The breeze came from left field

August 29th, 2008 by John Morris

Watching the DNC convention provided me with entertaining moments. I enjoyed both Hillary’s and Bill Clinton’s speeches. Hers because it was the absolute and final surrender of her Presidential hopes for this time around. His because, even as I disagree with him, I always admire how well he delivers the goods.

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech was a colorful, frantic event and one of TV’s electric moments. So much so, that its effects caused several usually stoic newscasters to drop their masks of objectivity. Example: Andrea Mitchell was close to giddy describing his speech today. When someone had the temerity to suggest otherwise, she nearly lost her composure. I did say almost. She’s a pro and held it together.

Just as the cable talking heads ran low on subject matter, along comes John McCain’s VP announcement. I sat by the TV wanting more information on this Sarah Palin. Her name was unknown to me unless you count the times it was mentioned in the subject of qualified female choices.

I learned she has yangs to McCain’s yins: female, young and not from WDC. She also mirrored McCain in other areas: conservative, pro-life and pro-gun.

Then she stepped up to the mike. I can forgive her for being overwhelmed at this point. It’s probably what made her sound shrill enough to remind me of Madam Clinton without the practiced poise. I quickly labeled her a lightweight which is probably unfair.

My money’s on the RNC getting her properly prepared for the grinding campaign ahead. There will be no area where opposing parties will not venture if it suits their purpose.

I hope her life in rough and tumble Alaska has given her a steel backbone.

Photos are nice; memories are better

August 22nd, 2008 by John Morris

Traveling to foreign countries carries some obligations. There are presents for the wife and children which seems fair. Then there are the snapshots you will show friends and family hoping to extract envy.

During other visits to China, Korea and Vietnam, I took a respectable number of photos, but not this time.

While riding a Cambodian elephant with my wife, Lyn, my camera self-destructed. I reasoned I could buy a replacement or use one-time cameras from this point. I tried, but it didn’t take.

Not reaching for a camera to capture the moment freed me to see more and stay in the moment.

Instead of looking at photos, I now focus on my memories.

When I drink Korean tea or eat watermelon, I remember sitting in my daughter-in-law’s Uncle’s home. He and his wife were showing me and Yuri’s family their hospitality. Along with the national drink, they served a watermelon costing $30.00. It was delivered to their house and had a white plastic mesh covering. It was the best tasting melon I’ve ever had.

Tasting anything with coconut brings memories of touring the Mekong Delta. I remember Yuri turning a grinding wheel to make a rice paper used to cover the freshly made coconut candies we ate. And of course, the elephant ear fish encrusted with coconut we had that day.

Seeing a Twinkie reminds me of the little Vietnamese boy who offered his to my son as we traveled on a river ferry. I’m still struck by the shyness he showed. I recall how tactfully my son handled the boy’s offer. He asked him to eat it for him. Adam had learned much about subtle politeness during his time in Asia.

These and dozens more memory jolts are connected to simple, everyday items.  In truth, it doesn’t take much for me to remember my halcyon days spent with Adam & Yuri. I’ll find them in place they’re not.

Memories like these do not replace photos. They are better.

May you have a friend like Arthur Douglas “Buzzy” Schultz.

August 22nd, 2008 by John Morris

Arthur Douglas “Buzzy” Schultz was an legend in the concrete product industry. He was the matchmaker when somebody needed somebody else. He healed conflicts and took nothing for his efforts satisfied that  anything good for his customers was good for his company. A real old-school gentleman/salesman he was and a mentor worth his salt.

One day, his sales manager had a common request; “Let’s do lunch.” Their lunches together were all business, but today the boss spoke about everything else.

Returning to the office, the sales manager pealed off, and Schultz stood facing the company controller. He got the word he no longer worked for the company; his car keys were to be surrendered; and his personal effects were in a cardboard box. He was handed a bus ticket home and directions to the bus stop. With no effort to be humane, his company sent him packing.

His mind filled with the many questions that bombard us at these stressful times. Where would he work? Could he provide for his family? How and what would he tell his wife?

He exited the bus at the stop near his home and saw a sight that was out of place. One of his former competitor’s owner was standing there. He handed Schultz car keys and said, “This is your new company car. Effective tomorrow, you work for me.”

This former competitor had been tipped off by a mutual friend at the old company about Schultz’s summary dismissal, and he acted quickly to get him for his company.

Schultz choked up as he told me the story, and said he always did.

Arthur Douglas “Buzzy” Schultz lived the life where this recognition was earned. He left us far too soon, but the memories of the man survive.

A window opens when a door closes

August 21st, 2008 by John Morris

The British have the proper word for what has happened. My position has just been rendered “redundant”. Simply stated, there is no job at my former employer’s business for me to return to.

The sting of what happened is not lessened by the use of this word, but it does give it both class and clarity.

As a younger man, I worried about moving from job to job. I worried that the job market was depressed, or I would not qualify for attractive jobs. As a much older man, I now deflect these worries. All that remains for me to start another job is to find where it is and make the deal. It’s simple when it’s kept simple.

Since I always believe in good things happening, I will use the title of this post as my mantra for the next few weeks.

The ism that conquers

August 19th, 2008 by John Morris

My 11th grade civics teacher, Ted Torrence asked his classes to name the worst “ism” in the world. Shouts of Communism, Fascism, Socialism got the same response: “No!”. When the room drifted to silence, he said, “Nationalism”: the belief that one country is superior to others.

Too bad Mr. Torrence and I can’t have a further debate about the “isms” in the world. I would tell him I found the most powerful one during my visits to China and Vietnam. I learned in these two communistic countries that there’s a good “ism” driving their boats: Capitalism.

In the crowded city streets, the businesses nearly wrap around the block and are crammed on top of each other. Every square foot has a going concern. Here you’ll find small cafes, clothing stores, fruit stands, electronic gear and on and on and on. In the large bizarres, you’ll find hundreds of stands seemingly selling the same products. All vendors are active as business swirls around them.

I wonder how any economy can sustain so many businesses? Do buyers show up in adequate numbers? Are there rich people who own the store and employ the workers? Are they all small businesses that represent the core of the families running them?

Either way, I wonder if all this high energy capitalism bears fruit for these entrepreneurs.

I wish them well.

Fairness should always rule

August 16th, 2008 by John Morris

The swirl around Michael Phelps and NBC’s obsessive gold fever about him has reminded me of a past bad Olympic TV moment.

Carl Lewis had scored gold medals in sprinting and broad jumping for a lifetime total of nine. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering winning just one is a life changing experience.

There was a movement to get Lewis on the American 4×100 meter relay team. It was a shameless pursuit lead by who knows. Lewis acted above it all, and I suspect his handlers were pushing it. All I saw was the American team was poised to make a change to the already winning team just to give Lewis a chance at an easy tenth gold.

Before the final ruling came down against Lewis, one coach offered this comment: Lewis’ right to get his tenth gold was not so important that the replaced sprinter should lose his chance at his first one.

Chinese TV and me

August 16th, 2008 by John Morris

The Beijing Olympics started during my Vietnam vacation. We had cable TV at my son’s flat with four channels covering the games: two Chinese, one Korean and one American. The ones to watch had real time coverage: the Chinese channels. Okay, I didn’t understand a word but watching the action made commentary unnecessary. Problem was all they would show was the Chinese team. Sure it was exciting to see them cheered on by their countrymen. But I wanted to see more general activities. My tipping point came when I realized they were ignoring all other competitions to show us – gasp! – the Chinese men’s gymnasts team warming up and giving each other encouraging body slaps. “Brain dead TV”

Enough! Show me fencing, archery, speed walking or dressage. I want to see Croatia versus Faulkland Islands in soccer. Anything  where were all the athletes are performing on world class levels in a world wide stage. Athletes who excel in sports we ignore except during the Olympics.

It’s easy for me to criticize Chinese TV’s coverage of their Olympics. I do find our stations not doing much better. How so, does the average Joe Six-Pack really care if Michael Phelps wins 12 or 13 Gold medals? This one doesn’t. I rather hear about the athlete who had everything going against them, but they persisted. Maybe some one’s last chance to medal after three past failures.

I count on the Olympics to provide me with quality athletic drama. The type that will carry me through the next Olympiad.

Getting home

August 13th, 2008 by John Morris

I decided to walk for an hour each day I was in Vietnam. One outing had me doing four right turns in order to not get lost.

After my third right turn, I found the street was split by a river with no bridge. I reasoned that to retrace my steps would make me late for a massage appointment. Oops. Did I really say that?

I went back to the street and found a taxi bike. The driver asked me, Where you go?” I said the name of the Adam & Yuri’s apartment complex: Sky Gardens. “Sure, I know’, answered the cabbie.

He drove around the block and I promptly lost my bearings. After a while, I realized we were not going the right way.

I asked the cabbie/biker to pull over. I asked where we are. “Saigon”, he said. I repeated, “I want Sky Garden”. He said, “Yes, Saigon”. I got his point. He heard Saigon no matter how I said, “Sky garden”. This is when I dismissed him.

New cabbie pulled up. I repeated the request for Sky Garden. He was the heart of understanding. “Sure thing. I know.”, he shot back at me. I’m starting to hate that phrase.

He drove around until we stopped at what looked like a cabbie station. Cabbie #2 ran to the station. As I followed him, he got excited and made it clear I was to stay inside his mobile prison.

On his returned, he said, “I now know”. Okay, I thought. At least he was savvy enough to get directions.

A new tour of Saigon’s streets was next. During the tour of a pricey section of Saigon, the driver pulled over. He gestured out of the window and said, “Sky Garden”. He was so right. It was the Saigon Sky Garden. Can’t fault him for that. “Same Same but different”, we both said and laughed together.

I tried a new approach. Take me to District seven: the home of the Sky gardens I wanted. “Sure thing. I know” came again. Oh, no.

He took off like a man driven to drive me to my desired location. The drive back to District seven went well. I saw the Sky Garden complex and asked to be dropped off. But this was one of those Saigon roads defining “you can’t get there from here”. After a series of turns, I got out of the cab with some assurances that I was close to home.

The fare was 200,000 dong ($12.00US) which is a fortune for a cab ride.

My next realization was that I had a walk of two miles to get to the promised land that is Sky Gardens.

Believe it when I say my wife, Lyn was upset with me. I don’t think even a good story would have satisfied her then.

Finding a deeper meaning

August 11th, 2008 by John Morris

This post’s original intent was to write about a self-centered bore who sat next to my wife on a 15 hour flight to Vietnam. He whined unceasingly about everything including a $50.00 gift certificate the attendants gave him in the desperate hope it would shut him up. It didn’t.

But I not going to write about him. I’ve uncovered a deeper message.

Most people are like me. We take what someone decides is what we get for our money, and we’ll thank them for it. Americans have gotten use to not just bad service but indifferent service. If we’re asked how the food was following a sub-standard meal, we usually say, “Fine” when we should be honest with the questioner. Most of the time, we’ll go out of our way not to say anything negitive. So much so that when we do, we’ll usually try to sugar coat it. Does this sound like you?

Guys like the jerk on the plane don’t respond like this. When they are handed less-than-acceptable products or services, they complain, and they do it loudly. I’m glad they do. When they’re told “It’s policy” or some such feigning move, they set their heels in and raise the heat. Why am I glad they do this? Because there is a number of products and services providers who long ago stopped believing the customer is king/queen. They are resolute in their god-given stance that they want us to accept less and less for the sake of their companies. Or worse yet, it makes their jobs easier. These sorry excuses for providers want to do less and get the same pay. They avoid working for the customers’ best interests because they want no loose ends. These people deserve and should get rough treatment from the whiners of the world. They deserve it but are usually past the point where they’ll benefit and grow because of it.

To all of you who are quick to demand better treatment, carry on. Hold the cossacks accountable and continue to move up the food chain until you get what you want. Your wins are really wins for us all.

I’ll end this rant by saluting those service and product providers who do still give us full measure for our purchase prices. To them, we are still the reason businesses exist. They do the job as all should do weither it’s you, me or some screaming jerkface.

They deserve our thanks for doing the job the way it should be done.

Hope for a unified Korea

August 9th, 2008 by John Morris

Inspiration and hope for a better world was found at a North Korean restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

We went there because my Korean daughter-in-law, Yuri Kim told me only Communistic countries will host North Korean restaurants. I viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

We joined about 200 ebullient Southern Koreans watching traditional Korean entertainment. When the young women finished their performance, the crowd rose as one and joined them on the stage. Cameras at the ready, they had their pictures taken with the performers in such an excited way that it caught my attention. I turned to my source on all things Korean, Yuri and asked what was happening. She said the last song was one for unity. She also said, that like most South Koreans, the audience crave contact with North Koreans. This is a rare opportunity for them.

It struck me that the people of North and South Korea want unification. It’s govermental leaders who dig in their heals preventing an historical healing for a great country.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.