You’ll recall when last we convened, I was waxing reminiscent about my return to my home state. Since then, we have closed the deal on the sale of Casa de McCullough, our former suburban Atlanta residence. Earlier this week, we signed the papers on our new digs: a modest, unpretentious Cape Cod-style home in New Jersey’s historic Gloucester County, a short hop across the Delaware from Philly.
Not to weigh you down with the sentimentality that comes with being 50-plus – I did enough of that in our last post, but there is something special about living (Dare I say settling down?) in a community that – for my wife – is just up the road from where she grew up, and for yours truly, a ride down the Expressway.
Our new domicile will need some work, a few sprinkles of sugar before it’s home sweet home. This, my friends, is kind of exciting, despite my recent adventures – which I may share later – in the world of plumbing. I don’t want to go all HGTV on you, but I am looking forward to doing that whole Bob Villa weekend warrior thing, starting my Saturday at the neighborhood big box home improvement store (after a Jersey diner breakfast, of course), picking paints and sampling swatches, measuring once and cutting twice (I didn’t take shop class), and essentially working side-by-side with Mrs. M to put our mark on the place. The child is on board, and she has already selected colors for her room (And keep this between us, but I may have found a spot to display my 25-year old collection of shot glasses!).
I think my aforementioned better half might be compiling a video diary of our journeys in renovation. I won’t go into spoiler land by posting any ‘before’ shots.
So if you see me in a tool belt and hard hat, it’s not that I’m decked out to audition for the Village People reunion (If so, I’d be the Cowboy, since he remains my favorite), it’s only me, enjoying the American dream, swinging my big hammer and trying not to lose any fingers!
P.S. For my comic book loving fellow geeks – and you know who you are! Check out the funky porch light the previous owner left behind. I looked around for a power ring to go along with it, but no luck!
Back in college I had a summer job at Shumsky’s restaurant in Atlantic City. I was a porter and every now and then, I got the chance to work on the line. On Saturday nights and some weeknights we would get a big dinner crowd (Please remind me to share a few memories of Summer nights in Atlantic City in the early to mid 80s), and during those services when we got especially slammed, I remember one of the owners – the one who usually dealt with the front of the house – who would appear in the kitchen – seemingly out of nowhere.
He’d take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves, throw on an apron and dive into the fray that was a busy kitchen during a hectic dinner service.
He didn’t ask if anyone needed assistance. He just helped.
He didn’t say – hey, I’m going to grab a stack of clean plates off the dishwasher and restock the line – he just helped. He didn’t ask if he could assemble a few orders and serve waiting customers – he just helped. He didn’t ponder over whether to dump a trash can and drop in a fresh liner – he just helped.
And when the rush was over, he didn’t stand in the center of the kitchen and await recognition or applause, he simply took off his apron, unrolled his sleeves, grabbed his jacket and went back to the front of the house.
Sure, you might argue, he stepped in because he’s an owner and an overwhelmed, backed up kitchen ain’t good for business. That may have been the case, but I will always remember the way Mr. Shumsky’s almost knowingly, proactively stepped in and just helped.
This is something I strive to do, but it’s not always easy.
We all can think of situations where by the time help is offered, we’re so deep into our situation (or as we said in the kitchen – in the weeds) that the help – although greatly appreciated – may not be enough.
This is why we shouldn’t wait until someone is struggling. If it’s within our range of ability – we should get involved. Don’t wait until your friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, etc. has a garbage can that’s overflowing. Help them take out their trash and go a step further and assist them in starting over with a new liner.
Metaphorically speaking, that is.
How can you and I get better at this? We can pay greater attention. We can show empathy. We can aim to be selfless. And more importantly, we can simply get our cranial anatomy out of our lower bowel, rectal orifice and just help.
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a Toastmasters chapter at the ol’ j-o-b.
Now we’re all recharted and back in the speaking game!
Submitted below for your consideration is a reconfiguring of remarks I recently shared with our club.
I’m going to share a personal matter, and since we’re all friends, I feel safe and comfortable in making this heartfelt confession.
I have a sweet tooth.
A sweet tooth particularly for candy.
If you read the health reports, you’ll see that ‘they’ – whoever ‘they’ are – say that too much candy is not good for you. And, in some cases, ‘they’ are right. But this presents one of those opportunities when we can turn a negative into a positive.
This is why I would argue that there is at least one case where candy – particularly hard candy – can be very good for you – and it’s not just to freshen your breath!
I’m a pretty happy go lucky guy. I’m blessed and fortunate not to have too many issues in my life, but every once in a while, I have problems. And when I do, I think about hard candy.
But I don’t want you to think this is a speech about candy.
It is a speech about problem solving. It’s a method you won’t find chronicled in the Harvard Business review, and I don’t believe they’re teaching it to the MBAs at Georgia Tech, but it’s a way of thinking that works for me, and perhaps you may find some value in this approach and direct it toward any problems you might encounter in your lives.
I find that the best way to handle problems is to treat them like hard candy.
We all know there are two tried and true ways to consume hard candy.
One, you can hold it in your mouth and eventually it will slowly melt away.
Think about some of the problems you’ve had – whether they be business or personal – they are like pieces of hard candy.
Those problems appear hard, they appear impenetrable. But if you are patient, those problems – like pieces of candy will slowly melt away.
Second, there is a more aggressive approach.
You can take a piece of candy and crunch down on it hard and in a few seconds, it’s gone.
This is also a very effective way to take care of your problems. Bite down hard and chew them up as quickly as you can.
A variation on this theme is how we used to consume Charms Blow Pops as kids. We either slowly worked our way down to the gum, or we didn’t waste time and just crunched away at the hard shell and got right to the gum.
I always liked to take my time and work my way down to the gum.
It says a lot about our personality – are we slow and methodical or do we hurry up and get to the gum?
There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about what works best for you. It really depends on the situation, there are those times when we need to move quickly and there are those times when taking our time and working things out slowly is the best approach.
Of course at a future date, we can talk about an entirely different class of problems.
Those are the problems we may encounter that are like Jujyfruits. We chew, and chew, and chew before they eventually go away.
And let us not forget those worst-case scenario problems – the ones that are like gum on the bottom of your shoe – they just stick with us until we literally have to scrape them away.
Of course, I’m having a little fun – comparing candy to problems. But in all seriousness, when we encounter problems in our life, solving them tends to take two distinct forms – we can take our time and work to solve them slowly – or we can bite down hard on them and work them out quickly.
Whichever way works for you, just go for it. Again, there are no rights or wrongs. My only wish for you dear friends is that all of your problems are sweet ones.
One of my favorite daily rituals is taking my best four-legged friend for his nightly stroll. The walk serves a variety of functions. One, the obvious, Rocky gets to handle his business. Two, on those times the child comes along, I get to hear a recap of her day. Three, and what I really appreciate is that the daily dog walk is a really useful way of walking off any trials and tribulations from the just concluded day at the 9:5.
Unfortunately, a few late days at the gig have caused me to rush through our nightly strolls (Why so late? I’d tell you, but there’s that pesky editorial policy that puts an East Germany during the height of the Cold War like wall between me and chatting too specifically about things occupational).
However, after getting home at a normal time one night this week, Rocky and I were able to enjoy one of our traditional full-length strolls. As we were returning home, I saw what looked like a thin piece of tissue paper blowing at the base of a tree on a small mound of pine straw (What we Southerners use as our primary medium for mulch). Upon closer inspection, that fluttering gossamer, gauzy looking thing appeared to be a spider web.
Don’t ask me why, but I dropped to a Peter Parker like crouch to shoot some footage (A true sight to see…a guy my size in a deep squat that would make the featured dancer at the Pink Pony jealous).
Now, I’ve never been what you’d call Johnny Nature, but from time to time, something outdoorsy will catch my eye. And no, I won’t go all William Wordsworth on you and wax poetic about things fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
It’s just a spider web blowing in a gentle wind.
My friends, the moral of the story is if I had not taken the time to relax, leave the angst of the day that was behind and enjoy my time outdoors with my canine homie, I would have missed this little natural phenomenon.
As we’ve discussed before, I guess sometimes you have to slow down, and if you don’t have any roses to smell – stop and marvel at a spider web or two!
Readers of a certain age might remember during their youth catching a never ending supply of reruns of a 60s cartoon called the Jetsons. This was a story about a futuristic family that lived in a space-aged world complete with flying cars and robot housekeepers. As a little boy in the early 70s watching this show, I envisioned a future where I could have some of the same 21st century innovations enjoyed by George, Jane his wife, daughter Judy and – we can’t forget – his boy Elroy! (Ain’t it funny how I can remember the lyrics to a cartoon I watched 40+ years ago, but I have to write a note to myself to pick up the dry cleaning after work Monday?) What made me think about this classic cartoon was the meticulous preparation one must undergo to perform that quinquennial ritual of getting one’s driver’s license renewed. You see in my state, and most likely yours, one must provide social security verification and – among other things – proof of residency in the form of printed utility bills, bank statements or similar documents. Editor’s note: Here at the Chronicles, we have a long-standing, vigorously enforced no bitch and moan policy. So please don’t view this post as my complaining. Truth be told, I zipped through the process this morning in under an hour. My issue is simply my surprise that in 2015, we are still so dependent on paper documents for identity verification. In fact, this is one of the few times I can think of that I have to dust off my decades old original social security card. I guess those old habits are hard to break. We may never arrive at time when we’re walking around with bar codes tattooed to our necks like that old Jessica Alba Sci-Fi drama from the early millennium, nor will we ever have RFID chips subcutaneously embedded. Of course given the recent spate of digital identity thefts and security breaches, maybe hanging on to our paper roots ain’t such a bad thing. I wonder if George Jetson had to print out his Spacely Sprockets pay stub or the title to his flying car to verify his identity at the motor vehicles office?
There was a time long before e-commerce when we relied on procuring goods through mail order shopping.
We wrote a check, completed a printed order form, put it in an envelope, affixed a stamp and dropped our order in the U.S. Mail.
No tracking number, no express delivery. We waited – often times six to eight weeks for delivery.
Long-time readers of these pages will recall my walk down memory lane regarding this topic several years ago.
One of the items I obtained via mail order shopping was my membership to the Daryl Hall and John Oates fan club.
Those of you of a certain age may have joined similar fan groups for your favorite artist.
I don’t remember if I received a membership card, certificate or some such club paraphernalia, but I do remember ordering t-shirts promoting whatever particular tour the guys may have been on that I may not have been able to attend.
Looking back, the one thing the fan club didn’t provide was interaction with my fellow Daryl and John (In my mind we’re on a first name basis) aficionados.
Fast forward 35-years to the present day. Mail order has been (Thankfully) replaced with online shopping, and if I want to order a t-shirt from the Hall and Oates fan club, it’ll get here in a couple of days.
And thanks to social media – specifically Facebook groups – I get ample opportunity to interact with my fellow Daryl and John fans.
In fact, I find I have more fun digitally chewing the fat with an intimate number of friends in my fan groups than the broader number of friends elsewhere in my social media universe.
Maybe it’s because most fan groups tend to shy away from the random topics of the day – the Patriot’s squishy balls (A term you won’t find used too often in these pages), high scores in Candy Crush and photos of people’s feet with exotic wish you were here vacation locales in the background.
Maybe the appeal has something to do with hanging out with people with whom you share a common interest.
I go back and forth in my resolve to spend less time on the internet (Bending your ear in these pages notwithstanding). Maybe my objective should be spending more quality time on the Web.
Now you’ll excuse me while I go shop for the latest tour t-shirt and see what’s happening on my favorite fan pages.
As discussed earlier this week, Santa did come through with that new mobile communications device.
Since the trade in value on my old unit was pretty miniscule (and there’s nothing worse than having a miniscule old unit), I decided to hang on to the out of service handset.
I packed it, its cords, case and manual and delivered them to our basement, which sadly has become the dumping ground for my old outdated electronics.
And that’s why we’re here today. Hello. I’m John McCullough and I’m ashamed to admit I’m an outdated gadget hoarder (the gadgets are outdated, not me, except for my musical tastes I suppose).
It hit me that in very rare exceptions – for example something being outright broken like my old portable TV that was leaking nasty battery acid – I find it hard to part with my old gadgets.
Of course I’d be willing to bet there are other midlifers within the sound of my digital voice who feel the same way.
Maybe it’s a sense of nostalgia – like the first time I received a page on my old Motorola pager (Nothing exciting. It was a work related beep). Or maybe it’s the memories of working out in my Flashdance ripped sweats and leg warmers trying to be a maniac on the floor at the gym, my Sports Walkman on my hip with Van Halen screaming in my ear as I executed that last rep. Or it might have been the thrill of immediate gratification that came as I watched my Polaroids develop right before my eyes.
And while they’re not pictured, I have an old turntable, receiver and cassette deck waiting for the triumphant return of records and tapes.
I’m under no delusions that there’s any collector value in these items, and I can forget about passing them down. Zoe laughs whenever she sees these relics.
Maybe one day I’ll get rid of these old memories of my youth.
After all, I need to make room for all of the old books I’m hoarding… I mean collecting, since I went all high-tech with one of those fancy e-readers!