I don’t like to write about corporate matters, but I do like to write about my favorite musical artists – Daryl Hall and John Oates, so when an opportunity presents itself to leverage a Hall and Oates reference in the context of life at the 9:5, I’m willing to make an exception.
I was in a meeting where praise and plaudits were flowing like the Slurpree machine at 7-11 on a hot summer day.
After the backslapping session, I was asked by an associate why I didn’t take more credit for a successful high profile project of which I was an instrumental part.
I answered, “Just call me John Oates.” My colleague was a bit confused by my response.
I shared the story of Hall and Oates’ meteoric ascension to the top of the charts in the 80s, and how during that period, John came to accept the fact that Daryl’s voice had become the sound of Hall and Oates.
My co-worker still didn’t get it, so I continued.
John understood that Daryl sang the hits. The hits sold records. The records drew (and still do) revenue.
Even though he wrote, co-wrote and/or arranged a respectable number of their most memorable songs, John – a decent vocalist in his own right – saw the wisdom and good business sense in taking a back seat – vocally speaking – to Daryl.
And I told my colleague that’s what I did – metaphorically speaking – during our meeting, and in most aspects of my professional life.
Much like my soft spoken, spotlight-shunning idol, I don’t need to be the front man. I know my worth and what I bring to the table. Sadly, too often we encounter – shall we say – lead singers who would do a better job gassing up the tour bus than carrying a tune center stage.
With skin that fits me comfortably like a glove, I’m perfectly fine singing background vocals (of course until it’s time to embark on a solo tour – a story for another day).
With advancing age comes (if you’re lucky) advancing self-awareness. It’s just another positive side effect – The Oates effect – of life in the middle ages.
Street repair work and new home construction are underway in the neighborhood surrounding Casa de McCullough. During a recent run around the community, I saw one of the pieces of heavy equipment tasked to execute those projects. It was a big ol’ steamroller.
Ironically, I spotted this rig as I was slowly ascending a hill toward the end of my jaunt and feeling much like that piece of massive construction machinery.
The steamroller wasn’t alone. It was joined by its heavy equipment cousins – for example the Cement Mixer, the Bulldozer and parked very closely together were the Pile Driver and Back Hoe (Who I think starred together in a couple of adult films in the 80s).
But what really caught my eye and – for the purpose of the next several paragraphs – my imagination was the steamroller.
I sometimes see myself as a slow, lumbering piece of equipment – a piece of equipment that is also deliberate, durable and might I add, modestly, not something you’d want to collide with.
And I’m okay with that.
I don’t want to go all Aesop Fables and start ranting about the Tortoise and the Hare, and I certainly don’t want to penetrate my no fly zone over the sovereign territory of those verboten topics – politics and religion — by dropping a little Ecclesiastes 9:11 ...the race is not to the swift...on you.
And don’t get me wrong, even a big lug like myself can move quickly when the need arises – like when the Hot – Now sign is on at Krispy Kreme.
It’s just that – as I get comfortable in this sixth decade of life – I realize more and more that there are those times, when moving slowly is not a terrible thing and like the steamroller – it can be effective.
A little over 20 years ago – back in my 125 West State St. power tie and suspenders days – someone once said to me – in referring to a person who was running really fast and yet going nowhere – that moving with great speed doesn’t always equate to making great progress.
And that’s why two decades later, I think I have a decent grasp on when it makes sense to move slow and strong like the big ol’ steamroller. Because there are those times when a slow, thoughtful, deliberate approach is very effective in (here comes the philosophical metaphor) flattening the rubble of life’s problems into smooth blacktop.
I treated myself to a copy of Daryl Hall and John Oates Live in Dublin performance DVD. You all know how much I dig those guys, so I won’t weigh you down with a review of the concert.
The guys offered up a deep track (Unless you’re a long time fan) you’ve never heard before. It’s a song from 1976 called “Back Together Again.”
The song’s chorus is punctuated by Daryl Hall’s smooth falsetto. Fast forward nearly 40 years to the performance of the same song from the Live from Dublin concert.
You’ll notice that Daryl’s falsetto is a little grittier. And that’s to be expected from a vocalist who’s been in the game longer than some readers of these pages have been on this planet.
So, where am I going with this?
I’ll tell you, but first, please buckle your seat belts because we’re going to take a quick trip down the philosophical highway!
Daryl Hall’s seasoned falsetto is a metaphor for what many of us 50+ midlifers are experiencing.
Can we still hit the high notes of our youth? Probably not (And in some cases, why would we want to? Some songs from our old catalog may best remain unsung – if you know what I’m saying!). But our more seasoned voices are still strong enough to rock the house.
And to keep this musical analogy going, kinda like an encore. (Get those lighters up!),
I’m sure many of my fellow performers in the band that is midlife would agree, we’re at a meaningful point in our existence where it’s more fulfilling to please a small amount of true fans in an intimate club setting, versus trying to make everyone happy in an overflowing stadium.
Ouch, I should have warmed up before that stretch. I think I got a groin pull!
Anyway, rock on Daryl! And to my fellow midlife band mates, yeah, our falsetto may have a little age on it, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop singing our song!
It’s rare that we do follow-up reporting here at the Chronicles, but a recent occurrence related to an earlier story warrants additional coverage.
You’ll recall I shared the sad story of one of my favorite tie’s recent demise. Well, it appears the same fate has fallen upon another piece of cherished neckwear.
Interestingly, I bought this tie at the same Stern’s Department Store in Ocean Township, NJ, way back in the early 90s, and like its red and blue tie rack mate, this one has gone the way of all over worn apparel.
This is the last tie from that period that remains in active rotation. I have several more tucked away in a box in the basement. Also in that box are several pairs of suspenders that haven’t held up pants since Ross and Rachel were a couple.
The early 90s was an interesting time in the life of this writer. By this time, the carefree, irresponsible (and highly entertaining) 80s were long over. And I had yet to fully enter the white picket fence, bring home the bacon, stop drinking when you’re buzzed, contribute to a pension fund days of the mid to late 90s and beyond.
By the early 90s, John Sr. was gone and by mid-decade so too was mom.
It was the time when I cared about matching ties to suspenders, going for that Babyface curl (Despite that pesky male pattern baldness thing), kissing up to and not pissing off people who I thought (And so did they) were important.
It was also when I realized I was better at writing news releases than reporting on them, which subsequently led to staying at work really late. Not really working, mind you, just staying late to make an impression on those aforementioned important people (Who truly in retrospect really weren’t nearly as important as I or they thought they were).
The fact that my best memories of those early 90s are the ties I owned certainly says a lot 25 years later.
Those early 90s weren’t all bad. I met this really beautiful young lady in church (Cue lightning bolt) who shortly before the decade ended became my wife. And yes, I gave up on the Babyface curl.
I made it through those days, and I’m happy to report that I’m a lot less worn out than my 25-year-old neck wear!
This isn’t a product endorsement, but I love Dunkin Donuts coffee – ever since my first cups of the stuff consumed trying to be cool and grown as a youngster in high school (Looking back, coffee was the strongest beverage I consumed until I got to college).
Imagine my excitement as I drove down the road last week back to the 9 to 5 following an early morning business meeting (a meeting where the coffee tasted like a warmed over watered down cola beverage) when in the distance I saw a Dunkin Donuts location. I flung the Seoulmobile across two lanes of traffic like Speed Racer in pursuit of Racer X so I wouldn’t miss the driveway to this oasis of caffeinated bliss.
As I entered the shop, I saw a decal on the window indicating that this store provided AARP discounts – in this case, one free donut.
Bonus! My favorite coffee and a baked confection to dip – or shall I say dunk – in it.
Yeah, I know I got a lot of miles to travel before I can even remotely think about retirement, but that didn’t stop me from joining AARP shortly after hitting the big half-century mark last year.
With my trusty membership card in hand, I sauntered (my usual confident stride that’s somewhere between Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and Barney the Dinosaur) up to the counter to place my order – a medium with cream and sugar (Yes, whole cream and white sugar – the devil’s products, I know, but we all have our weaknesses!). And as I went to raise my card to order my free donut, the young man behind the counter cut me off and said “I got you pop. What kind of donut do you want?”
Pop? Even my kid doesn’t call me Pop (but with her genetically-tinged wry sense of humor, she’s likely to after she sees this post!)
Visions of Fred Sanford popped into my head, as I pictured Lamont in a Dunkin Donuts uniform taking my order.
More tickled than ticked off, I matched his smile with one of my own and ordered a toasted coconut.
I thought I had a few more years before I transitioned into being called Pop, but I guess that’s the chance one takes wielding an AARP card.
Well, I guess I’ll go unload the truck and see if Grady wants to come over for a glass or two of Ripple!
Remember all that talk about turning 50 a few months ago? All that welcome to the second half… blessed to still be in the game crap?
Well earlier this week I was quite alarmingly reminded just how old I am, or shall I say how young I’m not.
While suiting up to go make the donuts, I was in the mood to don one of my favorite ties – a very conservative (from a very conservative point in my career) red and blue striped number I picked up in the early 90s at Stern’s Department Store (defunct and sucked up by Macy’s) at Seaview Square Mall (shut down around 2000) in Ocean Township, NJ
Over the near quarter century I’ve had this tie, it has grown to become one of my favorites.
Sadly, as I was noosing up for a good day’s work, I noticed what I thought was a stain. Then, upon closer examination, I saw that the material was fraying. I’ve always been fond of a nice snug four in hand knot, and I suppose all those years of pulling and tugging (get your mind out of the gutter, please!) finally took their toll.
One of my favorite ties is officially worn out, and being blindsided by that fact first thing in the morning wasn’t pleasant.
But in the grand scheme of things, I suppose wearing out a tie is not as bad as wearing out a knee, a hip, an organ, a relationship, a career, or whatever else that is subject to the effects of aging (all of the above are holding up nicely, thank you).
I will not be defined by this worn out tie, nor will I let it stand as a metaphor for getting old!
I will keep eating right, work out often, moisturize daily, and strive for good karma – in addition to everything else my new friends say I should do as I age.
Besides, I still have a couple of my cool skinny leather ties from the mid-80s cryogenically stored in our basement