Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Memory #14 -- My first colonoscopy

Deb had the strength of 10 women. 

To put up with the likes of me, that was a prerequisite. She'd given birth to two daughters -- no C-sections -- had two root canals, and in the later years subjected her body to all kinds of biopsies, blood pricks, MRI scans, and a hellish Y90 radiation treatment that left her with less energy than a tranquilized nonagenarian. And through it all, she never complained. Ok, I know that's cliche and always an overstatement.  

She whined a little, but had every right to.

The point is, she was always unfazed about any and all medical intrusions. I, on the hand, have come through life without ever spending a night in the hospital. Except for the birth of our daughters. Where I had to sleep on a creaky reclining chair. And with no epidural.

Deb had her first colonoscopy before me. She was a bit older than me, 7 weeks and I never let her forget it. Hers was such a non-event I can't even remember if I drove her to the ass inspector or not. She might have even taken an Uber home. I just don't recall.

My colonoscopy had all the drama of the first Jarvik 7 heart transplant.

For one thing, by the time I had reached 50 years old, I had never been under general anesthesia. I had been black out drunk two times in college and hated that notion of other people telling me what I had done. So the thought of voluntarily going under was as appealing as a bowl of steamed broccoli topped with canned peas and carrots.

Moreover, the preparation and the notion of swallowing some human Roto-Rooter was equally repulsive. No need to take a deep dive into this, particularly for you readers who have been through the procedure and ventured into Innerspace. FUN FACT: My first solo-written screenplay was a comedic remake of the movie Fantastic Voyage. There were some funny moments but by and large it was a POS.

Let's fast forward to the end of the colonoscopy, where I was wheeled into the recovery room. No one tells you about this part and they should because it's a nirvana-like experience waking up from the Propofol and realizing you're still alive.

As I awoke, Deb was hovered right over me. She smiled, grabbed my hand and said...

"You made it. It's all done."  

"They took my molars out?," still foggy from the Michael Jackson's preferred recreational drug.

"All gone. And while you were out they stuck a camera up your butt."

My high-as-a-kite antics didn't end there. When the nurse came in to check on me and said that it wasn't all bad, I asked for a lollipop. The nurse laughed and Deb rolled her eyes.

"She's so pretty. Isn't she pretty?" I blurted.

"Let's get you dressed so we can go home," replied Deb.

"I want to stay here with the pretty nurse."

At this point I could hear the others nurses on the other side of the curtain giggling.

"Let's get your pants on."

"What if you do one leg and the pretty nurse does the other?"

"Yeah, No."

As we left the Ass Inspection Clinic, Deb apologized to the staff, who all smiled and responded...

"Good luck with that one."

"You have no idea," said Deb with one more knowing roll of the eyes.

Turns out I had the good luck of living with a saint for 30 years.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Did you know? Did you know?

It's been a long time since I've been able to boast about new work seen on TV. Or in unknown corners of the Internet. The last time I was involved in a production was at Dollar Shave Club, where I played a very minor role in a 60 second commercial you might have seen.

It makes my heart sing that the seemingly last spot of my career shows a man asking, "How often should I check my balls?"

And yes, I'm that juvenile. You can see the spot here.

But that doesn't mean I can't boast about my daughter's handiwork. If you've been watching the NBA playoffs, or just the fourth quarter as my brother would suggest, you might have seen the Spike Lee celebration of Nike's 50th.

It's an ambitious, entertaining and nostalgic look back at some of Nike's greatest work. Nobody talks about it but I love the part where Spike is playing chess against Zimmie. You can watch the Spike lee Director's Cut here.

Unlike me, my daughter is not involved in the initial creative development of the work. She works at The Mill and is involved in post production. I wish she'd start moving her career towards the coming up with ideas part of the equation because I know she has an excellent sense of design as well as a dark, offbeat sense of humor that makes for good writing. 

You'd think after seeing the glamorous, lucrative, semi-famous life I have led she would have been drawn to the keyboard, but she hasn't and maybe that's for the best. Besides, I've done enough helicoptering.

Nevertheless, it makes me proud and more importantly, it makes Abby proud. And after witnessing the all-nighters and crazy hours she pours into her work, she's earned that pride.

I know if my wife were here, she would be beaming. But she's not, so I have to beam twice as bright.

And I am.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Bodega Boys

I ended yesterday's post with a promise to bring back some funny. And today I'm doing just that. By bringing your attention to Desus and Mero, two of the funniest guys on TV.

I'm probably way late to the Desus and Mero phenomena. I mean let's face it, when it comes to young, way-too-hip street culture, I'm not the first person you would consult. Nevertheless, I discovered these  two guys while channel surfing and stuck around, mostly because of their unmistakable charisma and their highly contagious laughter.

These guys crack each other up. Mostly with inside baseball wisecracks about rappers, sneakers, and a whole assortment of references I haven't a clue about. And I'll be the first to admit I miss a 70% percent of the jokes. But as a testament to their wit and charm, the 30% I do get are enough to keep this old, bald  64 year old Jew entertained.

Also it doesn't help that they speak so fast and under each other's laughing that I can't hear half of what they're saying.

I know the big draw to the show, at least for me, is the Big Apple Authenticity. Their love of the City is just not something that cannot be faked. Even after living in Southern California for 40 years, I will always be a New Yorker, born in the Bronx, raised in Queens and relocated to Suffern after my brother got mugged and jumped by 4 guys in Flushing.

I know many of you who read this blog are huge fans of George Tannenbaum's blog. He is much more poetic and prosaic in his Praise of Gotham. But what I find most interesting is that his worship of the City That Never Sleeps is not all that different than the affection shared by Desus and Mero. 

It's the same diamond but in a different ring setting. And to me they're both beautiful in their own genuine way.

Here's a clip I found on YouTube that should make it clearer. By the way, from now on I'm gonna watch the show with the closed captioning.

Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwe-NhFmogU

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

On writing and writhing.

Yesterday's post about my father's old coin and stamp collection brought back a memory from the deepest corner of my cranial hard drive. 

My mother also had small collection, not of meaningless pieces of metal or envelop affixations, but of something more precious, memories. A large shoebox, most likely for boots, of handwritten letters - in beautiful cursive -- between her and her entire first family in Glasgow. 

The letters, and there were hundreds of them, were written on a blue parchment paper, no thicker than an onion skin, that also folded up in a self contained envelop, thus making the entire endeavor lighter and cheaper -- that legendary Scottish thriftiness -- than many 3rd Class International Postage stamps. 

Let's not forget this was all in the post-Depression era and my parents were distinctively working class poor.

Also, as a reminder to some who have been reading this blog for some time, my mother and her older sister Mary left Scotland at the ripe ages of 17 & 19, respectively. They boarded a boat -- The Queen Elizabeth -- got a cot in steerage, and crossed the Atlantic to start new lives in NYC. 

I can't for the life of me imagine my daughters, at that age, leaving home to go reside in a foreign country. 

I was told they came to America because they were great jazz fans of Stan Kenton. But in later years, my mother confided in Deb that the reason for the trip was more consequential. And had much more to do with today's current discussion about Roe v. Wade.

I didn't ask for any more details than that. 

But even at a young age, I remember my mother penning those letters. Seated at the kitchen table with a beer, a cigarette, a box of tissues and a heart full of pain and homesickness. Especially after Mary, her older sister, passed away at age 33. It would be hard for me to picture the recipient of those letters, her mother, brothers and other sisters, not to notice the tear stains on each of those missives.

Part of me wishes I could get my hands on that shoebox. And part of me is glad I can't. The last thing I need is to relive her anguish.

Having told this story, I realize that I have inherited about 1/2 her bravery. More than 40 years ago, I left home in upstate NY, bought a one way ticket to Los Angeles, with nothing more than a huge army duffle bag and $100 in my wallet. I was unhoused and slept on the roof of a UCLA frat house for about a month. 

She passed onto me something even more important, the ability and the need to excise the hurt through the magic of the written word. 

Sorry for not bringing the funny today. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Monday, May 23, 2022

"Spare some change?"

 Like many writers, my desk is a mess. 

More so now because I don't have my wife nagging me to "straighten up." Which I should add, she only did once a year. Though I often joked about it, I was fortunate Deb was never one to nag. 

She was the rarest of Jewish wives, in that she didn't come from money and she rarely henpecked me. Though on this Saturday morning (when I wrote this post), five months to the day when she passed, I would gladly give up the tip of my left pinky to hear her badger me while she went into one her energetic cleaning tornados.

Truth is, she recognized and respected my need for alone time so I could write these very important blog posts.

"It's your office, you want to keep it sloppy, that's on you," she'd say, "also light a candle, it smells in there."

"What does it smell like?", I'd reply.


My daughters, when they visit, are not so conscious about my architectural boundaries and will wonder in and poke through my belongings, sometimes stymieing my ability to craft the perfect marketing email. 

Last week my daughter found a velvet box on the shelf above my aging Apple iMac. It was a commemorative coin set given to me by my father in 1987, the bicentennial of the writing of the US Constitution. 

There's a $1 silver coin on the left and a $5 gold coin on the right. If you'd have asked me what they were worth today, I'd guess $6. 

The Siegels have never been lucky with picking memorabilia that would produce a windfall profit. In fact my father and my uncle collected coins and stamps in their pre-teen years that are no doubt completely worthless today. You know if someone could find those tattered books stuffed with the get-rich dreams of two poor boys from the Bronx.

Abby, who came across the set of Constitutional coins wondered aloud, "I bet these are worth something, particularly after seeing how our Constitution is being trashed today." 

And so she took to the interwebs and within seconds had stumbled upon some more info about the $25 trinket given to me in what seems another lifetime ago.

She found one seller online willing to depart with his commemorative coins, minted with 99% pure gold and silver, for more than $1000. I practically fell out of my Herman Miller chair that nows sports a squeaky wheel.

For the purposes of this post I tried to find that listing again, but the best I could come up with is this one...

Wow! That's a 28 fold increase in value for a coin set I frankly forgot I had. 

I guess I can exhale a little. Because if Honey decides to fire me for trying to slip one more subversive joke into the copy and the stock market crashes like a drunken Trump Boat Parade and my savings dwindle with the weekly purchase of Tomahawk steaks and expensive exotic spicy peppers from Thailand and Ecuador, at least I'll have this handsome nest egg to fall back on.

One last arrow in my quiver to keep me out of a dirty nursing home.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Memory #13 -- Living like Royalty


Just east of the British Virgin Islands in the calm warm waters of the Caribbean, there is a little known island of Anguila, Spanish for eel. Eels are not my favorite sea creature. In fact they may be among my least favorite. They're slimy, ugly and have sharp tiny teeth. They look like piranha without fins.

But Anguila may be my favorite destination in that part of the world. Far nicer than Cancun, Cozumel and now the overcrowded and dangerous town of Tulum on the Mexican Riviera.

At the urging of my friend Dave Tochterman, I booked Deb and I a room at the amazing Cap Jaluca Hotel. One of the Top 5 Resort Hotels in the world, at least according to the resort reviewer who no doubt travels on the company dime and is handsomely rewarded by grateful hotel owners who know where their croissants are buttered.

The 10 days we spent there cost me an arm and a leg and the potential for some serious liver damage. But it was 1994, we were at the the tail end of our honeymoon stage and my career had finally started gaining momentum. Plus, just look at that damn turquoise water!

Let me add that it was completely worth every dime and scheckel. 

Every morning a jovial older woman would arrive at our second story bungalow, greet us with a thick local accent and bring us a full breakfast of local delicacies, laid out beautifully on a dark mahogany tray. She would swing open the shutter doors to our Oceanview patio and set us up for a meal, and because we had ordered fruity rum wake-me-up drinks, breakfast lasted close to two hours.

It should be noted that from our balcony perch, we spotted Michael Bolton (not the one from Office Space) and Nicolette Sheridan strolling along the beach. They were staying four bungalows to the right of us. Consequently, the paparazzi left us all alone.

After breakfast, we would stroll a good 25 feet to our specially reserved chaise lounges, where a young staffer would prop up our equally specially reserved umbrella and attend to our every need. Each lounge chair had a tiny red flag hinged to the back, not unlike a red flag you'd find on some old timey mailbox. When you flipped the red flag up it let our server, Raul, or Peter, or Danny, know that we were in need of ice water, or sunscreen, or more fancy rum drinks. 

Mostly rum drinks.

The room, the beach, the place were so luxurious, we rarely ventured off the property. But after 7 or 8 days, there's only so much gushing impressed Californians can exchange. So we asked the concierge to get us a taxi and send us to a local bar with great regular food and live reggae music. I'd be lying if I told you the name of the ramshackle bar, right on the water. 

Everything in Anguila seems right on the water.

But I will tell you that after a bellyful of ribs, calamari and some high octane local rum, the music started making my ankles twitch. And not long after that Deb and I were on the dance floor -- something I never do -- and grooving to Rufus and the Three Tones. Again, that might not be the band's name.

I wish Steve Jobs had developed the iPhone a dozen years earlier, so that I would have the sloppy selfies to document the time we had there. While swaying and laughing and generally having the best time of our young married life, we happened to stumble into another young couple who were celebrating their honeymoon. 

Also, in very unlikely but well-lubricated fashion, we invited them to sit at our table. Where we discovered they were from Northern New Jersey. People from Suffern, NY (my hometown) and people from Northern NJ always find a way of bonding. 

We closed the place down. And after a fruitless attempt to score some local ganja, found ourselves back at our hotel, on the beach, with a case of Heineken beer, a bottle of rum and one of those golden inhibition-free moments in life where nothing mattered but the present.

We laughed. We swam in the moon-lit water. We danced loudly on the sand, probably to the annoyance of Michael Bolton and Nicollete Sheridan. And we laughed some more, until the sun came up.

As Deb would often say when we found ourselves away from the house, away from the kids, away from the responsibilities, and in the company of people of enjoying life, "We are out among them."

My great regret and source of immeasurable pain is that because of my stupid misanthropy and my social inertia, we never spent enough time "out among them."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A weekday with Ernie

Inspired by ad legend Ernie Schenck, who was inspired by Nora Ephron, who shortly before she died at age 71, made a list of things she will miss and things she won't miss upon crossing the human rainbow bridge. Ernie shortened the option down to 3, so I decided to partake in the challenge.

First the three things I won't miss:

1. I will not miss cockroaches. Insects in general do not bother me. I never understood the deathly fright many people experience with spiders. They're slow, easy to catch and from what little I know about the Arachnid world, do not spread disease and with few exceptions bite people. 

Roaches on the other hand are fast. When found in my house it is always a heart stopping experience. And in order to kill them I have to find a newspaper or a can of Chloronitrodextramethdioxine, which is never handy and not always effective. By the time I've done that the damn roach could have escaped and already made its way to New Mexico. 

Also having spent many years working in the kitchens of many restaurants I had the unfortunate experience of not seeing one roach at a time, but thousands of the scurrying bastards. BTW, word to the wise, EVERY restaurant you have eaten at or will eat at, has cockroaches. But as the old joke goes, "They don't eat much."

2. I will not miss cigarette smoke. I abhor the smell of burning tobacco. It stymies my appetite. It puts me off. And it indicates a general lack of awareness and inconsideration by the people who indulge. I'm over here enjoying a meal or a day at the beach or even a hike in the mountains, but because you need your nicotine fix you're gonna light up a cigarette and invade my personal breathing space with your filthy habit? And perchance a case of second hand smoke cancer? FO.

I don't want to offend friends and family who partake, but you should also know that after you put your cigarette out, you smell. You smell like you doused yourself with a bottle of Eau De Ashtray. 

3.  I will not miss waiting. Young women often talk about their biological clocks and the pressing need to have children. Not my daughters of course, who seem determined to deny me any grandchildren, but many. The truth is we're all on biological clocks. Our time here is limited. And you probably shouldn't be wasting any of it reading this blog. But at least that's a choice you have made.

The waiting that bothers me is often the result of other people: traffic on the 405, backed up because some negligent schmuck forgot to fill his gas tank and is now stuck in the middle lane. Or restaurant hosts/hostesses who don't have a sense of rhythm or logic and seat couples at tables built for 4. There's an art of working that reception area, unfortunately it is not known to many. "Come on already, I don't have all day to wait for your legendary dim sung, I have a Dirt Nap coming up any day, week, month or year now."

And the three things I will miss (I know these pages have turned maudlin as of late, so I will skip the obvious and refrain from any melancholy, including my wife, my kids, my family, my dog and my friends):

1. I will miss Tomahawk steaks. When my local supermarket started carrying them they were 8.99 a lbs. Today, with global supply chain issues and the consequential rising costs, Tomahawks are double that price. But still worth it when cooked to perfection, topped with butter and a dab of bleu cheese and accompanied by crispy Oreida Tater Tots. Don't judge me.

2. I will miss swimming. I haven't been swimming in a few years, since the Before Times. But those 13 readers who come here regularly know that I had a vigorous daily swimming routine. A discipline that superseded all other needs, particularly those that involved writing copy, copy that would be rejected wholesale, by children (the under 35 crowd) who had never been associated with the creation of good work in their entire careers. Swimming, often a mile a day, put all that into a different perspective. I need to get back in the water.

3. I will miss laughter. And if may tweak a little Paul McCartney, "And in the end, the laughter you take is equal to the laughter you make."

Damnit, I promised not to get melancholy.

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 (damn 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


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. 



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.


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. 


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.