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Showing posts from December, 2010

Sorting Photographs

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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.

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 thin…

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.

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…

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.

Merry Christmas

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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

Water

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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…

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…

Road Trip Meals

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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.

Holiday Lights

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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

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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 ar…

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

Holiday Road Trip Randomness 2

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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. …

Holiday Road Trip Randomness 1

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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 anothe…

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.

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…

Gray

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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.

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 …

A Little Holiday Madness

Imagine

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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…

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

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.

Another Cool Quote

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

– Sir Winston Churchill

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…

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 w…

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.