Tag Archives: luck

Good Luck and Pulitzer Prizes


I mentioned on Facebook this morning that I possess an extraordinary amount of dumb luck – that’s the only way to explain the great stuff that happens to and for me. No, I didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, though – my luck doesn’t go that far!

But I have been lucky enough to be introduced to (and shake hands with) at least three Pulitzer Prize winners during my life. I’ve written previously about meeting Bob Woodward and Katherine Graham on a Saturday morning at the Washington Post, thanks to a friend’s dad. Here’s a short snippet from that post:

Both publisher Katharine Graham and Bob Woodward were working that day. That should have scared me off journalism right there. … Mrs. G, as she was known around the office, was warm and seemed interested in us. (This is the same person of whom Nixon henchthug John Mitchell once said, during Watergate: “Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that’s published.” Yes, that was our attorney general in those days.) Woodward, on the other hand, could hardly have been more disinterested. He gave us a limp handshake and not much else. 

The dumb luck part comes in how I met the third Pulitzer winner. Here goes:

I’m fortunate that my employer, Red Ventures, allows us to work from home pretty much any time we feel the urge. Much of my team, at this point, works in Boston, so it doesn’t really make a lot of difference most days whether I work at RV in Fort Mill, SC, or from my house. This week, most of the rest of my colleagues who normally work in Charlotte were in Boston, too.

That’s the reason I’d been contemplating working from home today, though I’d been waffling because the main thing I’m working on right now might – and I stress the word might – go faster and easier working on my dual monitor setup at the office.

I was still going back and forth with myself – I’d even sent an email to two coworkers telling them I planned on working at home – when Garrett came downstairs and declared he had an upset stomach. Well, that cinched it.

One reason I wanted to stay at home was because I wanted to, while I was working, listen to music without wearing headphones. Now I couldn’t do that. Plus, I didn’t want to be distracted. Plus, I didn’t want to get infected with whatever ailment Garrett had. (And yes, I realize what a crappy father I am for making this decision.)

So I showered and threw on some jeans and a T-shirt. Not just any tee, but one of my Golden Door Scholars T-shirts. Golden Door Scholars is a program started by RV CEO Ric Elias – we provide full-ride college scholarships for undocumented high-performing students. I believe passionately in the program and in the two scholars I mentor, Maria and Vanessa.

Anyway, I got a bit of a late start and wound up getting to work about 10 minutes or so later than normal. Which is not a big deal at RV.

What was a big deal …

So as I was walking from the parking deck to my desk – entering one building, trudging up three flights of steps, and entering the second building of our campus (yes, I could park closer to my desk, but I tell myself I’m at least getting a little exercise by taking the path I do), I spied Ric and another man walking toward me.

Ric greeted me warmly, as he nearly always does, and asked me about one of my scholars – I’d mentioned to him earlier this week that I’d gotten an email update from her and that it was spectacular. He wanted details – I told him about her summer research internship at the VA Hospital in Portland, and how she’d won two other scholarships, and been elected chair of the student senate at her college, and met a recruiter for an important Research Triangle Park biotech, and had all A’s so far this semester (again) except for one B in inorganic chemistry. You get the idea – to say she’s a high-achiever is to undersell her. (My other scholar is similarly outstanding – she has a research internship this summer at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.)

Then Ric introduces me to the guy – his name is Jose Vargas. He’s speaking tonight at Davidson. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist (part of a Washington Post team that covered the Virginia Tech shootings). He’s written for The New York Times magazine and been on the cover of Time. He also wrote, produced and directed a film, Documented.

His speech tonight is about immigration and HB2, two issues I care deeply about. (In case you don’t know, I’m passionately for immigration and I’m adamantly opposed to HB2 – in its entirety.)

So I met this a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. In town to speak about immigration. With me wearing a Golden Door T-shirt. And got to schmooze with the boss. Because I got to work late. And because I decided to go to the office today. Because my son didn’t feel good.

Luck? Destiny? You decide …

But wait, there’s more …

Here’s the post-credits scene to the tale above. A little later this morning, I had to go to the bathroom – Karen says I shouldn’t have mentioned that fact, but I think it’s vital to show just how random life can be. For some reason, I didn’t go to the restroom that’s closest to me.

I picked another one, for no particular reason. And barely beat one of the IT guys to the single stall. When I came out to wash my hands, I came face to face with Ric again. We chatted again, and I mentioned that I’d looked Jose up and thanked him for introducing me to him.

He didn’t miss a beat when he spoke:

“No, Arthur, he was lucky to meet you!”

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Broken Toes and Good Luck


“I’ve always been pretty lucky.”

That’s what I said just this morning. I say it a lot. I always mean it.

Sometimes I’m lucky without even knowing it.

Take the time and place that I grew up. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in Southside Virginia, in a little town called South Boston. Well, to be truthful, I grew up in Cluster Springs. In the 1960s. I was 12 years old in 1969.

I tell my children a lot: Everything in the world that ever happened happened in 1968 or 1969. People my age had a ringside seat for a lot of it. My kids can’t understand when I tell them what a big deal space flight was and how everyone watched and celebrated. We all watched the Olympics together. We all watched everything together.

One of the things I was “lucky” enough – stay with me on this because it’ll just sound terrible at first (because it was) – to see was the last vestiges of segregation. I can remember “whites only” water fountains and bathrooms in stores. I can remember separate nights for the races at the county fair, and I can remember how only whites could sit downstairs at the movie theater in town.

Why do I say I was “lucky” to experience these things? Because I remember how damn cruel and stupid and wrong they were. And I can use those memories to refuse to be quiet when I see injustices going on today.

The debate over same-sex marriage has been bitter. I understand that everyone isn’t going to believe the same way that I do, and I try to respect alternate opinions. What I don’t respect is hate. What I don’t respect is using the law to back up religious views that not everyone may hold.

I see people bragging about their support for Chjck Fil-A, and I think, are you really supporting Chick-Fil-A or are you just hating on gays and lesbians? And why?

I see so much hate in this debate, and I just truly don’t understand it. I hate hate. I don’t hate much else (except, of course, bananas).

It’s just such a vile, corrupt word. Hate. I even sounds mean. Nothing good comes of it.

Someone I know posted a set of photos this a.m. on Facebook of signs at McDonalds, KFC and Wendy’s with messages backing Chick Fil-A. The caption talked about how amazing the support was from the companies.

Here’s the thing: According to Snopes, the messages on the McDonalds and KFC signs were definitely photoshopped. It said some Wendy’s franchises may have put signs of support up. Before being ordered to take them down by Wendy’s corporate. So all that support was phony. Just think about that a bit.

************

This morning, I woke up hungry for a good bagel.

It was because of something else lucky that happen last week while we were in the Greater Topsail Island community. Karen and I got to the hotel in mid-afternoon; we hadn’t eaten lunch but didn’t want to take a long time because we wanted to get some beach time in. We decided to try the bagel place out next door. It was fantastic. I hadn’t had a bagel in awhile, and the sandwich I got was so good that we went back to the shop for breakfast the next morning.

So I was really craving one as good as I had last week. I mentioned it to Karen, and she suggested a shop to me that I didn’t know about. (Otherwise, I prolly would have gone to Pandora Bread for my bagel.)

I got to Poppyseed Bagels and was pretty excited. It was really hopping, far more than I would expect for a business in sleepy Indian Trail. So I parked, got out of the car and started striding toward the door, just thinking about what I’d order.

Which means I totally didn’t see the curb. I kicked it not with one foot but with two. While wearing flipflops. And went a flopping, It was one of those slow motion falls. I thought I regained my balance, then kinda stumbled again. I finally stabilized, thanks to a chair I grabbed and to a lady who was trying to enjoy breakfast with her friends.

She apologized for grabbing my arm. “I’m sorry, it was just a grandma move.” I thanked her, assured her and her friends I was fine, and tried to act nonchalant. Because that’s what I do in potentially embarrassing situations.

Truth was, I wasn’t sure I didn’t have two broken big toes. I’m still not sure I don’t.

I limped through the line, trying not to show any pain, and ordered my bagels and scallion cream cheese. My toes were still killing me. As I waited for my food, a second woman, one who had been eating at one of the shop’s window seats, came up to ask how I was.

“Fine,” I said, still feeling a bit embarrassed and not at all fine.

“I saw what happened when you were coming in. I did the same thing here,” she said. “Only I fell and almost broke my nose.” Her nose looked fine to me. “It was a few months ago,” she said. “You were really lucky.”

“I’ve always been lucky,” I said.

Lucky, indeed. Lucky not to hate. Lucky to love. And be loved.

“Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.”  _ Eubie Blake, the great jazz pianist and composer

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