Posted by: Jerry Langford | 01/20/2018

Introspection Station, Please Use This Lane

“Introspection is easy as long as you don’t have to be honest with yourself.”  –Jerry Langford

Recently, I was jostled out of my daily dull thinking and heard a challenge to be introspective.  No, that’s not a new sexual orientation or gender description.  It’s the ability to pause and reflect, to take inventory, to examine yourself and your motivations.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I will henceforth commence introspecting.

The goal I have set before myself is to analyze three of my favorite activities and try to understand the odd appeal they have to me.  I suspect that I’m the one who’s odd and not the appeal, necessarily.  I hope this short trail down Discovery Lane will lead to some new insights about me and the unusual ways I view things.

Disclaimer: I love spending time with my family.  Grandchildren are an amazing blessing, too!  But they’re not on this list.  I love to travel, too, but most of the time I’m traveling to see family members, so that didn’t make the list, either.  I guess I’m intrigued about the allure of my hobbies, talents and career choices, so I’m focusing on those in my introspection challenge.

The top 3, in no particular order, are these: broadcasting, illusions, and playing poker.  These activities occupy much of my spare time and still provide great joy at this stage of my life.

Broadcasting

It’s the sort of job that I’d volunteer to do if I ever won the lottery.  How many people can say that about their chosen career?  I am blessed to be in this business and I couldn’t have planned my broadcasting career path if I’d tried!  I was blessed with a natural talent, good training, a quick sense of humor, a passion to remain informed about a variety of news and topics, and an ability to connect with people from all walks of life.  These gifts have probably allowed me to stay in radio for as long as I have.  In an industry that is well known for high-turnover and nomadic on-air talent, I have also been very fortunate to be at the same group of radio stations for quite a long time.

But what is the appeal?  The ability to open a microphone and talk to tens of thousands of people (or sometimes hundreds of thousands) has an allure in itself, of course.  But that isn’t the appeal to me.  Fame is fleeting and, like most things, it doesn’t satisfy long-term.  In radio, I find that it is the seriousness of the responsibility that is so appealing to me.  Early on, the excitement of talking to so many people at once was nerve-wracking and thrilling.  But that novelty wore off quickly and now I am grateful to so many people who appreciate me and rely on me to spend hours with them as they listen to our station.  Whether it’s delivering the news, interviewing guests, or sharing stories that inform or brighten their day, it is a huge privilege that I do not take for granted.  I love the connection I have with our listeners!

But Jerry, you’re in a room all alone for hours.  How do you even know anyone is listening?  Well, there are companies that specialize in tracking audience numbers and those are reliable enough to be used for advertising purposes.  So we have a pretty good idea, depending on the time of day.  Also, and this is another aspect of broadcasting that I love, I frequently work in the community at radio events and I have met thousands of listeners who spend their mornings listening to me.  I bring our station’s EZ-up booth to concerts, festivals, conferences, churches, county fairs, comedy nights, etc, and I always meet people who love our station and tolerate my weird sense of humor in the mornings.

Working in radio also networks me with thousands of fascinating people and sometimes I’m asked to speak at churches or groups on behalf of the station.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll remain in my current broadcasting role, but I hope to be involved in some capacity for years to come.  Long, long ago, I hosted an afternoon talk show for a couple of years and I really miss the daily challenge that presented.  Down the road, I may look for an opportunity to venture back into those deep (and occasionally shallow) conversational waters in Southern California.

Illusions

When I was in the 5th grade, a magician came to my elementary school.  Thinking back to my early years, it’s safe to say that I was always an outsider, frequently bullied, and rarely considered a leader.  But when that magician needed a volunteer to levitate on a table, he chose me!  I was so honored to be part of his stage show and I felt complicit in the illusion he was performing.  Even though kids asked me how it had been done, I never told them.  It tapped a desire in me to perform and magic had captured my fascination.

Later, a great friend and mentor showed me how much fun it was to perform magic for audiences.  I didn’t perform at that time but I learned much from him and it bolstered my confidence to eventually perform myself.  About 12 years ago, I used magic tricks to draw listeners to our radio booth when I was working at events.  I started off challenging listeners with brain teasers (cups, sticks, number games) and that slowly morphed into performing close-up illusions for small audiences.  The reaction was immediate and better than I expected.  Soon, our booth was the busiest and most popular at all the events.  Listeners and visitors loved playing brain games and taking on magic challenges.  They hung out at the booth longer and even invited their friends to come and see for themselves!  It was wildly successful.

Within a few years, I added larger illusions to my growing performance and eventually started doing shows in the community.  I performed at schools, churches, comedy clubs, military bases, corporate events and private parties.  My show continued to evolve and it gravitated to a comedy-magic style of performance.  It has been rewarding, profitable and exciting.

Today I call myself an illusionist.  I don’t perform magic and I don’t pretend to.  The illusions I perform baffle audiences even though they know it doesn’t involve calling on supernatural forces.  I tell audiences that they will be deceived by me, but that my deception is harmless and entertaining.  In a strange way, they appreciate my honesty about deceiving them.  In addition, when I remind them that there is a logical explanation for each trick I perform, I think their fascination and enjoyment are compounded because they’re left wondering how I fooled them!

If I had to analyze the appeal of performing illusions, my answer may surprise you.  As a public speaker, it’s great to have some unique ways to “break the ice” or surprise audiences with the unexpected.  As an illusionist, audiences bring certain expectations and my goal has always been to exceed those expectations.  My arsenal of bizarre and amusing illusions, along with an admittedly humorous delivery, allows me to shock and please audiences in a variety of settings.  That is very gratifying but it’s still not the greatest appeal to me personally.

I know this sounds crazy, but I’ll just confide in you about it.  Being an illusionist creates this feeling that I have super powers.  I know what you’re thinking… you’re not illusional, you’re delusional!

Every kid wants to grow up to become a super hero, right?  I was no different and today I feel like I have amazing abilities.  Now I don’t believe I actually have super powers, but it’s the closest way I can describe how empowered I feel.  I have merely learned tricks and use props to astound people.  It’s fun to know the secrets of my trade and it’s even more fun to present mind-boggling illusions to audiences large and small.  Plus, it’s not uncommon for me to surprise strangers at airports, restaurants, parties or workplaces with my illusion skills.  It’s like having a super power to make people happy.

Poker

I stumbled into playing poker when a group of friends invited me over for an evening of card games.  We each brought a few dollars and our small group of 20 competed in a poker tournament.  I took first place that night, won $48, and I was hooked.

I learned immediately that I had a natural talent for the game.  I had finally found a “sport” that I was genuinely good at.  The game favors players who have social skills, the ability to read people and body language, the ability to bluff (or act), and perform some calculations.  I spent the next few years learning all about the game, paying my dues (I called it “poker tuition”), and becoming a better player.

I found that I excelled at tournament games much more than in cash games.  Tournament poker typically involves playing No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker with a fixed buy-in and an equal stack of “playing chips.”  The chips are not related to the price of the tournament.  For example, a buy-in might be $20 but everyone in the tournament could receive $10,000 in poker chips.  Tournaments could last many hours as players knock each other out of the game.  Most poker players are friendly, show great sportsmanship, and really enjoy just playing the game.  If you’re fortunate enough to be rewarded at the end, it’s like frosting on the proverbial poker cake.

Poker is played in casinos, city leagues, clubs, and in garages and the living rooms of homes across the country.  Unlike other casino games or slot machines which is considered gambling, the game of poker pits players against other players.  Poker players never play against The House (casinos).  So it’s a battle of wits, talent, skill, and some random elements you might call luck.  That’s why poker has been deemed a sport, not gambling, by many courtroom decisions around the country.

Whether I view poker as a sport or a hobby is irrelevant to me.  It’s an enjoyable pastime that rewards the strongest players with modest or large financial payouts.  Sure, the winnings are appealing but I love everything about the game.  I love the hours of playing cards with others, the socializing, the banter, devising strategies, varying my play (tight vs. aggressive, representing weakness vs. strength, etc.), and always learning a little more about the game.  It is the perfect game, in my opinion, and I only wish I’d found it sooner.

Well, that wasn’t so painful.  Have you considered doing this little exercise yourself?  I want to challenge you to examine why you do the things you do.  It’s more interesting to me than learning what it is you do with your time.  So let me know in the comments below.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

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Posted by: Jerry Langford | 01/16/2018

D.F.D. (Deeply Flawed Dad)

I like this phrase because “D.F.D.” aptly describes me.  Whether you are willing to admit it or not, the D.F. part also describes you.  That’s right, we are all Deeply Flawed.

It’s not entirely your fault.  We are all born this way, and then things get progressively worse.  The notion that we start with clean slates and then mess-up as we get older has long been debunked.  Just watch toddlers in action.  They have a “me-first” attitude and only rarely show kindness to other children, pets, etc.  That’s why we have to teach kids not to pull the cat’s tail, not to take toys away without asking, and not to push or bite your friend when you get angry.  And, as we age, we only compound our already Deeply Flawed state.

In 1993, Dr. Sandra Wilson released a book with one of the best and most accurate titles of all time.  It was called Hurt People Hurt People.  As we grow up, we all experience being hurt by flawed family members, flawed friends, and sometimes even flawed strangers.  Those painful experiences and related emotional damage cause us to become defensive and self-protective, so that we sometimes lash out at others. Hurting becomes a vicious cycle.

Your psyche and mine are not the only things damaged.  Our bodies are Deeply Flawed, too.  You may be able to airbrush or photoshop your appearance into perfection in photos, but no amount of body modifications or surgery will fool an undertaker.  Our physical bodies started deteriorating long ago and we cannot put off the inevitable.  Our flawed bodies are plagued with ailments, injuries and aging issues. And we all eventually succumb to the mortality of this precious life.

I am Deeply Flawed but at least I’m in good company.  None of us are exempt.  Not the greatest or the least, the wealthiest or the poorest.

And once we acknowledge our condition, we have taken the first step toward toward healing.  Surprisingly, many seem unable to take that first step.  They live in a state of denial, refusing to allow themselves to acknowledge that they are imperfect.

So, in case you missed it, let me reiterate this truth.  I am a Deeply Flawed Dad.

Now that my children are adults, there is much I wish I could have changed.  I wish I’d spent more time camping and spending time with my family. I wish I’d taken my daughters out for more daddy-daughter dates and my son out for more one-on-one times.  Did I do those things?  Yes!  And I hope they remember those times fondly.  But I wish I’d been even more available to them as they were growing up.

When I think back through the years, the memories that rise to the top are those special times, precious hours, and the joy of those relationships.  I may not have imparted valuable lessons like how to change the oil in your car or other practical tasks, but I hope they have received life lessons from me about love, sacrifice, respect and support.  And I’m glad they know that God is the source of love and healing, when everyone around them – – even their dad, is Deeply Flawed.

Besides, they can always google how to change the oil in their car.

Posted by: Jerry Langford | 08/02/2017

Happy 80th, Dad

Today, August 2nd, would have been my dad’s 80th birthday.  He passed away after a battle with cancer back in ’95.  Next year I’ll be 58, the same age as Dad when he died.  It only reminds me that my father died at a fairly young age.

I’m sure teens and millennials will scoff at the idea of 58 being “young.”  But people are living longer these days and the old adage is true that you’re only as old as you feel.  By that standard, I know I’m not “young” in my 50s but I don’t feel old and decrepit, either.  A little beyond middle age, I am grateful for a healthy and active life at 57.  Today my life is filled with joy, excitement and hope. I am blessed with grandchildren, the ability to travel to extraordinary places, and the joy of blessing others through my life and work.

At this point in my father’s life, he was dealing with cancer, holding down a trucking job, and living a fairly isolated life in the desert near Tonto Basin, Arizona.  He and his wife lived modestly and seemed content with little or no contact with extended family.  I only saw him for a couple of days before cancer eventually ravaged his body.  He was still the easy-going guy who always had a drink in his hand.  He spent two days getting to know my kids – the joy and love of my life – only to say goodbye to them and me for the last time before he drove away.

My dad’s brother also battled cancer for 10 years before it took his life.  He lived years beyond my dad’s death and one day summed it up for me by saying, “Your dad just gave up.”  It may have seemed that way at the time to many of us,  but I’m not sure that conclusion is entirely fair.  They were fighting different cancers and chose different treatment plans.

But, in some ways, dad had given up.  For the most part, he abandoned family members and his children by seeking solace in a self-isolating existence.  Sure, he occasionally welcomed family and friends who would visit him, but he rarely made it a point to visit others.  To this day, I regret not visiting him or calling him more than I did.  But he had made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t interested in me, my family, or the work I was doing in Texas during those years.

Despite the rift between us, and the pain of abandonment I feel to this day, I am grateful to the man I knew for shaping me with his positive extroverted qualities, sense of humor, and fearless ability to make others laugh. We had a few good years together when I was growing up and I do cherish those memories. None of us are perfect and I don’t want to focus on my father’s failings.  Instead, I want to say, “Happy 80th birthday, Dad.  I love you.  And I miss you.”

Posted by: Jerry Langford | 07/13/2016

You’re In Control!

I am finally writing this absurd rant because A) it’s long overdue, B) nobody else will write it, C) men will be able to relate and D) women will be intrigued, fascinated and disgusted. Hey, I’m here to serve.

Urinal Etiquette

Guys, please don’t feel obligated to start up conversations at the urinal. If one guy finishes early, is he supposed to continue standing around waiting for you to finish your story? Standing there watching (and/or listening) is a creepy behavior we try to instinctively avoid.

If there are multiple urinals to choose from, always allow one empty one between you and the next guy. I’m suspicious and uncomfortable if someone makes it a point to stand right next to me when they don’t really have to. Women, it would be like a total stranger sees you sitting alone in an empty movie theater and chose to sit down right next to you. Creepy, right? Well, once you’re streaming, it’s difficult to switch to a different urinal. Not impossible. But difficult.

There are numerous issues going on, of course. Those of us with nervous bladders have trouble starting a stream unless it’s quiet (and, preferably, we’re completely alone). Then there’s the awkward “closeness” we have to endure as we stand brushing shoulders with strangers, co-workers, or (worse yet) bosses. If I’m wearing sandals, there’s an effect that I call “the splatter factor.” And it’s just gross to be lightly sprinkled with someone else’s urine.

Men are gross enough as it is. Put them in a restroom and the gross-quotient only intensifies. For example, guys, please don’t rate or score sounds you hear in the bathroom. Flatulence is an inevitable fact of life, but saying things like, “I’d give that a 9.5,” doesn’t really help to break the ice. Or maybe it does? I’m not sure on this one.

Women may envy how quickly men are able to enter restrooms, do their business, and walk out. This is especially true at major events when there are long lines to the women’s restrooms. Well, urinals make that happen. And guys not washing their hands afterward (yes, we see you!) make that happen, too. But while urinals are helpful overall, can we just agree on some standards?

I prefer the floor to chest-height open urinals (though these seem to be a thing of the past). They fit all sizes and heights. Some “bowl urinals” are placed too low or too high on the wall. This results in splatter, overspray, and numerous other challenges. It’s also really embarrassing when you’re using a shorter urinal and a really short guy walks up but can’t even reach the high urinal next to you. Or vice-versa. I’ve been in both situations. It’s like being in a handicap stall when you see wheels roll up and the guy starts pulling at the locked door. Mortifying. You just want to crawl under the divider to the next stall instead of walking out of that one.

But I digress.

Urinals. Can we have some proper spacing upon installation, please? I don’t stand this close to people on a subway. Some urinals are wedged so close together, you have to squeeze in-between the guys on each side. Awkward. And what about those so-called privacy dividers? In some restrooms they’re in place and in others they’re non-existent. Most of us prefer our privacy! Isn’t it bad enough that we’re sharing intimate space while relieving ourselves?

Thank goodness the old “trough urinals” are less and less popular! Though they can still be found at County Fairs, Speedways and Sporting events. I found one half-circle urinal in Central California in the form of a waterfall. Let’s keep the tourism icons out of the bathrooms, okay? In Texas, no joke, there was even a waterbarrel urinal where guys would stand in a circle and face each other while streaming. Uh, no thanks. It’s bad enough I can hear whether you have prostate problems and can sometimes smell when you last ate asparagus, I don’t want to watch, too. And I don’t like the idea of guys aiming their streams at each other. Call me old-fashioned.

At least we can be grateful for indoor plumbing, right? Sure beats the old 2-holers or 3-holers in some really antiquated outhouses. No wonder many guys skip urinals entirely and just stand in a private stall. But that’s not kind to the guys waiting to sit down. And don’t get me started about the terrible aim of those standing streams! Urinals make life easier, no doubt. But, hey, let’s keep the conversation to a minimum and not crowd into others’ personal space.

Thank you for listening. Now wash your hands before you leave.

Posted by: Jerry Langford | 07/11/2016

The Father’s Role

Another Father’s Day has slipped quietly by and my thoughts inevitably return to my own father-son relationships. I am so encouraged and hopeful when I see my own son care for his child. And the same is true as I watch my son-in-law play with his toddler. Though very different in personality, each man will love, protect and raise his own son with care and thoughtfulness. I am proud of both of them and grateful for the precious gift of grandsons from these men. I’m sure they know that my hope and prayer is that they’ll raise their children in the knowledge of a loving and personal God, and that He is the source of joy, happiness and security in this difficult world. I am confident that this wisdom is important to both of them and that they’ll raise their child with eternity in mind.

God is our Heavenly Father, after all, and I’ve learned that He loves His children unconditionally. We may blow it from time to time, but God never stops offering His love and grace to us. I remember accepting His forgiveness years ago for the mess I made of my own life and I recognize that He gets the credit for the blessed man I am today. I may think I’ve accomplished much in my near-60 years of life but, in the end, all that matters is that I’m a sinner saved by the grace of God. I want my life to be lived in gratitude to Him.

As a parent, I am grateful for the privilege of raising my children. I didn’t do it perfectly and, looking back, I always wish I’d done more. But I tried to stay active in their lives and still try to this day. When my kids were younger, I think back fondly at my school lunch visits with them, camping trips with the family, day trips and fun play times. As they got older, I found ways to be active in their youth groups and retreat trips, and creatively added fun to their birthday parties and gatherings with their friends.

Now that my kids are adults, I’m trying to find the balance between being active in their lives (and families) and giving them the space to be independent and grow their own families. I love being a grandparent and I trust the experience will only get better as the grandkids grow into teens and later adults themselves.

One thing is sure, I have never and will never stop loving my kids. Sure, it would be heartbreaking to watch if one of my children ever experience a major failure in their lives but I would stand by them and lend my support because I’m their parent. I’m the dad who loves them.

When a problem or disagreement surfaces in the parent-child or even parent-adult child relationship, I firmly believe that the onus is greater on the parent than the child to restore that damaged relationship. In my own father’s case, I think he just didn’t know how to be a dad.

His own father passed away when he was young and his mother had already left the family before that. Maybe he just never had the example of a good parent in his life. Perhaps he believed that parenting was to be left to the wife/homemaker staying at home. It was a common misconception in his day. Fathers were largely absent and uninvolved unless punishment was called for. Dad was an effective disciplinarian but he didn’t really prepare us for life or our future parenting roles.

As I think back to my rocky relationship with Dad, even today, it is a turbulent mixture of pain, regret and love that overshadows my thoughts. He had his own faults (as we all do) but he had strengths, too. I’ll be forever grateful to him for being a terrific role model as an extrovert. Wherever he went, he seemed to be the “life of the party.” He was funny, charming, and engaging… more than I will ever be. He wasn’t afraid to talk to strangers and he had a wonderful sense of humor. People enjoyed meeting my dad and working with him. He thrived in jobs where he worked with the public.

The pain and regret come to mind when I think about how we had drifted apart for so long before he passed away. Apart from our personality types, we really had very little in common. At one point, he told me he disowned me as a son. He said he was embarrassed to be my father (which I found ironic since I’d been embarrassed by his actions over the years). So we broke off communications then and only sporadically saw each other after that.

For a short time we tried to work together but that ended badly, too.

Years later, when I began to raise my own three children, purchase a home, and have a terrific job, I longed for his involvement in my children’s lives and probably for his approval, too. But he only visited my home once over the course of 10 or 12 years, and that was to say goodbye. By then he knew he had cancer and he was visiting relatives to bid farewell. He parked his RV out front and only stayed a night or two.

He won my children over with his usual charm. He was finally the grandpa I wanted him to be to my kids, but then he broke our hearts by leaving so quickly. I remember how painful that was for my children and me, and it later compounded my personal grief.

A month or so later, he passed away. I felt a mixture of sorrow, pity, and loss. Mostly, I felt very little emotion because we just weren’t close. That may seem strange but I had been emotionally disconnected from him for so many years, and I guess that was the result.

My dad had a drinking problem for as long as I could remember and that contributed to our family breaking up when I was a teenager. His drinking and his behavior through my early years adversely affected me, though I couldn’t understand or recognize dysfunction from within. I could only see it clearly when looking back from years down the road.

During the time my kids were growing up in Texas, my dad’s older brother, Cecil, became a surrogate grandfather to them. I’m grateful to him and Florine for embracing the grandparents’ role. I still think fondly of my aunt and uncle in central Texas and for the opportunity to be part of their lives for so many years.

Despite my dad’s faults, I couldn’t help growing up to be like him in some ways. We share those positive traits I mentioned earlier and, like my father, I have mastered the ability to do many things. But, in greater contrast, I value the relationship I have with my own children. I esteem them and express pride and satisfaction with the adults they are becoming and have become.

I can’t imagine turning my back on them for years and ignoring the opportunity to love and support them, even if they’re in a place where they don’t desire it from me. My own experience tells me that a father’s role is so important to the growing process, right into adulthood. And, perhaps because he was absent in much of my life, I recognize what a great privilege it is to be an “active” father. Today I’m so thankful that my children will not have to experience that kind of absence or neglect in their own lives. I’m a better person today because of them and I trust they appreciate how much I love and respect them.

Father’s Days will always be a little bittersweet for me. As the years go by, I trust that the focus on family relationships in the present will overshadow the pain of loss and absence experienced in the past. Through it all, I’m reminded that fathers have such a unique opportunity to impact the lives of their children (young and old). And they do that in both subtle and extraordinary ways.

Being a dad is a daunting responsibility. And every single day I’m thankful for that privilege.

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