Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Did you see that?!"

I love the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. I've always loved it. The mere mention of the event and my thoughts fly back to the mid '60s to early '70s - the years when I was lucky enough to spend my summers at Camp Winadu. Every year there was a home run pool run by the campers and counselors (I'm sure the directors weren't all that fond of this practice), but, still, we could count on the pool happening every year. People would contribute a few bucks and pick who they thought would hit home runs in the game. Back then we were talking about guys like Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie Stargell, Johnny Bench, Jimmy "the Toy Cannon" Wynn, Greg Luzinski, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt - to name just a few of many great players. The lucky winner(s) would win some serious money - enough to cover a summer's worth of Big Beefs and Fribbles from Friendly's. One particular home run memory was the one hit by Dick Dietz in the 1970 game. Here, I would use the phrase "one-hit-wonder" since, to be honest, I hadn't heard of Dietz either before or after that home run. But one camper - I forget his name - had Dietz in the pool and, sure enough, Dietz hit a dramatic homer in the bottom of the 9th inning and the camper won big.

I love the All-Star Game.

The other night, something else kicked in while I had the game on in the background - something I want to mention here. Several times during the game, there were moments. A great play. An interview. Prince Fielder's three-run home run - (I'm guessing some camper must have been very happy when that ball skipped off the top of the outfield wall). And during those moments, I thought about my father.

At each of those times, my instinct was to reach for the phone; I felt a strong urge to call him. After all, as soon as I had moved away from home to attend college, the phone (there was, of course, no access to the Web back then), immediately became the tool of choice that connected our family whenever we wanted to talk with one another. Special sports moments would occur and, right away, one of our phones would be ringing. A winning putt during The Masters. An exciting touchdown pass to clinch the Super Bowl. I can name a hundred situations right now. But it won't surprise any of my friends to find out here that one sport rises far above the rest for me and my family: Baseball. And whenever something spectacular happened in a particular baseball game, the reflex was always the same. I'd pick up the phone and start to dial - within milliseconds after the event occurred. Before my father would say a word, as soon as I heard the pickup click, I'd spit it out: "Did you see that?"

I'm smiling as I write this because after engaging in this practice for a number of years, the interaction became very much a two-way operation. Many times, my dad would beat me to the punch by calling me, and he'd start things off with the same, "Did you see that?"

I miss my dad, of course. It's been just over a year now since he's gone. But I have to tell you that I feel tremendous comfort and joy whenever I feel what I felt the other night. The fact is, I feel it even now as I write this entry. I had long heard that when a person dies, it's the memories that keep that person very much alive in our hearts and minds. To me, that concept always sounded like a cliche . . . I mean . . . it is a cliche. But, cliche or not, I can now say for certain that this is precisely how memories serve to operate. Whenever I watch a baseball game, I think of those "Field of Dreams" moments when I tossed a ball around in the driveway or backyard with my dad. I think about the many Mets' games we attended together with the family. (Note: Two very special games in 1969 - the last game of the playoffs against the Braves and then the World Series win versus the Orioles. I remember how my father lovingly pulled me back as I started to make my move to run onto the field when Cleon Jones made that last out - kicking off the mad celebration.) It's nice to know that whenever I have a chance to watch a baseball game these days, I don't have to use any kind of modern day gizmo to make contact with my dad. I simply think to myself, "Did you see that?" And he's right there with me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Filters, be gone!"

Something kicked in two days ago. Something that occurred to me as I was navigating this vast social media landscape. The way I figured it, I've been a bit too conservative wandering around out here - operating at a 40-50% contact level. I decided it was time to make a strong move to see just how powerful these modern communication tools can really be.

I decided to revisit Facebook's "Friend Finder" feature - for the 157th time. But this time I was determined to do something different. I was going to reach out to every single person with whom I've ever had contact in my life, (out of the pool of Facebook subscribers, that is.) And to accomplish this task, I knew that I was going to be required to do a bit of brain rewiring which involved modifying the filter settings. It's as though I went into my "brain preferences" folder and checked off the little box that said, "Remove Filter System(s)." Actually, I went the extra mile by selecting the "Check All" box, too. When I talk about filters here, I'm talking about the internal conversations I've always had about achieving a different level of contact out here; ideas that have repeatedly served as obstacles at a time when I am looking to build something very special with Eldercation. In the past, whenever I bumped into the "Friend Finder" page, I fiddled with it a bit. I always enjoyed browsing through the names that came up as I would scroll down . . . and down . . . and down. Then, whenever I thought I had reached the bottom of the list, it seemed to regenerate again. After a good twenty minutes of doing that, I'd have my fill, sign off (having selected no one) and then go about my day.

Looking back on my pattern - I'll call it - it was clear that I was looking at the names and then having a quick "Harry to Harry" conversation that would go something like this, "Oh, yeah. I remember 'so and so,' - a great person. But they don't remember me." Filter. "I don't want to bother them." Filter. Every time I saw a familiar face - Filter. Many of the folks I'd see were from my home town - people I knew from elementary, middle and high school. Then there were faces I recognized from college, law school and certain jobs. And by applying the filters this way, I was effectively limiting myself - shutting out a lot of very special people who have shared particular moments with me on this current life adventure.

Years ago, the application of such filters may have, in fact, been the best approach in terms of me having enough focus and time to write a book; it was a way for me to keep my surroundings quiet and distraction-free. But now, things are different. Now, I have something I want very much to share with people - with the world - as grandiose as that sounds.

And so yesterday was the day that I decided to change course while doing my thing in "Friend Finder." Yesterday, I decided to look at the names and whenever I saw a face, a name that I recognized as someone who has touched my life in some way - in any way - I was going to reach out to them. I clicked away for a solid hour or so. It felt good.

And now - I sit back and observe. I wait. I get to see what comes back to me. I have an opportunity to see if the person who sat in back of me in home room in the 8th grade remembers me. Perhaps the girl I had a crush on in the fifth grade ... maybe, today, I'll find out that she knew I even existed.

I don't ever want to be seen as a person who forces things on others - this has never been my style. But here's the way I figure it: If I can present something to people and it interests just one or two of them - if those one or two people are able to see the value in what I'm pursuing and those individuals then share it with their friends? Then, yes, I want to cast as wide a net as possible.

I thought of a phrase a few years ago - this was when I first came up with the Eldercation idea: "Changing the face of aging - one face at a time." Well ... now we will get to see what these social media tools can do - one face - one "Like" - one tweet - one YouTube view - at a time.

Slow growth in a very fast world.

Grass roots all the way.

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