Friday, August 26, 2016

That Time Of Year

What time is that? It's time for the Veteran Speakers Retreat. The VSR, as we call it for short, is an annual “retreat” for veteran (typically senior) professional speakers.

A professional speaker, if you're not aware, is someone who is paid a fee to present a keynote speech, conduct a seminar or workshop that may be as short as a couple hours or as long as a week or so. They may also speak, not for a fee, but to promote their other businesses, products, books and courses. These speakers expound on topics as diverse as the dictionary.

I was, a member of the National Speakers Association, the primary professional organization for the speaking profession, for a quarter of a century. While the NSA represents only a portion of the people who speak professionally, it's certainly an influential organization providing education, business building and standards for the profession.

And, yes, I was a professional speaker as another element of my multi-faceted professional life. However, I was never a full-time speaker, as so many of my friends in the profession are. It was actually something I did more as an avocation. While I did collect fees for some of my speaking, I mainly spoke to promote my other businesses.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

On The Road Again . . .

Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world be runnin' our way
- Willie Nelson

Listen to the Audio Version: 

Hi Everyone . . .

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything new here. Frankly, I needed a short break. There were just a lot of things going on and my poor little brain was getting fried.

Additionally, I was devoting time to straightening out the space I had been occupying at my friend's place in WV where I was based camped for way too long. And, I was devoting more time to completing some modifications and changes to “My McVansion” before heading out on the road again. I ran it past my mechanic and we found a few minor things that needed some tightening, replacing or refilling. I wanted to make sure it was road worthy before I started wracking up the miles again.

Just about the time I was finally ready to roll out the door, one of my few remaining clients (from my 50+ year career in the recording & voice-over business) called with a new project. Actually, the 3rd or 4th complete update and redo of one of his training programs. I had to record the program at his offices in Fairfax, Virginia (where I have an office at my disposal whenever the need should arise). But, the scripts wouldn't be ready and cleared by his lawyer for another week and a half. So, one more delay, but certainly worth it. Dave and I have been working together on his programs for over 35 years.

So, due to all kinds of circumstances (and probably a few excuses) I got a late, er, make that LATE start, by several months getting back out on the road. My last post was a week or so before I finally headed out, probably close to a month ago. When you're in one place too long, there seems to be a longer transitional period than one might think, at least for me.

So, I headed to northern Virginia as soon as the scripts were ready, bunked in with my Air Force buddy in Falls Church, Virginia for a few nights, recorded the 8 CD's worth of new material with my client, then headed west. Unfortunately, I had to forego all my planned visits and wanderings south of the Virginia border. That bummed me out, but I'll plan more time for that this coming fall and winter.

I did get to visit my long time book editor and his wife, good friends from my book publishing days. I also got a chance to run through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee and camp for three nights in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – most pleasant and relaxing (as I spent time editing my client's programs). Since then it's been a continuous road west, doing my best to avoid interstates, although the yesterday was and today will be interstate days. This was only because to get to my destination for the next couple weeks I'd have to go a hundred or more miles out of my way and expend gas money I'd rather conserve at this time. I've actually seen quite a bit of Americana that I haven't seen before on this trip already.

I stopped in Jackson, Tennessee to visit the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame, founded and curated by one Henry Harrison. I had only planned to spend about an hour at the Hall of Fame and then move on to Memphis. But, I met Henry, a delightful and knowledgeable man about the rock-a-billy genre of music and friend of many, if not most, of the notable artists. While there, a delightful woman, Debe, who looked much younger than her age, befriended me. After we left Henry and he closed the Hall of Fame, Debe filled me in on the city of Jackson, drove me past the late Carl Perkins home, then took me over to her new massage salon where I met her husband, David.

We had a delightful dinner and parted ways until Sunday morning when I followed them to their church service – at a Unity Church. I had never been to a Unity Church service before and always wanted to attend one. Seize the opportunities when they arise. That was in Memphis. We spent the rest of the day in Memphis and had dinner on the famous Beale Street, enjoying live entertainment and good food. They also put me in contact with another person I met with on Monday before crossing the Mississippi River and heading west.

This is what is so great about my life and lifestyle. It's one serendipity after another.

So, it's Friday morning as I write this. I'm parked in a Walmart (Motor Inn – bring your own accommodations – as I like to quip) parking lot in Amarillo, Texas. This is where I spent the night last night with other vandwellers and RVers parked all around me – all headed for their own adventures and serendipities. It was wonderfully cool and comfortable sleeping last night and it was a beautiful sunrise shining right in my back window this morning. The temperature was about 49 degrees here at about 3,600' above sea level.

I will be leaving here shortly to head to my destination for the next couple weeks in high desert country of central New Mexico. I'll be meeting up with a fellow full-time traveler and his wife. Sharon is heading out on an adventure of her own with her sister, so John will be baching it for a couple weeks. So we're going to enjoy some of our own adventures. I'll complete my client's project, do a few more things to the van I didn't get to do before I left and enjoy some time to catch up on a lot of reading.

I've received some emails from some of you, my loyal and much appreciated readers. Thank you for your concern. Several of you were concerned something happened to me (illness, accident, died, dropped off the face of the Earth). Let me reassure you, I AM FINE – better than fine, actually. It is so great being back out here on the open roads (and knowing my writings were missed). So, yes indeed, I'll also be WRITING and will be preparing a number of new articles for the blogs.

Yes! I've been taking photos – how could I not. It's what I do. I'll be posting them with some stories to go along.

Some travelers, whether in larger forms of RVs or vans, travel almost continuously. Others select a location and stay there for, perhaps, anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months, some even longer. I'm kind of between those two extremes. I don't like to be traveling everyday. But, sometimes I may do that in short spurts like I am right now. But, when I get to an area that I really like and can find a comfortable place to park for several days to a couple weeks or so. I do that and spend time on my personal projects and writing. I may venture out from there and do day trips to explore the region.

So, life is grand. As the late Gene Autry wrote and sang, I'm back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend . . . Stay tuned! My batteries are recharging and getting near full. There is so much to write about and discuss. Keeping life simple, living free and being happy in a world full of turmoil. This may be one of, what may turn out to be, the most historic election cycles in our country's history. We could end up (I'm not making any predictions or endorsements) with the first non-political establishment president in 64 years since Dwight Eisenhower or the first woman president since the beginning of our national history. Who knows? It's an exciting time to be alive, yet there is certainly much to fear and be concerned about. Let me finish this article with this quote from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Nothing is really all that new except for the technology and the players. That's why it's important for us to live free and be happy. EH

Monday, April 25, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #260 - Sunrise On The Atlantic, New Beginnings, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, January 2009

This is IT! For all of you who have tuned in each week for this simple feature I've called my Photo-of-the-Week, this is the 260th photo article. I said this is it, because after 260 consecutive weeks or five years, I'm ending this series. And, NO, it's not because I've run out of photos. Believe me, I have several thousand photos to continue choosing from. I'm simply tired and bored with producing this particular weekly article.

I chose this particular photo as the final one because it doesn't represent the “end” rather, as a sunrise, it represents the “beginning.” Literally, this photo depicts the beginning of a new day. And if you hadn't noticed, this is a day late. I usually post these photos on Sundays. So, while this is the end of this weekly feature and series, it's also the beginning of something new. I'm not sure exactly what that is, yet. But, it will be coming pretty soon. Possibly, it might begin as early as next week.

If you haven't figured it out, yet, I thoroughly enjoy sunrises and sunsets. This sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean was taken in January of 2009. I shot it from the balcony of a hotel room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A buddy and I were on one of our spur of the moment, spontaneous expeditions in January of 2009. There were very few people at Myrtle Beach at the time since it's a summer resort and most people don't go to the Atlantic beaches during the winter. That suits me just fine since I don't like crowds. But, the temperatures can be quite moderate at the more southerly Atlantic beaches and the sunrises and sunsets are still glorious.

I actually featured another shot from this series several months ago, except, for some unexplicable reason, I called it a sunset. The sun doesn't set in the eastern sky over the Atlantic from Myrtle Beach. I guess I wasn't paying much attention to detail. This is definitely a sunrise and, in my opinion, a beautiful one. I especially, like the clouds and the palm fronds in the photo. They add “color” and texture to the vibrancy of the sunrise colors.

Where to from here? I'm not sure. Since I operate a dash cam while I'm traveling, I may start posting some short video clips of interesting places as I travel the highways and byways (mainly the byways) of the U.S. There may also be some screen capture shots from the videos if there is something specific I want to highlight. The videos may have voice-over narrations instead of printed article descriptions (articles). I'm not sure exactly what form future posts will take, yet. I'll most likely do some experimenting until I find the new formula I like.

I'll be heading out on the road again within the next several days. I'll be experimenting with the new dash cam I recently installed in My McVansion. It appears to take some pretty good high definition video. Of course, I'll have to be sure to keep the windshield clean, since “bug season” is already beginning.

I plan to take a lot more photos and a lot of video since I have added more camera power and accessories to my media arsenal. The van is now set up for both video editing and production as well as high quality voice overs. I'm planning to finally launch a podcast series and the YouTube channel I've had for a while, but have not posted any videos on, yet. So, stay tuned. This wandering nomadic vagabond has lots of roads and miles to explore and new stuff in store. I hope you'll enjoy it and share the blog, podcast and YouTube channel with your friends. It's time to extend my reach and motivate more people to live freely.

Live free and be happy! EH 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #259 Reconnecting – Uncle Pete's House, Garfield, New Jersey, September 2013

I've decided to end this Photo-of-the-Week series at the five year mark. That will be at the 260th post of weekly photos. This is #259. I have no particular reason for ending this series. I still have thousands of photos left and I'm always taking more. I simply feel like taking a break and coming up with something new. I'm thinking it may be video instead of still photos. Stay tuned and you'll be surprised as much as I may be with whatever I come up with. So, there is still one more photo in this series next week.

Yesterday, Saturday April 16, 2016, something occurred that hasn't occurred in more than 20 years. As a matter of fact, something occurred that probably hasn't occurred in possibly as many as about 50 years.

The 20 year marker was that my two younger sisters, Lois and Denise, and I met and spent several hours together. I've seen each of them during those 20 years. They've seen each other during those 20 years, however, the three of us hadn't been together at the same time and place over those years. My, how the years have flown and how we've changed (please note, I didn't use the word “aged”).

The 50 year marker was that we actually were together for about five hours and shared a meal together. Many people who read this will raise their eyebrows about both of these events. I'll not go into the details of our family, other than to say, there are a million stories in the “Naked City” and ours is one of them. Obviously, we are not a close knit family and, if you'd guess there were circumstances that precipitated the situation, you'd be right.

My sister Lois, four years younger than me, drove from her home, a town just a couple miles from where we all grew up in northern New Jersey. My sister Denise, eleven years younger than me, now lives in a small town in the Shenandoah Valley about 15 miles south of Winchester, Virginia. Winchester is where I made my home for about 26 years prior to taking on my nomadic lifestyle the end of 2008.

I drove to Winchester from the small town I use as my eastern base camp in West Virginia and met up with Denise. She rode with me to Hershey, Pennsylvania where Lois met us. Yes, the same Hershey as in Milton Hershey and the Hershey Chocolate Company. It was about a 2½ to 3 hour drive each way to that meeting point for all of us. Of course, I had close to an additional 2 hours each way from West Virginia to Winchester. My total time behind the wheel was about 9 hours.

It was cordial. And, as is typical, especially when you haven't shared any time together over long periods, there was a lot of reminiscing. We are in contact and there are no anger issues to speak of. Logistics is the main issue. Lots of memories of old people (friends and family), places and things. It's amazing how, as kids at different ages in our development, we recall certain things and not others. We also recall common memories quite differently sometimes. It was very cathartic.

This week's photo-of-the-week came to mind as I was sorting through a bunch of photos from my hometown area in New Jersey. I was motivated to look through this batch of photos by our meeting yesterday. The house on the right of these two family houses is my Uncle Pete's house. Uncle Pete has been dead for quite a few years. Admittedly, he wasn't necessarily my favorite uncle. My father was raised as an orphan from age 8 until he was 18. Uncle Pete's was my father's home for those 10 years.

As you look at the house you can see there is a basement, a first and second floor and an attic. My father and my uncle, his younger brother, grew up in the attic, which was, to the best of my knowledge, unheated. And, of course, as most attics are, it was also the hottest part of the house during the summer. Heat always rises and the sun beats down directly on the roof of the attic.

I don't recall if the last home my parents owned was air conditioned. It likely was not since none of our earlier homes were air conditioned, not even window air conditioners. I still remember how hot it could be during the summers even in the lower, insulated parts of the house. So, I can only imagine what my father's life was like while growing up.

Reminiscing is an excellent thing to do from time to time. I don't live in the past and I don't enjoy talking with people who live in the past. That was then and this is now. However, as my sisters and I did yesterday, reminiscing about our early years can really help us appreciate the life we live today. I surely do. How about you?

Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #258 – A Different Perspective, Duck, North Carolina, March 2008

Another water theme photo. I've always like this photo because it represents a different perspective and a kind of juxtaposition.

This photo was taken from the beach under the Duck Research Pier, US Army Corps of Engineers, Field Research Facility in early March (we call that winter) 2008. A good friend has a timeshare beach house not far from this pier that I have had the good fortune to utilize occasionally with a group of friends.

The pier is quite tall and, obviously, very sturdy. It's primary purpose is scientific research into tides, impacts of hurricanes and nor'easters, water depth surveys and a variety of weather related studies. The facility has been in place since 1977. It's 1,840 feet long. It's work has been recognized internationally.

It's quite easy to walk under since it's so high. But, I always enjoy the interesting perspective being under the pier with the colors on the cement and metal pilings. So, maybe I have a weird definition of art, but to me, this is . . . well, unique. There may be other piers like this in other places. I just don't recall seeing them or being as intrigued as I am with this particular pier.   

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Photo-of-the Week #257 – I Need This Place – Any Beach Will Do, Boca Grande, Florida, January 2014

It's April 3, 2016 as I write this. It was snowing when I got up this morning. Give me a break. I looked outside and thought, “Oh no! This is a nightmare, I'm back in Syracuse, New York again and it's 1968 or 1969.”

Okay! It's spring. It is, at least, according to the calendar. I was supposed to be in the southwest by now, where it might be a bit chilly in the evenings, but warmer and sunny during the days. I spent another winter – unplanned – in the east in what may be considered the Mid-Atlantic region, but more properly, Appalachia.

The wind blew hard, probably gusting to 50 or more miles per hour. The rain came down in torrents for a good part of the night. This morning, the wind was still blowing, the Arctic blast came during the night and it was snowing when I woke up. Now, it's later in the day, the snow has stopped, the wind has died down to a light breeze, the sun is out and the sky is blue.

I need a dose of beach, salt water and bikini babes. There's nothing like feeling the warm sand running through my toes as I walk on the beach. I also enjoy the rays of the sun on my body. The sound of a gentle surf and some sea birds is like a lullaby. And pretty young women in skimpy bikinis quicken the heart rate of a guy my age, whose mind keeps trying to trick me into believing I'm going on 33.

So, I pulled this photo from two years ago on the Gulf coast in Florida. I remember where I was and who I was with. Unfortunately, while Tommy is a terrific guy and I enjoy his company, he just wasn't a cute babe in a bikini. But, I captured a shot of this one.

Padre Island National Seashore is calling to me. I'll be heading to Texas and I won't be far from Padre Island. It's been about 13 years since I was last there. I just may have to pull myself up a piece of beach to park on for a few days and enjoy the sun, surf, sand and hopefully a bevy of bikini babes. I have my sunscreen packed. Live free and be happy. EH 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #256 – Far From The Maddening Crowd. Sonoran Desert, Quartzsite, Arizona March 2015

Ah! Sweet memories. Just a little over a year ago, this was my location. I was staying on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in one tiny segment of the Sonoran Desert. In the distance, at night, you could see the lights from the small town of Quartzsite. Otherwise, this was a peaceful place in the middle of a lot of desert territory away from the congestion of larger towns and cities.

I wasn't actually alone. There were folks camping throughout this and other BLM territories all over this region of the country. In this area, there were five other folks in residency. There were four women and one other man. We each chose a small parcel of land and left enough space between each party to provide the privacy we each cherished. Yet, we were close enough that we could easily gather around a campfire at night and even share an occasional communal meal.

You could almost say we had our cake and could eat it, too. That's really a big part of this kind of alternative lifestyle. Each person had a different educational, occupational/professional and spiritual background. Each lived with different financial means. Each brought unique skill sets to the table and shared them as they might help another member of this ragtag, informal, unlikely crew. Different interests and different origins from different parts of the U.S. Yet, at this one time, drawn together for this short period to this small commune. And then . . . we'd scatter in different directions.

The rules were simple. Each to his own, except when invited or inviting to share time, resources, conversation, meals, humor, knowledge, wisdom and skills with one or more of the others. Each member of this spontaneous, temporary commune was self-sufficient and didn't require the others, but it was nice to have some social camaraderie.

The words commune, community and even communism all have their origin in the English, French and Latin words meaning common. Communes and communities are basically more social forms of groupings for certain common interests of those living within the social structure.

Communes are, by their nature, smaller groups of people, generally with reasonably close and common interests. They share the living experience and typically each contributes voluntarily to the group based on their talents and skills.

Communities are similar, but generally larger, usually more diverse and more structured. They typically have a much more defined hierarchy of leadership with more defined rules, codes and laws to, a generally accepted degree, benefit everyone in the community.

Communism is, again, similar, but different. Communism as envisioned and expounded by Karl Marx is both a social AND an economic system. It basically doesn't recognize the individual rights of anyone. Everyone is the same. Everyone is supposedly equal. No one owns anything. Everything is owned by the central authority or government, if you will. While the most basic premise seems Utopian in theory, in practice, it's oppressive and repressive. A small elite group controls everything and everyone, supposedly for the “greater good.” As most everyone has witnessed, communism doesn't work.

I have a group of friends in my former hometown in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We are all single, mostly divorced, some widowed. On several occasions, because we enjoyed each others' company, we had deep discussions about forming our own commune. While we were diverse educationally, professionally, financially, spiritually and we each came from different parts of the U.S. originally, we genuinely liked one another. We had even traveled and lived communally for a week at a time on several occasions. Some of the group did some serious research on the concept.

It never manifest in an actual plan. While we could agree on most facets of creating such a commune, there was at least one big issue we couldn't resolve . . . location. If the members of the group were going to give up what they had to become a member of this small association (we envisioned not more than, perhaps, 12 people), everyone wanted it to be in a place each dreamed of living. Some wanted to be near the ocean. Some wanted to be in a rural area. Some wanted to live in the mountains. Some preferred a lake setting. Thus, this seemingly, almost perfect dream never came about.

That's the beauty of what this week's photo-of-the-week represents to me. I can be part of a small commune of reasonably like minded individuals I can relate with. And, then two weeks later be by myself somewhere or part of a different communal group. Many thanks to the folks I shared this time with for including me and for the friendship. And, many thanks to the people in other small communal groups I've been included in. I look forward to more opportunities in the future to share communal time with all of you.

As an aside, I'm putting together an addition to My McVansion. Last year I had to wait for the sun to move to lower positions in the sky to cast some shade. Shade is especially useful on very bright, hot days. So, this year, I'm adding a nice canopy to the right side of the van. It will provide shade from the sun and shelter from damp, rainy days all day from sun up to sun down. One is always working at improving their home and that's true for vandwellers and RVers as well. Live free and be happy. EH