Friday, August 31, 2007

Hustle and flow

I took a drive up toward New York tonight, and it was cathartic, refreshing and challenging. There are moments on the drive where I was in the car and just moving with the flow of traffic, almost at one with it. You are a part of this great flowing river of metal, rubber and asphalt, going God knows where to do God knows what. Big fish, small fish, beautiful fish, ugly fish. All hustling somewhere.

I rode toward the airport. I miss flying--I haven't been on a plane in a year. Maybe it's the hassles of the process. But it doesn't diminish the buzz and the anticipation of going somewhere. With the sunroof open, I watched a jet fly over, about to touch down and discharge its passengers. Further up, there were jets lining up for takeoff, destined for locales close and distance, known and exotic. Turning into the airport itself, with its maze of roads leading to and from the terminals. Drivers hustle to find where they're going, trying not to get lost and avoid another lap. Most of the international red-eye departures are ready to leave, so the buzz has died down a little. But the anticipation of taking off and setting eyes on new places remains. So does the anticipation of seeing loved ones, friends, after a long trip, bringing smiling faces and news of distant corners of the world.

Nothing but net

The Dream Team. Magic. Jordan. Bird. Barkley. In 1992, they reestablished American dominance in Olympic basketball. Along the way to gold in Barcelona, they crushed hapless opponents, unable to keep pace. Ditto in 1996. But something happened between '96 and 2000. The world got wise, played catch-up, and started fielding good times. Meanwhile, the U.S. stagnated, not realizing--or not wanting to realize--the world wasn't quaking in its shadow. The U.S. won the gold in 2000, but it wasn't pretty. (Vince Carter's dunk notwithstanding.) Then, in 2004, the bottom fell out, and the Americans were lucky to get a bronze medal after a shoddy performance.

So how do you recover from an embarrassing performance, and get back to the place you think you belong. One, realize you need a change of scenery. In USA Basketball's case, they needed to choose personnel that best matched the international game. And you have to realize that the game you're playing isn't the game you're used to. The international game has different rules, flow and movement. Your personnel has to understand that, and adjust accordingly. The mindset has to be ready for a new environment. And, most importantly, realize that the competition has changed. They've gotten used to you. They understand your weaknesses. They aren't scared of you anymore. So you have to adapt. Circumstances, times, change. You have to move with them.

And it appears USA Basketball has. In the Tournament of the Americas, the U.S., with new personnel, and new attitude, has cruised into the semifinals. A win over Puerto Rico will put them in the Olympics. It's amazing what losing will do to you.

A warm mug of just shut up

Sometimes, when nice things happen to you--say, a car repair goes better than expected, or people at work compliment you and notice the work you do--should you question why these things happen, or why they are saying what they're saying, or do I deserve the plaundits? No, I need to just shut up and say, "Thank you."

The tao of driving

I'm not an aggressive driver. Really. Though my driving style as adapted to my surroundings, I don't drive like my hair's on fire, racing from stoplight to stoplight. I try to be aware of what's going on around me, including what the speed limit is. Last night, I was following someone who was going 10 miles under the limit. In a situation like that, the easy thing to do is to get frustrated. But no, you can't. You're in a 3,500-pound missile. No matter how little the doofus in front of you is not paying attention, you have to. At all times.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dragon slayer

My dragon tried to flare yesterday, but I was able to handle it well. It tried to lay me low, but I remained calm and focused. It was a good confidence booster. I think I can keep this up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pick me up

I got a nice pat on the back at work today. Things were dicey for awhile, but I kept cool and made my way through. I'm not a horn-tooter, I've never been been at ease waving my own flag. I sometimes wonder if anyone notices. Today, someone did. And it felt good to know someone is watching. But really, all I'm doing, all I've ever done, and all I've ever tried to do, is do the best I could. I try to be efficient at what I do, because of the multi-pronged process I'm in. Sometimes I wonder if I'm up for the challenge, sometimes I wonder if can handle it. Somebody thinks so.

Settling for less

If you had a choice between hamburger or filet mignon, which do you choose? (If you're a vegetarian, neither, but that's not the point.) When it comes down to ordinary versus best, you should want best. Then why is it that the U.S. consumer lies down and takes substandard cellphone service, while the rest of the world has handsets that can pretty much make breakfast? And the argument that carriers come up with to keep the shackles around the ankles of the consumer are utterly weak. The system is weighted toward the carriers, with subsidzed phones that lag well behind the rest of the world. The solution in Belgium works for me: keep the phones unlocked, allow users to by a SIM card, and then leave to buy whatever phone they choose. They may not be to get a government together, but they've gotten the cellphone process right.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Building links

Some new links are up on the tumblelog. They look at...

  • decluttering your life
  • polishing your mettle
  • and just being yourself

Let freedom swing

Here's a great story about freedom and letting go from Herbie Hancock. Even if your bandleader is Miles Davis, the best way to make him happy is to make yourself happy. Play the music in your head, not in someone else's head.

(A tip of the cap to Rifftides)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three keys to life

Or another way to look at courage, discipline and craft.

The kids are alright

Yesterday, news hit that a 17-year-old kid from New Jersey unlocked the iPhone. And Engadget reported a software unlock worked as well. It was bound to happen at some point. Mix determination, youthful exuberance and a scientist's know-how, and you too can wreck the day of a major telecommunciations giant. While I would have no inclination to follow through on the kid's instructions--and neither do most iPhone users, I guess--I admire the hell out of him. Anything to ruin the way cell phones are sold in the country gains a star in my book. (Belgium has the right idea--choose whatever phone you want, then choose a plan. Phone unlocking there is illegal, I believe.) Freedom is such a divine thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Economy of force

Do you need to make a grand statement to get your point across? Do you need a lot of finery to make people notice you? Do you need to jump up and down and yell and scream to stand the test of time?

Abraham Lincoln didn't. I was watching the Civil War last night, and toward the end, they had someone read his Gettysburg Address. I got goose bumps listening to it. Two hundred sixty nine words. Two minutes. Economical, elegant, forthright. He said what he meant, clearly, vividly, movingly. He reminded people of what the battle was about, and the supreme sacrifice untold numbers made. And despite the carnage at a dark hour in the nation's history, he sounded an ultimately hopeful note on the future of the country.

He said much, without saying a lot.

Burn the tape

When a team gets its hat handed to them in a game, the coaches 'burn the tape'. They acknowledge the anomaly of losing by a bunch of points, and start preparing for the next game.

Talk about anomalies...The Baltimore Orioles got stomped the other night, 30-3, by the Texas Rangers, the front end of a doubleheader. And they lost the back end, 9-7. For the Orioles, they have to put it away, let it go (as the manager said), and move on. You're going to get stomped into the ground at some point. You can't hang on to it. Move forward because the next battle is coming.

For the Rangers, it's a fun group of stats to compile, but you can't be attached to them. We can't cling to winning. Life is full of peaks and valleys--maybe you'll be beaten by 27 runs one day. How will you handle it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Captain Comeback

Lead a team back from the brink of defeat, and you wear the moniker 'Captain Comeback' proudly. Like Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his to several come-from-behind wins in his career, including in his last game. Staubach never gave up on his team, or himself. A valuable lesson there--when the chips are down, what do you have inside of you to be called Captain Comeback?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Sometimes it's hard to see how great you are, or how great other people think you are. You do good, you do well, you do right by other people, and that's what the world sees. They don't see all the little things you do wrong, the weight you carry from not being enough in your own eyes. You try, you strive, yet one tiny misstep along the way and you magnify it more than it needs to be. We're all fallible, but it doesn't mean we have to hold ourselves hostage to ourselves. We can continue to move forward, even as we stub our toe. Despite the tribulations of life, we can see how great we are, as we lighten the load our shoulders carry.

Great minds

I traded a couple of text messages with my brother this afternoon. He's on a vacation/trip to South Carolina this week. On his signature, it says "It's Never Late!" No, he didn't steal the name of this humble blog. He joined the church, and enjoys it a lot. I think he's referring to becoming a part of the church. I'm referring to make changes in life. Come to think about it, maybe we're talking about the same thing, but in different ways.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The quest

The Washington Post Magazine had a great story yesterday on Ralph Ellison, and his great unwritten novel. It should be coming out next year. The story details the quest of Ellison to write it, his literary executor to complete it, and his assistant's quest to find his father, and himself. One theme I picked up--no one's perfect, but we keep moving ahead. Another theme--life is a quest, and as difficult as it can be, there's always a surprise waiting around the corner. More later...

Wants and needs

In life, you have to decide what you need, versus what you want. You have to cover your needs, the basics. The wants, well, do you really need them? Do you really need, say, that iPhone? Me, not truly. I think it's a truly gorgeous thing to behold. For what I'm looking for in a phone, it fills the bill. So why don't I have one? It'll make me a little lighter in the wallet. And version two of these things are always better than version one. I can be patient--what I've got now works fine. Maybe I'll buy this to tide me over.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Time waits...

I haven't worn a watch in a few years. I stopped wearing one when I was in Europe, mainly because it was feeling heavy on my wrist. But then I realized, at least when I was in Brussels, that time wasn't terribly important anymore. It was the experience, and the here and now that was important.

Yesterday was a nice day for a walk, and I went to the nearby college town for a change of pace. I made a loop through downtown, lost in the niceness of the day, and how good it felt to be walking. I paid no attention to time. It didn't matter. What mattered was the glorious day and feeling free of constraints. There are enough time constraints on me at work. I need more places where time is of little consequence.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

If you're happy and you know it...

Can it really be possible? A Harris poll this week said 94% of Americans are happy. With the subprime-mortgage mess, the markets behaving like a roller coaster, the mess in Iraq, it's hard to see how anybody can be happy. But think about it. Right now how do you feel, in this moment? Content, peaceful? There is so much going on in the world right now, that the natural reaction is how can anyone be happy. You can because you are fine now. You have a roof over your head, food in your stomach. You have the basics taken care of. It doesn't mean you've turned off from the cares of the world. It means what you've got, you're content with.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What's in your...toolbox?

Go into any good auto shop, and you'll see one. Go into any good artist studio, and you'll see one there, too. A toolbox, assembled from years of practice, trial and error, experimentation. Be it a wrench or a brush, a good craftsman knows what tools he need for the right job at the right time. Collected over the years in that red bin or wooden box, the tools tell the story of that person, and their craft.

We all need a toolbox to navigate through life. It doesn't have to be in a red bin, but it has to be ready for use at any time. Thinking about mine (in no particular order)...

  • Books--to put my mind somewhere else, to learn, to grow, to explore.
  • iPod--music therapy is good for the soul
  • Friends--we all need shoulders to lean on
  • Car--for long-distance decompression
  • My legs--for short-distance decompression
  • This blog--to think, paint pictures and learn
  • My Mac--to reach out to the world

I know there's something else, but it's early...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No excuses

A bunch of us were supposed to see David Beckham play this weekend. But his ankle has other ideas, and so he's questionable for the game, sorry, match. That brought to mind another sportsman who didn't an injury stop him. In the same stadium, no less. In the dawn of 1994, Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys played a critical game against the New York Giants, and in the second quarter, Smith suffered a separated shoulder. Now, most people would have closed up shop and gone home. But there was a playoff berth on the line, too much at stake to leave. He stayed in, gutting it out, playing through the pain and winning the game. And the division. And the Super Bowl. After a performance like that, making excuses doesn't quite cover it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just a number

I wrote about Tommy Flanagan, and how the soul can do what the body can't. Here we go again...

I've seen Dave Brubeck play twice, once in New York, and once at the Newport Jazz Festival. He always plays there, and it was a joy to see him at that historic venue. This past weekend he was there again, and apparently he took the show by storm. Not bad for an 86-year-old guy. Once day we're all going to realize it's not how old you are, but how you feel.

Get up and keep going

More on Tiger Woods...

This article in the International Herald Tribune points to a couple of things about Tiger's unshakable confidence. You have to be pushed to your limits to see what you can accomplish. At one point in the PGA Championship final round, Tiger had a five shot lead. But two competitors were hot on his trail, whittling down his lead. A bogey, cutting his lead to one, didn't help matters. But...he moved forward, knowing he'd have to, and would recover. How?
" 'I told myself, 'You got yourself in this mess, now earn your way out of it.' "

He made birdie on the next hole, moving back to a two-shot lead, and taking home the trophy.

The article mentions something about "the art of winning." It's simply maintaining an even keel when the heat is on. Easy to say, harder to do. But worth attempting.

And another thing--losing. Tiger's lost tournaments in the final round. He is human. But the majors are important to him, and that's when his best comes forth. And he's never lost a major after leading in the third round. Few are as money as him. It's something to aim for.

Monday, August 13, 2007


No one is original. Everyone is derivative.
~ Sonny Rollins

Lately, I've been trying to figure out what I am doing with this blog. And what I'm doing is simple. I'm just riffing off what others are doing. Plain and simple. I see something of interest to me, or experience something, and I write about it. I wasn't sure if that was the right path to be on, but I think this is right. We all sort of feed off each other, whether we acknowledge it or not. But the feeding has to be of some good to be of value to the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How do you spell confidence?


This story perfectly illustrates how utterly confident the man is. As others are wilting in the 100 degree heat of Oklahoma, Tiger remains cool. He understands what he wants, and he understands what it takes to achieve it. That simple. It doesn't need to be complicated. See it. Be it.

And the great thing about Tiger? He's still hungry for more.

Fear itself

Two stories make me angry about the way we operate certain things in this country, and point out why fear accomplishes little.

In the middle of this column, the writer points out that Air New Zealand is avoiding the US on its Auckland-London run. Why? Even if a passenger isn't leaving the airport, he has to be run through the bureaucratic ringer. Not a good introduction to America. So instead of landing in Los Angeles, it's calling on Vancouver, BC, instead.

And in this short piece, passengers are held at JFK border control, not knowing that the international passengers are being put through extra questioning before being allowed in. Again, another lovely welcome.

We seem to be doing everything possible to discourage people from coming to the US. The residue of 9/11 still lingers. We're scared of allowing someone who wants to do ill into the country. We've been hurt, badly, but our reaction has left many cold about a place they had been warm to. We seemed to have forgotten who we are, and what makes us attractive to the rest of the world. The picture they see is not of open arms, but fear of the unknown, the other. We can overcome this, by remembering who we are, remembering the better part of ourselves.

Like, duh...

The answers to our problems, and all we seek, are right smack in front of us. We're scrambling around for the secret key that unlocks the treasure chest full of gold, and the key is staring at us in the mirror. Holy cow. It's been a weekend of epiphanies...

The fork in the road

If you had a choice between suffering and not suffering, which would you choose?

It's Sergio Garcia again. He was disqualified for an incorrect scorecard at the PGA Championship. Now, all he had to do was correct the card in the tent, and he'd be playing today. Instead, in a huff, he walked from the tent, and away from the tournament.

I think, somewhere inside, he wants to suffer. I know, it's strange for a pro golfer to go in that direction. But he blames bad luck for his troubles. Does he find something noble in suffering?

I had a mini-epiphany while doing laundry--it's foolish, masochistic to suffer if you don't have to. You can be happy even if you're 15 shots off the lead and have no chance of winning. Your setbacks are temporary, and they are not who you are. You are not defined by your mistakes. You can recover and move forward. I want to make a conscious choice to be happy. It's difficult sometimes, but that's the goal. That's where I want to be.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The adventure continues

I just finished reading Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. What a fantastic story about following your dreams and listening to your heart. The journey the shepherd took to find his treasure was one rich with adventure. And for him, the most daunting journey for him was inside. All the fears and doubts were so real. He questioned whether the dream was worth pursuing, whether the slings and arrows and trips would amount to anything. They did. At one point, he had to wake up, or actually reawaken, to the things his heart was saying to him, because it was pointing him in the right direction. The journey for his treasure wasn't pieces of gold. It was simply to open his heart and dream.

The choices you make

There is a provocative statement in the point five of this column. Financial freedom is dead, and it's better to be optimistic. True? I don't think I'll be financially free. I'll always have bills to pay. I'm working to reduce my debt and become smarter with my finances. Does it really matter to be financially free, but still unhappy? I don't need things to be happy. I need experiences, and good people around me. I need to have a good foundation to build my happiness on. I need to know how to recover and regain my sense of myself when I stumble. Material things aren't going to leave me fulfilled. I can't chase those things. Sure, I may want something occasionally something. But that's not what I want to chase. It's a dead-end road. There are places I need freedom, and places I need stability. They just aren't where most people are.

Knowing your place

Look at this picture, and then read the caption below. It's important to keep your perspective.


When you come to a bump in the road, how do you react? Mechanically? You can, but you better make sure your mechanics are good. Sure, a wave of panic comes, but it never lasts. It shouldn't last long. Then you can start to recover. Your foundation is solid, you know where to turn and how to start the process of recovery. It always seems daunting at first. And it's a long road back. But you can come back. Really, you can.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Failure is an option

We tend to cast a cold eye on people who fail. They weren't up to the task, they had not business being there, they were in over their heads. We sometimes welcome them back, but only after they've paid some penance. Sometimes, they don't come back at all.

But Rick Ankiel did. A couple of years ago, he left St. Louis unable to pitch for the Cardinals. He couldn't get the ball over the plate. It's one thing to fail, but to do so on such a public stage can wreck one's confidence. Injury further stalled any comeback. Add that his father was sent to federal prison for a drug conviction, and you might want to just give up. But he didn't. He returned to the minor leagues, converted to the outfield, and started the long road back. The Cardinals never gave up on him, and last night, he started for the big-league team. And hit a three-run homer. Nobody ever since the journey would be easy.

The man on the corner

Several years ago, I used to live in Jersey City, and to get to New York, I would have to take the Path train in. Some nights I'd get home late, and occasionally I'd see this guy riding the train. He would be wearing the same thing--darks pants, white shirt (sometimes with a tie), a Members Only-type jacket. And he'd be carrying all these plastic bags inside a larger plastic bag. The expression on his face was either one of sadness or vacancy. Was he homeless? Why did I see him late at night? What were the bags all about?

Jump to last night. I get off the Path train and head toward my train home. I walk down a ramp--and there he is. Same attire, same bags. After all these years, has anything changed for him? Maybe he works late. Maybe he really is homeless. How can one man set off so many questions. After all this time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Back to yesterday: people understand what they're going to going to get with Keith Jarrett concert: virtuosity and vinegar. But there has to be a point where you stop being a masochist and demand better. Umbria should be a point of reflection for him.

But considering what happened in Montreal last night, who knows.

And from Umbria, video!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The secret to life

When generals plan battles, they try to plan for every contingency. Every bump in the road. They want to be ready for any curve the enemy throws at them.

But you can't place for dumb luck. Or serendipity.

Let's take an example. You're from, say, Queens, New York, and you're on your way to Australia. You stop in San Francisco for a long layover, and need something to do. Hey, there's a baseball game, and hey, Barry Bonds is going for the all-time home run record. You score a ducat, maybe thinking you'll witness history from the bleachers. The game rolls on, then, in the fifth inning, it happens. 3-2 pitch, and Bonds cranks it. 756. But wait, the ball's heading your way. And it leads near you, setting off a scrum that would frighten sharks. And there in you are, in the pile, scrambling for history, and a payday. Moments later, as the police sort out the mass of humanity, they pull you out. With the ball. They escort you away to safely. And toward 15 minutes of fame.

Think it can't happen? Ask Matt Murphy. When he gets back from Australia.

As much as you plan, you better be ready for serendipity when it falls out of the sky.

Try a little tenderness

Keith Jarrett is one of the world's best jazz pianists. He's lyrical, passionate, highly improvisational. His solo concerts are landmarks. So are his outbursts towards his audiences. He's admonished crowds for coughing, ringing cellphones, flashing cameras. Yes, all those things during a jazz concert aren't cool, but the vitriol he's spewed toward crowds isn't necessary either. He's refused to do encores after an audience has failed to heed his demands. In other words, he's an ogre. Brilliant, but an ogre. (I went to a concert of his a few years ago--he warned the crowd about his, ahem, idiosyncracies. No incidents were reported).

Someone, however, had enough. Last month, in Italy, he played a jazz festival, and proceeded to berate the crowd about cameras, ripping the host city, dropping f-bombs along the way. And this was before playing a note. I'm sure the crowd was wondering what the deal was, and whether the concert would be any good. By most reports it was. The concert ends, and a couple of folks snapped photos. Big mistake, as Jarrett announces that the trio won't play an encore, and storms off the stage. The festival's director, rightfully hurt by the insults, bans Jarrett for life.

Lessons? How hard is it, really, to treat people with some amount of humanity? People pay big bucks to see you, and all you bring to them is contempt? We understand you're an artist, and we'll give you space to work your magic. But could you check the sullenness at the door? The insufferable artist schtick can only go so far.

Never forget to pack your humanity, and a little humility.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The tao of head shaving

Every so often I shave my head. I like the look, and it saves me from going to the barber shop. I started recently, about the time I started this blog. It's a very deliberate act. Once you commit, there's no turning back. The first bits of hair on the razor mean you have to go forward, unless you have a thing for bald spots. Then, it becomes a matter of patience. I have to shave against the grain, so the strokes are slow and deliberate and conscious. If I don't pay attention, I get cut. Cuts on a bald pate aren't cute. Eventually, I go from short hair to no hair at all--the transformation is complete. I feel like I renew myself a little by shaving my head. Getting a fresh start, a chance to try again. I feel lighter, a burden being shorn away. A renewal every so often is good for the spirit.

Some housekeeping

Not much to riff on today, so I'm playing catch-up and adding some things to the tumblelog, including...

Beating procrastination
Breaking the chains of debt
How to shop for food once a week

That done, I'm playing with this. A chance to dream a little bit.

Monday, August 6, 2007

After the storm

Walk outside, and you're amazed. Just a little while ago, you cowered in a corner, hoping, praying the storm wouldn't do too much damage to you. You tried to prepare as best you could, with provisions handy, secured the house, made sure everything was tied down. Still, you weren't ready for the ferocity the storm unleashed. It shook the house so hard, you thought this was it--the end. And it refused to let up. A descent into hell couldn't be worse than this. Then, steadily, it grew more quiet, and finally, the storm relented, its fury moved on, diminished. Now you move outside. There's damage, bad in some spots, just ok in others. But nothing that can't be repaired. You look up and the last vestiges of clouds race away, and blue sky drifting in. You breathe deeply, thankful for relief. The last few hours shook you, but you survived. You were as ready as you could be. You're still here. Ready to start again. Ready for the next storm.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Under the Milky Way tonight

I just took a quick walk outside, and I had the feeling come over me that it would be great to sleep outside tonight. I haven't been camping in 10 years, and toyed with the idea of going out somewhere this summer. All you hear are the crickets chirping, the odd rustling of leaves and the stillness of the night. You'd look up and see nothing but stars, and the odd blinking lights of an airplane (though tonight, it's all clouds). I miss being out, hiking, cooking, sleeping in a tent. Or maybe I miss the days when I was a kid.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The soul cages

A few years ago, I saw a legendary jazz pianist, Tommy Flanagan, play at a club in New York. He was getting on years, and as he moved toward the bandstand, his gait was slow, a bit frail. Not too spritely. Then he sat at the piano. And it was as if time had never moved for him. He played with the same verve and intensity as he had in his younger days, back in the 50s and 60s. The soul is capable of things the body can't always complete. It's important to keep the soul open and ready to receive gifts known and unknown, and be ready to give them out.

If wishes were horses...

I took a little ride tonight. Open windows, open sunroof. It was hot today, and summer re-established itself. One of those days that when you move a little, you sweat. Which leads to one of those nights you long for a convertible. Moving down the road, the wind felt just right, just so perfect. It was the type of drive, and type of night, to make the world seem a little less harrowing. One of those times you want to bottle it. But you you a night like this will come again.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Today was ok. I'm fine, the car's in one piece, and I still have my sanity. My day was fine. Now, this guy was lucky. Flying up a quarterpipe and realizing your skateboard isn't where you are--and you're 45 feet in the air, flailing--yep, that landing's gonna hurt. He'll be fine, but it was scary to watch. He landed so hard, his shoes flew off. But he's alive. And so am I.

An extravagance of laughter

So there I am, in the car, hustling to the train station, trying to catch a train south to see my best friend. I look at the dashboard, and the temp gauge is rocketing up. Not now, mother of Moses, not now. Then that sound--"bing bing bing", then an angry red little from the engine--"I'm too hot." So close, yet so far. My car nearly overheats and I miss the train. So, tail between my legs, I wait 30 minutes for the thing to cool. I have to play hopscotch back, praying I don't do damage to the beast. There's a Wal-Mart and a Borders on the way back. I stop, get anitfreeze, and a book, and wait some more. I then limp home, stopping off at a McDonald's. When I hit the door, all I can do is laugh at the absurdity of it all. And hope my best friend forgives me.

I need a nap.

Getaway day

Anticipation is a double-edged sword. You can be giddy, excited about the adventure that awaits. Or, in your giddiness, you can wake up an hour earlier than you want, leaving you groggy for your train trip later today. The later has happened to me. I love to travel, but this early-wake-up jazz stinks. I'm stepping away from my locale, and this corner, for a little while. My eyes need to see another environment. I should be here back tomorrow night.

And no, I haven't packed yet.

Routine maintenance

The sight of a bridge lying crumpled over a river is a horrifying sight. The shock of what happened Wednesday night in Minneapolis hasn't worn off. While I was at work yesterday, it seemed like all I did was watch CNN or look at the websites of the two papers in the Twin Cities. That really could have happened anytime, anywhere. Your heart sinks when you hear such terrible news.

And while the recovery continues, and the investigation begins, the recriminations start in earnest. It's always the way--tragedy occurs, we're transfixed, blame gets apportioned. It didn't take 24 hours for that to happen. On a smaller scale, there's some similarity to Katrina--everyone blaming everyone else and not taking their own share of the responsibility. The buck gets passed, token effort is thrown at the problem, and we haven't really moved forward.

I remember back in 1983 when a chunk of a bridge fell in Connecticut. And I remember the debate it set off about this country's failing infrastructure. And still...deja vu all over again. The percentage of bad bridges is embarrassingly high. There was a steam explosion in New York a few weeks ago. We know we have problems with the bones that hold us up. We know we need to make serious repairs. But where is the will and the courage to do what we know we need to do? To make the hard choices about what needs to be done?

Part of this is about neglect. Bridges take a lot of stress, and get utterly pounded every day. They are almost human--they have to be looked after and cared for. It's a constant process that can go a long way to prevent catastrophe. Sound familiar?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The heart of the matter

Warrior of the Light is a wonderful website run by author Paulo Coelho. He's a writer with a wonderful touch who knows how to reach the heart. Every couple of weeks he sends out a newsletter that's a joy to read. In yesterday's installment, there's a story at the end that speaks to me in a professional and personal manner. Basically, you have to know what's in a person heart and how to speak to it. A simple lesson that's hard to execute.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I just walked outside, looking in my car for a book (of course it was in my apartment). I notice how still the air is, and hear only crickets and assorted other animals making the usual night noises. I look up at notice the stars. Where I call home, it's far enough from the cities to see some stars. But not like back home, in the country. Years ago, when I came home, I would drive out to this semi-deserted road, stop the car, get out, and stare up at a canvas of stars. No matter how cold it was, I'd go out. Or, I'd just step outside of my grandmother's house. Looking up, and seeing the vastness, always put me in my true place.

The tao of adaptability

One of the wonderful things about jazz is its adaptability. Take most any song, say Freddie Freeloader, and depending on your style, knowledge, mood, you can make it yours. ITunes lists more than 40 versions of the song. It can be molded, shaped, into the form you need or want. Life around us is the same. We need to be open to the tools around us, and what we want to accomplish. And make sure it's harmonious with the surrounding environment. The how is up to you.

Seize the day

One of my Achilles' heel is procrastination. Though I've gotten better at that, it nearly bit me in the butt yesterday. But I recovered, had a backup plan and will be ok. And there are some lessons here. When the moment comes, take it. I'm hemming and hawing less, but there's always room for improvement. I can't always sit back and ponder and wonder. Another thing--I recovered well. After a few moments of panic, I hatched a plan and took action to make things happen. I didn't wallow, I didn't whine...much. I kept moving. Good lessons, good foundations.