Monday, June 29, 2015

Nocturnal Athletes

There is a large group of athletes who receive little attention in our sports crazed world, and I've been one of them for more than thirty-six years.

Actually, I'm not talking about practitioners of a particular sport but rather athletes who practice their sport at a particular time - nighttime.  

The good folks at Noxgear call that larger-than-you'd-think group, Nocturnal Athletes.

In 1979, I lived in Laurel, Mississippi, where I was the managing partner of an auto dealership.  A good portion of my day was spent smoking and worrying about the less than healthy state of the auto industry and, in particular, my dealership.  On July 1st, my Office Manager, who also smoked while worrying about our financial situation, suffered a heart attack that a few days later took her life.  We were the same age.  That woke me up.  Just after dark, on July 6th, 1979, I flipped my last ever cigarette into the gutter and hop-stepped into my first run.

Now, thirty-six years later, I still run.  I run about the same distance as I was running in 1980, 35 - 40 miles a week, only I'm slower than I was in those marathon days.  My conservative guess is that I've run well over 30,000 miles and almost every mile of it has been run at night.  I've had falls, near misses, and a couple of not-near-not-misses.  

Early on, I discovered the need for a flashlight and, ever since making that discovery, I've been equipped with the smallest, brightest one available.  But that isn't always enough to alert motorists to my presence.  I've had to dive off the road more times than I can count and, as I alluded to in the previous paragraph, I've been brushed twice by cars, both events were accompanied by shouts of "Sorry, I didn't see you."

Thanks to Simon Curran, Tom Walters, and Sarah Fredley, I'm convinced I'll never hear that statement again.  Simon and Tom invented the Tracer360, the ultimate safety device for us nocturnal athletics, and their associate, Sarah Fredley, got me fitted with the right size in amazingly quick time.

Simon and Tom didn't invent the Tracer360 for me - they just got tired of running into each other as they played with their Frisbee in the dark, but I knew when I spotted a Tracer360 in my local running store that they had, in fact, invented it for me.  Without so much as looking twice at the box, which was clearly marked with a large "S," I headed for the house and waited for the sun to go down.  It finally did, and I strapped on my Tracer360, idly thinking as I did, that it would have been nice if they had made it a bit larger

Seven miles later, still marveling at the fact that drivers saw and avoided me and still thinking it would help if it were a bit larger, I noticed the "S" on the package.  I emailed the help department with my sad story and got a faster than light response from Sarah Fredley.  I've never dealt with a more efficient customer service rep, and in 72 years, I've dealt with quite a few.  Within a hour, my new M/L belt was on the way to me.  

I emailed Sarah to ask her if it would be alright if I wrote a blog about my Tracer360.  She wrote YES! so emphatically, I swear I heard it.  Then she added, 

"We would love to go ahead and extend a discount to your followers. Use: BERT20 on our site ( in order to save 20% on the Tracer360 or the Tracer360+! Please feel free to include that in your blog as well! I have attached a graphic for you if you would like to use it! I went ahead and made the discount good through October 31st, so hopefully some more people can benefit from the Tracer!

So, if you are a Nocturnal Athlete of any sort and would like to be seen, here is your chance to make that happen.  

Oh yes, watch the video to see the Tracer360 in action.  Be patient, it takes me a while to show up, I'm not as fast as I once was - until I get there, enjoy Elvis' entrance music.


And, be safe running, skate boarding, Frisbee flying, bicycling, water skiing,  bungee jumping, or what ever sport you practice at night.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


"You'd have probably made it if you hadn't blown the right rear tire."

I struggled to open my eyes. If he noticed it didn't stop his monologue.

"Yep, you blew it totally off the rim. I looked for it, but I couldn't find it. Hell, how fast were you going?"

I guess he didn't expect an answer because he kept talking.

"You must have been going over eighty. If you were, that's a new record you know?"

He paused and though I wasn't able to open my eyes, I managed to say, "Eighty-four when I locked into it."

If he was surprised that I had managed to talk or that I had almost topped our best record for Fisher's Curve by five miles per hour, he didn't let on.

"Too bad it won't count, but I've got to give it to you for guts."

That got my eyes open. Joe's my best friend, but even he will tell you that he doesn't give many compliments. I agree with that and would add, you have to listen close to hear the ones he does give. I didn't miss that one.

"Thanks," I said.

He just snorted, then brought me up to speed on the part of the evening that I'd lost.

"I was listening on the police scanner when Sergeant Griggs finally admitted that he'd lost you. In fact, when the dispatcher pushed him he had to admit he never got close enough to you to get a tag number so that one will go in the book as a draw."

I interrupted. "I wish it had been a draw. What about the car?"

"You lucked out there, Kid. I didn't check it too close, but I'm pretty sure there is no major damage. I got it in the barn and told Aunt Ethel you must have gone to sleep at the wheel again. She didn't buy it, but she knew I'd stick to the story so that's where that is. Now tell me about the Showdown."

Showdown is our term for challenging Jimmy Griggs, the dumbest Florida Highway Patrolman in the entire history of the Florida Highway Patrol.

There are only three players in Showdown, me, Joe, and Officer Griggs. Joe and I know the rules. Griggs doesn't even know it's a game. We play two or three nights a week when I'm home. I work on an oil rig off the Mississippi coast. Thirty days on. Thirty days off. Griggs thinks I'm involved because I'm always home when we "call him out," but he isn't sure and he won't be unless he catches one of us. Which is the point.

When we are ready for a Showdown, we flip a coin to see who finds Jimmy. The loser is the hunter, the winner, tonight that was me, calls Jimmy out. When Joe lost the flip, he complained that the toss was rigged, like he always does, then he got in his Plymouth Golden Commando, fired up the 426 Hemi engine, gave me a thumbs up and drove away from the barn. When he was out of sight, I opened the barn doors, turned on the lights and admired the ruby red Fiero sitting in the middle of the shop. Seconds later, I'd pulled it outside, closed the barn doors, and stopped under the low limbs of the towering live oak tree. With the engine idling and the gauges all riding in the green, the CB, turned to channel 5, a little used frequency that we thought of as our private channel, came to life and Joe's voice boomed into the Pontiac. "He's working."

That meant that Jimmy's cruiser wasn't at his house and more than likely he was running radar in one of his three or four favorite spots. I clicked the transmit button to let Joe know that I'd received the message.

Eight minutes later, Joe said, "Mud bottom. No traffic. He's probably sound asleep."

I clicked the transmit button, slipped the short shifter into first gear and engaged the clutch. At the farm road that runs past Aunt Ethel's place, I turned right. Two miles later I slide to a stop at the stop sign on County Road 347. There wasn't a car in sight in either direction. I turned left, and began working up through the gears, fully aware that the performance exhaust system could be heard almost a mile away on a quiet night and this was about as quiet as a night gets around here.

Joe had spotted Jimmy backed into a turn-out a half mile away.

My train of thought was interrupted when Joe, almost shouting, said, "if you don't tell me I'm going to be beat it out of you."

I laughed, "Sorry about that. It started out like a regular showdown. I planned on passing the turn-out at 105 to 110 miles an hour. My headlights had just picked out the turn-out when Jimmy, who wasn't asleep like we'd figured, hit his blue lights and began pulling out. He was going to block the road, which would have got us both killed, but I was past him before could get onto the blacktop.

Even though his cruiser had the horses on the Fiero, I knew he'd never catch me. The only thing I sweated was the ground I'd lose at Fisher's curve. You remember the night you took the Golden One through there at eighty and set the record?

"Yep," he grunted as he motioned for me to get on with the story.

I grinned, "Well, I decided I's blow Jimmy away and set a new Fisher's curve record at the same time. I held it on 110 until the last second, braked down to eighty-five, went low and let it drift toward the top. About the same time I remembered you telling me I should replace the rear tires, the right one blew. I might as well have been a passenger after that.  The Red Bird shot off the road and the embankment toward the woods.  The only good thing about it was Jimmy didn't see the tread marks where I lost it.

We sat in the silence of the sleeping hospital for a long time. Finally Joe said again, "You'd have probably made it if you hadn't blown that tire."

I nodded and said, "Thanks."

There probably should be a point to this blog, but as near as I can tell, the point is, this is what happens when I go too long without writing something.  I'll try to do better in the future.

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?