Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Worst. Diet. Ever.


When we first learned of my wife's cancer in March 2020, 3 days before the Covid lockdown, I lost more than my sense of optimism regarding the future -- our plans for retirement and how to best enjoy our golden years and reap the rewards after almost 100 years of accumulated hard work -- I lost weight.

A lot of weight. 

I had no appetite for a good 6 months. 

Soup and bourbon, do not a good diet make.

When we were in the thick of the battle and using all of modern technology to fend off the Cancer, my sense of optimism and appetite slowly returned. So did my girth. 

This week, will mark five months since her passing. And once again, my appetite has faded. I usually cruise past breakfast and lunch and eat one good meal a day. And so I am losing weight again.

However, keenly aware of my need to stay healthy for my daughters and my family's sake, I am eating healthier. Cutting down on red meat as well as portion size, snacking on fruit and cheese, drinking about 3/4 of a gallon of water a day and putting more ice cubes in my nightly glass(es) of whiskey.

I also treated myself to an Apple iWatch, which tracks my heart rate, oxygen level, calorie burn and all manner of exercise, whether it's walking the dog, hopping on the Peloton or lifting weights.

The last point is important because I've been spending considerably more time "pushing plates" lately. I find it therapeutic. I like feeling physically strong even though my emotions say otherwise. And so I was very happy to blast past the 200 lbs. boundary and can now bench more than my current weight of 208. That's better than 77% of all men my age (that's right I looked it up.)

The other thing I did was hire a guy to restore my old Cinelli racing bike, leftover from my triathlon days. You're looking at the before picture above. New tires, new tubes, new brake lines, new sealed ball bearings, and new clip on pedals (that work with my Peloton shoes. It's literally a new 40 year old bike.

And it rides like it too.

Took it for a spin the other day and could not believe how solid and agile it feels, particularly for a 21 lbs. steel frame, which I'm told is a classic. And while I love my Peloton, I also love, and missed, the ocean air, the sunshine and the look on younger people's faces when this fat 64 year old man passes them on the bike path.

To give you an idea of how hard I've been working out lately I screen grabbed this from one of the wellness apps on my iPhone.


 The results indicate I am highly stressed. 

But from what I can tell, so is 97% of country.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Think about reading this book


If you were to come to my house and peruse my bookshelves you'd notice a panoply of books written about ex Precedent Shitgibbon, including a trilogy written by Bob Woodward, as well as two dozen others by Pulitzer Prize winning authors and even his niece, Mary Trump.

Upon second thought you might not see all of them as I have enthusiastically lent them out to friends and family who share the same distaste for this fetid sack of rotting flesh that I consider the "Most Dangerous Man in America."

Now the bookshelves are crammed end to end with books about grief, sorrow and depression. A rocky journey that been made even rockier by another major illness in my small and dwindling family. 

Good times.

But I have just finished reading Unthinkable, Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy. It was written by Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Constitutional lawyer with what I consider the sharpest mind in the halls of government. 

It doesn't help however that he also has the worst hair, which might not even be his own. Come on dude just shave it off and go Pitbull style. I can tell you firsthand that women love the cueball look. At least the ones in my dreams do.

Nevertheless, Raskin has weaved a compelling tale that lives at the intersection of politics and grief. Two arenas I'm sadly aware of. 

Weeks after the free and fair presidential election of 2020, his son Tommy, a brilliant Harvard Law School student suffering from depression, took his own life. It sent Rep. Raskin into a tailspin. As I imagine it would do to any loving parent. 

And not long after that tragedy, we had the disgraceful attempted coup on January 6th, 2021 -- my wife's birthday, which would turn out to be her last.

(Time to tear open a new box on Kleenex tissues)

Shortly after that, House Speaker Pelosi paid a visit to Mr. Raskin and asked him to be the lead prosecutor in the second impeachment. I still cannot comprehend the failure of the GOP Senate to act on this motion and hold that scumbag accountable for the worst criminal act in our country's history. Letting him slip away in the name of partisan politics only so he could wreak more unimaginable havoc on America.

Raskin deftly intertwines the legal and political machinations of DC with fond memories of his son who still occupies a large space in the congressman's heart. The book was thick with detail and chockfull of interesting observations. Including one that touched me...

"If a person can grow through unthinkable trauma and loss, perhaps a nation may, too."

I hope so, because there is no alternative.

 



Thursday, May 12, 2022

Ewwwwww


Friends that know me and readers of this blog who don't, are familiar with my juvenile scatological bent. 

Hence the many posts about Caganers. The euphemism exercise that gave us, "He launched a lifeboat off the SS Assitania" or "There's been a prison break at the South Gate". And an entire post about installing my daughter's Tushy Bidet -- a real one not the one pictured above.

Last week, and I apologize for not recalling who, a friend shared a Linkedin job posting from the Tushy Bidet company. It seems they were/are looking for a Creative Director with a copywriter background, to help shower the airwaves about their brand and their tree-saving products. 

 I had to pinch myself and couldn't believe this was the real deal.

The job was in NY but they were willing to push the boundaries and consider candidates who could work remotely as long as they logged in at a decent hour. 

Keep in mind I'm perfectly happy with my current position and have no plans to abandon my seat. 

But just for shitz & giggles, I sent in my application which necessitated a demonstration that I could write in the Tushy tone of voice. An exercise for which I could have easily completed and indeed piled on, to unmentionable excess. 

To be honest I usually coil up with anger when a potential employer asks a candidate to work for free. 

So instead of putting my mighty expensive brain to work, I squeezed hard on the search engine and tracked down this predigested goodie from the past.



To date, my phone has not rung nor have any offers been deposited in my mailbox. But a part of me is clinging on, hoping against hope that one of my euphemistic phrases will be dropped into their literature and somehow make into poop culture.
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Diamond & Silk & Brainrot


Last Friday, my friend Paul came over. Initially the plan was for him to bring Samosas (we both love Indian/Himalayan food) and drink whiskey by the fire pit. You might have noticed I have many friends over for whiskey and fire pit-side chats.

The plan changed when our Meal Train, arranged by our incredible friends, showed up --thank you Charlotte -- with the most incredible dish of chicken piccata, rice, green beans and a homemade Challah.

Afterwards, Paul and I sat outside and braved the 68 degree night air. We covered the usual range of topics: our kids, his kids (he's a 2nd grade teacher), married and unmarried life, and of course the decline of Western Civilization brought on by Captain Ouchie Foot. Let's face it any discussion surrounding ex Precedent Shitgibbon eventually leads to Diamond and Silk.

"Oh," I said, "I should write about them in the blog", and quickly sent myself a text as a reminder. 

"Wait, what are you gonna write about Diamond & Silk? How do you write a blog post about that?" replied Paul.

Good question. Until that is I stuck one foot down the Diamond & Silk rabbit hole. For instance, do you know which sister --that's right, they're sisters -- is Diamond and which one is Silk? I don't and I'll bet the PERSON WOMAN MAN CAMERA TV schmuck doesn't know either.

This may or may not surprise you, but those are not their real names. According to Wikipedia they are Ineitha Lynette Hardaway and Herneitha Rochelle Hardaway. I'm going to exhibit some cultural sensitivity here and just say that if I had two kids named Ineitha and Herneitha, I'd be looking for some easier nicknames to remember.

But here's an interesting fact. 

They were born to Freeman and Betty Hardaway, two evangelical pastors who were less interested in connecting people with the Lord and more interested in separating gullible clods from their money. According to the Wiki, they sold questionable weight loss cures as well as decorative wreathes that ward off witchcraft. What century is this?

In other words, Ineitha and Herneitha, I'm sorry Diamond & Silk, are no strangers to the scamming game. Perhaps that explains why they were among the first and most fervent to jump on The Shitgibbon Grifting Gravy Train way back in 2015, the Before Times.

They curated their clownish characters to perfection; landing paid gigs with the Floridian Fondler campaign, then with Fox Nation, then with Newsmax and eventually found themselves seated at the Big Table with the Big Fuckknuckle. (see picture above)

Just as it was shocking to learn that Kid Rock had been solicited for his views on North Korea by our former Commander and Chief (sic), I have no doubt whatsoever that they too were asked for policy advice -- because you know they were celebrities and had been on TV (and only smart people figure out how to get on TV).

"Well Mr. President if you ask me, I think you should break out those big bombs we got and nuke those Iranians before they nuke us," said Diamond. Or Silk.

"You go girl," nodding in agreement, said Diamond. Or Silk.  

God help us in 2024 before Diamond and/or Silk, is named to the be the new Secretary of Defense.






Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Jameson v Bushmill


This is my friend Rich Cronin. 

In addition to attending Catholic High School, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame. He hails from a very large family in Chicago. I believe he has 14 sisters and 23 brothers, five of whom are priests, three of whom are nuns. I forgot which ones reside in Vatican City. 

Rich is to Irish Catholic, as I am to Jewish.

He is also one of the funniest people I know on the planet. And has wisely mined his gift of humor into a wildly successful career, spearheading Nick at Night at its inception. And was also the former CEO at GSN, which used to be located within 1/2 mile of my house.

To fully appreciate his daring sense of humor and can-do fortitude, he once staged a mock election debate in the parking lot of GSN headquarters between Gary Coleman and adult film "star" Mary Carey. 


You can read about it here.

Rich makes me laugh until it hurts. So naturally he wanted to do what he could to bring some of that joy into my life. And what makes for greater joy than a night of drinking wildly expensive scotch and bourbon-- thanks again to all my friends who have filled my liquor cabinet to the gills.

As we sipped our various whiskeys, I sprung the news on Mr. Cronin that I was not exclusively Jewish. In fact, thanks to the good folks at 23andme, I discovered that my roots in Glasgow extend across the North Channel linking the North Atlantic and the Irish Sea. More specifically some of my DNA sprang forth from Donegal County and Cork. 

Shockingly, Cork is also where Rich's family hails from. I think that's what he said or it might have been,

"Let's pop the Cork on that Macallan." 

Who knows, by that point in the evening we had both been self-overserved.

In any case it led to an interesting discussion about Irish Whiskey. 

Rich told me the story of an American couple touring Northern Ireland and walking into a pub full of colorful locals who were already three peats to the wind. In accordance with the maxim "when in Romans do what the Irish do", the unknowing couple ordered some Bushmills. Well, the bartender was aghast. And the patrons all turned in unison to lay some serious stinkeye on the Protestant bastards.

In Ireland, there are two brands of whiskey, Jameson and Bushmills. 

Jameson is distilled in Southern Ireland, which is predominately Catholic, while Bushmills is owned by Diageo Beverages based in English and therefore associated with colonialism, Neanderthal dentistry and people who drink with their pinkies extended.

How fucked up is that? 

People from the same country, the same culture, the same religion (albeit different branches of Christianity) can find fault and fight over a magical elixir that can actually make us sing together, laugh together and enjoy the best life has to offer.

That's meshugana.

Let's just say, you'd never find two Jews squabbling about their preferred brand of Slivovitz. Or even seltzer. 

Never.


 


Monday, May 9, 2022

Memory #12 -- Hello Pittsburgh


Yesterday was Mother's Day. I hope you had a good one and the opportunity to spend time with your mother, grandmother, mothers-to be, or maybe away from one of your mother-trucking neighbors whose dog will simply NOT stop barking.

It was not an easy Mother's Day here, as this was the first that we spent without Deb. Excuse me while I wipe dry the tears that have pooled up around the right side of my keyboard: O, P, {, : and L.

Since December I've been consumed with my own grief. And told by therapists that it is important to take time for myself. Self-care is the technical term they like to use. Along with the analogy that when you watch the anodyne safety instruction video on a plane, the corporate banality always starts with the command, 

"In the event of loss of pressure or oxygen in the cabin, always put your mask on first, then you can assist your children with theirs." 

It's a little counter-intuitive, because a mother's (and a father's) first inclination is to protect the children. However, the truth is you can't do that if you're passed out in your seat. 

Yesterday was not about this odd notion of self-care. I've never been easy on myself or nor failed to beat myself up over some regret or mistake. I don't think I can start doing that now. 

Yesterday was about my daughters, Rachel and Abby. It was time to put on their figurative oxygen masks. So I took my wife's two bicycles, that had been hanging on rafter hooks in the garage and had them restored. It was my Mother's Day gift to my now motherless children.

Which brings us to today's memory.

A year ago today, when it became apparent Deb's chemo therapy had stopped working, we were contacted by the lead surgeon on her Oncology team. He told us about the country's only live liver transplant program performed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the finest and largest in the country. How large?

It seems every barber shop, pizzeria and hardware store in the city of Pittsburgh is somehow connected to UPMC. They are that ubiquitous.

"Large pepperoni pie, did you want a CT scan for gallstones with that?"

Without getting into all the anatomical details, the idea was to remove Deb's cancerous liver and replace it with a 1/3 or 1/2 half a live liver from a living, breathing donor. Being old and sodden with years of bourbon-sipping, my liver was out of the question. But my two beautiful daughters, who loved their mother with all their heart, jumped at the opportunity to go under the knife and donate part of their livers. 

"Take mine, I was the first born."

"No, take mine, Rachel is lactose intolerant. And she eats all those spicy Salami nuggets."

"Well I signed up for the gym at the YMCA."

"So what, I do yoga classes, my liver is better."

"My liver is better."

And so it went.

Technical aside: it should be noted that the liver is one of the few organs in the human body that can regenerate itself. And so it was hoped that in a year of rehab and careful monitoring, Deb would have a brand new healthy liver, because each of my kids has a heart of gold. 

When told about the yearlong recuperative process which included massive bedrest, much of it in Pittsburgh, Deb's first words were, "Rich, I can't put you through that, what are we gonna do?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Don't worry."

Sadly, we never reached that bridge. Our 48 hour excursion to Pittsburgh, which included all kinds of blood tests, scans, even a psychological examination, resulted in the disappointing news that because Debbie's tumor was so tied into her vascular system, she would not be a suitable candidate for the operation. 

So, instead of one of my girls sporting a scar and a hole where a full healthy liver once resided, we found ourselves 7 months later, each of us wounded, with a gaping hole that will never be filled.

#FUCKCANCER











Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Non-Adventures of Pizza Hut Pete.


On the heels of yesterday's odd post about Gastro Obscura and oversized  livestock, I was reminded of an ad campaign that, like thousands of others I had worked on, never saw the light of day. 

Literally.

My partner and I had been freelancing at a discreetly unnamed agency and prepared to pitch a month and a half's worth of $$$olid work to the powers that be, but the previous team ate into our time and the 79 page deck we had artfully prepared never even got looked at. Never. 

No big deal. As my good friend of more than 40 years and former Mailroom Clerk boss often says, "Get check. Cash check."

Moreover, I'm past the age of advocating, fighting, defending or otherwise attempting to cajole small minded people of work they should be doing. I simply do my best, put the goods on the table and let the buyer decide. 

This business has literally beaten the Fight out of me.

Nevertheless, the Pizza Hut work we did is worthy of an anecdote, at the very least. Particularly in light of the funny-less dreck that is currently running on TV with spokesperson Craig Robinson, who I consider the be a genuinely funny guy -- just not in these spots.

During our research, we discovered that Pizza Hut had a different spokesperson in the 1960's -- a character called Pizza Hut Pete. Our idea, perhaps not the most original, was to bring that old DNA to the fore.

We would bring Pizza Hut Pete back to life only in a different life form. In our incarnation, the ethnically-questionable PHP would morph from an animated character to a freakishly large man. We loved the idea of a spokesperson being near 8 feet tall. PHP would by default be the largest human corporate spokesperson on TV. With the possible exception of the Jolly Green Giant and the pillowy Michelin man.

His outsized dimension would allow PHP to command the attention of the camera. He'd chew up the scenery and leave a lasting impression on every pizza lover he'd come in contact with. Admittedly, this was to distract from the crappy nature of Pizza Hut pizza, which to my NY palate doesn't resemble pizza as much as it does a large bialye with ketchup and cheese on top.

We placed PHP in all kinds of situations. 

He'd deliver a pizza to a couple living in a second story apartment right through their kitchen window.

He'd rescue cats from trees.

He'd dislodge basketballs stuck between the backboard and the rim.

He'd drive a car with a custom built sunroof to accommodate his circus-show height.

And he'd do it all while pimping the endless (and frankly stupid) promotional deals or worthless concoctions coming out of the Pizza Hut corporate kitchen.

I don't know about you, but when my family or friends get in the mood for pizza, that's what we want. Not interested in pizza crusts stuffed with cheese, cool whip, or crab meat. We just want a damn good pizza.

Pizza Hut ought to consider that for the next campaign and/or agency.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

A primer on Gastro Obscura


As I have often stated on these pages, I am easily amused. 

Not so much with advertising, particularly in its current pedantic form of Shout, Bore and Shout again, but with new visual and writing entrees into the world of "hey look over here." (See picture above)

Last weekend, somebody, and I'm sorry if I forgot who, posted a painting from the 19th Century. This painting is now my cover photo on my Facebook page. I wasn't content to to just share this odd painting of a farmer and his oversized rectangular cow, I was intrigued by it and uncovered the lost art form of Gastro Obscura.

There are many examples of Gastro Obscura, but what I found most interesting was how it manifested itself in the 19th century. And how one could argue that it found its way to the 21st century and the phenomena of people posting pictures of their Eggs Benedict or Monte Christo sandwiches on Instagram and the like.

It's all a form of peacocking.

I could give a rat's ass -- even an oversized one -- about your picturesque Pho bowl or the artfully sculpted mound of mashed potatoes that came with your rack of lamb. But the story behind the wildly exaggerated farm animals fascinates me.

You see back in the 1800's, English landowners (I say English and not British because from what I can discern, especially looking at part of my family tree, there were no wealthy Scots or Irishmen) found it necessary to boast about their fantastic accumulation of wealth, often by exploiting or stealing from the lower classes. 

And because they were 200 years behind the times in terms of Twitter and Instagram, did not have the means to boast about their incredible riches. So they commissioned artists to paint themselves next to their exaggerated gargantuan livestock. 

"Look at the size of my Pustertaler Sprinzen!!!Jealous?"

Stupid? Yes. 

Eyecatching? Well you tell me...







Now, if you know me, and after close to 3000 posts, you probably should, you know that if I'm in for a dime I'm in for a dollar. And so, with my newfound but intensely painful freedom to decorate the house with no moderation, I plan on hunting down some replicas of these paintings and hanging them on the walls.

Would Deb approve? Hardly.

Would she be laughing from whatever dimension she is in? I like to think so.



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

McCarthyism 2.0


"Virtue Signalling"

It's an invective used widely by the right and, ironically, usually by people with little or no virtue to speak of. What virtue, for instance, does the merkin-sporting leader, the twice impeached, Insurrection-inciting former president bring to the table?

I'll wait.

I have to laugh at the cultists who wield this term as if they were pointing out a character flaw. 

I, myself, have been called a 'virtue signaler' by many with whom I share diametrically-opposed political views. More recently with a former colleague who has positioned himself on the front lines standing tall against the mortal dangers of DEI. 

What a cause to get behind! In his narrow-minded world, backed by generations of white supremacy and white privilege, the notion of including people from diverse backgrounds in policy-making, business ventures, school admissions, and even marketing, represents a greater threat to American livelihood than wealth inequality, accessible health care, child poverty and the attempted coup to overthrow the Republic and hand the presidency to a man who literally tried to steal it.

"Come on guys, just find me 11,870 votes. gimme a break."

And, as the right wing does, they have fed this clap-trap to their Fox/OAN/Newsmax trough eaters who gorge themselves on this country club bullshittery, until it's commonly heard at backyard BBQ's, little league baseball games and twice a week Grift-a-thons aka, Trump rallies.

"And what's with all the bi-racial couples in commercials? When was the last time you saw a commercial with just normal white people?" (To be clear this is me quoting a Republican (duh) candidate running for office.)

So go ahead, call me a virtue signaler. It's a badge of honor. Because I know where I stand on the issues. And it's not on the same side of frightened imbeciles who find fault in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Did you know that as recently as two months ago, Indiana Senator Mike Braun said the Supreme Court was wrong to strike down miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriage? Those Neanderthal laws were on the books until 1967! But let's hear more about how there's no Institutional Racism in the USA.

I have little confidence that today's Supreme Court -- under the thumb of numbnuts like Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Trump acolytes -- would rule similarly.

When Putin and his gang installed Captain Fuckknuckle into the White House in 2016, and by the way there's more evidence of that plot than any evidence of rigged or stolen election, Shifty Vlad got his ruble's worth.

They not only sowed the seeds of distrust and vaporized the very notion of Truth in America. They went further and took a flamethrower to one of our most prized possession -- human decency.



Monday, May 2, 2022

On my new editors



Somebody asked me the other day why I enjoy blogging. Or, for that matter writing, which most people consider an unpleasant chore.

The answer was quite simple and I'm sure other bloggers, like my friends George Tannenbaum, Laura Sweet, Jeff Eaker and Jeff Gelberg, will concur. 

We all knew at an early age that we wanted to be writers. I knew when I was 13 years old. Despite the protestations of my father who said, "You should go into accounting or become a doctor, get a skill that will produce a reliable income."

A reliable income hardly seemed aspirational to a teenager who wanted to make an impact -- even a minimal one -- on the world. And not drive a 1971 Plymouth Valiant. 

With that in mind, as soon as I graduated college I came to Los Angeles, like thousands of other writers, to ply my meager wares. When gaining entry into the entertainment field became impossible, I figured I'd take a different path by going into entertainment's poor redheaded stepchild -- advertising. 

It made sense, as many copywriters successfully made the leap from pimping sugary carbonated water to crafting longer form storytelling that are often financed and controlled by corporate people pimping sugary carbonated water.

And make no mistake, advertising has been very good to me. It still is. I'm 64 years old, making a decent paycheck as well as an impact on the company. As my boss said to me just last week, "I wish I had two of you."

But it's not all low carb non-dairy ice cream and semi-sweet chocolate chips, because like it or not, I have still have people telling me what I should write and more importantly what not to write. 

Hence the birth of RoundSeventeen more than 13 years ago. Here, no one can tell me what to write. I am free to pick the stories I want to tell and tell them the way I want to tell them. And while there's no renumeration for that, it is, for a writer, the greatest joy. Particularly so when I get so much positive feedback. So I must be doing something right.

Until I'm told I'm not.

You see, I have two amazing daughters (who I often forget are taking the grieving journey right by my side) who read what I write and more often than not, enjoy it. Though they don't understand the many inside baseball references to the ad industry.

But recently they raised an objection to my emotional oversharing and the daily tribulations of widowhood. 

"It's too much, Dad. It's like you're begging for sympathy. It feels weird."

Indeed, it does. Because my life revolved so much around my wife and daughters, everything feels weird. From opening a drawer and finding Deb's favorite salad serving bowl, setting off a torrent of tears, to the scary speed with which my fingernails are growing. It's all surreal, dark, painful and sometimes, even funny.

Moving forward I will still share my wonderful memories with Deb, including the zip lining incident of 2015, but I will try do so less often.

Because while Father Knows Best, sometimes Daughters Know Better.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Learning to laugh again


I live 1056 feet -- yes, I Googled it -- from a bar. Not just a bar, but a bar and grill. I suppose in my younger years this would have been a dream come true. 

One thousand and fifty six feet is easy stumbling distance. That means I could drink as much as I wanted and never worry about driving home or getting nabbed by the Po-Po. "Look at Rich using young people vernacular, that's some serious street cred."

The Backstage Bar and Grill is no ordinary Bar and Grill. It sits directly across the street from Sony Studios. And those of you 13 regular readers who've ever been there know its ridiculous proximity. 

Of course back in the day, Sony used to be MGM studios. It's where many classic movies were shot, including The Wizard of Oz.

It's also where many of Hollywood's biggest stars plied their thespian wares. Stars like Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and Seth Rogin. After a grueling day of reading other people's words, pretending to be a detective or a pilot or whatever, and having their every need attended to by hundreds of eager production assistants, many of these exhausted stars sauntered across Culver Blvd. for a drink. Or 5. Or 9.

In other words, the place has history, despite it now being the unofficial home to Seattle Seahawk fans as well as one of the hottest karaoke bars in all of LA. Nevertheless, it's still a classic dumpy dive bar, with no affectations that afflict so many other places on the Westside.

And yet in the thirty years that we...er, I (that's a tough cookie to swallow) have lived in this house, I have never walked those 1056 steps to step inside the Backstage. 

That is until last week.

I met up with my new old friend John Hage, one of the best copywriters in the business who often snagged assignments I didn't get when we were both in the freelance game. John's also a Girl Daddy and we have known each other for 28 years. 

We never did much socializing, mostly because we're men and not particularly good at that shit, but we always make each other laugh 'til it hurts. As is evident in this photo, post being over served...


During our Wednesday (no Karaoke Night) dinner, we talked about everything from Ukraine, the demise of democracy, our cute and exceedingly young waitress, ex Precedent Shitgibbon, shitty advertising, my grieving process, our waitress and mountain biking.

I've always had an interest in mountain biking, particularly after seeing so many riding the same trails Deb and I used to hike. She hated them. But I always thought it looked like fun and a good way to burn off my excessive calorie intake. 

Now I'm shopping for a good mountain bike. So the next time John and I meet up it will be somewhere in Mandeville Canyon and involve tackling some tough hills and unpredictable hairpin turns. 

Though I'm sure it might end up with the two of us back at the Backstage.

Or the local Cedars Sinai Acute Care Center just down the street.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I'm not smart


In the 64 round trips I've taken around the sun, I don't think I've uttered the words, "I'm smart. I'm really smart." 

I've always held onto the belief that if you have to say something like that, it is more than 90% untrue as well 38% sheer arrogance. 

Moreover, I've had the good fortune of being around really smart people, and know I'm not even in the same class. And because I've worked in the advertising/film/TV business and been on social media since its inception, it's also fair to say I've had the misfortune of coming in contact with many brain-dead imbeciles. 

Still, though I can hold my own in Jeopardy, and for a short while WORDLE, the fact remains, I'm not smart nor would I dare to speak those words aloud.

Last weekend, at another of his American Bund Rallies/Ego Jerkoffathons, Ex Precedent Shitgibbon droned on about how he didn't like it when people called him stupid. And many have. Including dozens he actually had on his staff: General Mattis, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, Rance Priebus, General John Kelly, Mike Milley, Bill Barr, and many more. 

To counter that generally held belief about a man who can't name his favorite book, spell hamburger, identify a single seminal Supreme Court case, outline any details about WWI or WWII -- wars which have  shaped the 20th and 21st century, or point out 100 major countries on an unmarked world map, he recalled the story of "Doc Ronny." 

He literally referred to once White House Chief Physician and now drunken, pill popping Congressman Dr. Ronald Jackson as Doc Ronny. You can see a clip, if you can bear his stammering, fake bravado voice, here.

It is, by far, one of the most humiliating humblebrags in the history of humblebrags. To establish his smartness, he insisted on taking a test. Not an IQ test. Or an SAT. Or even the Jeopardy admittance test. He took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test, which because of his continual mental decline, he couldn't even identify and simply referred to as The X Test. 

He ACED it. Aced it, I say. And it was very, very tough.

At this point it should be noted the "X Test" as he calls it -- The MCAT for people with functioning brains -- proves nothing about one's alleged intellect. Go online and take the 30 question quiz yourself. I give you the Siegel Guarantee, you will ace it too. The test is often used to measure mental deterioration in Assisted living homes for seniors. And at the annual CPAC conference. And at the The Daily Wire Christmas Party.

Of course, we all remember when he went on Fox News to boast about how he "nailed" what he considered the most important part of the X Test and correctly rattled off 5 random words in the correct order. Oddly enough, his fit of self aggrandizement at the Ohio Rally, he failed to repeat those 5 magic words which to my everlasting delight will be entered in the White House Presidential Archive. Also to the amazement of future head-palming historians, who will stop in their tracks and say, "This can't be real."

And on that note I give you my favorite memes I created in his honor. 

I may not be smart, but I'm certainly not lacking in snark...







 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

My new toy


 

Over the course of the last two Covid/Cancerous years, my weight has fluctuated quite a bit. When Deb got her diagnosis, my appetite fell off the earth like advertising holding company profits. I just stopped eating. And smiling. And laughing. And enjoying much of anything.

I do remember spending more time lifting weights in the garage, pounding out grueling mileage on the very addictive Peloton and banging my fists on the steering wheel of my car in fits of anger, cursing the universe, and whoever or whatever was in charge, for visiting up on my family this nightmare of all nightmares.

There was one silver lining.

For the first time in many years I had dropped below the 200 lbs. mark. It's not a diet you often seen advertised on Late Night TV or any of the talk shows, but life-altering trauma is an excellent way to shed a few extra pounds.

Later as my wife's chemo treatments continued and we had some success with the radiation and my antidepressant pills kicked in, I began eating again. A lot of restaurant take out food sent to us by friends and family, via a remarkably generous meal train.

Suddenly I ballooned up to my highest weight ever, which for vanity purposes I will not share here.

Now, as a sole parent, and someone who would like to live long enough to witness my daughter's dreams, achievements and maybe even family, I've decided another change was in order. 

And so I bought a scale.

I never liked scales. I always found them inaccurate or lacking in any information other than my growing and disappointing numbers. It's also why I prefer wearing shorts as opposed to long pants. They're more forgiving in the waistline.

This new scale I bought is different and appeals to my love of technological gadgetry. It's wifi enabled. And with the bluetooth connected the scale relays my daily results, as well as my exercise stats, to a handy chart on my iPhone, that I find encouraging.

My BMI -- Body Mass Index -- is a little elevated and needs to come down. But check out the reading for my muscle mass.


I'm in the excellent range.

My new personal physician suggests I push myself away from the dining table a little more often with the qualifier...

"You're fat but fit."

"But I'm fit?" I countered.

"Yeah, but you're also fat."

Duly noted Doc, duly noted. See you in 6 months.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Memory #11


I keep a list of memories about the 34 years I had with my wife. Knowing that many, though not all, will somehow make it into this collection. 

Sometimes the memories come to me out of the blue, while I'm making coffee, folding clothes from the dryer, or turning Bitey (my new robotic Shark vacuum cleaner) on from the app on my phone. I'll do a lot, er, all, of chores around the house but sweeping and mopping is not one. Not after all the years I spent working in restaurants as a kitchen assistant/janitor.

Sometimes the memories come from outside sources. My sister in law reminded me of one that makes my heart soar and opens a Hoover Dam of tears.

While Deb was battling with her extremely rare Cholangiocarcinoma, she was, like the rest us in lockdown because of Covid. What a great way to spend the last two years of a life, huh?

Deb accepted her fate with amazing grace, a feat I could not imagine. She tried, despite all odds, to be positive. She wanted for little more than to beat this fucking disease. But she also wanted to get out of the house and go shopping.

"I want to buy the foods I want, not the ones Instacart picks out for us."

"I want to find fresh vegetables."

"I want to look over the selection of cheeses and bring an interesting one home for Rich."

"I want just a small sense of normalcy, that's all."

That's when my youngest daughter sprung into action and wrote a very touching and personal email to the manager of the local Trader Joes. She explained Deb's extremely immunocompromised situation from the weekly chemo sessions, which by the way she attended solo because Covid restrictions excluded my accompaniment.

Abby asked if there was any way possible for the store to open an hour early so that Deb could shop safely without fear of being near possibly contagious customers. Abby hesitated to make the Big Ask, but I reminded her the squeaky shopping cart wheel gets the oil. Also, the manager could say "no", but so what.

Plus, despite the famed Siegel cynicism, I've always harbored the thought that deep down inside, people are good and empathetic and abhor the pain of others.

My grief therapist quoted me a poem the other day about how we are not born from stardust, but from a trillion gazillion pieces and shards of a cosmos-sized broken heart. And because we all know and recognize the pain of others, we are moved by other people's suffering. And each of us has the capacity and the DNA wiring to want to help. 

I know scientifically, none of that makes sense, but to be honest, not much does these days.

The manager at the Trader Joe's wrote back immediately and wanted to make Deb's wish come true. She agreed to open the store, at 7 AM, with just one cashier and let them freely roam the aisles so that Deb could feel human again. 

Moreover, and in keeping with the TJ's spirit, she didn't call the press or have a photographer on hand to capture and exploit this moment of corporate altruism.

It was just one good person making a little -- but giant-- gesture of goodness to my good person, Deb.

As they were leaving the store, the manager topped off Deb's overloaded cart with many bouquets of fresh flowers.

When she got home, she burst into tears. Joyful tears. About an experience most of us take for granted.

And prideful tears, over how Abby took a wild hare idea and made it a reality.

It's Saturday morning as I write this and the frigitator is getting empty. Instead of shopping at Pavillions or Whole Foods, I'm going to patronize this Trader Joe's. As a measure of appreciation.

And see what they have in the way of interesting cheeses.



Thursday, April 21, 2022

Back in the saddle


My neighbor, who lives two doors down from me, is a genuinely nice guy. 

My problem with him is he's young. Much younger than me. And therefore he can do the things I used to do but can't do anymore: like running marathons and triathlons.

Like all triathletes he is obsessive about the sport. 

You have to maintain a demanding workout schedule that allows the human body to swim an ungodly distance, hop out of the water and onto a bike with a narrow hard seat that tends to anesthetize the nether lower regions, and then hop off the bike, slip into some running shoes and tack on double digit miles.

I imagine it would be hard for anyone I went to high school with to believe I did all that, on a semi-regular basis, considering my apparent non-athleticism of my misspent youth. But it's true.

My neighbor, let's just call him A., has a home bike tune-up guy come out to the house to render professional grade level bike service. Apparently Super Bicycle Repairman does great work. So I decided to give him a call to haul away the three bikes I had gathering cobwebs in my garage, for a major makeover.

The bike pictured above is an Italian made Cinelli. I bought this bike back in 1984. And paid top dollar ($1700) at a store that specialized in gear for triathletes. 

As my wife always told me, "You get what you pay for."

As opposed to my excessively-frugal father who would often say, "You have anything less expensive?"

I'm told the 21 lbs. steel-frame Cinelli, which is still in remarkable condition considering the thousands of miles I've pounded on it, is a classic. You can imagine the Bike Guy's delight to see such a stalwart of the past. 

Moreover he was quite excited to work on it. Less so with the two other cruiser bikes I'm having him fix up for my daughters.

I'm looking forward to getting in the saddle, at least the biking saddle, and see if I can return this 64 year old body to its former 44 year old shape.

That probably would require a greatly reduced alcohol intake, but that's not gonna happen.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The infinitesimal joys of bachelorhood

 


In case you're wondering those are Caganers. 

In case you're wondering what Caganers are I suggest you go to the Google. 

And if you're wondering why I have three, actually a few more that I can't find right now, I suggest you use the search tool on R17 and read one of the many posts I have done about Caganers.

They usually appear at Christmastime, the same time the Caganers come out on the Iberian Peninsula.

But they're up now, perched on the window sill of the downstairs guest bathroom, because frankly there's no one to tell me they could NOT be up. Deb never saw the beauty of the Caganer ritual. Yes, it's funny she would agree, but...

"I don't want any little figurine men uncoiling their post-digested beef stroganoff adorning our guest bathroom. What will people think?"

"I guarantee they won't think any different of me."

"They're not going up"

Happy wife, happy life. 

So the Caganers remained hidden. But now they're up and I suspect their numbers will grow. I've never been a collector of things, but if I were to start, and why not, Caganers, with their rich history and one-of-a-kind story, would make for some interesting conversation.

Truth is, many little things are starting to change around my household. Little things that were Debbie's way, but not necessarily mine. They never bothered me in the past (again HW/HL) but now I see no reason why they can't be my way.

 Another example...


For one reason or another Deb never liked those little sanitizing hockey pucks you drop in the toilet bowl in order to make the water blue and to hide any cleaning neglect. She didn't need a reason not to like them. Nor did I ever consider the matter big enough to raise, or drop, a stink. We just never had blue toilet water.

Unlike my advertising career, where every disagreement was worth dying on the hill for, I learned a long time ago to pick my marital battles sparingly. Similarly, when it came to aesthetics, I'd be the first admit, Deb knew better. Way better.

Neverthless, should you come over my house for an evening of sipping whiskey by my firepit, you will notice that all three bathrooms now sport the turquoise blue water.

I'm sure this won't be last change as time moves forward -- I'm looking at you crowded kitchen drawers with sifters, swurdles, and cookie templates and a host of other shit I can't even begin to explain or even describe-- there will be several trips to the Goodwill Store. 

Finally, I never cared for the outrageously expensive California King Mattress we purchased years ago, the one with the three inch tall mattress topper. Our bed is so high you have to perform the Fosbury Flip just to get into it.

What was more bothersome was the cotton candy soft mattress topper. You see I like a really firm mattress. Which probably stems from the many times I napped on my office floor, you know, when I had an office.

For those who don't know the California King Mattress is huge. I think it's bigger than Moldova. And flipping it over was no small feat of strength. Worthy of consideration in the ESPN 9 World's Strongest Man Competition. Who wants to see mammoth sized men named Igor, Angus or Ferd, lift a giant boulder? I want to see them flipping mattresses.

This is just the start. 

And it is no way to be interpreted as disrespecting my wife. If she is "looking down on me" -- whatever that means -- I'm sure she would understand. 

But not without a knowing eye roll.



Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Blessing #10 -- Past Over

(As I am currently recovering from my colonoscopy yesterday, I thought I dig into the past and retell this Passover miracle from years ago that just so happens to include a photo of my beautiful wife. Suffice to say the joy and laughter we enjoyed on this occasion 6 years ago was nowhere in the vicinity this year, our first passover without Deb.)


From April 17, 2016:


"Why is this year different than any other year?"

Asked the Melancholy Son.

Because this year, unlike all the others, my wife and I were not preparing a huge Seder dinner to mark the holiday of Passover.

With the passing of Deb's mom, a year and a half ago, and the departure of both our daughters off to college, we decided to take a friend up on a Seder invite. And sadly, dispensed with the annual arrangement of the fish from a jar, bread from a box and cow liver that had been chopped, seasoned and pureed until it was no longer recognizable as cow liver.

That is until, as if by divine providence, a miracle arrived on our doorstep.

Just as we were heading out, the doorbell rang. Another solicitor trying to strong arm me into putting solar panels on the roof, I thought.

But no. It was Elijah. Seen here standing next to my thoroughly-amused wife.


My former Chiat/Day partner, John Shirley, who had always been given a standing invitation to come for a Seder dinner, picked this year, of all years, to show up at my house. It sent Deb into an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. John loved to hear Deb laugh about 29% of what I did. As he often told me, "you have a keeper."

John entered, baring a name tag, in case the joke was lost on anyone, a bottle of Manischewitz "wine" and a speech no less.


It was quite the surprise. Had the house been full of half-hearted, atheist Jews, as it usually is on this festive holiday, John's (Elijah) arrival would have been met with a loud roar of laughter. Well deserved laughter.

He even broke out his all-purpose go-to-funeral/wedding/graduation/odd Jewish bondage fetish festival suit.

To celebrate, we unscrewed the cap and poured ourselves a ceremonial glass of "wine." But before we drank it, I whipped out my iPhone and used my new Vivino app. that identifies wine by the label and offers instantaneous reviews -- a must for any ill-informed wine shopper.

Once again, we were surprised. The reviews, perhaps written in the font of sarcasm, were astonishingly good.

"A sweet, not unpleasant floral aroma."

"Definitive notes of blackberry, with a strong finish."

"Lashings of concord and very subtle hints of...oppression."

We tasted the Manischewitz "wine", a bold 2016 blend direct from the vineyards of Canadaiugua, New York and by consensus, decided that had the Lord really wanted to punish the Egyptians, he could have skipped the theatrics of 10 plagues and made them drink this swill.




Monday, April 18, 2022

Dining like a king


There's a crappy little restaurant about a mile from house, good walking then drinking then walking again distance, from my house. It's called Dear Johns. And it's been an icon of epicurean mediocrity of Culver City long before the gentrifiers and road re-arrangers came to town.

Years ago, on a lark, my wife and I as well as two other middle aged local couples, decided to give it a shot. We might have been the youngest people in the jernt. The place was dark. And quiet. Only interrupted by a poor Frank Sinatra crooner who was jammed into the corner by the service bar.

As we left the place, we all wondered aloud how a place like Dear Johns could've survived this long. And as it turns out we were quite prescient because months after our "dinner", they closed up shop.

But not for long, because some stellar chefs from Beverly Hills signed a three year lease to reopen the place, but with their menu and their expertise. It was like an episode of Restaurant Makeover, only in real life.

Last week, I had the pleasure of dining there -- under the new management. Moreover, I got to do it with some old friends who are literally Advertising Royalty...

That's Jerry Gentile, Jeff Gorman and yours truly tucked away in what Jeff calls "The Mobster Booth."

For those not in the business, Jerry has more awards (One Show Pencils, Cannes Lions, Clios, and other assorted metal trinkets) than almost anyone in the business. And Jeff, as well as his partner Gary Johns, with their groundbreaking work for Nike (among others) helped establish the West Coast as the new Mecca of creative advertising.

Part of me, the part that houses the imposter syndrome, still can't believe that I had a seat at the table with these guys. And indeed all the men and women who made Chiat/Day history.

Surprisingly, we talked very little about advertising. As three altakockers normally do, we spent a great deal of time discussing our various medical maladies.

In fact, as you're reading about our scrumptious sand dabs, creamed spinach and two mammoth rib eye steaks cooked to perfection, I will tell you that I am under currently under the heavenly sleep brought on by Propofol, while a team of ass specialists slide a long camera tube into my innerspace, the final frontier.

Hope your day is better than mine.

 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Excuse the melancholy


As  I was digging through the drawer with important documents, like my passport, my social security card, my certificate as 1977 Sadler Dormitory Chess Champion, I came across this relic -- my photo ID from Chiat/Day, correction Chiat/Day/Mojo. 

Meaning it's circa 1993.

And it got me thinking. Not in a good way. Because nothing these days gets me thinking in a good way. Particularly since we might very well be on the brink of a much larger and more dangerous global war, the ravages of Covid continue, the criminal decay of our democracy, and of course, the passing of my wife.

I miss her dearly. Pretty sure I've made that abundantly clear. But I spent everyday with my best friend for more than half my life -- leaving me eviscerated in every imaginable way.

I also miss my daughters, who had been living here at the house so we could support each other. They have returned to their apartments and visit when their busy schedules allow.

And that's when it occurred to me that I also miss Me. 

Or, more accurately what used to be me. I miss the:

Confident Me

Healthy Me

Married Me

Family Man Me

Responsible Me

Caregiver Me

At Ease Me

Invincible Me

Looking Forward Me

Strong Me (not long ago I could bench press 245 lbs.)

Semi-successful Me

Creative Me

Even, the Loves-the-Solitude Me

I'm told by my therapist, my fellow high school classmates who are also widows and widowers (and generously given their time to comfort me) and by the countless grief books whose pages have been dampened by my tears, that in time, the grief will bring about personal growth. And change. 

And perhaps the old me will return, new and improved.

But never again will I experience the gratefulness that I enjoyed every night before drifting off to sleep. 

When I would lay on my back, head on my pillow, and stare out the skylight in our bedroom and take a blissful moment to know that I had my slightly snoring wife at my side, my two daughters safely ensconced in their rooms and sleeping soundly and my faithful dog cozied up to the nightstand.

I had all my girls under one roof, and couldn't want for anything more in the world. I felt like the luckiest man on the planet.

I miss that Me.




 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Blessing #9


If I am going to complete my goal and compile all these memories/blessings in a book honoring Deb and documenting the amazing 33 years we had together, it only seems appropriate to include some memories that are truthful and perhaps not so lighthearted. 

Similarly, I know from experience and from listening and talking with other widows/widowers, that there is a tendency to beatify the recently deceased. 

Although, I had always made it a point to regard my wife as a saint while she was still with us. More specifically, with me. Any woman who could endure my peculiarities, and indeed embrace them, deserved and deserves saintly status. 

To this day, I, and many of her close friends, still wonder why she didn't leave me years ago. 

If I had a chance to escape me -- and my thickheadedness, my moodiness, my insufferable nature -- even for just a few hours, I'd pay damn good money for that type of respite. Pile on my ceaseless grieving these days and I'd give up a toe or a finger to get away from me and breathe some fresh air in the "normal world."

They say the number one cause of marital discord, particularly among newlyweds or near newlyweds, is of a financial nature. And though we didn't fight much, certainly not like my parents who had volatile spats that often resulted in broken kitchenware or even furniture, we did butt heads when it came to our meager resources. You see, unlike other MOT (Members of the Tribe) neither Deb nor I came from "any money". None.

What we had, we earned. And what we earned, we earned by working hard. So money mattered.

In one particular incident, I mistakenly opened a Wells Fargo envelope addressed to her and was shocked to see that she had a credit card balance (her own card) that was in 4 digit territory. Moreover,  Deb had only been paying the minimum, meaning the debt was growing. And had been for a few months.

It wasn't the number that got me so upset as much as it was the silence and the measures to keep it hidden.   As was often the case, my hotheadedness got the best of me and I  immediately went to DefCon5. So much so that I packed an overnight bag and stormed out of the house. 

I didn't know where I was going or even why I was going, since I could have set up camp in my man cave and ridden out the storm while watching reruns of Seinfeld. Instead I retreated to the Red Lion Hotel in the part of Culver City that is near LAX and is patronized by many pilots and flight attendants on layovers.

There, I sulked, I mumbled, and I ate a room service Club Sandwich which was light on turkey and bacon but chock full of limp lettuce and out of season tomatoes. 

My attempts to sleep were no more successful. 

The bed was lumpy and had a crater in the middle. My cellphone was ringing off the hook from my naturally-worried wife. And it didn't help that the crew from the Swedish Airlines, Flukkken Der Schmingleputt, decided to throw themselves a 3 day layover party in the hallway of Red Lion's 5th floor.

In all, it was terrible night and terrible episode. 

Only worth remembering because when I returned home in the morning, the girls were happy to see me. And Deb broke out crying and apologized profusely. Although it should be noted she got to sleep on our super comfy Ortho California Deluxe and watch HBO, which was not included in the $59.99 room at the now defunct Red Lion.

Naturally we laughed about the incident for years to come. And I regret my over-reaction. About this and other flare ups that I may or not divulge.

After Deb retired from advertising sales, she considered going back to school to get her credential as a Marriage Family Child Therapist. Which she would have excelled at. One thing she'd always say to me when it came to arguments, "Would you rather be right or you rather be happy?"

I went through 64 years of my life preferring to be right. And now, only after her passing, do I find myself listening more intently to her advice -- I'd rather be happy.

But now in her omnipresent absence, I don't see how that is possible.