Embellishing The Melody

Musicians employ this technique when asked to solo over unfamiliar chord changes or, let’s say, a 12 bar blues progression. If coming in cold, and your ear is good enough, you can pick out the main melody and make a contribution to the overall efforts of the band. You get the gig.

When sitting in, and the format is extended, as in a jam session, the strategy would be to hint strongly at the melody on the first chorus, then move away in increments by embellishing the established melody. By the time you hit your crescendo, your solo is your creation. You own this. You keep your gig.

When you are assimilated into an orchestra, or corporation, you would best be advised to stay around the melody line until you are confident, then add little flourishes that will enhance the overall theme. Then your solo efforts will be totally yours and hard to duplicate. If you do it well enough, other musicians will be scurrying around trying to cop your licks. You own this gig.

Ready? On the downbeat…

My Peripheral Heart Action Workout

Starting today, I need to spend less time at the gym, so I need to institute a program that will be efficient and provide a thorough workout for both my musculature and and my cardiorespiratory system. We’re going upstairs/ downstairs without stopping. Here goes:

5:00 am:

Protocol: AMRAP = As many reps as possible

Legs – Quads – Cable squats

Back – Lat pulldowns, seated rowing

Chest – Bench press, dumbbell flyes

Legs – Hamstrings

Shoulders – Lateral raises – Reverse flyes (rear delts)

Legs – Calves

Biceps – Dumbbell curls

Triceps – Cable pushdowns

Repeat for a total of three circuits.

Total time: 46 minutes.

Heart rate: 128 bpm.

Home:

Nap. Total time 51 minutes

Resting heart rate upon awakening; 54 bpm.

Have a nice day.

 

Time Under Tension

 

At 71, I am getting stronger. I am still accumulating muscle. I also don’t get the associated aches and pains I used to. My body is responding to the stresses I am applying to it. I am able to lift heavier weight. So what’s the problem? The possible injury to my ligaments and joints. I want no of that.

The solution? Time under tension.

We all like to sling heavier weights around in search of increased power and muscle size. I plead guilty. But as I’m aging and want to stay in this game well into my eighties and nineties, I have to have a strategy that will allow me to continue seeing the progress I’m enjoying.

Again: time under tension.

By slowing down the repetition of any exercise, you will be forced to lower the weight and thereby reduce risk of injury.

Let’s say one repetition takes six seconds. By stretching it out to ten seconds, a set of ten repetitions will take you one minute. That’s gonna burn.

Most folks disregard the importance of the negative, or concentric portion of the exercise and blow right through it.

So on a bicep curl you might hoist it slowly then let it drop back into the starting position. You might use some bad form to accomplish your feat of strength but you are lining yourself up for injury as you increase the weight.

Try it. A set of ten reps might take you 40 seconds, but if you stretch that out to a minute using time under tension, you will feel the difference. Your joints will love you for it.

And, besides, this is where the muscle be at. 🙂

Ante Up

 

I must have been a riverboat gambler in a previous life. Something about risk fascinates me. Once I find a worthy target, and consider all the consequences, I will eagerly slide all of my chips into the middle of the table. Sometimes it seems, in contempt of life itself. I have just cleared the deck and brushed aside any fall back strategies. My eye is on the prize and there’s no looking back. Now I have to focus and gently pull the trigger. Focus…

Pattern Disruptive

One of your body’s main goals is to save and store calories so you won’t starve to death. Fat chance. It’s a real miser and it will slow your metabolism down to achieve it’s goal. That’s what it does. You go on different diet strategies and it works for a little while, but once your body catches on, it’s over. You plateau, stall out, then go back to what you were doing in frustration. Your body is a smart cookie, forgive the pun.

What a lot of folks are doing these days, is called intermittent fasting. You don’t necessarily change the amount of calories you’re taking in, you are changing the pattern with which you take them in. This throws your metabolism off and causes you to burn fat and drop pounds. When the body doesn’t know what to do, it starts burning calories. We like that.

Think of any major life change you’ve experienced: a new job, a move to another location, or an emotional separation, (the worst) even a promotion will give you a metabolic spike. Anything that could change your eating patterns. But then after a bit, things return to normal, and so does your waistline. We don’t like that. Plus, it confuses and demoralizes the hell out us.

On my six day drive out west, I dropped 11 pounds just sitting behind a steering wheel. My caloric intake didn’t change, my eating patterns did. As my metabolism went up, my pants fell down. I liked that.

If you examine some of your previous experiences, you might come to the same conclusion: You need to keep your body out of the loop. So to speak.

In a nutshell, here’s what folks are doing. Remember the word intermittent. A few days a week, let’s say you eat your last meal at 6:00 pm. You go to bed without a snack at 10:00 pm and sleep until 6:00 am. You might have a little black coffee or green tea in the morning and hold off eating until 10:00 am.

That is a 16 hour, intermittent fast my friend, and you have just hit your metabolic panic button. Battle stations! We are burning now, baby. Hold on to your drawers.

Now you have an eight hours window to eat your two or three meals for the day. Don’t get crazy just eat normally. Repeat if necessary, or hold off and try it again in a few days. Intermittently.

That’s the latest craze in a nutshell. The moral of the story is to always keep your metabolism guessing. This is one good way to do it.

 

Throwing your weight around!

I see this play out all the time at the gym. Usually, some genetically superior moron will show up to teach us all how it should be done…the wrong way. He will grab a bar with enough weight on it to make us mere mortals shriek, then begin to heave it around like chewing gum on his tongue.

Mr. Goodbody will make all the appropriate noises and gestures to give you the show you didn’t pay for.

He breaks all the rules of biomechanics in one set. How he doesn’t end up getting a ride home in the back off an ambulance, is anyone’s guess.

Pan across the gymnasium floor and you see the neophyte who is taking it all in. He is thinking what we’re all thinking….that’s how you do it. He’s the guy the ambulance driver is waiting for. Being in a big box gym is like being on the prison yard. You do more watching than talking.

Sure enough, you’ll see the guy with the stringy arms and caved-in chest attempting the very same foolhardy moves. With disastrous results. Mr. Gifted walks away unscathed, while our victim gets hurt and avoids the gym in the future.

Fact: Some people have incredible bodies in spite of themselves.

I’ve said all that to say this: I have never seen an industry, like fitness, be so full of dangerous misinformation. Lifelong bodybuilders, trainers, enthusiasts, diet gurus and sports heroes can dispense with misguided information at will and unchecked. The FDA expects them to police themselves. Dr. Oz fans, please don’t.

40 years on, we’re still talking about the same issues. The bad information will always come full circle. I’ve been doing this for 50 years. My one distinct qualifier, I’m willing to bet, is I’ve made more mistakes than you. Any takers? Didn’t think so. 🙂

Urban legend and exercise best practices don’t mix, and dispelling myths is what I will be addressing in my biggest adventure, Enlightened Rogue Fitness.

Don’t throw your weight around, it’s in bad form.

 

Relevance: At Your Stage of the Game?

Relevance. That word is burned into my temporal lobe. I am a player who wants to keep playing. No time outs, no showers. I am in it, to win it. Until the dirt nap. When I am interviewing, relevance is always there in the conversation, usually couched as “at your stage of the game”.

Acutely aware of the ageism trap, they will invariably ask me why I want the position at this time of my life. Why would I want to put myself through the aggravation? I get it.

I understand an honest question deserves an honest answer. Because I want to remain relevant. I want to be valued for my life experiences as well as my technical skills, my people skills and my drive. My engine’s still revving.

It doesn’t put an end to the queries though. They will keep finding different ways to ask the same question. But I like the question. It deserves an answer. I like answering it.

I am not the only septuagenarian who still wants to be seen, heard and appreciated. We all want more than just the ability to fog a mirror. Ask any old coot a question on just about anything under the sun, and I guarantee you’ll get more than the cliff notes.

Most will go into a windup before the pitch so they can regale you with how they handled that particular problem when they were captains of industry, a business owner, or a star athlete in college. You see it in their eyes. “Those were the days, kid”

I get the “good old days” from guys decades younger than me, too. Their relevance has been diminished through time and inattention. After life has twisted its way around them, they fade. Like us all.

So your 401K gets wiped out, or you made some bad investments, a death, a natural disaster, any of which could pour you back into the workforce uninvited . We never know.

If your idea of workforce means something other than stocking shelves in a Safeway supermarket at three o’clock in the morning, then we understand each other.

At 71, on paper, I’m not getting the call. But if they meet me, and they see I’m I’m still vertical, with a pulse, brimming with energy, then we get somewhere. The game changes. For me, showing up is always the clincher.

The first thing is we need to take care of ourselves. That means doing more than golf or walking the dog. It means staying flexible, mentally and physically. It means staying current. It means cardiorespiratory, it means some form of resistance training. So you can present yourself as the vibrant, healthy, contributor that you are. Deliberately. If you feel good, you look good.

Your doctor, most likely, will be more than happy to give you something to wash away your blues, or medicate your neck pain without getting to the cause. Been there. I was told I was all washed up while still in my fifties. “You are getting older, you know, you’re bound to experience some pain in your joints and muscles.” Wrong!

Nothing beats a person down quicker than being passed over or ignored, whether it’s a love interest or a job opportunity. You need that at this stage of your game? In most cases, a firm “no” would be a mercy killing. Silence can be deafening.

Stay relevant, it’s earlier than you think. 🙂

 

 

There’s no-no on my lips….

So this outfit gets my resume and presumably they like what they see. I get an e-mail, then a phone call, another e-mail, another phone call, and so on. They finally set up a phone interview and we’re good to go. I think.

He spends the first 40 minutes telling me why I’m overqualified and how I’ll hate the job after 5 minutes.

He can’t understand why I would even put myself through something as pedestrian and paltry paying as this position. He is weeding without a whacker.

He continues his negative narrative. Now it’s like I’m not even on the phone with him anymore. He’s doing such a great job, why interrupt?

Toward the end I tell him the job does sound like pretty mind numbing, tedious and thankless work….and maybe he’s right. “Now, wait a minute, Bob…”

Lunch Ain’t Free

This guy walks into a very fancy restaurant/bar in Manhattan. He just landed the biggest deal of his career and he wants to celebrate. Being solo, he asks to be sat at the bar with a menu. Tonight he is going to break the bank. The bartender comes over and takes his order. He orders top shelf everything, food, drink, dessert and a big cigar at the end. He misses nothing.

Full of food and himself, he asks the bartender for the check. The bartender says, “Gimme five bucks and we’ll call it even”. The guy almost chokes on his toothpick. He says, “Wait a minute, did you see what I had?” The bartender nods.

The guy still can’t believe he is getting at least a $500 meal for five bucks. He says, “This is incredible, how do you make any money?”

The bartender says, “ I don’t.” The guy says, “ Are you the owner of this place?” The guy says, “No, the owner’s upstairs with my wife, and what he’s doing to my wife, I’m doing to his business”. (Rimshot)

I tell the story because I see similar instances all the time. Not as dramatic, but similar. Well intentioned folks who start a business and hire distracted, underpaid people to run it because they’re cheap labor, won’t be in business long.

At Office Max this morning, I watched a Fellini movie play out in spades. Nobody in that place gave a shit.

I was returning an item and thought they might ask me some questions. Nada. The girl continued texting someone while she cheerfully refunded me my money. No questions asked. She never looked up. The rest of the store was in such disarray I felt compelled to leave and not interrupt their eight hour coffee break.

I was approaching an “associate” with a question, and when he saw me coming he ducked into the inkjet section and kept on going. Fear and loathing in his eyes.

When you hire someone to run your store at cheap rates, and you think ” minimum wage has never felt so good” make sure they’re minding your business, not mining it.

There is no free lunch.

Demons

LA Fitness, 5:00 am. Whew, that was a close one. Almost couldn’t get the bar back on the rack. It felt like the ceiling was coming down on top of me.

If I got pinned, there was no one close enough to pull the bar up off of my fractured rib cage. As I’m sitting on the end of the bench, covered with sweat and salt seeping into my desert-chapped lips, I am plagued with self-doubt.

Enter my demons: “What the hell are you doing, Bob? Should guys your age be playing with that kind of poundage? What are you trying to prove? You’re a goddam septuagenarian, ya know”.

Then it dawns on me. This is not vanity anymore, it’s marketing. I am perfecting my personal presentation. Each person I tell about my recent certification as a fitness professional does the same thing, they start at my shoes and work their way up. Every time.

Once again, I am the product. The “proof of the pudding”. Then I smile knowingly as I lay back down on the bench, take a deep breath and tell my new spotter, “OK, I’ll take it off on 3…”

It’s A Stretch…

It was Friday, April 19, 1996. I remember that day clearly. I had just returned from Executive Council in Laguna Niguel, a week of reward from Dupont Radiopharmaceuticals for surpassing my sales forecast. Later in the day, I would be closing on a house I had the good fortune to purchase in the tony section of Scottsdale Arizona, called Troon. A good day all around.

Before I went to the realtor’s office I had to make a stop at Comp USA. I was being pressured by my girlfriend Carol, to get a home PC so we could manage our finances using Quicken. I wasn’t keen on the idea because Carol never knew a check she couldn’t bounce and I didn’t know a megabyte from a mosquito bite.

Being in good spirits, I relented. I was home in two hours with three big boxes. A laughable Microsoft configuration by today’s standards. Be that as it may, in about an hour, my whole life had changed. Completely. There was magic in those boxes.

Within weeks, I was producing a newsletter, “News From The Left”, web sites for my customers, and recording music on that contraption. I had launched myself into cyberspace. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day.

Within a year, I had made some new friends: chiropractors, neurologists and massage therapists. I never put two and two together. All those new but punishing hours in front of the screen was wreaking havoc. Add a statin drug to the mix and I was in pain central. And it was constant.

Lance Dreher, a local body builder and radio personality, gave me some exercises to do but the pain always came back. I thought it might have had something to do with all the luggage I toted all over the country, but in my 6 years in the field, I never had a problem before. Age? I shuddered to think. I was barely 50.

As it turns out, technology is exacting a toll on our physicality. By sitting hunched over and leaning into our screens, or staring into our devices of choice, we are protracting our shoulders and leaning forward so much we are throwing our bodies out of alignment.

It’s not just our upper half, our hip flexors get shortened, our calves get tight and our backs start getting a nice little arch. It’s all connected. The hip bone’s connected to the…

All of which means compensation and pain. (Bet you never thought you’d see those two words in the same sentence.)

But that’s the reality of today’s technology. Our heads are down, our shoulder’s are up and our backs are out. I won’t touch on diminished attention spans.

I could say that a lot of these problems are easily remedied by simply becoming more flexible and stepping away from our devices, but that would be a stretch.

But it’s exactly what we need 🙂

 

The Leap of Faith

On July 28, just after dark, me and my two road dogs, Izzy and Bailey, slipped out of the back door of our apartment building and stealthed our way into my waiting, over stuffed vehicle. We never looked back. At 10 pm, we swung into the La Quinta Inn in Somerville. This would serve as our cross-country launching pad.

That was two months ago. In six days, we covered New York, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and finally Phoenix. Arriving on Thursday, August, 3. It was 110 degrees. A good, soul cleansing heat.

With barely two dog bones to rub together, never mind a job or a place to live, we aimed to tread water until our ship came in. Bailey taught me to dog paddle. Oh me of little faith.

Back east, I was more frustrated than frightened. When BMS transferred me back into the home office in 2003, I swore I would get back out west one way or the other. Of course, I took the other.

When my business went bust and my finances took a turn for the worst in 2016, I had to hole up in a depression era, furnished apartment in the hardscrabble town of Ayer. Penance.

My marriage was kaput! It just ran its course. No hard feelings.

With my head in my hands I tried to think my way out. It took almost a year. In early September of that year, as I was walking Bailey, I stumbled across a large warehousy looking building next to the railroad tracks. When I looked in the window, I saw and heard the all too familiar grunting and clanging of serious iron being hoisted, squatted, and curled.

My heart jumped. I had been taking my iron pills for years and craved the feel of muscle soreness again. Could it be? Right next door to me? Open 24 hours? Yessss!

Frustration and bankruptcy are mighty catalysts when you are beaten down. My first day at the gym, the person behind the front desk approached me and said, “You tryin’ ta kill yourself?” I replied, “You got a better way?”

At 70, and nowhere to turn, I turned. I leaned into it with a passion. I created a split routine where I could pulverize one muscle group a day. I could barely brush my teeth some days. It hurt that good.

The rest of the time you would find me on the Nashua Rail Trail making the two hour and change ride to Nashua, New Hampshire and back. It helped me sleep. Sleep was a commodity.

It was a Spartan existence. I ate, trained, read, rode and slept. I watched my body change. When you start following the owner’s manual, shit starts happening. People started commenting at the gym. The change was in.

At seventy, we think we can only slim down and maybe lower some blood pressure. Nay, I say, we have evolved.

My clothes started getting loose in some places and tight in other places. The right places.

One day, someone at the gym asked me if I was a personal trainer. I laughed. They didn’t think it was funny and asked me to train them.

It was then I found out you need liability insurance to train at a gym. Any gym. And one other little item, certification from a reputable organization, like the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

No problem, I says, give me a week and I’ll get back to you. Boy, was I naive. This was serious business. As I would soon find out. We’re talkin’ science. Hard core science.

It would be a year of hitting the books and combing the internet to find out “supraspinatus” wasn’t a Greek. Oh my head! The book was so big, I would put it in my trunk so I wouldn’t get stuck in snow.

If I studied this hard in school, I would be writing opinions for the Supreme Court.

When I made it out here, I had three chapters left to study. The second day here, I joined LA Fitness. On the fourth day, I was working for them. Truth be told, there are probably lots more jobs back east but it doesn’t feel like it. Maybe it’s the geographical thing but it’s working for me.

Now that I’m a certified fitness professional, anything can happen. I can do Corporate Wellness, take on private clients, start an online business, or a mix of all three. Sooooey, here piggy, piggy!

A year ago, when I felt froggy, I took that leap.

Now, I just need to muscle in somewhere. 🙂

Over My Head

  

More than 40 years ago, I enrolled at Berklee College of Music to study guitar, piano and instrumental performance. My initial thoughts were that it would be a fun two years where me and a bunch of musicians would sit around and trade licks and roadie jokes.

I was disabused of that notion in a hurry. In fact, I was on my way to my first nervous breakdown, compliments of the G.I. Bill.

At thirty, dusting off all those atrophied brain cells was agonizing. I found myself in a room with perfect-pitched prodigies analyzing Duke Ellington arrangements and sight-singing multi-staved compositions from the Baroque Era.

Oh, the buyer’s remorse I suffered. It was an incredible and valuable experience as I look in my rear view mirror…now.

But at the time, it appeared I was in over my head.

So last year, Mr. Brilliance decides, having forgotten all about 1976, to enroll in the National Association of Sports Medicine’s Certified Personal Trainer program. Fun, right? Running, jumping and pumping, right?

Wrong!

We all know how serious heart attacks are and this was similar in every way: tightness in the chest, trouble breathing, profuse sweating, palpitations. N.A.S.M., what have ye wrought? I paid upfront, no opting out.

What a revelation! If I didn’t have religion when I started, I do now. What an amazing species we are. We actually survive in spite of ourselves. This amazing contraption we ambulate around in has been built for optimal performance, we just never stop to contemplate our miraculous configurations.

This system of pulleys, levers, muscles and blood that comes factory fine-tuned for a hundred years boggles the mind…mine, anyway.

I struggled mightily with every time-tested physical concept that was presented to me. Wrapping my head around agonist, antagonist and synergistic muscle groups, ligaments, tendons, assessments and bone densities was certainly above me at the outset.

Again, it appeared I was in over my head.

Amazingly, some of the immediate personal gifts I received were answers to physical limitations and weaknesses in my own exercise regimen. For example, I could go two or three months full tilt on a program and something would come along and derail my efforts: back spasms, hamstring pulls, tendonitis, headaches, over training, stress related illnesses, the lists went on.

My good deeds never went unpunished.

Having to delve into biomechanics, respiratory capacities, nutritional science and muscle imbalances brightened up my dimly lit attic. Voila!

I have learned so much. My physical conundrums have all but vanished. At 71, I must admit to being in better physical condition than when I was drafted into the military at 19. Not one doubt.

I have a new career now and I will be sharing my learnings as a certified fitness professional. I have been very fortunate in this life. My mission statement has always been “How can I help?”

Now I have found a way.

 

 

 

Workin’ For It

Yesterday was the big day. After a year of study and memorizing Latin body parts, heart rate equations and muscle configurations for my NationaI Academy of Sports Medicine Certification exam, I headed off to the testing site across town. Phoenix is huge. 20 miles out here is considered “down the street”.

Driving east into the sun in bumper-to-bumper traffic when you absolutely have to be somewhere on time is a fool’s errand. My stomach was in knots. I was already reciting my “life ain’t fair” narrative for when they gave me the bad news at the end of the test.

But I had my Google maps. That little piece of magic that took me all across the country less than two months ago. Door to door. So as I neared my destination and maneuvered myself into the middle of a huge intersection with buildings on every corner, I thought I would expire when my phone said, “You have reached your destination.” Huh? Where? In the middle of an intersection?

Long story short, I made it after running madly through oncoming traffic and almost getting my ticket punched. I ran through every building in the area in a panic. When I finally took my seat in the testing room, I just knew the universe was conspiring against me.

When I woke up this morning, my back was in spasm and my lips were all broken out. Usually I would go into a mild depression, but not today, because I passed my exam to be a certified personal trainer after a year of work and study at 71. Life ain’t so bad after all.

These days, I actually don’t mind being called “certifiable”…. that much. 🙂

Death Perception…

… keeps me alive.

These days, I draw my sustenance exclusively from dead people. When I’m up against the wall, these folks are my crisis management team. Duane, Gregg, Stevie Ray, Kurt, Miles, et al.

Without my parents, my spirit would have broken years ago. Their indomitable spirit continues to live on in me. They lived and laughed as hard as they could under almost unbearable circumstances.

They raised twelve, Irish-Catholic, Somervillans who, obviously never got the memo on how hard life could be. Ignorance was always bliss with us. Thankfully.

After recently flinging myself across the country without a net, landing in Phoenix with my two little dogs and no plan, I am forced into the realization that I like playing fast and loose with life.

Which is why these people are so important to me. For one reason or another, either stupidity or curiosity, I am forced to confront myself when my ego starts to panic. In which case, I can either succumb, or revolt. I prefer the latter.

“The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”

As long as I keep Mr. Morrison’s words spinning around on my hard drive, I find the courage to keep on keeping on. I just came off a critical three day stand-off with a business owner. A huge showdown.

Given my ticklish financial situation these days, the bright thing to do would be to adhere to his demands and fight the good fight somewhere down the road. I chose not.

I didn’t buy his wolf ticket and walked. I had three full days to consider the consequences. I could have acceded at any time but I waited while looking at my other options. Which were slim at the time. I was gambling heavy as the casino was about to close.

Day one, I was still full of myself. Day two, not so much. Day three, yesterday, I broke out the Eckhart Tolle material, “The Power of Now.”

The fever broke yesterday afternoon in my favor. Needless to say, that positive outcome will do nothing to cure my death-wish negotiation style. This used to drive my wife to distraction. It was a short drive.

In Arizona, nothing is “down-the-street”. Five miles is considered next door, so I get a lot of drive time. In that time, I get to listen to all the musical legends who went before me and realize they actually “went” before me. They’re gone. All their struggles, pains, confusions, addictions and failures, gone. But not forgotten.

The ego is constantly under threat, real or imagined. Mostly imagined. When I hear brilliance in a piece of constructed music, or an improvised solo and I realize this talented entity gave it all he or she had, then gave up the ghost, I am inspired to live life as hard and fast as I can, while I can, because, after all, no balls, no blue chips. Right? Deal ’em.

But what these trailblazers leave behind is immortal. They lived life, good or bad. They took chances. They expressed themselves in the extreme, and of course, all of them failed harder than the rest of us. They died. That is, if you consider death a failure. I don’t.

At my end, I want to be spent, played out and ready for a nap. I’m hoping God never has to say, “Why didn’t you?” Because by then, I did.

 

Lipstick For Your Afterthought?

I am entertaining quite a few business offerings these days on my road to re-enlightenment. After making the leap from Boston to Phoenix, I decided to get my resume out there to see what I might find. As it turns out, there are some pretty interesting scenarios. You can do almost anything these days as a 1099. Sales, marketing, distribution, the list goes on.

I like the idea because I don’t want to sit around someone else’s office all day putting in my time. Having my own business for years, Double O Creative, I have grown accustomed to life and death by my own hand.

One of the big reasons for putting away my entrepreneurial aspirations was creative differences. Wrangling with clients over style and delivery got to be a bit much. Having employees was no day at the beach either. I am no Father Flanagan,  and I don’t always suffer fools lightly.

What made my business successful for the most part, was my understanding of the business world and the application of multimedia to gain eyeballs. Too many cooks, especially the untrained variety, will always spoil the broth. So I folded up my tent and headed west.

My fat lady hasn’t taken the stage yet, so I must remain relevant these days to survive. Today, I received a job offer along with a “prospective new rep video” to get me up to snuff with my potential new employers. This piece of afterthought had the effect of grounding out any enthusiasm I might of had for this medical equipment outfit.

I can almost hear the conversation as it was being produced. “Ah, this is good enough, we just want them to get an idea of how the company works.” Been there, done that.

It was a series of screen grabs with a horrible, echo-filled audio track. Complete with dead air, aahs and ums. Right away, I think they’re a bunch of second-rate wannabes. It brought back memories of everything I disliked about my previous adventure. How you present yourself to someone, anyone, in this fashion is critical. But if you have to tell them, you’re wasting your time.

If this is what they think is going to attract employees, their customers are faring no better. I fear.

Cool-inary Art!

Full circle. I’ve had my hands in food since I was a young-un. At 12, I was flipping pizza in a converted bread truck. We had an oven in it and the side would open up to serve customers. We would travel around to colleges and softball games plying our wares until we acquired a store front. This was my initiation into over-the-top customer service.

At 15 years and three months, my mother wrote a hardship letter to City of Somerville School Committe, relieving me of my stellar academic efforts. 🙂 I was gone and never looked back. Until I G.E.D’ed to study music at Berklee College of Music years later.

I’ve been banging around in kitchens in one way or another ever since. Correctional institutions, the Army and major culinary sweat shops, is where you could always find me, behind a hot stove, serving up the delicacies of the day. Always loved the idea of making someone’s dining experience enjoyable. An act of love that not always made it into my personal life.

Interestingly, when I entered the Dupont sales force, my kitchen skills proved invaluable. I would commandeer restaurants and hotel kitchens to ensure that my evening with my targeted thought leaders would go off swimmingly. I would usually show up earlier in the day and meet with the staff to pick my seating and give them instruction on service and the wine list.

I gave them my AMEX card, told them not to drop the check at the end to avoid any embarrassing gestures, and add 20% to the evening unless they heard differently from me. I always loved it when a plan came together. It was how I turned micro into macro.

At times, depending on the target, and how badly I needed their business, I would call Legal Seafoods on the east coast and have them ship me a case of live lobster, steamers and chowder, along with a pot to cook in. When the FedEx’d crate hit my intended victim’s door, so did I. I wore a Dupont apron while I served, told jokes and played their piano. I even washed all the dishes at the end. Not part of my corporate sales training by any stretch.

Upper management neither condemned nor condoned. They preferred to look the other way as the coffers filled up. Much to the chagrin of my field sales contemporaries, who sometimes cried fowl. 🙂

Recently, I was offered an opportunity to fold my passions into a unique soufflé that will satisfy my diverse, creative tastes. I am joining an outfit that offers a rich, personal gourmet dining experience.

It will offer me sales, marketing, deep customer empathy, online marketing, over-the top service, and even blogging, to highlight my cheffing skills and ensconce me back into the lifestyle I have been part of all of my life.

So it’s time I headed back through those swinging kitchen doors, because after all, I could always stand the heat.

 

The Icarus Dilemma

Poor Icarus, his father, Daedalus, made him some wings and told his son not to fly too high or too low. If he flew too high, the sun would melt his wings, and too low, the ocean’s moisture would clog them. So his father, in essence, told him to conform.

My father would espouse moderation, of which to this day, I know very little. So, for me, it’s back in the game with a vengeance.

My feeling is, you have to die from something. I have always believed that anything worth doing, is worth overdoing. My life has always had a certain buoyancy. I may go under but I always bounce back up. Why else would they name me “Bob”? 🙂

Showing Up!

This is remarkable in the sense that it’s the third time it has happened. Though I have employment, I haven’t ceased my interviewing activities. I love the process and will make one happen on a moment’s notice.

Arizona, being what it is, is a laid back business community, loaded with monied golfing types who usually “dress down” to dress up. On the last three occasions, I was told I could show up dressed casual, or “cazh.” I didn’t.

There is nothing “cazh” about me, so why should I pretend? I’m out for blood and make no pretense.

I come with resume, business cards, focus, and a head full of homework. Each time, I was offered the job before the interview was over. One company kept me five hours into the night filling out employment paperwork. I respectfully declined their offer the next day.

Each hiring manager also wanted to hand me off to their immediate superior the next day, with the request to “please dress as you are today.” Cazh. Indeed.

Arizona On My Own Terms

Finally have you all to myself. After all these years. Marshall Tucker’s  “In My Own Way” is blaring through my kitchen and the sun is setting over the Sonoran Desert. My eyes are wet with happiness. I’m at peace. I never wanted to leave, but now I’m glad I did. For almost 15 years, I would pine away at just the mention of this beautiful place.

I now have a fresh appreciation for all that I was missing. When I landed here in July of 1990, it was a record 126 degrees. My eyes and all my senses went into overload. I have never experienced such a wonderfully romantic place.

With my new job as a rep, I wouldn’t have much time to kick back and relax in those first years.  I was constantly traveling and trying to digest new information. The only time it really sunk in was on long drives or on the approach to Sky Harbor Airport.

Of course, when the honeymoon of the new job wore off, it became constant work. Enjoyable, but constant. Those days are gone. I’m here now and it’s me and the desert. For good.

Done…with pleasure.

While trying to pull things together for my trip out Left, I’ve been stressing about a check that was due to me last week. If I leave, there’s no telling what will happen to it. Especially around here. Even getting your prescriptions by mail is hazardous duty.

This company is so busy, you can’t always get a live body. The company’s name is Adorama. They specialize in camera equipment and anything to do with multimedia. They are killer!

If you order something on line, no matter what delivery option you specify, it’s at your door the next day. Some days, that night??? Whoa.

So I’m in a bind now, I have one foot out the door on my way to Cactus Country and the other in the land of miserable apprehension. I am screwed.

When I get the guy on the phone, he tells me the check was sent out last week. Shit! This is getting complicated.

So he says in his best Manhattanese, “No worries, give me your bank routing number.” I give it to him and says, “Done…with pleasure.”

“Done…with pleasure.” What a beautiful phrase.

It’s a keeper.

Up In The Ayer

And he waits… I see this guy sitting here almost every morning. It’s 7:30 am. He is a denizen of the hardscrabble town of Ayer, Mass. He has nine and a half hours to go until he gets his dinner at the local soup kitchen. He worries incessantly, sometimes out loud. He shares his misery with anyone who will listen. And even those who won’t.

He worries me. He is 20 years my junior and he is done. Cooked. Stick a fork in him. When I’m unconscious, I put mtself in his place. You can imagine the misery that comes along with that visual.

In my eleven month recovery from all things material, I’ve had lots of time to observe those less fortunate. The town is rife with what most would consider “loser types.” Businesses struggle mightily. Some of their offerings border on the absurd. They even resort to putting signs on the sidewalks to shame you into buying local.

Some business owners don’t even show up. They leave a crossed out, updated note on the window with their cell phone number on it. Pampered Pets looks like a “Hoarder’s” episode. One store, I can’t remember ever seeing open for business, has a sign that reads: “Closed But Still Awesome.” My apartment is located right in the middle of this circus. It is a voyeur’s heaven.

This is an actual restaurant, Markoh’s On Main. If you choose to visit and have had your shots, you will receive a free shower, compliments of the faulty AC unit placed strategically overhead. People actually eat here.

I’ve seen people who have had one too many, almost break their neck trying to exit this place, unable to negotaite the dangerously condemned stairs. And no lawyer has ever showed up.

The guy who runs the local Coffee Roaster’s was palpating one of his rear molars while taking my order and handed me a blueberry scone with the same hand. Then became confused when I called him on it.

The only dry cleaner in town touts an organic and gluten free process that is designed to put him way out in front of his competition. I have only witnessed one customer entering the store, me. I saw me in his mirror.

Ayer has greatly diminished my lust for rural living.

From my perch in front of the infrequently visited Town Hall, I witness the comings and goings of almost everyone who lives here. Nietzche would be salivating. Ayer, to me, is the gift that will always keep on giving. A grounding that I’m all at once, grateful for and humbled by.

Even the police cruiser that just passed by is imperfect. It has a front head light missing and is running on one of those shitty factory supplied spare tires. I should have pulled him over. He’s the same cop who served me a restraining order a few days ago. 🙂

From here, there’s only one destination….up!

Summer Bummer!

To avoid overtraining, as I am wont to do, I decided to skip my long bike ride this morning. Along with the usual withdrawal side effects, rapid heart rate, sweaty palms and a feeling that something’s missing, I felt particularly lost. Such is the exercise junkie’s life.

So, not knowing what to do with myself from 5:30 to 8:00 am, I decided to make the 2000 step trek over to my gym. I haven’t been over at this time of day in months. I have been training later in the day, not only because of my bike ride, but because I am lifting heavier these days and I don’t want to risk injury. I want my body to be completely warmed up.

6:30 am: There they are, all my lady friends, lined up on the ellipticals and treadmills just the way I left them back in the spring. Huffing and puffing away. This morning, after all that time, not only did I see no improvement, they all looked heavier, even bloated.

Their faces, their arms and lower halves were bigger. None of them does any other type of exercise, and from conversation, I learned they know very little about nutrition and the benefits of weight training, but they show up every day like clock work. What a shame I’m thinking, to do all that work and not have it show up in the mirror.

Of course I didn’t say anything, or else I wouldn’t be alive to write this. 🙂 The takeaway here is there’s more to keeping your health and shape than flopping around on a machine for 45 minutes of your precious day and seeing no results.

Aerobics is not a license to stuff whatever you want into your body and write it off. Your body is very intelligent and knows how to store calories for a future famine that never quite gets here. Metabolism, bad food choices and the same repetitive aerobics routine will leave you nowhere.

Ironically, this is the summer they all worked so hard for. I have a feeling my next decade as a fitness professional will be very interesting… and rewarding.

 

 

It ain’t over…

Is this some kind of a cruel joke? What is happening here? I’m not supposed to feel this good, am I? My body is anticipating a rigorous start to the day, a long bike ride, weights at the gym and countless dog walks. My training plan is working. I have a long term strategy that is coming along nicely, except….

….wait a minute! You’re almost 71 years old. Where’s the walker? Where the stash of orange bottles that by now, deserve their own table? That little voice in the back of your neck that tells you to find the nearest sofa and wait for the reaper, “Nice try Bobo, let’s settle down, you’ve had your fun”.

Then how can I be so much faster, stronger and more flexible than any time in my life? How can my attitude continue to improve and my creative impulses seem limitless? Beats the hell out of me. Regardless of what I have done to myself over the years, I am still in one piece and ready for more. More than ready.

Either by chance or by choice, I have turned the screws on myself so I have to remain relevant just to survive. This is not what I thought we would be facing when I was a kid. My folks never saw these years, and if they did, they would have been crippled by one disease state or another. In most cases, anyway.

Still, seven decades of flopping all over the planet is no mere feat. I am still cogent enough to enjoy all of my dramas, even my current one. 🙂

The little weenie in all of us is begging for some shelter from the big, bad world but the big, bad world doesn’t owe us a thing. In my mind, 70 is some kind no man’s land where green bananas don’t exist. Should I stay or should I go? Very confusing. Very enlightening.

Are we still relevant at this age? Of course. How much longer can we continue to shape the world? Beats me, but I don’t hear the fat lady singing so….

 

My Coach, Al…

It’s 3:00 am. My feet hit the floor and I take my morning assessment. I can stand on my own. Good. Tummy tight? Good. I walk into the living room after hitting the coffee button. Last night, Sunday, I hit the sack at 6:45. Needed eye shades. I have been clocking nearly 25 miles a day on my bike. It caught up with me.

As I lean over to lace up my sneakers, I notice how tight I am. The good tight. Biceps pump as I pull on the laces. We all know that feeling. The body’s way of saying thank you for doing the right things.

I look over at the recliner where I usually set my belt with water bottles, headphones, iPhone  and a sweet potato wrapped in tin foil as insurance against an unexpected blood sugar drop on my way to Nashua. 22 miles, round trip.

There was a time when just the drive would have wiped me out.

This morning I’m feeling it in my knees a bit. Today will be my sixth day in a row and like everything I do, I tend to overdo it. The mind says, “Really Bob? Are we going to do this ritual until it wears you out?”

After I lace up and sit back on the couch to enjoy my first sip of coffee, I’m thinking maybe I’m should do something else at first light instead of my ride. But I am a junkie in every sense of the word.

Then my recorded version of 60 Minutes pops up on the screen. The second segment is on Alzheimer’s. Yikes! I quickly shut it off and start Googling. My research concludes:

Exercise has many known benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, strengthening the bones and muscles and reducing stress.

It also appears that regular physical activity benefits the brain. Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

 Exercising several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes may:
  • Keep thinking, reasoning and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
  • Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
  • Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease

Physical activity seems to help the brain not only by keeping your blood flowing but also by increasing chemicals that protect the brain. Physical activity also tends to counter some of the natural reduction in brain connections that occurs with aging.

More research is needed to know to what degree adding physical activity improves memory or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, regular exercise is important to stay physically and mentally fit.

Last one to Nashua is a dirty rat 🙂

Work: As a means to an end?

Viet Nam vets will remember the infamous “short timer’s” calendar. The daily ritual of checking off another day of nothing on the way to something. Taped sacredly to the inside of a foot locker, woe to the person who would dispute that holy document. The existential clutch was in during that period where nothing of consequence was happening.

Viet Nam was lettuce, filler if you will, in this sandwich called life. The now is not where we wanted to be. The future, coming home, friends, family and freedom. Then our problems will be over. So we thought.

Lots of people look at their work, their occupation, their profession in the same way, as an obstacle to happiness. I’ve heard it labelled as “doing time.” I have never prescribed to that notion. I don’t have time for that. None of us do, really. I now have less sand at the top of my hourglass than I do at the bottom.

I haven’t always been aware of my motives for working. I have no children, have had only brief encounters with stable relationships and never thought my life would start at retirement. I have always demanded that what I did for a living had to be fun, financially rewarding, and it had to grow me as a human being. Now.

The last part was always critical. Because I always knew I would move on and I wanted to gain something I could bring forward.

Now my current situation requires me to earn a living somehow and I am damned if I’m going to sign up for something that doesn’t mean anything to me. Can’t do it. Not that I am the retiring type anyway, mind you.

Work should never be a means to an end. What if you get to the end of the road and there’s a fork in it?

In my case, I’m looking at a whole drawer full of silverware.

 

 

The Levelling

I’ve thought a lot about this. What I call leveling is a process by which our social standings get circumstantially alterred under duress. It is a protective response to rid yourself of what you perceive as the weaker of your species so you can survive. It is completely subjective.

I have been in many situations in my life where a friend I had in school, or an acquaintance from my neighborhood would get thrown into the mix of experiences with me and my opinion of them would change. Drastically. What sometime follows is an alliance with a more unlikely soul who shows you qualities you can appreciate in such circumstances..

The leveling has taken place in kindergarten, summer camp, Boy Scouts, Catholic school, (terrifying) reform school, the military and business. It is the process where the perception of another person is dashed when the screws get tightened. And they always get tightened.

Under extreme external pressure, personalities change, the person either shows emotional strength or the facade falls away. Kids I preferred to play with before summer camp wouldn’t make my cut after that experience. Now you wouldn’t think something as benign as summer camp would elicit terror, but let me disabuse you of that notion. If Camp Copithorne happened today, someone would go to jail.

Some of us kids on that bus into Freedom, New Hampshire in 1958, swore allegiance to each other based on familiarity and social standing. But all that gets washed away when the pressure gets amped. At twelve years old, the spigot opens. Bed wetters were marginalized and tormented. Fully. I will hold the details for another day, because the intention here is show how social preferences evolve under pressure.

Boy Scouts. Going to Camp Sayre was another social experiment gone awry. We split off into packs and declared war on each other. The namby- pamby versus the street kids. Cruelty in abundance. Someone actually tried to set my bunk on fire. Ostracism ruled the day when human weakness reared its ugly head.  Again, you find yourself updating your guest list.

In 1963, I was once again taken off the street and poured into a situation with some of my street-wise contemporaries and again, they didn’t fare so well in my opinion. My view of them changed under the extremes of incarceration.

Reality sets in when, at the Police Station, your best friend from childhood is brought in shackled, points the finger at you and wrongly accuses you of a crime he himself committed. Social pressure at work.

I remember one sunny day, as three of us were handcuffed together coming out of the bowels of East Cambridge Courthouse, heading to the Division Youth Services, in Roslindale, the guy in the middle said, “Shit, I must be the worstest, I got both of my hands cuffed.”

I thought to myself, “now this is a guy I can do time with.” That little speculation disintegrated by night fall. What happened there was a litmus test of terror that had you changing sides quickly. I’m sure his view of me changed also.

The Army. In 1966, I was part of the largest military draft in history where another leveling occurred. Thousands of us were conscripted into mandatory military service and loaded on to trains headed for South Carolina. (Today, if you google “largest draft” you get basketball.)

Again, on the way to Fort Jackson, me and the usual suspects from my neighborhood were pledging allegiance to each other based on social mores and perceived pecking order. You know how this ends. Like most movies where the protagonist gets developed beyond his pay grade, the same formula. For better or worse.

Business. This is where it always got interesting. The pressure to produce in a heavily propagandized, political and petty environment will separate the wheat from the chaff in a hurry.

Gossip and speculation either killed you or cured you. This, for me, was the most challenging, non confrontational situation, because I found it almost impossible to battle perception. It worked for me and it worked against.

I saw the worst in people in that particular situation and it changed me forever. I run solo these days and am loathe to associate myself with a team of any kind, lest I be subject to, or have to participate, in a leveling process again.

You can pick your nose and you can pick your friends but choose your allies carefully.

 

 

 

Are You Stable?

In my quest to recapture my health, my sanity and my long lost lust for living, I will need to train and maintain my body so I can live a long and productive life. Notice I left out happy? I’m not that naive. 🙂

I’m now finding I have to deal with something I’ve always taken for granted: balance, or neuromuscular stability. Lack of balance is how folks at any age start their downward spiral into the healthcare system. With emphasis on downward, there are no happy campers on the healthcare circuit.

It seems a natural progression, you get a little older, lose your balance, break something, like a bone that hasn’t been strengthened, it doesn’t heal quickly, and everything else falls out of alignment.

You go into therapy, get on the meds, get even more disoriented, fall down again and on it goes.

I will take no of that thank you very much. If I can help it, that is. And it seems I can.

I am officially back to doing what I have always thought of as “time wasters” Like in standing on one foot like a pink flamingo, to train the body to maintain equilibrium as well as other assorted stabilizing exercises.

That is, if I want to avoid the cascade of hell I just described.

I won’t go through a step by step stabilization protocol here, it should only serve to stress the importance of having a stable, balanced body as to avoid common injuries that can sideline you.

My aim here is to bring your attention to it. For now.

You want to be on the stage, not in the audience. You want to headline, not sideline.

Steady, steady.

The Bank Shot

Fuck transparency! Sometimes when you “ask for the business,” you “get the business.”

I hate directness. I also hate pain in the name of honesty. Yes, I’m talking to those of you who fancy themselves as brutally honest. You get no points from me. There is always more than one way to skin a cat. You just have to be creative and of course, ballsy.

I call this approach the “bank shot.” Instead of shooting the ball straight into the pocket, I take the indirect route by banking the shot first. Sometimes using numerous banks. Sometimes sinking numerous balls. It adds degrees of difficulty and risk but it is more than worth it. It’s a beautiful thing, when it works.

It was October 25, 1994. I’m sitting in an upscale restaurant in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s my birthday of all things, and I am sitting with my “Top Ten Techs” All female, all gossipy, all dangerous and tonight, all drunk and seriously beating my Amex Card to death.

They all liked your’s truly and that was a good thing. We had convened to celebrate my 48th and come together as the friends we have been since I took over the territory in 1990.

But all was not well with me on this beautiful fall evening. I just had a major relationship implode on me and my house ransacked while I was traveling by one of Scottsdale’s finest, a tanned, blonde, barracuda named Dana. Did I mention evil? Oh, the pain I was in that night.

So here we are, me and my ten ladies, each a chief tech and each a decision maker who could decide my fate as a Dupont sales rep. They don’t call New Mexico the “Land of Mañana” for nothing. New technology is slow to take root, which put my Cardiolite numbers somewhere down the bottom of their list of priorities.

This was a problem. I had all their thallium business and they thought that would suffice. Besides, if I had done the dry, predictable plea for the business all reps are taught, another honeymoon would have ended.

We all know how business works, mo’money, mo’money and then mo’ money. Albuquerque lived in a vacuum. As I’m sitting there hoping no one can smell my incinerated innards, I’m thinking about the conversation my boss Sully and me had earlier in the week.

He told me Syncor wanted to move me out of the territory because of the zero Cardiolite penetration. He said he put them off, albeit temporarily, but I got the message.

Now, as all the ladies are telling me how much they love me and hope I stay in the territory, I plied my bank shot. Wired up with a belly full of dark chocolate birthday cake and black coffee, I blurt out, “I have an announcement to make.”

I told them that upper management had decided to try someone else in Albuquerque because I had failed to convert the town to Cardiolite. Oh man, pandemonium. Made worse by the fact that I was sober and they weren’t. A huge gamble because news would travel quickly, first to Syncor and then back to my folks in the home office. “Disappearing Dana” just got pushed to the back of my worry list.

It worked! I hardly had to Machiavelli my way around such a volatile move. Within days, and just before the letter writing campaign started, requests for Cardiolite trials started popping up all around the city.  All because I took my shot and put a little English on it.

This was the shot I came to bank on. All the way to the bank.

Rack ’em up!

The Plan: How Can I Help?

I don’t get excited about commerce for commerce sake. I’m not interested in selling widgets, life insurance or time shares. I have to be on a mission. It has to be unique, valuable and most of all, helpful. The first question I always ask clients, whether it’s for a video, an e-marketing strategy or a platform of any sort, is always “How can I help?”

If I don’t have that burning desire to help someone, then I’m just spinning my wheels and it will end before it starts. This is the process I have used for more than 15 years. By helping my client, I’m helping myself. Don’t we all get that warm feeling in our bellies when we help someone?

Now I find myself on a somewhat different path. My lifelong obsession with all things physical has brought me to personal trainer certification. Amazing. By slipping accidentally into this realm, I find I will not only be able to help someone cross over into their retirement years without being disabled or crippled or even bed-ridden, I will be helping myself as well. Physician, heal thyself.

Once we move into our fifties and beyond, our physical problems start accumulating. Know anyone over fifty that can’t share their favorite ache or pain or disability? Doesn’t have to be that way. Plus, having physical challenges will mess your head up big time.

I know first hand the benefits of fitness. At 71, I’m in better shape than when I was 19. Hands down. In spite of my many faux pas. What jazzes me is knowing I can help alleviate a lot of the issues we seniors go through. My mother used to say, “youth is wasted on the young.” How right she was. I frittered my youth away as fast as I could fritter it.

I don’t ask how I got here today. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s like that collision you barely missed from years ago. Too painful.

So how cool is this, to have this time of my life to be able to focus on this gift and be able to spread it around? I didn’t realize it at first. I thought personal training just might be just another passing fancy. Of my many. Bonus: all the things I’m learning pertain to me. Today. Wrap it up, I’ll take it.

Diet and exercise has always been a passion of mine as well as a life saver. Why not roll it all up and pay it forward?

So, how can I help?