Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let it Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

To some it was just a spreadsheet, but to me it was a thing of beauty. Spreadsheets only have numbers and calculations. This had names, dates, times, events, travel details, all in color. I’m not talking just any color. There was a rainbow of colors to separate one item from the next. After all, for a trip like this, the standard white background would not do. This was the Olympics and if I was going to be the planner, I was going to do it in style.

Over the years I’ve met a few people who claimed to be experts in organization. They’ve held seminars, written books, and sold recordings. They’ve inspired millions of the organizationally challenged, but none could hold a candle to my mentor. You see, my father was the master. When the others were promoting their skills for money, my dad was quietly passing his secrets to his kids. When grown men wondered how to organize file cabinets, I did it with ease. When others froze in the calendar aisle of office supply stores, I created my own. And, when I needed to plan a vacation the pre-Excel color coded organizer was there as a reference. You see when my sister graduated from medical school back in the day my dad had our trip detailed to the minute. Each family was color coordinated and each event carefully defined. Scoff as they might, this man got us there and back on time, on budget, and as planned. It was a thing of beauty.

As we began to plan for our summer trip to London, I jumped at the chance to organize the travel details and my friend took on the challenge of the “one thing”. The breakdown was simple. I was to record all the details around travel, events, reservations, and prices while he developed something special. The “one thing” was the opportunity for each of us to squeeze in something we wanted to see, do, or experience while we were in London. There were no limits and only one ground rule. No matter how wacky it sounded, we would all make time to participate . There would be no schedule or clock, just the opportunity for magic and memories. What I did not realize until later was that while the planning was necessary, sometimes magic can only happen when you Let it Be.

Over time, each of us chose something different. The list included the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and even swimming at this crazy pond at Hampstead Heath. For me the choice was simple. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time you know I like music and love the Beatles. While my musical taste is quite eclectic, they just seem to spark my creativity. As such, my “one” choice was simple…Abbey Road. For those who may not know, Abbey Road is the location of Apple Studios (not the Steve Jobs version, but the Beatles version) where the Beatles recorded and the name of my favorite Beatles album. The cover of the album is a simple photo of the group crossing a street. While I don’t believe they understood the importance at the time, the photo has become iconic. It is so much so that people from around the world travel to the site just to walk the same steps and recreate a moment.

I don’t recall which day it was that we decided to fit it in, but it came together perfectly. We had a free afternoon (thanks to my excellent scheduling – Ha!) on the way to a soccer match and took a subway detour. When we came up from the tube station I began to feel the magic. There were people of all shapes and sizes sharing what appeared to be a strange pilgrimage, just to cross a street. As we walked around the corner on that blustery day, the famous crosswalk came into view with the studio just behind. It may not have been special to everyone in our group, but to me it was cool. It is a strange feeling when after looking at a photo for many years, you find yourself next to it.

Within minutes cameras were out and my family was ready to cross. As our friend waited for traffic to clear Emma removed her shoes, to recreate the Paul McCartney pose, and we readied ourselves. Amongst the honking horns of delivery vehicles and taxis, we crossed, stopped halfway, took a few photos, and ran to safety on the other side. We then stopped by the studio to take a photo, write on the wall, meet a few people, and share a few stories. Then, just like that, it was time to go but before we got too far, our friend pulled out a sign and handed it to Donna and I to hold up in the street. The written message was in bold letters and clear as could be…Let it Be.

As we again began to leave, a gentleman asked Emma to take a photo of him and his son on the crosswalk. Once that was done Donna started up a conversation and found out that this man was from the same area in California as her. After minutes of small talk about towns and restaurants he asked if we needed access to more Olympic tickets. Sure we said, as long as it was legal and not crazy expensive. It went something like, at 8:30 AM, go to Westminster tube stop, enter x hotel, go to x floor, find x room, and line up. Each day x offered a series of tickets (at face value!) which its government was not using for the day.

It sounded a bit crazy to me, but then again it wasn’t on my spreadsheet. The great part was it immediately added adventure and actually worked! For a few days our group acquired tickets to events we had given up on months before. Each day a visit to x hotel on x floor took place and we were able to pass on a bit more of Olympic magic to the kids. I can’t calculate the odds of us being on the right corner and at the right time, to get that tip? I can’t tell you because it can’t be calculated on a spreadsheet – with or without color. All I know is it brought smiles to the faces of our kids and left us with a story that they will tell long after we’re gone.

Later that evening as we finally took our seats at Wembley Stadium, I looked over to my kids, and smiled. I was glad that all our planning had allowed us to be there on time, on budget, and as planned. However, I was happier that my friend took charge, created the “one thing”, and allowed each of us to experience a bit of magic throughout our vacation. While some things can be scheduled, organized, and planned, sometimes you just need to set aside your calendars, set aside your stress, open your mind, and…

Let it be

All the best,

Credit to: The Beatles, “Let it Be”

Here are some photos from our day at Abbey Road which you might enjoy.

The kids in front of Abbey Road Studios

The famous crosswalk

A simple message 

 to be shared...

 and shared once again...

A memory left behind


  1. The 'Apple' doesn't fall far from the tree.

  2. When in Rome...
    Hey, want to go to Rome?