Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stupid Trumps Redundant...doesn't it?

It started raining Saturday night as I dressed to run.  At 10:30, with the rain showing no sign of letting up, I canceled the run.

It rained continually for the next twenty-four hours, and I was going stir crazy.  Finally I thought, it's not cold, just wet, I can handle that... so I put on my running gear and headed out.

A half mile or so from the house, already soaked, but reconciled to my fate, I was moving gingerly around a bunch of deeper puddles when a car pulled up beside me.  Matching my pace, the driver called out, "Going for a run?"

I pulled my attention off the road and turned toward the voice.  It was police officer, there to protect and serve according to the sign on the side of the car.  The first response to his question that crossed my mind was, "No, actually I'm at home watching Sunday Night Football..." However, I thought better of saying that out loud and instead said, "That's right Officer."

Then he said, "Be careful and don't get hit...you hear."

I instantly thought of a number of responses to that well thought out piece of advice but had sense enough not to repeat any of them out loud.  Instead I said, "Thanks, Officer."

As he drove out of sight, I figured that at least I didn't have to worry about him hitting me unless he doubled back and slipped up behind me.  And then I thought, this is a perfect example of an ongoing conversation Christina and I have been having the past few days.  The essence of that conversation is, by and large we are running our lives on bad advice and poorly thought out opinions, because that's what we had in our formative years.

What the police officer told me was no different that what your parents, teachers, and other mentors told you at a time when you were too young to know they were being stupid.

The issue is, we didn't know it was stupid, so we've spent a lifetime with their stupidity guiding us, and we'll go to our graves doing it if don't smarten up and take a look at some of the idiocy that has passed for our guiding truths.

Happy hunting and be careful that you don't get hit...you hear?


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Made In Japan

A long, long, time ago, when I was a kid and Alderaan was still a viable, though far away planet, wars raged on earth and in outer space. In outer space, The Empire blew Alderaan to smithereens and the war on earth finally ground to a halt.   

On earth, before the war, there were no product labels to advise consumers where a product was made or grown.  On Alderaan no consumers survived.

When Japanese businesses began exporting their manufactured goods they were so poorly made American legislators felt compelled to warn consumers of their shoddy construction.  The method of warning was to require that a label stating the product was "made in Japan" be affixed to all items imported from Japan.

In the sixty or so years since, things have changed.  Now consumers know the Made in Japan label  means quality and often they select items so marked over similar "made in the U.S.A." labeled products.

What caused the shift?  In a word, quality.   In many cases we've traded quality for short term profits.  When given a choice between quarterly earnings and integrity we more often than not go for earnings.  

W. Edwards Deming, a quality guru who took his message to Japan after the war, found an open and receptive audience in Japan.  At home many businessmen gave Deming a lot of lip of service but little else. 

Today quality is the underlying key to the success of manufacturing and in outer space tiny fragments of what was once the thriving planet of Alderaan are now little more than road hazards in an obscure corner of the universe.

There are a couple of lessons there for all who are willing to find them.    



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You For Your Service

For many years I knew that every Veterans Day there was always one thing I could count on - at some time during the day, no matter where I was, or what I was doing, my phone would ring.  I would answer and then hear her say, "I was just thinking about you and wanted to say, "Thank you for your service."

Therese Godfrey didn't call because I am a veteran.  She called to honor our friendship.  Hell, she knew I only volunteered for Vietnam to find out what the "thousand yard stare" was all about. She also knew I had found out, and in the process,, had contracted a double dose of it.  

Therese Godfrey knew that because "I had it," beneath my skillfully crafted facade, I am as loony as Rambo and Joe Pike rolled into one.  She  knew I could transform faster than Clark Kent and come out of my phone booth like The Hulk on steroids, she had seen it happen.  

Therese knew all of that, and she was still my friend.  She would fight to sit on the front row of one of my seminars and listen to my old stories, laughing and crying like she had never heard them before.

She knew all about me, and it didn't scare her.  Nothing scared her.  Therese told cancer, "You may kill me, but you won't whip my ass."  Cancer did kill her, but it didn't whip her ass.

Today, Therese won't call and say, "Thanks for you service" - at least she won't call on the phone.  Today, and every day, she calls in my heart and every day I get it.  Her call isn't about service.  It's about the power and beauty of friendship.

Thank you for your service my friend.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Form Vs Speed #5 in The Divine Moment Series

For five years, I studied Tai Chi with Master Cheng of The Atlanta Tai Chi Association.   That was twenty plus years ago, and I've lost my memory of the form though I am presently working to regain it.

However, that isn't what this post is about.

I haven't lost my memory of Master Cheng or his most oft repeated, and often recalled admonition - "Maintain the form."

At the conclusion of my first lesson, I was sitting with the class of twenty or so tai chi practitioners who I'd been trying to emulate for the past hour and a half.  They were meditating.  I was trying to catch my breath and remember everything I'd seen when Master Cheng came in, which is a total understatement.  The man, and I'm not sure even that is accurate either, doesn't seem to touch the ground when he moves.  He's a hovercraft without an engine, I thought.  Then in a move that defies description, beyond noting that it was both smooth and nonstop, he descended to the floor at the head of the group, stopping in a picture-perfect lotus position.

Then he made eye contact and smiled slightly at everyone of us. Bowing slightly, he said in a voice that wasn't soft or hard, loud or hushed, "Questions?"

Guess who had one.  If you guessed me, you're right.  I had caught a glimpse of the third level class practicing before my beginner session started, so I blurted out a question from the heart of my western mentality.  Nodding toward the room where the most advanced class was still practicing, I asked, "How long will it be before I'm as good as they are?"

Master Cheng smiled the most benevolent smile I'd ever seen, and said, "Maintain the form Master Bert, and your question will answer itself."

Then he stood, using the opposite technique as he had employed to sit and floated from the room.   There are some moments in each of our lives that are unforgettably.  That was one of mine.  And, I cannot recall a day since that one, when MC's word's, "Maintain the form," haven't come to me at least once.  It is the most often-practiced teaching I've ever received.

Generally speaking, we, as a species, are not about form.  We are about speed.  Mindless speed.  To cite a minor example, as I type this I find myself going faster and faster until I crash or remember to maintain the form.  Speed for the sake of speed ultimately leads to crashes, while maintaining the form assures success and satisfaction.  It is almost too simple.

From The Divine Moment:

Hear the patterns of sound.
Slow down the tempo
of your apprehension;
bring it to a 
still and endless moment.

This will do, will it not,
for Eternity?

Maintain the form and you will arrive at the answer to that question.     


Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Slight Trick of the Mind #4 In the Divine Moment Series

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, is the book on which the recently released movie, Mr. Holmes, was based.   I've read the book and seen the movie and my comprehensive, albeit short, review is simple.  They are both great.  And, my advice is, read the book before you see the movie.  You'll know why after you have done both.

If you have to do one or the other but can't do both, as much as I love Ian McKellen, my advice is, read the book.  It will last longer and you can carry it with you and, as you will discover, Mitch Cullin is a marvelous writer.

Here's a passage from the book to beef up my argument for the book:

"Not through the dogmas of archaic doctrines will you gain your greatest understandings, but, rather, through the continued evolution of Science, and through your keen observations of the natural environment beyond your windows.  To comprehend yourself truly, which is also to comprehend the world truly, you needn't look any father than at what abounds with life around you - the blossoming meadow, the untrodden woodlands.  Without this as mankind's overriding objective, I don't foresee an age of actual enlightenment ever arriving."

Those words are spoken by the 93 year old Sherlock Holmes to his young friend, Roger Munro.

When I read the passage, I stopped and copied it into my notebook because it is such a beautiful way of restating one of my favorite lines from The Divine Moment, this one:

"A mark of progress
at one stage
is an obstacle at the next." 

Holmes' message to Roger is a great one to use to emphasize what we all must overcome to move successfully through this portion of our evolution as life forms, a process that began eons before we made our appearance on this minor planet, in a mediocre constellation, parked in an obscure corner of the universe, an evolution that will continue long past the time we leave this place on our way to the next.

The guidance we receive in a given moment, no matter how useful or profound, will only serve for a finite period of time and must be released, without regret or hesitation, the moment it no longer serves.

Few of us are willing to release the things that worked so well in the past.  We cling to them long past their point of usefulness.  

Which brings to mind another passage from an old favorite, Illusions - the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach:

"Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.  The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.  Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current was what each had learned from birth.  But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging.  Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going.  I shall let go, and let take me where it will.  Clinging, I shall die of boredom.

The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'  But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.  Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more."

The longer you've clung to the teachings that brought you to this place, the tougher it will be to turn loose.  No matter.  Of this you can be sure.  If you have the courage to turn loose, the river will lift you to the surface.



Friday, July 17, 2015

I Have A Dream #3 in The Divine Moment Series

On August 28, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered what has become known as the, "I have a dream speech."

His delivery and content were impeccable, proved by the fact that the presentation has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

I'm not about to add another commentary to the words he spoke that day from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,  to over 250,000 supporters.  It's my intention to use that familiar presentation to make a point about a less familiar topic.

First, and you might think this isn't important, but bear with me and let's see:  What Dr. King shared wasn't a dream, it was a vision.  And, to digress, in my opinion it's the most powerful vision anyone of our time has ever shared.

By using the word "dream" instead of "vision" he made his vision otherworldly, since no one knows for sure where dreams come from or what prompts them.  Visions, on the other hand, are equated with personal goals or even wishes.  Hear the difference, "I have a dream..."  "I have a vision..."

In the forty-seven years since he delivered the speech hundreds of millions of us have adopted it as our "dream."  However, each of us has a slightly different, or in some cases, a totally different version of Dr. King's vision.  In fact, to use the word comparison one more time, he had a vision, from his vision we formed a personal dream.  Each of our millions of dreams have been filtered though our individual egos.  Which brings me to my point.

The Divine Moment is a powerful piece of esoteric literature that has totally impacted every facet of my life.  When It Absolutely Positively, is a commentary on the opening lines of the work.  Now, I'll share the first point following the definition, and use Dr. King's vision to assist.

"Characteristics 
of any kind or degree
of subtlety are of a kind
of "sticky" nature;
they cling to the flow
and drag attention
off center."

The subject of that paragraph is the moment - this moment - the only moment there is.  We all understand what that is.  We all know how to get there and, we all have problems staying there.  That is the problem that is being addressed.  

Our attention is dragged "off center" or out of the moment, not because we have an illness or physical defect, but because we add "subtle characteristics" to what we have experienced in the moment.  For example, what do you think of when you hear or read Dr. King's words, "I am happy to join you today..."  Hopefully not much.  Those words shouldn't generate anything of a "sticky nature," that could snatch you out of the moment.  

Now, what do you feel when you hear or read this line:  "One Hundred years later, the Negro is still not free.  One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination."  

Unless you have trained yourself to recognize and avoid "characteristics of any kind or degree of subtlety," you felt emotion and you probably felt it to the point that you were dragged off center and if not totally out of the moment, at least to its outer edge.

We are run by feelings and emotions that can be triggered by words, recollections, pictures, and actual events.  Until we are aware of that and do something about it, we will forever flit in and out of the moment, never fully knowing or experiencing its infinite beauty, peace, and deep joy.

More on that topic is coming.  Until then,

Remain steady in the Stillness.    

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Railway Man


It's been a long time since I posted a movie review.  One of the reasons for that is, our recent movie/video watching has been dominated by Law & Order.  We've started at Season One, and we are working our through a season at a time.  We're now winding up season eight (of twenty) and though we've seen almost all of them at least once, we're enjoying them again.

Sometime before I filled my Netflix queue with L&O, I added The Railway Man,  Not because of the subject matter but because it co-starred Nicole Kidman.  When The Railway Man showed up Monday, I had forgotten adding it, and the jacket didn't include the cast members, so I had no clue why I'd added it.

Since we'd almost finished all the Law & Order episodes we had in the house, I suggested to Christina that we watch the "mystery movie," for a few minutes at least.  One hour and fifty-eight minutes later we stopped watching it, and I checked to see if I could still talk. Then I managed to say, "If it's alright with you, I'm going to write a blog about it..."

This is it.

The Railway Man is based on the book by Eric Lomax.  The full title of the book is The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness.   A bonus for us was Hiroyuki Sanada, who we fell in love with at some point during our 40+ times watching The Last Samurai (He played the character Ujio).  Just in case Hiroyuki isn't a household name at your house, that's him on the right.

Here's all you need to know about the movie to make a viewing decision.  Colin Firth plays Eric Lomax, Nicole Kidman plays Eric's wife, Patti, and Hiroyuki Sanada plays Nagase.  All of the events happened.  All of the people depicted are real.  The message is timeless and summed up better in one line from the book than I could sum it up in 10,000 words, so I won't try.  Instead, I'll share Eric Lomax's line with you -

"Sometime the hating has to stop." 

If you agree, don't miss The Railway Man.   

Monday, July 13, 2015

When It Absolutely Positively Has To... #2 In The Divine Moment Series

In the mid-eighties, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee, where I was employed by Ryder Truck Rental.  It was my third tour with this company that I loved.  I began my time with Ryder, Memphis, as an account manager.  A year or so later I became the District Sales Manager.  In my new position, I kept a few of my accounts and oversaw the sales efforts of three sales managers.

One of the accounts I retained after my promotion was FedEx.  I kept that account for three reasons.  First, FedEx is headquartered in Memphis.  Second, though not a lease customer, I was convinced they were a solid prospect to be one.  And, third, I had managed to get a national rental agreement with FedEx.  This post isn't a commercial for FedEx, though it could be.  Nor is it a commercial for Ryder Truck Rental, which it also could be.  This post is about being in the moment and the story I'm going to tell you about FedEx is a metaphor for that.

This post is also a lead in to the first installment of The Divine Moment series that I promised last week - If you missed that post and would like to read it, here's the link that will take you to it.

Now, back to Memphis, almost thirty years ago.  It took a number of visits to FedEx to finally get to the right person and quite a few more to find an area where I knew my company might assist them.  I wanted to present a lease proposal but that only came much later, after we proved we could and would do what we said we would do.

First, I had to sell FedEx on renting from us when they needed more equipment than they owned.  The agreement I sold was a standard agreement with one exception.  It specified that if one of our rental units broke down we would not send a service truck to attempt to repair it where it was disabled.  We would instead, without delay, send a wrecker to the disabled unit.  The wrecker would then tow the disabled vehicle to it's destination.

Payment for that service wasn't an issue.  In fact, payment was never an issue.  The only issue was speed.  You see, "When It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight", was the mission statement that built the company, before it was their advertising slogan.

It costs a lot more money to send a wrecker to a disabled vehicle than it does to send a service truck, and it a costs a whole lot more to have the wrecker tow the vehicle to a location that isn't one of your service facilities.

Because such a provision went against standard, logical procedure, I had to work harder to sell my people on the special provision in the FedEx Rental Agreement and even harder to ensure it was implemented, than I worked to sell FedEx.  In fact, all I had to do to sell FedEx was convince them that we would do what I said we would do.  That is the difference between advertising and being.   Or, in other words, that's the difference between a way of life and empty rhetoric and that brings me to the point of the post.

The Divine Moment, begins:

This moment is it.
There is no better moment
than this one.

The FedEx version might well be:

This moment is absolutely,
positively, the only moment there is.
Do not waste time waiting on a better one
or daydreaming about a historic one.

Come back Thursday for the next lesson from The Divine Moment.

  


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

And It All Boils Down To #1 in the Divine Moment Series

I've been on a mission since I was five years old.  Today I'm close to my seventy-third birthday.  I'll save you the calculation.  That's a sixty-eight year mission and it's not complete yet.  I suppose my mission has a completion date, but I'm not privy to that information.  On the other hand, recently I've come to believe there are more rules to my mission than I suspected when I set out on it, rules that change the concept of completion dates and other things, but that's another whole story.

This post is just a brief update on the status of the mission along with enough information for you to Google a point or two and maybe amuse yourself for while.  

Or, if you're on a similar mission, you might want to spend a bit more time following the points I'm about to lay down.

This is not a religious statement because I'm not religious, not any more.  I was born into a religious family which lived in a religious part of the world.  For a time, I wanted to be a missionary and for a number of years I was a minister.  For a long time, a lot of people told me I had made a difference in their lives, and for a while I actually believed them.  Then I got it that I can't make more of a difference in anyone's life than they are willing to have a difference made there.  I pondered that and realized that if a person wants a change, they will find a way to do it whether I'm there or not.  That was a big relief, because I'm on a mission, and it's not about making a difference in anyone's life but mine.

 The Mission is simple.  I want to know God, or Allah, or Jehovah, or The One, or  whatever you choose to call the force that created all that is.  There's never been a doubt in my mind that my mission is doable, and I know I'm getting closer to my objective.  There have been many wrong turns, a lot of misinformation, and a number of false prophets, still I've made a lot of progress, though I can't quantify that for you in any way other than a statement of knowing that it is so.

The booklet I'm going to tell you about in a moment speaks more eloquently to that situation:

A mark of progress
at one stage
is an obstacle at the next.
You cannot note when
(or how much)
you have progressed toward 
any liberation...
only discern your limitations
less and less.   

Without a guide, mentor, or teacher, I've had to rely on books.  I just did some quick, conservative, calculations on the number of books I've read, which doesn't include The Bible (which I've read through a number of times) or all of the versions of The Tao I've read (one I've copied by hand three times), and here's what I've concluded:  In fifty years of reading, twenty esoteric books per year, with an average of 50,000 words per book, I've read fifty million words.  

The irony of that is that everything I've read and studied, EVERYTHING, is covered in great detail in The Divine Moment, a 900 word booklet written by Pama Rab Sel (James Lane Prior - born in Deland, Florida in 1928 - died in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1990.)  Though I never met Pama Rab Sel, I've walked and talked and laughed with him since we met in a bookstore in Huntington Beach, California in 1993.

The Divine Moment is long out of print, however, if you want to chase a used copy here's a link to the only one I found on the web - it gives the pertinent search info.

I'm thinking about blogging about the key points in Pama Rab Sel's amazing work, mostly for my gratification.  You're more than welcome to follow along and add comments - or not.

The Divine Moment begins this way -

This moment is it.
There is no "better" moment 
than this one.

Later I'll tell you how it ends.




Thursday, July 2, 2015

If Given A Choice

Given a choice between "Be happy," and "Have a blessed day," two expressions that are often used in my part of the world, I'll take BE HAPPY every time and I'll take it without hesitation.

You may think I'm not religious, and if you think that, you're right.  But, that isn't why I choose happy over blessed.

"Have a blessed day," has, at best, an element of luck or wistfulness built in to it.  At worst, it involves a payoff for my being holy, or sacred, or whatever one needs to do to be blessed.  In other words, if I do "good" I could possibly be "blessed."

The other choice, "Be Happy," doesn't involve chance, outside powers, or fairy dust.   It's all about me and how I choose to be.  I can BE HAPPY, or I can be something other than than happy.

That's why I always choose HAPPY.


Be happy!





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 (www.noxgear.com) 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.

video

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

Probably



"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?



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.  


Sunday, January 25, 2015

The High Road - The Final Episodes

Last Wednesday, Noah turned thirteen.  Thursday we finished writing the last three chapters of The High Road, a book we've worked on for a year.  The book still has to be edited, but basically it's done and it is available now for you to listen to in its entirety.  The chapters are all here.


If you've been following the story and are just waiting for the last three chapters, you'll find them below.  They are there for you and they are a belated birthday present for the co-author of the book, Noah Charif.  Happy Birthday, Kid.







Thanks for riding with us,

Remember, all comments are appreciated.

Bert and Noah

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Noah

Noah Charif

Noah forgot to mention to me that yesterday he turned thirteen.  That's ironic, since in The High Road, Dahkeya forgot to tell John when he turned thirteen.   

Of course, he could have forgotten, because we just finished a writing storm, concluding with Chapter Thirty-Eight, which we believe will be the last chapter of this volume of The High Road.  

Tomorrow I'll record and post chapters 36 - 38 as a belated birthday present.  We'd appreciate it you'd take a minute and let us know if you think we should write volume 2 of The High Road.  

While you are commenting, remember, it's not too late to wish Noah a happy birthday.

Thanks for riding with us,

Bert and the Birthday Boy 




Monday, January 19, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty-Four


To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, we wrote and recorded Chapter Thirty-Four, Emissaries of The Great Spirit, which seems a fitting tribute to Dr. King.

Here it is for you - remember, your comments are appreciated.


Thanks for trucking with us.

Bert and Noah

Note - All of the Chapters, in order, are here

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The High Road Chapter Thirty-Three


Here is Chapter 33, written and recorded this morning.  If you have a minute, leave us a comment.



Thanks for riding with us.

Remember, all of the chapters, in order, are here:

Bert and Noah