When and If…


By Joe Sweeney


We love history, and Michelle and I greatly enjoy exploring regions during those rare opportunities for leisurely travel. Operating a small hands-on business with always-ambitious plans and live-or-die deadlines makes it difficult to get away.

Ingram’s readers can certainly relate to bringing work along on a trip and dedicating downtime to projects. One publisher’s conference took us to Puerto Rico over a Super Bowl weekend.

A couple months earlier, we attended one of a kazillion benefit auctions, and with the ensuing Caribbean adventure charted, we bid on the St. Croix trip. Alcohol plays a funny role in driving bids and there was no shortage of supply for this one. Not long after “your bid number please?” we met the owners of the beautiful home in St. Croix, Graham Hunt and his wonderful late wife Judy.

We’ve bid on trips several times and always forge friendships with the donors. The Hunts met us for lunch and to give us a lay of the land. We then learned their home was on the fairway and golf course of the site of the Fountain Valley massacre of eight tourists and course employees in September 1972. Ouch!

We scheduled the trip the week preceding our conference but were unable to complete a deadline before the flight. Publishing is not an easy industry for absentee publishers, especially 20 years ago and before efficiencies of the Internet. I found myself shopping for and bought the only fax machine on the island. “I’ll bring it back,” I told the merchant. Bewildered as he was, we used it for a few days and returned it packaged to the retailer as a gift. For all we know, he may have sold that fax machine a dozen times.

Rural cell-phone coverage is challenging regardless and given that we were in the farthest eastern point of America, we couldn’t obtain service. High above a beach rose the towering spire only professional climbers or explorers could conquer. “Sprint is my carrier,” I said, and the wise man simply pointed up. Backpack with spreadsheets, layout and phone in tow, I ventured upward—nothing was going to stop this quest at deadline. I believe this was the only point on the island for reception. Naturally, I didn’t want to disclose where I was during conversations to sell a few ads, including the call with Gary Gradinger. “Where are you? Sounds like the ocean.” Damn! Any chance for a sympathy sale was shot while parked on a mountain overlooking one of the most beautiful vistas on earth. Belly laughing followed—fortunately, as did the sale.

One of our favorite fund-raising events is Wine Flight, the benefit for Angel Flight Central. I’m not a pilot, but have enjoyed serving on missions. This event is one of the best. Michelle and I had the pleasure of serving as chairs one year. “It’s a bit of an off year,” said then-board chair Jack Kennedy, “and expectations for healthy fund-raising are not high.” Wrong thing to tell a competitor, though in hindsight, I think Jack was baiting us. At one of the Wine Flights, I didn’t realize we were bidding for the Carmel package against the very host who invited us to the event. “Sold!” I turned in embarrassment: Wanna go? Dr. Bill and Linda Hartong own this terrific cottage down the street from Doris Day’s hotel that allows dogs in one of the most charming hamlets in Carmel.

We became fast friends with the Hartongs and while on the trip, went to the garage sale over Thanksgiving at Pebble Beach. This is not your average garage sale; it includes treasures for the avid golfer and sports enthusiast alike. We noticed several framed posters at their cottage from the Concours d’Elegance car show at Pebble, and the sale featured posters dating back to the first event in 1950.

Bill restores vintage Porsches, and I inventoried the years they had and found most of the collector posters they didn’t have. Most great docs are kids at heart, too.

Let’s Not Work Until D-Day

A couple of years ago while in Key West touring a marina on the island of Cow Key (Michelle collects burgees) we happened across a magnificent schooner. Her name on the transom and port side, When and If.

Permission to board, Cap? “Shaar, she sails noon high! The name’s Doug Hazlitt.” The new owner was a vintner from the Finger Lakes and an avid sailor. The ship looked familiar, as did her name. Yup, she was commissioned for Gen. George Patton.

In 1938, Patton hired a prominent yacht designer to build a stunning vessel. The name When and If resulted from his desire to sail around the world when and if he returned safely from WWII. Patton survived the war and is best known for leading the Army’s 3rd Infantry across France. Of the dangers he encountered, Patton died in a car wreck before returning home. Fortunately, he had the opportunity to sail his ship, but not beyond coastal waters.

We gravitate to water and I’ve had opportunities to pilot a variety of vessels. Nothing thus far compares to the experience of sailing in high seas and full sails off the chain of the islands of the Keys.

I suppose retirement is a time for travel, though it breaks my heart to see friends pass unexpectedly or have serious illnesses and not be able to explore later in life. As I reflect on my journey, it’s about time with my soulmate and family, and casting a wide net of great friends. We’re starting to play out what retirement might look like, and God willing, we’ll publish an all-star lineup of pinnacle publications and content for Ingram’s 50th anniversary in 2024, perhaps beyond.

For now, we’ll do our best to build in the breaks while maintaining our mission to serve. Though we look for-ward to a day without rigid deadlines and When and If, we’re fortunate enough to enjoy the next exciting chapter.

About the author

joesweeneysig

Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher

JSweeney@Ingrams.com

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