The Long Game

It’s the day after Christmas. I was going through my old photos of Europe. I found this old unretouched one. It not only brought back a fond memory; it reminded me of why I took the photo in the first place. I wanted to preserve the moment to inform my future self.

This photo was taken on the lawn in back of the Eiffel Tower. You can see my teenage son napping on the lawn in a fetal position in the background.

It was the spring of 2012. I was living in Austin at the time with my son who was a Sophomore in high school. My daughter was studying in Paris enrolled in NYU’s prestigious semester abroad program. Every spring, the second week of March turned the city of Austin into a carnival. One of the country’s best festivals took place downtown: SXSW. Pre-pandemic, SXSW brought hundreds of thousands of festival goers to the Texas Capital. But, if you were an Austin resident, it was chaos and the traffic was more-than-usual insufferable.

I knew someone, okay a rich guy, who had a flat in Paris that he allowed his friends to use when he was not in town. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking if he would allow me to stay there, so I could have a nice Paris holiday with my kids, and avoid the SXSW madness. To my surprise, he did.

I remember exactly when I took this photo. My son was predictably acting like a moody teenager and expressing his indifference to our Parisian excursion. My daughter was happy to see us, and loved staying in the million dollar flat off of the Champs-Élysées. For about a week, we could pretend we lived a different life.

But the fact that we were all together in Paris, my son was well on his way to his own college journey, and my daughter was going to graduate with honors from NYU was a remarkable achievement.

I took this selfie to remind me… IT GETS BETTER.

I had come so far in my life, and I wanted to remind myself that even in times where it looks like there is no hope and no way out, you never know what the future holds. In nearly every circumstance when I’ve hit a low, the successive highs have been demonstrably better.

Life is a long game. Hold out for the upside. Even if you only see it sometimes in the rear-view mirror.

Amazing car-buying experience at Roger Beasley Saab this weekend.

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So many times we’re tempted to write rants about lousy customer experience.  This weekend, I had an unusually great experience at a car dealer, Roger Beasley Saab, that I thought I would publish my thoughts on it.  I should probably preface my glee with admitting I have ALWAYS had horrible experiences at car dealerships.  Always got a bad deal, never even understood the deal because the financing contracts were incomprehensible, and typically was pressured into buying something I didn’t really want.

I wanted to trade my car in for another used car because, well, I was bored with it.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and I wanted to reduce my car payment.  I had done a lot of research on the value of my car, and a few different models I was interested in at the Saab dealer.  I also brought my iPad into the dealer because I wanted to verify everything independently.  My salesguy (Scott) was amazing. Extremely low-key, but really helpful and knowledgable.  Not only did he not have a problem with my iPad, he shared his computer screen with me to go out onto the Internet to verify pricing on public web sites that I myself had used.  He was great about considering all my concerns, as well as making sure he was honest about what I’d probably get for my trade.  

When we finally settled on a car that would work within my parameters, he took me to his “Business Manager.”  The financing is usually where everything gets really weird, pressured, and uncomfortable.  I couldn’t believe how much this did NOT happen.  I only met with one guy (Ed) who was an incredibly nice and really helped me get to a financing deal that made sense.  He didn’t balk when I told him I wouldn’t accept his first offer.  He continued to keep looking around and making tweaks until the deal fit my criteria.  I couldn’t believe it.

I left with a nice car the same day.  I understood the deal completely and not only did I think I got a fair deal; I felt I good a good deal.  It just does not get better than that. 

If you’re considering buying a Saab, here are Scott and Ed’s cards.  

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Voila, new car (new old car, that is).  I actually have a longer story about why Saab, but that’s a post for another day. 

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Eye on Poverty: Homelessness Revealed

With so many Americans still out of work, I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of the homeless these days. It’s alarming to recognize how quickly individuals could find themselves without proper shelter for themselves and their families. I heard a statistic on the radio that homelessness has risen to over 10,000 in the city of Austin. Austin is particularly humane about helping the homeless with various community and local programs, as well as not criminalizing panhandling (it doesn’t work: read why). There is much work to do, but as cities go, Austin is more progressive than most.

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Last week, Austin was visited by Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) who is touring the U.S. filming the homeless in various cities . Take a look at some of the video Horvath has shot on InvisiblePeople.tv/blog Unless you’re truly heartless, it will leave a permanent impression. Horvath is succeeding already in his mission to “put a face on the homeless.”Alan Graham (@mlfnow) was introduced to Horvath via Twitter. It’s a huge testament to how social media can be used for social good. A group of us in Austin (@mikechapman, @jonl, @heatherjstrout and @bryanperson) collaborated on a social media initiative during SXSW to raise Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ profile. In short, social media has been the gift that keeps on giving for Alan and his team.In other homelessness news, I had the privilege to watch a documentary last night by local director Layton Blaylock, “Art from the Streets.” The film was a part of a local initiative currently underway by Lights.Camera.Help. another non-profit that hosts a film festival dedicated to promoting non-profit and cause-driven organizations. The documentary covers the amazing Art from the Streets program that has been held every year in Austin for the last 17 years.There is a similar thread linking the Art from the Streets program and the work done for the homeless by Horvath, Graham and others. It’s the compassionate interest in delivering something of higher value than heightened awareness, food, clothing or temporary shelter: it’s delivering dignity to a pocket of our society that exists on the periphery of our lives. I encourage you to purchase Blaylock’s film from his web site. It would be terrific if this film were picked up by a national distributor. It exemplifies, along with Alan Graham’s good works, how Austin is a model city for its treatment and creative resourcefulness in educating us who the homeless are: they’re us without our creature comforts.