I have this bad habit where whenever I go on vacation, I focus too much on the length of the trip. Sometimes, in fact, I start lamenting the end of the vacation almost before it has even begun. I am not even unpacked in the hotel and I am already thinking, “In a week from now, my vacation will almost be over.” On that first day of arrival, I have a certain smugness, thinking about having an entire week of activities ahead of me. With each passing evening, though, I count down the days, using fractions to depress myself. Vacation is a quarter over. Now it is half-over. Then almost 75%. And on that last evening, when I am straightening up and packing, I cannot help but wonder where all the time has gone.
Of course, a week really is not all that long in the scheme of life. It usually flies on by when you are working, so why should the time-space continuum behave any differently when you are away? Believe it or not, I remember having similar thoughts to myself when I took over the role of NNJR’s treasurer position. It was January of 2010 and I saw the long path stretched out in front of me: Two years as treasurer, the next two years as track chair and then if all went well, the final two years in the role of president. And now that time is fading into the Friday night of my presidency with the club, I wonder again – where did all of the time go?
It actually goes back a little farther than that in terms of these monthly articles that I have had the privilege of writing in Porscheforus. Not all of the roles on the Board of Governors have the responsibility of a monthly column – but I managed to hit three of the possible five journalist positions. My first twenty-four articles as autocross chair were written under the title of “The Backside of the Cone.” I had taken that title from the popular autocross advice to always make sure you turn on the back side of the cone when driving through a slalom. The cadence of the phrase always reminded me of “The Dark Side of the Moon.” (“There is no back side of the cone really…”) The next twenty-four installments, this time as DE chair, were written under the heading of “Tracking Out.” Once again, it was popular driving advice, turned catch phrase (and no Pink Floyd reference this time). The last couple of years, however, under “Auf der Strasse,” (“On the Road”) have been particularly fun for me. With the autocross and driver education columns, I somehow always felt responsible to maintain at least some semblance (no matter how small) of the subject driving activity in the article. With the president’s column, though, there were no real rules. I mean, I could have written about what events are coming up, but we also have something called a calendar for that. I thought it might be more interesting to broaden the conversation and talk about other cars, and even other interests and hobbies. In the process, I found out quickly that there are lot of like-minded people in the club who like cooking over charcoal, listening to vinyl records, tubed electronics, playing golf and telling stories about family. And through all of our divergent interests that differentiate us, there is somehow an undercurrent of unity binding us together.
Our Board of Governors is a microcosm of this sense of unity, and I am especially proud of the work that we have done over these last couple of years. This is a small, but exceptional group of the membership that spends an enormous amount of their time and energy to make all of the activities of the club happen. When I first assumed the role of president, I made it part of my mantra to remind the folks on the board that NNJR is not a company and that what we do is not work, at least in the traditional sense. My message was not intended to encourage slacking, but meant to reinforce the notion that our sole purpose is to keep the club vibrant and active for the pleasure of our members, and to make sure that we will be around for many years to come. We are not here to drive sales, or cut margins, or do anything else that might be expected in our shareholder-driven day jobs. The moment we forget that premise and put business ahead of membership is the time that NNJR loses its way. Our board members consistently go above and beyond, however, and put forth the kind of effort that you might think was tied to a huge paycheck or bonus structure of some sort. The bonus as it turns out, comes from the unbelievable love from our members in support of the club and all of its volunteers.
As you have undoubtedly have heard by the time you will have read this, we lost one of club’s leadership in October after a short but serious illness. Bob Michaelson was kind of like a rock star within NNJR. He served as our track chair and then as our president. Several years later, Bob served once again as our track chair and then a second time as our president. He was also, of course, not only a seasoned instructor, but one of our chief instructors. And right up until about a week from his passing, Bob was still happily manning the computer and answering emails as our track program’s registrar – a full-time job if there ever was one. Personally, I knew Bob to be one of the chiefs that supported me the most when I assumed the job as track chair back in 2012, making sure that I had everything that I needed to run the events. He was brilliant, he was direct, he was good-hearted and he was genuine.
One of the things that struck me, though, as I sat listening to people speak about Bob during his wake and his funeral, is just how little I really knew about him in his life outside of NNJR. I always thought that Bob was one of the proverbial “smartest people in the room,” but I never realized that this man has eighty-something high-tech petro-engineering patents to his name. And that he had worked while in school for a Nobel Prize recipient, and was credited by that laureate for inspiring him to forge ahead. Or that he held a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from MIT. Heck, he even built a star observatory with a couple of his friends for kicks. For all of those enormous intellectual and professional accomplishments, though, Bob was loved and respected in our halls (and tracks) as being just one of us. Car #8. Had Bob not accomplished any of those other things in life, I doubt it would have changed a single thought about him within our group. He was our family.
I think this is a big part of why so many of the people in this club enjoy being a part of our membership – whether that role be as a participant, a board member or as a multi-term past president. No one in the paddock seems to really care about whether you have moved a mountain or moved furniture. Whatever it is that got you here, they are just glad that you made it to the party. There are not many places in this world that you can say that about. I can tell you that my own journey within NNJR was influenced by this sense of unity after my wife, Sandra, passed away in late 2009. As a suddenly-single father with a (then) three-year-old daughter, I experienced equal parts loss, fear and uncertainty. What gave me strength was the overwhelming support from my friends from NNJR and even from friends in other PCA regions and other car clubs. The people that enjoy this hobby are some of the finest people in the world and what everyone did for me and for Julia back then was more meaningful that I will ever be able to convey in words.
One of the best parts of our PCA region is the fact that our leadership is fluid. Although not officially limited within our by-laws, our presidents have traditionally served two years before turning over the reigns to a new leader. Believe it or not, not all PCA regions work this way. When I attend the bi-annual Zone One President Meetings, many of those folks have been attending that meeting for many years, if not many decades. I will not speak to what is lost by not having fresh leadership, but it is easy to appreciate what is gained: energy, optimism, innovation and creativity – all byproducts of leadership taking a healthy approach to succession.
I am especially happy to have such a great guy taking over as our club’s president in 2016. I had supported Tom Iervolino to join the Board of Governors and run the autocross program when I left that post in 2009. Tom served in that role for several years and then moved on to treasurer, governor, VP and track chair, and now the NNJR President. Tom always amazes me with his ability to give 150% to whatever he is doing, both in terms of effort and in creativity, while still being able to enjoy himself and be a true class act. Tom’s enthusiasm is infectious and it showed in his work with the DE program. As a couple with his wife, Lisa, they are two of the nicest people that you will ever meet and I am very proud to have them as friends. NNJR is in really good hands. My sincerest congratulations go out to Tom.
I also want to congratulate our other elected officers for 2016. Most of you know Tom Swift as one of our club’s chief instructors and Tom will be taking over the role of DE chair for 2016. Cindy Cristello will be returning and continuing in her role as our club’s secretary. Janice Ernsting will be taking over the treasurer position, a job once held by her husband, Ken Ernsting. Our governors, responsible for representing the membership at the BoG level, are Grant Lenahan, Murray Kane and Anthony Wartel. Finally, as the immediate past president of the club, I also have a spot on the executive committee. This is a really talented and passionate group of officers, and I know they will work with Tom to bring NNJR to ever greater places in the next two years.
I usually remind myself at some point during a vacation that time really does need to be a constant. I mean, in those moments where you are having a good time and would want the day to last forever, you may wish to have the ability to slow things down a bit. But what about all of the other times? Like when you are in eighth grade math class at 2 in the afternoon? Or sitting in traffic? Or getting a root canal? Or on a bad date? Nope, time is indeed flowing like a river and all things must pass. I have to admit, I am looking forward to having more time to spend with my family. I may even be able to find time to wash my Porsche once in a while. (It was dark red last time I checked.)
Well, time is almost up. I feel truly privileged and honored to have had this opportunity to serve as your president for these past two years. Thank you, everyone – it has been a great ride. This may have been my last Porscheforus column, but I cannot wait to see what is written in the next chapter.
Wishing you all the best in life’s journeys. Drew