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Raymond E. Feist Blog

The Raymond E. Feist Blog , what is it? Well its a place for Ray to share with the world, his thoughts, ideas and other random things he wishes. These blog, entries come direct from Ray, and may appear at any time, there is no editorial by the administrators of Crydee, other than maybe fix a typo if noticed.

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Touching greatness

I first saw John Wooden at court side in 1963.  My neighbors had an extra ticket for the L.A. Basketball Classic, an invitational college basketball tourney hosted jointly by USC and UCLA, which at the time shared the L.A. Sports Arena as their home court (until two years later when UCLA opened Pauley Pavilion on campus).

They said, "We're going to see Michigan with Cazzy Russel."  "Who they playing?" I asked. "UCLA."  It was the semi-finals.  As a football honk, I paid scant attention to anything basketball but the Lakers and knew nothing about UCLA.

That night I fell in love with college basketball, UCLA, and Coach John Wooden.

They were surgeons. They were artists.  The were mechanics. They took Michigan apart like they were junking a beat up old car.  Michigan, who had been the consensual favorite to win the national championship.  It was UCLA's third win on their way to a 30-0 record (one of Wooden's 4 undefeated teams in his career) and their 1st NCAA National Championship.  During his tenure, UCLA would win 9 more.

Ten national championships, seven in a row!  Now team in college history, nor the legendary coaches, gets close to that.  And this was back in the day when you had to WIN your conference to get in.  No 2nd place teams or third place teams.  In 1963 only 22 teams were invited to the tournament. In 1975 it settled at 32 for a while, and it wasn't until 1985 you get 64 like we have had up to last year.  You had to be the best in your conference to even get a bid.

Wooden was a gentleman.  I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing him speak on many occasions, and the honor of speaking to him a couple of times.  He was soft spoken, with a glint in his eyes, a ready smile and a lovely sense of humor.  Unlike the other coaches of his era who would scream and turn apoplectic, shout obscenities, rail at the officials, Wooden would sit quietly in his seat, a rolled up program in one hand, and the harshest thing I ever heard him say at court side, as his team was getting physically handled by a bigger Oregon team, and the refs weren't making calls, was him saying in a loud voice to the ref, "This isn't the pro game!  These aren't pros!"

There's an documentary out there I've seen on HBO, and if you get a chance watch it.  He shaped lives.  More than his winning, which is unmatched at any level in the sports, listen to the players talk about him and the influence in their lives.  Greg Holland, especially, who was a bit of a rebel on the team and chafed under the strict team discipline especially sang his praises, saying he hated the old guy when he left UCLA but by ten years later he figured out what the old man was trying to teach; he went back to see him, and over the balance of his life became one of Wooden's dearest friends among ex-players.

He won with big teams and small teams, quick teams, and patent teams.  He won with superstars and with no stars.

He NEVER had a losing season. His worst year at UCLA was 1959 when his team went 14-12.  In 11 years of coaching high school, his record was 218-42. For two seasons at Indiana State he was 47-14.

His record at UCLA was an incredible 620-147.  They still hold the NCAA record for consecutive wins at 88!  At Pauley Pavilion, from it's open in 1965 to his retirement in 1975, he lost two games.  Again, ten National Championships, seven in a row!

No coach at any level of the game gets close to his level of achievement.

His accolades were endless, many times Coach of the Year, first person to go into the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach, Sports Illustrated Man of the Year, and many others.

His "Pyramid of Success" model of life says, "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."  The Pyramid shows a foundation labled Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm, upon which rests other qualities of being and ends at the top with Competitive Greatness.  Coaches around the world use this to teach his philosophy.

Once in a while there is someone in your life, no mater how tangentially or indirectly, that shows you something.  What John Wooden showed me is that you can be a human being of profound integrity and honor who can be successful.  You hear the term "beloved mentor," and that was Wooden.  There are many great athletes, from Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Gail Goodrich, all agreed on something Wooden was found of saying, "Love is the most powerful four letter word in the English Language."  To quote Bill Walton, "He didn't teach basketball.  He taught life."

99 years is a long haul and in this case a great one.  We will never see this man's like again in sports.

Barbara A. Feist 1916-2010

I probably spent more time with my mom than any other person on this planet.  The first nineteen years until I moved out.  Then some years later when I relocated to San Diego I spent six months sleeping on a fold-out in her apartment while I figured out what my next move would be.  She was very patent with a late blooming son.   Later when I returned to college I lost a roommate and she had to quit her job because of health, so we became roommates when I was in my late twenties.  She believed in me, and was the first person to read my first novel, because she retyped ever page (she was very good) so that my manuscript would be presentable when I sent it in.

Born Lulu Estelle Allen, my mother changed her name when she began her singing career in 1936.  Leaving her home town of Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1939 she moved to Chicago where she lived for a short while with her oldest brother, Lyle, and his wife Mabel. 

While there she was told by her close friend Norman Luboff that the Xavier Cugat Orchestra was in the city and auditioning singers.  She won a spot as a back-up singer.  My mother traveled around the country, recorded albums, worked in films with the band,  played live on radio and at many USO concerts and met my father, Raymond Elias Gonzalez.  They were married in 1944.

My mother was widowed twice.  First in 1950 when my father died of complications of pneumonia and a reaction to penicillin.  My adoptive father, Felix E. Feist, died in 1965.  They had been married since 1955, and he was pretty much the only father I knew.

She was a rabid Dodgers fan from the day they signed Jackie Robinson until the day they traded her beloved Dusty Baker to the hated Giants--for which she never forgave them,  At that point she turned her back on them and embraced the San Diego Padres in her adopted home town.  That was 1984 when the Padres won their first National League Pennant, so she picked a good time to switch loyalties. She suffered and rejoiced with the Padres from that point on, listening to just about every game on radio if she couldn't watch on TV.  Legally blind from macular degeneration for the last ten years, she could still rise, bathe and dress herself, get down and make her own breakfast, and go shopping until about two years ago.  Since then she's had assistance.

Late in life mom developed Alzheimer's and the last three and a half years have been difficult.  But throughout that time she managed to stay mostly independent, living in her own home all but the last three weeks of her life. She was the second youngest of eleven children, surviving them all but one, her younger brother Lloyd.  She is also survived by  my younger brother, a younger half-sister, a bunch of grandkids and a lot of sweet memories and a few dark ones.  Mom traveled, sang, and raised two sons and a step-daughter.   To say her last days were good would be false, but they were managed, and the best they could be.  Her life was just that, a life.  There were great memories and some not-so-great, but she touched a lot of hearts.  Since the Alzheimer's began, I've been missing my mom.  I miss her even more today than every before.

Best, R.E.F.

Ghosts and Echos

Last night, about 3 AM, I woke up with heart pounding, a profound sense of dread filling me up, accompanied by a deep sadness, and sense of loss.  I'm not given to full blown panic attacks, having had maybe two or three in sixty years, but this one got close.

It also reminded me of how I felt when I was caught up in the depths of clinical depression.  That cost me seven years of my life, a marriage, and a lot of money.

A short digression into this subject is in order: clinical depression is the most common mental illness out there.  It is also the most treatable.  If you've never suffered through this, let me explain I'm not talking about being "down in the dumps" or "the blues," or "being sad," or "feeling depressed over something," but rather a state of altered brain chemistry, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin, along with endorphins, enkeplyns, dopamines, and other chemicals are what makes the brain work the way it's supposed to.  Without them, you get seriously funky in little to no time.  Well meaning people who don't understand the problem will say, "Hey, cheer up!"  "Go out for a walk; you'll feel better," or other things that sound like they're speaking in a foreign language to the person who's depressed.  Because the trap of clinical depression is you think you're supposed to feel that way.  You can't imagine getting up off the couch and going for a walk, and if you know how to cheer up, you would, but you don't know how.  You do, however, know how to do misery really well.

So at 3 am feeling deep worry over something really doesn't derserve to be worried over, I'm in the grips of "Oh my God, not depression again!"

See, when you've survived it once, when you have a bad moment, you don't think "I just had a bad moment."  You think, "Oh no, not again!"  It's a real worry, even if it's not a real problem.  Such is the nature of the subjective reality of the human mind.

I call these events "ghosts and echos."  See, there's a young woman about whom I care a great deal; she's been a good friend and I enjoy her company.  I thought she was going to call.  She didn't.  So, I shrugged and got on with my day.  But at 3 AM my subconscious is churning up old crap, completely unrelated to the here and now and suddenly I am wrestling with a ghost.  It's like she caught someone else's paybacks.  So, the mental stuff are ghosts, haunting the here and now.  The echos are the feelings that come back to you, even if they are not remotely related to your here and now.  Suddenly I'm feeling abandoned, betrayed, whatever, but again it has nothing to do with what's going on today.

That's the trap of clinical depression if you let it be, a smooth transition from the real world into a world filled with cognitive distortions and emotional land mines.  It's a bad place to find yourself.

The trick is to recognizer the feelings as being false. Oh, they feel real enough.  There were moments at 3 AM I wanted to call and shout, "Where have you been!  Why didn't you call!" and any other nutty, irrational things totally unrelated to her, in reality, and very much related to someone in my past who put me through hell.  Now, most of you I suspect would not appreciate being awoken at 3 am.  Even fewer to be awoken at 3 am to have someone yell at you.  And I doubt one of you would appreciate being awoken at 3 am to be yelled at for something someone else had done in the past.

In mentioning my lousy night on a couple of the social networks, some people sent me some e-mail and that caused me to think it was time for this blog post.

Clinical depression is crippling if you let it be.  It can be cured. Exercise, diet, rest, SSRI medication if needed, and therapy can all take care of it.  If you think you might be suffering, there are a dozen web sites with self-tests you can take that will give you a better insight into this.  if you know you're depressed, get help.  It is beatable.

See, I work up at 3 am with my heart pounding through my chest, convinced I was being lied to, used, taken advantaged of, and played for a fool, and that I was once again heading back into the deepest, darkest place I've ever been, and then after a few minutes I went, "Oh, no, that was last year when all that was going on, and I'm never going to be depressed again."

You can win this one.


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