Saturday, January 30, 2010

Birthday Randomness

- How old am I? One day older than I was yesterday.

- I’m feeling loved today, in part because of all the birthday greetings from Facebook friends. Wow, they remembered. Of course they remembered, there’s a reminder on every page; but they took a moment to send a note and that makes me happy.

- A couple of friends sent me email, ecards and a couple sent real cards too. Even better!

- I recently ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. He said, “you look younger every time I see you.”

- Some people fear aging because of potential physical, mental and emotional losses. I’m not all that worried about those things. One of my biggest fears is not having a clear plan for the next phase of my life. I’ve hit so many of my earlier goals that I didn’t stop to make new ones for later.

- Some co-workers gave me a cake yesterday … four candles (one for each decade, right?) … the kind of candles that keep relighting themselves.

- My favorite birthday present ever was the coffee cup pictured with this post. My mother gave it to me when I turned 40.

- Many people my age long for how things used to be. They grow bitter and become reluctant to change. I long for how things could be. I’m ready for big sweeping changes in my life. I continue to be a crazy optimist; a realistic one too. I can make dreams come true for me and for friends.
My view on this matter is a bit myopic and idealistic but I can back up my claims.

- I just got a birthday lick from one of my Border Collies.

- It is snowing outside my window right now. I’m going to stop writing and go play in it. You’re never too old to play in the snow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

They Made It!

The New Orleans Saints DID make it into the Super Bowl. We'll soon see if everything in my last post actually happens!!

Laissez les bon temps roulez!!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

8 Things That Will Happen If The Saints Make It To The Super Bowl

My sister sent this to me. It’s a lot funnier if you’re from New Orleans but you might laugh anyway, especially at #1, 3 and 7.

If the Saints are in the Super Bowl, New Orleans is likely to explode into a chaotic revelry unlike anything the city has ever seen before. Add in the fact that they’ll be in the midst of Mardi Gras during the game and it’s almost scary to think what could go down here on February 7, 2010 if the Saints are in Miami.

Here are some things we might see:

1. Alcohol shortages: All groceries, convenience stores and drug stores within a 100 mile radius of New Orleans will completely sell out of beer, wine and liquor. If the Saints make the Super Bowl, you should stock up at least a week in advance otherwise you’ll be stuck with soda and water.

2. Extreme noise: The sounds of 1.13 million cheering fans in metro New Orleans will reach more than 500 decibels. Hundreds of thousands of stomping feet will create shockwaves and tremors as far away as Houston and Atlanta.

3. Regional smoke screen and CO2 emissions: Smoke from barbecue pits, fireworks and bonfires will create a 250-mile long cloud in the sky that will be seen from satellites and on Google Earth. Tens of thousands of residents will boil seafood in their backyards and CO2 emissions from the burning propane tanks will create a hole in the ozone above New Orleans.

4. Total gridlock: The crowds of people trying to get to the French Quarter will back up traffic all the way to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. You’ll likely have to park there and walk the rest of the way. The line to get into Pat O’Brien’s will end somewhere in the suburbs and the spillover from Bourbon Street will run all the way to U.N.O.

5. The city will use parking tickets to fund Mayor Nagin’s world travels: The City of New Orleans Parking Enforcement will mark the day on the calendar and send out busloads of meter maids to issue thousands of tickets to those having a good time downtown. They’ll use the proceeds to send Mayor Nagin on a luxury 13-day cruise down the Nile followed by a jaunt into space with Richard Branson.

6. New Orleans will put out 3 more port-o-lets: In response to the massive crowds, the city will put 3 more port-o-lets for a grand total of 12. This will increase ratio of toilets-to-people to an impressive 1 toilet per 24,000 visitors. The wait time to pee in the French Quarter will drop from five hours to only three.

7. Who Dat migration: Thousands of vehicles, mostly Chevy Silverados with fleur de lis stickers in the back windows, will make the trip down I-10 then head south on I-75 and I-95 to Miami. “Who Dat!” will be heard at dozens of gas stations along the way which will also subsequently sell out of Bud Light. Much of the 862 miles of interstate between New Orleans and Miami will be littered with beer cans and chicken bones.

8. Thousands of televisions will need to be replaced: Country folk Who Dats on the north shore and in wooded areas surrounding New Orleans will shoot out their televisions in excitement.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The “Process”

Every January I go through a self-evaluation process. It is bookended by my favorite two days of the year, New Year’s Day and my birthday, which is near the end of the month. The process is like goal-setting but less formal. I look back through the previous year, see what I did or didn’t accomplish personally and professionally, and look ahead to the coming year.

I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years now and the process serves me well. It gives me a guideline for getting things done and establishes some measurement for progress or lack thereof.

A goal across those two decades has been to approach life more proactively than reactively. I think you can have a much more interesting life if you take it by the balls and squeeze. The years in which I’ve done that have been memorable and often set the stage for great growth in life. There is not much to show for years where I just let my life live me.

A few self observations so far during this year’s process month:

- Professionally I have proactively improved my career for several years in a row. Actions I took, based in part on this January thing, have paid off year after year, especially last year.

- Personally I have been letting problems build up and I’ve been mostly reactive. By that I mean I just let things slide and avoided dealing with them rather than accepting the emotional pain that is an inevitable part of facing personal issues head on. I’m talking in circles in this paragraph because this is very personal. Friends who read this know what I’m talking about.

- I got a slow start on the process last year, but 2009 ended with many goals reached and a new understanding of who I am. It all sets the stage for this year.

- My work involves reacting to other people’s agendas. I accept that; it’s part of the job. I control those parts of it that I can and that balance usually works out just fine for everyone.

- My home life has been so reactive over the past several years that I almost forgot who the hell I am. That changed in 2009! One of my goals in last year’s process was to test myself and begin a specific self-discovery journey. It seems ridiculous that I have to look at it that way, but it worked.

- The turning point last year was my July vacation. I can even identify three specific days during that week-and-a-half in which things came together for me. I made a beautiful new friend, I wrote a new chapter on an old friendship, reconnected with two old friends and several cousins and became better friends with my sister. And I did what the hell I wanted to on my vacation and had a blast doing it.

So where am I in the 2010 process? This year will be about finishing some things I started in the fall. It’ll also be about music, photography, travel, cooking, Italian lessons, hiking, friendship building, career networking and being totally me.

Two friends, my newest and my oldest, will say I’m over-thinking this. I will disagree. I am a complicated man and make no apology for it. Ironically, my keyword for 2010 is “simplify.” The ‘process’ will guide me toward making all of this make sense.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Totally Random 3.5

- Wouldn’t Access Denied be a great name for a band?

- People in their 80s and 90s tend to lose weight and bone mass, which means they literally get smaller. So why do they take up more space in the aisle at the grocery store?

- Do you have a CD changer in your car? Are you ever surprised when something starts to play and you didn’t even realize that CD was in the player? That happened to me twice a few days ago when I heard Billy Price songs and then Robert Randolph songs. It seems I had played the same U2 and Dave Matthews CDs over and over again and forgot there were others in there.

- I know more about some co-workers from their Facebook posts that I do from daily in-person conversations.

- Twenty-three percent of U.S. homes have only cell phones and the number is growing rapidly. I’m seriously considering joining them. I rarely use my home land line and it annoys me when it rings. Everyone who really has to reach me has my cell number.

- Do you think the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will ever be a ‘day off from work’ holiday for those of us who do not have government jobs? Or will it continue to be just another Monday? Or worse, will it become another Monday with big sales at Target like President’s Day has become? Food for thought.

- My prediction for this year’s Super Bowl: The New Orleans Saints will be in it and will win it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Checking Out Some Music

Sharing a few music performances today. The first three are from Tommy Castro, one of my favorite contemporary blues artists. The fourth is from Tom Waits, a 'unique' performer with a large cult following.

Tommy Castro - Live at the XM Studios



Tommy Castro - If I Had A Nickel



Click Here for another way to see this.

Tommy Castro - Nasty Habits




Tom Waits - Heart Attack and Vine



Tom Waits is like a cross between Frank Zappa and Frank Sinatra. So as an added bonus for reading down this far, click here to see a Frank Sinatra performance. (OK, maybe that's a penalty and not a bonus).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unreal Reality of Disaster

No food, no water, no electricity. You hear those words and you see the pictures on TV and the internet, but it always seems like something happening to someone else. Have you ever imagined being in that situation yourself?

I got a taste of it after Hurricane Katrina, partly from stories told to me by friends and family in Louisiana who lived it and partly from my own visit to New Orleans six weeks after the storm. It hit home for many Americans because a great American city was devastated and we saw months of TV coverage to continuously remind us. Less than a year later there were several books filling in the gaps in coverage and telling insider tales of what went on during that disaster.

But the earthquake in Haiti this week is so much bigger and it is geographically close enough to our country that we have an emotional connection to their plight.



Walk in their shoes for a minute and compare it to what we would be going through tonight.

There is no electricity, which means no running water, no sanitation, no lights. Hundreds of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed have to sleep on the dark streets; men, women, children, hungry, thirsty, scared of what they cannot see in the darkness.

They wake up tomorrow surviving insects, rodents, looters and the stench of dead bodies in the rubble, and face another day of nowhere to go and nothing to do but help others and try to find food.

There are no jobs right now because the entire infrastructure of the country is destroyed. Workplaces are devastated, getting to a workplace is impossible. Commerce ceases to exist for the foreseeable future. Without electricity, much of the banking industry is non-existent for now. The Haitian economy is probably more a cash-based than computer-based, but cash doesn’t even matter because there is nothing to buy and no one to buy it from.

Without electricity, rumors replace news reporting. Communication is a mess. Radio and TV is nearly nonexistent at the moment and even if internet and cell phone use is normally available in Haiti, it is not usable right now. In our country, that would mean no Facebook, Twitter or texting.

Humanitarian relief efforts begin but the sheer magnitude of devastation is overwhelming.

Have you ever seen the Weather Channel series called “It Could Happen Tomorrow”? It paints a picture of a natural disaster affecting large population centers in the United States. What is going on in Haiti could happen in San Francisco, as it has in the past, and Alaska, the state with the most big quakes in recorded history. But there have been earthquakes in seemingly unlikely places like Missouri, site of several 7.0 or greater earthquakes in 1811 and 1812. There have been magnitude 2 tremors within 30 miles of Washington DC in our lifetime, including some near Columbia, Maryland in the 1990s and a 1.8 magnitude tremor in Annandale, Virginia in 2008. Could you imaging a 7.0 earthquake in the Capital?

Picture this kind of devastation where you live? And if you know any prayers, say them tonight for the people of Haiti.

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Click here for a little bit of general information about Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anything

An awesome friend sent me this tonight. Thought I'd share.

You can have anything you want
if you want it badly enough.
You can be anything you want to be,
do anything you set out to accomplish,
if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Age Discrimination

This news about Senator Reid’s racist comments about Obama bothers me but the President has accepted the apology, so let’s move on. Reid should not resign. When you see me say that, do you automatically brand me politically? Do you make assumptions about my attitudes toward politics or race? You can’t possibly know what I think based on the first two sentences. This paragraph and the picture of me on this blog do not tell the whole story of me, do they? The same could be said about what you say and what you look like, right?

But this post is not about politics or race. This is about a form of discrimination that crosses race, religion, politics and gender: age discrimination.

I’d like to believe that baby boomers still rule, but younger people have so many misconceptions about us that I have stopped telling my age. I can’t hide that I’m over 50, but that’s mostly because my previous blog was about being over 50. I won’t delete it; it is what it is. But I no longer tell anyone my age because people make too many incorrect assumptions based on that number. It’s just a number.

There is only one thing I can’t do now that I could do in my 30s … run a 10k race. The only reason is because of a knee injury from my 30s.

A few more observations:

In business – older people have the benefit of experience. That does not have to mean they/we think things were done better in the past. It means we’ve seen a wider variety of methods and trends and can add that to our strategic thinking when facing today’s issues. And we have a clue how to function if a computer system crashes.

In love - we again benefit from experience, in mental, emotional and physical contexts. And we don’t usually play the immature games from our 20s and even 30s.

The worst ageism occurs in advertising. Youth dominates this field, in part because of the perception that younger people are free-spending lemmings who can be influenced by commercials. Those same young ad execs missed the part about how the 50-plus crowd has more money than anyone and will spend it. Boomers are spending it on different products, like smaller (but more expensive) homes, education for themselves (learning what they really want this time) and college for their kids, travel (cruises, for example, and not senior bus trips to Branson), cars (luxury), technology (they buy the second round of new tech stuff, after the bugs have been worked out), financial products (retirement is coming and it won’t be cheap), and services for their own aging parents. And we don’t all have gray hair and we don’t all drive old Mustang convertibles.

This is all easy for me to say. I think I still look 45. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’m expressing my own form of age discrimination. Whatever the case, I urge you to look at each person as an individual and if you have to judge them at all, base it on who and what they are as an individual. Age might play a role but it’s not the whole story.

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Read on for a little more perspective – and remember this next time you see a movie or go to a U2 concert:

Who is turning 50 this year? Bono (pictured at right), Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Hugh Grant, Antonio Banderas, Amy Grant.

Stars who are already past 50: Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner, Holly Hunter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna.

Turning 60 this year: Bruce Springsteen (pictured at right)

Already over 60: Stevie Nicks, Billy Crystal, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Plant, Diane Sawyer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dream Big

Have you ever heard the Rascal Flatts song “My Wish”? I’ve heard it many times and recognized it as a pleasant poem about life’s dreams. But this morning I heard an interview with the songwriter and learned that it was written for one of his children. He had a list of things he wished for her in her life and one day turned that list into a song.

The interview gave me a new perspective on the song as it played moments later. This section got my attention the most:

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too.


Most of us have dreams for ourselves but this is a case of someone wanting to help another person achieve their dreams. Dream big, worry small and know someone loves you and wants your dreams to come true. That is a powerful message!

Dreams change as we age and often the biggest of those happen during mid-life, which many aging experts define as ages 36 to 55. Mid-life crisis is the label given to the biggest concentration of those changes and I know from what I’ve experienced in my own mid-life so far, that crisis is often an understatement.

The upside to this is that we are at a time in our lives when we can shed other people’s expectations of what our life should look like and define our lives for ourselves. We can now pursue those dreams we’ve always had and kept putting off. We can try to obsess less and just move on into the life we really want.

Our best success in this redefinition stage will be achieved with support from loved ones, be it family or friends. The people who matter the most will be the ones who want the same things for us and maybe for them and who will still be with us when we ‘get where we’re getting to,’ to paraphrase the song.

I’ve always been a dreamer but it has only been in my mid-life years that I acknowledged I have the power to shape my life and live my dreams. My first mid-life crisis was right on schedule at age 36. I’m now on my third. I came out of the other two stronger and achieved most of the dreams I had at the time. I know I’ll get through this one too. I have friends who love me as much as I love them and we all want the same things.

My wish for them and for me is that this life becomes all that (they/I) want it to.

The Music Journey Continues

My ongoing ‘rediscover live music’ journey made another stop on January 1st. For the first time since the late 1980s I saw two of my old favorite blues bands the Nighthawks and the Billy Price Band.

I was excited to see them but also a little apprehensive; would they still be as good as I remembered them?

The answer? Sort of.

They were both good. Each did a set, followed by a set with both bands combined. There was plenty of talent on that stage but I didn’t see the continuous spontaneity and fun I remembered. There were a few spectacular moments, however, especially when Billy Price sang “Our Love Will Never Die.” At least I think that’s the name of the song and it might be an old Otis Rush song. Billy put some incredible feeling into his performance, even singing the hook line off mic but with enough passion and power to be heard clearly across the whole room. But some of the songs fell short on fun, as if the bands were tired from playing a New Year’s Eve job somewhere the night before.

I’ll still seek them out again, however, because the music is great and I fully expect other performances to be great as well.

Here is a little video taste from a couple of years ago:

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Timely Flood

Dad died more than eight years ago but I’ve been drowning in a flood of thoughts about him all week. The trigger was a Washingtonian magazine article written by a guy just a little older than me dealing with his Dad’s Parkinson’s disease. That nasty illness robbed my father of some great years and reading someone else’s story brings back the good, the bad and the ugly of my Dad’s final decades.

I loved Dad but I can’t really say we were close. Our rough patch lasted from mid-high school through my twenties. His attitude changed after I bought my first house.

I learned a lot from him: carpentry, problem-solving, planning, sticking to your beliefs, stubbornness. I learned but rejected other things: judgmentalism, Catholicism, racism (he eventually changed his attitude on that last one). I learned a few other things he didn’t intend to teach me, including my favorite life concept: balance.

Sadly, he was never good at emotional communication. Guys from his generation just didn’t talk about their feelings. I, on the other hand, can talk about love and five minutes later verbally beat you so far into the ground you’d beg to be hit by a baseball bat instead because it would hurt less. Maybe it’s a boomer thing; maybe it’s just me. But I digress. Wanna make something of it?

The most memorable conversation he and I had was in the living room of his house while I was waiting for the airport shuttle. He seemed to be having a moment of clarity in the midst of the Parkinson’s infused dementia. I said, “You did a great job raising your kids.” He said, “Thanks. I appreciate that.” I should have said “raising us” because it occurred to me later that he probably thought he was talking to someone else and not his son.

One thing Dad did better than anyone I know is to provide for his family. He worked his ass off to save money and lived frugally. We always had what we really needed and sometimes a little extra. For example, he was prepared to pay for my college with only one condition: that it was local, unless what I wanted to study was not available locally. I chose the state school, even though he was ready to pay for the private college that costs ten times more.

The Parkinson’s was diagnosed before he retired, so he continued to work as long as he could in order to save more money. He knew his later years would be expensive for him and Mom. He retired with what seemed to be a lot of money for a guy who never made a lot of money and he had zero debt. But the effects of the Parkinson’s made it nearly impossible for him to enjoy his retirement years and most of his savings were gone by the time he died.

What lessons did I learn from that? Plan for the future but live in the present. Have a boat handy if the flood comes. When you see the water, get in the boat. Enjoy the ride because you might tip over and drown at the next intersection.

If you know me really well you can understand how timely these lessons are for me. You also know how one magazine article can lead to this jumble of thoughts that to me seem totally and logically connected. It's all about balance.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year

New dreams,
a new view of old dreams,
finish things that were started,
start or re-start others.
Try again to get down to what really counts:
laughing, learning, playing, travelling, kissing.
Turn up the volume on music
and life.