Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dye Your Hair Blue (or whatever)

I now have a neon blue streak in my hair. Why? Because ever since I retired six years ago, I've wanted to do something a little crazy that I never would have done while I was working in a corporate environment. And why not blue hair? Why the hell not? People will think it's weird? Don't care. I might not like it? It's semi-permanent and will wash out over the coming weeks. It's not a color that occurs in nature? See the flowers behind me in the photo - they're almost a perfect match. I'm too old for such silliness? Hogwash.

How long SHOULD we wait to indulge ourselves and take action on the stuff of our daydreams and urges? I don't want to wait until it's too late. Having a life-threatening illness 12 years ago was a rude kick in the pants - a reminder that our futures are not ensured. Every day, everywhere, tragedy strikes when we least expect it. As far as we know, we only have one life to enjoy, and we should do it up right. Big, Bold, Active, and Out There. That's what I think.

How does this translate beyond my seemingly insignificant hair color? That depends on you, and your deepest desires, regrets, hankerings, and niggling unrequited daydreams. Those shouldn't always end up at the bottom of your priorities, to be done sometime in the future "when I have time", "when I am more fit", or "after". Beware of those words. Sometimes you have to pursue joy.

Other enriching things I have enjoyed since my attitude adjustment:

Bollywood Dance Class
Trip to Italy & Greece
Four years living in the heart of Chicago
Tour of southern England
Singing with Prescott's Sweet Adelines
Becoming a Golfer

None of these were earth-shattering or weird, but I certainly could have come up with good reasons not to do any one of them. (Fear, Expense, Laziness, Embarrassment, etc.) I don't know what's next for me, but I'm thinking...

Listen to that little voice in your head. It usually knows what it's talking about.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Remembering Norman "Jerry" Roberts

Last night, we lost our beloved Jerry Roberts - Mom's only sibling and my only uncle, and a long-time resident of Montpelier, Vermont. He is at peace now after a long battle with a rare illness. Fortunately, his devoted wife and family were there for him all the way. Mom visited just last week. Jerry leaves behind his wife, Elaine, sons Kenneth and Scott, three grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and his sister Dolores Haropulos.
Uncle Jerry in 1971. This is the way I'll remember him.
Jerry and I shared the special bond of the same birthday, October 27. I will remember him for his good, patient nature, his sense of humor, and his hearty laugh. He was the rock of his family, and I am painfully sorry for the void his passing leaves in the lives of his immediate family.

Born in 1934, Jerry and big sister Dolores shared the experience of the lean years of the Depression. They enjoyed a modest but cultured life in Manchester, NH, as well as time with their maternal grandparents and childhood friends in rural Vermont. Along with his parents and carpenter grandfather, he helped build the home my mother now lives in on Belmont Street in Manchester. During the Korean War, Jerry served with the Coast Guard. His career was spent in the insurance business, where he had extensive experience in claim investigations. Most recently, he enjoyed his retired life with his wife. The children and their families were close.

Ron and I will be leaving for the funeral in Vermont. It will be good to see my cousins and to pay our last respects to a wonderful uncle.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Over But Not Out

Today is the 5th anniversary of my Runaway Boomer weekly blog. With this, I’ve published 262 posts on a rambling array of subjects. This has been a wonderful way to express myself; allowing me to explore what’s in my head and share thoughts and feelings with friends. Feedback has been rewarding and heartwarming.

My weekly self-imposed deadline was established to contribute some structure and discipline to my personal schedule after retirement. Given that our post-career life has evolved into a full, busy mixture of routine and spontaneous fun, I no longer feel the need for this weekly ritual – in fact, I am beginning to feel a bit stifled by it. My creative juices flow on their own schedule…not necessarily over morning coffee on Thursdays.

Runaway Boomer will continue – but postings will be less frequent and predictable. You will hear from me when something is on my mind that causes bubble and flow. I will write when, if I didn’t, my head might explode.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog over the past 5 years. Most certainly, I have! I’m not sure what’s next… I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I’m not convinced that I have the required attention span. Maybe Twitter is more my style. I’m open to where circumstances take me.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Close Encounters

I had a handful of opportunities to meet celebrities while working in the hotel business. For several years, the Hilton in Skokie, Illinois hosted entertainers performing at the nearby Mill Run Theatre. After that time, the occasional business trip to Hilton's headquarters in Beverly Hills put me in places where I would have sightings of famous people. Here are a few stories about my favorite close encounters (with photos of how they looked at the time).

In the late 70's Burt Bacharach was leading orchestras that played concerts of his remarkable popular hits. Rehearsals took place in our rooftop lounge. Burt gave me tickets to the show, and invited me backstage. He also asked me to play tennis and to go out for a burger, but I was working and couldn't take him up on his flirtations. At one point when we were chatting, I asked how he felt when he heard one of his songs as "elevator music". His response? "That's not my music."

The Osmonds booked an entire floor in our hotel. They were all polite, charming, funny, and fun to be around. We had hoards of Donny and Marie fans hanging out in the lobby at all hours. Between rehearsals, the guys got bored. My front office staff met them out on the lawn behind the hotel to play touch football. Somewhere I have a photo from the game that appeared in a local newspaper.

I checked Chita Rivera into the hotel and told her I had been a fan since seeing her in the original run of "Chicago" on Broadway. Later, I walked through the hotel coffee shop. She was at a table alone (incognito in a scarf and a lack of makeup) and asked me to join her, because she didn't like to eat alone. What a lovely lady.

Lou Rawls had an amazing voice - whether speaking or singing. When he stayed in our hotel, I would gather his messages and scurry to meet him in the lobby to deliver them. He would say, "Well, thank you, dear" in that VOICE. I was so sad when I heard of his passing in 2006. A kind and talented man.
Remember when Mac Davis had his own TV variety show in the 70's? While he and his band stayed at the Hilton, they were friendly and charming. His guys challenged us to a softball game, while Mac was off doing an interview. Our hotel team won, and on Mac's returned he demanded a rematch. His team won the second game. Mac gave me front row tickets to his show and winked at me during one of his songs. Lifelong fan.

For several years, the Chicago Bears stayed at our Hilton on nights before home football games. I met many great football players, but Walter Payton has always been my favorite. He was polite and soft-spoken. The team had a curfew, after which we could not accept phone calls to the players. Walter asked me to put through calls from his girlfriend, regardless of the time. I had to say no. I felt terrible about it. Rest in peace, Sweetness. Your signed photo has a place of honor in our office.

Oh my, Harrison Ford! To make a long story short, I met Harrison Ford on his front porch in Beverly Hills. (A friend knew the address.) I have shame, but I did get to look into those blue eyes from just a few feet away. Although a bit disconcerted about my appearance, "How did you get here?", he was gracious about chatting with me for a minute, and provided an autograph. My partner in crime, my sister Althea, drove the getaway car.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Personal Branding?" Bah!

Flipping channels through daytime programming recently, I happened across a talk show hosted by reality television personality Bethanny (Real Housewives of NYC), whose guest was another reality television personality, Omarosa (The Apprentice). The two of them were arguing, noisily and cattily, about their "personal brands" - whose was stronger and better. It was a disgusting display of ego and rudeness and...desperation. They were both losers in that exchange.

Now imagine any of these memorable people sitting on a talk show sofa promoting their "personal brand": Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor. No. Just no. Even with current day personalities, have you heard the phrase "personal brand" coming from the mouths of accomplished people such as Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice, or Warren Buffett? No.
I am not adverse to branding. During my career, I worked to create a brand for Hilton's technology. The project was exciting and turned out to be successful. Our team gathered several prestigious awards and Hilton benefitted from the recognition. Branding is an important part of business. Branding sells products and services, attracts investors, and helps build a loyal following.

Lately, I am hearing more and more nonsensical yammering about personal branding. Too much of it is coming from the people who are trying to create a brand for themselves. Themselves - not a product or a business. Let me give them some advice:

1. You aren't a brand just because you say you are.
2. You need a good reputation, not a brand.
3. Do some soul-searching about your identity, what you stand for, and how you want to be perceived by others.
4. Stop talking about it, consistently walk the walk, and earn it.

The phrase "Personal Brand" should be banished. Are you with me?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's Always Something - Good

Just when one aspect of my golf game comes together - another disappears. It's the great mystery of golf.

Since starting to play golf regularly about six years ago, my game has improved. My handicap has dropped about 15 points. But it's a case of faltering baby steps forward and, often, a step or two backward. Progress is frustratingly slow. Golf is at the same time a great social pastime and a very personal competition between mind and body. It takes focus, hand-to-eye coordination, discipline, and endurance.

I'm sure this doesn't sound like fun to some people. But it's hard to communicate the best of this game. There are so many moments that make up a four hour round of eighteen holes:

Intense anticipation while lining up your drive on the first tee.
The heady sweetness in the air early on a clear summer morning.
Exhultation when you hit a shot exactly as planned.
The satisfying sound of impact on your club's sweet spot.
Warm and honest moments with your golf friends.
Eternal hope for that hole-in-one.
Delight at sharing the course with wildlife.
Expansive views of landscapes.
The scent of turf damp with moisture.
The belief that "this will be the day" for...whatever.

So we gladly tolerate body soreness, uncooperative clubs, blow-up holes, bad bounces, water hazards, the occasional snake, cactus thorns in our socks, wind, bunkers, and capricious miscellaneous blows from the Golf Gods. We're on the golf course with friends, and it's all good.

P.S. I have a lesson today at 11:30, because I can't hit an iron right now to save my life. Tee time for 1:00 with the girls.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Retirement Brain

I forgot this was Thursday - Runaway Boomer blog day - until 5 minutes ago.

This is one of the risks/blessings of retirement. We don't always know what day it is without a calendar. I have two calendars, yet I still have occasional issues. My phone is my primary resource. Secondarily, we have a lovely Arizona Highways desk calendar that we keep either on the coffee table or the kitchen island.

Yet here it is, Thursday, and I forgot to write my blog this morning.

Days of the week are difficult enough, but the date is another thing entirely. I rarely write checks anymore, so don't have that reminder. Thank goodness for my cell phone, without which I would be lost. (Literally lost sometimes, as I use it as a GPS too.)

There are schedule touchstones, weekly events that usually keep us tuned in:

SUN: Couples Golf & $2 tacos at the club
MON: Golf with Ron
TUE: Sweet Adelines rehearsal night, and a new episode of "Justified" to watch when I get home
WED: Errands in town
THU: Afternoon golf with the girls
FRI: Happy Hour at Talking Rock's club
SAT: Ron's weekly hike, and when I put fresh sheets on the bed

The great thing is that we mostly don't care what day it is. We don't have to get up early. We don't have to go to work. After so many years of doing what we had to do, we now do what we want - pretty much when we want to. Woo hoo! Retirement brain isn't so bad.