On Moments Of Truth

The moment of truth. A turning point. That defining moment. The red pill or the blue? Beer or bourbon? A salad or fries? Jimi Hendrix or… wait, never mind. Hendrix is always the answer. For many people there comes a point in time where you reach a place that inspires you to decide that you don’t want to continue down the same pzig-Ziglar-motivation-quotes-2ath you’ve been on. If I was a motivated guy, this is where I’d insert the inspirational quote from Zig Ziglar and declare that things will be different from now on.

Uh, that’s not really my style. Although, I did have one of those moments yesterday. I’d foolishly signed up for a running race that I’d done before. Except I was lazy and I didn’t train for it. I probably gained did gain weight between sign-up and race day. I assumed that, like when I was 20, I could just show up and get ‘er done. Uh, nope. It was pretty ugly. As I lumbered uphill like a pregnant walrus, it became clear that I can no longer deny reality. I’ve gotten old, fat, and frighteningly out of shape. I was passed by people who, if I saw them on the street, I’d think to myself “there’s a walking heart attack”. I was passed by people in their 70’s who looked like they were going to keel over at any moment. I survived and finished, but it was a humbling day.

I woke up this morning determined to change and to seize this opportunity to improve myself. I vowed to be the like ‘theRock and post my 4am daily workout on the Instagrams. I will be a paleo god and laugh at those fools eating gluten and sugar. I will be pure! I will fuel the engine with nothing but locally sourced fresh food kissed with mermaid tears and love. I will embrace Grok and become a crossfit machine. Then I thought about pancakes and wondered when the new pizza place down the street will open.

I’m not sure if I have it in me to change my habits. I like the idea of it. It’s the doing part that’s a challenge. It’s hard to say what path I’m going to take. I did win the weight loss challenge of ’14. I’ve also managed to put all that weight back on, plus some, by sitting in a chair fairly continuously for a year and a half. Which me is going to emerge come Monday morning? Will it be the motivated and disciplined troutdog or the fat lazy trout taking the path of least resistance?

Realistically, any clear thinking person knows that our actions should be based upon preparations for the zombie apocalypse. And what is Columbus’s rule # 1? Cardio. So there you have it. It’s the 4am wake-up and go time for me. Then again, there’s the merits of being well-armed, don’t be afraid to use your ammunition and rule #2 – the double tap. Go ahead and hand me those pancakes.

Tallahassee: Are you fucking with me?

Columbus: Uh, no. You should actually limber up as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very important.

Tallahassee: I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?

The Five Dollar Shake

The other day, in an effort to wean myself off the political crack I’ve been smoking in ever-increasing amounts, I was scrolling through a gallery of photos. It was an attempt to motivate myself to maybe take a picture again someday. Anyway there I am scrolling away,  every once in a while stopping to click on a picture that grabbed my attention. I started wondering what is it about a particular photo that reaches out and triggers something in the brain? All the photos were technically accurate and well done. Many were similar scenes or subjects. Why does one out of many grab you?

It would be a curious experiment to take a hundred photos and let a bunch of independent folks pick their top 10. How many people would pick the same list? There’s something about that “it” factor that’s so hard to quantify. We know it when we see it, but none of us can explain exactly what “it” is. Probably because it is often different for everyone. This applies to art, music, food, writing…

I don’t know what the right word is to describe this phenomenon. How does one restaurant or bar capture that vibe or buzz, where a very similar one a block away sits empty? We have a local business that, after a gazillion (I’m too lazy to look up how many) years, is closing at the end of the summer. This place is basically a “beer garden”. It’s way out of the way. A limited menu of mostly fried food and simple non-craft beer. A run down, biker bar looking place, with nothing more than a giant dirt “patio” and a bunch of rickety wooden picnic benches. It does not have one element going for it that would indicate any possibility of success. It would be listed under marketing 101 as exactly what not to do.

During the summer months – packed. Score of cyclists make it an end of ride stop. It’s practically a requirement to go there after floating the river. Flotillas of people make multiple pilgrimages there every summer to drink beer and bake themselves in the dust. How is it possible that a place like that creates a vibe that works, without advertising, and the fancy new million dollar brewpub downtown goes out of business in six months?

It’s a strange thing. The marketing folks spend a significant portion of our GDP trying to artificially capture or create it. Sometimes they get it right. At the risk of the implying to the Taylor Swift army that they’ve won the battle, her new ad spot for Apple struck me. It’s simple, unexpected, and funny. Why did that ad grab me and not the 2.7 million others we see on a daily basis?

As is the on-going theme of my life, I have very little point to this. I think it’s worth spending time looking at art, or writing, or something outdoors, and trying to figure out of all the images we see each day – which ones grab your attention? Now go find more of those.

VINCENT: Did you just order a five-dollar shake?
MIA: Sure did.
VINCENT: A shake? Milk and ice cream?
MIA: Uh-huh.
VINCENT: It costs five dollars?
MIA: Yep.
VINCENT: You don’t put bourbon in it or anything?
WAITOR: Nope.
VINCENT: Just checking.
_____________
VINCENT: Can I have a sip of that? I’d like to know what a five-dollar shake tastes like.
MIA: Be my guest. You can use my straw, I don’t have kooties.
VINCENT: Yeah, but maybe I do.
MIA: Kooties I can handle.
VINCENT: Goddamn! That’s a pretty fuckin’ good milk shake.
MIA: Told ya.
VINCENT: I don’t know if it’s worth five dollars, but it’s pretty fuckin’ good.

Tribes, Or I Just Wanna Surf

I’ve been following a story for a while now about a group of well-to-do, middle aged men in the Southern California town of Palos Verdes who’ve become a surf gang of sorts. Seriously, what 50 year-old belongs to a gang called the Lunada Bay Boys? It sounds like a skinny jean wearing boy band from the 80’s. Unfortunately they’re violent and preventkook anyone who’s not a local from surfing there. The conflict is heating up and now a federal class-action lawsuit has been filed against them. Way back in the day I spent more time surfing than I did going to high school (no, that didn’t work out so well for me kids) so I’m very familiar with the locals-only mentality. Back then you needed to know the rules of each break if you wanted to avoid your car getting keyed. Some places were short boards only. Some didn’t allow leashes. Others only allowed all black wetsuits. Pretty silly in retrospect, but violate the rules and something bad was sure to happen. You’d see some non-local kook come traipsing down the beach in a neon green wetsuit and just know it wasn’t going to end well.

Meanwhile, back in the batcave, I just watched a TED talk from one of my favorite writers, Anand Girdharadas. I’d highly encourage you to watch it when you have a moment. Powerful and motivating, it made me feel bad about myself and how judgmental and shallow I can be at times. He talks about inclusion and the American dream. And then he said something that really jumped out at me – that our tribal separations are the great moral challenge of our generation.

He’s right. But he’s also wrong. At the end of the day we are all tribes. We are not accepting of people who don’t fit into our tribe. I don’t think that’s right or wrong, it’s just human nature and has been from the beginning of time. A black kid with long dreads, saggy pants, and walking with the gangsta strut in a middle to upper class suburban neighborhood is going to get a very chilly reception at best, if he’s not first greeted by 5-0. But put some white dude wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase in the middle of Watts and he will be relieved of his Apple iWatch, Fitbit, and Starbucks rewards card in a jiffy. Two tribes, neither are tolerant of others that don’t fit in.

This will be true anywhere on this planet. It’s a myth that America is this great melting pot and somehow now we’re becoming less tolerant. We’ve always been tolerant – as long as you embrace the collective tribe that is the American culture AND you do your best to fit in with whatever local culture and tribe you’ve chosen to locate next to. If you continue to cling to your old tribe, the new tribe will remain a bit frosty. That doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t justify some of the behaviors you’ll find in the news – but it is the human condition. We are all members of “our” tribe.

Intellectually, we’d like to think we can rise above our tribal loyalties. The reality is that it takes very little discomfort for us to revert back to our own groups. The solution is not for politicians to admonish us to “rise above” or “this is not who we are” at the slightest hint of opinion differences. It is who we are. We do not easily accept tribes that don’t look like us. It makes no difference if those tribes are political, religious, economic, racial, dress, or music. The dude will abide when it comes to the norms of my tribe. The answer is the economy. Generally the further down the economic ladder you are, the more you’ll cling to your tribe. A prosperous middle class will be tolerant of anything.  Want to get rid of tribal unrest in this country? Make sure you elect a political representative with a viable plan to spawn a new middle class economy. (hint, it’s probably none of the current meat puppets)

Meanwhile, I’m going to go figure out how to fit in with the mountain biking, climbing, fishing, craft beer drinking tribes. And stay away from that Taylor Swift tribe. They’re pretty damn scary.

 

 

Politics And P.T. Barnum

Let me be clear – I am NOT a republican. Let me be clear – I am NOT a democrat. Yes, there are parts of both ideas (note I did not say “parties”) that I like. There are aspects of both that I abhor.  I got to thinking about politics while watching the first of this years political party conventions. (neither American Idol or Fear Factor were on) I was struck by how carefully manufactured the “message” is. Because I’m a dork of huge proportions, I found a replay (late night CSPAN, yay!) of Obama’s ’08 nomination acceptance speech. I was curious if that was as carefully crafted as this years. The answer is yes, but what really jumped out at me was a single statement he made in his speech.

What he said was “I’m going to hire a gazillion teachers and pay them a decent wage”. Note that “a gazillion” is an entirely made-up word and not a factual representation of his actual speech. Please don’t sue me. Ok, what he actually said was “I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries”. Either way, what stood out for me was that the president doesn’t have the constitutional power to hire, recruit, or pay teachers. Why would he say something that he couldn’t do even if he wanted to? Why? Because there was a tremendous roar from the crowd. When the camera panned into the cheering mass there were people with tears streaming down their face.

Tears, seriously? Is your life so shallow and lacking something that a completely manufactured meat puppet like this moves you to tears? Frightening. And as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. And for all you Obama-maniacs, don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m not picking on him exclusively – it just happened to be something that jumped out at me. All you birthers out there can stand down. You too Mr. Trump.

Back to the question – why would he say such a thing? Because it’s a manufactured statement designed specifically to energize the base. Why is this important? Politics and elections are NOT about convincing people to vote for you. Elections are about scaring your base enough to turn out more than the other guy’s base. Let me say that again – an election is all about convincing you that the other guy is going to pluck babies from the arms of single mothers and grind them into sausage and pay for it by borrowing a googolplex of dollars from Elbonia. Politicians need to motivate that last, small segment of their base who probably wouldn’t show up at the polls to put off going to Starbucks for an hour and go vote. You don’t do that by telling them you’ll cut down on misuse of office supplies in the west wing.

Now, don’t let the crushing cynicism and hopelessness of that statement ruin your day. I have the answer. It came to me as I was watching Judge Judy re-runs and eating Doritos. As a society we’re willing to let a randomly selected group of people decide our fate in the courtroom. If we’ll let some random guy off the street, regardless of education or experience, literally make life and death decisions about someone’s fate why not do the same for political positions?

Just like jury duty, we send out notices indicating you’ve been selected to serve as your districts next state representative. Set up requirements for each position. Anyone, including potted plants, lawyers, and hamsters can receive local and state notices. Governors and senators must have a certain amount of education and experience, bla, bla, bla. You get the picture. Instantly gone is the influence, money, empty promises, and scare tactics. The added bonus is that cable news might have to go back to reporting, well, news. Gone would be the babbling chimpanzees from both parties battling it out in 30 second “discussion panels”.

Seriously, it could work. You’re willing to trust a jury of random people to decide if you owe your life savings to someone who tripped on your sidewalk while walking and drunk-texting and is suing you for more money than they’d ever earn in their lifetime. How much worse could it be to have a random group of people serving for a few years in government? And yes, I have been to the Wal-Mart. I’m already convinced some of those creatures might actually be high level government officials, out in the wild, without make-up, teleprompters, or advisors. As Miller from Repo Man said, “think about it for a minute”.

Can I Get Some Service, Please?

I’m not sure when it happened. I wouldn’t have thought I’d get like this. I fear I’ve turned into a cranky old curmudgeon. Maybe not quite to the level of the shuffling old guy with hair sprouting out of ears like some sort of odd alien growth, but clearly I’ve lost patience with the average retail employee. When did it become okay to hire someone incapable of counting change back? I know I’ve turned into a crusty old codger when it annoys the crap out of me the way they hand your change back – one big pile of bills, coins, and a receipt. Would it really kill you to hand them to me separately the way it was hammered into my thick skull by the owner of the pizza place I worked at in my tender youth? If he ever caught you just dumping a wad of change in a customer’s hand you’d be on dishwasher duty before you knew what hit you.

Speaking of restaurants, what happened to actually having hostess/wait experience before working at mid/high level eateries? We were walking downtown the other night and decided to have a drink at semi-new place. The restaurant was practically empty. The hostess greeted us and we asked to be seated at a table overlooking the sidewalk (it’s all about people watching). She asked if it was for just drinks or dinner? When we said drinks she seemed exasperated and said “ok, these tables are for dinner but since we’re not busy I’ll let you sit there. But if I need the table I’m going to ask you to move.” Really? Do you think we’ll ever go back with that attitude? Not. I would have walked out, but once I have my mind set on an adult beverage I’m like a big dumb dog trying to get ball out from under the couch. Single minded, I don’t quit. Not sure why I don’t have that attitude in business, working out, gardening…

What got me started down this train of thought was McDonalds. I have to preface that it’s a rare event for me to dine at the golden arches. However I was making a multi-state drive and ended up in Winnemucca Nevada, hungry and in need of gas (the refined, dead dinosaur, petrol kind). One’s dining choices in the middle of nowhere are pretty limited, so off to Ray Kroc’s legacy I went. The visit started badly from the get-go. Generally speaking, I tend to be a rule follower. If someone went to all the trouble of creating a rule, heck you may as well follow it. Even as rigid as I am there are times when it seems appropriate to bend or interpret rules to fit the current situation. I found myself staring at the breakfast menu. I asked if they were serving lunch. The gal at the counter glanced at her watch and said, “I can’t serve you lunch for three more minutes.” Really? She’s going to make me wait for three minutes? Sure enough. I stepped back and we stared at each other like some sort of weird Mexican stand-off for three minutes. At the stroke of the hour she flipped the menus from breakfast to lunch and said, “Ok now I can serve you.” Made me wonder if somewhere off in McDonald’s corporate headquarters there’s a dark room full of monitors and technicians. All intently watching employees via secret cameras and hoping to catch someone serving a cheeseburger too early.

Speaking of corporate headquarters, I’m all in favor of the famous Micky-D’s efficiency and speed in food prep. I understand the need for the numbered menus. Simply asking for a number 3 is an unbelievable time savings. Heck, one could just have a sign printed and hold it up – no human conversation needed! The problem I faced with the keeper of universal breakfast and lunch times who was serving me was that the number 3 was close… but not exactly what I wanted. I said “I’ll have a quarter pounder with cheese and…” Like a drill sergeant she barked “Do you want a number 3!?” “Uhhm, if it’s cheaper sure. But I’d like large fries…” She looked at me like the soup nazi from Seinfeld and sighed, “So a number 3, up-sized fries. Will that be all?” She was starting to scare me a bit, but I had to press on. “I’d like coffee instead of a soda.” She looked at me for approximately 20 seconds without a word and then started taping buttons on her register like she was programming a missile shot. “That will be $8.63. A regular number 3 and a side coffee would have been cheaper.” At least I didn’t go through the drive-thru. As the famous life coach Leo Getz says, “They f*** you at the drive thru!”

Considering the IQ of the average retail employee these days is somewhere near a mossy boulder… I don’t see my tolerance level with humanity getting any better as I get older. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just go yell at pigeons in the park. That usually makes me feel better.

Famous Quotes

The other day a friend and I were exchanging famous quotes we liked. He then sent me his personal quote/saying that has meaning for him. Made me think – if folks were going to repeat a saying or philosophy of yours, what would you want it to be? My version is:

“We only go around once in this life. Don’t waste it waiting for tomorrow. You never know what’s waiting around the corner.”

For me it’s a continuation of why we made the decision to move back to Boise. A healthy dose of mid-life crisis and recognizing our eventual mortality plays a big part of it as well. We had been talking about moving back to Boise for years but it was never the right time, couldn’t right now with the jobs, maybe next year, etc… We finally realized that it was never going to be the perfect time. If we didn’t make some bold moves, another ten years would pass us by and we still wouldn’t be in Boise. In terms of finances, careers, and family was it the best decision? I don’t know the answer to that, but if we don’t try we’ll never find out!

Yesterday there was another affirmation of this – freestyle skier Sarah Burke passed away from injuries sustained during training. When she woke up that morning for what was probably a routine training day, of course she, her family and friends would never have thought that there wouldn’t be another tomorrow. We need to be responsible of course… but also realize that your tomorrow may not arrive. If today was the end, are you satisfied with what you’ve seen and done?