Romeo Cruz ProfileSilver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce Director Romeo Cruz will provide a weekly column to the Beat, featuring items and announcements of interest to the community.

A Passion for Baking Opened a Door for New Opportunities

Wally Amos was fresh out of secretary school when he landed a job at the William Morris talent agency. He started out in the mail room, but hard work and determination helped him climb the ladder. Eventually, Wally Amos became the first African American talent agent at William Morris. If that's all Amos accomplished, he'd still be an inspiration to anyone with a desire to succeed, but the real story is what he did next.

Wally Amos had developed a love for baking, passed on to him by his Aunt Della. Using her recipe as a starting point, Amos created his own recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and he used that recipe to set himself apart from other talent agents. He would make some cookies and send them to prospective clients along with an invitation to meet him. Eventually, he headed up William Morris's Rock and Roll department. He signed Simon and Garfunkel and represented luminaries such as Sam Cooke, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.

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The Creative Destruction of an Industry

Back in the 90s, a kid couldn't throw a rock without hitting a Blockbuster Video store. They were everywhere, ushering in a new era of choice for American consumers when it came to entertainment. The stores were packed with people, eager to rent the newest releases or find an old favorite. Today, the video store shares space in the dustbin of history with the telegraph and steam-powered cars. (Yes, the Stanley Steamer was an automobile with a steam engine.)

It might sound a little tragic to hear about the demise of an entire industry, but there's nothing sad about it. It's the way things are supposed to work. Ever since the United States has become a service-oriented economy, new ideas have moved the country along. Every day, new jobs are created while old jobs are become obsolete. This creative destruction is due to entrepreneurs actively searching and creating new technologies that fuel this continuous cycle.

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The Influencers

During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the nation was divided by the accusations leveled against him. Accusations of sexual assault, drunken debauchery, and toxic masculinity filled the airwaves. His defenders railed against the rush to judgment without facts, insisting that, absent any substantial evidence, the accusations against Kavanaugh were meaningless. Sitting defiantly in the center of this contentious debate, watching the proceedings and making her voice heard, was a woman of unparalleled insight and wisdom. No, it wasn't Condoleeza Rice, who holds a PhD in political science and was the first African American Secretary of State. It wasn't Tulsi Gabbard, who volunteered to deploy to Iraq with the Army and also served in Congress. No. The woman who took center stage in this pivotal moment in American History was none other than Alyssa Milano.

You heard that right. Alyssa Milano, who rose to prominence by portraying Tony Danza's sitcom daughter, and later distinguished herself in such films as "Poison Ivy II" and "Embrace of the Vampire" suddenly became the face of aggrieved women everywhere.

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John Madden

When I was a kid back in the 70s, there was one football team that every other team in the NFL hated, and that team was the Oakland Raiders. It wasn't so much a team as a reform school, where all the dirtiest rulebreakers in the NFL ended up. By themselves, they were considered damaged goods, but together, players like Kenny Stabler, Jack Tatum, Dave Casper, Ted Hendricks, and Jim Otto terrorized opposing teams. The man in charge of this "orchestrated mayhem" was coach John Madden. In his ten-year career, Madden posted a record of 103-32-7. His team made the playoffs seven out of ten years and won one Super Bowl. Later, he forged a second, equally successful career as a football analyst, bringing his own unique brand of joy and love of the game into the booth.

I was a die-hard Raiders fan. Posters of "The Snake, Phil Villapiano and many other Raider greats adorned the walls of my room. My favorite things to watch on television were NFL Films showing the legendary exploits of the Silver and Black. In my youth, their swagger, their disdain for authority, their hard-nosed approach to football and life appealed to me. I looked up to them, and to their coach, for only a man of tremendous will could have corralled such a group of misfits and miscreants into a championship football team.

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To Succeed or Not to Succeed

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for reflection. It's very easy to project our own fears, regrets, and desires against the blank silver screen of the new year. We use the end of the year to leave behind the things that hold us back, and take bold steps to improve ourselves as we welcome in the new year. Taken together, this desire for change has led to the tradition of making new year's Resolutions.

It works like this: I look in the mirror on December 31st, and I decide that I need to drop a few pounds and become physically fit. When the ball drops at midnight, I declare that I will lose weight in the new year. It's a sincere declaration – my mind spins with possibilities, with images of morning runs and steamed chicken and beverages that look like they were skimmed from the surface of a pond, all to the joyful sounds of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." When I my head hits the pillow, my resolve is like reinforced concrete, and as I drift off to sleep, I can actually feel my body transform into a Spartan Warrior. My resolve is so strong that I imagine sinews where before there was only many years of accumulated Doritos and Tater Tots.

The next morning, I awaken to discover that the much-anticipated sinews are nowhere to be found, and that in order to transcend my current limitations and become a modern-day Leonidas, I will have to get out of bed and exercise until I am tired. Well, I think, I am already tired, so I am ahead of the game. Tomorrow, when I have recovered from my New Year's revelries, I will attack this goal with fiendish intensity.

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Turning 50

I turned 50 years old on the last day of the year. When I was a kid, 50 was a foreign, alien thing. In my kid mind, there were two groups of people: kids, and old people. Those who were in school with me were kids, and those who weren't in school with me were old people. It never occurred to my little, inexperienced child mind that I would one day be looking through the other side of the mirror, again dividing people into two groups: those who at some point regularly used rotary telephones and can sing the first verse from the "Facts of Life" theme song, and Young People.

Eventually, the kid mind matures, and begins to realize that those Old People, the slow, paunchy, gray-haired, somewhat bemused people shuffling through the supermarket looking for something with extra fiber used to be Young People, and that inevitably, the kid understands that he's looking at the future. And that realization can be downright scary. You go from playing tag and complaining about homework to playing phone-tag and complaining about work. Your bedtime, which used to be ten o'clock sharp, is now nine o'clock, unless you get an early start in the recliner.

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True Hard Work

In 1848, John Marshall reached into the tailrace of the lumber mill he was building and changed history. He realized that the shiny metal he'd pulled from the water was gold, and with that, the Gold Rush was on.

Between 1849 and 1853, 300,000 people streamed eastward across the Plains and over the oceans, searching for a small piece of the California dream. Most didn't find it, at least not in the gold fields. Mining gold was dangerous, labor intensive, and usually unsuccessful. One who did find his fortune was a German immigrant named Levi Strauss. But Strauss never set foot in a gold mine or picked up a shovel.

Strauss arrived in California in 1853. His brother ran a dry goods business in New York, and Strauss quickly saw the real opportunity afforded by the lure of gold. It wasn't in mining, but in supplying miners with dry goods and clothing. By 1872, Strauss had a thriving business, selling fabric, clothing and other items to stores all over California. One customer, a man by the name of Jacob Davis, had come up with a revolutionary new way of making durable work clothes. He devised a technique that used metal rivets in the pockets and fly seams, and these rivets greatly reduced wear and tear in these areas. Confident that the idea was a good one, but unable to come up with the money to file a patent, Davis turned to Levi Strauss.

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Christmas Truce for Everyone

Today, the news is filled with talk of division. For every person, it seems, there is an enemy, someone for whom the very existence of an opposing viewpoint is cause for anger. Some call words "violence," and others call violent rioting "peaceful protesting." We think this level of division is unprecedented, and that nothing can bring us together.

But there is so much that we have forgotten. History shows us that division isn't new, and it isn't insurmountable. Athens and Sparta fought for thirty years after coming together to vanquish the mighty Persians. France and Britain fought a war that lasted a hundred years, and even in our own country, the bloodiest war we ever fought happened on our own soil. Division is nothing new.

In the winter of 1914, British and German troops faced each other across trenches gouged into the earth. Between them lay a No Man's Land, hundreds of yards of scorched, pockmarked earth riddled with craters and inhabited only by the dead and the rats who fed on them. The war had been raging for five months. Both sides were tired, cold and, short on food and ammunition.

On Christmas Day, a miracle happened.

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