Dueling Perspectives….

I posted previously about the movie, “Ford Vs Ferrari”, and how enjoyable it was. I actually have four favorites scenes; all of which emphasize the juxtaposition of independent sports car builder Carroll Shelby and the corporate aspect of collaborating with Ford. In the movie, Lee Iacocca, who is responsible for Ford bringing the Mustang to the American people, is prominently featured in several places. The feud that grew up between Ford and Ferrari lasted longer than indicated in the movie, but Hollywood versions often compress timelines for the sake of “flow”.

So, skipping forward. I have also explained how I have insomnia and many mornings as I can’t get back to sleep, I fix a cup of chamomile tea and read non-fiction (book or magazine) as I drink my tea. I took out “Iacocca: An Autobiography” written by him and William Novak. It was published in 1984 which is of course after he was at Chrysler. (This is one of the books Hubby had when we merged households.) I started the chapter about the Mustang a couple of nights ago and was genuinely surprised. There was a great deal about how the car was developed, questions surrounding the decisions, and the wild success for several years. There was not, however, any mention of the drawn-out acrimony with Ferrari or of the momentous Le Mans races. A complete slice of American automobile history he was very much a part of, was completely excluded. Now, I am only part way through the book and perhaps he comes around to it later. Or, perhaps in view of him ultimately being fired from the top ranks of Ford, he chose not to include this highlight of Henry Ford II. Perhaps for some odd reason, he didn’t view this with the same reverence as many automobile enthusiasts.  Maybe there is an autobiography of Carroll Shelby I can read one of these days and see what he has to say.

Transitioning Stages of Careers…..

Last night we had a few friends over to watch as our son was with Bowen McCauley Dance Company (www.bmdg.org) at the Kennedy Center. For those who might be new to this blog, many years ago when we discovered our son had a deep passion and talent for dance, we went through a questioning time about the difficulty of supporting an adult child to pursue a career that was not financially viable. Since that’s not the point of this post, I’ll get to the bottom line of him with the performing company and also with the Fairfax Center for Ballet Arts where our daughter-in-law also works part time.

The dance world was of course hugely impacted with COVID-19 closures and restrictions as were so many other areas. While they were able to do some virtual things and able to tap into some of the relief funding, last year’s season was upended. This year’s (which began in September) was adapted to virtual performances as they added in as much other as they could each time certain restrictions were lifted. What no one outside the Board of Directors knew though was the founder, Lucy Bowen-McCauley, had previously planned to set the company on a path to close at the completion of their 25th year, as in 2021. The impact of COVID meant what would have been a fairly spectacular closing “farewell season” had to be significantly scaled back. The performance last night was the first time for the company to return to a major stage as they danced live to a very restricted audience, but it was broadcast live over YouTube. Hubby did the research and we picked up an HDMI cable to connect the laptop to the big TV. In the interview part before the performance, Lucy explained about the final season and what she would still be engaged with. After the first number, she brought our son and one of the female dancers onto the stage in tribute. They are the senior members of the company; he for sixteen years and her for fifteen. In one sense, it’s the usual of, “How can sixteen years have passed?”. For all of us who have marked significant transitions in our lives, we know how it works. I think I posted previously that we are going up for the final performance and gala in September.

Measuring Success……

Musing content alert. I interact on some level every day with other authors on social media. Since highly commercially successful writers have no need to interact, the ones I am talking about are predominantly self-published or in the process of writing/have written and are striving to be traditionally published. Some have made a breakthrough to be either traditionally published or have adequate independent sales to be considered commercially successful. This can be where they may do multiple types of writing such as articles, etc., and/or a book. In this case, that means they make a profit on their writing, although it may not be adequate to be their only source of income. I’ve previously posted that while I continue to take steps to try and have a commercial breakthrough, I also understand that may never happen.

This leads me to the related point I’ve also previously discussed when it comes to how one measures success in one’s livelihood. I think many of us  know of a modest restaurant with someone who has been working there for 20+ years as a server. It’s not an easy job by any means, yet it is honest work. (For those who have traveled to Europe where it is an actual profession, that’s a post for another time.) Being a server in this country is generally considered as a starter or supplemental job, especially in college towns, New York City, and Los Angeles. In other situations though, it’s does become a career whether originally intended or not. Moving then into the trades – the theme here if you haven’t picked up on it is non-college careers. (I’m skipping retail for this post). Most trades can be learned adequately to be employed at the entry level in one or two years. Instruction combined with apprenticeship is common and often the best path when it is available. Barring going to work for a  bad company/bad boss, a business wants to retain good employees and there will be internal salary tiers as experience is gained. The reason you pay the hourly rate you do for electricians, etc., is precisely so those employees can be paid more while the necessary overhead costs and owner profit can be covered. Good employees may often also set up a sideline, freelance business to either supplement what they have or look to perhaps opening their own business some day. It’s true that blue collar work as an employee doesn’t usually result in six figure incomes. It is, however, a path that should be encouraged and supported if an individual shows inclination rather than being fixated on attending college.


Asking Forgiveness or Permission…..

Many, many years ago I and a friend wanted to do something that quite frankly would be utterly not allowed these days. (It was questionable then, too). So I had my first encounter with the phrase, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission because some asshole will always say no.” We went ahead and didn’t encounter an issue, but that was another of those “youthful indiscretions” that could have easily gone awry. (The details aren’t important) A recent local situation brought this memory to mind along with a common misconception about this phrase.

I have heard others cavalierly toss this out when faced with the sudden realization forgiveness might not be granted. People have a tendency to think their “initiative” or “boldness” will count more heavily in their favor. It very often does, particularly if the action results in something good. Even so, though, it can also lead to friction within a group as not everyone may be in the “forgiving” mode. The point though is it doesn’t always. At those few times I’ve witnessed the reaction of the one “not forgiven” the common reaction is one of disbelief followed by an emotional response of anger and/or pleading for reconsideration. (More about that below)

A boss of mine later expanded on the idea with his three “rules”. First, make sure what you want to do is legal. Second, think it through carefully and be able to explain your reasoning. Third, accept the consequences if things don’t go as planned. To reinforce the above paragraph, that meant prepare myself if the action/decision didn’t work out correctly or forgiveness was not in the mix. This is one of those life lessons that served me well and I passed it on to numerous subordinates during my career.

Might Miss Another Party….

In the scheme of things, this isn’t an overly important point, but it did bring an interesting memory to mind. I’ll start with the main thing.As I mentioned in a previous post, last year was granddaughter’s fifth birthday and the first one she was to have as a “major event”. Our present to her was to be the venue, a popular place with a specific children’s birthday party package. She was inviting people months ahead and then, as timing has it, her March 13th day hit right before the official shutdown. At that stage, however, parents were becoming concerned and most basically told the kids they weren’t going to be comfortable with attending. The venue acknowledged they’d had many cancellations and so the decision was made. The grandparents from Maine did come down and they had a special day which helped take the sting out of no big party. Granddaughter hasn’t forgotten though and apparently the decision again this year is “not yet”. They are looking for something extra special so we’ll see what that turns out to be.

Anyway, reaching way back to when her dad was a baby, as I have explained, his dad was killed when he was only four months old. Single parenting with an infant and being on active duty in the Army came with more challenges than I want to get into. And as often happens when the “needs of the Army” and the “desires of the individual” conflict, it’s not hard to guess who wins. This is how I found myself on the way to a specialized school at Fort Ord, CA in Monterey for almost four months when the child was only ten months old. Most at the school did not have their families with them and since I didn’t really have anyone to care for him for that length of time (as was suggested), they made an exception for me to have him with me. However, being the only single parent, especially with an infant, came with yet another set of challenges. We were divided into work groups and since several of the individuals in our group were also parents, they rallied around to help at least some and those who weren’t parents got into the swing of it. As the child’s first birthday approached, they were startled I said I wasn’t having a party for him. The fact is birthday parties for a one-year-old is for parents and grandparents to have cute photos. Unknown to me, the group decided that wouldn’t do and our “dinner out” that night segued into a surprise party complete with messy chocolate cake and a ride on an indoor merry-go-round. They also gave me a touching framed multi-photo piece of photos one of the guys had taken over the series of weekends as I brought the baby along for times we when went out to lunch. And yes, I do still have that hanging on the wall.

Holding Onto a Record…..

I will admit conflicted feelings about the NFL. I’m still angry they allowed the game/organization to be politicized when they had other options. On the other hand, setting aside the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 closures and restrictions, in normal circumstances, it is not only the highly paid players, owners, etc., who make a living from football. There is the associated revenue for many, many small businesses in and around stadiums and then there is the intangible love of the sport. With that said, I’ll segue into the point of the post.

All athletes, no matter how good, come to an end to their career. The body will simply no longer hold up to the physical demand, particularly when there are additional injuries as well as the normal “wear and tear”. It is, however, also true that for the highest paid “star athletes” whether it’s the money or the continued fame, they may hold on longer than they should. It is also true when one attains that level, hundreds of thousands of people (if not more) will express their opinions about when “it’s time to quit”. This was on full display in this year’s Superbowl where both Tom Brady as quarterback for Tampa Bay and Head Coach Bruce Arians were the oldest to ever win a Superbowl in their respective positions. Brady of course set another record having now won his 7th as a QB. For every record set, however, there will be those who aspire to break it. Some will hold for decades, such as the 1972 Miami Dolphins continue to be the only team that has had a perfect season of no losses to include the Superbowl. One can imagine that thought is already circulating in Tampa Bay for next season.

There was a superb and much too short-lived TV series, “Sports Night”, in the 1990s. It was wonderfully cast with excellent writing and although a comedy, there were often dramatic and poignant themes and scenes. In one episode, they staff was cheering for an older Olympic contender in some sort of track event; a man who had been on the cusp of setting a world record, but was sidelined due to an injury. He fought his way back and did set the record. As the one sportscaster said, “Then, fifteen minutes later, a young (whatever country he was from), came along and broke that record by a fraction of a second.” He felt a pang of desolation for what the other man had endured to hold the world record for barely fifteen minutes. Another individual quietly observed, “Which is fifteen minutes longer than most athletes will ever hold it.”

When Holidays Are Tragic….

No, I’m not trying to be anti-holiday. I’ve seen multiple Facebook posts of people who have lost loved ones over the past few days. These deaths are never easy, but somehow when it occurs during a major holiday, it usually has extra impact. It can also mar that holiday for many years to come.

When I married my first husband, I was startled at the number of Christmas gifts; the regular one expected, but also one from the dog and Santa. I mean we were after all adults. And they were incredibly thoughtful gifts, the type someone puts time and effort into. Since we only had two Christmases together before he was killed, I never got around to finding out what that was about. Years later, my mother-in-law brought the subject up. As it turned out, her only sibling was a brother whom I knew had died fairly young. He contracted scarlet fever (I think it was) and died a few days before Christmas. Their father declared there would be no celebration of that or any other Christmas in the household. He never relented and so each Christmas was ignored. Once she left home, she was determined to cherish the holiday. Not that she didn’t love her brother, but she understood the two were not connected.

It isn’t just the person most affected in these cases; relatives and friends can sometimes feel awkward too about how to react. It is commonplace for the first major holiday (or any special day like a birthday) following a death to bring more pain. That can cause the individual to want to pull back rather than be around others. These feelings can be compounded if the individual doesn’t want to “spoil things for others”. If you find yourself in this situation, it is tricky. Inviting the individual for festivities and then being understanding if they decline is usually best. Or perhaps being able to have some sort of one-on-one interaction such as a luncheon can be good. It is possible the individual will want to express the sensation of additional emotion and a shoulder to lean/cry on is what is needed.

“What’s Old Is New Again”……

In yet another example of adaptation to trying to keep a small business going in the time of COVID, drive-in theaters are popping up in a lot of places. For those of us who grew up in the era, the idea was easy for families watching budgets. Pile everyone in the car, take your own snacks, ignore the kids asking for concessions and enjoy a movie together. I don’t recall all the movies we went to, but it was a fairly regular thing for us. And then there was the high school and college student part which included more than just watching the movie.

Anyway, there have been regular local festivals that featured a “movie in the park” element, but back in the summer, an entrepreneurial brother and sister were in town for college summer break. Their dad owns a large, empty lot and they decided to give the drive-in movie theater a try. As it turns out, when they calculated the cost of renting the screen and other equipment, they went on a search for used equipment instead. They found a pretty good price and figured they might be able to sell the set-up for a decent amount or not much loss. They were both due back at school in late August and so were doing this as both a way to offer entertainment that included social distancing and to see if it would work. I interviewed the brother and did a short piece for the paper. I even reached out to a couple of contacts to see if they might be interested in buying the equipment although their interest wasn’t enough to pursue it.

Someone else has recently started showing movies and I have an inquiry out to see if they either did buy the equipment or were simply inspired by the idea. I always enjoy that kind of connectivity.

Going Away To College Would Have Been Nice……

Serious content alert; not somber though. I have previously posted about my personal belief that we do not promote non-college paths to success enough in our culture. Aside from the fact the trades and other hands-on careers are vital to our communities and economy, many individuals are far more suited to those than an academic pursuit. Choosing a non-college job is something to celebrate, too. Added to that, college costs (as with medical and housing in lots of places) have been continuously artificially inflated for a variety of inappropriate reasons. For all the bad that has come with COVID, it’s possible expanded distance learning might help bring college costs down.

I have also mentioned in the past we lived in a small college town and the rule was simple in our middle class one-income family. Go to school there with either a scholarship or working part time. Yes, going away to college would have been nice, but it wasn’t financially feasible. There are multiple factors to consider of course if the decision is made to do so and a major one is out-of-state. Most states have a good-to-excellent university systems with significant cost difference for in and out-of-state tuition. Yes, there are some specific careers where your university can matter when it comes to hiring. It is not a factor for the most part. For example, if being a a whiz on Wall Street is the goal, attending a well-known East Coast university can be important. If being a nurse or teacher, there is no reason to pay out-of-state tuition. If the goal is to nurse/teach in another state, a separate  board certification might be required, but the degree itself should be adequate preparation. Another route is strongly consider attending a community-type college for the first two years (especially if getting an Associate Degree), then completing the Bachelors at a four-year college or university. With the ridiculous costs of college, these are viable options to keep potential debt low.

Income, Profit, and Making a Living……

During dinner last night with friends, the discussion entered the realm of the difficulty in making a living in the arts. There are multiple dimensions to this, but if one strips to the core, it’s relatively simple – all be it disconcerting. As much as people do enjoy the arts, for those who have money to spend, what they are willing to pay is a different story. Almost as important is the reality there are many, many talented artists/artisans (this includes writers), and as in any commodity, markets are often “flooded”. Oh, for the sake of this post, I’m referring to freelance. Yes, there are teaching positions, but that’s a different path.

Unlike numerous careers where you won’t become wealthy, but you can earn enough to achieve and sustain middle class, few in the arts are genuinely likely to achieve that. Certainly not if there’s a family to care for as well. The tiny percent in the arts who do “make the big time” help fuel the dream though of all who have such aspirations. (Yes, there are also those who create only for “art’s sake”; that though is yet another topic).  The desire to create, whether it’s acting, art, craft, dance, music, or writing is something that should never be discouraged as it is a profound aspect of being human. Balancing the drive with “real life” is the trick as I’ve posted about when we were faced with son’s intent to be a dancer. And of course I’ve written  plenty about my own experience which was part of last night’s discussion. In never having the commercial breakthrough, my writing has been a consistent tax write-off, but the IRS does get a bit touchy with year in and year out of that. Since I do primarily self-publish and I no longer publish at least one book a year, it  works out that I “make a profit” every few years. That is very much a relative term as it means yes, I have more income from writing than expenses. Let us say the ability to make a living with that income is not the same. On the other hand, I’ve refined the process to where my costs are no more than we spend on an average vacation and we do both take pleasure in my books.