I was warned about her by my pop. “She’ll break your heart if you let her. But you gotta let her try.” I was new in this town and Dallas was bright and glitzy and new. I was rebuilding my life, coming from California, where things were in bad shape. Unemployment was high, housing was expensive, taxpayers were revolting against the government. Déjà vu.
But Dallas had hope. Still does. It’s just hard to see with all the bright shiny things floating around.
Years later, in the present, I am standing in this huge ballroom in a downtown hotel, filled with all manner of wine and spirits vendors showing their products. A young wine salesman comes up to me. “Do you think there’s one in here that isn’t adulterated in one form or another?” I assumed he was talking about wine. Looking around, I couldn’t answer, I was surrounded by scantily clad women with jello shots and vodka drinks trying to get me to take one from their tray. “Maybe in the wine room, you can find something you will like,” I told him. I must have walked that room 4 or 5 times, stopping to talk to old friends and battle mates, bosses, best men and anyone who came up to me to say hello. It is like any business; pick one, jewelry, news, entertainment, pharma, pretty much the same characters, just different products.
In our business the products must be sampled and when too many are, places like the one I am in will be a madhouse by 10PM. I’ll be gone by then, on to other things. Vinitaly is similar, except the men dress better and the women aren’t all blondes. But the same m.o.
Another young salesman and I walk the room, talking about where he is going in the business. He isn’t as connected to it, has a life outside of the job. Chances are he won’t be walking the room 20 years from now like some of the folks I have seen doing this for the last 25.
I run into a very lucky character, he’s made a lot of money being in the right place at the right time and having a good line of b.s. that the right folks bought into. He was miserable. All the wealth and success meant nothing to him, he said he wanted out. The disease of the newly wealthy. I thank my lucky stars I am not him.
So who is going to take this business over and run it into the future? Well, there are some bright young rising stars and I also ran into them today. One young man is raising a family in South Texas and is a hard worker, is honest and is smart. I told him today that he is the future. Another man, a little older, from far West Texas, a happy person who always has a smile and something good to say. All he has to do is look across the border and see the war being waged in Mexico to know how fortunate he is to have an opportunity to make a difference for his family and for the people who work for him.
Another one, a woman in her forties, she battled cancer and won, has taken back to the streets and is running a sales company. I could tell she was excited, to be alive and to have a challenge that seems easy compared to the fight for her life she just went through. So, there are willing participants in this business who want good things for them and their family and the profession. And I imagine we will see this played out on the streets in the next few years in a way that has deeper meaning for the players who will weather the hard times and learn how to get through it successfully. Because as the Italian saying goes, “Qui Non Si Gode Asilo,” Here there is no refuge. Sink or swim.