Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Miracle? Feh.

To continue this week's recurring theme, offensive posts about different ethnicities, today we look at what can only be termed the lamest holiday in the multitude of lame Jewish Holidays, Chanukah or Hanukkah or

It's so lame we couldn't even decide on a correct spelling.

Hanukah, as you may or may not know, commemorates the Maccabees, who successfully rebelled against the armies of Antiochus. They liberated and purified the great Temple of Jerusalem (the same temple that was there about 700 years before Islam was even born) in the year 165 B.C.E. According to the story, there was only enough oil to keep the lamps lit for one day, but the Lord, in his infinite generosity, made the oil last for 8 miraculous days and nights. Holy crap, too bad someone didn't have a Sony Camcorder to get it all on tape.

What a cheap parlor trick.

Why didn't the Lord, the King of Kings, the Host of Hosts, smite the armies of Antiochus with a tower of fire or swallow them up with a raging tsunami? Something a little more majestic, for God's sake. I once saw a magician in Las Vegas pull the 7 of clubs from the ass of a cow.

We get the Bronze Age equivalent of flashlights and we're supposed to fall on bended knee?

I'm sorry rabbi, I'm just not buying it. Oh, I'll light the candles. And I'll eat the latkes. And of course I'll shower my daughters with 8 days of of increasingly more valuable gifts, but only because if I didn't I'd never hear the end of it.

But don't try to convince me this was some kind of miracle from the Lord who was looking after his Chosen People. If that were the case he would called off the Inquisition. Or cancelled the pogroms. Or even intervened in 1939 and saved the lives of million of Jews, one of whom probably would have found a cure for cancer. Or invented a toaster-oven that lasts longer than 6 months.

Now that would be a miracle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ink Different

I watched a lot of football over the long weekend, a lot of football.

The game has changed quite a bit since I was a kid and marveled at the athletic abilities of Mike Curtis, Johnny Unitas and John Mackey. If you can't tell I was a Baltimore Colt fan.

The play calling is a lot more elaborate.
The hits are more vicious.
And everybody on the team, with the possible exception of the head coaches, is sporting tattoos. There used to be a time when, if a guy wanted a tattoo, he'd slap one on the thick of his shoulder and be done with it. But now these hulking behemoths are covered from head to toe.

On the big cornfed offensive linemen from Nebraska, the herringbone patterns that run the length of their leg-sized arms looks kind of cool. The high contrast between their pasty white flesh and the jet black ink is startling and stunning at the same time.

The same cannot be said for some of the black players.

The dark ink on equally dark skin looks muddled. The writing is indecipherable. And patterns becomes meaningless. Let's not even get into the wisdom of tattooing one's face, but the young man in the above picture is showing off his Gucci tattoo stamped on the left side of his head. If I didn't tell you that was Gucci you might have just assumed he fell asleep on a wire box spring.

But I'm not addressing this issue without offering a solution. And a simple one at that.

It all comes down to Communications 101 and the demonstrably improved legibility of reversed out type.
This is why I'd like to see African-American football, basketball and baseball players consider the wide array of lighter shades of ink.

If not for me, do it for the one woman on Earth who has endowed you with strength, courage and heart,  the woman for whom you have proclaimed your everlasting love and emblazoned across your chest in 6 inch high Times New Roman type.

Do it for Momma.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Un-Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

We all have the day off (except for some of my unfortunate advertising colleagues forced to write last minute Super Bowl Spots). We'll spend time with family, football and hopefully some fizzy drinks with high alcohol content. And we'll express our thanks to the Lord, to the Giant Spaghetti Monster, to the fickle finger of fate or just to damn good luck, for all the things we have.

But in this, the year of the Occupiers, the 99%-ers, the have nots, I'd like to give thanks for the many wonderful things I don't have:

* I don't have a job. Haven't had one for close to eight years. Could not be happier. I've made the same amount of money I would have as a corporate staffer (maybe even a little more) and I haven't had to sit in many meetings, or live on an airplane, or listen to any 28-year old Ad Manager/Sorority Sister tell me how my work should be done.

* I don't have any health issues. Probably because I don't a have a job and the free stress that comes with it. More importantly, no one in my family has any health issues. This year we have seen many around us stricken with cancer (all forms) and the struggles that come with it. We wish them the the very best and count our blessings not to have health problems.

* I don't have crazy, troublesome, problematic daughters. Oh don't get me wrong, these are two high-drama teenagers who know how to manipulate Daddy, but by and large they are good kids. They may not always take out the trash or do the dishes when I ask them, but they bring home good grades from school, they are respectful around other adults and they have avoided drugs and alcohol (or at least they have hidden it very well).

* I don't have a dog that barks all the time. This may seem unusual but I am very grateful that my dog does note bark or bite. The same cannot be said for some of my neighbor's dogs, who once outside will bark until they pass out from exhaustion. I don't know how some people can be so unaware of their environment. Apparently they lack what I unfortunately have: a conscience.

* And finally I don't have a wife who nags me. Oh I complain all the time about living under her thumb and answering questions about my whereabouts, but its all hyper-inflated. My wife is a saint. She knows it, I know it. Everybody in our sphere knows it. She allows me time to work, to write, to do my P90X, to drink to excess and to fall asleep on the couch (sometimes all in the same day).

She allows me to be me. And if I didn't have her in my life, I don't know that I'd be thankful about everything else in my life that I don't have.

(I hope I got that double negative thing right.)

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It has not been a good time for college coaches recently.

Last week we had the Penn State fiasco. This week, my own beloved Syracuse University came under the spotlight with new allegations against Associate basketball coach Bernie Fine. And just a few days ago a plane crash took the lives of two Oklahoma State coaches.

One college coach fared better, Coach K from Duke. Many of you will recognize his smiling face in the picture above. Believe it or not that is his smile. This week he recorded his 903rd win, making him the winningest active coach in NCAA basketball.

I met Coach K as well as 30 other Division One basketball coaches during the summer when I went to Las Vegas to sit in on a High School tournament featuring the nation's top recruits. Not only did I meet them, I interviewed each coach on camera for a documentary about Coaches Versus Cancer.

Interviewing people on camera in not exactly my strong suit, but the ad agency was paying my day rate and putting me up at the nice Aria Hotel, so I just clipped on the microphone and winged it.

Every interview started the same way. We'd roll the coaches in, have them take a seat in front of the camera, state their name, the name of the school they coach and the proper spelling of their name. Why do we do this? Mostly for the editor's sake, who dutifully put up a graphic identifying each coach. If the coach spells their name on camera the editor doesn't have to fiddle through reams of notes looking for the right spelling.

It's all about convenience.

Coach K took exception to this. When I asked him to spell his name for the camera, he thought I was busting his balls. And maybe when I asked him to do it twice, I was. But I will always treasure his unfiltered reaction when he stood up to look at the other crew members and said, "Who's this friggin' asshole?" I, of course, being the asshole in question.

But just as I was yanking his chain, Coach K was yanking mine.

He got up from the interview with a big smile. And before returning to the court to turn some high school baller into a multi-million dollar  NBA draft choice, he looked at me
and said, "K-R-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I."

And added with a laugh, "Don't ever ask me that again."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pull on Excalibur

I'm no Farmville guy.

Somebody once invited me to play Farmville on Facebook and it held my attention for about 3 nanoseconds. I have no interest in feeding virtual pigs or tending to virtual corn when I could be spending my precious time in a more productive manner, like blogging to virtual readers.

I never dove into Mafia Wars as well. Though this appealed more to my Northern New Jersey background and the chance to unleash my inner Capo.

The thing is, I'm not all that into playing role playing games. I don't want to pretend to be other people, I have a hard enough time dealing with the roles that are already on my plate: father, husband, brother, idea comer-upper, and zealous P90X 'er.

None of that has stopped the people from Zynga -- the makers of all these silly RPG games -- from pitching their latest development, Castleville, in the banners ads on my computer. And though it goes without saying that I won't be signing up for a seat at King Arthur's virtual round table, I do have to applaud the copywriters who worked on the current campaign.

It isn't everyday you get to slip a major sexual innuendo in to your work.
Though it should be added, everyday we try.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grand Theft Auto

Yesterday I had mentioned the Joe Paterno firing and the Penn State tragedy. This is a story that has gripped the nation. It has given this generation its own equivalent of the Kitty Genovese incident.

Of course I’m referring to Assistant Coach Mike McQueary who told authorities he witnessed Jerry Sandusky inflagrante delicto with a naked 10-year old boy in the shower room. McQueary says he immediately informed Coach Paterno.

But the questions remains why didn’t he run into the shower, and pardon the phrase, cold cock the old man and rescue the kid?

What was McQueary thinking?

Well, that may be the problem. He was thinking instead of doing. Thinking how a scandal like this could affect the university, the football program, the recruitment efforts, or even his own miserable football career.

What happened to good old righteous indignation and fly-off-the-handle street vengeance?

Years ago, I was driving down Abbot Kinney on my way to work and spotted a 13-year old boy climbing out of a shattered car window with a stereo in his hands. With no time to weigh my options or the consequences of my actions, I swerved to the curb, jumped out of the car and started chasing the bastard through Oakwood.

He was fast but I was in my triathlon days and had plenty of stamina. I’m sure that caught him off guard but I was determined to snag that $99 Pioneer and return it to its rightful owner. Panting and clearly out of breath, the kid stopped just outside a ratty duplex at the corner of Brooks and Indiana. He turned to me just before opening the heavy steel door, and scowled, “You come in here and my daddy gonna shoot yo cracker ass.”

I wish the kid had informed me about his father’s shotgun before I covered a mile and half in the back alleys of Venice.

With my visions of being a superhero dashed, I returned to the scene of the crime where I met the young woman whose car had just been violated. I told her I saw the kid who stole her radio and chased him for the last 15 minutes.

“Well let’s go to his house and get my radio back,” she said.

“That’s an excellent  idea, “ I said. And then having my own McQueary moment, added “but I lost him. And don’t have any idea where he lives.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Got Quit.

Last week, Penn State University fired Coach Joe Paterno. In a lapse of moral judgment, the firing came about a week too late. Ironically the coach was fired for the lapse in his judgment, moral or otherwise.

In any case, it set my partner and I off on an interesting discussion about getting fired. My partner, in this case, is much younger than myself and she hasn't had the opportunity to be let go. That's right I said opportunity.

With the benefit of retrospect, I now look at my firing(s) as a true blessing.

Let's look at my most recent involuntary termination. In February it will be ten years since I "got quit" at TBWA Chiat/Day. I had won all kinds of awards at Chiat/Day, helped win new business and steered younger teams to great success in their career path. So of course I felt the firing was unjust. But in hindsight it wasn't. I had grown cantankerous, bitter and frustrated. To the point where I had a poisonous effect on everything around me. Had I been the boss, I would have fired my ass too. Though I probably would have done it a year or two, earlier.

To his credit, my former writing partner, Rob Schwartz, who was in the unfortunate position of having to let me go, recognized this and said upon my departure, "look, we'd love to have you here, if in a couple of years you have a different perspective on things and you find your head in a different place, let's talk."

Where does that kind of wisdom and maturity come from?

Rob and I may have creative differences on a lot of things, but on this he was frighteningly correct. To the point of being prescient.

Had I not been shown the door, I might never have discovered my much happier life as a freelancer. In fact, over the last 8 years and to the great confusion of my brother, I have done the bulk of my freelancing days back at Chiat/Day where I was once escorted from the premises by a beefy security guard. OK, it wasn't really a muscle-bound security guard, it was sweet 26-year old woman from HR.

Nevertheless, that firing provided me with a very critical career course correction, not to mention a big fat severance check.

Many, many years before that, I was a short order cook in the restaurant industry. I had been working a miserable job at Merlin McFlys in Santa Monica, grilling up burgers and potato skins for the beautiful people who frequented the upscale boutiques along Main Street and wouldn't bat an eye paying $1000 for a David Hockney-inspired trash can. The kitchen at McFly's was filthy, the wages were low and the boss was a Grade A Assclown. This job had nothing going for it other than free food and the all-too-rare opportunity to dip my spatula in the company BBQ sauce.

So it should come as no surprise that on one particularly onerous Sunday, when the temperature soared into triple digits, I found myself in the cooler with a case of ice cold Heinekens. I quickly downed the first beer at 11 AM. And another at 11:30. Another at noon. And so on. By the time I had completed my shift, half the case was gone. I punched the clock, cleaned up and took a seat at the bar to continue the binge. Keep in mind I was in my 20's and could do my Scottish drinking heritage proud.

The boss approached me at the bar and asked if I could escort him back to the cooler for a moment. Once there, he opened the flap on the green cardboard box and pointed to 12 empty Heineken bottles still in their corrugated compartments.

"You know anything about this?" he asked, perhaps rhetorically.

"No", I said, trying hard not to grin. And then let out a booming Heineken burp that could be felt from the shores of the Pacific to the brewery back in Amsterdam.

There was no severance check or meaningful impact on the course of my life. There was only the astonished look on the boss's jowly face. And the $25 deduction from my last paycheck to cover the damage.

To this day, that could be the best $25 I ever spent.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Salad Days

"I love it, but I hate it."

If any of you are members of the Tony Horton P90X cult, as I am, you'll recognize this from the intro to Ab Ripper X, the gut-wrenching abdominal workout that promises a six pack to all who faithfully perform the routine. I believe I will achieve the six pack, but it won't take 90 days. I might take 90 years.

"I love it, but I hate it" is also how I feel about Mrs. Winston's Salad Bar, arguably the greatest salad bar in all of Southern California. When I'm working at RPA in Santa Monica, I get my lunch there everyday. It allows me to load up on spinach, kidney beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, just about any vegetable. And I can keep my calorie count in the 500-600 range.

That's why I love it.

Unfortunately, the line at Mrs. Winston's never looks like it does in the picture above. At one o'clock in the afternoon on a typical weekday, every media planner, every paralegal, every dental hygienist, every woman in the 90401-90409 zip code convenes at Mrs. Winston's for lunch.

That is why I hate it.

Because these women don't just bring their appetites, they bring their phones, so they can text while they are assembling their repast. They bring their friends so that in between the sprouts and the three bean salad they can chat about their latest e-harmony adventures or the low slung open toe shoes they have their eyes on. And they bring their god-awful indecision (you're really going to hold up the line to put two lentil beans on your plate), weighing each choice as if it were a Constitutional amendment that could alter the future of mankind.

Ladies, you're building a salad not the next Space Shuttle.

Before the charges of misogyny are leveled against me, it's worth noting that men at Mrs. Winston's go about their business very differently. We know what we want. We shovel it into the plastic tub and we get back to our desks with plenty of spare time to go online and surf for porn...uh, read

We make our salads the same way we shop for auto parts. We go in for a fan belt, we walk out with a fan belt. We don't spend time looking over the carburetors or the new brake pads.

I'm not alone in these sentiments.

Yesterday, the man standing behind me was venting even more vociferously. I suspect if the texting, the non-stop chatting and the high-maintenance salad tomfuckery doesn't end soon, it won't be long before some short-fused man--and I'm not saying who-- explodes in a full-blown case of Romaine Rage.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Onward Christian Soldiers

The season is upon us.

And you can purchase a packet of these real Christmas Cards to send to your friends and family. The cards are available from God's Favorite Church, the Landover Baptist Church, "where the worthwhile worship and the unsaved are unwelcome."

Seems a little harsh doesn't it? But not half as harsh as some of the comments from some of the congregation members at Landover.

Regarding the recent tragedy at Penn State for instance, Bob4God had this to say:

"Jerry Sandusky is a manly man. We can already see how the big Jewish media would want to take this man out. And now they have. Mr. Sandusky was victimized time and again by pubescent operatives of the homosexual agenda. These young men forced Jerry Sandusky to make them take showers with him in the locker room. After compelling him to take them to football games, they lured his overbearing, adult body to wrestle their comparatively smaller adolescent bodies on the gym floor, all so they could make it look like he was sexually abusing them."

In the words of Steve Jobs, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Just when you think you've seen it all from the religious extremists on the right this comes along. I understand the charges about the overarching Jewish Media and their hyperbolic ability to manipulate public opinion to further Jewish interests. Come on, that's very reasonable.

But to claim these 10-year old boys preyed upon this innocent old philanthrope? That seemed beyond the pale. Until I read even further in the forum, where another congregant, Proud Faroese claimed:

"This is probably part of a satanic campaign where godly American-manly football is replaced with the faggot European sport, soccer."

I am somewhat fascinated by hate and the hundreds of hate groups that populate the Internet. I can spend hours reading through the propaganda at various white supremacist or Islamo-Fascist sites. I love seeing how people can concoct wild stories with nothing more than a half truth, a little imagination, some sketchy wikipedia findings and always, but always, a healthy dose of anti-Semitism. And I thought I'd seen it all until I stumbled across the Landover Baptist Church.

But don't take my word for it. Spend some time looking over their site. The folks at Landover have amply demonstrated the need for greater separation of church and state by flaunting their own separation of church and reality.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cranky Pants

Last week, Andy Rooney the patron saint of Curmudgeons, passed away.

Andy might have been getting a little long in the tooth and it was hard to concentrate on his rants while watching his hands tremble with 92 years worth of angst, nevertheless he was amusing. If for nothing else than his ability to dig into the minutiae of life and find the funny.

While mentioning his passing the other day at dinner, my youngest daughter said, "You should replace him."

"Why's that?" I asked, knowing full well she doesn't read this blog or pay any attention to my daily venting.

"Is it because going on TV every week and spouting off my ill-informed opinions and getting paid millions of dollars would be a dream job?" I asked.


"Is it because I have some limited ability to turn a phrase or make an insightful observation?"


"Is it because I have the courage to say what so many, or at least I assume so many, want to say but don't?"

"No, Daddy" she replied, "You'd be the perfect replacement for Andy Rooney 'cause you're a cranky old man."

I have raised a brutally honest daughter.

And then she added, "...and your eyebrows are bushy."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Confessions of a 2% er

Whether it's on the Daily Show or the daily pages of Facebook, the Occupy movement has provided a wealth of comedic material. This sign, taken from the streets of downtown Boston (I believe) is one of my favorites.

But the movement itself leaves me straddling an uncomfortable fence.

I certainly understand the frustration of unemployed and disenfranchised people who have seen Wall Streeters getting bailed out with US tax dollars and then spending those relief dollars on lavish parties and million dollar bonuses. Not to mention that these are the same scoundrels who pumped up the housing bubble then pin-pricked it, making billions of dollars on both sides of the equation with their crappy mortgage-based derivatives.

If they were too big to fail.
They were probably too big to succeed as well.

Why is it that laissez-faire, free-market economics only applies to people and not to corporations?
Didn't the Supreme Court declare corporations are people too?

I saw firsthand how the government turned on the faucet and issued billion dollar checks to GM, Chrysler and AIG, but dragged their feet in bureaucratic quicksand when it came to adjusting the mortgage for my sister-in-law when she found herself underwater on her house.

And let's not even talk about greedy CEO's, including those in the ad business, who take home in one paycheck what many workers won't make in two to three years of working, often til midnight, and even more often on weekends.

It's more than a little disturbing.

But so is the rhetoric coming from the urban campers. Some of whom want to blame Jews and Israel for the current economic malaise. Others are calling for the outright redistribution of wealth. While others still are content to surf their $800 iPads all day with intermittent breaks for hacky-sack.

If what they want is greater regulation to curb corporate greed, to modestly increase the tax rate for billionaires and to put the brakes on government bailouts, then I'm all for it.

But what if the mob mistakes us 2% ers (those of us who have a little, not a lot, because we worked hard and made the right choices) for the 1% ers?

What if the angry, the unruly, and the unbathed start lighting torches and come knocking at my door to snag my flatscreen TV and my George Foreman Grill, which is great for making panini sandwiches? Well that's when I unstraddle the fence, put my mixed political feelings to the side and take to my roof with a bucket full of golf balls and my oversized Callaway Big Bertha driver. That's when I start swinging away.

And I won't be yelling, "Four!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Kiss My Half

Saw this the other day while stopped at a traffic light. I don't know if you can make it out, but there's a pink sticker right above the rear windshield washer blade. It says, "13.1"

In running parlance, thats the distance for a Half-Marathon. 13.1 miles is a long way to run. I know, because I've run the Santa Monica Half-Marathon on a few occasions. It's a good 2 & 1/2 half hours of non-stop chugging, grinding and re-adjusting of sneakers so as not to incur blisters. It's a lot of pain. A little less than half the pain it would take to run a Full Marathon.

And there-in lies the rub.

It's a half accomplishment and doesn't merit a trophy, a t-shirt or even a window sticker for your car. Why would you want to tell people you did half of something? Derek Jeter doesn't hit the showers after 4 &1/2 innings. Tom Brady doesn't call the shots for 30 minutes and then take the mike at the news conference, "I feel good, I went out there and gave it 55%."

There's no pride in doing something half-assed.

A couple of weeks ago, before my wife ran the Nike Women's Marathon for Leukemia in SF, she wavered and confessed, "Maybe I'll only do the half." That's when I dragged out some old Tony Robbins Motivational Tapes and convinced her that if she were only going to do half she might as well not do any.

I don't like half.
Never have.
Never will.
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It would be as if I started this rant about doing something halfway and

Monday, November 7, 2011

Animal House

I left off last week with the story of the office building that inspired me to move to California.

Today I thought I'd share the tale of my transcontinental move and how I ended up here at the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity on the campus of UCLA. Although old time Bruins might remember this was originally the home of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Let me also state upfront that I was never a frat boy and abhorred that whole cultish Greek society thing. The only reason I visited a fraternity house while in college was to drink their free beer while feigning interest in their stupid club.

I knew from my summers at Syracuse that frat houses rented out rooms to boarders. It was an easy way for Chip or Wentworth or Tadpole to put a little extra money in their pocket to purchase thesis papers from students who actually did the work.

With that in mind and with my parents already getting on my "OK, now you've graduated from college what are going to do with your life" ass, I packed a duffel bag, emptied out the bank account (that was a short process) and bought a one way plane ticket to El Lay.

I had no idea why I was moving to Los Angeles, other than it wasn't as cold as Syracuse, NY and it wasn't as dismal as Suffern, NY. I didn't have any job prospects and didn't know a soul in California. But none of that seemed to matter to a gung ho 22-year old kid.

Los Angeles had writing opportunities, beautiful blonde shicksas, and beaches, and I wanted to be in the same zip code as all three.

Well, as anyone who watches Survivorman will tell you, shelter is the first priority. So I made my way from LAX to UCLA, where I had hoped to secure a boarding room. The problem was, school was still in session and would be for another month. None of the frat houses, and I trudged up and down Gayley Ave. to talk with every one of them, had any vacancies at the inn.

I was within a minute of snatching up a good sturdy cardboard box and making my home on the gritty, urban streets of Westwood.

But then I ran into Joe, the 75-year old groundskeeper at the former AEPi house. He was an old Jew from the Bronx who had shown promise as a welterweight boxer. Joe said I could have a room in three weeks and that until then I could sleep on a mattress on the roof of the building. For $75 I'd have a place to sleep, shower, and shave.

Notice I didn't say shit. The toilet facilities were so repulsive, I opted for the public bathroom at Sepi's Subs just down the street.

Here's what the rooftop of my first official California home looks like.

It wasn't bad sleeping under the stars. The temperature was mild, the campus was beautiful and the stars were plentiful. Sadly, however, no one had informed me about June Gloom -- a California Coastal condition that moistens everything in its path, including my sleeping bag, my clothes and my three pair of underwear.

My roof-sleeping, wet-clothes, no-pot-to-piss-in adventures didn't seem very amusing at the time. But it did to my father. Who said, with great Springsteen-like acuity, "Someday you'll look back on this and it will all seem funny."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

West Side Story

The other night I was watching Louie, one of the darkest and brightest shows on TV. I saw something I recognized. Not Louie, we all recognize him. And not the attractive dark-haired woman that Louie has no chance of bedding down. I recognized a building. The all-brick edifice in the background.

I know that building because I used to work there. At least for a couple of summers when I was a kid.
My father, however put in many, many years at that hellhole.

The address is 85 10th Ave. The former home of Brownell Electro.

My dad was the Comptroller and had some sway with the owners of the company, who agreed to put me on in the Accounts Receivable Department so I could earn money for college. Notice I didn't say extra money to buy beer and dope and such. But real money to pay for tuition, books and the cheapest meal plan available at Syracuse University.

If you're familiar with NYC you know this area has been quite gentrified. There's now an elevated walking park, where this scene was filmed and the building recently housed Craft, a genuine Tom Colichio restaurant.  But when I worked there with my father, there wasn't a hipster to be found within a five mile radius.

It looked like some of the grittier scenes from the French Connection or Mean Streets. It was dumpy. It was dirty. And if you weren't smelling the carcasses from the nearby Meat District there was always the default odor of urine and the Hudson River.

Apart from Peggy Fernandez, my immediate supervisor, a short Puerto Rican woman with the largest boobs on earth who felt the need to press her flesh against me to explain the intricacies of cash flow management, there was nothing remotely positive about 85 10th Ave.

In fact, the third floor corner window (my father's actual office), which looks like someone giving an inverted bird, is an apt metaphor. And yet I owe that building so much.

You see, had the experience, the sunrise bus ride commute into the city, the foul smells, the fighting for oxygen, the dark, dank offices, the mind numbing work, the soul-sucking monotony, not been so unbearably miserable I might never had high-tailed it to California with nothing more than $99 in my pocket and the desire to be as far away from Accounting and Chelsea, NY as humanly possible.

So thank you 85 10th Ave.
And thank you Brownell Electro.
You might have taken my father's life and for that I'll never forgive you.
But you gave me my life and for that I'll never forget you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This time it's real.

Earlier this year I awarded myself a Gold One Show Pencil for work we did 10 years ago but never earned official recognition. I suspect many of us have stories about work that should have won awards, but never did. And the reasons are just as plentiful: mislabeled entry forms, biased judges, stingy financial officers, etc.

Take our ABC campaign. It cleaned up at every award show in the US, but failed to merit any attention at the Cannes Lion Festival. Later, I was to discover it was never even entered in that particular show because the humor was deemed too inside. Doh!

Sometimes even winning an award isn't winning an award.

Last year I was contacted by David Lee, TBWA's Digital Executive Creative Director. He needed someone to flesh out the writing on It's a very cool site that can showcase the work of photographers, poets, musicians, architects, writers, anyone in need of a mixed media venue. I spent a couple of months helping him write and organize the material. The site went on to great success and was even mentioned in several magazines.

Several months ago it won a Silver Pencil at the One Show Awards.

Naturally, I was excited. Not only to win a prestigious award like a pencil but to do it in the digital arena, where so many assume a veteran like myself is like a fish out of binary water. The truth is I've seen what passes for "digital thinking" at many agencies and find it as inspiring as Windows 95. won an award, but I didn't. My name was never entered on the entry form. It turned out to be a clerical error.

Today, I'm happy to say that what was once wrong has now been righted, as you can see on the now-amended credits.

For $200 I can buy the double-ended metallic trophy that will collect dust in a bin buried in my garage. Right next to my Telly, my Andy, and my Lulu. Or I can take that same $200 and celebrate with my wife and a nice steak dinner at Maestro with multiple refills of small batch bourbon on the rocks.

Make mine medium rare, please.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Do you have soft stools?

As chronicled in many earlier posts, I am easily amused.
I'll laugh at anything.
I've even sat through the Paul Blart movie with my daughters.

Advertising is a different story however, that's when I become a Taste Nazi. Perhaps it's because I've spent considerable time in the trenches. But if I see something crappy on TV or on the web or in a newspaper, I think of the ad agency involved and say to myself, "You have this big brand and this big opportunity and you waste an at bat on something like that?"

But let's get back to stools and the inspiration for today's post.

As anyone who writes a blog knows, it's fun to mine the analytics, just to see how many people are actually reading this tripe and where the traffic is coming from. Just like any small business owner would do with a software program detailing his or her sales volume and sales sources. Only in the case of a blog it's all done without any actual money changing hands.

Last week I noticed that considerable traffic was coming from Naturally I was curious. Turns out it's a European distributor of electronica. Why were Italian musicians looking for the latest offerings in amplifiers being routed to round seventeen? As someone in the IT department explained to me, it has something to do with a spambot.

I have no idea what a spambot is, I thought it was a Hawaiian breakfast treat. But I do know where to find the funny in any given situation. And let's face it, stools and anything stool-related is funny.

So I did what any 12-year old boy would do and found the US based stool store.  Then I called the Madison, Wisconsin establishment at 1-608-271-4088 and spoke with a sales rep.

Me: I was looking at your website.

Salesman: Excellent we have a wide range of products to meet your every need.

Me: How big are your stools?

Salesman: They come in all sizes.

Me: And they have wheels?

Salesman: Some do, yes sir.

Me: That would make it easier to move my stools?


(me fighting back laughter)

Me: Do your moving stools come in brown?