Beware The Slough

DON’T GO NEAR THE SLOUGH! That was one of the stern warnings of my childhood. Why it was called “The Slough” I have no idea—maybe it was to make it sound more ominous.

I came of age (the first time) on a street named Quincy in south Tulsa, Oklahoma. Quincy stretched across the city from north to south and paralleled Peoria Street, but it dead-ended just about a quarter of a mile past our house near the banks of the Arkansas River. The Slough was somewhere at the end of the street. I don’t know for certain because as an obedient child, I didn’t go down there. Admittedly, it had more to do with fear than obedience—not unlike much of my religious journey, but that’s for another essay.

What is a slough exactly? The dictionary gives us this:

1.) a swamp
2.) an area of soft, wet land

To my young, wildly imaginative, ever-wondering & wandering, day-dreaming mind, a slough was a steaming, smelly, boiling bog filled with mutant creatures of the reptilian sort, like that Creature From The Black Lagoon.


There were a couple of houses at the far end of the street near the slough. I imagined that toothless men lived there with their sharp-toothed dogs and their snaggletoothed womenfolk. They probably brewed moonshine and their eyes had no pupils. The only thing they seemed to be able to read was the old testament in the King James version.

To this day, when I hear braggadocious talk and chants of swamp-draining, I picture The Slough, and the slough-dwellers, and while they would be all-in for the metaphorical swamp-draining, they wouldn’t want anyone messing with their actual swamp.

That dictionary that I mentioned a few sentences back also explains that a slough is:

3.) a situation characterized by lack of progress or activity.
4.) a mental state of deep sadness and no hope

As I live through my second coming-of-age, I have to admit I’m far more afraid of slough #4 than I ever was of The Slough At The End Of Quincy Street.

Beyond Age

WHEN IT COMES TO DOWNTON ABBEY, people either WATCH Downton Abbey or they don’t. For those of who WATCH it, we know that every episode will leave us wanting more, tempting us to wish away a week of our life waiting for the next Sunday night, and the next episode of some of the best screenwriting ever.

In a post last Thursday, I wrapped up with this:

“Tomorrow at Noon, I will be having lunch with some of my favorite people. One is 20-something, one is 30-something, one is 60-something and the other is 80-something. I plan to ask them how they feel about being a part of a multi-generational collaboration. I’ll let you know how it turns out.”

So maybe it wasn’t the kind of cliffhanger that had people talking around the coffee pot Monday morning, but who knows, maybe someone wants to know how it turned out.

We gathered a few minutes after noon at this amazing little Guatamalan cafe in Oklahoma City called Cafe Antigua. Two of the group couldn’t make it—the 60-something and the 80-something.

So it was me, representing the Baby-Boomers, a 20-something athletic/outdoorsy/artist named Molly, and a 30-something bold/brash/creative-entrepreneur named Kathleen.

L to R: Molly, Pops, Kathleen. Now I know what to do when they say, "duck lips"!

L to R: Molly, Pops, Kathleen. Now I know what to do when they say, "duck lips"!

I tried to explain to them my intrigue and interest in multi-generational friendships. I gave a few great examples of the power of multi-generational collaborations.

We talked about blessings and curses of cross-generational stuff. You know: “Generation Gaps”, differences in style and values, communication issues and the like.

Kathleen mentioned that while she did enjoy some conversation with older people (like me), she didn’t want them for clients. (FYI: Kathleen is one of the best, most creative and intuitive branding persons I’ve ever encountered.) Her reason: “Older people just don’t get it.” She’s right you know. On the flip side, I’ve often been tempted to jerk the smartphone out of the hands of millennial or two and throw it in the nearest toilet, because sometimes; they just don’t get it.

Without a doubt, there is a time and a season for multi-generational conversation and a time for segregation too. When it’s right though, it can be a wonderful thing.

Molly said, “Sometimes the common thread is the interest, not the age.” Then she gave an example. Molly is an avid climber. By that I mean she practices in a climbing gym several days a week, and then travels somewhere most every weekend to climb with friends. She told us that on these climbing trips you will find everyone from young teens to older adults from all walks of life, gathered around the common interest of climbing, hiking and being outdoors.

Kathleen who now has a young son talked of the value of having a multi-generational tribe to help connect the dots in our human story. “I want to know if people think about dying. Are they afraid of dying?” I told her that I agree with Woody Allen who said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” I don’t know if Kathleen is afraid of dying or not, but I do know this: she is NOT afraid of living! She has made be braver too.

For me that’s one of the coolest things about having a multi-generational tribe—the story. If you have people younger than you and people older than you, it’s like having more chapters in the book of your life story. It’s essential to have those who have gone before to help you make sense of it. And each of us who have been further down the path, if we do it with humility, can serve those who are younger by showing the way.

What if we were to step outside the normal and made something happen? What if we joined with some younger and some older and saw a movie together, or read a book together, or had coffee together, or told our stories together; or just listened to each other?

I hope that Molly and Kathleen know that I respect them and value their friendship, that I love hearing what they are up to whether it’s a climbing adventure or organizing a conference for creatives entrepreneurs in New Orleans. The old adage that if you want to stay young, hang out with young people is true. I hope the inverse is not true. I hope that by hanging out with older persons, these two and others will feel wiser and inspired and more courageous.

Oh, and if you aren’t one of those who WATCH Downton Abbey, you’re missing a great story about the power and beauty of multi-generations.

Stay tuned to About POPS. In a future post we’ll explore this issue: What’s Family Got To Do With It?!

What's Age Got To Do With It?

WHAT DO YOU GET when you put together a group of people ages 78, 64, 67, 41, 37, 82,  and 36?

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels.

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels

Charles Lloyd & The Marvels

On January 15, 2016, Blue Note released I Long To See You, the profound new album from Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. The album finds the iconic saxophonist and recent NEA Jazz Master in the company of a new band featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, along with his longtime quartet members bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The album also includes two remarkable guest vocal appearances by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones. — from Blue Note.

The release of this album alone is worthy of a blog post, but that’s only a small part of the reason I’m writing this.

My main point is to highlight the beauty of a multi-generational collaboration, and even more broadly, to acknowledge the power and potential of multi-generational friendships.

I came to this conviction first by seeing it at work in my own life, and then I began to notice it in all walks of life. As I have written before, I am a tested and confirmed introvert. My batteries are recharged in solitude. That’s not to say I don’t have close friends or that I enjoy spending time with friends. I do. But I prefer to spend that time with just a few at a time in a quiet, intimate setting like a coffee shop or bookstore. I’m not saying this is the way it should be, but it is what I prefer.

One day I just sort of noticed something about my friendships, or maybe someone pointed it out to me, but I can count on one of Mickey Mouses’s hands the number of close friends I have that are near my age. Most of my friends are much younger or older than me. I don’t know why. I have a theory or two. But, nothing certain. Maybe I don’t need to know why. I may know more by tomorrow sometime.

Tomorrow night, Charles Lloyd & The Marvels are playing at Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York. I will be there in spirit.

Tomorrow at Noon, I will be having lunch with some of my favorite people. One is 20-something, one is 30-something, one is 60-something and the other is 80-something. I plan to ask them how they feel about being a part of a multi-generational collaboration. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

50 Shades of Pops

I KNOW I SHOULD probably create a playlist of high energy tunes for my morning walk--you know to encourage a brisk pace. This morning though, with the player on Shuffle, the first tune in the random draw was "Crying" by Roy Orbison. As I listened I thought, "Get over it Roy! Behind those dark shades she doesn't know you're crying, and probably doesn't care."

Next up was Patsy Cline's, "Crazy."

What is this playlist trying to tell me? 

There's a new book out that sounds intriguing: Roy G. Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color. Roy G. Biv is a mnemonic device to help us remember the colors of the rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

But, (here's an excerpt from the book):

That mnemonic, it turns out, isn’t strictly accurate: “Technically speaking, there aren’t seven distinct colors in the rainbow. But Isaac Newton felt pressured to name seven colors to match the seven tones in Descartes’s musical scale, so he shoe-horned indigo in.”

So how about Black, White and Gray? Well, there's the whole total presence of color / total absence of color thing. But let's not get too technical here. And what about the Shades of Gray? I took a look at Sherwin Williams color selections and found way more than 50. Of course, any of us who grew up with B&W TV know that. And we are very comfortable making sense of it. To this day, I find good B&W photography to be way more compelling than Color.

Well, back to that mournful playlist I started my walk with--I will confess right now that as I tread deeper into this second-coming-of-age, there are times I realize I am crazy (in a lovable way) and I will admit that these days I can get dewy-eyed more often than Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail put together. But then so can a lot of the old guys I know.

So I've decided to own my new shades of emotion and personality, although I will say, I don't necessarily enjoy them all. It was easier being just a guy with emotions about a half-inch deep. Now my shades run deeper and sometimes darker. The problem with having more feelings is they get hurt more often. But I'm finding it's a small price to pay because on the other end, in the brighter shades of gray, I'm more aware of the subtle joys and blessings along the way.

Maybe I should have titled this post: From 5 to 50 and Growing--The Shades of Aging. But who would have clicked to read that?! Better to use the 50 Shades title because they thought it might have something to do with the book.

To me one of the saddest things that happens to us humans as we age is that we try to eliminate all shades of gray. Everything, we think, must be Black or White--our political views, our religion, our world view. So we become more narrow-minded, more dogmatic, and just meaner.

Call me Crazy, but I don't want to be that way.

The color of truth is gray. --― André Gide

Speaking of that book: Yes, I did read it (don't judge me), just the first one (of the three). It was repulsive and a poorly told story. Any book that ends with a girl caught in emotional angst because she is looking forlornly at a half-deflated balloon of a helicopter some self-obsessed wacko gave her, is a poorly told story. They only thing that would have made it more ridiculous is if she had been wearying an air-brushed t-shirt he bought for her at the State Fair. I finished it because I don't tolerate people who criticize books or movies that they have not read or watched in their entirety. And that is not a recommendation to watch the forthcoming movie of the same name or to read the book.

Gray hair is God's graffiti. --Bill Cosby

PS: If I could choose one musician to sit in a coffeeshop and listen to for hours it would be Brandi Carlile. She understands how to paint a picture with music. Watch this video of her singing Patsy's song and notice all of the colors of tone and expression that she shows us.