Life gave me a subtle nudge this week. Okay, more of a 2×4 upside the head.
Last week was pretty stressful around the office, and I certainly was feeling the effects throughout my life by the end of the week (I can neither confirm nor deny that I yelled at the cat for nagging me about food when I got home).
And seeing how horribly things went in football for my two favorite teams (Carolina and Pittsburgh) and that my prediction that Detroit could upset Atlanta came up inches short on a controversial ending, then Sunday didn’t help me feel any better.
Then came Monday when I awoke with two noticeable issues. One, someone with a cement truck had stopped and delivered a load to my sinuses; and two, someone was doing odd things to my voodoo doll again.
Yep, my head and ears were so clogged I could barely hear anything, but that took a backseat to the fascinating sideshow that was my left leg moving all by itself. I sat on the couch and watched it twitch and bounce — a sign that either I was secretly a marionette or the ol’ sciatica was flaring up.
Sometimes life reminds you that you need to stop and smell the roses. Or in my case, look at them out the window because I could neither walk out to the roses, nor smell anything.
Life lessons aren’t like grade school. You don’t learn something once and it sticks with you forever. I know dog is spelled D-O-G and 2+2 = 4. But remembering to take time to appreciate life has to be relearned over and over.
In my previous job I traveled often. I made a point of trying to find something interesting about the city to explore when I visited.
On my first trip to San Diego I made time to visit the world-famous zoo and shot three rolls of films (yes, I was still holding onto 35mm). In Las Vegas I toured some casinos and caught a couple of shows. I played on a Florida golf course built within a wildlife preserve.
In San Francisco I wanted to catch a baseball game in Candlestick Park. Unfortunately, when I took the job, that was late in the last season of that old park, and the team moved to a new field for 2001.
That year was the start of Barry Bonds’ HGH era for the Giants. He won four straight MVP awards; he broke the record for most walks in a season, then did it again twice more; and he broke the single-season home run record. There was no way anyone could get tickets then. People were buying out seats months in advance.
The best I could do was have dinner at the 24 Restaurant at Willie Mays Plaza, named for Bonds’ godfather.
Of course sometimes my desire to experience new things overrides my common sense.
Since I was in San Francisco, I decided I wanted to explore the city. I grabbed my camera and a couple of rolls of film and went walking. Let me point out that San Francisco doesn’t have flat ground. Everything is built on a slant. For four hours I walked up and down hills to take photos of interesting buildings, cornices and even gargoyles.
I had a great time, but when I woke up the next morning I could feel the effects of those hours hiking the hills. My feet hurt, but that was nothing compared to my calves and thighs. And that was just in time to walk 10 floors of the San Francisco Mart building.
My coworker and I arrived at The Mart the next morning to find about 100 people crowded around a bank of four elevators waiting to go up.
“We’ll be here all day,” said my friend. “Come on, we’ll take the stairs.”
Okay, no problem. I can wince and grimace up a flight of stairs.
Oh no, I didn’t realize who I was dealing with. You see, my new coworker’s hobby wasn’t pushing the shutter-release button on a camera. It was rock climbing. Not just hiking through the woods, but “look at me going up the side of this cliff face” rock climbing. Sure, I was 28 and he was 43, but there was no comparison on who was in the best physical condition.
My friend didn’t want to walk up to the second floor; no, he wanted to walk all the way to the 10th floor of The Mart and then work our way down floor by floor. Oh heck no. By the fifth floor, I was wiped out. And mind you it wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet, and there was still the whole day to go.
Nothing makes a good first impression like interviewing a person while trying not to look constipated. Then repeat that for eight hours.
My next business trip after that was to Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis.
In Tupelo, there really isn’t much of anything to do after hours, but at least the business leaders knew that.
On Friday night, V.M. Cleveland would throw a big catfish fry, and for a Surry County boy like me, that sounded just dandy. I asked V.M. what the initials stood for, and he said that if you asked his employees, they would say “Vlad the Merciless,” but he always seemed pleasant to me.
Entertainment was provided via an industry jam band. V.M. invited folks to bring a guitar or bass or harmonica and join in on stage. I got to kick back, eat some catfish and listen to a mix of blues and classic rock. It was wonderful, and I would get to experience this twice a year for the next five or six years.
When I talk about travel with people, I can name several cities in the U.S. I’ve seen. I can mention that I’ve been to different cities in Canada or that I’ve been to Spain.
But when they ask me for my favorite spot, they are always surprised when I say Tupelo. And I say, “You never had the catfish.”
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.