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Are We Too Busy For Real Networking?

“Oh the times they are a-changing!” – Bob Dylan

I’m trying not to consider myself as being all that old. I’m also trying not to seem overly nostalgic. Yet things have changed, and not all of them for the better.

PMA Fresh Connections Retail 2016 Produce Marketing Association via Compfight

Last Friday I had lunch with one of my local buddies. He said that he hardly has any friends and doesn’t get out much except for work. I mentioned that I thought he was a great connector and he said that part was sometimes true, but that it was very hard actually getting people to get out of their comfort zone to actually meet him or others he’s trying to connect with each other.

I’ve noticed the same thing over the last bunch of years, but I had to mentally step back and consider this. I thought to myself “Heck, if this good looking young guy has this kind of trouble, then what am I griping about.”

When I first got into business on my own back in 2001, there was no shortage of places where people could and would network together. I really was just getting my footing at that time because I’d mainly worked out of town, so I didn’t know that many people in the Syracuse area. This was also before the days of social media, so maybe it was the only way we could connect with each other.

Back then, I was meeting someone new for lunch every few weeks or so. Occasionally it was with a new organization I was checking out, but for the most part it was one on one. Truthfully, most of the time it was with people who were hoping I’d become a client, which never happened, yet they’d know who I was moving on from there; I could live with that.

Then I left town for a year to consult at a hospital in Westchester County. When I got back home, I noticed that things had changed somewhat. It was harder to get people to meet individually for lunch. Some people wanted to meet for coffee before 8AM; that wasn’t happening since I not only try not to get up that early but I don’t drink coffee. However, it was a low number; most people just weren’t interested.

It was pretty quiet for a while there. Then we started having things like Tweetups and other organizational get togethers of hopefully like minded people, and that was pretty cool. We even had a Tweetup kickball game that was amazing (and hot!).

Then I left town again, this time spending 18 months in Memphis. Now it seems that even the planned networking events, such as the Liverpool Chamber events, don’t draw all that many people… at least not close to the numbers they used to.

Other events are also down drastically. Last year there wasn’t a single tweetup locally, and there was only one very small get together of a local blogging group that had a pretty successful start but fell pretty much off the earth. As far as I know, there are no plans for anything in 2016 at this point.

As for lunches… not counting my friends, in 2015 I met 1 person for lunch, and in 2016 I’ve now met 3. Two of those were people who asked to meet me, which means that my record for asking and getting people to meet me for lunch is pretty dismal.

Maybe I have it easier than most others since I mainly work from home. Maybe I’m living in the prehistoric era of networking since most people connect more with each other online, and when they have a free moment they’d either like being with friends and family or off doing something on their own.

I had thought it was only me until I had lunch last week with my buddy. Folks, it seems there’s a serious disconnect as it pertains to local networking. I refuse to believe it’s just here in Syracuse; this has to be more of a national thing. How funny it is that I can interact online with people all around the world yet I can’t get a local person who I’ve met at least once in person to meet me for lunch.

Oh well, life goes on. At least I’m not scared to eat lunch alone; Twin Trees loves me. πŸ™‚  

My Encounter With Pearl

It was sad hearing that one of my favorite Syracuse University basketball players of all time, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, had passed away from a brain tumor. I remembered that he’d had another one back in 1996, and I knew it had come back again, yet one always felt that Pearl could overcome anything he wanted to.

DAPW01It made me reflect back on the one time I met him. I was consulting out of town in, of all places, New Jersey, the team that drafted Pearl in the 1st round in 1986 after 3 fabulous years playing for the team we then called the Orangemen. My car had been broken into at the hotel I was staying at, and both doors had been damaged, with the only things taken being some change I had sitting in the coin holder and my $15 CD player.

The damage was extensive enough that I had to bring my car into the Sam Dell Dodge dealership which was still around in 2004, and I had to leave it there for a week while they took the time to work on it. They gave me a loaner for the week, which was a good thing, and said to come back the following Friday to pick my car up.

Thus, I found myself back at Sam Dell the following week, turning in my car and heading into the back to see what was going on with my car. When I got to the garage, I see Pearl over in a corner washing a motorcycle. It took a few seconds for my mind to compress this – Pearl Washington and a motorcycle? I smiled at the thought and I figured I’d take my shot to go and meet him.

I walked over to meet him, and he looked up and smiled, as if he was used to people doing that. I’m not a shy guy but I’m also not a gushing type. I didn’t even say his name. Instead I remember saying “I just had to come over and shake your hand for all the thrills you gave me in the years you played for Syracuse.”

Pearl thanked me for that and shook my hand. Then I continued.

“I was at the Boston College game, ten rows up behind the backboard when you hit that half court shot. I jumped up with everyone else, screaming and hugging everybody around me, only knowing one person, as if we’d just won the NCAA championship. After about a minute I stopped, looked around and thought to myself ‘Hey, I’m surrounded by dudes!’ Not a woman in sight!”

Pearl laughed at that; I’m sure I told the story better than it reads here. I’d always heard how nice and gracious he was and in that instance he made me feel like the best storyteller in the world… and I bet it was the most unique perspective of that night that he’d ever heard from anyone else; at least I hoped so.

RIP Pearl Washington; you gave me so much joy during a rough period of my life. I’m glad I was around to see moves like the one in the video below:  

Smile Design Takes Good Care Of Me & My Teeth

Let’s get this out of the way; I hate going to the dentists! This is a long standing fear that was established when I was a kid. Unlike a lot of today’s dentistry, back when I was a kid dentists could have cared less whether you were a kid or an adult. Not only that but my earliest dental visits were with military dentists; you can imagine that bedside manner wasn’t a big thing with them in this regard.

Smile Design PCHow bad is my fear? I went from age 12 to 21 without going to see a dentist. The only reason I went then is because I broke a tooth on one of those hard granola bars we used to have, before someone decided to make them chewy. It took going to an oral surgeon who looked and sounded like Mr. Rogers, who also put me to sleep, to get that tooth removed; whew!

Then it was another 5 years before I ended up going to another dentist, one recommended by my dad. I always left in pain, whether it was having my teeth cleaned or getting fillings taken care of. I’ll admit that my hygienist was uber attractive, which was probably the only thing that kept me going for 3 years but once I started working out of town, that was that.

The next time I saw a dentist was 5 years later, when I had so much pain in my mouth that I finally started taking pain killer, which I hadn’t taken in nearly 15 years, and when that didn’t work anymore and I hadn’t eaten for 2 days I finally convinced myself to go to Syracuse Community Health Center, where I was working at the time under contract, to see what was going on. I got lucky that Saturday as I ended up being treated by a dentist named Xandria Sutherland-Pollard, who didn’t have big meaty hands and was as kind as she could be… which turned out to be something I needed because my blood pressure was off the charts. She ended up pulling that tooth (when the choices were between $45 to pull the tooth or $450 for a root canal… please!), and that alleviated that pain after a few days.

I started going to another dentist 5 or 6 years after that, as my wife had been recommended to someone who accepted the dental insurance we had. I went to that office off and on for 12 years, a record for me, once again mainly because of the hygienist, who didn’t hurt me as much as I’d had the one years earlier did. The dentist was a great guy, but he wasn’t the most tender of practitioners either.

Back in October I broke another tooth, this time by popcorn; stupid popcorn I’ll say because in December it broke a second tooth. Even though we had dental insurance, I wasn’t in pain so I never bothered to try to reach my dentist’s office. However, after smaller pieces of that first tooth started chipping off I figured it was time to have it taken care of. I called my dentist’s office… only to learn that he had retired and someone else had taken his practice over; ouch!

X-rays of teethThat practice was in the city of Syracuse, and I live in Liverpool, and I figured it was time to start going to someone closer. I had stayed with the other practice out of loyalty; I’m nothing if not loyal. So, when it was time to decide where to go, I only had one person and practice in mind.

That would be Smile Design, PC, at 7655 Oswego Road, which is run by the aforementioned Dr. Sutherland-Pollard and her husband Brian, and is only a mile and a half from my house. I figured that if she had taken care of me years ago and made me calm that she was probably the best candidate to take care of me this time around. I called to make an appointment, and the receptionist said they’d had a cancellation and asked if I could be there in two hours. After an immediate panic attack I agreed.

Since it was a first visit and there we no records for me from anywhere else (because I had asked the other dentist office that took over my dentist’s account and was told they’d have to do a search for them), the hygienist, named Laurie, took 18 images; that was a first for me as I’d only had 4 taken at other times. Even though I think x-rays of teeth are the ugliest things possible, it was amazing that the images were immediate and shown on a monitor above me; no film anymore.

Then it was time for the quick exam by the hygienist, followed by a cleaning. Even that technology had improved from what I was used to, as this office used a combination of a waterpik-like contraption along with a type of hook we’re all used to to minimize the potential pain and the blood; that wasn’t bad either. Then Dr. Sutherland-Pollard came in and greeted me (we often see each other in Wegmans) and she proceeded to tell me what I needed to have done… and it turned out to be more than just the two broken teeth. I asked her about that and she told me that old fillings should be replaced every 5 to 7 years because decay can grow around them and once that starts then there’s probably decay underneath also; I never knew that.

Once we were done with that I went back to the receptionist to make an appointment to have some fillings taken care of, especially my worst broken tooth… and she booked me for 2 days afterwards; yeow! Once again I had moments of panic, thinking that I would have at least 2 or 3 weeks to get used to the idea, but I went ahead and jumped on it.

Two days later I went back to get what I thought was going to be one filling taken care of. I sat in the chair waiting for the intense pain to come; luckily, it never did. I only had one real moment of pain, and it was very short. I’m not sure what she did, but the only pain came from the needle prick and the first push to get it a little deeper… that was it. While waiting for me to get numb, she said there were actually two cavities on that side and said that she’d take care of the first one and then ask if I wanted her to work on the second.

IMG_20160411_160308_resizedWhile she was cleaning out the first tooth, which included having to remove a small piece of filling that had remained when that tooth broke, she found that the tooth next to it, which had a filling, also had a lot of decay. While taking a brief break after working on the first tooth (it needed some serious work but luckily only a filling) she asked me what I wanted to do, and I decided to go ahead and work on the tooth next to it and that we’d work on the other tooth at a later time.

That was that. The entire process did take close to 2 hours, but a lot of that was waiting for the anesthetic to work on my gums, as it always takes a while for it to work on me. The work turned out to be wonderful; I had only that brief bit of pain with the needle, and I didn’t have any pain on that tooth the next day either; can you imagine that?

The major thing she did for me was talk to me and to keep telling me to breathe, saying that the majority of us stop breathing which adds to the tension, and when we’re tense we feel pain even more. That was a common thread during the entire process, making sure I kept breathing, and it seems to have worked. Her assistant Margie kept me company while waiting for the anesthesia to take hold and was ever present throughout the entire event (I almost said “ordeal” but it was better than expected lol).

That’s my experience with Smile Design, and knowing what my fears have been like all these decades, I have to say that for having a filling done, this was the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had. Would I recommend it… of course I would! And no, I’m not getting paid for this… and my teeth are now taken care of; yay! πŸ™‚  

Therapeutic Massage Sometimes Hurts… Then Heals

I’ve been searching for a reliable massage therapy place that did foot massages. My feet have hurt constantly over the past year. I only knew of one place, an Asian massage place way out on Erie Boulevard (I live in Liverpool) but they only do foot massages in the evenings and it’s the kind of massage where it feels good for maybe a couple of hours afterwards but then the pain comes back.

THON 2013-41-Foot Massage Penn State via CompfightNot my feet lol

  Not that there’s anything overly wrong with that. Sitting back while someone rubs your feet with those healing salt and sugar scrubs and you’re soaking your feet in warm water while sitting in a vibrating chair is nothing to sneeze at. But I had to wonder if paying for only a couple of hours relief was really benefiting me all that much… although I thought it was the only thing I could do.

I tried finding places online that did foot massages, and most of them were difficult to get into and quite pricey. Many of them added pedicures; ain’t no way, never, not again! Others were salt or sugar scrubs, but they all charged way more than the Asian place did.

In what I thought was a last ditch effort I reached out to my buddy Melissa of Armory Massage, whom I wrote about almost 5 years ago, to see if she knew anyone in town that gave foot massages. She got back to me saying they did; I was stunned. I set up an appointment and couldn’t wait to get there.

I got to the location on a Monday early afternoon and realized I couldn’t park where I did the last time I’d been there. If you ever go to the location you need to know there’s a outdoor paid parking lot just around the corner, and a parking garage at the end of the street; park there if you don’t want to get towed; Melissa showed me that.

Once I parked I went inside and we talked briefly. She must have remembered that I had a problem with one of my legs (something called a IT band, or Iliotibial Band Syndrome) because she said that she was going to have to include my legs up just past the knee to really help with the problem I was having with my feet. I had no problem with that because I felt I was getting much more attention than I normally would… that and I got to lay down on the heated table (ahhhhh….).

After I got half of my body disrobed and under covers, Miss Melissa herself came in and went to work on me. Initially it felt pretty relaxing… and then the real work took over.

I’m not going to lie; about half the time she was working on me I was in minor pain. Whereas my knees never felt any discomfort, my legs and poor feet sure did. At one point while working on my right calf I said to her “Would you be surprised if I told you that hurt a bit?” She said “No.” What I thought was amazing was that she noticed something was off immediately. She did the initial evaluation, looked at my legs and said “Something looks wrong”, and I told her that one of my legs was about 1/2 inch longer than the other. She knew that accounted for my pain, as we talked about orthotics and how they might help (and why I hadn’t done it yet lol).

At another point she said to me “Am I tickling you or are you in pain.” I said “I’m in a little pain; how did you know?” She said “Because your leg keeps rising above the table; could you please put it back down?” I had no clue! lol

Just before the end she was rubbing my feet and, I’m not going to lie, I felt like they needed to be rubbed. When she said it was over and left the room I wondered what I was in for when I stood up. I did so… and I had no pain! I mean nothing except a little bit of tingling in my toes, which I’ve always had along with the pain, but even that was reduced a bit.

Once I was dressed and went out to pay my bill I told her that I amazingly had no pain and that I was in shock. She said that’s what real massage does and that my feet would continue feeling pretty good over the next few days.

She turned out to be right. By Friday I was starting to feel the first twinges of pain once again but can you imagine how good I felt not having pain for 4 days after having constant pain for over a year except for a couple of the other type of foot massages that lasted a couple of hours?

Fabulous; brilliant; wonderful stuff! I have to say that I’ve never felt this good when having my shoulders massaged and someone’s digging their fingers into them; that always hurts when it’s being done and it hurts afterwards, and I’ve never felt better for it. This time I felt really good, and I can’t even tell you if she was actually digging or not since I was already in pain.

Thanks Melissa! I hope I haven’t told any of your secrets. I can’t wait until I have the funds to do it again so I can keep piling on the steps. πŸ™‚  

5 Wishes For Central New York In 2016

I write a lot of posts on this blog that begin with the number 5. Some of them have been on the same topic I’m going to discuss today, that being things I wish for central New York. The last one of these I did was in 2014. I missed last year; oops! Because I want to get to the topic first I’m going to list my 5 wishes for central New York in 2016, then I’m going to list all the other “5-fer” posts I’ve had on this blog to date because… well, I want you to know they exist and possibly go read some of them. πŸ™‚ Here we go:

1533591. Save Great Northern & Shoppingtown Malls

Back in July I wrote an article about ideas I had for solving the Great Northern issue; I only wish I could have gotten it to the new owners because I think it could be a winner. I wrote in 2012 and asked the question whether Shoppingtown Mall could survive.

I personally think there’s not only a place for both of these malls, but with a bit of creativity both of them could be turned into something special. Instead of always trying to compete with Destiny, which both malls will lose on, they need to establish their own identities and make each of the malls unique, while retaining the anchor stores they already have.

2. Get that hotel built in the Inner Harbor and the full renovation of Hotel Syracuse

Supposedly we’re close to the 2nd one and plans are moving along for the first. Both of these are important in being able to promote the city of Syracuse as a global marketplace for shopping and entertainment and to take full advantage of all that Destiny and the Oncenter are. Of course this comes with the issue of better parking downtown… I know local government had been touting the growth of downtown parking garages, but after a horrible experience I recently had at the parking garage next to Modern Malt I’m thinking they either need revamping or better management.

3. Give tax breaks for businesses to renovate the area from the former train/bus station up to Teall Avenue on Erie Boulevard.

This area is a total mess! I wrote about this area back in 2012 and believed the west side of Erie Blvd East looks like a wasteland. While all this attention is being paid to the area closer to Dewitt, the area close to the city is being left to decay. That’s embarrassing, especially since it’s close enough to the university area that visitors probably come straight down University Avenue and see… that; ugh!

My idea is to offer it up to business development, either small business parks or maybe a medical park. Clean up the area around the bridge so the homeless aren’t driving commerce away, and while you’re at it, take a part of the open space near the U-Haul building and turn it into some kind of nice park where kids can play or people can walk through. Heck, ask the folks at the university to help out; I’m betting they’ll have some ideas.

4. Carrier Circle; do I need to say more?

At least they finally tore down Howard Johnson’s… kind of. This area used to look really nice and was welcoming to a ton of visitors, most of whom get off the Thruway at Exit 35 and now see… what? I think there’s still a Denny’s that doesn’t look so bad but everything else looks horrific. The only part that looks somewhat inviting is when you go all the way around the circle and head towards what I like to call Hotel Row.

I know McDonalds is balking at some of the ideas for this area but just how well could they be doing sitting over there by themselves with little else around them? I have to admit that I don’t have many ideas for what to do with the area because the last thing I believe we want are restaurants right on the circle area. Yet something has to be done, even if all that can be accomplished is clearing away all the trash, taking down a few more decrepit buildings and turning it into a beautiful and inviting green space with maybe some kind of sculpture or statues highlighting the history of central New York. Anything would be better than what’s there now.

5. Set up wi-fi access around central New York lakes

It might seem I’m asking for this one because of how much I love walking around Onondaga Lake and how nice it would be to access free wi-fi instead of having to use one’s data plan. However, that’s not really the reason I have this on the list.

What I’m thinking about is that almost 5 years ago I walked through some pretty scary areas of Green Lake and last year walked through a fairly secluded and dangerous, though paved area of Onondaga Lake that leads to the new Amphitheater off 690 and started realizing that a lot of the areas have so much foliage that it blocks carrier signals and would be hard for someone to call for help if needed. I have no idea if this is a big issue or not but I’m sure I’m not alone in saying it would add a bit more comfort and security.

Still, I’m making this one #5 because I don’t feel it’s as crucial an issue to entertain as the other 4. I take pride in my adopted home for the last 40 years and I only want to see it get better. Who’s with me? Meanwhile, here are other posts you can check out in my 5-fer group:  

5 Things To Address New York’s Financial Crisis

5 Things I Don’t Like About Wegmans

5 Wishes For Syracuse / Central New York In 2012

5 Wishes For Central New York In 2013

5 Things I Wish Would Change At The NYS State Fair

5 Differences Between Food In CNY & The South

5 Takeaways From The Bruce Jenner Interview

5 Thoughts From My Latest Local Blogging Get Together

5 Takeaways From The Asia Food Market In Syracuse


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