The Burning House

Earlier this week it was reported that Sir Richard Branson’s luxury hideaway on his private retreat of Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands burned to the ground after being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. What was amazing to me was the attitude of the billionaire entrepreneur toward his massive loss, especially given that his personal office containing priceless photographs was destroyed in the fire.

According to reports Branson’s reaction to the fire was one of gratitude that his family and friends, totaling 20 people in all, escaped injury: “At the end of the day, what you realize is that all that matters is the people that you love. Everything else is just stuff. And none of that stuff matters.” I couldn’t agree more. However, assuming one’s loved ones are safe, it helps to think about what one would try to rescue in the event of a catastrophe.

There is even a website called The Burning House that presents readers with the thought-provoking statement: “If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

It is a question that my wife and I have considered during our process of whittling our possessions down to the essential. Rather than speak for her I’ll simply list a dozen things here that I’d try to take with me in case of such an emergency, which is not a hypothetical proposition given this week’s Virginia earthquake and hurricane Irene heading toward us as I write.

In no particular order, my stuff to save would likely include my NKJV Bible, Moleskine notebook, Rolf wallet, Nokia phone, Leica camera, Powerbook laptop, iPod Touch, passport, memento box, wedding video, grandmother's picture, and copy of Thoreau's Walden. Also, I wear my wedding band at all times so I didn’t include that in the overall count of items.

The Day the Music Died

I am mourning. No, not the death of a loved one, thankfully. The demise of a radio station. One week ago today, my all-time favorite station, WLOQ 103.1, quit broadcasting its smooth jazz tunes over the FM airwaves after more than three decades in business. It is no exaggeration to say that it was one of my very favorite things about living here in Central Florida and I already miss it.

It was the last independently owned and operated commercial radio station in the Orlando market and won numerous accolades, including jazz station of the year by the National Association of Broadcasters. Fortunately for us long-time listeners the station isn’t disappearing completely, as it continues streaming live online at

Even as I listen to it while typing this at my favorite Starbucks I am reminded of when I was introduced to WLOQ in the autumn of 1985 upon first moving here. I’ve moved in and out of the area a couple of times through the years and each time one of the first things I did upon my return was program 103.1 into my radio station rotation.

I also have fond memories of attending various concerts sponsored by the station, including one by Kirk Whalum, pictured in the adjacent photo. Looking forward, I guess one benefit of the station’s migration to the internet is that I can listen to it whenever I am online so for that I am thankful. Thanks for the memories, WLOQ!