Passages: Or, Up Periscope For 2020

By Michael Willard

Time flies with the swiftness and the quiet hum of a Hummingbird’s flutter.

It seems Facebook with its 2.3 billion users — more than half logging in at least once a day — has been with us since God created dirt. But it has only officially been a presence since February, 2004.

By the end of that first year, it had a mere million users. Some people it seems have that many “best” friends in Facebook-dom.

Since that time, my wife Olga and I became a couple, participated in two revolutions in Ukraine, including witnessing a bloody government massacre, and, along the way, developed far-flung businesses on several continents.

Finally, after 22 years in Kyiv, Moscow and Istanbul — we decided to come in from the cold. We resettled in sunny Florida about five years ago. It’s peaceful, sometimes depressingly so.

After adventures in risky markets and more than a few toe-curling business episodes, we plopped down to suburban life in Orlando with HOA fees, a manicured postage stamp lawn, barbecues and a Sam’s Club card.

Today, most likely, I wouldn’t trade this for a year’s supply of Haagen-Dazs butter pecan ice cream and my latest book being promoted by Oprah. But, I do miss Ukraine, and our summer — infrequently visited — home in Side, Turkey, a stone’s toss from the Mediterranean.

We’re now two red-light stops and 12 minutes from Orlando’s International Airport and the opportunity of being ferried to most anywhere.

I have made peace with the warm climate and the threat of hurricanes. The occasional snakes give pause, but I am told most are harmless. The armadillos are goofy and fun to look at.

John Lennon said it best: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” He wasn’t my favorite Beatle. George Harrison was, but George rarely said anything worth quoting.

My previous career “plan” had been to steel myself against the elements, the corruption and the serendipity business climate of the Wild East until the electrodes would no longer revive me and the hearse beckoned.

It was never a question of not loving America. I do and alway will. However, sometimes you simply find purpose and challenges that light up your personal pinball machine. I did for nearly a quarter-century.

I thought it was simply part of my DNA, after managing crises in Europe, Central America, and the US, and doing a bunch of other stuff that was mainly good for telling war stories down at the pub that were mostly true.

In 1984, I launched my first business in public relations and advertising. This, after career hitches in politics and as a journalist and editor.

Almost everyone at that time was referencing George Orwell and his famous, future-oriented dystopian novel “1984,” including Apple in its Macintosh commercial.

All that seems rather quaint today, and out-of-touch, though the Big Brother specter haunts us much more today with technology advances, computer hacking, and ubiquitous cameras .

But, in life, many of us make course corrections. That is unless you operate the tram between the Russell Building and the US Capitol in DC, and then you merely reach your destination, turn around, and head back the other way.

We now launch into 2020.

I have two books in the offering, having recently finished a biography of three lead singers of The Platters, The Drifters and The Temptations, “My Time to Shine”. One is a novel called “Sweet Sophia” and the other is a collection of my Basic Instinct columns.

However, domestic economics suggests there comes a time when one needs to keep the lights on and put cornbread on the table.

For the last year, we have worked with the US Agency for International Development in creating fascinating narratives of innovators around the world, as well as conducting crisis and message trainings. We also continue to raise the profiles of authors and other thought leaders.

Everything else is kind of cats and dogs and such. But, the phone lines remain open and operators are standing by.

I hear a voice: “Hey, you’re in Florida. My God man! You are in your Yellow Leaf years. You should be retired.”

There is a big telescope on some mountain in Hawaii called Mauna Kea. If I were to look through it, and stand on my tip-toes, I might be able to see a possible retirement date, but it’s doubtful.

My eyesight is not that great and I am having too much fun.

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M. Willard Oil Painting: Passages and Pathways

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