Kathy and I had dinner two weeks ago at the home of a couple we’ve grown close to the past few years. At the end of a wonderful evening together that included intriguing conversation and a meal featuring delicious pork, our hostess asked if we would like to see her latest paintings. Chris is an excellent artist and illustrator – with several published books – and she wanted to share her recent foray into impressionism.
As she shuffled through various outdoor, still-life and portrait works, I was amazed at her ability to vividly capture subjects on canvas. Being a neophyte to the art world, I asked about one nighttime scene of a bridge with water flowing rapidly beneath it, “How long did it take you to do that?”
“An entire lifetime,” she quickly responded. “It’s my art degree, the decades I’ve spent learning colors and technique, the ability to transfer what I see with my eye to my hand and onto the canvas, and the 10,000 hours I’ve stood in front of an easel. That’s how long it took me to paint that bridge.”
Malcolm Gladwell highlighted the 10,000 hours phenomenon in Outliers, using Bill Gates and the Beatles as prime examples. It’s become the accepted standard for the amount of time someone must put in to become an expert at his/her craft. Gladwell got it right… and our friend Chris is living proof. So, keep practicing.
[Note: Kathy and I commented that night how much we liked the pork entrée. Chris said it was her mother’s dish. A few days later, a note arrived in the mail. Enclosed was the recipe for “Mom’s Tender Lemon Pork Chops.” Those artists… they don’t miss a thing.]
Bob Jones. That’s an ordinary name. Google lists 10 million results.
When I was a kid growing up in what is now the heart of the DFW Metroplex – it was country back in the 60’s and 70’s – one Bob Jones lived around the corner from our property. His wife Chris and he raised three kids. Their youngest was six years older than me, so we didn’t do a lot together. The two girls had quarter horses, and mom drove them all over everywhere to show Skippa Streak, a Grand National Champion. Bob stayed home to run their family business… and often would bring us the best homemade potato soup you’ll ever taste.
My understanding is his bio went something like this: father died when he was three and his mother raised seven children alone; had a ninth grade education; joined the Navy at 17 and served on Guam at the end of WWII; earned his master’s electrician license on the GI Bill; started a lighting fixtures business; became an early distributor of Casablanca ceiling fans; invested their money well, especially in local real estate; and, accumulated a net worth in the millions. Pretty much a Horatio Alger story thanks to hard work, street smarts and the Midas touch. The greatest generation.
In the last few years, Bob had health issues. They moved 100 miles west of Ft. Worth to the ghost town where Chris grew up, named for her great grandfather… Farmer, Texas. Their home sat atop a hill and looked out on 700 acres they owned. My three siblings and I visited them two Decembers ago. Bob’s sight was just about gone, yet his memory was perfect. He shared quite a few stories about our youth.
Bob Jones died yesterday at the age of 82. I’ll be heading to Ft. Worth for his funeral on Friday. You see, Chris is my late mother’s youngest sister… and Bob Jones was my uncle. It will be an honor and joy to celebrate his extraordinary life.
You may not recall what you were doing exactly 25 years ago tonight…but I remember where I was. At the time, I produced shows for a cable sports channel. That was shortly after MTV debuted, so my co-producer and I decided to take advantage of our access to technology and record music videos for about a month, then throw a party at my apartment complex for our friends to watch them.
A week before the big event, with the help of our director and engineer, we entered the studio after hours and recorded segments to introduce the videos. As amateur versions of J.J. Jackson and Mark Goodman, we named our program “Me and Lee TV.” Once the party rolled around, we were quite surprised – first by the number of people crammed into such a small place, and second that whenever the videos played folks would be loudly socializing…yet as soon as the two of us appeared on the gigantic 24″ screen everyone would run over and listen in silence to our improvisational comedy routine.
The reason I know the date – September 23, 1984 – is because the apogee of our production was the ‘world premiere’ of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark – and it happened to be in celebration of his 35th birthday. The Boss turned 60 today, which means most of the people at that party soon are hitting 50. While I’m amazed at how fast the years flew, today my thoughts are about lifelong friends who are always just a phone call, e-mail or reunion away, specifically Lee, Chris, Mark and Paul…
Once we made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in a stormy night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender
© Bruce Springsteen 1984