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Tuesday
Nov152016

Getting in over your head.


Leaving your comfort zone.


Let's see, where do I begin. My whole life has been a series of of unexpected, out of nowhere experiences. So much so, I hesitate to look down the barrel of the obvious. The big, life changing opportunity came for me when I was participating in a "career day" type of internal exercise when I was working on the dock for Dupont.


In those days, the most you could expect to grow starting from that position was maybe a lead person or at a stretch, a supervisor. That's all I expected and that's all I thought I could achieve anyway, things being what they were, education, business experience. For me, a solid goose egg.


During that meeting, I was asked a series of canned questions which I handled in my usual upbeat manner. My job, to me, was a cakewalk. I actually thought I was back in kindergarten, truth be told. Before that, I was manacled to a hot stove in the restaurant business. I knew the meaning of hard work and this was anything but.


When I was through answering questions, an area director took the floor and said, "I think Bob would make a great supervisor in a couple of years." Fair enough, I thought." Right down the pipe.


Then a voice in the back, with some frustration hollered, "Are you guys crazy? This guy belongs in sales. No doubt in my mind." I'm thinking, "Who's this disillusioned fellow?" I thought I would hold my breath until they escorted him out of the room. Still, he persisted. Guess this guy had some sway but it was still a bit embarrassing. When through, they thanked me for my time and I left thinking" Who the hell was that guy? I would soon find out.


He had just come in from the field and was slated for a marketing position but got sidetracked into Customer Service. He wasn't happy. I saw him in the hallway one day and I thanked him for his vote of confidence and told him, "I appreciate what you did the other day but in all honesty, I don't know anything about sales or have the technical background to sell those products." He said, "Look, it's not about the technical stuff, sales is about people. Period."


Well alrighty then, I thought, but I still had a long way to go. In the next few months I had to run the gauntlet of muckety-mucks who agreed with my first assumption. It was leveling. At one point I gave up and settled back in to my day job. You can only stick your face in the oven so many times.


Six months later, my office phone rang "You ready, Bobby?" I was off and running. Had no idea what I was going to do but damned if I wasn't going to do it. I took over the Arizona- New Mexico territory with a smile, a joke and a package insert. In that order. It was a good run and needless to say, way out of my comfort zone. But I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


Stay open to the crazy stuff. It's there for the taking.


Bob O'Hearn
President & CEO
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Tuesday
Nov152016

Exercise In Futility? Think Again!

muscle-business-man


"I'm seeing 'tings"


I've been getting good bio-feedback lately, in that, at 70, my muscle memory still remembers me. Or. as Robert De Niro would put it, "I'm seein' 'tings." Since September 1, of this year, not expecting great results, I hit the gym and started taking my iron pills.

Instead of experiencing a "decline," I'm "inclined" to believe that your muscle base never leaves and all you have to do is tighten up your diet, get some aerobics, (your choice) and hit the gym. This I can say, really works. At any age, may I dare add. And no one is more surprised than me.

Now, having a compulsive personality, (I can get hooked on stubbing my toe) and knowing addiction to anything has always worked in my favor (if it's positive) and all I have to do is pull my starter cord and I'm off. (Don't go there.)

I did a talk once on my version of compulsion at Salem State Teacher's College and was roundly criticized for my approach. Which was titled "Switching Compulsions Mid Stream." :)

A slovenly looking psychologist with two different socks and a smelly pipe led the charge. Glad he wasn't there at the detox intake unit when I arrived some years later.

As I have written before, I spent 7 days at a VA rehab unit in Bedford  Ma. this past summer. The physical conditioning or the lack thereof on a lot of the staff, physicians included, was eye opening.

They were 10, 15, and twenty years or more, younger than me, and they were done, physically over, stick a fork in 'em. Weight training is not part of civilian culture anymore. Too bad.

How does a doc tell you to slim down, eat right and exercise, if it's not part of their own daily regimen?

I know this, though, I have absolutely no plans on hanging around this planet in various states of disrepair, not if I can help it anyway. After all, life is tough enough, isn't it?

On the way out of the gym today, the owner said, "Hey Bob, looking good, want to renew your membership?" I said "No, but I'll take 10 feet of that mirror."

Bob O'Hearn
President & CEO,

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Saturday
Nov122016

The Flinch

flinch


"The Flinch" was a life saving maneuver we used as kids to keep from getting our goddam blocks knocked off. Everyone flinched as if we were constantly in a state of spasmodic alert. The attacks came from all directions, parents, priests, nuns, brothers, teachers, principals, cops, other kids' parents, even your best friend might decide to sucker punch you to move up in the pecking order of the gang. You were a constant target. Hence, the flinch.

I told someone later in my life that Viet Nam was like Club Med compared to those days. They laughed.

And the hits kept comin'.

My father, despite his overall goodness, thought a hay maker between the eyes was chastisement. If you lost consciousness, he would call you a phony or a baby. These days we'd be visiting him in prison. My father invented the abbreviated ass whoopin'. He would beat the crap out of me and my brother, take a break, have a cup of coffee and a cigarette and come back and finish the job. If you think he would lose his zeal in the interim, you would be wrong. I thought the first part was more than adequate, thank you very much.

I'm not sure about my brother, but I felt my father hated me. I would scream like a girl so the neighbors would hear him whacking me. He hated that. Once he missed me completely with a barber belt that had a buckle, but you wouldn't know it from my falsetto. Beatin' times went out in to the street where I lived. Especially in the summer with the windows open. Everyone would hear the commotion. The old ladies would break out their rosaries.

Kicks are for kids:

Once, I had a long scabby sideburn from his shoe running down my face. My mother asked me about it and I told her he kicked me there. She was furious... at me. They had an agreement. She told my father she would play the role of the good Irish wife as long as there was no "dirty stuff." He told her there wouldn't be and that was that.

A few months later, I lost Ronnie Bohannon's bike. I took it snake hunting. I had parked the Schwinn in the bushes and when I came back it was gone. That night, a balmy summer evening, the whole Bohannon clan comes walking down the middle of Paulina Street. I thought I would pass away from fright. My first episode of "pucker factor."

As I would find out about 10:00 pm, dying was the better option. It cost fifty bucks, that bike. Probably two weeks pay for my father. We weren't poor enough? Funny, my father didn't drink very much but he could mete out punishment like a crazed animal when the spirit moved him. Or I did.

That night he had me cornered between the refrigerator and the bathroom door, conveniently located in the kitchen. I was starting to worry I might not survive this one. All the other "lickings" had a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginnings were an interrogation style with questions you couldn't possibly answer, peppered with feints and jabs that would make you wish for a resolution. It would come, in its own good time, when he felt like it.

But this night was special. We were gonna go places we'd never been before. When he thought I was fading, bleeding and snotty on a kitchen chair, he reached over to the kitchen sink, picked up a pan full of dirty dishwater and let me have it. I was back. Great. My mother would pass through the kitchen from time to time to make sure he was still following the Marquess of Queensberry rules.

As the night wore on, he wore off and so did his judgement. The dropkick came in the final round, just in time for Nora to score a foul. That was it. Their agreement had been breached and the bond they had, broken. I didn't go to school for the next few days for obvious reasons but my mother and father's relationship was in tatters. Guess who was to blame? The cold war would last almost five years and then everyone in the family assumed "The Flinch."

Prologue: Six months later, my father tried to herd me down the cellar to look at something, he said. I had a bad feeling about this one.  As I'm walking down the back stairs with him behind me, I was trying to decide if I should make a break to the left and out the back door or meet my maker in that dingy old cellar, I heard something like a single church bell. So close and loud I thought it was Jesus, coming to save me.

It was my mother. She came up behind him on the stairs and let him have it over the head with a heavy skillet. One of those old black ones that weigh about 20 lbs. Holy Shit! My bowels got all runny and so did I. She looked shocked and dazed at what she'd done. They never took it this far before. I said "Jesus Ma, you coulda killed him."

It would be years before they would reconcile after that. They both suffered from Irish Alzheimer's.... you forgot everything but the grudge.

Despite my father's violent leanings, he was a morale, pragmatic man who could charm you out of your sneakers. He loved sports, Nat King Cole and Victory at Sea. He worked six full days for most of his life and coined the phrase, "There's no such thing as women's work." That last little nugget has stayed with me all my life and made me an independent, responsible man.

Without coming off as some kind of masochist, I remember now, a kind of pleading in his eyes mixed with all that anger and a helplessness at our 12 person, one flat, predicament. A nightmare for sure, that was only realized after we left that tunnel.

With his schedule, we could go weeks or months without seeing him. That is, if you could stay out of the house on Sunday. You would do it if you knew he was gunning for you. I remember being on the run from him for a few weeks and sleeping in the back of a neighbor's junk car rotting in their back yard. Being a heavy sleeper, as kids are, I found myself at Webster's Auto Body getting ready to be compacted. Those were the days. Or not.

And I also remember sitting the dark with him years later, smoking cigarettes and listening to Ravel's Boléro. A moment I'll never forget. Shit, tears are coming. My catharsis is coming full circle.

They're gone, and I'm still here, flinchin'.

 

Saturday
Nov122016

One Minute You're Out....

Resistance


I just had a this conversation with an old friend about how life can throw curve balls to even the most well intentioned. Let's say you're out with some friends or at a business meeting and you have a couple of drinks. Your not drunk, just pleasantly buzzed. On the way home, on a dimly lit street, you are doing the speed limit when you feel a bump. You think maybe it's a pothole or a frost heave. Let's say.

So you pull over to survey the damage. It's not a pothole or a heave, it's a human. Whoa! Now you got a problem. You call 911 and the responding officer is there in minutes. He looks around, checks the victim, asks what happened and you don't know.

You get a breathalyzer and guess what? You're just over the limit. Panic. Now the rest of the gang descends on the scene, local news, fire, ambulance, more police and the scene is cordoned off with crazy lights everywhere. Bingo, instant perp. There you are on the evening or early morning news, which ever comes first.

For the moment, no one seems to be paying much attention to the injured, all eyes are on you.

So they take you in and even though you have a spotless record, they gotta book you. You have to spend the night until probation comes in bright and early with a bail bondsman. There's been a rash of hit and runs lately, so they need to tighten up on someone. That would be you. It's $50,000 dollars bail.

Let's see, that means $50 dollars on each thousand that you won't get back. You can't afford that because you're recently divorced and paid a ton of alimony. Hard times, you can’t hit that nut.

Meanwhile, the person you unknowingly hit, expires. Bail goes up, you go down. Now your whole family’s involved. Calls go out for money to save you from county lockup. No help.

A friend of the family’s lawyer shows up and tells you not to worry. He’s thinking how he’s gonna sell your house to get paid. Now you're in the system. You get the news you have to be held until court. Someone has to call work for you because you’re sick. But you forgot your boss was watching your life unfold on the 6:00 am news. Shit!

So it’s off to county where the denizens are just "dyin’ ta meetcha." In here, it’s guilty until proven innocent, period. You don't get a different color jump suit because you're not a serial offender. You look like everyone else and treated the same way. Guards are not going to make sure your new neighbors don’t "get at you." Let me disabuse you of that notion right now. They got their own problems.

So some ratty looking gang member wants to know which gang you’ll affiliate with and the downward spiral picks up speed. Another low life wants your sneakers. Now. "And what are you gonna do about it?"

Depending on what happens to you while you're locked down, you get in a fight, (a very real possibility because you will be pushed to the extreme,) accept a gang offer, (they usually have  requirements that will put you at odds with the establishment,)  you're fragile existence will do a 180. More time will be added and this is only a holding pen, not even real prison yet.

Your family is desperately trying to get you sprung to no avail. You’ll probably arrange financing in a week or so, most likely, too late. The enemies of society are just beginning to figure you out. In there you’re either a rat, a snitch or somebody’s bitch. They stole your bunk, your canteen, (which is food you can purchase to survive prison chow, if you should have a little money in your prison account,) your sneakers and your self respect. I won’t go any further here because I know you get it. Or, at least you should.

So let’s recap: Just out with friends, few drinks, an eventful ride home and this. You ask, “How can all this happen to me?” Life. Because once you think you're out, you're in.

Watch yourself out there.

 

 
Friday
Nov112016

Distancing: The long and winding road.

one-more-from-the-road


Distancing: The long and winding road.


When I was a kid, I was remanded to the custody of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Youth Services. Twice. Once when I was being held for court, ( with ten kids in the family, bail was not an option ) and the second time for offenses some considered “kid stuff.” Obviously, the judge saw things a bit differently.

We were mostly under 17 and knew how the system worked. Probation for all first offenses, no matter what. Unless it was murder or you were over 17. In those days, our heroes were James Cagney and the Bowery Boys, so a stint in “juvy” was considered a rite of passage. I didn’t know too many of my contemporaries who didn’t become wards of the state at some point.

When you're a juvenile you have no rights, of course, and you aren't fully formed so you couldn't defend yourself even if you were foolish enough to try. I cried myself to sleep the first week, listening to the sickening thud of fists on flesh at night, administered by the "sirs." It was called "getting jacked up."

Some of these state paid bullies even went on to hold public office. Of particular note, Don Allard, second string quarterback for what would later become the Boston Patriots and some gorilla from Watertown, O'Hanian, who studied under the Marquis de Sade. Hope they're taking a dirt nap.

The Youth Service Board was a turnstile for bad behavior. On July, 23, 1963, I took that ride after sentencing in a Volkswagon bus heading for Roslindale. Canterbury Road to be exact. If this had happened 3 months later, when I was 17, we’d be having a different conversation. I shudder to think.

After my stay in detention the previous spring, I was horrified at my prospects going forward. All sentences were indefinite. You were "surrendered," not "sent." They could keep you until you reached 21, if they had a mind to.

I was there when Kennedy was killed and I was still there when the Beatles landed. During my stay, I met a couple of kids who were up for murder. No contest. They did it beyond a reasonable doubt. They even admitted to it. One kid killed his sister by accident and the other offed his mother while she slept, he was my cell mate, of all things. This is all public record.

On these higher crimes these kids were held for an inordinate period of time before their cases came up. I thought that would be hellish, but if you had a good lawyer with a good track record you knew what he was doing: distancing.

All humans have the built in capacity to take even the most horrible experiences and mitigate them. Put them in your rear view mirror and fog it, so to speak. If we didn’t, I'm thinking we’d all be reduced to blithering idiots.

The distancing strategy works in so many high profile cases. On the victim, the perpetrator and hopefully for them, the jury. The severity fades over time. People forget and recollection diminishes. Lawyers play off of that.

In those days, if you didn't have a nervous stomach, you weren't awake yet. Good riddance.

As you can imagine, I am more than happy to put some distance between today and my younger years, but they were critical, life changing experiences that have had an invaluable effect on my later life. Like, when I went off to war.

 

 

 
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