Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Play It For The Whiskey

Johnny Lee
Cherokee Fiddle, written and recorded by Michael Murphey in 1977, climbed to #58 on the charts.  Then, in 1981, Johnny Lee recorded it and it went to #10 on the country charts.

Cherokee Fiddle came to mind today, when, anxious for my personal official sign of the arrival of spring, major league baseball, I tuned into a spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros.

I've been an Atlanta fan for years, however, after listening to a few innings and only hearing a couple of names I recognized, I got a bad feeling that something wasn't right.

A few minutes of Googling confirmed my worst suspicion.  During the off season, Evan Gaddis, Jason Heyward, and many other favorite players had been traded.  In a single horrible moment, I realized the Braves would never be "my team" again.

Like a jilted lover, I began looking for a new partner.  The only one that came to mind as a contender for my allegiance was the San Francisco Giants.  A minute of Googling later, I discovered that my favorite Giant, Pablo Sandoval, is now playing for the Boston Red Sox.

Jilted again, I turned off the game, and rode in silence for a few minutes.  Then two verses from Cherokee Fiddle began to play through my mind:

Now the Indians are dressing up like cowboys
And the cowboys are putting leather and turquoise on
And the music is sold by lawyers
And the fool who fiddle in the middle of the station is gone

Some people say they'll never miss him
Old fiddles squeal like the engine breaks
Cherokee Fiddle is gone forever

Just like the music of the whistle that the old locomotion makes    

With the old country favorite playing in my mind, I mentally turned off my stadium lights, rolled down the window, and realized, it is already spring.  I don't have to wait for April 1st and the shout of "Play Ball," to appreciate the season.  In fact, I'm doing great without baseball in my life.  I'm going to keep it that way.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Two Choreographers: Nureyev & Starlingmeister

I didn't know they were there until they rose from the earth, softly, not bolting like startled quail.  The edge of the small group of maybe three hundred peeled away from the earth and folded itself into a sharp gust of the prevailing northeastern wind.  As the first line of performers rose, they passed over the main body of birds who, as a group, while maintaining perfect spacing, joined the departure.

The Starlingmeister, the first off the ground, glanced down, confirmed that all were aloft and then wheeled hard right, leading the troupe into a descending, then ascending, ninety-degree seamless turn to the south.  I saw him look over his shoulder without missing a wing beat.  Satisfied with the performance of his band, he instantly doubled his speed and smoothly changed direction, swiftly leading his company away.  I watched in awe until they disappeared from view.

The Starlingmeister and his small flock came to mind moments ago when I was drawn to this short clip of a Rudolf Nureyev choreographed company performing La Bayadere.  At risk of being labeled a traitor to my species, I couldn't stop myself from thinking that the Starlingmeister, without tenure or training, and with a ten times larger group of untested flyers, performing outside, without rehearsal, and working into a stiff wind, on a stage with an additional dimension, made the very best humans look rather amateurish.

And so it is in this world of wonder and beauty.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Step Back = Many Steps Forward

On Jan 1, 2015, I posted a blog about my double edge shaving experience.  The post, called Ritual, discussed my experience of going back in time to the days of double edge razor shaving.

In the blog I listed all of the shaving paraphernalia that was working for me.

Merkur Long Handled Razor

Feather Double Edged Blades

Poraso Shaving Soap and AfterShave

And it is all still working and working well.  However, I'm open to improve anything, so today I added an additional product to my shaving line up.  That isn't quite right.  Let me try it again.  Today I added a new miracle product.  Thayers Unscented Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera.

Before I tell you about Thayers and shaving, let me assure you it isn't just for shaving.  In fact, Christina was using it as a skin toner before I added it to my shaving lineup.  And, when I posted the link to the product on Amazon, I noted that it has 413 reviews.  Think about that, 413, now 414 customers think enough of witch hazel with aloe vera that they posted a review.  You might be saying to yourself, this could be worth checking out, and if you are saying that, let me assure you that it is.

I should also note that I didn't use it as the instructions suggested.  I splashed it on my face before I lathered up and afterwards.  And the bottom line is, a shave that I didn't think could get any closer, did.

Do you remember all the things your mother used witch hazel for?  This souped up version will do all of them and more and it does it at a very reasonable price.  You can trust me on that.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Just Make The Call

James A. Ryder
I didn't spend a lot of time in corporate America.  A year as a dispatcher with a propane company on a salary 30% less than I'd made in Vietnam, followed by a year as a Marketing Rep with Southern Bell, a long defunct AT&T regional company.  My year with Southern Bell was spent in training, selling, and fighting mindless corporate bureaucracy.
Since I was leading my group in sales, terminating me wasn't an option my supervisors wanted to choose.  They did something infinitely better, from my point of view.  Tom Cassidy,  who had hired me, took me to lunch and over apple pie and coffee said, "Bert, you're doing great...I knew you would." Then without pausing he said, "But, I don't think you're very happy with us, and I have an idea that you'd fit right in at Ryder Truck Rental."  He was right on both counts, and  thanks to a great recommendation from Tom to Ryder's Vice President of Personnel, within a month I was Ryder's One Way Dealer Manager in Birmingham, Alabama.  

Altogether I spent twelve years with Ryder.  I worked in three districts and reported to five district managers during my time with the company, but I always knew I was working for Jim Ryder, the founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.  It's not often you get to work for a legend, but I had the good fortune of doing just that.  I could tell Jim Ryder stories for a long time, but that isn't my point with this post.  For my purpose here, I'm only going to tell only one.

In 1974, each Ryder District was a profit center managed by a District Manager.  I was the Rental Manager in Jacksonville, Florida.  The workday was about done and a couple of us were in the DM's office rehashing the day, when his secretary stuck her head in the door and said, "Excuse me, John.  I wouldn't interrupt but Mr. Ryder is on the line for you."

John smiled at us and said, "He probably want's to tell me what a good a job I'm doing."  We started to leave, but he motioned us back to our chairs as he hit the speaker phone button.  "Good afternoon, Jim.  To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Jim's soft baritone rolled into the office, "Hi John.  I just wanted to tell you about a phone conversation I just had with one of your fuel island attendants."

Jim went on to tell John Ridenour that John Stephens, the fuel island attendant, had told him how he felt he had been cheated out of $767.00 in overtime pay and that every effort he had made to discuss the situation with his office manager and district manager had failed to resolve the matter to his satisfaction.  When he finished relating the conversation he'd had with the unhappy employee, he paused then said, "Would you like to know what I did John?"

All casualness had vanished from John's voice when he said, "Yes Sir, I sure would."

Jim chuckled and said, "It's simple John, I gave him the money.  You see, when any Ryder employee is so concerned about a situation in his district that he  calls me, I always give him what he wants.  Always.  Then you know what I do John?"

"No sir, I don't know."

"Whatever I give the employee, I simply charge back to the District Manager's bonus, because it's something they should have handled in the first place."

There was a bit more to the conversation, but it's not relevant to this story.  What matters is what Jim told John.  When someone reaches the point where they feel they must call the Chairman of the Board, he or she will get everything they ask for.  And my point is, there is a way for you to contact the Chairman of Your Board and it is as simple as a phone call.  Here's how it works.

In 1992, Julia Cameron wrote a book called The Artist's Way.  The book
describes a simple procedure that Julia calls the Morning Pages.  I think of them as a way to bypass the District Manager and go directly to the Chairman of the Board, and I'm not the only one who thinks that way.  The book has never been out of print in the 22 years since it was published and it has sold over four million copies.  

Is there something in your life you're having an issue with, that you'd like to talk to someone about or that you want resolved.  Try the Morning Pages.

Check the link above - you will find 745 customer reviews that will tell you a lot more about the practice than I did.   When you're convinced, buy the book and begin writing your morning pages - It's just like placing a call to the Chairman of the Board.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Don't You Have Another Gear?

My first car was a 1954 Plymouth.  It was mechanically sound, yet in sad shape otherwise.  I spent twice as much as I originally paid for it to have the rusted out floorboards replaced, extensive bodywork done, and finally a beautiful coat of light metallic green paint applied.

The car had a six cylinder, straight six engine, and a three speed transmission with a steering column mounted shifter.  I named her "Bullfrog." Bullfrog wasn't fast, and she handled badly on a good day, and very badly on a bad one, but she served me well until I caught the motorcycle bug and traded her for a 1957 Harley Duo Glide, which turned out to be the first of a string of three Harley's I owned through the years.

When I told my father I was getting married, he pointed out that I should trade the Harley for a car.  My future father-in-law suggested that I should get a job.  So, I did both, beginning with the vehicle suggestion.  I traded the Harley, with much regret, for a three cylinder, new-to-America, Saab (the new Saab dealer was the only person interested in trading a car for a motorcycle).  I hated that car too much to bother naming it.

A year after the wedding, thanks to my new job and my new wive's old job, I traded the Saab for my first new car - a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere, (similar to the one in the photo) which I immediately named "Tar Baby."  The exterior difference between Tar Baby and the car in the picture was Tar Baby's lack chrome wheels.  Imagine the car in the photo with small, plain hubcaps, instead of chrome wheels, and you'll be looking at Tar Baby.

The mechanical differences, on the other hand, were extensive.  Tar Baby, which by the way was one of 300 prototypes of the now famous Road Runner that Plymouth introduced in 1965, had a 383 cubic inch, high performance engine and a 4 Speed transmission, which was operated through a floor mounted Hurst shifter.  

After the three speed Saab, lawn-mower-sounding car, I couldn't wait to prove Tar Baby.  So the day I took delivery, I challenged a co-worker to a top-end race on the old beach road.  William, the owner of a 1963 Ford Galaxy, with a 390 cubic inch engine and three-speed transmission, was more than willing to take me on.

Late that night, we drove the eight mile desolate stretch of the old beach road to make sure no radar traps were in operation.  Reassured, we turned our cars back toward Jacksonville and the race began.

At eighty miles an hour, I pulled out to
pass but only managed to draw even with William before Tar Baby stopped accelerating.  I quickly glanced at the speedometer.  The needle was bouncing between 105 and 108.  I suddenly had a sinking feeling that was all Tar Baby would do.  Then, in a flash of recollection,   I remembered I had another gear.

I slammed the big Hurst shifter into fourth and leaped ahead of William's Ford, which didn't have another gear.

There been times since that night on the old beach road when I thought I was doing the best I could do and realized it wasn't going to be enough to get me past whatever I was up against.  Every time that happened, memories of that long ago night flashed magically into my head and I would recall a forgotten gear, shift into it, and pass the obstacle.  

How about you - don't you have a gear you've forgotten?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Letter To The Dalai Lama

His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Jan 8th I posted a blog about InCoWriMo - International Correspondence Writing Month.  Tomorrow is day one of InCoWriMo and it isn't  too late to sign up if you're willing to write (not email, or text, or fax) one letter every day for a month.

But, I'm not recruiting for InCoWriMo with this post.  I'm going to tell you about the first letter I'm writing for InCoWriMo 2015.  I've decided to send it to the Dalai Lama, whose address is on the list of 29 people who would love to receive your correspondence.

I've never written to the Dalai Lama before, and I wouldn't do it now just to add him to the list of people I send letters to in February.  So what changed my mind?  That's simple.  A fifteen year old photo hanging in our living room did it.  It's a picture of nine men posing in front of the model for the Crazy Horse Monument still under construction in South Dakota.  The man on the back row, second from the right, is a friend of both the Dalai Lama and me.    

I call him the The Geshe of the A Team (read the blog and that will make sense - you'll also see the photo) here's the link Tibetan Monks - Sand Mandalas.  

Since a hand-written letter is a personal communication, I'm not going to tell you what I'm about to write to His Holiness.  But if you read the blog I just mentioned you'll have a good idea.  It's not often you have the opportunity to tell someone about a mutual friend who had a profound impact on your life.  I'm off to do that right now.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tweaking The Big Loop

Regarding running, "Don't leave home without it," has nothing to do with American Express.  What I don't leave home without is my Garmin 220 runner's watch (which also works for swimmers and bicyclists, I'm told).

The watch records many more things than I understand or am interested in.  All I want to know, when I'm running is my heart rate, and pace (current and average).

When I'm through with a run I print out the details, which includes the route map (see the illustration), altitude gain and loss, cadence, temperature, and about a zillion other things I seldom look at.  It's the route that I call "the big loop" that I began to scrutinize a few weeks ago.  At that time it was 7.4 miles, and I wanted to increase it to 8 miles.

I'd played all the possibilities over in my mind and couldn't think of a way that would work because, being a night runner, I'm rather particular about lighting, surface, and traffic.  Every way I thought of to add .6 miles wouldn't work.

Finally, I took a look at my print out and realized I was making a major mistake in my mental process:  I was looking for a way to add a single 0.6 of a mile chunk to the route and that truly wasn't a viable possibility.  However, with the map as a guide, I saw some minor tweaks, three to be exact, that I thought might give me the distance I wanted.

I noted the changes, strapped on the watch, and headed for the new, slightly tweaked Big Loop.  Viola, the 7.4 mile big loop was now an 8.2 mile loop.  Not a drastic increase, but its one that has, so far this month produced 16.8 extra miles and by the end of the month that increase should be 21.6 miles.

And the point is?  

By getting an accurate idea of what I was currently doing, I was able to make a few, small tweaks and get the results I was looking for.  Then, last night, when my Garmin 220 vibrated at the 8 mile mark, it triggered the realization that I could make a few, small adjustments in anything I wanted to do better and achieve the same results.

It's pretty cool when my watch points out philosophical truths like that.