Christmas

Christmas
My sister and brother-in-law greeting me as I stepped off the plane in New Mexico at least 25 years ago.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Texas Truck Rodeo: Choosing the 2018 Truck of Texas


I'm not the kind of guy who wastes a lot of time. Well, at least I don't waste it doing stuff I don't want to do. Every time I gaze into a mirror – something to be avoided whenever possible – I come face to face with my mortality. I just don't want to squander any of the precious time I have remaining doing some stupid damn thing that I really don't want to do.

Some might consider bouncing around on dirt paths in trucks and SUVs a poor investment of time for someone with a limited number of grains of sand left in the proverbial hour glass. Drip, drip drip... But, I really didn't give a second thought to spending four days last week in Texas Hill Country just west of Austin at the annual Texas Auto Writers (TAWA) Texas Truck Rodeo. Its where the TAWA group of automotive media chooses the Truck of Texas every year. 


Indeed, I could have been doing something more constructive. Actually generating some income would have been a sensible alternative. On the surface it may look as though I was just messing around. After all, TAWA would have named the Truck of Texas with or without me, right? Right. I'm hardly a pivotal cog in that organization or in the operation of the Truck Rodeo. Truth be told: I'm a TAWA hanger-on. I'm one of the several out-of-state members who help flesh out its ranks, but the organization would soldier on quite successfully without yours truly.

In fact it did so for the 20 years or so during my sabbatical from its membership. I've only been a member again for two years. The main reason for my reprising my member role is the Truck Rodeo. It's an incredible event orchestrated with the precision of a Patton flanking maneuver. It's really a highly organized business with some trucks and off roading involved. For roughly 14 hours over a two-day period some 65 vehicles spread over 21 categories were driven and evaluated by 75 journalists. The manufacturers represented ranged from Alfa Romeo to Volvo.

Event organizers created three off-road courses with varying degrees of difficulty. Manufacturers decided on which courses its vehicles could be driven. There was a fourth street course, as well. 

We rated each vehicle in a half-dozen or so areas, such as performance, interior and personal appeal. After a total of 300-or-so hours of combined driving, TAWA named the Ford F-150 the 2018 Truck of Texas. The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport got the nod for the CUV of Texas, with the 2018 Volvo XC60 picking up SUV of Texas honors. We also named winners in each of the 21 categories.

To feel better about myself after taking four days away from my home-renovation projects and revenue-producing work to flog off-roaders around the Longhorn River Ranch near Dripping Springs, I did manage to find four stories to pitch to my biggest client. Two for which I already have verbal approval. I feel pretty confident the other two will be accepted, as well. These are story ideas I wouldn't have had otherwise. I also shot three videos for just3things. Oh, and I won a photo contest!

I had hoped to shoot a couple of videos for BEER2WHISKEY, as well, but just couldn't put that together. But, I did make some arrangements to shoot B2W videos in Dallas and Houston in the future. I don't have a time frame yet for the Dallas shoots, but Houston will take place in late January in conjunction with he Houston Auto Show.

Now, however, I'm back to reality. Time to turn the Truck Rodeo ideas into words on a page. Next up? The 2018 Hyundai Accent in Las Vegas. Work, work work.....

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Don't Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls......


I'm not the kind of guy who concentrates very much on my maladies. I've actually been pretty lucky in that department. Up until a year ago, my ailments have been minor, as well as few and far between. For at least 25 years, I worked without the net of medical insurance. I would go a decade or longer between doctor visits of any sort. I don't consider myself a macho guy, but always thought complaining to friends about my health as a direct path to looking puny. I have been pretty rigid in that belief.

My distended knee two or three years ago from a ladder misstep notwithstanding, historically there hasn't been much overtly wrong with me. As long as I kept my mouth shut, no one was the wiser that maybe I wasn't operating at full throttle.

All of that ended with the abruptness of being t-boned in an intersection when I hit the dreaded age of 65. It was like my body took account of itself and decided, let's serve notice to this chump that he isn't immortal. All right already, message received!

To date, nothing is critical or particularly life threatening. In fact, some of it I wouldn't even be aware of if I wasn't visiting Doc Budelmann every six months for wellness checkups, which always include a blood analysis of some sort. When that post-visit phone call comes, my reaction is always, now what?

I won't go into the parade of niggling things that these wellness visits have unearthed, but they are piling up. I did have knee surgery back in March to remove a meniscus tear. (You can read about that here.) This knee thing was just one of the many afflictions rearing its ugly head when I turned 65. There has been a host of others.

The only reason I bring all of this up is, I am in the midst of eight days at home. Any period longer than three or four days is a real treat. I have been traveling nonstop for business, as well as fun, since the end of May. Stuff simply isn't getting done at home. Anyone taking an impromptu tour of my house would probably jump to the conclusion, I'm a hoarder. Stuff is piled everywhere. I have one room upstairs so full of life's flotsam, I can barely navigate through it. My kitchen counters are piled high with junk. I am in the process of ship lapping the ceiling in my great room, and the dining area is full of lumber, power tools and ladders. It's totally out of hand!

Because I have a fraternity brother arriving in two weeks to help me with the actual ship-lap application, I have a lot of prep work to finish. This week at home is my week to do it. I have at least a half-dozen assignments from my biggest client that deadline this week, too. I have two videos to edit: one each for my two video projects. And, if things work out as I hope, I'll also be videoing two or three segments for BEER2WHISKEY.

In other words, my plate is not just full this week, it runneth over.

But, in the midst of all of this, I have two physical therapy sessions plus an appointment with my orthopedist for my shoulder. I have a urology office dunning me with phone calls attempting to set up an appointment that Doc Budelmann ordered. And I have an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doc at the end of the month.

What the hell? I am a sinking ship with little in the way of cargo to pitch overboard.

So, yes, I'm a little stressed out. I'm weary of messing with doctors and squads of their henchmen. I just want to make some money and get a few things accomplished around the house. Fat chance!

The takeaway from all of this is, at some point things just fall apart. For me, it happened virtually overnight on my 65th birthday. I still don't complain about it much. I'm already busy enough without taking the time to whine about my seemingly endless string of less-than-significant medical issues.

Here's to your good health!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Time's A-Wastin' and I Hate It!



I'm not the kind of guy who wastes a lot of time. At least I have myself convinced of that. If I have stuff to do, I want to get it done. I'll wake myself up at four o'clock in the morning with thoughts of all the things piled on my plate. Does this cause some stress? Why, yes, it does. That I don't have an ulcer or a nervous tick of some sort is amazing.

Of all the things I have to do, producing work that translates into a payday is numero uno on the list. I often know when an assignment will be issued or a story idea accepted by my largest client. Usually these are fruits of some event they have sent me to cover. Other times it's because they have asked for a specific story, but I still must pitch that story through their third-party content organizer. On the surface, that may sound silly, but it's through this same content organizer I must submit finished stores and, most importantly, it's through this content organizer that I am paid. So, every story must begin at the beginning, which is submitting the idea for approval. When it's a story they have requested, I know it will be approved and I write it.

Despite this drive to get paying work done ASAP, I still manage to procrastinate when it comes to chores around the house, such as renovation projects and so forth.

I am less likely to put off doing work-type projects, but some are more important to me than others. My two video projects fall in right behind paying assignments in terms of importance. I have a backlog of just3things videos to edit. Currently, I have perhaps eight unedited videos for that Website. I make it a point to edit at least one a week. This isn't a huge effort. On average, editing a j3t video takes from 90 minutes to two hours.

Then there is my new video project: BEER2WHISKEY. This is for a YouTube channel of the same name. I post a new video there at noon every Thursday. Although, eventually I will have a series of shorter videos in the three-to-four-minute range, the videos shot and edited so far range from 9 to 15 minutes. These require three or four hours to edit.

Of the things I like to do, writing a post for this blog is at the bottom of the list. That's why, despite making a vow to write a new post every week in 2017, I'm back to writing two or so a month. As I am doing today, I typically write for Clanging Bell on Sunday mornings. If I'm jammed up with paying assignments or behind in editing videos, that's what I do on Sunday mornings rather than create a new blog post.

Bringing up the rear in this creative scrum is writing car reviews. Many weeks I knock out as many as six or seven assignments for my biggest paying client. Even I can grow weary of writing about cars. I need to massage a different area of my creativity. After writing two or three thousand words of auto content for pay, I just don't have the steam left in me to write another eight hundred words on some new car I have just driven. Does that make me a bad person?

So, back to my opening statement that I don't like to waste time. I don't. I don't like covering the same ground twice, either. Although I didn't post anything new to Clanging Bell last week, I did write a new post last Monday morning. I just didn't post it to the blog.

It was a nine-hundred-word rant on the Steelers refusing to leave their locker room for the national anthem before their game last week with the Chicago Bears. Having been a Steelers fan off and on for more than half a century, I was more than disappointed by their actions last week. But, I decided as I prepared to write my very first post to this site six or seven years ago, that I wouldn't use it as space to air my political views. Who cares anyway, right?

So, I did write about 900 words last week, but after thinking about my pledge not to politicize Clanging Bell, I didn't post those words to the site. After a full week of reflection, I made the right choice. Now, though, I am kicking myself for wasting the time to write that post. 

I do hate wasting time. I say that as I prepare to head to my Sunday watering hole Smoke on the Water in downtown Greenville for a couple of beers. Here's the thing: Now that I have my BEER2WHISKEY channel on YouTube, sipping a beer or two is really research, isn't it? I'm honing my craft. At least that's how I'm going to look at it going forward.

I'm not wasting time; I'm doing research! I feel better about myself already.