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The Path to Success

Step one is putting the pieces together

The Labor Day weekend rain mostly skipped Chesapeake Country — at least my part — but tumultuous skies and soggy forecasts dampened a lot of parades. In Annapolis, First Sunday Arts Festival cancelled this month, and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra moved its Labor Day Pops concert inside Maryland Hall, quashing plans for musical picnics in Quiet Waters Park.
    Our personal parade changed locations, too. Instead of cruising the Chesapeake, Bay Weekly the boat stayed in port, and husband Bill Lambrecht and I pretended our marina was a destination rather than our home away from home. That’s how we happened to be around when Mantra, the giant boat you’ll read about in this week’s paper, took to the water for the first time.
    Week by week, we’d watched its construction. In the leisure of the weekend, as I worked Brushes with Flame, Bay Weekly’s Labor Day crossword, I mused on how the path to achievement begins with putting pieces together.
    So much depends on seeing how things are connected.
    Connections build revelations as you unpuzzle the thinking of devilishly clever crossword writers like Ben Tausig, author of Bay Weekly’s puzzles; Merl Reagle, author of the Washington Post Magazine crossword and Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times Magazine crossword. With clouds passing over Bay Weekly instead of Bay Weekly passing through water last weekend, Lambrecht and I tackled them all. Finished two so far.
    Newly 12-year-old grandson Jack Knoll is making connections as he assembles the pieces of ever-more complicated Lego constructions, venturing now and again into creations of his own imagination. No wonder Lego’s neat pegs and holes have cast a spell on him. They make connections so easy, and you can see where they’re going.
    You use the same skills, notched up a few grades, to make a boat. A crossword puzzle or a newspaper. Or the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Way back when, I watched from my front stoop in the short-lived community of Laclede Town as the Arch’s two legs rose and, miraculously, touched and bonded.
    The notches ratch up when you create the pattern yourself, cutting the pieces to your specifications. At that stage, you’re still in the realm of fun, making a thing for its own sake because it can be done.
    Lightning strikes when you imagine the connection you can make with other people. Then it’s back to the drawing board, designing the steps that take you from hobbyist to pro. Somewhere along the way in that process, fun becomes work. Wherever that is, many projects die.
    Going beyond fun takes superhuman effort. How many letters, stories, novels, imagined in my head, have never clicked into a character of type? I’m not going to count them. It would be too much work.
    When somebody makes that superhuman effort, invention is born in the world.
    That’s what the hometown Tracys Landing business Weaver Boatworks has done. And all my crossword puzzlers. And all the hundreds of happenings we chronicle every week in Bay Weekly’s 8 Days a Week.
    Over our Labor Day holiday at Herrington Harbour North, Lambrecht and I watched another marvel of human effort rise from nothing more than an idea. For Smoking on the Bay, the Deale Elks managed to lure 40 or so barbecuing teams to yet another of the rash of Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competitions.
    Arriving to ’que for points and prizes is no small effort. It takes putting together as many pieces as assembling a complex Lego pattern. You’ve got to master the smoking, create the sauce, standardize the preparation and proportions and love it enough to do it again and again.
    You’ve got to name yourself — often a name playing on one of the prime cuts of ’que, butt — and design a logo.
    To travel to compete, often many miles, you’ve got to assemble a rig. Many of the competitors drove massive RVs and towed ’queing rigs they’d designed, fabricated, custom painted and polished to a sheen. They bring their own meat, pay to compete and spend most of three days ’queing.
    Around them, festivals spring up. If you build a festival, people come and charitable organizations — like the Elks last week or Parole Rotary again next May — make their money.
    Make a really charged connection between what people long for and what you can do well, and you’ve got success on your hands. That’s what Kansas City Barbecue Society has done.
    That’s why almost all Jack wants for his birthday, Christmas and every day of the year is Legos. That’s why I buy $6 newspapers to work a fiendish crossword puzzle.
    That’s why Jim Weaver can now charge $6 million for a boat that buyers, like Mantra’s captain, consider a bargain. Turn the page and read all about it.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; [email protected]