Quote of the Day, July 3, 2014: “The philosophy of the rich versus the poor is this: The rich invest their money and then spend what is left; The poor spend their money and then invest what is left.”

I’m going to avoid the obvious meaning of the saying, that is money, and I’m going to offer an alternative view, albeit a parallel one.

I play piano. Better than some, and worse than others. I’ll leave it at that. Without going into my long history with the instrument, which included lessons while I was a young boy that I loathed at times, I will say that I fell in love and got the bug during my time at university.

There I met many pianists, guitarists, bassoonists, and all types of musicians of varying skill levels. Some were professionals already hoping to hone their skills under the tutelage of those even more advanced than they. Some may as well have been beginners, seemingly having had decided to make music their major at the last minute while registering for classes. I would have fallen in the latter category, with the exception that music was not my major at all, just a newfound love.

Though I started out behind most pianists I met, my deep desire aroused in me a rare type of discipline. The kind one usually notices in a man trying to woo a woman. I had a goal and a drive to attain it that surpassed my desires for anything else at the time, women included. I found myself “borrowing” any sheet music I could get my hands on. I found myself ditching class in order to practice. I may have ‘allowed’ the secretary at the music department to believe I was a music major so as to have access to pianos to practice on. It was so bad that I even distinctly remember blowing of an incredibly attractive blonde cheerleader (whom I had a pretty sizable crush on at the time) for a party that she really wanted me to attend with her, so that I could solidify a piece of music that I had been working on all week. So instead of partying with her, which would have been the “logical” college thing to do at the time, I instead was running my fingers over the smooth ivory keys of a baby grand deep into the night on a sultry Friday evening.first steps pic

To put it short. What I wanted above all things at that time was proficiency at the piano. I asked questions about the piano. I dreamt about the piano. I played air piano on my binder in class. And most importantly I spend my time and energy on my goal, the piano. Looking back, until my father’s death, which deadened my drive for some time, I practiced piano for an average of 4 hours a day. When my fingers hurt, or when the practice rooms were closed for a holiday, and I had some free time, then I’d go to the party or hang out with the guys. They understood though. They had drives too.

There were those who didn’t understand though. They said they wanted to be good at the piano or perhaps another instrument, but every time there was a party you’d be sure to see them there. Any time there was a cute girl to be distracted by they were ready to give her their undivided attention. On the occasional Wednesday leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend you’d see them in the practice rooms, mostly because everyone else had gone home and they were getting some practicing in to stave off boredom.

Now years later, my close friends, the ones who understood when I wasn’t at the party every Friday night, mostly because they were also ditching the party, and in the practice room down the hall from me, gig all the time. Many have become professionals and live completely off their instrument, or the royalties from music they write or perform. They have become rich beyond their wildest dreams when it comes to opportunities to use the musical talents they have spent a lifetime developing. Our other friends look at us and say, “Well you’re just a lot more talented than I am. I wish I was born with as much rhythm as you,” always thinking that it was some sort of luck of the draw or a genetic disposition that created such a gap in the wealth of musical ability. At this point there is not much to say that they will believe or understand. After all, way back, when we only had two pennies of musical ability to rub together between the whole lot of us, they didn’t understand why we would spend so much time in the practice rooms, giving the piano the first and best hours of our day, and saving the left overs for the parties and the hanging out. They did exactly the opposite and gave the most to the women and the good times, and filled in the gaps with cultivating their skills.

But in the end both got what they desired. They truly wanted the women and the parties and they got them at that time, but now they do not have the musicality because they invested only the left-overs. We at the time, invested only our left overs in women and parties, and often felt left out when people forgot to invite us to get together, being accustomed to us not showing up in the first place. But we gave our best to the piano, and it is what has born fruit for us and continues to grow to this day, for after all, once you’re rich you tend to get richer.

So one gets a frat group of drinking buddies that extends deep into their 20s and perhaps 30s. The other gets a skill that if nurtured, keeps growing and satisfies both them and those around them. Each to his own philosophy, investing first one way, then spending the rest another, or visa versa. The thing is, by the time you’re this age, the musician is the party and always gets an invite, where the guy who’s got no skills but is merely a good time often gets forgotten. Oddly enough the old adage is true, that when it comes to the poor, no matter what type of commodity of currency you’re speaking of, it does seem that even what he has is taken from him. Invest wisely.

Quote of the Day, June 25, 2014: “One of the keys to success, and the antithesis of embarrassment, is to pay attention to faces, names, and trends.”

My father taught me that I should always pay attention to what is going on around me. It could help you get ahead in life, avoid an awkward situation, or even save your life. Something as simple as noticing that a woman’s driver license say Oregon on it when she’s putting it back in her purse lets you know she’s not from this area, or seeing that a man’s laptop has a San Francisco Giants sticker on it when he’s putting it back in his bag at the airport can tell you that he’s likely traveling to California.

One particular moment comes to mine at a wedding I recently attended. In fact I was a groomsman in the bridal party. It was a great wedding and the family spared no expense on the venue, food, table settings and entertainment. And like any member of any bridal party, I spent much time up in front of the crowd, albeit silent, but nevertheless up on stage showing my support of the groom and his new bride. There were many other reasons why I, in particular, would have stood out among the rest of the guests.

So half way through the night, I was walking back up toward the dance floor, drink in hand as I was just leaving the bar in the back, when a man in his late 50s grabbed my bicep quite firmly and forcefully pulled me down where he was sitting at a table with a woman about his age.

“Get my wife a piece of chocolate cake…please,” he said quite sternly, attempting to mask his annoyance that I was jovially walking by them sipping a gin and tonic, having not noticed that his wife had been apparently overlooked when the cake had been distributed. Remembering that I had already eaten my cake quite some time ago, I responded,

“Sir, I’d be happy to get your wife a piece of cake. I do know that the chocolate cake had been cut quite some time ago and there’s a chance that there may not be any left. If not would she like some white cake perhaps?” I glanced over at his wife for a moment.

“It’s ok I don’t need any cake. Honey let’s just go dance,” she said, both our heads turning to the man.

“No! Get my wife a some cake now. She’s waited long enough. Get her chocolate cake, not white cake.”

“Alright sir, I’ll be right back,” I said, and then put my drink down and hurried to the back to check on the cake. When I got to the back of the room I found the wait staff continuing to cut up the cake and prepare to disburse it to the rest of the guests. Apparently they simply had not gotten to that man and his wife yet but were very close to doing so. I asked the girl cutting the cake if I could please take a piece from her stand. At first she protested but then she recognized me as a groomsman and reluctantly agreed to allow me to sneak a piece of cake.

I then took the plate with the cake and strolled back up to the front, weaving in-between people and walking to the bass of the music. I was in quite a good mood. I placed the plate on the table and said, “Here you are ma’am, one piece of chocolate cake.” The man sat back and folded his arms saying,

“Well thank you very much it’s about time.” The wife looked very excited and said,

“Excellent, thank you very much.” Then she took her eyes off the cake and glanced up at me, intrigued. Now she grabs my arm other arm, less forcefully than her husband did and asked me, “What is your name?” All the while using her eyes to search over my chest, as if perhaps looking for a name-tag.

“Dominic,” I told her.

“Dominic? Hhmm, are you new here?” Having just flown in from Colorado to California for the weekend, I was a bit perplexed at the question to begin with.

“New here?”

“Yes, new to the club?” Then the gin subsided and the implications came into focus.

“Oohhh, no I don’t work here. I’m one of the groomsmen,” I said chuckling to myself at the case of mistake identity. It quite amused me to be honest. Her face however turned pale and her jaw grew so long I thought it would hit the floor. The man’s sleepy looking eyes grew a bit larger but more out of confusion about my reply than anything else. It wasn’t until his wife’s fist met with his shoulder and she shared some rather choice words with him that his expression changes as he realized his mistake. She apologized profusely but I told her, “Please, it’s not problem at all. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you tonight. I’ll be sitting right over there if you need me,” and I pointed over to the head table where I had set down my drink. Then I walked away and met some friends on the dance floor and forgot about the incident. I didn’t really mean to mortify them, but I did find the whole incident quite amusing, and a good reminder to pay attention.

Quote of the Day, December 19, 2013: “Why does a woman choose a man for his passions and strengths, and then one by one take them away from him?”

This quote of the day instantly struck a chord with many people. One thing that I find interesting is that I do not get many likes or comments on many of the Quotes of the Day but I get absolutely tons and tons of feedback in my private inbox.

I’m actually surprised at the number of women that are surprised by this quote. Just to be clear, this is not some secret message to my wife or to a past girlfriend or anything. To be honest my wife heard it on TV on a show but I could instantly relate, and I know many many men who can as well.

Basically what this quote is saying, something that I go into much more depth in in my book, that there are two competing desires and drives in a woman that influence her mating behavior. Women are attracted to the same things that they fear. They desire to be close to and connect themselves to the same things that also make them uneasy and insecure.

By this I mean, that women like men who are dedicated to something, disciplined, have a deep passion for and chase after goals. They like men who have honed skills that can entertain, or evoke admiration, or that can take care of them, or that can do any number of things for them. The problem arises when women fail to realize that all these things come from a passion and devotion and lots of risk taking that is focused toward those things, and not the woman directly.

And did I mention that many of them involve risk taking. Many women are all to eager to enjoy the spoils of a man’s war, but would never be involved in the struggle itself, and really would rather he didn’t bother with it either. The trouble is you cannot have one without the other. You cannot be a rock star without first having bloody fingers from hours and hours of practicing. You can’t sign an NBA shoe deal without first, and continuing to do thousands and thousands of suicides up and down the floor.

There are many women who get this, for they themselves have their own calloused fingers, and have to ice their knees after every game, but there are many women out there who will hunt down the pianist at the concert because his skills can fill them with desire, and yet lament the day they ever met a musician when he wont’ stop practicing so that they can go out to a party.  Both become unsatisfied and confused as the woman realizes that she turned down all the party guys for the disciplined guy who wasn’t so interested in how low cut her shirt was to begin with, but now that he’s exactly the same as he always was, she finds herself thinking about going to a party with a guy who just wants to drink and have a good time.

Those kinds of women, and there are lots of them, see all that horsepower pulling in a certain direction and find it irresistible, but don’t realize that they really have hopes that they can somehow redirect that horsepower toward them. And to be sure a good man will redirect a great deal of it toward the woman of his choice, but that kind of man is already on a journey. The woman herself isn’t a journey. She can come along if she likes and enjoy the fruit of his efforts. But she doesn’t want that. She wants to be his efforts. And so without even knowing it, she slowly wittles away at the very things she once desired him for, all the while thinking she is completely justified in rerouting this obviously neglectful or irresponsible man. Because in her mind, the definition of irresponsible, is anything that diverts his attention from her and what she wants to do. The sad part is these men are more responsible than they ought to be, and will often allow themselves to slow down in an effort to better tend to their woman’s wants. The couple grows old together, and the women looks at this now aging man, splendor and vigor all but taken from him, who once showed so much promise and potential, and she’s all but bored and disgusted. He never became what he could have become. She’s not now reaping the benefits of a full and adventurous life, that she seems some of her friends enjoying. She confused on how he could have let her down so. Yet she cannot complain, for she has her reward. She lived it the last 20 years or so. Now it is over. Her other friends are just beginning their 20 years of reward. Yet still she feels cheated. And so does he.

It’s quite a complex concept to explain. I’ve not done well at all at it here, but I challenge you to find that uberly talented guy in your life (everybody knows one) and ask him about it. You’ll be surprised how familiar he will be with the concept.

Quote of the Day September 4, 2013: “I do love the Midwest, but right now I could sure go for some pink champagne on ice.”

It would seem that this quote has proven to be a stumbling block to the cultured and foolishness to the less so. For those of you that are scoffing at my desire for something pink, and the others who are offended at my classless admission to drinking champagne with ice, please relax.

Pink champagne on ice is a term of endearment that many of my friends and I use to (more discretely than I previously thought apparently) reference our homeland of California.

As most of you probably know, pink champagne on ice is a lyric from the song Hotel California by the band The Eagles. While the lyrics themselves are rather cryptic at best, one thing is for certain, nearly the entire song seems to have nothing to do with California at all except for the chorus and even that doesn’t make much sense.

I’ve heard that when the song was released in 1977 (same year as the original Star Wars mind you) that kids in schools and churches were warned not to listen to it because of its obviously corrupted lyrics and that if one played the record backward you could even hear a satanic message.

Turns out hat those Sunday school teachers gave the eagles a little too much credit. Apparently they simply got high while writing the lyrics and strung together any few phrases that seemed to rhyme and at least made sense on a grammatical level.

Not sure that is necessarily a winning formula for making a platinum record but it sure worked for them and helped them to create one of the most legendary songs of the album era. One that is still plainly recognizable by kids 40 years later. And it definitely has a solid place among the canon of California classics. Though I moved to the Midwest some time ago, I’m a western boy at heart and like the song says, when it comes to California you can check out any time you’d like but you can never leave. So whenever I get a little homesick I crave pink champagne on ice.

Album Review: My More by Marques Nelson

A long way from gospel chapel on Wednesdays, My More comes out hitting on all cylinders. The rookie album from Pasadena’s Marques Nelson dropped this February with an assortment of classic APU jams and some never before heard material that will be sure to keep your church and your stereo bumpin’ well into the summer.

After working over 2 years on the album, this 29 year old keyboarding crooner with the voice of a young john legend mixes modern R&B with an old school gospel feel to give listeners 11 tracks of fresh and exciting generational confusion, just like watching Mello drop 45 in Madison Square wearing a throw back Knicks jersey.

“My two biggest musical influences are Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin,” admits Nelson as he describes the thought behind some of his music. “Everything is in that CD, my whole life up to this point. The good, the bad, the ugly failures, and successes. In almost all of my songs the very first line starts with what I’m feeling at that exact moment. Then I realize that I actually have to write a song and I begin to construct something that is actually listenable.”

Some of the highlights of the CD are the album’s namesake My More which introduces listeners to a musically harder and more political Marques while maintaining the lyrical compassion and hope that audiences have come to appreciate and expect. Calvary slows it down and then swells to an epic choral finish with help from the voices of Kesha Shantrell and Whitney Wood as Nelson takes a look at God’s persistent love for a seemingly ever resistant people. And of course Your Grace is back with a clean and polished feel that will bring old fans of the number one chapel jam and new listeners alike to their feet…and sometimes dance.

While Nelson writes his own music and lyrics, there are 7 other singers and 3 other musicians on the album. Jonathan Holley, whose rap vocals appear on L.O.L. and Long Live the King co-wrote the later with Nelson. Of working with Nelson on the composition, Holley said, “It’s rewarding when people legitimately like the song and can connect with it for worship.”

When asked what the take away for listeners is Nelson says, “What they need most. Hope Covered in Rhyme. That’s the music. That’s the message. But to answer your question, hope…and some quality music they can jam to.”

To test drive the album go to www.marquesnelson.com. Nelson has an upcoming trip back to South Africa this summer in which he and other students and alumni from APU in conjunction with Bethel Church will be visiting with a non-profit in South Africa to work with aids-orphans and teach the gospel. This is Nelson’s third trip to Africa and any donations over and above the cost of the CD made through his website will help pay for the trip. Please specify “South Africa Trip” if you wish to donate. So whether you have a heart for helping missions work or are just looking for some new jams to add to your ipod check out My More by Marques Nelson on sale now.