Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For the past couple of weeks, I have been “showing up” for my fitness commitments.

I have been running three times a week at working out twice.

As I have mentioned before, I can only blame myself for late waking, and this can throw a spanner into the works. But I have been marking certain items on my to-do list, the “frogs” that speaker and author Brian Tracy suggested that we eat…

Working out and running should have as much priority and my daily writing and piano work.

Yesterday I almost blew off heading to my workout because I woke up late and had other items on my list that I wanted to take care of, including getting familiar with a new multitrack recorder I recently ordered.

But something inside me impelled me to throw on my workout clothes and jump in the car.

Last week, I did the same thing – and I said out loud, “I’m here!”

I spend a lot of time in my office. It’s my little cocoon. My desk is here, my piano is here, my books are here. My decent office chair is here…

Once here, it’s hard to imagine trekking outside. My interior life is strong in this office.

But as I approach 60, the discipline of a fitness regimen is something I know I need, especially because and in spite of the fact that I never really made an effort to do much of it as a younger man.

I look to my son as a shining example of such discipline. The man totally transformed himself beginning in high school and earlier – and I am lucky to have my son as my coach.

With each effort, with every run and weight-training session, I am developing a foundation for a vibrant and active third act.

The time will pass anyway, as they say – and I mean to strike a balance.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I probably get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.

I would like to get by on six, but every time that alarm sounds, I groggily turn it off and get back to the business of dreaming.

I have lamented about this before – HERE and HERE.

My son has commented on my arduous-seeming to-do list – saying in essence that I need to scale this back, that there is no real way to live up to such an ambitious agenda.

Every day I wake up later than I planned the night before, my list awaits.

What seemed doable and rife with possibility the night before becomes a time crunch in the light of day.

Problem is, I know that the action items on my list can be accomplished if I wake up earlier.

Therein lies the rub. In the past, I was led to believe that older people don’t require as much sleep as their youthful counterparts. But with the advent of Arianna Huffington’sThe Sleep Revolution” and contemporary wisdom, we have found that this is simply not true.

Older people need just as much sleep as anybody else, at least seven hours per night.

Let’s move on and get back to the list.

I like John C. Maxwell’s “Eat That Frog” advice – meaning that we should tackle the most difficult task(s) first. By doing this, we get a jump on the day.

I have been marking the frogs on my list – separating the gold from the dross, as it were.

It’s working. If lesser items don’t get seen to, so be it.

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Top Right – Our Old Apartment and Balcony Today

In the 1970s, my father lived in an apartment complex in Hollywood called Peyton Hall – at 7267 Hollywood Boulevard. When my father agreed to let me and my twin brother stay with him permanently in 1977, this is also where we lived for a time.

But this was only a one-bedroom apartment, so Dad had to make a change.

Read my post about Peyton Hall HERE.

We spent a lot of time at the 40-unit hotel he managed, the Magic Hotel (now the Magic Castle Hotel). As I mentioned, I also worked there.

In between the hotel and the iconic Magic Castle is a garden apartment building overlooking Hollywood Boulevard to the south and nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills.

This is where we moved. It was the uppermost apartment, a two-bedroom affair at 7011 Franklin Avenue.

I used to think it was ratty, but in retrospect it was just old.

Original hardwood floors, old-style windows that opened outward, a small balcony with French doors giving us a view of the back of the Chinese Theatre and a good swath of buildings on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and beyond – beveled glass doorknobs for the interior rooms – even a narrow cabinet with a drop-down ironing board.

Dad asked the hotel maintenance guy to work on sprucing up the digs before we moved in.

Part of my perspective was rooted in the fact that we never really lived in “old,” apart from Peyton Hall – but that experience was transitory.  We lived in new or newer places from Miami to Crestline, California – and this was also our first brush with apartment life.

Peyton Hall is long gone, years ago replaced by a monolithic eyesore.

But the apartment building at Franklin and Orange is still there – and it’s gorgeous. A throwback to old Hollywood.

I didn’t know how good I had it.

When I went to work for Motown Records, I quit my job at the Magic Hotel, but I didn’t figure on Mr. Glover telling me that we couldn’t remain in that apartment if I didn’t work at the hotel. Dad had moved into the one-bedroom next to us a couple of years earlier, but this meant that my brother had to be relocated to a studio apartment downstairs.

I tried living on my own, impulsively, but that didn’t last. I was young and dumb. Somehow I think in some respects that I am old and dumb now, but I’m working on it.

I moved into the apartment with Dad. He died shortly thereafter and nothing would ever be the same.

As the Cinderella song went, “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone…”

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Photo: Andrew Bruker

I was a prick to Peter Gallagher once.

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, my dad managed a 40-unit hotel called The Magic Hotel. It’s now called The Magic Castle Hotel, as it sits just two buildings down from the fabled Magic Castle at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive in Hollywood.

At that time, the front desk shut down at 11 p.m. It was weird, because nobody would be on hand to answer any incoming calls at the old-fashioned switchboard, or PBX, between closing and 8 a.m. Until the phone system was updated, hotel guests could not make outgoing calls either.

But we also locked the glass doors at the top of the staircase leading into the hotel. Guests were furnished keys to the front door, but it was supposed to remain locked overnight.

My twin brother and I worked at the hotel since we were something like 12 years old – and on the books since we were about 15 or 16. We checked people in, worked the switchboard and sometimes even cleaned and vacuumed the rooms.

We lived with Dad in the apartment building in between the hotel and the Castle.

Late one night, I found myself heading into the hotel for some reason. I don’t remember if Chris was with me. We used to practice with our band in a space my father had built for us in the parking garage.

When I got to the top of the stairs, I noticed a bunch of people hanging around the lobby, including Gallagher – and this was probably right after “Summer Lovers” came out. I don’t even remember if he was staying there. It was a small group of friends chatting and having drinks – a good-natured bunch.

But the door was unlocked…

Oh, the outrage!

I don’t know what got into me, but I was a bit of an entitled little shit back then.

I made a big production of frowning and began to lock the door.

Just then, as nice as he could be, Gallagher said, “Oh don’t do that…”

He said that in such a gentle way, implying that there was no harm in leaving the door unlocked – presumably because they were expecting more visitors.

I relented and felt ashamed of myself for the display.

What the hell was I thinking?

40 years later and I still get embarrassed about this.

Above: Dad with Switchblade: From “Once Upon a Coffee House”

In 1964, my father and uncle owned a couple of coffee houses in Miami – one was called The Hootenanny and the other simply The Coffee House. These venues featured dozens of performers from the folk scene, which was at a crescendo at that time, soon to be overshadowed by the British Invasion

At that time, a young man who owned a recording studio down the block from The Hootenanny was a frequent visitor. His name was Fred Berney.

At some point, Berney got to talking with Dad and Uncle Roger about the possibility of shooting a movie around the folk scene in Miami – the vibe, the characters, the singers and the venue, which in this case was The Hootenanny.

The original Yale Brothers took that idea and ran with it.

The eventual film was originally called “Once Upon A Coffee House.” In the intervening years it was re-titled as “Hootenanny A Go-Go” – basically the story of a young rich guy who falls in love with a barmaid and winds up buying the coffee house but was essentially a vehicle for the performers featured in the film.

Of note is the fact that this was the first-ever screen appearance by Joan Rivers.

Although Dad’s script didn’t get used, the film was based on his original story and with certain exceptions, the songs were his.

My brother and I discovered an old LP when we were little boys – “Night at the Hootenanny Coffee House” – when we were given free reign to rummage through old records left from our older brother and sister. We vaguely knew about the coffee houses, but we were only babies during their time.

I remember seeing the name Fred Berney on that album.

We know much about our father’s career in show business, especially the fact that he and Uncle Roger were performers and songwriters in England – kind of like a Bizarro version of Martin and Lewis with tap shoes – and they had a successful music publishing enterprise called Yale Music. They also had a radio show in South Africa called “The Castle Beer Show.”

But the coffee house era has long been a blind spot.

Until now. 

Check out episode 65 of The Yale Brothers Podcast HERE.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” – William James

Attitude is everything.

This has long been the mantra of personal development gurus, and although perhaps stated differently over the years, it all comes down to this: If we can control our attitude, we can control our outcomes.

On the surface, this might seem trite – but is it?

I think it was Napoleon Hill who stated that the one thing we have control over is our attitude – the fact that we can decide how to respond in every situation.

Before I get on some sort of high horse here, I need to say that I struggle with this, despite the fact that I have immersed myself in the work of the aforementioned Hill and other heavy-hitters like Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn and more for decades.

The struggle, for me, is all about the rubber meeting the road.

Intellectually, I get that we have the capacity to weigh our responses before we open our mouths or scrunch up our faces, and we have the freedom to choose things like tone and body language when faced with the words and actions of others.

But the skill lies in the application of what we know.

Sometimes my attitude gets me in Dutch with my girlfriend.

For Brenda, it’s all about my tone – the way I respond at times to what she has to say – the way I blurt out responses or statements, sometimes with an air of impatience or worse, imperiousness.

These ill-chosen responses stop her cold and can sometimes result in an awkward vibe of my own making.

These moments can be avoided if I get out of my head and learn to be more present. Yes, that’s an overused phrase – being present – but it’s overused because it’s true. How can I expect to enjoy a kind and easygoing exchange if my off-the-cuff responses and body language indicate that I am somewhere else – that I am not in the moment, not present – that I am bothered?

And in the wider world, I know that Zig Ziglar was right when he said that our attitude determines our altitude.

Baby steps. We can choose our responses, and I aim to prove that this is possible more often than not.

A few weeks ago, my daughter messaged me while I was at work.

Her request was what I like to call Rando Calrissian: She wanted me to draw a small heart and send it to her.

At first, I thought she wanted me to actually send it to her – like drop-in-the-mailbox snail mail, but she wanted me to text it to her, explaining that she and her friends wanted to see who’s father drew the best heart. 

Taylor has a keen sense of fun, but in the back of my mind I suspected that something was up.

I drew one heart and sent it to her. She messaged back and told me to try again. At that point, my friend Frank drew a couple and coached me a bit because I can’t draw worth shit. I sent her a couple more, and she was satisfied with my efforts – and that, I thought, was that.

Nope.

A few days later, I learned the real reason for her request and I was floored: Taylor sent me a photo of a tattoo she had made by her friend Tessa, who has a studio called Shop of Fools in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The ink includes my original heart surrounding the word DAD – a permanent tribute from my daughter that made me cry.

She used the original heart!

This was just in time for Father’s Day – and the fact that she thought enough of me to do such a thing is a testament to the strength our relationship.

I am a writer, but sometimes I am rendered speechless.

Of course, I joked that Frank had drawn that particular heart. Can you imagine!

Taylor is visiting now, and I got to see the ink up close.

Thank you, kid! Your father loves you!

I am going to be a grandfather!

We were sworn to secrecy when my son and daughter-in-law let us know – but the announcement is official now after Saturday’s gender reveal: Baby Boy Yale is coming in January and I am over the moon!

But here’s how surreal it was when we first found out:

Wes called a while back and said he was coming over. I thought, excellent – I can hang out with him for a bit. When we’re together, a switch goes off and we channel our inner 12-year-olds. The bantering is wonderful, and we have fun – a great respite from the cares of the world. He’s 28 and I’m 58 – and we usually cover things like KISS and Star Wars, our fallback perennials (I raised him right). Not that we don’t cover the deeper things as well, but you know…

Wes and I talk daily, and he and Leigh live just down the road across the Intracoastal Waterway in Myrtle Beach proper.

On the day he visited, Leigh was at work – also close by. He told us that she was going to stop by on the way home. This was also good news because I love being around her.

Seeing Wes and then Leigh that evening was random – but I didn’t think too much about it. Neither did my longtime girlfriend, Brenda.

When Leigh showed up, Wes told me that I left some workout clothes at his house and went to retrieve them from one of their vehicles.

I was chitchatting with Brenda and Leigh when he came back in. He handed me a pair of gym shorts that looked like they could have been mine, but I didn’t recognize the brand. Then he handed me a red shirt that I most certainly didn’t recognize.

When I held the shirt up, my eyes immediately went to the piano in the middle of it – then I saw the words: JUST A GRANDPA WHO LOVES PIANO.

Straightforward enough, right?

Well – for a couple of beats, my brain wasn’t quite getting it. I thought, very funny, an old guy who loves piano – totally glazing over what the word grandpa actually meant.

Brenda got it right away – but she kept a poker face while Leigh and Wes were looking at me.

I forgot who prompted me to look at it again.

But then it hit me.

Holy cow – I’m going to be a grandpa!

Photo: Archdiocese of Miami

When I was 12, my family lived for a time at my sister’s home in Bay Heights, a community in Coconut Grove, Florida.

We had just made the trek back from Southern California with our mom, a trip we were sort of used to by then. We were yanked back-and-forth across the country several times. My mom and dad stayed married, but I have yet to understand why. Dad remained in Los Angeles, and my brother and I eventually stayed with him permanently.

Bay Heights was a quiet, walled development – with a variety of mid-century modern homes and some with a decidedly Spanish flair. Across Bayshore Drive was Mercy Hospital (now HCA Florida Mercy Hospital) and Immaculata-La Salle High School. So much Catholicism a stone’s throw from the house…

Mom made us go to Mass regularly. We were parishioners at St. Hugh, also in the Grove – and we attended St, Hugh for the seventh and eighth grades.

I don’t know who found out that there was a chapel inside Mercy Hospital – with priests who celebrated Masses – but this was a boon for us. When we gained a bit of independence, Mom would let us run across for Mass, sometimes with our friend Billy, who lived close by.

I don’t recall if our niece Cathy was allowed to go with us. She’s three years younger than us, so she may have been under closer scrutiny. But as long as we kept our word and went to Mass, all was good with Mom.

At the time, there were two priests on rotation at the chapel. I don’t think we ever knew their real names, but they live in my memory by their nicknames – likely coined by Billy: Father English and Father Slow.

Father Slow was a very deliberate and methodical priest. He might have been Cuban, but I am not sure. He had a very thick accent, which made his approach a little harder to sit through as a boy. He also dragged out the Mass somehow – as we fidgeted and laughed at random sounds in the chapel – perhaps someone coughing, a baby crying or the inadvertent drop of a kneeler.

I’m sure Father Slow was a nice and good man. But we were never excited to see him.

Father English could have been Australian for all I know – but his Masses were quick and to-the-point. Probably a good thing for folks who might have had sick loved ones to visit. But it was like – in-and-out. No nonsense.

We got excited when we saw Father English stroll down the aisle. This meant we could be up to our preteen shenanigans in record time.

It finally happened!

KISS finally did their show in Raleigh (May 17) and we were able to, as my son says, give a nod to the band that has been a constant in our lives – mine since I was a teenager and Wesley’s since he was barely six.

I raised him right.

His best friend since middle school, Xavier, was just as blown away by KISS shortly after meeting Wesley – and I am happy to say he came with us as well.

The show was a long time coming. The original date was supposed to be in September of 2020, a couple of weeks before Wesley’s wedding – and meant as a bachelor getaway for the three of us. It was postponed due to the pandemic and rescheduled for August 2021 – but Paul got the virus ahead of their Pittsburgh show and I think Raleigh was the next stop. Canceled again. I wrote about that HERE.

But the day finally came, and we headed for the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek – full of excitement and anticipation.

We listened to a couple of my set lists on Spotify, making sure to avoid rock and especially KISS, enjoying vintage hip-hop and funk instead. I also played a few ballads – heart-string pullers from the likes of Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton and Phil Collins.

We were creating a vacuum for the rock spectacle ahead of us.

Since I was a kid, I wasn’t a big fan of sitting through an opening act – especially when it came to the shows from artists I really loved. Some people give me a hard time about this – but that’s just me.

Thankfully, KISS chose a very talented painter named David Garibaldi to open – and he did some fantastic work, throwing together three images in record time: Steven Tyler, the Statue of Liberty and KISS. The last two were done upside-down and came to life at incredible speed.

Finally: “You wanted the best and you got the best. The hottest band in the world – KISS!”

Our seats were at stage left – where Tommy Thayer would spend most of the evening. Sometimes Gene Simmons would trade places with him – with Paul Stanley all over the place, consummate showman that he has always been.

Paul “flew” out to a platform in the middle of the venue for “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You – telling the folks surrounding him that they now had front row seats.

Drummer Eric Singer deftly held the operation together – and delivered a solid and surprising drum solo between “Psycho Circus” and a partial taste of “100,000 Years.” He did a great job singing “Beth” while playing a baby grand.

Yes – Gene breathed fire and spewed blood. Yes – the drum riser rose not once, but twice – and the second time it did, it looked just like the first time I went to see KISS on the “Love Gun” tour – with two big cats appearing as the riser rose, just like when Peter Criss played.

Tommy and Gene had scissor lift-style risers on either side of the stage – and they deployed frequently. We were in hog heaven.

Tommy Thayer was on task the whole night. I mentioned to Wesley that I feel like Thayer is a guitar god. The guy has been with them for two decades – and he actually showed Ace Frehley how to play his own solos again ahead of 1996’s Reunion Tour.

Paul and Gene. What can I say? I’m almost 59, and I was constantly telling Wes and Xavier that – “they’re right there” – yards away from us. Fanboys never die.

I was 14 again – and I am sure the two young men with me felt the same way.

So long, KISS.

But if you go out again, I’ll be singing a different tune.