Thursday, July 28, 2022

A writer's confession

Recently, a very astute and inquisitive friend asked me a question. 

"Why, three weeks after graduating college, did I pack up a duffel bag, empty my embarrassingly underfunded bank account, and buy a $99 one way ticket to Los Angeles, 3000 miles on the other side of the country, where I knew not one soul nor had any game plan for the future?

The answer was remarkably simple: "To be a writer."

"What kind of writer?"  she replied.

Good question. One that didn't really have an answer. 

By the way, pictured above is the leviathan IBM Selectric II, the same model my father bought me as a birthday gift back in the 70's. It weighed well over 40 lbs. I didn't bring it with me to California. I only brought the dreams of an overfed naive college graduate who wanted a clean break from the past and a chance to click and clack a keyboard until it produced a laugh or even a paycheck.

Also I was drawn by the legendary lure of the blonde haired, blue eyed shiksa goddess. I was 22 years old. I'll cop to that.

But truly, my naivete knew no bounds. I suppose I thought I'd pick up the LA Times, scan the classifieds and start drawing red circles around tiny ads that shouted: WRITER WANTED.

The point is I could have become any type of writer.

Newspaper writer

Magazine writer (National Lampoon or Spy would've been my dream)

Radio writer

TV writer

Film writer

Porn Film writer (that opportunity did come up, I passed, though not without some hesitation and vocational research)

Technical writer

Greeting Card writer

Advertising writer

It took me three years of chasing down leads, following fruitless trails, wearing stupid ties to interviews, to jam my oversized big toe in the door, in the ad agency world. And as fate would would have it, that choice was probably the best.

For one thing, journalists make no money. Even less so now with the demise of legacy media. And the entertainment field is shamelessly ageist. Meaning, at this point in my life, I'd be retired, in a dirty nursing home, wondering if Pete the Janitor was pilfering my loose change and my Vicodin.

But I lucked out and fell into the ad world. It suited me to a Tee. It was low lift writing. Pithy little one liners, which not to sound immodest, came easy to me. It was casual. I found myself going to work in beach clothes: shorts, T-shirt and flip flops. And it was obscenely lucrative.

Gregg Benedikt, a fellow I only know digitally, runs a regular series of posts on Linkedin, titled Brilliant Advertising, How I Miss You So. Last week he ran a post featuring some of our ad work from 25 years ago.

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Enough to make an old man blush. I mean who doesn't like their work validated and praised in public? I won't lie about that -- that would off-brand for me. But I will posit the praise is somewhat unwarranted. 

In what other world does a single line or joke take on such a life of its own? I watch monologues from Steven Colbert, Seth Myers and John Oliver, and recognize the sharp wit and craftsmanship that emerges from their staff. Much of it, just fucking brilliant. That's writing! And yet, it's disposed of and forgotten moments after it airs.

Maybe I can chalk it all up to Latent Imposter Syndrome. Truth be told, I'm still yearning to do some writing that is more meaningful and resonant. 

Then again, that too would be off-brand.


Earlier this year, I became Facebook friends with Sean Kelly, former editor of the National Lampoon. He passed away last week and my condolences go out to his family. I took great pride in the fact that he occasionally threw a Like at one of my political postings. A small measure of achievement. 

Here's a screengrab of our first correspondence...

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Today's funny topic: Abortion

That's Bobbi McHaughey, mother of the McHaughey septuplets, born 1997.  

The observant among you might notice there are 8 babies, not 7. That's because Bobbi and her husband Fred/Ralph/Dave/Mike (let's be honest, he's the most inconsequential member of this family) had a child before the Miracle 7 arrived 25 years ago.

I know all this because I came across one of those clickbait articles that lure you in with an interesting premise and then take 5000 words to drag you to the bitter end of the story with the flaccid not so interesting resolve. All in service of exposing you to a panopoly of banner ads which you will NEVER click but for which advertisers will pay a premium because you know adtech and the numbers demand it.

As you can imagine carrying 7 babies to full term is a near impossible task. 

We're talking about a human being not some frisky Dachsund who came across a strapping German Shepherd in the middle of some alley and spits out double digit litters every other year. 

In fact the pregnancy was of great concern to her obstetric team, who upon many tests and discussions recommended Bobbi undergo a reductive pregnancy. For her safety and for the viability of the other embryos. 

She chose not to abort one of the precarious embryos. But only after she thought long and hard about it. Notice the operative phrase here: 'chose.' Because in these dangerous times that choice about her body and her pregnancy is no longer on the table.

I think most reasonable people (that would by nature exclude those in the Red States) would not have an issue with her following the advice of her medical team and undergoing a precautionary abortion in order to deliver the best possibility of survival.

Under Jewish Law, the law that preceded Christian Law that is now being rammed down our secular throats, the life of the mother supercedes all other considerations, making an abortion not only permissible but obligatory, should medical conditions demand it.

I'm not saying Jewish Law is better. We've got some strange shit going on as well. I'm not giving up cheeseburgers or lobster tails, any time soon. And this whole business about cutting off the top of my penis without my say-so still irks me.

The larger point I'm fumbling to make is that had Bobbi -- the mother -- given up one the fetuses for the survivability of the remaining 6, that would have been her decision and hers alone.

Let's follow that line of logic to its natural conclusion:

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 6 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 5...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 5 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 4...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 4 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 3...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 3 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 2...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 2 embryos, that needed to be reduced to 1...   

Suppose it were a woman pregnant with 1 embryo, that needed to be reduced to none because of a medical condition that neither you, nor I or Kevin McCarthy or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene knows anything about. 

I'm willing to bet there's a plethora of things MTG knows nothing about.

Also, didn't the tenets of the GOP revolve around small government, personal responsibility and individual freedoms? When did they throw that train in reverse? And start fueling the engine with high grade Vibranium?

The point is, it's no one's business. And certainly not that of a Supreme Court handpicked by a merkin-sporting troglodyte who could not, even on his best day, cite one SCOTUS precedent setting case that shaped American history. I would bet my house on that. 

It would be as if I had gone in to my dentist to get a routine root canal to remove an inflamed incisor only to have the doors burst open mid-procedure, by some jackbooted Proud Boys, to shut down the operation. 

"You can't do that sir. that's against God's will."

Oh yeah, God's Will, the one transcribed 2000 years ago, in the middle of the night by some poor goat herder roaming the nether regions of Babylonia, looking for a watering hole for his flock and his undernourished camels. 

"And one more thing,"said the Proud Boy as he scooped up a free toothbrush and left, "the 2020 election was rigged!," 

God help us.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

A Man Needs a Maid

Back in the mid 70's, the 1970's, I was not in possession of any disposable income. 

Every dime I managed to earn doing the world's shittiest jobs (excluding copywriter) went towards the exorbitant tuition at Syracuse University. Mind you, I could have gone to the embarassingly more affordable SUNY campus in Buffalo. But my father wanted me to go to Syracuse.

He just didn't want to pay for it. 

I suppose in hindsight I should be thankful that he threw these mammoth financial obstacles in my way as that adversity taught me the value of making wise monetary decisions. 

Nevertheless, I walked around campus with $1.38 in my pocket. At best. Hence I did not have many belongings. Also, hence my record collection was exceedingly limited. Hence again, each record was played until the needle carved a hole through the vinyl. 

Including the seminal Neil Young album, Harvest.

With the exception of the hard hitting Alabama, one could hardly argue this was a rock and roll album. Furthermore, as a stupid and perpetually stoned college student, the lyrics never made much sense to me. Only in retrospect can I appreciate the subtext Mr. Young was getting at.

One song in particular has been ringing in my head lately, the self-explanatory "A Man Needs A Maid."

My life is changing in so many ways
I don't know who to trust anymore
There's a shadow running through my days
Like a beggar going from door to door
I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid
Find a place nearby for her to stay
Just someone to keep my house clean
Fix my meals and go away
A maid
A man needs a maid
A maid

Oh brother do I need a maid.

I had hired the mother/daughter team who cleaned the house across the street from me. But they constantly flaked out on their scheduled appearances. And when they did show up to clean the house, they did more yakking and laughing than they did cleaning.

As my friend put it so aptly, "They're like the Mow, Blow and Go guys for your house."

I don't need a flimsy once-over on the house. I need someone to scrub the aged hardwood floors. Someone to keep the baseboards, mine have 3/4 inch ledges (naturally), from collecting dust. I need someone to shadow me throughout the day with a spray bottle of 409 and a cleaning cloth to wipe up after my every move, whether it's making a fresh batch of chimichurri sauce or defiling the porcelain with my hourly trips to the bathroom.

This man needs a maid. 

Or a butler.

And unlike the 1970's, I have the money to pay for it.  

Send help. No, literally, send Help. I need phone numbers for cleaning people near Culver City. 


Here's Neil, wailing about my domestic woes:

Monday, July 25, 2022

Memory #19 - The Ronicles

For those of you who are following along with my collection of memories, which will in the near future be turned into a book, as a testament to Deb and as a lasting gift for my daughters, I'd like to expand more on the special relationship she had with my uncle Ron. 

I alluded to it in Memory #18 and our weekly trips to clean out the detritus left behind in his Palm Springs home. Detritus, by the way, is an excellent 6 point word for those readers with a niche fascination in etymology.

My uncle was not an easy man to get along with; cantankerous, opinionated, stubborn, and unfiltered. In other words, he was a New Yorker. In more specific words, he was from the Bronx.

Though I loved Ronnie, and not just because he brought us expensive Hanukkah/birthday gifts, he had a special ability to infuriate me like no other. Resulting in toe-to-toe shouting matches. Often causing me to scurry through the medicine cabinet in search of something from the Benzodine family of all-purpose sedation. 

Deb, however, was a master at verbal ju-jitsu. 

She knew, perhaps because of her midwestern roots, that the best way to deal with a crazy, hot headed Gothamite  -- the only gay man in Palm Springs with no sense of design, our little inside joke -- was to react in a cool, calm manner that always served to de-escalate the tension.

Moreover, for reasons I still don't get, she genuinely liked my uncle. And was much more generous with her love for him, than anyone in his blood family could ever be.

When it was time to relocate him to an assisted living home in LA, she did all the research and hunted down facilities that he could afford and would accept him with all his infirmities.

When he needed to visit a doctor, in her pre-cancer time, she shuffled her schedule to shuttle him all around LA to his cadre of various specialists.

And when it came time to help clean out his house and the unimaginable collection of rubbish he had bought for himself, she, without any hesitation, accompanied me on those exhausting one day round trip escapades.

Painful as those trips were, they were also filled with laughter. Particularly when we uncovered:

* 23 electrical power strips

* 5 staple guns

* 17 packets, still unopened, of drill bits (it should be noted that like my father he was unusually handy)

* Measuring cups, up the ying yang, enough to outfit the kitchens of 3 restaurants

* Reams and reams of 8 &1/2 X 11 paper. It was as if Dunder Mifflin had opened a west coast warehouse

* And more dust bunnies than you could shake a Shop Vac at

It took us four solid months of back and forthing to get the tiny 1200 square foot house ready for renovations. Four months and Deb never uttered a word of complaint. 


Her patience with my uncle Ron, honed after 30 years of marriage to me, reminds me of an old Jaguar tagline: Grace, Pace, Space.

Except for that one time...

While returning home from Cedar Sinai Medical center to see his Pulmonologist/Cardiologist/Oncologist/Proctologist/Left Sinusologist my uncle spotted a building specifically labeled Women's Health Center. 

Innocuous right? Until he made the mistake letting a little misogynistic rhetoric slip past his tongue.

"Look at that, a whole building dedicated to women's health issues, why do they need a whole building for woman's issues, that's ridiculous."

Deb, a pink hat rally attendee, mother of two daughters, one of four sisters and a lifelong vocal feminist, was not having any of that. Had there been a Richter Scale for verbal tectonic eruptions, this would have registered a solid 8.5 to 9.5.

I would repeat some of the choice and colorful language she used, but this is, for most part, a family friendly blog.

Suffice it to say, that moment of pent up feistiness finally seeing the light of day, makes me smile.

Also, I miss them both.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday Photo Funnies

You can't go wrong with starting off a blog piece, even a light fluffy one like this, with a dog picture to draw in some eyeballs. I learned that from Lee Clow, he of Chiat/Day fame, for you younger readers who need to do some Googling.

It's Thursday. 

Time, once again, for that reliable standby, savior to the lazy blogger -- The Thursday Photo Funnies. A conceit borrowed from old National Lampoon magazines (still stacked in my garage) in a bin buried beneath sleeping bags, tents, and a panopoly of 20 year old camping gear. 

By the way, I got in a heap of trouble at work for using a hifaltutin word like panopoly, more accurately, trying to use that word in an email at work. #PuerilityRules.

A telling reflection of the decline of advertising and the dumbing down of America 2022. Whatever?

Without further adieu, let's get to the pics...

Last week's post about my peach stand encounter, 
inspired someone to drop off a bags of fresh peaches on at my doorstep. 
I later found out it was my neighbor. It was the second batch of the fuzzy orbs given to me in one week. Mmmm, peaches

Pretty sure this is the first President of the United States of America 
who ever felt the need to utter those words.

We don't get a lot of clouds in Southern California,
but they're always welcome when they arrive.

One of the more interesting fruits produced from my Buddha Finger Lemon Tree.

God bless the clients who understand humor and 
the untapped power of tongue-in-cheek negativity.

My proud bathroom display of Caganers.

If you hadn't noticed, I'm a little obsessed with all things Russian.

Attention-getting tires? Why not. Smart business owner.

This was across the street from the Bar Lubitsch, where my daughters and I recently caught a comedy show in West Hollywood. Apparently there's a small enclave of Russian Jews there.

Just by chance, I found this photo on my iPhone of a coffee table book I have on display in the living room. Soviet Space Dogs. How about that Lee?

And one more, just as a prelude to tonight's Hearing Fireworks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

On Dead Jews

In contrast to this week's earlier and lighter posts, I'd like to conclude my review of the book pictured above. The title is a real eyecatcher and when placed on the coffee table, an immediate conversation starter.  The book was recommended by my dear friend Jim Jennewein, my second favorite personal librarian.

Jim is a Professor of Screenwriting at Fordham University. 

It is my sincere hope that somehow I can arrange a playdate between him and George Tannenbaum, the most well read person in my arsenal of 5000+ social media friends. Both share an amazing wealth of knowledge and a similar world view. They both also share a friendship with my former writing partner, Rob Schwartz, CEO of TBWA Chiat/Day.

Perhaps Rob could be the conduit to an evening or a breakfast of old man schmoozing at Katz's Deli.

Due to unrelated circumstances, it took me a while to complete the book, which I had written about earlier. More specifically, the story of the nomadic Jews who had turned Harbin, China into a bustling successful town in the early 1900's. You can read that here.   

The other reason for the slow read: I wanted to savor every word, and think about the nuanced way the author, Dara Horn, unpeels the levels of antisemitism that has plagued, and stifled, humanity for more than 3000 years. Think how many unwritten books, operas, patents, advancements and meaningful contributions that wafted from those chimneys at Auschwicz-Birkenau.

In one chapter, Ms. Horn dispels the trope that officers at Ellis Island often changed the names of Jewish immigrants because they couldn't pronounce or in many cases even read them. That happened, to be sure. But the majority of cases of name changes were instigated by Jews themselves, thinking they would assimilate and prosper better with more Americanized names. 

As for the prosperity and the established work ethic that is second to none, many gentiles have mischaracterized this drive in the most unflattering of ways which I will not be a party to. She devotes a whole chapter to the Bard's Shylock character.

The proper perspective, and this is me talking, not Ms. Horn, is that wealth, power and education are not only goals in and of themselves, they are survival tools. Employed, if necessary, during the darkest times to manifest escape, elude persecution and pass the sacred torch onto the next generation.

In case you hadn't noticed, it works.

By far, my favorite chapter was the one concerning Darnia, which I would bet $1000 none of you have ever heard of. Hell, I'm up on all things Jewish, except maybe Broad City, I haven't watched that, but my daughters swear by it, and I hadn't even heard of it.

I dog-earred an excerpt from the book to give this context. 

Here, the author describes her visit to Damascus, Syria (That's right, Syria) and one of the oldest synagogues in the world...

"I''m standing in a jewel box. the small room is illuminated by dozens of elaborate beaded chandeliers, its walls are covered with thick red velvet drapes, its stone floor with richly patterned carpets. In front of of me is a large flat stone topped with a golden menorah. An inscription informs me, the Hebrew prophet Elijah annointed his successor Elisha, as described in the biblical Book of Kings.

It is remarkably well preserved and startingly intimate. There are no pews here; instead there are low cushioned couches facing one another, as though they were in a sacred living room. A raised marble platform at the room's center has a draped table for public Torah readings, on the room's far end is an ornate wooden cabinet filled with ancient Torah scrolls, their parchments concealed inside magnificent silver cases. On the wall are framed Hebrew inscription, featuring the same prayers my son is currently mastering for his bar mitzvah. I read the familiar ancient words and feel my breath breath leave me with the jerking motion of a dream, tripping on a missing step as I fall through time."

I love this passage. Not because I'm particularly religious, I'm not, but when traveling the world, Deb and I always made a point to visit synagogues. In Toledo, Spain, in Milan, Italy and even on Papeete, Tahiti.

There's a misdirect here however.

Because this beautiful ancient temple, a gathering spot for Syrian Jews, like my uncle on my mother's side, no longer exists. 

Except online, where it has been faithfully and virtually recreated by Darnia, a cultural organization that seeks to preserve the rapidly decreasing Jewish presence throughout the world and because of rising and toxic antisemitism determined the de-judaize the Middle East, much like the Spaniards and the Catholic Church tried to do centuries ago.

I don't have a funny ending to this post, only the optimistic hope that the current wave of nativism and right wing populism will be outlasted by those who see value in diversity, peace and personal  responsibility.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Widower's Guide to Widowing

I come to this new life as a widower completely unprepared. 

My family is incredibly small. Other than the relatives on my mom's side who are still in Scotland, many of whom I've never even met, but not for lack of trying. 

I had a gay uncle who never got married or had children. A mentally challenged uncle who could, on his best days, barely function. 

And I had my father, who left the planet at age 57, way too early.

I do have past colleagues and friends from high school who have taken this journey and their perspectives on the difficult navigation have been so helpful. Moreover, so appreciated. Particularly because of the time they have given to guide me during this difficult year.

Suffice it to say, when it comes to widowing I have had no role models. 

Poor segue approaching.

One of the things I've learned in the corporate world is that sometimes the best answer to a question is, "I don't know." It's authentic, honest and carries with it some type of unspoken confidence. Last week one of my daughters asked me a question. And my answer was...

"...I don't know. I've never been a widow before. I'm still figuring this thing out."

I can't help be reminded of a TV spot we did for ABC in another lifetime.

You can see it here:

It's not just the interpersonal stuff and the ever changing dynamics of my family. That stuff is easy compared to the little household annoyances that leave me stumped every day.

For instance:

* After cooking up some bacon in the frying pan, what do I do with leftover grease? Does it go down the garbage disposal? Or can I use as fertilizer for my garden? Do I put it in a tub and use as lard or for when making my own homemade schmaltz?

* There's a closet full of linens and table cloths that haven't left the closet since 1993. For all I know, they might have been left here from the old lady who owned the house before us. Should I toss them and turn the closet into storage space for my dumbells and kettlebells and old advertising awards?

and finally...

* I alluded to this in last week's post about my new Sit N'Sleep King Mattress, but bedding, linens, duvets and pillow shams are like the Gordian Knot for clueless men, like myself. I seem to recall Deb telling me the duvet cover (what happened to good old blankets?) had to be washed every 2-3 weeks. 

With Lucy, my dog, now sleeping in the bed every night, and waking me up with her loud doggie nightmares and twitching, I like to wash it a little more often. The washing is the easy part. Getting the down-filled cover back into the duvet is best not performed by amateurs.

Imagine putting a 7 foot wide X 8 foot long cover on a pillow. By yourself. And with no idea how to manage to get the thing jammed into all four corners. When I get done with it, all the down stuff is crammed into big pile in the middle, it's like sleeping under a mammoth laundry bag.

Someone could write a very funny book Widowing 101: "No, You're Doing It All Wrong."


Monday, July 18, 2022

Do do do do, do do do do

I'm not big on the paranormal.

Don't get me wrong I love reading about the paranormal or watching the paranormal in films and TV shows hosted by Rod Serling. And I'm not just saying that because Rod was from Syracuse, born to shtetl people like myself, and had knock down, drag-out fights with his bosses over what he could or couldn't write. OK, maybe a little.

Just as an aside and as someone who has a stack of spec TV scripts buried in his garage, Rod and the staff pulled off amazing feats of writing by telling unusual and thoughtful flights of fancy and resolving each story masterfully, all within 22 -24 minutes of screen time. 

No small task.

But my lifelong skepticism about the unknown is waning. Maybe I'm having my own late stage of life enlightenment. Or maybe it's the THC-infused mints I've been popping in my mouth like chiclets, but there's something going on out there. 

And in all likelihood, due to my busy schedule of writing spam mail, riding on the Peleton, and lifting inordinate weights for a 64 year old man, I won't get to the bottom of it.

But I will provide examples. 

I can't begin to tell you how many deja-vu moments I've been experiencing lately. The ones that stop you in your tracks, "Wait a minute, I'm eating my glazed smoked salmon, enjoying a Corona Light and reading about ex Precedent Shitgibbon taking a flamethrower to every manner of Presidential decorum." 

I feel like I've been here before.

Perhaps that's a bad example as I experienced that one on a daily basis for the past 5 years.

A better example of would be me writing one of my blog pieces in the morning and using an odd rarely-employed multisyllabic adjective, like 'punctilious' or making a vague reference to a far away land in one of my social media comments, something about Vilnius, Reykjavik or Banff National Park, only to see it appear later that night in a Jeopardy clue.

That shit happens all the time!

Yesterday I was on a hike with a friend. And for some reason or other we were chatting about Robin Leach and his featherweight show about obscenely wealthy people -- "Champagne kisses and caviar dreams."

Mind you I spend as much time thinking about Robin Leach as I do thinking about wearing a toupee -- to be exact, none.

Nevertheless, later that quiet Saturday night, I was watching CNN and came across one of their look backs on the TV in the 80's. And sure as hell, I look up from my phone and there's Robin Leach talking about "champagne kisses and caviar dreams."

I was gobsmacked.

Begging the question, is time linear as we suppose? Or does it double back on itself like a Quintin Tarantino movie. Also, if I'm gonna be stuck in a time warp why can't it be when I was in my twenties, had a full head of hair and could still slip into a size 32 inch waist Levi's?

Begging question #2, how, after 64 years on this planet, have I not indulged myself with a plate of caviar? Do they sell that at Ralph's?

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Extra, extra, read all about it.

(A re-post from November 2016. In light of the recent 1/6 hearings and the newly revealed evidence, I thought it would be interesting to revisit my initial thoughts after the "election" of Precedent Shitgibbon. Sadly, what I wrote in those early dark days have come to pass. And then some. These are very dangerous times. And without proper accountability, they will only get worse)

 I read the newspaper the other day.

I know that's hardly the most searing lead in I've ever written but it is depressingly newsworthy.

There was a time that every morning started with a cup of black Joe, a bowl of cereal and a thick meaty LA Times to eat up an hour's worth of my day.

Now, however, I find myself getting my news from the worst possible source, the same place populated by a million videos of skateboarders smashing their crotch on a handrail, the same place where I can watch two women doing unimaginable things with a cup, the same place where you come to hear some glib 44 year old copywriter rage at the world.

This is not good, people.

David Frum, a man I rarely agree with, said the biggest catastrophe of the latest election is not who will be crowned on January 20, 2017, but what we have buried 6 feet under -- the Facts. And with it the source of those facts, more specifically, the media.

And even more more specifically, the print press, newspapers.

I grew up in a newspaper-devouring household. My father would often come home from the train with three papers in his hand -- the NY Times, The Post and The Daily News. Plus, I delivered the local paper, the Rockland Journal news. If an errant cigarette tipped over, there was enough newsprint in my house to set Suffern, Spring Valley and some adjoining areas of Upper Saddle River ablaze.

I even remember in high school, they showed us How to Read a newspaper, including all the intricate folding moves one needed to manhandle the Old Grey Lady.

The point is, we were saturated in news and journalism and facts. Mostly facts. I'm sure there were biases back then but the astute reader learned to weigh the agenda of each source and find a healthy and confident position somewhere on that spectrum.

That's gone now.

Today, and sadly I'm as guilty as anyone, we get our news, our facts, our misunderstanding of the world around us, from Buzzfeed, the Blaze, the Beast, Gawker, that guy on Facebook and that crazy cousin in Flagstaff who is convinced the End Days are coming and it's time to stock up on kerosene and chicken broth.

Or worse, we eat up the "news" dished out by the TV networks, the same TV networks who live and breath on ratings and consequent advertising revenue. The same networks who looked at the wall separating the news division, the entertainment division and the how-do-we-flush-our-country-in-the-toilet division and said, "I know, let's go with open office plan."

To Frum's point, if we can't find a source of reliable, objective media to give us some semblance of  the facts, what hope do we have of ever finding our footing? We have become supremely susceptible to propaganda and deception and flim-flammerty, from all sides.

To this day Alex Jones and his legion of false flagging fuckheads (Michael Flynn, our new NSA Director among them) believe the tragedy of Sandy Hook was a conspiracy arranged by the government to push the gun grabbing agenda. He continues to spew this ugly nonsense even after watching 20 young schoolchildren being lowered into the ground.

If this is what passes for news these days, I'm afraid they should start digging one more hole for our diseased, ill-informed culture.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Tech Me to Death

My daughters, and some of the folks where I work, and at Dollar Shave Club, where I used to work, get a kick out of my tech unsavviness. Which is unusual because I grew up with the advent of the personal computer, the internet and the smartphone.

At some point however, what was once simple, even for a feeble-minded Calculus minor in college, has become way, way too complicated. Hence, many advertising briefs, particularly in the car world default to: "We design technology for humans."


There's a medical building at 20th and Santa Monica Blvd. It's where Deb used to go for oncology visits and chemo infusions. And it's where my brother is going for his medical needs. Getting into the parking lot at this facility is quite easy. Getting out is another story.

In order to cut costs the folks who operate the parking lot and collect the fees decided they could dispense with human ticket takers (labor) and have installed an automatic ticket reader/payment machine necessary for egress. Unfortunately, and because many of the clientele are in their 50, 60, 70's and 900's thanks to the miracle of Methusalah-enabling medicine, the machine is impossibly complicated.

Consequently the line of geriatrics waiting to pay for their parking gets exceedingly long. To remedy this stupid situation, they have stationed a young man in a parking lot attendant uniform who stands next to said machine and guides people through the process.

Anyone else see the incongruity here? 

I would posit that this tiny lack of foresight and business acuity is indicative of what ails American businesses. Too much technology. Not enough thinking. And zero efficiency.

It's why I used to walk into meetings or creative presentations, not with 5 or 6 key people in attendance but with two full football team's worth of people, and the coaches and the waterboys/watergirls.

That issue has been resolved by Covid.

And replaced by another annoying dilemma, the plethora of work platforms. Yes, I am grateful these software assistants permit me to work at home, drink my own coffee, workout when I want to and use my own bathroom facilities, sometimes even with the door open.

My personal hate-favorites include: Asana, Figma, Jira, and a few more whose names would work just as well as a car badge for a new Korean export.

If I remember the jargon from my days working on Apple, these programs have a "cluegy" interface that lacks any intuition and more indecipherable options than the old Carnegie Deli in NYC.

I spend more time trying to figure out what someone needs me to do, than actually doing it. If that's happening to me, I suspect it's happening to millions of other workers. That's a Giant Time Suck. And robbing precious time from other daytime activities.

Maybe in the interest of self preservation the folks at Facebook or Tik Tok could design some better office tools.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Dear Penthouse...

I am a complete idiot. 

That's not just my modesty talking. That's an opinion shared by many readers of this very blog. Even my daughters, my own flesh and blood, think I'm an idiot. Particularly when it comes to my new eating/dieting routine.

"Dad, you can't eat fish every night for dinner."

"With my new Sea to Table delivery service I can enjoy salmon, tuna, shrimp, halibut, even lobster tails."

"You have to eat more, you're getting too thin."

Little life lesson girls, you can't tell a former fat guy he's getting too thin.

But I have digressed. 

The reason I'm an idiot has less to do with what I'm eating and more to do with the antiquated and naive way I interact with the world. And by the way, it takes a brave man to reveal what I am about to reveal -- a brave stupid man.

I was at the local supermarket on Saturday. I like Pavilions. Ralph's is a little downscale for me. Conversely, Whole Foods and Gelsons is a little too fu-fu, pretentious and obscenely LA. I don't need organic toothpaste, I don't care if the Flouride has been artisanaly formulated from only the finest hand-selected molecules.

Anyway, dressed in my new single XL T-shirt, down from double XL, some cargo shorts and beat up Birkenstocks, I made my way around the market, grabbing all the essentials, which I am now discovering covers quite the spectrum. It takes a lot to manage a big 2300 square foot house.

I filled up the whole damn cart and barely had room for the fresh parsely, cilantro and shallots, needed to make my signature Chimichurri sauce. I was about to head to the cashier's when I spotted the Peach Stand.

I love peaches. 

Not the kind Deb used to keep in the house, the fancy white peaches. There's something off-putting about biting into a peach and not getting that classic peach flavor in return. I'm a yellow peach guy. Classic Peach, I call it.  

So I mosey over to the yellow peaches where a blonde woman in her mid 40's is carefully examining the hundreds of fuzzy orbs. Here's where it gets interesting and Bob Guccione-worthy.

Out of the side of my eye I noticed she noticed me. Maybe it was the new form fitting T-shirt. The beat up Birks. Or the unmistakable scent of a man who had no idea what he was doing in a supermarket. 

Completely unprovoked, she turns to me and says (by the way, this is precise verbatim dialogue), 

"They're all so mushy and soft."

"So they're ripe. That's a good thing, isn't it?" I said sheepishly.

"I like them hard."

"Excuse me", I didn't say that but wanted to, I just needed a second to digest her last statement which was followed by.

"I like them rock hard", she said with a smile.

If I'm lying, I'm dying.

"Hummunah, hummunnah, huh", I repeated to myself.

Keep in mind it's been 33 years since I was a single man and the chain that operates those gears in my head  has been rusted over and is barely functional.

"I can eat peaches all day long", I blurted, to fill the uncomfortable silence. 

Pressing even further she said, "Just gotta find me a rock hard one I can bite into."

My idiocy knows no bounds. I think we can all agree on that. I finished collecting my 5 peaches, tied up the bag and was about to roll away, she added this...

"Have a great day."

When I got home I gave myself some serious head palming. Then had a good laugh at myself. And know that if Deb were hearing this, she'd be laughing even harder.

Rich, we're not in Kansas anymore. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Sleep N Sleep

Spent considerable time two weeks ago sleeping around. 

Get your mind out of the gutter, I was mattress shopping. 

There is something surreal about walking in a Sit N Sleep, or where ever it is you choose to buy a bed and see couple laying on all manner of bedding material. While a slick wannabe car salesman hovers over them barking RTB's and well-rehearsed talking points...

"The coils have been replaced with thermo-dynamic gel stacks that monitor your position and shift accordingly thanks to the built in Cray SuperSleeper™Super Computer."

"And with a simple lien attached to your home equity, it's surprisingly affordable."

Deb and I did the mattress dance about 15 years ago. 

It's hardly a simple endeavor. Particularly when she had her heart set on one of those newfangled Memory Foam beds. For an ungodly amount of money, I had the pleasure of sleeping on what can only be described as a hot sandy beach, often waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of my own sweat. The Memory Foam remembered to torture me every night. That is until I put my sweaty foot down and said this mattress is going back to whence it came.

But our mattress dilemma was far from over. Deb preferred a softer pillowy feel and after many years of office napping on a carpeted floor, I preferred something firm, extra, extra firm.

We compromised and bought a rock hard bed with a three inch pillow topper, which I grew to hate. 

Once, while Deb was at the supermarket, I managed, like Sysphys, to flip the 100 lbs. mattress over, to the pillowtop-less side, slip the sheets and covers back on and get about a week's worth of good sleep. Which ended promptly when Deb started complaining about lower back pain and forced a confession out of me.

We had actually talked about buying one of those fancy-schmancy split beds with adjustable firmness, temperature control, reclining headrest and raised footrests, as well as dual remote controls. And who doesn't love remote controls. 

But other things, like lingering college tuition payments, car loans and skyrocketing healthcare costs, got in the way.

Life has a way of reminding us all of its finite quality and so I decided, after the toughest, most draining stretch in my 64 years on the planet, to treat myself. 

I looked at the Sleep Number bed, the one relentlessly advertised on TV and found the salesman to be squirrely. And the bed, perhaps even squirrelier. I made my way back to the Sit N' Sleep in Culver City, and snapped up their top of the line, Split King with all the features including a wave massage that travels from my head to my toes and then back again.

I will admit it took me an hour and some Euclidean Geometry to figure out how to get the sheets on the damn thing, much to the amusement of my daughter. But now I'm set. And I love it.

I guess the couple in the picture above encountered the same difficulties and just decided to go without the sheets.

Different strokes, I guess.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Not today

As my old Chiat/Day partner John Shirley used to say, "everything you need to know about life s covered in The Simpsons."

Or, put in the vernacular of Homer, "The Simpsons, is there anything they can't do?"

Sorry for missed posting. 

See you on Monday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Achtung Pelotoners!!!

This is my new favorite Peloton Instructor, Charlotte Wiedenbachenstrum. As you can see, she is quite attractive. Perfectly fit. And tastefully adorned with interesting tattoos that draw attention to her amazingly contoured athletic body. 

Lest you think she is my favorite because of her looks, you'd be mistaken. There's plenty of eye candy on the roster of Peloton Instructors. Each one impossibly more attractive than the next. Including Kendall Toole, Olivia Amato and Emma Lovewell...that's right her name is Lovewell. 

But truth be told, they get on my last old man nerve with the constant yacking and the cliche motivational blah blah blah. 

If I do a class with an instructor it's mostly with Sam Yo, a former Buddhist monk who brings a positive attitude and a lot less talking to the workout. 

So what makes Charlotte different? She conducts her classes from the Peloton Studio in Berlin. She's full blown German. Graced with blond hair, blue eyes and a high capacity for resistance training, dare I say, a Master Racer.


It goes without saying that Germans and Jews have a troubled and complicated relationship. My father, a Bronx born street guy was in his testosterone-fueled late teenage years when the footage from Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen Belson, Treblinka, the list is long, was released. And though hardly religious, but descended from religious old folks in the old country, he was hopping mad.

Hence we never had anything from Germany in the house. Nor would he even look at a German car. He'd even buy off-brand aspirin because he didn't want a dime of his money supporting the folks at Bayer, who freely used Jews as slave labor.

And on a personal note, Germany is where I had my first Panic Attack. A phenomena I had never even heard of, but exacerbated by jet lag, Red Bull (to stay awake in business meetings) and this nagging feeling best demonstrated by Woody Allen...

But so much has changed.

Recently, I saw a video of Israeli Air Force fighter jets do a fly-by over a concentration camps. And kudos to Germany for facing their past and taking the steps to make amends. Americans, particularly the clods against DEI and CRT, could learn a few things.

Also, I have a Braun electric shaver & coffee maker (two separate machines). I own an Audi, a very fast Audi. Years ago, Deb bought me a Racing adventure at the nearby Porsche Experience Center, not recommended for those with a weak stomach. And my medicine cabinet has entire shelf of Bayer Aspirin, the Heinz Ketchup of Aspirin. 

Oh and I have Heinz Ketchup.

And now I have Charlotte Wiedenfraumann, who conducts her classes in the language of love, German. And does it loudly. With great vigor. I have no idea what she's saying, which makes it bearable. I don't want to get into TMI-land, but as I was explaining all this to a friend, there's something titillating and verboten, about being "commanded" to pedal faster and harder by Ms. Weidengoerhingberg.

It might be akin to why Mel Brooks was compelled to write The Producers and the hit single "Springtime for Hitler."

That's what we Jews do, we take the pain and persecution of our descendants and re-sculpt it into something funny. Not a bad survival skill for a tribe that has lasted more than 5000 years.

I wonder if Charlotte would consider doing a class in Thigh High Black Jackboots? 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Memory #18 -- I blame it on China

Like all married couples Deb and I had arguments. Because of her laid back California upbringing, I suspect we argued less than most. And certainly not as volatile as the arguments I witnessed growing up. 

Those were doozies. 

Had the eventual thaw and apologies not been exchanged, I could see my mother carting three of us off to live frugally in a cheap motel, with nothing but Cheetos to eat and a pack of 49 playing cards to entertain us.

The disagreements between Deb and I were more low grade. And often layered with sarcasm and sprinkled with little jabs and knowing barbs. For instance, when our first baby was on the way and we had agreed to name it after her late father Robert, meaning we needed an 'R' name.

Convinced, as any young father to be would be, we were having a boy. I threw some names on the table. Deb did too, like Riley, Reed, Raymond, Reese and Reuben. No son of mine was gonna be named after a sandwich, albeit a delicious one.

I was stuck on one name, a name that had some majesty and unique flavor to it: Romulus. 

I'd often wake up, kiss her extended belly and greet little Romulus while he was preparing to make his entrance. 

"Even if it is a boy, we're not naming him Romulus", she'd say sternly and with an eyeroll.

When Romulus burst - if you can call 36 hours of labor bursting -- on the scene, I couldn't help noticing he was lacking a penis. And so we concurred on Rachel, a name that somehow fits her to a T. Or an R, as the case may be.

Of much greater importance, there was the issue of our pre-marriage gift registration. Sorry, for the longwinded intro, but context is everything.

Mind you, I had never been married before. And neither had Deb. But if you'll excuse the broad sweep it occurs to me that when it comes to weddings, women have some very hardwired instincts about the whole affair. 

She picked the venue, the Riviera Country Club which was 1/3 of the price of other fancier places.

She selected the menu, also thankfully a lot less than other places.

She selected the flowers, none of whose names sounded even slightly familiar to me.

And with little consultation on my part, she made out the registry. Keep in mind Deb was not a strict traditionalist in any sense of the word. She married me and I'm hardly any conventional woman's idea of a prize. But when it came to the gifts we were requesting -- a strange phenomena in and of itself -- all I saw was stuff I could not fathom ever wanting, much less needing.



Gravy Boats

Butter Coffins

Little fancy ramikens for olive, cherry or peach pits

Inordinately expensive 1000 thread count linens

Dainty hand towels

The list literally went on forever. And no where on that list was a new basketball backboard for the garage. A heavy duty punching bag. A bigger TV. A leather club chair. Or a light up neon sign that read, "It's Happy Hour." 

I bring all this up because now I am tasked with uncluttering the house, a house that is jelly-tight with the ungodly collection of dishes, pots, pans and pit collectors. And that's not counting the detritus we have amassed from my late uncle's house in Palm Springs.

Now it's time to start emptying the shelves. I think I'll start with the shelf in the medicine cabinet and some pre-emptive Tylenol.