Monday, August 15, 2022

1,000,073 miles apart


This is the scenic 15 mile Ojai to Ventura bike trail. It's quite different than the Ballona Creek Bike Path I have ridden regularly for the past 35 years or so. 

What the O2V trail has in the way of aromatic eucalyptus trees and bucolic scenery, the Ballona Creek Path has in runoff sewage water, busted shopping carts, and endless encampments of homeless people living underneath an overpass. 

Additionally, the O2V trail is smooth and paved with latest in asphalt technology and is a joy to pedal on. The Ballona Creek Path has remained choppy and chock full of potholes since the very first day of my virgin ride. A time when I had hair, muscular calfs, and the aerobic wherewithal to go 50 miles at a clip.

The differences couldn't be any starker.

Oh wait, yes they could. 

Because while riding the O2V trail, about 5 miles up and 2 hours of walking distance away from the nearest bike shop, I got a flat tire. Never a fun experience but also not one I was unaccustomed to. Unfortunately, the tires I had recently installed with a total bike refurbishing are called Gator Skins, and like the name would imply they grip onto the rim like a famished reptile snagging a tasty, slow flying pelican.

After much cursing and cajoling, I finally unleashed the flat tube from it bondage and carefully replaced it with a new $20 tube. Then like Ishmael fighting the great leviathan, I fought mightily to get the damn Gator skin back on. Only to inflate the new tire and watch it go flat, AGAIN.

This is where the contrast between the trails becomes even more evident than the smells and sights which define two distinctively different parts of Southern California.

As my friend watched and giggled as I struggled mightily to change a tire and salvage what was left of my my masculinity, a young man, let's call him Brennan, because that the name his parents gave him,  coming from the opposite direction, literally stopped in his tracks to offer us assistance.

Stranded, with not a clue how to resolve this awkward situation, we agreed to let Brennan have a go at it.

He too had a fitfull struggle to remove the once-already-removed Gator Skin. Unlike me, he insisted the best way to replace the tube was to unhinge both sides of the tire wall. OK, I thought, who am I to argue with a complete stranger taking time out of his pleasant Saturday ride to assist two hapless seniors. Or, more accurately, one hapless senior and one bemused spectator.

Brennan's meticulous operation took considerably longer than mine. But we were convinced this strapping young man knew better. But he didn't. Because when he was done, he was considerably less marked up with bruises and cuts (I now have 'old man skin'), but again, the new tube went flat again.

He could have left us in the shade of a crooked eucalyptus tree and said, "good luck" but he didn't. 

Instead he called for his wife to bring the truck around to a service road that ran parallel to the path and gave us a lift, with both our bikes, to the nearest bike shop.

It was by far the most generous, thoughtful deed of unselfishness that I have witnessed in a very long time. 

Perhaps it was the universe's way of repaying me for assisting a sad, drug-hazed Latina girl with bleach blond hair just two days earlier and forcing her to accept $20 dollars (unsolicited) so she could get a meal for herself and poor little doggie.

As he went back to his truck, I said, "let us buy you a beer. Or two." 

He politely declined and said, in typical Brennan fashion (though we had only spent an hour and a half together), "thanks, I can't, but have a great day and please pay it forward."

Consider it done Brennan.




Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Uncivil War


When this ignorant sociopathic monster was elected president in November 2016, I knew things were going to get bad. I think most of us did. But most of us also miscalculated. We had no idea how bad it would get. And continues to worsen even after his unceremonious departure from the White House.

I knew from watching several tawdry episodes of The Apprentice what a colossal shill and total fraud he was. His purported business acumen wasn't just a blend of bluster and horsecockery, it was a sham. And a tired week in week out repeat of the same formulaic swill that had nothing to do with the business world. At least not the corporate business world I had spent a lifetime working in.

He pitted people against each other.

He lauded shameless self promotion over teamwork.

And he favored marketing gimmickry over anything strategic or substantive.

He was never a businessman or a builder or a leader, he was a loudmouth blowhard who only had money because his father gave it to him.

Oh and he slathers his well done steak with ketchup. I've broken business bread with millionaires and billionaires and never witnessed that kind of low rent table decorum.

Fast forward to Monday August 8, 2022. And the nightmare not only continues, it is now reaching peak jackfuckery levels. 

As we all know the FBI raided at Mara Lago, to retrieve 15 boxes of Classified material. Some of the Classified intel is so Classified that the authorities would not even discuss how Classified the Classified material was. 

That's some Men in Black shit.

And now the interwebs, particularly Gab, Parlor and Truth Social are brimming openly with talk of Civil War. A repeat and a frightful escalation of the January 6th Tourist Visit. 

If that weren't enough, much of this seditious talk is being fomented by ex Precedent Shitgibbon and his degenerate progeny.

Editor's Note: For the past 6-7 years I have purposefully misspelt the word President. A clever little trap I invented to goad Red Hats into saying things like, "Dude you don't even know how to spell President." To which I would counter, "Neither does Captain Ouchie Foot." And then point out the many times he mistakenly interchanged the two homophones.

Will there be violence in the streets? 

Or is this just testosterone-fueled bravado on the part of his fishbrained followers who to this day don't realize they have been conned by a master snake oil salesman who could sell snake oil back to a snake.

Too bad he couldn't sell vodka, water, steaks, wine or anything else he slapped his shabby name on. 

For the sake of this country I long for the day when the media no longer gives this man any oxygen. And can't wait for the planet to follow suit.

Fuck Trump.




Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Must-Have Reference Book


As of late, I've had a renewed interest in etymology. Perhaps it's because I'm writing more these days and I'm actively seeking new words and new modes of expression. Or perhaps it's because I'm weaning myself off certain medications and trying to navigate an uncertain future.

In any case, I've always had a certain fascination with words. Particularly when spoken aloud. It gave rise to many of my nicknames for the former president. For example Captain Fuckknuckle, Colonel Ouchie Foot or President Shitgibbon. 

I like these multisyllabic monikers because they trip off the tongue in a pleasing way. My friend Paul knows the proper terminology for this phrasing. I have forgotten it. Paul's a 2nd grade school teacher with a twisted mind and a nose for the obscure. He once showed me a tiny Jewish cemetery in the High Sierras along Rt. 395 that was no bigger than 25 square feet and is the eternal resting home for 5 hearty MOTs.   

I'm sure if he reads this blog post he'll send me a text: "It's called ____________, numbnuts."

You can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the book pictured above. And yes, it is a literal dictionary. Some people get excited by silly foam illustrations on their lattes, or the latest iteration on the iPhone 13+, now with .03 centimeters more screen, I get excited about dictionaries.

I don't remember if someone suggested this book. I get a lot of suggestions. I even get requests. 

"You should do a blog about Rand Paul."

"You should do a blog about antisemitism in Japan."

"You should do a blog about people suggesting you do a blog."

But I am glad I splurged for the 17 bucks and had the Amazon driver, who must be tired of coming to my house, drop off a copy. I was immediately enamored with the title -- I'm a sucker for the mysterious grouping of words -- that hardly informs the reader of the content. 

So I will.

In this highly unusual book, the author has compiled a plethora of neologisms for emotions as yet undefined by the good folks at Webster. Put more pedantically, he makes up words for shit we have no words for.

Case in Point:

Sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

I can't begin to tell you how much I love that. Not because the "word" sonder means anything to anybody. And will probably not enter our lexicon like other more recent neologisms, ie. Cheugy.

But the definition of Sonder is chock full of insight about the human condition. Because we all tend to view the world from a limited self-centered perspective, which as sentient beings is understandable. However it would behoove us all to realize we share this time and this space with 8 billion other people and act accordingly.

I'll leave you with one more. And perhaps this one hits home because as a 64 year old man/widow/father I can't help but look at old photos with regret, sorrow and melancholy.

Daguerreologue - N. an imaginary conversation with an old photo of yourself, in which you might offer them a word of advice -- to banish your worries, soak it all in, or shape up before it's too late -- or maybe just ask them if they thought you had done justice to the life they built for you.

I would have reminded my former self to get the industrial-strength Minoxidol and stick with it.


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Knots Meandering


I love the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I loved the book by Arthur Clark even more because the book doesn't leave much in the way of ambiguity as Kubrick did in the film.

How many for instance, know that the eery Black Monoliths were left on Earth and all over our universe as touchstones from an ancient, exponentially-more-advanced civilization that had mastered the time space continuum? This would account for the mysterious nonlinear leaps in time that occur frequently in the film. 

Of particular note is the scene depicted above. It happens at the beginning of the movie with soaring majestic music to denote the monumental rise of human evolution -- namely the turning of a sturdy thighbone of a carcass into a useful hunting tool.

The transition from this scene to the spaceship floating a million miles and a million years away is an image I will never forget. 

Bad segue here, but earlier this week, and for algorithms unknown, I had a video pop up in my Facebook Feed. It was similar to the top down POV videos of someone making Chicken Cordon Bleu or Bacon Wrapped Shrimp. It demonstrated the proper way to make a Sheepshead Knot. And now that I am writing about knots I am guaranteed to see more and more of these knot making vids.

Which is fine with me, because there's certain elegance and aesthetic to knots that I find fascinating. For instance, I submit the unarguable beauty of the Figure 8 Loop...


Knots tickle my brain in the same way the clever primate, Neandarthal, Cro-Magnon, Homo Erectus, I'm sure my learned friend George Tannenbaum could tell you, happened upon the ideal way to smash a wild boar to the ground with one swift blow to the head. 

Mmmmm, feral bacon!!!

I find myself imagining the first time one of our ancestors not only fashioned a rope from the threads of a Bamboo plant, you know before the Chinese made fake Biden Ballots out of it, and clumsily twisted the ends together to form an early fastening device. I'm guessing there was quite a bit of trial and error involved as well as many collapsed lean two's or huts or whatever Early Man lived in. Again, George would know.

This mysterious synapse chain is not only confined to rope knots. 

What trigger went off and informed the earliest of carnivores to take the flesh he, or she, had harvested and put it on an open flame? Prior to that, no animal on Earth had ever eaten cooked food. 

Similarly, what concoctive and swarthy primate decided to scramble the first egg on a hot stone? And then eons later, flip it over to make a rudimentary omelette. And then eons after that, stuff it with peppers, mushrooms, feral ham, to make a special omelette that would give rise to the city of Denver?

I scratch my chin and wonder about the origins of soap, clothing, and the Bundt Cake.

Maybe I need a new hobby, but even as just a casual writer and self-confessed word slut, I am intrigued and can't help but to be enamored by variations and names of knots:

* The Square Knot

* The Half Hitch

* The Sheepshead

* The Kleimheist

* The Rapala

* The Carrick Bend (who could forget that one?)

* The Rat Tail Stopper 

* The Soft Shackle Edwards

* The Man-O-War Sheepshank (maybe it's me, but I love a knot name that requires hyphens and trips off the tongue with a pleasing rhythm)

That's all for today, I want to spend some quality time thinking about how the anti-perspirant came about.




Monday, August 8, 2022

Blessing #20 -- Chopped Salad

 


It takes a special kind of person to put the welfare of others above the welfare of oneself. We see it in first responders all the time. Cops running to the scene of a crime. Firefighters running into infernos. And ad sales reps going out for chopped salad and some simple pesto and pasta.

Allow me to explain. 

Astute readers may remember I posted this story about 7 years ago. But I'm retelling it, and updating it, because I can think of nothing better that captures Deb's heart and her indefatigable spirit of caring. 

I had convinced her to go Alejo's Italian Restaurant on Lincoln Blvd.

We used to frequent the place quite often, as the bread is fresh baked and there's never a long wait to get a table. My two most important criteria for picking a restaurant in Los Angeles.

However, Alejo's had fallen out of favor recently, its frumpy dining room no longer as appetizing as it once was when my wife and I were escorting two screaming toddlers. I blame the rise of foodism and food snobbery perpetrated by countless food-based reality TV shows.

And yet, through the power of persuasion and some well-honed marital passive aggressiveness, I was able to convince Deb to go back to Alejo's. Their chopped salad is second to none. And in addition to a dish of salty anchovies on the side, this is what a successful marriage is all about. Give and take. Compromise. 

She agrees to cheap Italian food.
I agree to give up a weekend to shop for new an inordinately-expensive living room furniture.

On the way to the restaurant, it was raining. Not newsworthy in any other part of the country, but here in Southern California I've seen more water coming out of my neighbor's hose, in order to wash his two white trash monster trucks, than I've seen fall from the sky.

Heading towards Lincoln Blvd and hugging the median of Jefferson Blvd., I slowed down because the woman in the Honda Civic in front of me appeared to be making a left turn.

But then, she wasn't.

At 50+ mph the car veered left and then, a split second later, veered right. She missed the road sign by a centimeter. And then, in the middle of fast moving traffic she slammed on the brakes and parked the car in the far left lane. The door swung open and the woman leapt from the car, hunched over and appeared to be returning her lunch to Mother Earth. More accurately a non-porous cement median.

I stopped too. I had no other option. And came within inches of her plastic bumper.

And before I could look in my rearview mirror for oncoming traffic, Deb had unbuckled, swung the door open and jumped out of the car and ran to assist the hurling Ms. Mario Andretti. And hug her. And comfort her. 

I've never needed hazard lights before and despite the superb Japanese ergonomic design on my old Lexus, could not locate my flashers. So I quickly skedaddled over to the right. And because there is no shoulder on Jefferson Blvd., I had to find the nearest street to turn off and park the car. 

About 1/4 mile away!

I ran through the uneven sidewalks, which is more like a lunar landscape thanks to the roots of Chinese Elm trees bursting through the pavement. And I caught a mouthful of dirty rainwater when a truck rolled by and tore through a puddle that would not be there 364 other days of the year.

When I reached the spot where my wife was, she wasn't.

And neither was the Honda Civic.

I yelled her name in the pouring rain.

She was gone.

I ran back to my car. Called her cell phone. And then I heard the ringing of her cell phone in her purse, which was still in the driver's seat of my car. 

I drove back to the scene of the near accident and couldn't find her. Circled around again, in this stretch that had no streetlights, and still couldn't find her. Without her phone, she couldn't find me.

It was all playing out like a bad Jeff Bridges movie.

What if she's gone?
What if Panicky Vomiting Lady kidnapped her?
What if I never see my wife again?

A thousand questions flooded my brain.

After circling round and round again, I finally spotted her near the parking lot of Home Depot. She was drenched. And crying. And shaking uncontrollably. 

When we arrived at Alejo's she explained how the woman had an anxiety attack, was temporarily blinded and literally immobilized. Thankfully, my first responder, was there to talk her down from the ledge. To this day, the entire incident plays out like a nightmarish movie, shot dimly, in black and blue overtones. 

A small random act of heroism by Debbie, for a total stranger in need of help, because that's who she was. 

Note to self: need more boxes of tissues.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Different Trump, Same Con

 


Many times I don't know what I'm going to write on these pages until I actually start writing. And meandering. And re-ordering to make some semblance of a point. Or just get a cheap laugh. 

Both equally valuable in the difficult times we live in.

And sometimes, a post or the subject of a post comes from the ether. It strikes like lightening. And I'd be a fool to walk away from sharing it. That day is today. And the bolt comes via Scott M., a Linkedin connection I have never worked with or even met in person, but someone, who, for reasons unknown, is a regular reader of this little inconsequential blog.

To get the full measure of its impact, I highly recommend watching this 22 minute show that comes across like a Twilight Zone episode.

See if you can count how many prescient moments spring to mind. 

It's more than uncanny.

Here it is for your mindblowing moment of Zen. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGWL1mMJHss

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A jury of my cretins


I hope I never have to spend a night in a hospital. 

If I do, I'm hoping one of you good people will bring me some decent food, like a schwarma plate or 1/2 roast chicken from Versailles. The notion of eating that hospital slop is enough to make my gall bladder explode, which would only result in more nights in the hospital. And a gastronomic death spiral that would surely induce PTSD.

Similarly, I never want to spend another night in jail. 

Been there, done that. Don't want to do it again. And so I keep my life on the straight and narrow. Which has become even more difficult in the perilous and surreal times we live in.

The law says you shall be judged by a "jury of your peers." That scares the possibly-impacted shit out of me. Have you seen or listened to my "peers?"

My peers, and by the Transitive Law of Association are also your peers, are on the non-stop train to Wackytown. 

Here, for the purposes of elucidation, are just some of the things many potential jurors might/could/do believe in:

* The Earth is flat. They can't tell you why, despite pictures from NASA, logic and the simple observation off a boat sailing past the horizon, they just "know" it's flat. Or in the words of our former POTUS, "subjectively believe" it's flat. 

* The Holocaust is actually a Holohoax. I didn't make up that word. It's in the actual lexicon in the handbook of White Supremacy. Also, there is no handbook of White Supremacy, there are thousands of them. Covering everything from eugenics to the blood libel that Jews eat little gentile children. 

I don't eat frog's legs and many parts of the cow that I find repulsive. I can't picture myself, even if marooned in the Donner Pass, gnawing on some toddler ribs. "Pass me little Tiffany's femur, please."

* The 2020 Election was stolen. Not all of the election mind you, just the presidential section of the ballot. All those Republican victories in the House and the Senate were legitimately earned and unscathed by the evil, cheating DemonRats. Who, in possession of the apparent undetectable means to change votes and seal a victory for Joe Biden, inexplicably failed to employ those techniques on the down ballot sections!

This last point is perhaps the scariest and represents an existential threat to our democracy. Oh I'm sorry, as many Right Winger Word Police will point out, we live in a "Republic." Right, but despite having not one shred of evidence, they cling to the absurd and Neandarthal belief that ex Precedent Shitgibbon was robbed. 

They say it's impossible Joe Biden garnered 81 million votes. I still can't believe Captain Ouchie Foot garnered ONE.

Last Sunday, in an interview on Fox News, GOP gubernatorial candidate and MAGA proxy Tudor Nixon (so on the nose) told Brett Baier she had "very serious concerns about the results of the 2020 election". And that many of her constituents shared those concerns and are pushing for greater Election Integrity. 

Can we back that truck up and acknowledge the only reason why "Americans" distrust the election results is because they were spoonfed that baseless horsecockery.

From the likes of MyShillowGuy™(ex-crack addict turned millionaire turned crack addict again), Sidney Powell (the NY Jets of American attorneys), Rudy Giuliani (unpaid publicist for Four Seasons Total Landscaping) and Colonel Fuckknuckle (the only twice impeached ex president who is now under criminal investigation for inciting a coup.)

I can't help but to be reminded of the time I not only sat on a jury, but was promptly selected to be the jury foreman. It was an open-and-shut case of a 7-11 robbery that featured the whole caper caught on crystal clear 7-11 HD security cameras. 

After 15 minutes of discussion we took a vote that produced a commanding 11-1 vote. When the unconvinced juror identified himself, he was quickly confronted by the older black woman seated next to me...who, despite her excessive girth, leaped out of her chair with a fiery retort, and this is verbatim...

"Boy, did you not see that goddamned video? I want to get home to watch my soaps, so you better change your vote before I come across this table and slap the stupid out of you!!"

He wasted little time scratching the word NOT off his little slip of yellow legal pad paper.

This fucking country needs the stupid slapped out of it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Down the Rabbet Joint Hole


Last Thursday I told the tale of how I began my adventures as a fledgling writer working on the IBM Selectric II that my father bought for me. Somehow I forgot to include the story of the handy dandy 25 lbs. walnut (heavy) carrying case that my father made for me.

As you can see I still have it, nearly 50 years after he measured, measured again, cut, cut again (probably), sanded, varnished, jointed, hinged and completed his first real woodworking project.

It sits in my daughter's old bedroom (perhaps it will become my new woodworking studio) and houses her various art supplies. She's very creative, not so much with words, but more visually oriented. 


My father's carpenter journey is worth retelling (even if I've told it before). 

Following the wayward years of his misspent youth, including hanging out with mooks like the fellow on the left (Dad on the right). I accidentally came across this picture -- which I had never seen before -- last week ,while looking for something else.


And a disastrous year of incarceration while in the Army for Reefer Madness in 1947. Fortunately, my father turned his life around. 180 degrees around. Married, worked, went to college at night, worked two jobs, got his CPA, saved, worked some more, bought a house, raised three kids, kept working, and built a comfortable nest egg for himself.

But being of a restless nature, and having conquered many life obstacles, including three rounds of Outward Bound, my father was always looking for a challenge. And what could be more challenging to a Bronx-born, Jewish accountant, who'd never held a Phillips head screwdriver in his hand than the magical, gentile world of Finish Carpentry.

Shortly after buying a house in Suffern, NY, he became acutely aware of the cost of maintaining said home. Including all the expensive repair work that needed to be done. Being frugal by nature and necessity, he didn't want any part of paying someone to do work he believed he could do himself. Television, and the good folks at Time Life, came to rescue.

Before long, we had every colorful book in the Time Life DIY Series:

Do Your Own Plumbing
Electricity Made Easy
Power Tools and the Powerful Men that Use Them.

As it is in my case, it could be said of my father, "If he's in for dime, he's in for a dollar." 

And so his love of saving money on home repairs escalated into furniture you can make on your own. With every new woodworking book that landed on our coffee table came a trip to the local Rickle's (East Coast predecessor to Home Depot and Lowe's) for a grinder, a router, a two-handed miter saw and a monstrously large, dangerous looking, Radial Arm Saw, which scared the shit out of my mother.

Every free moment he had was spent making shit, for instance the IBM Selectric carrying case. I don't know where he thought I'd be carrying that anvil-like typewriter. Portability was not among the Selectric II's selling points. 

From there he progressed with Siegel-like determination to crafting end tables, bookshelves, credenzas, etc. If there was wood involved, my father knew he could make it into something.

My buddies would often come over to pick me up for a night of trouble, greet my mother, "Hey Mrs. Siegel" and on the way out the door rib me with, "Hey what's Al building today?" My mother was always Mrs. Siegel, my father was always Al.

His carpentry capers culminated with the construction of a true Finnish Sauna off the master bathroom, a stunning replica of the one he had seen in the TL book. Not dissimilar to this.


Before he succumbed to prostate cancer in 1989, he had once last dream. He wanted to combine his mastery of maple, oak and walnut with his newfound love of equally un-Bronx-like nature: sailing. Which he discovered while in Maine on a 10 day excusrion with the aforementioned Outward Bound.

To that end he set about looking into building his own 35 foot Chris Craft sailboat. The good folks at Chris Craft actually had a kit for skilled woodworkers like my father.

And I don't have the slightest doubt in my mind that he would have done it and it would have been beautiful.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: FUCK CANCER!

---------------------------------------------------------------------

As an addendum and because last week's plea for a housekeeper worked out, I need the name and number of a good carpenter. This house needs so much work. Send me your people.








Monday, August 1, 2022

The Tale of Sophia Lin


Since the advent of the Internet there have been a panoply (I intend to overuse this word until I have successfully made it part of the regular vernacular of the peasantry, much the way my daughter engineered the popularity of the word Cheugy) of Internet scammers.

With way too much time on my hands, I have made it a regular habit to scam the scammers. It's officially known as scambaiting and while some collect Tiki Mugs, rebuild old cars, or trim tiny little bonsai trees, scambaiting is a hobby of mine.

Who can forget Tuesdays with Mantu, My Adventures with a Nigerian Con Artist?

Or my many escapades with Illuminati -- Just pop Illuminati in the blog search button for all those entries?

And one of my prouder moments when I was tried to gain membership at the Doral Country Club and Golf Course, an esteemed Trump property in South Florida? Or is it esteamed?

Lately there's been a rash of postings on my Facebook page, maybe yours as well, to the effect of: " I really like what you post and want to know you better. Can you send me a friend request?" 

These are clear fraudsters and way to tempting to pass up, as they usually come from very attractive young women and are targeted to old men like myself. BTW, Deb never had a problem with my flirtatious correspondence and would often joke: 

"How many times do I have to tell you Rich, if you can find another woman on this Earth to put up with you, she's more than welcome :)."

So when Sophia Lin came knocking, I knocked back. I didn't send her a friend request. I didn't have to. She she sent me a private DM.


Plus, I'm a friendly guy. I like making new friends.




Sophia preferred to talk privately as some of my FB friends were making derogatory remarks about this obvious scammer.

How slick of me to pivot on people with evil internet intentions? I'm pretty wonderful aren't I?

Sensing she's got a live one on the hook, Sophia, unsolicited, begins to add chum to the water with miniskirt pictures. Who doesn't love miniskirt pictures?


Then for reasons unknown -- I suspect she has another victim on the line -- she starts speaking to me in Dutch. 


Then she tells me she's been divorced for a year. But her profile says "she's" been divorced since 2018. Gotta keep your story and your languages straight Sophia.


Time to start cranking up the fiction on my end.


Did I freely borrow from Seinfeld? Yes, yes I did.


I told you I was wonderful. Also the move to What's App is another scammer telltale. What's App is encrypted so there would be no trace of "her" fraudulent activity.

Sophia puts more bait out there, because why not?



What's App? Is that what it's called?


I let a day or two go by. I do have other things in life that need attending to. But Sophia is persistent and determined to get at some of my money.


I wasn't about to give her my cell phone number which is required on What'sFap...er, What'sApp. 



Then I come clean and turn the table on young "Sophia" by asking her for the exact same thing these scammers ask of their intended victim -- A Google Play Card.



The student has now become the teacher.


It took her a while but she did get to know me. 


And with that I had the very satisfying last word.

I know it's all very juvenile, but there's a 99% chance I was dealing with a Gamer teenage boy who pilfered some pictures from some young lady's instagram and thought he could score some easy Gaming credit. 

If there's one thing I've learned in all my years in advertising, you gotta speak the same language as your market.



















Thursday, July 28, 2022

A writer's confession


Recently, a very astute and inquisitive friend asked me a question. 

"Why, three weeks after graduating college, did I pack up a duffel bag, empty my embarrassingly underfunded bank account, and buy a $99 one way ticket to Los Angeles, 3000 miles on the other side of the country, where I knew not one soul nor had any game plan for the future?

The answer was remarkably simple: "To be a writer."

"What kind of writer?"  she replied.

Good question. One that didn't really have an answer. 

By the way, pictured above is the leviathan IBM Selectric II, the same model my father bought me as a birthday gift back in the 70's. It weighed well over 40 lbs. I didn't bring it with me to California. I only brought the dreams of an overfed naive college graduate who wanted a clean break from the past and a chance to click and clack a keyboard until it produced a laugh or even a paycheck.

Also I was drawn by the legendary lure of the blonde haired, blue eyed shiksa goddess. I was 22 years old. I'll cop to that.

But truly, my naivete knew no bounds. I suppose I thought I'd pick up the LA Times, scan the classifieds and start drawing red circles around tiny ads that shouted: WRITER WANTED.

The point is I could have become any type of writer.

Newspaper writer

Magazine writer (National Lampoon or Spy would've been my dream)

Radio writer

TV writer

Film writer

Porn Film writer (that opportunity did come up, I passed, though not without some hesitation and vocational research)

Technical writer

Greeting Card writer

Advertising writer

It took me three years of chasing down leads, following fruitless trails, wearing stupid ties to interviews, to jam my oversized big toe in the door, in the ad agency world. And as fate would would have it, that choice was probably the best.

For one thing, journalists make no money. Even less so now with the demise of legacy media. And the entertainment field is shamelessly ageist. Meaning, at this point in my life, I'd be retired, in a dirty nursing home, wondering if Pete the Janitor was pilfering my loose change and my Vicodin.

But I lucked out and fell into the ad world. It suited me to a Tee. It was low lift writing. Pithy little one liners, which not to sound immodest, came easy to me. It was casual. I found myself going to work in beach clothes: shorts, T-shirt and flip flops. And it was obscenely lucrative.

Gregg Benedikt, a fellow I only know digitally, runs a regular series of posts on Linkedin, titled Brilliant Advertising, How I Miss You So. Last week he ran a post featuring some of our ad work from 25 years ago.

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Enough to make an old man blush. I mean who doesn't like their work validated and praised in public? I won't lie about that -- that would off-brand for me. But I will posit the praise is somewhat unwarranted. 

In what other world does a single line or joke take on such a life of its own? I watch monologues from Steven Colbert, Seth Myers and John Oliver, and recognize the sharp wit and craftsmanship that emerges from their staff. Much of it, just fucking brilliant. That's writing! And yet, it's disposed of and forgotten moments after it airs.

Maybe I can chalk it all up to Latent Imposter Syndrome. Truth be told, I'm still yearning to do some writing that is more meaningful and resonant. 

Then again, that too would be off-brand.

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Earlier this year, I became Facebook friends with Sean Kelly, former editor of the National Lampoon. He passed away last week and my condolences go out to his family. I took great pride in the fact that he occasionally threw a Like at one of my political postings. A small measure of achievement. 

Here's a screengrab of our first correspondence...







Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Today's funny topic: Abortion


That's Bobbi McHaughey, mother of the McHaughey septuplets, born 1997.  

The observant among you might notice there are 8 babies, not 7. That's because Bobbi and her husband Fred/Ralph/Dave/Mike (let's be honest, he's the most inconsequential member of this family) had a child before the Miracle 7 arrived 25 years ago.

I know all this because I came across one of those clickbait articles that lure you in with an interesting premise and then take 5000 words to drag you to the bitter end of the story with the flaccid not so interesting resolve. All in service of exposing you to a panopoly of banner ads which you will NEVER click but for which advertisers will pay a premium because you know adtech and the numbers demand it.

As you can imagine carrying 7 babies to full term is a near impossible task. 

We're talking about a human being not some frisky Dachsund who came across a strapping German Shepherd in the middle of some alley and spits out double digit litters every other year. 

In fact the pregnancy was of great concern to her obstetric team, who upon many tests and discussions recommended Bobbi undergo a reductive pregnancy. For her safety and for the viability of the other embryos. 

She chose not to abort one of the precarious embryos. But only after she thought long and hard about it. Notice the operative phrase here: 'chose.' Because in these dangerous times that choice about her body and her pregnancy is no longer on the table.

I think most reasonable people (that would by nature exclude those in the Red States) would not have an issue with her following the advice of her medical team and undergoing a precautionary abortion in order to deliver the best possibility of survival.

Under Jewish Law, the law that preceded Christian Law that is now being rammed down our secular throats, the life of the mother supercedes all other considerations, making an abortion not only permissible but obligatory, should medical conditions demand it.

I'm not saying Jewish Law is better. We've got some strange shit going on as well. I'm not giving up cheeseburgers or lobster tails, any time soon. And this whole business about cutting off the top of my penis without my say-so still irks me.

The larger point I'm fumbling to make is that had Bobbi -- the mother -- given up one the fetuses for the survivability of the remaining 6, that would have been her decision and hers alone.

Let's follow that line of logic to its natural conclusion:

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 6 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 5...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 5 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 4...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 4 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 3...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 3 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 2...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 2 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 1...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 1 embryo, that needed to be reduced to none because of a medical condition that neither you, nor I or Kevin McCarthy or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene knows anything about. 

I'm willing to bet there's a plethora of things MTG knows nothing about.

Also, didn't the tenets of the GOP revolve around small government, personal responsibility and individual freedoms? When did they throw that train in reverse? And start fueling the engine with high grade Vibranium?

The point is, it's no one's business. And certainly not that of a Supreme Court handpicked by a merkin-sporting troglodyte who could not, even on his best day, cite one SCOTUS precedent setting case that shaped American history. I would bet my house on that. 

It would be as if I had gone in to my dentist to get a routine root canal to remove an inflamed incisor only to have the doors burst open mid-procedure, by some jackbooted Proud Boys, to shut down the operation. 

"You can't do that sir. that's against God's will."

Oh yeah, God's Will, the one transcribed 2000 years ago, in the middle of the night by some poor goat herder roaming the nether regions of Babylonia, looking for a watering hole for his flock and his undernourished camels. 

"And one more thing,"said the Proud Boy as he scooped up a free toothbrush and left, "the 2020 election was rigged!," 

God help us.


   

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A Man Needs a Maid


Back in the mid 70's, the 1970's, I was not in possession of any disposable income. 

Every dime I managed to earn doing the world's shittiest jobs (excluding copywriter) went towards the exorbitant tuition at Syracuse University. Mind you, I could have gone to the embarassingly more affordable SUNY campus in Buffalo. But my father wanted me to go to Syracuse.

He just didn't want to pay for it. 

I suppose in hindsight I should be thankful that he threw these mammoth financial obstacles in my way as that adversity taught me the value of making wise monetary decisions. 

Nevertheless, I walked around campus with $1.38 in my pocket. At best. Hence I did not have many belongings. Also, hence my record collection was exceedingly limited. Hence again, each record was played until the needle carved a hole through the vinyl. 

Including the seminal Neil Young album, Harvest.

With the exception of the hard hitting Alabama, one could hardly argue this was a rock and roll album. Furthermore, as a stupid and perpetually stoned college student, the lyrics never made much sense to me. Only in retrospect can I appreciate the subtext Mr. Young was getting at.

One song in particular has been ringing in my head lately, the self-explanatory "A Man Needs A Maid."

My life is changing in so many ways
I don't know who to trust anymore
There's a shadow running through my days
Like a beggar going from door to door
I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid
Find a place nearby for her to stay
Just someone to keep my house clean
Fix my meals and go away
A maid
A man needs a maid
A maid

Oh brother do I need a maid.

I had hired the mother/daughter team who cleaned the house across the street from me. But they constantly flaked out on their scheduled appearances. And when they did show up to clean the house, they did more yakking and laughing than they did cleaning.

As my friend put it so aptly, "They're like the Mow, Blow and Go guys for your house."

I don't need a flimsy once-over on the house. I need someone to scrub the aged hardwood floors. Someone to keep the baseboards, mine have 3/4 inch ledges (naturally), from collecting dust. I need someone to shadow me throughout the day with a spray bottle of 409 and a cleaning cloth to wipe up after my every move, whether it's making a fresh batch of chimichurri sauce or defiling the porcelain with my hourly trips to the bathroom.

This man needs a maid. 

Or a butler.

And unlike the 1970's, I have the money to pay for it.  

Send help. No, literally, send Help. I need phone numbers for cleaning people near Culver City. 

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Here's Neil, wailing about my domestic woes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOuQywiRUJo

Monday, July 25, 2022

Memory #19 - The Ronicles


For those of you who are following along with my collection of memories, which will in the near future be turned into a book, as a testament to Deb and as a lasting gift for my daughters, I'd like to expand more on the special relationship she had with my uncle Ron. 

I alluded to it in Memory #18 and our weekly trips to clean out the detritus left behind in his Palm Springs home. Detritus, by the way, is an excellent 6 point word for those readers with a niche fascination in etymology.

My uncle was not an easy man to get along with; cantankerous, opinionated, stubborn, and unfiltered. In other words, he was a New Yorker. In more specific words, he was from the Bronx.

Though I loved Ronnie, and not just because he brought us expensive Hanukkah/birthday gifts, he had a special ability to infuriate me like no other. Resulting in toe-to-toe shouting matches. Often causing me to scurry through the medicine cabinet in search of something from the Benzodine family of all-purpose sedation. 

Deb, however, was a master at verbal ju-jitsu. 

She knew, perhaps because of her midwestern roots, that the best way to deal with a crazy, hot headed Gothamite  -- the only gay man in Palm Springs with no sense of design, our little inside joke -- was to react in a cool, calm manner that always served to de-escalate the tension.

Moreover, for reasons I still don't get, she genuinely liked my uncle. And was much more generous with her love for him, than anyone in his blood family could ever be.

When it was time to relocate him to an assisted living home in LA, she did all the research and hunted down facilities that he could afford and would accept him with all his infirmities.

When he needed to visit a doctor, in her pre-cancer time, she shuffled her schedule to shuttle him all around LA to his cadre of various specialists.

And when it came time to help clean out his house and the unimaginable collection of rubbish he had bought for himself, she, without any hesitation, accompanied me on those exhausting one day round trip escapades.

Painful as those trips were, they were also filled with laughter. Particularly when we uncovered:

* 23 electrical power strips

* 5 staple guns

* 17 packets, still unopened, of drill bits (it should be noted that like my father he was unusually handy)

* Measuring cups, up the ying yang, enough to outfit the kitchens of 3 restaurants

* Reams and reams of 8 &1/2 X 11 paper. It was as if Dunder Mifflin had opened a west coast warehouse

* And more dust bunnies than you could shake a Shop Vac at

It took us four solid months of back and forthing to get the tiny 1200 square foot house ready for renovations. Four months and Deb never uttered a word of complaint. 

Ever.

Her patience with my uncle Ron, honed after 30 years of marriage to me, reminds me of an old Jaguar tagline: Grace, Pace, Space.

Except for that one time...

While returning home from Cedar Sinai Medical center to see his Pulmonologist/Cardiologist/Oncologist/Proctologist/Left Sinusologist my uncle spotted a building specifically labeled Women's Health Center. 

Innocuous right? Until he made the mistake letting a little misogynistic rhetoric slip past his tongue.

"Look at that, a whole building dedicated to women's health issues, why do they need a whole building for woman's issues, that's ridiculous."

Deb, a pink hat rally attendee, mother of two daughters, one of four sisters and a lifelong vocal feminist, was not having any of that. Had there been a Richter Scale for verbal tectonic eruptions, this would have registered a solid 8.5 to 9.5.

I would repeat some of the choice and colorful language she used, but this is, for most part, a family friendly blog.

Suffice it to say, that moment of pent up feistiness finally seeing the light of day, makes me smile.

Also, I miss them both.


 






Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday Photo Funnies


You can't go wrong with starting off a blog piece, even a light fluffy one like this, with a dog picture to draw in some eyeballs. I learned that from Lee Clow, he of Chiat/Day fame, for you younger readers who need to do some Googling.

It's Thursday. 

Time, once again, for that reliable standby, savior to the lazy blogger -- The Thursday Photo Funnies. A conceit borrowed from old National Lampoon magazines (still stacked in my garage) in a bin buried beneath sleeping bags, tents, and a panopoly of 20 year old camping gear. 

By the way, I got in a heap of trouble at work for using a hifaltutin word like panopoly, more accurately, trying to use that word in an email at work. #PuerilityRules.

A telling reflection of the decline of advertising and the dumbing down of America 2022. Whatever?

Without further adieu, let's get to the pics...


Last week's post about my peach stand encounter, 
inspired someone to drop off a bags of fresh peaches on at my doorstep. 
I later found out it was my neighbor. It was the second batch of the fuzzy orbs given to me in one week. Mmmm, peaches


Pretty sure this is the first President of the United States of America 
who ever felt the need to utter those words.


We don't get a lot of clouds in Southern California,
but they're always welcome when they arrive.


One of the more interesting fruits produced from my Buddha Finger Lemon Tree.


God bless the clients who understand humor and 
the untapped power of tongue-in-cheek negativity.


My proud bathroom display of Caganers.


If you hadn't noticed, I'm a little obsessed with all things Russian.



Attention-getting tires? Why not. Smart business owner.


This was across the street from the Bar Lubitsch, where my daughters and I recently caught a comedy show in West Hollywood. Apparently there's a small enclave of Russian Jews there.


Just by chance, I found this photo on my iPhone of a coffee table book I have on display in the living room. Soviet Space Dogs. How about that Lee?


And one more, just as a prelude to tonight's Hearing Fireworks.