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, 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. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

More Bang for your buck

Clickbait? You bet.

Inconsequential? Hardly.

For those 13 people who regularly read this blog, you know, and I say this with some humility as well as no small amount of OCD shame, I am neck-deep in my knowledge of ex Precedent Shitgibbon and his countless grifting adventures.  

From the sale of his own-the-libs plastic straws to the outrageous and obscene membership fees he charges to be a "sucker" at Mara Lago to his redirection of intercontinental Air Force supply planes being instructed to land near a Trump Property in Scotland so Captain Ouchie Foot could squeeze more juice of of Uncle Sam. 

I even follow the travails of these two goons, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

One, ironically a Ukrainian. The other hails from Belarus, best forgotten land of my ancestors.

Well, the bookworm above (more on her, later) is also, not surprisingly tied up with the shitnanigans of TrumpWorld, and their uncanny ability to separate gullible Red Hats from their money.

Her name is Ashley (so on the nose) Kolfage. She is the wife of Brian Kolfage. 

Who's that you ask?

Back in 2018, Brian Kolfage and his good buddy Steve Bannon, co-founded WE BUILD THE WALL. An organization totally funded by grass roots xenophobes who were afraid more Mexicans would enter this country and steal the jobs no lazy American would want to do: mowing our lawns, cleaning our gutters, painting our homes and replacing aging steel sewer pipes under our houses.

Brian and Steve raised more than $25 million. Then proceeded to build shabby, under-engineered sections of the Wall, the one Mexico was going to pay for. How shabby? You may remember this incident when a strong breeze unplugged the wall from its equally shabby foundation.

Last week Brian agreed to plead guilty to tax fraud with possible jail time of up to 20 years. 

You see, Brian and his super patriot friend Bannon, who wanted to protect the United States of America from the hordes of brown people seeking refuge, decided the Wall could wait and instead spent the money on a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, expensive jewelry and cosmetic surgery -- I'd love to see Ashley's Before pictures.

But don't you worry about the resourceful Mrs. Kolfage and her two "real American" children. She'll be fine after poor Bri-Bri finds himself in the slammer doing slammering things.

You see, Ash is also a spokesmodel and influencer for BANG energy drinks. If you've got spare time and you're working at home you should go to the Google and look up Mrs. K and her NSFW hard work. 

If you're back in the office and want to avoid a call from HR, you might want to wait until you get home. 

Or bring your phone with you into the bathroom.

This has been another episode of: GOP Shit That You Just Can't Make Up.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Confessions of a Short Order Cook

In a previous life, before I turned briefs into ads, I worked as a short order cook and turned hastily written waitress tickets into meals. It was a highly stressful job, mostly because people dining out generally don't want to wait too long for the food -- that's the whole purpose of dining out.

Turned out I had an aptitude for it. 

Developing a speedy rhythm that made other short oder cooks jealous. Spinning. Whirling. Dicing and Slicing. With a grace and fluid coordination I did not know I had. As my many karate instructors could tell you, that might have been true in a hot restaurant kitchen but it was never apparent on the dojo mats, where I sometimes found myself asking, "Which is my left fist and which is my right leg?"

One place I peddled my skills was a now defunct health club on Overland Ave. Not more than a 1/2 mile from where I live now, some 40 years later. 

It was beautiful expansive health club with a full size gym, 8 tennis courts, an olympic size pool and its own little cafe, where I worked for a young entrepreneurial New Jersey couple hoping to to turn a profit on their restaurant adventure.

Sadly that didn't work out and they had to shutter the place and send me packing. But before I left they gifted me the 10" chef's knife you see above. It was handcrafted for them as gift. 

I've had that knife as well as two fine Henkel chefs knives in my block ever since. But in my later years as a semi-successful ad man I spent less time cooking in the kitchen and more time cooking up screwball ideas for Creative Directors and clients to shit on.

My wife Deb ruled the kitchen. 

She loved to cook and was damn good at it. However she wasn't good with the knife and never sharpened the blades. To be honest, neither was I. The knives became dull and instead of cutting through a chicken, fish or rib eye roast, we found ourselves 'pushing' the knives through the meat like an iron splitting wedge through a log for firewood.

Occasionally, we took the knives into the local supermarket who offered free knife sharpening service. Those days are long gone. Then I defaulted to the Sharper Image and bought all kinds of useless knife sharpening devices with their "carbon-coated stones that would revitalize the forged metal to their original razor sharp sharpness." I'm a sucker for those video demonstration ads. 

"The knife cut right through a can!"

I don't know which algorithm picked it up, but the powers that be at Amazon or Facebook saw I was now a widow and starting clogging my feed with knife sharpening services. Figuring, and not without just cause, that I was confused and unable to deal with carrying on my life as an old bachelor living alone.

That would also explain the flurry of widow dating sites luring me with pictures of single older women who are looking for someone just like me. Only the pictures they display were of women in their 20's and 30's and I'm pretty sure they're not looking for a fat bald man with dull kitchen knives.

Able to remedy one situation but not the other, I signed up with Sharpenters. They sent me a well built custom designed cardboard envelope. I carefully placed my three knives in their protective sleeves, sent them off via the always dependable US Postal Service, and a week later they landed on my doorstep, sharper than they've ever been.

The blade in the picture above even had a small 1/8 inch divot in the blade, which they dutifully grinded out, leaving me with a rapier-like tool whose mettle would stand up to any Hattori Hanzo Sword.

I know it's one of the smaller joys in life -- which I've learned in the last 3 months are not to be ignored -- but I can't help looking forward to cracking open a Corona Light at the end of the day and smoothly cutting off the perfect wedge of lime with my new reborn knives. 

"It's like buttah."


In case you're curious: 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Working with my hands


When we remodeled the house and added a second story, back in the last century, we went with what we thought fit the house and the new needs of our growing family. Sadly our renovation budget was running too low to put in granite or my preference, soapstone, counters, and so we defaulted to non-offensive subway tile.

However we didn't skimp on the dishwasher, a Bauhaus-inspired performance machine, some say the Porsche of dishwashers, that has given us close to 25 years of good service.

That is until last week, because you know my life hasn't had enough obstacles thrown in front it like an angry CHP Spike Strip.

It seems the water was not completely draining and the loads could not be finished. Fixing the damn thing would probably cost me more than a brand new dishwasher, but I balked. 

Regular readers might remember a series of posts I wrote under the theme: Things Jews Don't Do. 

Admittedly well-worn ground overfarmed by many an aspiring stand up comedian. Added to that long list that includes Dirt Bike Racing, Lighting Installation, Horse Training, and the like, you'll find Dishwasher Repair, particularly the complicated German ones and their over engineered traps.

In the normal course of life my wife would have called an appliance repairman before I had a chance to see what tools I had in the garage. But things have changed around here. And I decided to take it upon myself to figure out why there was puddle of water in the bottom of the dishwasher.

And so with spare time on my hand and a need for distraction, I went to the Youtube and started watching videos. It took a little digging until I found the video addressing the same issue and the same model dishwasher from 25 years ago.

And after removing the disgusting filter and cleaning it off, I ventured to the next step and removed the spray nozzle and then the screening device, only to reveal a larger pool of undrained water.

I shopvacked the water as well as the remaining corn kernels, kale strands and lamb chop gristle and spotted the magic return valve.

I popped the valve out rather easily and detected the gravity-dependent ball bearing that directs the flow of the exiting water. Sure enough, just as my YouTube assistant had suspected, there were three large lemon seeds obstructing the drop of the ball bearing and sending the water back where it came from.

I whipped out my handy dandy all purpose Leatherman and surgically removed each of the offending squatter seeds. 

Then I recalibrated the hydrosonic flicks flacks and re-attached the aqua-confibulators.

I put the Miele back together in a jiffy and excitedly half filled the dishwasher with some dirty utensils and plates, eagerly awaiting the results of my handiwork.

An hour later I opened the machine which had completed its cycle and the bottom of the dishwasher was, to coin a term from a car mechanic who was inspecting the Master Cylinder on my Plymouth, "Bone Fucking Dry".

Was a I proud? Damn right I was proud. Think I'll use the money I saved to get me a new toy, like an Oculus. Or a new sports coat.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Blessing #8

This picture is from our 25th wedding anniversary. Perhaps the best anniversary we ever enjoyed. Why? Because Debbie arranged it.

In all the previous years, at least the ones I can remember, I made the plans and the arrangements. Not without input from Deb, but she was always willing, mostly willing, to let me make the most of it. Which was probably a mistake considering our first wedding anniversary.

I thought the best way to celebrate our early nuptials, in addition to the obligatory nonsensical list (Linen, Cotton, Marble, Pearl, Diamond, etc.) was to book a table at a fancy restaurant. Fortunately Los Angeles has many fine, fine overpriced fancy restaurants. On this occasion, we went to LoCanda Venetta on 3rd street.

The hostess escorted us to our upstairs table, lit by candles, and a panoply of other young couples who all looked to have been celebrating their wedding anniversaries as well. We enjoyed a bottle of wine together and I congratulated myself on making a wise decision. 

But not for long.

You see, as is often the case at these hoity toity establishments, they often try to optimize their limited floor space by cramming tables for two, uncomfortably close together. Within minutes another couple had sat right next to us. So close I could tell you what he ate for lunch and what perfume vat she had fallen into. You know if I had the wherewithal to be able to identify women's perfume.

Before our antipasto had arrived, Deb excused herself to go to the bathroom. But as she stood up, she accidentally knocked over the man's glass of red Cabernet, which discolored his tacky white herringbone sport blazer which I had estimated cost more than $800.

It was quite a scene. And the guy, lacking any type of grace, started going off. Naturally I apologized and offered to pay for the dry cleaning or a new blazer, if need be. But his temper would not allow for any negotiation.

Of course this had to happen at the beginning of the meal and not later when we had finished dessert, which we naturally passed on. Between the glaring, the staring and the deafening silence at both tables separated by a mere inch and a half, it might have been the most socially uncomfortable 90 minutes of our lives.

That is until we descended the stairs and started laughing about SeƱor Stuckup and his aromatic date.

Fast forward to 24 years later. 

Deb presented me with a present of two LA Dodger T-shirts, one for me and one for her. Then handed me an envelope with two tickets to the Dodgers playoff game against the Cubs. Or the Cardinals. It didn't matter. Particularly since I had never been to a National League playoff game. Or any other type of playoff game. 

As you can see from the photo, we were all the way up in the nosebleed seats behind the right field foul pole. And as you can see from our smiles, they were perfect. 

By about the third inning, the woman who snapped this picture for us and Deb had become best friends, as they both shared Midwestern roots and that's how Midwesterners roll. Plus, Debbie had an absolute uncanny ability to meet a stranger and befriend a stranger within 60 seconds. Well, except impolite schmucks who got in the way of her klutzy wine spilling.

Nevertheless, of the 29 anniversaries we got to celebrate together, and because there will be no more, it will be the one I treasure most.

So, who won? The Dodgers? The Cubs? The Cardinals? 

Pretty sure, I did.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The Grifting Never Stops

A few years ago, Deb and I were doing some regular Sunday morning lounging. Some bagels. Some shmear. Some of that good Nova lox. and a thorough reading of the Sunday NY Times. 

Then the phone rang, the landline phone because we're kind of old school. It was my friend Jeff Gelberg, a talented writer of his own blog: He and his wife Vicki had two extra tickets to a speech being given by Pete Souza, former White House Photographer for President Obama.

The speech was to be held at nearby Culver City Middle School. We had no plans. And Deb loved Pete Souza and his photos. It was quite the speech that included humor, grace, integrity and humanity. All the characteristics missing from the next regime (45).

Speaking of that evil UnAmerican regime, it was reported that ex Precedent Shitgibbon's photographer, Shealah Craighead, had planned on releasing her own collection of presidential photos as a coffee table book. This, apparently is standard operating procedure for White House photographers. A reward for all the grueling hours and the 24/7 on call status she maintained for four miserable years.

Except there's never anything normal about former Captain Ouchie Foot, who demanded to wet his beak from the proceeds in return for writing a forward to the book. As if he could string together 3-4 cogent sentences.

But that wasn't good enough for President Dickhead who went ahead and cut Ms. Craighead off at the pass by having his toadies collect the "best" photos in advance and have his taintlickers put together his own coffee table book, pre-empting her by months and absconding off with $230 million off someone else's labor.

Why would a multi-billionaire do such a thing? 

And now, it's being reported that Colonel Douchebiscuit was never really happy with her performance. So now he's going to smear her reputation in advance of a possible lawsuit on her part.


But this is not a problem without a delightfully delicious solution, suggested by former GOP-hack Nicole Wallace.

You see in addition to all the "good" photos, Ms. Craighead also owns all the bad ones, which in my mind would make for a much more compelling book. 

To wit:

I'd even offer to  write the captions for a book like this. If I went through my files, I suspect I'd find many are already pre-written.

Monday, April 4, 2022

It's Shacket Time

I went out last Tuesday Night, a "school night" as it were, to meet up with some old friends. This is not something I usually did in my previous life, because Deb and I were often too tired at the end of the day to embark on socializing. 

Plus, Covid.

But I'm "doing the work" my therapists say I need to do in order to move forward. That work includes taking full advantage of my vast network of friends and former colleagues. And because I've worked at every ad agency in Los Angeles at some time or other, the number is quite large. 

Although I'm sure there is an equally large, or larger, number of those people (Planners/Account People/C-Suite Trough Feeders) who'd prefer not to break bread or uncork bottles of single malt bourbon with me.

Of course the "work" is made easier when seeing a bunch of smiling, happy faces who want to help me through this most difficult period of my life. And so I gladly slipped into my fashionable Shacket and walked the 1.5 miles from my house to Father's Office, a hipster gastropub adjacent to the Helms Bakery.

And there, under a heating lamp that wasn't heating, enjoyed the company of people I worked with at Team One, back in the early-90's, when many readers of this blog had not yet dirtied a diaper. 

Here for your amusement are a few unprofessionally taken photos from the evening...

We shared old war stories, caught up on our current lives (a few of the folks here will be doing a week long trek across Scotland this week) and oddly enough, spent considerable time talking fondly of Syracuse University. 

As chance would have it, 3 of the 8 people in this small gathering attended Syracuse University. 

And one woman, has a 23 year old son who just became Orange alumni. That makes for a lot of chatter about the old 315. 

This was my second trip to Father's Office (formerly My Father's Office, the name I prefer) in as many weeks. My daughters and I had been there just a couple of weeks ago, at the same table with no outdoor heater.

What I love most about Father's Office, is a standing rule from the kitchen. 

You see they make a killer 1/2 pound burger. But they only make it one way. There are no substations, no alterations, no tweaks or revisions of any kind. Nor do there need to be, because their burgers are absolute perfection. You gotta admire that commitment to excellence. As well as the courage to tell ketchup-loving meat spoilers to, "Fuck Off."

If only the people in the ad business, the craftsmen and craftswomen, who understand the science and the magic of creating powerful business-changing communications, had the backbone as the chef's at Father's Place, the business we all once loved might return to its former glory.

Yeah, right. 

Pass the Heinz.