in five minutes as in five years." – Tom Wolfe
"One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much
in five minutes as in five years." – Tom Wolfe
“No, I don’t want to go to the beach. I just want to stay here.”
My son was in his typical fight-it-like-hell stance, begging us not to drag him into some extended family activity. The argument inspired my daughter to do the same. We want nothing to do with your ideas, they informed us. Computer games and iPods lurked along the sidelines.
Of course my wife and I are the bosses, and we stopped asking them what they wanted to do and told them instead. “All right, let’s go for a bike ride on the Cady Way Trail near downtown,” I said. “It will be fun for all of us. I promise.”
After the prelude of pumping tires and adjusting helmets and filling water bottles and driving across town, we set out on our bikes, sunshine on our faces and a breeze pressing our cheeks. And damned if I didn’t see smiles all around. There were moments of frustration and rebellion, like when my daughter decided she had had enough (only to resume riding quickly afterwards) and when my son began sighing with great pangs of pain, “I’m so hungry. Are we almost done?”
But we made it. Seven miles together on our bikes. Under a gift-from-God clear Saturday sky. “Hey daddy,” my son called to me from behind as we neared our parked minivan. “I did have a little bit of fun riding. Just wanted you to know.”
Great, I told him, thinking to myself “I told you so.” Later, at lunch, I asked if anyone had a good time on our bike ride, and the kids threw up their hands, like they were answering a question in class. “I did,” they said, almost in unison.
There’s not much of a lesson here, I guess, other than never give in to a kid – or give up on a good idea. Especially when you know what’s best for those little rascals. Oh, and when you don’t know what else to do, get outside and ride your bike!
Lucy hopped on a skateboard for the first time today. I really think she's getting the hang of it. Just might have a little skate rat on my hands. I'm one stoked dad!
"I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport." - Tony Hawk
"Skateboarding helps a ton with balance and precision. It gets your senses to be spot-on and it's also a great way to take my mind off things." - Shaun White
"Once pool riding came in, y'know, that's like all we wanted to do." - Jay Adams
Took a spin on my Telecaster this morning, cranking it through my ancient TS808 Tube Screamer and my tasty Fender Blues Deluxe. The wife and kids quickly closed the door, migrated to the other side of the house and stayed the hell away.
Very few days pass that I don't think of my brother-in-law, Kevin Ecker, whose unique musical talent and quick wit never failed to brighten our days. I had the privilege of playing music with him some years back, and below is one of my favorite tracks we recorded together in my home studio, Kevin on ukulele and me on guitar. He gave this song some silly name, but it always struck me as "Spooky Uke." Kevin left this world way too early, in May 2012, and none of us have really been the same since. More about Kevin here.
"The worst feeling in the world is the homesickness that comes over a man occasionally when he is at home." – E.W. Howe
Twenty years ago this month, I packed everything I owned into a small U-Haul and with great anticipation steered south from my native North Carolina to the land of palm trees and eternal sunshine. I must say that Florida has been good to me. I met the woman of my dreams, convinced her to marry me, began raising two great kids and lucked into a solid career path in Orlando. All’s well in paradise.
But I miss North Carolina with a passion. The more I feel settled and established in Florida, the more my mind turns to the past and my formative years in and around my hometown of Winston-Salem. I find myself longing for time with the friends and familiar landscapes of yesteryear and even begin to wonder if I "belong" back there.
Lest we venture too far down this path, though, I recall the wisdom of Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again.” And gosh darn it, he was right. I can visit as much as I like but can’t truly return to the old days any more than I can smooth the wrinkles on my face or have my brown hair back (without faking it).
So, I guess I've come to realize that I never really left North Carolina. It’s always there, in my recollections, in my perspectives, certainly in my heart. Honestly, I should count myself lucky to have two hometowns, two special places where I've put down roots and that feel comfortable and welcoming. Yes, it does make for a bit of a schizophrenic existence, but it's a feeling that's starting to grow on me finally, 20 years after that fateful adventure in the U-Haul.
Never underestimate the intelligence – or enthusiasm – of a child.
This week I enjoyed the privilege of speaking to my daughter’s third-grade class during “Teach In,” an event that invites working stiffs like me into the classroom to share insights into their chosen careers. Yours truly jumped at the chance to jabber about my gig as an executive speechwriter.
Going into it, I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from these kids. Speechwriting probably isn’t something many of them even know about, much less aspire to do.
But … wow … these youngsters immediately took to my spiel with great interest and were absolutely wonderful to spend time with. They started asking questions right out of the gate. Good questions, too. And when I
took them through a little exercise, asking them to write a few lines about what they love most, I could see their brains kick into overdrive as they scribbled in their notebooks. Several of them had no qualms about standing up to deliver their “speeches.” What a smart and enterprising group!
As I wrapped up, I left them with a simple statement: Believe in the power of words. I told them that using the right words can inspire, persuade and make lasting emotional connections with people.
Just before leaving the classroom, I faintly overheard a few words that truly warmed my heart. A classmate said to my daughter, “Your dad is awesome!” And it got even better from there. When I arrived home from work that
evening, my daughter handed me a stack of 17 thank-you cards from her class, each with a handwritten note and some with elaborate drawings of cruise ships and Mickey Mouse (the fact that I work for Disney Cruise Line certainly gave me some kid cred).
"Thanks a ton for your fantastic presentation," one of the students wrote. "I really learned a lot, like how to write amazing speeches or how not to get upset if somebody doesn't like your speech." Ha, that's funny, kid!
After my time with these third-graders, I can honestly say that I believe in the power of words more than ever.
Another Saturday morning brought another lollygagging cruise on my bike, this time through some of the older neighborhoods hugging downtown Orlando. Not far off the Orlando Urban Trail I snapped a shot of this old oak tree, with the rising sun piercing its forlorn limbs. A marker on the site estimates the tree's age at about 250 years. Makes this old man feel like a spring chicken!
All of us were a bit wistful to see summer pack its bags and split. After all, it had been quite a memorable few months. My family took several cool vacations, including longish trips to Washington, D.C., and North Carolina and shorter beach getaways. One of those getaways ended today, Labor Day, and it was especially hard to drive back home, all sandy and sunburned and a little sad.
Sometimes I wonder if taking these festive breaks from reality are truly helpful, at least for me. I realize they de-stress my psyche and recharge my soul, but the next few days at work are exponentially more ... well ... challenging. Nahhh, that's crazy talk. I'm not giving up vacations!!
At any rate, here's to the rest of the year, all those days that we work hard and go to school and move everything forward with a meaningful sense of routine and achievement. I do suggest, however, that we keep a little summertime in our back pockets in the event that things start to go downhill.
"One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Jimmy Page taps an otherworldly spirit
I've been thinking lately about what it feels like to make music, specifically to be playing the guitar at precisely that moment when the mundane turns to magic and some higher power intercedes. I can't say it happens for me frequently, but when it does, it's absolutely intoxicating.
There's a paragraph in a book I'm reading that wonderfully describes this precious spiritual connection (while pointing out the challenges of navigating reality with a music-tuned mind). The book is Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas, and the writer is Kevin Winchester. Brilliant, brilliant stuff, I must say ...
"If you have a choice between music and becoming a heroin addict, pick the smack, it's healthier. Once the music monkey gets on your back, it'll cut a wide path. It'll break your heart, tempt you, tease you, make you miserable and will probably destroy everything around you not related to music. But ohhh, when it's right. when you rake that chord or hit the G run, when the day draws down and a note rings crystal clear as the October air; when the band's sweaty, all lathered up and funky, and the crowd, no matter if it's one or a hundred, is right there with you .... it all comes together and you close your eyes and just feel it and you're gone. Transported, free, sailing above it all, and even if you're not religious, in that moment you know what God is. There are no words to describe it, but it's as real and beautiful and right as anything could be. It's that golden spike in the vein, chasing the dragon, nirvana. It's catching smoke in your hand, and once you've been there, the rest of your life is spent reaching."
That's it, we're always reaching. And hopefully grasping those moments of musical magic as often as possible.
We spent Father's Day weekend in St. Augustine, Florida, a delightful waterfront town that mixes 500 years of fascinating history with tacky tourist-trap sideshows.
After a few hours of admiring the ancient attractions downtown, we headed for a cozy Hampton Inn on the beach.
We returned home the next day with smiles on our faces and sand in our shoes. Here are a few of my snapshots ...
During a stroll in Winter Park today, my kids stopped their arguing and complaining long enough to actually enjoy each other's company. My wife and I wondered how many more times our little ones might actually hold hands like this again. Probably just a few, if that many. Luckily I snapped a quick photo before the tender moment passed.