It Is The End Of The Beginning

life

When they ask me to describe this moment I am going to tell them it is the end of the beginning and then when they scratch their heads and screw up their faces I’ll laugh and walk away.

The few that stick around and ask me to explain it will hear me rattle on about wishing I was like Aragorn and how if I was I would command the dead men of Dunharrow to come fight for me and then I’d go wipe out ISIS and other terror groups because that is the kind of man I am.

And if they pressed me to give them a more serious answer I’d probably talk about the Henry James quote above and then I’d throw in a couple more quotes that I have been thinking about lately, like the Emerson one just below this line.

Intention and decision work together.
Intention and decision work together.

And the David Whyte below this one.
The Lonely Blogger

I’d talk about how I am trying to blend pictures with words to tell a story I see inside my head and explain how it relates to me on a personal and professional level.

But I expect few people would really listen or be able to hear what it is I am saying or guess what it is I am striving for and I would think how interesting life is.

Because my son tells me all the time about how he is trying to figure out where he fits in at school and I am convinced that I no longer fit where I once did and am in the midst of the journey to where I do.

In large part I am operating off of gut feelings and trusting them not to steer me wrong but understanding that there is a process in getting there.

The places you'll go.
I always wanted to meet Dr. Seuss.

Life is the greatest adventure of all but you can’t and won’t notice it if you sleep through it. One of the goals is to recognize that sometimes it is the ordinary moments and things that are the most extraordinary.

So this is the end of the beginning for me because it is clear I am in the midst of the great journey to find the next place to hang my hat.

My mind and my eyes are open wide. Got my notebook, a pen and a camera and am making preparations for the next part of this journey.

Open minds...
Open minds…
photo by:

Success Is More About Effort Than Luck

Jousting

“It is only a game, you don’t have to hit me so hard.”

I smile and tell him that is why his team is going to lose. He tells me I need to back up the trash talk or it doesn’t count.

Fifteen minutes later my team has won and he is yelling for us to get back on the court because he wants a rematch. The third time I dive on the floor for the ball he goes with me but I outweigh him by at least a 100 pounds so he bounces off me like a pinball.

“Kid, don’t get in the way of a freight train. I won’t ever lose this fight. It is basic physics.”

Two hours later we walk off of the court and he reminds me they won two games.

“We took four. Five years ago we wouldn’t have lost any.”

He shakes his head and tells me it is just a game.

“Don’t you worry about getting hurt?”

I shake my head no.

“I play hard or I don’t play. Don’t have enough talent to half ass it and if I did I would be ashamed of myself for not trying harder.”

*****

The 19 year-old kid I mentioned above is a real person and that was a real exchange between us. The conversation was friendly and though I barely know him my intent was to try and teach him something.

Don’t know if that is obnoxious or pretentious on my part but after setting picks that rattled his teeth and crashing through the screens he set I felt like it was only fair to share a tip he could use for his own success.

Success Is More About Effort Than Luck

Somewhere in the pages here are a comment or two about why sometimes it is better to be lucky than talented. Call that a comment on how sometimes some people have tremendous success not because they are smart or good at what they do but because they won the birth parent lottery.

If mom and dad own an empire and you are born into it well, that is a good thing for you but it doesn’t mean you deserve it or get it because you worked hard. Just means you are lucky.

That is really not a value judgment, it is a comment.

But that doesn’t mean those of us who don’t seem to have the same kind of luck because good things come to those who put the effort into making things happen.

A cynical person might respond to that by pointing out how bad things happen to good people and how working hard doesn’t always translate into the type of good things I am referring to.

I take a middle position here and teach my children to do so as well. We might not be able to guarantee that working hard is going to give us all we hope to achieve but it is more likely to help than hurt us.

It is the type of attitude that lends itself to sleeping well at night because it is much easier to close your eyes at night and feel good about yourself when you know you tried hard than when you didn’t put in the effort.

Sometimes that effort doesn’t yield the results you want it to. I am frustrated with how He Named His Intention Texas came out because it fell short of the mark I set for it.

But I published it because sometimes the way you improve is by looking at what you did so that you can figure out how not to make the same mistakes again.

Sometimes truth is better than fiction.
Sometimes truth is better than fiction.

Sometimes heroes fail to save the day and sometimes murderers save lives. Part of the absurdity of life are the daily contradictions we encounter.

The kids tell me stories about how the kids who are jerks to everyone sometimes break character and do something really nice for someone else.

Can’t tell you how many times I pulled a card from the deck praying I’d get the Ace of Spades and discovered I pulled the Joker. But some of those moments where I wished I could punch that fool in the face led to places I never expected to reach.

I like to believe that effort had something to do with it because in the moments leading up to that one I created a chance to turn possibility into opportunity.

That 19 year-old kid and his team should have beaten us at least fifty percent of the time. They had youth and talent on their side but they lacked effort and I took advantage of youthful naivete the same way the old guys once did to me.

I suppose it is proof that maybe this hard head of mine isn’t so damn thick. Maybe I have learned a thing or two.

When it comes to writing I’d sum it up by saying my favorite thing to do is tell a simple story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. Some people mistake simple for being an insult but it is not.

If the goal is to tell a story that people respond and relate to simple is the way to go. Don’t mistake it for condescending either because that is not it.

Simple is the comfort food of writing. It is what you read when you feel blue or sick and where you go when you just need something to warm your heart.

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”― Neil Gaiman
photo by: Jeff Kubina

He Named His Intention Texas

Intention and decision work together.
Intention and decision work together.

Texas 1993-1994-1995

The boys and I hit Texas for a wedding.

It is my first visit to the Lone Star State and I fall in love with it but I don’t really recognize it. At the time I figure the four days in Houston were memorable because so many of my friends are there and we are having one hell of a time.

I have no idea that in a few months I’ll go back for a business trip but this time I’ll be in Dallas. It is a good trip that would have been better had my boss not tried to eat every single meal with me.

He is twice my age and the conversations are strained because when we aren’t talking about work we have nothing in common. The Saturday night of the show he tells me to go entertain a prospective client at a bar in the West End.

When I get there I find out it is not a client, it is clients. It is a family business and now I have to make them happy, president, vice-president and general manager.

The president and general manager are substantially older than I am but the VP is my age.

They drink like fish and tell me that a surfer boy can’t possibly keep up with them. I give $20 to the bartender and tell him I am playing a joke on my dad, uncle and cousin.

“Pour real shots for them and water for me.”

Bartender thinks it is funny and does a great job of making sure the guys don’t realize that they have have multiple shots and beer and all I have had is one beer.

Later on they’ll tell me how impressed they are with my drinking skills. I am almost tempted to call my folks and tell them fraternity life has paid off again.

Had that taken place today it probably would have been immortalized on some smartphone but back during the payphone era unless you were a professional or amateur photographer you probably weren’t going to carry a camera with you.

****

It is February of 1995 and I am back in Houston for another wedding. Two weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and I am not happy to be back in the states.

Two weeks ago I sat a pub drinking beer with a group of people from Scotland,  Australia and a couple of South Africans. They made fun of my American accent

It is Friday night here in Texas and the groomsmen are sitting at a table with bridesmaids, most of whom are recent graduates from U.T.

One of them tells me I have a drawl and wants to know what part of Texas I am from. When I tell her I am from LA she says she doesn’t believe me.

Now I am shaking my head. It is the second time in a month where someone claims I have an accent.”

Maybe It Is Time To Leave LA

It has been almost twenty years since my last trip to Texas but I am not going back to Houston. I am going back to Dallas for another business trip.

Same sort of business as before but a slightly different industry. It is a ridiculously easy flight from LAX to DFW and within an hour of landing I am in my rental car heading for my hotel.

The first thing I notice is how it feels like it could be home. Can’t decide if it is because the weather is almost identical to what I left behind or because houses, malls and stores look familiar.

It is not quite exact but close enough.

Two nights and three days go by in a blur but I still have time to kill so I drive around and check out a few open houses. The prices here are so much lower than back home I wonder if maybe we should take a serious look at leaving LA.

****

Eighteen months later I am back in Dallas for business again. Things back in LA have gotten very ugly, won’t be long before the entire country is mired in a big recession.

I have that same feeling of belonging as before. Texas could be home.

It is something I think about the whole flight home.

When I get back to LA we have a conversation about moving but it just doesn’t happen. Won’t be much longer before circumstances change and we have to sell the house.

The last night in it I shake my head and think that I should have sold it years earlier and moved to Dallas.

Two years later I am in Texas again but this time I am living in Fort Worth. It feels surreal to be here. Been to, in and around Dallas but never made it to Fort Worth so it is brand new to me.

Doesn’t take long for me to get settled and I decide Texas could definitely be home. The rest of the family is back in LA with a plan for them to come later.

During each visit back to LA I grab more of my stuff and bring it back with me. Slowly but the most important pieces of my gear end up in Fort Worth. All I need now is to get the kids over and I’ll be set.

But life happens, things shift and I end up moving back to LA. It is not my first choice but it is supposed to be temporary so I shrug my shoulders and go.

He Named His Intention Texas

Been back in LA for a bit more than a year. Everything on the short term list of accomplishments was taken care of but the long terms ones got shifted, mixed up and tossed around.

I was certain I would have moved back to Texas already but it didn’t happen.

For a brief while I sort of shrugged my shoulders and said I would just go with it but then I had this thought that it was time to name my intention.

I name it Texas.

LA hasn’t been very good to me for a while now. It will always be home, but it is time to spend more time planting my Texas roots. That feeling of home has been around for more than 20 years now, about time to really do something about it.

A Letter To Grandpa

One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

Dear Grandpa,

Almost three years have gone by since I wrote the letter below so I decided to share a few new thoughts with you.

I am going to attend a party in a few hours that I don’t want to go to. The who, what and why don’t really matter much because I am going to do it in spite of all the reasons not to.

If you asked me why I am going I’d point my finger at you and say I learned more than a few things from you and that in this case my anger though deserved and well placed won’t make life any easier but going might open a few doors down the road and I am playing the long game.

Sometimes the phone rings and I expect to hear your voice and if I did I would fill you in on how much has happened in the now heading on 9 years since you died.

When I said below I wasn’t the same man I meant it, but now I am even more different than before yet more like the man I think I was supposed to become.

That poem above has more meaning to me than ever before and so I find myself writing about the future. It may be fiction today but it is the reality I am working towards.

There is one hell of a story to be told grandpa and a thousand more adventures to be had and that is me being conservative. I opened doors and walked into places from which there is no going back.

And now I require a much bigger working space than before. I suspect you of all people would understand. If by some chance you should stumble upon this you may read the words below again because it is one of the moments which made it clear that I was on an unexpected journey and that the adventure would be worth having.

 

Dear Grandpa,

You died about 4.5 years ago and much has happened since then. I don’t think that I have told you about all of it. In fact I am sure that I never told you that they fired me the day of your funeral. Didn’t tell you about the text messages and emails that they sent me during the funeral asking me to call in. My phone was off so I didn’t get them during the service. It was only when I got back to mom and dads that I discovered them. They called me again and told me that they they were sorry that you had died and that I shouldn’t come in the next day.

I haven’t aired this sort of dirty laundry here, at least not this story. I haven’t shared it for a variety of reasons but for some reason today feels like an appropriate time to share some of it.  I took the call in the car and said what I had to say. Then I walked into the house and looked at my father. He has your blue eyes you know. I didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t that important. He had lost his father. Just a short time earlier we had stood graveside and he had told us about how you were his hero and how much he would miss you.

How could I tell him. I know my father and I knew that he would try to comfort me. I knew that he would say fuck ‘em and tell me that I was better off.  All true and all accurate. I had been trying to get out of there so they made it easier. But the moment wasn’t about me. It was about my father. Grandma was long since gone and so was Uncle Jimmy. Once you died that meant that dad was an orphan, albeit a 60 something year old orphan, but an orphan nonetheless. I didn’t know how he would feel. I mean I knew that he would miss you terribly but I didn’t know if it would be made worse by not having Uncle Jimmy around. There are things that siblings understand about parents that no one else can get, not even a spouse.

So I walked inside, picked up my daughter and hugged her tight. Her brother came over and grabbed my hand and tugged on it. It seemed surreal, you were gone, the construction on the house wasn’t close to being completed and I had two small children. I did my best to hold a poker face, but you know that it is not something that I am very good at it. You and dad were/are card players. Maybe it is more accurate to say that dad recognized my tell and asked me to tell him what happened. Really, I shouldn’t be surprised that he knew that there was something more. How many times did the three of us sit togethercommunicating in silence.

Anyway, I told him what happened and got the expected response from him. I made a point of shifting the conversation quickly. I didn’t want to focus on me. I was furious about it. Even though it was demonstrative of the character of the people I had been working for, it wasn’t right. But there is a time and place for those things and that was neither.

I remember walking to the bathroom next to my old bedroom. Our picture was hanging on the wall. It is the one of you, dad, your father and myself. I am about 18 months or so in it. I remember staring at it and thinking about how young you looked in it because you were. I was 37 when you died and you were about 92. So in that picture you weren’t even 60. Can’t tell you if you had gone gray yet because the picture is in Black and White. icon wink Grandpa

Your great granddaughter talks about you relatively often. She likes to pretend that she is you. She hikes up her pants and and acts silly. It is bittersweet to me because she doesn’t remember you. Sure, she knows who you were and she recognizes your face in pictures but she doesn’t know the grandfather that I remember. When I coach her soccer team and see my folks on the sidelines it reminds me of you and it makes me smile because she is building the same sort of relationship that we had. But I am selfish and I want more time with my grandfather.

I am selfish because I got a small taste of getting to know you as a man and not a boy. I miss your stories. We can’t tell them as well as you could. I miss sharing secrets with you. Sure, whenever I come to visit you I make a point of telling you one or two, but it is not the same as having you sit across from me. You never knew about this blog but you would have enjoyed it. You always enjoyed my writing and most of the time I enjoyed sharing it with you. I qualified that because when I was younger it was harder doing that.

Blame it on youth. You always said that you couldn’t screw an old head on young shoulders and you were right. Life changes us, or should I say lifeexperiences change us. I have written a bunch of posts about you. There are keywords in them that trigger memories for me. And I share those memories with your great grandchildren. They are all getting so big. I look at my nieces and nephews and my kids and I am amazed. You would be proud of them all.

I am not who I was when you died. Too much has happened but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Changes come and we do our best to roll with them. Just know that you are missed and loved. And when I punch out a boy or two for trying to date your great granddaughter I’ll tell them that you helped teach me how to throw a punch. Something tells me that would make you smile. I love you grandpa, got to run now and play dad for a while.

How Big Is The Space You Work In?

Open minds...
Open minds…

The desk I am working at isn’t as big as I would like it to be and consequently it leans more towards being a magnet for clutter than a place for thought and organization.

Over at my Facebook page a cousin and a friend are arguing about who is accountable for the lack of peace in the Middle East and I am contemplating whether people would find any humor in my saying Bill Cosby hasn’t raped me…yet.

When I take time to sift through my feed there is still a mix of commentary about Ferguson, Eric Garner and whether Mark Wahlberg deserves to be pardoned.

What I don’t see much of is a middle ground in which people are open to possibilities outside of those they have created inside their minds, many of which are based upon limited personal experiences.

In the midst of the shouting I wonder if it is safe for me to share my opinion let alone worthwhile. I can’t see how the police can justify what happened to Eric Garner and can’t understand how people say Michael Brown wasn’t partially responsible for his own death.

What Wahlberg did was reprehensible, shameful and disgusting but he did so as a youth and from the very little I know of the man it appears he has turned his life around so I ask the question of where we draw our lines.

There are some acts that stay with us forever but the beliefs that led us there may not so if I suggest Wahlberg might have changed his ways and become a better man I have to be open to the possibility that Michael Brown might have done so too.

Sadly we won’t get the answer to that question.

Time Marches On

I am not yet at a place where I absolutely have to wear reading glasses to see the fine print or to work on the computer yet I can see that moment coming faster than I want it to.

When the room is dark and or my eyes are drier than I like I notice that reading glasses are useful and beneficial which leads me to question whether it makes sense to wear them all the time or just when I really feel like I have to have them.

The children have begun to notice that sometimes it takes my eyes a moment longer to focus on the small print and they jump at the chance to read things to me.

Sometimes it is because they are trying to be helpful and sometimes because they are teasing me.

Last night my daughter wandered downstairs at 11 and said she couldn’t sleep. I told her I would use the same trick I did when she was a baby. I had her climb on my lap and put her head on my shoulder and then I rocked back and forth.

It wasn’t as easy as it once was to do so. Instead of being able to hold her like a football I had to move so her legs could spill across my lap and over the chair.

For a moment she cooperated with me and I remembered the baby girl who used to softly snore inside my right ear and then the moment disappeared.

“Daddy, this isn’t comfortable, I am going back to my room.”

Moments later her brother appeared downstairs so that he could finish preparing his lunch for the next day at school. When I asked him if he needed my help reaching into the pantry he laughed and I watched as he stretched ever so slightly so that he could reach the top shelf.

It appears his days of requiring a chair or stool are long since gone too.

Time is marching on and it won’t be that long before his voice is as deep as mine and his height the same or greater. For the moment I have the advantage there but judging by his over sized feet it really will be just a moment before that changes.

How Big Is The Space You Work In?

It is fair to say part of my aversion to outlines is the size of the space I prefer to work in. Giant, open spaces have always called out me and if I were to become a very wealthy man it is probable that one day you’ll find me working on my ranch somewhere in Texas and just as probable that you will find me on a beach or in the mountains too.

In an ideal world I’ll have the luxury to pick writing spaces that lend themselves towards the mood I am in and the tone I am trying to set for whatever it is I wish to write about.

Back on Facebook they are still arguing and I have been accused of being a fence sitter, a liberal and a Republican. It makes me laugh to hear, read and see these things because there is very little I don’t have a strong opinion about.

But it is also not unusual for me to argue the other side of whatever position I have taken. I like challenging myself to defend my beliefs so that I can figure out what is based upon spoon fed material from my youth and what comes from other places.

I am just as arbitrary and illogical about some things as the next person about much but generally I can say I know why I believe as I do.

It makes me think about disruptive technologies.

A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.

In many ways I am a creature of habit and someone who prefers the known to the unknown but there is a part of me that loves to question why we do whatever it is we do and ask if there are better ways to do it.

It is tied into my desire to know how things work and to tinker and play with things to see what happens.

I fight the two wolves that feed on routine and disruption all of the time. This internal push to say we should change things exists but it is balanced to some extent by a desire not to change without knowing why we are doing whatever it is we are doing as we are.

Is it because it is the best way or because this is how it has always been done.

*****

Last night I took off the reading glasses and left the computer so that I could put in another two hours on the court.

The younger guys carried most of the load but I contributed heavily to winning the first three games. It irked me to have to sit back and let things go that way but the older I get the harder it becomes to do some of those things so I have to play smarter.

But the mental part of the game is an area in which I continue to improve at a rapid rate so I wonder why it is that I couldn’t have had this mental improvement when my physical skills were at their peak and not on the decline.

And so I have become one more member of the echo chamber saying “If I knew then what I know now…”

Now if only I can get a bigger desk and space to work in…

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