John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Parking Lots

jyb_musingsWhen you are in a parking lot and not paying attention when going to your car and the car parked next to you looks like your car, it is easy to walk up and try to open the door of the wrong car.

When that happens, of course, the door stays locked, you immediately realize your mistake and you have a good laugh at yourself.

But tonight I took it to the next level. Coming out of a Thortons I lackadaisically wandered over to the wrong silver sedan in the parking lot and tried to open the driver’s door. And did. The door not only opened but the driver was still sitting in the car and was talking on his cell phone.

In fact, he tried to hold his door shut when I opened it and shouted at me, “I’m still in the car. This is somebody else’s car.”

And, just like when there isn’t a driver still in the car, I immediately realized my mistake and had a good laugh at myself. And the driver still in his car had a good laugh at me too.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Positive Self Talk

jyb_musingsThis morning as I walked briskly from the parking lot to my first meeting I saw my reflection in a store window and thought to myself,

“I may be 51 but I have the gait of a 40 year old. Bam!”

===

When I see a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt I know it is because he is genuinely slim. (I also know that I probably won’t like him and definitely don’t trust him.)

But when a guy wearing a “slim fit” shirt looks at a guy wearing a “classic fit” shirt, I wonder if he knows that “classic fit” is really just a euphemism for “out-of-shape and portly?” And if so, is feeling sorry for us and knowing we are not a threat part of the reason slim-fit guys seem inclined to like and trust us?

===

I have just finished going off a medication and suffering withdrawals that no woman should ever have to endure. And that many men shouldn’t ever have to endure either. And I am in that group of men.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Aging Optimist

jyb_musingsI have a feeling today is going to be a great day. But don’t know what it is that is going to be great today in my life.

But since I am in my 50s and won’t be able to remember tomorrow whatever great thing happened in my life today, I am OK with not needing to know specifics about today’s great things that I feel are going to happen.

I am content just knowing today is going to be a great day. Involving something. I just don’t know what and, even if I did, I wouldn’t remember it anyway. But because of my “can do attitude” that won’t stop me from being an optimist.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: What does Walgreens know about me that I don’t know?

jyb_musingsI love Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong.

But the “Be well” mantra from every Walgreen’s employee at the end of each verbal exchange is making me more than a little paranoid. And has me wondering what is wrong with me that the Walgreens employees know and aren’t being straightforward about with me.

I went to Walgreens today to buy some vitamins and toiletries. The sales clerk who helped me was very helpful and as I walked away she said sincerely “Be well.” I took it as a kind of encouraging “atta boy.” It seemed like a natural –if somewhat meddlesome—thing to say to me. After all, she had helped me find vitamins that will make me healthier or “weller,” in the Walgreens parlance.

But before leaving Walgreens I looked at some phone chargers for my phone and the sales clerk who helped me told me that didn’t carry what I was looking for. I thanked him and he, too, told me to “Be well.” He said it in a more concerned tone and almost knowing manner. I thought that was odd and, frankly, it scared me a little. I don’t know him personally and I was just looking for a phone charger –not something that affected my health. Had he talked to the sales clerk who helped me with the vitamins? Did he know I was taking a vitamin supplement because I worried my diet wasn’t sufficient? Or was he just repeating a catch phrase he was told to say to every customer and was only pretending to be deeply concerned about my health (and, presumably, my phone charger situation)?

As I walked to the check-out counter I wondered if Walgreens had somehow gotten involved with the Church of Scientology. I remember meeting some members of the Church of Scientology years ago and they seemed “programmed” and had certain buzz words they used as they encouraged me to do a personal “audit” within the Dianetics program. Interacting with Walgreens employees is always pleasant. In fact,a little too pleasant. Almost robotic And every conversation ends with the same mechanical “Be well” farewell and hope that my health (physical, mental and emotional health?) will somehow improve. But it isn’t clear what they are really saying to me. Do they know something about my health failing that I am not aware of? Or maybe Walgreens employees are using this hypnotic “Be well” chant to “guide me” to a better level of “being” within the Dianetics framework of personal growth.

I thought to myself I could easily see Tom Cruise and John Travolta shopping at Walgreens instead of Rite Aid. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

As I checked out and tried to pay the sales clerk, he asked me if I was a “Balance Rewards Member.” I said I didn’t know what that meant. I figured it must be one of the levels of Scientology but didn’t say anything. I gave the sales clerk my phone number as requested and he told me I was at the “Balance Rewards” level. As I watched him type in my phone number all sorts of data about me was processing before his eyes.

I was informed I had reached a level of 27,000 points. I couldn’t tell if that was good news for me –or if perhaps it meant my health was in jeopardy. As I took my bag and walked away the cashier, who was a thoughtful and quiet man, he kept staring at the floor and muttered to me against his will to “Be well.”

Obviously he didn’t mean it and was saying it merely as part of some Scientology “group speak” based on all the information he had about me. I think he knew I wasn’t going to make it. I turned back to him and motioned toward the vitamins I had purchased. I wanted him to know I was at least trying. But he said nothing. Not even “Be well.” again or “Hang in there. You can still make it.” Just silence. What else could I conclude except he knew I didn’t have much longer to live and that he was just trying to let me down easy by not being more direct and specific?

I left Walgreens with my vitamins and toiletries. But when I got home I felt like it was pointless to even start taking the vitamins. My fate was sealed and based on my interactions with Walgreens employees, I figured it was time for me to get my affairs in order.

Who knew that the Walgreens employees and their creepy and overly solicitous “Be well” comments would convince me to update my will and to start making peace with the fact that my days are numbered? I just needed a multi-vitamin and some shaving toiletries. Geez!

I wonder if I should try going to CVS for a second opinion?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Lost Baggage

jyb_musingsWhen you arrive home at the airport at 11:30pm after a long cross country flight and discover that the airline left one of your family’s three pieces of luggage in Dallas, it is easy to feel frustrated and angry.

But I try to avoid that selfish and petty inclination by keeping a broader perspective and reminding myself of all the positive things going on in my life right now to counter-balance this momentary and small inconvenience.

For example, we are coming home from a nice family vacation. We made it home safely. Our car started on the first turn of the key. We all have our health. And, besides, all of my things are in the two bags that made it home.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Weather Reports

jyb_musingsA Layperson’s Weather Report

Today’s temperature is a witch’s teat minus 20 degrees served inside an ice cube tray.

That is without the wind chill factored in.

And if you have a body piercing you are probably going to re-think that decision this morning.

===

Today’s weather report:

No one will care today if it is going to be cloudy or not. It is too cold to look up.

===

Mornings this cold can make a coward out of a Super Hero.

If Louisville were Gotham City this morning, I could easily see Bruce Wayne deciding to put Alfred in a nursing home, selling the mansion and moving to a condo on the West coast with Robin and letting Gotham fend for itself.

===

I can’t help but suspect this morning’s frigid weather is more evidence of the Democrat’s (or is it the Republican’s) “War on warm weather.”

OK. Maybe not. I just can’t resist the American tendency of whenever we are uncomfortable to assume that there is a conspiracy by our political enemies to blame.

John Y’s Musings in the Middle: Male Scarfs

jyb_musingsI have never worn a scarf. Ever. In my entire life. But I wanted to today. I have one. In fact, I have three. I just never get around to ever actually wearing them.
Why not?

I am embarrassed to admit this but when I see other men wearing scarfs they seem to be tied or folded a certain way and I don’t know how to fold or tie a scarf properly. 

Besides, just wearing a scarf makes me feel like I am being a bit of a dandy. And having to fold it a certain way —and knowing how to fold it—is just more dandified than I am comfortable with.

But I wore one today anyway. To my car, at least. Just around my neck. No folding. I don’t know how, remember? I just wanted to keep my neck a little warmer. And finally to see what wearing a scarf feels like.

By the way, it feels very bulky and didn’t seem to make a huge difference on my neck.

But I am glad to have it in the car now. And can use it to clean up a coffee spill since I don’t have any napkins and like to drink coffee in the car.

Of course, I still have two other scarves in my closet that I could still one day wear if I ever learn how to fold or tie a scarf. And have extra napkins in my car.

===

I have been wearing a scarf today for nearly 40 minutes even though I don’t know any of the fancy ways to tie or fold it. Like men wear them in magazines and upscale coffee shops.

So far, I am happy to report, it has kept my neck warmer and has not caused a statistically significant drop in my masculinity.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Spiritual Thoughts

jyb_musingsSpiritual Thought for the Day:

“Just for today I will avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

And engage in sins that are merely physically unhealthy but not life threatening.”

===

When someone is rude to me in a public place and I can’t think of a clever retort, I sometimes wish there was a magic pause button I could push until I come up with a clever retort.

And a magic fast forward button I could push right after I say it.

===

When I say I fully intend to do something, I mean it. At the time I say it. And I think I mean it more than most people. Even a lot of the ones who do it when I don’t. And I think the depth of that conviction — despite the lack of execution– ought to count for something.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Sleep

jyb_musingsI am about to go to sleep

After my insomnia lets go it’s grip on my brain
And sleepiness displaces restlessness
And I get ready for bed
And drink another warm glass of milk
And get into bed
And try to go to sleep
After I set my alarm
And check it to make sure it is set
And after realizing, again, it is far too late to be getting to bed
But feeling relieved that short sleep is nearing
And finally drifting toward oblivion thinking to myself

I am about to go to sleep

John Y. Brown, III: R.I.P Jim King

jyb_musingsI didn’t know Jim King well but as we have learned in our collective grieving the past 24 hours, everyone in Louisville seems to have a Jim King story, including me.

The first time I ever had an extended conversation with Jim King was just over 5 years ago when Jerry Abramson announced he would not seek reelection and Jim King’s name immediately circulated as a likely candidate for mayor.

A local community leader and mentor of mine called me and said “You have to meet the man who is going to be Louisville’s next mayor, Jim King. You will be very impressed!” I said I’d love to meet Mr King and that I had met him before but only causally and that I didn’t have a good sense of what he was like but would love an introduction and opportunity to get to know him better.

A meeting was set up and I went to one of Mr King’s banks and he met with me promptly at the exact time we had scheduled. He talked about his background, his business, and most of all, his vision for the city of Louisville and the kind of leadership he felt was needed and that he felt he could offer.

I was, indeed, very impressed.

After I left I called my mentor/friend and thanked him for urging me to meet with Mr King and introducing me to him. “What was your impression of Jim?” he asked me. “Do you think he’ll win the mayor’s race if he runs?”

“Jim King certainly has a very mayoral presence. That’s for sure.” I said. “He commands respect and has an even greater command of the issues facing our community and seems to care deeply and genuinely about our city. Those are all important qualities but I’m not sure that is what makes him stand out most as a possible candidate for mayor.”

“What do you think makes him stand out most as a candidate?” I was asked.

“Well,” I hesitated because I wasn’t sure how I was going to say what I was feeling. But it came out like this: “Well….I think after my one brief meeting with Jim King I would say that his greatest strength as a mayoral candidate is that….is that after you meet him you feel afraid NOT to vote for him.”

We both broke out into laughter before I interrupted. “I don’t mean that like it sounded. I mean that people want a strong personality for their mayor and a sense that their mayor will protect them. I felt that for sure from Jim King. He is a strong and forceful personality who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The mayor is a CEO-type office and requires a CEO-type personality and Jim King certainly has that, too. He seems like the consummate ‘no nonsense, get ‘r done’ kind of leader. The challenge for people like Jim King in politics is that they sometimes don’t have the patience for the beauty contest aspects of a long political campaign. They just want to get on with running things”

My friend said, “Maybe so but no one will work harder or smarter than Jim King.” I agreed and that is where we left our conversation.

Jim King did run for mayor and, of course, didn’t win, but like the determined community leader he was he never let up and continued working away on behalf of Louisville and Louisvillians in the leadership role he did secure as Metro Council President. And he was relentless. A relentless worker but most of all relentlessly passionate about his work, and his family, and the betterment of the city we all had the privilege to share with Jim King.

After my first meeting with Jim King I had the opportunity to visit with him on several other occasions and these subsequent visits left a markedly different impression on me than my first. I got to see the other sides of Jim King. He was incredibly thoughtful and caring and compassionate in ways that ran far deeper than his seemingly tough exterior. He was a complex “big picture” leader, on the one hand, and yet also was easily able to singularly focus on every issue before him, no matter how small or big. And he was a local leader our entire community came to trust and rely on far more than we were ever fully aware.

After my first visit with Jim King there was never another time I used the word ‘afraid’ in conjunction with his name —until yesterday. When I told a good mutual friend that “I am afraid our city has just lost one of it’s greatest citizens.”

And we have.

RIP Mr King

John Y.’s Video Flashback (1995):

John Y’s Links: