A Trojan & A Spartan

Preface: Remember the Trojan War that started when a Trojan prince went to Sparta and abducted their queen? Well, this is kind of like that; except this time the Trojan was a college boy and the Spartan queen was Miss December.


You have to have a union before you can have a reunion. Feel free to quote me on that.

Typically when I think of a reunion, I think of a group of people striving to be thinner, healthier, happier and appear more financially successful than they really are. You know, kind of like in Facebook World. But, as I discovered this weekend, that is not always the case.

Late last week, around the office, people were asking, “Big weekend plans?” You know the routine. My answer for this past weekend: “Why yes, we’re going to my Amazing-Missus’ high school reunion.” Typical reply: “I bet you’re thrilled about that [wink-wink].”

Actually I was looking forward to it. This was not my first gathering with the Bixby High School Class of 1972. This group reunites relatively regularly, and although I’m an outlier of several sorts, I’ve always been welcomed. Of course, why wouldn’t they, I am married to their Miss December (no centerfold involved), according to the 1972 Spartan Yearbook. And I am happy, blessed and humbled to say, that Miss December and I hold the title of being Married The Longest to the Same Person among this cohort.

How Miss December got out of the house without her mother seeing that dress...?

How Miss December got out of the house without her mother seeing that dress...?

I am a few years older than these youngsters; proud Senior ’69 and only a few years away from being a 69 year-old senior. Not only am I older, but I didn’t even attend their school. Worse yet, I attended their biggest rival—the school just across the river. I was a Jenks Trojan.

If you’ve ever been around an Oklahoma University football fan, you know that if they see someone in a red shirt they will holler, “BOOMER!!” in hopes that the person will respond, “SOONER!!” In that spirit, if a Bixby Spartan hears the word “Jenks”, they reflexively reply, “Jenks Stinks!!”

Although it’s been many years since I attended a Jenks football game, as we gathered for the first of the reunion activities, a tailgate party at a Bixby Spartan football game, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat creepy and disloyal; like I might feel at a Re-elect Trump rally.

But this had nothing to do with old school rivalries or the fact that Bixby beat Jenks in football this year for the first time in 40 years. This was about re-unioning, re-membering, re-calling tales of simpler days; basically re-collecting.

In the last event of the weekend, a few of her classmates picked up guitars and provided a soundtrack of sorts for the reminiscing. And as a bonus, these guys were good, really good. I thought to myself, “I wish I had brought my drums.” One of my favorites of the night was Eric Clapton’s “Old Love”, somehow apropos for such a time as this. 

At one point, in that last event of the weekend, as they were scanning yearbooks of their youth through their bifocals, I thought about standing and admonishing them to remember the words of the Old Testament:

“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” Ecclesiastes 7:10

Or, for those who don’t speak King James:

“Don't long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” —New Living Translation

But surely it can’t hurt to reunite every few years and rekindle, can it? Sitting as an outsider watching the Bixby Class of ’72; NO, the answer is no, it can’t hurt a thing. After 45 years these people weren’t worried about waistlines, bottom lines or goal lines. They were just humans being human for a few hours.

As my Amazing-Missus said her good-byes and we left the reunion, I thought of this Beatles song, and her, and me, and Spartans Class of ’72, and the Trojans Class of ’69:

"In My Life"

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more



IMG_3242 3.jpg

ON MY BUSINESS CARD, my title is listed as “Chief of Creative Strategies and Corporate Culture”. Yes, it is meant to be taken with a grain or two of salt and an eye roll, but it sounds much more noble than “Head Huckster in an Industry With Questionable Moral Redeeming Value”.

In ninth grade English class, we were given an assignment: write a paper on what you would like to be when you grow up. I remember some of my classmates struggling with the assignment. When you’re 14 or so, and filled with bright hope and other stuff, it can be hard to narrow the possibilities for a life calling down to one job. 

For me it was easy. At that moment in time I had vocational clarity. I was to be a radio disk jockey. Even then I was certain I could stack the order of current hits to create a playlist that would not only wow and entertain but prove to be the soundtrack for young lovers everywhere.

Of course, my commitment to being a great DJ would wax and wane, and my vocational vision would wander over the next few years, but never, ever would I have written an essay about being the marketing guy for a bank. But that all changed with my discovery of erlebnisgesellschaft.

In the early 90s, a German sociologist named Gerhard Schulze wrote a book called "Erlebnisgesellschaft", or "The Experience Society". Then in 1999, a couple of guys named Pine and Gilmore wrote an article explaining what they called “The Experience Economy”. They used the example of a birthday party and the requisite birthday cake to explain the various economies and how the experience economy fits. It goes something like this:

Agaraian economy: To make the cake, the mom gathers the necessary commodities and makes the cake from scratch.

Goods-Based economy: Life gets a little easier. Now some lady named Betty Crocker has put a bunch of the key ingredients in a box called a cake mix.

Service economy: Now you don’t even have to turn on an oven. You go to Wal Mart, point at a cake in a glass case, they squirt the kid’s name on it, and voilà! you have yourself a party. (Well, you still have to get the pointy hats, napkins, punch, balloons, magician, corn dogs, and clean the house when it’s all over.)

And last, but not least, the Experience Economy: Now you just outsource the whole thing to Chuck E. Cheese.

Erlebnisgesellschaft, in theory, changed my perspective on marketing a bank—a part of an industry that has managed to turn even “service” into a commodity. Somehow it made the vocation seem more like a calling than a job. I thought we had made some strides toward this idea, until I visited the pinnacle of the Experience Economy model: The American Girl Doll Store.

Our oldest Grand-Girl will be eight soon. (The recommended age for the AGD experience.) I had heard they stage quite the experience and I strive to earn the right to continue to drink from my “#1 Pops” coffee mug. So, let’s do this right.

A Google search provided these tips: 1.) Make your bistro reservations before you arrive. 2.) Stay the night before your visit in a partner hotel. 3.) Arrive early and make your reservation at the spa first thing. Check, check & check!

As we arrived at the “partner hotel”, the young lady at the desk looked right past me to Karlee, who was holding her American Girl doll. “This must be yours!” she says enthusiastically, as she hands Karlee a large AGD bag.

As soon as we walked into our room, we noticed cookies and milk awaiting her arrival. She dug in to her bag to find a tiny little bed, satin sheets, a pillow, a robe and slippers all for her doll and hers to keep. There was also a $25 AGD gift card in the bag, to prime the pump so to speak.

The next morning we were at the AGD queendom as they doors opened. Karlee made an appointment at the spa to have her doll’s ears pierced, then we were off to Brunch at the AGD Bistro and shopping. Several hours and dollars later, we started for home. As I looked in the rearview mirror to find Karlee and her doll sound asleep, I thought, “Erlebnisgesellschaft indeed!”

Tea time at the Bistro

Tea time at the Bistro

Selecting a new pair of shoes takes a committee

Selecting a new pair of shoes takes a committee



Bang The Drum

Q: What do Mr. Tambourine Man and Mrs. Robinson have in common? 

A: The same drummer played on both recordings—a phenom named Hal Blaine.


Check out this PARTIAL list of recordings where Hal was the drummer. Did I mention this is a partial list? The actual number of recorded songs where Hal was the drummer exceeds 4,000. Can we all agree, this is what prolific looks like? 

Be True to Your School, The Beach Boys
The Boxer, Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Simon & Garfunkel
California Dreamin’, The Mamas & The Papas
Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley
Dedicated to the One I Love, The Mamas & The Papas
God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
Help Me Rhonda, The Beach Boys
Homeward Bound, Simon & Garfunkel
I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher
MacArthur Park, Jimmy Webb (Richard Harris version)
Monday Monday, The Mamas & The Papas
Never My Love, The Association
Rhythm of the Rain, The Cascades
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’, Nancy Sinatra
Up, Up and Away, Jimmy Webb (The 5th Dimension)
Wichita Lineman, Jimmy Webb (Glen Campbell)
Wouldn’t It Be Nice, The Beach Boys

As I was playing my own drum set the other day, I became aware that my favorite patterns, rhythms and fills are those I learned from listening to songs like these, and thus I tend to and have always tended to play like Hal Blaine—a drummer most non-drummers have probably never heard of. Hal had a significant impact on a significant point of view for me.

Stay with me here: In drum lessons, I learned that the typical pattern in pop and rock drumming is to play the snare drum with your left hand on beats 2 and 4, along with the your left foot on the hi-hat. My cousin Beth Ann, who is a few years older than me, had a solid collection of 45 rpm records. One day, while visiting her house, I heard a song called “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, coming from her bedroom. “WHAT IS HAL BLAINE DOING?” I thought to myself, (even though I didn’t know at the time that Hal was the drummer). He was playing a hard snare drum shot on the 4th beat ONLY! Can you do that? Can you, so to speak “march to the beat of your own drum?”

It changed my point of view instantly. The next time our little rock band played at a school “mixer”, not only did I not play the snare drum on 2 and 4 consistently, I actually played on the “and” of 4 occasionally. I felt like a rebel with a cause.

basic rock beat 1.png

While Hal had an influence my drumming, these songs influenced my psyche. There, I said it out loud. So, for all those traveling evangelists who warned frightened parents about the impact of the rock n roll; yes! yes it does. You were right. I am a much happier senior adult today because of the influence of rock music. Listening to the oldies that were the big hits when I came of age confirms it. I have no idea what “House of the Rising Sun” is really about, but I am transported to a wonderful place every time I hear it.

Fortunately for me, I was exposed to a wide spectrum of music. So not only do I stop whatever I’m doing and listen when I hear The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, I also love to hear John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”.

Here’s the thing about stepping into dogma, like saying the snare must be played on beats 2 and 4; or “christian” music is the only music God loves, you miss the wonder of MORE.

Today, we are all asked to take a side, to choose a pigeon hole to be pigeon holed into. Choose your news source: MSNBC or FOX News. Choose your party. Pick a side. Repeat the creed. Sign the pledge. Line up. Know the “Truth”.

But what if maybe, from time to time, we actually stopped to think, to listen, to not start every discussion with OUR point of view. What if, every now and then, even if we believe unwaveringly that everyone should play on 2 and 4, we let someone else bang their dang drum on EVERY SINGLE BEAT! (Really who wants to hear a song where everyone is playing the same beat anyway.)

I just finished a wonderful little book by Madeleine L'Engle called “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art”. I would like to share a quote from the book. And, I would like to humbly ask you to do something: as you read this quote, think first how it might apply to you (because, I’ll admit, our first thoughts on reading something like this is to think of all the people who need to hear a message like this, and miss that fact that maybe we need to hear it too).

“We all tend to make zealous judgments and thereby close ourselves off from revelation. If we feel that we already know something in its totality, then we fail to keep our ears and eyes open to that which may expand or even change that which we so zealously think we know.”

The other day I heard someone use the term “political climate” to describe the warring worldviews of the day. I though to myself, “Maybe climate change wouldn’t be a bad thing to wish for.”

Back to Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Tambourine Man for a minute—

I don’t know what kind of place she was in, but check out the first verse of Paul Simon’s lyric:

We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files
We'd like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home
— First verse of “Mrs. Robinson”

Now suppose as she’s strolling around the grounds she meets Mr. Tambourine Man. They strike up a conversation. We hear him say as they leave one another:

Let me forget about today
Until tomorrow
— last line of last verse of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”

And maybe, just maybe, as he is walking away she would say to him (because she heard someone say it to her):

And here's to you, Mr. Tambourine Man,
Jesus loves you more than you will know
Wo wo wo
God bless you, please, Mr. Tambourine Man,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
—somewhat edited chorus from “Mrs. Robinson”

#MarchingToMyOwnBeat #Peacemaking

Maybe Good Is Better Than Best

“Father Knows Best” is not an empirical reality, it was a TV show in the late 50s and early 60s. Apparently though, the idea that Father Knows Best acquired the status of a cultural norm that has caused men for years to make long road trips without consulting a map, to attempt to assemble stuff without looking at the directions, and to wreak household havoc by attempting various plumbing and electrical repairs.


Speaking as a father I can say with a morsel of confidence that in those times when I did Know Best, it was by probably by sheer accident. Let me say early in this little essay: thank you to the spouses and children who are kind enough to let Fathers believe that We Know Best, and for forgiving us when we can’t admit that we don’t always Know Best.

There are many areas where I would like to Know Best. Family vacations were one such category. To plan a good vacation was to know what would be fun for all, to demonstrate your command of geography and wider culture, and to create lasting memories (hopefully good ones). I would plan our annual odyssey with Griswoldian fervor and ambition. 

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to. 
Clark: When have I ever done that? 
Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays... 
Clark: Goodnight Ellen
Ellen: Vacations, graduations...

If I’m not Clark Griswold, I’m Don Quixote; approaching life like a knight in shining armor. When asked about his quest, Don replied:

It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!

That’s all I’m asking for.

Knowing that I won’t always Know Best, I would like to at least know what is good. This is more than just a grading scale as in Good, Better, Best. See if this makes sense: I may not know what’s Best for my children, but I do think, by now, that I know what’s good for them, theoretically. I want the Best for them, but more importantly, I want them to know what’s good. Kind of like I want them to know what’s pretty, but even more I want them to know what’s beautiful. I want them to know honesty, but even more I want them to know truth. Am I making any sense at all?

Sure it’s good to regard the best, the pretty, the honest, but what if you could know deeply the good, the true and the beautiful?

One of my favorite parts of scripture are those verses in the creation story that say, “and God saw that it was good.” Except for that one time that He said “this isn’t good.” He was speaking of man’s relational status. He said it is not good for man to be alone. And at that point it was obvious that we are created to be connected to others. That’s a good thing; and true and beautiful. In fact, it may be the best thing.