Music Has The Power Of Wings…

Why So Many…

I was saddened when I heard of Merle Haggard’s passing last week.  I chose to take the rest of that day off to hike, to contemplate, and to write, just as I did with the passings of Glenn Frey, Michael Been, Christ Whitley, and Stuart Adamson.  Each has left substantial etchings on my psyche.

In 2016, people are asking the same question,

Why so many rock & roll deaths all of the sudden…?

It actually makes sense.  Like the big bang of the universe, Rock & Roll had a big bang of its own in 1954 when Bill Haley sang Rock Around the Clock.  That singularity set the Rock & Roll universe into motion.  Haley would be 91 if he were alive today.  But he’s not alive, he’s dead, just like everyone else is or will be.

Like any big bang, the Rock & Roll big bang resulted in an increasing complexity, creating more and more stars as time passed.  Whether they be stars in the universe or those here on earth, stars are born to grow bright, some more bright than others, and to ultimately perish.  With so many more stars existing than ever, that they are losing their lives with increasing frequency should not surprise us.

Despite the sadness we feel when they go, each passing star is the ultimate reminder of their work and their gifts.  So long as we remember it and pass it to the next generation, music can be eternal, if even the musician can’t.

On The Values Of Music…

“Music has the power of wings.”  Mike Scott

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Music has helped me frame moments and has provided postures that have salvaged me time and again.   In my post-divorce years, music helped me find faith and mindfulness.  On stressful days, music has been a release – a way to vent by listening rather than speaking.  Music has helped me relax when needed, and I have used music to amp me up when coffee had its limits.  Music has calmed a heart full of rage, and prevented a clinched fist more than a time or two.  Music transports.

Above all things to me, music has been about relationships. The relationships which have come my way because of music have had the power to endure in ways many of my nonmusical relationships haven’t.

When I was 15 my father caught me jumping on my bed and mimicking Jeff Baxter’s guitar solos in My Old School.  My dad, who hated rock music, found the humor, then joined me on his own air guitar, forging a moment in time I will never forget.

Music can help reinforce a strained relationship better than concrete and steel.  Had it not been for a common love of music during her teen years, my relationship with my daughter might have never recovered after her mother and I divorced.

In the 16 years since that divorce, my daughter’s mother and I remain close friends – largely because of a love of music.  Just three nights ago my lovely former wife called to ask me about some of the guitars Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. At first she chastised me for never exposing her to Tharpe

“Why haven’t you ever told me about her…?” she asked.

We stayed on the phone for quite a while and enjoyed some laughter.  I got a bit weepy when we hung up because the conversation was so dear; two divorced people laughing and talking about whether or not Prince’s guitars might be derivative of Tharpe’s, and whether or not it was a Gibson or a Gretsch.

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If being human is about relationships, then I know of no better way to enjoy or enhance a relationship than by exposing it to music.  Music can transcend politics, religion, philosophy and even social status when it is allowed to.  For this to work though, one’s ears need to be open.

I think of my camping friends who I meet most summers in Nebraska.  From working class schlubs like me, to educated working professionals – conservative and liberal, Christian, Atheist or Jew, when the campfire is aglow and the guitars come out, we harmonize as one.

Music To Our Children And Beyond…

As a child, when my father wasn’t playing Pete Fountain or Mitch Miller on the Sears Robuck stereo, my mother was playing Eddie Arnold and Bobbi Gentry.  On Brigadoon, they both agreed.  Music was encouraged.  In our house at one time or another were drums, trombones, a trumpet, and the ever-present untouched guitars.  Our musical dreams destined to be unfulfilled, though experienced quite well through the lives of others.

When my daughter was an infant in her bassinette, and just days old, her mother and I danced around the room singing to The Ramones…

Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker, Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker oh oh oh oh oh oh

As part of the earthly autographs etched into the Golden Record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft, are recordings of Blind Willie Johnson, Mozart, and Chuck Berry.  How wonderful it would be, I have thought, that if the only thing an alien species gave a rat’s ass about in receiving this information would be Chuck Berry’s Oh Carrol…?  Surely they would put the tops down on their intergalactic Cadillacs and head our way with the best of intentions.  Maybe we could trade some of our vinyl for some of theirs.  And some dilithium crystals – we will need more dilithium crystals if we’re ever going to get out of here.  The God I believe in plays air guitar.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from me, Roy Cohen.  I wrote this nearly 30 years ago for what was to be the world’s first rockabilly opera, but never completed it.  Enjoy…

Service With A Smile…

This week I sat down with the intention of writing a manifesto of sorts, on how new fitness trainers should conduct themselves.  Seems I got offtrack and ended up writing this.  Perhaps some of these can be superimposed on other career paths -or life paths…

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Pride And Circumstance…

I take pride in a handful of things in my life. Of them, I am most proud that as a trainer – as a businessman, I have kept a full schedule since the first week I opened here in Fallbrook in 2000. In 16 years, I have done almost no marketing or advertising. I drove into a small town, looked around, decided I wanted to stay, set up shop, and within days my business course was primarily set

A good part of that is accidentally landing in a great demographic. A fair portion of the population here have discretionary time and money. That doesn’t represent all of my clients though, as I have a more than few working people who have become puzzle masters to fit me into their budgets and schedules.

Social Circles And Demographics…

I say often of doing business in a small town, that if you do a good job for 1 person, 5 more people will know about in a week. If you do a bad job for someone, 10 more will know about in a day. That ideal is as much responsible for my consistent schedule as any.

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Gonna die in a small town, and that’s probably where they’ll bury me…

Though we don’t all live in small towns, most of us do live in small circles.  In the information and social media era, where business reviews can be published online in seconds, treating the customer right matters more than ever.  It may sound a bit simplistic, but doing a good job for the client is the most important part of my job.

Meet & Greet…

I do my best to greet every client at the door. This isn’t always possible on days when I have back-to-back sessions, or when sessions run late. I do though, attempt to greet every client before they enter the studio. Meeting a client at the door gives them a feeling of immediate security in what is too often an intimidating environment – the gym.

Meeting someone at the door shows them you are there for them, as much as you want them to be there for you.

Dings, Pings, And Echo Location…

Clients come with inherent aches and pains, some more severe than others. Through a written medical evaluation, I take inventory of any medical or physical issues prior to my first session with all client, and then I am sure to remember them.

Each time I meet a client at the door I ask them for a quick rundown of how they came off of our last workout in the form of soreness, stiffness, or aching. If I have done my job well, the answer should not influence the workout ahead. If they speak of any dings or pings, I adjust the workout accordingly.

Throughout the course of the workout I will ask frequently how they are feeling – if I am pushing too hard or not hard enough. Most often I don’t even listen to their answers. I learn all I need by looking into their eyes as they hear the question. This is like echolocation with dolphins; I send I signal to them, they send one back to me, and I know where we are in the course of a workout.

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When echolocation goes bad…

Before starting a session, I also ask them the last food they ate and how long ago they ate it. This information can also influence the direction and the result of a workout.

Don’t Eat In Front Of Clients…

If one’s job is to instruct and motivate, it’s hard to accept that this can be done with a mouthful of cold oatmeal or sipping from a shaker cup as many trainers do. Eating and talking lacks professionalism.

I can’t say I have been perfect here. There are those days when sessions run back-to-back and I have said excuse me to the client, and then asked permission to grab a bite as we begin the session. I can honestly say that in 16 years in Fallbrook, I have done this less than 16 times.

I also keep my phoned turned off during sessions. That hour belongs to my clients, not to me.
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Business Cards…

Former Levis Strauss executive and Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals founder, Tim Cling once told me,

“Business cards aren’t what you give to people, they are what you take from people! You take the card, you call the number on the card, you introduce yourself, and explain concisely how and why you can help them.”

That is the best business advice ever extended to me. Too many fitness trainers put enormous stock on designing and handing out business cards – cards which get tucked away, thrown away, or otherwise used to stabilize the lose air conditioning vent in their car.

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Great for helping balance uneven table legs.  As a form of marketing…?  Not so much…

In the year 2000 I had 1,000 business cards printed up. In 2015 I still had 950 of them. What few I handed out were used as appointment reminders, or scratch paper for my personal notes.

On Form, Focus, And Conversation…

Overstating the obvious; a trainer should never turn his back on their client. A trainer’s eyes should always be fixed to the client’s exercise form – period.

Only when I am sure a client’s form is correct, does any conversation take place. I have no issues with a client talking during the course of their exercise, so long as they are moving and breathing properly.image76-e1422567572804

One of the better aspects of life as a fitness trainer is the conversations which have taken place in my studio through the years. In a sense, those conversations have given me a master’s degree in life. My older clients offer me wisdom. My younger ones offer me context from which I can better appreciate that wisdom.

There is much to learn from listening to the experiences of others. I get to do this all day long. I won’t hear the wisdom though, if I’m not listening, so my ears and my mind remain open at all times.

Relationships And Progress…

Making my living as a fitness trainer is about progress, of course, but it is also about relationships. It took me far too long to learn this. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress a client might experience, progress being a relative term.  Only if there is trust with the client, can I add a little more, push a little harder, and ask a little more of them over time – always in small doses. That is where progress comes from. They progress as the student. I progress as the teacher.

From this I am also reminded, living on this earth is also about relationships. Cultivating and nurturing those relationships is paramount to any level of progress we might experience as a species. If there is trust with one another, only then can we ask a little more of each other, and push a little more over time – always in small doses. Be well…

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Enjoy…

One giant leap for a girl…

Questions on the surface, feelings at the core…

I just spent 90 minutes or so sitting in my yard sharing a beer, and a conversation with a young woman I have known her since she was 15.  She’s now 28.  We are honest friends.  In our friendship we have discovered that I possess the experience of her parents, without the judgment.  She brings youthful ideas, and situations to the table that I have long forgotten.  We have been benefitting, mutually, from honest conversations about life, and relationships for a couple of years.

Today we met at her request to discuss some immediate changes in her life.  She will be leaving the state next week to fulfil a new relationship, and a new life in a different region of the country.

She is experiencing all the excitement any young woman might feel under the circumstances; a new region bringing new activities into her life.  A new job.  New friends.  New weather.  New culture, and customs.  And of course, a budding relationship with a new man.  This is a leap on many levels.  Her love, faith, and strength will all be tested in the coming months, and she knows this.

She is also experiencing all the apprehension anyone in the same circumstance might feel.  Of course this is what she really wanted to discuss.  What happens if it doesn’t work?  What are the professional ramifications within her career?  What might the consequences be with the family and friends she is leaving behind?  Might she be stranded there?  Will she have to tuck her tail between her legs and move back with mom and dad?  If this turns out not to work, will she ever find that one true love?

Her head is spinning.

Peel back the layers…

The larger questions I thought we should explore are what are the many things that might keep this new relationship from working out…?

As we sat by the fire pit I flashed back to a walk on the beach another friend and I enjoyed last year; she and I are both divorced.  As we got to the end our walk we stood below a contemporary beach condominium with a crowded upper patio.  A wedding was taking place.  As my friend and I looked up to see the bride and groom exchanging vows, I joked, “Should we warn them?”  I was only partially kidding.

As a culture, it is my opinion that’s an area where we fail, habitually.  Failing to be honest with our children about the potential downsides of life is simply the act of supporting, of reinforcing mistakes they may make in their future.  Rather than expose the complexities, complications, and potential downside of relationships, we watch episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, choose honeymoon destinations, and offer investment advice – as though our weddings, our honeymoons, and our investments have made us happy.

I suppose not warning our children about the downside of relationships is, at its very root, based on the idea that we don’t want our children to expect or experience the worst aspects of relationships.  However, does this mean would shouldn’t discuss these…?  I guess it’s just easier to offer fairytales, and our undying support should the fairytale not play out as expected.

An example I offered my friend is this:  We hear often that money and sex are the two biggest causes for relationships to break down.  Nobody ever says that having kids can also be a cause, or a root cause for divorce.  Who wants to say to their child, “Someday you may be divorced, and raising kids might be at the foundation of that divorce.”

I don’t know by percentage what causes more relationships to decay, money, or sex.  I think it’s fair to say though, since having children influences sex, money, time, sleep, stress, and so many other aspects of marriage, that raising children may lead to the decline of a marriage, and possible divorce.  Maybe we don’t want to be parental buzz kill, or maybe we just assume that our children won’t listen.  Not talking about difficult things is easy.

Love:  It's written in dice for a reason...

Love: It’s written in dice for a reason…

What advice I gave…

I suggested that her life is unique.  That she herself is a paint brush, but the brush whom she is can only paint within the singular day that she lives.  Painting the future, I suggested, is like trying to predict in which direction a vine will grow.

Love:  I suggest that a long kiss under a magnolia tree might swoon a girl into next week.  However, an affirmation of unity and strength after one partner has been diagnosed with cancer is the more mature version of the kiss under the tree.

Love evolves.  Love changes. Sometimes it grows stronger, and sometimes it falls apart.  There is no telling.  I suggested though, real love doesn’t germinate until it’s been watered by adversity.

On like-minded endeavors:  She was concerned that she might not fit in with his more rigorous outdoor activities.  I suggest she give them a fair try.  If after that time she felt she didn’t enjoy them, then it is her absolute responsibility to be honest about that.  I further suggested that he first took to those activities for himself, and if she finds they are not for her, she offer to play a supporting role in them so he can better enjoy them.

On career:  I simply reminded her that she was looking for a job when she found this one.  When she suggested her Communications degree is unmarketable, I reminded her that most degrees are unmarketable.

On sex:  Each relationship is unique.  I only suggest that sex may change over time, it probably will.  Desires, abilities, and opportunity change as the circumstances of the relationship change.   I don’t know too many 80 year olds who do it up against the wall, though there may be some.  Of those who do, I suggested, it’s probably because their relationship is new.

On the failure or success of the relationship:  I suggested that she should absolutely consider failure as a possible outcome – especially in the beginning. I also suggested she not consider failure to the point of the tears which were sliding down her cheeks during our talk.  The possibility of failure is quite real I reminded her, but can be thwarted with honesty and discussion.   To borrow from a letter I wrote to another young person recently, I offered this:

If you get married that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable, or tragic.  If it’s like many marriages, it may hold elements of all of these.  It may also include divorce.  Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage.  Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state the quality of that relationship.

If a relationship fails, you may ask yourself how many soul mates does one get…?   At best, that question creates knots in my stomach daily.  At its worst, it paralyzes me to a point of emotional stagnation.  Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and are able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing. 

As I walked my friend to her car I gave her a big hug, told her to stay connected, and chose not to wish her luck, but to wish her well.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Willy DeVille.  Enjoy…

I Blame Me: A Relationship Story…

Not A Good Year

I’m not lying, this has been the worst year of my entire life; dark, drunk, and trying.  And when I say, “trying”, I don’t mean the year has taken its toll.  I mean I have truly tried.  I have given my all to a relationship which I knew early on could not give back.  Still, I put on my blinders and lowered my shoulder into the future.  With few expectations but irrepressible dreams, I worked hard at it.  She did too.

This year I have been in bed sick far too often.  I have missed too much work.  I have had too much to drink.  I have shed too many years.  I have also turned my back too often on many who care about me.  In short, this year was just like last year, the year before that, and the year before that.  You know, all the years since the day she and I met.

I Blame Me

It started over four years ago when I fell in-love and gave my heart to someone I deemed special beyond words – and she is.  The pedestal I built was not strong enough though, to support the idol I had created in my head.  And there I prayed, every day and most moments of my life, to the woman I placed well above me.  Rarely, I now see in hind-sight, did she ever pray back, or even look down.  

But that’s not her fault, she had other things to occupy her prayers and her eyes; two daughters.  Though her girls would never come to accept me, I can’t blame her for that either.  I soon knew though, that the interest of her daughters would be the critical weakness in our relationship.  She convinced me it would not be.  I leapt.

What does it say about me, or about the ideal of love, that just a few months in, when I first recognized a potential weakness in the relationship, one which I knew we would not likely survive, that I still charged it full steam, for years…?  Again, that’s on me.  She’s a good person with a good heart and fairytale eyes, but I knew better.  Second families rarely work, and her family would be second to no one.

Everyone Needs A Hobby

I do many things wrong, but I think I do partnership pretty well.  I may be a hard person to love, but at the end of the day I give plenty of reasons to hang on tight.  I always thought that would be enough – to be emotionally present, with no expectation of an equal return.  But she couldn’t be as present, her hands were tied.  She did the best she could under the circumstances, but the immense gravity of this conflicted dynamic pulled her into the event horizon.

My Own Daughter

In all of this, what most saddens me is the effort, time, and money diverted away from what should have been my biggest priority – my own daughter.  This is not to suggest that I woke up one day after falling in love, placed my daughter on an iceberg, and clipped a note clipped to her collar reading, “If found, handle with care”, and pushed her out to sea.  But I did leave a large helping of woulda shoulda coulda on the table during the course of this now failed relationship.

When I look back at potential moments lost, I shudder.  I could have been so much better as a father.  My daughter is better than me though.  She’ll learn from my mistakes even if I might not.  My daughter often referred to my would-be marriage as, “the epic fail”, but she always supported it, and did so sincerely.

The Point Of Friendships

I wouldn’t know many of my Facebook friends if they bit me on the ass and called me Jew-boy.  Nor would they know me as much.  But I will bet that if I asked many of them to be there for me in a time of need, and if it were within their grasp to do so, they would accommodate.  And I like to think the same is true in reverse.    

My partner of four years was there for me when she could be, but it was scarcely at best.  When I needed her most though, at critical times to stand up for us and help stake our claim to our future, she was silent.  One lesson learned is that in my next love, if there is a next love, at the first sound of such silence, I will tuck my tail between my legs, back away slowly with one eye looking forward and one eye back, and just keep stepping. 

At Best, At Worst

At best, I am a hopeful romantic and as my friend Robert says, probably too nice a guy. I believe in love, marriage, and I don’t want to grow old alone.  I don’t always have high expectations of romance, and I’m not looking for someone to save me from myself.  But there are times, like many, I want to hit my next relationship out of the park.

At worst, I’m the kind of guy who is willing to just keep hitting his head on the door-jam – over and over again, hoping there is something meaningful on the other side.  Next time out, I will hope to remember the door-jam is almost always too low, and what’s on the other side is seldom enough.  Be well.  rc

Comments are closed this week.

Please check back in two weeks for whatever happens next when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there it this from Micky Braun of Micky And The Motor Cars.  Enjoy…