Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Process

For the last five or six years, I spent time between New Year's Day and my birthday, essentially the whole month of January, thinking through what I want for the coming year. I call it my 'process'. I also pick a 'keyword', one word or phrase that I use to remind myself of what I expect for the year.
I probably didn't pick one last January, but in retrospect the word 'fun' symbolized the year. Of course you were at the heart of that.
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Past keywords include focus, renew and balance. I have since made balance my ongoing keyword. My process is already underway and on the ride to work this morning, some things fell into place in my head. One is my 2015 keyword: discipline.

During the next few weeks I will get more specific about what that means and how I can define it and measure my progress. But I know today that I need discipline to make the coming year what I want it to be.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Aging, Health, Friends and the Holidays

“Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” is playing in the background as I write this.  The Burl Ives version.  I used to get the holiday blues during this season; sometimes it was pretty severe and debilitating.  Holiday depression dominated the season.  Fortunately it has been several years since that happened.  I still feel a little more like “Blue Christmas” at times, but that condition usually lasts hours instead of weeks.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, ‘tis the season to be jolly.  Sometimes acting happy leads to actually being happy.  I adopted that attitude a few years ago and it continues to serve me well.  I urge you to consider it for yourself.  Part of why I am playing Christmas music right now is because it puts me in a joyful mood.  Some of the older songs help me reminisce, even at the risk of leading me back to the sad mood; generally the songs make me smile.
I have also begun some new holiday traditions.  The best one is to see “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre in DC.  For two years in a row now, I engaged in this activity during Thanksgiving week and it successfully set the tone for the rest of the holiday season.  I have shared this with someone very special to me and that enhances the experience in ways I can barely find the words for.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire … those are the opening words to my favorite Christmas song.  Did you know the song title is actually “The Christmas Song”?  The Nat King Cole version is the most famous, but Mel Torme wrote it and his version is pretty good too.  I know almost all the words and I asked my guitar teacher to show me the chords.  Hearing that song always puts me in a good mood.  Sometimes the melody and message leads me to shed a tear.  I’m emotional … wanna make something of it?! 
I often write about aging in this blog.  In fact, that was the original idea.  The older I get, the more confident I get about life and about myself, and the more I experience little health issues that remind me that I am aging.  Usually I am a ‘half full’ guy, looking at things in a more positive light, even when some things are negative.  The challenge is to remain positive in the face of the realities of aging.  I am in very good health with respect to things I can control, but I am experiencing an as-yet-unexplained abdominal issue and the recurrence of a neurological problem from two years ago.  These unexplained issues piss me off. Some might be the inevitable result of growing older.  None will stop me, but they do challenge my normally positive outlook.

Friends … where do I begin?  Friendship and the holidays are the perfect match.  My most significant friendships range in length from forty-seven years to one year.  All mean a lot to me and I celebrate them all at this time of year.  They are here, as well as spread across the planet … New Orleans, Asheville, Milwaukee, London, Kona.  I think about them often.
‘And so I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to 92; and though it’s been said many times and many ways, Merry Christmas to you.’

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bartenders

I didn’t really think much about bartenders till I became friends with a former bartender.  I didn’t know her when slinging drinks was her occupation, but she and I have been to many bars together and I learned a lot about the profession by absorbing her observations as I absorbed wine with her.

A bartender is often a blend of mixologist and psychologist.  Bar flies will tell their bartender deeply personal things they wouldn’t even tell their spouse or best friend.  A good bartender is also a sales person, suggesting food or maybe premium versions of the patron’s initial order. 
My favorite local hangout provides the perfect model for the right way to be a bartender.  Each staffer introduces themselves to new customers, they pay attention, engage in conversation, make suggestions.  They know their products.  These bartenders make newcomers feel as at home as regulars.  As newcomers become regulars, the staff remembers their preferences.  Another local establishment I frequent presents an entirely different experience.  The food is good and the bar is well-stocked.  The bartenders are friendly … when you can get their attention.  Customers have to flag them down like hailing a taxi to get a second glass of wine. 
I’m a pretty good tipper when the service is good.  Twenty percent is my minimum in those cases.  When the service is average, as in the case of my second example, my tip is exactly 15% to the penny, sometimes a fraction less.  Funny that the name of my second example includes the word ‘average’. 

A bartender’s job isn’t easy, but I consider their role to be an integral part of the bar experience.  If all I want is a drink, I’ll stay home and make it myself.  I go to a bar for socialization at least as much as intoxication.
Maybe I should say something to some of these barely-adequate barkeeps.  Maybe they just don’t know.  Or maybe the expectations of customers is low.  Mine are high.  Cheers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Random Catching Up

I am a little behind in my blogging, as a certain dear friend has reminded me.  My crazy busy life sometimes refocuses my schedule and gets in the way of some of my interests, including writing.  I’m on vacation this week, so I am attempting to spend some time on things I don’t have a lot of time for, like cleaning my apartment.  And writing.

So here are a few things on my mind this week, in no particular order.

Ferguson.  I do understand the frustration of many residents of that St. Louis suburb on hearing the news that a grand jury did not indict the police officer who shot an unarmed man.  I do NOT understand how that justifies burning cars and local business to express their anger. 

Vacations.  I think time off from work is very important.  It helps us recharge.  The down side: I get so wrapped up in the chaos of work that it takes days to unwind.  I have a whole day today, for example, with no time-specific agenda, which simultaneously energizes and bores me.  While I’m figuring what to do, I am writing, so I guess that is a good thing.

Thanksgiving.  I used to have deep holiday depression during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving Day and continuing through New Year’s Eve.  That feeling has been very minimal for the past few years.  I was especially looking forward to my sister’s planned visit, the first time she’s been in my town in nine years.  I created an exciting agenda for her time here, cleaned up my apartment, turned my guest room from a junk room back into a guest room.  However, she is sick and we had to reschedule the visit.  The good part is that she is now coming here for Christmas, but the bad part is that I am feeling an emotional letdown.  This will certainly be an awesome Thanksgiving because my GF and I will have some unexpected ‘us’ time and we’ve made some new plans that are unique to us.  But I’m still a little blue.

Guitar:  I have a new guitar teacher.  The one I’ve had for a year took Saturdays off his teaching schedule and I am not available on his other days.  The new guy is even younger than the old guy but his approach is equally fun and his knowledge of all music genres, including blues (my favorite), is incredible.  His approach is a little less academic than the first guy but he also has the balance of study/fun that works best for me.

Weather: freezing for several days last week, near 70 yesterday, snow predicted for tomorrow and it won’t get about 35 for two days.

Thankfulness:  I am thankful and grateful for a great job, good health and awesome friends.

Well, that’s it for this post.  Thanks for visiting.  Happy Thanksgiving.[BL1] 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Yeehaw Randomness

This is the second year in a row that my job sent me to Nashville to help a DJ record interviews with country music singers during CMA week.  I love my job.

During two days, he interviewed 80 different singers or groups.  I recorded every interview and took pictures of every performer.  The interviews are ultimately heard on nearly one hundred radio stations across the country.

Me and Miranda Lambert
I’ve met countless celebrities during my career, so I am not usually that impressed, but standing five feet from the biggest (and smallest) names in country music IS impressive.  These people are so real, so genuine.  In these interviews, they are mostly ego-free and this particular DJ is good at getting the singers to reveal personal feelings and thoughts.

Nashville is the heart of country music.  It’s business, pleasure, struggle and success.  Every bar on Broadway Avenue has a wannabe superstar singing their heart out.  The next Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan or Miranda Lambert could be on that stage, belting out cover songs to drunks at the bar, mixing in the occasional original tune.

Doobie Brothers, except for the 2 guys in plaid
Country music is hot right now, the hottest it’s been since the Garth Brooks era of the early 1990s.  And this genre creeps into others and others creep back.  I met the Doobie Brothers today.  The have a project with several country singers who have recorded their old songs with them on a new album.  And I got to talk with two of the guys for a minute about New Orleans.  During the interview, they explained how New Orleans influenced their song “Black Water” and after the interview, I told them I grew up there. 
 
I’m sure I could go on and on about the past few days here, but I’ll stop now.  It was fun but I spent six hours each day on my feet and I am tired.  I have to visit this place during a less crowded week and soak in the atmosphere some more.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Random October Musings

OK, I know it’s now November, but I had a busy October and got a little behind in my blogging. 

The highlight of my October was a long weekend in Asheville NC, one of my favorite towns.  I spent this time with two of my favorite people, two women who mean the world to me.  One is an incredible friend who lives there and the other is an incredible friend (and more) who lives here.  There is so much more to say about the latter, but it’ll have to wait till next year.  Think about that a minute and you’ll understand.

My Nikon got a nice workout during a visit to the Biltmore Mansion.  This was my second time there and the first time for my travel companion.  The house and grounds are a living shrine to the rich and famous of a bygone era.  Even today’s wealthiest people don’t live like this.  The house has more than 200 rooms, 43 bathrooms, and is surrounded by 8000 acres of beautiful grounds.  Here are a few of the 165 pictures I took.



                                                                                                                                                        





I’m feeling old this month, mostly because of some unexplained medical issues.  Abdominal pains led me to two doctor visits and even a 7-hour ‘visit’ to the emergency room.  No specific diagnosis resulted; only referrals to more doctors.  The pains are minimal now (a month after the first incident), but something is still wrong.  In addition, a weak leg issue has crept back into my life, partly something lingering from an accident more than twenty years ago and partly from an unexplained neurological issue two years ago.  The problem now is that sometimes I trip and almost fall.  While in Asheville, I tripped and DID fall.  Fortunately I only bruised my hands a little but it could have been a lot worse.

Meanwhile, the final stages of my divorce are ramping up.  I can’t say anything about it here, other than to tell you it is ridiculously unfair to me.  Yuck.

I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement lately.  My main thought: I’ll never be able to retire, even if I wanted to.  I love my job but I wish I could cut back the quantity a little.  And there are a few other things I’d like to explore in my career, and within my current company, but I just don’t have any time.  My biggest fear is that at some point I won’t be able to keep up.  The pace is crazy and many people who do my job are half my age.  An observation about aging: the body and mind do start to slow down a little.  No secret there, but it’s an often-ignored observation.

OK, that’s it for tonight.  Here are a couple more pictures.  Thanks for visiting.
 




 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Personal Random Stuff



Wow, it’s October 16th already and I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of the month.  Writer’s block?  Too busy?  Nothing to say?  Two out of those three would be accurate.

Randomness:  I’ve had some kind of abdominal situation for the past two and a half weeks.  Tests and evaluations, seven hours in the ER, a doc visit … diagnosis? Uhhh, they don’t know.  Treat the symptoms.  Had an entirely different medical situation two years ago with the same outcome … they don’t really know, so they treated the symptoms.  It’s a little scary.  Generally I am in good health and my family lives forever.  Wish I/the doctors knew what’s going on.

Coming soon: a short road trip to Asheville NC, one of my favorite places in the world, to visit one of my favorite people in the world.  And my travel partner is another of my favorite people in the world.  And these two favorite women will meet each other for the first time.  This will be an awesome road trip.

Work:  I love my job.  I hate how much there is to do, how sporadic the communication often is among the people further up the chain who direct things related to my job and how many times I have to revise things.  Talk to each other, people!

Transportation: my nine year old car with 159,000 miles on it is great but I want something newer.  Not going to happen any time soon, however.  See the next paragraph for one of the reasons.  I just spent $1600 in repairs on a car valued at $4500.  I’m keeping this thing awhile longer.

Divorces:  What a f@$#ing pain in the a$$.  And a co$tly f@$#ing pain in the a$$.

BUT, all things considered, life is good.  I shouldn’t complain.  Many people have it worse.  All for this post.  Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Updates and Such



I started using a personal fitness trainer almost a year ago. I am not in any way a body builder or athlete but I am in better shape and I lost a little weight. I don't think about it much except when I wear older, larger clothes. This week TWO different people I haven't seen in awhile said things like 'wow, you're half the size you were last time I saw you' (an exaggeration) and 'have you lost weight?' (Closer to reality). I've lost about 10-15 pounds, one pants size and my shape is slightly more athletic looking. Slightly. The compliments did feel good though.

Cars are more reliable than ever and last a long time.  My current ride is almost ten years old, has 158,000 on it and is in pretty good shape.  That doesn’t matter, though, because I want something newer.  NewER, not new.  The luxury SUV I want is 4 years old.  But even that ride is too expensive for me right now.  So I thought about just leasing a brand new not-so-luxury SUV.  Not much money up front and the payments are low.  Meanwhile, in advance of an upcoming road trip to North Carolina, I drove my current ride to my trustworthy auto mechanic.  Blue Book value of this car is $4500, my repair bill today was $1600 … I think I’ll keep my current vehicle for awhile.

Fall used to be my favorite season.  For several years it fell off my fave list.  Now it’s back at the top.  Fall is a season that begins renewal in many parts of nature and life.  I dig the colors too.  Hope to see plenty of that during the afore-mentioned trip to NC.

That’s all the randomness for the tonight.  Thanks for visiting.