locals might not realize or admit this, but New Orleans and the immediate suburbs are completely surrounded by water. The entire northern boundary is Lake Pontchartrain, which I believe is the largest lake in the U.S. other than the Great Lakes. Most of the southern boundary of the city is the Mississippi River. There are some smaller lakes to the east and the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which connects the River to the Lake for flood control purposes, is to the west. There is no way to drive into New Orleans without crossing some body of water.

Water has both literal and metaphorical affects on people who grow up here.

Some literal examples …

Even before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleaneans dealt with flooding. Smaller hurricanes, days-long rain storms and spring flooding on the Mississippi all could lead to some amount of water in the streets. Usually it drained off within hours or a couple of days, but locals learned to work around it.

Many people love fishing and do it regularly on lakes, rivers and bayous. Many have boats. Various friends and family members of mine had fishing camps on local waterways. Many 40- and 50-somethings experienced the fondling side of early romance while parked on Lakeshore Drive; the locals called that ‘watching the submarine races at the Lake.’

Locals also frequently make their living on the water, from fishing to working the docks to crew work on ferry boats and tour boats.



Some metaphorical examples …

Water influences both time and tenacity in New Orleans. The Mighty Mississippi slowly drifts through the crescent curves the city is built around. It flows in a lazy way but it is relentless, never stops, never slows down, always reaches its destination. People here behave the same way. Outsiders seem to think locals are slow and lazy until the outsiders realize how much the locals have done on any given project. People like me who grew up here only appear to be drifting along.

That same tenacious steady drive seen on the Mississippi is also a metaphor for the spirit and determination of those who returned after Katrina to rebuild this place. That brand of tenacity is literal too. Like the poster in the photo above says, “Soul is Waterproof.”

Water gives this region life but it cannot drown the spirit.

New Orleans Culture Randomness

This town and surrounding area are unlike any other. The people, the mindset and the multifaceted mix of influences combine to make a cultural gumbo that is hard to define or explain.

- Various races have always coexisted here but to this day New Orleans is a largely segregated city.

- Outsiders think Cajun is the dominant influence, but Louisiana has lived under at least five national flags through its history: French, Spanish, British, Confederate States and United States. Cajun French is in the mix, as is Creole, Caribbean, Italian and Native American.

- Many names are not pronounced as you think they would be. Some examples of street names: Esplanade is pronounced ess-plah-NAYD. Burgundy is burh-GUN-dee. Calliope is cal-ee-OHP. The emphasis is on the ‘wrong’ syllable.

- Many Cajun French inspired names end in X but the X isn’t pronounced. Boudreaux is pronounced BOO-droh. Comeaux is COH-moh. The local cheer for the famous NFL team is spelled Geaux Saints!

- The accent here is not southern, except for the dropped “g” in words ending with “ing” (like ending, which is pronounced end-in) and typical words like “y’all.” It is more Brooklyn sounding but with softer edges. Words with “r” are the most obvious. Darling is DAW-lihn, heart is HAWT, George is GAWJ. “Th” is often pronounced “d” – “Y’all wanna go have dinna wid Gawj and dem otha cuzzins?” The best examples of New Orleans speak come from Harry Connick and political consultant James Carvel.

- Music is everywhere. Sure, jazz is the dominant sound in tourist areas; it was invented here. And the type of jazz heard most often (Dixieland) is distinctive to the area. But other music forms are found here too. Blues, of course, swing (Harry Connick style), rock (Better Than Ezra started here). Many internationally known performers have embraced the New Orleans influence. Paul McCartney recorded most of an album here in the 1970s and the most recent Dave Matthews album is heavily influenced by the local sound and cultural spirit.

- Lagniappe (pronounced LAND-yap) is a frequently heard word here. It means ‘something extra,’ similar in concept to a baker’s dozen (13 instead of 12 – something extra).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Road Trip Meals

I am almost breaking my promise to myself to keep my eating under control this holiday season. It is a major challenge to not over-eat in New Orleans. So far, I've had two big meals with my two oldest friends, a big meal with my sister and her new guy, another meal is coming tonight with my sister and her best friend. Two feasts are planned for Christmas Day. I'm doing some solo sightseeing in the tourist areas tomorrow. Yum. Burp!

A side note, this is my best friend from high school. During my meal with him and his wife, we talked about their success with a well-known weight loss program. I should have taken notes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Lights

A slightly blurry picture of one of the displays at Celebration in the Oaks, an annual holiday light event at CIty Park in New Orleans. This used to be a drive-through, but they scaled it down to a walk-through after Hurricane Katrina.

This is the Cajun Night Before Christmas exhibit. Note that Santa's sleigh is powered by alligators.

Mixed Emotions

Visiting my hometown New Orleans is usually a challenging experience for me. I grew up here, left it half a lifetime ago, but still have family here. In fact nearly every family member who grew up here still lives here. People don’t leave this area.

I usually stay at my sister’s house, our family home. Her guest room was my room in my youth. The house is small and it is hard to believe that four of us lived here. She lives alone and this house is perfectly suited for one person.

Despite Hurricane Katrina’s devastation five years ago, most of the visual cues of my childhood remain. St. Dominic Church and school have been rehabbed and remain a cultural and spiritual center of the Lakeview neighborhood. The Harrison Avenue ‘neutral ground’(local term for median) still has parking spaces in it, something I’ve not seen anywhere else.

I took in the view while sipping Starbucks outdoors this morning. Yes, outdoors on December 22nd, not wearing a coat. Seventy-degree temperatures in winter are not the norm in New Orleans but it does happen sometimes. I also remember a couple of 15-degree Decembers when we had to run water all night to keep the pipes from freezing. And one of exactly three snowfalls I experienced as a child happened on New Year’s Eve one year.

So, the mixed emotions. Sitting at Starbucks is odd here because there are so many traditional, local coffee places in New Orleans. In fact, I still can’t believe there is a Starbucks in Lakeview. It opened a couple of years after Katrina and is a sign of the new trendiness of this part of town. But I chose it over other locations today because I wanted to sit and view the area for a few minutes and because I wanted to shop at a newly reopened local grocery across the street.

I’m happy to see the grocery and other businesses open because I clearly remember online pictures of those same structures sitting in 10 feet of water for weeks after the hurricane. But right across the side street is a boarded up restaurant that looks just like it did after Katrina.

A sad part of the view is the vacant lot at the corner of Harrison and Canal Blvd. The Robert E. Smith Library was built there decades ago and that is the very place where I first developed my love of reading. I checked out books relating to my childhood interests; specifically Charles Lindberg ‘s book about his historic first solo flight across the Atlantic and numerous books about helicopters. The library did not survive the floods and the building has been torn down, but it appears a new one is being built. That part makes me happy. See, mixed emotions.

Spending time in this house is a rollercoaster ride too. It was rehabbed after Katrina and although everything inside is sparkly and new, it retains the spirit and most of the floor plan of the house that Dad built. That part is good. The frustrating part is that my sister has filled every corner and surface with “stuff”! She lost at least 75% of what she owned in the floods and seems to have recreated it all. She is not a hoarder but this is an incredibly cluttered house. I try not to judge, but in my view there are way too many useless little things here. But I can’t really argue the point if it truly makes her happy. And my own home more than a thousand miles from here is also very cluttered. Again, mixed emotions. Maybe this is all a reflection of our parents’ tendency to keep things “just in case we need them someday.” Dear God, please help me break this habit in my own life. It sucks.

I’ll end this post on a positive note. Today and tomorrow I’m having long lunches with two friends from high school. I’ve been in touch with them by email off and on through the decades but I look forward to in person time with them. I’ll also have some great family time with two sets of cousins, a Christmas day feast with my sister’s friend and several total strangers (similar to the fun fest I had in Asheville a few days ago) and I’ll meet a guy my sister is dating. That last part is pretty cool because my sister doesn’t date much and she seems pretty happy about this guy.

Another positive thing … visiting New Orleans is always an emotional experience for me but for a long time it left me depressed. Something about my present life not matching expectations of my youth. And I’ll continue to have moments of depression, many relating to how much this city still struggles to recover from Katrina. But I am in a much better place emotionally now than I have been for a long time and I think I’ll leave here next week feeling good.

The self-discover journey I started writing about almost two years ago is leading me to great places and I am excited about the new year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deep South Randomness

My holiday road trip has now taken me through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  I grew up in these parts so nothing should surprise me, but sometimes it still does.

- Gasoline is 15 to 20 cents per gallon cheaper in the south than in Maryland, where I live.

- I stopped for gas in Tuscalousa.  Good thing I was not wearing my LSU cap.

- Clerks at some gas station marts in the south are as rude and clueless as they are further north, they just do it with fewer words and at a slower pace.

-  I hate Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  I swore I would not stop there, yet I needed gasoline, a restroom and lunch and that was where I was when I needed those things.

-  I have nothing against the deep south.  It will always be part of me.  I'm just not in sync with it any more ... except for New Orleans.  I'll always be in sync with that beautiful, goofy place.  More about that later.

Winter Is Here

Saw this interesting quote on a co-worker's Facebook page. An interesting thought for the first day of winter.


"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
-Albert Camus

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Road Trip Randomness 2

More random observations from the road:

- The further south I go the warmer it gets.

- One objective of my road trip is to break some patterns and I have.

- I turned off the radio/CD player in my car for the first hour driving out of Asheville. No music, no voices. Just the sound of tires on pavement and the sights of beautiful scenery in Pisgah National Forest and the edge of the Smokey Mountains.


- Good news/bad news about my road trip dietary habits: The good news: I have not purchased any food at a fast food restaurant and I did not over-eat snacks while driving. Bad news: I drank more alcohol than usual during the first three days of my trip and I just had a tasty-but-high-calorie Mexican meal. Yum. Buurrrp!

- DC is not the only city with asshole drivers. In fact it appears that every city with a population of 250,000 or more has them.

- The first twenty minutes in Alabama were awesome because there were few cars and no trucks.

- The further I get from home the more ME I become. Still working on being ME when I get back home, but I’m definitely getting better at it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Road Trip Randomness 1

I’m on the road for my first winter road trip since 2003. That trip ultimately involved unrealistic 10-hour driving days with hyper active dogs, packing a trailer with Dad’s old tools, some furniture and other things, and a final day of travel just hours ahead of a record-setting blizzard.

This trip is off to a great start and I’ve already had the longest single-day drive of eight hours. And no blizzard in sight.

- First stop was Asheville, NC. I love this town and this is the first time I’ve seen it in winter. Beautiful.

- Spent time eating, drinking and talking with one of my best friends.

- Had an early Christmas feast with said friend and several people in her family circle I’ve never met. I enjoy meeting new people, especially artsy and literary folks (Asheville has many residents like that).

- The setting for that feast was in the mountains northeast of Asheville. (I'll post better pictures than this later)



- Still ahead, New Orleans.

- That agenda includes a day with another of my best friends, time with other old friends and quality time with two sets of cousins.

- My sister and I will have Christmas brunch at the restaurant we used to go to on that day with our parents when they were alive.

My last Asheville-New Orleans road trip was my best vacation ever. This might equal it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Counting the Days

My first long Christmas road trip in decades is coming soon.  I did go the NC beaches for Christmas five years ago, but that's 'only' five hours away.  The first day of is year's trip is longer than that. 

I am so ready for this one.  Friends, family, very little access to email, minimal scheduling, hanging out with people I don't see much, meeting some new people, listening to plenty of music.

Changing the routine is good for the soul, the mind and the heart.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Randomness

A few assorted personal observations about the holiday season this year:

  • I’m only buying presents for 3 or 4 people this year. Something must be wrong with me.
  • I have gone to absolutely no holiday parties so far. I skipped my company’s ‘during the business day’ party this week because I have too much to do before leaving for my Christmas vacay.
  • I am actually going to a small party during my road trip, one in which I know exactly one person. I do like my co-workers but this party of strangers will probably be more interesting than my office party would have been.
  • Family socializing is on my agenda this holiday season for the first time in years. Looking forward to it.
  • Still waiting for the usual holiday depression to kick in. So far it hasn’t. I’m happy about that. Maybe this is the year for ‘depression lite,’ where I’ll shed a tear or two while watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” but will be smiling the rest of the time.
  • I do like several Christmas songs but so far I haven’t allowed myself to listen to more than two in a row. Maybe I’ll listen to one of the XM holiday channels on my road trip.
  • The road trip will be awesome, weather permitting. I haven’t taken a December road trip since the 1980s. One leg of my trip does involves mountains but the rest is through the flat Deep South, where I hope it will be warmer than it is here at home.

OK, that’s all for now. I’ll blog more from the road if not sooner.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gray

This morning is dark, cold, gray and misty. That is my usual mood at this time of year but this year is different. I have plenty to be dark and misty about but those things are not bothering me much. I decided at the beginning of the 'depression season' that I would keep those feeling to a minimum and that strategy is paying off.



But a dark, cold, gray and misty photograph still appeals to me and I decided to share. There are a few more on my two photo blogs (Middletown Daily and Photo Bernie). Enjoy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who Needs Money and Time When You Can Have Tires and Brakes?

I hate car repairs and auto service centers.

A little background: my dad repaired cars in his ‘spare time’ and although it was a hobby, he was good enough to be a pro. I learned from him and used to do much of my own routine maintenance and helped him do more involved repairs on my cars. That was all long before automotive computerization and my subscriptions to Consumer Reports. Now I have to trust auto centers and/or local mechanics. The two repair shops I do trust have inconvenient locations and aren’t open on weekends, my only ‘spare time’.

My car needs tires and a brake job before I begin my holiday road trip and today, a Saturday, my only free day before the trip, I am at the mercy of a well-known tire and auto repair store with a convenient location and Saturday hours.

Here is one part I hate: I did my research, chose my tire brand and model, hunted online for a dealer, found one and … they don’t have the tires I wanted and can’t get them till Friday, the price was higher than expected anyway and their specs don’t match those in the Consumer Reports report. So, as has happened virtually every time I have purchased tires during my entire adult life, I have made a decision based on a sales pitch.

Here is one part I like: My car was the exact make and model I wanted when I bought it and has been even more reliable than Consumer Reports indicated. In fact, this is the first time I’ve spent more than $100 on any one service visit. Not bad for the 65,000 miles I have put on the car.

OK, so it took me 20 minutes to walk to this Dunkin Donuts, write the first draft of this post and drink my coffee. What can I do for the rest of my 3-hour wait?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Imagine

As I stumble across various news stories flashing back to tonight 30 years ago, the night John Lennon was shot and killed by a psycho fan in front of his apartment in New York, I try to imagine what he would be doing if he had lived.

In December, 1980 he had new music out for the first time in five years, he was uncharacteristically upbeat in interviews and photographs that week and seemed to be looking optimistically to a happy future. The first single from his new album was “Just Like Starting Over,” certainly an indication of personal rebirth.

He had turned 40 just two months before that fateful night so he would be 70 years old now. Maybe he would still be recording and touring, like the two surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo. Perhaps he would have done more collaborations with other artists, as he did with Ringo, Elton John and David Bowie in the post-Beatles 1970s. His song themes might still have been about love and peace, especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in his adopted home town. Think about that for a second. He lived in Manhattan and the smoke from the World Trade Center collapse would have drifted from ‘ground zero’ to the Dakota Apartments at the edge of Central Park. That would be irresistible inspiration for a socially-conscious songwriter.

Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, still lives in that apartment. She is 77 years old now and their son Sean, who sadly also witnessed the murder, is now 35 years old. Ono continues to do charity and community work in John’s name, including funding the Strawberry Fields memorial near their apartment and releasing art, music and memorabilia as fund-raising for various causes including the well-known Autism Speaks organization.

At times during John Lennon’s life, I thought some of his ‘peace’ activities seemed phony, maybe just hyping a pretentious image. But stories and interviews I’ve seen more recently lead me to believe his intentions were sincere, especially around the time of his career rebirth.

Regardless of intention, there is something appealing and timeless about the lyrics of his song “Imagine.”

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imaging all the people
Living life in peace

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Edwards Update

I wrote the previous post this morning. At the time the latest story I heard said Elizabeth Edwards had a week or two to live. Sadly, she died today. The reason you might know who she is is that her then husband John Edwards was running for President in the Democratic party primaries. Her cancer was talked about then and they split up some time after he dropped out of the running, partly because news stories about an affair he had turned out to be true.

Elizabeth Edwards was more than just a politician's wife and I plan to read up on her life. I'll try to write about this again soon.

Powerful Belief

I did not actually hear these words spoken, but they have impact when read and I wanted to share. This is from someone who has just been told she has only weeks to live, someone you probably know from seeing her on the news over the past few years.

"The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength & patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope & in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful & precious. And for that I am grateful.”

-Elizabeth Edwards

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

Half of me is in the holiday spirit and half is not. I do not plan to decorate this year but I do plan to visit family and friends on my holiday road trip. I might even wear silly holiday clothes.

One of my radio stations is playing Christmas music 24/7. I listen to it for about one or two songs a day; that's enough for me for right now.

I had nothing else to say tonight, so I decided to post a Christmas song. I was tempted to go the scarcastic, humorous route (Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer) but chose this instead. As sappy as this is, it happens to be my favorite holiday song. There are a couple of other versions I like better, but this is probably the most famous.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another Cool Quote

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

– Sir Winston Churchill

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All Night

It’s 4:00 AM. Yes, 4 o’clock happens early in the morning too. In fact, in countries using the 24-hour clock system, 4:00 is only in the morning; the other 4 is called 16:00.

Three different times during my media career I was an all night radio DJ. The first time, my all night show played Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd songs for drunks and insomniacs in New Orleans. Years later I had an international network show that played Madonna and Bobby Brown songs in sixteen different time zones, but the biggest concentration of listeners was in central Europe, where my show ended at 4:00 AM. Many of those listeners were also drunks or insomniacs.

My next overnight DJ job involved playing Garth Brooks songs in Washington DC. Some of those up-all-nighters were drunks and insomniacs too, but many listeners were on the job. I learned a few things about the culture of overnight workers and developed a great respect for them. A small sampling of people working at 4 in the morning in the DC area: convenience store clerks, police officers, firefighters, shipping company employees, street cleaners, truck drivers, government workers, road construction crews and security guards.

Most humans, however, are not nocturnal. Our wake/sleep cycles usually conform to day and night. We usually function better in daylight and sleep better at night. My favorite time of day is sunrise. My least favorite? Four in the morning! People who work overnight shifts are at odds with biology and often have lingering sleep issues upon returning to day jobs.

So why am I up right now, at 4 o’clock on a Saturday morning? Partly because I’ve never really recovered from my late night job era, even though it ended 12 years ago. I fall asleep quickly but sometimes the littlest noises can wake me up. It seems that one of my dogs is now on a different time zone that the rest of the world. He sleeps all day but has to go out nearly every hour all night. Even though I’m not one who usually puts him out, the activity surrounding that wakes me up. I usually go right back to sleep but tonight, or should I say this morning, I’m wide awake.

So I checked my email, my Facebook, my blogs, my friends’ blogs, Facebook again (5 FB friends are up too, but two of them live in California, where it’s ONLY 1:00 AM). Then I started writing this post. I hoped this would make me sleepy, but now I’m even more awake than when I started, probably because of the lights in this room. My body thinks it’s sunrise. When the sun actually does rise, in a little over two hours, I’ll probably be sleepy again. Maybe I should just get drunk and play a Garth Brooks CD.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Totally Random 4.6

- There’s an old Billy Joel song that includes the line “bottle of red, bottle of white.” Not sure why I just thought of that.

- I had an eye exam today. That doctor was probably the most beautiful doctor I’ve ever met. I could tell that about her with and without my current glasses.

- I’ve taken a few days off from work. They are vacation days I have coming to me anyway, but if I didn’t have them, I probably would have just called in sick. Sometimes the best stress relief is to just change the daily routine for a few days.

- Nicolas Cage is an amazing and versatile actor. His movie “Gone In 60 Seconds” is on some channel right now. He can go from sensitive wimp to cold-blooded murderer in half a second and convince you he is both. I wonder what his non-actor personality is like.

- Within the next three weeks I am going to see my sister, two of my best friends and several of my favorite cousins, all either on or near Christmas. This has not been one of my happiest years, but it will end well and the highlight reel will be awesome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life and Love Randomness

A friend sent me a page full of quotes about various aspects of life and love, two of my favorite topics. Here are two quotes that stuck out above the rest.

- Giving someone all your love is never an assurance that they'll love you back! Don't expect love in return; just wait for it to grow in their heart but if it doesn't, be content it grew in yours. It takes only a minute to get a crush on someone, an hour to like someone, and a day to love someone, but it takes a lifetime to forget someone.

- The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.


I'd tell you the original source of the quotes if I knew it, but I don't.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sharing Blues

I love blues music! One of my favorite blues songs is "Stormy Monday" and until I saw this on a co-worker's Facebook page today, I did not know that Eric Clapton has done it too. Maybe every blues performer has played or recorded it.

Here is his version. He is an awesome blues man!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don’t Call Me Shirley

Actor Leslie Nielson died yesterday at age 84. During his 54-year acting career he played in more than 100 films and over 1500 television programs. He is best known for his deadpan comedy roles in movies like Airplane and Naked Gun, but he played mostly serious characters in the early years.

Airplane was a 1980 spoof on disaster movies but did you know he was the ship captain in The Poseidon Adventure, one of the more popular disaster movies of the 1970s?

There were many punch lines in Airplane. This is my favorite:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Totally Random 4.5

When do you think “ginormous’ will make it into the dictionary? Maybe it already has.

Every man should learn how to do this: Prepare slowly, taking time to handle all the parts just right. When everything is ready, then it’s time to turn on the heat for several minutes, blending all the ingredients. With a mix of skill and good luck everything finishes at the same time. Then relax for awhile and savor the results. Much satisfaction is to be had cooking omelets.

My three favorite TV shows from the 1980s and 90s are Hill Street Blues, Homicide: Life on the Streets and NYPD Blue. Where are they now? Even constant rerun channels like A&E and USA Network don’t have them.

My cable channels include England’s BBC News, which I thought I was watching one recent morning because the lead story was about the Royal Engagement. But it was a local TV station and that story was on before the one about the arrest of a local county Executive and his wife on corruption charges. I don’t get it.



Tiger Woods has lost most of his advertising deals because clients believe he no longer has the sincerity to make his endorsements believable. I bet the Trojan brand would be interested.

Two different people told me recently that I look 45 or 46. I’m OK with that. Really.

Jimi Hendrix would have been 68 this week. How’s that for some perspective?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Random Subway Riders

Who are those people you see on the subway? Do their clothes and mannerisms reveal their true identity or is it more fun to guess?

I scribbled my guesses during a twenty-minute ride between Rockville and Chevy Chase two months ago and just found the notes in a pile of papers on my home desk. Here are my observations of three riders that got my attention that evening.

Self-conscious Girl.
What I saw: Quiet, shy, mid-20s, dark hair, average height, basic blue suit with an off-the-rack fit. She spent most of her time on Metro looking around but mostly avoided eye contact with anyone. She read the ad banners inside the car and the LED display of station names.

What I think: She is an administrative assistant in one of those drab, government office buildings in Rockville, Maryland and lives in Bethesda with two or three roommates because the rent is too high there to go solo on her salary. She is shy around guys but has had a boyfriend or two, but none now. Wants more in life but doesn’t know how to find it, yet. Self-esteem issues and lack of confidence hold her back but she has made progress on both fronts in recent years.

Active Grandma
What I saw: mid-60s, trim, fit, looks and dresses younger (except for the reading glasses halfway down her nose), moves with confidence. She was deep in her book for the whole ride.

What I think: She IS a grandma, divorced, lives alone, had money saved up for active, independent living but works part time at a book store. Lives alone but has many friends, two or more regular boyfriends, one is the age she looks and he doesn’t know hers.

Guy in the Hoodie
What I saw: Tall, white, upper 20s, wearing a hoodie like a 17-year-old, sitting across three seats (his two seats and the sideways-facing seat in front of him), drinking from an open cup (not allowed on Metro), music in his headphones so loud I can hear it five rows away.

What I think: Narcissistic. Dressing like “I’m not dangerous but don’t mess with me” to get some attention and to mask his day job as a suit-and-tie middle manager in an investment firm. He is going to a hot night club in a trendy DC entertainment area to score an equally pretentious girl. He exudes confidence but it’s part of his costumed persona. He’d probably pee in his pants if a taller black man wearing the same hoodie walked up to him.

Being curious and observant is part of my media job so I often pay attention to people around me. I also just happen to enjoy people-watching. I plan to do plenty of that during my upcoming road trip.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dancing With Alaska

I do not like most reality TV shows because they generally are not very real. I also do not like most competition-based TV shows like “Survivor” and “Biggest Loser” because so many of them lace the competition with fake drama.

But this post is not exactly about TV shows.

I do not like Sarah Palin. She is dumb and annoying and I believe many of her public statements are as much about getting attention as they are about trying to make our country better.

But this post is not exactly about her either.

The 2-hour “Dancing with the Stars” finale was on TV Tuesday night and much to my surprise I watched the entire show. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, came in 3rd. That’s what this post is about.

More precisely, these observations are about what appears to be a real coming-of-age experience of a young girl who happens to be famous. Most “stars’ during the 11 seasons of that show are or were famous in some way before competing. Some are actors and singers who are past their prime, such as Michael Bolton and Marie Osmond. Others are famous in areas other than entertainment, like former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Bristol Palin is famous because she was the pregnant, unmarried daughter of an ultra-conservative former Alaska Governor/former Vice Presidential candidate. Her mother’s publicity machine must have something to do with Bristol even being on the show. I am convinced that Mom’s publicity team is behind the high scores in the viewer voting part of this DWTS season because the judge’s scores would likely have led to her elimination in the early episodes.

Regardless of the reasons, viewer scoring kept her in long enough for her talent to develop. She began as a shy, clumsy teen with self-confidence issues and finished as a fairly confident 20-year-old who now really can dance. That transformation is amazing and it seems genuine and real, unlike most back-stories.

My own conspiracy theory says Mom persuaded her to enter and she reluctantly agreed. The flashbacks from the first behind-the-scenes rehearsals and dance lessons revealed her ‘why am I even here?’ attitude, in my opinion. Other flashbacks also made it look like she was thinking “well I’m here and I’m just going to be myself and I don’t care if Mom likes it or not.” But then she started to learn the dance moves, gained confidence and seemed to realize that maybe she’d get to the finals because of talent as much as from Mom’s behind-the-scenes voter manipulation. To counterbalance this a little, she also said something about being in the competition to prove a point to people who hate her mother. Whatever.

It was clear that Jennifer Grey was a better dancer and that opinion was not influenced by her role in “Dirty Dancing.” A Palin win would have convinced me that Mom was behind it. But 3rd place represented a fairly true balance of all the factors.

And I’d have to give Crystal top score on the reality scale. Her drama seemed real. Grey’s was real in the sense that she was overcoming some physical pain but I thought the crying was largely an acting ploy. Kyle Massey was just fun all the way around. He was my favorite of the three.

Further evidence of Bristol’s “realness” came from her answer to a George Stephanoplis question Wednesday on Good Morning America. He asked each of the three what music video they would want to be a background dancer in. She said, somewhat sheepishly but without a bit of hesitation or irony, “I like country music, so I guess Gretchen Wilson’s Red Neck Woman.”

Kudos to Bristol for bringing some much-needed reality to “reality TV.” I wonder where she learned honestly and sincerity. Certainly not from her mother.

===========================
Here is a video clip of the 3 finalists on Good Morning America the next morning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beauty and the Bleak

A cold, rainy Thanksgiving morning can be depressing. But it can also be beautiful in it's own unique way. I picked up my camera a little while ago and shot some photos around my house. Here is one of them, a wind chime making the only sound I heard outside:



CLICK HERE to see the rest of this series of photos.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Randomness

Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday … all terms representing the increased commercialism of holidays that began as celebrations rooted in survival and religion. Here are a few random thoughts on the season:

When did Thanksgiving begin? According to the History Channel web site: "In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies."

Turkey and pumpkin pie are two traditional menu items in contemporary Thanksgiving feasts but the ‘first Thanksgiving’ feast most likely consisted of deer, seafood and corn and probably no desert.

Thanksgiving was celebrated many times and in many ways after that but did not become an official American holiday till 1863, in the middle of the Civil War. President Abe Lincoln’s proclamation asked “all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”

On one hand we celebrate survival and community. On the other, we celebrate a culture that invaded a huge section of sparsely-populated land, ran off the existing residents as if they weren’t there and claimed the whole place as “new” and available for the taking. How would we feel if some country did that today? Just sayin’. We did turn out to be a great country, largely dedicated to human rights; but the price was pretty damn high, in my opinion.

People who experience holiday depression usually begin their suffering right before Thanksgiving Day. If they were lucky enough to grow up in a stable family with established holiday rituals and are now adults with instability in their lives, the mismatch between expectations and reality is sad and frustrating. It is natural to try and recreate their childhood celebrations. Sometimes it takes decades to finally find a way to accept the disconnect and to create new traditions.

The last time I went shopping the day after Thanksgiving was more than 10 years ago. Back then, 7:00 am was considered an early time to open. Now there are ads for 5 am, 4 am, even 3 am openings. But I just saw an ad for the one that now gets my WTF Award … Toys R Us is opening at 10:30 the night before! Take THAT Kohl’s, Macy’s and Penney’s!

This Thanksgiving will be especially awkward for me and my close friends know why. But I am determined to make the most of it and I plan to spend more time smiling than crying. My three incredibly awesome Border Collies will help in that effort.

I am thankful for good health, a great job and wonderful friends. All of my friends are great, but the three that stand out have helped me in ways I have trouble finding the words for. In this blog I can only call them Louisiana, North Carolina and Wisconsin, but they know who they are and they know I love them.

OK, enough of the sentimental stuff. If you are travelling for Thanksgiving and are planning to fly, CLICK HERE for some timely fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fading History

I almost understand how my parents felt about the blank stares they got when talking about significant historical events that happened in their lifetimes. Their reference points were often centered on events relating to World War II … the Pearl Harbor bombing, Hiroshima and President Franklin Roosevelt’s death. They would talk about those things sometimes and I would listen but it meant nothing to me. Even after studying about those events, I only knew them as something from history.

Every American alive on September 11, 2001 will remember and talk about the terrorist attacks of that day and the weeks of fear that followed. Those in their 20s that day will be telling their children and grandchildren forty or fifty years from now about how citizens felt but those grandchildren will likely react with respectful blank stares.

So some readers of this post will look at their monitors with blank stares when I remind them/you that today, November 22nd, is a significant day in American history. Those of us who were alive that day might remember every detail … where they were when they heard the news (I was in elementary school), how their parents reacted (mine were shocked and sad), how TV and radio covered the developing story (wall-to-wall coverage replaced normal programming on every channel and rumors were flying).

That specific November 22nd resulted in collective American fear and shock similar to 9/11 but only one person had died. The thought that our country was under some kind of attack is common to both dates, but the 9/11 attack was obviously an orchestrated, multi-person plot; to this day, there is still uncertainty as to whether the November 22nd event was the act of a group or one man.

I have made peace with the reality that November 22, 1963 is just a date in a history book or web site for most people I know, but even though I was very young then, I still remember in great detail the day U. S. President John Kennedy was assassinated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yesss!!!

Wow, the Redskins won, the Saints won and Jimmie Johnson won his unprecidented 5th Sprint Cup Championship! And all 3 of the college teams I follow won this weekend. Let the good times roll! And let some positive energy spread into the week.

Random Sports Questions

As I am getting ready to go to my office this morning to do some work so I can have a few days off at Thanksgiving, I was thinking about some sports things:

Will Jimmie Johnson get enough points in the final NASCAR race of the season this afternoon to break his own record and win the Sprint Cup for the 5th year in a row? He's in 2nd place going into the race, but only 15 points behind. The top three are nearly tied. Anything can happen.

Will the Redskins lose another one? They had such promise at the beginning of the season. I guess it's another rebuilding year ... decade.

Will the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints win today? More importantly, will their game be on a TV channel on Comcast Cable in Frederick MD so I can watch it? Many Saints games were on Fox this season, but my local Fox station ran Simpsons episodes instead. Why?

LSU and Arkansas both won their games yesterday but both were hard-fought victories. Exciting games too! They face each other next Saturday. Of course I want LSU to win, not just because my college was affiliated with them and not just because half my Louisiana friends and family went there and continue to follow the games as if they were still students there. I want to win my annual bet with a friend who grew up in Arkansas.

And last but not least, will I ever get back to the gym? It's been a week. My fully loaded gym bag is looking way to comfortable in the trunk of my car.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Herding Cats

I regularly use the expression “it’s like herding cats.” When I say that, I’m usually referring to the difficulty of getting the highly creative type-A personalities on my work team to form a consensus about an issue. “Getting them to agree is like trying to herd cats.”

One of my team mates told me the other day that she had never heard that metaphor before. As she searched for information about it, she found this video. Enjoy.



And here is a picture of my cats during one of our weekly meetings.



We did actually agree on a bunch of things this week. These cats are awesome. And this picture makes us all look like the "before" examples in a diet product commercial.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Awesome Advice

I saw a few minutes of an interview with Bruce Springsteen this morning. Bruce recently turned 61 and completely defies the stereotype of someone that age. He is a great role model for aging.

My favorite quote from the interview clip: instead of running from the years, you gather them in.

That is awesome advice. I hope I feel that way when I’m that age. Right now, I’m still running.

Monday, November 15, 2010

All Is Fair In Love and War

Have you ever wondered why love and war are often connected?

That thought crossed my mind recently as I listened to Sade’s latest song “Soldier of Love.” The song begins with a military style snare drum cadence and some of the lyric content includes military imagery.

Another song I heard recently: Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.” In what way is love a military skirmish? I don’t get it.

Then there’s the old phrase about the fine line between love and hate. I think there is a Grand Canyon-sized line between love and hate. How are those two things connected in any other than they both happen to be emotions?

Love – caring, fondness, strong affection, warm attachment, maximum friendship, wanting the best for someone

Hate – intense hostility, maximum dislike, loathing, wanting the worst for someone.

How can you call the line between those extremes “fine”?

And then there’s the old standby “all’s fair in love and war.” That implies that trickery and deceit are allowable strategies to gain someone’s strong affection and to win a war. Maybe to the latter, not to the former.

Love is a precious thing we should all seek to find. War is something to be avoided except as a last resort. Love and war should never be connected.

Weight

I'm making more progress on the health front. Now down to my lowest weight in a year. One more pound and I'll be down to my lowest in a decade or more. Only five more to hit the goal.

Just wanted to share that and celebrate it ... because the food holidays begin next week. This year I am determined to survive them without a weight gain. Wish me luck (I'll need it).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Feeling Lucky This Weekend

This weekend has been good for my favorite sports teams, so far. Here is the run down:

Maryland beat Virginia in Charlottesville 42-23. I am loyal to this team because I’m an online student at Maryland, unless they’re suspended me because I haven’t signed up for a class in two years.

LSU shut out ULM (Univ. of Louisiana-Monroe) 51-0. And it was LSU’s homecoming game in Baton Rouge. I have cousins and friends there who are probably still cheering this morning.

UA (Arkansas) demolished UTEP (Univ. Texas-El Paso) 58-21 in Fayetteville. I follow Maryland, LSU and Arkansas for various reasons and always want them to win … except on Nov. 28th, when Arkansas will lose to LSU. I think a bet is in the making on that one. I won the bet last year but still haven’t received the payoff. Hmmm.


One of eight touchdowns in the Arkansas game yesterday


Saints are off this week.

Redskins play the Eagles tomorrow night.

NASCAR – The race in Phoenix today is the 2nd-to-last race of the season. Jimmie Johnson, my favorite driver, holds the record of 4 consecutive championship wins. Can he break his own record this year? I say yes, although he is in 2nd place right now. He’s been in this position before. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Random Colorfulness

Feeling creative today! I engaged in a photographic self-assignment: random color statements. Dug through some of my recent photos that were already on my computer and did a little photoshop treatment on them. Here is one; click on the link below for the others.



CLICK HERE to see the others.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Today was pretty emotional for me. Some of it was good, some bittersweet.

The good part was a combination of things, including a great feeling about some audio work I did that helped make my radio station sound great all day. It’s a country music station, so interest is always high the day after the Country Music Association Awards show and Veterans Day seems to be extra special because this music genre has so many soldier-appropriate songs. I produced the ‘warm and fuzzy’ audio pieces that played around the patriotic songs as well as the CMA winner songs. In addition, I made the audio parts for our part of a company-wide all day fundraiser for Fisher House, an organization that provides housing near medical facilities for the families of injured military personnel. That all adds up to genuine positive emotion through the day.

The bittersweet part is the memory of my Dad, who died on this date nine years ago. We had an up-and-down father-son relationship but there was never any doubt about the love, even though he could rarely find the words. Eventually we found mutual respect too and I’m not sure I ever found the words to express that while he was alive.

It is easy to remember his death day because of the holiday but there is an odd irony to that. He and I are both veterans. He served two years in the Navy. He didn’t do anything outstanding during his enlistment but he did put his life on the line for our country a few times, partly just from being in Asia right after World War II. The war was over but there were lingering factions of people who didn’t want to accept that and American soldiers were always potential targets. His other dangerous situation resulted from being on a ship in a typhoon. Many naval ships went down during that same storm but his made it through. He was one of the radar techs so his job was fairly important.

My service was totally unremarkable. I don’t share details with many people and I won’t be saying much here. But I did serve in the Army and I have plenty of respect for our military. The most serious danger I encountered was from trying to stay awake on the long drive back from my hometown New Orleans to the base in Texas after the occasional 3-day pass.

I think about Dad every day, whether I want to or not. There is evidence of him all over my house, from the furniture hand-me-downs to the tools I inherited to the vision in my mirror every morning.

So every Veterans Day I dive into the emotion pool. Some years I nearly drown. This year, fortunately, I shed the occasional tear, crack the occasional smile, savor the good parts and accept the bittersweet parts. It was an emotional day but a good day.

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Bonus … here is one the best country songs that fits today.

Blogger Plugs

Just sharing links to a few blog I visit regularly. Maybe you would enjoy them too.

Still Learning About Me – fun, interesting, a Gen-Xer who is approaching one of those zero-year birthdays. A blogger who is also an awesome in-person friend.

When the Muse Strikes – a novelist who blogs sometimes, most recently about bikers and Dave Matthews. Read her blog. Read her two books!

And so I write … - interesting observations about surviving some complicated life challenges

An Unconventional Life – the title says it all. One of a handful of great long-time in-person friends.

Sarasota Daily Photo – great photography from Florida.

The F-Stops Here – international photography. She has lived in Washington DC, Washington state and now France. Great photography from all over.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sharing A Secret

OK, after searching high and low to find the secret to staying young, I can honestly say that I finally found it. And I am sharing it with you in this post. Actually, my sister found the secrets and she emailed them to me. It is sort of the 11-step plan to staying young. Read these over and over till they become part of who you are.

1. Try everything twice.
On one woman's tombstone she said she wanted this epitaph:
"Tried everything twice. Loved it both times!"

2. Keep only cheerful friends.
The grouches pull you down.
(Keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches!)

3. Keep learning:
Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever...
Never let the brain get idle. 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.'
And the devil's name is Alzheimer's!

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud.
Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with HIM/HER.

6. The tears happen:
Endure, grieve, and move on.
The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. LIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love:
Whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health:
If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips.
Take a trip to the mall, the next county, or a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

11. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second chance

Monday, November 8, 2010

Deep

Have you ever been deeply in love with someone? That kind of love that involves a total connection, finish each others’ sentences, read each other’s minds, reach for the thing the other person asks for before they ask?

When your connection is that strong, do you ever hide anything? If you are involved with someone so much that you share everything, do you really share everything? And should you?

Are there thoughts that should remain entirely yours? Little private pictures in your brain that are uniquely yours. You are not necessarily hiding anything from your significant other or anyone else, you’re just keeping some things to yourself. Those thoughts belong to you and no one else.

Is there anything wrong with that strategy? If you are that connected, is anything off limits? Does it matter if some things are off limits?

I have an endless curiosity about people. I often want to know their deepest thoughts, secrets, parts of their past. Some of my friends share amazing private things with me; others hold back. I can be trusted but, honestly, some things are really none of my business. The person I’ve shared the last sixteen years with has locked up whole segments of thought and feeling and has never shared the key. Other people I’m close with, for years or decades, have opened up to me in much greater detail but something is always held back. Human nature, I guess.

I’m an open book … up to a point. I want to know things about people that are quite inappropriate and I will often share the same about me; but there is a line. I don’t know how to define it in myself any more than I know how others decide where there line is and who is allowed to cross it. I have a great desire to be understood yet I hate having to explain myself.

The private thoughts I’m referring to are not topics like murder, robbery or cheating on an exam. I’m mostly talking about innocent things like embarrassing moments or complicated nerdy thought processes resulting in simple decisions or sexy daydreams or refusing to admit you didn’t know something that everyone but you seems to know.

Are there hidden thoughts, feelings or emotions relating to what you’d accept versus what you really want in a given situation? Do you find yourself outwardly professing a certain belief but inwardly knowing you could make huge exceptions under certain circumstances?

I don’t have much else to say about this. Just digging deep into a jar of food for thought and sharing a little with you tonight.

Elevators

Do you ever think about elevators? I didn’t think so. Next time you are on one, pay attention to the details and oddities associated with elevators. Elevators provide more than just effortless transportation to the upper floors of a building.

Here are some random observations and questions about elevators:

Which way do you face? Some (it seems most) people enter, push the button for their floor, turn and face the door and wait till they reach their destination. Others move to one side of the other with their back to the corresponding wall, which means they are standing with the door to their right or left rather than facing it.

Which way do you turn to find the row of buttons? In the building where I work there are buttons on both sides, but it seems that almost everyone turns left to find the buttons as they enter.

What do you look at? Do you make eye contact with other people riding with you? Do you avoid eye contact? Do you look at the display indicating each floor, maybe staring at it for the whole ride up? Do you read, check your cell phone, stare at your shoes?

Do you speak to anyone in the elevator? You probably do if it’s someone you know, but what, if anything, do you say to strangers? “Great weather.” “If you push 5 we’ll be stopping at every floor.” “How ‘bout them Redskins?” “That food smells great.” “Have a nice day.”

Do you know what an ‘elevator operator’ is? Elevators were not always automatic. There was a person in each elevator who was paid to operate the complex controls: Up, Stop, Down, Open, Close. You had to tell him what floor you wanted and (gasp!) he had to remember which floors to stop on.

Do you remember any specific elevators? I do. Three, in fact: the observation deck elevator in the Sears Tower in Chicago, which goes straight to the 103rd floor, the elevator in Chicago’s Hancock Building that goes non-stop to the bar on the 95th floor and the elevators in the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, which ride along vertical tracks on the exterior of the building.

My favorite perspective on elevators was inspired by the movie “Being There.” Peter Sellers plays Chance the gardener, who has never been out of the house where he grew up. He is now in his 60s and his entire knowledge of the outside world has come from watching television. His employer dies and the movie takes you through his various discoveries as he leaves the house and sees the real world in person for the first time. One of my favorite scenes is his first time in an elevator. From that perspective, an elevator is a small room. He even asks “what is this room?”

Think about it … you walk into it from one room, maybe a lobby, and the door closes behind you. If it is in an old elevator you might even sit on a bench. Nothing happens in that room except maybe a conversation with someone else who is in the elevator with you. A minute later the door opens again and you walk out but now you are a different room than the one where you started. How did that happen?



Ding! Six. My floor. Great chatting with you. Have a nice day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Celebrate the Eclectic

If you are a regular reader or if you know me in real life, you know I have eclectic taste in music. My iPod on shuffle mode could yield this mix: Led Zepellin, Frank Sinatra, Kenny Chesney, Rachmaninof, Coldplay, Tommy Castro, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, the Beach Boys and Billie Holiday. It would all make sense to me. The playlist I’m listening to as I write this includes Santana, DMB, U2, Shinedown, The Cranberries and Elton John. It is not on shuffle; I made this one.

Most Boomers I know are stuck on one kind of music, usually songs they liked in high school. The funny thing is this: in the middle of the Boomer time frame, radio stations played a variety of songs almost as eclectic as my own taste. My earliest radio listening memories included a station that played the Rolling Stones back to back with Barbara Streisand.

I have always had the highest regard for people who are open to a wide variety of ideas. Eclectic is good and something that should be celebrated, in my opinion.

Music is not the only indicator of eclectic taste and openness of mind. Look around your home or work space. What is on your shelves or walls? Does your furniture match? If not, is it intentional mismatch?

My home office desk, where I’m sitting right now, is pure Office Depot, circa 1998. One lamp is a relic from the early 1960s, the other is 1930s style arts & crafts purchased last year at Target. The wall art: two poster prints purchased at the New Orleans Jazzfest a few years ago from the artists who created them.

Most of the other furniture is Scan or Ikea but there is an early 50s secretary in the corner (pictured at right). It belonged to my parents at one time. The art on the wall next to it are two of my mother’s paintings done in the 1970s and that 1920s looking portrait really is a 1920s photo of my great-grandfather. It is likely that the picture was taken in Sicily and the frame is of the same vintage as the photo.

A professional designer would likely say that none of it goes together but it all makes sense to me.

My friends are eclectic too. My closest friends range in age from 39 to 59; most but not all are female, most but not all are straight, most but not all are married. Hair color: brown, red, blond, black, gray. Geography: Maryland, Virginia, DC, Louisiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Hawaii, UK. Employment: education, media, mental health care, animal care, real estate, motherhood, retirement.

As I write about my eclectic friends and think about the variety of interests they each have, I realize one thing they all have in common: a love of music. Some of them have music tastes as eclectic as mine.

Well, that’s all for this post. No grand conclusion, other than that I encourage you to always be open to new ideas in all parts of your life. Celebrate the eclectic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Smells Like

Here is another video mash-up of two unlikely songs. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Toby's New Song

I don't have anything else to say tonight, so here is some music. This is a special live performance of Toby Keith's latest song. I like this version but check out the audio CD version some time for an awesome beginning.

And the winner is …

The election results are in (mostly) and the winner is … to be determined.

The Republicans won back the House, Democrats still control the Senate and the American people will get either real compromise and change or worse gridlock than ever. It is much too early to tell. I am hopeful yet skeptical.

In my opinion, the election this week was NOT a mandate for the Republican viewpoint; it was a mandate for more change. That can be a good thing. One part of the traditional Republican stand that I agree with is the need for smaller government. Yes, registered Democrats like me can hold that view. Get over it. In fact that is one thing that backs up my belief that we do not live as Democrats or Republicans; we live as individuals with concerns about things that affect us on a personal level on a daily basis, like traffic jams and rude people at the grocery store.

One take away I have from all the television news election results babble this morning is that independents held the most influence at the polls yesterday. Those were the voters who looked at all sides and voted on issues and feelings more than party affiliation.

A Republican friend of mine who generally does not agree with me on party issues had one of the best pre-election attitudes: vote out all the incumbents! While I do not think that is necessarily practical and I would not vote against an incumbent just because they are already holding that office, I do feel that significant new blood in Congress is what we need right now.

Registering as an Independent is looking more attractive than ever and I think maybe it is time to think about term limits in Congress.

Here are my predictions for the next 2 ½ years:

Obama will be a one-term President. The second half of his term will be better than the first, but it’ll still be his only term. He’ll be blamed for things that aren’t his fault. If it plays out this way, he will consider resisting the urge to run for a second term but unless a dynamic potential Democratic candidate emerges in the next eight or nine months, party leaders will still look at him as the best choice and he may ultimately go along with that.

The Tea Party will eventually be exposed for what it is: the radical right. Sensible Republicans will take control of their party and nominate someone who can actually win. It will not be Palin, although she will be a powerful player. If I am wrong and it is her, and she becomes President,
I’ll consider moving to Italy for four years. Who is coming with me?

Congress will pretend to be getting along, but it’ll be the same gridlock crap as always. The House will try to repeal the entire health care bill, good parts and bad parts, the Senate will block it and the resulting compromise will be just as unclear as the current legislation. Meanwhile the economy will get better, which would happen anyway because that’s how cycles work; and of course the Republicans will try to take credit for the recovery. I’ll be the only person on the block who remembers that the crap economy began during Bush’s Presidency and that the deficit was almost non-existent at the end of Clinton’s second term.

The new Republican majority leader will be just as arrogant as Nancy Pelosi was on the Dem side but he’ll get away with it because arrogant Republicans are usually more fun than arrogant Democrats.

Fox News and MSNBC will continue to present obviously biased news coverage, far right and far left respectively, and I will finally stop watching either, mostly because I get a sore throat from yelling at my TV. My stress level is always lower after watching reruns of NCIS and Criminal Minds.

OK, enough of this for now. God bless America – we need it. Ciao!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today’s PoliSci Lesson

So here is something I didn’t remember from Political Science class, or from the general knowledge we should all have as citizens and voters: House of Representative terms are two years and EVERY member of Congress is up for election every two years. Did you know that?

If it seems like your Congressperson has been around forever it might be because they keep winning re-election. There is no limit to how many terms they may serve.

Senate terms are six years long and one-third of the Senate is up for election every two years.

Presidential elections are every four years … I assume you do know that. The two-year election cycle for Congress happens in the middle of each Presidential four-year term; that is why it’s called the ‘mid-term’ election. Doh!

I should know this stuff. You should too. Just sayin’.

Class dismissed.

Quotus Randomus

And when you've found another soul, who sees into your own--take good care of each other.
-Jackson Browne

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Ghandi

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life
- Winston Churchill

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
- Dr. Seuss

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
- Steve Jobs

Never give up on a dream just because of the length of time it takes to accomplish it. The time will pass.
- Not Sure

Who you were might explain some things but it’s who you are now that counts.
- I Wrote This One

Monday, November 1, 2010

Flip A Coin?

Tomorrow is Election Day. The right to vote for our leaders is a fundamental and precious right we have as Americans. It is the mid-term election, a time when many seats in Congress are up for grabs and in my state more singularly significant offices like state governor are also in the voting mix.

The challenge comes when you don’t like any of the choices or when you’re not even sure what you are voting on or why.

Among my choices tomorrow are Register of Wills and Judge of the Orphan’s Court. For one thing, I don’t understand why Register of Wills is an elected position and not an appointed position, or more realistically, a government job. And there is only one candidate running for that office, unless I want to write one in. Hmm, maybe I could be the Register of Wills. And that Orphan’s Court thing? I just don’t know anything about that, but I can vote for up to three of the six candidates. Or, you guessed it, I can write some in.

The three most important offices on my ballot tomorrow, in my opinion, are Maryland State Governor, U.S. Senator for Maryland and U.S. Congressional Representative for my district. That Senate choice is easy for me: Barbara Mikulski! She is smart, sassy, outspoken, loved by many of her constituents and appears to be immune to special interests. Representative? I’ll vote for the Democrat but mostly because I don’t like the Republican. But no matter who I vote for, that Repub will win; he usually wins by 70% or more. He will keep winning till he decides to stop running.

I do not like either candidate for Maryland Governor. The odd thing about this race is that the current Governor is running against the previous Governor. Unlike most candidates, both of these guys have a four year record of what they each actually did rather than what they say they would do. Neither was bad for the state, but I don’t think either was all that good for it either. And most of the ads for both blame the other for things that the Governor doesn’t have all that much control over anyway.

Even when the choices aren’t good or the delineation between candidates is unclear, the fact that we have a choice is the most important part and I will exercise that right tomorrow. Then I will probably high-five someone because I’ll be so happy knowing that the political ads will finally be off my radio and television.

I'm Bernie and I approved this message.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Example

Saturday began with a quiet, peaceful fall morning, the perfect contrast to a fairly stressful week. I woke up early to take sunrise pictures in a nearby town. The temperature was a crisp 42 degrees.

There were very few people in Middletown Park. The loudest sound was the honking of geese on Kingsbury Pond. The sunrise was brilliant, with just enough golden clouds to compliment the yellow, orange and red of the leaves on the trees surrounding the water.

Fall has a different feel than the other seasons. The air flows with anticipation on its breath. Sounds echo a bit as the trees lose their sound-absorbing leaves. Shadows are long and linear.

Nature sheds its skin during fall as the beginning of a cycle of renewal and it can be a good time for humans to follow the example.

Sanity

I had planned to attend the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear in Washington DC yesterday but chose to do some other personal things instead. However, I did watch some of it on C-SPAN and I wish I had gone.

Jon Stewart, the organizer and star of the show, is a comedian by profession and this rally was partly a spoof on rallies. But taken as a whole, this event came much closer than most to representing the majority of Americans and their beliefs.

Most of us live in the middle, we don’t always agree but we do compromise and our whole government and way of life is based on diverse people getting along.

I’m not going to attempt to describe the whole thing here. Just let me share some highlights:

- No accurate crowd estimate is available, but those who speculate on such things seem to think the crowd size of this rally was at least as large the Beck rally a few months back. One survey says it was twice as big.

- A wide range of famous people appeared on stage during the rally, including Sheryl Crow, The O’Jays, Sam Waterston, Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Tony Bennett.

- It seemed to some that this was a left leaning rally but I think it was more about balance and reality. One example to back that up: Stewart singled out left-wing media for equating Tea Party supporters with racists and right-wing media for equating Muslims and terrorists. Neither of those connections is true. You know that, right?

- The rally was cloaked in comedy and music but it ended in a mostly serious 12-minute summary from Jon Stewart. It is one of the best speeches I’ve heard in years. I urge you to watch the whole thing (below), but if you’re pressed for time, skip ahead to the last 4 minutes. It is worth the effort.



And to end this post on a light note, here are some of the messages seen on hand-made signs at the rally:

- Does this sign make my butt look big?
- Sanity Is A Pre-Existing Condition
- I can see America From My Back Yard
- Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War
- I Came Here Illegally. I Went 5 mph Over the Speed Limit On I-95
- Free Hugs from a Militant Atheist with a Gay Agenda.
- He's Black, Get Over It
- This Sign Contains Correct Grammar and Spelling
- Speak Softly And Carry a Bibliography of Statistics
- Minorities: They are Not So Scary When You Get to Know A Few
- We The People, Not We the Corporations
- I love America. Even Though We Get It Wrong Sometimes, It's Still a Nice Place To Raise a Family.

Last Day of October Randomness

- This year October had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. That won’t happen again for more than 800 years. Feeling pretty lucky, I played the lottery this week. And I matched (drum roll please): no numbers.

- I got up at the crack of dawn yesterday to take this picture. This is the last week this year that the crack of dawn is after 7:30 am.



- Some business surveys indicate that Halloween is the second most commercial celebration of the year, right behind Christmas.

- I’m used to getting Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, even Thanksgiving Day cards. This year I got a Halloween card. How cool is that?!

- Fall is my favorite season. Fall can also be a depressing season, but I am determined to keep most of my usual fall depression at bay. When it rears its ugly head, it’ll only be for minutes, not weeks. I’ll allow it to visit me for a couple of select days this year, but that’s all.

- Can you believe it’s already the last day of October?? Where did the year go?

- Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Ain't 'fraid of No Ghosts

Happy Halloween from BOOmer Randomness!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Good Run

I’ve had a pretty good run of creativity during the past couple of weeks. Lots of posts on this site, two new posts on the poetry blog, daily photos in my nearby town blog and some seasonal shots on my photo blog.

I am lucky to have a job that involves creativity, mostly with audio, but challenging myself in other creative outlets is good therapy for me.

I appreciate that you visit my various blogs, whether I know you or not. I enjoy sharing.