Lessons from John Travolta

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Initially, I thought about naming this post, The Blessing of No Sportscenter. When I am at home, sports dominate my television: football, basketball, and highlight reels of other sports. Only when I watch movies are sports not playing on my small screen. However, at this hotel, there is no Sportscenter and as a result, I have had to find other programs to capture my attention. For a while, I looked at the numerous thirty minute commercials for exercise, food, and other products which embody awesomeness at the low low price of $19.95 or the reduced 3 (instead of 4) payments of $39.95. I am always so tempted to try these kind of products, but never actually make the call because I am cynical of the results. I eventually found worthwhile shows on A&E, Animal Planet, and Bio.

Quick note about Animal Planet: I witnessed a mother lion reunite with her baby cub, Solo, who had wandered away from the pride. Emotional! I thought about my mother, and her desire to know where I was when I was a teenager and the consistent arguments we got in when I did not call. That memory dominated my thoughts as young Solo haplessly searched for his mother, his protection. Being a parent is being a parent and I appreciate the love and concern that my mother showed me, though at the time it was all happening, I thought she was simply being annoying and overbearing. Thanks, mom!

Then I watched the bio of John Travolta, and realized early on that there would be some life lessons embedded. I jotted down the following notes:

-Had support of family- John had tremendous support from his family; his parents allowed him to drop out of high school for a year to get his career started and he never went back. To have that kind of trust and faith in one’s child is admirable.

-Lived in NY City in a condemned building with other actors- John found a group of other people with similar interests and they added support. He was able to be himself and express himself with little restraint.

-Did not listen to naysayers-One person told him that he should quit because of how hard the road to success would be, and he refused to take the advice. He exhibited a bullish stubbornness that enabled him to stay focus on his dreams.

-Did not get the part in The Last Detail-John failed, but positioned himself as a viable talent at an early age. He did not let disappointment dissuade him from following his dream.

-Involved in Scientology, mental health-It seems that all Hollywood A-listers belong to Scientology, about which I know very little. In this visual biography, John explains that he joined in order to learn how to deal with stress. Strikingly, he mentioned wanting to learn about a power bigger than him and he found it.

-Had to overcome the prejudice of television actors not acting in movies. Once again, he did not let others determine his faith for him. Once again, his passion for acting, regardless of the venue, persisted and came through in his work.

-Dealing with death and disappointment–As his career primed to explode with the filming of Saturday Night Fever and Grease, his then girlfriend has a renewed battle with cancer, which she lost. After the release of Grease, his mother passed away. In the course of the year, he lost two of the most important people in his life. Through it all, he continued to work and follow his dream.

-Learned how to party-While filming “Urban Cowboy” he learned how to party with abandonment; he realized that it was not about who’s at the party, but about enjoying oneself.

The two most consistent qualities seemed to be support from others, mainly family, an unwavering confidence in who he is, and finally a unique work ethic.

I wish to emulate his blueprint to success!

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Storage Wars

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I could not find Sportscenter because of the hotel’s different channel lineup. As I channel surfed, searching for the comfort of highlight reels, I stumbled upon “Storage Wars,” an A&E show that follows “professional buyers” aka pawn shop owners aka detectives as they travel to different storage units and bid on lockers that have been abandoned. There is the mandatory fast talking guy who sets the bid price; the show is that more enjoyable hearing him ramble through the different prices so quickly and skillfully. The best thing about the show is that there is inexplicably cool and valuable odd items in the each storage locker. One bidder paid $1350 for a locker filled with vending machines that were worth 28K…talk about a profit.

Though I only planned on watching the show for a couple of minutes, I have been enticed by the back stories of each item and the appraisal process.

Best Holiday Movie

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On Christmas Eve, Twitter was on fire as a heated debate about the best holiday movie sparked numerous back and forth responses up and down my timeline. The argument pitted “Home Alone” versus “A Christmas Story.” Ironically, the argument erupted before the annual “A Christmas Story” television marathon began.

There is no competition! Both movies are great in their own right, but “A Christmas Story” is the best holiday movie because it covers everything that is present during the holiday season from anxieties to obstacles, but mainly Ralphie’s quirky family, to which all can relate. Below are some highlights:

-The scene when Ralphie’s brother puts on that star fish onesie and he complains that he cannot put his arms down makes me squeal and giggle uncontrollably like young fans at a Bieber concert because my younger brother had a similar constricting winter get-up.

-The scene when Ralphie cursed and uttered the “Queen mother of dirty words,” and the subsequent soap in the mouth scene makes me tremble because my mother washed my mouth out with soap. *shudders at memory*

-I do not condone Ralphie saying that he heard the curse word from his friend, who then receives the most unexpected beating of his life. This might be the only time I disagree with Ralphie, but truthfully I would have done the same had my mother pressured me to confess where I heard that language. I wish I could say like that early 90’s drug commercial (please remember this commercial about the father who finds his son smoking marijuana and asks him where he learned to do “this,” shoving the stash in his face), “I learned it from you” but such a response would have resulted in the near ending of my life.

-Ralphie’s desire for the Red Ryder BB gun is palpable. I definitely felt that way about a gift when I was younger.

-The memorable line, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

-The “triple dog dare” licking the pole scene reminded me of the playground and the fear those three words put in one’s heart. The funniest part is when all the kids leave the unfortunate pole licker stuck to the pole when the bell rings because they do not want to get in trouble after recess.

-Drinking Ovaltine; sadly, Ralphie earned the secret society decoder and the message was nothing more than an Ovaltine advertisement.

-The best “stand-up-for-yourself-and-others-and-pummel-the-neighborhood-bully” fight scene, in which Ralphie lets the bully have it…all of it. I need to rewatch that scene to see how many punches he connected and to count how many times he bounces the bully’s head off the snow covered ground.

-When he called the Peking duck “Chinese turkey” illustrates the humor that we find in difference. That line would not make it pass the cutting floor due to a severe lack of political correctness and a large amount of racial/ethnic insensitivity.

-The weird Easter bunny suit from Aunt Clara, which is thinly veiled reference to Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”…I just got the allusion as I typed the sentence.

-Ralphie’s day dreams that his teacher was an evil character resonates with me.

-The sexy fish-net wearing leg lamp that his father won as a prize and his mother destroys one evening out of desperation and embarrassment leads to a cold-war between his parents. I have definitely been in that situation, sans sexy fish-net wearing leg lamp.

-Santa giving Ralphie the wrestler-esque boot to the face as he recites the iconic line as a way to dissuade Ralphie from the BB gun is so funny because one never imagines Santa to be so malevolent and rude.

In 2009 Moviefone/AOL ranked the top 25 Christmas movies (special shout out to Charlie Brown Christmas special, but TV specials were not eligible). “Home Alone” came in a respectable #8. Meanwhile, “A Christmas Story” kingly sits atop the rankings, holding the sceptered #1 position!

Holiday Albums

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Today does not feel like Christmas Eve. Maybe it is the unseasonably warm weather; maybe it is the fact that my mother is on the other side of the pond and will not be present when our family opens gifts tomorrow for the first time; maybe it is the fact that I am done with Christmas shopping and I am not fighting against other last minute shoppers for the scraps of the scraps. Whatever the reason, I need a bit of help to get into the Christmas mood. In steps the smart and calculating record industry. Record companies coerce their biggest stars on their respective labels to sing traditional Christmas songs or Christmas inspired ballads to sell during this time. Like many others, I enjoy holiday music and have purchased various Christmas albums. Below is a quick list of which albums have earned a spot in the holiday rotation at my house:

Boyz II Men produced a Christmas album, “Christmas Interpretations,” and I purchased it for my mother one year. We listened to it for a couple of years, but unfortunately with the group’s demise, the album slowly made its way out of the rotation. Additionally, Destiny’s Child, “8 Days of Christmas,” experienced a similar fate. When the group broke up, it marked the end of their reign in the holiday rotation. Both are well made albums, with amazing vocals, but due to outstanding circumstances are rarely played in my house anymore.

Earlier this year, around the beginning of November, a friend gave me Justin Bieber’s, “Under the Mistletoe.” While I am not a diehard fan of Justin, he can sing…very well. His album displays his vocal range, and more importantly promotes a feeling of holiday cheer, which is the purpose of such albums. I listened to it then and put it away because it was not even Thanksgiving when I first received it. However, the album will definitely make a return tonight and earn a few spins over the weekend, as his voice fills my home with holiday spirit.

*Sidenote: I also remembered this album because the NBA has crafted promotional commercials for their opening Christmas day games using Justin’s catchy hip pop song.*

Lastly, there is Bing. Bing Crosby has provided a consistent soundtrack to my holiday memories. For some reason, my step-father, an older Caribbean man, loves to play this cd. In fact, I remember when we first started to buy compact discs, Bing Crosby’s, “White Christmas” album was one of the first cds we purchased. I clearly remember when my step-father brought home that Nobody Beats the Wiz bag that holiday season, filled with these new products known as cds that were going to replace his extensive collection of records and tapes. No one could have imagined at that time that an album that he picked up because it was on sale would never leave our family’s holiday rotation; Bing is a staple in our home during this time of year.

What are your favorite holiday albums?

Happy Christmas Eve!

Last Minute Gift Ideas

First and foremost, Happy 50th Birthday to my mother! She is currently navigating the streets of London; it her first time visiting Europe. She inspires me daily and this trip reinforces for me that goals are meant to be accomplished. Love you, mom!

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The gift-giving season is upon us! No, really it is. With only today and tomorrow left to finish your holiday shopping (unless you are like some people I know who wait for the after Christmas sales before they give gifts), I wanted to help my readers out. Thus, I have complied a list of last minute gift ideas. I have separated the list into tier 1 and tier 2 gift ideas, please choose accordingly.

Tier 1

Gift Cards–They are safe, reliable, and ubiquitous; they can be found at gas stations to department stores. If you are truly in a rush and cannot think of anything to get that special someone, purchase a gift card while you fill up on pump two.

Bottle of wine or alcohol–Most people enjoy a good drink every once in a while (some more often than others). If your special loved one likes to sip a fine wine or alcoholic beverage, scoop up a bottle of their favorite at your local wine and spirits store. Since it is the holidays, throw in a few extra dollars and get a better bottle of red (Malbec or Jumilla is my suggestion…thank me later).

Scarfs, hats, gloves–Do not be fooled by the unseasonably warm weather that the New York area has been having. It will get colder. Hence, this gift, for him or her, is more than appropriate and will be greatly appreciated by the recipient while they move through the inevitable frigid air.

Downloadable gifts–Amazon and iTunes now allows you to send books, music videos, apps, and music as gifts. If your special someone has had their eye on an upcoming book or album, purchase it for them and have Amazon or iTunes send it to their respective device. Oh, you want them to enjoy the joy of ripping off the brightly colored wrapping paper. There’s an app for that. Well…more like a website; visit Giftwhip and you can even set a no-peek proof timer. Not even kidding! Check out the site.

Online subscriptions–One of the best things about the holidays is cuddling up with that special person and watching a movie. Hence, you can give them an online subscription to Netflix or Hulu plus. It will truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

Tier 2

Digital picture frame–A quick gift idea, but one that will score big points. Buy the frame and then upload pictures of you and your special someone that will play on an continuous loop. Never did anything with those pictures from that vacation to that exotic destination. Well, now you have a perfect place for them. And the great part about this gift is that you can change the pictures as often as you want.

Jewelry–You can never go wrong with jewelry, except if you give a jewelry gift too early in the relationship. Jewelry instantaneously takes your relationship to a new level, so be smart with this one. Additionally, take your time with its selection; it should match your special person’s style and taste. Do not just rush out and get a Zales Open Heart Collection piece because you have seen the commercial 340348 times. No! Resist the temptation sparked by your haste! Instead, slow down and think of something that they would truly enjoy. Maybe it is a timeless timepiece or elegant earrings. Whatever you decide to get, they will love it!

Prose/Poetry–There is something powerfully emotional about the written word and its attempt to express ideas and feelings. You do not have to be a wordsmith or even know how to rhyme. For example, state the top three reasons why you love/care for your special person and they will appreciate it. Extra points if you place your loving words on special parchment paper and/or wrap the gift in a special box.

Romantic idea for free: Get a key (do not select a key that you need or use; I suggest you buy a lock and key and use that key) and couple it with your written piece. Place both items in a small box and explain to your someone that you are giving them the key to your heart. Seems corny, but the results will be stupendous…or so I have heard.

Romantic idea for those who are not confident in their writing skills: create a picture bookmark that contains pictures of you with your special someone and/or create a picture journal of your relationship (include pictures from the first date or pictures from movie stubs…be creative)

Spa day–This one is strictly for the ballers, those who reside in the 1%. Just joking..kinda. Treat your special someone to a relaxing time at a spa. If you are in the New York area, check out Spa Castle. Spa treatments, like most things in life, are more fun with others, so splurge on yourself and make it a fun day for you both! Slam dunk!

Charitable donations–This kind of gift is not for everyone! In fact, this kind of gift requires you to know your special someone intimately. The following two websites allows for you to make a charitable donation in the name of your loved one. This will only go over well with someone who has a charitable heart and will appreciate the kind gesture. I know everyone wants to say that they do…but let’s be real. For many people, they look forward to the holiday season and are excited by the gifts they will receive. The true meaning of this time of year is to give, and if you give to those that are less fortunate then you are even better. Check out these sites and give locally or internationally. The gifts range from $12 to over $5000, so you can find something in your price range. Even if you do not want to give this gift to someone else, I strongly encourage you to donate. Please check out Charity Gifts Certificiates and/or OxFam America

Have a happy and safe shopping season!

Upcoming Posts

I recently wrote over 5,000 words for a deadline today and another 5,000 words for another one late last week. That’s over 10,000 words. Plus, I’ve been keeping up with my daily posts (my red X chain is starting to look impressive now!) I am spent!

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With that said, today’s post requires your assistance.

What should I write about in the upcoming days?

Please leave a comment or a text or a facebook message or a mention via twitter or a smoke signal or google plus me or a LinkedIn message or a skype message or a phone call or face-to-face interaction and let me know your suggestion. I am open to write about anything, but please keep it clean because my mother follows my blog. Just joking…kind of…just a little bit…not really…keep it clean. Ummm…yeah.

Look forward to hearing from you all.