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I recently received my second Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

The first round was inconsequential, and I’m sure that emboldened me to believe that I would have no ill effects.

I also brought all of my visualization skills to bear, seeing myself as perky and good-natured in the days that followed the shot.

I also bet my daughter 10 dollars that I would be perfectly fine, a bet she took immediately, scoffing at the arrogance of my remark. Taylor went through headaches, chills and night sweats as a result of her second vaccine, which she received a couple of days before my girlfriend and I had ours.

After the event, we went to work as usual and neither one of us felt unusual. That was some sort of cruel joke perpetrated by Mother Nature, because by that night I was becoming tired. I went to bed early and wound up sleeping until the following afternoon, leaving just enough time to get ready for work.

Brenda felt the same way. Tired, warm and listless with a slight headache. But here’s the difference. She can be much more realistic than I am, more meat-and-potatoes, if you will.

Neither one of us were looking forward to our shifts at the cigar shop. Myrtle Beach is starting to become a very busy place, with an influx of tourists for what we call “the season.” But it was a Thursday, and we both knew we could get through the day. Thankfully, the crowds were not nearly as large as they had been for the several weekends before.

We made a stop at Chick-fil-A before we headed to the shop and ordered soup and sandwiches. If ever there was a time for chicken soup, it was then. Never mind the soul, we were thinking in far more corporeal terms.

When we arrived, my sister-in-law and brother said they would be happy to work our shifts for us. We thanked them and said we could handle it, but it was nice to know they would come back if we needed them.

We made it through, and it took days for us to fully feel better, but we are heartened to now be fully vaccinated.

My daughter, observing all of this, offered me her Gatorade and dutifully checked on us.

She also told me I owed her ten bucks.

I paid up, of course.

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As the old saw goes, “A stitch in time saves nine…”

My father used to say that, and it makes sense. If you take care of a problem immediately, you will likely save undue time, effort and trouble later.

It’s like a homespun way of asserting that being proactive beats procrastination any day.

Have your air conditioner checked before it peters out in the middle of a sweltering summer or a subarctic winter. Check your oil before your engine seizes up, leaving you stranded at the side of the road in rush hour traffic.

If something is not right in your personal life, speak up. You might not need to “forever hold your peace,” but speaking now is infinitely better than bottling up your feelings until they turn into resentment and anger.

Take care of yourself. Stop kicking the can down the road when it comes to your well-being.

Do you really need a crisis of any kind? Sure, crises can be calls to action, but a little vigilance goes a long way – and small, preemptive measures can help you correct course in the present.

Take action. Show up at the gym. Throw on your running shoes and go outside.

Politely decline an invitation to some event you have no interest in attending. Call your mother. Show appreciation for the kindness of others.

Call somebody on their bullshit, or they will continue to lie to you because they think you believe them. Do you really have time for that?

By taking small and positive actions, you will reap dividends of peace of mind and of clarity.

Say no when you want to say no.

Extract yourself from toxic situations, people and conversations.

Say yes to the simple steps that lead to a life free from drama, fear, worry and anxiety.

By you I mean me.

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This blog post is about an altogether different sort of flow from my previous post.

Recently, I took a trip with my girlfriend to the mountains of Southwest Virginia. I wrote about this area a while back. It’s where I had a brush with Mountain Music Royalty. Click HERE for more.

Brenda grew up in those mountains – the Blue Ridge Mountains – in Independence, Virginia, not far from where we stayed in the decidedly bigger burg of Wytheville.

Wytheville is on the I-81 Corridor, which follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and is a major trucking route spanning the Southeastern states into the North. Every time I am in or around Wytheville, I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of big rigs on the road. I am also impressed by the generous sprinkling of truck stops with clean restrooms.

Before I take a road trip, I try not to overdo the coffee or other fluids because I don’t want to stop every five minutes for a bathroom break. Still, I am ever-vigilant about my options because it’s only a matter of time before I need to make a visit. Truck stops are always a welcome sight. Any McDonald’s is a good option, too.

I have been on these trips numerous times – and sometimes they seem like a urinal tour. I begin to notice the brand names of the urinals I visit – American Standard, Sloan, Zurn – each with their different personalities and shapes. Some you still have to flush, others flush when you step away because of the sensors attached to them.

Some spots have privacy partitions. I like those. When I was younger, I used to get stage fright if another guy was doing his business even remotely close to where I was doing mine. The older I get, the less I care – but I’m still no fan of the open troughs like they used to have in some ballparks. No thank you.

Dignity is important, at least to me.

If I was in the urinal business, I might understand the frequent stops, if only to check out the competition. But I find that if I can dehydrate a bit, I get to my intended destination that much quicker.

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It’s true that writers should write every day. But what if you are also a musician, like I am? Is it better to practice music one day and write the next day? Should I try to cram both things into a day also filled with a day job, exercise, the Yale Brothers Podcast, music gigs, reading and other pursuits?

I have tried both approaches, and I am beginning to realize that my writing and my music would be better served if I practiced only one of these things per day.

Of course, if I were to eliminate my day job I would have ample time to pursue both disciplines on a daily basis – but I also like to pay my bills.

Most people enjoy ticking off items on their to-do lists, but how far should a person go with this? I mean, it would be ridiculous to include bodily functions on that list, no matter how gratifying it would be to put a bold line through those activities with a Sharpie.

Can there be any deep work if you only write for 30 minutes a day? Is there a level of mastery to be attained by sitting at the piano for the same?

I suppose we take what we can get, but I am sure that devoting the proper time and attention to one of these disciplines per day will set the table for a more profound experience.

Am I wrong? I know there are plenty of you who have multiple passions.

Thanks to the march of technology, on-demand media, incessant notifications and myriad distractions, we have become fragmented. Our attention is divided at all turns and we have trouble being still, living “in the moment” – and achieving the coveted sense of flow.

Without the opportunity to drill down, the time to allow thoughts and processes to become fully formed, we find ourselves trapped in a self-imposed prison of superficiality and mediocrity.

Lukewarm gets spit out.

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Yesterday, I got to work hungry.

I felt depressed and angry at the same time – so I was hangry and low-energy.

But here’s the thing – we were busy and as time went by I still hadn’t sneaked off into the office to eat.

I am a friendly guy – and people kept coming into the store. I knew many of them and I hope I was cordial enough – and I am sure I was professional enough to everyone. But this sense of edginess would not go away until I ate, and I knew it.

I imagined that many people don’t ascribe this edginess to a lack of nourishment, but rather it becomes some sort of existential dread…

I can see why.

If we don’t understand what’s going on in our bodies on a physical level, our default is sometimes to blame our minds for our sense of ennui or unease – and then our emotions take over to amplify this situation.

You feel that you are spiraling out of control.

Every task you do in the moment feels herculean and somehow inadequate.

You lack enthusiasm, find it hard to engage with others and have trouble being genuine. Thank God for the masks in this case, right? You might be squinting, but it looks like you are smiling.

This is not like you.

You are a nice guy. Most people agree that you are a nice guy.

There is a good reason you feel like bitch-slapping a complete stranger, and you don’t need therapy to figure it out.

Eat!

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I was a music major back in the dark ages…starting in 1980.

I spent two years at Los Angeles City College, or LACC. As you might expect with any music program, I took classes in music theory, harmony and piano…

For some reason – it was insufficient attention and the fact that I was not very disciplined – I never got to the point where somebody could drop a piece of music notation in front of me and I could play it on the spot.

I regret that. I should have been more devoted to the instrument. I have said before that my piano-playing style is a conglomeration of ADHD, trial-and-error and muddling through. There is much more about my piano journey HERE.

I have a great ear, though, and I can also play like hell from a chart.

But that’s not why I wanted to write this.

We also had choir and voice classes, including sight-singing (solfeggio). Somehow I was OK with that. Way more than sight-reading piano music.

Early on, the professor in charge of the choir stuck me in the tenor section.

Problem was, I couldn’t sing that high. Still can’t.

That was a mistake – so I just pretended – using falsetto or simply mouthing the words. I should have said something, but I was not exactly a self-starter back then.

In voice class, another professor named Wes Abbott knew I was struggling with the high range. I remember complaining about it to him, and he recommended a renowned throat specialist named Hans Von Leden. Some names just stick with you, and a name like his is hard to forget –

But my then girlfriend’s dad was an audiologist and I went to see a throat guy in his practice in I think West Covina or San Dimas. I don’t remember exactly what the guy did, but there was nothing inherently wrong with my throat.

My brother and I could sing high before our voices changed – and the same girlfriend’s mother seemed relieved when she met me in person, because I sounded like “a used car salesman from Van Nuys” when I called for the first time to speak to her.

Well then, I have a low voice – and I should not have been placed in the tenor section.

Which brings us to rock ‘n’ roll…

When I was growing up, a vast majority of rock singers – and pop singers for that matter – seemed to ascend into the heavens with their vocal ranges. Think about early Elton John or Billy Joel for instance. Or Robert Plant. Or the late Tony Lewis from The Outfield. They must have had a Vise-Grip attached to their nether parts…

Steve Perry, anybody?

Not me. Or my brother.

In some band lineups, we tuned down a half-step to give us a little breathing room.

And the transpose button has long been my friend.

I enjoy playing and singing Elton John songs – and I take a perverse comfort in the fact that he can no longer hit the stratosphere. But then again, at least he used to.

I’m somewhere between Tom Waits and The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio. Somebody once said I sounded like Elvis Costello, but he can sing higher. Randy Newman, maybe.

Acceptance.

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Most of my life, I’ve been made giddy by possibilities.

With life spread out in front of a young person, the options seem endless and there is ample time to explore any avenue that appeals to them in the moment. If they are lucky, they have at least one parent on board with the concept – and luckier still if that parent encourages them to spread their wings far and wide.

I had one such parent in my father.

Dad was the perennial youngster. He died at 70 but was endlessly drawn into a sense of childlike wonder about life, places and people. Sure, he had his down moments, but he was full of love, life and joy most of the time.

I will never meet anybody quite like Dad.

But is there an expiration date on the endless-possibility mindset? Doesn’t this encourage a mile-wide-and-inch-deep way of living – relegating a person to life as a generalist?

I bet this exacerbates ADD…

Does seeing the world as full of endless possibilities – especially at a certain age – limit one’s ability to focus?

Can a person reverse this – and when is it time to throw a dart at the map and move toward that coordinate?

Maybe we “possibility people” can enjoy the best of both worlds. We can throw the proverbial dart and move toward one main thing while keeping our hearts and minds open to happy coincidences, serendipity and spontaneity.

Can we move in the direction of that main thing without becoming so rigid that we cut off our ability to find joy in the realm of possibility?

It’s possible.

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I was recently impressed with a quote from Jason Leister that went like this:

“You do not need permission to be who you are here to be.”

Sounds compelling, doesn’t it?

Why is it that so many of us feel as if we need a nod from others before we embark on our genuine lives? Why is it that we transfer our innate power to others? Why do we leave it up to others or so-called fate to decide which is the best direction for us?

Why do we play the waiting game?

Why do we hitch our wagons to the stars of others instead of forging ahead in our pursuit of the hopes and dreams we cherished when we were young?

Did somebody important to us – a parent, a sibling, a close friend, a boss – squash our self-esteem?

Did something someone said or did take the wind out of our sails?

Did a major setback, loss or disappointment take all the fight out of us?

Did we settle?

Did we abdicate the throne of self-direction and choose instead to live as subjects to a new monarchy of control, restriction and suffocation?

Did we buy into the trading-time-for-money paradigm for so long that its walls closed in on us?

Did our past decisions lock us away in a prison of despair and self-doubt?

Did we decide to numb the pain of our abdication with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, shopping or ambition?

Do we expect to buy our way into heaven with good deeds?

Do we think God is punishing us?

Do we harbor bitterness and resentment?

Did one too many gatekeepers deny us entry?

Do we make too much of small things?

Do we overreact to perceived slights, only to realize that the offending party isn’t even aware of having caused any harm?

Were we programmed early on by school, church or state to obey others in “authority” before ever considering the malign motives at play?

Do we long to break out of our self-imposed prisons?

We must bake the file into our own cake. We must not expect others to “bust us out.”

God does not punish us.

We punish ourselves.

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Just punch those keys…it’s advice I frequently read from bloggers who blog about blogging, especially Cristian Mihai from The Art of Blogging.

Like, punch the keys when? Before or after I have a solid idea? Do I punch them until I see the germ of a workable post? Is it like panning for gold?

I’m taking his advice and punching the keys now to see what comes out.

“Freestyling” like this, I have no idea where I am going – I’m simply punching the keys…

Is it possible to succeed at blogging without drilling down on a specialty – or can my specialty be blogging about the things and people I find interesting?

I love personal development-related content.

I have been sober for more than six years, and I have an endless supply of stories I can tell about this journey – before and after.

I was a single father for quite some time. I have adult twins. There’s a storehouse of gold “in them thar hills” also.

I am a man of a certain age. I used to toss aside mailers and periodicals aimed at those coming up on their “golden years,” but now the people in the photographs are starting to look more and more like me – and I finally realized not too long ago that my time on this planet is limited.

What happened to the immortality I took for granted as a youth? I could blog about that.

Seth Godin blogs constantly about finding one’s tribe, and Kevin Kelly’s “1000 True Fans” concept resonates with me.

Is fragmentation a problem?

Politics? I fear the first time I publish a political post, the bots, trolls and haters will bear down on me with a vengeance. Because this is a fear, perhaps I need to do that.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway…

Aren’t there already too many armchair pundits with way more political expertise than I possess? Yeah, right. What I really mean is that nobody is more of an expert than anybody else. Some are just louder than others…

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one, and yours stinks…

I have done a good deal of recording. Little did I know that there were so many echo chambers outside of a recording studio.

I share a podcast with my brother.

I have been a freelance journalist for many years, and enjoy working on personal profiles – getting to the heart of the folks I talk to. Everybody has a story – and I see no reason not to include them in this blog.

I have worked in the premium cigar industry for decades. Why have I not explored this at any length in my writing?

Should I podcast about podcasting? Blog about blogging? At this point, I’ll leave that to the folks who have been in the game much longer than I have.

I am also a working musician, but I thought I’d be a rock star with my brother by the time I was a young adult. I’m 57 now.

Let’s just say the consequences of the choices I made have come home to roost. Another rabbit hole to explore.

I have lived. I have learned. I have lost. I have won.

But I have also been profoundly lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be punching these keys.

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Didn’t Patty Smythe once sing, “I am the worrier?” No, wait…

This one goes out to the worriers, the procrastinators and those like me with a propensity to gaze inward rather than outward.

Introspection is one thing, but sometimes the inward gaze is insidious. It can take us into dark imaginings and a landscape from which escape is dicey.

How many times have we fallen down the rabbit hole of indecision, mulling over every scenario we can possibly dream up until we wind up lost, confused and in much worse shape than when we started?

Have you ever stalled so much that an opportunity simply passed you by?

Inaction robbed you.

I can’t begin to count the hours I have wasted, waiting for the “right time” to do something – and the sad thing about this is that the something in question might not have been consequential to begin with.

It’s mountains-out-of-molehills, worst-cast-scenario thinking at its finest.

As the years go by, the more I am convinced that action is far superior to inaction, and that executing even an imperfect plan is head-and-shoulders above a well-intentioned delay.

Why?

Because we can usually correct course as we go.

A good plan doesn’t have to be perfect – but without action, any plan is useless.

The magic happens when we take action.

Take it from “Old Blood and Guts” himself, General George Patton:

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

There comes a time when we must put the ball in motion, to “pull the trigger,” as they say.

I have experienced firsthand the benefits of taking action – and it could be as simple as making that phone call, attacking that overdue project or simply showing up where you need to be – and it feels good, every time.

I’ll leave you with the words of Albert Einstein:

“Nothing happens until something moves.”

Begin.