A few funnies from the past

My close friend Frank is Catholic and one of our annual traditions during our teen and college years was going to midnight mass. The priest would invariably wish everyone a Happy Easter as well, as he knew he would not see some until next Christmas Eve.

This same priest presided over another close friend’s father’s funeral. Having not seen the priest for thirty years, he looked the same as he did before, with a full head of thick hair. He must be in seventies, so I commented on his youthful look to my wife. She said what do you expect, he is not married.

Speaking of looks, my wife and I have long been fans of Tina Turner. Turner was performing in her sixties and still had a dancer’s pair of legs. When I commented to my friend Don that I hoped to look that good when I am her age, he correctly quipped you don’t look that good now.

As my hair has thinned, my older brother has been able to keep more of his on his head. When his daughter hollered across a quiet room, Uncle Keith, how come my Dad has more hair than you do, I responded because his wife does not spend as much as mine does. My wife agreed with my assessment.

Speaking of Easter, my oldest son’s Godfather Joe attended a large Easter egg hunt with us one year. Since the older kids would aggressively gather most of the eggs, Joe would be off to the side guarding a few eggs for my small son to find. It was comical to see him diplomatically tell eight year olds there were no more eggs here, so my son could find a few.

After college, one of our close friends was dating a woman named Lark, while another was dating a woman named Robin. Our friend Randy assessed the names out loud to both and added, it looks like I need to find me a girl named Con-dor, accentuating each syllable.

Randy always enjoys a good joke, yet sometimes he has to let it sink in. Going to  a game, Frank and I were chatting with Randy in the backseat about the lack of success of the junior varsity basketball team coached by Pete Poore. Frank said what do you expect when you have Poore coaching. We both chuckled at the pun and then about a full minute later Randy roars with laughter – poor coaching he shouts.

One of my favorite funny stories with the kids is when I was reading a story to my boys, who at the time shared a room. So, I plopped down on one of the beds and then bounced off between the bed and wall. It took an effort to crawl out of the crevice. The boys and I laughed so hard, my wife and daughter had to come see what happened.

A final story relates to my old boss who was working late. He had to reach someone who he knew was also working late, but had stepped away from his desk. A late night cleaning crew member answered the constantly ringing phone and my friend went into detail of what he needed. The man said sir, sir, I told you as much as I know, when I said hello.

On that note, I will say goodbye.

Do you ever feel the world is watching when you stumble?

For those old enough to remember the early Saturday Night Live shows, the actor Chevy Chase would emulate then President Gerald Ford in his latest misstep, physically not politically. Ford was a very decent man who became president after Richard Nixon resigned. However, while he was a good athlete, playing football in college, he was also prone to clumsiness and would fall on on occasion. Of course, his falls were nothing like what Chase would portray.

Since I am just a tad shorter than 6’5″ I draw more attention when I misstep. Fortunately, many of my missteps are not witnessed or seen by only a few. I recall the time I was walking in a parking garage blinded by the setting sun. I walked right into a I-beam that was angled downward, with it catching me across the forehead. While I did not fall, I staggered backwards like I just took a punch from Muhammed Ali. That could have caused a concussion, but fortunately, it was just a big ouch.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials is of the Coke delivery man who puts all of his Cokes away in the store refrigerator and then is tempted by the Pepsi in the next door over. He looks both ways, then samples a Pepsi. To his surprise and ours, the entire shelf of Pepsi’s come crashing down on the Coke worker in his uniform. Oops.

I have shared many times about my double date to the community play. It was ‘Picnic” for those keeping score. After returning from intermission, I was drinking my plastic cup of wine and as I did, my date seemed to be moving forward in her chair. In actuality, one of my chair legs had scooted off the two feet high platform and I was going backwards. The entire audience heard this loud crash in the back as I lay across the now folded chair on the floor. Except for my pride, I was unhurt. But, it was funny. Fortunately, we dated again.

While I have seen this happen in commercials, it also happened to me, but not in such a dramatic fashion. In the grocery store produce sections, it is not uncommon for the store to stack rounded fruits or vegetables into a pyramid. The store hopes people pick one off the top. That is usually the case, but if you are getting more than one, sometimes you get more sloppy with your picking technique. I do, and on occasion, I have caused some spillage as a layer will come off. Mind you, I have not caused the entire pyramid to crumble as it does in the commercials, but I have drawn some attention, as I have to restore order to the structure.

Finally, this past spring, I shared that my wife and I went for a first beach trip as the pandemic was waning. (at least at the time). For some reason, I wore some shoes I don’t wear often, as they have a more slippery bottom than others. As we were leaving a restaurant, I paused to let the waitress come in with a tray from serving folks outside. As I paused, I could feel myself falling and said aloud “I am going down.” My wife and I chuckle at that phrase now, but fortunately, I caught myself on the door rails before I followed my prediction.

Stumbling in public. The best thing to advise others of my oafishness is try not to get hurt and laugh at yourself. If you laugh, the world laughs with you. If you cry, you cry alone. Someone famous said something like that.

What if you took that other path or were forced to walk down it?

I think we have all thought about choices we made in our past that sent us down a path where we experienced life events. It goes back to Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” What if we took the other road? There is a new TV show that I have not yet seen, but the concept follows this thought process. It is called “Ordinary Joe,” and per the show summary, here is what it entails.

“Ordinary Joe” stars James Wolk and centers on Joe Kimbreau as he makes a pivotal, life-changing decision at his college graduation and follows him on three parallel timelines: as a police officer, as a music star, and as a nurse.

I am fairly certain this show will make all watchers think about their own lives and choices. But, as we ponder these choices, we need to realize it means what happened to your actual life may not or will not happen like it has.

As with many lives, we have experienced good and bad things. We hopefully learned from the latter and were made stronger, but we have experienced those wonderful things as well. With that said, if the bad things severely outweigh the good, thinking of other choices is a far easier thing to do. To me, those are more clear cut rueful circumstances.

There is another interesting movie a blogging friend reminded me of a few months ago, that follows this what-if concept. It is called Sliding Doors and a summary of its plot from Wikipedia follows:

“Sliding Doors” is a 1998 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow while also featuring John HannahJohn Lynch, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The film alternates between two storylines, showing two paths the central character’s life could take depending on whether or not she catches a train. It has drawn numerous comparisons to Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s 1987 film Blind Chance, the outcome of which also hinges on whether or not the protagonist catches a train.

“Sliding Doors” is an excellent movie, although it is hard to follow at first, as it flips back and forth as to what happens if Paltrow’s character misses or makes the train. But, once you get in the groove of the action, it is spellbinding. Hannah is her co-star – you may remember him best from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and his memorable eulogy for his close friend.

The concept is fascinating to explore, but be prepared as you examine your own life choices. We all have made dumb mistakes and rued decisions, big and small. But, it is also true those decisions and mistakes are part of our fabric that hopefully helped us down the road. Maybe, by handling a few relationships poorly, we were better able to nurture the right one when he or she (or they) came along. Or, maybe we are able to make a different career move or understand its ramifications better..

I remember one life moment around changing my mind after accepting a job. The life altering moment came as I was packing my office up, so it was very late in the game. I called my wife and said “I can’t do this” and she replied “Pack?” and I said “No, leave.” Had i taken the job, it would have been fine, but by staying and gracefully backing out of the offer, I was able to go work for the same company in a much better job. Plus, I loved my old job and was not ready to leave, just yet.

Robert Frost was onto something. Sometimes that decision to walk down a the road less traveled does make all the difference. But, if you took the other one, you would have made the best of it. And, you may not have known what you missed,.

Well, you’re no day at the beach either

Sometimes, you need a humorous, but truthful line to get a friend, acquaintance, colleague or relative off a rant about someone. I was out walking and I heard three women approaching me and one was on a proverbial roll. I kept walking after smiles and hellos, as this was one conversation I did not want to hear or a be a part of. It got me thinking of something that can be said to stop the rant.

A line I used to use more often is to simply say, “Well, you’re no day at the beach either.” To me, this is a funny way of getting the person to realize he or she is also not perfect. If he or she is even more reflective, the thought that someone could be talking about him or her in the same manner, might bubble up.

In my previous post, I mentioned a colleague who listened to a new senior executive talk about every person who left the restaurant table at dinner. My colleague said he was scared to go to the restroom as he would be the next subject of discussion. Having met said senior executive, like me, she is no day at the beach, either.

These two walkers with the ranting walker were a captive audience. It would be hard to exit, unless they said something like “I need to run some.” At parties, the exiting of rant-filled conversations is an art. Once the rant starts, the listener (or I should say non-talker), is looking for that exit ramp, be it a person, drink or restroom break. The unlucky person who walks up to join the conversation, will usually be a convenient hand-off as you gracefully exit. The deft person might even pair the two together with a suggested theme.

Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of “defending the absent” when someone is on a rant about another person. This may not be the course of action for everyone, but it certainly is a noble pursuit. Defend the person who is not there. I think the more common tactic is the exit ramp example, where you simply vote with your feet and leave the conversation.

But, if you are so inclined and need a one liner, the title above will serve you well. It makes the person think. Having been a manager of people in my career at some point, when subordinates rate their own performance, almost always, they rate themselves better than “meets expectations” or better than what the supervisors rate them. Yet, statistically if “meets expectations” is normative, then everyone cannot be better than meets expectations.

It is one explanation of why people rant. The ranter forgets he or she is not perfect and has made mistakes. So, a funny reminder will bring the person back to earth. While I try to be diplomatic, my poor wife hears my rants or comments more than anyone. So, when a relative or friend wants to discuss politics, she will look for the exit ramp if we go too long.

None of us are a day at the beach, me included. Even those PYTs that need not worry as much about how they look in a swim suit are not perfect. Real beauty is more than skin deep. We are all fixer uppers, so we should remember that before and when we rant.

Something to talk about

Any group of people, whether it is business, high school, church, or some other association, will have people that perpetuate the gossip and rumor mill. This attribute is as old as the hills. People are going to talk.

One of our favorite artists, country-blues singer and accomplished slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt, had a huge hit about this very subject, “Something to Talk About.” Here is middle verse and the chorus to give you the gist of a co-worker slowly realizing that another co-worker seems to be as smitten as she is.

“I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You act so nervous, could you be fallin’ for me?
It took the rumor to make me wonder,
Now I’m convinced that I’m goin’ under.
Thinkin’ ’bout you every day,
Dreamin’ ’bout you every night.
I’m hopin’ that you feel the same way,
Now that we know it, let’s really show it darlin’.

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
(Somethin’ to talk about)
A little mystery to figure out
(Somethin’ to talk about)
Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
How about love?”

I love this song as she turns the rumor mill on its head. The rumors about them “standing a little too close” made her think and realize that is exactly what they were doing. The video which aired is clever, with Dennis Quaid acting as the interested and interesting co-worker.

Rumors at work do fly. It is hard to follow the advice of Dr. Wayne Dyer and defend the absent. But, that is what we should do. Yet, I shared the story of how a colleague was in a group dinner with a new senior executive who talked about everyone when each left the table. My friend said he did not want to go to the restroom as she would talk about him. It is hard to defend the absent when you might be next.

It is also hard to date someone at work for this reason. Yet, with limited social time, it is not uncommon to meet you future spouse at work. My wife worked at a small company that sublet some of our office space. What tickled both of us is a colleague of mine took credit for introducing us, when that was not the case. She actually told my future wife I was dating someone, which was not true, so she almost waylaid our plans.

So, if you do date someone at work, keep the PDAs to a minimum. More importantly, be prepared to ignore what people are saying as it is none of their business. As a friend, who actually met her husband at work, told her high school students she counseled, “if you do not take offense, you are not offended. Don’t cede your power.”

So, if you give them something to talk about, be OK with being the subject matter.

Bigotry is a lousy money maker (a reprise)

The following post has been dusted off from four years ago as a result of the current NC Lt. Governor Mark Robinson’s pride in his slurs of transgender and homosexual folks, that have gone largely unanswered by fellow Republicans. I will not repeat them here, but it should be noted his remarks have not set too well with many. The Charlotte Observer has two editorials from yesterday called “Lt. governor’s rants about fake issues do real harm” by the Editorial Board while the other is called “‘Filth’ sends an old message to LGBTQ in NC” by a columnist in the Raleigh News and Observer.

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

As a Christian and independent voter, one of my pet peeves is when so-called leaders, misuse their mantle and convey bigotry. Whether they are ministers, CEOs or elected officials, we need them to be among our better angels and be inclusive. To me, a chance to be inclusive has been missed by the relative silence of others leaders in the same party. The same goes for the other party, when one of its elected officials goes astray.

Immerse yourself with Van Gogh

My wife and I went for a second time yesterday to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit that has been making its way across the country. This time we took two of our adult children to experience it. They enjoyed it as much as we did. What is it?

It is a blend of wonderful music highlighting Van Gogh’s wonderful art as it appears slowly at times and explodes on occasion onto every wall of of a large exhibit room. The fact it is not a rectangular room aids to the viewing, as you could change your position on your bench seat (built for two or three) and see nooks of art or turn around and see a larger wall.

The viewing is of repetitive segments of about fifty feet long where the art comes alive. The immersive experience has the computer presented art actually moving, whether it is shimmering light on water from a town across the inlet or birds flying in the trees or people smoking in a room

Van Gogh was highly prolific in his art, I believe because he was a voracious painter. He had a self-portrait of the artist wearing a straw hat with lit candles around the brim, so he could paint at night. His paintings of fields of flowers are experienced in large viewing form, as well as his paintings of cafe scenes, empty streets, starry nights, and people. He captured people so well, showing that we are an imperfect lot, himself included.

The people in his scenes reveal an observant man. One of his series of paintings seem to be of men lined up to go into a mental asylum later revealing the less than inviting halls of the place. This is likely from his own experience as he spent time there of his own accord. I think that may be an additional reason for his appeal. He was both talented and tortured. While this song was not one that was played, I have always had a fondness for Don McLean’s “Vincent” which is also referred to as “Starry, starry night.”

If you get a chance, I encourage you to go see it. It lasts about fifty minutes, but the time passes easily. I attached a link which shows the various cities it has and will play. It will be here in Charlotte for the rest of the month.

Good faith dealings – a needed reprise

I wrote the following post following the death of the 41st president. While an imperfect man, with whom I did not always agree, he lived an exemplary life. There are several lessons for us courtesy of George H.W. Bush.

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

A Habitat for Humanity – a reprise on the Carter legacy

Jimmy Carter just celebrated his 97th birthday on Friday. The following is an encore presentation of a tribute to Carter’s legacy, especially with Habitat for Humanity.

There are strong opinions about who might be the most impactful US president. But, there should be less debate on the most impactful ex-president. In the view of many, that would be James Earl Carter, better known as Jimmy.

With Rosalynn, his wife of 73 years by his side, the 95 year-old Carter is out there with hammer and drill building houses for Habitat for Humanity. As a non-profit Board volunteer, I believe the Habitat model, embraced by Carter, is a sound model, based on sweat equity. Having helped build one house with my co-workers, I can attest to the “sweat” part, as never have I been more tired at the end of the day.

Not only does the home owner have to help build his or her house, he or she has to help other home owners build their houses. But, another famous couple is building on the Carter Habitat legacy. You may have heard of them – country singers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. They hope to carry the hammer and drill forward after the Carters can no longer do it. Yet, the older couple are still out their hammering away, even after falls, hospital stays, etc.

Yet, that is not all of what Carter does. He still teaches Sunday school, which is so well attended, it was moved to the church sanctuary. He has also written about thirty books – I have read a couple, one on his upbringing and one on addressing the maltreatment of women in the US and world. His and Rosalynn’s “Carter Center” has helped to eradicate guinea worm disease in many places around the globe. And, Carter has been asked by several presidents to be an envoy to certain countries to represent our interests be it for state funerals or to elicit the release of an American in custody.

To be frank, his presidency is not given sufficient credit as he served one term as an outsider. To my surprise, I read that a significant number of bills were signed into law on his watch, but that is not well known. But, it is clear, he has been a much more impactful former president. He will be missed when he is gone.

Let’s celebrate them while he and Rosalynn are with us. A good way to do so, is to sing a Peter, Paul and Mary song, “If I had a hammer, I’d swing it in the morning, I’d swing it in the evening all over this land….”

Entertainment from abroad

My wife and I watch several shows that originate out of Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What I find most interesting is the dialogue tends to be more extensive than American dramas, which is one reason actors from abroad are asked to play roles with a lot of dialogue in American made movies. “Loving” about the interracial marriage the US Supreme Court blessed in the 1960s, starred an Irish Black woman and a White Australian man, eg. as the Virginia couple.

I won’t mention them all, but here are a few to glean your thoughts. We are big fans of two shows, one from Australia and one from Canada, based on the same theme. “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and “Frankie Drake” are two sides of the same coin about a female detective in the 1920s who is both smart, inventive and Avant Garde. Both star ensemble casts and have excellent theme songs to start and end the shows.

There are also two shows based on the same theme from Canada and Great Britain. “Coroner” from Canada and “The Coroner” from Great Britain are about female coroners working with a supportive detective. We like the Canadian version a little more as the coroner is dealing with some personal anxiety and depressive issues which involve her husband’s death and father’s worsening dementia.

From Great Britain, we have long been fans of shows where we have now watched every episode – “Call the Midwife” based in the late 1950s and early 1960s, “Father Brown,” and “Doc Martin.” The latter show is worth watching just to catch the beautiful coast. We also are big fans of “Midsomer Murder Mysteries,” “Endeavour” and “Grantchester” although we enjoy the first minister the best.

There is a Canadian show that just completed its series called “Burden of Truth” about law and personal partners dealing with a rigged system against the disenfranchised. We are sad to see this one go, as the leads were very human and humane. They were less than perfect, but were on the path to do the right thing.

From Australia and New Zealand, we enjoy ‘Doctor Blake” about a confident but caring medical examiner with a complex past as well as a show called “A Place to Call Home” about a Jewish woman and nurse who falls in love with the oldest son of matriach controlled wealthy family. We also enjoy a couple of comedies one called “800 Words” about a man who writes an 800 word column whose wife is killed in a car accident and moves his kids to a town on the coast of New Zealand. The columnist also starred in a show called “Packed to the Rafters” about the adult family and father moving in during the housing crisis.

There are many short series we watch as well. Usually these are four to six episode seasons. ‘Unforgotten” is a British show about a unit that solves old crimes that pop up with a discovered body and ‘The World at War” about the lead up and early part of WWII. But, there are many others.

Lately, we have been watching “Marple,” an old series about Agatha Christie’s less flamboyant sleuth, Jane Marple. The stars that appear in this show, either after their biggest fame or before their fame begins, is amazing. I wish this show came on at 8 pm rather 9 pm, as my wife and I are no longer night owls.

Let me know what you think. Please share your favorites, as I know we have missed many.