hands-trophy-cover-smallRugby Stories … and other misadventures

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Review: “Rugby Stories…and other misadventures was incredibly enjoyable. I’m a bit of a history buff and the one area of American rugby history I always wanted to know more about was the period in the 1960s and 70s, when the Eagles were just formulating. The generation of players that came of age during that period is only getting old and some of the stories from that time are getting lost. The greatest triumph of “Rugby Stories” is that it preserves that part of history for future generations. Written by former Eagle, UCLA, and Santa Monica player Dave Stephenson, “Rugby Stories” offers a unique take on a crucial period in U.S. rugby history. Stephenson’s writing style is like his play on the field, solid with a touch of bravado. He tells the story of his emergence as a school player in England, to immigrant in Los Angeles where he finds rugby once again. Stephenson has an interesting life that in and of itself is well worth a story and when you throw in rugby, it makes a great combination. The inside knowledge Stephenson provides of the early Eagles is invaluable. It was a different time back then, and while things didn’t always run smoothly, the passion that all of those involved had was impressive. If there is one disappointment, it’s that Stephenson isn’t around for years and years with the team, but that’s something you’ll have to read about in the book. It’s more than just the early history of the Eagles that makes “Rugby Stories” valuable for the American rugby fans, it’s the early history of UCLA and Santa Monica as well. Stephenson was part of Dennis Storer’s legendary Bruins squads that challenged for the World Cup with Cal and UBC, as well as in the Monterey Tournament, the unofficial national championship at the time. He was also a founding member of Santa Monica Rugby Club. This is a crucial part of American rugby history and that should make “Rugby Stories” a crucial part of your rugby book collection. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I learned so much about American rugby history that I couldn’t find anywhere else.                                  … …

Cover 2 LighterNotes from the Bardo   

A Bardo is a transitory state – a place in between.

In between ‘what’ is the question. Everything is between something.

I realized that I was never really happy selling. I was taking advantage of people, using relationship skills that I learned as a teacher to prey on them instead. It was a survival thing. I was raising a family. There was an end to that road. In 2006, when our boys were sophomores in college, my wife and I separated. I took up photography full-time. I worked for USA Rugby and Rugby magazine for a while and then covered professional sports in the Bay area for five years.

In 2016, the traffic, the politics and city life in general had run its course for me. I bought a used RV and hit the road. I have loved the Northwest ever since I travelled to British Columbia with the UCLA rugby team in 1967. I spent the next four years living in the most beautiful landscape in the world. I fished for salmon off the west coast of Victoria Island. I photographed the eclipse from lava fields in the middle of Idaho. I spent winters in the south and summers in the north, visiting friends all over the west. I met strangers of a similar frame of mind everywhere I went.

It was a transition for me. I began as an English teacher in Southern California. Then I worked in the car business, first as a manager, then as a consultant. After writing a sales book, I spent the next ten years travelling the country teaching people how to sell. My wife and I raised two wonderful boys, who are now prospering in San Jose. Just as I faced a fork in the road when I realized that I didn’t want to sell anymore, my wife and I reached a similar conclusion after living together for almost 30 years. We had grown into different people.

I was driven by a sense that there is more to the latter stages of life than people are generally saying. As I sat by the streams and wandered through the ancient landscape, I felt more in common with the life around me than I had ever had time for in the first two thirds of life.

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front-cover-4-smallThe Complete F&I Reference Book

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The Complete F&I Reference Book is no longer the only available ‘handbook’ on how to do the job of Finance and Insurance manager. Twenty years ago, this manual was found on the bookshelves of hundreds of dealerships across the country and used by F&I training programs everywhere, including Northwood University. However, it is still the only guide to applying the lessons of Neuro-Lingiistic Programming specifically to successful F&I sales. Since then, the car business has changed. Whole technologies, like the fax machine, have come and gone. Elite sales talent, which often found a home in high-end car sales, has moved on for the most part. Instruction in the business these days seems to be more about Compliance than it is about how to sell. The F&I manager’s job has always been that challenging combination of compliance and sales. This book covers both comprehensively. The guidelines on how to do this complicated job successfully haven’t really changed, even though some laws and taxes may be different. The ‘old school’ approach … people buy from people they like … is always at the heart of successful selling. This has always come naturally to the most talented salespeople. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) grew out of the study of these most successful people … what is it that they do, often without being fully aware of it, that engages the other person so fully? NLP brings those characteristics and those habits to light, so that we can copy the behavior and obtain similar results. Dave Stephenson started as an F&I manager in a Toyota dealership in 1979. During the heyday of Silicon Valley in the 80’s, Dave was the F&I director at one of the country’s leading Mercedes-Benz dealerships, right in the middle of it all. After publishing this book twenty years ago, Stephenson traveled the country doing seminars for a couple of years, before joining a start-up based in Virginia, The Automark Group. When Automark was sold in 2000, first to Half-A-Car and then to Reynolds and Reynolds, Dave went back into the business for a couple of years at Beverly Hills Mercedes-Benz as Director of Marketing, helping to prepare the store for sale by Jardine Matheson to a Texas auto group.

Then he becvame a professional sports photographer.

Cover 1 BNHOB smallBuddha Never Heard of Buddha

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In the early Seventies, when /i began teaching English in high school, I joined a class in Zen philosophy and practice led by Thich Thien An, the Buddhist priest in charge of the L.A. temple at the time.

The philosophy and practice changed my life, but I could not relate to the innate altars involved in worship. To me, worship was a powerless illusion.

At the last meeting, we sat before the temple altar, a statue of Buddha covered in flowers and surrounded by drifting incense. Thien Thien An, a refugee monk from the Vietnam purge, asked if there were any questions. I said, “I have a hard time with all the trappings. Is it possible to be enlightened without ever having heard of Buddha?”

His answer was immediate, in the timeless tradition of Zen Masters and did indeed change my life:

“Buddha never heard of Buddha”.