I’ve been receiving enquiries about the Jazz Cruise I posted about recently, so here are some more details.
25 years ago, trumpeter Guido Basso took up the baton by hiring several musicians to join him on a cruise ship where they would present special jazz concerts to a group of fans. Having been on a few of these voyages, let me tell you how cool it is to be “special”, partaking in unique jazz events that most people aboard the ship are not authorized to attend.
Sadly, Guido passed away earlier this year. But Mike Murley, wonderful tenor sax player, and Heather Bambrick, extraordinary vocalist, are sustaining Guido’s memory by keeping the Jazz Cruise going. This year’s trip – the first without Guido – featured Kevin Turcotte on trumpet and flugelhorn and he did a great job of picking up where Mr. Basso left off. Kevin, Mike and Heather were joined by Ted Quinlan on guitar, Pat Collins on bass and Barry Elmes playing drums. As aways, Ted O’Reilly hosted.
This band could not have been better! They played outstanding tunes in five concerts and left the attendees wanting more.
If you enjoy really good jazz (featuring lots of “standards”), let me suggest you join us next year. It will be in the autumn and our Travel Advisor, Rose Coleman with Direct Travel, is the lady who pulls it all together. You can reach Rose for details at (905) 510-8460 or email@example.com. Tell her PJ sent you.
I do hope you can join us: it’s a musical and travel adventure you will not soon forget.
A couple of weeks ago marked the 25 year anniversary of the annual Canadian Jazz Cruise. I’ll leave it to Heather Bambrick – singer extraordinaire – to offer some thoughts… “It was beyond wonderful. This was our first cruise since we lost our dear Guido Basso, who basically helped create and build this annual event and his presence was definitely missed. However, I think we did him proud with a wonderful group of outstanding musicians as well as a simply terrific group of cruisers. We saw some of the familiar lovely faces, as well as more than a few new ones who've decided to join our little jazz cruise family. All in all, it was an outstanding 10 days of sailing to incredibly gorgeous Caribbean ports, as well as sharing some brilliant music and fun with a wonderful group of people. We're already starting to plan next year's cruise.”
I’ve just returned from a wonderful jazz cruise with stops at 5 Caribbean islands as well as a tour by water of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was unaware that Fort Lauderdale is known as the "Venice of America" due to the miles of canals and historic riverfront. As we passed by luxurious households bordering the water, I was reminded of being inside one of these lovely mansions, owned by Bob Wright, retired Chairman and CEO of NBC TV, the oldest major broadcast network in the US, where he’s been credited with overseeing the company’s expansion into a media conglomerate and leading growth to record earnings. Bob’s resumé also features several executive positions with the network’s then parent, General Electric, culminating as GE’s vice chairman, a role he retired from in 2008.
My friend George Cohon had set me up to meet with Bob at his splendid West Palm Beach, Florida home, this for a chapter in my book “Pushing The Boundaries: How To Get More Out Of Life”. I learned a lot talking to this brilliant businessman, including how dealing with risk and taking steps outside the box are great ways to get ahead. I also picked up pointers on the value of resilience in your life that helps achieve objectives.
One of the highlights of Bob’s career is the merger of NBC and Vivendi Universal, which included one of the longest, most productive tenures of any media company chief executive. During his two decades at NBC, he transformed the broadcast network into a global media giant by expanding into cable, satellite, the Internet, and fertile new media markets.
Considering his business prowess, I was surprised as we settled into the comfort of his stylish waterside residence to talk. He had recently lost his beloved wife, Suzanne (his “North Star”), to the misery of pancreatic cancer. He was not alone: I had suffered the sudden death of my younger son, Jamie, on Christmas Eve. While it’s not the ideal way to bond, both Bob and I acknowledged our pain, plus our membership in a lonely club that no one wants to belong to. We hugged, two guys confronting loss.
And then we sat down to talk. Bob’s career included enduring real challenges in getting broadcasters to understand the inevitability of merging standard television with cable. David Zaslav, President and CEO of the Discovery Channel, is a fan: “Bob is the first broadcaster who recognized the future meant displaying content for all platforms. It wasn’t easy: everyone at NBC was against him. To have Bob on your side is to have a transformative force in your corner.”
So, this seemed like a logical place to start our discussion. “Bob, looking back,” I said, “it seems obvious that merging platforms made sense. But, at the time, you were a bit of a lone gun. How’d you overcome this?”
“You know, Peter,” he told me, “I just knew in my gut this was what we’d have to do. It comes from looking forward, not sitting still, or resting on your laurels by looking back. I was confident in my judgement, even when others weren’t.”
Ah yes, that confidence thing.
Our discussions of business carried on, But it wasn’t long before we dealt with Bob’s thoughts on healthcare.
“Peter, can you believe this,” he said out of the blue with barely concealed exasperation. “When Suzanne was first diagnosed, I came to realize there were virtually no screening tools for pancreatic cancer. The mortality rate is 92%! And there’s been virtually no improvement in more than 40 years. 117 people die from pancreatic cancer every day in the US. It’s a truly horrible killer. The day we learned about Suzanne’s diagnosis was the worst day of my life. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. And yet, there’s been virtually no attention to this from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, or the US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s such a debilitating illness.”
And then he added, as only a tried-and-true business executive can state, “It’s a real management failure.”
Never one to sit still and watch life transpire from the sidelines, Bob channeled his anger into championing new paradigms for healthcare federal funding, research, and regulatory reviews. These were to be built on accountability and results. To confront shortcomings, he established the Suzanne Wright Foundation, including launching Code Purple, an awareness and advocacy campaign to fight pancreatic cancer.
“I’m out to accelerate discovery of detection tools, find better treatments, and, ultimately, discover a cure for pancreatic cancer,” he explained. “To do that, you need leadership, prioritization, and urgency. I’ve got ‘em in spades!”
Once again, that statement of confidence.
There was much more to our conversation, covering both healthcare and business, and you can read all about that in Chapter 6 of “Pushing The Boundaries”. But for now, let’s accept that using business skills in retirement to make the world a better place while pushing the boundaries is a resilient and constructive lesson we can all take advantage of.
"I can't thank you enough for taking the time to talk with me, Bob," I said as I prepared to head out. "It's been really enlightening."
"My pleasure, Peter," he said. "Thanks for asking intriguing questions. Come again, I've enjoyed this."
A TV program I enjoy watching is CBS News Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. Recently, they featured a story on intersex and this brought to mind the fashion model I interviewed for my book “Pushing The Boundaries” (pushingtheboundaries.life). Hanne Gaby Odiele is a young, world-famous model, originally from Belgium, who risked her reputation by coming out in support of intersex youth. In so doing, she prompted us to stand up for what we believe in, no matter what the cost.
Hanne's a delightfully striking, blonde, blue eyed young lady whose poker-faced seriousness belies the joy within her. She agreed to talk with me in New York City where she now lives. While we would surely discuss her high-flying fashion model life, it was her recent, risky, history-making revelation about being intersex that intrigued me. You see, she went public with this admission in an attempt to reduce the stigma around the condition and encourage other intersex people to embrace their status. Until meeting her, you could count me among those who didn’t even know that intersex exists.
Hanne was born in 1987 with internal testes, but no uterus, no ovaries. This was due to a condition they called androgen insensitivity syndrome. Her parents simply took it for granted that they had a daughter. What they didn't know at that time was that sweet little Hanne was intersex. "The doctors told my parents, 'Oh, don't worry, we can just change her by surgery,'" she told me. "'Your daughter will never even know. It's all going to be OK.' And off they went without informed consent."
Like many intersex children, Hanne was forced to undergo a surgical operation as a baby to make her female. That's because with intersex children, it's easier to remove body parts than to put them on. In this case, the doctors chose to perform surgery to make her genitals look more “normal.” She was kept in the dark about her situation, only learning about the intersex condition at age 17, around the time she began her modelling career. She'd already had further surgery when she was 10 years old, this time to remove undescended testicles. Why the operation? "Because doctors warned this could cause cancer," she revealed to me. Hanne now believes that was a lie. "There was no medical evidence that I was going to get cancer," she explained. "I mean, c'mon: women don't get their breasts sliced off because they might get breast cancer. Men don't have their testicles severed because they might get prostate cancer."
She told me she would be made to pay a visit to a doctor for "scary treatments" every few months. She'd enter a room and her parents would be asked to leave. "Then, all of a sudden, the doctors are joined by four students who come into the room and they all look at my genitals, and they put a blanket over my eyes. I can still feel them touch me and look at me and call me by numbers. They always said, 'She has a bladder problem', and I was like, 'Mmmm, there's something more…'"
At 18, Hanne experienced more surgery, this time to reconstruct her vagina. Not surprisingly, the procedure caused her distress and extreme consequences: "Like, they cut away sensitive parts and that led to having no feeling," she explains. "Sex becomes very difficult, even the idea in your mind... Also, incontinence – no bladder control... My identity is female, but I will never know how it is to bear a child, never know how to have a period or to talk about many of the things that females think are important to them."
Now you know why Hanne Gaby Odiele is speaking out to discourage parents from putting their children through unnecessary surgery in an effort to make them appear more typically male or female. "I am proud to be intersex," she states. "But I'm also very angry that these surgeries are still happening. It's not that big of a deal being intersex. If they were just honest from the beginning... it became a trauma for me because of what they did. That's why it's very important in my life right now to break the taboo."
Interested to learn more about intersex? Check out Chapter 16 of “Pushing The Boundaries” (pushingtheboundaries.life).
My old address included being on the water. I’d often sit and marvel at the waves and other simple lakeside activity. Now, with my move to a wonderful new home on property surrounded by forest acreage, the fascination with water is replaced by enchantment of the trees. I’m surrounded by deciduous and coniferous evergreens, and as I sit and watch the leaves of deciduous trees turning colours in this marvelous fall season, the conifers remain green, all year, but are still marvellous to watch.
What a joy… and how lucky I am.
I’ve never been a huge TV series watcher. And yet, “Frasier” always grabbed me as a funny, well-written and enjoyable show to watch.
So, I’m intrigued by the re-booting of this series, a couple of decades after the original shut down. And I’m even more keen when I realize James Burrows is directing the first couple of episodes. Burrows, you may know, co-created “Cheers” and has helmed more than 1,000 TV episodes. The guy’s a legend. A hero.
Now, imagine my surprise when James Burrows, asked at age 83 if there is anything left he wants to accomplish, responds with this: “I want to be able to laugh. Genuine laughter is so important. I believe the old Norman Cousins thing: when he had a bad disease, he put on Marx Brothers movies and W.C. Fields movies and laughed his head off and lived a lot longer. That’s what I want to do. I’ve had a great career, I’ve been rewarded, I love the people I work with, I still have wonderful friends, and a laugh every so often will keep me happy.”
Wow! How cool is that. A laugh keeps the legendary James Burrows happy. Gotta tell you how happy that makes me!!
Remind me never to move again! Don’t know which is more demanding: actually packing everything up for the move or unpacking everything and getting it stowed away!
Anyway, the good news is: the process is almost done.
Meanwhile, a friend popped in yesterday to check out the new digs and stated, “You’re so clever having the master bedroom on the main floor.”
Now, I don’t want to shy from being called “clever”, but this was none of my doing. Where I lived before, the bedrooms were upstairs, and this presented no problem for me (or my dog). Now, having bedrooms on the same floor as the living room and kitchen, etc. means… well, I guess it means no climbing stairs. But then, I didn’t have a challenge with climbing those stairs in the first place, and certainly didn’t buy the new pad because of where the rooms are located.
Seems to me this is part of that predilection too many people have of “saving” their strength as they age. Reminds me of moving back in 2017, and someone asked me how far I was located from the hospital at my new address. “Gosh,” I responded, “I never checked. Don’t even know if there is a hospital here.”
Turns out there was. But I have to tell you, it’s not the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. I’m a “when your number’s up, your number’s up” kinda guy. And while some may find that too relaxed, I just can’t live my life worrying about what may happen.
With all the craziness going on in U.S. politics, I’m disappointed we’re seeing the worst kind of ageism being displayed in conversations about whether Joe Biden should run for a second term. Too many people are buying into the olde self-fulfilling-prophecy of believing aging must bring with it declining health and/or frailty. Sure, that may be the way, but it sure doesn’t have to be the way. Increasingly, we are learning (if you care to check) that aging creates a positive outlook and contributes to wellness. Aging also brings a greater capacity for compassion, empathy, self-reflection and greater control over emotions. Now, aren’t those qualities you’d like to see in a President of the U.S.?
I am of an age that thinking about the 1950s brings memories. And certainly one of them, perhaps engrained in my psyche a little more indelibly because of my great uncle Philip Garratt, A.F.C., C.M., being head of the de Haviland Aircraft Company, is about an airplane: the AVRO Arrow.
You know, for some of us, it seemed tough growing up back in the 1950s, next to the mighty U.S.A. But suddenly, we Canucks had the authoritative Avro Arrow to boast about. Omygosh! What an impressive delta-winged interceptor airplane it was! I mean, here we had our symbol of Canada's high-tech future in aircraft manufacturing!
But then, that old “fuddy duddy” Prime Minister John Diefenbaker went and scrapped the whole thing! Just like that, it was over. And the rumour mill started flourishing immediately. Many believed Washington didn’t want an interloper such as Canada stealing their grandeur so they deliberately manipulated the intelligence given to Ottawa in order to influence Diefenbaker to give the Arrow the kibosh. There were other hints of “intelligence” too.
However, a new research paper reveals the decision to scrap the fabled Avro Arrow was significantly influenced by Canadian information gathering. Seems our bright stars pointed out a reduced need for the Arrow in the evolving Cold War with the USSR because the Soviets was shifting away from manned bombers to long-range ballistic missiles, suggesting that interceptors like the Arrow would increasingly play a smaller role.
“The paper makes the case that these strategic intelligence assessments — long the ‘missing dimension’ in the debate over the Arrow's demise — now allow for a fuller understanding of an important episode in Canadian history,” says a media outlet. “It can be concluded that the Canadian intelligence assessment of the changing Soviet bomber threat to North America was an important factor in the fateful decision to cancel the Arrow."
So, it wasn’t the U.S. steering us Canucks away from our own high-tech future after all. We did it to ourselves… supported by research, of course.
Almost feels like an anti-climax.
But I suppose we can be proud that it was Canadian intelligence that cast doubt on the extent of the Soviet threat.
I just read an alarming stat. It reveals that suicides in the U.S. have reached a new high. Yet, at the same time, a recent study confirms that happy people tend to perceive risks more that the average person might feel. Indeed, happy folks appear to be more open to new experiences, and are more optimistic about this (optimism being associated with living a longer, healthier life).
All of which dovetails with findings from my newest books, “Pushing The Boundaries! How To Get More Out Of Life” (pushingtheboundaries.life) and “Being Happy Matters” (beinghappymatters.life).
What I’ve learned is that happiness can be part of well-being. When you’re happy, this adds a sense of satisfaction and control over your life, all of which increases your ability to enjoy relationships. In fact, the study suggests there are certain actions you can take to cultivate this feeling:
-Recall positive memories
-Reach out to loved ones
-Seek out novel experiences
I’ve written previously in this blog about that first one: Practice gratitude. It’s a lesson I learned from a friend who encouraged me to start each day by offering an appreciation for something positive in my life. I do. It works.
The second seems like a no-brainer: recalling positive times just has to kindle happiness.
Reaching out to loved ones is something we don’t do enough. Or I don’t, anyway.
Seek out novel experiences. Now, that’s not an activity that leapt to mind when I considered ways of sustaining happiness. And yet, as I look back at my life and career, I realize I’ve done just that, many times. And it upped the excitement meter, which added to happiness in my life. So I do see the purpose.
We live in very demanding times. With the rise in suicides, seeking ways to latch onto happiness seems to me to be so very timely. It’s something I intend to keep doing. And I hope you do too.