Close But No Cigar

Mark Sagor


close but no cigarWhat a joy it is to recycle stuff that has been gathering dust.

It’s not just the space it opens up, although that’s pretty satisfying. The best part of repurposing things is that you also silence their nagging challenge: “I have value. Why aren’t you using me?”

So it was with pleasure that I cleaned out the area below my deck this fall and said goodbye to the salvaged doors that never became tables and the rusted bikes that hadn’t seen a rider in 15 years and other stuff that I couldn’t find a way a use.

So for my last post of the year, I would like to recycle a few odds and ends of blog ideas that never managed to shape up and ship out in 2013.

First there is the macabre story of Marcel Chevalier (filed under the title of “You Think Your Job Is Bad?”) who worked as the last chief executioner of France until 1981 when capital punishment was abolished there. During his career, which began in 1958, Mr. Chevalier performed about 40 executions. I never could find the right tone to imagine and discuss the career of a guillotine operator.

In a file labeled “The Real Batman” I have notes on the life saving work of Daniel Kish who is blind and an expert in human echolocation, which is a technique for using sound to create an image of the environment. If you could use some inspiration today check out his short video and see how this young man teaches an alternative way of seeing to blind children.

I am in a profession that helps people change. I believe passionately in the possibility of personal growth and continuous improvement. My thanks to Marlene Chism for introducing me to the “Six Words That Keep You Stuck.” She has changed the way I experience hearing someone say: “That’s just the way I am.” I know there’s a blog in there somewhere.

Speaking of being stuck, I spent a few frustrating hours in 2013 trying to turn “Are you guided by the light of a dead star?” into a blog. I was trying to connect a mind-blowing astronomical fact (that a star’s light can continue its journey through the cosmos long after the star itself has died and gone dark) to the observation that sometimes we persist in doing what clearly doesn’t work simply because it used to work.

Close but no cigar.

Speaking of “close but no cigar,” I had a factoid filed away about the origin of this anachronistic expression meaning “you nearly succeeded.” Carnivals used to give out cigars as prizes at the various booths that challenge your ability to do something like toss a wooden ring onto a statue or knock down a bean bag clown with a softball.

My Uncle Izzy, a colorful character, used to work one of these midway booths back in the 1950’s. Maybe his carnival career might make an interesting topic for 2014?

After all, some fresh space just opened up in the idea file.

Wishing you and the all the colorful characters in your family a healthy, safe and prosperous 2014.