A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Adventures (page 1 of 7)

Random Notes from That Conference, Day One: The Preliminaries…

Georgia World Congress Center main entrance and sign at Twilight with traffic streaks.


I wrote in this space yesterday about my anxiety about attending a large conference for the first time in a long time. Let me give you a little recap of Day One, just to keep both of you loyal readers in the loop.

  • If you know anything about Atlanta, the event venue is Building B of the Georgia World Congress Center. It’s next to Mercedes Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, and Centennial Olympic Park. I parked at our headquarters building just across Northside Drive from The Benz, and decided to walk across the street to the conference. At 3:30 pm. In mid-July. It was HOT! Did I say it was HOT? Let’s just say I’ve already paid for closer GWCC parking for today.
  • Check-in was a breeze. Lots of nice smiling folks to get you where you needed to go. But $100 to replace a lost ID badge?
  • I thought my team members would be there already, but they (wisely?) decided to wait until closer to the start of the main session to show up, so I wandered around by myself for a bit. (Fine by me…don’t get me wrong!)
  • I meandered down—and down—and down—and down again to the exhibit hall. That part was wall to wall with vendors of all kinds, hawking everything you could imagine—and some things you’d never think of. I didn’t go to every booth or table, but I was disappointed in the swag—or lack of it. Maybe there’ll be more today.
  • Unless you’re absolutely starving to death—and I mean that literally—you might be wise to avoid the “Philly cheesesteak” booth in the exhibit hall. Just sayin’….
  • I met a few of my colleagues—three women, I’d guess late-30s/early 40s—in the lobby, and went with them over to the Once and Former CNN Center while they ate. And while I washed away the afterthought of the “Philly cheesesteak” with sweet tea from Chick-Fil-A. A wide-ranging, but pleasant enough conversation ensued.

Another installment shortly, in which your observant scribbler reports on the actual content of the opening session. Stay tuned…


Into the Crowd…

Today marks the beginning of the first conference/convention/etc. I’ve attended in a long time. I’m a little bit anxious.

It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I think I have a servant’s heart for people. I do. But as I get older, my tolerance for people’s BS has diminished. I don’t relish the thought of sitting/milling around/interacting with a crowd.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. Get ready to send in the rescue team.

The Richest Man in Canton, Georgia…

Krakow Matúš Benian via Compfight

(I originally posted this on my Facebook page, November 9. The guy in the picture is NOT the man in this story.)

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about my other interesting encounter dark and early on election day.

I parked at the Y for the dark and early shift, and I noticed a guy with a walker stumbling through the parking lot. I asked him if he was OK, did he need anything, etc. (Yeah, I’m a sucker like that.)

“Do you have a penny to spare?” he asked. “All I need is a penny.”

“A penny? Why do you need a penny?”

“I want to get a cup of coffee at Hardee’s. Their senior coffee is 35 cents, and all I have is 34. I don’t need anything else right now. I’ve got a place to stay, and I’m gettin’ paid this afternoon. I just need a cup of coffee.”

Well, I didn’t have a penny on me. But I remembered my son had left a boatload of change in the truck ashtray before he handed it up. So I went back, emptied the container, and offered it to the guy.

“I don’t know how much is here,” I said. “But go ahead and take it and get yourself a biscuit while you’re at it.”

He reached into the pile of coins in my hand and plucked out one penny.

“That’s all I need right there,” he said. “God bless you, brother.”

My Blessed Day…

Happy BollardCreative Commons License Jori Samonen via Compfight

What started out as a mundane Thursday turned out, before it was over, to be one of the best days I’ve had in a long time! Let me tell you about it…

I met a real! live! fireman! Yep, and not just any fireman. No sirree! It was Captain Tim Stowers of the Alpharetta Fire Department. He went out of his way to help me out of a sticky situation. I’m blessed Captain Stowers took the time to help.

Then I got to spend a little time with a new brother in Christ, named Joey. We had an interesting discussion about politics, salvation, the Bible, and African-American preacher heroes. I’m blessed I got to ride with Joey.

It didn’t stop there, because Joey took me to a place where I saw one of the most positive and inspiring people I know. Only this time, I saw her in a different environment than normal. She was her usual encouraging self, and I’m blessed because of her generosity.

While that might be enough to make any other day a blessed day, mine wasn’t done yet. I  met the next great veterinarian in the world. OK, not yet, but Ferdinand…I mean…DOCTOR Ferdinand is going to take Kennesaw State University by storm, and all the sick little exotic animals will one day be OK because he will be practicing his passion. Oh, and he had enough patience to act like he was listening to this old coot tell stories from his long distant past. I’m blessed because Dr. Ferdinand gave me a ride.

Ferdinand’s supervisor was a young man named Blake. Blake just got engaged to the love of his life, and he’s not planning to spend a lot of money on his wedding because he wants to take his princess on an amazing honeymoon and establish a great home for her.  I know all this because I got to share with Blake Life Axiom #3: Everybody and everything but the bride are props. I’m blessed because Blake did a great job at his job.

I met Kenny, who runs his shop like a pro.

I met a guy who was driving to take his special needs daughter (I think?) on a trip, partly for fun, but mostly for some specialized medical treatment.

And I met a guy who – according to Blake – had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and who was checking off the items on his bucket list just as fast and with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. His bucket list was starting with Chick-Fil-A nuggets and sweet tea. I’m blessed because I got to walk in these people’s lives, for a few minutes at least.

Now here’s the best part. I wouldn’t have had the blessed day I had today had everything gone smoothly as planned. See, this all started when my car – the one with 316,000+ miles on it – suddenly stopped as I was driving down the road. Just stopped. Dead. In traffic, on a busy road.

Captain Stowers was behind me. I met him when he stopped to help and we pushed my car out of the road to a wide, flat place. Traffic kept moving and there was no big scene. He tried to jump start my car, with no success. After I assured him I had someone on the way, he left. But he blessed my life today.

Joey was the tow truck driver that changed his schedule so he could give me a hand,  a ride, and a break. Joey blessed my life today.

Clara Mae runs AAMCO with her husband, Gus. I see them about three mornings a week at one of my side gigs. They are great people, they do good work, and are patient and gracious with their time and energy. Clara Mae blessed my life today. Again.

Ferdinand was the young driver who picked me up and carried me to the car rental place so I could get home. He told me about his dream of going to school as a biology major so he could become a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals. He listened to my tales of my own rental car career, which included a Sunday morning encounter with then-heavyweight champion of the world, Leon Spinks. Ferdinand blessed my life today.

Blake ran the counter at the car rental outfit. And he seemed to be really good at his job. Kenny was the manager of the place and he led his team with effectiveness and efficiency. And they blessed my life today.

The bucket list guy blessed my life because someone else told me his story. His enthusiasm and energy were contagious. And they were made more so by the “rest of his  story,” cancer and all that.

Someone – OK, a lot of someones – said that life is not what happens to us; it’s how we respond to what happens to us. For some reason, today was different because I chose to be blessed in the middle of a difficult afternoon. I hope I’ve learned my lesson. I hope the  choice to see the blessing, even in difficulty stays with me for a long time.

Listening to the Quiet…

day 009.

Creative Commons License Holly Lay via Compfight

I decided to take this afternoon’s walk sans headphones, so I could listen to what was going on around me.  I needed the quiet, I surmised, so that I could clear out some of the jumble in my head and mostly in my soul.

I wanted to listen, to pay attention, to be mindful (whatever that word means, with all its baggage). I wanted to notice.

I wanted to listen to the quiet.

I heard the whirring hum of mountain bike tires on the concrete trail.

I heard the gentle rustle of leaves as the afternoon breeze blew.

I heard the busy sounds of bugs and birds.

I heard the chatter of walkers and kayakers.

I heard the dreams and plans of lovers and friends.

I heard the soothing static of rapids at the end of the trail.

I heard my own footsteps padding upon the pavement.

I heard the silky slither of a snake through the sand, into the weeds at the water’s edge.

I heard interstate traffic whizzing by, oblivious, as though this trail, this piece of near-solitude didn’t even exist.

I heard my own breath. I heard my own heartbeat.

I heard my soul whisper in prayer that this was good, if only for a few moments.


Once Upon a Time…

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lauraritchie/ via https://flic.kr/p/cSuLVN

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lauraritchie/ via https://flic.kr/p/cSuLVN

Once upon a time…

Four little words that fill us with anticipation, that open wide horizons, that set us on a journey to Who Knows Where. Four little words. Filled with power to create.

I’ve been thinking today of J.R.R. Tolkien, who gave us the wonderful world of Middle Earth, and hobbits, and wizards, and elves, and dwarves, and dragons, and adventures that enchant and inspire us.

According to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, Tolkien was grading student papers at Oxford when he came across a blank page. For whatever reason, he filled that student’s blank space with the words…

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

…and a whole new world was born.

El Camino de San Carlo…

Camino de Santiago

Creative Commons License Luis Hernandez via Compfight

Ever since I saw the movie The Way, I’ve been fascinated by the pilgrimage on The Way of Saint James, El Camino de Santiago. The ancient trek from many points in Europe leads to Compostela near the western coast of Spain. Pilgrims have traveled this road for hundreds of years and for hundreds of reasons.

When I say I’m fascinated by the pilgrimage, I mean to say that I’m interested in reading and learning about it. My heart says to be fascinated means that one day, I may walk The Way as a pilgrim. My spirit says to be fascinated means that one day, I should walk The Way as a pilgrim. But my mind says to be fascinated with The Way means play it safe, put aside the silly notion, and forget ever walking The Way as a pilgrim.

“Experience and enjoy the Camino vicariously through the exploits of others younger, freer, richer, and bolder,” my brain shouts.

Then I think today, though I may never embark join The Way of Saint James, I am walking The Way of Saint Charlie every day!

Pilgrims on the Camino say they start on The Way for a hundred different reasons or for no reason at all, but they end up at Compostela different than when they began. The Way changes them. The Way prods them along. The Way clarifies and mystifies, they say. And they say The Way, while ending up in the same destination, is very different for each of them. To walk The Way of Saint James is a journey inside as well as along an ancient path.

The Way of Saint Charlie is like that, too. I’m heading in the general direction of an ultimate destination, and I’m making the trek that countless others have made before me. I’m walking that well-worn path along with countless others, and we’re heading in the same direction.

But I have to walk The Way of Saint Charlie. I have to find my reason, my purpose, my motivation for walking. I have to stay focused on my horizon, my, markers, my shell. I have to carry my gear, drop my burden at the Cross of Iron, and make my way my own.

Tallahassee 1978 (It Begins…)


Matthew Stinson via Compfight

Tallahassee, Florida is not exactly the cosmopolitan capital of the world. If you take away the state government and the two universities, Tallahassee suddenly resembles a hundred other surrounding southern towns on both sides of the nearby Florida-Georgia line.

But to a naive freshman musician, Tallahassee in 1978 might as well have been New York City or Paris.