Lake Placid’s Tourism Economy Is Roaring Back, But Are There Enough People to Tend the Fire?

You see the signs all over town. “Help wanted,” some read, others, “Now hiring.”

Lake Placid, located along Mirror Lake in New York’s Adirondack Park, is booming. At least it appears that way, walking down sidewalks crowded with people, waiting in line to buy a cup of coffee or a scoop of ice cream. 

But perhaps the most apparent indication of the town’s economic health is in the “help wanted” signs plastered on store windows and restaurant doors. 

“The thing people don’t understand is businesses here can’t get the stuff they need,” a shopkeeper in Saranac, down the road from Lake Placid, says. “You see restaurants closed, but it’s because they can’t get the ingredients they need.”

The issue, the shopkeeper says, is that one supplier provides food for most of the area’s restaurants. And that supplier’s having trouble finding delivery drivers. Without people driving their trucks, the supplier can’t fulfill customers’ orders.

“And where’s the first place they cut?” the shopkeeper says. “Here in the North Country.”

Main Street in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Business is booming along Lake Placid’s Main Street, but are there enough workers to keep businesses open? | Nicholas E. Barron © 2021

A hometown for athletic competitions

Lake Placid is one of three places that’s twice hosted the Winter Olympics. St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria being the other two.

Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Today, Lake Placid High School overlooks where the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1980 games took place. And the ski jump remains easily visible from many points across town.

And Lake Placid welcomes tourists year-round. Winter enthusiasts find many activities to enjoy, including skiing and snowboarding, while outdoor lovers can hike, canoe, camp, and more in the warmer months.

The weekend I arrived in Lake Placid happened to be during the 2021 Lake Placid Ironman. 

Athletes came from all across the northeast United States and perhaps farther afield to compete in the Ironman Triathlon, featuring a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and marathon-length run. Their families and friends came, too, to show support.

The Ironman didn’t bring me to town. And, yet, as race day unfolded, the supporters’ cheers and cowbell ringing captured my attention. 

It wasn’t long before I stood along the route, taking photos as cyclists and runners passed. Family members clamored for glimpses of their loved ones.

“There he is!” a kid shouts. “There’s dad!”

Even someone who never cared about an Ironman competition can’t help but feel strumming emotions at witnessing so many people encouraging those they love who are pushing themselves to their physical limits.

Night fell, and still, athletes crossed the finish line. They rested, hydrated, and enjoyed slices of pizza, grapes, and other snacks. Then, wrapped in foil blankets, the athletes walked Lake Placid’s streets, family at their heels.

As the Ironman athletes depart, participants in a Canadian-U.S. rugby tournament arrive. Thus, the carousel of athletic competitions taking place in Lake Placid continues rotating full tilt.

Who’s tending Lake Placid’s fire?

Visit a few restaurants in Lake Placid, drink in a couple of bars, and you’ll hear international accents. Italian, maybe something from the Balkans, and is that Russian or Ukrainian?

Although you may encounter a few visitors from outside the U.S, the words aren’t coming from tourists. Instead, it’s immigrants helping keep Lake Placid’s businesses running.

You wonder how they find their way from eastern Europe to New York’s North Country. Considering the pandemic and perceivably more stringent immigration and visa requirements, it seems no small feat for someone to go from, for example, Croatia to a small town in upstate New York.

Yet here they are, speaking perfect if accented English. Friendly and helpful, working alongside those who grew up in Lake Placid, a cocktail of residents and immigrants as old as this country.

Still, the “help wanted” signs tell you it isn’t enough. The tourists, presumably mostly vaccinated and certainly unmasked, are coming. They’re here.

Lake Placid’s tourist economy is back, bursting into roaring flames of outdoor and athletic-inspired consumerism. The challenge now facing this Olympic town is finding enough people to tend the fire.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Why Do We Keep Heirlooms? Because We Can’t Hold On to the People Who Once Owned Them.

Then there’s my paternal grandmother’s records, a mix of mostly gospel and country and western, with a few out-of-nowhere selections.

For example, Grandma Opal had on vinyl the entire recording of Apollo 11’s moon landing. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong says on the album.

The husband and I use some of mammaw’s dishes. We’ve listened to a few of Grandma Opal’s records. 

But we don’t need or have any reason to keep as much of my dead grandmothers’ stuff as we do, except for sentimental value.

Person holding and looking at a framed photo.
Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

The ostentatious parading of excessive emotion

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty,” James Baldwin wrote.

Baldwin was referring to sentimentalities in writing, such as the novels Little Women and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

So, maybe he’d give me a pass for having my grandmother’s Ernest Tubb album tucked deep into a closet shelf. Or, perhaps Baldwin could understand why I hold on to an increasingly threadbare potholder with burn spots that my mammaw made.

Unless the ancient Egyptians are right, our worldly possessions don’t come with us into the afterlife. Instead, they are left for others to deal with, own, sell to others, or dump in the trash.

Convening with those gone

One day, I may decide it’s time to part with some of my grandmothers’ things; a bowl we’ve never used, vinyl that’s collected more dust over the years than it’s spun around a turntable. But, until then, I can’t imagine parting with these physical connections I have with the lives of two women I was close to and who I miss daily.

Using these items, seeing them, knowing they’re in my presence, in our home, gives me peace.

Still, possession of this stuff isn’t the only way I convene with my deceased grandmothers. They visit me in my dreams, something they started doing after both moved into the same long-term care facility, not long before they each passed, within a year of each other.

Sometimes they’re together in both dreams.

In other dreams, it’s just one grandma or the other. Sometimes, they’re flying around like ghosts, zipping about a room while my mammaw laughs at Grandma Opal’s silliness. And other times, we’re all three sitting in a room, just chatting, catching up on what’s new.

We hold on to things because we can’t hold on to people, but the truth is it’s not in heirlooms we find those we’ve loved and lost. Instead, it’s in a deeper, hidden place inside us, where we can still convene with those no longer with us.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Sound the Alarm: Bathrobism Takes Previously Youthful People and Marches Them Deep Into Middle Age

You don’t grow up wanting to wear a bathrobe. Wearing a bathrobe just kind of happens to you, like realizing that margaritas give you heartburn or that Jay Leno isn’t all that funny. 

One day you’re living life as someone who doesn’t wear a robe, and then—BAM—you wake up, and you’re a turtle in need of a shell, a shell made of cotton or fleece or wool, that’s warm and fuzzy, flowing and the complete opposite of form-fitting.

A bathrobe is practical, although maybe less so than in the days of drafty houses heated with coal stoves and fireplaces. Sure, we might not need layers to fight off hypothermia while reading Ebenezer Scrooge-style, the London Times. 

But let’s say you’re seated too far from your apartment’s radiator on a blustery cold day. Yes, you can don a sweater, but you’ve just risen from bed and aren’t quite ready for the commitment of a sweater. 

What do you do? Well, you reach for your robe.

Person standing in a bathrobe
Photo by Bruno Ribeiro from Pexels

The slippery slope of bathrobe wearing

Or maybe it’s summer, and your thermostat and your air conditioning are disagreeing. The A/C’s determined to cool your house, despite the thermostat telling it to chill out for a bit. 

“The heat of the day is coming,” your thermostat says to your air conditioning unit. “But pace yourself. It’s 7 a.m., and you don’t yet need to blow with all your might.”

“Ah, but if I don’t start now, I’ll lose control of the whole situation,” your A/C explains. “I must keep the house cooler than you suggest because if I don’t, the afternoon heat will exceed what I can handle.”

And so it goes, all morning long, the argument between your thermostat and your air conditioner. Meanwhile, you’re shivering, huddled over a cup of coffee, despite it being July and already 80 degrees outside. 

What can you do in such an impossible situation? Correct. You put on your bathrobe.

It’s precisely that scenario, a warring A/C and thermostat during summer, that started me down the path toward bathrobism (pronounced bath-robe-ism, unless you’re from New York, then you pronounce it bath-ru-bism).

We moved into our house in August. It was the first time I’d lived in a house since leaving the one of my childhood. Back then, I was a young man who only encountered bathrobes on smiling moms and dads inside store catalogs, and now settling into our home, I was approaching middle age. 

Though I was probably older than the people who wore robes in catalogs, I never thought about being a bathrobe person. That is, until morning after morning of trembling under the force of our air conditioner. I wasn’t ready to get dressed for the day, and yet I froze sitting in my p.j.s. 

Going whole-hog into bathrobism

And that’s what led me to buy my first robe, a thin, navy-blue cotton number with a white lining on its edges. The bathrobe was just enough material to keep the artificial chill of my skin without overwhelming me during the summer months.

But then winter came, and I had a new problem. My first bathrobe wasn’t enough protection against the cold drafts wafting in from our brand-new and supposedly highly rated windows. 

Which meant I needed a second robe, one built for winter. I picked said robe, I kid you not, out of a catalog, an L.L. Bean catalog, to be exact. It is fleece and plaid and surprisingly did not come with an accompanying pipe. 

Three years later, I can’t go a minute of a morning without wearing one of my two robes. I’m now a bathrobe person, a total devotee of bathrobism. 

If we subscribed to a physical newspaper, I’d be the guy stepping onto his porch, waving at you trimming your rose bushes while I bend down to retrieve that morning’s news, wearing my season-appropriate robe. 

I might even say, in my best Leave It to Beaver’s voice, “Hi, neighbor!” which is exactly something I spoke to a neighbor just the other day.

And that’s the danger of bathrobism. You start innocently enough, simply wanting to stay warm while enjoying your morning coffee. 

Next thing you know, you’re sharing recipes with people and groaning as you take a seat. The robe shifts from utilitarian to influencing, its comfort lulling you into complacency and acceptance of your middle-agedness. 

It’s terrifying the damage bathrobism does to people. Someone should sound the alarms, raise awareness of this phenomenon. And I will, just as soon as I take off this robe.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Why Being a Touch Naive May Be the Secret Ingredient to Being a Full-Time Freelance Writer

It was near the end of my senior year in high school when I first discovered I might be an idiot.

That’s when my classmates voted me Most Gullible. (Technically, because our class decided to use movie titles for our honorifics, I was voted Most Clueless, taken from a movie I didn’t know existed and wouldn’t see until many years later.)

Being naive wasn’t, until my classmates voted, on the menu of anxieties and fears from which my teenage self ate regularly. But my peers got it right. I am naive.

And some things never change. Were my friends to vote today, there’s a good chance they’d select me as Most Gullible, which is fine with me.

Because after a year-and-a-half of being a full-time freelance writer, I’ve realized one trait you need to make this leap is being a little naive. Here’s why.

Person standing on a street holding a phone, looking confused.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If I had only known…

At the time I decided to become self-employed, I earned an excellent salary. So continuing my career as-is for the next 30 years or so made the most sense. 

Along the way, my husband and I would live a comfortable life with trips and clothes shopping as we desired. Then we would retire and maybe take up hobbies we’d been too busy or stressed to pursue during our careers, such as writing.

But lack of logic is a known side effect of being gullible, a condition my high school classmates diagnosed me with, so I didn’t do the logical thing. Instead, I left my good-paying job to become the most desperate creature, a self-employed freelance writer.

It was Jan. 2020 when I took the plunge. Had I known that a pandemic would shutter the global economy within two months, I may have chosen to stay in my job. 

And, if I’d known my husband and I would eat through an impressive chunk of our savings while I earned almost nothing for a couple of months, I may have stayed in my job. It’s breathtaking how quickly money disappears when you’re not receiving it.

You can say the same for paying self-employment taxes, covering business expenses, and handling clients. Had I realized the reality of full-time freelance writing, including how little time I have to write creatively for myself, I likely would have stayed in my salaried job.

If you’d told me in Jan. 2020 that in July 2021, I still wouldn’t have a newsletter with a massive email list, wouldn’t be getting commissioned to write $2,000 blog posts, and would still be working on the manuscript for my first novel, I may have opted not to become a full-time freelance writer.

And that would’ve been a mistake.

Oblivious into happiness

There are tasks I dread doing — working with my accountant on my taxes, for example.

Yet there isn’t a Monday morning I dread. On the contrary, on most Sunday evenings, I find myself excited about the day to come. I’m eager to get back to my work week routine. 

There isn’t a Monday morning I dread.

Nicholas E. Barron

It feels terrible to say while so many suffer and our planet’s going up in flames, but I’ve never been happier. 

Becoming a full-time freelance writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, perhaps second only to marrying my husband. (Without whom, I couldn’t be a self-employed writer for financial and emotional support reasons.)

Not that it’s easy. Self-employment is never simple, certainly not so during a pandemic. Daily, there are challenges, disappointments, and doubts. 

Am I earning enough money? Is my writing good enough? Do I need more clients? Why does my novel hate me?

But I adore the work, the writing, the grind of stringing together sentences. And I love the freedom I have over my time and the projects on which I work. For the first time in my professional life, it feels as if I’m doing what I was born to do, living the life I should live.

However, all of it wouldn’t be happening if I’d not been naive about full-time self-employment. There’s a marvelously long list of stuff that could’ve kept me from making the jump to creative entrepreneurship.

Yet I was too clueless, the Most Clueless, you could say, to know what I was getting myself into. Thank the heavens for that.

Embrace your negatives

We all have qualities that may not appear as assets, especially to other people. But our weaknesses can sometimes be our strengths.

While I may be naive, I’m not stupid. Had I known the road ahead, I may not have chosen to do a challenging thing during a tough time.

Yet, when things got rough, I adapted. Over the past year, I’ve learned and grown. 

Next time you start beating yourself up over being who you are, consider viewing it in a different light. 

Maybe, when seen from a new angle, what you consider a negative is actually your secret ingredient to happiness, fulfillment, and success.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Entrepreneurs, Can We Finally Start Talking About Our Privilege?

They mean well. All the gurus, the influencers, the people selling courses and eBooks about how you, too, can have a life like theirs, have good intentions.

And they’re helpful. These folks provide guidance and ideas for many aspiring writers and entrepreneurs, including myself.

But there’s something, or in some cases, many somethings, these self-employed sherpas don’t mention. They walk you through what and how they’ve achieved, yet they leave out the invisible hands that helped them.

A woman holding a finger to her lips.
Photo by Sound On from Pexels

The Self-Made Person Is B.S.

“The whole concept of self-made man, or woman, is a myth,” Arnold Schwarzenegger told University of Houston graduates in 2017. “None of us can make it alone. None of us.”

It’s popular in entrepreneurial circles to talk up your accomplishments and highlight your determination and willingness to make sacrifices to grow your business. As a result, tales of eating instant noodles to save money or working 70-hour weeks proliferate. 

Writers also fall into this trap. We talk about the early mornings or late nights spent hammering out a draft. We promote our endurance of waiting through publisher rejection after publisher rejection before finally seeing our work released. 

And so it is with some entrepreneur writers. These self-employed freelancers and influencers are earning good money doing what they love, and they want to help you do it, too.

They publish Medium articles, social media posts, and newsletters about their writing habits, tips, and tricks. In addition, they sell eBooks and courses and give webinars showing you what they did to get where they are.

Many of these folks are helpful. I know because they’ve helped me. And I believe many of them are earnest in wanting to assist others. 

Sure, they charge for some of what they do. But there’s nothing wrong with receiving financial rewards for helping other people, as these influencers do.

But to me, in the stuff these gurus put out, there’s a glaring omission.

We’re Not All the Same

As the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, “None of us can make it alone. None of us.”

And yet, many of the entrepreneurial writers sharing and selling their guidance to others fail to mention the societal factors that helped make their success possible.

For example, in the U.S., white people are more likely to go to college than Black and Latinx students. The net worth of a white family is almost ten times higher than a Black family’s net worth. And 65 percent of Black Americans say they’ve experienced people acting suspicious because of their race or ethnicity.

What does it do to your psyche to know is suspicious of you only because of your skin color? How does a potential employer, a guidance counselor, college admissions officer, law enforcement official, or client treat you if they’re dubious of you?

If you’re a white self-employed writer, can you say you’ve done it all independently?

The advantages some entrepreneurial gurus enjoy aren’t limited to race and ethnicity. Forty-two percent of U.S. women say they’ve faced workplace discrimination. And 23% of women say they’ve been treated differently because of their gender, versus just 6 percent of men. 

Many experts shelling advice and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurial writers enjoy innumerable privileges and benefits. They may work hard and make choices that lead to them climbing the ladder of success. Still, many do so with assists from everything from institutional racism to generational wealth and gender discrimination.

Each person’s background is unique. All of us have a different story.

But I know many self-employed writers enjoy advantages others do not because I am a self-employed writer who couldn’t do what I do without my privileges.

For starters, I’m a white man in the U.S. Plus, my husband’s salary comes with good health insurance, making it easier for me to take the entrepreneurial plunge. So while I don’t come from money, today, I enjoy some benefits of generational wealth that aren’t often available to people of color.

So, what are we entrepreneurial writers who benefit from privilege to do? Should we include a disclaimer in everything we write, every course we give, and eBooks we sell?

It’s Time to Acknowledge Our Advantages

If you visit my Medium profile, you’ll see a pinned story with a short bio about myself. And below that, you’ll see what I call a Privilege Disclosure.

The disclosure is a short, 185-word blurb in which I acknowledge some of the most prominent advantages that make my self-employed existence possible. But, of course, it’s impossible to list every bit of privilege, and I don’t even try.

Yet, I feel it’s important for others to know I did not get where I am alone, and I can’t keep doing what I do without assistance. 

No, I don’t think a disclaimer or a disclosure in every piece of self-improvement, and entrepreneurial content that self-employed writers such as myself produce is necessary. It’s impractical, won’t be an exhaustive list, and can make for poor writing.

But we shouldn’t pretend we’re self-made. We shouldn’t make it hard for others to see what advantages and privileges assisted us on our journey.

Doing so not only perpetuates the self-made person myth that Schwarzenegger talked about in his commencement speech. It also doesn’t help those we claim we’re trying to help. 

These folks need to know we didn’t do this alone. It’s not as simple for everyone as making the jump into entrepreneurship. Many factors can make self-employment difficult, from student loan debt to discrimination to having someone who can help out if you’re a little short on rent that month.

If we want to help aspiring freelance writers and authors, we’ll be honest about how we got where we are today. Not doing so is dishonest, at best, and not helpful, at worst.

A final word

Some people enjoy privileges not available to others. Money, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are just a handful of ways some benefit from advantages that others do not have.

These privileges can make it easier for some of us to become entrepreneurs, and they can boost our chances of success. But, if we’re going to offer advice to others for how they can follow our lead, shouldn’t we acknowledge the assistance we received along the way? 

Not doing so plays into the myth of a self-made entrepreneur. Plus, it potentially harms those we say we’re trying to help by setting unrealistic expectations and making them feel less than for something they can’t control.

Instead, let’s openly acknowledge the privileges we enjoy that make it easier or possible for us to do what we do. Let’s be transparent about the invisible hands that helped us climb our ladder.

This story originally appeared on Medium.