Sunday Observations

MontrealSeptember 13, 2009. Kindred Spirits I was just back in my hometown of Montreal this past weekend. The occasion was a somber one, but there were also times of pure happiness. Tragedies often reunite family members that have been distant for years. This was the case on Saturday.

When my father passed away in March, as was the case again over the weekend, I got see long lost family and friends. Since I left Montreal when I was 11, some people I haven’t seen in– Well, no need to be that specific. The ones who were my age back then, are now old and nearing the end of their days. And the those who were young, those with whom I played Life and Monopoly, and ran around the house driving everyone crazy, are now parents, well into careers, with grown children of their own, experiencing life’s ups and downs.

MonopolyIt’s those contemporaries, friends and family, that amaze me. How is it that whens you’re reunited with some people, there is nothing left in common, but with others, the connection is as strong as ever, like only days had passed. Fortunately, this past weekend, I experienced the latter. And what a great feeling it is. Looking at each other and seeing my cousins faces as they had looked so many years ago. Reminiscing about the past and catching up on present. So many years in between, but no onlooker would have guessed. Laughing, as we had done as little kids, only now those faces show a lifetime of missed moments together. All those occasions, the highs and lows we never shared. But that’s going to change. Those with whom we feel a kindred spirit, will now remain in our lives. With so many ways of staying in touch, there are no excuses worth considering. There won’t be another reuniting after years of absence. We’ll all make sure of that.

Like the old saying, “Every cloud has its silver lining”…it was shining particularly bright this past weekend.

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  • New beginningsSeptember 6, 2009. New beginnings As many of you know, I am no longer the Managing Director of Christopher Howard Companies. About a week ago, I resigned. In a world of economic uncertainty, that may seem crazy, but then again, when it’s time, it’s time.

    Here are a couple of perspectives from successful Hollywood films….

    1. Indiana Jones stepped off the cliff on to an invisible bridge. It was there for him…because he had FAITH.
    2. Joel Goodsen’s memorable quote in Risky Business, “Sometimes you have to say, “What the f*ck.”
    Indiana Jones
    Risky Business

    Taking risks makes life a little more exciting. When it comes to your career, you might want to make sure they’re calculated ones. That’s the way I work. As for faith, well that goes without saying. Not blind faith though. I think it really comes from a strong sense of confidence, knowing who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing. If you’ve got that down, there’s really no stopping you. Faith in a greater power having an influence on your future, well that’s up to you. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a little more help in your corner.

    Climbing the ladderNew beginnings are always very exciting. When one door closes, another opens…and I’ve found there’s always been something better behind that next door. It’s easy to feel like you’re taking a step backwards, or down a rung on the proverbial ladder, but that just requires an attitude adjustment. I know there’s more weight on my shoulders right now, but that’s why I work out everyday, and I don’t mean just in the gym. It’s times like this when you show your true strength. For me, I’m wasting no time, because I’m confident this ladder is leading me in the right direction. I may be a scared of heights, but that’s not going to stop me for continuing my climb. I hope to see you at the top.

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  • Autograph bookAugust 23, 2009. Can I have your signature? Why do we collect autographs? Someone’s signature? I’m not sure I really get it. That being said, as a kid, I collected autographed baseballs. Through my step-dad’s connections, I amassed quite a collection, and valuable, I might add. So many of the greats, like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, signed team balls that now sit somewhere in my storage locker. I guess if you can imagine the ball being passed from player to player, Mays to McCovey to Bonds (Barry’s dad, Bobby), and on and on…that seems pretty cool. But it’s only a signature after all. It is a little strange, isn’t it?

    I bring this up because the other day, while spending a leisurely day at a pool with my kids, I spotted Jose Canseco. Jose Canseco JuicedFor those of you who don’t know who he is – Massive home run hitter in 80s and 90s…until he got caught using steroids, which basically ended his career. But that wasn’t my first thought. My kids had never gotten anyone’s autograph – no athletes and no celebrities. This could be their first opportunity. I told them who he was, the highlights of a great career…minus the scandal. They got SO excited. We all walked over and I asked if he’d mind signing an autograph for each of them. He couldn’t have been nicer, writing a personal note to each. They couldn’t have been more thrilled. It was great!

    Jose CansecoSo there you have it, autograph #1. No pictures, just a signature on a piece of adding machine paper. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy. But it is only a signature. Maybe if mine was worth something I’d feel differently. Well, maybe someday. Any offers?

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  • Chinese-Food-SignAugust 16, 2009. What’s for dinner?! “When in Rome….” Okay, so I’m not in Rome this week, but I do like to enjoy a bit of the local culinary culture. If I’m all the way over in Hong Kong, I’m going to try some authentic Chinese food.

    Chicken FeetI’m thinking, “If my host is eating it, how bad can it be.” Famous last words. I mean, we’re not talkin’ “Fear Factor” foods, but it came pretty close. We can start with the picture above, because arguably, that was the most disgusting thing I ate. Let me clarify…tasted. If you didn’t guess yet, they’re chicken feet. And yes, they taste like chicken. No meat, just skin and bone. I would recommend it for you next backyard barbecue.

    Jellyfish Salad
    Mmm-mmm. The local delicacies just kept on coming. Ever tried a jellyfish salad? If you’ve gone this long without, keep up the good work. Bamboo clams, lobster sashimi, and other delectable oddities….

    “Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

    It wasn’t as terrible as Shakespeare described it, but my rather sensitive stomach would beg to differ.

    Check please…and a fortune cookie.

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  • On the seashoreAugust 9, 2009. Making quality time. There’s nothing more important to me than my two beautiful children. This past week, I decided to take each out to dinner and dessert. One night with my 6-year old son, and the other with my 8-year old daughter. I loved every minute of it.

    PizookieIt’s so easy to get caught up in life and not find one-on-one time. I found it to be so wonderful being with each alone, as it allows them to be themselves, not distracted by their sibling, trying to one-up each other, vying for attention. We talked about only what was important to them. We laughed over great memories and our unique inside jokes. It was such a different experience then when they’re together or in the company of other friends. We shared one of their favorite desserts, knowing that we’d already eaten too much and this would undoubtedly give us stomachaches. But we didn’t care. We didn’t want the evenings to end. We were having such a great time.

    time passes quicklyIf you are a parent, particularly of a young one, do what I did. Make those kind of memories. Do it as often as you can. The time passes so quickly. Cherish it.

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    please write them below or email me at

  • Police Badge_003bAugust 2, 2009. You’re under arrest…or not. When I left my office on Tuesday, I was greeted by a very unpleasant sight. Broken glass next to my car. Yup, for the first time in my life, I was the victim of vandalism. My car had been broken into.

    When I arrived at the office early in the morning, in my haste, I left me wallet on the passenger seat. Obviously, this is a magnet for thieves. So there I was, wallet gone, credit cards, drivers license, insurance cards, membership cards, pictures…and on and on…waiting for the police to show up. Strangely, as was pointed out by the older of the two officers who came to take my report, I was surprisingly calm. What’s the point of getting all riled up, it definitely won’t bring back my wallet.TGC Texts5 012

    After taking down some basic information, they asked that I wait for CSI to come by, and take pictures and dust for fingerprints. It didn’t seem that important, but I was certainly willing to do whatever was necessary to help. I gather there have been quite a few of these crimes in the area over the last few weeks. Two hours later, still no CSI. I called the police station, only to find out that they were busy elsewhere. Well, that was time well spent.

    apathySo here’s the interesting point – I find out from my credit card company that my Visa card was used twice locally by the thief. Ooh, I had the time of the transaction and he was on camera. He would be caught in no time once I give this evidence over to the detectives. We’ll catch him red handed. So I called the PD. They had absolutely no interest in this information. None, nada, zip. “Thanks for calling. Uh, why don’t you just hang on to that and we’ll call you if we need it.” Well, that was certainly comforting. Why did the police come out in the first place? Granted, there are bigger fish to fry, but it felt more like apathy than anything else. Why bother, right? Very disappointing. I think that bothered me more than the theft itself.

    Luckily I had nothing better to do with the $500 it cost me, right? Well, back to picking up little pieces of glass that I’m still finding in car. Okay, venting is over.

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  • customer-service-720168July 26, 2009. Does excellent customer service mean breaking the rules? Some say excellent customer service is a dying art, but I beg to differ. I just experienced four days of “no is not in our vocabulary” kind of attention. If you asked, the answer was always yes…no matter what. Which begs me to ask, “Does excellent customer service really mean breaking the rules?”

    From the moment we arrived, the staff was amenable, polite and accommodating. Without even asking, our rooms were upgraded. Granted we’re a friendly group, but I was always under the impression that if you didn’t ask…you didn’t get. Until this past weekend.

    yes we canAnd so it began, a question followed by a concession. At 11pm, we asked if we could use the jacuzzi. Unbeknown to us, the pool area had closed over an hour earlier. No problem, “As long as you’re quiet, go right ahead.” The next morning, I wanted to take some of the breakfast buffet items to snack on during the seminar I was attending. “No, you’re really not supposed to, but…. (pause) Sure, let me get you a something to put those in.” And so it went…one after another. We weren’t trying to take advantage. They forced it on us. As I always do, I asked for a late checkout, knowing the seminar would problem get out too late to stay in the room. “Check out is at noon. What time did you need?” I felt guilty asking, but was hopeful that their apparent disregard for the corporate rules would work one more time. I told the charming desk attendant that we got done at…I hesitated to say…3:30. “Would 5pm work for you?” What?! 5pm?! What hotel on the planet allows you to check out at that late?!

    bird breaking the rulesIf they had stuck to the rules all weekend, I wouldn’t have been disappointed. They were following rules and still being very courteous. But that wasn’t the case. If I was the hotel police, these guys would be serial felons. Not that I’m complaining. But what does it take to get excellent customer service? Did they break the rules or are they flexible? Are we made to believe they’re breaking them? Hmm, I wonder.

    Whatever the answer, I’m grateful. Now, if only they’d have comped my room.

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    please write them below or email me at

  • road_rageJuly 19, 2009. Why so angry? Talking about “road rage” in Los Angeles is nothing new, except I never had a blog to vent on. Fortunately for me, I’ve never gotten into it with anyone, but I’ve witnessed some scary stuff.

    bumper_carsA couple of years ago, two cars sped past me on a busy street, one trying to catch the other, horns blaring. I could feel my heart racing as I watched, the trailing car hit the lead car’s back bumper. I called 911, but by the time I was able report the craziness, the cars were out of site.

    For someone who has a 25-mile commute to work each day, I consider myself a rather relaxed driver. I spend my time making calls or listening to seminar on CDs. It’s one of few times during the day where I have uninterrupted time to myself. That being said, I still have to be a good defensive driver navigating the mean street of L.A. Here’s what I don’t understand…. Why is it when another driver makes an obvious mistake, like running a red light, passing on the left when you’re already turning left, driving well below the speed limit…whatever it is, and you give them a “what are you doing” look, you get the finger back, or worse. A couple of days ago, a motorcyclist raced around me on the left as I was starting to turn left into a driveway. He raised his fist in anger as he weaved around my car. What did I do? Has it become easier to be angry than courteous? How often to cars slow to let you pass or move in front of them? Half the time? Less than that I would say. Maybe I’m the crazy one for always yielding when someone needs to get by. I think not.

    Cartoon_Car_SmSo next time someone flips you the bird because they’d rather not acknowledge their mistake, instead of letting it get to you or flipping one back, just smile and wave. No more “road rage.” From now on it’s “street smiles.”

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  • kids_playingJuly 12, 2009. The Kid In Me. This past Sunday, I got to step back in time and relive one of my greatest childhood memories.

    When we’re children, there are certain experiences that are so wonderfully memorable, that throughout our adult lives, they still remain magical. Perhaps it was a family vacation. St_ThomasWell, when I was nine years old, I went to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Everything about that trip was wonderful. I even remember the name of the waiter who served our table the entire week we were there. And then some thirty years later, I returned to that resort. At the reception desk, I mentioned his name to the elderly lady working there. “Ah, Gregoire,” she said, “he is still here…and in charge of all the resort’s restaurants.” She called him on the intercom and a couple of minutes later, there he was…an older man, smiling at the notion that I remember his name all these years later. It was a very cool moment for me.

    Ringling-Brothers-and-Barnum-Bailey-Circus-Tiger-PostersThis weekend I went to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, “The Greatest Show On Earth.” When last I saw the show, a clown plucked my mother and I from the audience, and took us back stage. I was put in makeup and a costume, and got to parade around with the other clowns before the show. Well, I didn’t do that this time, but I relived the childhood excitement and joy that I had experienced so long ago. What a pleasure for me…and this time, I was accompanied by my two kids, who watched in amazement. I hope they’ll look back on it with the same nostalgic reverence that I do.

    Take a few minutes to remember those special moments you had as a child, and if you’re able to, why not relive them. That kid in me sure is happy when I did.

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  • watersprayJuly 5, 2009. Windshield Cleaners. I drive a very nice, black car, that when washed, looks great. Today is one of those days. There wasn’t a spot on it. “Wasn’t” being the key word.

    What’s with the turbo charged windshield cleaners that blast water over the windshield and about thirty feet past the back of the car? There I was, driving home from the car wash, when the driver of the filthy car in front of me decided to blast his windshield, and remove years of settled L.A. smog. What do I see coming at my car…a tsunami of cleaning fluid soaring over the moving dust bowl in front of me and, because I couldn’t change lanes, blanketing my car with enough cover that my automatic windshield wipers kicked on.Dirty-Car-Need-Wash

    Most car washes give rain checks, but I fear this isn’t covered. Maybe windshield cleaners should spray down, instead of up in the air like a broken fire hydrant. Just a thought.

    Well, I’m off to the car wash again…with an umbrella mounted to the front of my car.

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    please write them below or email me at

  • top10_d_celeb750June 28, 2009. Death in the Family. Last week we lost three well known celebrities. Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. Clearly MJ was the most famous, but each had an impact on us, our culture and a lasting legacy. How people reacted was quite amazing.

    I didn’t hear much fuss over good old Ed. He joined the “Tonight Show” the year I was born, and remained there for over 30 years. Add in the Publisher’s Clearing House Giveaway commercials, and he was a fixture on American television for many decades. I can still hear him saying…”Heeeeere’s Johnny.”

    Farrah Fawcett…wow. As a teenager in the 70s, I can safely say, I never missed an episode of “Charlie’s Angels.” She was the perfect girl-next-door…but unfortunately, she wasn’t mine.

    And then there was Michael, the King of Pop. For over forty years, he topped the chart and the tabloids. Controversy aside, few would ever deny how massively talented he was. And who among us didn’t try to copy an MJ signature move? Exactly, we all did.

    What I find so interesting is how society is affected by the loss of a celebrity or pop icon. As if an immediately relative has died, the world mourns the loss. And quite frankly, I would venture to say that for many, the loss and reaction is too deep to understand. The impact some celebrities have on our culture is staggering. TV, the Internet, social media, you name it, all they want to do is cover it, 24/7…because, I guess, they think that’s what most people want to hear. The day Michael died, a fellow employee was drawn to tears, as he remembered how significant a role MJ played in his childhood. The next day, he said, “I’m over it.” They”ll be remembered for generations, but if you’re not a family member, what’s the mourning period for a celebrity? Is it one day? I don’t mean to sound callous. Having lost my father a few months ago, I understand loss. But these are entertainers, most of which we never meet in person or even talk to. What about all the other people who died on the same day as Farrah and Michael? Don’t they deserve an honorable mention, at the very least.cemetary

    There’s a saying, “To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Let’s not lose sight of all the heroes that give their lives everyday, the quiet and loving mothers and fathers who are taken too early, our soldiers overseas…it’s a long list. They names will never be in bright lights, but the memories those lost will live on…albeit in the hearts on a select few, and not millions. I venture to say, equally important.

    When our day comes, and we’re at the pearly gates, celebrity or not, let’s hope we’ve ALL lived a life worth being remembered.

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    please write them below or email me at

  • father-and-sonJune 21, 2009. Happy Father’s Day…if you are one, have one, or had one!

    This day has always marked the celebration of my father and my step-father. Just eight years ago, I became a dad for the first time, and the day had an even greater significance. Today, unfortunately, was the first Father’s Day since my father passed away in March. I took time out to remember him and many happy memories, as I trust I will do every year on this day. That being said, I remained determined to enjoy my time with my step-father and kids. Father’s Day will remain one of my favorite days of the year.
    It’s interesting that as we pass through life, special occasions and holidays do take on new meanings. Take Christmas, for example. When did you learn that Santa Claus didn’t deliver your presents? We will always feel sentimental about the jolly old man and his sleigh, but the day did take on a new understanding. Even so, most people still love Christmas. They manage to get past that childhood disappointment.

    As life happens to us, new meanings are associated with many of the special days throughout the year. It may become a challenge to enjoy some of these as you once had. I’m not suggesting you don’t recognize those you’ve lost, but if it was a day that once held happy memories, focus on those. Honor those loved ones by continuing to celebrate the day, as I’m sure that’s what they’d want. Paint your day with best of the best memories…whatever the occasion.

    So again, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day. Remember…then smile and enjoy the day.

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    please write them below or email me at

    15 Responses to “Sunday Observations”

    1. Really nice thoughts Robert–thx. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. My father passed 3 Arpils ago, and I have a friend visiting from England who lost his father this April (another friend also in April 5 years ago, strangely) We all feel our dads still & experience their support and love and humor when we need it. Hope you do too. : )

    2. […] To read the rest of this of blog, please click on the link. “Sunday Observations” […]

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    6. Sounds like a great experience! I often “broke the rules” to serve my customers at the restaurant I worked at; accepting their coupons when they’d expired, bringing them free fountain drinks and Matzo Ball soup. Although it may be technically “stealing,” my customers came back once or twice a week, when had it not been for me, they may never have returned. So really, it was a win win situation… uh oh… I think the fuzz is at my door!

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    13. Hand Winch · Says:

      I would love to have may car cleaned by those automated and computer washers.

    14. I currently found a advertisement post of Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey The Greatest Show on Earth advertisement with the lion like you have posted on your site. I was wondering if you would know a value. There were actually two posters. The other poster shows the tent and a huge clown. I would appreciate any help you could give me… Thanks

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