Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New York, New York. It’s a Wonderful Town

For the past several years, more often than not, my wife and I have taken advantage of the fact that a pretty good Dental Meeting, the self-aggrandized titled Greater New York Dental Meeting or GNYDM, is scheduled the week after Thanksgiving. We make our way to the city along with more than 20,000 dentists and staff. This year was no exception.

Also, as has become our custom, we got together with our niece and her friend for Sunday Brunch at a fascinating restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called 44 ½ between 44th and 45th Streets on 10th Avenue. This is close to my niece’s apartment and she always provides us with a walking tour of her environs after our meal. She was telling us that she has now been in the city for 12 years working in the fashion industry. She took her degree in that field at Brooks College and later at Cal State University in Long Beach and we were more or less her surrogate parents during that time.

I was reminded of my sister, now deceased, who in her adolescence fell in love with NYC and practically wore out the grooves in Gordon Jenkin's musical vignette "Manhatten Tower". Eventually she finally settled in that other American unique city, San Francisco, but it brought to mind what attraction NYC has for its residents and those who seem to always return. I asked Sara. “Partly it comes from the fact that so much is always going on, and the people are so involved with life,” she said. “I have a friend who moved to Savannah, and she seems content, because Savannah is so different from here, but she couldn’t be happy in Chicago or San Francisco.” She didn’t add, nor could I, but it was an unsaid truth.

We ended up one night in an Upper East Side restaurant called Trattoria Dell’Arte and found ourselves seated directly in the middle in the traffic pattern for all the waiters, customers and the MaĆ®tre d’, an energetic, interesting young man named Justin. Justin typifies the New Yorker. He lives in his city and accepted the challenge of his new position (he used to be day manager) because of the excitement and the challenge. As he guided and directed his enthusiasm was infectious.

For me the draw is for visits rather than to live there. I like the fact that you can walk so many ways, noticing the clustering of related stores. While I have heard horror stories of belligerence, and in fact have a couple of cabbie stories in my repertoire, I find most people exceptionally helpful and friendly. I find the restaurants unique and yet historically memorable and would not dream of a visit without a Pastrami half sandwich at The Stage. I love the history, including the Ellis Island stories of who could have been my ancestors.

I am counting the days until next Thanksgiving.

Do any of you have a love for NYC? Any have stories they would like to share?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It Isn’t Rocket Science

The other day I overheard my two grown sons discussing, of all things, politics! It turns out that it wasn’t the nuances of whether California is essentially a Red state with three pockets of blue swinging issues, although my wife has convinced me that this is true. It had more to do with the prominent political issue off interest to us all…employment. In particular a bill moving through our Congress that would extend unemployment payments.

Now I am greatly aware of how the unemployment issue has affected us during the last few years. My older son lost his job and it was four months before he found another. And it was at a greatly reduced salary with commissions hedging the employer’s bets on cost. I do some consulting with a Health Plan and even though business is growing, my department was downsized from six to me. I belong to three social networks of small size and all have at least two members unemployed. So the problem is a reality.

What I notice though is the insidious effect of technology on productivity and the workforce. When they put scanners at checkout lines in stores as diverse as supermarkets and home improvement many sales staff found themselves redundant. When the public became accustomed to being involved in the research process at warehouses and IVR customer service, more employees were “on the street”. Even my beloved U.S. Navy built a ship with the firepower of a battleship and a crew of less than 200. Retirement benefits cost more than drones.

So, what’s the point? My sons’ conclusion was that extending unemployment is only an incentive to try to find comparable pay and benefits to the job someone lost. Bad idea! A better solution, although it is a long-term fix, is to target the money to projects that boost consumption and an appetite for the goods technology allows us to make with fewer people. That’s eventually what worked us through the Great Depression. That and World War II.

Are we on the right track?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Curators versus Collectors

My wife and I went to the opening of an exhibit at our local art Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art. Possibly because nearby Laguna Beach has a worldwide reputation as being artist friendly, with its annual Pageant of the Masters and Sawdust and several other festivals, or maybe because OC seems to support the arts in all fashions, we expected and were treated to a unique and very interesting display titled “2010 California Biennial”.

As members, we had a chance to hear a presentation by the curator prior to a guided tour of the exhibit. The Curator was not able to attend, but her assistant a very nice young lady who is in the process of becoming a curator was a fine substitute.

I have recently become intrigued by what makes a curator a curator and asked our presenter if she could answer the question. Her response surprised me. She told us that the field is relative new as regards formal training and an associated degree (PhD). Only in something like the last 14 years has there been a program nationally and in California I believe there are only two schools offering one. Prior to the formalization of these programs, museums had curators who might have taken their collecting to the next level, establishing credentials initially by studying collections of others interested in the same period or theme.

My question was relevant because in my soon-to-be-published book, Harnessing a Heritage” I suggest that young children and grandchildren could enhance their knowledge of their own heritage by visiting museums and researching why the Curator chose the collection he or she did. Now I am more certain than ever that this is true and that my book note, “Who knows, you may get invited to see your own curator’s exhibit” rings true.

Have any of you noticed that your children have such an interest?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dreaded Christmas Letter

I started work today on what will be the 50th edition of the FitzGerald Christmas Letter. Not surprisingly there are people who were recipients of the first who are no longer on the list, having died, moved without a forwarding address, or indicated by failure to stay in touch that they no longer care about all the interesting things we did this year. What may be more surprising is the number of people who say they look forward to receiving it, even after many, many years. I attribute that to several consistent elements.

We always write a personal note. Mary’s notes tend to be longer than mine, but I have chosen the content of the letter itself and try to include many of the comments I would personalize on my note.

The letter starts with two quotations, one from The Bible and one a related topical news item. Last year, for example, I tied Elijah’s confusion about where God’s voice was coming from with the Social Network explosion of Twitter and Facebook. Ten years ago it was the “man shall leave his mother and father…” with our then-Representative Christopher Cox saying, “We have to find a way to stop punishing people tax-wise for being married.” At times I have toyed with making a book from what I thought was the important story each year for 50 years.

The letter is less about what we did as to why we did it. For the last several years it has included comments on where we went for our Family Vacation, who went and why. This year was The Grand Canyon and a houseboat on Lake Powell. Last year was a 5500 square foot Log Cabin in Door, County Wisconsin. That has more general interest than what cities hosted the several Dental Meetings and Dental Insurance Meetings we attend.

The letter remains a family story. Mary takes her editing job very seriously; she first is responsible for chronicling our activities, and then generally puts me through three edits before we have a finished product. Both kids, and probably soon the three grandchildren must approve what is said about them before it goes out.

We only send it to people we do not see on a regular basis, so the included news is fresh to the reader. I am giving some thought to posting this anniversary edition on my website . Any comments from you Blogsters about what you think of Christmas letters? I’m open for criticism or suggestions.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another POV

Friday I went to my local Writers Club and heard a presentation from Lynn Price . Lynn is a commercial publisher and gave several great tips on how to improve your chances of getting your manuscript accepted through each of the three stages of possible rejection. She provides this and more in her book The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box but it is always interesting to hear the story from the author. It is also interesting to meet someone whose blog you have been following.

In her most recent blog she makes an interesting point about how vanity publishing may have a negative effect on commercial publishing. I believe I am correct in paraphrasing that diluting the pool of authors with those who don’t go through the editing process with Editors who have a respect for what the market is looking for, will eventually cause the caliber of books to decline.
My business background included sizeable stints in the Insurance industry where I saw three lines of business in the same companies, competing aggressively with their own business as well as trying to get market share from other companies: commercial health, PPO and HMO managed care. To a large extent the mix of these followed the market for services, but I suppose it also was and could be described as cannibalism, leaching membership from the higher end commercial line. On the other hand I saw the total membership (read readers) grow as health care became more affordable and met the personal needs of more people.
I am presently in Interior Editing of my memoir Harnessing a Heritage and feel I have received excellent assistance in improving my book. It remains to be seen if the vanity publisher I am using will be successful in assisting my marketing efforts, but they are making it possible for me to fulfill a dream.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Entirely Different Ships

As I write this, the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 has steamed from its home port of San Diego to provide assistance and protection to the Cruise ship Carnival Splendor, which is being towed, likely to San Diego. The event provides me a time of reflection on the twenty-plus years I spent as a Navy dentist and the two tours I had on carriers.

I remember the awe that accompanies the first time you board a carrier that is going to be your home for the next couple of years. One marvels at the size, the complexity and, more interestingly how easy it is to become acclimated to the “floating city”. My first ship was the USS Boxer in the ship generic family of LPH-4. The abbreviations all are very descriptive: CVN meaning carrier vessel nuclear and LPH meaning landing platform helicopter. My second ship, USS Hancock a CVA (attack) was larger and designed with the same mission as Ronald Reagan. I am reminded that, although each tour had several missions, each had a component of assistance. Boxer helped Haiti cope with a hurricane in the mid-1960s and Hancock was one of the ships that helped evacuate refugees when Saigon fell.

Beside assistance as a mission of similarity with navy ships, the similarity between Ronald Reagan and Carnival Splendor is worth noting. Ships complement on Reagan is about 3200 crew and accommodations for about 2500 air wing personnel. Splendor has about 3000 passengers and 1200 crew. Both are self-contained (when systems are working) with water and food available for extended periods of time. Splendor requires more frequent replenishment.

One obvious difference is their purpose. With the Carnival line people expect all the creature comforts promised. The navy promises very little beyond keeping the crew as safe as possible. Crew on a naval ship works pretty much 14-hour days, seven days a week unless they are in port. The strange thing is that I look back on those days as some of the most pleasant in my life. The bonding of shipmates has no comparison, with a cruise ship or anything else.

There must be some other old salts out there. Any similar recollections?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Waiting is the Hard Part

Thursday I finally finished working my way through the edits on the used-to-be 12 chapters of my book, Harnessing a Heritage and wrote the 13th chapter, which was a suggestion of the editor. All in all I am very pleased, because I think it is a much better book. And I learned some things that will help me if I decide to write a second book. Things like making your research blend in with your story rather than be the story.

There was a small disappointment. My first author TV interview was cancelled. Well maybe just postponed. Never got the whole story, but my presumption is that the format for the closed channel cable show was changed, or at least modified without the show’s director having much to say about it.

So, I uploaded my revision to my editor, CreateSpace along with the material for my cover. Had a couple of problems with uploading (.jpg files need to be zipped, but Word documents only need to be consolidated into one file). I called to make sure everything was received in acceptable format (it had) and was told that I would be contacted next week by my interior editor.

Waiting is the hard part even though I have plenty to do on my website: to make it ready for marketing. Any comments from you, if you have done that, would be greatly appreciated (Content display, PayPal, etc.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

That’s probably one of the best known quotes on television, or perhaps anywhere. From the long-running series, Cheers, it is so familiar that sometimes we forget what the truth is that it describes.

My twelve year-old grandson, who is often included in the generational lunches our family does on week-ends commented this week that we should go back to Peanuts, a neighborhood sandwich place that derives its name from the freedom to throw the ubiquitous peanut shells on the floor. This, from a kid who has memorized every fast food menu in Orange County.

Reflecting on his desire I was struck with the fact that, although the sandwiches are good and the peanuts unusual, the thing that probably colors his memory is the friendliness of the clientele. Ryan has only been there twice, but his Dad, Uncle and me have been there multiple times and know Wanda, the owner and resident bartender from “way back”. Know her history from when she bought the place five years ago. Know why there are all the pictures of NASCAR events and tracks on the wall. Know why the napkins no longer advertise Bud because she wanted to raise the image of the place.

And more importantly know the people who are there when we come. Oh, we don’t know their names, or even what they do for recreation and sustenance, but we know THEM! Know why they frequent a place like Peanuts and know that a casual comment about a sports team or even a political figure may get you a friendly pop on the arm, but it won’t get you into an argument. Or if it does, it will be a friendly argument.

I’m pleased to see that we have passed on to Ryan an appreciation for that kind of atmosphere. We’ll have to take him up on his suggestion to return soon.

Oh, did I mention the sandwiches are good too?

Do you agree with my sentiments? Do you want to share the name of your favorite place where “everybody knows your name”?