Scene In Passing: Where’s the intersection of Luck & Nada?

A wise man once told me there’s no such thing as luck.

At age six or seven, I was being instructed by my father — aforementioned wise man — and it sounded like nonsense. But he was my father, so I listened respectfully while he kept denigrating the notion of luck. Finally I broke in.

“You win at poker,” I recall saying, or at least something akin to it. “Isn’t luck involved in that?”

He said it wasn’t, telling me about the odds, the mathematics, the bluffing, reading ‘tells’ and masking your own, other skills, money management. He said those determine winners. Next he packed real wisdom into a few words.

“You make your own luck, if that’s what you want to call it,” he said. “Luck is the confluence of opportunity and preparedness. Opportunity, or its opposite, is what the universe offers in what just seems to appear at random, and many call that chance or luck. I call it risk. Preparedness is the only thing you control. There’s always risk, but being ready means you boost your own odds when you have the right hand and hole card.”

Let’s just say he knew when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em. I didn’t forget his words. There’s a reason. We were in his Peoria, Ill., newspaper office and I was playing with his dictaphone, which captured his wisdom. Days later he had it transcribed, gave it to me and I kept it for years. His words are my pole star. Now flash forward more than 65 years.

A Carson City man I admire asked a pertinent question the other night at a meeting on the 90 percent design regarding the downtown’s Carson Street project and the West 3rd Street plaza-to-be. Gil Yanuck, retired industrialist and all-around good guy, wanted to know what’s in it for the taxpaying public. Call it his version of Walter Mondale’s fun but failed presidential campaign slogan against Ronald Reagan: Where’s the beef?

“Where’s the payback? I see (just) half the equation,” said Yanuck. He prefaced his remarks by saying there wasn’t much to do downtown, an opinion some agree with and others don’t. Whatever. Yanuck is neither wrong nor right. He’s posing the old chicken-and-egg timing question, or raising the “Field of Dreams” conundrum. Was that baseball fantasia a silly movie or a metaphor for life: If you build it, will they come?

No one knows the future for certain. But if you don’t build it, you can bet your poker stash they won’t come. Nothing is around the corner if you miss the intersection of preparedness and opportunity.

Things are already happening downtown. Buildings at 318 and 402 N. Carson St. are examples. The former is filling up; the latter is jettisoning casino status to prepare for business and apartment tenants.

The Adams Hub and Lake Tahoe Brewing Co., across and kitty corner from City Hall, are refurbished; a block away the old Citibank building is being converted into space for restaurant/retailing/offices and downtown apartments.

Let’s also recall Steve Neighbors’ Hop & Mae Adams Foundation property, just east of the Carson Nugget Casino, on which Capitol Mall North is planned. It will require time, but I’m told it won’t take forever.

Yanuck raised a good question, but wasn’t snarky. He’s not the first, though some others have used it to keep carping on their critique despite it being a done deal just short of turning dirt. Certainly more is needed downtown. But the freeway means doing nothing was never an option. This idea has been in the Master Plan and vetted for a long time, not just since some decided it wasn’t chicken soup for their souls. To heck with the chicken and egg.

Let’s hear the rooster crow on this one. It’s always a new dawn somewhere, my wise guy dad also told me many times. Next year it’s time for the sun to rise again on downtown Carson City.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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