The harder you work, the luckier you get.

I've had the good fortune to meet most of my heroes. And I'm not talking people I idolize; there's no room for anyone like that in my life. These are people who came before me and paved the way so that my journey might be a bit easier. And some would call it luck, but I remember a lot of other people who were there too and who didn't act to get my kind of luck. This was one of those times.

We were in a hotel in New Jersey of all places and Bob had just finished his hour long talk. The room let out and 3,500 of us spilled out of the room and lined up for the elevators to head up to ours rooms. And then there was Bob; he was such a legend that no one approached him as he hobbled toward the elevators and leaned on a planter to wait his turn. I saw he was having trouble walking and he had been bouncing around the stage for the last hour entertaining us. I fought through the crowd to get to Bob.

Me: I'm Craig. It looks like you're having trouble there.
Bob: I lost my knees back in my 40s. Professional baseball will do that to you.
Me: It'll take you over an hour to get up to your room. Can you make it up a flight of stairs?
Bob: What the hell kind of question is that. Of course I can. I just can't walk up to the 19th floor.
Me: You just need to make it up one flight. Let's go.

I grabbed his hand and pulled him through the crowd and headed for the staircase which was on the other side of the elevators. I helped him up one flight of stairs and we headed to the elevator on the second floor...and I pushed the down button. We got into and empty elevator. It reached the ground floor, those waiting piled in, and we went up with them. And in about two minutes, he was back in his room.

Bob: I like the way you think. You helped me and now I want to help you. Have lunch with me and my wife.

Luck is best defined as Labor Under Correct Knowledge; and some would say I've always been lucky.

...three seconds

A friend lost a daughter last week. I’m guessing he’s about my age, which makes sense as his daughter was in college. I don’t have kids but I can’t imagine anything worse than the loss of a child. I’ve been through tough times, we all have: the loss of a pet, that hard breakup we thought we’d never get past, financial ruin that we thought there was no way out of. And, somehow, we survived; but this is different. I’m not going to tell you stories of her accomplishments and tell you how she was so full of promise, but she was. I never met her and I didn’t even know her name until last week. She seemed like a good kid...the kind of kid any parent would be proud of...the kind of kid who had the world by the tail and didn’t realize it; she was just living her life, until last week.
When I was going through something rough, something I thought I’d never get ahead of, it was like an 80lb pack I could never put down. I picked it up when I first woke and I didn’t set it down until eleven minutes after my head hit the pillow. But when I woke, there was that first three seconds, before I was really awake, before it all just hit me. That first three seconds was like the eye of the hurricane and everything was fine, for three seconds. On those days, I’d be thankful for the three seconds. Once I was a few minutes in, I’d look back on that first three seconds with a sense of awe and wonder and I wished the whole day could be like that...a whole day of those three seconds on a loop.

I can’t change what happened and nothing I can say would help even a little bit. But if I could wish one thing for my friend, it would be an entire lifetime of three seconds...

She Could Never Tell a Joke

I’m not really good at much if you want know the truth. There are a handful of things, though, I can do sort of well. Driving is one of them. When I was in college, I street-raced for money and since those early days, I’ve racked up over 1,000,000 miles. Then there’s storytelling; it’s to the point where I can never really just simply say anything; there’s always the story. And the third thing, well I can’t tell you about the third thing, but Sheldon Cooper famously called it the dance with no pants. And then there’s jokes; anything from spitballing one liners and impromptu Abbott and Costello exchanges to the setup with the hook and tall-tales which turn down that hidden side street. 

When I was about nineteen, we’d circle the cars and trade jokes until one yawn would topple us on our sides like dominoes. We didn’t have much but looking back, we had it all. Then there was her. She was a brown-eyed-girl and she loved my jokes; she’d watch me tell them to our friends on campus and when Friday would come, we’d split and I’d watch her go. When Monday would come around she’d say, “my friends didn’t like your joke.” I’d ask her which one and she’d tell me - I’d think for a second - I’d tell the joke again, and she’d laugh - I’d have her tell me - and it wasn’t the same - and she was so convinced that it was - then I’d go again, and she’d laugh, again - then she’d go, and it was just, off. And either she thought she was killing it, or she was trying not to. But she made me smile and I’d kneel and beg to hear it again. 

Another Brick in the Wall

When I was six, I lived for soccer and I slept with my soccer ball every night. Mike was in high school and lived across the street; there was a goal on his front lawn. I mostly played goalie while he drilled shots until my wrist finally broke. But that didn't stop me. There was a local league and my Dad became coach with my brother on defense. I wore #6 because our favorite player was Franz Beckenbauer Franz and I kicked the ball on the bright green field at Giants Stadium. 

Some days Mike didn’t show, so I went to the school near my house and shot against the beige brick wall. There was 'Craig' and 'Andy' on the wall and I mean Craig and Andy were literally spray painted there.

I created a game and when I kicked the ball and it hit Craig, I’d get a TV dinner and when it hit Andy, I lost one. Every time I got one, I’d take a step back and every time I lost one, a step forward. I was always at that wall and by the time I was twelve or thirteen, I could hit the upper corner from half field. 

I went back to the school recently and a lot had changed in thirty years. The wall was still there but everything around it was different. It almost seemed out of place, but when I looked closely, I could see the faded outline of their names and it even though I had never really liked them, I had an odd craving for TV dinners. 

A Date with Daisy Duke

My first car was a Fiero and it was a while before it was really mine. I put a GT nose on it, a whale tail, bigger rims and wider tires, and I lowered it 2 1/2 inches. But that’s not really what did it. I was a new college student and a bit short on cash. Everything needed was taken care of and everything else was more or less not. One time, a headlight was out so rather than replace it, I kept my brights on. So they wouldn’t shine in oncoming drivers eyes, I adjusted them down. It worked out great until the high beam on the opposing side stopped working. But I just kept driving and when a car in front of me was going too slow, I flashed the lights and they would pull over so I could pass.

When I was barely sixteen, I worked in a tire warehouse that was connected to a mechanic shop which was part of a mall. When shoppers locked their keys in their cars, they would come to us. I got so good that every time the issue came up, I was called to the front. My record was under five seconds and I even helped a dad who locked his keys, and his kids, in the car.

To practice, I would use my own car and I did it so often that I popped the rods on both doors and I couldn’t get in at all. Since the doors were plastic, I popped the clips off of the bottom of the passenger door and to get in, I got down on my knees and elbows and reached up into the door and threw back the unlock rod with my hand. 

I got the driver's door fixed but it wasn’t long before the passenger door wouldn’t open at all and I had to roll down the window so friends could climb in Nascar style. Because of her grace when climbing in, I called my girlfriend Daisy Duke and she ate it up. When I got the door fixed and it actually opened, I picked her up and it wasn’t until she had climbed in an out at least eight times over the course of the day, that I told her the door was fixed. I lean back and smile when I think back to those times when it seemed like we had nothing. 

Death is a Formal Affair

I went to a funeral recently. We’d been friends for almost twenty years and I can count on both legs the times I’ve seen him in a suit. It was odd to see him sleeping in a pine box and wearing formal wear. They say that death is the eternal sleep but I've never taken a nap while wearing a tie. The people behind me probably thought I was just praying but I was just trying to make sure, and I wasn't until I saw the cue ball scar above his left eye. He would have been more easy to spot wearing jeans and Nikes and with a beer in his hand. 

The Tibetan movie Mountain Patrol began with a sky burial which consists of the family dressing the body in ceremonial garb, and carrying it to the top of a mountain where the vultures waited. They strip the body and the vultures would do what vultures do. Talk about the circle of life. The more clean picked the body is, the more favored the person is in the afterlife. It’s an odd practice until you consider that Americans hand their loved one off to a stranger who drains their blood, fills them with chemicals, and puts them in a display box dressed in their Sunday best.

Back to the Future

If I had a time machine, I’d go back rather than forward; I think most people would. I’d go to the soccer field on Sunday morning when was eight and I’d shoot on goal before the game started. I’d go to my first apartment and lie on my twin bed. I’d go to my first office job with the Controller who scared me the first five times I met him. I’d sit around the table with friends over beers and stories which got better after every round. I’d take my Fiero with a full passenger seat on a Friday night mission to nowhere. But none of those things is the thing I’d do first. You know what I’d do first? I’d go to see her, just after she met him, when I could have had her forever with a look and a too close hug. And we’d lie hip to hip on the hood of my car. And she’d let me know that if it didn't work out with our relationships, I’d have to come up with the most romantic way to propose. 

Naked Lunch

My first job was working in a warehouse and I took it way too seriously. My boss knew this and he couldn’t increase my pay, but he did throw me a bone every once in a while. When the bigwigs came for a lunch meeting, he sent me to get the pizzas which involved me walking out into the mall, ordering the pizzas, waiting for them by wandering around for an hour, then bringing them back to the meeting room. They had me hand them the pizzas right there at the door and they never did let me in. Then I went back upstairs and sat around with my coworkers and we told stories about what we imagined they did with the pizzas. We had more than a few versions, but this is my favorite: they spread the pizzas out on the floor, took off their three piece suits (all adults wore three-piece suits back then), then they rolled around naked on the pizzas. It’s been thirty years since I first made a pizza run, and even now, I can’t order a slice without being reminded of it. And you think that would ruin it for me. 

iWood: Opportunities Lost

I once considered buying a house on Johnson Road. The house wasn't so impressive and the fact that my friends lived around the corner didn't move the needle either; it was the address. The number on the house was 9 and that didn’t have any special appeal but paired with the street name, that was what grabbed me. No one mails letters anymore but I would have, just to write 9 and Johnson together, and I would have made one addition: I would put a “ after the 9 to read 9” Johnson…Road, and it would have been perfect, until I met the guy who lived at #13. 

Here's looking at you...

I saw her on a Monday and it felt like other Mondays, but Mondays after that were different. She had no makeup, her hair was in a ponytail and she wore a t-shirt, yoga pants, and sneakers that could have been Candies. She brought fresh slices to the corner booth and cleared off a table on the way back. Maybe she's Ingrid Bergman, before they found her, or possibly the owner's daughter. Perhaps she's escaping from something. Am I the only one who sees? What if she's single? Would that change things? Should it change things? I'm not sure I know. I'm not sure I'll ever know. For now, I can grab another slice, and leave my empty plate on the edge of the table.