The Story of Life as we Know It

We write the story of our life one thought, one daydream, one word at a time. I'm on my 50th draft of a story called "Barry" and it's very much a work in progress - red pens and Post-it notes everywhere. The older I get, the more I enjoy the revision process, asking "What if?" and "Why not?"

Monday, October 31, 2016

Live Like I'm Dying?

My oldest son recently asked if I'd take him skydiving. I'd been heard to brag I would jump from a plane if someone did it with me, but I was sure no one in my family would press the issue. Until now. David Jr. (21) is ahead of me (55) on his bucket list. The Tim McGraw song, "Live Like You Were Dying," sunk into his philosophical genes at an early age.  He was nine when the song debuted.

I booked a date in October and we drove an hour north of Birmingham on a bright autumn Friday, laughing nervously and listening to Lee Ann Womack sing "I Hope you Dance" and Keith Urban sing "John Cougar, John Deere, and John 3:16." We live close to Nashville, home to some of the best modern-day philosophers monetizing their gifts as song writers. 

Two rules for a successful tandem jump: don't grab your instructor's hands; and, lift your legs when you slide into a landing. Looking courageous on video involves two other guidelines: smile (so your face won't flap as much as you freefall at 120 mph), and never death-grip the door (not a moment worth capturing).  When my time came, I was more excited than nervous.

It was an absolute BLAST.  My younger son wants to go so we're heading back to Skydive Alabama the day after Thanksgiving. Even my wife says she'll give it a whirl.  Reminder: You are never too old to try something new, even something as outrageous (and exhilirating) as skydiving.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Midgets in the Mist

At an Internet marketing seminar, I bumped into an old friend (literally), someone I worked with thirty years ago. Our conversation included a fond memory from the fall of 1987 when we made a trip from Birmingham, Alabama, to Marin County just north of San Francisco, to learn how to draw on what was one of the most sophisticated computer graphics systems in the world at that time. Exciting work.

On our first morning, the hotel fire alarm went off around 6 a.m. I staggered about, hopping into jeans and pulling on a tee-shirt and then made my way out into the hall barefoot where a dozen midgets were blazing a trail to the exit door. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. In the parking lot - where there were at least another dozen midgets milling about - I looked around for my friend, who should have been pretty easy to spot in this crowd. When I found her, she was standing next to Ron Howard, a.k.a. Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham (or as Eddie Murphy might say, Opie Cunningham).

I rubbed my eyes again. I blinked. After making his acquaintance, I learned Mr. Howard was directing a film called "Willow" that was shooting in nearby Muir Woods. Before 6:05 a.m. on my first day in California, I stood in an asphalt jungle with midgets in the mist, experiencing a California film-world fantasy. It was a wonderful, spontaneous prologue for a day of high-speed training on high-tech computer graphics. Now, it's a memory I laugh about with my kids, a memory I almost filed too far back in the file drawer.

Do you have a funny memory you can share with someone today?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Your Most Embarassing Memory

In a group setting, I was recently asked about my most embarrassing moment.  I have a LOT to pick from, but this was the first thing that came to mind:

My gypsy family moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Hollywood, Florida when I was eleven. We quickly bought a house, enrolled in middle school and found a new church.  Prospects at Sheridan Hills Baptist made their way down a long aisle during the benediction to stand below the pulpit. The preacher made this an important part of the service by introducing each individual and saying something personal about them.  When it was time for the DeLoziers to be presented, the reverend turned his back to the congregation and moved down the line in front us, shaking hands and speaking. “Welcome Fred,” I heard him tell my father. “God bless you, Joyce,” he told my mother. “Jim, son, we’re glad to have you,” he told my brother. When he stood in front of me, he said, “Barry, your fly is unzipped. I'll stand here while you zip it." Sure enough, while the congregation sang "Just As I Am," I stood there just as I was, shirttail hanging out.

What's your most embarrassing memory?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pressure Sensitive Synchronicity

Ever feel in sync with time? You know, you glance at the clock throughout the day and it's on the hour exactly?  Happens to me often.  I have no problems sleeping through the night, but if I wake it's always at 3:33 a.m.

I tend to be more of a "word" than a "numbers" guy, but I track a lot of figures for my business ventures. Sometimes numbers tell stories better than words. I recently had two mathematical improbabilities jump off the synchronicity meter.

The first happened driving between appointments, making a mental list of tasks to accomplish before leaving town. "Time to change the oil in my car," I thought, glancing at the sticker pressed to the windshield. My mechanic calculated my next oil change should occur at 48,327 miles. Odometer read 48,327 miles. I pulled to the curb to make sure I wasn't transposing a number. Spot on.

The second "coincidence" occurred a few weeks later as I unwrapped a single-cup coffee maker we received as a gift. My family - the wife, two kids and even the dog - were all in the kitchen as I set up the appliance. Like my windshield, the coffee maker had a pressure-sensitive sticker, this one over an LCD display window. As I peeled it off, I asked my oldest son what time it was, which he determined by reading the clock on our stove: 10:53. Printed on the sticker, to demonstrate the display, was the time 10:53. 

I'm connecting with pressure-sensitive stickers. 

Do you ever feel a sense of order with numbers?

Monday, March 23, 2009

What makes you feel grateful?

Traipsing through narrow streets in Tangier last week, I was bombarded by toothless street vendors holding wooden camels and tin bracelets in my face, all with prices dropping faster than my stock portfolio. “No thanks,” I said, smiling and shaking my head, looking away at rooftops and stray cats. Then I saw him at the entrance to our restaurant – a young man blind in one eye, selling an accordion postcard with images of Morocco. My mind jumped to a scene in the film Slumdog Millionaire, the one where the young, blind beggar knows Ben Franklin’s mug is printed on a U.S. one-hundred dollar bill. “No thanks,” I repeated as I passed this boy and ducked inside to eat couscous and drink mint tea and watch belly dancers. He was still there when I came out, smiling, trying to sell his postcard. I gave him coins to equal the modest asking price, but though I didn’t take the postcard, I left with a permanent image fixed in my mind, one that makes me grateful for films like Slumdog Millionaire and blind boys with the courage to smile at strangers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fake Rock and Styrofoam Chimneys: Casualties of a Recession

I’ve been involved in real estate development for 25 years, climbing a perpetual mountain, selling the American dream. Of course, in the last 18-months, I discovered the mountain has a sheer side. Oops. Don’t go that way …

This market “correction” is painful, like sliding down a razor blade into a vinegar salt bath, like bungee jumping with a cord that’s 10-feet too long. All this pain will eventually lead to gain, right? But what have we learned? What will the stabilized housing market look like? What will new houses look like?

Personally, I hope homes become real again, authentic places where our chimneys stay intact in a strong wind and our stone doesn’t fade to gray as our hair does. A few years ago, I was involved in a project in Louisiana where we attempted to make affordable townhomes look like mansions. Isn’t that providing a service to the common homebuyer, making the house they really can’t afford look like a house they really can’t afford? Doesn’t everyone want to come home to Tara, and shouldn’t Tara have twin chimneys?

It looked good on paper, but I wasn’t buying the architect’s suggestion that we place Styrofoam cubes on the roofs, smear them with stucco, cap them with galvanized aluminum and call them chimneys. This is the coastal south, where we have hurricanes. I had to step out of the room, laughing so hard, visualizing chimneys impaled by limbs. “Honey, I thought we had a chimney …” I joked, impersonating a homeowner, “or did I just dream that?”

We caved to the “aesthetic and classical symmetry” the architect was selling and stuck twenty or so of these faux chimneys around the project. Then a little thing happened called Hurricane Katrina, and some of those chimneys morphed into packing peanuts.

When I start building houses again (and eventually I will), I hope my homes will be at least as strong and solid as the bank that holds the mortgage. Something tells me both will look very different.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the Menu for Ash Wednesday: Recession-proof Gumbo Salad Dressing

This year for Lent, rather than give something up, I’m going to do something new each day. Why not? We’re in a recession and I’ve already given up every indulgence. Isn’t this a good year to flip the abstinence thing upside down?

White tablecloth restaurants are suffering. Grocers report a sharp decline in the sale of seafood and steaks. I’m from the coastal south where, to stretch the food budget, we throw everything in a stockpot and call it “gumbo.” Don’t ask what’s in there. If you make a good, dark roux to begin with, everything works.

Couldn't “gumbo” philosophy work in other areas of life? Are there ingredients I love (friends, family, hobbies, books) that I've left out of the soup too long? I’ll spend the Lenten season exploring the back shelves of my life's pantry.

Enough philosophy. Here's a practical suggestion from a professional chef buddy: when you get to the bottom of condiments (mustard, mayonnaise, 1000 Island, whatever), add a ¼ cup of white vinegar to the container, put the top back and swish it around. Shake it hard, to get every last drop of what you paid good money for but can't reach with a knife, and then use this as a tangy dressing for a salad or sandwich. Even better, start a house dressing jar you keep in the refrigerator, combining various flavors. The only downside is you may reach salad dressing Nirvana, only to realize you don’t know how you got there.

Who says we can’t eat well in a recession? Or, live well, for that matter.