” You gotta be shitting me” I screamed at my defenseless smartphone as I stared in disbelief at the retina quality screen. I looked again to make sure I wasn’t crazy.
My outburst startled the four people in front of me in line at Starbucks because they all moved closer together towards the safety of the counter where a patron was trying to decide what they wanted.
I thought to myself, ” geez what kind of idiot waits until they get to the front of the line and then wants to recreate the three bears looking for the coffee combination that’s Just Right?”
My thoughts returned to the message on my phone. What could my editor be thinking. What kind of a moron is he. Today is Tuesday and he waits until now to inform me that I’m to leave for Florida on Wednesday afternoon and not return until Saturday at noon. Expletives ricocheted throughout my brain.
I hate this job… if it wasn’t for Sarah and little Jim I’d tell him to stick it! Little Jim, oh my gosh his birthday is Friday. How am I going to tell him that daddy can’t be there for his 12th birthday. He is going to be crushed. I told him that we were going to do something really cool. Sarah is going to hit the ceiling….Sarah is going to freak out!
I guess whoever said, ‘life sucks and then you die” knew what they were talking about.
“Would you make a decision please there’s people waiting.” I blurted towards the front of the line at no one in particular.
Sarah freaking out is exactly what happened later that day after I arrived home and dropped the bomb shell on her. It was uglier than I anticipated.
I retreated to my little home office and shut the door. I took my place behind the small plastic fake wood finished desk and looked around the dismal room and thought to myself, ” so this is it, this is what my life is, a job I hate, a family who doesn’t appreciate me and a ten by ten dismal room.
I tapped the space bar on my old Dell computer, asked Word for a blank page ,fixed a fake smile on my fake happy face, took a deep breath started my job by typing……………………
Liberty Magazine Man of the Month
by Jim Lyles
“Once again Liberty magazine brings you a profile of a resident of these United States who personifies Liberty. As you know I have no part in the selection process. My job is to go where I’m told and interview the selectee.”
“I have been to and seen many places in our beautiful country while meeting a plethora of it’s residents who embody the magazines and its readers preferred qualities. I have a sweet job to say the least.”
That being said, this writer must admit that I was more excited about this interview than any interview in the past.”
“My editor was sending me to the sunshine state, Florida. But here is where the excitement set in. I was meeting this months winner at a marina and we were holding the interview on his ocean going sail boat. Not bad duty in my humble opinion.”
OK… enough typing I thought, what a phony I have become.
I’ll do the rest in Florida.
My travel documents directed me to catch a late afternoon Wednesday, American Airlines flight out of JFK south to Miami International at which point I was to transfer to a ground carrier who would take me to North Key Largo’s Anchorage Resort and Yacht Club Marina. Where a marina view room was reserved in my name.
The travel schedule came off without a hitch and my taxi dropped me off at Anchorage Resort in time for me to witness one of the most beautiful inspiring sunsets I have ever seen. I couldn’t help but think how much Sarah and Jim would have enjoyed this.
I rushed to my room in order to prepare for the next days interview with my mystery man. I still had to think it strange that the idiot company had sent me down on a weekend.
Thursday dawned as beautifully as the previous day had ended. I could only wonder what the day would bring as I enjoyed my coffee from my third floor patio. Who was I going to meet today? Would he be loud or quiet, outgoing or withdrawn, easy to talk to or hard? A wanna be pirate or? Who meets on a boat at a marina? Who is Don Grantham? Who cares just get the story I reminded myself.
I checked my itinerary which instructed me to go to the marina and look for C dock. Once I had located C dock I was to walk down the dock and look for slip C-47 where I would find my interviewee and his sailboat. It was almost 8:00 am so I started my walk towards the marina as our arrangement called for a 8:30 am meet. I was looking for a white sailboat name Ytrebil.
It was beautiful day with a cloudless sky and the marina was picturesque with hundreds of boats floating silently like dogs on a leash in their slips.
The rigging’s on the myriad of boats played like steel drum music.
The overall effect was mesmerizing which must have accounted for my inability to find my destination.
After a couple of wrong turns a young man washing a boat pointed me in the right direction and as I walked away the young worker said, ” make sure and tell Don I said hello.”
I arrived at dock C and started walking down the long walkway.
As I approached slip C-47 I noticed an individual up at the front of the boat all hunched over with his hands on his knees. As I approached I could see that he was sweating profusely and trying to catch his breath. His preoccupation with the task at hand blocked out the fact that I was moving down the dock towards him.
As I came closer I realized he was saying something in between his gasps for air. I could barely make it out. I listened harder…
He was chanting “I can be what I will to be, do it now, I’m in the flow”. Strange, I thought.. oh well different strokes
Suddenly he stood upright and burst out, ” Success!” at the top of his lungs fists raised in the air. That caught me off guard and really startled me.
I cleared my throat which caused him to look. I was worried about interrupting his routine and how he would react.
“Do you know where I can find Don Grantham” I asked
He simply smiled and said,” you must be Jim” to which I responded in the affirmative.
He said, ” I am Don, now lets get you on board. We walked back to the other end of the boat where a boarding ladder allowed me to step off the wooden dock and on to the boat. It was then that I noticed the strange name painted across the back, it read, Ytrebil.
I was standing next to a large stainless steel steering wheel; Don went below and returned with a towel, a shirt and two big blue bottles of water. As he was handing me my drink I noticed a strange bracelet on his wrist. It looked a child’s charm bracelet. It consisted of four colored geometric shaped charms They were a green triangle, a red ball, a yellow square and a blue rectangle. What a unusual trinket I thought. I made a mental note to ask about it later. There was probably a good story behind it.
.As he toweled off and donned his shirt I sipped on my water marveling at the speed at which sweat was beading up on my bottle. I wasn’t hot so I assumed it was the humidity. It was relatively cool due to the shade provided by the square yellow canopy that covered the back part of the boat we were standing in.
I was directed to sit on the green cushions as plopped down on the red cushions directly across from me. He asked, ” are you a sailor?” to which I answered, ” this is my first time on a sailboat.” He laughed and said, ” I was just like you a couple of years ago.” That set my mind at ease, I had been worried about not knowing anything about boats or boating. I thought once again about my son and how much this would have excited him.
Don opened his water and then looked up at the sky as a seagull passed overhead. It was hard for me to determine the age of this man. His outward appearance and the way he carried himself would lead you to believe that he was in his forties but when I looked him in the eye I got the impression that he was a man of more experience. Probably a trust fund baby I told myself. Some people have all the luck.
His gaze returned to me after a moment and he asked, ” Jim, your people said you were coming to ask me some questions about my life that would be of interest to your readers, honestly I’ve never read your magazine, what exactly are we going to do?”
His demeanor surprised me, in almost every other case previously, the people I had interviewed had started spewing their life’s achievements at me before I could unpack my laptop. I almost didn’t know what to say.
I recovered by saying, “Don you and I are just going to talk, I am going to take some notes and then turn those notes into an article about you for our readers.” It’s really a very simple process.
He paused and thought for a moment and then quietly asked, “Jim, would it be okay with you if we talked about you first so I will know who I’m talking too?”
His question blew me away! No one had ever asked me about me. Who was this guy?
I said “sure” and begin to tell him the story of my life coming out of the west from a blue collar family. About being the first in our family to complete college. About how I came back to my hometown and accepted a job with the local newspaper, married my high school sweetheart and how we had born a son. How we scrimped and saved to purchase that first house. I told him how an article about mad cow disease had gotten the attention of the editor of a local paper in New Jersey who then made me an offer we couldn’t refuse and how I had uprooted my family from a small hamlet in New Mexico and moved them across America to the East coast where they experienced the culture shock of the people, the pace of life in the city and the weather. I explained how the job changed after I had arrived and how my days and hours were so absorbed that I had no time for my family. I went on to tell him how I had given my boss an ultimatum which blew up in my face and forced me to leave and how I had struggled for years to find a writing job that I loved with hours my family could accept. And lastly how all that had led to me taking a job with Liberty Magazine who offered me a job at a lesser salary but where I could combine my love for the written word and being home with my family.
I looked down at my watch an realized I had been talking for the better part of two hours. I must admit he was the best listener I had ever encountered.
I stammered, ” I am so sorry.. I am just going on and on and this is supposed to be about you.”
Don responded, ” No worry, I loved hearing about you, your family and your life, but I’m curious, why are you here on a weekend?”
I had to bite my tongue for fear of blurting out that I was here because my boss was an idiot.
After a moment of clear thinking I said, ” it’s a job that had to be done”
He quizzed me once again, ” are you wife and son going to miss you?”
He was such a nice guy I decided to tell him the truth,
“Yes they are” I said. ” In fact Jim’s birthday is tomorrow and we rescheduled it until Sunday afternoon.”
Weren’t they disappointed?” he asked
” A little” was my answer
“Jim, it’s lunch time and I need to eat, lets slide up to the marina grill and get a bite to eat, it’s on me.” he offered brightly.
The marina grill was starting to fill up with the lunch crowd. As we were guided to our table many of the patrons called out to him by name almost as if he were a local celebrity. He acknowledged and stopped to chat with each one. I overheard many who thanked him for various types of help he had provided. Most unusual was how he complemented each person we encountered and departed their presence wishing them a better day today. It was oblivious he was appreciated.
Finally seated at our table, our server arrived.
Acknowledging Don she asked, “the usual?” to which he replied, “sure, but lets give our guest a minute.” This obviously wasn’t his first time here.”What’s good?” I inquired?” as I fumbled for the menu and my glasses simultaneously.
“Its all good but personally I am partial to the grilled fish and vegetables” he replied.
” So you are into health food?” I asked
He beamed, ” Let me answer you this way, a few years ago I was 50 pounds heavier than I am now, I was taking high blood pressure and cholesterol meds. Today I am the same weight I was as a junior in high school, take no medicine and I attribute that to exercise and making good choices when I eat, in fact , my DMP reminds me that I only consume wholesome fare.”
“Pardon my ignorance. but what is a DMP?” I sputtered.
The server returned interrupting his answer to take our order.
“Grilled fish with steamed vegetables for you Don, and for your friend?” she inquired.
“Same for me” I muttered all the while hating myself for falling prey to peer pressure once again. The menu boasted the “Best Cheeseburger in the State.”
“So tell me about this DMP thing you mentioned a moment ago, it tells you what to eat. it’s a diet plan or what?” I pressed.
“DMP is an anachronism for Definite Major Purpose.” he responded.
“Oh, so it’s like a mission statement or something?” I asked.
“Not exactly” he said in a thoughtful way. “Would you really like to know what it is and why it’s important to me?”
“Sure” I quipped.
We were interrupted once again as the server returned with our meal.
Once the plates were placed safely on the table I prodded him once again. ” so tell me about DMP.”
He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, opened them and asked me.
“Jim,” he said, are you familiar with Thoreau’s quote, ” most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them.”
I nodded to the affirmative.
” Would you agree?” he continued.
“I’m not sure” was my automatic answer.
“Well take a minute and ponder it” he suggested
As I pondered he continued, ” of all the people you know personally, of all the people you have met of all the people you have interviewed, how many would you say are elated with their station in life? ”
I’m sure he could see the confusion in my face which prompted him to continue.
“Who do you know who lives in a state of nirvana, bliss or true personal contentment?”.
My mind raced trying to think of one person in my life whom I could identify but my mind was failing me. He certainly wasn’t describing me and every other name that flashed in my mind was accompanied by a picture of strife or unhappiness I had witnessed personally or knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was occurring in their life. Surely I knew at least one person.
“Tough question huh?” he added
I was shocked that I could not name a single person who I could unequivocally say lived in true personal contentment. Everybody hated at least one thing in their life whether it was a job, lack of time, lack of personal accomplishment, a bad relationship, bigger house, nicer car, too much debt not enough money. I could not think of anyone.
I admitted finally, “Don in all honesty not a single person comes to mind but surely I know someone.
“Jim I didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that, I’m sure that given time you will come up with someone, but back to Thoreau’s statement do you now agree that MOST PEOPLE lead lives of quiet desperation?”
Laughing I said, ” I guess Thoreau was right.. that’s probably why his work still stands 160 years later and I’m a magazine writer whose work from two months ago stands in a bird cage somewhere.
So tell me Don, are you telling me that you live in a state of nirvana or bliss?”
“Not just yet” he replied, then he added, “but I work on it every day, I feel good about the work, and that’s where the Definite Major Purpose comes into play.”
“OK” I say, “tell me how that works.
“Jim, here’s the Cliff Notes version. From the time we are born until the time that we die, we are influenced by everything we come in contact with. We are influenced on what to think, what to do, what success means, what winning and losing mean, what we can do and what we can not do, what good and evil is, how to act, what is acceptable, what we can accomplish, what your body should look like, and so on and so on.
I found it strange that he played with his charm bracelet constantly while he spoke.
He went on, “In essence most people never get to be themselves because they are so busy tying to live up to standards set by society; and since society itself is unfulfilled, all of this influence teaches and directs us to be unfulfilled people”
“Jim, as a child I dreamt a life of excitement and adventure. You are going to laugh but my dream was to be a professional football player in the fall and winter and rock star in the off season. Funny thing is… it made perfect sense to me. But the ensuing years brought the outside stimulus and influence from the world that taught me that my dream wasn’t possible and I believed it.”
“So instead of TRYING to follow my dream I acquiesced and joined the get a job and try to survive life crowd. The next thirty five years came and went like a cheap room deodorizer. ”
He continued on, “In my case, I looked up one day and I was in my mid fifties and there was not a single thing that I could look back at and say Wow! I did that. Instead it was a massive montage of failed efforts, failed relationships, bad choices, poor heath, wasted time and unfulfilled dreams.”
“In the winter of 2014 quite by accident or Divine Intervention I discovered a man on YouTube named Mark Januszewski. He was about my age and he made a lot of sense. I started watching his videos and really liked what he had to say. It was during these YouTube explorations that I was introduced to his Master Key Mastermind Alliance group.
With a little more digging I learned that this group was comprised of a hodgepodge collection of people just like me who were intent on learning how to change the effect that all the years of bad influence had imposed. I was intrigued and kept digging.
I learned that once a year they accepted new members into this group. I knew that I had to join. I filled out an application and was accepted into the group.
Living in the group was tough love in the beginning. I first had to unlearn decades of false truths. I had to clean out my mental warehouse of all the bad and negative crap I had filled it with.
I had to learn new personal habits which would eventually replace my lifelong bad habits. We spent hours doing activities and drills which sped this process along. Many times I wanted to quit due to frustration but the group was always there to lend a hand and support me. The end result is that only a few years into my new life everything has changed.
I no longer look BACK on a unfulfilled life, because I am ever pointed forward into a glorious future of MY choosing. I am the master of me.
He looked at his watch and exclaimed, ” oh my gosh I have been going on and on for almost 20 minutes and I promised you Cliff Notes.”
“That’s quite alright I find the subject very interesting.” I said
“Jim, I have promised to help a couple work on their boat this afternoon, would you like to join me?”
I said, ” you know what, I’m going to get started on your story so you go help your friends and we will catch up later.”
Don said, ” Would you like late dinner or breakfast for our next meet?”
“How bout breakfast?” I said, while thinking… “I’ve got a lot of YouTube ahead of me.
He said, See you at the cafe at 8 am tomorrow?”
“Works for me.” I said as I gathered my laptop into my briefsack. We walked to the cashier. Don greeted the cashier ” Joy, how is that boy of yours doing? I got to tell you he is one smart cookie, you must really be proud.”
I could tell she was…. I feared her face might break from the size of her beaming smile.
I was starting to detect a pattern. Don made people feel good about themselves whenever and wherever he encountered them.
Friday morning dawned as beautifully as Thursdays. What a magnificent place this was. No wonder Don seemed so happy and content here in paradise.
I finished my coffee on the veranda, gathered my laptop and briefsack and headed for the marina grill. I was excited, I spent half the night on YouTube watching videos. I had many questions.
The grill was only about half full as I entered the front door. I looked across the room and saw Don sitting at a table by the large front window. He stood and waved me over with a big smile on his face.
As we were shaking hands, the server walked up and asked, “What would you like to drink, Mr Lyles?”
I was stunned, how could she possibly remember my name from yesterday? Did I even give her my name? How weird is that? This place must be magic.
“Coffee and juice please.” was my answer
We took our seats as the server walked away
“So how did you sleep?” Don asked me
“I slept better last night than I have slept in a long long time” I answered
“This place is incredible in every way” I added
‘Yes, I’m kinda partial to it myself” he returned
“Don, I spent half the night watching YouTube videos last night and I have a thousand questions for you.” I said
“Jim, I don’t know if I have the answers to a thousand questions, but we’ve got all day I guess.” he said chuckling.
He continued, ” Why don’t we just enjoy this view and some breakfast and I will answer as many questions for you as I can after breakfast.”
“That sounds like a plan to me” I responded
Breakfast was delightful as was the conversation I had with my new friend Don.
As the plates were cleared away I informed Don that today I would be buying his meal and handed our server the magazines credit card. She returned with my receipt as Don and I enjoyed our coffee soaking up the morning sun through the plate glass which provided a marvelous view of the marina and the resort.
As I was taking in the view I noticed a woman with a boy walking down the sidewalk from a distance toward the restaurant and thought once again how great it would be if Sarah and Jim were here too.
Don’s voice interrupted my daydream when he asked. ” You want another cup Jim? I’m having another myself.”
I said, “sure” and he waved at our server.
He asked me, ” what were you staring so intently at?”
I replied, ” I noticed a woman and a young boy out on the sidewalk and was just thinking how much my wife and son would have loved this.
Don asked me, “what woman and what child?”
I spun around and pointed and said, “them……right there…
My mouth almost hit the floor… my lungs collapsed as if hit in the chest with a baseball bat.
Could my eyes be playing tricks on me?
It was Sarah and little Jim coming this way.
I looked at Don and said, “what the hell?”
He smiled and said,” I called your office after we separated yesterday and talked to your boss.” He had no idea that today was your son’s birthday. In fact he seems to be a pretty fine fellow and thinks a lot of you.”
Don continued, ” in fact he thinks so much of you that he decided to surprise you by flying your wife and son here so you could all be together on little Jim’s birthday.”
“So today my friend we are going to show your son a wonderful world.”
As I choked back the sobs so little Jim wouldn’t see the tears,
a phrase from earlier in the week returned to me,
” You gotta be shitting me”