An 808 way of life


Gift giving and the care meter. Gifts and caring need revisiting.

Care_meterDoes the notion of gift-giving conjure up smiles, positive interaction and appreciation? Leave off the appreciation – and the notion still evokes smiles and positive thoughts for most of us. Right? Anticipating a gift – somewhat delayed by say … the United States Postal Service or even FedEx …. is enough to warm the heart of even the Wicked Witch of the West! At least that’s what I saw when I watched the Wizard of Oz the last time (37 and counting BTW).

Some people equate ‘love’ and ‘gifts’ as one in the same, and without a present they don’t feel loved. Have you ever heard the words, “I didn’t get nothing!” …? I have, and it feels – well – strange. Ever heard the words, “got your card – what was the amount?” I have, and it was the last time I’ll hear those words.

Just to reiterate my commitment related to gifts, let’s revisit the Surf808 gift giving policy: For special occasions (birthdays, invented retail holidays such as mothers/fathers days, Christmas, etc.), the gift will be a symbol of the relationship. Should there be a relationship, the gift will reflect the essence of the relationship in at least two ways. First, it will be meaningful to the giver and receiver. Second (and this is important), it will not a financial contribution. Unlike Obama’s health care plan, the Surf808 gift giving policy includes a recommendation for the receiver … just in case!

The policy states: it’s best to pre-purchase a ‘from-me-to-me” gift to ensure you receive what you want when you want it. Gosh that was simple!

When in doubt, check the Care Meter and you’ll know what it reads.


Retro beach: babe



Retro beach: clothing was required, touching was optional



Retro beach: suited for one another



We didn’t have a chopper for our camp. What’s up with that?



Training camp and I’m ready to break camp for something warmer. We want beer!



Training camp – day something. Where are our fans?

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Day THREE: Training – where is the warmth?



Training camp – day TWO. And we look to the pros for advice.

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Connect the dots – that you can count.

Canned and ready to serve. “Order up!”

Tour de June: the podium has improved its post-race celebration … finally.

Random image.

Why I ride – – because church is what you make it.

Wrap around views of Moloka’i.

Top 10 Reasons to Add Tea to Your 2012 Diet.

The news is full of ‘news’ about green tea. The best reason to add it – it’s good for you. But add your greens (we’ve added spirulina) and a mix of fruits as well. For everyone looking to improve their diet program in the New Year – good luck!


Top 10 Reasons to Balance Acidic and Alkaline Foods

There a number of reasons that we must learn to balance acidic and alkaline foods. The more acidic our diet, the more likely we are to traumatize our digestive system. The concept is simple: more alkaline than acidic. Eat oneth.

Portion control and food control – if you only knew what’s going on behind the scenes.

Food, Inc. is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.The film examines corporate farming in the United States, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees. The film is narrated by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser.

This film caused me to re-think most every meal I consumed from 1980 to present. Beef and poultry as we know it (today) are NOT healthy. Period. Food, Inc. tells the true story behind poultry and beef production. Chickens raised in a grow-out houses (injected with ?, and fed questionable grain) are not a healthy food choice. Beef production is horrifically bad and processed beef scares me. Shock and awe worked. Food, Inc. arrested our attention and we heard the message. Yes, we heard the message, and we decided to take action.

Twenty minutes ago my wife cleared the pantry of processed foods, and cleared out almost half of what was stored in the refrigerator. The remaining items contain 5 ingredients or less. 

Ok then. We’re not vegan but we’re eating vegan dishes. We’re not vegetarians but we’re eating vegetarian dishes. We’re not whole food Nazis either but we’re eating whole foods as if we live on a farm (from the early 1900’s before chemical companies took over the food industry). We switched to organic poultry, seiten, and ahi (wild caught), and organic turkey breast.

In summary, sourcing truly healthy foods is challenging. This type of transformation means we are reading labels, and taking time to research questionable ingredients. It also means we’ll review scientific data behind food claims, all of which are interesting. We believe we’re on a better path forward. Let’s hope so. More so than ever, we believe you are what you eat.

Think about your body – and what you consume. Really.

Darkness at the National Cemetery of the Pacific.

I know – February doesn’t have 30 days. And some people don’t think before they ink.

The last book I read: “Why redheads are Jesus freaks.”

Four years, one hundred and three days ago I had dinner with the author of this book. Fictionally speaking of course. The dinner was nice – a tad bumpy – but ended with a hug and ‘friendly’ kiss. I wasn’t convinced then, but I am now, that redheads are Jesus freaks. I know, I’m about to marry one. Figuratively speaking of course.

Four years is just about the right amount of time to wait … to marry. When I met Amy I was given some advice from a cousin whom I call an aunt who said, “live at least one season of life with her (Amy) and then you’ll know.” I decided to live four years of four seasons. To make sure – that she is sure (HA!).  I once commented that if we’re still dating after four years will you be around … and her response, “probably not.” Then again, this is the same woman who would have turned and ran if I met her with a half-sleeve tat. Or, if upon meeting her kids that I would have suggested, much less encouraged, that we watch Dog the Bounty Hunter as a family unit (NOTE for the ‘other’ parents: it’s an educational show!).

Fast-forward the TIVO box. In March of this year I traveled to Moloka’i, Hawai’i for some recon work. I leveraged my spring break visit to Moloka’i as means for surveying the island as a possible wedding destination and/or honeymoon location. After my first full day on the island, I was convinced I would marry my Jesus freak on this island in the middle of the Pacific.

Upon my return home I mentally bookmarked the experience, but didn’t do anything. I mean, I thought about the idea and kicked it around in my head  – but that was all.

Ask yourself the question, why get married?

Over the past few months when mentioning the topic (of marriage) to friends and colleagues, most often I received a simple response – why? Typically the follow-up question is, “how many couples do you know who are truly happy.” Sure, we all know couples who appear to be happy, but which ones are faking it?

Marriage counselors and therapists often define “good relationships” as being “good” 50% of the time (together). Define “good” however you wish.  Recently I read somewhere that divorcees who do not remarry within two years of the “decree” are 87% less likely to marry again in their lifetime.

Ok then – why? If you know, tell me.

Honestly, these bits of interaction have been stumbling blocks to my thought process.

In late July I traveled to north Georgia for a speaking gig and had the opportunity to break bread with some colleagues within the professor ranks.  During the course of dinner each of us took time to share life stories. When it was my turn, I’m not sure what happened but I blurted out, “I’m getting married at Christmas in Hawai’i.” A hearty congratulatory round of cheers was followed with, “give us some details.”

I had a sketch but no details. I told the group that I hadn’t proposed, I didn’t have a ring and I wasn’t going to ask my girlfriend to marry me until we arrived on the island of Moloka’i. I basically said, “I’m going to propose on the first night and suggest that we marry while staying there.”

The responses immediately fell into two camps:

Camp A: Wow – that’s very romantic.
Camp B: Why?

The facial expressions were priceless. Half the group gave me the “you’re crazy” look backed with a dazed you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-eye-roll.

Camp A (mostly women) smiled (beaming) as if to say, “we approve.”

The leader of the group basically said, “that gave me goose bumps. I’m going to call my husband when I get back to the room and tell him your story.”

Yeah, it gave me goose bumps too.  I felt like I got married at dinner and I hadn’t answered the “why” question.

Press pause on the TIVO box for a moment. Does someone contemplating marriage need to answer the “why” question?


You most certainly do.

If you do not answer the “why” question honestly, you will make a mistake. Trust me on this point. I didn’t answer the “why” question the first time (first marriage) and I made a huge mistake.

Push the TIVO button and zip over to September. In a meeting with my intern group I casually mentioned that I was getting married and the team responded with – “you’re engaged?” My response (literally), “was that a Camp A or Camp B question?” No one understood me so I blurted out, “I’m getting married in Hawai’i at Christmas on the beach – and no I don’t plan on asking her to marry me until we arrive.”

In unison – Camp B facial expressions.

Then the conversation unfolded:

“Have you bought a ring?”


“Why don’t you let her pick it out?”

“It wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing. What about your family and hers …”

“It’s not about them, it’s about us.”

“What if she says no (giggles)?”

“She would say yes today.”’

“Then why don’t you ask her and then get married there?”

Ahh, the “why” question!

My simple response, “because we’re already married – and the ceremony only affirms what we already know.” Then I fielded more Camp B responses. With Pandora’s box open, I had no choice but to cut it off.  I then asked the ladies to Google wedding dresses based on some wedding photos I found (beach weddings taken on Kaua’i and Moloka’i).

You guessed it. Major Camp B responses. You’re going to select her wedding dress?!?!?! The looks included a touch of WTF, BTW.

In order to keep this post somewhat readable I’ll summarize by saying this: the intern group was engaged as the official wedding planners after I shared the “why” (which I’ll do later in this post).

In the back of my head one thought emerged, “where’s my jet pack?”

Zip the remote and review the footage from October. On my birthday all the interns took me to lunch. A few of them went along just to meet my girlfriend and others to consume margaritas. I was there to celebrate another year of life. The wedding planners were there to ensure the dress size was correct, and to execute recon work related to style.

Late in October I focused on rings, event wedding planners and process. My checklist grew from a few simple to-dos to an all-out event list. Think about it. What does it take to execute a wedding? A location, a place to honeymoon, a minister or JOP, a license, music, a photographer, flowers, witness(es), Champagne, cake, etc. Seriously, the list is substantive. I could spend countless paragraphs sharing the details of event planner selection, dresses, rings, my clothes, the flower choices, photography stylists, etc. Just rest assured, all details were covered (except one, and I’ll get to that in a minute).

Zip the TIVO box to early December and the intern event planners review the actual dress, they survey the clothes I intend on wearing, the wedding planner’s flower selection, the beach/locational images, the actual rings (no one was allowed to wear it; they observed), the watch … and my ring. My ring? Well, yes …. I realized that on short notice Amy wouldn’t have a ring to give me, so I bought one for the occasion. The inscription reads, “Me Ke Aloha * Moloka’i * 12/24/10.” Me ke aloha translates to, with love.

Let’s focus on the “why” for a moment.

Why? Here’s why: Amy is the best friend I’ve ever had in my life. Really. She’s loving and kind – not in a motherly way but in a partnering way. She tolerates me and let’s me figure out that I’m wrong when I’m wrong.

Amy doesn’t yell at me. Ever. She doesn’t pick fights and rarely is miffed about anything.

She’s got my back (I’ve got hers too).

She’s very kewl.  How many girlfriends – or wives – or friends do you know that would get out of bed at midnight and drive to the airport to jumpstart your dead battery? I only know one person.

Amy doesn’t do drama, sagging hearts or deliver bullshit when she’s wrong. She doesn’t ever turn the tables.

Amy is ready to go with or without the makeup. No kidding. You can actually touch her hair when she’s gussied up.

She’s perfectly willing to get on the scooter and motorpace me in the rain. Truth.

Amy is smart and intelligent. When in doubt don’t Google it, ask Amy. As a financier, her numerical and statistical aptitude is surpassed only by her ginormous vocabulary, grammatical skills and knowledge, and her literary knowledge. Whew.

On the other hand, she understands what duct tape and a Leatherman make. A toolbox.

She is kind and loving with her children. Naturally it’s one of the reasons why they are such great kids (the other is that their dad is a good father).

Amy is mentally tough and resilient. When pressure mounts, she stays cool.

There is never any pressure to do, go, get or buy. In fact, we both can drive Benzes and certainly we can afford “the house” – but she and I both agree, why?

Amy tolerates me listening to Hawaiian music every day.  When I’m home that’s the music that we live our lives by … Aloha. The Hawaiian quilt she’s been working on for the past 18 months+ was started because I asked her to consider it.  Amy didn’t start with a pillowcase. Nope, she started with a king-sized quilt of Hawaiian breadfruit (the traditional starting point for Hawaiian women – otherwise knows as the beginning).

Every morning we hug and kiss – and she always says, “have a good day, I’ll call you later.” And she does exactly that. She reaches out. Amy actually makes the whole process of “relating” easy. It’s void of fussy interaction.  Amy sees the bright side of life and the glass is nearly full all the time.

She likes vintage Five-O, and even though she’s fair skinned (with red hair) she loves the beach, the hikes, the lava, and the Sandwich Islands as much as I do (this is our third trip and our fourth is planned for March of 2011).

Amy is everything I ever dreamed of in a mate. Our inner sanctum is our own. We respect that and each other. She doesn’t ever bandwagon when others kid me. In fact, she’s not too keen on people funning around to test our relationship.

I’m inspired being with her. My heart is lifted and my days (and nights) are brighter. When you add it up (Forrest Gump said it best): “we goes together like peas and carrots.”

Let’s answer why? Because I truly love Amy. Because I have her trust; she has mine.

Get this, I have the “relational license” to plan a secret wedding without her knowledge and know that she’ll say “yes.”  How many women do you know that would be thrilled? I know of only one – and I am moved by that woman.

So, if you’re not doing anything on Christmas Eve, we’ve got lots of room in our palace and on the beach. BTO.

PS – I forgot to share the one item I didn’t snag and ship in advance: a strapless bra. I looked in her storage area but didn’t find one. This is a significant oversight, but I believe we can procure such a garment in town later this week.

PSS – do not call her, she’ll reach out in due time. Remember, this is a surprise.

Sometimes our message hits home.

If you ask the average college student about their career aspirations, you’ll hear a range of answers. Some of which are expected. On a rare occasion you’ll obtain an answer that is refreshingly honest – along the lines of, “I don’t know!”

When I have the opportunity to stand up and share my personal chapter and verse, I cut through the fluff, the pomp and the circumstance. My story is usually brief, “I was kicked out of UTK and now, after 11 years teaching at a college level, I’m making a difference. And no, I’m not enrolled in a work release program.”

College students of my era weren’t blessed with outsider views. Academia was the only view we witnessed on a daily basis. My 1984 collegiate window was small, inwardly focused and while optimistic, it was clouded because the real-world was blocked.

Looking in the rear view mirror – thousands of miles later, 78 speeding tickets later, five agencies later, five cities later … I know my life would have evolved differently had someone taken the opportunity to share their story. Ergo the reason I do so today.

Would life be different? Would my career path have changed courses? What if?

Given the opportunity, I stand up and share the good, the bad  and the not-so-obvious. Had someone told me to define my “A Plan,” I would have chuckled because I didn’t have a “B Plan nor a C Plan.” I had a get-a-job-plan. Funny how life scares you into making decisions.

What I want to know is what I need to know now – that stems from I’m going to know when I’m 70.

Ha! Sometimes the message hits home.

If it looks like a chicken and doesn’t make sound, it’s a fried egg. Or a dead chicken.

The Boss, I’m talking about Lance Armstrong, is back.

97th Tour de France – le Tour Report Card: Prologue
A familiar result but with extraordinary time gaps, the tour kicks off in style!

The crowds were a sea of Orange and Dutch pride was omnipresent. No, this wasn’t the world cup quarterfinals but rather the world’s largest annual sporting event that this year started in the architecturally distinct city of Rotterdam.

The English-like drizzle did nothing to dampen the spirits of the fans but it did serve to puzzle the teams who tried to gamble on when to have riders leave the start house in order to avoid the worst of the wet conditions.

A- undoubtedly the play of the day, bring on the Moet!
B- Super effort but not enough to hog the limelight.
C- Bang on the fine line separating a good day from a bad one.
D- A change of fortunes required but all is not lost.
E- Needing a good, long, hard look in the mirror.

Special awards
• OFE-
Obligatory French Escape. Nuf said.
• le Tour Farceur Imbécile. Otherwise known as the ’tool’ award, this goes to the person who says or does something worthy of lacings of wrath, but instead we will point and laugh…
• El Pistorelo vs The Boss- the duel that is raced as much with legs as it is with psychology.

A- Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara was in vintage form today. Forget the pre-tour talk of battery assisted motors installed in seat tubes and the discontent associated with potential team dissolvement at season’s end, the Suisse maestro showed the world yet again how much power he can turn on when it matters most.

There were Goosebumps all round when Spartacus crossed the finishing line a full 10 seconds ahead of second place, not least because it was another full 10 seconds back to third place in this, a comparatively brief 8.9km time trial! With cobbles making an appearance in a few days time, look for the Saxo Bank star to shine brightly until the GC guns come out to play. Bravo Fabian!

B- Tony “Spartan” Martin must have felt robbed today. He sat in the hot seat for all but three hours watching the best riders in the world fail to even come close to eclipsing his time until the world and Olympic time trial champion rendered the world speechless for the umpteenth time with his ability to transform into a human bullet. Still, the young German who wore the white jersey for 12 days last year looks to be even more formidable this time around. Unfortunately for Martin it was not a repeat of the final TT in the Tour de Suisse where he trounced Cancellara but other white jersey candidates have been served an early notice. Whilst all the HTC-Columbia related banter has centred on Mark Cavendish’s dentistry, look for Martin and Rogers to give the GC a good working over as well.

C- Cadel “Vanilla” Evans lost time on some of his biggest GC adversaries today but his top 20 position meant that he was best of the big guns who already have the Giro in the legs this year. Sastre, Basso and Co. all seemed to struggle to get their rhythm back but the BMC leader looked solid, if unspectacular on the wet roads of Rotterdam. Evans may not have the swagger and universal appeal that other riders have, but he is consistent, dependable and damn hard to rule out of the equation.

D- Bradley “Method man” Wiggins SKY have long harped about marginal gains and bringing unparalleled amounts of methodical, scientific professionalism to road cycling. Yet even the best get it wrong and so it was today when Wiggo hit the streets early with intentions of beating the weather, only to be faced with the worst conditions of the day.

It just goes to show that all the preparation and incremental progressions in the world are no match for Mother Nature and regardless of your budget, the bottom line is measured in seconds. By the way, whose idea was it to start Flecha as fourth last rider?

E- “Handy” Andy Schleck. Oh dear, the mark of a poor time trial is when you finish 43rd -– yes 43  positions behind your older Brother who has a reputation for being able to struggle in time trials that are downhill with a tail wind. We all know he crashed on a training ride in the past week and to be brutally honest has not risen to the occasion yet this season, but more was expected from Schleck the younger, who was the only credible challenger to Contador last year. The mountains are still to come but with today’s loss over 8.9km, there must be some doubts about the imminent cobbles too.

Obviously not applicable for a TT but unable to penetrate the top 10. Looks ominous really…

le Tour Farceur Imbécile
Lets start afresh and have no nominations for this one today. Perhaps the most applicable people would be whoever decided to entrust the weatherman so much so as to ride at the start of the day but heck, it didn’t seem to bother Tony Martin too much..

El Pistorelo vs The Boss
It’s round one to The Boss who proved today that the old dog won’t go quietly out the back door in his (most recent) final tour appearance. Shape up Alberto; you’ve got a fight on your hands!

Viva la Tour. Some call it hell. Some call it heaven. Only one man will claim the yellow jersey.

New medicine for the second half of the year.

A fine line of belief.

There are certain days of the week that last longer than others. Someday is not one of them.

Moloka’i, Hawai’i. The view is beautiful. A nice place for a home office.

Click to see 1500 pixels


“Grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity.” William Hazlitt

The soul never thinks without a mental picture.

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw

We acquire the strength we have overcome. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When the sun sets each day, depending on your view, it’s either beautiful or not. It’s really dependent on your view – literally and figuratively.

Happiness is where you find it.

Nearing 4Pm I realized the day had been the typical blur – and my mind raced ahead to the County Clerk’s office where a small, tiny decal awaited my check. The only ‘thing’ in my way was the distance between the office and the Clerk’s office just 18 miles away. The sun was shining – the birds chirping – the blue sky was clear – the clouds few and puffy white – the music a little sweeter – the inevitable Firerock Pale beckoning my tastebuds.

All was good.

Within five miles of the office the traffic slowed to a 5mph crawl. I knew something was up – but I had no idea how bad or what it was. The clock ticked away slowly at first and when the hand touched 4:15 I knew that the Clerk’s office would be closed if and when I arrived.

As I opened the sun roof of my car (I rarely do that) I felt the sun on my face, the wind in my hair and smelled the cigarette smoke from a man smoking in the car next to me. For an instance I thought, “how dare you ruin this moment” – but I continued to smile. Sure I was annoyed. But what could I do?

Stop for a moment.

Have you ever stepped up to the bathroom sink, reached for the toothpaste and squeezed the tube but nothing was left in it? At that moment you either threw it down in anger or shrugged your shoulders and brushed without the paste … or found another tube somewhere hidden under the sink.

No matter – it was what we decided that determined how we felt and in doing so it attracted more of what we felt.

Back to the drive home, I shrugged my shoulders and said aloud, “toothpaste.” I then laughed. I raced, mentally ahead in wonderment of what lay ahead at the dreaded intersection of Topside Road and Alcoa Highway. It’s notorious for accidents – and I’ve witnessed more than 10 at that location over the years.

Nearing the intersection I could see that we were being diverted onto Topside – and that seemed odd until I saw three fire trucks and countless police cruisers. THP had a video camera set up and was filming the extraction of ‘bodies’ from a car. A pickup truck was in the northbound lane – smashed and lifeless. Police were allowing northbound lane traffic to pass single file but nothing was going south.

As our single file lane neared the intersection I saw a black bag – then two. My heart sank deep and I realized the crash involved fatalities.

At that moment I was angry, annoyed, happy and a whole bunch of other things all at once. Angry that it happened (isn’t it time that we change the rules of road for that intersection!!!), annoyed that police were on the spot but are no where to be found (daily) when traffic is attempting to turn left onto Alcoa Highway, and happy … well sort of happy …. that I was alive.

The tiny decal for my car’s license plate isn’t that important after all.

What is important is that I appreciate each day as if it were my last.

In that moment I figured out why I’m so damn happy when I’m in Hawai’i. Why I’m so content when I visit – why I’m so eager to return again and again. Why? Because I noticed EVERYTHING and in doing so time slows down and I’m in the moment. I’m into life itself and I soak it up as if I have just a few days to live. I’m in the moment so vividly and clear that I soak up everything – including those things that typically annoy me. But when I’m there (in my paradise) I’m super-happy. Not because it’s Hawai’i, but because I’m living life.

As I turned the corner onto Topside I realized something very, very important: happiness is a state of mind. Either you’re in it. Or you’re not.

I’m in it.


If Paul Harvey were alive, he’d offer the rest of the story:

APRIL 9th, 2010

In a press release, Sgt. Bud Cooper said Jean Smith, 82, of Oak Ridge, and Clara Miller, 75, of Clinton, were killed in the two-vehicle crash.

At 2:50 p.m., Smith, who was driving a 2006 Toyota Camry, was attempting to turn left onto Alcoa Highway northbound from Topside Road when she failed to yield and pulled out in front of a Dodge Ram truck driven by Brandon L. Barnes, 23 of White Pine, Cooper said. Barnes hit the driver’s side door of the Camry.

According to the press release, Smith was killed instantly. Miller was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where she died as a result of injuries from the crash, Cooper said.

Cooper said Barnes was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital and is being treated for his injuries.

Some days we’re all ‘toast.’

Tattoos by the numbers.

This is my 1,000th post on the PhotoMotoBlog.

More than 574,480 unique visitors have been to this site since its inception.

The weekly average the past four months has been in excess of 14,000 unique visitor per week.

My busiest day was February 17th, 2010 with 2,359 unique visitors.

Folks logging on my site originate from 37 different countries and the Hawaiian Islands.

Google is used to translate my site into 12 different languages.

I’ve logged more than 400 hours creating the site.

There are 2,535 images contained in this weblog.

Interestingly, it uses just a ½ MB of space.

The masthead has changed more than 100 times.

The posting rules have been broken once; that person didn’t break the rules again.

My blog site ‘encouraged’ management to create a ‘blog posting policy’ within my company.

This site has spun off into 22 other weblogs that I’ve created; the unique visitor totals for all sites is greater than 4,000,000.

I’ve been repeatedly asked to monetize several of my sites (no ads please).

The best part is that I really don’t care what anyone thinks about the content, the images nor the layout.

Somehow I’ve managed to connect with people whom I don’t know … for those folks …  mahalo nui loa!

Thank-you for logging onto my site.


Who are we?

I relearned) an important lesson: when people tell you who they are – believe them. Truly believe in what they are saying about themselves … who they are and what they stand for.

How often do we discount what we observe, hear or feel when interacting with others? I believe it occurs regularly without giving it a second thought. Most often I find myself seeking the good traits and avoiding the offensive ones.

Remember, “when” a person communicates who they are, accept the truth.

Snow and ice storm: January 29th, 2010.

There was an air of nothing-ness as the alarm clock rang out 5:55AM.

Near my bed I could hear the rain pelting the window and the wind howling just enough to create a bit more urgency in my first weather check.

Have you ever noticed how the color blue and pink look scary on the Weather Channel? Ever notice how they repeat the same horrific stories of people being stuck over and over and over again?

What played out in my head wasn’t smile inducing and it certainly wasn’t warming either. Not that I have anything against Monroe, Louisiana. I don’t. However, I’d rather be at home stuck with my stuff rather than in a hotel room several hundred miles away from what I call, “my slice of the world.” All the while I kept moving  – doing my “get ready thing” … packing and thinking. Maybe it would be ‘all good.’

I started to work at 6:15AM answering emails, putting out fires that erupted at the office and kept moving. For a brief moment I envisioned a private plane taking me home – and of course that vanished with a bit of laughter. The Weather Channel played the same drama: “Oklahoma is basically out of commission and the storm is rolling through Arkansas towards Tennessee.”

“Oh boy” was my thought.

Somewhere around 9:30 I went downstairs and one of the staffers from Monroe Tourism, “Georgie,” picked me up to carry me to the Monroe Regional Airport. She told me that flights were being canceled everywhere. “Oh boy” was my thought, yet again. She kindly gave me her business card and told me to call her if I got stuck and needed a ride BACK to the hotel. Whew – that was comforting – and comforting in a totally different way. Georgie told me it would be Ok – she said, “just go inside, you’ll figure it out.”

“What did that mean?” I even said those words out loud.

Then I grabbed my bags and crunched over to shield myself from the pouring rain. I kept moving — walking toward the terminal.

The picture inside isn’t one I want to revisit anytime in the near future. Let’s just say there were lots of grumbly people and even more frowns on the part of airline staffers. No one seemed happy. The three plasma screens in the terminal were stationed strategically so that all three could be viewed from anywhere in the room. Ironically the Weather Channel was playing the same drama from earlier in the morning.

There was no digital reader board – all flight changes were made by hand (analog style). After a few flights were marked “delayed or cancelled,” the airport workers gave up … they stopped updating them altogether. Memphis International announced it was basically shutting down – grounding every flight. Some flights that originated out west were being diverted elsewhere. Again, my mind wasn’t full of the thoughts I prefer.

I did what I normally don’t do. I remained calm.

Rather than act out, I was polite and I smiled. Rather than thumb through a book, I went to work dealing with emails and tackling the things that I would be doing in-office. The terminal had free wifi and so I hammered on the Macbook. Every so often I checked the weather online as a means for calculating the right approach of getting home. My best guess was a Sunday arrival – possibly 6 or 7PM. Worst case I knew Monday was doable because it wasn’t a Holiday. Seriously, Memphis (where I was to stop over) wasn’t moving and Atlanta didn’t like the chain reaction. Therefore, flights were being seriously delayed or cancelled from their end.

I visited the Delta counter again (for the sixth time) and by then I knew everyone’s name. “Cookie” was sharing her lemon cookies with me and Abbye was talking about her weekend plans. The guys were laughing about the weather and the boat show over at the Monroe Civic Center. I switched my flights to Memphis for the second time and opted for an “attempted” 8:46AM departure … knowing it wasn’t possible but at least I would be in Tennessee.

As I kept working (doing agency work), I would tap into MEM’s website for any updates about flight movement. Finally I got the notation that even if Memphis began to move again, there were a lot of people there who were much more unhappy than those at the Monroe airport. At that point I opted to switch my plans back to an Atlanta connection.

When the NWA agent (Clint) pulled my boarding pass for the 5:20PM flight, he said (with a wry grin) that I would land in Knoxville at 11:05PM —  and that would be the case if Knoxville wasn’t de-icing the runway. Alas, I was finally stuck. I accepted my fate and mentally headed toward Atlanta. My choice.

The greasy diner in the airport was open so I strolled in for lunch. The concept of healthy choice isn’t an option there – so I did something different: I ordered the double cheeseburger with double cheese. No fries, just a side salad. At one point the waitress asked me if I wanted more water and I said, “if it’s not frozen.” She didn’t laugh and I didn’t either.

Neither of us was willing to accept the Weather Channel’s message: “Nasty winter storm punishing the South.” D-R-A-M-A.

Three bites into the burger someone called out, “Mr. Avery – Mr. Avery, pack up that lunch, we’ve got a plane to put you on.” Huh? My mind was still back at the words, “Mr. Avery” (after all, that sounds like something said for my father not me). Abbye offered up a “don’t get too excited, we’re not sure if the plane is going to take off but I think we can get you on it if it does.” Then I asked – “where is it going??” She said, and this is very interesting, “Knoxville.”

“WHAT???!!!!” At that point I thought it was a joke. I then looked into her eyes with a laser bead to discern her real intent. She was in fact telling me the truth.

Can you imagine? I’m sitting in Monroe, Louisiana eating a greasy burger, contemplating hotel life for two more days, mulling over flight delays, cancellations and diverted routes all around me … but sitting on the tarmac is a fueled, ready-to-go CRJ. I did not hesitate to give my best UT Volunteer yell. Literally.

Everyone must have thought I was either drunk or crazy … or both. My face beamed so bright I wanted to hug everyone around me. Gathering my computer and food and bags I hurried to the security area … following Abbye as if we were going to get on that plane without the typical protocol. I neared TSA and my mind did a big “ooops.” I did not have a boarding pass for that plane – and my heart sank. I yelled out and Abbye returned to say to the TSA agent that the boarding pass I had was good for the flight (there were actually two passes). At which point everyone in the waiting area got up thinking they could board as well. When the TSA agent delivered a stern, “you’re not on this flight” command, their faces sank.

I kept smiling – hoping that I would get on that plane.

I could see the plane through the glass – – parked in the rain … cold air blowing …. turbines turning … exhausts spewing. I knew the plane was ‘for real’ at that point.

Two ladies were also attempting to get a ticket for the same plane. However, Knoxville wasn’t their final destination. The younger woman asked me about Knoxville and its proximity to Louisville. I told her it wasn’t an easy drive … it was easier to go to Nashville and drive up 65. She didn’t hear me. Her response was, “I’ve got to get home – my dad’s 70th birthday is tomorrow and I want to be there to celebrate it with him.”  “Wow, that’s kewl,” was my response.

I noticed the other woman — as she stood away from everyone. Her eyes were drawn deeply and she looked like she had been crying. My summation … early 50’s and nicely dressed, she was a working career type. As she approached the ticket agent, she asked very quietly about the flight and wanted to make sure she could get on it. The two women began figuring out, once they arrived in Knoxville, if they could split the cost of a rental car and drive onward north. There was a bunch of flutter back and forth and I finally asked, “who is getting on that plane?”

The response from the ticket agent was … “you three.”

I thought the word (loudly in my head): “WHAT???!!!!” “Huh? ..,” I said. “Yes, you’re going to Knoxville aren’t you,” Abbye said. “Sure … ” That was all I could muster.

Then the other woman approached the counter. Her face was more drawn than before – so I asked, “are you ok?” She began to cry – telling me that her father was dying and she had to get to Evansville, Indiana. I comforted her by patting her back and all I could say was – “it’s going to be Ok. We’ll get there and you’ll see him.”

So there we were – the three of us. One was headed to Louisville for her father’s 70 birthday. The other, sadly, was going to Evansville, Indiana because her father was dying. I was headed home to my space for what? I stopped to think about my dad for a moment.

Just the day prior I had made a post on this website about a fishing trip that we took together many years ago — after I graduated from high school – I thought about that as well. It felt pretty good. Again.

We (three) almost at the same time asked the one question that none of us really wanted to ask. We didn’t want to ask the question because we were fearful of the response: CANCELED. Abbye piped up and said, “you can get on the plane after we go get the crew.”  This seemed ethereal and I just couldn’t believe what was happening. I wanted to enjoy the excitement, but the thought of cancellation kept me from getting to boiled over about it.

Then the crew appeared — and said, “let’s go.”

Truthfully, this felt like we were on the private side of the airport about to board our own jet. Just think – a CRJ is parked on the tarmac, there are two pilots, one attendant and three passengers. Some gig, huh?

After offering up our boarding passes, we walked out in the rain and boarded. Me with my over sized bag in hand as if I were privileged or something. The stewardess told me to plant it in an empty aisle (ha) and I did. Each of us took our seats and the stewardess said buckle up. We did. The door closed and she said, “we’re ready for take off.”

Instantly the plane began to move. Yessur. We went through the safety procedures and moved to runway #1. The captain asked if we were good to go (over the loudspeaker) and we said (in unison), “yes.” I’m sure he couldn’t hear us, but the plane moved down the runway like it was light as feather. I guess it was light – not many passengers and very little baggage.

Lifting into the clouds I pulled out my iPod and dialed up a favorite Hawaiian mele.

Now the truth: earlier in the day I imagined for an instant (yes, I did) the ability to get on a plane and leave Monroe even though the rest of the terminal wasn’t going anywhere. Guess what? I recapped most my journey on the plane and completed the remainder of this post –  in my office – in Knoxville – with a cold beer nearby. The best part — I arrived home 40 minutes before the original scheduled time. At 4:20. Go figure.

When I finally unpacked and unloaded the bags, I decided to check the flight status of my original plan via Memphis, AND the flight via Atlanta. Both were canceled. Interesting huh.

There are a lot of people who touch our lives everyday. We touch others. I was reminded of many important life-lessons today: Be patient. Don’t be afraid to ask for miracles. Be kind to those in need. Smile when you’re happy. Stay focused when you’re working. Be smart about decisions affecting your future. And when in doubt, order a cold beer to celebrate all of the above.

I’m now going to take an official break and enjoy the snow … from my toasty den underneath the chuck roast blankee.

For those folks who are stranded and feeling lost right now or in the future, have faith it will work out in the end.


What others think about us.

Well, it’s really not my business … ‘it’s none of your business’ makes it perfectly clear. But, it doesn’t stop us from wondering. Such opinions shift from moment to moment, so there’s no point in asking.

ADVICE: Try harder not to care.


Whitsunday Islands, another destination on my list.

Bordered by the Great Barrier Reef and 74 tropical islands in the calm waters of the Coral Sea, the Whitsunday chain of islands lies midway along Australia ‘s Queensland coast. It’s a very kewl area of Oceania. The region spans from the beautiful beaches of Bowen in the north to the inland township of Proserpine to the gorgeous golf greens of Laguna Whitsunday in the south. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the 74 islands – only eight of which are inhabited. Can you say secluded? Can you say quiet? Can you say “this just moved to top-o-list!” I’m ready to discover Heart Reef, the white, silica sands of what many people call the world-famous Whitehaven Beach. Best of all, I like the idea of sailing at sunset across crystal-clear waters. Even though they don’t say it there, we can here … Aloha.

The Pacific blue of New Caledonia … further west.

Kicking off the new year was easy as getting up and then laying back down on the sofa. Earlier today I reviewed my 2010 Island Calendar and found a must-visit island off the coast (considerably) of Australia: New Caledonia.

The name Caledonia derives from the Latin name of an area corresponding to modern Scotland, and used as a poetic name for Scotland under the influence of Neo-Classicism. According to those “who were there,” the rugged coastline of New Caledonia allegedly reminded Captain Cook (whose father was a Scot) of Scotland, and he thus named it New Caledonia. While the official name is Nouvelle-Calédonie, the territory is often called only Calédonie in colloquial use. The nickname (le) Caillou (literally “the stone” or “the pebble”) is used as an endearing term by the European community of New Caledonia to designate the territory. It allegedly refers to the main island of New Caledonia which is a nickel-rich, long rock formation emerging from the Pacific Ocean.It reminds me of another place I’m fond of ….

Pu’ookie: Ke ki’i mana’o.

Ke ki’i mana’o (the meaning of the image or photo). E’ai ka mea i loa’a (what you have, eat — i.e., be satisfied with what you have), e kuilima (join hands), e pűpűkähi (be united in thought).

Hea ha ka puana o ka moe (what will the result of this be)?

Aloha (breath of life and love).

Aloha wau ia ‘oe.

Tattoo bad boy gone wrong: work with a tattoo artist next time!

Polynesian arm tattoo: a Hawaiian influence.

The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.


There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. When changing refer to form 39.

calling to the Islands

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Augusta, Georgia.

Rhonda Vincent and the RageFourth row, reserved seats, cold beverages and a great view of Rhonda Vincent and her “rage.” What a show. The “Bluegrass Queen” Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, opened the 2009 Westobou Arts Festival last night at the Imperial Theater in Augusta, Georgia. Presented by the Morris Museum of Art and the Greater Augusta Arts Council, the show was fabulous. Had I known that cameras were allowed, I would have brought the 70/200 f/2.8 to capture some great images. Flash was not allowed and thus the few shots I did snap feel blown out. None the less, the concert was fantastic > small venue, not overly crowded, easy access, beverages allowed, easy to relax and acoustically ‘sound.’ I shall purchase some new music this weekend. Bluegrass oneth.