Deb and I spent yesterday at the campground, most of it plotting and planning. Even though we’re not moving (and won’t for a while), there’s a whole lot going on in our American Life and even more still to do, and we’re wrapping our arms around it all the best we can.
We ended the day with dinner at our favorite local Tex-Mex place, joined by our Canadian friends. They’ve been our neighbors at this campground almost the entire time we’ve been here, and today they’re leaving for Florida, meaning to winter there. It’ll be some months before our paths cross again.
Incidentally, though I’m a creature of habit I tried something new this time. Salsa’s makes a mean “top-shelf” margarita, but I ordered their “Fresh Cucumber-Jalapeño Margarita” — totally refreshing and absolutely spectacular. I’ll definitely have it again.
When we arrived at the restaurant last night and walked toward the door, I glanced back over my shoulder toward Mercy. The Jeep’s windshield reflected bright neon from the building’s façade. The western sky behind was dramatic, long clouds painted in soft hues by fading light.
I pulled out my phone and snapped a few photos. The digital result, which I’ve shared here, captured the glimpse just as my eyes did.
We’re all looking for that Kodak Moment, the postcard view, the perfect shot. We think we know where those images can be had and when they’re about to happen. The rest of the time, it seems to me, we’re fast asleep.
That’s how we miss The Cool Stuff. It’s all around us, all the time, and yet our eyes are closed to it.
Look again at that photo. Notice how imperfect the elements are — the power lines, the used-car lot, the distracting background, the stuff on Mercy’s dashboard.
Still, it’s cool. It was a visual worth preserving, and I did.
All because my eyes were open.
We lost John Madden yesterday. He made immeasurable contributions to both sport and culture. Back when the NFL was worth a damn, John Madden made it worth watching.
I genuinely admired the guy. I judged him to be a well-grounded individual, combining intellect and authenticity in a way we’re not likely to see again.
His successful Oakland Raiders teams were a collection of misfits, freaks and rule-breakers. Madden gave them the freedom to be who they wanted to be, and he won with them. I recall an interview in which he was asked why he didn’t run a tighter ship, imposing more Lombardi-style discipline.
His response (paraphrasing) was that he wanted to win, and that winning requires extraordinary people. He couldn’t imagine, he said, demanding that his players be extraordinary for four hours on a Sunday and ordinary the rest of the week.
That’s always stuck with me.
Everyone remembers (or should) his “Madden Cruiser” — a converted Greyhound bus that let him avoid flying between games and other engagements. His approach to travel, even on cross-country runs, included making unannounced stops in small towns, dropping in on greasy-spoon diners, modest family businesses and farmers working their fields. He loved America and he loved people, and he devoted time to staying in touch with both.
Deb and I, in our own travels, have tried to model that.
This was a good man. America is better because of what he gave us. Godspeed, John Earl Madden.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.