The Corner

Impromptus

Pearls, Blossoms, Idols, and More

Actress Molly Ringwald arrives at a premiere in Los Angeles, March 17, 2012. (Gus Ruelas / Reuters)

In Impromptus today, I begin with Bear Bryant, the football coach, and end with the word “mistress.” Funny column (maybe not ha-ha). Along the way, I have a little section on dress, i.e., clothes. Do they affect your mood? Does it matter to you whether you are dolled up or in sweats? This is strictly individual.

I quote a song, which you probably know: “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out. Strut down the street and have your picture took. Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about . . .”

(As I say in my column, ignore that dangling modifier — it’s a good lyric.)

I wanted to share a little reader mail, or rather a reader tweet:

My Aunt Florence put on makeup, and often wore pearls — to keep house in the 50s and 60s, to stay home in the 70s and 80s, and to go to the day room in her care facility in the 90s, when she had ceased to recognize most people. She remained perpetually cheerful. RIP

Three cheers for her.

Later in today’s column, I quote William F. Buckley Jr., who, back in 1959, wrote about dying industries, and efforts to keep them on artificial life support. “Will the grandsons of the Harlan coal miners be mining coal?” he asked. Yes, and their great-grandsons, too.

This is a very touchy, and painful, topic. Let me quote from my column:

I remember speaking to a man in Weirton, W.V. — a steel town — who said roughly this: “The older workers should be permitted to finish out their careers. They have known nothing but steel. You can tell the youngsters, ‘No way. I don’t care if your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather worked in the mill. This is finished. You must find something else.’ But what about people in sort of mid-career? People who are neither old nor young? What do you do about them?”

That is a vexing question. The only thing I can think of is, retraining and other transitional help. If there are brighter ideas out there, I’m all ears . . .

I’ve heard from a prominent and knowledgeable person, who writes,

A quick thought. Talk to anyone with experience of job training for adults, and he will tell you, in so many words, that it does not work, for reasons that are not fully understood. (“It’s a nightmare,” said a very senior McKinsey consultant to me.) What does seem to work, at least in Europe, where it has been tried, is subsidizing employment for workers in new industries. Learning on a job does sometimes work. The employer gets cheap workers, thanks to the subsidy, and the miner (let’s say) gets a chance both to learn something and to feel she is making a contribution.

And these subsidies need not be perpetual. After six months or a year, it has either worked out or it has not.

In yesterday’s Impromptus, I wrote,

Phyllis George has died. She was Miss America, a TV broadcaster, and other things. As for millions of other boys about my age, she was one of my first loves. Such warmth, such beauty. Phyllis George, forever.

I also had a “spring gallery,” by which I mean a series of photos, showing New York City in spring. A shot of some pink blossoms was captioned, “A tribute to Molly Ringwald — pretty in you-know-what.”

A reader now writes,

Ditto on Phyllis George, and she knew her sports! Also, a Molly Ringwald reference toward the end. A Gen-X bonanza!

Funny. (Last year, I wrote an essay called “Boomers, Millennials, and People: Some talk about the talk about generations.”) My friend Eddie used to tease me by referring to the redheaded beauty and idol as “Molly Ringworm.” Nothing could, or can, faze me, though.

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