Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. Spitz Goes to Washington

Joe recently spent a few days in Washington D.C. for a conference and enjoyed some sightseeing time.

Here are some of his recollections:

On his nighttime automobile tour, my friend and business colleague in the Intercept Technology Group, Keith Donaldson, who has spent many air miles in his world travels, commented: “We have a capital in this country that we can all be proud of; it is a beautiful city - I can’t think of a more beautiful capital anywhere else in this world.” Keith’s tour brought us first to the front of the Capitol Building, awash in light, accenting the strength and beauty of the building. We traveled between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, near the White House, by the Ford Theater and the home where Lincoln died; around the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, then to Keith’s favorite, the Jefferson Memorial. Keith is right, at night or any time, our nation’s Capital is an architectural and historical marvel.

The next morning I had breakfast in the Rayburn building’s cafeteria, the House of Representatives' offices. I was thinking I might see a legislative celebrity but instead viewed vibrant young people buzzing about with coffee cups in their hands. Security is everywhere and all entrances to all government buildings require scans; so the “bad guys” get us on that one. What the heck; it is better to be safe at the expense of that small loss of freedom.

My own walking tour led me across the street to the Capitol and Library of Congress. E Pluribus Unum - one from many; what a grand experiment this country is. What a storied history filled with courageous heroes, many making extreme sacrifices in their duty to our country. Speaking of which, why doesn’t our great patriot John Adams from Braintree, Massachusetts, merit statues or memorials in his honor in Washington D.C.? Besides George, is there any greater person that influenced the independence of and the framework to our United States? A Sam Adams statue represents MA in the Capitol; good beer, valuable instigator, but his cousin John was the man.

The Library of Congress has the prettiest rotunda I have seen, on a level with the amazing Vatican Map Room and Sistine Chapel. The Library of Congress houses Jefferson’s books; an extensive collection from a well read man.

Prior to World War I, societies were governed by kings, queens, emperors, religious leaders, etc. and a compassionate one versus a selfish one depended on the times and the integrity of the generational leader. Whether or not they were good leaders didn’t matter as much as that this form of governance offered continued stability for its people.

In contrast, standing in front of words on parchment representing the ideas that are the basis of our government and security is quite moving. The National Archives has on display, along with many other important documents, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution of the United States for all citizens and visitors to view. There are many school groups touring Washington and in the “Charters of Freedom” rotunda there is a hush among visitors as they view the founding documents of these United States. If you haven’t experienced this lately (or ever), make the journey. You’ll have a newly refreshed appreciation of our country and its history.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feed and Water your Relationships

This is my gorgeous flowering cactus, given to me by a favorite cousin-in-law who now lives on the west coast and whom I haven't seen in years. When Karen gave me this plant 18 years or so ago it was much smaller and had just a few flowers. I don't remember the occasion, but it was a very thoughtful gesture and having the plant in my kitchen prompts me to think of her often.

My cactus has flowered reliably twice a year, usually right after Thanksgiving and again in the Spring, for many years. It's survived a move, a couple of repottings, lack of sun, overwatering, sunburn, and near drowning in June of 2006 when I left it on the back porch while we had record rainfall here in New England. It's been knocked over, had branches broken off by passersby, and hit with a football, a tennis ball and whatever other kind of ball my guys would play in the kitchen when I wasn't looking.

For the past year or two, my old friend the flowering cactus was mostly dormant, flowering sporadically if at all, and looked pale and unhealthy. I realized, at last, that I hadn't been paying much attention to this old friend and it was suffering from simple neglect. After a few well-timed doses of plant food, water and summer sunshine (but not too much), it's healthy as ever and blooming like crazy.

It occurred to me that relationships, whether business or personal, can suffer equally from neglect, and can be revitalized with a little TLC. Thank your spouse for the delicious breakfast, tell your child he did a great job on that math test, email a friend you've missed, call the customer you haven't heard from in a while and ask how she's doing. You know what to do . . . .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thank You For Listening

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." I'm sure you've heard that one. Famously uttered by a very young Paul Newman in the 1967 movie "Cool Hand Luke" it's become a much-used catch phrase in our American lexicon.

The reason I bring it up is that I'm wondering, with all of the sophisticated tools we have for communication, if anyone is still listening. We have email, IM and Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, WordPress, SMS, MMS, Blackberry and iPhone, PC and Mac, laptop and desktop. Etcetera.

With all of these tools for communication, it sometimes feels like a lot of noise with no one listening. We need to remember that it's human nature to want to be heard and understood. Think about the people you enjoy having around you most - the family, friends, and co-workers that listen to and understand you. Remember to return the favor.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Remarkable Dreams at Age 80

My Dad turned 80 this past summer and of course we threw a big party to celebrate with him. It was a wonderful backyard BBQ with family and friends; just the kind of celebration he relishes. Simple, low key and all about the people. And the hamburgers, too, but mostly about the people.

Frank's been a gifted singer pretty much all of his life - an accountant by trade, a really good athlete for fun, but always a singer by choice. He passed his love of music on to all five of us kids; we've each performed in one way or another, professionally or casually, since we were little kids. He probably still has reel-to-reel tapes of us singing around the Christmas tree back in 1966. Dad, Mom and all of us sang in the church choir at varying times; you'll still find my Dad there on Saturdays and Sundays. He sings for funerals as well - people request him because they love his ever powerful, beautiful tenor voice.

You might think of an 80-year-old man as one who sits in a chair, watching TV and talking about his various ailments, but that's not my Dad. He recently purchased a bicycle and still plays a mean game of ping-pong. The only beings he loves more than family and friends would be horses, and he'll go riding whenever there is an opportunity. But music is really his passion.

The remarkable project Dad's completing now is an album of love songs (and others) -mostly music from the 1940s. It's remarkable because he still sounds great at age 80 and still wants so much to share his music. It's remarkable to see the tender loving care he's putting into this project and the great cooperation between him and my son, Greg, as the recording engineer.

Dad has also sent his vocal demo of the National Anthem to the Red Sox, hopeful that they'll choose him for the line up for next season. He's positive and passionate about music - in his quiet way he's the perfect role model. Here's why: it's a powerful lesson to realize that an 80-year-old person can still possess the talent, the will, and the passion to make his dreams reality.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flint Farm - Taste the Local Flavor Part II

Two of the hardest-working people I've met are the proprietors of Flint Farm in East Mansfield. Beth and Don Flint (the farm was passed down through his family, and his mom still works there, as do Beth and Don's sons) are friendly, energetic, and extremely business-savvy. All of that explains the continuous lines in front of the ice cream window on a recent Sunday afternoon. "Richardson's Ice Cream is the best tasting ice cream around and my customers know it" says Beth. With a mind-boggling array of flavors and a helpful staff of young ladies who love working for the Flint Family manning ice cream scoops, the Flint's ice cream stand is a special treat.

Asked how many customers they served this season, Beth replied, "I can't begin to think how many ice creams we made!"

Beautiful produce abounds - this is the time to choose just the right pumpkins to decorate your front stairs, porch or mantel. And see what else is on the shelves of Flint's produce stand; like a Cezanne still life, the colors and shapes satisfy, then you bring your treasure home and enjoy the fruits of the Flints' labor. I've said it before: there's nothing so delectable as the flavor of locally grown corn, tomatoes and whatever else is fresh from the field today.

There are other fun activities happening at Flint Farm: some Sunday afternoons you'll find The Van Burens playing an acoustic set of covers and original music on the side lawn while little kids dance and everyone enjoys their favorite ice cream flavor. The new corn maze is open and is a delightfully old-fashioned experience. Saturdays and Sundays there are hayrides from 12 - 6 p.m. There is a nominal fee for the maze and the hayrides, but under age 3 is free. Family fun and local flavor at its best!

Flint Farm: 789 East Street, just off Route 106 in East Mansfield