March 18, 2008

Shine boy

Shoe shine boy. Well, it's not really a shoe shine boy anymore is it? I have three places I get my shoes shined. Or three guys that do it. One is a hispanic guy that doesn't speak english 'til you ask for change. He doesn't like giving change for a $10 on a $6 shine. Honestly, he's not quite worth the $6 to begin with, but you have to give a tip. Right?

The other two are Doc and John. They alternate at the stand that I usually go to. Doc is probably 65 and shines shoes like no other. Efficient, professional, chatty if you want, silent if you prefer. A nice guy that takes immense pride in his work. He probably makes more in a year than I do. He has very regular clients who drop off shoes by the sackful. Think I'm kidding? Shoes are an investment to be taken care of, not tossed aside after a year. (my dad's philosophy is to toss them - he buys one pair a year) John isn't quite as good, but he works hard at doing a good job. Sweat beads on his brow as he puts the elbow grease into his work.

I used to shine my boots in the army to the point they looked like glass. I was a true adept. I used every technique in the arsenal to get that perfect shine. In bright sun, it hurt your eyes to look at them. I used a lighter to melt the Kiwi, I used alcohol as a light finisher to smooth out the shine. I used to get crap from my platoon in front of the formation, "hey, Munkey, you need to shine your boots." They hated standing there in the afternoon sun trying to look forward and I had mirrors on my feet.

Having done that for years, I loath shining shoes. Having shiny shoes isn't something to take pride in for me. It's not about shiney my shoes are, but that they look kept and neat. That the leather is healthy. I feel like the shoe shine is a throw back to generations past though. Times when we didn't live in a throw-away society. When things were built to last and hand-made meant quality, not expense.

March 17, 2008

It's magic

I once lived a life where I had all the answers. Never was there a problem, never was there strife. I ate regularly, I slept, I never wept. Well, that really hasn't changed much. I eat, I sleep, I still don't weep. What has changed is that I don't know so much anymore. I am no longer the master of my universe. Too many other factors are in play to control anything. I've lost so much of my sense of wonder.

I saw a guy named Kevin Carrol speak once. He was talking to several thousand creatives at a conference. Kevin's former job was Catalyst at Nike. He helped people perform better. Could there be any better job than that? What do you do for a living? I help people go further. Slam dunk. In the course of his speech, Kevin pulled many things from a box on stage. One was a bottle with the word MAGIC embossed on it. OK, it's a glass bottle. It's empty...

...or was it? If he pulled the bottle out with a group of children they all would have believed there was magic in that bottle. Even with an audience of creatives, people whose job is make the imaginary real, no-one believed the bottle held magic. Children take what they see at face value. They don't have references to all kinds of reasons why the bottle can't hold magic. Adults aren't so free. We know about physics and laws of science and that Santa Claus isn't real.

I wonder if the life I had where I knew all the answers if I'd have felt like the bottle held magic. This comes from a person that believes in magic. Believes I can make it rain. Believes I can talk to someone thousands of miles away with no modern communication device. When I beheld the bottle I did not catch my breath. I didn't believe in the magic before me. I'm still sorry for that. Anyone know where I can recapture that feeling? The belief in what is there in front of me?

March 15, 2008

It's that time

I always wanted to be a modern cowboy. Well, not the kind that rides horses and drives an F-350 to the bar on Saturday night. The rugged, can do, dependable man. The one that would get the job done no matter what it took or what the risk was. Not a pretty boy, rugged, rough and perhaps scarred a time or two.

When I was young, I often saw a Cutty Sark add in Men's Magazines. Man in a stuffed chair, fireplace, crystal cradled in his hand. I never desired the scotch, but I desired the mans domain feeling that ad provoked. It's probably one of the biggest influencing ads I've ever seen. I don't know if it sold Cutty Sark or not, but it sold me on a lifestyle I wanted and still want.

Simple times. End of day sitting down to enjoy a moments peace. A respite from the rigors of our daily lives. We get so wrapped up in the minutia of living and getting things done, we often forget to just be. The idea that we must always be in motion. Doing, accomplishing, acquiring. What about taking time to enjoy what you have? Surely the race to be successful doesn't mean you can't slow down.

Back to being a cowboy, At night, after cookie made dinner and the fire crept low, the cowboy might pull out a harmonica and gaze into the fire as cowboy music wafted over the herd with the smell of smoke. I'm betting at those times, the cowboy felt most at ease. Feet stretched out. The rustle of the herd in the distance. Snap, crackle of the fire.