This is long overdue, and I’d hate to let another year go by, but I owe everyone reading this a huge thank you. So thank you for letting Sunday Morning Coffee into your Sunday space three or four times a month. Thank you for taking the time to read it. For those who regularly comment (Ken Rich and everyone else), either publicly or privately with me, thanks. It’s not necessary but always glad to hear your thoughts. I’d also like to thank anyone who had a disparaging comment about SMC but somehow they have been removed from the subscription list.
I’m not really sure when this blog thing started. Maybe all the way back in high school in the late 1960s when I knew I wanted to be a newspaper writer. I took that idea with me to the University of Miami and had some success with it. Academically, I majored in communications/journalism and did well. Degree related, I advanced on the Miami student newspaper, The Hurricane, all the way to editor-in-chief. I perfected my inner Perry White and at every opportunity ranted “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”
However, after graduation and despite job offers from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Time magazine and a full ride to Harvard Business School, I turned rogue and went into corporate PR and publicity. Okay, I really didn’t have those offers; I just got caught up playing the new board game — Who Wants To Be George Santos? — and got a little carried away. But I did shun the media for the PR side and was fortunate enough to move into organizations where growth opportunities abounded. In my late 20’s, early 30’s, I worked my way into upper management. That became my lot for the rest of my career. Recreational writing took a break to raise a family and advance my career. However, throughout all those years and even today, I never stopped being a student of journalism. I toast well written pieces and squirm at the lousy ones. Unfortunately, there are more lousy ones these days. Compounded with poor editing, the profession can use a reboot. Quickly.
I remember the first piece I wrote which years later would become Sunday Morning Coffee. It was on September 12, 2001, and a day earlier, while caught in the chaos and confusion of 9/11 in Washington D.C., I was riding past the Pentagon, by then in flames. Hours later, I somehow talked myself onto one of the only means of mass transportation still running. Amtrak, which has enough on-time issues in non-terroristic times, was operating. I bargained my way onto a train from Alexandria, Virginia, to get me back home to Birmingham, Alabama. That night we had no idea of the scope and depth of the attack, but that 16-hour train trip was both a miracle and a delight just to be moving when the country was shut down. I chronicled it the next day for a couple dozen personal and professional friends who were on my e-mail list and thought they would be interested. Let the blogging begin.
That train ride indirectly produced the second missive I fired off to a friendly list. It was some years later when, blinded by the sheer relief of that 9/11 Amtrak ride, I thought it would be a good idea if Andi and I flew to New York City for a few days and then took a leisurely Amtrak back home to Alabama. Not so much. We made it to Baltimore, three hours away, before bailing for a Southwest flight home. It was probably the funniest piece I’ve written but have no idea where it is now.
In 2010 my first fantasy baseball camp produced a nightly recap, to a list which kept growing longer, of the daily highs and lows on and off the field for an over-the-hill frustrated baseball player. Those pieces continuing for the next half dozen years every January from camps. Flipping back into the archives, it looks like the first piece that ultimately became SMC was in April 2014 about a trip to the Masters. SMC became a regular Sunday routine for me two years later in 2016. Including today, we have written 229 pieces or about 38 a year.
Probably the most widely read blog wasn’t even written by me. It was Andi’s, two days after my 2017 cinco-de-bypass. It took major, ultimately lifesaving surgery on me for her to get rave reviews on her byline. I’m still sore about it and have banned her from my keyboard. Forever.
Of course family always plays well when writing. My dad growing old and turning into Morty Seinfeld right in front of my eyes was plenty of material and always got an affectionate chuckle. The passing of Mom and Dad didn’t. The one I thought would be the toughest to write, eventually losing my best pal Ibis, really wasn’t as I was able to clearly compose my thoughts and words. That August 7, 2022, SMC ‘The Short Goodbye’ probably produced the most comments of anything we did. I have not had the joy to write about being a grandparent yet but one step at a time. I look forward to sharing the upcoming November 11 wedding of son Scott and his beautiful bride-to-be, Cayla.
And now we are into 2023 and the world looks different. Primarily because it’s Georgia and TCU next Monday night and not a Bama in sight. TCWho? We begin the year thankful for all our subscribers, about 1,600 in total, making me the second most in-demand blogger in our family. It’s nothing close to internet sensation Robby Berger, aka Brilliantly Dumb, aka Bob Does Sports, aka my nephew, who has built a base of followers closing in on a million. His stuff is slapstick, sophomoric and not necessarily for our generation, but that’s what sells today to a much younger demographic. Robby’s following is loyal and loaded with disposable income, something sponsors salivate over. Bravo, lad!
I never really did this to build subscribers. I never did this to generate income. It was a hobby that gained traction. It was word of mouth and referral from other readers. And if you still want to recommend this to others who might enjoy it, I’m all in. Send them to royberger.com to subscribe. We will extend your subscription for one year for free. I actually started doing this as a creative exercise and now it’s a full blown hobby.
I know very little about analytics, but reports show that 65% of subscribers open SMC on a weekly basis and some 53% of those click the link to read it. I’m also told those are some incredibly strong numbers. I’m thankful, but even more hopeful that everyone who opens SMC also takes a good look at the Medjet sponsorship. I know we have referred many to Medjet (medjet.com) and it’s something you should never travel without and hope you never need. Mike Hallman, my CEO successor at Medjet, was kind enough to sponsor SMC each week to help us cover the bills for platform, site management and editing.
Retirement has gotten very complicated for me over the last six months. Prior, it was good. Very good. It was the gym six mornings a week; two mornings of yoga; golf three or four days and sitting down to write Sunday Morning Coffee on Monday, finishing up on Tuesday or Wednesday and shipping it to my college classmate Cathy Dorricott in Philadelphia for editing. Tinker with it again on Friday and Saturday and publish on Saturday night for Sunday morning. Maybe six, seven hours a week for me. Not too bad at all. Really a labor of creativity and love. Every fourth week or so was a bye.
Then, all of a sudden, time became very precious. This past July 1, as a result of a recruitment campaign by Temple Sinai-Las Vegas leadership and the encouragement from my wife, I agreed to accept a two-year stint as synagogue president. It’s everything I was warned it would be and a lot more, incredibly time consuming. Plus the pay is terrible. The classic restaurant line of a waiter to a table of Jews, “Is anything okay?” has become my mantra. Because of some infrastructure and staff limitations, the president of our synagogue also serves as a quasi-CEO. Which probably means 10, 12, 15 hours a week on various assignments. Last week was even more with a couple of large projects pending on deadline. I’m told it’s rewarding. I’m waiting for that. I also haven’t spoken to Andi since her recommendation for me to do this and don’t plan to for 18 more months until my term ends.
I think about this synagogue commitment every day. Over and over. Maybe Andi was right after all. She told me this was my calling to give back to something that has been so important to our life together. She said I have a unique skill set, the synagogue has a need and the timing is right. Three weeks ago I decided to quit complaining, quit moping, quit kvetching and start doing. I was entrusted with this gig, mainly because nobody else wanted it, but as long as I have it, and unfortunately the chances of my impeachment are slim, I’m of the mindset to get busy and do the best I can. Perhaps somewhere down the line we can make a difference in the social and religious experience for our congregants, kids and the future of the institution. As Chanukah concludes and the New Year begins, that is my mission. I’m in this until June 30, 2024. Unfortunately, that means I’m barely treading water on everything else I want to do with the hours I’m given. Once upon a time in retirement every day was Saturday, my favorite day of the week. Now everyday feels more like a rainy Tuesday.
Something needs to go, at least for a while. I can’t give up the morning gym routine; it’s too important to me physically as well as mentally. My golf has been waylaid by a pretty bad eye injury, compromising my ability to see the golf ball which they tell me is a prerequisite. My handicap index has gone from a respectable 12 to a not-so-good 19 in just over two years since getting injured by an inadvertent bite from Deuce. I also haven’t played that much in spite of literally having 36 holes outside my back door; the last time was Halloween weekend. Eyesight not withstanding and the weather here getting a little more springlike over the next few months, I’m ready to begin again in earnest. A 19 handicap, if you can keep the ball in play, can be an advantage in money games. Squeeze in temple doings on an almost a daily basis and things get cramped. Andi and I also value and enjoy what Vegas has to offer: shows, concerts, dining and various sports events. It might even be more fun when I’m talking to her again.
So, that was a lot of words to say, unfortunately what has to take a breather is what maybe I like the best, Sunday Morning Coffee. There’s just no way to squeeze everything in every week and make the best use of time. Having said that, I’d still like to get an invite to your breakfast table, once, sometimes twice a month; but for me the pace of trying to do everything has to subside a little bit. Our ‘Scramble’ blogs seem to be the most well received and I know I can compile enough notes to get that out monthly, but beyond that I’m just not so sure right now.
As we begin the new year together, wishing you a year of health, happiness, safety, prosperity and love. Also hoping some common sense filters back into our country and our world. Just enough to show we are ready to turn this lunacy back around.
Save a little room for Sunday Morning Coffee every now and again. I say this most sincerely and humbly: thank you for sharing some of your day with us.
Happy New Year!