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Friday, June 30, 2017

Those born very rich--and sometimes those who have found wealth later in life-- have a problem. CAN YOU GUESS WHAT IT IS?

Most of the very rich have a prob- lem... and as you can imagine, it's not money, though they always seem to need more.  Acknowledged, money cannot buy health, happiness or true friends but we pretty much know that.

A very real problem for many, especially those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, is that no matter how they may try, they cannot understand how the less fortunate of us feel, think or manage in our shared world. And worse than that, a great many don't care, presuming wealth equals all knowledge.

In my career as a magazine publisher, I worked for three extremely wealthy people... two born into money and one who earned his way rich.

My first, born that way, was gregarious and generous to a point, highly principled and kind-hearted in his way. He never knew a want or had a need. So his acts of kindness often presumed he knew much more about people than he did, so he was often clumsy and misunderstood. But if he perceived you were on his wrong side, he would fire or sue liberally. He was an insecure man of action.

The second earned his way with the role model of a parent in the publishing business. He was a wonderful man to work for, totally open with no hidden agenda, fair and understanding in good news or bad, helpful toward a mutual successful relationship and he cared for people.

The third was a corporate nightmare. His bottom line was sacred, no mater the cost, and growth was mandated or heads would--and did--roll, often despite good news... but not quite good enough. It was of no concern to him to order valuable, dedicated people fired to make the bottom line look better or to help prop up another lagging venture.

My publishing entity became a small part of a much larger corporation and we would have a quarterly meeting in the New York headquarters where we were to be present two days in advance of our meeting to "practice" what to say and how to say it for "the big man." We had slides to address every possible question "he" might ask--dozens and dozens of slides--to be certain we were fully prepared.

Then, on the big day at one winter meeting, there were two dozen of us in a giant conference room at 8:30  for a 9 am meeting. It was soon 9:45 and "he" was not there. At 10 minutes after 10, "he" ceremoniously burst into the room in a cashmere top coat, hat and scarf, greeting everyone as he pulled off his outerwear handing it to an aide one step behind. He joyfully said, "Good morning everyone. It was such a beautiful morning that I just had to walk through Central Park today." No "Sorry I'm late," or anything of the sort. After he was attended to with "A latte, just the way you like it... and a sweet roll with butter and your favorite marmalade," he nodded and we began.

Yep. Most of those I'm referring to lack Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feeling of another. 
Empathy is a moral virtue that enriches any and every relationship. I am not referring to decision-making itself but an understanding of the gains and losses of all involved and respect and thought for another perspective, even though it may not be yours.

The Golden Rule has been stated in many different ways over time, but has become a horrible aberration when cited, "He who has the gold, rules."

In sports, winning and losing is part of a game. In life, winners and losers are often determined by "he who has the gold" without much consideration for the consequences. It is often referred to as winning.

Politics has become so ruthless and contentious. Each side must win without regard of the consequences. It seems winning is the most important element of every action. Politics has become a wicked game of our lives where winning is more important than any consequence that may be swept aside by a myopic determination.

And yeah, I'm referring of the rush to kill The Affordable Care Act with anything that can pass, effects be damned. (Author's note: I am strongly for any and every improvement our legislators can make that truly benefits us all. But lacking that, to dispatch one for another just because, is disastrous to millions with no political clout by legislators who don't seem to have the empathy to care.)

I end with three quotes:

Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it is accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves into a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another's eyes or heart. Sue Monk Kidd 

... that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln (the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address)

My whole life is about winning I don't lose often. I almost never lose.  Donald Trump

Thursday, June 22, 2017

BOOTS ON THE HIGHWAY: The end of a three-decade odyseey of the mind

About 30 years ago, my wife and I decided we wanted as much good health as we could control so we enrolled in a local fitness club vowing to stick it out forever... or at least a month. That's how it--this journey to alter the future--began.

So why all the boots, you might ask. (Oh, you haven't seen all of them yet.) Well, here's how that came about.

We knew that the only part of our busy day we could control was the early morning. Once our work day began, so did the excuses. We began going to "the club" at 6 am three-days a week. It was winter and it was HELL!

But we did it, starting with a 10-lap walk around an indoor track. Every lap took us past the opening to the early morning high-velocity aerobics class. We'd shake our heads and wonder how crazy you'd have to be to do that three times a week as we worked up a sweat to finish our mile.

But after a few weeks of boring walking, we thought we'd try the class, from the back row, to see if we could stay up. But to our surprise, the group... maybe 20 or so... welcomed us as if more of a crowd would make hell seem easier. To our surprise, it did.

Now here comes the boot part: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45 am, my wife and I. still in a sleep-deprived state, would drag ourselves into separate cars (since we had different work destinations) and try to believe this is what we should do as we drove to "the club." 

For one two-week stretch, we would separately pass a lost boot laying near one of our intersections. It was still there, weeks past when it should have been, littering the street corner where we turned.

"Did you see the boot? It's still there."

"I know! Somebody must be walking around with one cold foot in all this snow."

Then, one early cold morning, my wife noticed, "The boot is gone! I almost miss it."

Secret: I preceded her that morning and grabbed the boot. Then that night, without her noticing, I put in on the hood of her car.

The next morning we laughed and tossed the boot near the garbage can til next pick-up day. But fate intervened and that day she saw another lost or discarded boot on the road she traveled. Of course, she stopped and grabbed it for my car hood next day. "Isn't that odd? Two boots in two days. Bet that means good luck."

A few days later I found number three and we immediately bought a lottery ticket. Then, we couldn't believe our luck when we just missed the grand prize by only five numbers. "Imagine, if the 6 would have been a 3 and the 4 was 7 and the 2 was one place to the left instead of the 8, we would be millionaires!"

We just couldn't throw those good-luck omens away... and so it began.

It's really amazing what you see on the side of the road if you're paying attention, and we always were. It was a game and when we scored, we always we always knew it meant something because we pretended it did. 

"Oops, guess this means we have to go to Paparazzi's tonight."
"That's for your birthday."
"This means we'll sell the car today."
"I see a trip in our future."

And the more serious: 

"It's a prayer for Aunt Nancy to get better."
"For the new grandchild to be healthy."
"That Jim will get that job."

It was always something... and as the the boots started piling up, we got inventive as to how they should be displayed. We even took them with us when we moved. And yes, we were the talk of the neighborhood--'those crazy people' I think they said.

Our kids and friends added to our cache with an occasional find. We have boots from many states and several foreign countries. Furthest came back in luggage from Italy. It meant we would eat great pasta for the rest of our lives!

At last count, our garage looked like this:

So when we repainted, all 126 boots (yep, really)  had to come down. The total could have been much larger but some boots on the highway were just not safely retrieved. And believe me, it hurt to have to pass up a great boot. However, we did have a few daring trophies. One was in a busy tunnel on I-5 in Seattle... it was a firefighter's boot--a real treasure--that my daughter and I scouted first then grabbed at 3 am with virtually no traffic to worry about. She drove and I grabbed... took about 5 seconds. See if you can find it in the photo at the top of the post.

Sadly, it was time to take them all down. Most had  deteriorated so it wasn't emotionally difficult to do, then take to the dump for a proper burial among the trash. The fun memories however, and the spirit of the chase will always be savored. Doesn't mean we won't still pick up a stray for old time's sake, but since we didn't win the lottery, I blame the bad boots... oh, and the fact that we never did actually buy a ticket. So it's our fault after all.

Goodbye boots. I guess I'll just keep on driving and watching for the ones that got away.

Ed Note: We were regular participants in hat high energy exercise class for almost 20 years... a class that had only four instructors in all that time and was filled with very sweaty--and warm, dear friends who knew each other by first name and any number of personal tales we shared. We attended weddings and a few funerals of those early morning maniacs--many of which we wouldn't recognize on the street with their clothes on--and shared joys and sorrow. It was one of the fullest, longest relationships that had the benefit of better health. We blame every one of them for those boots and great memories. (Special hellos to Del R. and Jim T.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Red Velvet Rope of life

I was 16 pages deep with more to go in my Google search for red velvet ropes. Most were listings to purchase or rent red velvet ropes for crowd control but a number of sites were for red velvet clubs... you know, the exclusive ones not meant for regular people. Red velvet ropes are mostly used to keep the riff-raff out and let the elite pass through.

WW with her invisible plane

But even if there are no red velvet ropes beyond nightclubs or the Oscars and the like, they exist metaphorically in almost every phase of our lives, invisible like Wonder Woman's plane (see invisible plane, left) or her lasso, but they are there.

My thought was triggered by Nelson Schwartz who has a book soon to debut on who and how we separate the elite of the world from us less special other folks. Our every day lives are filled with red velvet ropes of one kind or another. Most are so prevalent that we just accept them as a normal part of not being either elite or rich.

The medical field has many red velvet ropes. These on the inside do not sit in emergency rooms or doctors' offices til 3:30 waiting for their 2 pm appointment. Often, their doctors are on call and come to them.  Those inside the rope deliver their babies in $6,000/day hospital suites attended by cream of the crop medical care, often referred as high-end boutique health services. We sometimes deliver in the back seat of a cab. Their broken bones are not diagnosed in emergency rooms and set by the surgeon with an opening in her schedule. Treatment options? Not hardly.

In our justice system, most pretrial detainees remain in jail waiting trial because they can't afford bail at arraignment, and many must use overwhelmed court appointed council. Not surprisingly, this often means disproportionately delivered justice... something on the order of the Golden State Warriors playing a high school basketball team. It also leads sadly to the innocent being convicted for crimes they never committed. And those on the other side of the rope, being acquitted for crimes they did commit. Hey, it happens.

Who stands in long lines for rides at Disney World or doesn't swim with dolphins at Sea World? Who has little hope snagging a pair of tickets to Hamilton when it's the talk of the town? Care to jump airport lines? Too bad. Go to college at today's prices? The odds are not great for many on the wrong side of the red velvet rope.

Life's like that though and many of us are so used to our status that we accept the rope as a way of life. But to those who can't afford the opportunity, it's another way entirely.

Funny thing is, some of the privileged confess they actually experience a tinge of guilt when they glance across the red velvet rope.  There is nothing wrong about earning honest money. It's just that so many are critically behind those opportunity lines for any number of reasons. It might even be a matter of life or death for them.

Oh, there are exceptions of course. Remember the crucifixion scene in Monty Python's classic film, The Life of Brian? Those poorly born actually had the option to choose which side of the red velvet rope for them: "Crucifixion or freedom?" But given the choice, they messed it up. See what I mean?

 So a big thank you to the Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and all those with a philanthropic mentality who try to help those in great need. But the need overwhelms us all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here's a Golden Oldie from 2011, Remember tthat year? Neither do I. Briliant new post almost ready.


Other people's stuff, more or less.

Every day I try to say unique things... likeUnique New York, three times real fast... or the world's hardest tongue-twister, The sixth sheik's sheep is sick. 

Or, I had a wooden whistle and it wouldn't whistle, then I got a steel whistle and it still wouldn't whistle. So I got a tin whistle... and now I 'tin' whistle...   but enough of me.

I just read a little of Mardy Grothe's new book,  Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do. It makes so much common sense:
  • Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.
  • Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
  • Never make a speech at a country dance or a football game.
  • Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma.
  • Never get caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman.
  • Never change diapers in mid-stream.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little but needs that little so much.
  • Never eat at a place called "Mom's."
  • Never give your girl and your dog the same kind of jewelry.
See? And you probably have your own. Let me know and I'll add to the list.

Then there are "Ruminations" by Aaron Karo that ring true. He says:
  • They want me to mail in my 'scrap gold. Scrap gold? Yeah, I keep it out in the garage next to the barrel of worn out diamonds.
  • I still don't understand why people have different opinions than me.
  • How did no one else have the same shoe size as Cinderella? Was she some kind of freak?
  • Why don't they just bottle tears and sell them as make-up remover?
  • All of those extreme couponers across America need to get together and propose a budget plan to the president.
  • One poor movie decision and now Netflix thinks I'm an 80-year-old woman
  • I hate it when people I hate like things that I like.

Other important things to know:
  • The incredibly beautiful 'Toilet Seat Hat' worn by Princess Beatrice, (Fergie's daughter--no, not the singer) at the royal wedding six weeks ago was sold at auction for  about $100,000 US dollars (I couldn't find the British 'pound' sign on my computer) to some lucky person. Don't worry... the money will go to charity... to help them buy toilet seats for that proverbial pot, if they have one. Now, who would pay a hundred grand, let alone be able to afford it?
  • Maybe one of these guys... The world's four richest men, Carlos Slim (a Mexican magnate), Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mukesh Ambani (India's richest) control more wealth than the world's 57 poorest countries. Take that, third world.
  • Malawi (in Southeast Africa) is considering a law against breaking wind in public. That could lead to a lot of finger pointing.
  • One out of three people under the age of 40 in the USA has at least one tattoo except in the NBA where the percentage has to be in the high 90s, which might skew the numbers. Now multiple ear-piercings are OK, but some go even further and opt for elf ears... where the tops of their ears are cut then sewn back together in a pointed shape. Neat, Tinker Bell.
  • Almost half of the adults left in Detroit are functionally illiterate, says a recent study. Gohw Tygers!
  • There are now 7 billion of us on earth... soon to grow to 10 billion by 2020... and perhaps 15.8 billion by 2100... and we'll still have room left over in Wyoming.
  • Talk about high paid athletes, Gaius Appuleius Diocles, called the "champion of all charioteers" in 146 a.d., retired at 42 with 36 million sesterces in earnings... about $15 billion in today's world, not counting Nike endorsements.  
True story: When a British schoolboy was unable to remove a vase that was stuck on his head (don't ask me how or why), his mom took him to the hospital on a city bus for a medically approved removal. Apparently, hospitals have better hammers. In an attempt to make the boy look more normal to the other passengers, she placed a school cap on top of the vase... but, according to reports, refrained from drawing a smiley face... because it might look 'too fakey.' (OK... I made the 'face' part up.)
 True fact: The average cost to treat a bullet wound: $17,000. Life is so unfair... where would a phesant get $17,000?

True statement: Good night. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Selfie Knows All (Part 2)

Ed. note: If this post looks a little familiar, it ran two years ago with the graduation of our first grandchild. We are blessed with 17 and this is proudly number 2. The message, however, remains vital forever and a day. Education, which should be a universal opportunity, always pays rich dividends.

Have a look at 863 of tomorrow's leaders. There are more than 40,000 high schools in the United States that graduated students this year. This is a Texas school shown in the 2015 selfie taken by its Valedictorian.

Joe photo-bombed by brother Luke
There... on the left, about 5th row from the back, that's the 52tnd President of the United States. She's sitting next to the guy with a beard. And on the right, 8th row, is the one who changes the world with an invention that assures even the poorest countries, potable water. Then there's the one who will help colonize Mars... and the mechanical whiz who invents the smallest, safest battery with the most power that runs for a year.

There are those who will break new grounds in ways never before imagined--those who go on to school and those who choose a different path--and all, we hope, who will enjoy happy, productive lives. High school graduates are a fairly healthy cross-section of us... and to these graduates and the rest of us, the abundance of hope rides high.

All are given life advice on how to do it right. The best seems to be simple and pure. Here are a few favorites:
  • "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the one who’ll decide where to go." - Dr. Seuss
  • "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” - JK Rowling
  • "Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art." - Neil Gaiman
  • "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."  - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." -Bette Reese
  • "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. " -Will Rogers
  • "We don't stop going to school when we graduate." -Carol Burnett 
 And you in the lower half of the graduating class... you may have the greatest dream of all:

 "To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States." - George W. Bush

But most important, you matter:

"If you think that no one knows you are alive, try missing a couple of payments." Earl Wilson

You count big-time, graduates. It's your turn.  Please take care of us... and your children too.