Friendship Friday

Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil. It is the sole remedy against misfortune, the very ventilation of the soul.

philosopher Balthasar Gracian

Thanks for reading, friends.

(HT to James Clear’s 3-2-1 weekly newsletter for the words of wisdom above.)

Semi-hillbilly and proud of it

When I three years old, my mom passed away. When I was six, my dad packed up his four kids (ages 9, 8, 6 and 4) and moved us from uber-urban Jersey City, New Jersey to really rural Hagarville, Arkansas. (Population: 300 if you count the cows.)

I like to call it a “reverse Beverly Hillbillies.” (Culturally, anyway… we never were rich.) I guess my dad wanted to get a fresh start of sorts.

I vividly remember the first day we went to our new home in Arkansas. The property was bordered on one side by a dirt road, and on another side by a cow pasture. There was a propane tank near the driveway… I thought it was a submarine. I got burrs in my socks from walking in the ankle-high weeds, and had no idea what they were. In some ways, I felt like I’d landed on another planet.

Like this, only with more chicken coops next door.

We gradually adjusted… I adopted the University of Arkansas Razorbacks as my college sports team, and I even had a slight Arkansas drawl when I moved away to go to college in Cincinnati.

But the “Land of Opportunity” never quite felt like home, mainly because we were “Yankees” and had no relatives within 600 miles in a place where so many of the ties that bind have to do with close kinfolk.

“Seems the land of opportunity for me is just a curse” – John Hiatt in “Tennessee Plates”

However, it was a good place for four motherless kids to grow up. We could be what I like to call “free range children.” Hiking, biking, fishing… exploring the world without adult supervision and learning more about self-reliance.

I’ve only been back once since 1985. Dad’s long gone, my siblings live elsewhere, and the house is slowly being reclaimed by nature (watch out for the burrs!). “There is no there there” as Gertrude Stein famously said.

But I still have a soft spot in my heart for The Natural State. It’s where I went from a boy to a… er, boyish man (and not a “Mannish Boy”).

So when I heard a new tune called “Arkansas” by Chris Stapleton, I got excited. Especially because it rocks.

When I worked as a lifeguard for a couple summers at the city pool in Morrilton, Arkansas, the city employee who managed the pool would switch the radio station playing on the P.A. system from rock to country… and I’d raise holy hell. I remember him telling me “when you get older, you’re gonna like country music.” I still don’t care for mainstream country music (a.k.a. “bro country”) at all, but Stapleton’s not mainstream.

“Arkansas” is on Chris’ new release, which is really good from start to finish. The album is called Starting Over. That reminds me of Arkansas too.

The Tom Petty Diet

You hear a lot about “eating clean” these days.

But what are you feeding your brain? Check out this clip from the Broken Record podcast — it’s an episode with Tom Petty’s daughter Adria, and she talks about how her dad fed his brain and nourished his soul:

I love that clip! First of all, I love Tom Petty, and I think this clip helps explain how he was able to continue to make great music for 40 years.

“He would feed the well with only this really, really good information, and take all the rest away. He didn’t really take a lot of noise and negativity into his diet.”

Adria Petty, talking about her father Tom

[Semi-sidebar: The Broken Record podcast is great if you’re a music fan. You’ll find interviews with established artists like Bruce Springsteen and Santana, and up-and-coming artists like S.G. Goodman and Deep Sea Diver. If you’re a Tom Petty fan, you’ll love the episode with Adria, as well as the interviews with Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Check it out.]

Even if you’re not an aspiring rock star, there’s a lot to learn from TP on how to “eat clean” for your mind, your heart and your soul. It’s way too easy to binge on empty calories… endlessly snacking (or doomscrolling) on tweets, spending hours at the all-you-can-eat Facebook buffet, sucking down pop culture listicles, stuffing yourself with “reality” TV, bellying up to the 24/7 news bar. There are countless temptations that can consume endless hours of your time on earth, and they mostly just weigh you down with “noise and negativity” as Adria put it.

Instead, take a cue from Tom Petty, and read a good book, watch a classic movie or a documentary, listen to some great music.

If you eat clean, you’ll feel better.

Wally-World… or zero degrees of separation

40 years ago, the movie Stripes started shooting in Louisville, Kentucky. And my buddy Walter was in it – he shot a scene with Bill Murray.

Walt’s scene is one of the first ones in the movie – he and another kid get in Bill Murray’s cab, then run away without paying the fare when they reach their destination.

White pants were “in” back in 1980!

A TV station is Louisville published some archival footage of the 1980 news story about the movie production. Wally’s interviewed in this clip:

You’d think that brush with stardom would be enough for one person. But no, that’s not how Walter rolls. You see, when Wally was just a wee lad, his parents were close friends with another family that had a son a year or two older than Walter. Kid’s name was Tom. Tom Cruise. I hear he turned out to be quite the party boy in high school.

Walter has a picture of him and Tom Cruise together, from Wally’s 6th birthday party.

Walter also was a high school football star in Louisville. And he’s been an attorney, a teacher, a football coach, and a border patrol agent. He’s packed a lot of action into his 56 years.

Ol’ Willie Shakes is right, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”… but in my next life, I want Walter’s agent.

It’s all over but the crying…

None of us should be surprised that Donald Trump is protesting the election results. It’s par for the course for “Denyin’ Donnie.” Oh, and speaking of par for the course:

The Trumpster Fire’s ego won’t allow him to admit defeat. It should come as a shock to absolutely no one. He and his nattering nabobs of negativism (and nepotism too!) have been denying science for four years (climate change, COVID), so why should we expect them to accept simple math.

Maybe instead of watching Faux News, Denyin’ Donnie should change the channel to Sesame Street and brush up on his counting skills.

“You lost by nearly six million… ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

True to form, the alleged “leaders” within the hollowed out husk of what once was the Republican party (Turtle Boy Mitch and his reptile friends) are aiding and abetting the latest Trump Tantrum. Because they care more about political power than they care about doing the right thing.

It’d be “sad, very sad” if it weren’t so nefarious.

“The result is crystal clear and, yet, the incumbent is creating ambiguity by baseless claims.”

 Ryan Enos, a Harvard social scientist

“I would not consider this a grassroots movement by any means. Stop the Steal is a highly coordinated partisan political operation intent on bringing together conspiracy theorists, militias, hate groups and Trump supporters to attack the integrity of our election.”

Ben Decker, the CEO and founder of Memetica, a digital investigations consultancy, in this CNN article.

Here are the facts, from a joint statement from ELECTIONS INFRASTRUCTURE GOVERNMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL & THE ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE SECTOR COORDINATING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES:

The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result.

When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.

Maybe it’s better that Denyin’ Donnie is focused on fake fraud. It’ll leave him with less time to fire more government employees who have “betrayed” him, take away healthcare from millions during a pandemic, gut any remaining regulations that hamstring the unfettered greed his cronies, and pardon the unpardonable (including himself).

He had all the answers

Alex Trebek passed away Sunday. We all know him as the longtime host of Jeopardy. But we old timers also remember him as the host of The Wizard of Odds and High Rollers.

Comedians have been parodying him for decades.

I’ll admit, I took some shots at him… to me, he sometimes came across as pompous or condescending. I thought “heck, it’s easy to be a know-it-all when you have all the answers written down in front of you.”

But I do think he softened up over time. And think about this: every show was different, and featured more than 60 clues, across all sorts of categories. Alex really had to know his stuff – and he used his voice and diction more than any other host in game show history. Every word of every clue mattered.

Pat Sajak can phone it in on Wheel of Fortune, because every show is rather rote. If you’ve hosted one Wheel, you’ve hosted ’em all. In fact, that show could arguably go on without a host. But Alex Trebek had to know the categories, the clues, the pronunciation, he had to do math on the fly for daily double wagers… he made it seem easy, but there was a lot of prep work involved.

Four on the (flour-covered) floor

Our youngest kid started his first real job this week. (I don’t count the weekly community newpaper route he had for a couple of years, because a parent had to drive him around for that.) He’s 15 and a half now, and he’s working at a restaurant. The same restaurant where his 17-year-old sister works. Oh, and his 19-year-old brother… and his 20-year-old brother as well.

Yes, we’ve got a real pizza parlor pipeline going on. (Uh, not like the hoax one in D.C.) Our oldest even serves as the shift manager a couple of nights a week.

My kids are all gainfully employed. I love it! (So does my wallet!)

Ramundo’s is about five blocks from our house — easy walking distance (although our kids rarely walk it). The business is still doing well during the pandemic (more deliveries, less dine-in), the owners are great folks and they treat their employees well. (“They’re making tons of dough!” #DadJoke)

Photo source: New York Times… that means it’s New York style pizza

There’s only one problem with this pizza payroll situation: some of the pizza slices that are left over at the end of the shift make their way into our house… and into my belly.

I suppose packing on a few extra pizza pounds is a small price to pay for having someone else pay my kids.

Voting rights… and wrongs

It’s Election Day in America.

Thanks to everyone who has voted early.

No thanks to partisan politicians who tried to make early voting more difficult.

Thanks to the poll workers – especially during the pandemic.

No thanks to anyone who shows up at the polls with a weapon, attempting to intimidate voters.

Thanks to the elected officials who represent their people.

No thanks to politicians who care more about power than principles.

Thanks to the League of Women Voters for providing information to help voters make informed decisions.

No thanks to PACs and dark money, who fill airwaves, mailboxes and the internet with lies and half-truths.

Thanks to fair elections.

No thanks to the power brokers who have gerrymandered districts to give them an unfair advantage.

Thanks to the American people for voting.

No thanks to foreign countries trying to influence, interfere with, or even hack our elections.

Thanks for democracy. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a privilege to have it.

Make nature your office, or at least make your office nature-like

A silver lining of the dark pandemic cloud is the fact that more folks are taking walks and/or hikes.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks.”

 John Muir, July 19, 1877

This white paper is about the benefits of designing work environments to help us reconnect with the elements of nature – what’s known as biophilic design.

Biophilia is the humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instill fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects. 

From the Terrapin Bright Green term paper linked above

If the entire white paper is too dense for you (I get it… “dense” is my middle name), at least read the introduction. (It’s where I cribbed the John Muir quote above as well as the passage above and below.)

TL;DR version:

Biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, improve our well-being and expedite healing; as the world population continues to urbanize, these qualities are ever more important. Given how quickly an experience of nature can elicit a restorative response, and the fact that U.S. businesses squander billions of dollars each year on lost productivity due to stress-related illnesses, design that reconnects us with nature – biophilic design – is essential for providing people opportunities to live and work in healthy places and spaces with less stress and greater overall health and well-being.

And if you’re currently stuck in a home office in your basement (or closet – I’ve seen it on Zoom meeting), get up and get moving. Go outside, find the nearest park, and spend some time reconnecting and re-communing with nature. It’ll do your head, your heart and your health a world of good.

Write, right?

“It’s the cheapest psychiatry there is. I love writing; it takes a lot off my shoulders. Everyone should write. There’s no way you can lie to yourself; you can try, but you know better. When you get it down on paper, it’s like you’ve taken off a load and you feel lighter. Confession is good for the soul; at least it is for my soul.”

Billy Joe Shaver

“Outlaw country” singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver passed away Wednesday at the age of 81. He led an interesting life for sure. This article from Paste provides a nice overview.

There was a lot of heartache too – especially losing his song Eddy, a great guitarist and his bandmate in Shaver, to the scourge of heroin.

Eddy died of a heroin overdose on New Year’s Eve, 2000. The father had a hard time surviving that blow, but as he did with all his crises, he wrote his way out of it. He turned that impossible pain into the elegiac song, “Star in My Heart,” that he sang at every show the rest of his life.

From the Paste article linked above.

Billy Joe Shaver has left us, but thanks to the writing he did, he’s gonna live forever.

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