Weekly Roundup: It Was All Building Toward Something Edition

Almost eight years ago, I took a weekend gig as music director for a church band in Bellefontaine, Ohio. The rhythm guitarist was a young fellow who had graduated from high school the year before and was drifting unsteadily between minimum-wage jobs in the burned-out old manufacturing town thirty miles northwest of the church. We became fast friends and even after I left the church he would occasionally make the long drive down to play some music and discuss his personal struggles: dying grandparents, lack of health care, general loneliness. The biggest problem he had was that he didn’t know where his life was going. Every time he’d catch on at a factory job, the shift would close or the plant would move. He was in line for a gig at Honda but they had a two year waiting period just to get temp contractor work on the line. In 2012 he enlisted in the Army but that, too, had an eighteen-month waiting period; the economy was so bad here that they had more Ohio kids willing to lose their legs to an IED than they could accommodate in Basic Training.

At the time, I remember telling him something that Randal says in Clerks 2: “Sooner or later, I’ll do something with myself and make my mark. But until then, whatever I do is not a waste of time, it’s all building toward something.” He didn’t really believe me, and I can’t blame him. Eventually, the Army made room for him — but he hated the Army. So when his grandfather died he took compassionate discharge and came home to work at a plastic fork factory. In 2016, his number came up at Honda, and I figured he would finish his life the way a lot of people from that area do: by working for 25 years on the line then buying a $50,000 home in rural Ohio in which to die.

Turns out I was wrong. One of the friends he’d made at the fork factory had a relative who wanted to expand his 18-wheeler roadside service business. So my pal quit his job and bought a 1993-vintage FedEx truck filled with secondhand service tools. That was in November. Now he has an 1800-square-foot shop and two employees, with a third starting next week. He pays himself $15 an hour and puts the rest into the business or into buying property. During the polar vortex they were making between $5k and $7k a day on service calls. He bought his grandfather’s home from the bank and is remodeling it. He also has a Fifties-era Chevy truck that is putting 410 horsepower down at the rear wheels. Most importantly, he’s in the process of signing a service contract with the largest intra-state carrier to use Route 70 in Ohio. (Many of the big companies just run the turnpike up north.)

He thinks he can sustain a $3k daily billing rate. Which means that my plastic-fork-factory friend now has a million-dollar business, well before turning thirty. The contacts he made, the random mechanical tasks he learned when he was bored, the time he spent noodling around on an Eclipse or a ’68 Chevy or his own Saturn SL2: it was all building toward something. All that’s left is to work hard and do the best he can. I believe he will be successful beyond his wildest dreams.

Which reminds me. I have a new job.

Last Monday, I left McGraw-Hill, where I’d been administering their ConnectED elementary-school education product, and started working with Hagerty on the media side of things. I’m not writing for their magazine; this gig is more of a tech-and-planning deal. It would be an understatement to say that I’m thrilled about the opportunity. The “Avoidable Contact” column may reappear in the next few weeks at the Hagerty site, depending on my available time and commitments. This job should give me a chance to handle a variety of technical details while at the same time ensuring that we bring you first-rate online content. It’s the kind of job you could only really do if you’d spent twenty years writing and twenty years doing detailed technical project work at all levels from code monkey to technical management. I never thought that I would end up doing both things at the same time. I thought that I’d have to quit one half of my career to focus on the other one. I was wrong. Turns out that all the odd jobs and crazy contracts I took were also building toward something. It just wasn’t obvious at the time.

This site will continue as before and we will continue to feature great work by a variety of contributors. However, my freelance gigs are now all effectively terminated as of now. I have a few things in process and I’ll tell you about them when they publish. Thank you for reading this site, for commenting, and for being a part of the extended Riverside Green family. I would like to think that we, as a whole, are building toward something as well.

* * *

My final column for Road&Track is called So Long, And Thanks For All The Emails.

59 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: It Was All Building Toward Something Edition”

  1. PaulyG

    Good luck and congratulations. You turned me on to Hagerty’s magazine a couple of years ago and I have subscribed ever since. You can never judge a book by its cover, but my impression by reading the magazine is that there is a real love of cars and the people who love cars in that organization which seems to be missing in a lot of other car websites and magazines.

    Any decent size business that still has the owner’s name on the masthead is also a big positive. It means that the effect of major business decisions on the firm’s reputation will always be a factor.

    It looks like you joined a quality outfit. I hope you find it that way.

    -Paul

    Reply
  2. Harrison Bergeron

    Congratulations on the new job! I sure will miss your articles in R&T, they were one of the main reasons for my subscription.

    Reply
  3. John C.

    Hope this turns out to be a good opportunity. When I think of classic car magazines I have always thought of the great English ones like Classic & Sportscar, Thoroughbred And Classic Cars, and the more meaty on classic ownership Practical Classics. They are well written with a deep sense of history and heritage but make the articles more about the cars than the writers. It will be interesting to watch if America can produce a magazine up to those standards. The tie in to classic insurance may save it the way the biggest magazines are now the AARP and AAA one.

    Reply
  4. Wulfgar

    Congratulations and best of luck! As someone who spent 30 years in law enforcement, I admire those (including a few friends) that have bounced around the arena utilizing every skill they own. I wish I was that well rounded.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I always was. What I am *not* rich enough to do is own a Viper and do eight race weekends a year. It was an either/or for me, and still is.

      Reply
  5. viper32cm

    Congrats on the new job. Hagerty seems like a great place to work.

    The friend you referenced is “G” the same one you mentioned here a few years ago that had the legal trouble with the roommate and the girl? Great to hear that he’s doing so well now.

    Reply
  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Here’s hoping the new job turns out to be all you hope it will be. Having carried Hagerty insurance on 5 vehicles, I’ve been getting the magazine for a number of years now. And now 6 issues a year, up from the most recent 4.

    Hope to see you in the articles a bit more than you have been lately.

    Reply
  7. -Nate

    _TWO_ good pieces of news here ! .

    I always enjoy hearing about folks getting ahead and using their collective talents to do so .

    Looking forward to hearing about both life paths .

    I guy I loosely know via my Vintage English Car things, is a talented graphic designer who managed to fall down the rabbit hole when his old company closed up shop, I worry about him as he’s a genuine nice guy who’s smart & talented but over 50 years old, this = hard to get hired .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • John C.

      Nate really hits on something here. So many of us around 50, I turn 50 in a few weeks, are worried that what we are doing now is our last chance at success career wise. Since over 50 is unhirable, partially for salary demands but mainly for our expensive healthcare. I wonder if Trump could compromise with the Dems on their proposal of Medicare for all to at least lowering the age from 65 to 50. It seems that so many in this cohort are underutilized in this society.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        Don’t hold your breath waiting John ;

        _Both_ sides have free healthcare we can only imagine and therefore don’t give a horses’ patoot about the rest of us .

        Because of my work, I have up close and personal experience with no healthcare and nearly dying, anyone who doesn’t think it should be part of the American contract with it’s Citizens is delusional .

        I have to pay out of pocket so I looked and decided to go with Kaiser because for better or worse, they do pretty much everything .

        My son, OTOH, uses a different plan that I don’t think will serve him well over the years, I hope I’m wrong .

        I know plenty of grey beards who are doing menial jobs in spite of far more & better education / training than I have, they’re between rocks and the sewer, I’m doing O.K. with my little low co$t life in The Ghetto .

        Try being homeless , it’s not much fun , I did a stint of it in ny teens or twenties and managed O.K. but I looked down the road and didn’t want to deal with that as an old man as I am now, having heat & food to eat, hot water for showers etc., etc. is *much* better, I can tell you that .

        Good luck in the job hunt ! .

        -Nate

        Reply
    • Mental

      Nate and John, I am just behind you guys at 48.

      First I also want to say this bit gives me a better outlook on my day as well.

      Jack wrote a piece 2 months back about Kenny G “Weekly Roundup: Today In Naples Edition”…
      https://jackbaruth.com/?p=13642

      Wherein he had asked, “What does it take to have a successful second act?”
      I wish I knew.

      I was lucky enough to ‘retire’ at 43 from the military. Much like our heroes in this piece, my connections in my varied interest landed me an HR job with an internet startup. I was warned by my contact, however, to get paid up front. Advice I heeded, because as it turned out the company was leveraged to the tune of 2+ million. I actually went to an investors conference in Colorado made a very successful sales pitch to some very savvy folks but as soon as they saw the debt situation, no dice.

      Dozens of interviews and hiring conferences later, I discovered, like many, middle age is a pariah to companies. Established firms don’t want you because they hire from within. Folks steeped in that particular corporate culture. Yeah, I paid my dues, but I didn’t pay my dues to them. Young fast-moving companies don’t want you because you’re old.

      At best I had any number of companies willing to sell me franchises. That market is bigger than the for-profit tech ‘colleges’ that once populated worn down strip malls.

      Initially, I thought it was my military background. The truth is corporate America pays little more than lip service to hiring veterans. “You want entry-level manufacturing or sales job? Sure! See, we support our nations Vets at almost $10 an hour!!”

      “Oh, you have a Masters and 2 decades experience of leadership? Well that’s doesn’t really translate into what we do…”

      About 1/2 educated and really experienced retired friends have all gone for the military contracting or civilian government positions, leveraging their security clearances and settling into a life of compromise. The others are split between doing literally nothing or founding vanity-project “consulting firms.”

      I fear I am doing the same. The only position I could find to give me the same satisfaction was teaching JROTC at the high school level. Which I enjoyed, but there was not the same level of intellectual challenge, and it was not the “second act” I was hoping for. When the Air Force came asking me back, I took the opportunity to retire a second time.

      But then what? This puts me back in uniform and will last 4 years. When I retire again I’ll be 52. I don’t worry about healthcare per sea with the VA (which BTW, is complete shit. The VA is irrevocably broken and beyond hiring levels of management, no politician on either side wants to actually fix it) and I get enough money to keep the lights on, but god I am bored. I’m taking the Air Force position because it’s actually interesting, but I feel like I am running back home because I don’t know what else to do.

      Yes, I am whining. I am typing this from Phoenix airport. The bathrooms are spotless because each has an assigned attendant. As soon as you use a stall, urinal, or sink they pop in and clean it. Dedicated, uninformed, attentive employees literally cleaning up shit for a giant faceless corporation.

      Wanna guess how old they all are? There are no millennials pushing mops here, so it could be worse.

      So it comes back to that Kenny G bit. We can just get back to playing the roles expected of us as middle-aged or settle for the ‘independence’ of a menial, entry position.

      Both of our heroes in this narrative have found their way off that path and god bless them both for giving us some hope.

      But I never miss a chance to tease Jack with a Foo Fighters or DBT quote:
      (and yes Jack, we caught that ‘when the wheels touch down’ bit on IG)
      The Opening Act – Drive-By Truckers
      “…There’s a band on stage that used to be huge
      They sound on but no one’s listening
      They’re told to turn down and they politely oblige
      Ain’t no such thing as a free ride…”

      You don’t have to have been a big name to get pigeonholed into a role. You just need to have been pretty good at it.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        @Mental ;

        You have the right attitude to survive and prosper .

        I wish I were still in my 50’s or better yet 40′ when I was still footloose and fancy free with more ladies than I knew what to do with….

        I hope I don’t have to go back to work but if I do those toilets / trashcans / sidewalks will be the cleanest ones around, what ever you do, do it 1,000 % .

        -Nate

        Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Given the fact that our Congress just voted across party lines to continue the endless wars, maybe the Chair Force will need you yet again. Alternately, you could just teach JROTC and live on the cheap. I think the youth of tomorrow would be better off for knowing you.

        Reply
        • silentsod

          Irony of ironies being that our fascist dictator in chief is continually trying to get out of conflicts abroad.

          He should know we need to be involved everywhere and imposing our will.

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Yeah. This guy is Literally Hitler what with his pacifism and love for the African American community.

  8. Mike B

    Congrats Jack, there are a lot of good people at Hagerty who truly care about keeping people behind the wheel of fun cars. Still surprised I guessed right! I’m curious, how involved will you be with the Drivers Club?

    On a personal note, I’ve started three thoroughly planned businesses to try to escape the rat race. All I have to show for it is significantly less money than I would have had otherwise. Your friend’s story is a good reminder that opportunity comes in unexpected ways. Definitely something that keeps me going. Cheers.

    Reply
  9. Ronnie Schreiber

    Mazal Tov, may you go from strength to strength.

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how all of one’s life experiences prepare a person, for the good or bad, for what he faces right now.

    Learn as many skills as you can, as long as you can, because you never know when you’ll need them.

    Reply
  10. ScottS

    Congrats on the new gig at Hagerty. Hagerty is very different than typical car publications and seems to be run by people who genuinely love cars. Hmmm, guys like me?

    It was with some sadness that I read your last Avoidable Contact at R&T this week. You are the reason that I subscribed after taking a couple of decades off. I hope TO will do great things and I will keep my subscription up see how it goes. I never had a great feeling about the leadership of KW.

    BTW, it would be good to see more vintage bike coverage at Hagerty in the future. Just sayin;-)

    Reply
  11. redlineblue

    It’s a funny thing. In March of 2015 I had an “exit strategy” planned in some detail. I’d been gigging with one conglomerate for 20 years, to the point I forgot how basically precarious my situation was: I’d come to believe my performance provided security. They cut me loose, while I was reeling through a divorce. Math and misery told me I was worth more to my daughter dead than alive. So I filed the DNR, got the other paperwork tidy, cleaned my house and my 686, and picked out a spot that wouldn’t scar anyone I care about.
    Usually we get a few ~60-degree respites from winter and I waited for one because dying alone in the cold would suck. But that break didn’t come, and a few excuses for hanging on– really skimpy lifelines, but still– did.
    Two months ago I got hired by the mothership to the place that let me go in ’15, making more decisions and more money than seemed possible for me in the last couple decades.
    Every day’s another chance to turn it all around. Good Day to you, Jack, and everyone else in here.

    Reply
    • George Denzinger

      @redlineblue: That’s hardcore. I had a similar issue in 2009; I thought I was King Shit. Turns out, I wasn’t even shit. You work for a guy for over 10 years, you’d think he’d let you know when the sh!t was going to hit the fan. The company that bought our stuff hired me as I had a lot of institutional knowledge. Of course, my wife had been laid off the previous November; my oldest kid was in college, my youngest still had two more years of high school. The debt piled up; it makes for a very tense home life. I never really seriously considered what you considered, but the same thoughts have occurred to me…

      There I was at 46, working back in production (at a printing company), I had been management before that. The owner/boss there really didn’t care for me, but again, I had a lot of institutional knowledge. They largely kept me around for that, when I left, he never said goodbye, good luck or even fsck you. Just nothing, like I never existed.

      I bounced around a couple of jobs between that gig and this one. I got hired in here at 53, which surprised the sh!t out of me, I thought for sure I’d have to go back to selling stuff. I may, as my responsibilities have changed and I’m no longer doing what I came here to do. I’m going to see how this goes through the summer and make a decision then. If the recession I’ve been expecting shows up this year, my tour here might be longer. If not, I’ll see if a 56-year old dude can get hired.

      That wasn’t the first time in my career that happened, but it was the worst. I’d gotten lazy back then, thought I could do no wrong. I really hadn’t done anything wrong, but stay with the wrong company for far too long. If the stuff were to hit the fan here today, I don’t think I would be quite as upset as I was back then. I guess that’s one of the good things about getting older. You’ve seen enough of everything and you learn to cope better. It’s not like I haven’t started over before…

      Reply
    • -Nate

      Glad you didn’t check out ~ life can be *very* hard/disappointing/unfair at times, BT & DT but your Daughter will need you more than you can imagine .

      I worked diligently to make sure my son was independent and discovered he’s so much so that I don’t get to see him & the grand kids as much as I’d like but that’s how life goes ~ he tells me (and every one else) what a “great father !” I was but it doesn’t always seem so from where I sit .

      Keep on trudging along, life is a gift for those who have the right attitude .

      -Nate

      Reply
  12. scotten

    Wow, I was wholly incorrect in my guess where you are headed. I’m happy for you, but am disappointed you will not write much/as much (here or anywhere). Best of luck!

    Reply
    • scotten

      Guess I shouldn’t have been so mysterious… I had the vague idea you were taking over E-I-C at The Drive.

      But looking through their recent content, they appear to be headed down the Autoblog route with Alex Roy gone.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        They despise me over there and always have. Were I to take that gig I would have had some serious changes in mind.

        Reply
  13. Tom KlockauTom Klockau

    Sounds like a great new gig! Don’t worry, I have no problem blowing up the site with Broughams if need be. 🙂

    Reply
  14. Q

    Good news for me. Hagerty is my favorite auto mag, and you’re my favorite auto journo.

    Hope you can add some depth to their articles, and prevent (or make something out of) articles like “3 for the road.” Despite those hopes, still my favorite magazine by far!

    Reply
  15. Ronnie Schreiber

    I can’t help but notice that at the same time that thousands of listicle compilers got redslipped from online media companies formerly willing to throw venture capital at talentless hacks, Hagerty has seemingly decided to expand their online presence and it looks like they’re doing it by hiring actual talent.

    Reply
  16. James2

    Congrats and I hope “Avoidable Contact” makes a triumphant return. It was the only thing worth reading at Road & Track’s site. (Even if it was damn hard to find most of the time.)

    Reply
  17. Eric L.

    Waiiiiiiiit a second… So your piece about sitting quietly while the Millenial Tech Bro spouted all that nonsense that delighted the higher-ups (the same one about the desperate cars in the parking lot?)–that was at McGraw Hill!? That was in the EdTech space!? Hahahahahahahahaha! It only makes your story more amusing.

    The comments section on that RG article were the first place I saw someone attack agile as a concept–implying that waterfall is a superior solution. That’s when I knew your readers were truly a diverse set.

    Congrats on the new gig. Sounds like you’ll have an easier time conveying the corporate mission down to the engineers responsible for the work. Or you are that engineer again.

    Random, semi-related fact from today: I failed Steve Yegge’s test. After screwing around with some regex find/replaces in PhpStorm + Excel to suck out specific rows from a CSV for 30 minutes, I remembered this is literally what grep is for. grep -P ‘pattern’ csv > I_AM_AN_IDIOT.csv

    Turns out, LibreOffice Calc can’t do a regex find all, only a regex find ‘n replace. And JetBrains’ IDE groans under the weight of a 60M text file. It was throwing steady warnings, complaining about Java’s heap. Sigh.

    Reply
    • sgeffe

      Sounds like the folder list under the application I support:

      PT = Presentation Tier
      MT = Middle Tier
      ID10T = the analyst keeping this thing putting along (me)! 😂 (Especially their “support!” 🤬)

      It’s a living!

      Reply
  18. rwb

    Cheers man, this sounds like a great gig. Is there any way to subscribe to the magazine without a classic car to insure?

    Reply

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