Conversing All-Stars

1 09 2015

“Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.” ~ O. Henry

I just spent a weekend talking. Well, not just talking… I listened too! I also smiled and laughed. I asked questions, and answered some. I was communicating, and it was exhilarating.

phonechatThere has been lots of lamenting about the death of conversation caused by the proliferation of mobile technology, social media and other distractions. I’ve certainly beat that drum while observing a table full of people at a restaurant, heads buried in there iPhones. And truthfully, I’ve sometimes been guilty – see last month’s post. I have wondered about future generations lacking the skills necessary for basic communication, and I hope it isn’t too late to save them. I think that smartphone use proliferated quite rapidly, and etiquette simply didn’t have time to adjust. But all things are cyclical, and a rebound is coming. Conversation will be back in a big way… I know it!

This big talking weekend was a couple of days at the beach with longtime friends. My wife and I have tackled adulthood with Mark and his wife, Christine. Together with our group of friends we have celebrated weddings, welcomed our children and seen them grow, graduate and start families of their own. We’ve also mourned death of friends and family members. This is what good friends share. But like many friends, we get together infrequently… and certainly not for chunks of time like this weekend.

The setting was ripe, and distractions were minimal. We spent about nine hours over the two days just sitting on the sand. No one said that we couldn’t look at our phones, we just didn’t that much. We watched a football game on Saturday night, but listened to each other instead of the announcers. Then a movie after, with our running commentary being much funnier than the dialogue in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Danke Schoen, very much…

We touched on some lofty topics, and beat some straight into the ground. We made some serious headway planning our funerals. We discussed the upcoming Papal visit in Philadelphia and the power of Pope Francis’ blessings. (FYI, they go infinitely far out in whatever direction he flings them).

We discussed music, “our” music versus today’s. Their son and recent Drexel grad blinded us with science and migratory patterns of shore birds. We marvelled at the beach restoration project still going on in Sea Isle City, post Hurricane Sandy. We even waxed on politics, trying unsuccessfully to Trump each other. We also discussed the merits of the “everything” bagel (despite the above O. Henry quote), and how to brew the perfect cup of tea… it’s not as easy as you think!

We may have gossipped a little. Yes… it was you we were talking about!

ConverseOn Sunday morning I got up early – as usual – figuring I would go to the living room and read. Christine had the same idea… I found her enjoying a cup of coffee and her open book. We are both reading the new novel by Harper Lee, but neither of us cracked it open. Instead we discussed that story, her first novel, the characters, etc. That led us to grander topics like racism, and the preference of e-readers to actual paper books. It was a hour of great conversation and coffee… we talked about coffee too!!! Good craic, with a fine Irish lassie.

Needless to say, it was fine weekend… one I hope to repeat with these folks and many others. As much as possible. As a wise philosopher once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I have many distractions these days, so many balls in the air. More often than not, it’s a good idea to slow down the pace of your world and just talk. And listen. The setting doesn’t matter… just enjoy the company.


A Damn Good Week

14 03 2015

_DSC0027This had all the makings of a shitty week.

I departed last Monday on a four-day road trip for work, driving south for meetings with six customers in Virginia. As I’ve gotten older, I dread trips like these… three different hotels in three nights, lots of car time and traffic. I don’t sleep well in hotels, and too much crappy restaurant food gets old.

People who don’t travel for business on a regular basis think it is glamorous and fun, and sometimes it can be. And I am grateful for the benefits – hotel points and frequent flier miles. I don’t complain much because I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world and experience great things. This week was a good one…

Any trip through Virginia gives me the opportunity to visit with an old friend. Mike and I grew up on the same street, but really didn’t become friends until the summer before seventh grade. In those days, young kids didn’t wander far from home, and Mike’s house around the corner might as well have been ten miles away. His home atmosphere was much different from my conservative household, and his family had the perfect combination of cute sisters and a younger brother we could pick on together. So I spent a lot of time there. newspaper_readersCritical to the development of our friendship was our mutual discovery of the girls our age blossoming during that summer. It was a magical time…

We went in separate directions after high school, but remained in contact. I was an usher for his wedding, and he was for mine. We started families within months of each other. When Mike and his family moved to Virginia, they welcomed us for numerous visits. We usually talk on each other’s birthday – much easier for him to remember because his daughter was born on mine. And since his wife and I are Facebook freakazoids, we keep up with all of the family news.

Dinner with Mike this week was great as usual, cranking out multiple laughs and stories. We caught each other up on our kids, Philly sports, and our friends from back in the day. We had a good chuckle that we were both sporting Rite Aid bought 3x reading glasses. And we had a cathartic chat about our childhood friend Pudge, who passed away a couple of months ago.

IMG_2446We also talked about his Mom, who is now experiencing early stages of dementia. Marilyn has been living near Mike in Virginia for years now, and has entered an assisted living community as her condition has grown worse. Growing up, she was like a second Mom to me. She remains someone I admire very much. When we were young, she was very active in the community and city politics. She also worked with mentally challenged adults for many years. Most of all, she was smart and funny, and respected people – including us kids… adult behavior we were not used to in the seventies.

I was fortunate to get some free time the next day for a visit with this wonderful woman. We chatted for an hour about her life today, her family, and the old days back in Philly. She was pretty sharp for most of the conversation, but I could see her struggle a bit staying focused on her thoughts. And she did repeat herself a few times. But she remembered who I was through the entire hour, and I think the conversation made her happy that morning. It did much more for me.

Both of those visits gave me the energy and positive vibes to power through the rest of my grueling trip. It also gave me a lot of stuff to think about, some items to mentally organize… families, friends, neighborhoods, kids, life, mortality, priorities… just to name a few.

My business trip was a success, but the real wins were measured in conversations, smiles and laughs. We all scored well.

It was a damn good week. Can’t wait to do it again.

B-Musings – Simple Minds Edition

30 12 2014

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  And a small homage to 80’s New Wave in my last post of 2014.

DoryDon’t You (Forget About Me) – On March 8th of this year, a Boeing 777-200ER airplane carrying 239 passengers and crew disappeared without a trace less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lampur International Airport in Malaysia. Ten months later, investigators still have no clue where the plane could be or what happened. It is stunning that, given the technology we possess, a 209 foot long aircraft weighing over 304,000 pounds cannot be found. More stunning is that the entire incident is gone from our minds. Be honest!! You had completely forgotten until the AirAsia flight did the same disappearing act earlier this week.

It’s a misconception that “you can never have too much of a good thing”. The continual bombardment of information and media is finally causing sensory overload! I guess we have too many other things to think and talk about – work, family, racial unrest, the sad state of your favorite sports teams, or last night’s episode of Real Housewives of Boise.

Are we at cranial capacity? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” But don’t worry… I googled the words “information” and “overload”, and found thousands of websites!

Eagles-fans-paper-bagsGlittering Prize – Speaking of the sad state of sports… CODE BLUE, PHILADELPHIA!! Get the paddles out!! The Phillies are beginning a garage sale, the Flyers are the poster boys for inconsistency, the Sixers are in the dumper, and my Union is starting over for the third time in five years. It’s clear now that hopes for Eagles success is a mirage – Damn you, Chip Kelly for getting our hopes up with your dynamic offense!

So it will be a long wait for a trophy in Philly, fair weather fans. My hat is doffed to those that don’t jump off the bandwagon, supporting their teams in good times and bad. You few, you know who you are…

Alive and Kicking – Speaking of the Real Housewives… has television ever been better? (You may need to take a few minutes to recover from that sentence… but stay with me.) I watch a lot of TV, but I only have a few shows that I watch regularly. Most of my viewing time is spent on sports, soccer in particular. Lately, I’ve been checking out new programs recommended by friends… State of Affairs, Madame Secretary, House of Cards and others. Because of a recent deal with the devil (*cough* Comcast) I now have HBO and Showtime. So I’ve been binge watching some shows over the holidays – Homeland, True Detective, Silicon Valley, etc. This got me thinking about the quality of television these days. Again I ask… has television ever been better? I can’t remember a time when there were so many outstanding programs to choose from – more than anyone has time to watch.

TVYinYangBut Lucy and Ricky can relax… it’s not exactly the Golden Age of Television revisited. The yin to this yang resides in places like the Bravo network, and with the Kardashians, the Real Housewives franchises and the bottom feeding Honey Boo Boo! It was recently pointed out to me that mindless programs are sometimes needed in this world. After a tough day of work and the minute to minute inundation of information, it may be therapeutic to switch off and watch Bruce Jenner spiralling towards womanhood. And after two minutes of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, I do feel sooooo much better about myself.

The Chinese philosophy of opposite forces actually being complimentary may apply – like light causing shadows to exist. Is television excellence is balanced by shit reality programming? I’ll buy that for a dollar!

Sanctify Yourself – Speaking of unrest… I was sitting in my office early this morning playing shuffled songs from my iTunes list. “Sanctify Yourself” by the Simple Minds came on, and listening to the lyrics inspired me and helped add some much-needed order to this blog post. The 1985 song is about taking responsibility for your actions, and being positive in the things you put forth into the world.

What a fine message, given what is going on in our world today…

“Is this the age of the thunder and rage?
Can you feel the ground move ’round your feet?
If you take one step closer, it’ll lead to another.
The crossroad above is where we meet.
I shout out for shelter, I need you for something.
The whole world is out, they’re all on the street.
Control yourself, love is all you need.
Control yourself, in your eyes.
Sanctify yourself!”

Sanctify each other in 2015. Happy New Year to all… Peace and Love. Enjoy the music…