And Worth Every Penny

Shared opinion about “free advice”.
Observation & Opinion By  L.E.Taylor

When I first addressed the notion of writing a weekly article and then actually posting it for public consumption, I was daunted by the responsibility. And the risk. The whole idea, for me, was not for narcissistic exposure, but was simply an exercise in thinking and writing. In that order.

I finally decided it would be good practice, sort of like daily finger exercises for a pianist, so why not?

Of course, I’d be writing about things I care about subjectively, so as always, I drafted some guidelines in the form of a note to myself. Here are the top five:

  1. No partisan politics. There’s already a glut of more heat than light on that important, but often counter-productive, market.
  2. A forum. Encourage thoughtful conversation among readers. Some of these would be friends, or would become friends; some would appear as sojourners, moved to reach out in good will.
  3. Worthy content. Comment on cultural matters – e.g., the arts, especially writing and film; societal issues that would benefit from congenial banter; remembrances of my personal experiences; and random observations for amusement and stimulation.
  4. Keep it brief. I started out trying to limit my scribbling to four hundred words. Good luck with that.
  5. Humility. Respect the intelligence and perspectives of a universe of readers who arrive with whole treasuries of their own, derived from histories no less interesting or valid than mine.

And so on.

Regarding Point Five – this cautions against imposing free advice. I have learned the hard way that such a commodity is often worth every penny. But there’s another side to it.

Recently, I have been notified my two separate friends (actual “friends,” not the Facebook kind) that their households have been invaded by the terrifying specter of cancer. This is a delicate matter. And I do know a little about it. However, much of what I “know” is the result of personal experience and the digging I’ve done as a layman to learn about new  alternatives that might complement excellent mainline medical practice.

What should I say to tormented people I care about?

My first response is to offer prayer through my network of “Prayer Warriors.” These are believers of multiple Judeo-Christian denominations, as well as a number of good people with no formal religious traditions at all.

But I also have opinions. In particular, leanings that inform the age old question, “WWLD?” (Get it?) What Would Larry Do?

Well, there are certain things that I’ve already done. And others that I’ve witnessed; some that worked, others that have not – in traditional medical practice, and among the “alternative” regimes. Both.

So, just this morning, I came across an interesting essay by a gifted young investigative writer, Rebecca Furdek. She suggests that the matter of giving colloquial advice is a free speech consideration.

Understand, Ms Furdek is not in favor of muddying the waters with a lot of half-baked palaver; in fact, she points out it isn’t necessary – the professional options are out there for all seekers to access for informed decision-making.

No need to volunteer advice over the back fence about treating cancer, or investing in gold, or how to cure male pattern baldness. The issue, she says, is not whether conversation is in order or misguided. The worry is, instead, a pernicious regulatory “creep” that is placing quasi-legal constraints on even talking about such matters.

Have a look at her fascinating findings at That is, if you want to. I’m just going to say my prayers and shut up about it.






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In Your Face: Part Two

Observation: By L.E. Taylor

It’s been said that we end up with the face we’ve earned.  It’s also true that too many people not only deny the notion, but are so obsessed about it that they pay huge sums to have surgeons remove the evidence.

Be that as it may (or may not be), there are some excellent old kissers around that reflect wisdom, honesty, kindness, and hard-won battles with sorrow. And so much of it is beautiful. No, not the same skin-deep ‘beautiful’ that wowed ‘em forty years ago, but a refinement that says, ‘a life has been lived, and a price paid.’

Toward the end of his life, the movie star John Wayne made overtures to all kinds of people who’d disapproved of his Red-White-and-Blue politics, and of himself personally.  He was invited, sarcastically, to come to Harvard University to receive an “honor.” He accepted. When he arrived on campus, the sponsoring leftist student group supplied the vehicle in which he was to enter The Yard: A WWII vintage Sherman tank. Wayne laughed and climbed aboard. Moments later, having run the gauntlet of taunts, the sick and haggard “Duke” arrived in the lecture hall and mounted the stage where he took questions.  He handled the first pointed political thrusts with grace and intelligence, then the floor-mic was handed to a young fellow who asked bluntly, “Do you look at yourself as a great American hero?” A twinkle came into the old man’s eye and he replied, “Son, I don’t look at myself any more than I have to.”

The map inscribed upon The Duke’s face was beyond help from any lighting expert or makeup genius. But the sparkle in his eye won the day even in the camp of a hardened foe.

Going through my family archives for photos to use in these blogs, I came upon one of myself, at least forty years ago.  I was a Midwestern version, then, of what came to be known in this next century, as a Mad-Man. (Madison Avenue “ad man”). Hmm. So later I sidled up to a mirror and was jolted. Who’s that?

I remembered the John Wayne story. Life has done its job on me. We don’t stay the same, but guess what:  We do keep our souls. Maybe you’re still movie star handsome, and maybe it’ll survive. But trust me, you will ripen. Or you’re well along the way right now. Good for you. Good for us.

Go have a look at the old photos. And the looking glass, too. And don’t be sad. Don’t regret. Return to the moments that still live. And be thankful.





Practice, Man.

Opinion: By L.E. Taylor 

There’s an old joke that has an out-of-towner stopping a fellow carrying a fiddle case on 6th Avenue, and asking, “Uh, pardon me. Can you tell me, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

The guy answers, “Practice, man. Practice.”

The advice is not merely colloquial. Nor even artistic. It is universal for all of us – professional, amateur, and plebeian. If we seek to enjoy life in full, we must expose ourselves relentlessly to what’s been accomplished by the doers – to standards of excellence, and ultimately, courageously, to our own flawed selves as works-in-progress.

The point is not only to humbly acknowledge our momentary limitations, but also to reveal our unexplored potential.

Decades ago, I read an autobiography by Charlton Heston, An Actor’s Life. It was based upon a diary he’d kept over his first twenty years in Hollywood. Among many lessons I took from the book was a simple truism, “The more we do a thing, the better we get at it.” Heston also remarked upon how “easy” he had been on himself in his shortcomings, and how he would change that, given the chance.

About the same time in my young manhood, I was preparing to travel to New York City to consider moving into a life of what would be called, these many years later, the “Mad Men.” Translation: 1960s Madison Avenue and all the sin-and-sizzle it implied. Before leaving the Midwest, I was given words of advice by an experienced advertising CEO from my home state. He said: “Don’t sell yourself short; you are better than most of the people they see; remember, talent recognizes talent.”

Then he said, almost to himself, “What’s ‘good’ may be subjective, but there’s a common thread: Taste is educated perception.”

I can’t remember the man’s name, but I didn’t have to look up his admonition; it was seared into my brain before the waiter brought the luncheon check.

I’ve poured thousands of hours into feeding my ‘perception’. Now four decades later, my worldview is seasoned by experience in combat. Bloodless corporate combat, certainly, not the heroic D-Day kind. But in its time-and-place, it was urgent mundane struggle, nonetheless. We who strive know about exposing oneself to failure. Whether it’s playing the piano, or playing rugby; or hitting a curve ball, or raising a heifer and a crop of corn to feed her, you won’t fully appreciate it unless you’ve tried to do it.

The same is true of writing. Except for one caveat: when you sound a sour piano chord or fan on a fastball, the evidence is there for all to see and you’re the goat. But with a lousy page of writing, you can get away with it unless someone who knows better is there to read it and to tell you it stinks.

So practice, kid. Practice. And don’t take it easy on yourself, just work.