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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin


Gretchen Valade

For me, nothing rings truer to explain the magic of art and music than the idea that you have the freedom to explore and go in any direction  Gretchen Valade, when asked why when she sees a need she then tackles the problem, says without hesitating “Why not?”. She takes action, and it usually works. Gretchen’s attitude allows her to get past obstacles because she is a good thinker and probably because she is a musician.

Jazz is simply the question “Why not?” asked over and over. Jazz musicians  have to make decisions without time to really question them. They constantly have to have “Why not?” as the answer. Music can certainly be an exciting job.

TV pioneer Norman Lear finds joy in creative stress

I happened this week to catch 94 year old Norman Lear talk about his rich yet challenging life. Norman Lear took on everything in his path. What we learned was that he found his greatest joys while he maneuvered around the obstacles in his way.

This may explain his ability to keep us coming back to watch Archie, Edith, Gloria and Meathead somehow surviving their extraordinary everyday kerfuffles.

Norman Lear has just published a book titled Even This I Get To Experience.  The title refers to his experience when because of bad investments he almost lost everything, including his house. Fortunately Norman Lear had the same approach to life that I found in Gretchen. He saw his tragic turn of events as an opportunity to grow. His history of trying new things had become a pattern, and his personal misfortune was just one more interesting obstacle, one more thing to experience. Why not keep going on triumphed and on he has gone on to do great things.



I read  a weekly blog from Dan Mulhern who teaches leadership at the University of California at Berkley. This week he talked about reminding yourself of your goals and checking from time to time to see if you are on a straight path or need a new way to the goal line.

In an earlier blog he seemed to define Gretchen when he stated:                                            There was a moment in my life when things felt near perfect. My family heard me say how lucky we were all too often. I realize now that I was really trying to convince myself that things were good enough. I was physically healthy,  reasonably secure and surrounded by kind and caring friends and family. I had a job that I had figured out and I could envision  the day that I could retire. I was content. The only problem that I had was that I wasn’t comfortable being content. There was a hole in my soul. I didn’t have a goal.

This week I will exercise my freedom to go in a new direction by taking off for the South of France for a few weeks.


In the spring of 1992 I heard about this clever U of M professor who had worked out a way to  travel to the south of France, sip wine, enjoy the good life and get paid for it. He eventually turned his avocation to find the best local wines into a full fledged wine importing business, J et R Selections.

John Charles Mathes needed a place to write a textbook while on sabbatical. This was his “Why not?” moment. Why not go where a serious Francophile like J.C. would most like to be, a year in Provence?  In that year he learned some lessons that changed his life. He started drinking more wine than beer and he found that knowing the wine growers personally made the wines taste all that much better. J. C. sampled hundreds of small Côte du Rhône wines. These wines are some of the world’s great values. The wines have evolved through trial and error since before the Romans arrived . Several varieties of grapes seemed to thrive through the dry windswept summers in the valleys and hills. The rich juice of these grapes are blended by the growers in the fall in a time proven way. The smile inducing Rhône wines are as much a result of these hardy growers as the traditions and favorable landscape. The winemakers have a personal relationship with the land and ask for the same personal attention when doing business. J.C. learned to be one with his growers. He was always a friend first because that was what counted. In a place where nature can steal away your season of hard work with an ill timed rainstorm at harvest time, friendships and mutual support are essential.

When I was given the business card of this man who traveled to see his friends in the vines every spring I thought I would give him a call. He answered my call on the first ring.

I asked him if I could join him on his next trip. He said “Why not?”, . . and I did. We saw 16 domains , had picnics in the vines with new wines, and met the free spirits that created them.

My wife and I are accompanying  J.C. on a a revisiting tour of these good friends.


Every jazz musician, wine maker, artist and truly alive person has opportunities and obstacles in their life. Seeing a good path and thinking ” WHY NOT?” is the start of an adventure. The creation of something new begins with a decision to go forward, followed by more choices. When a path appears, take it and avoid the rocks in the road.

For the next three weeks while in France I will compose my thoughts on the creative process.

My hat is off to those who have said “WHY NOT?” including Getchen, Norman Lear, Dan, J.C. and all the wine growers musicians and artists who every day make the decision to go ahead and do something really good.

John Osler


May 10 – May 13


What a pleasure it is to watch Detroit’s young jazz artists come into their own. Anthony has become familiar to anyone that frequents our jazz clubs. He seems to be on everyone’s go to list. He will be bringing his ideas and his pure sound for four days this week. Why not?

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