Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Photos from the 6th Annual Hoops for Life 5K Walk/Run in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

 Photos--Michael Manning
Up at 3:00 AM in Phoenix, I boarded a ride to the Sky Harbor Airport for a Southwest Airlines flight to St. Louis, Missouri. After we landed, I picked up a rental car and headed South for the 1 hour and 52 minute drive to Cape Girardeau. (I also had a cup of Starbucks coffee on board!).
These photos have been delayed by an intense flying schedule I've had, involving no less than five flights from Phoenix to Missouri, Atlanta, Baltimore, Indianapolis and ultimately back to my hometown of Cincinnati. One of the best decisions I've made this year was also a blessing--being able to reunited with my friends Shannon and Amy Aldridge on July 24th. 
On this day, their daughter, the late Sahara Aldridge would have turned 21. Sahara lost her life to brain tumor cancer in November 2007. I had the privilege of meeting this sweet little girl back in December, 2006. I was struck by Sahara's humility, her love and humor. Nicknamed "Hoops" for her passionate love of basketball, Sahara's jersey number was 21. In her memory, her parents founded a non-profit organization that I invite you to visit and support at: for more information. 
The funds raised from this annual event are donated to the Lucile Packard Children's Research Hospital where Sahara was treated in Palo Alto, California. It is the love of those of us who met Sahara, knew her, or heard about her that has also endeared us forever to Shannon and Amy. They are our life-long friends, and we will continue to hold them up in our prayers and love for their hard work and devotion to ensure that no other parent has to endure what they experienced with Sahara's diagnosis and subsequent cancer treatments. I compiled too many photos to share in one post. So, allow me to share these selections from the road--for now. Thank you for your patience!
I'm very proud to call this lovely lady my friend. Amy Aldridge co-founded Hoops for Life with her husband Shannon, and spearheaded a State Bill with Rep. Wayne Wallingford of Missouri called "SAHARA'S LAW". Through the duo's hard work, Missouri taxpayers can elect to donate a portion of their tax return each year to benefit pediatric brain tumor research in memory of Amy and Shannon's daughter Sahara, who remains in our hearts and minds every day! 
Another dear friend of mine, Shannon Aldridge taught me one of life's most humbling lessons: that "Everybody is somebody". Shannon has more heart and soul than anyone I know. When his daughter, Sahara, asked him from her hospital bed, to "keep running" and to stay healthy, Shannon honored Sahara's wishes. Today, he is an elite runner competing in 100-mile events in her memory. He is extraordinary! 
Shannon also has a sense of humor (which is another reason we're friends!).
Shannon wears Sahara's basketball jersey No. 21. The front of Shannon's own jersey contains the team name from the Lady Comets, Sahara's former basketball team. I don't believe in consequences. In this regard, I happened to meet Sahara's best friend from childhood later in the evening at a downtown restaurant. The stories I heard were heartfelt.

Here is Shannon addressing over 700 people at 8 AM in Kiwanis Park, advising us to be safe. He then led us in a beautiful prayer. After the event and over lunch, we sat together and I thanked Shannon for reminding everyone, "Never let anyone put you in a box and tell you that you can't do something". I shared with Shannon that this powerful message resonated in my heart, and I immediately recognized it from the Apostle Paul in The Bible. It is very hard to start and maintain a non-profit. Amy and Shannon succeeded, and I am persuaded that they are helping far more children and adults than they might realize!
 Amy capturing the crowds during Shannon's message to each of us.

 It bears repeating that I have never met kinder or more generous people than I did in Cape Girardeau. It was refreshing to be with so many loving people who are down to earth. They responded--as they do annually--to support Hoops for Life. I tried unsuccessfully over the past 5 years to participate. In 2014, I made myself a promise that 2015 would be my year, and by God's grace I made it back to The Cape! To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back!" 

 A group of Angels who push enthusiastic participants along the entire course, Team Triumph is awesome.

 This amazing athlete fueled my determination to kick butt!

 After the 5K, it was time for door prizes and more...

 The Southeast Missouri Triathlon Team surprised everyone with a donation!

I'll end here with a laugh: This little boy "photo-bombed" me at lunch in Jackson, Missouri. This is absolutely something I would have done at his age (and probably today). Thanks for stopping by my BLOG Page !


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Short Blog on My "Back to the Future" Vintage Home Stereo Equipment

All Photos--Michael Manning

You don't have to be former Elektra and Nonesuch Records executive Jac Holzman to appreciate this short blog. To the contrary, at age 83, Holzman has developed a very special app for fans of the 1960's band, The Doors to download and enjoy their music (and every fascinating aspect) of this mysterious sounding and immediately identifiable band in classic rock. That said, welcome to a basic tour of my vintage home stereo equipment, which is a source of pride for me. Like any good home collection of stereo equipment that supports vinyl LP records, this collection took years of buying and selling to get exactly what I wanted. As you'll read, this is still "a work in progress". 

Pictured above is an excellent turntable from Pioneer, a PL-518. I replaced a Kenwood KD-3500 limestone base model (incorrectly referenced by many as granite base) belt-drive turntable a couple of years back with this direct-drive step up. It was kept in excellent condition and amazingly, I am only the second owner. A two-speed table with anti-skate control and strobe light synchronous speed adjustments, it is armed with a Shure cartridge. In simpler terms, this equates to Arnold Schwarzenegger pulling up to your house in a Hummer to drive you to work! The Shure is a top-notch cartridge and I was surprised not see an Ortofon brand. I place this turntable from around the early 1980's. A lot of my equipment comes from a very small specialty shop in Cheviot, Ohio (a town worth a Google search). The only modification I made was to add a now-superfluous "Platter Matter"--a late 1970's relic developed to solve Hi Fi rumble, vinyl ring and dampen vibrations. 

Power Amp

I traded in my 80 watt SAE-31B power amp (from Scientific Audio Associates, now out of business) for this B&K Components 200 watt monster. As the side rails indicate, this is a studio grade amp that I was quite fortunate to locate and acquire. I'm told Eric Clapton, Elton John and Billy Gibbons use this brand in their homes. Since I've never visited any of these guys, I can't independently verify this claim. But I'm pleased to say that Amplifier Technologies Incorporated in Montebello, California bought this company and they continue to manufacture power amps as we speak. My best guess is that this power unit was manufactured around 1988. You need to wed it with thicker output cables, but just the same, it kicks butt! 


In 1977, sound engineer Tom Holman from Cambridge, Massachusetts took out two page advertisements in Stereo magazines (and non-stereo magazine, Playboy) to herald the arrival of "a very different stereo receiver", the Advent 300. I'm told that this company went out of business only to be revived again, which is always great news. Originally, I bought this unit from a small business in Westwood, Ohio (again, worth a Google search) that closed down many years ago. The selling point of this piece of equipment is not the meager 15 watt per channel amp, but rather, the cleanest pre-amp and most sensitive FM tuner ever invented. Pricey at the time at $150, it sells for twice that amount today (if you can find one in good condition). Advent knew we guys (and gals) would bypass the amp and thus, provided a bypass plug to enable patching in a power amp. I run the power for both through one switch and voila! Not very complicated, but the sound is phenomenal.  

Single Play CD Player and Cassette Deck 

Tascam is the studio grade audio division of another great brand, TEAC. The bottom unit is a gently used cassette deck I acquired that uses a Dolby filtering system. Honestly, I don't use it to record LP's since most people don't own tape decks in their cars or even portable cassette recorders anymore (which I still prefer for taping magazine interview guests). This unit interconnects nicely with my single play Tascam CD-160 CD player positioned above it just fine. 

The Tascam CD-160 is the only new equipment I own. I store the wireless remote control in my kitchen junk drawer and manually load and unload this solid player. Tascam uses the transport from the TEAC CD 5020A and the result is smooth sound and no jitter, with all the coax cable input-output jacks you'd expect--with a twist. This unit supports Mp3 and WAVE files. In case you're wondering, I chose the single play units because conventional thought is that the quality is higher than multi-disc models. 

Rescued from a yard sale, I snapped up a pair of LX-600's for peanuts, I had a JBL licensed shop in Obrienville, Ohio re-foam the outer woofers. A Phoenix upholstery shop restored the grill cloth very reasonably. These speakers date back to 1992, and I intended them as a temporary "go-between" until I could acquire a pair of JBL recording studio monitors, which are hard to find. One could make a case that this has been a lengthy interlude, however, these three-way speakers deliver a good sound. I've always loved JBL. My best friend Alan from childhood saw a photo of these and smiled as he said, "Ah, box speakers". I laughed because I was busted for having old technology! Another reason it was funny: I had never heard the term "box speakers". All of which is to say this hobby is good fun, and whatever equipment you end up piecing together, I hope that you enjoy your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard!  

Putting It All Together

Here is the final assembly. Interior designers take note: I know the wires should be concealed more neatly, and I'll work on that issue...later. For now, bring out your vinyl LP collection and lets enjoy some great music!

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Short Book Review on a Another Kid Out of the Midwest!

Photo--Michael Manning
Love Life by author Rob Lowe

"The world would be a better place if more stars' memoirs were like Lowe's...As entertaining as a Brat Pack Film Festival."

Recently, I enjoyed reading two books written by actor Rob Lowe. Like most of you, I never buy my books brand new. Instead, I scour used bookstores on weekends for good buys. I enjoy biographies because it's interesting for me to gain new perspectives from a myriad of personalities on life's triumphs and challenges. As I experienced with musician Neil Young's two books, Lowe's second book "Love Life" was easily accessible; his first book "Stories I Only Tell My Friends", was much harder to find and thus, became the second book I read--again--in reverse order.

This book is well written and attracted my interest because Lowe was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio which is about 60 miles from my hometown of Cincinnati. So, it was with a sense of amusement that I read someone else's viewpoint of growing up in the Midwest. It was also quite refreshing to read Lowe's description about "the days before everyone had a cell phone with a camera attached, before the Internet and Facebook and a culture where everyone simply has to post every photo of every party they attended". Lowe continues. "Although there was the National Enquirer and Star, there was no TMZ or Radar, no Perez Hilton or any of today's myriad pay-for-play gossip sites". There were no paparazzi stake outs, no "Baby Bump Watch" articles in tabloids at the grocery check out counter (and even in legitimate media outlets). Lowe makes another point that personally came to my attention around 2004. The cable television series "Fear Factor" was certainly a progenitor of what became known as "Shock TV". To this point, Lowe writes, "Today, if you are willing to eat bugs or throw a chair at your best friend or mother, you can star in a reality TV series." 

Into this rapidly changing cultural environment, Lowe describes how he navigated through his own hard-earned career victories and setbacks, before he found a balance between star life and home life. Unlike the tragedies that seem to be fodder for best-selling books, Lowe's amazing life journey reveals an alternative that doesn't flee into this insanity. As such, I found this book to be a refreshing read, if not a slice of common sense in a culture that otherwise leaves too many feeling shut out and alienated. Well worth your time.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

No Throwback Thursday Post

Photo--Michael Manning

"Wanna see my new shoes?"
--Gene Wilder from the movie "Silver Streak"
At the outset, this is not an endorsement for New Balance. I only hope these shoes last longer than my last pair, which was a different brand. By the time they wore out, I felt like I was standing on a surfboard. Friends of mine who are pro athletes manage to have their shoes sponsored. As you might expect, they have multiple pairs of expensive running shoes at home to choose from before walking out the door to work. This pair is close to the model I have used for years. This is also the kind of blog post you'd expect to find from someone who's really reaching for a new topic! 

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk Registration Time!

I've been asked by some friends about travel to Cape Girardeau, Missouri for the upcoming 6th Annual Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk. In truth, I already had a trip planned to visit my family in the Midwest. For many years, my schedule didn't permit me to participate in the event, and this was frustrating to me. Nevertheless, last year I was determined to make 2015 my year to become involved. The timing coincided with my original travel plans. Plus, "where there's a will, there's a way". It's that simple. Now a brief word about airports... 

While there is a regional airport in Cape Girardeau, an easier alternative for travel is St. Louis International Airport . For those brave souls with a sense of fun and adventure, please know that every major U.S. airline flies to St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis you can rent a car reasonably and drive South approximately 115 miles to The Cape. This is a pleasant road trip to make (especially with a cup of Starbucks coffee). Once in Cape Girardeau, there are a number of nice hotels to consider. 

Having said this, I realize that many of you have busy schedules and responsibilities at home that may prevent a trip this year. 

Just the same, I urge you to log onto to consider making a donation to this worthy cause from your home. Proceeds from The Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk will benefit the Lucile Packard Children's Research Hospital at Stanford University. It is here where extensive research is underway to determine the cause of pediatric brain cancer tumors, leading to an eventual cure. This effort must continue! As of this writing, we don't have a cure. So, this is an opportunity to enroll and push forward with the 5K run or 1.6 mile Powerwalk for a great cause. Incidentally, Cape Girardeau is a wonderful city with some of the nicest people I've ever met, and you'll make many new friends! 

Lastly, it is heartwarming to participate in this event in celebration of a little girl whose life continues to touch so many hearts, including mine: 

Sahara Aldridge

Thank you for stopping by! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Let's Meet Up at the 6th Annual Hoops for Life 5K Run/Walk July 25th!

Sahara "Hoops" Aldridge
1994 - 2007
In late 2006, I was tuned into a CNN Headline Newscast. Back then, the network still used the traditional ticker tape, or "crawler" along the bottom of the television screen. I was about to pack it in for the night when I read the line: "Rock artist Rick Springfield to perform benefit concert for 12 year-old girl in Cape Girardeau, MO...brain cancer". Over and over, I watched the message scrawl past the screen. It had never before occurred to me that children could develop cancer. I believe that many, like me, unconsciously put that horrific reality aside and consign it only to adults. It's a defense mechanism to avoid thinking about such a cruel reality. I turned off the television, showered and went to bed still pondering this news. Who was this young girl in Missouri? What must her parents be going through? A 12 year-old with cancer! Eventually I drifted off to sleep. 

The next morning over coffee and breakfast at a restaurant, I was reading a copy of USA Today, when something came over me. That "something" led me to suddenly tab out, leave a tip and walk outside to my car in 6 degree Ohio winter weather. I ended up at a Fed Ex Print Center in Eastern Cincinnati, where I rented a computer to learn all that I could about Sahara Aldridge and her situation. I could not shake this news from my conscience. I recounted this story in greater detail July 25, 2014 through August 5, 2014 in a five-part Blog Series called "A Special Girl and a Bus Trip". You can still go back and read the series on this Blog Page. 

Sahara Aldridge
I was privileged to actually meet Sahara Aldridge on December 8, 2006 at Rick Springfield's benefit concert, and I was stunned by the humility and kindness of this sweet little girl. She was fighting a cancerous brain tumor at the time. Tragically, she passed away in early November 2007, 17 months after her initial diagnosis. Her parents Shannon and Amy Aldridge endured a tragedy that is unimaginable. Since then, they vowed to do everything they could to make sure that no couple would ever have to go through the hell they did with Sahara's loss. 

Amy and Shannon Aldridge with their son Nash

Refusing to let Sahara be forgotten, the young couple took action. Over the past 6 years, Shannon and Amy created a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Sahara's memory called "Hoops for Life". Incidentally, "Hoops" is an endearing nickname for Sahara, who loved playing basketball with a passion. Her jersey number is "21". Each year, a 5K run and a 1.6 mile Powerwalk is organized in their hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The proceeds from this event benefits The Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Program led by Dr. Michael S.B. Edwards at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University. The hospital is dedicated to research the cause of pediatric brain cancer that will eventually lead to a cure. It is a sad fact that pediatric cancer in this country is woefully underfunded. Had she lived, Sahara Aldridge would have graduated high school as part of the Class of 2012. This year, she would have been 21 years of age. 

Southeast Missourian
Amy Aldridge with Wayne Wallingford

One day, Sahara's mother Amy noticed State Representative Wayne Wallingford in public. She approached Wallingford and shared Sahara's story. "I listened to her story about Sahara, and it was compelling," said Representative Wallingford. "I had to do something". So, the duo worked hard for months and on Friday June 28, 2013 Governor Jay Nixon signed "Sahara's Law" Senate Bill 35. This legislation allows Missouri taxpayers to donate a portion of their tax refund to CureSearch for children's cancer. 

According to that organization, more than 40,000 children are in cancer treatment each year. In the last 20 years, only 3 cancer medications have been specifically developed for children. Statistically 1 out of 8 children with cancer will not survive. This fact must not be allowed to stand.    

Sahara encouraged her father, Shannon, to run and remain fit. Aldridge has been faithful to his daughters request and has been in training ever since. Today he is an elite distance runner who has competed in 50-mile events.

Yours Truly
Meet Me in Missouri!
I've met several bloggers on this page as I've traveled through their hometowns over the years. However, if Blogging is an arms distance from many of the writers I haven't met, I'd like to issue this challenge: Join me on Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8 AM at Kiwanis Park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. There are excellent hotel accommodations nearby. Let's meet up and unite with many new friends for a great cause! 

For more information, please visit or access Facebook and type in Hoops for Life. If you are unable to travel to the event, there is an online option to access Long Distance Love Online Donations as well. I hope to see many of you who stop by on this page in-person soon!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Paying Respects in Lubbock

All Photos--Michael Manning
A former train station today houses the Buddy Holly Center Museum.

As a teenager, my brother gave me my first job in his small retailing business. After graduating high school, a friend and I were adventurous enough to move from the Midwest to Dallas, Texas. The oil boom in Texas provided many opportunities, and this became the subtext for the television series "Dallas". In what can only be described as an unpredictable set of circumstances, I met actors Larry Hagman and George Kennedy, along with Patrick Duffy of television's fictitious "Ewing Family". 

When I was in my late 20's, I was hired in a mid-level marketing position for an indoor tanning and fitness equipment company. My job was to establish retail outlets and distributorships throughout North Texas and Oklahoma State. Based in San Francisco, my employer was featured in Inc. Magazine's List of top 100 Fastest Growing Companies. In hindsight, we grew from $5 million in annual sales to $35 million within three years without diversifying our product line. Flush with cash from a proverbial spigot in Dallas that many believed could not be turned off, tremendous money was earned and recklessly spent. Oil exploration companies grew at a blinding pace. 

Dallas in those halcyon days, was almost entirely dependent on real estate and the price of crude oil never dropping below $35 a barrel. When oil prices plummeted to $9 a barrel, the regional economy collapsed into a lengthy recession. Entire family fortunes were lost. 

The culture shock of beautiful women everywhere, Rolex watches, overblown egos and excess clashed with my modest Midwestern upbringing. It took me nine full months to become acclimated to this environment. Millionaires in the Midwest usually mowed their own lawns, drove Buick's and rarely discussed their financial status. By comparison, many Dallas millionaires flaunted their fortunes in a city that knew no limits and where money appeared to grow on trees. But there was trouble looming ahead. Banks failed, a major hometown airline shut down, overbuilt office skyscrapers were halted in mid-construction and divorce rates soared. Bumper stickers carrying the message: "We Don't Care How You Done It Up North" began disappearing.  

In my mid-level marketing position, I earned a staggering commission check of $110,000.00 that I would never collect. My employer was downsizing, and during the third round of employee cuts, my position was eliminated. My colleagues watched me pack up my office belongings; my boss wept. I maintained a smile and reassured them that everything would be alright. It wasn't. After I left the office building for the last time, I later learned that my colleagues decided to drive across the highway to a bar, where they proceeded to drown their despondency over my departure in alcohol for three hours. When they returned to the 9th floor offices to collect their briefcases at the end of the day, they discovered a janitor with a large pipe wrench changing the locks and posting an eviction notice. Our employer had not paid the lease in three months! All of my colleagues were now out of work themselves, and our former employer filed for bankruptcy and eventual liquidation. 

The next evening, I went to work painting heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment for $5 an hour. My second job was as a consultant to a new chain of tanning salons, and my third job was a corporate office building security guard. It was a humbling experience. As four banks of elevators emptied professionals, who were my age, into the lobby at 5 p.m., I endured stare-downs of derision, offset by a few people who saw someone of value beyond a blue blazer, neck tie and a walkie- talkie. 

One of these amazing people was a CPA from Mark, Texas. He served in the United States Navy and was on duty the morning that Japan attacked unsuspecting ships at Pearl Harbor, declaring war on the United States. B.J. Chenault was not only a CPA, but an ordained minister. As a financial officer of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, he grew a $2 million surplus into $20 million in less than a decade. Until last Monday, when he died after a lengthy illness, he was also a man who ministered to six of my friends--three of whom passed away in their 40's of cancer. A fourth friend died in Florida last Sunday. Each required B.J.'s pastoral counseling and brilliant CPA skills. 

My friend, Nancy, was a committed Christian and only 45. She had heard so much about B.J., and three months before her own death, though exhausted, she visited with him privately to share her life story of faith. Another friend of mine was building a formidable executive sedan business, beginning with one old Lincoln Town Car, later expanding to a fleet of 23. He received a diagnosis of Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, with only 6 months to live. His tax issues were complicated. B.J. represented him in a bitter and protracted tax case that lasted two-years (my friend lived for 5 years and three months). B.J. would preach at his Celebration of Life service, and I was one of four people who gave eulogies. The service was attended by just about every major CEO in Dallas--many of whom cancelled their international travel and wept, sitting on folding chairs on the front lawn of my friend's modest home in Garland, Texas. Each person had become both a client and a friend. I had never seen so many Porsche 911's, stretch limos, Mercedes Benz and Cadillac automobiles crowding the narrow surrounding streets. 

Later, another friend of mine, a brilliant sports medicine expert and athlete lost his beautiful wife suddenly. He was an important vendor to me (and I considered he and his wife close friends). By that time, I was working in a management position in broadcasting, and introduced him to B.J.--who again--provided pastoral counseling and accounting expertise. 

Site of my layover and second flight from Dallas to Lubbock.
Lubbock Texas
As I boarded a flight this past Wednesday from Phoenix to Lubbock, I stepped off the plane into a different world. The small airport was nestled in a community of 1960-era buildings, many long abandoned. The downtown area was once home to factories, radio stations, television repair shops, and a department store--all gone. In the late 1930's, Lubbock's proud son, and one of rock n' rolls earliest pioneers--Buddy Holly was born and raised. With over 20 hits in a career lasting only 18 months before his death in a plane crash, Buddy Holly is revered with pride by Lubbock's citizens. 

 Buddy Holly Memorial Park and Hall of Fame

I checked into an old hotel, and made my way across the street the next morning for coffee and breakfast at a Pancake House, where the Ten Commandments was posted on the wall next to the lunch counter. American flags were everywhere, and a guitar hung on a wall, signed by recording artists such as Waylon Jennings. Paul McCartney played a concert in Lubbock in 2014, and honored Buddy Holly.

During the funeral service, in the midst of our collective grief, the church Pastor surprised me by mentioning my name, among others, noting that I had traveled to the service from Phoenix. He quoted from an email I sent to B.J.'s daughter in law, and I was flooded with emotion. Our funeral entourage then traveled 40 miles south to a tiny, remote cemetery. As we assembled under a tent, I thought about the thousands of people back in Dallas, Texas who would be waking soon to the news of my friend's passing in their newspaper. 

Over the years, B.J. taught me many profound lessons. "In the 60 years that I've counseled people", he once told me, "I've learned that there is always one party who suffers from insecurity". Another practical lesson was: "Whenever I've had the opportunity to respond or react to any event, I've always come out ahead by responding". I'm convinced that author Dan Goleman of the best-selling book, "Emotional Intelligence" would have agreed. 

If Lubbock was another world, filled with kind strangers who treated me with uncommon respect, so too was the uncomfortable mortality of life. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. 

If I learned anything from my dear friend of many years, it was to be fair, be honest, be conscientious, and persevere--even when you are unrecognized for your own talents and are misunderstood. Above all, follow your dreams and act on them today, knowing that all dreams that are good and worthy in service to others are entirely achievable. 
As I returned to Phoenix by 11 PM, one of the hardest tasks for me was to erase my friend's phone number from my cell phone. I have to assume that B.J. has met my Dad in Heaven, and has reassured him that I am still plugging away at my own dreams, and I'll be alright.