As is common with the New Year, I look back to take stock of my personal and family progress. I must say, at this point, things have never been better. Kathy and I are happy and we have enough, when so many have neither. Our kids are safe and building their lives, careers and relationships. In short we feel truly blessed.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have met and fostered relationships with four people that took the time to mentor me and help direct my progress forward.
I doubt I could have walked through the doors I have without their guidance and honesty.
Twenty years ago I was on a fact-finding tour of Northern Mexico with a group called “Hands across the border.” One of the other adults, Paul Elswick, forgot to bring his ID. When passing through the Frontier Check Point (AKA 21K), they told us he could not drive his car in Mexico, and so I was asked if I would drive for him. I reluctantly agreed. We drove and chatted together for the next couple of hours. The trip was pleasant enough, but that was that. We spent the next several days in a little farming village and I have no recollection of Paul during that time.
When it was time to go home I tried to find someone else to drive him to no avail. And so we headed north, this time the conversations were more in depth. Over the next few hours I told Paul that he should quit his job and work freelance, he told me I should write a book. Paul was a corporate guy, and I was no writer. But we both argued that the other had these changes in them. Over the next several years Paul quit his job, worked for the same people he had before, but freelance, made the same amount of money and worked only two or three hours a day. Over that time he slowly taught me the rules of writing, editing and commenting on my first writing attempts. I could have never written the cookbooks that still pay some of our bills without his dedication. A little over a decade ago I had breakfast with him, at that breakfast he mentioned that he would not be alive much longer. I told him to, “fuck-off, you’ve been telling me this for the past ten years.” He said, okay… I took him home; he got out and started walking away, but stopped in his driveway and turned to look at me. I can still remember looking at him through my dirty windshield. Our eyes locked for a second and then he turned and walked away. Paul died ten days later from complications from pneumonia. I owe him much and miss him greatly.
My next mentor is a guy that has spent his entire life as a singer songwriter. As Dave Grossman often says, he’s a folk musician, which means that your basically ‘folked!’ Dave taught me how to work a room. Over a period of seven years, he took me on his gigs, taught me the rules of running an open mic and gently showed me where I needed to fix my performances. Below is a performance of just one of the hundreds of songs he has written. As my television career developed, Dave would suggest where I could have worked “a bit”, a little more or where I leaned in too hard. I owe him much.
A well-known Arizona renascence man, Bob Boze Bell, historian, humorist, artist, writer, cartoonist, radio and television host and long time rock drummer, has spent the last twenty years answering my questions and encouraging my efforts. He along with Russell Shaw gave me my first chance in television. Bob loves to speak and has been an inspiration for me. He taught me that it’s okay for a regular guy to be on TV, radio, and in print. He is a good friend and I owe him much.
Eight years ago I was very sick, and so to pass some time and hopefully further my education, I decided to study News and Creative writing at my local Community College, PVCC. A few months later, I walked into my first class, there was a quiet-speaking professor by the name of Dr. Lois Roma Deeley at the front of the room, discussing an assignment with a student. As I listened, I was reminded of Paul. When my turn came to speak to her, the first words out of my mouth were’ “Oh there you are… I’ve been looking for you. You’re going to be my new writing mentor, my last mentor died a few years ago.” Lois didn’t blink an eye, as if this was how it was supposed to be.
In her classes I not only found my voice as a writer, I watched this beautiful giant, carefully pry the best out of people that never thought they had word one to offer.
In 1212 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, recognized exceptional professors for their ability to engage and influence students, Dr Lois Roma Deeley was awarded the "Community College Professors of the Year Award"
(acceptance video below).
(acceptance video below).
Like so many, I am grateful for having walked into her class. She changed and continues to change the lives of all of her student. I owe her much.