The Unexpected Pat Conroy

About 20 years ago, I went to a writers’ conference at a rustic inn in the mountains of North Carolina. The featured authors were Gay Talese, Willie Morris, Winston Groom and John Logue, but they were upstaged by an unexpected guest — Pat Conroy. I’ve referred to that weekend in the years since whenever Conroy’sRead more

Deepak Chopra and the Niche

                                                     Deepak Chopra   In late winter, 2001, I sat on a polished wooden bench in the lobby of the Fourteenth Street Playhouse in Atlanta waiting for Deepak Chopra. ChopraRead more

Acting My Age

While going through my files, I came across a story I wrote for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 1983 about supermodels Marie Helvin and Jerry Hall. Helvin, the brunette, was (but is no longer) the wife of David Bailey, the English photographer who discovered Twiggy. Helvin got her start modeling in Japan, and moved up toRead more

An Art Lesson with Matisse

‘Le Rifain assis’ by Henri Matisse Someone asked Robert McKee recently how to write stories that were “timeless” and “immortal.” The question is absurd, of course. If McKee knew, he’d be writing them himself. Still, his screenwriting seminars are legendary, and his former students include Peter Jackson, William Goldman, John Cleese, Drew Carey and RussellRead more

It’s the Swing, Tiger!

Word that Tiger Woods is going to miss the Masters tournament after having back surgery was a big surprise to a lot of people, but not to devotees of the Mike Austin swing. In fact, Austin himself predicted it. Austin is the subject of my recently published e-book, Perfect Swing, Imperfect Lies: The Legacy ofRead more

Too Good To Be True

  Bob and I are having lunch, and he asks what’s going on with my book. Bob’s semi-retired, a marketing guy who’s done business with Citicorp, Johnson & Johnson, the New York Times and Quincy Jones. “Not much,” I say. “Sold 69 copies, mostly on Amazon. Two friends and an ex-girlfriend have read it. FourRead more

The Benefits of Rejection

                                                     John Safer In early 2007, I sent a 4,500-word article called “Mike Austin and the Swing Brotherhood” to The New Yorker. The rejection note was genteel and almost kindly,Read more

Why Isn’t This Man Famous?

The cool thing about being a writer is that even procrastinating has a payoff if you’re paying attention. So when I should have been blogging the other day about my new book — which is about a guy who wanted to be a star and wasn’t —  I read interviews with a couple of guysRead more

Happiness Is Viral

A friend of mine said the other day how fortunate she was that her small company had recently been acquired by a larger company. The new relationships were harmonious, she said, and she and her colleagues were able to continue doing what they had been doing all along, only now with the resources and support they needed.

 

It was especially gratifying because the bigger company had sifted through hundreds of applications before settling on her, and she is 64 years old. 

 

I congratulated her and added, “You’re making the world a better place.”

 

“Whoa,” she replied. “Now, that point — I don’t get that. I’m so not saving the world or contributing.”

 

The point I was making is that people who are happy in their work and happy in their lives make a huge contribution in everyday life, because happiness is “viral.” It doesn’t matter what you do for a living; it’s who you are as a human being. Or as Jesus put it, concerning the Pharisees’ hundreds of idiotic rules, “It isn’t what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but what comes out of it.”

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People Helping People

Ten years ago this month, I went to the mountains of western North Carolina to report for CNN.com on the search for suspected bomber Eric Rudolph. After two and a half years futile years in the gloomy Nantahala National Forest, the mammoth federal task force had dwindled to a few FBI agents in a small office in a national guard armory.

While the Rudolph story was interesting— the search ended a few months later, and Rudolph wasn’t caught for another two and a half years —  it was the town of Andrews that captured my imagination.

Andrews was a struggling community of 700 families with a median income of about $20,000 a year. Half the storefronts were empty, and only a handful of businesses employed more than two or three people. There was competition 10 miles down the four-lane in Murphy, the bustling county seat, where a new Walmart had just opened, and you couldn’t help but think that Andrews was on life-support.

And yet there was something about the place that struck a chord in my heart. The town is tucked into a valley framed by massive, tree-covered ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains that humble human pretensions with their steadfast strength. The rolling farmland is picturesque and so peaceful that late one afternoon I parked next to a pasture and sat in stillness so immense I swear I could feel the earth breathe.

One evening after dinner I drove slowly past a skinny, bearded man peddling a bike lazily down a side street while cradling a baby in his left arm.

“He’s asleep,” I said.

He grinned, a gap showing where his front teeth should be, and said, “Works ever’ time.”

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