Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The High Road Chapter Sixteen

We've been absent for four months but we haven't been idle.  The last chapter we recorded and posted was Chapter Fifteen. However, though our schedules were too hectic to allow recording, we have continued to write, completing thirty chapters.

Now, with some free time, we are back in the recording studio so you can begin the new year catching up with the boys.

Before you listen to Chapter 16, you might want to read the last few paragraphs of Chapter Fifteen: Here they are:

The girl grasped my arm again, “Grandfather was bitten by a diamond back while we were gathering herbs. I got him in the truck and he told me to get him back to the reservation but I’ve only driven on dirt roads near our house…” she sobbed one time, shook her head and stared into my eyes with an intensity I’ve not seen this side of Vietnam and then she said, “I know that his spirit has left his body but I know you can call it back.”
I don’t know how to describe what happened next, at least I don’t know how to explain it to someone who is caught up in the world of human logic, but maybe you aren’t one of those people, so I’m going to tell you what happened next.
I laid my left hand on her right hand which was still clamped onto my wrist and said, “We are going to call him back Miss. You sit here and don’t cry or say anything. Okay?”
She nodded her agreement and released my arm. I straightened and stepped toward the front of the pickup. That’s when I realized I was watching all of this unfold like a member of the audience watching a play. I could see myself doing whatever it was that I was doing and I could hear my words but the words I was saying were from a script that if I ever knew I’d forgotten.
As I rounded the front of the pickup I thought, Bird, I need you.
As I opened the passenger door of the pickup I heard Bird leap from Miss Agnes and hit the ground running toward me. I unstrapped the seat harness and slid my right arm under the old man’s legs as I worked my left arm around his shoulders.
As I began lifting and sliding him out, I felt Bird beside me and heard him say, “ John, I’m here.”
The old man was surprisingly light, almost weightless. We moved him about ten feet away from the truck and laid him on his back in the grass beside the shoulder of the highway.
Like we had done this some other time in a place I’d almost forgotten, I saw myself kneel on on the old man’s right side as Bird knelt on his left. I slid my left hand under his head and Bird leaned over and cupped my left land hand in his right. Then, I saw us raise our heads, lock gazes, then reach across the old man’s lifeless body and grasp our free hands together forming a circle.
It seems that I saw a bright flash but I can’t be sure because that’s when I tumbled from my elevated audience seat and found myself sitting on my butt by the old man. I must have sat there for a few seconds getting my senses back in place. Finally I raised my head, turned and saw that the old man, who had been dead a moment before, was now sitting up. He smiled at me and then touched my army gently as he said, “I knew you would come when I needed you.”
Before I could respond he turned toward Bird and said, “And I knew you would be with him.”
Bird opened his mouth to speak but the old man continued before he could say a word. “What is your name?”
Bird hesitated, then said, “My name is Bird.”
The old man chuckled, twisted around and placed both his hands on Bird’s shoulders. “You are no longer Bird. You are are now Dakeya.”
He stopped talking and for a moment the only sound was the rush of a wind that sprang up from nowhere.
“Dakeya, what does it mean?” Bird asked.

Before the old man could speak, the girl called out from the truck, “Dakeya means Great Hawk.

And now, Chapter 16:

    Happy New Year,

Bert and Noah

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Twelve Hundred Miles

May 11, 2014, four months and twelve days into the year, I had run a total of 34 times.  Since my running schedule is run three days, take one day off, then repeat, I was 74 runs behind.

I haven't achieved my annual mileage goal of twelve hundred miles in a number of years.  In my 34 runs, I had accumulated only 186.6 miles.  I was almost 250 miles behind.  

Seventy-four runs and two hundred fifty miles behind.  There have been years when I would have looked at numbers like that and retired my goal of twelve hundred miles with the less than inspiring thought, I'll do it next year.

I didn't do that this year, nor did I kid myself and say I could catch up.  I did something else.  I made a commitment to run every day from that day forward.  I knew that at some point the day job schedule would grab me.  I knew that there would be days when it rained, hell, days when it stormed.  I even suspected, on May 12th, that there would be some cold days before the year was over, though that's hard to imagine in Alabama in the spring.

What happened after I made the commitment surprised me.  I had the longest unbroken steak of running in my thirty-six years as a runner.  For five months I didn't miss a single scheduled run, not one, even though there was more than one that I only ran my minimum of two miles and there were a few days that I was so slow I needed a calendar instead of a watch to time them.  And yes, there were a few that involved what we call "frog strangler" storms, and there were some that took place on nights when the temperature was in the low twenties.

Yes, I did miss a few runs in October and November.  On those days I thought of Vince Lombardi saying, "The only way I can reconcile a loss is if I know that if we had played long enough we would have won," and I was reconciled to the knowledge that if there had been one or two more hours tacked on to those "missed days," I would have run.

Then, early in December a funny thing happened.  I looked at my miles, counted the running days left in the month, did some calculations and realized that if I ran "the big loop" (7.4 miles) every day for the rest of the month, I would, despite my pitiful start, run twelve hundred miles this year.

Tonight, December 30th, is my last scheduled running night of the year.  Sometime between 8:30 and midnight (central time), I'll spend 109 to 111 minutes of my life running the big loop.  Back home I will post my log.  When I finish that, my total miles for the year will show that I have run 1,200.1 miles in 2014.

I know, a lot of people will run many more miles in 2014 than that.  And I know that had I made my commitment earlier in the year my total would have been well over 2,000 miles.  But what I could have done and what other people did do have nothing to do with what happened, so I'm not concerned about either of those things.

Make a commitment.  Keep it.

Happy New Year...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Take It

 A year ago I posted a blog called That Has Made All The Difference.  Two days ago, my friend, Caleb Pirtle, asked to re-post it on Venture Galleries.  Of course I said yes.  He re-titled the post calling it Fork in the Road.

Tomorrow (Dec 30th) is Caleb's birthday and I happen to know he is going to celebrate (in part) with his version of the blog.  Check it out on Venture Galleries.

In honor of Caleb's fifty something birthday, here's my retake on "That Has Made All The Difference."  I call this version, "Take It."

Yogi Berra - Philosopher
The great philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Like a lot of things the man said, it got a lot of laughs.  Also, like a lot of things he said, under the humor there is a vast truth.

When you come to a fork in the road take it - Obvious?  Well yes, it's obvious.  Does it happen?  Far less than we like to believe.

In most cases, when we come to a head-scratching fork in the road, two things happen.

First, we stop.  And when I say stop, I mean we come to a screeching, full-out panic stop, and we sit at the intersection waiting for a sign from the god of road forks.  And we wait and wait, and we wait some more, but there is no sign from the god of road forks because there is no god of road forks.

Then the second thing happens.  One of the forks sucks us out of our reverie and moves us along its path.

When the fork in our road decides our direction, it is seldom the one that is the best choice.  In fact, it is never the one that would be our best choice had we actually made the decision.

Indecision, terminated by circumstance, is not the way to go if personal satisfaction is anywhere on your list of personal objectives.

The next time you come to a fork in the road, choose with your heart, accept your choice and take the fork you know is yours to take.  Above all else, do it quickly before you're sucked down the wrong path.

Happy Birthday Caleb -


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Old Guard

It has been three months since I last blogged and frankly, I didn't think I would have time to blog until our busy season ends in another two weeks.
So what happened to give me time?

My friend Tom Itsell is what happened, or to be more specific, the information about the Old Guard that Tom Forwarded to me is what happened.

I'd heard of The Old Guard and even knew who they were: the U.S. Army unit charged with guarding Arlington National Cemetery.  But, as I quickly discovered, that's pretty meager knowledge, which I realized when I read Tom's email.  In a moment I'll share a few excerpts from the message and a couple of videos of The Old Guard.

When I decided to write the blog post about The Old Guard and what it takes to be one of them, I ran a few Google searches and knew I had to write it now, not two weeks from now when the busy season is over.  The photo above confirmed it - notice that everyone in the picture, except the guardsman, has an umbrella.  That, in a photo, is pretty much what The Old Guard is about.

Here are a few facts from Tom's email:

Before a member of the Army can apply for duty with The Old Guard, he must meet the physical requirements:  height 5'10" to 6'2" tall with a waist size not to exceed 30".

That's the easiest part.  Then comes the time commitment.  A tour with The Old Guard is a minimum of two years.  During that two year period the guardsmen live in a barracks under The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where they train and prepare for their duties.

In addition, a member of The Old Guard swears to never drink alcohol or use profanity in public, not just for the their tour of duty, but for the rest of their lives.  The rest of their lives!

That kind of commitment is beyond most of our imaginations.  In fact, just a week without swearing or consuming alcohol would put most of us in the dust.

Commitment is what The Old Guard is about.  The kind of commitment I understand is at the heart of ancient esoteric orders.  That's what drew me to learn more about the Old Guard.  If you're interested, there is quite a bit of information here.

Here are two videos I found on YouTube.  The first is a 4 minute study of the life of a Tomb Guard:

And a short piece about a guard and his final walk:

I appreciate this information more than you can imagine.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Fifteen

Bert Carson      &    Noah Charif
Noah and I just finished some "holiday work" and wrote and recorded Chapter Fifteen for your entertainment.

Enjoy it and have a safe, fun holiday.

Remember, if you are just joining us, or if you've missed one of the chapters, they are all here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The High Road Chapter 14

Here is Chapter Fourteen of The High Road, a novel co-written by Bert Carson and Noah Charif.

If you've missed a chapter or if you are just joining us, all of the chapters are here.

Thanks for joining us.  We hope you enjoy the rolling adventure.

All comments are appreciated
Bert and Noah

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dates To Remember

by Bert Carson
February 7, 1982 is not a date I remember, though I do remember what I did on that date - I ran my first marathon.  I wasn't in nearly good enough shape for it, crossing the finish line a little over four hours after I started.

Over the next few years, I ran eight other marathons, with a best time of three hours and thirty-four minutes.   Now, at age 71 (72 in a couple of weeks), I'm in better condition than I was for any of the marathons, half-marathons, ultra marathons, and 10K's that I've run.

I didn't say I am faster, though I think I could be.  I said I'm in better condition.  There are two reasons for that.  First, May 12, 2014 I made a commitment not to miss a scheduled running day for the rest of the year - by the way, my running schedule is simple - run three straight days, take one day off, repeat, etc., etc.

The second reason brings me to the title of this blog - Dates to Remember.   Before I share the dates and the events that transpired on those dates, let me share a quote, which you are probably familiar with, from Eubie Brown:  "If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of my self."  And my thought on Eubie's words - IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.

The dates are  March 25, 2013, the day I gave up sugar and thirteen months later, April 18, 2014, the day I gave up caffeine.

So, running six out of every seven days, has put me in the best physical condition of my life.  Giving up sugar made me 20+ pounds lighter and sounded the death knell for a 45 year chronic sinus condition.  Giving up caffeine ensured that my energy is always at a high level without peaks and valleys, and of more importance on many previous occasions, I no longer wonder what I'll do if I receive an emergency call of nature because that is no longer a possibility.

So there they are, three dates that moved me around the corner:  March 25, 2013, April 18, 2014, and May 12, 2014.  Days like any other, until I made three radical commitments and didn't waiver in implementing them.  

What dates do you remember?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The High Road - Chapter 13

by Bert Carson

Here's Chapter 13 of The High Road.

Remember, if you've missed a chapter or if you're just joining the trip,  all of the chapters are here.

Enjoy the ride with John, Bird, and JoJo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Narrative License

by Bert Carson,
My Friend Ted The Gryphon
You've heard of Poetic License, however, you may not know that Wikipedia has lumped poetic license with a number of other "licenses" and arrived at this definition:

Artistic License, also known as dramatic license, historical license, poetic license, narrative license, or simply license, is a colloquial term, sometimes euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist to improve a piece of art.  

I have an issue with the word distortion.  Who can say where fact ends and distortion begins?  No one can, since distortion is simply one person's perception.  In other words, what you think is distortion might well be my fact (and there is a good chance that is the case).  Take this simple history of an actual creature for example:

The ancient Greeks described the creature, which they called a Griffin, as a mighty being with the body of a lion, the king of beasts, and the wings of an eagle, the king of birds.  Obviously some ancient Greek, or more likely, a large group of them, saw a Griffin, or a flock of them.  Face it,  who could make up something like that?

Thousands of years after the Greek sighting of Griffins, Charles Lutwidge Dogson, whose distorted name was Lewis G. Carroll, spied a mutated Griffin, which had the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.  He called this mutation a Gryphon, and described it in his classic "non-fiction" work, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.  

In 1948, the nuns who founded Gwynedd Mercy University (located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia) also saw a Gryphon and were so inspired they made him the mascot of the school.  The Gryphon commemorated in the statue at the left, appeared in Germany a number of years ago and seems to have adopted the country and all its citizens, hence the stature.

My friend Ted (see drawing above) is undoubtedly a descendant of the Dogson Gryphon.  I've known Ted for most of my 70+ years and know for a fact that he is undistorted, loyal, talented and very, very strong.

I cannot believe the ancient Greeks would distort anything and neither would Charles Lutwidge Dogson, mathematician and Anglican Deacon.  And who would accuse the Sisters of Mercy of Bensalem of distortion? Not to mention all of the citizens of Germany who sighted the creature?  And, if you require further proof of the undistorted existence of both Griffins and Gryphons, you have to look no further than me:  You know I live far above the possibility of distortion (by the way, that's Ted tattooed on my left arm).

So much for the distorted definition of license.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meeting In Vicksburg

by Bert Carson
Bert - Christina - Caleb - Stephen
I've anticipated meetings before, and, to be honest, more often than not my expectations have crashed and burned in the reality of the experience.  However, on those few occasions when it went the other way - when reality exceeded expectation, spirits soared and hope was renewed.

The particular meeting that I'm about to tell you about has been anticipated for a very long time.  We (me, Christina, Caleb Pirtle, and Stephen Woodfin) have been internet friends for over three years.  We initially bonded with the mutual objective of discovering the secret of marketing our books.  As we hacked away at the Indie Writer Mystery of Mysteries, we became good friends - as good as you can be when digital contact is your only connection.

We found each other through Triberr.  Since those early days, we have corresponded regularly via email, joined up on weekly Google Hangouts, and Stephen and I are regular pen-and-ink pen pals, yet, we'd never met face-to-face, until last Friday.  It isn't that we didn't want to meet sooner, it just never quite worked out, distance and schedules being the major obstacles.

Stephen and Caleb live in Texas. Christina and I live in Alabama.  In addition to being writers, we each have "day jobs" that take a vast amount of our time, so until now we haven't been able to schedule a date that worked for each of us.  With a time and date locked in place, we settled on a place - Rusty's Restaurant in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

It's 340 miles from Huntsville, Alabama to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Since Christina and I aren't morning people, we elected to travel to the rendezvous Thursday and spend the night in Vicksburg.   We arrived a bit before 5 PM.  By 5:30 we'd changed into running gear and were jogging in the Vicksburg National Cemetery, a Civil War Memorial of epic proportions, whose hills are about three time higher than any hill in Huntsville, Alabama.

We were scheduled to meet at 11 AM, so naturally we arrived at 10, strolled through town, then visited the Corp of Engineers Mississippi River exhibition which is located across the street from Rusty's.  At 10:45 we left the exhibition, stepping out into the glare of August sunlight.  As we paused at the curb, letting our eyes adjust to the light, a horn blew and the driver pointed out the window toward us,  as the passenger shouted, "It's them."  That was the beginning of the long-awaited meeting.  A little over six hours later the meeting adjourned until next we meet - and you can be sure that we will.

So, what did four writers, who had never met before, do for six hours?  We talked like twelve-year-old friends who have just shaken the confines of a long day at school.  We talked in Rusty's until they closed at 2.  Then we walked down the street to a coffee shop, got beverages, and sat outside talking until the sun peaked over the river and began falling toward Texas, blinding us in it's glare as it heated up the eastern side of Washington Street, which parallels the Mississippi River.  We surrendered our position but didn't give up the meeting.  We simply moved to the west side of the street, without losing our place in the conversation.

At that point, the meeting became mobile,  as we meandered up and down the street, pausing often to gaze in windows and stare at old buildings while speculating on both.  That's what writers do, you know?  Did we come any closer to solving the mystery of mysteries?  Only time will tell.  However, there is one thing I can tell you about the meeting, it was joyous occasion - one that I'm already looking forward to repeating.  


Friday, August 15, 2014

The High Road - Chapter 12

by Bert Carson
Bert Carson - Noah Charif - Adrienne Wall Photography

John and Bird began to explore "mind reading" and are surprised when Batman leads them to a discovery about their ability to communicate without speaking.

Click here to listen to episodes 1 - 11.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The High Road - Chapter 11

by Bert Carson
Bert Carson - Noah Charif - Photos Adrienne Wall

Bird, who has never, as far as he can remember, been out of Alabama, proves to be a worthy navigator and partner, as he, John, and JoJo take a detour toward Albuquerque.

If you've missed a chapter, or if you're just beginning the adventure, you can find all the episodes here.

Thanks for joining us for the ride.

Bert & Noah

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The High Road Chapter Ten

by Bert Carson
Bert Carson  -   Noah Charif  (Adrienne Wall Photography)
Back on the road with John, Bird, and JoJo, as they pick up a load in Oklahoma and begin heading south for El Paso.

As they travel they learn more about each other and the amazing connection they have.

All of the episodes are posted here for your convenience.

Friday, August 8, 2014

When Jeremy Plays

by Bert Carson
Jeremy Vosen
My friend, Merri, has mentioned her friend Jeremy a number of times in emails and letters.  Yesterday, she told me he was close to finishing his first YouTube video, an original composition called Moonlight Reflection.

This morning I found a link to the video in my in-basket.  The hauntingly beautiful work of this young master was a lovely way to begin the day.

Now I share Jeremy with you.  Enjoy

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Goodness Without A Motive

by Bert Carson
With all the "bad news" and just plain "meanness" the world is inundated with, take a few seconds for something refreshing.

Post by Marc Weinberg.

Note - more than a million people have liked this video.

Ralph, thanks for sending this.  You're the best my friend. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Nine

by Bert Carson
After some down time, the High Road, a unique trucking adventure, co-written by me and writing partner, Noah Charif, is back.

In case you aren't following the adventures of John, a sixty year old Independent trucker, his dog JoJo, and Bird, a thirteen-year-old runaway turned stowaway, you can catch up with the story here.

If you are following the adventures of the unlikely trio, here's the latest installment:

Chapters 10 and 11 are scheduled to arrive at your loading dock very soon.

Thanks for joining us,

Bert and Noah

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Running With Daddy

by Bert Carson
Me & Daddy April 1944
Lessons that last are the lessons that are modeled, not the ones that spoken.  I know that today more powerfully than I've known it, which means, now, seventy years after that picture was snapped, I'm still getting a lot of the lessons my daddy modeled for me.

One of those lessons came to me just before midnight last night.  I was two and half miles into what ultimately became a seven and half mile run. I was running through downtown Huntsville, surrounded by the sounds of three live bands behind me and at least that many ahead of me when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Harley approaching from behind.  

As I ran, I snapped on my flashlight to mark my position.  The bike slowed and I glanced to my right to make sure the rider had noted my presence.  He turned toward me, waved his left hand, and above the noise of his unmuffled exhaust he shouted, "It is sure a great night night to be out."

I waved back, and shouted my agreement, though I knew from experience he couldn't hear me.  As I watched his taillights fade, I thought of motorcycles, and daddy, and then I thought of his first motorcycle and the day he got his second one.  Then I laughed out loud, to the delight of residents of the retirement home who were sitting on their front porch watching the night and listening to the garbled music.

A couple of years after my 1960 graduation from high school, I got the bug for a Harley.  Since I was living at home, the decision wasn't totally mine.  I knew what mother would say, so I went to daddy.  I explained that I wanted to trade my car, a 1954 metallic green Plymouth that I called Bullfrog, for a 1957 Harley Davidson Duo Glide that had just been traded in at the Harley shop in St. Augustine.

He thought about that for a few minutes and then began naming all the reasons that a motorcycle as my sole means of transportation wasn't practical.  I quickly agreed with every point he made because I had already thought of every one of them on my own.

When he finished, he asked, "And you still want one?"

"Yessir," was all I said.

He smiled and said, "That's what I figured.  Okay, I'll explain it your mother.  Go ahead and put the deal together."

Two days later, after the bike was delivered and Bullfrog was driven away, the two of us stood in the driveway admiring the bike for a long time.  Finally I said, "You want to take it for a ride?"

"No," he said, "I want to start with something a whole lot smaller than that."

I didn't get that when he said it, but over the course of the next few weeks I remembered his words and thought secretly, I probably should have started with something smaller

A month or so later, I came home and found daddy washing his new Harley 165.  As he lovingly cleaned the bike he explained that he had always wanted a motorcycle but his parents would not allow him to have one, and though he never forgot that, the time just hadn't been right for to get one... until now.

I circled the miniature motorcycle a couple of times, stopped and looked at him, then said, "It looks a little small for you."

He grinned and went back to washing the bike as he said, "It's small but it will do until I learn to ride."

He "learned" for the next year, riding that little machine everywhere, in all kind of weather, despite the fact that it handled like a brick and the only way he could get it to sixty was to flatten himself across the fuel tank. Even that wouldn't work if there was the slightest headwind.

Now I understand.  He didn't care about that.  He was learning to ride.  A year later, early on a Saturday morning, I heard daddy kick Putt-Putt, as I had come to call it, into life.  I ran from the house and caught him as he was strapping on his helmet.  "Wait for me," I shouted above the noise.  "I'll get dressed and go with you."

He shut the bike down, then smiling he said, "That's alright.  I have something to do.  You go back to bed and we'll ride this afternoon."

Back to bed sounded good, so I agreed.  Before the sound of the tiny motorcycle had totally faded, I was back in bed.  I had only been up a half hour or so when I heard a different sound from the driveway.  A deep-throated bass with long intervals between each cylinder firing.  I knew it was a big bike.  I also knew it wasn't stock.  And I knew it wasn't a Harley.

I ran outside and stopped in my tracks when I saw daddy sitting astride his new BSA.  Without shutting it off, he said, "Are you ready to go for a ride?"  

We left town on State Road 19 which passes through the Ocala National Forest.  As usual, I was in the lead.  At the beginning of a thirteen mile, absolutely straight stretch of road without a single house or side road, I glanced in my mirror and saw him take his hand off the handlebar and point straight ahead.  I twisted the throttle to the stop and watched the speedometer wind past a hundred miles per hour and finally peg out on the Harley emblem at the bottom-center.  I guessed that I was traveling somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred and five miles per hour.

I raised my hand to let him know that was as fast as I could go and then I glanced in my mirror and saw him approaching at a rate of speed I couldn't believe.  As he passed, he shifted from fourth to fifth, and the front wheel of his big English bike lifted a few inches off the ground.  I'm sure he was laughing but I couldn't hear it through the sound of the two engines.

Last night, I finally got the lesson he modeled so elegantly all those years ago.  Begin with the basics and stay with them until they are mastered them before you move on to all the bells and whistles.

Yep, last night was a good night to be out with daddy.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Concussion-Like Symptons

by Bert Carson
Concussion-like symptoms is a rather silly sounding sport's term that means - "the player took a lick in the head and now he or she is acting like they took a lick in the head."

Before "like" can be removed from the term a few things must happen.

1. Someone must call time out.
2. Someone must ask the player how many fingers they are holding up in his/her face.
3. The player must be taken to the hospital where he can be examined by a doctor who has been trained to hold up more than two fingers when asking "how many fingers am I holding up.
4. The doctor must make the official call - concussion or no concussion.

Here's a preliminary report on an incident that resulted in a verdict of concussion-like symptoms:

ST. PETERSBURG -- Pirates left fielder Starling Marte left the Bucs' 6-5 win over the Rays on Tuesday with concussion-like symptoms after he slid headfirst into Tampa Bay second baseman Sean Rodriguez's knee.
"He had concussion-like symptoms, so we sent him to the hospital to get a CT scan. We haven't had any report back," manager Clint Hurdle said after the game.
Now, here's something to ponder.  Can a player have concussion-like symptoms if no one calls time out, waves two fingers in his face, confronts him with a medical degree, or officially rules on his condition?
I say, "Nope."  Unless those four things happen, there is no concussion.  I should know.  That's my black eye in the picture.  I got that at 10 PM last Thursday while closing in on the five mile mark of a scheduled 7.3 mile run.  I wasn't sliding into first base.  I wasn't paying close enough attention when I came to end of a stretch of road that was under construction and I didn't notice the five inch drop from the surface of the street I intended to turn on.  
For a almost frozen moment in time, I realized I was about to do a header and there was nothing I could do about it except watch.  I took the force of the fall first on both knees, then on the palms of both hand, and finally on my forehead, which ricocheted off the pavement at least twice before it stopped moving.
There was no one around to call time out, or to penalize me for the tacky thing I screamed at myself.  Though I was only a block from Huntsville Hospital, there was no one to pick me up and put me on a John Deere powered stretcher, no crowd to applaud my survival, and no one for the coach to send in to take my place.  So, even though it wasn't a lot of fun, I had to get up, turn north, and start running again.  So I did.
A half block later, with thoughts of paying more attention running through my sore head, another thought ran through my slightly battered and a little bit bloodied head - I can't be hurt, no one called time out.  I looked at my official Garmin heart monitor-GPS-runners watch and realized that though I'd lost some time, if I pushed, I could get back on my 14:47 pace and not suffer in the indignity of a run at 15+ minutes per mile.  So I did.
Remember, if no one calls time out and you can get up and run, you are alright.  Go for it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Perfection

by Bert Carson
Wabi-Sabi, a Zen term, is derived from the combining of two Japanese words.  Wabi, which means living alone in nature, and  Sabi, which means lean and simple.  When the two are combined, there is no universally accepted definition, though the term is often used.  In fact, most who know simply say it is unexplainable.

The problem in defining Wabi-Sabi is the term is used to describe perfection without offering a definition of perfection. Here's an example from Daniel Levin's book, The Zen Book:

"In Zen, the saying Wabi-Sabi means 'the perfectly imperfect.'  Since nothing in this world is perfect, the practice of Wabi-Sabi is seeing that which is perfect in all of life's imperfections."

Levin's definition is as good as any or as bad as all the other definitions I've read, simply because it is based on the notion that perfection is a universal standard, and IT ISN'T.

Perfection is, in fact, a meaningless, individual way of expressing "this or that is as good as it gets."  As good as it gets for me simply isn't as good as it gets for you.  In fact, chances are, my "as good as it gets" is your "awful."

Perfection is an ideal that when applied to any individual thing is anything but perfect.

In my all-time favorite movie, The Last Samurai, Ken Wantanabe, portraying the Samurai Katsumoto Moritsugu, told Captain Algren:

"The perfect blossom is a rare thing.  You could spend your life looking for one and it would not be a life wasted."

At the end of the last battle, a dying Katsumoto, gazed across the battlefield toward a cherry tree which was in full bloom, its blossoms blowing across the destruction of the battle, and said to Captain Algren, "They are all perfect."

That is Wabi-Sabi - Knowing the perfection in all things.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Running Commitment Update

by Bert Carson
On May 12th I made a commitment, renewal might be a better word, to my running.  Basically the commitment was, from that day until the end of the year I wouldn't miss a single running day.

That means, I committed to myself to run every scheduled running day for the rest of the year - NO EXCEPTIONS.  You should know two things about that commitment.  First, I run three days, take one day off, then repeat.  That's the ideal.  However, from Jan 1st thru May 11th, I had only run 34 times.  In nineteen weeks, I should have run 114 times.  I was 80 miles short of the ideal.  Running had become an endangered activity for me.  That's why I made what seemed to me a radical commitment.

I made every run for the next week.  The numbers were: Total miles run 22.8 at an average pace of 15 minutes and 50 seconds per mile.  None of the miles were easy, nor was there much fun involved.

Today, I will make my 87th run of the year.  I haven't missed a single day and unless I die between now and December 31st, I won't.  This week I ran 32 miles (which includes a thunderstorm shortened run) at an average pace of 14:45 per mile.  I've increased my weekly mileage by roughly 30% while lowering the pace over a minute per mile.  But I've done something much more important than that.  I've shifted my running attitude - missing a scheduled run is no longer an option.

When I made the commitment, I was prepared to gut it out on shear will power just because I said I would.  I didn't expect it to be fun.  I didn't expect to run further and faster than I have in more than ten years.  I didn't expect to lose weight and get in better shape than I have been in more than fifteen years.  However, simply by keeping my commitment to myself, all of those things have happened.

Now that's a deal without a downside, and it is one I've just applied to writing.  Watch for an update on that one.

Happy commitment to you.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's The Hurry?

by Bert Carson
No one asked to be born, at least no one I've ever met remembers asking. After being rudely snatched from the warm, cozy spot that had sheltered us for nine months, we begin learning our way around this place; a process that never seems to end or even plateau.

Depending on our arrival point and the group who invited us to play there, for the dozen or so years after our birth, we are indoctrinated in the language, customs, beliefs, politics and religions of that family group.  For me that initial training was genteel southern with a touch of polite racism, all wrapped up with a democratic political banner, while a deep male voice read from The Bible:  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...."

Somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5, the polite racism thing stuck in my throat and quickly caused a rift between me and the group who called me to this place.  They were fighters though, and they did their dead level best to convert me to "the right way of thinking."  After a couple of years, they realized it wasn't going to happen; and they dropped the segregation module of instruction from my training.  From that point, they went out of their way to see that racism, known as segregation, was never discussed in my presence.

With that hideous topic off the training menu, I became more trainable, accepting large doses of stupidity without question.  And then I went to Vietnam to "do my part like all the men in my family group had done."  There I met a large group of Vietnamese men and women, who were "doing their part like their ancestors had done."

That experience opened me to see, and then seek out, other ways beyond the way I'd been taught.  That moved me beyond creeds, cultures, politics, right and wrong, to a place of knowing "there is only one of us here."

From that perspective it was easy to see that we've become slaves to two things.  First, unless we consciously break out, we are locked to the beliefs we were indoctrinated with from the beginning of this time we call "our life."  Second, and far more subtle, the vast majority of us are caught in a belief that was never directly taught to us by anyone.  However, we believe it as profoundly as we believe anything else.  That is, we believe our life is a timed contest.

Few of us truly believe we'll die.  We believe at some point a voice from on high will boom down, "That's it.  Put down your pencil and pass your test pages to the right."

After "In the beginning," there are roughly 2,000 pages in The Bible.  On none of them are the words, "this is a timed event.  Begin now."  And those words aren't in the Koran, the Talmud, the Teachings of Buddha, or the Tao Te Ching.

In fact, the opening words of the Tao Te Ching, give a much clearer idea of what this is about -

"The Tao (the way the universe works) that can be told is not the eternal Tao..."

That means all of our inherited instruction has nothing to do with the way things really are.  It means that life isn't a timed contest. It means life is something much, much bigger.  It means we've been fooling ourselves looking at the clock and waiting for it to run out.  It means that our job is to raise our vision to the the source of all that is and do what we came here knowing was ours to do, and doing it in the way we know how to do it.

I believe we get beyond stop-watch and ingrained beliefs, one step at a time.  Our only task is to keep walking...


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Thirteenth Step

by Bert Carson
I'm Bert.
I'm an addict."

If this were an AA meeting and I was addressing the group, that's the first thing I would say.

This isn't an AA meeting, or any other conventional twelve-step meeting, but the introduction still applies because this is me talking to you about my addiction.  I'm doing that because I'm an addict, and I suspect you're reading this because you want to know what I have to say about it.

The first thing you should know is, I'm not addicted to alcohol.  I don't like the taste of alcohol in any form, so I'm a teetotaler.  I'm not addicted to drugs or any other controlled substance for the same reason I'm not an alcoholic.  After a couple of days on morphine, following a serious auto accident, I determined pain was better than loss of mental focus.

However, my addiction is just as self-destructive.  I'm addicted to rage and have been for going on fifty years.  I've attended many open 12 step meetings, and I've heard the horror stories that go with substance abuse. I can tell equally horrific stories of my addiction.

Many years ago, I had the good fortune to attend a number of open AA meetings sponsored and conducted by Vietnam Veterans.  As I listened to the stories and met the men and women who were regulars at the meetings, I realized that the 12 Steps might help me with my addiction.  So I began working them.  And they did help.  (If you aren't familiar with the 12 Steps - here's a link to them).

In spite of my work with the 12 steps, there have been numerous times when I've fallen off the wagon.  When that happens, I'm as out of control as any drunk, or drug addict, you've ever seen or heard of.

To be more specific, I've never directed my rage at a loved one and the episodes are fairly short-lived.  The reason they are short lived is because I've always, and I mean ALWAYS, so intimidated the person, or persons that the rage was directed toward that they immediately fled the scene.

That was the case until last Saturday night.  That's when I met an angel who shared the 13th Step with me.  Check your calendar and you'll remember that last Saturday was July 5th, the day after a major holiday and the middle day of a long weekend.  The clubs in downtown Huntsville were packed and noisy.  Traffic was thick as people were drawn to the area like moths to candles.  And there I was, a rage addict, running through the middle of the raucous celebration.

Someone behind me blew their horn, and I fell off the rage wagon, just like an alcoholic, only quicker.  Before the sound faded a car pulled up beside me.  The window was halfway down so I shouted, "What the **** do you mean blowing your horn at me."

The angel driving the vehicle turned toward me and smiled the sweetest smile this side of heaven and in a voice that was both courageous and kind, softly said, "That wasn't me.  It was someone behind me, and I don't think they were blowing at you."

He was wasting his breath, because I was caught in the rage storm I'd allowed to sweep over me.  I moved closer to his car, leaned down and put my face almost in the window and screamed some things I'm glad I don't remember.  Then, wonder of wonders, he smiled again.  That stopped the rage.  For the first time in all the years I've been an addict, I did not intimidate the person I directed my rage toward.  And for the first time, the episode ended without running its course.

Then he gave me the way to conquer my addiction once and forever.  He gave me the insight I needed to write a thirteenth step, when with so much love I could feel it, he said, "You need to calm yourself."

The traffic began to move, and he drove slowly away as I stood in the street, speechless.  A few seconds later I jumped back into my run while watching him turn left at the next intersection and slide into a parking space that seemed to have appeared from nowhere.  As I ran through the intersection he got out of his car and saluted me.  With a smile on my face, I returned the salute and headed out of town, running easier than I've run in years.  As the miles slipped away, I mentally drafted the 13th Step - it goes like this:

13.  I know that I have the power to chose my state of mind, and I always choose calmness and serenity no matter what events or actions are taking place.  I understand that to work the thirteenth step requires constant vigilance, and I willingly accept that responsibility.

Hi, I'm Bert, a recovering addict.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

Elementary - A Review

by Bert Carson
Between 1939 and 1946, 13 Sherlock Holmes films were created starring Basil Rathbone as Arthur Conan Doyle's one-of-a-kind, consulting detective.

From 1984 through 1994 Jeremy Brett portrayed Sherlock in 41 television episodes.

After 1994 a number of actors took a run at being Sherlock.  None managed to capture the hearts of Sherlock fans.  Then, in 2010, along came Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, Holmes and Watson respectively, with Sherlock, an updated version of the timeless duo.  They were an instant hit with British audiences, the world's most expert judges of Sherlock Holmes presentations.  Through 2014 they have appeared in nine episodes.

Personally, I loved the first six and hated the next two so much much I couldn't watch the 9th.  Nothing went wrong with Cumberbatch and Freeman.  In my opinion, their writers failed them.

A few weeks ago, quite by accident, while looking through Amazon Prime Movies and TV, searching for something new to watch, Elementary, a Sherlock series staring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu caught my eye.  In spite of our disappointment with Sherlock (the series), we remain Sherlock fans, so we decided to give the pilot a look.

That was the beginning of a love affair.  Here's a clip from that first episode.  It will better explain our addiction in one minute and forty-seven seconds than I could in ten thousand words:

Elementary is a CBS series that is shooting its third season at this moment.  We own the first two, forty-eight episodes, and we are currently watching them for the second time.  I suspect we'll watch them all again, at least one more time before the new season begins.

What do we think of the show?  Well, that's elementary, isn't it?

Here's what Jonny Lee Miller said about the series:  "For me, there are two different things that make Sherlock, Sherlock.  One is, you know, within the books: obviously he's a genius with an attention to detail, his ravenous hunger for all aspects of knowledge that might feed his work... But the major thing that makes him Sherlock is his relationship with Watson - their friendship.  For me, that, I guess is the biggest side, the more interesting side than the genius."

Jonny Lee Miller is one of the best, if not the best actor its been my pleasure to watch.  The writing hasn't missed a beat since episode one.  If Sherlock (the series) is an indicator, the third season could break the spell, but frankly, I don't believe that will happen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

To Francis Scott Key

by Bert Carson
Dear Francis,
In our universe of infinite possibilities, I know you are still out there somewhere.  That being the case, I want you to understand that from my current vantage point in time, which is July 4, 2014, I'm thinking of you as I do every July 4th.
I don't think of you on this day because I admire you.  I don't.  Even if you were "nice" to your slaves, you were pro-slavery in the lifetime about which I'm writing.  However, your opinion regarding that subject, as repugnant as it is, isn't the point of this correspondence.

From the safety of a British ship, you watched and heard the British bombardment of American forces at Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.  Sometime later you wrote a poem about the experience.  Later still, the poem was set to music, and 102 years after you wrote it, it became the national anthem of The United States of America.

Today, the legal department of any newspaper or book publisher would reject your poem for two reasons.  First, you stated that you watched the perilous fight "o'er the ramparts."  That just isn't true.  You were being detained on board a British ship, hardly in the thick of things as you implied, and second, you described the action as a "perilous fight," when, in fact it was the one-sided attack of a superior force against a defenseless position, and a tribute to the poor marksmanship of British.

Still, that isn't the point of this letter.  It's the bit about the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air that bothers me.  If you had ever participated in an armed conflict, you'd understand why.  You would know about flashbacks and PTSD.  And if you followed the history of the fireworks industry you would also know that single line, which we both know was a gross exaggeration, is the primary reason millions of pounds of explosives will be detonated this day, to the delight of hordes of people and the dismay of millions more who have participated in armed conflicts in the name of freedom.

In the future, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation and elect to write a poem about it, for the sake of veterans and war survivors everywhere, please omit all references to bombs and rockets.

Most sincerely,

Bert Carson

the man formerly known as Staff Sergeant Carson of the 214th Combat Aviation Battalion - Republic of South Vietnam - in the years 1967 and 1968.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Yogi Berra On Thinking

by Bert Carson
Yogi Berra is one of the best known baseball players of all time.  For most of his nineteen year career, he was the super star catcher for the New York Yankees.

Casey Stengel, his long-time manager, said of Yogi, "I never play a game without my man."

His records and awards are both astounding and far too numerous to mention or attempt to recap here.  However, if you are curious, check Wikipedia for his records along with his history.

Besides playing, Yogi was also a coach and a manager.  However, as time passes, it's his career as a writer and commentator that most people remember.

Quotes like these have assured Yogi a place in history that I'm convinced will surpass his membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It ain't over until its over," which he said while managing the Mets and leading them to a division title on the last day of the season after trailing by 9 and a half games halfway through the season. And then there's this:

"It's deja vu all over again," which he said after watching team mates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hit back-to-back home runs.

And there are the classics, "You can learn a lot by watching" and "When you come to a fork in the road take it."

A lesser known Yogi quote that recently caught my attention is:  "You can't think and hit at the same time."

Like most Yogi quotes, when you get past the humor of them you find a simple and profound truth.

I've come to know, not always the easy way, that human beings cannot "multi-task."  We do have the ability of quickly, though not effectively, shifting our attention from one thing to another, which some people have mistakenly identified as "multi-tasking."  However, unless you're just into doing sloppy work or have a death wish regarding texting and driving, attention shifting is not the answer to getting the most out of every moment.

Doing one thing at a time and doing it the very best you know how to do it is the only sure way to success an longevity.

Thanks Yogi.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Until Then - Two Times - Two Ways - Both GREAT!

by Bert Carson
One of my first coming-of-age milestones was being allowed to join my Mother, Daddy, and Grandmother, at the All-Night Gospel Singings they attended every two or three months at the Birmingham (Alabama) Colosseum.

Of all the gospel groups I heard there, none were black, and that was my loss, one I didn't realize the full impact of until I heard Albertina Walker sing Until Then at Christ Universal Temple in Chicago.  For years I searched for a copy of the song with no results.  I did obtain a number of Ms. Walker's albums, but none of them included Until Then.

A couple of years into my search, I found a different version of the song by Charles Johnson and the Revivers.  I fell in love with that one also, and have listened to it more times that you would believe.

Then a few weeks ago, I found it on YouTube and since then I and my neighbors and quite a few pedestrians passing our house have listened to it a number of times.

This evening was a running off-night for me, so while Christina ran, I cranked up the volume and played Charles Johnson yet again.  As the song ended, I had an inspiration - search YouTube for Albertina's version and you guessed it, I found it.

Here are both for your listening pleasure:

The Contradiction

by Bert Carson
It all started like this.  At 4 AM, on September 9, 1942, I was dragged into this world, slapped on the ass, and while I was screaming from the shock of that rude reception, I heard someone tell someone else, "It's a boy."

No one whispered to me, "Its going to be alright.  Just close your eyes and take a nap and we'll explain everything later."

Though no one told me a thing over the next couple of years, they  talked about me enough for me to figure out that I was a boy, that I had two parents, though as far as I was concerned that was hearsay, since one of them was on a submarine, somewhere on the other side of the world,  fighting men he didn't know, over something I didn't understand nor was I even sure I wanted to understand.

Later, after I'd pretty much figured out who this group of strangers was and who they thought I was to them, they packaged me with a group of kids like me and sent us to a place where we were to be further indoctrinated in the rules of this organization that, as near as I could tell, had kidnapped us from wherever in the universe we had been residing.

Our indoctrination began with daily recitations of something called the Pledge of Allegiance.  Every day, while standing at attention, we said:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Sometime later, the boys and girls were divided into separate groups. I don’t know what the girls did, but I remember well what the boys did. We stood at attention and repeated the Boy Scout Oath, which went like this:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law:
To help other people at all times:
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

With that bit of indoctrination behind me, I now knew I was not only a boy, and a member of particular clan of humans, I was also a Boy Scout committed to helping other people at all times.

I finished my formal schooling, married a woman I'd met in one of the schools I attended, got a job in a city near the one my parents had bought me to when I was thirteen years old, and the two of us began doing what we had been taught to do:  Going to work, going to church, going to bed, waking up, and doing it all over again.

A couple of years later I once again stood at attention and repeated another pledge.  This one went like this:

I Bert Carson, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The bottom line of that one was, I found myself involved in a war with men I didn't know, in a country I'd never heard of, halfway around the world.

Now, seventy-one years later, I have a new pledge, one that I wrote and I'm pleased to report that its working out a whole lot better for me than the other three did.

If you would like to know what it is, e-mail me at and I'll tell you.