Birthday Plan: Hugs, Reading Twain and Channeling Clapton

Posted By Mike Padgett

Jan. 23, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – My birthday is approaching, so I expect to be asked about my plans for that day.

I’ll dodge the question by saying I haven’t decided. I know many like to celebrate birthdays, and that’s fine. My celebrations are low key. It’s not my nature to buy something new or otherwise splurge for anything. I prefer walks on the beach, hikes in the forest or watching grizzlies catch salmon.

I’m happy the way I am and with what I have. But that’s me.

I never stayed home from work on my birthday. It’s not my nature to feign a migraine or fall back on a company policy giving days off for birthdays. To me, work is the opposite of a four-letter word. Work is energy. It’s achievement. It’s teamwork. It helps others.

Until recent years, when I opted for early retirement from a rewarding newspaper career, I spent 33 of my latest birthdays doing what I loved – in a newsroom or at my desk at home, writing for approaching deadlines. I’m convinced my DNA contains a writing gene fueled by adrenaline and a drive to inform readers.

Breakfast, Sunrise and Hugs

I’ll wake up on my birthday feeling the same as the day before. If it’s my regular workout day, that will be my special activity for the day. If it’s not my regular workout day, maybe I’ll go anyway and treat myself.

I’ll check the dark eastern sky that morning, as usual. Arizona sunrises often begin with a kaleidoscope of color.

Then, while we’re sharing hugs before our coffee and tea, I’ll whisper to my Best Friend (she loves birthdays) what I say each day – “Good morning. It’s a grand new day.”

We are an awesome team, two Type A’s. Make that double-A’s – we are addicted to daily achievement.

Over breakfast, with a newspaper and dueling laptops, we’ll probably discuss schedules and dinner. We could decide on lasagna or chipotle burritos. Or barbecued salmon filets smoked with mesquite chips. We’ll probably have laundry or grocery shopping chores that day.

I’ll cruise the Internet, looking for story ideas for my blog. She has her duties. I’ll check various newspaper sites along with Twitter and several photographers’ Web sites. The Internet has spawned a new meaning to life-long learning.

Creative Cocktail: Twain and Clapton

I’ll likely struggle with an essay or feature while listening to classic rock ‘n’ roll or Eric Clapton blues as a magic carpet. With 20th Century Clapton channeling in the background, I could flip through the 19th Century words of Mark Twain. Clapton’s musical energy mixed with Twain’s literary humor make a potent creative cocktail.

Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910. Library of Congress image.

Or I could study the creativity of several prolific newspaper columnists. Their works have been compiled and published in book form over the years. Some of the authors are gone, but their words are alive and well in my bookshelves.

I could, just for my birthday, avoid watching political news. However, because of the rising levels of deception and untruths coming from today’s political candidates, ignoring the verbal poison from some officials is becoming more dangerous. Sorting through the increasing amount of political deception is like watching for dangerous critters – it’s important to know their locations.

Words of Wisdom

Listening to campaign promises today brings to mind a Thomas Jefferson quote: “An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.”

And because I’m fond of truth, a quick search for a quote related to truth led me to these powerful words – “It does not require many words to speak the truth.” The speaker was Chief Joseph, leader of the peaceful Nez Percé nation that once lived in Idaho and northern Washington state.

In the shadow of a perpetual motion machine of campaign news, a quiet day of more learning and growing is likely for my birthday.

Tools I use to sort through the thickening fog of political untruths are FactCheck.org and BillMoyers.com, among others. Moyers, who admits failing retirement after trying it for a few months, is back in the media arena at www.billmoyers.com. One of his recent works, an essay and a video focusing on the Occupy movement, is among his best. You can find it on his Web site.

Which is More Important – Voters or Candidates’ Promises

So another birthday is fast approaching. Obviously, I wish for many more and that the days between them are filled with continued health, love and happiness.

But I also wish for more cooperation and less antagonism among our local and national leaders. I am puzzled by the rising levels of deception and untruths that are so readily believed by so many, yet easy to disprove.

I suspect that our elected officials responsible for the untruths either have low opinions of voters, or high opinions of themselves.

Do you suppose they ever will learn? On the other hand, maybe our elected representatives have learned how to expertly game the campaign system. Maybe the more accurate question is, will we – the voters – ever learn?

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Jan 23rd, 2012

One Comment to 'Birthday Plan: Hugs, Reading Twain and Channeling Clapton'

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  1. A very happy birthday to come for a man whose stated enterprises in anticipation of that day suggests someone who has his priorities and his house in order. Speaking of our mutual admiration for Mark Twain, I offer this – Twain’s speech on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
    http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings_seventieth.html

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