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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?


War Memorializing

"Did I ever tell you the time...

I keep meeting these vets. The Vietnam era variety. While at the gym this afternoon, I noticed a little lady with her chart, struggling her way through her exercises with her husband in tow. He showed no interest in exercise at all, but he was tinkering around in his street clothes trying to kill some time.

He’d look at a machine, try a few reps then move on. He was in the worst shape you could be in without having a coroner in attendance. But I noticed the hat. The Vietnam Era Veteran hat.

So he’s sitting in the leg press machine getting ready to take a nap, when I approach and say, “Vietnam? What year? I was over there too.” I’ve seen this look before. You see it in Las Vegas from time to time, when the lemons line up. He just grinned.

It seems like it took forever for him to start speaking. It's called the wind up.

Another rusty boat anchor whose best years are behind him and I happened to touch the one key on his piano that started his captive concert. And start it did. “I’m just a tired old man, licking his wounds from war.” Here we go. He’s eight younger than me.

To me, some vets are like alcoholics, they feel they have to keep treating the disease, to the exclusion of everything else. As is the norm for guys my age, he just rattled on and on, never asking me one thing about my experience. Memorializing to beat the band.

I was physically warmed up for exercise when I stopped to chat, and colder than the shady side of a dead Eskimo when his wife mercifully whisked him away.

This is always a lesson for me. Not just vets, but all older people should just ease up on the memorializing and not begin their sentences with “When I was your age….”  It's not attractive.

Get over thy self.


The Year of Living Dangerously:

Life Du Jour

It's coming up on a year and things at the moment are tentative. Tentative, what a benign word. Fucking scary is a better choice. If I look at the Wells Fargo icon in my bookmarks, my stomach curdles. Things are that “tentative” at the moment,

I could be having iHop this morning and soup kitchen tonight. The ground is moving beneath my feet. Ssshhhaakin' baby. As Jim Morrison puts it, “the future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”

Panic reigns supreme. At almost 71, I am somewhere no one wants to be. I have one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave. Every day I have to play for keeps just to keep playing.

I have divested myself of all the accouterments of middle class living. Folks, we are down to it. We're talkin' death bed status here.

But let me take a quick inventory: Right now, I am lean, mean, surprisingly muscular and healthier than most horses I know. My insane hunger to not only survive, but thrive, burns through my veins.

My heart races with every key stroke. This is the shit, ain't it?  I live, therefore I am? Once again the windmill I am fond of tilting at, is outlining through the fog.

So who am I without my “stuff?” After spending years of having my flame smothered by indifference and routine, I’m finding my new skin fits pretty good. Clear eyes stare back at me.

With such a dire forecast, a reasonable person would do reasonable things, like try to settle a stalled divorce proceeding in hopes of a quick cash infusion, borrow some money, sell my guitar, or worse, get a j-o-b.

Nope. Not gonna happen. Wouldn’t be prudent. Let's dispense with all that folly. Every time I think about how long I’m gonna be dead, those ideas go out the window with the bath water.

Nope. I... am… gonna… let…this… happen. Damn the fucking torpedoes. I just cleaned out my SUV so me and my two road warriors, Bailey and Izzy can see the world.

I will get my kicks on Route 666. Call you from there.


The 9 and 3 o'clock rule:

This is an extrapolation of some very valuable driver training I received on a runway in Bryan, Texas in 1996, courtesy of Dupont Pharmaceuticals. It is an "evasive driving techniques" course of the like given to the secret service, bodyguards and chauffeurs of the rich and famous.

The concept here is that the correct position of the hands on the steering wheel should be at 9 and 3 o'clock, so that if you come up on something quickly in the middle of the road, you're attacked or there's an attempted hijack, you can evade the situation not by hitting the brake, but by stepping on the gas, twisting your arms quickly to the right or left and then returning to position after you have escaped to another lane at high speed. Pretty heady stuff.

We practiced this from midnight to sun up on a wet down runway at high speeds with large orange barrels as obstacles. Motion sickness was the norm. The back seat, where the drivers-in-waiting sat, was hell, as you can imagine.

Once we got used to hitting the gas in difficult situations instead of the brake, our chances of survival increased. Took a bit. I was happy just to survive the training, thank you very much.

Now, where does the extrapolation come in? On my road of life I have some serious obstacles in the way. They are big, looming and ever-present. I can either panic and hit the brake and try to mitigate the damage, or gun it and hope another lane of opportunity is open. I’m thinking....balls to the wall! You?

The Vietnam Error

I wasn't going to go off on this subject given its sensitivity and nature, but today was a little more than I could take. I brought my car in for service this morning and took a seat in the waiting area of the dealership.

Most places I go, I'll sometimes spot a guy who looks around my age with a baseball hat with gold braids or markings usually accompanied with the theater of operation, dates, ship names, buttons, battalions, brigades, VFW and DAV affiliations. Reminders.

I swear this is the umpteenth guy I've met over the last year that's on anywhere from 60 to 100% government disability. With no discernible physical challenges. Some look to be pretty fit. Are they mental? Probably no more than I am.

You get talking to them and it all comes rolling out in a bragging manner. They ask "how much you gettin'?" When I say nothing, they start lecturing me about how much I'm leaving on the table. "Tell 'em this, tell 'em that."

Some of these guys weren't even in the goddam war. Some never touched that soil. They were in during the "era". All you need to submit a claim. The government also has some responsibility here. Government guilt? Who knows?

I would leave well enough alone but they're so adamant about it. Like in all this civilized society you've got your "loser think" mentality. Yeah, some of these guys are messed up but some could have done it to themselves. Way after the fact. The guy I met today was half in the wrapper at 10 am.

I'm not talking about the guys who need it, Lord knows, there are plenty of them. God bless 'em. It's these Section 8 cases that keep dirtying up a good system.

To them, war was just the excuse to drop out and keep sucking that teat until the milk runs out. I was there in the thick of it and never thought about getting a second helping from the government. I turned in my training wheels and got on with my life.

I got a very nice college education from the G.I. Bill, thank you very much, and I have health care from the VA if I need it. What a blessing!

And don't keep reminding me about all the stuff I'm leaving on the table. What I left on the table, was some friends and loved ones who never came home. Get a job.