Categories
ebooks fiction humor Novels

The First Day of Forever


This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.

Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.

He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.

He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.

The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.

“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”

“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.

“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”

Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.

The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.

eBook and Paperback Available on Amazon and Online Retailers Worldwide

Categories
Arts & Entertainment folk guitar inspiration music

The Gathering Of Spirits


Folk Artist, Composer, and Singer
Carrie Newcomer

I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.

I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *

In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”

*On the album, Alison Krause sings harmony on the song.

Categories
inspiration psychology

Are You Stuck In Shades of Gray (And Black)?


Are you stuck in the land of sadness? Do you always come back to this all-too-familiar place, no matter what you do to get out?

Surprisingly, I’ve found very little in the annals of Psychology relating to prolonged periods of sadness besides labeling these states as some variation of depression. It may be called Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Anhedonia, or some other name neatly categorized in the manual of psychological diagnosis.

What if the primary cause of, let’s call it, “sadness for no reason,” was emotional “stuckness.” It’s like being stuck in first gear, or being emotionally tone deaf. It’s like feeling only grays and blacks instead of experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion. I like to think of the full spectrum as the colors of a rainbow.

What if there was a way to change emotional mono-tonality into a state of emotional multi-tonality?

What causes emotional mono-tonality? The most likely answer is fear of being hurt. The little boy or girl inside us needs protection from some form of emotional criticism, non-acceptance, or abuse. The subconscious response is to dampen or completely shut off the emotions. It’s a good strategy for a defenseless little boy or girl. However, it becomes a problem later in life when a void of emotions and the program cutting off feelings continues to run causing depression, limited capacity, and self-destructive behavior.

I can vividly remember the moment when I shut down my emotions. I was a thirteen-year-old boy standing in an open field outside my Junior High School. As I recall the experience, I’m struck with feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and something I can only describe as the raw pain of existence rushing in. These feeling were overwhelming.

I reacted by flipping a mental switch to turn off the uncomfortable feelings. Maybe I was a Yogi in my past life. Who knows? I just did the deed, oblivious of the effect it was destined to have on my future self.

After a morning meditation yesterday, the idea hit me that prolonged, “unreasonable” periods of sadness can be the result of “frozen emotions.” Emotions are supposed to circulate rather than remain fixed. Could my constant effort to control my thoughts and emotions be the cause of the lingering sadness on the sea bed of my emotional psychosphere?

“Of course it can”, I told myself. A frozen emotional state is like a river or a lake frozen solid. Nothing moves.

No movement leads to stagnation. Picture a pond where the source of fresh water has been blocked. What does it look like eventually?

Emotional stagnation leads to sadness and depression. Constantly struggling to “stay positive” can easily lead to the opposite result. Fixing thoughts and emotions on a single desired state of feeling/being is the definition of “freezing.” We can wind up trapped in a state of grays and blacks.

The big question is where is the fine line between over-control and adequate control of thoughts and emotions. There is an interesting theory presented by Doctor David Burns in his famous book, “Feeling Good.” He says, basically, that thoughts determine emotions. I believe there is a fair amount of truth to this idea. In his book, Burns goes on to identify a series of self-defeating thought patterns that lead to sadness, depression, and unproductive behavior. All of this makes sense, and Burns claims to have had a significant success rate with his methods for reversing self-defeating thought patterns.

I’ve tried Burns’ method. It can help, especially in the short run, but I find it incomplete. Talking back to misconceptions becomes too mechanical and laborious after a while. And, it really doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the feelings themselves.

My personal experience teaches me that over-controlling thoughts and emotions can lead, ironically, to sadness and depression. Why? Because emotions need room to breathe. They need time and space to unwind and, if necessary, to heal.

It would be lovely to constantly walk around in a relaxed and released state of being. I’ve been advised to let go of my emotions and allow them to just “arise.” Sounds wonderful. I wish it worked for me.

Here’s the paradox. The demands of everyday life don’t provide us with enough time to allow our emotions to unwind, express, and heal. If you don’t have to work; if you aren’t in relationships; if you have no goals, then, by all means, go ahead and feel however the hell you want to. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself alone and homeless.

So what’s the answer? It’s obviously an individual thing. We’ve all heard and read that it’s necessary to carve out alone time to rest and recharge. It can be a long walk in nature. It can be painting a picture. It can be anything that helps you relax and enjoy. For me, it doesn’t stop there.

I’m currently using a psycho-spiritual approach to get my stuck emotions moving. With no intention of sounding overly dramatic, it’s also something I do to approach my “existential dilemma.”

What I’m about to say is not an attempt to advocate or promote anything. If it resonates, then fine. If not, we can still be friends.

My approach begins with regular meditation periods of about thirty minutes in the morning and just before bedtime. During these periods, I let my emotions out of their corral. In open fields, they can romp and kick without doing any damage to myself or any collateral damage to those around me. I do this meditation in conjunction with a tangible energy field that I tap into through my connection to the Trillium Awakening community of teachers and practitioners. I’m able to reach levels of peace, love and joy within myself aided by the Trillium energy transmission. I know. It sounds crazy, but it works for me.

One of the benefits of this practice is an activation of my emotional core. What gets stirred up isn’t always pleasant, but it’s movement, and, I believe, steps in the right direction.

I’ve also discovered an underlying program that affects my thoughts and emotions. It feels more like it is embedded in my body rather than in my mind. So, it is coming from the bottom up rather than the top down. The program needs to be understood and accepted. I might say “befriended.” Then, hopefully, it will unwind and lose its effect. Or transform into something more conducive to good feelings.

My approach may sound totally bonkers to you. No problem. Find your own way. Whatever you do, let’s discover pathways to breathing in and breathing out the full spectrum of human emotions. Let’s experience the rainbow.

Feature photo by Pop and Zebra on UnSplash.com

Categories
music

I’m Alive


Highway Carved Through Mountains

Here’s the jumpy title song from Jackson Brown’s album “I’m Alive” (1993). The song is about Brown’s breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Daryl Hannah.

Photo by Adityah Vyas on Unsplash.com

Categories
current events Essays Fitness inspiration issues life motivation positive thinking

Is there a Silver Lining to Corona?


Can There Be a Silver Lining to Corona?

Can there be an upside to something as horrible as the Coronavirus?

Well, maybe.

While I (we) can’t ignore the tragedies and hardships CV has visited upon so many of us, I think it helps to realize there have also been benefits that will accrue to everyone who makes it through these troubling times.

We all have goals of one kind or another. Some are easy to accomplish, like a “to do” list of daily errands. The ones that are higher on the food chain of goals are more challenging. They require more effort, perseverance and imagination.

What if I told you the CV pandemic made my higher goals easier to accomplish?

Grant me a few more paragraphs to explain.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve taken the mental pressure off of myself. I’ve cut way back on what I expect from myself. As a result, I’ve been more creative, more productive, and I’m having more fun.

In other words, the stay-at-home Covid lifestyle gave me the perfect excuse to slow down and relax. I’m guessing many of you have had a similar experience?

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

First of all, I’m not pursuing happiness with a vengeance. I don’t feel the self-imposed pressure of making myself or someone else happy. I’m just dealing with the Coronavirus situation one day at a time. I’m keeping it simple. I’m not forcing myself to be active. I’m not running around all over the place trying to “do something meaningful with my life.”

As a result, I’ve been working out more than I usually do. And I’m doing most of it at home rather than trekking to a gym somewhere. I’m saving time and energy. I’m in better shape. And guess what; I’m a lot happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Secondly, I’ve had a creative renaissance. I’ve dropped the “shoulds,” the “ought to’s” and the guilt. I’m not thrashing around thinking; What are you going to write today?  What, no ideas? How can you be so empty and lazy?

Instead, I’m not worried about writing anything. And voila. The ideas are coming to me spontaneously. The idea for this post came to me unbidden. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But it wasn’t happening. Now, I’m enjoying writing this stuff. It’s not torture. Imagine that.

On to music. My music. Well, it’s not exactly my music. Plato said; ““Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” That’s a nice quote. I especially like the part about music giving life to everything. I feel the truth of it.

I enjoy singing and playing acoustic guitar songs by my favorite artists. When I get them down “just right,” I record and post them on my blog and on Facebook. I do it because I just plain like doing it. Since I’ve been happier lately, I’ve been doing it a lot more. And I’m downloading inexpensive tutorials to learn exactly how an artist like Cat Stevens plays a song I like. It’s fun and a good way to improve the old guitar technique.

I’m hoping some of this musical joy will rub off on my friends.

There are so many other silver lining stories like this one:

A personal trainer friend of mine told me she has increased her income and clientele by offering her coaching sessions online. She is no longer bound by geography. And she saves time, energy, and gas money with online sessions. Now that gyms have re-opened, she can do sessions online and in person.

I have to give some credit for my new-found happiness to the spiritual community I participate in. There are now nourishing online events I can attend almost every day of the week. It gives me the focus I want and it has helped me to be more grateful for what I have in my life. These community events, which started out as online support for the journey through CV, will now be extended beyond the Covid period.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” We are responding by developing creative solutions to the CV crisis, both individually and collectively. So hang in there, and find the silver lining shining through the clouds every day in your life.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

Categories
Essays inspiration issues life motivation poems

This Single Moment


I don’t know anything anymore

I don’t know up from down

Or east from west

Or happiness from sadness

I don’t know anything

It’s becoming one big ball

One vast, amorphous something

In the midst of this single moment

I can’t turn away from my insignificance

Or ignore my greatness

In this single moment

Just hold me in the fullness

That’s all I want

All I need

All that matters

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

Categories
inspiration life relationships

Remembering a Special Loved One


My mother-in-law, Muriel Erens, was a simple woman. She died last week at the age of ninety-three.

We called her Merel.

Merel was special in her unassuming, fun-loving way. She never complained. She laughed easily. She never asked for anything. She lived independently with a positive attitude for thirty years after her husband, Marvin (Sonny Erens) died.  She listened patiently to everything I had to tell her. She sincerely cared for her family and few friends. She thought of others before herself.

Merel joined us on every holiday and special occasion we celebrated as long as I knew her.  In the last few years, I took her to the racetrack to split two-dollar bets on thoroughbred horse races at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida. We always had a good time, even when we lost, which was often.  And Merel was a sore loser, but we laughed about it.  I have decades of memories of the warmth, love, and laughter we shared.  Merel was the best mother-in-law any man could ask for. The night before she died, I told her she was like a second mother to me.

Merel endured the loss of her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law before she herself passed away.  Her husband (Sonny) died suddenly of a heart attack shortly after my daughter, Danielle, was born. I think God timed it that way to reduce the blow my wife (Bonnie) and Merel suffered.

Merel carried the burden of these losses without complaining or souring on life.  She kept on. She kept on smiling. She became a phenomenal grandmother to Danielle.

In a sense, Merel was the last remaining spoke in the wheel of an older generation, including my mother and father and aunts and uncles. Now, all of the elders of our tribe are gone. It can be a desolate feeling.

My wife and I plus a few long-distance in-laws are the elders now.

I am blessed with a wonderful wife, daughter, in-laws and friends, yet it remains a difficult transition to live in the world without the sense of security, guidance, and light the older generation provided. I will have to find a way to carry on with a smile, just like Merel did.

Merel Erens will never be famous, but she leaves an indelible imprint on those of us who knew her.  We will remember her strength, her laughter, her light and her wisdom.  Merel’s sudden death was a blessing because it spared her more suffering. I pray that my dear mother-in-law is enjoying peace and love in the world beyond this one.  God knows she deserves it.

Merel Erens 1926 to 2020

 

 

Categories
Essays inspiration issues life Making Changes motivation positive thinking profiles Success

Words From Afar Are Not Enough


Business team

Why One-On-One “You Specific” Mentoring Is Essential for Your Fulfillment and Success

I enjoy reading words of inspiration as much as you probably do.  I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I love practicing the art of creative visualization as much as the next guy or gal.  It’s all wonderful and good, but it takes more than arms-length words and solitary mental constructs to effect positive change and consistent success in any endeavor.  I’m a golf enthusiast, so I’ll use an example from the ranks of professional golf to make a few points.

Jason Day, a professional golfer from Australia, walked a crooked path to success.  Jason, unlike his super-successful contemporary, Jordan Spieth, did not have a strong connection with his parents while growing up. He had a troubled youth before meeting Colin Swatton at Kooralbyn, a golf-centric boarding school in southeast Queensland.  Jason’s mother had to borrow money to send her son to Kooralbyn in a desperate attempt to do something about his delinquent behavior after his father died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12.

Colin Swatton was a golf instructor at Kooralbyn when he first met the head-strong, rebellious Day. Swatton’s non-confrontational style won Jason over. When Swatton moved on to teach at Hills International College, Day followed him. From there, Swatton became Day’s golf coach, mentor, close friend, and full-time professional caddie.  In Jason Day, Swatton saw a diamond in the rough.  He gave his protégé the advice and encouragement needed to overcome the inner demons and soaring outer obstacles blocking Day’s path.  Swatton filled in the holes in Jason’s psyche and the gaps in his emotional development.  Jason Day possessed rare talent, but, by his own admission, he never would have become the man he is today without a whisperer like Colin Swatton in his life.  Despite the challenge of a bulging disc in his lower back, Jason is now one of the top-ranked golfers in the world.  He is a devoted father and husband, and he has earned the admiration and affection of his peers.

Enough of the super heroes of the world.  Let’s talk about you and me.  After I’ve read a self-help book, the inspiration and advice usually fade within forty-eight hours.  Formulaic self-help exercises quickly become dry practices that yield little or lasting benefits.  I picked up a self-help book by a famous author recently.  Two things became immediately clear: (1) the author had a lot of nice things to say, and (2) his precepts were so far over my head that I couldn’t practice them if I tried for a million years.

So, what does it take to move forward, achieve, and grow?

To amplify what I said earlier, it takes a special personal relationship.  It is a relationship that always accepts and honors who you are and where you are.  It can be a parental, mentoring, teaching, romantic, or friend-to-friend relationship.  In the case of the first three, the relationship begins with the child or student receiving more at first.  I’ve learned that, over time, the best of these relationships blossom into mutuality where both parties reap significant rewards. There’s an energy and information exchange in these relationships; call it love, call it caring and concern, call it chemistry. Whatever it is, it’s a radiant, magic elixir.  It produces extraordinary human beings, some famous and others who live and work quietly outside of the limelight.

 

 

 

Categories
fiction international issues life memories movies musings Nostalgia profiles reflections short stories

Beautiful Dreamer


SILVER SUNSETS 2

My father is back.  He’s forty-five-years-old.  He looks just like himself, except he’s learned not to smoke.  He’s learned a lot of things in heaven, not the least of which is how to be a better human being.  Ever since he died in 2006, I have thought of my father as Morton rather than my father.  As you might have guessed, Morton and I were not exactly bosom buddies before this new version came along.

This new Morton has a beautiful new wife who is not my mom.  She’s a brunette, tall, with a model’s figure, and she’s smart and very good at human relations.  She has to be to get along with Morton.  She doesn’t take abuse from anyone, including Morton.  She is a deeply rooted human being who can correct Morton when he gets mean or when he gets too into his work and forgets to be a person.  Her name is Jennifer.  Her maiden name is Jennifer Ward-Allen.  She’s from a mixed Jewish and Irish family, which is odd.  Her hair is red and her complexion is fair.  She has green eyes.  She doesn’t look Jewish, but she is Jewish, which works for Morton.  Jennifer exudes an inner as well as an outer beauty.    Although I had no problem with my original mother, I sense that this woman is much more caring, present and aware.

Last week, I went to sleep as a seventy-year-old family man, and woke up as a twenty-five-year-old single man.  After recovering from the shock of looking in the mirror, I take stock of my surroundings.  I quickly discover that I’m not living in the beautiful home my wife, Bonnie, has made for me.  It’s a sterile apartment where I used to live in North Miami.  The place has since been torn down and redeveloped into two luxury condo towers, but now it’s back to being an aging complex known as “The Summer Winds Apartments.”

My first concerns as a twenty-five-year-old are for my wife and daughter.  Will I ever meet my loyal and devoted wife Bonnie again?  If I do, will we have our precious daughter, Danielle?  As I contemplate these disturbing eventualities, the phone rings.  I go into the galley-sized kitchen to answer it.

“Hello?”

“This is your father calling.  Remember me?”

“Who is this?  You have some nerve calling and impersonating my father.  If you are a telemarketer,  I’m going to report you to the FTC and the Florida Attorney General’s office, and to any other law enforcement agency that will listen.”

“Calm down, David. It’s really me.”

“How can it be you?  You died thirteen years ago.”

“It’s me, son.  You kept thinking about the good times we had with the racing stable after we sold the business and you got married.  You were wishing for those good times again.  You were wishing you could be young again.  Well, someone up there must like you, because I’m back, stronger than ever. You remember that Wall-Tex commercial where they used that slogan after they settled the plant workers strike.”

“How can I forget?  How can I forget anything we did?  But how can this be you?  You expect me to believe this is some kind of miracle?”

Morton sighs heavily.  “Oy vey, David. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

“Okay.  If you’re my father, then what was the name of the horse we owned that won the In-Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes?”

silver-sunsets
“The last shall be first.”

“His name was Silver Sunsets.”

“How did he run?”

“He came from dead last at the quarter pole to first place at the wire.”

“Oh my God.  It’s really you.”

“Live and in living color, my boy.  Now, can we get down to business?”

Morton asks me if I might be interested in doing marketing for his new company.

The company is a custom packaging manufacturer equipped with an expert design team and all of the latest online ordering applications.  The company’s potential is worldwide and unlimited.  Morton plans to develop a top notch, multi-lingual sales force under one roof using state-of-the-art, virtual training programs.  He tells me to be ready to work if I come on board, because, “You know I don’t settle for anything except hitting our goals, and I set high goals, in case you forgot.”

I say, “How could I ever forget.”  He says, “Good.  Show up to meet this guy at nine at such and such a place.”

I meet Morton’s new Vice President of Marketing and CEO.  He has the combined personality of two of my previous bosses, plus, I sense that he’s better at making money than either of them.  He just understands what is required to make money.  He has the instincts and the knack for it that can’t be taught, just like Morton.

The guy’s name is Guy Pearce, like the actor.  He’s thirty-two with brown hair and hazel eyes.  Incredibly, he bears a striking resemblance to the actor.  When I ask him if he is THE GUY PEARCE, he shakes his head and says, “never heard of the guy, I mean, you know, that Guy.”  “Funny,” I say.  “You look just like him.”  Then I ask him if he’s seen the HBO version of the movie “The Time Machine” starring Pearce.   He just stares right through me.  This Guy is a no nonsense guy.

THE TIME MACHINE

Pearce asks me what I’ve been doing.  I show him a paperback edition of “Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.”  I show him my website, my blog, the digital book, and the audio book.  I show him the other two digital books I’ve written, “Scarlet Ambrosia” and “Three Days to Darkness.”  I talk about how I conceived Micromium, wrote it, and created four versions of it.  He reads the copy on the back.  He asks me what I did in my last job.  It seems like the last honest job I had was in a previous incarnation.  I don’t tell that to Pearce.  I tell him the highlights of Fulfillment Online and Business Cards Online, two proprietary, ground-breaking online ordering applications that I marketed at a direct mail, printing, and fulfillment company my family owned. I tell him I created a mailer that landed more than fifty Fortune Five Hundred Companies as clients.  I tell him that I have created just about every type of marketing and communications campaign imaginable at the two previous companies where I worked as marketing director.  I conveniently leave out the fact that my previous bosses were instrumental in my success.

He picks up the Micromium full color print edition and tells me, “This right here shows me that you’re qualified to do what this company needs.  You can create content and packaging and sell it.  That’s marketing A to Z.  If you can take direction, then I’m proud to welcome you aboard.  Do you want the job?  I nod my head.  I’m not sure that I want an honest job again, but what the hell.  It’s getting lonely writing books that are really tough to sell.

I watch anxiously as Pearce picks up the phone and calls Morton.  He says, “I just hired David.”  I overhear Morton saying “Good.  It’s about time he got back to work.”

I guess the twenty year vacation is over.  Now I have a REAL job to get up for every morning.  I feel important, valued.  That’s what I want.  I don’t enjoy being irrelevant.  It’s very easy to become irrelevant at my age.  Oops, I mean my former age.

I suddenly remember this new edition of Morton telling me as a young boy things like: “When you grow up, you will be in a world much different than the one you’re in now.  Everything won’t come easily to you.  You’ll have to earn the respect of your peers and your supervisors.  You’ll have to earn everything.  It won’t be given to you like it is now.

“You can start right now by believing in yourself.  You can see that I’ve accomplished something in my life, and I have much more to accomplish.  You can accomplish and be a winner too if you believe in yourself.  Listen to the things I tell you.  What I tell you will always be for your own good.  You can trust me and you can trust what I tell you.  You don’t always have to agree with me, but I’m asking you to listen first, and then we can discuss things.  There will be many situations that come up and they will be learning experiences.  We need to talk about them.  Don’t be afraid to talk to me.  My door will always be open if you need to talk.

“There are winners and losers in this world, David.  You want to be a winner.  Winners are generally happy people.  I’ve never met a happy loser.”

These are the things a father needs to tell his son.  These are the sort of things Morton never told me.  Hey, I’m not feeling sorry for myself.  I’m just sayin’.  If you are young and you are reading this, make sure your Dad tells you these things, and if he doesn’t, then remember what I just said.  Got it?  Good.

I also have new memories of going to the racetrack with Morton to watch the horses run.  I remember him teaching me how to read the racing form.  In my first life with Morton, I never even knew he went to the racetrack occasionally with my mother.  It wasn’t until he started a racing stable and asked me to be a partner in Three G Stable that I learned of Morton’s interest in horses and the the amazing sport of horse racing.  Not many people have the opportunity to see the sport from the inside like I did.  It’s something I’m extremely grateful for.  I’ll always treasure sharing those experiences with my parents and my daughter Danielle.  There really was a Three G Stable.  I really did go to the barn and the petting zoo with Danielle.  We really did have many claiming and allowance winners and stakes winners.

Oops.  I’m waxing nostalgic.   Gotta get back to business.

The new Morton decides to buy a farm in Ocala to breed, race, and sell thoroughbred race horses.  We purchase two freshman sires, one from the Galileo/Saddlers Wells line for turf horses, and one from the Northern Dancer and Mister Prospector cross for dirt horses that can also potentially run on the turf.  Both of these Florida Stallions turn out to be leading sires, not just in Florida, but in the Eastern United States including Kentucky.  We get offers from Kentucky to buy the two stallions, but we keep them in Florida.  We buy well-bred stakes winning mares at auction to breed to our stallions.  We keep a few of the offspring to race ourselves.  We claim horses to fill out the stable.  My love of breeding horses and the sport of racing is rekindled.  I enjoy working in the packaging company and what I do with the horses is a labor of love.

We hire Mark Casse to be our trainer.  Mark is the son of the legendary Norman Casse, a Florida breeder, owner, and Co-founder of the Ocala Breeder’s Sales Company.  Mark is destined to become a world class trainer.  At the time we hire him, he is a young man starting out in his career with a reputation as a patient handler with a knack for developing every horse in his care to their fullest potential.  I find Mark to be a quiet, humble man with an innate love for his horses.  He treats all of them as individuals, and gives them the time and the attention they need to mature into winners.

MARK CASSE

One of the horses Morton and I breed shows great promise as a yearling.  We decide to keep him and race him when he doesn’t reach his reserve at public auction as a two-year-old.  He is by Classic Empire out of an Unbridled mare who has already produced two graded stakes winners. We name him “Beautiful Dreamer,” after the title of my second screenplay.  We call him “Dreamer” for short.

Dreamer matures slowly.  He shows no aptitude for short races in his early training.  He wins his first race at a mile and then runs second in the Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Gulfstream Park.  It is a prep race for the In-Reality stakes, the biggest race at Gulfstream for Florida-bred two-year-old colts and Geldings.  Like Silver Sunsets, Dreamer has a grey coat and wins the In-Reality Stakes.  Beautiful Dreamer goes on to run third in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.  We put him away at our farm for the winter after the Breeders Cup, and run him back at a mile on the turf in an allowance race in January at Gulfstream Park.  He runs second in the race.  From there, he runs second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.  Mark encourages us to run in the Florida Derby against the best thoroughbreds stabled on the east coast.  We listen to his advice, and Dreamer wins the Florida Derby at the relatively long odds of eleven-to-one.  The fact that Dreamer was not one of the favorites in the field is an indication of the high quality of the horses he beat.

The Florida Derby win qualifies Dreamer for a spot in the Kentucky Derby.  After huddling with Mark, we decide to enter Dreamer in the mile and a quarter first leg of the Triple Crown.  He draws post ten in a full twenty horse field.  He’s a horse that possesses tactical speed, but he doesn’t break alertly when the gates open.  He’s ridden by Julian Leparoux, an excellent rider, who manages to recover after the bobbled start.  “Dreamer” circles wide around horses at the quarter pole turning for home and rallies furiously down the stretch to finish third at odds of seven-to-one.  It’s a respectable showing, but we’re disappointed.  We now know that Dreamer had a legitimate chance to win the race with a better start.  It hurts, but that’s horse racing.

KENTUCKY DERBY

We think about going on to the Preakness Stakes, but decide against it, opting instead to enter the Haskell invitational Stakes for three-year-old colts at Monmouth Park.  The track comes up muddy on a rainy day.  Dreamer stalks the winner all the way around the mile and an eight race, but he can’t get past a clear front runner who is bred for wet tracks and scores at odds of nineteen-to-one.  Dreamer goes off second choice in the race at odds of five-to-two.  The nine-to-five favorite finishes third.

Should we go for the Grade One Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York?  We decide against it, opting instead to enter Beautiful Dreamer in the Suburban Stakes at Belmont as a Fall prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in November if he does well.  Once again, Dreamer finishes second after tracking in fourth place behind a fast pace.  Dreamer looks like a winner seventy yards from the wire, but another horse passes him five yards from the wire.  We decide that Dreamer is good enough to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Mark elects to change riders for the race.  First, we ask Jose Ortiz to ride Dreamer in the Classic, but he has another commitment.  Then we ask his brother, Irad Ortiz Junior to ride for us.  He accepts the mount.  He likes our trainer, and he wants to give Mark a chance to put his name down in racing lore.  We’re confident that Irad will give us a better chance of winning with his impeccable sense of timing.  Irad has had his eye on our horse for a while, and he’s confident that he can move Dreamer up several lengths with the right ride.

Meanwhile, my father, stepmother and I are having the time of our lives with this horse.  This year, Gulfstream Park is hosting the Breeders’ Cup races for the first time in twenty years.  It makes it much easier on our horse.  Dreamer is familiar with the track because he is based at Gulfstream and trains there.  He also doesn’t have to travel, which for many horses can be an energy-draining and disconcerting experience. Horses get nervous when their routines are interrupted, and they don’t like being cramped up in unfamiliar spaces.  After hundreds of years of inbreeding, thoroughbreds still have their deeply ingrained instinct to run at the first signs of danger.  It’s hard to run from danger in the cargo hold of a jet plane.

GULFSTREAM 3

Finally, Breeders’ Cup Day dawns bright and sunny with no rain in the forecast.  We’re relieved, because we don’t want to be wired on a wet track by a freak front runner like what happened in the Haskell.  Dreamer has been training brilliantly for the race.  Our trainer, Mark, says he’s in peak form.  Dreamer is the fourth choice in a fourteen-horse field behind two heavy favorites and another highly regarded horse owned by John Magnier, the super-rich founder of Ladbrokes, a chain of sports betting parlors in England.  We have our work cut out for us.  Mark is his usual quiet and calm self.  He’s never been much of a talker, but we can tell that he’s excited about the race and our chances.  He can’t wait to get Dreamer in the gate.

GULSTREAM 4

We watch and bet the races, having fun and forgetting about the big race.  It’s an interesting day with favorites and long shots winning and placing throughout the card.  The European horses win most of the turf races while the American horses generally prevail on the dirt.  The Breeders’ Cup racing card is probably the most fun card to bet all year. The fields are big and almost every horse in each race has a chance to win because they’re all so good.  So, I like to get creative, which usually results in me losing my butt.  Still, it’s fun.

At five-thirty, we leave our seats and a courtesy golf cart designated exclusively for the Breeders’ Cup owners transports us to the barn where beautiful Dreamer is waiting.  He’s happy to see us.  His big head bobs up and down and his front hoof paws the straw in the bed of his stall.  Carefully opening the stall door, Mark attaches a chain to Dreamer’s halter and leads him out.  He stands before us at attention, his gray coat dappled, radiating energy and health.  He knows it’s time to race, and somehow, I sense that Dreamer knows that what he’s about to do is special.  Horses are creatures of habit, and Dreamer know it’s later in the day than he’s ever run before.  His eyes dart from Mark to Morton and to me, as if he’s asking for an explanation of what’s going on.  Mark places a reassuring hand on Dreamer’s shoulder, and I stroke his flank gently to let him know everything is alright.  Mark says something into Dreamer’s ear.  He flicks it forward to listen.  Whatever Mark said, it calms Dreamer down immediately.  He’s ready to do whatever is asked of him.

We accompany Dreamer and Mark all the way from the barn to the saddling enclosure where Mark will saddle and prepare Dreamer for the race.  The crowd in the stands and on the grounds has swelled to over one hundred thousand people.  Police officers patrol the saddling enclosure looking for possible trouble and to make sure the onlookers stay behind the ropes and temporary fences where they belong.  I feel very important to be one of the relatively few people on the other side of the barriers.  Dreamer is taking in all of the excitement like a pro.  I sense that he has his mind on running, and somehow, he knows the horses that he’ll be competing against are better than most of the ones he’s faced before.  He looks down and shakes his head and long silvery mane, as if to shake out any last remaining knots of tension.  Mark strokes Dreamer’s shoulder and head to keep him calm and relaxed.

Irad Ortiz enters the enclosure.  He shakes our hands.  We wish him luck.  He gives Dreamer a few reassuring pats on the shoulder.  The horse immediately feels at ease with Irad.  Irad has been aboard Dreamer to breeze him five eights of a mile a week before the race to get acquainted.  The two of them are a team now, as if they’ve known each other for years.  The call comes for “riders up.”  Mark has already spoken to Irad about the race earlier in the day to give him his riding instructions.  Now, all he has to do is to give Irad a leg up and tell him to “have a good trip.”  Irad expertly guides Dreamer away.  We watch them disappear into the tunnel leading to the racetrack.  Mark gives us a thumbs up.  He likes to watch the races by himself when he saddles a horse, so we go our separate ways back to the owner’s box and Mark to his observation post.

The horses for the Breeders’ Cup Classic file by the stands in the post parade.  There are fourteen horses in the race.  Dreamer has post position seven.  His post position gives Irad an excellent opportunity to settle Dreamer optimally going into the first turn of the mile and a quarter race.  The major objective for Irad is to secure a good stalking position without going wide.  All of the jockeys will be trying to save as much horse as they can going around the first turn and up the backstretch.  If the horse is a front runner, the jockey will be trying to slow the pace down as much as possible.  The other jockeys have to be alert to the pace and settle their horses accordingly.  If the pace is slow, the horses that run from mid pack and beyond will have to stay closer than they normally would if the pace is honest.  The first half of the race is just as important as the last half.  A jockey’s mistake in judgement can cost a horse all chances of winning before they reach the half-mile pole.

Dortmund

Dreamer is prancing on his toes with his head held high as he passes us in the post parade.  Mark has obviously done the most anyone can do to prepare Dreamer for the race.  Now, the rest is up to the horse.  Dreamer is a solid fourth choice at odds of five-to- one.  Morton bets a hundred on him on the nose—typical Morton.  I bet twenty on Dreamer to win.  I know that Mark never bets on the horses he trains.  It’s a good habit.  Many lesser trainers bet on their horses because they think they will make a big score and they need the money.  Sometimes they make that big score, but it’s just not a classy thing to do.  The top trainers don’t do it.

Ten minutes later, the horses have warmed up and are entering the starting gate.  Mark has instructed Irad to do a minimal prep for the race, just a slow, short gallop to get his legs and muscles loose.  We watch the loading through binoculars.  The horse in slot six is acting up, delaying the start.  We can see Irad stroking Dreamer’s mane to keep him from getting upset by the unruly horse next door.  Finally, all of the horses are loaded.  We wait nervously for the starter to open the gates.  It seems like an eternity, then the gates spring open and the horses explode out of the gate with pent up energy.  The number five horse from England veers in and knocks the four horse off stride.  Irad deftly guides Dreamer away from the trouble.  The rest of the field sorts itself out naturally after the troubled break.

Due to the mishap, Dreamer runs third in the fourteen-horse field, closer to the pace than he normally likes to be.  Irad lets him settle back into fourth, but the bulky field is tightly bunched behind the two horses battling for the lead.  The number four and ten horses cut out the first quarter in twenty-three seconds flat, which is fast for the mile and a quarter distance.  The number ten horse backs off and lets the four horse have the lead.  They go the half in forty-seven and one fifth seconds, a more reasonable pace.  Irad keeps Dreamer poised in fourth place.  As the horses reach the three-quarter pole, the number ten horse moves up to challenge the four horse for the lead again.  The pace quickens.  Irad stays put as other horses pass him on the outside.  I grow concerned that Dreamer will not be up to the challenge of running against the best horses in the world.  In my imagination, I see Dreamer floundering on the rail and falling behind as the serious run for the finish line begins.

The front runners reach the quarter pole in one minute ten and four fifths seconds.  It’s an honest pace for horses of this caliber.  Now, Dreamer starts to move up on the rail as the horses turn for home.  Irad is taking the shortest distance home.  The danger of another horse blocking him looms.  It’s a risky move that Irad attempts, but he has no other choice.  He will lose too much ground if he tries to go around horses.  Irad has one of the best clocks in his head of any jockey alive.  I know that his timing is impeccable, but the rail in front of him is suddenly blocked by the tiring front runners which are slowing and shortening their strides.  Irad has to make a move; now or never.

Irad angles Dreamer off of the rail.  I see another horse rushing up behind Dreamer vying for the same lane to the wire.  Irad taps Dreamer on the shoulder with his whip and the horse responds with a burst of acceleration, beating another horse to the three-path.

Dreamer blows by the faltering front runners and opens a clear lead down the homestretch.  With a similar explosion of speed, I watch the number one horse, named Bal Harbour Boss, burst out of the pack in mid-stretch.  It gobbles up ground from behind Dreamer with every stride.  The fast-closing “Boss” reaches Dreamer’s flank on the inside and they run in tandem, neck and neck to the wire.  As Dreamer and his adversary pound to the wire lengths in front of the rest of the field, I expect Bal Harbour Boss to tire because it has had to cover more ground with a wide ride outside of horses up the backstretch all the way to the quarter pole.  Except the damn horse is resolute.  It won’t give an inch.

BREEDERS CUP FINISH

 

The hundred thousand plus throng of spectators bellows so loud that it feels like the ground is shaking and an earthquake is coming. The Jockeys urge their mounts onward.  The race announcer’s voice crescendos as Dreamer and Bal Harbour Boss bob heads to the finish line.  Photo finish.  I can’t tell if Dreamer got his head up in time.  It’s impossible to tell with the naked eye which horse has won the race.  So much is on the line.  The first-place purse is worth three million dollars.  The winning horse will command a high stud fee.  And then, there’s the thrill, prestige, and satisfaction of winning one of the biggest races in the world.

Morton is white as we wait for the results to be posted.  I give him a hug and tell him. “No matter what, we proved that Dreamer has the genes and the heart of a champion.”  Morton says nothing.  He stands there, white as a sheet.  I know what he’s thinking.  Second place is “nowheresville” in Morton’s vocabulary.

The results flash on the tote board in the infield.  The number one is posted on top of Dreamer’s number seven.  Morton slumps.  We’ve lost.  We’ve been nosed of the win.  Then a red square appears around the two top numbers.  Next to it, the words “DEAD HEAT” flash in red.  It’s a tie.  Beautiful Dreamer is a co-champion with Bal Harbour Boss.  I hug Morton.  I hug my stepmother.  We are delirious.  Sharing the top honors beats the hell out of losing.  The dead heat is the first in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.

We meet Mark in the winners’ circle.  I can tell that he’s beside himself.  He doesn’t show emotion easily, but he’s obviously overcome by the biggest achievement of his training career.  The winners’ ceremony is a long one because both horses and their entourages have to be photographed.  I hug Mark.  I hug Irad Ortiz.  They are both slightly taken aback by my display of emotion, but I can tell they understand.  Mark and the Jockey are both ecstatic, albeit a bit more quietly.

The sight of Beautiful Dreamer wearing the Breeders Cup Champion yellow garland of flowers will be forever etched in my memory.  Sharing a moment like this with signicant others goes beyond any feeling I can describe.  I can’t remember anything immediately after the race.  I’m just somewhere else, and it’s a very good place to be.  The next thing I know, I’m driving to a restaurant in North Miami for a victory dinner.

After several hours of  intense celebrating with my father and Jennifer at an excellent Italian restaurant named Il Tulipano, I return to my humble one bedroom apartment and stumble into bed.  I’m asleep in seconds from the sheer exhaustion of a long day filled to the brim with exciting moments.  When I wake up, I’m back home with my wife, seventy-years-old again.  My first reaction is bitter disappointment, but then I realize that I have my wife and daughter back again.  I remember what my father said at dinner in Il Tulipano, another ghost of the past that has disappeared and moved on.  With his wine glass raised, my father said: “We’re fortunate to have won this race, but what’s most important is that we’re together and we care about each other.”  My father’s words remind me to appreciate the people who are with me now.

Was it all a dream, or did it really happen?  I decide it was just a glimpse, like in the movie “Family Man” with Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, and Don Cheadle.  An angel has given me a glimpse of what my life actually was and might have been, like Don Cheadle did for Nicolas Cage in the movie.  Yeah, that’s what it was; a beautiful dream that became real for a few fleeting moments in time; a precious glimpse that has taught me to appreciate my life and loved ones; past, present and possible.

"The Family Man" Copyright 2000 Universal Studios
Nicolas Cage and Don Cheadle Copyright 2000 Universal Studios

 

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Essays inspiration life motivation musings Success

It Starts With Self-Confidence


Where does self-confidence come from?  Where does it go when we need it most?

How does an energetic child with a mountainous capacity for curiosity grow into a narrow-minded, emotionally constricted adult full of hopelessness and suffering?

The answer is simple.  We lose the key to the door that opens to a satisfying existence; belief in ourselves and the faith that every day can be sculpted into a masterpiece of joy.

Self-confidence is an elusive commodity that fluctuates with life’s events including, but not limited to; our mood, brain chemistry, the weather, acceptance or rejection.  It is a fragile, unpredictable elixir; here today, gone tomorrow.  Yet for a fortunate few, it is a constant, a second nature, a faithful servant and friend.

With self-confidence, we can create the next, great wonder of the world.  Without it, we walk bent over through life, a mere shadow on the wall, a faint reflection of our glorious and noble human potential.

If your self-confidence is at a low ebb, you can take the first step towards a more joyful and productive life by LOVING YOURSELF.  Forgive yourself for past transgressions, whether real or imagined.  Start each day with a clean slate.  The past is dead.  The future is a possibility based on how you think and what you chose to do in this very moment.

Think with hope in your heart.  Hopeful thoughts are positive, creative, loving thoughts.  Hopeful thoughts will fill you with possibilities.  They will fill you with confidence in yourself because they come from your TRUE SELF; the real you.

There are always two roads stretching before us.  One road leads to freedom and JOY.  The other one leads to misery and limitation.  Take the time, right now, to cast away doubt and fear.  Listen to your inner voice, the one that wants to set you free.

Self-confidence comes from being the person you truly are; your best self.  Trust yourself.  Love yourself.  Let the flame of love grow in your heart.  Seek the sources that support and nurture your truest and best self.  Self-confidence will bloom automatically, along with passion and the freedom to enjoy life.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.