The incredible thinking machine

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Standing next to the great pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu in Egypt, I marveled as have visitors for millennia at the size of each stone, and the complexity of arranging them. I also wondered why did they make this magnificent rock pile. It was, as you know, to bury the Pharaoh, his queen, and treasures they might enjoy in the afterlife.

They believed that if they embalmed and protected the Pharaoh’s body he would live forever. I assume that was considered a good thing. Two miscalculations limited the success of their efforts. The entombed riches attracted robbers who made off with the treasure, often desecrating the corpse in the process.

The second was the embalmers’ own doing. They left the pharaoh’s brain unumbalmed. In fact they sucked it out through his nostrils, and tossed in into the garbage—the first recorded instance of straining the brain. What heaven is like for a poverty stricken brainless pharaoh is anybody’s guess, but it doesn’t sound promising. The Egyptians thought the thinking feeling center of the body was the heart, and the brain was useless. I understand how they could come to that conclusion. I have felt that way myself on some Monday mornings.

The Egyptians were not the only ancients who disrespected the brain. Some Greek philosophers thought it was a radiator on top of our head. Aristotle believed the main purpose of the brain was to cool the blood. Does that mean hot headed people have inadequate brains? I won’t go there.

One notable hot-headed musical genius Ludwig van Beethoven poured ice water over his head when he sat down to create music, believing it stimulated his brain.

In the early industrial age, people called the brain “the magic weaving machine.” We are more advanced. Artificial intelligence expert Marvin Minsky said the brain, “…is just a computer made of meat.”

Future historians will probably chuckle over our simplistic representation as we do over the weaving machine age. The brain has more intuition, subtlety, aesthetic capability and, if you are a believer in such things, spiritual inspiration than even IBM’s BIG Blue super computer that has sometimes whipped the world’s chess masters.

What are the capabilities of your brain? We don’t know. We may never know in this life. It has been said that if the brain were simple enough for us to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.

But according to an article from the Daytimer personal organization people I used to use, here is a score card. “Your brain can record over 86 million bits of information every day. It has more than 30 billion working parts, does 100,000 chemical reactions every second, generates more electrical impulses than all the telephones in the world combined, sends messages at 170 miles an hour, parallel processes information on more levels than we can yet measure, intuits, extrapolates, and communicates on frequencies we are yet to discover.”

The next time you make a mistake, don’t get the joke, can’t figure out the puzzle, forget your mother’s name or do some other dumb thing we all do, before you bang your forehead and say, “Duh” remember what you just read. And if you forget it, remember that you read something complimentary about your brain. And if you forget that, remember this.

Henry Eyring, world renowned chemist and mathematical genius, encouraged us all with this little true story. Walking with Albert Einstein, his friend and fellow faculty member at Princeton University, they passed a vegetable garden. Henry said, “Albert, do you know what that plant is?”

Einstein replied, “No.”

Henry who grew up on a farm, said, “Those are bean plants Albert.”

With all due respect to Doctor Einstein’s genius, Henry would sometimes tell those of us with more modest intellect “Don’t get down on yourself. Even Albert Einstein didn’t know beans.”

Will Rogers, cowboy philosopher and humorist said it succinctly, “Smart people are just as dumb as the rest of us. They’re just dumb at different things.”

We do not yet know the potential of the human mind. Since I believe in the doctrine of eternal progression, I’m thinking our intelligence is potentially unlimited. This much we do know. Our brain, mind, and intelligence are godlike attributes. We should treasure them, develop them, give thanks to God for them, and use them to bless our brothers and sisters in the human family, his children.

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Music has charms

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

“Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast.” So wrote the poet William Congreve more than three centuries ago (The mourning bride, 1697). He is usually misquoted as having written, “savage beast.” I’ll borrow that misquote for this segues. According to an undocumented account, a gifted musician decided to check out the truth of this proverb. Deep into the jungle he went to a clearing. He sat down on a stump and began to play. A ferocious bear saw the musician and his violin as dinner with a complementary tooth pick. Just as he reached out to devour the violinist, the gentle strains calmed him. He sat down transfixed at the sound. A wild rhino charged the man. He too stopped in his tracks and settled down to listen. A boa constrictor dropped out of a tree, to strangle the man, heard the music, did a double flip in flight and coiled quietly at the man’s feet humming along with the music.

Suddenly a roaring tiger pounced from the jungle, and gobbled up the musician violin and all. The other animals chorused, “Hey! What did you do that for?” The tiger put his paw to one ear and said, “What’s that you say?”

Beautiful music has little effect on deaf ears. But, to paraphrase Jesus, “Those who have ears to hear…” find music to be soothing, enlivening, transforming. Our former family doctor Roger Lewis suddenly found himself a desperate patient when a massive stroke paralyzed him. Gasping in agony, then bleeding profusely under the surgeons knife, barely surviving, then for months climbing slowly with his one good arm and leg out of the pit of paralysis, he was sustained by the powerful strains of “Ode to Joy.”

Ironically the composer of this inspiring chorus, Ludwig van Beethoven, never heard it. He lost his hearing, before its first performance. Music can move us even when we don’t technically hear it. Justin Osmond, son of Merrill, lead singer of the famous Osmonds has this experience when he plays. “I …hear the music through the vibrations of the violin as it creates a musical reaction through my cheek bone and all the way to my brain which interprets the vibrations as music.” Justin is hearing impaired, but not heart impaired. He wrote the book, “Hearing With Your Heart.”

It was once thought that music was an incorruptible art form. Today we know differently. Music can aid and abet the ugliest passions.

So we try to insulate our children and ourselves from bad vibes. This approach has its limitations. Tradition has it that on his way home from the Trojan war, the ancient Greek Ulysses’ boat neared the island of the Sirens. These nymphs sang so beautifully that no human could resist them. Their song would suck the unfortunate sailor onto the rocks surrounding their island, and he would be destroyed. Ulysses wanted to survive the voyage, but also was curious to hear the song. So he filled the ears of his crew with wax so they could not hear the deadly music. Then he had them tie him to the mast and commanded them to never release him until they were safely out of earshot of the Sirens. They obeyed. The ship and crew were saved. The only casualty was Ulysses sanity. When they untied him, he was nutty as a jay bird from hankering after the music. What parent of a teenager can’t identify with that scenario; kids who think they can dabble in temptation without paying a price? That’s as loony as Ulysses.

In the years we were recording in Hollywood, and performing around the country I saw too many talented and gifted people both performers and listeners wrecked on the rocks of enticing music.

My friend Truman Madsen had a better idea than Ulysses’. He said just put a musical group in the bow of the ship and have them play better music. No ropes, no wax, no insanity, unless we are insane enough to think we can plug our children’s ears and listen to salacious music ourselves.

Selectivity in music is itself an art form today when you can carry a lifetime of tunes in your shirt pocket, or pick them out of the ether at the touch of a button.

Musical memories can accompany you forever. My own mental library includes the driving wale and beat of a drum and bagpipe band followed by the Salt Lake Southern Baptist choir making the very trees rock to their rhythm in our Freedom Festival parade, romantic ballads that transport me back to crew cuts and suede shoes, down home back porch pickin’, playing trumpet in our town’s Sunday night band concerts, sitting in the middle of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as they sang at their own party, pinned back in my seat and then erupting out of it as 3,600 full throated barbershop quartet members filled a football field and turned the stadium into a megaphone, more than “76 Trombones” at a state band competition closing with a unified thunder for America, harmonizing with our children and grandchildren in our weekly family gathering we call “Sing Thing,” blending with my neighbors at church in musical prayer and praise to the Lord, my guitar and me alone with the breeze in the palm trees singing away my homesickness on a far away island in the South Pacific, lullabies to our children when they were small, humming cheerful songs at 3:00 in the morning as Sharon and I get ready to go to the temple for our weekly assignment. Once Sharon said, “I am impressed you can be so chipper this time of the morning.”

“It’s not me that is chipper,” I said. It’s the song. I’m just along for the ride.” Music will carry you. Let it. Just be sure it is taking you to the places you want to go.

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Home Teaching and Home Learning

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

In the church of Jesus Christ of-Latter-day Saints (Mormon) we have a program called Home Teaching. Every family has two men (one of them may be as young as 14) to visit them in their home, inquire about their situation, and help them in whatever needs they have. The service takes many forms. I have been on roofs cutting away big overhanging limbs, under floors thawing frozen pipes, babysitting a house full of miniature Chihuahua puppies, consoling a widow whose husband had just committed suicide, and shoveling significant cubic yards of snow off walks and driveways. I consider home teaching one of the most authentic ways to demonstrate one’s discipleship of Jesus who “went about doing good.”

Home Teachers also teach. They bring a lesson of instruction and inspiration every month. Sometimes they teach other things to you if you prod them a little. I did. I said to my home teacher, “You are a man of natural intelligence and extensive learning. You are also honest and unflinching in your views even in the face of opposition. I respect that.

“You also hold views on many subjects that are essentially opposite from mine. As my home teacher, I want you to teach me why you believe these things, and I don’t. We need to have a serious discussion; even a debate. And to help me understand your positions, let me be you, and you be me. The basic rule of this discussion is that we don’t move off a point until I have explained correctly. You will be the judge of when I have achieved that.”

He agreed. It was a mind and emotion stretching experience. I think I might have scored a B or maybe stretch it to B+. Some things I assumed he believed because they were part of the package I had created for people I consider to be in this category. I carefully file this package in a convenient place in my head. I pull it out and use it to pigeon hole people when I am too biased, uninformed, too busy, or too lazy to examine them as unique individuals. The prepackaged opinion approach didn’t seem to work this time, because I was being him, and I know I am an individual, so I had to assume that he was too. I found he didn’t exactly fit the mold I had created. I had to adjust it to fit his opinions. They sometimes turned out to be uncomfortably close to my own.

There were other things, however in which he held positions so opposite of mine that I had a hard time spitting them out. If we had had a polygraph there, I would have blown every fuse in the box. A couple of times I unconsciously reverted to my own opinions, and he laughed.

Neither of us made a convert out of the other. Mostly we agreed to disagree. But that is better than duking it out in the parking lot. I thought and felt some new things which, I believe, is a working definition of learning.

I may be a step ahead of the saying attributed to Jack Handey, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile away from them, and you’ll have their shoes.”

I also learned that nobody is perfect and since I am pretty much a nobody, I should be pretty much perfect. I’ll try that on my home teacher.

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

MIRRORS TO WIndows

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Learn a Little

Nothing in the universe is cuter than a baby. Self-absorbed, uninhibited, spontaneous, babies sit in the center of their own universe surrounded by mirrors reflecting their cuteness. They are irresistible to watch. Now let me tell you what is not fun to watch—a fifteen-year-old with the same outlook and attitude. Helping children turn those mirrors of self-importance, self-concern, and plain selfishness into windows looking out on and responding to the needs of others—this is a big part of parenting. So how do we do it? I asked our children.

“We just knew that Saturday was for working together at home; then we could play.”

“We did it because our older brothers and sisters did. We followed the tradition.”

“Fasting was really hard for me when I was little. But I knew that even though Dad was on tour, he would be fasting after his show and would be really hungry and thirsty.”

“We love to be together, and that sometimes takes sacrificing.”

“We never even thought of leaving a church meeting without helping to put the chairs away.”

From these responses and other comments, I gleaned the following principles:

Enjoy our successes. Along the way we get tantalizing glimpses of the people our children will one day be. An esteemed member of the Church and community told me once, “I was feeling down one gray winter morning, but then I drove past your place. I saw in the snow four little dwarfs with a bucket of water in each hand, joking with each other as they climbed up the trail behind your house to your goat barn. I said, ‘With children like that, the world has a future.’”

People often told us, “I love to see your children in church sitting quietly with a younger brother or sister on their laps.”

My friend Louise Baird calls such moments “parental payoffs.” We all get some, not nearly enough to satisfy our appetite but sufficient to strengthen us as we push, drag, cajole and encourage our children up the trail toward adulthood.

Cheer for our children. Honest compliments are easier to come up with when the children’s sacrifices fill real world needs and not parental make-work projects.

We often told our boys, “Thanks for bringing us this delicious milk. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have it.” The gratitude was particularly true for the members of our family who had allergic reactions to cows’ milk but did better on our goats’ milk.\

We formalized our pouring on the praise with a weekly meeting we named “Brag Time.” We still hold it, now including the grandchildren. Brag Time is a family gathering which is dedicated to cheering for ourselves and for each other. It sounds like this:

“I said an Article of Faith in Primary.”

“Yea!”

“Desiree didn’t want to go to seminary, but I invited her and she came.”

“Yea!”

“I helped clean the patio.”

“Yea!”

“Tom helped me learn to tie my shoes!”

“Yea!”

There is only one rule to Brag Time. When someone brags, the rest of us applaud and cheer. No sarcastic comments, no put-downs are allowed in Brag Time. When someone has a brag in which he or she reached out and sacrificed to help someone else, it is time for an extra burst of applause.

Bend the twig. [1] (See Proverbs 22:6) Probably the earliest interchange our children remember with me happened every night after prayer and before the piggyback ride to the bedroom. I asked them two questions: “What was your happiest thing today? What did you do to build the Lord’s kingdom today?”

“Our Scout troop did stealth cleaning of the widows’ yards.”

“I let John wear my new shirt.”

They each knew this report was due every day from their earliest lispings until their high school graduation. By then we hoped the tree was inclined. The answers included much repetition, but more than rarely some sincere thinking. Sometimes we struck gold when the happiest thing and the building the kingdom activity were the same.

Build togetherness. Teaching sharing and sacrifice is probably easier if your family is blessed with limited means. But with a little ingenuity even the financially blessed need not be sacrificially impoverished. I know a well-to-do family who takes “service vacations.” They hit the road in their motor home, and their only destination is to find people along the way whom they can help and serve. Their children love it.

But as a father it always strengthened my case when I could say such things as, “I had planned to get each of you a Ferrari on your sixteenth birthday so we wouldn’t all be sharing the family van, but it looks like that won’t quite fit into this month’s budget.”

With fifteen children in our family, there were a number of things that didn’t quite fit into “this month’s budget,” but I am now told by our grown children that none of those things really mattered. What mattered to them, and still does, was to be together. What might seem to some people a sacrifice of privacy was and is to them a blessing of companionship. They still sacrifice to bring their families from all parts of the country for our annual family conference.

Build traditions. This closeness led to other kinds of what might be called sacrifices.

Walking through the backyard once, I picked up this snatch of conversation. Danny’s friend Cliff said, “Hey Danny, let’s go over to my house and play.”

Danny replied, “Great. Hey Bobby, let’s go play at Cliff’s place.”

Cliff, “Not Bobby, just you and me.”

A brief puzzled pause from Danny and then, “See you later, Cliff. Have fun.”

Perhaps Danny sacrificed a good time with a friend by including his younger brother, but it never occurred to him to do otherwise. That’s just the way the Hiatt children did things. Invite one; expect some portion of the multitude to tag along. It was their tradition. I admit we planted the seed and nourished it.

Give for the fun of it. This led to such traditions as “No paybacks.” When you do something for your brother or sister, if he or she pays you back, “verily you have your reward”; (see Matthew 6:1-4) if not, you get paid with blessings in heaven and warm feelings here.

Work together. We, like many families, feel that chores and housework should not be paid for. They are work that we all do because we all live in the house and eat the food. When they were small, our children accepted this and even enjoyed working around the house, sometimes for as long as four minutes. After that, it was other rewards like being with Mommy and Daddy; having Dad regale them with one of his signature stand-up comedy, storytelling routines; and knowing that after we all did the work, we would do something even more fun.

Our first six children were boys, and they were getting muscles while the later ones were getting permanent teeth. They needed more challenging and manly work to do. At least their parents thought so. We purchased, over what seemed interminable years, five acres of land on which we could grow animal feed, fruit trees, gardens, and a world-class crop of weeds.

“Dad, I want to get a paper route,” Dan said a few weeks before his twelfth birthday. Thus began another tradition, hand-me-down paper routes. A quarter of a century later, Maren, our youngest, entered high school, and following the tradition declared emeritus status. We also did summer and after-school work. Good training, we thought, but what do we do with the money? My observation is that too much “walking around” money can be detrimental to young people. If they get into big-time recreation habits, costly clothes, car payments, and expensive vacations early, they may have a hard time scaling back later as missionaries, college students, or newly marrieds. For these reasons and more, including the opportunity to learn to sacrifice, we decided to pool our resources every month, then determine what each person needed, and provide that for them. Generally the system worked well for us.

Did our efforts always work? Does the sun shine every day we plan a picnic? Does the stock market always go up right after we invest? This is a real world. We have a drawer full of plans that “coulda, shoulda, woulda” worked but didn’t. Others didn’t work at first, but later bore fruit. Some we thought withered, but found they grew as the children matured. Now we are seeing them blossoming in the hearts of our grandchildren. Traditions by definition take time to take hold. But gradually with gentle loving reinforcement from us as parents, they can strengthen from silken threads to iron rods.

Selfless sacrifice for the good of others because of our love for the Lord—this qualifies us for the kingdom. Helping our children transform their mirrors of self-absorption into windows of empathy with a view into heaven—this may be the most treasured inheritance we can give them.

From an article I wrote for the book Helping and Healing our Families, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, Deseret Book Company, 2005

[1] Pope, Alexander, Moral Essays, (1731-35), 1.149, quoted in The International Thesaurus of Quotations, Rhoda Thomas Tripp, comp., Thomas Y. Crowell, New York, 1970, p. 646

What do you think about this part of the book?

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

My pleasure to present

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

In the “Live Long*” part of the book we jumped from one memory to the next in more or less chronological order. My hope is that I have planned and lived generally with a long perspective. Now I’d like to look back with the focus of the second part of the title, “Learn a little.” Most everything I have learned came through some kind of situation, not always breathtaking, sometimes boring, but couched in some setting. The experiences brought not many epiphanies, and not always happy endings, but often a fact or lesson worth adding to my modest store of knowledge, and maybe even a little wisdom. Including…
* In perspective

Learn a Little

My pleasure to present

“It is now my pleasure to present…,” said the man at the microphone. Hands throughout the auditorium were poised to applaud. The president of a nationwide network of motels was about to announce a program to build dinner theaters at the motels. For the thespians and performers including The Three D’s gathered in company headquarters in Memphis Tennessee, the circuit might be the greatest opportunity since Vaudeville.

The announcer uttered the president’s name. The welcoming applause was predictably thunderous from an audience with so much self interest at stake. The sound crescendoed to its peak, struggled then slipped as hands grew weary of clapping, whistling lips dried, and enthusiasm seeped away.

Meanwhile his Excellency the president ambled toward the microphone arriving several seconds after silence had replaced the jubilation. Disappointment sagged over the smiles on the faces of the audience members, all of whom considered themselves experts in stage technique. Across the table I heard one potential starlet of the circuit say to another, “He just doesn’t get it.” Her companion nodded.

What they accurately predicted was that any person who didn’t ride in on the applause of his or her introduction and use it as a launching pad didn’t know bean one about show business. Not a good omen for the proposed theater circuit. Unsurprisingly the project never got off the ground. It was like asking a garden club president to race stock cars.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression,” as the saying goes. On stage, the opening curtain is your chance to soar or face plant. Start off right and you are halfway to a standing ovation. Stumble, and immediately feel the flop sweat begin to seep into your shoes.

Sometimes the deck is so stacked against you it’s like having a hangman for master of ceremonies. I once performed for a national organization of university educators. Like many intellectuals, they considered the expanding world population a curse on the future of the earth.

The mc meant well. He laid on the usual accolades, but finished with, “And he is the father of fifteen children.” I felt like a Christian being introduced in the coliseum by Nero. The silence was deafening. The stony faces and smattering of applause told me I was a ham sandwich in a synagogue.

Introductions on stage are different only in degree from personal introductions. Thoughtfully done an introduction is a smooth invitation to share each others worlds for awhile. If we are introducing someone to another person or small group, we might consider beforehand the good things we know about that person, and particularly those things that might link him or her into the group. Introducing ourselves is a bit different. We obviously don’t want to open with a list of our accomplishments, but a word or two about who we are is certainly appropriate.

On stage or at a podium or pulpit it is expected that we will deliver the presentation we have prepared. People would be confused if we immediately asked for questions from the audience or launched into a sing along.
But in private introductions I have found that after a brief statement of my identity, the best thing I can do is listen. If the other person doesn’t fill the silence with his own opinions or observations, a non threatening sincere question may break the ice.

The mechanics are also important, a smile, firm handshake, and eye contact, almost always open doors to communication. I have a pet peeve about people who want to dominate an introduction. A university president I met a few times was known for his hand shaking style. Particularly if you were taller than he, which many people were, he would grab your hand and pull you off balance to let you know up front who was in charge of the conversation. I admired the man as a mover and a shaker. He didn’t need to try to intimidate me with hand shaking theatrics. I have a friend who instead of pressing palms grasps just the fingers of your hand and crushes them to one up you. An introduction should be an invitation to discourse, not a call to arms with verbal light sabers.

The Three D’s received many introductions over the years. Some were grandiose, some simple. My favorite intro of all time was from a scout leader introducing us at a Jamboree. He said, “Boys, we have a real treat for you tonight. The Three D’s will entertain us. And I want to tell you. I would sooner hear these guys sing than eat. (pause) Because I have heard them eat.”

“Welcome The Three D’s.”

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

There is a “there” in Oakland

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.
I am in the midst of mine.
For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.
The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Up to now we have been jumping from one memory to the next in more or less chronological order. My hope is that I have planned and lived generally with a long perspective. Now I’d like to look back with the focus of the second part of the title, “Learn a little.” Everything I have learned came through some kind of situation, not always breathtaking, sometimes boring, but couched in some setting. The experiences brought not many epiphanies, and not always happy endings, but often a fact or lesson worth adding to my modest store of knowledge, and maybe even a little wisdom. Including…

Writer and art connoisseur Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) famously said of her home town Oakland California, “There is no there, there.”

People chuckled assuming she was referring to the city’s casual, bordering on haphazard layout. She claimed she was misunderstood. She meant that her idyllic growing up countryside home had been urban developed, and her memories paved over.

Whatever the correct interpretation of her line, I know one man for whom there is a “there” in Oakland, a special, even sacred place. It happens to be a gutter.

One twilight time I was standing on another location sacred to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Oakland Mormon Temple. Looking down and west from the high hillside, I watched the lights blinking on across the bay in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance inviting the adventurous to sail the deep blue waters of the Pacific to the great world beyond..

“Beautiful isn’t it?” he said.

I turned to see a smiling man a bit past middle age with a sizable and serious minded dog on a leash. “I’m a lucky man. I get to watch this drama most every night,” he said.

“You work here?”

“I’m the night watchman. Actually, Buster here is the night watchman. I just watch him and go where he leads me. I follow him, and he follows his nose.”

“So he’s a watchdog,” I said.

“More like a specialized search party. As you probably know, smoking is not allowed on this property. But some people like to hide in the bushes and practice that and other unlawful activities.”

“And Buster sniffs them out?” I asked

He has a teetotaler nose for tobacco smoke and an authoritative bark. That usually makes the point and sends them skeedadling,” my new friend said.

“Skeedadling,” I said. “I haven’t heard that word since my mother used to grab my brother’s hand and mine and take off when we were late for church, Sakes alive and land o’Goshen.”

He smiled, “That’s a quick commute through time and space. I grew up back in Utah too.”

“What brought you out here?”

“Stupidity.”

“Meaning?”

“I was blessed with a photographic memory. Read it once, repeat it forever. I could quote poetry by the hour. School was easy, too easy, sometimes boringly easy. Work was the same. I became an electrical contractor. I was fast and accurate. I could read through a set of blueprints once and never have to go back to them. I made more money than I knew what to do with. Married my beautiful childhood sweetheart, and had a picture post card family.”

“Doesn’t sound stupid to me.”

“I’m getting to that. School, money, family, all handed to me on a silver platter. Success was so easy I took it for granted. I got bored with it all, started looking for kicks in other places. Found it in the booze bottle, and worse.

“Everything unraveled. I lost my contracts, my wife and kids, my home and fortune and the respect of my family, friends, and myself. I drifted out to here, ended up on First Street. Do you know what that means?”

“Tell me.”

“Most every seaport town has piers and wharves, and just up from there, First Street the first chance for the gamblers, the hookers, the con men and the booze joints to get their claws into the stupid sailors who come ashore looking for action. I came from the landward side, but got snared by the same people.

“One night I ended up as low as you can get, sea level, First Street, literally face down in the gutter, and I couldn’t even lift up my head. Through the spit and the vomit I mumbled out a prayer. I said ‘God I’ve lost everything. If you can see me down here, and if you think I’m worth the trouble will you please lift my head up on to the curb?’

“He did. Then he dragged up one leg, then the other. I was able to crawl next to a building and sleep it off. That was the beginning of the road back. From up here I can see pretty much see where I was that night. It was right there.”

“So there is a “there” in Oakland,” I said.

He smiled. “There are more beautiful spots in the town, but none more important to me.

“I’m not where I once was, but I’m not down there. I didn’t get back my family, my skills, or the respect of people who mean a lot to me. And my memory washed away in the booze. Alcohol dissolves brain cells. Did you know that?

“Most important I got back my faith in God and Jesus Christ, and I’m getting my hope back. The kind people who hired me to watch this hallowed ground, and many other forgiving folks are supporting me. I’m going to make it.

“Well, Buster and I have to go sniff some more bushes. Nice talking to you. Keep the faith brother.”

“You too. Thanks for sharing. With your permission, I’d like to use a square foot or two of your grass here to kneel down and make a call home.”

“Sure. I’ll leave you alone”

I watched him walk away. I looked down to the lights of the cities, and up to the stars and whispered my gratitude and my petition. “Beloved Father in heaven Thou who telleth us thy wayward children, ‘Come unto me. My hand is stretched out still’ please bless my brother and Buster, and all of us when we lose our way. I thank thee for lighting the road home. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

What do you think about this part of the book?
Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.
I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)
The questions are these:
“A” How much did you enjoy this?
“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?
The rating is:
1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.
2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts
3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary
4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to
5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door
So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, but since that that would probably be from my mother and she has passed away, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)
Also feel free to add comments if you like.
Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.