Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Restless observations on air travel (Part 3)

(this is Part 3 of 3)

So the landing gear is down, the flaps are up, and we're on our final approach to our destination airport.  Does this mean the insanity is finally over??  Oh, heavens no!  We've only just begun...


  • Those %&*# cellphones:  Most of us have mommies and daddies (biology lesson offered separately).  My mommy, in particular, taught me the difference between my "inside voice" and my "outside voice".  Apparently, many of my fellow passengers were raised by coyotes or, alternatively, missed the inside/outside voice lesson from childhood.  I say this because no sooner have the wheels touched the ground their cellphones are turned on, calls are made, and as soon as these calls connect, these same passengers who had been so quiet, considerate, almost demure - begin SHOUT-CONVERSING with whomever has picked up on the other end.  Now imagine some 200 passengers all BELLOWING into their phones to family members, colleagues, ground transportation, boyfriends/girlfriends, imaginary friends (I imagine there are a few lonely people on each flight that actually pretend to call someone so they don't feel left out - sad really) in very close quarters.  Joy!!
  • Premature evacuation:  Air traffic control at every airport "requires all passengers and flight attendants to remain seated with the safety belts fastened until the aircraft is stopped at the gate and the captain had turned off the safety belt sign."  There's inevitably, therefore, those one or two passengers who feel these "suggestions" somehow don't apply and immediately begin hopping up, moving through the aisles and attempting to get a "one-up" on their fellow passengers by retrieving their carry-ons from the overhead bins before anyone else.  This little misdemeanor carries consequences.  Apparently, the flight attendants who have perfect visibility of the aisles from their seats, are required to report this activity to the captain who is REQUIRED BY LAW TO STOP THE FRICKIN AIRCRAFT if passengers are up during the taxi process.  Ergo, the plane stops, the flight attendants and the captain hop on the PA system reminding passengers ad nauseum of all regulations and requirements involving the taxiing process, the passengers surrounding the moron begin hurling unpleasantries (verbal, not tangible), and finally, the guilty party(ies) return to their seats.  Of course, as luck would have it, that little delay on the tarmac has frustrated someone in the tower and, as punishment for our indiscretion, our little plane is allowed to sit there for 10-20 minutes to allow every other plane taxiing to go by first before we can resume our egress to the gate.  More joy!!!
  • When time stood still:  So we've made it to the gate, the seatbelt sign is off, and the "Ding" indicating it's now safe to get up and begin the deplaning process has sounded.  This is when the phenomenon occurs.  If you've been on a commercial aircraft, you know what I'm describing.  The passengers (mostly all of them) attempt to stand up simultaneously to begin retrieving their luggage and personal items and get off the aircraft as quickly and un-orderly as possible.  These are after all very busy, very important people with places to be and people to see.  But as soon as everybody is up -- nobody moves.  It's like time slows to a near stand-still and the mob remains frozen for a small eternity.  It marvels me at how long it takes a group of people to extract their luggage and get off an airplane!  I kid you not, there have been a few times when I felt it took as long if not longer to get off the plane after arriving at a destination than it did to ACTUALLY FLY FROM POINT A TO POINT B!!!  Blame it on the boarding door, blame it on people having to swim upstream to retrieve their carry-ons (see entry 1) - it doesn't matter the cause.  The consequence is something I'll at some point dub the "Moronic Effect" and have copyrighted.  It makes me long for my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Snow, who ran fire-drills for us 8 and 9 year-olds.  Now THAT woman knew how to establish and maintain order getting folks out of a building.  Maybe Delta could pull her out of retirement to instill some discipline in passengers while deplaning?  Her whistle and drill-sergeant-like commands were legendary...
How I like to remember "Mrs. Snow"...
  • Aisle seat pacifists/pansies:  Now, based on the above description of the deplaning process, you hope for someone seated in your respective aisle that recognizes how the exit game is played.  You're looking for an aggressive veteran - someone who immediately hops into the aisle clearing a small path for middle seat and window seat passengers to be able to stand up, stretch a little, and begin planning their own exit strategy.  But occasionally, as luck would have it, you find yourself in a middle seat or window seat position blockaded by the ultimate pansy: someone seated in the aisle - your aisle - refusing to stand when appropriate, providing no blocking, showing no initiative, and forcing you to remain seated, unable to move, thus approaching a claustrophobic state from the prolonged feeling of confinement.  And this is the same aisle person who, during the flight, demanded more ice in their beverage, an additional packet of pretzels - they showed such promise, such potential!  But get 'em on the ground and they go soft and putty-like.  Disgusting...
Qualities you look for in an aisle-seat guy...
  • Newton's Law:  Okay, fellow passengers...pay attention!!  If a woman standing 5'1" and weighing in at around 85 pounds has positioned a carry-on bag that stands nearly as tall as its owner and weighing 120 pounds is attempted to be removed from the overhead bin which sits at about 7' of height, somebody is going to get creamed by said bag!  This isn't a possibility or a likelihood, this is a scientific certainty - unless another passenger assists or the woman is totally juiced on 'roids.  I never fail to see at least one fellow passenger get completely crushed by another passenger's carry-on when said bag is extricated from the overhead space.  It's inevitable!  Either some moron is on his cellphone while removing luggage, completely indifferent to what he's doing or the swath of bodies he's leaving with the downward arc of his garment bag, or perhaps an underage minor is insistent that he/she is "all grown up" and can handle getting his/her own bag whilst standing on the armrest.  Irrespective of the circumstances, somebody's gonna get nailed by a computer bag, purse, or piece of luggage.  You can actually tell which passengers have sustained previous deplaning injuries because they stand defensively, their legs slightly bent, their arms poised in a defensive stance akin to something from a Bruce Lee movie. They even make that slightly high-pitched "cat in heat getting bonked in an alley" noise Bruce made famous in his films..."ooooaaaawwwwwwwwWWWWWWW".....  Beautiful!!
Watch yourself with that bag, Mister...
  • Why, in fact, time stands still:  There are likely a multitude of reasons the deplaning process can take forever but here are a few of my personal favorites.  Most carry-ons have these lovely wheel-systems that make toting them a breeze - as long as you're not attempting to "breeze" them down an aircraft aisle only 2/3 as wide as the bag itself.  But that little fact of physics doesn't prevent many of the passengers from trying.  They'll retrieve their bag and, instead of simply carrying it off the plane like a normal person, they'll stop in the aisle, put it on the floor, pull up the extension handle, and attempt to wheel it off the aircraft.  This of course causes the bag to get stuck at every aisle, the wheel base being too large, and the passenger attempting to finagle, coerce, and plead with the bag to somehow get smaller (sorry, butt-munch, this isn't Alice in Wonderland and there's no magical cake for you OR your bag), and the result is an additional 5 minutes of "stoppage time".  Or there's the clueless passenger who makes it all the way up the jetway (the mobile hallway connecting the plane to the terminal) and proceeds through the entrance to the terminal - only to stop - right there - blocking the passengers behind him/her - to  get their bearings, determine exactly where they are in relation to another gate or baggage claim, or their reason for being in the universe.  This means we all stop and wait behind said passenger to uncover their purpose for life - and then we can all proceed.  Multiply this times a dozen passengers per flight - easily 15-20 minutes of stoppage time.  Finally, there's the overeager airline representative who stands at the entrance to the terminal insisting on providing connecting gate information, whether or not you actually have a connection.  He/she acts like the greeter at WalMart, insisting on having a conversation with every passenger deplaning from the aircraft.  And she's so happy and affectionate and drippy, calling everyone "Sugar" or "Honey" or "Sweets" that it's impossible to get mad at her and thus - an additional 10-15 minutes of stoppage time.

Would this speed things up???
I recognize that this isn't an exhaustive nor comprehensive list of all the annoyances or lighter moments of air travel - just a few my favorites.  No doubt, you have other observations that are worthy of a future entry.  Feel free to respond with your comments and suggestions and we'll see if we can't bring them to light.  Special thanks to my friend, Dana (fellow air traveler) for providing some observations (we both become potty-mouths when describing these experiences - classic).  Hope you've enjoyed and I'll look forward to seeing you on a future flight!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Restless and the weekend dental dilemma...

This past weekend was exceptionally hectic for me - an upcoming job transition within Ernst & Young, the pending arrival of my son from school for the summer, performance reviews due at work - so you can imagine the last thing I was prepared to handle was a dental emergency.  But Murphy's Law being what it is, I shouldn't have been surprised when I went "dental floss -fishing" in my mouth Sunday night and hooked a beautiful porcelain crown - the same one my dentist had inserted about 12 years ago. Suddenly, all the other errands and priorities felt considerably less important. I'm proud of my redneck heritage, you understand - just not in a hurry to serve as the toothless poster child of my Southern brethren.



Thus began a frantic internet search to find salvation in my storm - the amazing folks at Dental TLC who have completely transformed my opinions and perceptions (not to mention eradicating my childhood fears) of visiting the dentist.  Now keep in mind my dental disaster occurred around 7pm on a Sunday evening - not the best time to catch your neighborhood dentist.  But the Dental TLC website has this great feature where you submit an email with your personal information, the nature of your problem, even preferred times to get in and get fixed.  I submitted the appropriate data then went about my business - trying delicately to chew on the other side of my mouth (it's actually harder than you might think - give it a try sometime...).
The ONLY place to go for your dental needs!
Lo and behold, like magic I get a phone call first thing Monday morning from Sarah, acknowledging my situation, expressing the appropriate balance of empathy and humor (great laugh, Sarah - you're a ROCKSTAR!), and getting me scheduled for 9am!  Of course I hung up the phone feeling like a celebrity, egotistically convinced that several less significant patients must have been bumped from their already-scheduled appointments to address my bicuspid crisis (I'm quite sure this isn't the case but WHO'S telling the story?) but simultaneously wowed that they would be so accommodating!  What can I say?  It's how they roll...

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment and the front-desk team was ready and waiting for me.  Keri had me fill out the necessary forms (not a novel like you're used to at so many doctors' or dentists' offices - just two forms and both amazingly brief) and, at the appointed time, I was shown to my appointment room.  Allow me to pause momentarily for dramatic effect!!!  Let that sink in for a minute or two - the staff at Dental TLC had me in front of my dentist AT THE ACTUAL TIME I was scheduled.  I felt the need to run out for a lottery ticket or begin "crash-course repenting" of my sins...  Again, this is no ordinary dental practice.  And Dr. Abbott is no ordinary dentist.


Dr. Abbott - mad skills with a drill and oral cement...


He comes bounding in with his usual positive demeanor and cheerful personality - all smiles and jokes - and in a manner of minutes he has assessed my situation, offered a prompt and professional course of action, and begun to re-attach my crown. My only decision-making dilemma while comfortably seated was choosing either to watch television from the console built in to the ceiling to accommodate patients while horizontal (very cool feature, Dr. A!) or  to listen to music piped in from the noise-cancelling headphones offered to both calm my potentially troubled nerves and to cancel out the sound of drills, picks and other "unpleasant nasties" situated on the good dentist's workbench.  The other decision (and yet another reason these folks will be added to my will) was to select whether or not to receive laughing gas during the crown repair. For those not familiar, laughing gas is an incredible way to get through any dental procedure (even cleanings) and the folks at Dental TLC are expert at administering just the right level to keep the patient alert yet unfettered by the work being done.  Given that I've never used drugs, alcohol, or tobacco of any kind, this is my one chance to "walk on the wild side", to approach an out-of-body experience where the walls melt and the room spins...  So naturally, I politely asked for a "triple shot" (they smiled but didn't comply) and let my worries fade away...


And is that all?  Heavens no!  They finish the crown maintenance and ask if I'd like to go ahead and knock out a regular tooth-cleaning since I'm already in the office?!  I mean, seriously??!!  I'm probably now bumping at least a half-dozen other appointments  (I'm feeling like "Elton John celebrity status", mind you) so I graciously accept their offer and, in less than 90 minutes, I'm walking out the door, my "Russell Crown Affair" having been resolved, my teeth professionally polished and cleaned, and the folks at the office smiling and waving their goodbyes as I depart.


I would SO date any of these ladies - they're like a hug personified!


Thanks to the amazing staff at Dental TLC: Dr. Abbott, Dr. Patel, "Lisa the Hygienist", Casey and Amanda who attended to my every need, Diana who was so charming and pleasant I wanted to pay more than my actual bill, and - of course - to Sarah the Rock of my Gibraltar -that got me scheduled so quickly and, I remain convinced, bumped all those unsuspecting commoners to allow me this experience, and others who didn't directly assist but still waved or shouted "howdy".  All of them, directly or otherwise, helped me through a mini-ordeal and displayed the continued magic always provided with every visit, every procedure, every encounter.  I kid you not, I love these folks so much I actually consider not brushing my teeth JUST so I have a quick excuse to hurry back. Okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch but I only exaggerate for the ones I love...




Saturday, May 19, 2012

Restless observations on air travel (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 of 3)



Back for more?  Then let's continue.  So we've made it through the check-in process,  navigated TSA-managed security (rest assured, that will be covered separately at some future point - no lack of material in that process, right?), and survived the rigors of boarding and the pre-flight rituals.  Let's take off, shall we...

(In Flight)

  • Armrest wrestling: Personal space on a commercial flight is a contradiction of terms - there isn't any.  One has only to walk down the aisle of an already-boarded aircraft and see just how efficiently the design engineers maximized every conceivable millimeter to put in the greatest number of seats in a confined area.  Think sardines in a can - only the sardines are often overweight, over-tall, and still alive and kicking...  The one bastion of privacy to allow us our individuality, our separation from the masses - the arm-wrest.  That beautiful invention that allows a passenger to see to his riding companions on either side, "See this line?  This is my area, buster.  Don't so much as THINK about stepping into this area right here..."  You know, like when we were kids riding with our brother(s) or sister(s) in the back-seat on that exhaustingly long road-trip and we drew the imaginary lines separating our personal areas?  And, of course, this resulting in one sibling "pushing the envelope" and intentionally sliding a foot or a knee or a hand into the "Forbidden Zone" resulting in a clash of wills, leading mom or dad to go postal, stop at a rest area, and walk in tight circles blabbering to themselves and pulling out their hair.  (Great memories!)  What does one do, however, when one's seat-mate on the flight is so wide that moving the armrest into a lowered position is an impossibility?  Or what are the rules of etiquette governing who's arm actually gets to relax on said armrest?  Do you take turns?  Does middle seat take priority over window and aisle?  Interestingly enough, these topics/rulings are not covered in the in-flight safety video, flight attendant pre-flight safety demonstration, nor in the convenient seat-back brochure (you know the one - with the androgynous, non-human appearing life form animations demonstrating how to breathe through a mask, open the emergency door, activate the rafts off the wings, showing how NOT to smoke on a airplane).  Considering I've never had to actually do any of the things described in the brochure and the fact that this armrest issue occurs on just about every flight - I'm thinking the airlines need to add a section.  In it, the animated figures would be seen battling it out in an orgy of biting, kicking, and pile-driving with the victor ultimately seated comfortably with both arms resting on the armrests to either side, the losing passengers serving him pretzels and club soda and fanning him with the in-flight Sky Magazine.  Or perhaps we eject the losing-est passenger using the over-the-wing exits?  I know how to operate those doors - studied it in the brochure.  Hey!  It could happen...
Bring me my pretzels and Club Soda...
  • Can I charge you for that?:  Everything during the flight is now available for a price.  Everything.  Want something to eat?  Cha-ching.  Want to watch an in-flight movie?  Cha-ching.  Want to actually hear the movie you've paid to watch?  Cha-ching.  I've heard that on one airline, they've actually begun charging passengers for their carry-on bags...their carry-ons!  Makes you wonder what's next.  Seatbelt Usage Fee: $2; Conversation with your fellow passengers: $1.99/minute (international rates differ); Paging a flight attendant: $4; Actual dialogue with a flight attendant (consultation): $6 for the first request, $2 every subsequent exchange; Lavatory entrance fee: $5;  Making a pee-pee in said lavatory: $2.50;  Making a 'poo-poo' and pee-pee in lavatory: $7; Water activation of lavatory-sink: $1.50/minute; Cross-word puzzle playing privilege in the Sky Magazine: $4/game - you get the idea.  Think I'm kidding???  Mark my words - during our lifetime, we'll see lavatories with a coin/cash/credit-operated entry door.  It's not an "if"; simply a "when"...
Can someone break a $20???
  • A Tale of Two Extremes: And what's up with the temperature settings on commercial aircraft?  There appear to be two settings: "Desert" and "Frozen Tundra".  No "Scenic Spring Meadow", no "Warm Summer Evening" - only "Mojave in August" or "Siberia in late January".  It's especially noticeable once the plane has leveled off at it's normal flying altitude.  Now, granted, I realize that it's considerable less comfortable from a climate perspective just outside the cabin - say, on the wing.  But you'd think with all of the advancements in technology that we would somehow be able to master a climate-control setting option on your typical 737 - I mean is it really THAT hard???  And, of course, the flights are only stocked with blankets to accommodate about 7% of the passengers and pillows to comfort about 13% leaving the remainder of the passengers to cling together for shared bodily warmth or otherwise fan themselves with copies of the Sky Magazine (see earlier bullet).  It's gotten to the point that air travel is much akin to going to the movie theaters - dress in layers cause you never really know what temperate zone you might be walking into...
Blanket Hoarder!!!
  • Ding...Ding: That most welcome of sounds!  The indication that it is "now safe to use portable electronic devices..."  And use we do!  I like to sit and watch the immediate scramble following the bell as passengers climb over each other to reach their laptops in the overhead bins, or contort themselves given the limited legroom to try and access their computer bags resting under their seats.  Seriously, folks, if you haven't observed this, it's worth a front-row seat.  It's sort of like a prize fighter - very quick, very nimble - immediately following the bell of Round 1.  Everyone is sitting calmly and then - ding - mad scramble!  Arms and legs everywhere!  Eye-rolling as middle seat and aisle seat have to stand up because window seat wants to grab his paperback or a ball-point pen to play Sodoku from their carry-on in the overhead - seriously, it's priceless!  And now most planes offer Wi-Fi so travelers can surf the web, check scores, update their blogs (JOY!!!), and in short remain connected with the world below them...  That is, of course, until the plane begins it final approach and the second "Ding...Ding" occurs.  That's when privileges are revoked, and the process essentially occurs again - just this time in reverse.  Laptops must be closed, pens/pencils down, return all items to their respective places, tray-tables stored, seat-backs up.  Reminds me of State Aptitude Testing in grade-school.  Remember all the instructions that accompanied starting and stopping a test?  Nothing's really changed - all the test-takers have simply grown up...
"Ding Ding"   : )
Be sure and come back for the last chapter in my 3-part repartee.  Next time we'll cover the final-approach and de-planing process....SMASHING!!!

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Restless observations on air travel...

    (This is part 1 of 3)

    I'm on a business trip this week (Boston being the destination). This is not a rare occurrence for me, although I traveled much more frequently earlier in my career. Back in those days I spent about 70% of my work schedule out of town, with many of those assignments taking me overseas. The point is - I travel - lots. My reason for mentioning this is simply to share a number of observations I've noted and collected while accumulating my frequent flier miles. While this might appear humorous (and certainly that is my intent, at least in part), they're not exactly a laughing matter at the moment you're enduring them. Read on and you'll see what I mean...

    (Boarding/Pre-Takeoff)

    • The Kentucky Derby: This is the phenomenon that occurs whenever the gate agent announces that a particular flight is about to begin boarding. Almost every passenger, despite their Zone number (on Delta, flights are boarded by Zone, 1-6 with First Class and frequent fliers boarding first) is hypnotically drawn to the front of the queue.  Inevitably, they are Zone 5 or 6 passengers, but will feel the need to stand there, magically assuming there are no passengers actually assigned Zones 1-4. What follows is a necessary jockeying of position in the mass of bodies through a form of "boarding pass poker", where passengers display their boarding pass to one another comparing Zone numbers with the "winner" advancing forward into the mob and the "loser" taking 1-2 steps back to play another round with the passengers pressing from behind. There's also the inevitable one passenger on every flight who attempts to board before their Zone number is called, forcing the gate agent to stop them, explain the boarding process (despite the fact that the PA system has replayed these instructions several hundred times) delaying the process by a good 10-15 minutes. And the winner is.... 
    Off to the Races...
    • Aisles, middles, and windows - Oh, my!!: I prefer the aisle seat on every flight, because of the opportunity to stretch at least one leg out during the flight. If all aisle seats are taken, I'll opt for the window seat because there's a little more breathing room given the curvature of the sides of the aircraft, plus the fact that you end up with a view. The dreaded middle seat is my least favorite - here you're trapped, sandwiched between who know's whom with little leg room, and no easy escape/exit from the "snorer/drooler", "chatterbox", "wide load", "smelly person", "smelly food person", or "IIA" (Infant In Arms). Yes, I have a whole host of nicknames that designate my fellow passengers into buckets. These are the more tame, but I digress. Without fail, I will board the plane and take my aisle seat and get fully settled...and that's the exact moment that the middle seat person will arrive. This means collecting my personal items (book, laptop, etc.), standing up and moving into the aisle to allow my fellow passenger to be seated. And then, once we are both comfortably seated and settled...along comes Mr. or Ms. Window Seat, and the process is repeated. I very rarely, if ever, see a scenario where the window passenger boards first, followed by middle passenger, followed by aisle person - and believe me I look for it. That'll be the day I either initiate my comprehensive repentance process in preparation for the Apocalypse, or run out and purchase a lottery ticket...
      Steve Martin, I feel your pain...
    • Physics and the carry-on: Different types of aircraft offer different overhead bin dimensions. Typically, the larger the aircraft, the larger (and deeper) the overhead bin. Inevitably, a number of passengers, either hoping to avoid the checked baggage fees or because they're just idiots, will board the plane with a "carry-on" similar in dimension to a military foot-locker. We're talking enormous! What follows is an entertaining ritual where the passenger attempts to squeeze, press, shove, or through osmosis pass this monstrosity through the unreceptive, impossibly narrow overhead bin compartment. And they act shocked and surprised when it fails to magically widen like the jaws of a serpent and somehow swallow up their luggage! And it happens on every flight. And it never fails to make me chuckle.
    • The dangers of boarding first: While I do like to be seated early in the boarding process, ensuring there is sufficient space for my carry-on bag and getting settled, there is an inherent risk one assumes with this privilege. The hazard manifests itself with the absent-minded or distracted passengers yet to board, wielding their carry-ons like medieval weapons, banging down the aisle smacking heads, stepping on feet, kicking the legs of already seated aisle passengers, in essence attacking their often unsuspecting victims with whatever they find themselves armed with - guitars, laptops, backpacks, etc. They will hit you, punch you, kick you, spill their drinks on you, dribble food on you - anything is possible...
    • The Alec Baldwin affliction: There are specific times when phones, computers, and other portable electronic devices can be used on airplanes. This is another one of those pieces of information that are repeated incessantly during the boarding process, once the boarding door has been closed, during taxi/take-off, throughout the flight, in preparation for landing, immediately after landing, while taxiing to the arrival gate, and during the de-planing process. In summary, unless you are deaf, dumb or dead, you've been instructed on when you can/can't use these devices. But there are inevitably at least 15-20 "stupid people" on every flight that will insist on sending just one more text, just one more email, taking/making one more phone call, or playing one last game - thus violating the policy, upsetting the flight attendants or pilots or their fellow passengers. And, not surprisingly, when they are approached for the second/third time by one of the aforementioned personnel and firmly demanded to turn off their device, they act either shocked, offended, or my personal favorite, respond by saying, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know...". Hell has a special place for them, I imagine (or at least one can hope).
    • The Baggage A**holes: Sorry to end this segment on a sour note but it's rant-time!  These are the jerks that are usually the first to board the plane right after the First Class passengers (usually the frequent flyer, or "Sky Priority" frequent fliers).   They are seated in the middle or rear portion of the aircraft AND armed with carry-on luggage and laptop bags.  These folks board the aircraft and insist on unloading their items in the overhead bins IN THE FRONT OF THE STINKING AIRPLANE - not even remotely close to where they're sitting because they're too important or too special to be bothered with actually using the bins provided near their seat.  Now, to many, this action might not appear to be a big deal.  But consider the people that board a little later who are seated near the front of the aircraft (yours truly) - imagine the frustration when they discover the overhead bins are full around their seat and yet there are no seated passengers in the vicinity.  This forces them to put bags in a section considerably behind where they are seated which means at the end of the flight they either man-handle their way during the deplaning process against traffic to retrieve carry-ons, have to ask some stranger 5-10 rows if they'd be willing to carry it forward, or wait until everyone has de-planed to go back and retrieve their items.  And of course by "they" I mean "we" or "me"...  On one particular flight (it had been a long rough business day) when I experienced this situation, I actually went from my seat in 12C to the rear of the aircraft inquiring as to who had parked their roll-aboard above my seat.  Surprise, surprise - Mr. Butt-munch in seat 38D was the responsible party.  Needless to say, Mr. Butt-munch received a special delivery of his "eye-sore on wheels" brought back care of a lovely flight attendant who felt my pain.  Alicia, wherever you are, I love you!  And shame on you, Mr. Butt-munch....shame...

    Check back for observations during flight...

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Restless about Mom...

    They are there from day one - attentive, supportive, unconditionally loving.  In many cases they're not formally employed but, during our childhood, they have so many jobs: chef, teacher, custodian, chauffeur, cheerleader, psychiatrist, attorney, cop, banker, concierge, judge, parole officer, and guidance counselor.  They are always our biggest fan because they see nothing less than us reaching our true and full potential. They inspire us with their quiet persistence; they nurture us and through nurturing teach us to love others.   They motivate us when we're down; they insist that we see things from a more positive perspective.

    Rob, Mom, and I
    I'm sure many feel this way but I am truly blessed to have the perfect mother for me.  Of all the gifts and blessings I have received in my mortality, surely there is none greater nor more precious than my mom.  She has faithfully worn all the hats described in the paragraph above but, what's more, she has been and remains my staunchest critic and greatest supporter.  Mom has the innate ability to cut through my flattery and misdirection and get to the heart of any matter.  She can help me identify my weaknesses, flaws, and insecurities - not judgmentally - but in a manner that inspires self-reflection and change.  My mom instilled in me a passion for books and reading - of seeking knowledge in its many forms.  She made learning fun, always finding a common ground for me to connect with concepts and principles.
    My mom and me...

    She created a home of order, of love, and of learning.  Despite our constant moving with dad's military career, she maintained consistency in how our home felt, regardless of location or how long we might find ourselves there.  She nagged, she always expected better, she held us to an incredibly high standard - all contributing factors to our developing an essential sense of civic and moral duty, of pride in a job well-done, of seeking to constantly self-improve.
    Mom and the boys (hmmm, who's taller???)

    My life is filled with rich memories and experiences where my mom played a role - and this is primarily because she chose to always be involved, always front-and-center in our activities, in our schoolwork, in our lives.  She's shed tears of joy during my highs and wept during my lows; has offered countless prayers to heaven on my behalf; has worried, cheered, fretted, celebrated, labored, doted, educated, cultivated - loved - every step of the way.  I'm 41 years old and still don't consider making a business trip out of town without dropping a courtesy call to mom to say "I've landed" or "I'm safe on the ground in (insert city here)".  She answers every call, thanks me for making it so she doesn't have to worry, she wishes me success in my endeavors, and she tells me she loves me.  We've carried on this ritual as far back as I can remember - and we'll carry it forward until she's in a place where my calls don't quite reach...
    Mama's boy

    I love you, mom.  Not so much that I'm going to let you win the next round of Words with Friends...but I love you all the same...

    Happy Mother's Day!!






    Friday, May 11, 2012

    Alone-ness vs. Loneliness (a restless perspective)...

    Happy Friday!

    A friend asked me recently to expound upon how I've "found joy" in being alone.  After my divorce, I didn't attempt to date for about nine years, using that time instead on other pursuits/interests.  Whether it was the product of fear, hesitation, trust issues, or some amalgam of the three - it worked for me and thus I remained alone for nearly a decade.  And I was quite content during this time, neither unhappy nor unfulfilled. The following excerpt was my attempt to address the why/how of that period in my life:

    I imagine everyone's experience is different and their position/opinion on any given topic is largely shaped from the product of their experiences.  I was married and divorced at a very young age.  I suppose any number of consequences could have resulted from that circumstance - hopping right back into the dating scene, maybe taking a year off to heal and regroup. Unfortunately, that isn't my story.  I had a really hard time coming to terms with the divorce and the causes leading up to it. Without going into the what nor the why, suffice it to say it left a pretty big hole in my heart and some substantial trust issues.  I was also pretty low about it and in desperate need of something to provide a "high", if you will.

    My salvation came in several forms - my job which provided a much-needed outlet for me to throw my time, talents, and energies into; my close friends who offered encouragement and the occasional (but necessary) tough love to get me back on my feet; and my family (can't say enough about them).  I grew to depend on each of these three forms fairly heavily and continued a varying form of dependence long after the divorce had come and gone.  I share this to highlight the importance these supports played in my life for so long following the divorce and to help you have a perspective on why being "alone" wasn't a unhappy time for me.  Quite the contrary, I had everything I needed/wanted/was able to tolerate at that particular time and so it "worked" for me.

    I think there's a important distinction between desiring "alone-ness" (seeking solitude) and being lonely (seeking companionship).  I spent years enjoying my solitude because any thoughts of companionship brought back a flood of memories of all the things I had endured during my very difficult marriage and no amount of solace from having a person in my life again would be worth the myriad of angst, frustration and pain I associated with trying to make companionship (dating/marriage) work.  I hope that's making sense.

    There were other benefits as well.  Complete and absolute autonomy became my roommate.  I could literally go anywhere, do anything, at anytime and it was okay - there was no resistance, no voice cautioning me that this was a poor decision, or immature, or not a good idea.  I was able to live my life purely on the basis of my own desires, my own resolutions.  And live I did - working unbelievable hours, taking on the impossible assignments, engaging in some amazing international/domestic travel, taking up photography, creating amazing itineraries for my son and I to enjoy, reading, playing sports, remaining immersed in my work, making new friends, filling my life with rich experiences, "seizing the day".  This lifestyle of security and freedom of choice became a very comfortable blanket during my chilly period of romantic isolationism.  And this blanket kept me secure and warm for a period of about nine years - when I didn't date, didn't seek companionship, and enjoyed my period of "alone-ness" rather than "loneliness".

    So what changed?  I imagine I simply recognized that I wasn't intended to be alone (or at least I was reminded of this fact). Solitude can be a wonderful thing and continues to be an important element of "who I am".  But our real development and growth occurs, in my opinion, when we try to share our life with another.  You learn sacrifice, compromise, the transition of love from a conditional state to an unconditional one, charity, patience, long-suffering, faith, hope, and true and lasting joy whilst attempting to create, nurture and strengthen love and dependency on another human being.  And it manifest itself in many facets of my life: trips became more hollow, food tasted more dull, experiences became a shadow of their former selves - all indications that I was transitioning from a state of solitude to a period of loneliness.  I believe it was simply the passage of time or perhaps a sub-conscious healing process taking place "behind the scenes" but I found myself not just willing to try trusting another but actually desiring that opportunity and chance.

    The danger with that transformation (from solitude to loneliness) is that it can tempt you to move more quickly than your able/capable.  I observe people who leave one impossible relationship, claim they're going to "enjoy their down-time", and then rush headlong into an equally impossible situation because, deep down, they were so unaccustomed and uncomfortable with being alone.  Quite simply, they had never learned how to exist, survive, or thrive in a state of solitude.  I don't want that for myself.  I certainly didn't get married to get divorced and I'm genuinely hoping to avoid making a similar mistake a second time.  This means I must learn patience, must continue to practice the art of solitude for those times when a dating relationship doesn't work out.  It also means I observe through my interactions with friends, with dates, with everyone - what is it that I'll need in another to sustain my dependence and my desire to become one with another.  A sense of attraction, both physical and substantive?  Mutual sense of humor, mutual interests, mutual values?  Perspective?  And, of course, how we view the concepts of solitude and loneliness?  Finding compatibility in these areas will help make the transition for me a smooth one, will offer opportunities to be reminded of all the things I feel I've been missing about being in a relationship but to be able to do it in a way that allows for a gradual shifting vs. dropping off a cliff of expected change.

    So I currently sit somewhere in the middle of this transformation.  I still enjoy my solitude and fill my "alone time" with experiences and activities that are self-fulfilling (organic cooking, a new workout routine, a December dive trip to the Bahamas "just because", etc.) but I'm equally excited about the prospect of finding someone to share many of these experiences with, a person I'm attracted to, that makes me laugh, that makes me want to be a better provider, better supporter, better man for.  And there's no rush and there's no time limit.  Because even if I go years without meeting someone that truly accomplishes all of those things for me and I for her - I value and appreciate what can be realized and accomplished on my own as well...

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Restless at the gym...

    Okay, readers, prepare yourself.  I'm feeling a bit of a rant coming - this should be interesting...

    I enjoy working out.  This wasn't always the case.  When younger I was always drawn to sports and athletics in general but I found weightlifting or pure cardio activities boring (unless a soccer ball, basketball, or racquet was involved).  As I've aged I've gotten more into running, lifting weights, P90x, etc.  Someone suggested about a year ago I consider joining a gym, specifically Lifetime Fitness (think mega-gym) and the idea made perfect sense.  They have a lot more equipment, different exercise options, training programs, multiple pools, a rock-climbing wall, basketball/squash courts, sauna/steam room, etc., etc.  And it's great because they're open 24/7 which, for those of you that know my sleep schedule, is a dream come true.  Get home from NY at midnight and want to workout?  No problem!  Wake up at 2am and can't sleep and get this goofy urge to swim?  No problem!  You get the idea, right?  And the staff are friendly, they have a cafe that serves really healthy foods, a spa - everything is absolutely perfect!  Except...

    Now I don't know about you but when I go to a gym it's for the purpose of actually doing gym-related activities, like lifting the weights, playing hoops, swimming laps - you know, those kind of things.  And while engaging in these activities, it seems to me that, naturally, I will quietly go about my routine, being friendly, of course, but essentially concentrating on my progress.  I am regularly frustrated to discover that I appear to be in the minority in this regard - at least at certain times of the day - and that "going to the gym" apparently means a variety of different things to different people.  Being the ever-observant blogger, I decided to conduct some anthropological field research and here are a few of the classifications I've discovered.  Perhaps you know individuals that fit nicely into some of these categories:

    • The Alpha Male/Female - these individuals defy description; they are ginormous, have clearly taken the concept of lifting to new extremes and are pushing the proverbial envelope on the threshold of appropriate physique; most likely pumped full of 'roids; they don't have regular jobs, as I see them there literally at all times of day and, considering I'm usually at the gym for 2-3 hours, amazed to see that they're already there when I arrive and remain there likely well after I depart; did I mention the suspected steroid abuse?  no question - totally juiced...
    • Vanity's Fare - I'm sure I could come up with a better label with time but I'm annoyed and not thinking clearly; these people suck; I humbly submit that they look at the gym as some form of "bar minus the alcohol"; they walk around for several hours - near the workout equipment, but rarely ever "utilizing" the exercise equipment; they are here to be seen, prowling around the equipment closest to the stairs leading into the workout area lurking like vultures for any unsuspecting members of the opposite (or potentially same - I don't judge) sex to initiate their pre-mating rituals; no hair is out of place, no sweat appears on their brow, no resistance to their muscles is actually achieved (I actually witnessed one girl at the water fountain spritzing a little moisture on her face to create the appearance of having perspired before walking over to ask an intended victim for advice on properly using the thigh machine); oh yes, and they average approximately 300 glances in the mirror per 15 minutes - they are the self-sycophants, the narcissistic non-exercisers...
    • The "Lifetime Lions" - these are individuals who rely on auditory volume to somehow validate their workout; they are loud, VERY loud - grunting with each curl, screaming with each rep, and shouting at the end of each set; they feel the need to drop the dumbbells on the floor vs. actually setting them down in the hopes it'll attract attention and then they stand there desperately wanting to appear in "full focus" in spite of the fact one eye is constantly scanning for onlookers; they also tend to try and exercise as close as possible to the Alpha Fe(Male) crowd in the false hope that they will be perceived as one and the same with this group through some spatial/societal osmosis - sorry but it ain't happening; I make it a point to have earphones in at all times to cancel out the noise caused by this group - it would be overwhelming without them...
    • The Idiots - harsh name, I realize, but read on; this is the small demographic that show up at the gym completely clueless about how to use the equipment, what is the appropriate weight, what they should do first - and rather than actually ask a staff member, mind you, they will opt to create a veritable safety hazard, endangering themselves and others with their constant yet misguided attempts to figure it out on their own; these are the morons making the YouTube highlight reel - flipping off the treadmills, nearly suffocating themselves with a overweighted bar on the bench as they didn't consider the need for a "spotter"; these are the ones that take dumbbells off the main storage area and then proceed to do their exercises DIRECTLY IN FRONT of the dumbbell storage where everyone is attempting to access the other weights but can't as they are blocked by...well...an idiot
    • The Radicals (COPS candidates) - you have to pay attention to catch members of this particular group in routine; in short, this group is angry, and the anger started well before they entered the gym; they are exercising for a purpose - most likely one we'll be reading about in the criminal offenders section of the paper; they have the "stare" and a constantly mean, violent expression on their faces from the moment they start their routine to the moment they leave the gym; every rep, every exercise is a means to an end, a process working towards some calculated goal - and likely not to a better physique or a healthier lifestyle but rather the burning down of a neighbor's home, or the Rambo-like killing spree they're planning; in a word, skeevy (I try not to find myself in the locker room alone with members of this band - particularly after 9pm...
    • The SmartPhone Addicts - last but not least these are the individuals that bring their work/social media activities to the gym - literally; they have their iPods with them at all times but rather than using them for music to ease their workout routines, they are incessantly texting their small universe of contacts, sending/receiving emails, participating on a conference call where they feel the need (like the "Lifetime Lions") to project their voices in a manner in which everyone in a 50 foot radius knows that they are working and, at least in their own minds, extremely important; this group likely intends to work out for 30-45 minutes yet manages at best a cumulative 5-7 minutes of actual exercise due to their constant self-interrruptions to engage in the aforementioned activities; tempted as a social experiment to "accidentally" knock the phone out of the hands of one of the members of this group simply to observe if their head will explode, or if they will come unplugged as if out of a hypnotic fog like in The Matrix and find themselves liberated to likely join one of the other groups listed - hmmmm, tempting!

    I anticipate I will discover new and equally interesting species during my future workouts.  While occasionally annoying, they are actually harmless and do provide welcome distractions at times from the rigors of my exercise routine.  Needless to say, I am likely the poster child for some other gym-classification that escaped my creative mind but likely finds itself listed in some other member's blog as being equally annoying and obtrusive to their routine.  Now, do you mind?  I want to finish these last few reps...     : )



    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Redneck and Restless

    They're VERY selective...
    Allow me to thwart a stereotype...

    I spent most of my childhood and formidable years in the South: Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas (North and South).  Granted, I've lived in other places: New Jersey, Utah, Germany, Brazil - but the majority of my life can be traced back to the lower right-hand corner of these United States.

    This makes me Southern - a Southerner, or Southern gentleman, if you prefer.  A good ole' country boy (to quote John Denver).  I am not, however, a true through-and-through redneck.  Sorry to disappoint.

    Now don't get me wrong, I don't consider the label of "redneck" to be insulting, at least not in these parts. It's simply that I no longer qualify for the title, given my completion of higher education and the fact that I've traveled and lived beyond the Mason-Dixon line.  I'm now only eligible for 'honorary guest' status to the redneck fraternity, thus allowing the order to maintain the rigorous eligibility/membership requirements needed for this rare privilege.  Additionally, I've lost my Southern accent with all the moving around, thus raising many an eyebrow amongst the local constituency.

    No explanation needed
    I'm proud of my heritage, proud of the culture of this great part of the world.  And, truth be told, I'm envious of many rednecks I was raised with and consider my friends.  There's is such a simple life, unfettered by the demands of high society, regular grooming, fashion sense.  One have only turn to the likes of Larry the Cable Guy (actually a guy named Daniel Lawrence Whitney from - are you ready for this??? - NEBRASKA), Jeff Foxworthy (master of the comedic art of identifying rednecks within the general populace), Ray Stevens, or Rodney Carrington to gain a richer appreciation and understanding of their fascinating and wonderful culture.

    And who's to say that each of ya'll might not have an ounce or two of redneck in ya' (see how smoothly I transition to the mode of speaking).  It's mighty easy to tell, I reckon.  Just take a gander at the following list of questions:

    Redneck "Dipping Pool"

    1. Do you live (or have you lived) in the Southeastern United States?
    2. Do you reside in a bulk-manufactured residence (mobile home, trailer, modular home)?
    3. Do you tend to gravitate towards Country Music Television (CMT), Turner South, or other channels that pride themselves on regular showings of "Matlock", "Beverly Hillbillies", "Hee Haw", or "The Dukes of Hazzard"?
    4. Do you find yourself shopping most frequently at Wal-Mart, Super Wal-Mart, or "Piggly Wiggly"?
    5. Are you a rabid NASCAR fan?  Are you unusually obsessed with the Earnhardt family?
    6. Do you have an affection for eating at the following establishments: Cracker Barrel, Waffle House (or Huddle House for those with less-refined palates), Stuckey's, Shoney's, Po'Folks, Logan's Roadhouse?
    7. Do you have an unusually large collection of ball caps, beer logos, or confederate flag memorabilia in your home?
    8. Do you lean towards the musical offerings of Lynrd Skynrd, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams, ZZTop,  the Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eagles, The Georgia Satellites, George Thorogood, Kid Rock, Steve Miller Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, or the like?
    While not intended to be an exhaustive list, it does begin to separate the wheat from the tares, as it were.  For those of you alarmed to be answering "yes" to some or many of the questions above, don't panic.  This doesn't mean you're necessarily full-blooded, down-home, trailer trash deceiving the masses in the Northeast, or on the West coast.  You're not infected, and it's not contagious.  Take pride, as I do, that you have a little "redneck" in you.  You're still a country-mile away from full initation.  As stated earlier, the application process is fierce...

    Director of Admissions


    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    My new hobby/passion/obsession...

    For those of you that don't know me so well, I lived in the US Virgin Islands (St. Croix) from 2007-2009 when I changed jobs to work for Stanford Financial Group.  Needless to say, working and living in the Caribbean is just one of those things that everybody should get to do at least once in their career.  I loved being Cruzan - even if just temporarily.  The food, the culture, the friendliness of the locals, and especially the pace.



    As you've read from my earlier entries, I'm also a bit of a rolling stone - not one to sit around collecting dust (or is it moss?).  For a number of years, I've had a personal goal to try something new and a little "out there" each year.  So, naturally, finding myself in St. Croix made my choice relatively easy - I needed to try my hand at scuba diving.


    I therefore threw myself into the needed preparations and research for this new adventure.  And let me tell you, it's not as simple as strapping on tank, mask and fins and giving it a go.  There's classroom preparation, study of water/pressure principles, safety concerns, precaution checks.  And that's a good thing because the last thing you want to feel when a problem occurs 100 feet below the surface or when facing a grinning shark is unprepared.


    Unfortunately, my timing was off and I found myself leaving the island with only the classwork completed - not the actual dive training and certification.  So, of course, new resolution.  I vowed I would be certified and diving before Jan 1, 2011.  And, lo and behold, mission accomplished!  I haven't looked back since - it's my new obsession.


    Since then, I've added the following certifications: Advanced Open Water, Enriched Air, Wreck Specialty, Boat Specialty and have plans to knock out Rescue, Night, and Underwater Photography this summer.  I've also booked an "all-about-me" vacation in the Bahamas where I'll spend eight glorious days on the live aboard, AquaCat - five dives a day including shipwrecks, diving with sharks, cave diving, night diving, basically "insert anything you can imagine" diving.  I'm counting the days.  And my 2012 resolution is to return from this trip a Master Diver - and then the fun really begins!


    Why the obsession?  Hard to pick just one thing.  It's the thrill of exploring an entirely new environment, of seeing a part of the planet that's been there forever but is largely untapped.  It's the thrill and freedom of swimming through a underwater wreck - exploring passageways armed with a light and safety line; or venturing through an underwater cavern - marveling at the formations, the marine life, the brilliant colors. There's also the camaraderie of connecting with fellow diving enthusiasts - believe me, a FUN group of people to know.


    I'm planning on buying a new underwater housing for my Nikon camera, followed by a light kit and ports to accommodate my different lenses.  This means I'll be able to marry my legacy passion - photography - with my latest one.  Color me excited!!!  


    So, if you've been pining for a new adventure, an "off the beaten path" sorta thrill, check out diving - you'll be glad you did!!!


    P.S.  Have to give a special shout out to all the staff and folks at SeaVentures Aquatic Center in Alpharetta, GA.  They continue to feed my obsession with incredible inventory, great training, expert maintenance and upkeep on my gear, and amazing trips to the Keys and my upcoming Bahamas trip in December.  So, to Claude, Ben, Marvin, Winston, Cat, and the rest of the gang:  I love you guys!!!   www.seaventures.com

    Sunday, May 6, 2012

    My take on Plato...

    To understand my position on this particular entry we must begin with a quick overview of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.  If familiar, read on.  If not, click the following link:


    With that out of the way, let me provide my own take on how so many among us fall victim to remaining chained in the proverbial cave when the wonderful outside world beckons us to see beyond the parameters of our understanding and comfort...

    I've been blessed to travel - to live and work and play in places around the world.  I've eaten strange foods, been exposed to amazing cultures, music and people who live and operate in ways both strange to me yet fascinating.  I've seen the hand of God in our landscapes - the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, the hallowed peaks of the Alps, the serenity of snow-covered valleys in the Rockies, the dormant volcano of Tagaytay ensconced by a beautiful lake in the Philippines.  I've attempted to learn four languages (aside from English) in the hopes of communicating more thoroughly, more genuinely with the peoples I encounter.  And with all that, I feel I've barely scratched the surface.  My bucket-list runneth over - and the clock is ticking...

    And then I meet or hear about people who have lived their entire lives without traveling outside the counties where they were born - whose entire universe is comprised of several small towns in a rural part of the country.  And not because they haven't the means to travel beyond these borders.  Instead, it's due largely to their lack of enthusiasm or interest in knowing more than what they do.  They're content with their miniaturized world - their reality television and People/Star magazines - their routine.  And it saddens me, not in a judgmental way but in the way Plato's escaped prisoner was saddened...

    Believe me, I'm in no position to judge.  I imagine there are many ways I remain one of those chained prisoners without an understanding or appreciation of an expanding sense of perspective.  Maybe in politics? philosophy? relationships (sting)?  Have I truly stepped out of my cave and attempted to explore the possibilities that exist like those who show courage and take risk?  Have you?

    The beauty of parables and allegories is the myriad of interpretations or "takeaways" that can be formed, largely driven by the capacity or nature of the reader.  You might watch the clip and see a completely different perspective - and that's the cool part!  But for me, I see the narrow-mindedness and intentional blindness of so many who choose to limit the boundaries of their universe and not allow the gift of seeing beyond the confines of their cave.  There's an amazing world out there!  Shake off the shackles of narrow-mindedness, routine, and isolationist thought and be amazed, be challenged, be touched by the beauty of variety and grow from it.  Dare to answer Robert Frost's challenge to take the road less traveled by - it will truly make all the difference...

    At the risk of my Man Card...



    Where and when was it written that men were either incapable or unwilling to be in touch with their emotions, to be sensitive and caring, or to be able to express themselves openly about such topics as intimacy, relationship insecurities, and aspirations about romance?  Who actually subscribes to the malarky that, if you're a guy, that gene simply doesn't exist in your DNA?  And why is it that the very women who claim and complain that men are incapable of demonstrating or revealing these sensitivities are the very same ones that run for the hills when they encounter a sensitive guy?  Something is amiss...



    So a few revelations (fellas, pay attention).  I'm a sucker for a good romantic comedy - I enjoy them, always have.  Billy Crystal and Debra Winger, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, John Cusack and (insert actress here) - you know the movies I'm referring to.  Amelie, Roxanne, Sabrina; Serendipity, Sleepless, Forget Paris - these are movies that elevate the heart and demonstrate cinematically the potential in all of us to seek and find a soulmate and together enrich each other's lives.  Yes, I realize it's Hollywood and yes, I understand that life doesn't emulate the movies.  But are you honestly expecting me to believe that you haven't daydreamed or fantasized about falling in love the way these films depict?

    Let me bring this dangerously personal.  I was married at 22 and divorced at 26.  Without going into all the gory details, the divorce was extremely hurtful and adversely impacted my desire to love openly and completely for quite some time.  Because I was unwilling to trust, I chose not to date, instead throwing myself into work and other pursuits.  In truth, I was afraid - fearful of getting hurt like that again, scared of being unable to recover emotionally a second time.  And we're not talking a few months or even a year or two; I didn't actively date for about nine years!!  Do the math and you realize I missed my 20s and early 30s with all the possibilities of amazing romance and a whole slew of potential soul mates.  Tick tock...tick tock...   : )

    I had about a decade of missed time and opportunities all bottled up which probably made me a threat to myself and a danger to others.  And, unfortunately, my first attempts at dating left a few victims (sorry to those that know who you are - it wasn't you; it was all me).  But despite the lost time and in spite of the challenging marriage and dating attempts, the romantic in me has remained.  I don't care what people intimate - I want the fairy tale.  I need the fireworks, the moment where my breath is taken away, where I meet someone and for the first time in my recorded history, am at a loss for words (that would TRULY be apocalyptic).

    I've been back in the dating world for about six years.  I've had the chance of meeting a number of very interesting, attractive women (again, you know who you are...).  Most (not all) are surprised by how openly I articulate my feelings on relationships and intimacy - to the point of discomfort.  Apparently, they are unaccustomed to a guy that's as open and expressive with his feelings, that chooses to postulate on feelings of the heart.  I must have missed the chapter in the ManCard Playbook - where only grunting, burping, and discussing power tools, ESPN, or the rack on the hot Hooters waitress is tolerable...  And I'm totally cool with that...

    I can't imagine I'm the only guy that's like this.  I can't believe that I'm the one romantic in a sea of testosterone-laden, shark-infested manhood.  But, even if I am, I have no intentions of changing my behavior, of pretending to be or feel something I'm not.  The RomComs will continue to be a source of inspiration and longing (c'mon, Nicholas Sparks - do your worst); the hopes of being awe-struck by an amazing woman and wanting to sweep her off her feet, send her flowers, make her laugh, love her with all of me - these interests and desires are an important aspect of my DNA.  I could no sooner discard the mantle of "corporate recruiter" or "father" than I could abandon my proud label, "hopeless romantic".

    So, ladies, be so kind as to pick a lane!  You claim you want sensitivity, passion, romance.  Make good on that claim and continue to positively encourage those few men like me that seek the same things.  Cultivate and nurture whatever is at the root of it and hopefully it will germinate and spread to more and more men over time.  Fellas, don't be afraid to raise your hand and declare your sensitivity, your romantic side.  Laugh a little when 'The Proposal' is on television, and know that it's okay to get "eye-condensation" during the emotional parts.  You won't spontaneously combust or melt away - promise!

    The world's women truly want an emotionally confident guy?  Prove it...

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    Rare and precious

    Did you ever see, "Dead Poet's Society"?  Fairly popular movie in its day.  Robin Williams plays a prep school teacher responsible for molding young men at a very expensive, very private institution.  And while his teaching style is unorthodox, he successfully touches the lives of the boys he instructs, encouraging them to think, act, live, and love for themselves rather than fall into the mainstream trap of the privileged, the "men of industry".

    Link to the "Carpe Diem" monologue (watch me!)

    One of my favorite scenes is the first day of class, more affectionately known as the "Carpe Diem" monologue.  He escorts the boys out of the classroom without so much as an introduction, walks them into the main hall and encourages them to look at the "accolade display" case (every school has one) and ponder the faces of all the students who had come before, some many, many years ago.  He then reminds them that the faces in the case, though young-looking, are now feeding worms and flowers as they've died years ago - their time and opportunity to make a contribution now passed.  Therefore, "Seize the Day", boys...gather ye rosebuds while ye may...make your lives extraordinary.  Consider the following:

    O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
    Of the endless trains of the faithless–of cities fill’d with the foolish;
    Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
    Of eyes that vainly crave the light–of the objects mean–of the struggle ever renew’d;
    Of the poor results of all–of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
    Of the empty and useless years of the rest–with the rest me intertwined;
    The question, O me! so sad, recurring–What good amid these, O me, O life?

    Answer.

    That you are here–that life exists, and identity;
    That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

    Few moments in a film have touched me the way Prof. Keating's (R. Williams) message has.  It's like the Parable of the Talents from the New Testament or any such story of recognizing the rare and precious gift that is every moment in a life on earth and making the most of them.  It's "Tuesdays with Morrie" where you can celebrate a life lived and not wasted, the times when your soul connected with the hearts and minds of other souls, where you learn that we're all part of the same plan, that it's in our mutual best interest to help each other along the path, and that the greatest moments come in the small and humble exchanges with a true friend...

    I, therefore, live and love to try new things, to seize each day and not feel I'm wasting my time nor the gifts and talents I've been afforded.  It drives me, it drives how I try and raise my son and it allows for a rich fabric of memories and experiences that form the content of my own "display case" - the mental pictures and trophies of people I've touched and that have touched me, of adventures realized, of love, of loss, of a life lived fully.  I'm certainly not perfect and imagine I often fall short.  But ever do I hear Robin Williams' voice in my head - and that spurs me onward and upward.

    Last night I accepted an invitation to watch the Eagles perform in concert.  40 years of entertaining and thrilling fans around the globe and last night was my first chance to see them live and enjoy their talent firsthand.  Today will be golf with my buddies - guys I genuinely enjoy being around, joking with, and learning from.  Then sushi with friends (glorious sushi).  And then a block party in the subdivision of a new friend where the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo will be celebrated and tribute rendered - the chance to meet all new people and form new relationships.  This will be my verse today - what will your verse be???    : )