Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pep Talk: "Out Of This World Success"

“One of the cool things growing up was knowing all my buddies loved that my dad had a tank.” Priceless.

And one of many funny, poignant and heartwarming comments heard as your knucklehead scribe sat, with many others, for remembrance of Pierre (Pete) Guignon. Second son John Guignon’s eulogy wrapped up a beautiful funeral Mass for an 88-year-old man who left a lasting impression on everybody who ventured into his world.

I was lucky and blessed to know the collector of military vehicles, including a tank, for almost 40 years. Pierre’s oldest son, Pete Jr., “Re-Pete” to family, has been a dear friend since college days. Through that beautiful connection, yours truly grew to know the family well. Parkinson’s challenged a cherished buddy’s father, and a stroke terminated the respected man’s life. Nothing was, or will, EVER quench a spirit for living life to its fullest. That attitude is alive and well in five children, grandchildren and others the devoted husband influenced in a remarkable journey.

In encouraging audiences during live Pep Talk presentations, this aging jock sometimes tells the story of “Defining Our Dash.” We all have our days of birth and death. For a beloved Kansas City Chiefs’ fanatic named Pierre Jules Guignon they are January 3, 1928 and June 17, 2016. A man born in America’s Great Depression, passed, ironically while out to dinner celebrating 64 years of loving marriage to his amazing wife, Peggy. The numbers? 1928-2016. What about the dash? That’s where the real story lies. It’s one to exalt.

The successful salesman never met a stranger. The faithful man rose each morning and, first thing, dropped to knees in thankful prayer. The devout Catholic attended Mass daily until, in later years, Parkinson’s debilitating fallout made it difficult. His faith was unshakeable.

Grandkids called him “Papa.” He was an awesome family man. Adored. The Pierre and Peggy Guignon’s loving touch spread far beyond the kids, grandkids and great grand kids. It spread to goofs like me. For convenience in getting to a labor construction job, I spent an entire college summer crashing at their warm family pad in mid-town Kansas City. The Guignon’s welcomed me like a third son, including Peggy’s early-morning breakfast inquiries like, “Mac, why do you and Pete think it’s a good idea to stay out so late?” 

That’s a story for another day. Back to my buddy Pete’s father, Pierre. I could go on and on about what defined this man’s dash. It boils down to four qualities that would serve us well. The life-time Kansas City resident’s spirit oozed with devotion to faith, family, friends and fun. Impressive indeed.

These days, we know about airport security lines. They suck. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is trying to help with an alternative called “Pre-Check.” After paying for and passing a background check, we can zip through security rather quickly and avoid the frustration of long lines.

In terms of credentials, if getting into heaven is similar to getting on an airplane, the story behind our dash is important. What’s the background reveal? This much I know about Pierre’s. It will certainly flash in big neon lights: “PEARLY GATES PRE-CHECK!”

This week, let’s honor and emulate a man’s stellar effort and example. It may help us travel through life with similar, out-of-this world success!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pep Talk: "A Clarion Call To Share"

Father’s Day 2016 comes with mixed emotions. On a positive note, your knucklehead scribe feels better about something important. For years, since my father passed in 2007 from lung cancer, the much-beloved “McIntosh Invitational” golf tournament had been on hiatus.

It was uncomfortable knowing “Hacker Mac” was somewhere in heaven wondering, “What the hell is going on?” For more than 25 years the father of four, and friend to many more, hosted an annual golf gathering. It was a cherished summer reunion. But after Dad died the tournament was buried with him. It bugged me. I sensed the golf fanatic was wondering, “Really? Just because you live in Denver, you can’t make time to keep the Mac Open alive?”

That lousy feeling is gone with the creation of a golf outing, in partnership with Raytown, Missouri’s Three Trails Kiwanis, that raises money for a youth sports initiative in my hometown. Raytown Schools’ superintendent Dr. Allan Markley leads a group, many of whom went to school in Raytown long ago, trying to raise money for more youth sports in the 9,000 student district in suburban Kansas City.

Raytown is different today than the community that nurtured sports-crazy dudes like me and others. 50 years ago a vibrant youth sports atmosphere was perfect for an athletic young man with dreams. Easy access to team sports helped me earn an athletic scholarship to the University of Missouri. It also kept this aging jock’s butt out of trouble and nose, somewhat, in the books to remain eligible.

Almost a half century later, Raytown has more poverty, single parents and societal challenges. We’re trying to improve the educational opportunities with more sports. It’s also what A Stronger Cord is trying to accomplish in Denver. We need to give vulnerable kids another team, other than gangs, to play on. It’s nationwide issue: too many isolated kids living in poverty and susceptible to gang recruitment.

Many who played in the McIntosh Invitational are now participating in the Kiwanis tournament. I think he would be pleased the re-incarnation is benefiting kids and fostering athletics. Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr. was always passionate about the two.

The downside to this day set aside for dads is that buddy Pete Guignon, and his four siblings, lost their father. Pierre Jules Guignon was a wonderful husband, father and man. The 88-year-old suffered from Parkinson’s and recently experienced a massive stroke while at dinner with bride Peggy celebrating 64 years of marriage. If memory serves correctly, my dad and Pete’s dad never met. That’s too bad. They were kindred spirits.

Each now gone but never forgotten. It would be impossible considering how their passion for life, love and goodwill influenced sons who became college buddies and fathers ourselves.

Two lucky dudes with dads who showed the way in healthy and productive fashion. What an incredible gift that comes with a clarion call to share with others, especially our children. The value is priceless.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pep Talk: "Better For Those Who Follow"

“I don’t have a problem with what you’re doing, but DO want a chance to say goodbye.” That comment was from New York City-based son about selling our house in Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood. It was the dwelling the 26-year-old child of divorce, in a joint custody arrangement, called home when with his father.

It has been a trip down memory lane in preparing this special place for conversion from rental to “For Sale.” 22 years ago, a single father reeling from a sudden and unexpected marital split, bought the place. The expanded bungalow, it’s like a town home, was less than a block from the, then, five-year-old’s school. Convenient. A fresh start.

It needed work. There was no front yard. Just a bunch of lava rocks, wood chips and juniper trees. I can remember the sweat equity in creating a more welcoming and functional front yard. It would become home to many football and baseball games of catch between father and son. The young man could throw a football well.

The backyard sucked too. It was all deck with a dilapidated hot tub. I vividly remember recruiting former CU Buff football buddies, supplying hydrating beverages, sledge hammers and crow bars as we, collectively, tore that deck apart. From its ruins came a small backyard with a kids’ playhouse. Later, after another marriage and the birth of, now, 19-year-old daughter, the kids eventually outgrew the playhouse. It was converted into “Poor Man’s Porch.” A shady summer spot where I would often write these weekly Pep Talk musings.

Every room inside was redone. Hardwoods replaced carpet, bathrooms were updated and memories created. The memories are mixed, for the kids and their old man. The sting of another divorce and juggling visitation schedules. The joy of wonderful neighbors on a tree-lined street where everything needed is within short walking distance. Congress Park, just east of Denver’s Botanic Gardens, is like a village inside the city. For a guy trying to re-invent after marital meltdowns and career detours, 1062 Fillmore was shelter from the storms of life. The neighbor’s kids enjoyed coming over for “Uncle Mac’s” signature culinary dishes. On a very limited menu, “Hamburger Helper” and “Taco Night” were most popular.

It was Bullet’s home too. The jet black family cat. At the time, the running joke with well intended buddies was, “Mac, she’s the only female who hasn’t left.” Haha. The beloved and aging feline vanished into thin air about four years ago as the property was converted into a rental after darling wife - third time’s the charm! - and I settled into a nearby town home. Bullet’s whereabouts are still unknown.

What is known is the comfort of a house nestled between a school at one end of the block and a church at the other. Good karma. The house is ready for its next occupants. The journalist inside wonders, “What will be their story?” Another single parent seeking a fresh start? A young couple just getting a family started? Empty nesters seeking to downsize?

Only time will tell. A single dad’s place with his kids was originally built 100 years ago. Its foundation is strong, creative and welcoming. Goodbye’s are emotional, whether it’s a beloved residence, relationship or something else.

This week, is it time to close a chapter? If so, do it from a foundation of strength, creativity and spirit focused on trying like heck to make it better for those who follow. That’s a winning strategy in real estate and life.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Pep Talk: "A Knockout Success"

Muhammad Ali’s dead at 74.

I’ll never forget the personal encounter with one of the world’s best-known occupants. It was 1986. Yours truly had just begun a sportscasting career as the weekend dude at KGBT-TV, the CBS affiliate in Harlingen, Texas. One of three major cities - Brownsville and McAllen the other - in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas. Ali was beginning to show symptoms of Parkinson’s as the legend flew into Valley International Airport for an appearance.

Boxing was, and probably still is, huge in the Valley. A docile river separates it from Mexico but the water nourishes a cultural cocktail of two nations. I loved time there - it’s hot and muggy  - and learning more about Mexican culture. Gracias.

Anyway, back to Ali. Growing up a sports fanatic in the 60’s, the former Cassius Clay fascinated me with his talents, charisma and convictions. I loved watching the verbal and intellectual boxing match between him and the late sports commentator Howard Cosell. Now, as a green-horn sports guy assigned a story, I was observing the legend deplane and walk slowly toward a throng of kids. It was obvious the nervous system disorder made it difficult to walk. 

Ali shuffled cautiously toward the crowd. Magic manifested as Ali extended arms and hands in a “Come to me children” sort of gesture. It was amazing to watch a throng of youngsters  rushed to greet the champ. The focus of my story that day was Ali’s powerful charisma. These kids had no idea who this guy was. It was only through the stories of their parents and the power of television that they knew anything of the world’s most recognizable personalities. I’ll never forget that moment.

LIfe in the sportscasting world was awesome. It offered access to some of the great personalities of our time. I had never, nor since, witnessed a larger example of someone’s charisma and its ability to inspire others. 

Talk about life’s ironies? A terrible affliction ultimately robbed one of the world’s great orators the ability to speak? Often, life ain’t fair. It can be cruel in its circumstances. LIstening to NPR shortly after Ali’s death, a fine obituary commentary closed with the reporter honoring Ali with this: “Considering his fragile state and how boxing, and all those head blows, may have contributed to his demise, “Would you change anything?”

Disease might have suffocated a great gift but nothing could kill this guy’s spirit. According to the report, Ali communicated in some fashion, “I would not change a thing.”

He was Clay, then Ali. The showman left a legacy for eternity. We’ll remember the charisma. But let’s not forget the courage and conviction. Those two traits would be wise to emulate. The father of nine kids displayed them as a pugilist, activist and philanthropist. 

Ali brilliantly demonstrated how to jab, dodge and throw haymaker hooks at unwanted and unexpected punches life brings our way. I hope his flock of children, and all of us, figure out a way to live with similar courage and conviction considering the outcome is often considered a knockout success.

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