The Blog

sunset photoI’ve never been a fan of horror movies. Why are they considered entertainment? I suppose I could ask the millions of people who would classify them that way. But no. That’s how not interested I am. I won’t even watch trailers for scary movies.

Funny thing about deciding what you’ll let in. It becomes a habit. I don’t get together with other people on Friday evenings, for example, to complain about our bosses during a supposed happy hour. I’m busy prepping for two hours of conversation the next day -- with fascinating people who might make you mighty glad you tuned in, too.

No wonder I never crave “small talk.” The point is what, exactly?

But silly? I’ll take a steady diet, please. After I check the weather in the morning I head over to The Onion. After that I stay current on news and so on by scrolling through Twitter once in a while -- but that’s mostly for the silly, too.

I remember being in elementary school and feeling so lucky I had a seat in back, close to a couple of guys who were hilarious.

You need that. And these days, you’re never more than a few clicks away.

You could set a clock to it. If I’m not forging ahead with what I’ve set out to do, some silly little drama appears out of nowhere and threatens to hijack my brain. But if I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing? It’s as if the heavens keep those dramas at bay: “Leave her alone. She’s working.”

“If you aren’t playing a big enough game, you’ll mess up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do.” Ever heard that? Does it ring as true for you as it does me?

I’m working on such interesting problems at the moment, and I’d forgotten how much I love those. They’re changing how I feel about life. I used to get depressed at still another workout with weights, for example. I’ve been doing them since I was fourteen, and I’m bored. But lately I’ve found meaning in them, too. They’re soothing. I show up, do the reps, let my mind wander -- and play. I solve problems during my workouts, many more than I solve in front of my screens. Maybe you’ve noticed that yourself. You have to put in the screen time, granted -- but your brain keeps going after you give the screens a rest. It’s magic.

Really, it is.

When I’m having breakfast at a hotel, you won’t find me blocking the area in front of the toaster while I wait for whatever it is to pop out. If I bump into you I’ll apologize, and I’m not going to hog what’s left of the fruit.

But if I’m struggling to peel a hard-boiled egg, don’t feel like you have to engage me about it. Yes, I’ll acknowledge you said something. No, I won’t suggest you keep going.

I used to feel guilty for not being more, quote, sociable -- but Katie fixed that. She pointed out what I hadn’t thought to articulate about a guy who weighed in on the eggs during breakfast recently: “It begs a response.”

Good point!

I wasn’t sitting there by myself, after all, looking forlorn and in need of company. Darrell and Katie and I were having our usual sparkling conversation, and this guy just barged in. As infractions go, this wouldn’t count no matter how you define the term. I just find it interesting I was bashing myself for not being more friendly, only to have Kate suggest I consider the opposite. No wonder people love being around her. She helps them go easier on themselves.

Katie reminded me I’m as likely as anyone to compliment a server, crack a joke in the elevator, or ask a question when the speaker’s clearly hoping someone will.

I’m friendly. Too friendly? Not if you ask Egg Man, granted.

But friendly!

It happens almost every time I see Katie’s former teachers around town. I’ll smile big and -- with just that one gesture -- remind them all over again how much we appreciate their work and that time. They’ll give me the biggest smile back. And why wouldn’t they? I can’t think of a single one of them who didn’t offer to adopt her.

When I kind of keep going, as if I’ll leave it at that -- with a smile -- something interesting happens. You can almost see the relief on their faces. And why not? If every teacher had to engage with every parent of every student in every class they’d never be able to finish their errands.

I’m fond of suggesting you not add to people’s clutter and write a letter of appreciation instead. I think the same is true for the chance encounters. Have you ever spent time in a middle school classroom? It’s exhausting! Why add to the stress by insisting on an impromptu parent-teacher conference when someone would rather just grab her milk and bread and get on with her day?

Friendly is subjective.

What bugs you?
April 27, 2017

flowers 640x480I ran into someone I know at the grocery store recently. Nothing too unusual about that.

Oh, wait. I take that back. It is kind of unusual because I usually time my errands so as not to run into people I know. That’s one reason I love New York. To borrow from an actress: “It’s the only place I can be alone.”

Back to the grocery store. I saw the woman rounding the corner by the fish freezer, but I didn’t recognize her. She looked vaguely familiar -- like I should’ve known her, but I didn’t. So I smiled and said hi and just kind of kept going. People in town know me from my radio work and the cable-access television show we used to do, many more people than I know. So this was pretty standard, the friendly “hi” without engaging.

A few steps later it hit me -- this was the gal who’d come to one of my presentations and had told me how much she loved my radio show. We’d bumped into each other many times after that, years ago, and we always stopped for a quick chat.

Now what? A few minutes later, at the checkouts and with so many other people swirling around, I tried to make it up. It was awkward, though. The moment had passed.

So I sent her a letter! It wasn’t long, but I wrote it that night and mailed it the next day. I’ll spare you the details, but sweetness ensued.

If I’m tempted to tell someone off, I almost always put it off for a day or a week or a life. The feeling almost always passes. But if I feel like I’ve blown someone off? I can’t fix it soon enough.

A career coach once told me something that rang true and broke my heart, how once you get to a certain age you don’t like being a beginner -- and that’s why you stop reaching. It isn’t even so much the cut in pay or status. It’s just painful. Or as I’ve heard it put: “You can’t be learning and looking cool at the same time.”

I let Darrell and Katie see me getting coached recently -- for eight hours! -- and there was precious little I’d put in the category of “looking cool.” Not only that, but the coach was someone I’ve gotten to know on the show and couldn’t hold in higher regard. It was, indeed, painful to let him to see me in need of so much help.

And yet, and yet…

What an early graduation present for Kate, to see me start a new chapter in my life on the eve of so many big changes in hers. What an early anniversary present for Darrell, to know things aren’t going to get less interesting on the home front. And what a sweet present for this professional dream I’ve had, to give it the attention of that most-amazing coach.

I don’t relish pain, but once in a while I find myself running toward it. I’m so proud of that.

What’s your aura?
April 25, 2017

It never fails. Every time we see Katie after being apart even a few weeks, I can’t believe how beautiful she is. It isn’t that we haven’t been in touch. We have. But the three-dimensional version of her is awe-inspiring. Yes, I’m biased. No, I’m not exaggerating.

She’s gone from little-girl cute to college-coed stunning to otherworldly. The last time we met up in our favorite spot not far from where she lives in Manhattan I couldn’t believe she was someone we knew, let alone know this well. Wasn’t she a movie star?

Ten seconds later I’d forgotten. Darrell had started teasing her and she was firing shots back so adeptly it was all we could do to stay upright given the laughter. Katie is, above all, silly.

She’s like Tim Conway. Do you remember those skits he used to do with Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman on Carol’s show? Hilarious.

You don’t have to be the best at what you do. If you’re silly enough it’ll help other people be at their best. Happiness is contagious.

“I would hate your job.”

Have you ever told someone that? If so, has anything bad happened? It hasn’t when I’ve used it. Waiters, customer service representatives, you name it. They’ve always given me the impression they appreciate me noticing how difficult their work can be. At the minimum they smile. But chances are they offer a little something back, about why the restaurant’s getting slammed or the computer system’s slow or whatever. Once in a while? They object. “I love my job!” they’ll say. And before I can ask them to elaborate, they elaborate. It’s great fun.

That’s how we recently got treated to more celebrity stories than you could fit into a supersized version of my favorite grab-and-go magazine, People. Our waitress had worked with the rich and famous in a job she had much earlier in her career. Her eyes just sort of twinkled with mischief as she gauged our interest. “Would you like me to dish?” she seemed to be saying. Oh, yes. Dish away.

I can’t remember whether I had dessert that evening. But I’ll never forget our waitress. She was sweet.