Welcome to Episode 17 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you steer thru the topsy/turvy world of creativity and marketing.
My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, and no matter what kind of content creator you may be, we’re here to talk about resilience.
Now before we do, I must admit that our last show was stuffed with quotes. Like 10-pounds worth of quotes in a 5-pound bag. Quotes were practically wallpapering the room.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love quotes, but that was too many. Way too many.
This episode, I guess I owe you some words of my own…
Here’s to the future!
Actually, those aren’t my words. And this is not my story. But it’s a story that deserves to be told, and I’m a pretty good choice to tell it. If you’ve joined Navigating the Fustercluck at all, you may have noticed that every episode ends with these very words:
Here’s to the future!
That sign-off is a tribute to a friend of mine mentioned in an earlier show. An unlikely friend that I’d like to tell you a bit more about. Someone who’s story would make a great book. That someone was Arnold Penney. When he died at age 92, he was literally my oldest friend.
Among the many lessons he left me, Arnie was easily the most resilient person I’ve ever known. Knock him down 7 times, and he’d spring back up 8 times.
Arnie and I met back when I was Director of Marketing for the Houston Rockets basketball team. Arnie & his wife, Dier, were season ticketholders. But like me, they were from the Midwest. I hail from the Milwaukee-area; they were from Detroit.
At a meeting of season ticket holders, Arnie grilled me pretty hard over some things he wasn’t happy about the customer service he was experiencing. Honestly, he was right about most of them. Fortunately, I managed to hang in there. Because he turned out to be even tougher than I could ever have imagined.
Afterwards, Arnie approached me to say that while he wasn’t giving me a free pass, he appreciated how straightforward I was. He was willing to give me a chance. From there, our relationship just kept growing.
In fact, we even cast Arnie and Dier in a commercial with 7’6” center, Yao Ming, from China. They became known all over our arena, and even out and about on the town. Arnie was close to 80 back then.
One time we went out for some beers, and I noticed some chains around his neck. Arnie, what are those all about?
He then pulled up 3 sets of dog tags. One set were his from WWII.
The other two were like nothing I’d ever seen before. They were like art. They were beautiful. What struck me most on these oval medallions was the amazing calligraphy. Turns out that the tags were Japanese.
You see, Arnie was a scout for the American troops in Japan. He’d go out miles ahead from his band of brothers to spy on the enemy. Twice he came face-to-face, mano-o-mano with Japanese soldiers. Both times, in hand-to-hand combat, Arnie came out ahead. Then he told me why he took the dog tags of his fallen foes.
Wegs, I wear these tags every day. But understand this: I don’t wear them as trophies, I wear them out of respect. Every morning I wake up and say a prayer for their souls. Then I curse the old men who sent boys to do things no one should have to do or see.
This guy was a true warrior. An honorable man. All he wanted to do was help get his buddies home and see his family again. Arnie survived with his body and soul intact. Although from time-to-time, until the day he died, nightmares would pay him a visit.
But he was resilient. He persevered.
One thing I noticed right away was that Arnie had some small scars on his face. I assumed they came from the war, actually, he got them afterwards in the ‘70’s. You see, Dier was African-American and Arnie was white. A pretty bold move in Detroit back then.
Things were sometimes said to them. Terrible things. Things that Arnie thought he was fighting against when he was in the army. More than once Arnie responded with his fists. Sometimes, he’d take on 3 or 4 guys at a time. And that’s where the scars came from. Yet, he & Dier were resilient. They persevered.
Arnie also survived some business issues. He and 2 guys had started an appraisal service insurance companies would hire to determine damage to areas struck by natural disasters. Tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. The 3 of them had built up a lucrative business until the other 2 swindled Arnie out of his share. At 60, he found himself unemployed and broke.
So, what did he do? He started a competing business that within 6 years surpassed the size of his old business and helped put his former partners out of business. Once again, he persevered.
After Dier died, some friends convinced him to move from Houston to Arizona. Less than a year later, Arnie called me up: Hey Wegs,I’ve had enough of this place. I’m bolting Arizona.
Huh? You’ve been there less than a year. What’s wrong, I asked Arnie who was now in his mid-eighties.
Too many old people! Arnie shot back.
He decided to head back to the Ann Arbor area, after all, he was a Michigan Man. Class of ‘49. A Wolverine thu-and-thru. So, he hopped into his American metal Camaro to ditch Arizona. Apparently, Arnie was in a rush to get out. But before he could, some flashing lights let Arnie know that the Grand Canyon State still had some remaining business with him.
A State Trooper approached Arnie, took a look at his license and asked the then 90 year-old-Arnie if he knew why he was being pulled over.
Didn’t you notice? I was speeding officer. Arnie hated stupid questions.
Well, Mr. Penney, you may have heard, speeding is illegal in the state of Arizona. Is there a reason that you’re in such a hurry.
Officer, Arnie answered, you saw my license; at my age, I don’t have a lot of time. I’m always in a hurry!
The trooper laughed, and let Arnie go without a ticket or warning. But not before telling- more like begging- Arnie to slow down until he crossed the state line. Arnie could only promise that he’d try.
Amazingly, Arnie got back to Ann Arbor in one piece. He was resilient. He persevered.
At 92, cancer what was finally caught up with Arnie. But right up to the end, he was still driving- fast. And he was in love again with an elegant lady named Sharon. Though at 83, the 92-year-old Arnie was a little nervous that she might be too old for him.
Two months before he died, I flew to Ann Arbor and after a few doubles, we closed a jazz club. So happy that we got that time together.
Before the bar kicked us out, we raised our glasses, and Arnie gave our traditional toast: Here’s to the future!
Ever since the War, life seemed to be nipping on Arnie’s heels. But he persevered. Surviving human folly and financial ruin. And while he honored the past, he never lived in the past. And that’s why he would say, Here’s to the future!
Let’s Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)
…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m Wegs, your host hoping that this story has moved you to not only think but laugh. Now back to the show with some closing thoughts.
Friends may die, but friendships don’t.
That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned in this life.
I’ve also learned that it’s not always the smartest or strongest or most talented that survive. Often, it’s the Arnie’s of the world. Resilient souls that just keep on keeping on.
Well, that about wraps up our 17th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck.
Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, thank you for listening in. Until next time, please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter at NavigatingF. Or find all our episodes on NavigatingTheFustercluck.com. Remember, we’re all in this together, so thanks for doing your best to buck the system. Here’s to you. And as Arnie told us: Here’s to the future!