Friday, March 1, 2013

Family Hair Cutters

I had a interesting conversation with my hair dresser today. her name is Betty and she is from Viet Nam. She trims my hair, my beard and eyebrows and cuts hair better than anybody I have used in the past. In addition she keeps me laughing the entire time I am in the chair. She recently has added my wife Kim and her sister Tracy as patrons, as they agree that she is fantastic and is well worth the measly few dollars she charges.

Betty has always worked for someone else and has had customers follow her from one establishment to the next, regardless of how far they have to drive. She is the epitome of customer service and never fails to ensure you leave happy and pleased with her work. Eight months ago she made a decision and joined "Family Hair Cutters" in Cedar Park.

She is enamored with my ability to travel and is fairly in love with conservative ideas, morals and platforms. Today we were talking about someone who had a recent divorce after 25 years of marriage and a couple of children. She stated that she just "doesn't get it" and replied that all marriages require work, so why divorce after so long.

We the discussed a burglary in her neighborhood and the fact that one of her neighbors was cleaned out while away on Christmas vacation at in-laws. She again couldn't understand why people do this and said "I guess I am old fashioned. Old Fashioned never kills". I thought it was a very prophetic statement and told her I had to remember the quote.

I asked her about the business and she paused and thought how to respond. She said it was growing, but her accountant had notified her that business taxes were going up 30%. This CNN article illustrates the point . She stated the salon might have to close if this came true.

I was crushed and told her I would write about her story and advertise for the salon she worked at. She is a very sweet lady that works harder than most men and women I have ever known and I would highly recommend her if you are anywhere near the salon! Obviously she does a fantastic job of cutting hair and I selfishly do not want to have to relocate again.

If you live in NW Austin, Cedar Park or Leander, please consider trading at:
                           Family Hair Cutters
                           1201 N. Lakeline Blvd.
                           Cedar Park, TX 78613
                           (512) 259-4097

The shop deserves a large following and I trust you will give her a try. Many thanks and see you at her salon!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Into the Fire

Where were you on September 11, 2001? I will always remember.

I was in Victoria Texas in a staff meeting with the C.L. Thomas company owned by Cliff Thomas. Cliff had a daughter that lived in New York City a couple of blocks from the "Twin Towers". His Administrative Assistant opened the door and passed Cliff a note. She had never done this in the two years I worked with "Speedy Stop". I had no idea what had happened or why she had done this. Cliff dropped the note and left the room. One of the management staff picked up the note and read it out loud. New York City has been attacked by terrorists.

We all bolted from the conference room and turned on TV's and computers to try and follow the events that unfolded. As the second "Twin Towers" was hit my emotions bubbled over and I couldn't fight back the tears and fear. I sat with a friend who was Muslim and worked in the office for me. I advised him to go home and lay low for a couple of days, as I knew he would become a target.

Then the Pentagon was hit and I knew all hell was breaking out. Was this ever going to stop? Would the attacks come to an end? Then the saga of the last plane was painted and those brave heroes gave their lives in Pennsylvania, to see that the Capitol wasn't hit.

It hit me. I was 200 miles away from my family and Austin was George W. Bush's "Hometown" also at that point. What if Austin was on the radar? I called my wife and we talked. Usually never did this when I was at work. I couldn't get this fear out of my belly that Austin might be a target and asked my wife to have our sons stay home. It was a gut wrenching feeling. I felt totally helpless!

The "Twin Towers" crashed to the ground in a few seconds and nothing was left. All those people and first responders were gone. We knew and didn't talk about it. The TV broadcasters tried to tell us survivors would be looked for. We knew different! How many lives and families would be effected and what did this mean for our country? We knew it would never be the same again.

For days we all were glued to the TV trying to rationalize these evil zealots and rationalize their actions. Nothing could be discerned. They were terrorists, plain and simple and we had let our guard down as a country.

The days passed and airplanes started flying again and people went back to work, but we all knew we would never be "Free" again! We would always have to be vigilant. Until the day I die I will "Never Forget"!!! The Boss said it best Peace to all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Balearics

If I had a 24 hour layover in The Balearic Islands off of Spain, I would make a beeline for Menorea. It has more beach area than Ibiza and Mallorca combined. Also, the island is probably more my Baby Boomer style and is still fairly undeveloped. I would check in at the Hotel Tres Sants, situated over the old Roman tombs, in the town of Ciutadella and settle into one of its eight magnificent rooms. A marvelous double room can be acquired for $136 USD. A great value under any circumstances.

After settling in and taking a breath, I would haul buns to Macarella Beach and snorkel, swim and take in a few rays of the Golden Spanish sun. Snorkeling is one of the most underrated activities present on beaches and can release a plethora of stress related pressures. As I am fair skinned, I probably wouldn't last more than an hour or two, without turning into a tomato. I would then make my way across the island and soak in the medicinal mud of Cavalleria Beach and bake for a while, or at least until I felt that moisture had returned to my outer membrane. 

By this time I am sure I would be starving and would return to the hotel, clean up very promptly and prepare to fill my ravenous body. Even though it is situated on the far side of the island, I would head straight for the Restaurante Trebol and feast on fresh Lagostinos. Most entrees are less than $20 USD.

After such a long day I wouldn't be adverse to a quality postre and would make sure I left enough room to finish it off. By this time I am sure I would be all tuckered out and have to head back to the hotel for a well earned rest. Before retiring to my personal boudoir, I would purchase a glass of fine red Spanish wine, sip it casually and watch the radiant sunset, from the roof terrace of the Hotel Tres Sants.

Sadly, the next morning at the end of my sojourn, I would head back to Barcelona or other destinations and continue my White-Haired Trek, knowing that my past 24 hours was used for badly needed R&R on one of the world's finest incipient islands.

 ‘This is my version of a perfect 24 hours on a Spanish Island. This post was written as an entry for 24 hours on The Balearics contest sponsored by prize is £500 in Amazon Vouchers and the contest runs until August 3, 2012. Please visit to learn more about the contest and how you can also enter.” 

Monday, March 19, 2012


It has become very obvious that the cultures of my "home" country, the United States and the country I am visiting (Japan) are far varied in attributes and habits. I first came to Japan approximately 40 years ago, as a buyer for the Six Flags amusement park company. I found a society based on respect, high moral character and reverence for elders, along with valued historical traditions. This largely remains today, with few exceptions.

Driving is an adventure and other drivers defer to oncoming traffic, if not allowing a turn would back up traffic or cause a roadblock. When this happens, "every" driver" thanks the other person, allowing the driver to "break" in line. There is no "cutting you off" on the freeways and toll roads. There are many small streets and decisions have to be made as to who either pulls over or backs up, to prevent the emminent collision. They politely bow to each other and the driver that has the easiest task to perform, usually makes the extra effort.

The population is healthy beyond belief and walks to all mass transportation stations, shopping sites and are more than likely walking 10 miles a day per person. The diet is healthy and with the walking they live long lives and continue to walk and exercise all day. On the trains you can hear a pin drop as it is disrespectful to yell or talk loud and it presents a calming effect, unknown in my home country. Young people rise and offer their seats for the elderly. The population is more concerned with whether others are put in situations that they would deem inconvenient as opposed to self gratification.

Children walk alone at the age of five and six and are completely safe, as the crime rate is insignificant in this country. The habits, activities and customs are based on logic and common sense, without overbearing regulations that constrict business or life. An example, is last night we ate at a sushi place, that has a conveyor belt which carries the individual sushi plates by all tables. If I was at home, no health department in the country would allow this exposure (there would be a huge sneeze guard, just in case someone sneezed or coughed on the food).

In Japan they understand that would be unacceptable and wear masks to keep their mouths and noses covered if sick or to prevent illness. In addition, at home in my country, I am sure that there would be mischievous acts performed on the sushi, as it passed by tables of unsupervised children. These acts would be inconceivable in Japan. All Japanese children understand discipline and are very reserved in public, regardless of their age.

Conversations are literal and one doesn't fear they may be shammed into believing something that isn't true or misled into accepting a situation that is entirely wrong in nature (basically being defrauded by lies). That does not enter the minds of the Japanese population in most cases. They are honest and open in their thoughts and conversations. It is a culture of peace and tranquility and are very concerned with what impression is being left with others.

Being in this culture, has made me realize the enormous change we as a free society have made, since my youth. In my youth our country was respected by the entire world and looked up to by other countries as a leader in all aspects. Now we expect our government to subsidize our lives and in most cases place our needs and wants before those of our neighbors, friends and relatives. It is a sad commentary and I completely understand why Josh has made the decision to move to Japan and adopt the culture of this country. Hold on, have fun and enjoy the ride my son! Thank God for Google+.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trip to Tokyo

Kim and I started, with the best of intentions and hired a shuttle to get us to the airport. We needed to be there two hours early, so they told us they would pick us up at 3:05 AM. Needless to say, we didn't get a great deal of sleep. The shuttle arrived early and picked up one additional person and the driver knew we would be early, so he stopped and let us get coffee at a Speedy Stop (chain I used to run). It was so hot it scalded Kim and my mouths. Great start!!! We arrived at the airport at 4:00 AM, not the 5:00 AM we thought. It wasn't even open. Checked in and went to the gate and waited an eternity (about three and a half hours), until our flights took off.
My American Airlines flight went to DFW and then Chicago. Kim met her Mom in Los Angeles and went straight there. I began to worry in Dallas, as I had about 50 minutes for the connection in Chicago and the crew was 15 minutes late, on their gate transfer. We boarded and do you think they checked the engine out when the crew was late? Oh no, that had to be done "after" the pilots arrived (another 30 minute stall). I kind of got the feeling I wasn't going to make my connection at that point. The stewardess asked me if I wanted something to drink and I said no just wanted to make my connection to Tokyo.

I then received an attitude the rest of the time I was on board. Only one of the stewardesses was civil, after my statement. She told me about an hour out that we still could make it. As we arrived in Chicago we were sent into a circling pattern for another 30 minutes because of "weather issues" earlier in the day. That did it and we landed 16 minutes after the Tokyo flight took off. I was told by the gate attendant to proceed to gate #K6 and get with the schedule people. When I arrived at gate #K6 I discovered it was actually a phone and computer bank, with no actual people to discuss the situation with.

I called the posted number and the lady told me she could get me on the same flight the next day and I would have to go to a live gate attendant to receive a hotel voucher,"if they determined it was a mechanical issue". She  told me she had sent instructions to pull my bag, to the baggage claim center and to go to the #6 area. I went to the next gate attendant and she gave me a hotel voucher, a dinner voucher for $12 and a breakfast voucher for $7. I thought okay that should be good. She then told me the baggage area that the phone lady was sending me to had been changed and I was to go to baggage claim area #5.

I went downstairs and the guys running the baggage center told me "No it will be on #4 baggage claim area and could take 45 minutes to pull". After an hour I went back to the baggage center and talked with a different guy. He told me that no one had contacted the guys in the back to pull my bag. So the lady on the phone, the gate attendant and his co-worker didn't make contact with anybody? HHMMM?? He told me it would be out in the next 30 minutes and if not, to come back and see him. After 25 minutes (a total of 85 minutes) I finally got my bag. "Go outside and look for the hotel shuttles".

Ask transportation guy outside of airport "where is hotel shuttle"? About 2 miles that way (pulling my bags and carrying my back pack, etc). By this time I was ready to kill someone. I get to the hotel shuttle area across from the Hilton finally and the shuttle actually got there within about twenty minutes. So...I arrived in Chicago about 1:36 PM and it was now about 4:30 PM.

I was exhausted by the time I finally arrived and checked in at the hotel. Went downstairs and asked the lady if they took my dinner voucher. "Yes sir". Open menu and cheapest item is $21. So if I take a taxi or I order at the restaurant I am out money. Looked at breakfast menu and nothing costs under $15 so I plan to eat breakfast at the airport.

Got to airport three hours early. I wasn't taking any chances. Bought a bagel with cream cheese and a water ($7.39). All I had was a $10 bill (for extra $.39) and cashier got furious, in addition to not knowing how to ring the coupon. Supervisor told her I don't have time to get my overring key, so just make it a paper overring. Cashier doesn't speak English well enough to interpret. Thank goodness I speak a little Spanish.

Loaded and got on plane. Flight is 12.5 hours from Chicago to Tokyo! Filling out customs form and I pull out money to count (like I have over $10K I am bringing in). My lucky silver dollar falls between seat and connection between seats. No one can find. My lucky silver dollar was given to me on my wedding day, 33 years ago.

Tell stewardesses I am not leaving plane without my silver dollar. All customers exit plane and two maintenance guys come on board and look at me like I am stupid (maybe by this time I am). They find my dollar after 10 minutes of tearing apart the seat, etc. Fly through immigration and customs and there is my son Josh with Kim and her mother. All is well now!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Untimely Death

Reflecting on the recent shooting of teenagers, where three of the teens passed away after the event, made me stop and think about the untimely death of my mother. How it played on my mind and those of my family, has never been lost with time. I sincerely pray that no parent has to suffer such a traumatic occurrence.
Most of all, I will never forget my grandmother wailing in our parent's bedroom, that a "child was never supposed to go before their parent". She uttered these words time and time again. It became embedded in my heart and sunk in my brain. It will never go away. I cannot fathom the loss of a child and being a very brittle person, I am sure I would crack up, if I experienced such a tragedy.

My mother went in for a "normal" surgery to have scar tissue cleaned up from her spine, as it was pinching nerves and causing extreme pain (a trait that all generations have inherited, including my brothers and our sons, I am sorry to say). I stopped by the hospital to say hi, on my way to Dallas to visit my boss for dinner. I look back and wish I would have stayed, rather than leaving and shared more time with her. I will never shed the guilt of this event and in my mind, taking it so lightly.

The call came at 3:00 AM and my father told me at that my mother had passed and I was to contact my brothers and let them know. I was still in shock when I called George in Austin, to tell him and couldn't raise Pat, so I dressed and drove to his house to let him know. No one answered my knock. Thank God I knew his bedroom and which window to bang on, as he shared a house with two other guys.

From then on my brothers and I consumed mass quantities of alcohol and somehow got through the ordeal of "planning" out the funeral with our Dad. That is a horrible thing to do after a loved one passes and everyone should make arrangements ahead of time and not have your family suffer through this. I actually walked out of the casket display room, where the samples were kept and would not, could not and did not participate in this function.

The day of the funeral came and we had the service. At the cemetery when I placed my rose on her casket (we each decided that putting a yellow individual rose on her casket, before they placed her in the ground, would be appropriate as she loved yellow roses) and I somehow pricked my finger with a thorn. The blood flowed and I took this as a sign that she somehow was aware, I had laid the rose on her casket.

In the limo Pat and I broke completely down and George and my father were steadfast and helped Pat and I from falling completely apart. After all, we had to face the family back at the house. George's time came later. I am not sure about my father, except for during the "planning" session when he literally fell apart one afternoon.

My grandmother again started her statements about a "child was never supposed to go before their parent", when we got home and suffered a stroke a few years later, before a second stroke that literally left her in a vegetative state for two more years. I know down deep that my mothers untimely death more than likely aided these events.

For at least 10 years or so, my personality changed on the eve of my mother's death and my poor wife had to suffer through this for years and years. I would fall apart each year thinking about her untimely death, her dying at such a young age and my guilt at not staying. Each year I think about it on September first and it becomes more and more easy to digest as the years pass. As I sit here on the two year anniversary of my father's death, I am thankful I had the memories of this fabulous woman that I have. I still miss you Mom!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I was thinking about our arrival in Guayaquil last October and the way the Ecuadorians exuded their "amor familiar". We gringos go through the motions and just accept our missions, when we have family or friends arriving at an airport and feel it is more an obligation than a privilege, as the Ecuadorians do. And we certainly do not make it a celebration, as was displayed upon our arrival at the airport.

That is because, it has become so common place, to jump on an airplane and venture across the country or the world. We don't realize how lucky we are to have been born in the good old old USA and how fortunate we are to afford this luxury. Most of the world, more than likely, has never even been on an an airplane. Stop and think about that and how we take flying for granted. 

How many times have you resorted to begging a relative or friend, to either drop you off, or pick you up at the airport, when taking a trip? We consider it more or less a day at the zoo. It is a practice that drives us up the wall, as we fight the crowds, pay the enormous fees and face the obligatory wait! We gripe and moan and never once understand how much better off we are than the average citizen of the planet. Next time, promise to make it a less harsh session!

As we left customs and walked solo down a long corridor, I turned the last corner and saw an amazing sight. I felt literally like I was on the "Red Carpet" at the Oscars. People were lined up five and six deep at the front of the reception area, forming a guantlet that you were required to wade through. Families of ten to twelve, (guessing they arrived early), individuals (guessing they were the late arrivals) that were placed at strategic points, so as to identify their relative and a human mass that was almost scary, if not for the cherubic smiles and anticipated glee.

It was by far the largest and friendliest reception line, I have ever experienced. I was simply amazed at the process. As families found their loved one or ones, the pre-requisite series of photos were taken, one at a time, sometimes directly in the middle of the exiting people. This caused a brief halt to our exit and back up of the travelers. Mothers were squeezing grown children and family/group hugs were the order of the day or night in this case.

Overall it was a display of passion and love that we rarely see at airports in our country. Tears of joy flowed freely from Mothers and other family members. I was blown away and all the long, flight weariness left my body. It actually cheered me up, as I absorbed the encounters and greetings in my path. The scene in the arrival area was one I will never forget and it makes you stop and think how forunate we are in the USA. It makes me realize, that we take entirely too much for granted.

The smiles, tears and hugs of the Ecuadorians were absolutely genuine and their enthusiasm over such a simple act, made me realize how valuable each and every moment of our lives are. Muchas Gracias Ecuador until I return!