I knew that eventually the day would come when the end of the week would roll around and I would have several ideas of what to write about, but none of them would have enough meat to warrant an entire column. I could try to find some way to weave these independent ideas together with neat little writing tricks we in the business call “transitons,” but unless you can make them smooth the transitions are more like literary speed bumps that do nothing more than cause you to bang your head and spill your drink. Therefore, I am going to attempt for the first time to employ the lazy little tool called the “subhead,” which is short for “subheadline,” which is nothing more than several small columns mushed into one.
So, fasten your seat belts, hang on to your Big Gulp and try not to let my subheads hurt your head.
Everybody loves leftovers
When we’re too lazy to cook, the first course of action is to scour the ‘fridge for remnants of recent meals. Writing a column is no different. Fortunately for me, last week’s column hasn’t started to sprout green fuzzies yet, and I even got a compliment or two since I originally served it up. The topic of race was still on my mind this week as I re-watched the Ken Burns documentary on Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion.
Last week I made the point that I hoped someday we’d live in a world where acknowledging black, white, brown, man or woman in the context of intelligence or competence would no longer be necessary or even desirable. As I listened to commentary by historians and heard words once spoken by Johnson himself, I realized that he was battling for this same cause nearly 100 years before I wrote my column. The difference (besides the fact that he could have squashed me like a bug) was that I was a white man making my point from the safety of my desk and expressing my ideas to a world that is by and large willing to hear my point of view.
Johnson made his point with his fists on July 10, 1910, in a ring right here in Reno surrounded by thousands of hostile white fans who hoped to see him squashed like a bug. But, as the stories go, when racial slurs were hurled at him he just smiled and proceeded to beat to a pulp Jim Jeffries, the “great white hope,” the white former heavyweight champ who was supposed to reclaim the pugilism crown for the “superior” race. As it turned out, Johnson showed the world that when it came to ability, the color of his skin made no difference.
It’s interesting that despite the punches Johnson started throwing at the turn of the last century, the opponent he was battling is still standing to this day.
Appreciating the Biggest Little City’s bigness
It caught me by surprise as I watched the Burns documentary to learn that the historic Johnson-Jeffries boxing match was held right here in Reno. I strained to recognize some buildings through the grainy, hundred-year-old footage, but alas I could not. Somewhere I guess I always knew Reno was an old town, but I didn’t realize it was an interesting town, too. I’ve come to appreciate this the longer I live here. Reading the weekly columns by Harry Spencer in the Tribune has given me even further appreciation for the interesting people who used to frequent this area. To be honest, some of Spencer’s brushes with famous people are so cool they seem too good to be true. His story in Saturday’s issue on page two about getting a picture of Frank Sinatra with Ava Gardner made the hairs on my neck stand up.
I get a little flavor of old Reno as I walk around downtown. Ignoring the new, fancy buildings being constructed, I prefer to look at the old brick walls and stroll through the back alleys along Sierra or Arlington and imagine the days when Rat Packers would walk these same streets in tuxedoes. Maybe Reno will someday again see such glory, but it’s hard to imagine.
Back to the future
After reveling in some stories of Reno past, I’m doing my little part to be part of its future. In the past month I have attended a few events of the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network. The group seems to be similar to groups that have been meeting for generations: People get together with the primary goal of meeting for business purposes who then become friends, so the organization becomes as much social as professional. The difference with this latest generation is that instead of communicating with crude newsletters and notes on a cork bulletin board, we’re packing cell phones and wielding Web sites. Great advancements, to be sure, but relying on e-relationships feels so cold and impersonal.
Fortunately, with all these advances there is one invention that remains tried and true and connects the Reno-Tahoe YPN to groups our parents and grandparents joined: the cocktail shaker.
Since the Tribune has not the resources to be a monetary sponsor of this group (though considering the prevalence of young professionals now producing this newspaper, it should be), I will use the end of this column as my unofficial sponsorship. The Reno-Tahoe YPN this week launched its new Web site, which will be great for keeping in contact with other members during our busy, professional lives but still has only a fraction of the networking power of a shot of bourbon. Anyway, the address is www.renotahoeypn.com.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take some aspirin. I have a subheadache.