My friend Sonny Ross turns 68 today. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, home of the Florida University Gators. I have known Sonny since 1968 when he was living on Bronson in Hollywood near Arby’s (which is still there) selling shoes in Downtown LA at Regal Shoes. I was attending UCLA at the time. We have been friends for 42 years. Sonny (nee Steven) was born in Brooklyn in 1942. He stays young by playing competitive ping pong and playing harmonica in a rock ‘n roll band. He also does push ups and crunches daily. Sonny is a very dear friend, and we continue to talk on the phone regularly, send pithy e-mail messages, and otherwise make each other laugh at juvenile stuff like lines from Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Though we have a collective age of 130, we are still teenagers at heart. On my birthdays I can count on a phone call and a harmonica Happy Birthday. On his, he can count on some rendition of the Sonny and Cher song “Sonny.” Sonny is very young in spirit, and I am certain that the ping pong and harmonica have a lot to do with it. I love him like a brother, and hope that we can keep wishing each other Happy Birthday for many years. We have seen each other through children, grand children, deaths, multiple marriages, and many other key life passages. My life is much richer having Sonny in it. Sonny, thank you for the friendship you bring; Sonny, I know you’re never wearin’ bling. Sonny, one so new, I love you.
I grew up with rotary phones, busy signals, party lines (not political), and being in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone. I have seen the rise and fall of answer machines, pagers, “car” phones, and many other technology fads and developments. The more things change, the more things change. Just when you get used to one more advance, another one is on its way. I tweet, friend people on Facebook, but have yet to “de-family” anyone. I find it ironic and dangerous that not two years after California passed a “hands-free” law outlawing holding a cell phone to your ear, most people in LA are doing something with their hands that has to do with technology while driving and there aren’t nearly enough police to enforce the laws. I am among the guilty, though I don’t hold the phone to my ear. Texting has become a true pandemic, and no one really knows how many accidents have happened or are going to happen because someone was typing LOL or OMG on their portable keyboard while crossing Wilshire Boulevard. Just when I fully embraced e-mail, texting virtually replaced it, especially for younger generations. I was sitting on a Metro train in Boston, and virtually everyone was doing something on their personal “hand held device.” Considering how much everything has changed in 5, 10, and 15 years, I cannot imagine what things will be like in 5, 10, and 15 years. It seems like only yesterday people would get someone’s answering machine and say, “Bob, are your there, can you hear me, pick up the phone.” Now we text the person in the next room to tell them we are going to stand up. I’m trying to stay on board and stay connected. But there are times I just want to call a friend and shoot the breeze, chew the fat, and gab. Call me old fashioned, but you really can’t do a voice impression or emphasize something in a text message. I don’t know what the future holds, but I will never give certain things up, as long as I have some choices. So page me tomorrow, and I’ll send you a letter with a stamp on the envelope. LOL
I had my second book signing on Thursday at Stone Rose Lounge. It was a huge success. There was a great turnout and we sold many books. However, it was a note I received the following day that meant the most to me. A woman building manager named Meredith whom I have known for several years had shown up at the event. She commented to me how unusual it was for a “mover” (my day job) to also be an author. She marveled at the incongruity of it all. I took the time to talk with her, and we had a nice connection. The note stated how much she had enjoyed the signing event, and how it had inspired her to attend another event the same night and meet new people. I was especially touched by the fact that the content of my book matters, and can actually help people. Sometimes I focus more on the sheer number of attendees and books sold, but it is the individual people who are affected by the events, the material in the book, and that I am “walking the talk” that is important. Networking is really about making that deeper connection and adding meaning to your life. My book and signing event had a positive effect on Meredith’s life and made a difference. That is what really inspires me to keep doing what I am doing. Part of the purpose of these events is to allow people to connect with each other. If I sell books in the process, that is good. But what really matters are the relationships that develop, and if I can nurture that process, then my work has some value.
We all have first impressions of people we meet. Sometimes they are extremely positive, other times they are not. I have learned to withhold final judgment of others until I get to know them better or give them a second chance. My experience has taught me that there might be a number of variables that can affect our first impressions, and that they can be incorrect or skewed for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we had heard something about someone, or they might have been having a bad day. Though our first impressions might turn out to be accurate, it is useful to give people a second chance if they have made a less than favorable first impression. Some of my very best relationships are with people who I was not initially impressed with. Be open to change, because people are not always what they seem. This is especially true of young people who we might have known when they were at an awkward or difficult age. Allow people to reveal their different, and perhaps truer sides to you. You will find many rewarding relationships in the process.
Today, Sunday , March 21 I attended a memorial service for Rick Abramson, aka Mister Rick, brother of attorney Leslie Abramson, who represented the Menendez brothers and other famous bad boys. The memorial was held at Dan Tana’s bar and restaurant in West Hollywood, and it was packed. I didn’t know Rick well, had seen him at several parties. I remember him telling me how he had sold novelty items to Larry Miller of Sit N Sleep mattress store famous in LA environs for its advertisements, and Larry Miller’s tag line, “I’ll beat anyone’s advertised prices or your mattress is FREEEEE.” Larry was there at the bar, Leslie was not. It was hard to hear people give their remembrances of Mister Rick, though the ones I heard were generally funny…and touching. Rick Abramson died at 65 from lung cancer. He might have been surprised at the crowd. I doubt if he ever thought I would attend, but funerals are like that. Not only people who knew the deceased attend, but people who knew people who knew them also. I will always remember Mister Rick as a warm little New Yorker who liked to have a good time. RIP.