Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fit to be Old

News of the recent death of Mr. Fitness, Jack LaLanne, came to me via my iPhone. It was news of interest, but life for me that day continued as usual. I worked. I attended a lunch meeting. I participated in a meeting over dinner. I did not exercise beyond the necessary walking to and from my car, and the swivel from my laptop to the writing surface of my desk. I'm a fit man of the 21st Century.

Jack LaLanne, way my senior, opened his first health club in 1936, almost 20 years before my parents even considered having me as their fourth child. His influence on me in particular was a blip, a brief few encounters on a black and white television screen. However, his physique made an indelible impression on my brain.

Fast forward to 2011. Everyone, especially the Baby Boomers, wants to be fit, or at least look it. Fitness clubs abound, and before work, people are in a frenzy running on treadmills and spinning on cycles to nowhere. Meanwhile, I am enjoying my morning coffee, grateful for the comfort it gives me and the mild sweat it causes on my brow. A few calories burned.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to stay in shape. I like to run a four or five mile loop around Lady Bird Lake every now and then. I want to do it more often. I like to participate in fun runs, and I especially like being the first in the family to cross the finish line. "It's not a race," I always tell my kids. "It's a fun run." Then, I strategically use my wisdom to pace myself so I can have the speed in the end to pull out a win! As age gains its advantage, I feel like I am loosing mine in the fun run category. I must stay in shape. If Jack LaLanne could do it, so can I.

I enlisted my youngest son, Matthew, into joining me for a simple training program to add strength and speed to my running. This is the beginning of my training for the 2011 Capital 10K fun run. I pulled the "how to" from browsing through a recent issue of GQ Magazine, while waiting for a haircut.

Day one: I tell Matthew, "This training is not a race. We are running against ourselves to make us stronger and faster." He waxes me on all four quarter-mile sprints. The two-minute rests between sprints was not nearly enough for me to collect my aging thoughts about why I wanted to do this. Yet, on day three, it's me out there on my own, focused like Mr. Fitness to make the exercise fun and productive. I can do this. I can do this until I'm 96. I can do this 'til my legs fall off.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Supersize Me, Starbucks

My love for coffee -- caffeine really -- began as a student at the University of Texas at Austin. It was the perfect introduction to civility and to cheesecake, which became my favorite dessert at Cafe Camille, a little house-turned-restaurant nestled on Kerbey Lane.

During the late 70s, enjoying company and conversation over a cup of coffee was far from both Wall Street and Main Street. Our culture's taste buds and high octane lifestyle were fast asleep, and the brew from Seattle was merely beginning to perk.

Fast forward to our current "fast food nation" and the epidemic spread of Starbucks. After our long collective gasp of disgust over the audacity of McDonald's to supersize practically everything, the company responded by downsizing its portions of poison so deliciously deep-fried or coated with special sauce.

Meanwhile, a growing number of consumers were settling comfortably into the soft seating of a neighborhood Starbucks, feeding our addiction to the coffee bean. Starbucks was the fast-food cultural trendsetter; its corporate social responsibility platform made its coffee smoother, worth the price. Forget the jumbo fries and extra-large drink. Ordering in Italian was all the rage. Americans wanted Grande or Venti.

The wise Solomon got it right when he penned, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." In the nothing-new-under-the-sun category, Starbucks supersizes its coffee. The only thing new is another Italian word in our vocabulary. Can you say, Trenta?

Starbucks turns its back to the customer while pouring us an extra large serving of joe. It's as if the new Trenta and its supersize price point signal salvation for Starbucks, which means salvation for our country. The over-caffeinated will lead the way to our economic recovery. After a couple of Trentas, our energy level for business will be like a frenzied day on Wall Street.

The new Trenta by Starbucks will eventually supersize the heart rates of our obese nation, and we will find ourselves dying on the dotted line before our jittery hand can sign on it. Do you smell a bad deal?

I think I will stick with Grande, thank you very much.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Statue of Willie. Coming Soon.

The idea of commissioning a sculpture of Willie Nelson bounced around like a super ball, full of energy and likely never to land. However, over time, the right pieces began falling into place. Beau Armstrong and Stratus Properties landed the gig to develop Block 21 in the southern hotspot of downtown Austin. The W Hotel Austin would take up residence there along with its high-rise condominiums offering un-obstructive views of beautiful Lady Bird Lake. Then the famed Austin City Limits confirmed that it would be part of the cluster, extending the live music scene from the University of Texas campus and from East Sixth Street across Congress Avenue into what will be a coveted performance venue.

Suddenly the bouncing ball began to get heavy like clay. The idea began to grow some legs, and the legs were of a man named Willie Nelson. The board of Capital Area Statues, Inc. (CAST), the small non-profit that brought Austin the bronze sculptures of Philosophers' Rock and Angelina Eberly, voted unanimously to commission a statue of the musical icon, and zeroed in on Block 21 as the preferable place for the new work to stand.

Historically, CAST commissions the work of sculpture, raises private funds from local residents, private foundations and sometimes corporate interests, and then presents its finished works as gifts to the City of Austin. Then, upon accepting the works of sculpture, the City agrees to maintain the bronze works as part of its collection of art in public places. This is how Willie Nelson will come to stand near the intersection of Lavaca Street on Second Street, the street that now bears the honorary name of Willie Nelson Blvd.

The sculptor Clete Shields molded a fantastic clay resemblance of the performer who played the first gig for Austin City Limits. Recently, a few members of the CAST Board of Directors visited Shields in his Philadelphia studio to help provide guidance on the final changes before the cast is poured. The sculpture stands larger than life and captures the persona of the Willie we all love. It's hard to imagine, but looking into the carved eyes of this statue will cause draw many viewers back to that intimate concert or packed special event when they knew Willie was looking directly at them with a twinkle in his eye that has failed to diminish over time. This statue is for everyone, and its planning, production and placement come together with great forethought and collaboration.

Now it's time for you to make your contribution to help finish this great work of sculpture. All contributions are welcome by CAST, but donors of $10,000 or more also receive a numbered limited edition bronze maquette of Willie Nelson, and their names in bronze that will accompany the larger sculpture in downtown Austin. The W Hotel is now open for business. Residents of the higher condominiums are making themselves at home. KLRU public television prepares for its inaugural concert in its new downtown venue. The plaza of Block 21 is ready for Willie. Help CAST bring him to Austin for everyone to enjoy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Forever Young. A Winning Perspective.

During 2010, SHAPE magazine included Austin, TX, in its top 10 list of fittest cities in the U.S. It's young, vibrant lifestyle contributes to the population's bragging rights of being one of the less obese cities in America.

However, the psychographics of a population that is marked by a vibrant, fit lifestyle is not necessarily a trait tied to a younger demographic. Being fit and vibrant is an attitude that extends across generations. It is as much a state of mind as it is a lifestyle. This is a psychographic trait of long-time Austin residents that helped influence the attractiveness of the capital city to a younger population segment. The abundance of parkland, the flowing recreational resources of Lady Bird Lake, Barton Springs and their surrounding trails have been around longer than the average age of the city's residents. Today's old-timers in Austin have been taking advantage of these and other outdoor resources long before there were formal hike and bike paths. The formality of these things are mere extensions of a perspective of fitness and love of the outdoors that was birthed here long ago.

The photo of this gentleman was one of many captured in a slideshow by the Austin American-Statesman, the city's daily newspaper, in its photo summary that captures the essence of Austin during 2010. The photographer, Ralph Barrera, gives us a glimpse of a spirited man of 88 practicing his stroke at the Lions Municipal Golf Course in West Austin. Although tethered to his oxygen tank, you can detect the vibrant attitude of this man who loves taking advantage of one of the jewels that lures Austin outdoors. The gentleman is Cesar A. Salas, Sr., my dad. I'd say he has a winning perspective.

My perspective is that if we are not careful to guard these outdoor places that lure us, then we endanger the vibrant lifestyle that has attracted people to Austin since Angelina Eberly fired the city's canon so long ago. Although recognized as a Texas Historical Landmark, the Lions Municipal Golf Course may become mince meat if the UT System Board of Regents decides to fully pursue the recommendations for how best to leverage its real estate, which we have all come to love.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

It's A New Year. Get it Right.

Communicators -- or so-called communicators -- are in abundance these days. However, in reality many of these self-professed titles exceed the capabilities of those who possess them. For example, today I received an email from a PR firm wishing me a "Happy New Years!" This made me wonder about the term, and its proper use.

Maybe the wish of "Happy New Years" is colloquial to certain boroughs of the northeast or small West Texas towns. However, it does not show up as a formal or proper use of the term anywhere I can find. There are New Year's resolutions, a New Year's Eve, but I cannot seem to find Happy New Years anywhere but in the context of confusion or error. However, I am open to the coaching, if someone can steer me in a different direction.

In fact, the correct term is "Happy New Year." The year 2011 is a single year, and the salutation covers a 12-month period. As a result, to wish someone a "Happy New Years," reflects poor grammar. Any professional in the communication field begins the New Year making a bad impression when he marginalizes what should be a foundational strength of the profession.

It's a New Year. May 2011 be the year you pursue using good grammar and writing with clarity. I am up for the challenge. Are you?