Treasure the Eclectic – I do (let’s revisit an old post)

The world would be much less interesting without our eclectic friends. Conformity is overrated and when done in excess makes us too vanilla in our thinking. We need a little Cherry Garcia ice cream to keep things entertaining and innovative. It is not unusual that some of our most brilliant minds and artists have been willing to leave the white lines of life’s highway. As a result, we have benefitted from their eclectic thinking.

In fact, a Higher Education expert says innovation often occurs in the various intersections of different disciplines. These intersections are enablers of creative ideas and discussions. This is one reason, before he died, Steve Jobs designed the new Apple headquarters with small rooms that would allow these accidental intersections to occur as people ventured from the restroom, breakrooms, workout rooms, etc.and bumped into each other. “Whatcha working on?” would lead to a brainstorming session.

This is one reason Malcolm Gladwell’s books (“The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink”) stayed on the best seller list so long. Gladwell said he has always looked differently from others and his parents moved some, so he felt like he was always an outsider. So, his writings seem to have an outside looking in perspective on things. In other words, he had not grown up in area, so he did not conform to the local way of doing things. He could question why do you do the things that you do. Gladwell had an eclectic bent.

Yet, I did not want this post to turn too serious, as I preferred to highlight a few eclectic stories, some real, some fiction that I treasure. They exemplify who we are as a world of imperfect humans.

– Several years ago, the Chicago River was leaking into a tunnel as a hole was accidentally punched into the bottom of the river. The story I was told was after much consternation and failure to stop the leak, a boy suggested that old mattresses be used. Guess what, they plugged the hole with a combination of cement and old mattresses.

– My father grew up in a rural town in south Georgia. He was given the chore to look after the hogs which included the naming rights. So, my dad named all the hogs after movie stars. Sophie Tucker, Mae West, etc. Of course, this became a problem later on, as he became too attached to the hogs and farm life is very basic in mission.

– Speaking of naming rights, my family has a habit of driving named cars, some we named, others which were given to us. My wife likes red cars, so she has driven Miss Ruby, Ruby Red Dress and Miss Scarlett. My cars have less fun names in the Purple Dragon (it was burgundy) and the Grey Goose. My daughter had a red car at first, which she called Percy, the name of the Scarlett Pimpernel lead character. Now, her gray car is called Dorian Gray.(note, the car does age, though). One of my best friends used to drive us around in high school in “Old Betsy” a beat up Chevrolet he inherited from his dad.

– One of my favorite Pat Conroy characters is in his novel “The Prince of Tides.” Unfortunately, the movie did not include this character, so you need to read the book to find his story. The grandfather of the main character was very religious and would demonstrate his faith every Easter by dressing up as Jesus and lugging a homemade cross around town. When he got older and the cross became too heavy, his family put the cross on roller skates, so he could complete his annual mission.

– Speaking of fictional characters, one of the most inventive series of characters were on the second Bob Newhart show. And, they never spoke. Into the Inn three brothers would walk and only one would speak. “Hi, I am Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.” Priceless. Of course, in real life, the boxer George Foreman named all his male children George. I guess he was covering his bets that his name would live on.al

– Speaking of Easter, I would try to attend midnight mass each year with my best friend who is Catholic unlike me. Each midnight mass, the priest would wish to his congregation “Happy Easter” as well, as he knew he would only see a great percentage of them again in 365 days. This Father is still with us as he presided over the funeral of another friend’s mom a couple of months ago.

– The other midnight mass ritual we would do, is afterwards, several of us high school or home from college friends would go caroling into the wee hours. Our other friends would be greeted by a knock on the door at 2 am. They would open the door to see these big guys singing horribly various Christmas carols.

– I have written before about my wife’s Aunt Mary. She died at the age of 99, living all but five weeks in her own home. Aunt Mary never replaced her false teeth once they were burned up in a fire, so the last twenty years of her life, she gummed her food after tearing it up with her hands. She did not want to bother with new ones. She also was candid with her economy of words, while her younger sister, my wife’s mother, was effusive and did not let the facts get in the way of a good story. After my mother-in-law went on about how good-looking a young man was, Aunt Mary said “all I can say is he was a poor pasture to lead your cows into.”

My wife and I treasured Aunt Mary. I treasure the eclectic. In the southern United States, we often use the word eccentric to mean someone a little different from others. A little “southern eccentricity” can be a good thing. I told my wife, I want to be that eccentric old man, as it would be too boring to be a conformist. At a bare minimum, I want to remain ecelectic. Please feel free to share your eclectic stories. I would love to read them.

Friday funnies – an encore

Since I am expecting some tree folks any minute to take down a dead pine tree, let me repost an encore of an earlier post.

Earlier this week, attending a funeral of a good friend’s mother allowed us to catch up with many high school and college friends. Stories abounded, so here are a few to get a smile, a laugh or a surprise. No one was harmed during these stories or their retelling.

When a couple of friends visited me in Atlanta, one forgot his walking shoes. I lent him my brand new pair which molded to his feet, not mine. It took several wearings a to remold them to my feet.

While taking baseball batting practice, the pitcher wondered why I was laughing at the plate. Behind him in the outfield were two friends who knew I liked hard rock music. They were hopping toward each other doing air guitars as some guitarists would do on stage.

Three friends roomed together as young adults. One observed the birdlike first names of the girlfriends of the other two. He noted, one is dating Robin, the other is dating Lark. It looks like I will need to find a girl named CON-dor, emphasizing the first syllable.

I mentioned we often hung out at the house of my friend’s mother (who just passed away). Late one evening, she told her son to remember to take out the garbage. But, he soon was out like a light. Since my ride home was now asleep and I lived just a 1/2 mile away cutting through yards, I locked up, took the trash out to the curb and walked home. He called me the next day to ask how the trash got out.

This same friend worked briefly at a bank branch. While on the phone with a customer, the branch was held up at gunpoint. The robber told everyone to hit the floor. My friend slowly starting to get down without hanging up. The robber shouted at him “Mo..erfu..er, I said hit the floor!” He said he was grabbing some carpet. Ironically, the person on the phone heard this and called the police, who arrested them outside.

One of the two classmates who rides herd over our high school reunion was ragging a friend who has only been to one early on. She teased him that he vaguely resembles our classmate. The real reason he does not attend is his wife teased him unmercifully about his ex-girlfriends fawning over him.

One set of friends got married and adopted a Korean boy as they had troubling conceiving. When he was a toddler, he was pitching a fit in a grocery checkout line with his red-haired mother. My blond haired friend had left the line to get a forgotten item. As he hustled back, other patrons expected to see an Asian-American husband. As they looked puzzled, the father said to all, “he is adopted.”

Finally, the funeral mass was in the church where we attended Midnight Mass. The contemporary folk choir inspired us high schoolers so much, we would go out and sing carols at 1 am waking up friends. Some did not appreciate our holiday spirit.

There are so many more stories, but I hoped you enjoyed these few. Have a great weekend.

Sports Illustrated Cover and GOAT Jinxes

When the weekly magazine Sports Illustrated was published only in print, whoever made the cover was subject to a jinx. Based on analysis of the data, the player or team who made the cover fared less well in the next few weeks. It may be related to over-confidence after the notoriety or that opponents tried harder to knock off the more publicized.

Lately, sports pundits have been throwing around the term GOAT, which is short for Greatest of All Time. This level of immortality is a hard accolade (or cross) to bear. To me, to call someone this before he, she or they finish playing puts unbelievable pressure on the athletes. Simone Biles has been called the GOAT for women’s gymnastics.

I am not saying this is what happened to Biles, but I have to believe she put enormous pressure on herself. I do know, after several moves have been named after Biles, she is still trying to push the envelope with bigger and better moves. Rather than focus on moves she has done well, she is trying harder ones. Did this lead her to lose confidence in herself when she fell short? – maybe.

It is tough to be king or queen of the hill. I have always felt Tiger Woods handled the pressure so well, but even he had his personal issues that hurt his ability to compete at the same high level. And, just like in Biles’ case, the competition got better. She deserves the accolades she has received, but like Woods, she is only human playing a sport that requires equal parts athleticism, art and precision.

So, we should be mindful no one is immortal. Let me switch to another golfer who even Woods is chasing – Jack Nicklaus. While Nicklaus has won twenty major golf championships, he has also finished second I believe twenty-one times. So, we should not forget that the person who has won the most major trophies, just missed twenty-one times. That shows how hard it is to win, but reveals how talented he was.

Speaking of pressure, many may not know who Bill Russell is. He is arguably the greatest basketball team player of all time. Why? His teams won eleven NBA basketball championships, two NCAA championships and one Olympic Gold medal. One thing about Russell is before every big game, he could be heard throwing up in the locker room bathroom. His teammates knew if they heard this, they were going to win, as if Russell was nervous, he would play better. But, Russell was a rarity. Dealing with pressure is tough.

The baseball pitcher John Smoltz was known for being a better pitcher under pressure. When asked about this, he said he actually performed at the same level, it is every one else whose performance fell off under pressure situations. So, the lesson to all athletes, but especially the better ones, take care of what is under your control. When the best player on a basketball team was asked why he tended to take the last shot to win, he responded that he was the only one who could handle the failure of missing it.

But, when folks slap the label GOAT on you while you are still performing, it adds an extra dose of pressure. I feel for those folks, as it takes an extra dose of courage and humility to carry that burden. It seems the best athletes tend to function at the highest level when they have good competition – think Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles in tennis.

Who are the greatest of all time? Let’s wait until they finish and then judge. And, let’s enjoy their talent while we can.

Wednesday morning, 3 a.m.

Simon and Garfunkel sang these wonderfully touching lyrics written by Paul Simon:

I can hear the soft breathing of the girl that I love
as she lies here beside me
asleep with the night
and her hair in a fine mist floats on my pillow
reflecting the glow of the winter moonlight

Yet, the song should end there, as the rest of the song is about his guilt for having to leave. He references feeling like he is committing a crime.

It reminds me that we should always dig deeper and get the rest of the story. This example may have been a great love, but it is not an everyday love as it will always be at a distance. It will be the eternal “could have been” relationship. While the longing may live on beyond the in-person love, the other person is not here.

I am reminded of one of the many great songs from “Fiddler on the Roof,” where Golde, responds to what she sees as a ridiculous question of her husband Tevye. “Do you love me?” he sings. Their marriage of twenty-five years was arranged, but lasting. Eventually, as he persists and she self reflects for all she has done and put up with, she tells Tevye that she does love him.

At the heart of this movie and play is how their daughters break with tradition. The first daughter marries someone the parents do not want her to, but the couple at least ask for permission, which is reluctantly granted. The younger daughter marries someone and the couple does not even bother to ask. This is the impetus for the fabulous song “Tradition.”

To say the obvious, love is complicated. The heart wants what the heart wants, but is the affection returned to the same degree? Is the level of commitment the same? Is there someone else you carry a torch for, but it is not returned? Is the sentiment lasting or is it fleeting, meaning is it more lustful than heartfelt?

I have long read the woman picks the man (and for same gender couples, one picks the other). But, using my example, she let’s him know that she is interested in him. And, for a man, there is nothing more attractive than a woman who is interested in him. Those continuing glimpses from across a room get noticed and are, hopefully, returned.

Yet, love must stand the test of time. Relationships are hard work. You must invest in them. Sticking with songs, Billy Joel sang “Tell her about it” meaning tell her or do something every day that shows you love her. Or, as I was reminded yesterday, Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote “But, will you still love me, tomorrow?” Well, will you?

Tuesday afternoon

The Moody Blues are a vastly underappreciated band in my view. Penned by Justin Hayward, they sang “Tuesday afternoon” about a desired tryst as two lovers chase the clouds away. Here is stanza from the middle of the song:

“I’m looking at myself reflections of my mind

It’s just the kind of day to leave myself behind

So gently swaying through the fairyland of love

If you’ll just come with me you’ll see the beauty of

.Tuesday afternoon Tuesday afternoon”

Why Tuesday I have often wondered? My speculation is the day is more unexpected for an adventure away from the weekly routine. And, frankly, Tuesday has the right number of syllables. Or, maybe it is a bow to Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, as it is better known, where people celebrating it are allowed to be rash and whimsical.

Either way, we all need to be more whimsical, whether it is alone, with a lover, or with a good friend. Go on a lark. Chase the clouds away. Or, just do what lovers often do. And, being more free spirited on a day you’re not supposed to will make it more fun.

Life is too short. Sometimes we get too caught up in our routines and begin doing things by habit without even thinking about it. So, do something that breaks that routine. Whether it this afternoon or next Tuesday or some other day, just be spontaneous. Switching from the Moody Blues to Janet Jackson (now that is a segue), go on an “Escapade.”

If you take my suggestion and it is a story you can share, please feel free to share below.

Monday morning you sure look fine

Fleetwood Mac gave us this first lyric to “Monday Morning.” Some of us may remember the next line is “Friday I’ve got traveling on my mind.” That must have been some rollercoaster week. If your week turns out to be a rollercoaster, I hope you enjoy the ride and want more, instead of traveling away from someone who looked so fine on Monday. Speaking of rides, take a little ride with me as I touch on a few miscellaneous thoughts.

As we have begun the final week of July, 2021, I have become less enthusiastic about this Christmas time in July bit. Some of the channels are running holiday movies, which is fine, but when they start to sell me Christmas deals in July in the commercials, that is a bridge too far. I don’t want to buy a fake Christmas tree in July – I am just not in the mood.

My wife and I have watched a little bit of the Olympics in Japan, but we won’t be watching it too much. We do find the second page sports entertaining, as we have watched the finishes to the bicycle races, fencing, with a little swimming and gymnastics thrown in. Of course, the last two are usually front page sports during these events. What I don’t care for is NBC does not show non-American athletes near enough to balance out the show. Usually, they appear when competing directly against the Americans.

We did go see a pretty good movie called “Joe Bell” with Mark Wahlberg and introducing Reid Miller. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is based on a true story about a father and his gay son. The movie is somber look at the bullying that goes on toward gays in school and life. Rotten Tomatoes does not rate it as well as the Google viewers do, but it does make you think. Connie Britton plays the mother and Gary Sinise shows up late in the movie adding a lot of value.

Our friend Joy put a picture in her recent blog post of a frozen peach Margarita, which looked delicious, although. I do not drink anymore. So, with her impetus, I went to a local Farmers’ Market (hence yesterday’s post) and picked up, among other things, “Free Stone peaches.” Apparently, the pulp peels away from the pit very easily and, while guarded by a little tougher skin, are delightfully sweet and tart. The virgin Margaritas were a blend of the peeled peaches, pineapple sherbet, orange juice and ice. Thanks Joy for the inspiration.*

My mother and father’s birthdays are approaching. They would have been 89 and 90 this year. Dad went first about fifteen years ago, while Mom went almost five years ago. Plus, the only grandmother I had met (when not a baby) has an approaching birthday. I just wanted to think a few good thoughts about them as I close out. Have a great week everyone

*Here is a link to Joy’s post: Friday’s Super Short Stories! | Nuggets of Gold (wordpress.com)

Anecdotal, but seem like truisms

Yesterday, I went to a local Farmers’ Market that crops up (pun intended) on Saturdays and Wednesdays during harvest season. And, it started me thinking about anecdotal observations. They may be just anecdotes, but they sure seem to be truisms.

Have you noticed that people who go to Farmers’ Markets to buy fresh vegetables and fruits tend to be in better shape than the average person?

Have you noticed the opposite is true with people who dine at fish camps? – the more colorful the food, the better it is for you

Have you noticed a man will never be shot while doing the dishes?

Have you ever noticed that someone who is very skilled at something does not tend to brag about how good they are at it?

Have you noticed that someone who brags about his or her capabilities is trying to convince others of something that is less true than accurate?

Have you noticed the first suspect in a TV crime show shooting will usually end up dead, often discovered by the police going to see him or her?

Have you ever noticed the best coaches tend to be the ones who had to work harder at their craft than those where it came naturally?

Have you ever noticed the unknown actor beaming down to the planet with Captain Kirk is not going to make it back?

Have you ever noticed that lies travel faster the truth and, sadly, get more read? – the truth is often less exciting than a story.

Have you noticed a truism right out of the Ziggy comic strip – the better the packaging a presentation or product has, the less believable it is?

So, to sum up. Do the dishes, brag less, eat more colorful foods, be skeptical of provocative stories, don’t beam down with the star (this one is more profound than you think) and trust in Ziggy.

Beware of folks – a few quick lessons taught us by the books on the former president

There are many books about the former president, both before, during and after his presidency. Some have been written by excellent authors who have done their homework. There are lessons to be gleaned on how not to act which need to be highlighted.

Beware of folks who claim all criticism is fake news or from sources who just don’t like them. These are a toddler’s response to mom finding her child’s hand in the cookie jar. “Mom, that is fake news.”

Beware of folks who cannot articulate a point of view without name-calling or labeling something. That is like defining the ingredients from the name on the jar. It is a short-cut to arguing and an attempt to mask a lack of understanding.

Beware of folks who take credit for all things good, even if their role was small or nonexistent, and blame others for all things bad, even if they had a heavy hand in things. A leadership consultant used that phrase often to define how to spot a leader.

Beware of folks who need fixers or sycophants to rationalize or make problems go away.

Beware of folks who bully other people into acquiescence. There is a name for people like that. A bully.

Beware of folks who have a hard time with the truth. Start with the base of not believing a word they say and then add back when they actually tell the truth on occasion.

Beware of folks who will blame institutions of people as scapegoats for their failings. Institutions are not perfect, but they tend to be served by hard working people who are more trustworthy than politicians.

Beware of people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. It is my fault or I could have done better will go a long way.

Yet another Republican legislator speaks the truth about the former president

David Brennan of Newsweek penned the following article called “Arizona Republican Paul Boyer Says Donald Trump ‘Started an Insurrection’ Amid Election Spat,” which continues a steady trickle of Republicans speaking out against the former president.

Arizona State Sen. Paul Boyer has hit back at former President Donald Trump, with whom the Republican lawmaker is engaged in an online spat over the latter’s continued false claims of electoral fraud and peddling of conspiracy theories.

Boyer is among the Arizona Republicans calling on the state GOP to end its election audit in Maricopa County, an investigation that Boyer and others say is increasingly reliant on debunked conspiracy theories.

Trump released a statement on Thursday dismissing Boyer as a ‘RINO’—a Republican In Name Only—and accusing the state senator of “doing everything in his power to hold up the damning Forensic Audit of Maricopa County which has been taking place over the last 90 days.

It is good to see an increasing, but still small number of Republicans call the former president out for his untruthful and seditious words and actions. As no surprise, the former president struck back with his customary name-calling. RINOs has been his new label as now, it is not just Democrats, Independents and the media pushing back on him. Republicans are so doing. But, there is truly only one constant in this equation.

Arizona Republican Paul Boyer Says Donald Trump ‘Started an Insurrection’ Amid Election Spat (msn.com)

Find your moments

The talk has turned political. You are at work, a reunion, a party, at church, etc. What should you do? Do you exit the conversation voting with your feet? Do you lean-in with disagreement? Or, should we channel our inner Daryl Davis and listen? Listen not to respond, but listen to hear first, understand second. Then, you can respond..

Who is Daryl Davis you may ask? Davis is a black man who has had numerous discussions with members of the KKK, actually convincing over 200 of them to quit the KKK and give him their robes. How does he do it? He asks them questions. Then he listens. He said people just want to be heard. If you listen, then you have the opportunity to ask questions.

What you choose to do is your call, but if you give like you want to get, you might get heard. If you look for some common ground, you might get heard. If you avoid name calling, you might get heard. If you do the opposite of the above, you will be just getting a glazed over look. I also recognize you must pick your audience and time, as some folks are more strident in their views. Plus, being critical in a large group puts people on the defensive.

On this latter point, one could say “That is an interesting viewpoint, let’s talk about it after dinner?” I have spoken with friends and relatives who are ardent MAGA fans. I have also spoken with some relatives who like to argue.

But, even with these folks, you can find common ground. The most strident of MAGA fans will usually agree with this statement, “I wish Donald Trump would tweet less as he is his own worst enemy.” I can usually say something like this without getting someone’s dander up. When he was removed from Twitter, they did all of us, including the former president, a favor. We now hear fewer of his divisive opinions.

One of the other things I have found will get heard is focusing on real issues, not contrived ones. Issues like concern over the decline in fresh water, the increase in plastics in the ocean, the impact of climate change making forest fires, droughts and flooding worse, the increase in food waste, the increase in US debt and deficit, the decline in our infrastructure, etc. are safer than wedge issues created to divide us.

If someone wants to speak about wedge issues or issues that you disagree with them on, find your moments. If you ask questions and listen, you may find an opportunity to discuss. But, the key is to listen – hear them first. I have found that too many people are not too keen on the why’s and far too keen on the who’s. My tribe said this, so this is what I believe.

If you listened to them articulate what an opinion show host said or what someone on social media said, then you can say, “I hear what you are saying, but do you truly believe that?’ Or, you might say, “I must confess, I don’t find that to be true.” Again, if we listened, we can push back in the manner we wished to be pushed back on. Yet, if you lead without listening, your push back may not get heard.

I recognize fully the above discussion won’t solve our problems, but if our goal is to get heard, we need to start by listening. Last night, I shared with my sons that Senator Bernie Sanders is out talking with Republicans to hear what they are saying, so he can share his thoughts. I do not agree with everything Bernie says, but I have always appreciated his candor and being forthright with folks.

Wedge issues are designed to divide us. Often they are designed to sell fear which wins elections. Fear does not solve anything, so we must move past that and speak with others who may not hold our opinion.