Thursday, September 29, 2011
I just took a little inventory and it appears I haven't written about Israel in well over a month. But I did pass this sign the other day on my way to work and it got me thinking.
Mostly about the stupid clods at the New Roads School who want to equate legitimate self defense with the barbaric practice of firing unguided missiles across a sovereign border with the intention of killing innocent civilians.
I'm sure the Prius-driving administrators at New Roads would argue that the two parties are involved in a senseless cycle of violence. And I'd agree it is senseless and it is violent. But it is not a cycle. The mayhem is instigated by the Palestinians. And any spilled blood is on the hands of Hamas, not the IDF.
How can I be so sure of this?
William Shakespeare once said, "the past is prologue."
So let's look there.
In 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan. The two countries have been at peace since then. There have been no Jordanian attacks on Israel. And likewise there have been no reprisals. Why? Because it is not in Israel's self-interest to disturb that peace. Or act outwardly aggressive. And because Israel respects a peace treaty.
Likewise with Egypt.
That treaty was signed in 1979 and Israel has not acted aggressively since. In fact, the Israelis acted with great restraint when their embassy (which is technically Israeli land) was attacked by peace-loving Egyptians. If violence were to increase on the southern border I would hope Israel would capture the Sinai for the third time. And never give it back.
So we know what the teachers at New Roads apparently do not. We know the Israelis are capable and willing to act peacefully and neighborly. In the 63 years since the UN declared Israel a legitimate state, the Palestinians have not.
I'd like to see the word count on this sign reduced by 25%.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
This photo will have to do.
I just spent the last hour combing through hundreds of old pictures looking for the 5X7 of myself and Miss Sandee Westgate on the set of a Taco Bell commercial we shot in 2002. If I remember correctly, I had more hair and Sandee had less Sandee.
The commercial was about Taco Bell's 59 cent tacos. Odd how nearly ten years later you can still get a taco at Taco Bell for 59 cents. The spot involved a slacker guy and his fantasy of sitting in the back of a limo and being hand fed tacos by two, how shall I phrase this...bimbos. (Sandee, if you happen to Google your name and come across this blog I apologize in advance. If it's any consolation, you were the nicer of the two...uh, women.)
The commercial was written by one of our junior writers but the casting session required the seasoned leadership of myself and my partner. It was a grueling 10-hour day, but it was the kind of day that made you happy you worked in advertising and not as a foreman at a flange manufacturing plant.
Of course once Sandee and her cohort were selected things got real interesting.
The client, located in Irvine which is now Tea Party country, wanted to make sure the two women were clean and had no record of immoral behavior. They even went so far as to suggest that we hire a private investigator to check out their backgrounds. And after extensive investigation, both women turned up clean. One might say, surprisingly clean.
That was then, this is now.
If you were to find a dark secluded room in your office, turn on the private browsing and explore her website you'd see that Sandee's acting/modeling career has taken some very interesting twists and turns. In fact, if you spring for the 8.99 monthly membership you can enjoy watching her Taco Bell get rung. (rimshot please.)
Oh, don't forget to clear your browser history.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I'm not sure what this picture has to do with the today's topic but I stumbled across it when I Googled images for "Creative Director" so I am sure I'll find some kind of stretched metaphor at the end to tie it all together.
But today I'd like to talk about Creative Directors or at least the twentysomething year old kids who so liberally flaunt that title.
Have you seen an ad agency org. chart these days? In addition to Creative Directors, there are Group Creative Directors, Executive Creative Directors, and Chief Creative Officers. And then there's the digital folks who have their own twisted nomenclature.
The bureaucracy is so thick, Madison Avenue has become K Street (the search engine is in the upper right hand corner of your browser.)
In my day (and yes I'm very aware of how dated that makes me sound, but I don't give a rat's ass because the casual sprinkling of obscenities makes me appear fucking younger) titles meant something because they were earned.
It took me 15 years to work my way up from Mailroom Clerk to Media Estimator to Junior Copywriter to Recruitment Copywriter to Copywriter to Senior Copywriter to Associate Creative Director to Creative Director. Yes, I worked hard. But I also got incredibly lucky. My most visible, well-known campaign almost died at 2 AM the night before the presentation. And even after 15 years, I still had no clue how to manage a creative department. In fact, I sucked.
Now I see kids graduating from VCU or Miami on a Monday, get a job on Tuesday, produce a crappy banner ad on Thursday and demand a promotion on Friday. That may be a bit hyperbolic but it's not that far off the mark. If you were to pump me full of Noah's Mill bourbon I might even name names. Or at least slur them.
But it's a Saturday morning and my better angels have the last word on this matter. Of course you could do your own litmus test. Next time you're at a party or some awards show and you run into some millennial who fancies himself or herself a Creative Director, ask them what famous work they've done. When you hear the crickets, that's your cue to excuse yourself for another Gin Rickey.
Now I've boxed myself into a corner with no smooth transition to a snappy ending that explains the Hitler/Chaplin visual.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I was at Cedar Sinai hospital the other day visiting my uncle after his hip replacement surgery. Before boarding the elevator I noticed this little gem.
For those who don't know, this stems from a rather arcane adherence to the ancient Sabbath laws which prohibit all manner of work including, apparently, the pushing of an elevator button.
I'm not religious in any sense of the word but I appreciate the sentiment behind mandatory rest. We all work too hard and get caught up in our responsibilities. And it is a good idea to take a day to slow down and retreat from our labor. But in whose crazy book is it written that the pushing of a button amounts to work?
The truth is while you're reading this on Monday, I'm writing this on Saturday. Of course, I don't view this type of writing as work, so I'm not in any violation. But if I were to mention that right now you can lease a Lexus RX 350 with All Wheel Drive and available Blind Spot Detection Display for $429 a month, well that would be work.
Do you see how thin the line is?
How difficult it must have been 5000 years ago for those old Talmudic rabbis to decide the proper code of conduct on the Sabbath.
As Rabbi Eliazar saith: ...and so it is agreed that the 5th rib of the sacrificial goat shall be eaten only on Wednesday and only during a Harvest Moon. And only by members of the Levite tribe. Rabbi Gamiel I believe you have something to say.
Rabbi Gamiel: We are but poor men but wealthy in the wisdom of the Torah. We are not soothsayers. But what if in the future, the Lord, blessed be he, were to construct a large edifice. And in that edifice doctors and caregivers would nurse our ill and elderly.
Rabbi Josiah: Yes, that would be wonderful.
Rabbi Gamiel: And what if in that edifice there were a magic box that would transport visitors to the any level of that edifice.
Rabbi Akeebah: Oh the Lord doth bless the children of Israel.
Rabbi Gamliel: Yes, but to make the magic box work one might have to hit a tiny button.
Rabbi Eliazar: I see no problem with a button.
Rabbi Gamliel: But what if one were to push that button on a Saturday?
Rabbi Akeebah: On the Sabbath?
Rabbi Gamliel: Yes, but it was to visit a sickly loved one.
Rabbi Josiah: On the Sabbath!!! The Holy Sabbath?
Rabbi Gamliel: Yes. But did I mention they were sick?
And with that the other rabbis smote Rabbi Gamliel to death with their kiddush cups. Because he was contrarian, even for a Jew, and because he chewed his food with his mouth open.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I dropped my uncle off at Cedars Sinai Hospital yesterday. He's there to have a hip replacement. The surgery went well and now he has a long road of recovery ahead of him.
Naturally, I'll be there to help. Not only because he's family and it's the right thing to do, but also because I owe him. Big time.
You see, my uncle who happens to be gay, used to work in the finance department at Saks Fifth Ave. My brother and I, who are not gay, were often on the receiving end of lavish sartorial gifts from the Young Man's Department at Saks. I can't tell you how often my uncle would visit on birthdays, or on Chanukah, bearing boxes of handsomely-boxed and meticulously-wrapped cashmere sweaters, tweed sport coats and 100% wool slacks.
On my 9th birthday I was hoping to get an official Spaulding Mickey Mantle outfielder's glove. But Saks Fifth Avenue didn't have a sporting goods department, so instead I got a turtleneck sweater that would not fit over my watermelon-sized head.
Needless to say, my brother and I were dungarees guys. And never fashion forward. So all these fancy-pants clothes never got worn. Maybe once on Yom Kippur or when some aunt died, but very rarely. They went into a bag with lots of mothballs and were never seen again.
Of course, when my uncle would visit my mother would ask us to put on the itchy pants and sweaters, but we never did. And my uncle never batted an eye or made any further inquiry. I suppose that small collection of fashionable clothing tucked away in the back of the closet was the original incarnation of "don't ask, don't tell."
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Call me paranoid but I don't use my mailbox for anything but receiving anymore. Years ago some utility payments were stolen from my outbox and since that time I've taken to using the US government issued blue box located a few blocks from my house.
Taking the bills down to the mailbox gives me a good excuse to escape the often raging hormones in my house as well an opportunity to walk the dog.
The other night, while mailing out some invoices -- is there anything better than billing someone for services rendered? -- I noticed a young guy with a stack of flyers and a staple gun. After I deposited the envelopes in the box he started walking my way. He bent over to pet Nellie then offered to give me a card.
"Sorry", I said, "I didn't hear you."
"Let me give you my card" he replied, "I'm a professional dogwalker."
OK, I thought, but I was actually walking my dog. I didn't know I needed the services of someone to do the very thing I was doing at the time. In fact, I thought I had been doing a damn fine job of walking the dog. I let her mark bushes. I pick up her poop. And by the time she gets home she's huffing and puffing and wearing what appears to be a dog smile.
I circled the block thinking how odd it was that people were creating jobs for themselves by doing mundane activities which under normal circumstances could easily be done by the potential employer. It's as if I were to walk into a pizza joint, approach a family and offer to help finish their hot pepperoni pie.
"I'm a professional pizza slice eater" I would explain.
Then I took a closer look at the young man's flyer. Turns out he's Certified and Insured to perform CPR on a dog. I had no idea. In the nine years I have been walking my dog, not once has she started choking or required anything resembling the Heimlich Manuever. Though once, with lightening-fast quickness, she did snag a squirrel in her mouth.
So as a precaution I've gone online and learned the proper method for administering CPR to my dog. It involves holding the dog's mouth closed and then putting a lip lock on the dog's wet, poop-sniffing nostril. The practice is so gross the woman in the youtube video did it on a K-9 doll.
I'm sorry Nellie but if a Kibble or a Bit goes down the wrong wind pipe, you're on your own.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Yesterday, I posted a youtube video that I had stumbled across while putting off the task of writing body copy for a newspaper ad. I don't know how we used to procrastinate before we had the Internet. I suppose we would just talk with colleagues or jealously thumb our way through awards annuals. I don't see a lot of the latter these days.
Our other favorite form of procrastination was pranking.
Of course this was before the advent of the big holding companies, when rocking the boat was the status quo and eccentricity in all its odd forms was nurtured. Drunken creatives were allowed to get drunk. Whiners were allowed to whine. And non-bathers were allowed to foul the air with their personal stank, as long as they produced award-winning work.
This was when advertising was fun. And HR people knew how to look the other way.
Back to the pranking. Early in the summer of 1992 Chiat had just hired a young talented writer from NY. Mind you, this was a time when Chiat/Day didn't have any juniors. When I say a young writer I mean someone who had already paid some real dues, done some real ads and won some real awards.
Like anyone at the time, he was honored to be joining such elite company. He was also a little awestruck. He couldn't get over the fact that he was in the same building as Lee Clow.
But as we were all to learn in a company with so many pranksters, it's never a good idea to show any weakness.
His new partner immediately seized the moment and snagged some official Lee Clow stationary. He carefully mimicked Lee's distinctive handwriting style and left this note (see above) on the young writer's desk. The next morning, Josh (he gave me permission to tell this story) could not contain himself. He must have racked up a few hundred dollars in long distance calls, telling anyone and everyone on the East Coast of his impending man date with The Bearded One.
For the next week, Josh tailed Lee everywhere he went inside the agency, never mentioning the note and appearing too forthright but not wanting to miss that possible impromptu moment when Lee would blink a few times and lean over and say, "I hear there's some 8-footers at El Porto."
I don't remember how Josh found out he had been punked but I do remember that for a week I, and many others in the Creative Department, had to walk around the place with a clenched jaw so I wouldn't laugh and give up the gag.
The irony here is that had Josh really wanted to surf with Lee all he had to do was ask. Lee probably would have said no, but not for any of the reasons you might suspect. And this is the part that surprises most, you see for all the mythology that surrounds the man, Lee Clow is still incredibly approachable.
He still puts his flop flops on one flip flop at a time.
Thanks go out to Josh Gold for allowing me to share this story. Make sure you check out his new film at http://www.saltaddsflavor.com/dayatthepool/
Monday, September 19, 2011
Many of you will recognize this derriere belonging to Scarlet Johannsen. It was lovingly captured in the opening credits of Lost in Translation, which some may argue is a chick flick. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.
The film chronicles the exploits of a man, played brilliantly by Bill Murray, on a business trip and the strange environment he finds himself in, complete with odd food, odd customs, and odd stocking fetishes.
In the past 20+ years in advertising I've worked on every one of the major Japanese auto companies accounts, Lexus, Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota, Honda and Acura. If memory serves, and often it doesn't, I've also worked on Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu.
In all that time, I have never been invited to visit the factory or summoned to a business meeting on the other side of the pond, the big pond, the Pacific.
I'm told it's quite an adventure. After the umpteenth viewing of Lost in Translation with my wife, I expressed my desire to visit Japan. My wife, who can see through me like a sheet of single ply toilet paper, laughed and said, "You're just dreaming of running into your own Scarlet Johannsen and fantasizing about some fantastically impossible May/December type fling on the other side of the international dateline."
And then she added, with cutting accuracy, "I tell you what. If you find some lonely 24-year old American woman with breathtaking beauty and a body to match who wants to climb aboard the Rich Siegel train with its unwanted hair and excessive flatulence, well then by all means you should do more than give her a kiss and whisper something in her ear."
Ouch, I said, reeling from the 1-2 combination of sarcasm and insight.
But I got off the mat and brought her to my computer to show her the real, OK one of the real, reasons why I want to visit the island nation.
And make sure you watch the video past the 41 second mark.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Last week TBWA Chiat/Day got the call no agency wants to get. They were relieved of their duties on Call of Duty and the account was going to a rival agency. All of which makes little sense, particularly considering the stellar spot, with Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Kimmel, et al, they had produced earlier in the year that resulted in millions of sales.
But as the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished."
There's another more applicable maxim, taught to me by my old boss David Murphy, when El Pollo Loco started courting a new agency after we had delivered a yearly increase of 13.8% in sales,
I am no stranger to the strange antics of Activision, the publishers of Call of Duty.
Years ago, I was brought in to conceptualize ideas for a Guitar Hero Super Bowl spot. This was a huge assignment and the agency pulled out all its guns, including teams from Chicago, NY and LA. Hundreds of creatives, most of them younger than me and most of them -- unlike myself -- residents of the gaming world.
Undaunted, and relishing the opportunity to compete with the millennial set, I tuned out almost everything said in the briefing session. (Good creatives don't want more information, they want less. They want the one essential part of the communication. If only the people who put together 'briefs' understood that.)
I had spots written in my head before I left the initial briefing session. Of course I followed them up with twenty more.
A week later I got the call from the Chief Creative Officer telling me that of the hundreds of scripts submitted by teams throughout the country, they had narrowed the field to four. Including one of my scripts. The very first one that found its way to paper. (BTW, I say my script because I was flying solo on this and was not working with an Art Director, lest anybody accuse me of being unfair.)
A week later, the same field had been halved again.
Two weeks after that, a winner had been chosen.
It was the spot I wrote.
Finally, after laboring in this damn business for more than 20 years, I was going to have a Super Bowl spot. And not just any Super Bowl spot. This was an elaborate multi-million dollar production involving kangaroos, flaming pianos, Aerosmith, chainsaw jugglers, Al Gore and Pakistani Plumbing Supply Salesmen.
With the playoffs looming, the spot was given Red Ball status and rushed into pre-production. A director had been chosen (a top A++ guy), editors and music people had been hand selected and locations had been preliminarily scouted.
All we needed now was a signed estimate.
And that's when I took a 50-caliber head shot between the eyes. In their infinite wisdom, the client, who had put the agency through multiple flaming, steel-spiked ringers on this assignment, decided on a whim to withdraw from the Super Bowl and sell the previously-purchased media space for a hefty profit.
TBWA Chiat/Day will move on from this temporary setback and do an award-winning spot for Gatorade, Visa, Apple or Nissan. They'll take in millions of dollars, run off to France, pick up some Gold Lions and drink $500 bottles of champagne on the Omnicom yacht.
I, on the other hand, am still reeling from the 2007 Super Bowl spot that never was. And now I have to write some banner ads for a local mattress store. And I have tree roots in my main sewer line. And it looks like I have to do a full house-to-street mainline replacement that will reach into 5 digits. And my prostate is growing faster than a teenage Sumo Wrestler.
My feelings towards Activision?
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I see a lot of people, mostly on Facebook, trying to find their way out of jury duty.
And I understand why.
When things get busy at work or hectic at home the last thing anyone wants to do is sit in a musty courtroom, with your smelly peers, and drink piss poor courthouse coffee while waiting for justice to make an improbable cameo appearance.
I felt the same way until a few years ago when, during an unusually slow freelance period, I decided to take the county up on their offer of 15 dollars a day and a sneak peak into our penal system. Not only was I selected for the jury panel, I was immediately chosen as the jury foreman.
"Why me?" I asked Juror #4, an older African-American woman seated to my left.
"You said some funny things to the judge," she responded, adding, "and besides, I'm not doing it."
Thanks to some incredibly-clear, high-definition surveillance footage captured on the 7-11 in store camera, we convicted the defendant of robbery in short time and sent him off to prison for a long time.
But the story doesn't end there. I was fascinated by the crime itself. What would drive a man to rob a convenience store and risk life and limb, all for fifty two dollars and change? So I jotted down the defendant's name with the hope that some day I might get a better glimpse into his life and his persona.
Well, that day has come.
Thanks to the awesome intrusive algorithmic power of the Internet I have found my guy and learned a little more about what makes him tick.
According to his not-completely-awful-written missive seeking a pen pal, Mr. Pryor is set to be released from jail in the year 2019. I think he's being overly optimistic and have it on good word that he is a three striker and likely to remain in jail for the remainder of his life. But if he believes that with a little good behavior he can secure his freedom by the end of the decade, more power to him.
But I want you to take a good look at him leaning on his late model Chrysler Le Baron. I'm thinking anyone wearing a matching print shirt and shorts should have a couple more years tacked onto their sentence just for their abominable crimes against fashion.
And I'd add another year for the sagging white knee high socks.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
People are talking about the weather a lot lately.
It could be related to Hurricane Irene, that ripped through the East Coast not long ago. It could be the entertaining Republican debates and various candidates attributing foul weather to the whims of a very petulant God. Or it could be attributed to the Arkansas weatherman who, after a stormy night of drugs and alcohol, woke up naked in a tub with a dead wearing a dog collar.
The last story went viral and soared into the stratosphere of Google Trends.
You have to feel bad for Brett Cummins, the young meteorologist with so much potential and his whole future in front of him. It had to be devastating to be humiliated like that on the national stage. To be the butt of so many gay weatherman, ectasy-enhanced dog collar jokes. And to become fodder for the late night talk shows. Not to mention the millions of amateur bloggers just itching for new salacious material.
How do you ever recover from such a monumental embarrassment?
The only thing that could possibly take the searing spotlight off young Brett Cummins would be to have another weatherman in another state commit something even more shocking and unforgettable.
Something like this:
Monday, September 12, 2011
I am a sucker for gadgets. I like things that do other things to other things. What's that? A do-hickey that carries my whatchamacallits and my thigamajigs. How much?
Last week, I discovered a gadget (that's a technical term for some HTML widget type gizmo) for this blog. It allows me to keep track of the most popular postings. Is it narcissistic? Of course it is. What about this blog isn't? And since so many of you never leave a comment or any indication that you've been here, the Top Ten postings gadget provides that momentary validation that you simply do not.
So I installed it.
Unfortunately, the column did not fit into the template design. And I was forced to do what no copywriter should ever do, I started messing around with the layout. In the messing with the layout I somehow managed to change the template. I didn't want to change the template. I was perfectly happy with the simple, functional design of the previous template. But somehow I lost the old template. And it looks like I'm going to have to learn to love this one.
Years ago, one of the spinning nozzle jets on the outdoor jacuzzi stopped working. I popped the unit out and decided (probably because jacuzzi repair guys charge $450/hour) that I could fix it myself. Jacuzzi repair should probably be added to the list of Things Jew Don't Do. In any case it wasn't a good idea, because once the ball bearings on the spinning jet nozzle spilled out onto the garage floor there was no putting them back in.
Now the water swirls on one side of the tub and is dead calm on the other, sort of like the vortex that was formed just before the stern of the Titanic sunk below the surface of the North Atlantic.
The bottom line is I don't know how to get the old template back.
This may not have been the funniest posting in the 2 & 1/2 year history of this blog. It may not even qualify for the top ten postings. But at least now you'll know where to find them.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Ok, I don't do this a lot, mostly because I don't watch a lot of TV these days -- double dipping and trying to stay ahead of the needs of three women tends to cut down free time -- but this is Must See TV.
There have been survival shows before, Survivorman and Bear Gryll's Man vs. Wild. But Dual Survival adds a unique twist. They have paired Army Veteran/Sniper Dave Cantebury with the diametrically opposed hippie dippie, no shoes wearing, grub eating, Arizona minimalist Cody Lundin. They are the Laurel and Hardy of the wilderness world.
It's fascinating to watch these two men match their wits against the elements atop a mountain in Wyoming, a rain forest in Thailand and the hippo-infested delta of Botswana.
Last week, the two intrepid survivalists were dropped off in the rugged hills of Tierra del Fuego in South America. As if that weren't enough and to demonstrate what it would be like to be lost and wounded, crazy Dave whipped out his hunting knife and tore a 3 inch gash across his right forearm. Then, in an even crazier move he had his partner Cody pour black gun powder in the open wound and ignite the powder to cauterize the laceration.
He set his arm on fire as if it were the Chinese New Year!
Good night nurse, this guy has enough balls for three men.
And to think the other night I got on my wife's case for buying the wrong brand of mixed nuts, I like the ones with lots of cashews not those horrible tasting Brazilian nuts.
I feel bad.
I feel very, very bad.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
As many of you who know me in the real world can attest, and as many of you in the digital world are discovering, it doesn't take much to trigger an angry advertising anecdote. Perhaps because in the 20+ years in the business there have been so many of them. Probably no more or no less than the next fellow, but I'm like an elephant and never forget.
And I never let a good grudge go to waste.
Last week I was trolling cnn.com and came across the story of the New Mexico cop caught having sex on the hood of his patrol car.
At the end of the story reporter Jeane Moos makes light of the fact that the officer and his 'friend' were being watched by a chihuahua. And every red-blooded American knows chihuahuas equal Taco Bell.
Except that famous advertising campaign died 10 years ago.
Perhaps 2001's second greatest tragedy.
I have an intimate knowledge of the Taco Bell dog's (her name was Ginger) death because I sat, helplessly, in meetings with the men in logo-pocketed polo shirts and crisp khaki pants who did the deed. Why, you may ask, did they pull the plug on a campaign that gave us dozens of funny catchphrases, spawned millions of dollars worth of merchandising and attained instant pop culture status?
I know my buddies Chuck and Clay, the guys responsible for creating the campaign and delivering the south-of-the-border hilarity, were asking the same thing. I'm sure the myopic marketing pro's with their Yankelovich and ASI and Millward Brown qualitative TPS reports could explain. They'd tell you it was all the little dog's fault. It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the dirty stores, the half-hearted service or the crappy food.
But riddle me this Khaki Pants MBA.
What has Taco Bell done marketing-wise since 2001?
Is there anything even remotely memorable? Or cool? A single witticism that some stoner kid would want to put on a T-shirt?
I'm thinking outside the bun, I'm thinking you guys screwed the pooch.
The last time I even heard the brand's name was on a Friday night at the Santa Monica Promenade, when my daughter stopped me before stepping in some vomit on the sidewalk.
"Ewww", she said, "It looks like some half-eaten Taco Bell Chalupa."
Actually, it looked better.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Well, it didn't take long at all.
As I mentioned earlier in the year, in a post that appeared in the Huffington Post, my daughters are attending Catholic High School. And as I suspected, the experience has already started to bear fruit in the way of funny stories.
Last week was the girl's first mandatory mass. They had to wear their Catholic high school skirts, their Catholic high school socks and their Catholic high school shoes. Additionally, they had to wear a collared white shirt with the Catholic high school tie. I have a hard enough time putting a tie on myself (one of the factors that steered my career choice), you can imagine how difficult it was to throw a proper Windsor knot on my two girls.
Later that day, when I got home from work, my youngest daughter -- the non-Semitic looking one with the blue eyes and blondish hair -- had a confession to make. She was standing with her new found friends, in their freshest and crispest attire, at the front of the church when the priest started handing out wafers, she called them cookies. Feeling unsure -- even more unsure than any normal 14 year old girl would -- she found herself looking down the barrel of a sacramental shotgun.
And in a moment of great uncertainty, accepted the body of Christ, and ate the cookie.
Naturally, the retelling of the story brought my daughter to tears. There aren't many experiences that don't bring her to tears. Of course the apple didn't fall from the tree and moments later she was making light of the situation. Telling us how she felt reborn. And how she was craving a roast beef sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise. (OK that's a bit cliche but come on she's only 14.)
If you read my original piece in the Huffington Post you'd see I got a lot of angry comments from old Jews who thought I had somehow betrayed my tribe. They would no doubt have a kanipshin over what I'm now calling "The Eucharist Incident." Those are the same old farts who get their panties in a bunch when politicians or corporations say something innocuous like "Merry Christmas."
I would tell those altacockers to pound sand.
I'm actually proud that my daughter didn't want to appear disrespectful and naively took part in a Christian ritual. Big deal. How many times at a Jewish wedding or a funeral or a Bat Mitzvah, do we ask our gentile friends to don a yarmulke? Or rise with the congregation at the opening of the ark? How is that not the same thing?
The point is, maybe we should all become more familiar with our neighbor's religious rituals.
Two nights ago my wife and I were at the St. Monica's Church for Back-to-School Night. As we sat in one of the back pews and listened to the monsignor drone on about this year's fundraising, I couldn't help but admire the beautiful stained glass and the distinctive looming arches of Moorish architecture.
I also noticed there were quite a number of Jews in the church.
They were all on crosses.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I moved to Southern California three weeks after graduating (barely) Syracuse University. That means I've been living out here for 12 years. I know, you're doing the math and thinking, "Rich you look old for 34."
Sadly, I didn't discover the benefits of sufficient UV sun protection until it was too late.
Despite living here for a dozen years, there are some distinctive SoCal pleasures I have not enjoyed. For instance, I have never been to Catalina Island. I'd like to, but I'd also like not to hurl my whole grain oatmeal breakfast over the starboard side of the ferry.
Sometimes the iconic experiences that many talk about simply don't live up to the hype. I know many folks, including my fellow blogger Jeff, who swear by the classic hamburgers at the Apple Pan or the legendary roast beef au jus at Phillippes downtown. Frankly, I found both disappointing. The burger was OK, but nothing resembling special. And downtown LA, for those of you who have walked the cracked, urine-soaked streets, just doesn't lend itself to a memorable dining experience.
On the flip side of all that, this week I made my virgin visit to a 99 cent store. And I'm happy to report the experience was well worth the price. There were miles of aisles of off-brand and off-off-brand bargains. Everything from canned bananas to Chinese tool sets that were neither metric nor standard American sizes.
I'm not sure I'll be able to use any of the socket wrenches but the illustrations and mangled translations in the user guide made it a must-have item.
And at 99 cents, how could I go wrong?
As we made our way to the cashier with our Heinds Katsup, Pepci Kola and Tampaks Feminine Napkins, my daughter noticed a small book section. It was inordinately stocked with Victoria Gotti's memoir, This Family of Mine. They didn't have enough shelf space for all the copies. They were literally spilling over into the 99 cent pet food section.
I don't think a lot people who shop at this store are interested in reading Ms. Gotti's Mafioso adventure. But serendipity may prevail. They may have much better luck marketing the book as a 99 cent chew toy.