“I’m the Captain Now”, or When to Dump Your Business Plan

Have you seen “Captain Phillips”, which was deservedly nominated for Best Picture of 2013?  You can still catch it on pay-per-view and it’s powerful. Did you know that the line “I’m the Captain now.” which has become the season’s catchphrase and was referred to by the New Yorker as an “iconic line” was IMPROVISED? Improvised by a Somalian taxi driver who had never performed in a film before? Here’s the story:

Barkhad Abdi was six years old when war turned his native Somalia into an inferno. The family fled to Yemen, where his father taught math and eventually settled in Minneapolis, where there is a sizable Somalian community. Abdi was working as a limo driver for his brother’s company when the word came that auditions were being held at the local community center for Somalis to act in “Captain Phillips”,  directed by Paul Greengrass (who filmed United 93 among other major films) and starring Tom Hanks as the skipper of the Alabama Maersk, the cargo ship  that was attacked by Somail pirates in 2009. Abdi and half a dozen other Somalis were hired by Greengrass.

When they started filming the scene where the pirates have boarded the ship, Abdi felt that the point wasn’t being made clearly enough to Hanks and/or his character that things had changed. So he came  out with the  line, “Look at me. I’m the captain now,” which sends chills down your spine every time you see it.  Greengrass kept the line in. He knew gold when he saw it.

As an employer, do you encourage creative improvisation  in your company? You don’t have to be Steve Jobs or Paul Greengrass to do so. When your people come up with something wonderful, tear up your script, throw out your business plan and go with your gut, like Greengrass did. “I’m the captain now” is a classic line on the level of “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “Nobody’s perfect.” The genius is in knowing when to dump your carefully laid plans.  The proof is in the watching.

The Timber Heritage Association-Sleeping Giant in Samoa

Speeder train at aSamoa

Speeder train at at Samoa

The last time I went to one of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group’s monthly   community forums I noted how downspirited everyone was after listening to an hour of “no”.  No, the east-west train doesn’t pencil out. No, there isn’t enough identified freight to make it work. No, no, no. Yesterday’s meeting was completely different. The Timber Heritage Association reminded us that there are FEASIBLE projects to bring more jobs and more tourists, and everyone left in a good mood. There ‘s a lot of work ahead, but as someone said, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

(In view of the NCJ column by Marcy Burstiner regarding Brown Act violations, let me clarify that the meetings I attend on the fourth Wednesday of each month are the HBHWG’s PUBLIC forums and are not an inter-agency advisory committee subject to the Brown Act.  I do not attend the AHHA , don’t intend to , don’t know if anything will come of it.  The monthly forums are strictly informational, usually worth attending and represent a lot of hard work by Susanna Munzell and her committee. Glad we got that straightened out.)

Back to the THA which since 1977 has worked hard for a railroad museum and a round-the -Bay tourist train,  and is shortly starting its summer schedule of speeder rides (if you haven’t been on one, speeders are crew cars that look kind of like a caboose.) They run from the Samoa Cookhouse on a short run, only 20 minutes or so but by God, it’s a train ride. Your kids will love it and so will you. The speeder rides are in Samoa four times a year, in Old Town Eureka twice, in Fortuna for the Apple Harvest Days and and have recently started runs in Loleta (check the schedules on the website.)  The steam train rides at Ft Humboldt are all done by THA volunteers during the summer months. By now it should be clear that the THA is a major refuge for train nuts (like me) and they have rolling stock scattered around the county until a real museum can be organized. If you have never ventured down the road behind the Cookhouse, go check it out. They have several train cars right there, all of which are worthy of preservation.

Pete Johnston, who delivered the excellent presentation, pointed out that the Skunk is the major tourist attraction in Mendocino now and if we had a train museum and an opportunity for a train ride, that would be enough to get tourists to stop HERE, rather than shooting past us to Bend or other places with train-related attractions. Did you know the Samoa roundhouse is one of only four on the entire West Coast? That the THA is sustained by 6000 hours of volunteer labor a year?  That’s dedication and one day it will benefit the entire county.

So go ride the speeders and support the THA. I’ve donated before but never joined up but I have now, just wrote them a check for $25 and if I can do it , you can, and should.  They have a couple of fundraisers coming up and last year the Salmon, Oysters Ales and Rails BBQ in August was completely sold out (500 tickets.) Trains have been a big part of Humboldt County history and if the THA has its way they will be a part of its future, as well. .

 

Proposed Sequoia Conference Facility, How They Used to Travel to SF and Farewell, Penny E.

Yes, I’m one of those nuts who read the legal notices and once in awhile I actually learn something. Today I learned that the HCOE has filed for a negative declaration for their proposed new 9200 sq ft Sequoia Conference Center to be built in the underused northeast sector of the current HCOE campus at Myrtle and West. The new  Center will have a capacity “of up to 350 occupants to serve as training and meeting space for HCOE employees, teachers, and staff members”. The two modular buildings at the back of the lot will be removed and their functions (nursing and nutritional programs) will be absorbed into the current facility.  The new building will include “public restrooms, a serving and warming kitchen with a food service arrangement , a large meeting space (able to be made into two meeting rooms by means of an operable wall system), an entry/lobby area, an administrative office space/meeting room with a public reception counter, and a truck unloading berth” according to the notice.

Other site improvements will include: ADA compliant access ramps and routes, parking lot re-striping to accommodate 27 new parking spaces, a four-foot vine-covered fence along West Avenue, parking lot islands and planters, new LED lighting, sewer realignment and fire supply lines and a new hydrant and “reconstruction of the Myrtle Avenue driveway to include a dedicated right-turn exit lane.”  School buses currently parked there will be removed to the Glen Paul site.

Those of us who have had the unlovely task of trying to find suitable meeting space in this town are drooling on our keyboards, and we can only hope that the HCOE will continue to make its meeting spaces available when not needed for HCOE business. I remember when the Redwood Tech Consortium used to meet out there. This room will hold more than the Wharfinger or the Aquatic Center and nearly as many as the Adorni, which claims to hold 400 but I think that’s with people sitting on each other’s laps.  There is a comment period, starting yesterday and ending January 7.  Comments go to the HCOE at 901 Myrtle Ave and you can review the whole study at that address or at the Main Library. Let’s hope that this work goes to some LOCAL contractors for a change.

The Overland Auto Stage Company- The Humboldt Historian in the current Winter 2013 issue carries a wonderful article by Robert Palmrose about travel to the Bay Area before the railroad. It was a two- day project during the years 1908-1913 and the article (the whole issue) is must reading but I cannot provide a link as the issue has yet to be added to their archives. A shameless plug: a $30 membership to the Humboldt Historical Society is a wonderful gift for anyone you’re doing business with. Buy one for someone and if you haven’t done so, join up. You’ll be glad you did.

PENNY ELSEBUSCH-I was saddened to hear that Penny Elsebusch has died. I had dinner with her and some other folks in October and she was the same Penny as ever. I used to sit with her and Dave at the old Harbor Group meetings and saw them regularly at Chamber meetings. They were regulars at the Taxpayers’ League (which I am not) also. Dave has been gone for two years now, and both of them were wonderful people who will be missed. Goodbye, Penny.  Whenever I hear the sounds of the races at Redwood Acres, I’ll be thinking of you both.

 

 

 

9/11, Twelve Years After

       I  remember waking up on the morning  of September 11, 2001.  The clock-radio sounded different than normal. I usually have it tuned to KRED because that motivates me to move over and turn that country music off, but this morning was different. After a couple of minutes I turned on the TV and realized how different.

       I had heard of the World Trade Center but really had no deep feelings about it.  After all, there’s a World Trade Center in Long Beach and at that time I had never been to NYC so the “twin towers” had no significance to me as buildings. But every minute it was becoming clearer that many lives had been lost. I went in to work at the small State agency where I worked then, since no one told us not to. We gathered in a somber mood and waited by the faxes and printers to see what the plan was. On the one hand, it was customary to close the office if a threat was in effect. On the other hand, we had demanding clients who would take umbrage at having their appointments canceled. The brilliant solution conveyed to us from our district HQ was to close the office, but leave ONE person there to take phone calls. In other words, there was enough  danger to send everyone home but not enough danger to get everyone out. Made no sense but we followed orders.

        I don’t remember the rest of the day very well. I spent the afternoon calling people. We didn’t know yet about RIchard Guadagno and his tragic death. As the evening came on we watched TV, numb.  Something had changed, but it was hard to define.  In the  weeks and months that followed,  the words “Muslim” and “Arab”  became charged.  On the one hand, there was a real threat , on the other hand you couldn’t lump them all together as terrorists. It was clear that Fortress America was not invulnerable. However it never had been, and learning that fact was probably healthy for all of us.

       So what’s changed in twelve years?  We have a different President.  OBL is dead and politics in Washington has become a blood sport in which the combatants don’t give a damn about the people and their welfare. The Republican party seems to be committing slow suicide, which is sad because I prefer a two-party system. Mostly the changes are demographic.  California is no longer an Anglo-majority state, which is fine with me. The fear and unease that go with the awareness that there is no place on the planet that is totally safe is becoming part of our consciousness. I don’t see that changing in my lifetime.

       Last year, I finally visited NYC. We did NOT go to the WTC site. I didn’t see the point.

       Did 9/11 change you or the way you live? Tell us  about it, and hug your kids today.