I'm back! I've selected a title I've used before for this first blog post in nearly a year. The photo is of the hat I currently sport and travel in. More about it later.
It's been nearly a year since I posted anything new on this blog. I started to ease back on my writing about two years ago. No! I hadn't run out of topics. I actually have a long list of topics I continue to accumulate. I'd like to attribute my taking time off to writer's block, but it wasn't that either. I guess I simply needed to take a break, evaluate life, regroup and, to probably be really honest, I got lazy. I love to write. I love to share my thoughts, philosophies and even an occasional rant. I was tired.
In May of 2017 I rushed back to the east side of the continent to attend the 50th Class Reunion of my college class at Montclair State University.
Well, when I attended the college it was Montclair State College and the total enrollment was approximate 4,000 students. Over that 50 year period, the college became a full-scale university with an enrollment of approximately 22,000 students. It is now the second-largest university in New Jersey. And, while most of the original buildings (some historical) are still standing, it appears that the institution has wiped out much of what I remembered and loved about the 4,000 student college I graduated from.
The reunion? I'm sure many, if not most, of you who recall your high school and college classes can relate to my next statement. I was underwhelmed by the reunion experience. As an aside, I had also attended my 40th high school reunion 14 years earlier. It was also an underwhelming experience. A mere 67 graduates of the Montclair State Class of '67 showed up. I guess that's appropriate – 67 from the Class of '67. Most of the people I did not recognize, nor did I even recall their names. I was very happy to meet up with a few who were friends back in the day. Sadly, between 25% and 30% of my high school and college classes are already deceased. A morbid thought and reality.
The most gratifying part of the reunion experience was meeting the new General Manager of the campus radio station, WMSC, that I founded 50 years earlier. That ragtag station, started by a ragtag group of students who believed in my dream, has continued and flourished over the 50 years. I have no idea how many thousands of students have participated in that station, how many hundreds may have had broadcasting careers, how many students listened to it and how many millions in the New York City area and the world (via the Internet) have been impacted by it.
I've mentioned this station on the blog in the past and I even posted one or two of the interviews the station did with me. It was quite an experience to tour the new(not open to the public, yet) $60,000,000 School of Communication and Media building (pictured above) the station is now housed in and part of. We also had a mini-reunion of some of the original team that helped me launch it. Believe me, it didn't look anything like this modern, state of the art station when we launched it.
I was given my Freedom hat by my WV friend, Carolyn's cousin for Christmas this past year. Over my traveling years, I've worn basically three different hats and I still have them (and a few others).
This one boldly states my overall philosophy about personal freedom. I hope when people see it and read it, it impacts something in their psyche to question their own definition of freedom and whether they are living free and happy lives.
You'll also notice there are three pins on the hat. I have lots of pins I could adorn the hat with. However, I choose these three for three specific reasons.
The blue ribbon pin is to signify that I'm free of the prostate cancer I was diagnosed with almost 17 years ago. It's something I like to let other men know about. I advocate early check-ups so they can one day make the same claim if they are ever diagnosed with cancer.
The center pin, the American Flag, is my way of expressing I'm proud to be a U.S. American citizen. By many surveys and studies, the U.S. is no longer even in the top ten freest countries in the world. However, it has still provided so much opportunity for me and for so many others to express ourselves. I have some very definite thoughts on the state of the U.S. currently and the direction I, somewhat pessimistically, see it going. But, I'm not ready to give up on it, yet.
The third pin signifies my alignment and allegiance to my veteran comrades from the Vietnam Era. Please note, the pin says “Vietnam Era Veteran.” It does not say “Vietnam Veteran.” I served my country in Washington, DC as an enlisted sergeant in the U.S. Air Force assigned to a support unit of the Secretary of the Air Force during that era. I DID NOT serve in Vietnam. Thus, until I found a pin that appropriately designated my actual military service, I would not wear anything about that war.
Also, I do not wear that pin because I'm proud of what the United States did during that period of 1960 – 1975. I wear it to show my support of the millions of Vietnam vets who served there and were cursed at, spit on and otherwise demeaned by so many people in the U.S. And, also, to show my support to those who are still suffering from the ravages of the time they spent in that country. Yes! They fought for freedom, but it wasn't the right place for us to be. It wasn't our fight. Because of that some 58,000 men and women never returned.
Unfortunately, many more have lived miserable lives and have still had minimal, at best, support from the government that sent them in harm's way. Many more, whose names are not on “The Wall” in Washington, DC, took their own lives. Still, others died due to the long term impact of wounds, drug and alcohol addictions or exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange. I'm proud to be a veteran and support my comrades. I am not proud of the U.S. government and the hell they caused millions of people. And, dare I say, apparently the U.S. Government didn't learn from Vietnam, as we still have the remnants of two wars going on in the Middle East that have lasted nearly 20 years each, considerably longer than Vietnam.
Our Changing World
The world has changed dramatically, for want of a better and more powerful word. Any of us could write volumes on the changes we've experienced during the half-century from the mid-'60s until the present time. Maybe I'll focus on some of them in the future, or at least the things that have most impacted my life. Perhaps my writings will encourage you to sit down and write your own history. I'm sure it's at least as and, likely more, interesting than mine. And, one day, after we leave this world, there is the possibility your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would love to read about how it was back in the “ancient times” of the 20th Century. How did we survive before computers, smartphones, the Internet, global transportation, Uber, AI, autonomous vehicles, GMOs, texting, (too many channels of) cable TV, satellite radio, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Yes! I still believe in my mantra of “Live Free and Be Happy.” As years have passed, I look back and, like so many, ask the question, “What's It All About, Alfie?” for those who remember that Dionne Warwick song and the movie from over 50 years ago. It is a very deep question and there is so much meaning to the question. If you care to or, maybe dare to, you might want to look up the lyrics and see what Hal David wrote about back then. But, there are even more spiritual meanings for those who want to dig deeper into their own hearts and minds. There was another song from back in that period made popular by another songstress of the era, Peggy Lee. The song was titled, “Is That All There Is?”
There is currently approaching 130,000,000 people in the U.S. who have reached the age of 50+. That is more than the entire population (every man, woman and child) of the U.S. 100 years ago. Some are so accustomed to the world of work and their occupational or professional lives and pursuits they don't have time to ask the questions in the last paragraph. I know many who will go, go, go until they die. But, life is all about choices. I don't dispute or attempt to dissuade anyone of their choices. I don't decide what makes someone else free or happy. We each get to do that for ourselves.
I'm ever enriched as I travel, explore places I've never been before, experience things I've never experienced before and meet all kinds of interesting people from all over the U.S. and the world and learn about them and their interesting lives. November 1, 2008 was my first "emancipation day." It was the day I left behind the 50-acre horse ranch I had lived on and run my book publishing and audio/video production businesses from. I no longer had a fixed base of operations. I down-sized to live a simple, minimal and frugal lifestyle compared to the lifestyle I had lived for the previous 40 years. On November 1, 2015 I had my second "emancipation day." It was the day I decided I could accept, after 50 years, I no longer considered myself an active part of the recording and publishing industry. I would no longer seek new clients and business. I can't relate how difficult a choice that was for me.
Many people tell me they envy me and my freedom-loving, freewheeling lifestyle. Believe me, it has its challenges. Ask any of my nomadic, freedom-loving friends who face challenges every day, too. Of course, the vast majority of those who say they envy me, usually follow with, “but, I could never do it.” Well, as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't . . . you're right.” I go no further than that.
And, of course, I have my critics. There are people who believe I'm anything from a bum, hobo, tramp, homeless person, a dreg on society, a leech and whatever other derogatory words they can think of. Fortunately, they are generally few and far between. Of course, there are people who fulfill those definitions. However, there are those of us who have consciously chosen this simple, minimal, frugal life. We have educations. We have occupations. We have professions. Most of us are not destitute, many are actually financially independent with considerable net worth. Gary Oldman stated it quite succinctly when he said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
So, there you have it. A new article from Ed Helvey, the live free and be happy, nomadic advocate of getting around to Job #1 – enjoying life and being happy . . . hopefully, considerably before your last day on this planet.
Stay tuned! I have more coming and I'll be getting on a regular track. I'll also be writing about what I've been brainstorming with and researching for my future exploits. I'll be interested in feedback before I venture too far in a fruitless direction. Until then . . . Live Free and Be Happy - EH