Everyday heroes

8788 SUNSET BVLD was listed as the location of the O2 BAR & RESTAURANT “Smart_Drinks + Smart_Food + Oxygen”. The 3”x5” menu cover included a small dot that looked like the sun with a sliver of orange on the left side and the rest of the circle a yellow hue.  Immediately to the left of it was a sliver of white and the rest of the circle was pitch black; the two dots depicted the times of operation. No exact times were listed but the point is clear: opens early and closes late. Elsewhere on the back of the menu it says “dinner + dancing 7 days a week – ‘til late”.  The O2 Bar was pretty dark, pretty smoky and pretty small with Art Deco-like window coverings but it offered “EATIN’ IN” along with delivery and takeout.  Actor Woody Harrelson was the owner of this eccentric West Hollywood establishment.

The twenty of us in our group didn’t eat much of anything, not Hemp Carrot Cake or the Margarita’s Trip, a “chilled sweet lemon lime blend with kava kava and galanga for a soothing mind warp”, but I think I enjoyed a “Don Juan Colada, a frozen coconut, pineapple juice with Carabua, muira puama and supreme ginseng for a high rise”.  There was no alcohol and all foods were vegan consistent with Woody’s lifestyle. I was always enthralled by his life story.  He who played a bartender on the lovable Cheers television program and rose to be an Academy-award nominee actor. His father Charles was an organized crime figure who was convicted of assassinating a federal judge and was housed in the Supermax serving two life sentences.  This is the highest security federal prison home of other luminaries such as Terry Nichols of the Oklahoma City bombing, Theodore Kaczynski (Unabomber) and Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.  The Supermax is where inmates spend 23 of 24 hours a day in solitary confinement, receive meals through ports in doors of the cell.  On reflection his existence was pretty much the polar opposite of his son’s establishment.

The O2 Bar was a neat place to experience while in Los Angeles, and immensely more enjoyable than standing around in our corporate trade show attire at the GTE Internetworking booth at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was even more enjoyable since the event marketing manager who hired a bus to drive us to the O2 Bar was able to disguise all expenses, several hundred dollars worth in his expense report.

But the high point (pun intended) of the excursion at the O2 Bar + Restaurant was leaning back my head and breathing in the fruity-flavored pure oxygen through a water pipe at $13 a hit.  I didn’t get high from the pure oxygen; it might have been the joints that were lit up around me, but the flavored oxygen was stimulating and enjoyable. And made for a good memory.

Such was one of the benefits of working in Corporate America especially in a large firm like GTE. One felt a certain glee of indulgence being able to experience something like the O2 at the company’s expense. Whatever was going on with my job at the time, I felt a certain liberation and carefreeness. When the cat’s away the mice will play. It was sort of like that.

The twenty of us at the Bar were all in marketing previously with the start up BBN, the ISP (Internet Service Provider) which “invented” the Internet, and whose engineer Ray Tomlinson created and sent the first email in late 1971. BBN was acquired by GTE.  (BBN was the acronym for Bolt Beranek & Newman, the engineering services firm that was hired by the US Dept of Defense to build the first Internet in 1968, and which counted American Online or AOL as its premiere account, some 40% of its revenue at a time when AOL was the premiere ISP).  Being from BBN had a certain cache, a certain buzz attached to it, an attraction akin to the one afforded by Cisco, another start up I later was employed at that was a leader in the networking world that was rising up amongst  us.  (I was not employed at Cisco when it was a start up; I was at Altiga Networks a VPN start up that was acquired by Cisco in late 2000).

But now that I’m older, today I’m in awe of a different kind of company and different kinds of people.  Facebook and Google executives I don’t revere. Instead of being in awe of a high tech inventor, it’s everyday heroes that inspire me by their personal stories of giving, charity and grace.

This past week I attended a Donor Sabbath Service and luncheon focused on “the gift of life” with personal stories of people who donated and received the gift of life through an organ or tissue donation.  A woman a few years younger than I stood at the podium along with a grey bearded man. He desperately needed a liver and posted his plea on social media. She saw it and decided then and there immediately to give up a part of her liver for this man (who happened to be a distant cousin) she barely knew. She briefly explain the process she went through with all smiles: she was out of work for a week, worked remotely for another three weeks and then returned to work with no complications. He, the recipient said it has been a “struggle” to go through the transplant, but each day felt better and he’s forever grateful that he received the gift of life.  The Service Program included a musical prelude by a guitar soloist, Jan van der Poll, to set the mood, donation remarks and blessings, and a moment of meditation along with the featured testimonials.

Everyday heroes are all around us, people from all walks of life being human to another human in a time of need.

People like Kristin McClintock a special ed teacher in Houston who comforted and cared for a group of autistic children who were overwhelmed by the chaos and noise after the hurricanes in Houston, and needed a quiet area to regroup and recover afterwards.  She was moved by the struggles and reached out to comfort them.

Everyday heroes are a reminder of what America is truly about: seeing the common good in times of need regardless of  color, creed, beliefs.   Reaching out to help others.  There are numerous charities set up to call on after a devastating calamity, the Red Cross being one that comes to mind.  Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator to ensure you find charities you can trust.  But everyday heroes like Kristin or the woman who donated a portion of her liver give because they need to do so, it’s what they do to lead a purposeful, meaningful life.  And in this age of Trump narcissism and hate, this is truly something to celebrate and to practice in one’s own life when the need arises.  It happens everyday.

Who inspires you?  Who are the heroes in your life?   How can reaching out and being kind to strangers make 
your life more purposeful and meaningful? 

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

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