Thursday, June 30, 2022

Go Cassie

 We are now in the 7th Season of the Shitgibbon Shit Show. That 2015 ride down escalator was the perfect metaphor for the slow methodical descent of the USA.

The latest episode introduced us to a new character, Cassie Hutchinson. An intelligent, articulate, brave 25 year old who possesses the poise of a woman twice her age. Though I'm hesitant to label her a hero, as her bombshell testimony would have been more welcome and more significant had she decided to spill the beans at the TFG's 2nd Impeachment. 

I still can't believe we're living in a time of a twice impeached president, who only got off scott free because of partisan hacks in the Upper Chamber, is the torch bearer for the GOP. 

Does anyone seiously believe he wasn't blackmailing Zelensky for dirt on Hunter? He said to Zelensky, "You don't even have to open a real investigation on Hunter Biden, just say you are and we'll do the rest."

Mmmmm, that sounds like the same Colonel Fuckknuckle who told the DOJ, "Just say you're doing an election fraud investigation, me and the GOP will take it from there."

Nevertheless, Cassie -- we're on a first name basis -- blew the doors off 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with tales of Shady McShaderton telling the Secret Service to ignore his armed supporters.

Followed by a second hand story of how that Fishbrained fascist ordered (and grappled with) the driver of The Beast to deliver him to the Capitol.

Let's not skip over the thinly-veiled mafioso style threats to Trump staffers who were testifying before the committee. I'm no lawyer but I believe that's a crime in and of itself.

But perhaps most entertaining of all, was when Cass regaled the nation with stories of a volcanic NY temper that simply could not be contained. Having grown up in NYC and worked at my fathers shabby and raucous office by the meatpacking district in lower Manhattan, I found this to be the most entertaining. 

And let's face it, entertainment is all we're going to get from this embarassing and shameful 1/6 American travesty. Thanks in large, no, all, part, of the complicit GOP, the party that once stood by the Constitution and the notion of personal accountability but now stands closer to the ATM machine in order to deposit checks. From Lobbyists. From the NRA. From Russian Mafioso Oligarchs. Who knows?

All I know is the scene of Captain Ouchie Foot blowing his lid and tossing his well done Porterhouse steak, slathered in ketchup against the wall of the White House, is one I will take to my grave.

With a shit-eating grin on my face.


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Breaking Through

I have struggled with weight issues, my entire life. 

For a good 10 years (1983 - 1993) I had it somewhat under control, that enlightened decade notwithstanding, the scale has never been my friend.

My mother used to joke that prior to my birth she and my grandmother were at the Bronx Zoo. When they passed by the elephant sanctuary her water broke. The EMT's arrived and took her to the hospital where the doctors extracted a 10 lbs. bowling ball from her overly-extended torso. 

That bowling ball was me.

It wasn't until I moved to California, where I was surrounded by young people who were all aspiring models and actors, that I decided to spring into action. I started running, biking and most importantly, eating cleaner. 

The weight fell off immediately. And my athleticism grew exponentially. 

Before long I was dating a woman who was obsessed with 10K races. I was racing on Super Bowl Sundays. New Years Eve. Anywhere and everywhere race organizers could find a course and squeeze an entry fee out of nipple-bleeding runners. Before long I had collected a bevy of useless medals and cheap 10K T-shirts.

Then Life set in. 

And with it, large family meals. Exercise time reduced in order to spend time with the girls. And endless readings of The Hungry Caterpilllar, Where the Wild Things Are, Curious George and Zundl the Tailor. Each turned page seemed to add a centimeter to my waistline. 

I turned into a big Fatty Fat.

I could do a thousand more words making fun of myself, as I take weird pleasure in self deprecation. But my grief therapist has convinced me to lay off the Rich Siegel jokes. 

Now I cook for myself. I shop for myself. And I talk to myself, mostly along the lines of, "stop eating sugar. Stop with the processed food. And get down there and give me some pushups."

It's only 8:30 in the morning and I've already knocked out 40. By EOD I will have surpassed 100+.

I'm also on the Peloton everyday. And plan to start riding my outdoor bike with a friend whenever time and geography and freeway traffic permit.

And it's working. Yesterday, I stripped down to my birthday suit (sorry for that image) and stepped on my new digital Smart Scale, which I appropriately named Fatty Fat and the first number in the three digit readout was a 1. Not a 2.

The last time that happened Flock of Seagulls were touring the country and women were teasing their hair to new unheard-of dimensions.

Naturally a celebration was in order so I seared 6 ounces of Halibut, cut up some tomato and avocado, 7 cashew nuts and one 100 calorie Strawberry Mango Topo Chico.

Next time I write about my weight I'm hoping the second digit will be an eight. Wish me luck.

Time for more push ups.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Woe v Raid

 I remember the first time I ever had to appear in court and testify under oath. 

I was only 14 years old and working as a newspaper delivery boy. Back then every household read the newspaper, it's a pity that doesn't hold true today. And back then 14 year old boys and girls learned the value of hard work and character building. It's a pity that too has gone by the wayside like civility, tolerance for others and free thought.

One snowy afternoon, I had been run off the side of the road by a careless driver. I fractured my wrist and suffered minor nerve damage. At that point my dreams of becoming a concert pianist or brain surgeon went up in smoke.

To settle the medical bills my mother dragged me off to court to get the Rockland Journal News to pay up. With my hand on the bible and while wearing my Bar Mitzvah suit, I nervously promised to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. I was as nervous as a salmon facing a gauntlet of hungry grizzly bears. In the end the newspaper company covered all my medical bills and the judge threw in another $2000 for my college fund.

Which I'm sure I spent on bad weed.

The point is, the taking of the oath used to be a sacred ritual in our courts of law. After last week's tragic overturning of Roe v Wade, it appears that too has vanished from our political repetoire, much like the oath to uphold the Constitution.

In their swearing in ceremonies, each of the GOP SC justices pictured above told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Roe v Wade was the law of the land. That it was settled law. And that they would do nothing to make it otherwise.

They lied.

Judges who sit on the highest court in the land, and indeed the world, lied under oath. And in doing so ignored the will of 70% of this country.

Upset? You're damn right I'm upset. You know who's even more upset? My two grown Jewish daughters in their mid twenties. So much so that my youngest daughter, started a Siegel family fundraiser and gathered close to $2000 for the Texas Choice fund. 

In my religion, the one that preceded Christianity and celebrated freedom and justice for all before the Pilgrims stepped foot on Plymouth Rock, a fetus is not a person until they are born and take their first breath. And so now tenets of a specific religion, not mine mind you, have been institutionalized into US law. It's a damn slippery slope from there.

Where in the Constitution does the State have unspoken powers over bodily sovereignty?

This morning I woke up with a booger in my oversized nose. Do I need permission from Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and their phalanx of lying judges to remove it? 

Maybe I should call Legal Zoom.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Memory #17 -- Rhythm

For all the faults of social media -- I'm looking at you Facebook -- there are some hidden gems to be found. At least for me. 

If you watch closely, you can find patterns of human behavior. More specifically, the patterns relevant to couples. Even more specifically the nuanced rhythms of those bound by marriage.

If you're lucky like me, you know several married couples who not only razz each other in the digital arena, but take great joy in the digital jousting. They post unflattering photos of their mates. They mock each other's anniversary gifts. And they say stuff like, "I should have joined the nunnery."

All with tongues planted firmly in cheek. 

Maybe I'm wrong, but in addition to laughing at their shenanigans, I always took these not-so-serious jabs and left crosses as a sign of a healthy relationship. 

Deb and I were married 29 years, 27 of them happy, as the old Rodney Dangerfield joke goes. We didn't take our jocularity to Facebook as some have artfully done, but there can be no doubt we playfully danced in lockstep to a rhythm that was all our our own. 

Years ago, we would watch Everyone Loves Raymond, you know when people were still watching sitcoms on network TV. What we loved about the show was how accurately they had captured the most entertaining minutia of heavenly marital bliss and the tit-for-tat reparte that no screenwriter or playwright could come close to nailing.

In one episode, the Romanos return home from a weekend vacation. They schlepp their luggage inside the house, and in a moment of absentmindedness Ray leaves a roll-on suitcase on the landing of the staircase.

That suitcase becomes the fulcrum point of the whole show. And who will crack first and pick it up. 

Here's a preview:

Among many others, we loved that episode. That ratty immovable suitcase magically encapsulated the essence of couplehood, particularly well-worn, satisfyingly-comfortable couplehood.

Years later, when I thought she had forgotten the gag. I purposely did the same thing. I left a suitcase near the rear door of our house, a mere 20 yards from our garage where it belonged. 

Sure enough, life imitated sitcom. And that empty suitcase sat there. Immovable. As if it had been attached to the floor with 4 inch Hot Dip Galvanized Square Cut Floor Nails. 

Until it wasn't.

While sweeping our impossible to keep clean hardword floors, I watched as she came closer and closer to the suitcase. She put the broom down. Picked up the suitcase. And put just outside on the deck. She swept the floor where the luggage had been. And, knowing I was watching the entire event with my side eye, she reached back outside to retrieve the luggage and put it back where it had been for 3 weeks.

She smiled at me. She knew that I knew that she knew what I was doing.

I put down the NY Times and lugged the suitcase out to the garage. 

I miss my dance partner and that unspoken rhythm.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Cannes 2022 -- New and Improved

After a two year Covid hiatus, Francophiles and lovers of corporate naval gazing have returned to peacock their new capri pants and pork pie hats while gushing over the world's most hated art form -- advertising. 

That's not sour grapes talking.

"In France, we do not have sour grapes like your hippie vineyards in California. In France we have only the best grapes. And we do not blend them into you say...a Merlot. Yuchhhhh"

You'd think with the fall of our industry they'd put this old tired dog down. But the Cannes profiteers will have none of that. And indeed are boasting about the amazing crop of work that will earn its creators a worthless feline trinket and a fanny pack stuffed with swag.

"We have devoted Hall B to the finest email marketing campaigns, the world has ever seen. You will see Subject Lines and Pre-Headers crafted by the most talented copywriters who've ever clicked and clacked a keyboard. These are the cream of the crop emails that have artfully dodged the Trash File and raised the bar for email creators around the world."

And it doesn't stop there. 

While TV, print and OOH have virtually vanquished from Cannes consideration, promoters are quick to point out the most stunning, eye opening collections of banner ads the digerati -- and only the digerati -- have ever seen. These infinitely clickable banner ads are setting new standards of creativity unimaginable to those dusty practitioners of old legacy media. 

Banner ad makers will be eligible (depending on their entry fees) to snag a Cannes cat, including Bronze, Silver, Gold, Titanium and the newest award, Super Silicon in the following categories:

200 X 200

300 x 600

336 x 280

120 x 600 (the vaunted Skyscraper banner)

And the much beloved Page Takeover. And what internet user/brand loyalist doesn't love a well-crafted Page Takeover.

Of course every one of this year's Cannes participants, when not swigging Rose or hurling in the Holding Company Villa pool, will be eagerly awaiting the awarding of Lions for the best and most effective CTAs.

The early buzz is that the Brazilians are going to go home with the grand prize with their...

Aperte a porra do botão

(Hit the Fucking Button)

Disgruntled Americans are already crying foul and demand to see proof that this CTA was ever actually used. 

The tension is unbearable. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Sharing the Planet

 I came across a meme the other day and it stopped me in its tracks. It was something to the effect of:

Scientists say the Earth is 4.543 billion years old. And you had the good fortune of being alive on this planet the same time as Jerry Garcia.

I'm no fanboy. 

Though I will admit in the late 70's, while in college, I was very much enthralled with the Dead, mostly because their music just seemed to perfectly complement the times and go well with aromatic bong water. 

And because I hung out with a bunch of late stage hippies who were tree huggers -- actual tree huggers, aka Stumpies -- who were attending the Environmental School of Forestry which shares the campus with Syracuse University.

What stumped me was the assertion that the earth is 4.543 billion years old. And so I did a little digging? 

Want to know what I found? 

Of course you do, that's why you come to this worthless digital rag in the first place; inane facts, sappy sentimental stories and the occasional found photo of a Florida guy making mad love to the tailpipe of his 2005 Mazda Miata.

Keep in mind what I'm about to tell you comes from a site called otherwise known as Difficult Science Made Simple for Undereducated Copywriters. 

There, I discovered some interesting information, including the fact that my belief aligns perfectly with Classical Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who thought Time had no beginning or end and that the Earth was infinitely old. I'll go one further and posit that Space is equally infinite, with no beginning or end. Where Aristotle and I part ways is the Toga. 

Not a fan of wearing loose bedsheets as they tend to add 10 lbs. to my appearance and make me look fat. OK, Fatter.

Modern scientists differ however and use radiometric dating. Using the known half life of known elements they simply measure minerals in deep crust material and use the rate of decay to work backwards and find the true life of a particular rock. Do I know what I'm talking about? Only in the vaguest sense of the word. 

But more than Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy knew about blood. Or science. Or anything, really.

Even if we accept the 4.543 billion year age, which is significantly less than infinity, it's still kind of mind-blowing.

So, if we go back to Jerry Garcia maxim, I would say I had the good fortune of sharing the planet with:

John Lennon

Paul McCartney

Steve Jobs

Groucho Marx



Monty Python

Golda Meir

Erma Bombeck

Charles Bukowski

David Sedaris

and many, more.

And if I'm lucky, I'll be alive on terra firma to witness the monumental fall from grace and ultimate delivery of justice to the one I call Shitgibbon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Me & Uncle Joe

Last week, this came in the mail. I teased my friends on Facebook and told them I would reveal the contents.

I might have oversold it. 

Because my daughter pointed out that while it was cool to get a White House letter, it wasn't exactly the big deal I had made it out to be. Nevertheless it got me back on my political activist high horse and inspired me to write back...



President Joseph Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Uncle Joe,


I just received your letter regarding additional benefits for US Veterans. I showed it to my daughter who quickly pointed out that it was a form letter. And, much to my dismay, not actually signed by you.


“Come on, Man.” 


In short, your response will not suffice.


Here’s the deal: my uncle Ron served in the US Military. He was a Marksman with the Army Reserve in the early 1960’s, I think you were about 60 something years old. He did not see any combat duty and had been honorably discharged by the time we stuck our nose in Vietnam.


More recently, he had to abandon his home in Palm Springs and move into an Assisted Living facility. The managers of the facility told us he might be able to defray the exorbitant living costs with financial aid from the VA. Perfect, I thought, because I was also subsidizing his living quarters and any help would be appreciated.


Especially if it left more money in my pocket when it comes time for me to move into a dirty nursing and suck pureed cheeseburgers through a straw.


But it wasn’t perfect. 

That VA financial aid is reserved for veterans who have been in combat or served during times of war. I would not deny these brave men and women one penny. They served and were willing to lay down the lives for their country. 


However, so did those who sacrificed a part of their lives for the betterment of others. 


And that is simply not fair.


I’ve written numerous letters to the VA, to various congresspeople from Southern California (Karen Bass and Ted Lieu), to your dipshit predecessor and now to you. In fact, I find myself writing to you 8 months after my Uncle Ron, passed. Penniless and reduced to a shell of a man.


All to no avail.


So let me spin this another way. Let’s look at this through the lens of a political strategist. After all, that’s what your colleagues in the GOP always do.


How about a clean bill, (or line item, I’m not up on my K Street vernacular) that lays out $5 billion or $10 billion, again I’m not a wonk, to assist ALL Veterans with their late years assisted living needs? 


First, because it’s simply the right thing to do and eliminates the disparity that hurts so many.

And secondly, because it will easily pass in the Democratic House, it will put GOP Senators, who make so much hay on their phony support of the military, on the hook. Plus, it slaps them in the face with an issue that has overwhelming bipartisan support among the citizenry. 


Shame them the same way the Pentagon and the VA have shamed our valiant men and women who served but have gone so unserved.





Rich Siegel

Thursday, June 16, 2022

He Must Be Stopped

As you begin your Thursday morning, the House Select Committee have begun their third hearing into the criminal coup staged by ex Precedent Shitgibbon. 

I love how he calls them the UnSelect Committee, as if that were a stroke of semantical genius. Just as he delusionally convinced himself he came up with the phrase "Fake News" or "Primed the Pump."

Also, faithful readers might be wondering why I use the word Precedent as opposed to President. 

Clearly, I know how the word is properly spelled. But the man who uses the word hamberder does not. In a 2017 tweet, he claimed Chinese military power had reached unpresidented heights.

And so I appropriated his misspelling in order to get Red Hats to call me all sorts of names, just so I could point out that their messianic stable genius used the incorrect spelling first and I was simply following his lead.

All of that is beside the point. 

Because last week the hearing rolled out previously unseen footage of all the president's men, testifying under oath, that the Shitgibbon had been told by every election expert, his own campaign manager Bill Stepien, and his own taintlicking sycophant Attorney General Bill Barr, that the rigged election nonsense was...oh how did Billy put it...oh yeah... BULLSHIT.

Therefore, by the Associative Law of Bullcockery, the bullshit lie was the basis for the continued fundraising efforts sent out by US mail. And thus constituted Mail Fraud. And though I never went to law school but did take the LSAT and was waitlisted at prestigious Southwestern University, that in my limited legal expertise was/is sufficient grounds for an indictment.

This morning, we are told, we are going to hear evidence of how the President of the United States of Americas suborned the Vice President of the United States of America to criminally violate the US Constitution by seizing powers that were never given to him.

And after the Vice President refused to place his body, career and reputation on the railroad tracks, the same president wondered aloud if maybe the Capitol Insurrectionists should have hanged Mike Pence.

That alone should stop Americans in their tracks.

But it doesn't, because in 2022 the GOP is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Incorporated. And we all know how those businesses all ended up.

Back to the hearings.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Memory #16 -- Bowling in Lausanne

I met Deb 6 months after my father had passed in 1989. My Dad and I always had a contentious relationship. I may be wrong but I think that's a common dynamic between a father and a firstborn son. 

The friction between he and I didn't subside until the last years of his life when he was mellowed by prostate cancer. And the reassuring knowledge that I was making a decent living as a copywriter. 

"From the luft", he would beam to his doctors, "my son makes a living from the luft."

From the air, for those unfamiliar with Yiddish. Meaning I had no tangible skills other than to pull words from the ether and put them in the kind of order that would merit a paycheck.

The point is I was devastated by the loss of a man who I both detested and loved for so long. And so I was magically buoyed when I met Deb at a huge party in the mansion of Kathleen Brown (sister of California governor Jerry Brown) and wife of Van Gordon Sauter, former President of CBS News. 

How we arrived there is a story I'll save for a different time.

Four months after meeting and dating, Deb boldly came to me with a proposition. One that tested my provincialism and my lack of spontaneity.

"I have thousands of unused airline miles from all my days on the road. Let's go to Europe. We'll go to England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Italy."

"Wait what?"

I had never stepped foot off Terra America, but I knew that three weeks of close quarter traveling could easily spoil even the best of relationships, particularly ones that were just burgeoning. Particularly since I was beginning to sprout ear hair and would be hard pressed to manscape while hustling around across the pond.

"Sure", I blurted, not knowing how those words came out of my mouth.

I won't give you the whole travelogue, but here's the abridged version:

* Had the world's best curry in Manchester

* Saw a construction worker pee in the corner of a pub no American should have entered, The Dirty Rat and Hungry Roach, I believe it was called

* Spent 4 hours singing and drinking with new Scottish friends in the train Bar Car

* Enjoyed a home cooked meal with Uncle Bennie and my Aunt Helen, a woman with the heartiest laughs ever heard

* Discovered that the Scottish proclivity for thriftiness was well earned as Aunt Helen only heated the parts of her rowhouse that were necessary

* Celebrated "Bon Ani" in Paris with crazy French people, including: overturned cars, silly string on the streets, and arriving back to the hotel at 4 AM after getting lost (and loving it) on the Metro

* Hopped a bullet train to Switzerland 

It was all going so surprisingly well, despite the excessive cigarette smoke, the sometimes unusual food and dining hours and the weirdly undersized beds. Keep in mind, Deb abhorred big American style chain hotels and booked all our rooms at places that were off the beaten path and cloyingly "cute."

But when we got to Lausanne, Deb caught some kind of bug. This would be a pattern throughout all our future trips. Either she, or one of my daughters, would always get sick. I like to think it has nothing to do with me, but who knows?

And so we slowed down. 

Because of her much needed bedrest, our time in this beautiful city on the hill leading down to Lake Geneva was limited. And so when she recovered, we did what all American tourists do when satiated with European quaintness and rich culture -- we went bowling.

Nothing particularly noteworthy happened at this tiny 8 lane establishment. But it never failed to produce a smile (and a laugh) between us when recalling the fact that here we were 10,000 miles on the other side of the world, in a bowling alley, that most American of American diversions. 

Fun fact: Bowling alleys were once called "drunkeries" by a prudish press who were marching us towards Prohibition.

Perhaps I'll save the second half of our trip for another day. Suffice it to say, we survived our three week long trip. And instead of it ripping us apart as I had once feared, it drew us closer.

Even closer when, on the return flight back to the USA, Deb asked me...

"What's the first thing you want to do when we get back home?"

"I want to go to an IHOP and have a big ole American breakfast, bacon, sausage, eggs, and sourdough toast."

"Mmmm, that sounds good", she replied.

That's when you know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Top Fun

Went to the movies Saturday afternoon with my friend, former colleague and fellow blogger, Jeff Gelberg. 

It was weird sitting in a movie theater as it had been a very long long time. Even before Covid and before cancer, Deb and I had stopped going to theaters and opted for the convenience of streaming services and our big screen TV.

In addition to not having to listen to strangers talk or noisily stuff obscenely priced popcorn into their gaw (thank you George Tannenbaum for reminding me of the beauty of that word) my TV has a pause button. Giving me ample freedom to relieve my chihuahua-sized bladder every fifteen minutes. 

As I joked to Jeff, the last time "I went to the movies", it was to see Jerry Macguire.

Let me just say that if you're going back to the big screen for the first time in a long time, this is the movie to see. 

My palms are still sweaty.

My heart rate is leveling off to cruising altitude.

And I'm just now digging the Lady Gaga song out of my ears. Actually, I don't even remember hearing the Lady Gaga song that Tom Cruise was gushing about. 

And what doesn't Tom gush about?

Nevertheless, you can't argue the man doesn't have movie star charisma. I'm not just saying that because in addition to the remarkable resemblance, we both have ties to Syracuse, NY. He was born there, I went to college there. But Tom Cruise is genuinely talented and it's hard for me to believe he has never won an Oscar for Best Actor. 

His role in the underrated Michael Mann movie Collateral was worthy. As was Born on the Fourth of July.  And even the uneven Eyes Wide Shut. And I'm a big fan of his lesser known gigs, in Tropic Thunder and Magnolia, 

I'll be the first to admit I'm not a skilled movie reviewer. 

It's hard to talk about a movie without giving away the plot or any spoilers. 

But do yourself a favor and take in this big, noisy, fun and surprisingly emotional (in a Hollywood cheesy manner) American blockbuster. Also if you don't want to miss any of the stunning aerial action, don't drink any coffee or Diet Cokes before taking your seats. 


Monday, June 13, 2022

What am I? The Maid?


Rich: Why are you putting that glass in the sink?

Me: Because I'm done with it.

Rich: Put it in the dishwasher.

Me: I will.

Rich: When?

Me: Later.

Rich: Why later? I don't understand.

Me: I don't know, I don't understand either.

And so it goes, the constant battle with myself to keep this mammoth 2300 square foot house clean. It is hard not to revert to the devil-may-care sloppiness of my youth. Particularly when there's no one to govern my manly inclination towards disorder. 

One part of me says, "who cares?" The other, more mature part of me, the one that carries Deb's voice in my head, prefers the place to be tidy, orderly and operating room clean. 

It's a tall order. Especially when the mother and daughter team (two very sweet women who seem to laugh and cackle more than they scrub and scour) constantly flake out on my bi-weekly cleaning services. 

And so I've purchased all kinds of gizmos to make the task all the more easier. 

Like Bitey, my robotic vacuum from the Shark Co. Per the mobile app. instructions, I gave my vacuum a name, a good aggressive name that I had hoped would reflect its dirt-seeking personality. But half the time I end up watching Bitey roll right over a down feather from the couch or an errant crumb from Taco Tuesday. 

And like a schmuck, I will bend down and move the offending material right in its path. Again, to no avail. 

I also have a a Bissell SpinWave Machine which turns electricity into a self-propelled whirling dervish. 

Note the two rotating pads, which if left unattended and unguided, will spin out of control, blow past my screen door and end up in Cleveland. Or Alaska, depending on which pad is more dominant.

And I have begun learning some useful life hacks from my daughters, both of whom keep their two Santa Monica apartments fastidiously clean and annoyingly girly, but have no compunction about coming over here and tossing the place upside down like a late summer Topeka Twister.

For instance, given that I have two lemon trees in the backyard and more lemons that either I or the local rats and squirrels can use, Abby showed me how to cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with coarse kitchen salt and use the homemade device with the natural abrasive, to scrub the cast iron pan, the butcher block counter and the stainless steel sink. 

Rich: Speaking of sinks, it's now been 2 cups of coffee and 45 minutes since you began writing this useless piece and the dirty glass has still not traveled the 2 &1/2 feet from the sink to the dishwasher.

Me: Leave me alone, I'm busy.


Footnote: I just realized today would have been my mom's 89th birthday. Can it be a coincidence that I've had these same conversations with her many, many years ago? Or it is the universe doubling back on itself in a way we will never comprehend?

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Another dreamed crushed by corporate mediocrity

It has happened again. For the 3,957th time.

An idea we pitched in August of 1997, and ditched in August 1997, on the same day, in the same hour, in the same meeting, has reared its fanciful head in 2022, only 25 years later.

Let me rewind the machine in my own head that faithfully keeps track of every idea slaughter in my career, particularly when the executioner was some high level management schmuck who rode the Peter Principle to undeserved heights.

While at Chiat/Day (Happy? Paul MacFarlane?) we had been invited to pitch the Charles Schwab account. A huge potential client that had always spent a boatload of money on TV. They still do. With dismally boring hamfisted commercials, but that's besides the point.

One of the young teams working in our group, Bill Hornstein and the human idea machine, Mikey Collado, came to John Shirley and I with a unique campaign idea.

In short it featured the actual Charles Schwab returning home from a speaking engagement. Sadly he gets in a car accident. But through the miracle of science, emergency medical technicians are able to salvage his head and keep it on life support. His disembodied head was after all the vessel in which all the Charles Schwab financial wisdom was stored. 

In subsequent commercials, Charles Schwab would dispense vital information to young couples, early retirees, and people in their twenties who need to set up the 401k plans. It was the classic Talking Head campaign, only in our case,  our "Disruptive Case" if I may borrow some proprietary Chiat/Day vernacular, the CEO's noggin was disembodied from his torso.

Strategically, it checked off all the boxes. 

It was brand specific. 

It featured the CEO. 

It gave us a simple platform to discuss complicated financial issues. 

But the team, driven more by fear than by ambition, took issue with decapitation. What's wrong with decapitation?

Fast Forward to 2022, when a nation can ignore the murder of 19 schoolchildren and a former president can blurt out, "Maybe they should have hanged Mike Pence."

Now witness the return of the Disembodied Head pimping Fruit Smash Super Hard Seltzer. You can see the spot here.

It's fun, engaging, and has a beat you can dance too. I like it.

But I can't help but think it would've been better in 1997. If for no other reason than to hear a director shout out, 

"Lighting is in place, actors take your mark. And Bring me the Head of Charles Schwab."

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A book or a sign?

Had I been smart I would have taught my daughters what little I know about DIY, power tools and home repairs. But by now I think we can all agree I'm not smart.

Moreover, what I learned was always during a heated confrontation between my father, a CPA turned self taught Master Craftsman who built his own shelfs, his own furniture and even a full sized Finnish Sauna off his master bathroom.

"Hey Richie, come in here and give me a hand, I'll show how to work a miter saw."

"I'm busy"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm watching Monty Python."

"Get in here."

This is not to say that my daughters are not resourceful. One assembled an entire 6 drawer Ikea dresser to perfection. All by herself. And the other put together her own queen size bed without my assistance.

But when it comes to hanging shelves on the wall, drilling through drywall without hitting a stud, and the proper use of Mollybolts, that's when my phone rings. So I ventured into my incredibly messy garage, carted out the tools and started looking for a convenient bag in order to trot them over to Abby's place. 

I looked high and low, but since discarding the heavy duty shopping bags my wife used to bring to the supermarket, I'm not a bag toting guy, I couldn't find anything. Then I looked in the closet by the entryway. There, behind the long winter coats that shield us from the brutal Southern California winters, I spotted a small paper bag with handles.

That's when the shock set in.  

It's also when I start to question my own cynical, even nihilistic, beliefs about the universe, metaphysics, and how did early mankind discover which mushrooms were OK to eat.

I pulled out the bag and found a brand new copy of a David Sedaris' book. My wife knew what a fan I had become of his easy going writing style, quirky humor and poignant revelations. According to the receipt, she bought the book just before my birthday in 2021 and was planning on wrapping it as a gift. I guess because of her chronic fatigue from the chemo treatments she never got around to it.

The floodgates opened. 

But let's be honest, it takes little very little for my hyperactive tear ducts to go into overdrive. Hook me up to a water collection device and I can solve California's drought conditions in about a dozen June Gloom days.

But wait there's more.

I pulled out the receipt and noticed my wife had purchased another book the same day.

As I mentioned before and in a thousand other posts before this, I'm not big on the paranormal. I don't believe in ghosts. I don't attend seances. I don't go tea readings or see psychics. But it does seem like some sort of sign.

It should be noted that Deb was not as close-minded about that stuff as I am.

Maybe she was right and maybe I was wrong. There's certainly a lot of precedence for that.

Now I'll pick my jaw off the floor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Memory #15 -- The Meadow

I don't know about your dog, but mine insists on two W-A-L-K-S a day. I can't even say the word in the house otherwise Lucy goes nuts and thinks it's time to strap in for a stroll around the neighborhood. Which is a pain in the ass because, she's very methodical about her sniffing and her obsessive need to sniff every tree trunk.

As of late, it's seem my olfactory senses have heightened as well. 

Recently I've made it a point to walk by one of my neighbors and his meticulously sculpted drought tolerant garden. Why? Because he has a specific member of the sage family growing in the front yard that packs a potent punch. Potent meaning one whiff and my brain immediately conjures up the high chaparral plants we would encounter every year on our annual camping trips to the High Sierras.

It's very odd and interesting how smell is so intimately tied to our sense of memory. Perhaps a leftover from our reptilian and animal brains? A wolf for instance can detect prey from three miles away. Its sense of smell is far more powerful than its sight or hearing. 

Sadly, after a 20 year run, the camping trips, will be no more. 

I cannot see myself visiting this Deb's Happy Place without her. And the next time I do go there -- and I don't know when I'll be ready -- I will be bringing Deb. And spreading her ashes on this tiny spot of Earth that meant the world to her.

It was Deb, more than any of us, who would take note of the setting sun and suggest we grab our camping seats, snacks and cocktails, and climb the 100 yards behind our showering tent to The Meadow.

We didn't have to smile for the camera in the photo above, because we were always smiling. Once there, we'd talk about the great hikes we had done, maybe even compare foot blisters. 

Paul would revel us with a story about one the goofy kids in his classroom. Colin would fart and try to blame it on me. We'd talk about what was for dinner. And take in the deep, soothing silence and curative fresh mountain air. And watch the purple shade drape the White Mountains to our East.

And of course, it wouldn't be a camping trip without the natural devolvement of the conversation to cover the natural excretions of the human body. I'll spare you the scatological details, suffice it to say that one time, one of us had the unfortunate experience of dropping his or her phone into the campsite latrine, which are meticulously maintained, btw.

Making matters worse, the... er, a good 15 foot drop from the toilet. Lucky for us the campground host was handy with a long stick and had an encyclopedic knowledge of knots like the Half Hitch, the Soft Shackle Edwards, and the Icicle Loop. 10 minutes later he had fished out the aromatic phone and then we had to collectively figure out how to clean it.

Last year, our last camping trip, Deb was fatigued from her radiation treatments, so instead of car camping, I had rented a 23 foot RV so she could get bedrest whenever it was necessary. And it turned out it was necessary the entire time we were there. She couldn't even make it to the The Meadow.

Nevertheless, she told me on the ride home, that the abridged camping trip was the best gift I ever got her.

And now, knowing how much she appreciated my efforts, I see it as a gift I got for myself.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Happy Monday Everybody

As some of you might know I've been on a reading tear lately. Biographies, politics, gut busting and poignant short stories by David Sedaris, these books are all over the house. 

And some of them I've actually read.

Shortly after my  dear friend Jim Jennewein came out to comfort me for a week after my wife's passing, sleeping on a leaky air mattress in my ice cold living room, he returned to NYC and called me with a book suggestion. Next to my friend and fellow blogger George Tannenbaum, Jim, a professor at Fordham, is the second most well-read person I know. 

Jim said with a giggle, you should pick up People Love Dead Jews. 

Five points there for bold titling. However, given my mournful (but improving) state of mind, I was hesitant to rehash the pograms, persecutions and genocide of the not too long ago past. And its persistent manifestations in the 2022.

I'm only halfway through the book, but one chapter is haunting me, not only for its personal connections, but also because of the larger historical story it tells -- a story that has been repeated for 4000 years.

My ancestors came from Belarus, which is just north of Ukraine. At the turn of the 18th century, many fellow members of my tribe desperately sought to leave Russia and the coming Soviet Union. In addition to regular pillaging by Cossacks and their drunken brethren, officials in Moscow sought to dejudaize Russian culture. 

Not unlike the Catholic Church did centuries earlier.  And certainly not dissimilar to what the Nazis attempted just 50 years later. 

So the Russians in their legendary benevolent manner decided they would conscript the Jewish men and ship them out to Siberia. Where they would die from the cold and the lack of any hot soup. Some, including my people, made it out and landed on Ellis Island. Others were forcibly exiled, including a small community that was sent to the outer reaches of Manchuria, to a city called Harbin.

This is where it gets interesting.

Because this very small community of doctors, lawyers, tailors, construction workers, artists and a few schlemiels, turned this frost bitten outlier Chinese city into a bustling, successful, growing city that resembled the metropolitan cities of Europe. And the Chinese hosts couldn't be happier. They were perfectly happy to allow and indeed encourage these odd Russian shtetl people from the north to flourish in the their country. 

Mostly because they knew through taxes and the growing demand for goods and services would also benefit the native Chinese population in the surrounding areas. It was gentrification before that word even entered Websters.

Sadly, as you might have predicted, the Harbin story ends sadly. 

A generation after the OG Jews moved in, so did Japanese soldiers, Chinese opportunists and the old Russian tormentors. All eager to fleece the city, rob the inhabitants and destroy what once was.

If I recall the story correctly there is but one Member of the Tribe still there. Our intrepid author of this book visited Harbin and could feel the absence of the past. Mostly through monuments and plaques, written in broken English, which are both a telling reflection of our status as perpetual outsiders. But also damn funny.

Item: A Bronzed baby shoe made by a talented cobbler.

Plaque: "This was made by a Jew."

Item: Replica of a fish outside the first restaurant in Harbin

Plaque: "Many Jews fish enjoy"

Item:  Statue of Avram Mostovsky, founder of the Harbin National Bank

Plaque: " Jew inventor of pen chain, stop pen thieves. Smart Jew."

OK, I might have taken a literary license, but the larger point remains. If nomadic Jewish culture can pick up and settle into a place free from persecution and thrive there, unlike any others. And to the benefit of many others, why all the hatred, persecution and murder? It's like these Jew-haters were intent to cut off their undersized noses to spite their face.

Maybe the answer is in the second half of the book?

Thursday, June 2, 2022

POPULATION: 400 million guns

When it comes to politics, I have a tendency to get quite worked up. 

The Democrats frustrate the fuck out of me with their weak decision-making, their refusal to fight fire with flamethrowers and their tendency towards wonkiness. 

I have a clue for you Democratic politicians, people don't get excited about bike paths, blockchain proposals, and land set aside for endangered insects like the rolly-poly. Granted those issues may be important, but they should be discussed behind closed doors or unread newsletters. Because they don't make for good campaign fodder. Not in this populist era of rallies, screaming pundits and over-amped voters.

Republicans, on the other hand, sicken me. They're the party of no solutions, no ideas, and in 2020, no GOP platform. They put up a candidate with NO PLATFORM because they have correctly gauged the shallow nature of the American populace. Give them a free red hat and they'll give you a free ride to the White House. They put party over country every chance they get. 

Last week a reporter confronted Senator Ted Cruz about the horrific school shooting in Texas.

"Senator, isn't it time we enacted some common sense gun laws that would deny a sick 18 year old the right to purchase two assault rifles and enough bullets to wipe out an entire school?"

Teddy's response, "That's the problem with you leftists, you always want to turn these situations into something political."

How is the proliferation of guns and the weekly murder of our schoolchildren NOT political, you hirsute doofus?

Republicans have deflection, hand wringing and whataboutism down to a fine art. 

Cruz, I believe, is a 9th degree Black Belt.

Stirred by the pictures of those parents going through indescribable grief, coupled with my own current grief, I decided to pen another one of my political posts. I posted it on Facebook last week. 

And to the dismay of many, I also put it up on Linkedin, who claim that's not the proper venue. However, as a copywriter who is getting more involved with political advertising and messaging, I have every right to pimp my credentials as motivational blowhards like Gary Vaynerchuck or Grant Cardone.

You can read it here...

The response was fast and overwhelming. With the exception of a few ammosexuals and gun clingers, it was incredibly supportive. And unlike anything I've ever posted on on any social media before, garnered more views than I ever thought imaginable --75,000 and counting. Odd how that incredible number isn't reflected in my Google analytics on web traffic and explains why I don't pay any attention to that crap.

I've gone down the 2nd Amendment rabbit hole and read interpretations from across the spectrum, from Constitutional professors to Cletus the communist-fearing Kentuckian who stills flies the Confederate flag.

So here's my modest proposal, let's enact federal laws requiring all gun sales to pass a universal background check. Hell, you can you ask millions of single women, who do that everyday and run the algorithms before agreeing to meet a guy for coffee or lunch.

Gun purchasers should also be required to obtain a license and purchase insurance. You'd think the insurance companies would be all over this one. And just by way of example, I never considered the requirement to be of a certain age, pass a written test and a driver's test, any kind of "infringement" on my constitutional right. 

In fact, cars, like abortions, or gay marriage, are never even mentioned in the Constitution, so I'd love to hear the legal objections this common sense stipulation.

And finally, I'd like see a line drawn in the sand about the type of guns we make available to the public. What entitles a citizen to own an assault rifle? And spare me the artillery lecture. If you can lock and load a weapon and snuff out the lives of 19 children in a matter of seconds or minutes, you should not have access to that weapon.

Indeed, if it were up to me, and it never is, I'd run mental background checks on every owner of an AR 15. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Written in the key of Sad

Don't know how many of you watched The Leftovers when it premiered on HBO in 2017, but if you have one of the dozen streaming services, and I still can't get them all straight in my mind, you can find the three season show, which I admit haunted me when I watched it then. 

And tears me from the inside out now.

Without any spoilers, the show is about The Great Departure, a day when 140 million people simply vanished from the face of the Earth. We never know if they died, if they were raptured, or even if they ran away. We only know they're gone and seemingly not bent on returning.

And now I find myself in the same shoes of those who were left behind. Trying to make sense of it all. Trying to cope with unimaginable loss. Trying to make my way in a world that is considerably less bright. A world where you'll find a box of Puffs With Lotion Tissue in every nook and cranny of my house.

If you do decide to watch the show or if you have Spotify, you can find one of the major characters of the show -- the Music. It is as organic to the Leftovers as the unmistakable and iconic soundtrack of The Godfather.

Years ago, when I first started working on TV commercials I was thrown into the lion's den and given the responsibility of selecting the right music track for the spots we had written. I love music but had no idea how to match it up with video. It's all about tone, rhythm, tempo, all words that were greek to me at the time.

Back in those days, before production budgets went from 7 digits to 4 digits, we often scored tracks to the film.

I was able to meet some amazing musicians, including a guitarist who played backup for Yes. And many studio folks who played with major artists. It was exciting. And intimidating. They all spoke a different language. And I couldn't even identify a downbeat. 

I was a clueless as a Cyber Ninja.

I've learned a lot since then and know how crucial the right music can be. And that's what makes the soundtrack by Max Richter all the more impressive. It is so deeply immersive. With soaring strings. And contemplative piano riffs that work their way into your ears. 

It is dreamlike. 

Though upon reflection, I don't think I ever hear music in my dreams. But I do hear my inconsiderate neighbor's barking Malinois. ALL DAY LONG.

Watch the show.

Soak in the music.

Hug the ones you love.