New Shoes in the Rain

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nothing in particular

A friend whom I told about this blog asked me what it's about. "Nothing," I responded. That's a bit how I look at this ongoing, consistent subject matter, just whatever strikes me as noteworthy or, in this case, blogworthy (that's not really a word, I don't think.....). So here are some stray observations about things since my last post:

I was in the Atlanta airport on my way home from a business trip and I saw an African-American man in my gate area who looked very familiar. He was wearing a suit and sunglasses indoors, which is always a little unusual, but not as much as it used to be. At this stage of my life I won't intrude by marching up to this fellow or anyone else and starting the "don't I know you" scenario, so I continued to glance in his direction to see if he might do or say something that might ring a bell. No bells. He passed me as he boarded the plane after me, and, again, I drew a blank on how or from where I might know him.

The answer came this morning, as he appeared on NBC's "Today" show reporting about something from my home state of Kentucky. The minute his face appeared on screen, I smiled and nodded. Another mystery solved!

Not far different from that was something that I experienced in New York a couple of years ago. I was in town to visit a client in early December, and had some time before my outbound flight. My client suggested I go to Rockefeller Center, as the traditional Christmas tree had been erected there and there was enough of a nip in the air to make it really feel like the holiday season. Sounded like a good idea, so upon leaving his office I got a cab and made my way there to see the sights.

I was walking outside just taking in the scenery and in the crush of people a man and I gently bumped shoulders. He apologized, and so did I, and then I realized that I recognized him from, again, television (I swear, I do more than watch TV, though this entry isn't making my case for me). I simply said, "You're ____, aren't you. I like your work." He was at the same time surprised to have been recognized (wearing a stocking cap doesn't exactly make you recognizable) and appreciated my having done so. We talked for about ninety seconds, shook hands and wished each other a nice holiday season. This man isn't exactly famous, but his face is seen regularly, so it was still kind of interesting.

Happens on airplanes and in airports more than anywhere else. I chatted with a college basketball coach on a plane leaving New York once, as I happened to be sitting next to the restroom and he was in line. Our eyes met, I said "You're ___," he smiled, he asked where I was from, and we shook hands and then he talked more about MY alma mater than the school he coached!

On a single trip where I connected through Chicago's O'Hare Airport I saw the actor Kevin Spacey riding one of those courtesy carts (you know, the big golf carts with the annoying "beep beep beep" that there primarily to help elderly or disabled people navigate the maze that is a large airport) and smiling and waving to everyone, and then on my return trip through the same airport I saw comic actor Bill Murray with some family and friends, having come to town for a Cubs playoff game. He posed for pictures with countless people and did NOT use the courtesy cart, so he gets extra points from me.

One more, and then I'll stop. The Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky airport used to operate a freestanding terminal that required a bus to take passengers from the main terminal building to and from it. This building was the terminal for regional jets, which are smaller and don't go quite as far as larger, more traditional airliners, but they're a necessary evil when you live in an area with a somewhat smaller airport (I ALWAYS fly a smaller plane to a bigger airport, then connect to my final destination on a larger plane).

Anyway, I was walking from my plane into this smaller subterminal and a little girl of seven or eight years of age walked right into my path and we bumped slightly. She politely and profusely apologized, I smiled and asked if she was OK. She said she was, and apologized again, and then told me to have a good trip. I smiled and wished her the same. Five minutes later, standing on the shuttle to the main terminal, the little girl again appeared, and I teasingly asked her if she was going to bump into me again. We both laughed, and then I looked up next to her and her father was standing there. He is a fairly well-known actor who's appeared in movies and television for some years, garnering Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. He could see that I recognized him by my facial expression, but I decided to simply compliment him on how polite his daughter was, whcih clearly delighted him.

For the remainder of the eight-to-ten-minute bus ride was exchanged small talk about travel, airports (he expressed surprise at the shuttle bus, saying he'd only seen that at an airport in Italy), and I then asked where they were heading. "Home," he replied, adding that home was Park City, Utah. He asked my destination, and while I can't recall where I was heading, it was for business, so that probably meant a far less exotic locale. As the bus stopped both he and his daughter wished me a good trip, and I returned the farewell. Nice people, I thought.

Most people are, as it turns out. In situations like that, we all have a reason to be coming or going, so why not be polite and decent while you're at it?

Friday, September 18, 2009

In a job search? Help is available!

I know that there are thousands upon thousands of people in this country who are looking for gainful employment and cannot find anything worthwhile. Some of the problem, unfortunately, may be that they aren't sure how to go about it. To be sure, there's lots of information online and from friends/relatives/coworkers, but the best way to conduct a career search is to determine the process and follow it to its logical conclusion!

I spent over ten years in the human resources and staffing field and would like to humbly suggest this:

Small investment that could pay big dividends! Good luck to all job seekers!

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Gone but not forgottten

In my profile I joke that I like a great many different styles and performers of music, but no performers who are younger than I. The problem inherent with that preference is that, unfortunately, all of my favored artists will eventually pass away, leaving behind their recordings to be enjoyed in their absence.

One such performer who's already gone was Dan Fogelberg, who first scored a hit back in the '70's with a folk-rock song called "Part of the Plan" and continued to record and sell records successfully into the early 90's. If you were near a radio anytime during the 80's you probably remember his songs "Longer," "Leader of the Band" and "Run for the Roses," and, if you were a real fan, you know as I do that there were many, many more great songs and great concepts in his albums.

At some point, though, it seems that he was no longer a good fit for mainstream record companies (again, probably because he and his fan base were both getting on in years and because he had never sold zillions of records to start with) and he began to put out records independently, and less frequently.

Just a few years ago it became known publicly that Mr. Fogelberg was suffering from advanced prostate cancer and ultimately passed away from that disease in late 2007. His widow has since his death done some very worthwhile things to honor his legacy and to promote awareness of the disease that claimed his life.

Why do I mention all of this now? Because the late Dan Fogelberg just released a new album. It's called "Love in Time" and contains many songs that are just as enjoyable and poignant as his earlier work. How great is that?

It's my understanding that he wrote and recorded these songs (actually, a couple are not his compositions, but are no less worthwhile) after he knew that his end was coming, and left instructions that these songs be released after his death.

Would you want the opportunity to leave something behind that's indelibly yours, that would be so closely identified with you that it would have to have come from you? Quite a legacy, in my estimation.

Fortunately for me and my diverse musical tastes, many of my other favorites are still actively recording and touring, though I haven't been to a concert in a while (as someone who's not quite 50 I simply can't muster up the enthusiasm to pay over $100 to see a concert). Elton John is 62 and just won a Tony for "Billy Elliott," Bruce Springsteen will be 60 this year and continues to tour in support of his latest album, and John Fogerty (you know, the guy who was the leader and voice of Creedence Clearwater Revival--remember them?) is enjoying quite a renaissance and just released an album of country-tinged covers that's great fun.

Way back in the 60's, The Who (yes, they're still around, sort of, as two of the original members still perform periodically) gave us a song called "My Generation," in which the singer utters the words "hope I die before I get old." Selfishly I'm glad that they didn't, and that some of my other "old" favorites haven't, either.

I'll leave you with this thought.....if you're even close to my age, and you look at the Top 10 from the popular music charts, do YOU recognize any of the names? Me, neither......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A civil discourse

It's been a tough week or two for good old-fashioned manners.

From my perspective this started with the University of Oregon football player who, after being part of a loss against Boise State, took offense to something an opposing player said at the close of their game and punched that player. The Oregon player was suspended for the remainder of the season.

Then Congressman Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, yelled "you lie" at President Obama in response to a statement Mr. Obama made during his speech on healthcare reform to a joint session of Congress. Rep. Wilson apologized to the White House shortly thereafter but has since refused to apologize also to his colleagues in the House of Representatives and was officially reprimanded yesterday.

Then tennis star Serena Williams completely lost her cool after being called for a foot fault (that's when you cross the back line of a tennis court while serving, if I remember correctly) during a critical point of her U.S. Open semifinal match. She apparently told the linesman (a woman) that she felt like shoving a tennis ball down her &%$ throat, or something similar. She also subsequently apologized via her own blog, via Twitter and other means.

The final act in this set of indiscretions was at the MTV Video Music Awards, an awards show that is somewhat less relevant now than it might have been fifteen or twenty years ago. Young Taylor Swift had just taken the stage to accept an award when Kanye West also mounted the stage, took the microphone from Swift and essentially proclaimed that the wrong person--Swift--won the award when another performer's video---Beyonce--had been so much better in the same category. I didn't see this, but it's my understanding that Beyonce exhibited some class by later ensuring that Swift had ample opportunity to thank her fans, etc. for this great honor.


Ever heard of the "social contract?" The basic premise is that we ask each other how we are, when we often don't care or don't want to know. I know people who are very disengenuous about this ("What about you? Everything good?") and don't care at all about the other person, but they ask because that's what society expects. That's how adults are supposed to behave, isn't it?

But now, in our modern age, when we're all so enlightened, it's looking more and more like there's really no need to edit oneself, or to hold our tongues when we really want to say or do something in response to a given situation. And the fascinating part is that there's always someone there to notice, and if you're even the least bit famous, there are also cameras and some enterprising soul who's ready to post this stuff on YouTube or sell it to

A good friend of mine often says he was born too late, that he would have been much more comfortable in the 50s. To this end he likes Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin recordings, loves the television show "Mad Men" and has rather arcane views of a lot of social mores. Much more arcane than one would expect from someone who hasn't yet hit forty.

But he is right in one respect....that era might have been better because if people felt something they often did a good job keeping it to themselves. Or if they didn't hold it in successfully, the entire planet didn't know it, via the Internet.

If we can't all just get along, as the saying goes, can't we at least keep our animosity to ourselves?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The 2009 Valhalla Adventure

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I had the rare opportunity of playing golf at the Valhalla Golf Club outside of Louisville, KY yesterday. For those who aren't familiar with this course, it opened in 1986 and was designed by legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. It has hosted the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships (the latter won by Tiger Woods), the 2004 Senior PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup Matches just last year. In short, it's a special place to play golf, despite its relatively young age.

I always consider it both a treat and a privilege to play at a course such as Valhalla. Golf is about the only sport where that's possible; you don't get to throw a pitch at Yankee Stadium or shoot a foul shot at Madison Square Garden unless you're playing for those venues' professional teams, but if you are invited to and are willing to pay the greens fees, you, too, can play golf at a place that's hosted major championships!

Let me add here that the weather was picture-perfect, with relatively low (for Kentucky) humidity and temperature that probably didn't exceed 80 degrees. There was enough breeze to keep things comfortable but not so much to cause golfers any real problems.

My playing partners were a couple of good friends and a fellow whom I had not met previously, but he also was a terrific partner. We rode golf carts and had two forecaddies. If you've never had a forecaddie, these folks don't carry your golf bag but do about everything else a traditional caddie would do. It's still a lot of work and there are generally two forecaddies per group of four golfers, so these fellows were busy following after the four of us, providing us the exact distance to the hole from all sorts of exotic locations on (and off) the fairways, raking sandtraps, cleaning our golf balls and clubs, and assisting in reading putts.

When you're a weekend golfer like myself, you really don't hold a lot of hope of scoring well on a challenging course like Valhalla, and yesterday was no exception. You just want to keep things, well, respectable, so that you don't completely embarrass yourself. I'd say that my final score yesterday fell into that category, and I had a blast! Despite the obvious challenges, I managed to score a par on four different holes, and narrowly missed par on a few others. I put up a big number on several holes, and managed to lose a couple of balls along the way. But, really, who cares, as long as it was fun?

All in all, a special day, from the moment we drove onto the property and were greeted by the golf bag attendants, through the pro shop and the grill where we enjoyed a nice lunch, to our forecaddies Barry (thanks for the great read on 16!!) and Mike and the moment we left the club, it was just fantastic!

Lest I forget here's a tip of the cap to my friend Bill Straus, who coordinated yesterday's adventure!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Observations and an anniversary

Before I launch into comments on other subjects, permit me to share my view of the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. This date holds particular significance for me because it was my daughter's second wedding anniversary (Can you even imagine having 9/11 as your anniversary or birthday? Talk about mixed emotions....). Anyway, I remember very well where I was when word of the terrorist attacks first leaked out....I was in front of our television watching "The Today Show" and the announcers spoke of a small plane having "accidentally" crashed into the World Trade Center. Then they cut to a live shot and we saw the second plane strike the second tower.....and then the Pentagon.....and then we heard about United 93 having crashed in Pennsylvania. My most vivid general memory was sitting in front of the television, hour after hour, astounded that this could have happened. As it happened, I was not working at that point in time, having been laid off by my former employer about a month earlier. Still can't believe that it really happened.

That said, I also cannot believe the "9-12 initiative" that's being touted by some conservative pundits. The purported reason is to return our national attitude to one of how we all felt right after the attacks of 9/11/01. Remember, at that time patriotism ran very high, we all united behind our government and particularly our president. Somehow I don't think that the purpose of this "initiative" is to unite behind our current president....

I was just on the road for a couple of days and saw a great many things in airports and on airplanes that, as usual, amazed or at least surprised me. There was the fellow I saw on my return flight home yesterday with a startling amount of intricate tattoos on his arm (his left arm had what I believe is called a tattoo "sleeve," covering his entire left arm), neck and face. All I could think was how painful that must have been, and how dedicated to the concept of body art one would have to be to undergo so much time and effort.

Because I travel so frequently in my work I continue to be intrigued by some of what I see from flight attendants. I've noticed that longer flights are most often staffed by more mature and experienced personnel, and I'd speculate that this is because they like working with fewer turnarounds (boarding and deplaning is the most demanding aspect of being a flight attendant, I'd bet) and seniority allows them to get the routes they prefer. But what I find interesting is their attire. Most every airline has uniforms for female attendants that can be dresses, tops and skirts or tops and slacks, but there are not specific shoes to be worn with these outfits. Despite it all, many of these folks wear some of the highest heels that I regularly see.....yet change into lower heels or even flats once they begin their work serving passengers. Why even wear the heels?

The male flight attendants never change their shoes. Neither do the pilots. Hmm.....

I attended a baseball game with my son-in-law in Denver while visiting the area. The Colorado Rockies were hosting my Cincinnati Reds at Coors Field, one of my favorite baseball venues. Great sightlines, with not a bad seat in the house. All of the staff we encountered were polite and friendly, which is certainly nice to see. The Reds lost that game, and lost all four they played against the Rockies on this trip. In fact, they only beat the Rockies once this year. I believe the Rockies appear to be the proverbial "team of destiny," as they seem to often find ways to win. Good for them and good luck to them in the postseason, as the Reds certainly aren't going anywhere....

Another sports item worth noting is that former Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie has entered an alcohol rehabilitation program. This comes about two weeks after he was arrested for and charged with driving under the influence. There were many rumors about Gillispie and alcohol use while he coached at Kentucky and before. It takes a good amount of courage to admit a problem and seek help, so I applaud him if he is genuinely interested in addressing a problem.

Tomorrow stands to be a good day, as a couple of friends and I are traveling to Louisville, Kentucky to play golf at the Valhalla Golf Club. If you're not a golfer or golf fan, this won't mean much, but if you are familar with professional golf you understand the significance. I'm so looking forward to it, and the weather promises to be perfect. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Signs of the times

I picked up a variety of items from various news sources since my last post that I thought were worth mentioning:

1. President Obama plans to speak to the nation's public school students, and there's outrage? Excuse me, but he's the PRESIDENT, isn't he? This is particularly strange since his message is going to be one of "do your best, work hard, stay in school," and not an effort to sway students on healthcare reform, Afghanistan, Iraq, the bailout or anything else. It's a little hard to oppose that message, but people are managing to do so nonetheless.

2. Somewhere in this country an enterprising group has opened an outpatient center to cure Internet addiction. And this isn't to break people of something like viewing pornography. This is to help people from something called "pathological Internet usage" and obsessive use of video games, texting, social networking sites, etc. It's a private concern, but you just know that somewhere down the road someone's going to attempt to get this paid for by either their private health insurance or by a government funded program, and that's when the fun will begin!

3. Kentucky's new basketball coach, John Calipari, has not coached one second of an actual game for the Big Blue, but he's managed to be everywhere and into everything since accepting the job back in the spring. He wrote a motivational book and is criss-crossing the state to promote it and sign it for fans, which is a good thing because it benefits his charitable foundation. He also arranged to send a Kentucky basketball jersey to the White House for the President, and some are now objecting on political grounds. Those of us who reside here in Kentucky aren't all that surprised by the gesture, for which Calipari is now apologizing as a non-political move. Give me a break....the guy came into the job knowing the importance of being a good ambassador for the Kentucky basketball program (his predecessor was most decidedly NOT such a representative), so he's doing what he should to promote this program. Those of us who work in a sales or customer-facing position already know the importance of such promotion....

4. The NCAA had just asked college football teams and players to show a greater amount of sportsmanship before and during game. First night of the new season and what happens? An unhappy Oregon player slugs a player from Boise State after Oregon loses. Bad enough that it even happened, but worse that it's captured by television cameras. No idea what the Boise State player said or did to provoke the Oregon kid, but it must have been something, because his reaction was IMMEDIATE. Anger management classes, anyone?

5. Here's something good: did you know that the 2013 Super Bowl will be played in New Orleans? And if you're like me, did you ever think that this event would return to that city after the devastation by Hurricane Katrina? That's very good news, so congratulations to the folks in the Crescent City!

6. Someone in Florida opened a can of diet soda recently and found a frog! They reported this to a couple of governmental bodies but the soda company essentially denied that this could have happened as reported. The "victims" are contemplating legal action.

Enough already. Looking forward to a great three day weekend, and I hope you are, too!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happy birthday!

Today's my son's 33rd birthday. In some ways I thought we'd never get here.

Because I was sure I was going to kill him, at least when he was younger.

Let me explain a bit. He's my stepson, the product of my wife and her deceased first husband. When I met my wife and her (now our) daughter and son, they were about a year into getting over the loss of her husband and their father. I never knew this man, but from what I've always heard from my wife, the kids and others, he was a fine man with no obvious character flaws. He was quiet, considerate, exceptionally intelligent and skilled in his work (he was an engineer). In other words, he and I could not have been less alike.

Anyway, when I met my wife and the kids nearly twenty-five years ago, our son was eight, our daughter eleven. As I tell people, I married a family, complete with a dog and a station wagon. We all got along well and developed good family relations. I helped our daughter with her homework (particularly English papers, which she hated) and helped our son, too, but he didn't act as though he needed all that much help.

As he got older the same thing that so typically happens between fathers (even stepfathers) and sons happened to us: he decided he knew best for himself, and essentially stopped listening. Not just to me, but to anyone outside of his immediate circle of friends. And he got into a bit of trouble. And that's when I was most ready to kill him.

Of course, I didn't. He went off to college, lived with us for some of that time, but with roommates most of the time. He even went off to West Virginia the summer after his graduation, ostensibly to be a rafting guide on the New River (good work if you can get it), living in a tent (!) with others in the same line of work. Then he decided to move to Colorado (where our daughter and her husband already lived), as he had a friend at a ski resort who promised employment.

All through this I questioned his logic, but make no effort to prevent him from carrying out any of his plans. "It's his life," I told my wife. "He has to do this for himself." At certain points when he was in Colorado, far away from his support system (except for his sister, who looked in on him every couple of weeks), my wife even suggested we send him money (he had some very bad luck in working on a construction job that failed to pay him regularly and then he discovered they had not paid into the unemployment system on his behalf), but, again, I suggested that we not do that, as he needed to shoulder this responsibility for himself.

Well, he called on Saturday about seven years ago and asked if he could come home and live with us. "Of course," I assured him. Plans were made and he arrived back at our house, with his dog and what few belongings he elected to bring home with his clothes. I had him sign a set of "house rules" to assure that his living with us wouldn't be disruptive; he agreed without complaint, despite my wife's enormous objections!

He was home for a few days and I reminded him that he would need to get a job ASAP, so he did. He then reconnected with the young woman to whom he's now been married for about five years, learned of a job within the local court system, and he's developed a decent career path since that time.

Most importantly for me, though, is that not only did I not kill him, but we both subconsciously agreed that we had missed each other, and began spending time together. Much of our time revolved around baseball, but that was an early common interest for the two of us starting when he was a kid and I was appalled to learn that he knew nothing about baseball.

He's written me a lot of birthday and Father's Day cards over the years since which indicate without question that he appreciates me as much as his mother, and the relationship we've forged. He's probably my best friend, except for my wife.

Happy birthday, son. I love you!