Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

People. People Who Need People.

March 21, 2016

If we’re lucky, I mean truly lucky, every so often someone will come along and offer you the kind of unsolicited advice that amounts to a life talk. It might happen when you’re a captive audience, or it might be something tossed into play from the periphery of a fleeting moment in your day.
That advice? Well, it might come in the form of a sentence or two.
It might also take the form of a full-fledged conversation. Or, if you’re fortunate, it might be a series of conversations than span decades.

I can remember those significant moments now 30 and 40 years later.

The first time was when I was in Boy Scouts. I was at a weekend event and did something really impressive. Once accomplished I proceeded to strut about like a male peacock displaying his full regalia. I’m certain this deed was not nearly as impressive to those around me, but I was a teenager (which really ought to explain a lot). In the midst of this, one man, my best friend’s father, waited for me to finish then pulled me aside. “Ron,” he began, “whenever you do or accomplish something worthy of recognition let other people notice without bringing it to their attention.”

You know, that’s pretty heady stuff for a 12 or 13 year old. Lee Widner was one of those people who just did that sort of thing. While growing up he was, in some ways, sort of a surrogate father. He often encouraged me with expert subtlety to get those Merit Badges and seriously focus enough on getting my Eagle Scout, which I completed all the requirements for, but moved out of the state and territory before I was awarded this honor. (To make matters more complicated, when I settled and located another troop and scout master, Richard Brown he did the research and could find no information I’d completed the process. I learned of two stories later, though had no way of confirming either. One said the troop disbanded. The other story suggested a massive vacuum created by several assistant scout masters leaving because the scout master left. I’ll never know. And I digress). Point is, Lee took the time to provide me doses of attention ordinarily reserved for his son Brad. I have little doubt, in reflection, that he didn’t provide such doses of guidance to others. It was his nature, and no doubt sewn into his DNA.

The second person that saw something in me worthy enough to garner his attention was my history professor, Ralph Clark. Mr. Clark was the kind of professor for whom people took classes they didn’t need nor would apply towards their curriculum credits. In many ways I was reminded of him the first time I ever watched Dead Poets Society. You see, Mr. Clark took the time to talk about history and went so much further. He loved teaching as much as he loved history, and he loved history. After a series of lectures and facilitation in Honors Western European History he set up a road trip. Destination? Vizcaya (if you’ve never heard of this place, look it up).

I went to college in South Florida, getting both my Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree from institutions of Higher Learning. The Chateau Vizcaya was an hour away from school. I signed up and was glad I did. I love history and always have. But what Mr. Clark did transcended anything I’d ever Learned. We walked through the rooms and then went outside and walked the grounds, studying the architecture. Mr. Clark would point out an architectural nuance or an element that had been talked about in class and then quietly step back and watch us engage each other. That keen sense of awareness, of how history would resonate because we were not only exposed to it but we were talking and living it. He was no fool. He knew we’d retain more than he taught.

Last class of the last semester of my Associates degree with Mr. Clark. I was halfway through the room when Mr. Clark said, “Ron take a seat for a moment.” So I did. After the room cleared he came over and sat down next to me. “Ron? You’re about to go into the big leagues. I mean sure, you may have a professor that cares enough for you to get to know your name but in most of your classes your grades are going to be determined by a Midterm and a Final. Extra credit will be a thing of the past.”

He took the time to explain to me what I was getting into. Honestly I had no idea and simply justified his conversation as the rattlings of an old man. But he cared enough to take time out of a day no less busy than any other to talk to me. When he finished he simply said, “Well, that’s all Uncle Ralph has to say.” He retired and went to live in the Shenandoah Valley, a place rich in history. With his departure went a era.

Another advocate was Dr. Peter Roundy. Fifteen minutes into my first class I knew I had to take others. And I did. Much of my  electorate requirements were populated with courses taken where Dr. Roundy was professor. Our relationship developed into a genuine friendship. He travelled the world, gone for six to nine months at a time, teaching English in Thailand or some other fantastic locale. In a turnabout for memorable experiences, he told me once, over lunch, I was one of the only students that wrote him every time he travelled. I liked him and couldn’t help myself. His method for dispensing advice was simple: a few words here and there, doled out like chocolate sprinkles on a double dark chocolate cupcake. It was as if he’d see you starting to slip off the path and he’d turn you right again. Of course, if you were me you chose to bulldoze your way through life, only reflecting later on something said and remarking to yourself, “Oh. That’s what he meant.”

And then there was Christopher Burns. I have written much on the man that became my brother with a bond that could not be broken by words or actions. Every living creature should be so fortunate as to have someone in their life so generous. He was a general in my army, champion to my action, and quiet observer to my missteps. He was wise enough, as any oracle, to let me stumble.

An idea man, he often studied and dissected things (including me), looking for a way to make it better. I was fortunate to be the recipient of those talks, even if the ideas might take years to stick.

I still reflect on those conversations and wish I had the chance, especially with Christopher, to sit and simply talk, letting that wisdom pour over me like a comforting breeze. Those talks never truly resonated with me at the time. But that’s the thing with really insightful advice: sometimes it requires time to germinate, to find purchase in the rich soil of the mind. Many take heed and respond to the call quickly. Others like yours truly sometimes miss the opportunity to give such advice the chance to help us change direction. As a result, when it does seat, we’ve already moved on.

I guess my message is this to you, my dear reader. We need people like that in our lives. They give us contextual insight through objective eyes. They are sometimes our reset button. If someone comes along and gives you the sort of unsolicited advice that peels itself like a Foxtail Palm or an artichoke and reveals more every time you glance its way, here’s what you do: if you can’t actually listen, retain and immediately apply that information, at least try to remember the critical piece of it. Give that advice a chance, just as that person who cared gave you. In time, you’ll not only be applying some of those helpful hints and life coach adjustments, but just as good, you’ll discover someone who might just need a little bit of the same.

It’s another way of making the world better one deed at a time.

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The Stunt Life

December 31, 2015

I miss morphine.
I didn’t say that to get your attention, but I do get it. I Understand now why people seek that one of many conduits, one that allows them to become comfortably numb.
I probably should have worded that first sentence differently. I should have said something along the lines of “I miss the paliative effect certain treatments can have on a chronic pain patient’s body.”
When I say I miss morphine that’s not the truth. The reality is I’ve been a chronic pain patient for over two decades. One of the side effects of my car accident, the initiation of this enduring Understanding, was a migraine that lasted 4 months. I was seeing a team of doctors at the time and one of them, a neurologist, prescribed some heavy duty narcotics. I realized, after a couple of days of being swallowed by the couch, staring at the stucco pattern on the ceiling and the television, that it wasn’t for me. I also came to the realization I’d no longer be able to return to my former career in the financial industry.

I worked hard in incremental steps to bump up my threshold and tolerance for pain. Becoming a stuntman served many purposes: learning stunts taught me to regain my motor skills, severely affected as a result of the accident; it taught me confidence; it provided for me clear direction where one was lacking; it taught me to work through pain. Most important, though not clear at the time, it became my true and rightful career. And pain has been my constant companion.

A note about pain and professional stunt performers: if stunt guys and gals went to the doctor or reached for narcotics every time they’d tweaked this or torsioned that, there’d be no one to perform those awesome action sequences that drive people to see blockbuster films movie in the first place. And your choices would be Fried Green Tomatoes or Driving Miss Daisy (not that I didn’t enjoy Both). The truth is stunt performers work through strains, sprains, and tears. Maybe they’ll reach for Naproxyn. I once tore my medial meniscus doing a stunt and ignored the pop until a month later, when the pain refused to subside. That’s when I’d learned there was something amiss with my knee.

As masochistic as it seems I feel the awareness and experience associated with pain is a gift. Plenty of times when we’re experiencing joy and happiness we fail to register and taste every moment. But when you’re in pain? The seconds seem to divide themselves, a kind of mitosis dedicated to letting you know it’s not going away just yet. A minute becomes an hour and an hour becomes a day. A day is an eternity that brings respite only with the possibility of sleep.

A part of me says sure, I could have picked another career. But it was the accident and subsequent career that picked me. It’s a career that continues to give me great opportunities and experiences, including the chance to travel the world and work with some great performers of stage and screen.
A career that’s had me hitting the ground, fall pads, water, and everything in between. I’ve jumped and two-wheeled (or high sided) vehicles for years. Going up is fine. Coming down is more often than not physically jarring. I’ve described the sensation to those not in the know as feeling like someone has slammed your tailbone, full force, with a mildly padded cricket paddle.

Every time we break or twist something we wonder how long to heal. And, amidst all of the other thoughts, that this could be a career ending injury. This reminds me of a comment a fellow stunt man made years ago. He said we are intentionally doing things that could potentially break us and usually with the bare minimum of safety equipment.
So it’s reasonable to believe if I’m beating my body up, then I deserve the beating I get in return.
That’s the thing that causes me some days to feel much older than I really am.

Which brings me to my newest badge of honor. An impinged disc is a literal eye opening experience.
The pain associated with neuropathy? That’s a whole new level. I know plenty of individuals who believed if you can’t see the source of the pain then you’re just making it up. I’ve always wondered about things like sciatica, constant tingling in the extremities, pain that manifest itself in ways that create new benchmarks for personal pain comparisons. But then impinged discs step in to give you the kind of experience that makes a first person narrative too dramatic for words. Suddenly, trying to find a way to get from point A to point B with the barest minimum of debilitating discomfort and – this is almost just as important – not demonstrating to the rest of the world what’s happening. It’s like being a poker player in the game of life where you don’t want to tip the rest of the table to your tell. Dealing with the pain, you start thinking, “what could I have done differently? Maybe I should have spent more time warming up and stretching as well as warming down and stretching.” I know it’s not the latter.
An old friend of mine once gave me a hard time about being so careful with my pickup truck. It was a good natured ribbing about me not wanting to get my truck dirty or scratched. He said a truck needs to be rode hard, that was the thing that gave a truck character and told you it would be reliable.
I guess the human body is the same way. If I were to use my friend’s assessment of trucks as a model of comparison, I’d have to say my body is full of character.
Because let’s face it, nobody ever thinks about stretching after a physical activity. And when I say nobody, what I mean is most every individual I have ever worked with or talk to. The reality is any time we do anything physical we should warm our bodies up for the process. And we should stretch and cool down after. Being aware of this is useful but does little to distract me from the realities of the pain.

And that’s something else to think of. If you know somebody who complains of these issues? try to be a lot more sympathetic and empathetic then you might be.

Early in my Film and TV career I was at a social event bragging about being a stunt man. This old timer, Glen Wilder ( one of the truly finest and venerated individuals in the entire industry), overheard me and leaned in.
“you’re a stuntman,” he asked?
I said, “yes sir.”
He said “you’re not a stuntman till you broke something.”

I’ve been a stuntman for a long time. Like every other stunt man and woman in the business, I can walk you through a connect-the-dot diagram of every injury sustained and tell you where, when and how it happened.

It has been an incredible journey, getting to where I am. I’ve traveled the world, lived in several countries, and made lifelong friends. Two plus decades of defying death in the name of art has been a life alive with charm. It’s never the gravity, or the fall, but the sudden stop at the end.

Now then, where is that ibuprofen?

Small General Aviation Airports and their Importance

September 20, 2009

I’ll keep this one brief.

Recently an article appeared on the front page of USA Today – Thursday, September 17th: Feds keep little-used airports in business.

Bad form all around. An article appeared in this paper many months ago regarding airport impact fees and how GA (general aviation) doesn’t shoulder its fair share.

Before anyone decides to assume the lynch-mob mentality, please consider this: Smaller airports serve many. They are departure and arrival points for a wide range of smaller international carriers, they manage the carefully choreographed ballet of small aircraft (and by small I include the entire range up to commuter jets) they provide several thousand jobs, and offer points of interest and education for those looking to get their pilot’s license among others.

But small airports also serve as centralized launching points in times of crisis and disaster. Many of these provide an invaluable service as a command center to mobilize support and aid. They also serve as centralized locations to mobilize to another location en-masse.

It’s critical that people understand there is more than meets the eye in almost any endeavor.  In general aviation we often hear about the waste of tax dollars on Citation jets as politicians jump around the country, or the corporate marauders who abuse such perks with indescretion and obscene inconsideration.

Little do we hear of Doctors Without Borders, many of whom are pilots who travel south of the border on their dime to assiste the less fortunate, or the wide reaching network of Angel Flight, where pilots offer to fly the critically ill and sick  – most often children – across state and country to get the medical treatment they need, or the outreach network of PilotsNPaws, a dedicated group of volunteer pilots who travel the country in their free time finding homes for rescued animals.

The next time we read or report on something, let’s take enough time to understand all points of the topic, because by doing so we stay on point, and understand better the world around us.  It is sometimes difficult to resist the temptation to nod and agree, especially if it’s something we either do not understand or don’t fully appreciate or agree with, but a little acquired knowledge applied goes a long way.

Writing right. An Author’s journey.

February 5, 2009

I have discovered a few things on this adventure of being a published author:
The standards are high.
Everyone has a critical eye.
Everyone wants you to do well.
Everyone who decides to read the story wants to enjoy the story.
I am getting considerable feedback on the editing of Oaken Rings as well as notes regarding some questions or inconsistencies in plot line or character development.
I, for one, am a fan of multiple story lines that blend and weave themeselves together and find a resolution at the end of the day. Sometimes the story is a bit complex in the beginning, and sometimes people feel there may be too much going on, but I find it important to constantly turn the page within the page, so to speak. I have to offer new things to the reader to discover, or else it is simply a story rehashed. For me, that simply will not do.
As for the editing, I have discovered in my new (and existing) fan base a willing and qualified group of people willing to pour over my future works to iron out the type and syntax errors, as well as keep me and the story honest. To you I will rely. I recently discovered a writer of whom I am a great admirer (Ken Follett – a great resource, and in my opinion, a national treasure of the UK) uses considerable man (or woman) power in the process of hammering out his works.
I have discovered that part of what comes with being an author is the willingness to open oneself to criticism, because those who do offer criticism, do so with affection, a critical eye, and a desire to see the best work possible produced, rendered with as few distractions as possible. I’m willing to explore those options, because the stories must be told.

Flight of fancy ( Flight of the Writer )

January 26, 2009

Keeping all the things “up in the air” at the same time is compellingly entertaining.
Working on my flying, I’ve decided after talking to a wonderful friend the smartest thing to do to motivate me is to get a plane, so I’ve begun to look for a nice trainer. A two seater most likely will fill the bill, one that will allow me to get back on track.
On a similar note (About being on track) I realized after being asked about the sequel to Oaken Rings that it is not the book I’m working on. True, on the back cover of Oaken Rings, it says (to paraphrase) I’m working on the sequal, titled Acropolis. As any author might tell you, other projects come up. I finished my second book (a spy thriller) which is in editing, and am working through my third book, which is a story about a group of modern day witches. Somewhere down the road I’ll hammer away at the keys to create the sequel. Until then, I hope you, the reader, will indulge my creative bent. I’m open to all queries and suggestions that lead to that point.

Sport Aviation Expo – Sebring

January 23, 2009

Made it to the Sebring light sport / experimental aviation show hosted in part by EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).

Experimental is something of a misnomer which suggests folks cobbling together things that just might fly with the right gust of wind.  Here’s one example: If an aircraft has been built and certified outside the US and then eventually comes to make its home in the the US, it is considered Experimental.  So….

Truth is, Light Sport is a regulated industry, just as the remainder of  the standard General Aviation community is, with certifications and the ultimate airworthiness directives handed down by the FAA.* 

The EAA from time to time has to battle absurd over-reactive regulations handed down simply because some administrative advisor feels the infectious desire to satisfy the “thumbprint syndrome.”  Heavy handed governmental agencies all seem to live by the rule, “Legislation, not education.”  And they are often influenced by whomever has their ear.  That’s as diplomatic as communism. 

If you have ever flown in anything other than a commercial aircraft, and you enjoyed the sensation and feeling it conveyed, it would behoove you to plug into the issues from time to time and write letters voicing your opinion to the FAA.

I have often told people who have a less than wonderful experience at a restaurant, theme park, or other event:  To the organizers or sponsors, no news is good news.  When they don’t hear objections, they presume there are none and folks are fine with the way things are going.  It’s one of the great things about a democracy, the freedom to voice your opinion.  Do it.

But I have digressed.

The Sport Expo is an opportunity for aviation afficianados to spend time in and around all sorts of flying aircraft.  You can attend seminars, check out the latest in technology, and even get demo flights in aircraft.

It represents the begining of the aviation community year that builds in crescendo to Oshkosh.

When I’m flying I am filled with the same sort of wonder that I discover when I am writing.  Whether flying over the terrain beneath the aircraft, or floating over the lands I bring to life, I am filled with a sense of amazement.

Go to an aviation expo or fly in, read a book, and see the world.

*as there are thousands of pages dedicated to definitions of Light Sport and Experimental, I’ll leave it to the curious reader to probe further through the cyber pages of offerings and resources.

a quiet day

January 20, 2009

as all eyes are on Washington, D.C. I took time out from my normal activities to watch history, which, when you think of it, is pretty amazing. I think everyone has the same optimistic hopes. For once. All right – I am turning my attention back to my other writing (the third novel currently under construction). Be well, be fair, and be kind.

The mind of a writer continued…Oaken Rings as a study in history

January 16, 2009

I am continuing my journey as an entertainer of the spoken word and the written word.  I flesh out my own curiosities as I explore my drive to further my offerings,  and I’m delighted to have discovered so much support from a great number of people who have come forward to offer their assistance as proof-readers and general readers.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you.

At the risk of sounding cliched (and perhaps too late):  The pen is only truly mightier than the sword when sharpened by the trained and callibrated study of the many hands that go into the forging of its mettle.

And to those of you who continue to purchase Oaken Rings for your reading pleasure, thanks and enjoy!

Write for the mind – a thought from the author

January 11, 2009

I’ve discovered something unintentional in my writing – people who have purchased my first book Oaken Rings, who did so to support me, have found themselves encouraging their friends to order the book.  and these people have contacted me to share their experiences with the storyline, and what they’ve learned.  I want people to read the story and let it unfold around them, without them thinking about who wrote it.  And that’s exactly what is happening.

Sure, the story is fiction, but it is placed over a template of history that I wanted to be as living a thing as possible.  As a result people continue to go to my website and order the book, as well as just visit and let me know what they’ve been doing, or where they are in the book’s contents.  I like to share with people parts of the creative process, which I found interesting because unlike a magician revealing the secret behind the illusion, my revelation has no such negative impact on those who enquire.

So I’d say to anyone who has a story banging around in their head to start jotting notes, and let the story flesh itself out.  That has pretty much been what I’ve done, and it’s worked for me so far.

Keep writing, and keep reading.

Oaken Rings Update

January 3, 2009

I just learned from a friend who tracked the progress of first day ranking numbers on Amazon for Oaken Rings that the ranking actually got to 54oo, which is a significant number in terms of ranking and much better than the number I originally mapped.  This started on December 4th, and while things have quieted down a bit, I’ve enjoyed the emails from people who were directed to pick up a copy of the book from someone else who ordered the book and thought enough of it and the story to recommend it.  The book is naturally available at www.RonaldFox.com.  as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.