I may have spoken harshly about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the past, but that does not mean I am not a friend of the Iranian people. Nor it seems, do they harbor any ill feelings towards me.
Last week, I watched with great admiration, the silent protests in Union Square in San Francisco. Following the protest I found myself searching for a good sushi restaurant.
While rounding the corner of Stockton and Sutter, a young slender man, about 25 years old started up a conversation with me. I don’t make it a habit of talking to strangers on the sidewalk but I felt particularly positive in light of the political demonstration I had just witnessed and engaged him in some innocent chit chat.
To make a long story short, this well-dressed importer/exporter from Tehran asked if I'd like to have a drink with him. I politely told him I had to get back to my hotel room to call my wife and kids. Which, in retrospect, may not have been the most declarative rejection.
Even if I did play for the other team, it never would have worked. Between his swarthy Persian body, my abundantly hairy torso and the current Stage 5 Wildfire Alert in California, any friction would surely have touched off an instant inferno.
In any case, I was flattered. It's good to know I still have it.
And though I would never act on it, I just wish my ursine appearance had the same effect on strangers of the opposite sex.
Every once in a while a copywriter will land the dream project.
For some it's a beer account. For others, it might be the opportunity to write about motorcycles or snowboards. Earlier this week, I flew to San Francisco where I was asked to write TV spots for a leading maker of prune juice.
This was a plum assignment (pun dropped intentionally), particularly for any of you who know me from my early days at Chiat/Day, Team One and BBDO. Where, I think it's fair to say, I developed an excellent reputation as a solid writer who can be quite prolific.
I learned a lot about prune juice this week. It's chockful of nutrients, like potassium and magnesium. And it's rich in fiber and anti-oxidants. Of course, people drink prune juice for one reason and one reason only.
Check in at the hotel took close to an hour. First they put me in a room directly across from the ice machine, the Shackleton 9000, a cantankerous rattler that had not been serviced since the Shah was in office.
My second room was adjacent to an open air vent that ran the length of the building. Despite the fact that I was on the 26th floor I could hear all the festivities of the Rothstein Bar Mitzvah on the lower mezzanine banquet hall.
My third room, quietly tucked in the corner (I was assured) was an upgraded deluxe suite. It shared no adjoining walls. The kind of room favored by quiet-seeking businessmen, like myself, and traveling flamenco dancers, like the man in the room above me.
I have read all the Dale Carnegie books. I try to be as deferential and pleasant as possible. I don’t do that creepy flirty thing that so many middle-aged men attempt.
For whatever reason, I just think that when I walk into a hotel, the receptionist doesn’t see me, or my cherubic face, or my abiding belief to do unto unto others as I would have them do unto me, I'm convinced they see this…
It’s been a few hours since my plane landed and I can still feel the rage coursing through my veins. Even 4 milligrams of Lorazepam have done little to dim my now homicidal impulses.
Of course everyone has a nightmare airplane story and I will not bother to bore you with mine. Nor will I link you to the famous “Continental Flight 29E” story. You will have to hunt that one down yourself, because frankly I cannot top that.
But if I had my druthers, and I rarely do, I would love to get my hands on United Airlines Chief Executive Officer Glenn F. Tilton (compensation $10.3 million).
Having subdued Glenn with a rabbit punch to the carotid artery, I would tie his hairless, well- manicured body to a large 9 foot metal rod. I would then paint him head-to-toe in a hand-crafted marinade of molasses, kosher salt, cracked pepper, cumin and crushed garlic.
While screaming for mercy, I would gently remind Glenn that “his business was important to me, thank him for his patience and ask him to remain tethered to the pole.”
Glenn’s well-seasoned body, corsetted to the 9 foot metal rod, would then be carried by dim-witted Customer Service Operator Raj Mahadajur and his immovable Supervisor, Mariam Patel, and placed over a slow burning flame in a pit situated on the beautiful plains of Tanzania.
I forgot to mention that on the flight to Africa, Glenn would have been forced to sit in the non-reclining, non-seat directly across from, and within arm’s length of, the plane's only functioning crapper.
But I digress.
Raj and Mariam would slowly turn the spit until their phone-abusing hands were sufficiently blistered and Glenn’s body was encased in a beautiful golden brown crust. Not cooked too well mind you, because large game enjoy their meat bloody and red.
Of course, the lions, tigers and hyenas would love the tasty executive morsels. But the meat would be so delicious, so savory, so-fall-off-the-bone-good, that even the herbivorous giraffes and hippos would take part in the feast.
In fact, I can imagine one of the giraffes -- having already crossed the gastronomical threshold of believability -- pausing between bites, lifting his giant speckled head, and whispering to one of his former plant-eating mates, “I know Rich got royally screwed by United Airlines, but damn if this isn’t best BBQ Honey-Crusted, Grossly-Incompetent Corporate Douchebag I have ever tasted.”
I'm in San Francisco for the week working for a small agency of really nice people.
Anyway, I took the BART from the airport to within a block of my hotel. Imagine that, trains that actually take people to places people actually want to go.
In Los Angeles, if you take a train to Dodger Stadium for instance, you'd better be wearing blue, because you'll have to hoof it a mile and half from the nearest station right through the heart of Crip Country.
As I exited the BART station I noticed this sign.
I know it doesn't apply to me because: A. I don't have any hair B. I could hardly be described as a businessman.
But if I wasn't so follicley and financially challenged, I wonder, would I really want my personal hygiene attended to by a store-owner who spends the better part of his life underground?
Also, the only Ramzi I know is the guy who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. I won't be sampling the shwarma at his place either.
I'm a sucker for bumper stickers. Sometimes they're worth a laugh. Sometimes they provoke a thought. Sometimes they just provide an insight into how other people view the world.
But these bumper stickers have yielded so much more.
This devout driver, with the "Get on your knees and pray" license frame and the "My God is an awesome God" bumper sticker is eagerly anticipating the End Days. And now, so am I.
Here's a close up of the sticker on the left...
It reads, "In case of Rapture, car's yours."
I plan on taking him up on that generosity. When Judgment Day comes and everyone else is in line to meet our Maker and receive eternal spirituality, I'm gonna have myself a FREE 2006 Pearl Metallic Ford Taurus SE. That's the sport model with the power steering, tinted windows and in-dash 6 CD player.
When I was about 8 years old, my father pulled me aside told me to never let anyone call me "Dick." He explained that like Rick or Ricky or Richie, Dick was a commonly used nickname for guys named Richard.
He failed to mention why it would be inappropriate to answer anyone calling me Dick. But after few years in the Boy Scouts, I quickly discovered the multiple meanings of the name.
Today I read about the unfortunate passing of Swim Coach Richard Quick. And thought, how insensitive, or cruel, his parents were to saddle him with a name like that.
I'm sure it was heard many times, in many locker rooms, but today as a fellow Richard, I offer a respectful rest in peace, Mr. Quickie Dickie.
Last night, my brother came by the house to watch the Laker game and have a little BBQ with the family. In the middle of the second quarter, a complete, total stranger walked in the back screen door of my house and said to my wife, “I don’t know why I’m here, I only know I’m supposed to be here.”
He was young guy about 28 years old , clean-shaven and, at about 140 lbs, quite non-threatening. Nevertheless, my wife and daughters were quite freaked out at the sight of this strange young man in my kitchen.
I spun around off the couch and tried to get my head around the situation as quickly as possible.
As he tried to explain why he opened my driveway gate and walked into my house, I grabbed the young man by his arm and calmly escorted him out of my house. I sat him on the front lawn and got him a bottle of water and a banana because I thought he might be suffering from some diabetic shock.
He clearly was not in a right state of mind. At one point he turned to me and said, “I know this sounds crazy but my destiny brought me here and you must accept me into your house.”
Sure, I’ll get the linens out and you can have Abby’s room.
And yet, maybe because I’ve watched too many movies, perhaps I was duty bound to take in this young man. He could fix the fence in the backyard, do some weeding and help me re-insulate the attic. He could be my Man Friday.
My wife called 911 and within 2 minutes three Culver City cop cars had come Starsky & Hutch style in front of my house. In seconds, they had the young man on his back and in cuffs. They determined he was in some state of Meth psychosis and would be placed in a hospital for 72 hours.
But here is the oddest part the story. The man had nothing in his pockets. Not a wallet. Not a phone. Not even a dime. The only thing the cops found on the man was a button from the Athiests Union. (I’m kicking myself in the ass for not taking the button or at least taking a picture of it.)
Asked why they chose this specific temple, frequented by many old Jews (some of whom might be relatives since I was born on Jerome Ave.), the leader responded, "It would be an easy target. A piece of cake."
Or in this case, a piece of rugallah.
Apparently these fanatical young men were angry and blamed Jews for killing Muslims. They never explained where or when. Or provided any specifics.
Yet, since their arrest there have been a string of suicide bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan and just this week, a hotel bombing in Pakistan. All perpetrated by Muslims, against Muslims.
Seems to me that if these four justice-seeking men were truly interested in avenging the crimes against their Muslim brothers, they would be less interested in killing Jews, and more interested in killing Muslims.
Reverend Wright, I must say I am awfully confused.
Is President Obama, the man you spiritually nurtured for 20 years, a strong, black man who sticks by his convictions, makes his own decisions and courageously stares down adversity with a cool, calm demeanor?
Or is he a weak puppet of “Them Jews”, susceptible to their Vulcan mind meld and unable to exercise any action of his own free will, thus rendering him unworthy of our respect, or for that matter, the presidential office?
You can’t have it both ways, Reverend.
That’s just simple logic.
Or maybe you weren’t in school that day. The same day they were teaching tolerance and remedial English.
I make no secret of my Atheism. Yes, I go to synagogue on the holidays. Yes, I am raising two daughters who will both be Bat Mitzvah-ed. And yes, I’d like to believe we are part of something larger than ourselves.
But when it comes to the Big Sky-Lord, as Bill Maher refers to him, I’m just not with the program.
How can you say that, Rich? Particularly in light of all the beauty and wonder that surrounds you: the sunsets, the waterfalls, the oceans, the smooth-sipping goodness of Noah's Mill Bourbon.
They are all undeniably inspiring, but they do not constitute proof of a G-d. And certainly not the angry, vengeful Almighty spoken of in the Bible, the one who smiteth thine enemies with the breath of one nostril.
With all those stories of reverence for the law and tales of retribution and repentance, the Supreme One acts less like a diety and more like a District Attorney. Show me some of that larger-than-life Elliot Ness-ness.
And then, just as the cement in my head is about to harden, G-d reveals himself to me on the front page of the Los Angeles Times….
Earlier this week, I pointed out the new tsunami evacuation signs that have sprung up in Playa Del Rey. Out of curiosity I went online to see how other nations warn their residents of higher-than-normal high tide.
I don't give the designer high marks for this one. It would appear the couple is a little late to heed the warning as they are already under water.
This one comes at it from 180 degrees. Here the residents appear to frolicking above the water. "Dude, check it out I'm in the barrel."
There's a tsunami coming. "Oooh, look a beachhouse. Maybe we can sit on the deck and drink mojitos."
Tidal wave, tidal wave. Run really fast. Fast enough so that your hat falls off.
And finally the Peter Arnell-designed warning sign. What it lacks in clarity it more than makes up for in cool cache. It only cost the city planners of Singapore $18 million for this logo.
“Honey, I really like that cute little cottage in Holmby Hills with the white picket fence, the koi pond and the beautiful orchids, but for some reason I’m really drawn to that shabby bungalow in Playa Del Rey. You know, the one adorned by the giant cock.”
Spotted on Culver Blvd. in the Playa Wetlands area. In case, you can’t read it, it says, “Tsunami Evacuation Route” with an arrow pointing towards the high cliffs of Playa Del Rey.
I can’t help but wonder about the necessity of such a sign.
Let’s say there was a huge Pacific Rim earthquake or North Korean President Kim Jung Il set off an offshore nuke that triggered a tsunami, wouldn’t most people with half a brain just naturally head for higher ground?
And what about those that don’t?
“Dude, there’s a 200 foot high tidal wave barreling towards us. Let’s get down to Tanner’s, score a few lattes, fire off some fakie's and grab some goofy foot.”
(Clearly, I don't speak "surf.")
But come on, do we have to save everybody? I don't want my precious tax dollars being spent to impede the forces of Darwinism. Can’t we leverage a good catastrophic event to thin the herd?
When I hear people talk about the Zodiac and astrology I want to slap them in the face with Orion’s Belt. Not only does it defy all logic, it is the height of narcissism (even more so than blogging.)
Sure, the position of stars, billions and billions of miles away, is going to determine whether you get a good parking spot near the J.C. Penney’s at the South Coast Plaza.
As if this crappola needed any further debunking, let’s look at my horoscope for today. I am, and I say this laughingly, a Pisces.
Yes, there are positive goals that perennially run through my mind during downtime, but last time I looked in the mirror, I do not have the luxury of getting a new hairdo. In fact, my scalp hasn’t seen a new hair since 2003.
But I thoroughly enjoyed the outlook for Capricorn.
I’ll bet today was a good day to adroitly communicate ideas. I’ll also bet that little nugget sent thousands of loyal, horoscope-reading Capricorns scurrying to the dictionary to look up the definition of adroitly.
Funny thing about life is that you never know where it’s coming from.
I spotted this sign on Culver Blvd on my way home from my freelance gig at DIRECTV.
I was stopped at a red light just wondering where my next gig was going to come from. Or that maybe it was time to settle down into something steadier. Something more stabile.
After all, I have a wife, two kids, a mortgage and an expensive thing for the ponies at Santa Anita.
I called the number and spoke with Pete, a mover and shaker in the real estate biz. I’ve always believed in the power of real estate.
That’s why I was so intrigued by Pete’s offer. I figured if he is paying $10,000 to 20,000 a month just for an apprentice he has must be making 10 times that amount. That's the kind of successful guy I want to be in business with.
So I asked Pete, the wealthy real estate tycoon, why he would put up a sloppy, hand painted sign by the side of the freeway to recruit future apprentices.
Pete replied, "Sure I could have run down to Kinkos and printed up some spiffy signs with fancy fonts and mounted it on nicely trimmed foam-core, but I'm about making money not spending money. How about you, Rich?”
You bet I am, Pete.
I sent him a check for $1000 and my training starts next week.