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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #255 There Is Something About Water, Lake Murray, Chapin, South Carolina, May 2010

There is something about water that draws me to it. I'm not a fisherman, though I've done a little fishing. I'm not a huge water sports person, though I've swam, surfed, body surfed, snorkeled, scuba dived, water skied and done some boating. I enjoy oceans, gulfs, lakes - great and small, ponds, rivers - large and small, brooks and creeks and even swimming pools and hot tubs.

I'm not sure, but I believe all humans are drawn to water. Perhaps, it' s because our beginnings go back to the primordial soup (waters) where all life began. And, of course, water is absolutely essential to our existence considering water makes up about 60% of the adult human body with some variations based on the time of the month and the gender.

At any rate, I love mountains. I love lush green forests. I love beautiful green fields. I love rugged and arid deserts. I tolerate concrete and asphalt (city/suburban) landscapes and I deal with them when I have to. But, I not only love water, but I'm drawn to it. I lived on a the shore of a small lake for several years and it was a wonderful time of my life. I could do that again. Actually, with my current nomadic lifestyle living in my magical mobile micro condo, I can do it whenever I choose.

This week's photo-of-the-week was taken from the end of my good friends, Al and Margaret Walkers' dock right behind their home in Chapin, South Carolina. This is Lake Murray. Chapin is known as “The Capital of Lake Murray.” The lake is actually a huge reservoir created in 1920. It's 41 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest and has some 500 miles of shoreline. Man made or not, it is a beautiful body of water and is the home of all kinds of fresh water aquatic life. And, of course, it draws the human species to its shores, including my friends, Al and Margaret. Live free and be happy. EH  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Photos-of-the-Week #254 Wake Up! Wake Up! It's Another Glorious Day In Paradise, Ocean Pond, Osceola National Forest, Florida, February 2014 (With Sound)

This week I'm sharing three photos with you. They were all taken at the start of the day as the sun was rising over Ocean Pond in Osceola National Forest in northern Florida.

Mornings, even in February were fantastic at Ocean Pond. The temperatures were brisk, but nothing could dull the beauty of nature.

I'm going to let these photos speak for themselves. I've included nearly 20 minutes of the sounds one awakened to in this beautiful place. Enjoy them. Use them to wake up to yourself in the morning. Take a little meditation time and play them softly in the background. This is an audio and visual gift from me to you. For you "Birders," how many birds can you identify by their songs?

Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #253 Memories, Again – Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood, California, May 2009

Decades come and decades go. We accumulate all kinds of junk/stuff that eventually has little value other than, perhaps, some sentimental value to most of us as individuals or couples. Memories is really where it's at and what life is all about. The great thing is we can accumulate an unlimited number of memories. They take up no physical space and memories are the only thing we actually take with us at the end of our life's journey.

That's why it's so important to make all the memories you can while you can. One day, if you and I are fortunate enough to live long enough, we won't be making a whole lot of new memories. But, we'll have this vast treasure trove of memories we've saved up over a lifetime and we can review and relive them in the theater of our minds.

This week's Photo-of-the-Week dates back to 1973. I've mentioned my short (not quite four years) tenure with the U.S. Air Force from August 1969 until March 1973. My main duty assignment was located at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC. Yes, the old base dating back to 1918, was the only Air Force base (formally, U.S. Army Air Corps) physically located inside the borders of the nation's capital. While there, I was initiated into the Hollywood scene along with other parts of California.

Sometime in 1972 or 1973 I was in the LA area on assignment and I met up with a fellow by the name of Harry O'Connor. Harry had an audio production company in Hollywood where he produced primarily radio program material, many in the form of syndicated radio shows. One of the shows he produced was for a B grade actor who became the governor of California and ultimately became the President of the United States, yep, Ronald Reagan.

At that time, my partners and I were establishing our audio and video production company and tape duplication business in the Washington, DC market. We produced all kinds of radio public service announcements. We thought, how cool would it be to have both a DC address and a Hollywood address on our brochures. So, I cut an informal deal with Harry O'Connor to use his address in Hollywood as our west coast address. Also, since he had connections with people in the entertainment world. Se, the informal agreement included using his services to acquire talent if we ever needed celebrities to do the voice-over work for any of our clients.

So, our brochures for Audio-Video Concepts, Inc. (AVCon, for short) had our DC address and Hollywood & Vine, one of the most iconic addresses in Hollywood at the time. The actual building address was 1680 Vine Street, but the building was on the corner of Hollywood & Vine. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Unfortunately, this isn't the greatest photo, but it was taken at the intersection of Hollywood & Vine in May 2009, 36 years later. Yes! That is one of the most recognizable buildings in Hollywood down the street a few blocks, the Capitol Records Tower (owned by the UK entertainment giant, EMI). When I took this photo, I couldn't remember the actual street address of the building Harry O'Connor Creative Services, Inc. had their offices and studios or I would have taken a photo of it. It is actually directly to my right in this picture.

This was taken during what I have termed my “Last Hollywood Tour,” seven years ago. I have little to do with that scene any longer. Most of the studios I used to hang around out there are long gone, including Harry O'Connor Creative Services. From what I've found in researching, Harry passed away in 2013 at the age of 87. My, how time flies and the world changes.

Live free and be happy. EH   

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #252 Blue Sky, Blue Sea, Sandy Beach – Padre Island, Texas, September 2003

I seem to be focusing a lot on sun, sky, sea and beach these days. That's probably because, That's what I'm yearning for after this long period off the road. But, my departure is imminent. My storage is all compressed down from three units to one unit. I've sold off a lot of stuff. My cash reserves are back up again and I'm prepping My McVansion for rolling down the highways and byways.

Look out America! Here I come and I'm chomping on the bit. Hope to meet up with anyone who reads this blog as I travel. Let me know if you're in my path and we'll see if we can arrange a meet-up.

Short and sweet this week – just enjoy that fresh salt breeze.

Live free and be happy. EH 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #251 – Once in a Lifetime – WWII Veteran Honor Flight, Fresno, California, April 2015

This photo is one of those once in a lifetime photo ops. This was taken at the Fresno International Airport in Fresno, California in April of last year. This was the Welcome Home celebration for a group of World War II veterans who had just spent a couple days in Washington, DC being honored for their service to their country and getting to visit their World War II Memorial.

This was a VERY special time for me and a great honor because the lady in the photograph with me is very special to me. She is my former mother-in-law, but even more than that she has been one of my best friends in life, for nearly 40 years and continues to be so. Her name is Bonnie June Gardner, but she goes by her initials, BJ. She served in the medical corps of the U.S. Navy.

It was especially an honor for me since my own father was a WWII veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps, but, unfortunately, I will never have the opportunity and honor of celebrating his contribution to our country since he died 49 years ago. So, BJ not only represented herself in my eyes, but she also represented my father.

Her ancestors came to the New World on the Mayflower and, if I remember correctly, she is a member of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). She's the mother of my former wife, Cynthia, who is still a good friend, and to her six brothers and one sister, all my “brothers and sister.” She's also the grandmother to my son, Pete.

This was quite a celebration. There was a band, cheerleaders, a military honor guard and a bagpipe corps. The airport was filled with people there to welcome back these very special people. I believe the oldest on the trip was 99 years old. There were five women veterans, I believe, and BJ may have been the oldest of the women.

Thank you, BJ, for your service. As a veteran myself, I know how important it is to be remembered for the time and sacrifice you made. Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #250 – If Wishes Were Fishes, Duck (OBX), North Carolina, September 2007

I don't know if you've ever heard the saying, “If wishes were fishes, I'd have a bathtub full.” but I grew up hearing it. I have no idea of the origin, but my mother would recite it whenever I, as a youngster, would say anything beginning with “I wish . . .”

Well, if wishes were fishes, this is were I'd be today, the beach where it is warm(er) or anywhere like it. I'm still in the beautiful state of “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia. This is a beautiful state, for anyone who has never been here. It has a wonderful state park system. I highly recommend you visit this state when you can. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #249 Reminiscing, My Mountain Home. Winchester, Virginia 1993-2003

Two weeks ago, as of the time of this writing, the east coast experienced the “Blizzard of 2016.” The thought of that snow event had me reminiscing about all the snow and snow events I've experienced during my nearly 71 year lifetime. Growing up in northern New Jersey during the last half of the 1940's through the middle of the 1960's, then experiencing two years of frozen white snow and freezing cold hell in Syracuse, New York should have been enough, one might think. Thanks to my Uncle Sam and Vietnam, I was plucked from Syracuse and sent to San Antonio, Texas for about 8 months during the next winter.

Then I was relocated to the”South” in the Mid-Atlantic region. It's important to understand, those of us from northern New Jersey during that time believed anything south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge crossing from South Jersey into Delaware was “The South.” But, I learned different when it came to the weather.

Sure, the folks started talking different as I came south and said things like “all y'all” and “come back now, heah.” But, what I didn't know was that the freezing cold and white fluffy stuff didn't stop at the South Jersey border.

I was moved to the DC area by the Air Force in 1970 at age 25 for three years, but remained in that area for four years total. Then I moved to the Chesapeake Bay and Annapolis, Maryland area from 1974 until 1984. In 1984 I moved to the Shenandoah Valley and the Winchester, Virginia area where I lived until 2010 (officially, but I still use this region as my unofficial base of operations until the current day). I have experienced some ferocious winter snow events and freezing temperatures in the “South.”

This weeks photos are of my Mountain Home a couple miles west of the small rural city of Winchester. I lived here from mid 1993 until the beginning of 2003 except for about a year and a half when I left the mountain during 1995 to 1996. The total area of the house was about 3,000 square feet and it sat on about 4.3 acres, almost all wooded, as you can see, about 100 feet below the crest of the small mountain on the western side. This is significant. This house, like everyplace I've lived, holds some significant memories.

The house itself was a very well constructed and warm bi-level ranch style home. I basically lived on the upper floor. On the lower floor was my son's room and my business offices. The entrance to the main office was through the door next to the chimney. I had offices and a recording studio/production suite down there. Significant, though, were the snow events I experienced on the mountain. We had some serious snow and ice events there.

This photo of the driveway doesn't nearly depict the steepness of the incline to get up to the 180 degree dogleg at the top of what you can see in the photo. This incline was so steep that inclines like this on the open road cause trucks to labor to go up and always have runaway truck ramps on the down side.

The significance of being all wooded and on the western side of the mountain is that during the winter, when the days are short and the sun doesn't get very high in the southern sky (looking up the driveway is looking south-southeast) the sun doesn't get high or warm enough to melt the snow or ice. So, it was not uncommon to still have significant snow and ice three weeks after Winchester's snow, in the valley on the eastern side of the mountain, was completely gone.

During a snow (and especially an ice) event, my snowplow guy and I were the only two people who could get up the driveway. On many occasions, I had to slide many friends' cars back down the driveway when they got stuck part way up. Then I had to drive their cars to the parking area at the top. I usually had to drive it back down for them when they left.

I fractured my ankle at the bottom of the driveway at the beginning of the incline during one ice event. My significant other, at the time, got stuck right at the bottom and slid into the drainage ditch on the left side going up. She couldn't even get out of the left side of her car. I slipped, fell and went sliding under her car as I was attempting to figure out how to get her out of that situation. I won't tell you how painful it was to slide myself up that driveway on my backside, pushing with one foot and pulling with my hands in the slippery ice.

I eventually called a tow truck, with chains, of course, and he got her car out. Meanwhile I couldn't drive and after the storm was over, I couldn't get to a doctor for over two weeks. I'm not going to begin to tell you about the road coming up the mountain that was equally steep and had a serious S curve to negotiate. Let's just say, it was as treacherous as my driveway.

There were a lot of other things that happened at that house that I won't go into. It was another of my dreams to live on a mountain with beautiful views. While I completely loved the house and living there, when I left, I left behind a significant number of “ghosts.” I lived on that mountain, in two different houses, for about half my total years living in the Winchester area. That's the longest I've ever lived in any one house and especially in one “community” (in the two houses) in my entire life.

But, how can you beat having a place with different views and different dynamics for each of the four seasons? Live your dreams. I've been so fortunate to live so many of mine.

Live free and be happy. EH    

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #248 If I Had My Druthers, Ft. Pierce, Florida, January 2014

Yep! This photo says it all. If I had my druthers right about now, I'd be sitting on this beach at Pepper State Park in Ft. Pierce, Florida or on Manhattan Beach outside Los Angeles or on the beach on Padre Island. I'd be anywhere I've been or not yet been, as long as it was warm with balmy breezes and preferably with the sound of seagulls and the ocean surf to lull me to sleep.

This would be the view out the back “picture window” from My McVansion. I would be relaxing and reading a book, composing a new blog post, editing a chapter from one of my upcoming ebooks or possibly contemplating the route to my next destination when ready to leave this idyllic setting.

After last week's 28” blizzard snow fall (see last week's POTW), almost anyplace warmer and with no snow would be nice. Alas, at this writing, I'm still in West Virginia and My McVansion, while warm and cozy inside (I'm not staying in it at the moment), is still snowbound on the side of my friend's house. There was actually a heat wave here, today with a sunny, blue sky and an afternoon temperature that reached the low 60 degree mark. Daydreaming. Soon.

Live free and be happy. EH 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Photos-of-the-Week #247 Blizzard 2016 – North Central West Virginia, January 2016

This week I'm going to let the photos do the speaking. Here's what I'll tell you. I'm still located in north central West Virginia on the West Virginia-Maryland border (the Potomac River) about 23 miles south of Cumberland, Maryland. This is all a very rural region. It's known as the Potomac Highlands although the small town I'm located in is actually in a small valley at about 800 feet above sea level, surrounded by mountains that probably range from 400 to 800 feet higher.

I had planned to be in warmer climates by this time, but “Stuff Happens” and, while the stuff was not of my own making, I agreed to stay around the area to provide assistance for my friend and my sister. I had no intention of experiencing another blizzard in my lifetime. I've weathered many of them in New Jersey, central New York, Annapolis, Maryland and Winchester, Virginia. My snow preference is to watch it on TV, in movies, see it in photos or, on occasion, visit the snow with the intent of immediately leaving it behind.

This blizzard impacted at least 11 states according to the news people. I needed to be far from here to miss the impact. Obviously, I didn't make it. So, I'm literally up to my butt, that is at least 28,” in snow. You can see by the photos of My McVansion, that this is serious business. It reminds me of my days living in Syracuse, New York. But, then in 2010, I was in my former hometown in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Winchester, when a snow event affectionately named “Snowmageddon” hit the entire region and left behind about five feet of snow from two back to back blizzards. This one has been called “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowzilla.” There are areas like Winchester where 36” was logged and just north of there as much as 40.”

These photos were taken at the peak of the blizzard just before it began to taper off. The van is parked next to my friend's house where I base camp when I'm in the east. It's powered up with shore power and the battery charger is keeping the batteries topped off. I also have my tiny, ceramic, space heater heating the interior to prevent it from freezing up inside. If you look at the digital thermometer photo, the number at the bottom is the interior temperature of the van. It reads a comfortable 62 degrees.

I had already turned it down by then, but during the peak of the storm at night when the outside temperatures were in the low to mid teens, it was actually 72 degrees in the van. I turned it down again after I took that photo since I'm not staying in the van right now. My friend has graciously provided use of a cozy, warm room in her home. But, I would have been quite comfortable, though probably suffering from “cabin fever” had I been staying in the van.

The van won't be moving for several days as of this time. There is a plowed pile of snow about 6' high between the van and the road, so some melting is going to have to occur before those tires will touch pavement again. I'm now hoping that between now and the time the various circumstances keeping me in this region are cleared, no further storms appear on the radar screen. Once again, when I leave, I'll be stating I don't plan to experience another of these winter snow events.

Live free and be happy (and stay warm). EH  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Photos-of-the-Week #246 The Heart (Engine) Surgeons at One-Stop, Hawthorne, California, January 2015

One year ago at this time I was “stranded” in Hawthorne, California with My McVansion. It was a trying time. As you may recall, I was on my way from Clovis (Fresno), California where I spent Christmas and the changing of the year with my former mother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law, my nephews and niece and my son and my former wife, his mother.

It was a bit of a special time for me since it was the first time all of us had actually spent a Christmas together in 25 years. For me, that was a really nice Christmas present. Unfortunately, I didn't know what new “adventure” was awaiting me when I would leave Clovis on January 5, 2015.

I had just had the van hand-washed and an exterior detailing job done. It looked pretty. I had two new tires mounted on the rear of the van. I took off heading over the mountains from the central valley of the Golden State and as I was climbing to the Tejon Pass on I-5 heading to the LA area to visit my son at his place . . . My McVansion suffered a “heart attack.” Yes! The heart of my condo on wheels blew halfway up the mountain to the pass.

Fortunately, I could get the engine to run again. It was pretty noisy and had no power. I limped at an average of 10 to 15 mph over the mountain, through the San Fernando Valley and to the South Bay area, Hawthorne, to be precise, where my son lived. I drove on the shoulder of I-5. It was a very long and tedious drive, never knowing when and where the engine may completely die. But, I made it.

Here I was, about 2,800 miles from my familiar home territory and my mechanic of 25 years. But, then the greatest thing happened. I went on line searching for a place to look over the engine and determine the situation, and, of course, break the bad news I was expecting. I found a place in Hawthorne, only about two or three miles from my son's place, by the name of One-Stop Engine Rebuilding.

I called and I reached a gentleman by the name of Wilson. And a gentleman he was. We chatted by phone and he told me to bring the van over the next day for an “examination” and “diagnosis.” I did, and as I suspected, the news was not good. But, thankfully, all was not hopeless and My McVansion wasn't terminal.

I found a cracker jack, top drawer team of automotive engine technicians, all certified by the ASE. They were courteous, careful, knowledgeable and highly skilled with a reputation that preceded them. Wilson, the owner and leader of the team of “surgeons” couldn't have been a nicer person to work with. He was honest and always in control. He also had a wonderful personality and sense of humor.

Wilson's father had started in the engine rebuilding business in the '80's. Although he had suffered a stroke, he was still active in the business. Wilson also had a brother who worked with them. The rest of the team were terrific, too. I couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of people to work with and handle this problem for me.

In the photo at the top of the article, Wilson is the second from the right. There are two other members of the team who are not pictured, they were not available when I took this photo.

They took the engine out of My McVansion, stripped it down, steam cleaned everything, replaced specific vital components with new ones, machined and made sure anything that could be re-installed was perfect. Here you see My McVansion's “heart” re-installed after being rebuilt into the next best thing to a new engine. They were terrific and allowed me back in the shop throughout the entire process to see everything they were doing. Even though I had studied automotive technology in the mid 1960's a lot had changed. They gave me a good understanding of the modern V8 engine and what makes it tick.

Once the engine was rebuilt and installed back in the van's “chest cavity,” it was a thing of beauty. It ran perfectly. Well, perfectly except for a problem with overheating exhaust manifolds. That presented a new can of worms. With a like new engine that ran like it had just come out of the engine factory, this wasn't right.

Wilson wouldn't release the van to me this way. He now realized that the demon that had caused the problem in the first place, was still dwelling somewhere in the engine or something connected to the engine. He also knew that if he released it to me, it wouldn't be very long before this demon would create the same conditions and the engine would blow again. Wilson, in his collaborative and communicative way explained, even though everything about the engine was running to factory specifications, my engine didn't display the typical reasons engines fail when they are brought to him.

He explained that most engines he receives and works on come with no oil in the crankcase or no coolant in the cooling system and sometimes both. My engine's coolant was perfect and so was my oil and the levels of both were to factory specifications. Whatever it was was, for him and his team, an anomaly. Here, again, is something I admire and am very happy about. Wilson refused to give up until he found the problem and resolved it.

Was this a huge inconvenience to me? It sure was. I ended up imposing on my son's hospitality for two months. But, my son was great and, frankly, we hadn't spent that much time together in almost 12 years. So, it was an unexpected gift/blessing for me. But, it was also a major inconvenience to Wilson and his team. He had limited space and bays to work on other customers' vehicles. Now, he had this one behemoth van taking up much needed space. Not to mention he hadn't charged me a dime, so far.

At long last, his perseverance paid off. He tried everything he and the team could think of. Then he finally consulted an automotive “neurosurgeon” who found this tiny gremlin hiding deep inside one of the engine systems. The system was replaced and, viola, EVERYTHING was perfect finally. He road tested it and then had me road test it for a few days. Happy! Happy! Happy! Finally, the van was no longer blocking his space.

He presented me with the final costs and, as I stated in the beginning, Wilson is a gentleman and honest. The bill was exactly as he said it would be. He added nothing on for all the extra time he and his team had to continue working on it. The only thing he added on was the cost of the automotive “neurosurgeon's” services finding and fixing the elusive gremlin.

So, if you're ever in the LA area and have engine problems with your vehicle – van, car, pick-up, SUV (I don't think he can tackle a larger RV, but you can always ask him) and you have an engine problem, I can HIGHLY recommend and commend One-Stop Engine Rebuilding as the first place to call and take your vehicle. Fair prices. Honest people. Certified technicians. Stand behind their work. Courteous. Friendly. Can you really ask for more?

The engine now has 12,000 miles on it and is performing perfectly (although I still knock on wood as I write this - who's superstitious?). It's about ready for its next oil change and I'll be switching over to synthetic oil, my preferred kind of oil for all my vehicles for the past 40 years.

So, while I'm still here in the east. I plan to make my way to visit with Wilson and the team when I get back into the LA area. Never lose a valued contact and connection when you're a nomadic traveler. Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #245 Winter Sunrise On The Atlantic, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, January 2009

There isn't much to say that this photo doesn't say for itself. As you know I love sunrises and sunsets. This is another one that takes my breath away. Of course, it was even more awesome in person, standing on the beach as I experienced the event.

A travel buddy and I decided we needed to travel a little to get away from the drabness of the winter in the Washington, DC area where he lives and I was staying at the time. This was just what the doctor ordered for us. I hope you enjoy these sunset and sunrise pictures as much as I enjoy taking them. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Photo-of-the-Week #244 Feeling Lucky? Q Resort & Casino, Winterhaven, California, March 2015

They sure are elaborate. Gambling casinos, I'm talking about. For the longest time the only time I had been in a gambling casino was back in the 80's when I was at the Resort International Casino in Atlantic City to record a seminar on telemarketing. I went down to the casino the first evening, took $20.00 with me (locked the rest of my cash in my room) and returned to my room with . . . $0.00. Lesson learned.

Since that time I've been in casinos in West Virginia, Florida, Arizona, California and Oregon. There may have been one or two other places, but they obviously didn't make a big impression on me. Actually, they all pretty much look (and sound) the same to me. They are glitzy, glamorous and noisy. I can add gambling to the number of things I'm not prone to becoming addicted along with alcohol, drugs of any kind, adrenalin rushes and compulsive buying. Now, I do enjoy eating, but I'm not particularly addicted to any specific thing. What does that leave . . . hmmm, sex? Not sure I've ever found myself in a situation to test that as a possible addiction, well, maybe once. But, I can't say I'm addicted. So, I guess I can cross that off the list, too.

I don't get it. I go into these casinos and walk through from early morning until late at night, actually all night long, there are people there. They sit at the “one-armed” bandits, although they are all electronic now, like zombies playing one, two and three slot machines at a time. It boggles my mind. Obviously, some people must get lucky, but I just can't buy into it. I stay at casinos when I travel because most of them offer free overnight parking for RVers. I'll go in and usually patronize their snack bars and restaurants (many have really great breakfasts at excellent prices). Beyond that, like I said, I just don't get it.

Live free and be happy. EH