Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Wilson … and Gilmore?!

April 26, 2007

So which name doesn’t belong? 

Jim Gilmore announced today.

It couldn’t really happen.

Could it?

If it does, Natalie Maines is going to have a lot of kindred spirits in Virginia.


Field of Dreams or Nightmares?

April 24, 2007

When I was 9 or 10, I went out for Little League baseball.  That was more than a few years ago, and my memories of my Little League baseball career are sketchy at best – with one exception, which is indelibly burned into my brain.  It was the first day of tryouts, and I was out in right field.  I remember being deathly afraid that the batter was going to hit the ball to me.  Then that inevitable pop fly came my way.  I can still see it arcing through the air.  I got under the ball, held up my glove, and readied myself for impact.

I had impact, all right.  The ball landed squarely on the top of my head, and bounced to the ground.

Once they determined that I wasn’t injured (there is at least one advantage to being thick-headed, I guess), I was placed on a team in the developmental “farm league”.  I can remember little else about the rest of the season, apart from the fact that I eagerly anticpated its end. 

* * *

Apart from the occasional game of whiffleball at the odd picnic, I think the next time that I picked up a bat was when I joined my church softball team as a young 30-something.  The coach/captain lured me into signing on by telling me that they needed to add some speed to the team.  As a runner, I figured I could offer them that, so I went to KMart, bought a glove, and showed up for the first game.  I then realized that speed is an asset in softball only if you can (1) hit the ball so you can get on base, and/or (2) catch the ball once you have run to it.  With my skills in both respects having seen little improvement since the halcyon days of my youth when I had gotten knocked in the noggin by a pop fly, I came to dread each Friday night game.  I do not enjoy participating in activities for which I have little aptitude – especially when that activity involves an audience.  I made it through the season, and hung up my cleats.

* * *    

That was about 10 years ago.  Why am I writing about it now?  I guess I’m a slow learner.  Either that, or a glutton for punishment.  I have dusted off my KMart glove and am once again playing church league softball.  This time, however, a couple of things are different.  First, my wife is playing as well – she’s actually the one who lured me back onto the field.  How could I not play if she is?  Second, I am bound and determined to have fun with it.  I have got to stop taking life, and myself, so seriously.   

I still hope that the ball is not hit to me.  My hand-eye coordination as a 43-year-old church softballer is not much better than it was as a 9 year old Little Leaguer.  But, I hope to find that my inner critic has lightened up a bit.  We’ll see how it goes.


Missing Bill

April 14, 2007

000_1646.jpgThere is no gift shop in the Clinton Library – however, there are Clinton souvenirs a-plenty at the Clinton Museum Store, visible here from my hotel window.  It is chock full of the usual commemorative key chains, magnets, books, and the like.  However, the cream of the souvenir crop is the line of “I Miss Bill” shirts, hats, and stickers:

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For an extra $25, you can get an “I Miss Bill” t-shirt that has been autographed by Al Franken!  It doesn’t look like the autographed version is available online, though, so if you have your heart set on it, you’ll have to head to Little Rock.


Little Rock Oval Office

April 14, 2007

000_16551.jpg One of the highlights of my recent trip to Little Rock was my field trip to the Clinton Presidential Center. I am an unabashed political junkie, and had carefully planned my business appointments around the visit, just as I had planned my meetings around a visit to the Jimmy Carter Library the last time I was in Atlanta. And, when I travel to Austin later this summer, you can be sure that I will block out time for a vist to the LBJ Library as well.

But I digress.

Consistent with the personality of its namesake, the Clinton Library’s holdings are the largest within the Presidential Library system, including approximately 76.8 million pages of paper documents, 1.85 million photographs and over 75,000 museum artifacts.  Obviously only a small fraction of this material is on display at any given time, but there is still a lot to look at.  I was particularly captivated by the long rows of blue binders containing Clinton’s daily schedule for each day of his 8-year presidency.  The next time I start to chafe at my daily schedule becoming too meeting-intensive, that will give me a basis for comparison.     

The Center features a replica of the Oval Office, which is quite impressive:

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No matter your political stripe (mine is blue, if you haven’t figured that out already), it is difficult to avoid being swept up in the history and political significance of that room – all that happens there, and all that it represents.

However, I was a bit surprised to find that the Clinton Oval Office didn’t have quite the same effect on me as had the the Carter Library’s replica, shown here: 

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Why?  Part of the reason was simply timing, I think – while I was anticipating seeing the Clinton replica, the Carter Library’s Oval Office took me by surprise – I had rounded a corner while walking through the Carter Library and there it was, and it had literally taken my breath away.  

Why else was I less awestruck with Clinton’s Oval Office than with Carter’s? It has something to do with the men themselves, I suppose.  In terms of what he accomplished for the nation and for the world, I think history will rank Bill Clinton highly.  However, it’s difficult to look at a replica of Clinton’s Oval Office without giving at least a passing thought to the general soap opera that characterized his personal life while in office, not to mention specific events that occurred in that office.  Ahem. Enough said on that.

By contrast, I believe that history will remember Jimmy Carter as a mediocre president, but as a very good man.  Here’s a shot of Carter’s desk:

carter-desk.jpg

Note what he kept at his right hand.  The Oval Office’s current resident probably keeps a Bible on his desk as well, but he and Carter read it, and use it, differently, I think. 

Again, I digress – that’s material for a future post, perhaps. 

Back to the Clinton Oval Office. Look closely at the coffee table in between the two sofas. In the glass display case is a moon rock, dated at 3.6 billion years old:

000_1658.jpg

When discussions would get heated on a particular issue, Clinton would point to that rock and say “hold on here – that rock there on that table is 3.6 billion years old – we’re only here for an instant – let’s get some perspective on this thing.” Wise words.

I’ll close with one more image.  This van was in the parking lot outside the library: 

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Judging by the various stickers, I’m guessing this guy felt the same way in the Clinton Library that I’ll feel if I ever make it to W’s…. 


Homeward Bound

April 12, 2007

000_1664.jpgI think I can pull another post or two out of my week in Little Rock, but that will have to wait.  For now, I’m going to enjoy being home again. 


Memo to Waitstaff

April 11, 2007

There is a fairly substantial travel component to my job.  I currently oversee a product line that touches all states west of the Mississippi River (that’s 23 states for those of you keeping score at home).  While I don’t travel to every state, I do hit a number of them.  And, when I travel, I need to eat.  And I hate to eat alone.

It’s not because I hate to be alone.  I am, by nature, a rather introverted guy, and I have no problem with having a quiet meal by myself – particularly after a day spent on the outer edges of my comfort zone, schmoozing with clients. 

Rather, I do not like to eat alone because I have found that walking into a restaurant and telling the host(ess) that I am a party of one automatically relegates me to second class citizenship, dining-wise.  The inevitable response:  “I see.  Would you like to sit at the bar?  Otherwise there will be a ___ minute wait.”

Sorry, I don’t like to sit at the bar.  It’s generally noisy and smoke-filled, for one thing.  There’s not much room, for another.  And, I might (as I did tonight) have to deal with the antics of a Tom Cruise-in- Cocktail wannabe bartender standing 18 inches away while pitching glasses over his shoulder to catch them behind his back, trying to impress me for a tip.  Or, I may have to deal with the guy on the stool next to me (as I did tonight) trying repeatedly to start up a conversation/friendship with me in an overly-loud voice, about the (1) baseball game on tv that I couldn’t care less about, (2) the weather, (3) his kids’ report cards, (4) you get the idea.

Here’s a memo to waitstaff of the world:  unless your party-of-one is a regular (Cliff Clavin), he/she is generally going to be a business traveler.  That means he/she is eating/drinking on an expense account.  It’s probably a safe bet that Joe Blow business traveler (that would be me) who is 900 miles away from home and family (again, me) is not going to be overly concerned about the size of his tab.  Pay him/her some attention.  Invite him/her to a regular table, not a barstool in loserville.  When it comes time to pull out the corporate credit card, it may well be worth your while. 


Arkansas River Run

April 11, 2007

Good run tonight; around 5 miles on the Arkansas River Trail. It’s not quite in the rave run category, but I’d definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Little Rock. 

In any event, I ran hard enough to earn another dinner at Boscos, where I’m headed momentarily.  Then, back to the hotel to pack up for my 7:10 a.m. flight back home tomorrow.  Ugh.  Seemed like a good plan when I was making the reservations a few weeks ago….