Does anyone know of…

…a site that breaks down the presidential election state-by-state? i.e. which states are pro-Bush, leaning Bush, neutral, leaning Kerry, pro-Kerry? I’m tired of polls that say one candidate is two or three or four percentage points ahead of the other nationwide. As the 2000 election taught us, it doesn’t matter which candidate leads the popular vote – it’s all about the electoral college. So if you know any sites that can shed some light on this, e-mail me and let me know. Thanks.

Downtown Walgreens needs to extend its hours

The downtown Walgreens at Madison and Main is open until 8 pm weekdays, 7 pm Saturday, and 6 pm Sunday. This type of schedule made sense when downtown was merely a place people worked. But now downtown is a full-fledged neighborhood with 10,000 people. Just within walking distance I can name several large apartment/condo complexes – No. 10 Main, Shrine, Echelon at the Ballpark, Porter Building, 66 Front, Exchange, 99 Tower, Claridge, Gayoso, Pembroke. Plus, there are a half dozen hotels within walking distance. We need and deserve the late-night drugstore service that every other neighborhood in town enjoys.

Many nights I have sat across the street in the coffee shop, and watched people walk up to Walgreens only to discover that it’s closed. What do they think this is, a real city with a thriving downtown? The last night I watched I saw at least 25 people walk away in frustration between 8 and 10 pm. How dare they expect service in the middle of the night!

Worse, the criminals know people do this, and prey on them. By now most locals know it’s pointless to make the trek to Walgreens after 8. But tourists (who are perceived as targets) don’t know any better. So when criminals see someone walk up to the door after 8, they know they have an easy mark. Just today some Iragi dignitaries in town visiting were robbed at gunpoint at 10:45 pm as they walked away after discovering the store was closed.

Two businesses on that same corner, Empire Coffee and Six50, stay open until 10. Why can’t Walgreens do the same? Madison and Main could become the late-night mecca for downtown residents (as opposed to tourists, who have Beale Street). But Walgreens needs to take the lead.

If you agree, please go to

www.walgreens.com, click on Contact Us, then click on Store/Pharmacy Inquiries. Fill out the form – the address is 2 N. Main St., Memphis, TN 38103. Don’t know the store number. Tell them they need to stay open later. Maybe if enough people do this they will listen.

Edwards rally, Ripoff, Plans for this weekend

The John Edwards rally on Beale Street this afternoon was positively PACKED. At four in the afternoon, during work hours, in 90 degree heat, and it was still packed. I’m really beginning to think that Tennessee is in play, and not definitely in the Republican column as has been predicted.

Interesting rumor I heard today: Microsoft declared its recent one-time $3 a share dividend (which caused me to get MSFT back in my stock portfolio) because they think Kerry has a better than 50-50 shot at being elected. If he is, he will roll back the tax cuts on the rich, which would cost the big shots at Microsoft a lot of money. So they want to go ahead and pay out before Kerry takes office.

Quote of the afternoon – this was from one of the dignitaries who spoke prior to Edwards’ arrival: “Voting is a lot like driving. If you want to go forward, move the lever to ‘D.’ If you want to go backward, move the lever to ‘R.'”

After the rally, I went to an Mpact the Vote event at BB King’s. This was planned before it was announced that Edwards was coming to town (Mpact is nonpartisan). I must say, I hope we never have an event at BB’s again. I bought a Corona there. Now, usually when I buy a Corona, I hand the bartender a $5 bill and say, “Keep the change.” Coronas and most imports are $3.50 off Beale and $4 at most bars on Beale, so they’re getting at least a dollar tip. But at BB’s it was an incredible $4.75. So the bartender got a quarter tip. Sorry, but I’m not paying six bucks for a bottle of beer. Not in Memphis.

Plans for this weekend:

Friday: Empire Coffee just got their beer license and is planning to kick off the first day with some cheap beer specials. Needless to say I’ll be there.

Saturday: Hmm, don’t know, will probably ride the bike to Midtown again and hope I don’t fall off.

Sunday: Champagne brunch, of course. I’m switching my brunch alliegance back to the downtown Blue Monkey at Front and GE Patterson. You gotta try their brunch menu (weekends between 11 and 2). My favorite: The prime rib (I get mine cooked medium rare) with aspargus and new potatoes.

Monday: Turbo 350 is playing a show at the Hi-Tone. According to the ad on the back of the Memphis Flyer, it’s a free show, so I guess I’ll make the car ride to Midtown to see them. Of course, if I drive that means I can’t drink, but I suppose I don’t need to be doing that on a weeknight anyway.

That’s it for now. Got my 7:15 meeting in the morning, so it’s time for bed.

Sleep

I want to experiment with my sleep patterns.

Currently, on the weekdays I go to bed between midnight and 1 AM. It just doesn’t do me any good if I hit the sack earlier – I’ll just lie there unless I’m extremely tired. When I don’t have morning appointments I tend to get up between 8:30 and 9. On one hand, I’m happy to have a job where I can do that from time to time. But on the other, when I get up at that hour it’s usually 10 or later before I’m fully functioning, which means I’ve shot half the morning, and since I’m self-employed that means the only person I’m hurting is myself.

Recently I have read that healthy adult humans sleep too much – that six hours should be the maximum, and four to five, with a nap in the middle of the afternoon if needed, is ideal. This supposedly gives the best interplay between conscious and subconscious minds and results in increased creativity throughout the day. Real-life experience seems to bear this out – some of the wisest, most creative people I know do not sleep more than four hours a night, and I remember reading that Edison slept only a few hours.

Trouble is, I’ve been conditioned to believe (like most Americans) that 7-8 hours is normal. So when I go to bed at 12:30, I expect to need to sleep until 8:30 to feel good in the morning. Now, there is evidence to the contrary. Every Thursday morning I have a meeting at 7:15 AM, so I rarely get more than 6 hours sleep (and often more like 4-5) on Wednesday nights. But I always feel great on Thursday, partly because the 7:15 meeting is one I thoroughly enjoy, starting the day on a good note.

What I’d like to do is forget what time it is and just experiment to see when I wake up. I tried turning my digital alarm clock around where I couldn’t see it, but that didn’t work – I can still see light coming in my bedroom window in the mornings, which tells me it is 6 AM or later. I’d like to have absolutely no clue what time it is – when I wake up, if I feel refreshed, I get up, be it 4:30 or 11 in the morning or sometime in between. If I don’t feel refreshed, I’ll fall back asleep. I just want to know how much sleep I really need without the pressure of when I’m “supposed” to be getting up.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to get by on 5 hours a night. Then I could stay up until 2 in the morning – I do some of my best thinking late at night – and still get up at 7 in time for a full day of business or pleasure.

There’s no possible way to totally block out my 12-foot-high bedroom windows to keep the sun out. Maybe I’ll have to buy a sleep mask. Not sure I’ll like wearing one but it may be the only way I can conduct this experiment.

Two political events worth a look

This is very short notice…these events will happen tomorrow, Wednesday, August 4, but I still want to mention them.

At 4 pm, John Edwards will hold a rally on Beale Street. Not sure exactly where, but I assume it will be at the Budweiser Pavilion at the corner of Beale and Third. I caught Edwards’ speech at the Democratic convention last week on TV, and was mighty impressed. If interested in attending, you need a ticket – you can get one online here – http://www.johnkerry.com/memphis/

From 5:30 to 8:30, Mpact Memphis will be hosting an Mpact the Vote after-hours at BB King’s club at Second and Beale. This is nonpartisan – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else are welcome. Bring your voter registration card, or register there, to be eligible for door prizes. Kirk Smithhart will perform, and local politicians seeking office will be there to meet and greet. There’s no charge to get in, so come on down!

I will be at both of these events. Hope to see you there.

Gratitude and thanks, Part II: Teaching children about gratitude

(You might want to read Part 1 of this post – the journal entry immediately below this one – before reading Part 2.)



Right now, I want to put all of you on notice. If one day I have children, and you choose to send them presents, they will NOT be required to send you thank-you notes in return.

That does not mean that I will raise them to be ungrateful slobs. And they may well choose to express their thanks, but it will not be because I told them they had to. Allow me to explain…

When I was a little boy, I found that there were people who would come to visit me, give me nice toys for my birthday and Christmas, simply because they liked me. Wow! What wonderful people! How fortunate I was to have people like them in my life!

Then, around age five, I made a mistake. I learned how to write. And then I found that I was required to write thank-you notes to the people who sent me Christmas presents. Suddenly communicating with these friends and relatives was no longer a joy; it had become a bother. And I put it off and put it off. “PAUL…it’s January 26 and you STILL haven’t written Grandpop and Nana to thank them for the toy rocket they sent you for Christmas. I want you to write them TONIGHT.” To which I responded with a sigh and a resolve to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Christmas presents were never quite as sweet after that. They were no longer spontaneous gestures that said, “Paul, we like you.” They were the source of an obligation that I was required to fulfill.

So, how would I handle it differently? Well, first of all, I’d teach my kids that one of the best things in life – even more rewarding and fulfilling than getting a new toy – is taking advantage of an opportunity to make someone else feel good. That would be the base on which I’d build. If you install the right beliefs, the behaviors should naturally follow, with a little guidance.

So let’s say that little Nipsey’s grandmother (I’ve always thought that if I had a son, I might name him Nipsey) sent him a toy piano for Christmas. What I’d do is encourage him to use it, enjoy it. And as he played, I’d remind him where the piano came from. “Wow, Nipsey, what’s that song you’re playing? It sounds really good! I bet your grandmother would be so proud of you. That’s why she gave you that piano, because she wanted you to have fun with it.”

Then I’d encourage him to find his own reasons to express his gratitude. “Hey, you know what we could do? We could call your grandmother on the telephone and you could play your new song for her. If we held the phone close to the piano she’d be able to hear it. I bet that would make her SO happy! What do you think, do you want to?” And if he said yes – we’d make the call. If he didn’t want to (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT) I wouldn’t press him, realizing there will be more opportunities in the future to nudge him in the right direction.

Or, alternately: “Hey, Nipsey, you just learned to write in school, didn’t you? Yeah, writing is really good, because it gives you a way to tell people what you’re thinking. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s write your grandmother a letter and tell her about all the songs you’ve been playing on the piano she gave you for Christmas. Want to?” And again, I’d accept his decision either way, although I’d probably be getting out pencil and paper as I asked, to encourage him to want to.

This reminds me one of the most overused, stupid commands I hear parents say to their kids over and over and over again: “Say thank you.” (Or, alternately, “what do you say?”) A nice man gives the kid a cookie. “Say thank you.” And then the kid does what’s expected and says “thank you” and all the adults smile and comment on what a fine young man he’s becoming. But has he really learned what “thank you” means? Or has he simply repeated the rote response that he knows will earn his parents’ approval?

What I propose to do is simply to lead by example. I’ll make a point of saying “thank you” to everyone who does a courtesy to me. Children being curious as they are, hopefully at some point the kid will ask, “Daddy, why do you say ‘thank you’ to people?” If he doesn’t ask, I’ll look for chances to bring it up.

“When someone does something nice for you, it makes them happy if you say ‘thank you’ to them. It lets them know that you appreciate what they did. It makes them feel good. And it’s important to make other people feel good, isn’t it? Here, tell you what, let’s try it out. In a minute, I’ll give you a cookie, and you say ‘thank you.’ You ready? Here you go.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, see? That made me really happy. Now I know that you appreciate the cookie. Hey, you want to play a game?” (Hopefully the kid will say “Yeah!” What kid doesn’t like games?) “I’m going to touch my nose…like…this. See? That’s going to be our secret signal that only you and I know about. Now, the next time someone does something really nice for you, I’ll give you the signal, and then you can say ‘thank you’ and notice how happy it makes them. Sound good?”

“Okay.”

“And you know the really awesome thing? After we practice it a few times, you won’t even need me to give the signal anymore. You’ll be saying ‘thank you’ all on your own. And then you’ll be grown up.”

See the difference? The kid will be choosing on his own to say thank you. And he’ll choose to do it out of a sense of joy and expression and fun and connecting with other people. Whereas, most kids are taught to “say thank you” out of a sense of obedience and obligation.

Now, one problem would come up – it will probably take my kids longer to learn to say “thank you” on their own, because they’ll have to find their own reasons to do it – rather than being sternly ordered to. So, for a while, the other parents might think poorly of me because my kids don’t seem to have good manners. And you know what? That’s just too darn bad for them. I’m more interested in my kids’ development than their opinions of me.

And that’s basically it – install the proper beliefs about gratitude and the desired behaviors will follow. Pretty simple, huh? Of course, I don’t have kids. Comments from parents? Would this work?

The true meaning of gratitude

One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently, especially since I’ve been reading the Conversations with God series of books, is what gratitude, i.e. thanking someone, really means.

At the end of last month I was in Little Rock, for my mother’s hip surgery.  The day after it happened, she was in a lot of pain – she hurt from the surgery and was quite tired.  But part of what was stressing her out was not physical at all – one of her friends had sent her flowers, and my mother couldn’t figure out how to use the phone system to call out and thank her.  (The phone system in the hospital was something else – I couldn’t get it to consistently dial out either.)  But it bothered me that, when she needed to be focusing all her energy on getting well, she was literally worrying herself sick over this perceived duty to a friend.

It made me think of something I read in the CWG books, and something I had heard from a couple of wise people I know – most people minsunderstand the concept of gratitude.  They believe that a person should be grateful out of obligation.  If someone does something nice for you, you are obligated to thank them, to show them your gratitude.  Lots of people believe this.  I was raised to believe it growing up, but it never made sense to me so it didn’t stick.

The way I see it, a thank-you had already been given in this circumstance – not by my mother, but by the friend who sent the flowers.  My mother provided an opportunity for those around her to express their love and care and concern.  The friend was grateful for this opportunity, and responded with a thank-you gift of flowers.  Therefore, a thank-you in return from my mother was unnecessary – if anything, a “you’re welcome” was in order.  But it seems to me that the best “you’re welcome” would have been for my mother to bask in the good feelings her friend intended, and draw on those positive feelings to get better.

Interpreted this way, gratefulness arises out of opportunity rather than obligation.  That’s one thing the Conversations with God books stress – that the best relationships, the ones that really work, are the ones that are based on opportunity for both people involved to grow and experience and create – not the relationships based on obligation, which tend to become limiting and stifling.

I’ve read of Polynesian cultures where one tribe will send lavish gifts to another tribe – not as a gesture of goodwill, but to “put them under an obligation.”  The receiving tribe, by custom, will then be obliged to “thank” the giving tribe with even more generous gifts – perhaps gifts they can’t afford, wrecking their economy and weakening their tribe.  How stupid.  How primitive.  Of course, we do the same things.

The times I have strayed to the wrong side of the opportunity/obligation line, I have paid for it.  About three years ago, a friend of mine – an attractive blond female friend – had to go to the hospital for surgery.  I bought a cute stuffed animal at a gift shop and sent it to her work.  But the gift had the opposite effect of what I intended – she never called to thank me for the gift, and within a couple of months we weren’t talking.  At the time, people who were aware of the situation said she was being very rude, and owed me a thank-you.  While I appreciate their moral support, I’m now inclined to disagree with them.  She didn’t owe me a thing.

On a superficial level, giving the gift was a very nice expression.  The problem is that on a deeper level (and perhaps I didn’t even consciously realize this at the time) I gave her the stuffed animal to put her under an obligation.  I wanted to obligate her to spend time with me.  She sensed this (no matter what is going on at a superficial level, intuition always picks up the true deeper meaning), and the result was a sense of distrust rather than the good feelings I wanted her to experience.  So, when you look at it this way, she didn’t owe me a thank-you – if anything, I owed her an apology!  Especially considering that I chose to put this burden on her as she was recovering from surgery!

I’ll admit that this concept – that you’re thanking somebody when you give, and are not obligated to thank when you receive – is a lot to grasp, and it’s a 180-degree turn from the way society has traditionally thought of gratitude and thanks.  And the idea of giving selflessly is espeically muddied when attraction and relationships are involved.  I haven’t figured it all out myself yet – still working on it.  Perhaps I’ll be working on it for the rest of my life.

Okay, tired of typing so I’m going to end this post.  But, there is going to be a Part 2 to this, discussing how one could raise children under this kind of value system.  Until then…

A quick update

Been over a week since I posted. Here’s what has been going on:

– My mother is recovering from successful hip replacement surgery in Little Rock. When she gets out of rehab, I’ll go spend 2 days with her to make sure she can get around the house.

– I was appointed secretary/treasurer of the downtown BNI chapter. Next week we’ll give the chapter an official name. The last two chapters have named themselves Future Millionaires and Super Achievers; I hope we can come up with something that’s not quite so cheesy.

– Went to the Sun Studio 50th Anniversary of Rock’n’Roll show Monday. It was broiling hot but I got to see some good bands. I think I’m developing a taste for 50s-style blues, rock, country, and rockabilly.

– One question: Why do many outdoor festivals make you buy beer tickets in order to purchase beer? Anyone know? I didn’t drink any beer at the Sun Studio event though. It was just too hot. And besides, they were gouging the customers on prices ($4 for a small, $5 for a large) when people could walk across the street to the convenience store and buy a 24-ounce can of Bud for under $2.

– Can’t understand why more Memphians weren’t at the event. Don’t people understand the historical importance? Maybe the music commission needs to work on connecting Memphis to its musical heritage.

– Discovered a very cool place to hang out while I was at the fest: Sleeping Cat Cafe, on Marshall. They have a cafe that is open til midnight and serves gourmet hot dogs, pizza and I think nachos. Also a tiny theater that seats about 30. Seemed like a really good atmosphere. Have been meaning to go back up there and see what the crowd is like.

– Turbo 350 absolutely tore it up as the closing band. Great job.

– Have just started reading a series of books called Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. Several people have recommended these to me over the years, and I finally broke down and ordered them. Volume I was $23.95 at the bookstore. I got Volumes 1, 2, and 3 from one of Amazon’s used-books affiliates for $20. I love the Internet.

– Plans for this weekend: Tonight I’m having dinner with one of my neighbors and helping her put a resume together. No idea what I’ll do tomorrow – probably hit a coffee shop and read some more of my new books. Sunday I’ll start the day with champagne at Sleep Out’s, then I have an Mpact pool party at Uptown Square in the late afternoon, and then the Dempseys are playing at the downtown Huey’s at 8:00.

– Got a new cell phone – one of those new camera phones. It can also download ringtones and games and other crap. I’m thinking about beefing up my cell phone plan, then dumping my home phone for good. I never use it.

That’s about it – will write more when I get time.

Little Rock: not a bad city

Today I drove to Little Rock, because my mother is having surgery in the morning. I got in town fairly early in the day, so I had a chance to drive around town and walk around a few neighborhoods. This is the first time in several years I’ve been in Little Rock for something other than Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I’ve got to say I’m really impressed. Little Rock has come a long way.

I visited Hillcrest, a funky, arty neighborhood. I drove through Forest Heights not far from my mother’s house, and I got some excellent Thai food at a place called Sai Gon (they serve Vietnamese as well). Even the newer parts of town seem vibrant, energetic, full of life. And, of course, downtown is booming. Little Rock reminds me of some other cities I have visited recently – Boulder, Flagstaff and Austin. Not bad company to be in.

This is a city that is going places – and it’s always had built-in advantages such as a low cost of living and a good climate. I hope to get back over here soon and spend a few days just having fun.

Want cheap gas? Go to West Memphis

At the time I’m writing this, most gas stations in Memphis are charging anywhere from $1.79 to $1.88 a gallon. But just across the bridge in West Memphis, at Exit 280 there’s a Pilot station charging $1.67, and a Diamond Shamrock station across the street charging $1.66.

Looks like the huge price increase in gasoline this year is not only due to what’s going on in the Middle East, but also due to gas stations at home take advantage of the situation to pad their profits. Perhaps they think they have a captive audience in the city and will get all they can.

Or, maybe at truck stops like the ones in West Memphis, people are more likely to come in and buy other items after they fill up. So perhaps those stores are selling gas as a loss leader. Don’t know. Anyone know about the economics of the gas station business?

At any rate, the truck stops at Exit 280 have just about consistently had the lowest prices for most of the past three years. Looks like I’ll be crossing the bridge when I need gas.