Black and White and Gray All Over

Black and White and Gray All Over

My trip to South Florida this week was full of juxtapositions and lessons for me as a person:

1) Attention and Inattention—There were 2 father-son pairs in this gorgeous infinity pool at the resort. One father and son (age maybe 3) were together—jumping, splashing, swimming, holding each other—it was really beautiful. The other father and son (maybe 4) in contrast had the kid standing alone in the pool trying clumsily to pull a pair of goggles over his face, while his inattentive father stood off to the side glued on his smartphone. The first kid was smiling ear-to-ear under the attentive and adoring eyes of his father, the second kid was clearly rejected and dejected.

2) Beach and Poverty—I visited the beach in Hollywood; we were told it had a great little boardwalk. When we got there at first, it seemed awesome with the sun and palm trees, music, eateries, skaters, and bicyclists, and more. But as we started walking and exploring, it quickly became apparent that this was the poor side of town. There were no high-rises here, no fancy cars, no eloquent shops, and sort of a menacing feeling overall. The contrast of the beautiful beach and boardwalk with the surrounding poverty left me feeling sort of confused about wanting to be there, but also wanting to leave.

3) Ocean and Starbucks—whenever, I come down to South Florida, I invariably end up thinking about finding a place down here. This time, I saw some options that were attractive for very different reasons. One place was an older building, nice and enticing with a direct ocean view. The view from the apartment was so amazing; it literally made my wife cry. But then we saw another condominium—this one brand new, about 15 minute walk from the ocean, but right over all the shopping, Starbucks, and conveniences. The first place had a million dollar view, but the second place was practical and we could see ourselves really living there.

4) Driving and Jolly–We took a trolley ride and the driver was obviously hard-working, but low paid. Yet he turned up the tunes and took us around town not just driving, but literally singing and sort of dancing to them too–waving his arms and smiling the whole time. It was great to see someone so spirited and happy in whatever they were doing in life.

As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I see more clearly that situations in life are not simple or “black and white,” but there are lots of complexities, choices, and grays.

Do you choose self or family, live where you like or where you can earn a good living, go for the view or for the convenience, bemoan what you don’t have or celebrate what you do? Lots of decisions in life—each choice has consequences, so choose carefully.

No one has it all—even if it looks like they do. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Two Pictures From DC Today

Car Accident

Samples All Gone

These were two photos that I took downtown today.

Both photos represent contrasts of the reality with life in the city.

The first was a car junked-up and sitting on the sidewalk. It was quite out of place in front of the neat rowhouses and otherwise nicely manicured street.

The second was the “free samples” tray of delicious Pumpkin Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts with all the samples gone–empty–nothing there.

Perhaps, if we put these together in a storyline then it’s simple…someone wrecked their car, put grafitti all over it in some sort of artistic or social statement, made their way over to DD and in their anxiety ate up all the free munchkins, and left only a short while later to get over to the car dealship to look for a new set of wheels.

That’s a pretty full day even in Washington, D.C. 😉

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

New York?

New York?

This is not the New York I remember (dirty, crowded, dangerous–ugh!).

My daughter went on a Shabbaton to the Big Apple.

They put her up in an amazing multi-million apartment overlooking Central Park.

The contrast between the city and the nature-y park is stark and stunning.

I guess the have and have nots are alive and well in NY.

But wow, this would be nice to wake up to in the morning. 😉

(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

Beach In All Its Beautiful Colors

Beach In All Its Beautiful Colors

I love this picture of the beach in Florida.

I took this photo of a picture in Fort Lauderdale Airport.

The colors are stunning to me–the blue sky, the turquoise water, the white sand, the green palm trees, the dark blue beach umbrellas, the white wall, the pink sidewalk, and the off white road–and don’t forget the dude walking in the orange trunks.

What an amazing, happy place–this picture captures it for me.

Hope you enjoy it. 😉

(Source Photo of photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why Orange?

So I made some new “friends” on the train home this evening.

These two Tibetan Buddhist Monks.

I asked about their amazing robes–“why orange?”

They said, they didn’t know why, but told me black, white, blue, and red were a no-no. 

They started to teach words from their language to another inquisitive fellow from New York riding on the train, and asking them how to say this and that.

They were laughing at his pronunciation.

As he was about to get off the train, he grabbed for their hands and gave them a good shake, and off he went.

I asked if I could take their picture and they smiled and immediately sort of sat up and posed.

At one point on the ride, the monk on the right pulls out a cell phone and starts talking away–the modern technology was sort of a funny contrast with their religious robes and serene nature.

Anyway, I loved this picture and wanted to share this experience.

Hope you enjoy!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Leaders Can Imitate Art

Mental Floss (July-August 2011) has an article on the awesome art of “Christo and Jeanne-Claude.” Their pieces are large, imposing, and environmentally-based. Some examples are:

1) The Umbrella (1991)–Installed 3,100 umbrellas across a 12-mile stretch in California and an 18-mile stretch in Japan.”

2) The Gates (2005)–Erected “7,503 steel gates, each with a giant rectangle of orange fabric flowing from it.”

3) Surrounded Islands (1983)–“Surrounded 11 uninhabited islands in Biscayne Bay with 700,000 square yards of pink fabric.”
4) Wrapped Reichstag (1995)–Wrapped the German parliament in “119,600 square yards of shimmering silver fabric.”
What I like about their art is the duality of on one hand, magnitude of the projects–they are huge!–and on the other hand, the utter simplicity of it–such as using a single color fabric to just line up along, spread over, or surround something.
Further, I really like their use of contrasts whether it is the colors of the blue water and green islands with the pink ribbon or the lush green valley with the blue umbrellas–it is in every case dynamic and spell-binding.
Each work even in a microcosm would be beautiful, but when done on a massive scale like with the entire German Parliament building or on multiple continents simultaneously, it takes on an air of magic, almost like Houdini.
Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, but together she and Christo created “20 gargantuan works of art, and Christo carries on the “couples’s 45 years of collaboration” with new works today
To me, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are incredibly inspirational:
1) They were highly productive and developed a multitude of magnificent works of art.
2) They defined a sense of beauty in both urban and rural settings that combined the natural surroundings and augmented it with human interventions to complete the creative process. 
3) They took on monumental tasks, “funded all the projects themselves,” and would obsessively plan all the details to get it right. 
4) The were truly collaborative–Christo was the artist and Jeanne-Claude his encouragement and manager, yet they considered each other “equal partners in the creative process.”
Their work reminds me of floating in virtual reality like in Second Life, but in this case, it’s the real thing. And it’s incredibly important because it teaches us that we are partners in the creative process and can do enormously great things in simple and beautiful ways.  Similarly, true leadership is about being one with our surroundings, at peace, and yet envisioning how to improve on it and make the good things, spectacular. 
(Source Photos of Umbrella and Gates: Wikipedia, and of Islands and Reichstag: Here)