Those beautiful Swedes

I have a friend who does consulting work around the world; he has clients in the U.S., all through Europe, New Zealand, Central and South America. Occasionally he passes through Dallas and we catch up over a meal.

He told me one thing that he’s noticed in his travels is that the Swedes are the most physically and facially beautiful people in the world. He said when he first started doing business in Sweden he caught himself staring at people because they were just unnaturally attractive.

Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

One evening while out to dinner with a group of his clients in Sweden he had drank just enough wine to ask the question that had been nagging at him for awhile.

“Do you people realize how beautiful you are?” he asked. “There are no ugly people in your country.”

They laughed and told him immodestly yes, they do know that. Whenever they travel outside their national borders, they said, they find other people in the world a little unsettling.
Isn’t that hilarious?

Daylight Saving Time

I don’t really care. I’m the least busy person I know.
 
Everybody still says we’ll all lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night. Not me. I go to bed when I’m tired on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning when I’m finished sleeping. The clock says whatever it says, I don’t care.
 
If you do have to awaken at a particular time on Sunday and you’re afraid losing an hour’s sleep will kick your butt I have two suggestions: go to bed earlier or change your plans.
 
Seriously, why is this a big deal?
 
It’s exactly the same as when you fly into a different time zone that’s one hour ahead. Does that wreak havoc in your life for as much as five days as they keep telling us in the news? I don’t think so.
 
Lately we’ve been treated to sensationalized news stories telling us how changing the clocks one hour leads to more highway deaths for sleepy drivers and more heart attacks and strokes for people who have trouble adjusting their bodies to the arbitrary numbers we call time.
 
Oh, puh-leeze!
 
I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you have a heart attack because of Daylight Saving Time I’m guessing that your heart was in critical distress before you changed the clock.
 
But here’s the good news: if we insist on maintaining this silly tradition we’re darned close to living in a world where all clocks change themselves. Your computers, tablets and phones already do this. Watches, clocks on stoves and in cars can’t be far behind.
 
And you know what that means?  Nothing. Blessedly, nothing.
 
We’ll never notice anything except that it suddenly stays light an hour longer.
 
“Hmm. I guess the time changed last night.”
 
That’s all we’ll say.
 
If TV and radio stop beating us over the head with stuff to worry about we’ll all be fine.

The Age of Irrelevance

Getting older is like getting fatter. You don’t notice because it happens gradually.

One thing you do notice is suddenly being ignored. You notice because it seems to happen overnight. One day you’re a vital part of society and respected leader in your industry; the next day people merely nod at you with a perfunctory smile as if you were a greeter at Walmart.

This only happens with people who didn’t know you when you were young. Unfortunately, over time that seems to be most people.

Several years ago I mentioned this to my son’s mother-in-law, Gloria, a dear friend who is a bit older and very wise. I told her I was frustrated because my experience and knowledge of my business had always been sought by my colleagues but suddenly nobody seems to have any interest in what I think.

“You’ve reached the age of irrelevance,” she explained matter-of-factly.?

I had to let that sink in for a moment.

The age of irrelevance.

Gloria could see I was stunned.  “It happens to all of us,” she said gently. “I used to be the person my managers turned to for ideas. Then one day they weren’t interested in any of my observations or suggestions.”

I didn’t know what to say. It made no sense and yet this is exactly what I was experiencing.

“It’s like when your kids are growing up,” Gloria continued. “They rely on you for everything and then one day they suddenly don’t need you at all. You’re irrelevant.”

Nobody ever warned me this would happen. I don’t like it but I’ve come to accept it philosophically, if not quite emotionally. It still hurts a bit. I feel kind of useless.

Irrelevant.

It’s been a few years since Gloria explained to me this particularly jarring bump on the road of l ife. I’m getting used to it and so will you.

I just thought someone should give you a heads up.

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Clutter

I just read a news article quoting new research that determined clutter is stressful.

Really? How much time and money did you spend figuring that out?

While my blogging partner, Anita, is trying to figure out what lifetime memories she should keep and what to do with the rest, I’m still trying to understand how I manage to collect so much stuff in the first place.

I feel a little like the kid named Pigpen from the Peanuts comics. He’s the dirty kid with a perpetual cloud of dust surrounding him. Wherever I go I seem to be in a pile of stuff, especially paper.

Paper collects on my desks at home and work. They gather on the floor and under the seats in my car. They boil out of the glove box: years of expired tire warranties and Taco Bell napkins.

I can’t even bring myself to sit down at my desk at home surrounded as I am by notes, receipts and stacks of paid bills I haven’t had the energy to file.

All around me are boxes of pictures I intend to scan and keep, just like Anita was talking about. That sounds easy enough except that I have  sixty-some years worth and that doesn’t even count the thousands of pointless pictures I’ve taken since my phone became my camera.

I have little boxes here and there filled with stuff I don’t know what to do with. Some of it is unidentifiable – all the stuff I have no use for but am afraid to throw away.

And now we have the research confiming — clutter is stressful.

I’m going to add that article to the shredder pile I’m slowly collecting. It’s not big enough to deal with yet.

Happy New Day!

 

I don’t get it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy a good party like most people. I have spent New Year’s Eves past dressed up at fancy hotels and private homes, eating, drinking and wearing silly hats like everyone else.

I just don’t get it.

I wasn’t going to mention it because most of my friends think my attitude is a bit odd. Some think I’m just a grumpy old fart but I have no problem with people ringing in the new year. And, my inability to embrace the concept is nothing new. I’ve always thought it was weird.

“Sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”

First of all, it’s symbolic which means its romanticizing something that’s not a big deal if you think about it. Seriously, we celebrate something that happens every 24 hours: midnight. A new day. Woo-hoo! Let’s have another drink and start kissing total strangers.

Sorry — I promised myself I wouldn’t get sarcastic.?

The other thing I notice every year is all the people who say, “Let’s hope next year is better.” As a generalization, what was wrong with the last year? I mean, if you had a terrible personal tragedy I understand and certainly sympathize with the wish that next year will be better. In the bigger picture, though, I’m willing to stick my neck out and say the world will pretty much be the same on Monday as it was Sunday.

Sorry — I promised myself I wouldn’t get sarcastic.

We don’t even use paper calendars anymore, so we can’t use the old movie graphics of the days and months blowing away in the winds of old man time.

And that’s another thing: old man time and baby new year. Those human depictions of a human construct is part of the problem.

Okay, it’s not really a problem. I wish you a happy new year, a better year, I really do. And if you want to party like it’s 1999 I would never discourage you. Have fun. Just be safe and mind your manners.

If you need a sitter, give me a call.

Happy New Day.

 

Bottled Water

About thirty years ago I was working with a guy named Bob Nathan. He told me one morning that he had just invested some money in a new company that was going to sell drinking water in plastic bottles. I thought he was kidding. When I found out he wasn’t, I thought he was crazy.

No, this is not a scene from a sci-fi movie about cloning geeky teens. It’s an actual tanning bed.

Who would ever pay for bottled water?

Bob retired years ago. I’m still working for the man.

About the same time another friend bought a tanning salon, where people would spend ridiculous amounts of money  to bake themselves to a turkey skin crisp. And mind you, this was in California where the sun is always shining for free.

Have you heard about oxygen bars? Yes, it’s true. People make dating reservations to sit down and plug hoses into their noses so they can pay to breathe.

(And by the way, don’t think it didn’t occur to me to wonder why someone who could buy a cattle ranch needed to sell useless dead wood.)

.I may be slow but I’m not entirely stupid. After thirty years I have an idea of my own. I’m going to charge people money to be nice to them. For a dollar a day I’ll be pleasant whenever our paths cross. Or, wait…how about this? For two dollars a day I’m stay out of your life completely.

My Life In a Shoebox

Here in North Texas the seasons change overnight. And then they change back again. A couple of days ago we hit 94 degrees. Today we’re going to stay in the 40s. Next month or next week we might have snow, then back to 85 for a couple of days.

Texas is famous for it and I love the variety.

We all mark the passing of time with changes in the weather. If it never changed we would seem to be living the same day over and over.

And yet… the days and years of our lives often seem to change like calendar pages flying off the screen to show passage of time in old movies.

You know what frustrates me? I can’t remember everything. The past 66  years are written on my brain in fuzzy black and white memories like the photographs of my childhood. They’re all mixed up in my shoebox of a brain. I sort through them from time to time and while I can usually remember a relative few specific places and people the entire experience of my life is mostly conjecture.

I figure young people of today will have the opposite problem. When they’re my age they’ll be sorting through hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats and babies they once knew and meals they once ate.

Making sense of your life is as hard as predicting it

60, 70, 80  years…

It sounds so long but it lives so fast.

Your wacky neighbor

Cricket I

I’ve loved a lot of dogs in my life but none so much as the Yorkshire terrier I bought Carolann as a gift seventeen years ago. Only a few weeks old at the time, we named her Cricket for the way she hopped through the grass of our front lawn, grass that came up to her tiny chest. Cricket, or as we often called her, our “Baby Girl”, stole our hearts when we first laid eyes on her.

Cricket passed away a few years ago. Dogs always leave us too soon but I like to think they’re pretty close to perfect when God gives them to us. They don’t need to learn long lessons as we do.

When we first brought Cricket home we began the potty training. We’d take her outside in the back yard every hour or two and command her to “go potty.” She’s a smart baby girl and she would learn quickly.

One evening, shortly after dusk, I took her into the backyard and we began going through the exercise. “Go potty, Cricket,” I said. Curious puppy that she was she ignored me and sniffed and poked around the yard while I continued to give the command, firmly yet kindly.

It was a lovely spring evening. A single cricket (the insect, not the dog) was chirping. I eventually became aware that our next-door neighbor was in his yard across the fence. The fence was tall enough that we couldn’t see each other but I was aware of his movements and he could hear me, of course.

Here’s what he heard:

A single cricket chirping.

And, me saying, “Go potty, Cricket!… Cricket, go potty for Daddy!”

We all have at least one wacky neighbor. That evening I was it.

 

Comrades, Frati, Brothers!

I was one of those annoying kids who was always showing off. I put on plays for my parents, forcing my little sister to be incidental characters. I think I cast her as a dog once.

In high school I had lead roles in both senior plays. Before that I was cast as a 16 year old Ebeneezer Scrooge in a Sacramento Parks & Recreation teen workshop production of A Christmas Carol.

As an adult I’ve acted in and directed dozens of plays and in the process I came to write a few.

That’s where my friend Florin found me.

Florin Piersic Jr. read my first play, Brothers!, and liked it so much he produced, directed and starred in its first professional staging at the National Theatre in Timisoara, Romania, three months ago — 17 years after he first read it.

I flew to Romania to attend the opening. The show was magical even though I didn’t understand a word of my own dialogue.

Florin brought me onto the stage for the curtain call. We hugged in the spotlight, our first in-person meeting after swapping emails for nearly two decades.

Florin is a wonderful actor, a ruggedly handsome man, gentle and soft-spoken off stage; fearless before his audience.

Tonight he’s in Hollywood for the premier of an Amazon Prime TV production, Comrade Detective, in which he costars with Channing Tatum, who lends his voice to Florin’s bold on-camera performance.

Florin Piersic Jr.
IMDB.com

Comrade Detective exhibits Florin’s physical acting skills while withholding his perfectly nuanced vocal delivery.

You can’t spring this much talent on America all at once.

Rupe un picior, prietene, Florin!

Break a leg, my friend.

(PS. After publishing this I was informed by another Romanian friend that there is no such expression as "break a leg", meaning "good luck", in the Romanian language. What I said here was apparently a sincere and friendly wish that Florin should literally break a leg...and not necessarily his own! This is why I love words.)

Wrigleyville: neighborhood of legends

July 31, 2011 —

Six years ago today I posted this picture on my Facebook page after the most recent best day of my magical summer in Chicago.

I took the Red Line from the Loop and got out at Addison with hundreds of others, excited and chattering. Most of them had tickets, I did not. Nor was I working “on assignment” for our radio station.

I just wanted to be there.

At the intersection of Clark and Addison a line of buses emptied passengers, ages 8 to 80.

I turned on my recorder and talked with a lot of them. Our excitement was mutually contagious. We clucked and laughed and sang bits of Beatles songs together as strangers yet new friends.

When they were all inside I packed up my recorder and waited on the street in front of Cubby Bear with a few dozen other ticketless but grinning loiterers. There was no place we needed to be.

Right on schedule a roar went up from the unseen crowd and Wrigleyville was suddenly flooded by the opening chords of a Beatles classic and McCartney’s unmistakable voice:

“ROLL UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, STEP RIGHT THIS WAY!”

It was magical, even from the outside listening in.